March 2009


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Over the past few years, I have enjoyed reading much about Celtic Christianity.  While I have been intrigued with a great deal of the Irish saints, there is none the equal to Patrick.

He was born into a Christian household off the coast of Britain, but wanted nothing to do with his family’s religion.  It is said he didn’t even believe in God.  Then, at the age of 16, he was captured by some Irish raiders and transported to Ireland where he was forced into slavery for six years.  It was there – lonely and ill clad – that he began to hear God calling to him and eventually gave his life to Christ.  It is also here, out in the fields, that he learned to pray and listen to God.  At the end of six years he heard a Voice saying, “Your hungers are rewarded; you are going home.  Look, your ship is ready.”

He escaped, a runaway slave, and walked for over 200 miles.  When he reached the coast, there was a ship there waiting to take him to the continent.  He finally made it home.

After a duration of time, he had a dream in which a person named Victoricus came to him with a pile of letters.  Patrick picked one up and read “The Voice of the Irish”.  At the same time he heard Irish voices crying out to him saying, “We beg you to come and walk among us once more.”  As Patrick awoke, he knew he was to return to the land of his captors – this time in the name of Christ.

There is much to be read about Patrick but one thing is certain he LOVED the Irish people.  Of course, he wanted to bring Christ to them, but he came to them as a friend and a reconciler.  He moved in and among them and won their affections and eventually won many of them for Christ.

Here is a prayer attributed to Patrick known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” (because of those parts of it which seek God’s protection).

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

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homelessguy

In light of the words that I hear most often on the news these days – “ECONOMIC DOWNTURN” – I thought I’d post a couple of links to some thought provoking blogs.

What will the people of God do during these times?  What does God call us to do?  Is the hand of God in the current economic status?  Have we followers of Jesus (in America) bought in to more of the American Dream than into God’s dreams?  With the stock market ebbing and flowing, where will we choose to invest?

Christine Sine writes an interesting post in Lent – Finding Freedom in the Desert

David Malouf has one entitled How Many Recessions in 2009?

For me, I have been challenged by a section from Romans 12 where Paul says “Share with God’s people who are in need”.  I am convicted that I do not often do that with those around me (sometimes because I do not know they are in need), but I especially do not think about those brothers and sisters in Christ in other places in the world.  What does it look like for me and my family to “share with God’s people who are in need”?  And how do we get the resources into the hands of those in the family of God who are around the world?   As these questions churn in me, I want our children to participate in the sharing as well.  So what will that look like? AND as I ask God to “Search me, O God, and know my heart…” I know He is finding places in there that are miserly, calculating and hoarding.  I want to “share” because He asks me to, but in the act of obedience I also want Him to transform my heart.

Lord, give us, Your church, a vision of what You desire from us during these economic times.  Teach us to live with open hands and hilariously generous hearts and lives.  May we give out of obedience and find that our hearts are changed as we share what we have with Your people.  Give us eyes to see those who are in need and give us Your guidance as to how you would have us give.  As we take care of one another, may the world see You and know that we are Yours by our love for one another.  Amen.

makeupwithmika095

I have many thoughts, words and images swirling in my head but since it is Sunday I thought I’d go in a different direction.  Sundays are not counted in the days of Lent because, as far as I understand, they are still to be celebrations of the resurrection of Jesus.  For although we are people who are walking in Lent right now – looking at our sin, living in self-examination, opening our hearts to the work of the Spirit – we must never forget that we are really Easter people.  We are people of the resurrection, of joy, of great hope, not defined by our sin but by the freeing work of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We are deeply known and a superabundance of love and delight have been poured out upon us. We are a redeemed people living within God’s great plan of redeeming all creation.

This last week I had a glimpse of Easter.  Now I must say it was not some grand, world-changing event.  It was a mother’s glimpse of Easter – seen in the life of my daughter and whispered to me by God.

For years my husband and I worked in youth ministry, and I loved it.  I loved making sure that students felt embraced when they walked in the room, that they had someone to sit with, and they knew someone would remember their name when they came the next time.  I loved picking kids up and going to the mall, going to track meets, and having overnighters.  I loved having conversations about life and God with junior highers and high schoolers – really believing that they could walk with God and be His agents of change in their worlds.   I loved in the Scriptures where Paul says “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls” and I tried to live that out with our students.

It was a sad time in my life when God took us out of that realm of influence and began to lead us down new and different adventures.  For the past several years, I have had to wrestle with Him about where I serve in His body.  I had to box up all those times, passions, and memories (and places I felt comfortable and good in) and give the package to God – trusting Him to do with it what He desired.  It was the death of a dream and I had to lay it and leave it with Him.

Then this last week, as I picked up our daughter from youth group, God whispered some Easter words into my heart.  I went to the door of the house where the kids meet and I met her small group leader.  As I did, it was as if God said “Tara, you are meeting yourself”.  (I was slightly confused and thought that was a little strange and perhaps self-centered on my part.)  Then, as we drove home, He poured words into my soul that brought me to tears.  He let me know that He still had the dream that I left with Him many years ago in His hands.  He had not forgotten one single event, activity, deed, dollar, minute, or prayer that had been given to Him through our ministry to the students.  And not only had He not forgotten, He is taking all those things that I thought had died and let me know that He is going to return them…and dump them out on our daughter.

That is my Easter glimpse.  To know the joy of a dream thought dead now poured out on my child.  To see her growing and walking in love for Jesus within a community who wants to deeply know her and love her.  To know that God does not forget those things given to Him in faith and love.  To feel that delight of the Father because He cares enough to tell my mothering heart these things.

smallboundfeet1

I spoke with a friend yesterday about habitual patterns in our lives that lead us into  bondage.  We talked about stories we tell ourselves that cause us to become enslaved and lead to unsure footing as we walk in the world.  It reminded me of the binding of the feet practice that took place in ancient China.  Years ago, the Chinese, had  a practice of binding the feet of young girls.  As these girls grew up their feet became deformed, mangled, tiny and unable to support their bodies.  They could not run or skip or play.  The binding not only caused deformity to their feet, but their entire lives as well.

As we are story-formed, we must see that there are some stories that bring bondage.

They begin perhaps when we are young – still so formative and malleable.

Those stories become the long cloths that bind our feet – pulling our toes back toward our heel – reducing our ability to stand firmly.

Those binding stories cause deformity to our normal growth.  They cause much pain and leave us prone to fall.

The binding, many times, is done by mothers and fathers simply living out familial stories – never questioned, so unseen.

Or perhaps the binding comes from society’s stories – pimple-faced, adolescent stories that sing the virtues of beauty, intelligence, riches, success.  All told without the depth of wisdom.

The sad news for those whose feet were bound in China is that even if they remove the binding, the foot remains stuck.  It cannot expand or stretch out to normals proportions.

For those of us who follow Jesus, however, we know that is not the final story.  For as we remove the cords that bind and present our withered, twisted feet to Him, we know He can heal and has the authority to tell us to “Rise up and walk”.

boundfeet2

hungry

Emptiness.  I’ve come to the conclusion that we do not like it.  In fact, I think we fear it and have made it such a negative word in our culture that we avoid it at all costs.  We are compulsive about emptiness.  We fill up our gas tanks before they hit that “E” on the gauge; we fill up our refrigerators while there is still a good amount of food in them; we fill up our houses with more and more stuff and we we fill up our inner worlds with music, images and busyness.

Perhaps the keeping of Lent is difficult because the Lenten journey is a journey into emptiness.  It is not for the faint of heart or for those who just want to give up chocolate.  But for those of us on the journey, we may be surprised what we find when we get there.

We start off like the crowd of people from John 6.  An amazing event has taken place.  God has taken a sliver of food – five loaves and two fish – and has exponentially grown it to feed the multitude.  They stood in the midst of a “real, live” miracle and yet their focus is on their stomachs – their sense of satiety and fullness.  They can lean back while patting their protruding bellies and licking their lips and say “Ahh…it’s good to be stuffed!”

Many of us start this season in this frame of mind.  We are not so far from Christmas that we don’t retain a residue of the pleasure and excitement of that season.  During Epiphany, our work has perhaps brought us satisfaction.  Maybe we’ve just enjoyed a full calendar or even spiritual pleasures or experiences given to us from the Lord.  We are fed and we are full – and really there is nothing wrong with that except that we want (and expect) more.

So, becoming one of the crowd again, we find ourselves searching for Jesus (Jn. 6).  Finding Him across the lake, we scratch our heads wondering how He got there and He levels us and exposes our hearts in one simple statement.  “You are seeking Me because you want My solution to the problem of your hunger.  You want your belly full; you want the experience again.  But you don’t want Me.”

Is this the beginning of the Lenten journey?  With a heart revealed, a mouth gaping wide and an appetite screaming MORE, MORE, MORE?  We find at times our strongest desires wanting  God’s solutions, God’s answers and God’s stuff but not God Himself.  This is the reality of my heart.  Perhaps it is the reality of humanity too.

So like the crowd (again from John 6), I find myself arguing/”discussing manipulatively”/whining with Jesus.  “But Jesus, You did it before.  You filled my belly before, now do it again.”  And Jesus’ answer both shocks and frees me.  “I am more interested in your heart than your belly.  I’m not giving you food.  Embrace the emptiness.  What I give you is Myself.  I AM THE BREAD.  You are used to being filled with certain foods.  Now, I want to change your palate and your appetite.”

And that change is the journey of Lent.

Lord, as I journey into emptiness, help me to embrace it.  Enable me, by Your Spirit, to curb my appetite for Your solutions, answers, stuff or experiences and change my craving to want You.  Reveal to me, though my stomach growls, what it means that You are the Bread of Life.

darkness

I just read this from Henri Nouwen’s Sabbatical Journey.  It so struck me that I thought others might like to hear it to.  AND it reminded me very much of parts of my prayer journey during Lent:

So what about my life of prayer?  Do I like to pray?  Do I want to pray?  Do I spend time praying?  Frankly, the answer is no to all three questions…The truth is that I do not feel much, if anything, when I pray.  There are no emotions, bodily sensations, or mental visions.  None of my five senses is being touched – no special smells, no special sounds, no special sights, no special tastes, and no special movements.  Whereas for a long time the Spirit acted so clearly through my flesh, now I feel nothing.  I have lived with the expectation that prayer would become easier as I grow older and closer to death.  But the opposite seems to be happening.  The words “darkness” and “dryness” seem to best describe my prayer today.

Maybe part of this darkness and dryness is the result of my overactivity.  As I grow older I become busier and spend less and less time in prayer.  But I probably should not blame myself in that way.  The real questions are, “What are the darkness and the dryness about?  What do they call me to?”…

Are the darkness and dryness of my prayer signs of God’s absence, or are they signs of a presence deeper and wider than my senses can contain?  Is the death of my prayer the end of my intimacy with God or the beginning of a new communion, beyond words, emotions, and bodily sensations?…

The year ahead of me must be a year of prayer, even though I say that my prayer is as dead as a rock.  My prayer surely is, but not necessarily the Spirit’s prayer in me.  Maybe the time has come to let go of “my” prayer, “my” effort to be close to God, “my” way of being in communion with the Divine, and to allow the Spirit of God to blow freely in me.

waffles

I realized I forgot to post what we are using for our Lenten Sabbath Prayer.  Once again, we are choosing to have a Sabbath meal on Sunday morning – seeing our sabbath starting on Saturday evening with our attending church through Sunday night, after our small group meeting.

We prepare for this on Saturday as I ask the kids to come up with a menu for the next day (within reason!!)  Of course, our favorite breakfast foods are pancakes and waffles.  THIS morning we had waffles and I heard this from my son’s mouth, “This is the BEST meal I’ve ever had this morning!!”  So on a note of silliness I thought I would also attach a link to the song my children sing whenever we make waffles.  Click HERE to view it.  (However, I must warn you it is NOT at all “Lenten” and is a little obnoxious!  But perhaps a little laughter is good for the heart too!)

On the more serious side, here is what we are using for a prayer and discussion time around our table.  We wait until we have eaten and then enter in…

Lenten Sabbath Prayer

Opening:

Leader: God all loving and all caring,
We come before you with hesitant steps and uncertain motives
All: Our hearts are parched from wandering in a desert of sin
Leader: We want to sweep out the corners where sin has accumulated
And uncover the places where we have strayed from your truth
All
: Our hearts are parched from wandering in a desert of sin
Leader:
We ask for courage to open our eyes and unstop our ears
That we may be aware of all that distracts us from a whole hearted commitment to Christ
All: Our hearts are parched from wandering in a desert of sin
Leader:
We want to see ourselves as you do and live our lives as you intended
Expose in us the empty and barren places where we have not allowed you to enter
All: Our hearts are parched from wandering in a desert of sin
Leader:
Reveal to us our half-hearted struggles
Where we have been indifferent to the pain and suffering of others
All: Our hearts are parched from wandering in a desert of sin
Leader:
Create in us a clean heart O God and put a right Spirit within us
Nurture the faint stirrings of new life where your spirit has taken root and begun to grow

All: Our hearts are parched from wandering in a desert of sin
Leader:
We long for your healing light to transform us, for you alone can make us whole
In your mercy shine upon us O God and make our path clear before us


Read: Psalm 51 (we also let our kids choose other passages they would like to read for us)

Stories: continue in the life of Jesus/tell stories of what God is doing in your lives/how have you seen God this week?

Closing:

Leader: God you are good and upright and you instruct sinners in your ways
Show us how to break down the barriers separating us from each other,
All: Lead us through the wilderness sin has created to find new life
Leader: Forgive us for the times we have abandoned the poor, the disabled and the homeless,
Teach us to live by the law of love in unity, peace and concord
All: Lead us through the wilderness sin has created to find new life
Leader: Forgive us for the ways we exclude people of different race, culture or gender
Guide us that we may come to mutual understanding and care,
All: Lead us through the wilderness sin has created to find new life
Leader: Draw us into your community to embrace those with whom we need to be reconciled
Grant that all who seek to heal divisions between peoples may have hope
All: Lead us through the wilderness sin has created to find new life
Leader: Show us your ways, O Lord
Teach us your paths and guide us towards your truth
For you are God our Savior and our hope is in you

(all responsive readings from Christine Sine of Mustard Seed Associates)

I know this may not work for all families, especially those with little ones, but it may be a place to start.  Modify as it works for you.  May we learn to walk this Lenten journey with our children – in faithfulness and creativity!

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