Thursday, December 31, 2009
Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.James 4:14
Tonight we will say goodbye to 2009 and welcome 2010. Another year, another time of turning, of resolutions and promises, of hopes and dreams. We let go of where we have been and look forward with hope for the future. Here are some of the hopes I have for 2010 - this new year and the new decade.
1. Laugh more every day.
2. Forgive myself and others quickly.
3. Make each new day a brand new start.
4. Live generously.
5. Share freely.
6. Pray constantly and ask for God's help in everything.
7. Dance when all else fails.
8. Sing whenever possible.
9. Hold everyone closely.
10. Cherish the love I have been given.
All the resolutions I have made over many years, have never really been kept up with for very long. But committing to love and prayer, well, those are things I can do and can increase. And I can count on God for everything more and more each day - with practice and prayer.
May this final day of 2009 be a blessed day, wherever you find yourself. And, dear friends, may the coming year be a time of great joy and overflowing abundance. God is with us in this new decade, may we rejoice in the time and love we have been given.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. John 4:49-50
My big football playing chaplain Daddy
sat in the window weeping, talking
to Jesus asking to spare my life and I awake
delirious with medicine overwhelmed with the image
My Daddy asking for help and crying.
I laid in bed and wondered light and shadow playing
with the possibility of life and death and surgery
it was today's surgery that would kill or save
and I was caught between hanging by faith's tread
and my Daddy's tears.
I was a little girl of twelve strong
and terrified so confident in adults so sure
of good results and then a crying father and
the possibility of pain and danger final moments
together, he on the window sill and me on the edge
My Daddy's faith rich and strong sang to me
during surgery, the promise of life pulsed through
the ether and the surgical theater and I was center
in the heart of God and surrounded by an awesome love.
Go; your child will live, the tears were answered
the heavens opened out of sight angels sang
and whispered your child will live
you, child, you will live.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
“Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” John 2:4
My mother came and spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us this year. Since my birthday falls on Christmas Eve, it was nice to have my mother here with us. She regaled my daughters with stories about the day I was born, on Christmas Eve in San Diego while my father was serving as Chaplain. He had six ships to visit for services. My grown daughters laugh and kid me and sometimes tease my mother who is prone to repeat her stories over and over. But they are also kind and attentive to their grandmother, tenderly caring for her and helping her around as needed.
The one thing about being a mother that doesn't change with age - either mine or the age of my children -is a deep understanding of the child who came from us. I can tell when my daughters are happy or sad, hurting or hiding, frightened or ashamed. The intimacy we shared in the first stages of life some how permeates even to this day. It is so with me and my mother, even though I sometimes wish it were not so. She gets me even when I don't get myself. And so it was with the mother of Jesus who prompted the first miracle in Cana. He didn't want to do it and was rather rude to his mother. But he also knew that she knew his capacity before he did - she was his mother and those early connections from the first stages of life when they shared a heart and their bodies were connected completely.
Today, I want to give thanks for my mother, for all mothers and others who are willing to be intimately connected to us. They know us and are willing to encourage us when we cannot see our potential for ourselves. I also pray that I can be a tender mother with my grown daughter, encouraging them and fostering a positive sense of self despite the challenges they face. May we all be those who encourage and nurture the young in our lives. And may God use us to make miracles of love happen in the lives of those who count on us every day.
Monday, December 28, 2009
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:‘A voice was heard in Ramah,wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children;she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’ Matthew 2:16-18
We humans are pretty miserable when we feel betrayed and jealous. Most of us just act out inappropriately to our family and friends. Everybody gives us wide berth for a bit and we settle down in time. Some people hold on to their anger longer and plot out how to get revenge, even though they never really plan to act it out. Others put all of their anger and jealousy on one sibling relationship or another. Some make a parent or child their target and just spend a life time sniping. Unfortunately, those who have power can do some real damage when they feel jealous and betray. Take Herod. Tricked by the wise men and jealous of the little boy who was getting all the attention, he orders all the baby boys to be killed in the region. I imagine some little girls perished in the massacre as well. For when people are set with instructions to kill, it is hard to be discreet. Killing takes over and all discretion and rationality go out the window. In the midst of our wonderfully hopeful Christmas story come the real bloody evil that humanity can so easily demonstrate. All inspired by jealousy and betrayal. Even a king who has everything can feel these things and destroy an entire generation of children- and parents and families along with them.
Today, we are invited to reflect on our human pettiness and ask God to help us be humble and forgiving. Whether we feel have been betrayed by wise guys, our friends, our family or a government program, we are invited to remember where those feelings can lead us if they go unchecked. Most of us don't have Herod's power, but we have the capacity to do damage to the most innocent in our midst. We are hurt and in hurting we can lash out. It is only human, and we are invited to seek new ways to deal with the hurt we feel. God is promising to be with us. In our hurt as well on our good days when all goes right. Now is a good time to seek forgiveness from those who toes we have stepped on when we have been hurt. God is revealed as we ask forgiveness and forgive others. I pray for the strength today to seek forgiveness for the hurt I have inflicted, ability to quickly forgive those who have hurt me, and for the understanding that God is in our midst, transforming our broken hearts into vessels of love and joy.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:16
I suspect that God's hands hold
our feet, our entire selves, tenderly
like mother father parent tenderness praying
for good days and gentle nights.
I imagine God's heart is full of hope
for each of us God leans on elbows dreaming
possibilities that we would embrace with open arms
that we would entertain with an open heart
that we would see word made flesh for us.
I fear that we are so ready to discount God's love
for us and deny the abundant imagining
we feel inadequate and we fear failure.
I know that loving is never failure trying again
is never a mistake, renewing and rebuilding are
the acts of Word made Flesh, Immanuel, God in us.
I pray today that these hands and feet
reach and hold love, might know within
God's tender hope and dreams for this old child.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.John 1:5
Over the past few days, I have presided over many services while also hosting my mother and other family for Christmas dinner. It is really a great joy to hear the laughter and singing that reverberated then and remains in my mind. People giving their hearts and souls to adore the infant Jesus and giving their all to and for one another. And no matter how hard we try, things get left out, bulletins have mistakes, people's feelings get hurt and the season swirls with failure as well as success. The darkness and hurt which inhabits human hearts is overwhelming and mysterious. How you can out many people in the same room who love each other very much and hurting happens is still a mystery hidden in darkness -why we do what we do some time eludes me. What I do know, is that despite it all, God loves u perfectly and wants, I repeats, WANTS, to be in the midst of our humanity with all our darkness and deceit.
In our household we try very hard to keep the twelve days of Christmas, through Epiphany, and enjoy the many ways we can celebrate the birth of Christ and God's love and activity revealed to the whole world. It is so easy, when the world is full of much darkness, and the skies are gray and filled with rain, to end the festivities and try to focus on the future and cleaning up. Some times it is easier to shut it all down than to linger in the quiet and sparkle on the coming days. Each new day has new gifts and revelations. I pray that I can open my heart and mind the the love which God has for us in every new day. And I pray that I can trust God completely yo bring the light I need - to believe that none of the world's darkness or the darkness within me can ever shut out the Light!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel, God with us. ”Matthew 1:23
We all have a part in the pageant. Kings and stars, shepherds and Angels, a different May and Joseph in every place. Today we all find a way to tell the story and to live the story. Some of us will preach and some of us will sing. Some will cook and decorate and others will travel to strange and familiar places. Some of us will be reluctant, others angry and frustrated and yet some of us will be bursting with enthusiasm. Some of us will cry and some will laugh. And many of us will be all these things before the day is through. The God with us, Immanuel event is not a perfect experience but a human experience. God in the midst of our traffic jams, failed puddings and our cranky relatives. God is in the forgotten presents, in our poverty and our anxiety. God is with us whether we want God or not. Here we are together with Immanuel.
I pray that today might be a day when we all live in the present, knowing Christ has gone before us and is with us even today. May we focus not on the failure or the in-completions on our lists, but on the abiding truth that God loves us each so much that a God-Child came for all of us. Came for all of us barren and fruitful alike. Cranky and Joyful alike. The angry and the sad, the truly annoying and almost completely wonderful of us all. God came to our humility that we might all know love without bounds, forgiveness in every moment and restoration for every broken heart.
Merry Christmas! Christ is born for all!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
"My soul magnifies the Lord,and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed." Luke 1:46-48
She was beating on the steering wheel
he was laying on the horn piercing green
anxiety strewn about blown by the stiff
cold blasts making every one bundle up abruptly
responding cruelly to the sales help.
A mother weeps within her limitations afraid
that Christmas is falling apart before it ever comes before
her eyes she sees piles of presents yet to wrap she questions
whether there is ever enough and which child
will cry first.
The collar and the black shirt are no armor
for the assault of the season.
People want from every where sickness threatens
the machines quit, the choir implodes
and silent night might only be found in
a forced inpatient setting.
Oh Mary and Elizabeth teach us to sing!
These times of bringing God into the world
labor is so wrenching tearing at our beings
twisting our good natures into wild
Oh Joseph and Zechariah, teach us patience!
We are so frail and human broken by the strain
and you perplexed by God trusted and went ahead.
We are afraid of failing afraid of going astray
lead us through the wilderness take us
to Bethlehem with songs on our lips and
a star up above.
We too would be radiant when the child comes
when Emmanuel, God with us bursts
into our frozen groaning world.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
For nothing will be impossible with God." Luke 1:37
The impossible church week is in full swing. This is the time of year when there is so much to do, so many bulletins to prepare, so many services to arrange and there are shut in to visit. Our Christmas pageant had been moved from Christmas Eve to Advent 4 (December 20th) to ease the burden on parents and children alike. We had a lovely day planned with the pageant in the morning, the evening filled with greening, evensong and a potluck. Last night there was a Vestry Meeting with Christmas Party scheduled and there is still the wondrous festivities on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There were 8 inches of snow overnight between Saturday and Sunday. No one came to the 8 am service and I feared the pageant service would be the same. We had a good crowd, huge for the day after our first big snow of the year. The impossible was possible and everyone had a lovely time and it was a wonderful pageant and great times in the evening. And Monday morning rolled around and I found out that our Administrator was very ill with a virus. And I thought for a time that the impossible had won.
One of my daughters came to my aid and dove in to get the bulletins together. My husband helped get the presents for the angel children (our annual outreach) - we had nearly 70 this year. And another daughter will help me get food delivered to a shut in. Members of the Vestry offered to do their part to help with our angels and other preparation needs. Hands reached out to help in every direction. Even though I panicked and was fearful, it is truly a time where nothing will be impossible with God. When love is alive in the midst of a community -God is there - and nothing is impossible.
Today, I want to trust God to make the coming days glorious despite the challenges we face. God incarnate, Emmanuel, God with us, understands what it is like to be born amidst human impossibility. God knows that sickness, weather and all sorts of other things trip us up and we fall. And God has promised that we would all move beyond our impossible situations, beyond the stuck and stubborn messes that look and feel like failure. God promises to make our offerings holy and the impossible possible. Christ is coming into the world and we have only to make ready anew for his appearing. Emmanuel id drawing near and our tears will turn to laughter before long.
Monday, December 21, 2009
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”Luke 1:13-17
The angel said to Zechariah that he prayer had been heard. It is written in the account of the story, but I am sure Zechariah might have said (at least to himself, if not aloud) "what took you so long?" He must have prayed a million prayers over a long span of time and experienced some frustration and maybe a small bit of doubt. We do know that Zechariah, a priest, challenged the Angel Gabriel and was struck dumb for the duration of his wife's pregnancy. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were well advanced in years and they had no children after many years of prayers and trusting God. They were faithful people, but were puzzled and confused by God's timing.
I will speak for myself and probably what I say will resonate with others - but I am often confounded by God's timing, throughout history and in my own life. It seems that children come, in God's time and not when requested or at a convenient age,comfortable circumstance or a particularly good time. The gifts and miracles we often prayer for come.And they come when we are least prepared and most incredulous. God's love for us is without end and the Creator's ability to surprise and challenge us seems likewise. This is the season of whimsy - sending a pregnant woman to Bethlehem to a stable for her child who would be born the Savior of the world. Hid attendants were sheep, cows, chickens and other assorted animals. He was visited by shepherds and king. Puzzling and confusing - and wonderfully tender and real for then and now.
May we be prepared for the answers to our prayers to come at the most whimsical and unsuspected time. May we rejoice that God is not practical and wonder of God's perfect and ridiculous timing. And may we all continue to pray, knowing God will answer in the most surprising and complete ways.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Luke 1:46-48
We had a good deal of snow overnight and although it has been called a blizzard or the winter wallop of 2009, it was really just a good snow -about 8 inches. Now I realize this would paralyze some place in the country, but not here. I trudged next door to the church and opened up at the regular time for the 8 o'clock service. The heat was on, and I turned the lights on and lit the candles. I sat and waited. At 8, I rang the bells, the peals echoing across the snow, reverberating through a near silent town. Our roads are cleared but it is very cold and overcast. I sat and read the lessons out loud to myself and no one came. I prayed for everyone and everything. And then I turned out some lights and came home. Maybe we'll have folks for the 10:30 am service - our Christmas pageant.Since this is my first time through here, there is no script for how this should all go - when we have a snow like this. I just have to wait and see what happens a little later.
Mary was waiting to see what happened a little later. She had been overwhelmed by the angel, threatened by her village, comforted by Joseph's kindness and didn't know what to do. She went to see Elizabeth. And in her cousin's eyes and words she not only found strength to go on, she found her spirit singing, rejoicing for God's touch in her life. Mary's life was always a challenge, people always put on her more than she could bear, but in this moment with dear Elizabeth, she felt the full love of God in her life. And she couldn't help herself. She had to sing.
Today, despite the challenges of weather and schedules, I want to remember and know God's love and activity in my life. I feel like singing despite the many uncertainties, because I know that God is with us. Waiting and seeing can be challenging for many of us. I know it is for me. At least today, I want to spend my time, rejoicing in God's love in my life, God's full presence in this community. I pray that whatever is ahead of us today, we can go forward with joy, knowing God is with us.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Matthew 25:35-36
Yesterday was my day off and the day when I was going to accomplish many things that have been left undone. Things got off to a slow start first thing in the morning for lots good reasons and interruptions, by the time Emily and I set out we were about 2 hours behind schedule. Mark was en route to pick up Phoebe from college. We started our errands and were heading to Rye when the car began to sound funny and I realized I had a flat tire. WE called our mechanic and he said everyone had gone out to lunch. As we sat there in the cold, he got back on the line and said someone was still in the shop and they would come. We sat for about a half an hour. It was a very cold day. Fortunately we had some coffee with us and we laughed about our circumstances. Although I had the hazard lights on, and several police cars passed us, no one stopped to help. When the guys from our shop finally arrived, it felt like angels had arrived to help us. They quickly had the spare on, took the faulty tire and we were on our way. We checked back later and the put the repaired tire back on the car. We felt visited by deep kindness, which there seems to be little of, as people scurry around making ready for the holidays.
Today, I want to remember that God visits us in the places where we visit others in their hour of need. God is with us, the Emmanuel, asks us as we prepare for his birth, to reach out to strangers in need. We are all too busy, all to stressed. And yet, God invites us today to open our hearts and make room for the broken strangers, for in doing so we will welcome Christ. I pray that today, I can be observant enough to see the need and courageous enough to respond. May we all invite God in, the welcomed stranger, the Christ child born in a stable to love the world.
Friday, December 18, 2009
For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Matthew 25:29
It is easy for us, so many years on, to think about Shakespeare as the best playwright and poet of all times, and envy his abundance of talent and gift. It becomes a different story when one looks closer. Doing theatre was a challenging exercise in his time. The law was always trying to shut them down. There was never any money. They fled from location to location, sometimes evicted, sometimes burned out. They actors were vain and unreliable and the competition deadly. On top of that, there was the reality that every living script was being rewritten by others who spoke words better to their liking. The genius we applaud and honor in this day was just trying to get by, by the skin of his teeth. Just like most artists today. They have talent but the worlds and odds are against them. Many decide to give up and quit their art because it is too hard. But the good news is for those who use the gifts they have, whatever gifts those are, more will be given to them. The Creator is abundant and benevolent with the creative creatures.
What does this say to us today, the parable of the talents? In a time of recession and uncertainty, many are forced to give up on their dreams and survive. And yet God promises that there is an abundance of talents, riches, gifts for all of us if we are willing to put ourselves out there. It is risky business these days. The odds are completely against any positive creative force. And yet God reminds us today that if we use our gifts they will increase. As we are generous, we will receive generously. It's a matter of stepping out without a net - a task hard for ever single one of us.
Today, despite the challenges and restraints I face, I ask God to give me the energy and strength to step out, to use what I have for the good of others. And I ask God to be faithful and supply renewing energy and creativity for the days to come. Living by faith is risky business. And it is also full of delight and joy. May we trust God today and expect fullness and joy.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:13
Advent is a time of watching and waiting. And for most of us, it is a time to scurry around trying to get good gifts for our families, while making all of the other preparations for the holidays. We cut a tree last weekend and brought it in last night. We will probably set it up today or tomorrow and then decorate it in a day or two. In our family we don't like to get the tree up too early but we have company coming and we're on a deadline. There always seems so much to do and so little time. We can all become a bit frantic. Things get lost or overlooked and in all the busy-ness of the season we can forget to watch and wait. I remember as a child sitting by the tree for hours, sometimes laying underneath watching the lights twinkle, wait desperately for Christmas. I was completely anxious for Santa to come and my whole body was poised, watching and waiting, hoping to speed up time. These days, I only wish to slow the time down.
Jesus tells a parable of the wise and foolish virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. The foolish didn't prepare for the lateness of the arrival hour, didn't think they would be surprised. They knew how it should go and didn't expect anything out of the ordinary. They thought they were in control of things and then got surprised by being short on oil and then left out of the party. I surely feel like one of the foolish ones these days, not being as prepared as I would like, not having everything ready for the big day and the arrival of family and friends. I am not sure that Jesus wants us to be perfect Martha Stewart hostesses. I am convinced that God wants our hearts ready, hearts filled with abundance and compassion as we wait for Emmanuel -God with us to come. Having extra oil is as much about making room for others and the complexities of life, rather than being perfect.
So today, I want to work at making room. I want to watch and wait with the anxious, hopeful expectancy of youth which does not limit imagination or love. I want to have these last days of Advent not be about tasks but about relationships, preparing for love to come my way. May we all give our time to making room for love to come our way. Emmanuel - God with us.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Who then is the faithful and wise servant,whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Matthew 24:45-46
I just returned late last night from attending the meeting of the United Way Board. We heard about the significant need in our country and how the need for emergency food and shelter has increased 40% and 50% in some places. We met with members from overseas United Ways and we talked about the increased need seen around the world. We sat comfortably and were well fed. And that always makes me a bit uncomfortable. As an American, I am struck by how much we have as a people, and how much we have to share with others -not only with our immediate neighbors in our communities but with the vast world of people in need just beyond our borders. We can complain about a downturn in economies, but God calls for more than conversation. God calls for action.
Today, I want to be open to the need of others around me. It is so easy for me, as I prepare for Christmas, to walk hurriedly in and out of stores. Sometimes even the ringing of the bells by the Salvation Army bothers me. And yet, it is the ringing of the bell, the clarion call for us all to be about God's business - the master's business -feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, protecting the widows and children. Those needs have not changed since the beginning of time. May we all take the time, the few moments, to feed others today. With our work and with our giving. For God will be known this season as we give ourselves away to others.
Monday, December 14, 2009
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:31
In many Native traditions we talk about things spiritual and things relational, all in the context of the four directions. We honor the gifts of each directions, knowing that each direction, with its related winds and weathers, teach us how to live with one another. We understand that each has significant power and gifts and we must respect all of these gifts in order to live in loving respect with our community and with the larger communities around us. When I have participated in multi-tribal worship services, we often use a prayer to the four sacred directions, honoring and inviting all our relations to join us in the gathered circle.
When I read this Gospel from Matthew, I cannot help but think of my Native relations and how Christ's promise for the end of the age is a united family, a restored community where everyone understands themselves as part of one tribe, one family, knit together in love and respect. In this final week of Advent, I am reminded how splintered the world is and how fractured many of our families are, and how many tribes are splintered over ancient disputes. And yet, I am encouraged because God's activity is to bring all of us together, to bind our wounds and to make us one family again.
My prayer for today is that I can honor all of the gifts and people that I encounter today. From the four directions, and very different places, I will encounter differences and strangeness that I can welcome or turn away from. I ask today to be given the strength to welcome all as lost relatives, parts of my extended family, now gathered again. May we all be given God's grace today to know others as family and to honor them with the dignity and honor we give to our own.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Advent 3 - The Lord is Near
We rush and are always late dashing
in and out the cold is biting we steam
windows with our breath we hope the lines are short
we hope that we will make it through.
We snip and bite wailing
exhaustion and anxiety our companions
failure and inadequacy our ghosts.
Day and night we are haunted
we never feel complete.
The Lord is near and we say hold on
I am not ready you'll have to keep
yourself busy, you'll have to wait I can't
focus on that now.
The Lord is near the skies a brilliant
cobalt blue blackness stars alive with crisp
life and possibilities, we won't linger for
the cold, the chores, the time of our life.
The Lord id near and whispers look up and see
brilliant beauty in the night.
If you can't sleep, look up
and if you rise early in panic look up
for love and comfort are at hand, need not
worry yourself today.
God is drawing near and an unkempt stable
is completely adequate, totally whole and holy.
No perfect performance, no right words
or correct clothing can match what God has brought-
a child, small and mild, like we once were
comes to bring us peace.
Today, linger by the messy straw, the stained places
the shadows and in the cold, linger
for God is drawing near.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment,and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:4-5
The search for the right Christmas Tree has always been a challenge in our household. When Emily was small and we lived in Boulder, Colorado, we had friends who had land up in the mountains. They took us up to their land and we hiked around in some of the most glorious scenery imaginable. We picked a tree and as we cut it down the sun began to set. What was a cold December day became frigid. We all ran for our cars, dragging our trees, rosy cheeked and rushing to beat the descending cold. When we had three young girls at home, whether we cut one down or chose one from a lot, there was always a big argument. Tall and skinny, full and fat. It would go on for a long time and we would finally have to find a way to compromise. It was always hilarious and always fully charged, flushed cheeked, full-voiced cold December. We went to look for a tree to cut down yesterday, but the farm we found charged an exorbitant rate for the wrong kind of puny tree. We were sad and frustrated and it was freezing cold, so we didn't liner. We will set out today from our new home, ready to explore the possibilities and challenges to celebrating the season in a new community.
One of the things I have realized is that being in a new place, even when much of it is familiar, is very challenging. I am really not sure where I put all the winter gloves and scarves when we unpacked in the heat of June. It wasn't a priority then, but it sure is now. Those kind of small things can be very frustrating and can lead to melt downs. I had a little bit of one yesterday. Too many small things collided and too may things had been put away without being found. It happens. We are all human and when we try to celebrate Christmas in a new place, it can be so challenging that we can lose perspective - if but for a few moments.
So today, I am committed to finding joy in the morning. Even if we don't find the perfect Christmas tree, settling for what is in front of us is going to be wonderful and fine too. Expectations can get in the way of enjoying and tenderly loving the people around us. May we all rejoice that anger and frustration, tears and sighs are fleeting and God promises to renew and make a home for us right where we are. May this day be a day of trusting Gof to find joy for us, right where we are.
Friday, December 11, 2009
The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. Revelation 2:26-28
Today is my husband Mark's birthday. Today has been proceeded by what most would say was a challenging week. Nothing life threatening but a series of trials and tests, stumbles and sick animals. The time during Advent is pretty stressful in a clergy household as it is. That is the nature of things. Adding to that is trying to get ready for the first Christmas in our new home. Messy days and weeks are bound to happen. Life happens - and Mark is one of the few people I know who has faced these ups and downs with grace, tenderness and a sense of humor. I am blessed.
The promise from Revelation is that those who keep Christ's works, they will receive the morning star. Well, this is not the end of any age or anything, but I think that Mark should be receiving his morning star pretty soon. He has kept the work of Christ - love with patience, compassion and tenderness - all of his days. He finds way to renew broken things, makes up stories to cheer our days, lightens everyone's load by sharing the work. Reading at our daughter's wedding, he brought tears to every eye, all of us knowing how much and how well he loves us all. Can there be any better gift?
I do not know how to wrap a morning star, nor whether I will be able to find one today for him. What I will do is try to make very moment of his birthday full of the light and love he brings to all of us. I pray that God gives me the strength today to live love for my partner of so many years. And may God bless us all today with the strength to persist to the end. May we all see the morning star, the promise of love eternal, in our lives today.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.
Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
It was a day that had a very rough beginning with a very ill animal and a bunch of schedules and tasks that had to be rearranged. I did very few of the things I thought I would today. And there were moments when the day seemed overwhelming. But somehow we made it through - a good vet, a sense of humor and God watching out for all of us. Some days, the greatest blessing is just making it through and today was one of those.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:12
It was a stormy night and the wind has been whipping dead leaves around, slapping wet detritus everywhere, pasting gloom about the neighborhood. The dog wouldn't even go out this morning. She just looked at me and looked at the open door and slunk away. It is a stormy day, a scene ripe for scary movies, dark back alleys and all things humble, grimy and hidden. A day when sensible people of leisure pull the covers up and go back to sleep. But who then is really a sensible person of leisure? All of us have to face the day at some point.
When I was in college I lived in Baltimore and spent a great deal of time photographing back alleys and the hidden parts of this gritty American City. In the 70's, Baltimore was very rough around the edges and completely overlooked. The waterfront was dirty and dangerous, the downtown completely down at the heels. Thiry plus years later it has become a destination, a rough diamond, shined and polished now for public consumption. But in those days, she was just her rough, foul-mouthed humble self. A place to be real.
Jesus invites us, as we walk these Advent days -the dark and stormy ones as well as the bright, glittering days- to remember that it is the humble places where God abides. It is among the simple, humble people that God comes to dwell. God is found in our back alleys and not in our star-studded gala evenings. Gos comes in the broken and contrite places and promises to dwell with us, incarnate, real and alive in our knowing.
Today, I want to walk this day, not overlooking the humble or the messy, but looking closer to find God. I want to see God in my most broken down and humble back alleys. May we all find God today in the midst of our messy humanity - right where God has promised to be.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
Advent is a time of waiting, occurring during the year's dark time when the world seems lifeless. It is the end of the year, when the days are their shortest and the light is most refracted. In this part of the world the sun sets very early, and the darkness dominates our landscapes. We are waiting, waiting for love to be reborn, the incarnate love of God made visible in our lives. We sit by the windows, looking at our bird feeder, watching the winged land and feast. We wait in the dark and light for God's love to blossom in our lives.
Today, there are not a whole lot of words but rather images. God's love like a radiant summer day by the ocean. God's love as the twinkle in a parent's eye. The broad smile of a child swept up in the arms of a grandparent. Little faces pressed against stores windows eyes wide with awe and delight. The gentle touch of an old trusted friend. A shared cup of coffee on a cold afternoon. Love worth waiting for.
May this season of Advent be a time when all of us ache for the love of God in our lives. May we act with the love of God in our lives as we reach out to others. And may we hope with all the saints for a new advent of God's love in our lives so that we may live by love's command.
Monday, December 7, 2009
"God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”Matthew 22:32
I watched the news this morning and learned that a great gathering is taking place in Denmark to look at the a multiplicity of environmental issues. Denmark has improved their overall environmental health in the past few years along with growing their economy. I am fascinated and curious to learn what they have done and to find out what of their model we can use here at home. I am also aware of how interdependent we all are, and how fragile this earth is, 'our island home.'
People were trying to test Jesus and used the rules of marriage as a test. It seems to me that things haven't changed so much in 2000 years. We are still arguing about the rules of marriage, while there are people suffering and communities in need right in front of our faces. We seem to want to scramble for power and control while the fragile planet, both in population and resources, is facing crisis after crisis. We seem to continue on a road that trades compassion for wealth, a shared future with a satisfied present. Even Jesus was a little frustrated with the testing and wanted desperately to get his message across. God is the God of the living, of our neighbors, of those right next to us and around us. God is the God of the relatives - all those who lives are linked with ours - which at this point is the people across the globe.
Today, I want to redouble my prayers and work for compassion and peace. I want to live so that others can follow behind and find their lives a little better, a little more enriched by my living. I want to lend my life to the care of others. For God is the God of the living, of the right here now needs of our world.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Luke 3:5-6 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
This morning, as part of the Second Sunday of Advent, I get to dress up in Bishop's vestments and talk about St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. I have always had a special place in my heart for this man who found ways to use what he had for the good of others. He was a defender of the faith and even more a defender of the defenseless. He used his office for good, not for power or fame. And so, his legacy is that he is more famous than almost any other bishop or pope throughout history. Because of his willingness to love the poor, do good for the whole community and his constancy and love, we all have inherited a spirit of generosity and giving that no amount of commercialization can destry.
One of my favorite and least heard stories about Nicholas is his participation in the Council of Nicaea. He was known as a very faith Christian leader and after months of ceaseless arguing, he finally lost it and slapped the most difficult bishop in the whole gathering. Whether or not it changed the course of the meeting or history is hard to determine. But knowing that powerful love and faith can be spoken in a slap is comforting news for someone like me. I am often frustrated by the pettiness of bishops and other church leaders when there is so much need and suffering in the world.
Today, I pray that I can spend my day caring for those around me. I pray that my focus is always on the most vulnerable and needy in our community. And I pray that we can all model ourselves after great bishops like St. Nicholas who considered the care of others to be elemental to his relationship with God.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” Matthew 22:21
Today we are going over to a center in a nearby town where our parish helps feed the hungry and the homeless once a month. This will be the first time I have joined my folks in this effort as I was away from home for the first opportunity. It is not a complicated or strenuous effort just something that takes some preparation and coordination. I feel blessed that I can go with them and help encourage their offering to others. And I am touched by the ways God asks us to render to God the things that are Gods. For our food, our survival, our very abundance is a gift from God, the substance of life all about us. We are showered with blessings and yet we grumble. Today lifts the burden to grumble and gives us the opportunity for a brief time to render unto God the bounty of love.
Today, in the midst of this bustling holiday season, I am hoping to learn from the people I meet today. I expect to find blessing in their lives, even if they don't feel blessed and can't see it. Not because I am holy - just the opposite. It is because in giving to others on days like today, I can see more clearly how blessed I am in the activity of giving. This activity somehow helps me understand the activity of God. And in so doing, I can, in my small way render to God. May we all take the time this season to render to God in our small ways, in our quiet corners and the places of most need. For God is surely there inviting our small gifts.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. Matthew 22:9
A most common question I find these days is, " so, are you ready for Christmas?" Strangers and friends alike ask one another. Sometimes it feels like a competition. Sometimes it feels like a plea. "Please God, let there be someone less organized than I am." And sometimes, it is just a question of kind interest and compassion, knowing that it is hard for many to be ready for Christmas. For some there is not enough time, others not enough money for their needs, and yet others, it is loss or change that makes getting ready for Christmas rather difficult. I am one of those people who tries to get organize but really doesn't like getting too far ahead - I just can't keep track for too long. I know that getting my heart ready for Christmas is the hardest part. The swirl of ancient memories and expectations, along with the limits of time and capacity, make it hard not to have a mix of emotions as we face Christmas. And in a new community, while having returned to the home of my youth, there makes for even more confusion and conundrums. How to celebrate this year?
Jesus tells the parable of a wedding feast where everything is prepared and the guests don't come, so he sends his servants out to collect guests only to find one who won't dress for the occasion. This one he throws out and says this is the kingdom of God. Well, being someone who never feel dressed correctly, never feels prepared completely, never quite gets the overindulgence at weddings and other galas, this parable makes me cringe. Especially before Christmas. And yet today, it hits me that it is not about clothing but about respect. In our Native communities respect has the highest honor, rather than wealth and fame. We place respect above all else. And Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is about honoring and respecting the Creator, the one who lay out the banquets, big and small, and invites us all to participate. Respect really means giving another one's heart, putting their needs over mine today. It seems to mean that being ready for Christmas means being prepared to respect the incredible gifts that are the people in my life, and honoring the Creator with humility. For God's kingdom is not about the clothes but about giving one's heart to God for the sake of others.
Today, I want to prepare for Christmas by respecting others and giving them my heart. I want to make the coming days a time of honoring the people around me. I invite us to be ready for Christ's coming into the world by offering honor and respect to those around us.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Matthew 21:42
Some days waking is a chore burdens
and failed expectations piled
so high and no relief no way forward no
way through the deep waters.
Some days the world turns it back clouds
shadow the sun gray everywhere hiding any possibility
of warmth and even filtered rays of hope.
Some days the rejected stamp is 6 feet wide
moving over whole lives and families
voices muffled, cries of agony love shoved
down and out.
Some days the strength has gone and tears move
faster than compassion and love faster than the bus
that never comes.
Some days we have to lift up our heads and
see with blind eyes the rejected riding on white clouds
promising sliver linings
to the gray shadowed rejection line that has been
our lot of late.
Some days we have to look up for God
we have to see beyond the dimmed possibilities
knowing God knows our need for love and life
acceptance coming soon.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. Matthew 21:31-32
Today, for some reason, I have thought a great deal about the lighthouse in my mother's town, Cape May Point. People love lighthouses, love climbing them and taking pictures of them. When you live in the town with a light house you know the real impact of one. Night and day it is lit and turns continuously. At night it shines in windows, it flashes on the walls and strikes your face as you sleep. It is a constant reminder of being at the edge - between land and sea, danger and safety, life and death. It is quaint to many, but once completely necessary for the survival of a whole region.
I think of so many, who trust their own scientific and technical skills - our modern day righteousness - and who forget about their relationships and commitments. Many think they can stand alone as long as they have a blackberry,a gps, and a Starbucks nearby. People think of belief as quaint as an unnecessary relic of the past. They might step into a church for Christmas or Easter in order to participate in some quaint holiday, but it has no power for them. They believe in what they know, like many who followed Jesus. The broken people- the poor, the fallen, the sick, the failures - they knew they needed to believe in the love of God that stood before them. They understood how righteousness fails, how skills fall away. They knew God's constancy and love despite their fickle humanity.
Today, I wan to believe completely that God is acting at all times for the good of humanity. Like that lighthouse, constantly vigilant, providing light and a compass in our darkest nights. May we all know that light today, which seeks us out when we are lost and drowning and believe that God is acting for us today.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:21-22
We lived for several years in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Boulder, Colorado in the early 1980's was full of exotic and creative people - folks living a variety of alternative life styles. The air was thin and people were healthy or struggling desperately to be so. Boulder was a hippie mecca and all sorts of people living off the land and looking very transient were part of life in that college town. The mountains provided some sort of cultural and spiritual setting for many. Many came to the mountains hoping to find themselves and change their lives. There was musicians and performers on the streets during the warm months. The stability and permanence of the mountains seemed to encourage pilgrimages and experimentation of all kinds. I was always amazed at how many incredibly sad and desperate people were there, having shrugged off lives in other places. They came to be moved by the mountains and some were constantly on the move with no solid ground.
I am reminded today that Jesus told his followers that if they had a little bit of faith they could move mountains. It is often hard for us who live in a very technical world to want to count on the power of prayer. We know how to measure all forms of power but prayer is not on the list of energy sources. And yet, lives are transformed, worlds have been changed and renewal is possible with a little bit of prayer and faith. Sometimes we run off to strong and solid places and throw ourselves at solid people who offer us relationships and insight. Often we neglect to remember that the author of all creation is completely and entirely accessible and listening.
Today, I want to challenge myself to problem solve through prayer. Too often, I find myself worrying about things I don't know how to do a thing about. And yet I trouble myself about them anyway. So today, I want to turn those troubles and challenges to God. I want to turn the mountains and the fruitless fig trees in my life over to God. May we all have the faith today to turn to God in prayer for every need. May we courageously ask for what we need from the one who created the mountains and have loved us from the beginning of creation.