Monday, February 29, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



Leap day...
A day that is unexpected, unplanned, usual.
Twenty-eight days most years.
Then, every fourth year, another day greets us at the end of February.
Twenty four hours..
Pure gift.
Interrupted...
Disrupted...
In the best sense of those words.

What will you do with this one precious day?
This gift received only every four years?

Will you enter into it as usual?
Or will you leap into it?

Will you have the same meals, same routines?
Or will you let your spirit leap in new ways?

Will you go about this as though the calendar could read February 28th or March 1?
Or maybe we can leap around, dance around, and sing aloud?

Maybe this leap day will interrupt us
Disrupt us..
in the best ways.

That might open us to the holy, sacred leaping in our midst even here and now.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lent prayerful and intentional



There is a disruption when life is interrupted.  We have carefully made plans...

Like posting to my blog everyday.
Like always being joyful this Lent.
I wanted to make it through Lent following my best laid plans...
Unlike those New Years Resolutions.

Then life interrupts.
Life disrupts.
Like takes an unplanned exit ramp.
What then??

What happens when my plans go sideways...
without even asking permission?
What happens when my to-do lists gets added to..
without even asking permission?
What happens when my neat, tidy expectations are suddenly askew,
again...without asking permission?

What then?
O God...

O right, Lent isn't about me.
Lent isn't some marathon I run totally reliant on the unholy Trinity of,
Me...Myself...and I

Lent is about God.
Relying on God.
Totally,
Fully,
Even when our plans are interrupted and disrupted...
Or especially when interrupted and disrupted.

Then, maybe I might find a new understand of Lent.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lent 10: prayerful and intentional



“Earth's crammed with heaven, 
And every common bush afire with God, 
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.” ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Can God really be found in my bowl of bran flakes?
Is God really woven into the words of that person who I always roll my eyes at?
Do I really need to take off my shoes as though every where I stand has an "X" that marks the sacred spot where God is?
Can I live with God here and now?

Those questions need more than simple responses, they can demand our
energy
thoughtfulness
prayerful-ness
pleadful-ness
playful-ness

Because at some point...after we let go of the illusion that we are fully in control and in charge.
After we let go of the need to understand everything.
After we let go of my way or the highway...
There is a stunned silence that can be filled best with our laughing.

Our outburst of joy.
Our cup-over-flowing
Side aching
Tear streaming down our cheek
Can't catch our breath
Joy.

That kind of joy found in the midst of here.
That kind of joy is what might just save and change our life.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Lent 9: prayerful and intentional


Here in this place new light is streaming,
now is the darkness vanished away;
see in this space our fears and our dreamings
brought here to you in the light of this day.
Gather us in, the lost and forsaken,
gather us in, the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken,
we shall arise at the sound of our name.~ Gather us in...Marty Haugen

Fears and dreamings come together
sometimes collide and crash together
sometimes culminate together
sometimes conspire together in the here and now.

What fears are flying around in your life here and now?
What dreams are dancing in your life here and now?
Which one talks the lead?

Author Elizabeth Gilbert says fear can be good.
Science tells us that fear activates the part of our brain where creativity also originates.
But too often we let fear right in the front seat AND pick the radio station.

Too often we let fear cloud the future, demanding that everything be perfectly sorted out before we dare to dive in.
Can the light of Christ's presence, which is with us and for us, shine on our fears?

Can we let our lost-ness or forsaken-ness or blindness and lameness all be drenched, soaked, saturated and doused with the here-ness of God?

That might be what saves our life each minute this glorious day God has made.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lent: prayerful and intentional



Ok.  Fine.  I get.  God is here.
Can we move on now?
Let's talk about what is new and next and more exciting.
Let's talk about what a celebrity did, a political candidate said, something else.

Talking about God is here, happening...come on, blog poster, think of another idea.
We crave the rush of the latest and greatest.
We splash in the shallow end, satisfied with tidbits and tweets.
We gorge on post after post.

But if we dive deeper into Here...into the messiness of it all.
That maybe I don't have my life as put together as neatly as I appear.
Maybe I don't prayer as much.
Maybe I get angry...frustrated...fearful...doubt-filled.

No...don't go there...just watch another cute cat video.
To dare to dive deeper into Here...right now it all of its beautiful, creative, chaotic, messiness...
Wait...
Is that God stirring and swirling and sloshing around still creating, still singing, still speaking?
Maybe, I can stay here for awhile.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lent 7: prayerful and intentional


Wait...wasn't this the post for yesterday?
Wait...this isn't some bad pun on the movie Groundhog's Day is it?

Because if God was then and there.
Because if God can be confined to the past, it means I can hold God at a distance,
Like a history book,
Like a quaint idea,
Like a something that happened

If God is here, God is happening!
God is not confined or defined, as some relic in a museum.
God is loose, like a elephant escaped from the zoo.
God is loose, free to start rumbling around...
Even rearranging all the furniture of my life...
And I don't want that chair to be put there.

If God is here, God is happening!
Not past tense, but present tense.
Present...
Here...
Happening around you and me.
Happening in you and me.
Happening here..for you and me, with you and me.

Can we let our lives get caught up in the present tense, happening God?
That might just be the most prayerful, playful question we can ask this Lent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lent 6: prayerful and intentional


Really, here, in this place?
Can this day really be saturated, soaked, drenched, doused in the holy?
Can God really we woven into this minute...
This breath...
This second.

When the toast is burnt and my head hurts.
When I am interrupted right as I was about to have my most brilliant thought ever.
When I have all these things to do on my to-do list.

Here?
Now?
Doesn't God show up on Sundays along with the pastor (on the only day s/he works)?
Doesn't God wait around all week for us to sing and pray?
Isn't God just itching to hear that prayer of confession?

Because if God here...
That makes me squirm, shift uncomfortably...

Well, because of God is here...
That could change everything.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lent 5: Intentional and Prayerful



Tuesdays are always tough for me...
The day is a prayer of confession just waiting to be written.
When the melody of the music and the meaningfulness of worship starts to fade slowly away.

Tuesdays are tough for me...
So much lingering that did not get done yesterday...
So many days until a day of rest...
So many lines still on the "To-do" list.

Until the wisdom of Martin Luther rings in my ear...
"I am so busy today...I MUST pray more."

Until the wisdom of Barbara Brown Taylor beckons me to another frame...
"Sabbath is permission to once a week be good for nothing."

Until the wisdom of faith reminds me...
"Salvation is not up to me...God's love is not earned...but simply is."

So meld me, mold me, fill me, and move through me to sense that this is the day You have made,
Even if it is a tough Tuesday.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lent 4: Intentional and Prayerful



Another week dawns around us from our Monday morning cup of coffee...
We scan our calendar along with the headlines...
We munch on manna in the form of Shredded Wheat or Corn Flakes...
Wondering what awaits us in the coming days as a hymn of yesterday's service still rumbles around our head causes us to hum along.

What awaits us in the unknowingness of this week?
What awaits us as we get dressed and set out?
What awaits us as we throw ourselves into our "To-do" lists?

We will see You, O God, at the grocery store,
Or only that annoying neighbor who wants to chat about the pizza in our cart.

We will see You, O God, as we volunteer,
Or only the blur of faces, names You know and call beloved.

We will see You, O God, in traffic,
Or only that person speeding past with the angry look and the less-than-Christian wave.

Another week dawns around us, O God,
And we long to sense, to be open, to be guided by a grace to see more than just a trace...
We long to see You.

Open our eyes, hearts, and this day to You.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lent 3: Intentional and Prayerful


Valentine's Day and Lent...what an odd combination.
The poets shout out, wax eloquent about love...
The Hallmark store and florists shout out, don't forget...
The sappy sentimentalists in us all is stirred, although some still frown to keep that feeling down.

Valentine's Day and Lent...what a strange concoction, yet strangely intertwined.
They both want our intention and attention.
They both ask for us to be thoughtful and caring.
They both invite us to be vulnerable.
They both are about love.

While the love of one is sugar or chocolate coated...Your love, O God, comes in other ways.
Lasting ways.
Ways not contained by foil containers or shaped as heart.

Yet, Your love is found in flesh...in breathe...in laughter and wisdom and grace extended to all in the form of One You called beloved, so that we might know we are beloved by You.

So enter into our lives this Valentine's Day with Your extravagant, expressive, elastic, ever-lasting love.
And let us rest in Your presence intentionally and prayerfully and with a smile that is more than a sugar-high.
But a hope for what is and what will be.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lent 2: Intentional and Prayerful



So here we sit, O God.
Waiting, wondering...
Where is our burning bush?
Where is our descending dove?
You've done it before.
But here we sit.

Here we sit as an ant cross on our hand,
Distracting us from our prayerful focus.
It's tiny feet tickling our flesh.
We are just about to flick that pesky insect away...
When wait...

What if, as we sit, this ant is
Our burning bush...
      Our descending dove....
             A trace of Your grace here and now.

What if, as we sit, this ant tickling our flesh is an invitation
To laugh
     To sense that You are all around
           To know that You are here.

So here we sit, O God.
With You
And an ant.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lent 1: Intentional and Prayerful



God is always exciting to set out on a journey...
The thrill of something new, different, to leave behind all our worries and troubles and dirty dishes in the sink.
We look to the excitement of the destination;
The exotic...
The new...
The place where no problems can find us.

But...there is always a but...
The plane is delayed...
The luggage is lost...
Those problems we thought we'd left at home suddenly show up and want to sit right next to us.

Help us as we embark on the season of Lent to view these forty days not as an escape from what is.
Help us be open to the truths we embody,
Those we like and want to share...
And those we prefer would stay quiet in the corner.

We are wonderfully, wholly, and holy made.
You are the ground and grace of our being.

In you we can be intentional, prayerful, and transformed with each step.

Take our hand, precious Lord...
Lend us on...help us stand today and for the forty days to come.

Amen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday


Today is the start of Lent, forty days (not including Sundays) that are set apart and seen as an intentional/prayerful/awaken to God time.  I crave Lent, which may sound like an odd statement.  Some view Lent as a microcosm of where religion veered off-course.  Lent is about sacrifice in a world that constantly preaches, "You deserve it YOUR way, right now."  Lent is about quiet in a world that rewards the loudest voices and most re-tweets.  Lent is about intentionality in a world that is prefers snap judgments and spontaneous decisions...after all why else put all that stuff near the cash register.  Lent is a slow, savory pace in a microwave world.  Lent is about as counter-cultural as it gets...because Lent is about Jesus.  

Jesus who preached loving enemies and peace.  Jesus who lived reaching out to people on the fringe rather than exploiting them.  Jesus who faced death on a cross not as something to be avoided but as a reality for walking on this earth.  Yet, in order to immerse ourselves in Lent, we need to be willing to take apart, explore, and expose some of the theology that usually is caught up in these season.  Lent is about calmly plotting the resurrection of life...not only Jesus' life...but all life and the world God so loves.  In order to frame that, the shadow of the cross might need to be re-imagined.  For me, the cross is not God sacrificing God's only son.  That has never made much sense to me.  How in the world could we "earn" God's love back by killing God's son?  How could Good Friday be considered a "win" on our part?  How limiting is it to think that the only rationale for Jesus' death on a cross is that it was the "only way" God could start loving us again?  I just shake my head.

Instead, for me, the cross shines a light on the myth of redemptive violence.  For me, the cross is God explicitly saying to us that God knows the suffering of this world intimately.  One of the most painful seasons is grief, death of someone we love.  God enters into that space, just as God was willing, through Moses, to enter into the suffering of the overworked, scarcity of God's people in Egypt.  God is always willing to be among the vulnerable, lost, lonely, left out, and pushed to the fringes.  

So, if what we are building toward is not about substitution atonement or even Jesus dying for my sins.  If what we are building toward is a proclamation of God's willingness to suffer and self-giving even in the face of death....that changes everything.  That makes Lent different...even as some of the practices might seem the same.

Lent calls me to shine a light on my suffering...trusting that truth that pain that is not processed is passed along.

Lent calls me to be vulnerable...prayerful...honest in my relationship with God.

Lent calls me to accept that grace and love are unconditional...even before Good Friday happened.

Yet...practices like fasting...giving up a favorite food...prayer every day...silence...lighting candles...spending time serving others...worship...communion...community...caring...working for justice...and on and on can still be meaningful especially if Lent is re-framed.  

I invite you this Lent to re-frame your faith.  To take out, touch up the painting of faith we have been handed adding your creative touches to the mystery of God's love...or pick out a new way to look at what it means to be in a life-giving, life-changing relationship with God.

I encourage you today to listen to where you sense God nudging you.  It might not be necessarily giving something up...maybe it is something joy-filled you've always wanted to try.  

In the end, Lent is a season of being intentional and prayerful.  At the cross roads of those two words, what is being awoken within you to connect with God in meaningful ways?  Go that way...and I believe there is more than a trace of God's grace to be found.

Blessings ~   

Friday, February 5, 2016

Bread



 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.  Mark 6:38-44

This Sunday our church will celebrate communion.  We enter into the mystery of communion once a month...usually on the first Sunday.  While Catholics and Episcopal's celebrate Eucharist every week, other Protestants like my beloved United Church of Christ celebrate less frequently.  On one level this is because when Protestants broke with the Catholic church there was an eschewing of many traditions and practices.  Some of this was swinging to the other extreme.  I have heard some Protestants say that they want to celebrate communion less frequently to keep it more "special".  But the most special people to me...I want to see as MUCH as I possibly can.  I know folks who refuse to use their good China only on "special" occasions, because they say everyday is special.

Jesus breaks bread for five thousand plus people.  It is a foreshadowing of the Last Supper.  It is an echo of God feeding the people in the wilderness with manna for forty years.  Bread is vital to life.  Bread is a reminder of life.  Bread is ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.  

My invitation this week is simple.

1.  Get out the good china.
2.  Get some good bread...bake it or buy it.
3.  Gather some friends...
4.  Let the traces of God's grace flow through and around you.

As I type this, I have a loaf of banana bread my daughter helped me make in the oven.  I love banana bread...so this evening we will know and taste the goodness of God's grace.  Or my other favorite bread recipe can be found at the Luther Seminary website...click here to see and make and bring me a piece!  

I pray no matter if the bread is Wonder or banana or some other special recipe, we will feast, taste and see that God is good.

Happy communion and blessings ~ 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Grief


17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.  Mark 6:17-29

This story speaks of political power moves and the people who are treated like pawns that get caught in the middle.  Herod is not exactly remembered as the best leader ever.  He did expand and improve the temple, but financed that capital campaign on the backs of the Hebrew people and their pocketbooks.  He was constantly afraid of someone taking his power that he actually had two of his own sons put to death.  John the baptizer challenged him and we know what happens when you try to speak truth to power?  Sometimes you find yourself in a cell staring out of iron bars. But Herod also knew he had to play his cards right.  John the baptizer was a popular prophet.  He had attracted many people out to the Jordan, the symbol of national pride and reminder of how their ancestors had passed through the Jordan into the Promised Land.  

Then in comes Herodias, his daughter, whose dancing sends these powerful men into a tizzy.  They are so enamored that they promise her whatever she wanted.  After asking her mom, they demand John's head.  Now Herod is in-between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand, John's death could cause the zealots of the day to rise up.  On the other, he promised in front of a lot of powerful people.  What to do?  What to do?  Herod rolls the dice and has John put to death.

It is a gruesome story that sounds more like something from one of the Godfather movies rather than the Bible.  Of course, this is a reminder that the myth of redemptive violence has always been part of the culture.  In many ways, Good Friday, is Jesus attempt to stare this myth of violence in the face and say, "No more".  No more do we need to stand for the one with the loudest voice controlling our lives.  No more do we need to believe in divisiveness.  No more do we need to let our young daughters buy into a photo-shopped understanding of beauty.  No more does manhood need to mean flexing your muscles.  And yet, even as we refuse to stand silent, we know that the realm of God is not fully established in our world.  

The next verse says that Jesus is deeply grieved.  I believe it.  John was his friend.  John was the one who cradled him in his arms that day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan.  According to Luke, John was Jesus cousin.  Their messages were similar.  Jesus' heart was heavy.  Grief is a reality in our world.  And the other reality is that we don't know how to grief.  We think that three days off for your parents' death...that is fine.  We think six months after everything should be back to "normal" or at least the one who is grieving should "put on a happy face".  A year later, we expect the whole grief moment to be a distant memory. 

But for those who dwell in the season of grief there is pain...often times confounded and complicated by the truth that very few want to dwell with them in that season of grief.  There is an attempt to reconstruct identity, which is tough work no matter what age we are.  There is an attempt to live with the unanswerable question, "Why".  There is so much that needs expression and it seems like only tears fall from the person's eyes.

I don't know if grief necessarily needs information, but it does help to have a community.  Jesus tries to go away to a deserted place with his friends.  His insides feel barren, so he goes to a place where there is barrenness.  We need space set apart and space together.  We need to cry and laugh and simply be.  We need a grace that can be found in countless different ways...but we also need to be intentionally spontaneous.  Intentionally spontaneous plots and plans but leaves room to pay attention to what is in front of you.  Grief is hard work.  

If you know someone who is grieving...chances are good you do...I encourage you to listen.  Listen, even if you are uncomfortable and don't have answers.  There is no solution...because grief is not a puzzle to be solved...it is part of the mystery of life.  I pray that if you are in the season of grief, you will sense more than a trace of God's love...and if you are in another season you will reach out and be a trace of God's love to someone who is struggling and living with loss/death/grief.

Blessings ~