Sunday, May 31, 2015

Born From Above

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
"Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:1-17

The Trinity often seems like an un-graspable  mystery. Theologians and artists have tried to capture the nature of the triune God. And yet, the Trinity is as close as relationship and family. Whether born of the same blood or chosen as family, we all know what it means to be in an intimate relationship with another. We are uniquely ourselves and yet changed, interdependent with separate gifts and expressions. To be born from above means to see ourselves no longer as an individual, with a sole sense of exceptionalism, but rather we see ourselves made whole and fuller in relationship.

Jesus and Nicodemus have a profound conversation. This brilliant theologian comes to Jesus, confused and concerned about his lack of understanding. I am certain that because we know Nicodemus' name, we can also be certain that he was changed forever through his relationship with Jesus. The impact was profound and eternal, as it is for each of us.

Today I ask God to open my heart to the fullness of the Trinity, to the movement of the Holy Spirit and to God's divine working in every measure of this day. May we be born anew through the many gifts of God that are showered upon us this day. And may we share that bountiful love and compassion with the needy world around us.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Faithful in a Very Little

Jesus said, "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.
"The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped." Luke 16:10-17 


We honestly traded our currency
and taught you welcome and peace
you savagely took what wasn't yours
and destroyed our homes and way of life.

We did not impress you with our wealth
we chose not to own what was entrusted to us
we chose to live with honor and respect
as greed and desire burned in your heart.

When dragged and force marched 
driven to strange lands and strange schools
you tried to give us religion, you thought us savage
when we had known the Divine Creator all along.

With open arms we welcomed Christ 
just as we had welcomed and fed you
but you thought us still to savagely wild
and took the little we had managed with great care.

And so now we have become the teachers
when you wealth is spent your health threatened
we will share again with you the Christ we have known
and offer a place at the table you tried to steal.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Welcome in Eternal Homes

Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”  Luke 16:1-9 
Today marks the two month anniversary of my mother's passing. My mother was by no means a wealthy woman, but looking over her lifetime of treasures this past weekend, I realized how much she did with very little. The gifts she may have been able to give us in her lifetime were humble and yet they are priceless and rare. She treasured relationships and tried to love people, even the most ornery and despicable among us. She had little humble gifts from many friends and admirers who she had always welcomed as family. She made everyone feel she was thrilled to see them. She made welcome, she lived welcome, she embodied welcome. And now that she is gone, I know she was welcomed immediately into the eternal home.
Jesus is responding again to criticism. He responds to his critics, not by argument, but by inviting them into a story. He invites them to imagine God in the world. He tells them that all the gifts they have been given they should use, including their intellect and their cunning. All of our gifts, small and great are for using, understanding that the gifts are finite and will be gone, along with all our possessions and lucre. We cannot take it with us.
Today I ask God to help me use the gifts I have been given. May welcome be the way we all will be today. As we use the gifts we have been given, may we be grateful to the one who gave them to us so that all might know the divine love alive in our world today.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Dead Has Come to Life

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
Then Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."' So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!' And they began to celebrate.
"Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.' Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” Luke 15:1-2, 11-32 

The Dead Has Come to Life

We are all prodigals and all older brothers
often lost and also often feeling slighted
resenting the attention of our sibling
and wishing for the attention ourselves.

Some act out for attention and others obey
all with anger in their hearts and hidden expectations
what we ache for is love and belonging
and what we run from is often the same.

God seeks us out as we wander back
and as we cringe in our well appointed rooms
God seeks us as we think we know it all
and when we throw ourselves at the feet of mercy.

We are all prodigals and the older child
swamped by jealousy, rage and arrogance
we are all sought out and loved by God
no matter what state we find ourselves in.

Come back, come home and rest a while
there is love enough for each and every one
there is plenteous kindness and forgiveness
for the fool, the righteous and the prodigal.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

There Is Joy

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable: "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15:1-10 

I have not been able to write my blog for several days now. I have been to my mother's house one last time to help my siblings clean out and take precious items out before the estate person gets to work. It is holy and painful work, looking over a life time of memories and objects, both precious and silly, and remembering the love that brought us to this place.Despite the fact that my mother is lost to us in the flesh, and the home we all knew for so long is to be sold, there is still great joy in finding and remembering the love which lasted through generations, through wars and terrible tragedies, through plenty and want, through sickness and health and everywhere in between. We are the blessed recipients of love that had no bounds and which gave every ounce of human effort for the sake of others.
Jesus is being criticized for hanging out with low-lifes. He welcomed the riff-raff and the broken, the hurting and the sinful. His human love was like that - it had no bounds and gave every ounce of human efforts for the sake of others. He did not seek the people on the hill, the cloistered, those who lived in gated communities and the secure. He sought out and made friends with those who were on the margins, least likely to succeed and those known for their mistakes only. We are invited today to follow his example.
Today I ask God to give me the courage to seek out the friendless and the needy. May we all open out tables and our homes to those who have been cast out and rejected. And may we see God's love in their eyes and we learn to know it in our own.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Love Your Neighbor

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise. ”Luke 10:25-37 
Love Your Neighbor
The words sting and violence last
forever we are divided people
we were made to love the stranger
and make friends with difference.

We lock out those who frighten us
whose language and customs disquiet
they too were made in the divine image
we turn them away we turn away God.

Little ones seek out the Creator's spark
they reach for the light in other eyes
we teach them by example what to fear
and keep them from seeing a new way.

May we become like little ones
seeking Divinity in the least comforting people
in our neighbors who we have excluded
simply because we do not understand them.

We were fashioned in our mothers' wombs
to love beyond restriction and race
to love beyond our cultural 's high fences
love brought from the other side of the world.

Let us make room at our tables
in our schools, our worship and our homes
for differently abled, differently made
and we will find the love we so anxiously crave.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hidden and Revealed

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" Jesus said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. ” Luke 10:17-24 
The painting above was done by my Aunt Kay. I love this image which is called "We're still Dancing" and demonstrates the hidden and revealed nature of all of life. We can never understand another human completely and our faith and our lives have a good measure of mystery. Kay's painting reminds me always that our traditions by law had to be hidden away, our dancing and our ceremonies still go on despite the abuses of law and land. All of life has more hidden than is ever revealed and when we only see the surface, we midst the depths of life and beauty hidden just beyond our grasp.
We find Jesus in prayer, giving thanks for the work of his followers and their simple faith that has changed lives.He is aware of how religious institutional leaders get so wrapped up in procedure that they fail to simply rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of God in their lives. We are invited tow move towards seeing the hidden, towards seeking the simple gifts of God's love and the spirit.
Today I ask God to help me be a simple believer. May we all get out of the way of the simple joys of the Spirit and be those who encourage the love of God in every place we find ourselves today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Returning with Joy

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.
"Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."
The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” Luke 10:1-17 

Joy Returning
I dreamed of my mother last night
her smile lighting the dreamscape room
her laughter mending my broken heart
and she told me to let go of all the strings.

I wanted to hold her protectively close
she wriggled free and laughed again
to tears of joy ran down my face
and I knew all her good had taken root in me.

It is time to move on down the road
to gather the many gifts within and without
to take love with us to the setting sun
and see how much good we can plant on our way.

We tethered our expectations too long
to one who would hold us all together
but we are set free to learn on our own
how living love can make all things new again.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Not Looking Back

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9:51-62

Recently I found an item in the grocery store. It was port wine cheese spread and made was a favorite of my dear friend Janie who lost her battle with cancer years ago. I still miss her. My daughter Emily was emptying a gallon milk jug and decided she had to wash it out for the 4th of July parade. She then realized it won't be necessary since my Mom has passed. It will never be the same and won't happen like it did for all those years. It made us both very sad. It's hard not to look back and wish for more time. It's hard not to look back and mourn, missing the days if celebration and joy with the people we love who have gone on.

Jesus was on his final road to Jerusalem. He wanted his disciples to hang in with him to the end and knew how hard it was for them. He also wanted them to understand there was more ahead than they could imagine. Yes, more hard work and even more blessings upon blessings. Even in our darkest hours, we are reminded that the blessings of the past are gone but that God will provide more blessings and more love than we can imagine today. Loss can make us think that we have been abandoned by God, when in truth, we are all awaiting new life, life transformed by love.

Today I ask God to help me focus on the road ahead. May we not look back and wander but may we look forward with hope and expectation. God's arms are thrown wide open to us today.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Whoever Welcomes This Child

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met Jesus. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not." Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here." While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands." But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, "Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest."
John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you." Luke 9:37-50 

Whoever Welcomes This Child
This child is not like your children
her language, custom, and dress
makes you think she is tainted or suspect
aching for a different kind of instruction.

This child was pulled from her parents 
put on a train and educated far away
far away from the love and nurture
of mother, elders, family and kin.

Sweet Jesus said to welcome the child
not bend or break them, or pull them away
this child of people that welcomed Jesus
now struggles to sing her ancient songs.

Made perfect and good in the image of God
she weeps at night for her mother's touch
she looks to the horizon for a way back home
and seeks welcome on the clod Sunday pews.

Welcome the child just as they are
whether older than dirt, younger than sky
welcome the little one who comes to be loved
and the Divine will meet you in the embrace.


Friday, May 15, 2015

An Anniversary

The Ecstasy by John Donne

Where, like a pillow on a bed
A pregnant bank swell'd up to rest
The violet's reclining head,
Sat we two, one another's best.
Our hands were firmly cemented
With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string;
So to'intergraft our hands, as yet
Was all the means to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.
As 'twixt two equal armies fate
Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance their state
Were gone out) hung 'twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there,
We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day.
If any, so by love refin'd
That he soul's language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
Within convenient distance stood,
He (though he knew not which soul spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take
And part far purer than he came.
This ecstasy doth unperplex,
We said, and tell us what we love;
We see by this it was not sex,
We see we saw not what did move;
But as all several souls contain
Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mix'd souls doth mix again
And makes both one, each this and that.
A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poor and scant)
Redoubles still, and multiplies.
When love with one another so
Interinanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
Defects of loneliness controls.
We then, who are this new soul, know
Of what we are compos'd and made,
For th' atomies of which we grow
Are souls. whom no change can invade.
But oh alas, so long, so far,
Our bodies why do we forbear?
They'are ours, though they'are not we; we are
The intelligences, they the spheres.
We owe them thanks, because they thus
Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their senses' force to us,
Nor are dross to us, but allay.
On man heaven's influence works not so,
But that it first imprints the air;
So soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair.
As our blood labors to beget
Spirits, as like souls as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
That subtle knot which makes us man,
So must pure lovers' souls descend
T' affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
Else a great prince in prison lies.
To'our bodies turn we then, that
Weak men on love reveal'd may look;
Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.
And if some lover, such as we,
Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
Small change, when we'are to bodies gone.

Today Mark and I celebrate 40 years of married life. Mark's brother Phil read this poem at our wedding. Jerry and Peg Cohee played and sang
 Simple Gifts -
Wild Rover -

and Jimmy Owens sang - I Second that Emotion

What a day it was. What an amazing life together it has been. We are truly blessed.  Three beautiful, brilliant and loving daughters, an amazing granddaughter and a life full of love adventure and laughter. Despite every challenge, we have been abundantly blessed in one another. Here's to another 40 amazing years together!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Am With You Always

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:16-20 

I Am With You Always 
Some days the loneliness and isolation
are so much more than we can bear
we'd like to call you down from the clouds
and be wrapped in your arms once again.

Despite the terrors of day and night
we do hear your voice of comfort and concern
we remember the sound of your footsteps coming
across the water and down the lonely alleys.

In some moments we are still weak and silly
frightened of our own shadows and quaking in fear
there is often light even in our deepest gloom
and the echoes of your love still ring loud and clear.

We humans know we are seeded for destruction
our lives are short and quickly passing
make us strong vessels of love and laughter
so the world might resound with knowing you.

We  frail humans are also bound for glory
above the grind of constant  pain and remorse
we look up and see your feet and hope
ascending to join you in the heavenly home.

Make us stronger this day as we let you go
make our minds capture all the visions of love
make our feet steady on the roughest roads
and walk with us and we labor on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Consider the Ravens

Jesus said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:22-31 
One of the many things I miss about living on an island in Southeast Alaska are the ravens. They were everywhere, every present and very loud at times. They often communicated their displeasure at us humans. They would work together to open poorly closed trash cans and found our  church's weekly delivery of organic goods very tempting. Unless we covered the boxes, they would find a hole in a box and get to work. They also were the icon of life in Southeast - feisty, clever, cooperative and persistent. I can never hear of ravens without thinking of the ravens in Sitka and their influence on us all.
Today we hear Jesus tell us not to worry. Like the ravens, we have been given the tools for survival and company to help us through all our challenges. Like the ravens, the Creator of all watches us carefully, tending and providing, despite our squawking and fussing. God has promised that we are more than ravens, beloved children of a living, involved Creator. It is human to worry and it is the Divine gift that we are tenderly cared for moment by moment.
Today I ask God to take all my worries and comfort my anxious heart. May we all, who have face trial and tribulation, know that there are answers coming and our needs will be fulfilled. May we let go of all our worries and give them to God who loves us beyond all human measure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Teach Us to Pray

Jesus  was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:1-13 

It has been difficult for me to write these past few weeks and even harder to know how to pray. Being human, when health and other challenges confront the people I love, I want to do something. Sometimes the only thing I can do is to pray. We all want to help in some way and hate feeling helpless and untethered. This daily time of reflecting on the scriptures and praying helps me to be re-grounded and shape my heart for gratitude, grateful for the incredible gift of a loving family and time with them.
The disciples come to Jesus to learn how to pray. He teaches them what we now call the Lord's Prayer, but in fact is a simple model of all prayer. Simple gratitude and simple requests are the language of prayer, the words that move us from distance to intimate relationship with God. God is always more ready to provide than we are to ask, more ready to release, forgive and make new than we are. So let this be a day of prayer, where we weave all our needs and thanksgivings into a wonderful tapestry of love for God and one another.
Today I ask God to teach me to pray in every moment. What lies before us is out of our control, and what was behind is the past. May our prayers this day bring us every closer to God and to one another.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Burden of Love

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 

The Burden of Love
Before we even walked this world
our ancestors labored for our benefit
their tireless efforts so we might thrive
are the burden they gladly did bear.

Before we were able to speak the words
love carried us through deep waters
happily giving up the comforts known
so that we might live to know love.

Before we ever suffered a broken heart
the mothers and fathers forgave and let go
they chose to let love be their burden
not wanting to shoulder hate any longer.

So love's burden is a followers cross
a way already trod by love's forebears
we never walk alone in this garden
always surrounded by the fruits of love.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Five Loaves and Two Fish

Then Jesus 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. He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money - not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, 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 ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, "John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he tried to see him.

On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured. The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, "Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted 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, "Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each." They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Luke 9:1-17 
When my husband came home from the hospital after being so sick it felt miraculous. What we had been praying for had come to pass.  There is still a whole mess of healing to happen before he is truly better and out of the woods. The people who sat to listen to Jesus and to were miraculously fed, still had to make it home and grow in faith and love. Our work of caring, even in the midst of miracles, is never done, although it's helped through God's grace and the blessing of community.
Jesus sent his disciples out and they came back so excited and energized. And they still struggled with how to respond to the crowds that had gathered. They still had more work to do, and feel apart when pressed. The Gospel today reminds us that we are human and always have to lean on the mighty power of God. We cannot make miracles happen, but by offering what we have, no matter how small, and asking for God's blessing, miracles can still change the outcome of tough situations.
Today I ask God to help me continue to ask for the help I need, and give me the strength and patience for the coming days. May we all look for God's miraculous grace and strength for the challenges ahead.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Only Believe

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 hemorrhages 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 hemorrhage 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 

 Only Believe
When we come to the end of our rope
there is still more healing to be found
when the crowd presses in and around
you might still feel all alone.

The hem of his garment was enough
a broken burdened widow barely alive
reached out one more time despite it all
and found herself embraced by love.

We often give up before we turn the corner
often let go before the rope frays at all
we are subject to fear and self loathing
and yet there is still love for us now.

This precious hem is caught by the wind
whipped around by the crowds and the dust
but always within reach are loving arms
only believe and we will find grace abounds.