Looking to the Door

My boy first stood himself up a little over a month ago.  It was a crazy experience.  We had some friends over for dinner, and one of the families at our house has a one-year-old little girl - who's a walking maniac.  So, my boy, stood himself up for the first time while she was looking - you know - showing off for a chick.  We all cheered and cheered for him.  Which then got him upset.  Too many loud noises.

Of course, now my wife and I know that our lives are over.  He's standing all the time now, and is even shuffling a long the couch a little bit.  Walking isn't too far away.

Just after he stood up for the first time in our living room I had to lower his crib mattress, because it wasn't two days later that he was standing up in his crib.

But he, of course, has never missed an opportunity to use his new skills to manipulate mom and dad.  What's sadder than a sobbing baby standing in his crib and clinging to the rails wanting us to come in and get him out?  Invariably he's facing the door to his nursery - crying with the assurance that we'll come to door, feel sorry for creating this silly thing called 'bedtime', pick him up and take him to play all night.

I say invariably - but there was one exception.  A heart-breaking one.

My wife and I try really hard to let him cry it out.  Once the door closes on bedtime, we do our best to wait out the sobs.  But one night he just wouldn't stop with the crying.

It was my turn to calm him down, so I went in, expecting to see my boy grin when I opened the door. 

But this time he was facing the back of the room.  He was clinging to the back rail of his crib and sobbing.  He was stuck - standing was still really new to him, and he didn't know yet how to get out of it.  So he was stuck, crying, and facing the wrong direction.  He couldn't face the door - he didn't know how.  He couldn't face the door that his help comes from.

God taught me something about God's parental love that night, though.  I went and picked him up, rocked him, calmed him down, and put him back down to bed.  But it's stuck with me ever since.

I hope that when I get stuck, crying, and facing the wrong direction, I can remember that I do know to face the door my help comes from.
I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
   Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
   the maker of heaven and earth.
                                   Psalm 121:1-2

A Prayer for True Singing

As we prepare ourselves to worship, let us remeber that we were never called to be pew-sitters.  As those who call ourselves Christian, we are called to model the Way of Christ - a way of love in action.  Let us pray that we can put that love into action during this weekend's worship - that the Body might pray together in the songs that we sing and wholly engage our hearts and minds to hear the Spirit's call:
We are people who must sing you,
    for the sake of our very lives.
You are a God who must be sung by us,
    for the sake of your majesty and honor.
And so we thank you,
    for lyrics that push us past our reasons,
    for melodies that break open our givens,
    for cadneces that locate us home,
    beyond all our safe places,
    for tones and tunes that open our lives beyond control
        and our futures beyond despair.
We thank you for the long parade of mothers and fathers
    who have sung you deep and true;
We thank you for the good company
    of artists, poets, musicians, cantors, and instruments
    that sing for us and with us, toward you.
We are witnesses to your mercy and splendor;
    We will not keep silent ... ever again.  Amen.
                                                    -Walter Brueggemann*
*pg. 185 in Worship and Song

A Prayer for Strength in the Midst of Change

My faith family is in the middle of something, of course, who's faith family isn't?

We're in the process of reestablishing our identity has a community of believers.  We're asking hard questions, and preparing to hear the hard truth.  I offer this prayer today, reminding us that no matter where we are today, God does have good things ahead for us, for those who wait, for those who work:

Almighty God, change is bittersweet.  In order to change we are forced both to leave something behind and to embrace something new.  Grant us the grace on this day to do both with humility.  Help us affirm the good things of our past as we lean into a future where there will also be good things.  As we contemplate the changes that will come, remind us that all good things come from You.  Today we commit ourselves to the necessary work ahead.  Be present with us, work in us and through us, we pray.  Amen.
-Safiyah Fosua

#li2012 Benediction

As I write this out my wife and I are sitting in the Southwest Terminal of the KCI airport, decompressing from a long but wonderful continuing ed experience at the Church of the Resurrection Leadership Institute.

While there will be much to break down in future posts, I thought it would be great today just to leave you with the simple benediction that Rev. Adam Hamilton closed worship with at the final session.  There will be more to come, but for now, here's this:
Lord, I offer my life to you.
Help me to walk in your way.
Make me the person you want me to be.
Lead me in your path that I might lead your people.
In your name, Amen.

A Prayer for Guidance

As we seek this day to be more of Jesus and less of ourselves, I find this Korean prayer, #366 in the UMH, to be something I need to pray:

O God,
   just as we look into a mirror to see any soiled spots on our face,
      so let us look to you
         in order to understand the things that we have done amiss.
   We are like a reed shaken in the wind;
      we are inexpressibly weak.
   Leave us not to ourselves,
      but dwell in our hearts and guide our thoughts and actions.  Amen.

A Prayer of Saint Patrick

Every once in a while, in true liturgy nerd fashion, I like to thumb through my United Methodist Book of Worship and search for prayers.  Sometimes it's part of my work, sometimes it's just because I need a few words for myself.

As we get ready to worship the Lord this weekend, I invite you to pray this prayer I found in this week's studies:
Christ be with us, Christ before us, Christ beside us,
Christ in us, Christ beneath us, Christ above us,
Christ on our right, Christ on our left,
Christ where we lie, Christ where we sit, Christ where we arise,
Christ in every heart of every one who thinks of us,
Christ in every eye that sees us,
Christ in every ear that hears us.
    Salvation is of the Lord,
    Salvation is of the Christ,
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.*
As we learn how to put on Christ in worship, may we put on Christ for the whole world around us.  Amen.

*Attributed to Saint Patrick, Ireland, 5th Century, UMBOW #529

Are You Ready?

As we prepare for Sabbath worship, may we tonight pray with John the Baptist, the one for whom Isaiah prophesied, and who came to be the Prophet of the Most High God.  He who was the voice in the wilderness, crying out:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
        make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled,
    and every mountain and hill will be leveled.
The crooked will be made straight
    and the rough places made smooth.
All humanity will see God’s salvation.”*
As it was in John's time, it still is in ours: it is up to us to make the way ready for the Lord.  John called to the people of the time, and to us to repent, and make ourselves ready to meet the Lord.

Almighty and Merciful Lord,

On this day, we pray for readiness.  Readiness to hear the Your word preached and ready to sing Your songs. 

That we may then be ready to go out into the world and make the paths straight and the way plain for You, the Lord of Lords, to move into the lives of our loved ones and neighbors.


A Prayer for Tomorrow

Let us join together today in prayer for tomorrow - that the Lord will come down into our midst right now and prepare us for Sabbath worship. 

Let us appeal to the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us, and make us ready to hear the Word in worship this weekend:
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
O Great Spirit,
   whose breath gives life to the world,
   and whose voice is heard in the soft breeze:
We need your strength and wisdom.
Cause us to walk in beauty.
Give us eyes
   ever to behold the red and purple sunset.
Make us wise so that we may understand
   what you have taught us.
Help us learn the lessons you have hidden
   in every leaf and rock.
Make us always ready to come to you
   with clean hands and steady eyes,
so when life fades, like the fading sunset,
   our spirits may come to you without shame.  Amen.
A traditional Native American Prayer, UMH 329

A Prayer for Saturday

What would Sunday be like if we all took the time to say a little prayer to prepare to receive the blessings of the Sabbath?  What if we all took the time to pray today, even right now, for God to bring a revelation to us tomorrow on the Lord's day?

Let's take a little time together.  Let's find out, together.
A Prayer for Saturday

Prepare our hearts, O lord,
   to join together with your whole congregation
      to praise and serve you.
Reveal your presence to all who will gather
   in adoration and self-offering.
To those who cannot for good reason
   go gladly into your house,
   give your strength and consolation,
that they may know of the concern
   of their communities of faith.
Make us receptive to your word for us,
   and enable us to know and do your will.
Bind your people together in
   a shared faith, a common witness,
      and compassionate service to the world;
through Jesus our Savior.  Amen.*
*From This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer, by Laurence Hull Stookey

The Day I Knew My Son Knew Me

A convoluted title, I know, but about a month ago there was a profound experience between my son and I, and I learned a lot about God at the occurrence.  It was an event that every parent has at some point, but still more than a little miraculous.

At the beginning of the summer I had the great pleasure to lead an awesome group of youth and adults on our annual youth choir tour.  It was awesome.  Great ministry with an amazing group of young people.  The one bummer to the whole thing was being away from my 5-month-old and my wife for seven days straight.

Any of you that have run trips like this (mission trips, tours, retreats) know that it's a 24/7 job from lift-off.  There's not a lot of time to call home, and when it is a good time for one person, that doesn't mean it's a good time for the other.  Leanne was actually on a mission experience of her own (with Wesley) meeting volunteers during the Central Texas Annual Conference annual conference-wide mission trip.  So, it was doubly difficult for us to connect at any point during the week.  Compound that with the fact that my son can't talk yet.  I know, silly, but it should be said.

I missed my boy.

The drive home, from Monroe, LA to Duncanville was excruciating.  But not because of the students, adults, or anything else; it was hard because I could only go so fast.  There was a lot of anticipation; I mean, what if he was a totally different kid when I got home?  Another silly thing, but one that I understand most parents have when they make that first trip away.

I'd called ahead, so Leanne knew the exact time to meet us in the church parking lot.  There was a huge sigh of relief when we pulled in and they were waiting for us.

I jumped out of the van as soon as I put it in park and ran over to hug on my family.  Leanne handed me Wesley and he curled up on my shoulder and had a laughing fit.  He been smiling and chuckling for a couple of months, but this was a full on fit of laughter.  And it was right after Leanne handed him to me after I'd been gone for a week. Do you know what this said to me?

My son knew who I was.  After just a few weeks, they say babies start to recognize their parents.  We're usually around the most, and they can even hear our voices in utero.  After a few weeks out in the world they start to turn their heads when they hear us (parents) talking.  They'll start to smile and grin when we come close.  He'd been doing that for a bit.  But here was this little guy, curled up on my shoulder and just laughing away.  He recognized me as his dad, and that no one else is.

My son knew who I was.

It was a crazy, emotional revelation.  And looking back on it, definitely a God experience, for my wife and myself.  It's gotten me thinking about what it must be like for God when a child (all of us) recognizes that God is God, and no one else is. 

If you just a read a few chapters of the Psalms, the Psalmist rights frequently of a delight in the Lord, and a returned delight to us when we delight in our service to the Lord.  The Lord delights in our recognition of God's grace and lordship, just as I laugh everytime my boy shoots me or his mama a smile. 

God revealed a little bit of God's Own Self to me the day my son recognized me.

What is your church's foundation?

The church's one foundation
is Jesus Christ our Lord;
we are his new creation
by water and the Word;
from heaven he came and sought us
that we might ever be
his living servant people,
by his own death set free.
- Samuel J. Stone, 1866; adapted by L. H. Stookey, 1983
As we take this Saturday to prepare for the Celebration of Worship to come on the Lord's Day (for some of you it all may start this afternoon or evening), I think it's relevant to ask ourselves:
What is our foundation?
Is it a building?  Is it a program?  Is it a band or a choir or an organ?  Is it the preacher?  We tend to think that any of these things, if just right can cure every ill.  But there's only one Divine Carpenter, one Divine Healer.

Making Jesus the foundation for anything takes work and prayer.  We should be asking ourselves through every decision made in the Lord's name: is Jesus Christ our foundation?
Called forth from every nation,
yet one o'er all the earth;
our charter of salvation:
one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name professing
and at one table fed,
to one hope always pressing,
by Christ's own spirit led.