Jesus, Be a Shelter!

I would be having a better evening if not worrying about North Korea, and our President, and my daughter, LP, who is in Japan. At these times, I remind myself how many other moms are also worrying, sending their kids to school in Japan, where it is tomorrow morning. LP is there teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. It is a dream come true for her. But should she be there?

“When does it become too dangerous for US citizens?” is not the right question; it’s too dangerous for everyone, everywhere.

I guess this means we keep doing our work, living our lives, and whether that’s hopeful or foolish I do not know. I do know she loves it there. Today she might be teaching vocabulary to the elementary children who giggle and ask if she is popular “with the boys,” or coaching middle schoolers as they prepare to make speeches in English. She will work with the other teachers to protect the students in any emergency, because that is what teachers do.

She is far from Hokkaido, which is in the flight path for these missiles. Last time we talked about it, she had no idea where she would shelter if an alert went out for her region. She lives on the edge of town, near a rice field.

We are none of us safe. Violence won’t prevent violence. And you can’t fix crazy. I know some think God has worked a divine purpose through wars and human leaders, yet we are warned not to put our faith in mortals and princes. I’ve never admired the ones who threaten, who brag about their strength and power. Real courage lives in the ones who spread their wings over the chicks.

Cover us, Lord. Jesus, be a shelter! Not only for my child, but for all God’s children.

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Better When Writing – interview at A Sanctified Art

Recently, I was the WholeheARTed Guest at A Sanctified Art, where I answered questions from Lisle Gwinn Garrity that inspired contemplation of my creative process. Thanks, Lisle, for thinking of me! Check out the resources being created by A Sanctified Art here.

SA: When did you first consider yourself a creative person?

MS: From the time I was a little girl, I loved thinking up stories. I would draw (very bad) pictures of the children I hoped to have and invent names and identities for them. I retold myths and adapted adventures of favorite characters from literature. I especially loved Bible stories and would “tell” them on the flannel board I stored under the high old-fashioned bed in my childhood home. A wonderful Sunday School teacher at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, gave me permission to expand my storytelling when she developed curriculum for 5th and 6th-graders that taught the Old Testament through drama and the New Testament using puppets. We learned stories, wrote scripts, and acted or performed the stories.

SA: Tell us about how you express yourself creatively?

MS: I experimented with many forms of writing both in school and personally, but I never found a form that suited all my interests until I started writing for church—plays, sermons, and liturgies all felt like lively and faithful ways to use my gifts. Even when I write about my life, as I began doing in blog form in 2004, the most meaningful storytelling happens in dialogue with scripture. I now write prayers especially for pastors. My newest favorite thing is combining words and images using Canva, Prisma, and Instagram.

SA: What is your creative process like?

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MS:
My creative process almost always starts with a text I will be talking to, and I wish I could say that inevitably means I study and pray, but often it means I read the text and go for a walk, or have to run an errand, or find myself waiting at a child’s choir practice or watching a Little League game, and something flashes through my mind. Ten years ago I would rifle through my purse for a tiny notebook, but today I open the Notes app on my iPhone and one-finger type or dictate the thought before I lose it. It happens that way because I cultivate openness and privilege originality.

(Read the rest at A Sanctified Art.)

After a Sunday off (a prayer for pastors)

Dear Holy,

After a Sunday off,
I find it hard to come back.
I am grateful for the rest,
but still managing re-entry.

It’s probably true that
I haven’t forgotten how
to write a sermon, to craft
a prayer, to offer a blessing,

after a Sunday offbut somewhere in the middle
between“I got this!”
and “what was I thinking?”
is the post-vacation muddle,

not so much “not ready”
as “not fully present”
not so much “unwilling”
as “not sure I’m able.”

Ground me, dear Holy,
in this time and space,
with the people I serve,
and a true word from You.

Amen.

From this thin place (a prayer for pastors)

Holy One,
From this thin place I pray:

For the women who

Gathered here

Long ago

Living together,

Away from their worlds,

Yet in yours, devoting

Their lives to prayer and service;
For the women who

Gather here

On retreat

In temporary community,

Away from our worlds,

Yet in yours, sharing

A time of prayer and respite;
For the women who

Need a break
Right now, 

But do not have it,

In the midst of their worlds,

Which are also yours, serving:

Their work continues.
Grant us all

Times of renewal,

And the will to take them,

To center ourselves

And return refreshed

To serve you wholeheartedly

In the work that never ends.

In Christ’s name. Amen.

What the world needs to hear (a prayer for pastors)

Dear God,

We have studied,Jesus
poring over our Bibles,
parsing ancient languages,
picking through commentaries,
penciling notes in the margins,
pondering your meaning.
picking out the words
the world needs to hear:
grace, mercy, justice.

Jesus.

Bless the work we have done,
and the words we will say,
and all those who will hear them,
we ask in His name. Amen.

At the infusion center 

We’re at the infusion center, where the people with cancer meet the people with Crohn’s and people like me who have Rheumatoid Arthritis. (I’m blogging from my phone, so no fancy links today.)

Luke 16 is a lot about money, and the way people use it, and the way many people don’t. It includes the parable of the shrewd/dishonest manager, and the tale of the Rich Man and poor Lazarus, as well as aphorisms warning us about being so attached to money that we cannot be in relationship with God.

These warnings go out to the rich and those with power over others. Forgive debts. Pay attention to those in need. Serve God, not wealth. 

I’m getting a treatment today that costs more money than I made last year, more money than I have ever made in a year. I get this treatment every six weeks. Because our primary household income is a good one, in the scheme of Presbyterian pastor livelihoods, we pay a pretty big deductible, and that is a challenge. There is a pharmaceutical co-pay program, but we’ve been unable to make use of it thus far due to various glitches with my (now former) doctor’s office and billing that did not specify the medication on the EOB. (!!!! Still appealing that.) 

I have no idea how less savvy people ever navigate this.

We are privileged by our insurance, our education, our income, our marriage. 

I can’t work full time in a church anymore, even with these expensive, effective treatments. 

Today I wonder who is sitting at the gate, wishing to change places with me and my Explanations of Benefits, trying to flex cramped fingers, pushing through the day with no help in sight.

Lord, help me to see her. 

Reorient (a prayer for pastors)

File Mar 19, 8 33 20 AMO Holy One
We thank you

For trips that dislocate us
For maps that reorient us
For views we could not have imagined
For voices we never quite heard before

For all travel that leads to you

For armchair journeying in a good book
For podcasters with unfamiliar perspectives
For conversation partners who push us
For prayer that redirects us

For all travel that leads to you

For taking off with all we think matters
For coming home with nothing to show for it
For thirsty work and unexpected meetings
For hurrying back to share the good news

For all travel that leads to you
We thank you