Without Ceasing, I Can’t Catch My Breath

God, I know that I am supposed to pray without ceasing.

Prayer is like oxygen. Prayer like breathing. Thrusting all that I am and have and do upon your mercy. Over and over again.

Sometimes it looks more like a raging Psalm, and sometimes it is the endless search for how to pray today.

But God, I have asthma, like most of my family, and breathing is severely underrated.

Too often, I can’t catch my breath. Too often I am trying to hiss a prayer out between my teeth. Feeling like no oxygen is going in…making it hard to breathe or speak or pray.

Stress, might I add, doesn’t help.

And sleep is shaky at best. We joke that everyone has insomnia, and try not to be awkward with one another over our devices, all alone, on little sleep and little breath.

I’ve been angry, I’ve been sad. I’ve dealt with loneliness, depression and hopelessness.

And I keep trying to catch my breath to pray. I know I do not need to speak to pray God, but you understand what I mean.

Here I am. Praying the “I don’t know” prayer, surviving.

I love to pray until the Holy Spirit prays you. Meditating deep enough that your soul find equanimity and respite in prayer.

That’s not the kind of prayers that are going on these days. Its more gasps and sighs, gutterals and selahs. With shoulders hunched over computers, or a quick plea as we rush through the day, or the pondering that keep you awake at night.

Lord, hear my prayers, all of them. Connect the dotted lines of prayers in my life–so like my asthma, even when I struggle there is enough there.

And if I need an inhaler for praying, please provide it to me as soon as possible.

For I am weak and you are mighty.

Amen. Amen.

Elections and Infections and Insurrections Prayer

Lord, it’s been quite a week: Elections and Infections and Insurrections. To say we are tired is an understatement. We are stuck, numb.

The prayers that fall from our lips are entreating. Please God make a way for us. Clearly we are lost, squabbling in the desert.

Please. Let us not freeze in this moment. Help us to do justice, and remind us the the doing will take a while and a lot of work. Help us go love mercy—not cheap forgiveness carelessly given, but the deep mercy given to marginalized communities who need the mercy of equity.

And the mercy given to the oppressors after the truth is told.

And Lord if these lessons are what we need to learn to walk humbly, where we do the needful work of God’s without quid pro quo or expectations of reward.

Let us not freeze up—as we have done in crises time and time before, set our hands and minds and feet to do the work. Encourage and en-courage us to try. To move forward inch by inch. Help us not to be alone in the work but to find others, partners in Christ’s service, who are inching with us we pray.

Remind us that God knows we can only see a dim reflection of ourselves, and that we only see in part and know in part. His knows this, and still tells us to do the work.

Sing us to sleep at night, grant us some Sabbath and sanctuary so we can nourished and empowered for the work we pray.

In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy

With credit to Margaret Aymer Ogrt for her poignant call.

How do we feel? (a prayer)

God, my sister says she is tapped out of feelings to day. No rage, no sorrow, just empty.

I’m praying for her today.

My black colleague says she’s been here before, working when you should be able to rest and restore. Grieving with now where to put it. She has experience, and she doesn’t know how it’s going to end.

Help us to take some of the burden and to work on changing things today.

Someone I know has been having anxiety attacks, not once or twice, but multilple times a day. Between the politcis, the suffering and the pandemic, he is not sure how to treat the stress-o-phere that we live today.

Help us to find ways to change our stress-o-phere.

God I don’t know how I feel today–one minute I’m ok, the next I’m stressing, the next I’m depressed, then I’m anxious.

God help me with what I need, because I don’t know today.

All I can do to process is write, and pray, and scroll and write some more. I don’t know how I feel, but I know what I’m doing.

Help us God, we are feeling surrounded and beseiged by our enemies, like all the Psalms say. We are stuck and don’t know where to go.

All we can say is you are God.

You are God, please be our God we pray.

Amen

Not I, Lord

Jesus, how did it feel when you predicted your death, and the disciples said this can never happen?

How about at the table, when you were eating and drinking with your beloved, and warned that betrayal and denial would follow and each disciples said, “Not I Lord.” It can’t be me.

God, how are we so willfully blind? To the racism that is etched into our very DNA, to the violence that happens against school children who can’t pay for lunch.

How is it that we can’t believe that violence is coming… until it does. Storming the capital with Nazi flags of hate and signs that somehow proclaim “Jesus Saves.”

And we disarm people of color, and hide our children under their desks, but refuse to see violence as systematic and problematic.

How is such denial possible?

Did Jesus have a part of him that was in denial, that his people would turn on him…until the disciples fell asleep at the wheel, and then fell asleep again, and again.

Was he holding out hope that Judas would change his mind?

We feel betrayed, but the evil was there all along, like Herod.

Lead us not into temptation to say “this is not America”

America was always this way: violent and racist and ignorant, but pray for us God, because we keep hoping and proclaiming, like the disciples “Not I Lord.”

Open our mouths to say “this is not God, this is not foreordained” help us to take the responsibility that is needed to make the change.

It’s an Epiphany: A Realization

It’s an Apocalypse: An Unveiling that changes all of life.

Please let this be Apocryphal, please let this be an Epiphany.

Help me to shut my mouth when I’m tempted to say “Not I, Lord” or “Not All of Us” or “Everything Will Turn Out Okay.”

Chafe my hands into the work that needs to be done, enfold my mind with the empathy to Listen, Prod my feet to to do the walking.

Set me to work God, set me to do the work:

To protect the vulnerable, to tell the truth, to face the hatred, to love and serve

and to serve and to love.

Change my words to say “Here I am, Lord” I pray.

Amen

Feel free to use/adapt/share with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Narrative Lectionary Lent: Luke

Finding the Way to Jerusalem; or Getting Lost

During this journey to Jerusalem, Jesus practices the grace that is found within his death and resurrection, twice. First he is rejected by Samaria, the shorter way to Jerusalem (Lent 1) and then he reclaims them as his neighbor (Lent 2), he reclaims them even as he journeys onward. Then we get los (and found), die and see ghost, and then, finally are reclaimed and found with Zaccheus. Journeying to Jerusalem is an exercise in getting lost, dying and resurrecting together.

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta 

Ash Wednesday: Bulletin Prayers & Hymn/Taize Suggestions, Topical Prayer

Lent 1: Bulletin Prayers & Hymn/Taize Suggestions, Topical Prayer

Lent 2: Bulletin Prayers & Hymn/Taize Suggestions, Topical Prayer

Lent 3: Bulletin Prayers & Hymn/Taize Suggestions, Topical Prayer

Lent 4: Bulletin Prayers & Hymn/Taize Suggestions, Topical Prayer

Lent 5: Bulletin Prayers & Hymn/Taize Suggestions, Topical Prayer

Lent 6: Bulletin Prayers & Hymn/Taize Suggestions, Topical Prayer

Mandy Thursday: Bulletin Prayers & Hymn/Taize Suggestions, Topical Prayer, Communion Worship Bulletin juxtaposing Psalm 23

Good Friday: Worship Bulletin juxtaposing The Lord’s Prayer

Easter Sunday: Bulletin Prayers & Hymn/Taize Suggestions, Topical Prayer

Children Ideas

Lenten Devotional Calendar: Feel free to email for doc version and link for google calendar (Katyandtheword at gmail)

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta 

If you need a doc version of all of this for easier formatting, email me at katyandtheword at gmail with the topic line “Lent” and I will send you a copy

If you appreciate my work and want to support me, please contribute to my Doctorate in Divinity in Creative Writing. I need $2,000 by June. and am more than 70% there! Any Amount is appreciated, and I am so thankful where they have gotten me so far!

Narrative Lectionary: Baptism of Jesus

Call to Worship (based on Psalm 51:15, 10)
O Lord, Open my lips
and my mouth will declare your praise
For you have not delight in sacrifice, it does not please you
Create in my a clean heart, O God, that I might worship you today and everyday.

Prayer of Confession: (unison): God, I confess my transgressions. Against you, you alone I have sinned. I confess that I have done what is evil in your sight. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. Blot out my transgressions according to your abundant mercy. Wash me, and cleanse me from my sin. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.

Assurance of Pardon: God restores us, creating clean hearts and new spirits within us, and God’s salvation is restored to us through Jesus Christ. Friends hear the good news; In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.

HEARING THE WORD
Children’s Time : Telling God’s Story
(All children are invited to the front)

Prayer for Illumination
1st Scripture Reading Psalm 51:6-17
2nd Scripture Reading Luke 3:1-22

“Pre-Disciples” Pastor Katy Stenta

Reflection Roger Held

Joys & Concerns & The Lord’s Prayer (p. 16 in the blue hymnal)

RESPONDING TO THE WORD
Offering
*Doxology (#592 in Blue Hymnal) Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise God all creatures here below. Praise God above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost! Amen.

SENDING THE WORD
Prayer of Dedication: God, remind us to share everything: food, blessings, baptisms. Send us forth into the world being the hands and feet of Christ. Help us to be your disciples we pray. Amen.

Hymn #443 “O Christ, the Great Foundation”


*Charge & Benediction

The peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you. (Invitation to share Peace)

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Prayer

Lord God, this is the first year I’ve been able to write Christmas cards to the Congregation.

You know that I just don’t have the mental acuity to do it usually, too many details.

And God, you know that sometimes I lose the details. Especially in Advent and Christmas.

Usually my mind is boggled with Pageants and Parites and Decorations and Huge Lists of traditions, so I lose track.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph felt that way. If in planning their trip to Bethlehem, they weren’t able to think everything through.

Or if they ended up staying longer than they thought they would, and she reached the “fullness of her time.” then.

Or God, I wonder if baby Jesus came early! Anxious to be a part of the world he came at 8 months!

I remember being pregnant, God. I would not be surprised if Jesus coming was a surprise or not, because even with a scheduled C-section, birth continues to be a surprise.

I often think that Mary and Joseph might not have been the type to write Chrsitmas cards most years too.

Each and every card was a prayer, like this one, I put my whole heart into the card

I listed

Safety and Protection, calling upon the angels to come down

I encouraged comfort: and tried to say both comfort in cozy PJ’s with tea, and comfort like the warm hug one needs when the stress or hurt or anxiety overwhelms

and I prayed for some measure of joy.

And God, I resisted the temptation to just write “tidings of comfort and joy” and assume everyone knew what that meant.

I confess, I don’t know what that means. When we say have a merry, little Christmas, what do we mean by this?

Can any Christmas be Little? Is Christmas really about being merry?
Or is joy more serious than that!

Did the shepherds dance and the magi sing? Did Joseph cry in wonder? How fierce did Mary feel when she was giving birth?

God I’m still praying for some measure of joy.

Whatever that means

I’m praying for safety and protection, and all the kinds of comfort, and some measure of joy.

I’m praying it over and over again. Holy Spirit grant this to us all, I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

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Missing Christmas

This is a post I put on my TrailPraisers ministry fb page–which is an inclusive worshiping community for disabled and non-disabled individuals. We haven’t been meeting. Leadership was changing, then I was sick, then the pandemic hit. so I’ve been pondering and missing this ministry a lot. https://www.facebook.com/TrailPraisers. I think there is a lot of pieces of this holiday and this expresses some of it.

This is the time of year we would be just finishing our monumental Breakfast with Santa event. I love this event, because it is an attempt for New Covenant to provide a really accessible and easygoing way to meet Santa.


I like to joke that we had a Sensory friendly Santa before there was such a thing as a Sensory Friendly Santa. I mourned when the bacon went on sale—because normally I’m calculating what the maximum amount of bacon we can afford to buy and hit the big bacon sale in early December, as well as the pancake mix and/or egg sale. (Note You can never make too much bacon for these things). I miss the ease of telling people they can absolutely show up last minute, that a child can take all the time they need to meet Santa and simply sit on the stoop in front of him if he’s too overwhelming, or (like Westley) get in line to hug him 60 times if they need to.


Christmas isn’t easy for families with disabilities, we have to pick and choose our traditions, and deal with tantrums during “fun” things and true heart ache when things change too much for our disabled family member.


I want to give you full permission to miss people and help and hugs and traditions. God knows that is where I am. And also give you permission to feel a little relief that this season isn’t as busy. I love Thanksgiving but it was the least stressful one ever because we didn’t have to pack, travel and get back in time for work and church.


I know Westley misses meeting Santa 5 or 6 times this season, Franklin (my eldest with ADD) is missing being able to show his flair for drama with a Christmas Pageant at our church, and Ashburn (who has speech and reading problems) is bemoaning that everything is different this year. Everything cutting down the Christmas tree, which he confided to me felt pretty normal actually.


Here are some things that have worked for us; We chopped down a tree, and that was so great we went and store bought another one to decorate, we hung candy canes on the tree, we are moving the elves every night (which is not my favorite but whatever), we are watching Christmas movies a lot and switching which one is our favorite daily, we are playing Christmas Music during dinner, occasionally lighting an advent candle in a homemade wreath when we get a chance, we are opening our advent calendars, and writing Christmas cards to friends.


We made sugar cookies (and have the 2nd batch still in the fridge to make again later), and bought, decorated and devoured gingerbread houses. We also zoomed Santa, signed up for the portable north Pole videos of Santa and walked (we didn’t know you could walk it) the Capital lights at Washington Park, we might go again to walk or drive it. We might also be looking into Ellms and ChristmasLand for outdoor/safe holiday things to do.


I miss Trailpraisers and I miss all of the Christmas traditions. I know that Christmas will come somehow, but I also know it’s hard for us families for whom leaving the house is huge undertaking alone. I am praying for everyone, and hoping you are having little moments of joy. And am reminding myself that this is a difficult season, but it is just a season, and it will end.


And also, that Jesus comes somehow anyway always on Christmas.


No matter what we have or haven’t done, or how we’ve pulled it together, or whatever difficult decisions we’ve had to make, Jesus always comes.
Merry Christmas

Katy

Feel free to share with Credit to Pastor Katy

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Christmas Prayers of the People

Dear God, we admit that it is a wonder that babies can be born right now. As we look at the little eyes and noses, we think how can this happen right now?

Joy flashes, followed immediately by prayers for all those who have been working in the midst of a dumpster fire.

The doctors, nurses, administrators, chaplains and custodians.’

As we sit here, on this lone noel, we miss those family and friends we cannot see,

and grieve all the lives lost to a pandemic. We cry and mourn with all of those missing parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, friends, for whatever reason. We also lift up those communities that have been especially hard hit. Communities of color, communities in poverty, communities that work as essential works. Be with them this Christmas.

We grieve that we are in a universe that values money and jobs over people, and we grieve too all the jobs and homes and work that has been lost, because they affect people.

We grieve for all of those who are struggling: the homeless, the hungry, the almost homeless, the ones drowning in medical debt, those who are living off credit card for lack of a community structure that helps. Please help us to do a better job of caring for one another as a community.

Lord, we feel like we are caught in the fire and in the world. Help us as we muddle through.

Remind us that Jesus too came into a dumpster fire of the world. He was born and cried, and suffered huger and marginalization and loneliness. Jesus knew the world was on fire,

And Jesus came anyway.

As Mary, who knew all the pieces of what was to happen, pondered at the wonder of a baby being born in the middle of this. Give us permission to ponder and wonder as to how this happens. And lift our prayers to Jesus, helps us to feel and experience Christ’s love somehow in the midst of all of this.

Jesus we need you so much.

Please come anyway, we pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use with credit Pastor Katy Stenta