Leading with a Limp

img_4189Spring is in FULL swing, tax season is over, and we’ve also managed to soldier through some very wonderful, “brutiful” events in our family.  I can breathe a little again now; feel some flex in my time and days.

While I get the rust out of my blogging engine, I’m going to add – in the next several days – one, two or three things I wrote in March/April, plus some other writing I’ve done over the last couple of years: several prayers I’ve written and shared – in my role as Worship Leader – with those attending our church on various Sundays.  I’ll be backdating the prayers so they “fit in,” time-line-wise, amongst other blog posts I was writing about the same time; the first and oldest will be showing up in August 2016.

You may find them too religious, or too full of Jesus, for your liking. And that’s ok. 

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Beginnings, Endings and Beginnings

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May 2018 was the month of corner-turning, the month of next steps.

Sarah graduated with her master’s degree in teaching in the first week of May, and once we managed to take a breath from all the celebrating associated with this significant accomplishment (and: she has already secured a job for this fall! YESSS!), we proceeded down to Mark’s university for what would have (ostensibly) been his graduation weekend as well (his friends were hilariously blunt: “Mama Slough, he probably wouldn’t have made it in 4 years. Almost no one does in aerospace.” Fine. I’m calling it THIS weekend.)

We were there to dedicate a memorial in his name, a bronze plaque affixed to a bench just outside one of the engineering buildings; and, if we had the emotional wherewithal, to also attend the commencement ceremonies – the entire class ceremony and the aerospace engineering one, which were on separate days. Steve and Sarah weren’t sure, but I knew I wanted at least one of us there at each, in Mark’s stead. It just seemed fitting, like the closing of a loop; I felt so strongly that I wanted to somehow finish what he had started, and what we had started with him.

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Although “miracles make me lazy,” I am still deeply appreciative of them when they occur. Although these things that happen to me are not huge, and are entirely “dismissable” (if you are someone who needs absolutes/proof, I cannot give it), the timing is always unmistakable, often humorous and always loving and encouraging.

There is MORE. There is MORE!

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Sunday Prayer – April 22, 2018

Oh God who made all that we see and all that we are; Author and Creator who declared the earth and us “Good”…oh whimsical, witty Artist who designed platypuses, hippos, ostriches and slugs…and rainbows and azaleas, eyebrows and elbows. Oh Creator who delights us daily; Oh God of Wonder who keeps creating, keeps inviting….

Open our hearts, Lord. Open our eyes, open our ears.

In an act we can barely comprehend, you gave up that which was most precious to you for the good of us all. You invite us to self-examination, with the help of your Spirit, to learn to trust you so much that we too surrender and release even those things we think are ours – our time, our agenda, the illusion of control; the endless pursuit of MORE, a sense of power or rightness; unforgiveness; perhaps we bear an injury that goes so deep we cannot imagine abundant life with such a wound.

David reminds us, in the Psalms, that you are good to everyone and every thing, that everything You do is suffused with grace, compassion and love. Jesus repeatedly tells us of streams of living water, inviting us to come and drink. Sometimes we are so parched, God, but we don’t even know it. You stand before us – nail-scarred, compassionate, understanding our complex, messy lives and our pain and struggles – and you whisper, “Come! Taste and see!”

Thank you, God, for this incredible gift of Love. Whether we are only sipping or gulping, may we be inspired to share your love and living water with others who are just as parched and thirsty.

Amen

“Get Up, Neo”

I am a big fan of movies I’ve already watched. I especially enjoy having one playing as I cook; a movie I’ve seen does not require my full attention. I can follow along without watching,  as I chop and stir, but pause my culinary efforts – when I can – for the good parts. I particularly love the Pixar movies, and any movie with a grand story, the arc of an epic (like “Lord of the Rings”) where the battles between good and evil feel truer, deeper and more timeless than mere “story.”

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Sunday Prayer – April 1, 2018 (Easter)

Good and gracious God –

We hardly know what to make of this day. We hardly know what to make of the amazing miracle that occurred more than 2000 years ago, and – if we have eyes to see – keeps occurring, day after day after day. It’s all around us and it’s happening in us – lives transformed, peace held in the midst of storm, love and connection flourishing in the midst of darkness and fear. It’s in the hope and joy and laughter of children. It’s in a baptism. We look around to find trees, azaleas and daffodils bursting once again with life after winter’s apparent death; how could we not see that renewal and resurrection are woven into the very fabric of our entire universe?!

And Christ – Christ came to show us that, to remind us, to help us see…to open the eyes of the blind. The man who was God, the man whose very clothes held healing; the God who wept, whose heart broke for His people; the lover of our souls – He not only LIVED but is ALIVE.

He is risen! The cross is empty, the tomb is empty. He walks among us! His work is finished! Feel your heart leap for joy!

And eyewitnesses then, and eyewitnesses now are proclaiming everywhere that improbable, amazing mystery, the greatest miracle of all.

Lord, you can hear every thought and know every heart. You know that life is not simple, but full – overflowing with seasons of joy, pain, fear, wonder, awe, connection, loneliness, frustration, abandonment, great love and great loss. You know our dual natures – we are flattened by the crushing weight of our own failures, hiding from you — while also desperately yearning to be known, loved and held. We are here today because we know we need you more than anything else…we are here because we followed your Son to this place.

On this day, Dear God, grant us the renewal we seek, whether for the first time or the 300th. Fulfill in us your promises of a clean heart, a renewed spirit, a deeper love for our fellow humans as we share this precious gift of our planet together. We all, as the children just sang, have a place in God’s choir.

Amen

Resilience: Studying with the Masters

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A family gathering in 2012 to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday

Resilience – is it nature, nurture, practice or all of that?

I’ll get right to the sum of my tiny bit of research: I think it’s mostly “all,” but a person is generously helped along life’s path when their FOO (family of origin) provides a lot of love and support and models resilience and positivity, especially when hard times come. The emotional atmosphere around us as we grow is either life-giving or toxic; the latter can be overcome, but sometimes we overcompensate. Oh, humanity.

What struck me the most about those I interviewed was their sense of surprise at being a target of my inquiry into what I see as near super-human strength in them.

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Sunday Prayer – March 18, 2018

Good and gracious God –

We can feel Spring approaching. The branches are budding, flowers blooming. Winter may not leave easily, but we stir, feeling renewal is close at hand. We are reassured by this constancy of familiar change, recognizing – in awesome wonder – that you have built a pattern of rest and restoration, of sleep and rebirth into the very fabric of our universe.

In a similar way, we recognize this language of branch and vine – which we will ponder today – represents a deeper, broader truth. We pray for the wisdom, courage and faith to be rooted more deeply in you, the source of all we are and all we have. We pray that we might open ourselves – in ever increasing trust – to the ways it pleases you to come into our lives: as Truth, to be spoken; as Life, to be lived; as Light and Love, to be shared; as Joy, to be given; as Peace, to be spread*; as Sacrifice, to be offered among our relatives and friends, among our neighbors and all people. We pray that for ourselves and those we love as individuals, and we pray this for our congregation as a whole.

If some here this morning are dry and brittle, disconnected, blinded to your presence – please work, Holy Spirit, even more powerfully in and through this fellowship that we might all see you at work and be encouraged to a deeper trust and faith. We are reminded, in Jeremiah, that God promised – even after their exile – to build the nation of Israel up once more. God says “If you stay here, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you.” Give us the courage to stay in this place, Lord, and be changed.

Amen

*portions of the preceding part of this sentence were drawn from something I read on the internet and then could not find again. If someone finds the author of the original text (mine is similar but not exactly the same), please let me know.

The Hole in the Middle of Normal

(Written in early March)

I have on a hooded black sweatshirt, emblazoned with the word ATOMS across the chest; black sweatpants that say “NSSC” (North Springfield Swim Club) down the side. There is a slight bleach stain on the front pocket of the sweatshirt.

Mark’s sweatshirt. Mark’s sweatpants. He was often careless with bleach cleaner when I asked him to scrub down his bathroom.

It’s 9:45pm.

Steve is at the office (tax season); Sarah is at a rehearsal (she’s helping coach a local high school’s winter guard). The dishes are washed; coffeemaker primed for tomorrow morning. I’ve started another load of laundry, opened the mail (threw most of it away). Fed the cat, cleaned his 3 (yes, he is that special) litter boxes. We need to do our tax return at some point, so I finally finished downloading a bunch of bank transactions to Quicken and I need to sort through and categorize them.

Yee-ha. Livin’ the life.

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Pausing for Savasana

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So, there is a thing you do in yoga, toward the end of your workout (is that apt? “workout”…for yoga?), called Savasana. Our yoga instructor – the same cranky Jeff from spin class (but not so cranky any more…perhaps because of yoga) – calls it the “upload,” where you take what your body has experienced in the class and let it filter into your brain.  I just looked it up, and another name for Savasana is “corpse pose.” Hmm. Not sure actual corpses do a lot of thinking, much less uploading, but okay. That’s sort of how you look in Savasana — completely relaxed and boneless, lying on your back, on your mat, legs and arms spread and loose.

(BTW, that is not me, up there. Just in case you were wondering. I’m curious about that tattoo on her shoulder, though, and I am realizing I miss my ribcage. Menopause: bite me.

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