Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Luke 2:8-11

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

To you

We live a time of fear. But these words are nonsense. Fear is our human condition, the inescapable result of being finite and mortal. We love our existence and know we will lose it, fearing the day will come too soon.  

We always want more … more life, more love, more joy, dreading the loss of what we know and love.

It is not surpassing that the shepherds hide their faces and cling to the ground when strange sights interrupt the night. They know the fear they face in the darkness, the ravenous predators creeping on their sheep.
It is to them that the message comes, “Do not be afraid.”

The message comes … to you who know bad things can and will happen, to you who bear deep wounds and fear their next arrival, to you who feel the ache of separation from the Love that calms your heart, to you … a savior comes.

The savior unites heaven and earth. Separation from the Love who is Life is abolished. The Life of God is joined with our mortality and flows through our souls stilling every fear.

So ignore the fevered voices of fright that fan panic and alarm. Turn from those who tell you to be afraid. Rejoice and laugh. Lift your glass high and toast the heavens for the time of fear is done—to you is born a savior.

Pr. David L. Miller

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Luke 2:5-7

He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Wrapped in mercy

I am not sure there is anything more beautiful to me than a mother cradling an infant. Maybe it is because part of me longs to be loved like that, and another part wants to be able to love … just like that.

Mary cradles Jesus and wraps him bands of cloth. Nothing unusual. I can sit in the mall and watch young mothers lift their babies from strollers, re-wrap blankets around them and hold a bottle to their lips.

Watching them, I know I am seeing much more than a mother doing the most natural thing in the world. I feel hopeful because I am seeing the world as it should be, but most often is not.

There may have been no place for Mary and her baby in the inn, but there is a place for them in my heart. I want the whole world to be a place where the each of our lives is held tenderly in arms that desire us to be at peace.

This is why Mary moves me. She brings forth the child who is God with us and then holds and loves him the way God loves and holds each of us.

The child in her arms is exactly that holding. Jesus is the God-man. In him, God receives our human nature, our joy and weakness and all we are, holding it all as a mother cradles her child. All we are is wrapped in mercy.

Jesus wraps our humanity in the warmth of God just as Mary wraps her child. It’s beautiful and tender, humanizing and hopeful. Is it any wonder that I love her more with each passing year? 

Pr. David L. Miller

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saurday, December, 19, 2015

Luke 1:38

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Let it be

Artists for centuries sought to paint the exquisite beauty of this moment.

Their sensitive souls knew there is no greater beauty than that of a human soul surrendering to will of the Love who seeks it.

I like the portrayals that show Mary bowing before the angel Gabriel who also bows to her, each humbling themselves before the beauty standing before them … and to the mystery of God’s desire to use them to bring Christ to the world.

“Let it be to me according to you word.” Mary consents to the Love who seeks to live in her womb. There is no arrogance, no pride of privilege in her words, only the undiluted desire to be a vessel of Love’s will.

She does not yet know what this will cost her. But we know. Love’s will always means pain in a world that is not ordered by the Love who made it.

She loved a child whom she would never quite understand. She loved a son who would never truly belong to her but to the Loving Mystery who filled him.

But maybe she understood this, for she, too, had surrendered. And she learned that Love’s will takes you to places you do not want to go, doing things you thought beyond you.

But you do it for the joy, yes joy, of knowing Love live in you and through you to bring blessing to a world of hurt and to hearts that get lost in the maelstrom of living.

Mary consents to be the instrument of Love’s will in the world. A simple act of faith, trust that knows nothing of what will come but only that the One who is Love will be there in the dark and light.

Blessed are you, Mary, our sister. There are no words for your beauty. We can only stand before you in wonder. 

Pr. David L. Miller

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Isaiah 40:5

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
   and all people shall see it together,
   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ 

You are the glory

Open the door of our souls, O Lord, and release the river of Love flowing from within that we may shine with your glory.

We see the glory of the Lord in snowscapes of winter, the grandeur of mountains and the yawning immensity of space littered with billions of galaxies. We are moved by sunlight broken into spectrums as it streams through window panes and plays on walls and floors.

The earth is alive with the glory of God, but the greatest glory of all is our own human souls made free by Love God is.

Isaiah, the prophet, saw the vision of a freed people on their way home from bondage, released to truly live again by the Love of the Eternal Mystery whose will and ways are embedded deep in the working out of history.

They made their way home across wilderness and wasteland. But with each step they realized they were already home … even though the miles stretched out before them.

They felt themselves being carried forward by the One Love who came to their aid, comforting their souls with the freedom that comes only when one is filled with the love who is Love.

With each step, they came to know the glory of God is a soul filled with the ecstatic freedom and gratitude Love releases in the human heart.

It makes your eyes shine with a light and glory more luminous than all the galaxies God ever imagined. 

Seeing it, you know: No other glory is quite so bright. 

Pr. David L. Miller

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Isaiah 40:4

Every valley shall be lifted up,
   and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
   and the rough places a plain. 

The holy way

There is a way home into the heart of God. I walked it last Monday night.

Filled with anxiety about the uncontrollable future, I went to a favorite place to pray. I prayed aloud, my voice echoing against the brick walls of the tiny chapel, and I was utterly honest, holding nothing back. 

I named my faults and uncertainties, my failures and fears, self-doubt and inner accusations. I surrendered the absurd delusion that I am or should be more or better or different from the needy, fallible human hearts I meet each day. 

I was humbled, knowing I but one more human soul who can no more control the future that he can erase the past.

I made no promises to God about doing better, for I cannot assure myself or anyone else that my efforts to live and love and serve will by any better or worse than they have been for years.

Mountains of pride fell to the chapel floor. And my valley of sadness and shame was revealed as a product of the arrogance that I should be something more than human.

I surrendered to my life and limitations as they are, releasing the mind’s ceaseless chatter about what could or should or might be, accepting life’s circumstances and situations as the reality I must live.

Ironically, surrender brought peace. It stirred hope. It calmed the anxiety. It released everything to the Holy One from came a calm I could not give myself.

Hope, it seems, is born as you abandon yourself to your human limitations and situation, and open yourself to what God may bring. 

This is the holy way, the way the heart opens to God and begins to feel the stirring of life that is Life and Love that never dies. 

Pr. David L. Miller

Monday, December 07, 2015

Monday, Dec. 7, 2015

Isaiah 40:3

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
   make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 

The voice of hope

Wilderness is not a dry rocky space where life is hard. It is not a trackless thicket, a forest where you cannot find your way.

It is where you get lost, where you lose yourself and you forget who you are, your truth and value.

Wilderness is the anxiety that grips you difficult days when you can find no peace from which to draw strength. It is living with complicated relationships, navigating conflict and wondering if you really see things as they are.

For the prophet Isaiah the wilderness was the wild, rough landscape separating his people, Israel, from Judea, their home. Exiled in Babylon, they flew across the wilderness on the wings of imagination to survey the ancient hills and see Jerusalem again, the place of Presence where the Holy One was known and worshiped.

This was home. But their homes were long abandoned and the ruined temple was a pile of scattered stones. And they were far away, lost and captive, fast losing their courage and the memory of what it felt like to know God’s presence filling their hearts. They ached to feel whole and beloved again.

The Bible does not tell us the identity of the voice who cries out, “prepare the way of the Lord.”

Whoever it is, this is the voice of hope. It speaks to ancient Israel … and you, making God’s message clear: “I will not forget you. You are always on my heart. I will come to you in your wilderness that you may come home and know the Love I am.”

Pr. David L. Miller

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Isaiah 9:3-5
You have multiplied the nation,
   you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
   as with joy at the harvest,
   as people exult when dividing plunder. 
 For the yoke of their burden,
   and the bar across their shoulders,
   the rod of their oppressor,
   you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
   and all the garments rolled in blood
   shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 

Hope of the hills

My mind wanders to ancient hills, Holy One. It takes flight and circles the globe, hovering over sandblasted hills in deserts and ancient lands where people have lifted their hands to pray and praise you for thousands of years.

I see their descendants there, still with open hands and wounded hearts, and I wonder: What does it feel like to stand in ancient churches and pray with Christians in Syria, Iraq and across the Middle East?

It has been too long since I had this privilege. Praying with them, I felt connected with an ancient hope and heritage, filled with respect and love for souls who have endured more than I can imagine.

I have not seen my church destroyed. I have not entered the sanctuary on Christmas Eve fearing bombs planted by those who hate me. I do not look around at empty pews missing the faces of those who fled for their lives … or died trying. I don’t know anyone who was tortured for saying the name, Jesus.

But I know and have seen the faith of such souls. The prophet’s words excite a hope in them we cannot imagine. They know the tramp of soldier’s boots and garments rolled in blood.

Their prayers burst from the urgency of fear, crying out in hope for God to come break the yoke of oppression and bring compassion to the nations.

Come, Lord Jesus. 

Pr. David L. Miller

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Monday, November 29, 2015

Isaiah 9:2

The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
   on them light has shined. 

Blessed darkness

Light streams through western windows, stained glass painting sunspots blue and gold across the church floor, whispering, “Come, sit here for a while …and know.” 
Know? Yes, know that light is the love of the One who is Love warming the winter heart until it glows, at peace and happy just to be alive, filled with praise for the joy of knowing you, Holy One. Thank you … for sunlit moments when I know you.
But days come when I feel lost and alone. All I am and ever have been seems but a wisp of smoke, dust in the wind, soon scattered and forgotten. Darkness hangs heavy on my heart, shutting out light and joy, old feelings I have known since I was too young to remember.
And yet, thank you … for the darkness. It is more friend than foe. For it brings me to my knees, aching for the Light of Love to appear in the depth of my soul and revive me once more. 
It drives me beyond myself to surrender in tears, there to find the Light who finds me, the Love who is always there, waiting for me, the  Presence who appears within when I release the contortions and confusion of my heart to you … who wants all of me.
You are always there, the Light in the land of darkness.
I feel your knowing smile, appearing even as I sink beneath waves of sadness. You know I will soon come home to the Light and Love you are. So thank you … for moments when darkness threatens; they always lead me back to you.

Pr. David L. Miller

Sunday, November, 29, 2015

Isaiah 9:2

The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
   on them light has shined. 

Morning praise

Pink rims the horizon as the day’s first rays light limbs once dead, now draped with the season’s white garland, shimmering the eye and heart. 
Winter falls, but not on our souls. For this day is bathed in light, and light lifts our hearts, awakening awareness of the goodness of life and all that lives.
We move our chairs to catch the rays and allow them to penetrate to our core, basking in this gift given from the generosity of you, Loving Mystery, who called it … and us … into being.
It is as if we know our hearts will die, cold and lost without the golden gift of morning that awakens our bodies and stirs our hearts to the beauty and goodness of life, a new day a, gift given that we might know the goodness of you, the Giver. 
Light is life. Without it there is no life, no growth, no glorious dazzle of daybreak pinks and purples on white snowfields delighting our senses and making us glad we are alive. 
You are Light, Holy One, the Light from whom all light flows to bathe this old rock we call home. In the light, we know the Light you are, and in the darkness we feel your absence, awakening longing for morning to brim eastward and wake our hopes again for love and life, for peace and the beauty to warm our hearts and stir praise in our hearts. 
Thank you, O Lord. Thank you for coming to the dark places to lift my soul. You are light, and you shine in every love and grace-filled moment. 
Chase away every darkness and fill us with hope for every tomorrow.

Pr. David L. Miller

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday, Nov. 27, 2015

Psalm 25:14

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
   and he makes his covenant known to them. 


Worries of what will be
run night races ‘round
worn tracks of mind,
stealing sleep.

So I come here,
Dearest Friend, to
rest and hear your Voice
that breaks the race,
releasing the heart,
to sink into this familiar
chair and sit with you
a while in the silence
of knowing.

I come to know
my heart’s Friend, truly,
where silence settles
every noise of mind
and matter and that again
I might know who I am.

I know: I never
forget, ever, but there
is a knowing that stills
all else, evaporating all
distance I might feel
from you. For that I come,
light red candle and look
into the flame of love.

All works for good,
I hear, for your friends,
though goodness wears
disguises that require
patience and faith ‘til
joy appears in the dawn
of grace.

And morning comes …
now, dear Friend, a new day
in this time and song in which
I know … you are here,
awakening this old heart
haunted from earliest days
of its beating with the hope
of knowing you.

And I do, a knowing
that brings rest night cannot
give, the rest of sitting in
silence by this flame
that never dies.

Pr. David L. Miller

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015

Psalm 25:4-5

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
   teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
   for you are the God of my salvation;
   for you I wait all day long. 


I know your path,
Love and from Love
born, filling the heart
sparkling eyes with
delight of hope undying
when Fullness fills
and stills every craving
of inner ache … with You.

The snow melts now,
brilliant shroud of white
too soon a blight of mud
beneath black limbs once
ago electric with color
now gone, asleep.

But … no worry,
I know: Color comes
in its time and always
will. It’s the way you
are. And luster never
leaves my heart
for I know … You.

You are the Love
who never leaves
when autumn falls,
coming to consciousness,
warming my world
with colors of Presence
and Nearness, of Knowing
the Love who changed
and changes … Everything.

You are never gone,
but ever here … and
there … and wherever
I go. Rush of life,
anxious days, troubles
come, mere clouds,
hiding what always
is and always will be …

Today …
is filled with You,
every feeling acute
and clear, certain and sure,
everywhere I look, every note
that floats across the room,
sounds peace to my ear:
All is well. All is well.
Love lives and reigns,
Mystery ever near and
so far beyond, leaving
two words: Thank you
for being …

Pr. David L. Miller

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday, Nov. 23, 2015

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Of joy and pies

We are most like ourselves when we give. We are most like God when we share our souls in gifts from the heart.

A pie was sitting on my chair after Sunday worship. The giver was running a pie sale in the narthex of the church. The sale went well but better was the look on the sellers face when he told me there was a pie waiting for me on my office chair.

He also gave pies for other staff members and set several aside for a reception before the Thanksgiving Eve worship service. I appreciate the pies, although my waistline suggests that are contraindicated.

But much more I appreciate the man, and more: I am moved by what moves him.

Joy filled his smile as he scurried about delivering the sweet bounty. It felt good to give. His face told me so. He was having a good time. His heart was light, made so by being able to give.

Giving satisfies the soul. True, it can be done arrogantly or in ways that demean those who receive. But not for this man on this day.

The good pies came from a good heart made glad by giving without expectation of some quid pro quo where he would get something back. And his joy is the joy of God, the joy of human nature fulfilled.

Made in the image of God our inner nature finds fulfillment in giving, in blessing, in sharing, in loving in the manner of the Great Love God is.

Joy happens when our inner nature is fulfilled, when we are acting according to our identity as the image and likeness of God whose giving knows no ending.

The early theologians spoke of the Holy Trinity as a dance of self-giving Love. They described the Father as the Originating Source of all, the Giver. They called the Son of God the Gift of Love from the Father, calling the Spirit the ongoing Giving of God in the world and the souls of women and men.

The Love God is flows from the Giver as Gift and as unending Giving, a river of grace and Love that flows, truly, through all time and space.

When we give (yes, even pies) we jump into the divine flow, the river of grace, the stream of mercy and know ourselves … and God ... more fully than we ever thought possible.

Pr. David L. Miller

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday Nov. 18, 2015

John 18:36-37

Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.


The news is filled the violence of ISIS and the response of nations around the world. They track down those who kill in the name of God, those who understand nothing of the Truth who beats at the heart of my brother Jesus.

My kingdom is not from this world, you say. No, my brother, it is not, and the very thought of this brings tears to my eyes. I long for your kingdom and feel the difference between your kingdom and any other.

Kingdoms and nations all rely on force to create a measure of order (if not also justice) among myriad competing interests and desires.

Not you, your kingdom is known by those who listen to the inner voice of love who is the Voice of the Loving Mystery who filled you.

“Those who know that Voice … know me,” you say, “and those who know me … know that Voice.

“Those who hunger to hear the voice of gracious welcome and acceptance to calm their hearts and quell their fears … these are my people, my kingdom, a community of Truth.

“They listen to life that they may hear the Truth who speaks in every beauty and grace of this world. They listen … and become the grace and beauty who is Truth, the Truth before time, the Truth who will be when time is no more.”

I hear you speaking in the music that plays in this place as a red candle burns and the clamor of the world quiets. You are always here … and everywhere I go. Truly.

You are the Voice of Love who hungers within for the Love who is so much more than any one heart can hold. But hold you I do and ever will.

And I know … you will speak through the moments of this day. All I need do is listen.

Pr. David L. Miller

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wednesday, November, 11, 2015

 Luke 1:72-75

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
   and has remembered his holy covenant, 
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
   to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
   before him all our days.

The God who remembers

The human heart hungers to be remembered. When we are forgotten we feel cast off, disconnected and without hope. The opposite of being re-membered is dis-membered, separated, broken in pieces scattered about. 

The human heart flees this terror. We long to be re-membered, our members—arms and legs, head and heart, body and soul—put back together and made whole, connected again with life.

In the days of his dying, Verel, a Korean War veteran relived the experience of war from his bed in a Nebraska nursing home. He crouched and curled up, feeling again the fear of crouching in a fox hole as artillery exploded around him.

“Remember me. Remember me,” he cried out again and again. This was his prayer. It's a good one. It speaks the deep fear of our hearts, crying to God to remember us in our distress lest we be torn apart by life and lost in death.

Verel’s prayer is everywhere. It stares back at us from our television screens in the hollow eyes of hungry children. It cries out in the fear of faces in war-torn places as missiles rain death from the sky in the darkness of night, destroying  towns and killing tens of thousands.

I head this prayer in every refugee camp I ever entered in my days of reporting. It didn’t matter what country or continent I was in. I saw it in their eyes and heard it every time they asked, “Does the world know? Are we forgotten?”

The prayer hits closer to home as I sit in a Bible study and listen as an older person wonders who will remember her when she is gone. Her children will remember, her grandchildren, too. But after that will she become an unknown face in an undated photo?

No, never. She will be remembered, her life whole and held in a Mercy beyond every expectation and hope. The refugee, the hungry child on the evening news, Verel, too, all of them—and us—remembered by the Loving Mystery who never forgets.

You are held, always, in the Love of the God who knows your name. Cast off all fear ... and know.

Pr. David L. Miller