Friday, December 15, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 12


Happy are those
   who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
   or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
   and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
   planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
   and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.


The wicked are not so,
   but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
   nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
   but the way of the wicked will perish.


Psalm 1

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I wrote Mama yesterday to tell her we were staying an extra day with cousins Miriam and Amos. They are so very kind to us! When I woke yesterday morning I was very sick and Miriam nursed me as if I was her own child. We wanted to travel today but they wouldn't let us. She wanted to make sure everything was all right so she called for the wise women to come and examine me.

Well, the first time I was examined was pretty embarrassing, but this was over the top!  They had be strip everything off and then proceeded to examine me thoroughly - and I mean thoroughly! They were quite gentle but it still felt like I was completely and utterly exposed. There was a good deal of clucking and aha-ing from them. When it was all over, Miriam made us all tea (the men having found something to do outside!) and we sat as they explained everything to me. It seems as though the baby is coming sooner than we thought! I don't have the heart to tell Mama. I really don't want to have it without her there! This baby may come before we get home, and I must admit I couldn't hold back the tears. I know that God is in the midst of this, but can you tell me why it has to be so complicated and hard?

We will go a few miles tonight, if Miriam allows. Please don't tell Mama and Papa about the new date as it would only worry them more. They have enough on their hearts as it is. I ask for an additional measure of prayers for us and especially for Joseph, who has been so patient and gentle, despite the fact that I am a mess most of the time. I am more and more grateful for him every day.

much love,

Mary

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Advent 2- Mary letter 11

Do not fret because of the wicked;
   do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
   and wither like the green herb.


Trust in the Lord, and do good;
   so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart.


Commit your way to the Lord;
   trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
   and the justice of your cause like the noonday.


Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
   over those who carry out evil devices.


Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.


Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight in abundant prosperity.Psalm 37


Dear Mama,

We made it here to overnight with Miriam and Amos. They are very kind and offered us food and a soft place to sleep. I found the walking very exhausting and rode on the burro several times, although there were many places that were too rough for riding. The baby moved so much when we were jostling along that I thought it might be bad for him, but everything seems okay for him. Not so much for me.

I woke up this morning and was very sick. Miriam told Joseph to fetch some water and she tended to me. She listened to my belly and assured me that the baby was fine. She thinks I am just exhausted and overwhelmed by the preparation and traveling. We will stay here at least another night, although by midday I was feeling much better. She made me some soup which was delicious. When we told her we thought we could go tonight, Miriam stood up and nearly shouted at us. "She isn't going anywhere!", she said. We had a good laugh later, thinking that no general could be more commanding than Miriam. She may be elderly but she is strong and fierce. Amos also laughed and told us that if we knew what was good for us, we would follow her instructions!

Tomorrow, before we travel, Mama, she is going to have the wise women come and check me just to make sure everything is fine. She suspects that the baby is coming sooner than we thought. I told her I was planning on being home with my Mama when he arrives. She smiled and said, "we shall see." I don't know whether to trust her or be weary, but we are in her hands! I will keep you posted.

Please give my love to Papa. I miss you both so very much!

love,

Mary

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 10


Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
   or discipline me in your wrath.
For your arrows have sunk into me,
   and your hand has come down on me.


There is no soundness in my flesh
   because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
   because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
   they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.


My wounds grow foul and fester
   because of my foolishness;
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
   all day long I go around mourning.
For my loins are filled with burning,
   and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am utterly spent and crushed;
   I groan because of the tumult of my heart.


O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction, and my neighbors stand far off.


Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin,
   and meditate treachery all day long. But I am like the deaf, I do not hear; like the mute,

 who cannot speak. Truly, I am like one who does not hear, and in whose mouth is no retort.

But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
For I pray, ‘Only do not let them rejoice over me, those who boast against me when my foot slips.’


For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. Those who are my foes without cause are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
Those who render me evil for good are my adversaries because I follow after good.


Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me; make haste to help me,
   O Lord, my salvation.Psalm 38



Dear Aunt Mary,

We start on on travels tomorrow and I have little time to write but I feel I must. I am so scared! I guess I have never traveled this far and never without Mama and Papa! I thought I could handle all of this but I am about to scream like a little girl. What is wrong with me?

We will leave tonight after dark so that our exit from the town is not seen. I feel like a dirty thief sneaking off into the night, hoping no one will see us. I stood in the back doorway this afternoon, careful not to go outside, looking over the home I have always known. I ache for the comfort of these surroundings and realize that it will be awhile before I see this place again. I am trying to keep calm for everyone's sake, but it is so hard.

We will walk a few hours after dark and then rest for the night with some distant relatives of Joseph. Papa has made arrangements for us all along the way, and had given us a map so we don't have to go on the busy roads. He wants to protect us, and I know they would come with us if they could. And I know we are doing all of this for God, but it seems as if the Divine is silent in the face of so many challenges. I hope to write everyday, but Mama also wants to hear from me, so it may be every few days that you hear from me. Don't stop praying please, as we need your prayers more than ever!

love always,

Mary

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 9


Vindicate me, O Lord,
   for I have walked in my integrity,
   and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
   test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
   and I walk in faithfulness to you.


I do not sit with the worthless,
   nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I hate the company of evildoers,
   and will not sit with the wicked.


I wash my hands in innocence,
   and go around your altar, O Lord,
singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,
   and telling all your wondrous deeds.


Lord, I love the house in which you dwell,
   and the place where your glory abides.
Do not sweep me away with sinners,
   nor my life with the bloodthirsty,
those in whose hands are evil devices,
   and whose right hands are full of bribes.


But as for me, I walk in my integrity;
   redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground;
   in the great congregation I will bless the Lord. Psalm 26



Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Mama and I have been preparing for our travels to Bethlehem all day. We were interrupted by a visit from some of my school friends, most of them still single yet betrothed. They came and brought me a few gifts. They must of heard that we had married privately. At first it was a nice visit but after awhile I could tell they wanted to pump me for information about our marriage bed. They wouldn't believe my story about the angel. They started poking fun at me, and told me I was a silly fool. They said crude things about Joseph and me and called me all sorts of names. Mama came in from outside when she heard their taunting and sent them away. She was furious! I was too broken-hearted to be angry then. She held me as I wept. Girls can be so mean and so cruel! Mama told me not to listen to them and to not worry what people think or say. I wish I could, but it still hurts like a knife to the heart.

Joseph had been going to the market to gather supplies for our trip. Tomorrow he will get the burro and we will start out shortly after that. When he came here with all the supplies, Mama told him about the girls. I was napping, and he came in and woke me to find out if I was all right. I told him I was but he insisted on holding me and telling me he would protect me. He was so tender and kind. And he was furious when I told him about the things they had said about us.

Joseph paced a bit to release his anger, then he told me something I will hold close forever. He said that Lord sometimes asks impossible things of us, and that with that asking also provides for us, despite all of the challenges and the world's cruel ways. God has a great task for us but we do not have to do this alone. We will walk under the shadow of angel's wings. It made me feel so much better. And it made me sure that we can, together, make this trip to Bethlehem and back.

Please pray for us as the journey is at hand.


love,

Mary


Monday, December 11, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 8

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
   do not let me be put to shame;
   do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
   let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.


Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
   teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
   for you are the God of my salvation;
   for you I wait all day long.


Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
   for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
   according to your steadfast love remember me,
   for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!


Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.


For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who are they that fear the Lord? He will teach them the way that they should choose.


They will abide in prosperity, and their children shall possess the land.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever towards the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.


Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.
Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.


Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me.
O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.


Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles.  Psalm 25



Dear Auntie,

I feel like a prisoner these days. At breakfast, Papa told me that he and Joseph had decided that I should stay inside until we travel. I know they are afraid for my safety but this is almost unbearable!
The joy of just being in the garden, hanging out the laundry, with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair has been taken away. They do not understand that in this cramped, although familiar place, I feel more guilty and in trouble. It feels as if I have not something wrong, rather than being the vessel of the Lord's love for the world. Why do the men always make the worst decisions when it comes to their women?

Mama sat with me this morning after the announcement and Papa had gone off. She said when she was with child, in her day, they never let you leave the house at all! How misguided and old fashion is that? I just want a little sun and a little breeze to cool me since I feel hot and sweaty a good deal of the time. And this little one is so active, kicking and moving as soon as I try to rest!

Mama was helpful though, really. She help me recite the psalms and prayer that I learned as a child. She had taught me to read, ever so quietly as to not upset the elders, and has given a few small scrolls of the teachings to take with me. I wish I could take Mama with me, more than anything. At least she understands all of this, unlike the men in my life.

Well, I best go. We are making bread that will last for days on our trip, and drying fruit for the journey. I wish I could do all the cooking outside but am trying to be faithful and obedient. Some days it is so hard.

Much love,

Mary

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 7


The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”Mark 1:1-8

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I was trying to write to you yesterday but things really fell apart. Joseph and I walked to a neighbor's house, after dark, in order to make arrangements to purchase their burro. He wanted me to go along, but is still afraid of us being seen together after all the troubles. These neighbors are elderly and very kind. They wanted to make sure that the animal wouldn't throw me off when I needed to ride. It was only use to bundles being put on his back. The burro was actually very sweet and when I got on he sighed and walked slowly around their yard. He let me feed him some carrots and rub his nose. We already felt like friends.

On our way home, leaving the burro to be collected in a few days, Joseph noticed we were being followed. He tried to hurry us up but it wasn't enough. These men, actually they were probably still boys, started saying terrible things to us and pushing Joseph around. They had their faces cover so we couldn't see them well in the dark. He told me to hurry home and get my father. I was amazed that I could move as fast as I could. Papa went running as soon as I got home. He and Joseph returned about a half an hour later, but it seemed like hours later. Joseph was roughed up pretty bad before Papa got to them. Papa knew the boys and called them by name and they panicked. He was a real mess but Mama got him cleaned up. I couldn't help but cry.

Why is it that the places that should be safe, like home, become a danger zone? What do these people who profess to love God, try to destroy the work of God? These are my neighbors, my community, and they used to be my friends! I am heartbroken at the lack of compassion and forgiveness.

I know you have faced some scandal and ridicule as well. And you know that God is working through you and that child - I cannot wait to see him! How do you cope with the cruelty of this world? We have been given wondrous promises which seem to make everyone hate filled!

I best get up since I slept in after such a terrible night. I think we will start making our travel plans and move sooner than later.

love always,

Mary

Friday, December 8, 2017

Advent 1 - Mary letter 6

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
   give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
   let your eyes see the right.


If you try my heart, if you visit me by night,
   if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me;
   my mouth does not transgress.
As for what others do, by the word of your lips
   I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.


I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.


Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me. They close their hearts to pity; with their mouths they speak arrogantly. They track me down; now they surround me; they set their eyes to cast me to the ground. They are like a lion eager to tear, like a young lion lurking in ambush.


Rise up, O Lord, confront them, overthrow them! By your sword deliver my life from the wicked,
from mortals—by your hand, O Lord—from mortals whose portion in life is in this world.
May their bellies be filled with what you have stored up for them; may their children have more than enough; may they leave something over to their little ones. Psalm 17


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

it has been a wonderful and overwhelming day. It seems that every day is now a mix of goodness and terror. Our family gathered around as we shared our vows and we were made man and wife. There was plenty of food and the whole gathered clan was happy and joyous. Maybe a little too loud, as one of the neighbors must have complained! We were not breaking the Sabbath, we were not away from home by sundown - we were just a family together to celebrate. It seems as though we have become criminal in the eyes of our neighbors and therefore everything we do is wrong. The constable came and gave Papa a stern warning. Really??

On the other hand, we were given many lovely gifts, both for us and the baby. We were so touched by everyone's generosity! We have plenty of money for our trip down to Bethlehem, and to purchase a donkey, so I do not have to walk all of the time. That made Mama's heart very glad! She has been so afraid for me, and I understand her worry. None of us planned on being instruments of God, nor the consequences that we would have to bear.

I hope you are growing stronger every day. The cousins reported that you were in good health and John was very big and strong! I am so glad. I hope I can be strong like you and this baby, this little boy is big and strong as well. I think he must be, since I am enormous.

It's time for bed now. Joseph will continue to stay in his house until we embark on our journey. They all feel this is for the best, but I could really use his comforting voice near me tonight. I can hardly sleep for all the feeling stirring in me and the baby kicking like crazy! Guess he's happy for us too!

I am a married woman, but I guess I'll have to wait for what that fully means. Everyone tells me it's for the best! I wish they would ask me just once what was best for me. Well, that will never happen, I guess.

Sending much love,

Mary


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Advent 1- Mary Letter 5

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
   my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
   my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
   so I shall be saved from my enemies.


The cords of death encompassed me;
   the torrents of perdition assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
   the snares of death confronted me. 


In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice,
   and my cry to him reached his ears.

Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth;
   glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens, and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.


He rode on a cherub, and flew; he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering around him, his canopy thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him
   there broke through his clouds hailstones and coals of fire.


The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice. And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.


He reached down from on high, he took me; he drew me out of mighty waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a broad place;
   he delivered me, because he delighted in me.


The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me. Psalm 18:1-20


Dear Auntie Elizabeth,

I heard the good news! Papa read us the letter at the table this noon. We all laughed and cried as we heard of John's birth and the restoration of Zechariah! What an amazing story! The Lord is so good, even when people and situations overwhelm us. You told me that all would be well, and yet it is hard to imagine the days ahead for us. Please keep up your prayers.

The cousins and extended family are arriving this afternoon and we will exchange our vows tomorrow. We have to keep everything quiet so that the town's people don't come and interrupt us. Papa thinks we will have to start packing for our trip after a few days. I am looking forward to seeing Ruth and Sarah. They have promised to stand with me and make the day very special. I have no idea what they are up to, but I am assuming no good. I need some fun and frivolity right now. Everything seems so serious and often scary.

Auntie, please take care of yourself and send me word of your life as a new mother. I cannot go and speak with the girls here who have married and given birth. They will not talk to me and when I approach in the market, they have turned their backs to me. I know the Lord is working good through all of this. I only wish my life could be a bit more normal. It is hard to be so very isolated and alone.

Mama is calling me to come get ready for our company!

Sending much love and happiness to you, Zechariah and baby John,

Mary

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Advent 1 - Mary Letter 4

Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways. You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances. I will observe your statutes;    do not utterly forsake me.


How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments. I treasure your word in my heart,
   so that I may not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes. With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth. I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.


Deal bountifully with your servant, so that I may live and observe your word.
Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
I live as an alien in the land; do not hide your commandments from me.
My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times.
You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments;
take away from me their scorn and contempt, for I have kept your decrees.
Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.
Your decrees are my delight, they are my counsellors. Psalm 119:1-24


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

It has been a day! I am writing to you, right before bed since today was so full. First was a big surprise when I got out of bed, eagerly this morning. I thought Joseph and I would have time to ourselves, but instead, our cousin Simon arrived and will listen to our vows in two days. If that wasn't enough, my mother had invited the wise women here today to examine me to make sure I could travel! Oh, it was so embarrassing and overwhelming! To have my relative here and to have all these old women pouring over me. They took me aside, into my room, and tried to be as private as possible. They couldn't help talking, though, and they were so loud! They measured and prodded and poked at places that made me feel so ashamed. I kept my eyes closed the whole time as if that would help take my embarrassment away. Then all of the sudden they were clapping and running to tell my Mama I was still a virgin. Of course I am, although the rest of the town thinks otherwise. No one ever listens to one girl like me.

Papa told me that he is putting supplies together for the journey to Bethlehem. He has been corresponding with relatives along the way who can take us in and keep us safe. He is worried, I can see it on his face but he talks like everything is great. Why is it the men cannot show us their hearts very often? I am glad that Joseph seems able to show me his heart, even though he is very shy, especially around my family. He too is afraid, taking a girl like me on such a journey, and yet he talks to me about his fears and tells me how hard it is for him to know how to pray. We will lean on each other, I guess.

Please know we are awaiting good news from you! It must be any day now, though maybe the boy has been born already? I think of you everyday and wish I was traveling to your house and not to the census. Why is it that grand people far away are always given poor people orders? I admit to not understanding politics at all.

Much love always,

Mary

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Advent 1 - Mary letter 3


Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God,
   for to you I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.


For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you. The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.


But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
   will enter your house, I will bow down towards your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.


For there is no truth in their mouths; their hearts are destruction; their throats are open graves; they flatter with their tongues. Make them bear their guilt, O God;
   let them fall by their own counsels;because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.


But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover them with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Things are moving very rapidly and I do not know how to think about it all. Every day there is some new twist, so new challenge to try to understand. I try to pray and cannot find the words. Joseph and I sat up late last night in the garden, trying to make plans in reaction to his news. He was summoned to Bethlehem for the census! Can you believe it? Before my time has come we are to travel there to join with his extended family in order to be counted. He has never even lived there! He insists I go with him, after we are married, so that I am safe. At first I was upset but really do understand he is trying to protect me, actually protecting us. Before I go I will have to be examined by the wise women to make sure I am safe to travel. His goal is to get me back here so Mama and the wise women I have known all of my life can assist me in the birth.

Auntie, I know I should be more calm, and lay my complete trust in the Lord, as you do. I hold you in my mind as a model to follow. Too often, though, I fall apart. Mama just says it's part of being with child. She says there are moods we all have. Is that true, or is she just trying to make me feel better? She has been very loving, despite the lines that seem to deepen in her face daily. This is taking a toll on all of us.

Papa and Joseph are getting together tonight to make a plan for the trip. They are really worried about safety and want us mostly to travel at night. If we took Mama and Papa with us, I would feel safer, but last night Joseph thought it might draw too much attention if we all disappeared. Ah, well, I keep trying to pray and find words that are stuck deep in my heart.

much love,

Mary

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent 1 - Mary Letter day 2


Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.


The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the
Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Well, I had a horrible night, barely sleeping at all. We had a nice supper as a family sitting in the garden in the cool air. Then some men came shouting for my father and Joseph. We hurried inside as the men went to see what was the matter. There were some angry men, fortunately none of them leaders, who wanted us gone from here. When the story came out finally, a small lamb had died in a neighbor's pasture and they thought it was my sin, so therefore fault. I guess because I had been out walking under the trees this afternoon, they thought I had done something. They think me a witch! Oh, the words that were said! And how brave Joseph and Papa were!

It has been decided that I should stay inside, at least well into the evening, when darkness is everywhere. And they want the wedding to happen immediately, so there can be no more talk. I cried so much, I just couldn't help myself. I know that this is from God. I never knew how cruel people can be! It hurts so much coming from those I have known all my life. Mama sang to me, repeating the old psalms to calm me. That helped and I must have fallen to sleep, but I kept waking up, hearing those hurtful words from such familiar voices.

Mama is worried since I am looking do drawn and haggard this morning. We will stay inside and sew the finishing touches on the marriage garments. Mine has to be let out (again!) sine the baby seems to grow my belly by feet instead of inches. I want to be so strong for this little one. Already, I feel like I am so weak. What would I do without my family?

Please stay strong and know we are all praying for your safe delivery!

much love,

Mary

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent One - First Mary Letter



Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up your strength and come to help us.

Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angered despite the prayers of your people?

You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have given them bowls of tears to drink.
You have made us the derision of our neighbors, and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man you have made so strong for yourself. And so will we never turn away from you; give us life, that we may call upon your Name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I guess I am really na├»ve. When you said you expect attacks from the most unlikely places, I didn't believe you. I guess I thought God would protect me from that, after all an angel was sent to me. It has started in earnest. Leaders of the synagogue have said very harsh things and Papa and Joseph have been shunned. We hid it well for several months but now I am like a big sign. They believed we have sinned. I heard Mama crying last night and it made me cry too.

Joseph and I are preparing to be wed, but we have to keep it very small. Fortunately, his cousin can perform the ceremony. I wish we could be more public, but everything we do brings ridicule and shame. It is so hard to be faithful when the world around thinks we are misguided and corrupt fools.
I had tried to be very strong, yet some moments are just unbearable. My friends won't even talk to me or come to visit anymore.

I know your time is very close. I pray for you that you can be strong and survive all that is ahead of you. I take heart in knowing we are both carrying promises from God, miracles of a holy making. I only wish  our neighbors weren't so judgmental and cruel.

Sending much love,

Mary

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Opne My Eyes




As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!” Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:29-34

Open My Eyes

This season bright with glitter
illumined with bobbles and lights
there is much to be seen, much missed
we are too often blind to the need.

A tree in the center of the city
distracts us from the edges of pain
the sales and constant commercials
pulls us from knowing our hearts.

Oh let us prepare to be humble
let us make room for compassion
for the incarnate one comes among us
and we must seek him right here.

In the darkened alleys of misery
in the blinding lights of the highway
in the simplest of cries in the dark
the love of God will be found there.



Friday, December 1, 2017

The Last Will Be First


Jesus said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:1-16 

The Last Will Be First

Who did you ignore today and
who did you put down as nothing?
They will be chosen by God to lead
and you in God's mercy must follow.

The innocent who you daily corrupted
the poor whom you have always shunned
the different and the awkward never chosen
will be the captain of your team now.

If you cast one to outer darkness
they will come back as a true hero
and if you deny rights to another
you will find yourself in prison soon.

Justice is like a slow moving river
there seems nothing going very fast
yet God's love a swift hidden current
and will lift the lowly up and over.






Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Eye of the Needle


Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Matthew 19:23-30 

Eye of the Needle

Seeing so many without
and so few with so much
who ask for more each day
leaving so little for the rest,
we loudly cry out to God
to bring us to a blessing place.

We cannot see the invisible
the threads that pull and tug
yet we are woven together
no matter how we isolate
even when we dominate
we are bound to the least here.

The sacrifice of a very little
promises the gain of the world
giving for the sake of others
saves even the lowliest among us
the willingness to forgo comfort
brings comfort and joy to all.

We are woven in a tapestry
not of our making yet divine
a holy fabric, seamless and fine
hidden from our eyes yet throbbing
with the pulse of all who ache
with the love that will not end.


 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Trasures in Heaven


 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
 Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.Matthew 19:13-22



Today in our church calendar we celebrate King Kamehameha and Queen Emma of Hawaii. When still a young man on train tour in the U.S., he writes, "I found he was the conductor, and took me for somebody's servant just because I had a darker skin than he had. Confounded fool;. the first time that I have ever received such treatment, not in England or France or anywhere else........In England an African can pay his fare and sit alongside Queen Victoria. The Americans talk and think a great deal about their liberty, and strangers often find that too many liberties are taken of their comfort just because his hosts are a free people." Kamehameha came to the throne when he was only 20, a year after a smallpox epidemic devastated Honolulu. The quiet and unassuming royals became Anglicans and set about organizing Queen’s Hospital, as well as St. Andrew’s Cathedral, churches and schools; they did as much as any missionary to teach the people of the islands what Christianity is all about. When the king and queen devoted much of their reign to providing quality health care and education for their subjects as foreign ailments and diseases like leprosy and influenza were decimating the native Hawaiian population. In 1855, the King addressed his legislature to promote an ambitious public healthcare agenda that included the building of public hospitals and homes for the elderly. To this day, these benevolent sovereigns are honored and remembered by their people.

Jesus encounters a rich young man with all the right questions and all the wrong notions of his own place and power. He wanted to be Godly without any cost to himself. Jesus invites him to take care of the least with the riches he possesses and then he will know God. How often to we whine and sorrow about our ache for a deeper relationship with God as we remain greedy and self-protective? God invites us, as we look towards advent to truly prepare for the presence of Christ by truly loving our neighbors.

Today I ask God to help me rise about the busy-ness and the hubbub of the holidays and see the people around me. I pray that we can follow the lead of the Hawaiian Royals, who, made the care of the people their enduring legacy.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Two Become One


When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.
Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”
His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” Matthew 19:1-12 

In a few weeks our eldest daughter Emily is getting married in New York City. There is much excitement and joy all around. I remind people who are getting married that this is the hardest and most rewarding work they will ever do. And for some, no matter how hard they work at it, due to hurts and ills too deep to cure, violence and abuse, the coming together as one will never happen. The two become one is not instantaneous nor romantic, it is an deep commitment to see the other side to and to love the other voice, constantly forgiving and moving beyond the petty.

Jesus is under scrutiny and testing from the religious leaders. He answers them from the heart of God, the true desire of every joining to be holy and forever. And yet, there is an understanding that in our humanity and frailty, Jesus acknowledged how hard living as one flesh truly is. We are invited by God to renew our commitment to those we love and who we have vowed to love. To hold tight to the human gifts we have been given, since each of us is both frail and precious gift.

Today, I ask God to help me strengthen the bonds of love. May we all strive to be ready to forgive. to let go, to share completely with others. May our fear of loss not hold us back from loving, but rather in all seek the heart of God which is love made perfect.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Least of These


Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31-46

The Least of These

You rush past the beggar everyday
turning away as we dispose of the excess
complain about the poverty of affection
ache to be welcomed and understood.

The comfort we have is our blessing
yet it cannot be the punishment of the poor
the meal that we cannot do without
are generally those we do not even crave.

The needy know daily the deep ache
hunger and injustice are where Jesus dwells
that corner on the street which we avoid
is the throne of the king that is to come.

He will come as a homeless child
to parents displaced and on the road
he will be known by those who journeying
those who linger at the dark corners tonight.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Seventy Times Seven


Then Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 

We are having a Thanksgiving meal today, and I made the pumpkin pie last night.  I kept dreaming that the cat crept down stairs and licked the pumpkin out of the pie. Of course, in my dream I was unable to move or do anything about the errant cat, who just kept devouring the pie over and over. I wonder if I would have forgiven her if the dream had come true.

Some translations of this story report that Jesus said seventy seven times and others say seventy times seven. However the number is reported, we find ourselves, as the disciples did, instructed to let go of anger and to forgive, over and over again. The number of times to forgive is meant to seem impossible. We are to just keep forgiving, since we are forgiven. To live and thrive we must forgive, not holding on to the hurt and moving beyond the pain and the brokenness we cling to. God invites us today, as we are surrounded by family, or as we find ourselves alone in these holidays, to practice intentional forgiveness until it becomes second nature.

Today, I ask God to give me the strength and resolve to practice forgiveness with everyone, especially those close to me. May we practice forgiveness until it fits us all so comfortably that those around us know us by our compassion and forgiveness.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Take Care


Jesus said, “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:10-20 

Take Care

For us, it was always about the children
on this day after American Thanksgiving
we never deny them a feast or celebration
but we remember how they were taken away.

For us, they are the dreams and the hope embodied
they learn at our hips at our very sides daily
when removed from our homes and our peoples
they were stripped of our language and visions.

For us, seeking out our wandering children
is a daily task and we take care of their waking
their sleeping and their dreaming as a gift
a fragile, hearty, great delight of our lives.

For us, we know the ancestors are watching them
you call them angels and we can understand that
for we know divine light and love abide here
in the hearts of these little ones we are given.

 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cast for a Fish


As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed. When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.” Matthew 17:22-27

On the eve of Thanksgiving, when many are trying to get somewhere, it seems appropriate to talk about the gratitude we have and the overwhelming blessings we have in our families and in our communities. We may worry about how the feast tomorrow might go, and how the family will or will not get along, but we are all, in so many ways blessed with abundance. Our best response to all we have received,  is to live a life of kindness, honoring all, even those who tax and offend us.

Jesus is making his way to the final drama. His disciples want it to be like it always was. And they want him to use superhero powers to squash the demands of the religious leaders. Instead, he suggests they be kind and inoffensive, paying the tax through a coin from the depth of the sea. Among themselves they could rejoice in the miracle, but he wanted them and us to be humble and kind in all of our interactions. God invites us to see the blessings, even in paying taxes, and the miracles that abound in our daily lives.

Today I ask God to open my eyes to the miracles around me. May we live our lives with kindness and humility, honoring even those who demand too much and who push all of our buttons. May God's love be known in this world as we joyfully participate and lovingly engage the people around us.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cured Instantly


When they came to the crowd, a man came to Jesus, knelt before him, and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:14-21

Cured Instantly

I ached to be someone other than me
to fit in to be the right size with blond hair
to never be on the outside but in the center
not to be haunted by painful self doubt.

I thought I was alone in this ache
feeling possessed by demons and desires
wanting to be anything but this oddity
praying for an instant cure to what I am.

No disciple on this earth then or now
had enough faith to change the boy then
and now we often ask for a different self
when God has blessed us richly so.

And faith increased when I accepted all
the demons, the dents and the dimples
the failure that taught me great things
and the solace I found in true honesty.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Entrusted with Talents


Jesus said, “It is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Matthew 25:14-30

We all want to hide and run when life overwhelms us, when what we offer has been rejected and our person-hood is overlooked. We are reluctant and fearful to share after we have been abused and taken advantage of by bullies and cruel people. I am often reluctant to share from the heart because sometimes, even within the church, I have been shamed and set aside. Yet this is the awkward and tender place where God meets us, right in the midst of our fears and inadequacies. 

Jesus tells the parable of the master who leave certain sums with his slaves. We all cringe at this parable, especially on pledge Sundays and during Stewardship campaigns. We are all more like the one who was fearful and buried his share. We are so afraid of losing that we keep back way to much of ourselves, we bury it deep and deprive the community of our gifts. God invites in this season to let go of fear and live generously, understanding that there is always more from God than we can expect in the leaner and anxious seasons of our lives.

Today, I ask God to help me to offer myself and to not turn away from generosity and sharing. May our hurts be healed and our fears quieted so that we can invest ourselves in the places where we are called and with the people who have been given to us.

 

The Collect

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Take Up Your Cross

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:21-28 

Take Up Your Cross

My cross is made of driftwood
surprisingly light but battered
full of the memories of loss and failure
pot marked by every storm of life.

My cross is found on the sand
in the liminal places of ebb and flow
where the receeding tide discloses all
where forgiveness has been in short supply.

My cross is rough around the edges
like me filled with both pain and joy
trying to pretend that all is truly well
while terrified as a small vunerable child.

My cross is a gift and for me a sign
that my burdens will be lifted daily
my troubles have been buried deep
my failures have been taken out to sea.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Loosed on Earth and Heaven


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

Loosed on Earth

When as a child I clung to you
you let me knowing I needed it
you wrapped me tight and swaddled
so that I could one day be set free.

We have the keys to binding and loosing
we often mix them up thinking it love
we want to hold those who need freedom
binding those who are ready to fly.

We memorize their every movement
thinking that we are living love
when we are simply not forgiving them
for growing beyond their ancient need.

May we set free those we love
so they might love beyond our imagining
watering seeds planted in other places
freeing memory space for new delights.

 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Beware of the Yeast Of Pharisees


The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.
When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:1-12 

The seduction of power, influence and money are great in our present world. A debate rages that should never even have to happen. A man of great influence and power abused young girls for his own pleasure and not everyone condemns the behavior. Simply said, what poor and minorities go to jail for, our leaders with money and influence (and religious support) seem to think they are beyond reproach. Not one of us is beyond reproach. And God loves to feed, cloth and heal the humble, the victims, the prisoners and the marginalized.

Jesus' disciples are concerned about his words and their own failure. His words about yeast confuse them and they blame themselves. He invites them to trust God to provide and not to put their trust in wealth and power, for they are corrupting influences always. God invites us to deepen our trust and depend on the Creator for all our needs.

Today, I ask God to help me pray in every moment and seek holy guidance in every circumstance. The desire for financial comfort and political influence can overwhelm us, yet we are nestled in the heart of God and our needs will be met, day by day.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Divine Compassion


After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan. Matthew 15:29-39 

Divine Compassion

Rising up in the human heart
seeing the face of God in another
knowing that living is painful
making joy a regular daily gift.

Feeding meals on holidays
a nice gesture yet not compassion
which stops for the hungry
when there is no special day.

Momentary compassion cannot mend
a lifetime of cruel and nasty greed
nor replace the grinding poverty
nor mend the displaced refugees.

Only divine compassion pushes us
moment by moment deeper to darkness
daily to the edges of civilization
to the deserts where God's people dwell.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Even the Dogs


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

Even the Dogs 

There is nothing like a mother's love
so fierce, so strong and so determined
that will grab the coats of angels and demons
to help and protect a troubled child.

The heart of God leaps into a mother's breast
while fighting to bring the child to earth
lodged there permanently for her offspring
no matter how troubled and broken.

She will persist when others give up
she will follow the principals and leaders
she will testify on the senate floor
and stand her ground fearless and determined.

A mother will grab the Savior's coat
holding on until there is an answer
the cure that her child needs is found
in the faith of the mother's God given heart.