Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter


One word dances off the tip of our tongues...
Alleluia!
One word fills the air and delights the heart...
Alleluia!
One word contains more in its eight letters than eight thousand sermons.
Alleluia!

We cannot confine our joy, hope, laughter...
If anyone were to walk past...they might think we are filled with new wine.
If anyone were to ask for reasons or rationale...we would grasp for words.
We cannot justify or codify or prove.
We can simply embrace and be embraced by a mystery that is found in one word.
Alleluia.

May the joy of this Easter fill your life with a peace that surpasses understanding.
May the promise of this Easter linger.
Let Easter be more than a day...let it be a verb that takes hold of your thoughts,
actions,
hopes,
dreams,
your whole being.
With a truth we know as,
Alleluia.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Silent Saturday

Silence is more like the language of God.

And the word became flesh...and through preachers we turn Christ back into words.

Be still and know that I am God.

In the frazzled, fast-pace, noise polluted world of words...
Facebook posts
CNN with five news crawls all vying for our attention
Texts
Tweets
Snap chat
Photos posted sent
We swim in a chaos of words.

But today we stop.
Breathe.
We wait as the women waited on the Sabbath centuries ago.
Words will not cooperate.
There is no speechifying that can justify death.
There is no pontificating that can explain the pain or hurt.
Sometimes we just need someone to cry with us...even for us.
To be.
To be.
Just be today.

Friday, March 25, 2016

God's Friday

Silence filled the air.
Except song of a dove over head.
A bird that had once descended at Jesus' baptism.
A bird that had brought the good news,
"This is my son, my beloved, listen to him."

He taught us.
He laughed with us.
He healed us.
He cared and loved us.
He ate with us.
He challenged us.
He changed our whole lives.
He saved us.
He was the echoed response to "Hosanna".

And then, people who were threatened by love, peace, joy, transformed lives, challenge and change
decided, Enough!
They did not understand his ministry.
They did not see God's love embodied in him.
They refused to notice and name the spirit stirring.
Instead, they hung him on a cross.
And at the foot of the cross a solider said...
perhaps sarcastically or faithfully or somewhere in the messy middle,
"Surely this was the Son of God."

Those same words spoken when Jesus was baptized.
That song of the dove knew that Good Friday,
God's Friday,
was not a period
or exclamation mark
or even a question mark...
but a comma...still more
still more,

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



Bread...
Ordinary and every day.
Sometimes used for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Sometimes dipped in steaming bowls of soup.
Sometimes stale and thrown out to the birds.

Wine...
Extraordinary and special.
Sometimes toasted at a party.
Sometimes shared with friends.
Sometimes overused to numb the pain.

Oil...
Drenching our forehead where forty days ago there was ash.
Dripping down our face like Your love.
Descending toward our heart to remind us where You reside.

Songs...
We can sing together.

Prayers...
We can open our lives.

Silence...
For You to get a word in edgewise.

At the table, Christ invited us to a new commandment (Maundy)
To love as we receive Your love.
Not because we receive Your love.
Not to earn Your love.
Not to prove Your love.
But to step into a flow of life that is true life.
That kind of commandment can transform us when mixed and mingled with...
Silence...
Prayers...
Songs...
Oil...
Wine...
Bread...

May it be so on this Maundy, holy Thursday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



From crowds chanting and cheering, "Hosanna"
To a table littered with crumbs of bread and drops of wine
To a cross we can hardly stand to look upon
To a still, small, even silent sigh on Saturday
To glad, glorious, gusto-filled shouts of "Alleluia"
What a week God.

Let the full meaning of Hosanna, 
which means save us
redeem us
restore us
wash over us this week.

Let the full meaning of Maundy
which means commandment
mandate
mandatory
love that is with us and for us
wash over us this week.

Let the full meaning of Atonement
which means at-one-meant
You with us always even in the valley of the shadow of death.
You for us even when we say boneheaded things and
Do the very thing we did NOT want to do.

Let the full meaning of the ancient wisdom,
"God's first language is silence"
wash over us this week.

We call this week, Holy...
Set apart.
Not compartmentalized as though this week does not have any truth to speak to us.
We know about betrayal in our lives...we went through middle school.
We know about desertion in our lives...when we felt down and out.
We know about denial in our lives...as we try to numb the pain with our addictions of choice.
Help us this week know that You are Holy even in our sometimes messy lives.
Help us this week experience Your grace.

Because if it is true here and now, this week.
It can be true then and there, every week.
So that every week can be Holy.

Amen.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Lent: Intentional and Prayerful



Tables turned over
Crashing
Clanging
Chaos swirling as surprised screams and gasps filled the air.
Why so angry?
Why so un-Jesus like?
When our passion for equality and justice awaken within us, there are some tables that need to be over turned.

Some tables like inequity in pay between women and men.
Some tables like racism.
Some tables like homophobia.
Tables that still have too many people willing to pontificate the false pretenses of misunderstanding.

Turn the tables, O God, in my life.
Where I am so certain.
Turn the tables, O God, in my life 
Where I fail to speak the truth in love...feel sidelined by fear.
Turn the tables, O God, in my life
Where I need to be interrupted and disrupted by a grace I can neither control nor fully comprehend...

Yet that grace clings to me...
changes me...
challenges me...
confounds me...
Turns the tables from what is to what can be.

Turn the tables, O God, this day and this week readying my heart for the promise of resurrection life and light.

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional


Jesus rode into Jerusalem
Crowds shout, "Hosanna"
A prayer that is both praise and petition...
Both celebration of Christ and concern that God will save us.
Save us from aimlessness and wandering.
Save us from despair, desertion, and denial.
Save us from death and violence.
Save us from silence of Saturdays when we don't know if Easter Sunday will ever come.

Hosanna is more than a cheer.
Hosanna is more than a frenzied crowd.
Hosanna is at the heart of faith.
Hosanna recognizes that there is joy here and now...even in times of difficulty.
Hosanna recognizes that there is pain here and now...that we need more than our good intentions.
Hosanna recognizes that at times we plead and pray and be opened to God who loves a good parade.

Let our loud Hosannas today help us usher into our holiest week.
Let our loud Hosannas today disrupt and interrupt asking:
What is all the noise about?
What is all the good news we need to proclaim?
What is saving your life right now?

Maybe a music
Or a meal with friends
Or a quiet walk
Or a good book
Or a friend
Or alone time
Or
Or
Or

For where we find that place that is God's grace made real and tangible
There we will find Jesus still riding a donkey today.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



Peace with uncertainty and continued brokenness.
Strength to take the next right step toward what God is up to.
Insight, new ideas, a nudge that is needed right now.
That is our daily prayer.

In many ways we are praying for God to infuse our minds, hearts, and souls with the holy.
A holy other.
A wholly different other.
A mystery.
Where we see in a mirror dimly...which means we neither fully know but we know some.
We can never be fully confident even as we cautiously step.
This is the messy middle.
This is the place where grace moves us faithfully forward.
Never fully knowing...but always fully known.
Never fully perfect...but imperfectly beautiful.
Never fully complete...but a circle that embraces and engages and involves our whole lives.

That kind of prayer is more than a words...
It is what our faith longs for expression and where God can leave an impression.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



Friday...
After a week when we perhaps did not always have peace.
After a week when perhaps we stood on the sidelines, hands in our pockets rather than act.
After a week when perhaps we eschewed God's wisdom for a new pair of shoes.

But then again...Friday
After a week when we had traces of grace.
After a week when we said what was in our hearts.
After a week when we spoke the truth in love.

Friday...
Messy and beautiful and amazing Friday.

Look back and look around.
Look out and look in.
Look with your own eyes and imagination of how God sees.

It is both/and moments of peace and when it feels as far away as Pluto.
It is both/and moments of speaking and keeping silence.
It is both/and moments of truth and saying boneheaded things.

And the messy and beautiful and amazing week...
We find God.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



For there to be acceptance and change;
There must be peace and courage.
For there to be acceptance and change;
There must be patience and hope.
For there to be acceptance and change;
There must be a promise that today need not be like yesterday
AND
Perhaps we don't know everything we need to, ought to, could know.

Wisdom is an edge of a cliff.
The moment you teeter there wondering if you should step out.
Other voices say, "Just turn back to what was...keep going back to the past.  Keep trying to live in the place were you can reasonably predict and think you've got it all figured out."
Wisdom is the edge of what might be new, different, unexpected and even unintended.

That is exciting.
And scary.
And hopeful that God is not finished with us yet.
And fearful that maybe we don't have everything all perfectly aligned.
And so much more.

Stepping to the end of a cliff, the edge of a diving board or steep hill.
We catch our breath determined to take the next right step.
And suddenly we plunge...
And suddenly we sense a sensation that is more about the flow of life...less about us.
A sensation we know as grace. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lent Prayerful and Intentional



Out of peace slowly start to accept what is, what can be, and what might be,
I find my voice.
The ancient word voice has the same roots as vocation.
My profession and job
What I do...but more importantly what I feel like I was made to do.
Not only the stuff people are willing to pay me for...
But the important stuff that makes getting out of bed in the morning more than tolerable...
Actually exciting!

The courage to change the things I can.
To find that crossroads where my gifts
And the needs of the word.
Intersect...even diverge from the beaten, normal, natural path.
The place where I can be fully me...without changing what it means for you to be fully you.

That is a holy space.
That is holy ground.
Like Moses standing before the burning bush.
Like Ruth declaring on the road to Naomi, "Your people will be my people"
No more division between us and them.
No more division between heaven and earth.
The heavens are torn open...God's presence swirls like a wild colt on the run.

When we find our voice.
When our passion connects with the compassion needed in the world God so loves.
When we get caught up in something bigger than ourselves, 
What God is up to in this world.
It is there that we find a new sense of the word, "Change"...
A new life.
A resurrection.
A promise that today need not be like yesterday.
Change...not controlled or calculated but caught up in a mystery that is more than us.
That kind of change isn't about laws
Or voting
Or documents.
It is about life...true life...the flow of God's life moving around us and within us.
The kind of life worth changing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intention



Grant me serenity.
We are asking for a peace that surpasses understanding.
We ask asking for a sense of shalom, wholeness, even when we feel incomplete and unfinished.
We are asking for a sense of wellness even in the midst of brokenness.
When the light falls into a dark room,
The two co-exist together, mingle and mix, especially around the edges.

So go to the edges of your life this day.
What is jagged there?
What pricks or pinches or pushes all your buttons?
What is there that longs to be drenched with God's peace...
A peace that is not some easy, magic button...
But a peace that declares...
All will be well.

Where do we long for peace,
especially in those things I cannot change.
Church meetings;
Politics;
Other people...despite my best efforts;
And even myself.

When it is from the lens of peace that I view 
my life
my family
my community
our world.
Suddenly I start to see that there are some small step, some small changes I can make.
Not to change everything completely.
But to change how I see
How I speak
How I live and move and have my being.
And in that moment, the prayer is right on...
There is peace.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



It occurs in the grocery aisle where I stand too long looking at the labels and prices of different brands of bran flakes.  
It occurs as I stand in my front lawn surveying the weeds that I seem particularly good at growing instead of grass.  
It occurs in social setting scanning the others to see if my clothes, car, and phone measure up.  
It even occurs at church committee tables where we find ourselves talking about that other church where people are flocking and we want to know, what is the secret?  

We swim in a cultural sea where comparing has become our national past time.  
Maybe it is just me, but I go throughout the day creating these mental charts.  
Did people laugh more at this week’s sermon or last week’s?  
Was I too grumpy, happy, sleepy at that meeting and am I really comparing myself to the seven dwarfs?  
I even do this with morning prayer, was my time with God better or worse than yesterday?  
It can feel like I am at the eye doctor being constantly asked which is better, "Lens one or two?" 
And I really can’t tell the difference.  

We pray this week for God to clear away the clutter that can cloud our vision.
We pray this week for grace and wisdom to know the difference between God's will, my will, cultural will...not that there is always one right answer...but prayer listens for God as we honestly wade through life.
We pray this week for God to continue to enter in and be in our midst as Lent begins to move toward Holy Week.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



From the rising of the sun...to the going down of the same,
Let this be the day we immerse ourselves in the fullness of God's presence.

God's presence stirring around us.
God's presence swirling within us.
God's presence beyond us, beckoning us.
God's presence beside us, encouraging and even cajoling. 
God's presence behind, nudging and supporting.
God's presence never fully known, but still reminding us that we are known.

Known to the smallest cell in our body.
The deep in us calls to the deep within God.

Let each moment this day be saturated and sacred in the sacred.
Let that be our prayer and our experience.

Amen

Friday, March 11, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



This amazing day...with leaping lizards.
This amazing day...with our one precious wild life.
This amazing day...with celebrating laughter and joy.
This amazing day...with mending some brokenness.
This amazing day...with its ordinariness.
This amazing day...with its extra-ordinariness.
This amazing day...for this breath.

For this tree waving its branches.
For this bowl of bran flakes, for this peanut butter sandwich, for this bowl of soup.
For this sky above, earth below and me in-between.
The vastness and particular moment.

For this day...to love and be loved.
To risk and fail.
To step out and succeed.
To stay put and be content.
For all that is in this one amazing moment.

As Martin Luther said, "If we could understand but one grain of wheat, we would die of wonder."
For the unknowing and known
For the mystery and certainty.
For the mess...for this amazing day.

Amen

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



The words of the hymns wash over me:
I've got peace like a river...
It is well with my soul...
Precious Lord take my hand...
This little light of mine...
Blessed be the tie that binds us to each other.

The words of the hymns stir within me:
Amazing grace is the sweetest sound,
there is a sweet sweet spirit in this place, (even with its imperfections),
in this very room there is quite enough love, peace, and power,

Take my life and let it be,
Take this moment and this day,
To be grounded in praise and the very promise of God.
To be lost in wonder and love.

For this day and for this chance to let my soul sing with all that is,
Let that prayer not sit within me, but find expression in my words, actions, and interactions.

Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Lent: Intentional and Prayerful



Intentional ~ thoughtful, purposeful.
Prayerful ~ awake to God here in this space.
Taken together, two parts of the same coin.

To be prayerful means that we need to move in meaningful ways.
To move in meaningful ways might find its fullest expression through prayer.
To be open here,
to trust that tomorrow is in God's hands.
To be open to here,
to trust we don't need to recreate yesterday...no matter how beautiful, amazing it was.
Today,
This moment.
This breath,
This beat of your heart.
This amazing, full of wonder moment.

Open to all it is...and is not.
Open to seeing its beauty...and its brokenness.
Open to the mystery...and the knowing.

What is around you?
What is missing?
What do you know?
What don't you know?
How might God be moving in that?

This might open us in prayerful and intentional and AMAZING ways.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



Here might be one way to be prayerful and intentional today.
Here might be a way to wake up to the Living, Breathing, Still Creating God.
Here not with formulas or words.
Here not with practices or patterns.
But here...right where you are in this very moment.

Reading this on an elevator,
Or easy chair,
Or coffee shop,
Or wherever you are.

Look up.
Look away from the screen.
Look around.
Look away from the glow; to see the glow of the world.
The glow of the faces passing by...
The flow of the world alive with God's presence.
The blow of a breeze.

Look up.
For the center of God is everyone, and the end of God no where.
For the embrace of God is huge and felt in the smallest ways.
For the vast universe is alive with God even in our ant-like place where we are.

Look up,
Look around,
Open.
Maybe that is the first movement of prayer.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



Everyone knows...
Fold hands, bow heads.
Everyone knows...
Praise, petition, plea, 
Concerns, celebrations,
As though we were cajoling God...
And perhaps we whisper our prayers because Anne Dillard was right that worry we might wake the slumbering God.

Everyone knows the formula.
As though prayer was caught, rather than taught.
As though prayer was absorbed by osmosis.
So, why did Jesus' closest friends ask about prayer?
Surely, they had heard prayers spoken by rabbis, religious leaders.
Surely, they had heard their own parents pray prayers every Sabbath.

If everyone knows the formula,
what was it about Jesus' prayers that awoke a new kind of curiosity, longing, like the deer longing for water that the psalmist sings about?

Maybe no one knows the formula.
Maybe we all stumble and stammer.
Maybe we all strain and grasp for words.
Maybe prayer is less about eloquence.
More about experiencing the holy that is.
Less about knowing,
More about being known!
May it be so for each of us each day this week.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



Intentionally, thoughtfully, prayerfully.
All sound so good,
But how?
How when there are clothes to be ironed, dinners to be cooked, and sermons to be written?
How when the world keeps saying, "What did you do today?"
How when the values seem to suggest the only proper response to, "How are you."
Is a hurriedly spoken, "Busy."

Intentionally, thoughtfully, prayerfully.
How to break into a new rhythm, a new groove, a new way?
How to move about this world without concern for the items crossed off my list,
Instead with attention to the people who cross my path.

Intentionally, thoughtfully, prayerfully.
Maybe not all at once.
Maybe slowly.
Maybe practicing day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

This might be the day rather than a rat race,
I decide to move at a sloth's pace.
And discover I can sense and experience and feel
Traces of God's grace, rather than a sacred blur.

Amen. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



A sloth moves slowly on a branch,
I want mesmerized.
At first I wonder 
How can this creature stand it.
A snail could come whizzing past,
And the sloth would say, "Slow down."

In a world where life is supposed to move 
At a frenzied pace,
Fast pace,
Wake up, feet hit the ground, already behind pace.
At a blur pace.
How can this part of God's good creation proceed at that pace?
I would crawl out of my skin.

Slowly, as a I watch, I start to wonder if I am the one who is mistaken.
A sloth is not a creature to be pitied, but praised.
Not a creature to be associated with a sin,
But one who might show us another way to life.

A sloth moves intentionally...
Aware, awake to what is around.
A sloth moves intentionally...
What is the next right move.
Not five moves down the road.
But trusting that to move there is what is right.
Once there, we might know what the next right move is after that.
But only...only once we have arrived.

A sloth knows how to be here...rather than there.
A sloth knows how to be intentional.
I pray this Lent, I might learn from that wisdom.

Amen.   

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



Today is my birthday..
When I was a kid that meant cupcakes for my class...
When I was a teenager it meant hanging out with friends...
When I was in college it was a good "reason" to take a break from class.
Now, birthdays mean a little cake, a few presents, and mostly a chance to reflect.

Look back at the forty-one years, a span on earth.
Short by many comparisons.
Long when compared to those even a few centuries ago.

Forty-one years, many spent in Iowa.
Then, one birthday over dinner with friends I met my wife...
Best gift ever!
Then, one birthday we prepared for our first child...
Then, another birthday we prepared for our second...
Then, another...another...another.

They pile up faster than we wish or want.
We celebrate nevertheless...perhaps with a small cupcake, few friends, and a short break.
Might be the best way to celebrate today.
The small, sacred ways God is moving.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Lent: Prayerful and Intentional



March...
A month
A motion
A notion that we are moving forward.

In high school march meant lines and formations in the band.
In college March meant madness of basketball games.
Now March means the beginning of a third month of the new year.
Easter approaching...
Calm plotting resurrection and new life.
March means the first, few, faint signs of life.
Fragile.
Cold still lingering.
And then...
Warmth,...sunlight...spring springing forth slowly wrapping around us.

What is marching around your life right now?
where are you now?
where would you like to go?
is this the time to march forth?

Or to let the presence of God march forth in your life?

May the grace of God guide you this day...and throughout these marching days.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Lent Prayerful and Intentional



Maybe when life is interrupted and disrupted there can be a new creation.
A new idea that springs forth like a spout poking its fragile stalk out of the wet soil.

Maybe the new creation is found in the chaos.
Chaos was how God began to craft and create all that is.
Chaos is still where creativity takes shape.

A stroke of paint that was misplaced on the canvas...
Suddenly takes the art in a new direction.

A piece of clay that was meant to be a bird...
Suddenly becomes a different shape that is even more beautiful.

An idea...prayer practice...hymn...poem...class...sermon...service...relationship...day
You get it.

Just because there is an interruption and disruption,
doesn't mean it is a cause to dismay and just head for the freezer to take care of our disappointment with spoonfuls of ice cream.

Sometimes the beauty...the holiness is in the chaos.
That wisdom was woven into our lives from the beginning.

Still is true for us today...
Especially today when things don't go according to plan.