Friday, August 2, 2013

Heavy Lifting

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
I have heard that phrase my whole life.  I have probably used it  a time or two.  And while it is not a bad description of having a positive attitude and looking for ways of redeeming situations, it does very little to help with the heavy lifting.

There are a lot of phrases used by people to try and keep difficult situations or pain at a distance.  Some of them are moderately meaningful and vaguely harmless.  Others compound difficulties or pile more on top of someone's grief.

What we need when we face problems, whether physical, mental or spiritual, is not stuff that stands on the sidelines and offers advice, we need help with the heavy lifting.

For me, I find that the daily prayers found in Phyllis Tickle's Books The Divine Hours to help me right where I need it.  I am not a high church kind of guy, but reading or chanting the psalms and praying through the offices do something that lets me set other things right.

She has three main books (and other compilations and shorter seasonal books drawn from them), Prayers for Springtime, Prayers for Summertime, and Prayers for Autumn and Winter.  Because all of the readings and prayers are written out, each volume is a good sized hardback.  I think they have been out long enough that paperbacks are available, but I like the heft.

More about Phyllis Tickle's work can be found on her website:

(Going there I discover that she is retiring from public life and accepting no more speaking engagements.  My heart moves in two directions: "Nooooooooo!  We need more of your stuff!" and "Well done, thou good and faithful servant.")

My point here is not simply to be an ad for her work, although I find it remarkable and helpful.  My point is that we need to find ways of getting through the difficult times.  We need to find those people, practices and means of getting the heavy lifting done so that even in the midst of difficult times we can retain our humor, our love, our hope and our creativity.

What are yours?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Another Way of Reading

Thanks to Rev. Derek W. White, a Methodist pastor also known as the geekpreacher,I discovered a new way of reading.  Or rather, a new take on a very old way of reading scripture.

Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of reading the Bible in an intentional, prayerful, meditative way.  Often a passage is read multiple times, with prayer and reflection between each reading.  Often it is followed by extended prayer or meditation.  One description, among many along the Interwebs, is here, from the United Church of Christ.  And let's face it, if the distant children of the Pilgrims and Puritans can accept an ancient form of Christian mysticism and reading, then just about anybody can.

Derek linked to an interesting article on Congregational Excellence.  While the article made for good reading, what really caught my eye were the questions at the bottom of the page.  These were (and I quote:)

REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY: Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

  • READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
  • REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
  • RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
  • REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
  • RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

I find these reflective cues helpful.  They feel like a combination of the Wesleyan tradition of spiritual accountability (which is appropriate for a Methodist site, after all) with the Ignatian/Jesuit practice of the prayer of Examen.  Perhaps they simply point to how many of our "various and diverse" traditions are all walking up the same hill.

If you want to give them a test drive, pick a passage, perhaps a favorite, or from a daily lectionary, or from a recent church bulletin, or maybe open the Bible and plunk down a finger.  Pray that you would receive something from the reading.  Then read it.  Then in a journal, or just on a piece of paper, answer the questions.  Try reading the passage and sitting in silence with it for a bit between each of the questions.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Substitutions Allowed

I saw a great video.

A mom asked Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Big Bang Theory) to tell her newborn daughter why it is great being a nerd.  At a convention.  In front of a room full of nerds.  And she videos it to show her daughter when she is old enough.

The second best part: Wil Wheaton does a fabulous job!

The best part: It is so true.  It hits on so many levels and in so many ways.

I want to take it as is, as it is brilliant as is.

Now I want to offer a set of (completely unauthorized) substitutions:

When he talks about the things that this newborn girl might love, I hear all the good things about church: Gospel, mission, community, sacrament, coffee, passing the peace.

When he talks about Firefly, Game of Thrones, and other "historical" shows she might someday watch and love, I hear the stories of Job and Esther and Isaiah and Jesus and Peter and others that continue to inspire and inform the lives and ministries of so many people of faith.

When he says, "You find the things that you love them the most that you can," I hear calling and vocation and wonder and awe and joy.

And when he describes the community of nerds (especially at a revival, er, um, I mean a convention), I hear the beauty of a community of faith and hope and love.

Like I said, listen to it for what he is saying.  Then listen to it for how it describes some of the best of what a community of faith is and could be.

Thanks Wil.

Worst. Blogger. Ever.

Dear Readers.

Anyone still out there.

I am officially nominating myself for worst blogger ever.  Not because I blog badly.  Because I never blog!  Yikes!

I am hereby announcing that I am trying to change that!  I even have a head full of posts, I just haven't been good at making time for them.

Thank you to the two people who still might be checking back here.

Here's to new beginnings.