Mid Day Office

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Gracious God,
I seem wrong inside,
off kilter and slightly askew,
Because I fear seeing my mess,
I step back from what I feel,
I turn my eyes from what I see,
And wait for my soul’s nausea to pass,
While I hum, “I shall not be moved”,
You place me in the path,
To be, to live, to take,
An unavoidable step forward,
Where I wander freely,
Where I no longer care,
About the burden,
Of being wrong,
On this path,
For these reasons,
Narrow becomes wide,
And my ordered mess,
Becomes alive,
Despite the fear,
And my feet,
Which I’ve only shuffled,
Down the street.

Thank you,

Amen.

What Prayer Is Not

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Prayer is Not…

1. Self-help speak.

2. A way to fix things.  God’s Grace is the “fixer”. Prayer may reassure us of Grace but it isn’t Grace.  Prayer doesn’t fix things, Grace does.

3. An invitation we extend for God to meet us at our lowest emotional convenience.

4. Therapy with an unseen counselor.

5. Always about words.  Silence works wonders in Prayer.

6. Confined to worship.

7. Like a movie, with a start, stop, and pause button.  It really never stops because we simply join in to what God’s already doing.

8. A half full or half empty thing, it is a glass which can always be refilled.

9. What you probably think it is.

10. Paper, Words, or Thoughts alone. Presence is also Prayer.

–Richard Bryant

It’s Been A Smelly Week On Silver Lake

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It’s been a cooler week on Silver Lake with tourists returning and autumn peeking around the corner. Despite this being the last full week of summer, down at the Village Gas Hut, home of the Over Laid Back Eggs, new air conditioning units were just put in.  I don’t know quite what this means.  Like some sort of HVAC ground hog, Sean knows six more weeks of hot weather is coming down the pike.  Six more weeks of air conditioning, while tough on the electric bills, means we’re going to be alive.  A dear sister in Christ posted a note on a church Facebook page early Friday morning.  Out of the goodness of her heart, she wanted both to warn and tell us of an impending 6.6 level earthquake of the coast of South Carolina on September 25th.  North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia are scheduled for divine demolition.  God, so this woman thinks, is angry about something in these three states.   I too wish our college football programs were stronger but heavenly temper tantrums to wipe out the human race?  Sean is too shrewd a businessman to invest in new air conditioning if we’re about to fall into the sea.   I’m with Sean.

The cats came and went through Chairman Meow’s House of Feline Fixing and Finery.  Whether the cats share an email list, Facebook account, or someone forced them to come; I haven’t heard.  A couple of times a year, Chairman Meow’s House of Feline Finery stops selling collars, costumes, and that fancy litter imported from Buxton.  For forty-eight hours Meow’s becomes an impromptu veterinary surgery.  Fixing Felines is like learning how to make Over Laid Back Eggs; it is an art form.  You need to know what you’re doing.  That’s why people with college degrees, who wear shoes on a regular basis, and carry fancy titles after their names are recruited for this most delicate of tasks.  Cats, particularly those with legs, hair, eyes, ears, and souls do not like to be fixed.  If interviewed, most cats will tell you, “We are not broken”.   Brokenness, like beauty, is in the eye of the one doing the holding.

Time seems to pick up as the week go on.  Monday moves like Molasses Creek.  Tuesdays are, well, Tuesdays.  Who does anything much on Tuesdays?  I spent the better part of the evening talking about lighting at church.  Despite what you may believe, churches aren’t supposed to be dark.  We like them to be well lit with energy efficient bulbs.  Finding the right light, under which to sing or preach by may make all the difference in a worship service.  Why do you think the Dark Ages were so dark?  Intellectual darkness comes from physical darkness.

On Friday, I came to work as I always do.  I walked through the door marked “office” and then entered a second door also marked “office”.  The redundancy is for my benefit.  I’ve been known to get lost in churches.  The journey from the door one to door two takes me from the world of golf carts, traffic, and noise into the realm of religious reflection.  It didn’t quite work that way this morning.  The hallway, the entire back of the church, smelled like poop, waste, excrement, dung, feces, fertilizer, droppings, discharge, evacuation, stool, and generalized external defilement.  Old churches smell but not like this.  Something was way off.

The bathroom, located next to my office, had been defiled.  It, and I use the term loosely, was everywhere (and I do mean everywhere).  The first thing I did was make a phone call:

“Hey, it’s me”.  My wife is on the other end.  She’s my one phone call when I encounter poop covered rooms.

“The bathroom is covered with poop.”  This means I don’t want to clean it up.  My statement is really a question.  Will you come do it for me?

“What do you want me to do about it?”  This means the girls are coming home for lunch and I’m on my own.

“I’ll figure it out myself.”  This means my next steps are to find gloves, cleaning supplies, and to talk to Jesus.  I will need to come terms with this reality:  I will vomit sometime in the next few minutes.

What I told Jesus:

Dear Lord,

You have got to be kidding me.

This is crazy.  I didn’t sign up for this.

Who makes this kind of mess?  So, what are you going to teach me about Grace?

I hope whoever did this sees a gastroenterologist because they need it.

Amen, I’m going to be sick.  Be right back.

Richard

 

Might That I

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Might that I,
Sometime between,
The fading night,
And twilight’s shattered seams,
Seek a moment,
To say,
If I may,
These words;
Be they kind enough,
A worthy suffice,
One scattered few,
Indelicately placed,
Around the air,
Above the windows,
Beneath the pews,
Where they hover,
Round Holy spots,
A place to be,
Unseen,
Heard in silence,
By You and we,
I think I will.
Find a way,
To cobble a phrase,
And try to pray.
Amen.

–Richard Bryant

I Need To Be Found (Luke 15:1-10)

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Gracious God,
We do not know we are lost.
Nor are we aware of a need to be found.
Our existence,
Defined by our soul’s incapacity to see,
Being marked only by our presence.
This cannot last.
I cannot remain unfound as
One wandering among nothing.
Yet, I am,
Lost and do not know.
Now,
A self-misplaced,
Single-separated,
Detached,
Joy ripped from Grace,
Waiting to be found,
Reunited with the forgotten,
By someone who cares enough,
To look.
Amen.

–Richard Bryant

To Connect the Disordered (A Prayer)

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Gracious God,
Restore my soul aright, but not at ease.
May I be comforted and called,
to serve, wait, and simply be.
With your people,
In this place,
A kingdom now,
Which readily awaits,
With overwhelming needs,
May we reset the fractures,
Bring healing to the wounded,
Connect the disordered,
Listen to one another’s pain,
As we keep your love,
Alive.

Amen

–Richard Bryant

Shalom To You-Prayer

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God’s peace is not a catchphrase, a cliché, or a phrase to throw around lightly. God’s peace creates a sacred bond between the person offering peace and they who receive the gift. O God, your peace is the most important gift in the world. It is the most precious thing we can receive and then share with someone who is hurting, broken, in pain, or walking a path of sorrow. Tangible yet immeasurable, easily said but hard to grasp, Shalom does what we alone cannot do. God’s peace leads us to places we would never journey on our own. It is like a road sign we see and hear, urging to go just a few paces further.  Yet the further we travel, O God, we realize the gift of shalom is where we are and where we received the words. Shalom is here and now. Shalom is never something we can hold on to. We say, “Shalom to You”. We receive it and we must, in turn, give it away to someone else. God’s peace is not ours alone. Our pain is not ours alone, it is shared by God. As we share our pain, may we now share God’s peace.

Amen.

Poetry in Response to the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-13)

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Jesus,
You heard what was said,
John the B,
Is now dead,
I got so much,
I need to say,
Is God listening?
You know how to pray,
Teach me the words,
Y’all used to lay,
Up on God’s heart,
Not the cheesy clichés,
Simple words from the start,
God’s name is holy,
A coming kingdom,
Was Herod’s bitter pill,
Ain’t no euphemisms,
A verbal exorcism,
Of strung together empty words,
Doing God’s will,
Don’t look like nothing I’ve seen:
On Earth,
Is that what I read?
“Pray for my daily bread?”
Surely you do not mean,
While my bread is mine,
Vengeance is thine?
My enemies get off clean?
This prayer,
Is more than it seems.

–Richard Bryant

A Collect of Mercy and Compassion for Dallas

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Let us pray,

Almighty God, bestow upon us grace so we may cast away this pall of darkness. Visit upon us, in this hour of great humility a spirit of confession and reconciliation. Give us a peace which this world cannot give. Release us from the bondage of hate and the chains of history so our hearts may be mended and our malice assuaged. Forgive the offense of our pride and our failure to love our neighbors as we have been loved by you.

Through Jesus the Christ, Amen.