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.

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!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Your Gut Reaction

I heard a song over the airwaves yesterday evening. It was sad, melodic and I hadn't heard it in a very, very long time. I knew the song and it had sweet significance for me. My father died many years ago of cancer and this song reminded me of our conversations about music and things we loved in the dark watches of the night before he passed away. He was brought back to me for just that little while so strongly, it was almost breath taking.

Have you experienced this? This breath grabbing feeling? Most of us have at least once experienced it. It could be anything from the first time you see your child do something daring to riding a roller coaster just before you plunge down after the highest peak. Have you ever felt this with your faith? Something so important or grace-filled that it takes your breath away? What happened? And do you still remember it?

Breath taking moments in faith don't come along every day, I would venture to guess. Most of the time we walk along our everyday lives without too conscious thought of God or what He has done in our lives. But if you take a walk outside and see the myriads of birds or the hundreds of flowers or even see the tiny little fish swimming in the local watering hole, it's pretty amazing! And if you also take a moment or two to see the diversity of people walking around; no two look the same, even identical twins! And no two personalities are the same. What marvelous works the Lord has done!

Take some time today to ponder the multitude of blessings and diversity which surround us, no matter the weather. No matter where you are. Give yourself a breathtaking moment in time. Just for today.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Time for Reflection

I am in a unique position this week. I'm not in my usual routine. I am on vacation, in a sunny, warm and removed place. When on vacation, I try to bring along good reading material, you know, something fun and able to take me out of the ordinary. Someone suggested I read the book, Accidental Saints and I have to say, this so far is a great experience! It's not a novel or romance or thriller. It is a series of short conversations between this woman who is a Lutheran pastor in Denver and the reader. How can you, the reader, have a conversation with the writer of a book? Well, for me, it happens all the time. In my head I agree or disagree with whatever the writer is "saying" at any given moment in a book. And this author, Nadia Bolz-Weber, is definitely speaking to me in her essays. I see myself in her Saints and Sinners analogies and can even envision responding the way she does in certain situations. Oh, man! I can relate so well to what she says, how she reacts and even her inner dialogs with herself.

She is helping me to be a more aware Christian. Aware that God uses us no matter who we are and what we bring to the community of faith. That sometimes our reluctance is as much a part of our gift to others as our enthusiams. That our snarky comments are a part of the fabric of faith as much as our hymns of praise. Because Jesus recruited everyone to the feast, no matter who they were and it wasn't just a fluke. Everyone gets an invitation, and you don't get to make up the guest list. But you do get to show up because YOU were invited, too.

I needed to read this lady, I needed to hear her voice. And I need to come back from vacation with a renewed sense of self. Thanks, Dawn, for your suggestion of this book!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Smoke in The Night

The other night as I sat reading in bed, I began to smell smoke. It wasn't close or anything (like in my house!), but it was near. My husband, who is retired and on alert for things in the neighborhood went out to investigate. There was apparently a house fire a couple of streets over. Because it was dark, we couldn't see exactly whose house it was or even the amount of damage. And in the morning, the front facade of the house didn't even look damaged. But the fire trucks in front of the house the evening before testified to the event for sure.

A few weeks ago a fierce storm whipped through the neighborhood. It uprooted a few large trees into people's houses. They are just now clearing away the huge stumps left over. And the houses have blue tarps on their roofs and some have bricks in the yard from the chimney that collapsed when the tree hit it. Again the front of the houses looked undamaged, until you saw the brilliant blue on the roof.

Life is full of uncertainties. If ever there was a cliche to write, that is it. But just because it's been said hundreds of times before, does not mean it isn't true. Each day brings new experiences. Some of them are almost exactly like the day before and the day before that. But sometimes they are larger, more catastrophic and even scary. I have heard people attribute these happenings to God. And it makes me angry. I don't believe that God wiggles his pinkie finger and causes the trees to topple in storms. Or he blinks his eyes and causes those horrendous floods like the ones which happened recently in West Virginia. Why would a God who has loved us through time, make something like that happen to his beloved creations? But neither do I believe that God just sits and watches as we struggle through whatever adversity comes our way.

I have been taught, and learned through experience, that God is with us at all times and in all places. From the falling of the Twin Towers to the scraped knee of a kid learning to ride a bike. In ALL times and at ALL places. If you read the Bible you will see his presence with us, not preventing things from happening, but standing with us when those things happened. For a society that prides itself on "doing it myself", this may be uncomfortable. But while in the midst of a crisis, nothing is more comforting than knowing there is someone there to lean on, to listen to you, to comfort you. Our front "facades"; those faces the world sees can hide our pain, our discouragement and our fear. But the God of my faith is standing right next to you and me, just waiting for a chance to put a tarp over our roofs and help us through whatever we are feeling. But there is a catch of sorts. You have to let him in. Our God doesn't tramp his way into your troubles uninvited. That free will thing is kind of a bummer. But true nonetheless. Opening your heart to God is like opening the windows on a new Spring morning. The fresh breeze of his love for you will come in and comfort and abide. But you have to be willing to open the window to get it.

The neighborhood where I live is really no different, or maybe that different from yours. Things happen everyday. But the God of our faith is there with us in the midst. With us. Emmanuel. I pray that you will feel his presence with you.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Missed Chances, or Not

I've been somewhat remiss in posting lately. I started to feel guilty about that, but then stopped myself. I write this blog for those who wish to visit our site and see for themselves what we do and who we are. And who we are includes all of God's people, the industrious and the not so much.

I teach an adult Sunday School class throughout the year (yes, even during the summer) and one thing I encounter are people who have attended the class either once or more than a few times, who feel they have to explain why they haven't been there. I try to stop them before they get too far along in their explanations about busy lives and hard to get up on Sunday mornings and whatevers. I don't take attendance in class. I want to see people when they come to class because they have the time THAT day at THAT hour. My class does not build one upon another. We try to have discussions on whatever the Gospel lesson is that week. Sometimes we deal with a topic or even a short book, but the class is never one to be so structured that if you miss one, you're lost for the next however many weeks. I'm not boasting about the class, I'm explaining the way it works. And really isn't that the way it works in our faith life as well? Most time we have the "faith time" built into our schedules. Maybe it's the ritual of Sunday morning worship. Maybe it's the beginning of the day, pausing to pray for the day. Maybe it's at the end of the day. Even if only to say, "Thank God today is over!" Our faith life fluctuates as our life does. What worked for you in elementary school, usually changes by the time you reach high school. What you had time for in high school is pushed to the back burners in young adulthood. Each stage of our lives brings about different understandings and rhythms of our faith. I don't think God keeps an attendance book either. If he did, my attendance would have been practically non-existent in my young adult years. But I don't believe he holds that against me. The God I know and love understands life changes and faith growth. And he waits for us with open arms whenever we have the time and chance to come and talk to him and listen for his wisdom.

So no, I don't feel guilty about not posting recently. And I hope if you are visiting here or on the website in general you will come to see us at St. Marks Lutheran Church. We're always looking for those who are looking for answers or asking questions. Even if we don't write about them every week.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Those Little Voices of the Night

I'm writing this post at 3:30 am. In the morning.  In the "dark watches of the night." I'm not sick. I'm not sleeping either. This is where I'm most vulnerable. At night. In the dark. Where the worries and problems of the day or even weeks can make me sit in front of the computer and play solitaire until I can't see straight anymore. I often feel this is a failing in my faith--this anxiety--not being able to sleep. If I believed, I tell myself, I wouldn't be worried about paying bills or how my son is doing across the country or even how my daughter is within the same state. Remember that symbolism about the "faith like a mustard seed"? It's in Matthew, Chapter 17, verse 20: He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Yeah, I think. I'm supposed to have that kind of faith. So where is it?

This is where the idea of faith takes hold I think. Because when it seems hardest to believe, when you know you aren't in charge, when you have nothing else to grab onto, faith gives you something intangible. Grappling with questions of why the world is this way, how could people be so insensitive, and where are we headed; we humanly, cannot answer those by ourselves. Of course, God isn't booming out the universal answers either to my most anxious of problems--at least in my experience. And I've listened with my hearing aids up full blast. Honest. But I know God is near. I just know it. I can't prove it, or point my finger at something to look at. The Holy Spirit is with me. If I could just trust that. And that is the crux of the problem at 3:30 am. Trusting that the Holy Spirit is with me, not solving the problems, necessarily. Not erasing the anxiety. But sitting next to me, rubbing my shoulders, lending me strength, if I would stop fighting it. I'm not there yet, that's all. The brain is beating away to the staccato rhythm of this, that and the other thing. And until I believe in the Father's healing touch, and truly trust that the Advocate (Holy Spirit) is with me, I'm bringing up another round of solitaire and waiting for the sleep to kick in.Trying to fix the problems, trying to beat back the worry, and trying to believe in the strength of the seed. It will be another long night.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Optimistic Magic

So apparently, this weekend on TV, on one of the channels, they are running the Harry Potter movies. I am assuming in sequence as they don't really make sense out of order too much. I'm a fan of Harry Potter, both the books and the movies. I've always loved stories with magic and happy endings. Some people tried for a while to say one of two things about the series. Those who didn't like them, well, some of them said they were the work of Satan, drawing people away from the Bible. Then there were the people who felt as though the stories were a metaphor for Jesus, you know, saving the world through love. Me? I thought they were terrific stories without a hidden agenda.

And I guess I liked Ms. Rowling's underlying message. Good is better than evil. Love conquers hate. The good guys, though bloodied and bowed, win in the end. Of course, in the real world we all live in, that is not necessarily so. We've seen bad guys win, haven't we? We've seen good men and women get some pretty raw deals, too. Life is not always fair, like in the movies.

We talked about that sort of, in the adult Sunday school class today. That weighing of good versus bad. And it sort of came to the Harry Potter conclusion, that love wins over all. God's love is above all things. We make crappy choices and complain and whine about life, yet God is right there listening and waiting for us to realize His support and love for us. We don't have to do anything to make Him love us. We actually can't. I mean it's nice when we pet dogs as opposed to kicking them, but God's love requirement is not earned. Because technically, we can never be good enough. He just loves us, period. If there is more optimistic magic than that, I don't know what it would be. I don't even own a wand, but apparently, I don't need one. What a relief!