Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009


He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33

There is something magnificent about Halloween. So many people associate evil, bad spirits and the like with Halloween, despite the fact that it is simply the day before All Saints' Day, when we celebrate those who have gone before us. Halloween in the U.S. is a wonderfully fun holiday, when children who are kept from the presence of strangers, go door to door demanding candy from strangers. Children who are told what to do get to dress up and spend a few hours full of themselves and full of treats. Occasionally bad things have happened on Halloween but in the adults work overtime to keep the kids safe while the children work overtime to run amok and delight in the outfit and the occasion. Kids get to be kids and adults enjoy them completely - or at least most adults do. After being in a costume shop the other day, I can also say that many adults like dressing up and acting like kids for a few hours too.

Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven being like a mustard seed and like yeast - life abundant from the smallest of sources. Love and joy breaking forth from tiny people and unexpected places. This Halloween, I want to remember how it felt to be a child all those years ago. How impossible it seemed that I would grow up and contribute anything to society, let alone have the pleasure to be someone's mom. I felt so useless and unlikely most of my growing years.And yet, God uses us all with the gifts we have been given. May we rejoice this day in the small pleasures we have enjoying our children this night. And may we remember that the small kindnesses we show today may be used by God to bring great life and joy to others. The kingdom of God is demonstrated by all the saints living now or in the fullness of God's presence.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Growing Together


"Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Matthew 13:30

There have been times in my life when I have had to ask God why things happen, and why bad behavior seems to be rewarded. I am always amazed when obvious cruelty and abuse goes unchecked and the person seems above reproach by all around. Whether I have been at the receiving end of the hurt, or if it is someone else, I still wonder why God allows this? I have been told it makes us stronger when we go through hard times. I also know that it makes many people bitter and they shield themselves from everyone and everything. When someone is a victim of this kind of behavior from a trusted leader, it makes them hate the institution and everything it stands for. I still cannot reconcile myself to the fact that it is the way of the world. My mother says she has questions to ask God when she gets to heaven. She keeps a list of just these sorts of questions, knowing she have an answer at a later date.

Today, Jesus talks to his disciples about this through a parable. Although it is no comfort to me, the parable of the weeds teaches that weeds grow despite our best intentions. Evil can become intertwined in the best of human situations. Tearing evil out might damage the fragile relationships and fragile people who are trying to grow in the midst of this complicated garden we call life. The parable does not bring me a complete answer today, but it reminds me that God is in charge and my view of the world is limited by my humanity and the weeds growing in my own heart.

Today, I want to remember that God is in charge and live simply with that knowledge. I can tend my own garden and pray for those around me. God is judge and know the big picture much more than I ever will. Today, I want to give myself to seeing the good growing around me and encourage it rather than fearing the evil that might choke out life. May we all turn this day over to God so that we all might flourish and grow together. May we do our part to grow strong and healthy offering ourselves for the building up of others.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Understanding


"As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13:23

I made a pastoral visit with a young girl of thirteen who is facing some surgery. She had a few anxious days and as I met with her and her mother I saw their deep fear that was covered well by a brave face. It seems as if the outcome will be fine for this child, but I also remember how hard it was to be in junior high (now middle school) and faced with a perplexing problem that scared my parents completely. I was also facing surgery as a young girl, and the outcome wasn't nearly certain because the diagnostic equipment in those days was nothing compared to what we have today. And yet, they still wait for results and hold their breath until the doctor calls. I remember well how that felt and how everyone was brave around me, including me. I understand at the core of my being what it means to be facing an unknown ordeal like surgery.

Jesus tries to explain to his disciples what the parable of the wheat means. But in truth, real understanding come from experience and from God's blessings in our lives. Having been through a harrowing experience, I can well understand the sorrow and anxiety of another. Without that kind of understanding, experience and blessing, it is so hard to take in others words or the experiences of others.

Today, I want to remember that understanding requires experience and the willingness to live in uncomfortable skin. Understanding others, we abide in our awkwardness so that we might learn and grow in faith and love. Understanding is a gift from God, and with understanding we can all grow God's justice and love in our corners of the world. May this be a day of abundant growth and understanding.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who are we waiting for?


"For this people's heart has grown dull,and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed,lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them." Matthew 13:15

Ever since I have been a child, I have loved the Charlie Brown cartoon episodes that come on television. The Christmas one is my favorite, followed by the Halloween episode where Linus waits out in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin while the other children go trick or treating. He convinces Charlie Brown's sister Sally to wait with him. He tells her if they are sincere enough, the Great Pumpkin will come and bring them presents. He faints away when he sees what he thinks is the Great Pumpkin but instead is Snoopy sneaking through the patch. Sally is beside herself with anger. She feels robbed. Linus bears the brunt of her anger and everyone else's ridicule. He is a child with a great faith, misguided though it may be.

Jesus is questioned why he tells stories to the disciples rather than telling them the plain truth. He uses stories to help pry loose their eyes, ears and hearts which have turned cold to God's love in their lives. The Great Pumpkin is on the surface a story of childhood fantasy and popularity. But it is also a story of faith - for at Christmas it is Linus who knows the true story of Christmas - the coming of Jesus into the world. So even, misguided Linus can teach us with his open heart. Jesus was often saddened by people's indifference and lack of hearing.

May today be a day of sincere faith, knowing that God, throughout the ages has been aching for us to turn and listen. To turn and see. For God promises to heal us if we listen, see and wait upon God with a childlike faith. May we all be open so God's compassion and healing might grow in our world.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Good Soil


" Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”Matthew 13:8-9

We have lived in very few places where we had the chance to have a huge garden in our yard, although we have ached to do just that. When we lived in Colorado, we had a communal garden with several friends, one of whom owns and operates very successful nurseries. The group of us planted and cared for this garden, only to be done in by locust - it was the year of the locust and they ate all of our fledgling plants in short order. The lack of back yard garden space has never stopped us from planting herbs and some vegetables in pots, growing where we could find light to place the pots. It is amazing what can grow with a little light and some determination.

Jesus told stories that his disciples and followers could understand, and even I can understand about scattering seed and having good and bad soil. Real life and good intentions can get in the way of all sorts of good seeds - whether it is seed planted for basic food or seeds planted for our faith. To have good soil we need good fertilizer - which means there is a great deal of mess and smell to having really good soil. Not unlike our personal lives, living with challenges, messy and smelly, can enrich our faith, our lives and our personalities.

Today, I want to remember and live with the knowledge that those things which I consider messy and smelly right now might just be enriching the ground of my being. The challenges we face can tear us apart or they can be the fodder for our rebirth, our transformation. So today I want to ask God to help me be rich soil, willing to be turned and nurtured, willing to face the messy, smelly challenges of my life, knowing that God is bringing about good harvest. May we all trust God to use the challenges we face today as fertile ground for ourselves and our communities.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Sense of Family


"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50

I am always struck by how important a sense of family is to the strength of any church community. Last night we carved pumpkins at the church with many families coming, enjoying pizza, carving pumpkins and time together. The children, of a variety of ages, enjoy being together and the adults do also. It is a comfortable and flexible atmosphere, where everyone seems at ease. It is like being at home. So many people lack a sense of belonging and home, and how welcome it is when we find a place that we are comfortable and welcome.

Jesus was visited by his mother and siblings, and he used the occasion to teach us that we are knit together like a family in our Christian faith. We belong together and are responsible for one another - just like in a healthy, supportive family. We all know that some families are not healthy and not capable of providing a supportive environment. It is a real gift when we find a church community that can be our family when our family cannot. A simple but overwhelmingly wonderful gift is to have a church community that has the capacity to help heal the holes left by a broken family. God's love is manifest in the relationship, whether kin or congregation. We are bound as a family together, and no matter how we construct that family, God's love finds a way to bring health and wholeness to us all.

I ask God to use me to build healthy and strong Christian communities. I am blessed to be serving among people who have much to teach and share about being a strong community of support and encouragement. I pray that here I can help and support them and reach out with them in love to the wider community. May we all be about building healthy, loving families for God's sake. For I know Christ will be found where people are working together to strengthen the bounds of welcome and love.

Beyond Begging


"Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Mark 10:48-48

I sit on a dirty street corner covered
in all the filth and detritus that fills
this city I cannot see what has stuck
to my cloak but I can taste the odors hatred
ignorance and anxiety.

All humanity passes by women dragging
small children by reluctant hands
they want to talk to me curiosity shut down
by fearful protective mothers afraid
the child will become me.

Men rush past with purpose smelling
of ferocious competition a mix of failure
and anxiety in their bearing turning
away from the weakness they see in me.

There is one who is not repulsed, not fearful
but compassion pours out from his being he
is coming my way I hear the feet and the murmurs
long before the crowd arrives.

I am screaming despite the crowd the handlers
someone hears me someone see the need in me
and I spring up because love cannot be kept
down and I am asking fearlessly for eyes that I
have never had.

He reaches for me sees me knows my need and
faith my faith he says had made me whole.

First there was light and then some colors
brilliant pain and exquisite life bursting
in front of me, the life which I knew only through
song and shouts, smells and rumors life
brilliant and present is mine.

God has seen me in my utter despair and lifted me
through love I am lifted and tears never stop pouring
out of my once dead eyes in thanksgiving
for love and life were taking my road meeting
me at the intersection no longer one who is
over looked.

I will rejoice as I follow him
down the dark paths and brilliant city streets
for I can see that love has arrived.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Abundant Heart


For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. Matthew 12:34-35

We took a ride yesterday, hoping that we could still pick some apples before the weather turned too cold. None of us were feeling great after having a bug that was not life threatening but annoying and wearing. We finally arrived at the apple trees, which stand atop a little ridge. The trees and ground were loaded with apples. It was a quiet place, we saw no other people until we were leaving, and there was an overpowering sense of the beauty and abundance of God's creation. The trees on the hills in the distance were gold and crimson, fire and sand. God's capacity to bring such full life and such fruit in the midst of a world which is turning colors in anticipation of winter's dying, well that touched my heart. Even when we are unable to expect fruit, God finds ways to feed us abundantly. Even when we are ailing and life is challenging, God's abundance acts for us and God's healing is always at hand.

Our normal human response in times of decline and darkness is often anger and selfishness. As if we can really turn the tide of things. And yet, I have always been touched by someone's generosity and kindness - in words and actions -in the midst of their darkest hours. And their actions have always reminded me of God's abundance and faithfulness in our darkest hours.

Today, as the rain pours down, I want to be numbered among those who offers others good treasures, kind words and an abundant spirit. I ask God to give me strength to do simple things like smiling that others might be brightened in this day. And may God's abundance work through us that all of our words and actions give life and joy today.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Standing Together


“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand." Matthew 12:25

When I was a child we often heard the phrase, 'many hands make light work'. It is true that many hands make any work easier and go faster. When we work together, things seems not only easier but actually enjoyable at times. This wise phrase had another side to it...a funny side. Whenever a fuse would blow or the lights went out in our house, everyone would raise their hands. The joke being...'many hands make light work! We would laugh hysterically and enjoy the fun, particularly if the lights flickered and came back on. It was like having special power and an inside joke with God.

Human beings can find plenty of reasons to divide and disagree. We can take stands that divide churches and families. The Episcopal Church has regularly drawn lines in the sand, as have various members and leaders in our church. It has made us notorious for our division. And yet, we live in a time and world that needs to be bound together, desires to be healed of division and strife. We all need a sense of humility in these times and a good sense of humor about our own humanity and failures, personal and institutional.

Today, I want to try to be an agent for unity and rebuilding. I want my words and actions to be healing and inviting rather than separating and dividing. I ask God's strength so that I might stand fast with the people in my life, my family and my community. And may we all stand together so that God's love might flourish anew in our midst.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

God's Timing


Commit your way to the Lord;trust in God, and the Lord will act. God will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.Psalm 37:5-6

Yesterday, when we were manning the pumpkin patch, a couple with a little girl came to pay for their pumpkins. They had five or six large pumpkins in the wagons and some little ones also. We gave the little girl some stickers for her small pumpkins. When the parents started to pull the wagon to the car and unload she got very upset. They were quickly upset and embarrassed, yelling at her and then swooping her up. It seemed that all she wanted to do was to put the stickers on her little pumpkins while there were still in the wagon. We all felt bad for all of them. Right after that a mom came up and told us that this was the first time she had come to pick pumpkins without her children. Her youngest was in middle school and refused to accompany her. She told us that she would have loved to have a child in tow and would welcome the tantrum for just a few more minutes of family fun.

We can all be overwhelmed by the events of a day and how we or others act around us. And we can also forget how blessed we are to have the people around us who love us as well as they do. And sometimes, what seems like a tragedy becomes a sweet memory, missed when that time of life has gone. I am often impatient with God. How grateful I am that God is not impatient with me.

Today, I plan to wait on the Lord and trust him for the resolutions I don't have. I try to often to fix it myself, in my impatience. But at least for today, I am going to offer all my needs to the Lord. For today I have no answers for the pressing questions. And I pray that God will make this time a sweet memory and allow me the grace to savor every day I have. I pray that we can lay our needs on God today trusting that God is always more ready to act than we are to ask.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Desiring Mercy


‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ Matthew 12:7
I celebrated the wedding of a long time family friend several weeks ago. It was a lovely outdoor wedding in a beautiful setting. It was nice to be back where we once lived and wonderful to visit with old friends and to make a few new ones on the way. The garden where the wedding was held was decked out in flowers and grass was brilliant green as there had been so much rain. As the wedding party was processing out after the ceremony, I noticed the flower girl desperately trying to pick up all of petals she had strewn on her entrance. I tried to tell her she didn't need to do that. She told me that she would be in terrible trouble in she did not clean up. Someone taught her a lesson she would not forget.

I often think that we do a good job of teaching children the rules while we fail to teach them tenderness and forgiveness. We often break the rules ourselves but want to punish others severely who act out less than we do. God is love and forgiving others is what God asks of us, and yet we too often judge, and rarely forgive. Jesus and his disciples were judged for eating on the sabbath. Then Jesus did something worse - he healed a man on the sabbath. God, the author of the universe, created a complex and diverse world, and yet we Christians often act as if we have to be the hall monitors for others, rather than the compassionate heart of Christ in this world.

God desires mercy and so this day will be dedicated to mercy. Today I wish to see everyone with the loving, adoring eyes of a merciful creator. I want to spend today suspending judgment of others, and opening myself to mercy. May God give us all the strength to live out God's desire of mercy today.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I am gentle


"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I have a small Irish harp that I first learned to play as a child of ten or so. My teacher scared me to death. I had to hold my hands just so, my posture had to be just right and she spent hours correcting my little imperfections. I love the harp but hated playing because I knew I was messing it all up.

Several years ago, my husband gave me harp lessons for Christmas. People who teach Celtic harp are hard to come by. This was a rare and very special gift. My teacher was self taught, with a laugh and a smile that immediately put me at ease. When I asked him about music books and exercise books he just smiled. He said not to worry and that he was going to teach me a song or two each time. With no music scores to look at, I was to relax and just follow what he was doing. At the end of the session, he made a cassette tape recording (the days before everything CD)of the songs I had learned and sent me home to practice. He would voice over instructions and I was to put the tape in and follow along. I cried when I left that lesson. The release I felt and the lightness in my heart made me so grateful for that gentle teacher. I was free to love the harp and find music in me again. The burden I had carried for all those years had been the fear that I was always wrong and always inadequate.

Many of us are heavy laden bearing burdens of inadequacy and failure. We walk around anxious about making mistakes, keeping ourselves from enjoying the world and the music around us. To our burdens, Jesus offers us release and rest, and we are invited to bury ourselves in the tenderness and love of God. Whatever has weighed us down is lifted and whatever bonds that kept us back are broken. Jesus is a gentle savior, a tender shepherd and a loving teacher. May today be the day we leave our burdens - our failures and anxiety- at the teacher's feet. And may we find our music our joy, our lives again.

Circle Games


“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’" Matthew 11:16-17

When our girls were young and were visiting with my parents, there was this inevitable pull to the circle games. Their town has a large circle which is beautifully landscaped now and where people picnic and play games. Then it wasn't well landscaped but there were always games. On Saturday nights during the summer a small group of volunteers from the community hosted games for children that included sack races, egg and spoon races, tug of war and the like. There were ribbons for the winners and a small trophy for the child who won the most ribbons. My girls were not top athletes and rarely won blue ribbons. Sometimes they didn't win any ribbons. Sometimes it was hard to watch as they did their best and it wasn't enough. Often my heart ached when, in their frustration, they fell out in tears coming home with no ribbons and total despair. I would suggest foolishly that the next time they forego the circle games. They would inevitably beg to go the next week. No matter how challenging it was for them, they still wanted to participate, they still wanted to try. They wanted to jump in, they wanted to live with an undying faith that sometime soon they would get better at the games. Sometime soon they would have some blue ribbons.

The people who listened to Jesus were not willing to jump in. Whether afraid or cautious or just jaded by life, they saw Jesus offering healing and transformation and would not move towards life. Their candles were burned out and they refused to act on the little faith they might keep hidden inside of them.

This Monday morning, I am all too aware of how easy it is to stop jumping in and how easy it is to stop trying. After the hurts a world can dish out, many of us are reluctant participants. Today, I want to remember that Jesus is inviting us to act on the little faith we might have left after all the bumps and scrapes of life. Jesus knows the humanity and cruelty of the world. And yet he offers Gods love in abundance to all of us. We might be reluctant and fearful but God is never reluctant to love and heal us. God has limitless healing and renewal for us all. God has an unlimited supply of blue ribbons. May we have the courage today to enter in and open our hearts anew to God's healing and transformation. May we act like trusting joyous children who know they are truly loved.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Servants all


But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. Mark 10:43-44

I served in a parish in Delaware some years back. I have always loved serving communion to folks and have always been touched by the notion of their willingness and openness to receive from me. Serving communion is an intimate act. You look in peoples eyes. You touch their hands. Some people open their mouths and have you lay the host on their tongue. You look in their eyes and see the love and pain all swirled together. Whatever their age and station in life, people come to the altar rail to be transformed. No matter how smug or familiar, how vulnerable and awkward, they come forward to receive something from God. I have always been humbled by the real privilege it is to serve others in this way. One man left an enormous impression on me. He was a active part of the community, served in many capacities - and I remember him for none of those things. I remember him for his hands. They were calloused and rough. He worked long hours all year long but especially before the holidays. He grew Christmas trees, and there was never an experience more delightful than going to his farm too cut down a tree. He offered his hands at the altar, the sweetest, kindest man with the roughest of hands, gouged and marked by the work he did in all weathers. And I always thought, every week, how these hands reminded me of Jesus.

Jesus said to his disciples that if they wishes to be great, they must be humble and a servant. Their hands and lives must show the callouses and the gnarling of loved worked out for others. The outward roughness showing a tender willingness to be a servant.

May this day be a day when we serve others. May we draw close to God by bending down, humbling ourselves and offering our hands and lives for others. May we be conduits of God's love through our hearts and hands this day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What did you hope to see?


"What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?" Matthew 11:7

I am visiting in North Carolina, in the midst of my ancestral home, with Native women from the Methodist Church. It is breathtakingly beautiful, here in the heart of the Smokey Mountains at Lake Janaluska Conference Center. Named for a Cherokee Chief, this beautiful spot is surely eclipsed by the beauty of the women who are gathered here. Faithful and tender, full of laughter and joy, they have gathered here to strengthen one another in their faith, to care for their bodies and to learn how to serve their communities better. I feel blessed to be here with them. A beautiful place with more beautiful women. God's radiance displayed in the wilderness and in the tenderness.

Jesus saw people coming hoping for a spectacle, a form of religious entertainment, something to break up pain and confusion of their lives. They were confused by John and more confused by Jesus. They expected God representative to be more spectacular than royalty, able to do top notch parlor tricks. They did not expect to see humility and tenderness. They wanted something more while their were experiencing the whole universe - God's love incarnated for them willing to be broken for the whole world. They saw a man and wanted a glitzy wizard.

I pray that today, I can witness God in the midst of the people, gathered with the women who are gathered here to learn and grow. I pray that God will bless me to see the beauty in the humble, the glorious in the average and the power in the humble and tender.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Go Tell John


“Go and tell John what you hear and see:the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.' Matthew 11:4-5

Tell John my cousin
tell the world you see
what love can do.

Tell it out mountains and rivers
love has made a change for the
good people hear the
heartbeat of God.

Tell me that you can't
help but smile tell me you aren't
able to keep from grinning
as God passes by.

Tell it out don't
hold back love
is coming round and full
sweet and healing
the touch of God.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cup of Water


"And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because they are a disciple, truly, I say to you, they will by no means lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42

My daughters, when small, used to have trouble going to sleep at night. I remember how important getting just one more cup of water was to them. They were so dry and never ever going to be able to fall asleep unless they took care of their terrible thirst. It was a torturous time for these parents, wanting desperately for their girls to sleep, wanting desperately to fill their needs, and wanting to stop the long, invloved process of stalling bedtime. They are no longer little ones and we all somehow survived bedtime and childhood thirst, but I often wonder about those little ones who are refused a cup of water, a shelter for the night and a small amount of food in their bellies. Across our world and right here in our neighborhoods there are children in that kind of need.

Jesus had tough words to say to the disciples. He tells them that he has come not to bring peace but the sword. And then promises them if they give a cup of water to the least, they will have their reward. None of us wants to go into battle, particularly over theology or religion. I think that is not the sword Jesus was drawing. I think he might have been drawing the sword of compassion, where cultural norms are sliced through so that poor people can thrive. Selfishness and private religion is challenged by compassion.

Today, I want to live my day with the compassion of Christ, seeing the needs of others before my own. I want to set aside convention for the care of others. I pray that we can all take up the sword of compassion, where we live for others and not for ourselves alone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Whispers in the dark


“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops." Matthew 10:26-27

When I was a child in the summer, my friends and I had a great hiding place in dunes. The bushes had grown tall and the sand underneath, blown by the wind, had carved out a hiding place. Even in daylight it was shadowy and cool. We would sit there for hours sharing a snack and telling our secrets. We would talk about religion and compare schools, families and siblings. It wasn't a competitive place. Rather it was a gentle place to share the normal fears of life of children growing up. You can no longer access this place because the dunes are cordoned off for their protection.

We all have secret dreams and hopes that we whisper in the dark but fear to talk about in the light. Jesus told his disciples not to be afraid because we are worth much more than sparrows and that God cares for us tenderly and completely. God made us as we are, carefully and tenderly and what we fear to dream God has planted in our hearts.

Today, I want to be less fearful with my hope and dreams. I want to tell what God has planted in the dark no matter how people react. I often discount myself, as many people do, thinking that what I have to offer is inadequate or insignificant. Jesus reminds us of our worth today and I want to live this day, trusting that God is caring for us tenderly. I want to live this day acting on God's love. May we all take heart that what we have heard in the dark will be a blessing in the light of day today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sheep among Wolves


“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Matthew 10:16

One of the things I am not terribly good at is politics. I think no one should have hidden agendas and we should talk openly and honestly with one another. Sometimes that gets me in trouble. People want to manipulate a system for gain and I will have no part of it. I don't make friends in high places because of that.

Jesus sends his disciples out and tells them they are like sheep among wolves. They are food to wolves. Sheep are not the brightest animals in God's kingdom. Nor are they the prettiest or most sacred. For people in the region where Jesus was speaking, they were an important staple of life, so prized highly and guarded well. So, Jesus sends his beloved disciples out and warms them to be careful. He knows the world wants to devour them. He knows some people will want to ridicule them and catch them in a lie, or a misstep. Some will play childish games with the disciples' faithfulness. They are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. It is hard not to be jaded when being like the serpents. Innocence and compassion often go by the wayside.

Today, I want to spend time renewing my dove-like qualities. It is too easy for me to be only wise and careful after experiencing the wolves in this world. It is harder to be open, loving and trusting. And it is where God is calling us today. To innocence, trust and love. So I pray that we all take a great chance and renew our innocence and compassion. Our world, so broken by political cruelty needs the tenderness that doves and sheep can provide.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day


Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. Matthew 10:9-10

Columbus Day is a challenge for Native people. As a Cherokee, I don't think of my ancestors sitting around waiting to be discovered. And yet, I serve in a town with many people of Italian ancestry. There will be a parade and festivities, and although the parade and festivities are called "It's Great to Live in Harrison Day", everything resembles the Columbus Day festivities of my youth. Some people consider Columbus a hero. Native people have a hard time honoring a man who took our people home as prizes or booty. Claiming land that was occupied, Columbus was acting in ignorance (and maybe arrogance), but was also under charge from royalty. All these centuries later, one thing we can give thanks for as native people is that we have survived. We can tell our stories.

Jesus sends the disciples out in a markedly different way than Columbus was dispatched. He sent them out without anything, they were to be humble. Columbus had ships and stored food and awaited a great treasure if he came home successful. Jesus sent them out for the restoration and healing of others. Columbus was a devout Christian and yet his culture and leadership was concerned with acquiring dominance in finances and lands. Jesus asked his disciples to trust God for their food and rest.

Today, I want to give thanks for my ancestors who welcomed the first arrivals from Europe. They greeted them with peace and hospitality, as if they had heard already the direction of Jesus. And I want to give thanks for Columbus and the spirit of discovery. He was driven and fearful at the same time - as most of us are as we enter new worlds and different cultures. I pray that my responses to the new experiences I have today will be peace and welcome, generosity and curiosity. May God teach us all today to be humble hosts in a world that the Creator has graciously given us.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

First last, last first


"Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age--houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." Mark 10:29-31

I always struggle with this Gospel from Mark when it comes around. This quote from Jesus is from the part of the Gospel where Jesus tells the rich young man to give away all he has and follow him. The boy is broken-hearted for the people and things that have given him life he now must put down. His identity is wrapped up in his wealth, or so he thinks. Jesus invites him to let go of the things that keep him from relying on God. When we are poor and broken we will gladly scream for help - from God or anyone else. But how often do we wait to the very last to talk with God about our needs?

We are all rich young men, gifted people all, who need to be reminded in this season, that those who look like the winners and heroes in this world are not the world champions in God's eyes. What ever team you root for to be world champs in baseball, football, basketball or hockey - well none of these winners take precedence with God. The person who is willing to put belongings and pride aside and welcome the least - those are God's chosen, God's beloved. Those of us who would be first must be willing to love and serve the most difficult among us. They are heroes and beloved in God's kingdom - the ones who work in the shadows, the ones who care for the overlooked, the ones who put others first - these are the champs forever.

May this Sunday be a day where we bravely let got of pride and vanity and all other treasures and skills we use to look down on others. May we pick up a broom and sponge and get working for love. For God only asks us to give up a little so we might know love fully. Today I want to try to let go of those barriers and open my heart and hands to God's people.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lord of the Harvest


“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38

I am celebrating a friend's wedding today in Delaware. We are stating in a hotel in Middletown where I served as Rector. When we moved here in 1996, it was a farming community and life revolved around planting and harvest. There were no motels in town let alone any fast food places nor anywhere to buy underwear. There were several feed and seed places and a few restaurants where local people gathered. Now here we are during harvest season and the main roads in town now sport every chain restaurant and store along with a Walmart. We drove back roads last night and saw farming life continuing, and we also stopped in Walmart for missing sundries. I had to wonder where the local people gather now. My time here was a time of growth and expansion and the congregation I served grew and blossomed in that time.

Today we here Jesus invite his disciples to serve God, sending them out with power and humility. They knew who was the Lord of the harvest, they knew that God was supplying and they were reaping for God. It was a harvest, not in a competitive market, but a harvest of healing and restoration. All harvests are a gift from God. No matter how good we are at farming, buying and selling or preaching and teaching, what we are able to accomplish is truly a gift from God. Driving down the main road last night I was wondering about which of all these new stores and things were really a gift from God, places that would build people up and restore their lives.
I don't have an answer - I just wonder.

Today, as we participate with friends and strangers in this wedding, I want to remember that this occasion is a gift from God, an opportunity to know God's blessings in the flesh. It is an opportunity to proclaim God's goodness and love. It is a time of harvest. In this season of harvest, I pray that all of us remember that all we have and all we can do are gifts from God. We are blessed by the Lord of the harvest. May we have the courage to spread the blessing around.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Yes, Lord


When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. Matthew 9:28-30

Yes Lord
We all see things differently
same words bounce wide for some hit
home for others and we blind
lame awkward and afraid come
to you.

Yes Lord we took
the wrong path and we wandered light
slipping away darkness and shadow
our comfort and shame we limped
in the shelter of the trees praying
for a sliver of light.

Yes Lord we got distracted like
attention deficit children sparkling tinsel
reflecting sequins took our attention
laughing we followed bobble and shimmers
and then we were alone.

Yes Lord we are on the road with you
whether we can see or not
whether we can hear or not
whether we can speak or not
Yes Lord, you are with us.

Yes Lord if I get to speak if
I ever make it home if I
can walk and see again well then
I will tell them all the story shout
it from my porch and sing loud
in the night time, Yes Lord.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take heart, daughter


“Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” Matthew 9:22

As some of you know, I am serving in the town where I grew up and where my father served for 28 years as the Presbyterian minister in town. He retired in 1985, so he has been gone for a generation, but there are still plenty of people who remember him. Honestly, he was sometimes larger than life and people knew he cared. He never let lines of color or creed, keep him from having friends and colleagues. He was also a loving, if strict father and I always felt safe and cared for with him. He taught me well about how to serve God and the church. Despite all I learned in seminary, most often my ministry is the direct reflection of the life and faith lessons I learned from my dad. He had a way of settling me down and restoring my faith by a small word and a gentle bear hug.

Today, we hear Jesus call the woman daughter and assure her that she was healed. She took a risk to touch him and he took a leap in love and healed her. We are all daughters and sons, reaching for the comfort and healing a loving parent can provide. We are all aching to be restored, bleeding and spent. God knows this and the author of love aches to bring us this healing and love.

May today be the day where we reach out in faith. May today be the day where we seek God in our darkest and most persistent pain. May we know God as a loving parent who is ready with a gentle touch and complete restoration. May we take one step in faith today into the arms of the one who loves us completely.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No mercy


“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’" Matthew 9:12-13

I have always been fascinated with pirates. I have a figurine of Anne Bonny, the famous female pirate. She was famed for her fierce fighting and her lack of mercy. When the Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out, I was thrilled and enthralled. Pirates are thieves and violent folks who live by a code known only to themselves. They were feared and reviled throughout history. And they have enthralled us also - their sense of adventure and lawlessness.

Today we read the story of the calling of Matthew. The religious leadership was furious with Jesus - he was hanging out with the worst kind of people, the scourge of society. Tax collectors were feared and loathed - just as pirate were. People felt unsafe and dirty in their presence. And there was Jesus in the midst of them and calling one of society's filth to be his disciple.

We live today in a world where upstanding citizens shun the lowly and refuse health care and basic needs from the poor. They are spurned from society and yet in many cases society has created the place that they are in. And there are also outlaws among us, people who live by stealing and usury in order to survive. And Jesus called disciples from among the righteous and society's outcasts and outlaws. God loves the pirates as well as the proper, the broken as well as the whole. God loves the mercy and kindness we show. God is less impressed when we act like holy martyrs.
May we all remember that Gods love is for all- the pirate and the victim, the rich and poor, law abiding and lawless alike. We are all these people at times. May we rejoice today that Jesus lives among us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Get Up


“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Matthew 9:6

I come from a long line of people named WalkingStick. My mother's maiden name is WalkingStick and my father used to joke that he took his walking stick everywhere he went. Having a name like WalkingStick, people often want to know its origin then the conversation invariably moves to the other kind of walking sticks or canes. People often then tell me stories of overcoming illness, their experience walking with a cane or a walking stick, and other stories that illuminate a time when they have leaned on others and trusted God for their well being. I am amazed how one little name can evoke such powerful memories. And I am thrilled that I can lean on my heritage, as there have been many wonderful people who have come before me in the Cherokee nation. I am also grateful that I can lean on my faith as God has provided me with the promise to heal me and make me strong.

We hear today of the man who was paralyzed and has been made whole. The scribes are upset because Jesus told the man his sins were forgiven. Jesus upset them more, by making him whole and inviting him to get up and walk on home. We are sometimes upset when what we know for sure is changed. We can sometimes rely too much on the canes and walking sticks that we have known and fail to open ourselves for God's healing. We can be afraid of forgiveness simply because if forgiven, we can no longer hold onto the ways we have known.

We are in changing times and many people are upset that what they once relied on has gone away. Today, I want to remember that so many are upset and so many are in transition. And I want to remember that Jesus is right in the midst of the broken people aching for healing and the frightened people aching for stability. May God grant us all patience today as we walk with Christ through all the changes that are before us.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Among Pigs


“What have you to do with us, O Son of God?" Matthew 8:29

I have been looking at a lot of pictures this week, some from the wedding and some from church events. I have always been a full-bodied woman, and I have always hated looking at pictures of myself. This week body image and the harsh words flung my direction as a child come back in a flash. I clearly remember being called a pig quite often.

When I read this Gospel from Matthew, I have always felt sorry for the farmer who owned the pigs and the pigs themselves. Oh, I know that pork is not Kosher, and that the symbolism and rejection (of Jesus along with the demons and the pigs) is what is important here, but I have always had sympathy for the pigs. They didn't deserved to house demons, let alone be moved to leap to their deaths. I also know that there are many young boys and girls, who, because of their body and the cultural push to be very, very thin, who think about ending their own existence. They are possessed with the demons of failure and rejection. They are treated like un-kosher animals - shunned and rejected. And yet, the story from Matthew talked about Jesus who is shunned despite the fact that he has healed the troubled man. Love that strong and evident also frightens people. Love was rejected that day. It was an all around painful event, except for the healing of the young man. I have always wondered if there was restoration for the farmers' loss.

Today, I pray that we can all accept and welcome one another as beloved and beautiful. I pray that I might be able to be a conduit of Gods love in a world that judges so harshly. I pray that I can find a way to reach out to the rejected and shunned among us. For Gods love flourishes among the rejected, among the shunned, among the losers and the failures. Jesus came to the caves, to the demented man and he come among us in our darkest hours.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Yoke is Easy


“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

They told me that the shipment was about 45,000 pounds of pumpkin. A neighboring parish hosts this event called the pumpkin patch. The monies raised go to support several outreach projects. And Thursday night all these pumpkins had to be unloaded.
When we arrived there, my husband, our daughter Emily, and myself, there was a boy scout leader and his troop along with several other small groups of people. The truck was large and pretty full. More and more people came to help. We formed lines, human chains of pumpkin passers, not unlike the water brigades of old. We worked for little more than an hour and the load was finally off the truck and in piles on the ground ready for sale. What could have been an overwhelming job and a tremendous burden was lighter because folks of all ages worked together.

Many of the challenges we all face seem like that load of pumpkins - way too much for one person to unload. The challenges of life, personal, financial and communal, can often overwhelm us and make us feel unable to cope with our daily lives. And to all of us who feel like the weight of the world is bearing down on us, Jesus tells us that not only will he comfort us, but will lighten our burdens and walk with us as we move through life. Jesus says he will act like the community that moved so many pumpkins - coming together to make a big job small, a huge challenge completely manageable and a joy returned.

Today may we trust God with our burdens. May we have the courage to share our journey with others and find a community to share challenges with. May we know well that Jesus will give us comfort, lighten our load and return our joy.

Great Calm


Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. Matthew 8:26
There was a great storm in our house this morning. The kids who got married last Saturday stayed with us last night so their Dad could drive them to the airport this morning. Off to a honeymoon in Hawaii. I am so glad for them and so glad that the wedding and everything around the wedding went so well.And it feels as if a whirlwind has subsided. It feels as of there is a great calm descending, if but for a few minutes.

I realize, as I say these things, that my family and these wonderful events are life threatening like a storm, but can become such a vortex of activity that joy and peace can be crushed in the process. We can all get overwhelmed by the busyness. So, for today, I am going to be thankful for the great calm, these few moments of quiet. And I want to remember that Jesus was in the boat during the storm, as well as the calm in the midst of the storm. Jesus is with us in all the boats on all the rough seas we travel. Today, I want to remember that and ask God for the calm I need to weather what is ahead.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Centurion's Faith


“Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed." Matthew 8:8

He knew death was possible
as his colleague lay sick
gray no breath no recognition
all the signs of life lost.

He knew his place
and understood his own power
trained to lead
he knew how to follow.

The soldier knew Jesus
could heal his companion
a solider of muscle and steel
he ached from the heart.

He knew he had wounds
that would repel God
and yet loved welled up
where there was no power.

Jesus knew the man's faith
solid as rock passionate and true
he would die for his country
and risk it all for his friend.

Jesus knew your need
heard you weeping in the night
knew that your failure
holds you back from asking.

Jesus knew your disease
your sins do not contain you
he looks on a child who aches
to be free.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sand and Rock




"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." Matthew 7:25-26

When our children were small, we would often make one last trip to the beach at the end of the summer. They loved swimming in the ocean, riding waves and digging in the sand. Hours were spent constructing sand castles and elaborate moats to keep the ocean out. On the last walk on the beach in the summer, each of our girls would pick up as many shells as possible. I would often observe them as they filled their pockets with sand. An uncomfortable way to walk around, let alone sit for hours in the car, but they seemed compelled to do it. We would talk about our summer adventures on the ride home and eventually the collections of shells and sand would be mentioned. One year someone put it clearly,"I am gathering up summer, so I can spread it around during the winter." Sand is a tactile reminder of the fleeting season, of warmth and water, time suspended and life lived out of doors. Rocks remind us of what is solid and permanent, reliable through time and all seasons.
Every year about this time I am tempted to collect sand too, just to remember the time and people that flee away. We are in that cycle of the year, when we draw in, when we batten down and put away the summer things. And I always want to linger on the sand.

Jesus invites us to build upon the rock, the relationship of constancy and permanence that is found in God. He doesn't dismiss the beauty of summer and sand, the short bursts of fleeting summer but rather calls us to know what is firm and what is unreliable in our lives. God is reliable through storm and season. God is strength when we are weak and all our human relationships slide away into the sea. God invites us in this tender in-between season to remember who is permanent and holding us up throughout time.

May this first day of October, as summer fades away, be a reminder of the constancy and permanence of the Love God holds for us. No matter how we turn with the fashion and the seasons, God does not turn from us. God is unmoved by our negligence, always waiting for us to come home.