An Unexpected Advent Peace

It has been a busy few weeks.

Although my Advent writing was set aside, replaced with sickness and stress,  my soul was hard at work.

Let me explain.

Over two years ago, in a moment of absent mindedness, I ran a red light.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not thank God I didn’t strike a pedestrian.  I did, however, t-bone another car in that intersection.

It was an awful day.

Life moved on until I was served papers late this summer.  It was a lawsuit filed by the driver of the other car.  I was even more shocked a few months later when I received notice of my scheduled deposition and court date.

And what did this person of faith do?  

I panicked.

And I stressed.

And I conjured up deposition nightmares.

As the day got closer, I became extremely nervous.

I couldn’t eat. I struggled to concentrate at work.  And the cold I was fighting burrowed in for the long haul with a cough that kept me up at night and exhaustion which loitered in the day.

By Tuesday, two days before the deposition, I was a wreck. (I’m notorious for worst-case scenario thinking!)

And that’s when it dawned on me.

In the midst of the stress, panic, and worry had forgotten to trust in God.  I had forgotten the power of prayer.

Yep.  Even clergy forget the basics.

So I began to pray.  

I prayed for the plaintiff that she might be healed–body, mind and spirit.

I prayed for her lawyer and mine that their work might be fulfilling and travel, safe.

I prayed for the staff at the law firm that have been so kind.

And yes, I prayed for my own serenity and acceptance of the situation.

I was greeted Wednesday morning with a peace that truly surpassed all understanding.  My trust in God, restored.

My awareness had been turned outward–others have traveled and survived far rougher terrain– and it had been turned inward–I was being given the opportunity to apology to a stranger whose life also shifted that Fall day two years ago.

My deposition the next day blessed me in more ways than I could have imagined.

The second week of Advent has come and gone, but it’s message of Peace remains in my heart and for this I give thanks!

In your own times of trouble, remember to trust your Higher Power and to always ground yourself in prayer.

Take time today to meditate on these words from Philippians 4:4-7:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 Peace unto you, my friends, today and everyday.




Tending the Soul’s Garden

The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail. 

Isaiah 58:11

I keep it no secret that although I enjoy gardening, I am no master gardener.  In fact, any plants that go into my back yard are mostly on their own once they go into the dirt. I occasionally water.  I don’t fertilize. I rarely prune & groom. And…my garden looks about like you would expect!

And here’s the deal.  Our faith is very similar. You get what you put into it!

Image result for small flower garden
Nope. This image is definitely NOT from my garden! 🙂 Photo copied from Pinterest.

If we only occasionally attend worship, and especially when we expect or even demand to be entertained or inspired, then chances are we are anticipating a bountiful crop from an untended vine.  What I’ve noticed for myself, too, is that when I walk away disappointed with a particular worship service, I have had to admit that I have been leaning on Sunday mornings to be my only spiritual nourishment.

It’s just not enough.

Experiencing the Holy, noticing Divine synchronicity, feeling spiritually grounded happens when we actively tend to our faith.

This means in addition to attending worship that we commit to a daily spiritual practice like intentional prayer time (not just praying on the fly, which has it’s own value but doesn’t enable a deeper time with the Holy).  We read a devotional each day that offers words of wisdom that may find their way into the day in unexpected ways.  We listen to religious or spiritual music as a wonderful way to nourish the soul and reflect on our faith.  As I’ve written before in the past, even seeking a Holy message in secular music can be satisfying, if not a surprising way to tend to ourselves. And equally important, we spend time with other spiritual sojourners (in a prayer and share group or Bible Study). Often God speaks to us through their witnessing, their prayers, their understanding of scripture. As we receive encouragement and support in our own walk and can, in return, provide the same to others on their own spiritual journey. We grow together!

So…How’s that tending the soul going in your life?  Is your spiritual garden in need of some TLC…some weeding or watering or fertilizing?

What I continue to learn in my work as a hospice chaplain and in my own life, is that when our faith is tended to, when time is being spent in prayer, and study, and fellowship, there is a resiliency, a core strength that grows, enabling us to endure the hardest of times and delight in the best of times.

And with that I say, “Let’s get going!”

Put on those gardening gloves, get into your spiritual garden, and start tending to it.

You will be grateful you did!


Why I’m Praying for Donald Trump

In just over an hour, Donald Trump will be speaking at a rally just 6 blocks from my home. And despite the ever-so convenient 10-minute walk, I will NOT be attending—for so many reasons.

More than anything, his tone and rudimentary rhetoric trouble me and strongly go against my Christian values.

My faith instructs me to welcome the stranger, not to inflame division or exclusion. As a follower of Christ, I am called to show kindness and respect, and refrain from taking cheap shot and condoning maltreatment of others.  And yes, I am expected to not judge—a character defect I’m working on all the time.

Most heavily on my mind in this hour is the expectation I pray without ceasing. 

I consider both word and action to be part of that unceasing prayer and believe I am faithful to this on-going expectation.

But here’s the rub for countless faithful people including myself.  As a Christian I am also called to pray for my enemies.  And although I cannot consider Mr. Trump a direct enemy of mine,  I do notice my jaw clench and chest tighten when I think of all that he has uttered and all he represents at this time.

And so, like it or not—challenging or not—as a Christian I must pray for Donald Trump.

I pray then that he will experience the transformative power of forgiveness and humility.  I pray, as my daughter suggested, that he be given eyes to see the ways in which his words and actions hurt others.  I pray that should he be elected as our next president that he makes decisions that are wise for the nation, not made in order to defend or bolster his ego.

Do I believe prayer will change him?

I believe in miracles. Many hardened men and women have been transformed into compassionate, sacrificial, loving individuals. Realistically, however?  A spiritual make-over for Donald Trump is probably a long ways off. In truth, only the Holy knows what awaits him.

But here is what I do know.

I know that in praying for Donald Trump, I, myself, will be renewed in the Spirit.  I know that through prayer the seeds of hatred I’ve allowed to be planted in my heart won’t take root.  I trust that my prayers will be answered—most likely in unexpected ways—and that someday, those prayers might even be reflected in a new creation found in Donald Trump.

So join me in prayer in this uncertain time.

Pray for the candidate that has your vote. And especially pray for the candidate that causes your blood to boil.

Pray without ceasing. And let your own heart be renewed in the process!!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.                                                                                                                                              ~Philippians 4: 4-7




The Purpose of Prayer

praying handsI’ve pondered the power of prayer for much of my life.

Nearly 16 years into my work as a minister, I still question, “How exactly does this prayer stuff work?” Because honestly, I have had a good number of prayers go unanswered (or at least have yet to be answered)!

Admittedly I sometimes wonder, “Who am I to pray for a situation that at first blush appears hopeless? Who am I to challenge God’s will or to knock loudly on those divine chamber doors requesting, even passionately demanding, a miracle?”

Many Christian brothers and sisters would say, “Who am I to NOT do so?”  Are we not encouraged by Jesus to “Ask…seek…knock”?

One of my patients in Arizona was a man in his 50’s dying of cancer.

“Frank” had been battling the disease for over 2 years.  During that time, in addition to traditional treatments, Frank was under the care of a faith healer.  This healer would come to his home on a weekly basis, lead the family in scripture studies, and then pray over Frank for his healing.

When his cancer showed signs of worsening,  Frank was told his insufficient faith was at fault.  When the cancer advanced further, the blame fell on the wayward son whose reckless living, according to the faith healer, was detrimentally blocking God’s healing power.

By the time I came into their lives as their hospice chaplain, Frank and his family were spiritually crushed and emotionally wounded.  I, on the other hand,  was outraged when I heard their story. He was only on our program for a short time but I did my very best at bring peace into this family’s life and offered words of assurance to this man who felt abandoned by his God.

I have often thought of this man and his family, the promises and subsequent accusations of the faith healer, and asked “Since when did the act of prayer mean getting exactly what we ask for!?!”

Certainly there are numerous scriptures to support this.  Here are just two that speak of the promises of prayer:

John 15:7
But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted! (NLT)

Mark 11:24
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (NIV)

I imagine that Frank’s faith healer was grounding his belief in part on  James 5:16: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (NIV)

But I believe that the best prayer example is given by Jesus, himself, before the betrayal that leads to his crucifixion. “Abba, Father,” he pleads, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me…” (Mark 14: 36a).

Yes, Jesus prays for what he desires—to ultimately be spared his life—but in the end, though he asks, his request is not granted.

Perhaps the true lesson from his prayer is what he wisely ends it with, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” he tells God (Mark 14: 36b). He asks for what he desires, but in the end seeks God’s will for his life.

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”  Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

Kierkegaard’s words couldn’t be more true for me.

What I have noticed over the years is that through prayer I am more easily able to change what I can and accept what I can’t. Prayer teaches me to surrender my own will and my desires for immediate answers and results, and to leave room for God’s grace in God’s time.

I cannot say Kierkegaard’s understanding of prayer makes the act easier or clearer—especially when there are areas in my life where years of prayer for situations or people have gone unanswered.  At times I have been left wondering why I even bother lifting up my fervent requests. But as Kierkegaard suggests, when I look back upon my life it is revealed that through prayer my very nature has been evolving.

And perhaps, just perhaps, for this alone I should be grateful.