Monday, August 31, 2009
So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13
It seems on some days that the worse mistake a person can make is a fashion mistake. There are scads of programs that do make-overs on people who are judged to be incapable of dressing themselves. Friends and family send in their loved one's name so that they might be shamed into dressing well. The goal of the program is to bring out the true beauty in the individual, but the judgment and shaming come before mercy. The personal attack and humiliation comes before folks are rebuilt and restyled. I am both horrified and fascinated. Who would do such a public thing to someone they love? And who would let people do this to them? Is it all about the money always? I am one of those people who, when approached with criticism and humiliation, shrinks into the woodwork or runs away. I am not open to any makeover at that point. Even if the person thinks they are helping, I can't take them in for my shame.
The danger of these days for me is that as a society we find some pleasure in judging others and doing so very publicly. The problem for me is that when there is judgment and criticism of others for their shortcomings, there is no room for mercy. And when there is mercy, there is the potential for everything. A gentle loving hand brings around the best reform. And we live in a world that seems to crave a harsh judgment and which revels in the downfall of others. Someone makes a lot of money on the humiliation of others.
Today, I want to live a life of mercy - towards others and for myself. It is too easy to criticize. It is part of the environment we live in. So today, I want to live counter culturally, without judgment. I want to live by mercy, knowing that God dwells in mercy and forgiveness. And I wish for God to dwell with me today - in mercy and forgiveness.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
"Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile." Mark 7:21
Some time ago we were acquainted with a couple who had one child, a daughter. They were very strict vegetarians and no refined sugars or processed foods ever came into their house. They believed that you are what you eat and they wanted to be as pure and healthy as possible. Their daughter grew healthy and strong. They also did not keep a television in their house. On several occasions, another couple would watch their child when they were away. This little girl would immediately scour the cabinets, looking for candy, sugar or other sinful delights. She would beg them to let her watch television, if just for a little while.
We all pretend to be pure and loving, but we know how true it is what Jesus says. The dark things come from within, no matter how strict we seem on the our outsides. Thank God, Jesus came, living as we humans do, understanding the challenges of this life. Thank God, he offers us forgiveness for our shortcomings and mistakes. Thank God, he offers freedom and release. May this day be one of counting on God for setting us free from our sin, rather than counting other people's mistakes. May we thank God today for understanding our brokenness and loving us just as we are.
Friday, August 28, 2009
For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears,my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.Psalm 116:8-9
Land of the Living
The lines wrapped around linoleum
glass windowed officials turning away
calling numbers never mine
never the right paper work never
the correct identity never a welcome here.
The smell of anxious waiting people wanting
license or plates the civil servants control
we, the mass of hopeful victims try to be
civil try to be patient try to understand.
Warm air and screaming children a cauldron
of lines and scarred benches all slumping
staring and nervous movement swarms of hopes
creepy fluorescent reality.
How quickly small indignities make life sour
how easily we slip on betrayal and wounds
we ache to be loved and have no compassion
for our fellow travelers.
Laughter rings out and God restores
water falls like soft spring rain
and the broken dreams of youth regain
their breath and live again.
May we dance in the rain and sing in quay
may the long lines be only portals
not our final destinations
and may we be blessed to hear the sounds
of God's joy resounding as we laugh
and make stranger smile for the first time.
"Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38
Every day I make a list of things I need to get done. I do this not just because I am forgetful sometimes, but because I am easily distracted. I would rather visit with someone or explore a new place than do a chore or administrative work. I wouldn't consider myself lazy, just not particularly driven. And almost nothing in the world is nicer than to lay in bed with a good book on a lazy afternoon. The problem for is, without a list, I might forget all of the pressing things that need to be done and give in to the rest and relaxation that my body and mind sometimes crave. Often I push too hard for a while and my body and soul demand rest and renewal.
I imagine the disciples had been going full tilt with little time for rest. They were spent and to the point of exhaustion. They had been chasing around Jerusalem, in a frenzy of activity, knowing that the climate was dangerous and the times were potent. Their dear friend and rabbi was talking death and they were wrecked from the anxiety they carried. They were human and fell asleep after a big, traditional meal where many glasses of wine had been drunk. They were real and fell asleep in the garden waiting on Jesus. I have often thought how awful it was that they failed Jesus. And yet, I know how often I have failed my family, my community and Jesus too. In the throws of the most intense moments of his life, I realized that Jesus is talking about himself, his human self - the body, mind and spirit that the Savior of the world took on. He knew humanity in his core most clearly in those moments. He knew his own weakness and his own desperate need for God.
Today, I want to be grateful for Jesus Christ who came in the flesh so that we might live -now and forever. I want to know that Christ abides in the flesh, with the flesh, with you and I. God dwells in our weakness as well as our strength, in our brokenness as well as our completeness. Despite our failure, Jesus is God incarnate, come into the world, our world, for the life of us all.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?”Mark 14:17-19
Betrayal is one of the hardest of human behaviors to bear. Rarely does anyone go to jail for betraying a friend or a colleague. Often times, the betrayer gets what they want, like a new job, a promotion, or a sense of control where it was lacking. The victim usually gets destroyed, personally and professionally. They lose the ability to trust anyone. Some people justify their betrayals with reasons like -"it was for the best" and "they were holding us back anyway". People are often ready to betray another for the promise of a few dollars or for fear of failure. Betrayal breaks hearts and relationships. Little pieces of loving lives scattered everywhere. For us humans, we know betrayal happens but we cannot predict who will hurt us this way. Jesus, on the other hand, knows all too well who has set him up to die. And yet he refuses to turn his back on them, refuses to out them, and refuses to take his love away from the betrayer.
I am heartened this morning to know that people who turn their backs on Jesus are still loved. We have all walked away from God time to time. We have been lured by quick money or promotion. We have failed to pray or to follow where Jesus leads. And yet, so loving is Jesus, that he hold them in prayer, keeps them together despite the hurt, and loves them beyond their faults. I know my faults all too well and to know Christ loves me with all my faults, all of my betrayals, all of the selfish shallow behavior - well, this is good news. Jesus loves each of us despite our wretched and hurtful behavior. Despite our betrayals.
Today, I want to pray for those who have betrayed me in some way and ask God's forgiveness for the times when I have betrayed others. How lovely to know this morning, that with all the burdens of shortcomings and failure, God loves me through and beyond my worse mistakes. And if God can love like that, then I can at least try to live beyond the petty hurts and betrayals that I have suffered. I want to learn to love, with Christ's help, beyond the wretched behavior to see others with the eyes of God.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ Mark 14:8-9
Some people are famous and every body knows their business. Admit it, most of us like to read those supermarket papers, the ones with weird stories about celebrities and their relationship or fashion mishaps. We love to ridicule people who make mistakes. We love to be above the mess and the fray, private people laughing at the public figures. Every time our president swats a fly, there is a commentary that lasts several days.
The religious leaders who were at table with Jesus were jealous of his fame and loving reception. They looked to find his flaws. Letting the woman pour expensive perfume was a great thing to ridicule and laugh about. They found great delight in abusing the woman and chastising Jesus. But Jesus knew her heart and her loving respect that made her want to do something lovely in the presence of the living God. God's love radiated into her broken existence and she wanted to show her appreciation. Those who would mock learn all too quickly that love is never to be dishonored - by a human savior or eternal God. The one selfless act of love becomes a story told for all times.
So, for today, I want to live remembering love trumps all the righteous, good and correct things I can do. If love and charity drive everything I do, than no matter the missteps and mistakes I make, God will be there. May we all remember that love's the thing - eternal, the story told for all times.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.Mark 13:35-36
I am not good at waiting. I am actually pretty much a failure at waiting without a time certain for something. Today I sat in a doctor's office waiting for someone. I read through everything I brought. And still I waited, so I took a walk to stretch my legs and waited some more. And time crawled by. I prayed for a while. And still by the time it was over - the waiting that is - I was tense and flustered. A failure at waiting. And yet, here is Jesus telling us that waiting and awake is how we should be. I want to at least be doing something while I wait. Jesus asking me to wait around. Just hearing those words, I already feel like a failure.
I imagine that Jesus wants us to be awake and aware, more than he wants us to wait around doing nothing. I imagine that God would have us engaged in caring for others and offering what we have. I think he was probably concerned that we would get careless and complacent, secure in our own selves, shutting others out. If that is what God desires, me awake and around concerned for others - well, then that I can do. And I imagine the God of love is more concerned for how we love than how we wait.
Today I want my heart ready for God, for God's love in my life, for the restoration and healing of the broken places. It's too easy for me to give up waiting for those things and to just accept things as they are. I want to practice the art of living with the expectation of transformation. And although waiting is not what I am good at, I want to learn to grow in waiting for God to restore that which I cannot. May we all wait with joy for God's love breaking anew in our lives.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Pray that it may not happen in winter. Mark 13:18
Yesterday, after several eventful days we decided to take it easy. We had some chores to catch up on and mostly we wanted to rest. As they day wore on, and the sun continued to shine I suggested we take a ride into Connecticut to explore. We are only a few miles from the Connecticut border and so this was to be a short outing. We got a bit lost, explored some and then stopped at a book store before returning home. As we got in the car the sky began to darken. Ominous clouds, dark and fast moving were gathering overhead. It looked like the sky in every Apocalyptic movie ever made. I half expected to see men in long robes and beards announcing the end of the world. Then then rain began. We were on the New England Turnpike -95 and the rain came down in torrents. Occasionally it would slow to pouring and then it would pick up again. I could only see a few feet in front of me and the traffic had come to a crawl. I held on tight and got as near to the window as I dared. I kept my distance from other cars and slowly we finally made it home. I could only think of what the storm would have been like it it had been winter and the water was snow. We would have been covered over in seconds, hidden in drifts within a few minutes. Fortunately, we might have been able to walk home several miles, through water. Snow would have made it impossible.
I have never understood about Jesus' tribulation warnings. And all the theologians I have read have been no help. All I know is that I have known trials and tribulations - all of which are much worse in the winter. I know enough to constantly pray that God spares my loved ones from the worst tribulations. I know enough to be dangerously aware of how fragile life is and how careless we can be with it. I know just enough to realize that we complain about the heat, only to complain about the extremes of winter also. And I know surely in our worst moments, God promises to be in the midst of them. God promises to hold us when we can no longer stand, to hold the wheel when we can no longer drive and promises to take us from the worst through love's triumphant ways.
So today, I want to be thankful for making it through one more challenge, gaining more and more love for God. I want to be thankful for my family and those who stand with us in the worst of times. And today, I pray that our trails are small and our joys are great in God this day.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
"Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
I wasn't able to write my blog yesterday, or do much else for that matter. We had a big family event for which I had some major responsibility. My aunt Kay and her beau Dirk were married yesterday in a lovely ceremony and gathering which took place at a wonderful church in Queens. I had the privilege of performing the ceremony for a woman for whom I had been her flower girl many years before. Kay had lost her husband many years ago and has been single for a long time. Love in full bloom in one's later years is always a miracle, always a delight. All of yesterday was a wonderful celebration and friends and family came from all over to share in this wonderful event. When love comes - where else can you want to be? Their demonstration of love and God's presence and blessing in their life is something everyone wanted to celebrate and participate in. Like the disciples, there was no place else to be. When God's presence and love are known, where else can we go? When the miracle of love happens for two dear people, how can we not celebrate and shout for joy!
I pray that I might be a living demonstration of the power of God's love in my life. I am not a planner, and things don't always work out the way I have hoped. And today, I want to rejoice in the power of God's love in my life which always takes me right where I need to be and shows me love in every age, every circumstance and every moment.
Friday, August 21, 2009
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44
Fridays are my days off and I have spent years trying to figure how best to spent them. Some days I do chores, and then I find myself wishing I had rested more. The next day off I travel or do something adventurous, and then the chores pile up and I am less rested than ever. We have what we have. Some of us are wealthy in time and relations. Others are rich in imagination and creativity. Some of us are rich in generosity, even if it is a cold drink to a stranger. On my day off, I have to stop and think about the riches I have been afforded by God - a family, a day off, and the ability to make choices. I am so blessed to live a life where I can determine how a day goes. Most people are ordered by others and have no rest time. So my frustration is a sign of my wealth and my blessings.
Jesus reminds us, as he points out the giving of the poor widow, that her generosity eclipses all the money that the big spenders throw in. She knows how blessed she is despite her circumstances. She has eyes to see God's love all around her despite the limitations of poverty and loneliness. Love has invaded her heart, God's love has made her rich while so many others are poor.
This day off, I want to chose to celebrate and be thankful for all the love that is showered upon me. I am rich in relationships, comfortable in living, wealthy in the love of God. Whatever I chose to do today, I want to live like the widow, who knows how blessed she is, despite the challenges she might face.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’Mark 12:29-31
In these hot, sultry days of August, I find it can be too easy to complain. And I have to remember all the things I love about summer and am able to do. I love going in the ocean and having cook outs. I love that everyone seems more relaxed and less edgy. Most folks make an effort to see family and take time for rest and fun. And, there are no crossing guards in the summer. Now, please don't get me wrong, I think crossing guards are essential. They protect our kids and that is a number one priority. It's just that in every community I have lived in, they have a tendency to take control of the streets, snarling traffic by imposing their authority completely and being random about their crossing of the kids. In Delaware, they had a little devise to control all the lights in their intersection and if they didn't recognize you as a friend they would turn the light red, even when they were no kids anywhere nearby. I have always found it very frustrating when someone with a small amount of authority tries to take over the whole world. Sometimes things and rules can get completely out of perspective.
Jesus is conversing with the crossing guards of the religious authority and he has them focus on what is most important - love God and love your neighbor as your self. These come first and are the structure for all the other rules and guidelines that follow. We can keep all the rules, controlling our intersections and small worlds perfectly, but if we have no love for God and our neighbors, our efforts are in vain.
Today, I want to remember to keep these two commandments in mind as I approach all tasks. Is what I am doing, loving God and my neighbor? God's love for us is so bountiful and broad that the love and care of others is tied up in our love for God. We must do both to be adequately loving the one who made us and gives us all good gifts. May this be the day when we put petty rules aside and make love of God and neighbor rule the day.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s. Mark 12:17
Years ago, my Dad found this harp in pieces left behind in a church basement. When I was a little girl, I took some harp lessons but was never comfortable with the instrument because my teacher was so strict. I have taken it everywhere we have moved and had to have the sounding board replaced while I was in seminary. In Delaware, I found a harp teacher, who taught me by ear, and taught me to love the harp as if it was a part of me. In the past few years, I haven't played it very often, but I still look at that harp and know it is directly connected to me, and through that harp I am connected to my Dad and a world of music that is familiar and challenging throughout and beyond my own life.
Jesus is challenged by folks who want to catch him up in legal dogma. He wants to talk about relationships and who we belong to. God says top us all today, "you are mine." Not the state of New York's, the U.S.'s or the Episcopal Church's - but "you are mine" says the wondrous loving God who created us all, so different, so unique and so loved.
May this be a day full of signs of who we belong to. May God's love for us radiate through the people and place we encounter today. May we rejoice, knowing who we belong to and who made us, perfectly shaped in the image of God.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;this was the Lord’s doing,and it is amazing in our eyes” Mark 11:10-11
They tend to hang on the fence
the ones chosen last
the ones left outside
not athletic enough, not popular at all
not on anybody's wish list.
They tend to watch the world carefully,
observing hands and faces grasping
welcome or refusal in brief seconds.
They tend to be unseen by the brightest
those birthrights to beauty
pass them by and mutter secret prayers
thanksgiving for not being ugly
rejected, uneven and shamed.
Jesus comes from them
for them, among them and around them.
He scoops rejected ones in his arms
like a mother gathers up her beloved
singing lullabies to broken hearts
pouring salve and balm onto sore places
hidden broken dreams and tear stained hopes.
They are outside yet amazing
because Jesus is one of their kind
one of the dark, scared sensitive ones,
the shut out, limping, side lined ones,
he brings their dreams renewed and mended
he lifts them up to a brilliant sky.
Monday, August 17, 2009
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:24-25
At Coffee Hour yesterday, a woman shared with me that she had God's phone number. God has told her not to share the number but keep it to herself. While we were standing there laughing, I got to thinking about all the things we do, like using cell phones and computers, that are modern marvels and most of us don't really know how they work. A couple of decades ago, no one would believe what we are simply able to do now would be possible. So, why not be able to call God - phone number or no phone number - since God has our numbers.
There are only two small requirements that Jesus outlines for our prayer life. They are believing in what you ask, and forgiving. Somehow, forgiveness is the hidden circuitry of prayer, our call to God for help and support. And in believing, we must be sincere and solidly sure, not making bets on the side, or using our prayer request as insurance policies. God is more than any betting and insurance can provide but most of feel more upset when we misplace our cell phone than when we forget to pray. Jesus invites us to understand that the powerful love God has for us can move mountains. God - the original mover and shaker. If we trust human capacity things will fail, but if we trust God it will be accomplished.
Today, I commit myself to a renewed prayer life. Sometimes I forget to ask God for what I need in every day and every moment. Today, I want to begin anew with prayer, making it the central part of my day, standing, sitting, walking, driving or on the cell phone (not while driving, of course). May we all be encouraged to pray and know that God, who loves us more than time and space is willing to move heaven and earth for the likes of us.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
"This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." John 6:58
Each of us comes from distinct groups of ancestors and have inherited traits that are special or peculiar to our families. Dark brown, nearly black eyes, run in my family. From my Cherokee ancestors, I have inherited traditions,stories as well as customs concerning the roles of men and women as well as the foods we ate. These customs were different than what I was taught in school and what was handed down through my father's side of the family. As we look forward to our daughter's wedding, we also have been considering some of the customs we might continue (or not continue) as we share their celebration. All people have their family stories of survival. Their stories of plenty and want. Jesus knows his audience and knows the tradition of their ancestors having manna sent down from heaven. He also knew that those who received daily heavenly feeding constantly grumbled at their leaders.
We are people, who despite our human frailties, are guaranteed the love of God in the food God sent down, once and for all. Once we ate and were satisfied and then got hungry again. In Christ we are fed for all times. God sent the best for us and for all time. Even if we grumble, even if we wish we were elsewhere or want a different kind of bread, God offers us food for life and life eternal. We are now not distant foreign nations to God, but in Christ we are children at the family's groaning board. It is thanksgiving always.
May we rejoice this Lord's day in the food we have received. Even if we are surrounded by shortages, even if we are feeling the pinch of the economy, even if our personal resources seem bleak -may we remember that we are completely fed forever. Christ Jesus came for fullness of life, now and forever. And for me, this is truly good news in an anxious world.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Mark 11:8-9
I am sometimes not patient with other people. Now, I try very hard but I can eventually lose my patience when I had tried to explain something many, many times and people still don't get it. I also know there are some people who don't get my jokes, or they are oblivious to the signs and signals I direct their way. Despite my own impatience with others, it is true that we all see things very differently. And when we are distracted for whatever reason -worry, hurt, guilt, other distractions- we often miss things that are right before our eyes. It is easy for us to say "of course people got Jesus and responded to him". "Everyone should have understood what God was doing!" But the truth is, we sometimes can miss completely when God has moved in our lives. From the distance of history and the gift of the experiences of others, we can claim a knowledge of the living Jesus. And we also can, in our own unique ways, be completely ignorant of God's blessings standing right in front of us. Thank God, that we are loving by a Creator who is infinitely patient with us.
Thank God it is not up us and our general lack of patience with others.
May today have been a day that we can claim at least one moment, one insight into the presence of God. May we have the opportunity to shout “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" For God indeed is in the midst of us, despite how often we miss the loving presence of the living God.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’Mark 10:49
I have always loved the story of blind Bartimeaus. He's kind of my hero. He isn't afraid to tell God what he needs. So here is a poem for those of us who need some courage in these challenging times.
The road is a dark place,
rain is pelting down
I am a traveler without transport
a tour guide without sight.
I can hear the passing cars music
and laughter, arguments spills out
wash over me then leave me and I
ache to be going with them traveling
in motion confident of the destination.
The fog has settled in my friend
fog who covers me and allows me to weep
shamelessly openly afraid, complete abandonment
fog dweller I who slips into a familiar haze
of self doubt and loneliness.
There is one walking along
the road who stands still above me
invisible in the fog of my aching heart
and he waits for my voice, my invitation.
Here, take heart, and a hand reaching
a life extended a voice ringing out
the walking God has come for me, has found my
road, my blind alley, my puzzle and has peeled
away and uncovered my heart.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
" But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45
Someone was asking me recently about what I thought was my greatest accomplishment. I barely hesitated in explaining that my greatest accomplishment is not really an accomplishment but a gift from Gog which I treasure and that is being a Mom.Our daughters are grown and they still teach me more theology and about God's love than just about anyone or anything. My family has provided me with an understanding of joyous servant hood, where love is the motivation for caring for others rather than some false sense of humility. Their love has never failed to make me feel like the most blessed person in the world. Despite the struggles and challenges of parenthood, it is an honor to be their Mom.
The bickering disciples want to know who comes first in the kingdom of God. Their arguments probably compared who had been longest with Jesus, who had done or given up the most, who deserved it more. Children fight this way all of the time. We are invited to love one another like God loves us, like a parent who always puts the other first. The love of God is tender and caring, always wanting the best for us, always working to shelter us and provide for us. God is not worried about who is the best and most perfect, God cares only how we love each other.
So today, I want to love God and my neighbor as a grown up. Not seeking to be honored by that love but seeking to offer more of myself. Offering more, not because it is my duty but because it is my desire as a parent who has been blessed more than I can say. May god give us all the grace to serve those around us, to love with maturity and humility, so that we might know a bit of the love of God in our lives.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”Mark 10:27
I find myself thinking a great deal about what seems impossible in my life. All the aspects of this latest transition have brought about a great sense of doubt and challenges that sometimes seem impossible. I have been called to serve in a wonderful parish and they have been very generous and kind to us. It is more the visible imperfections, the amount of boxes still left to unpack, the time and stuff still to organize and manage, and wanting to be the best Mom possible with our daughter's wedding looming. She is not the problem, I am. I want it all to go so well and I have taken on so much. So very often now, the vista before me looks impossible.
Jesus speaks right to me today. I have been too reliant on my skills, my capacities etc. I have neither asked for help or taken it when offered. My wealth of pride and expectation can be the camel impossible to get through the eye of the needle. OR I can ask God to help me and I can ask those around me also. I have to put down my pride and attitude and pick up humility and God, today. I pray that we can all put it down today and pick up God. God loves us more than we can know, and has given us the love which makes the plain beautiful and the ignored the star. God's love in the world brought forth a child who brought down kings. A child who, without violence or destruction, became the power and authority for us all. Love became power so that the weakest among us might be miraculous with God's help. So God help me today. And God help you, so that the world might know love, impossible love, the love no barrier can contain. God help us all.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
"From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:6-9
There has been a lot of talk in our house about weddings, as our second oldest daughter, Ariel, is getting married in September. Most of the pieces of the wedding celebration are coming together quite well. Others, not so much. Yesterday I went to a very fancy store to try on some mother-of-the-bride dresses. I have chosen to step away from my normal role as celebrant of the wedding, and will revel in being with my husband in the pews. We often don't get a chance to sit together on Sundays or any other special occasion, like weddings. So this will be nice for us and I can cry if I want to (and I know I will). So, this fancy store I visited had some of the nastiest, ugliest, revolting excuses for a mother's dress. I know all our eyes are to be on the bride, but I didn't know my role came with the demand to look ridiculous. A clown costume would have been more becoming.
I got to thinking about Jesus and his admonition about marriage. How we are to come one flesh by the power of God. How weak and crazy we are so much of the time, and yet how willing God is to join us together and bless us together at all times. Marriage is not about money or looks or possessions, and it is surely not about the right clothes. Marriage is God's presence in the midst of relationships, which binds people together despite their best efforts to be shallow or cruel. God's love in our midst is always bringing healing and forgiveness, reconciliation and humor.
So, today, I want to give thanks for the love that has been given to me and blessed in my relationship to Mark and with our girls. And I wan to pray that for Ariel and Adam as they get ready to be married, and all folks who are in relationships or desperately needing relationships in which they find forgiveness and reconciliation, laughter, joy and healing at all times. For we all seek God's blessing in our midst and need it every hour of every day.
Monday, August 10, 2009
"You are the salt of the earth. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its flavor, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”Mark 9:50
When August came around when I was a teenager, my friends and I would argue over the best way to soften and age new jeans. This conversation would come about because soon we would be buying clothes for school, returning home and going our separate ways. This was years before sly manufacturers introduced acid wash and charged $100. We bought jeans for $6 to $10 usually from the local army navy store. I was blessed in this time of life to have friends I spent a good portion of my summer with in Cape May Point. We enjoyed the theoretical argument often more than any actual practice. I do remember that we finally agreed that ocean water made everything soft. The salt in the water softened things quickly. I also remember walking into the surf in brand new jeans, praying for softness, and praying that a miracle would happen and I wouldn't have to go back to school.
Jesus talks to his disciples about how they should be in the world. He has warned them to protect the children and the innocent and vulnerable. God's reign lives with them, he tells the disciples. And the followers are to be salt - flavor and softening to one another so that all may live in peace. Salt is a preservative, a flavor, a way of living with creativity and expression and also a softening agent which brings peace. It is very challenging to be all of these things.
Today I feel challenged to be salt in all its attributes and identities. I will be that pungent taste on my lips when I first dive in the ocean. I will be flavor to those who have lost their joy. And I will be soft so that peace might break forth when tensions and disputes threaten. May we all be God's salt today. May we be those willing to go into the world to be absorbed in the water so that all might be transformed by God's reign of peace.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
"Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." John 6:48-51
My mother used to bake bread in great quantities when I was a child at home. We ate them at home but mostly the large quantities were used for fund raisers at the church. We had a big coat closet in our house that had a heating pipe running through the back of it, so the closet was always warm in the winter. She would put the 2 dozen or so pans on the shelves above the coats and let them rise there. Getting your coat out of closet always made it hard to leave. The smell of rising bread was intoxicating. The smell of baking bread was even more lovely. They say that if you want to make your house instantly appealing to possible buyers, than you should put bread on to bake in the oven. It some how evokes a real sense of love, warmth and home, even to people who never grew up with home made bread. It is a link to something warm and wonderful for many.
Jesus speaks to us today and says "I am the living bread that came down from heaven." Although so many of us shun bread for our diets and our figures but bread is still, to this day, a symbol of life and health. Jesus says God sent his son (Jesus)so that every single one of us may have life and health. Spiritual and bodily health as well as eternal life. Well, that's a pretty amazing promise. Pretty hard for many to believe. And if we are to have faith at all, we have to find a way to accept that God's gift to us is life and health, now and forever. Sometimes it is hard to believe when we are hurting and broken. And yet we are invited today, despite all of our limitations, to accept the bread of heaven so that we may live more fully now and forever.
Today, I know more than ever how hard it is to take in, especially when times have been challenging. Especially when set backs and hardships come, it is hard to take in. And Jesus promises that God, who lovingly created us all, loves us beyond our capacity to believe and love. The bread and the belief are gifts from God. So today, we are simply invited to accept the bread. Accept being fed, believing that God will use the little bit of energy and renewal we receive for the renewal of the world around us. Today, all we have to do is to accept and eat. And God will do the work in between.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” Mark 9:36-37
This morning I slept in some and later than I have in months. I know I needed the rest since the challenges of moving and starting over in a new place have overwhelmed me at times. Sleep and love are God's best medicine. I know this. And it was lovely to have the time to rest and lie about for a bit. As I was waking up, I had a startling little dream. I was waking up and our children were small again and they were all three at our bedside and crawling in bed with us, laughing and giggling. Life doesn't get much better than when you have time to linger and play with the ones you love. Of course they are all grown up now but every once in a while one of them will crawl into bed with us. Sweet and tender, and a glimpse of the kind of tender love God has for all of us.
Jesus takes a small child in his lap and tell the disciples and us who listen from generations later, and says “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me". Simply and clearly the kingdom of heaven is accessed as we receive and care for children and as we love the adults around us with the tender and sweet love often only afforded children. God's love is not a complicated dogma but a simple openness to be simple and childlike, tender and sweet. And that requires a vulnerability that many adults are afraid of, even though we privately know how vulnerable we are.
I invite us today to live, at least today, open to God's love as a child. And may we open our arms wide to all the adults and children who come to us seeking God's love. May we be tender and sweet. For there is the kingdom of heaven.
Friday, August 7, 2009
“I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
There were more than a few times in my life as a mother, especially when my children were young,when I wasn't sure I could live through my girls' traumas. I always found myself crying out to God. I often said exactly what this father says to Jesus -“I believe; help my unbelief!”
On mother's day when Emily was 13, she stayed home from church that day because she had a stomach ache. I was convinced she was just making my life difficult as teenagers sometimes can choose to do. When she didn't turn up for a youth event later in the day, I knew she was really sick, because she liked hanging out with the other kids. When I got home, her pain was much worse and she was spiking a fever. We took her to the emergency room and they diagnosed her with acute appendicitis and immediately prepped her for surgery. We had to wait quite a while, late into the night, for although we had a surgeon, all the anesthesiologists were out with their mothers. She went through surgery well and was hospitalized for several days.
I remember sitting in her room with her, holding her hand as she slept and praying - “I believe; help my unbelief!”. I believed God was healing her and I was scared. Scared because as a mother, I felt inadequate and ashamed. Scared because I had never done this before with my own child. So many times I had comforted other parents, and promised them that God would be with them and their child and now I had to believe and trust what I had so easily said. And yet, God, lovingly and tenderly guided us through that trauma, and healing and wholeness came, no matter how inadequate I felt. God is completely adequate for us at all times. Even when we cannot believe.
May we all walk through our day today, trusting that God is complete, especially when all we see is human inadequacy. When all we feel is failure and shame may we remember God is fulfilling and healing, even when we are falling down on the job and giving up. God's love is more than adequate for our needs today.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. Mark 9:2-8
There are moments in life when something so remarkable happens that there no words to describe what is going on. Not often for most of us, but there are incredible events that take our breath away and that we do not wholly understand at the time. There is such an overwhelming sense of holy presence, that one can find no words to say, and nothing appropriate to do. It happens for some at the birth of a child, and for others at a deathbed. Quite rare and completely breathtaking, many people are often afraid to even speak about these moments.
At the feast of the Transfiguration, the disciples witness Christ being changed, if for a moment, into his true self, viewed in the completeness of his relationship to God and throughout history. They glimpse love complete and continuous without the bounds of time and space. They did not know what to do and had no words to tell their story, Their experience only made sense in hindsight. Often, that is the way love is. That is the way God is to us, we cannot experience the completeness of love until we have a very long look at things.
I want to encourage us all to remember the times in our lives today when we had a full sense of God's love and presence in our lives. Most likely we are still afraid to talk about it, but there is someone who needs to be comforted today with that story. Our feeble attempt at words for the most holy can transform others lives by our experience. God whispers to us today,"This is my beloved child," We are transformed and changed by our willingness to share our story with others and they are transformed also. May God's love be so radiant in us today that we might share our stories of loves presence with the people in our lives.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Mark 8:34
Mark and I were at dinner with friends some years ago. This friend and his wife are musicians and we were at a gathering with many musicians and performers. We had observed two different groups, one very polished and the other rather sloppy and goofy. The first group were great musicians, the second group were phenomenal. And we were wondering aloud why that is so. Our friend Mick said that you really have to lose yourself to the music, one needs to be transparent so the music can flow through your and transport people to a larger place. He said the best musicians are vessels or slave to the music itself. And instantly I knew he was correct, not just for musicians but for all of us. We don't own the best of what we have to offer. Those gifts are God's gifts within us and we are at our best when we put self aside and let God shine through.
I used to think this denial of self stuff meant something penitential and psychologically damaging, but now I know a larger truth. The larger truth is that too often we don't follow Jesus, or let God shine through because we are embarrassed. We don't want to look like a fool. And yet to open one's self up to God is to be transparent, letting God's love, art and possibility shine through. It is not a denial but a completion, a swim in the larger, lighter more beautiful sea of love.
So today, I want to be transparent in my following of Jesus. I won't worry how it looks, or how silly I seem, but rather will give myself to the greater love and more perfect music in my life. I pray that we can all follow God this way, by opening ourselves so the wide world around us might see and glimpse the beauty of the love of God.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8:33-35
On days when it seems like I am fighting an uphill battle, I am encouraged when I remember that when Jesus healed people, there was often a progression to clear vision or complete healing. Things are not always as final as they seem, nor as bleak or incomplete for that matter. So for today, here is a poem for facing trials.
All my Trials
I am no lawyer no
and I have no one
to represent me to plead
my case, sound my cause
carry the alarm to the village.
I have no defense and
I am guilty of being human
fragile, frail, scared
and completely overwhelmed.
Dark clouds, inky black skies
it doesn't look good
the rough winds are arising
and it doesn't feel good neither.
I am sitting by the road
head in hands dust clouds
my blankets, worry my only friend.
You walk down the road
you bend to meet me
ask me my name ask me
what do you need?
I want to see and you try
you spit in my eyes and it's cloudy
there's something but not
Yet you do not walk on
but bend again clear water
cool and promising you touch
and I am no longer blind.
I am no lawyer nor am I
I can see clearly although you
disappear from my sight I am strong
enough to run to the village
strong enough to tell my story loud.
Monday, August 3, 2009
"Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?" Mark 8:18
We were sitting with family friends earlier this summer. It was a nice relaxed visit. We had come to ogle over the baby that had been born over the past year. We were talking over things we used to do and annual events that continue year after year. The baby's father, a young man in his early thirties, looked at me and wondered whether we still held the bicycle parade. He was awestruck because he was thinking the parade had been long gone. I realized that he had grown up and moved away and expected that everything he knew would do likewise. He just assumed that when he moved on, others did also. As human beings,we often attribute our singular experiences to the larger groups experience. And we assume that things have changed because we have changed. We assume that others that grow exactly the same way along with us, and that our perceptions are the one true history of the world. We put others and outside experiences in boxes. We don't understand so we don't try. Part of why we do that is to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed. And we do it to protect fragile egos.
God doesn't change, no matter how quickly we turn from the moments of grace in our lives. God is still abundantly generous and God is still love even when we have shut love out. God through Christ does not turn away and forget to provide for the people. In the midst of a violent and changing world never fails to feed us and fill us. We can chose to miss the blessing. We can decide that kind of thing doesn't happen any more. And God is still God, blessing all of us with abundance.
Today, I want to remember all of the wonderful ways God has blessed me. I want to live trusting that those blessings will continue in new ways in our new place. I want to walk today knowing God's love goes ever before me and around me. And I want to remember to be grateful for the wondrous gifts of love I have been given.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
The morning dawned rainy and dark. We have had so much rain this summer that it seems we will be washing away some time soon. The rain also increases the work that has to be halted in our move process. The things that are ruined if they get rained on. Looking around as I woke up this morning, I was discouraged that there is so much more to do to be completely moved in. There is more work and I have limited abilities. I felt fully my limitations this morning.
Then I was reminded that Jesus said to the many people around him who were seeking to know what, they should do, what work they should accomplish that the work of God was believing in Jesus, and loving those who are around us. Jesus over and over repeats this message throughout the Gospels. How deaf we are some times to the Savior of the world. How simple is the work of God - believe and love. All the rest of the work we make for ourselves, or that we feel we must do, or that we judge ourselves by - all of it is not the work of God. Believe and love. The rest is all extra.
This Sunday, I want to live through the day, believing and acting in love. I know it is a simple concept, but much more complicated to live. May Christ grant us the strength and courage to do the work of God today.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” Mark 8:2-3
This moving thing has a remarkable impact on the human body and the human spirit. Even when people are moving and relocating for all the right reasons, the process can be overwhelming. When there is nothing completely familiar and routines are established, then accidents and challenges can seem overwhelming and unbearable. Some days no matter how much we do there always seems more to do and there are visible reminders of all that needs to be done. This same feelings can happen to folks who are traveling, even when they have all the luxuries and comforts. Being away from a familiar routine and not knowing where to go to eat can upset even the most calm and savvy person. Being far from home and without direction can be devastating. A change in routine and location can make all of undone.
Jesus looked into the faces of the people and had compassion. A little bit of bread and fish became enough for a small city of folks. Jesus looks us in the eyes in the midst of our travels and changes and has compassion. So let's sit down on the grass, offer what we have and expect miracles enough for the crowd we have. May we all take our feeble gifts and offer them to God, today, humble and lost as we are. For God looks on us every day with compassion and God's desire is for miracles and abundance. May this bright Saturday be a day full of offering and being fed.