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.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Silent Night

Were you there at church last night? Did you see how pretty the church looked with the decorations and the candles? And the music! Oh, it was lovely. The service was all printed out in the bulletin, so you didn't have to fumble around with the hymnals. The choir was beautiful. Everything, (especially the sermon!) was just the right note.

And I'm thinking, too, of the birth of Jesus. Of course I am, it's the "reason for the season" as the bumper sticker points out. But the coming of something so profound, so hard to believe that it just has to be true. That God would love us so much...it staggers the mind...or at least my mind. That the humble beginnings of so great an event pulls you away from the clang and clatter of the TV and the i Pad and the iPhone and remind us once again that there are somethings more important than the wrapping paper and bows. The pivot point of the history of the world. The coming of God down to earth--Emmanuel--I am so humbled and awe filled. Like the shepherds with the sheep and the scary angels lighting up the sky.

I hope you joined us for Christmas this year, but if you didn't, that's okay, we'll catch you at Epiphany.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Season

I love songs at Christmas. Not just the hymns, but all the hokey, smarmy, cliche ridden songs I can listen to--especially now. I know lots of lyrics for those songs and many in my family probably wish I didn't as I belt them out in my best out-of-tune voice whenever I hear them. I'm one of those people who love to sing, but people don't love to hear it, you get the idea.

Anyway, the one lyric that is sticking in my head today is from the Christmas Waltz, the version I'm thinking of is one that Frank Sinatra recorded. The line is this: "It's that time of year, when the world falls in love..." And it makes me smile. We are sometimes foolishly convinced that our fellow man is more generous, more gentle, more humane at this time of year than any other. I really don't know the statistics of whether this is true or not. But I don't care. I smile more and more people smile back, so let me have my illusions. I fall in love this time of year, too. Because I believe that Jesus is coming, not as the child in the manger, but as my Savior. He's coming to all of us. And his arms are open and welcoming. He doesn't need this time of year to love us, he does that all year. God isn't partial I'm sure to evergreens and pretty candles. And I fall in love with the idea that someone loves me no matter what I have done in the past or will do in the future. This song reminds me of that love...or maybe I can just hear it better in this season.

So Merry Christmas, happy Advent and Joyous Noel to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who is Your Brother or Sister For That Matter?

One of the things that is either easy to understand or almost impossible is the way Jesus speaks of family. It's easy sometimes, when you love your family and like to be together with them to hear Jesus say that we are all God's children. But, when you aren't particularly happy with your family, or squabbling with your siblings or aunts or uncles or even cousins, you don't want to remember that Jesus reminded you that you are one of many of God's children. At times like that, you'd like to think that the tee shirt with the saying on it, "Jesus Loves You, But I'm His Favorite", is really true.

But the other thing to remember is this: the brotherhood or sisterhood of humans means we are all related in some way. The person sitting next to you on the train or bus, the hundreds of people passing you on the street in the city or in the mall, they are all your brothers and sisters as well. And remembering that is harder than forgiving Aunt Lily for spilling gravy on your grandmothers tablecloth! Because there are seven million people in this world now. Seven million. It's a number I can't even fathom with regards to people. I get antsy in crowds of 50 or more. I can't remember the birthdays and anniversaries of the people in my biological family. I'm doomed with all these others! Now because there are so many people in this world, we'd like to think that Jesus, in his small town mentality, was saying that loving your neighbor meant just the immediate few in the region. You know, take in the papers for the neighbors when they are away. Maybe feed their pet while they are on vacation. At least wave and say hi when you see them. But I have a feeling Jesus meant more than that. And I'm pretty sure he didn't mean just love the people who look like you. Or act like you. Or even think like you. If that were the case, he would have had probably about 5 Pharisee and/or Sadducee following him around and he probably would have lived a lot longer.

Our sisters and brothers of this crowded sphere are everywhere. And loving them means helping them to find fresh water, get free of diseases like malaria or AIDS, live in a place where there is shelter and safety. We may not personally have the means or the ability to travel to places to make sure this happens, but we do have the means and ability to pray for these things to happen. And when we can, we can give to something as large as Lutheran World Relief or as small as the guy on the street looking for a handout.

So let's look out for our family in the days ahead. Not just our biological one (although that is important), and not just our neighbors in the block (although, that is important, too). Let's look at the family of brothers and sisters in Christ and pray for them, care for them, remember them. 'Cause we all have the same Dad.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Devotionals or Something Like Them

So everyday I have at least two, count 'em, two devotionals delivered to my inbox of my personal e-mail. Although one has different authors each week or even sometimes daily, the other has a wonderful gentleman whose thoughtful writings make me smile and sometimes shudder in shame as I recognize myself. Both are usually opened by me in the middle of the morning while at work. I do not work in a church, so there could be a reason for someone to grumble about me taking the 5 to 8 minutes it takes to read these, but technically I have two fifteen minute breaks a day, so I consider this to be one of them. I love the way the author's words reach out to me each in their own ways. I almost always can either agree or understand the point of view of those writings as well. It makes me feel like I'm part of the community even when I'm not in the building.

I have a devotional booklet in the bathroom upstairs as well. I read that well, never mind when I read that. Suffice it to say I find time almost every day to read it and ponder the author's point of view. It reminds me that there are many ways to look at scripture and the Christian life and not all of those ways are the same. Again it reminds me that I am in community with Christians all around the world. The basic premise of Jesus Christ as savior is the underlying brickwork to their walls of prose. And I feel a certain smugness to be allowed to walk the hallways of their minds with them.

So, what I want to know is this: what do you do each day to bring the word to you? What do you do each day to remind you that even if you aren't in the church building you are part of the church community? How did you spread the Word today? I'm just asking...

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Meaning of the Date

This weekend is an emotional one for many Americans. With good reason. And sometimes, when emotions are involved, it's hard to see things any other way than with, well, your emotions. The beauty of a life lived in the Lord is that you are given grace over and above what you deserve. And that grace just spills out to everyone. God did not put qualifiers on who gets to receive this gift. The Almighty didn't dole it out in small packages to a select few, so they could hoard it amongst themselves. This gift freely given was to be given, so that it could spread out from person to person, tribe to tribe, race to race, nation to nation. God's love is too big to keep to yourself. And God wants us to spread it around everywhere. Not just in our little corner of New Jersey, or the East coast or even the United States. And in this time of remembrance, we need to spread it around some more. To give freely of the love given freely to us. We need to remember not just those who died, but those who were left behind. Those who gave up their lives and those who still live them. Those who walked the ash-covered canyons and those who just saw the pictures and were horrified but essentially untouched. Everyone is touched by someone. And sharing the love of God is our imperative with each someone we meet. No matter who they are and where they have come from.

It is an emotional weekend, true. But it can also be one that is filled with grace and love if we open our hearts to these things and share them.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How Powerful the Sun (Son) Is!

This is a rainy Sunday morning. It is flooding the streets and the gutters with alarming speed. As I sit and watch the rain come down in sheets, I thought about something. It was morning, the sky was dark and dreary, but I could still see the rain coming down. The sun above the clouds was still bright enough to let me know that the day had started, it had come up despite the rain. The sun is so powerful that even on such an overcast day, we can tell that it is daylight.

In our lives there are sunny and rainy days as far as our faith is concerned, too. There are days when the sunshine of the Lord's love breaks through the darkest corners of our hearts and we are renewed and refreshed. There are also days when the darkness of our thoughts and our faith feels like there is no such thing as God, no such love which surpasses all understanding. But you see the Son shines there too, if we let it. If we remember that Jesus in his lifetime experienced the darkest moments as well, but was resurrected into new life for us. He is the Son that comes through the clouds on our rainiest days. He is the light of the world on the days when we are convinced that there is no light to be had. How strong and powerful is our God. And how awesome! Will you allow some of God's love and light to fill you today, no matter what it looks like outside? Open your heart and mind to God and see what a truly beautiful day it is in the light!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Taking a Vacation

I was away from home recently. I was with family and it was a good thing. A restful, albeit, hot and humid thing. One of the practices that I do when I'm away is to bring one of my devotional books and read in the early morning hours before everyone is going every which way. But this year, I forgot to bring a book! It's the first time that I didn't have something to read and think about each day. I could get my e-mail sporadically, so that daily devotional thing which pops up in my inbox, didn't get to me either.

And so I got lazy. I didn't sit and ponder and pray first thing in the morning as I usually do. I have my phone set for a specific time to ring every day to remind me to pray with my prayer partner. But I found myself, hitting the phone reminder off and continuing to do the things I normally do, without stopping to pray or even meditate. And you know what? The world didn't end. People didn't suddenly vanish from the earth because of my lack of discipline. But I did find something out. When my day is not bracketed by prayer, it feels like I left something out. It seems to be unfinished. I almost always fell into bed tired from the days activities, but it was like I forgot to say "good night" to my children when they were small. The days didn't feel completed. It didn't occur to me until the next to last night we were away, that the reason for my dis-ease was because I hadn't listened to the Lord. And I hadn't talked to him either. About anything. No, I take that back. I did a hundred small thank yous within the week for the blue sky, the warm sand, the cooling water, the laughter of family. But I didn't do the protracted prayer I usually do. I didn't intercede for anyone or anything. I was totally selfish.

In earlier days, I would have come home and beat myself up for this lack of discipline. But I'm cutting myself some slack this time. God is aware of my shortcoming and my strengths. God is abundantly aware of my frailties and my humble gifts. He is not going to strike anything or anyone down because I let him down in my practices of prayer. I think he missed me. I know I missed him.

So I'm home now. My alarm on my phone went off to remind me to pray with my partner today and I did indeed say a quick prayer, thanking God for his gracious goodness in my life and blessing me and my family. Then I picked up a book and began to read the next chapter, knowing that I'll return to the discipline of my former vacation days on Monday. Thank God we have a savior who understands and doesn't take a vacation.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ambivelance Amplified

Ambivalence means a conflict of interest or attitudes. I can be ambivalent about any number of things on a given day: what I am wearing, how my hair looks or what to have for dinner. Most of the time I am sure and steady in what I believe, not too much ambivalence for me; in my faith life or my heart of hearts in regards to the Lord. But as of today, well, I'm afraid I'm stuck between two thoughts and not sure which way to turn. I believe that God is with me, wherever I go, wherever I am, God is with me. And I believe he loves the human race for all its faults--unconditionally loves us. But what happens when someone presents an idea so, well, wrong that it makes my head hurt to hear it. It goes against everything I feel in my heart I know of the great Almighty. Does this mean I could be wrong? Does this mean they are--because I feel I am right? Most of the time I'm willing to let people believe as they want to believe. Their path may not be my path, but I'm not God so who am I to judge. But when a bunch of someones spout a bunch of "stuff" which does nothing but pull people farther away from our Creator, and it just makes me mad. And then I hear Jesus' voice in the clamor, telling me that whoever is without sin cast the first stone. But if only the lunkheads are being heard, isn't it our place to tell them to sit down and shut up? But maybe I'm the lunkhead? No wonder I hear people say they don't want to come to church. Who knows what to believe? And how do you know whose voice to listen to? And don't come at me with that "still, small voice" thing either. That does NOT speak to a person with a hearing deficiency. So where are we then? Where do we go for guidance? You could of course, talk to an ordained person or read a really helpful book. You could also go to the Bible (speaking of helpful books), but the problem with the Bible is sometimes you really aren't sure what you're reading is what you think you're reading. There are layers upon layers in the Bible which is where these loud somebody's are supposedly getting their information these days.

So I think there is a solution to this. I think if we all really just stop shouting and posturing and sit quietly and pray, we'd feel more like we had a handle on things. More calm and collected about things. More comfortable with the "God is in his heaven and alls right with the world," kind of thing. So that's what I'm going to do, pray. And let God handle the details. He's doing a pretty good job so far I think. I'll just worry about what to have for dinner.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I was reading from William Barclay today about the book of Acts. Before I get rolling, I would like to suggest that if ever you wanted to read some superb explanations of the New Testament, Barclay is your man! He brings about a clarity, at least for me that I don't have a lot of times.

Anyway, the passage he was writing about was Acts 2: 42-47, that marvelous passage which talks about the new church and how the newly hatched Christians were with one another and with everyone they met. The verses talk about their sharing, their giving, their camaraderie and their joyous participation in all of this. And it was then that I was struck with Barclay's explanation of the early Christians based on what verse 46 states. It says that the early church was a happy church. Barclay says the following, "Real Christianity is a lovely thing. There are so many people who are good, but with their goodness possess a streak of unlovely hardness. Struthers of Greenoch used to say that it would help the Church more than anything else if Christians ever and again would do a bonnie thing. In the early Church there was a winsomeness in God's people."

A "winsomeness" in God's people. Winsome means-according to the dictionary--charming, with an attractiveness of appearance or manner. What if more people wanted to be like Christians because of what they see when they see us in action? Wouldn't that be great? What if being a Christian in today's world meant more along the lines of "come join us in our attractiveness" than "don't bother, you're not good enough"? Too often Christians are so busy building fences, then we forget to erect ways to climb the fence. We are so busy making sure everything is right according to "the good book" that they forget that the book is for everyone, especially someone who has never heard it before. And that there might not be room for everyone, but it isn't for you and me to decide who fits where and when. I want that kind of Christianity. The kind that is-well-kind. And considerate and sharing and not so judgmental all the time and not so rules laden.

I want to be a winsome Christian. How about you?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I Will Be With You Always

After I wrote the above title, I got a little squeamish. I don't mean I-personally-with be with you always, I was quoting from the reading for this week. This is Holy Trinity Sunday, a time to remember that the three in one is with all of us, for always. Sometimes it's hard to remember that fact. Sometimes you just want God to be there and the other two can go take a rest. Sometimes you feel the need to walk with Jesus and God needs to go into the other room while you just talk to him and unburden yourself. And sometimes the Holy Spirit is hovering around showing you stuff and you just can't believe that anything or anyone else could add to that! But the thing that is great to remember is that no matter whom you wish to communicate with,you get the whole package. You can't have one without the other. Like the old song says (except it was talking about Love and Marriage and we all know that isn't necessarily true!). So you get the package deal with the trinity. And that isn't a bad thing you know. Unleashing your guilt to Jesus will remind you that Jesus was human and understands. But God is right there as well, listening and having compassion just as he had with his son. And the Holy Spirit is right there too, with whispering mists of grace and light, so you won't feel abandoned. And if you feel as though the Spirit is guiding you and uplifting you, you know that Jesus is just as delighted as you are and that God is happy to see you enjoying it as well.

A package deal. For always. You just can't get that anywhere else nowadays. No guarantees for anything anymore. Except God. And Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They'll always be around. Always. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Choice Every Day

I read something recently that struck a chord with me. It was in one of the blogs I read and in it, the author quoted a friend who said this, "You have a choice every morning when you wake up. That's a gift." She was talking about attitude here. The attitude you have when you get up in the morning, before your coffee. The way you approach your day has a lot to do with the way the day will go, it seems. I believe that the way we view each day, whether we have God present or not, makes or breaks the day as well. On the days that I have no time to myself and I'm running hither and yon trying to fix something, finish something or finesse something and haven't once stopped to either ask God to be with me or help me, is a day where nothing seems to go right. I'm spinning my wheels all day and I'm going no where. BUT, on those days that God and I talk first thing in the morning and ask for guidance and help throughout the day, well, those are the good days. Not that everything goes wrong on the days I don't have God in mind or everything goes right on the days I do. But my attitude about the things that do happen is very different.

And so I propose an idea. Suppose we try, for just a week or so to make the choice every day to being with a bowl of cereal and God (or an egg or a glass of juice or whatever your morning break of fast is) before the day starts. And we decide that the day will be interspersed with asking for correction, guidance and just plain love and that we end the day thanking God for those moments that we felt the Almighty's presence. I think it's an experiment that has merit and sometimes these things develop into habits, too!

I want to leave this with one other quote, from that same page, from that same author. She had been shot and is finally getting herself back together and the woman who was writing to her, telling her to keep up her spirits said this, "The sun came up this morning and I am here to see it. By definition, it's a good day."

Amen to that.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To Denny

People come and go in our lives all the time. Some people spend a lot of time in our face and we wish they didn't. Some people spend very little time with us and it never feels like it's enough. There are people who are blessings without so much as a religious icon in their vicinity. They are spiritual beings, they bring light and smiles. They bring soft comfort and warm companionship. They bring a feeling of peace and understanding. They don't say the benediction out loud, but whisper it in your ear through their words of encouragement and thoughtfulness. And when they leave us, we are grateful that we knew them and feel privileged to have been part of their circle. They don't necessarily profess to be Christians or Muslims or Jews. But their profound example of love shared with others is all you need to be aware of their spirituality, their connection with something bigger than them or you. It is always, always a pleasure to be with them and you walk away saying to yourself, I want to be more like that.

The biggest problem with knowing someone like this, is that usually you think there is plenty of time to tell them how special they are, how nice it is to be with them, how grateful you are for their presence. And then they are gone and you never did get to tell them. And so not only do you mourn the loss of this person, you mourn the missed chance to make sure they knew just how good they were, how important they were to others and how much you will miss seeing them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Road to...

One of my favorite bible passages is the one that we read this past Sunday. I refer to it as "The Road to Emmaus". My mother has a painting, large in scale, of this scene from the bible--Jesus is explaining things to the weary travelers. I'm of two minds with this story. I love the fact that Jesus comes and explains himself and his ministry to these two, citing historical references with which they can understand and relate. But he also encourages them along the way to explain what they have seen and what they understand, so that he can help them to understand and comprehend what has taken place. Perhaps I am hoping secretly that Jesus will come and find me on my road and explain things that I'm a little murky on. Perhaps I'm hoping Jesus will come and simply walk beside me (which I know he does anyway), but opening my eyes to the things I question and doubt. So I really love the story for that reason. But the other "mind" wonders about the story. Why doesn't he reveal himself earlier? All kinds of thoughts abound about this...they needed to understand what took place that first Easter and they wouldn't have been able to listen if they were in awe of the messenger. They perhaps needed the historical references for future need as the church began to form and begin. I guess I'll never know the real reason he didn't just say, "Ta Da!" and stretch out his hands. But it's one of those things I wonder about nonetheless.

I liked what our pastor said about Jesus revealing himself in the breaking of the bread. That he is revealed whenever we break bread together, sometimes not just in the eating of a meal, but the gathering together of God's people and the sharing of the word. Perhaps that's the real story behind the Road to Emmaus. It's the revealing of Jesus to the two travelers and to us what God's love is really about. It's good to hear that on the dusty, dirty road to wherever we happen to being going.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

I have a practice each year beginning Holy Week. I start to play Jesus Christ Superstar on whatever device I am using, wherever I am using it. In the car it's the CD player. In the kitchen it's another CD player. Upstairs, I'll put on the movie version and simply listen to the music while going about my chores. Sometimes, like this year, the music sounds a little dated, a little old. But the message is always the same and it helps me to focus my thoughts on this week as nothing else does.

I told someone this once, about this practice. They smiled condescendingly at me and proceeded to inform my poor lost self all the reasons why using this musical as a focal point was not a good idea. I listened politely and left them to their opinions. I am a firm believer that whatever you need to do to bring God into your world, short of human sacrifice is probably okay. I know that's a sweeping statement and many would not agree with me. But c'mon, if you need to be reminded that Christ is indeed in your life and you aren't too sure about it, isn't something better than nothing? I don't sit and read the bible every day, but I have daily devotions sent to my e-mail so that whenever I turn on the computer, those thoughts can reach me. I may not get down on my knees each morning or evening, but the simple prayer that Jesus Loves Me, this I know, follows my heart and mind whenever I happen to think of it. Am I the most pious or religious of followers? Nope. But my belief is sincere and I'm doing the best I can each day to remember to thank God for his many blessings and ask God to be with me.

And I do this without the singing. Which is probably a very good thing. So what do you do?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Now and Then

I was struck by something this morning during the readings of Palm Sunday and the Passion. I was moved, as I almost always am, by the events surrounding this depiction of the last week of Jesus' life. How could this happen, I wondered once again. How could the people who knew him, loved him, watched him heal and bring back from the dead, how could THESE people just stand by and watch the events unfold and not do anything. The gentleman in front of me, during the sharing of the peace, said how moving the story was. And we discussed how this could have happened.

And then I thought, but that's just it! It happened and could still happen today. People aren't really all that different from the people of Jesus' time. We still fear those things we don't understand. We still struggle to believe in a world that both shows us the miracles and shows us the mundane. We deny the existence of the Almighty while marveling at the beautiful spring flowers adorning our neighbors lawn. We fight against believing that a Supreme Being could possibly love us so much that he would torture his only son in an effort to MAKE SURE we understood the depth of that love. We are the same people all over again. And yet, God loves us still. The mystery of that love, that eternal grace is so beyond my comprehension that even now writing about it, I'm confounded. I look for something which would cast those persons of the past in such a light as to show me that I'm better, more evolved. But I'm not. You aren't either. None of us are. Which is why the Passion is still the Passion. The passionate love of a God for the people of his heart. I can't understand it, but I'm am thankful for it. And hope one day to be able to grasp the hand of the savior who died for us and say, Amen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Now What Happens?

I have been reading a lot of devotionals lately because I decided to devote myself during Lent. HA! I liked the way that sounded, but it does have a ring of truth about it. I found recently that I felt farther away from God than I had for quite some time and knew my heavenly father hadn't moved, but I had. So I wanted to get in touch with him a little more intensely during the Lenten season. My mother, getting into the spirit of things (so to speak) sent me a small devotional booklet entitled, The Sanctuary for Lent. I started re-reading, Walking on Water by Madeline L'Engle, one of my very favorite books. I am receiving daily devotional writings from the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia. And a friend of mine is sending out prayers that are inspirational and seem divinely inspired.

So, guess what? I'm not feeling any closer, more spiritual, or heavenly than I was before. Maybe it's because I have a cold. My head is clogged and my nose is running and I'm sure I'm not a very nice person to be around (I'm a terrible patient!). But I really can't blame this not feeling closer to God on anybody but myself, really. And no, I don't really think it's because I have a cold. You see, so many times I expect the "Shazam!" moment to arrive and when it doesn't I'm sort of miffed. What do I mean by the Shazam moment? The Saul conversion moment? The veil is lifted and I am stunned and amazed by...? And that is the problem. Something BIG.

Instead, I have become aware of a series of really great things in the past few weeks. I was away while the rest of my fellow workers were still slaving over a hot desk recently. My children are safe and healthy and comfortable (yes, I know they would like to be MORE comfortable). I have a wonderful husband who is considerate of my health and well-being (he even e-mails me to ask me how I'm feeling when I know he's busy at work). But I kept thinking that something BIG would happen with my spiritual life. Some great awakening I suppose. What I got instead were small steps, hardly even noticed. And that was when I had a real Shazam moment. For real! I have heard for years on end about God's still small voice. Except I'm partially deaf, and that analogy doesn't work for me. I was afraid he was whispering so low I missed it. Instead he showed me the wonders of my life right now. Not in winning the lottery, although I have to say, I wouldn't mind that. But he has put some pretty wondrous people and things in my way to take notice of lately and I've been so self absorbed in my pouting I almost missed them!

So in some ways, that's what happens. You go out looking for God and he's right beside you the whole time, showing you stuff. Poking your side and asking if you saw the daffodils, the birds, your children, your husband, your friends. And never once did he say, Shazam!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Sun Within

I heard a weather report that it is supposed to rain and snow tomorrow and the next day. No accumulation, really. Just the cold dampness that seeps into your bones as you watch the precipitation fall. I was hoping we were done with this kind of weather. It makes me feel weary and sad. It's hard to be positive when the weather beats up on you.

But recently I found a piece of sun to keep inside when the weather is bad outside. I was walking around a very special place, when I felt the warmth of the sun on my back. The ocean was in front of me and the birds were playing in the waves, calling and laughing to each other. The sound of the sea, the warmth of the sun, the blue of the sky, I was at peace for just a few minutes. It was there that I found a piece of the Son, too. That peace that passes all understanding was right there with me. So I'm trying to carry it around to spread it around. I see some people who look like they could use a little ray of sun or Son. So I try to share it with them. I'm not sure they all appreciate the effort, but I make the effort anyway. You never know when that sun may come back around and warm you up on a dreary, wintry March day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rain and Lent

Somehow or other, Lent seems a somber time. I'm not saying that there isn't reason for this. If you read all the historical accounts of Lent and it's formation, you'd know that we actually have it pretty good during Lent in this century. It's a time of reflection and personal introspection.

It's raining today and usually during rainy days I'm in work, concentrating on the things I have to do there. But today by quirky chance I am home and futzing with things around the house. I found myself filling the time instead of taking time for that reflection and introspection that we need to do from time to time. And so I stopped amidst the vacuuming and washing of clothes, plopped myself down on the couch and reflected. Of course, when you want to take the time to do that, you can never actually do it. Your mind races as to what you were supposed to be serenely thinking about, or it races ahead to what you will do when you are done reflecting. And then you wonder how long you should be stopped. And is that "enough" time. Because we are so used to working on a schedule, we figure the scheduling of communicating with God should be a finite thing as well. I'll think about God for 15 minutes on Thursday--that kind of thing. The problem with that of course is that come the 15 minutes you've set aside you're so preoccupied with what you wanted to communicate to the Almighty, you've forgotten that this kind of communion can be a two-way street and you've left no time for the Lord to talk to you in that still small voice of his. And so you're allotted time is fraught with worry about the things you need to "get in" without thinking about the possibilities of what you might "get out" of this time.

Recently I was away from home. My companions and I went to an outdoor garden one day. Within the garden there was a labyrinth. It was in a beautiful park-like setting, very peaceful and serene. About 20 feet away from the labyrinth was a sign which instructed those who were walking this peaceful, serene maze not to molest or feed the alligator. Now, I don't know about you, but while trying to concentrate on the maze I was walking, contemplate communion with God AND worry about whether an alligator would suddenly find itself inclined to climb the small bank and sun itself nearby, it was not the contemplative experience I would have hoped it to be.

However, on this same time away, I was privileged to go to the beach. The sun was warm, the same for the sand and the waves were gentle and passive. I looked out to the horizon and there, bobbing restfully was a pelican. I do not know why I love these birds so much, but their presence to me has always happened at a time when I needed to be reminded of God's wondrous gifts to me. And there it was. The moment was better than the labyrinth. God was with me (and yes, I know simultaneously he is with me always and was with my companions). But God was there with me in the sun and the sea and the pelican. And it was an affirmation that will last through Lent and whatever rainy, contemplative or stormy days are ahead.

God is with us.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Community of Faith

The title above sounds very churchy, doesn't it? I mean you don't hear about the community of--I don't know--sneaker wearers do you? One of the problems about church sometimes is people are weirded out about the phrases we use, or sometimes even the words we use in certain contexts. Some people think it's like a club with its own special language--like learning elfish from Tolkien. But sometimes the words that the community of believers use are just good words to use. Stewardship is one of those words. To be a steward is to be a caretaker. What's wrong with that? To be a steward was a position of responsibility. It wasn't just a caretaker of goods, but people, too. A steward was responsible for making sure the help were fed and clothed and paid (or at least looked after with a roof over their head). I think we need to be reminded that we are stewards, not just of the church building, but of the people who come here.

How can we be better stewards of our church? Well, for one, we can pray for one another. Not just on Sunday mornings, but everyday. And pray not just for the people on the prayer list, but all the people who come in our doors, whether they are from one of the groups that use our building or the ladies who knit prayer shawls. We can remember to listen to each other when we do get together. Sometimes we are so anxious to share our stories and our thoughts we can't even hear that others are in need of being listened to more. We can help someone find a page in the hymnal, we can direct someone to the bathroom, we can simply say hi to someone who looks like they could use a smile. These are not big things. They do not cost you anything except maybe a few minutes. But they are outward signs of our caring. And we are a caring place. Let us share the stewardship of our God's love with all we encounter. Lent is a good time to try a new practice. Let's practice being good caregivers this year.

Let's let our light so shine before others that they can't help but see our good works!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Snow on the Sidewalk

It's snowing again. I'm a huge chicken when it comes to driving in the stuff, but I love the way it looks out the window, when I'm nice and warm in my house. It coats the roofs with white cottony drifts. It clings to trees and bushes, and the kids across the street are tramping through it with wild abandon.

I was thinking about my faith life today, as I watched the snow come down. I could make the analogy of God blanketing us with his love like the way the snow blankets the landscape. But I actually wasn't thinking that. What I was thinking is how we seem sometimes to want to cover up our flaws and humanity when we tell the world we are Christians. We cover up the heart in need of repair and the hopes that have become somewhat twisted like the branches of the trees outside the window. Why do we do that? I read a devotional which said that we thought as Christians we had to be strong. We had to show the world how morally upright, sound of body and spirit and well, holy we were; so that others would want to be like us. Except we aren't all that morally upright. At least I'm not. And my soundness of spirit is definitely lacking. Which is why its important to scrape away the stuff that covers our sin and our brokenness. We need to show others how it looks to be a Christian by looking at how much we need Jesus, not by how nice it looks. We need to chip away the veneer of self-supporting righteousness and show our vulnerability. Why else would we need a Savior if we weren't that good or strong to begin with? The answer of course, is that we wouldn't need one. But we do. And he is there, just like the snow covering us. Except he knows our flaws and failures and it doesn't matter, because he loves us anyway, thank goodness.

So when you're out shoveling later on, remember that yes, God's love does blanket us. And even though we're as uneven as the pavement we're shoveling, we're still beautiful in his sight. So share that uneven brokenness with others, so that they might see the light of Christ through you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Need Jesus to Walk With Me

I was reading a devotional booklet the other day. I was looking for some answers to some really hard questions. The questions were raised after the Arizona shooting. The questions were not, "Why" nor, "How". The questions were not linear or even really put into words. But they were there in my mind anyway. There were more questions too, when I read that some folks were going to go to a funeral of a child and protest because they felt the shooting was a "sign" of something.

A sign of something.

Well, it probably was a sign of something. But I'm thinking the sign they're looking at doesn't have anything to do with a Savior of love. Or with a God of compassion and forgiveness either. Sometimes I believe the world has gone mad. And sometimes my faith is hard to grasp hold of and onto in the midst of these headlines. But I remember also, that I am not God. I do not know everything in all circumstances. I cannot fathom why such things happen, but I cannot fathom how snowflakes are all different or how the world was made either. Do the people who plan to protest know God so well, so intimately that they are sure what happened was "God" sent? How can you be THAT sure of God? And of humans for that matter? The devotional said this and it spoke to me, "...worshiping morality instead of Jesus is just idolatry. When I'm consumed with my moral performance and find myself obsessively evaluating the morality of others, I've become a believer in moralism, not the gospel."

I'm a believer of Jesus and I'd rather have him explain to me the things I don't understand when I meet him than have some rabble-rousing mob scream things at me when I need compassion and understanding in the here and now. I would wish that Jesus would be with that group of people who think they are doing the Lord's work and help them see that love is what the Lord is about, not judgment and condemnation which seems to be what they are about. I know that Jesus is with us, walking with us and keeping us in his heart, even if we don't have him in ours.