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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Go Tell It...

On the way to the meeting tonight I put on the mix tape my daughter made me two years ago. She makes one for me every Christmas and honestly I don't always like her selections. Those Carribean beats and even some of the smarmy supposedly heart warming lyrics are just not my style. But she hit the nail on the head with one of the songs. It's a great rendition of Go Tell it On The Mountain that has a great beat to it. It rocks! But the thing I like best about it, besides the fact that I can sing along with it and no one can hear me, are the lyrics. The refrain says:

Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!

That's what we are called as Christians to do. Too many people haven't heard the good news. Or any good news, it seems lately. So it falls to us to tell people through our bible studies, our Sunday School classes, our talking with each other. The good news...the Gospel is ours to share. Not hoard it or keep it inside, but share...over the hills and everywhere! Jesus Christ is born and lives in us. Let's share this good news.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What's The Deal With The Colors?

This Sunday coming up is the first Sunday in Advent. This is the time in the church calendar where we get ready...what, you may ask are we getting ready for? Well, for Jesus, is the standard answer. But he was here already, I hear you say. Yes, I reply, but he promised to come back. Not only that, I like to add, but he comes every day. There is an anticipation for the next four weeks and it has nothing to do with the sales at Kohls or Boscovs. We are awaiting the arrival of Jesus.

The vestments and the special cloths on the altar and lecturn that change color with the seasons of the church year are blue now. I read up on the reason they are blue. It said blue stood for hope. And if ever we needed some hope in this world it's now. Hope for a better world for our children. Hope for peace. Hope for a future not crowded with fear and bigotry, but populated with caring and embracing of differences. We are hoping for Jesus to come into our midst, our lives, and our souls. That is what Advent is all about. I hope you will join us.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Kingly Way of Looking at Things

This Sunday is referred to as Christ The King Sunday. Taken at face value, most of us would say, yeah, I get that Jesus was a King of sorts. He is, after all, God's son, right? But I wonder if we really appreciate what Jesus was "in charge of" based on our interpretation of kings. He helped the poor. He eased the suffering of the sick and neglected. He poured out so much love on everyone, it's a wonder he didn't collapse. He wasn't a Roman emperor. Or even a revered scholar. He was a teacher to those who would listen. And a place of refuge to those who had no where else to go. And the most miraculous thing is, He still is. He is still that place of peace and refuge and solace, if you would seek him out. So let's look at the kind of King Jesus really is. Not the wealthy, power wielding figure we associate with the word. But the tower of strength built on the foundation of grace and love. 

Join us as we celebrate the ordination of Pastor Jay Berry this Sunday (and, we'll celebrate with us every Sunday for that matter)! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Listening For The Voice

The world is a noisy place, especially recently. As the holiday season draws near there are a lot of people clamoring for our attention. As the political season winds up (or down depending on your perspective), the noise level seems to rise. The recent events throughout the world seem to scream out of our television screens, forcing us to face realities we would perhaps rather not. A clanging wall of sound, bashing on our ears. It is tiring. It is disheartening. It makes me feel sad.

But the funny thing is this, you see, I wear hearing aids. So technically, I could cut off the sound at any time, by "unplugging" my ears. If I take those devices out of my ears the world is a much quieter place. But I don't do it. I mean until I go to bed at night. I leave them in all day. At times I'm sorry to have heard things. At times I'm so grateful for these, it's overwhelming.

The Lord has given us so much. And the love He has bestowed and entrusted us with is an important part of how we listen. Are you listening with your heart? Or just your mind? Are you remembering that God came down to us to prove how important we are to Him? As we approach Thanksgiving, and the blessed season of Advent after that, let us turn down the noise of cynicism, the yelling of judgment, the hard-heartedness we sometimes build around ourselves. Let us listen for the distant choir of angels, the blessed quiet of the Peace which passes all understanding. I keep my hearing aids in to listen to God's Word around me, won't you join me in listening in?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Looking for The Answers

We have an adult Sunday School class that I frequently mention in this post. It's an interesting mix of people who come in and out, share stories and never talk, crack jokes and hardly smile. We are all seeking different things when we meet in class. Some of us just want to continue the fellowship from the church service. Some of us want to see what other people think of the gospel reading for the week. I send out the reading as an email for the class to peruse before getting together on Sunday. Some of us, me included, are looking for answers. And I don't always find them. Answers I mean. I like delving into scripture and reading blogs and checking over commentaries to see what others have to say. I'm almost always surprised by some commentators, sometimes surprised by the little bits and pieces I find out about the life of Jesus and the people of his day. And usually I'm pretty excited about the observations made by the members of the class. I'd like to invite you to come and share your story, your self and your ideas with us on Sunday. Even if you haven't read the gospel lesson, join us as we look for answers, even if we never find them.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Saints Day

So tomorrow at church we will observe All Saints Day. It is a day to remember the saints who have marched on to the "heavenly places" specifically over the past year and generically over the course of our lives. It's meant to be a somber day, but not necessarily a depressing day. We look back at the last year and suddenly realize those faces that once we met week after week are no longer there. We glimpse a widow who last year was a wife/widower who last year was a husband. Time marches forward; we all know this. But I for one will find tomorrow a conflicting mish-mosh of emotions. We have elected a new pastor, surely a wonderful thing to rejoice and sing about. He seems to fit our congregational family in so many ways it's hard to believe it will be his first Sunday preaching as the officiant, officially here! But this Sunday one of my best friends will not be here, nor will he ever be again. His presence, his laughter, his hugs, his annoying way of arguing to make you see the "other side" of something that you were convinced HAD no other side--he's gone. And please, don't give me that "he's in a better place now" line. I have heard that for almost a year now. It doesn't make me miss him any less. It doesn't make me feel better, so can you not say it, please? The hollow place in my heart is beginning to mend, but it's not filled yet, its still bruised. And lighting a candle in his memory will be hard to do. My other friend, won't be there either. My Scripture Study partner, my "we can fix anything" guy. Although he was not as close to me as my other friend, there was still a place for him in our Adult class to argue, compare notes and marvel at the world the Lord has made. That candle will be hard too. As will the candle for my husband's two aunts and uncle and all those other people who have gone on and left me standing here with hot wax on my hands and tears in my eyes. It will be a hard time tomorrow folks. But we have a new Pastor who will lead us to the next tomorrows. And so it's not all bad. Nope, not all.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

We Have Plans

I like to plan things. Dinners, informal get togethers, even what I will say sometimes! The problem with plans is that they don't always follow the vision I have in my head. I'll plan my day based on what I think will happen and seventeen OTHER things happen and I never do that ONE thing. Plans can be comforting though, in a way. Having kind of a general plan, helping to shape your day or a task sometimes makes things go smoother. There is even a bible verse about planning! It comes from the book of Jeremiah (he was a prophet), chapter 29, verse 11. It says this: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

I bring all this planning stuff up because on Sunday we can take a step forward in our walk of faith. We will vote on a candidate for Pastor of St. Marks church. We have been planning and working towards this for some time. And now comes the time to decide. If you are a member of St. Marks, please join us on Sunday for one service at 9:30 as we listen for God's voice when we vote. And remember the words the prophet shared..."plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Join us as we share hope. In fact, PLAN on it!

Monday, October 12, 2015

What Exactly Was He Trying to Say?

I teach an Adult Sunday School class between the early and late services. I've been doing it for a looooong time now. Most of the time I like it. There are occasional Sundays where I've considered letting someone else do this for a while, but it's a great discipline for me and other people seem to like what I do.

For the past year or so, we've been studying the gospel lessons as they are given for the church year. The Revised Common Lectionary is a three-year cycle of readings used to varying degrees by the vast majority of mainline Protestant churches in Canada and the US. The readings are built around the seasons of the Church Year, which reflects the life of Christ. The gospel lesson for each Sunday provides a focus if you will for that particular day. I contact members of the class during the week via email (or snail mail if they don't have email) and let them know what the reading is and come up with some questions which relate to what the gospel says for that week coming up. Because I love to dig into what the reading COULD mean versus what it actually says, I've been enthusiastic about this particular style of class discussion.

And since I'm not teaching this week, I got to thinking about this:  what is Jesus is trying to say? We've been pondering that  ever since we started looking at the gospels. What is Jesus trying to get across to the disciples both then and now? Some people have claimed that  the teachings contained in the gospels are archaic and have no place in today's world. But I don't happen to subscribe to that theory. Some other people have said that everything written down in the Bible is fact, but if that is the case, when Jesus says he is vine, it means he's a plant. I don't think so either. Because the Bible seems to me to be something that is living and breathing, we have to give it some oxygen to get at what it says. We have to be able to read and discuss and debate and even disagree about what Jesus was talking and teaching about. There are nuances in these readings just as there are nuances in everyday conversation. Looking into the "way things were" at the time he walked the earth is helpful. Realizing that sometimes the person translating the text had a hidden agenda is also important to think about. Talking with others about what their interpretations of the reading is great for "opening your ears" to what the gospel is trying to get across.

In the final analysis, I think Jesus was trying to say one thing only. Love is the answer to every question. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. Love your enemies and love God. So I guess it really isn't necessary to have class after class on Sunday mornings. But I think it's worthwhile anyway. We hope you will join us some time!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Miracles in The Modern World...or not

We had a discussion in our Adult Sunday School class yesterday regarding miracles. The gospel lesson prompted the discussion as two miracles occur within the reading. The first was the feeding of the 5000 and the second was the walking on water. As a brief recap, the feeding of the multitudes (or the 5000, whichever you prefer) started with 5 loaves of bread and two fish. And the 5000 were only the menfolk. There were womenfolk and kids as well, so probably closer to 10,000. And everyone ate and was satisfied. Then later the disciples are rowing like mad against the rough seas and the wind, when Jesus appears to them on the water and tells them not to be afraid. So in the readings I did regarding these two events you can find both the encouragers for these events or the discouragers. The discouragers tell you that the feeding thing happened because everyone sat down and shared what they had of food with everyone else. So of course, no one went hungry because everyone shared. They will also tell you that in the Greek translation of the text the part of speech used for the word "on" could be translated as beside, rather than on. So Jesus could have been beside the water, on the beach when the disciples saw him, which I find hard to believe would have terrified them (as the text states they were), but what do I know. The encouragers would have you believe that Jesus caused bread and fish to exist out of thin air, providing enough sustenance for all in attendance. And the walking on water thing? Yeah, why not? He was God, ya know. The problem with these people are they sound really naive. I mean c'mon! Food out of air? Defying gravity or whatever makes you sink under the water?

I'd like to believe I'm a little in both camps. I never, in all my 60 years believed that Jesus did NOT walk on the water until I read that explanation about the Greek translation. But the sharing of the food, yeah, I heard that one and it made sense to me. I have a foot in both camps. Which is why it's called faith. I believe, but I'm rational. I don't need to see Jesus walking on the water, though, to know that if he wanted to, he could. Faith is what you make of it. It's following your heart into some pretty strange territory and saying, "yeah, but" when things seem to point to the irrational. And it doesn't mean you never question or doubt. Faith doesn't mean you don't look for rational explanations, it just means that if there doesn't appear to be one, well, that's kind of okay, too.

So look for miracles, I say. And if you don't see one right away, that's okay, sometimes it takes a little digging, or even opening your eyes or heart. And who's to say that miracles aren't happening every day all around you?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Little Me, A Little You

One of the things I noticed about our walk of faith, is this: you really can't do it alone. Okay, that sounds either stupid or pompous. Since I think I'm not either (well, most of the time, anyway), I shall attempt to explain.

The person you have grown up to be is an amalgam of all the life experiences you've had so far. Unless you were raised by wolves or lived in a cave in the vast wasteland of the Mongolian Steppes, you interacted with people all your life. They had an influence on you as well, your outlook on life, your perceptions, you prejudices and yes, your faith, are a melding of those things. So even if you don't go to church, or profess that you don't believe in God, your perception of God and the Trinity still influences how you see the world. I don't doubt people when they say they don't believe. But to say that, indicates that there is SOMETHING in which to not believe.

As a member of a community of faith, I do believe in God and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I came to this firm belief because of all the people and experiences in my life which seem to point, in no uncertain terms, that there is something beyond myself. Thank goodness! But the people of my faith community are walking the same path I am. Sometimes we stumble, or take a weird left turn, or end up in the Mongolian Steppes without knowing how we got there. But the God of all creation walks with us as well. We are never alone. And thank goodness for that as well.

Hopefully, we will soon be a larger community of faith as we look to do our journey a little differently. But the comforting thing is, we are not walking alone on this new path. Would you like to come and walk alongside us? We'd love you to join us! No matter where the journey goes.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

This is a Sunday of Importance

This Sunday is a congregational meeting for us. We are all getting together at one service and taking a step together...

I hope you will join us as we walk together this week. I would  hope you would join us every week, actually! But especially this week. Please take time to be there with us. AND pray for St. Mark's Lutheran Church, too.

Thanks and we'll be looking for you.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Church Jargon

A few people and I were talking the other day and I must have heard the phrase, "Lenten Journey" about a dozen times between them. I got thinking about how we throw some words around in the church, but we don't always explain them. Like "Lenten Journey." What exactly does that mean? Well, if you want to get all lofty and religious sounding, you could say that your whole life is a journey and Lent is a place along the way. But I'm not much on the "loftier" side of things, so I puzzled over what it might mean to us regular guys. Here's what I came up with:

During the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday (not counting the Sundays of course), most people reflect on their faith and how they practice it. For many, Lent becomes a time of turning around, changing some things--like a bad habit or an overindulgence, not because someone says you have to, but because for some reason this time gives you pause. The readings in the church are showing you a picture of Jesus and the things he stood for, the things he tried to show others. And we know where this time is leading in those stories. Holy Week is right around the corner and even though Easter is coming, we still have to get through Good Friday. It feels like there is a lot to think about going from that Wednesday to that future Sunday. And so people refer to the time in Lent as a journey. Getting from point A to point B. Preparing for the awful story of Good Friday and celebrating the exhubrance of Easter. And that's what I think it means to say "Lenten Journey". But I could be wrong. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ashes to Ashes

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. We, at St. Marks, have three opportunities to attend a service. And even though we don't have a new pastor yet, its important that you read that last sentence again...we have three services. Not because we're holier than thou or anyone else. It's because we know we need to have a service available to all of us, those who work, those who don't and every situation in between.

The origins of Ash Wednesday are probably around the 8th century. It was suggested that the pouring of ashes over the head was an appropriate way to begin the forty days of Lent. The ashes remind us that we are sorry for those things which take us from God and we hope to repent. Sackcloth and ashes (referred to in the Bible frequently) were the way to show people understood they had been wrong in something and they knew it; so to show of their turning around (which is what repentance is all about), they donned these outward signs to demonstrate the inward changing of their hearts. Ash Wednesday is not commanded in the Bible. But it is a very visible way for us to begin our introspection of our life and devotion to God during these next few weeks. We don't pour ashes over our heads, but we do mark the sign of the cross on our foreheads. Or you can opt out of that particular practice. Because really, its all about your repentance, not mine. My turning around, not yours. God's acceptance of all of us, not our universal acceptance of each other. Lent is a time of thinking about our relationship to God. It is not about comparing our piety to each other.

I hope you will join us in our walk this Lent. We have a light supper each Wednesday at 6:00 pm, followed by a service at 7:00 pm. Pastor George Dietrich will lead a discussion after the service on a book entitled, The Three Day Feast by Gail Ramshaw. We encourage you to join us as we turn around and face another year of Sharing Hope at St. Mark's.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Splash of Color

Life can just seem to go on sometimes, plodding and uneventful. Sometimes though, something will happen. Sometimes those things are joyful, exuberant events and sometimes they are just the opposite. The effects of these events is what makes life interesting, vibrant, something to greet each new day. The big events: a new house, a new job, sometimes even a new dress add a lift to your days. But sometimes that lift is caused by a person. We meet people all the time who come and go and stay and leave. I thought about the people that I know and began to assign colors to them, likening their personalities to a color. Why not? Beats chewing my nails!

Let me explain: some people you meet are like the color fluorescent green—all flash and dance. They can take over a room if you let them. And when they leave, the room is not quite as colorful, but after they've gone it can be more restful. Some people can be more like muted shades of natural things, like the beige of the sand, the pink in a sunset, the green of spring. These people are usually kind of quiet and yet, the color they bring to your world is necessary to the way you see things. They are part of the fabric of our “coming in and going out.” They are the base coat of our lives-- listening, painting alongside of you as you create your painting on the canvas of life.

And then there are people who are blend of the vibrant splash and the understated hue. If you find someone like this, you know you are blessed. If you are friends with someone like this-- your life is more colorful, rich, more—well—more something.

And so I come to my friend we pay to tribute today. This colorful friend was a mix of the splash of humor—that fluorescent green I talked about and the muted hues of understanding and compassion. And he has gone on ahead without me. He left me standing in the middle of the room without a paintbrush or even some paint. BUT—I can hear the color of his laughter and see the gold sparkle of his understanding. I can feel the warmth of his brown bear hugs, even though I will never physically feel them again. And oh, I really hate that. Because he brought so much color to me. So much love and joy and exuberance and even passion for our God and his life, that my paintbox is suddenly devoid of much. And I want it back. I want him back.

We get to go on. We add some more brown or green to our day. We splash a bit of cream into the fluorescent blue of the sky so it will seem not as bright. We hug. And hold hands. We pray and we slowly, slowly see the Master Painter has left us a canvas to keep on painting. To show others the colors that are in the world, even though our friend the giver of color, is not.

But I am so thankful for that colorful man. So very blessed to have had him as a friend and a painter along the way. Rest well, Carl and save a paintbrush for me.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The People of God

I just got  home from a committee meeting. As meetings go it wasn't the worst or even the best one. It sort of got stuff discussed if not things accomplished. It was a committee at church. There are people at these meetings that although they are part of the same church family, do not think alike. In fact, I would say at least half at one time or another don't think like the other half. But I'm pretty sure we come together for roughly the same general idea. We want the church to do the work of God on earth.

The title to this post may sound exclusionary, but it isn't. The people of God is everyone. No exceptions. Whether you believe in God, Buddha, a Higher Intelligence, a Cosmic Hiccup, or any other terminology. And even if you don't believe in God (or any of those other things), you are still a being of creation. You are here for a reason. At least I firmly believe that. And so, you don't have to be part of a committee, part of a discussion group or even a pew sitter to be a person of God. Maybe it's more like a person TO God. You mean something to someone. And the things you do every day matter to someone. To that Higher Being you either recognize or don't. You mean something.

I have another meeting tomorrow night and for several nights after that. At each one, I listen to others say what is on their minds. Sometimes our minds work in tandem, sometimes not. But it isn't for me to decide who God listens to. It also isn't for me to decide whether they are worth listening to. God gets to decide. I'm just the one taking notes. I wish you would join me, not necessarily in the committee meetings...those kinds of gatherings are not for everyone I know...but come out to St. Marks and listen to the people there, listen to the music, listen for God. He is listening to you. I'm sure of it. No matter who you are or what you have to say.

Would You Like to Build a...?

I looked at my postings recently and realized I hadn't posted anything about Christmas! How could that be? It's one of my favorite times of year for so many reasons! And then I thought of what Christmas was like for me this year. I don't want to complain, but it hasn't been the most stellar of holidays. First of all, I got sick. Not horrendously sick, but juuuuusssst sick enough to make me go to the doctor and get medicine. And then my husband got sick. And just when I was getting used to the idea that "oh, well, I'll get better again," my son got sick. And he's on the West Coast. And there wasn't anything I could do about it. He was sick enough to be in emergency room, but not sick enough that I had to fly out there...although I wanted to. Several times. A day.

We're all on the mend now. And the lights are still up, the candles still in the window and the Nativity scene still adorns the mantel. I lost the magic for a while there. The special feeling I get when I know that God came down for you and me. It was lost behind the closed doors of me, my stuff, my problems, my woes. I couldn't see beyond the doors. I didn't hear anything over the plugged up ears and coughing in the middle of the night. Yes, I was sick. And I was worried. And I'm not suggesting that I should have been superhuman and risen above all that. But I want to realize something as well.  The Lord is there for us behind the doors if we let him in. He may not wave a magic wand and take away all our sufferings on earth, but how much easier it was to bear when I finally went to him and ask for comfort. I slept easier, knowing that God was with me in my circumstances.

In the movie Frozen, which everybody and their brother has probably seen at least once, there is a song called, "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" The two princesses are separated by a locked door, but each wishes to be on the other side in company with each other. That's the way this Christmas felt to me. I was wishing to be in company with God on the other side. It wasn't until I realized I had the key all along and opened the door and asked him in, that I knew I wasn't alone. And neither are you.