Wednesday, January 16, 2008

in my son's honor, as he gives thanks over big and little

All you big things, bless the Lord
Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Victoria
The Rift Valley and the Serengeti Plain
Fat baobabs and shady mango trees
Bless the Lord
Praise and extol Him for ever and ever.

All you tiny things, bless the Lord
Busy black ants and hopping fleas
Wriggling tadpoles and mosquito larvae
Flying locusts and water drops
Pollen dust and tsetse flies
Millet seeds and dried dagaa
Bless the Lord
Praise and extol Him for ever and ever.

"African Canticle"
from Earth Prayers from Around the World

Sunday, January 6, 2008

God makes me laugh

"Don't be afraid, Jacob, you worm." Isaiah 41:14 (God's Word translation)

Okay, here I was feeling all anxious and severe and I come across this. You maketh me laugh, O Authentic One, O One Who Calls It As It Is. Seriously, I appreciate it. And at the risk of taking us to new levels of hilarity (with a near-Peter-Gabriel reference): I'll be your sledge. Thank you for the joy... Signed, Another of Your Worms

"I will help you," declares the LORD, your Defender, the Holy One of Israel. "I am going to make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp, double-edged teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them to dust. You will turn the hills into straw. You will winnow them. The wind will carry them away. The windstorm will scatter them. But you will find joy in the LORD and praise the Holy One of Israel." Isaiah 41:15-16 (God's Word translation)

because I feel inadequate

Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, "My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness." Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. 2 Corinthians 8-10 (The Message)

I more or less hate that scripture, God. Not so much the first part as the second, the "I was glad to let it happen" part. I mean, honestly, could Paul have been any more cloying? But it's true I feel inadequate in so many ways and have hope -- on my good days -- that you will bring good out of my pitiful condition. And that's pretty much all I have to say for now, for fear of sounding pretty cloying myself. I'm glad you are you, Mighty One.

bullies and servants

Jesus got them together to settle things down. "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around," he said, "and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage." Matthew 10:42-45 (The Message)

It certainly isn't the first time, and I guess it won't be the last. I get so angry when my children are attacked by bullies. It's like a double injury: there is my child, hurt in physical and emotional ways, and then there is the broken life of the offender who is often much older and more deeply immersed in bad decisions and environments. Lord, help me be a stronghold, a deliverer. And help me create a safe haven for my children in addition to helping them navigate complex social situations. May my children grow to be hungry to serve, rather than hungry to rule over others.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

insomnia and depression

You've kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book. Psalm 56:8 (The Message)

I have a friend plagued by insomnia, Jehovah-Jireh, Lord of all provision. He's seen all the doctors and had all the tests; nothing is working. The nights stretch out before him and the darkness is heavy in his eyes. His family is discouraged and I know that they feel the fear of the unknown. What can he do but wait?

I don't think the battle belongs to Kevin, Lord. I see him positioned behind you, waiting on and praying for deliverance. There are forces arrayed against him, forces he cannot see and does not understand. You alone know this enemy.

Lead him through the long nights, God. Make your way straight before him. Keep his feet from stumbling, that he may walk before you again in the light of life.

for a runaway teenager

"Imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she'll call her friends and neighbors: 'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it—that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God." Luke 15:8-10 (The Message)

When I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:4-6 (New Living Translation)

I don't know what this young woman is struggling with, this one who has disappeared into the streets of an unforgiving city. I don't know what things in her have been broken, or what she suffers. I only know that she does suffer.

I don't like thinking of her as "lost" particularly, as if she somehow wandered off course or was treated negligently and mislaid. Rather, she ran away. I expect there may be anger and resentment, and an unwillingness to continue under the conditions in which she found herself. Maybe she thought anything was better than that. Maybe anything was.

So I find myself seeking words with which to make my request, El Shaddai, all-sufficient one, on behalf of this young woman who is the niece of my friend. I know you seek her, but I don't know if, like a coin, she waits passively to be found. Nonetheless, be close beside her with your biggest, scariest-looking staff -- keep the dogs at bay, and give her your protection. Find a way to feed her, even in the midst of her enemies. I beg blessings on her behalf, blessings she never expects, blessings to bring her life and sanctuary. Pursue her with your relentless love, your unfailing compassion. Every day, love her.

for an end to my awful mind cassettes

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:6-8 (New Living Translation)

Sometimes I sit up late at night obsessing. Running one bad tape over and over again in my mind. It doesn't help anything to go over this same ground; to keep replaying a mistake, or a bunch of mistakes. It doesn't help anything to keep worrying over the same fears, the same inadequacies, the same injuries, like a child who keeps poking at a bruise to see how much it hurts. Sometimes I think these bad mental cassette tapes are the exact opposite of prayer, the ultimate in fruitless labor.

Jesus, please guard my mind with your peace. Help me fix my thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

And help me ditch those awful, worn-out, peace-thieving cassettes.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

waiting for you

I pray to God—my life a prayer—
and wait for what he'll say and do.
My soul waits for the Lord,
waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning. Psalm 130:5-6

My friend Jen is tired and weary; you have always given her strength for the coming day. She is of anxious heart; you have always given her peace for the coming day. She faces struggle on every side; you have always kept her safe in trials. Her road is hidden; you have always marked the road for the coming day. Night surrounds her; you have always lightened the darkness. Though you may be silent now, you have always spoken when the time was ripe. Keep her in the shadow of your wings as she watches and waits for the morning.

It's a season of little peace for Jen and Fred. I thank you for sending them as you promised to do, and I ask your special blessing on them as they come. May their household be safely and expediently packed. May their children ride the wave of change in their world with your support. May this family find a place to house them here, and begin to find peace anew.

in thanksgiving for God's army of women

God will arise. His enemies will be scattered. Those who hate him will flee from him. Blow them away like smoke. Let wicked people melt in God’s presence like wax next to a fire. But let righteous people rejoice. Let them celebrate in God’s presence. Let them overflow with joy. Sing to God; make music to praise his name. Make a highway for him to ride through the deserts. The LORD is his name. Celebrate in his presence. The God who is in his holy dwelling place is the father of the fatherless and the defender of widows. God places lonely people in families. He leads prisoners out of prison into productive lives, but rebellious people must live in an unproductive land. O God, when you went in front of your people, when you marched through the desert, the earth quaked and the sky poured in the presence of the God of Sinai, in the presence of the God of Israel. You watered the land with plenty of rain, O God. You refreshed it when your land was exhausted. Your flock settled there. Out of your goodness, O God, you provided for oppressed people. The Lord gives instructions. The women who announce the good news are a large army. Psalm 68:1-11

Rise up, O God, and lead your people. We, the women whom you have called, stand ready to follow. May those who oppose you melt before your coming like wax before a fire. We will work to make ready the path before you, God of Sinai, God of provision; we will go wherever you lead. With our families, with celebration and praise, in times of plenty and times of exhaustion, where there is rain and where there is thirst, we will listen for your instruction and we will follow.

to establish my husband in righteousness

You will be established in righteousness. You will be far from oppression, so you will not be afraid. You will be far from destruction, so it won’t come near you. “If anyone attacks you, it will not be my doing. Whoever attacks you will be defeated by you. I’ve created blacksmiths to fan the coals into flames and to produce useful weapons. I’ve also created destroyers to bring destruction. No weapon that has been made to be used against you will succeed. You will have an answer for anyone who accuses you. This is the inheritance of the LORD’s servants. Their victory comes from me,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 54:14-17 (God's Word Translation)

Father, we live far from oppression as most of the world knows it. Our lives are awash in peace, paid at a price that we hardly know. Yet there are times we find ourselves under attack and know anger in the face of injustice. Continue to establish my husband in righteousness, and keep your church-yet-to-be from harm. May no weapon be formed to prevail against him who guides and guards the ones you miss the most. May my husband have an answer for all who accuse him, and the wisdom to find the path you make for him, for his inheritance and his victory is in you.

Expand the space of your tent. Stretch out the curtains of your tent, and don’t hold back. Lengthen your tent ropes, and drive in the tent pegs. You will spread out to the right and left. Your descendants will take over other nations, and they will resettle deserted cities. Don’t be afraid, because you won’t be put to shame. Don’t be discouraged, because you won’t be disgraced. Your defender is the Holy One of Israel. He is called the God of the whole earth. Isaiah 54:2-5

Monday, November 26, 2007

for guidance in a time of dying

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38 (NLT)

If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8 (NLT)

Great Jehovah, I come to you on behalf of Greg's friend John, who is dying. We give you John's life, and his death. Do not let him be disgraced, nor let his enemies rejoice. He trusts in you to show him the right path, to point out the road for him to follow. Lead him by your truth and teach him, for you are the God who saves. All his life he has put his hope in you. Remember John and his family in the light of your unfailing love, merciful Father. Amen.

Monday, September 17, 2007


There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Psalm 46:4-5 (NIV)

In my vision, the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple. There I saw a stream flowing east from beneath the door of the Temple and passing to the right of the altar on its south side. The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance. There I could see the water flowing out through the south side of the east gateway. Ezekiel 47:1-2 (NLT)

Jehovah-Rophe, God of Healing, I come bruised to your sacred haunt, your holy river. Behind me, mountains fall into the heart of the sea, making her waters roar and foam. Before me, your peace descends within the sanctuary. In the stillness I know you, and you are lifted up. I abide in the silence, looking eastward to the new day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

job changes in the Kingdom of God

Again [Jesus] asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough." Luke 13:20-21 (NIV)

At first I didn't even know yeast was needed to make bread rise. Somehow I never heard, either growing up or in seminary, that the job of Jesus people was to "make disciples." I admit to some embarrassment here.

But once I started seeing your church as the yeast, I began work as your apprentice, searching for and bringing out the yeast so it could be used to make bread.

It wasn't so odd to discover some yeast that could not be used at all; the kitchen seemed to be overrun with it at first, and I fear I wasted a good bit of time paying attention to what amounted to dust rather than actually being helpful to you.

Rather, what surprised me was discovering that there was such a thing as reluctant yeast. Who would have thought I would spend so many years arguing with yeast? It sounds a bit crazy, and anyway it doesn't seem to fit the shape in which you made me.

Because you have brought me into your kitchen and taught me so much over the years, I feel like I am beginning to understand my next position with you a bit better. You never intended me to stay in the kitchen, did you?

You made me to find hungry people for you to feed.

It seems like the finest and most beautiful of all possible jobs I could have in your Kingdom. I offer you my profound and joyful thanks.

Monday, August 27, 2007

on my son's first day of public school

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, mature in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:28-29 (NLT)

How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. Psalm 119:9 (NLT)

Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. 2 Timothy 2:22 (NLT)

I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:19-20 (NLT)

Today I fought the traffic (why did everyone seem so angry and in such a terrible rush?) in order to take my oldest child to a public school for the first time. He referred to it as "normal" school; I joked that it was "Muggle" school. For me, normal has been the last twelve years of teaching him about you, about the world, about his place in your order. His father and I have been teaching and warning with all the wisdom you have given us. I haven't always felt adequate to the task, but I've relied (sometimes not so willingly) on your power. Now I struggle with handing over some of the responsibility for my son's education to a group of public school teachers. My first prayer is that these teachers might depend on you. God, be in that school, and with my son.

Help my son to love holiness. It sounds a little crazy when I say that – a twelve year old, loving holiness?? – but it's what I most deeply want for him. Help him to find companions of pure heart. Make him wise in doing good, and innocent of any wrong. Crush the forces that would oppose you under your feet, and cover us all with your grace.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

To exchange ashes for roses

To all who mourn in Israel, [God] will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)

God our Shield and Fortress, I pray for a weary pastor. He has seen the Enemy prowling nearby, sated from a recent victory, and my friend grows tired from grief and strain. Send your angels to keep watch over his family as they cling together; do not let them lose heart! Give them reminders of beauty, moments of praise to inspire their souls, and send their roots deep so that they sway in the storm but do not break. Send this family your refreshing rain, and let them find healing in your waters. May this season of heartbreak and despair pass into one of renewal and splendor for the sake of your Name and in the sight of your people.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

on the death of a child

Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!” …I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” Lamentations 3:17-24

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (NLT)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16 (NLT)

I can barely say this one, Jesus. Someone's child has died. And not just the child, but so many dreams, so many hopes for a future that won't unfold the way they thought it would. Peace has been stripped away; the splendor of a young, beautiful life is gone. I know your heart is broken, and this family must be crushed and overwhelmed beyond their ability to endure. This awful time will never be forgotten. How does one comfort another in such a time? Perhaps they can't. Perhaps only you can bring succor in a time like this.

I beg you to rescue this family from danger. The powers that oppose you have risen up and will seek to crush any vessel that attempts to receive the outpouring of your love. Bind up this marriage, Lord. Send your angels to defend your people. Build a fortress around this suffering, grieving family. Help them to rely on you.

And send people who are sturdy in the faith to pray over and stand with this family. Not just now, when the news is fresh and the pain brand-new, but send them later, as the shadows lengthen, the evening comes, and the rest of the world seems to have moved on.

May the story of Natalie's life be told and celebrated and remembered. Something truly beautiful has passed away. We are left in your hands, awaiting your hope.

Friday, August 10, 2007

for strength and purpose in the leadership of our church

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:6-9 (NLT)

It's scary when we step out into something new, Yaweh. You hear these fears repeatedly in every generation so I'll be brief. Make us strong and filled with courage, equipped to fulfill your plans for us. BUT, teach us to rely on you rather than our own abilities, because of course, if we try to do it on our power the project is a failure from the start.

Strong and courageous. Strong and courageous. Strong and courageous. Let it be our breath in and out.

Let us listen to the voices of those who have your best interest at heart, and not be torn apart by the fearful and loud voices of dissention, deception, and disorder.

May the leaders be united, of one mind with you and each other; fending off attack, covering each other's backs, and reassuring the congregation with our faithfulness, unity and determination. May our love cast out fear. May we be strong and courageous. May we follow where you lead, even when – especially when – the road ahead looks difficult.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

to hear God's praise above the noise

I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. Isaiah 6:1-4 (NIV)

El Elyon, Most High God, in these days of shift and change, anxiety and uncertainty, I lift up my friend Fred and his family to you. Like your servant Isaiah he is faithful and speaks your word to the people to whom you call him. As he comes into your Presence may he see you high and exalted, shimmering clear and mighty. Let him hear the praise of your heavenly hosts above the noise and confusion of our world, so his soul rises up within him at the declaration of your holiness.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Jaws-themed prayer

I have a sense of what you're up to, God. You want to change my life (again) and I don't like it.

…Although I admit it's also secretly thrilling to feel the power of your attention. Scary, too. Like swimming in an ocean where you know sharks lurk. It will be exciting to think I have done it, if I make it out alive.

a fractious child prays for mercy

He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Psalm 33:7 (NIV)

Master and Maker, I am overwhelmed. I am disturbed and unsettled, and I grumble about the shortcomings of everything and everyone around me. I'm tiresome even to myself. My life plays out on a huge stretch of sunny beach, yet I find myself complaining about the cigarette butts tangled in the seawrack or the dearth of perfect shells. How can I stand beneath the scattered blue wavelengths of atmosphere, looking at forty million square miles of ocean, and be irritable at how hard it is to keep my life under control? Somehow I do it. Lord, have mercy on me.

Sometimes I wander out in your universe and believe myself tipped, turned, and stroking into your deep; I fancy myself welcomed by the leviathan, at home among your frightful pressures and ominous mysteries. Most of the time I'm really only in up to my waist, feeling the tidepull, perhaps, but not really risking anything. True, once in a while one of your great creatures of the deep slips into the shallows and makes itself known, but for the most part I don't know that terror. If I am honest I know that to go where they live is to be stripped of the control I so desire. I can't carry anything with me if I am going to swim past the breakers, and I'm definitely a minor player – a silverling at best – in the place where the water turns from gray-green to black. Lord, have mercy on me.

Today I am undecided. Can I be peaceable on the sand? Do I want to venture toward the deep? Safety is like the grave, and my blood urges me to move, but…

Lord, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

for my friend's peace during a time of worry

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you. Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

O God, our Shield and Strength, my friend is pursuing your peace. Instead of worrying, he is praying. He is letting praise and petition shape his worries into prayers and leaving them in your care. He does not know what the future will bring (do any of us?) but he is allowing you to guard his heart and thoughts and keep him from needless anxiety. Committing to you, leaning on you, drawing peace from your Presence…my friend has given you his trust and I know you are steadfast. For this we both give you thanks.

Monday, August 6, 2007

for humility and discernment in leadership

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, stand firm in the faith… I Peter 5:8-9

O Lord
I do not know what to ask you.
You alone know my real needs,
and you love me more
than I even know how to love.
Enable me to discern my true needs
which are hidden from me.
I ask for neither cross nor consolation;
I wait in patience for you.
My heart is open to you.
For your great mercy's sake,
come to me and help me.
Put your mark on me and heal me,
cast me down and raise me up.
Silently I adore your holy will
and your inscrutable ways.
I offer myself in sacrifice to you
and put all my trust in you.
I desire only to do your will.
Teach me how to pray
and pray in me, yourself.

Vasily Drosdov Philaret (1780 – 1867)
Archbishop and writer of a catechism of the Russian Orthodox Church

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
Nor do I really know myself.
And the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.
And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death
I will not fear for you are ever with me.
And you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
Trappist monk, poet, author, and activist

Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me right faith, certain hope, perfect love
wisdom and understanding
that I may carry out
your holy and true command.

St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
Roman Catholic friar and founder of the Franciscans

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

busted but hopeful

1-2Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.

3-4If our Message is obscure to anyone, it's not because we're holding back in any way. No, it's because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won't have to bother believing a Truth they can't see. They're stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we'll ever get.

5-6Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we're proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

7-12If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best!

13-15We're not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, "I believed it, so I said it," we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God's glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

16-18So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4 (The Message)

Dear God, I refuse to whine. I will not ask you to protect me or my family from the scars caused by the struggles of this life. I am deeply grateful that none of us have been overwhelmed by negativity or pessimism as a result of our relatively minor discomforts in this rich life we live. We are doing our best to fix our eyes on the interior goods of your Spirit in us and in our relationships, rather than the exterior stuff. I hope we are doing you honor by being the slightly cracked and certainly scratched-up people we are. Sometimes I try to buff the worst of the damage out, but honestly, everyone knows I'm not a brand-new Lexus or something; no point in pretending. I hope I am keeping in your favor. I'm doing my best to show you high and lifted up, and not distract others from experiencing you because I want their attention for myself. Thank you for loving me in spite of everything.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

For my son's seventh birthday

22-30 "Have you ever traveled to where snow is made, seen the vault where hail is stockpiled, The arsenals of hail and snow that I keep in readiness for times of trouble and battle and war? Can you find your way to where lightning is launched, or to the place from which the wind blows? Who do you suppose carves canyons for the downpours of rain, and charts the route of thunderstorms That bring water to unvisited fields, deserts no one ever lays eyes on, Drenching the useless wastelands so they're carpeted with wildflowers and grass? And who do you think is the father of rain and dew, the mother of ice and frost? You don't for a minute imagine these marvels of weather just happen, do you? (Job 38)

Almighty God, who carves canyons for the downpours of rain, and charts the route of thunderstorms that bring water to unvisited fields, drenching deserts so that they are carpeted with wildflowers and grass, I honor you not only as the father and mother of the rain, but the giver of life and all good things. With deep gratitude I remember the evening you brought me my third son, named for the rain of your blessings and the storm on that beautiful night. May each feast of his birth be a reminder to him, as it is to me, of all the gifts he has received from you. I don't know what lies ahead for him this year, but I know you hold his future in your hand, and you flood his life with your authority and love. May his ways be pleasing in your sight. May he hear your voice, know your touch, and see your glory in both of us, his parents, who cherish him so much.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

a psalm-prayer in celebration of my friend Matt's birthday

from Psalm 139:1-18

O Lord, you have searched Matt and you know him. He is an open book to you: even from a distance, you know what he's thinking. You know when he leaves and when he gets back; he is never out of your sight. You know everything he's going to say before he starts the first sentence. Behind and before him, you have laid your hand upon him. If he climbs to the sky, you are there! If he goes underground, you are there. If he flew on morning's wings to the far western horizon, you would be there waiting for him. You see in the dark; it's as if Matt is immersed in the light! You shaped him inside and out in your usual breathtaking manner -- just like you have made us all. Body and soul, we are marvelously made. May we rise in the morning and live always with you.

prayer to a mothering God

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me, offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him. I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him. Hosea 11:1-4 (NLT)

Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! Isaiah 49:15 (NLT)

Rejoice with Jerusalem! Be glad with her, all you who love her and all you who mourn for her. Drink deeply of her glory even as an infant drinks at its mother’s comforting breasts. This is what the Lord says: "I will give Jerusalem a river of peace and prosperity. The wealth of the nations will flow to her. Her children will be nursed at her breasts, carried in her arms, and held on her lap. I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child.” Isaiah 66:10-13 (NLT)

…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings... Matthew 23:37 (NIV)

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions...You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth. Deuteronomy 32:11, 18 (NLT)

Mothering God, you have loved us, your children, and never will you turn away from us. Can a mother forget her nursing infant, or have no compassion for the child she has birthed? Never will you forget us. We will nurse and be satisfied, we will delight in your overflowing abundance. You have carried us on your arm and dandled us on your knee. You have taught us to walk, taking us by the arms; you led us with ties of love. But though you have raised us, often when you called us in we turned and went further from you. How you have worked to gather us together like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings! When we were hurt, it was you who healed us. As a mother comforts her child you have soothed and reassured us. Like an eagle that stirs up her nest and hovers over her young, you have cared for and watched over us. Spread your wings to catch us when we fall away. May you alone lead us. May we never forget you who gave us birth.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

finding a school for a child, and for a spiritual education

I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God's great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we've been shown the mystery! Colossians 2:2-4 (The Message)

Break open your words, let the light shine out, let ordinary people see the meaning. Psalm 119:130 (The Message)

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2:1-5, 9-11 (NIV)

Author and Finisher of our Faith, for five years now and more, you have been forming Campbell in your image, growing in him the faith that you have also formed in his parents. Thank you for weaving them together into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of you. Give his parents confidence as they keep their focus on Christ while seeking a school for Campbell. Send them a powerful partner in the teachers and administrators of his school so that as this family -- together with our church family -- continue to raise Campbell to know you, he will understand what is right and just and fair, and wisdom will enter his heart and be pleasant to his soul. Pour out your richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge upon our community. Help us break open your words and let the light shine out of them, so that we may share that light with all to whom you send us.

Friday, February 23, 2007

outrageous praise and witness

When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, "Hosanna to David's Son!" they were up in arms and took him to task. "Do you hear what these children are saying?" Jesus said, "Yes, I hear them. And haven't you read in God's Word, 'From the mouths of children and babies I'll furnish a place of praise'?" Matthew 21:15-16 (The Message)

Jesus, may my children respond with praise to the outrageous things you are doing. May they run and shout to believers that you are the son of God. May the community of faith you have brought us to never fail to recognize your outrageous work nor reject the joyful testimony of the children.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

for Edrica and Barry, who are sick

He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Psalm 107:20 (New International Version)

It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's! Romans 8:10-11 (The Message)

Healer of Galilee, you are our our Light and Salvation, the stronghold of our lives. You give your angels charge over us to accompany and defend and preserve us. I come to you on behalf of Edrica and Barry, and for them I ask for your deep and powerful healing. Their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and I know you desire life abundant and whole, for both of them.

Both Edrica and Barry have spent a lot of time in the hospital lately. And Edrica is so young to be so weighed down by the infirmities of the body. Help her to not allow troubled thoughts to envelop her life in darkness, fear, or anger.

Mighty God, may both these children of yours have the same attitude and purpose that was in Christ, never letting the strain and difficulty of enduring such a trial destroy or damage their faith in you. Bend the skills of those in whose care they rest toward you, and use each life-giver -- each nurse, doctor, and friend -- for your ultimate purpose. Use us to help a hurting people know your abiding presence guiding and supporting their speech, their actions, their decision-making, and their love.

for my friend Shawn, as he counsels

Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. Titus 2:1-6 (The Message)

Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God's servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil's trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands. 2 Timothy 2 (The Message)

God's Message came to me: "What do you see, Jeremiah?"
I said, "A walking stick—that's all."
And God said, "Good eyes! I'm sticking with you.
I'll make every word I give you come true."
Jeremiah 1:12 (The Message)

I thank you God that you have put this young couple in connection with Shawn. They very much need guidance and loving support. May Shawn communicate a deep encouragement that there is a path through pain, especially in these days when so many people just call it quits because the work involved in living out love is so hard. Help Shawn stand firm in the gap. May he turn to his church and community of support for a listening ear or a consult as he needs it. Many of us have faced painful and troubled times in our marriages and relationships, and have been grateful for the people you have sent us to help. You specialize in rescuing people from darkness, and in binding up the broken. We claim your hope on behalf of this young couple, and we understand there is also much work to be done if the couple decides to claim it with us. Guide and protect, O Lord. We continue to trust in you.