Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Some Days are like that...

And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and fled him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, j“Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him,“You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that pit was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. Mark 15:1-11

"I went to bed with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair." On days like today, when I oversleep and have to rush out the door without coffee, I can't help but think of Alexander. We all have days that start out lousy and get worse, when everything piles up and nothing seems to break well. It all just breaks down. We sometimes, like Alexander, wish we could move to a far off place and start over. He suggested moving to Australia. But the truth is, there are bad days everywhere, and we who have family, friends and a home are blessed despite our circumstances. Alexander finally concluded that, "some days are like that, even in Australia." If you have never read Judith Viorst and her books for children (as well as for adults) she has much to say about living in our bodies and dealing with the grief and challenge we have before us. And she makes me laugh with understanding and compassion.

Jesus is having a pretty bad day. His friends have pretty much abandoned him, his grilling is cruel and unrelenting, and the crowd is vicious, wanting the release of an evil man rather than an innocent one. That's a bad day, by anyone's standards. And yet Jesus bore the worst the world could dish out, horrible, terrible things, awful suffering, because God took on flesh for the love of the world. God bore the worst the world could deliver so that we might know love unbounded. The body of Jesus was broken for us so that we might know healing and completeness in this very broken world.

Today, I give thanks for the love and laughter that rises above the terrible daily challenges, bringing moments of delight in the midst of even the hardest times. May we all remember that we are never alone on our worst days, and that God knows how bad it can get, and suffers with us as we strive to live and love.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway1 and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:66-72

Yesterday was a day of return and relief, a day of joy and a few tears. We were finally back home late in the day, a day not without challenges of its own. The trip was hard, traffic and road closures delaying and rerouting all the way back. We were relieved when the only damage were fallen branches and some water in the basement. There is some cleanup but no major work ahead. We prepared for the worst and prayed for the best and we felt blessed, and exhausted. Tears came, as a body, which had been holding back all the anxiety and apprehension for days, could finally relax a bit. Tears come, invited or uninvited, when the reality of our circumstances, good or bad, finally take hold within us.

Peter is challenged in the court yard and denies Jesus. He has held his breath as his dear friend was questioned and tortured, and he feared for his own life and his friends. He denied Jesus to protect himself, his friends and his family, to survive for another day. And yet when he was alone, his circumstances caught up with him, his shame and his grief, the choices he didn't want to make. We often feel shame for Peter, not standing up for Jesus, but he was one man trying to get through a perplexing situation. One person with a family, friends and a community relying on him. There was no good way to get through that day, and the tears came. The reality of the situation took hold and he wept, for himself, for Jesus, for his weakness, his life and the circumstances that surrounded him. We know that God would walk with him, and strengthen him, and make him a faithful leader for all times. And God, no matter how exhausted and weepy we are today, will see us through, beyond these circumstances, strengthening us, renewing us and equipping us to lead beyond the broken moments.

Today, as we assess damage and put things back in place, I want to praise God for seeing us through this crisis, and ask God to use us for the good of others, who struggle still. May our weaknesses become our strengths, our failures deepen our compassion, and our tears become the backbone of our resolve to serve.

Monday, August 29, 2011

After the Storm

And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council1 were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard phis blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows. Mark 14:53-65

After the Storm

Arriving home the light yellow and sky blue
crisis averted no damage no destruction
we sigh with relief exhale and pray
our bags deposited order restored
night settles in and calm returned.

We were refugees for a brief moment
travelers, pilgrims and evacuees
running from destruction
afraid for our lives.

We pitched our tents with many
anxious waiting watching listening
to the constant reports and updates
aching for the all clear the white
smoke of peace the signal to come home.

Grateful for a roof and shelter
home that withstands the storm
love that bears the worst days darkness
a Creator who bears the burdens of our world.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Getting Behind

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

"For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." Matthew 16:21-28

We woke up this morning to the good news that despite dire and dangerous predictions, Hurricane Irene hit Cape May Point but did not destroy anything. Our dear neighbor, who with her small family valiantly hunkered down in their home through the night, reported that the electricity remained on, there was phone service and the like, and although there was lots of water and rain, the sea had not breached the dunes. We can probably return home tomorrow. Not for a minute did I wish though we had stayed behind. Following the evacuation only made me more aware of the lives of true homeless and refugees. We are all moments from a radical change of plans, and we are not in control of the storms of life, even though we think and pretend we are.

Jesus tries to gently forewarn his disciples of what is to come. Peter is having none of it, and like the sturdy fisherman he is, believes he can ride out and conquer the worst of storms. They are no match for him. And in Jesus' rebuke, we find an honest response to human denial and pretense. Jesus reminds us we must face the truth of our situation, even as we seek and pray for divine intervention. We must use the gifts we have for good, otherwise we can be blocks to the safety and redemption of others.

Today, I am grateful for a home to return to and the safety of friends and neighbors everywhere. And I am thankful for the many thousands of people who take their job seriously and prepare us for the worst, so that we can trust God for the best. May we all use the gifts we have been given for the healing and rescue of our brothers and sisters everywhere.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Living here in Allentown

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. Mark 14:43-52

It took nearly five hours to arrive in Allentown yesterday. We were told to evacuate by 8AM Friday morning, and although it took us a while to get us all out of the house, and everything secure, I felt good about the fact that we were going and everything was buttoned up as best we could. I had told people we were going to Allentown and everybody kept singing the lyrics from Billy Joel. Well, Allentown may be all that he sings about, but to us it is so much more. My daughter Ariel, her husband Adam and our granddaughter Lilly live here. So it is more than just a way station, an evacuation point or somewhere to fell from (or to). It is where our hearts are also.

Jesus is arrested in the garden. Security was high, violence was expected, everyone official was there to arrest a man of peace. They were on a high state of alert although Jesus posed no threat to them. And when the cops arrived the disciples fled, When the storm came, they took off - it is the natural response in these times. Jesus understood their anxiety and understands our in life's storms and in times of extreme poverty, violence and fear. The good news in our gospel is that our human responses to the challenges we face, are met with God's continuing compassion and love. God's heart is open wide in our time of extreme anxiety and fear.

Today, as the storm approaches, I ask God to bless all in her path, and to comfort all who are beside themselves with fear and anxiety. May we all rest in the loving arms of a loving God who is holding us ever closer as the winds and waves rush in.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Watch and Pray

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, v“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Mark 14:32-42

Watch and Pray

We bow our heads over a simple
supper of BLTs the gorgeous tomatoes
round and red slices of God's gorgeous bounty
we laugh as we pack everything away
staring at the mounting clouds
stalking us on the horizon.

Our orders have come we must
take our leave, evacuate our home
get on the road moving away
from the eye of the storm.

The round ball of orange setting
rests on the water dipping winking
our anxious preparation quieted
the calm ocean ready to boil and roll
we can only watch and pray.

Tomorrow the journey promises stories
woven from shadow and rain, survivors
on the move to a temporary shelter
home will change in the wink of an eye.

We bid farewell for a time to the shoreline
our salty ocean air, the sand that finds us
everywhere, we walk from sea level aching
for the water, frightened of her power
always in awe.

We take one more look as we drive away
all we have left to do
is watch and pray.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Supper with Friends

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the1 covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:22-26

In the spring, we went grocery shopping late one night. At the checkout, they were giving out coupons for free matzoh. Since passover was over, I guess the management felt that no one would come to buy matzoh at the south jersey market. I can't help but think, as we prepare for an evacuation and exodus from this place, how the last supper, the passover, was a simple meal with friends before everything changed. Our communion, so routinized, which is based on that last supper, has none of the portent or expectation. And yet, as a storm bares down on our coast, I am now very aware how important last meals are, as well as making sure there is simple food for the journey and supplies for the aftermath.

Jesus is at the last supper with friends, although they have no idea the significance of this particular Seder. Routine for good Jewish families, they were going through the normal practices, the routine. And yet Jesus changed it all a bit. It became for them a seminal moment, a time when the world changed for them and for us. A moment in history, set apart, to remember and in remembering, join the living present with the enlivening past. What may be routine on Sunday mornings, is nothing short of our entering a portal which makes us part of the divine story, a participant in the love of God made manifest for the world.

Today, as we get ready for the possible evacuation, there is much to be busy with. I ask God to help me be quiet and calm in the midst of storm preparations, trusting that God will provide the way forward, even in threatening times. May we all have the strength to enjoy the simple suppers with friends and family and trust every moment to the loving hands of a most loving and powerful Creator, who promises to be at table with us and on the evacuation route as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Doing what we can

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9

Later this morning I have to drive my husband to Somers Point so that he can have out patient knee surgery. It is pretty simple, same-day surgery, and yet I feel anxious for him, and anxious for myself too. I want everything to go well and even more I want to do everything I can for him. Nothing seems adequate when it comes to someone you love. You want to do everything possible and then some, and I wish I knew what the best thing was to do right now. we do what we can and wish there was more we could do.

A woman comes to Jesus and anoints him with precious oil. She has heard his words and understands that their time together is short. She is helpless to know what to do, and she searches her treasures to find an adequate gift, an adequate demonstration of her love for him. Others criticize her. But she is doing what she can out of love, what she needs to do to honor the love she has received. Jesus says that her gift, her offering, her willingness to give her all, would be the story told through the ages, the gift of love, not withheld, the heart willing to offer all.

Today, I want to live offering all that I am and all that I have for God. And for my family, who are my first calling, my initial ministry. We can only do what we can and only serve where we are call. May our hearts be open today and our hands ready to love and share with those to whom we have been given.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Prepared for the World to Change

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:28-37

I remember packing for summer Girl Scout camp. We stayed in large group tents and were only able to bring a certain amount of personal things. On the other hand, we had to have all the things on the list they provided - a canteen, flashlight, small knife, ditty bag, back pack, etc. I felt like an explorer preparing for a mission of discovery, as if the whole world rested on my shoulders. I liked the feeling, it made me feel important at 10, to pack carefully, and to be ready for everything that was ahead.

Jesus continues his discussion with the disciples and with us about radical change and end times. We live in times of radical change and most people feel ill equipped to deal with it. Likewise the disciples faced being without their teacher, their leader and living into a new world without his physical presence. Jesus reminded them to be awake and alert, to be prepared. The world will and does change in an instant. Life begins and ends, sometimes without warning.

Today, I ask God to help me keep my eyes on the horizon and my heart open to what God has prepared for me. I want to be alert to the changing needs around me, so that my hands and my heart might always be open. May this day invite us all to ready to love in new ways.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Four Winds

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven." Mark 14:24-27

Storms come up in life. As we begin hurricane season in earnest here on the East Coast, one has to take all the weather warnings seriously. Where we live we have to know what to do and where to go when the warning go out. What is often harder, is to know what to do when personal storms, health challenges and forces transitions come upon us. We can be prepared for some things, but other things can seem to sideswipe us, turning us around, making us feel dizzy and lost.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for the massive storms to come. And he knows that there is no way to really prepare them for what is ahead. They will have to live through hell, walk a road of agony, and be tested over and over again. He reminds them over and over that God's love will gather them up, protect them, finding them no matter how far flung they become, and bring them through all the storms they face. God's love is in the midst of our worst storms, drawing the forces of the cosmos and all of eternity to our aide.

This day, as we travel home through familiar and new places, I ask for the strength of the four winds and the protection of the angels. Some days of transition and change are ahead and we all need to remember the closeness of God's love and the protection we are promised, not matter what we face.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On the Rocks

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:13-20

On the Rocks

I am shouldered with much doing little
with a burden too large for my inconsistent heart
to bear, to carry on I am bent low.

I was called and chosen but turn away
often I am frightened, isolated full of missteps
wrong words and careless assumptions
cruel and thoughtless chatter.

And yet he chose me to build
to be a corner stone a solid rock
that I am not.

The winds blow and I waver
the tide changes and I paddle away
violence threatened and I hid outside.
Denial and retreat are my failings.

And yet forgiveness flows
and humanity redeemed love poured out
over all my mistakes and shortcomings
all our trials and tribulations
washed and wiped away freed of shame
we can be solid and support
for the love of the world.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Birth Pangs

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Mark 13:1-13

We have been traveling and are now in the lovely Adelynrood Conference and Retreat Center in Byfield, Massachusetts, just west of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a beautiful, reflective spot and it seems ancient, gentle and settling, as if this place has always been here. It was established a long time ago, and yet I am reminded, that we before these lovely cottages existed, people walked the soft and rocky paths of these scrub woods for thousands of years before European settlers came. They may have disappeared from this place but they are all around us reminding us of God's good care and blessing, God's constancy despite all the change and decay around us.

The disciples admire the temple, but Jesus can only see the coming troubles and the radical changes ahead. So much good to come but there is also agony and death, hard wrenching, heart breaking changes, pain and anxiety, real fear and distrust. For the birth of a new way of God's love being in the world, the pain was great, the anxiety high. And he knew how fragile and human his disciples were, and how they would grieve the changes and live in fear for a time. He promised to see them through, and prayed mightily for their safety during the worst times.

Today, I ask God to help me to trust and pray during these changing times. I ask God to help me lean completely on God's love, trusting the birth pangs and changes to be worth all that is to come. May we all remember the temporary nature of our lives and the constancy and care of our loving Creator.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fruit of Temptation

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 wine press 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; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away. Mark 12:1-12:12

We live in the Garden State, aptly named in this southern part of the state. People who have only seen New Jersey along the Turnpike might wonder, but here, crops are king. When I was a kid there were farms all over the place, growing corn, beans and many other crops along with grazing livestock and dairy cows. Much of the land has been sold off when the market was good and vacation homes were erected. Other family farms have become vineyards. It very popular these days to transform farm land into vineyards and the tourists who come seem to love taking tours and buying wine. I still cannot wrap my mind around, the soil that once pushed up lima beans is the required same soil for grapes. But what do I know? I know that people will do anything for a buck and will follow fashion for money. Folks will do almost anything to make money from others.

Jesus is being challenged by the religious leadership who doubt his relationship with God. It is all too familiar a behavior - folks who are in charge of a religious community often want to control who can be a part, despite the fact that God has welcomed all. Jesus, as son of the Living God was challenging all their assumptions and control. They wanted the fruit that God had given them and didn't want to share it.

Today, I want to live with the humility of a day laborer and a field hand. I have no more right to the fruit of God's love than anyone else, and am encouraged at all times to share God's abundance with others. May my words and actions this day, make room for others, feed the hungry and recognize that God is sovereign and author of all goodness in my life. May this be a day of compassion and sharing, trusting that the Son walks among us as we share God's love.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Can I Get A Witness?

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” John 5:30-47

I come from a long line of story tellers, from people who revel in a good story and a good joke. I also am embedded in a family who are imaginative and creative, who have been known to make up some good "stories" from time to time. When I was a child, my grandpa WalkingStick would tell me some tall tales, wrestling with bears and falling off cliffs. I would ask, in rapt attention, :then what happened?" And he would answer, " then I died!" and we would laugh at the ridiculousness of that and the grandiosity of the story. He called these stories "big windies".

The religious leaders were not believing Jesus and thought this upstart from Galilee had a nerve trying to pawn himself off as the Messiah. They believed he was just telling tall tales, like so many before him. But unlike the so many before him, Jesus lived a life of humility and healing, of compassion and servant hood. He wasn't looking for attention, he was following where God, his father had lead him. He was walking the sacred path, despite all of the challenges and temptations.

Today I want to give thanks to God for sending us love and compassion in Jesus, for sending us a humble self, willing to walk with the people and reach out and touch untouchables. May we all remember to be witnesses to that love by our actions - our service and our compassion, by walking with the people and including all.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dogs Under the Table

Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15: 21-28

Our dog Petey has to be reminded on a regular basis not to crawl under the table while we are sitting at a meal. We make her move to the other room and she often looks forlorn and pitiful. She has a habit of trying to sneak back in, when we aren't looking, and since she is about the same color as the floor, the sneaking is easier than you might think. She's persistent, even though she is well fed and doesn't need to rely on accidental scraps. She will always beg and scavenge, it is how she is hardwired.

Jesus at first refuses to help a Canaanite woman who has come to him for the sake of her daughter. He is deaf to her cried, and then when he finally listens, he refuses her on the grounds that she is not from his people, his tribe. The passion for her daughter, the persistence of a mother, whose love makes her as ferocious as a bear. This is how she is hardwired. She pushes back, and Jesus sees her faith and draws the circle wider. And we have her to thank for a persistence that pushed even the son of God to change and grow more inclusive by the moment.

As this long day ends, I give thanks for all those who are willing to be who they are, pushing the boundaries and including the outsiders and the overlooked. I thank God for those who are hardwired for love and who teach all of us how to grow in faith and love.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Steadfast Love

He turns rivers into a desert,springs of water into thirsty ground,
a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants.
He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.
And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in;
they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.
By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish.

When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks.
The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord. Psalm 107:33-43

The Steadfast love of the Lord

Traveling in a herd, our many pods one,
we slide through the water and feast together
on the bounty set for us, the tender silvery morsels
jumping with delight in the sea and sky.

Some have hunted us, with cruel desires
other misunderstand us and think us stupid
mute and slow, spears and line they brought
to torture and abuse since we were not like them.

We have held our breath as our children were captured
made to be entertainment for rich families aching
for the escape and freedom that they had taken from us
bound us to them by their hunger, cravings and needs.

We swim a dark ocean and know her delights
we have nothing and yet delight in daily fruit
we sing at night and day and dance in the twilight
we are free and loved, our Creator swims with us
and our wisdom rests within the fecund seas.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Caught on Tape

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. Mark 10:46-52

When our oldest daughter was three or four, my father gave her a series of tapes with bible stories for children on them. The quality wasn't very good and the voice actors were frightening, and Emily loved them. She had learned the technology, had a little cassette player my Dad had provided, and listened to these tapes for hours at a time especially in the car. The story of Blind Bartimaeus was heard over and over with the closing jingle, "Isn't the love of Jesus something wonderful?", sung over and over again. She didn't have earphones then, in the early 1980's, so we had to listen along with her, in our little tiny car. The child was insistent on hearing the tapes over and over again. And we three together learned the stories, word for word.

Jesus was in motion, as is often the case, when he encountered Bartimaeus. The blind man was insistent and he was unwilling to be silenced, unwilling to let go. He raised his voice and repeated his petition, over and over. Like a child's faith, he was insistent on what he wanted and needed. Jesus stopped and touched him. And the once blind beggar became a follower, a disciple on that day. Isn't it remarkable, how God can choose the most annoying and troublesome to be followers? And how, no matter how we receive our faith it can mature and ripen into a full blown walk with God?

Today I thank God for all the people in my life who have shared their faith with me, no matter how simply or how complicated they were. I ask God to help me share my faith by actions as well as words this day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Big Ideas

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 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 10:35-45

A recent survey of American parents told a very alarming story. When asked, a vast majority of American parents would rather have their children be fierce competitors rather than compassionate and/or sharing. We live in a culture of attitude and ideas, where it seems that the biggest egos get paid the highest price and get the most attention, and where the kindest are regarded as weak. American schools and playgrounds have a bullying epidemic on their hands and then we wonder where all of this comes from.

The sons of thunder (what a powerful name!) approach Jesus. They think themselves deserving of high rewards and are not afraid to ask for what they think they deserve. Jesus turns the table on them and asks them if they really can be servants, if they really can be the least. He tells them, to their shock and horror that it is the compassionate, the self-giving and the self-giving that are noticed and rewarded by God. And he tells them, and us, there is no power we can wield except humility. Everything we have been taught by business and political leaders is challenged by the words of Jesus. Are we able?

Today, I ask God to help me be humble, so that I can serve others. Not to be noticed or rewarded but for love sake alone. May we all offer ourselves in service to God and others today, praying that the bully and the brokers, the pushers and the takers might know Gods love and be changed, if for a moment, by compassion and kindness today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Treasure in Heaven

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:17-31Tre

When I was a child, the store at Sunset Beach, run by our family friends the Shadbolts, had a huge treasure chest, filled with mysterious bags filled with things children want. It was called Captain Kidds' treasure chest, named after a local pirate. I always begged for the change so that I could take a chance with the treasure chest and open up something wonderful. On the extremely rare occasion, when my parents would give me the money, I was generally slightly disappointed by the contents of the bag, since my imagination was bigger than the chest. Treasure, and the dreams of finding some lost treasure buried in the dunes, peppered my waking dreams as a child. We always imagine our lives would be different if we could capture one treasure, one huge win, one big prize, then we would be happy and all of our dreams would come true.

Jesus meets a young man as he is setting out. A young man who is good and faithful and very rich. His hearts desire was to be faithful and loved by God. And indeed he was faithful and loved by God. But he wanted more than his opulent life and his comfort would allow. Jesus told him to sell everything he had, give it all to the poor, and follow Jesus in a life of service. This is where their roads diverged, where the young man could not let go of the treasure he had amassed, probably with the help of some very poor people. Jesus asks us today if we are willing to let go of our shallow treasures, our wealth and security, for a life of love and service. It is a hard request, as tough as it was for the beloved, faithful young man.

Today, I ask God to help me let go, to release all of those things that keep me from following Jesus. I ask God to help me trust that the letting go will free me and fill me with treasure that I never imagined. I ask God to help me be that servant today, the one who is anxious only for the care of others, and rests completely in the arms of God.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Do not Hinder Them

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16

Sit still, don't bang that now
don't touch that and no you can't
daily we inhibit, hinder and keep
away the love we desperately need.

Spinning, head back watching
clouds swirl and light against
the angry stone buildings
they hold us in they sit us down
we commune with the Creator
they give us a dark look.

We are messy, hands and face
dripping with food and slime
bodies always slightly out of control
a sweet touch is always at hand.

What I would give to have you climb
up in my lap so small and chubby
barely out of the baby stage
now you swipe your pass and
text me messages updates
teasing me, smiling from the distance.

Will you come home and show me God?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Being Salt

“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

The Atlantic Ocean is very salty, as are all oceans. Where we live the sand and salt cling to everything.` Salt is every where even in the air, the thick warm, summer air. To take a leap into the ocean, mean to cover oneself in cool water, bobbing in the relentless waves, washed over and over again with salt. There is no escaping salt at the ocean. And the salt on the table, in the shaker, has to have rice in with it, otherwise, the damp ocean air will make the salt stick to itself, clumping all together, impossible to shake out. Being salt is always a complicated task, being leaven, flavor and life's regulator.

Jesus has taken on the task to instruct his disciples in living life without him. He has told them to be servants, to welcome children, to not be the cause of sin, and to be salt. He has also told them to be at peace with one another - probably their greatest challenge, as it is for so many of us. These instructions, so tenderly given, are for us today as well. To be at peace with one another, to be salt -leaven, flavor and regulation, a willing agent of love and forgiveness.

Today I ask God to help me be salt and to even more to be at peace with everyone I encounter. We are responsible for the welfare and well-being of others, and can be true gifts of flavor and leaven, or we can raise our own and everyone else's blood pressure. I ask God to make us all instruments of peace today.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."

Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." Matthew 14:22-33

We are sinking as we reach for
a golden ring, we lose our balance
tumble and break bones missing the goal
failure, after failure
and we sink because we are mortal.

The sunlight floods in and we believe
our own marketing, the hard sells
the possessions we believe make us
sophisticated, untouchable and self-reliant
one step below the Gods.

The storm comes water rising flooding
walls torn down, our sophisticated trinkets
float by, despair opens the door
and we see our real faces for the first time.

Rips tides of stress push us farther
from the shore, we are sinking deeper
we are helpless and afraid crying
Lord, save me, we admit our need.

A hand reaches out, the one always there
the wind calms, the water stop rising
and God's love is known in our sinking
in our storms God is there.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Greatest Servants

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. 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 9:30-41

Today was 92nd annual St. Peter's Bazaar. In this little town by the ocean folks gather to sell books and glassware, bake goods and white elephant, hoagies and hot dogs,and provide entertainment for children, all for the sake of a little church that serves people for three months out of the year. For many people, this little summer mission chapel is home, a place where folks from all walks of like come, dressed simply and worship together. They come from Cathedrals and Missions and all other places in between. And today, folks from all over donated the time and worked in the sun to keep the doors open for others.

Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, trying to help his disciples understand what must happen in the end. And they start fighting over who is the greatest among them. They are as thickheaded as always, missing the point, as we so often do. It's never about perfection but about who is willing to serve others. Who is willing to let go of control and put the needs of others first - especially the children, the orphans and the widowed.

Today, after a full morning I am a bit exhausted but always grateful. Grateful to have opportunities to serve others, grateful to watch the joy and wonder in children and grateful for this little chapel that give all of us strangers a home.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Possessed Children

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:14-29

You cannot be a parent and not from time to time wonder whether your children are possessed. Really. It might happen when they are small and they go off on some imaginary drama that only their little minds could create. Or it can happen when they have had to much sugar and stuff at a friends birthday and they tear up the house like a midget monster. Most frightening can be the times when somewhere between 11 and 13, they look at you with daggers in their eyes and you know they want you dead. One moment they were a giggly little wonder child and then the hormone machine turned them into evil spawn. Surviving parenthood and not calling an exorcist does require a great deal of patience and prayer.

Jesus comes across the befuddled disciples who are unable to help a possessed little boy. Some people speculate that this child had what we now know to be epilepsy, and that his condition would be medically treatable now. Whatever the case, the boy was in bad way and he needed help which the disciples were unable to deliver. Jesus is moved by the father and his child, and takes the time to heal the child with much prayer. The father is distraught, feeling somehow this has come about by his own lack of faith. God's compassion is there for the overwhelmed and exhausted parent, the confused disciples and all of us who find ourselves staring in the face of pain and torment we cannot combat.

Today I want to remember that there are some situations that the only answer is patience and prayer. Some circumstances are more than any of us can comprehend or tackle. God's grace is most evident and available at these time. May we all have the wisdom to pray for all those people and circumstances that seem out of control. For God has promised a solution for even our most difficult circumstances and the most complicated people in our lives.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.” Mark 9:2-13

Because of the geography of where we live, one can watch the sun set into open water. We live at the very end of a little slip of land that is New Jersey, one side surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the other by the Delaware Bay. There s nothing more delightful in good weather than to take an after dinner cup of coffee up to the beach and watch the sunset. The world changes from bright light and grays and blues to a world of pinks, reds and oranges. There is a moment before dark when everything and everybody are changed, transfigured, and the light makes them beatific and extraordinary in the multi-colored waning light.

Jesus goes up the mountain, taking Peter, James and John with him. This is a pivotal moment in Jesus' ministry. When he comes down from the mountain, his face is set on Jerusalem, facing his destiny, walking into the politically charged nexus that would bring about his death. In a single moment, the three disciples witness a vision that would sustain them through the coming dark days. They say the complete Jesus, in relation to the pillars of the faith, and knew him in all his extraordinary goodness, his real being, the son of God, savior of the world. A momentary glimpse, as the light changed again and they were alone would have to sustain them through some pretty rough times. And yet it seems that God is always about giving us glimpses of more, of possibility and hidden strength and beauty when we need it the most.

Today, I ask God to help me to seek the momentary rather than the permanent, the new vision rather than the solid contract. It is easy for any of us to give up on the journey when the road gets challenging and tough. May we all have the God give courage to be sustained by the many ways God is revealed to us today.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


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. For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” Mark 8:34-9:1


We scoured the maps and drew out the routes
never expecting the twists and turns
not seeing the storms on the horizon
thinking we could plan for any situation.

The little ones came adding responsibility
homework and uniforms, tuition and tears
and we ached to provide them everything
they needed padding their way
keeping them safe on every road ahead.

The tempest hit, winds tore off the roof
and water took away the floor
we had to rely completely on others
holding tight to any ropes tossed our way.

The prayers slipped from our lips
the angry raging waters rose
not prevailing as we bobbed and paddled
barely keeping our heads high.

O God we thought we were in charge
and now we follow the gentle wake
ride the waters, never alone
and give ourselves to your way.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Seeing Clearly

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mark 8:22-33

The first time I needed glasses was after I had been in college for a semester. The correction was mild, and I am nearsighted, but I remember that visit with the eye doctor clearly. "Better here or here?" was the repeated question. As the optometrist had my chin cradled in the device, lenses changed with the clicking of the machine. "One or two?" Better here or here?" I really couldn't make up my mind easily. Things had been fuzzy for so long I didn't really know what the right answer was. It all looked better than how I had been seeing.

Jesus heals a blind man, with the participation it seems, of the man himself. What do you see? The man had to describe what he saw and then an adjustment was made so that it was completely clear. And then he moved onto the disciples who are likewise having trouble seeing what is in front of their faces. Jesus asks them what are other people seeing and then asks them what they see. Peter make a very bold and heartfelt statement
which he quickly stumbles over and loses sight of. Faith comes in slow adjustments, it seems, like eye sight, or healing, and we are invited to participate in that healing and seek clearer vision at all times.

Today, I ask God to help me to see clearly the ways I have been blind to God's working in my life and to the needs of those around me. I ask God to open my eyes that I would see the work that is before me and the multitude of gifts and abundance God provides every day. May we all be granted the sight we need for today and the vision for tomorrow.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting to the Other Side

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.

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:11-21

We took time recently to travel to Nazareth (PA) and visited the Martin guitar factory. This is something I have always wanted to do. My guitar is wonderful, an Alvarez, but I have secretly, or not so secretly, harbored a desire to own a Martin. I also am fascinated with the craft of instrument making and all that goes along with it. We had a fabulous tour, an hour almost, watching every part of the guitar making process. Although there are some robotics involved these days, most everything is still done by hand. We could see how much pride these folks take in their work, how careful they are with each instrument, and how tedious it might be to work there. Our guide kept saying you have to have a passion for the work. And I thought, you have to have good strong hands, with great coordination. And you have to trust the process, the slow, careful, process.

The disciples were in the boat with Jesus trying to get to the other side, literally and spiritually. They had all the evidence that God was with them, caring for the small and great in their lives, and yet they were convinced. They didn't trust the process. They didn't yet have the skill and the strength to live a life of faith, a life of a well turned instrument maker, able to turn the plainest of days into a glorious canvas for God's praise. They were able to see the possibilities, only the lack - like most us. We can only experience the ache and desire, the hunger and the wanting, and can't imagine the generosity and music of the Creator. We never get to the other side, where trusting God for everything comes as naturally as breathing.

Today, I want to live life on the other side, to practice and pray, trusting God for everything. I am not naturally trusting, but I ask God to remake me so that all of my moments are a life lived in trust and praise. I want to offer all my feeble attempts at music and other expressions as a gift to God, trusting that God will make them more than they are, enough for the needs of the day. "In our music God is glorified."