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.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I'm a big fan of Christmas. Even the secular stuff. Okay, not all the secular stuff. The shop till you drop mentality is not me. But I like glitter and sparkle. I was a big fan as a kid making Christmas cards for my family of adding as much glitter as possible. It showed how much I loved them, right?

So now I'm a grown up. And the sparkle isn't quite what it used to be for me. I learned some new words growing up, garish, ostentatious, gaudy. They put a damper on my enthusiasm for sparkle and glitter. But there are still things I like to see shiny. I like jewelry. I like tinsel, even though my children insist that it isn't necessary to "finish" the look of the Christmas tree. And I like stars. I like to look up at night and see the velvet darkness studded with twinkling spots of lights. I confess, I do not think about how long it takes that light to get here or that it is some sun or planet that imploded years ago and will not be visible soon. I just like to see them shine. Especially on cold winter nights. It makes me think that there is warmth somewhere, looking down and reaching for us.

That first Christmas had the brightest light of all. I see it captured in paintings, drawings, cards, ornaments. What a wondrous thing that must have been to behold. Especially since there weren't any other lights to dim its radiance. No electricity yet. The dark night was positively, well, lit up by this star.

Aren't our lives sort of like that too? We travel in the darkness of our selfishness, our seeing of our lives without seeing others. We traipse down pathways, looking only at our feet, our situation, ourselves, without seeing that light that shines all around us. At Christmas, it's like we suddenly realize that the light is there. That there is something outside of ourselves, our cocoon of self. We see our brothers and sisters in a new illumination. We are reflected with the light of Christ's coming and it's bright enough to want to put on sunglasses, if we'd only really see it.

So join me this Christmas in your "shades" sharing the light of Jesus with each other. Make our light so shine before others, that they will wonder what our source of energy is and when they find out, they'll shine, too! Let's sparkle, glitter and glow together during this season. I brought my clip on's, how about you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hard Faith or Hardly Faith?

In our journey down the road of life, if you are a person of belief you will encounter something that scares you. It will be something really awful or awe-filled. Something inspiring or terrifying. And you will find yourself looking at your faith and wondering. And the wondering can be scary in itself, especially if you find yourself questioning beliefs that you have grown up with, or things that you thought you knew until this big thing happened.

I have trusted in the Holy Spirit to be with me through all kinds of things. I find that I don't question whether the Spirit is with me, only whether it is in the foreground or the background and why it chooses to be either or. Many friends of mine, especially during tragic circumstances have asked, "Why" this happened. Maybe they just mean why now? Or even why me? I don't think I've wondered why so much as now what happens? And I really mean that when I say it. I don't look for the purpose or reason as I'm pretty sure if I have to ask why, then the reason probably wouldn't make sense to me at the moment. But the what happens next...that catches me. How will we deal with this event? How will this assimilate into our lives? Will this thing that has happened make us better followers? Better believers? More aware of the God who is with us? Too frequently, it happens that we shake our fists at the heavens and pronounce that if we can't understand it now, we'll never understand it, so don't even both to explain to me, thank you very much. There is some kind of trite comment that says whatever doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Eww. I suppose that could be something you follow as a mantra. But what about, "I will be with you always, even to the end of the age." That seems more comforting to me. Or what about, "He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of need." Yeah, I can get behind that one, too.

So when these big things happen, either glorifying or traumatizing, and your faith feels a little wobbly ask yourself what you believe. Not why, but what happens next. And look for the others who are with you, your brothers and sisters in faith. They are standing with you at that time, even if you can't see them. Just like the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reflections on a Crooked Cross

I was shopping the other day for a friend. It’s Christmas and I thought, since he has so many kinds of crosses to wear, that I would get him a new one. A different one. I went to a Pastor/Priest supply store. One that carries their outer garments, symbolic of their inner garments I suppose. Anyway, the salesman showed me several varieties. Some were plain, some were engraved with carvings of religious symbols. Some were crucifixes and even among them were depictions of exquisite agonies of the Lord or sublime serenity—he obviously knowing something we don’t. There were modern kinds, where the basic symbol of the cross was somewhat distorted and you weren’t really sure if this was a cross at all, but some amorphous blob of metal that a surrealist wanted you to believe was a cross. I didn’t but any of them. I left puzzled. I walked around the mall for a while after that and thought about what I had seen. The cross is a powerful image to me. For any Christian I imagine. Beside all that historical stuff, we know that the cross means saving to us. I never liked the crosses that I see so many times that are so perfectly straight and precise. My faith isn’t like that. But a cross that depicts the winding way of my belief isn’t true for me either. For the cross symbolizes the underpinnings of my life. I don’t like following something if I’m not sure where it goes. The cross always has the vertical with the horizontal crosspiece. I wanted to find a cross that showed that-- but differently, like my faith.

I actually did find the one I was looking for. The artist that fashioned it, pulled the metal somehow to make it appear beveled, but not even that. Guided somehow off the straight. It’s difficult to describe, but this cross spoke to me as a Christian. I am not always straight and true. My paths are usually pretty much along the straight and narrow. But life has a way of bringing along those not oh-so-straight bends and turns. And although my faith is true, like the cross of which I speak, it also bends and is slightly off. A true metaphor for my faith life. We are not all believers in the same way. There are nuances to our faith, shadings, shadows, life has molded us in ways that are unique to each individual. But the cross is behind all that believe, engraved, carved, or plain showing us that “God always comes down”, no matter what the shaped or size of the chain of life experiences we wear. So I bought the cross for him. I think he’ll like it. I wrote this down because even though I don’t own this cross, it will make me think of my faith every time I think of it. It is a cross of my faith, crooked, yet straight.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Matthew 16: 19

”I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…”

I want to talk to you today about keys. What are keys? What significance do keys have today in our “keyless” entry world?

I remember my father was a maintenance worker at one time for a company. He had a key ring jammed full of keys. I used to sit and look at them: keys worn almost smooth from so much use, keys that were grimy and dirty, keys that were brand new and the teeth on those were sharp. There were keys to the lunch room, the locker room, the myriads of doors my father encountered each and every day. He had a key for each of those locks. If he came to a door that he didn’t have a key specifically for, there was even a skeleton key, one that could unlock any door in the whole plant. It was a marvelous thing, his key chain. It jangled when he walked and reminded all who were near him that he could unlock their doors.

And so we come to Peter. Jesus told him he would be given the keys to the kingdom. What an awesome responsibility! Keys to the kingdom. And so also do I picture Peter in his sandals and robes with a VERY large key chain, one that thunderously jangles as he walks the heavens.

We’ve been given keys as well, although they probably don’t jingle when we walk. The keys to the kingdom, even. They are at our disposal night and day if we chose to see them. You see, the idea is that each of us can unlock something in someone with our talents, our abilities, our love, out attention and even sometimes, our anger. God has given us each a set of keys. What doors will you unlock with yours?

Are you willing to share your wealth of talents (your keys, if you will)? Are you able to share your time (another key element)? Can you spare your wealth, in whatever form it comes in? These are the keys of the kingdom and we all have them, no matter how mighty or meek, rich or poor, humble or even arrogant.

What will your keys unlock and how will you go about using them today. That is really the question, isn’t it. Not necessarily recognizing your keys but using what you have to open the door to Jesus’ kingdom.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Jesus for Me, too?

What is it about the verses at the beginning of John 14 that linger and cause my eyes to blur? Why do I always get so choked up? Did someone use these verses at some funeral long ago and it haunts me?

I think the reason could be a little more deep than that. I have pondered those words for many years. Not hours at a time, granted. But each time I either hear them or read them myself, I have thought about what they mean. “Let not your heart be troubled…In my father’s house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you.” He meant the disciples. He was talking to them. But it has been interpreted as meaning a place for you and me, too. How could that be? How could there be room for me? Me? The reluctant writer. The foot dragging volunteer. The downright stubborn Christian. There cannot be room for me in my—our-- father’s house. There is no place prepared for me. I don’t deserve a place. I don’t even deserve a place at the dining table. But I’ve been told he accepts me there. I guess I’ve gotten over that part. But the dwelling place? Nope, don’t think so.

You see I am wishy-washy. I am not a bold believer. I go to church on Sundays. I enjoy a good ecumenical debate when I can get one. I’ll argue theology if you want a good argument. But I don’t get vehement. I don’t get in your face. If you want a fighting Christian, you’ve come to the wrong source. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like it when people don’t like me. So what kind of believer am I? Not a good follower, I’m sure.

There is a verse somewhere about Jesus saying that he spits out lukewarm faith. I imagine he has spit me out before and probably will again. But that isn’t what it says in other places in the bible. It doesn’t say he spits me out. It doesn’t say he hates me, or doesn’t care for my weakness or my failures. It states almost emphatically that I am loved no matter what. And I believe that part because to think otherwise is pretty scary stuff. I love God. I trust God more than I’ve ever trusted anyone or anything else. But don’t ask me to be the representative with the voice. The mouthpiece of reverberating fire and brimstone.

And so, I think I feel sad when I read these verses. Because I hope they apply to me and in my poor little not-very-brave heart, I’m very afraid they don’t. But I then have to remember, too, that there is a verse that gives me hope. And that verse says, “help my unbelief.” So maybe there is a place after all.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Deck Cleaning/Light Bringing

I was cleaning out the gunk between the spaces on the bottom step of my deck on Saturday. Using a screwdriver, I would pop out large amounts of seeds, leaves, feathers, more seeds and occasionally a confused bunch of ants and other creepy crawlies. As a metaphor for church, I’d like to use this if you’ll permit the allusion.

In the great deck of life here on this earth, we are forever getting caught in the cracks. There are pitfalls aplenty for those who are looking as well as those poor, unsuspecting souls who aren’t even looking. We get mashed together in this small space of thinking about life and what it’s all about.

Every now and then someone comes along and pries us out of those spaces and “airs” us out. They give us something to think about that doesn’t fit into that small space. They say something so outrageous or original we are ejected into the light and wonder, “what happened?” If God is like that cosmic wielder of the large screwdriver, then it is indeed apt that he is the one to pry us out of that small space and gives us light, so that even the “creepy crawlies” of us, who don’t deserve the light, are exposed to it nonetheless.

I wonder sometimes if it bothers him that we seem to thrive so readily in those cracks and crevices without even trying to get into the light. When I exposed those ants they scurried madly to try and get back to that dark place they were in, because it was all they had known as their shelter and their refuge. But I like the light. My shelter and refuge should be out and about, above ground and above board.

Is that where your life is? Are you in the cracks and crevices, lumped up with all the drifted up spirits and half shredded seeds? Or are you the brave sowbug, who mightily climbs to the top of the stair tread to see what’s on the outside? Where does all that light comes from?

Can I give you a lift up?

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Conversation in Class

I really don't know how the subject turned. We were talking about what the class discussed the week previously, then it somehow or other moved to talking about the gospel lesson and the subject turned yet again to miracles. I have trouble with miracles sometimes. When I was young, I thought of Jesus as a magician. Poof! There went some guy's blindness. Flash! Some lady was healed. And KAZAM! Lazarus came out of the tomb looking for lunch. It was like Jesus was a real live superhero, without the cape. As I grew older, I questioned lots of things. But the miracles of Jesus, not so much. It seemed wrong to question them, to think about them was okay, because they meant something. But the meaning was sometimes kind of garbled or not clear to me. But I didn't question them. I thought that was what faith was, unquestioning.

I'm older now. I still question lots of things. In the course of listening about miracles, I have heard explanations of them. How this could have happened. How that could have been. I still don't know if the people explaining them were trying to prove that Jesus really didn't do them, or if they were seeking to make Jesus less of a magician and more of a person with extra ordinary talents. But the conversation in class was interesting because someone posed the thought that if we can explain away miracles, then didn't we believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead? That was a conversation killer for sure! Everyone stopped and looked at each other. Is that what it meant to question the miracles? That there could not have been an event that was truly miraculous? For a tiny second I wondered what would happen if I said I didn't believe in the resurrection. I felt my core faith quiver at the thought. It was scary. But it was just for a moment. Because I came back with the idea that miracles are no less miraculous just because someone could explain them. So what if the wine actually was in a mis-marked jar at the wedding? So what if the feeding of the 5000 happened because people shared their food? The surprise of the story is that it was a miracle, not that Jesus did it, but that God intervened in some way to show us something of his self. A particle of God was visible for that small second of divine something or other that happened. And he did it for us. All of us. Not just the wedding guests delighted that the "good stuff" was still available or the growling bellies of the gathered masses. God intervened showing that with God all things are possible from the sublime to the, well, miraculous!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Place Holders

I was at a very busy restaurant recently with four other people. It was the kind of place that you put your order in, then go to a table and the waitstaff brings you your order. It was loud, jammed to the gills with people of all types and sizes and I wondered how we would ever find a place to sit (and hear each other in the din). I volunteered to be the one to find a spot for all five of us and hold the place until the orders were given and the rest would join me.

Because the line was long, I had time to find a good spot and sit and ponder things. It's funny when you have time to just sit and think, the things that come into your mind. I was thinking that I was the "place holder" for the group I was with. It occurred to me that I am frequently a place holder because I'm willing to go quietly into a line or a situation and well, hold a place for someone else. This is not to whine about it. I'm perfectly happy holding a place for someone. Usually us placeholders are not flashy or showy. We don't go about calling attention to the fact that someone is coming for which we are merely creating a vacuum that they will fill. This is what we do.

Of course I became more engrossed in the analogy (as I am wont to do) and decided that in our faith life, we can be placeholders too. We can be the people who come in and set up tables for a dinner. We can be the people who find the balloon vendor for the upcoming church fair, and make sure he'll be there and his price is good (if not free!). They are the ones who help new people find a pew, find their place in a hymnal, or simply show a friendly face smiling back at a fidgety child during the sermon. The placeholders of this world are not the big money makers, sermon givers or fancy dressers. They are the humble, obedient servants that Jesus spoke of from the woman who cleansed Jesus' feet with her hair to the stewards who witnessed the water turned into wine conversion. But the placeholders are as exalted as the ones for whom we hold a place. For our place in the scheme of things is always to hold it for the Lord. We are holding the place, nay, standing in place of the one who comes after us. The one who has power and authority over all things and stands in line to no one person or thing. And in this capacity, we are given the authority to "hold" his place in line. We are called to actively participate in life, reaching and stretching our faith lives for the one who will come after us, the one whose name we carry in our hearts and minds. So that when he comes again, there will be a place at the table for all who have saved a place.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Here and Now

In my busyness today, I was short tempered and rushed. I did all kinds of things on the computer and the phone kept ringing with people asking questions--interrupting my trains of thought. Very distracting. I came home tired and sort of achy, lower back stressed to the max, shoulders tight. I was probably seeing double by the time I got home and changed clothes.

Usually I open my e-mail as a part of my "coming home and decompressing" routine and check to see who sent me things, who is asking for money, who is reminding me of my civic duty. But today I got an e-mail from a friend with no explanation in the subject line. She has a little boy, so her time is tight. I thought she probably had a busier day than mine in some ways. I opened the e-mail and there was a quick hello and an internet address to go to. I need to explain that we were talking yesterday about the fact that her father passed away two years ago and she was feeling melancholy, reminiscing as we tend to do when we miss someone. I shared that even though my own father had died almost 20 years ago, I still have those waves of feeling wash over me. Then I told her I would send something I wrote about my dad, hoping that it would help her to know someone else felt the same. She called me today, in the midst of my pandemonium and said she appreciated what I had wrote. End of story--so I thought.

So back to the e-mail...I opened the url and it showed a 1954 juke box. I guess it was supposed to be a testament to those dinosaurs of long ago, showing how they worked with 45's, how you had to select the songs to play, how the needle played the actual record. But the most amazing thing, was that the song she had found, was the song which played a prominent part in what I wrote about my dad. I was stunned to hear the song come out of that Youtube video as clear as a bell. And then I thought, what a wonderful gift to give me! It is rare that someone takes the time to hear another person's murmurings, their ramblings, their "important to them" facts, but especially today, it was humbling to believe that someone in her own sadness, could bring me such a gift on such a day.

The Lord puts people in our paths all the time. We stumble over them, we fail to acknowledge their contributions to our lives, we blatantly ignore them. But today, I was so gifted and blessed by this person's unselfish sharing, I hardly knew how to accept such generosity. I wrote her back, of course, using the words "thank you" probably too much. But it was such a gift, so open-hearted and well-amazing-that thank you didn't seem big enough. But I will thank the Lord, too. For his placing this person in my life, in my path. I may have stumbled upon her in the dark, but the light from her spirit and from God's gift will remind me that the path doesn't need to be dark and moody. As long as we have those willing to share the light.

I hope you share your light with someone today. I'll work on tomorrow.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Just a thought...

So here I am thinking about all the things I have to do on a Saturday, and I'm not doing any of them. I'm writing on this blog instead! There are always things to do, I guess. Not being a particularly A-type personality I'm willing to let them go while I tap out these thoughts. I was thinking of the analogy I gave a few posts back about cleaning up. My mind is still very cluttered, but I'm familiar with the bric-a-bracs at this point and would be hard-pressed to throw them out. Some of the clutter was just junk--the thinking that I could win my way into heaven like some kind of lottery. Or the other idea that if I'm good enough, I'll get a pass. I'm never gonna be good enough, so that isn't going to work either. Thank God.

Yes, that's the point. Thank God. I have spent a lot of time lately on myself, worrying, fretting, mumbling to myself. It's time to begin to thank God. For the beautiful butterfly that is resting in the hot sun outside the window. For the blue of the sky, the green of the grass (okay, a lot of it is brown, but there is green poking through, too!), for the vibrant red of the flowers in their pots, for the coolness of the air conditioning inside which lets me see outside without withering like so many of the plants that I haven't watered yet. Thank God for the family I have, the family of my congregation, the friends of my life who water me and keep me feeling as though I am a person of value that God does indeed love.

So I'm sitting here writing my thanks and the dust is still on the tables and the cobwebs are still in the corners. But I will eventually take care of those things, but for now, thanks be to God I have a house to dust! And well, just thanks be to God!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Daily Devotions

I signed up yesterday for a daily devotion to be delivered to my e-mail address. The ultimate in geeky faith life I guess. I had signed up with another devotional about 2 years ago. The author struck a chord with me and every post (okay, ALMOST every post) was wonderful and spiritual. All those things I needed to hear at my desk in work where my faith and spirituality are constantly undermined by snide remarks and snarky comments. But the author has begun a new chapter in his life and posting his devotions "just ain't gonna happen" every day. So I've been high and dry for a while now. The funny thing is, I didn't really notice the lack of readings and faith touch stones until I began to find myself being snide and snarky without even thinking about what I was doing. I needed a fix.

The new devotions don't seem as dynamic as the other. They don't quite reach me in the same place, but that's okay. I need something to tether me to my savior, it's a cinch I wasn't swimming in the right direction on my own. And who knows? Maybe I'll begin to develop an appreciation for the new devotionals. My well was pretty dry. And a trickle of water is better than being thirsty.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I've noticed something recently. There is a certain responsibility to be a believer of Jesus. See, technically, it's easy to be a believer. 'Cause you know, you just believe. But if you really believe and become a follower--ah, then--it is no longer an armchair activity. You find yourself compelled to do something at the oddest times. If you attend a committee meeting, you find you offer to help out by baking a cake or bringing in macaroni and cheese in a box for certain efforts. You notice other people, the things that are important to them, the things they care about. And you begin to see what they are doing about their concerns and you think, hey, it might be nice to do that too! You have a "penny" bank on the kitchen counter which you put your spare change in (and your kids get a kick out of the sound it makes when they contribute, too) and you don't mind doing that. You read about Vacation Bible school needing some food or some craft items and even though you "don't do VBS" anymore, you find yourself looking out for sales on certain things so you can bring them to church on Sunday. You read up about the mission trips that the people are making to Bosnia or Africa or or Haiti or even the Gulf and you think, I could give something for that, even if I can't be there. And you also notice that the church is at work defining itself through it's social statements on things like Genetics and Sexuality. And even if all you do is read up on this stuff, you find you are no longer just sitting and staring at the television. You find yourself caught up in caring and paying attention.

And that's what being a believer is really about. Taking responsibility for your beliefs. Of course, the really nice thing is that you are not alone in your responsibility. You are part of a community of faith. So how about it? Will you join in the work? I guarantee, the benefits are out of this world!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cleaning House

I haven't posted for a while. It's not because I'm not interested, it's because I'm cleaning. Well, that technically isn't true either. I have just as much dust in my home as I ever have. And the vacuum and I don't even remember each others names. No, the kind of cleaning I'm doing is done on the inside, where others cannot see unless I show them.

I've begun to unclutter some of my thinking, not unlike throwing out the junk in the attic, I guess. I find that when I think about myself and my "lot in life" too much, I get kind of cranky. So I'm trying to think outward instead of inward. I find I worry, too about things that I really can't do anything about in the long run. I can worry about the greening of the environment and can do my part, but I cannot solve the BP spill by worrying about it. I worry about my siblings, hoping they are okay with the pitfalls of life, but really, I can't change their circumstances without their wanting to do so, so I find I must leave it to God. And that basically is what cleaning up is all about--for me anyway. I have to stop backpacking, storing up sorrows and worries. I have to begin to trust that God is not only in the big picture, but if I give him half a chance, he's probably in the details as well. My prayer life is getting into shape. My worship life is being exercised. My Bible reading is lifting weights. I'm using spiritual muscles that I've let go for a while and it feels healthy to use them again. I'm airing out the closed windows of my mind and scrubbing those stains of stubbornness and pride with more vigilance. Who knows what I'll tackle next? So perhaps I'll post a little more in the next few weeks before I fall back into my old habits. But maybe this time I will have cleaned up enough space to let in the light of God. I certainly hope so!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Memories of Heinz

While looking at the bulletin this Sunday, I noticed an announcement at the top of the page on one of the inserts. It mentioned the family of Heinz Menzel asking us to keep them in our prayers. I knew then, that Heinz has passed away. Many of you probably don’t remember him, a quiet gentleman, his white hair neatly combed, who usually sat towards the back during the early service.

But he was an important part of my life in our church community and I wanted to share a little of that with you in memory of him. When I was searching for a place to do service, I was finding it difficult. I had at the time a small daughter who accompanied me everywhere I went. She was (and is) a delightful person, her smile is infectious. But she was not yet in school and it was a challenge to do something for the church while keeping her occupied. Pastor Kitz tapped me to do the “Tape Ministry” which included coming to the church during the week, getting the cassette tape of the service copied, then placing the copies in a box for the volunteers who visited the shut-in members of the congregation. The copying of the tape involved a unique machine which, at the time, would enable me to copy these cassettes one after another. But the machine was located at the church, so I was required to spend some time in the building copying the service, whilst my daughter danced, fidgeted and sometimes careened around the building looking for something to amuse her. Enter the men from the Property Committee. At that time these were gentlemen who were retired and puttered about with their tools, fixing whatever was wobbling, creaking, squeaking or immobile. They began to notice my daughter and began to include her in their conversations. I can’t recall all of the guys, but two of them Sam Woodside and Heinz would make special trips just to see her. She was shy with them, but they were kind and paid her court, which was enormously endearing to me, trying to do the job entrusted to me.

After giving up the tape ministry for other things, I rarely saw the men of the Property Committee, but they always asked after my daughter whenever they saw me. Eventually the only member of that original committee was Heinz. I soon began coming to the early service and he greeted me warmly every single time, remembering our camaraderie of those mornings. He was not one to show his emotions, but when his wife passed away, I knew he grieved enormously.

Because life moves on, I did not really take notice when he wasn’t in attendance as often, but when he did come; I made sure to share the peace with him. And now I realize how long it had been since I had last seen him. I will miss his presence, but know he rests with the other guys of the Property Committee, taking care of the Lord’s House in which he dwells.

Friday, June 4, 2010


The rhythms of our days can be as monotonous as the sea crashing to shore or as predictable as the way a bird will sing in couplets outside of your window when you're trying to sleep late.

But the rhythm of your faith life can be a little more erratic, a little more unpredictable. I know people who pray at the same time every day, in the same way using almost the same words. But their prayers are as vibrant and new as a sunrise each morning. I know of people who almost never read a devotional but find the glory and wonder of God in everything from the ants in their kitchen to the fuzz on a sycamore leaf and make sure they tell everyone about it. I used to receive a devotional reading on my e-mail at work every day. The writer has recently been less than punctual, but when he does get around to sending something it is worth the wait. What do we do with the 24 we've been so generously graced with? How do you find rhythm in your faith life? Are you regimented and strict with your time? Or are you serendipitous and quixotic? I don't believe either of the extremes are either right or wrong. They just are. Your faith life is a reflection of who you are and what is important to you. But remember at least to speak with God. He's listening always.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day

I have a calendar next to the computer where I write these thoughts. It's one of those "bible quote" a day things. It's not necessarily related to the liturgical year in the church, but the quotes usually have a way of working into my thoughts as my day goes on.

The verse today is from Psalm 4, verse 8 to be exact. They use the NIV version of the bible and it says, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."

On this Memorial Day of 2010, I could wax eloquent on the sure thought that many who died for their country are sleeping safely either on these shores or across the seas. But the verse has poignancy for me today because it would have been my father's 86th birthday. He was a veteran, so I guess this qualifies as the patriotic portion of the post. I didn't know him as a soldier, though, so I can't relate stories of his bravery, or lack of it. His heroics or lack of that either. I can relate that he was a good provider, a steadfast "head of house", a man who modeled charity for others. He didn't always model charity at home, but then most of us have lapses for those we love the most simply because they're always there.

In thinking of my father on this day, looking at that verse I am comforted in the notion that he sleeps in peace and safety. Because he was in the Lord. He isn't sleeping in peace and safety because of his love for his family or his wife--although that was commendable. And not even because when he was laid off of one job and searched for another until he found one, thereby making sure we were provided for--which was also laudable. It was because he was in the Lord. He believed in the Lord. I never had a conversation with him about his faith, sad as that is to relate. But he attended church pretty regularly. He was an usher many times, he counted the offering, he was a church council member. Through his quiet witness, he showed his children his faith. And so on this, his birthday, I am reminded of his reserved belief, I rest assured that he is dwelling in safety.

I hope your Memorial Day is filled with love, laughter and the assurance that those you love who dwell in the Lord, will be peaceful and safe.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Wish For a Pony

When I was little, I remember my sister wishing fervently for a pony. She loved horses of any kind. She had a ceramic horse collection. She had pictures plastered over the ceiling and walls of our room. She loved horses! But in all the time she wished (every birthday candle I'm sure was dedicated to the proposition that a horse was in the works), I don't believe she ever prayed for one. In fact, I remember feeling that certain things just weren't "prayed for" as far as my mother was concerned. You could pray over someone getting better, or for God to watch out for someone, or even for help with a test. But the idea of praying for something material was a no-no. I don't remember her exactly telling us that, but I recall us praying vehemently for an increase in allowance and having her scowl over the top of her glasses as the request was being made. We probably amended the request by saying, "so we can give more money to the poor." She probably rolled her eyes at that, sensing our less than sincere overtones ringing hollowly.

And now I am an adult. And I began to wonder, is it okay to pray for material things? In a country as blessed as ours, with so many things at our disposal, is it wrong to want more money? More clothes? A bigger house? If we scale it down to those who don't have as much, is it wrong to pray for clothes that don't have holes in them? Or a roof over your head? Or any money at all to buy food or clothes or any shelter at all? And if those requests aren't met, is that because they were for material things and not "other worldly" or more global things like ending poverty or the beauty pageants favorite--world peace?

If you believe that God listens to each and every one of us and sees our needs and knows us so well, how could it be wrong to pray for anything? I think the distinction comes when other factors are considered. If you are praying for a horse to win at the Kentucky Derby after you have spent your grocery money at the betting window, although I am sure God hears that fervent request, I'm not sure answering it by winning is going to be the thing that helps you along the road to being his follower. Of course, I'm judging here, and no one is qualified to do that but God. But it seems to me if our life's work is to be God's children, his hands and feet, winning the Kentucky Derby instead of buying bread and milk for your family is not the way to spread the word. But what about the people who pray and seriously to win the lottery so they can "give more money to the poor?" Or give it to the church? Or really want to try and accomplish world peace and know it comes at a price that some money might help to accomplish? I suppose you can justify anything if you want it bad enough. But it seems to me, unlike my mother, praying to win the lottery isn't really a bad thing, if you want to give that money away to others who need it. It wouldn't hurt if you got to keep some in the long run. But maybe that's what the good Lord in his infinite wisdom is trying to teach you by not answering that particular prayer.

It's one of those things I'm gonna have to ask him when I see him. That and why we couldn't have a pony.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Will They Know You Are Christian?

So I'm wondering about how we show our Christianity to the world without blasting their eardrums out of their heads. I read something the other day that said the song, "And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love," was too successful. That people started using that to sing around campfires instead of Kumbaya. So many people used it that it became trite and people made fun of its relevance.

I also remember reading the Harry Potter books and the one thing that worked for Harry above all others was Love. His ability to love, which the evil Lord Voldemort was unable to do. Maybe there's something to that, then. That love is the answer, no matter what the question. Jesus gave us instructions to love our neighbors as ourselves. Not the smushy, gooey love, but the real honest to goodness, caring about how you are thing. Are we too self-absorbed these days to do that? I don't know, honestly. I sometimes don't like myself enough to even think of the other guy. If I can't love myself, what does that say about the ability to care for another.

But see the whole love thing is complicated by the "I'm-the-one-doing-the-loving" idea. And I think this is where most of the idea that Jesus was trying to impart falls through. See, I think the love we are to have for ourselves and our neighbor is given to us from God. It isn't something I do. It is something done for me, with me, but not by me. It is not ME doing the loving, it's God's love coming through me. I'm the conduit, not the generator (if I can use those electric terms). And so if it's not generated by me, then I can simply ask God to work through me and BINGO I'm not responsible for holding back, or deciding who gets it and who doesn't. If I let go and let God as the old saying goes, then anything is possible, even loving the neighbor, Lord Voldemort, or the neighbor who blows leaves during the dinner hour. Because God is doing the loving not me, I can be the person, or conduit that I am meant to be. I got thinking about an old saying and it's this:

The love in your heart
Wasn't put there to stay
Love isn't love 'til
You give it away.

And that pretty much sums up what it means to be a Christian, I think.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The World and All There is

The weather is glorious today. Sunny with a light breeze. I'm not a pollen sufferer so perhaps I'm optimistic that everyone feels such a beautiful day as today affirms our Maker's handiwork. On days like today I'm struck with the absolute magnificence of creation. The taller trees bowing down their large heads in the wind, the smaller trees bending over more obediently to their maker's breath. The sun illuminating the smallest leaf, the most delicate flower, the most industrious anthill. The air is sweet and light, not bloated and heavy as it will be in August or late July. Our fellow humans are walking their dogs, exercising, laughing, quietly strolling, communing as it were with our Lord. Oh, they may not call it that. It may not even be a conscious decision on their part. But make no mistake, every deep breath of this beautiful day, there is an unspoken prayer of thanks underneath.

Thanks be to God for days like today!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Discipline and Discipleship

These two words are not usually intertwined. Discipline has sort of punitive overtones to it. You were disciplined, after all, if you did something bad as a kid. I remember my parents speaking of discipline as something that would not be a comfortable thing (especially in reference to the tracking of mud on the kitchen floor after it was just cleaned!). It wasn't until much later that I realized that discipline could be a good thing as well. Guiding myself along in a structured way had it's rewards. When you look up the word discipline it says this, "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character." The first couple of definitions simply emphasize what I knew the word to mean growing up. But its this third definition that I want to link with the second word up there in the title.

Discipleship. This word comes before discipline in the dictionary--well at least the word disciple does. And that word is said to mean, "One who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: as in-one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ's followers according to the Gospel accounts." So to mean a disciple was a bringer of good news (you know, Gospel). Whereas, discipline meant the bringing of bad news (retribution for muddy floors). They didn't seem compatible. Except upon closer inspection.

Being a Christian was never supposed to be easy. I think that's where I fall short today in my thinking. Christianity can be a pretty easy and lukewarm thing. If we say we are Christian, we can go to church on Sundays, we can occasionally say a prayer or two, but nothing much is felt to be required. We don't have to take a test, pay an initiation fee, or even think much about it, if we choose not to. And therein lies the problem. If our faith isn't something we have to work at, why work at all? We work hard for most everything else in our lives, we think. We work hard at work. We take care of our homes, our families, our car payments, our mortgage payments. We try to remember to take time out to exercise once in a while, it's exhausting. The one thing I don't want to have to do is work for my faith.

So what do I mean then? Do I mean standing on a street corner and shouting? I think what I'm talking about is somehow becoming more disciplined in my disciplining. Becoming more aware of what it means to be a Christian and then going about doing it. Not by thumping my Bible (or even beating my chest). But by being more conscious of what I am called to be and to do. Not by quoting verses (let's not forget the chapters as well?!), but by living the grace that is freely given to me and responding in joyous affirmation. Being mindful of being a Christian. That's what I mean. Being careful of where I put my sharp tongue. Being aware of where my feet are leading me. Asking God to be with me on the path, not to push me along, but assisting me in prayer and helping me to see the path before me, whichever one I take.

So here's the deal, next Sunday we're going to begin a discussion in the Adult Sunday School Class of what it means to be a disciplined disciple. There will be no stern lectures (at least not by me!), no wagging of fingers, no being sent to the corner without supper. But there hopefully will be good conversation about what it means to be a conscious believer and how to do that better. Will you join us?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Learning to Fish

I just read a daily devotion that used this line, "Jesus taught us to fish from the other side of the boat." It is sticking to my mind like that stretchy, sticky stuff they use on labels for things now a days. The devotion was talking about when Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection. They hadn't caught anything all night, but he tells them to fish from the other side of the boat and they caught so much, it was hard to haul it in.

Fishing from the other side of the boat...it seems like a good line. Except it has scary overtones. It means doing something we have done a million times, but in a different way. It means sharing the peace with someone we'd rather not and saying, "Peace be with you," and REALLY meaning it. It means really asking for forgiveness when we do so in prayer without thinking about what the rest of the day brings. It may mean sitting in a different pew for a change.

I think what the author of the devotion touched on (and why it still sticks with me) is that it's really easy to always fish from the same side of the boat. It's easy to do the same thing, the same way in the same place all the time. There is a comfort in sameness. But the Lord asks us to do things a little differently now that Easter has arrived. We are called to remember that we are a new creation in that rebirth and new creations don't always do the same thing the same way.

How can we fish from the other side of the boat this week? What can we do that although it is the same, is also new and different? More in line with what our lives can be about as Christians? How can we come away from the fishing trip with more in our nets than we ever had before? I'm still working on that. I hope you will too!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gimme a light

I've been thinking of the lights in our lives. No, not light bulbs and smelly candles. The lights that come to us through our family and friends. Some people are just light bringers. They shine through their smiles, their laughs, their hugs. They just can't seem to help it! I'm not sure it's a conscious thing--this light bringing. I know a woman who, although she is very sick, can still light up any corner of the room she enters with her presence. She doesn't really do anything spectacular or showy. She just, well, shows up. And each time she does, people around her smile more often, exchange greetings with others after she walks away and you can see the path she has woven through a crowd.

I was reading a devotion today that reminded me of the kid's song, "This Little Light of Mine." You remember that one? We sing it once in a while to remind us about the light we each carry around with us. But we also need to remember where the light came from and what we do with our lights. As caretakers of the light given to us by God, we are compelled to share with others. Now sometimes we don't want to share the light because, well, I guess there are lots of reasons. It feels pretty good to bask in the light of God, so why share it? Won't it be colder if we "spread it around"? Or maybe we worry that someone would be offended by the light--it isn't the right wattage or the right company. It's safe to keep the light to ourselves. But I believe the light was meant to be shared, savored and given out as much as possible. Like the woman I know, it's better to give the light, then stub your toe in the darkness.

So let's share some light this week with each other, not just at church, but wherever we go. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


To those who have just joined us here at the 'ol blogspot, welcome! St. Mark Lutheran Church is located in Oaklyn, NJ. I have been a member of St Mark's for about 25 years. I hope to share some of my experiences with you and hope you will share with me as well. Commenting after each post enables you and others to share your thoughts and ideas in a public way. Encouraging each other in our faith and beliefs is what Christianity is all about, after all. Although I welcome your comments, please remember that because this is a public venue, it's a good idea to use this space to share ideas and faith stories, but not to name names even in a good way! Some people may not like having their names or certain events made public, so please try to take other people's feelings in consideration when responding.

So again I say, welcome! Let's see where the spirit leads us.