A Niemoller Moment circa 2017 (First They Came)

First they came for athletes calling attention to police brutality and racism. I did not speak out.
Because I was never brutalized for being white.
Then they came for the dreamers, bi-lingual achievers, and immigrant families. I did not speak out.
Because I was handed the American dream.
Then they came for anyone who disagreed with their version of reality, religion, and life. I did not speak out.
Because I could not find something to Tweet.
Then one Sunday morning, they came for me.
The church was empty, the streets were bare,
And there was no one left to speak for me.

–Richard Lowell Bryant

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Richard’s Quick Guide to Mindful Prayer (An Exercise)

1. Find a comfortable, easy, or favorite place to sit.  It shouldn’t be so comfortable you’ll fall asleep.
2. Turn your phone off and place it beyond your reach.
3. Look around. Notice what you see going on around you.  Look for the nouns (people, places, and things) and the verbs (what are the nouns doing).
4. Close your eyes.
5. Take a deep breath and exhale. Do this slowly.
6. Count to five. (1 1000, 2 1000, 3 1000 and so on)
7. Do this two more times.
8. Your eyes are still closed.
9. To this point you’ve been focused on your breathing.
10. Your eyes are still closed. Do you hear what you saw a few moments ago?
11. What do you feel? (Pay close attention to the breeze, sunshine, and where you’re sitting.)
12. Is there one word, feeling, or emotion that keeps popping up in your mind? (Eyes still closed.)  What is this word or feeling?
13. If you could think of one word to describe what you’re feeling, at this moment, to tell God something, what would that word be?
14. Remember, you are still breathing nice, easy, and, slow.
15. After you’ve thought of your two words, (a word of description and a word of communication to God) say “Amen”. Suggested time for this exercise is 5-8 minutes.  When finished, stretch your legs and grab some water.

A Prayer As We Boarded the Hand-basket

For this hand-basket we’ve boarded between the Mexican Earthquake and Hurricane Maria, we give thanks;

Let us pray:

Yesterday’s earthquake in Mexico was really bad. I understand it was on the anniversary of another large earthquake back in 1985. What’s with the symbolism? I’m not one to be easily spooked but that unnerved me. Did you see the elementary school that collapsed in Mexico City? Of course you did, you’re God. Twenty-five children were crushed to death. Puerto Rico is being battered by a hurricane, people are certain to die there. Who knows where Maria will go next? In the midst of so many hurricanes that I’ve lost count, twenty-five innocent children died in one of the most horrific means imaginable. Where are you God?

You are in the lives of the first responders, those digging through rubble, and others seeking to offer assistance. That’s the official line.  However, at this point, I’m no longer certain.  Are you (God) present or are the rescuers trying to clean up the mess you’ve allowed to be made? Are they instruments of your grace and mercy or are they responding to a world where God is absent, death is on the march, and we’ve been left to care for each other (because we’re all we’ve got)?  Given what the world’s been through in the past few months, I think those are fair questions.

It’s hard to keep saying, “God has a plan and God is good” when the bodies start piling up. You and I have a credibility issue. The good stuff attributed to you looks random at best and like playing favorites at worst. The bad stuff, which is vast and horrific, seems capricious and mean.  You may not intend it that way, but that’s how it feels.

My congregation asks: Why is God doing this?  Like it or not, for good or bad, people of faith see you involved in the world.  They also want to know why evil and suffering exist; especially if God is so good.  They’re not looking to blame homosexuality, crime, Trump, Clinton, or drug addiction on a natural disaster.  Instead, they want to make sense of their faith and the complex world around them.

Your people, the church, those who keep this thing running are exhausted. Their hope is faltering, their lives are in peril, and all we can do is respond.  At this rate, our response isn’t what it once was.  Miracles, grand, sweeping, proactive acts of God used to be your thing.  What happened?  Were those just stories?  I hope not.  Because the body count is already way too high.

Amen

Richard Lowell Bryant

A Prayer from the Heart

Dear God:

Seriously: stop this.  I can’t believe this is my second prayer like this in as many weeks.  Are you not listening? A Category 5 hurricane on the heels of Hurricane Harvey; have you lost your mind?  There is equally horrific flooding in Bangladesh, an ongoing genocide in Burma, and now you lay Irma on us?  Is this a game to see how well people tear out drywall?   This has got to stop.  Stop this now.

You are better than this.  We don’t need any more human suffering and misery.   People need to learn how to work together without being prompted by suffering, death, disaster, and human misery.  Yes, we all come together and appear to pull through.  But where did that get us after Katrina?   It got us Ferguson, Dallas, Charlottesville, Paris, and countless other places.  It led to victims of one disaster (like Sandy) being minimized by victims of another disaster (Harvey).  Are we really one big happy family?  I’m not sure we’re learning the “pulling together lesson”; if that’s what you’re trying to teach.

I listened to those who survived Harvey thank you for their lives.  The dead did not speak.  If it weren’t for you, many said, “They would be dead”.  May I ask, “Are the dead then dead because of you?”  It’s an uncomfortable question but one that bears asking.  If you saved the living did you kill the dead?  I’ve never understood the logic of who you save and why.   I don’t want to know.

Here’s an idea:  stop the storm.  Let everyone live.  Spare their homes and lives.  If I sound angry, good.  I am sick of seeing death and destruction.  Hurricanes and Stage IV cancer diagnoses are souring our relationship.  You’re usually my go to guy and right now; you seem like an absentee land lord while the Earth is going to Hell in a hand basket.  You are needed.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Richard Lowell Bryant

A Morning Prayer for the Journey

Gracious God,
You are here with me now,
In all that I am, you are my very existence,
Within your life giving presence, I acknowledge this moment;
the blessing of time to respond and reflect on the call
to love you with all my body, mind, soul and my neighbor as myself.

In these quiet spaces, where your Spirit dwells,
I confess I have not loved my neighbor or you with my whole heart.

Forgive me.

I ask for the grace to abandon my own cares.
Where I will not hear, may my deafness be healed.
Where I will not see, may my blindness be redeemed.
Where I will not walk, may your Spirit push me toward love.

Now, I embrace the gift of today. These hours before me are your grace made anew.
Yesterday’s failures, foibles, and faults are but calls to forgive ourselves and others;
to reflect your love and to gather your grace for those who need it most.

Every aspect of my life is open to you, O God. From you, nothing is hidden.
You know my fears and hopes. You are with me when I laugh and cry.
Even when I feel you are absent, you are present.
I know your love never ends.  Nothing will separate me from your love.

Bless our journey.  I am grateful for the path before me and the people along our way.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

Presence with God

Presence
It’s time to slow down. Breathe deep.
Keep your eyes open. Try to recognize that God is present.
God is here. God is present to us. God is present in all we do.
Where you go, the people you see, the words you use, the interactions;
God is present.  Are we able to make God’s presence a greater reality?

Let Go
We are holding on to the wrong things. Our hands are full of disabling emotions.
Inside our heart, we’ve stored fear, prejudices, and uncertainties.
Will we be able to see God’s presence until we let go? No, we won’t.
Now is the time to hand the broken fibers of our humanity into God’s faithful care.
Allow God to begin weaving a new life tapestry.
God is present.  Are we able to pray for freedom in God’s presence?

Awareness
We do not live as if we are fully aware of God’s love.
Are we aware that God loves us unconditionally?
God loves us for who we are, We know this.
May we tell God who we are and what we feel?
We speak to God openly and honestly.
God is present.  Are we aware of how unconditionally God loves and prays for us?

Prayer

Gracious God,

We thank you for this moment of sanctuary. We know you are present in our lives. I pray that today, we may let go of those thing which limit our awareness of your presence. Help us to be fully aware of your unconditional love. Remind us that your unconditional love extends beyond our self imposed limits on loving others.

Amen