A Prayer for those in Granbury West Texas

via Associated Press. Photo by Mike Fuertes

The first piece of news that caught my attention this morning was about the devastating tornados that sped through West Texas last night killing at least 12 people. My heart aches for people whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed in a few terrifying minutes.

Then I received a message from my friend Cherie Minton who together with her husband Jack heads up Hope Force International. Her request: “Pray for the first responders.” Coincidently my gospel reading for the morning was the story of the Good Samaritan. First responders – good samaritans, strangers become neighbours, those who respond to the divine spark of love within to show mercy, compassion and love to complete strangers often putting their own lives at risk in the process.

This was the background out of which I wrote my prayer this morning.

Lord of mercy,

Be with those who suffer.

Into their broken lives,

Bring hope and peace.

Into their devastated communities,

Bring restoration.

Lord of mercy,

Be with those who respond.

In their bravery,

Keep them safe.

In their compassion,

Show your love.

In their faces,

May we see Jesus.

Godspace 2012 in review

Thank you for making this year the best ever on Godspace. The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 260,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 5 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

And if you would like to help make 2013 even better please consider a small donation to Mustard Seed Associates so that we can upgrade the blog,  get rid of the distracting ads, expand the circle of writers and publish new prayer and liturgical resources.
  MSA is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible.

Does Love Overcome Violence?

In the last few days I have posted several articles about the love of God and prayer. I also posted one about the riots here in Seattle on May Day. Guess which one got the most traffic?

It saddens me to see how much more easily we are drawn towards violence than towards love – not the mushy love of lust that is so often portrayed on the TV screen – but the enduring self sacrificing love that is at the core of who God is and who God wants us to be.

Violence saturates our society and we seem to accept it especially here in America. When I set out to get statistics on violence and media consumption this morning, I could find the results of little research done in the last 7 or 8 years. And the statistics from back then are rather sobering.  Evidently the average child, from 2004 figures, will see at least 8,000 murders on TV before they finish elementary school and 200,000 violent acts by age 18. And if you want to follow the statistics SCMS Canada is well worth a visit.

Yet many people do not believe that watching violence creates violent behaviour and unfortunately much of the research produces inconclusive results as this article shows. In fact the most quoted research, though it concedes that watching violence increases aggression, states the startling fact that:

We find that violent crime decreases on days with higher theater audiences for violent movies….  Overall, we find no evidence of a temporary surge in violent crime due to exposure to movie violence. Rather, our estimates suggest that in the short-run violent movies deter over 200 assaults daily.

So should we encourage the watching of violence hoping that it will actually decrease the incidence of violent crimes? Or is there another solution like teaching both children to love and care for each other rather than competing with each other.

Fortunately there are many organizations that are more concerned with peaceful rather than violent solutions to violence. Those involved in conflict resolution have grown remarkably in the last few years. Here are a few organizations worth checking out.

Eastern Mennonite University has a great list of resources on peace and conflict resolution, though of them deal with more global issues of violence.

Alternatives to Violence Project is another group that seems to take this issue seriously.

As you can see this has only been a very quick research project this morning and I would love to hear your input. How do you think the viewing of violence on TV and the interacting with violence in video games impacts behaviour? and probably even more important – How should we as Christians respond?

Mayhem In Seattle May Day Riots – Let Us Pray.

Seattle protest - images via Komo news

Seattle protest - images via Komo news

I have just heard about the May Day riots in downtown Seattle. Chaos and property damage have been the order of the day. According to the KOMO news report: Property damage was extensive including a Wells Fargo bank, Niketown, Taphouse Grill, American Apparel and the old downtown federal courthouse. Seattle police tweeted that multiple vehicles were damaged along parts of Seneca Street and Sixth Avenue, and the HomeStreet Bank on 6th was also vandalized.

This kind of violence doesn’t really help anyone’s cause and in fact diminishes the important protest of the many peaceful participants. It certainly doesn’t forward the cause of justice and often alienates those who would listen to justified protest. The May Day parade traditionally honors labour and workers’ rights. In Seattle, it drew hundreds of demonstrators for immigration rights and from the Occupy movement, with many converging on a park near downtown for rallies and music. These people need our prayers and support. Please pray with me.

Dear God in a world of violence and injustice,

May your righteousness prevail.

When anger and destruction seem to reign,

May your peace restore and renew.

When voices seeking justice are silenced by rioters ,

May your shouts for freedom be heard.

Protect the innocent, guide the righteous,

Be with those who walk for justice,

May your peace and harmony prevail.

Amen

 

Guide those who seek to restore

Martin Luther King Memorial Dedicated

Martin Luther King Memorial dedication Photo By Jose Luis Magana,

Martin Luther King Memorial dedication Photo By Jose Luis Magana,

Yesterday was the dedication for the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington DC. Thousands of people thronged the Mall to attend.  The prayers, songs, speeches and the excitement of the crowd made watching the videos and newscasts from the event is a moving experience.  Knowing that the Martin Luther King Memorial is the first in Washington DC to honor a man of hope, peace and color made it even more moving

It seemed so appropriate that President Obama, America’s first black president was there to speak, showing that change is possible and the injustices of the past can be overcome.  Though as the president also reminded us, change came at a huge cost to King and to all involved in the civil rights movement. There wasn’t just physical violence to overcome with a message of reconciliation amongst those who disagreed with one another either. King was attacked for his activism, labeled a communist and accused of lacking patriotism. And unfortunately, as President Obama said in his speech, little has changed in many communities since King’s famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963.  There is still widespread racism in this and in many other nations of the world.  Unemployment is higher, incarceration in prison more likely and education more inaccessible to African Americans than to white Americans.

This morning as I write this I am also getting ready for Tom’s and my upcoming trip to Laurelville Mennonite Church Center.  I am working on a section for our presentations on the subject of shalom – God’s desire to see all things made new.  I cannot help but think of this as I watch what happened on the Mall yesterday.  I felt that in the dedication of this memorial I had glimpsed another part of God’s world made new.  We still need to see much done to overcome injustice, racism and abuse but there is hope and it that to which we hold.

As President Obama said in his speech: “I know we will overcome. I know there are better days ahead,” “Let us keep striving, let us keep struggling, let us keep climbing to that promised land of a nation and a world that is more fair and more just.”

Like Martin Luther King and President Obama, I too have a dream, a dream of a world made new in which all people live together in peace, harmony and mutual concern.  What is your dream for the future?

Memorial Prayers for 9/11

With the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks just a couple of days away, many of us are looking for prayers to use in church services or for personal remembrances.  So I thought that I would share some of the most beautiful and helpful that I have found.

Christine Longhurst at re Worship has collected a number of compelling prayers and litanies including this beautiful memorial .  I highly recommend taking some time to read through all of them

This prayer  which I read on reWorship was originally posted on Engageworship.org  a few days ago.  It is designed to help congregations reflect on their memories, and centre around God and how he meets us in tragedy.  There is a PowerPoint you can download, or you could just print the words in a service booklet.

Here is another beautiful litany from the national Council of Churches USA

I was really touched by this collection of prayers from Huffington post from Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist perspectives

And an almost overwhelming but great collection of resources of all kinds for 9/11 Anniversary from textweek.com

And finally my own prayer for the day:

May all of us remember with love and compassion this day.

May we grieve with those who still mourn,

And share memories with those who cannot forget.

May we draw strength from those who bravely responded,

And gave their lives to save others.

May we stand with strangers who became neighbours that day,

And remember their generosity and hospitality.

Above all God may we remember your faithfulness

And learn to trust in your unfailing love

Borders is Closing – What Does it Mean

This morning I read with sadness this article on Publishers Weekly about the demise of Borders Books.

The future of Borders has become much clearer with a motion filed late Friday that asks the court to approve a new motion that will permit it to sell “substantially all of its assets” by July 29. If the motion is not approved, or an agreement to sell the company is not reached, Borders said it will liquidate the bookstore chain as quickly as possible.  Read the entire article

I had already read about this in Australia where not only is Borders closing but Angus & Robertsons which is also part of the REDgroup.  The tragedy is that this bookstore chain first opened its doors in 1884 in Sydney and to me is one of the icons of Australian books.  Part of the problem is that it is now cheaper for Australians to buy books online overseas and have them shipped to Australia.

At least it looks cheaper up front but what I wonder is the ongoing cost to society?   Hundreds of jobs are being lost in Australia, and NZ.  The stores in the US may still escape if a sale occurs in July but the impact on thousands of lives is still huge.

The consequences of of actions spreads out in ripples that many of us are not even aware of.  Cheap books online for those who love to read seems like a godsend but it definitely has its downside & the impact of a global marketplace on everything we buy and use is incredible.  Many of us are starting to think about buying locally where food is concerned, but it is hard for us to think to other areas of consumption as well.

Perhaps preserving local bookstores by buying books locally is as important as buying produce that is grown locally. Which brings me to another article on the Publishers’ Weekly website that is easy to overlook.  It talked about the closing of Butterfly Books – the largest independent children’s bookstore in Wisconsin.  Small independent bookstores matter just as local businesses and food production matters.  At least that is what I think.  What do you think?

Christchurch Bishop fears her clergy face “exhaustion of spirit” following tremors

I am now back to Seattle after a trip to Australia for my mother’s 88th birthday.  It was a wonderful trip, but the images coming out of Christchurch New Zealand where I once lived have tinged my memories with sadness and my heart is aching for the dear people of this city who have just suffered more earthquake shocks as bad as the one that did so much damage in February.  For those that are interested I  am reposting this from the Anglican Communion website that shows the heart ache that many are suffering.  You can see the original article here .  Thanks to John Leech who sent me this link.
It makes me very aware of the privilege of our lives and how many suffer in our world.   This is unfortunately just one of the many disasters still impacting the lives of millions around us.
Christchurch Bishop fears her clergy face “exhaustion of spirit” following tremors
By Lloyd Ashton, Anglican Taonga

In the wake of yet more big jolts in Christchurch, Bishop Victoria Matthews says she fears her clergy are facing “exhaustion of spirit”.
“People are tired. They have been more than magnificent. Let me say that clearly.
“But I am hearing of a deep weariness of the soul, and I’m having to ask people to reach deep into their resources to meet yet another crisis.
“The churches that have stepped up to the plate, and been magnificent so many times before, will have to do it all over again. Because we have got to keep looking after the people of God.
“I’m watching people’s eyes, and hearing their words very carefully, and I’ve been saying to some: ‘You know, you’ve got to get out and away for a month.’
“And they say: ‘Yes. You’re right. I do.’ But after yesterday, getting them to do that is going to be more difficult. Because they are going to want to be with their people.
“That’s the story that is front page for me.
“I was talking to an elderly man the other day who’d lived through war, and been evacuated six times in his life. He knows the drills, so to speak.
“But the people who are actually at the front line now… we don’t.
“We are a generation who have never been through a war, never lived through a sustained, critical period like this. That makes it really difficult.”
As a young woman, Bishop Victoria twice served three-month stints in Haiti – and while she was there, she lived through a military coup.
While the politics couldn’t be more different, she says the turmoil in Haiti she experienced then was the best preparation she’s had for leading the Diocese of Christchurch through the crises it faces now.
She also says that the destruction of the cathedral’s rose window has significant implications.
“It raises the question yet again about whether we need to deconsecrate (the cathedral), and take it right down – but that question has not been answered yet.
“The rose window was, in a sense, the icon of the icon.
“It was the trademark. The logo. Call it whatever you will, it was the one piece, the people of the cathedral said, that they would move to whatever a new Cathedral looked like. That would go with them.
“But it won’t now.”
For some other churches, yesterday’s quakes were the coup de grace.
“Holy Trinity Lyttelton is right down,” she says. “The roof is now on the ground. We knew that we were probably looking at demolition there, but that’s now been done.
“St Luke’s, which has been deconsecrated, is now very precarious. I think we will have to move to demolition there as soon as possible.”
While the historic stone church at St John’s Latimer Square, which had already been deconsecrated, has suffered more damage.
Bishop Victoria says she dropped into a number of church schools yesterday, and found them in good heart.
“The spirit of young people is wonderful. I was checking at St Michael’s church school, and a young man from Christ’s College came up to me there and said: ‘Good afternoon Bishop. I just need to tell you that Christ’s College is all right.’ Isn’t that good?”
“Then I went on to Bishopspark – and the spirit of the sweethearts there is amazing. One 96-year old woman, who is a clergy widow, said to me: ‘Ohh… the staff were so lovely. They brought us all downstairs, and gave us the nicest cup of tea.’”
In the evening, Bishop Victoria emailed her clergy, urging them to be careful around their buildings.
“The operative word,” she wrote, “is safety. So please do not take chances.”
Today she identified two other pressing needs:
“We need prayer. We need prayer, because we are beyond running on our own strength.
“Before yesterday, I’d been going round the parishes saying: ‘We’ve got to pray our way through this.’
“Everybody agreed. Then yesterday happened, and now we really need the whole country and beyond this country praying for us for strength. Because there is no other way we are going to get through this.”
She also forecasts that “in a fairly short time, we’ll be needing very practical help again. “
“People who might be able to come and do relatively minor repairs, like helping waterproof homes, for example.”
“So: safety, prayer and practical help.”

The Wonders Worked by Womanhood from Lucy Kellaway

A friend (male) sent me a copy of this article The Wonders Worked by Womanhood which was published on FT.com today & I thought that many of you might enjoy reading it too.

….  It shows that when it comes to the intelligence of a group, the presence of women lifts the results, even if the individuals are not particularly brainy. The study, by Anita Woolley and Thomas Malone and written up in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, shows that the more women there are in a group, the more intelligently it performs.  Read the entire article

Praying for Joplin Mo. – Another Devastating Tornado Hits

Our prayers go out this morning to the people of Joplin Mo. where another devastating tornado with winds up to 200 mph has killed at least 89 people and left huge devastation in its wake.  Read the entire story here  

Lord have mercy,

Comfort those who mourn

Christ have mercy,

Protect those who are still alive

Lord have mercy

Guide those who search for survivors