An Evening Prayer

Almighty God, you who are eager to find and to hold each one us,

we call out to you as the darkness of night begins to surround us.

May the light you so freely give remain within us and before us

even in the deepest depths of the coming night.


You who reach for us and bend toward us as we grope around

the dim edges of life sustain us and keep us.

Hold us this night and every night ‘til the morning comes

and we find ourselves bathed in your glorious light forevermore.

Village of Hope in the News

Yesterday’s Associated Press article is in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times today.  There is newer piece up at the Right Side News. If you read Dutch, you can follow the Boonstra family at  Acties Boonstra.  If you are a Twitter person, you can follow VOH news at SaveVOH. The VOH parents have schedule a news conference for Monday and will be posting updates at the Village of Hope website.  If you have not done so yet, you can join the face book group at Save Village of Hope.

Please Pray for these Children

According to this BBC article, an orphanage in Morocco was closed by the Moroccan government.   The orphanage cared for 33 children.  33 children who are now no longer living with the only families they have ever known. You can only imagine the trauma and distress that they must be experiencing in the aftermath of the orphanage being closed. Please remember these 33 children when you pray.

Wishing for a Windy Christmas

Sometime during my elementary school years, my mom collected enough proof-of-purchase seals to send away for a Jolly Green Giant kite.  Next to my Sprite race car, the Green Giant kite was the most amazing toy I remember getting from collecting box tops and such. Actually, now that I think about it the kite probably exceeds the Sprite car. The car never really ran consistently though it looked really sharp. The kite on the other hand needed only the slightest of breezes to take off into the sky. Before the Green Giant, I had never had much success with kites or found them to be much fun, but I still remember the thrill of that Green Giant kite soaring 150 to 200 feet into the sky.

I thought about that long ago Green Giant kite this week as I listened to Saul Griffith talk about the history of kites and their future.  He believes that kites have the potential to be used in production of electricity. He and others have learned that the tallest windmills (300 feet) still do not reach high enough to harvest the best winds. A kite, Griffith believes, could be used to convert the energy in higher altitude winds into electricity. Get enough kites into the air and our need for electricity is satisfied. Granted, Griffith is not talking about kites the size of my old Green Giant kite. He envisions kites the size of 747’s or bigger. Here I thought a kite was just a kite, but he thinks it could be a way getting access to something most of us had not thought about or, if we had, thought it impractical or impossible.

While Griffith’s ideas about wind and energy exceed my ability to comprehend or imagine, I do find it fascinating to think about all that wind up there at higher altitudes that I did not know of before I heard Griffith’s talk.  It makes me think of Christmas. There is so much for us in the Christmas event, more than most of us ever realize or think possible. Or if have thought about it and we do realize what God offers to us, we cannot wrap our minds around the idea of how to get our lives situated so that we are able to receive what God is giving to us.

The good news is that we do not have to ascend to heights exceeding 300 feet and maintain that altitude in order to find what God is giving to us. No, God is coming to us, to where we are. How do we receive the gift? How do we take hold of what God is giving us in a way that transforms our lives, converts us again into followers of Christ?

Would that receiving God’s gift to us were as simple as tying a string to kite and taking it outside on a windy day.  Our lives are full of tasks that we must get done and all the more during the holiday season. Making time for God is difficult when other tasks press in upon us. Yet, God does not wish to be another chore on our list of things to do. God is coming to us, giving Godself to us so that we can know that we are loved and accepted by the one in whose image we are made.

How do we receive this gift? We receive it in many ways. It comes to us in stillness and silence. It arrives unexpectedly in an act of mercy. Through the discipline and preparation of a piece of music or a Christmas play it emerges. We find in the kinds words and gentle hugs of friends and family or rather it finds us. In worship, prayer, singing and host of other ways the gift of Christmas comes to us.

Is there more though that God would give us? More what? More peace, more joy, more love or more hope?  Is their more of God that we can experience this Christmas? What would it mean for our lives to catch a new wind of God’s Spirit in our sails as we soar to never imagined heights?

Hanging by a Thread

I was on my way into worship Sunday when I looked down and noticed a button on my coat hanging by a thread. How does that happen? I wear this suit a couple of times a month, and when I do wear it all I do is talk to people and shake hands. I do not wear it when I am performing any sort of manual labor or doing any sort of physical activity. All I do is preach in it, and yet here is a button hanging by a thread. What was it that put so much stress and strain on the button that caused the thread holding it to break? How did that happen?

Asking how it happened might be a useful question if finding the answer would help to do something to keep it from happening again. But what I am really saying when I ask “how did that happen?” is that I don’t believe that it did happen. Yet, hanging by a thread right before my eyes is proof positive that it did, in fact, happen.

How did it happen? I do not know. I try to remember something — anything. Did it get caught on a door that I was opening? Maybe when I was hugging someone it got caught on something. I don’t know, but there it is hanging by a thread. It happened.

The really frustrating element of this hanging button episode is that I was the person who sewed it on my coat before. Yes, the button that I looked down and saw hanging by a threat on Sunday was a replacement button. Its predecessor disappeared more than a year ago, and I have no better explanation for its disappearance than I do for why its replacement is hanging by a thread — except that I did not do such a good job of sewing it onto my coat.

At least I did not lose this button. No, I saw it hanging by a thread. So now I do not have to go find a matching button. That is good because I have already used the one replacement button that came with the suit.

There are times in our lives when we feel like a button hanging by a thread. How did this happen? What did we get snagged by or caught on? What did we do to get ourselves into such a situation?

Maybe the thread represents our hope, our determination, or even our faith. Whatever it represents is nearing exhaustion. There is only a thread of it left to hold us in place. Without that thread we are loosed to go wherever it is that lost buttons go to.

I did not lose that button that I saw hanging by a thread from my coat on Sunday. No, I went ahead and tore it off and stuck in my pocket. Later, I will sew it on again. Hopefully, this time I will do a better job and it will be more secure and more permanent. I would rather not have to do it again, but you never know with buttons.

God can come to us in those times when we are feeling like a button hanging by a thread. God can tear us loose from the uncertainty and insecurity of the thread we so desperately cling to and hold us firmly and lovingly. In time, we find ourselves reattached by the tender hand of God to abundant life for which he created us and redeemed us; this time, attached more securely and with less uncertainty. Having been touched by the merciful fingers of God at our moment of great fear, we are no longer hanging by a thread

A Psalm of Medicine and Healing

Praise to the Almighty!
You, who are wise beyond all knowing and more compassionate than an eternity of kindness, have given to some your knowledge and compassion calling them to be doctors, nurses and nursing assistants.

Praise to the Almighty with all my heart, soul and voice!
The Doctor knows what needs to be done and she does it. With procedure, treatment and medicine, life wakes to one more new day.

Praise to the Almighty from the rising of the sun through all the darkness of night.
The tender care of the nurse draws the sick back to life and her skill makes each day more hopeful.

Praise to the Almighty when the load is more than we can bear and the task more than we can do.
The gentle hand of the nursing assistant makes us clean that we might live again.

Praise to the Almighty,
For lives that give life,
Careers that offer cure,
Hands that bring hope.

Rejoice, Rejoice,
For tender mercies each day.

Rejoice, Rejoice,
Another day, another miracle.

Rejoice, Rejoice,
Having almost died, we are still living.

Praise to the Almighty whose healing does not end.

Praise to the Almighty when doctors have done all that they can do.

Praise to the Almighty when nurses and their assistants have exhausted their skill and their mercy.

Praise to the Almighty when. . .

. . .the procedure does not produce,
. . .the treatment does not effect,
. . .the cure does not cure.

Praise to the Almighty whose healing comes in life but does end with it.

Praise to the Almighty whose healing is eternal, world without end, forever and ever.

Praise to the Almighty!

Rejoice, Rejoice, Rejoice!

Stolen Property, Recovered Joy

Have you ever been to the Knox County Sheriff’s Department offices at the City/County Building? I was down there this week to meet with a detective and to recover some stolen property. I guess that makes me a victim of crime, petty though it was.

So petty in fact that I did not realize that it had happened until after the thieves had been caught and the stolen items were recovered. Up to that point, I was thinking that I had misplaced the missing item, or a family member had borrowed it without telling me. The events that occurred after the theft really left me impressed with the skill and diligence of the law enforcement officers in Knoxville and Knox County.

The thieves were pulled over for some sort of traffic violation. In the course of the stop, the Knoxville police officer noticed boxes containing an assortment of electronic gear in the back seat. This was no longer just a traffic violation, and arrests were made.

One of the items found in the car was my son’s camera. There was no name on it or any other means of identifying it. The officer doing the investigation turned it on and started looking through the pictures that were still on it. He found a picture of a young man and new where he worked by the clothes that he was wearing. He paid a visit to that company and showed the picture around. He identified the man in the picture as my son and gave him a call. In the course of the conversation, they determined that the thieves had taken his camera from his truck while it was parked at our house. Further conversation revealed that the same thieves had also taken the GPS from my truck. It was not misplaced or borrowed. It was stolen.

Through the effort and cooperation of a Knoxville police officer and a Knox County sheriff’s detective, the stolen items were waiting for me when I stopped by the City/County building this week. What impressed me was the amount of time and effort those officers gave to making sure that those items, which in the grand scheme of things were not of great value, were returned to their rightful owners.

Now that it is all over, I find it a little troubling that someone could so easily roam through our neighborhood and burglarize our vehicles. Even more troubling though is the precarious nature of the peace that is God’s gift to us each day. It is, at times, much easier taken from us than any of our worldly possessions ever could be. A situation at work might be the culprit, or a conflict at home might rob us of it. An endless burden or an extended time of trial might relieve of us of it before we even know that it is gone. Where is the joy and contentment of daily being in the presence of God? Where has it gone? Where did I put it? Maybe it was a cross word with a friend that stole it away, or a blunder on your part that gnaws away the grace so freely given.

The powers and principalities of this present darkness do not simply come for us in the night when everyone should be sleeping. No, the tempter is more subtle than that. With utmost conniving, the thief who would rob us of the peace, joy and contentment that God intends for us, comes in the light of day. There he sets his trap for us in our most trusted relationships, in the routine of going through the day, and perhaps most deceitfully, in the places and with people where we find the most rest and comfort.

Before we know what has happened, we have been robbed. Yet we are not without recourse — no, not in the least. Our remedy is in abundance. God is never far when we have need of comfort, and God is always zealous in restoring to us that which darkness and evil have sought to take from us. Limitless are the ways and means of God returning to us that which has been taken from us. Someone from church will speak a word of encouragement. A friend remembers us and calls us by name when she prays. Another finds some time for us to be together, share a cup of coffee and some conversation. We sing a hymn in worship, or hear a word spoken that gives to us again the joy that God has always meant to be ours. There are countless ways that God works in our lives to keep us close through whatever trial, tragedy or temptation we may face. Even as the evil one uses whatever means is available to rob us and deceive us, so too does God exhaust every avenue in bringing us again to a place of peace and joy.