Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Human Heart

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
'This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.'
"You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."
Then he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.' But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, 'Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban' (that is, an offering to God)—then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this."
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile."
When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, "Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Mark 7:1-23
Some of the deepest wounds I have come from the people I loved and trusted. Some of the deepest wounds I have inflicted have come to those I was closest to. We often lash out at those we love, and envy and pride made us do ugly things. Jealousy can drive us to betray and make someone's life miserable. The worst hurts, the one's that last the longest come from a festering cruelty that was born in a jealous, angry heart. I have found that I people who make me angry are often those who carry some truth, and I must face the truth and ask forgiveness all the time.
The religious leaders were testing Jesus and chastising him for not following all the dietary laws. He knew among the religious hierarchy in front of him,  there were  those who were plotting against another, those who were jealous and proud, and those who were festering with anger and self-deceit. Like any other leadership group with many type-A personalities, they were struggling to get ahead. Some were willing to climb over others to do so. But Jesus saw through to their hearts, as he sees through to ours. God invites us to examine our hearts today, putting aside those things that would pollute and destroy our ability to love.
Today, I ask God to help me examine mt heart, and do the hard work of letting go, cleaning house and forgiving others. May we set aside all of our ego needs, so that the world might be exposed, through us, to the perfect heart of God.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In The Boat

When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and Jesus was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.Mark 6:47-54

I have been home on vacation and enjoying the luxury of taking my time and enjoying my family. We got up early this morning to pick blueberries before the day got too oppressive. Tonight I will wait until the cool of the evening and make jam. I know I will feel my mother's presence with me, since she was the ultimate jelly-maker. She was truly famous for her jelly, especially her beach plum jelly. I have to get in the boat with her, go ahead and face the storms, and all the mistakes that it takes. I have to jump in and trust God to make it work despite my humanity and capacity to sink many cooking voyages.

Jesus has made people full who were hungry. There was miracle upon miracle but the disciples didn't get it, or chose not to believe what they had seen. Despite all of the evidence they still thought they were completely on their own. When the storm came up, they were surely feeling abandoned by Jesus. These skilled watermen gave into their basest fears - that God would abandon them in their troubling hour. God did more than prove them wrong. The son of God walked across the water and calmed both the storms and their fears. He climbed in with them, not leaving bereft but thrilled.

Today I ask God to help me navigate as a true believer. Let us trust that we are not on these rough seas alone, but that God is walking towards us and climbing in with us.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Come, Rest Awhile

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat." But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." When they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray. Mark 6:30-46 

Come, Rest Awhile

A vacation putting feet up moment
needed wanted craved and scheduled
yet never alone and solo in this world
need and hopelessness always follow.

We can take time for ourselves, we must
see the need around us and still respond
sneak up to the mountain to pray
and find our true rest in the arms of God.

Some resorts are built on the backs of the poor
many built so we cannot see the abuse of the needy
when quaint and down to earth are buzz words
we can know that cruelty is not far afield.

Pay the child a decent wage and the mother her due
send for the doctor when things go bad
and hold back nothing that is ever necessity
and then we can rest awhile in this place.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Do Not Be Afraid

 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. John 6:16-21

This reading is from the lectionary readings from Sunday July 26. The day just got away with family and reconnecting. Today, this passage is worth another look. We are people who witness a great deal of love and miracles in our lives and as quickly turn to fear and scarcity. Every time we ask God to provide, we are remarkably cared for. Yet, we turn to despair quickly and feel like this time we will surely be abandoned. I know myself that I can be easily afraid for money or my future, when throughout God has provided more than enough and always just at the right time.

The disciples had just witnessed a miracle. Thousands were fed with a little boy's lunch. Somehow very little became very much in the hands of the Messiah. The crowd was pressing, Jesus withdrew and the disciples got on a boat. The boat was a most familiar and comfortable setting for them. When the storm comes up, although they had most likely been through many, they quickly panicked and turned to despair. When Jesus arrived, walking on the water, they were even more afraid. These men, who had witnessed miracles in abundance, healing and the expulsion of spirits, were screaming like small children in fear. We are all capable of becoming scared of the present or our future. The good news of God today is that we are loved, protected and provided for - we are children of a living and active God. We need never be afraid.

Today I ask God to help me walk without fear. Despite all the questions before us today, may we trust that God has a solution for the dilemma already in the works.  May we live with the joy and fearlessness of  beloved children who trust that everything they need will be provided in time.

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea - for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. Mark 1:14-20 
I was thinking about  my experience in Alaska and how fishing was essential to understanding Tlingit life in SE Alaska. The people's identity is wrapped up in fishing. It is a multi-generational experience. It involves both genders. Everyone participates in some way. Every part of what is recovered is often used, from bones for fish hooks to skins for skin bags. The nets and boats are a small part of the life. The smokers and the weavers, the story tellers and the cooks. This life includes everyone and everyone is called to the edge of the water.
Jesus comes to the edge of the water and calls fishermen to follow him. These men were people who fished for generations. Fishing was in their blood, in their bellies and in their identities. Fishing was in their wives and in their mothers as well as their children and grandchildren. Fishing was who they were. Jesus calls them away from everything they know. They go away with him, to brave a new calling. They take their complete selves with them and never stop being fishermen. God invites us to follow, leaving nets behind, maybe, but bringing our full selves with us as we go.
Today I ask God to help me bring my full self to all I am called to do and be. May we know God as the source of our lives and bring all of ourselves to the journey ahead.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Other Side

They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’ So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake.
 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. Mark 5:1-20

Getting to the other side. I often find myself waiting for the other side, the end of a long week of struggle, waiting to get the storms behind me and rest awhile. I am often profoundly frustrated when getting to the other side just means more challenges to deal with, more things that only prayer and faith can solve. We want to believe there is an end point, a greener pasture , a place of calm and repose. And God is often bringing through the worst so that when we get to the the other side, we can care for those who are struggling more than we were.

The disciples have lived through a harrowing night which Jesus slept through. He calmed the violent storm much to their amazement. And the joyous arrival was immediately interrupted by the desperation of the possessed man. Overwhelmed with internal demons the man was terrorizing himself and his whole community. The legion was exorcised but not before they took the whole herd down with them. The welcomed guests became suspect. And yet in all of this God made the broken whole, ended the terror and amazed the whole community. Nothing would be the same after this adventure for the man, his community and for the disciples. God can use the terrors of the night and transform them into a place of liberation.

I ask God to keep me ever aware of the possibility of healing and liberty for even the most broken and imprisoned. May the storms of our lives help us welcome the new possibilities that God has promised to bring about as we move on following Jesus.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mary Magdalene

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.  John 20:11-18

She was a woman weeping. Her whole world had collapsed in a few short days  She was a woman weeping with a loss too deep for words. All the love that had defined her, given her direction, set her free, and joyously allowed her to serve - all was gone. As she approached the tomb, insults were heaped upon her already broken heart. The tomb had been defiled, the and her teacher's body stolen,  taken from the place of final rest. After all that terror was there to be no rest, no repose? Mary, the fallen woman, society's reject, this scarlet woman witnessed the resurrection and was to announce it to the others. The lowly woman of no worth was the herald of God's incredible love for the world.

Today we celebrate Mary Magdalene, the woman many have speculated about, many have written fiction about, and a woman we know really very little about. We do know she was there at the tomb and carried, alone or with the other women, the wondrous tale of Jesus' resurrection. The disciples would first say she was mad with grief. She also stands as a icon for all of us. She was completely broken and her sins widely known. And Mary was forgiven and loved, redeemed by the Savior of the world. She reminds us that none of us are too far gone, too broken, too foolish or too far from God. God's love is reaching to us now, reaching through our tears and terrors to show us new life.

Today, I pray that I can remember the witness of Mary Magdalene, who shouts the good news down through the centuries. He is risen and among us. God is among us. May we live this day with the knowledge of God's long reach, reaching each of us who have wandered and is drawing us home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hidden light

Jesus said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!" And he said to them, "Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."
He also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."
He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. Mark 4:21-34 
After spending time at camp, I have been reflecting on how hard it is to be a young person. We had a talent show during the week and I was so impressed with how many of them got up and performed in front of their friends. It's easier to hide in the back, or at least it was for me. We all have talents and light to share but we are often so afraid of being mocked or hurt that we hide them away. Unfortunately, hiding fires or lit candles under baskets can cause fires!
Jesus used parables and word pictures to help the disciples and the others to understand God's desires for them. He wanted them to be aware of the gifts they have and how willing God is to do something great with what seems like so little. The five loaves and two fish were concrete examples. But faith and talent are harder to grasp. God is willing now, today, to take the little we have and light up the world. If we but offer what we have God promises to use it well.
Today I ask God to help me not hide away. May we all step forward and share what we have, not fearing the response of the world but anticipating the blessings of God, who loves us all so much.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Good Soil

Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." And he said, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"
When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that
'they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'"
And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." Mark 4:1-20 

Good Soil
 I planted the word deep in my soul
sunk into the darkness and hidden
the seed of love broke open 
pushing through the cold earth.

The warm rain of faith showered down
like an incubator I was warmed and grown
the roots of hopes and dreams anchored
pale green leaves of promise reaching through.

We took care to clean the weeds away
those fast growing evils of greed and envy
the silent creepers of selfishness and power
removed as they tried to choke love away.

Our fragile seeds have become huge plants
reaching to the sun waving in the winds
standing tall against all challenges
and offering the tender sweet fruit of love.

Love becomes our daily labors 
tending and weeding like faithful farmers
love became our hopes and dreams
our strong backs tell the story of love.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sheep Without A Shepherd

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.  Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

People's need can often overwhelm a priest or pastor. It seems that everyone falls apart at the same time, the crisis enormous and the potential for burn out great.  We can give in to thinking we can help everyone and act like Jesus. But we falter then, because we are in need of a shepherd, and our rest is as important as our work.

Jesus took time to secret his disciples away, seeing their exhaustion and weariness. They were proud of all they had done, and couldn't see how close to the edge they were. Like sheep getting too close to the ravine's edge in the dark, the disciples were edging towards a fall, and the people kept coming. Jesus dealt with all who came to him, but it doesn't say the disciples did. They got they rest while Jesus worked. And we are invited today to put aside the guilt that rises when we know our desperate need for refreshment, and listen to the voice of our Good  Shepherd.

Today, I ask God to help me do my work and take my rest, listening at all times for the direction of the shepherd. May we not follow the herd down into the dangers of over work and exhaustion, but use our rest to be restore for the good of all who come our way. And may we remember that we have a Good Shepherd who never asks us to take his place.

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Then Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
"Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"—for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit." Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:19b-35 
Families come in all shapes and sizes, and they come with all sorts of challenges and problems. I come from a family of five children, all  talented and challenging in their own ways. We are very different from one another and yet a family forged by blood, faith and loss. There are also other families that I am part of, a network of friends who I consider my family and my family of faith which extends around the world. To say these families are also talented and challenged is also an understatement. We need one another in our brokenness as well as in our strengths.

Jesus was being protected by his family,from the overwhelming press of the crowd, and he takes this moment to seemingly reject them. This story used to bother me a great deal, until I realized that he was not rejected his family but rather changing our understanding of who were are. We are all related in God, we are brothers and sisters in faith, and as important and necessary as those who are our relatives by blood. We belong to God's family.
Today I ask God to help me really see my brothers and sisters today. May our differences not divide us but rather draw us closer together under God's broad and loving tent. May we lean into one another, as the family of God, and go together to serve this hurting world.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Going Up the Mountain

Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, "You are the Son of God!" But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot. Mark 3:7-19a 

Up the Mountain
The crowds press in around him
healing and wholeness they seek
their broken hands and hearts
reach out to the savior of the world.

We cannot always see the broken parts
the polish and shine seem genuine
inside they are breaking and bleeding
reaching for the savior of the world. 

Some reach for cosmetics and pills
others attempt to drown their sorrows
many put others down to feel better
not reaching for the savior of the world.

We are all groaning on the inside
torn with shame, with guilt and with pain
we wish to touch the hem of his garment
reaching out for the savior of the world.

Going up the mountian he apppointed twelve
and going from this world he appointed us all
to hear the cries of the poor and broken
helping them reach the savior of the world.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Grain and Healing

One sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions." Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward." Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Mark 2:23 - 3:6 
My week at camp is almost over and I have been touched by the staff here over and over again. They take their role in others' lives very seriously. They care for each other, the kids and the adults all with the same care and concern. Like a big extended family, they find ways to include one another and to make sure folks are comfortable and welcome. There's little judgment, a lot of laughter and a sense of belonging for everyone. The beauty here - the gorgeous spot on the lake and the beauty of the people make this a "thin" place, a place where we can all sense the closeness of heaven to earth.
Jesus let his disciples pick the groan and eat on the Sabbath, much to the consternation of the religious leadership. He also healed a man on the Sabbath too. They were furious with him for violating religious laws while missing the blessing of food and healing that was made manifest through him. They were in a thin place and missed the blessing by being caught up in the rules. We are invited to move beyond rules and judgment so that people can be fed and made whole.,
I ask God to help me remember my learnings from this place, May we model and share the love we have been given and share the closeness of heaven to earth today,

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Old and New

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" When Jesus heard this, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."
Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
"No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins." Mark 2:13-22 

Old and New

We ache to go back to the old ways
return home to familiar tastes and smellls
surrounded by heart warming laughter
singing the old songs we once knew.

We can never be who we once were
those old wine skins are fragile and worn
new love new life needs a new host
we must be remade for this present life.

Growing pains overwhelm us after loss
we dream we have our  childhoods back
we cannot return we can only live now
and be new wineskins for breaking day.

We are old and new all the time
bending and stretching breaking too
 we are forever celebrating and mourning
as the sun sets and rises a new day.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Loving One's Neighbor

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbor as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.Mark 12:5-12

As chaplain, after our first day of camp, I have been blessed to watch counselors care for all in their charge.  This is family camp and so there are more adults around than usual and less children to watch constantly. And yet, these teenagers and young adults care for each other and all in the community, making sure of each one's safety, comfort and welcome. No one is left out and everyone is treated with respect. In an age where bullying, cruel judgement and criticism are the norm, here there is only open hearts and genuine welcome.

The testing of Jesus was non-stop and yet there were also moments when genuine encounter of love and acceptance changed the way everyone behave. The young scribe was truly wanting to understand and listen with an open heart. His conversation with Jesus, which we get to overhear, changes his heart and ours, too. Loving God and loving neighbor are both challenges that the human situation can make difficult. Teasing others, putting people down is acceptable and having faith in God is not cool. And yet the young scribe is transformed, as we are, when we love God and others with that selfless love that was shown to everyone by Jesus.

Today I ask God to help me love completely and set all judgement and criticism aside. May we love ourselves with the same love that has been given to us by God, tenderly facing the world with the kindness and acceptance we have so generously received. May love be the way we journey together today.

Monday, July 13, 2015

From Above

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’Mark 2:1-12

Yesterday afternoon I drove from Helena to Camp Marshall, just north of Polson. It was a magnificent drive, through some incredible mountain passes and with each turn, the view was more magnificent. The mountains scenes and the verdant valleys took my breath away. I am at Camp to serve as chaplain for family camp but I know I will be touched and changed by this time. I have the opportunity to change my perspective, to see the world from above for a bit, and I cherish this time at camp with these people.

The friends of a lame man were out of options because of the crowd which pressed in on Jesus. Many were hoping for miracles and some were trying to catch him at some form of trickery. The crowd was not all friendly but the ones who came with the lame man were determined for their friend to see Jesus. They took the high route, cutting through the roof. Their love and faith brought God incarnate face to face with their crippled friend. Their love brought him to the place where he could get up and walk on his own after this encounter. We are invited today to seek the higher road, the view from above, the incarnate God who is waiting for us now.

Today I ask God to help me see with the eyes of compassion and love. May we not be restricted by the present limitations we face, but rather, seek the Creator in the midst of his creation, despite the obstacles and challenges in our path.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Dance

King Herod heard of the demons cast out and the many who were anointed and cured, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him." But others said, "It is Elijah." And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised."
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it." And he solemnly swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What should I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the baptizer." Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:14-29

The Dance

It was a grandiose celebration
her youth and sensual flexibility
captured the aged king's imagination
he thought himself a young man again.

His solemn promise showering beauty
his intoxication with eternal youth
brought about the death of innocent
the man who served God alone.

Captured in imagination and song
serving up the beheaded lifeless John
the wilderness child, an after dinner surpirse
the icon of selfish, deceitful anger.

What boiled inside a mother's heart
was the truth told by the baptizer
the ugly truth of her indecent deceit
of clawing for power, destroying lives.

There is no uglier mother and daughter
the ones who would use beauty to destroy
to deceive and plunder for riches and gain
the whole world knows their sick game.


O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fishers of People

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee .Mark 1:14-28 
 I arrived late last night in Helena, where people come this time of year to try their hand at fly fishing and other outdoor sports. I sat next to a Blackfoot woman last night who told me about her childhood in Montana on the rez, and how they would play games on the tourists - filling their tents with chair and cans, turning tents around, and making strange animals sounds while the people walked the trail and were terrified. Sometimes they would even run towards the people shouting they had just seen a bear. When we try to do something outside of our natural habitat, and pretend we are locals or experts, we can get ourselves into great trouble.
Jesus is not a professional fisherman, but was able to invite several pros to follow him. They dropped their nets, leaving their father with the hired men. Four men, all professionals, Simon and Andrew, James and John, all left their nets and everything they had ever known to follow Jesus. We really don't know what persuaded them. It couldn't have been simply boredom or the need to see the world. The road the would walk would be more challenging than anything they had faced before, yet they joyfully followed the carpenter's son. God invites us to follow with the same joy and expectation, despite what the road ahead may be like.
Today I ask God to help me follow Jesus and fish for people. May our lives be those of seekers, those who look out for the lost along every journey, trusting that God desires all people to be welcomed into the divine, loving arms.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Touch Me and See

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:36-53 
Some days our imaginations or our fears can run away with us. When the future is uncertain, as it often can be, it is easy to get afraid and worried. We speculate and argue, most often with ourselves. We can miss that even in our most uncertain times, God is in our midst. We some times have to wait until we are recharged, touched by God's power so that we can go forth again.
The disciples are a mes, a hot mess. They want to believe but are second guessing themselves and afraid of the police. They are outcasts in their own city and afraid of their own shadows. Jesus asks them to reach out and touch him. The resurrection is real, God's power over death is theirs and he promises to give them the power they need for the days ahead. They had to wait for it though, recharging and empowering one another in their faith. And we are invited to do likewise in uncertain times - take the time to recharged and be renewed by God's power and spirit.
Today I ask God to help us take hold of our faith and use the coming days to be strengthened and  renewed. May we encourage each other in faith, waiting on God for the power to move in care for the world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bread on the Road

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:12-35 

Bread on the Road
The comforts of home
rich laughing sounds 
safety behind closed doors
deep sleep and familiar waking.

On the road we dream of home
we ache for known language
common jokes, familiar food
and we decry the stranger's bread.

The stranger's bread, the portal
for God's love and presence with us
the dusty, long Emmaus road
the invitation to new life.

We are all travelers together
on dry, dusty cruel highways
and we are all family at home
for the food and comfort set before us.