Welcome to our blog! This is a place to share ideas, thoughts, concerns and joys of our faith journey. I'll be posting sporadically, but hope you will feel free to comment and join in the discussions.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Grappling With the Gospel

Grapple is a good word. We don't use it that often anymore. I don't know why. There are lots of words that have gone "out of use" so to speak until someone resurrects them. Grapple means to wrestle, struggle, come to grips with, usually with a problem that doesn't seem to have an easy answer. We grapple with things that are tangled and convoluted and hard to figure out on the first pass.

Recently, the Gospel lessons from Matthew have been "grapple-worthy". The seem contradictory and somewhat judgmental. They don't sound like something we think Jesus would have said and we ask ourselves, why would he say this? Why would he point these things out. And in our discussions we have come up with a few answers--at least they sound like feasible reasons to us! One of the things I read this week, said something along the lines of, laws set down in Jesus' time for the Jewish people were stringent, yes. But there is "stuff" under and around the law that needs attention as well. It is not easy to be a follower of the One True God. And frequently, we don't understand how we can possibly love our neighbor as our self or how we can turn the other cheek to someone who so obviously likes the sound of a slap on the cheek.

Because God loves us and all of creation, we don't get to choose what is lovable. We don't get to decide if that person is worthy or unworthy of love. Those judgments are for the Almighty to decide and we probably don't have all the facts anyway. We don't have to LOVE everyone, we have to love everyone as a creation of God. I may not like what you do or even what you say, but someone, somewhere loves you and it's not up to me to tell the world what a despicable character you are when you might in fact be an all right person to other people, just not to me. I'm frequently confused by this and want to make sure everyone knows what a bad guy that guy was to me. I want to feel justified in my self-righteousness. But the Gospel doesn't let us get away with that. And so, I have to get down on my knees again and ask forgiveness for being a jerk. And happily, being a Lutheran, I know that God has forgiven me and will give me yet another chance to be the person he thinks I am.

So we continue to grapple with the Good News. And struggle to understand what Jesus said and did and why it was important. And we keep coming back for forgiveness, because we need it and God knows it and loves us anyway. So like Jacob, we or at least I, will keep wrestling away. Come and join us as we question, talk and well, yes, grapple with the Gospel Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings during our Adult Sunday School class. We might need you to "tag" in while we sit out and ponder some more.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thinking Ahead, Considering What Came Before

Happy New Year! Well, tomorrow anyway will be the start of the New Year. So I'm a day early!

 At the beginning of a new year everyone thinks about what took place the year previously. It would probably be a better practice to take stock in the middle of the year, thereby giving us a chance to re-direct, but alas, hardly anyone I know does that. I don't want to discuss the famous celebrities who passed last year--although there were a few of note. I definitely don't want to discuss the new administration--this isn't and probably never will be a political posting place. There are plenty of other venues for that, just not here. Nope, what I want to draw attention to for the start of the New Year is the reading from Matthew, the second chapter. The Gospel lesson for the week is from verses 13 to 23. We refer to these passages as, "The Flight to Egypt" and the "Slaughter of the Innocents." Great discussion titles for Christmas, hunh? Certainly stops the conversation dead in its tracks.

The Flight to Egypt, the bible tells us is that Joseph, in a dream, is told to "get out of Dodge" because something awful is about to happen and he doesn't want to be there when it does. Because he was spoken to before in a dream and knows what THAT meant, he packs up the wife and kid and scoots across the border.  The Slaughter of the Innocents is because, Herod, the weirdo, evil king at the time decides that since the Wise Men from the East tricked him by not coming back to him and telling him where the "King of the Jews" was, he would take care of the problem of a possible usurper to his crown and have all male children killed who were aged two and under. Every male child. This wasn't the scene in Star Wars where Darth Vader before he becomes Darth Vader goes berserker. This was a man who was paranoid and in power and didn't want anything to stand in the way of his being THE KING. He planned this.

Why are these stories told in the Bible? Why are these horrific things even mentioned? There are theories of course as to why. Many preached that these stories let you know that the world is an evil place (yeah, 'cause we didn't know that already?). Some even taught it was to "teach us a lesson". But what lesson could this teach us about the love of God and Jesus? I did some reading this week, in between family dinners and sleeping late. And I think the writers of the gospels wanted us to get a very specific message from all of their narratives. I think they wanted to make sure we knew that Christmas was ALL about Jesus being among us. Being scared, being vulnerable, being troubled. Jesus was there in the midst of all that stuff. As God is as well. God was with Joseph, Mary and Jesus in Egypt but he was also with the mothers and fathers of those poor innocent children. He is with those parents from Sandy Hook. He is with those families of the people shot in a church during Bible study, in the families of the loved ones in Berlin and Aleppo. God has NOT abandoned us in our trials and sad moments. As we worship him with songs of the coming of the Christ child, let us also recognize that He is there with us with the songs from family funerals and times we face of trouble and seeming inconsolable difficulties. God is with us. He sent Jesus to show us that--Emmanuel. So as we begin the New Year, let us bring this thought along with us in our walk everyday...God is with us. We do not walk alone or unloved. God is with us--Jesus showed us that.

Peace be with you this day and EVERY day.

There's a Kind of Hush

During the evening of the 24th we finished wrapping some presents. We pushed the cookie tin lids down tighter. We locked the doors and trudged up the stairs to bed. But I couldn't sleep. I was thinking. About a lot of things. I took my hearing aids out because I was going to go to bed, but then, well, I just wasn't quite ready yet. The house was hushed. True, even if it were slightly noisy; without the hearing aids in, I wouldn't know it. But our son commented on how quiet it was compared to where he is living these days.

The world is hushed. And waiting. Every year I feel anticipation for Christmas. Sometimes it's joyful and excited anticipation. Sometimes its anxious and almost nervous (especially if I haven't completed all that I wanted to do before the actual 25th). I felt like the world was waiting too. The air was colder and the dark seemed almost ominous. What would happen in the next 24 to 48 hours, I pondered? Will we come to the realization that God is among us? Will we take a deep breath and accept that the sun rose with God's good grace and not because we put it there? And would Christmas be all that we hoped it would be?

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep.
But I can't sleep yet.
I have things to do, errands to run,
Things to buy, people to see.

There aren't enough hours in the day, Lord.
Can you help me tackle all this stuff?
But wait, but wait.

My head is on the pillow and I can see stars outside.
The moon is tracking its way across the house
On its silent, silvery highway.
And the neighbors Christmas lights have gone out, finally,
So it must be past midnight.

It's so quiet, Lord. And all those things?
Well, I can't do them at night anyway.
And it's nice to just lay here with my head on the pillow
Looking up at the dark, blue sky and listening
To the night.

When you came all those years ago
As a tiny baby, fisting your hands in Mary's hair,
Was it quiet? Well, I mean the angels made a bunch
Of noise I know. But there in that dark, damp, steamy
Manger, was the moon lumbering across the sky
In counterpoint to that bright shiny star?
What did you hear that night besides the animals breathing
And Joseph snoring and Mary perhaps crooning a lullaby?

And I'm quieted knowing that long ago
On a quiet night, when God came down as a baby,
It was a grace filled moment of love
Without presents or tinsel or hundreds of people.
And I don't need more hours in the day,
Just a few of these moments with you in the dark of night
Listening for you on the night of the anniversary of your birth.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Miracle of Gifts and Timing

This is not a post about Christmas gifts. You could argue that it is about gifts all wrapped up, but not in the way you might think. To explain...

I accompanied our daughter to a doctor appointment the other day. She wasn't supposed to drive home and her hubby could not accompany her this time. I, as always, am happy to oblige and take her anywhere. So we're sitting in the waiting room, waiting of course, and talking quietly and sharing little asides about this and that. When both of us notice that the receptionist is trying to talk to someone on the phone. She is having trouble because the women on the other end of the conversation is speaking Spanish and the receptionist doesn't. No habla espanol. My daughter looks at me with raised eyebrows. She is a Spanish teacher for elementary and middle school aged children. She spent half a year in Spain. She looks at the desperate woman behind the desk, sighs, then gets up and enters the conversation on the phone. The Spanish speaking woman speaks rapidly and her phone keeps breaking up, but eventually between the receptionist and my daughter, they get the information needed so that when the person who works in the office who DOES speak Spanish gets there, she will have the name and phone number of the caller. She comes back and sits down next to me. I tell her how great that was that she just went over to help. She shrugs, "no big deal," she says.

But you see, by us being there in the waiting room at that moment when those two women needed to communicate, that IS a big deal! To them this was important. And my daughter didn't appreciate the gift she has at the moment. I thought of it as a holy moment. People will say I'm making too much of this, but really, at THAT moment, at THAT time this woman called who needed help. Yep, that was a little miracle right there. A miracle of gifts and timing.



Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Moon and Stars

On November 14, according to the weather people, whom I don't always believe, and the astronomists around the world, whom I do, there will be a Supermoon. It is the closest the moon will have ventured to the planet earth since January 1948. It will not be seen like this again until 2034.

I like looking at the night sky. I'm not too adept at finding the constellations, but as long as there is something up there twinkling, I just like looking up. Once, when I was in the island of Maui, and the ambient light wa almost nonexistent, the sky looked like a piece of velvet with diamonds sprinkled across it. It was breath-taking.

And as I gaze upwards, I can't help thinking about the Creator. Who thought this stuff up? How could such wondrous and fantastic things like, planets, suns, nebulas and galaxies come into being? It makes me feel, not insignificant as I've heard others describe it, but yearning. Longing to meet such a God that has such powers of beauty and awe at his fingertips! What a fabulous thing to have created! And I get to see it! And so do you, if you care to, that is. So look up that night and think of the Supreme Being in all his mighty heavens, and marvel at those things. I'll be right there looking, too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dreary Weather?

We had been in a stretch of rainy, no-so-warm-but-not-cold either weather. It didn't feel conducive to going outside and being energetic in ANY way. But for days now, I have been reading and contemplating and I need to get out and move. I decided to de-clutter the back deck, clean up the leaves, remove the dying and spindly annuals that will no longer bloom, in short get ready for the fall and winter weather. I felt ambitious even though I would likely get rained on any minute. But I was determined.

And it occurred to me, as I was sweeping and straightening, that the church could use this kind of house cleaning as well. We can become complacent in our worship and lazy in our work. Can you
see it and hear it in the way we are approach things? We can become focused on the bottom line, the financial strain of the summer, the fact that the 20% do the lion's share of the work. If we stop and think for a minute, though, we become aware of the things God has given us. Eyes to see those in need, ears to hear the cries of the forgotten and lonely, and hearts--ah, hearts, the greatest of God's gifts to us. Our hearts are filled with the wondrous joy of this marvelous creation! Our hearts overflow with compassion when we see those in need. And the joy of coming together as a community in faith, well, that's just down right priceless! So let's blow away the cobwebs of fear and selfishness. Let's wash the windows of our souls and let God's love shine through so that others can see what we have to be so happy about. And let's really, really get ready for the coming months!