Saturday, January 31, 2015

Does it cheapen Jesus?

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

She said Vacation Bible School "cheapens Jesus." Her words stung, Lord. Do they sting because I am afraid they are true? What, with the silly songs and the hand motions and the decorations and the crafts and glitter, paint and pomp, VBS does make a carnival of sorts, doesn't it?

We often use imaginary heroes and imaginary scenarios to "bring You to life." Is there something wrong with this picture?

Should we shed the imaginary things -- the talking animals, the themes of superheroes, the spaceships and transporters -- and focus instead on recreating, perhaps, the real time, the real places, the real events? Can we use the songs they already know but maybe have never really considered the words and their meanings? Can we take the time to give You to them on their level, follow Your lead in how to do so, and surround the undertaking with great reverence and awe?

Can VBS be a time when even adults are attracted to shed those things that we have made so very real -- obligations, finances, busy-ness -- and, like Mary, sit at Your feet for a few hours each day, once a summer?

Oh, this is too big an issue for me to make any conclusions, but, Lord, I can proceed with caution in planning our VBS. I can focus on You and ask our team to pray for Your guidance. May the image we reflect of You, Lord, be true. May our efforts please You. May You use us to speak loudly and profoundly to all.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The way out

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

I'm reading a book about the Reformation. Both sides, Lord, burned their "enemies." They burned them to death! This is no different than the people we now refer to as terrorists!

I knew this. I knew people died during the reformation. I guess I just hadn't considered it in years. But now, reading it against the backdrop of ISIS, I'm looking at "western" history a bit differently.

"We" tend to think we are more educated, more refined, more civilized than our third-world contemporaries. But I wonder. Yes, the reformation was 400 years ago, but, Lord, are those tendencies still in us, especially if we allow ourselves to get fearful, distrustful, suspicious, and intolerant? And what if, please forbid, we get to thinking we must defend You to another human being?

You who restored the ear of the man attempting to arrest You did not and do not condone violence. You who asked forgiveness from the Cross do not condemn. Where do we think we get to resort to violence or to condemnation? If You do not, then we do not. Period.

I know Your power, Lord. I know it prevails. It rises after death. It refuses defeat. It is a rumbling, unstoppable force.

May we bow to Your power, Lord. May we lower ourselves, our reason, our anger, our fear, our righteousness. May we stay near You, at the ready, willing to sacrifice ourselves for what You enable us and teach us to stand for, for our lower natures are all too willing to take over and deepen the hole we find ourselves in.

Yours is the only way out.

A Collect for Fridays

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The power of gratitude

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

We read this in Psalm 50:
Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and make good your vows to the Most High.
Lord, we know from history that offering bulls, goats, and lambs was a big thing. Millions were offered, in thanksgiving, in atonement. It is the very action that we take such meaning for the sacrifice of Your Son, the Lamb of God.

But, Lord, I am struck today by these words I have prayed time and time again. You dispense of food offerings -- as important as the people of our past held them to be. You dispense of them and want "a sacrifice of thanksgiving" instead. This shocks me. Why? Because it shows us very clearly that our being grateful is no small thing. It is not inconsequential. It is not just a "nice thing." It is, it must be, immensely effective, highly transformative, potent in our relationship with You.

I can begin to understand this. I know when I am grateful, I am empowered. I am happy. I am content. And I am not looking to acquire. I'm not missing something I don't have. I'm not "less than" in any way. Showing gratitude, being grateful, presents me as ready, willing, prepared.

Give me a grateful heart, Lord. May I be grateful not only for what I have but for what I don't have. May I be grateful for the challenges facing me. May I be grateful for all things, because in each detail of my life You are alive and working, bringing all together for my good and the benefit of those around me.

This is true, and I thank You for it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Finding Him

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

I've been asked, Lord, to try to help parents get their teens to church. They want to sleep in on the only morning that their way-too busy schedules leave them alone. And I can go on and on about the need for teaching down-time, quiet time, time for prayer and meditation, but I know that won't go over well. So, Lord, how do I reflect the immensity of Your attraction to them?

Surely, You know how. You can speak to all, from babies to the elderly, from distracted toddlers to distracted adults. You speak in all languages, all art forms. And sometimes You don't even speak at all, but Your impact is still profound.

How do I show them this?

I have a few ideas. I can paint a tragedy for them and show them how You rise up in its midst and take hold of us. But, Lord, that's no fair to those who are not affected by tragedy. Must they wait to experience You until such a time?

They have experienced You, these teens. They just don't know the value of that simple Mass on Sunday morning. They don't know it is Your primary word. They don't realize the tangible gift of Yourself that is given. They are not in tune, as yet, with that immeasurable flow of grace that pours down on us as we come together as a people and lift one another up to You. They do not fathom, as yet, just what occurs at the words, "take, eat, this is my body, given for you."

It's not every Sunday that I remember this, me, with my own too- busy-ness. It takes some deliberate action. It takes coming and looking for You. We must come into that sanctuary as if we were looking for a gold coin, intent, watchful, ears primed, ready.

"If you seek me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart." So goes one of my favorite hymns. O Lord, help us to teach them, urge them, join them in seeking You -- and finding You -- with all our hearts. Amen.