Archive | February 2018

“WE” Are Killing Our Children!

On Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love, the expectation is that couples would enjoy a nice dinner, chocolates or roses, that would normally cause their hearts to flutter. However, this year on February 14th, hearts were not moved by love, but by the horror of yet another mass murder of our school children and teachers.

This brutal and senseless slaughter of 15 children and 2 teachers at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., was the 17th occurrence of mass murders in our country in just six weeks – more than twice the number of such horrific events as in the same time period in 2017, the 24th massacre in the last 14 years since the ban on assault weapons was allowed to lapse by Congress, and the 72nd since the deadly Columbine massacre in 1999.[1]

Of course, mental illness is involved, but all nations have citizens who are mentally ill – none of them experience nearly the amount of violent shooting deaths that we do in the United States.

Of course, our law enforcement and educational institutions overlook possible ‘bad actors’, but the fine balance between guidance and coercion in the treatment of juveniles and the mentally ill is difficult to achieve.

Of course, we can blame video games, violent movies and TV shows, and the ‘culture of violence’ in our society for its influence on our citizenry – but almost all nations experience a similar culture, and yet they do not see their children gunned down on a regular basis.

There is one major difference, and all studies point to it: the vast proliferation of guns in our society – some 40 million, or 1 in every 9 people (including babies)! Gun regulation laws are ignored – the massive sale of all types of guns – including assault weapons, abound online, at gun shows, and even in Walmart! “Waiting periods” to check for felony records or mental problems are overlooked. The gun trade to Mexico and Latin America is a land office business. Our police now use military-style weapons on citizens for the least infraction – bolstered by the gun manufacturing industry that knows no limits. Is it any wonder that our nation is engaged in its longest war ever with no end in sight? Is it any wonder that we spend nearly 57% of our budget on our military and war supplies? In light of that, should we be perplexed that a “culture of violence” is killing our children in schools, where they should be safe and free from fear? Should we be surprised that the majority of these murders have been committed by assault weapons of mass destruction – guns made only for one thing: to kill huge numbers of people as fast as possible in a war setting!!

The appalling shame is that our state and federal lawmakers are paralyzed by inaction and denial, and the “gun lobby”, financed by gun manufacturers through the National Rifle Association, has bought their silence and inaction.

Since the lapse of the 1994 ban on assault weapons by Congress, our legislators have been financed/bribed by the National Rifle Association to make sure that no legislation will be enacted that might limit their power, or the profit of gun manufacturers. On the average, for each fire arm or accessory sold by arms manufacturers, $1 is contributed to the NRA; this creates a slush fund that they then pass on to legislator’s campaigns.[2] The amount of money ‘donated’ to legislator’s campaign funds since the enactment of Citizens United, has been more than any other PAC or super-PAC. A list of the top ten senators and representatives receiving money from the NRA can be found at

Recent polls have shown that responsible gun owners and most members of the NRA favor background checks. The use of assault weapons taints the image of the average gun owner. We have the cybernet and electronic communications to provide an immediate background check on anyone desiring to purchase a hand gun, whether at a certified gun dealer or at gun shows. If the purchaser really wants the fire arm for a collection or use in hunting or sport, they should be willing to wait the time needed to perform a background check. One has to wonder, if they are not willing to have a background check, what they are hiding. And, just as in driving a car, gun owners should be required to register their guns and complete a gun safety course.

The perpetrator of the Parkland School murders purchased the assault rifle and ammunition legally – he was 18. But it is mind-boggling that he could purchase an assault rifle at the age of 18, yet cannot purchase a hand gun until 21 in the state of Florida. Just as in the case of concealed-carry laws, there should be a national guideline, including training and proficiency requirements, enforced in all states. We do this with driver’s licenses.

Is there no hope? What can we do?

As we are told in Isaiah 11:6,

A child shall lead them;

Thankfully, we see students from Parkland and across the nation now rising up in grief and anger to organize resistance to the NRA and to demand stricter gun laws. Perhaps the indignation of our children can do at last what adults have been unable to do: effect meaningful gun legislation and serious attention to mental health treatment. And we, as mothers and fathers and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends, must join their bandwagon to FINALLY make changes in assault weapon legislation so that no more children and citizens will lose their lives by assault weapons.

There are many organizations that are supporting responsible gun ownership; find one that is in your area and become active. Pledge that you will not support with money or your vote any legislator or candidate who takes campaign funds from the NRA or who fails to support gun legislation – and ask them what their opinions are! Remember, as horrible as it sounds, it could be your child who becomes a victim of the next assault weapon massacre.

Some of these organization are:

Everytown for Gun Safety (
Moms Demand Action (
Grandparents Against Gun Violence (
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (
Americans for Responsible Solutions (

If you are a teacher, you might consider the National School Walkout movement, joining the walkout event schedule for March 14, 2018, “for 17 minutes at 10am across every time zone … to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”[3] Almost 3 million teachers and students, along with the Network for Public Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and other organizations have planned an action on April 20, 2018, calling for a national teachers’ strike if lawmakers continue their failure to enact “sane gun laws.”

Student survivors have organized a ‘March for Our Life: A Time to Talk About Gun Control’ in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2018. Let these children be the ones to finally get our legislators to address the issue of our children (and all Americans) dying as a result of unrestricted assault weapon legislation.

A favorite hymn of mine, “God of Mercy”, was sung last Sunday at Saint John’s Episcopal Church:

God of mercy, you have shown us ways of living that are good.
“Work for justice, treasure kindness, humbly journey with the Lord”.
Yet your people here are grieving, hurt by weapons that destroy.
Help us turn to you, believing in your ways to bring us joy.

God, we pray for those who suffer when this world seems so unfair.
May your church be quick to offer loving comfort, gentle care.
And we pray: Amid the violence, may we speak your truth, O Lord!
Give us strength to break the silence, saying “This can be no more.”

God, renew our faith and vision, make us those who boldly lead!
May we work for just decisions that bring true security.
Help us change this violent culture base on idols, built on fear,
Help us build a peaceful future with your world of people here.[4]

What we must not do is GIVE UP HOPE. In fact, in this season of Lent, let us give up hopelessness that our gun violent culture can be ended. There are things we can do and must do.
[1]      Mark Folman, Gavin Aronsen, Deana Pan, “US Mass Shootings, 1982-2018: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation’, Mother Jones, February 14,2018.
[2]      Walter Hickey, ‘How the Gun Industry Funnels Tens of Millions of Dollars to the NRA’, Business Insider, January 16, 2013.
[3]      Organized by the Women’s March
[4]      Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, ‘God Of Mercy’; B. F. White (1844), Beach Spring


The Rev deniray mueller, Legislative Liaison, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio; 19 February 2018

In Memory of Barbara Ann Bryant Havens

Today we come to celebrate the life of Barbara Ann Bryant Havens, a beloved mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, and a dear friend to too many people to count. Although she is no longer with us, her memory will live on in our hearts for eternity. We feel your lively and beautiful spirit with us today, and we hope you sense our love for you in this room. We not only love you, but have learned much from you, been inspired by you, and been made to laugh and be joyful in your presence! We will always remember you!

In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember you
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of Winter, we remember you
In the opening buds and in the rebirth of Spring, we remember you
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of Summer, we remember you
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of Autumn, we remember you
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember you
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember you
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember you
When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember you
So long as we live, you too shall live, for you are now a part of us,
as we remember you.[1]

Each of us will carry in our hearts those special moments that will help us remember Barbara.

My wife, Karen, and I are fortunate to live on the same floor with Barbara for almost five years; I remember the day we moved in, there she came rolling down the hall to welcome us to the floor.

That was so Barbara!

Exuberantly extending her hands and heart to everyone she met. That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship, . . conversations at her place and dinners at ours; we will always remember, and miss her terribly.

We come together today from the diversity of our grieving,
to gather in the warmth of this community,
giving stubborn witness to our belief that
in times of sadness, there is room for laughter.
In times of darkness, there always will be light.
May we hold fast to the conviction
that what we do with our lives matters.

John and Parker feel the loss of a mother, Betty a daughter, Beau and Nola and Willow a beloved grandmother; we all feel their pain. To Parker and John, we ask ‘how do we let a mother go?’

How do we let a mother go?
How do we say “I’m ready now to go on without you”?
How can we ever have a clue of what that really means?
And all of a sudden, the moment is upon us, and there’s no turning back.

And then we know what grief is, . . .
and guilt
and love
and things undone.

But there is peace too. Peace and acceptance and overwhelming love that we maybe weren’t aware of, waves and waves of conflicting emotion,
And laughter too,
and memories we hadn’t bothered lately to recall come flooding back in shared company.

. . and it is all about you, Barbara!

And there’s gratitude. . .
so much of that, that we had you, such a wonderful mother…
Bright and shining, nobody’s fool, independent, but humble too;
Smart, and kind, and fun.


A part of you has passed away, but much is carried everyday within us, and will as long as we are here.

This may be a final tribute,
A day to celebrate your life and say goodbyes;
But it is not final![2]

Your children, grandchildren, and friends will keep your memory, and that zest for life you taught them and us. When met with difficulties and challenges, we will all simply ask, “what did Barbara do”? and we will gain strength and courage from your example.

When kindness and generosity are lacking, we will be reminded of what Barbara did – even amidst pain and physical limitations – and we will try to be kinder, more generous, and more loving to each other.

Every day we’ll celebrate in some way, just by the virtue of how you shaped our lives,

The absolute and incredible fortune that we knew you.

As a mother, a friend and a woman.

We are told in an oft-heard scripture from Ecclesiastes:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

We are grateful that you have broken the bounds of your beautiful but weakened body,
that you feel pain no more,
and that your boundless energy has returned.

Barbara is now standing tall,

with that red hair flowing in the breeze,

lips bright red,

nails always perfectly polished in red,

and those brilliant red shoes,

ready to take on the universe in her own personal, and vibrant way.

Denny Fultz and Tom Queen, two of Barbara’s longtime friends, will share some memories, followed by John, speaking for the family.

In closing, I would like to read a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye, written in 1932, for a young German Jewish woman, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who was staying with her and her husband. When Margaret’s mother fell ill and died, she was distraught that it was not safe to return to Germany. The heartbroken young woman told Frye that she never had the chance to “stand by my mother’s grave and shed a tear”. Frye found herself composing a piece of verse on a brown paper shopping bag. Later she said that the words “just came to her” and expressed what she felt about life and death. This reminds us that death is not all there is:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there.
I did not die.

Barbara, you have left us wiser, happier, and enriched – and we thank God for sending you to be our daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. And now in your honor and memory, we will go forth today in life – to do what you so fully lived – have a wonderful party and care for and love one another.

And so, although Barbara Bryant Havens no longer walks this earthly realm,

she is still with us, . . .

loving us, . . .

ever present in our hearts and minds.

To paraphrase Frank Sinatra’s famous song:





Let us pray:

We lift up those who have lost loved ones. We see images of families in celebration; but their emotions are far from happy. There are empty places in their hearts where loved ones have been called from life. We lift them up to you that you might give them strength to get through their mourning. We ask for your grace to comfort them in their time of need. We thank you for their faithfulness and fear, hope and doubt, sorrow and joy. Amen.
[1]      Adapted from Yom Kippur Service, Michelle Markert Rubin
[2]      Unknown source
The Rev deniray mueller, Schoedinger Northwest, Columbus, OH; 10 February 2018

What is “the Church”?

When the impressive and dedicated group of candidates for our Vestry spoke last Sunday at the “Meet the Candidates” Forum, at some point each one expressed the aspiration to “grow the church”! But what does that mean, to “grow the church”? One immediately thinks of increasing membership and financial resources – and perhaps enhancing facilities. But is that the best definition?

The common definition of ‘church’ is ‘a building used for public worship, a body or organization of religious believers’. The word ‘church’ comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as ‘an assembly’ or ‘called-out ones.’[1] The root meaning of ‘church’ is not that of a building, but of people.

The Bible repeatedly reminds us that the church is the body/group of believers in Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23 says,

“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body”

The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ, gathered in one universal church. We read in Romans 12:5:

“So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

The true church, then, is the gathering of the believers (congregations) who come together to participate in fellowship with one another as they worship God, study scripture readings, and support each other in continuing the work of Jesus on earth. At its best, a congregation offers a sense of belonging and being involved with one another in common goals – a community of people with shared beliefs. It gives one another some spiritual safety, friendship, fellowship and encouragement. It teaches its people things they would not learn on their own. A congregation helps train our children, and supports families. It provides members with help in times of illness, and solace in times of grief. The ‘church’ creates opportunities for its members to serve others in their community and world. It helps us work together for more effective ministry, and gives us opportunities to serve that help us grow in ways we do not expect. This fellowship, worship, and ministry are all conducted by people, not buildings.

The purpose of the church building is

“to equip the people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).

A ‘church’ is a body of believers united in the teachings of Jesus. The ‘church’ is about praising and thanking our Creator, and nurturing and helping believers to mature in their faith. The ‘church’ is about spreading the Good News about Jesus, salvation, and eternal life.

The ‘church’ reaches out with compassion to those who are needy and searching for Jesus, striving to make a real difference in the world. A building can do none of these.

In summary, the church is neither a building nor a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The ‘church’ is a community of people, encouraging, teaching, and building up one another in the knowledge and grace of Jesus. The purpose of the church is to both glorify God, and to inform the world about the words and work of Christ.

This is the kind of ‘church’ that Saint John’s aspires to be, and works daily to become. It needs resources and facilities, yes – but what it needs most is its people, and their love for Jesus Christ and one another!

Thanks be to God!
[1]      (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, #1577)

The Rev deniray mueller, CCrossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 7 February 2018

Technology – A Blessing or a Curse

The world today operates on technology, whether we like it or not. . . communications, information, and knowledge all ride on the world wide web. In our digital era of smartphones and social media, it seems nearly everyone is suffering from communication overload. Less than 15 years ago, most netizens had just one or two email accounts, texting was tedious and costly, and mobile phones were primarily used to make, well, . . . phone calls!

However, today, it’s common for people to manage numerous social media accounts and email addresses. One recent estimate is that the average internet user has seven social media accounts — excluding email. Chunky mobile phones have been replaced by pocket touchscreen computers that constantly jingle and buzz, pulling their owners away from face-to-face encounters with other human beings into a social networking vortex.

Reality Check!!! almost no one under the age of 40-ish uses their cell phone to make person-to-person calls, or even email. It is indeed handy to have your phone in your pocket, but for many, the cell phone now has many another uses. Messaging is the means of communication, and if we are uncomfortable texting, we will miss a lot of communications. Messaging software allows pages and pages of information to be displayed on the cell phone screen. Moreover, the 140-character limit of Twitter not only uses a series of abbreviations that most people don’t understand, but also, by use of those abbreviations, offer the probability of misunderstanding by the recipient. One important thing to remember, is that even when you delete the message/tweet, it still exists out there in the cyberspace.

Experts recognize that while social networking has its benefits — professionally, personally, politically — it is also reshaping and “dumbing down” the ways people communicate with each other. Having so many channels of communication has overwhelmed our ability to thoughtfully interact online, encouraging cheap and easy forms of communication. Instead of taking the time to formulate a thoughtful reply to an online friend’s social media post, users tend to use an “emoji” or fire off a brief comment that conveys little more than acknowledgment, and is often misunderstood or off-putting.

Despite these negatives, we must remember, social media is a marketing tool! And faith communities and other organizations have no other choice but to get on the bandwagon. Over one billion people log into Facebook every day, and the average American is logged in for 40 minutes. We quite literally speak to more people via social media than we could ever reach otherwise. So, use social media with a purpose in mind, rather than to just pass time or “troll”. Although, there are positive aspects of technology and social media, there are also pitfalls unless we are aware of them and how to avoid them. We can learn to avoid those pitfalls and let all the ‘positives’ of these tools work for us!

When you are thinking of engaging in social media, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Are you using social media to gain approval? Posting to get responses of approval can be addictive, escalating to more and more need for approval – a vicious cycle! Is the purpose to boast about your accomplishments, or even your failures or distresses in your life? Are you using social media as an adult ‘show-and-tell’? Not all moments need to be shared (how many people, do you really think, want to know what mundane things you did in a day?).
  1. Is your post/tweet kind? Freedom of speech is fundamental to the American life, but with it comes the responsibility to consider what the impact of the post may have on other people, and not deliberately attack another. We have replaced face-to-face confrontations to hiding behind an impersonal identity that does not allow the subject of the post to defend themselves. Posts can be misinterpreted, and the sender has no responsibility for the weight of the words, and the impact of the message sent.
  1. Will the post be misunderstood? Some things will sound one way to those who know us, and another to those who don’t. There is no tone or inflection so the most mundane comment may very well be misinterpreted and taken in a way it was not intended; consider who is listening to what you’re saying. Readers are actually eavesdropping on what should be private conversations.
  1. Think carefully about controversy. The line between vigorous exchange of ideas and a kind of social war is sometimes thinner than we may think. What good is this particular controversy contributing to, or is it harmful? Will anyone be embarrassed or offended by what you’re saying?
  1. Are you posting when you should be taking action? Social media is a breeding ground for people with great intentions. But great intentions don’t change lives. Action does. Posting a comment of agreement or adding substance to a post does not remove the responsibility for taking action on social justice issues. If you have no real desire to act on it, do not post. Posting lulls you into believing that talking about an issue and acting on it are equals.

Positive Use of Social Media
With some care, churches can use social media effectively.

  1. Share the Gospel – church websites provide information about the church and its activities, and present sermons, blogs, videos, and articles of interest to the faithful. Social media tends to be dark; churches can bring light and love to this world. The purpose of posts should be to educate, not proselytize or denigrate other faith traditions.
  1. Use blogs to provide the ability for discussions of faith, prayer requests, and varied interpretations of the gospel. But be aware, that you cannot control the tone or outcome of the conversation.
  1. Keep the Facebook and web site updated, if that means hiring a professional to do it. Out-of-date social media indicates that you are not serious about outreach, and are not interested in being relevant to the social media community. In the case of blogs, a monitored site is critical; this allows the administrators to prevent negative or inappropriate posts being visible.
  1. When using videos, make sure that they are clear and of the best quality available, and that the sound is clear. Make sure the format of the video is executable by the standard media players for PC and MAC.

Internet Etiquette
There are several do’s and don’ts of internet communications:

  1. Do not post anything that you would not say face-to-face. One of the great tragedies of social media is that it has given power to a lot of cowards. And cowards with power are dangerous, and they NEVER have to deal with the ramifications! Here’s a rule for social media: If you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, don’t post it.
  1. Negative comments are the quickest way to end a conversation and, permanently lose the reader. Negative posts have an emotional impact on the reader, creating a sense of doom or despair, and also encourage negative posts in return.
  1. Passing along other’s post with a comment such as ‘this is interesting’ is spam posting– as disliked as spam on email. If you have a relevant comment, use it; otherwise, leave it alone. ‘Share this post’ is just another type of social media spam.
  1. Do not deliberately post comments that are intended to be confrontational. Ask yourself what your reaction would be if you received a similar post.

When you take the dive into all forms of social media (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Email, Messaging), think about what you want to do and the audience.

Happy social media-ing!

The Rev deniray mueller, Connections, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, 24 January 2018

We Are Healed So That We May Serve

Mark 1:29-39

May the words of my mouth be heard, written in our hearts, and acknowledged to God in prayer. Amen.

We are beginning a study of the Gospel of Mark, and as Father Philip told us last week, Mark is the first gospel, and in many ways a “just the facts, ma’am” account of Jesus’ ministry, In this rather short gospel (there are only 16 chapters), there are 65 stories of healing and 10 parables! As Jesus traveled through small villages surrounding the Sea of Galilee and onto Jerusalem, we learn of His encounters with 122 people as He walked and visited homes and markets – and another 100 people in temples and synagogues. He had a mission – He knew He only had a short time to accomplish it – and He had to be about the work God had sent Him to do!

Last Sunday we learned that the first person He healed was a man possessed by a demon as He taught in the synagogue in Capernaum. It is noteworthy to learn, as we do in today’s reading, that the next person He healed later that same morning was a woman: Simon’s mother-in-law. We read that after leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew for lunch. Simon told Jesus that his mother-in-law was ill with a fever, and asked Jesus to heal her. Immediately, He went to her, took her hand, and she was healed, and rose up to minister to Jesus and those with him.

Let’s take a moment to be aware of several interesting points in this encounter that illustrate the uniqueness of Jesus’ ministry from the very beginning.

First of all, the second person Jesus healed in His new ministry was a woman! Since women had a much less important place in the structure of Jewish society at that time, this was startling! Already we can see the work and world of Jesus was going to break the boundaries of both Heaven and earth. Women were to be of value – they became a part of His following, and in some cases, traveled with Him; they not only served, but they supported and witnessed to His ministry. Many of the parables and healings involve women.

Secondly, as was customary in Jesus’ time, women were often restricted to the home to protect their innocence and the reputation of the family; they were not ever involved with men outside the family except to serve food, and were certainly never in physical contact with them. In this case, the men asked Jesus to heal the older woman – as was proper – but Jesus went into her sleeping quarters, took her hand and she was healed forever. She rose up and went to work – everyone was so astonished and grateful that setting aside of long-held social ‘norms’ didn’t matter at all!

Finally, later that day, as the recovered woman served Jesus and His disciples, the house became overrun with crowds, seeking the healing power of Jesus and His message – and surely this woman, sick just a few hours earlier, had much to do to facilitate the gathering and miracles that occurred.

We know that Biblical writers often equated being healed with being ‘made whole’ – demons and fevers were symbols of dis-ease, fear, or depression – and when these ‘demons’ were cast out, the person was, in reality, made stronger in faith and wisdom. No rest or recovery was needed – those healed went forth at once to serve, to proclaim the good news, and praise God.

We further hear in today’s reading that after Jesus tended to the sick and broken at Simon’s house, he goes to a deserted place to pray. As is so often the case in Jesus’ ministry, his opportunities to find solitude were few and far between. Tending to the sick and the outcast can be hard work; He must have been physically and spiritually exhausted. This is just another occasion, and there are many in the Gospels, where Jesus goes off alone to pray.

Jesus didn’t “just happen” to find himself alone with time to pray. He took the time; He wanted to hear His Father’s voice. . .  in solitude, and peace. Beset on every hand by the demands of His disciples and the multitudes who sought His help, Jesus looked for, and cherished that quietness. When He could clear his mind and be strengthened by God’s voice giving Him direction and courage – times when He could withdraw from the cares and clamor of the world and re-connect with the peace and love pf the eternal world of God. If He was to do the work of God, Jesus had to have time with God! And so must we; we must make time to be alone with God for prayer and meditation, and to hear His voice, and get direction. It is the time that some people have called – “God Time”.

“God Time” – those words even sound good, don’t they? So many times, when we speak of prayer time, we think of such words and ideas as duty, habit, laborious, tedious, demanding, and a host of other words. The truth is, for many people, prayer has become a ‘thing,’ rather than a part of a growing relationship with God. Prayer is seen more as an exercise in being able to say certain words the right way, or as ‘talking to the ceiling’. Many see prayer as something abstract, an exercise to be conquered, an encounter that we know we need to experience, but one which we would really rather avoid. We know it is something that we are supposed to do, but it is also something that we are not sure does much good.

I would suggest to you that true prayer, real prayer is merely talking to God; an ongoing conversation between ourselves and God. It can be open, peaceful, enjoyable, challenging, insightful, and transformative. At times it involves debating and questioning while at other times, it may involve thanksgiving and peace.

Talking to God is never to be a chore. It is never to be stuffy or laborious. There is this idea that if we say the right things to please God, then we will get our answer, blessings or miracle. And if we don’t say what pleases God, well, then we are just ‘out-of-luck’. Our talking to God, and God talking to us is the core essence of prayer: our talking, listening, sharing life with God; our opening up our hearts, minds and our souls to be in one another’s presence; experiencing what it means to be one with God, and allowing God to be one with us.

Have you ever noticed what happened each time Jesus prayed? Heaven and earth came together; connected, and Heaven impacted earth in wonderful and marvelous ways. Jesus goes out into the wilderness to pray, and Heaven and earth touch one another. As a result, Jesus can come out of the desert and begin to rescue, redeem and restore all of creation. Jesus can come out of the wilderness, proclaim the Kingdom of God, preach repentance, forgiveness, redemption, heal and cast out demons, and call His disciples to His ministry.

Mark tells us that Jesus goes to a desolate place – a place without distractions. Jesus went out early in the morning while everyone was still asleep, and spends time in prayer, meditation, and contemplation. Then, after spending time with the Father, Jesus begins pouring out His life into the lives of others all around the Sea of Galilee.

Prayer (“God Talk”) leads us to being in God’s presence. Like any other practice, it gets easier the more we do it – it becomes less awkward, then begins to flow, and finally is essential to our day! Prayer leads us to be empowered by God so that we can help rescue and redeem those around us. Prayer leads us to open our hearts and our minds, to reach out, and receive those who need to find Jesus. Prayer leads us to understand that we can trust God, depend on God, and know that God will lead us the right way.

Today, more than ever, we need to get away as individuals and as churches to go to a quiet place, and invite God for some ‘God Talk’. We need to confess, surrender, open our hearts and minds, and commit to God to do whatever He calls us to do. We need to commit that we will do, and go, and be, whatever, wherever, and whoever He wants us to be. And, like the healed woman, then rise up ‘whole’ and ready to serve.

When I pray with parishioners in the Chapel, I don’t try to be flashy, but only express what is in our hearts. Sometimes it is halting and a little disjointed, but God doesn’t care. He is always there for some ‘God Time’.

We don’t have to use a lot of fancy words when we pray. You may feel that you don’t know what to say; or you don’t know how to say it. Just speak what is on your mind; God knows what is in our hearts and reads between the lines.

Let our minds be open, our hearts open, and our ears listening. Prayer is not a scary thing, it is the exact opposite – it brings peace, a calm, and a rest. The more we talk to God, the closer we will be to God, and the more we will know how to live the wonderful life He prepares for us.

Let me invite you to try it a new this week – find a quiet place, (maybe get up a bit earlier so you can be alone) – and begin your practice of “God Talk” – and listen – and then, go forth and serve!

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 4 February 2018