Monday, September 18, 2017

Poem Take Two


Not all resurrections are good news.
Sometimes we dig up the bones of past pain, breathing new life into them.
Pour our wounded-ness another cup of coffee to keep chatting.
Days pass and we turn the calendar pages,
each day filling the empty tomb with our brokenness ~
and the sounds of our grumbling echo off the stone cold walls.

Not all resurrections are good news.
We scrape our fingernails across the scars so they won't heal.
We feed our fears and fuel our angers.
We keep having the same conversation, never stopping to find new paths we might explore.

Not all resurrections are good news.
We keep returning to the same place,
Keep re-living the same past.
Keep clinging with white knuckles to the words sharp as knifes.

But when we can set our carefully constructed arguments aside.
When we stop holding so tightly to our truth
So that perhaps God's truth might get a word in edgewise.
When we cease to pontificate and prophesy,
So that perhaps God's interrupting and disrupting wisdom can do God's work.
When we stop staring at the cross and turn our attention to the tomb.
Neither seem like likely places for new life to begin.
But it is that exact turning of our gaze that helps make resurrection possible in our life.

Grace and peace ~~

Friday, September 15, 2017

Poem Take One


After the Storm

When the winds stopped howling and flashing their terrible teeth.
When the rain ceased to soak the already too saturated ground,
Which squished with each step and the puddles gladly poured into your shoes.
When the angry dark clouds finally moved away....

Then the pale blue sky kept watch seeing the homes destroyed and the lives blown apart.
Without a cloud in sight, the sky observed the tears of grief and gratitude, often flowing from the same eyes.
The subtle and soft hue, like a warm hug reached down.
And bands of light started to draw move-able lines with shadows streaming across
the street
and signs
and out the front window of my car.

Life is like that.
A move-able line of light which I think I can see clearly
And the shadows cautioning me, "Not too fast."
Love is like that.
We dance vulnerably with someone else, revealing and then quickly darting back to the cover of the shadows.
This week after Irma has been like that.
The one precious life turned upside down and inside out.
The rhythm of life suddenly off-beat and even out of tune.
This week has left too many lives torn asunder;
Too many homes torn open or left with jagged boards dangerous sticking out.
Too many people with sighs too deep for words.

Our shoulders tightened by the ticking seconds as the storm slowly inched along.
Our minds raced...hearts skipped beats...and souls joined the ancient psalmist in asking the age old question, "How long?"
How long before the power is restored?
How long before a day feels ordinary, even boring, again?
How long before life get back on track?
How long before the Virgin Islands and Florida Keys and Naples are able to pick up the pieces neatly placed at curbs for someone else to come pick up, take away?
How long before the National hurricane center ceases to be hungrily consumed each morning over coffee?
How long before that nagging fear stops picking the music in my heart?

Maybe after you've weathered the storm, picked up the sticks lifelessly laying in the grass, and finally sat down to have a good cry, we start the next chapter.

Prayerfully wiser of the vulnerability and preciousness.
Prayerfully wiser about how important investing in tools and training to better track.
Prayerfully wiser about the groans of creation crying out for us to pay attention to our throw away, consumer-driven ways.

Perhaps only the pale blue sky hovering and hanging over my head truly knows.

Grace and peace ~~

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Scripture Window Part 7


Rewind and review....Scripture is like a window to the outside and inside...it both reveals and reflects.
Scripture draws us closer to gaze through four window panes of head (includes questions and insights); heart (includes emotions roaming around within us and in the text itself); soul (that deeper, mysterious, almost inarticulate level where the deepest seeds of faith need to be tended); and now finally, story.

This takes us full circle.  Scripture is a story that longs to connect with our individual and collective story/stories.

Returning again to Moses in the wilderness...
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.

This story causes me to reflect on my story...of being in the wilderness as a teenager.  I was in the Boundary Waters area of Minnesota by the Canadian boarder...God's country to be sure.  It is the sort of place where so much of creation is burning with the splendor and spectacle of God's fingerprints.  It was while I was there on a canoe trip that I heard God's call for ministry.  While it wasn't from a burning bush, it was when the sun broke through rainy day.  The ominous cloud, gray and threatening, hovered over head.  The water churned and chopped, rocking the canoe.  We were being tossed to and fro...it took all our effort to keep moving forward.  At about the half-way point, when my muscles strained and suggested emphatically that we stop for the day, that the first ray of sun tentatively peaked through.  It reflected off the water.  Soon another ray, and another, and another.  It was as if one at a time, the rays of sun were pushing the clouds away.  By the time I reached to other side, the sun was on full display.  I have witnessed amazing moments in my life (marriage and birth of children being one and two), but that "burning bush moment" will always stick and stay with me.

For Scripture to be holy, we need to let it get tangled and twisted with our story.  So often when we read the Bible, we hold it at arms length.  Like a frog in high school biology, we dissect Scripture, taking apart its phrases and words...debating it...deciding if we like it.  I am not saying that all of Scripture makes you feel warm and fuzzy, a lot of it is frustrating...but so is life.  And Scripture is a reflection of faith in real life of real people.  Further, I am not saying you need to check your brain at the door.  However, don't just engage Scripture as an intellectual exercise.  This is a story of faith.  Just like the one in the previous paragraph.

Is it true?

Well...it is to the best of my memory.  But arguing about Scripture being factually true is not really where I am at any more.  I want to dive deeper.  I want to ask how is this true?  When might this be true?  When have I been there in my own life or heard something similar from someone else?

Those questions get me thinking and moving in a different way.

Those questions help me sense more than just a trace of God's grace in this world.

I pray these posts on Scriptural windows have been helpful.  If you want to talk more, I would welcome hearing from you.

Grace and peace ~~

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Prayer


Should a prayer begin with gratitude or passionate petitions about what is wrong...
(which we usually call that latter thing, "Grumbling"...but would never dare believe that is what we are saying to God)?  Gratitude like we are buttering up God, so we can get to our long list of pointing out where things are not so great.  Grumbling might be more honest way to being.  Pleading with God to be God and intervene, interrupt the hatred, violence, pain, brokenness and all those things that made us wonder if God is really with us and for us.  Usually, that is what we think of with prayer.  Give it all over to God.  However, often times I keep just enough of that brokenness or pain or frustration with someone else, in case God comes back with that "forgiveness" thing again.  Because if God does that, I will say, "Well, but do you know that he did such and such to me??"  Which, of course God knows...but that was my Ace card...so I have to play it.

Often times gratitude becomes another "ought" in religion.  We should "Count our blessings".  We should be thankful, after all, we reason, look at the people who Texas...who I am sure don't want their lives to be some means to our grateful end.

So, we have these things in our hearts.  These joys and concerns.  These yin and yang extremes.  Thank you, God, for laughter with children and for my wife and for my dog's unconditional love and for this moment.  Thank you, God, for people who actually read my blog...seriously there is a lot of other stuff on the internet like cat videos on Youtube. And by the way God, if you could help me get over my anger at that person, fix this broken relationship, help me parent my children and be a better husband and be with us at Stewardship time. It starts to sound like God is some divine Santa Claus or Genie in a bottle.

So, what is prayer?

The mystics say it is silent communion...

But what about all my stuff and the injustice in the world.

You want me to just sit there in silence and be.

Or maybe even listen for God to get a word in edgewise?

Or maybe even feel a peacefulness in the midst of the storm?

What is prayer?

I don't know if I can really define it...but I know that tending a relationship means paying attention.  And too often I tend to treat God like one big ear rather than also a moving Spirit that might want to actually do something in my life.

What is prayer?

Maybe it is being lost in grace...held in peace...surrounded by love...and for one fleeting, fading moment realizing that this, this is just as real and true as anything else.  Again, I am thinking of you, Cat Video on Youtube or the stuff coming out of leader's mouths or the beauty or the brokenness.

Maybe that is really the wisdom beyond truth.  The wisdom that says, "Yes, that is not right."  And, "Yes, that was a holy moment"  And, "Yes, that was ordinary and normal and beautiful too."  Yes to all of that...and yes to the biggest, broadest, boldest statement of prayer we can ever utter or offer.

Grace and peace everyone

(I know you are totally going to go watch a cat video now!)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thursday


Thursday might be the most underrated day.
To be sure, it lives in the shadow of Friday.
Few people have ever uttered the phrase,
"Thank God it's Thursday."
And it has not special distinction like Wednesday.
Few people have ever uttered the phrase,
"It is the day after hump day."
Thursday doesn't have the dread of Monday
Or the getting back in the groove of life of Tuesday.
It certainly doesn't have the prestige and privilege of Saturday and Sunday.
It just is an ordinary day.
Maybe we could call it, "Friday Eve"...so it might have some of the mystery of Christmas Eve.
Maybe we could call it, "Four-fifths Day"...because to say you are 4/5th of the way through something makes it sound like you are practically there.
Maybe it isn't the name at all.
Maybe Thursday reminds us that ordinariness is just fine.
Just a normal day.  Not at the beginning or end or middle.
Somewhere just beyond but not yet.
Which is where I spend most of my life.
Somewhere beyond where I was...but not yet fully where I want to be.
Somewhere beyond anger and frustration at everything...yet knowing things don't fully reflect God's love.
Somewhere beyond expecting things to always be perfect...yet still wanting to do what I can, where I can.
I guess what I am saying is that if Thursday had an age, it would be 40s or 50s.
Far enough along, but not quite there.
Just barely beyond the halfway point.
Yes, I definitely think that Thursday is my new favorite day.

And may you find more than a trace of God's grace on this Thursday.

Grace and peace ~~

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Scripture Window Part 6


Rewind and review ~ Scripture is a window...some we can see through clearly...other times the words are like stained-glass, colorful/artistic/needing interpretation.  We look through the window pane of the head to start, asking good questions and claiming our own insights.  We look through the window pane of the heart to go deeper and to notice/name our emotional response/reactions...as well as the emotions in the passage itself.  Next, we turn to the soul.

Scripture as a story means that it works on many different levels.  Yes, we can hear words that form thoughts that form ideas.  Yes, those words elicit an emotion.  But even more than the head and heart, this is a soul story.  It is meant to work on us in ways that defy the gravity of rational/reasonable thoughts.  It is meant to sync with our own story.  It is meant to causes a response we might embody in our lives.

Soul level is one that is the hardest to describe.  What goes on in your gut when you hear our new familiar passage:

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.

At a soul-level I start to ponder prayerfully how God interrupts and disrupts our ordinary, everyday routines.  Moses wasn't expecting God to show up...but God did.  I don't expect God to come knocking on Tuesday, but nevertheless God can and does.

At a soul-level, I want to join Moses in holy ground moments of saying, "Here I am."  But the fear I feel can cause those words to get clogged in the back of my throat.  My own self-confidence can cause me to get flustered, frustrated, and overwhelmed.

At a soul-level, I want to feel the connection to ancestors and stand in a stream of people whose faithfulness (and brokenness given the list of names) has led us this far on the journey of faith.

I think one of the ways you embark on the soul level is to breathe in Scripture.  Bring the words close to your nose to smell...ask yourself if there is a word or image that you keep returning to...set the open Bible in your lap and simply be in the presence of the word in silence...see if anything stirs.

This soul-level is descriptive not prescriptive.  I can't tell you exactly how.  I can point and see that when I slow down, turn off my over-functioning brain, stop worrying if I have the right interpretation, but just be.  Some of the best relationships are those where you can be comfortable with silence in the other person's presence.  Where you don't have to fill every gap with words or explanations.  The soul level of Scripture tries to get you to that space...where you are with each other in the still small silence.  Just like the small space between tiny words on the thin pages of your Bible.  The soul level lets God write in the margins of your life at that particular time.

I pray that some of this helps you draw closer to this window pane of exploring Scripture.  Even more I pray we will sense more than a trace of God's grace when we step closer to the words of the Bible to gaze through this particular (and sometimes peculiar) window pane.

Grace and peace ~~