A Prayer for a New School Year

back_schoolBlessed are You, O God, our Creator.

We thank you for the energy and the spirit that you renewed in us through the summer months.

We thank you for the time to enjoy our family and friends and to savor what is important in our lives.

Today is a new day and we come before You, the Author of new beginnings, asking your blessing on this new year.

Bless this community of administrators, educators, and staff as they prepare for the year ahead. Help them to inspire their students so that learning will not cease at the classroom door. Grant them an abundance of patience, compassion and wisdom. Give them a strong sense of mission that will sustain them through the demands and the challenges that lie ahead.

Bless the students throughout our community as they prepare for new beginnings. Calm their fears, nurture their hearts, and strengthen their courage. Help our students and our educators focus on what can be rather than what has been.

We are grateful, God, for new beginnings – both personally and professionally. Remind us to graciously extend them to others as You graciously extend them to us.

In the powerful name of Jesus, our great Teacher and Savior, we pray.

Amen

Working Out with God

Most days it takes a lot of effort to get my rear on the treadmill. Not because I have ginormous rear – although it most certainly isn’t dainty. I was pretty plus before plus was pretty. I simply struggle to get excited about the hamster race. I would much rather walk outside but when the cold blows in, I burrow inside the house like a bear ten days late for hibernation.

hamster-wheel-runnerThe dreadmill is in my bedroom. In the evening when I walk past it to go to my bathroom, I avoid eye contact. But I can feel it looking at me. It looks a lot like my mother when I would tell her a new story about the guy I was seeing who was totally wrong for me. It’s the look of “I love you. I want what’s best for you. You’re making a HUGE mistake. If you don’t figure this out soon, I’m going to have to go ‘Dr. Phil’ on you.” I know the treadmill wants what is best for me and I’ll feel better if I spend some time with it but sometimes I just don’t want to. I may or may not have stomped my foot when I typed that last line.

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve worked out and felt awesome afterwards. It doesn’t matter that just the day before I worked out and felt renewed. My short term memory is noncommittal. Today we’re back to playing hard to get.

I was thinking about while listening to a podcast of Pete Wilson from Crosspoint Church in Tennessee. It is the “Your Burning Bush” sermon which was the first in a 2013 series called Wide Awake. Any sermon that references both Katy Perry and Elizabeth Barrett Browning deserve your attention. Wilson was encouraging people to be wide awake to see God in the ordinary. How much more ordinary can you get than a dreadmill?

And, lo and behold, I saw God at a 5% incline at 3.2 mph.

Front Porch Conversations

“If you could have lunch with one person who has died who would it be and why?” 

There are many people who have passed that I would like to sit with on a front porch, rocking slowly in two red adirondack chairs. We’ll shoot the breeze over some fresh-squeezed lemonade, my Great Grandma Weaver’s sugar cookies on a table between us, still warm from the oven.Red chairs

Like my Grandpa Baker whose stories slowly left his mind long before his body left this earth and before I truly understood the gift of his wisdom.

Like Robert Kennedy who still inspires me with his eloquent words and his passionate rhetoric. I picture his dog, Freckles, on the front porch, too. He’s enjoying a spot of sunshine and seems vaguely entertained by the squirrels dancing across the yard.

Like St. Francis of Assisi who was beloved by many including every animal on earth. He was like the Snow White of saints. But more than that, he seemed to get what living free in Christ was all about. I bet my front porch would be like a scene from Disney if Frances came over for a visit with birds and chipmunks and deer all sitting peacefully at our feet while we talked. Since it is my vision, the animals will speak as well adding fascinating insight about creation and the Creator and the disgusting behaviors of humans polluting their home.

Brennan Manning 1934 - 2013

Brennan Manning 1934 – 2013

But tonight if I had to choose one (other than Jesus, of course, because that is a given) it would be Brennan Manning, my favorite author and fellow ragamuffin. I’ve read almost every book Brennan wrote which numbers at 20 and own most of them as well.  They are well marked, highlighted and worn with multiple notes in the margin.

No author communicates the truth about grace more powerfully to me than Brennan.

No writer conveys the deep affection God has for me more convincingly than Brennan.

No leader calls out my false self more compassionately than Brennan.

No person challenges me to live free in Christ, beloved by God, and in fellowship with the Spirit like Brennan.

Brennan’s voice is the one I hear reminding me every day that I am God’s beloved.  That God not only loves me but that God actually likes me. God enjoys me. God delights in me. Brennan would quickly remind me that God likes me not because there is an ounce of good in me but because there is an abundance of goodness in Him.  What a humbling and freeing thing to remember.

Some days I really need front porch conversations with Brennan. I need him to remind me of all these things. Which he would do for an appropriate amount of time. And then he would kick my butt off the porch so I could go tell others.

Brennan died about two years ago. I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person.  But I meet him in his books. I read again his familiar words, pretending we are in red adirondack chairs on my big, wrap around front porch. The lemonade and cookies are there. Even the animals show up. And for just a few moments, we have a much-needed front porch conversation.

So, what about you, friend: if you could have lunch with one person who has died who would it be and why?