Saturday, June 02, 2018

Faith at Work in a Hospital Room

As I stood in the hospital room with the family, around the body of one who had just taken their last breath on this earth, a nurse entered the room.

The wife of the deceased said, this precious nurse sang my beloved to sleep last evening when he was so agitated; she has a lovely voice.

The nurse embraced the wife. She leaned her forehead forward until their heads touched, and she began to sing:
   When peace like river attendeth my ways
   When sorrow like sea billows roll
   Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
   It is well, it is well with my soul

   It is well, with my soul
   It is well, it is well, with my soul

The room was silent for a moment.

The widow had a couple of brief questions that the nurse answered tenderly with assurance. Then she left the room; there was other work to do.

I left that room thankful for the followers of Jesus who out of their discipleship have started so many excellent centers of healing and compassion. I was thankful that some of those centers have retained their mission and vision to address the whole person; body, mind, spirit. I am thankful for a nurse whose own walk with Christ is not constrained by a false bifurcation of work and faith, nor was her spiritaulity so sentimantilized to make it distracting - she was on point.

This experience leads me to pray for businesses and institutions; that their mission and policies would reflect values of human flourishing, and reject the silos of task, faith, work, home, etc. I am also led to pray for followers of Jesus, that faith would be integrated in every arena of life - as Abraham Kuyper once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!" 

In that moment, in that room - the nurse was like Jesus, comforting the sorrow in Mary and Martha. And His comfort is Good.

May your business, your enterprise, your vocation be one in which the goodness of God and purpose of humanity is cultivated and celebrated.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Easter Happiness - a prayer on Resurrection Day

Kind Father,
 On Friday Jesus thrust himself fully on you
  He gave his life for us and the forgiveness of our sins.

And today, RESURRECTION Day - You have not disappointed
 You raise up your Son
   Your faithful, strong love - gave Him victory over death

We confess that we do not always trust as fully as Jesus
 But your faithful and strong love is never failing
   And in faith, we rejoice that we can be found in Him
  United to You
    Full of the Spirit of life

Being found in Him, bring joy and confidence
 Joy and Confidence contend for us when the sting of death visits
   When sorrow is great
      When we are searching for direction in the fog of life

Christ meets us
  at the tomb, on the road, in daily life and work
Christ meets us
  with joy, with courage, with vision, with victory and love

This day, take our faith - little or great
 and grow in us the enjoyment of this Easter happiness
And as you do in us,
  do likewise in all nations and in all the earth

With Joy and Confidence we pray. Amen.

(The phrase "the enjoyment of this Easter Happiness" is found in a prayer by Saint Gregory the Great,   who served as Pope from 590-604)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Chained to the Altar

Chained to the altar
   my heart that wants to go to flight

on the altar is the lamb that was slain
  on the altar is the Word become flesh
     on the altar is God, among us
         come to bear the suffering of the world,
of my suffering
come to bring healing for this broken heart

so I chain my heart
   that wants to flight
I keep it before its Hope and Healing


Friday, March 03, 2017

Church Mouse in the Library

When Moses and Asa were little boys I began telling stories of a Church Mouse. One of my goals for this year is to explore putting them in a form accessible to others. This story came about a couple of nights ago in a story telling session with Aravis and Kyrie. 
I'd love to have some feedback.

Church Mouse in The Library

It was seldom that CM found himself surprised by the presence of a person. Today was not that day. He was in the Library, returning C.S. Lewis' book, The Last Battle, his favorite in the Chronicles of Narnia series. He almost had it inserted back on the shelf when around the corner came Marie Lamb. He wasn't sure how she had come into the church. He hadn't heard the doors open. He did know that Marie, who was slight in stature, could move without much of a sound, but he hadn't heard her come in. While the thought of not hearing her crossed his mind, his eyes perceived that he should get moving. For hurtling through the air, coming his direction, was a book.

Marie had come to the church to put away a stack of books that had been accumulating in the returned book section. She had stopped by the office first to check-in on Pastor Marion, but he was out for the moment. So she made her way through the empty halls quietly. She didn't turn on a light, she knew where all the furniture was, she was as quiet as a mouse. But seeing a real mouse - that was not on Marie's agenda for the day.

Rounding the corner she saw a nose, whiskers, a tail and a book. Marie's instincts were not to run, but to squash the beast. She picked up the first thing her hand came to - Martin Luther's commentary on Romans. While in High School she had great aim with a softball, but she had never thrown a book before. Desperate times called for desperate measures. She didn't even look at the title, she knew it was big enough, hard, and could squash a mouse. 

CM's eyes opened up, his mind calculating his lack of hearing, and then suddenly his legs became like a race car. The book in his hands gave way as he went into survival mode. He raced to one of his internal library tunnels. He had been caught in the library before and could always hide for a while in a tunnel. 

Something had happened in Marie, she was in no mood to avoid a mouse. She wanted to rid the church of the mouse.  She began peeling back books, seeing the tunnels, hunting for CM. 

CM came out in the open. He was on a top shelf with all of John Wesley's Works arrayed behind him. 

Marie took aim, book after book flew like missiles from her hands. Bonhoeffer, Barth, Brunner - never mind that they were pacifist writers of the 1930's - the mouse had to be stopped. 

He darted in, and around, and behind. Finally he was able to make it to the duct work that would lead to his apartment, way up in the attic. Instead of making the climb he turned around to watch. Marie was still on the hunt. 

She cleared shelves of their books looking for the mouse. It was almost as if she was trying to get the last bit of yeast out of the house before Passover. 

After an hour or so the adrenaline stopped. Marie stopped. She looked around and then sat down on the floor. The shelves were empty.

About that time Pastor Marion returned. He had been to the hardware store getting some paint for the kids worship room. He popped his head into the sanctuary and saw something strange. Then he noticed all the books off of the shelves. Sitting on the floor, her hands were in moving back and forth, and her lips were moving but not there was no sound. 

Pastor Marion asked, "Marie are you ok? What happened here?" 
She sat quietly for a moment, then raised her head and looked him in the eye. "A mouse. I saw a mouse and tried to catch it." That was all she could say. 

After 20 minutes Pastor Marion said, "Marie, maybe you need some food." He decided to take her to the Side Tap Trap for a bowl of chili. Marie loved the chili at the Side Tap Trap and Pastor Marion thought it would bring her out of the daze she was in. 

As she settled into a booth CM was telling the story of today's events to his friends, Baptist, Naz Boy, and Episcopacy. They sipped their soda and looked on Marie, who sat below them with a dazed look. Naz Boy asked, "think we should drop in on her now? "

Now way, said CM. I've caused enough trouble for one day. Next thing you know she'll have her bent pointer finger staring us down, and it won't be good. She may be small but she is mighty."  

CM finished his soda and returned to his apartment. 

Pastor Marion worked late that night, putting all the books back on their shelves. He came across the Last Battle, and thought, I think it's time I read this again. 

The End. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

All Things - A Prayer

Kind Father

All things come from you
All things return to you

Within an instant all things in my hands can be taken away
in the next moment
the next breath

Do not take
But let me offer all that is in my hand

Kids and Money Talk

In mid-December I brought home paperwork that described the details about my salary and benefits. I decided to take a few minutes to show and explain the data to our kids and let them gain knowledge, understanding, and a degree of economic insight. I described the features: cash salary, housing allowance, expense reimbursement, pension - defined benefit and defined contribution, insurance - health, death and disability.

As I explained the data to Kyrie, my 8 year old daughter, Anna, my wife, remarked that it was probably over her head. Kyrie piped up, "it is not, I am interested in this." It wouldn't be long before we knew how interested! 

A couple of nights later we were having a family discussion. Kyrie was being very funny and I began to imitate her. After I mimicked her one too many times she scampered across the room, stood upon my knees and declared: "if you copy me one more time, I'm going to put you on disability." 

She was more than interested, she caught the concepts and applied them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Prayer for Traveling

Tonight the sky was clear and crisp. I looked up into the sky and I saw airplanes - about 10 of them - at different places in the sky and heading in different directions. Those planes made me think about all the people traveling at this time of year; many of them  headed home for Christmas. Or in the words of the incredible radio personality Gary Burbank - home to see mamma n' them (Burbanak was on 700 WLW - Cincinnati - The Big One). 

The many travelers reminded me of the travel reflected in the story of Christ's birth. Mary traveld to see Elizabeth. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, to Egyp, and finally to Nazareth. The Magi traveled from a distant land to behold the King of the Jews. The Angels traveled to bring God's good news to Mary, Jospeh, Zaccharias, and the Shepherds. In the midst of all this travel God was giving great joy and comfort to the world.

If you're traveling this year, maybe to see mamma n' them, or maybe on some new adventure; 
May the God who watched over the travelers of Mary and Jospeh and all the others, watch over you. May great joy, and the wonderful surprise of the Holy One greet you.  
May you journey in the comfort of God as the world, your world, knows great sadness
May the journey change you in ways that bless the world, that bring good news.
May the journey take you, finally home, where you find the people of God, dwelling in sweet communion
And may the heart of Mary, a heart that treasures and ponders all these things, be found in you. 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Running with a Dog

Anna and I have a running route that takes us by the house of a friend at our half-way point. Our friend has a small black lab type of dog that is getting along in years. She has decided that we are her running partners. When she started running with us, she would gasp mightly for breath, because she was in no running shape. As she has shed some pounds, she looks back at us as if to say; hey come on, why are you so slow. She's progressed in her running.

While she's progressed as a runner, she is not good about traffic. She thinks she owns the road. If we run on one side of the road, she'll run on the other. More often than not, she'll run right down the center of the road. We live in the country, thus the traffic is not as persistent as it could be in a village or  a city. But there is still traffic.

Recently I began to notice how automobiles react to her presence with us, and how autos behave around us when we're the only two on the road. When it's just humans, auto's seldom slow down, they just move over - it's the country and there is plenty of room. Sometimes, they might not move over much. Occasionally, as soon as the auto is past, the owner slams on the accelerator. A big plume of diesel smoke emerges from the tail pipe. I guess they are letting us know they are faster. Keep truckin' buddy.

When the dog is with us, the auto's slow down, way down. She can stay in the middle of the road and keep moving ahead and cars or trucks will come to crawl. Many times people will roll down their windows and say hello to the dog. Almost never does someone stop us to say hello; the exception is the dog's master. He says, "don't take her home, she knows the way."

This past week as the dog was in the middle of the road, a car window descended so it's driver could say hello to the dog; we were next to a cow pasture. It dawned on me. We treat dogs like people in India treat cattle. As cattle are protected so they can roam at will in India, dogs have that vaulted spot in America. We have deified dogs. I mentioned this observation to Anna and she said; "Well, they're a lot easier to get along with than people." And there you have it.