May 15, 2016 — D. Elmes

This is a prayer of gratitude for this community.

As a spiritual community, we share some of the best aspects of these United States. We are a melting pot of faiths and beliefs, coming together as a whole while maintaining our own individual spirituality. While we may not agree on everything, that doesn’t mean we agree on nothing.

We are a community of believers and non-believers.

As I belong to the latter, when I hear the phrase, “Ye of little faith,” I cringe a little inside because I really don’t like being called “Ye.”

Whether we have faith or not, we share a common bond of caring for ourselves, caring for each other, and for our world. Our history at First Parish is one of joining together, of setting aside symbols of separation.

Despite the [virtual] presence of tulips in the arrangement before me–and I do love tulips–I’ll conclude with the words of the Dicken’s character, Tiny Tim, rather than the Tonight Show one.

He said: “God bless us, every one.” Amen

May 8, 2016 — S. Perry

Dear God, thank you for this time and for this space.

Dear Mother, Mom, Mama, Madre, Mutter, Mu Chin – hear our prayers.  You mean something different to each of us.

“Mom,   why did you have to kick me out?  I miss your warm and cozy womb.  It is too cold and loud out here. Thank you for carrying and nourishing me, and for miraculously bringing me in to this world.”

“Mama,  Mama,  Mama… Milk?  Truck?  Cat?  Snack?  More MORE?”

“Mom,   I need help with my homework.  Mom, can you drive me to practice? Mom, we’re late for the bus.  What’s for dinner?  What’s for lunch?    Mom, Mom, MOM!”

“Mom,   you broke my heart. You left when I was so young, and I feel abandoned and alone. I miss you – I think – although I don’t really know you. I wonder if you ever think about me. I wonder if you feel whole.”

“Mom,   I am so sorry I let you down.  You gave me everything and I threw it all away. I know that I hurt you.  I am trying to get well and overcome my demons.  Please forgive me. I need you.”

“Mom,   I lost you too early. As I sat at your bedside and watched your body fail you, I treasured every moment. I am flooded now with memories of you.  I feel your spirit close to me every day. I hear your voice in the wind.  Thank you for wisdom and love.”

“Mom,   I feel joy when we are together. You know me better than I know myself. As I get older, I recognize so much in me that is you.  And now I am full of gratitude for the gift of motherhood – the giving and receiving, the joy and heartbreak, the triumph and failure.”

Dear God, many of us have made the choice to raise a child, whether our own, a step-child, or an adopted child.  Some of us have been deeply fulfilled in motherhood, and some of us devastated by the sorrow of not being able to have a child, or losing a child.

And yet, we are bound together by shared experience of having had a mother or a mother figure, who provided solace, support, discipline, insight, and simply – unbridled love.  Let us today give thanks for that. Amen.

May 1, 2016 — D. Elmes

Over the years, from one generation to the next, many things change.

We tend to identify ourselves by what we’ve experienced through world events, sports, music and technology.

The request, “Please deposit five cents for an additional three minutes,” seems absurd in the days of cell phones.

Of course, change isn’t always good.  How often have you picked up the phone to hear, “Hi! This is Rachel from cardholder services?”  I admit I have had some unkind words for Rachel.

Education changes.  Once memorization played a large part in schooling.  I’m sure some of us can remember things we memorized in High School even as we struggle with names of people we know well.

Fortunately, evolution moves much more slowly than technology.  What we have in common in our abilities to learn, forgive and love bind us together in more important ways than the events which set us apart.

Years ago, I’m sure fewer cars passed through Lincoln each day.  However, today’s prayer was made possible by that traffic. It’s a prayer of thanks to a woman in a car.  After dropping our older daughter at middle school, I was merging into the eastward procession of cars on Lincoln Road.  I wasn’t close to the five way intersection and it wasn’t my turn to go, but this woman waved me on.  As it wasn’t my turn, I smiled and waved back.  She smiled and waved.  After a bunch of waving and a bunch of smiling, she went.

Now the car length didn’t make a difference in either of our days, but I know for me, the smiles did.

May your commutes–your time behind the wheel–be blessed by an occasional smile. Amen

 

April 24, 2016 — J. Mansfield

Spirit of all who lives deep within us, we are troubled. We have come to a strange place 46 years after the first Earth Day. We can see from space the aching beauty of our blue planet.   We can fly in planes over vast forests and see cities sparkling at night.    We can allow ourselves to be immersed the virtual world of picture stories. Videos make us laugh and awake our emotions of joy or sorrow for the wonderful creatures of our world in their comic beauty or their special tragedies.

We have gotten comfortable in our warm in the winter, cool in the summer homes, eating food from round the world always in season, driving cars that seldom overheat or get flat tires.   We feel that other people and other creatures suffer, and we sense with vague unease that our comfort may be related to their suffering.  Humans appear to be unbalancing this tiny corner of creation in a possibly disastrous way.  Let us embrace the immense love and sorrow we feel for our mother earth.  Let us use the storm of mixed emotions stirred up by the images we see on screens and the beauty of the awakening spring to connect with each other and take some action to save our home.  Spirit of all, help us to open our hearts to the love for creation which is the center of our humanity and our connection to the whole. Amen.

April 17, 2016 – J. Calhoun Hans

Dear God,

I am thankful for all the times I have been able to travel: to visit family and friends, for work, for relaxation, for adventure. It is during these times away from home, where I break from my daily routine and familiar surroundings, that I feel the world is fresh with possibilities and challenges.

I am thankful for all the inspiration that comes with these new experiences – the new art, new food, exposure to different life attitudes that seems to fit better than my own at home.

I am thankful for all the times I have returned home with refreshed gratitude for my family, my community, my country.

The effort of putting time and distance between me and my normal day helps me see, with new perspective, not only the world around me but also myself. I am more aware of what can be, for better or for worse, and I feel more apart of and responsible to the world beyond my safe home base.

But when daily responsibilities, finances, or health make travel impossible, and the distance and time that can come so naturally through packing a suitcase and getting in the car or on an airplane, I am ever grateful for the spaces close to home that provide a space to reset and gain perspective – a church, a sand dune, a friend, and on somedays, a good book.

Thank you God for all the opportunities to travel, and when we cannot, for the gift of our local retreats.  Amen

April 10, 2016 — J. Mansfield

Spirit which runs as a river deep within us, connecting us to our center and to all around us, we thank you for giving us the need to reach out to each other.   The world around us is unsettled and off balance.  The order of the seasons is overturned.  The fragile buds of the star magnolias weighed down by snow turned brown and died.  The puzzled robins came back believing in the return of spring with its bounty of worms and found ice and snow. We read stories of refugee families who dream of a better world and find themselves in camps going nowhere. Lives are smashed by captured girls who carry out suicide missions in search of heaven.   Fear, anger, and desperation turn humans against each other.

Yet beneath it all there is hope.  The air is warming. The robins have survived.  We are all here together for a brief time in this fragile and extraordinary creation of stardust turned to life.  We have been given the capacity to be aware, to love, to help.  My puppy jumps up on me, and puts her paws on my shoulders.  “Stop looking at the computer screen. I am here with you!   We are together!”   Thank you, spirit of all, for the joy of young life beginning again as spring takes hold. Amen

April 3, 2016 — J. Calhoun Hans

Dear God,

Thank you for our minds. How they let us dream big and small, with infinite possibilities. Thank you for enabling us to imagine the best for ourselves, our families, our communities, our planet and work toward those visions no matter how far off they seem in the present moment and no matter where we end up in our actual success. Thank you for also letting our minds gently push us unconsciously, when we rest, for it is sometimes our unintended, undirected dreams that can inspire us far beyond what we can imagine for ourselves.

My father passed away last year. My first time returning home after his service, to the house where I grew up, the house where my dad passed away, I was hovering is that dreamy half-sleep, half-awake state of early morning, when I heard my father call out to me.  It was in his old voice, not the voice his body had acquired after the most recent return of cancer and intensive treatments, but his old voice — his wonderful, full, gentle, southern Georgia accent. And in that dream state, my mind and body flooded with a completely enveloping sense of love and security – of normalcy, that had been all but disappeared. I am so grateful for this moment, this unpremeditated reprieve that I couldn’t possibly imagine for myself, which reminds me of what once was, and what I want to create again for my family.

Dear God, thank you for our minds and for letting us dream. Amen.     

March 27, 2016 — R. Shepard

Great Spirit of many names,

We offer a prayer of thanksgiving

For accepting us, for who we are,

not for who we hope to become,

and for offering us comfort as world events spin us to the very edge of what we hold dear

and challenge our faith that good triumphs over evil.

On this special morning,

as we remember one of your many prophets who stood firm against the Caesar of his day

we mourn the innocents lost in terror’s rage

and pray for wisdom that we may distinguish individual guilt from a tribal urge to stockade our neighborhoods

and wall out the southern hemisphere from our lives.

Lord, when our faith in universal understanding lies shattered like eggshells in a child’s Easter basket,

remind us that with each taste of the white cloud of trust

we are nourished by the yolk of another sunrise

and the promise that love overcomes, no matter how menacing the Caesars of our day. Amen

 

March 20, 2016 — C. Perkins

Good morning Great Spirit,

Thank you for being with us – in this sanctuary, on a walk in the woods, or in the garden nurturing a seedling.

When we are mindful of your presence we feel humble:

Humbled by the chirping of the spring peeper; by the familiar song of a returning migratory bird; by the rich smell of the warming soil. When we are truly aware of these mysteries, we feel reverence for this earth.

We are reminded that we are merely a part of this web of life. Forgive us for sometimes acting greater than we are,

For putting ourselves before the earth,

And before others.

When we are mindful of your presence, we feel courage:

Courage to peel away our armor and become intimate with one another. Forgive us for sometimes shielding ourselves and being intentionally far away. Distance allows us to make judgements, make excuses, place blame. It allows us to keep strangers behind walls and feel we are better than others.

Help is to move closer.

Help us listen to each other. For when we listen, we hear a story. We all have stories. We cannot carry on with the heavy armor of judgement when we hear a story.

For a story makes us feel empathy.

When we are mindful of your presence we feel compassion:

Help us remember to pause, stand close and look deeply into a stranger’s eyes and see, that they, like us, have a story. They, like us, may be struggling.

Help us to pause, stand close and look deeply into a stranger’s eyes and know that they, like us, are seeking happiness, seeking comfort, seeking forgiveness, seeking to bring their true self forward to the world.

For when we do that, we cannot help but notice that we are just like them. When we truly see each other, and truly hear each other, we realize that we are not so different, that we all have stories,

that we can reveal ourselves more fully and know that our needs and thoughts and convictions are not greater than theirs, that we are not alone and we can go forward together in humility. Amen

March 13, 2016 — C. Perkins

Dear God,

Have you caught your breath yet?

We have not yet caught ours. We are still reveling in the love and the warmth, the prayers and blessings of the celebration that took place in our community last weekend. It was profoundly moving.

We are grateful that you were here with us.

The Sanctuary still resonates with the energy and vibrations of the ceremony.

Help us to catch a strand of that energy and reflect, in each our own way, upon the fabric which our congregation continues to weave together — whose design keeps emerging as new threads are woven into our unique pattern.

May the enduring strength of this fabric encourage and remind us to slow down and delve deeper — and wander into our inner selves.

Into a place where we need not be afraid to become intimate with and vulnerable to whatever we are confronting.

It’s hard. Can you help us to stay in the moment and not reach for comfortable distractions?

Can you help us to find that place where we are not afraid to create emptiness?

For when we create emptiness, there is space. And where there is space, there is time.

Time to reflect on what is most important and meaningful to us. Time for revelation and light.

That place of emptiness — the wilderness of our being, is where we can clear our minds, truly nourish our bodies and our souls and, most importantly, open our hearts.

So, dear God, please be with us today and help us hold tight to that strand of energy, that vibration that is still resonating in this sanctuary.

Thank you for letting it be present — here for us to come back to time and again — to hold on to in community. For the capacity to go to the wilderness of our being is tied the strength of the fabric we are weaving together. Amen.

 

March 6, 2016 — R. Shepard

To the spirit that hears all prayers
and breathes comfort into our souls,
I lift up a prayer from the sisters and brothers
of this community of believers and searchers,
as we cherish the ritual of welcoming the young into our spiritual fold.

It has been said that by touching the hand of a child, we touch the future, and it can be said that in the faces of children we see the best of ourselves, the promise of regeneration, and the aspirations of a better tomorrow.

Lord, now more than ever, in a time of crude angst fueled by economic, cultural, and demographic shifts, we pray that the fearful and the fearless see Jacen and Mina not only as Manish and Jeff’s children, but also as your children, our children, the world’s children.

See them as the sunshine and sweetness of spring—a flowering gift of the human spirit to sustain us in love and faith.
For this we pray. Amen.

February 28, 2016 — D. Laferriere

Good Morning God,

We pray for your help to keep us in this moment and not take for granted this blessed time and place that we are so fortunate to be in.

We are always grateful for the familiar faces that we see here, all the children, parents and grandparents helping each other to grow up, trying to find their way and learning to understand their individual spirituality, or their own meaning of God.

How blessed we are to have this place where we can all pray without any judgments’ about who we are praying to,  or how.

We often pray in times of distress or celebration, but help us to remember that it is easy to carry a prayer with us at all times, even the simple prayer of “thank you”.

Let us have open minds as we gather here in these spiritually changing times, let our spiritual practices keep us in the moment and bring peace into our lives. Amen  

February 21, 2016 — J. Elliott

Dear spiritual guide
Thank you so much for giving us this sacred time in this tranquil sanctuary to regroup remember and breath.  We are so blessed in this life of go go do do need need want want me me to have this hour to pause and reflect on what is really important

Every week we come to church to re center.  We are lucky to have this embracing community that accepts us as individuals from different spiritual backgrounds and allows us the freedom to figure out our own spiritual path.

As the famous Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, Our capacity to make peace with another person and the world depends on our capacity to make peace with ourselves.

Teach and help us to re connect /regroup/recharge/pause/make peace in our own personal sanctuary either in church, on a walk in nature, in silent meditation, listening or dancing to a song so we can help bring peace to other people.  Silence can give us a new perspective.

Help us to pause for a moment in our inner sanctuary but do not let us get stuck there.  Sometimes we spend too much time looking inward and lose sight of what is going on around us.  Let us not dwell there.  Prevent us from building walls around ourselves that cannot be broken.   It can feel safe to be shielded in our armor where no one can touch us.  Don’t let our bodies be locked in a cage that keeps us from dancing with the one we love.  If we spend too much time judging ourselves and other people, we have less time to love.  Let our mind and heart be the key to unlock the cage, walls or armor.

We are not rocks.  We are not islands.

Remind us to reach outward, to connect with others, to lend support.  With these connections, we build energy.  Kind words and simple acts of compassion are easy, but the impact is truly powerful.

Each week let us embrace this moment to pause and recharge so we can reach out through connections, lean on each other, dance with the one we love and lend a helping hand. Amen

February 14, 2016 — J. Elliott

Dear God

The winter coldness is chilling our bones

Encourage us to breath in the winter sun. It is not hot but warm

As things are dormant and cannot grow beneath the winter snow

Keep our hearts warm

And keep us dreaming by the fire

Let our love be a beacon in the dark

Let our words and actions shine bright.

We celebrate Valentine’s Day today.  Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love.  It evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering sweets and sending greeting cards.

It is celebrated once a year

Remind us to not wait but to celebrate Valentine’s Day every day.

With

A friend

A co worker

A family member

A significant other

A stranger

Ourselves

Help us to express our love, friendship, support and appreciation daily through

A hug

A hold of hand

A simple act of kindness

A phone call

A letter

A small token of appreciation

A helping hand

Encouragement

A smile

A prayer

Let us remember all the valentines in our lives

A nurturing grandmother

A supportive boss when work was stressful

A good friend who cried and laughed during the ups and downs of life

The unconditional love of a significant other

A patient coach who was supportive during an injury

A stranger who smiled and said hello after a hard day

A warm and snuggly child

A cozy snuggle with a pet

A conversation with God

The hardest part of Valentine’s Day love is the act of forgiving: Teach us to forgive those who might have dimmed the light and chilled the warmth in our hearts

A long lost friend

Betrayal of a friend or family member

A loved one who left too soon

A child who did not listen and turned away

A friend who was not there when needed

Disappointment in ourselves

Not feeling the support of God

Teach us to release the sadness, disappointment and anger

Help us to rekindle the warmth and light in our hearts.

Oh winter coldness chilling our bones

Keep us dreaming by the fire

Let our love, words and actions be a beacon in the dark shining bright

Remind us to celebrate love, support, kindness and forgiveness every day. Amen

February 7, 2016 — D. Laferriere

Good Morning God, Our Heavenly Father .

How blessed we are for this gift of another day in this place, at this time, we’ve been given a new start.

What is it we would say or do if we knew that we may not be given the chance tomorrow.

We pray for awareness, to listen, to learn to hear what we need to hear.

God, you continually help us get through our struggles only to find we then feel closer to you and we learn to be gentle with ourselves and each other.

Your Grace does not go unnoticed. We do not walk alone.

For those whose struggles are bigger than ours today gently show us how we can help to shine our grace on them and help to heal their broken communities.

We are so blessed to be a part of this giving and loving community, and for that we are grateful. Amen