Friday, November 21, 2014

Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 11/22

Image source

This weekend we celebrate your kingship, Lord,
although you told us in so many ways
not to make of you a king...

But I think I just might need a king...

I need you to reign over my choices
because when I'm left to my own devices
I mess things up way too often...

I need you to rule over my passions:
my hungers and my desires too often override
my thinking, reasoning and conscience...

I need you to govern and hold sway
over my erratic ways, my ups and downs,
my inconsistent unpredictability...

I need you to decree again your law of love,
commanding me to give with generosity
when I'm so tempted to hold back...

Be my king, Lord:
reign with loving order over chaos in my day;
rule with gentle strength when I start to go astray;
and govern with your word of truth the way I live my life...

Be my king, Lord,
and rule with gentle grace my heart and soul
and all my thoughts and words and deeds
that I might serve you always,
loyal to your name...



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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 11/21

The Empty Chair by Dena Cardwell
For those grieving the loss of a loved one, Thanksgiving and "the holidays" can be a particularly difficult time.  Anticipation of these special days begins early and so I'm posting this prayer today...
A Prayer at an Empty Chair 

This Thanksgiving, Lord, 
there’ll be an empty chair at our table,
an ache in our hearts
and tears on our cheeks...

We might shield others from our grief
but we can't hide it from you...

We pray for  (name your loved ones) 
whose loving presence we'll miss 
at this homecoming time...

Help us remember and tell again 
the stories that knit us as one
with the ones we miss so much...

Open our hearts to joyful memories 
of the love we shared
with those who've gone before us...

Let the bonds you forged so deep in our hearts
grow stronger yet 
in remembering those who've left our side... 

Help us pray and trust that those we miss
have a home in your heart
and a place at your table forever
and that one day we'll be one with them
once again...

Teach us to lean on you and on one another
for the strength we need 
to walk through these difficult days...

Open our eyes and our hearts 
to the healing, the warmth
and the peace of your presence...

Give us quiet moments with you in prayer,
with our memories and loss,
with our thoughts and tears...

Be with us to console us 
and hold us in your arms
as you hold the ones we miss...

Even in our grief, Lord,
this is the day that you have made:
help us be glad in the peace you've promised,
the peace we pray you share 
with those who've gone before us...

For ourselves, Lord,
and for all who find the holidays to be a difficult time,
we make this prayer...


Prayer can provide a path through these days as well as opportunities for acceptance, healing and helping one another.  You might pray this alone as Thanksgiving approaches or print it, forward, share and post it for others who might find it helpful...

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RITUAL: where you might least expect to find it!

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There begins this coming week the season generally referred to as “the holidays,” a portion of the calendar stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Some of the celebrations in this season are common to all and others are particular to different faiths and followers. Without wanting to omit less well-known dates, “the holidays” are generally understood to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. And each of these celebrations has its own rituals.

Consider Thanksgiving Day which is fast upon us. How many times have you already been asked (or have you asked others) this question:  “So, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” There’s a ritual fascination for knowing when and where we and others will celebrate this day. And many times have you heard a response like, “Oh, we’re going to my sister’s - she’s having 29 for dinner.” At no other time of the year are we likely to know, much less announce to others how many people will be at table for a particular meal. A number of other ritual questions may follow: will it be a fresh or frozen turkey - and how much does it weigh? how many vegetables? sweet potatoes with or without marshmallows? who’s bringing what? is he bringing that string-bean casserole again? what kind of stuffing do you make? how many pies and what kind? are your married kids coming home or going to the in-laws?

Much conversation like this will be conducted before Thanksgiving and will then be repeated again after the holidays when folks begin to ask, “So, how was your Thanksgiving?” There’s a definite ritual dialogue that occurs before and after the actual Thanksgiving Day meal.

And what of the ritual dynamics and conversations that surround the Thanksgiving gathering? Will there a table for adults and a kids' table, too? Will there be a prayer before the meal even at tables where no prayer is usually offered? Do you go around the table inviting guests to mention things they’re grateful for this Thanksgiving? Who will carve the turkey? Who will get the drumsticks?  Who will break the wishbone? What family stories are told every year and exaggerated even beyond last year’s telling? Who will be the predictable tellers of the predictable stories? What political and religious topics will be fair game during dinner? At what point will some portion of those gathered excuse themselves to go watch the game?

Odds are you’re adding your own family’s ritual words and deeds to the list I’ve offered above. True ritual behavior and dialogue have many functions. They reconnect us to our roots and one another.  They offer us a conversation in which all participants know the vocabulary and their own part.  Ritual can offer us, if only for a few hours, a moment of sanity and serenity amidst the chaos of the rest of life. We are drawn to such ritual gatherings because they have the power to reassure us that in spite of everything else, there is still point in time, a place in our lives, in which peace can be ours in the simple experience of sharing a meal among those who have helped, for weal or for woe, to shape our lives.

We should be grateful to know that  a holiday like Thanksgiving not only survives but thrives in a culture that so easily dismisses ritual behavior as rote and empty.  And following Thanksgiving a whole season of such experiences draws us together between the end of November and the early days of January.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it might be helpful to reflect on how such holiday and family rituals play out in and prosper our lives and well-being: how these tried and true, age-old familiar activities and conversations touch us in the depths of our hearts and connect us with realities more important than we might often realize and acknowledge.

And may I take this opportunity to remind you that this very same ritual dynamic is played out week after week in our houses of prayer?  The ritual of worship in any faith is filled with: familiar words and dialogue; old, even ancient stories of the family of faith; meals shared in remembrance of our roots and our connection to one another; the offering of a place where peace can be found, where one can escape the chaos not by running away from it but by hastening towards a center, a calm, a serenity the chaos can never overwhelm.

The rituals of “the holidays” are life-giving in many ways but they also put us in touch with our losses, our hurts and our disappointments. Rituals in faith communities do the same but, again, such ritual offers a place not to deny our pain but to find healing for it in a community of others sharing joys and sorrows alike with any who will give themselves to the words and deeds of shared, ritual prayer.

May the rituals of this season of holidays enrich, strengthen, delight and heal you in your heart of hearts. And may the rituals of these holidays draw you home, through the new year, to the community of faith whose rituals are yours - and are waiting for you...


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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 11/20

Photo by CP 11/18/14

An amazing grace, Lord!

This one last rose has weathered the cold,
the wind, the rain and even light snow,
to share its beauty still
in autumn's waning days...

'Tis the last rose of summer, Lord,
of this I have no doubt,
and I count its passing from my garden a loss
to mourn and grieve as my soul does 
when any gift of beauty finally fades 
and falls to die
and slip beyond my reach...

Comfort me, Lord,
on this rose lost,
now but a memory:
green leafed, velvet red, 
scented sweet and yes, 
a thorn or two or more...

Comfort me, Lord, and
keep fresh in my heart
the promise of the rose bush
hard by my porch steps,
wintering cold December nights
and waiting for a warmer time
to bloom again in beauty
and with grace...

(Perhaps you'll spend some time in prayer today
   mourning the loss of roses in your life.
Here's a simple setting of The Last Rose of Summer
   to provide some background for your prayer.)

The Last Rose of Summer by 張震嶽 on Grooveshark


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 11/19

we all need a nudge
to shake us awake,
to get us to move,
to make some changes,
to do, to say, the next right thing...

And most of us, Lord,
need more than a nudge,
we need a kick in the butt!

You know how I need to be nudged,
you know what I'm holding back on,
what I'm reluctant and failing
to do and to say...

So nudge me, Lord,
and kick me in the butt
or wherever it is I need a good shove
to get me moving
on what I know I need to do...


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Monday, November 17, 2014

Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 11/18

Image source

even before I wake up
you know the whole of the day ahead of me...

Before I open my eyes
you know all of this day's sorrows,
all of this day's joys...  

Before I'm out of bed
you know the hopes and dreams,
the worries and fears I have
of what this day might bring...

You know everything I'll face today:
you'll be my strength when I am weak,
as you're my strength when I am strong...

You know the blessings and the burdens
of the day that lies ahead:
make me grateful for your gifts
and help me carry what I bear...

You know the help I'll need today
and you will not fail to share it:
give me all the grace I'll need
to live this day in peace with you
and with all whose paths cross mine...



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A year later: remembering and praying...

Photo by MDH
(I posted this a year ago today when my Aunt Ann passed from this life to life with God forever.  I've left the place for a name open here today for any and all to include their own loved ones in this prayer...)

Sometimes all you can do is hold a hand and pray:
and in the holding, in the prayer, 
there is God... 
Let us pray...
We commend you,  _______,
to almighty God
and we entrust you to your Creator.
May you return to God
who formed you from the dust of the earth.

May Holy Mary, the angels, and all the

come to meet you as you go forth from this life. 

May Christ who was crucified for you
bring you to his garden of paradise.
May Christ, the true Shepherd,
receive you as one of his flock.
May he forgive all your sins,
and set you among those he has chosen.

May you see your Redeemer face to face,
and enjoy the vision of God forever.


The Lord is my shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing.
He shall feed me in a green pasture; 
and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
He shall convert my soul; 
and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, 
for his Name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil; 
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.
Thou shalt prepare a table before me against them that trouble me; 
thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.
But thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life; 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


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Sunday, November 16, 2014

A few links to add to your favorites

Bob Hostetler

Bob Hostetler, my fellow prayer blogger, has a new page up at Guideposts and it's titled A Thousand Ways to Pray.  Bob's new page at Guideposts is not a prayer page but rather a page on how to pray - at least a thousand ways!  

You'll find Bob's website here and his prayer blog here. (These links are on my sidebar.)

Bob's prayer posts (his own compositions and others that he collects) offer a spectrum of form, style, creativity and tradition - well worth a daily look!  I'm confident that his new page will be of the same quality.

Full disclosure: Bob has invited me to guest post on his new site and my entry will appear there soon.


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Monday Morning Offering: 11/17

Coffee in the Morning by George Mendoza

Good morning, good God...

It's only mid-November
yet these shortened days already
shade my soul and leave me
longing for the spring
while winter waits,
just weeks away…

The end of saving daylight
darkens every afternoon,
the sunny and the cloudy all the same:
a hush falls soft by four or five
and finds the moon bright, full,
shining on a leafy rustle,
harvested from branches all around…

Remind me, Lord,
how moonlight’s but the sun diffused:
Sol’s warmth, now chilled,
blankets nature's long night’s sleep
and dreams of winter's coming...

November’s moon is August’s sun:
one source, one heat, one light,
one hope that winter’s chill will bow,
come time, and yield once more
to light that saves,
to longer days,
to nature’s greening once again
and waking to the spring…

Give me, a child of your light,
safe passage through this time;
give me hope to wait the Day
whose warmth no wind can chill,
whose light no dark can douse,
whose sun will never set,
whose season has no end...

Receive my morning offering, Lord,
as this new week begins
and hold me, day by day,
in peace,
the peace that only you can give...


1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

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Homily for November 16

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily 

Well, who hasn’t heard that story before?
And who hasn’t already heard a dozen homilies on this parable?
And how many of you figure you know exactly what I’m about to say?
And does that mean that we might all be wasting our time here?
Or is it the case that we need to hear this story over and over again?
That we need to hear it preached, time and again,
because its lesson is one that we might easily fail to grasp,
regardless of how many times we hear it.

A good key to unlock this parable
 (and it’s not a key I’ve used before in previous homilies)
a good key is found in the word entrust.
A man going on a journey called in his servants
and entrusted his possessions to them…

Entrust: to hand over to another, to assign to another’s care,
to give on loan, to put in another’s hands…

All that I am… and everything I have…
has been entrusted to me by God.

All that you are…  everything you have…
has been entrusted to you by God.

Every gift, blessing and talent, and skill,
every inclination I have towards what is good
is God’s gift to me.
All that I am and everything I have
is on loan from God, put in my hands, assigned to my care -
not for my own ends, not for our own purposes –
but for the Lord’s.

Never will this be clearer to us than when we die.
When my soul stands before God with nothing in hand,
when I’m bereft of everything, even my body,
then the Lord, like the master in the parable,
will look to settle accounts with me,
to see what I have done with what he entrusted to me.

This parable is one of three in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel
and each of them is about the end times:
the end of our lives and the end of the world
- and settling accounts with God.

This scripture invites me to look at the whole of my life as gift from God
and asks me what I’m doing, how I’m doing,
with all that God has entrusted to my care.
• What am I doing with my body and my health?
How do I care for the life God entrusts to me?
• What am I doing with my capacity for warmth and compassion,
for encouragement and consolation,
for forgiveness and understanding, for humor and joy?
• What am I doing with my time?
How do I spend it?  How do I waste it?  How do I share it?
• What am I doing with my soul?
What of my prayer?  my contrition for sin? my love of God?

• What am I doing with my personal strengths, my skills, my gifts?
Am I using them, developing sharing them –
or hiding and keeping them to myself?
• What am I doing with family and friends
entrusted to my heart and my care?
How do I serve them?  Do I treasure them
– or do I take advantage of them?

The list of questions can go on and on precisely because:
all that I am and everything I have has been entrusted to me by God,
not for my own ends, not for my own purposes, but for the Lord’s.

So, although this parable might prompt me
to be more generous with what wealth I have
or quicker to volunteer my voice to sing in the choir,
the gospel calls me first to a deeper level, a deeper demand:
to take stock of all that I am and everything I have
and to acknowledge, before God,
that it all comes from the Lord, belongs to the Lord
and is given to me for his purposes first – not my own.

The first reading, from Proverbs* gives us the example of the woman
who is a model for using and sharing all that she is and all she has
for what the Lord asks of her in her life,
as a mother, as a wife, as a businesswoman.
She sounds very contemporary, not at all ancient!

These “end time gospels” (we’ll hear another one next week)
they come annually, just at the end of the liturgical year
and just before Advent’s inauguration of a new year of grace.
These pre-Christmas weeks provide a whole season for us
to take inventory, to take stock of our possessions,
as we stand before God who has entrusted to our hearts and hands
all that we are and all that we have.

Following the three end-time parables in Matthew 25,
the remainder of his gospel is the story of the suffering and death
and resurrection of Jesus.

The story of the Cross shows us how willing was Jesus
to acknowledge that all he was and all he had
was his Father’s gift to him, given not for his own ends,
but to be handed over, entrusted to the needs of others,
my needs and yours.

At this altar, across this table,
he continues to entrust himself to us,
he hands himself over, his Body and Blood-  in the Eucharist.
May the Bread and Cup we share here strengthen us
to hand ourselves over and to entrust to others
all that has been given to us through the grace of God.

*The first reading from Proverbs, as presented in the Lectionary, has been heavily edited.  In my parish we offered our lectors the opportunity to proclaim an unedited version of the text:

A reading from the Book of Proverbs 31:10-31

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.

Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.

She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.

She obtains wool and flax
and makes cloth with skillful hands.

Like merchant ships,
she secures her provisions from afar.

She rises while it is still night,
and distributes food to her household.

She picks out a field to purchase;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

She is girt about with strength,
and sturdy are her arms.

She enjoys the success of her dealings;
at night her lamp is undimmed.

She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.

She fears not the snow for her household;
all her charges are doubly clothed.

She makes her own coverlets;
fine linen and purple are her clothing.
Her husband is prominent at the city gates
as he sits with the elders of the land.

She makes garments and sells them,
and stocks the merchants with belts.

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs at the days to come.

She opens her mouth in wisdom,
and on her tongue is kindly counsel.

She watches the conduct of her household,
and eats not her food in idleness.

Her children rise up and praise her;
her husband, too, extols her:
     "Many are the women of proven worth,
     but you have excelled them all."
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Give her a reward of her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.


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