Sunday, December 28, 2008

Prayer - December 28, 2008

O God of Christmas Joy … for the birth of your Son, we give you thanks … for coming to us - rather than asking us to find you somewhere, you have found us … you have come to us in grace and peace … in a way that frightens no one … just a baby wrapped in simple blankets … in a place out of the way … a gentle place, a place that asks very little of us, and gives so very much.

We join the heavenly chorus … Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace among those whom God favors …

And is there anyone, O God, whom you do not favor?
Any human being so low that your hand cannot reach?
A soul so devastated that it’s beyond redemption?
A life so wasted that there’s no hope?

You favor all the world, O God …
You are at work in all things for good …

And though our world seems filled with demons …
The hatred of a man killing family and friends … and ending his own life …
The smoke of war hanging over Gaza this morning …
Pakistani troops massing on the border with India …
Folks losing their jobs …
Losing their homes …
Sadness for so many …

LORD, we’re not going to pretend …
Because you don’t pretend.
You’ve never pretended about this world of ours.
You’ve never worn rose-colored glasses …
You’ve never stuck your head in the sand …

That’s why you came to us, O God …
Prepared to give the greatest gift of all …
Your life offered up for our life …
A love so divine …
A love so pure …
A love to make all things new …

LORD, we’re a part of that effort …
We give our lives anew to you …
Each one of us, as best we can …

Deliver us from fear and frustration …
From loneliness and suspicion …
From anger and anxiety …

LORD, we do not ask that such things never come our way …
They will, and they do …
But only ask your help …
That such things not overwhelm us …

Nor do we ask for a faith greater than these things …
That would be too much …
We ask only for faith the size of a mustard seed …
For such faith is more than enough …

May all gathered here this day be encouraged …
May the young find a light to follow for the rest of their lives …
May the aged find fresh purpose … and a great hope for the glory still to come …
May the tired find some strength …
May those who’ve been hurt by others find some healing …
Make us adequate, we pray, for the needs of the day …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come …

Monday, December 22, 2008

Prayer - Sunday, December 21, 2008

It’s Advent, LORD, and we’re waiting … waiting as your people of old … we’ve counted the weeks … today is Advent 4 … the end is upon us … this week brings us to Christmas … and how our hearts sing with the ancient choir that greeted and startled the shepherds in the hills …

We, too, are startled by it all … that you, the Great God Almighty, set aside your robes of blue to be wrapped in simple blankets and laid in a manger … a simple setting to frighten no one … no pomp, no circumstance … a kindness beyond all measure … so that everyone, from shepherds to kings, from the common to the uncommon … from the powerful to the powerless … would all be welcomed … a place for everyone … no one intimidated, no one embarrassed for want of position or wealth …

We thank you for such grace … a place for each of us …

Help us all, we pray, to be Christmas people … to hear the sounds of angels … to see the guiding star … to bow the knee to the child of Bethlehem … to worship and adore … to follow his journey …

From Bethlehem to Nazareth … from Nazareth to the Jordan … and on to Jerusalem … to the cross … to the darkest regions of the heart … as far away as hell itself … to bring light and peace to every realm …

With Mary his mother, our souls magnify you, and we rejoice in our Savior … for he has looked with favor upon us …

O LORD our God, we are yours … though a thousand gods lay claim to our life, a thousand needs and a thousand dreams … we are yours … and we wouldn’t have it any other way …

In your goodness, we find our goodness …
In your light, we see light …
In your love, we become loving …

We pray today for your church … that her message be clear and her faith be strong … that your people be drawn together in a greater unity … that in these days of danger and opportunity, the gospel of hope may inspire us all …

Send us out from this high hour of worship to be fearless and faithful citizens of your kingdom … bearing witness to the grace of Christ our LORD …

Like the shepherds of old, O God,
Come and visit us we pray …
We’re ready and we’re needy …

And we’re ready to follow …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prayer - Sunday, December 14, 2008

To be a people of hope, O God … that’s our prayer … to live deeply into your love, to cast our burdens upon you … to trust you in all things, to trust you for good …

But even as we confess our faith and celebrate your love, O God, we’re not na├»ve … we don’t live in an imaginary world where love always wins and faith conquers all … it’s not that way, LORD … you know it, and we know it, too.

We’re bound together, not only by joy, but in suffering, too … life has so many dark chapters; help us, O God, to be real … to be real … for one another, and for ourselves, LORD … to offer sympathy and understanding to our own soul … to be kind to ourselves … and kind to one another …

Help us, we pray, to be real in our faith, hope and love …

To know that you came to us … to be with us along the way – in the best of times, of course … but in the worst of times, too … God with us … Emmanuel … born in a stable, visited by shepherds … not princes and places, but just plain people …

LORD, there are times when our faith stumbles, when we can barely hang on … but we came here this morning … because something inside of us doesn’t give up … there’s a song in the deeps of our spirit …

A miracle … you hang on to us … though our faith wanes, your love for us only grows stronger … your love, unconditional and without requirement … always and forever.

As each of us travels our own road, O God, remind us that you travel with us …

We bring to you this day our world … a cacophony of voices – strident and sweet, weary and winsome, angry and kind …

We’re mindful of the economic stress confronting millions … we feel the pinch, too … it’s disconcerting, frightening, saddening …

But we’re here, LORD, because we believe … we believe in you and we believe in Jesus our LORD … we believe in love and we believe in goodness … and we’ll not give up, LORD, not matter what … because you don’t give up … you know what it is to be rejected … you know suffering through and through … you know the pain of the soul, for your own souls suffers amidst the sorrows of creation … but you don’t and won’t give up.

Touch us, this day, with the gift of your Holy Spirit – your love deep within us – a loyalty to great causes that death cannot stop and wrong will not conquer. Make us the church in the best sense of that word – generous and kind, open and welcoming … Covenant on the Corner … a place for all!

Surprise someone with hope who at this moment has not dared to hope … make radiant some soul that has not expected it … bring life to someone for whom tears have been a companion … and for someone in the grip of darkness, bless them with enough light to get them through the night …

We thank you for this Advent Season … a time of waiting and watching … we know not when, we know not how, but we know and believe that your love comes to us … that every moment is filled with Advent Promise, that watching and waiting will bring its reward …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name …

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Prayer - Sunday, December 7, 2008

LORD of the nations … LORD of the world … to whom all creatures belong, great and small …

We thank you …

For the gift of life … it’s good to be here … to be alive … to love and be loved … to receive and to give …

For the gift of Jesus …
For the fellowship of faith …
For Covenant on the Corner …

For Mary and Joseph, for the Inn Keeper and the Shepherds … for this remarkable story …

O God of heaven and earth, we find ourselves in this story … something important, something utterly good … something eternal and forever … your love for us, and the hope that our love for one another could transcend the boundaries of hatred and fear … that your love for us could change us so that we can change the world …

On this 7th day of December, we remember a moment in time when nation attacked nation … when the demons of war had their way with the world … we’re mindful of all the suffering that day unleashed … and the countless millions who paid the highest price … we remember them today, and continue to pray for those who made it through, only to carry with them deep sorrow and hard memories …

We pray for peace, O God … that women and men around the world will join together for the sake of humanity … to preserve this creation of yours – to be our brother’s keeper – to watch over one another, to lift up one another … to be large-hearted and broad-minded – to see with the eyes of Christ … to see the world from the perspective of the cross … to give ourselves all the more for the sake of Christ and the healing of the nations …

Bless us, we pray, in this season … with conscience … the blessing of a mission, the blessing of a purpose, to take us beyond ourselves …

Bless Covenant, O God, with such purpose … with a vision high and grand … a vision of your world … as it should be, as it will be … and to devote ourselves all the more to following Jesus our LORD, embracing his love and work …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Merry Christmas ... or Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas … or is it Happy Holidays?

There was a time when I was reluctant to say Happy Holidays, but I’ve changed.

Sure, I love Christmas and all that it means … and Christ is very much a part of my life.

But I like the fact that we live in a huge country with lots of different peoples and religions, perspectives and philosophies … and a lot of holidays during this time of the year.

When it comes to language, it’s important for me to be thoughtful and make timely shifts.

Like when I shifted my race language: from Negro to Black, and now mostly to African American.

And when I shifted from “mankind” to humanity, from fireman to fire fighter (a lot more exciting) and policeman to police officer, and so on.

Language changes with the times, and thoughtful people try to get ahead of the times. 

Though we often said to Mr. Lowenstein, “Merry Christmas,” and Mr. Lowenstein said it back to us, we might well say now, “Happy Hanukah” or just “Happy Holidays.” I think it’s easier, and it’s more thoughtful!

I don’t need the world to remind me that Jesus is reason for the season. No, that’s up to me, and it’s up to you, if you’re a Christian. And just saying it because we can, I don’t think that accomplishes very much. I think for some it’s just a power play, and that never feels very good to me.

As for the world, it’s right and good for me to be mindful of my Muslim and Jewish neighbors, not to mention a host of others and likely some who are professed atheists. I bear witness, not by overbearing, but with gentleness and humility; not by saying “Merry Christmas,” but by living it every day of my life.

I think that’s what language is mostly about – whether it be race or gender, or thoughtfulness about other religions and perspectives – as Micah said, “Love kindness.”

Christians can rightly say to one another, Merry Christmas, but when it comes to the salesperson behind the counter, to our neighbor who’s a Muslim, to the stranger on the street, for me, it’s Happy Holidays.

So, dear friend, Happy Holidays, to you, and for this very large world of ours. And if you’re a Christian, a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Prayer - Sunday, November 3, 2008

Our hearts are saddened by the news from Mumbai … bloodshed and tears … families torn apart … the depths of human hatred, O God, stun us when seen so clearly …

We pray for the victims and their families … we pray for the terrorists who see the world from a perspective we cannot understand …

We pray this morning for the nations of India and Pakistan … and we pray that religious leaders in both lands will calm fears and ease anger …

In this Season of Advent, O LORD, we’re reminded of the world in which our LORD was born … a world so similar to ours, the human penchant for fear and prejudice remains a constant in our stories …

We cry out, O LORD, for your help and your healing.
We cannot do this on our own …
Without divine counsel, the human heart curls itself around the worst instincts and darkest thoughts …

All of us, LORD,
Need your Advent grace … the gift of love, and peace, and kindness.
Help us, in this place,
Covenant on the Corner,
To embody the virtues of your Kingdom …
The goodness of your governance …
May the world see something of value in us …
Not our words,
Nor our buildings, but the way we love …
The way we forgive and the way we welcome …
Barring no one … receiving everyone as brother or sister …
Bringing down the walls others raise up …
Building bridges over the chasms others are so quick to dig …

Help us, we pray, to read our Bibles well …
To follow Jesus with new devotion …
To open our hearts all the more to his influence …
To be the light of the world and the salt of the earth …

We pray today for our families …
For our fiends …
We pray for the Presbyterian Church, here and around the world …
We pray for religious leaders everywhere: for priest and rabbi, for pastor and imam …
We pray for President Bush …
For President-elect Obama …
For Governor Schwarzenegger
For Mayor Villaraigosa and all their families …

In this remarkable season of Advent, O God, help us see the power and the glory of your grace … Gabriel’s visit to Mary, her perplexity and Joseph’s uncertainty … the distress of the inn keeper to make room for one more family … the surprise of the shepherds to be included …

LORD, widen our hearts … give us large thoughts to think …
And large deeds to do …

We pray in the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mashed Potatoes

An Ode to Mashed Potatoes …

Let me count the ways I love thee …
The common tator … a tuber … from the ground …
Just like you and me …
Maybe we feel something in common with this common ground thing …

They’re not picked, like apples or pears …
They’re dug …
Like good music … or hangin’ out with folks we love …

Lots of different sizes … and colors … in a lot of different places …
We do have a lot in common, don’t we?
With the humble potato …

Peel ‘em … if ya’ want …
But I like to leave the skins on …
Adds texture … as it should be … the whole potato …
As God intended.

Into a pot of water …
Turn on the heat … lots of good things need a little heat …
Cook ‘em not too hard …
Test ‘em with a fork …
Drain ‘em and put ‘em back into the pot …

And now the good part …
A couple of butter chunks …
A generous splash of cream … I mean: be generous …
Maybe even some cream cheese …
A little horseradish?
Rosemary?
Thyme?
Salt and pepper …

And a little elbow grease …
Smash and mash these remarkable gifts from God …
Not too much, just enough …
To blend it all together …
Taste to your heart’s content …
That’s what I love about cooking …
We get to sample everything before you do.

Can it get better?
You bet …
On the plate they go …
A fork-full will satisfy all your desires for comfort …
Just like home …
But like all good things … these good things go well
With a chorus of other good things ….
Gravy …
Giblet gravy …
Corn and slabs of carefully sliced turkey, neat and precise … though I prefer the dark meat … a tad bit unruly …
Cranberry relish on the side …
And how about the country cousin, the sweet potato … with its famous hat,
The marshmallow … all white on the inside, with golden trim …
And who knows what else …

Start with potatoes, and who knows where it’ll end.

But start with potatoes …
A very common thing …

And it will end well …

As all good things do …

Happy Thanksgiving …





© Tom Eggebeen, Los Angeles

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23, 2008 Prayer

Eternal God, creator of the heavens and the earth … you are as close to us as the breath we breath … you are all things for us … you are our faith, our hope and our love.

Thank you, O God, for the gift of faith …
To have something beyond ourselves in which to trust …
Something greater than the things of this world on which to rely …
That when death comes a-calling … when we draw our final mortal breath … Jesus will be at our side … he is the Master of death because he is the LORD of Life!
All praise, honor and glory to you, O God.

As the days of our life unfold, by your Holy Spirit, help us to live a large and loving life … to embrace high ideals and sign on with movements and organizations devoted to the care of your good earth, the wellbeing of every child, justice for all, and peace for the world.

Help us to be faithful to the church … not just members on a list somewhere, but Christians to the core … followers of Jesus … filled with delight in his name, eager to serve, ready to bear witness … for he is the true light of the world … the peace that surpasses all common understanding …

Thank you, O God, for the gift of hope …
As we give ourselves away…
As we pray and study …
Serve and sacrifice …
That our labor is not in vain …
Time never wasted …
Love spent well and wisely …

Thank you for the gift of love …
That which sweetens all things … forgives all things … believes all things, endures all things …
Your love, O God, for us …
Our love for one another …
And those who love us …

For these things, O God …
For faith, hope and love …
We give you our thanks …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come …

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Peacemaker Implant


A friend of mine is having a pacemaker implanted. My friend will have a simple outpatient procedure – he’ll be home in no time, and up and running, good as new.

This morning, I turned to a blog and read a headline – about a peacemaker, but I read pacemaker instead, until I read it again, and then I thought – that’s a thought worth writing about!

Every time we read our Bible, every time we invite Christ into our hearts, every time we gather with God’s people in the solidarity of worship and work, God does a procedure – God implants a peacemaker so that our heart can beat regularly in rhythm with Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Our greatest need is for peace – in all dimension: for the world, for our communities and neighborhoods, for our homes, schools and places of work, and perhaps most importantly, deep within our spirit – the peace that only Christ can give (John 14:27), a peace that surpasses every version offered by the world (Philippians 4:7).

My friend would never think of trying to implant a pacemaker by himself. A do-it-yourself project would be foolish and dangerous. Nor is the Peace of Christ a do-it-yourself project – we can only do it in the company of others, in the fellowship of faith, with good instruction and mutual prayers. Do not try this at home!

If my friend can step into the doctor’s office and be on his way home again in an hour or two, the implantation of a peacemaker for our heart is life-long process wherein we constantly surrender our life to Christ, constantly pray for the Holy Spirit, constantly read our Bibles and continually learn more about God. The invitation to follow Jesus is not for a few days, a year or two, or even the duration of this life, but forever, in season and out of season, when we feel like and when we don’t.

And why do we do this? Because we’re descendents of Seth in a world of crass opportunism, empty promises and the silly and violent boasting of Lamech (see Genesis 4:23).

For the sake of the world, we go to our Good Physician for a peacemaker implant – to keep alive the greatest reality – the truth that sets us free from pretense and fruitless quests - the steadfast love of God - the rock of our life, the immovable foundation – our hope and our peace!

Christ within us – he’s our peacemaker. And with our implant, we step into the world, our homes and communities, and we bring a modicum of peace to others. I’ll add my share; you’ll add your share, and together we’ll change the world.

What did Jesus say? “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Prayer for Sunday, November 16, 2008


The sky hazy …
The sun is dim …
Ashes fall …
What’s left of so many homes and hopes …

We are stunned by the magnitude …
Heart-broken for the families …
Grateful for the firefighters …

We celebrate the human spirit, O God …
Courage and fortitude …
Faith and hope …
Kindness and mercy …
The willingness to sacrifice …
Daring to dream and endlessly creative …

You have made us well, O God …
In your image …
To see beyond today …
To pick up and start all over again …
We can do these things, O God, for you have made us well.

We give thanks today, for all that is good …
For Lee Gardner and his trip to Nicaragua …
For Ruth Phelps and Shari Stump …
For their faith and love immeasurable …

We give thanks today for all that is good …
For all the nations of the world …
And all who strive for peace …
For women and men of faith who buck the trends and call us to a better life …
For pastors and prophets …
For ministers and missionaries …
For rabbis and imams …
For monks and priests …
For every prayer being said right now …
Every refusal to give in to anger and despair …
Every word of acceptance and welcome …
Every decision to walk on the sunny side of the street …

We give thanks for all that is good …

For Covenant on the Corner …
For our Sunday School teachers and our pre-school …
For our singers and our musicians …
For our elders and our deacons …
For all our members, all our friends … everyone here this morning …
Everyone who’s been here in our 60 years … and for all who will be here in the years ahead …

Bless us, we pray, that we might be a blessing to our world …
Fill us with light, so that we can let our light shine …
Flavor us with grace, that we might be the salt of the earth …

O God of the ages, we vow anew to be faithful to you and to humanity … faithful to this earth and to all of its creatures, great and small …
We pledge anew:
To worship you in spirit and in truth …
To forgive one another and be forgiven …
To do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with you, our God …

In the name of Jesus our LORD, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name …

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Prayer for Sunday, November 9, 2008

Eternal God, never far from us … around us, within us … above us and beneath us … behind us for where we’ve been … ahead of us for where we need to go …

Shed your light upon our nation, we pray … in these days of change and challenge … when the needs of many are so great … the language of the day disturbs us … loss of job and loss of home … declining income and reduced earnings … company closures and deep layoffs … benefits lost and medical costs on the rise … how will we manage, LORD? How will it end?

Bless, we pray, President Bush and President-Elect Obama … bless their meeting tomorrow … and that of Laura and Michelle … guide them in their words … bless them, we pray, in these important days of transition for our Democracy …
Bless, we pray, the members of Congress … the judicial system … those who guide Wall Street, who manage our investments … who buy and sell …

Cleanse, we pray, from the heart of our nation all thoughts of greed and self-advancement … we confess, O God, that we have been dazzled by wealth, and by wealth we have set our course … forgive us, we pray … forgive us for making an idol of such things … of forgetting those who fall behind and need a helping hand … forgive our crude lusts and our ceaseless desires … change us, we pray, by your mighty Spirit … and renew our covenant with one another … remind us, dear God, that we are our brother’s keeper …

In these days of change and challenge, we thank you for the changeless grace that undergirds our lives and holds our spirit … we thank you for Jesus Christ … for our faith and for our hope, for our families and our friends … and for the love that makes all things new …
We lift in prayer today the intimate and personal wants of our lives … our character of soul and mind, and our family relationships … there are griefs here to be comforted … anxieties to be assuaged … prosperity that should not make us proud … difficulties that should not cast us down … temptation that we should rise above … and burdens that need to be borne in faith and not bitterness.*

O God, according to the riches of your grace, minister unto us, we pray, that we might be your people all the more … ready and willing to serve as needed … faithful to Christ, and faithful to one another …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …


*Thanks to Harry Emerson Fosdick for most of this paragraph!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Prayer - November 2, 2008

O LORD our God, we pray for our nation today …
We pray for Barak Obama and John McCain …
We pray for Sarah Palin and Joe Biden …
We pray for all the candidates throughout our land …

We pray for our soldiers …
And their leaders …
We pray for those who’ve returned home wounded …
We pray for their care-givers …

We pray for the families who’ve lost loved ones in the wars …
We pray for their spouses … for their children …

We pray for the peace-makers, O LORD …
Women and men of vision,
To help us through turbulent times …
Who dare to dream …
Who see a better world … a time of peace …
When war shall be no more.

Help us, we pray, to be your people … to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world …
To embody the love of Jesus …
To know that his way is the way, the truth and the life …
That love is always possible, though never easy …

Help us, we pray, to set our hearts upon Jesus …
To let him be our LORD and our Savior …
To find light in his light …
To know that it’s possible to really follow him …
To pay the price that he asks of us …
To have less of ourselves and more of everyone else …
To grow a little smaller so he can grow a whole lot larger …
To learn the art of self-denial to make room for others …
To pick up our cross and bear it boldly …

LORD, we pray not for our comfort, but our character …
We pray not for our ease, but that we might devote ourselves all the more to the high purpose of Jesus …

We pray for our families and friends, not merely to have the blessings and delights of the day, but that all of us might possess the riches of your kingdom forever … to know the difference between gold and straw …

To build our life upon the rock … and not upon the shifting sand.

To let Jesus be the Ark who leads us across the river …

To do the great and simple things of life …

To laugh a lot …
To grow a garden or bake a pie …
To share as much as we can …
To make time for others …
To join our efforts with women and men of good will all around the world … that justice and peace might thrive …
It can be done, O LORD …
Because you’ve said so …

In the name our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name …

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Prayer - October 26, 2008

Oct 26 08 Sunday prayer

Our nation, O LORD, is in the thick of a political campaign … and the whole world watches … LORD, you have given to us a place of influence among the nations – our wealth and innovation, our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution – LORD, you have given much to us …

We bless and praise you, and we pray for our nation today … we pray for John McCain and Barak Obama; Joe Biden and Sarah Palin …

Bless our president and his family … Congress and the Courts … our governors and our mayors – for CEOs and Wall Street brokers … for newsmakers and those who report it … for the right and the left, and all in between …

Help us, we pray, as Christians, to be a light within our nation … to set the bar high for love and compassion, justice and kindness - to lead the way for acceptance and understanding of others, as Jesus himself welcomed everyone, turned no one away – healed the blind and touched the leper.

Help us, we pray, to have the character of Jesus … guide us with his words and wash our lives in his grace … help us to do more than just believe, but to follow him … to embrace the highest of all visions - to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with you, O LORD our God.

We are grateful, dear Lord, for the unfinished world you’ve given to us … for great tasks yet to be undertaken; for noble deeds waiting for noble hearts … to join with you and others of good will to bring this world to completion.

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven …

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Prayer - October 19, 2008

O LORD our God, we give thanks for grace:
The grace to live well,
To love much,
To pray often,
To make a difference in this world.

We gather in this place, O God,
A place of memory and a place of hope -
Covenant on the Corner.

We gather with one another …
As you would have it …
Not alone, but arm-in-arm …
To love one another as you love us …

We gather together:
To find hope,
To recast our values,
To think higher and better,
To leave behind the baggage of fear and suspicion,
To set aside the prejudice and ill-will that lives in the dark corners of every heart, every mind and every soul … LORD, we’re not without guilt in these matters … and we’ll not leave here today without coming to grips with the dark stuff of our soul.
In faith and trust, we face the truth boldly and hopefully …
We face Jesus, who touched the untouchable, who welcomed the outcast and invited the stranger … we come to Jesus … because he has the words of eternal life … his cross is our redemption … the empty tomb our hope that goodness and mercy have the last word.

Who are we, LORD?
A thousand questions fly through our mind:
Does life count?
Is faith for real?
Does this make any difference?
Are we just playing a game?
Is life a matter of getting all that we can?

These are the questions, LORD.
And we’ve made some choices, as best we can.
We believe … we trust … we serve.
We give ourselves to Jesus …
We love one another …
We stand with people of faith all around the world …
Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists …

When some divide, we bring together.
When some cast doubt, we honor and respect.
In your mystery, O God, in the mystery of the Trinity … there’s a wideness in your mercy … something for everyone … a way into the truth … a pathway for all to travel …
We thank you for your love …
For Covenant on the Corner …
For all that has been, all that is, and all that shall be
And most of all,
We thank you for Jesus our LORD …
What a joy to know him …
What an opportunity to serve him …
What a blessing to share his gifts of love and compassion with the world …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Prayer - October 5, 2008

Prayer – Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008

There it was … a simple sign beside the road
“Estate Sale” – turn right …
I wonder what happened?

Everything goes in an estate sale.
The dining room table – many a Thanksgiving Dinner there … laughter and tears … Dad’s old jokes and Mother’s apple pie …
Glass goblets held high to toast a loved one …
Linen napkins used for the best occasions …
China and silver for company …
I wonder what happened.

The bed … where folks slept,
Or tossed and turned …
Where love was made …
Or unmade …

Look at all the clothes …
Retro … but that was the style then …
A teen girl buys that lovely old dress and hat … where in the world will she wear it? At a local dance club late Saturday night?
She’ll be the hit of the hip …

Boxes of knickknacks and doodads …
Pencils sharpened a few times too many …
Ballpoint pens from a furniture store out of business 15 years ago …

And shoes … men’s shoes … brown and black …
Women’s shoes … red and green and blue … pumps and flats, heels high and heels low …
Jewelry, beads and bangles … and some very nice pieces …

Books … murder mysteries and pulp romance … an old set of Encyclopedia Britannica … Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln …

Records … 33 1/3 … even some 45s in the bottom of the box … big bands and philharmonics … Frank Sinatra and Pat Boone …

The stuff of life, LORD.
We accumulate so much of it …
We store it, we catalogue it; we unpack it and repack it … we don’t know what to do with it.

We give it to the kids, and they don’t know what to do with it either.
We give it to the Salvation Army, and we hope that someone will enjoy what we enjoyed 25 years ago …
We have a garage sale, and someone buys what we bought at a garage sale two summers ago.
We’ve got stuff, LORD.

Piled high, piled deep …
Stuff used well, and some never used at all.
Why did we buy it?
What were thinking?

Jesus our LORD …

You remind us to go slow on stuff …
That life is more than clothing and more than food …
You remind us to treasure infinite things, eternal things …
Heavenly things … things that moths can’t eat and rust won’t stain … and to put our heart there …
The good stuff, the right stuff … the best stuff.

O LORD, help us make good choices …

At the end, LORD,
A good estate sale:
Faith,
Hope and love.

Grace,
Mercy and peace.

Comfort and courage.
Commitment and conscience …
A life well-lived,
Loving God and
Loving of neighbor …

The best stuff of all … the best stuff of all …

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name …

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shall I Tell You How to Vote?

How would you feel if I told you how to vote?

Because “the Bible says so.”

This is exactly what’s happening in 35 churches across the country this coming Sunday. They will be told how to vote in a Sunday event labeled, "Pulpit Freedom Sunday."

Freedom?

Interesting concept, isn't it? "Freedom" to restrict thought, control behavior, dictate policy, quench diversity, all in the name of god. Sounds frightening, doesn't it?

They are a group of highly conservative churches working with the Alliance Defense Fund. They hope to challenge the IRS ruling that prohibits congregations from endorsing candidates and force a court case.

A pastor claims to have the Constitutional right to tell the congregation his views. Indeed, that's a right guaranteed to all of us, but to tell others how to vote and to claim the authority of the Bible is another matter.

The separation of church and state if vital to both.

Check out the article in the Christian Science Monitor.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

For Dog Lovers

Sent to me by a friend ...

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, 'I know why.'

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, 'People are born so that they can learn how to live a good Life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?' The Six-year-old continued, 'Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.'

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy-ride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Be loyal.

If what you want what lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY!

Prayer - September 21, 2008

Walking quickly, head down, absorbed in thought … wonder what she’s thinking …
Is my child going to be okay?
I’ve got to get to work on time today?
I wish Mom and Dad were feeling better?
How are we going to pay the bills?
Why do we fight all the time?
What’s happening to my marriage?
What’s happening to me?
Her head is down …

He’s burdened, LORD.
There’s a weight on his shoulders …
Something dark and hard …
He doesn’t talk about it …
He says he’s okay …
He shrugs his shoulders and turns on TV …
He’s burdened, LORD …

Lehman Brothers belly up …
AIG bailed out …
Jobs, benefits, retirement plans …
Tough times for many …
Things upside down …

Some say: “We’ve been too greedy.”
“Too many risks taken.”
“Not enough accountability.”
We didn’t think … or did we think we might get away with it?

A trillion dollars … can’t even imagine …
I wonder, LORD … how many schools could have repaired or built?
Or bridges and roads?
Rail lines and subways?
Research and development?
Training for teachers?
Health care for everyone?
A trillion dollars …

LORD, what about our priorities?
What about my priorities, LORD?
Do I care … or do I just talk good?
How much of my life am I willing to give in order that others might have a slice of the pie?
LORD, help me search my soul!

Help us all, O LORD.
“We’re followers of the Prince of Peace,” we say.
“Of course we believe,” if someone should ask.
We say these things so easily …
LORD, help us to go deeper, higher in our thoughts and attitudes… to be more than lip-Christians, but hands and feet Christians … put our back into it … take up the burdens of faith, hope and love.

The refugee camp, O God, reaches to the horizon …
Tents and tarps, cardboard and tin, ten thousand tired faces …
The air dense with smoke and foul odor …
Children cry … children laugh …
A soccer game stirring up a cloud of dust …
Folks talk … folks wonder … far away from home … strangers in a strange land …

The young lady from France steps out of her tent …
An international aid worker …
Well-educated … good family … always wanted to do something good… she’s here now – to help ten thousand refugees – when’s the war going to end? … where are the doctors? … where’s the medicine? … is there any hope?… dirt creases her face, and she’s tired from too little sleep.

She’s a young lady, LORD, filled with visions of a better world – keep her safe, we pray, and safeguard her vision.

We give thanks, O LORD, for our place in time.
We’re here to worship you … to learn and grow in our faith …
To be comforted … but also disturbed …
To be consoled, but to be stirred and alerted as well …
To be forgiven … and to forgive those who’ve hurt us …
To receive mercy … and then to be merciful …
To have burdens lifted, so that we can take up our cross and follow you …

How shall we think, LORD?
How shall we live?
You said we’re the light of the world …
You said, “Let your light shine.”
How do we do that, LORD?
How do we do that?

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Religion and Politics

Do religion and politics mix?

Not really, but then neither does olive oil and vinegar … you give ‘em a good shake, and they intermingle for awhile, but ultimately, oil and vinegar go their separate ways. But what’s a salad with one of them missing? A good salad needs both!

Religion and politics are like neighbors with a a Tim Allen (“Home Improvement”) kind of fence between the two; yet Tim and Wilson talk most every day over the fence.

When Sarah Palin says our war in Iraq is a righteous cause given by God, I take a deep breath and pause.

I suppose it’s possible to say that … yet, it’s just as likely that one could say, “It’s not a righteous cause; it’s expansionist and driven by hubris.”

Religion says a lot of things about a lot of things, and it’s terribly important to know when to say what in any given moment. It’s a delicate conversation requiring wisdom and discretion.

Like good neighbors, neither tries to tear down the fence and move in. Rather, we speak to one another, maybe even shout and argue now and then, but the fence remains, and we stay in our own backyard.

Whenever religion and politics get too close, history reveals lots of problems.

When the crown and the crosier become indistinguishable, when the crown uses the crosier to further it’s pet projects by dressing them up in religious garb, and when the crosier enjoys the status and influence of state power, coercing folks into belief and parading around in the pomp of huge buildings and glorious processionals, it’s a formula from hell.

For centuries, the fence was torn down in the Western world, and it was virtually impossible to say who lived where. From time to time, a religious war would erupt; the pope would excommunicate the king, and the king would invade and send the pope packing, but most of the time, pope and king, crosier and crown, were hand-in-glove in controlling the empire and dominating the thoughts and values of its citizenry.

The Western world has paid an enormous price for this marriage – the crosier has lost its ability to challenge the crown, other than in irrelevant bedroom issues, and the crown has cravenly used the faith to cover its own immoral tracks. We see these issues anywhere in the world where the fence has been torn down. Whether it be some of the Islamic nations, the State of Israel as it is dominated by the Conservative wing of Judaism (they decide who’s a Jew and who isn’t when it comes to citizenship), or efforts by far right Christians to impose a theocratic model upon America through courts and congress.

Maybe another image will help.

Think of Dancing with the Stars – it takes two to tango, and when it’s done right, it’s powerful. Neither partner surrendering to the other; each engaged in a playful, if not serious, effort to prevail; yet if one prevails, the dance fails … the dance goes on as long as neither partner wins!

Religion and politics?

Good neighbors … great dance partners!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Catholic Bishops

Catholic bishops wade into campaign politics by barring Joe Biden from communion for his stand on abortion.

So what’s a Christian to do?

What’s a Roman Catholic to do?

The Roman Church is a powerful political force in this nation and around the world. One of the last things Pope Benedict said to his American audience upon departure: “Obeying the teachings of the church is part of your Catholic faith.”

Well, that says it all, doesn’t it?

I don’t like to engage in intra-church criticism – after all, we’re all in this together, but I’m a Protestant, and I affirm the Protestant heritage – a heritage that worked hard to liberate the believer from the control of the church, so that the believer could relate to God unhindered by the trappings of the church.

Presbyterians have never engaged in telling folks what to do.

Or have they?

There was a time when Presbyterians were told, generally, that drinking, dancing, card-playing and theater attendance were of the Devil. And there was time, as well, when Presbyterians were inclined to slam shut the communion door to one another, depending upon who the elders were at the time.

Early on, when Constantine embraced Christianity – more a political move than a spiritual one – the church became a vast institution with landholdings and powerful clerics.

The stability of Europe often relied more upon the crosier than the crown. Whenever I hear of a bishop telling folks how to think and behave, I’m reminded of the Middle Ages when people feared the church because it had the power of excommunication – that is, to bar one from communion and damn their soul to ever-lasting fire.

When we study the New Testament and the life of Jesus, we see God eschewing all forms of power and control. Having learned some hard lessons along the way, God realized that violence against the human spirit only begets dysfunction and more violence. So when God comes to us in Bethlehem’s cradle and finally becomes, not cross with us, but Cross for us, we see another way, the way of love. Longer, slower, more uncertain, but in the end, the darkness cannot overcome this kind of light.

I guess bishops will do what bishops do, but it’s a far cry from what Jesus envisioned when he gave the Spirit to the disciples and bid them go to the world, to love as he loved, not with might, but with mercy; not with control, but with compassion.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday Prayer - September 14, 2008

Prayer … Sep 14, 2008

Howling wind, … pounding rain … rising water, dank and dirty … homes boarded up; stores close; people flee - some can’t … some won’t … and who can count the cost … Ike rages …
So much damage … lives changed … some return when the sun shines again; some stay where they are; to make a new home for themselves … as best they can … remembering and wondering …

Campaign time in the United States … promises to run mud-free … and then mud slinging anyway … how to tell the truth … to win an election … the power of lobbyists … right and left; conservative and liberal … the war in Iraq; the war on terror … what’s right? What’s needed? How shall I vote?

And what about marriage … between a man and woman, only?
What’s love?
Does love come in different forms?
Everyone wants to love and be loved … to be safe with someone … so who’s to say, LORD?

We have a Bible, O LORD … your word, some say … but how to read it, understand it, interpret it – more than one preacher is quick to say: my way or the highway … more questions than answers sometimes … so who’s to say?

We are your people, O God … we’re here to worship, to learn, to grow, to become good salt and a clear light … to ask the questions that make for life … to know how to asses the time and think through the issues …
And to know ourselves, too, a little more today than yesterday … to get our act together; but it’s hard, LORD … life is rarely what we think it ought to be; and many of us have had to leave dreams behind … say goodbye to cherished hopes … take a different course … find our way in a strange land …

Was it a miscalculation?
An error?
Someone not paying attention?
How could it happen?
Trains collide … chaos and shock … debris and death …
LORD, have mercy, we say.
Grace to ease the sorrow.
Some means to heal the pain.
But who can bring a life back?
Who can stitch a family back together again?
We’ll do our best … but sometimes more is needed.
Can you help LORD?
Will you help?
What will it look like if you do?
The tenderness of a nurse?
The strength of a family?
The power of faith and hope in the face of adversity?
The human spirit bearing its burdens with dignity?
The quiet witness of your Love in the dark and trembling corners of the soul?

Covenant on the Corner, O God … a sixty-year story … Sunday School and Preschool … potlucks and preachers … so many folks who’ve passed through these doors … to sing the songs of Zion … to hear the Word proclaimed … to make a difference in their world … to bear witness to Jesus … to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
We’re a good congregation, LORD.
We’ve been a blessing to many.
We haven’t always gotten it right.
We’ve lost our way a time or two.
Sometimes we’ve been so interested in ourselves, we’ve lost sight of the gospel.
But we’re trying to figure it out, LORD.
We’re paying attention.
We’re praying …
And we’re trying to love one another as you have loved us.

It’s good to be here, LORD.
To be a part of this story, unfolding, emerging, transitioning …
Something new … something old … something borrowed …
Who knows, LORD … we’re eager and ready for ministry …

For the world, O LORD.
That’s why we’re here!

In the name of Jesus who taught us to pray, saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name …”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Prebyterian Lay Committee


As the reader may or may not know, I'm a Presbyterian pastor and have been in the ministry for 38 years. During that time, I've been in a lot of different places, geographically, emotionally and spiritually.

I'd like to believe that as I now write, I do so from the perspective of experience and thought.

Well, who knows, but for now, here goes.

I just finished reading the latest edition of the The Laymen, a poisoned-pen publication of the worst kind, twisting facts, omitting vital detail, telling only one side of a complicated story, and telling it in the glorious tradition of all yellow journalism.

They have the money to publish a slick paper and mail it to millions of Presbyterians who are not likely to read with a critical eye, but a gentle heart, all too easily swayed by malicious suggestions and slanted reporting.

That Christians should behave this way is unconscionable. That they should then vilify anyone who raises a question against them, claiming the high moral ground for themselves in all matters of faith and life, is beyond all moral, theological and human boundaries.

Shame on the Presbyterian Lay Committee ... their specious arguments have taken a toll. Doesn't the one rotten apple spoil the whole barrel? Sling enough mud and constantly cast aspersions and, sooner or later, the mud sticks and the doubts take root.

Have they harmed the Presbyterian Church?

Of course they have, and proud of it they are.

But in such harm are the seeds of grace.

God's goodness prevails in the worst of times.

Good and wonderful things are happening throughout the Presbyterian Church. We've taken our hits in recent years, and we've needed to get our act together on a number of fronts, but we are, and we have been, a brave denomination, tackling tough issues and holding before our world the gospel of Jesus Christ, intelligently and compassionately.

As a denomination, we have learned that no one has to be wrong in order for us to be right. We've learned to be one denomination among many, and one faith among others.

In my 38 years of ministry, I've seen and heard it all. I've watched the Lay Committee slouch toward their appointed goal - to split the church, to form a new group and be little kings in a little kingdom.

Are they interested in the gospel? World mission? Evangelism? That's what they say, but their cantankerous, proud, arrogant rantings point in another direction.

I gratefully receive their embittered diatribes. They bear witness against themselves, and in time, the sheer weight of their own self-righteousness will bring down the house of cards.

The sun is already setting on their fiefdom - they've had their day and are likely to spend the remainder of their days fighting with one another over pin heads and angels.

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is good and faithful, not perfect. Yet God remains present in our midst and the Spirit bears witness to Jesus through us. The winds of change are blowing gently - new leadership is emerging, new congregations are being planted, conservative and liberal groups are converging in a movement called Emergent, we're learning how to talk to one another, we're recovering our sense of the sacred text, doing good theology and looking to God for life and hope.

I'm proud to be a Presbyterian, and I'm more than happy to tell the Presbyterian Lay Committee how wrong they are and how twisted they've become. Lord have mercy upon them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tired Dog



An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard; I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home and was well taken care of.

He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head; he then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall, curled up in the corner and fell asleep.

An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.

The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour. This continued off and on for several weeks.

Curious I pinned a note to his collar: 'I would like to find out who the owner of this wonderful sweet dog is and ask if you are aware that almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.'

The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to his collar: 'He lives in a home with 6 children, 2 under the age of 3 - he's trying to catch up on his sleep. Can I come with him tomorrow?'

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Poem

Susan Ager, Detroit Free Press columnist, offers this delightful poem to her father.

Just click here.

Pastor Tom

Friday, May 30, 2008

Big Sunday Report

Presbyterians were out in force over Big Sunday weekend. Multiple churches signed up for weeding at the White Point Nature Preserve. Land that formerly was used for military purposes (sites for sixteen inch guns during WWII and Nike missiles with nuclear warheads during the Cold War), was transferred from the government to the City of Los Angeles and will be allowed to return to its original state. The volunteers helped eradicate an invasive species of weed from the land. What an example of our role as peacemakers and caretakers of the earth to help transform land that was formerly needed for war to land that will be used for recreation. Several connections were made with in the groups of Presbyterians, a volunteer from one church found a long lost relative who was serving with another church.

Another group was helping in a neighborhood when a resident approached them to thank them and ask who they were, when he discovered they were Presbyterians he responded “I am too” and joined the team for the rest of the day.

The hubsite at Bel Air attracted people of all ages and from the surrounding community. People gathered in groups to decorate cookies for the homeless (over 1000 were decorated, bagged and sent out), make flower pots for shut-ins, cool ties for firefighters and gifts for mothers in shelters. Groups of people gathered around each project to complete it and enjoy each other, a warm sense of community hovered over the entire day.

Thank you to all of the churches that participated in Big Sunday. Consider keeping in touch with the organizations where you worked. For those churches that were unable to join us, consider jumping in next year, it’s always the first weekend in May.

The Big Sunday Lead Team:

Kim Allen-Niesen, Bel Air Presbyterian Church kankankim@aol.com 310.476.0065; Rev. Heidi Worthen Gamble, Presbytery of the Pacific hworthengamble@yahoo.com 310.670.5076; Elizabeth Evans, Westwood Presbyterian Church; Rev. Charles Suhayda, First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood; Leslie Boatwright, Bel Air Presbyterian Church lboat@sbcglobal.net 818.783.3639.

Forty Years of Mission in the Presbytery of the Pacific: Offering Ourselves, Becoming Transformed

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sen. Ted Kennedy

The Lion of the Senate by Jim Wallis of Sojourners

They call him a lion. John McCain, on Tuesday, called him the "last lion in the Senate ... because he remains the single most effective member of the Senate." I've always liked lions. I have a beautiful painting of a South African lion on the wall of our living room at home. My boys think it is Aslan, the lion of Narnia, of whom Mr. Beaver said, "'Course he isn't safe. But he's good."

The nation got a shock this week. Edward Kennedy, the lion who has been in the United States Senate for nearly 50 years, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. I know Ted Kennedy and his wife, Vicki, and have enjoyed personal conversations with them on a number of occasions over a wide range of issues, including the application of Christian faith to public life. I've found them both to be serious Catholics. And I have worked with Sen. Kennedy on a variety of issues, including legislation for a long-delayed increase in the minimum wage and for comprehensive immigration reform.

When it comes to fighting for economic justice, civil rights, health care, and education, and to opposing unjust and mistaken wars, there has been no greater champion in the Senate, no stronger lion than Teddy Kennedy, as his friends like to call him. And what has been most impressive and inspiring during these last few days since the Massachusetts senator was stricken with seizures is hearing how many friends he really has - on both sides of the aisle. Despite being the archetypal "liberal" in the U.S. Senate, and the favorite whipping boy and consistent poster child for the right-wing ditto heads of talk radio and the egomaniacs of Fox News, the outpouring of respect and affection for Ted Kennedy from his colleagues in the Senate, including Republicans, has been just amazing.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky., Republican leader), said: "Senator Kennedy enjoys great respect and admiration on this side of the aisle. He is indeed one of the most important figures to ever serve in this body in our history."
Conservative Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has become a close friend of Kennedy, said: "He's like a brother to me. I love him. I love the Kennedy family. He's given so much to the country, and he has one of the greatest senses of humor of anyone I've known in my life. You can't help but like him if you get to know him."

This genuine and generous outpouring of love and concern for Sen. Kennedy proves a very important thing. It shows that one can be an advocate, a passionate and relentless champion for clear and controversial causes, and yet still be a bridge-builder, a reconciler, and a seeker of common ground. The conventional wisdom says you must be one or the other, an advocate or a bridge-builder, but never both. Ted Kennedy, once again, proves the conventional wisdom wrong. It is because he is a lawmaker who genuinely wants to get things done, to find real and concrete solutions -- especially for people who really need them. Kennedy is known as a senator who truly wants to be effective and not just right, as so many others, on both sides of the aisle, are too often content to be.

As a Wall Street Journal story said: Long known as a liberal lion, partisan warrior and scion of a Democratic family dynasty, Sen. Kennedy has, in the gridlocked environment of recent years, played a role as a key deal maker in nearly all significant domestic policy achievements. Many of the most important domestic milestones of the Bush years ... could not have happened without Sen. Kennedy's role as finder of common ground between the two parties.

Ted Kennedy represents a tradition of public service almost unparalleled in American political history. Three of his brothers literally gave their lives in service to their country and the Kennedy family has consistently shown how "the haves" can decide to use their wealth and power to help change the world for the sake of the "have-nots." At 77, his colleagues will tell you that nobody works harder, day in and day out, on the nuts of bolts of lawmaking than Sen. Kennedy, instead of retiring to sail off to his beloved Cape Cod.

On a more personal note, I have met several of the Kennedy children, nephews, nieces, and cousins. Guess who always calls each one on their birthdays -- and often in-between. The youngest of the Kennedy brothers has become the patriarch of the family now, the lion who takes care of all the cubs. Hearing that impressed me as a father and an uncle myself as to the "family values" of one of the most public figures in American political life.

So pray for Ted Kennedy, Vicki Kennedy, and a family that has both given and suffered so much, as more tests, diagnosis, and critical treatment decisions lie ahead. And whatever your political views, thank God for a very human public servant who has focused his entire political career on those whom Jesus called "the least of these," and who once told me one of his favorite biblical texts comes from the book of James, who reminds us all that "faith without works is dead."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hagee and Parsley

There's a dark and violent Christian underground feeding on twisted interpretations with a lust for violence leading, they hope, to the Second Coming of Christ.

They're called Dispensationalists, Christian Zionists, are highly legalistic, sometimes called Reconstructionists - that is, wanting America to adopt Old Testament law, especially those parts that support punishment. If they had their way, they'd create a society similar to the Taliban. They pluck from the Old Testament proof texts that, when lifted out of context, can be used to support the worst possible ideas.

Though supportive of Israel, they believe that war in the Middle East will bring about God's intervention and the ultimate destruction or conversion of Israel. Their interest in Israel is purely utilitarian - neither loving Israel nor respecting it.

They despise the Roman Catholic Church and consider all other Christians to be either deluded by Satan or servants of Satan.

And, by the way, all the quotations assembled from the Old Testament in support of their views are without legitimacy - within the Old Testament, both Isaiah and Jeremiah offer an alternative vision; Jesus and the Apostle Paul, picking up on Isaiah and Jeremiah, offer an alternative view of things further refined, as God moves beyond the borders of Israel, and canceling, if you will, the alleged promises of a return to the Land and a restoration of the Monarchy. Israel ceased to exist as a nation in the 6th century BCE - and though harboring dreams of restoration, it never came to pass. Jesus was a Jew, so was Paul, and they took a very different tact; rather than promoting the dream of restoration, they crafted a view of God's people without a specific land, citizens of the world.

The sad and broken history of anti-Semitism that erupted within Christianity is not so much the result of the New Testament as it is the result of the conversion of huge numbers of Gentiles (all the first Christians were Jews) and the subsequent transformation of Christianity into a state religion under Constantine (325 CE). The long smoldering ill will of the Roman Empire against the Jews was quickly and decisively translated into the Christian Church as it now buttressed and then replaced the Roman Empire.

Christianity named the Jews "Christ Killers" and resented their convictions, standing apart from the church as they did. Sadly, the Church decided that as long as the Jews exist, they are a threat to its power and its view of the world.

The State of Israel today, created in 1948, is a political entity no different than any other nation. To believe that moder-day Israel is a special dispensation of God and therefore deserving a special place in the sun is to profoundly misread the Bible.

Yes, let Israel be safe, but let's understand the plight of the Palestinians, and let's not turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by Israeli authorities every day against the Palestinians. Israel is bent upon the eradication of the Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian - hundreds have been killed and thousands have fled, being subject to inhuman treatment and the constant threat of injury or death.

Hagee and Parsley are just plain wrong, but highly effective in their organizational abilities and powerful speakers. Sadly, American Christianity in the last 150 years has deteriorated, surrendering its intellectual heritage and becoming increasingly Biblically illiterate.

Too many lambs, and too many shepherds who fleece the flock (see Ezekiel 34).

The flap with McCain is at least bringing this dark underside to view and exposing its hideous face.

God does move in mysterious ways.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Lord's Prayer Rewritten

The Lord’s Prayer as Rewritten by:

Gail Artinian

You are Almighty God in Heaven and Maker of the Universe, yet at the same time you are my Father, so close to me, so caring, so loving and willing to hear my every concern. For the short time I am here on Earth, help me to look to your word and to search my heart for ways I might help to bring a little of your kingdom to this troubled Earth, by sharing the Good News and showing kindness and compassion to others. Help us to put our trust in Your plan for our lives and for this world. Please help me remember that I need only what is really necessary just for this day. For I know that you have and will continue to provide. For this I am truly thankful. Father, please open my eyes to the needs of others who are truly in need. I trust that you will find a way for us to love and care for each other in this world. I know that because of Jesus my sins are forgiven and I also know that if I am to follow his example I need to forgive, but not just silently. I need to humble myself enough to show forgiveness to others outwardly through words and actions. The messages of this material world seem to urge us to focus on ourselves, on what we want and what we think we need. Deliver us from this evil. We know that if we listen with a servant’s heart we can trust that the Holy Spirit will help us to resist this temptation to look only inward. I look to you, Lord, for salvation. You have the power. The glory is yours and I pray that I will be worthy of your Amazing Grace forever. Amen.

Pat Baker

Divine Creator of things seen and unseen, we honor you above everything. May your kingdom come to Earth and your will prevail over all. Provide our daily needs and let us not yearn for more. Forgive us when we stray and help us to be forgiving of others. Help us to avoid evil deeds and thoughts. All power and glory is given to you. Amen.

Jim Day

Almighty and Sovereign God, how great thou are. Your will shall rule on Earth, just as it does in Heaven. Provide for our daily needs and teach us to be forgiving of others, just as you are forgiving of us. Prevent us from straying in harmful and sinful directions and guide us to your holy kingdom. Your power and glory are forever. Amen.

Barb DeLong

Dear God, who is in a much better place, your holy name fills me with awe. May we always follow your will so that the Earth will become as perfect as it is in Heaven. We trust you to give us everything that we need every day of our life. Please listen to us in spite of all that we do wrong and forgive us for these acts of weakness. May we, in turn, forgive those who have hurt us. Help us to always follow the right path to you by making right choices and never to succumb to the evils of this world. For you are the only one that truly matters in our lives. Amen.

Gary Earnley

Father God, hallowed is your name. Bless us with thy will on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Let us nourish our bodies and forgive us our debts, as we extend your grace to our debtors. Make us mindful of temptation and deliver us from evil. Help us to remember that your way is the kingdom, power and glory, forever. Amen.

Dave Kulisz

Creator and Heavenly Father we glorify your name above all others. May your Spirit dwell within us all so that your kingdom may break forth on Earth. We thank you for all the blessings you bestow upon us daily and ask your forgiveness for our transgressions and for the strength to do the same to others. Focus our minds and hearts upon you, Father, so that we may turn away from whatever separates us from you. For your kingdom and power and glory endures forever and ever. Amen.

Joan Newberry

Father, Mother, Everything God, I praise and glorify you. Thank you for giving me everything I need for today. I pray that you would lead me to how I can bring your kingdom to Earth. Please forgive me of my sins of omission or commission that I have committed to others and ask you to forgive through me the offenses of others. Keep me in your care so that I may not bring harm to others. I ask this in the name and through the power of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Stacy Peterson

Abba! Most holy God on high. We praise you. May we live each day to give honor to your kingdom. We ask for your continued blessings on our daily lives, as we live out your love for us. You are our Lord and Savior for all things. Amen.

Barry Steele

Our Father, who is everywhere and in everything, holy is your name. May your kingdom break through on Earth just as it has in Heaven, so that we joyfully do your will. Provide us with our needs, not our earthly desires. Just as you have forgiven our sins by your grace, may we forgive others. When we are tempted, as Jesus was, may we follow his lead and turn away from the evil one and turn to the Lord. For it is your kingdom, your power and your glory that we worship, and your love and compassion that we pray for. Amen.

Susan Steele

Our Father, closer than the air that we breathe, Holy is your name. May Earth become like Heaven, where strife is no more and love never ends. Let us be anxious for nothing; You always provide. Forgive the hardness in our hearts and let us reach out to those who would do us harm. Help us surrender to all your ways and may all our thoughts lead to love, peace and joy. Your power, goodness and mercy endure forever! Amen.

Meta Tulley

Dear Father, who surrounds us and is in the air we breathe, we honor you through our good times and bad. You forgive all our sins when we ask and we thank you for teaching us how to forgive others and to avoid temptations we encounter. May we obey your teachings through our deeds here on Earth so that we may someday join you in our eternal Heavenly home. Amen.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Under the Same Moon - La Misma Luna

Directed by Patricia Riggen, this is a wonderful film in all regards - heart-wrenching and heart-warming.

A quest story, if you will, as a young 9-year old boy living in Mexico with his grandmother, who, when grandmother dies, sets out to cross the border and be reunited with his mother who lives and works in LA. His mother, Rosario (Kate del Castillo) has been in LA for four years, and she faithfully calls Carlitos every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM.

She describes to him the pay-phone corner from which she's calling ... Carlitos (Adrian Alonzo) can imagine it in his mind.

From the title, the moon shines in both their lives - it's the same moon, and when Carlitos is lonely for his Mother, she tells him to look at the moon, the same moon she's looking at, and they'll be close to one another.

I found myself profoundly moved by the story, quite tense at times, and uttering a few prayers toward the end.

Along the way, young Carlitos meets a raggedy cast of characters - some cruel and terrible, some kindly and helpful, and one delightful rogue (Eugenio Derbez) who has a heart after all, sacrificing himself for Carlitos.

The film powerfully highlights the life of an "illegal" - and even as I type that word, how easily we use a title to avoid the simple realities of real people hoping to find life. In this regard, the film doesn't "preach," but only tells a human story.

Jacqueline Voltaire who plays Mrs. McKenzie, an "employer" or Rosario, does a marvelous job of portraying a pathetic wealthy woman in a terrible marriage who treats Rosario with utter contempt even as she reveals the brokenness and sadness of her imprisoning wealth. I wanted to slap her silly!

A combination of Spanish (with subtitles) and English, the film delivers a grand story - family, love, romance and hope.

A must-see film!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rev. Wright

Rev. Wright spoke out … just like thousands of pastors do every weekend. He spoke to and from the African experience in America, an experience that other Americans can only dimly perceive.

Wherever I hear comments about “the people who moved here,” whether it be Detroit, Pittsburgh, or here in LA, I know racism remains a part of the American landscape and a part of the American psyche. The KKK remains active, and various white Aryan groups continue to pour out their hate-filled invective in print and the internet.

Were Wright’s remarks racist?

Of course they were … as are any remarks that paint in broad strokes and characterize an entire race by the example of the few.

But racist or not, Wright’s remarks convey a truth that’s hard to hear. Having lived in Detroit, America’s most thoroughly segregated city, I have learned too many stories of how the white infrastructure promoted and protected whites – in everything from housing loans to assistance with civil service exams for potential postal employees.

These are well-documented realities that have stained the conscience of our land even as they have conspired to sustain failure for African Americans.

But getting back to the pulpit … and the freedom of a pastor to speak her mind and heart on matters of substance that pertain to the gospel: love and justice, freedom and salvation, eternity and faith, all matters of sin – prejudice, bigotry, greed, lust, envy and pride.

I don’t know enough about Mr. Wright to weigh in on the whole of preaching; I’ve heard only snippets lifted from a few videos.

But I know that pastors around the country and around the world speak mind and heart, even as they address the sorrows and burdens of their community.

More to the point, conservative pulpits rarely hold back on their political rhetoric – namely the now-deceased Jerry Falwell and James D. Kennedy; James Dobson, the now-disgraced Ted Haggard and others continue to hammer away politically, preaching their vision of America and the Christian life, without apology or reserve, soundly condemning those who suggest alternatives, labeling folks like me as servants of Satan and deceivers of God’s people. If surprise and chagrin is the mode of the day, let’s be surprised and chagrined by the conservative pulpits around the land.

The response to Wright, for me, is clearly tinged with racism, as if white America is surprised that an African American would hold these views and make them public. And to hold Barack Obama somehow responsible for this is just ludicrous, and demanding that Obama repudiate Wright in the strongest terms is cruel.

Obama has distanced himself from Wright and has instead focused on the positive developments within American history for the African American. Obama’s speech highlighted his positive convictions, yet at the same time, touched the painful wound of racism in the American soul.

Indeed, we have come a long way, and for that we can be grateful to God.

But let’s be savvy, let’s be faithful – there is much work to be done. Wherever prejudice of any kind raises its ugly head, let us lift higher the name of Christ and with His light, illumine the darkness that always finds some new expression in our national soul.

Turing fully to Christ, we no longer consider anyone from a physical point of view – we only see children of God!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Shirley Goodnest

A mom was concerned about her kindergarten son walking to school. He didn't want his mother to walk with him. She wanted to give him the feeling that he had some independence but yet know that he was safe. So she had an idea of how to handle it.

She asked a neighbor if she would please follow him to school in the mornings, staying at a distance, so he probably wouldn't notice her. The neighbor said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it would be a good way for them to get some exercise as well, so she agreed.

The next school day, the neighbor and her little girl set out following behind Timmy as he walked to school with another neighbor boy he knew. She did this for the whole week.

As the boys walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, Timmy's little friend noticed the same lady was following them as she seemed to do every day all week. Finally he said to Timmy, "Have you noticed that lady following us to school all week? Do you know her?"

Timmy nonchalantly replied, "Yeah, I know who she is."
The friend said, "Well, who is she?"
"That's just Shirley Goodnest," Timmy replied, "and her daughter Marcy."

"Shirley Goodnest? Who the heck is she and why is she following us? "

"Well," Timmy explained, "every night my Mom makes me say the 23rd Psalm with my prayers, 'cuz she worries about me so much. And in the Psalm, it says, 'Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life', so I guess I'll just have to get used to it!"

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace - (Numbers 6:24-26)

May Shirley Goodnest and Marcy be with you today and always

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ash Wednesday Lament

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgement.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.


Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt-offerings and whole burnt-offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.


Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Shenandoah" - 1965

Starring Jimmy Stewart and a bevy of other fine actors, this Civil War era film is a dramatic portrait of a strong family seeking to survive as the war "that's no concern to them" draws to a close.

Beautifully filmed, Netflix describes it as a "four-hankie weeper and one of the best melodramas to come out of Hollywood during the 1960s."

Their description is a little "melodramatic" - it's a powerful film with powerful acting - the music is likely what gives the feel of melodrama - if this were being done today, the music would clearly be moodier and the color not so musical-like bright.

The film reminds me of "Legends of the Fall" and "A River Runs Through It."

Jimmy Stewart is a tough man, widowed 16 years earlier when Martha dies in childbirth. He's not a religious man, but takes the family to church and offers prayer before the meal because Martha made him promise.

His prayer is a celebration of self-reliance:

LORD, we cleared this land, we plowed it, sowed it and harvested, we cooked the harvest, it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all our selves. We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, LORD, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.”

At the end, having lost two sons and a daughter-in-law, and possibly his youngest, he prays much the same prayer at a meal … but can’t finish it. He leaves the table and goes to the graveyard where his children and wife are buried. While "talking" to Martha, wishing he knew what she was thinking … the church bell rings, and he looks away and says, “You never give up, do you?” Sunday morning, he rings a bell and gathers the family … "thought you’d get away with it … get my carriage," and they all go to church, walking in late as usual. During the service, the youngest boy walks in, having escaped from a Union prison encampment; Charlie gets to his feet to greet and hug the boy; they return to their pew … the pastor invites the congregation to stand and they sing the Doxology, and Charlie Anderson joins in.

I'm utterly blown away by Jimmy Stewart - his fatherly inquiry as to why a young man (Doug McClure) seeks his daughter's hand is nothing less than brilliant - hats off to the writer, and to Stewart for delivering these lines as only a father/husband could. He makes a brilliant distinction between love and like - like is what leads to love; but love without like is deadly.

A bit later, Stewart gives fatherly advice to the young man soon to marry his daughter about the mysteries of a woman; the scene shifts to the bedroom where the bride-to-be is receiving counsel about the mysteries of men from her sister-in-law.

This is a film worth seeing multiple times: the script is powerful, Stewart and everyone else is fully engaged in the story, and for a film that celebrates human endurance in the face of adversity, this is a winner.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Women's Day - March 8

World Alliance of Reformed Churches
News Release
7 March 2008


Women challenged to create a better world in WARC’s
International Women’s Day message

Women are being challenged to bring about a world of justice and
human rights in the International Women’s Day 2008 message of
the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) released in Geneva
today.

“On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2008, women
are called upon to rise to this great challenge of bringing about
a better world of justice, human rights, with freedom from
hunger, peace and human security at its core,” said Patricia
Sheerattan-Bisnauth, executive secretary of WARC’s Office for
Church Renewal, Justice and Partnership.

March 8 is celebrated around the world as International
Women’s Day, providing an opportunity to recognize the
contribution of women to society. It is also a time to assess the
status of women and reflect on their engagement in the issues
affecting the lives of their communities

“Men and women are encouraged on this International Women’s
Day 2008 to celebrate the fruits of their labour and the courage
of those who have struggled relentlessly for gender justice and
for partnership between women and men,” Sheerattan-Bisnauth
added.

International Women’s Day has its roots in the early 1900s.
Women have come a long way since those pioneering days when they
were mobilized in the context of rapid industrialization and
economic expansion that created grave disparities between rich
and poor, food shortages and a social crisis for families.

Courageous women dared to break societal constructs of gender
and therefore defined new parameters for women. Women saw their
roles as being important in bringing about change in the world.
“Women who paved the way have given the world much to
celebrate,” said Sheerattan-Bisnauth of Guyana.

“Today’s women continue to build on this legacy, offering
alternatives for a better world. Their experience, knowledge and
survival strategies need to be recognized, valued and celebrated
as a remarkable resistance to the forces of the global economic
system.

“Women have been crying out for an end to violence and
conflicts, calling for urgency in addressing brokenness in
communities and urging transformation based on peace with
justice, where respect, dignity and collective accountability
become the basis for living.”

The women’s movement has been a source of strength in
broadening the agenda of women in ecumenical circles to include
the struggle against slavery and racism.

Still there is a need for a revival of women’s activism and
engagement with civil society and social movements. “Women need
to dialogue with their sisters across borders of race, ethnicity,
class, caste, nationality and religion,” Sheerattan-Bisnauth
said.

The Alliance has been working with churches and other partners
to provide a platform for dialogue between women and men, drawing
attention to gender justice. Through WARC’s scholarships for
women in the South, its education, advocacy and accompaniment
programmes, women have made significant progress in claiming
their rightful place in church and society.

“Women are making a difference in the life and mission of the
Alliance, bringing critical perspectives to key life issues and
shifting the emphasis of the communion so that it has a more
inclusive approach and worldview,” Sheerattan-Bisnauth
concluded.