Pastoral Series

Prayer: Flag Day

Today is Flag Day, conjuring up old schooldays recollections of Betsy Ross, the Star Spangled Banner, and those six soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima. Today is also my sister-in-law’s birthday; as a little girl she felt great delight and honor that so many people put out flags to celebrate her day. And then,…

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Prayer: Prayer works?

George Buttrick once described prayer as “beating on Heaven’s door with bruised knuckles in the dark” – which pretty much sums up the frustration and yet persistence of prayer. In Luke 11:5-13, Jesus tells of a man banging on his friend’s door at midnight, demanding bread. Rebuffed at first, he persists. He will not be…

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Prayer: Clenched fists

 Henri Nouwen, in a great little book on the spiritual life called With Open Hands, reminds us that “the resistance to praying is like the resistance of tightly clenched fists.”  He tells of a woman in a psychiatric center who swung wildly at everyone until they had to restrain her and take everything from her….

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Prayer: I’m OK, you’re OK

   It’s that time of year: high school graduation. I remember just two items from my graduation (besides how embarrassingly goony I looked, evident in this photo I stumbled upon the other day). We tried to march in rhythm to “Pomp and Circumstance,” but the piano and student band were slow, so we chuckled and…

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Prayer: Visitation

Today marks a moment in the Christian calendar Protestants aren’t attentive to – but they could be: “The Feast of the Visitation.” We can’t know the date for sure, but the “Visitation” is that dramatic scene described in Luke 1:39-56 – Mary’s visit to her kinswoman Elizabeth. Both were quite unexpectedly pregnant. Their loved ones,…

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Prayer: Memorial Day

The observance of Memorial Day began shortly after the end of the Civil War – most dramatically at the Gettysburg cemetery where Lincoln had spoken so profoundly. That’s instructive, I think: it wasn’t originally a day to glorify those who died for America, but simply those who died in war – in the Civil War,…

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Prayer: Aldersgate Day

  May 24 is a signature date in Methodist folklore. It was on a Saturday in 1738 when John Wesley had his famous “Aldersgate experience,” that dramatic evening when he reported that his heart was “strangely warmed.” We might all want such a heart warming, overflowing experience of God’s presence. Sometimes I suspect we don’t…

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Prayer: Milking a cow, a tulip , a dog

I’ve not been a wide reader of poetry, but am trying to correct that omission as I grow older. I came across a quirky one by Alicia Suskin Ostriker the other day. To be blessed said the old woman is to live and work so hard God’s love washes right through you like milk through…

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Prayer: Ascension Day

If you lived in Greece or Russia, today (on the Christian calendar) would be “Ascension Day,” the 40th day after Easter when Jesus left earth and returned to heaven. But if you live here and are Protestant or Roman Catholic, Ascension Day was one week ago. Western civilization has followed the Gregorian calendar; but in…

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Prayer: Comprehensiveness

Yesterday. Mother’s Day. As we explored last Thursday, all kinds of mothers and children simply are – in the Bible and in our world and lives. All of us have good cause to ponder Mary, Jesus’ mother, her humility, her tenderness, her compassion. She was the first to realize God was coming to be one…

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