Advent Candle Lighting Prayer for Love

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Tensions rise between neighbors. Hate lurks in stores and on roads, in school hallways and political discussions. Humanity focuses more on its own individual well being instead of the well being of all.

Yet animosity isn’t the last word, and hate will never win because God’s love endures forever. Divine love dissipates all venom and sweetens all bitterness.

Even as we walk in the shadow filled valleys of toxic interactions, God’s love is lighting the path to the future. Through the Spirit of the Christ in our world, the vapors of hate will not last in our world. Love will spread from person to person, lifting the toxic fogs that linger between people.

We light the candle of love to clear the cloud of hate in our world and dissolve the mists of gloom as the Christ enters our world and brightness continues to grow. Amen.

(c)2021 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.

Under the Night Sky – A Christmas Poem

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Under the night sky
We abide the beauty of God’s darkness.
Beyond midnight- where miracles fill the earth and magic fill the skies.
Where stars and planets twinkle, delighting both the greatest skeptics and believers.

Under the night sky
In the chilly winds of nighttime,
A young woman met her son,
And light came into her world.
This illumination spread beyond time and space,
Expanding beyond human limitations into our world.

Under the night sky
Humans saw the alignment of planets birthing an extraordinary light-
The greatest star declaring a birth.
And as human and divine aligned that night, the world shifted to a new realm.

(c)2021 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.

What It Was – A Christmas Poem

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It wasn’t a night full of familiar carols
But a melody crafted from surrounded creation.

It wasn’t an eve fashioned with trees and tinsel
But a stable of simplicity adorned with hay and dirt.

It was a cow rejoicing with a smoothened moo
And a sheep baa-ing in jubilation.
A woman sobbing with relief and great joy
And words of love from her beloved.

Stillness and motion danced in the twilight
Allowing room for Divine Light to pierce reality’s realm
And ushering in a new era of warmth, love, and hope
On top of the chilly earth below.

(c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.

Blessing of the Prayer Shawls/Blankets

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God of Peace, Holy Comforter-

Our life’s circumstances can be quite chilly sometimes. During our times of winter, we look for you to warm our hearts. In the long nights of loss and change, your Spirit hugs our weary souls.

As these shawls/blankets wrap around your children, may they feel comfort that only comes from you. May your Spirit enliven the ones who will receive these shawls/blankets. May they find resurrection in their lives and renewal around every corner. May they know that you are resting as they rest and journeying as they journey.

God of Restoration, bless the hands that have crafted these shawls/blankets. With each movement of their fingers, help them to see how they co-create with you.

May we be a comfort to our neighbors when evening is long and loneliness lurks. As these shawls/blankets warm the hearts of your children, continue to remind us of our deep connection through the loving thread of Christ.

Amen.

A Prayer for Our Former Educators

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Holy Wisdom, Divine Guide-

This day and always, we send our gratitude for our educators. From the preschool teachers who instilled a love of education from a very early age to the professors who mentored us as we sharpen our crafts, they have reflected your image as a Divine Educator.

Bless the ones who stood by us when life was hard, who listened to our pain that went far beyond the classrooms. May they realize how much their words and moments saved us from our own self-doubts and the torment of bullies.

Bless the ones who taught us information that would impact the rest of our lives and the ones who gifted us information that we never integrate into our callings. May they know that moments of education never are wasted.

Bless the ones who pointed out our talents, who spoke holy words into the world that led us to our callings. May they realize their life-long impact on the ones they taught.

Bless the memories of the ones who have passed on to that side of heaven with you. We thank you for each step walked, each word uttered here on earth. Their gifts will make an impact for generations.

And for the ones who seemed extra frustrated, whose patience ran short and their emotions ran high in the classroom, bless them with the grace they need and healing from tough moments in life.

Whether they impacted our life when we were four or fourteen or thirty-four, their words and gifts build us into the people we are today. For their time and talents, we are forever grateful.

Amen.

A Lament for the Annuals Outside

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Holy Sense of Peace-

As mid-autumn rushes into our region, its companion, frost, settles upon the grass and flowers. The beauty of frost as the morning light reflects upon it brings us momentary joy.

And then we see our plants who have journeyed with us since spring shriveled, hunched over. Their leaves waving a final goodbye.

We remember their tiny days as we would gently bury their roots into the ground and waited for their leaves to grow and flowers to burst forth. Through the summer, their beings would expand in every direction. They greeted us every morning and evening, welcoming us home when the days were rough, and sending us out into the world with a sense of hope.

Today we bid them farewell and give gratitude for the months they brightened our yards and lives. To you, God, we give thanks for the beauty of annuals, even when their lives are short. We reflect upon our own lives. Like the flowers, how will we illuminate the world with our gifts?

May your peace strengthen us in these short days, cold nights, and when our yards lack the bright colors of summer.

Amen.

A Prayer on National Stress Awareness Day

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Divine Source of Relaxation-

The tension rises into my forehead. Is that where this headache is coming from? The aches in my stomach are new and gnawing. And, God, what is this pain going up my neck? Is it because my shoulders are up by my ears?

Stress has been my unwanted companion for so long. But why is it I wont take the time to deep breathe, to meditate, to walk around the block?

So my mind keeps churning and turning and worrying.

God of each inhale and exhale, be my source of chilling out. Encourage me to find time to release the stress this day and each day hereafter.

Amen.

The first Wednesday in November is Stress Awareness Day.

A Prayer When Missing the Saints

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Divine Winds of Comfort,

As the dawn of a new chapter begins, we yearn for the scenes of yesterday. Our hearts miss the saints who no longer abide with us here on earth. Our souls ache to hear their voices once again, to feel our hands in theirs, to hug them again.

On this All Saints Day, give us the strength to move forward in a world without them. Comfort our grieving hearts. May your peace calm the spasms of our spirit when the grief overtakes us. May beautiful memories accompany us each day of the rest of our lives. Amen.

A Prayer for World Arthritis Day

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God of All Connections and Connectors,

Our joints stiffen and swell. Radiating pain shoots across our necks, backs, knees, and hands. What aches will tomorrow bring? we ask ourselves. How do we walk one step at a time or fulfill our callings with the limited use of our bodies?

As we mark World Arthritis Day, may the gifts of treatments better our lives. May inflammation decrease and movement increase. May we figure out how to live fully even when various types of arthritis threaten our futures. May your Spirit guide us in the shadows and lead us into the sunlight again.

Amen.

Ted Lasso, World Mental Health Day, and My Story

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Photo from https://www.apple.com/tv-pr/originals/ted-lasso/
Photo from https://www.apple.com/tv-pr/originals/ted-lasso/

Like many of you out there, I’ve become a fan of Ted Lasso. (I probably should say that I’m now a superfan of Ted Lasso, considering all of the times I’ve watched the series all the way through.) Ted provides a leadership that is constructive and encouraging of the team – from its owner to the players to all who work for the Richmond team.

There’s a piece of the story that I believe is crucial to write about today, World Mental Health Day. (Friends: this part might contain spoilers, so turn back now if you do not want to know what will happen before the end of season two.)

In the first season (or series, as it’s called in Britain), Ted has a panic attack one night during the team Karaoke event. The owner of the team talks him through his attack, supportive of his struggles from their early days together.

In the second season, Ted has another panic attack during a game. I’m not sure what brings this one on, and I don’t think it really matters to the viewers. The most important piece is that Ted has a panic attack and must face what is happening.

Ted begins to open up to the people closest to him that the reason he left the game was due to a panic attack. And one of his confidants (Nate!) discloses this anxiety event to the press. Up until that point, Ted’s mental health issue is not public knowledge. Yet, Ted decides that talking about it with the world is crucial to bringing an end to the stigma of mental health and sports. In fact, the entire season focuses on mental health, as Dr. Sharon Fieldstone helps out the Richmond players with their own struggles.

What a blessing the story has been for the movement towards mental health. As someone who struggles with anxiety and panic disorders, I identified well with Ted’s journey. (I first wrote about my childhood journey here.) When Nate outs Ted’s panic disorder, I became very angry. “How could he do such a thing! It’s not his story!” I thought to myself. Nate attempted to discredit and shame Ted through sharing such personal information. I didn’t care how much Nate was struggling himself; I was extremely angry that a person used a health struggle to damage the reputation of another human being.

I suppose I felt embarrassed for Ted. I felt the shame that was surrounding him and that others imposed on him. And yet, when it comes down to it, why was there shame? Ted began to address the struggles. Ted went back to work the next day. Ted opened up and spoke about it to normalize the experience.

More people than we realize struggle with mental health issues. From anxiety to depression to personality disorders to being bipolar, many of our neighbors go through temporary and life-long struggles with mental health issues. But in our struggles, we feel alone. We feel like no one else is going through what we are enduring. I felt that way as I child and sometimes as I got older. But then people began to talk about it, and I spoke about it – not just to be transparent in my journey but to help someone else as they go through something similar. I give thanks for my friend Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund who has been an inspiration to me writing about my journey. I find her books Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church as well as Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness and Marriage incredibly important for progressive Christianity. Like Dr. Lund, I am encouraging of anyone enduring mental health issues to seek help through a counselor and medication as well as other self-care activities. And like Dr. Lund (and Ted Lasso!), I am open to sharing my story as well.

Again, you can read something I wrote years ago here. But also, I’ve written a chapter in the forthcoming book When Kids Ask the Hard Questions, Volume 2: More Faith-Filled Responses for Tough Topics (edited by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Karen Ware Jackson). This chapter includes encouragement for parents to seek help if their child has anxiety or any other mental health issue. Children or adults should not feel alone in their journey, and if I can help one person feel less alone, then sharing my story is well worth it. I highly encourage you to check out this book because of the myriad of topics included. Children and parents should never feel alone in any struggles.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:

“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

As I said in my previous post regarding my story:

Today, to use the phraseology of Paul, I boast of this weakness of mine.  I boast not from pride, but because I feel free and light in being able to tell my story.  I boast because I see the presence of God in my weakness, and my relationships with God and others have grown closer in this vulnerable state.  And that means, like Paul, seeking contentment in this very vulnerable moment and becoming transparent will hopefully bring strength to the entire body of Christ.

So today, on World Mental Health Day, I celebrate the stories of others who became a little vulnerable to be honest so that others feel less alone. And I celebrate my story – because it shows both my vulnerability and resilience, knowing through baby steps and the strength of God finding a wholeness is possible.