March 26, 2017 — D. Laferriere

Dear God,

Why is it that sometimes life feels so hard and heavy? While other times it feels light and easy?

What is it that we are all hoping for each day when we wake up? To know that we’re still here? That you are still here?

We are still here, here we are, in this beautiful mess of a world in which we live and this blessed place we have here to come back to time and time again.

God, thank you for still being here. We need some help; we really do rely on you.

God, help us to remember that when we can let go of our fears and move out of those narrow, dark places in our hearts and minds we can feel your love and see how good it is to be here together.

We thank you for helping us stay present and being here to listen to our prayers. Amen.

March 19, 2017 — M. Griffith

God,
I sat for days with a blank page in front of me. With a mind numb from how times are changing. I’m having a hard time keeping up and understanding. And I don’t know how to begin a prayer from this bewildering place. But that won’t do right now…

When the big picture becomes overpowering and sets me adrift in roiling waters, is it then You sharpen my focus on the small things? To help calm me and bring me back to center? To help teach me appreciation for the mundane?

Like, the treat of a mid-week snow day – to slow the pace down and focus on family. Enjoying the falling flakes and then working together to get the snow clear before the rain and night temperatures conspire to hardened it to stone. A little hard work and hot chocolate can do wonders for the soul.

Or making it through the five-way intersection at Lincoln Center with everyone taking a turn, smiling and waving others through on a busy morning. With a “we’re all in this together” kind-of feeling. That actually happened – and it felt great.

And taking a walk in the beautiful woods around our house with dogs running off and on the trail going five times our distance in their happiness to be out and about on a sunny day. Their joy is catching. In my next life, I would like to be a dog in Lincoln.

When my children admonish me with, “…don’t talk to anyone!” as I enter Donelan’s, I am reminded how lovely it is to live in a place where the expectation is that you’ll run into someone between the deli and cereal aisle for whom you are happy to pause – and who will pause for you.

The birds flying to and from feeders show a sense of purpose I crave. Each one is a little teacher in taking nothing for granted… they focus on the nourishment needed for the day with bright eyes and bushy tails.

In times when the world around us seems to push and pull or drag us around, and we begin to feel lost, open our eyes to these cherished moments. May we not take for granted the small things that nourish us and may they sustain us and see us through to the next day with renewed purpose. Amen.

March 12, 2017 — D. Laferriere

Good Morning Dear Sweet God,

How sweet it is to feel the cold blast of air on our faces this morning,  it will make the warm spring sunshine all that much sweeter. We pray for your help to keep us safe and warm through these final winter weeks.  What a joy to know that the longer days are upon us. We are grateful for the extra time given us. The news has reported that we living here in Massachusetts have extra time, outliving the rest of the nation.

Help to show us God,  how we can use this extra time and  our well-educated minds and voices to do our part to help those who don’t have voices that may not be as strong as ours.

How grateful we are to live here, in this special place called Massachusetts, where we are ranked as being full of wisdom, and strength.

Help us clear our minds and open our hearts, remember to water each other’s flowers, smile at those who look your way,  offer your joy to those you love and those who are in need of your love. Amen    

 

March 5, 2017 — M. Griffith

God, today I bring a prayer of gratitude…

Thank You for the all the pieces that make things whole. The parts that, when put together, become
something complete.

Your examples abound – trees make forests, flowers make gardens, planets and stars make solar
systems, solar systems make a brilliant night sky.

By Your example we create sustaining food from simple ingredients, songs from notes, stories from
words… and the always-fabulous Lenten Booklet from some of our stories.

We also engineer wheels from cogs, machines from parts and systems from lines of code.

There truly is no end to the items that can make up this list.

Miraculously, individuals become families and, in our human search for belonging, people become
communities. In this place, I offer deepest gratitude for this community… it has certainly helped to sustain my
personal sense of wholeness. Here, we gather together to share the pieces of ourselves that make the
whole of First Parish. We thank you for the part each of us plays to make this spiritual community
complete. We are blessed to have…

…Manish, Mandy and Gert who create our foundation.
…Ian and the choir – and the bell choir – who lift us up in song each week.
…Kathy, the volunteers and teachers who lead our Sunday School – and especially for the children who
come here to have their feet set upon a path of inquiry… they are also our glimpse into the future of
First Parish.

Thank You for the busy parents and working adults who take time each week for reflection and
renewal. And for the elders and sages – who have been one or some or all these things and continue to
return to this room; we wouldn’t be here without you.

Within this community, teens are our Youth Group and folks join in Small Groups. Volunteers form
committees. Committees create structure and provide the church with events that bring us all together.

These are all pieces in the First Parish puzzle. (And, oh my, what a puzzle!)

Those things which we as individual souls bring to share are unique and perfectly imperfect and ours to
give – which makes the offerings marvelous.

In parts and in wholes our gifts are proffered in praise, in faith and in gratitude to You. Amen.

February 26, 2017— T. Haslett

Divine power that seeks harmony in this world and beyond, guide us to celebrate and nurture the communities that define and support us. Help me to understand these words: “Prayer, Respect, Compassion, Honesty, Generosity, Humility and Wisdom” – words that were spray painted on a plywood shack by a member of the Standing Rock community that fell this week.

Today Divine Power I offer prayer to thank you for all your wonderful gifts of nature: the air we breathe, the water we drink and the joy of life.

Today I struggle to respect people whose views are so different from my own.

Today I feel compassion for the thousands of people who stood to protect the waters of the Missouri River with prayer, song and dance and the hundreds of police and national guardsmen who met their voices with water cannons and rubber bullets.

Today I celebrate the honesty of the people who aligned their values and actions in service to their principles.

Today I honor the generosity of the people who suffered the cold of North Dakota’s winters, while I stayed warm in my gas heated house.

Today I feel a surge of humility as I witness the people who have stood down – as peacefully as they began – in the face of power.

Today I seek to learn the wisdom of the people who suffered the ordeals of the last few years, and through the generations of oppression that they have endured.

Today I pray to our Divine Power to heal our beloved community, and to show us how interdependent we are. I pray that we can form community again around these words: “Prayer, Respect, Compassion, Honesty, Generosity, Humility and Wisdom.” Amen.

February 19, 2017 — M. Veling

Dear Lord,

Guide us to be a kind, resilient and open community to those who are lost

We are all lost at some point in our lives

Guide us to find the path, our own path and help others find theirs

Be with us in this time, as people suffer with disease and self-destructive behaviors

Addicted to alcohol, drugs, a negative relationship, gambling, their own point of view

May we have the courage to reach out to one another in love to end the silence, shame of addiction seeking treatment rather than punishment, inclusion rather than exclusion

Let us find peace in the words commonly used in twelve step programs authored by Reinhold Niebuhr in 1934 right here in Massachusetts:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

God, grant US AS A COMMUNITY the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,

Courage to change the things WE can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Help us to find meaning in our daily lives

Teach us to take good care of ourselves, our neighbors, our community, our world

Be with us who feel the pain of loss, who feel anger at injustice

God, grant us loving hearts so that no one feels unworthy or unwanted

Help us remember the hope we had, the hope we have, and the hope we will have

Help us remember joy during sadness, success during challenge, spring in the middle of winter, light during darkness

Stand with the oppressed and change the heart of the oppressor, for we know that both are joined in common humanity

Help us to be better people, to work for better things, and to create a better world

Help us find our way. Amen

February 12, 2017 — T. Haslett

Divine power that holds all of us in your embrace, I seek your help today. With foreboding and expectation, I open the newspaper or turn on the radio – what lurid headline will great me? I am confused, depressed and the warmth in my stomach feels like anger.

I have seen Obamacare improve my brother’s well-being; which of us would seek to take away his security?
Indigenous people came to this continent thousands of years ago; which of us would say that they are illegal aliens and force them to leave?
I’ve sat with oppressed women and men whose dreams and aspirations have been crushed for generations by prejudice and ignorance; which of us represents their needs and hopes?
I bear witness to the coral reefs bleaching and the Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica breaking off; what business profits compensate for these irrevocable losses?

I am angry at the oppressors, at the greedy and at the structures that I am part of that exploit our collective nature and spirit. I am angry at the power seekers who are using fear and hatred to lead us away from our better selves.

Divine power, assuage the fearful and hurtful hearts of our leaders who are poisoning our minds; heal my heart so that I am strong to stand with my friends who are Moslem, queer, black and scared.

Divine power channel my anger to positive, constructive action that might serve as an antidote to the phobias and hatreds being poured upon us; give me the vision to champion the needs of the oppressed, to resist the institutions that are stealing our souls and to find solidarity with the promise of like-minded people seeking to find our best selves.

Divine power that nurtures the miracle of life, I need your help to see today. Show me the infinite light of the stars in your universe. Show me the resilience of plants and animals that live in harmony with your gifts. Show me the hopefulness of the bird whose song greeted me this morning.

Divine power help us all to find peace in the spirit of Julian of Norwich: “All will be well and all will be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Amen

February 5, 2017 — M. Veling

Dear Lord,

Many of us have some sort of spiritual practice that grounds us

Help us listen to that quiet voice within and follow it wherever it may lead

That voice within is our moral compass, some call this praying

We may call the voice by many names, God, Buddha, Mohammad, Nature, Love, Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, or Mother Theresa, whatever is meaningful, the name doesn’t really matter.

Let us appreciate the voice within all of us

I can go for days on auto pilot being so busy with daily tasks and activities forgetting to listen to the voice within.

Keep us awake and aware Lord

Guide us even when you lead us along unfamiliar and difficult paths

Let us have faith and strength during these challenging times

Give us the patience and wisdom to understand others regardless of differences without judgment

Help us find common ground

We are all on one small planet within a very large universe

Guide us to be kind to ourselves, the earth, animals and all people

Oh by the way, if you aren’t busy this afternoon send a little extra help to the New England Patriots

Keep us awake and aware Lord Keep us listening Keep us praying Amen.

January 29, 2017 — B. O’Neil

To the Spirit that is in us and all around us, we pray.

Thank you for moments of grace.

The afternoon sky is swept with shades of pink, orange and pale blue as the sun nears the horizon, lighting up the world, catching our attention. For this brief time of noticing I am without words, silenced in a moment of wonder and stillness.

Let us not forget the things that sustain us.

A bald eagle flies across the road on inauguration day and lands on a rock in the reservoir folding its great wings back. It is a symbol of our country and I see its majesty, its grace, Its beauty, its sharp talons, its hunting eyes and I know that nothing is simple.

People are marching in the streets holding cardboard signs above their heads with the words Justice and Respect etched in black marker.

May our voices be heard.

In December,  children dress in costumes, angels gather round to tell the story of a baby who grew to be a teacher. A teacher who taught us to  choose love over hate. May we ACT on the message that is imbedded in this ancient story told every year by the youngest among us.

May we in this country be welcoming to all.

As the days lengthen may our resolve deepen to work for Peace.

There are many ways to speak out.

There are many ways to kiss the ground. Amen

 

January 22, 2017 — B. Wells

Spirit of life, who created the moral universe, come into our presence this morning. Hear our prayers. Join us as we sit here this morning.

Lord, I was up here last year on question box Sunday, and I have to admit I was in a better mood then. It’s not just our new President. He needs our prayers too, and while I’m up here I send him mine.

It’s something larger, a sense of rising anger, and an eagerness to blame those who are different. To turn away from those who are different as if they are not our brothers and sisters too. To divide, to divide. I’m worried and anxious and afraid.

So Lord, today I pray for faith. I have some, a little, but I need all I can get. We all do.

In some churches, having “faith” means believing what else someone tells you to believe. I’m not talking about that.

I’m not talking about a faith that everything will suddenly turn out all right in our country or the world. I know that we often take a step or two back for every step or two forward. What I’m asking for is a faith that the moral arc of this universe will eventually bend. Maybe not today. Maybe not even in my lifetime. But eventually.

I’m not talking about faith that you will intervene for me personally, Lord, and get me out of some impending difficulty. I know that’s not how things work. What I’m asking for is a faith to get up and to carry on after I’ve been knocked down.

I’m not looking for faith that I won’t get older and sicken and die. I’m not looking for faith that I’ll wake up somewhere afterwards. What I’m asking for is a faith that will let me live, each day, on this earth, with gratitude in my heart. Even when the facts on the ground don’t look so good. Lord, that’s easy to say, but not so easy to do.

Tomorrow I may pray for wisdom, or strength, or compassion. But today Lord, I need something more basic.

I pray for faith. I pray for this with all my heart. May it be so. Amen.

 

January 15, 2017 — B. O’Neil

To the Spirit that is in us and all around us, we pray.

The earth, our home, has made its rotation around the sun yet again. We mark another notch in the story that is our lives. Another year has passed, a new one is already marching on.

May we step forward with intention and grasp the possibilities offered by a new beginning. May the sharpness of these January nights inspire us to find clarity and purpose in our lives. What matters? What shall we choose this year to give our attention to? For we know that when we pay attention to something, it grows.

Let us not be tossed away by the events of each day. Our friends and loved ones and strangers face challenges of all sorts. Help us to be there for them and to know that the simplest act of kindness is often enough. A small imperfect offer of help is better than doing nothing. Listening can be the best gift of all.

There is a crack in our country. There are changes ahead. May we not REACT to the storm of change with fear or anger, but instead ACT with calm resolve to stand up for things we believe in. May we be patient with those we disagree with and listen with an open heart to their perspective while marching firmly in the direction of justice, dignity and peace.

May we find solace and inspiration in this church community. May we be grounded by the earth beneath our feet. May we walk hand-in-hand with all people. Amen

January 8, 2017 — B. Wells

Dear god, spirit of many names, draw near and join our prayers this morning.

Lord, it’s the beginning of a new calendar year.

Some of us face the prospect of the coming year with fears and apprehension.

Help us remember that this has always been so.   Life is impermanent.  We suffer setbacks.  We pray above all for peace in the world, but the wars and fighting continue.  We grow old, we grow ill, we die.

The outlook isn’t altogether good.

And yet, And yet. even in the face of this, there are days when we open the front door, look out at the world,  and are filled with gratitude.  Days when we feel your presence, days when we open the door and can only throw ourselves on the fresh grass weeping with gratitude and joy.

As one of my Buddhist teachers says, the miracle is not to walk on water, the miracle is to be able to walk on the grass.  Or today, maybe the snow.  We live in New England Lord, so we have lots of snow.

And grass, and warm clothes and enough to eat and loving friends.  Help us be grateful for it all.

So yes, this year there will be setbacks, and there will be joy. I think we can count on both, Lord. I pray we can live this year with compassion, both for ourselves, and for our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Help us be generous and compassionate.

Help us remember that our fears concern a future that has not happened yet.   Help us be truly present in the every moment, fears and all.

Help us remember that gratitude can be an intentional practice, something we can put on, like a warm coat, every morning.

Help us remember that hope can also be an intentional practice.  Like a warm coat, we can chose to put it on when the world is cold.

And finally, today our ministers and lay leaders will begin leading us in discussion,  a discussion about the kind of church we are and want to become. A that supports us and our brothers and sisters as we move through the joys and setbacks of life.  Help us envision a church that will make you proud.

May it be so, Amen

 

December 11, 2016 — C. Hamilton

God, great spirit of goodness,

Steady us as we walk uncertainly through this season.

Help me keep my balance

As “Joy to the World” meets

earthquake in Indonesia and gunfire in Aleppo,

As beyond the Christmas candlelight

I see flaming death in Oakland and Gatlinburg,

As the echo of Sunday’s words of peace is lost

in the din of ideology and insult.

Guide me on the bumpy path past despair and indifference

to the vantage point where I can see

the difference that I might make.

Along the path, God, please

Reveal the nuggets of joy that lie there,

That we all may savor, and share,

Each spark of beauty,

Each note of laughter,

And each word of love. Amen

 

 

November 27, 2016 — T. Aarset

A Prayer for Spiritual Resilience

Creator Spirit, hear this simple prayer.  I need courage during this time of uncertainty.  I want to share with you the stories of two courageous exemplars I’ve just met.

Shabir has been here for six years from his home in Kashmir India, where his mother and sisters still live.  Their situation is dire and worsening; air is foul and food is scarce.  Shabir sends both money and food to assist his family.  Yet his attitude is one of bright spirit, optimism and daily gratitude for this life.  He exemplifies the resilience needed to thrive and to share his message of hope with me.

Luis has been here for nineteen years from his home in Venezuela where most of his family still live.  Their situation is also dire and worsening.  Food is only available by waiting in long lines and paying sky rocketing prices for basic needs.  Luis sends both money and food back home to help sustain his family.  And Luis, too, presents a bright and positive attitude and a firm belief that human kind is above all adaptable.  “We adapt because we must; it’s how we survive.”

I pray to remain mindful of these two teachers and their uncommon example of courage, hopefulness and spiritual resilience.  They have inspired me, just when I’ve most needed inspiration.  When the challenge is great we must ‘adapt’ to live and thrive.  The teachers we meet are the ones we need. Amen

November 20, 2016 — M. Clemens

How miraculous

that the universe has unfolded

to find us here together this morning, on this week of Thanksgiving.

And how thoughtful of our predecessors to provide us with this spare church,

for when our other one is in the shop.

Fortune has indeed shone our way.

 

And yet, Fortuna, she is a fickle goddess

and for those who, this year, have had your hearts crushed by her capricious turns,

we pray for you, we pray for us,

that we may find the equanimity to look back with contentment.

And yet more so,

that we may find the grit to look forward with hope,

to believe in the future,

to find some divine wellspring of productive optimism

that will rekindle our will to move forward,

and that will remind us

that the world is in need of our light.

 

On this week of giving thanks, we pray,

that we may once again be dazzled

by the countless commonplace luxuries that we enjoy,

but so often fail to really enjoy.

And yet more so,

that we may see through these shiny things,

and again touch the core of our true blessings.

 

This week, we pray

that we may see with unjaded eyes:

what we have,

how we live,

who we love,

and – so easy to take for granted – those who actually love us back.

As we gather this week,

may we remember to look up,

in sincere appreciation,

at those who show their love for us

by coming all that way, by inviting us over,

by making that dish we like.

By listening to our stories, laughing at our lame jokes,

by overlooking our many faults.

 

May we show them the same love,

and gratefully,

take a bit of everything. Amen