Glimpses of Survival Through Grief

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Sturdy God through the flimsy times,
I discovered that I may endure this time in the wilderness.
I may escape the land of everlasting shadows.
I may find more than an oasis from grief.

Now, I’m not sure how I will feel in two hours or four days, but right now, God, I embrace this gift from your Spirit.

Sure, I know the moon’s dance will cross between me and the sun,
And my soul will feel every bit of the lack of light from the eclipse.
And there will be days when the clouds leave no gap to allow the blue sky to show its friendly face.

But I’ve seen those days before.
And I cried and screamed.
And once again, the sun showed her face.

Again and again, after the shadows have had their say, the light breaks through.

This is the human life.  This is the way I know that I will endure.
This is how I know I will make it from one breath to the next
And from one day to the next.

Even as I walk through the shadow filled valleys, you are with me God.
And you will journey with me to sunlight again.  Amen.

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All Saints’ Sunday Eve

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God of the brisk autumn evenings and chilly fall mornings,
Tomorrow is All Saints’ Sunday – the one time per year when we recall out loud the names of our deceased loved ones.
We speak of them aloud to give their lives dignity and grieve their passings.

But All Saints’ Sunday Eve is drastically different than All Saints’ Day Eve.
There is no hunting for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Milky Ways.
There are no costumes or parties or pumpkins.

Instead, it’s me and you, God.

I pray that I have the strength tomorrow to muddle through the service
To remember my father without publicly shedding copious amounts of tears.

It will sound strange to hear his name read in the list of saints.
And as my skin will crawl when he is named
May your peace be a salve to my irritated spirit.

Amen.

An All Saints’ Day Prayer for Those Left Behind

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God of the weeping souls, many of us sit in sorrow today.

Our favorite saint no longer abides with us. With the absence of their voice and facial expressions and stories,  we walk around today in a mid-autumn daze.

Today asks us to remember the saints when we want to forget the pain. Today begs for us to remember voices and expressions and stories as we hold onto memories for as long as possible.

So with the void that we carry around like a 20-pound weight, we face the day one less person in our world.

We logically understand that tomorrows will become more tolerable in this mediocre journey. But today we cry with the absolute loss we’ve been given.

God, you are celebrating with them on that side of heaven, but on this side, you lament with us.  Be in both places at once in this existence that we are all trying to understand.

Amen.

 

All Saints Sunday Communion Liturgy

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Invitation to Communion

Siblings in Christ, join me today at this table to a feast belonging to Jesus the Christ.  Siblings in Christ, join me today for a feast which will comfort our souls.  Siblings in Christ, join me in this sacrament knowing that we will grow close to God, neighbor, and self at this table.

Prayer of Communion

Friends, we come to this bittersweet ritual today filled with a bundle of emotions.  While our gratitude for this family of faith is plentiful, our spiritual pain still may be suffocating us at five weeks or four months or three years or even two decades after the death of our beloved.

Our pews are a little lighter.  Our homes are a quieter.  And our hearts know well of the gaping hole resulting from our loss.

Even as this void still consumes this day-to-day living, we come here looking for hope that we can find only in you.  Through this meal, we connect the past and present together, knowing that generation after generation has come to this table in their joy and grief.

God, we pray that this feast be one that fills our souls with comfort.  Even as winter is growing close and nighttime arrives early, this meal will kindle warmth and light inside our spirits.

May your Holy Spirit bless this bread and cup.  May the Spirit bless us as we celebrate at the peaks of life and as we abide in the shadow-filled valleys.  May the Spirit bring us the peace that will permeate our grief-coated hearts.  And may the Spirit use this time and space to remind us that we are never alone in our difficult spaces.

With his friends, Jesus shared his last communion before death.  The group recognized the sacred in their gathering and celebrated their friendship and their community of faith.

One more time, Jesus took the bread and blessed it.  In his breaking of the bread, Jesus yearned for them to remember his teachings and their times together.  “Whenever you eat this bread, remember me.”

One more time, after supper, Jesus took the cup and blessed it as well.  In his grasping of the cup, Jesus yearned for his followers to recall their times together.  “Whenever you drink of this cup, remember me.”

As we join together for this meal, let us remember with gratitude our loved ones who once ate at this table and many other tables with us.  While they no longer abide with us here today, help us to recognize that they are a part of the great cloud of witnesses, celebrating eternity with our Creator.

May this meal be a gift to each of our souls today.

Unison prayer of Thanksgiving

We express our gratitude for this meal, Divine Host.  We give thanks for the times we spent with our loved ones here at this table, and we thank you that this table is a reminder of our love for you, God.  Accompany us into the world with peace in our hearts and strength in the days to come.  Amen.

Reformation Day/Reformation Sunday Liturgy

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For those who may need a Reformation Day/Reformation Sunday liturgy, here is an option for you to use and, if needed, adapt.  Please attribute.  Thank you!

CALL TO WORSHIP (Inspired by Psalm 96)
One: O sing to God a new song!
Many: Sing to God, all of us throughout this earth.
One: Sing throughout our lives. In our song, bless the name of God.
Many: Exclaim God’s salvation from morning until night.
One: Declare God’s glory and marvelous works
Many: For great is God, and with excitement, we join in praise.

OPENING PRAYER
God of all time and spaces, we know that through your magnificent creative Spirit our world and our lives came into being. And yet, you are not completely finished with creation.  You continue to speak.  As you nudge us to newness, grant us renewal as we observe creation with refreshed souls.  Help us to appreciate the boldness of Jesus, Martin Luther, and other reformers throughout history.   Give us the courage to change what needs to be transformed in order for your Church to grow.  Amen.

PRAYER OF RECONCILIATION
One: Just as the world continues to revolve and evolve, the church is called to move in new directions. Yet we do what we can to place brakes on change and silence newness. The winds of the Holy Spirit are still blowing in our direction, nudging us to move forward, but we have chosen to close doors, shut windows, and ignore its urging.

Many: Forgive us when we limit you, God and when we place you and your ideas into boxes. Open our souls to the expansiveness of faith.  May we incorporate the new winds and bold ideas even when we are set in our old ways and content with our monotonous routines.  Amen.

ASSURANCE OF GRACE
No matter how many times we have slammed the door on God, God continues to knock and wants us to answer.  We are grateful for the saturating grace that God continues to pour over us.  Amen!

CALL TO OFFERING
As God calls us to cultivate the Church, God asks us to share our time, talent, and treasures. As we give present our treasures, let us spend moments reflecting upon where God may be calling us to share our time and talents.

PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Through the gifts that we have placed in these plates and the offerings that we give of our time and talents, we seek to grow the Church, God. Let us continue to find creative ways to contribute.  And may our Still Speaking God’s call entice us to not only build but reform Christ’s church.  Amen.

BENEDICTION
May we leave this place understanding that this is the beginning. May we depart today knowing that the best of our faith is yet to come. And may the exhilarating mystery of God, the courage of the Great Reformer Jesus, and the dynamic nudging of the Spirit excite us as we become reformers for the Divine.  Amen!

 

 

Compounding Grief

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IMG_5033.JPGGod, why don’t we talk about compounding grief – when much of the things we love or are used to are gone.

Yes, my father is no longer here which has created a system void. But then I must consider the loss of my female organs, and the loss of ever bearing a child.

And then my computer crashes…

If you think I’m some Job, God, I’m not. My resilience is a drying rubber band with little to no stretching capability. Or maybe my soul has now been extended to its fullest potential.

If you have a hand in of this, God, stop it. Please. Or give me extra strength. Or allow me the courage to release all that I’m losing. Or peace that goes beyond my understanding… something to soothe my agitated Spirit.

I don’t believe you only give us what we can handle. Sometimes, what the universe gives us seems more than we can bear. If that’s the case, I turn to you, Divine Parent, to give me nourishment in this chaotic wilderness.

Amen.

*****

My grief prayers continue after the loss of my father on September 18, 2017.

A Prayer for the Really, Really Bad Days

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God of the valleys filled with shadows, today is one of those days. The “there are no words” for this pain. The triggers are great. The soul is raw. Superglue feels like it keeps me in this space under perpetual cloudiness.

And so, in this deluge of spiritual rain, sleet, and snow, you become drenched with me God.

Even if you can’t lift these clouds, help me to find the light surrounding me and the love that holds me close in the moments of despair.

Amen.

*****

I continue my series on prayers of grief after the death of my father on September 18, 2017.

When the Leaves Fall

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God of the oranges and yellows and reds and browns, we’ve been submersed into autumn. The gold that shines from the edges of the aging leaves dance with the sun’s rays.

But soon these leaves will be falling. The oranges and yellows and reds and browns will be releasing from their lifesource, fall to the damp ground, sapped of its moisture, and become like dust waiting to be absorbed to the earth.

How depressing to dwell on this process, God! Yet how beautiful this season.

So as we all turn from our spring greens and release deeper hues of summer to the bold myriad of colors, give us the appreciation of the change of seasons, changes in our leaves, and transformation in our landscapes.

With your breezes comforting our aging, God, we will find that you will be with us as we glide to your soothing ground.

Amen.

A Prayer As I Embrace Grief’s Journey

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IMG_4914God, it appears that I’m making it. I rise each day, take care of what is needed, find healthy ways to express myself.

So I pass grief with flying colors, right?

Not exactly.

I’ll be fine until I see a photo or have a memory or listen to a song from 1975. I’ll be relaxed until something – like a drive or a conversation – takes me back to that chilly September morning. I’ll be traveling home and the warming sunset reminds me of his love of photographing dusks.

Then my heart shudders with the notion that I won’t see him again on this side of heaven. My brain slides back into a dense fog as it tries to protect my soul from intense feelings of loss. My body aches from the heaviness that comes with this extra emotional weight.

And I am reminded again that grief is always a lifelong journey. Completion of this process doesn’t happen here. It’s not a destination. Overcoming it will never happen. There is nothing to win, and I will not get a medal when surviving.

And yet, I’m making it. Fifteen minutes at a time, God, we are making it. For that unremarkable significant victory, I am grateful.

Amen.

A Prayer for Unresponsiveness

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God who wound nerves throughout our bodies and gave us a “central computer” to connect our mind, body, and spirits, there are patient souls sitting bedside in hospital room chairs wondering and waiting to see if their loved ones will wake up.

These family and friends were just fine a day or two ago… and now they are a shadow of themselves. An accident or illness marred their brain health and function.  No matter what words or commands are given, they rest nearly lifeless.

And then there’s waiting… and testing… and waiting more.

For the waiting, we pray for patience. For decisions that may need to be made, we pray for clarity. For losses that may result, we pray for peace.

God, you run with us at our most active. You recline with us at our most unresponsive. No matter the state of our body, our soul is always alongside of you.

Amen.

*****

On September 18, my dad died unexpectedly. In his final days he was unresponsive due to a lack of oxygen to the brain after a cardiac arrest. This prayer was written remembering our needs and knowing other families are facing similar experiences.