Sunday, October 26, 2014

Journey of Love and Wisdom

sermon preached at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Bellingham, WA
by the Rev. Josh Hosler

"Love God. Love your neighbor. Change the world." Last month as students returned to Western Washington University, the members of EpiC, that is, Episcopal Campus Fellowship, superimposed this slogan over an image of a solar eclipse and had little buttons made to hand out at the school's annual Info Fair. "Love God. Love your neighbor. Change the world." This is a paraphrase of Jesus’ words from today's gospel, words which came from two places in the Jewish law: Deuteronomy, and Leviticus. We gave our buttons away to students who stopped by our booth, but also to the other religious groups whose booths surrounded ours. We gave buttons to the Christians, and since Jesus was quoting the Torah here, we also gave buttons to the two Jewish groups. It was epic.

Jesus presents these two great commandments to those who are listening to him teach in Jerusalem. Over the past few Sundays, we've been hearing a number of stories that take place during this time, after his triumphal procession into the city, but before his arrest. The atmosphere is tense, with those in positions of power continually trying to knock Jesus off his high horse.

But Jesus isn't on a high horse; he prefers a humble donkey. Every time they try to trap Jesus in his own words, the leaders of the Pharisees and Sadducees find themselves exposed and vulnerable instead. With unassailable authority, Jesus has ranked tax collectors and prostitutes ahead of the holiest keepers of the law. He has taught emphatically that the kingdom of God will be taken away from those who think they have it all together and given to people who know how much mercy they need. He has sidelined the mighty Roman Empire as irrelevant to God's agenda, since God is all-powerful, even over Caesar. And now, in tying these two old commandments together in a new way, Jesus seeks to clarify the priorities of God’s chosen people. Love, he says ... just love. Do this, all the rest of those old rules will make sense to you in a new way. Pour every decision you make through the funnel of love.

Well, OK. The words are clear, but how do you and I go about them, loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves? Obviously, loving God is an important thing to do, but it seems like a rather abstract directive. Is it simply an exercise of will, or of memory -- remembering to say "I love you, God" every now and then? Loving our neighbors is the commandment that helps us, because it gives us a field in which to practice loving God. We cannot love God without loving what God loves: human beings, and the world God is creating out of love. God loves even our enemies, and when we hate them, we are failing to love those whom God loves. So if you want to start loving God right now, begin by loving your neighbor, whoever he or she may be. Encountering people in the flesh and acting towards them out of love is an undeniably concrete way to go.

Here at St. Paul's, we are always trying to engage, on some level, these two commandments to love. People come to us with all different kinds of experiences of God at work in their lives, seen through the lens of a huge variety of life experiences. People come here because the news headlines are devastating and scary. They come here to heal from deep pain and confusion. They come from other churches where they may have felt that the pieces didn't quite fit together. Many come seeking concrete answers to very big questions. If you're in this camp, allow me to confess something to you. In the Episcopal church, we're not all that big on hard and fast answers, because above all, we don't want to offer a simplistic answer. We have answers, to be sure, but more often than not they come with a footnote that leads to some other entry, or even to an opposing point of view. Sometimes, as the Indigo Girls once put it, “There’s more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in a crooked line.”

Maybe you’re sitting here today thinking, “OK, I believe in God, or at least, I believe in something." Well, great—then let’s just begin with that. Where does this belief come from? Is it a gut feeling that we are not merely a temporary grouping of random molecules? Or does it run deeper? Is there emotion in it? Is there trust in it? Does it lead you towards any particular action? Could it be that love is somewhere in the mix?

Maybe despite being here today, you're saying, "I don't need a church. I'd rather follow my heart and do it my own way." Well, there's nothing wrong with having a one-on-one with God on a mountaintop--in fact, this is a great thing to do, especially around here! But when we bring our holy experiences alongside those of others, we find untold opportunities to learn even deeper wisdom, to see God in a clearer light. Individuality is very important, but individuality paired with community is far stronger. In a community, people can bring their personal, individual experiences of God, who cannot be understood in the same way by everybody, and we can have a conversation.

Perhaps your gripe is that the Bible is so full of rules, and you wonder whether joining a church means committing to the whole shebang. Well, we've just heard Jesus set all those old rules into their proper context. Rules arise out of culture and situation, and they do change over time. But the great commandments of love do not change. Christianity is an art form, not a rule book. Many people fall into the trap of thinking that being a Christian is a matter of giving intellectual assent to a list of propositions, while checking off a list of commandments not broken today ... but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Christianity is, instead, a venue for holy conversation, and it is a road we make by walking it. Christianity is a journey that seeks wisdom too grand and too elusive ever to be fully understood by the human mind, wisdom that is about being loved and loving and serving others. Those of us in the church have come to believe that this wisdom is worth pursuing just for the sheer joy of pursuing it. Many of us can't imagine living our lives any other way.

So you can't be a Christian in a vacuum, and you can't fully understand Christianity looking from the outside in. Our hope at St. Paul’s is that everyone who walks through these doors will feel welcomed and will be able to connect with us in some way. Perhaps God has led you here today through some mysterious process. Indeed, God will always meet us where we are. But God loves us too much to let us stay there. We won't to tell you what to think, because your life is your journey, and it is simply our pleasure to walk alongside you. And so we welcome you to a well of wisdom that we have been keeping here for centuries, and we invite you to drink deeply.

Furthermore, you are absolutely welcome to hover around the edges for as long as you want, but know that this is also a place where you can make a commitment for life. Baptism is that commitment: it is what makes one a Christian. We baptize infants and children because we are eager to hold out before them a specific path to wisdom. Then they make their road by walking, and we walk alongside them. We also baptize adults, and we invite adults who were baptized as children to make an adult proclamation of their faith and to take on their baptismal vows for themselves. And we do all these things in community, not in private. Christianity is for people who want a way to walk alongside others, and who have found that the way that makes the most sense includes the story of the creator joining forces with the created. Jesus walks with us on this way, having gone on ahead and come back to assure us that there is nothing to fear.

Here at St. Paul's, we've been journeying together in a very concrete way in the little community of people that has formed on Wednesday nights over the past month. We offer a Eucharist on Wednesday evenings at 5:30, followed by a community supper prepared in turns by those who come. Following supper are our classes--with simultaneous childcare! And we've just finished our first four-week series. The next set will begin this coming Wednesday night at 6:45. If you wonder what it might mean to live in the tension between doubt and faith, come join Ben Amundgaard and the Rev. Armand Larive for their four-week class on that topic. If you wonder about the Bible, what’s in it, what it’s for, and how you might approach it, I myself will be teaching that class. And Father Jonathan’s class on prayer will be a great way to engage that first commandment: “Love God.”

In January, these Wednesday night classes will flow naturally into a process we call Journey, a process by which you can come to be baptized or to make an adult affirmation of the baptismal vows that were made for you in childhood. Journey is the St. Paul's version of the process by which the earliest Christians came to be baptized: through prayer and learning, through fellowship and theological reflection. Journey will meet on Wednesdays from January through May, culminating at the Great Vigil of Easter when we will baptize new Christians. You can be a part of Journey even if you don't want to make any particular affirmation of faith. Journey is also just a great way to join this holy conversation.

And so we invite you, whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on this journey of faith, to Journey with us towards ever deeper wisdom. The church isn't here just to sustain itself, but to help God transform people's lives from fear into faith, hope, and love. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us." Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On Choosing Godparents

A number of years ago I asked a group of ten Episcopal high schoolers, “Who are your godparents?”

About half of them had no idea. The other half said, “My aunt and uncle,” or “my mom’s best friend and her husband.”

I asked, “If you were wrestling with a really deep question or a difficult problem, and you didn’t feel comfortable bringing it to your parents, would you bring it to your godparents?”

The first reply pulled no punches: “Absolutely not! My godparents are way too close to my parents.” So out of that group of ten teenagers, not one had a meaningful, unique relationship with his or her godparents.

Clergy aren’t often asked for tips on how to choose godparents. Many come to the Episcopal church from a tradition that doesn’t have godparents. Others come with the notion that godparents are those appointed to raise the children should the parents die, but this is a separate legal reality that has nothing to do with baptism. So they bring their children to the font with godparents already chosen, usually on the sole basis of who they are personally close to. One of my seminary professors, Dr. Lisa Kimball, wrote her doctoral thesis on godparenting. She says that “being a godparent is a distinct honor and responsibility without a roadmap.”

Our culture has gotten much more mobile. We can’t expect the godparents we choose to live near our children all their lives. Yet grace abounds: I have four godchildren, and I’m convinced that in more than one case, it is that godparent relationship that keeps our families working hard to develop long-term friendships.

My oldest godchild is 14 now, and her brother is 16. They haven’t attended church regularly since they were very young. But our families keep making an effort to spend time together, and my friendship with the kids is very different from my friendship with their parents. We have spent many years nurturing personal closeness. One weekend I watched several episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my goddaughter, and as we baked cookies, we even talked about Jesus. A deep conversation with her brother about reading the Bible in context actually inspired him to read people in context, and not to jump to conclusions about their intentions. I know my relationships with them will continue to be important. I pray that I will have moments of such significance with all my godchildren, again and again. And at the very least, I will let them know repeatedly that such a relationship is a possibility.

Choose godparents carefully. Choosing them from among family and friends necessitates an effort to let your kids develop their own relationship with them over time. Choosing them from within the congregation means that, at least for now, your kids will see their godparents every week. Your children’s godparents can take them up to the communion rail. They can mark baptism anniversaries with gifts (I have a list of good books) and memories about that important day. Most importantly, all godparents can be models of how a Christian lives: not perfectly, but with intention and with trust in God.

No Fear

homily preached at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Bellingham, WA
by the Rev. Josh Hosler
October 22, 2014

Ephesians 3:1-12
Canticle 9 (Isaiah 12:2-6)
Luke 12:39-48

Get ready. Something important is about to be revealed. God is about to do a new thing … do you not perceive it? Do you feel the buzz inside of you, the source of your very breath and heartbeat, humming a message that change is coming? The change is coming, and the change has already begun. The change began in the past, but we can see it in the present. It’s a mystery, it’s a big deal, and it’s very good news. Such change is very likely to frighten us—so we need to hear again and again the reassurance Isaiah offers us today: “Surely, it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid.”

There are two kinds of fear, you see. When we hear in the Bible that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” such fear is not abject cowering, but reverent awe. I am so small, so seemingly insignificant, and yet my creator loves me eternally. What if I screw it up? No, because of the good news … I will trust in God, and everything will be OK. I can put my head underwater, and I will not drown. But even if I do drown, I will be raised. And that’s so exciting, I just have to tell others about it.

Furthermore, don’t let the metaphors fool you. When Jesus talks about masters beating their slaves, that’s not a threat; it’s an exclamation point. The metaphor is deeply disturbing to us, because it is difficult to remove the lens of our country’s shameful and abusive legacy of slavery. We can’t imagine an ancient world in which slavery was just a fact of life from which even Jesus could freely draw metaphors.

Jesus’ parable itself is not about slavery, but leadership. A new community of believers is forming, and they are intentionally setting themselves against the human tendency towards fear. Peter wonders whether those in positions of power among the believers will be held to as high a standard of behavior as everybody else. Jesus’ reply is that leaders are actually held to a higher standard, because their responsibility is greater. If they cause the believers to fear, they have chosen to trap themselves in their own fear. Either way, the Son of Man—that is, Jesus—is coming … has come … will come … is among us now.

What does it mean that “the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour”? This, too, is a mystery. Some people take the Second Coming of Jesus very literally as a future worldwide event, while others see it as more individual than general, and more metaphorical. I want to suggest today that it doesn’t matter all that much what you believe, as long as you don’t imagine Jesus coming back as someone we wouldn’t recognize from the portrait we have of him in the Gospels. Earlier this year, Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council imagined out loud that when Jesus comes back, he’ll be packing an AR-15. Now, regardless of what you think of the Second Coming, this is atrocious theology. The minute we imagine that the purpose of Jesus’ return is to destroy people rather than to draw all creation to himself, we have strayed away from the gospel. We have become those who instill fear rather than relieving it, and then we have trapped ourselves in our own fear.

In the world Jesus came to announce, there is no fear, and there is no slavery—only reverent awe and joyful obedience to an unquestionably good and loving creator. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand how important it is to take the good news to the entire world. By the time of the writing of Luke’s gospel, there was a Christian church made up of Jews and Gentiles and some of the unlikeliest people, a body of believers spreading rapidly around the known world. We are the inheritors of this good news. We are today’s church.

The church is not a club for hobbyists, and it is not a business for salespeople. It is God acting on earth now, whenever we align ourselves with faith and not fear. The church is not to be identified with the Kingdom of God, except when it actually participates in that Kingdom. The church is a mystery, and it is available to everyone.

Both Luke and Paul understood the universality of the church. We are not an exclusive organization, an attitude that plays into the most disappointing side of human nature. For 2000 years we have been plagued by Christian leaders who were afraid of those whose experience of God didn’t immediately cohere with the story they had received. Such leaders have cast exclusivity as clarity, but then they have used their clarity as a weapon. The church’s job is not to bludgeon people with “correct” teaching, but to offer stories against which all of us can hold up our own experience of God. The church is a well of wisdom to which we believers invite the thirsty to drink. Because God is at work in all this mess called life, we have no cause for fear.

And so we all begin in the same place: we find ourselves to be alive and aware, and we are in a state of wonder about our very existence. And having received good news, we are to share it: Jesus is the very icon of the God who made us, offering us hope and life and salvation, and doing the work of God that Isaiah promised to us: “Surely, it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid.” Trust in God, who saves. Live without fear. Your life, along with all of creation, is being redeemed. Amen.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Baptism Hymn

You divided the water from water
In creation you made us a space
When the rains of the flood burst upon us
The rainbow revealed your true face
So baptize us in this water
Make room for us all in your boat
Baptize us in this water
The water that keeps us afloat

You delivered us through the water
To a dry land you led us ahead
And you quenched all our thirst in the desert
And provided our daily bread
So baptize us in this water
Release us from captivity
Baptize us in this water
The water that sets us free

You have led us to lie by the water
You have pastured the greatest and least
And you offer to all who are thirsty
Your wisdom, and spread us a feast
So baptize us in this water
Invite us to drink without pay
Baptize us in this water
And shepherd us all today

Your anointing has moistened our dry bones
You have raised us and caused us to stand
You have drowned us and brought us up singing
By rivers in your promised land
O baptize us in your water
And heal us with leaves from your tree
Baptize us in your water
And water us eternally

© 2013 by Josh Hosler

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fear and Unchecked Power

homily preached at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Bellingham, WA
by the Rev. Josh Hosler
October 16, 2014

On Broad Street in London, this cross marks the site
of the burning of the Oxford Martyrs.
The Oxford Martyrs—Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer—were burned at the stake for the heresy of participating in the Protestant Reformation in England. This occurred under “Bloody” Queen Mary in 1555 and 1556.

Latimer and Ridley were burned first, resolute and unflinching. An eyewitness named John Foxe wrote: “Dr. Ridley, the night before execution, was very facetious, had himself shaved, and called his supper a marriage feast; he remarked upon seeing Mrs. Irish (the keeper’s wife) weep, ‘Though my breakfast will be somewhat sharp, my supper will be more pleasant and sweet.’”

Of the execution itself, Foxe wrote: “A lighted [timber] was now laid at Dr. Ridley’s feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say, ‘Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as, I trust, will never be put out.’ When Dr. Ridley saw the flame approaching him, he exclaimed, ‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!’ and repeated often, ‘Lord receive my spirit!’ Mr. Latimer, too, ceased not to say, ‘O Father of heaven receive my soul!’”

Thomas Cranmer was not martyred that day because he had signed a document recanting his Protestant theology. Cranmer, the chief architect of our Book of Common Prayer, strikes me as a man who would have had no patience with the kind of violence that results from ignorance. Perhaps at first, he felt that a recantation would not have to be a betrayal. But he found his conscience tortured, and eventually he recanted his 
The Burning of Thomas Cranmer
recantation. Cranmer was sent to the stake five months after Ridley and Latimer. At Cranmer’s final speech just before his execution, he said, “Forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished.” And so he put his writing hand into the fire first, before the flames engulfed his entire body.

Clearly, our reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was very carefully chosen for this occasion. "The work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done." All three of these martyrs were burned at the stake for teaching certain things about God, things that were contrary to the church’s official teaching. But these ideas fanned the flames of the Reformation, the results of which include the birth of all the Protestant denominations, in addition to a Counter-Reformation within the Roman Catholic Church.

Paul described Christianity as a building constructed on the foundation of Jesus: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it." In taking the story of Jesus to the Gentiles, Paul was among the first to build on the foundation Jesus had laid. And what are the qualities of this foundation? The Gospels give us a panoramic view of the foundation, centered on love for God and love for each other. We are to walk through our lives transforming hate into love, and that will not happen without resistance, because two of the biggest enemies of love are fear and unchecked power.

No religion exists or operates in a vacuum, but is conditioned by the culture and the power structures around it. I want to stress that what Jesus came up against was not Judaism itself, but fearful, besieged Jewish individuals conspiring with the unchecked power of Rome. That combination quite often turns deadly. What Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer came up against was not Roman Catholicism itself, but a fearful, besieged Vatican conspiring with the unchecked power of the English monarchy. In Syria and Iraq today, Christians and other religious minorities are not coming up against Islam itself, but against certain fearful, besieged Muslims conspiring with the unchecked power of military weaponry. And in a much less deadly example, Mark Driscoll stepped down this week as the lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. He strikes me as a very fearful person who was given way too much unchecked power and chose to keep taking more.

The problem with religions is that they are made up of flawed, fearful human beings who experience power as a way to gain control over their fear. The deadly combination of fear plus power can turn deadly with or without religion. And we, too, are vulnerable to participation in this toxic combination. It can happen on a very small, local level. It can happen in local governments, in schools, in churches, and even in our own families. Fear … plus power … minus accountability.

How are you handling your fear these days? Every angel appears with the words “Fear not,” and at the heart of the Christian message is the good news that we have no cause for fear. This does not magically remove the existential fear that is part of our human condition. But that is why spreading the good news is so important, so that people the world over may come closer to living without fear.

I saw a meme on Facebook today that said, “Relax—nothing is under control.” And a classmate reminded me of something our liturgics professor had told us at exam time: “If you can change it, why worry? If you can’t change it, why worry?”

I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke’s gospel: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

As for power, how are you holding yourself accountable for the power you have? Perhaps more importantly, how are you asking others to hold you accountable? When life feels out of control, it can be easy to grasp tightly to whatever power we may have to influence others. But what if we didn’t? What if we abdicated power instead? What if we assumed we didn’t know everything? What if we really trusted that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, breathing newness and renewal and opening possibilities we haven’t yet imagined?

Paul cautions us today: “Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”

To this day, we keep building the Church. Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer were among those who launched the Reformation in England that would eventually lead to our Episcopal Church, and you and I are builders, too. How will we adapt the Church going forward, never losing sight of our foundation in Jesus?


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Lord's Prayer Is Our Prayer

homily preached at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Bellingham, WA
by the Rev. Josh Hosler
October 8, 2014

If you grew up within the realm of Christianity, you have probably memorized and internalized the Lord’s Prayer. It is the most cherished prayer of our faith, because Jesus himself taught it to us. In today’s gospel reading from Luke, we hear the most basic form of the prayer.

There’s something stunning about realizing that Christians have used this prayer since the time of Jesus of Nazareth himself. It’s not silly to keep repeating the same prayer for millennia—but what if we’ve misunderstood Jesus? What if he didn’t mean, “Use these words,” but simply, “Pray in this manner”? If so, in what manner? What are the elements of this simple prayer?

Jesus begins by addressing God as “Father.” In another places, Jesus describes the Hebrew God as Abba—Daddy. It’s an incredibly familiar image of the transcendent God who created all things and who thundered on Mount Sinai—more like images of God we find in some of the psalms. Jesus asked us to imagine God not as distant and dangerous, but as very near and loving—as our creator in the sense that our parents created us. If God created both sexes, then God belongs exclusively to neither. So calling God “Mother” is equally valid, even if two thousand years of patriarchy has made such an image less familiar or comfortable.

Next comes praise: “hallowed be your name.” Jesus acknowledges God’s holiness and sovereignty. This is the flip side of the familiar image of “Father.” God isn’t just any parent, but the parent. So we can be clear that this is not some new god, but still the God of Israel, the great I AM. We haven’t lost sight of God’s transcendence, even as we approach God through images of closeness and warmth.

“Your kingdom come,” says Jesus, and more extensive versions elaborate: “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” Those of us who pray the Lord’s Prayer are intentionally aligning ourselves with God’s reign and God’s authority. We want what God wants. We want God’s dream for the world to come true.

Once Jesus has established that our desires must fall within the realm of God’s desires, he begins to make his humble requests to God. The first is for something very basic, simple, and real: bread. Daily bread—just enough for now, but reliably, every day—like manna in the wilderness. Because we are God’s creation, we count on God to provide what we need for our basic survival. We are not self-sufficient beings.

Jesus’ second request is for forgiveness. Wait, you may ask. Is Jesus asking for forgiveness, or is he telling us that we must ask for forgiveness? We may well wonder whether Jesus ever asked for forgiveness, or whether that was never really necessary. But suffice it to say that Jesus identifies sin—that is, distance from God—as a core human problem. He phrases the problem using the metaphor of debt, and he asserts that the remedy comes not from us, but from God: God’s forgiveness of our debt. However, we are to ask for God’s forgiveness in the same breath that we assert that we have forgiven the debts of others. Here and in other places, Jesus makes clear that unless we forgive the debts of others, we cannot possibly benefit from the forgiveness God grants us. In aligning ourselves with what God wants, we cannot hang onto our feelings of entitlement—of being owed anything by anybody.

Finally, Jesus asks for heavenly guidance in the form of a negative request: “Do not bring us to the time of trial.” We usually render this as, “Lead us not into temptation.” So we ask God to steer us away from situations in which we might be tested beyond our capabilities. In so doing, we acknowledge that not everything in the universe is random, and that God is indeed able and, hopefully, willing to help us in this way.

So, to recap: we have an address … praise … realignment of our values … and then our specific but humble requests. What if we structured all our prayers in this way? Here’s one example we might imagine:

Jesus my brother and Lord, your example is an inspiration to me, and I give myself to you completely. I want to be on board with what you have done and are doing. In that spirit, could you please give me what I need to lead this group I’m overseeing? I know I’ve made some bad calls in that group, and I pray you’ll forgive me. I’ve been working hard to forgive those who I think have overreacted to my mistakes, though I totally understand where they’re coming from, and I’ve told them so. Some of my mistakes have come about in situations where I feel out of control, and it would be great if you could help me avoid winding up in that out-of-control situation again—unless, of course, that’s exactly where I need to be for you to be at work through me. Please help me be up to the task. Please do for me what I can’t do for myself. Amen.

Here’s another possibility:

Mama Spirit, you have brought me to life, and I’m so thankful. Sometimes I love to stand in a windy place and imagine that you are buffeting me about. Really, there’s nothing better in life that I can imagine than that. You blow where you will, and when I just go along for the ride, I find that things tend to work out pretty well. I’m not wealthy, but I’m happy. I know I have everything I need, because it all comes from you. When I fail to recognize that, please help me come back to you. Chase after me if you need to. Catch me up in your wind and carry me to new, exciting places. But don’t let me get so caught up in you that I forget about people who don’t understand you the same way I do. When they misunderstand me, please help me forgive. Help me, too, to understand others better. If you need to put me in situations that I can’t control, then at least don’t make it too difficult for you and me to handle together. Thank you.

Prayer comes in great variety, and we all approach the same God from very different places and different understandings. The God who made all things can be imagined in many different ways, and your image of God will not be the same as mine.

In that spirit, I encourage you to try this exercise at home. What will be your version of the Lord’s Prayer for your life today?