Monday, August 29, 2011

About the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11

As I write, I watch a documentary on the construction progress of Tower One in New York. To be completed in 2013, it is emerging from Ground Zero as a testament of healing. The 105 floors will open adjacent to the gaping footprints of the Twin Towers, left permanently indented in the earth to remember the pain as well as the courage. Tower One will be as tall as the Twin Towers once were, with an additional spire that carries it over 400 feet higher, marking a path forward from tragedy into the skyline.

My thoughts turn to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 which happens to land on a Sunday. What an important day of worship it will be!

I have given some thought to worship on this day and what the human spirit is about when anniversaries like this come along. I felt God was leading us to hold services of prayer and healing. What I have in mind is not patriotic in the usual sense, but a day of remembrance and asking for God's healing for the wounds of the world. Our messages at all three services are entitled "When Forgiveness is Hard." We will open the prayer rails for prayer and offer optional anointing with oil.

Anointing may be an tradition you have not experienced, and prayers for healing might be something you associate only with physical ailment. The United Methodist Book of Worship has a section on anointing and healing prayer that helps clarify that in Christian faith, healing is not necessarily the same as curing. There are all sorts of healing God makes available to us ... spiritual, emotional, financial, relational, even political healing. The Bible affirms the call to pray for healing grace: "Are any among you sick? They should call the elders of the church and have them pray for them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord." (James 5:14)

Whether we face tragedy on a small or large scale, God can make us whole again. The ministry of healing prayer opens us to the grace of God. It bridges alienation, breaks the power of suffering, and opens discouraged human spirits. Services of healing aren’t about magical cures. Rather they "provide an atmosphere in which healing can happen." (The United Methodist Book of Worship)

When people are hurting and there is an invitation to share our pain, it is an act of hope in God. The ritual of healing prayer in our tradition does not embarrass or expose people. United Methodist healing services use a simple sacramental approach that expresses compassion, hope, grace, and a quiet confidence in God. We can bring our insufficiencies to the all-sufficient Christ, who understands our need for wholeness for our souls, our families, our communities, our nation, and our world.

I hope you will come on 9/11 or go to worship at your home church.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Spirituality of Roots

I have been sharing about my spirituality recently. Today you may notice there’s a method to my meanderings. There is a dynamic tension between my first two, the spirituality of “retreat” and of “creativity” (one is restful and reflective and the other active and productive). Last week’s spirituality of “risk” likewise contrasts what I share this week.

My spirituality is also a spirituality of “roots.” In order to take risks and step out in faith out of passion for Christ, it’s important to be deeply rooted in God.

For me, this spirituality plays out in several ways. My morning prayer and study time is a way of rooting my day, giving God the first fruits of my time as well as centering my soul. I’m also interested in genealogy which gives me a personal sense of context in the midst of history. I enjoy visiting holy spaces, whether out in the woods or at places such as the monastery in Kentucky with my covenant group last weekend. Experiences such as these, along with practicing the spiritual disciplines, make me feel rooted in centuries of Christian flow. None of the spiritual and emotional struggles I’ve had are just about me. They put me in touch with the vast expanse of Christian history, and that brings me joy.

We live in a time of great rootlessness. People are always moving, changing jobs, and making new relationships. We are uprooted time and again in ways that make us more and more disconnected from our past and from familiar surroundings. Mobility is not a bad thing, but it leaves us with a compelling desire to let the anchor down. I invite you to join me in a quest to become more deeply rooted in God!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Heritage of Methodist Fire

This is the new collage in my office from the spring heritage tour I took my dad on. We traveled through GA and SC tracing our family heritage of the Garrisons, Wills, Thompsons, Wests, Maxwells, and Smiths. We visited 26 of his ancestor's graves he had never seen and we learned stories he'd never heard.

We have deep Methodist roots and saw buildings and windows named in honor of lay leaders in our ancestry. I've had a practicing Methodist pastor in my ancestry every year since shortly after 1780 when the Garrisons helped start a Methodist society in Banks County. That's before the denomination was officially born.

Adding my mother's side to the mix, one of my relatives has been a practicing pastor in the North Alabama Conference and its predecessors every year since 1820. Quite a heritage that gives me strength for the journey.

I enjoyed introducing my Dad to his own story.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Spirituality of Risk

In the last two posts, I shared about my “spirituality of retreat” and my “spirituality of creativity”. Today I’d like to share about the “spirituality of risk.” In my sermon recently, I quoted Leonard Sweet:

I am part of the Church of the Out-of-Control. I once was a control junkie, but now am an Out-of-Control Disciple. I've given up my control to God. I trust and obey the Spirit. I've jumped off the fence. I've stepped over the line. I've pulled out all the stops. There's no turning back, looking around, slowing down, backing away, letting up, or shutting up.
Its life against the odds, outside the box, over the wall, the game of life played without goal lines other than “Thy will be done....” I am not here to please the dominant culture. I live to please my Lord and Savior …

I am finished with second-hand sensations, third-rate dreams, low-risk high-rise trades and goose-stepping, flag-waving crusades. I no longer live by and for anything but everything God-breathed, Christ-centered, and Spirit-driven. I can't be bought by any personalities or perks, positions or prizes …

My face is upward, my feet are forward, my eyes are focused, my way is cloudy, my knees are worn, my seat uncreased, my heart burdened, my spirit light, my road narrow, my mission wide. I won't be seduced by popularity, traduced by criticism, travestied by hypocrisy, or trivialized by mediocrity. I am organized religion's best friend and worst nightmare.

I won't back down, slow down, shut down, or let down until I'm preached out, teached out, healed out, or hauled out of God's mission in the world entrusted to members of the Church of the Out-of bind the confined, whether they're the downtrodden or the upscale, the overlooked or the underrepresented …

And will be worth it hear these words, the most precious words I can ever hear: “Well done, thou good and faithful...Out-of-Control Disciple."

Leonard says it all. My spirituality leads me to step out of the boat onto the water, even when I know I might just sink. I’ve loved hearing people's dreams at our church's Dream Gatherings because it has been setting my imagination on fire. God is leading us to step out in faith into a new reality God has in mind!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Spirituality of Creativity

This week, I would like to share about what I call the “spirituality of creativity.” I believe that God gives each of us unique and marvelous gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. When we try to serve in ways that are not in our “gift mix”, we tend to be frustrated or unhappy. But when we serve according to our God-given design, we experience joy and fulfillment even when it’s challenging. I am convinced that people who don’t serve actively in the Church probably just haven’t yet found their “sweet spot.”

Personally, I confess that I am the right-brained artist type. As a musician and writer, I have found great joy in offering gifts within and beyond the local church I serve. I love to blog, write devotionals and columns, and create hymn texts. I also love to sing and play.

I have always admired people who had entirely different creative gifts, whether it is cooking, dance, textiles, crafts, art, or worship visuals. I also admire people who had creative gifts such as woodwork, construction, project planning, and architecture. I remember the scripture in which the Spirit of God rested on craftsmen who helped create the tabernacle. Even in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was bestowing gifts.

Claiming a spirituality of creativity means living in a way that is always discovering where the needs of the world and my gifts cross. And a local church is most vibrant when we recognize that all God’s gifts are unique, wonderful, and equally important.