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Evening Prayer and Reflection – 4 June 2020

Tonight’s Full Moon

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

It was a day of meetings and worship preparation

It was a time for a wonderful evening with dear friends

It was also a time for reflection

Thirty-one years ago today my son came into this world

A wonderful gift indeed

As I watched the Full Moon rise over the mountain

I was overcome by a sense of wonder

When I look into the night sky I am reminded of God’s presence, even in the darkness.

These words from Thomas Merton in Entering the Silence: The Journals of Thomas Merton-Volume Two (1941-1952) struck a chord within me:

Teach me to be content with Your grace that comes to me in darkness and that works things I cannot see. Teach me to be happy that I can depend on You.

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer and reflection from your Padre…

The Language of Poetry – A Reflection

Pixie joins us for Midday Prayer.

I began writing some bits of verse while I was in my Clinical Pastoral Education residency in San Antonio. It was a way for me to process some of the difficult lessons that I was learning as I walked with the patients and their families in the hospital. Death, dying, serious illnesses, difficulties in the ICU/Pediatric ICU/Neonatal ICU, challenges on the Mental Health units, tragedy in the Emergency Department… all of these experiences tugged at my heart and very soul.

Now as we walk through this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic and civic unrest, my heart aches and looks for some semblance of peace. Believe it or not, I have found that peace in our times of prayer, reflection, and the sharing of stories with friends who are living in the “hotspots” in this nation and world.

Today I had my first Zoom opportunity to meet with my professor who is teaching the first course I am taking in my Doctoral program at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in St Paul, MN. As we discussed (the professor and another student who also lives and works in St Paul, MN) proposals, research methods, and questions which will become the foundation of our Proposal and Dissertation, I found myself becoming excited about where this process could go. The academic words which I had been slogging through in the readings thus far were not exactly inspiring. However, this week’s readings and our discussion today opened up the poetic process of researching and writing. The last thing I want to write is a dry and dusty academic tome which fails to inspire me, the review committee, or the potential reader who might choose to pick up the fruit of my labor.

As I considered the importance of language and theological study and writing, these words from Thomas Merton in his book The Sign of Jonas touched my heart.

I have attempted to convey something of a monk’s spiritual life and of his thoughts, not in the language of speculation but in terms of of personal experience. This is always a little hazardous, because it means leaving the sure, plain path of an accepted terminology and traveling in byways of poetry and intuition. (The Sign of Jonas, p. 8)

Words without the heart and spirit of an individual mean nothing! My prayer for me and for you dear reader, is that we can make an impact not only through our words, but through our actions. May the voices of the poets enrich and enliven our hearts as we seek to be the hands and feet of Christ during these challenging times.

Evening Prayer and a Reflection – 1 June 2020

The sun has set and the Vesper lights flicker and glow

It has been an amazingly long day, Lord

It is after midnight and we are still working

As the sun set and the moon and the stars came out

I thought of Thomas Merton and his reflection on the Fire Watch. The Fire Watch was the responsibly of one of the monks. They would make their way around the monastery and the grounds ensuring that all fires were out and the brothers were safe.

In the middle of the night when all is dark the Spirit often whispers her wisdom and guidance to those who are keeping the night watch. Merton recognized that when he penned the following words.

O God, my God, the night has values that day has never dreamed of. All things stir by night, waking or sleeping, conscious of the nearness of their ruin. (The Sign of Jonas, p. 355-356)

Stir within us this night the desire to follow you, Lord.

Stir within us this night the desire to walk through the flames of hatred and ignorance.

Stir within us the energy to walk with our sisters and brothers of color.

Stir within us the ability to listen and keep our mouths shut.

Stir within all of us the desire to make a better today.

Stir within all of us the desire to bring Justice, Peace, and Hope to this fallen world.

Lord in your mercy, hear this humble prayer.

Dona Nobis Pacem et in Terra

Grant Us Peace On Earth

A wee prayer and reflection from your Padre…

Evening Prayer – 31 May 2020

Colorado Bluebird in Hermit Park Open Space.

The sun has set and the Vesper lights flicker and glow

You walked with us throughout this Lord’s day

Spirit guided us every step of the way

Spirit inspired our worship and reflection

The beauty and wonder of your creation never ceases

Each day something new is revealed

Thank you Lord for your companionship on the journey

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…

Discernment – Christine Valters Paintner

“Christians have been discerning from biblical times to the present, seeking to understand how God is present, acting, and calling – be it in personal prayer, in the worship of the faith community, through moral choices, or simply in the ebb and flow of ordinary life.”

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative PracticeWhat is your discernment process in trying to understand how God is acting in your life and the world?

An Opportunity to Renew the Church

Dysert O’Dea monastery ruins—County Clare, Ireland.

When we were in Ireland on our honeymoon we saw countless ruins of castles, churches, and ancient monastic settlements. This particular picture is of what remains of the chapel which stands on the site of an even earlier eighth century monastery, Disert-Tola, the Quiet Place (literally “the desert”) of St Tola in County Clare, Ireland. When I think about Pentecost, it was the first time that the Good News was shared with a worldwide audience. It is even considered to be the birth of the Church. The church is dynamic and ever changing as the Spirit continues to equip and encourage the Church to share the Good News in new ways. The message doesn’t change; the means of sharing can change due to circumstances. Today as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 Pandemic, I believe the Church has an opportunity to listen to the Spirit’s guidance as we seek to be the Church today and into the future.

When I first began to contemplate Pentecost-2020 I thought I knew where I was going with my message. The Church in this new reality of being a community outside of the building has been a challenge for some and has been embraced by others. I quickly learned while deployed with the Air Force or out on Air Force War Exercises that the chapel wasn’t a building. Sometimes it was a tent and sometimes it was a hangar. There were times where worship was outdoors as well. These were lessons that I carried with me after hanging up the uniform in 2011. I’ll admit that I had no idea that nine years later these lessons would be coming back to me. I believe it has been a valuable thing for the church I currently serve to learn. It hasn’t been easy but the members and leaders continue to explore new ways of being a community of faith without walls.

Isn’t that what the Apostles discovered as they began to understand what it meant to be a movement of people who followed Christ? The group first began meeting in the upper room for prayer, worship, and fellowship. Within one-hundred years they would be meeting in catacombs. When Peter spoke that day faithful Jews had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of the first fruits (Shavuot) which occurred seven weeks after Passover. It also commemorated God giving the Torah to the nation. On this particular festival celebration another gift was given to this newly formed group of Christ-followers or Followers of the Way. Pentecost is a celebration of the beginnings of the church and the spreading of the Gospel around the known world.

Scholars also point out that there was a “pre-Pentecost” event where Spirit was given to the Disciples. This is found in our Gospel reading for today from John 20:19-23. In this first post-resurrection meeting, Jesus appeared and offered the peace of God to them. In verse 22 we read the following: When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

The interesting thing about the Hebrew word for Spirit, Ruah, is that it literally means breath. Jesus breathed on the Disciples and gave them the gift of the Spirit. This gift came with responsibilities as we read in the next verse: If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. (vs 23)

During the COVID-19 Pandemic we have learned how the virus slowly chokes the individual until they can no longer breathe on their own. This also happens when a patient has Congestive Heart Failure and their lungs fill up with fluid, literally drowning them. Breathing is something that we often take for granted. In my early practice of Yoga my instructor focused on breathing. Living at high altitude I have witnessed many cases where a hiker or resident cannot breathe adequately and they have to return to a lower elevation. Something that we take for granted will stop us in our tracks. Breathe… Be Still… Be… without breath we cannot Be Still… we cannot Be.

Ruah is also how God breathed life into Adam at the creation of the world. Ruah is also the last thing which departs a person’s body when they die. I have heard that last breath as Denise and I have walked with parishioners through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. In 33 years of ministry I have had that sacred honor too many times.

What has struck me this past week about life-giving breath (Ruah) is how it was forcefully stopped when a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota crushed George Floyd’s ability to breathe. The same thing happened in 2014 to Eric Garner in New York City at the hands of another police officer. The last bit of breath was squeezed out of these two men of color by the inappropriate use of force at the hands of law enforcement.

Breath is a critical requirement for living. Ruah, the Holy Spirit, is a critical requirement for being a Christ-follower. In a prayer that he wrote on the Vigil of Pentecost in 1961, Thomas Merton wrote the following:

And now Father I beg You to teach me to be a man of peace and to help bring peace to the world. To study here truth and non-violence, and patience and the courage to suffer for truth. Send me Your Holy Spirit, and unite me with Your divine Son and make me one with You in Him, for Your great glory. Amen. (Turning Towards the World – The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Four 1960-1963)

That is my prayer for all of us who seek to be Christ-followers. With the life-giving presence of the Spirit (Ruah) may we have the courage to listen to the victims of systemic racism. May we have the courage to hear their rage along with the courage to keep our mouths shut. Then may we walk together and work for reconciliation and peace. That is my humble prayer.

On the Eve of Pentecost – A Reflection

A single candle lit as our power went out for an hour.

I thought that I would be focusing on something else tonight. However as I receive reports from family and friends in Minnesota and across the country my heart is breaking. I am also infuriated by the lack of response from the our country’s leadership.

On the eve of Pentecost, when the Christ-follower movement was officially begun, our nation is literally at war. The world has been suffering due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and now, we are dealing with the despicable forces of racism. When I see the people who are supposed to protect and defend the citizens of this nation killing people of color without challenge I wonder… who will stand with and speak up with those who are voiceless. As Dr King said in his 1967 speech:

Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention. Dr Martin Luther King’s Speech

The sick development today is that the very white supremacists whom the Civil Rights movement fought are the ones who are hijacking the voice of the down-trodden and oppressed for their own evil designs. Today has been another day of struggle for my heart as we absorb the continued violence and oppression of people of color who are are sisters and brothers.

Thomas Merton said the following in the era of the Vietnam War and Nuclear proliferation: The present war crisis is something we have made entirely for and by ourselves. There is in reality not the slightest logical reason for war, and yet the whole world is plunging headlong into frightful destruction, and doing so with the purpose of avoiding war and preserving peace! This is true war-madness, an illness of the mind and spirit that is spreading with a furious and subtle contagion all over the world. Of all the countries that are sick, America is perhaps the most grievously afflicted. On all sides we have people building bomb shelters where, in case of nuclear war, they will simply bake slowly instead of burning quickly or being blown out of existence in a flash. And they are prepared to sit in these shelters with machine guns with which to prevent their neighbour from entering. This in a nation that claims to be fighting for religious truth along with freedom and other values of the spirit. Truly we have entered the ‘post Christian era’ with a vengeance. Whether we are destroyed or whether we survive, the future is awful to contemplate. (New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 112)

What side will you stand on… the side of peace, justice, grace, and love… or the side of violent hatred… the choice is ours… and this world’s survival depends upon the correct choice. In the words of Joshua 24:15, choose this day whom you will serve….