Saturday, April 21, 2018

Mourning Into Dancing


I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
   and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
   and you have healed me.
Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
   restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
   and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
   his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
   but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
   ‘I shall never be moved.’
By your favor, O Lord,
   you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
   I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cried,
   and to the Lord I made supplication:
‘What profit is there in my death,
   if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
   Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
   O Lord, be my helper!’

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
   you have taken off my sackcloth
   and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
   O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever. Psalm 30

Our house was always filled with music and dancing when our daughters were young. They all took dance classes, ballet as well as many other forms. Our daughter Ariel studied dance in college and has taught dance. Dance is a wonderful expression of so many emotions that words cannot contain. Sometimes our bodies need to express what our written and spoken words cannot - our connection to the earth, our gratitude and fears, our great passion for life and compassion for all living things.

Today, since it is Saturday, I chose the psalm for today rather than the Gospel. These ancient words, which were sung, capture for us today the feeling of restored living and new hope for tomorrow. In the midst of challenging times, it is important to sing and dance, even when we have no business doing so. Dancing and singing can restore our joy and our gratitude. 

Today, I ask God to help me restore my joy by trusting, as the psalmist did, that when we sing we pray twice. May we be restored and renewed as we dance and sing through troubled times, for God is surely in the midst of us.




Friday, April 20, 2018

Follow Me



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
Follow Me

One foot in front of the other
close behind me all together
this adventure will be amazing
frightening, will change the world.

The miracles will be abundant
but so will be the belligerence
angry and selfish leaders will
call what we do together blasphemy.

There is no higher calling
than to be the servant of others
no sweeter song to sing
than a love song to the world.

Some will doubt and punish you
they will fear the goodness offered
but hold on tight for we will soar
we will know heaven on earth again.


 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Beloved


 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ Matthew 3:13-17

Beloved

Did you see me stumbling
and reach out your hand
or was it you that brought me low
shoving me from my solid perch
hanging on for dear life to you?
I trusted you to help me.

Did you not see the relative
the familiar eyes and smile 
the accent that reminded you
of a home long since lost?
Or did you see a stranger?

When God declared from above
when love reached to solid earth
did you not realize that the broken
the lost, confused and lonely
the ones that disturb you
were truly now your community?

Breaking all the earthly rules
the privilege and the country club
this holy declaration sets all free
to be the beloved community here
to be the extended family rising.

You may not see me but here I am
the beloved one name just like you
drenched in the waters and marked
for the blessings of life right here
for the fullness of God's promises now.




Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Good Shepherd


Jesus said to them, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:7-17 
The shepherds I am most familiar with are not Middle Eastern but American or Irish.  Watching the border collies herd the sheep while the shepherd whistles and barks commands is always a joyous time for me. The stubborn sheep try to make a break for it, but they never get away. As a teenager, we had a border collie, Penny, who was indefatigable, smart and watching us like a hawk. When we took her out for walks she would nudge us out of the road, herding us even when we were taking care of her. It was the essence of her nature. She knew her job was to get us home safely. 
Jesus is explaining to the disciples about his nature. He, the Savior of the world, in flesh, among them, was there to care for them. It was the essence of who he was and why he was sent. To a broken and fragile people, he was promising to them and us, love so deep and broad that will guide us safely home. He is the Good Shepherd, the one who came that we might have life and be made one beloved flock. 
Today, I ask God to help me listen to the guidance of the Good Shepherd. May know that we are cared for and sought out, and may we share that caring love with all we meet.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Prepare the Way


In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:1-6
When my  daughters were young, I tried at night to prepare all they needed for the next day.  Mornings in most households, ours included, were chaotic and harried. There were many times we were late just looking for shoes or a hairbrush. As they got older, I tried to insist they get everything ready for the next day by laying things out and having it all in place. We were rarely good at this, no matter how hard we tried, but it did help when it happened. A sense of calm was present on those rare days.
John the Baptist comes among the people and proclaims it is time to prepare for the arrival of God's presence among them. The people came out in droves to be baptized, preparing for what they couldn't imagine. John evoked the words of the prophet Isaiah, and they responded, despite not knowing what the future would truly bring. We are invited by God to prepare ourselves in a new way for the coming of God's presence among us. We may not know what is ahead, but we can count on the promise that the Creator will give the spirit and strength for the coming days.
Today, I ask God to help me open my heart to the movement of the Holy Spirit. May we all prepare for our lives to be transformed by God's renewing presence among us.



Sunday, April 15, 2018

Open Minds


Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see;for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:36b-48

Open Minds

After such trauma and terror
we close our minds and hearts
looking for someone to demonize
aching to strike out at something.

We are hesitant to trust once again
when the world is topsy turvy
when there seems to be no way
to regain our sense of balance.

All of life is in constant change
we need some small regular patterns
for us to get a firm purchase 
grounded again to start life over.

We hold our breath for fear of pain
we stop ourselves from loving now
yet the song of the Divine invites us
to come to the table and be fed again.


I

Saturday, April 14, 2018

So We May Have Peace



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
So We May Have Peace
They dropped bombs as a sign
of flexing mighty muscles
showing off their tremendous power
their anger with aggression.

Innocents lay aching and writhing
longing to return to destroyed homes
decimated lives  now missing
and long gone family members.

We light candles and bend in prayer
casting bread upon the water
we carry the ache of lost love
and hide our hopes deep in our hearts.

The Creator is neither warrior or despot
the source of forgiveness and healing
the unending stream of renewal
we dive deep hoping we can survive.

The aggressor is more afraid than we
believing that God is on his side
yet the little voice of love is shouting
no more terror for the children's sake.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Awaitng the Spirit


‘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 judgement: 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 judgement, 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

Whenever my husband has a doctor's appointment, he takes along his backpack that usually has several books and magazines to read. He is good at waiting and patience. I am not. I do work at it and have learned to do as he does, bringing materials to read etc., but I still find myself impatient with the progress of people and things. We are in the season of celebratory waiting, between Easter and Pentecost, when the disciples were confounded as to have to live post resurrection.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for a time when he would no longer be with them. They didn't want to hear it. Looking back, they understood they were being prepared, yet were still overwhelmed by the trauma and loss of their friend. We are reminded that "the waiting is the hardest part", and yet God promises "that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength." Our timing is never God's timing, yet waiting on the Lord is always transforming and life giving.

Today, I ask God to give me an extra measure of patience. May we all embrace the waiting as a gift from God trusting that God will fulfill all the promises with overwhelming abundance.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Commanded to Love


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 

Commanded to Love

Living in this human skin
we itch with anxiety and fear
we ache to protect ourselves
we tremble as strangers approach.

Loving comes easy when we are loved
so much harder when we are shunned
when we are wrapped in judgement
love is a battle when we're left out.

Love we must when criticized
loving when exhausted and strained
loving when we are bound, silenced
loving even when brought low.

In this loving God is revealed
when darkness and ridicule abound
when shadows lengthen cold sets in
love is God and love abides within.






Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Vine and Branches


Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:1-11 
This time of year, as spring is supposedly upon us, I ache to spend my time in the garden. Right now, it is too cold to plant anything let alone stay outdoors too long. Also, I am in Montana and not near my home garden. When I get there, I know I will find plants, that although they look dead, are truly not. They will flower and stretch very soon, sending out tendrils and branches. There is mint in my garden, that once as once small plant and now it is everywhere. With a good strong vine, strong roots, it withstands the worst weather imaginable.
Jesus explains the relationship of himself to God and the disciples by using images from real life. They all know what strong vines look like. They know that even when you chop a vine down it will return, often stronger than ever. They understood that the responsibilities of the vinegrower were to carefully watch the vines, cutting back limbs that were rotten, infected of not strong. The vinegrower would also encourage, strengthen and prop up the branches that were heavily laden. God is with all of us day and night, helping us to abundance and joy.
Today, I ask God to help me live an abundant and joyful life. May we stretch and grow, trusting that we are tenderly cared for. May we bring forth the fruits of faith as we love our neighbors as ourselves.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Make Our Home



Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.” John 14:18-31

Make Our Home

Just a small and humble dwelling
hidden from the raging world
our simple table set with food
we welcome the holy guests.

This raged place we call home
echoes with the laughter of children
the night weeping of the bereaved
whispers the love that truly abides.

The Divine seeks shelter with us
as broken and as feeble as we are
knits together again our hearts
when we can feel only shame.

Love comes to dwell on dark alleys
in small cramped spaces we share
abiding in the hungry splintered pallets
and with the comfortable at ease.

When we love, we love with God
we sing the songs of welcome
the world might see a broken place
yet we will know it as completed in love.