Friday, December 31, 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
The end of the year is upon us. 2010 is over today. And we can only imagine and pray for the coming year. We lay our hopes and dreams at the door of the dawning year and wonder what God has in store for us. Some are grateful to see 2010 come to an end - good riddance to hard days and tough struggles. Many hope that the failures of the past will not predict the coming days. And some just ignore the changing year and pretend that nothing will ever be different. And yet, we all need transitions and changes, we all need a shift and a new plan.
Today, as we visit with our daughter and her husband in Pennsylvania, I pray that we can celebrate our love for each other and joyfully anticipate the coming years. There is no plan or expectation for 2011 except that we all enjoy the life God has given us and the family and friends we have been blessed with. May your heart be full this New Year's Eve surrounded by the people who bless your daily life. And may 2011 be a true blessing. And may we all be a blessing in the coming year to all we encounter in the coming year.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “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 8:1-11
The first sting drew blood
warm and sticky running down
my forehead covered by my arms
kneeling, weeping I know what
I have done.
I admit it, the ache and loneliness
overwhelmed and confused the warmth
enveloping my fears the deep darkness
making me bold.
My first sin was to be born woman
the second was to offer myself
and knowing wrong from right
i sinned and it is now upon me.
The shame and guilt sting more than
stone upon stone the wretched taunts
the words of truth and self same hypocrisy
among the crowd many who needed me
wanted me close in their lives aching
for my touch and my soft words.
I alone was wrong and here I stand
surrounded by accusers, and we are all
a crowd of broken lives, blood thirsty
for forgiveness and acknowledgment
our wait for a savior has made us all mean.
He stands in the midst of them, softly speaking
gentle gestures, fearless among the mob trembling
for death and vengeance, they part as he kneels
writing on the ground
name after name of the ones in the crowd
all of us now named as in need.
I stand alone, sinful and aware
that silence has replaced their stones
the bitter metallic taste of blood in my mouth
my only companion besides him.
He looks at me and I am washed by forgiveness
understanding and light.
I am not the woman I was this morning
I am a follower of the one who set me free.
Wednesday, December 29, 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
Living water moves and is never stagnant for long. Living water may freeze for a time but life is not left undone or gone. Even the ocean can freeze and yet make waves simultaneously. In this season of little light and much snow is can be hard to remember what living, moving water is all about. The spirit of God, the author of all life, the essential element of all of us living beings, is water, falling over water, the substance of life, of baptism, of participating in the love of God. In the bleak mid-winter, it might be hard to remember that living water reflecting the summer's sun, but God is with us despite the stone like snow and ice.
John's Gospel. with all of the poetic words and illustrative descriptions, touches us with words of God's love and presence with us. We hear of Jesus talking with the people using familiar images to describe deep mysteries. Simplifying the complex, removing the barriers for all of us. Jesus promises that the life force of God, the living spirit of the creator's images will be felt and known in each believer, in our time as well as his. What promise for the bleakest of mid-winters! No anonymous or far-distant God, living by hidden and complex rules, but God who dwells with us, whose spirit is free and available for all!
Today, I want to give thanks for living water, for love which is renewed day by day, morning by morning. No matter how short we are yesterday, God's love is sufficient and abundant for today and God's mercy and forgiveness flows as constant as the sea for all who simply ask. May we all rejoice this day in God's spirit which animates us, renews us and emboldens us to live and love and forgive, no matter what we face today.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Jesus said to Peter, "Follow me." Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.
Where he leads I will follow...
an old gospel hymn rings out
and looking at the road today
blown and covered yesterday
with sand today with driven snow
I am bent over seeking to follow aching
to keep him in sight.
When darkness falls we sing
the old favorites and ancient
sorrowing psalms and retell
stories of promise and commitment
of love undying and faithfulness
and we wonder silently as we drift off
huddle against the ferocious wind
where do we go tomorrow?
As we wake with the light blanketed
shimmering across the snow our warm bodies
roused from sleep by wakings possibility
the way ahead is cleared as if by breath
gentle and constant which leads us away
from danger and whispers to us move on.
We followers would be of the one
who clears a path when we cannot see
who scales the heights and removes scales
from our sight calms our quaking hearts
setting captives like us free to
follow love's way.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,* the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,* praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’*
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Most of us have been shepherds and angels in our lives, relegated to the old musty robes and bent wings of generations of children. and yet, how blessed it is this day to be numbered among the shepherds and angels. Among the first to tell and to see that God is here with us, like us and not far off. Right here in the midst of our old costumes and bent wings our antiquated accommodations and our brazen humanity. What a thing for God to ne Emmanuel, God with us, and how blessed we are to tell it!
Friday, December 24, 2010
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" Luke 2:1-14
Since I was born on Christmas Eve, my family always has to regal me with stories about that Christmas. Christmas Eve was a Saturday and Christmas Day was a Sunday. My Dad, a Navy Chaplain, was due on board 7 different vessels in the fleet for services, along with several other services at the base chapel. My siblings were held from celebrating Christmas until my Mom and I got home from the hospital. In some ways everyone was put out. In other ways I was a very real reminder of the first Christmas. A humble little family a long way from home. They never let me not hear about it, as if I had control over when I was born.
Later today, we will rehearse the story of the coming of Jesus into the world. We will sing carols and light candles as the Incarnate one, the light of the world is in our midst. The fragile, dependent bundle of love, would be come the redeemer and healer of the world. Everything we do this day is a reminder of that first Christmas when God became living flesh, as one of us, vulnerable and helpless, so that we might know God's love in every dark corner of our lives.
Today as we celebrate as a family and as a community, I want to remember how important it is to tell the story - the story of the challenge and the angels, the fear and the thrill - and all that is in-between. For God is with us, in the midst of us, renewing us and making us again as children of the living God.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
And Mary said,“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; for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers,to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
I have or had three sisters - we lost my sister Pegi in December of 1990. All four of us liked to sing together and each of us played one or several instruments. It was Pegi who first got me to play the guitar. We sang while we washed dishes, while we doing chores of all sorts and on the regular long car rides that were made without any bathroom stops. Music and singing have always been an expressive and important part of my life. My girls are musical and so is my husband. And we often break in to song, to the embarrassment of our daughters on occasion.
Mary sings. A remarkable and familiar moment to us all and yet she sings a hymn she would have learned as a child and which she and Elizabeth would have known the special meaning of. She can't help herself but sing, for God was making real what was promised- that the humble would be lifted up, that women would be blessed along with their men and that the whole world would know of God's love through Mary, a teenage mom. She was full of anxiety and hope, all the standard feelings we women feel when pregnant, and yet her circumstances were special and her burden was large - carrying the incarnate God, the Savior of the world.
Today, as the season comes so close and Christ is incarnate more fully in our lives this Christmas, may we remember the ancient songs of praise, and the words of love and thanksgiving on our lips. I ask God to help me see the multitude of blessings in my life and spend this day with a song on my lips every moment.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:25-38
In the last few days before Christmas, we are often overwhelmed with the dashing and the last minute details. We are overwhelmed with what seems impossible. Will Christmas come if we are not ready? If we are not right and perfectly in order will God deny us our needs? We wonder whether we have done too much or too little, we fret over our families and children, we care so much and feel most often inadequate. And yet, busy Gabriel, announces to Mary that God is full of miracles, and God is full of peace and solutions even in seemingly impossible situations. Mary must have been overwhelmed and burdened with this news, knowing no one would believe her and everyone would tear her down. But God had a different plan and a different way and busy Gabriel announced the possible in the midst of impossibility.
Gabriel had good news for Mary and good news for us in the middle of our frantic worry. God is with us and Emmanuel has come and is coming to bring peace and good will to us all. We who are troubled and anxious, God is bringing calm and comfort. For those with broken hearts and lost hope God is bringing new life and new joy. To those of us who have feel there is no future and everything ahead is impossible, God is bringing possibilities and new insight to old dilemmas.
May we all have courage today to trust God to bring possible into our impossibilities. May we find forgiveness for the unforgivable, light for our darkness and refuge for the weary under our trees this year. And may we all know the present incarnation and future love that casts out all fear.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “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.” And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” Luke 1:8-24
Last night there was a complete lunar eclipse and it was visible in our area. We set the alarm to get up and view it. It was a bitter, windy night and with teeth chattering, we laughed and sang as we watched the moon turn an orange-brownish red and fade away to have its side reappear a few minutes later. I tried to capture it with my camera but it wasn't cooperating, so this picture is from sweet Kevin Ringer. The gift of putting the camera down was that I was completely present to the celestial event, the winter solstice night sky and this rare phenomenon that hasn't happened since 1648. God's beauty and majesty, and the voices of angels. Mystery and beauty through sleepy eyes is no less awesome and incredibly wondrous. It was a once in a life time, small event, personal and quiet in our jammy clad observation selves, and yet we together witnessed the wonders of the Creator's universe the elegance our the creation.
In our Gospel story we hear about Zechariah visited by an angel - a small, private, out of the way event. The angel told of the coming of John, their son to be born in their old age, an impossibility that God was working in time and simplicity. Zechariah did not believe the angel Gabriel, it was all too much and no one would believe him. Gabriel, for his part, made Zechariah silent for the duration of Elizabeth's pregnancy and Elizabeth hid herself out of fear. Listening to angels can get us in trouble in this world.
Today, I want to open my heart and my ears to the angels, listening to God possibilities rather than the world's closed doors. I want to be forgiving and loving of others, repentant for the things I have done so that God's work of healing and restoration might be shared through me. Today.
Monday, December 20, 2010
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. John 5:30-37
On my knees not alone but silence
surrounds the sanctuary waiting
holding our breaths listening
the traffic train whistles the bustling
world outside near but apart
this peace come from nothing on my own.
The candles dance their light in tiny circles
encompassing a bare altar an open heart
the aching, wishing , wanting unspoken
a palatable groaning for harmony
and peace in every life, kneeling
in this advent, in this prayer
we cannot repair it on our own.
The minutes walk by unnoticed lips
moving tears running faces release
the love that has been held long back
forgiveness breaking hearts and pouring
light on the core of our beings
we are not alone
Emmanuel, God is with us.!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25
He was really hurt. Joseph found out his fiance was pregnant with someone else's kid. He knew this would embarrass everyone -both families were in an uproar. Joseph figured a way to save face and to keep his dignity by getting rid of the problem. Mary was the problem and so he had made arrangements with another man to take her, a man who was desperate to have a wife and a family, and who lived far off. He would take Mary on a trip and return without her. He would tell a sad tale, a tale of robbers and mercenaries. And his name would be intact as would hers. A religious man, he didn't want the shame that came with this disgrace.
Many times in our lives we face ethical and moral dilemmas that challenge our generosity and our spirit. We know we should forgive and understand, but some people's behavior and harsh words can hit us to the core. We tremble with anger and hurt and ask God to get rid of our troubles. To Joseph's troubles, God sent an Angel, to reassure him that God was working through even these most horrible circumstances. He was asked to live through these horrendous challenges for the sake of God's love, love being born to the world. Flesh of our flesh and bones of our bones. Oh, how he must have trembled with anger and fear, feeling incapable of bearing the burden, incapable of bearing the shame, incapable of forgiving Mary and her seeming indiscretion. She looked to all the world to be a very bad girl, and God told Joesph to trust and love her anyway. And so from his willingness to forgive Mary and trust God, we have the greatest love story ever told, a husband who protects a fallen wife and love born to all the world through his sacrifice and forgiveness.
Today, I want to live with the hopeful vision that in the midst of mid-winter's darkness and gloom, amidst the troubles in the world and in our lives, I might find forgiveness anew in this time and place. I want to emulate Joseph who did God's will despite the outward shame and ridicule. I want to be a bearer of Christ in my part of the world.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:17-25
Last night, I had the privilege of participating in an Advent Taize service with folks at Trinity St. Paul's in New Rochelle. We sang together and prayed, taking time in silence to open our hearts to the spirit of God moving in our lives. In the silence the distant rumble of traffic could be heard and the mournful train whistles as they came through the nearby station. The world around us throbbed in business and anxiety and we had a moment of sheer peace and commune with God. All the worries and anxieties we all carried drained away and Advent, the time of waiting for the incarnate Christ, became real and holy again.
The author of Jude writes to those who are facing challenges in their communities and reminds them to persevere for God is in the midst of our faithfulness - whatever we face. God is in our silence and in our frantic work, and we can know that we are being held in prayer and surrounded by the spirit, to protect us from the worst onslaughts of daily life. No matter where we live and serve Advent is often a dark and challenging time, as the light fades from the world and the deep cold sets in.
Today I want to simply persevere. I want to seek God in every moment, every way possible to "save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear" and to live my life as an offering for the incredible blessings and protection that God has showered me with throughout my life. May we all accept the darkness that surrounds us and persevere knowing God is with us even as we wait in these last days of Advent.
Friday, December 17, 2010
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3
Today, one of the many tasks I have to accomplish on my day off is to ship my harp off to be repaired. Somehow the sounding board has separated from the back of the harp and after a long search, I found the man who repaired it many, many years ago. Unfortunately he no longer lives in drivable Massachusetts but in shipping distance in Florida. I have some anxiety about sending it, but no worry about Arsallan's skill in repair. While I have been getting it ready to go, one of my favorite Christmas songs have been floating around in my head. No matter how dark and gloomy the Advent gets, God always finds a way, through song, to bring me back to joy and hope. Music has a way of seeking me out, finding me and reminding me of God's love for us all.
The Gospel reading for today, which I usually focus on, was not resonating and helping me to live my life as a christian today. Rarely do I forgo the Gospel, but the Advent readings, so penitential and apocalyptic, can be more than I can fathom some mornings at morning prayer. And yet the ancient words of the poet and psalmist, the court's musician, help me to know God in a new way. They restore my hope and expectation which are also part of Advent.
Today, I ask God to give me the strength to love and forgive with a new song in my heart for every moment. Life isn't easy for any of us, and is often particularly brutal at this time of year. May we all seek God's new song in our hearts so that we might sing love to all of the broken places in our world.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:1-7
I woke up a bit late this morning, a little exhausted this time of year and feeling very much like rolling back over and sleeping more. Our eldest came in a sat on the bed and we talked for a bit. My husband is out visiting his mother and we are two girls on our own. We talked about nothing particular, sharing weird dreams and laughing. The cat crawled up with us and I noticed that there was an indentation across my hand, like an invisible bloodless sword slash. I wondered where I got it from, and where I had wedged my hand. And we looked at our hands, mother and daughter, our lives embedded in the daily work and expression our hands hold. The muscle memory of all the hugs and caresses, the balled up fists, the piano and guitar music played and the grasping for a hand to hold. John says God is at hand, and looking at my hands, the personal and unique instruments that they are, small and stubby but also strong and expressive, I thought anew about God being at hand.
John was a prophet, shouting in the wilderness and people came to him for repentance and release. They knew that they would find some freedom and release as they came up from the water, as they reached their hands from the water to the sunshine and light. And yet some came, to observe only, to mock the religious fervor, and to object to John's words. And there are always some who will mock, but we are promised, if we go down to the river, we will come up free and relieved. If we will let go to God's love and be washed we will be made new.
In this season of waiting and preparation, I want to remember that God is at hand. Every time I see my own hands or feel the touch of another I want to remember that God is at hand. God present in the world through us and in us calling us all to come to the river, to let go our burdens and shame and be cleansed, renewed and reborn in the incarnate child in Bethlehem.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’” Mark 1:1-3
I have been looking around and realizing that I have a crowd of people coming to my house on Sunday evening and I am no where near ready for them. Inside and out, straightening, cleaning and preparing have to be done. Little messes, piles of books and magazines, vacuuming and all sorts of other tidying activities are in mt very near future. I don not think this was exactly what John was talking about but I think it can point to where we are to God. "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." I know I can clean my house and tidy everything up, but God is calling me to open my heart to the light of God and prepare my soul and being for the incarnation of God anew in my life.
With ten days until Christmas, I see the panicked looks on many faces. Time and money are running short for many. They worry that it will be a horrible Christmas, as if the packages under the tree are Christmas. I find it hard to slow down during this time of year and find myself checking and rechecking lists, feeling inadequate and never enough. But God calls us then and now to prepare the way, to un-clutter the roadway, to unclog the pathways to our hearts and lives so that Jesus can come in.
Today, I want to be focused on preparation - the preparation of my heart and soul for the coming of Christ anew at Christmas. I want to find the wonder and joy of a child and to release the adult burdens and anxieties to God. I ask God to help me open my heart, helping me to forgive and forgo anger, to let go of expectations and to rely completely on the generosity and love of God in my life.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
For to us a child is born,to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7
I got the opportunity at a young age to sing the Messiah with my high school choral group. I even got to sing the alto recitative, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive". At 15, it was quite a challenge and a thrill. Singing with such a great group of voices, having put a huge effort into the performances, was a major milestone in my life. This lifting music, this icon of Christmas music, sung with such vigor and such heart! Right in the middle of our final performance, one of the boys passed out and went flying off the risers and off of the stage. We all grabbed for him a caught him before he hit his head- but it shook us up completely. And then, after things got settled down and he was seen to, we restarted and I had to sing, with my whole body and being shaken, feeling I was the next to go. God's presence and gift with us, in the incarnation, is as wonderful and lofty as the best music can bring, and as human as trembling teenagers, passing out from exhaustion and illness in the midst of a performance. Very real and very holy. Completely like us and yet compete.
Today, I want to remember as I make all the big and small preparations for Christmas, that this child is given for all of us - a child to fill the broken places, to mend the seams of relations torn, to bind the sorrowful and the weary and to bring light to our darkest moments. I ask God that we all find the newborn joy of love revealed over and over again this day.
Monday, December 13, 2010
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”Luke 22:39-46
There are many ways to pray. I can remember trying to stay awake while my Daddy was preaching in church. He had a pastoral prayer that used to go on for a long time. I am told that when I was quite small I stood up on the pew and said, quite loudly, "Amen, Daddy, Amen!" Many of us want to shoot off a quick prayer and we never want to be in silence or reflective time for too long. We want our communication with God as instant as text messages on cell phones or face book. And yet most of us probably spend more time with our cell phones and computers than we do with God. Rising and praying, sticking with the conversation until resolution comes is a hard thing and it takes commitment and dedication. And yet, the gift of an active prayer life is freedom and peace. The most prayerful ones are always the most compassionate, forgiving and without judgment or bitterness to anyone.
The disciples had a big meal and we heavy with sleep. Jesus wanted them to stay with him and pray with him. He knew how treacherous life was at that moment for him, probably because he was regularly in prayer. The disciples were oblivious to the strife and violence surrounding them. Jesus wanted them to stay with him and also knew how human and how frail they were. He forgave them despite their abandonment.
Today, I want to commit anew to a life of constant prayer, a life dedicated to opening my heart to God in every breath. I pray that I can come to the place where I am numbered among those who are compassionate and forgiving, who live their life for Christ and his face in all others.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me." As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,`See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Matthew 11:2-11
I have lots of cousins on my Mother's side of the family and none on my Dad's. And in the Native community, we all call each other cousins even when we are not related by blood, we believe we are all related. Some times cousins are best of friends and sometimes we don't know them well, or at all. But indeed we are related and we have a common history and a common story. No matter how much distance we are separated by, we still are family, still bound together in a larger group, an ancient bond that time and distance cannot undo.
And so it is with John and Jesus, who as cousins, share a bloodline and a common story. Their mothers were very close, and shared in some extraordinary times - their stories are repeated throughout the generations. Mary and Elizabeth, bound together by blood and miracle, caught between present reality and eternity, and misunderstood by most in their communities. The cousins, John and Jesus ahd common stories and songs, and the words Jesus spoke to John would have been familiar and family. John, in prison, would have known the old song and probably their mother's had sung it to them around the house and at temple. Their bond, eternal and temporal was made more solid in the passing of a simple message -the eyes of the blind are opened.
Today, I want to remember the gift of family and all my relations. We may not all be blood relatives, but in Christ, where ever we are we are bound together, in the time and for eternity, as a family and as the children of God. Because of two extraordinary cousins we are made Christ family, now and forever. I ask God to give me the strength to live as God's child, knowing that God's eternal love is constantly breaking through the roughest of family encounter and the most complicated of situations.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
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
Today is my husband Mark's birthday. He wasn't supposed to be here today since he was scheduled to go out and see his mother in Western Pennsylvania for the weekend. The weather has turned very rough out there, with more snow on the way, and so his trip and visit had to be postponed. And so I get to spend the day with my best buddy, my husband and the love of my life. Not matter what rough challenges and cruel behavior that happen to me in my life, I cannot look on his smiling face in the morning and be filled with joy. And on this day, his birthday, I can't help but be thankful to God, over and over, for the gift of Mark. No girl was so fortunate nor so blessed. I am not a girl now, but when I married Mark at 19, I was indeed, and even then, I knew I had been given a gift from God, a pearl beyond price, and a love that legends are made of.
The psalmist faced all sorts of crises, betrayal and jealousy, deceit and violence - not to mention his own human frailties and lack of control. And he had a relationship with God, knowing that despite all the dreary, heart wrenching days, God's love was new every morning and God would bring joy to the musician, the psalmist, the king and the fool, as they were willing to trust and turn their lives over to God.
So today, I ask God to help me celebrate the incredible gifts in my life, and especially today, Mark. A king, a prince and the brightest and cleverest - and more even, a faithful and true friend. May we all give thanks to God today for the abundance of love we have in our lives and remember to share the love and joy with thse around us, no matter our circumstances.
Friday, December 10, 2010
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:24-27
Not the one who gets chosen first
but the puny, grubby one at line's end
the foolish ones who throw themselves
in any available leaf pile or snowbank
and who hold hands through life.
Not as a conqueror but as the meek
sweet, foolish lambs, wandering snacking
a green and yellow meadow lit by
light and sweet-grass flavored
with a willingness to love and forgive.
Not as CEOs but as janitors, not presidents
but front line enlisted, we offer our lives
from love that is greater than today's politics
an eternal love stronger than fraternity.
Not as leaders but as followers we take up
the cross of Jesus, we take up forgiveness
and reconciliation, a lightness of heart
and a child's willingness of hope and promise.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. Luke 22:1-6
It is hard for me in this season of Advent, to wrap my mind around the motivation of the religious leadership. During their most holy time of year, they were so angry that they had to bribe an insider to help plot someone's death. I cannot imagine spending time during the most solemn days of the year to scheme another's downfall. And yet we do this - out of jealousy and anger, out of fear, rage and hurt. We turn our backs on hope and forgiveness and we bind ourselves gleefully, it seems, with hate. What we lack we try to find by crushing or hurting another. Being human is living with our destructive, hellbent potential as well as our hopeful possibilities and endless potential for love.
Judas took the money, maybe at first for the good of the disciple's coffers, maybe never realizing that the group had evil in their hearts. Whatever his motivation, Judas let love and forgiveness slip out of his hands. He bent to politics of the day, the group think and gave them what they needed - a human prize. We often think when we have successfully rid our lives of trouble, whether people or situations, we are in the clear. I have found that life has plenty enough trouble for every day and plenty enough troubled people to build a weapon of mass destruction.
Today, I want to actively seek to hold tight to love and forgiveness and to let hurt and hate go. There is plenty of hurt and betrayal in all our lives, and yet what we do with it - hold 'em or let 'em go - makes all the difference in the world. I ask God to give me the strength to let go og anger and hold tight to love.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “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 8:6-11
When I was a child, I like to draw and write in the sand, knowing my words would wash away and no one would see them. The wet sand below the high tide line is great for writing as it holds the words well, hard packed and clear, while disappearing quickly with the next big waves. You can release a lot of anger and hurt that way. And you can write out loud your feelings for someone and not look like a fool. Face Book really needs a sand format where people who need to write and say things which should never be seen, can write and have their words obliterated by the incoming tide.
Jesus finds a woman on the verge of being stoned, who by custom and law should have been stoned for her behavior. Women were stoned for the crime of adultery but men were not, it seems. It is likely that some one in the crowd had been her partner at one time, and played a role in the stoning to look innocent. How often we are ready to condemn others for the very things we have done in secret? How like humans to raise a fist or a stone to hide our own guilt and fear. Jesus wrote in the dirt, a medium that would not last but only long enough for the crowd to know he had their number. We are none of us innocent.
Today, I want to try to put judgment aside, knowing that I know very little about other people's motivations and their behaviors. I ask God to help me put down all stones, all harsh words, and undo my fists so that I might open my arms and heart in love. In this season of charity and love, may we all put down our weapons and move to compassion and forgiveness for the sake of him who died for all.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Luke 21: 29-33
My mother has often said to me, "Carol when you are getting close to God, the devil starts working overtime!" In the past weeks there has seemed to be a lot of turbulence and challenges in my life. In trying to get healthy and be stronger, both in my faith life and in my body, it seems as if the temptations are many and my body and flesh are too weak. It always helps me to remember my mothers words and start to pray - no matter what the temptation or challenge might be.
Jesus, as he nears the cross, know the disciples are torn and tempted, feeling the turbulence and challenges that surround them. Hostility and fear are rising. Jesus says to them, in the face of it all, God is near. When you see these kinds of things that hurt and baffle you, know that God is near!
Today, I want to take a deep breath in the face of the turbulence and bow my head, offering it all to God. I want to do this with the understanding that God is near. This Advent, in the midst of the busy and bustle, I want to breath and wait, knowing that God's love and compassion are moving in to the midst of it all.
Monday, December 6, 2010
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25-28
This morning dawned cloudy and cold and I quickly turned off the alarm. I tend to turn into a hibernating bear in the winter and find it harder and harder to raise up my head and get out of bed. When I was contemplating rolling over once again, I heard our daughter call from downstairs proclaiming that it was flurrying - the first snow of winter, light as it is. I dashed to the window to see and realized in doing so I had shed the bear and become an expectant child. How is it that the first snow flakes thrill us still? And how is it that we can go from bear to child in seconds?
Jesus, at the end of his ministry is preparing his friends for the hard times ahead. He know that tough times are coming and they may read the signs and think God had abandon them. But he reminds them, and us, not to interpret signs as the world does, and to remember, when facing the worst, we are facing the promises of God breaking forth in our life. Hope is born when we look in the storm and trust that God will see us to the other side. We move from slumbering grumpy bears to light expectant children when we trust that God is doing something wonderful in the midst of the darkness which we see.
May this St. Nicholas Day be a day of unbridled hopefulness and unbridled generosity. God promises in the midst of our worst challenges, the reign of God is coming close and making all things new. May we rejoice and hope today knowing God is working in the darkness to free us from fear. May we live in the light today asking for God's light and strength for all.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:`Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'" Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Matthew 3:1-12
This second Sunday of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of Christ anew into our lives, this is a time of new beginnings and preparing our hearts. We hear John warning us not to go through the motions but to bear our souls in earnest to the one who is calling us as brothers and sisters all of the living God. When I was a child, my brother and I used to practice full immersion baptism in the ocean. We acted our what we learned, exaggerating every motion and holding the other under the water for as long as possible. We would dunk the other and scream, "In the name of the Father!", letting the other up for breath when arms flailed too much. No matter that we mimed it all, we knew that baptism was a critical part of our lives, critical to who we are. We, in our innocence and foolery, knew so how that Old and New Testament met at this moment when cousin baptised cousin and the whole world was invited into the family.
Baptism, the baptism of Jesus by John and our baptisms today, are our inclusion into the body of Christ, the full membership into the family of God. How throughout history we have tried to exclude one group or other from the family. And how, over and over again, God has changed our hearts to include all. More and more family, more and more relations. We are knit permanently into this family by baptism, by John's baptism and y our own baptism. This is the season to open our hearts to our baptism and to get in touch with our family, mending broken relationships and asking God to mend our broken hearts.
Today, I ask God to make my heart pliable and open. I ask God to hel;p me put any hurt and pain aside so that I can see and know all as my family. As God has taken me in and held me in my darkest hours, may I be an instrument of that love and welcome that makes us all family in God.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, "come unto me and rest,and in your weariness lay down your head upon my breast." I came to Jesus as I was, so weary worn and sad; I found in him a resting place and he has made me glad.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question. Luke 20:34-40
Some days on waking light
filtering through windows dusty
eyes sleep swollen and stumbling
are these feet alive
or dead waking to new life?
Some nights tossing worrying
mistakes tiptoe around me
night visitors in shadow and whisper
I wonder what heaven might be like.
Some afternoons as the sun
burns into my working shoulders
digging in the garden's soil
life hidden away and vibrant
still I hope
to see you again.
I know the promise and ache
for more than a picture to hold
an old scarf you knitted
a brief laugh or song you might
sing me at night when fears
surrounded and you
held me tight.
You are raised to life and I
waiting to know you fully again
can only ache from the distance
knowing we will laugh and dance
again together when I
am raised like you.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar's.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. Luke 20:19-26
It is a n incredibly stormy day in this part of the world. The wind is whipping around and rattling the windows and doors. Water is running everywhere and it feels like a day to stay inside and hibernate. Lights are out in many places as trees have given up their upright status and fallen over power lines. I watched as the cat tried to follow the water running down the windows. I couldn't help but wonder what image did she see? Was she just fascinated with the movement or was she wondering, like I do sometimes, who is behind the wind and the storm?
The disciples were asking questions always, and so were the religious leaders. They all seemed to fuss over money. An occupied people, they felt put upon to have to pay taxes to a distance ruler and support an invading army. But Jesus had them look at the coin as to whom it belonged. And he asks us today to look at ourselves and our lives, and see to whom we really belong. Is a label more prominent than our faith and compassion? Is lucre or love more important in our lives? We all have to look into the windows of our souls and know whose image we reflect.
I ask God today, to help me know who I belong to and whose image I reflect. I ask that I can examine my heart and reflect the good image of our great Creator in every thing I do, now and always.