Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Psalm 16

Psalms for Praying 
Nan C. Merrill 
Remain ever before me,
O Loving Presence,
for in You am I safe.
You are my Beloved; in You 
I can do all things. 
I look to those who are at one 
with You and learn from them of your ways; 
My delight increases each time
I sense Your presence within me! 
Love is my chosen food, my cup, 
holding me in its power.
Where I have come from,
Where'er I shall go, 
Love is my birthright, 
my true estate. 
I bless the Counselor who guides my way;
in the night also does my heart instruct me.
I walk beside the Spirit of Truth; 
I celebrate the Light.
Thus my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices.
I shall not be afraid,
nor fall into the pit of despair;
In Love's presence there is fullness of joy.  
You are my Beloved; in You will I live.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Denise and a Penguin Named Priscilla

Not too long after we moved my mother into skilled nursing, I noticed that what had started as one stuffed animal was growing into a collection on a shelf above her bed.  I asked a staff member where they were coming from.  "A church group comes to visit and leaves them with the residents."  That troubled me.  Yes, my mother was ill, but she was not child-like, and I was not not sure my mother ever wanted a church group to visit her.  The staff member assured me that the visitors were respectful, and I felt I just had to trust that.  Mother was quite non-committal on the subject, and was far more interested in knowing whether or not I had brought her some chocolate.       
That image came to my mind last week when I walked into a long-term care community.  Denise was sitting by the door.  She waved for me to come over. I  had talked to her a couple of times before, and I knew she could be quite sorrowful and anxious.  She could also be difficult to understand.  I walked over, and she surprised me by holding out a small stuffed penguin.  "I have a creature.  Her name is Priscilla."   We did not really get to talk as the activity director was calling my name.  I invited Denise to come join the conversation that was going to be held in another room.  In just a few minutes, she surprised me again by coming into the room in her wheelchair on her own.     
A very sweet group was gathered around me, and we began to discuss Psalm 23.  Denise then surprised me yet one more time.  She showed us Priscilla with an outstretched arm, and said in a remarkably strong voice, "I know this creature, who I call Priscilla,  is not real, but she gives me courage.  I know I get courage from God, and I know God is real.  God gives me refuge."  I was stunned, not only by the clarity of her voice, but by the clarity of her thinking.   I was also very touched by the support and understanding that the frail group extended to her.   As I listened to these interactions, I felt the room filling up with love.  It was as if we were all on a raft calmly floating our way to shore. 
I may always struggle when I see dementia patients holding dolls or other toys.  Yet, Denise was able to provide some insight, and I am grateful.   As I helped one resident get to the dining room, I thought, "I am right where I need to be." In the future, when I am troubled by what I see, I shall remember Denise.  Her struggle is heroic, and I am blessed to be able to learn from her.  
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,

 the Maker of heaven and earth.     
Psalm 121:1  NIV     

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Psalm 14

Psalm 14 
Psalms for Praying 
Nan C. Merrill   
The hearts of fools say, 
"There is no power in Love."  
O that they might rejoice in life,
in the abundance of Love's gifts! 
Blessings to each of this beautiful Sunday morning.  We are two weeks into the sharing these psalms, and I am grateful.  My thanks to all of you who have dropped me a note to say how much your are enjoying the sharings.   Let us continue to celebrate God's Love in our lives.   
Truthful encounter is always and already the mystery of "church." - Richard Rohr  


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Psalm 13

Psalm 13 
Psalms for Praying 
Nan C. Merrill   
 How long, my Beloved?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear this pain in my soul,
and live with sorrow all the day?
How long will fear rule my life?  
Notice my heart and answer me, 
O my Beloved;
enlighten me, lest I walk 
as one dead to life;
Lest my fears say, 
"We have won the day,"
Lest they rejoice in their strength.  
As I trust in your steadfast Love,
my heart will rejoice,
for in You is freedom.
I shall sing to the Beloved,
who has answered my prayers 
a thousand fold!  
Come, O Beloved, make your home in my heart.    
Today I decided to include the whole psalm, even with the beginning anguish. Certainly, there is much celebrating this week and I am deeply grateful.  However, there are still those who are in mourning. There are those who hunger and thirst.  Many are afraid.  Far too many are alone and are asking, "How long?"  

 If we ask God to come make a home in our hearts, we will be asked to let our faces be known.  We will asked to be revealed.  Yesterday while in a rehab hospital, I witnessed a young activity assistant play the ukulele.  She told me that In February, she decided to start teaching herself how to play, even though she had no prior musical training. As I watched the frail and poor in health turn their faces to her, and as I saw her fresh young face focus in concentration as her long fingers moved up and down the strings, I knew I was seeing the multi-faceted face of God.  There was a healing presence in the midst of all that tenderness, and I was one of the ones receiving care.  
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Matthew 5:3   


Friday, June 26, 2015

Psalm 12

Psalm 12 
Psalms for Praying 

"For the hearts of those who call to Me, 
For those who cry out for wholeness,
I shall now make Myself known,"
says the Beloved.

The promises of Love are pure,
like silver refined in a crucible,
like gold purified seven times.
Be our safeguard, O Blessed One, 
Stay close by throughout these dark days
where unloving hearts seem to abound. 
Come to our aid, O Beloved! 

So much of the violence we are seeing in communities is rooted in loneliness and fear.  Today, I will have lunch with a friend.  I am grateful.  May all of creation savor a peaceful meal today. Only when bread is broken can the hunger of the world be fed.  The cup must be poured before thirst can be quenched.  This is something that Jesus knew.  Wholeness can be known only in the giving it away.     

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Psalm 11

Psalm 11
Psalms for Praying

The Beloved dwells in the Holy Temple,
the sacred place within our hearts,
loving and testing each one of us.
Divine Love offers both the good
and the unloving 
opportunities to grow,
to become whole,
enduring with Love those who 
choose the way of darkness.
One of the loveliest words in the English language is abide.  In John 15:4, we read of the promise, "Abide in me and I will abide in you."  Please rest easy in God's love today.  God does not ask for a perfect temple, just an open door.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Psalm 10

Psalm 10 
Psalms for Praying    

Awaken, O Love! O You who created me,
return to my side; forget me not in my weakness.
Why do I turn my back to You,  
and say in my heart, "You will not take notice of me?"
O my Beloved, You hear my deepest desires; 
You will strengthen my heart, 
You will answer my prayer, 
That I might live with integrity 
And become a loving presence in the world! 
I very much appreciate a prayer asking for integrity.  In his Encyclical, Pope Francis calls for sobriety - that is, a life that turns away from reckless waste; a life that treats our resources as the sacred gifts they are, and following the teachings of Jesus, he does so with an eye and heart aimed towards the poor.  If he were Buddhist, he would probably call for mindfulness and compassion.  In these psalms, Nan C. Merrill calls out to Love.  
We Christians must set aside any notion that our faith journey is one just for the sake of our personal salvation.  We are in this together.  That is more of a gift than we realize.       

63. Given the complexity of the ecological crisis and its multiple causes, we need to realize that the solutions will not emerge from just one way of interpreting and transforming reality. Respect must also be shown for the various cultural riches of different peoples, their art and poetry, their interior life and spirituality. If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it.  - Pope Francis


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Psalm 9

Psalm 9 
Psalms for Praying 
You cry over the nations, seeing 
how they destroy one another; 
chaos and darkness rise up 
blind to Love's way; 
forgotten is creation's glory,
false power seeks to destroy the Divine Plan. 
Yet Love will abide forever; 
You have established yourself in secret places
seeking out receptive hearts, 
ready to enter and make your dwelling place within.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Psalm 8

You have made us co-creators of the earth!
Guardians of the planet! 
To care for all your creatures,
to tend the land, the sea, and the air we breathe; 
all that You have made, You have placed in our hands.  
Psalm 8
Psalms for Praying   

The bees are working as hard as they can.  We, however, have some room for improvement in the care department.  I am grateful for Pope Francis' Encyclical.  I have not been able to yet read it with the care and attention it deserves, but I pray that it will not simply be shelved.  Today, I leave you with one of the concluding remarks:  
244. In union with all creatures, we journey through this land seeking God, for “if the world has a beginning and if it has been created, we must inquire who gave it this beginning, and who was its Creator”. Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Psalm 6

O My Beloved, though I have turned from You, 
continue to enfold me with your love; 
Be gracious to me, Heart of my heart, 
for I am sad and weary. 
Surround me with your healing Light, 
that my body, mind, and soul may heal.
How long must I wait, O Love?   
Psalm 6 
Psalms for Praying


My prayer is that someday Dylann Roof, and all of those whose lives are being consumed by hate, will pray this prayer. I know it will be heard.    


Friday, June 19, 2015

Psalm 5

Through the abundance of your steadfast love 
I shall enter your house; 
I shall worship in your holy temple 
with reverence for You. 
Lead me, O my Beloved, in your mercy 
lighten my fears; 
make your way straight before me 
that I may follow. 
For there is no truth in fear; 
it leads to downfall; 
it opens the door to loneliness;
it speaks not with integrity, 
but out of ignorance;
Let this guilt I bear, my Beloved, 
be seen in your light;
forgive the many false ways I have, 
surround them with your love, 
for they keep me separated from You.  
Psalm 5, 
Psalms for Praying, Nan C. Merrill    

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Psalm 4

Commune with the Heart of your heart 
as you rest, and be in silence. 
Make peace with your fears, 
and trust in Love...  
In peace will I spend my days 
and sleep at night; 
For You alone, my Beloved, 
take away my fears.  
Psalm 4
Psalms for Praying
In John 14:27, we read of Jesus telling his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives."   We keep asking the world to give us peace.  Perhaps we are looking in the wrong direction.  Jesus knew the society in which he lived was broken, and yet he continued to serve.  Blessings as you move forward in the world today, knowing God is with you always.  


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Psalm 3

O Beloved, how numerous are my fears! 
They rise up within me whispering 
there is no help for you in Love. 
Yet, You, O my Beloved, radiate around me, 
my glory, 
lifting my head high. 
I cry aloud to You, 
and You answer within my heart.   
I lie down and sleep; 
I wake again, for my Beloved 
holds me with strength and tenderness.
I shall withstand all my fears 
as they arise within me. 
Rise up, Love!
Psalm 3 
Psalms for Praying 
Nan C. Merrill 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Psalm 2

I have set Love in your hearts, my dwelling place.

Psalm 2 
Psalms for Praying, Nan C. Merrill 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Psalm 1

And in all they do, they give life.  
Psalms for Praying, Nan C. Merrill  


Friday, June 5, 2015

One for the Other

After the worship service, Charlie asked me if I would go see Roger because he seemed to have some concerns on his mind.  I assured him I would do so, but first we talked a bit about how things are going for him.  When I found Roger, he was not too happy that his caregiver was late in getting him up.  "I don't like to miss your service."  I smiled.  There was a time when he really felt uncomfortable in worship and would need some gentle coaxing to attend.  He then said, in his beautiful, very formal way, "Could you go see Charles? I am worried about him. I know he finds your friendship helpful."  I told him that Charles and I had talked, and added, "By the way, Charles is a little concerned about you!"  We laughed and talked some more, and then he asked, "If it is not too much trouble, may I have communion?"  He has come a long way from the days when he would contend, "I am not worthy."    

I continued to serve communion as people were brought into the activity room even after the service.  The community was short-staffed, and schedules were out of sync.  I walked into the office of the activity director who was bent over the work on her desk.  "I hate to ask this," she said, "But may I have communion?  I just could not get to the service. There is so much paperwork." She looked so weary.   She obviously had been in service all morning. 
I was recently asked how I measure the success of the ministry.  If success can be measured, and I am not sure it can, then it must surely be by these ongoing interactions.  I measure it when I hear the Lord's Prayer being recited in an Alzheimer's home.  I measure it  when I see Lillian, who is in her 90s, throw her head back and sing at full volume in that crusty voice of hers that is not even close to being on key. I measure it when I see people taking care of one another.  I measure it when staff members greet the worship team warmly, often with hugs.  I measure it when Rodney returns to worship on his first day out of bed in weeks.  I measure it when he says, "God loves you and we love you.  Take care of yourself."   I measure it by the loyalty of our incredibly beautiful volunteers.  Yet, most of the time I do not measure it.  I simply live it as best I can. 

 The last time, and this was a few years ago, when Roger said he was not worthy to accept communion, I decided to come clean.  "Roger, I go back and forth. Sometimes, I think all of us are worthy, and other times I think all of us are not. Regardless, I am convinced that we are all in this together, and because we are in this together, we are offered this gift of communion.  I, for one, cannot refuse it."  He paused, and then said yes.  And he has every time since then.  
Come join us when you can.