it was a sunday morning in a small mill town in the mountains of north carolina. i was standing in front of around 120 people, leading a worship service… part of my job as a minister at the methodist church where i worked full-time. it was a part of the job that i loved. leading ancient rituals connecting us with humans throughout history, taking a message of hope from an old text & making it relevant to today, praying for & on behalf of the entire congregation. such a humbling & inspiring task.
one of my responsibilities that particular sunday was to lead the prayers of the people – i shared names and situations and places that were in need of prayer, support, & love. and then, i asked the congregation if they had any concerns to share. as each person spoke, i wrote down their concerns, adding them to our list of prayer requests. and then, i prayed. out loud. it was something i took very seriously (and still do)… forming words, sending thoughts & prayers to the holy on behalf of everyone gathered. my words mattered.
many times i used the words of people and intertwined them with my own words. sometimes i wrote down my prayers, sometimes it was spontaneous. on this sunday, i had written down my prayer (and improvised some too). it included words from a prayer book that i used quite often. i wove the words from an ancient theologian’s prayer into the beginning of my prayer and then continued with my own thoughts. as i completed my prayer & began to lead the congregation into the next part of the service, a man stood up in the back of the church. he said that he had a prayer request to add. i distinctively remember recognizing that he was a visitor and feeling excited that someone felt the courage to express a need, even if it was after the “appropriate” time to do it. besides, what kind of church are we if we plan a service and don’t allow for moments of inspiration? church is not about rules, you know. but about spirit & relationships.
anyway. i invited him to share his concern, and he proceeded to hold up a bible and yell at me that he had no idea what i thought i was doing or what kind of church this was… that the only book he read was the bible and that i should not have used the words of other people in my prayers. i mean he was yelling, shaking his fist and his bible at me. i was in shock. my mouth was hanging wide open. i couldn’t believe this man was verbally attacking me in front of all these people. i pulled it together, thanked him for his opinion and kept standing there without moving. the other minister stood & began to speak to the man. i have no idea what he said. i kept standing there with my mouth wide open. still in shock, but aware that i needed to keep it together. then i saw the man take his bible and leave. i sat. i don’t remember the rest of the service, but i made it through, giving myself a chance to reflect on what had happened later on that day.
needless to say, i never stopped using other peoples’ words in my prayers or writings. too many amazing people have said too many amazing things that we need to share with each other. of course it is wonderful to find the inspiration to be able to add some of our own thoughts & words to the writing world, but to overlook all of the gifts that we have been given by talented writers throughout the years would be a shame.
so, i think i’ll keep reading. i think i’ll keep writing. and i think i’ll keep sharing.
quote of the day:
“employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for” ~ Socrates
taking it a step further:
FAST from television today (i have screwewd that up a little already today. but i watched documentaries, so it was educational. and now the tv is off. for the rest of the day)
PRAY — practice lectio divina (sacred reading) — during some of the time you would normally have been watching TV. (read whatever inspires you. it most certainly does not have to be the bible, in my opinion).
GIVE some or all of the remaining time you would have watched TV today to any reading you like.
happy beautiful saturday!
sending words of love and peace to you all.