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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections in a Christmas Ball

Standing in front of the Christmas tree on this New Year's Eve day, I am pondering what the new year will bring and what I've received from the previous year. Not the material things, the "other" things. Now lest you think I will get all sappy here, please keep in mind that I received a diagnosis of basal cell cancer that I wasn't too thrilled about!

Each year I am filled with a profound sense of the Lord's work, but I only seem to see it at the end of the year more clearly (I guess Paul, that great letter writer would be nodding his head, all that stuff about the mirror dimly). God's presence was there in the big things (our daughter's wedding) and the small--seeing a butterfly close up without it flying away. I felt Him when I visited our nephew's grave and longed for it when, on a rainy afternoon I thought no one cared.

The Christmas tree with its shiny ornaments and twinkling lights is a passing thing. Soon it will be time to take down the decorations, empty out the cookies tins, tuck away the outdoor lights and life will continue on as it has for years. But what do we take away from this past year? What can we say about the gifts The Lord has bestowed on us, not just for Christmas but all the year? What can we do to bring about the light in the dark places? This is I think what the New Year is about. Reflecting on what has taken place, sure. But thinking about the possibilities of the year coming up as well. Where will we be and what will we be doing?

Let's celebrate the New Year by being the light bringers! Let us share the hope that Jesus brings to all we meet, so that next New Year's Eve the light reflected on the Christmas balls on the tree will be the same light He shares with us each day.

Have a wonderful and safe New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Chritmas Eve

This is the night that I used to suspend all logical thoughts and believe in the magical. When I was a kid, this was the night that Santa came to our house, appeared in our living room (we didn't have a fireplace, so there was no way he was coming down the chimney) and left a piles of presents for my siblings and I. We helped our dad decorate the tree, the smells coming from the kitchen of baked pies for the next day's dessert, and giggled and wiggled until far into the night waiting for the next day.

But also in the room was my mother's elaborate Nativity scene. It was not lavish, nor imported from some foreign land. It was put on top of a card table or placed on top of the stereo speakers completely obliterating it. It was a large wooden platform that had some grainy green stuff for the base which I think was that fake grass from train sets. It had a sandy path which led up to a wooden barn-like thing. It had sheep grazing around and occasionally sipping from the mirror placed amid the sand and grit to look like a pond. One of the sheep had a busted leg, so we had to prop him up on a piece of stick placed to look like a log near the pond. Each day my mother would read from the purple "Advent book" and we would either place a new figure in the scene or read about something related to the scene. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around the scene was set and after church on this night, we would come home and place Mary and Joseph in the old barn, looking at an empty manger. See it wasn't Christmas yet. Jesus made his first appearance on Christmas morning, so we couldn't add him in until the correct time.

The Nativity scene I have in my own home fits on the mantlepiece around the chimney (yes, I have a fireplace now). It's not as homespun as my mothers and not as big. But the pieces are lovingly placed each year throughout Advent, waiting until Christmas morning for Jesus.

The magic of the season is with me still. Maybe not the Santa part. But the small baby part, coming to redeem us from ourselves. God coming down once again in the mystic communion of the night to see his creations and let us know that as unworthy as we are of his love, He loves us still.So there is still magic in the night tonight. The magic of love and wonder and awe. God comes down every Christmas, indeed every day of every year. What could be more magical than that?

Merry Christmas all!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Do You Need Proof?

I get a couple of devotions delivered to my in box every day.  They vary as to whether they actually touch me or even resonate at all. But once in a while a line or two will reach out of my computer and grab me by the arm...well, maybe just grab my mind and it is such a startling experience that I have to write it down somewhere to remember at a later time. This happened the other day. This devotional is using a book by Dietrich Boenhoffer to make it's point and most of the time, I think he's either too deep or to cerebral for me. But just the other day I read this and thought, well, yeah, this is great:
Only when I forgo visible proof, do I believe in God.

It reminded me of reading C.S. Lewis' book, Mere Christianity. He reminded me that if I go looking around for proof positive that God exists and is there (or here or anywhere for that matter), I'm not going to find him. Because to have faith means to believe when there really isn't anything concrete to put my hand on. And I feel like that is what Advent and even Christmas is all about, too. Does it really have to be proven that Mary was a virgin? Do we have to get all astronomy minded about the "star of Bethlehem"? Do you need to know that the angel chorus was a hundred, a thousand or just a couple? The most basic thing to remember is that God came down. God so loved our poor pitiful souls that he was willing to sacrifice his own son to show us that love. I don't think it matters whether the stable was wooden or really a cave. And I'm pretty sure the evidence of three kings dropping by is non-existent. But God's love is pretty tangible. And if I can get sappy for a minute or two, it seems really real, tangible and certain at this time of the year, more than almost any other. I've seen more charitable acts, witnessed more kindnesses, and heard more "good will to men" than at any other time of the year. And I really don't care if it's just at this time of the year either. At least it's at this time of the year! At least we can feast our eyes on the marvelous works of a starry cold winter night, of family and friends who join together in song and praise, or rest quietly from a long days labor while reading once again that story of the first Christmas. It's a good story. A loving story, and it feels true because it is just so, well, unbelievable.

So I will forgo the visible proof that God exists and continue on my merry faith-filled way in the sure and certain hope that Jesus loves me, this I know. With or without the multitude of heavenly hosts filling me in on it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When I'm Calling YOU

The above title refers (to those of the younger set) to a song sung by Jeanette McDonald and Nelson something or other. They were  a singing duo and this particular song was sung while he was wearing a mounties uniform--as in Canadian Mounties. Look it up, I kid you not. But I digress.

This Sunday in our Adult Sunday School Class we discussed what it meant to be "called". Pastor suggested that the term "called" had religious connotations to it and therefore was off putting to some people. I guess we could have asked each other what we feel compelled to do even though it may not be what we usually do. This is one explanation of being called. We also kicked around the idea that being called to do something doesn't have to have religious leanings. You could be feeling compelled to call people on the phone to see how they are. You could be really good at cooking for large gatherings of people and therefore be available when the Thanksgiving Dinner rolls around to help out in the kitchen. You could be good at listening to people who need someone to listen to them in whatever station of life they are in. We kind of agreed, I think, that being called to the do the work of the Lord involves a kind of service to others. I might feel like I'm called to stand in front of people and spout a bunch of stuff, but really, if it's just so I can show off, I don't think its the same thing as being there to help someone in a soup kitchen.

The qualifying thing then seems to be that you feel like you need to do something for someone else, not just for your enjoyment or edification. The service aspect of our relationships to each other is what sets the "called" aspect from the "look at me" aspect. A friend of mine says she doesn't know what she is called to do, but she knows what it feels like when God seems to be tapping her on the shoulder. And you don't really want to ignore the tap, as I have a feeling it will continue until you do something about it.

I feel called to write this blog. Sometimes I pretend I don't. Sometimes I ignore the tap and continue for a few weeks before being reminded that this is something I do, not just for myself, but I hope for others who may wander in and rest a bit. So I hope you can reflect a little on what you might be called to do and how that calling is shared with others. And if you get a chance, look up that singing duo I mentioned in the first sentence and remind me, just what the heck was that guys name??

Along for the ride

In the last month I've experienced so many ups and downs its a wonder I don't have whiplash! The cancer diagnosis was a downer, but our daughter got married and a more happy occasion I can't imagine. We had to put our 18 year old cat to sleep and I began to teach Sunday School (Adult) class again. See what I mean? Ups and downs.

I got to thinking about those highs and lows and how they affect they way we view things. When things are going well, we have a tendency to pat ourselves on the back for a "job well done" even though we may not have had anything to do with the positives. On the other side of that, when things aren't going so well, we get grouchy and blame someone else for our woes. We tend to see God that way, too. We might not remember to thank the Lord for all the marvelous blessings bestowed upon us and instead look to the Almighty to fix those things that are stumbling blocks to our smooth paths. We might even blame God for the things which seem to be afflicting us. I've heard more times than I can count, "why me, God?" A friend of mine frequently adds after that, "why not you?" It makes you pause for a minute when you hear him say that. He contends that no one is exempt from troubles or hard times. Even the best of Christians experience sadness and sorrow. How you cope with it, is what makes the difference.

I am reminded that God walks with us each day of the year. In sunshine and shadows, in rainbows and rain, whether we acknowledge his presence or not. He stands right next to you when you suddenly find a dollar in your pocket and when you hit your thumb with a hammer. And no, I don't believe he caused you to hit your thumb. I think God is with us in our life, not pulling the strings, but putting a hand out when we need to be steadied. I find comfort in the fact that the Lord's presence isn't dependent on my awareness of it. I think I would be in a much more lonely and desolate place without knowing that God is with me.

You know, Advent is coming up next week. When we begin to anticipate "God With Us"--Immanuel, coming as he always has. Let us take some time to appreciate the sunset, the crunch of leaves on the sidewalk, the good and bad things which happen to all of us. Yes, appreciate the bad as well as the good. For God is indeed with us all the time and who would you rather have along for the ride?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The "C" Word

About 6 months ago, I realized I had a lump in my eyebrow. It wasn't big or anything. And it didn't hurt. But I knew it was there. And I would finger it occasionally just to see if it felt any different.  It didn't feel any different, but it wasn't getting any smaller either. Of course, after I really got to thinking about it, it felt like it was getting bigger. I was sort of freaked out about it. So I went to see a dermatologist. After examining it, she indicated that it was just some sort of growth under the skin and nothing to be upset about and did I want it removed? Well, yeah, I thought. Get it out of there! She numbed me up and proceeded to remove this lumpy thing. It was benign and it would heal before the big wedding coming up and no one would ever know it was there...because now it wasn't! They gave me an appointment for a follow up in three months, which ended up being September. So far so good.

I went to the appointment in September without any trepidation at all. After all the lump was gone and there didn't seem to be anything else to think about. As I sat on the upright recliner waiting for the dermatologist, the assistant came in and told me to remove my clothing and put on this paper drape thing with armholes. Why? I thought? They're just gonna look at the ol' eyebrow, tell themselves what a great job they did and that was the end of that, right? I know you looking at me askance right now and saying, "well, obviously she was wrong." The doctor came  in and said she was going to do a "body check". I immediately thought of the wrestling move and then dismissed it from my mind. She was going to look over the body for any abnormalities--luckily she wasn't checking my mind. She ran her fingers through my hair, a sort of weird feeling for me and then looked me full in the face, pointed to my lip and said, "well, that has to go." What? What has to go? The look on my face? What? So I asked, "what has to go?" She placed her finger on my upper lip and said, "this."

I've looked at my face for 58 years and I still wasn't quite sure what she was pointing at. She got a mirror and showed me the bump that's been there for a long time. I was of two minds at this point. Why this bump? How come you didn't see it when I came in for the other bump? And really what's another bump on my face to worry about anyway? She looked at the rest of me and decided that the bump was the only thing wrong. And then she began to tell me how she was going to "numb it up" and take care of it. I just assumed it would be another lump removal like the one on my eyebrow. But you know, I really didn't want a scar on my face for the wedding pictures, so I just sort of casually asked, will this leave a scar? She stopped prepping and asked what I was worried about. I told her the wedding of our only daughter was two months away and I didn't want to look like Scarface in the wedding pictures. It'll just be a little red, she said. You can cover it up with cosmetics. Fair enough, I said and she numbed it up and came at my face with a sort of sharp little wiry thing. She scraped and scraped, but she wasn't digging it out like the other bump. But of course my lip was numb and really you can't have a conversation with someone when your lip is being worked on, so I waited. When she finally stopped scraping, she said, okay, we're gonna biopsy this, but I'm almost positive what we're gonna find. She put the scraped stuff in a jar, gave me a bandage and handed me a piece of blue paper with instructions on how to take care of the "biopsy" site. She did not say it looked benign like the other lump. She did say, "don't call us, we'll call you" regarding what the results of the biopsy would be. Really? Don't call us? For two weeks, just sit around and worry and worry, but really, we'll get back to you. Very unnerving.

So like a good little patient, I went about my business and tried (really I did) not to think about the word biopsy, what it means, why it triggers certain things in my mind and oh, by the way, don't call us we'll call you. By the second week I was antsy, so I called. They said the person who needed to talk to me would call me back. Which she did, while I was at work. She left a number. I called. She was with patients and couldn't talk right then. She'd call me back. Which she did when I was in the bathroom. So I called back. She was back with another patient. By this time, I had no patience, so I said, "I'll wait." They tried to discourage that adamant stand, but to no avail. Nope, she was talking to me this time if I had to stay on the phone and listen to their way-too-chipper ads about getting rid of wrinkles, fat and age spots for the next few days. Eventually the assistant doctor got on the phone, though and said, well, the biopsy says you have basal cell cancer. And there it was. The "C" word.

I've dreaded that word for most of my adult life. My father had bladder cancer which seemed to metastasize everywhere eventually. It is not something I want to remember much. But the "C" word brings out every single memory I've ever had of this disease. And they are not pleasant ones. I think I stopped breathing for a few moments and then the tears began to roll down my cheeks. I'm relatively sure I wasn't making any gasping sounds, but the doctor said, "are you alright?" knowing full well I wasn't. She explained that basal cell skin cancer doesn't metastasize anywhere except to maybe other places near where it is already. It doesn't "infect" other body parts.   It's a relatively easy fix/cure/whatever you want to call it. She didn't seem particularly concerned. My smart ass self thought, "well of course, she's not concerned, she doesn't have it." But that wasn't fair really. She told me I would need a consultation to discuss what we would do next as a course of action. She said we should schedule that consult relatively quickly. But I have to say, I wasn't ready to do anything quickly. I was still processing. I am still processing. The consultation happened the day after my birthday--Happy Birthday to you! As I follow up with this post, I'll keep you informed.

I know it's just a word. A powerful word, but just a word nonetheless. If it had been some other more "evil" kind, I would probably still be sobbing on the phone instead of going about the business of working, getting ready for a wedding and cleaning up after the cat. I am doing those things, but that word is still in the back of my mind, lurking, it's shadowy specter haunting my waking and even sometimes sleeping moments. I wish I could dismiss it as easily as some others. But so far, I haven't been able to. But I'm working on it. Every day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What a Good Idea!

I got an email from our Family Ministries person. She is enthusiastic and excited about so many things and it's great to see her develop new programs and tweak the ones in place. One of the new ideas she had was to bring together single moms over dinner and babysitting. She knows a few single moms from working with the Nursery School and there seems to be a need. Someone will facilitate the discussions, someone will make sure everyone is fed, someone will make sure the kids are attended to so the moms can be. A wonderful idea.

I remember quite a long time ago, we had a "Mother's Group" for women who had young children and didn't get out much. They met in the mornings, in the used and abused furniture of the downstairs parlor to talk about what it was like being home all day with a toddler. How sometimes you were sure your brain was turning to marshmallow and it was nice when "daddy" came home to have either another adult to speak to, or someone to hand off the minute to minute care and feeding of a child. We talked of other things, too. We talked of the world situation (way before 9/11), we talked of the latest trends in technology (really? a computer in your house?), and we talked of family, life and God. As our children grew many of us got jobs and we no longer could keep attending the group. Others took it over and it went on for a while, but eventually it, too stop meeting.

I bring up this second group for a reason. Many years later, when there was a meeting about something or other at church, a woman remarked that the Mother's Group was a godsend to her. She was so busy with her children, she never saw another adult for days at a time. This group brought her out of herself and her home. She was grateful for its existence. You never know how you serve the Lord, what ways are beneficial to another person, unless you step out and make the effort. The Mother's Group all those years ago wasn't for a selected few, it may not have been highbrow discussion, it didn't really fit into a category of "committee". But we did the work of the Lord's nonetheless. We came together and listened, laughed, cried and talked for just a few months. But for this particular mom, it was a blessing.

I wish such a feeling for this new group. A blessing and a hope that we never stop gathering and coming together under St. Mark's roof.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Can You Do?

Now there's a question if ever you've heard one! There is someone in trouble..."What can I do?" You know the family of someone who passed away..."What can I do?" A bunch of people are having a pot luck dinner and you've been invited, but your cooking is atrocious..."What can I do?"

Is there ever a good response to this? Especially in the church? Depending on the church of course, the answer can always be, "something". Everyone can do something. Those spiritual gifts thing the bible talks about? They aren't a definitive list, you know. Everyone can do something. I know a woman who is tongue-tied whenever she tries to speak in public, but if you ask her to pray for you...WOW! She is a communicator like no other. I know someone else who cannot string two words (let alone thoughts) together in a written sentence, but she can crochet like a conductor of the Philharmonic, bringing together the strands of yarn in a pattern that would take your breath away. She gives these masterpieces away as gifts. I've met people who will look me in the eye and say they have no talent, but when they listen to me with their whole being, let me know I am a child of God and they love me no matter what, well, I hate to call them a liar to their face, but what talent they have in affirming me cannot be bought.

Everyone can do something. You may not be able to cook, but you can thank God you didn't have to if someone else does it. You may not be able to pray out loud in church on Sunday, but you can thank the person who does it for us so eloquently. You may not be able to come out on Wednesday evenings to join in the class and discussions, but you can ask about what was discussed via e-mail or even the next time you see someone you know attends to keep the discussion lively. You can smile and share it. You can listen without interruption. You can simply not judge the next time someone does something that you are quite sure you would never in a million years do, because you are not in their shoes.

So what can you do? Whatever you'd like, but remember do something!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lasting Summer Moments

The sun has gone down on Labor Day 2012. Tomorrow the teachers will report to school and the students will join them the following day. The cycle goes 'round and 'round. Does your faith go in cycles? Mine does, I think. There are times when I am uplifted and astounded at my daily devotions I read. When I am re-awakened with a sermon on Sunday. When I am positively bowled over by examples of the love of God's people for one another. And then there are those other times...I forget who told us that we cannot live on the mountaintop all the time. Or even the vague poem that I hear the refrain from, "it's in the valleys I grow." We know this to be true. The mountains beckon us to come up and breathe the fresh new air, feel the bracing wind, hear the meadow birds. But the cycle of life is down here. Where the backpacks are. Where the pencils are sharpened and the notebooks are written in and the click-click of computer keys for those endless book reports. So let's join in the cycle down here for just a moment to savor what God has brought about. The electricity for the lamps, the electronics, the gadgets we use every day. The sun that lights our path. The moon and stars that grace the earlier evenings. The crickets still chirping outside the window because it's not cold enough yet to chase them underground. The family coming together at the end of the day under one roof that hopefully doesn't leak. Let us rejoice in the cycles of life and faith as we enter another Autumn.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Little Rainbow Moment

I came home yesterday with a headache. I was grumpy, irritable, and in a funk. I had been pushed and pulled at work every which way and I am not very agile, so it was uncomfortable to say the least. There were ten different jobs that needed to be done "right now" and so the ten other jobs that were on the plate, didn't get done because of the hurry-up-and-do-now things. Very unsatisfying. Now in the backyard of our house there is a small patch of what most people would call weeds. I know better. They are milkweed plants and I put them there specifically for Monarch butterflies to find in their journey north. One year and one year only, there were a lot of them. Lots of caterpillars, lots of chrysalis' too. But since then, nothing. I've seen a monarch skip by occasionally, but they obviously didn't think my small patch worthy or big enough or whatever butterflies think and ignored my meager efforts. And so I came home sad, tired, angry at the world and its circumstances and sat in the car for a few minutes staring at nothing wishing that I could have stayed in bed with the covers pulled over my head. And then I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I am not a butterfly specialist so I don't know the difference between a Monarch or a Viceroy butterfly--so I really am not sure, even now what I was seeing. They have very similar markings. But there as I finally focused on what was there on the periphery were two butterflies swooping and dancing among the milkweed. They looked like Monarchs. They flitted and flirted with the leaves (the blossoms are gone by now) stopping for a few second here and there. I have no idea if they laid eggs on the leaves (which are their favorite food). But, oh, suddenly the day wasn't such a waste of breath. Suddenly, I knew there was someone who was paying attention to my little patch of hopefulness. I stood outside the car and watched them skip and prance among the greenery and I looked heavenward and said, "Oh, Lord, thank you so much for butterflies." It's too early to tell if there will be caterpillars. But it's never to late to say thank you to the Creator for the blessings of a day which seemed like one long endless no but which ended with a blessed yes.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Is My Faith Real?

I got to pondering this question the other day. Is my faith real? There are so many things that are tangible in our lives these days. Anything from the miraculous phone which accompanies me everywhere through the day to the simply stunning microwave that defrosts something for dinner. Petting the cat, hugging the hubby, flopping (very much unlike a lady) on the couch after a busy day and resting my chin on my chest. These are really things I can feel all around me and that I do. Shouldn't my faith be just as tangible? If what Jesus died to do was making your love of the Lord something you experience in a major life-affirming way, then your faith, your belief, your love should be just as concrete as your snoring. We look at faith so much of the time as something ethereal or out there (waving our hands in the air). Our faith seems to be something we air out on Sundays or Saturdays or whatever day we take it in our heads to unpack it and wave it around like the hand motions just mentioned. But being a believer means something more dramatic I think. Really, truly believing means making the "love your neighbor" thing what you do as a part of your day, not a part of your philosophy that you pick up once in a while. Following Christ means making the physical act of "loving your neighbor" or "love the Lord with all your soul" not a practice or a hobby, but a natural extension of yourself, like smiling at strangers or blinking. I haven't been able to do this myself, yet. It's a noble thing. A worth trying to do thing. I'm still too conscious of my actions to be able to say I do with this any consistency. But, sometimes, I do. When I'm not thinking about it, my faith creeps out of my pores and shows people who I really am, what I really believe, who my Lord really is! Its a really uplifting and special occasion when that happens. I feel blessed. And I'm looking for ways to trigger that more often. So yes, my faith is real, but it just doesn't show itself all the time. But I'm working on it!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Did Not Go To Church Today

Said little Peggy Ann McKay (apologies to Shel Silverstein's poetry). I wasn't sick or tired or even sick and tired. I was up very early taking the daughter and fiance to the airport on the first leg of their visit to our son. We got back in enough time for me to have run around like a chicken with no head and get myself to church. But I didn't do it. Lazy? Maybe. But as my spouse and I sat eating breakfast, reading the paper and listening to NPR it felt like the right thing to do. Church is the right thing for me to do on Sunday mornings most of the time. I like going, seeing my family in Christ. I miss them when I don't see them for a week. I ponder my actions of the week before while I'm there. I listen a little more earnestly to my fellow humans. I find out is someone is suddenly sick, or has passed away. My church life is an infusion each week for my battered and weary soul. A balm. It's those other weeks though. When I have had some serious misgivings or some face slapping revelation that I sit back or in many cases after the alarm goes off, lie down without attending. I have been admonished that this is precisely the time I need to go and hear the word of God. And maybe they are right, those admonishers! But there are times when I have to digest the word, not just swallow it whole. When I have to think on the things which have brought me to a stand still. When I have to rely on the still, small voice, echoing in my head and not the voice in the pew or the pulpit even to make sense of my faith. And when that happens, it feels more holy to stay home and ponder, read the bible or other inspirational tomes, to pray more earnestly or even to just sit in silence as God is aware what's going on in my head anyway. Am I suggesting that going to church isn't necessary? No. The community of Christ is what leads me to a fuller and richer communication with God. They help me to understand the depth and breadth of God's love and mercy. But I don't feel like I have to explain myself if I don't go. And really, I think God gets it. So I will see you next week, I hope. Unless you need some time off. In which case I will see you soon. Take care until then.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Touching His Robe

We travel through life from one day to the next sometimes without even being aware of what goes on around us. Every time I get caught in the headlights on the "road of life" and see something really amazing, it catches me by surprise. One of the custodians at the school where I work showed me an amazing picture of his granddaughter's spine which had recently been operated on. The before and after were nothing short of miraculous. The fact that within a week she will be out of the hospital and walking around boggles my mind. I received a photo on my phone of the latest addition to our family, a little girl so small but delicately formed, it takes your breath away. The bright pink of the hydrangea outside of the walkway into the school is an unheard of shade that arrests your eye no matter what else may be on your mind. The tiny little bunny nibbling clover on the front lawn, shivering and hoping the huge giant of a person (me) won't notice them as they cower among the blossoms. The fact that I can sit here and type these words and they will be out on the Internet in just a few short moments. Oh, Lord, how marvelous are they works! I have an alarm set on my phone to remind me every day to pray at a certain time. My prayer partner and I have tried to keep this practice as I am notorious for neglecting my prayer life unless prompted regularly. And today when it went off, I remembered to thank God for life, for love of family and friends and for the beautiful world we inhabit. What can you thank God for today? What have you witnessed recently that has reminded you that God is with us? Think on that, just for a few moments. God's blessings abound.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Clothed in Christ

I work in a high school. And there are certain things that happen every year that are pretty universal in all high schools. This weekend, the prom is what is on all the kids' minds. Whether they are attending or not. I hear them in the hallways, "what are you wearing? what will you do with your hair?" They talk excitedly and with more animation than normal (and that's saying something, they are teenagers after all!). I looked at the daily devotional reading from Corinthians today and thought about clothes and what they mean, how we think about them. But I also thought of a bunch of other things related to wearing garments. For instance, when I was growing up, there was a saying, "the clothes make the man." It had something to do with dressing up nice and thereby being nice. Like a good fitting suit, you would be good inside and out. Of course, we know that this statement isn't really true. But I remember it was imparted as wisdom when I was a kid. My mother made it a point to dress up to go to church. It was unheard of going in your "play clothes". I carried this tradition on with my children and they grumbled about it week after week, in probably the same whiny tones I used. People today don't feel they have to dress up to go to church. "God doesn't care what I look like on the outside" is what I hear most often. And the God I have come to know and love probably doesn't care, but I still wear nice clothes to church on Sunday anyway. I don't dress up very often for anything these days so Sundays feel special when I make the effort. A guy I knew became a Mormon and he kept his "grave clothes" with him at all times. When he died suddenly of a heart attack, people felt weird about the fact that the white robe he had in his closet was all ready for him to wear. I don't know, I think it's very forward thinking to be ready for anything at any time. I'm not sure I have to wear something special mind you, but I get the idea. But all this talk about physically wearing clothes is not the point of the reading today (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). I think it has more to do with the putting on of the right attitude. Looking forward to the heavenly home we have instead of decking ourselves out in our finest suits and jewels. There is a yearning sometimes I feel when I think about being in the company of heaven, knowing that because God loves me, it won't matter whether my robes are white or even if I color my hair. What matters is that God will see the real me (warts and all!). God will welcome me because I am an heir, a daughter. I get tired trying to be something I'm not here on earth. Trying hard to fit in, or be like others. And there are wearying days when that time can't come fast enough. Now I'm not looking to do myself in, but the striving I feel some days makes me wish that heaven were here instead of in the future. So I guess I will continue to dress up in my "Sunday best" Sunday mornings. Not because I want to impress anybody, least of all God. But because I like to do it. I hope to see you there in your Sunday Smiles as well. I'll be wearing mine right along side of you, clothed in the God who loves us. I don't think I could buy a better outfit!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Being Whole

I was reading a devotional today and it talked about the man that Jesus healed of a speech impediment and deafness. He took him aside and healed him and then told the healed guy not to tell anyone. But of course the healed man went around telling everyone. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't you, if you were made whole, run around telling EVERYONE about it? It's better than winning the lottery! To be made whole. I've often wanted to be made whole. There are times when I curse my hearing loss and times when I feel justified in feeling sorry for myself. The funny thing is, I don't talk too much about it. I don't write about it much. I'm not really looking for sympathy, I don't think. But healing would be nice. To be able to hear the birds again outside the window? Yeah, that'd be really great. To know when someone was walking up in back of me instead of jumping 10 feet in the air as they innocuously pass me? That would be great, too! To be able to hear the television without the closed captioning would be nice for my family as well as me. And to hear my family's voices without the machines plugged into my ears would be worth just about anything. I remember Paul asking in one of his letters to have some kind of burden removed. I think there is speculation about what that burden might have been. But even Paul in his splendor didn't get to have his wish. For whatever the thorn in his side, it was always there. Just like not being able to hear. Most times I'm used to the lack of hearing. My hearing aids do help enormously. Most times I'm immune to the fact that there is a distinct lack of noise when I take them out at night. But once in a while, I think, why me? Why do I have to have this disability? Is there something I'm supposed to learn from this? Something I'm supposed to "teach" other people? I hope not. I've been dismal if this is my ministry. I prefer to do those things that are in the background or things that don't need much interaction for fear I wouldn't hear the interaction anyway. I do not like to trumpet that I can' hear and don't want to be the "poster girl" for those who are hearing impaired. And then there's this: when I pray and ask God to watch over those I love and care about, I don't really ask to be made whole. It's tempting. Asking for that miracle cure. But I have a feeling I'm supposed to be like this for whatever reason. And I guess when I finally get to meet God, I can ask, "what was that all about anyway?" But the funny thing is this, when I pray it doesn't matter whether I can hear or not. It's usually quiet, and sometimes I talk the hearing devices out of my ears so it's even quieter than normal. Because really in the silence of my prayers it doesn't matter whether I can hear or not, just so long as God does.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Christianity with a big "C"

We were having a discussion on Sunday in our Sunday School group about introverts, extroverts and the combination of those two things. It was observed that if all someone hears are the extroverts, then those who are the "strong, silent type" whose ideas are innovative and well reasoned will never be heard over the din. The conversation was winding around this way and that, when someone said the one thing that was guaranteed to make me get mad. They didn't say it to make me mad, I doubt they were even aware it was a "hot button" for me. But I've heard it most of my life now and it never ceases to really aggravate me. The statement was that young people say there are so many hypocrites in church nowadays they just don't see the reason to come to church. And there it is. That statement. Spoken with authority from whomever utters it. As though it was the gospel. There are so many hypocrites in church. I would like to spell it out for those who think this way. You're absolutely right! There are pews full of them. There are entire congregations full to the hilt of hypocrites! And you wanna know something else? No one is surprised by this. Except perhaps those who aren't attending church. You see it's like this. If Christians were all so perfect, so holy, so above reproach, they wouldn't have needed a savior. Jesus would not have been necessary. In fact, God could probably have gone away on a vacation to outer Andromeda and come back and not even noticed a difference! I would like those who make this statement to find one institution of man's making (or woman's making for that matter) that doesn't have hypocrites in it. Name one. Just one. Any one. Yeah, that's what I thought. See there isn't any. There can't be. Because man, woman, humans are made imperfect. They aren't going to be holier than thou, because thou is just as unholy as the next guy. No one is holier than thou except Jesus. No one. The world is made up of hypocrites and sinners. Everyone alike. Some have their sins laid bare for everyone to see, some hide them and appear to be pure as the driven snow. But no one is perfect. Everyone needs saving. From themselves. Which is why many of us are in church to begin with. We recognize that we are not perfect. We recognize the need for saving. We really, really want to be better people. But despite all the greatest of intentions we do stupid things. We are mean and petty. We are inconsiderate. We are selfish. But we are almost always contrite afterwards. But we do these things anyway. And we come back each week to the one place where we can ask for love and forgiveness to go out and try again the next week. I saw a bumper sticker which says, "Christians aren't perfect, we're just forgiven." There's a certain smack of smugness in that that I don't really like, but it reminds me that each week when I come back to church with my head hung low to my chest in embarrassment and remorse, God has already forgiven me. Grace has allowed me to come into the presence of the Almighty and be made clean once more. So yes, young people, old people, non-church goers alike, we are a hypocritical, complaining, whiny bunch. Prone to sometimes judge quickly; we give the impression that we have the right to judge. No one of course, has that right, but we do it anyway. Is your workplace any different? Your school? Did you think that church was made up of someones other than those same people? We are the same people in your businesses, your schools, standing in line at the grocery store right along side of you. We get annoyed with people who are taking too long in line, people who cut in place in traffic, we even sometimes use bad language when we're mad about something. And yes, we get mad, and sarcastic, and grumpy. We are the same as you. Are you saying that because we're part of the church we cannot be human? I hope not. Our humanity is what we share in those pews. We are a community in Christ, a loving group nonetheless because how can we be anything other? When we have the best example of love before us; Jesus? Instead of complaining about our hypocritical ways, come and see us for the way we really are. We are the body of Christ on earth, trying to find our way to the heaven that awaits. And sometimes we're cranky that it's taken so long to get there, but the journey with the people of our congregation is a mostly loving one. Even with a few whiners in the back.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Opening and Closing Doors

In my faith life I have opened and closed many doors. Some with a slam, some with a small click of the latch. Some with someone's foot firmly placed on the threshold. Life is composed of such things I think, opening and closing doors, windows, opportunities, lifestyles, whatevers. Some of the passages I've gone through should have been left alone. Some of them have been wondrous and God sent. Of course, you may argue that ALL were God-sent which is your privilege, but since this is my stream of thought, I'm sticking to my analogy. In the life of St. Marks, we have turned through passages sometimes facing forward and sometimes facing back. Today, we made a decision as a congregation which feels like a "facing forward" moment. In the world of fiscal responsibility, this was a good decision and well-thought out and explained by our council. We are indeed blessed with a congregational council that is willing to explore possibilities and be our representatives in the "running of the church". It was a good decision. Another congregation, just down the road had to make a decision. I don't know yet, what their decision was. But it was a hard one to make. I was briefly part of that community of faith before coming down the pike a piece. They are in a difficult place. The door is still swinging on its hinges whether to go this way or that. A friend of mine recently was officially declared divorced. The door in this case was shut while her foot was still on the threshold. She is smart, beautiful, funny and warm. She will be moving away from this rudely slammed door with her dignity in tact and her family and friends standing next to her, holding her hand and cracking smart aleck jokes to get that laugh out of her. But for me, this was a difficult door to watch close. I knew her ex. Okay, not well, apparently. But I thought I did. And he doesn't seem to be the same person he was before. I'm confused by his actions. I'm really annoyed on her behalf. I think I want some kind of closure, some kind of answer as to what happened, even though it didn't even happen to me. All those opening, but mostly closings has left me feeling somewhat scared and alone. It has reminded me that life is changing and it doesn't matter whether you are looking for change or not, it's gonna happen! And then I remembered the sermon today. The thought that Jesus is with us. Really with us, in person through all those in the pews and beyond. God was not brought into the world once and that was it. God is in the world, with us, if we but look through the doorway and see the faces on the other side. If we look to the right and left and see the faces of family in faith, we are not alone in the changes, in the closings, in the whatevers. God is with us. And no matter what door we face, whether open or closed, whether gilded or plain pine, whether in the church or out, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. That was a promise made a long time ago. So I guess I'll keep opening and closing the doors as I go along. I just have to remember that someone is standing next to me as the next threshold comes into focus. And he's going through it with me whether I remember he's there or not.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

We're in This Together, right?

The flowers are blooming. The trees are festooned in their Easter finery. The grass is coming up, mostly green. Earth is renewing itself even as we wake each day. The Easter story reminds us that new life comes out of even the worst tragedies. And that the love of God for all of creation is affirmed. Yeah, yeah, "alls right with the world." But the world is not alright all the time, is it? Even Spring brings about hay fever or whatever other allergies happen to lurk with the new found airborne pollen. I wish I could remember all that great stuff about Easter all during the week. Sometimes I can't even make it through a Sunday! And those buttons and bracelets that proclaim, "What Would Jesus do?", well, they just aren't helpful to me. What Jesus would do and what I do are sometimes diametrically opposed! But the idea behind that saying is probably a good one. If we could remember that Jesus was about loving your neighbor, about listening to your fellow man (or woman), about being a servant instead of the one being served, that would be great, wouldn't it? When I leave church, I usually feel pretty good about the world in general and people in the world as well. But then someone cuts me off in traffic and my rosy glow dims somewhat. And I see someone yelling at someone else or doing something not thinking of their actions and I'm once again "of the world" and not just in it. I can't keep my head in the clouds all the time. So what can I do? Well, one thing I can do is this: I can pray more often. Hunh? Yep, I said pray. See that kneeling down and getting the posture right thing isn't the idea Jesus had in mind when teaching us about communication. I think we need to communicate better with God. And that means talking to the Almighty in the car, in the grocery store and even on the street. Before you put me away in a padded cell, though, hear me out. I'm not necessarily talking about well, talking out loud--although I guess if you felt called to do that...who am I to judge? I was thinking more along the lines of that silent commentary we have running through our minds at any time of the day. Wouldn't it be great if instead of thinking that so-and-so could use a new haircut, we would instead ask God to re-direct our thoughts to something more constructive instead of destructive? What if instead of saying to ourselves, "God, I am so useless" we thought, "God, use me as your instrument today." What if we would instead channel our thoughts to not necessarily What Would Jesus Do, but What Would Jesus Have me do? There's a world of difference with those last three words added. And it's worthy of consideration I think. What would Jesus have me do today? The next hour? The next day, week, month, year? So hooray for Spring, allergies and all. And Alleluia for Easter! And let's look for a new beginning this year. A new outlook. A new prayer life and direction. I'm all for it, how about you?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The End of Lent

I didn't do what I said I was going to do for Lent. I didn't really pay attention every day to the miraculous. I got sidetracked. The problem with the "looking for the amazing among the mundane" is that the mundane can be almost fascinating in its appearance. It can keep you from noticing those things like the fact that you can breathe and move and have our being. I kept being distracted. And then things happened to help me focus again. I'm writing about them not because I want your sympathy, although that would be nice, too. I'm writing about them because Lent is ending and it seems fitting to bring it up. About a month ago a woman died with whom I was friends. She wasn't my best friend. We frequently didn't talk for months. She was on my personal prayer list though. She had cancer in so many places I think in some ways I was afraid to be near her, as if I could catch it by contact. She was a gracious person. Even when it hurt to hug her, she embraced you warmly in greeting. Her eyes would light up when she saw someone she knew and she would become animated and joyful. Until that last week. Nothing could punch the wall then. It was too much pain, too much of a long struggle. Just too much. I kept in contact with her through some of her other friends. I listened to reports of her decline. I waited for the phone call to come and it came. She was well liked and respected. She was a "Godly" person and a good one as well--that doesn't always happen as we well know. And after her death, the daffodils came up in our yards. I had cut a bunch for her at this time last year and brought them around. When I saw those yellow nodding crowns I was frozen in the spot. How could she not be here for the daffodils, I thought? The season of Lent is ending for another year. Easter will be upon us next week. And she is not here for the joyful celebration of the resurrection. But then, she is, too. She's probably enjoying the biggest party in heaven as the world resounds with Alleluias. Because for her, the Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed. And she is there to see him this year. Can't think of anybody else who should be there more than her right now. So party on Elaine! The second thing which distracted me, was another death. This one was sad, but I wasn't as close to this other person as I was to the first. She was an okay person I guess. She was a teacher to both of my children in elementary school. But one of her most ardent supporters and care-givers is a friend of mine. She is generous to a fault. And so caring I look like Attila the Hun in comparison. She had given of her time, her love, her compassion, her warmth and wit so unselfishly to this person, that I was in awe. And when her friend died and left her, she was very empty. She still struggles with the emptiness of the situation. I'm not as good a friend as she, I know. But I tried to listen to her when I can. I try to encourage her when I can. Can you image how it was for Mary Magdalene to get to the tomb and find it empty? She was already feeling the emptiness. Her very good friend wasn't there to talk to anymore. He wasn't there to explain things or help to guide her or even to make light-hearted banter with her. My friend probably feel like Mary. And so I'd like to remind her that Easter comes to all of us, eventually. And that the emptiness and sorrow she feels today will probably grow less and less until the day when she is reunited with all the saints. Just a thought about Lent.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Where are you?

Recently, I experienced something that was bad. Very bad. The people around me who are faith filled people hugged me, reminded me of beloved scripture verses, listened. They handed me tissues, a shoulder to lean on and a pillow to punch. I felt loved and comforted by them and thanked God for leading them to me at just the right time. But when I was alone, I quickly reverted back to the frightened follower I always seem to be. By myself, I'm a coward. I find myself afraid of so many things and when I'm afraid I seem to worry more. Does everyone do that? I have read a few devotionals recently that reminded me that worrying never solved anything and it seems almost to be a slap in the face to the Lord. I don't think I can afford to diss the Almighty. So I'm trying to worry less. But fear makes me lonely too. The God of our ancestors seemed to real to them. So present. When bad things happen, I don't always feel the Spirit's presence. And I wonder is that because I'm looking too hard, expecting something tangible. Our faith family in the past must have been able to rely on something to help them feel God's presence. I've tried walking a labyrinth, lighting candles and meditating, tried to close the doors and seek the Lord in my solitude. And almost always, I still feel alone and worried. And that's when I remind myself: when things were really bad, my faith family was right there with me. And when things aren't really, really bad but just well, kind of not great, they are right there as well. The Spirit moves in them the same as it does in times of crisis. I found that reaching out with a simple request was just as effective as sobbing on someone's shoulder. I need to remember to stop trying to solve everything myself. And although that trite saying, "Let go and let God," still is sort of like fingernails on a chalkboard sometimes, it's also true sometimes as well. And so I will talk to my friends in faith and trust them to help me lift myself out of my funk. And they will help me to laugh and remind me that God is present at all times and in all ways. And I am not alone.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


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 a right way to either read it or understand it except that it gets read? What a concept! And what if, we made being a Christian such an attractive, warm, loving place, people just started showing up because it felt right that way?? What if? Let's try to be winsome, bonny, Christians. I would like a little more laughter, please and a little less scowling when the service doesn't look, sound or flow the same. A little more smiles, a little less frowns. A lotta more love. That's what the church needs. Wouldn't you agree?

Finding the time

The problem with things spiritual is this: they don't feel required. It doesn't feel like you have to take time out of your busy schedule to stop and pray or contemplate or commune with nature. No one, at least no one I'm acquainted with in my faith life, is threatening me with anything if I don't stop and pray, contemplate or commune. I can go days without realizing that I have not stopped to do these things. Lent is a season to make yourself stop. To become disciplined. To make time. My mother quoted me something she read during her devotions about coming to a speed bump and it made me realize that I do not have any speed bumps in place lately. I have repaved the roads and they are unimpeded until I feel like stopping. I'm not sure this is a good thing. In fact, I'm pretty sure it isn't a good thing. We need time to stop and reflect and yes, there's that word again, contemplate. Everyone needs to do this in one way or another. Even Jesus had to take some time out to talk to Dad once in a while. I'm going to try to build in some stopping places during Lent this year. Because I haven't done so yet, if you notice me zooming by, stick out your foot. I don't want to take a tumble, but perhaps I need to in order to remember who it is that gave me the energy to keep going. And keep me in your prayers, too. And watch out for stop signs and speed bumps.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Astonishing, Really

I was lamenting somewhere else about the fact that every day seems to be like every other day lately. There were a few who argued with me and tried to get me to admit that each day was a miracle. They are the people who invariably see a rainbow in every rainstorm and see the beauty in the seventh snow of the season. I am not one of them. I probably never will be. But it is true that there is something completely amazing about the fact that the sun does come up every day and the moon comes out every night. The fact that I can put one foot in front of the other as I walk from my bedroom to the kitchen and even walk about my workplace. I have these wonderful digital devices in my ears which enable me to hear things that I would not be able to hear otherwise. Some inventive person thought up the device and I own them! It's marvelous really.

When we stop being so surprised by the everyday? When did the fact that babies are born and flowers come up every spring and rain falls from the sky stop being amazing and start being mundane? I think it started when we were growing up and we could take things for granted, things like sunshine and puppies and new mechanical devices.

And so this Lent, I'm going to try being aware and awake. Seeing the new and the old as something worthy of notice. I hope you will join me in rediscovering the miraculous of the everyday.

The Boat Image

The daily devotion I received today talked about the image of the disciples in the boat with Jesus when the storm kicked up. Remember that? They woke him up to ask if he cared whether or not they drowned. There are so many pieces to this writing that I'm tempted to not tackle it at all. But something stuck out in my mind and so I'm writing about it.

A few (okay probably more than a few) years ago there was a movie about a great white shark terrorizing people in a small town. I remember seeing this movie in the theater with my future husband and my younger brother. There were lots of tense scenes with suspenseful music adding to the tension. But the scene which got my brother and many in the audience as well, was when the chief of police's son fell in the water and he had to get back on top of the overturned boat before the man eating monster got him. The kid in the water was so scared he pretty much stopped moving, which is what saved him from the shark, as the shark didn't really even see him. I recall my brother (and several others in the darkened theater) whispering, "get in the boat, get in the boat," with a sense of urgency until the crisis passed.

What does this have to do with the reading? Well, in many ways the crises that surrounds us: waves of guilt, temptations and pain leave us feeling bereft of any boat, any support, any help at all. We are at the mercy of the wind and waves and maybe even great white sharks of doubt and deception. We ask if anyone is there to help us. Anyone to assist or care for us. We feel very alone on the sea of life at times and would appreciate it if Jesus or at least the Holy Spirit would show up or at least act like they realize we're having trouble staying afloat. We need to get back in the boat with Jesus.

And that's what the problem is, you see. We are looking at these things from the wrong perspective. Jesus and especially the Holy Spirit are with us, in the boat, on the sea, riding the waves. Right next to us. Being aware of the next big swell, the next leviathan, the next rocky shoal. We need to stop looking for the lighthouse and look at the light. The hand right in front of us. Jesus never promised us that we would not have these times of trial. He did promise us that we would not be traveling alone. Because even the Paraclete would be there if we would only acknowledge it's existence.

So, I guess it's time to get back in the boat, the one with Jesus at the helm. The one where we trust him to navigate the daily trip, past the really scary parts, and remember he is there when get to shore.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Visual Barrage

So I was driving the same old boring route to the grocery store. Surrounded by tail lights and horns and barely missed bumpers. Something caught the corner of my eye, though. There! Off to the right! An enormous bird was flying away from the stream and stand of trees. It was a blue heron. It's "s" shaped neck tucked back, it's long legs streaming behind. It was beautiful and graceful. As I was savoring the moment of this flight brought to my eyes, I needed to come back to the traffic, lest I bump into someone who wouldn't appreciate my, well, appreciation of nature at that moment. The light turned red and I scanned the skies looking for the majestic outline, but instead I saw a huge jet making its approach to Philadelphia. It comes this way every day about the same time, so that in itself wasn't surprising. But the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made wonder of these two behemoths was stunning. I mean, I was uplifted for just a few moments. In awe of the bird taking flight and the mechanical bird crossing paths. And I was suddenly filled with gratefulness to have witnessed both things in almost the same breath. How awesome is our God and the world around us!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pay Attention!

The reading from Sunday in 1 Samuel is interesting. I'm not going to dissect the whole reading, especially, the interaction between whether Samuel should tell Eli what the LORD said verbatim (I'm much more meek than Samuel, I probably would have edited it somewhat, saying the LORD was not too happy about your sons--something soft-pedaled). But simply this line in verse 10: Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Now Samuel had been called twice before. Having no previous idea of visions, or prophetic voices or anything else remotely powerful, he went to Eli and asked what he wanted. Eli, getting--finally--the meaning of what was taking place, tells Samuel the next time he hears the voice to answer as he did. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that instead of Samuel you had heard your name. Three times, in the dead of night. And improbably, the Lord stood there (I just can't this image out of my mind, this amorphous, glowing being standing before Samuel). If you're a mom, you don't have to imagine that--I mean about the hearing your name in the night, not the glowing being-thing. It's probably happened a few times. But for the record, the voice was probably not your child's voice that Samuel was hearing. It was an insistent voice, this one that Samuel hears. I picture it being somewhat commanding, as Samuel believes it's his mentor Eli calling him. Commanding as in, "Come and follow." With authority as in, "come out of him". Not shy, as in "Lazarus, come out." It was a voice that one with hearing aids knows they would hear even if the batteries were two weeks old. Or better yet, if the things weren't even in the ears! A voice of one with authority calling your name.

I have longed for that voice. But I fear it as well. I do not want to be told to go to Zimbabwe (is that still a country?). I don't want to be told I need to go to Camden. I don't want to be asked to carry the load for those who cannot carry it themselves. I am most fearfully afraid. For if the voice calls me, I will be compelled with the same sense of purpose that was given me when I held my first born. This is a responsibility I cannot pretend I don't have. This is something I cannot ignore or give to someone else. So I think I will pretend that the voice is calling for someone else. Or I might think, it can't mean me, it must be the echo for someone else called, I just happened to be in area.

Have you heard the voice? The hymn we sang Sunday says, "Here I am Lord, is it I, Lord?" It makes me choke up every time, because I want to hear the voice, but I'm afraid that if I do, I'll be asked to do something I don't want to do. Not that I'm not equipped to do, as I don't believe God asks people to do things they cannot. But simply that I won't want to do it. But if asked, as Samuel was, will I reply that the servant is listening? Or will I say, sorry the batteries have gone dead and try back tomorrow? I don't know. Have you struggled with this? Have wondered if you have heard him calling in the night? I pray that you and I when we hear that voice, can reply, "your servant is listening."