Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Voices

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  Isaiah 40

The other evening I was listening to an author talk about her recent book and she said one of the first tasks of writing a book is to find and listen carefully to the character's voice.  I was struck that such a task is not only for writers, but for all of us in life.  We need to find our voice; our authentic, unique, wonderful voice.  And once you find that voice, you begin to explore your range, just as a singer knows his/her range.  And once you find your range, you try to sing and share your voice with others in the best ways you can each day.

Yet, I also wonder how many people feel like they have to switch voices throughout the day?  Do you feel like you have one voice at work and another at home and still another at church?  Such switching can leave us feeling at once hoarse and confused, especially if one of the voices you are called on to sing is outside your range/comfort.

I know as pastors, we need to find our voice.  Often our first few sermons are part seminary paper, part biblical treatise, and part imitation of some preacher we read/really liked in seminary.  But over time, you cannot preach/sing/speak in a voice that is not yours.  More importantly, finding a voice is a process not only for preachers but for all people inside the church.  Often people come into church after a week of using a voice that did not feel very authentic or true; the stress and strain wearing on them, and do we on Sunday offer a chance for every person to remember/reclaim/rehearse his/her authentic voice God gave each of us?

If the greatest joy of God is a human/creation fully alive, then part of being alive is singing/speaking with gusto to the One whose very breath is what supports our voice in the first place.  And while it is great to think about our own voice, we also have to be careful and honest about which voices we are listening to.  Isaiah says 'A voice cries out in the wilderness.'  That voice brings promise and words of hope and that the future pathway of life will be a blessing.  Yet, very few voices I hear today offer such hope to us.  Most tell us that if we vote for the other party, the pathway will be rocky.  Most commercials tell us if we buy the other car we will be stranded on the side of the road.  Most of our colleagues, stressed by life, tell us we are foolish to think/trust/believe that there is any hope.

What voices are you listening to?  How is what you hear impacting what you say?  I invite you to sit with me alongside those questions this week to see what trace of God's grace might stir.

Blessings ~

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Relationship and rules part 2



If the Ten Commandments are really about relationships rather than rules; if the Ten Commandments are actually an invitation to dialogue and discussion; if the Ten Commandments are about how we can connect with God, ourselves and others in concrete ways...well that WE have some work to do.  We have some work to do as we sort out how we can authentically live these ten ways to life.

Last post I laid out the following understanding of the Ten Commandments:

1.  Put God at the center
2.  Don't try to confine God to the palm of your hand
3.  Don't use God for your own agenda...one that lots of us struggle with today.
4.  Keep the Sabbath...or as Barbara Brown Taylor says, "One day, you need to be good for nothing."  Just be, rest in God and not in your accomplishments.
5.  Honor parents...or better yet, honor all elders and those who have wisdom to offer.
6.  Be careful with weapons and words, both can be used for violence that kills
7.  Honor relationships, intimate and others too.
8.  Honor other's possessions...we all learned that in kindergarten
9.  Honor your own words...let them be authentic
10.  Let your deepest desire be God, or put God at the center, so we come full circle.

Then, I asked you to come up with concrete ways; actually examples, and I would do the same.  So, here are some thoughts:
1.  Put God at the center ~  I try to start every day with prayer.  I read a devotional, sit in silence, try to take deep, deep breathes, relax my shoulders, imagine handing my stress over to God, resist trying to take it right back from God.  Yet, just a few minutes in the morning, rarely feels like enough.  I have been trying this week to also spend time in the car in silence listening for God.  I think as a church at meetings we need to stop filling the agenda with our voices and let God get a word in edgewise.  Will some church members think this is a waste of time?  Sure!  But these are often the people who need to be still and listen.

4.  Being good for nothing is the hardest for me.  I have been working since I was 14 years old, before that I was responsible for making dinner and ironing!  Working becomes part of your DNA, the way you understand yourself.  However, when you live in Florida in the winter you have NO excuse not to get out and sit on the beach...and simply be.  Be in God's presence knowing that you are enough, without needing to produce a single thing!

5.  I have been thinking about who the elders or wisdom speakers in our world today?  Which voices give me new insights, and which voices challenge me in good ways?  I am still trying to comprise my list and will offer it in a future post.

10.  Let your deep desire be God...we know that all religion rests in the heart and we cannot see/know what is in another person's heart.  We know plenty of people who put on a facade and try to play the religious role.  Other people eschew the church, but are incredibly faithful.  So, actions and words are not some formula that we can determine what is going on inside someone.  You have to get to know them.  Many ways, I think we also need to get to know ourselves.  What do you believe?  And do your actions and words really match those convictions?  That is the challenge.  If the God of love is my deepest desire than love should be felt in my actions and words.  Not all the time, of course.  I am human, I get angry and tired and frustrated and say things I instantly want to rewind time to take back.  But when I do the very things I don't want to do, I can spend time asking, "Why?"  Why did I say that or do that, what is really at the heart of that action.  The more I can probe to the deeper part, and not just blame others, I can get closer to living out the image of God invites each of us to embody completely.

I know I did not comment on all Ten...but this is a glance at what is going on in my mind and heart.  How about yours?

Blessings ~ 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Relationships and rules



Often when we read the 10 Commandments, we conflate this top ten list with rules we need to unquestionably obey.  Etched in our mind is Charlton Heston coming down with his hair flowing... his beard flowing...his robe and words flowing saying, "I thus giveth thee tenth Commandmenths".  But when you read Exodus 20, God speaks.  God does not have Moses play secretary, God simply speaks and a relationship with God's people is formed and fashioned.  

That is pretty much how every relationship is formed.  You talk...and talk...negotiate and re-negotiate.  The rules around relationships are bendy and flexible.  Which is a pretty good description of God's relationship with us, it is flexible.  I know this is not the normal interpretation of the Ten Commandments.  But throughout Scripture these ten guidelines for life that is true life, keep getting discussed...sometimes debated with others.  Rabbis and teachers would keep entering into dialogue with people as they tried to put God first, even as other voices (like say, Caesar) clamored for that spot.  They wrestled with what was an idol and whether art pointed to (rather than tried to contain) our relationship with God.  They wanted their words to be honest and authentic.  They wanted to honor other relationships too, whether intimate or other human connections.  All of this was up for discussion.

Somewhere we stopped participating in the dialogue.  Somewhere we lost our history and our nerve of talking about how we form a meaningful relationship with God, with ourselves, and with others.  Yet, we can rekindle this love affair.  The first three commandments deal with our relationship with God:
1.  Put God at the center
2.  Don't try to confine God to the palm of your hand
3.  Don't use God for your own agenda...one that lots of us struggle with today.

The fourth is about our relationship with ourselves
4.  Keep the Sabbath...or as Barbara Brown Taylor says, "One day, be good for nothing."  Just be, rest in God and not in your accomplishments.

The last six have to do with our relationship with others:
5.  Honor parents...or better yet, honor all elders and those who have wisdom to offer.
6.  Be careful with weapons and words, both can be used for violence that kills
7.  Honor relationships, intimate and others too.
8.  Honor other's possessions...we all learned that in kindergarten
9.  Honor your own words...let them be authentic
10.  Let your deepest desire be God, or put God at the center, so we come full circle.

I invited the church today to not just read these, but to actually come up with concrete ways to live these Ten Commandments.  I encourage you to do the same.  In the next post, I will offer some of the ways I have come up with for my own life.

Until then...happy pondering!

Blessings ~