[caption id="attachment_7592" align="alignnone" width="300"] Hands with Joshua tree[/caption] This morning I posted this prayer on Facebook Lead us forward Lord, Let us hold firm to your words of life. Lead us forward Lord, Let us delight in your perfections, And meditate on your ways. Lead us forward Lord, You are our light and our salvation, You are our rock and our fortress, Lead us forward Lord, You alone hold the keys to eternal life. Maybe it is because I am just back from Australia and still on jetlag, maybe it is because Advent is just around the corner (begins December 2nd), maybe it is because I just ordered the first copies of Return to our Senses and am feeling the wonder of having completed this project or maybe it is because the U.S. elections are over and all of us sense the need for direction from God and not from our political leaders. Whatever it is, I feel that this is a great season of the year for reflection and refocusing. Now is the time to store up the resources we need to stir our imaginations and create new rituals and expressions of faith that guide us through the fast approaching season of Advent in which our hearts ache for the coming of God’s light. As usual I will host an Advent reflection series during December - I may even begin a little early because Advent is so short this year - just over 3 weeks long. Our theme this year is Let Us Wait As Children Wait. There is still time to participate. So if you would like to contribute a post do let me know. Also if you are looking for Advent devotionals this year don't forget Waiting for the Light: A Devotional for Advent and Christmas. It is available in both book and ebook form. Friday I hope to post my new Advent video for the year but you may also like to check out these videos from previous years. I also plan to update my Advent resource list early next week so if there are books, websites or other resources that you feel are must haves or must see for the season please let me know.
There is Still Room for More
[caption id="attachment_7586" align="alignnone" width="300"] Last Supper - a fortaste of the kingdom feast[/caption] This morning I was reading the parable of the Great Feast in Luke 14. I was struck by the phrase There is still room for more. God's lavish invitation to all of us to join the banquet feast of the kingdom is amazing. It is generous beyond our imagining. It is all inclusive of anyone who wants to come. The poor, the lame, the blind and the crippled have been included and there is still room for more. How different I thought from the exclusivity of our culture. The poor, the lame, the blind and the crippled are rarely invited. We are more likely to be concerned about who we can exclude from the banquet feast rather than who we can include. I can't help but think about that this morning as I wait for the Presidential election results. So much of the rhetoric has been about cutting back benefits. Who can we exclude from health care and social security? Who can we ignore when the environment is at risk and the corporations want to make more money? Who can we turn our backs on because they are of the wrong faith or ethnicity or gender orientation? I wonder if part of the reason there is so much empty space at the banquet feast of God is because we don't want to sit down to eat with those at the margins. So my question today is Who have you invited to the banquet feast of God and who would you like to exclude?
Tom and I will be in Portland next week. Saturday November 10th, in Portland, OR we will gather at The Arbor Lodge (1507 N Rosa Parks Way) from 7-9pm to explore, create and discuss new possibilities for life and community. Join us for great coffee, conversation and imagination unleashed. You can sign up on Facebook or just turn up if you are in the Portland area.
Nothing Is What It Seems to Be
Last night I watched David Attenborough's Kingdom of Plants. It is a fascinating documentary filmed at the Royal Botanical Kew Gardens in England. I was particularly intrigued by the very different view that insects have of flowers. Their ultra-violet viewpoint totally transforms what the flower looks like. [caption id="attachment_7578" align="alignnone" width="300"] Ultraviolet view of flowers[/caption] We see the flower on the left, the insect sees the image on the right beckoning it to come and pollinate. Our perceptions of life are so limited. We can't smell like a dog, see like an insect or hear like a bat. Why therefore do we think that our perceptions of faith are any more complete? Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1) We do indeed see through a glass darkly. All of God's creation tells us so.
The end of a very challenging week for most of us as this week’s Light for the Journey Facebook prayers reflect. I have already posted these prayers for the victims of Hurricane Sandy who are constantly in my prayers at the moment. I hope that you enjoy the remaining prayers from the week. God, I look at your world and see Beauty beyond words, Creativity beyond imagining, Love beyond understanding. God bathed, Son drenched, Spirit filled. May we dare to believe You are here, Transforming, redeeming making all things new. ------------------------------------- Lord may we surrender to the whisper of your love, May we sit in the place of quiet, Where time is stilled, And the dark gives fertile ground for seeds to sprout. May we sit in the solitude of each moment, Surrounded by God's everlasting love, Comforted by Christ's ever present peace, Abiding in the Spirit's ever flowing life. ------------------------------------- [caption id="attachment_7573" align="alignnone" width="300"] What a privilege to serve - faithandworship.com[/caption] Before all things began, you were, one with Father and Spirit, glorious unity. Before all things began, you were, our lives within your thoughts, your image in our hearts. Before all things began, you were, creation and redemption perfected in your plan. Before all things began, you were, king and kingdom waiting, for time is in your hands. (www.faithandworship.com) ---------------------------- O Lord, I kneel here gazing into Your eyes of love. You smile and whisper my name. I am back again, for only You are enough of everything I need. You satisfy the deep longing. I'll stay a while with You here, knowing You stay always with me, keeping my days, watching o'er my nights. You clothe the lilies, watch sparrows and love me. O Lord, I kneel here gazing into Your eyes of love. I smile and whisper your name, "Abba". B.D. Harr © 2012 [caption id="attachment_7574" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo by Bonnie harr[/caption] -------------------------------------------- Simple Things, Five Minutes Into Morning Thank you, Lord, for simple things ~ daily blessings. . . benefits You load us with, that we take so often for granted: Light at the flick of a switch . . . Water at the turn of a faucet . . . Heat at the move of a dial . . . Sanitation by way of toilets, disposals and waste removal systems . . . Refrigeration for foodstuff beyond our capacity to eat in a single day. . . Baths and showers large enough for full-body, daily, personal hygiene. . . A toothbrush with clean water for brushing and rinsing. . . Clothing to dress temperature-appropriate in . . . Slippers and shoes for our feet . . . A first cup of coffee, with cream, even . . . A newspaper delivered to the door. . . A phone to connect with loved ones . . . An umbrella and raincoat to step into Your hurting world this day. And yet, O Lord, forgive us for often forgetting that Your world, and the children of it, hurt in these ways, everyday: No light, save that which the diurnal rhythms provide ~ No clean water, save that which the high streams and rivers provide ~ No heat, save that which the sun provides ~ No sanitation ~ No refrigeration ~ Not enough food for a meal, much less a day ~ Not enough defense against body-borne diseases ~ No health or dental care ~ Not enough clothing to defend against inherent climates ~ No shoes ~ No coffee with cream ~ No papers, books, phones, umbrellas or raincoats... Forgive us, O Lord, for our mindlessness. Forgive us, O Lord, for our thoughtlessness. Forgive us, O Lord, for our selfishness. Father, make us ever more mindful and thoughtful! Jesus, give us eyes and hearts of compassion like Yours are! Holy Spirit, transform our selfishness into selflessness! Then, O Lord, rather than questing for notoriety or fame, rather than seeking high praise or recognition, transform our selflessness into service in Your name, for Your glory, to the people of Your world ~ OUR brothers and sisters everywhere! Thank you, Father, for these five, morning minutes, alive. Thank you, Sweet Jesus, for these five, morning minutes, awake. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for these five, morning minutes, aware. Amen B.D. Harr © 2012 Written on the winds of Hurricane Sandy -----------------------------------
[caption id="attachment_7569" align="alignnone" width="194"] Return to Our Senses[/caption] This post is the last in the series of excerpts from my upcoming book Return to Our Senses, which will be available in mid November. It is already available through Mustard Seed Associates at a pre-publication discounted price of $15. I appreciate those of you who have interacted with the material and look forward to further discussions when the book itself is published. On October 10, 2010, Tom and I joined an estimated 1 billion viewers around the globe watch the joyous rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped for months below the earth’s surface. We watched with bated breath as that first miner gingerly stepped into the capsule that would take him through a tunnel in the rock to safety. Their literal rebirth out of the darkness of the tomb into a new world filled all of us with hope and excitement. We watched as they embraced their families, reaffirmed their marriage vows and spoke of new possibilities for the future. Life in that moment was a fresh, new creation not just for them but for us as well. For these miners to be rescued, they needed to believe that a new world was not only possible but desirable. They needed to believe that the new world they envisioned was more worthwhile than the one they currently were experiencing. Imagine what could have happened if that first miner had been unwilling to step into the capsule that would transport him through the “birth” canal to reach the outside world. After all 69 days in their tomb must have made these men feel fairly secure, in spite of the severe limitations of the life it offered. In some ways it would have been easier to mourn for life as it had been than to step out into a risky journey to the surface. Do we mourn the past or midwife the future? We too can mourn the past or acts as midwives to the new future God is giving birth to. Our world too is in a time of transition, change and turbulence that beckons us with new, exciting but scary possibilities. Like the Chilean miners, we too need to believe that a new world is not only possible but desirable. We must see that at the center of that new world is the God who is love, the kingdom that is an expression of that love and prayer which is the outpouring of that love. Times of transition are opportunities for us to re-examine and recreate the way we express our faith and practice our prayer life. They are opportunities to give birth to new communities that draw us closer to God and to God’s kingdom ways. They are opportunities to draw closer to the loving heart of God and re-imagine all we are and all we do with God’s loving presence at the center. For that to happen we need to be willing to let go of the past, learning to be grateful for the foundations it has provided, but recognizing it as the stepping stones out of which something new emerges. We can either weep about what was and is no longer or we can anticipate and bring the new future into being. Concerns about climate change, political and economic upheaval, changing church and faith all make many of us feel we have just jumped out of a plane without a parachute. Yet in the midst of these changes we have an incredible opportunity to give birth to God’s new kingdom. Rebirth and recreation, that is the main message of Return to Our Senses. The book began by redefining prayer as an exercise in love. I started with the awe inspiring imagery of God’s breath filling and enlivening us. I challenged all of us to examine our assumptions about prayer and reinvent our lives centered on the love of God and the kingdom of love which God is giving birth to. As I said in the introduction, our prayers and the practices that shape our lives become the habits that continually point towards God’s future and our longing for a coming kingdom in which justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. In our acts of prayer, worship and other spiritual practices we come to renew our covenant of love with God and with our fellow worshipers, not just with those present with us, but with the entire family of God around the world, so that we can be renewed, restored and empowered to live into God’s hope for the future. I hope that the techniques and habits I discussed in this book have hooked your imagination with God’s vision for the future, and given birth to something new in your prayer life. I hope it has started to retrain your heart, your mind and your spirit to desire, and to more determinedly practice, what God loves. Perhaps it has inspired you to look and listen more intentionally for the signs of God’s new world that are emerging – new communities of mutual care, new expressions of faith, new churches, and new awareness of the interrelatedness of all God’s creation and our need to be better stewards of it. I believe that this is the only approach to prayer that will sustain and strengthen us into the future. If prayer is indeed an exercise in love, then it should connect all the experiences of our everyday lives to the life that God intends for us, not life as it was or even as it is now but life in all the fullness that our loving God has planned for us. During a season of change and turmoil like this we carry the responsibility to do all that is possible to ensure that the new that emerges is healthy, more humane, more compassionate and more loving towards neighbors near and far.
Living Into the banquet Feast of God
[caption id="attachment_7565" align="alignnone" width="300"] Jesus washing Peter's feet[/caption] The following post is the tenth that I have done which are excerpts from my new book my upcoming book Return to Our Senses, which will be available in mid November. It is already available through Mustard Seed Associates at a pre-publication discounted price of $15. When MSA Board chair Penny Carothers was in Calcutta she befriended Asa and Jebodah, teenage sisters whose mother provides for them by selling herself at the temple of Kali, goddess of destruction. One day Penny and a friend went to distribute toys and clothing to some of the street kids. The kids came slowly at first delight on their faces, she remembers. “But the moment lasted only moments. Before we knew it desperate hands had wrested our gifts from us and in the violence of the moment we fell back into the gutter.” What happened next profoundly impacted me when Penny related her story. “In my disillusionment I saw them,” Penny said. “Asa and Jebodah entered the filth to take our hands. They pulled us away and took us, dazed, to the water pump. And then they bent down and began to wash the grime off our feet. Beside me, my friend repeated over and over, “They are washing our feet.”” As I listened to Penny and read her story I thought – this is Jesus. These children are the ones who stooped to wash the disciples feet wearing nothing more than a lowly servant would. In them, dirty, homeless, covered in soot is the one who comes to us in the midst of our pain and the misery of our world to offer us comfort and love. Like them he comes as the lowliest and most despised of all servants – the one who washes feet. Many of these children, as Penny noted are the children of prostitutes. They are despised within their own society as well as in ours. As I thought about this I realized how easily I could dismiss them. But the poor are with us always and everywhere. Here in the U.S. the nation's poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, 46.2 million people. This is its highest level since 1993. The poverty rate for children under age 18 is even higher. It increased to 22% in 2010, meaning more than 1 in 5 children in America are living in poverty. For African Americans it is 27.4% and for families headed by single mothers it is 31.6%, the highest rate of all. Whose Feet Would you Wash? Jesus washed feet as a prelude to the last meal he shared with his disciples. I think that in part Jesus washing of feet was a prayer for the disciples to notice those lowly unnoticed slaves who washed their feet. It was a reminder that everyone no matter how insignificant in the hierarchy of the day, has a place at God’s banquet table. The poor and the marginalized wear the face of Jesus. The poor wash our feet in so many ways yet we rarely look them in the face. They make it possible for the rest of us to live lives of comfort and ease.It is the poor who pick our fruit and make our clothes. They provide us with furniture and with cheap building materials. They wash our dishes when we eat out and clean our hotel rooms when we go to Disney world. They mine our diamonds and the tantalum for our mobile phones. What would happen I wonder if we entered into the story of these children as we do into the gospel story? What if we saw in their faces the face of Jesus stooping down to wash our feet as a preparation for the great banquet feast of God? What would happen if every time we bought our food at the supermarket we thought about those who produce what we eat and consider the conditions under which they live and bring up their children? What would happen if every meal we ate became a prayer of anticipation for the great banquet feast of God?
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