Friday, April 29, 2016

Ask, Seek and Knock

Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul 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 bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:1-12 

There are times in my life when it has been hard to see ahead and feel confident.  There seem to be so many barriers and so much politics that can get in the way of serving God. Powerful people can set up big walls to climb, shut doors on difference and limit those who they don't like or understand. It is hard to be judged and found wanting and it is easy to accept human barriers and  judgments. Giving up often seems the only response to constant rejection, but the impulse and love of God is still stronger than the world.

Jesus is teaching folks the basics of following him. We are invited to see that God's love is even greater than any perfect parent, always working for us when we ourselves have given up. We are simply to ask when overwhelmed, search when we feel lost, knock when we have been locked out. God is truly with us, we are never alone even if the fight seems to great, and if we are willing to seek, we will know that God has already found us. When the times overwhelm, we can give in to throwing ourselves on the mercy of the one who is already with us and renewing our strength daily.

Today I ask God to take away all of my doubts and fears. May we all live as children of this loving God, who will fight our battles with us and through love will lead us through to the other side where there is light and a clear path ahead.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lilies of the Field

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:25-34 

Lilies of the Field

We worry and work and toil
losing sleep and patience
we toss and turn and plan
forgetting how truly loved we are.

We are children in arms
babes who think we control life
the one who loves us best
has our thriving and survival at heart.

We are not embedded with the enemy
but set free in verdant pastures
feed and tended when we barely see
guided and protect though we know not.

Our Creator has made a place for us
the storms have passed and we rise
though we think we must work so hard
yet love has a better solution for all.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”  Matthew 6:19-24 

When I was a child I was totally captivated by treasure maps and pirate stories. We lived by the ocean and my imagination ran wild with all the stories of coastal pirates and shipwrecks. My friends and I would scour the beach, looking for great prizes that washed up. We would find some treasures, old toys battered by the surf, fishing tackle, buoys and other great prizes. We would delight in every found object and make up stories of how they had washed up. We weren't really worried about wealth but more we were fixated on the possibility of exotic adventure.

Jesus is teaching his disciples about the true value of life. We can easily get caught up in winning, in earnings to make ourselves comfortable, of being the best in our generation. We can obsess about all sorts of things from fashion, to looks, to the symbols of status - houses and car - to the complete detriment of our souls. He reminds us that out focus is to be about love, for God, neighbor and self, so that we can have treasure both in earth and in heaven. It is so easy to get off track and we are invited to invest and reinvest in the true treasures of life.

Today I ask God to help me live in gratitude for the treasures I truly have - love from God which blesses me in so many ways, with dear family, friends and colleagues. Let us not pine for romantic notions of wealth but rather be saturated in the love that surrounds us and makes us truly blessed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Jesus said, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:7-15


The sun rises and we are thankful
we have been given signs and wonders
eagles rising on the winds and calling
all of us to pray.

The road is dusty and our feet weary
we see no end to our journey
our load is too heavy for this time
and we bring ourselves to pray.

The heat of the afternoon sun burns
we find shelter in the tall spruces
find shade among mountain shadows
praying in gratitude of it all.

The still of the night as wind sings
we lie on our beds and remember
all the faces of love we encounter
speaking prayerful words of thanks.

We might find ourselves hurting
angry as the greedy world harms innocents
our Creator gives us words of forgiveness
and we pray we can live humbly within.

In every time and place we dance
and pray thanksgiving, forgiveness
may our lives be dedicated to service
and our hearts always be in prayer.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Love One Another

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:31-35
Today is our daughter Ariel's birthday, our second oldest. I started in labor with her while sitting in the pew on a Sunday morning and she was born quickly early that evening. Each of our daughters have brought another measure of love in to our lives, a depth of abundance and blessing that daily overwhelms me. She, like her sisters, is beautiful and brilliant with a compassionate heart and the sweetest smile. From her and her sisters I have learned a depth of love and forgiveness I never imagined. God is truly made visible to me in their laughter, their songs and even their tears.

Jesus is getting ready to depart from his dear friends and wants them to remember the gift they are to one another. He wants them to understand that God is in the midst of them when love is there and nothing else will bring them closer to the presence of the living God. In their song and their tears, and their care for one another, God is made visible.

Today I give special thanks for the gift of love in the form of Ariel. May we all know the living presence of God as we love those who God has blessed us with. May we rejoice that God is made visible in our loving.

The Collect
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Going the Second Mile

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

We often want what's easy
a soft bed and a warm home
folks who agree with us
who talk and understand us.

The extra mile is where trouble is
honesty and exhaustion converge
our true selves brought to the edge
leaning on the one we were helping.

We often want patience
when we are unwilling to bend
we want to be lifted up
when we have fallen down.

It is that extra mile that brings
a test of true loving hearts
where we are able to find ourselves
again as we let ourselves go.

Come walk the extra mile
without being asked give in to need
climb the rough path a little further
and see the smiling face of God.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:27-37 

In one office where I worked we kept a jar and when expletives were unleashed we had to pay up. When, over time, plenty of money was collected we went to lunch. We did this especially during Lent, as a sign of our willingness to give something up and to change behavior. We were more attentive and careful, but we were also more keen on turning someone in. There was a quarter cost for small offenses and dollar for a string of expletives. We learned more about how sneaky we were than being truly humble and following Jesus. We did have fun and a great barbecue lunch eventually.

Jesus is very clear in responding to the religious leaders. They had ways of excusing behavior and covering up what they wanted to, in order to seem more pious and proper than they were. Jesus was direct with them, almost harsh, since they were willing to condemn others while letting each other off the hook. We are invited by God today to be honest about our sinfulness, and about our humanity. In that honesty we are to turn our lives around, and to live in gratitude rather than with a high and mighty attitude.

Today I ask God to help me be self-reflective and honest in all my dealings. May we truly serve God by following the narrow way, in a life of service to others and a turning over of our selfishness to the redemption and love of our Creator.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Be Reconclied

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:21-26 

Be Reconciled

You often can make me crazy
and I surely want to be right
I want even more to be loved
forgiven and embraced as I am.

We have our differences and people
brought up in cultural stews so different
we misstep and say the wrong things
we have no shared experience now.

We are bound together despite differences
we bleed and love in all the same ways
we are sisters and brothers on this island
this fragile earth, this single ecosystem.

I can hide in my own jungle of despair
and you can bury yourself in the sand
but we will find that we each have need
each have the answer for one another.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-20 

My Momma used to say you're getting close to God when the devil starts working overtime. There are times in all of our lives when the challenges of living and surviving seem overwhelming and trying to be faithful seems incredibly hard. Some weeks and months, even years have seemed that way in my life and I also know that our biggest battle is not giving into despair and selfishness. It is our challenge, to be faithful in the face of great stress and the real desire to make things easier.

Jesus continues his sermon by warning folks that things will not be easy. And, almost as if he is joking, he says they need to be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees, who are knowingly corrupt, selfish and too comfortable in themselves. God invites us today to a life of faith and compassion, one that moves away from selfish desires and turns daily to dependence on God's strength and power against all that attacks and manipulates us.

Today I ask God to give me an extra measure of that strength in the face of great challenges. May we see our righteousness as happy dependence on our Creator, trusting that the storms we face are already conquered in God's love.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Salt and Light

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:11-16 

Salt and Light

Bound together in the struggle
never undone by the misunderstanding
we cannot hide the love we've been given
cannot stop our feet from dancing.

Love infects the darkness
changes the DNA of the world
love lifts up our sinking vessels
and raises the possibility of hope.

We are restored in our challenges
renewed by the Gospel of love
the Creator's imprint on our beings
gives us the strength to go on.

Never alone in the presecution
someone else is sharing the hits
another is shouldering the burden with us
another is walking this rocky road.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Blessed Are the Poor

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:1-10

In the past they looked on our children and thought them poor and in need of fixing. They took our children from their parents and placed them in boarding schools far, far away. These sweet blessings were seen as problems and treated harshly for "their own good". The government believed that we would disappear and didn't want us to thrive. But we did thrive and a wonderful resurgence of people and traditions flourishes in the land.

Jesus is teaching the people who gathered around him to find hope. They were the outcasts, the poor, the people who society wanted to disappear. They had lived rough and treated harshly. And yet, here was the incarnate God, love made flesh, telling them of how blessed and how desired they were by God. In these people was the hope of the world, and it is among the marginalized where our hope is found today. God invites us today to move from our safety to our blessings.

Today I ask God to help me see the blessings at the very margins of our world. May we all move from our comfort to find the face of the living God in places and people were do not understand.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Good Shepherd

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one." John 10:22-30

This Sunday is often called Good Shepherd Sunday. Some folks forget that as isolated as we might feel, we are known by name and loved in totality. We might find ourselves in confusing and dark circumstances but we are guided, fed and cared for by a loving Creator. I hold the image of the shepherds I know who drive great distances to feed and water their sheep, sheep who walk towards their shepherd and run and holler at strangers like me. We, in are scattered and lost condition are sought out day and night.

Jesus is being tested by the religious people around him in the midst of the a great holiday. They do not want to get to know Jesus but rather challenge and test him. They were there to celebrate the blessings of God, the restoration of the Temple, but wanted to do theological battle. Jesus invites them to see the love of God coming to them as a tender shepherd. To see God in their midst and to give thanks for being known and loved.

Today, on a beautiful spring Sunday in Montana. I ask God to help me be ever grateful for the evidence all around of being loved and sought out. May we celebrate the blessings of being known and loved and hold tight to the promises of God for each and everyone of us.

The Collect - O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Leaving Nets

As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:18-25 

It is hard to be in strange places and to have regular routines interrupted. Learning a new job or a new living situation always brings some stress. We often gravitate towards familiar and old patterns to bring us a sense of comfort, to soothe ourselves when we are feeling lost and afraid. I have been on the road for a near solid three weeks, flown seemingly dozens of flights and I'm aching for my more regular spaces and routines.

Jesus meets the disciples on by the water and calls them to follow him. They are fishermen, who are sons fishermen, and from a people who have been fishing for countless generations. They are bound by culture and place, grounded in a life, a people, a continuity of life that is both profoundly comforting and occasionally suffocating.  We have no idea what caused them to drop their nets and abandon all people and things familiar - we do know that their lives changed forever. God stirred them into new action, roused them from their comfort zones and called them out to unknown shores. I am reminded that when I am feeling dislocated and lost, then I might just be responding the stirrings of God, the push to carry love to unknown shores.

Today I ask God to help me live with peace in times of radical dislocation. May we rejoice when we find ourselves in new and startling circumstances, knowing we are following the incarnate one, and living as the disciples did.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tested and Tried

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
   but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”,
   and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
   and serve only him.”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. Matthew 4:1-11

Tested and Tried

Faith is a precious gift not for a shelf
but for a life of living and breaking
made resilient and transforming
in the middle of our darkest nights.

We cannot know the presence of God
cannot feel the spirit moving in us
until we like Jesus know the wilderness
temptation, hunger and isolation.

Our loving God creates beauty
our human spirit jealousy and greed
when we wrestles with our devils
we are broken open to receive love.

Our darkest hours and our failures
are not to be feared but embrace
our humanity seeking the redemptive love
our frailty seeking strength in surrender.

God stands with us alone in the dark
on the precipices of falling down
next to us on the edges of collapse
holding us in our deepest sorrows.



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Harsh Words

But when John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:7-12 

* Over the past few weeks I have been in several places without wi-fi to be able to post these blogs. I  hope you will be patient with me in this time of much travel and isolation.

Sometimes it is hard to hear the truth and often it can be presented in less than kind ways. Our present day prophets can be so in-your-face that we can turn away and disregard them as crazy. We can excuse ourselves for listening when people are angry, even if the anger is justified. Yet, hard as it is, we are asked by God to daily self-examination and humility, to hearing the truth despite the difficulty we might have with it. None of us likes criticism, but we can learn and grow because of it.

John is preaching to the crowds when the religious leaders show up. He calls them out for who they truly are. If I was in the crowd then I would have wandered off in embarrassment and shame. We don't know what the religious leaders' reactions were. But John challenged them and challenged us to be open to the wondrous encounter with Christ, that moment when our shallow misguided egos are corrected and transformed by love.

Today I ask God to help me listen to the truth and get back daily on the right road. May we help one another keep on the path of God, trusting that as we turn, we will be met with love.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Feed My Sheep

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me." 
 John 21:1-19

Sometimes we are sent in directions we do not like or understand. We can look up from our work and wonder how we got here. I sometimes look back and understand now where God was leading me, although then I had no idea. We as humans are often puzzled and confused. When we do we often go back to the things that are familiar, things and practices that soothe us. We seek out familiar waters and safe harbors.

The disciples are in the place where they don't know where to go or what to do. They go fishing and are terribly unsuccessful. Fishing was so familiar but even that could not bring them calm and peace until Jesus showed up on the shore. His direction to the other side brought them abundance and fullness. They also recognized their Lord. But he did not leave them with full nets. He sent them out to feed the sheep, although few of them, if any, were shepherds. Peter particularly struggled against the demands of his Lord, and he ached to understand why and where he was being sent. His love for Jesus was the reason to go to the unfamiliar, the needy, and those on the margin. When we find ourselves without direction, lost and fearful, we can trust that Jesus will bring abundance to us. And we will be asked to move for the love of others, change our approach and ideas, all for love's sake.

Today I ask God to help me trust in the Jesus who stood on the shoreline and brought full nets. May we all be ready to be empowered to serve others, knowing that we will be sent to strange places, carrying the love of God. May we all let go of comfort and follow the risen Christ.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Pain Turned to Joy

Jesus said, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” John 16:16-33 

Pain Into Joy

I see those little hands moving
perfectly in time to the music
your toes lifting you to a dance
the delight in your eyes as we sing.

For all a mother suffers in the moment
every day is a gift and delight
watching you grow to a beautiful woman
has made be more thankful than ever.

My sweet brave and beautiful daughters
each one came into the world with pain
each one has suffered great pain as well
each one made their mother's heart joyful.

Everyday is a delight and gift
the sorrow of yesterday is behind us now
we can lift up our heads and rejoice
for light and love return to our world.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Keep You From Stumbling

Jesus said, “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:1-15

I am one of those people that never had super balance and after four back surgeries I have to be careful walking sometimes. If I look down and make sure there are no obstacles, I can keep from falling but never look up to see what's ahead. And if I am careless, I can miss the raised brick or stone and trip. Being human means facing challenges no matter how athletic, faithful and coordinated we are. Our carefulness can hide us from the vulnerability and need of others. Living in these human bodies and the very human world, is truly a daily struggle.

Jesus understood his own humanity and that of the disciples. He loved them and wanted to protect them and knew he couldn't. He offered them help along the way and the promise of the Spirit. They were normal, weak and challenged human beings like all of us. And indeed, he promises to help us through our stumbling and worries, and to send help as we go. We cannot avoid every down fall, trap and pitfall, but we can offer them up to God, knowing that we are never alone or without guidance in our struggle.

Today I ask God to help guide my feet and my heart. May we live with trust in God's near presence and be bold as we love. May we offer up our fears and worries, so that we can have space for the Holy Spirit, which is transforming our broken offerings into real blessings.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Love One Another

Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:12-27 

I have friends growing up that I still hold as precious friends. We spent summers together and still stay in touch and we have collaborated on many things. Our children have grown up together and now our grandchildren are getting to know each other. They have each in their way taught me about love. We may have different theologies, practices and politics, but we are there for each other in our times of need. I know if I need an encouraging word, a place to stay, or a hand with something - they are there. We love beyond boundaries, distances and differences.

Jesus talked to his disciples about love. The kind of love that friends have, which crosses time and space. The love of God, which likewise crosses time and space and all boundaries. This love is not based on carnal needs, greed or anything but that compassion which is beyond each of us and comes from the Creator. It does not come easily to many of us, it is developed over years of trust and reliance, but we all have experienced it. Jesus invites us to live that kind of love daily.

Today I ask God to give me the strength to live love daily, and to be present to those in need around me. May we love one another because of God's love for us, and reach out to those who have never experienced the love which crosses time and space.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Oh, Mary

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38

Oh, Mary

Oh, Mary  sweet child of God
what you did for all of us
making yourself a vessel for God
birthing love to a broken world.

You alone bore the shame and rejection
carrying the unborn to Bethlehem
Oh, Mary you gave up your comfort
so that we might truly know the Comforter.

Mary, you fled with Joseph to Egypt
a child bundled in your weary arms
you lived among strangers as an alien
so we might know the living God.

You brought him back and guided him
to the temple and to the workshop
you brought out his first miracle
despite his resistance and concern.

You in your aged body kneeled
drenched in tears and blood at the cross
you wept for the life you gave the world
aching for the ignorance of the powerful.

You, Mary leapt with joy at the angel's words
the sight of the risen life offered for all
the movement of God stronger than hate
the love of God more powerful than death.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Just One Touch

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. John 20:19-31

Believing is a funny thing. In an age when everything seems to have a scientific explanation, and we can know where we come from by a DNA swab, believing the resurrection can be a challenge for many. We want miracles but we have been trained to test, prod and second guess. Our faith in Jesus is a living faith, and we follow a living and loving Creator, who incarnate in Jesus, has set us free from the bonds of death. 

This first Sunday after Easter, we hear the story of Thomas who is sometimes called Doubting Thomas. He is one of the twelve but was not with them in the locked room, where they hid in fear. Although they thought he had risen, they were not secure in their belief and were much more assured when he was present with them. Thomas came later, but Jesus understood his need and his confusion. Thomas touches Jesus and through that living touch, is solidified in his faith, anchored to the living God as he never had been. Thomas goes on to be one of the greatest evangelists, going far away from his fisherman's life to share the living.

Today, I ask God to help me be grounded and trusting as Thomas. May we reach out to God in our need, knowing that we are simply one touch away from knowing. We are a small step away from being so grounded in the heart of God that fear rolls completely away.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

God of the Living

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”
Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Mark 12:18-27

God of the Living

We are not following the silent
dead eyed Lord of darkness
rather a living God who dances
a heart on fire for the love of the world.

Our rules are fences and walls
which cannot hold back nor contain
love burning beyond all restrictions
God creating and renewing always.

Our fears are chains and prisons
breaking us and bending our minds
God is breaking the chains of fear
setting all the prisoners free.

Our hearts are cold and dreary
our greed has cut off the blood flow
Creator stands with open arms
to warms our frigid hearts again.