Monday, March 27, 2017

Serenity Prayer Part Three



I thought I had wisdom when I turned 16 and was given the right to drive a car.
I thought I had wisdom when I was accepted to college, ready to conquer the world.
I thought I had wisdom when the seminary handed me a piece of paper with my name written in bold fancy letters.
I thought I had wisdom when I stood up to preach for the first time.

My knees knocking;
My stomach swirling;
My mind whirling;
My heart pounding;
I was a mess.

The wisdom was not in the words I said;
Or the paper it was written on;
Or the ideas I sought to share;
Or from a committee who said it was okay to call me, "Reverend."

No the wisdom came from the weakness; vulnerability; and my inabilities.
The wisdom was in the uncertainty that hung around ever word that still falls from my lips every Sunday.
The wisdom was in the mystery when my voice cracks like a 16 year old.
The wisdom is in the "maybe" and "possibly" and "do ya think"...
For in those words, I give You space, O God, to move and dance with delight.
I give you, the one reading this blog, the space to respond.
I give me the permission that I don't have to be Super Spiritual Answer Man,
I can be me with all my beautiful insecurities.

So that wisdom is not what I know, but a willingness to say, "Let's go explore together."
May that desire guide me all the days as I draw near to Easter this year.

Amen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Serenity Prayer Part Two



Like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, I need more than quart of courage today.
In a world of constant comparison and clinging to control and complaining...I need courage to go another way.
Your way, O God.
Courage to simply be, rest...in the face of voices clamoring that to rest is to rust.
Courage to speak rather than staying on the sidelines.
Courage to accept that I am beloved regardless of what comments I hear today.
Courage to change...myself/how I see others/how I respond/how I live and move and have my being.
Courage to admit I was wrong...which might be the best trait of a leader.
Courage to be forgiven and to forgive for the dynamic relationships with my family say that posture is truly love.
Courage to know that I don't know everything.
Courage to quit keeping track of scores on the spreadsheet of life.
Courage to know that in the end I rest in You and if I am not in You, it must not be the end.

Courage...seven letters that take a life time to be embraced by...for the truth is we are all etched and embraced by You, O God.  For You showed courage when You continue to craft and create life around us and within us.  And courage to let us take our time to discover that true conviction never forces or feels threatened by freedom...courage simply speaks acceptance in change and admits forgiveness is the pathway to knowledge.  May I never quit walking that way, O God, I pray.

Amen.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Serenity Prayer Part One



God grant me serenity...peace...shalom...wholeness.
God grant me, because I can't find it on my own.
The peace cannot be purchased and doesn't come packaged.
It isn't found even at the bottom of this ice cream container or with the swipe of the credit card or all the other ways I am constantly and continually told I might find it.

God grant me serenity...peace...shalom...wholeness.
Because I cannot control or cling to this promise, this gift, this presence of You.
Even though the church has tried for ages.
Even though we have parceled and preached that we have the answers.
Even though all our words fall silent when truly in the presence of You, O God.

That is peace which surpasses understanding.
That is serenity which swirls where it will...like the breeze from two days ago.
That is shalom and wholeness, because I realize I am fully loved and called to love fully.

So, I need peace especially in the face of things that I cannot control.
All the scenarios swirl around of what might be awakening unease.
All the voices that clamor for me to "lead" and "succeed" and "keep on climbing...don't question."
Because if I stop midstream...or mid-sentence, what kind of blog post would that be?

God grant...because I cannot.
God grant me...because I need You every hour of every day.
God grant me serenity...because it flows forth from you.
God grant me serenity to accept what I cannot change.
Those ten words are enough for me to live and lean into today.

Amen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Breeze



The wind whooshed and wrapped around me
While it weaved through the palm trees causing them to wave.
The wind tickled as it touched my skin,
Just as the sun warmed my face.

For a long time the wind has been seen as a sign of the sacred.
Invisible and yet such a real part of life.
Known and yet unknown.
The wind reminds us that we do see in a mirror dimly.

There is so much we think we know and can measure.
How fast the wind goes;
Which direction it blows;
And patterns it might follow.

And yet, there is more mystery than we care to admit.
We cannot really predict when a strong breeze will almost knock us off our feet;
Or why sitting here in the sun with the wind whirling around me feels like the best day ever.
And yet, there it is.
And here I am.
And suddenly the words, "Grace" and "Peace" have entered time and space of my life.
And I give thanks.

Amen.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Washing my car



This afternoon I went to wash my car.
The tire slid onto the track squealing and squeezing into place.
Slowly the mechanical belt lurked my car forward.
Water blasted all around,
Soon soap came down like manna from heaven.
Pieces of sturdy clothe bounded off the car,
I guess washing away the dirt,
while I sat silently in my car staring out the window.

What if washing away the broken and battered pieces of my life was so easy?
Sometimes we make church out to be a weekly car wash.
But like my car where the grime and pollen of the world quickly congregate,
So too for my soul.
No I need something from God more than a quick soul cleanse ever week.
I something from God more than a drive thru or a filling station.
I need a grace to sustain
when the muck and the mud fly around.
I need a love to strengthen
when the world gets too much for me.
I need a presence that promises to stick around
when the messiness of life stirs and swirls around.

I need this more than once a week or even every few weeks.
The hymn writer was right,
"I need thee every hour!!
Most gracious God...
Come quickly and abide"
Don't leave...and help me not leave you.

Abide...that is what a quick car wash can't provide.
Abide is at the heart of who God is and where God promises to stay.
Even, especially, in the messiness of this one precious life.

But now the trip through the car wash is done.
Yet, maybe the truths I learned on the ride won't vanish so quickly.
So I pray.

Grace and peace ~~

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Theme Song



Remember that scene in Saturday Night Fever where
John Travolta is walking down the street?
Where the music is playing and he struts with each step?
Makes me wonder what is my theme song right now?
What notes are strutting next to me as I stroll through life?

Is my theme song..."It is well with my soul"
Or "In the Bleak Midwinter?"
Is my soul singing out to a God of grace and glory...
Or echoing Jesus on the cross...My God...my God why have you forsaken me?
Am I singing out with full voice...or barely muttering the words, almost inaudible?

If you had to pick a theme song for Lent,
What would it be?
Don't feel confined or contained to a section of the hymnal,
Flip through the pages,
Let the words wash over you.
Sing out the words.
Whisper them to yourself, so you can barely hear.

The church isn't the only one who gets to pick the sacred music.
You don't need to be limited to the ones in worship.
There are too many great hymns and we cannot be confined by what we sing on Sunday.
Search.
Sing.
Until your soul stirs and swirls.
Saying, "Yes!"
"Yes...these words, this melody...God is here and I did not even realize it."

Pick a theme song.
Because if it is good enough for Saturday Night,
It is good for every night and day of our lives.

Grace and peace ~~

P.S.  I have been singing "It is Well with My Soul" this week to myself.  You can click below to see a video of it.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Peeling Sweet Potatoes



The peels flung and flew across the counter,
with each sweep of the knife sliding across.
Like confetti at a party,
Each peel sailed to freedom.
The pile of skins grew larger and larger.

As I sliced and diced, I wondered,
What in my life needs to be swept away like a peel?
Are there vulnerability that I keep hidden from God,
that if the tough, rough exterior was peeled back,
I might be seen for who I really am?

Am I willing to let God work on my soul in such a way?
Am I willing to be stripped clear of the skins of
Control
Competence
Clinging to being in charge...
Am I willing to release and reveal that which is beneath the surface

Or would I rather stay hidden to
Others...
God...
Myself?

They say every ten years you completely have a new layer of skin on your body...
A complete resurrection slowly, steadily taking place before our very eyes...
Yet, day by day we rarely see the subtle changes.
To look deeply in the mirror and see something beyond the
Bruises
Bad spots
And hairs sprouting out of weird places...
And I am no longer sure I know if I talking about potatoes...or my very life.

But I pray this week, God would reveal for me the core of who I am...
And whose I am.
For that would be even sweeter than the potato I am eating.

Grace and Peace ~~


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lost and Found


Reflections based on Luke 15:1-10, click here to read

There once was a pastor who was staying at the same hotel as the great comedian Groucho Marx.  As grace would have it, the two bumped into each other in the lobby.  The minister rushed, raced over took Marx by the hand and said, “Thank you Mr. Marx for bring such laughter and joy into our world.”  To which Groucho, with the twinkle in his eye, did not miss a beat, replied, “And thank you, Padre, for taking so much of it out of the world.”  Often what makes something funny is that we uncover a truth that might have been hidden heretofore.  And certainly, as people of faith, we can be a bit too serious and somber, especially during the season of Lent.  I think we need moments when we don’t splash in the shallow end of life, when we stop sliding down the surface, when we can dive deeply into what it means to be crafted, created in the image of God.  What does it mean to suggest, say that the holiest week in the Christian year, about a month from now, involves a cross, a public form of execution because that might speak to our own struggles and suffering?  What does it mean to suggest, say that Jesus was deserted, denied, betrayed by his own friends, because that might have something suggest and say to each of us?  Yet, I also think there are moments of incredible and indescribable joy that are happening right here and now, even in the midst of Lent.  The kind of joy that is described in the scripture reading above.

The passage starts off with some of the Pharisees and scribes who are grumbling and gripping because of the company Jesus is keeping.  That set up is important.  Pharisees and scribes are the good, religious, faithful people.  That might give us pause to wonder, what we grumbling and gripping about as people of faith today?  Besides traffic and how long the wait is at a restaurant?  Lent is a time to listen deeply, honestly, authentically.  Within your experience of the church, where do you find yourself hanging out with the Pharisees raising red flags about the state of the faith today?  That is a good question to ponder prayerfully in these forty days.  Jesus is not doing what they wanted him to do, he will not be confined and defined by the ruts and routines of religious life.  Besides holding a mirror up to our own religious propensity to grumble, Luke is also pointed to the past, the word for the Pharisees and scribes in the back pew complaining is "murmuring".  And it is the same word that described what the Israelites did to Moses in the wilderness when they wanted bread and water after being liberated from Egypt.  Even over centuries of change there are certain consistency.  Jesus doesn’t deflect or defend or deny his love of a good meal no matter who is at the table.  Instead, he tells two stories.

First, we have a shepherd with one hundred sheep.  This is an echo of the Christmas narrative in Luke where shepherds show up to witness the birth of the One born in a barn, laid away in a manger.  And it is good to remember that there is a tension within scripture.  Even though God is often referred to as a shepherd in the psalms and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, as a profession it was not one your mother encouraged you to pursue.  No one dreamed of being a shepherd, they were seen as shiftless, trespassing, and thieves.  But this shepherd has an even greater problem.  A sheep has gone astray.  So, leaving the other 99, we assume with the other shepherds, because otherwise it would be like leaving 99 Lexus’ with the keys in the ignition and motor running in the parking lot of Lido Beach.  He goes in search of one.  One out of ninety-nine.  In the economy of God, one matters.  And the amazing part of sheep despite having a reputation for not being the brightest bulb in the barnyard, they know the shepherds voice and the shepherd knows the sheep’s soft sounds.  When, where right now are you out searching?  Where are you calling out, crying out and listening deeply?  What are you searching for that maybe feels like looking for one sheep out of ninety-nine?  Turn that around, how is God searching for you right here and now?  Are we listening?  Are we calling out, because God knows the sound of our voice?

The second story is about a woman who has lost a coin, scholars believe would have been worth about one day's wages.  In Jesus’ day most people lived in small structures, imagine even smaller than the tiny house movement today.  They had dirt floors, small doors, and no windows.  Sounds delightful.  She has lost a coin.  So she lights a lamp, because there is no other way to see.  She spends one resource, oil for the lamp, to find another resource a coin she has lost.  Again, in God’s economy the balance sheet doesn’t always add up.  In God’s economy, it might look foolish to pour treasure and time searching.  But God as the seeker and sweeper, searches diligently for us.  What ties the two stories together is the plot.  Something is lost, it is searched out, when it is found, there is a great celebration.  I want to offer that to you, as a narrative for faith this Lenten season.  What seems lost right now in your life?  What are you searching for?  How are you searching?  Who is helping?  To be sure, there are somethings that are lost that cannot be retrieved: relationships, past, and having just celebrated a birthday last week I am keenly aware that time can be lost too.  While we grieve those losses, there are others where we can learn from the shepherd and woman.  Losses where we can offer our time and talents; our efforts and energies; pouring our life into seeking.  For me, this Lent, I am searching for space to breathe and be; to rest; to let the renewing strength of God that cannot be manufactured or micromanaged wash over me like the waves lapping at our toes down at the beach.  I am searching for a reminder that the language of Advent: hope, peace, love, and joy can also help light the way through Lent, especially that last one: joy.  We are plotting and planning to celebrate resurrection, new life found in the midst of the most unlikely place: a tomb!  And this is not some passive search, it is the shepherd and woman’s active, engaged search for that which is the greatest treasure we know: a life giving and changing relationship with God.  May each of us find that in these Lenten days.  Amen.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sacred Every Day Part Four



Such a simple thing to behold...
Such an ordinary item to be sure.
A piece of bread held pinched gently between my thumb and finger.
A piece of bread that when tasted does linger.
There is a truth so daring and bold.
That God knows us...even in brokenness...with a grace to hold.

Such a truth is too simplistic we might jest.
If God care so much, why don't we just suffer less?
Why the pain, the war, the famine, and peril,
Why in the world would God use valley moments when we feel stuck in a barrel?

Surely, a God who is there only in laughter, doesn't make sense either.
Rather a sacred flow that surrounds, especially when I seether
And then those days when it isn't up or down...no it is neither.
Just a moment to see the average, ordinariness of breathing.

So, this tiny piece of bread holds infinite grace and invisible molecules dancing.
And the deeper truth that since matter is never destroyed, it just keeps prancing.
There might even be Christ's fingerprints in this morsel between my fingers.
Because words fail...when grace lingers.

My prayer this day is for grace to abound!
And may this God's voice comfort and surround.
Let this ordinary moment seep deep in your hearts.
A piece of bread is a great place to start.

Grace and peace ~~

.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Sacred Every Day Part Three



The song still rings in my ear...
People still singing of good cheer.
The flames flicker and dance.
Make a wish and take a chance.
Blow out the candles and have some cake.
This is the birthday prayer I make.

A prayer to dive deep into the mystery of God.
A prayer to see grace and share love near and far.
A prayer to stay calm and know the waves will pass.
A prayer to see others with love and know peace at last.
A prayer for this moment.
Fleeting and fading ~ faster still.
A prayer to laugh and cry and notice the sacred fill.

A prayer for you, dear reader,
That you too might sense more than a trace of grace.
A prayer that together we might continue to embrace.
Embrace each other...no longer divided by all the words we speak.
Embrace each other...no longer thinking, "I've got wisdom to teach."
Embrace each other...with care, comfort, and compassion to say the least.
Embrace each other...rather than ideologies and cling to our own piece.
For the song that rings in my ear reminds me that...
The birthday with others...family and friends...can bless me all year long.

Grace and peace ~~

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sacred Every Day Part Two


I took my dog for a walk today.
She danced and pranced down the street.
She leapt at another dog.
She tugged and pulled.
She wandered too and fro, weaving from one side to another.

Silly dog...I thought with a smile.

God walked alongside me today.
I danced and prance through conversations.
I leapt at that comment on Facebook.
I tugged and pulled thinking, "I've got this all under control."
I wandered too and fro, not thinking about whether I was living God's love.

While I don't wear a leash, there are limits in my life.
People I have made promises to that I need to honor.
Places I need to go.
Work I am called to do.
Holding up my corner of the world that keeps me trudging the path.

While my dog may or may not know the way home...
The same might be asked of me.

Until I center, sitting still, and the small voice of God says,
"You are beloved..."
And I know the joy of going for a walk with my dog and God.

Grace and peace ~~