Sunday, February 28, 2010
And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. Mark 3:9-12
There are some days when things fall into place and schedules work according to plan. And some days things get off schedule from the get-go. A needed element has gone missing and the entire household is turned upside down looking for it. Shoes, keys and hairbrushes are the most common goals of our hunting, but sometimes other things get lost or misplaced. And when these days happen, it can seem as if everything is pressing in and there is no space for breathing. As if one mistake has set off a chain reaction, a tumbling mess of lateness and mistakes. I have found that these are often the best days to take it slow, to lighten the load and rearrange the calendar. There is so much need and pain within and without us. And healing and tenderness are in such short supply. I find the days when things get lost an invitation to tenderness and slowing down.
The gospel talks of the overwhelming crowd that pressed in on Jesus. If we were honest for a second with ourselves, we would find that we are all very needy and pressing in on someone or something. God has big shoulders and broad arms and can encompass our aches and needs. There is so much torment within and without, and God's love stands ready with salve and healing, if we would but admit the ache we know so well.
Today, I want to remember that most of us have had a day or a season where everything and everyone was pressing in all around. Where we know ourselves to be this kind of overwhelmed, I pray that we can all make space for, and lean in towards God. For God's love is so broad. God's love is larger than the huge need we have. God's love is aching to be pressed in on, and to carry the load of us this day.
Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Luke 13: 30, 34-35
My children, and I think all children, have a competition when taking a car ride. The first who can yell, "shot gun", gets to ride in the front seat. Or so they think. It is very normal for humans to compete, to try to get the best seat and the upper hand. I was at a feeding program that our church participates in. We had food generously donated from a fancy hotel, so we had plenty. And yet there are always those who need to be first, those who think that, if they get to the head of the line they will get the most and the best. We made plates for everyone and still people kept coming. Some of those who were fed first, who had a comfortable seat and were well fed, complained because we were being generous to those who came in late. We humans can exercise our competition and fail to exercise our compassion, even though the world aches for compassion everyday.
When Jesus talks to the religious community, he likens his relationship as mother to small children, a hen wanting to gather her brood. And he sees there competition and their lack of compassion as their inability to be nurtured and gathered together. As what keeps us all apart.
This second Sunday of Lent, I want to focus on the exercise of compassion in my life. I want to be strong and muscular for the love of God and others. I want to nurture and be nurtured, rather than to be the best and always right. I want to stop counting the hurts and insults and start opening my heart to the needs within. May we all increase our compassion this season and reach out in tenderness to our fellow human being.
Collect for the Second Sunday of Lent
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28
I got up early this morning as I had an early physical therapy appointment and needed extra time on the roads after a storm. I worried a bit about my walking as there was a good bit of ice under my feet. The storm had left us a pile of snow which covered all the dangerous icy spots. Stopping to look around me before I set out, I couldn't help but smile. The sky was bright blue and the world was covered in a blanket of white. Pristine and elegant, quiet and inviting. I took a sabbath moment to rest my anxiety and to revel in the beauty of creation around me. There were struggles behind and struggles ahead. And in the midst of all life's struggles, there it was again - beauty. Beuaty taking my breath away, beauty putting a prayer of thanksgiving on my lips, and beauty transforming a struggling moment into a moment of sabbath rest and restoration.
Sure, there is more shoveling to do and sure there is lots to worry about. And God invites us in the middle of the worry and the work, the therapy and the trauma, the letting go and giving in, to rejoice. God invites us to fill our lungs, our bellies, our eyes with the sights and sounds of God revealed beauty in creation. And God, who is love, promises to stand with us as we breath in, and as we bend again to our labors. May we all have the courage to take a deep breath today. May we invite sabbath into our beings so deeply that God's love and renewal and planted permanently and deeply within us all.
Friday, February 26, 2010
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:21-22
We are inundated with snow this morning and the plows have not come through. The sky is still dropping snow and the winds are bitter and blustery. All the schools are closed and most other activities have come to a standstill. It is a snow day, that's all there is to it. When my girls were little they would wear their p.j.s inside out, hoping for a snow day. My niece and nephew add flushing ice cubes down the toilet, and another friend says you are to sleep with a spoon under your pillow to bring the snow. Whatever the cause, this has been a snowy and stormy winter, this first winter in our new home. What to do? "If we're treading on thin ice, then we might as well dance." That line from an old song reminds me that today is a very special gift, as are the people around me. Might as well celebrate the snow day and let other things get done when we can get out.
The religious leadership was not happy with Jesus since his disciples did not fast, nor did they agonize over rules and regulations. They found ways to enjoy the time they had with one another and with Jesus. They understood the tenderness and brief span of their relationship, whether or not they admitted to knowing or not. They would live fully in the days they had, knowing that celebrating love is the best thing we can do together with our time.
Today, I want to live in that celebratory way of a disciple. Living, knowing the snow and all of life is passing, but that love is eternal and a tremendous gift. We might as well dance when we can, throw snowballs and make snow angels. There will be days when we cannot. So for today, I am going to revel in the gifts of Gog and the love in my life. And tomorrow can take care of itself. May we all celebrate the brief time we have here, knowing that we are embedded in the heart of God forever.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:3-5
This morning I stepped out of the rectory into rainy weather. There is a promise of much snow, sleet and ice before this storm is said and done. I looked up to gray skies, a late winter weeping day where snuggling under the covers seems the only way to cope. And then as I walked the few steps to the church I noticed an incredible sight. The first few daffodils lifting their closed heads above the saturated, cold earth. Defiant almost, persistent for sure, these little heralds of spring will not be defeated by snow, wind or anything else. Their whole beings are ready to face the worst so that color might reconquer the present frozen earth. They are not frightened off because of weather reports or a little snow. They have a job to do and they are going to see it through. One of God's many little reminders to each of us of the persistence of faith and love. And the glorious promise of spring.
Several people brought their friend to see Jesus. They were kept back by the crowd, and their friend was too ill to make his own way. I am sure others went home that night, but they persisted. It must have been a tremendous struggle to climb to the roof, balancing their friend, and then to open the roof and carefully lower him to Jesus. But they persisted because the believed that Jesus was able to do something wonderful for their dear friend. They loved so well, that their loved compelled them beyond any blockade and barrier that life threw their way. And because of their persistence, we have a vivid picture of faith, an open roof and an empty bed. Healing came not from perfection but from persistence and an extra measure of love and faith.
Today, as the rain turns to snow and spring seems so far off, I am reminded of the persistence of the daffodils and the fierce friends of crippled man. Despite the challenges that face us today, whether it is another snowstorm or a storm of life, I want to remember that God promises each of us healing and renewal - spring is coming. May we all have the courage to persist, to hang on, to find a way through today, knowing God is anxious to heal and renew us, now and always.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. Mark 1:35-39
There are all sorts of desolate places on this earth. There are those places which thrive in a season, like summer, to only become nearly devoid of people the rest of the year. And then there are places where no one lives, just animals and assorted wildlife, that people can't live in or chose not to live in for the extreme challenge. The streets of New York, right in the heart of Times Square, were desolate places, right after 9/11. They were eerily still - a place usually pulsing with life twenty four hours a day. And there are also internal places of desolation, situations when we feel so alone and so afraid. We might be surrounded by people, but we know ourselves to be in a very isolated time and space. We are in familiar surroundings and yet we are without direction.
Jesus went to that place to pray. Early in the morning he sought out our cold isolation. He prayed within our darkness, before the sun could rise, he prayed amidst the lost and broken, the scattered debris of human existence. The disciples came looking for him, everybody wanted to know where Jesus was. What they couldn't see was that he was there, in their midst, praying in their dark aching places, praying through their isolation and anxiety.
Today, I want to remember that Jesus is in all our dark moments. Jesus is seeking out our wilderness places and leaning in with, holding us as we pray through our darkest moments. Today, I want to be fearless about entering into the dark places for Jesus is there ahead of us and always with us. We can be courageous, because even in our isolation we are not alone.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. Mark 1: 16-20
This has been a February to remember. The snow piled high in some places a week or so back. We have had a record number of storms which hit towns unprepared for the snow. Today we awoke to a rain and sleet mix, coating the steps and walkways with a treacherous sheen. A day when you dream about living in another climate, doing something more than being stuck indoors. Many people in the northeast go away to brighter warmer places this time of year. They change their lives for a small measure of time. Others sit at home and dream of a new life with warmth and sunshine all year round. Most of us are good with where we are and what we do, but on this kind of winter day, it is easy to be swept away by dreaming.
I imagine that the first disciples like what they did and where they were. It was all in the family, familiar and supportive. On rough days, when the seas and the winds refused to cooperate, they may have dreamed of another life. We can't know. We do know that when the opportunity for a new life came around, the left their nets and their families and followed Jesus. It was exciting and challenging all at once. It was what they had dream of. And it was what they had feared. There were days when they wondered why God had chosen them for this thing. And there were other days when they understood completely. But either way, when they followed Jesus is was more wonderful and complicated than they could ever have imagined.
Today, I want to remember, in the midst of this grueling February weather, that where ever we find ourselves, God is there. God is there in the midst of us, whether we are in a safe secure place, or whether we have dropped our nets and left security for adventure. While we are becoming something new, or stating right where we are, God is in the midst of us, transforming our dark days into moments of grace. May we all give thanks for the moments of grace we have today, no matter hoe weary we are from the weather and life's challenges. For God is with us.
Monday, February 22, 2010
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Mark 1:9-13
For Today, I am writing a list of trails and temptations. The small things that bring us to doubt that we are the children of God, and that God cares for us night and day.
When I am attempting a simple repair and it doesn't work, I am tempted to let frustration rule.
When someone looks judges me by how I look, and I see by their glance I didn't measure up, I am tempted to let their judgment stand.
When I am late for something, I am tempted to feel like a failure.
When the programs I offer are not well attended, I think I've made a terrible mistake.
When my children are in some danger, I feel like I have failed them.
When the traffic slows to a crawl, I think it was some sort of punishment.
When I get sick, I feel like I have to say I am sorry.
The lists can go on and on. I want us to remember as we await spring in this longest, shortest month of the year, that Jesus knew fully what is was to be human. God spoke to him from heaven saying he was his son, his beloved. And yet there were days when he felt unable to complete the task. God asks all of us to do incredibly hard things sometimes. And sometimes we don't feel up to the task and want to blame ourselves for our humanity. And God says to each of us today, "you are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased." We are all tempted and tried and thank God none of us has to be Jesus. But we can be fully the wonderful creations God has made, and fully trust God to see us through every trial and temptation we face today.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
'He will command his angels concerning you,to protect you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up,so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:10-13
I was in a grocery store recently, trying out some wonderful new technology. They now provide you with a hand held device that you can scan the prices of your items while you shop and so check out while you are shopping. The theory is that you can speed through the checkout - the device is scanned, it tells the cash register what you spent and then you just pay up. And, if you have been really smart, you have bagged your items while you were shopping so one can go sailing out of the store in a minute or two. No waiting on lines. No frustrations with a distracted check-out person. That's how it is supposed to work. How these things work for me is -never right. I did the scanning of my items fine, and bagged them as we went along. But when we got to the check out line, things went all wrong. I followed the procedure only to have the machine cancel my order, and make me restart seemingly dozens of times. I was so frustrated that finally some kind sales clerk came over and took my card, pushed a few buttons, snatched the hand held device and threw me a pitying smile as she walked away. No wilderness, 40 day testing, but the kind of daily testing that makes each of us feel small and shamed. The kind of testing that wears one down to a frazzle.
Jesus faces the devil who tests him thoroughly. The devil hadn't thought up self-checkout in those days but I am sure Jesus understood how impossibly trying it was to be human. Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, the Savior of the world, went through his 40 days in order to understand the depths and agony of our pains - small and large. He struggled with all the beasts and demons the devil could provide - so he wrestled with all the things you and I wrestle with. And came out knowing that God would see him through even the worst trails, even the worst hunger, frustration and testing.
Today, I want to be thankful for each little test and challenge I face today and ask that each might remind me that God promise of salvation is for us all, me included. "He will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand." That promise of God's rescuing and abiding love is for all of us today, however we are tested and tried. May we rejoice together in a God who loves us so completely.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 22:22-23
Yesterday, in an attempt to ward off the mid-winter slumps, we took a drive to find somewhere we had never been. Mark and I have spent our marriage being explorers -not the cross global kind of fierce adventurers, but gentle inquirers, going new and odd hidden places that others might overlook. We seek out the places not teeming with tourists and the quirky people that inhabit them. Our children would sometimes grumble as they were herded into the car when they were young, complaining about another one of our weird adventures. We often didn't have a specific destination -only the goal to find something wonderful and hidden in plain sight. Yesterday we stumbled into Sugar Loaf village, a town full of artisans and crafts people, all with interesting stories and wares for sale. Our daughter Emily had initiated the destination and we were all delighted to be among the less than hand full of visitors this time of year. It gave us time to talk to the few artisans who had their doors open. Our adventures have become one of the marks of who we are. We are bound together, not just by blood, marriage, love - and all that good stuff -but by our willingness all to cast stability aside for adventure and for finding treasures in hidden places.
Jesus continues his prayer for his disciples - all men who have cast stability and normalcy aside for adventure and seeking God's treasure in their lives. They often got lost and off track. They fumbled around and dropped the ball, and misunderstood each other, arguing jealously with one another. But they were also bound together as one - in the love of Christ and in their companionship together. Love and a life together bound them so well that they could survive great tragedy and thrive beyond their darkest days.
Today, I want to celebrate my companions in adventures, those who have helped me find treasure in love hidden everywhere. Mark, Emily, Ariel, Phoebe, and all our friends and family who have made being bound together in love such a daily joy. May you remember all those who sought you in love, and rejoice in a God who desires most our unity rather than our perfection. That we all may be one.
Friday, February 19, 2010
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:13-19
A Prayer for Protection
You put them in my hands
after I carried them close to my heart
their fragile perfection given
into my care and I watched
them waking and sleeping worrying
late nights wondering how
to keep them safe.
You put them in my hands
and I learned to pray and tremble
with a mix of hope and fear
each time I dropped one little one
off to school, they ran from me
safe and reassured and I melted
as they went from me.
Keep her safe today I cried
and went on my way but never far
seeking safe harbor from weather
crisis and life's storms not always
able to shelter them completely.
You put them in my hands
and they grew beautiful strong
resilient and bright, luminous
stars shimmering in the black night sky
now out of reach, now in their own orbit
in their own jet black sky.
You put them in my hands and made me
let go and release them trusting you
and them and knowing the bumps and bruises
might not be avoided, the instant danger
and the coal black crushing shame always
nearby and threatening.
You put them in my hands and now those hands
are empty and I fold them, bowing
kneeling, praying, weeping that the love
and lessons were enough to keep them
hold them, shelter them from fierce winds
sudden storms and the gray sorrow of twilight
You put them in my hands
and I put them back into yours
for they are treasures
fashioned by love and God
and only the Creator can care
completely for such wonderful beauty.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
There are days when it is easy to press on, and other days where the battle begins at daylight and never quits. Some days it is easy to be faithful and other days it takes every ounce of will we have. I have had a few days of late that have challenged both my patience and endurance. When the daily trials seem overwhelming I tend to lean heavily on scripture and prayer. This passage from Philippians has gotten me through more than a few hard times. And prayer, the simpler the better, helps me through the times when my own words fail me. So I have attached below a few of my recent favorite prayers that help me through the times when all the hills seem too high to climb.
Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.
--Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas
O gracious and holy Father, give me wisdom to perceive you, intelligence to understand you,diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, a heart to meditate on you, and a life to proclaim you. Amen.
--Adapted from a Prayer of Saint Benedict
Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience and suffering you hallowed earthly pain, be near me in my time of weakness and pain; sustain me by your grace, that my strength and courage may not fail;heal me according to your will; help me always to believe that what happens to me here is of little account if you hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen.--The Book of Common Prayer
Teach me, O Lord, to fear you without being afraid, to fear you in love, that I may love you without fear. Amen.
--Adapted from Christina Rossetti
May God give us all the grace today to ask for help continually, and the insight to see God's love and help coming on every horizon.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14
Today is my first Ash Wednesday serving in a congregation, helping a community to find ways to practice a holy Lent. I feel a great responsibility as I love these people completely and want to do my best to lead them. And I also know that my own personal and professional ways of faith might seem quirky and outside of the mainstream to some. In our household we often talk about ancient and modern practices of lenten sacrifice and "giving up", only to conclude most often that taking on is more faithful and effective to each of us than sacrificial giving up. Maybe I come from a very un-pious lot. And maybe, it is because we are all active faith participants and active learners - we learn by doing rather than observing. So for us taking up a regular journal, a regular service project, committing to laughter, forgiveness, beauty and love - for us these seem like the most holy ways to observe Lent. I can only conclude that God has formed us each exquisitely and uniquely different and so each of our pathways to a holy Lent will be as unique as the wonderful beings we have been created to be.
So today,I invite you today to enter into an ancient stream of faith. To dip into deep and ancient waters that carry each of us forward in our faith. Each of us enter with a different set of needs, different struggles and unique approaches to our faith. God has made us wonderfully individual and so God will provide the steam and the method for each of us, which will carry us, renew us and wash us clean as we prepare our hearts and lives for Easter. Today, I invite us all to dive in, completely as we are, human, broken, confused and resistant, defiant and afraid, needy and anxious, reluctant and skeptical, hopeful and terrified. For God has promise to meet us right where we are to redeem each and everyone of us - to make us a holy people in a holy season.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” John 18:36-37
Last weekend we took my Mom back to her home in Cape May Point. Since they are situated so close to the ocean, they usually have little or no snow during the winter. This year has been like none we have every seen before. We took a walk through our little town and saw snow piles up to the top of street signs, little cottages buried in snow, and snow piles so high the sunken ship was dwarfed. It felt as if we were in another world, as if we were walking on the far side of the moon. Everything that is so familiar became strange and curious. The light was different as it reflected off snow rather than the water, and many homes looked like frosting decorating a cake, since no one was there to plow or shovel. It was like falling into a story book. A glimpse of a completely different reality in a completely familiar place.
Today is Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. The day before Len begins and we sit on the cusp on one season as the next one take its place. We are in that liminal time on the edge, between two worlds almost, where what will will become is about to break forth. We hear in our Gospel the story of Jesus being interrogated by Pilate. We hear the edge, the almost but not yet completion of the Son of Man who was to face crucifixion and resurrection. We are sitting in the almost but not yet place in our Christian story. We are standing in that place we often find ourselves. We are emerging and yet we are not yet fully disclosed.
Today, I want to live fully in the awkward and thrilling space which is in-between and becoming. We are in motion, but ever so slightly and it might just seem we are standing still. And I want to trust God that we are all emerging, becoming new in the love of God and the truth of Christ's grace for all. May we all live today completely, knowing that as what we know passes away, God is making a new world, a place place, a new way forward for each and every one of us.
Monday, February 15, 2010
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:1-4
On Valentine's Day yesterday, we heard from each of our children. Emily is living with us and had a gift for us with a sweet card. Phoebe is in college and called to wish us all the best and catch up for a few minutes. Ariel had called on Saturday to wish us Happy Valentine's Day and to find out all the latest. Hearing their voices, sharing love, even across the miles is in itself a completion of a timeless wish. Parents wish and pray for their children to be happy. When the days are gone when we can hold them close and protect them from the waves and the winds, it is great joy to know that they are caring for each other and their friends and family with such tender care. No parent can ask for any more than their children be happy and loving adults who get great joy from caring for others.
Today, on this President's Day, as I enjoy a fairly unoccupied Monday due to the holiday, I am reminded how simple our needs really are, and how often we complicate love with unreal or competitive expectations. There is no greater wealth than that of a loving family and community. There is no greater accomplishment than to love and be loved in return. Romance is temporary and love is forever. And, despite the commercials and media, they are two very different things. Love makes us selfless and caring, love remakes us into compassionate human beings who are able to rejoice for others. May this day be a day where we find ways to rejoice and care for others. For in it we will find the love of God, eternal and true.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Eli'jah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Luke 9:30-32
Whenever I read the story of the transfiguration, I can't help but think about the vision of God's love and glory that Peter and his sleepy companions saw. How God gave them a momentary view of love fulfilled, love complete, a snapshot of love's eternity. I can help but thinking about my sister Pegi, who died almost 20 years ago. God gave me a glimpse of love's eternal beauty in her dying days. She was always a beauty. Ravaged by cancer and the treatments she received, she had no hair. but her face lit up as she smiled and I saw a glimpse of God's face in her, a shining radiance that promised me that I was not alone, even in grief. Her face comes to mind still, whenever I ponder the vastness of God's love and our limited mortal vision. There are no words to express such a magnificent capacity of love.
Today, on this Valentine's Day 2010, tell as many people as you can about the love you have for them. For the people that God has given us are our glimpses of God's face. They are our insight into love that continues no matter how awful and challenging our lives become. When their faces come to mind, we know we can bear anything. And we know God is in the midst of us. So, where ever you are, give thanks for the love you have received. It is eternal, steadily growing, un-ravished by time, weather or tides. God is love, and in the people that love us, despite ourselves and because of ourselves, also show us the eternal and present face of God. Happy Valentine's Day.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.Romans 14:7-9
There are days
when I feel I am dying
I want to lie down
on deep green grass
stare up at the bright blue
and fall asleep in the arms of God.
There are days
when I feel I am living
like never before walking
taller and stronger and I
want to lie down in the tall grass,
green surrounding me wind
on my face and a brilliant blue
above it all and me apart
There are days
when the shadows are long
the sighs are deep
the gray world reeks of aching
pain is the fear rattling my bones
and a storm is definitely
hiding behind the near by trees.
There are days when God seems
to go out for a while, taking
sabbatical perhaps, maybe playing
croquet in some unsuspecting garden
or sipping coffee undetected on
a commuter train.
Today and yesterday
most likely tomorrow however
I feel, God is with me
on the platforms and quays
the desk or behind the wheel
God surrounds within and beyond
So then, whether we live or
whether we die,
we are the Lord's.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10
I have to go take my Mom back home after a protracted stay and after some challenging snow storms. She has been kind and gentle but is aching to be in her own home. I am trying to write my blogs for the next few days and am trying to get the technology to cooperate. Nothing seems to be working and everything is out of sinc. Sometimes in life, this happen. Our best laid plans get laid aside. We have to adapt to circumstances we cannot control. The world spins slightly off its axis for a bit. Love copes with the radical changes of life, despite decline and frustration, love is deep enough to thrive in challenging climates, and changing tides. And yet, it is hard for all of us as human beings, fragile and vulnerable, to face the changes time and tides and winter weather thrust upon us. Loving others teaches me to pray, when I am short on patience and tools to cope.
I ask your prayers as in the next few days there will be some challenges of the normal family variety to face. I want an extra measure of God's grace and patience in my life. For living love calls for a constant adaption, a constant creativity, and constant compassion in the face of frustrations, small and large. And I ask God to help me do no harm, but rather build up those around me whenever possible. In this season of valentines and mushy sentiment, may love be genuine and adequate for the challenges ahead.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
So Jesus said to them who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
Yesterday the snow came down all day. Some times it was a gentle snow and other times in came down heavy and hard, blowing fiercely every direction. When all was said and done we have nearly a foot of snow on the ground. Today dawned bright and the roads are clear for the most part and the world is getting back to normal. The days leading up to yesterday's storm were riddled with anxiety and speculation. Lots of people dashing to the store in fear and lots of people acting like the end of the world was near. From this vantage point, with the sun making the world bright and shimmery, the fear and expectations seems silly. When the true situation has been revealed, the fear is melted away and one feels liberated from the expected consequences. Which is not to say there isn't a great deal of clean up to be done - but the true picture wipes out the worst case scenario so many of us imagined.
Our Gospel finds Jesus inviting us to be faithful - and in the truth of that faith, the burden of fear and disaster are lifted and we can be our true selves, the ones fashioned in the image of the Creator. We can be fully the children of God when we are set free from our fears of failure, judgment and impending disaster. The truth of God's love for us is that love never fails, never ends and delivers us beyond the worst we can imagine to a place of freedom.
Today, I rejoice in the reminders all around us of God's abiding love for us, God's care for the weak and strong alike, and the hope filled promise of the bright sunshine. We have weathered yet another storm through God love and grace. May we all have the courage to live in the light of God's love for us, which is true freedom, every day, even in the midst of life's worst storms.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
There is snow falling everywhere right now. Overnight the snow had been light and by the time I got up there was about an inch or so on the ground. Within a few hours there is much more snow and the visibility is limited. They are predicting that there will be no visibility at all at the height of the storm, sometime this afternoon. And so I have been thinking about limited visibility and how during the storms of life, the hardest part is often seeing what's out front. The future goes dim in hard times and one can get hopeless. Despite the beauty of the snow, it can get so thick and the winds can pound so hard that glimpsing even steps ahead seems impossible. We will have to be careful as we walk today and look carefully where ever we go.
Into this snowstorm we hear Jesus say, "I am the light of the world." The one thing that helps when the visibility is limited is a constant source of light. A light so that we can see a few steps ahead, a light so that we can cling to hope, a light so that the promised resolutions seem just a bit closer. Among those who heard Jesus, there were those who marveled and those who scoffed. Those of us who hear it in the midst of a storm - physical, emotional or otherwise - know how wonderful the offering of light can be. Rescue is not far off. Release is imminent.
Today, I want to marvel at the storm and give thanks for the light of Christ. The beacon of hope in our darkness, the promise of freedom and redemption and the commitment to rescue and recovery for us all. How real and marvelous that seems today. May we share the light we have today and be moved to recognize and respond to the needs of many who are blinded by the storm.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:7-11
We used to spend hours trying to skip stones on the water. When I was small and the water was relatively calm, we would pick up shiny flat stones, polished by the sand, and see how far we could get them to go along the surface of the water, and see how many jumps they would take before disappearing in the surf. It is an intoxicating game. Watching and hoping that the results are the best yet, standing barefoot in the gentle surf, listening to the gulls and the crashing waves. There was something important about the heft of the stone. It has to be flat and solid but not too heavy. It had to be able to dance. I never threw stones at people, or other animals, though I admit I did contemplate taking out a gull or two. They wouldn't leave us alone, hoping we had food. The same things that can be innocent, time marking fun can become destruction when turned on other people.
A gathering of men, each with hands full of stones, were set on carrying out judgment. They were set on using their skills with stones. They wanted to punish her for her humanity and for the fact they knew her all to well. Our first instincts, when shameful and common behavior is revealed, are to try to kill the one who brought it to light. We will do everything we can to shut them out, kill them if we must, rather than to admit our own duplicity. And we are loath to move to forgiveness and reconciliation. And that is exactly what Jesus brings to the hostile crowd. Not condemnation but forgiveness. Truth and compassion slung side by side.
Today I want to put down the stones and try to respond with compassion and forgiveness rather than condemnation. I want to remember how vulnerable we can all be, and like the woman who was being stoned, can at any moment be a target when truth is told. I want to live today, knowing my own faults and foibles, and thanking God for forgiveness and reconciliation. And I want to be able to offer that to others. I pray we can all know our humanity, recognize the gift of forgiveness and live without judging others today. Maybe we can help turn some swords into plowshares, some weapons of mass destruction into power for the world. Just maybe we can help rescue one vulnerable today. For God's love invites us to use the gifts we have been given for the life of the world.
Monday, February 8, 2010
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39
I can dehydrate very easily and have to be careful to drink enough every day. Water is essential to life, we all know that. Our bodies are mostly water. Water is particularly important in my life. Water is a major symbol and power in my life, so much so that my Indian name is Amagalosga or Water Falls. Living and moving water are at the core of my being and those who named me know well that without water in motion, I am unable to thrive. None of us thrive when we are parched and without potable, clean water.
Jesus refers to himself as the source of living water for us all. Water in motion, clean and renewing, crystal clear font of life. And yet too, Jesus points to the capacity of all believers to be fonts of life giving water for others. Not just life for ourselves but life for others as well.
Today, I want to give thanks for water in all forms. For the snow that was predicted and we missed, the oceans and streams that surround is, the rains and the snows that are surely to come. May we all remember that water is life. May we be reminded of God's great love for us that we are promised steams of living water, continually flowing, constantly renewing, which we can share with the world.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. Luke 5:4-7
Lots of times in my life, I have experienced a sense of failure. Not matter how hard I fished, I came up empty handed. It happens to all of us, even in our fields where we might consider ourselves experts, or at least skilled and trustworthy, we can come up empty. We can all have days when we have applied our best and the outcome was the worst. Over a lifetime, it might feel as if we spend more time failing then succeeding, stumbling rather than walking and needy instead of abundant. Many of us, when these things happen, blame ourselves and consider ourselves the cause of the bad outcomes.
Despite skill and a life time of practice, Peter and the other fishermen came up empty. The had nothing to feed their families with. The village depended on their catch and they had nothing to show for all their hard work. Knowing Peter, he probably had some colorful language to say about a night of empty nets, a night of failure. Jesus saw them washing their nets, closing up shop, as it were, and climbed in their boat. When he was done teaching, he instructed them to fish again and they had such an abundance the boats were having a hard time staying afloat. God in the midst of us, brings abundance despite our frustration, failures, cursing and disappointment. God, who come into our boats, wants us to have a little faith and to keep trying - for abundance is coming, as sure as the rising sun.
Today, as we celebrate my Mom's 87th birthday, I want to recall all the times in my life when I felt surrounded by failure and yet God imposed love and new life and abundance happened. I want to celebrate the love and faithfulness of my Mom, who despite horrible challenges and huge disappointments, live with a sense of love and abundance everyday. Today, I pray we can all trust God, at least a little, and put down our nets once more, so that everyone might know the fullness of love.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
“How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. John 7:15-18
Learning and Knowledge
So smart and yet so dangerous
self promoting, gloating and unaware
filled with rusting, dripping words
ideas dance seductively incandescnet light
reflects but does not illumine.
So weary and yet so expectant
deserving fame and fortune for brilliance
deceived by the mirror and the SATs
we climb on and fail to know our selves.
Huddled in carrels we silently loath
our classmates and idiotic professors
making designs on their jobs, their platforms
Broken hearts and small children left
the streets of the Square teems with strident
brilliance, saturated brains and lonely
All are aching for a welcome, honor and
a home that fills the heart and mind
a simple joy that is created
a truth that does not sit alone.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” John 7:2-8
I am part of an original family of seven, two parents and five children. I am the third daughter of four and the fourth child of the five. I have two older sisters and an older brother, along with a younger sister. My second oldest sister, Pegi, died when she was forty two. We learn a great deal from our siblings. We work out our identity with and through them, and sometimes in opposition to them. They share our blood and dna, the parents, and the culture of growing up in a particular family.
Our siblings often have more impact on us than our parents, especially when we are teenagers and young adults. I remember how cool I thought my older sisters were when I was young. I remember wanting to be as sophisticated and talented as they were. I often felt I fell short of their mark. As adults we have different relationships, and we are still working out our identities in relationship to one another.
Jesus' brothers come to invite him to the festival, and he struggles with joining them. He is conflicted - something we rarely see in Jesus throughout the Gospels. He sends them on, struggling with how he will be perceived, and finally decides to go with his disciples, but quietly, as if to understand himself through the public opinion of others - his siblings included. He was almost undercover there, and no one spoke to him for fear of retribution. Although his brothers might have been testing him by their invitation, there was also a natural testing and growth in their relationship.
Today, I want to give thanks for my siblings and the daughters we have been given. They have given me great insight into myself and into God's mark on my life. They have taught me about the image of the Creator and have given me space to find my own way, to develop relationship and personality among them. And we continue to grow and learn from each other, despite our differences and personal challenges. I pray that we can all know the blessing and challenges of our family and siblings, related by blood or not. For God's reign is found in relationship and we are knit into the family of God.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69
Early on New Year's eve morning, we set out to drive to visit our daughter in Pennsylvania. The predicted dusting of snow was quite heavy but we went ahead thinking it was just temporary. When we got to the highway, everything was a mess and there were accidents everywhere. No salt or sand had been spread and no plow had been through. We decided to turn back because the brief storm was fierce and everyone who might be out cleaning the roads seemed to be on holiday. This weekend, we are hosting a birthday party for my Mom on Sunday. The weather channel is predicting a big snow -at this point on Saturday. I am anxious and wondering whether we will have anyone able to come for her party. when the weather is challenging, it seems right to turn back. When other challenges happen, it ssems only right to turn back.
Many turned away from follwing Jesus after he revealed there would be hardships and challenges on the road. He also told them that God would be with them every step of the way. Some only heard the harsh news and didn't listen for the whole story. But Peter and the other knew they were on good hands and that there way would be cleared by God's love, despite the challenges and storms.
Today, I want to acknowlegde the challenges and the storms. And I want to make my heart open to follow Christ, knowing that, despite bad weather and rough days, God is abundantly with su and fully present in all the dangers we face. May we all take to the road this day knowing God goes before us and surrounds us with love.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
"As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:57-48
This morning I was woken up early, around four, by the sound of the snow plow revving up in our parking lot, getting everything cleared before the children came for daycare and nursery school. We didn't have a great deal of snow- an inch or two. When I went to bed last night it was as if everything was sprinkled with powered sugar. A night time dessert, food from heaven. This morning, with a new blanket of snow, the world seemed gentle and newborn in spite of the sounds from the snow cleaning machines. They were done quickly and the pre-dawn world glistened in the star light. A momentary wonderland for a sleepy visitor.
Our Gospel points us to the radical intersection between heaven and earth, between all of creation and the Creator. It points to our radical interdependence on one another in and beyond the created world. And it invites us to consider God's care for all the elements of our life, our food, shelter, our lives, our death and the continuation of our lives beyond what we see and know. Jesus invites us to a wonderland of possibility, where we are provided with all our needs, now and eternally.
Today, I want to rejoice in the goodness of creation and give thanks for my total dependence on God for all things necessary for my life. Too often, I worry and fret for the things of life. Today, I want to trust God more and my worries less. May we all delight in our creation, in our dependence on the Creator and the promises of abundance and life that are meant for all.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:43-44
A few years back we visited Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania during the Christmas holidays. We were out in Western Pennsylvania, visiting my husband's mother, and we took a side trip for a few hours. We went to the visitor's center and the zoo to see the groundhog they call Phil. And we saw a town covered in Groundhog statues, a town identified with a ceremony and a rodent that happens once a year, for a few moments in the early hours of the morning. This little town is overrun with tourists for this very short season. The ground hog is usually pulled from his hiding spot and if he sees his shadow, there are six more weeks of winter. All this for a little speculative, at best, weather prediction. Many folks make fun of this custom, which seems to be inaccurate and foolish to outsiders. The people of Punsutawney genuinely seem to love their little claim to fame and have every possible ground hog day souvenir available.
There is grumbling in our gospel reading today from those who think Jesus' claim to being the bread of heaven is a bit much. He is claiming a lofty position for himself and claiming that he has the power to make us the children of God, forever. Predictions of any sort or often meet with grumbling. Promises make us uncomfortable and skeptical. And it seems as if Jesus understands their humnaity and concern.
Today, I want to give thanks for the many people who celebrate with great joy the customs and identity they have been given. Passion is a great gift and I want to live passionately within this place and among these people. Today, I want to celebrate the many unique gifts that come my way. And I want to trust that God is the author of the special and unique gifts and people in my life. May we all celebrate those people and things that bless us and make us a unique people.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:35-37
Our little parish has been holding a cafe on Saturdays, open at the same time our thrift store is open. Folks from the parish as well as the community stop in to get some soup, a sandwich and a slice of homemade bread. People place orders and take home loaves of bread and containers of soup and chili. Early Saturday mornings, they arrive with the dough and turn up the oven. Once the bread is in the oven, the intoxicating smell is overwhelming and inviting. People who aren't curious otherwise, pop their heads in to see what going on - literally, to see what's cooking. Little tables are set up and people sit around and chat. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. And the smell of the bread is so enticing, folks want to be there, and are reluctant to leave. Bread, so essential to life, and yet so incredibly powerful in the life of a community. Despite the present day health disregard for bread and all forms of carbs, bread is still a powerful life force among people.
Jesus is telling the gathered about his role, his place in the cosmos. He uses bread as the common food, the most reliable currency, and the staff of life. He describes himself as the essential ingredient to a life of faith. And yet he also reminds them that he never rejects those who come to him. He is both life giver and sustain-er, the one who brings and renews life.
Today, I want to be grateful for the life and faith I have. And I want to live, trusting that God will provide for the needs for today. I pray that I can live today completely trusting in a God who is bread and life, a constant source, renewable and unfailing. May we all rest assured in the abundance of God, and share our life and abundance with others.