Litany for Readiness

The Lectionary reading from the gospels for August 7, 2016 (Proper 14) is Luke 12:32-40. Read it here.


Recently I’ve been experimenting with capsule wardrobes. A capsule wardrobe is simply a more intentional, minimal wardrobe. I know you’ve opened an overstuffed closet or clothes drawer and felt overwhelmed by the number of items inside. I know you’ve done this because you most likely live in a developed nation (most of my readers are here in the US) and you obviously have access to the internet, and therefore that makes you a fairly privileged person, therefore you are most likely living in a culture where excess is normative. In the developed world, we are much more likely to have to guard against owning excess stuff rather than guard against not having enough. I regularly have to cull my home of items that appear inside it, items that I didn’t intentionally acquire or purchase, that have no meaning or value to me. Clothing in particular is cheap and easy to come by.

In a capsule wardrobe mindset, instead of having a closet full of clothes you didn’t think too hard about buying and that you don’t really like or wear much and don’t suit your needs very well, you evaluate each item of clothing you own with intention and thoughtfulness. You actually think about the items you own and how to make the best use of them. You acknowledge that ownership brings responsibility. You acknowledge that there is effort and hassle involved with owning too much. You acknowledge that weeding through a hundred mediocre options is time-consuming and that time is your most valuable resource. So you pare down to what you really love and use, what really brings you joy and serves you, what helps you get ready quickly and kindly. You figure out how much is enough, but not too much.

So why am I talking about capsule wardrobes? Well, because I find it interesting that in last week’s reading Jesus tells us not to worry about clothes or what we will wear. And this week we are hearing from Jesus a big fat “Be Ready” that directly follows an admonition to “sell your stuff and give to the poor.”

Don't hear me wrong. I'm not saying everyone needs a capsule wardrobe; I just happen to have already been thinking about them and about minimizing possessions in general. But it's not really about that. 

These scriptures give me the sense that part of being prepared for the kingdom to come involves lightening our load, weeding out our distractions and time-sucks, paring down to the essentials; so that we can be dressed and ready quickly, able to pounce on kingdom opportunities when they arise. It makes me wonder if Jesus is not only talking about how generosity affects the receiver; but also how generosity makes clean and light the heart and mind of the giver. And if Jesus is maybe inviting us to be free from worry because we literally own less to worry about.

I don’t think “sell your possessions” is meant as a burdensome request. I don’t think it means we are supposed to deny ourselves aesthetic pleasures - on the contrary; I think Jesus is always bringing the party and with it abundance and enjoyment. And isn’t it interesting that Jesus rarely talks explicitly about gratitude, but is always inviting us into practices that enhance our sense of blessing? So I do wonder if maybe we are being asked to edit things down to what is manageable so that we can both enjoy our lives with less hassle and anxiety, and also have space and time for the unexpected - both the gifts, like the master arriving home to share a meal, and the thief-in-the-night emergencies.

Do we own too much? Do we have too many obligations and distractions? Have we built in margin for the unexpected? Are we being intentional about our ownership, our time-management, and our kingdom priorities?




God, you have blessed us abundantly.
We thank you.
At times, in the culture in which we live, abundance threatens to overwhelm us.
Give us discernment.

We hear your advice to be ready.
We are easily distracted.
We want our priorities and possessions to reflect your goals
May we be generous, ready, alert.

Where we have acquired too much meaningless stuff and need to lighten our load
Forgive us and help us.
Where we have allowed too many distractions to clutter up our time and space,
Forgive us and help us.
Where we have missed opportunities to love people because we’re too busy and blind,
Forgive us and help us.
Where we have hoarded blessing for ourselves out of fear of not having enough,
Forgive us and help us.

Help us not to settle for cheap imitations of blessing,
Which moth and rust destroy;
But instead clear out and make space for true value:
Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Help us to be prepared when you come knocking
Dressed and ready to do your work.




Litany for Privilege

The other day I gave an exasperated lecture to one of my kids. My kids are 3 and 5, so I’ll admit it may have been developmentally inappropriate, but I was frustrated and venting and I figure I may as well start them early at recognizing their privilege. The lecture went something like this:

Why are you whining and complaining all the time?! I’m sick of hearing it. You have a beautiful, wonderful life. You are safe. You have a mama and papa who love and adore you. You have a sister who is your friend and who loves you. You have aunts and uncles and grandparents who love you. You play outside all the time. You go on nice outings. You eat nice food. You sleep in a comfy bed in an air-conditioned room. You have plenty of clean clothes. Every aspect of your life is cared for. Do you know what this whining and complaining is called? It’s called ingratitude. That is when we don’t thank God for the blessings God gives us and we don’t appreciate them, and God doesn’t like it and I DON'T EITHER.

So. This mama may have taken a few deep cleansing breaths after that. This mama may have thought about how this child is unable to see her privilege because she has never known anything else. This mama may have realized she was lecturing herself, and recognized that the lecture may have caused a new swell of gratitude in her own heart, and a new commitment to helping her kids learn compassion.


God, this life here on earth is a mixed bag
Of joy and pain
Grief and exuberance
Stillness and frenzy.

We don’t get to choose where we are born, or to whom,
But we know you made us and we are your children.

Open our eyes to all the ways we are blessed
That we may share and bless others.
Open our eyes to all the ways we have been born to privilege
That we may live with grateful hearts.

In many ways we are born to pain.
Let us bear one another’s burdens.
In many ways we are born weak and blind.
Let us be kind to one another.
In many ways we are born to poverty.
Let us know the riches of your grace.
In many ways the privilege we are born to blinds us to the pain of others.
Let us be considerate of our brothers and sisters.

May we spread goodness and mercy wherever we go
Regardless of where we come from.
May we find healing and acceptance with you
And know you as the one who gives good gifts.


Litany for Gratitude 2 + The Dark Side of Gratitude

Over on my Instagram (@franniep) this month I've been sharing a few things each day for which I'm grateful. Big or small, impactful or trivial, I'm just naming things I'm grateful for. This has had some surprising effects. For one, it's getting easier each day to put on my gratitude glasses and see things I'm thankful for. It's getting easier to sit with gratitude and allow it to change my outlook on life.

But for all I think that gratitude is an indispensable part of a healthy outlook, necessary to counteract cynicism and enlarge our picture of God, I think gratitude might have a dark side. I've caught myself several times feeling guilty for feeling gratitude. So many people don't have the privileges I have, the freedoms, their basic needs met. So many have kids who aren't in vibrant health, or family situations that are painful or difficult. Isn't it smug and prideful of me to dwell on all my blessings, list them out, take photos of them and post them on social media, acknowledge them and allow myself the pleasure of enjoying them?

It kind of is, isn't it?

Furthermore I've been in some painful, messy places in life, and was I very good at practicing gratitude during those times? Not hardly. Isn't gratitude supposed to be a good clean feeling, black and white, no gray allowed? Isn't it mean to rub gratitude in the face of people in pain?

It kind of is. No one told me it would be so messy.

When I let my thoughts come full circle, I think it would be worse to not be grateful. It would be worse to not enjoy and participate in feasting on life whenever the opportunity arises. It would be small-hearted and cynical to not assume a posture of gratitude. It would be worse to deny the mercy of God whenever we are offered it.

This is a thing the discipline of gratitude does: it opens our eyes. Both to our blessing and to our privilege, to our undeserving and our responsibility, to our smallness and our preciousness. A posture of gratitude can illuminate that gray area between abundance and poverty, and inform our perception of them. It can illuminate joy as well as joy's pesky sidekick: suffering.

And also, gratitude gets easier. The more we do it, the more naturally we revert to it. I think we should practice it whenever we can if we hope to have any capacity for it at all when suffering comes. So to that end, I've written us a prayer to practice with, and hopefully help us wear grooves of gratitude in our hearts so that we can find them by touch, even in the dark.

I’ve kept to a simple refrain in this instance for congregational ease, but I have another Litany for Gratitude here.


Great God, You created the good earth and all its creatures, the heavens and all they contain.
We give thanks.
You give us life. You give us consciousness and choices. You give us love.
We give thanks.

For the blessings of family, friendships, and worldly provision,
We give thanks.
For the blessings of talent, aptitude, and meaningful work,
We give thanks.
For the blessings of food, wine, and good conversation, those times of feast and enjoyment,
We give thanks.
For the blessings of trivial pleasures, small gifts meant for our happiness,
We give thanks.
For the blessings of expression, song, art, human ingenuity, and creativity,
We give thanks.
For the blessings of peace that come from knowing You,
We give thanks.

When we survive mishaps
We give thanks.
When we endure consequences and pain
We give thanks.
When we must combat evil with goodness and love
We give thanks.
When we must deny ourselves, bear burdens, and obey
We give thanks.
When we must suffer loss and disappointment
We give thanks.
When me must come to the end of our physical lives
We give thanks.

When we chose violence and rebellion, you made a way to recover us.
We give thanks.
The way is Christ: the true and full, shining image of Your love.
We give thanks.
For Jesus Christ and the Kingdom he began here, in which You invite us to participate,
We give thanks.
And for the experience of living on earth, in all its paradoxes and mingling of joy and suffering,
We give thanks.



Litany for Those Who Dislike Their Jobs

You, God, created work.
You worked, and you rested, and you called it good.

We acknowledge our dissatisfaction with the work in front of us now.
We acknowledge that all honest work is good work.
We acknowledge the ways our hearts desire meaning and fulfillment from our work.
We acknowledge our desire to be useful in the world, and our hope of a legacy.

Help us to be patient when we must be patient.
Help us to make change at the proper time.
Help us to be faithful with a little, so that we may be granted more later.
Help us to care for those around us now, whom you have placed inside our sphere of influence, if only temporarily.
Help us to discern what is acceptable discomfort, and what is destructive.
Help us to discern whether it is our attitude or our situation that requires change.

Bring to us peace and prosperity, in whatever form You choose. We offer to you our health: emotional, physical, financial, relational, spiritual.  May your hand be upon us.

May we say with truth, “I am content in whatever my circumstances,” and “I have run with perseverance the race marked out before me.”
May we press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.
May we be rich in good works, generous and ready to share.

May our work please you, and may it bring us joy.