While in Kansas City, MO for a workshop, I picked up a book by Katie Maxwell titled Bedside Manners: A Practical Guide to Visiting the Ill. (BakerBooks) This is always something I’ve struggled with — saying the right things, doing the right things. I was reading a few passages from it and was struck by two prayers from the wonderful book. Even when I am not dealing with persons in the hospital, I find these prayers applicable/adaptable for my life.
A Visitor’s Prayer
Beneath whose eye and within those love the story of our lives is told; give me grace to pause in my hurried pace to bear your love and bring your grace to someone ill this day. Let me listen without judgement, care without condition, pray without ceasing; just tell me what to say. Go before, walk beside; live within I pray. I am ready, Lord, guide me in my way.
(prayer by Dr. Kenneth C. Working)
A Caregiver’s Prayer
Gracious God, I confess how mixed my feelings are. I’ve got my health, and I should be grateful. but, why do I feel so empty sometimes? And, why do I feel resentment at helping? But, sometimes I do feel resentment. I do feel poured out, depleted, empty. God, help me accept my mixed feelings and most importantly, help me so that I don’t inflict my pain on the one I most want to help.
Dear God, when I feel so tired and worn down, help me find the strength to carry on. And, save me from heroics. Help me put aside my pride and find the courage to ask for help. Thank you for the gift of life with all its pain, questions, and mysteries. Thank you for this life for which I am privileged to care, for this precious friend, mate, lover.
(Rev. Steve Smith)
Although it sounds like a cheap novel, my day began as any other day. Really, it did!
Kids got off to school early dogs fed and cats, too. Rhonda came home, we talked through the prior evenigs events. She told me of her night at the hospital. I cleaned up and left for work. I headed outside and started the car. Ah, the familiar sound of a battery struggling to start the car. And this morning, it was strggling mightily.
So, I drove to the nearest auto parts store and had it tested. Bad battery. But, the auto place didn’t have a new one. So, off to the dealer. However, when I tried to leave, dead battery. It seems the act of testing the battery killed it. After a jump from the auto parts guy, I was on my way except I couldn’t kill the car or I’d never get it restarted. On to the dealer as fast as possible
I can’t help but wonder if this is God’s message for me today. Maybe, I must keep my battery charged – fresh and new and ready for whatever the day might hold. Maybe, I must rely on others to help me charge myself so I can go on my way. Perhaps, it is God’s telling me to give thanks rhat I have resources to make repairs (which did total up since I was behind on regular maintenance.) Or, perhaps it is just a dead battery and nothing more and God isn’t teaching me anything today.
I’m sure it isn’t the last one. God is always teaching me something. I’ll wait and see. But, nice to ponder on God while in the dealership.
Worship is really about an audience of ONE – God. We, the actors, carry on the “work,” the liturgy. As followers of Christ, it is the reason we gather. We gather not be a part of some performance but conscious connection to the One who is greater than we can imagine or comprehend. We come and leave changed by this incomprehensible encounter.
Planning and executing worship is a challenge. Balance between new scholarship, ancient texts, compelling visuals, transformational preaching, and stirring music must lay the groundwork for a stable God-connection. Prior to worship, prayer, scriptural and thematic research, and consideration for what elements will be present foster a Holy Spirit led plan. In the end, the scripture, sermon, music, prayers, and even announcements must reflect connection with the worshippers heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Matthew 12:30) And, finally, much comes down to the worship personnel’s execution of the planned event and the receptivity of the worshipper to enter into dialogue with God.
Finally, as quoted in scripture, faith without works is dead. (James 2:17) When people depart worship, what works will a congregation participate in that will become the embodiment of Christ in the world? What will move faith from worshipping safely away from the world to becoming the hands and feet of Christ? We try to offer something missional that each worshipper can participate in outside the walls of the church.
If you aren’t a United Methodist, perhaps this seems a bit over-thought. Thinking is in the D-N-A of a United Methodist. As a United Methodist, we use the Wesleyan quadrilateral as our guide in all that we do, including the planning and execution of worship.
What helps you connect with the Holy?
From Genesis 1:31 (The Message):
God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good!
I hope that I can look and see good. Seems to me that in the creation narrative, God’s comments are “it is good” is an example for me each day. Sit back, see creation, and say “it is good.” So, today, I’m asking myself, what did I see of God’s creation that was good?