Thursday, May 21, 2015

Love Your Neighbor

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise. ”Luke 10:25-37 
Love Your Neighbor
The words sting and violence last
forever we are divided people
we were made to love the stranger
and make friends with difference.

We lock out those who frighten us
whose language and customs disquiet
they too were made in the divine image
we turn them away we turn away God.

Little ones seek out the Creator's spark
they reach for the light in other eyes
we teach them by example what to fear
and keep them from seeing a new way.

May we become like little ones
seeking Divinity in the least comforting people
in our neighbors who we have excluded
simply because we do not understand them.

We were fashioned in our mothers' wombs
to love beyond restriction and race
to love beyond our cultural 's high fences
love brought from the other side of the world.

Let us make room at our tables
in our schools, our worship and our homes
for differently abled, differently made
and we will find the love we so anxiously crave.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hidden and Revealed

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" Jesus said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. ” Luke 10:17-24 
The painting above was done by my Aunt Kay. I love this image which is called "We're still Dancing" and demonstrates the hidden and revealed nature of all of life. We can never understand another human completely and our faith and our lives have a good measure of mystery. Kay's painting reminds me always that our traditions by law had to be hidden away, our dancing and our ceremonies still go on despite the abuses of law and land. All of life has more hidden than is ever revealed and when we only see the surface, we midst the depths of life and beauty hidden just beyond our grasp.
We find Jesus in prayer, giving thanks for the work of his followers and their simple faith that has changed lives.He is aware of how religious institutional leaders get so wrapped up in procedure that they fail to simply rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of God in their lives. We are invited tow move towards seeing the hidden, towards seeking the simple gifts of God's love and the spirit.
Today I ask God to help me be a simple believer. May we all get out of the way of the simple joys of the Spirit and be those who encourage the love of God in every place we find ourselves today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Returning with Joy

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.
"Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."
The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” Luke 10:1-17 

Joy Returning
I dreamed of my mother last night
her smile lighting the dreamscape room
her laughter mending my broken heart
and she told me to let go of all the strings.

I wanted to hold her protectively close
she wriggled free and laughed again
to tears of joy ran down my face
and I knew all her good had taken root in me.

It is time to move on down the road
to gather the many gifts within and without
to take love with us to the setting sun
and see how much good we can plant on our way.

We tethered our expectations too long
to one who would hold us all together
but we are set free to learn on our own
how living love can make all things new again.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Not Looking Back

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9:51-62

Recently I found an item in the grocery store. It was port wine cheese spread and made was a favorite of my dear friend Janie who lost her battle with cancer years ago. I still miss her. My daughter Emily was emptying a gallon milk jug and decided she had to wash it out for the 4th of July parade. She then realized it won't be necessary since my Mom has passed. It will never be the same and won't happen like it did for all those years. It made us both very sad. It's hard not to look back and wish for more time. It's hard not to look back and mourn, missing the days if celebration and joy with the people we love who have gone on.

Jesus was on his final road to Jerusalem. He wanted his disciples to hang in with him to the end and knew how hard it was for them. He also wanted them to understand there was more ahead than they could imagine. Yes, more hard work and even more blessings upon blessings. Even in our darkest hours, we are reminded that the blessings of the past are gone but that God will provide more blessings and more love than we can imagine today. Loss can make us think that we have been abandoned by God, when in truth, we are all awaiting new life, life transformed by love.

Today I ask God to help me focus on the road ahead. May we not look back and wander but may we look forward with hope and expectation. God's arms are thrown wide open to us today.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Whoever Welcomes This Child

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met Jesus. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not." Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here." While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands." But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, "Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest."
John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you." Luke 9:37-50 

Whoever Welcomes This Child
This child is not like your children
her language, custom, and dress
makes you think she is tainted or suspect
aching for a different kind of instruction.

This child was pulled from her parents 
put on a train and educated far away
far away from the love and nurture
of mother, elders, family and kin.

Sweet Jesus said to welcome the child
not bend or break them, or pull them away
this child of people that welcomed Jesus
now struggles to sing her ancient songs.

Made perfect and good in the image of God
she weeps at night for her mother's touch
she looks to the horizon for a way back home
and seeks welcome on the clod Sunday pews.

Welcome the child just as they are
whether older than dirt, younger than sky
welcome the little one who comes to be loved
and the Divine will meet you in the embrace.


Friday, May 15, 2015

An Anniversary

The Ecstasy by John Donne

Where, like a pillow on a bed
A pregnant bank swell'd up to rest
The violet's reclining head,
Sat we two, one another's best.
Our hands were firmly cemented
With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string;
So to'intergraft our hands, as yet
Was all the means to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.
As 'twixt two equal armies fate
Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance their state
Were gone out) hung 'twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there,
We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day.
If any, so by love refin'd
That he soul's language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
Within convenient distance stood,
He (though he knew not which soul spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take
And part far purer than he came.
This ecstasy doth unperplex,
We said, and tell us what we love;
We see by this it was not sex,
We see we saw not what did move;
But as all several souls contain
Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mix'd souls doth mix again
And makes both one, each this and that.
A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poor and scant)
Redoubles still, and multiplies.
When love with one another so
Interinanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
Defects of loneliness controls.
We then, who are this new soul, know
Of what we are compos'd and made,
For th' atomies of which we grow
Are souls. whom no change can invade.
But oh alas, so long, so far,
Our bodies why do we forbear?
They'are ours, though they'are not we; we are
The intelligences, they the spheres.
We owe them thanks, because they thus
Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their senses' force to us,
Nor are dross to us, but allay.
On man heaven's influence works not so,
But that it first imprints the air;
So soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair.
As our blood labors to beget
Spirits, as like souls as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
That subtle knot which makes us man,
So must pure lovers' souls descend
T' affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
Else a great prince in prison lies.
To'our bodies turn we then, that
Weak men on love reveal'd may look;
Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.
And if some lover, such as we,
Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
Small change, when we'are to bodies gone.

Today Mark and I celebrate 40 years of married life. Mark's brother Phil read this poem at our wedding. Jerry and Peg Cohee played and sang
 Simple Gifts -
Wild Rover -

and Jimmy Owens sang - I Second that Emotion

What a day it was. What an amazing life together it has been. We are truly blessed.  Three beautiful, brilliant and loving daughters, an amazing granddaughter and a life full of love adventure and laughter. Despite every challenge, we have been abundantly blessed in one another. Here's to another 40 amazing years together!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Am With You Always

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:16-20 

I Am With You Always 
Some days the loneliness and isolation
are so much more than we can bear
we'd like to call you down from the clouds
and be wrapped in your arms once again.

Despite the terrors of day and night
we do hear your voice of comfort and concern
we remember the sound of your footsteps coming
across the water and down the lonely alleys.

In some moments we are still weak and silly
frightened of our own shadows and quaking in fear
there is often light even in our deepest gloom
and the echoes of your love still ring loud and clear.

We humans know we are seeded for destruction
our lives are short and quickly passing
make us strong vessels of love and laughter
so the world might resound with knowing you.

We  frail humans are also bound for glory
above the grind of constant  pain and remorse
we look up and see your feet and hope
ascending to join you in the heavenly home.

Make us stronger this day as we let you go
make our minds capture all the visions of love
make our feet steady on the roughest roads
and walk with us and we labor on.