Monday, January 31, 2011

Thrown to the Dogs

And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. Mark 7:24-30

There is compassion between humans and animals. We make our animals part of our family and try to dress them up and play with them as if they were children sometimes. We have a dog name Petey, a girl we picked up from the pound who is a dear, silly sweet dog, always looking for attention and forever willing to go for a ride in the car. She puts up with a lot and loves us all unconditionally. And although she has a big bark, once she gets to know someone (and it takes about 4 minutes) she loves them completely too. My sister in law lost a beloved old dog this weekend and I know they are grieving deeply. Dudley was one of the family, the grand old man and with all his foibles and challenges, he was always happy to see them come home. Sometimes I wonder if the fact that God and Dog are mirror images of one another doesn't tell us something wonderful.

A mother aching for healing comes to Jesus who initially refuses her. I have always been upset by his brush off of this woman, a mother desperate for her child's welfare. And yet, I also know that we all learn best by coming up with the answers ourselves - we have to ask for what we need and seek diligently. The woman argues with Jesus and he delights in her faith and fortitude. Her child is made well in her willingness to press God and for God to delight in her fierce and steadfast love.

Today, I ask God to help me love and forgive unconditionally. With all my heart and mind I ask for faith like the Syrophoenician woman, who is not afraid to argue with God and is never willing to give up. As our beasts love us with reckless abandon, may we love the people whom God has blessed us with this day.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-12

I feel blessed and happy when I can wander along the beach in any season. Early in the morning or late at night it makes no difference. I have spent my life so near the water, and have grown and aged in its presence. It has power and beauty and is always a sanctuary for me, a encounter of renewal and delight. The pounding of the waves on the sand, the regular reminding light of the lighthouse, the wind sometimes fierce and some times gentle, always brings me a sense of blessing and joy. We each have places and experiences that make us feel blessed and happy, and even if we are not in those experiences at present, by recalling them, we are again smiling and hopeful.

Jesus is speaking to a crowd of folks who have known a great deal of hardship and suffering. He is not talking to the elites or the religious leaders, but to the crowds, the aching, needy people seeking a savior. To them he tells them that they are of noble birth and blessed because of the challenges they face for their faith. God is in the midst of them, blessing and renewing them in the hardest of times, and bringing love to those who have known it not.

Today, I want to pray that I hear the blessing and the joy that Christ is offering. I ask God to help me carry that message despite the challenges and the rough road ahead. I ask God to help us all to understand the blessings in our lives, even as we face the hardest challenges ahead.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Walking On Water

And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:47-52

When I was in high school, my senior year I was on the swim team. It was the first year that girls by law could participate in varsity sports. We had a tough coach, but he taught us the basics and encouraged us despite the challenges, and the changing times. There were two of us on the team, one swimmer (me), and one diver. We weren't treated special, just like one of the boys - we didn't care- we were just grateful to be in the water in the middle of winter. We felt lucky and knew it was cool that we could walk home with wet hair and watch it freeze because we were participating at a level not experienced by girls in high school here before. So many things have changed and progressed since then. Seems like the dark ages. For a brief moment we felt extraordinary - like one day we too could walk on water. But really, our lives went on and we both remained well grounded on the earth.

Jesus walked on the water, ready to pass the boat with the disciples right by. But they were afraid and he had to stop and quiet down their fears and remind them that they were loved and cared for. They were so undone by his water walking that they thought ghosts were attacking them. The extraordinary possibilities overwhelmed them. they were afraid of leaving the solid ground that they had known all of their lives. They feared stepping out, sinking, freezing in the exposed night air. We all fear the extraordinary, from time to time, and fear can keep us from stepping out and seeing life in whole new ways, full of possibilities. Today, God invites us to imagine more that what we know and live as if Jesus were walking by us today.

I ask God to help me live with the hope and possibility that is promised in the Gospel. The hungry were fed, the sinking rescued and the fear given a glimpse of possibilities and hope. I pray we can all be agents of God's possibilities and that we can step out in faith to embrace what was once impossible.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Feeding Others

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. Mark 6:30-44

When we were recently in Albuquerque with a large group of Native people we were hosted by the Cathedral and the local Navajo churches. On Sunday, I wandered into the kitchen to talk to my friends Alice and Cornelia. They are mother and daughter and were responsible for making the big feast we were having later in the day. Both women were engaged in making huge amounts of food for the crowd, laughing and carrying on with me as if they did this every day. They were preparing to make Navajo tacos for our supper - ground lamb (often, more traditionally mutton) on fry bread with all the taco trimmings. Such glorious comfort food! And it was delicious later that night. But I was reminded in their presence how important food is to our lives, not just in our sustenance but in our very identity and self-worth. How food binds us together, binds our traditions and identifies us to others, reminds us who we are.

The feeding of so great a crowd with two small fish and five loaves of bread was a tremendous miracle. But even more than the food miracle was the people miracle. They knew God's presence and their relationship to God in the breaking of the bread. They learned in their fullness that God was ever compassionate and ready to find ways to bring them food and comfort in the most desolate places. People who had been hungering for the touch of God spiritually, also were touched by God's love physically, in that Jesus found a way to fill them to overflowing with comfort food, their comfort food, and not a strangers. Their identities were linked with God from that day forward, they were part of God's family and part of the crowd who knew God as one of them.

Today, I want to live always aware of the needs of others around me, both their physical needs and their very real need to be identified as loved and cared for - part of the family of God. May all my work and actions reveal God's love and the fullness and breadth of God's love for us all.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Head on a Platter

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:21-29

For my birthday this year, my sister gave me a plate I treasure. It has a face on it that you can decorate with food. My niece and nephew think it is hysterical that their aunt, who is a bishop, is also very silly and child like. I like dumb stuff and I don't particularly like being grown up all the time. When we were kids, we had a few special plates that we used to fight over. One was designed by my great uncle Charles and it had Miss Mary seated with a dangling spider next to her and the nursery rhyme around the plate's edge. We also had a Hop-A-Long Cassidy plate which was a favorite and much fought over at dinner time. Needless to say, most of mt siblings have grown way past being entertained by plates at the meal table - but not me.

When I read this story of the beheading of John the Baptist, it has always struck me funny - not because it is something to laugh about - but because it always seemed so ridiculous that a dancing girl could make policy and that a dinner party wouldn't be marred by John's lifeless head being brought out for all to see. I am always taken off guard when people's hate is so great that they would use their children as conspirators and ruin a good dinner with political intrigue. And yet it is the story of the ages. When we lose sight of God's love and forgiveness in our lives, it is easy to find any way to cover our tracks and misdeeds.

Today, as the snow falls and we face yet another storm, I want to give thanks for all those who have brought me God's love and forgiveness and who have not ordered my head on a platter. We all do stupid things and we all cause others pain. I am grateful for God's abiding love and forgiveness, that I might live another day and know no intrigue, but childlike pleasure in the simple things of life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two by Two

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. Mark 6:7-13

Sent out but not alone
a companion always an aide a friend
this road is dusty and our thirst is mean
but we will never be left aside
or squandered in the lane.

There is redemption in darkness
healing in squalor,
peace in raging controversy
and delight in small things.

We are sent out not abandoned graced
with gifts to share an empty bag
a full heart and the hope of new life
new friends along the way.

Those who chose to reject us can
those who chose to seek Christ come
welcome all and stand in no one's way
but know we are coming nearby
you are invited and never forced.

God is with us and we bring peace.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Healing on the way

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:24-24

People don't often talk about their commutes unless they are treacherous. We don't usually share car trip stories unless something funny or horrible happened along the way. I had found that when I was driving in the car with our daughters when they were teenagers, it was the best time to listen to them talk, and the best time to laugh with them. Many a heart and mind has changed while waiting for light to turn green or while driving to a lacrosse game or a swimming meet. Precious little ever went well when we tried to plan a family meeting, but when we were traveling together, we learned to laugh and understand anew. My daughter Emily and I had a chance to travel together last week, and the fun and challenges we shared have made us ever closer. Even drying our rinsed our clothes as we were delayed overnight in Chicago, gave us stories to tell and adventures to laugh about.

Jesus heals a woman on the way to Jairus' house. Jairus' daughter is dying and he has begged Jesus to come before it is too late. They get caught up in a crowd and a vey ill and broken reaches out and touches Jesus. He doesn't see her or know her, but she is healed on the way. She is fearful but reaches out in faith, realizing her only moment might be there and never again. And Jesus tells her that her faith has made her whole. She took a chance, during a chance encounter and her whole world changed. And we do not know her name but she stands throughout all time as a symbol of faith and giving all. She has a moment and she sizes it.

Today, I want to remember that the little moments along the way are as important as the big events we await. I want to enjoy each moment God has given me, and size all the possibilities that come before me, knowing that God is always offering if I am willing to see. May we all live in the present moment, knowing there is healing for all along the way.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nets and Leaving

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
"Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. Matthew 4:12-23

I have observed that fishing with a pole, as most of us think of fishing, is much easier than fishing with a net. With a pole and line in the water, we can pretend to be fishing and really be day dreaming. We can be watching people or the horizon and contemplating our own private thoughts. But nets are heavy and require our all. When wet they are extremely heavy and when full of slippery, jumping fish they require massive amounts of strength and effort to haul them in. Hauling them into a small fishing vessel requires skill too, keeping the boat from tipping and sinking, losing crew and catch at the same time. The leisure activity of a line and pole is what most of us want. When we are called by God to follow, it involves the netting kind of work. Hard, back breaking work in strange and complex situations.

The four men who dropped their nets, Peter and Andrew, James and John left family and their traditional ways to follow Jesus. They went from the familiar to the strange and had their all demanded of them, in very different ways. They would be challenged to see the former enemies as family, their traditions set aside for love and they would be traveling among strangers in very different places and Jesus would find ways to make them all relatives. They cast their nets and gathered others in - in ways they could never have imagined as they dropped their own familiar nets.

Today, I want to remember that God calls us all, lay and ordained alike, to be fishers - to put our all into our faith and to give up the familiar for the redemption of the world. We are invited to set aside judgment so that God can gather all and make us a family. May God give us all the strength to gather others in, even the ones who make us awkward and uncomfortable.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lamps and Seeds

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.Mark 4:21-34

It seems to me, as a child, both of my grandmothers had lamps with prisms on them. Small lamps and large ones, and I don't remember the lamps but I remember the prisms. You could pry them off, the metal attaching them being soft, and hold them up to the light. Or I would watch, transfixed as they dangled and swayed and made light and color dance all over the room. What made them move - I am not saying. I never broke one lamp or one prism, but I was pretty careful not to get caught. I knew they were someones treasure, and they were a secret treasure to me. Dancing lights in the winter, sparkling possibilities when trapped in the house during winter's raging storms. Even during a storm there was light and possibility for me in those amazing lights that seemed to be alive with capacity, hidden treasure in so small a thing.

When ever I hear the parable of the lamp and the mustard seed, I remember the small child I once was and the possibilities that opened before me. Dreams were as vast as the ocean and growing up meant I could spread my wings and fly. Grown now, I know that adults still dream but we expect a lot less. We don't try to be mustard seeds or prisms much anymore. And yet the Gospel encourages us to think big, to ask God and to know that what is impossible to people is never impossible to God.

Today, I want to open my heart and soul to God's possibilities, to the dreams of youth and the capacities of creative souls. I ask God to give me the courage to be hopeful and excited again, knowing that God's reign is of growth and potential, even in old age, even on rocky and hard soil and there is light for old lamps which have been hidden away.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Good Soil and Solid Ground

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:1-9

We got off the plane this afternoon after an overnight delay in Chicago coming back from our annual Native leadership gathering in Albuquerque. It felt extraordinary to step off the plane and finally be at home. I thought about kissing the ground, I thought about what it means to be on solid ground and on good soil. It is not always the climate nor the richness but the combination of the two. I was glad to be home and there were others to receive me. Love is good soil and a life lived with constancy, compassion and a sense of humor is always solid ground.

The gospel speaks of Jesus telling stories to explain things. This story is about seed and ground, about the need for good seed and solid ground. A place where the nurture is as important as the capacity, where beauty is not superficial but deep and abiding. Homes are places where love can grow when nurture and dependability are there and when laughter bubbles out like summer rain.

Today, I want to give thanks for solid ground, for home, and family and an abundance of beauty and laughter. I am so grateful for God's love in my life made evident through those around me. I am so glad to be home.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Walking Together

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Ephesians 4:1-7

I am not strong enough to walk this road
I need an arm, I need a hand
you are my pumping heart and the oxygen I need
and when I pretend to be alone
it is a way to protect my heart
that we share.

We are never at our best divided
our strength comes in our union
God is found in the center of our circle
in the smoke and fire of our counsel
God dances and sings with us.

When the night falls down I hear
your breathing reminds me of the solid earth
the surrounding sky and the love of God
which animates and calms us all.

Today I lay my gifts on the altar
the reds and pinks of this morning light
I offer what I have so that we may walk
side by side, strong and dependent
brothers and sisters chanting as we go.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Myriad of Names

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter). John 1:32-42

Today we celebrated the Eucharist with the people of the Cathedral of St. John here in Albuquerque. With Native people from all over, we heard, in story and in song, of many ways God is praised and the many ways we are called to serve. From the range of vestments and regalia to the voices raised in song, there was evidence everywhere of the splendor and diversity of God's creation and the joy that is shared as people so diverse gather together. We all had stories to tell and our elders shared today. And they shared their hardships but also the constancy of God, and the incredible hope for the future. And they invited us all to respond to God's call to serve, no matter or age, gender or the life we have known.

The Gospel for today tells of the calling of two brothers, fishermen who turned from their lives to follow Jesus. They had been seeking, and had heard John tell of the Messiah. Andrew came to his brother and announced he had found him. And then, leaving what had come before, while remaining who they were completely, followed the one who would lead them and guide them from there on out.

This day, I give thanks for the wondrous variety of God's creation and God's willingness to include all of our variety and names in the fabric of the faith community. God insists on inclusion rather than conformity, on loved shared with all rather than a limited and regulated community. And I give thanks for the many Native leaders who have helped me to find the Messiah and who have given me the courage to follow Him.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sabbath Time

One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 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 2:23-28

Today we took a drive up the mountain to Sandia Peak over looking Albuquerque. The sky was blue and the air was clear and we could see for miles. Although there was no snow in town, up on the mountain there was plenty, and it was much colder than down below. The air was thin at that altitude and the two of us were still getting acclimated to the altitude as my sister and brother in law took off up to the peak. When we got to where we could look over, it was stunning. A moment of extraordinary beauty and a moment of sabbath- rest and renewal, light and restoration. A break away in order to be fed and be made new. The exceptional beauty could not be overshadowed by our breathlessness or newness. It was transforming.

The Gospel reading for Saturday finds us with the disciples walking on the sabbath and feeding their hunger. The religious rulers, attentive to right behavior, were quick to criticize. How often we miss a magnificent moment of sabbath when we get anxious about the rules? How much can we humans miss when we won't go to the peak because of the challenges or lean over and take in a new way of being? We are, as humans, quick to criticize or blame, and we often miss extraordinary moments of delight and wonder. How different would that scene have been if the Pharisees ate the small, nutty grains of wheat and marvel at God's creation? How different would we all be if we invited the Lord of the sabbath into our everyday moments?

As this day comes to a close, the first day of Wintertalk, I give thanks for all the wonderful people I know who have taught me how to see the extraordinary beauty in complicated and challenging circumstances, and who have taught me to go beyond rules to relationships. May I be an instrument of God's love and compassion in the coming days together as we meet.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Being Built Together

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by [9] the Spirit. Ephesians 2:11-22

We shared a room and many harsh
words and days tumbled over
we tanned in the sun and ran
in the waves stretching and leaping
through years and conversations
sharing a heart beat
such separate lives.

We are tarred with the same feathers
blanched by the same remarks wounded by
frictions blamed as a group and so we stumble
alone and afraid not seeing our bound seams
are frayed threads mending as we weep.

We shared angry silences, belly laughs
and bitter coffee drunk too late
when the little ones were in bed and yet
was there more to say was there a seam to rip
and a stitch to redo a hem and a skirt
that still needed mending?

We are here for the same reason bound by one
whose love is water and light, blood and bread
miracle upon miracle and a crazy quilt of love.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Immeasurable Riches of Grace

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10

The snow is piled high around us this morning and the sun is shining bright. Mountains of bright snow, glittering along the surface, making us rich in beauty, rich in grace. The whole world is clean and bright this morning and most everyone has a snow day, so there are few cars on the road. The previous storm, the day after Christmas, was an occasion of reprisal and criticism for New York City and other areas which were not fast enough at getting streets plowed. Now, the lesson learned and all is forgiven, or so it seems. Today is a beautiful and glorious day, and the laughter of children on their bundled way to sledding brings a musical quality to the pristine snow. Grace abounds in this winter wonderland.

The write of the Ephesians reminds us that this grace, this abundance of mercy, love, forgiveness and renewal, is not of our doing by is a gift from God. Our most common attribute is to criticize or blame and yet the attributes of God are available too, free flowing and given daily in love. As the earth is renewed, so too are we renewed and made whole by God's loving grace which is never limited, never withdrawn from all who seek it.

Today, I ask God for an extra measure of grace and forgiveness, so that I might move beyond my baser ways and accept the generous love and forgiveness that has been showered upon me from above. May we all bask in the light of God's countenance which is never far off, but given daily, in extra measure, healing and forgiving as it runs around and through our lives.

By Grace

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body [10] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But [11] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Casting and Mending Nets

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

I am very much a child of the sea and one who loves images of the water at dusk and sunrise, when working folks are doing their best unimpeded by sunbathers and tourists. When I was a small child our neighbor was a pastor and a fisherman. He casts his nets early in the morning and with the rising tide. He taught all of his children to fish and his son Rusty would pull a wagon and sell the fish. They taught me how to fillet fish - children teaching children in our carefree summers as small children. I wander to the ocean these days at sunrise and sunset but the folks who are fishing are mostly surf casting and nets rarely fly anymore, Some say there are not enough fish. Others probably don't know how and most are fishing for pleasure and not for food and sustenance. My neighbors were living close to the bone, and needed the food and the income.

Simon and Andrew cast their nets, they were fisherman, as Matthew tells us, and there was no pleasure sport in their work. They were feeding and clothing families with the catch and their lives and livelihoods depended on their skill and success. And yet,with so much risk and so much unpredictability, they set their nets down, risking all to follow Jesus. They put their families at risk, they put themselves fully into the hands of God, these rough, hard working men, in order to be followers of Jesus. A remarkable and almost incomprehensible scene. Who do we know who has really given up everything to follow Jesus? We say we have but most of us have had a little bounce room and much financial support. They had no loans to take, just their complete trust in God.

So today, I want to follow the example of Andrew and Simon, who were willing to give up all to follow Jesus. Their lives were not easy, and yet they were blessed daily by God's love and direction in their lives. May we offer our all today so that through us God might bless the world.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Trials and Temptations

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

There are times in life when we have extraordinary good times, when people celebrate us for who we are and we are surrounded by hope and possibilities. And there are times when it seems as every day is a trial and every challenge a temptation to turn back and give up. When we heard of the shootings over the weekend, senseless and horrific, so many instantly reacted with despair and fear. Others condemned one political leader or another. And yet, in this world of broken humans, where we can only hide so much, the encounter with the worst in us is inevitable. But it does not mean that God is not caring for us, loving us in the midst of our worst trials and tribulations, and finding hope in the hopeless and terrifying moments. Some were heroic who in the past have stood by and trembled. Others found a way to give of themselves and lend a hand. Redemption even in the embers of such great losses.

We have these few phrases from Mark about the baptism of Jesus and his temptations. We know in his humanity Jesus struggled with the weight that was put u[on him and the role he was destined to play. He prayed and struggled with what God was doing in his life. He was pulled many directions as we are, and torn asunder with the injustice and lack of compassion that surrounded him. He cried for the judgment and the blame that swirled everywhere he went. And yet, in the end, he gave it all to God, putting one foot in front of the other and did his best to be God's child, God's son, the Redeemer of the world. And we too are invited to be the children of God. We ache and weep to be known and loved by God and yet we run when trials get close and the road is unclear.And God promises to surround us with angels to care for us in our darkest moments.

So today I want to remember that when ever I am overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations that life brings, I am sharing a process with Jesus, struggling with life's temptations and will be surrounded by angels so that God might prevail in our callings. May we all wait for the angels today, despite the very real tragedies that confront us, knowing that we are beloved children of a very loving God.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Arise, Shine

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.
Isaiah 60:1-6

She wants to roll over and go back
to sleep, to dream to avoid
standing on the stage of life and singing
trembling in the bright light of day
fear unmasked and revealed for all to see.

She is young and unseasoned
she is seasoned and weary reasoning hiding
safe and warm, covers overhead burrowed
into darkness familiar and intimate
is better than exposure, better than cold
morning feet on frigid tile.

Arise, shine for there is more
to see and do and love
despite the fear and rejection
the turns and tumbles in the road
the swerving drunks, broken bodies
rent hearts and tears flowing,
there is more.

A child awaits a smile
an elder an ancient song
the hungry a small breakfast
the ill a chance to breathe full again
and there is warmth despite
the winter whipping wind and love
grows despite rejection and pain
and there is more to love and see
and do.

Arise, shine for your light has come!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Listening to your Mother

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.John 2:1-11

As a mother, I know how hard it is to want to help your children and instruct them even when they are adults. I know they have to grow up and do things on their own. I have a great deal of sympathy for both Jesus and Mary in this story. Life is hard no matter where you stand and mothers and kids can be aggravating even if they are the Virgin Mary and the Savior of the World. So here's to parenthood and listening to your mother. I am attaching these bits of wisdom I found on the Jokesters website. Enjoy on this snowy day!

Motherly Wisdom

"I don't care where you think you have to go, young man.
Midnight is past your curfew!"

"After all that money your father and I spent on braces, Mona, that's the biggest smile you can give us?"

"Humpty, If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times not to sit on that wall. But would you listen to me? Noooo!"

"I don't care what you've discovered, Christopher.
You still could have written!"

"Mike, can't you paint on walls like other children?
Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that stuff off the ceiling?"

"All right, Napoleon. If you aren't hiding your report card inside your jacket, then take your hand out of there and prove it!"

"Now, George, remember what I told you --
don't go biting off more than you can chew!"

Again with the stovepipe hat, Abe?
Can't you just wear a baseball cap like the other kids?"

"I realize strained plums are your favorite, Barney, but you're starting to look a little purple."

"It's a nice car, Bruce, but do you realize how much the insurance is going to be?"

"I've got a bill here for a busted chair from the Bear family. You know anything about this, Goldie?"

"Well, all I've got to say is if you don't get off your tuffet and start cleaning your room, there'll be a lot more spiders around here!"

"But, Albert, it's your senior picture. Can't you do something about your hair? Styling gel, mousse, something...?"

"The next time I catch you throwing money across the Potomac, you can kiss your allowance good-bye!"

"That's a nice story, but now tell me where you've really been for the last three days."

"Clark, your father and I have discussed it, and we've decided you can have your own telephone line. Now will you quit spending so much time in all those phone booths?"

"Of course I'm proud that you invented the electric light bulb, Thomas. Now turn off that light and get to bed!"

Thursday, January 6, 2011


In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'" Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:1-12

Last night my aunt and uncle joined us for dinner. It was a night of story telling and laughter, a family moment of joy and delight. This aunt is my mother's youngest sister, and artist and a wonderful friend. My new uncle is an artist also, a gentleman through and through and both so very down to earth and approachable. We were talking about star gazing (among many other subjects) and we spoke of the recent lunar eclipse that coincided with the winter solstice. My husband, daughter and I had gotten up to stand out in the cold to watch it. My aunt and uncle said they would rather watch those events in the warm weather when my 87 year old mother piped in -"Well, I saw it! I got up and watched it!" We all laughed with delight and she said to us, "Don't underestimate me! I am full of surprises!" I come from a long line of star gazers, people who think the natural world is full of gifts and signs from our loving Creator, our magnificent and creative Lord.

This day we celebrate Epiphany, the arrival of the three Wise men to the humble cattle stall in Bethlehem. We know that this trip was full of politics and treachery, and that the powers that be were afraid of a new uprising and a new king. And yet, the men from the East, traveling through harsh conditions and uncertain political climates, followed the star with their hearts full of hope and anticipation. Knowing God was doing a new thing, even if they didn't share the same culture, language or religious traditions of the young Messiah. The God of all languages and peoples was making known love incarnate, living and breathing love for us all.

Today, I want to rejoice in the gifts of the star, that lead foreigners to become family and which shared the Good news of God's love for all beyond a small religious community in Israel to all the world. The star reminds me that we are all included in the light of God, whether we acknowledge it or not. God is with us, each place and each tradition, each person and each culture, and God is today revealed by a star -the star that guides us to love every time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:1-16

I was always transfixed by the story of Jack and the beanstalk - seeds that transformed into huge climbing vines, strong and reaching to the sky. The endless climbing only to reach a huge house occupied by a veraciously hungry giant. And how a young and nimble, seemingly half-witted young man, provides abundantly for his struggling family in the end. Vines reaching to the sky, strong and flexible, this image is imprinted on my brain. Now I realize it is a metaphor for love, for, these strong and flexible vines, that withstand heat and cold, the turns and twists of fate and life and still throb with life and are the conduit for abundant living.

Jesus calls us the vines and the Father the vinedresser, the one who care s tenderly for the growing vines and wants strength and abundance for us all. That is the true desire of love and God is the source of true love, that our lives may be abundant with love and compassion, hearts open to those around us, our strength and faith increasing day by day. How incredible that God would call us friends and shower us with tender and constant affection, helping us grow strong and solid in love moment by moment.

Today I want to give thanks for all the vines in my life, who have held me tight when I was falling and who lifted me up to the sky when darkness was closing in. May we all rejoice for the strong vines of love in our lives today.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Asking Today

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:6-14

Philip asks wanting proof
a vision of God crystal clear
a demonstration of ultimate power
of proximity to greatness.
His master wondered how bad eyesight
or hard hearts have blinded him.

We ache for proof waking to light
to tables groaning and love gathered
and still want more from the one
who gives us everything day in
day out and we hold back.

The incarnate one shows us open hands
offering abundance and limitless love
and we would see spectacle and pizazz
smoke and mirrors light spectacular
and miss the roar of the ocean
and the power of the water that covers
us with life, potent and strong.

May I be fearless in my asking
putting all before his feet
offering daily my life and time
for the love of others around me.

May my prayers be for love and abundance
trusting God who promises even more.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sheep, Sheep and more Sheep

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. John 10:7-17

Sheep have all sorts of literary connotations, all sorts of images from story, fairy tales and pictures that tells us that sheep are not very bright and in need of a shepherd. Recently I discovered a poet in Britain that got a grant for random poetry - she wrote words on the backs of a friends flock of sheep, and wrote down the various different configurations of their formations - very expressive, unique and moving poems. All presented by oblivious sheep. She calls the poems Haik Ewes. Well, sheep do need a shepherd and on their own get into rough places and ridiculous circumstances. Just like us people, who think we know so much more, and don't need a shepherd or direction.

The people who Jesus spoke with knew sheep to be the currency of life in their community. Sheep were clothing and food, livelihood and wealth. The more sheep the more prominent the family. And they understood just how much care and tending they needed. They couldn't have missed that Jesus was telling them of their own need for care and comfort. And that they were prized possessions in the heart of God.

Today, I want to trust God for my leadership and direction each step of the way. I want to act knowing that someone else is in charge, more loving and more compassionate than I could ever be. May we all turn to the great shepherd of the us the sheep for our every breath and step today.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Long Way Home

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son." When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean." Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

When I was a young woman in college, I work for a time in a day care. I loved working with the kids, most of them from poor, inner city families, and I loved to play and read to them. Our favorite book was "Marvin K. Mooney". It is a Dr. Seuss classic, in which Marvin is being sent on a journey - any way possible. " I don't care how, Marvin K. Mooney will you please go now!" was the recurring tag line. The kids loved to scram the line when we got to it. Marvin was forcible being sent away, on a journey that was contrary to his life and plans. We often face these times in our lives when our best laid plans are interrupted, undone or sent on long delays. We bristle and grouch about it, and yet we all know the experience. And some time these altered plans have unknown benefits, wonderful learnings and sometimes save our lives.

The parents of the small child Jesus, aching to go home and be surrounded by family and friends, are warned to go home another way. They end up in a foreign land, maybe among distant relatives, at best, delayed and maybe even wondering about God's plan and God's timing in their lives. It wasn't what they wanted. Like them, we find our delays and diversions make us frustrated, and we can question whether God is really guiding and acting in our lives. The child Jesus lived because of the diversion but his parents paid a hefty price of loneliness, dislocation and being distrusted illegal aliens in Egypt. They must have wondered, at night, alone with their thoughts, "Is this isolation going to last forever?"

In the midst of our dislocation and frustrations of the day, I want to remember that God is truly in the midst of us. If the Holy Family can live with them, might we all be encouraged to see these change of plans as God's protection rather than abandonment? Today, I want to remember that every change of plans is a chance to grow and to trust God ever more.