My summer started with my heart being shocked back into place. I wasn't sick. I wasn't being monitored. But I had placed aside some of what matters to me and keeps me going. I went on retreat with my clergywomen's group where I quickly realized how much I needed the daily rhythm of prayer and Bible study. As we gathered together for morning and evening prayer, my heart was quenched, saturated with grace. I returned home and ordered one of the books used daily by a woman in our group, and Celtic Prayer has been speaking to me each morning ever since. It's quickly become my favorite devotional book, and I highly recommend it to you if you're looking for light on your path.
Today's reading has captured me. Words from Iona are the assigned reading for this week in August. We read briefly about Columba's journey to the isle of Iona yesterday. Today, these words opened this part of the devotional: "Columba and his brothers lived in simple huts, praying for each other, and for all those far and wide whose lives they were to influence."
Columba prayed for all those whose lives they were to influence.
Whose are you called to influence?
Who am I called to influence? In what lives do I seek to make a difference? These questions stirred the depth of my soul this morning. Who am I to influence today? And next week? And next year? And in my lifetime?
I long to influence the people who gather at Mount Vernon Place UMC, a surprising and beautiful congregation in the heart of Washington. I want to influence this congregation to make a profound difference through their love, their generosity, their ability to see people no one else sees, their service, their faith and their thoughtfulness. I want to influence them to love our children, our unhoused neighbors, our people who allow themselves to be defined by their business card, and anyone who has 1000 friends on Facebook and no one to call on Friday night. I want to influence them to think about the power of their light and how this light shines all the time wherever we are. I want to influence them to think faithfully and theologically about how they use their time, their money and their talents. This morning I pray for Mount Vernon Place.
As we near the completion of our book manuscript currently titled, "A New Day in the City" to be published by Abingdon in the Spring of 2017, I long to influence pastors and congregations who are in places where words like "decline" or "tired" are spoken more often than "growing" or "vibrant." I long for the stories and wisdom that Roger and I are seeking to share to touch people, to cause them to think, to motivate them to take risks, to step out more often in faith, to embody excellence, to be true to themselves instead of stepping into someone else's clothes to reach new people. I long for us to influence a conversation about how God can and still is putting new flesh on dry bones. This morning I pray for every person who might feel led to read this book and the conversations that will prayerfully be inspired by it.
I long to influence people who love the sun more than sunscreen.
I want to influence individuals to think faithfully and theologically about what it means to love God and neighbor in this election season when the stakes seem so high.
I want to influence men and women who are discerning a call to ministry or those who have already answered this call, prayerfully showing them how incredible pastoral ministry can be.
The invitation to influence is everywhere! And it's daunting and life-giving at the same time to respond to such an invitation.
Who are you called to influence?
How are you praying for them?
God, will you please show me how to use what has been entrusted to me to faithfully inspire, open, guide and influence individuals in my midst? Will you help the congregation I know and love best to see the power and possibility of their influence? Remind us again of how our lives are always speaking. May all I say and do be an offering to you as I seek to humbly follow you and make a difference in the world around me. Amen.