Lent, Day 37: Horror

Day 37: Horror

Imagine my horror when I saw my 3 year-old daughter with school scissors in her hand. She wanted to cut her hair and make it “pretty!” She had cut her bangs off! (Perhaps it is just as well I don’t have a photo.)

If you and I reflect further, God loves us anyway. Even when we do silly stuff.

Thank You, God!

#lentensnapshots2022

Lent, Day 23: Nurture

Day 23: Nurture

Mary the Cat with Elizabeth


Our cat #MaryTheCat is sweet and affectionate.
My husband says she nestles in my lap because I am warm and nurturing, and Mary knows that I am a mama.


That may be true, but I know that Mary is a comfort to me, too.
##lentensnapshots2022

Lent, Day 17: Unfolding

Day 17: Unfolding

With Lent coming as the winter blossoms into spring, I can’t help but think of unfolding in association with early spring flowers.

This photo is from last spring, when my husband Kevin and I went to one of my favorite places, the Chicago Botanic Garden. Unfolding!

##lentensnapshots2022

Lent, Day 16: Formation

Day 16: Formation

Many classes, teachers, mentors and individuals assisted in my formation. Including 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education. (Shout outs to Revs. Romy, Peter, Caroline and Mary, my CPE supervisors!) And, of course, appreciation to all 4 groups.

Yes, I spent many years in formation, and haven’t stopped yet! Thank You, Jesus, that You haven’t gotten fed up with me, either.

##lentensnapshots2022

Lent, Day 13: Try

Day 13: Try

I remember Yoda (of “Star Wars” fame), when he told Luke: “Do, or do not. There is no try!”

Yoda’s words are disheartening to me. I honestly believe that by trying, by striving, I am doing the next right thing. Plus, I think God is pleased when I try, wholeheartedly. Thank God!

##lentensnapshots2022

Day 20: Storytelling

December 17, 2021

Day 20: Storytelling

Fine, skilled storytellers can capture people’s attention and imagination. I know – I’ve heard a few. Storytelling is an art I wish I had. Extemporaneously, off-the-cuff. I have seen others do it, and I am both wowed and envious, at the same time.

I was intrigued when I saw this entry on the Tree of Contemplative Practices, on the Relational branch. I suppose I had never thought of it before, but storytelling not only is an art, it can be a way to actively approach the Holy. A way to show not only relationship with one another (horizontally), but also relationship with God (vertically), too.

As I was reflecting on this topic (and entry on the Tree), I became sadly aware – again! – of my periodic aphasia. Yes, I had a major stroke when I was a teenager. Yes, it affected my whole right side, which I have regained control over. However, the stroke also caused considerable confusion in my speech center. I gradually, and painstakingly, relearned how to use certain neural pathways. For years, I would often stop in the middle of a sentence because I couldn’t grab hold of the word or phrase I had in my mind in order to communicate a thought. But gradually, this became less and less. It still happens, but not quite as much or as often.

Back to my storytelling story. In my late 20’s, I was serving as a youth pastor at an integrated Lutheran church in the Austin area. We had a large Vacation Bible School that summer, and I was the director of VBS. As I stood in front of between 30 and 40 primary and junior-aged children on the first morning, I realized I had not prepared for this. This opening segment of the daily program. (I had a toddler and a preschooler at that time. The toddler was plastered to my leg all week, I vividly recall.)

Imagine my joy and wonder as I started to relate the story of Jacob and Joseph from Genesis, and I found the words immediately accessible. No stumbling, and no aphasia. The children were excited at my story, at the gestures and different voices (for the different characters). I saved the day in that situation. (Yes, the children eagerly wanted me to continue with the story of Joseph for the next days!) And, I gained some courage, some insight into my expanding limits, and thankfulness that God did assist me.

I feel better about storytelling now, several decades later. I still get lost in the details, more often than not, but I do try to tell effective stories which aid in communicating about God and God’s will and ways.

Dear God, thanks for storytelling, which has been continuing for centuries, in many cultures and people-groups . Thank you for effective storytellers (of which I certain am not!). And help us all to be able to communicate clearly, in a winsome way. Even if our words are halting and our actions good-intentioned but somehow found wanting, Thank You for using us and our voices to communicate stories.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )

Day 15: Pilgrimages for Social Justice

December 12, 2021

Day 15: Pilgrimages for Social Justice

I have never been on a pilgrimage to a far-away place. I have wanted to go, for a long time! But, it never seems to happen. I never have had the opportunity.

However – I have made short pilgrimages. I have stood up for people who were oppressed or endangered because of the religion they practice.

I can immediately think of two situations. Both were in support of two neighboring houses of worship. Both were mosques. One in the community where my church is located, and the other, the next suburb to the west. I have a number of friends and acquaintances at the mosque in my church’s suburb. I consider myself blessed to count several as dear friends.  

Several years ago, the nearby mosque had a situation where they needed to heighten alerts while services were going on inside the mosque. I joined about thirteen or fourteen others to stand alongside the curb, to stand in silent witness and solidarity and support. We stood there all during the service, just in case anyone should stop by to hassle any members of that house of worship.

Yes, I wore my clerical collar as I stood with a candle, as a visual witness to all those who drove by the mosque. And yes, I was very grateful when one of my acquaintances from the mosque invited us in afterwards, to share a meal with all the congregation after the service. Such a blessing, all the way around. For me, taking a stand and standing in witness, and for my friends and acquaintances, realizing that they were supported and cared for by others in the community.

When I attended seminary, I was in a spiritual formation group my first year, meeting weekly. It was not only a formation group, but also an accountability group. One of the chapters we read, talked about and prayed over was “Practicing the Compassionate Life: The Social Justice Tradition.” We were responsible for not only reading and praying, but also doing. That was an integral part of the whole.

A quote from this workbook: “The best way to start your task this week is to begin with this simple prayer: “Lord Jesus, show me someone whom I can serve.” God loves to answer this prayer.” [1] Oh, my. Yes. I feel so strongly about Matthew 25, where Jesus details compassionate service for the least, the downtrodden, the poor and forgotten. God does indeed desire all followers to “give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.” (Psalm 82:3).

I feel this so deeply in my heart. Yes, please God, I will. Dear God, thank You for Your love for each of us. Help us to show Your love to others. Help us to reach out in service for others, no matter what color, ethnicity, social standing, and – yes – religion or faith tradition. Thank You for giving me such wonderful opportunities , to live this social justice tradition regularly. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Smith, James Bryan and Graybeal, Lynda, A Spiritual Formation Workbook (A Renovaré Resource for Spiritual Renewal), (HarperSanFransisco: United States of America, 1993), 54.

Day 14: Contemplative Arts

December 11, 2021

Day 14: Contemplative Arts

This creative entry on the Tree of Contemplative Practices brings me back to a gentle, bittersweet memory of a Saturday morning Lenten retreat planned by my then-spiritual director (may she rest in peace!).

Such a kind, compassionate woman of God. Always had her ears and heart open. Always had abundant and directed wisdom to share. Wonderful, loving presence.

She was an elder in a Presbyterian church where I used to attend, as well as serving on the national staff for a Christian organization. This was a periodic spiritual offering she made to her directees as well as the women of the PC(USA) church. I would attend when I could.

I remember the Bible passage she chose for this particular retreat: Psalm 23. As the women dispersed to go to various corners and rooms of the church education wing, I took the several sheets with the printed psalm, a photo of a lamb on a hillside, and some direction of what steps to take for the morning. As I followed the different steps and prayer prompts, I felt myself internally letting go of the rush-rush, hurry-hurry that had been gripping my insides.

What a relief! What a blessing, too.

One of the last things on the agenda for the morning was an open invitation: a suggestion to create an art project of some kind. My spiritual director had several different art stations. Crayons, art pencils, colored tissue paper, scissors, glue, cardboard, and other supplies available. Yes, I am artistic. And, yes, I felt drawn to some coloring sheets. I picked up colored pencils, and started to draw and color.

I still have that particular coloring sheet. It was a design of a Tiffany glass window – or rather, two windows, side by side. I colored one window in muted gray and brown tones, looking quite like the weather and the view outside on that gray, February day. The other window on that sheet? I colored it in warm, soft, welcoming pastels. The sun shone in the blue sky in the second picture, instead of the sky having all dull grey-toned clouds in the first window.   

This hope-filled portrait of the two different sides of my life and spirit seemed to be a natural outgrowth of my morning’s prayer, meditation and contemplation. Yes, I was still in a gray place, even at the end of that morning. However, I could see my way to approaching the place of color, of vibrancy, and warmth.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to create that drawing. I felt that picture so deeply. I appreciate my spiritual director. And, I pray that I might be able to provide opportunities for others to reflect, pray and contemplate, just as I did.

Dear Lord, thank You for my dear spiritual director. She walked with so many people during her life. She touched even more lives through her work and ministry. Help me to remember the abundant gifts she blessed me with. Help me – help us  to listen to You and to be creative, when offered the opportunity. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )

Day 11: Singing

December 8, 2021

“Those who sing pray twice.” This quote is attributed to St. Augustine. What a marvelous sentiment! Especially for someone like me, who loves music.

From the early teenage years of my walk with God, the deeply meaningful lyrics of so many hymns have drawn me in. They have spoken to my heart and soul. At the Lutheran church of my childhood and teen years as well as the sawdust trail Revival hymns and gospel songs of my late teens and early 20’s, the greatly theological lyrics (paired with gorgeous, uplifting hymn tunes) have held me fast. They’ve been one of the major foundations, the underpinnings of my belief.

Fast forward a few years. Imagine how my heart sang when I discovered some spiritual writers on prayer (whom I respected very much) stating that singing was a marvelous way to pray!

During Epiphany and Lent 2021, I taught a weekly Bible study that was out of the ordinary – for me. Instead of focusing on a Bible passage, or book of the Bible, or Bible character, I focused on the familiar hymns of the Church. One excellent resource I used for this study had the wry name 28 Hymns to Sing Before You Die. Written by two lifelong Presbyterians, John M. Mulder and F. Morgan Roberts, this marvelous book delved into the history behind the hymn texts, and the history of the authors.

Eugene Peterson wrote the foreword of this book. I was as moved by his words as I was by the stories behind the hymns. Particularly this paragraph, in light of our Advent contemplative prayer focus: “Each of these hymns is an act of worship that brings us into an awareness and receptivity to the life of the Trinity – the operations of all the persons of the Trinity in a participatory way. But the conditions in which [the hymn texts] were composed and sung were more often than not pain and devastation, sickness and poverty. And yet, somehow beauty and elegance were distilled out of conditions of doubt and hopelessness.” [1]

Oh, my. Eugene Peterson has hit on exactly what I have been feeling all these years. I felt the deep emotions of the authors of these hymns, without knowing exactly what their circumstance were when writing. Over the years, I have wept over these hymn texts, and rejoiced, too.

Although many people today do enjoy modern worship songs – and I have found some I enjoy, too – I am thinking of the traditional hymns of the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. These hymn texts may have older or archaic wording, yet at the same time so theological. Giants of hymn texts, like Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby come to mind.

I also love the written word. The words of hymns strike a balance between the dry, dusty theological tomes and the sometimes warm, sometimes striking experience of the heart. I pray you might consider these words from the marvelous hymn “He Leadeth Me, by Joseph H. Gilmore.

He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

God continues to hold my hand (and, your hand, too.)—”since God through Jordan leadeth me.” Until the end of our days; and finally as trusting children, we cross that river Jordan, too.

Dear Lord, thank You for such marvelous words. Thank You for such wonderful opportunities to sing in congregations, with choirs, and to hear anthems in worship. Thank You for those times when the line from a hymn came to mind, and expressed exactly what I wanted to say to You. And, thank You for the gift of these words, crafted out of pain and heartache, as well as joy and praise and the whole gamut of emotions. Thank You for such a treasure within our hymnbooks. May we never lose the wonder and the worship that comes from these prayers in song. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Mulder, John M. and Roberts, F. Morgan, 28 Hymns to Sing Before You Die (Cascade Books: Eugene, OR, 2014), xii.