Tag Archives: prayer

Lent.05: Faith

Palm Prints

Early in the morning, as Jesus and his disciples were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered from the root up.  Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look how the fig tree you cursed has dried up.”

Jesus responded to them, “Have faith in God!  I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’—and doesn’t waver but believes that what is said will really happen—it will happen.  Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you.  And whenever you stand up to pray, if you have something against anyone, forgive so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your wrongdoings.”[d]

[d] Mark 11:26 is omitted in most critical editions of the Greek New Testament And if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your wrongdoings.

Mark 11:20-26, Common English Bible (c) 2011

This is one of those teachings of Jesus – one that is misused every time it is quoted to imply that someone – you, me, the grieving parent, the bereft spouse, the lonely or the sick or the underemployed or the __(fill in the blank)__ – does not have enough faith.  In the face of pain and suffering and overwhelming obstacles in ordinary human lives I refuse to think that someone’s faith is not good enough or that it is not sufficient; measuring another’s faith is never in my job description.

I do believe in prayer and encourage regular, honest communication with God – conversations where we ask, we listen, and we are somehow changed.

“Believe” is not a head thing.  It is a heart thing and it has everything to do with faith in action.  When a creed begins “I believe …” it means “I give my heart and life to …” or “I give myself, body and soul to ….”.   So when we pray and believe we’re offering our lives as part of the answer.

If we are talking about mountain-sized issues of justice – from immigration to racism to truly welcoming our LGBTQ siblings in Christ to addressing climate change – we must do do more than pray.  We must also act.  And, to borrow Jesus’ words: not waver.

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 5

 

Shelter from the Cold

We have a resident rabbit.  Or maybe it’s a bunny (is there a difference?).  Long ears; fluffy little white tail.  I startled him (her?) the other night when I peered out the window to see how much snow had fallen.

shelter for a bunny

Rabbit hole (lower left); he lives under the sidewalk leading to our front door. Photo: TLClark, 1/29/19.

With snow on the ground, it’s easy to see where the bunny has been and where he takes shelter.

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Bunny tracks heading to/from shelter.  Photo:  TLClark, 1/29/19.

Record low temperatures and even colder wind chills are in the weather forecast.  We are being advised to take shelter.  Stay out of the wind, out of the cold.  Stay home if possible.

It is not possible, of course, for so many.  Police, firefighters, EMTs.  Doctors, nurses, aides, janitors, cooks, and all who keep a hospital humming.  Road crews.  Utility workers.  Staffs of nursing home, care centers, and homeless shelters.  Those who must go to work or go without pay.  Those who must go to work or face losing their job.

Schools – including universities – are closed.  Some small business owners are opting to shut their doors for a day or more.

Other businesses will be open and are likely to have customers.  Gas stations.  Grocery stores.  Pharmacies.  Medical clinics.  Some (most?) eating establishments.

The Lord will protect you from all evil; God will protect your very life.  The Lord will protect you on your journeys – whether going or coming – from now until forever from now.    – Psalm 121:7-8 CEB

Guide us all, O God, with your wisdom that we might make good and sound decisions about our coming and going in dangerous weather.  Shield from harm all who serve to keep others safe.  Amen.

A Photo a Week Challenge: New

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Photo:  TLCLark, 12/31/2018

In the weekly photo challenge Nancy Merril Photography asked “What will the new year hold for each of us?”  The challenge is to “SHARE A PHOTO OR TWO (OR MORE) OF SOMETHING NEW.”

Last week as Dad showed me the storage space below their new house – more crawl space than basement in terms of height, more basement than crawl space in terms of being water proof – I caught sight of a box of crayons.  They’d been spilled across the lid of plastic tote box and onto the floor.  The crayons were new.  But I didn’t have a camera and I wasn’t going down there a second time just to take a picture.

My next thought for the challenge was a new box of colored pencils.  All lined up in a rainbow array, every tip precisely sharpened.  The colored pencils I had with me were definitely well used, some just a stub of their former selves.  I had new box at home but hadn’t wanted to spoil those perfectly pointed ends!

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New colored pencils.  Photo:  TlClark, 12/31/2018

As we drove (and drove and drove) the last few days from Montana, across a corner of Wyoming, through South Dakota, and into Iowa on our way home, I had plenty of time to think about “something new.”  I kept returning to the idea of a blank page.

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Blank Page.  Photo: TLClark, 12/31/2018

What will we write or draw or scribble or paint or create in this new year?  What relationships will we renew or strengthen?  What opportunities will we embrace?  What books will we read?  What will push us to think new thoughts or look at the world in a new way?

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Photo:  TLClark, 12/31/2018

May you treasure the best of the old and embrace the opportunity of the new each and every day, regardless of the year!

Advent: Zach & Liz

It seems a strange start.  After a few verses of introduction the gospel of Luke launches into the story of Jesus by telling us about Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord.  But they had no children … and both were getting on in years.   – Luke 1:6-7 NRSV

Zach is a priest.  As the story begins he is in Jerusalem at the temple offering incense in the “Lord’s sanctuary” (CEB).

Candle

I’m much more likely to light a candle than to burn incense – especially when something beyond a spoken prayer seems appropriate.

The people who have gathered to worship are outside praying.

 

Until a few days ago I’d never noticed the worshipers in this story.  They were outside PRAYING.

No word on the content of their prayers.  But as I read it on Monday I imagined they were praying for the priest.  Priests and pastors and preachers and worship leaders of all kinds appreciate prayers on our behalf.  We may not mention it.  Most of the time we don’t think about it.  But when church life is crazy or busy or both (like before Christmas!), knowing that even one person has offered a prayer to God for you is a precious gift.

While the people are praying, Zach’s public ministry takes a decidedly personal turn.  An angel appears and tells him HIS prayers have been heard.  He and his wife – who are older than old (kind of like Abraham and Sarah of years gone by) – will become parents.

Somehow I don’t think become a parent was Zach’s prayer that day.  Because of their advanced years I suspect both Zach and Liz were no longer petitioning God for a child.  Not that they didn’t continue to long for a son or a daughter.  But no longer believing it might happen.

Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? My wife and are very old.” Luke 1:18 CEB

Zach’s response rings true with me.  It’s honest.  And it’s the last thing he’ll be able to speak aloud until his son is born.

Once he’s home, Liz becomes pregnant.  Her response:  “This is the Lord’s doing.”

This part of the story causes me to pause.  I think of would-be parents who have been unable to conceive and the parents whose children died at – or before – or shortly after – birth.  So much heart ache.  Lord, in your mercy.

Zach and Liz’s child is, of course, John.  Not Jesus.  It’s John, the one who will prepare the way.  A strange start, I think, to the story of Jesus.

With prayers for Pastor Dave and Pastor Amy (my pastors), for all who lead worship, and for parents and would-be parents, Teressa

Christmas Countdown: Cards

“I thank God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you.” – Philippians 1:3-4

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I’ve been sending Christmas cards with a Christmas letter since 1987 (or maybe earlier).  It’s the one time of year I can count on connecting with some favorite people of my past and present:

  • Mrs. Smeltzer, my first grade teacher and a long time family friend;
  • Uncle Frank & Aunt Carol, my grandma Mary’s brother and sister-in-law;
  • Carol, Pat, and Kathy, office administrators/secretaries who worked at churches where I served (what would I have done without them?);
  • dear colleagues in ministry, relatives and friends.

The list shifts a little every year.  Some have died.  Some of us (including me) have changed addresses one too many times to keep up.  Life’s journey means we sometimes lose touch.  There are also new friends, strengthened family relationships, and sometimes a reconnecting with co-workers of yesteryear.

The correspondence is a prayer.  For good health.  For joy filled days.  For comfort in sorrow.  For wisdom in decision making.  For courage in hard times.  For strength.  For rest.  For renewal.

“And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and insight to help you determine what is best…” – Philippians 1:9-10a

May you have a song in your heart, practice kindness with yourself and others, and find joy in every day life.

Blessings, Teressa

 

Thanksgiving Sunday Pastoral Prayer

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I’ll be preaching in a small country church tomorrow – country as you can only get there via gravel road, small as in maybe 50 total members with an average worship attendance of 15 or 20.  I’ve met a few of them in person and talked to two others on the phone (the organist and the one printing the bulletin).  In other words, I don’t know them so the pastoral prayer will be somewhat generic.  But it’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving and gratitude is never out of season.  Please join me in prayer.

PASTORAL PRAYER

Turning to God in prayer, I invite you to take a slow, deep breath.  In the silence, count your blessings and give thanks.  (silence)

Creator of Life, Giver of all good gifts,  having paused to count our blessings, we are amazed.  Thank-you.

Thank-you for the breath of life, the gift of birthdays, and for all who bear your image – the people around us, neighbors and strangers, nearby and far away; infants and children; teens and young adults;  those in the middle years of life; and those living their last days.

Thank-you for family and friends, for partners and encouragers in life’s journey.

Thank-you for love and laughter and even the tears that remind us of the most important thing:  we are all beloved – beloved by others, beloved by you.

Thank-you for land and sunshine and rain, for orchards and gardens and grain.

Thank-you for providing all that we need – food and drink, clothing and shelter, music and art, poetry and prose, rest and play and so much more.

Thank-you for the curious and the brave, for the imaginative and the practical, for hard workers and gentle spirits, for all who make your world – this earth – a good place to call home.

We are grateful to trust you with the concerns of our hearts and so we pray

for the people on the prayer chain…

for all dealing physical and mental illness and for those who love them…

for refugees fleeing for their lives, for immigrants seeking to survive, for individuals everywhere dreaming of a way to thrive…

for communities reeling from disaster – wildfire and tornado, flood and famine, hurricane and earthquake…

Holy One, send healing, send hope, send wisdom.  Use us as answers to our prayers.

We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Think on These Things

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”   – Philippians 4:8 NRSV

It’s been one of those weeks – months actually – where all the news is bad or sad,  discouraging or disheartening.  Probably not all the news, but it has felt that way.  I could make an extensive list.  But I won’t.  Some stories are widely known.  Some are not mine to tell.

As central Iowans dealt with flash floods three weeks ago and tornadoes three days ago, the wisdom of Mister Rogers ran through my mind:  “Look for the helpers.”  Notice the neighbors, the friends, and the strangers who show up to lend a hand hauling debris, who bring food and water, who share tears and prayers.  Agents of God’s steadfast love and mercy (whether they know it or not), they are out there everywhere.

Awake in the night, lamenting over the messiness and brokenness in the ordinary lives of people I know and love, the words of Philippians floated through my mind:  “whatsoever things are true … pure … honest … just … lovely … of good report … think on these things” (the King James Version memorized in my childhood).  “Take account of these” a footnote in the New Revised Standard Version reads.  (Compare different English translations here: Phil. 4:8.)

Holy One, when the news seems all bad all the time, help me look for the helpers.  Help me focus on you and your word.  Amen.