Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thankful Thursday - Happy New Year

My husband and I agree that 2015 has been the fastest year of our lives.
It has absolutely flown past.
How is it that we are at December 31st already?
Whether or not we can explain it, here we are.
Looking back at a full and busy old year.
Staring a new year in the face.

There is so much to be grateful for.
People. Places. Names. Faces. Stories.
Meals. Trips. Clothing. Gifts.
Opportunities. Joys. Anniversaries. Birthdays.
Protection. Provision. Purpose.
We survived another year. I survived another year.
In good health. In good company. In good spirits.
It hasn't been the easiest year or the happiest year of my life.
But I made it. We made it.

As I sit here pondering this year that is coming to its end,
I remember many moments of sorrow, sadness and tears.
The horrible shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
The death of my Spanish mother, Marta.
The untimely death of my former neighbor's husband.
Too many kanswer diagnoses for too many people I know.
School shootings. Movie theaters. Malls. Playgrounds.
Innocent people gunned down, killed, or otherwise deceased without explanation or just cause.
Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray.
The refugee crises - in Africa, in Europe, right here in the Americas. People are on the move, running from torture and suffering.
Catastrophic floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other (un)natural disasters.
The rise of Trumpism in our country and the violence and racism and prejudice that his fear-mongering has unleashed.
Too many other sorrows to name.

I remember reasons for joy and gratitude too.
The birth of my first grand-nephew, Myles.
Two more on the way - all three of my oldest brother's children were expecting babies at the same time. One has arrived - and two more will arrive in February and April.
I started seminary.
The "royal" wedding of my dear friend's only daughter.
We hosted the bridal shower for another friend's daughter.
Another fantastic trip to Spain.
I've had two chances to preach and several other chances to teach at my church.
Hugs, tears, laughter and stories with people I met at the Loaves and Fishes pantry.
My daughter emerged from a terrible car accident without serious injury.
The confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina state house.
Reading so many fantastic books and hearing one of the authors speak at Davidson - TaNehisi Coates is an inspiring and a challenging writer and thinker.
President Obama survived another year without an assassination attempt by a deranged fear-fueled racist. (Believe me, I am not alone in marveling that he has lasted this long without coming under attack.)
I got to sit and talk to Cornel West about racism and injustice and history and the future- like old friends.
New friends, mentors, pastors, and soul sisters.
Being called "clergy" for the first time.
An absolutely fantastic, life-changing, marriage-rebuilding week in Hilton Head in September.
I turned 50!
Too many joys to name.

And there are also the shining moments that emerged from the dark moments.
Getting started with We Walk Together after We Need to Talk after the shooting in Charleston.
Getting to know an amazingly funny and determined and courageous young mom not long after she was diagnosed with breast kanswer - and being able to walk some of her journey with her. She is kanswer-free now and on vacation with her spectacularly beautiful family.
Walking another friend through the pain of deciding whether to remarry after a difficult divorce.
Watching two young people I love emerge stronger than ever from challenges faced at college.

I am thankful this Thursday to have made it to this Thursday.
There are many, many people who were around when 2015 began, but who are not alive today.
I am thankful for the gift of life itself, the gift of breath, the gift of a body that still seems to know how to keep me alive and active.

I am grateful that you are here with me, reading, thinking, finding reasons to be grateful for the blessings in your own life.

I am enormously grateful for this day, for this moment, for this opportunity to look back and look ahead. With joy. With hope. With peace. With love.
Thanks be to God.
My deepest thanks.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thankful Thursday - Christmas Eve

If the story I've read in the gospels of Matthew and Luke is true,
if God came into the world as a newborn baby boy,
through the body of a teenaged girl,
into a small nation dominated by a larger nation,

if Love was born in a stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago,
Love that touched lepers,
Love that fed the hungry,
Love that raised the dead,
Love that healed the broken, the wounded, the bent over, and the bleeding,
Love that opened the mouths of the mute and the ears of the deaf,
Love that delivered the oppressed,
Love that turned over the tables of the money-obsessed,
Love that challenged the powerful to become people of compassion,
Love that stood between the accused and her accusers,
Love that calmed storms,
Love that sat with and talked with outcasts,
Love that welcomed women and children,
Love that washed the feet of the one who would betray him and the one who would deny him and all the ones who would abandon him,
Love that died and Love that rose again,
Love that prays for me and for you and for all people,

If that eternal Love,
that tender Love,
that fierce Love,
that truth-telling Love,
that unprecedented Love,
that prodigal Love,
that irresistible Love,
that incomprehensible Love,
that amazing Love,
that newborn Love,
if that is the Love we are preparing to celebrate tonight and tomorrow,
then today is THE most thankful of Thursdays.
Thanks be to God.

Merry Christmas!

********
While preparing to teach Sunday School last week, I rediscovered this song.
And discovered this video to go along with the song.
The scenes from the video were taken from the movie, "The Nativity Story."

A Baby Will Come

The kings of this world
Have torn it apart
But we can take heart
A baby will come

To the hungry and meek
To those who grieve
To the broken, in need
A baby will come

We have known pain
We’ve felt death’s sting
God, help us believe
This baby will come

The angel appeared
Said do not fear
For peace is here
A baby will come

The advent of life
Let hope arise
We’ve our Savior and Christ
The Baby has come

We’ve waited so long
God, for Your mighty arm
May our doubts ever calm
For the Baby has come

The proud will be low
The humble will know
They’re valued and loved
For the Baby has come

Cause the kings of this world
Won’t have the last word
That, God, is Yours
For the Baby has come

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What's that sound?

So I was in my kitchen one day late last week.
Suddenly I heard a loud roaring sound, like a chainsaw.
A rumbling, revving chainsaw.
Moving back and forth.
Very close to my house.

It sounded like it was inside my house.
But the only people here at home were my daughter and I.
And she and I don't ever use a chainsaw in the house.
Neither she nor I have never used a chainsaw.
We don't own a chainsaw.

I turned my head so I could gauge the direction the sound came from.
Above me from the direction of the neighbor's house to the south.
But it's closer than their house.

I found myself repeating the following questions -
What's that sound?
What could possibly be making that sound?

Just as suddenly, I knew exactly what it is.
It was the sound of our vacuum cleaner.
Being used upstairs - while I was downstairs.

I think it was the first time I've ever heard the vacuum cleaner being used when I wasn't the one using it.

How sad and funny and revealing is that???

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thankful Thursday - Prayer for a world in labor

One week ahead of Christmas Eve. One week ahead of remembering, focusing on, pondering the birth of the baby that changed the world. The birth of that baby on a night when there was no room for them in the inn. Born to a teenager. I've spend a lot of time over a long period of time thinking about what that night, that holy night, that painful night, that frightening night must have been like for Mary and Joseph and their newborn miracle.

Tonight, I heard Amanda tell a story of labor and delivery. Of waiting. Of fear. Of trust.
Of wishing for a predictable, controllable delivery. And how rarely that happens.
Contractions. Pain. Waiting. Hoping. Relief.
After a discussion of Amanda's story, I had the chance to close our time together in prayer.
For the second time, I wrote out my prayer.
For the second time, when it was time for me to read the prayer aloud, I had to leave out parts of it due to time constraints.
For the second time, I will share the whole prayer here.

********************

Creator God, Waiting God,
Laboring God, Delivering God,
You who came up with the amazing, inexplicable miracle of pregnancy, 
we give you thanks tonight for the gift of life. 
Thank you for hospitals and doctors and nurses and midwives and birthing centers.
We thank you for medical insurance and payment plans and the willingness of medical 
centers to care for women and their babies even if they don’t have insurance.
Thank you for mothers and fathers and babies and siblings and family.

Please be with us, Lord, as we wait, as we wait for answers and resolutions.
As we wait for healing and restoration, for reconciliation and transformation. 
Please be with us as we wait, as we labor, and as we deliver all that is ours to deliver.

We ask, Lord, that you be with us at times of miscarriage and stillborn. 
At those moments of agonizing loss, pain, sorrow, and grief, 
at times when we think we cannot handle another contraction,
yet another piece of bad news about yet another tragedy, 
be with us even then, Lord. Especially then. 

On second thought, Lord, we ask, not that you be with us, 
but rather that you help us sense that you are already with us. 
You have promised to never leave us nor forsake us
so we don’t need to ask you to be with us. 
Help us, please, to feel your presence, to hear your voice, and to follow you. 
Help us to know that we can grip your strong hand and cry out when the pain hits,
and help us to trust you enough to lean back in your everlasting, outstretched arms.

As we leave this place tonight, please guide us out in this dark and cold night,
in this world that is groaning, in labor, and racked with pain.
Help us to be people of peace and calm.
Help us to be doulas for hearts and souls that are suffering.
help us to be caregivers of the hurting and the wounded
and co-laborers with you in your work of bringing new life into the world. 

Lord Jesus, please deliver us from fear and hatred.
Please deliver us from our addiction to ease and comfort.
Please deliver us from evil.
Please deliver us from this world of darkness into the kingdom of your light,
your joy, your peace, your hope and your love.
And please help us in turn to want to accompany you and each other as you deliver others.

Thank you, Lord God, for your patience as you wait for us, as you wait with us,
and as you wait in us.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being born, for being delivered into this world through 
your blessed mother, Mary, so that you in turn could die and deliver us. 

Thank you again for the gift of life, for the gift of the life of this community,
and for the gift of life that you came to earth to deliver in person. 

May your joy fill us, heal us, and surround us, and send us out into the world
with the good news of who you are and how you love us. 
May your peace surpass all that we understand.
May our hope be found in you, come from you, and flow from you into us and 

out into the world you were born to save. 


After we recited The Lord's Prayer together, 
I said this:
Go forth with joy.
Go forth with peace.
Go with God.
And have a very Merry Christmas. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's my party

Fifty years.
I keep saying it.
I keep shaking my head.
I keep giving thanks.

Today is also baby Bean's 2nd birthday.
And Evelyn's birthday. I think she's five today... or is four?
It's also the third anniversary or the horrors of Sandy Hook.
My heart and mind have spent a lot of time there today.
With Karen and her family and the schools and families there.
There is beauty. There is joy. There is gratitude.
And there is sorrow, sadness and anger.

That's life.
This good life.
This tear-soaked life.
This life of friends and family,
love and learning,
resentment and frustration,
fear, doubts, and questions.
It's all in all of us.

But we are here.
I am here.
I am happy.
I am at peace.
I am so very grateful.
Most of the time.

At the same time, the stories from Sandy Hook and Charleston and San Bernardino and
Paris and Baltimore and Kenya and so many other war-torn, dangerous, violent, lonely,
frightening places remind me to give thanks for the blessings,
to stand up and speak up for those who cannot,
to give time, energy, money, and my presence to those in need,
and to hold on to hope and joy and love when despair, sorrow, and hate threaten to overwhelm me.

It's my party today.
I have danced.
I have cried.
I have laughed.
I have opened beautiful, thoughtful cards and gifts.
I have eaten delicious and nutritious and also not-so-nutritious foods.
I have been hugged and kissed and called and messaged and loved today.
I have read and journaled and cut and glued and planned and downloaded.
I have marveled at the generosity of the people I am blessed to call my friends and family

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thanks be to God.

This is what I posted on Facebook after reading nearly 100 birthday messages.

There's an old song of the church that begins with the line, "How can I say thanks for the things you have done for me? Things so undeserved, yet you gave to prove your love for me. The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude..." That song is directed towards God - but today, I am gonna appropriate those first lines and turn them towards all of you, my friends and family, pastors and church family, former colleagues, teachers, students, and classmates, all current companions on this amazing journey that is my life - in the US, Spain, Haiti, Italy, Ecuador, Norway, India, and wherever Kevin, Claudio and Natalia are at the moment (I'm crazy jealous of all the travel so many of you get to experience...) I am enormously blessed to call you all my friends, and to be making this life pilgrimage with you. Your friendship, companionship and love sustain me in ways you cannot imagine. As I enter the next age and stage of my life, I forge ahead with joy, hope, gratitude, and so much love in my heart. Gracias a todos vosotros. Que bendicion es teneros en mi vida, en mi camino y en mi corazon. Abrazos fuertes a mis amigos. Due baci per voi, Graziella e Barbara. Grazie mille.


Then my amazing friends and family posted 50 more messages. 
How can I say thanks, indeed? 

My good friend, Kirk Hall, used to pray a prayer very similar to this one often at church. 

Life is short
And we do not have much time
to gladden the hearts of those
who journey the way with us.
So be swift to love,
and make haste to be kind.
And the blessing of God,
who made us,
who loves us,
and who travels with us 
Be with you now and forever.  Amen
(Adapted from a blessing by Henri Frederic Amiel (1827-1881)



Thank you all for gladdening my heart today.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Completing 50 Years

When expressing age in Spanish, you use the verb "cumplir." It means to complete.
So instead of saying, "I'm turning 50," you say, "I'm completing 50 years." Cumplo 50 aƱos.
That way of explaining it makes much more sense because you don't turn one year old until the end of that first year - hence you are completing one year.

I am less than half hour away from completing 50 years.
In my 50 years -
I have laughed.
I laughed at Oprah's graduation speech when I graduated from Wesleyan University with a Master's degree.

I have wept.
I wept when my father died in March of 2001 and when the towers fell in September of 2001 and when I sat at that cafe in Orvieto, Italy, writing in my journal a month after that.

I have traveled.
I have seen the Grand Canyon and the Eiffel Tower.

I have taught.
I taught Spanish to seventh and eighth graders in the same classroom where I took my first Spanish class as a seventh grader.

I have learned.
I learned how to drive a stick shift during my senior year in college when two friends of mine gave me the keys to their pick up truck and told me to go out and figure out how to drive it on my own.

I have given birth.
My daughter was born in a hospital and my son in a birthing center. Now they are 22 and 19.

I have fallen in love.
I fell in love with Madrid the day I arrived back in August of 1986.

I have read.
One of my favorite things to do is pull out an old journal and read accounts of where I have been and what I have done on this life journey of mine.

I have written.
I have kept a blog for more than ten years, journaled for more than thirty years, and have completed the first draft of my book. (Please send prayers and good vibes to me to edit it in these next few months.)

I have prayed.
Every day, I give thanks for so many blessings. Every day, I ask for peace and mercy for those who suffer. Every day, I ask for help and strength to do all that is mine to do and to release all that is not mine to do. Every day, I spend time in silence with God and with myself.


In these 50 years, I have been broken hearted beyond all I could ever have asked or imagined.
While on my kanswer journey three years ago, as I celebrated my birthday with my children at Starbucks, an incomprehensible tragedy took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Sorrow beyond sorrow. I pray that the families of all of those victims will be comforted tomorrow. The shooting at the church in Charleston this past summer. The earthquake in Japan. The girls taken by Boko Haram. I pray for peace in our fear-filled, violent, and our gun-crazed country and world.

In these 50 years, I have been blessed beyond all I could ever have asked or imagined. Even on my worst days, the day my father died, the two times my daughter was admitted to the hospital, the day I heard those dreaded words - "We found kanswer" - even on those days, blessings and grace abounded. Excellent medical care. The comfort of family and friends. Hope, always hope. Faith. And on my best days, joy prevails. Countless safe trips in my car. Walks with friends. Trips overseas. Solo adventures. Silent retreats. Sharing poetry. Being loved. Being remembered.


Completing 50 years.
Grateful grateful grateful grateful.
Thank you for walking this journey with me.
Thanks be to God.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Final Thankful Thursday of my 40s

This has been a week of "lasts." This is the last week in my 40s. The last Monday, the last Tuesday, the last Wednesday, and today, the last Thursday of my 40s.

I am thankful for forty nine years and three hundred sixty one days of life, each one a gift.
I am thankful that I have arrived at this moment in my life, healthy, happy and at peace.
I am thankful that the challenges I've faced in these 50 years have made me more grateful, not more bitter.

I am thankful for this life journey I have walked all these years.
I am thankful for this poem fragment written by Ruth Forman.

Let the journey continue
let us speak the same language in our many tongues
may the path lead us home may the journey lead us home
in faith child let it be
in faith mother let it be
in faith pop pop  
in faith sister
brother my brother let it be let it be
we the sky we the laughter of the rivers
we know day we know dawn we know evening
pray we know ourselves
pray I find myself in you
pray I find me in God
then I know where I'm going and feet to get there

The journey long y'all the journey long
but we got company
pray we find it know it like our hands
"The Journey"


The journey long, y'all.
Thank you, brave one, for walking with me through my moments of fear.
Thank you, sister of my soul, friend of my heart, for being a companion on my journey.
Thank you, teacher, pastor, mentor, for guiding me on this path towards being a pastor.
Thank you, generous, kind, loving friend, for showing up for every treatment.
Thank you, doctor, nurse, chiropractor, and physical therapist, for steering me towards a healthier way of life.
Thank you, prayer warriors, near and far, for interceding on my behalf before the throne of mercy and grace.
Thank you, activists, speakers, and peacemakers, for standing up against inequality and racism.

Thank you, Lord, for these and all my blessings on this, the last Thursday of my 40s.

Monday, December 07, 2015

What is going on in this country?

Gun violence that is out of control. A persistent refusal to acknowledge that something has to change. That the laws have to change. It should not be harder to get a dog than a gun. And nobody needs to own an assault rifle. Nobody. Ever.

Violent, racist, xenophobic, hate-filled speech from Donald Trump, who claims to want to be our President. There are thousands of people who support his horrific rhetoric. He has given a loud, public voice to the racism and fear and ignorance that this country has tried to claim no longer existed here.

The president of Liberty University encouraged his students to carry weapons in order to "end those Muslims." Liberty University calls itself a Christian college. Christian as in "Christ" - the one who told us to turn the other cheek. To love our enemies. The one we call Prince of Peace. The one who never took up a sword and defend himself against anyone.


Often when I hear stories of people who claim to know and love God advocate violence or hatred or fear or discrimination, I think back to the 1990s when thousands of people wore WWJD bracelets.
Those letters stood for this question: What would Jesus do?
If we see someone homeless or in need, we should ask ourselves: What would Jesus do?
If we hear of someone who is sick or lonely or dying, we should ask ourselves, What would Jesus do?If we see injustice happening, what would Jesus do.
Ostensibly, we were supposed to respond with answers like: Feed them. Visit them. Pray for them. Welcome the stranger. Be present. Be generous. Forgive. Speak up for the downtrodden and needy.
Crazy stuff like that. Radical stuff like that. Revolutionary stuff like that. Jesus-y stuff like that.

What would Jesus do in response to what is going on in this country.
I have a few ideas, but I don't know exactly what Jesus would do or say.
However I do know this: Jesus would not arm himself in order to kill the newcomer or the stranger.
Jesus would not tell the young people in the synagogue or the town to arm themselves either.
Jesus would not vandalize or burn down mosques or churches or homes.
Jesus would not build walls to keep desperate people out.


What is going on in this country?
What am I going to do about it?
What are you going to do?

Help Wanted

This is the last week of my 40s.
That's right - a week from today, I turn 50.

How can this be?
How will this be?

Incomprehensible.
Unfathomable.

I have no desire or interest in living until I'm 100, so I won't say that I am entering the second half of my life. I suspect that I entered the second half of my life sometime in the last ten to twelve years.


I am asking for your help.

From those of you who are adept at self-care and celebration, I need help in figuring out ways to celebrate, to remember, to enjoy this last week of this decade of my life.
What can I do this week to celebrate 50 years?
What can I be looking back at and recalling?
What can I be journaling about?

From those of you ahead of me on the journey, I need help in figuring out what I should look forward to in my 50s.
What have you enjoyed most about your 50s and 60s and beyond?
What makes the 50s better than the 30s and 40s?

From those of you not yet this far along the road of life, I need help with not giving in and giving over to some unnecessary definition of being middle aged. Help me to stay young.
What do I not have to give up in this new decade?

Forty-three days ago, I began counting down "50 days until 50" in my journal.
I have thought and written about friends and places, songs and stories,
hairstyles and fashion styles, schools and jobs, trips and moves in my lifetime.
I have reread old journals and flipped through photos and postcards and letters from earlier in my life.
I have read texts and emails and letters from dear ones, past and present.
I have followed recipes, eaten favorite foods, and recalled excellent meals I've enjoyed.
I have been grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.

I have also remembered losses, heartbreaks, rejections, abandonment.
I have also remembered bad decisions, bad choices, and bad friendships.
I have also remembered being afraid, being angry, and being confused.
I have also remembered kanswer, chemotherapy, and surgery.
I have also remembered falls and burns and scrapes and scars.
I have also remembered weeping, wanting to run away, and wishing it could all be different or better or something other than whatever "it" was.
Still, even with these less joyful memories, I am grateful.
Because, thus far, I have survived every challenge I have faced.
I have learned, I have grown, I have been transformed.
I am learning. I am growing. I am being transformed.
Not always easy. Not always happy. Not always fun.
But here I am, still here, still strong, still thriving, still grateful.


I need your help, friends.
What's next?
But where and how?
When and with whom?
I am in seminary, it's true. I am taking classes and preparing to love, serve, and encourage people for the rest of my life. Can you give me ideas and suggestions of how to put all this education to use in this broken, violent, wonder-filled world?


Fifty years old.
Fifty years young.
Fifty years for which I give thanks.

"7 days until 50."

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Thankful Thursday - Another story from the road of life

Tonight, Dorothy (Dot) Counts Scoggins told her story at The Well at Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church. She recounted her experience of being the first African American girl to integrate one of the high schools here in Charlotte in 1957. Her stint at Harding High School lasted only four days - before her parents decided to withdraw her from the abuse, scorn, spitting, insults, and other forms of abuse she faced. She said that at the end of those terrible four days, she vowed that she would spend the rest of her life working so that no other student would have to go through what she was forced to endure.

The sad truth is that, by many measures, the public schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system are as segregated in 2015 as they were in 1957. Some argue that for most poor students and many students of color, the segregation that begins in the preschool years, the segregation that continues all the way through high school, perpetuates levels of poverty, underperformance, and hopelessness that affect many generations of families and communities.

Dot challenged us to join our neighbors and friends in service to our children, even if we don't have children of our own in the system. She challenged us to not get tired, to not give up, to keep working, as she has done, to mentor and tutor and walk alongside teachers, parents, and students on this exhausting journey towards an educational system that meets the needs of all of its children.

Following her story, we thanked her for her courage as a teenager and for her continued courage as a retired woman who continues to work on behalf of children that are not her own, but that belong to our entire community.

We asked questions.
We offered answers.
We listened to each other.
We challenged each other.
We shook our heads.

And then I prayed.
More accurately, I read a prayer that I had written earlier today.

Just before noon today, Lori Raible, the courageous, strong, beautiful, hopeful woman who invited me to be involved at The Well, asked (via email) if someone on the planning team would be willing to pray at the end of tonight's gathering. I immediately volunteered. She immediately accepted my willingness. Soon thereafter, as I pondered the topic for the evening, Being Tired of Being Tired, I began to pray right there at my kitchen counter. Suddenly, and for the first time ever, I felt the urge to write the prayer down. To type it up. My fingers flew across the keyboard as both the words and my tears flowed.

Because we were nearing the end of our allotted time, when I stood up to pray after Dot's story and our group's discussion, I had to leave out a few lines of the prayer I had written. Here it is in its entirety -

Lord Jesus Christ, Sweet Holy Spirit, God Almighty,
You who are strength in our weakness, 
You who are joy in our sorrow, 
You who are peace in the midst of our violence, 
we are tired tonight. 
We are tired of segregated and unequal schools for our beloved children.
We are tired of prejudice.
We are tired of poverty and homelessness.
We are tired of the shootings. 
Tired of the brutality.
We are tired of blame and scapegoating.
We are tired of fear-mongering and hate-mongering.
We are tired of loneliness, sorrow, pain, despair, and death.
We are tired of marching and protesting and pleading for fairness and justice.
We are tired of shrugging our shoulders and shaking our heads about all of this.
We are tired of having to fight the same battles over and over and over.
We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

But we know that you are our strength when we are tired.
We know that you are our healer when we are sick.
We know that you are with us in the valley of the shadow of death, 
in fire, in flood, and even at the end of our lives 
because you promised that you would be with us always.
We know that your joy is our strength.
We know that you are living water to quench our thirsty and tired souls
We know that you are light in the darkness,
that you are our peace,
that you are our righteousness,
that you are our provider.
We know that you came to bring us life, abundant life, 
even in the face of death, danger, violence, and sorrow.
Thank you, Lord, for always keeping your promises. 
Thank you for always being with us - even in the worst of times.

Tonight, Lord, we ask you for peace that passes all understanding, 
for courage to speak up and stand up against all that displeases you,
all that destroys what you have created,
and all that breaks the hearts and crushes the spirits 
of the beautiful, broken, hurting, needy people
that you came to love, serve, heal, and save. 

We ask that you give us the right words to say, fervent prayers to pray, and effective actions to complete that will reveal to the world the kingdom that you said is near us, among us and within us. 
We ask that you will help us become people of courage, love, and peace in a world characterized by fear, hatred and violence.
We ask that you transform us by the stories we have heard and the challenges we have been given this evening.

We ask that you take us from this place energized, strengthened and encouraged in new ways 
to serve our communities and each other in ways that honor you 
and help to heal the world around us.
Lord, please fill us anew with boundless hope, unspeakable joy, and deep love.
Please fill us from the well, the bottomless well of all that you are.

We ask that you empower us now with the words of the prayer you gave us when you taught us to pray, saying, "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." 


Tonight I am thankful for the community of people that gather at The Well.
Our world, our nation, our city - we are thirsty.
We need living water.
I am thankful for this group of people seeking to both receive and share the water of life.
I am thankful for the stories we tell and the stories we hear.
I am thankful for people like Dot and Lori and Joanne and Sandra and Mary and Anthony and Toni and Doriel and Erin and Kate and so many others who are walking this difficult road, who are tired of fighting the same battles over and over, but whose hope has not yet been lost.
I am thankful for their courage and their willingness to speak difficult truths to people who don't want to hear those truths.
I am thankful for the example they set for me to keep speaking difficult truths in settings where some prefer for me to sit in silence.
I am thankful for every opportunity to listen and learn - and also for every chance to speak and pray.

I am thankful for the God who has drawn us together and sends us out into this hurting world.