Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Prayer Through a Teenager's Eyes

Seven days or 168 hours or 10,080 minutes of prayer.

A favorite event at our church is our 24/7 prayer room. For three years now, our pastors Robert & Mindy have created a sacred space with many different opportunities for prayer, from candles to scripture, art and music, communion and praying for our leaders. We are a medium-sized congregation. Some might say that filling 168 hour time slots with willing volunteers is unrealistic. Some might say that just sitting and praying for an hour is daunting, boring or impossible. Yet, here we are in our third year.

My whole family enjoys time in the prayer room. Sunday night, I signed up for 8pm, hoping my son Trent would want to come with me. He did.

Here's a recap:

First things first - cappuccino!
Where does he go?
To the place where he can make music:
     Guitar strums
          Drum beat
London Bridges on a small accordion and
Hot Cross Buns on the sliding flute.

Some might say, "Is this really worship? Do you call this prayer?"
And I would answer, Yes.

When a 14 year old boy chooses to come to church on a Sunday night with his mom,  for the purpose of praying, I believe God smiles.

When a teenager feels comfortable in God's house, I believe God rejoices.

When that boy, unprompted, signs up for another time slot after school and invites his friend to join him, I think God is pleased.

How will God speak to him?

Through music? Most definitely.

Sacred objects grab his interest next, a wooden cross in his palm, some jingly bells.

He feels a pull toward the craft table and starts to create something with clay. Each year we have tried to create something with clay that the others might add on to. He says that creating something makes him feel like an elf and he begins to whistle a jazzy version of "Jingle Bells."

I close my eyes, enjoying the stillness, savoring the quiet.

"Mom!" I open my eyes as he says excitedly, "let's finger paint!"

Not even a moment of peace and quiet?
I resist the urge to resist.

We begin creating together.
First thumbprints made into critters.
Then messy fingers and colors blending,
Just like our lives - messy and blurring together,
sometimes beautiful, sometimes not so much.

Time slips away in those sacred moments
for this mother and son,
God's love surrounding us,
Filling us,
Sustaining us.

Mother and son,
Hearts open to the moment,
Hearts open to creativity,
Hearts open for God's love to move,
          in us
          through us
          and beyond us.
Hearts open wide for God's grace to flow in.

Mother and son.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Puppy Love

"All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all."
~Cecil Alexander

He's slow and chubby now.  He waddles when he walks.  Sometimes his legs don't work too well, and his bladder doesn't always hold.  But he's our pet, and he's part of our family.

Of noble Scottish descent, our McDuff is a West Highland White Terrier, a  Westie. He has been a member of our family for the last 12 years. 

This faithful friend has been fiercely protective of our children, especially our daughter Chloe who was born under his watch. When she went to sleep in her crib, he slept beside her. He insisted on "herding" her as she began to toddle and, much to her annoyance, never left her side when she began navigating the stairs.

One person who especially loves McDuff is my mom. He is her "granddog." She enjoys giving him extra special love like putting  ice cubes in his water dish in the summer, sharing her ice cream with him, and making him his own egg for breakfast. He loves going up to the lake to see Nana and Papa and he wants nothing more than to be with us, his family.

As McDuff has gotten older and slowed down, our kids get impatient with him. "Do we HAVE to bring him, Mom? He takes up so much room and he's kinda stinky!" Funny, I was thinking the same applies to my growing teenage boy!

When we started camping a few years ago, McDuff enjoyed our trips as much as we did. Now my son Trent has to lift him in and out of the camper, crane-style. On a recent, particularly chilly camping trip, McDuff went from his usual white to a sooty grey from hanging out with us around the campfire.  And there was nowhere else he wanted to be.

McDuff isn't as handsome as he was in his prime. He doesn't get around as well as he once did. But what gives me great joy is seeing how my mom still loves him as much as ever. She has patience with him and compassion.  It seems that when she looks at him, she sees the dog he once was. And it occurred to me, that is what family is. We are all moving through the stages of life, some prettier than others. It is our family who can remember us at our best, even when we can't remember.

God's love is like that. God doesn't love us less because we can't read the medicine dosage without finding our glasses first. God doesn't withhold his love when we choose thin mints over a work out at the gym. God loves us for who we are and whose we are, His.

What grace that our God is not concerned with our outward appearance and beauty that fades away. What grace that our God is not a score keeper, keeping a list of our failures.  What grace that when  God looks upon us, he sees only the very best of us.
Genesis 1:26 God said: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

Creator of All,
Thank you for the animals who add so much joy to our lives. Help us take our responsibility seriously, so that we may honor your request of us. Amen.

Thoughts for reflection:
* How are you blessed by your pets?
* How have your pets shown you unconditional love? How have you shown the same to them?
* How does the love of your pets remind you of God's love?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to Beat the January Blahs

The shopping is done. The gifts are purchased, given, received and put away. The festive Christmas decorations are put away for another year. Not even a crumb of a Christmas cookie remains. Sigh.

I’m not sure if anyone else gets a little blue at this time of year, but I recognize the January blahs as an annual visitor. I recognize it is reasonable to feel a bit let down after the non-stop activities and endless to-do lists in December. I’m also convinced that some of it is plain old exhaustion. We all know that the women single-handedly navigate the planning, shopping and orchestrating of family Christmas traditions. Weather also plays a part. As I get older, I notice that cold and gray days greatly impact my mood.

How do YOU beat the January blahs? I posed this question to my friends on Facebook recently and received a wide range of suggestions from exercise to starting a new project to curling up by a warm fire to getting a happy light.

My favorite remedy is the discipline of gratitude. This past year, I participated in Ann Voskamp’s “Joy Dare.” If we keep a record of three things we are thankful for each day, we will count one thousand gifts by the end of the year. Being intentional about gratitude and counting my blessings daily was a powerful testimony to me. There is proven scientific research to show that being grateful not only improves our attitude but also our overall health. My attitude and mood, even my sleeping were significantly improved when I was faithful with my discipline of gratitude.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34