Posts Tagged With: prayer

These Are a Few of My Favorite Prayers

God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…

Where the Pavement Ends

Never having been a particularly good pray-er, I am grateful for any assistance to help my prayer life.

When my grandson prayed before a meal (as we all did at one time) one of those blessings children learn when parents aren’t in the room (Good food, Good meat, Good Lord, Let’s eat), my son-in-law, Thorne Barrett, a wise man, suggested maybe we could raise the bar a bit higher than that.

Here are some of my favorite prayers that raise the bar and say some of what I think needs to be said.

Marion Aldridge

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

The Serenity Prayer

  • God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
  • the courage to change the things I can, and
  • the wisdom to know the difference. (Composed by Reinhold Niebuhr, adapted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other Twelve Steps Groups)

The Lord’s Model Prayer

 Our Father, who…

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Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Lists/Top Ten, Quotations | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Would a Baptist Observe Lent?

Why Would a Baptist Observe Lent?

Spiritual discipline doesn’t come easily. When was the last time you (1) fasted from food, skipping meals for an entire day? When were you last intentionally (2) silent, not talking, but spending extended time in (3) meditation, (4) contemplation and/or (5) prayer?

(The best book for a Protestant to read on the subject of spiritual discipline is Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.)

Spiritual disciplines, other than (6) going to meetings (for example, for worship or Bible study), were not part of my childhood church. We didn’t talk about meditation or fasting, even though they are thoroughly biblical. (7) Simplicity sounded like something the Quakers would do and (8) confession something the Catholics did. Other faiths emphasize rituals, ranging from (9) chanting to (10) pilgrimage. What did any of that have to do with a Baptist?

Furthermore, we not only ignored, but we often disparaged other denominations or religions that practiced their faith in ways we didn’t understand. (11) Solitude. I never heard of God calling a Baptist to be a monk or a nun.

When I finally heard of Ash Wednesday (which falls on March 1 this year), I began to pay attention, not only to my Catholic friends who gave up meat on Fridays but also to an increasing number of young Protestant friends who forfeited Cokes for Lent. What was going on?

Discipline is a perfectly good Bible word. Proverbs 5: 23: “For lack of discipline, they will die, led astray by their own great folly.” My parents and teachers had been my disciplinarians when I was a kid. As an adult, I was on my own.

The Lenten season (a period of about forty days prior to Easter, when the days lengthen—that’s where the word “Lenten” comes from) seemed as good a time as any to restrict myself in some way, to see if I was tough enough to do something for Jesus’ sake. I doubt I’ll ever be called on to do anything really difficult, like being a martyr, but why not practice self-restraint in small ways to see what I’m made of? If I can’t give up something enjoyable for a few weeks, what kind of Christian am I? Can I give up television for Lent, even though it includes the beginning of baseball season? Can I give up sodas? Or alcohol? Can I give up Facebook? Eating red meat? Drinking coffee?

People ask me, “Can you drink tea?” or “What about Fridays?” You can do anything you choose to do. This is your discipline, your choice.

“There is grace in suffering. Suffering is part of the training program for wisdom.” Ram Dass

I have friends who try to lose weight during Lent. That’s fine, if it’s helpful. I have friends who try to give up something permanently, like cigarette smoking, by not smoking during Lent. Some add something, beginning to read their Bible daily, or journaling. Any way you can build or strengthen your character might be a worthy discipline.

Whenever I find myself thinking about and being tempted by whatever the restriction involves (coffee, TV or Twitter), I have the opportunity to consider spiritual realities: Why am I doing this?

Any soul-searching is better than spirituality as usual.

Categories: Diet, Faith/Spirituality, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Problems and Challenges of Preaching in a Politicized Environment

The Problems and Challenges of Preaching in a Politicized Environment

Marion D. Aldridge

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

 

The Bible, in spite of its age, speaks to issues on today’s front pages: life, health, pain, suffering and death, war and peace, walls (pro and con), creation and environment, money (always an important spiritual issue). Can a preacher speak to these matters without alienating half of his or her congregation?

Yes. With one important exception: If someone (either the preacher or the layperson) is looking for a fight, they will find one. Some people can’t get along with their spouse or their children. They simply don’t know how to live with complexity and differences of opinion.

A pastor can’t make an unhappy person happy.

Otherwise, here are ten suggestions for preaching about hard subjects in politically charged times.

  • Possibly the most patriotic thing any of us can do is to pray for our leaders in government. That’s biblical. This week in worship, I prayed for our President, our Senators, our Legislators, our Supreme Court Justices and others who are in positions of responsibility in our nation and state.
  • Remember: in America, Church and State are constitutionally separated. The government cannot tell churches (or mosques or synagogues) what to do and our churches have no authority over the government. People can say almost anything they want to, but this safeguard is writ large in our First Amendment. Every year, not just this year, there are challenges, but for two hundred years, the wall of separation has stood.
  • Separate your rights as a private citizen from your responsibilities as a priest and/or prophet. Teach your congregants to do the same. As taxpayers, pastors and laity are entitled to vote, to petition, to march, to write their legislators, to serve on juries, to be involved in local, state, and national political activities. Sometimes, like husbands and wives, they will cancel each other’s votes!
  • Try to pay attention to what others are saying. No individual has the whole truth, the entire word of God. The Bible is a big book. The world is a big world. Humility about the limits of our knowledge is a good thing.
  • Be stingy with the phrase, “Thus saith the Lord.” Nobody wants to be beat up in church. There should be safety in the sanctuary. It helps me, during sermon preparation, to consider what my best critics would say. Sometimes, nuance is needed. If you are truly biblical, you may need to acknowledge, “On the one hand… On the other hand.” Don’t use the pulpit, often called a “sacred desk,” for every issue. Protect it from glib or careless comments. Some themes need a Sunday night discussion, not a Sunday morning proclamation. Note: The prophet spoke hard words to King David, but he did so privately, not in a sermon.
  • Remind the congregation of the enduring principles of scripture and the eternal reign of God. Preach these boldly. Pepper your preaching with phrases such as, “Thirty years ago, our parents and Sunday school teachers taught us…” or “During the era of Martin Luther…” to make the point that you didn’t choose to preach on an issue because of someone just elected or merely because you read a rant on Facebook. The timeless themes of scripture have been around a long time and people need to know them.
  • Balance the painful with the hopeful. If a pastor preaches a challenging and confrontational sermon one week, and sometimes that is necessary, maybe the lessons the next few Sundays ought to be grace, hope, faith, peace, love and joy.
  • Preach (and act) with love. Pay attention to your own heart. Be careful with your own spirit.  Be self-aware. Don’t let fear drive you. Don’t be reactionary, sucked into another’s anger. We bring the deficiencies of our own personality to the pulpit. Are you passive-aggressive, not missing the chance to dig at people with whom you disagree? Are you easily seduced by hysteria on social media? Are you too often angry? Beware.
  • Sometimes, prophetic words and actions are required. Dietrich Bonheoffer, Christian ethicist during the reign of Hitler, understood the landscape had been altered. Hitler was not an inconvenience. He slaughtered millions of human beings—Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and Jews. Different circumstances require different strategies. Christians need to remember, also, the civil disobedience of Martin Luther King, Jr. There is a time to break an unjust law. When we do, we don’t whine but we suffer the consequences with dignity.
  • Model a full, happy, and contented life. Take advantage of our magnificent American freedoms. Turn off the television news and the social media and take a walk in the woods. Go to a baseball game. Read a novel. Visit the Grand Canyon or New York City. Invite strangers into your home for a meal. Volunteer at the local food bank. It’s a big, beautiful country. Beyond our borders, the earth is a big, beautiful creation. Embrace and enjoy.
Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Health, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

50th High School Reunion Prayer

North Augusta (South Carolina) High School 50th Reunion

Prayer by Marion Aldridge

May 23, 2015

Creator God,

Sustaining us always,

We give thanks for the gift of life,

for friends, teachers, coaches, family and all who have influenced us in our pilgrimage.

Also, we grieve for the loss of our classmates who have died too soon, dear friends, treasured relationships. We pause to remember them.

SILENCE

We trust your care for them and for us, now and forever.

Thank you for memories from our high school years, for the education we received in the classroom and in other places and in other ways: basketball courts and Teen Town.

We remember the words of Alma Mater: “Twas there the teachers lent their aid to guide our climbing steps, and taught us how to drink the cup of knowledge to its depths.”

A chapter of our lives ended when we graduated. Other chapters began. We are aware of your grace every step of the way.

Tonight, on this occasion of our fiftieth high school reunion, we thank you for the opportunity to renew old friendships.

We also thank you for those who have worked hard to make this reunion a success. Keep us safe until we gather again. Amen

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

These Are a Few of My Favorite Prayers

Never having been a particularly good pray-er, I am grateful for any assistance to help my prayer life.

When my grandson prayed before a meal (as we all did at one time) one of those blessings children learn when parents aren’t in the room (Good food, Good meat, Good Lord, Let’s eat), my son-in-law, Thorne Barrett, a wise man, suggested maybe we could raise the bar a bit higher than that.

Here are some of my favorite prayers that raise the bar and say some of what I think needs to be said.

Marion Aldridge

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

The Serenity Prayer

  • God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
  • the courage to change the things I can, and
  • the wisdom to know the difference. (Composed by Reinhold Niebuhr, adapted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other Twelve Steps Groups)

The Lord’s Model Prayer

 Our Father, who 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 sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Brief but Potent Prayers from the Gospels

“I believe. Help my unbelief.” Mark 9: 24

“Lord, save me.” Matthew 14: 30

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Luke 18: 13

Day by Day (from Godspell)

 Day by day, Oh Lord, day by day,

Three things I pray,

To see thee more clearly,

To love thee more dearly, and

To follow thee more nearly,

Day by day.

Help. Thanks. Wow – Anne LaMott’s summary of the essential prayers and the title of her book on prayer

 I am weak but thou art strong;

Jesus, keep me from all wrong;

Anonymous

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

 Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Selections from Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love.

According to thy abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions…

Teach me wisdom in my secret heart…

Fill me with joy and gladness…

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit in me.

Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

A Hymn, by Isaac Watts (based on Psalm 90: 1-5)

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy past and our eternal home.

Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame,

From everlasting thou art God, to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone;

Short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.

Be thou our guard while life shall last, and our eternal home.

 An Irish Benediction

 May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind blow at your back,

May the sun shine warmly on your face,

May the rains fall softly on your fields.

Until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

 

Amen.

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Exposed!

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Exposure can change us. 

 If you are exposed to a group that is smiling and laughing, you are more inclined to smile and laugh. 

 Lack of exposure to our large and fascinating world is, by definition, limiting, making a person narrower.   Constricted.  Bound.  Trapped.  The opposite of those words is free.  A friend, Julie Pennington Russell, a Baptist minister, once told me, “I’ve been bound and I’ve been free, and I like free much better.”  Lack of contact with anything or anybody other than the already familiar is restrictive of personal growth.  That is why we go to school.  In the sixth grade we are exposed to ideas that we knew nothing about in the third grade.

 One of my favorite jokes is about the student who learned her “times tables” up through twelve.  When her granddad asked her what 13 times 13 equaled, she said, “Oh, Grandpa, there’s no such thing.”

 Exposure via travel, going to other places, visiting other cultures and hearing other ideas can also change a person. 

 We don’t know what we have never been exposed to.

I attended a Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast a year ago.  I visited briefly with a friend I hadn’t seen in years.  We made casual conversation until she said, conspiratorially, “You know, we won’t be able to gather like this soon.”  I did not understand what she was saying.  She clarified, “Americans won’t be able to meet to pray like this.”  

“Are you serious?” I asked.  She was.  I suspect she doesn’t get out much, that she hears only to one worldview on her radio and at her church.  She lives within a culture of fear of the unknown.

America is freer than it has ever been.  Of course, freedom in the 21st century is not just for educated white Protestants.  America insures freedom nowadays for blacks, women, Muslims, Hispanics, Hindus and for every other citizen, including (but no longer limited to) educated white Protestants.  We need to get out of our narrow world and meet some people who don’t look or think the same as we do.  We live in a big, beautiful, wonderful and diverse world.

 Some people are taught just the opposite—that it is a scary and hostile world.

 Recently, I read a book about Mormon Fundamentalism, The Witness Wore Read, by Rebecca Musser.  Since the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) members of her world lived in a literal compound, a walled camp, they knew little to nothing about the outside world—except what they had been taught since birth.  When 12-16 year old girls were being forced to marry older men with 30 and more wives, the young brides did not have the words to describe their experience.  When arrests began to be made of these “human traffickers,” the young girls were asked if they had sex with these older men.  They answered “No.”  Eventually, the officers discovered the girls knew the word “sex” only as something harlots did.  Even though these girls already had babies at age 15, they claimed they had never had sex.  When the officers learned the insider terminology, “marital relations” and “heavenly unions,” they got a different answer:  “Yes. “  Other euphemisms within the FLDS, such as “Celestial Marriage,” were used to disguise criminal sexual conduct against minors.

Exposure to other worlds inevitably stretches us.  “Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know,” expresses the anxieties of billions of people. 

Believing that America is on the verge of losing its freedom of assembly and its freedom of religion is paranoia and naiveté born of very limited experience.

Get out.  Travel.  Listen.  Learn.  Pay attention.  Expose yourself to other points of view.  Your life will be enriched, and we will live in a healthier, wiser and more humane culture.

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Graces I Have Experienced when Grieving

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The only thing this blog post has to do with travel is that I am going to San Antonio, Texas, in September to make a presentation about “Overcoming Grief” at Lackland Air Force Base  I asked Facebook friends to add to a short list I had created about Graces I experienced after the deaths of my Mother, my Dad and my friends Fuzzy and Dabber.  I suppose 100 people responded with additions.  Here is the new list, and a picture of my friend Fuzzy, whom we miss every day.  

 

The Grace of Activity

The Grace of Appropriate Words

The Grace of Balance

The Grace of Challenge

The Grace of Charity

The Grace of Clarity

The Grace of Closure

The Grace of Family

The Grace of Flowers

The Grace of Food

The Grace of Forgiveness

The Grace of Friends

The Grace of Grace

The Grace of Gratitude

The Grace of Growth

The Grace of Housekeeping

The Grace of Hugs

The Grace of Humor and Laughter

The Grace of Kindness

The Grace of Limits

The Grace of Love

The Grace of Memories and Stories

The Grace of Music

The Grace of Photographs

The Grace of Prayer

The Grace of Presence

The Grace of Receiving Love

The Grace of Release from Obligation

The Grace of Relief

The Grace of Reunion

The Grace of Scripture

The Grace of Seeing Suffering End

The Grace of Sharing

The Grace of Silence

The Grace of Sleep

The Grace of Sacrifice

The Grace of Tears

The Grace of Time

The Grace of a Glass of Wine

The Grace of a New Normal

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Reflections on Disaster

On Thursday, June 17, 2010, I was in a bad wreck.  The people at the scene of the accident could not believe that I survived my car taking a direct hit from a logging truck.  But, thankfully, I did.  A week after the wreck, I have only one small scratch remaining.  People told me how “lucky” I was.  They mentioned that I had been protected by my guardian angel.  “God is not finished with you yet,” was a frequent phrase.   I don’t intend to argue with any of those sentiments.

My primary thought and emotion has been one of gratitude.  During my career as a pastor, I heard how many dumb things people say after a tragedy.  They may be well-meaning, but there is a lot of bad theology that surrounds heartbreaking disasters.  Be careful with your words in times of crisis.

The two sentences that made the most sense to me are these:

  • I say my Alleluias softly, and
  • God is present.

I am happy to be alive.  I am grateful that on July 3, 2010, I was able to walk my baby girl down the aisle and present her to the man who is now her husband and my son-in-law.  All four of Julie’s grandparents are dead and my best friend, her second dad, passed away this past year.  I am grateful that I was there for Julie and Tom, and not in a hospital room or in a grave!  I am glad that I am still here to cuddle with Sally at night.  I am thankful I can still take my other daughter and her husband and my grandson to a baseball game.  More than ever, I appreciate peach cobblers, roses, jazz, waterfalls, and good books.  I love my friends.  I am grateful to be alive.

But I do say my Alleluias softly, because everyone who has been in a wreck did not survive and/or thrive.  Many sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, dads and best friends have been seriously injured or even died in tragic accidents.  I don’t think God loves me more or that my prayer life is better.  Anything that credits my survival to my goodness is probably bad theology.

As I was sharing this perspective with two friends, I discovered that one of them, my seminary buddy Don Garner, had indeed lost a son in a car wreck about a decade ago.  God loves and loved Don and his wife and their son as much as God loves me.  Don told me that their “lesson” during their awful grief is that God is always present.  God is present when I survive my wreck, and God is there when Don’s son did not survive his wreck.  God is present. 

Those are lessons enough for me.Imagek

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