What is important

Readings: Psalm 90; Numbers 17:1-11; 2 Peter 3:1-8a

So teach us to number our days that we get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

...with the Lord one day is like a thousand years… 2 Peter 3:8a

I often enjoyed Andy Rooney’s closing moments on 60 Minutes. There is wisdom in his few words. He wrote a piece entitled You are the Best in which he listed the things he had learned: “I’ve learned…that the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.”

What is important for me to get done this Advent season? Some will recall how slowly time went by as a child in anticipation of Christmas day. How many shopping days until Christmas, being numbered daily in our local newspapers, simply crawled along as if each day were indeed a thousand years. Then we grow up and time starts marching, then galloping. There is never enough time, it seems; but unlike what Andy Rooney learned, we don’t seem to be getting more things done. We blink and it’s Christmas Eve – each day a thousand seconds. What’s going on here?

So I ponder again: what is important for me to get done this Advent? Not what is urgent, but what is important. It may be to hit the pause button on my chattering mind, with its unending to-do list, just long enough to breathe deeply and utter a prayer for guidance about what is really important. Maybe it is to pray personally with the psalmist: Teach me to number my days THAT I MAY GET A HEART OF WISDOM. After all, we don’t have much time – we only have all the time there is.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Offered by Bill Albritton, writer, teacher, child of God.

Prayers for the Beginning of Advent

Readings: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; I Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21: 25-36

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” Jeremiah 33:14-16

Lord, you are the flame coming into the world to usher in God’s

kingdom on earth. Please make us your sparks to bring your light

and love and peace and healing into the world,inflaming the entire

world with your Kingdom. Sparks that become a raging

conflagration of your goodness.

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To you, O Lord, I life up my soul. O my God, in you I trust…make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths…Psalm 25:1-10

Lord, let us become one with You by growing and learning with You.

May we accept your forgiveness so we can feel at one with

you. May we forgive ourselves so guilt doesn’t hinder us from

knowing that we are your eyes, ears and mouth in the world. May

we proclaim your goodness with every breath we take and every word

we utter. Let our hands and mouth be instruments of your healing,

and bring Your kingdom to this battered and broken world.

Prayers and art offered by Margaret Hill, child and seeker of God.

 

Many Hands

Bless this meal and the hands that prepared it.

In the past two decades, my husband Dave and I have made seventeen thanksgiving meals in four different homes. Friends, family, and the occasional stranger have joined us, bringing appetizers, sides, and desserts. For the first time in many years, it will only be my husband and children at table with me for Thanksgiving. If Dave gives the blessing, today’s table grace words will be in it. The food and the hands that prepared it are both blessed because a meal doesn’t prepare itself…

The turkey comes from an East Coast family farm worked by people I’ll never meet.

The potatoes were grown and picked by Maine workers. The roasted vegetables and candied yams come from a CSA in Plymouth and many other places.

The stuffing brings together California growers, New England bakers, Vermont dairy farmers, and the herbs I grew in my own garden.

Cranberry sauce berries were grown and picked in my home town by hundreds of local employees. Pumpkin pie comes from Midwest farms, topped with whipped cream from Massachusetts dairies.

The wine and sparkling cider come from California, France, and New England. The recipes for all these delights come from many families, a few magazines, and the dog-eared pages of favorite cookbooks.

My husband, children, and I all help make Thanksgiving dinner, but we aren’t the only ones. I can’t imagine how many hands made my family feast possible, but I am grateful beyond words.

Aftergrace

We thank you, Christ our God, for you have satisfied us with earthly gifts. Do not deprive us of your heavenly kingdom, but as you, O Savior, came among your disciples and gave them peace, come among us also and save us.
(Thanksgiving after lunch, Daily Prayers for Orthodox Christians: Brookline, Massachusetts, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2010, p. 14)

I don’t say grace after a meal. I thank whoever made, bought, brought, or served my meal, and I am grateful for all the work that went into it. For whatever reason, I haven’t thought to give a prayer of thanks to the one who gives life and light. Is it because I’m no longer hungry or thirsty? Reading this grace makes me think I’ve been settling for physical contentment rather than seeing a meal for what it is: peace of body and spirit that may be offered by human hands, but is always an earthly gift from God.

MacIntosh Blessing

Ohhhh, the Lord’s been good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the appleseed, the Lord’s been good to me. Amen.

The Johnny Appleseed Blessing

In New England,MacIntosh Apples are everywhere. They are small, sweet and tart, good for eating raw as well as cooked into applesauce or baked goods. Stored properly, they last all winter; stored poorly, they bruise and become soft – still okay for cooking, but not so good raw. Up until about thirty years ago, Macs were one of the few fresh fruits available in a New England winter. I often found one in my school lunch – my mother making sure I had a daily dose of vitamin C and fiber with my PBJ.

These days, I pack lunches for my sons, sending them to school with figs, cranberries, kiwis, and occasionally pomegranate seeds. They eat apples, but prefer to have them at home. Macs aren’t their only choice these days; Honey Crisps, Galas, and Fujis can be found at the local market. There are so many options for nutritional essentials these days. While I enjoy the variety, I sometimes wonder if a basic truth has gone into hiding among so many choices: having even the basic essentials of sustaining food, clean clothing, and protective shelter is a blessing and gift. If I were born elsewhere or elsewhen, I might not have such necessities.

When I pack lunch tomorrow, I’m going to sing the Johnny Appleseed song. Perhaps I will see in the bread and fruit the blessing of the Lord. I hope so.mac

Great, Good, Food

God is great, God is good,

Let us thank God for this food.

Amen.

It’s the first prayer I memorized, and maybe the first one you did, too. It’s prayed in a singsong way more times than not. It’s nothing fancy, but it opens the door to a life of gratitude for all ages. I hope I never forget it. More than once, I’ve heard it said that a person can be great or a person can be good, but not both. Being great in the usual sense means fame, fortune, or some kind of accomplishment that sets a person apart. Being good often means opening doors, telling the truth, and saying prayers at night. The two don’t seem to go together very comfortably. How many times has bad behavior been tolerated by those considered great? How often is goodness mistaken for not upsetting anyone or swearing?

I think this prayer is about something else entirely: scale.

God is great, the creator of this whole universe. Such vastness is beyond my understanding.

God is good, bringing hope and communion out of even the biggest messes. Second chances are real, and each of us is a delight to God.

Thanking God for this food – God is in everything that nourishes, right down to the chemicals and calories that our bodies need. And God is in us when you and I share the essentials.

There is no scale or reality without God, and I live this truth every time I pass you the potatoes and you pour me a glass of water.

(Communion) Table Grace

Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.
(Eucharistic Prayer C, Book of Common Prayer)

I know Bread is communion bread, with all the meaning it holds, but this grace works for any bread on any table: rye, pumpernickel, sandwich white, and honey whole wheat are all Bread. The bread’s not really the point; anything that sustains body and soul will do.

These twelve words are an extraordinary request when I pray them. I’m asking God for the miracle of recognizing eternal love in the simple act of sharing my meal and my life. All I have to do is ask – and be willing to live with the holiness of your life, my life, and everybody else’s life.

Poems and Prayers for the Very Young

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God, we thank you for this food,

For rest and home and all things good;

For wind and rain and sun above,

But most of all for those we love.

Maryleona Frost

From Poems and Prayers for the Very Young (Martha Alexander, illustrator, Random House, New York, 1973)

My friend Cheri tucked this little paperback into a box of baby presents when my younger son was born. She had one for her two girls and thought I’d like one, too. These four lines are just one of the treasures in it.

This little table blessing doesn’t put conditions on thanks. There is no escape clause if peas are served rather than corn on the cob. Home can be an apartment or a mansion, and rest had in a tent or on a sofa. Wind and sun and rain reign above for rich and poor, friend and stranger. Thanks are included for those we love with no distinction.

When we leave childhood behind, we make distinctions. We separate the foods we like and the ones we don’t, saving our approval and our thanks for what we want. Our homes become places moving toward an imagined ideal, not a place where we can live interesting lives. The elements are welcome when they don’t interfere with the daily commute or vacation plans. Even love can be doled out according to merit and convenience.

I’m old enough now to leave that kind of adulthood behind for a second kind of childhood – not simplistic, but simple. I am thankful for whatever is on my plate. I am grateful for the means to eat when many will not. When I welcome friends and family with kindness, care, and attention, my home is good enough. I trust they come to visit me and my family, not my furniture. And for those I love? Imperfect just like I am, and God’s sure grace in my life.

For all these, God, may I always be thankful.

Thankful?

Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat,

Thank you for the birds that sing, thank you, God, for everything. 

Amen

Dear Lord,

Sometimes I eat without taking a moment to be thankful for what is on my table. I forget the farmers who grew the crops and the animals that were raised to be food on my plate. I overlook the work of grocers and clerks, cooks and truck drivers. I forget the millions who won’t eat, or won’t eat enough, today. I eat so quickly that I don’t really enjoy the spices and flavors.  I don’t look at the others sitting around the table, and I half listen to their tales of the day. I am blind to the candlelight that dances among the serving dishes. Forgive me for my ignorance and arrogance.

But tonight, I see my sons and hear what happened in Latin class and Model UN. I pick up my napkin and give thanks for Craig and Patti, its givers. I see the roasted vegetables grown by Karen and the Autumn leaf candle holder glowing at the table’s center. My husband pours the wine and we talk about nothing in particular. Outside the darkness grows and the owls cry. From this warm and abundant place, set in this marvelous corner of creation, I am thinkful and thankful.

Photo on 11-3-15 at 8.34 AM