Tuesday, February 15, 2011

‘Wuss’ prayers

I was on the phone, the other day, with a good friend, and the subject of prayer came up.  She said, “We pray such “wuss’ prayers."  Do you agree?

Perhaps we need some definition.  The Urban Dictionary online defines ‘wuss’ as  “A person who is physically weak and ineffectual....or A person of dual sissiness.” 

Prayer can be an easy topic for many, like the morning TV ‘news’ shows...”our prayers go with you.”.  I’d love to follow Matt Lauer around after he says that (which he does, often).

Should we pray for anything we want?  Well, what are you asking for?  James 4:3 tells us we are asking incorrectly, amiss.  Do we need more Elizabethan English for God to accept our prayers?  I normally don’t use the word ‘vouchsafe’. except at Morning Prayer (the Te Deum). You know that’s not true.  But what is?

Do a quick Bible study of asking.  Google it.  Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount says, (Matthew 7:7-11) "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"  (ESV).

Start with Hebrews 4:16.  Be bold because we are talking to our Father.  Look at Matthew 21:22, Luke 11:13, John 14:13-14.

Are we truly seeking our God’s will, or is our prayer life a bunch of wuss prayers, like “Oops, sorry Lord.  I do have a moment for you, and please bless my family.  Amen”?  ARGH!  What’s coming BOLDLY about that.  Pretty ‘wussy’, actually.

Christ spent the whole night praying.  Do you remember one of His requests about ‘this cup passing from Him”?  Martin Luther regularly spent three hours in prayer.  How ‘bout your prayer life? 

Jesus told us to come s a little child to the Father, and ask of Him.  All of my children had no problem asking my wife and/or me for lots of things...all the time.  They were children. 

So...what are you asking Him for today?


Monday, February 14, 2011

Which Valentine are you feasting? And why?

Most in America aren’t thinking in term of the church calendar or who this saint was.  Be honest. Did you get a card?  Are you taking your sweetie to dinner?

The Feast of St. Valentine was determined by Pope Gelasius I, but was he a priest from Rome...or a bishop from Interamma, or a martyr in the Roman province of Africa?  It depends on who you read.  And it's an East/West kinda thing too, since the Eastern church celebrated his feast on July 30th, my sister's birthday.

The one people want to believe is the Valentine is from Rome, the priest who married a Christian couple or couples when such was against the law. He is seen as the patron of affianced couples.  Hence, love.  The traditions associated with "Valentine's Day", documented in Geoffrey Chaucer's Parliament of Foules and set in the fictional context.

OK, how does this help you in your walk with God today or in your marriage  or your home life?  Will you be more ready to forgive today?  Will it make you more loving to your neighbors and workers, but just your sweetie??  Will you treat her as well tomorrow?

Rejoice in the faithful lives of the Valentines, and live yours to the glory of Almighty God.

Both you and God know how it's 'working'.  Enjoy the day!


Monday, February 7, 2011

The Caregiver

Having only understood this from the “other seat”, as it were, there are still things I can say.  Thank you, Ann!

Number one, I would NOT be here had it not been for the careful and faithful care of my wife Ann.  Over these last ten years, she did it all without complaint, while rearing children and all the other things at the same time.  Talk about keeping "all the balls moving".  It IS a juggling act, plus with sinful personalities to boot, without the addition of a stroke.

The night before of my stroke, I had told her of a strange headache I’d had.  She suggested we go to the ER then.   I said, “If it gets worse...”  It did.  OY!  At 4 am, my brain woke me up, and I knew something very bad was happening.  Ann all but jumped out of bed and was down the stairs to the car ASAP.  I wasn’t that fast.  We got to the ER quickly.

She visited me every day, both when I was in Santa Rosa (and hour and a half’s drive) and in the Rehab at Mercy Sacramento (only 45 min. drive :-)  She is tougher than she looks.  :-)  I have told many that my wife lived her marriage vows with my stroke ("...for better, for worst, in sickness and in health...").  Never pausing to think of herself, but of me and our family.  I cannot thank God enough of the woman He gave to me in Ann.

Number two, caregivers need a time away from being the care-giver, and away from the object of their care.  Basically, the care-giver needs mini-vacations.  Taking care of someone, like me after my stroke or any other person going through a major physical change, is stressful, regardless of the personalities involved. 

Give the care-giver need a break.  The member of your parish, maybe you, can offer such a min-vacation to the care-giver(s) among you.  Or find a way to take that care-giver for coffee or lunch.  A break, a change.  I rejoice in the ladies of All Saints Reformed Episcopal Mission in Vacaville, CA.  They brought meals to my children most nights while I was in the hospital so that Ann could visit me.  I am forever grateful to them and their families.  There are many others who fall into that category as well.  Thank you all!

Number three: The transitions as you get better are NOT easy, or comfortable.  There are two minds in operation, two sinners.  I went from being an adult and the husband to being 'the other child', and to climbing back.  Here is a great opportunity for frustrations in other areas to rear it’s head .  She knows how to talk with me.  I am grateful to God for Ann’s talents and abilities.  Listening is a HUGE part of this equation.  Are you hearing the other properly?  Don’t go off like cheap fireworks, but ask other, gentle, searching questions.

One of the frustrations I faced, along with many post-stroke patients, is people finishing your sentences.  As you get better, the question of who does or says what changes.  That's part of getting better.

Number four: Protect your care-giver.  If our experience was unique, I wouldn’t be talking about it.  I can't tell you the number of folks who shared that same frustration.  People who thought they knew better, though not waking in 'our shoes'.  People, otherwise wonderful Christians, said horrible things about my wife...not to her or me.  NOT HELPFUL.

They are bullies-from-afar.  They had no courage to stand with her and the family, or to minister to her to  show why things ought to be done differently.  In the ‘30’s, one of the Barrymores, after reading a particularly horrible review, is said to have replied, “I take great comfort to knowing that no child in America says, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a critic.’”

I realize that there is a certain prejudice against whose who have had strokes.  A fellow pastor from the Fargo, ND area, and a stroke-overcomer, had cards printed where it said “Please be patient.  I am NOT mentally retarded, I had a stroke.”  What I wasn’t prepared for was how quickly some said truly horrible stuff about my care-giver; what she did or didn’t do, thought, said.  ARGH.  It would have been easier for me to meet them “in the school-yard after school for a fight” but life is never that simple.  Be prepared.

As quickly as I shoot at the critics, let me praise the quiet ministers of God’s grace to me, Ann, and the children.  YOU CHANGED OUR LIVES FOR THE GOOD IN SO MANY WAYS.  Thank you. 

Number five: There is NO returning.  You have no time for nostalgia.  "Getting back to normal" is a fantasy.  I advice is simply, "Live today for the glory of God"

It’s taken me 10 years to realize that.  We would not make the same decisions today we did 10 or 20 years ago.  Many times I have said that God ‘blessed me with my stroke’.  I firmly believe that.  I am now able to speak to others with whom I would otherwise be been seen as just another meddlesome priest. 

I 'helped' people head the wrong direction.  I so desperately wanted to be thought of as having beaten it all.  In truth, the stroke remains.  True, I am working to get better, but there are those days...

Why did God put you into the lives of your friends and family?  Show them Christ’s love.  Minister gently.  Rejoice in the care-givers God brought into this world...and care for them!  Pray for them today...and each day, please.

Thank you


Saturday, February 5, 2011


“Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me” (Matthew 18:3–5).

What sets us apart as “a Christian”?  Christ told us to be converted, and become children.

A child has no problem knowing father or mother, and being comforted in their arms.  A child knows, till they become teenagers, to listen to them.  :-)  The church must be an humble, forgiven, childlike people. 

Peter asked the Lord how often we ought to forgive our brethren.  Jesus' exact quote is “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (St. Matthew 18:22, KJV)  Jesus wasn’t hoping to hit 490 times, but rather an on-going attitude of forgiveness.

The word naive comes to mind.  One dictionary said, “having or marked by a simple, unaffectedly direct style reflecting little or no formal training or technique”.  It is childlike and naive to forgive again.  Especially when “we know better”.  Yeah, sure.

Don't tell me I'm hopelessly naive.  Not nearly as often as I wish.  But, I thank you.

Maybe we need to be a lot more naive, and less worldly-wise in dealing with others.  Husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbors and church members.  How childlike (not childish) are you? 

And maybe this is the kind of conversion we have seen too little of.  Ya think?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Unreasonable faith...

I subscribe to a blog written by author/business thinker Sean Godin.  In today’s edition, it’s entitled, “Unreasonable” (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/02/unreasonable.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fsethsmainblog+%28Seth%27s+Blog%29&utm_content=Yahoo!+Mail), and he begins with “It's unreasonable to get out of bed on a snow day, when school has been cancelled, and turn the downtime into six hours of work on an extra credit physics lab.”.  Or...

“It's unreasonable for a trucking company to answer the phone on the first ring.”

Or my favorite, “It's unreasonable to expect a doctor's office to have a pleasant and helpful front desk staff.”

He ends the blog saying “Fortunately, the world is filled with unreasonable people. Unfortunately, you need to compete with them.”

Often we use the verse about the "reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).  For some, that means a conversational faith with little or no action.  Christ calls us to an active faith, and I'm suggesting that's unreasonable

So, what are the unreasonable things about how you live out your faith?  I started thinking in terms of the church of Jesus Christ...and then narrowed the focus to my reasonable/unreasonable faith. 

Are you a member of an unreasonable parish?  Really?  What makes it so?  How can you make it more "unreasonable"?

How about YOUR faith?  It’s a matter of what it takes to show Jesus in you.  So, what unreasonable thing are you doing? 

In the 21st Century, simply showing up on Sunday is considered, by some, a huge sacrifice for the faith.  Sadly, in America, that’s way too reasonable.

The Beatitudes are unreasonable.

The Summary of the Law is unreasonable.

Intercessory prayer is unreasonable.  Checking up on the prayer requests are equally unreasonable.

Ministry outside your age group or in a mission is unreasonable.

Christ continuing to love me (knowing me as I do) is unreasonable.  But He does.  I am His brother.

Maybe what I am suggesting is you, going out into the world, doing something "unreasonable" for Christ’s sake, and glory.

Make it the best day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Singing and saying...the familiar

For me, after the stroke, the best things I tried, were the things that were most familiar.

I have often asked people the question, "Which is THE most familiar song in English" (since I can only sing a few songs in other languages :-).  The answer is "Happy birthday to you".  As badly as we sometimes sing (butcher?) it, there's no question about the words or the timing.  It's SO familiar, we don't need to hand out the lyrics at somebody's birthday.  We just sing it.  I've use it helping other stroke overcomers.  Its a first step.

What other things are THAT familiar at 'the ready'?  Yep.

Children's songs.  Even when you're as old as dirt, many of them come right to mind.  For me, it's "I've been workin' on the railroad".  I knew I was getting better when I could sing the melody with the CD.  The Disney Corporation put together a multi-CD set called "Children's Favorite Songs".  I have the first three CD's, but I know of at least one more.

If you can find CD's of Sing-along-the Mitch (Miller), it's easy and fun.  You will be be singing with the guys quite quickly.  Great fun.

OK...what else?  How about prayer?  Do you know the Lord's Prayer?  I've been in weddings where the congregants aren't of the same parish, liturgical tradition, or religion, yet most can recite the Lord's Prayer.  Re-learn the words, timing, and practice out-loud with others.

How 'bout John 3:16?  How many Bible verses did you learn as a child?  Were  you part of a Christmas program where you and the other children recited Luke 2:1-20.  How about the 23rd Psalm?, Or Psalm 1, 24, 27, 46, 51, 5, 96, 100? 

Let me suggest you relearn the Bible portions through the King James version because of the sheer beauty of the words.

Don't tell me you have nothing to re-learn.  Also, we can get these and others through other media.  I love my iPod, and have loaded it with songs and lectures, sermons, etc.  My favorite CD is from the Huddersfield Choral Society, and their CD is called "The Hymns Collection".  IMO, I sang myself back through those hymns.  Use your favorites though, not mine. 

The idea is the familiar.  As an Anglican, I use the Book of Common Prayer, and it is very familiar.  It's beautiful and worshipful. Look into it.  Use the 1928 version (or the 1662), and enjoy.  I do!

These are all things you can do without going back to a hospital or a doctor's office.  At home, with a CD, or an iPod, or a friend helping. 

THE FAMILIAR!  To move you (and me) further forward.

Try it...and God bless!


Therapy? Therapies

After my stroke, I found that singing helped in gaining the new pathways our brains have from thought to speech.  I am sold on it as a therapy.  But it’s one among many.

Walking, even up and down the stairs at home was wonderfully therapeutic - since the first 6 weeks of my recovery at home was down stairs, in my family room turned into a bedroom.  A move forward.

I can still remember my 6 year old’s comment when I got to the top of the stairs for one of the first times since leaving for the hospital.  In a very matter-of-fact way he said, “Big deal, Dad.  You’ve been doing that since you were a little boy.”

It was a big deal to me.

Part of the reason I couldn’t do that ascent was my fear.  Making “the climb” up the stairs was a huge barrier to progress, whether it is seen as such by a 6 year old boy, or an adult.

The larger question is whether we are willing to stop at the top of the stairs.

For those living s a stroke overcomer, there are other therapies to help.  Water, in terms of the warmth of a pool, of moving, etc.  If your town has a pool...

Don’t be discouraged that it’s too little, too slow.  I remind myself of the discouragement of Elijah, hiding in a cave, and God spoke to him in that “still, small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-13).  God knows our discouragements, and speaks to us in a voice we can hear and understand.

Move forward, and do great and mighty things!