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, April 3, 2017

Easterly Observations

I am in a hurry to get to Easter. Not because Easter is so hallowed to me, although it is. And not because we finally get to say Alleluia again, although that’s fun too!  Nope. I’m in a hurry to get to get to Easter because my son who lives in California is coming home for a few days. His girlfriend isn’t coming East with him this time, and although I really like her a lot and respect their relationship, it means I get to “have” him all to myself—well my husband and daughter and myself.

I got thinking about this, though, after writing and expressing this. Easter has changed in our household. My family no longer shares that joyful, early morning “dress up fest” that we used to do each Easter. I have myriads of pictures from our Easter Sundays but only until they were in high school. Then no more. Because as they got older, I gave them the choice of attending services and it just didn't speak to them any more. Because they are their own individuals now, I do not have the right to “drag them” to services.  The children have their own houses/spaces/agenda.  Christmas is a tradition in which they indulge their mother with the obligatory visitation to the sanctuary. But Easter doesn’t seem to have the same pull.  And I wonder why that is. The two biggest celebrations of the church year and only one is considered worthy of shuffling down the aisle and finding a seat amongst the crowded masses who in their own way have shuffled down the aisle as well.

Easter is an exuberant celebration in the church! We sing Alleluia, we raise our voices in heartfelt hymns, we smile with the knowledge that Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Why aren’t we as ecstatic as we are in that cold, evening in bleak mid-winter?  Spring is breaking forth! It’s lighter in the morning when you rise…well, assuming you rise in the morning.  

I don't have any answers here. I am excited about Easter because I believe God is reminding us that he is with us as we break out from or woolen mittens and knitted hats and don Easter bonnets and flowery dresses and brightly colored suits. And yes, I'm excited because our son is coming home. They are two uplifting and happy events intertwined. And chocolate is once again on the menu. Alleluia!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Let Me Tell You a Story

I went to a workshop today. I haven't been to a workshop in quite a while. It was given by a group of the church who are working to help develop leaders in congregations. But it was helpful for those of us who needed a new perspective as well. We were reminded that we all have a story, we have a view of our life and how it is lived out. But to talk to others about our faith, we need to share the stories of the Bible because how else will people come to understand what we are professing on Sunday morning.

Stories are essential to faith. Before people could even read, the stories of how things came to be were passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. You sat down around the fire at the end of the day and told stories of how things came to be, how they are supposed to be and how we can still shape them to be. Stories of bravery and heroism, sure. But tales of mistakes and misunderstandings, too. Because the story of people isn't perfect, because people aren't. I think we've forgotten how to tell a story. Ours or the Bible's. I think we know these biblical stories (some of them anyway) so well, that we forget the reason for telling them. To get the point. To understand the ideas and truths behind the story. We forget that telling a story fixes it in your mind so much better than just bashing you over the head with rhetoric and platitudes.

So let's return to telling stories, both our own and the ones found in the Bible. They are full of passion, hope and the best thing of all:  God's love.

In the beginning...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

To Ash or Not to Ash, That is a Question

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We had a church service tonight and during the service, as per usual, we were invited to come forward and receive ashes on our forehead. We've been doing this for a while (a while, meaning years!) and yet I've never actually been comfortable receiving them. Not because I don't believe that I am from dust and to dust I will return (which is what the Pastor says while marking your forehead). But because the reading from the gospel text seems to deter me from doing it. You see the gospel is the story of Jesus telling people not to flaunt their religious practices for all and sundry to see. And it felt like I was showing off, when I had this black mark on my head. Jesus reminds us that taking care of the sick, elderly, marginalized and the "other"is what our faith is to be about. It isn't the fasting, or the beating of the chest or the loud murmurings (or the ashes on the head) that really show what we believe. It's the passing the hug or the smile to anyone who looks like they might need it. It's helping someone get up when they are down. It's being there for others, and not for the recognition, but for the sheer unmitigated joy of giving without worrying about receiving. I'm not always good at this. I would suspect many of us aren't. But Lent--these 40 days, gives us an opportunity to see what it means to be a follower and --well--follow the example. Do the good deed. Not because it gets you anything, but because it feels good to do it and it is what we are called to do as Christians. Pastor pointed out in his sermon that this receiving of ashes isn't to show anyone how pious we are, it's to remind us whose we are. A symbol for US.

So I went up and got ashes because as the Pastor reminded me, it imprints the idea that I am a follower of Jesus, not to show off--after all the day is done and I'm home in front of the computer--who's gonna see? So it felt right this time. Thanks, Pastor Jay for the encouragement.

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.