Glimpses of the Holy

Taize cross
Taize cross

Yesterday afternoon I sat with other staff around the edges of the Board of Directors meeting for The Upper Room. Once a year, the board of Upper Room Ministries has its official meeting, hears about the work of the organization, and helps guide us in our work.

Victor Perez (International Spiritual Director, Walk to Emmaus) started the meeting with a devotional time that blew me away. He had everyone turn to the devotional for yesterday, August 6, 2009, in The Upper Room magazine. Different sections of the devotional were read by different voices — the long scripture was read in Spanish. The short scripture was read in French. The meditation itself was read in English. The prayer was prayed in Korean. And the thought for the day was read by our youth delegate in English.

It was powerful enough to realize that yesterday around the world people were reading that same meditation in all those languages, plus at least 36 more. But I was sitting in the back near the two women who were doing simultaneous translation of the proceedings — one translating to French for a board member from Congo. The second was translating into Portuguese for a board member from Angola.

During this time of meditation, the two translators were standing on each side of me, speaking quietly into their microphones, completing my impression that I was sitting smack dab in the middle of the world. It felt a bit like I had stepped into the scene from Acts 2 — all those different languages bringing to me the word of God. “Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.'” (Acts 2:7-11)

Meeting Sarah Wilke

We’d “had church” and could have gone home after that, but then we got to hear our new World Editor, Sarah Wilke, introduce herself to the board and to us. She joyfully and enthusiastically shared her spiritual journey with us. At the end of her sharing, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung led us in praying for Sarah and her ministry. We all stood and all of us, board members and staff, raised our hands toward her and poured prayers and love toward her. How remarkable … what a holy moment.

Ms. Mae

I had one more glimpse of the holy yesterday. Both our church’s pastor, Judi, and intern, Andrew, are out of town on vacation. So I got the call that our oldest member of the church has entered the final stage of her life. My neighbor, Deen, and I went by last night for a short visit. We sat with Ms. Mae and her daughter. I held her hand and we prayed with gratitude for Mae’s life and for God’s love, grace, and comfort to be especially present during the coming days.

O Holy One, I don’t know how it is that you blessed me yesterday with these glimpses of your presence in the world, in my life. But I’m grateful. Thank you for giving me open eyes and an open heart that I might witness you walking among us. Thank you. Amen.

I’m wondering — Where have you had glimpses of the holy in recent days?

I Get Paid for This? Cool!

inside_chapel_largeI had a remarkable experience today helping lead an informal chapel service for a group of communicators from Africa. They were 12 clergy and lay from Uganda, Mozambique, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, and Zimbabwe. They were in the U.S. for a three-week training organized by Nancy Neelley, Program Manager for Central Conference Communications, UMCom. Stephen Bryant invited me to help lead singing in a morning prayer service in the chapel of The Upper Room.

The group has been together for a couple of weeks already and enjoy singing together. As soon as they found their seats in the chapel, they were ready to sing in that place. I was unprepared for what happened when I invited their informal song leader, Emmanuel, to lead us in an opening hymn. He started a song and all 12 pour out of the pews, gathered in the space in front of the altar, and began to sing, clap, dance, harmonize, praise God. Tears came to my eyes, it was so beautiful. As soon as one song wound down, someone in the back started another song. The energy was incredible.

Steven Bryant talked to the group about the mission of The Upper Room. And then, my colleague, Kathryn Kimball, the person who cares for the Chapel and Museum, gave a live interpretation of the carving. (Visitors to the chapel usually sit in the pews and listen to a recording that explains in great detail what is going on in the carving of the Last Supper.  But Kathryn stood there and talked with no script.) She told about the story in the carving — the moment at The Last Supper right after Jesus has said, “One of you will betray me.” She described the different reaction of each disciple and invited us to ponder what we saw and where we might be in the story. Entering a time of reflection, I sang “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” Finally, Stephen led the group in a short discussion of what was seen and where in the story persons might have seen themselves. We finished the service with more singing, led by our congregants.

I was moved by the experience, honored to have been present, incredibly blessed to have been given the gift of music by 12 young communicators from the continent of Africa. God speed, my new friends.

SOULfeast 4 — The Way into Jerusalem

“Each person sits next to their own pool of tears.”

Trevor Hudson

SOULfeast 3 — The Way Up the Mountain

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them.

Mark 9:2-8

SOULfeast 2 — The Way to Galilee

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near.

Repent and believe the good news!”

Mark 1:14-14 (NIV)

Heading to Lake Junaluska, NC

St. Francis awaits SoulFeast
St. Francis awaits SoulFeast

We’ve met and planned, shopped and gathered, packed and loaded the trucks, and today we’re heading to Lake Junaluska to host SoulFeast, the soulful retreat. Please pray for traveling mercies for all those who are making their way to the event. Opening worship will be Sunday night. Trevor Hudson will be preaching about “The Way to the Jordan” and we’ll celebrate our baptism. The youth will be assisting in the ritual for this service.

Jay Voorhees, Pam Hawkins, and I will be setting up the worship space, designed by Karla Kincannon. (Karla will be joining us on Tuesday and can take over the set up then.)

We’re expecting somewhere between 450 and 500 participants. Children, youth, and young adults will be participating in age-appropriate programs.

Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be participating in a book signing featuring all the Upper Room authors present at SoulFeast. That’ll be the first book signing for The Uncluttered Heart. (Wish you could be there!)

Blessings, everyone. Pray for us. We’ll be praying for the world.

Join Me for a Soul Feast

Worship at Lake Junaluska
Worship at Lake Junaluska, 2008

It’s not too late to register for SOULfeast, a spiritually nourishing event at Lake Junaluska, NC (July 12-16). I’m honored to be a part of the worship planning for this Upper Room event. Right now, we are in the throes of finalizing the services and the worship design.  The worship team includes Jay VoorheesKarla Kincannon, Trevor Hudson, Marjorie Thompson, Pamela Hawkins, George Donigian, and Stephen Bryant. It’s been great to work with this creative group to plan the 5 services of SOULfeast.

The preachers for this year’s event include Trevor Hudson, Jasmine Smothers, Vance Ross, and Marjorie Thompson. Music will be led by Elise Eslinger. Really — think about coming (if not this year, think about next year).

Here are some images from last year’s SOULfeast: