Tuesday, May 30, 2017
For example, we say, "Many hands make light the work but we also say "Too many cooks spoiled the soup."
When do we ask for help and when do we make do?
At other times we throw out there, "Two is company and three is a crowd only at another moment to say "Hey the more the merrier!"
Which if we are talking about mimes, I am prone to think the first one.
Or perhaps it is that great adage, "Seek and ye shall find" but we also counter, "Be careful because curiosity killed the cat."
Perhaps as humans we are not as wise as we think we are sometimes. Trying to sort out the next right step amid all the advice swirling and stirring around out in the world, especially today, is a task that will require more than a keen intellect. We cannot think our way out of everything, we sometimes need to live our way out and into a new way of being. Looking around the world can leave us guessing, gawking and gazing just trying to make sense of it all.
In the opening pages of Acts, Jesus says to the disciples (which means, "students") before they can become Apostles (which means, "sent out"), they need to wait. Wait? Really? How can they wait? They have encountered the renewing and resurrecting life of Jesus! Wait to share the good news that God is up to something amazing? Wait to tell others that death is not the last word? Waiting wasn't just difficult here and now, but it was hard too then and there for the disciples.
Perhaps some waiting...or at least slowing down...would be a good spiritual practice for us today. When we are surrounded by blaring, blasting "Alerts!" on 24-Hour News Cycles that take small bits of information and spend hours dissecting. Slowing down, stepping off the roller coaster. By no means am I suggesting that we disengage with the world or stick our heads in the sand. But perhaps paying attention to something other than twitter feeds and news that pops up, but be a balm for our souls. To listen for the Spirit that is still infused in all creation and within our very selves rather than the talking heads pontificating. To listen for the Spirit that can cause wonder even here and now. That will take a different kind of pace.
This summer at the church I serve we are going to actively, attentively engage wonder...and you can too. Walking in creation is a GREAT way to experience wonder; looking at twinkling stars or clouds in the shape of a ship sailing across the blue-almost-ocean-like sky can help us explore wonder. Specifically, we are going to sing; write/reflect on our experiences; read poems; laugh; and paint. I invite you to attend to the wonder inside you. The book of Acts is clear that the fuel of the faith for the early church wasn't based on attendance or financial gifts...the fuel of faith was being open to God. To the world to wait wrapped in wonder does seem like a contradiction...but to us...it is a way to sense more than a trace of God's grace.
Saturday, May 27, 2017
We are so good at trying to figure our the rules to life.
We want to be safe and secure from all alarms.
We long to be part of the inside group.
Your prodigal/extravagant/amazing/abundant grace scares us.
We'd rather define and confine the party to people like us.
We'd rather baptize our own believes, that let go to trust in Your unconditional love.
Challenge us beyond commercialism.
Transform us from transactional understanding.
Keep nudging us with a nourishing sense that there is more than we can possibly understand.
Each day is a mystery of meaning.
And we barely see the beauty of a clean plate or really taste the sweetness of a grape.
Each day is full of Your grace.
And we get caught up in defining and confining where we'd be okay for Your grace to go.
We pray that Your unconditionalness would define not only Your love, but Your patience.
We can be a bit stubborn about this.
We can want to pontificate and preach, rather than be and breathe.
Help us this day to be steeped in a sacred stirring of Your spirit that makes all the difference.
In the name of the One who lived his life caught up in Your flow, Jesus the Christ.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Last post we dove into the since that everything and everyone belongs. I ask for you to play and pray and live with it. Question it.
What about that annoying co-work/neighbor/family member/friend who you would prefer drive their plastic flimsy car off a cliff? Whoops...did I say that out loud?
We have turned life into a game...not only financially, but also with God. God, some churches proclaim, seems to only love you when you are singing that you, "Just want to praise him." Such a God seems a bit narcissistic for me. Or God wants me to go out and fight for what right. Why wasn't I at that protest? Or maybe, how could I not believe that God is unchanging, unfailing, and silent as night?
Richard Rohr challenges us to let go of a transactional God...one that is only interested in our good deeds or right belief. The prodigal (which means extravagant, excessive, over-the-top) grace and love of God finds us where we are.
The Prodigal God will embrace the mud soaked younger son with his prepared speech and give him a coat and ring (that probably belonged to the father in the first place).
The Prodigal God will go out to the older son with his prepared speech of pain that has not been processed of righteousness...and still invite him to the party too.
The Prodigal God isn't playing a game...God longs for relationships...connections. And as we all know, relationships are messy and broken and rarely perfect. God is willing to go to the mud and muck. God is willing to listen to anger/venting. And God longs for us to see that inexhaustible love is the same for all.
Everything and everyone belongs!
We don't always act that this...but maybe it is time we start, especially in such a time as this. The only thing that can over come divisiveness is love. Not a love that wants to proof why you are right and the other side is wrong. Love that listens. The only thing that can bridge and help heal divides between political understandings; urban/rural; gender; race; sexual orientation is a love that sees the other as God's beloved and belonging.
For far too long we want to control who is on the guest list.
It is time we let the prodigal God have that so that we might focus on sharing love with others.
It is far enough work for my energy to try to do this...
So may the invitation that everything and everyone belongs stir in your midst this day and this week with a trace of grace.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
The pale blue plastic peg sat silently in the ruby red car that had all the structural integrity of our family’s Ford Pinto. We were about to begin to play the Game of Life. It was always curious to me that the starting line didn’t include spaces and scenes from Elementary School such as,
“Someone makes chocolate milk squirt out your nose at lunch, go see the school nurse and miss a turn.”
Or how about a place on the board from Middle School,
“Giant pimple appears on picture day, spin a five or high to convince your parents you have the bird flu to stay home.”
Or from High School,
“Congratulations you have your first job, realize that someone named FICA is suddenly very interested in you, give 7.65 percent of your income.”
None those experiences and events of early life are on the board. Instead the game fast forwards and you face a forced choice of needing to decide should you take the long road of college or shorter path of work?
Your blue or pink plastic peg waits expressionlessly for you to decide. And we could certainly critique that for many people in our culture this isn’t really a choice. There are circumstances and social prejudices prevent and serve as a blockade for people to attend college. But, you take a deep breath to remember, Milton Bradley was a beloved child of God too ~ blessed and broken as the rest of us.
It does remind us that there are those moments when we are faced or forced into a choice; which road should you travel, traverse, and trudge down to make your way in the world?
Pause for a moment to ponder a few of the intersections in your own life.
What to do as graduation day approached?
When to stay or leave a job?
Or when your first child has colic at nighttime. And your sleep deprived brain is trying to remember if the magic formula that worked last night was five times around the table clockwise or counter clockwise? That is not on the game board either, but was a part of my game of life.
Again, good times.
Like the board game, we don’t get much backstory on the parable of the prodigal family (Luke 15:11-32) who puts the "fun" in dysfunctional or what exactly led to the younger son fly, fleeing the nest. We don’t know if maybe the two brothers always fought and were at each other’s throats? Or maybe there had recently been an argument which was heated, hurtful and harmful moment where words were said at family dinner causing the younger one to say, shout, “I am outta here.” We don’t know if maybe the two were always opposites.
The younger one might have always up for an adventure. He may have dreamed one day to be a camel driver or longing to go explore Egypt; while the older one saved his pennies and dreamed of purchasing that new plowshare. We don’t know if maybe the family always lived separate lives, never seemed to connect. And in the large gaps of the back story of the Prodigal Sons, we are delighted to insert our own stuff. We can tend to project and place onto this narrative our own family dynamics, because goodness knows my older brother always saw the world black and white and I needed space to roam and breathe.
Like the board game, the two pale blue plastic pegs of sons seemingly select different pathways. But how different are they? One physically leaves, but I get the feeling from the older son that he emotionally, spiritually left his father years ago. One sets off for a distant land, but it feels like there is also a distance between the older son and father even as they live under the same roof. Each have a chance to offer a speech. One a confess of brokenness and the other a confession of frustration that had been pent up, pushed down for far too long. Both remind us that pain that is not processed is passed along in some way.
Like the board game, both of their paths will at the end converge and come back together when the father invites both to the party. We know all too often, that some family members never come home. Some parents never throw a party with an ice swan sculpture but instead use an icy silent treatment.
Which is why I love that the ending of this story is like an unresolved chord. We are left hanging and hovering there. Because unlike the Game of Life where you count up your money to see who wins, which perhaps is a harsh, hard mirror of a reflection of our values as a people still today, this story doesn’t have an easy to swallow ending. Which rings true in my life. Reconciliation with family and friends doesn’t always happen. Sometimes we are left hovering in the air like Wiley E. Coyote of cartoon fame when he would hold up a “Yikes” sign before dropping down hundreds of feet.
We don’t know what happened the day after the party. Did the older brother eventually come in, grab a lamb shank with extra mint jelly? Did he do so glaring and daring the younger brother to come over and talk with a silent sneer on his face? Did the grace of the father un-harden his heart, those words, “All I have is yours” break through the barriers and blockades, the years of resentment that had clogged his soul and sight until he realized that grace is not a transaction or a balance sheet or a zero sum game. All I have is yours. The father can say that both to the younger and the older son, because God isn’t play a game with us.
There is no game of grace. No rules that say the one with the largest bank account gets to retire in God’s love and the rest of us go to Shady Acres, which we all know is just short hand for loser-ville. While grace is a precious resource ~ it is inexhaustible, inclusive, unconditional and unceasing; but that kind of grace is offensive because the rest of the world doesn’t work that way. We were taught, ever since your plastic peg was put in that flimsy car on the Game of Life that there has to be winners and losers; you are either good or bad. It is what Richard Rohr calls dualistic thinking and we are excelling at it today in our country, in our comments on-line, and in our common life together. To move into both/and sense, where there is goodness and grace in all things and in all people is really the invitation of faith. To be sure, some dualistic thinking is absolutely necessary and needed. When I go into a restaurant, I need to make a decision because the wait staff doesn’t deserve a philosophical platitudes from me about how both the salad and soup are equal in God’s eyes. Just order. But there are times when we need to set aside our judgment, our categorization and our compartmentalization of everything, to see that everything and everyone belongs.
So this week...spend some time entering into the trace of grace that everything and everyone belongs.
Play with it...
And we will return again to this idea in a few days.
Grace and peace
Saturday, May 20, 2017
It has been a blessing sharing a few of the songs that get on repeat both on my ipod and in my brain. I really do believe that sharing music that has meaning is a great way to connect. I also believe that hearing your experience with these piece is an incredible blessing. The point, for me, is less, did I like it? But more to listen deeply. Our musical tastes are as different and distinctive as each of us are as individuals. We are blessed to live in a time where it is so easy to share some of this music with you. I grew up in the era of mix tapes and trying to catch/record a song off the radio. I would sit for hours listening to, "Hot FM...the heartbeat of the heartland, WXYZ of Des Moines." There was the thrill of actually recording the song...the agony when the tape stopped before the song did. Sharing a mixed tape with another person, especially someone you had a crush on, was clearly a labor of love. Trying to find just that right mix of songs to convey your feelings. Now I can go to itunes or youtube and in under a minute have three songs picked out ready to post to the blog. Where is the challenge in that? 😊
I pray this piece is one you find meaningful. It is a daily prayer for me...that I need God every hour and I want God to abide because otherwise life is in vain. I also love Jadon Lavik simple style of singing...I feel it from the depth of his soul. Feel free to sing along! And may you sense more than a trace of God's grace in this moment.
Grace and peace ~~
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Hopefully over the last few days the melody and words of the first piece of music I share have been stirring your soul. I love the line, "We bend, we may break, but we keep it together." I find myself singing that over and over throughout my day. And when the hope seems to flicker and fade within my life, I need something a bit more basic. I need to remember to breathe. Just like music works on many different levels, so does breathing. When we are afraid or anxious, physiologically our breathing become more shallow. To take deep, belly filling breaths is one way both to calm down and a basic reminder that in the beginning, when God fashioned and formed us with fingerprints of love, God breathed the divine breath into us. So may you breathe today as you listen to this music. And may you sense more than a trace of God's grace for you.
Grace and peace ~~
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Music moves us in many different ways. We hear words that engage our intellect, as we seek and strive for understanding. What is this combination of words seeking to convey, we ponder just beneath the surface? As the words swirl and swim together, we seek meaning and whether this series of words might speak specifically to our lives. But, beyond the words, there is a pulse, rhythm, or what is called the math of music. What is the meter of the music...fast or slow? Is it a series of short staccato notes or long ones that draw you in? Of course, the ways the words and beat come together makes a difference. And the mood we are in. When I am feeling down, I really don't want to hear an 80s hair band...unless I do. You see, music won't be confined or contained. It moves, because there is a soul to music that speaks to our heads, hearts and core of being. Over the next few posts, I want to share some music with you that is making a difference. The first is by a band called, The Undeserving...which is perhaps a band we all feel like we might be part of on certain days. The piece is called "Something to Hope For." Each day, I think, each of us strives for something to hope for. I sometimes wonder if people come to church out of hope...or out of habit...or maybe some mixture of both.
What are you hoping for today?
How might this song sing to your soul on this ordinary Tuesday?
I pray you find a trace of God's grace in this song.
Many blessings ~~
Friday, May 12, 2017
The mood in the house on Friday night is one of celebration.
The week has come to a close.
School will not come knocking for several days.
Work is complete, the computer is closed.
The air is thick with pizza and the promise of ice cream awaits us as stars shine down.
A movie is waiting patiently for us.
These times seem so simple, but profound.
I wonder if looking back which of these Friday nights will really linger and last?
Which ones will be so deeply written that they will form the backbone of a story?
And which ones will be forgotten.
Forgotten not because they didn't matter.
In the moment, life was fully.
But forgotten because our memories seem to be able to hold only so much.
My prayer is this Friday
Laughter will come easy and honesty.
Connections will be found after a busy week.
A communion moment because God loves even frozen pizza.
A holy moment of being present to each other incarnationally.
A simple prayer from my heart to your home.
Along with wishes that the traces of God's grace will strengthen and sustain you.
Many blessings ~~
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
The plastic chair push on my back and bottom with such force, you'd swear it was angry I was there. The lingering smell of lunch still can be found in the cafe-torium where my son is set to play. The lights dim and the sound of music washes over me. The melody is beautiful. To be sure, there are a few wrong notes, but couldn't the same be said of our weekly lives? Mostly, we are trying to the best of our ability to join in the song of our still singing God. Mostly, we are trying to stay in rhythm and in tune. But every day I miss notes and find myself in the wrong measure.
Most of the band is glued to the music so the director's motions seem to go mainly unnoticed. Perhaps the same can be said of my awareness of God. Trying to urge and help me, I stare intently at a screen or the musical composition of my to-do-lists.
Yet, our lives are not solos but symphonies. I sense the sacred the most when I am aware that others are playing alongside me, offering their unique ways of singing God's love to the word. When we are in harmony, life is full. And even when I miss notes, others are their to fill in the gap in melody. When there is dissonance, we search for the conductor to help us get back in tune and in rhythm. Living our lives with one eye on the One whose love has written a great score of fully life and the other eye on our way of being part of something bigger than ourselves.
God's grace found in a band concert...even on a hard plastic chair.
Not bad for a Tuesday night.
May the traces of God's grace be found in the beauty and mystery of your life this week.
Monday, May 8, 2017
Waiting in line for my morning coffee, the buzz of the small space alive with activity and fueled by caffeine. There is a hum that comes from people clicking keys of lap tops, pouring over spreadsheets with a colleague, from workers behind the counter busily racing around filling paper cups and tiny bags crammed with bakery items. There is a hum that smells like roast coffee beans and sweet sugary treats. There is a hum that I feel vibrating as I lean up against the rail that helps keep the queue of people in order.
I look around at my fellow passengers waiting to fuel our lives.
Many stare down at the screens of phones lost worlds away and perhaps unaware of the world around them. A few talk to the friend they had scheduled to meet there. A couple in line studies the menu intently weighing the endless options of flavors and wondering why some words are written in Italian? I keep glancing around, taking in the people who I will probably never see again. These are God's people with whole lives and stories that don’t involve me, and yet I often feel like I am the central actor in the story of my life.
Inch-by-inch; order-by-order; we slowly shuffle our way forward. Sometimes when that progress is stopped a few folks sway side-to-side keeping the momentum flowing through them. There is a groan when a person ahead pulls out a piece of paper, obviously sent by an office to collect coffee for everyone. He rattles of concoctions both warm and cold like a little child on the lap of Santa. He points at the glass case fully of various ways flour and sugar can be blended together. The person behind the counter lets his fingers fly across the buttons of the computer capturing each item so that someone else can begin to pour, shake, blend, and prepare the items. When I finally reach the glimmer steel counter I feel the cold metal against my fingers. I order a simple coffee. Something I could have gotten at any number of other places I passed by to come here. Something so ubiquitous, it is boring. The worker pauses just a moment as if thinking, “That can’t be all, look at that menu.” But it is. A simple cup of coffee. No need to leave room for me to add cream or sugar.
The cup is warm when he hands it to me. The brown sleeve invented to protect me does about as much good as sitting on your life vest as a cushion in a boat when it tips over. The lid, without the slightest bit of irony, reads, “Caution: Contains May Be Hot”. I hope so. And I discover it is so the moment I remove the lid and steam escapes out. I swear I can hear it saying, “Free at last!” I feel the steam tickle my nose. Tiny drops of water from steam condensing into liquid has clung to the lid and now fall onto my pant legs. Few others in the small shop seem as interested in the beauty of this moment. They are too wrapped up in other worlds to see the world contained in that cup. We don’t always think about the hands of farmers who tend and harvest. The trucks that transport. The plants that process. If every cup of coffee came with a travel log and list of people whose fingerprints helped put it in our hand, it might be more than our minds could comprehend. The beauty is that this cup of coffee connects us.
In a few minutes my once overflowing cup now empty sitting beside me. What a beautiful, indescribable blessing. Elizabeth Browning said it better, “The world is crammed with God.” But most of us only see a cup of coffee. But it isn't lost on me right now. A moment of thanksgiving for the ones who helped provide me with the cup of coffee. A moment of gratitude for words that I type on the page. A prayer that somehow in my fragmented sentences or the spaces in-between God’s grace and love might meet you dear reader. And a hope that if God’s loving presence is found in a coffee shop, then maybe wherever you are right now, God might show up in such a way that your heart is strangely warmed.
May such traces of God's grace be found in your life this day and this week.
Many blessings ~~
Friday, May 5, 2017
Just another Friday...
The to-do list for the weekend sits silently on my phone compiled in fits and starts as I noticed things around the house, but didn't have time to fix them right then and there.
Just another Friday...
Sure, there will be moments of rest and renew...relaxing and rejuvenating intermixed with the other items.
But what if Friday...this day right here...
Would open us to joy of the ordinary?
The video you watch that makes you laugh;
The lunch planned with a friend;
A clean floor that shines when the sun bounces off.
What if we didn't wait until Friday...
We don't need to postpone our joy.
We don't need to schedule our life around the beat the world tells us to dance;
We don't need to only "Thank God" for Friday...
Because I thank God for Mondays...when I dig in to a new week or read a story to our Preschool children.
I thank God for Tuesdays...when I gather with colleagues at staff meetings.
I thank God for Wednesdays...even when they are forgettable...and for people who study scripture with me.
I thank God for Thursdays...as sermons are finished and the rhythm of the copier producing bulletins fills the office.
I thank God for a slower pace of Fridays...
I thank God for Saturdays, when I can sit and simply be.
I thank God for Sundays...to worship fully.
And that list barely scratches the surface of what I pray I might notice as I move about my life.
So, God, on this Friday help me see it for its connections that have led me here.
Help me see this day in its uniqueness.
Help me enjoy the grace of this holy, ordinary day.
Let that be my prayer and may it b a living reality of Your presence.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
'Joy is what we find on a hundred forgettable Wednesdays' ~ Tim Urban
When thinking about joy it is easy to gravitate toward the big moments in life, like our family's summer vacation. Or to think about holidays...birthdays...anniversaries...the important moments when your iphone is posed in your hand ready to snap hundred pictures. We twist and tie joy into what the world teaches us is "supposed" to lean toward that emotion. There are two struggles we often face in following this rabbit down that hole. First, the holidays ain't always what the Norman Rockwell painting promised them to be. Family tensions (especially in an era of such divisive politics) hover and hang in the air. Or we end up building up the moment so big that the slightest thing that goes awry...ruins everything. I can't even remember how many burnt sweet potato casseroles threatened to bring down Thanksgiving. Second, if we delay and defer our enjoyment until its appointed appropriate time...what does that do to the days in-between? If I have to wait to be joyful until Memorial Day...which given that it is a holiday honoring men and women who died in combat...that might need to be postponed a bit more come to think about it. So, the 4th of July! But that is two months away!?? That is why I find the quote above so helpful in this season of Easter. We need a joy that sneaks in serendipitous and then leaves by the backdoor as the trace of grace still lingers, lasts in the air. We need a joy that is fleeting and fading. Because for joy to be joy, it is always a surprise that catches us unaware and makes us laugh. Joy connects us in ordinary ways. Joy comes in a hundred forgettable Wednesdays. Because the point isn't that we can capture the moment on our phone to preserve it on the screen...as some kind of evidence that we have found joy. "Look," we say to a friend, "See us there at the Grand Canyon...that was amazing!" But what about the joy of a delicious apple that drips juice down your chin? What about the joy of watching a movie together? What about the joy of a bowl of ice cream on a warm Florida day? Joy need not only be fireworks in the sky or pumpkin pie or presents. Joy is woven in the ordinary, which is why this word is forever inter-tangled with gratitude. A deep sense of thanksgiving even with November is months away. A deep sense of praise for this day, this moment. In a world where we are always on alert and aware of the bad, the injustice, and the fact that nothing measures up...Easter says, sings, shouts..."Wait!" What about this moment? Isn't there something even here in this moment, no matter how imperfect, that might make your heart skip joyfully just a bit? Recently, Adam Grant was on the radio talking about this kind of positive psychology...saying even in the face of death, we can be grateful. That isn't to say we try to put frosting on the pain or brokenness cake we are being served. But we also say, that brokenness is not the only word. There is a both/and, a more than, we are always invited into.
So...on this Wednesday...what ordinary, everyday joy is dancing in your midst that you will forget by Friday? What make you laugh even though life isn't exactly what it is supposed to be? What brings you gratitude? For me...it is you who read this blog. For me...it is family sitting down to dinner. For me...it is this breath and the one after this one...even when I forget what a gift this breath/family/others truly are. Yet, they all remain blessing me hour after hour.
May the traces of God's grace stir and bless you on these ordinary May days.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:15-16
Jesus came near...there was an encounter with the risen Christ. In what ways can we encounter Jesus? Easter, these fifty days, as us to be open to the ways Jesus is moving in our midst. Often times encounters make us think of two people. There is an incarnational (in the flesh) meaning to encounter. Yet, we can also encounter nature, animals, and even ourselves.
Maybe this season of Easter you need to do some internal work. Process pain. Let go of a good grudge. Explore joy. Experience laughter and grace. Be open. Breathe.
Maybe this season of Easter you long to reach out to someone whose words hurt/harmed. Or maybe to rekindle a relationship. Or maybe find a new connection to someone.
Maybe this season of Easter the encounter is with God. Every Sunday in worship we describe that holy moment as a sacred encounter. It comes in many forms and fashions for the People of God. For many it is music...which is to pray twice. For others it is nestled close in the pew to other people. For others it is coffee hour afterwards catching up. And for even a few it is the sermon.
Jesus came near and there was an encounter with the holy. That is true not only then and there on the road to Emmaus...it is true here and now in our lives.
So far, we have explored...went to edges of the maps we've drawn.
We have experienced...realizing we may not always be in the driver's seat.
We have prayed Easter...went out for a walk.
And now, we encounter.
I pray you might sense the stirring of the sacred in these days in such a way that the encounter of the not-so-empty tomb warms your hearts and swirls in your soul in these days.
Grace and peace ~~