Prayers for Iran, Iraq, and Syria

For several years I have followed the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle from the World Council of Churches. Each week throughout the year we are invited to pray for countries and and the people who live there. Over the course of the year, we pray for the nations and peoples of the entire world.

The ordering of the countries is the same every year. So I was amazed to find that the prayers for this week are for the countries and peoples of Iran, Iraq, and Syria. (God timing!) Here are the intercessions from the prayer cycle website:

We are thankful for:

  • the resilience of the people who remain in Syria, Iraq and Iran, despite constant threats and ongoing violence
  • the relief and assistance that has been provided to so many
  • those who have made a new home for refugees fleeing from these countries
  • those who have worked continually for peace, justice and reconciliation.

We pray for:

  • an end to the violence racking these battlefields of global powers
  • political leaders emerging in these countries who will pursue peace, the common good, and human rights of all groups
  • the international community to pursue policies that will result in acceptable, just peace for all involved
  • greater openness to welcoming those displaced or fleeing from these lands, desperately seeking safety and wellbeing.

And I add these prayers:

For the leaders of the world, especially our president and his advisors, that they may have hearts of wisdom and compassion. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

For those who live in war-torn places, that they may know your presence with them, that they may be freed from fear, that they may be comforted in their distress. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

For those who serve in the military and their families in these times of uncertainty, that they may know that your love surrounds them. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

For all of those who mourn and who are afraid, that they may be comforted by your loving embrace. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

For all people and all the earth, that your healing and peace might come upon us. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

God, in your mercy, hear all of these prayers, those spoken out loud, those spoken in our hearts, and those prayers we don’t even know we are praying. You hear all these prayers; indeed, you hear the prayers of the whole creation. We pray in the name of the One who came to bring peace to the world. Amen.

Praying on Behalf the World

Nine of us gathered this morning in The Upper Room Chapel to pray with and on behalf of the world. Two guests from Colorado joined us. We sang, prayed, and lit the first candle of Advent, the candle of peace.

Our candle lighting prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes:

Loving God, you are our peace;
prepare our hearts for your coming.
Forge the swords of bitterness into plows of blessing;
till the soil of our souls for your springing forth in us.
Remove our heart’s defensive armor,
clothe us in light alone,
and pierce our wide-open hearts with your love.
By your Spirit in us, may we be at peace:
awake, and ready to welcome your presence.
Amen.

Join me in an online course this Advent. Child of the Light: Walking Through Advent and Christmas.

Getting Ready for Advent

burning candles

Advent’s arriving on Sunday! It’s time to dig out the Advent wreath. (Now, where did I pack that? I’m hoping that I’ve still got a box of unlit candles.)

This year, I’m looking forward to an online course using my first Advent book, Child of the Light: Walking through Christmas and Advent.

“We all need this time of Advent to slow us down, to open our ears to God’s quiet voice, to guide us through the chaos of the consumerist culture that Christmas has become.” Child of the Light provides tools to help you find your quiet center. Our eCourse invites you to find that quiet center with friends old and new. Enter with Beth into readings and reflections inspired by the season’s carols and hymns. Your spirit will be lifted and your mind quieted. The experience extends past Christmas to Epiphany, encouraging you to live into the joy of Christmas beyond seasonal celebrations.

I hope you’ll consider joining us in Child of the Light.

Welcome Home

Three deer, a blue heron, the call of a pileated woodpecker
Welcome me home.

The wind in the leaves, the ripples on the lake, the silence of this place
Welcome me home.

The water of life, the greetings of old friends, the words of the liturgy
Welcome us home.

This place is our home.
This place is God’s home.
Welcome home.

Session six of Academy #41, Camp Sumatanga, Alabama.

A World without You

I woke up this morning to a world without you.
You were my bright morning star and confidante.
Cheerleader and librarian.
Theologian and comic foil.

When we sat down to talk,
No time was wasted on chitchat, sports, or weather.
We took deep breaths and dove deep.

Last week in the hospital,
I asked, “Are you scared?”
“Yes,” you said.
“Shall I say a prayer?”
“Please.”
“Loving God, give wisdom to the doctors
and comfort to your beloved one.
Let him know he is not alone,
but is surrounded with love and light.”

The last few days you haven’t been responsive.
But yesterday, hospice on the way,
You squeezed my hand and turned your face toward mine,
Giving me the gift of your blessing.
I prayed for your final journey.
“Loving God, give comfort to your beloved one,
To the family and friends who love him so much.
Let him know he is not alone,
but is surrounded with love and light.”

Today you sit down to talk with angels.
No time is wasted on chitchat, sports, or weather.
You are taking deep breaths and diving deep.

All Saints

Remembering my saints this weekend.

On All Saints’ Day, it is not just the saints of the church that we should remember in our prayers, but all the foolish ones and wise ones, the shy ones and overbearing ones, the broken ones and whole ones, the despots and tosspots and crackpots of our lives who, one way or another, have been our particular fathers and mothers and saints, and whom we loved without knowing we loved them and by whom we were helped to whatever little we have, or ever hope to have, of some kind of seedy sainthood of our own.

Frederick Buechner
Sacred Journey: A Memoir of Early Days

How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place


How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.

Psalm 84:1-4, NRSV

For Lovers of Weavings Journal

I’m excited about two recently released books with connections to Weavings.

The Upper Room Disciplines 2020, a lectionary-based daily devotional, features 53 writers who were contributors to Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life. I’m honored to be one of them, writing the meditations for the week of October 12–18, 2020. Marjorie J. Thompson writes the foreword for the book. The 53 authors include many friends and beloved writers, among them: Kathleen Flood, Luther Smith, J. Barrie Shepherd, Wendy Wright, Roberta Bondi, Michael Downey, Rachel Hackenberg, Don Saliers, Jan Johnson, Kristen Vincent, Gerrit Dawson, Marilyn McEntyre, Mark Burrows, Deborah Smith Douglas, and Kara Lassen Oliver. Available now at your favorite bookseller.

The Wondrous Mystery: An Upper Room Advent Reader. This daily Advent reader incorporates articles from Weavings. Writers include Barbara Brown Taylor, Henri J. M. Nouwen, Sue Monk Kidd, Wendell Berry, Wendy M. Wright, and other writers. Now available.

Community

I wrote this article for The Upper Room’s “From the Center” newsletter. Sign up for this monthly resource of soul care for spiritual leaders.

I have the honor to serve as worship leader for our Upper Room Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation retreat in Alabama. I plan and lead the 14 services we hold during our weeks together (a week each quarter).

We are people from all over the U.S. — different ages, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, races, and backgrounds. We are knit together as a community over this time of retreat. Our format in community is a monastic (Benedictine) pattern of prayer that brings us together three times a day for morning prayer, afternoon Eucharist, and night prayer. At the end of night prayer, we go into the great silence, which is broken at the start of morning prayer the next morning. This shared participation in a common rhythm creates deep connections between us. It is the “container” that holds our community together as we hunger, learn, and struggle with what it means to be followers of Christ in this broken world.

At our last gathering, we rented a 60-passenger bus and went on a civil rights pilgrimage into downtown Birmingham, Alabama. We visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. We walked together through the displays that told the stories of those brave saints and martyrs who marched for civil rights in the decades of the 1950s and 60s. We walked across the street and stood in the Kelly Ingram Park, where, in the first week of May 1963, children and high school students were met by police dogs, fire hoses, and arrest.

We met, finally, in the sanctuary of 16th Street Baptist Church to hold our service of Eucharist. This is the church where, on Sunday, September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded under the steps of the church, killing four girls and injuring 22. During our service in the sanctuary of that holy place, we sang together and heard the scriptures read and the Word proclaimed. We broke the bread and poured the cup. We remembered the brokenness of Christ, the brokenness of our history, the brokenness of these days. And we affirmed the hope that we carry as followers of the One who came to bring peace, to scatter love, to bind up wounds and whisper comfort.

At the end of that long day, we arrived back at the retreat center tired, full, teary, grateful, and troubled. We met for night prayer and prayed the familiar words:

“We have wounded your love.
O God, heal us.
We stumble in the darkness.
Light of the world, transfigure us.
We forget that we are your home.
Spirit of God, dwell in us.”

-From “Prayer of Confession” (Night Prayer), A New Zealand Prayer Book: He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (New Zealand: William Collins Publishers Ltd., 1989), 168.

The liturgy, the community of love and trust and struggle that we experience together … all these things have become the “container” that allows us to journey together into uncomfortable places and inconvenient truths.

Back here at home in between our sessions, I miss these people, my siblings in Christ. I miss the shared commitment to daily prayer and worship. I hunger for the authentic relationships that develop in this special community. I yearn to find a community like the Academy in this place where I live the rest of the year.

I hope and pray for this: In the fractured, contentious, hateful times of this day, may we find communities of love, trust, and liturgy where we can be nurtured, sustained, challenged, and loved.

This article was reblogged from The Upper Room.