Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Member, Cathedral of Hope
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11.1
Praying before meals is one of those good habits that have been with me throughout my whole life. I have other prayer rituals, but none have been with me longer than saying "grace" before I eat.
When my oldest daughter was 3 and staying with a sitter while I worked, she told the sitter they couldn't eat without praying. When she was a teenager, her group of friends had an unusual mealtime prayer custom. As they received their food they would stick their thumbs up. The last one to stick up their thumb was who lead the blessing.
Our friends always hold hands and I am usually the one who voices our thanks for our food and the joy of sharing the time in fellowship at meals together.
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. A lot of people fear public prayers. But God is my friend and I can talk to God just like I talk to earthy friends.
I say thank you for my blessings then I ask God to bless my friends with challenges. I have a prayer reminder on my daily calendar. It lists those who are grieving, those with health issues, those needing jobs and other requests I have received. The remainder pops up and I take a few moments to pray. If you need to be on my list, let me know!
I used to pray at night, but would fall asleep. My youngest daughter, who was a challenge to get up each day, came home from a retreat saying she was getting up 15 minutes earlier each day so she could have prayer time! I was amazed. After I saw the difference in her after quiet time with God each day, I started my morning time prayers.
If you don't have a prayer routine or ritual, Lent is the perfect time to start one. If you don't know what to say, find written prayers. God will be glad to hear from you. CoH has a prayer team. If you would like to receive the weekly email list of those who need prayer, call the church to be added to the list.
Dear God who hears all our prayers - spoken or cries from our heart; We thank you that you hear our prayers and welcome our communication with you. We thank you for our church, our leaders and our families. We ask your continued blessings and love for our Lenten journey.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
“I praise you because we are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139.14
A Word of Hope
I love numerology. Although I am an artist and not a mathematician I realized sometime ago that numbers are all around me. A couple of years ago I made the discovery of a system by a man named Fibonacci. He asserted that there are certain sequences of patterns in nature, or Creation, that would seem aesthetic yet are very mathematical in reality. Fibonacci refers to paintings, ancient architecture, flowers, trees.
In architecture for example, he points out that when the system is used, the viewer often finds certain things and buildings more attractive than if it had not been used.The same goes for paintings which when properly laid out in mathematical fashion, the observer will be drawn to look at specific elements which in fact tell the best story. So it's a sequence of numbers, and a sequence of spaces that draws us in. We can't help but be attracted to certain things often without even knowing why they have caught our gaze.
Take as an example the human face. Fibonacci points out that the eyes are a certain space apart and that there are certain ways an artist can learn how to draw in proper and symmetrical proportions. This allows for growth and when taken properly it creates a certain formula that can be used over and over again. However there is a definite recognition that nothing is exactly symmetrical in appearance even in his now famous Fibonacci sequence. The fascinating thing about this to me is that we often expect things in our lives to be perfect. We looked for the perfect car, the perfect food, the perfect house, and of course among many other things the perfect partner in life. But nothing in all Creation is perfect. The Scriptures repeatedly tell us that. Scientists argue if the Big Bang had been perfect nothing would exist and there would be nothing but empty space everywhere. But, what was imperfect and the Big Bang to create the universe to have evolved the way it has? What was the off chance that we would become part of the created universe with the sun being where it is now and for the axis of the earth to be tilted in such a way that would allow for humans to have emerged from murky mud?
I don't have any answers to these questions, but in my search for understanding about why I am here and what is my purpose it's strange to me that everything I find seems to come back to The Perfect Sequence, The Perfect Design. Could it be the work of a Divine Architect? Whatever the case is, I'm so grateful to be in a place on my spiritual journey where I feel comfortable to ponder, without shame or judgment, these eternal questions.
To my Divine Architect I say thank you. For however the numbers worked out for me to be here today, to write this and to do my best, to love others by discovering something of the divine within, in all these mysterious things I'm grateful for the infinite ways you seem to have perfectly expressed yourself.
Monday, March 2, 2015
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Minister for Children and Families
"Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’” John 12. 3-5
A Word of Hope
The story of this generous woman will be one that the children of our church will be learning during this sacrificial Season of Lent. The narrative of Jesus’ anointing is one of those rare stories that appears in all four Gospels, although the details of location and players vary greatly. (Was it Simon’s house, a Pharisee’s house, or Martha’s house? Was the woman named Mary? Was the anointing criticized by anonymous guests, the disciples, the Pharisees, or by Judas alone?) I love to compare the Gospel writers’ attention to these sorts of details. Each time I read them, I learn a little more about how lovingly and carefully they each tailored these stories according to their particular community’s needs and understanding.
John explains Judas’ response with a little exposition about his being concerned not for the poor, but for his own gain. However, his comment about the three hundred denarii (a year’s wages!) is the one line in the story which, if we actually admit it, sounds like a reasonable assessment of the situation. What a waste! People are literally starving just outside the door! Judas, like most of us, was simply too practical to silently sit there and witness an act of such inexcusable excess! He’s not a villain here; just a master of logical excuses, like me or maybe even like you. He may have even had the best of intentions, though John reminds us that the poor, in reality, were not likely to have seen even one of those three hundred denarii.
And Judas is still there today, in this living scripture, to distract us from the central player, Mary, whose prophet’s heart informs her exactly when the situation is right and appropriate to be extravagant for Jesus. I believe we each have the ability to follow her and to recognize these situations; selflessly collecting for the church’s general fund, contributing to the food pantry, providing supplies for the education of our children and youth. Mary was a remarkable woman, and if we let her instruct us, her fragrance can still fill the house.
May we recognize the times in our lives when Jesus is there before us, waiting patiently for our anointing.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Member, Cathedral of Hope
But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please, send anyone else.” Exodus 4:13. New Living Translation.
Barely one week has passed in the season of Lent and I am struggling. Oh, I am not struggling with new or old habits – though I am not doing very well with exercising every day which is my chosen Lenten discipline. Rather, I’m struggling with understanding in a deeper way what it means to simultaneously be a frail imperfect human who makes mistakes and also a powerful Spirit-filled human who can move through my life with confidence.
I struggle because it seems that thoughts of fallibility that come with being human drive my behavior. My sense of fallibility leads to anxiety, doubt and guilt. And then I have these fleeting moments when I feel the strength of being a part of something much larger than myself. In those times I feel confident and secure. This duality is always with me.
In those quiet moments, when I open myself to the Spirit of God, I feel God’s power, that unifying force that connects me to all that is around me and to a collective strength and wisdom. It is in those moments I believe in the words of the prayer Rev. Katherine Godby wrote for the Pastoral Search Committee which we pray at each meeting: “”Inspire our trust in you, moving us to that place in which we know we can not make a mistake.”
Those words do not mean I am infallible. I am human. I misjudge, misinterpret, misspeak, and make mistakes. I hurt others. And yet, miracles still happen in my life and in the lives of those I touch. Good can come from even poor choices. God’s vision can still be achieved despite my failures.
Brandon recently led the Pastoral Search Committee through a devotional during which we considered the biblical stories of God calling various leaders. The story of Moses has helped me as I struggle with what it means to be a fallible human and yet be a in a place where I am confident in God’s providential leading. At the burning bush, when God called Moses, Moses was filled with self-doubt; he came up with excuse after excuse. First it was “Who I am I to lead?” God responded “I will be with you, you don’t have to lead alone.” Moses rejoined, with “What if the people ask for proof – who is this God?” And God encouraged Moses to speak with confidence and boldness: “God is the ‘I am’ ”. But Moses was still racked with doubt and he kept pushing with “What if they don’t believe me or listen to me?” In response God pointed out all the miraculous ways God’s spirit can be seen in our world – all the good and wonderful things that can be accomplished. But Moses came back with yet another excuse showing how hard it is to shake off self-doubt: “I am not competent; I am not very good with words.” And God, trying to bolster Moses’s confidence says “I understand you are frightened, I’ll be with you.” And in a final desperate plea filled with anxiety, fear and self-doubt Moses cries “Lord, please send anyone else.” But God attempts to lift Moses out of his doubt by assuring Moses that he will have help – his brother and sister – and that God will be by his side. And in the end, even though it took 40 years, no matter the mistakes Moses would make – and he made many – the children of Israel are freed from all that enslaved them and found their way home.
Through the story of Moses I get a glimpse of what it means to be human – all the frailty, uncertainty and doubt that come as part of the package – and yet also the confidence and boldness that come with being a child of God.
God of confidence be with me today in my human frailty. I will make mistakes. I will be doubtful. I will be anxious. But I am not controlled by those things and they do not define me. Remind me that in my humanity you move through me to accomplish wonderful things in my life and in the lives of others. Amen.
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Thursday, February 26, 2015
Dr. Pat Saxon
Prayer Ministry Volunteer
“[E]ven now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart... Joel 2:12
For much of my earlier life, my inner critic worked overtime, and my limited understanding of Lent simply reinforced my relentless self-criticism. The inner voice of God was one of judgment about lapses of all kinds—real and imagined-- and disappointment that I had not lived up to the gifts given me.
Thank God that time is over. Thank God the inner voice of Love now shapes and transforms me. I pray that is true for you as well.
Having said that, it doesn’t mean that there’s not some ambivalence about this holy season. I both embrace Lent as a time of truthful and holy encounter and struggle to be faithful to the discipline and self-examination of the season. I struggle with meeting the tempter in the desert as I face the “habits, substances and surroundings [we] use to comfort ourselves, to block our pain and fear,” as Barbara Brown Taylor puts it. I struggle with acknowledging the ways I hold myself apart from God.
In stillness I begin to ask: Why wouldn’t we run all the way home to the God who always welcomes us back? Why wouldn’t we want to experience the fullness of the embrace of a Love beyond imagining?
Shame, of course, would be one answer, the sense of our own unworthiness. But, as Richard Rohr asserts, God doesn’t love us because we are worthy. God loves us because God loves. We just have so much trouble believing that.
I wonder too if such a Love scares us, if it brings us face to face with our problems with true intimacy—human and divine. Scares us too because loving that much changes us, calls us to die to our small selves in order to live into that larger Love.
However I may wrestle with these questions this year, I trust with Thomas Merton that Lent is “a preparation to rejoice in[God’s] love. And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of His mercy. Since fear can block mercy’s flow, may we let go of whatever fear “narrows the little entrance of our heart, [shrinking] our capacity to love, [freezing] up our power to give ourselves. “
“Return to God with all your heart, the source of grace and mercy. Come seek the tender faithfulness of God.” Amen.
- Devotion Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - Mark 5.19 - Lynn Walters - Brite Divinity Student - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
- Devotion Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 - Dr. Gary G. Kindley - Pastoral Counselor - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
- Devotion Monday, February 23, 2015, - Matthew 9.15 - Dan Peeler - Minister for Children and Families - Dallas - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
- Devotion Friday, February 20, 2015 - 2 Timothy 4:3-4 - Bobby Kates - Dallas - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
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