A Child Laughs — Compassionate Care for Those Who Are Chronically Ill

There’s an old nursery rhyme – “Tuesday’s child is full of grace.” For the next five months I will share sections from the new book — A Child Laughs — Prayers of Justice and Hope (edited by Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi) Pilgrim Press, May 1, 2017.

This book asks the question — what does it take for all the children in the world, all the children in the world, to be not only fed and sheltered and safe but also to be able to laugh. More than one hundred themes and issues crucial to hope and justice were crowd-sourced to create this collaborative anthology of fifty-two reflections from seventy-seven writers in eleven different countries. Of course I would love to have my readers buy this book, but even more I want you to hear some of these voices, each so very different. So every week I’m going to share a prayer or reflection or poem from one of these. This week I am sharing all of a chapter by Jamie Spriggs. She gives this as her “bio:” 

The Reverend Jamie Spriggs entered ministry as her third and final calling, after pursuing careers in French and in academic technology. She currently lives on a pretty lake with her dog, where she enjoys canoeing, hiking, and taking photos of beautiful sunsets.

Compassionate Care for Those Who are Chronically Ill

It’s hard enough to have a discrete health need, a broken bone, or a passing illness that invades our bodies and takes us from our daily rhythms, requiring time, attention, resources and care. How much more difficult it is when a long-term and progressive illness settles in, causing life to change in both large and small ways.

This is hard enough. But while some people have a support team with time and willingness to help, others find themselves desperate and isolated, without access to good care. Some may have the resources to purchase what is needed, but many others struggle to get medicine, equipment, and even caregivers.

Psalm 139:7-14a
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Personal Prayer

God, it is hard
when sickness extends beyond the acute
and makes itself at home in the bodies that are home to us



We settle into unsought rhythms
Life seemingly reduced to messy necessities
and we feel so alone.



God, it is hard
when small comforts and mundane tasks
require resources that we do not have.

It is hard
when the value of our lives
seems measured by what help
what time
what comfort
we can afford to hire.

We know that we are your beloved children
that your love for us is not measured by our wealth or our family or our connections.

We know that you are with us
at the farthest limits of possibility
in heaven, in sheol, in all the in-between places

in bed and bathroom and wheelchair
in closed-in spaces of illness and caregiving
even in the valley of the shadow of death
but we yearn for health in body, mind, and spirit.
We yearn for breath and laughter and sunshine and freedom.


Help us to reach for what is needed
Help us to claim for ourselves
love
joy
goodness
health

Remind us that you are in both storm and stillness
speaking peace, speaking comfort, speaking hope.


Remind us that you love us beyond reason.
Remind us that you love us beyond death.
Amen

Community Prayer

Prayer of Confession
God, we confess that we do not like to be confronted with things we cannot fix.
We are tempted to speak platitudes pretending that you never give anyone more than they can handle.
We like easy solutions tied up with neat bows
and it is hard for us to sit with someone who will not be healed.

We confess that we have time and talents we have hoarded for ourselves.
We confess that we are embarrassed by messy eating;
we are embarrassed by smells and by forgetfulness.

We confess that out of sight too often really is out of mind.
We confess that we would rather recommend services
in our mistaken certainties —
that there must be enough
that someone else must supply time, resources, and care
that our social net cannot possibly have such large holes
that the desperation we see is only for lack of knowledge
that we ourselves cannot possibly fill the gap

.

We confess that we would rather do some practical thing and be done.
because it is easier to bring a casserole, send some flowers, or write a card
than it is to engage in messy relationships for the long haul.



Forgive us when we prescribe for ourselves
ways to think about the situations of others
rather than sharing them in full complexity. Amen

Assurance of Grace

God comes to us again and again, clearing our understanding, like a log in the eye, so that we can respond to the many splinters of complication in chronic and acute health situations of those around us.

Prayer of Intercession

Mother God, Father God, Creator and Sustainer,
We entrust to your care all those who sorrow or suffer.
those who are facing crises which threaten to overwhelm them,
those who are lonely or hurting, those who are in need.
Fill them with the joy of your presence;
Use us as your arms and your hands to minister to them.
We ask that you forgive us and heal us
fill us and transform us
So that we might love and serve all of your beloved children
and praise you not only with our lips
but with our very lives.
Amen

Questions for Reflection/Action

Do you remember a time in your life when you were desperate: when there weren’t enough resources to go around, when you felt isolated or overwhelmed? What, if anything, did friends or neighbours do that was helpful for you? What did you not find helpful? What do you wish they had offered?

Who in your community has been struggling with chronic illness, either their own or that of a loved one — a child or an adult? Besides health, what might they be yearning for? a hot meal? easy company? the ability to get out and get away? inclusion? listening? What discrete thing can you offer them without it being a way to “check the situation off your list”? What ongoing (or weekly or monthly) action might you offer?

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Prayer for Mogadishu

God, today I weep
for the slain of Mogadishu –
for young and old,
for days not lived, gifts not given,
but those who love and know
each of their names
are changed
not for a day, but years,
even all of life itself.

Hold them, Holy One,
in hands of deep comfort,
that are not fickle,
breaking-news driven.

And hold me here –
praying for Somalia, for Somalia,
for all your children
in Somalia.

In my country it is autumn
and, red and gold,
the whispers of the trees fall.

I pray that we are not witnessing
a larger autumn –
of the leaves of the trees
for the healing of nations.
amen.

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A Reflection on Matthew 25: 31-46

Come, you who are blessed
with a commonwealth of love and work.
Later, if you insist,
we can talk about heaven.

For I am a California fire victim
and you feed me in your back yard.

I am thirsty in Puerto Rico
and you bring clean water to me,
knowing that after a hurricane’s winds
I do not need anything more
to be thrown at me.

I am earth stripped naked,
and you name me creation –
not natural or any other kind of resource.

I am a Rohingya Muslim refugee
and you welcome me.

I am a child in Yemen
mourning my siblings, sick from cholera,
and you know my story.

I am arrested and detained,
taken from my family and friends
to be deported to certain death
in my home country –
and you walk in vigil for me,
and offer me sanctuary.

I dream every night
of running from the arena in Las Vegas
and you promise that guns like these
will never be put in the hands
of shattered people
who can become killers.

And as for you there
with the Christ-recognition problem –
too busy, you say,
too worried about your own health,
charity begins at home,
second amendment rights,
things will never change,
don’t want to offend anyone,
broken hearted,
or need to post, pin, tweet about it.

You curse yourselves.

But God says –
come here, you broken-hearted
and I will heal you.
As for the rest of you – get a life
preferably by saving one,
and come and join
the least of these, my family,

for it is not yet the end of time,
and while sheep are exceedingly awesome,
there’s a lot of head-butting
to be done
and God can take great joy
at the antics of goats.

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Creative Worship … free (and amazing) songs, prayers and liturgy from Aotearoa, New Zealand

The artistic gifts of Philip Garside are remarkable. He is making available the first volume of Creative Worship electronically — thirty-two pages of his songs, prayers and poems. People can download the PDF for free on his website here:
And, because Philip knows from personal experience that getting permission to use copyrighted material for worship or for choirs is a hassle, churches and choirs can print, copy and perform the songs for free as well. He asks for an email address so he can let churches know about additional works — but his motivation is sharing rather than selling.

As he says in the introduction:
“I am passionate about being creative when leading worship, because presenting new ideas or new twists on the familiar help to engage people as we worship God together.
The songs, poems and prayers in this book are the best of my output over the years. They have all been used successfully in worship.
My hope is that you will dip into the book and try a new song or two in your own worship setting. When you do, please email me to let me know how they went.

Please also feel free to adapt and re-arrange the material here, to make it your own.”
Copyright licensing and payments are a hassle for churches and choirs. While I retain
the copyright in my work, I really do want churches, worship and small group leaders
and choirs to copy, sing and use the songs, prayers and poems in this book – for free!

To help you learn the songs I have provided links to midi and mp3 instrumental files,
and to the Noteworthy Composer software music settings. There are also links to
videos of me playing Love Grow Within Us and Breath of the Spirit.

Philip is currently compiling a companion Creative Worship: Volume 2, containing
samples of sermons, children’s talks and teasers. This will be available at http://www.pgpl.co.nz later in 2017. 

Transposing musical notation is tricky in this blog format, so (while telling you that Philip is first and foremost a musician) I would like to share this litany that I love.

God is in the small things

Lord, open our eyes to your creation:
A fiery sunset on a wide horizon
A spider’s delicate web, spangled with dew
The vibrancy of a child’s painting
The miniature world of life in a rock pool
You are in the small things that we see every day

Lord, open our ears to:
A tui’s song
Children’s laughter in the playground
Music of the city street and traffic’s hum
The joy of a choir singing
You are in the small things that we hear every day

Lord, help us savour:
A meal prepared with love for us by another person
The tang of an exotic fruit
The morning’s first cup of coffee or tea
An ice cream at the beach
You are in the small things that we taste every day

Lord, help us breathe in the smell of:
Salt spray on the wind
Dripping wet native bush on a walk
A new born baby’s head
Mahoe tree owers on a still night
You are in the small things that we smell every day

Lord, help us to feel:
The warmth of a handshake or hug
A pat on the shoulder when we are sad
The softness of an animal’s fur
The smoothness of a river pebble
You are in the small things that we touch every day

Lord help us as we:
Smile shyly at a new neighbour or classmate
Make a cuppa for a friend
Serve on a committee
Sing in a choir
You are in the small things that we do every day

Lord help us to wonder at:
Coming to church each week and leaving
refreshed
Pohutukawa blossom at Christmas
Holding a child’s hand as they walk to school
The Southern Cross on a clear night
Your love is in the small things that we keep in our hearts. Amen

About this prayer
God is wondrous and big beyond our imaginations. But God is also present with us in the everyday things and activities of life.

You could try projecting an image relating to each stanza of the prayer, e.g. a sunset, children in a playground, a cup of tea, and so on.

Some of the words relate specifically to New Zealand:
• tui – a native songbird;
• mahoe – a flowering tree that smells lovely at night to attract moths;
• pohutukawa – our Christmas tree with deep green leaves and red owers; and
• the Southern Cross constellation.

If you are in another country, personalise the prayer for your congregation by substituting local equivalents.

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Prayer for the California Fires

God of water in wine country,
God of firefighters
and neighbors rescuing neighbors,

gently wash the mourners
in your wet tears,
send still waters of the heart
with those who hunt the missing,
and serve the evacuated.

Let the trickle of living water
cool cracked lips
and lay the damp cloth of hope
on those who will begin in these next days
to search for precious things,
to plan re-building.

Pentecost is a day’s image
but baptism is for our lives.

Let the people of California
feel your long cool love.
Let the earth feel your long cool love.
Amen

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Tuesday’s Child — A Child Laughs Post on Gun Violence and Gun Control

There’s an old nursery rhyme – “Tuesday’s child is full of grace.” For the next five months I will share sections from the new book — A Child Laughs — Prayers of Justice and Hope (edited by Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi) Pilgrim Press, May 1, 2017.

This book asks the question — what does it take for all the children in the world, all the children in the world, to be not only fed and sheltered and safe but also to be able to laugh. More than one hundred themes and issues crucial to hope and justice were crowd-sourced to create this collaborative anthology of fifty-two reflections from seventy-seven writers in eleven different countries. Of course I would love to have my readers buy this book, but even more I want you to hear some of these voices, each so very different. So every week I’m going to share a prayer or reflection or poem from one of these. This week I am sharing all of a chapter by Shelly Davis. She gives this as her “bio:” 

Shelly Davis is a pastor, preacher and poet living and serving in Milton, MA. She prays and works for the day when none of God’s children will believe they need a gun.

Gun Violence and Gun Control in the United States

The United States is a nation marked by a strong prevalence of gun ownership among its citizenry, a culture of the “right” for its citizens to bear arms that is steeped in certain interpretations of its very Constitution, and an enduring narrative of seemingly any frontier—geographic or figurative—being conquerable with the aid of firearms.

There are those who own guns they use to hunt for food to feed their families or pursue the shooting sports, and most gun control advocates respect these uses. Yet even in the midst and wake of numerous mass shootings and the reality that on average seven children and teens under the age of twenty each day are killed by gun violence in the United States, an intractable struggle persists between gun-rights and gun-control advocates.

Personal Prayer

My heart aches, O God, for another child, another image of you, caught in the crossfire. Oh—my—God, the crossfire. Why has that word never struck me like this before? The cross—fire. Your cross: a symbol of your self-giving love. Your fire: a symbol of your Holy Spirit. How can I bring your cross and your fire to bear on this duel, this showdown, this shootout?

I need the breadth and depth of your love, so starkly and hauntingly depicted on a crude Roman cross, to enter more deeply into the reasons one might choose to have a gun. What causes anyone to be so terrified, so enraged, so entitled? What of the sport of it? Must one form of hunting inevitably lead to all other forms of hunting? What of the previously assaulted, the previously hunted? What of those targeted by the state, or empire—just like you, Jesus?

I need your fire, the fire of your Holy Spirit, to ignite my passion for justice, for life, for children, for hope. Maybe I can “fight fire with fire” after all: your fire, the fire of justice, the fire of life, the fire of children, the fire of hope.

Between your cross and your fire is resurrection; resurrection and stories of seeing you along the way, especially in the breaking of bread. Death is not final. Death is not final. Death is not final. Not even the death dealing of a gun-drenched America. That is the story of my faith. Is not this faith, my faith in you, a faith to stand in the crossfire?

If I choose to stand in the crossfire, what will I feel, what will I say, what will I do?
I will feel afraid and vulnerable and open.
I will say that you came to give us life, not to take life away.
I will do something I never thought I could do before.

I will rise.

I will rise to the challenge. I will rise to enter the story. I will rise to a new level of conversation with those whose opinions are diametrically opposed to mine. I will rise to a different experience of your cross. I will rise in the heat and flame of your fire: the fire of justice, the fire of life, the fire of children, the fire of hope.

Walk with me Jesus. Walk with me into the crossfire. Amen

Community Prayer

Dodging Bullets: A Sequence of Reconciliation

Call to Reconciliation

In all our dodging and weaving, God waits for us to stand still, catch our breath, and cry out for healing and grace.

Prayer of Confession

Howling, Horrified God of Hope,

Too many children—our children, your children—are becoming far too adept at dodging bullets—in their streets, their alleys, their parks, their schools, their homes.

How ironic that dodgeball is considered too dangerous to be sanctioned play at recess while dodging bullets has become a necessary life skill for children in these United States of America.

From our urban jungles, to our amber waves of grain, to our suburban sanctuaries, our school children learn lockdown routines to prepare them for the possibility of an armed intruder.

In a mad rush to protect ourselves from anyone and everyone—but ourselves—many of our homes now house more guns than human lives.

How is it that we see no contradiction in praying with Isaiah “to turn our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks,” while arming ourselves at the rate of nine guns for every ten people, including children?

Unhinge our hearts, O God, from this culture of violence and prison of extreme self-reliance, that we may dig deeper than the nearest holster or pocket or pocketbook or pillow or gun cabinet to consider what we are most desperately dodging: fear, self-doubt, trauma, meaninglessness.

You, Holy One, have the power to make all things new—even here, even now, even us.

Open then our hearts to the power and presence of your steadfast love. Teach us your ways of peace and reconciliation, with one another and ourselves. Embolden us to lay down our arms that we may teach your still more excellent way to our children, your children, in hope and in peace. Amen

Assurance of Grace

God’s grace and reconciliation makes all things new: even here, even now, even us. Thanks be to God.

Questions for Reflection/Action

Do you presently own or have you ever owned a gun?

If not, seek out someone who does, arrange a face-to-face meeting, and ask that person to help you understand why she or he chooses to own one. If you have or do, seek out someone who never has, arrange a face-to-face meeting, and ask that person to help you understand why he or she chooses not to own one.

Why do you think the United States has such high gun ownership rates, especially compared to other developed countries?

How does your understanding of Jesus’ teaching and actions as we encounter them in the gospels support or challenge your own position on gun rights and gun control?

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It’s not too late — Happy Thanksgiving

It is already Monday
It is already Thanksgiving Day
And I have been so busy
That I didn’t realize that
Time was slipping away

Life is too often like that
Time slips away
Before we are aware
Of its passing
And we are left with regrets

But today, Lord,
I will take some time
To thank you
For everything you have given me
I will take some time
To remember
The good things in my life
I will take some time
To enjoy
The people I love

I am thankful for many things
That I live in a place
Where I can walk without fear
That my cupboards are full
Sometimes too full
That I have enough
And to share

And I know that
I am graced
I know that grace
Is a gift
Nothing I have done
Merits any of what I have
It is through your grace
That I have so much
For which I am thankful

Even in the busyness, Lord,
Help me to remember this
And to give thanks
On this day and every day

Thanksgiving blessings,
Katherine Burgess

Photo Nancy Arthur Best

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