Prayers from the Ark: The Bee

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s beecreatures who sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Today’s selection features the busy, buzzing, bequests of The Prayer of the Bee.

Lord,

I am not one to despise Your gifts.

May You be blessed

Who spread the riches of Your sweetness

For my zeal . . . .

Let my small span of ardent life

Melt into our great communal task;

To lift up to Your glory

This temple of sweetness,

A citadel of incense,

A holy candle, myriad-celled,

Molded of Your graces

And of my hidden work.

Amen.

Prayers from the Ark: The Ducks

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures who sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Enjoy The Prayer of the Little Ducks.

Dear God,

Give us a flood of water. 

Let it rain tomorrow and always.

Give us plenty of little slugs

and other luscious things to eat.

Protect all folk who quack

and everyone who knows how to swim!

Prayers from the Ark: The Parrot

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures who sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. The Prayer of the Parrot reminds me of the task of preaching.

Did you say something, Lord?

Oh! I thought You were speaking to me.

You are silent?

Are You afraid I shall tell Your secrets?

It’s true I’m a little talkative

but, at times, that is useful:

Heads are thick, slow to understand,

and have to be told things again and again.

If You need me, I am your servant,

one who never grows tired

of repeating the same word again and again,

which has its power:

I may grow tedious but people listen

in spite of themselves;

and what is repeated, repeated, repeated,

stays in the memory.

When may I serve Your infinite wisdom?

Think of it Lord. Amen.

Prayers from the Ark: The Butterfly

Sister Carmen Bernos de Gasztold was a Benedictine nun and gifted writer. In her book entitled Prayers from the Ark, the French poet gave voice to God’s creatures who sailed with Noah.

During a season of summer reruns, I am sharing again a sampling of my favorite poems. Today’s selection features the flitter, flutter, flailing of The Prayer of the Butterfly.

Lord!

Where was I?

Oh, yes! This flower, this sun, thank you!

Your world is beautiful!

This scent of roses . . .

Where was I?

A drop of dew

rolls to sparkle in a lily’s heart.

I have to go . . .

Where? I do not know!

The wind has painted fancies

on my wings.

Fancies . . .

Where was I?

Oh, yes! Lord,

I had something to tell you.

Amen!

Blessed to Be a Blessing

Our summer worship series at Northside Church is entitled “Blessed to Be a Blessing.” We will explore the eight Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. The passage introduces the Sermon on the Mount.

The sermon’s familiarity might disguise its revolutionary message. Jesus described the radical nature of Christian discipleship, calling for complete commitment. He made a series of earth-shaking statements, culminating with the challenge, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect!” (Matthew 5:48)

Note that Jesus was teaching the disciples. He was not telling the crowds how to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Instead, he was instructing his followers how to live within the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus did NOT describe a way to salvation through human effort. This was the mistake the scribes and Pharisees made. They attempted to reduce the Law to a series of actions that could be defined and measured. This works-righteousness approach viewed salvation as a transactional analysis: do these things in order to gain salvation.

Jesus invited the disciples into a new reality. He succinctly summarized the call to salvation in the words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” In the Sermon on the Mount, he described the kingdom life of those who have been saved. Works complement faith. Believers practice these spiritual principles in response to God’s salvation.

It’s a shocking message, and Jesus’ words turned the world’s values upside down. The Lord challenged the disciples to a radically different lifestyle as citizens of heaven’s kingdom. Kay Arthur calls the Beatitudes the “Be-Attitudes” because they describe the attitude and aptitude of Christian disciples.

Join us in person or online this Sunday at Northside Church as we begin a journey through the Beatitudes.

Memorial Day

During my childhood, Memorial Day signaled the unofficial start of summer. I never thought much about the holiday’s deeper meaning. Enjoying a day off from school seemed significant enough.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Major General John A. Logan issued General Order 11. It designated May 30 as Decoration Day to honor fallen soldiers. Arlington Cemetery hosted the first major observance in 1868. The annual event grew into a national holiday.

Today our nation observes Memorial Day on the last Monday of May. The holiday honors military personnel who have died during wartime. Parades, speeches, flags, and cemetery floral arrangements mark the occasion.

We remember the men and women who have given their lives in the service of their country. We also honor armed forces’ personnel who presently serve at home or abroad. Our liberties come at a high cost, and we recognize those who lay aside self-interest for their country’s sake.

We recognize military families who make their own sacrifices. Each member of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard leaves behind a family at home. Our service personnel wear a uniform; but parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends support them on the home front.

This weekend fly the flag. Take your hat off when the National Anthem plays. Recite the words of the Pledge of Allegiance in a strong voice. Express your appreciation to a veteran. Visit a cemetery. Place a flower arrangement. Say a prayer.

Remember, and give thanks.

Humility

I’m preparing a summer worship series on the Beatitudes at Northside Church entitled “Blessed to Be a Blessing” The first Beatitude declares, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Several authors noted that the poor in spirit possess humility. The humble person depends entirely upon God, focusing on others rather than self. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

How does one cultivate the spiritual attribute? An old joke asks, “If you’re humble, do you know it?” When people realize they’re practicing humility, the ephemeral quality sublimates into thin air.   

Father Jacques Philippe, a Roman Catholic priest, authored a book on the Beatitudes entitled “The Eight Doors to the Kingdom.” He noted, “Nothing makes us grow more in humility than gratitude.”

The statement resonated with my soul. Gratitude recognizes that every good gift comes from above. We focus on God, not self. We embrace humility by seeing the gifts, recognizing the Giver, and giving thanks.

“Nothing makes us grow more in humility than gratitude.”

Mother’s Day Memories

Grief possesses a timing and logic all its own. It lurks in shadows and skulks around corners, appearing at the most unexpected of times.

Mother’s Day reminds me of this phenomenon anew.

My mother died nine years ago in the midst of my family moving to a new church. A massive stroke eventually led to her death. I spent a frantic week rushing from Cartersville to Kennestone Hospital to Lawrenceville and back and back and back again.

I preached my first Sunday at First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville on Sunday morning. She died 36 hours later on Monday night.

People grieve in different ways. In some ways, the busyness of serving a new congregation eased the pain. In other ways, I put grief on a layaway plan, paying installments with interest over time.

Nine years later I still find myself surprised by grief. During December, I saw a gift and thought, “Mom would like that for Christmas.” This March I almost called to wish my parents a Happy Anniversary. Perusing Mother’s Day cards, I saw one she would have loved.

Grief possesses a timing and logic all its own. It lurks in shadows and skulks around corners, appearing at the most unexpected times

I recognize that sorrow is a long shadow cast by love. If we did not love, then we would not grieve. If we did not possess, then we could not lose.

In a poem entitled In Memoriam A. H. H., Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote:

I hold it true, whate’er befall;

I feel it when I sorrow most;

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.

In times of grief, Christians claim what we proclaim: believers who have loved and lost never really lose their loved ones at all. Grief lasts a moment, but joy endures forever.

Advice to Graduates

Last Sunday Northside Church honored our high school graduates. I dressed like the Mayhem character in the Allstate Insurance commercials. We also produced a series of videos featuring the youth staff. Here’s some of the advice I shared with the seniors.

NO PRESSURE, but the decisions you make in the next few years will determine the entire direction of your life. So, choose wisely. But again, no pressure!

In the coming years, you will make important choices about school, friends, alcohol, drugs, dating, sex, marriage, vocation, faith, and more. While your parents, family, church,

At the risk of sounding like a preacher, I would like to offer you some advice today. This is not the type of advice you will find in the gold covered book with tassels that your great-aunt thought would be a perfect graduation gift for a teenager living in the 1950s!

I warn you that experience is a tough teacher. She gives the test first, and then teaches the lesson! Wisdom learns from others poor choices so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes yourself. These lessons are hard won, practical, and down to earth wisdom.

  • Study, then play.
  • The 1st semester is critical to your college success.
  • Separate your laundry into whites, lights, and darks.
  • Choose your friends wisely.
  • If you don’t get into a particular fraternity or sorority, it is not the end of the world.
  • People are unimpressed with much you can drink. If they are, you need a better set of friends. Alcoholism and drug abuse begin in high school and college.  
  • If you are sexually active, then you are sleeping with every person that person has ever slept with, and medicine cannot always treat the body or the soul.
  • Learn to be comfortable alone—everyone is occasionally.
  • The most interesting people are not like anyone else—resist peer pressure.
  • Tear up credit card applications—it is NOT free money.
  • Expect potholes and detours—they are NOT the end of the road.
  • Wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident—and on general principle.
  • If you have siblings, your brothers and sisters are the only ones who know what it was like to grow up in your home. Be kind to them—you may need a kidney donor someday!
  • Call your mama. And your daddy, and not just when you need money!

Banana Faith

Bananas might qualify as the perfect fruit. They come prepackaged in yellow wrappers. The firm pulp contains delicious nutrients, including B2, B6, C, magnesium and potassium. Just peel, eat, enjoy, and dispose of the convenient, biodegradable container.

The banana plant thrives in tropical or subtropical regions. Bananas grow on large plants ten to twenty-five feet high. Clusters hold up to 150 bananas and smaller bunches called “hands” contain ten to twenty-five bananas.

Bananas typically grow on large plantations operated by multinational corporations. The yellow fruit has shaped the history of Central America. Corporations with household names have deposed rulers, instigated revolts, and opposed land reform. The subject remains a political hot banana in Latin America.

Most banana imports in the United States come from Central and South America along with the Caribbean. Workers cut green bananas with machetes, and trucks transport them to processing centers. Once the bananas dry, workers pack them into boxes holding forty pounds of fruit.

The laden boxes travel to distribution centers for shipment to the United States. Transfer trucks carry the green fruit across the nation. Then grocers ship the boxes to individual stores.

The economics of bananas fascinate me. I recently bought a bunch of bananas from Ecuador. The fruit was grown, picked, processed, shipped, distributed, redistributed, and sold. Everyone handling the product made a profit along the way; but I bought the bananas for FIFTY CENTS PER POUND! Is this a great country or what?!?

One can do all sorts of things with a dollar’s worth of bananas. There’s banana pudding, banana cake, banana splits, banana milkshakes, banana fritters, banana bread, banana muffins, banana tarts, Bananas Foster, banana fingers, banana pancakes, and banana sandwiches.

Despite the banana’s long list of beneficial virtues, I must confess that I am not a big fan of the yellow, slipper-shaped fruit. I find the pulp tasteless and the texture mushy. I DO like banana bread in case anyone has a loaf to share.

It’s funny how we can become knowledgeable about a product and admire its properties without personally enjoying the benefits. I suppose it’s a lot like professing the Christian faith without being involved in a local church.