Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Scripture Window Part 5


Rewind and review ~ Scripture is like a window...we gaze through and see beyond to an ancient world and we our world still today and we can even see our own reflection.  Scriptural window has four window panes (head, heart, soul, and story).  The head window pane is one that asks good questions (lots of questions) and offers our own insights.

But Scripture isn't just some head trip or intellectual exercise.  One of the places the Enlightenment led us on a rabbit chase is thinking that we could proof Scripture.  That if we just rationally and reasonably held Scripture, it would all make sense at some point.  Most stories don't work on one level, and that is certainly true of Scripture.  So, we need the second window pane, the one of heart.

While for our Jewish ancestors, the heart was the seat of reason and where all important decisions were made; in the world today, heart is the seat of emotions.  Emotions are important.  We need to listen and learn from our emotions.  I was raised in the Midwest where we were taught to keep a stiff upper lip...that life was unfair and it didn't help harvest the corn whining about it.  But trying to stifle or shut down our emotions limits the ways God's light can shine through the window of Scripture.  We need to pay attention to emotions...especially with Scripture, because, like all good stories, Scripture wants a response.

Sometimes Scripture causes us to laugh...like when Jonah after preaching the worst sermon the Ninevites (really, check it out in Jonah 3:4...it is an eight word sermon) and it actually works.  People repent.  And you would think Jonah would be happy, but he goes and pouts.  And still God seeks him out.  I think if you read Jonah without laughing out loud, go back and re-read...or come talk to me.  It is hilarious.

Sometimes Scripture makes us mad...like Paul's bias on women and sexuality...seriously that guy had some issues that have become imprinted in our Bible.

Sometimes Scripture confuses or confounds or complicates things.

Sometimes Scripture just leaves us feeling, "Meh"..."Whatever".

So, let's return to our example...Exodus 3

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”  Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

When I step closer to the heart window pane...I am trying to see not only my own reactions/response emotionally...but also the emotion in the passage.

Maybe I hear Moses' fear when he whispers softly and uncertainly..."Here...I?? am??"  As if to say, "I am here, but I really thought this was just going to be an ordinary Tuesday and now God is here, that totally freaks me out.

Maybe I hear Moses' puff out and pound his chest and say, "Here I am!"  Like when some ancient cave man proclaimed, "I have built fire" with pride.

Or maybe this passage just leaves you scratching your head, confused, like "Why is God coming in a bush...why not a cactus or cloud or chariot?

There are emotions of amazing and wonder...as if the whole world was alive with God...and when do I walk past burning bushes unaware and unfazed.  There are emotions of wanting to listen deeper and see clearer.

If we let the passage sit upon our heart, engaging us deeper, eventually our heart starts to offer a response.  You see, the intellect/head response is the one that comes natural and normal and first. We love to dissect a text, reduce it down to its parts, like disassembling a bicycle.  But then, there is the moment we see all the pieces and wonder if we can put it all back together?  To let Scripture speak and sing to your heart is to listen/engage/encounter in another way.  So, after the brain takes a break from the passage, keep staring to see if your heart might want to get a word in edgewise.

May that help all of us dive and dwell in Scripture in a way that offers grace and peace to us.

Blessings ~~

Monday, August 28, 2017

Scripture Window Part 4



As we look at the four window panes of Scripture (head, heart, soul, and story); we zoom in on each individually to listen for the uniqueness and necessity it contributes.  Once we explore how head, heart, soul, and story have an important voice to add, then we can listen to the collaborative chorus, the bigger, whole picture.  Starting with the head...our intellect.  Each word of Scripture we read/hear is filtered through our experiences and awakens a response.  Each word of Scripture enters in, might touch a nerve or cause a synapses to stir.  Take for example one of my favorite passages of Scripture, Exodus 3:

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”  When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”  He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

One of the blessings the window pane of head brings is the art of asking good question.  In the above passage we might ask:
~ What did it mean to be a priest of Midian?  Was that a different religion?
~ What helped Moses notice and name that the burning bush was 'holy ground'?  Did it just come natural?
~ What did the voice of God sound like when God called Moses' name.
~ Did the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob mean anything to Moses (remember Moses was raised by the Pharaoh's daughter in the palace), so did he know his Jewish roots?

Questions are vital to Scripture taking on life.  Questions are the breath of fresh air that move and make the tiny words on the Scripture page start to rattle and roam.  Think of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones...it is the words that awaken and bring forth life.  Think of Genesis 1, creation, it is God's word that awaken and bring forth life.  As Abraham Hershel said, "Words create worlds."  That truth is one of the reasons why we are struggling so mightily in the world today.  The words the different sides politically/racial/geographically/gender are offering are creating different, often irreconcilable, worlds.  And not many people want to travel to someone else's world...when we can stay comfortable in the world of our own making.

The first step when staring at the window pane of head is to ask questions of the Scripture passage.  Challenge yourself to keep on asking questions.  Some of you may need a permission slip to ask questions of the Bible.  You may have been raised in a tradition where the pastor from the pulpit created a world when he (it was almost always a he in this situation said).  "The Bible said it, I heard it, and that settles it."  No!  No story works that way.  These words are not formulaic.  And besides, just hearing something doesn't lead us all to the same conclusion.  I read/hear/encounter something and see (to continue to use the metaphor) through one window pane of that experience.  But you, you read/hear/encounter something and see something different.  I can look through the window right now and see the dragonfly buzzing around and banging into the glass.  You might see the beautiful circular ripples of the pool.  And still someone else notices the palms waving "Hi" from the neighbor's yard.  Which is true?  That's not a good question.  All of it is true...necessary...needed.  All of those insights and questions help to clarify, expand, and create a fuller picture of what is happening right outside.

Ask questions.  Write down insights you have.  Author David Lose calls this your "IQ"...insights and questions.

Take some time, re-read the above passage...write down some questions and insights.  The insights might be personal.  Maybe you have stood in a hot, humid desert...tasting the sand on the tip of your tongue...seen the waves of heat radiating off the sandy soil all around you as the sun blazed and baked your skin...and felt God's calling.  That is an insight important for this passage.  To stare through the head window pane is to let these words really settle in and ride the synapses of our mind.  Let it transport and take you into the world these words are trying to create.

I pray as these words filter through your mind, you will sense more than a trace of God's grace.

Blessings ~~

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Scripture Window Part 3


The big, bulky book landed with a thud on the pulpit.
The person standing there
Somber
Serious
Said with all the enthusiasm of going to the dentist,
"Hear now the word of God."
The verses tumbled from the raised stage.
Softly spoken.
With little variation in pitch.

What if...these words were actually windows and the one reading was like a child on April Fools Day shouting, "Come and see the monkey out in the yard."  Unable to hold back the laughter.

What if...there words were actually windows and the one reading was like a person so passionate about God's presence that she could not wait to tell others.

What if...there words were actually windows into our heads...hearts...souls...and the story of our very lives.

Words that shine a light brightly on our blessedness and brokenness.  Our boneheadedness and moments we actually share God's grace in amazing and abundant ways.

What if we listened to these words on the edge of our pews?

What do you mean King David...Mr. Squeaky Clean had an affair?
What do you mean the Psalmist sounds so angry?
What do you mean God's love cannot be confined or contained only in the New Testament but is there when God writes a new covenant on the hearts of the people at the time of Jeremiah?
What do you mean these words might actually move my head to understand, my heart to break open, my soul to be stirred and my story to be seen a bit clearer?

Well...I'm listening.

Tell me that kind of story.

May the traces of God's grace shine through our lives as we listen to words of Scripture this day and for days to come.

Grace and peace ~~

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Scripture Windows Part 2

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.  Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Scripture isn't always a clear window.  It is one that has the smudges and fingerprints of those who have sought to share these words over time.  And when we step close, we add our own DNA to these words as they move through the colander of our context.  One of my favorite images of how to engage Scripture is how we stand before a stained glass window.

Just as a stained reveals different colors in different times of day.  Just as colors of the glass can cast kaleidoscope of colors onto the ground.  Just as those once vibrant colors become mute in moments when darkness falls outside.  Just as we can stand before a stained glass window and see one thing.  Only to come back the next day and see something entirely new...different...unique.  That is Scripture for me.

To be sure, the window hasn't changed.  The artist didn't sneak in under the cover and darkness and add that detail you just noticed.  But something shifted.  The light of grace illuminating or something in your own own eyesight or experience.

I can see a tree in the picture above.  The ways the leaves whirl and swirl around...almost feel the breeze when I step close.  I might want to stand on one of those rocks nearby or want to reach out and touch the texture of the leaves.  I might see the various hues of brown as I inch even closer or wonder if this is the tree of life...perhaps understanding that if I am so taken by it...no wonder Adam and Eve were!  It's beautiful.  It's inviting.  I want to reach out to the bark and bask in the breeze and shadow shade.  And this is a two-dimensional image.

And too often that is where we leave Scripture.  Two-dimensional on some flat page.  Listen to how we read Scripture in monotone voice.  No wonder we think this story is boring.  We read it like we are reading an instruction manual for our microwave.

But what if we let the colors of Scripture start to shine through?  What if we are willing to stand before the full picture or step closer to see the detail of one short verse?  What if Scripture was less word of God and more the colorful creator leaving an artist touch on our lives?

To step close to that window...whether it is colorful or clear...would help us see, sense, and get caught up in a swirling spirit.

A stained glass Scripture window.  May that image rummage and roam around your life and help you as you engage this old, old story that we love so well.

Grace and peace ~~

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Scripture Windows

 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.  Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead,  and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Take a moment and look out the nearest window.  What do you see?  Maybe trees or grass.  Maybe people passing by.  Maybe a brilliant brilliant blue sky or ominous gray clouds congregating with rain drops splattering and splashing.

Step closer to the window...do you see a slight reflection of yourself staring back?  Maybe as you've gotten closer you've seen a detail you missed before.  A dragonfly whizzing past or a tiny ant scurrying across the ground or a bird out on the tree branch observing the world...just as you are.

What if Scripture was a window.  One that helps us see the distance, the details, and our very selves?  What if Scripture is a window into the world then and there, as well as here and now, as well as deep into our very souls.

Jesus quotes the Shema, Deuteronomy 6, above.  While it is a prayerful vision of our lives and words meant to be said every day until they seeped into our souls.  More importantly, they might provide a framework for reading Scripture.  Just as a window can be divided into four frames, the passage above invites us to see four quadrants we want to gaze through as we engage and encounter scripture. There is the window pane of head.  Another frame of heart.  Another that helps us see the words of scripture through a deeper, soul level.  And finally, there is the frame of our story, how does our whole life connect to the words of scripture we are reading.

Head...intellectual.
Heart...feelings, emotions, something deeper.
Soul...when the deep within us connects to the deep within God.
Story...that these words might speak to our very lives.

We are really good when reading Scripture at the head stuff.  Give us information about how ancient people affixed these words to door posts.  Tell us how many times a faithful Jewish person would pray this.  "Interesting," we say, as we stroke our chins thoughtfully.  But information rarely leads to transformation.  Ask any doctor who encourages her patient to quit smoking or lose weight.  We can tell each other all sorts of facts, but that doesn't mean that it offers meanings.  So, we need more than commentary.  We need something that stirs our heart and soul.  And, I believe we need to stop holding Scripture at arms length and step closer to the window.  Risk seeing ourselves in these words.

When Abraham and Sarah are called to pack all their things for an undisclosed location to connect to that time in 6th grade I moved and didn't know a soul.

When Moses stands before a bush afire that isn't consumed, holy ground. Do I see the burning bushes all around me.

When Miriam dances, Ruth faithfully follows her mother-in-law to a new place, and Mary shallows deeply to be the God-bearer in this world.

Scripture isn't just some tiny words on razor thin pages.  Scripture is a story with heart, soul, head and can speak to our story today.

Take a moment, dust off your Bible...we are about to begin a Mary like adventure of seeing how these ancient words still call to us to be God-bearers today.

So let's step close to Scripture windows to see, hear, experience more than a trace of God's grace.

Blessings, peace, and grace ~

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sabbath Prayer Part Seven


Because seven is a sacred number...it seemed appropriate to wrap up this series of posts with that number.  I hope you will return to the Jewish Sabbath Prayer as your heart and soul cries out for its wisdom.  For now, I wanted to offer my own words in response to praying this prayer for the past few weeks.


God of sunlight streaming in through the stained-glass window of my life,
Help me notice the kaleidoscope of colors in my life.
For the passion of red...to share the love with family, friends, and even vulnerably with those I see as enemy.
For the energy of orange...that wakes me up and gets me up out of bed.  The work to do this day that you have made.
For the mellow of yellow...that invites me to rest and that saving the world is a job already taken by someone else...help me trust in you.
For the newness of green...places of growth...even ones that stretch me beyond my comfort zone.
For the hope that is blue...seeing the spaces and places that are not finished and do not fully reflect Your presence.
For the darkness of indigo that reminds me that life is not all chocolate rivers and pony rides.  There is too much pain, but I need not turn away, for with You I can see a deeper truth.
For the lightness of violet that easy of the night into dawn...the transition from struggle to catching my breath.

Let the rainbow of your colorful world interrupt my life every hour of every day.

Amen.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sabbath Prayer Part 6




Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, How filled with awe is this place. Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book 

How filled with awe is the place.

Look around where you are reading this right now.  What do you see?  

I'm at my kitchen table where we eat dinner.  Where laughter is soaked into the table as well as that great family conversation about homework as well as moments of silence.

I see my kitchen where meals are made...sometimes slow and other times heated quickly in the microwave.

I see my wife working at her computer...a reality of our modern world.

I see my children busy getting ready for school.

I see my dog whose unconditional love and desire to be petted is a constant.

I see the roof over my head to protect me from rain.

I realize what Jacob meant in Genesis when he said..."Surely God is in this place and I did not know it." 

Home can become a thin place...a sacred, safe space.

Yet, too often that isn't true for everyone.  There are too many homes that hurt.  Leave deep wounds on the lives of children from parent's pain that isn't process.  Too many homes that hurt.  Leave deep wounds of emotional scars from words spoken hastily.  Too many homes that hurt because of addiction and illness and suffering and economic injustice.

And this is one tiny corner of our massive universe.

To see, really see, with God's eye glasses everywhere I turn this week. 

I don't know if you can really live that way.
I don't know if I can really do that, especially when I get frustrated or feel overwhelmed.

But this prayer reminds me to try.
But this prayer reminds me that I am not alone.
God is here like a bolt of lightning illuminating the night of my life.
In doing so, I glimpse a trace of grace that is beautiful here and now.

I pray it will be so, then and there every day.

Blessing...grace...peace everyone ~~ 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sabbath Prayer Part 5


Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, How filled with awe is this place. Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book 

And we like clay touched by God...

God's DNA etched upon our lives.
God's fingerprints pressed upon our hearts.
God's presence woven like a thread into the fabric of this day.
God's colorful creation upon the canvas of life we all paint and seek to create.

The prayer is an echo of Genesis 2....where God sinks God's fingers into the soil to craft and create the first human.  It is good to note that the word in Hebrew is the generic, non-gender specific for human...not just "man".  As a matter of fact the word human comes from humus meaning earth or soil.  In our soul there is the soil of the earth.  We are made up of the same stuff as star dust.  And because energy can neither be created or destroyed...just recycled...we are living proof of resurrection, new life, formed from the energy of yesterday for this day.

God takes, touches the clay to fashion and for creation.

We are formed in loved to be love in this world.
We are formed in creativity to be creative in this world.
We are formed from the earth to never forget the good soil in our soul.

Yet, we don't always live out the profound and powerful truth placed upon each one of us.

So, I suggest we remember by buying Play Doh...or actual clay if you are bit more serious and sincere artist.  That every day your prayer time takes time to touch the clay to remember that glob speaks a profound truth about who you are and whose's you are.

When we do that, I think we can touch holiness in a beautiful way.  We can live out of a beautiful place.  To be sure, it might not solve every problem in the world.  Most of the mystics and faith people of the world have been honest about their own limitations.  After all...I really am just a lump of clay.  An amazing lump of clay that can run, type, make jokes, cry...and one day will cease and return from the good earth from which I was born.  And that truth for me sings out from my soul with good news of great joy this day.

Grace and peace ~~

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sabbath Prayer Part 4



Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, How filled with awe is this place. Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book 

So far we have sought to step into this prayer....let it settle and seep into our soul...sing to our hearts and speak to our lives.

Do you have a favorite word or turn of phrase so far as we've returned to it?

Have there been moments when you've glimpsed the grace of God, like a lightning bolt illumines the night sky?

Have there been moments you've sensed the sacred in the ordinary this past week?

This prayer connected with another beautiful set, series of words I recently ran across.  It is from a song by Cloud Cult, entitled: Through the Ages.  These are the words:

We were born on a lightning bolt, grew up in the ocean salt, 
We’ve traveled through ten thousand lives. 
So if ever I can’t see the magic around me, 
please take my hands off my eyes. 

I was prayerfully pondering that as I drove to church on Sunday.  There was the news of Charottesville, VA weighing heavy on my heart.  I considered all the divisions and differences in the world.  How in the world do you speak into a time such as this?  I was listening to this song, when I looked out the window and saw a beautiful, bold rainbow!  To be sure, it didn't solve everything.  People are grieving in VA...we struggle as a country to name bigotry and bias and refuse to confront white privilege for what it is....we deny the pain by consuming more and more.  Brene Brown says that we are the most addicted...overweight....medicated culture in all of history.  So, that makes you feel good, he wrote sarcastically.

You see, I don't need to see the world as either/or...it is both/and.  Pain and beauty...brokenness and blessedness...life and death...Christmas and Easter.  You can't divorce the two truths...like a teeter-totter they are both true.  Like the night sky with the gathering storm...and the lightning bolt that illumines us to see for a few seconds.  Both are true.  We don't have to choose.  We won't always be able to fully understand.

So, we pray that we will take our hands off our eyes to see the beauty, joy, hope...as well as the brokenness and pain around each of us.

I keep coming back to this prayer...to let it form a well worn rut in my soul until I can say the words from memory.  

I pray you are finding more than a trace of God's grace in these words as we continue to let them sing and speak to our hearts in these days.

Grace and peace ~~ 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sabbath Prayer part 3



Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, How filled with awe is this place. Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book 

I have been praying this prayer all week...and finding it helpful.  So often, we rush through a prayer like Kleenex, thinking a prayer should be one and one.  But maybe a meaningful, prayer that has depth can be returned to time and time again.  Prayers like the one above is like a stream, each time I step into it, let its words rummage and roam around my life, something is different.  Prayers like the one above is like a stained glass window that is always changing with the light that streams through it.

So, I love the line about the bush burning unconsumed.

Or as one of my favorite poet puts it:

“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)

There are moments when I pluck a lot of blackberries without realizing I am on holy ground.

So, my invitation is to savor the simple taste of each bite today.
Savor the conversations, even...or especially...the difficult ones.
Savor the ordinary.
Savor the mundane.

Have you ever noticed how joyful it is to pick out a flesh apple from the store?

To be sure, life is difficult.  There is too much suffering.  There is too much divisiveness and debate.  There are too many people pushed to the fringes.

But every now and then, some thing simply sacred helps preach another word to those truths above.  A kind word to a Muslim woman at the story.
A hug to someone who is hurting and wondering if anyone cares.

It isn't that these minuscule moments suddenly become monumental.  But they take on a significance it is easy to miss...like a delicious blackberry from a burning bush.

May you notice the bushes unconsumed with a trace of God's grace in your life this day.

Blessings ~~

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sabbath Prayer part 2



Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, How filled with awe is this place. Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book 


So, we dove into and dwelt in the first sentence in the last post.  Did you have some time to stop...breathe...and be in the last few days?  Did you lay out your days (good/bad/ugly) alongside God's loving presence?  

If we think that for our eyes to see or minds to know it is only about what we will discover in a book or seminar or TED talk...
If we think that for our eyes to see and minds to know we need to find someone who is smarter than we are and sit at the feet of the master...
If we think...to quote one of my favorite authors...we can think our way into a new way of living, rather than live our way into a new way of thinking;
We need to step back.

Perhaps part of the miracle we discover in the ordinary and every day is seeing through God's eye glasses and having understanding through the humble practice of walking with God.  
Perhaps part of the miracle is just being in God's presence.

Barbara Brown Taylor says once a week we should be, "Good for nothing."  I have yet to take that sage advice as seriously as I should.  I am not a good slug or sloth.  Yet, if I think I just need to read a bit more or listen to one more lecture on slowing down...then I will finally get it...this prayer upsets that apple cart.

Parker Palmer says that there is a hidden wholeness within each one of us.  As a teacher, he advised students to pay less attention to the information he was giving (that is, don't take notes).  Instead, as they listened was there a truth that stirred from deep within?  Those are the moments when the lightning strikes and we see...perhaps a bit afraid...but see nevertheless.

Have you had a lightning moment this week?  When the sudden flash of light illuminates more than we can see?  Is there a person who helps you with that?  Is there a practice that helps you with that?  

For some it is meditation.
For some it is music.
For some it is art.
For some it is laughing.
For some it is poetry.
For some it is reading psalms.
For some it is sitting on the beach.
For some it is walking in the woods.
For some it is sitting next to their dog.

And I could keep going...but I think you get the point.  What are those flashes of brilliance and brightness that help you on the journey see, if only for a few moments, the traces of God's grace in your life?  And practice those in these days.

Grace and peace ~~

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sabbath Prayer part 1


Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.  Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us see, wherever we gaze that the bush burns, unconsumed.  And we, clay touched by God will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, "How filled with awe is this place."    Prayer from Jewish Sabbath Prayer Book

There are moments that I can feel like I am sleepwalking through the wonder of this world.  There are moments when the din of the twenty-four hour news cycle diminishes and distorts my ability to notice the Good News that God is here...right here...and also right by you as you are reading this post.  It is easy for me to get caught in the vicious cycle of my own to-do list that I miss moments when God is suggesting I stop.  Stop trying to be super spiritual answer man...although I really think the outfit for that super hero/heroine would be awesome.  Stop trying to think I can think my way out of everything.  Stop trying to be all things to all people...darn that perfectionism voice singing in my head.  Stop.  Just stop.

Whatever else you might think prayer is...prayer is stopping.  Ceasing.  Just breathe and be.  It amazes me that so many people today gravitate toward meditation, mindfulness, and even yoga.  As Christians we have failed to teach and tell people that our prayer practices in their most ancient and authentic form have more in common with Buddhist meditation than the laundry list; let's ask God to fix everything understandings that we often associate with prayer.  Prayer is slowing down to God's grace-filled pace.  Prayer...as CS Lewis said...doesn't change God, it changes us.  But when was the last time an opening prayer in worship lingered much longer than the few seconds after it was spoken?

One of the reasons why I find the above prayer so compelling is that it speaks truth in ways that help me slow down.  There is so much in the above prayer.  I love the initial, opening line.  It is a recognition that we cannot stop time.  It flows on like a never ceasing stream.  It causes me to stop.  Think about your day so far.  The hours that have landed you to this one, holy precious moment.  What about yesterday and the day before that?  What are the events still lingering and leaving an impression?  I am talking about the good...like spending time laughing with my family at Monte Python.  I am talking about the bad...like having to cut down tree limbs and my back is still aching.  I am talking about the ugly...that time I might just have said something I instantly regretted at the last church meeting.  Gulp!  Those days.  Those very human, beautifully messy, days.  Our days are our life...our life is made up of days.  And beginning there with prayer is right where Genesis 1 begins with God.  So, it seems to be a good place to pause, to stop, to cease and let God pull up a chair alongside you to see what you've been up to.

Now, amid those events and experiences that made up your day, was there a miracle?  Usually, we think of a miracle as something outside the realm of reasonable explanation...and usually with a heavenly light shining down...perhaps a verse or two of Handel's Messiah being sung.  But what if, a miracle is simply seeing the world and your life in a new light?  How about the moment when my wife today said to me, "It's better to forgive yourself for a small blow up, than to let it simmer until it eats away at you.  Better to feel the emotion."  So good!  Or how about sitting here, working on this blog that I pray in some way tethers our two lives together?  Or how about a good piece of dark chocolate I am going to eat when I finish?  It doesn't have to be a Disney production to be a miracle.  In fact, the more I notice the miracles in every day...the good and even in the bad and ugly...the more I start to sense that God's grace isn't just a trace...it is an impression upon every day.  But, it begins with stopping...breathing...being...and listening for God.

Of course, chocolate doesn't hurt either.

Grace and peace

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Vacation...


While I am with my family resting...enjoy another of my favorite vacation memes.

And just because this one is hilarious...


And this one...


And this joke...

A preacher was completing a temperance sermon. With great expression he said, "If I had all the beer in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river!" The congregation nodded their approval. With even greater emphasis he added, "And if I had all the wine in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river, too!" The people clapped and were saying "Amen." And then finally, he concluded, "And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river!" As he sat down, the song leader then stood up quite cautiously and announced, "For our closing song, let us sing Hymn #365: "Shall We Gather at the River."

Grace and peace!!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Vacation...


While I am with my family resting...enjoy one of my favorite vacation memes.

And this one...


And this one...


Grace and peace!!