Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ They answered, ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Messiah of God.’

He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, ‘The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’

Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’Luke 9:18-27

We went out to the cemetery today where my Dad is buried. He was a Navy Chaplain with the rank of Commander and served during the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam. He was a reservist by the time I was conscious of it, but we spent time with him during Vietnam while on active duty. The times were tense and many young men went off to never return or return bent and broken in body and spirit. My father had several young men in his care, who worked as his assistants, many of whom had been drafted and were adrift and anxious. I remember a few of them. And I am pretty sure my Dad was firm with them but tender, willing to give up his life for these men, willing to plead their case before the ranking chaplain, even if it meant trouble. As we stood at his grave in prayer, I could think of no higher praise than his willingness to offer himself for the life of others. I can think of no higher praise for all those selfless young men and women who are willing to do likewise for people they don't even know across this nation.

Jesus talked to his disciples about sacrifice, and their willingness to serve others and offer up their lives for others. In God way of running things, those who offer themselves are most prized, most honored, not those who acquire fame fortune and wealth. So often society, then and know, measures greatness by what we have. God measures it by what we are willing to give.

Today, I ask God to help me offer everything I have and all that I am for the welfare of all people, and for this world. May the joys and freedoms we celebrate today be tempered by our willingness to sacrifice for others, friends and strangers alike.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

No Orphans

Jesus said to his disciples, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." John 14:15-21

Today we attended church at St. Peter's in Cape May Point. It was the first Sunday the church was open after a long, cold and stormy winter. Light filtered in everywhere, the breeze was cool and everyone was happy to be back together. There were some folks missing, one who had been senior warden for generations. John passed away last summer and we all miss him. There were little ones there too, vocal and bright and a community was renewed and reconnected today. It is a fragile and transient community, because of the seasons and the nature of a beach town. And yet, we are, all of us, permanent residents and visitors alike, a community together and no one is considered a stranger.

Jesus is reassuring his disciples. It seems that he spent a lot of time reassuring them and promising them support at all times. We are, as humans, all in need of constant reassurance. Some of us may think we are truly self-reliant and without the need of support, but there isn't one of us who can live our lives of faith alone. How wonderful that Jesus says what we need to hear, even when we act like we are above our own needs.

Today, as the sun sets and the world hushes, I am particularly grateful for the many ways God finds to never leave us alone or abandoned. I am so thankful for my family, for the many friends and people of faith who hold me up in prayer and act as partners in this walk of faith, no matter how far apart we might be.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Enough to Share

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.

In their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Luke 9:1-17

We have had the beach to ourselves for many days. The walks this spring have been a concert of birdsong and wind with very few human interruptions. And now, Memorial Day weekend and summer is upon us and the world teems with people. They were dragging their chairs and toys, umbrellas and towels in an endless stream, desperate to acquire the best spot on the beach and the most fun per square inch. It is sometimes hard to share when we have had this all to ourselves. And yet as we dashed into the cold ocean jumping in the waves and swimming the world became larger somehow and there was enough for all.

The disciples were overwhelmed by a sea of humanity, needed and hungry. Once they had had Jesus to themselves and now people were clambering in form everywhere to hear him and to feel his touch. The were desperate for their moment with God. And somehow, Jesus made it possible that there was enough for all, despite the anxiety of the disciples and the crush of the crowd. Somehow God makes the impossible possible, and shares the blessing around in abundance.

Today, I want to give thanks for this place and the people who crowd on in, seeking something more than their daily lives can bring. May I remember that God has enough for all of us, in overflowing amounts, and that there is plenty to share with everyone.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Healing Daughters

Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.

As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her haemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’

While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.’ When Jesus heard this, he replied, ‘Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.’ When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened. Luke 8:40-56

My mother's warn hands tell a thousand stories
laundry loads uncountable, tearful eyes wiped
a million sandwiches and decades of groceries
piles of homework and hairbrushes forgotten
her prayers like water over falls a constant
murmuring for her children her grandchildren
and the great grand little ones.

My daughters hands speed over keyboards
thumbs flying, texting song and jokes in
little bits, speaking volumes in thousands
of increments of information.

We all have our hurts these mothers,
these daughters, the children the parents
wrangled in grief and joy wrapped up
in a thousand holidays and meals
the repeated stories of struggle, survival
heroes in their universes
beauties of faith and forgiveness.

We fight for survival and dance for joy
we weep for what cannot be and what is lost pressing
on with life, with laundry and food
finding music and laughter in kitchens
and cars, full and lonely we ache for love
for a touch, a kind word, a hand stepping up.

Their touch and their words transform me,
their laughter scares away bitterness
their eyes lit with love and hopefulness drown
out the deep darkness of fear.

My mothers, my aunties, my daughters and grand babies
Gods love dwells as we reach our hands in love
as we bake and bend for the sake of others our service
God finds and invitation to be in the midst of us
and our healing is found.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When Pigs Fly

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:26-39

Pigs are fairly smart creatures despite being much maligned. The name pig is used as an insult for police and for large people. I been called a pig to my face more than once. And yet there is so much more to a pig than simply size. They are cleaner than most, brightest among the farm animals and capable of fast motion and clever concealment. But we say things like,"when pigs fly", to indicate when the ridiculously impossible happens.

And yet, the impossible happens in God's reign. A tormented soul, ravaged by mental illness was made whole and sane by Jesus in the blink of an eye. The pain and demons which racked his body were sent into the pigs, and they were sent over the edge. Pigs are smart enough not to take their own lives, unless they are riddled with pain. There was enough pain to poison a whole herd. Jesus found a way to not only heal this man but put a whole community on a course of care and faith together. The seemingly impossible made possible.

Today I want to remember that God invites us to seek change even in our darkest and most impossible place, to ask for healing in the most stubborn and relentless situations, and with the most difficult and painful relationships. God was willing to heal the man who had terrorized a whole community and God is willing to heal our darkest places, so that all might know God's love in their lives.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Light your Lamps

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”Luke 8:16-18

When we moved there was a lot of furniture to reckon with. I find myself asking, where did we get this from? Or why have we moved this so many times? Lamps are one of those things we asked these questions fairly often. We had an odd collection of lamps. Some artistic, some utilitarian and some truly ugly. Much of our furniture was handed down to us or salvaged. We liked some of these things more when we were young. Some we put up with because we couldn't afford to replace it. Our eclectic collection reminds me how unique and odd each and every one of us is - and it really doesn't matter how classy, artful, plain or utilitarian we are, as long as we are willing to light our world and help the deep darkness disappear.

Jesus uses the example of lamps to talk about faith with his disciples. They wanted an order and an outline to follow. But Jesus, understanding that each one was unique and each had their own challenges. The simple request of faith, is that we share the light we have in the vessels we have been given.

So today, with what remains of the day, I want to light the lamp and shine with whatever I have been given. Let us all give thanks for the unique life and love we have, and shine to fend off the darkness of the world and help save the lost and the wandering.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that “looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.”

‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. Luke 8:1-15

We worked in the garden for a while today, puling weeds and cutting back branches that overshadowed the growing plants. There is a tenderness in the garden, and we want to be careful where we walk and what we pull. Some plants and shoots are so new that they can't be weeded around for fear of damaging the tender roots. Nothing happens fast, neither weeding nor growth. Every stage is to be watched, and monitored, keeping an eye for pests, for enough water and enough sun. True gardening is a spiritual experience, a glimpse into hoe God cares for us, daily, closely and with great tenderness in every season.

We hear the garden story in Luke and almost miss the incredible way it begins - with three women (and many other unnamed women) who travel with the disciples and Jesus, and who offer their resources for the good of the community. I cannot help but wonder if the parable thus told hasn't been influenced by the presence of these grateful, generous and tender women who made the ministry possible. They cared for Jesus and the disciples, making sure there was food, a place to rest and probably clean clothes and refreshment along the way. Women who "hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance." I would like to believe that their presence added a dimension of nurture that was necessary for the flourishing of ministry and of faith.

Today, I want to give thanks for all the nurtures in my life, both men and women. Those who have tenderly cared for my body and my spirit and who have helped me to follow Jesus and minister to others in his name. Nurturers rarely win prizes, or attention from the world, but God knows their value and holds them tenderly as those who live faith every day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our hair, Our tears

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
Luke 7:36-50

Our long black hair chopped
in mourning, otherwise a crown
a talisman of beauty and strength
we are always seen as sinners
always someone's object never ourselves
always referential, never known.

His eyes see clearly the heart
the pain of responsibility that forces
compromise and sanctions sinful acts
to save a family, a people, a race.

We are all guilty of giving way
for survival for protection of our
babies, for the care of our elder ones
the feeble and fragile who we give
our lives for every day.

We brought the sacred herbs and sang
sacred songs of lament and forgiveness
and he gathered our songs and our hearts
and made them fly.

We are set free without shame
to walk talk among our people.

We are responsible still
and their thriving is our duty.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The End of the World

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 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 know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? 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; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. John 14:1-14

Yesterday, at 6PM, the world was supposed to have ended - or at least those who would be saved would be raptured and the rest of us would be left behind to suffer horrible consequences. Well, the time came and went and life goes on as usual. I think the folks who suggested that would want to at least apologize and take responsibility for all the people they mislead. People who did dumb things, like not pay rent or car payments. Some folks ache for an end of times because their lives are hard and painful. It understandable to ache for an end to suffering. And Jesus invites us today to help end the suffering of others, not worry about the last days or what heaven is like.

Jesus told his disciples "let not your heats be troubled." Don't worry. Simply suggesting that any and all acts of love signify the presence of God, and God knows and responds to those who act in love and charity for strangers and neighbors alike. We are invited to quit worrying and quit trying to figure things out. Certain things are in God's hands. The beginning and end of times and guidance along the way.

Today, I want to remember that the end of times are not to be determined by me, even when I wish for certainty and clarity. Jesus promised care for us, a road ahead, and a resting place - a home. And so today, I want to take every step trusting that God goes before me, caring for my way. My job is to love and care for others, demonstrating God's love alive in the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Do not Weep

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.Luke 7:1-17

"There's no crying in baseball!" Tom Hank proclaimed these words as he played a washed out big league manager assigned to a female professional team during the second world war. "A League of their Own" is one of my favorite movies because of lines like that. On some regular basis, as our daughters were growing up, we would proclaim, "there's no crying in baseball!" when someone broke into tears at an awkward and unnecessary moment. The irony is people cry all the time, even in baseball, and those women showed toughness that no male bravado could match. How can we not weep when our heart is broken? How can we not weep when we are overwhelmed with loss.

The widow was faced with overwhelming loss and sorrow. Her only child, her once precious little baby was taken from her and her heart was broken. Jesus does not say these words as if to silence the woman. He is not uncomfortable with her weeping. His authority was not challenged by her tears. He was moved by compassion to bring her a miracle of life restored. He could mend her heart by restoring her son and so he did. Plain and simple, he made it better for her. The boy was restored to his mother and began speaking - another miracle if he was like most teenagers I know. Jesus met her at the heart, in her deepest sorrow and brought back life where there was only loss and death.

Today I want to celebrate the many miracles in my life and the many, many times God has entered into my darkest places, into the heart of my need and found a way to restore life and hope. We are living in a world where people lose hope everyday. I ask God to give me the strength to reach out to those who are sinking from a broken heart and those who are inconsolable due to the weight of loss. May God use our hands, our hearts and our tears this day.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rising Water

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye. For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:39-49

Rising Water

The skies have been so dark daylight
ominous and unfriendly no one walks
the streets are empty we huddle inside
waiting for the flood.

We wake to the sump pump and wind
rattling the ancient clapboards they sing
a lament in a strange tongue we pull
the covers over our faces and pray.

Waves crash like an approaching parade
relentless, forward moving pressing
towards our shelter, our home built
on deep foundations and faithfulness
Is it enough?

We wake to the daylight soft and tender
light rising to find us seeking our hearts
and our buried heads we peek out timidly
aching for sun and safety fearing
the worst.

We are high and dry despite the fury
we are high ground despite the deluge
Even as we float down river God sings
a morning song of promise and renewal
of safe harbor and warm hearth.

God beyond the shuttered windows
fights for us in our dark nights
wrestles like Jacob for our lives
sings the morning song or promise
clears the path despite the storms.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good Measure, Pressed Down

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:27-38

We had a wonderful breakfast of cantaloupe, cheerios and fresh strawberries with our daughter Ariel. Her daughter Lillian was asleep in her basket, full of her breakfast and dreaming baby dreams. We talked about strawberry picking, and the first time we took Ariel strawberry picking, when she was just weeks old. We also laughed about the time we went picking with a friend who wore white shorts and then sat down on a bunch of berries by accident. The simple joys of life, a full basket of berries, a sleeping baby, reminds me how often we miss the full measures pressed down, shaken together and running over in our lap moments. The most spectacular moments of life's abundance are often the smallest and simplest of moments. God blesses us with an abundance of laughter and love - and fresh strawberries for breakfast!

Jesus reminds his disciples that following him means taking the tougher climbs and the higher roads. Anybody can welcome friends, love the lovely and share out of abundance. But we are called to share all that we have, to treat the most unlovely as loving family and to constantly forgive and set aside judgment. Love that is bigger than our pettiness is how God rewards us in huge measure for our small kindnesses.

May today be a day of true gratitude, a day of giving thanks for the incredible abundance and love of God - love which forgives before we can, fills us up before we know our need, and never condemns nor judges, rather pours love over us as we struggle along.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blessings and Warnings

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
‘But woe to you who are rich,for you have received your consolation.
‘Woe to you who are full now,for you will be hungry.‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets." Luke 6:12-26

We watch the weather channel here alot. Living by the coast, a block from the ocean, we have to keep an eye on the skies and be careful about storms. Life is wonderful, but it can become treacherous pretty quickly, and when the water rises, we have to be careful of floods. During a full moon, with exceptionally high tides, and with the heavy spring rains, we are always alert. Not in danger yet, but always alert. And if the winds rise, we can lose power quickly,so we have to be prepared.

Jesus talked to the people who gathered around about the blessings of following him and choosing love over power. And he warned those who chose power and money over love and compassion. God has a way of make the high brought low, and those who were once scorned, revered holy ones. He encouraged them to seek God and love one another rather than seeking wealth and fame. Their alertness was to authentic love, authentic community and real service.

Today, I ask God to give me the courage to accept the short-term harsh conditions of being faithful, knowing that God is active and working for those who love and serve. May we all put our effort into the care and protection of the world around us, making God's love known as our only mission.

Monday, May 16, 2011

To Do Good

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the cornfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?’ Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’ On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?’ After looking around at all of them, he said to him, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:1-11

Living with my mother again has opened my eyes to people's assumptions and misunderstandings. My mother was in a bible study recently and they were talking about people being hungry in the passage they studied. The group leader said something about none of the group had ever been hungry. My mother piped up and said she had. She told them the story of the growing up during the Dust-bowl in Oklahoma and being starving. She told them of destitute times during the Depression and how anxious and scared it made her family. Even after her story they thought she wasn't telling the truth. Because they could never imagine themselves in that kind of need, they would not allow themselves to accept that one of their own had been in such circumstances.

Jesus fed his disciples with what they had, which was often very little. There are no prohibitions about eating on the Sabbath, just that the food can not be prepared and work cannot be done on the Sabbath. The religious authorities wanted Jesus and his crew to go by the rules. They could not imagine one of their own would be in such circumstances that they would have to make do with what they had, and keep one another from staring, sabbath or no sabbath. They could not imagine it for themselves and so they did not allow it for anyone else. How often we judge before we put ourselves in others shoes. And how often we are invited by God to put love first and rules second.

Today, I want to always do good, putting love at the forefront of every day. Not being lead by correct behavior or social attitudes, but rather by the impulse of love and compassion. I want to do good for those in need knowing that God abides in the action of compassion and that grace flourishes in the sharing of hearts and hands.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

His Voice

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go 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. John 10:1-10

Today Mark and I celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. We have had several very busy and exciting weeks. We have also been very exhausted and overwhelmed of late. Nothing has gone as planned. We had to change in mid-stream and go another way. We have had to think on our feet and make it up as we go along. Sometimes, even the most flexible people can be overwhelmed. But my husband is generally unflappable. Our daughter Ariel told me, that of all the people in the labor room, it was her dad who could calm her and help her through the contractions. It was his voice that brought her focus. His voice alone brought her comfort and security. I am blessed that he has loved me all these years. Our daughters are grateful for such a loving father. We are known and loved, each tenderly called by name.

Jesus tells his disciples about the difference between the hired hands and the true shepherd. When things get rough, when plans change and danger is near, the hired hand flees. The thief tries to break in and mimic the shepherd, but none are the shepherd. His voice, is comfort and calm. The shepherds voice is love without judgement, peace even during the worst storm. Too often we look for the shepherd in the thrills of life, or in order of things. But the Good shepherd is found in the calming voice in the storm, the constant love that is strength on persistence and constancy.

Today, I give thanks for the love of my life Mark, and how much he teaches me about the love of God. Faithful and consistent, never afraid to enter life's storms, I am blessed to have a companion, a partner who lives love with lightness and laughter, with compassion and tenderness. May we share those good gifts with the people who come our way, so that they too, might know his voice.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Time to Celebrate

And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” Luke 5:33-39

She's here - Lillian Eileen Ringer was born on Tuesday at approximately 10:30 PM by c-section. She is healthy and sweet and her Mom and Dad are elated as are we. It was amazing, after all the labor, all the waiting, all the false starts and a couple of insensitive nurses thrown in, nothing mattered but wonderful Lilly. She is a calm, sleepy child, beautiful of face and spirit. It was hard to come home and leave that little of bundle of joy and her parents behind. We are already making plans for our return.

The religious community wanted the obligatory fasting from the disciples and the community that surrounded Jesus. They wanted them to go through the correct motions, to live according to rules. But it was time to celebrate. The living presence of God was with them and there was no time for the rules of life. Nothing mattered but soaking up the time with Jesus, celebrating and living fully in the moment. Like all of us with this newborn wonderful girl -nothing else matters.

Today, as we celebrate Lilly's arrival and remember my Dad on what would have been his 94th birthday, I want to give thanks and celebrate the fullness of life as we have it today. Today as Lilly demonstrates love made new, I want to thank God for her, for my Dad and for all who showed me love made real. May we celebrate fully today the gifts we have been given, setting aside judging others, sets of rules and putting love first wherever we are.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Awaiting Love Revealed

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:7-12

Today we are sitting in the labor suite. It was a long night and an early morning. Our daughter Ariel started going into labor early yesterday, and so we packed up our things and came to Allentown. She had been to the hospital and sent home and when we arrived here she was having contractions and hadn't slept for a day. Her husband Adam hasn't slept much either. She has been so brave and so strong. I remember so well having her and now, I am blessed to be part of the time when they have their daughter.

There is nothing much more to say today. We watch, and we pray. We breathe with her and listen to monitors, grateful for the nurses and others who have been helpful and kind. We await this new love in our lives and would give our all to her.

God is love, and God is found in the waiting and the worry, in the love of a family gathered. God finds us in our waiting and in our longing and our sleepless nights. May God, who is love, find us today, in the all sorts of places and circumstances.

Monday, May 9, 2011

At Last

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’ John 4:23-26

I have looked all over the globe
turn this sphere back and forth
looking closely peering into the dark ridges
and deep valleys searching, straining
to find a holy place a holy road
to know God.

Across the universe I walked singing
crying carrying beads that kept rhythm
carrying the load of my family my people
those who search for truth and those
who seek the holy.

I stood on the high mountain air
thin breath hard and irregular kneeling
to meet the Creator and I was alone.

I walk the shore toes encompassed by sand
pebbles and shells littered my garments
and the silence brought me high
my solo voice brought me low.

And then I saw a table rusted and broken
filled with the world's outcast, dirty faced
children, adults laughing as one
sharing bread, tears and comfort.

At last, true worshipers
the face of God
at last.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

That very day, the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?" He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:13-35

Bread is the simplest of things, and breaking bread, the most basic of human interaction. Sharing a cookie or a meal, breaking break together is a sign of love and tenderness, even when we don't feel either. My mother was a great bread baker, and the smell of bread rising and cooking still can give me a feeling of being loved and nurtured as a child. The steam rising in a cold winter kitchen is completely banished by making bread. Cold hearts are often warmed completely when a meal is shared. The simplest of things often reveals God's love so clearly. And on this Mother's Day, I want to remember all those who showed me God's love by sharing a meal, a cup of coffee, a smile.

The disciples on the road encountered Jesus but were clueless to who he was. He even gave them a full theological explanation of his life and ministry, and brilliantly revealed himself - and they were clueless. And yet, in the simplest of things, as the bread was being broken, they remembered love, and God was revealed to them in the son. The smallest of tender gestures was the vehicle of God's love completely revealed.

Today, as I sit in the airport returning home from Bismark, I thank God for the people here who made me feel so welcome, made me feel at home right here. And I ask God to help me remember that is the simple gifts, the simple signs, the smallest of gesture that welcome God and reveal the love that is in our midst. May we all be thankful for the thousands of small ways that our mothers make love known and in so doing show us the way to God.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tempted and Tried

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,“‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,“‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:1-13

I've spent the day traveling by myself, through two airports. I've learned something about myself. I am really drawn to those places which sell magazines and candy. I find myself craving something sweet. Traveling is stressful, I rationalize, particularly when there is no one to share the wait time with, and a little sweet snack is a great reward for the hardship. I am amazed at how sweet, snacky things tempt me when I am away from home. They are easier to manage at home, and I can be stronger around others, but on my own, I am weak and cave easily. Being human is really challenging.

Jesus is tempted after a long time of prayer and fasting. He has done without and is tempted by the devil to take his authority, demand what he deserves and to demonstrate the limits of his power. It takes everything that Jesus has to fend off the devil. The bad guy keeps coming back, flashing the possibilities to a very hungry, very weary man, who is all alone. And yet Jesus recognizes he is never alone, as we are never alone. The God of love is ever close, ever providing and we do not have to flex our muscles or reward our selfish need in order to be surrounded by the Creator's presence.

Today, I ask God to help me be a compassionate human, one who understands the temptations of others and does not judge them, but see myself in them. We are all taken to the edge some times by circumstances or pain too great to bear, and in all that God is with us, nurturing and tenderly caring for us all.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Surrounded by Birds

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." Luke 3:15-22

We have several bird feeders in the back yard. We brought them with us when we moved here. My mother has always sat at her table and watched the birds outside of her window. The whole town is designated a bird sanctuary and migrating birds come through since there is a fresh water lake here so close to the ocean. The rest here before they cross the Delaware Bay. This morning, I had to move the bird feeder since she was having to strain to see the birds on the feeder. I picked up the pole the feeder was on and moved around until I got the okay from her. All sorts of birds show up, mostly pretty common ones and occasionally something more rare. We have doves that nest in the eaves of the old house where we live. Birds fascinate us as they signal seasonal changes, new ideas, and awe us with their beauty, movement and unusual markings.

John had baptized many and heralded the coming of Jesus, which got him into hot water and ended him up in jail. How strange that the herald of God's love coming among us frightened so many. I assume it threatened their rigidly tight control on things. They were told they would have to change their ways, and no one wants to hear that. And then came Jesus, up from the water, noises from heaven like doves, and a voice which declared love for this dear one. How frightened and confused they must have been. How odd that something so normal as a dove, so common and so nonthreatening could signal such unrest and confusion.

Today I ask God to help me welcome change and all the visitors in my life - feathered or otherwise. It is normal to reject newness and to be afraid. I ask God to give me courage to not be fearful in these times of change and newness, and welcome each with an awe for the beauty they bring. May we all be courageous in these changing times, knowing God is looking upon us and speaking words of love for the entire world.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Being Content

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” Luke 3:1-14

In the small town where we live, a coastal community that swells with summer visitors, it is not unusual to see for sale signs on many houses. People with lots of extra income love to buy a "shore home" and want it outfitted with the same luxuries they have at home. By the ocean, where the sights and sounds are beautiful and the breezes are extraordinary, many come and stay inside in their central air. Many sweet small cottages for sale say, "excellent tear-down." Folks build huge monstrosities complete with central air and flat screen TV everywhere. They hide themselves away from the world they come to enjoy. In a place where, during the summer, one really only needs a good book, a place to wash, sleep and cook, people want to be cosseted and tuned in elsewhere. How easy it is to not be content with what we have been given so abundantly.

John is asked about how one should live in preparation for meeting God. He gives them all a very simple answers - share what you have and be content with what you get. For this John is seen as an enemy of the religious leadership as well as the government. Power thrives on greed and desire. What John proposed would undo the hard work of power by asking folks to open their hearts to others and to accept what is around them as gifts. For teaching people how to welcome God he would lose his head. We are invited to turn and open our hearts to one another so that God may come in.

Today, I ask God to help me be content with what I have and to share the blessing. I ask God to open my heart so that I might care for others and in so doing welcome the living God. I ask for eyes to see the abundance around me so that I might rejoice in the gifts before me and be content with it all. May we all turn today so that we can share and welcome God for the sake for the world.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Long View

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:20-26

The Long View

The rains pours down thunder lightening
water like falls over roof and steps
we are swollen with the liquid all our
porous places out of shape and groaning
the joints are stiff backs are breaking
and the skies cry with the weight of it all.

Justice has been done and the world seems safer
for this moment, this season but the horizon
swells with storms and anger swells in poor
and wealthy young hearts, bitterness plagues
the old, abused and frustrated, we are safe
for now from this pounding deluge
windows closed and shades drawn.

May God bless those who have no cover
yearning to hear of love and shelter
may arms reach out to hold the homeless
the powerless and the shunned across history
we forget them so easily and spend so freely
to crush our enemies.

Only are we safe when we roll off anger fear
and trust a Creator who is bigger than circumstances
larger than terror, surer than defense systems
more constant than the sun.

Hear the small voice in the storms whispering
the tears of children, sighs of mothers
love spent, love renewed what we hold we crush
what we let go we see again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Set Apart

While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:12-19

When I was in high school, ever so long ago, I gave up the idea of being part of the in-crowd, the cool kids. Not that they would have me anyway, but I realized then I was always going to be different, a left handed, guitar playing, Indian girl poet was not making it in my swanky suburban set. I was set apart by who I was, and nothing I could do was ever going to make me a part of the crowd. I longed to be part of a crowd, of course. We all do. We want to be insiders, not outsiders.

Jesus, in hi prayer talks about sanctifying his disciples and consecrating himself. Sanctified means to be set apart for a holy use, as does the term consecrate. The disciples, by the blessing of Jesus, was setting them apart for ministry and spiritual leadership. They were no longer like anyone else. Being sanctified and consecrated for God's work and reign didn't make them holy, it set them apart for a holy use, to be vessels of God's love and activity in the world. Their burden was great after Jesus went from them, and yet they had a sense, as they look back to this prayer and this day, that they were tenderly cared for despite everything they were challenged with.

Today, I want to give thanks for being set apart for God's work. Despite the obstacles and circumstances that have overwhelmed me at times, I want to remember that each of us is set apart and empowered by God for the ministry to our world. We live and serve in hard times and we are privileged to share some of God's burdens as we share God's endless and renewing love for the least and the outcast everywhere we go.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Many One

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. John 17:1-11

Over the weekend we traveled to Allentown for our daughter Ariel's baby shower. Her sisters, Emily and Ariel had put the event together in a local restaurant and about 30 people came out to wish her well. The men went off and played golf while the girls and two children ate, played baby games and opened presents. It was a wonderful celebration and good family time when we could all be together. This little child, soon to be, brought folks together, and I was reminded how one little child indicated the true joining of many families from across so many different cultures, clans and races. One little child symbolizing the hope of a new generation where we have more in common than what separates us. Each of us, in our time was that symbol to our predecessors. We are each hope for the coming generations if we are willing to see ourselves, no matter how different, as part of one extended family.

Jesus, in his final moments with his disciples, is urging them, in prayer, to see their commonality, their inter-reliance and the gifts they are from God to one another. The true gift of love from God is that we are made as one family in this temporal life, this short experiment we are integral parts of one another. Not disparate factions, nor enemies, but joined in love by God through the sacrifice of Christ. How often we dwell on our differences, and yet, in spite of all that pulls us apart, we are bound together through a bond of love richer and deeper than all the enmity we can sow.

Today, I want to rejoice in the gift of family, bloodlines and extended family that reaches around the world in prayer and love. In faith, we are joined together, no matter what language or tribe, and the care of the other is our care. The love of the other is our gift. May we all rejoice that we are knit into this amazing family by the love of God who knows us all as beloved children, all at the table, all welcome and at home.