Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Prayer 1310

Detail of a window at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Ferguson.

The heavens are telling the glory of God: let us join in the song of creation, praising God always. Holy, Holy God, shine the light of your countenance upon us, and guide us in the ways of peace and justice. 

Lift the darkness from our hearts by the light of your Word, and bring us in safety through the day. 
Guide our hands and hearts, that we may be forces for healing and testaments of your abundant grace. 
Open our hearts to the poor and oppressed, that we may walk humbly with Christ our Savior and model. 

Merciful One, look with favor upon all those who call upon You, comforting them and bringing them peace. Stretch forth the hand of your blessing over those whose needs we raise before You, we pray.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Prayer 1309

My friend Jackie is off to Duke Divinity School; may she be as blessed in her studies as she is a blessing to all.

Holy One, let our prayer rise to You as the morning mist, let you blessing rise before us with the sun. Let us open our hearts before you in meditation: let our minds be centered within your Word. Let us breathe in the peace of God, that we may walk in love and compassion with all beings. 

Guide us, Blessed Savior, in paths of wisdom and faithfulness, that we may serve You this day. Imbue us with a spirit of humility that we may work for justice and healing in the world. Send the balm of your Holy Spirit over all who lift their cares before You, O God, especially those we now name.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Prayer, day 1308

Detail from Walter Ufer's painting, Hunger, in an exhibition at the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa.

Merciful One, we give thanks to worship before your altar and sing praises to your Name! 

May our lives testify to your goodness and power, and may all we do uplift the spirits of those around us. Let us join hands in perfect love with all who seek to do good and walk in justice and peace. May we seek to bear each other's burdens and lighten each other's loads, loving those we meet as ourselves. May we seek to act in love, charity, and compassion for all living things. Guide, guard and keep us as we journey through life, that we may bring honor and glory to You. 

Let us rest like children upon your breast, O God, when we falter or are troubled, for your love is a balm to our souls. Eternal Spirit, embrace those whose needs we lift to you now, especially those we now name.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Prayer 1307, Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

With joyful hearts we gather in your sanctuary, O God Most High, and join together as the Body of Christ! 

Lord Jesus Christ, you healed the woman bent from illness in the synagogue: place your healing hands upon us, we pray.
We carry the weight of hardened hearts within our chests: heal and forgive us, O Lord. 
Let us stand upright in your courts, and receive your Word of love and peace with joy. 
Let us look each other in the face, and see your face shining back, Lord Jesus, calling us to unity and compassion. 
Let us raise our hands toward your altar, to be fed and strengthened in your sacrament of Holy Communion. 
Let us step forth on the path of peace-making and share each other's burdens, as you chose to be God-with-us, incarnate. 

Bless and keep us, Lord Christ, that we may tale on your yoke of wisdom and humility, serving You and each other always. Place your healing hand upon those for whom we also pray.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Prayer, day 1306

A new branch sprouts on a Chinese dogwood at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

We praise You and bless You, O God, Ruler of our hearts, who has brought us safely to this new day. 

May our prayers ascend like incense and our hopes rise to heaven as birds on the wing. Make us more prone to wonder than to wander, for your way, O God, is the Way of Truth. May we remember your mercy and loving-kindness even in troubled times. 

You have been with us through the night, and brought joy in the morning. You pour out the balm of your love upon the troubled water: You bid the winds of destruction to cease. You call us to new light and life in our Savior, and give us comfort and peace. 

Almighty One, Father of All Mercies, Mother of All Compassion: hear our prayers as we lift them to You.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Prayer 1305

Sign along Route 66 on the way to Oklahoma City.

Lord Jesus, you open your arms to us on the cross to embrace and redeem the entire world: hear our prayer. Bring us to repentance for our sins, and determination to follow your Way of life in every thing we do. Bring us to love each other as You loved both your disciples and your enemies. Bring us to so delight in your gospel that we mold our lives around it. Fill us to overflowing with your love, wisdom, and compassion, Blessed Savior, and make us worthy of your name. Bless and keep all those who cry out to you, especially those we now name.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Prayer 1304

From the American Window by Marc Chagall, Art Institute of Chircsgo.

Come, Lord Jesus, and let us bend the knee of our hearts before You, offering our hearts to be filled with your love. Most Merciful God, we give You thanks and praise: Earthmaker, Painbearer, Life-Giver. 

May we root ourselves within your love and service like a forest of mighty oaks, drawing all our nourishment from You. 
May we reach out our arms in love to You in praise, and to each other in compassion and justice. 
May we dig deep in your gospel of peace, and stand unshaken within its truths and challenges to love more fully. 

Send forth your Wisdom, O God Most High, to guide us into the determination to transform ourselves in holiness by faith. Heal us of the vanities that lead us astray, and unite us to You and each other, restored through love. 

Redeemed by your promise of love, O Holy One, we ask your blessing upon those who call upon You.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Prayer 1303

A view of the ceiling at the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.

We rise to pray to You and give You thanks and worship, Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer: hear our prayers and praises. 
For the beauty of the Earth, we give thanks, O Creator; for the wisdom to cherish and tend it, we pray. 
For the light of Christ, our Model, Redeemer, and Healer, we give thanks, O God; for the will to follow in his path of peace, we pray. 
For the grace and mercy by which we are reconciled, we give thanks, O Merciful One; for the forgiveness of our sins, we pray. 
For saints among us embodying hope and healing, we give thanks, O Holy Spirit; for the strength to do likewise, we pray. 

Lord Jesus, gather us within your embrace, and place your blessing upon those we now name.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Seeing Signs, Trusting Promises: Speaking to the Soul, August 16, 2016

A common sight all over France, if only you look up.

When I was in Paris a couple of summers ago, I got a horrible headache, and found out quickly that finding painkillers in a foreign country is a dicey proposition. As I and my friends had walked the streets of Paris, we had passed innumerable green neon signs in a cross motif without thinking much about them, busy to see and hear and taste all that the City of Light had to offer.

Finally, we found someone who understood the “French” I spoke (menu and directional French with a dollop of Oklahoma twang), and they finally led me straight to a shop with one of those neon cross signs hanging outside. Guess what? That was the French version of a drug store! After much more consulting with a translation app on my phone, I managed to get the clerk to understand what I wanted, and he gave me a tube of painkillers the size of a half-dollar (if you are younger than 40, you have no idea what I am talking about—it’s basically the size of your index finger curled toward your thumb as if you are making the sign for “okay.”) This is not some dainty little pill I am talking about. But I was desperate, so I put a large bottle of water near me, and started chewing, slugging this down with a slurry of water. I had finally found my help had been near me all along—I just needed to lift my eyes to the signs, and see and understand them correctly.

When we are traveling—or even when we are in more familiar surroundings-- we often do not know where to find help. We don’t know how to read the signs. Our psalms today in the daily office point out the signs of God’s never-ceasing love and protection, which are everywhere just like those green cross signs— if we just know how to recognize them for what they are. They arew rightly called “psalms of ascents”—not just because they may have been recited by travelers to the Temple as they climbed the steps into the Temple in Jerusalem, but because they have a decided upward movement of hearts, eyes, and hopes, all being lifted to God. Psalm 121 among these is a psalm celebrating the protection received from God, a psalm that demonstrates the trust that those who abide in the promises of God have that their faith in God is absolute.

The first two verses are set in the first person (I, my), but the rest of the psalm is in second person (you). Perhaps it is a conversation between one who asks about where he can turn for help, and a priest who responds and explains the answer. Where can we turn for help? To the Lord our God, who shields us throughout our life, guards us unceasingly, and protects us from the slightest harm. The psalmist, perhaps a pilgrim on a journey, or possibly metaphorically upon the journey of life, turns his eye to “the hills,” literally “mountains,”-- perhaps the hills of Zion. Yet it is not the hills or mountains themselves that reassures the psalmist—it is the God who made the hills and mountains, streams and fields, the heavens and the earth and all that is in creation. When we are traveling, we need to know where to go to get help. God acting as a shade during the day was certainly a vivid image in the desert places of ancient Israel.

After meditating upon Psalm 121 a while back, not long after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, I was inspired to pray this prayer:

Let me sit in silence and abide with You, my Savior.
O God, I lift my eyes to You, for You are my heart and my help.
I lay upon my bed at night knowing You watch over me and keep me safe, and I am at peace.
You hear my cries, and know my fears: your hand rests upon my head to bless and protect me.
Evil cannot enfold me, for I rest in the embrace of the Almighty, whose love never sleeps or turns away.
The maker of heaven and earth loves me and tenderly cares for me: who can do me harm?
God watches over me in all my journeys: God sets my feet firmly upon the way of love and compassion.
The God of Peace calls me to the path of righteousness, whose foundation is justice and equality.
The heat of anger and fear may beat down upon me, but my God shades me and shields me, and I am at peace.
Let me raise up the needs of your children, my kindred souls, who put their trust in You. Amen.

One who knows that God is her constant companion, her protector and shade, has been assured that there is no reason to fear. It is often in times when we feel most lost or alone that we realize that we have allowed ourselves to turn down a blind alley—God has been and continues to be with us all along, if only we see the signs and trust in the promises. God keeps faith with those whose faith or vision falters; God’s protection and love never sleeps.

(This was first published at the Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul, on August 16, 2016)

Prayer 1302

Lord God, all that is within us blesses You, and turns to you in praise and thanks: hear us as we pray. In this moment may we draw our eyes from our daily tasks, and raise them to your glory, O God: our help is from the Lord. 

We see before us the way your Son has set for truth and life: let our hearts be firmly fixed within You in all things. Let us raise our minds toward the pilgrim path of holiness and wholeness: may justice and peace blossom at each step we take. 

Holy One, forgive us when we have missed the mark; help us aim our hearts straight and true toward justice and compassion. 

Place a healing hand upon the brow of those in any trouble: encompass us in your mercy as your children. Envelop within your grace all in any need, especially those we now remember before you.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Prayer, day 1301

Blessed be the day the Lord has made, and may we give honor and praise to our Creator whose love never ceases. Let us join our voices with angels and archangels, and sing to the tune of creation that continues around us. 

O God, You are the source of life and light: lift us up, we pray, that we may worship You in holiness. Accept and cleanse our hearts, overflowing with gratitude for all You have done for us, O Savior. Unite us with one another in love and truth, that we may do your work with a song on our lips, Lord Christ. Renew a right spirit with us, O Holy One, and consecrate us to your household, that we may dwell in peace. 

Envelop your children in a cloud of blessing, O God, and place your hand upon those for whom we pray.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Prayer 1300- Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Reflection in a pool, Missouri Botanical Garden.

Almighty One, we worship You in joy and wonder: thanks be to God, who is making the heavens and earth! Draw us into the congregation, that we may give you thanks and praise! 

Let us raise up a joyful noise to the Lord, our hearts uplifted to receive thy wisdom as a wother receives her newborn babe. 
Let us be fed in mind, body, and spirit that we may labor in the fields of the Lord with renewed dedication. 
Let us pray together for peace, justice, and compassion to take root in our hearts and in our land. 
Let us lay our hearts open to be reconciled and restored, that we may not stray from the paths of righteouness. 

Blessed Savior, bless us and keep us in both joys and trials, and send forth your blessing over all creation, as we pray.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Prayer 1299- in thanks for God's guidance

Dancing on the beach, St. Lucia.

Loving Creator, we rise to lift our hearts to You, and sing your blessings without end: hear our prayer. 

You have searched us out and known us from the day of our birth: your mercies fill and overflow our hearts. You are with us, behind, alongside, and before: You are our steadfast companion and guide. 

May we let our hearts and feet be led in your precepts of love: for that is why you made us and call to us. Instruct us in the way of peace and justice: lead us to the way of compassion and lovingkindness. Strengthen us in your goodness, Lord Christ, that we may abide in your way and testify to your truth. 

Send forth your Spirit upon those in any need: may your mercy to envelop those for whom we pray.


Friday, August 12, 2016

We Can Be Heroes: Speaking to the Soul, August 12, 2016

In the epistle passage for this Sunday, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews lists numerous heroes in Israel’s history, including Gideon, Samson, and David, among others, who accomplished mighty deeds, and those mighty deeds are attributed to their great faith. In the last verses, Jesus is then referred to as “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” to whom we should look as our example for living a fully human life—in particular through Jesus’s willingness to give himself for us.

I was thinking about people who are heroes today through their great strength and faith and who, consciously or not, remind me of the same self-giving love that Jesus exemplifies for us. It didn’t take me long to come up with a category of people from my current experience. The past eleven weeks, as part of my pastoral training, I have been serving as a chaplain intern at a large, urban teaching hospital that is consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation. It’s attached to an outstanding university which is known for its top-notch medical school. That is certainly part of what makes it such a fantastic hospital.

But the backbone of the hospital rests not just on the doctors and educators. The real, everyday heroes who have drawn my awe and admiration all summer long are the nurses. As today is the final day of my chaplaincy with the nurses on my floors, I can think of no greater heroes to embody the virtues of love and sacrifice than these nurses with whom I have been privileged to work.

These women and men are the ones who spend hours every day with the patients and their families, tending to their bodies, minds, and spirits with a self-giving love, embodying grace in their every step. I have learned so much from these heroes.

I have had nurses call me to talk about a patient they are concerned about an hour after they went off the clock because they can’t rest until they know a chaplain will visit their patient.

I have watched them go home after a 12-hour shift for a few hours and turn around to work another shift when there just were too many patients on a floor for the number of nurses available, and they didn’t want patient care to suffer.

I have seen them cry and embrace families after patients have coded and passed away.

I have seen them advocate for and be with patients who had no family present when they met with doctors.

I have watched them stroke the hands and heads of the dying, comforting families in times of deep distress, skillfully eliciting stories about the beloved patient from the families and helping them, if only for a moment, place themselves in memories of happier times.

These nurses have been a living reminder of the reminder from St. Teresa of Avila that the life of a Christian is to embody the love of Christ himself, to be not just a fan but a participant in the life of Jesus, lived out for love of the world:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Our reading from Hebrews begins by celebrating military heroics, but ends by reminding us that the greatest example of faith is based not in strength or might, but in living faithful lives embodying the love of Christ. So many great world faith traditions agree that we are called to live a good life, a life lived for others. This summer, I have been most beautifully and wondrously reminded who the true heroes of America’s hospitals are. I give thanks for the wonderful women and men who have embodied that grace for me, as well as for their patients and families this summer, and for teaching me what true care for each other really means.

(This was first published at the Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on August 12, 2016.)

Prayer, day 1298

Annunciation, George Hitchcock, Art Institute of Chicago.

Most merciful God, gather your people together like flowers in a field, that we may sing out the beauty of creation! Feed our hearts and minds with the bread that never perishes, that we may drink deeply of your love and abundant mercy. 

For the glory of our Lord and Savior, lead us into repentance, and renew a right heart within us, we pray. Give us grace to follow your paths of peace and compassion, making each others' burdens our own. Wrap us in the mantle of righteousness, that we may be disciples in word and deed as we go forth from your courts, rejoicing. 

Send your Holy Spirit to set us aflame with a desire to serve you, O God, and bless and keep those we now remember.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Prayer 1297- for those who teach and heal

Holy, Holy, Holy: we sing our thanks to God this day, and place ourselves within the bounds of the love of God. 

Most Merciful God, place your compassionate spirit within our hearts, we humbly pray. May we act to heal and restore the hurts we encounter within ourselves and within each other. May we live our lives in each moment as testimony to the mercy, justice, and lovingkindness we are called to embody. May we be forces of reconciliation and peace even within the storms we encounter. May we open our hearts and minds to be guided and molded by the wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One. 

Holy Redeemer, encompass us within your abiding care, and envelop within your love those we now name.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Prayer 1296

O Light Eternal, Prince of Peace, we thank you for tending us as we have slept and abiding with us as we have awakened. Guide us into wisdom and teach us to live honorably and peaceably among each other. 

Spirit of Wisdom and Truth, fill us to overflowing, that we may walk in the way of Christ. Kindle within our hearts a holy fire for justice that we may work to end oppression and inequality. 

Lord God, Holy and Merciful, anoint us with your grace, that we may bear witness to your beauty and proclaim your gospel throughout our lives. Draw within your healing embrace all those who cry out to You, especially those for whom we pray.