Monday, April 30, 2018

When You Pray



Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 

When You Pray

Some days there are no words
deep sighing, tears and groans
a shattered life offered aloud
hidden behind closed doors.

The face we put in public space
is not the one the Creator sees
the face of a small child weeping
the terror of an infant drowning.

We are more or less our small selves
independent we think yet needy
crying in our darkened rooms
singing sorrow's harrowing songs.

The Divine ears are large enough
to hear the tender hearts of children
despite the bellowing of adults selves
God hears the whimpers of that child.

Make a room for the changing landscape
there is new life even as we whither
our fading an invitation to rebirth
our tears will waters the becomings.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Vine and Branches


Jesus said to his disciples, ”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.” John 15:1-8

Vine and Branches

The cold April rains have come
ending the month with dark clouds
softening the hardened winter's soil
readying the dormant to burst with life.

Huddled under overhangs shielded
from the worst  chilling downpours 
we feel cut off, isolated from everyone
yet we are being prepared again.

The shadows that hover over us
are promises of care and inclusion
signs of the Holy walking this ground
caring for us as we break forth anew.

Growth and abundance calls for pruning
small losses needed for great gains
letting go of the false securities and crutches
we find ourselves able to dance once again.





Saturday, April 28, 2018

Turn the Other Cheek


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

It is certainly hard to forgive and even harder to forgive when violence has been done. Turning the other cheek is to invite pain and further suffering, letting go of the natural human impulse to slap back and defend oneself. This body we all have been given are part animal, and we either fight or flee when abused. How can we stand by and let someone take advantage of us. It is harder to turn the other cheek than to let go of  a coat, walk the extra mile or make a donation or loan. Our whole being is about self-protection.

Jesus has just given lessons on how to be blessed and we call them the beatitudes. We receive blessings when we are poor, reviled, persecuted etc. Then he pushes further. Turn the other cheek, love your enemies, pray for our persecutors? Impossible, we say. We are only human. And yet, we are being invited to our best selves, those who understand the violence and greed is about the other's pain, and winning is not the goal - loving well is. We can try to follow these teachings and we will certainly fail, yet the joy, peace and blessings come when we try.

Today I ask God to help me try to follow these teachings. May we change the world by making generosity our goal, forgiveness our action plan and loving our mission.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Reconcile


Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:21-26 
Families sometimes have the hardest reconciling.  We know each other so well and we can push each other's buttons faster than anyone. We hurt each other and get hurt by one another so easily. Yet, it is in our families, where we can learn how to reconcile, forgive and be more than just combatants.  We can learn that love is forgiveness and mercy, patience and honesty and we can practice loving together.
Jesus pressed his disciples hard on the issue of reconciliation because it is so critical to our lives together. Without it we are nothing. To follow Jesus means to reconcile, forgive and love those who make us crazy. To be in Christian community means to practice forgiveness moment by moment which is incredibly hard, and the work we must do.
Today I ask God for the strength to love beyond measure, forgiving and reconciling every moment. May we all practice our faith by seeking reconciliation, leaving our pretense behind and seeking others out so we might worship and serve together.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Good Shepherd Sunday

 ‘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. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’ John 10:11-18

I am blessed to know a few shepherds in my life. They know my name and watch out for me, praying for me and my ministry, helping me to walk a path of love and service. They find me shelter and strength when I am feeling lost and afraid. I also have the joy of being a shepherd to some. They are so loved by me, cherished and committed to my daily prayers. I have watched them grow in strength and spirit and rejoice with them in every step along their way. 

Jesus tells the disciples about the his love for all the people in his care. It is not the concern of a hired hand, but the love and care of a good shepherd. We are to know that even in our darkest moments, when we are feeling lost and abandoned, Jesus is already seeking us out, walking towards us in our deep darkness.

This week, I ask God to help me seek the Good Shepherd's direction in everything I say and do. May we all live as trusting sheep of this Good Shepherd, knowing we are cared for and loved beyond all our imagining.

Blessed



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

Submerged deep in  anxious distress
like water washing over in a dream
struggling to see the fractured light
hoping to rise again in this storm.

There is too much surface noise
too many voices raised against me
too much wind across the water
so much anger in the fractured air.

We long for someone to rescue us
yet the rescue has already begun
from the beginning of time it has
breathed love into our darkness.

Today there seems to be no solution
on the morning breeze a change comes
this day will not end in sorrow
but in sweet gentle floating hope.






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