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.

A Prayer for September 11

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Divine Balm of Healing,

Today we remember the beautiful September morning
when the sky became filled with soot,
when terror robbed the joy of our neighbors.

The ones who relive trauma day after day from those scenes
and the ones whose hearts still ache from their loss
never live far from our minds.

May beautiful stories open for the children who never knew their parents
and may the widows and widowers find the gentle rains of peace.

May the first responders who struggle with ongoing health issues find the healing they need,
and may we remember the ones who died since that September day in 2001.

May we work with our neighbors of all faiths, races, perspectives, abilities, orientations, and identities
to craft a world where Divine love reigns, where justice heals, and where mercy unites.

May we labor together to build a world where hate lives no more,
where words of malice fall away,
where actions of brutality dissipate,
and where terrorism and genocide and oppression have no home.

May our country and every other nation find blessings,
and may we be a blessing to those within our nation and our neighbors across this earth.

Amen.

Liturgy for Acts 10

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INVOCATION
Still-Speaking God-

You sow new seeds in our world, and call us to harvest them when the time is right. You fill our world with new melodies, and ask us to sing them to change the air around us. You call us to use new wineskins for our wine. You ask us to try new delicacies, travel to new lands, and listen to the stories of our new neighbors. Let us embrace the Spirit of newness surrounding us, listening to your transforming call in our lives. Amen.

PRAYER OF RECONCILIATION
One: Loving God, Divine Chef-
We cling to the usual menu of life.  We order the same food. We invite the same people. Yet what if you are calling us to order new cuisine and dine with a new group?  
All: Transform our minds to the adventure of newness.  May the meal and the conversations we share open our hearts to new tastes, textures, and experiences.  Amen.

ASSURANCE OF GRACE
One: God serves us grace as we reflect on our past errors and hurtful actions.  God sets us on a new path filled with mercy and wisdom.  Let us rejoice as we embrace fresh beginnings!  Amen!

BENEDICTION
May we embrace the flavor of newness in the meals we eat this week. May the aroma of the unfamiliar draw us into new adventures. May the stories of strangers open our minds to new paths. And as the foreign becomes familiar, may the Spirit of God draw us into transforming this world with our new understandings. Amen.

(c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use with attribution.

Easter Morning Worship Prayers

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Invocation

Divine Dawn of Redemption, as the tomb has opened, we peer into the future. Like in the garden long ago, so much around is still unknown. Yet you have refilled our souls with hope. Even when fear lingers, your peace-filled spirit surrounds us, bringing us the confidence to continue to move forward. May we embrace this new era of resurrection with steadfast faith, even when anxiety and amazement disorient us. Amen.

Blessing of the Gifts

Holy One, with gratitude, we celebrate all gifts we have been given and the gifts we share with the church and our community.  May the treasures, talents, and time we share build a world in which all people experience resurrection and renewal.  Amen.

Benediction

As we enter a world where resurrection is possible,
Nudge us forward when the unknown is overwhelming.
Empower us when anxiety and amazement seize our spirits.
Allow our trembling voices to share Alleluias with a hurting world.
Open our hearts to our neighbors yearning for rebirth.
And allow us to see the empty tomb in each season of our lives.

Amen.

A Easter Communion Liturgy can be found here.

(c) 2021 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use with attribution.