Monday, September 22, 2008

Suburban Spirituality

Our special guest, Marie Zupka Ludder, offered some reflections Sunday morning on how to stay focused on God in the midst of the business of life. Here is a snap-shot:

1. Heed the calls to prayer of daily life. When you hear the fire siren or the ambulance wail, take a moment to pray for those in danger and those responding. When you hear the train whistle, pray for those on their way to work or home.

2. Thank God for our food. We pray "Give us this day our daily bread" and need to respond with "Thank you Lord for this food," whether its a formal prayer during family dinner or a quick prayer in the drive through or as we munch a Snickers.

3. Set an extra place for Jesus. Remember when we are gathered at the table for meal time that Jesus is with us. Some families have found the practice of setting an extra place setting for Jesus to be a profound reminder of Christ's presence.

4. Journal. Keep a small note book during the day to write reflections of how God is working and worries and concerns to lift up in prayer.

5. Pray the news. As you scan the headlines, lift up the world and those in it in prayer.

6. Let waiting time be prayer time Instead of getting all anxious when we wait, turn it into a time of prayer. Marie advocates "guerilla prayer" - stealth prayers for those in your vicinity who are especially distressed - the mother in the shopping line, the fellow commuter on the train, the driver in the traffic jam about to explode in road rage.

7. Go out like the Wise Men, seeking Jesus. Put a star by the door you use most often to go in and out of your home to remind you of the Wise Men and their search for Jesus. Go about your day in the same spirit.

Marie is Associate for Congregational Resources at the Presbytery of Long Island.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to Give to Hurricane Relief

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is Mobilized!

If you want to help you
r neighbors (no matter where they live) recover from one of the four hurricanes/tropical storms that have hit so far this hurricane season, you can do it three ways:
  1. Put a check made out to Community Presbyterian Church, and with either "US Hurricane Relief" or "Caribbean Hurricane Relief" on the memo line. Gifts made this way will be credited to our church's mission giving.
  2. Go to to give online with a credit card. You can choose to give to US or Caribbean relief, or both. These gifts won't be credited to the church, but if it's more convenient for you, that's great.
  3. Assemble, or give money for, a Disaster kit - a 5 Gallon bucket containing everything from scrub brushes to work gloves to clothes line. The kits are distributed by Church World Service, our disaster relief partner through the National Council of Churches. For more info on kits go to If you make a kit, you can drop it off at the church - just make a small cash donation to help with shipping.
Don't forget that Haiti, especially, has little of the infrastructure and aid systems available in the US--they need as much help as they can get after being hit by multiple storms in a matter of days.

I know it doesn't always feel like it, but most of us experience more plenty than need. God has given us that plenty so that we can help those in need. These are our neighbors. Let's care for them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Black Monday

As I got off the train today in Manhattan the mood was grim. Bear Sterns seemed manageable. Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac seemed like a Washington problem that Washington solved. But somehow Lehman Brothers was different. It seemed closer to home, another domino that fell, with AIG waiting in the wings.

While the news cameras showed Lehman Brothers staff cleaning out their offices, my friends were calculating which of their friends would be affected and my organization, The Bowery Mission, were calculating how many of our donors were now broke. It seemed a bad day for the financial sector and a bad day for fundraisers.

And it was a good day to remember that we worship the God who created heaven and earth and not the bronze bull that is firmly anchored on Wall Street. We're taught and acculturated to measure our worth and our security by the size of our pay check, the diversity of our portfolio, the assets invested in our houses and how our cars stack up against our neighbors. Now our lust for that worth, our desire to leverage everything in an attempt to find wealth where there is none, has created a house of cards which is causing much pain and fear as it falls.

"In life and in death we belong to God," begins the PC(USA)'s Brief Statement of Faith. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," scripture tells us, "and everything else will be granted to you." These are not mere words. Times like these remind us that these are the fundamental truths of life.

Be sure to pray for those whose jobs are gone, whose houses are slipping away, for whom security has been replaced by fear and uncertainty.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Eat Local, Share Local

Earlier this year our Stewardship Team came up with a simple idea with profound implications. Once backyard gardens started producing we would put a table up in back of the church. Any gardener with extra produce could leave it on the table. Anyone who needed produce could help themselves. Because we live in a consumer culture, we did put a basket out for money. But we didn't put prices on things and the money would go to church mission projects (the Food Pantry and Heifer) instead of to the gardeners.

As I've watch the table pile with produce before services and empty at the end of services, it occurs to me that there are other areas of our lives in which we have abundance and others may have scarcity. I know of a church member who tends the lawns of his neighbors. He has an abundance of time and likes doing lawn work. They are unable to do lawn work. I know of parents with an abundance of love who end up welcoming all the children in the neighborhood into their house. I know of neighbor of mine with an extra bedroom, who lent it to a friend of a friend who needed a place to stay. I know of a man with an abundance of money who gives most of each pay check away.

Jesus tells of a man who had a harvest so big he could never sell it all, so he enlarged his barns and gloried in his abundance. Jesus calls this man a fool. When our lives overflow with abundance, we can bless others and gain blessing ourselves when we share that abundance with others.