Ready

Readings: Psalm 79; Micah 5:1-5a; Luke 21:34-38

Redeemer

Eternal

Almighty God and Father

Devotion

Your faithful servant

Lord, make me ready

let me stand before you on this day

with my heart uplifted to you.

With the promise of life eternal

I remain your faithful servant.

Offered by Susan Sorrento, designer and scrapbooker bound for Bethlehem.

Luke 21:34-36, NRSV

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

 

The In Crowd

Readings: Psalm 79; Micah 4:6-13; Revelation 18:1-10

In that day, says the Lord, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away, and those whom I have afflicted.

The lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion now and forevermore. [Micah 4:6-7, NRSV]

It’s the beautiful people, the wealthy and famous ones; it’s the ones with open concept homes, tastefully decorated; it’s the best and brightest, and the camera-ready: the In Crowd. The ones who don’t suffer in comparison, who don’t fall short, the ones who look the part, that make up that In Crowd. It’s not the ones who get picked last for kick ball, the ones who can’t afford the amenities, the ones without beauty or grace, or those who don’t get the joke. Outsiders don’t get in the In Crowd.

But that’s not really how the universe works, because the universe is God’s beloved creation. In the small, lower case sense, reality may be defined and limited by our superficial and inadequate standards. In the true, broader sense, it isn’t up to our limited judgement and prejudices. Those we would exclude from the In crowd, those of us excluded from the In crowd, are gathered and honored, valued not for external factors but for their very existence. God delights in every single life. There are no exceptions.

Happily, there are no ins and outs for God. There’s just the crowd and the invitation: join the party.

God In Mine Eternity

Science Fiction and Fantasy novels sometimes portray immortality as a good in itself. Living beyond all generations, never growing old or suffering from the pains of an aging body – who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t do just about anything to gain that?

But a few narratives include something else. Not exactly a religious or overtly prayerful approach that questions this, but the cost of such an infinite life. Perhaps it’s the method of gaining immortality – Voldemort by soul-splitting murder, Dorian Gray by soul-revealing portrait. Maybe it’s the consequence more than the method – Tuck Everlasting’s immortal family that “fell off the wheel of life” and landed in a never-ending loop of isolation, Olympic Gods losing empathy and the ability to value life, Bella Swan Cullen forever stuck in teenager mode.

If I’m to drop from life into eternity, it can’t be an eternity of my own making; such a thing would be existence, not life. If I’m to drop from life into eternity, it has to be falling into a much deeper, wiser love than I can attain or even imagine.

Mine eternity can only be something God offers, or it cannot contain the love and grace that even this short life of mine has given. May I only seek to enter God’s eternity. It can’t be truly mine unless it, just as my life, is God-given.

In My Ever-Living Soul

[Christ Church Parish, Plymouth, Massachusetts]

It blends in with the rest of the windows in the chapel – blue in tint, full of small symbols, rarely noticed by anyone but the people who sit below it during Sunday worship.

It’s breathtaking to me, this small bird. Surrounded by the virtues, the gospel writers’ symbols, and so many flowers, it’s a visually quiet pane. Peaceful.

Whoever crafted it, I owe you a debt. To see a bird perched on a branch is such a common thing – a glance out a window is likely to offer just this sight. I think that’s why you included this bird. To remind me that God is ever-present, a common element in my life.

But it’s when I remember that God is just as surely perched in my soul that I can trust that ever-living is an adjective that applies to it.

God In My Slumber

My grandmother got up early every day, getting the housework started well before the rest of us were out of bed. By the time I was getting ready for school, she was taking a break for her cup of tea. After that, she grabbed the dust mop and gave the floors their daily once-over. She filled the rest of her day taking care of the house and all the people who lived within its walls. At night, when it was time, she fell asleep, recharging her body, mind, and spirit for the next day’s work and play.

I asked her once how she managed to keep to such a good sleeping pattern, even when life brought worries that couldn’t be scrubbed away with soap and water. Just get up every day and do the best you can. Don’t worry about what you can’t fix. 

She didn’t put things in spiritual terms, and I never heard her wax philosophic over anything. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the capability – she just didn’t see the point. She didn’t talk about trust in God or letting things go in prayer. She just didn’t let daily cares become nightly anxiety dreams. She entrusted herself to something beyond herself, and had faith that the world would still be there in the morning.

If that isn’t the peace of God in slumber, what is?

Sufficient?

God in my sufficing,

God in my slumber,

God in my ever-living soul,

God in mine eternity.

[For full prayer and more information, click Prayers from the Hebrides above.]

It isn’t hard for me to call on God when I cannot face something alone. When my own abilities and knowledge aren’t enough, asking God and neighbors for help isn’t such a stretch. It’s when I am perfectly capable of completing the task without help (thank you very much) that I’m apt to overlook God’s love and how I am always connected to God, God’s fragile creation, and all of God’s creatures.

It’s a terrible thing, forgetting that everything that is, was, and will be is God-created and God-related. Preserve me from the arrogance of assuming that I am somehow an exception.

God In My Heart

Vessel (definition 1, www. Merriam-webster.com)

             A.  A container (such as a cask, bottle, kettle, cup or bowl)                              for  holding something.

              B.  A person into whom some quality (such as grace) is                                     infused

The heart is a vessel, by either definition – a container, or the core of a person. Either way, the heart will contain something, be infused by something. If it isn’t God, it will be something else.

Please God, let it be you. Amen.

God In My Soul

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

down in my heart, down in my heart,

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,

down in my heart to stay.

Most everyone who grew up Baptist knows these words, and how to sing them. It’s one of several I learned at a very young age – catchy tunes, easy to remember words, and lots of clapping when sung in a group. Here are a few more:

Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me…

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for him each day…

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…

Such songs get the toes tapping and the body swaying. Most every child who sings them does so with gusto. It’s only when we gain a few  more years on the planet that these songs embarrass us as being overly simplistic; even worse, they represent a bait-and-switch – the unconditional love that they offered suddenly gone, replaced with a moral measuring stick and a fear that any little mistake might be cause for our names to be erased from God’s book of life.

I’ve gained enough years on the planet to realize that these songs, taken the right way, are simple expressions of an abiding trust in Jesus. The bait-and-switch wasn’t God’s move, just the misplaced actions of people who thought unconditional love couldn’t be real or sufficient. Instead, they got out the moral ruler, marked it with do’s and don’ts, then whacked people on the knuckles if they couldn’t measure up.

These days, when God in my soul arises in my prayers, it’s a request that God give me the strength, patience, and love to see in everyone a holy and beloved child. God in my soul – an absolute necessity if I am to refrain from grabbing my own moral yardstick.

God In My Lips

God in my life,     God in my lips,     God in my soul,     God in my heart.

[For the complete prayer, click Prayers from the Hebrides above.]

O Lord,  I need your presence not just in the words that slip so easily past my lips, but in my lips themselves. Unspoken things pass through my lips, for good or ill.

May my smile be genuine, and my compassion for your world always in my expressions.

Keep me from those subtle clicks and noises, the puffs of air that offer judgement and lack all courtesy. 

Keep me grateful for the gift of words and expression, and aware of the power they have to wound as well as heal. 

God in my lips. Please.

God In My Life

God in my life,           God in my lips,     God in my soul,     God in my heart.

Wednesday, October 14

My two sons are on the last leg of a five day, cross country drive. Last Saturday morning, my husband and I stood in the driveway and waved them good-bye. Once inside our home, I realized that this five day stretch would be the longest time we’d been by ourselves at home in almost twenty-three years. Sure, we’ve been away for some days here and there, but not at home together. Together with only each other has been the exception since having children – and what Dave calls a preview of things to come.  This will end in a couple of days when our younger son flies back to resume his virtual classes at UMass, Boston. But even when neither son lives with us full time, they will always be in our lives.

Nothing can alter their presence in my life because they have taken root within its geography and chronology.

My grandmother Grace used to say that having a child meant one thing: you’ll never draw another free breath. I don’t think she meant it in a burdensome way – just fully aware that there’s not undoing it when another life enters your own.

I doubt God has drawn a free breath since life itself came to be. God in my life, to be sure. Just as true, though: my life in God.

The same goes for you, too.

And every other member of God’s beloved creation.