Easter Prayer

Let us join our hearts and minds into a moment of prayer as a community of faith.

During this day of re-birth God we ask that you aide us into a place of new growth to be of maximum service to You and to our fellow. Help us past our own borders we have drawn against any other, and to be more open, more loving, more kind, more at peace with our brothers and sisters.

God, as prepare ourselves for another week of social justice and being the hands and feet for You in the world, we ask for Your strength and guidance to seek out Your will in our life. Let us prepare our space, our hearts, and our community for Sanctuary, knowing that all are God’s children. There are no borders in God’s world, only the one’s we draw on our land, in our hearts, and in our minds.

God in Your Justice and Mercy:
Hear our Prayers

Peaceful and loving God, as we witness an ever-increasing beat of the war drums against Syria, North Korea, Russia, and elsewhere around the globe…open our hearts to the mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, grandparents and orphans, all who gather in a moment of prayer as we do now, wanting peace, and love to be the way forward, so that they may feel our love and commitment to peace. May we look inward and see where we personally are beating our own war drums against a political party, an opposition issue, a neighbor who doesn’t keep their yard ‘just so’, or even our friends who don’t quite see it our way. May we set aside our own demand for being right, and look to this New Day as a way to begin anew, to release the anger, the hurt, the disdain, the pain, the anger…and embrace love, tolerance, and understanding as you have taught us.

God in Your Compassion and Mercy:
Hear our Prayers

Ever-Knowing, All-Seeing, and Eternally-Giving God, we come to you humbly grateful for the tremendous blessings that you have given to each of us individually and to us collectively as a community of faith. Let us not take for granted the warm embrace of loved ones when so many are alone, a full belly while others starve for a meal, having our needs met when so many cry out in pain and despair. May we use our gifts for the furtherance of Your light here at the corner of Second and Willetta and let it shine forth throughout the world so our beacon of hope can be carried by each one of us into our homes, our work, and every encounter with others throughout our week.

God in Your Peace and Mercy:
Hear our Prayers

Now let us take a moment in reflection and silently lift up our own concerns and prayers to God…
God, we know that You hear all of our prayers and concerns, the ones voiced within and those yet to be recognized and acknowledged.

Help us to love… just a little more,
Give of ourselves… just a little more,
Accept one another exactly as they are… just a little more,
and be a brighter beacon of your life and light…just a little more…

And the people of God say: AMEN

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Election Reflection-A Message For My Congregation

God has a plan…the plan is good…I am a part of that plan

When I woke up Wednesday morning I imagine I knew what Jonah must have felt like in the belly of the beast: it smelled bad, entrails and foulness seemed to be all-encompassing, darkness as far as the eye—couldn’t see. In the grips of fear my thoughts wandered to outlandish places:
• How could God allow this to happen?
• What will become of my Mexican brothers and sisters when their DACA expire?
• Will my marriage to my husband come into question if a conservative Supreme Court throws Marriage Equality back to a State’s Rights question?
• Will my friend with Type 1 diabetes be forced back into poverty to get on AHCCCS to be able to get the medical care she needs because private insurance won’t cover her once the pre-existing conditions of the Affordable Care Act expire in 2018?

Yes, my brothers and sisters, I was (and still am to some extent) full of fear and anxiety.
And then the still small voice of God started to penetrate my consciousness, slowly, but consistently:
God has brought me this far hasn’t He, is now the time to lose faith and believe I am going it alone?

As many of you know in graduate school I focused my studies on the 20th century American Presidency. And if there is one thing I have learned: it’s all cyclical. Now before you jump out of your pews and shout me down with expletives of how: ‘This times it’s different’ and ‘Didn’t you hear the things he said and what he has proposed’. Let me say resoundingly: YES. I did hear, and it does concern me.

But I don’t believe one man is bigger than my God, one man is not stronger than a motivated people that are speaking truth to power and standing up for Justice.

Fears of what will happen in the upcoming weeks, months, or years can be frightening, but God is found right here, in the present. I ask myself all the time, what is the next indicated thing? Can I reach out to a friend that is hurting? Lend a hand to feed a neighbor in need? Work with fellow congregants to create a sacred space to provide a safe place for those that are marginalized who will need our help now more than ever?

And I ask you this, if we live into our motto as UCC: No matter who you are, no matter where you are on your life’s journey, you are welcome here. If two people were to enter the back of our sanctuary right now, at this moment, one wearing a Hillary shirt, the other wearing a Trump shirt, would we welcome both to worship with us? Would be have compassion? Compassion-broken down means ‘with passion’. So let’s do that, live with passion.

Call on your legislator, get involved to change policy. Get active in your community: at this church, in your neighborhood, do something.

We are a gentle angry people, yes, and we are going to more than sing for our lives. We will take action.

But my friends, walk the clock back 8 years for just a moment, when the shoe was on the other foot, the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just as much fear, anger, and disillusionment was found on the other side of the political spectrum. This too shall pass…and we can make a difference in our actions, but not by spewing the same vile rhetoric we so vehemently opposed during the process. We have to be better than that. We must be better than that.

A little less than one year ago many of you came to this very house of worship and witnessed the marriage between Al and me. Most of my family was here supporting us. Most of those same family members do not have the same political views that I do. They are not racists, they are not homophobic, and they do not want to see my marriage rights taken away.

When we lump people into the ‘ALL’ category, aren’t we doing what we abhor so much when it’s done to us?

The wounds of this political season run deep, and we need time to heal. Everyone has a right to process the grief, pain and loss in their own time and at their own pace.

God has a plan—and I am not presumptuous enough to think that my finite mind can imagine what the infinite has in store.

The plan in good—and I know this because God is good…all the time.

And I am part of that plan—because I am a beloved child of God, and so is every living creature on the face of the earth. EVERY…SINGLE…PERSON.

I pray that as a community of faith, we nurture our brothers and sisters to well being, be bold in our actions to create a sanctuary for those that will have an even greater need now, and may God bless us do His will.


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Don’t Care How

“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”

Khalil Gibran

Not sure if there is much worse than getting what you asked for and rather than being grateful, you snub God by asking for the next thing. How frustrating, irresponsible, and disappointing is that?

Do you ever have one of those days when just about everything, everyone, and everywhere get under your skin? You use all the tools in your arsenal to turn things around: meditate, pray, go for a walk, head to a meeting, turn things over…and nothing. That feeling that you just want to scream is just a bit overwhelming.

Yep, it’s one of those days today.

Perhaps it’s the realization that I am getting exactly from God what I asked for, and yet am not satisfied. Like a little brat on Christmas morning who gets 99% of his wish list, choosing to complain about the one item that didn’t get wrapped and put under the tree. I feel so petty for being ungrateful, yet there it is.

So I’m doing what I have learned to do in this situation: don’t cause any wreckage. Try not to say anything that will require an amends later. Try not to do something that will require reparation down the line. Just breathe deep…and be.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Simple it may be; easy, not so much.

So when I am tempted to head out and get a bigger stick to beat myself up with today, perhaps I will show myself a bit of mercy by staying with the one I already have, or maybe even setting it down for just a bit. All that forgiveness, kindness, and mercy I have been working on toward others? Just maybe it’s time to turn that inward, and grant it to myself for just a little while.

So rather than beat myself up for not being in gratitude for what I have, and in place of scolding myself for being childish about my wishes, by chance I may choose to cut myself a bit of slack, take a hot bubble bath, and just be. Nobody says I have to DO anything right now, so if I take advantage of that, it just may be the most gracious act of thanksgiving I can show.

Just for today, I won’t be too hard on myself for wanting more than I have.

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With These Hands

“Modern Americans suffer from a fear of judging. Passing judgment on the behavior of fellow human beings is considered an act of medieval, undemocratic intolerance.”

–Lewis B. Smedes

Whoever said there is nothing to fear but fear itself didn’t grow up in my household (and yes, for all you smart alecks out there, I know which president said that!!).

There was a lot to fear in our household, mostly, uncertainty. You never knew if dad was going to come home drunk and angry and rage against someone or be the happy drunk (which was rare) and it was popsicles and jingle bells all around. And when you grow up with inconsistency, you crave sameness and stability as an adult. But here’s the rub, too much of that leads to a dull, bland life, void of taking any chances, living spontaneously, and being able to live in the moment.

Trying to undo patterns of rearing is no easy task, but I’m certainly not going to spend my days dredging up old memories and wailing over days gone by, but it’s important to acknowledge them and understand how it effects my actions today.

While coming up with gifts for those participating in our wedding, I really wanted to make them personal, special, and from the heart. There’s only one problem with that, in order to accomplish this, I would have to tap into my creative side, and take a chance, show some vulnerability, that what I created might not be accepted, or ‘good enough’. Silly to think that way, I know.

You see, everything that I do I judge and criticize with such a heavy eye that at times it can paralyze me. So for the effort it took to make a ‘homemade’ gift for a few of the wedding participants was a huge leap of faith.

While I acknowledge the effort, I have to also appreciate the shortcoming of looking to others for approval, which I did, by showing it to a couple of trusted confidants, to make sure that what I had done was ‘okay’, and get the validation I still lack internally.

Baby steps.

Just for today, I will continue to make progress, leaving behind the childhood of lack and embrace the adult of enough.

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A Dog Eat Dog World

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Our rescue dog, Nelson, had his first playmates over yesterday, and you should have heard the high-pitched yelping when they first entered the house. He was being so territorial, frightened that this sanctuary that we have created for him was being violated.

Little did I realize that in that moment, Nelson was going to be showing me a valuable lesson that I needed to learn.

For years I have sheltered myself: trying to corner off my part of the bed from my partner, my part of the world from others, my part of self from everyone else, for fear that my security may be threatened. But truly, what am I afraid of? That I might have to step outside my comfort zone? Perhaps a little discomfort might invade this ivory white tower that has become my existence?

When I am closed off to the world, under the precipice of being protective of self, I fail to grow. I can’t expand my being if I stay in the same place, experience the same parts of life, and not venture past my own yard. So why is it that I seem to struggle beyond my own walls?

Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not having enough. Fear of not being enough. Fear of getting hurt. All the same fears that I identified with as an eight year old boy.

So as much as I would like to think that I have grown out of those childhood spooks of the boogeyman, it might just be that they’ve stuck around in different wardrobe and I busy myself to avoid having to face it on a daily basis.

With my previous employment ending a few months back, and a commitment to venture out on my own newly commenced, I am walking through that fear, knowing that if I walk through it in faith, it’s okay that the fear is present, so long as I am moving forward.

Just for today I will know that I safe in the arms of God and nothing can frighten me from my path.

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On The Edge

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
–Neale Donald Walsch

I never wanted to eat my vegetables as a kid. I really don’t care for doing cardio. Sitting in my recliner with remote in hand sounds like a perfect day. Then again, what is best for me isn’t always what I prefer to do.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but don’t you find that the things in life that are ‘good for you’, aren’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind? Yet ultimately, these very things end of being just what the doctor ordered.

Recently my fiancé and I were driving past Tempe Town Lake. When he mentioned it would be nice to take Nelson, our pup, there before the weather got too warm (sorry to say that to all you folks freezing in the North), I thought it sounded good, but really didn’t want to act on it. Yet not two days later, despite the call from the recliner to plop my butt down, get my thumb crunches in surfing channels with the remote, I chose to offer up the trip after getting my taxes done.

So why is it that I make such a big deal out of something as simple as going for a walk with my partner and pup? I got some fresh air. The walk fired some endorphins so I felt good after.

Bottom line, I like the familiar, even if it’s not what is truly in my best interest.

The same thing happened at church last Sunday. When I was president of the congregation, I felt a sense of obligation to mingle before worship, press the flesh, and say hello to people. Now that I don’t ‘have’ to do that anymore, I find that I actually like it. I enjoy the interaction, the smiles, the hugs, and the way I feel after: connected, loved, a part of.

So it got me to thinking: what else do I avoid from fear of the unknown. Perhaps that is a bit dramatic. Let me rephrase: what else do I not do because it isn’t familiar?

Getting outside my comfort zone is where growth lays. So if I want to grow, expand my horizons, and feel connected to the world and my fellows, I need to choose more often to do what is not familiar. Who knows, I might surprise myself and even like it a bit.

Just for today I will be unafraid of the unfamiliar.

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Two In A Row

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
― Zig Ziglar

The abundance in my life is, at times, overwhelming. When I remember to stay in the present moment, and not get ahead of myself, all just seems right with the world. When I spend time on that which is outside of my hula hoop (circle of influence) I get stressed, petty, and uptight.

I often ask myself why one day I can be as content as can be, allowing challenges to roll off me like raindrops on an embrella, and other days that same moisture can saturate all the good feelings that can be the predominant mindset for me. While there is some scientific explanation having to do with sleep pattern, diet, and unresolved concerns still outstanding when my head hits the pillow, the bottom line is I am only as happy as I choose to be…period.

I noticed this today, when I managed to have two consecutive ’good‘ days, which is non-existent in my recent memory.

It’s not that challenges didn’t arise; I just chose not to focus on the pieces of my reality that didn’t add any value. Namely, I chose not to pay attention to the constant negative chatter that can accompany my waking hours, and instead, pay mind to something a friend of mine said to me before I headed out this week for work:

“How great it is that you get to share your sales skills and positive attitude with so many of your team members.“

Wow, what a different perspective than shifting attention to the travel, hotel beds, and living out of a suitcase.

It is a blessing that I get to help my team members provide a good living for their families, and know that they are providiing a great service to our customers. When this is the predominant thought for me and my team, what we do has meaning beyond the numbers and beyond the paycheck. It is a satisfaction and quality of life that can’t be measured in a bank account.

So for today, I will be grateful that I am entrusted with such a wonderful opportunity.

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