A Prayer on the Summer Solstice

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Creator God, Divine Designer of the solar and lunar lights:

The day has arrived when the sun has reached its peak tenure. We rejoice under its light, its persistence in brightening our world. Day has delayed its departure.

For the long days and 9pm sunsets, we give gratitude, God.

Holy One who gifted us the Summer Solstice, create a desire in us to give this day our all and time to pause in the abiding daylight. Delay our time in the shadows.

The night will creep into the days demanding its mornings and evenings for itself.

We know that our uplifted moods of this Solstice will be quite different as the winter one rolls around.

So today we do what we can to grasp the fleeting daylight and delight under the sun, to celebrate your presence in our lives no matter the season, and to love one another on these long summer days.

Amen.

A Prayer for World Refugee Day

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God who encircles our earth in every moment,
Shine your light on our Holy Siblings who are refugees.
Whether they abide in Europe or the Middle East or Asia or Africa,
May they find stability and stamina in their storms,
Finding love as they seek basic care.
In their diaspora, may they reach the place where they can vision a new heaven and earth
And build a home in their exile, a dwelling of their new dreams.

Nudge us as we drift to sleep
 And neglect the stories of refugees-
The stories of abused, scared, famished ones made in your image.
Wake us when we forget that your son Jesus was a refugee-
An infant in the arms of his parents seeking safety.
Stir us when we forget that the Israelites were in the wilderness too
Escaping the powers-that-be that desired them dead.

We celebrate those who have gone before us whose resilience helped them find new life:
Our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles who were refugees
Lived only on a dream and carried great faith in the small bag packed for their trip-
A journey of an indefinite length to an unidentified city with strange people and scents and flavors.

May peace prevail across our world.
And when peace is lacking,
Let us open our doors to the many people who hurt
Delivering the hospitality of Christ to all God’s children.

Amen.

*****

Please check out these two links:

The Refugee

Azad’s Story

A World Oceans Day Prayer

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IMG_2016Swirling God, who at the dawn of creation swept over the face of the waters, hover over our oceans and all waterways with your blessed presence.

May each droplet of mist and sea be clean and fresh for all life who come in contact with these holy streams.

Bless each cell and molecule of life below the surface of the waters who trust in you and us to create a prosperous world.

Continually nudge us to nurture creation, joining together with humans all over this planet to covenant with one another and celebrate the gifts of water, air, fire, and land that you have given us.

Amen.

A “Repeat Day” Prayer

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fractal-1128622_960_720God of all eras and places,
Of all dittos, agains, redoes, duplicates, and echoes,
We want to celebrate the best of times over and over.

From the richest pieces of chocolate cake,
To the extravagant vacations we’ve been on,
And from the times we’ve fallen in love or to the liveliest parties we’ve attended,
We want to relive the greatest moments of our lives.

Sadly, those moments are often once in a lifetime-
Encapsulated within a fleeting moment.

On the other side of the coin are the moments which we hope to forget…
The breakups in which our hearts feel like they will collapse,
Or the illnesses that take days or months or years to subside.  Maybe.
Or the acts of violence that plague our world again.  And again.
And again.

We hope those never happen once.
But they often reoccur.

Another surgery.  Another funeral.

The news reports one more bombing across the world,
And we hear another stabbing or fatal gunshot injury.
We wonder why the terror keeps repeating
But the good times are few and far between.

On this repeat day, God,
While we won’t relive our day like Phil Conners in Groundhog Day,
We do find out that good times are sweetly rare,
That tragedy can happen at any moment,
That we cannot have a mulligan for our day.
But through your grace,
Trauma flashbacks will fade,
And maybe we can move into tomorrow with a spirit of hope.

Amen.

“Leave the Office Early Day” Prayer

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God of all times and spaces, as this day wears on, give us the opportunity to leave the office early.

Divine one, this isn’t our chance to slack off or ditch work. We work hard in our off hours and through lunch breaks.

But give us a few extra minutes to trade in time at the office for laughs with our friends or hugs with our loved ones.

This hour is one for us to remember the sabbath, rest, chill out, take extra breaths, and practice a well-balanced life.

(And God, since it’s also National Donut Day, we’re going to enjoy some jelly-filled donut goodness today too.)

Amen.

*****

I’m experimenting with praying through the National Day Calendar. While some of the prayers will be fun, others will be much more serious. Is there a specific prayer you would like to see? Note below. Thanks!

A Communion Liturgy for Pentecost

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Service of Communion

Invitation

One: Come to this table
Where bread and cup are transformed by the Spirit of God
Into a meal of love and grace
A supper of visions and dreams
A table where all souls are welcome.

Prayer of Communion

Loving God
Whose Divine Lungs exhaled the Spirit into our World
Your breath continues to transform our world
From the still to the stirring.

Before the earth was formed
The Spirit of God swirled through voids and shadows.

As humans were created
The air of God filled the lungs of Adam
And the soul of Eve.

This Divine Air
Continues to fill us up
When our bones are dry and spirits are sluggish.

On this day of Pentecost
When we celebrate the breath of the Spirit coming upon the disciples
We invite the Spirit to come upon these elements.

God of winds, pour out your Spirit to make the elements come alive for us.
Make this meal awaken our sleepy hearts and stagnant souls.

May this time of eating and drinking be one
where we stir from our sadness and rise from our hopelessness.

May we begin to celebrate visions
And animate the dreams that have only been alive in our minds.

As we share this meal,
Let us remember our siblings in faith who came to this table

In decades and centuries past
And our children who will surround this table in the future.
Each generation uniquely celebrates your presence, Spirit of Life.

The night before Jesus died was a solemn time around the table.
Breaking bread.  Drinking from the cup.
Jesus asking to remember him in our eating and drinking.

There was a time to mourn followed by a time to dance.

After the day of resurrection
The disciples ate on the beach with the risen Christ
Celebrating new life, new hope, new vitality.

On this Pentecost, as we come to the table,
let us celebrate the Spirit of Resurrection
And the promise of a needed second-wind in our own lives.

Let us partake of this celebratory meal together.

Distribution of Elements

Unison Prayer of Thanksgiving

Spirit of God, who fed the multitudes, provided the manna in the wilderness, and blessed the elements, we give great thanks for the meal eaten and the company surrounding us.

Inspire us as we move forward this day and encourage us to transform our dreams into reality.  Amen.

When Cheesecake Is More Than Cheesecake

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cheesecake picToday, Mother’s Day 2017, I went to lunch with some people from church.  I was the only non-mom female adult in the group.

It was wonderful catching up and spending time with this group of people.  When the end of the meal came, the other women at the table received a free piece of cheesecake.

I did not.

Now, I was planning on spending my dessert calories elsewhere in the day (as I had a free coupon for a sundae that I was looking forward to).  While the cheesecake looked delicious, I wasn’t as disappointed that I wasn’t eating cheesecake as much as what that cheesecake represented.

That dessert represented the haves and the have nots when it comes to family structures.

I continue to claim the status of somewhere between childhood and childfree.  Most days, I am content with not having children, I suppose.  While 360 days of the year I’m fine (or have, at least, convinced myself I am fine) not having children, certain holidays roll around each year, reminding me of what I don’t have.

For instance, there’s Christmas morning in which I don’t have children waking me up, excited about getting presents.  Then there’s Easter Day, when families all sit together with children beaming from the Easter Bunny excitement.

And it feels like a knife cuts into my soul.

I was already having a rough day due to what Mother’s Day means to me: a day representing dreams that didn’t happen.  Each year, I never expect it to impact me as it does until the day rolls around and I’m dealing with aches in my heart every time I see photos of friends with their children, knowing that isn’t the same path my life took.

There’s the primary source of sadness and grief: not having children.  But when a piece of cake comes out for all of the other women at your table, you realize that your path is so very different from the path of your sisters, and grieve a secondary loss of being looked over by society.

And that’s why I encourage churches to take an inclusive approach to this holiday by praying for all women on Mother’s Day – the ones with children and the ones who face childlessness.  We pray for the ones beaming with joy and the ones who would rather not come to church on this Sunday.

Many women refused to go to churches on Mother’s Day because of the glorification mothers receive.  At the church I serve, we recognize that Mother’s Day is about being a mother and being part of the process of mothering.  All women (and all people) fit into the latter category as it really does take a village to raise children.

I’m pleased to be one of many pastors who is bringing a new inclusive way of recognizing Mother’s Day to churches.

I just wish restaurants would catch up…

The Pastor’s Tale

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hideAs I stood at the communion table on Sunday morning, what breezed through my mind was a world in which I could no longer be a pastor because of my gender.  I suppose this came to my mind since I had been watching The Handmaid’s Tale and reading various news stories about women.  I worried about the end of pastoral opportunities for women.  And so, I bring you this piece of pastoral dystopia.

*****

I was beginning to become flushed again.  Middle-aged and hot flashes.  But, of course, no air conditioning in the house we were abiding within.

We were just happy to be there – happy to be living with our sisters in Christ.  We were delighted to be able to spend time laughing together – talking about our clergy stories and anecdotes of life in and out of the pulpit.  We were living in a time when we could be completely ourselves and, yet, continuously on edge that something devastating could be happening in the next few minutes.

They might find us.  They might find us and kill us.

My dad was my government teacher.  Now, I was only a teenager at that point, so I don’t remember everything.  But what I do remember was that my dad told us in class that he would be one rounded up and killed under some regimes.

Why?  Because he was an agent of change.  He spoke about politics and government.  And he wanted us to think for ourselves.

Fortunately, that was thirty years ago, and he was able to freely practice his calling as a teacher-

And only thirty years later, I wish I had that same freedom.

I became a pastor in my late thirties after sensing a calling ten years earlier.  The beauty of my ordination day was being able to stand at the table and boldly claim the words of Christ…

“On the night before he died… he took the bread… he took the cup…”

What a moment in my life to be celebrated.  Finally, I was able to live fully into my calling.

But less than a decade later, things began to change.  More women were being laid off from jobs- fired, thanks to the fundamentalists in power.  More propaganda drove the importance of women birthing children.  “Women shall be saved through childbearing” was the mantra we heard over and over.

I wasn’t called to be a mother.  I thought that was my path at one point, but then my fallopian tubes twisted and turned.  Meeting the “right guy” didn’t happen until close to perimenopause anyway, so the chance of babies happening were decreasing with every breath.

And while I was mostly content with the way life turned out, hearing them chant the mantra over and over again was a knife through my heart.

Are we more than our uteruses?  That’s what we would ask ourselves.  I felt like I was no more than one or two organs in my body.

Number forty-six became president just a little before I turned forty-six.  And I was out on the streets protesting his every word and every act.  He was a “good Christian man” according to some of our colleagues.  Morality was his focus.  Making families great again was his vision and his mission.  He wanted women to be baby-making Stepford Wives… submissive, subservient, and silent.

And this was not who I was or who I was called to be.  I was more than my uterus and milk ducts.

I considered moving to Canada to find a pastoral position there, but many women were doing the same, so the chance of finding a job was minimal.

Eventually, mine name was put on a list – along with the names of fellow female clergy.  We were the enemy.  We had said too much and protested too often.  We were responding to the call of God to oppose the current theocratic system in place.

I didn’t know what to do.  I was in a constant state of anxiety – especially losing my agency after being so independent.  I kissed my loved ones goodbye, because I knew they would find me with them.

And I went underground with my sisters of the cloth.

Some were very pregnant with their own child, but since their names were on the list, they too were enemies of the state.  Others of us were heading into our peri- or menopausal years.  We knew one another well.  We knew that we were more than our wombs and were willing to live in a community that cherished our agency.

We weren’t sure what forty-six’s administration did with the women clergy they caught.  Were they dead?  Were they forced into marriages?  What about our lesbian sisters – were they able to love their spouses freely anymore, or were they sent to camps?

If they caught us, where would we go?  The camps?  Prison?  Would we be tried and killed?

This was our fear.  Every day.

And yet we comforted each other every day.  We sang songs, talked about our great loves, the adventures we had pre-ministry and even some during our clergy days.  We would binge watch the DVD shows smuggled into the safe house.  A couple of our clergy brothers would bring us what we needed a couple of times per week, but otherwise, we weren’t exiting our current abode.

The one ritual we made sure to embrace was communion.  Each night, right before retiring to our corners of the home, we would bring out a few pieces of bread.  And every night we would take turns repeating the words that Jesus gave us – right when he was about to be captured.  We knew that if we were captured we would follow in the steps of Jesus the Christ as we were faithful to the end.

Tonight was my night to lead.  Would this be the last time I spoke the words of institution?  Would they be coming for us tomorrow like they did with Jesus?  Would I be ripped from this space and forced into a life where I couldn’t say those words again?

On the night before Jesus died, he took the bread and broke it…

Lifting the break and tearing it apart, I wondered if my body would be torn to pieces.

Likewise, after supper, Jesus took the cup and blessed it…

I passed it around, knowing that we could all be drinking from the same cup of Christ because of our choices to remain faithful to our calling and to God.

As the drops of juice filled my mouth and I swallowed it, a tear slid down my face.  It wasn’t the only tear in the room, and I didn’t feel the need to hide it.  We were in the valley of the shadow of death, and I still feared evil.  I may sense the presence of God next to me, but much of the Body of Christ wanted to amputate us, discarding us into a wasteland they created from their distorted relationship with the Divine.

At least tonight – maybe for the last time – we were once again given a table in the presence of our enemies, remembering the boldness of Jesus the Christ.

 

*****

Note that I want to add a short while after publishing this post:

I wrote this from my perspective which is still very privileged. But I don’t want to forget about the people who were not able to get ordained because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or race and whose standing was taken away because of their sexual orientation. We should be working every day to ensure that all people are able to freely live into their callings.

 

Lent Day 26: A Prayer for When I Want to Quit Writing

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God of the infinite who abides in the finite,
You ask me to keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.

But does it really matter?

Does anyone really read my material?
Does it make a difference in anyone’s life?
Does anyone want to forward it?

Is my ego in the way?

The words flow freely at times
And other times, they are immobile as in clogged pipe.
So why do I bother to write when I feel like the words aren’t there
And they matter little?

Set my sometimes-too-large and sometimes-too-small ego to the side.
Help me realize that I’m a vessel for holy words and not a blogging prima donna,
And that there will be times when my work creates change in the world,
There will be times when they make no difference,
And there are times when it causes controversy.

Ignite the spiritual fire within my being to live into my call
With creativity and courage.

God of all spaces and times,
Pursue me if it looks as if I will quit,
If writings are rejected,
And I feel like my calling makes no difference.

Remind me each day that I use these gifts to glorify you,
To create a justice-filled world,
And to take the droplets of love and fill them into the gaps of our fractured world.  Amen.

April, Fiona, and the People We Are Missing

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pexels-photo-83901This article was originally published at the SONKA UCC blog.

Like much of the greater Cincinnati area, I’ve been following the progress of the young hippopotamus Fiona. It’s amazing and inspirational to see her improvement each week. Likewise, I pop in to see how the gestational period of April the giraffe is progressing. It’s a nice distraction from the tough stories we read about in the news or the difficulties in our own lives.

But as we focus our attention on April and Fiona, what is going on with the stories we don’t hear much about?

The other day, I saw a story on how 14 young women of color went missing in the Washington D.C. area in one day. The information was not correct. However, as solid facts became more visible, we still see a pattern of young people (especially women) of color disappearing in the area. While the numbers have been decreasing in the past couple of years, there is still concern for the number of women of color who are missing.

Assumptions are made on their disappearance, believing that they ran away instead of considering that something more sinister is happening, like kidnapping and human trafficking. If the young women did run away, some have not been investigating why they left as there could be abuse in the home. Little media attention has been given to the issue – especially if the missing person is a person of color.

While the false claims of the initial post drew me into the conversation, as I did more investigating online, I still noticed that young women of color were still not given the media attention they deserved.

And while I love to see hippo Fiona making progress and giraffe April waiting to have her calf, our call is to make certain that news stories about marginalized human beings have just as much media attention.

Do we pay more attention to animals and some human beings of privilege than other human beings in our society? Do people who are marginalized feel like the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7, just wanting the equivalent of attention to their well-being as we give Fiona the hippo or April the giraffe?

What can we do to be an active part of making people aware of critical issues? First and foremost, we work to ensure that we are following and reposting information that is factual.  Secondly, we post information that can raise awareness of issues of groups of people who have been largely ignored by news stories. We talk about these issues in our worship services and in other faith formation opportunities in our congregations. Third, we work to remove our own biases to see that humans very different than us are experiencing real challenges in their lives that we cannot understand. We avoid assuming that their behaviors are done out of defiance and rebelliousness and, instead, ask for investigations into why they are missing or leaving home.

It’s a wonderful break from the ugliness in our world to see Fiona growing and April about to give birth. But through social media and our networks, we are given the opportunity to discover what is going on with our sisters and brothers on this earth and work to guarantee that they are treated as we would want to be treated. Young women of color’s lives matter, they are children of God and made in God’s image.