Tuesday
Nov202012

a prayer for the middle east

God of Israel and God of Ishmael,

this is what we know:

fear will yield to faith, 

violence will give way to peace, 

hate will turn into love, 

tears will be wiped away, 

death will be no more, 

swords will be beaten into plowshares, 

justice and peace will kiss, 

hope will prevail, 

lives shattered by war will be put back together again piece by piece by piece...

 

In the name of God, 

Most Gracious,

Most Merciful,

may it always be so,

Amen.

Monday
Oct292012

a prayer for hurricane sandy

Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the east cost of the United States after leaving so much death and destruction in its wake (at last count, 69 people throughout the Caribbean were feared to be dead and that number will certainly rise), and so we are asking everyone to take a moment to lift up their hearts in prayer. 

For years, our ancestors have turned to the Book of Psalms both in times of despair and in times of delight to find words to help shape their prayers.  Today, we scream into the wind or quietly whisper into the sea Psalm 77, trusting that God will once again part the raging waters in order to bring us out of out of trouble and into a land flowing with milk and honey; out of chaos and into peace.

In that spirit, let us pray:

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that God may hear me.  In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.  I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints...

When I am in trouble, this is what I will do: I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old.  I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy.  What god is so great as our God?  You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.  With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob, Rebekah, Leah, and Joseph.

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled.  The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side.  The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.

Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.  You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses, Miriam, and Aaron, out of trouble and into a land flowing with milk and with honey; out of chaos and into peace.

May it be so.  As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

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Thank you to Kakela for sharing this image of Hurricane Jeanne in September of 2004.

Monday
Oct082012

god went to beauty school

He went there to learn how

to give a good perm

and ended up just crazy 

about nails

so He opened up His own shop.

"Nails by Jim" He called it.

He was afraid to call it

Nails by God.

He was sure people would

think He was being

disrespectful and using

His own name in vain

and nobody would tip.

He got into nails, of course,

because He'd always loved

hands -

hands were some of the best things

He'd ever done

and this way He could just

hold one in His

and admire those delicate

bones just above the knuckles,

delicate as birds' wings, 

and after He'd done that

awhile,

He could paint all the nails 

any color He wanted,

then say,

"Beautiful,"

and mean it.

+ Cynthia Rylant

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Thanks to John Fisher for his fabulous and candid UK street photography!

Saturday
Oct062012

when bullying comes to church

 

What does bullying have to do with church?  Do the same things that happen on the school yard happen in our sanctuaries?  

 

Here's what Matt Rosine, congregational consultant and student of Jesus, has to say:

 

Over the last few years, many church leaders from various traditions have responded to the rise of bullying among young adults in the United States.  I'm glad for that.  In the face of such cruelty, the church provides refuge and a glimpse of God's love and acceptance for all.

 

I do, however, think there are other, more subtle form of bullying that often go overlooked by church leaders.  It's the bullying that I see church members practicing toward one another.

 

It doesn't happen in every church (thanks be to God!) but I see it a lot: one person or small group attempting to exercise power over others by saying things like: "Well, if we do that, we’re taking our checkbooks and leaving." 

 

By using threats, these people are attempting to wield power in the most unhealthy of ways. And, most of the time, they will be successful in their threats because church people fear conflict and division and pastors don't want to be viewed as the reason people leave church. And so, the threat succeeds and the disgruntled people get their way. 

 

The church and its future are now held hostage by not only these folks, but also by anyone else who comes along using the same tactic.  This can go on for decades, keeping the church in a fearful holding pattern where it sacrifices risk for the sake of keeping a false sense of peace.

 

What's more, in the heat of the moment, most people are afraid to speak up.  We don't want anyone to get hurt or leave especially if the person is a "pillar of the church."  Well-meaning church folks fall silent because they fear it would damage the church for such a division to take place.  

 

And yet, when we step back and look at the situation, we can see it for what it is:  childish schoolyard behavior.  Immaturity.  One person attempting to get his or her way by pushing others around.  Bullying.

 

Tell us, have you seen this behavior in your church?  What has been your response?

 

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A big SALT thank you to Matt Rosine - minister, congregational consultant for Church Extension, and student of Jesus - for this important and provocative post.  You can read more of Matt's writing over at Mosaic.  

 

Also, a big thank you to The Bully Project for their important and hard work.  This brave, must-see film is coming to DVD in 2013.  Why not plan a viewing party at your church?!

Tuesday
Sep042012

an epic welcome

Everyone over at SALT is loving the welcome statement adopted by Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community in Daytona Beach, Florida.  

Jon Acuff, author of Stuff Christians Like, said this about their radical, quirky, and thought-provoking statement: "Bravo to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community! This should be made into a poster and hung in church offices around the world."

So, without further adieu, here it is: 

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!

Tell us, what do you think?  Do you like it?  Do you love it?  Does it leave something to be desired?  Does your church have a welcome statement?  Something printed in the bulletin or read from the pulpit?  Tell us, tell us, tell us, we want to know...

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Thanks to Ramesh NG for this colorful and quirky welcome sign.