Monday, February 28, 2011

Rainy Days and Learning to Pray

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew" 6:7-15

This day dawned dark, with cold rain slashing against the window panes. The sky in grief or so it would seem to me. Today marks a day when one thing ends and another begins. The rain makes it ever more solemn and ever more profound. As if the earth were aching with me today, as if there was a breaking heart beating along side mine. We all have these days of transition, where the burdens seem to large to bear and the future seems uncertain and cloudy. It is for times like these and all other days that we learn to pray. We repeat words that bring us close to the heart of God, opening our heart to the breaking heart of God which is ever nearer and kinder than we know. We pray to invite God's will in, which softens our beings and gives us the strength to forgive others.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, prayer that would bring them close to God's heart, not make them religious leaders, or world renown mystics. Our job is to remain close to the heart of God, in good days and bad, in dark and bright skies, and to love and forgive those who break our hearts and turn towards the darkness.

May this dreary day not be the mark of our souls but the evidence of God's love and light in our hearts. I ask only that today I pray continuously, trusting and knowing that God is continually reforming and transforming us all, making us vessels of love and light to a dark world. May we all live through our dark times close to the heart of God as we pray without ceasing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Don't Worry

Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:24-34

Don't Worry

Oh, so you tell me not to worry
as I stand by the door bags packed
a map in my hand and the skies lifting
a strong breeze at my back like your hands
pushing me away to the new and uncharted.

I hear the seagulls cry as they swoop
searching for food diving to the rock jetty
laughing with one another as if there was
a joke and I was it.

The waves have increased the tide is rising
the winds are right to sail on the outgoing
tide swelling anxious and getting meaner
time to go without a life vest with out
anything but faith.

I look to the ground at first
in sorrow tears welling and see the crocus
pushing valiantly through the snow
so beautiful and driven a God sign new life
abundance breaking through the cold ground
and melting even colder hearts.

So we shove off hoisting anchor drawing in
the tie lines secured for the journey, the craft is moving
away from a mean and twisted shore for the winter
cruel and judging to a harbor of spring
shallow blue waters where joy can rebound.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Taking The Plunge

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

We witnessed an incredible event today. Our oldest daughter Emily participated in the Polar Bear Plunge today and we went along to cheer her on. I knew it was a physical challenge but I guess I never realized how challenging this event is for so many. They are raising money for Special Olympics, jumping into a frigid reservoir, the layer of ice more than a foot thick which was cut into in order for them to plunge. Most of us can't imagine jumping into icy waters. These people - more than 700 hundred in all age groups - jump into the icy water for people they barely know, screaming and groaning as they get out, with smiles on their faces. They put their lives at risk so that others might thrive.

The letter to the Corinthians described our human bondage as we are caught between body and spirit, always wrestling with how to live within our bodies but not to be owned by them. Those of us who would live for God would find ways to be released from the challenges of our bodies. The people today were heroic in my eyes for they were willing to put it all at stake, bare their flesh in the cruelest of conditions and jump in head first for the sake of others. A spiritual ritual, a gift for so many.

Today, I want to give thanks for the nameless throng who help us to be spiritual beings while we are bound by things earthly. Our limitations are no match for the spirit of joy and love that God has embedded in each of us. Today I saw the best of that spirit and was grateful to witness that unusual outpouring of spirit. May we all be drawn to be sacrificial and self-offering in these hard times. May we be witnesses to the spirit of God living in each of us today.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Loving Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48

As I was packing some things up recently I came across my high school year book. There were quite of few means girls in my class who I would have considered my enemies. I remember how I felt when they looked at me. I remember the kind of untrue gossip they spread and how their money was everything to them. They looked down on me because I was poor, dark and round, not rail thin, blond and rich. Every high school has mean girls and some go on to be mean girls in adult life. Funny, looking at the year book, I couldn't remember their names or their faces. Their hatred and scorn faded fast and they are not in my life now. How much hurting time I wasted when I was young. And none of their enemy behavior kept me from thriving and being a wife, mom or bishop.

Jesus tells his disciples that hating our enemies id easy to do. It is high school behavior, the work of the emotionally and spiritually immature. But to thrive as a person of faith, Jesus challenges us to be loving to our enemies knowing that their hatred of us and its consequences will fade like the grass, and will not keep us from thriving. Our wallowing in hate will keep us from growing, keep us from knowing fully the love of God in our lives.

And so today, I ask God to help me to forgive those who have hurt me and love them despite their behavior. Not so that I act better than them but for the sole purpose of growing in God's spirit and love in my life, so that I might be an agent of God's love and peace. May we all do the hard work today of loving and forgiving our enemies so that the light of Christ might shine through us now and always.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Boldly Free

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Some days I feel very bold and some days I feel more like a forlorn Charlie Brown after Lucy has pulled the ball once again out from underneath my swinging foot. In these times when we have such change before us, moving on, packing up and starting over, it is a common feeling to be overwhelmed by all there is and wish for a hardened and secure time, under the veil, when stagnation and routine are the order of the day, not transformation and change. But change we must and like Charlie Brown, I want to be trusting enough to get back in and try to play ball again. I desire a life in the spirit and yet it is a fearful business, this trusting God at all times.

Paul reminds us that we are to be bold in the face of challenges and trials, not because we are better than anyone, but because we have give our all to God through Christ and will be made new day after day. The possibilities before us are good gifts from God, fearfully and wonderfully transforming. This is where we are called - to the edge with God not to center covered by creature comforts.

Today, I ask God to make me bold despite myself. Today when I wanted to throw the covers back over my head and hide, may I be given a new measure of trust and a renewed sense of freedom. These changes are to bring us closer to God and the work we are called to do. May we be ever grateful for the ongoing transformations in our lives knowing they are from God so that we might be renewed for the sake of others.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Consumed by Anger

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny." Matthew 5:21-26

One of favorite muppets of all times is Oscar the Grouch. Oscar give voice to all of our human crankiness- our anger and love of nasty things, our pettiness and our jealousies and need for isolation and rejection of others. He embodies it and we can laugh at his obvious flaws while we treat our own flaws more honestly. For all his crankiness Oscar is really lovable and benign. He doesn't hold onto anger and is not really driven by it. He hides his compassion and caring well but is really a softie when all is said and done.

Jesus tells the people around him that anger can and does destroy us - not the momentary annoyances or our simple pettiness-es like Oscar's - but the jealousy and rage that consume us and destroy families and communities. So many wonderful communities of faith have been undermined and permanently damaged by angry people. So many children have been destroyed by their parent's anger at one another. So many hurts when forgiveness is not allowed in. And Jesus is firm in his words - this anger can destroy our souls. Lacking forgiveness and reconciliation can destroy all the good we do in an instant.

Today, I ask God to help me forgive those who have harmed me and ask forgiveness of those who I have hurt. I ask to not harbor the hurt nor fan the flames of anger, rather incite joy and forgiveness. May we all ask God to help us be agents of reconciliation and peace this day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shining Lights

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16

We had a visit today from my sister Betsy who brought Cole and Annabel with her. We had a great visit and a lot of laughs and went out to lunch at a local diner. Smiles and giggles all around with pancakes, french fries and chocolate milk in abundance. It was a day of light, the brilliant light twinkling in children who know no reason not to enjoy the day and linger in the silly moments. We all have lots of challenges as siblings and as a family, but there is light spilling everywhere with laughter close on by. There is no way to hide that kind of love and joy that can't be contained.

Jesus tells his disciples about how to live life. Not by a thousand rules, or by a strict diet or philosophy, but rather by spreading light and joy where ever we go. We are to use the gifts we have been given, the love and the family we are, as ways to honor God and the people around us. Many of us want a system or a set of rules but God wants us to use what we have and who we are- right now - for the good of the world around us.

Today I ask God to let me accept the gifts I have and use them all for the good of God's reign and for the service of others. I ask that I don't hesitate because of what or where I am not yet, and offer my all now, even if my light flickers and seems dim from time to time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Heap of Blessings

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others 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 so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:2-12

We got back after visiting with my mother in Cape May Point to find a fresh fall of snow - another five or six inches on the ground. Here it is February, and we are approaching record breaking snow fall and there is still more winter to come. People complain openly these days about being sick of winter. It grates on the heart and soul all this cold and all this snow. And yet as kids we couldn't get enough and we invoked every incantation possible to be covered in snow and kept home from school. It was the ultimate sky blessing and a beloved play medium, to sled and jump in, and have epic snow battles with laughter all around.

Jesus is speaking to a crowd of folks who have faced hard seasons and hard life times. They are faithful loving people who have been dealt heavy blows and carried great burdens. And to us and all of them he reminds of the great blessings we are from God, that God with us is turning even the worst burdens, the highest penalties, the most rank abuse into blessings. Well deserved blessings, the signs of the love of God.

As the day ends and we prepare for a challenging week, I am reminded that we are blessed at all times by God who loves us more than we could ever imagine. As we face huge hurdles and big changes may we all remember that God is always pouring out blessing upon us, even when are scared and broken, eyes full of tears and sighing too deep for words. May we all remember that God is bringing us joy and the laughter of children directly into our hearts.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thinking about Families

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you."You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:38-48

The thing about families is that we all have a common story, some similar traits and a great need to find ways to blame. I spent the evening last night with my mother, husband and nephew from Canada retelling family stories. One kid or another was always to blame for some hysterical tale, which we all know, was not funny at the time. We love to laugh at silly mistakes and embarrassments and love to repeat and inflate the stories. The danger among relatives is when we lose perspective and forget the sensitive kid, the awkward teen, the stumbling parent is still among us, whether in flesh or memory. When we lose sight of holding each other tenderly, we lose sight of the fragility of relationships, no matter how bound we are by blood and clan.
Jesus was very aware of how fragile human relationships were and how difficult it is to be blamed and shamed over and over again. He knew that to really love others is to take them as they re at all stages of their life and to face the honest truth of who we have become, with all our skills and warts. Jesus called his disciples, over and over again to forgiveness and servanthood, a constant posture of openness to change and growth.

Today I ask God to help me embark on the new adventures in my life with great joy and an openness to change and growth. I ask God to help me accept who I have become, accept the changes in my life and to be one who can forgive and serve with joy. May we know God this day by telling the stories of love, and tenderly caring for the most vulnerable around us – our families.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Long Strange Trip

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Mark 12:28-34

Today we are on a trip to Philadelphia. I am speaking at a conference of Women and Girls in the Diocese and will see many old friends there. After that we will go on to Cape May Point for a long overdue visit with my mother. My mother turned 88 two weeks ago and I am finally able to get away to see her. My life has been full of long rides and day trips, cross continental journeys and visits over the oceans. There is always something new to learn, an old friend to meet, and another opportunity to live the love we have been given. Following Jesus is never a straight road for me, but it is always full of pleasant surprises and love renewed along the way.

Today and this weekend I ask God to help me simply follow the first commandments - loving God and neighbor. I ask for strength to forgive and overlook, to see love with new eyes and new potential in everyone. May we all follow Jesus, whatever our road might be, by seeking to love God and love others with every breath we take.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Being Tenants

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; a11 this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” Mark12:1-11

The sun sets red and gold
the limited heat running away
from the horizon like frightened chickens
from the hawk's shadow
we are dwelling together dependent
on the one who made us all.

The tender green grass tickling toddlers
feet raised in the air eyes squinted
face exploding into a smile for the ages
the camera catches the delight of life
that God has given us completely.

As tears roll down an arm extends
over a pew beyond the boundaries
a dear life lost but cherished still
a husband son and father who was grateful
for all the gifts God had given
and was even thankful for the pain on living.

May we be those who give abundantly back
when the lush crops grow and the wine flows
and may we be humble enough the see the makers mark
on all the love that showers down upon us
no matter how complicated and awkward it might be.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Prayers for Peace

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and humans, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.I desire then that in every place the people should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. 1 Timothy 2:1-8

In cleaning up my office this morning, I can upon pages from an old journal when my oldest daughter was small and an only child. It was a challenging time in our lives, when we had moved back from Colorado after my husband lost his job. The theatre he was working for had many layoffs that year and he was among them. We packed up a truck and moved in with my parents. It was a time I learned how to pray, to really pray, when everything seemed uncertain. It was easy to be angry about our circumstances. My parents were kind to share their home with us but it was not what we had in mind for our lives. I had a lot of talks with God, that year, and in my searching found a way to live beyond the fear and desire to be quarrelsome. Rather I learned to know myself as tenderly held, just as I tenderly cared for our little one - and she took care of us also.

The letter to Timothy illustrates the challenge of living a faithful life in uncertain times - whether there is political strife, financial challenges, job loss, bereavement - in all of these challenges we are invited to practice prayer, to lift up hands to God and pour our hearts and souls at the feet of Jesus. In fat and rich times, the salad, light filled summer days, it is easy to forget to pray. But in times likes these, prayer is the only thing that gets us through.

Today I ask God to help me be prayerful in everything I do. May the bumps and disappointments be invitations to prayer. May the difficult people and the complex arrangement foster a poster of praying for peace and seeking peace in all things. May we all find a way to pray in the midst of our hardest times, so that Christ's light might shine in our darkness and illumine the world around us.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love and Death

And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. Mark 11:4-11

The world is a buzz with love. Valentine's Day is here. People stand several deep in the cards aisle searching for the right card to say what they cannot not. We seek expressions that are not ours to share today. We spend money to buy things that say what we cannot. The words of romance are quite easy, actually. The expressions of love, true love, are not so easy. Love is sacrificial rather than gaudy, humble rather than royal, a donkey's colt rather than white stallions. I watch as red and pink blister packs of valentines flutter everywhere and still there is so little love, true love. And yet in this same day, I have sat with those who are grieving and who know what love truly is - a son who always knew his mother's needs, a father who did everything for his children, a friend who always had a smile, a laugh and hands ready to help lift the largest load. Love is so clear in death, and it is clear that no death can stop love. Love is eternal and growing despite our losses and our lacks. Too often we strive and ache for love and only recognize it when a true love has left this world.

God bless us all this Valentine's Day that we may be agents of God's true love in this world. May our hearts be open to those least like us, may our hand be ready to offer all, may our mouths be filled with encouragement and song, and may we give our all so that others might see God's love in our midst and not only in its passing.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, `You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:22-25

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Lots of people crammed the malls and box stores to find the perfect gift for the one they love. We idolize romantic love. We think it is the epitome of human life and yet it too often is false and always fades. God is true love and the greatest gift of God is our forgiveness and freedom in Christ. And yet this greatest gift of love is so rarely employed, so rarely sought and even more rarely honored. Maybe to forgive and be forgiven we must be humble and this is often impossible for the present generation. But God forgives us and simply asks us to live as forgiven and loved. The sign of a true grownup and a long love affair is not the romance but the forgiveness. The willingness to let go in the face of another and to be reconciled. In this we know God and set ourselves free.

I share the following poem, reportedly found by Mother Teresa's bedside, which has been turned into music by the Roches. I have used this in my blog before, but as Valentine's Day approaches, it helps me to remember the truth about love - God's love and our love on this earth. Love is all about forgiveness. Love is all about letting go.

May we all, this day, make our hearts an offering to God, by giving up our notions of being right and instead, forgive those who have hurt us. God will be found in us as we do.

People are often unreasonable, illogical,
and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, People may accuse you
of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some
false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone
could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway

Author unknown

music by Maggie and Suzzy Roche
(The Roches)
People are often unreasonable, illogical,
and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, People may accuse you
of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some
false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone
could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Well-Deserved Crown

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:5-8

We just got home from Delaware after attending a dear friend's funeral. Elizabeth Denny Lamb, Beth to most of us, was a friend, a mentor, a neighbor and one who knew and loved God completely. She acted as Senior Warden, Head of Altar Guild as well as a million other roles at St. Anne's. Her life had not always been easy, but she never flagged in her faith and always kept her sense of humor. She hosted many a rowdy bunch of children in her pool and always had time to listen to a friend. She was constantly praying and when her health flagged she learned to use the internet and even joined face book. You knew she loved you, she gently kept in touch and never stopped encouraging even the most ornery child or adult. She was a queen and received her royal crown from her maker whom she knew as a friend.

Today, as the dark sets in and the road weary head to their rest, I want to give thanks to God for giving us women like Beth, who was often poured out, often enduring suffering and loss, challenge upon challenge, and yet gave her all to Christ and the ministry to which she was called. I pray that someday I can be like Beth, one who offers her all for the life and faith of others.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Being Chosen

And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:41-45

One of my favorite Broadway shows is A Chorus Line. I am not a great fan of musical theatre although I have worked on many. But A Chorus Line is a raw, human look at the struggle to be chosen for the chorus of a musical. To be chosen to dance, eight shows a week, unrecognized and pushed physically to the limit. It is extraordinary work, physically exhausting and emotionally challenging. There is no time to be sick, nor weak, and one has to look great and keep in time and in place. At the whim of a director a dancer can get cut. These are the servants of the industry, the ones whose names are never in lights, the ones who make the music and dance for the sheer love of it. They sing, "kiss the day goodbye and point me to tomorrow, we did what we had to do....can't forget, won't regret what I did for love"

The disciples are arguing about who will be chosen first - who is most important. Like children jockeying to me chosen for the team, or dancers and singer waiting for a shot, they were competing with one another, trying to put their best first and show the others flaws. They were brutally human. Jesus tells them that to be first in God's reign we all must set aside our need for glory, get on our knees and strap on a towel. We must set aside our luxurious expectations and offer what we have for others. We must ache with love so much that we would give our all for the marks of the indwelling of God's kingdom - justice and service.

Today I ask God to make me a servant from inside out. May my heart ache for the love of others, may my hands be ready for their care and may my joy be in the love of serving God who loves us more than words can say.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Good Soldier

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2:1-7

This passage from Timothy always reminds me of Shirley Temple. Her widower father has to go off to war and her leaves her at a girls boarding school as only the rich can contrive. As her father is leaving, she promises him that she will be a good little solider. Pouting and teary, she finds a way to draw her whole self up and give her Daddy a smile. Her life turns harsh when her father goes missing and stops sending her tuition. She is moved to the attic with the servants and has to ponder the loss of love. She is always generous and kind despite the cruelty of the adults and children around her. They hurt her with words and blows. She never gives up on love and remembers the words of her father at all times.

Paul writing to his partner in ministry, reminds him to hold fast in hard times. Paul is in prison and Timothy's faith is flagging in the face of abuse, cruelty and the worst of politics. Paul reminds him of the love he bears and the grace which is his in Jesus. Despite the worst abuse, Christ is with him, transforming his despair into hope. He reminds him that the circumstances he finds himself in are but temporary and God is in control of the final rewards.

Today, I ask God to strengthen me with grace, to give me a heart and mind of forgiveness and compassion. In the face of hard times, I pray that we can all be good soldiers, knowing we are following him who gave his life that we might live.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Salt and Peace

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:42-50

Many municipalities are low on salt after all the snow and ice. Many have exceeded their budgets and are buying on credit. Some haven't paid last year's salt bill and are facing financial challenges to pay for the salt and the road crews to move the snow. Salt has always been a very valuable commodity, whether it is for food or for saving lives. Too often in our present day society, we askew salt since it is bad for the heart and other organs. But salt is essential to life, and our bodies need it. The oceans would be dead without their salt as would we. Peace too is a precious commodity, much more rare than salt, even. There are plenty of salty people in this world, but few who are peace throughout their being.

Jesus told his disciples to have salt in themselves and peace among themselves.Whenever Jesus instructs them to do something, we can know that it is a terribly hard thing. None of us can accomplish it alone. We need to be a community together, a people who are committed to reconciliation and forgiveness, to vibrancy and honoring everyone's gifts, if we are to be salt and peace.

Today, I ask God to help me understand the value of both salt and peace, and to make my every action about salt and peace today. May my words and actions be encouraging and life giving. May all that we do today be for the raising up of others and honoring them for the precious gifts they are to God.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Greatest

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” Mark 9:33-37

I had the great pleasure of watching the Super Bowl at the house of dear friends with some new acquaintances and lots of food and good cheer. Despite the fact that the Steelers lost and Green Bay won, it was a fun time for all. On the way home, we got to talking about how great sports figures can get away with bad behavior. They are great athletes, they are champions, so they are seemingly allowed to be bad boys. There isn't much honor or fame for the most humble, the greatest sharers and those who do good all of their lives. Rather, we as a culture seem to revel in the short lived physical prowess and give them super human rights and free passes when they misbehave.

The Gospel finds Jesus listening to his thick headed disciples who are fighting over who is the greatest. And their master holds up a dirty faced, sticky handed child, a vulnerable wonder, an innocent who is completely reliant on the adults around them, and reminds them that the one who welcomes the least is the greatest.

Today I ask God to help me be one of those who welcomes the least. Help me not to look for glory or fame but to the needs and wants of others. May my words and actions honor God by serving the least around me. May we all see the face of Christ in those around us who are in the most need.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bear Each Other's Burdens

Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:1-10

I am recently back from visiting our youngest in Boston. While we were there we had lots of snow, just like many folks did during the week. We really don't need any more snow. When we were driving home, we came across trucks along the highway pushing back the accumulated ice and snow, in preparation for yet another ice and snowstorm. The burden of all of this weather has collapsed many a building and has collapsed many of the wills of individuals to go out and face it yet again. We are sturdy folks for the most part and welcome some challenges, like winter weather and such. Sometimes the burdens get to be too much and we collapse under the weight. When others help us the burden is lighter and bearable somehow.

The letter writer to Galatians, knows how fragile the human spirit can be and how limited we are in bearing great burdens. The writer knows we are all easily crushed and easily given to failure and temptation. And he encourages us to reach out to one another, tenderly sharing the burden and the repair of relationships. We are not to be one another's judge, but one another's supporters. Love shared burdens and makes light the load of the weary.

Today, I ask God to help me to see those who are suffering and in need of help. I ask God to help me bear other people's burdens and to be kind in every word and action. God calls us to share the burdens of others and I ask God to help me be faithful in the sharing of all of life's burdens today.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bearing the Cross

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? Mark 8:34-37

Bearing the cross in winter
the empty traps piled high
the lonesome masts crosses of white
bleached from the cold
rocking on the waterside.

Bearing the loss of sunlight friends
fair-weather gatherers who see only
summer's beauty and not her elegance
winter coating of frost and her solid
hull and centerboard a light
to the whole community.

Bearing the cross St. Peter means
watching for stranded fishermen
drunken and idling
poor and unemployed waiting endlessly
for work and a rising tide.

Denying ourselves may we see beauty
leaving our vanity may we know hope
carrying the broken may we know healing
and flying blind may we regain sight.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ground Hog Day 2011

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. Mark 8:11-13

Today is Ground Hog Day and we watched live as they wrenched the poor little critter named Phil out of the tree stump and demanded a prediction from the reluctant creature. The officials of the city festooned in morning coats and tops hats, some sporting Steelers scarves, reveled in their once a year claim to fame. The first prediction read from the scroll was that the Steelers would win the Super Bowl and the yellow towels went crazy in the huge crowd. And then Phil supposedly predicted that Spring would come early this year. Wbat were his real options? Predict six more weeks of this horribly intense winter? I don't think do. Everybody wanted a sign and it had to be the right sign. Otherwise there would have been a riot.

Jesus was being hit up for signs. Everybody wants predictions and they want them to be in favor of them. It wasn't enough for the Son of God to be in their midst? It wasn't good enough that God loved the world so much that the Son was sent for us all? And are we also demanding signs all the time and not seeing the blessings of love and delight right in front of our eyes?

Today, despite the rain and cold, I ask God to help me enjoy and delight in every wonder and gift I encounter today. Help me not to look for signs but see the ones right in front of my eyes and the love they bear witness to in this day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Break forth in Singing

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
Depart, depart, go out from there;
touch no unclean thing;
go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves,
you who bear the vessels of the Lord.
For you shall not go out in haste,
and you shall not go in flight,
for the Lord will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. Isaiah 52:7-12

We arrived in Boston last night after sunset, with snow piled high around. After settling in we walked to the harbor side for some dinner and found the restaurant closed. And yet the beauty of the city at night, somehow especially in winter, took my breath away. A mountain top experience at sea level and maybe below. Standing gazing at the harbor and this city which I treasure, I couldn't help but give thanks to God for all that life has to offer, especially the surprises and the laughter when things turn upside down.

We hear these words from Isaiah, spoken by the prophet to a broken people, a people whose lives had been shattered because of human greed and deceit. They were trying to be faithful and were torn apart over and over again. And yet God's words are for them and for us - The Lord will go before you and God will be your rear God. We are surrounded by God's love and protection and reminded of it in the skylines' beauty and in the faces of our beloved families.

May all of us who face challenging times remember that God goes before us and is our rear guard, today and every day. We are never alone despite the challenges, surprises and disappointments we face. May we all remember to look around and see God before and behind us every step of the way.