September 2011 Devotionals

Thursday, September 15th

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119:105
Is it Fall yet?  It was completely dark this morning when I headed out for a ride along the river.  And no one was in the park.
Almost no one.  As I rode along I saw a young man on a park bench, reading by the light of a still-on streetlamp.  He had a book open on his lap.  When I got closer to him I saw it was a Bible.
That was unexpected!  And I nodded to him as I rode past.  But he was too absorbed in what he was reading to look up.
I don’t know what gloomy circumstance drove him to the park in the dark hours.  Was he there all night?  But I’m glad that in the midst of whatever it was he found a bit of light.

Wednesday, September 14th

“Then our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues gave shouts of joy!”  Psalm 126

A report in the Times today tells us that laughing hard has healthy results.  Robin Dunbar of Oxford University has found that laughing until it hurts triggers endorphins, which make it easier to endure pain.  Laughter also has a social benefit, bringing people together, making it easier to work together, and causing people to act more generously towards each other. That’s pretty great.  Because the rest of the news seems predictably grim.  More violence in Afghanistan, more poverty at home, more confusion in politics.  It’s not funny. Still, there’s always something funny going on.  Or someone.  I pray that today you find a reason for laughter.  And may it drive away whatever dull pain may be weighing on you.


Tuesday, September 13th

“The people quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is God among us, or not?” Exodus 17:7

Yesterday was a gorgeous afternoon, so I walked home from my clergy meeting way uptown.  Lots of people were outside, sensing, like me, that this warm weather is not likely to last. I passed one man sitting alone on a park bench, speaking loudly on a cell phone.  Except, when I drew up to him, there was no phone.  I caught only one phrase, repeated over and over: “You don’t care about me!” Who was he talking to?  Nobody, I thought, and walked on.  Only later did I realize.  He was talking to God.  He was praying. Later on, I was praying, too.  I said, “I know you care about that man on the bench.  I know you know his name, though I don’t.  I don’t know what might convince him of your love, though you do.  I am putting him in your careful hands.”

Wishing you a day of knowing, and sharing, the love of our God.


Monday, September 12th

“I say to you, ‘Not seven times, but seventy times.'” Matthew 18

Yesterday morning’s interfaith service had so many moments.  Just looking out at hundreds of Christians, Jews and Muslims praying and singing together was amazing and moving. One moment that stands out for me was when Debbie Almontaser, visibly moved by the message of forgiveness spoken in the Gospel lesson (the lectionary reading for that Sunday–there are no coincidences!) and hammered home in song by our ten SPSA composers, got up and shared about the things and people she, as an American Muslim, needed to forgive.  Including Mayor Bloomberg, who, under pressure from anti-Muslim extremists, replaced her as principal of the new Khalil Gibran School.  She was still talking about that long after the service.

We all have those things.  Things we desperately need to let go of, but instead desperately cling to.

I wish you today the ability to discover one thing, one person, who needs your forgiveness, and to do something about it.



Friday, September 9th

“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” Psalm 27

News this morning of a ‘vague but credible’ threat is just enough to unsettle us a bit.  But, after ten years, we are used to being unsettled.  Life, in a post-September 11th world, is just that way.  Unsettled.
Scripture does not promise us a settled life.  What it promises us is light and salvation.  Light to help us through dark places, not avoid them altogether.  Salvation through the presence of the God who loves us, and who is with us in the most difficult situations.
Wishing you, and promising you, light and salvation.

Thursday, September 8

“Give instruction to a child in the way he or she should go.”  Proverbs 22:6

Today, a million New York City children and youth will start a new year at our public schools.  A million and two, if we can get ours out the door.  That’s a lot of kids.  A huge undertaking.  And if things go as they should, a fantastic resource for the future.

But as Proverbs points out, the real task of education isn’t just factual, it’s ethical.  That’s not just the job of teachers and students.  That’s a job we all have a share in.  Especially we who are enmeshed in a faith community.

We model the importance of ethical decisions by the things we do and the way we do them.  And, like the kids, we are always learning from our mistakes and successes.