Saturday, January 04, 2014
Driving home from the office this week, I pulled into a snow-covered parking lot and stared into my phone. I’d received a text from a member asking for prayer. Family members were facing a daunting challenge, and they wanted to be able to do and say the right thing, the helpful thing, the loving thing. But ho could they do that amid tense and emotionally-taxing circumstances?
Sitting in the darkness, I took my phone and wrote a prayer on the little screen on which my clumsy fingers hit more wrong letters than not. I wrote:
God al all peace, sometimes the hurt is so great and our confusion so deep we do not know what to do or say or feel. Nor do we know what we should ask of you. But you know us, and you know our need. So we will ask only for your love and peace to abide in our hearts, trusting that you will never fail or abandon us to face our trials alone. For you are ever with us and your love will always find us, even when our souls tremble within. Be with us now, for you are our peace.
I sent the text, put the car in gear and drove out of the lot. Half block down the street, a wave of gratitude washed over me, lightness filled my being, and I prayed aloud as I drove, “Thank you that I know how to pray. Thank you that I know how to reach out for you. Thank you that I feel you in this heart of mine … and in those for whom I prayed.”
I was thankful that somehow, somewhere, someone taught me to pray … and that Christ had been born in me so that I felt his presence in my life and the lives of those who sought my prayers.
I thought back, too, asking, who taught me the language and attitude of prayer? My mother or father? My pastor when I was a boy? A couple of Sunday school teachers I remember? Or was it only later, in mid-life that I learned how to open my heart and pray from my depths, finding my way into Christ’s presence?
Frankly, I can’t remember who first taught me. Thinking back, I see there were many who taught and guided me, including some who rejected my faith altogether. Their questions moved me further along the way into a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. God’s Spirit used them all.
Unlike the three wise men who came seeking Jesus, you might say there were many stars in my firmament, not just one. Each one shined with the light of Christ’s holy love for me, pulling me along, into the relationship with him that now blesses me … and I hope you, too.
They moved me to want to kneel at the feet of Jesus as they knelt before him and to offer my gifts as they offered theirs.
I have them to thank for a moment of rich blessing on a cold winter night.
Pr. David L. Miller
Wednesday, January 01, 2014
At the dawn of this new year, the contrast is striking. Wise men come from the east, filled with delight at the appearance of a star. Herod, the king, is unsettled and angry, upsetting all Jerusalem.
Herod was determined to maintain his death grip on the power, position and privileges past years and his brutalities had secured. He would gladly kill that which the star heralded. Little wonder all Jerusalem trembled.
The wise men traveled into the unknown of a new day, hearts open to receive what gift or surprise, what joy or challenge might lie in the straw of a manger.
Had they wanted the future to be just like the past they would have stayed home. But their hearts were open to the promise that bright stars portend. So they followed.
They are patron saints of January 1.
Open your hearts and follow the light of Holy Presence in your life, they seem to say. It will lead you on unlikely journeys to unknown places and people who will bless you in surprising ways.”
You will cry tears of joy, sorrow and longing. You will feel more love and hope than you ever thought possible.
The pain of the world and its suffering will strike your heart, but you will know that even this rests in the hands of the healing love that shines from that star--and in every human soul who dares to follow its light.
Your heart will find its home, and you will become more human than ever before.
So release the past and look for the star every day of this new year. Its light is there, so keep your eyes open. You will see it in smiles and grace, in good times and bad, in set backs and success.
The stars, bearers of Christ’s holy light, shine--somehow, some way--in every place and circumstance, piercing the darkness and inviting you to let he who is Love grow and change you into the holy light you are yet to be.
It's New Year's Day, so let hope burn warm and bright. Love shines in every star of your life. Follow its light where ever it goes. It is leading you home.
Pr. David L. Miller
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
I wish I had been with the wise men. I wish I had followed that star. I wish I had traveled long days beside them and felt what was in their hearts--the uncertainty and longing, the hope and the anticipation of the unknown.
I would have joined them in their blessed and holy search to witness this unique moment of time when heaven laid in a manger.
Walking with them into the humble stable, I would have knelt beside them and kissed the dirt at the place where the favor of God stooped to touch the crying needs of human hearts.
To kneel before the child would have brought the greatest joy and treasure of all, far greater than any treasures the wise men carried on their journey in search of heaven’s face.
For there, kneeling in the dirt, I would know the soul of the universe and the truest desire of my soul to dwell in the presence of the One who is all beauty and wonder, all love and peace.
But the ecstasy of this moment of splendid knowing is not so far away in time or space. I have knelt before him many times and places, at elaborate gilt altars and in thatched churches under crystal blue skies where grace found me.
In days of traveling far from home, I knelt in the dust of foreign lands and literally kissed the ground of places where the Christ became more real to me than ever before because of the loving struggle of peoples to live and give life amid immense tragedy and hatred.
There are those near at hand at whose feet I would kneel because of the presence of Christ so clearly in them, but they would think it odd to be so honored.
I kneel, too, some days in this holy place lit by a candle before putting my hands on these keys.
It is my Bethlehem, holy ground where heaven and earth meet. On precious days, like today, the Soul of the Universe chooses to be laid in the straw of my words that I might see and feel him … and be made alive.
It is then that I know the hearts of the wise men who followed the star. But I also know that I suffer no loss because 20 centuries separate me from their journey.
For the manger is not far away, nor is it long ago. The place of kneeling in joy before the Christ is close at hand.
The Holy One, the face of heaven, lies in the flesh of those who receive and love him. Our flesh and these poor words are the straw in which he lies. We are the manger; he is the treasure.
No words can express sufficient gratitude for this blessing
Pr. David L. Miller
Monday, December 30, 2013
All true spiritual knowledge is re-cognition, seeing and knowing what is already deep within us, around us, what we might have suspected and felt to be real and true but could not quite name.
Two people meet. They talk. They find friendship or even love, and in the process they see, feel and just know something of themselves in the other person, something that fits, a missing part of themselves in the other.
Something just fits and brings completion.
This feels rather abstract, but it is as real as everyday encounters and as powerful as the love that draws and keeps two souls together in friendship, love and life.
All that is shares in his life. Every created thing bears the being of Christ. Our life is an expression of his life.
Just so, our being finds completion and peace as we share unity with him. He is the missing of our own being, which our souls might well recognize because he is in us and we are a part of him.
Sin, selfishness, deep wounds and fears blind so that we fail to see Christ as our true nature, as the missing piece, the unrecognized truth of our souls. They prevent us from recognizing ourselves as expressions of his being.
But when Christ appears to us in his word or another human life, when we hear and feel his truth authentically presented, our souls are drawn toward unity with him for he is our Source.
The depth of our souls know: His heart is the secret of our own deep heart, the truth of our being. Uniting with him in love feels like coming home and knowing yourself, recognizing that he was there in and with you … all along.
Pr. David L. Miller
Sunday, December 29, 2013
So the shepherds hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.
The sweetest praise and joy comes from a Source beyond and within us. It is spontaneous, a gift. It washes over and fills the heart when you are least looking for it.
Riding in the car, looking out the window, the sun illumines a field of snow. Corn stalks protrude through the gentle white blanket, shimmering silver in sunlight, reaching to a fence line a hundred acres west.
A cloudless sky, crystal blue, stretches from one horizon to the other, a dome of wintry peace over this little patch of earth.
My mind and heart rest, no thoughts great or small when unsummoned emotion rises from a place within me that I cannot touch or command, a surge of gratitude and joy for this unrepeatable moment.
Of its own accord, my mouth forms two simple words, “thank you.” The words, barely a whisper, are totally inadequate and absolutely unnecessary. They cannot speak the joy of this moment, the beauty and grace of just being alive.
But it doesn’t matter. The Heart who creates such moments from all eternity knows … . This One knows what is in my heart at this moment. Of that I am as certain as I am of my own existence.
For the heart I feel within is the Great Heart who seduces me in moments of greatest beauty and joy.
So, once more, thank you, for this life, this love, this grace.
And although they feel utterly inadequate, the words matter. I need to speak them even as I need to write them now.
We can will ourselves to praise God. We can make ourselves do it, meditating on God’s beauty and glory, grace and blessings that have come to us, and give simple thanks.
But the sweetest joy and praise is total gift. It comes when the heart is overwhelmed with beauty and grace, with love and hope.
Looking out the car window, carried on a wave of gratitude, I know how the shepherds felt as they departed the stable after seeing the infant Jesus. I know why they had to speak what was in their hearts.
They had seen and held the grace that holds us all. And when the heart is full, it must speak.
So glory to you, Holy One, and highest praise, for the favor that shines in your son’s blessed face and in every graced moment of living.
Pr. David L. Miller