Walking with Grief

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This week in the GPS guide we will “unpack” the part of the Apostle’s Creed that refers to “the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting.” For those of us who have loved ones who have left our sight and gone on to that life everlasting (and isn’t that just about everyone?), the reading and study this week should bring comfort, as well as hope for our own eternal future.

We all know that grief is not a linear process, and doesn’t follow any particular plan or map. We know that death cannot separate us or our loved ones from the love of God, but it is still not easy to reach for the phone to call someone who can’t be at the other end, or long to see a beloved face one more time.

There are two lovely pieces from Celtic Daily Prayer (©2002 The Northumbria Community Trust, Ltd.) that speak to God’s love for us in times of grief, and our eternal connection to the ones we love. I’ve found comfort in them many times, and hope you do, too.

WALKING WITH GRIEF

Do not hurry as you walk with grief
it does not help the journey.

Walk slowly, pausing often: do not hurry as you walk with grief.

Be not disturbed by memories that come unbidden.
Swiftly forgive; and let Christ speak for you unspoken words.
Unfinished conversation will be resolved in Him.
Be not disturbed.

Be gentle with the one who walks with grief.
If it is you, be gentle with yourself.
Swiftly forgive; walk slowly, pausing often.

Take time, be gentle as you walk with grief.

And this prayer:

Come now,
live in us.
Let us stay in You,
since if we be all in You,
we cannot be far from one another,
though some may be in heaven
and some upon earth.
Amen

Jennifer Creagar – Prayer Ministry

Seeing with God’s Eyes

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I am blessed to “wear two hats” in my job here at Resurrection in Congregational Care. Wearing one hat, I provide administrative support to the Prayer Ministry and get to do things like process prayer requests, facilitate prayer events and retreats, and write prayer tips. Wearing my other hat, I work with members of our church family and community who are experiencing a financial emergency. Those two ministry areas seem like an odd combination, but I have discovered that each informs and supports the other. Funny how God puts us in unusual places sometimes so that we can see things from a different point of view.

This week in the GPS, we are going to look at the parables about wealth and poverty. Like all these good stories we have been exploring, Jesus used these parables to make his followers think about and see what the world looks like through God’s eyes. Issues surrounding wealth and want, need and providing for those needs, were hard for the disciples and people of Jesus’ day and they are hard for us now.

I want to see every person I meet through God’s eyes. I want to give them the answer Jesus would give them, but that does not necessarily come as naturally as it probably should. I am much more likely to see the world with God’s eyes, and care for my brothers and sisters like Jesus does, if I am in constant contact with God through prayer.

Here is a beautiful prayer from Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit: 25 Prayers for Today by Paul Chilcote that we can use this week as we explore the stories Jesus used to teach us about keeping “our eye firmly fixed upon Jesus in all things.”

Oh Eternal Light, I want to walk as a child of the light and to be filled with joy. I want a principle at the center of my being that not only represents who I am but is a guiding force that both accuses and excuses, disapproves and approves, condemns and acquits every thought, word, and deed from the perspective of your love.

I need a conscience that helps me to perceive what is right and wrong, that helps me know how to live in loving relationships with other people.

Grant to me, O Lord, a right understanding of your Word, a true understanding of my self, a consistency of heart and life, an inward perception that I walk in your ways and follow in your paths through faith in Jesus Christ.

Help me to cultivate a simplicity of spirit in my life – the ability to keep my eye firmly fixed upon Jesus in all things. Nurture within me a godly sincerity, a daily reliance upon your strength, wisdom, and love, so that all of my conversation might be compelling and winsome and pure.

Witness to your love daily in my life through the power of your Spirit, so that I might rejoice in you always.

May my joy-my happiness-always lead me to rejoice in obedience to your loving will, to rejoice in loving you, to rejoice in keeping your commandments.

May my sense of blessedness spring from the assurance that you love me and have restored abundance to my life through Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 – Jennifer Creagar, Prayer Ministry

Prayer and Story

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This week in the GPS guide, we will be exploring the parables – the stories Jesus told to illustrate truth to his followers. Jesus knew that stories are powerful. They engage our minds and speak to our hearts.

When my youngest son Sam was little, one of his favorite activities was to climb into my lap and look around the room, choose some random object and say, “Tell me the story of this.” He wouldn’t settle for something like, “That is a bowl of flowers.” He wanted to know where the bowl came from, how old it was, why it was decorated the way it was, what kind of flowers, where they were picked, why they were picked and why they were in the bowl on this table right now. He wanted the story. So, I would tell him, “That is a bowl that used to be in my great-grandmother’s house in Ada, Oklahoma and she used to fill it every day with flowers from her garden. Ladies used to like to paint china bowls, and the decorations on it were probably painted by her or one of her friends. Or maybe her mother brought it with her in a covered wagon when their family came to Oklahoma when it was still called Indian Territory. This morning I picked those flowers, called peonies, from our garden and put them in the bowl because it makes me happy and reminds me of her.” That would lead to more questions, and pretty soon Sam knew not only the story of the bowl of flowers, but some of his own family history and something about flowers.

Story can be a powerful prayer tool, too. Have you ever felt unsettled, or unsure about some aspect of your life? Do you ever struggle with seeing or feeling God’s very real presence in day-to-day living? Try engaging the power of story to focus your prayers and recognize God’s presence in your life. I find it helpful to write things down, but, as in all prayer, come to God in the way that works best for you.

Take a minute in the quiet to center yourself and focus on your prayer. Be honest. Describe what is going on in your life, and then start asking questions to help bring out the story. When you were feeling the most unsettled, what was happening at that moment? What came before? What came after? What did you see, hear, touch? What other feelings were present? Were you alone or with other people? Tell God the story – the whole story. Fill in all the details that make it uniquely your story. Then, look back at the story you’ve told. Where do you see God moving or acting in that story? When you see God moving, what were you doing? Who else is involved? Where do your stories intersect? What feelings do you have as you look at the details of your story? What does the story tell you about your relationship with God and the impact of God’s presence on your life? Make sure you do as much listening as talking, and don’t be afraid of silence as you move through the story. Just as Jesus did with the parables, God often shows us truths through the examination of our own stories and where they intersect with God’s presence and will.

This week, let God speak to you through the study of stories Jesus told, but also spend some time exploring your own story and God’s presence in it.

Oh God who knows us best,
help us to find your presence in our own stories
so that we may walk more closely with you each day.
Amen

Praying As a Team – June 14, 2015

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I really love baseball, and have discovered that my favorite baseball of all is Little League in all its forms, from kindergarten t-ball to player-pitch, when skills begin to develop and grow. There just is nothing better! As my grandkids have progressed through the levels, one of the most interesting parts has been watching the development of team play.

When they first start off in t-ball at about age 5, and the ball is hit off the tee, every single player, usually from both teams, runs to wherever the ball lands and has a discussion about what to do with it. It is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen – all these earnest little baseball players, with gloves as big as they are, running to the ball. Of course, that means there is no one on base to catch the ball and get anyone out. There are lots of home runs in t-ball! Players also have a limited grasp of the rules and structure of the game, and tend to have very short attention spans. So, in t-ball you may see bases run in no particular order, or an outfielder who wanders off to chase a butterfly.

Now my oldest grandson is playing more “real” baseball. This is his first year of player-pitched ball, and everyone is VERY serious. They march up to bat with serious “game faces” on, and the pitchers stare down the hitters. They are also really learning to play together as a team. In a recent game, I saw them execute a perfect double play, one of the most exciting plays in baseball. Done right, it is truly a thing of beauty. You can see the Royals do this here. In order for this to work, everyone involved has to work together in perfectly orchestrated teamwork. Each player has to be where he needs to be at that moment, and also be aware of the exact location of his teammates and the runners. It requires concentration and shutting out distractions like the noise of the crowd or those butterflies!

We talk about prayer as a very personal and individual experience, and it is. But there is also great power and experience of the presence of God in praying together with other believers. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus promises that, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” If you do not routinely pray with someone else, this week why not explore this kind of prayer? Gather friends or family members and spend time in God’s presence. Try to also be aware and attentive to each person in the room, focusing on this time of prayer and shutting out everything else.

If you need a “game plan” for your time of praying together, choose ahead of time who will begin and who will finish the time of prayer and how each person in the circle will let the next person know when they are through praying. (A common way is to squeeze the hand of the next person). One good framework for praying together is to use the A.C.T.S. method:

Adoration – each person present shares a prayer of adoration, telling God what he means to you, and end by praying this scripture together out loud: Let my whole being bless the Lord/Lord my God, how fantastic you are!/You are clothed in glory and grandeur!” – Psalm 104:1

Confession – this can be done out loud, or silently, with the leader allowing time and then leading the group to pray out loud, “Lord hear our prayer.” Before moving on to prayers of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving – each person present offers up a prayer of thanksgiving to God. After the last person, the group can pray together, “Lord hear our prayer.”

Supplication – each person present can offer up a different prayer request, or if the group is focused on one prayer need, can pray for just the one topic. Again, at the end, the group may pray together, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

If you like, you can end your time of prayer by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

In your time together, I pray your “team” will experience the power and beauty of God’s presence, and feel more closely connected.

–Jennifer Creagar, Resurrection Prayer Ministry

Prayer is Not Just Asking – May 24, 2015

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I like to know what’s going on in the world, and I read the news every day from several different news sources. Some days, though, I am kind of sorry that I looked. News of human beings acting in hate and violence against other human beings seemed overwhelming this morning. I feel moved to pray, but how? What do we pray when we want to pray for the world, for strangers, for pain and suffering near and far? Is there a list of things we should pray for? (I’m always happy when I have a list!)

Mother Teresa said, “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

In Ephesians 3:19, Paul asks for this blessing for all believers: “…to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

So, in the face of the world and all its need, praying a list is maybe not all we need to do. There is nothing wrong with the list—laying out our cares and concerns before God. But if we stop at the bottom of the list and say Amen, we haven’t really completed our prayer.

At the end of the list, we put ourselves at God’s disposal to be part of the answer to our own prayer and the prayers of others. We listen for God’s voice. We ask to be filled with the fullness of God.

This week in the GPS guide, we will be looking at searchers and searching–looking for God in the world, seeking God’s will, love, forgiveness, blessing. There are a lot of lists involved in the searching, and when we are moved to pray about those lists, let’s remember that we are not just asking for a “fix,” but for God to show us, in the depths of our hearts, where and how we can be God’s hands and feet and voice and loving arms as we are filled with “all the fullness” God has for us.

–Jennifer Creagar, Resurrection Prayer Ministry

Thy Will Be Done – May 3, 2015

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“Thy Will Be Done.”

We say it every time we say the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples who asked how to pray. When we talk about our lives and the lives of people we care about, we being to realize that those four words are a pretty bold prayer. It says that we are ready to live out God’s plan for our lives, and we won’t be paralyzed by fear during the difficult parts. It says that we will look to God to hold onto us, comfort us and care for us, even if the actions of others in the world seem to be blocking God’s plan for a while. It says we will welcome change. It’s a prayer that ultimately asks a question:

“God, what would you have me do? What is your will for me?”

The answers may surprise us. They also may scare us to death. We may feel totally unprepared. We may want to say, “Oh please, not that – anything but that,” or “You must have me confused with someone else – there is no way I could do that!” If following God’s will means change and leaving our comfort zone, we may not be as open as those four words declare us to be.

There is a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that speaks to being open to the changes God may have for us, and giving our lives and our longings over to God’s will:

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life,
to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.
Lord, teach me to listen to my heart;
teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.
Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me,
I give you my discontent,
I give you my restlessness,
I give you my doubt,
I give you my despair,
I give you all the longing I hold inside.
Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth;
to listen seriously and follow where they lead
through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.

This week in the GPS guide we are going to explore God’s will and the tools and promises we have to enable us to live out God’s plans for us and for the world. As we do, let’s pray together and remember to lean on God as we walk into that breathtaking space.

Jennifer Creagar
Resurrection Prayer Ministry

Thy Will Be Done

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“Thy Will Be Done.”

We say it every time we say the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples who asked how to pray. When we talk about our lives and the lives of people we care about, we begin to realize that those four words are a pretty bold prayer. It says that we are ready to live out God’s plan for our lives, and we won’t be paralyzed by fear during the difficult parts. It says that we will look to God to hold onto us, comfort us and care for us, even if the actions of others in the world seem to be blocking God’s plan for a while. It says we will welcome change.  It’s a prayer that ultimately asks a question:

“God, what would you have me do? What is your will for me?”

The answers may surprise us.  They also may scare us to death. We may feel totally unprepared. We may want to say, “Oh please, not that – anything but that,” or “You must have me confused with someone else – there is no way I could do that!” If following God’s will means change and leaving our comfort zone, we may not be as open as those four words declare us to be.

There is a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that speaks to being open to the changes God may have for us, and giving our lives and our longings over to God’s will:

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life,
to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.
Lord, teach me to listen to my heart;
teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.
Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me,
I give you my discontent,
I give you my restlessness,
I give you my doubt,
I give you my despair,
I give you all the longing I hold inside.
Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth;
to listen seriously and follow where they lead
through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.

This week in the GPS guide we are going to explore God’s will and the tools and promises we have to enable us to live out God’s plans for us and for the world. As we do, let’s pray together and remember to lean on God as we walk into that breathtaking space.

Jennifer Creagar
Resurrection Prayer Ministry

 

Forgiveness

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This week in the GPS guide, as we approach Good Friday, we will have many opportunities to view Jesus’ example of forgiveness. As he hung on the cross, with criminals on his left and right, below him were the soldiers who had tortured him, humiliated him, and driven nails through his body. Now, as he hung there helpless and in tremendous physical and emotional pain, they were standing just below him casting lots for his clothing. And then Jesus prayed:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

We have this example of extreme forgiveness in front of us this week, but if we are truthful, many of us will say that forgiving is hard. Most of us can think of at least one person we cannot honestly say we have forgiven completely for a serious wrong that has been committed. We try. In our minds, we can say we have forgiven and moved on. But in our hearts, we are still holding on to just a little bit of resentment, some coldness or hardness towards that person and the wrong that was done to us. When we are all alone and our minds wander to that incident, or those words that have hurt us, we may take them out and examine them once again and feel the same anger and lack of love and compassion for this person that we did when we were first hurt.

How do we find forgiveness? How do we get those thoughts and feelings of anger and resentment out of our hearts and minds? Jesus gives us the key to forgiving others right there in Luke 23:34. Jesus is hanging there on the cross, looking down on his torturers, and he prays for them.

If you struggle with forgiveness, as we all do at some point, try praying for the person you just can’t seem to forgive. It can be hard at first, and you may find yourself giving God a report on how this person hurt you instead of focusing your prayer on asking for healing and forgiveness for them, and for yourself. Maybe you could begin your prayer with Jesus’ prayer from the cross: “Father, forgive __________ . It is very hard to continue to hate and resent someone you are praying for every day. Go a little further. Try to find out what this person’s needs are, and pray for God to meet those needs – spiritually, emotionally and physically. As God to show you that person’s heart and mind so you may pray specifically for them. God’s healing and peace will come to you, and may very well come to this person who has hurt you. Here is a prayer that might get you started:

It feels impossible, O God,
totally beyond my reach,
to forgive what has been done to me.
You know my pain, you know the hurt I hold.
Surely you, O God, know the storm within my heart.

But I’m doubly caught in this bind,
snagged on the sacred fence of my friendship with your son Jesus,
who has told me I must forgive, seven times seventy times,
those who injure me, who cause me pain.

Caught between pain and pardon,
I wish to choose the way of pardon.
Nailed by pain to his cross,
covered by the spit of scorners and whipped by his torturers,
he prayed the impossible prayer.
This prayer is one I now desire to make mine,
“Father forgive him, her, them, for they know not what they do.”

O Infinite Sea of Mercy,
make this unworthy servant
the channel of your gift of pardon,
that I also may be healed
as your forgiveness passes through me to others.

Amen

(Prayers for a Planetary Pilgram, Edward Hays ©1989)

Praying for those we hold dearest

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This week in the GPS guide we will explore the lives of Mary and John, and their lives both as they witnessed the crucifixion and after as his followers received the Holy Spirit and began their ministry as Christ’s people.

As a mother, Mary is near and dear to my heart, and an example to follow. I always thought I was ready to do hard things God asked me to, at least in theory. Then my children reached adulthood and started following God’s call on their lives. That’s when I discovered what real faith and commitment meant and began to truly appreciate Mary. God’s call on my children’s lives has included some real adventures for them, and many, many sleepless nights for Mom!

I’ve heard God ask, “Whose child is this? Yours or mine? Are you willing to pray for My will to be done in this child’s life, whatever it is?”

I won’t even pretend that my answer was as instant or as graceful as Mary’s, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” To me, the greatest example of faith in Scripture is that when Simeon blesses the child Jesus and prophesies his future and then tells Mary, “…and a sword will pierce your own soul, too,” Mary continued on, through his adulthood, ministry and horrible death. She remained faithful and saw the risen Jesus and the beginnings of the early church.

God is good, and I have come to remember that those amazing human beings I think of as mine are, indeed, God’s children and I want God’s will for their lives, scary as it may be.

You may have a child, or some other loved one, that you hold so dear that their struggles and pains pierce your heart. Mary must have taken comfort in God’s promises, and that is what we must do when we pray for God’s will for those we love.

Since this week also brings us St. Patrick’s day, I offer this prayer and blessing from the Celtic Christian tradition, to pray for all those nearest and dearest to our hearts, and for ourselves as well:

May the Father of Life pour out His grace on you;
may you feel His hand in everything you do
and be strengthened by the things He brings your through;
this is my prayer for you.

May the Son of God be Lord in all your ways;
may He shepherd you the length of all your days,
and in your heart may He receive the praise:
this is my prayer for you.

And despite how simple it may sound,
I pray that His grace will abound
and motivate everything you do;
and may the fullness of His love be shared through you.

May His Spirit comfort you, and make you strong,
may He discipline you gently when you’re wrong,
and in your heart may He give you a song:
this is my prayer for you.

May Jesus be Lord in all your ways,
may He shepherd you the length of all of all your days,
and in your heart may He receive the praise:
this is my prayer for you.

 

Holy Seeing

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This weekend the plans for Resurrection’s stained glass window will be revealed. This window will be a visual image of the story of God’s love for all people in every generation past, present and future. We are surrounded by images in our lives. What we see around us in the world, and then the bombardment of media of all kinds – pictures on our phones, images on the computers some of us spend hours a day in front of, entertainment images….

An excellent way to slow down this rush of images and use what we see in an intentional and contemplative way is a prayer practice called Visio Divina, or “holy seeing.” It invites us to open our eyes, hearts and minds to really see one thing and one thing only for a period of time, and see that thing deeply, learning what God might say to us in our seeing of this image. Someday in the not-too-distant future, perhaps you will use this prayer practice sitting in front of the Resurrection stained glass window.

There is no set time for Visio Divina, but you should expect it to take at least 20-30 minutes.

The first thing is to choose an image. There are several ways to do this. You can choose a piece of art, illustration, or other work. Maybe there is a picture somewhere that has always reached out to you, but you’ve never spent time really seeing it. One of my favorite methods is to take a walk, taking a number of random photos as I go along, then choosing just one to sit with and pray. You can use a print on paper, set the image on your phone, computer, or tablet or sit close enough to the original image to really examine it. Another alternative is to choose a three dimensional object to see, like a leaf or a rock, or a specific view along the walking trail.

Before you being, spend a few minutes in quiet, casting off the distractions of the day and opening your mind and heart to God. Ask God to speak to you in this time of prayer and to open your eyes to God’s presence in the world around you.

Examine the image slowly. At first, look at it with a soft focus, not trying to see every little detail. Release any expectations and for a few minutes, just see.

Slowly explore the details. What relationships do you see? How do the colors influence your feelings? Are the edges soft or hard? Curved or straight

Focus on one small detail that seems to reach out to you. What do you see? Not “a rock” or “a green leaf.” What is special about this rock or this leaf? How would you describe it to someone who couldn’t see it?

Using your imagination, enter into the image. What do you see from inside?

Does this image bring up feelings, or memories? Does it stir something up? Do you see something you haven’t seen before?

Where do you see God in this image? Does some small part, or the whole of the image, remind you of God’s presence?

Now, respond to the image with prayer. The image may have shown you a need for healing, or reminded you of someone in need of prayer. It may produce a desire for praise and thanksgiving, or a joyful reaction to the wonder of nature or other small things. It may bring to mind past events, or questions. Whatever your thoughts and feelings as you explore the image, share them with God.

What does your prayer tell you about this particular moment in your life? Are you called to a new awareness or a new way of serving or a new way of seeking God’s presence?

End your time by sitting in silence, listening. Rest in this silence and let God pray in you.

If you like, spend some time following your prayer journaling about what you have seen and what God spoke to you through the seeing.

This can be an interesting exercise in a group, or with your family. Choose one image that each person can carry with them to a quiet place and sit for a time in holy seeing. Come back together and share what you saw. Remember each will be very personal, and there is no “right” or “wrong” answer.

Lord God who gave me eyes to see and the gift of your holy presence,
let this time of looking be blessed with true vision
and an increased knowledge of your presence
so I may carry a new understanding of your power and love
into the world and learn to see all as you do.
Amen

Jennifer Creagar
Resurrection Prayer Ministry

 


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