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Showing posts from January, 2018

Patterns take 3 ~ Codes

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I began this series of blog posts by referencing a quote from Dan Brown...let me complete it.  After talking about patterns, the main character says this, "Codes are special.  Cods, by definition, must carry information.  They must do more than simply form a pattern - codes must transmit data and convey meaning.  Examples of codes include written language, musical notation, mathematical equations, computer language, even a simple symbol of a crucifix.  All of these examples can transmit meaning or information in a way that a spiraling sunflowers cannot."

So, let me ask you, as you have noticed patterns in your life - the good/the bad/the ugly - what meaning to they convey?

While all codes are patterns...not all patterns are codes.  My pattern of a cup of coffee while checking email every morning is just my need for caffeine.  Not a whole lot of meaning or depth there.  But our pattern of weekly pizza and ice cream is tremendously filled with a code of meaning.  It is family…

Patterns take two

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I pray over the last few days you have begun to see, sense, name and claim some patterns around you and within us.  Maybe you have noticed patterns that bring beauty like the shell above.

There are also patterns that can lead us away from wholeness and health. 

I have those patterns too.  Patterns of my type-A personality shifting into over-drive even when my tank is on empty.  Patterns of pushing off prayer...as if to say to God..."Oh, I got this one, God.  You can go deal with some thing else."  I am always taken aback by the 15th Century reformer, Martin Luther who would quip, "Oh, I am so busy today...I must make time to pray."  I am so with Martin, until he said that second part. 

I like the patterns of busyness...which is to say patterns of feeling useful-ness and needed-ness.  Patterns when my ego proves just how needed and necessary I am...only to eventually go on a vacation and realize the church and the world can keep on spinning without me.

Patterns hav…

Patterns of life take 1

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Patterns are all around us and within us.  We see it above in the photo of a tree stump.  In Dan Brown's most recent book, Origin, the main character says this, "A pattern is any distinctly organized sequence.  Patterns occur everywhere in nature - spiraling seeds of a sunflower, the hexagonal cells of a honeycomb, the circular ripples on a pond when a fish jumps."  Patterns are also found within us.  As we map DNA or day-to-day life.  I have a morning pattern of going to the gym, drinking my coffee while checking email, and then heading to church.  I have a weekly pattern of what happens on Monday through Saturday.  These patterns are on repeat and are re-played in our lives.

What patterns do you notice around you?
What patterns can you name within you?

Patterns are important because ~ a). they reveal to us a certain beauty.  I love a Jackson Pollack painting of splattered paint as much as the next person...chaos can contain beauty too...but my life seems to hum best -…

Lord's Prayer - Every day

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Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, Source of all that is and that shall be, Father and Mother of us all, Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe! The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world! Your heavenly will be done by all created beings! Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us. In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us. In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us. From trials too great to endure, spare us. From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen.
We start with God.
We follow with us...our relationship and role in connection to God.
Finally, we land in the reality of every day.

We need food.
We need to process our pain so we don't pass it along.
We need to face our difficulties with others.
We need be honest about places where we feel overwhe…

Lord's Prayer - Heaven on Earth

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Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, Source of all that is and that shall be, Father and Mother of us all, Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe! The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world! Your heavenly will be done by all created beings! Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us. In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us. In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us. From trials too great to endure, spare us. From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen.
If the first stanza deals with the names of God, the second stanza invites us into the mystery of heaven on Earth.  God is the one whose presence is both vast and intimate.  About fifty years ago, two theologians embodied the diversity of thought about God.  Karl Barth would describe God as holy or whol…

Lord's Prayer - Names

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Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, Source of all that is and that shall be, Father and Mother of us all, Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe! The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world! Your heavenly will be done by all created beings! Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us. In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us. In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us. From trials too great to endure, spare us. From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen.
Over the next few posts, we will explore the New Zealand version of the Lord's Prayer above.  There are so many powerful, profound, and beautiful parts of this prayer.  I want to encourage you to not only read this...but let it roam around.  Don't only read it with your mind, let it rummage arou…

Change take 3

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We have grieved and let go.

We have spent time in the neutral zone, patiently persisting with openness.

Now we enter the third stage of new beginnings.

Remember that first day of school with all the nervous energy and endless questions.  What would the teacher be like?  How much homework would there be?  Would my friends be in the same class?  Would there be new friends?

Just as grieving is a process...
Just as being in the neutral zone can take time...
So, too, the new beginning - for the joyful anticipation, new car smell, hopefulness, and tentativeness it can awaken - needs to take time too.

We might want to rush in quickly...sign up for everything.  I see this sometimes around the church.  People dive in head first into everything.  After a few months when the constant, perpetual motion isn't offering the meaning, it is easy to get disillusioned.  To be sure, some people love the church and will attend every meeting with gusto.  But most folks, need to enter in like a child i…

Change take 2

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In the last post, we explored letting go/grieving changes as a way of transitioning.  Let's take time with the second stage of William Bridges process - known as the neutral zone. 

This is a time in-between or in the meantime.  Something has ended (and by God's grace we've grieved it).  But perhaps something new has not yet arrived.

The neutral zone is aptly named...we shouldn't feel any one way about it.  But it will bring feels of both excitement/freedom as well as some nervous/a sense of being too free.  People may constantly ask you - when is the next blog post coming, the next volunteer opportunity, or you get busy doing something.  We are so used to the litany of being busy...than when someone is waiting with a persistent patience (which by the way is a GREAT prayer posture)...it unnerves us.  So, we nudge them to get with the show.  Or maybe touches that jealous nerve in all of us.  Or maybe holds a mirror to our life we'd rather not gaze in. 

This neutral …

Change take 1

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As we reach the midpoint of the first month in 2018, what sorts of changes are stirring within and around you?  Which changes have you initiated and which have others decided to initiate for you?  Which did you welcome and which would you like to show the door and say, "Thanks for coming, bye-bye"?  Are the changes happening in your head (thinking), in your heart, in your soul, or in your body?  Or all the above?  Are there changes in relationships, at your job, the place where you volunteer, in family or with neighbors? 

I am already one paragraph in on this post...and haven't even touched or talked about changes in our culture or country or world.  The one constant (ironically) is change.  William Bridges in his book, Transitions, says that change is what happens around us and to us, but transition is our response, reaction, and process by which we travel through the change.  That is an important distinction and difference.  We have an important part to play in the mi…

Words of Wisdom

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On this day when we honor the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, I want you to listen to the words he preached in his final Christmas sermon entitled, "Hope".



Now let me suggest first that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.


It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that …

Random Thought 3

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Recently, my son and I went to see the new Star Wars movie.  I will totally try not to spoil anything about the movie.  I think most know that Rey, the heroine of the movie, goes to study the way of the force with Luke Skywalker.  There is one exchange between them that I found so profound.  It went like this:

Luke Skywalker: Breathe. Just breathe. Now reach out. What do you see?
Rey: Light. Darkness. A balance.
Luke Skywalker: It's so much bigger.


The insight and idea that light and darkness are not opposites, but in balance, is really at the heart of all religious thinking.  Too often, religious language wants to say that some stuff/behavior/beliefs are good and other stuff/behavior/beliefs are bad.  But such either/or thinking truly needs to stop.  Not only is it unhelpful, it is hurtful to much of God's good/amazing creation.  There is darkness in this world.  Sometimes that is scary and other times sacred.  Almost every mystic at some point (regardless of which teacher s…

Random Thought 2

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Laughter to me is a form of prayer.  I believe this because laughter is a full body experience.  You process the joke in your brain, your body responds with a sound of joy, your heart and soul dance to the music coming from you. 

We live in a world where so often we focus on the brokenness and pain.  To be sure, we should not ignore these realities and especially those who are hurt and need healing.  Yet, if we think we can manufacture a perfect world before we every laugh or enjoy...we might be waiting awhile.

I take joy in the fact that I believe Jesus laughed joyfully at times.  I think of the time some religious people asked him about paying taxes.  He asked for a coin...inquired about whose image on was on it...then I am convinced he pocketed that coin given to him.  Or the time when he invited himself over to Zacchaeus' house, he had to be laughing to himself.  I wished we had more stories about Jesus telling jokes with his disciples.  There needs to be moments when we allo…

Random Thought 1

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This past week as I was performing a wedding there was a random thought that fluttered and flew through my mind.  As the couple was exchanging vows, they arrived at those words:

"For better, for worse...
For richer, for poorer...
In sickness and in health...
In joy and in sorrow."

And I realized that perhaps those are not always either/or moments but rather can be both/and.  There are moments you can be both in a state of joy and sorrow...times when we your body might be sick and your mind/soul well...times when you can feel richer beyond belief regardless of a bank account and times when you know that life is better because of the person beside you even facing the most difficult moment you have in your life.

I think it is easy to hear these as either ends of a pendulum.  There is truth that sometimes life does swing from one extreme to another.  There is also truth that we tend to spend a majority of our time in the messy middle between those two ends.  Most days are not t…

Why Musical Prayers

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I wanted to usher you into 2018 with two songs that are on repeat/replay both in my car and in my soul.  First, the prayer song by Matt Maher Clean Heart is taken from Psalm 51.  I want to invite you to go read that prayer.  You can click here for one version (NRSV) or here for another version (The Message)  

Seriously, I will wait while you actually read this psalm.

Your first reaction, if it is like mine, is, "Well thanks for that uplifting message, Mr. Donald Downer.  Next you are going to tell me that it is time to go see the dentist for a root canal."  This psalm is a bit like sandpaper on my soul.  It reminds me that we live in a world where religion has been mixed with pop psychology and positivism.  I can spend too much time talking about God's love and not about this truth: "If I am alright.  And you are alright.  Why is the world not alright?"  There is brokenness in this world.  Matt names it well at the beginning.  We woke up this morning and rathe…

Musical Prayer take two

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Let this video and song be a prayer for you today...

The way is dark up ahead of me
The way is dark and I cannot see
What I love the most is a flashlight beam
Lighting up the way when I cannot see

The way unfolds like an open hand
The way unfolds like I didn't plan
And only in looking back do we understand
That the way was true as an open hand

Over trials and trouble I've already come
And the net appeared when I needed one
Yes the road is dark and the ground is rough
Most the time a flashlight has to be enough

We move forward one step at a time
Wide-eyed and hopeful, lost and half blind
Mistake by mistake, we all learn to be kind

There is so much to see and to realize
If I could close my mouth and open up my eyes
And the world will tell us more than enough lies
But we'll find our way with a small flashlight

A Small Flashlight by Carrie Newcomer

May there be a bright trace of God's grace in your life this first week of 2018 that is a small flash light for your life.

Musical prayer

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Let these words be for us a prayer...

Woke up this morning
The whole world was yelling
I wish I was dreaming
Of all that we've been through
My soul has been searching
For some deeper meaning
I know there's a kindness
That leads me to the truth

When everybody's looking for another fight
When trouble's on the rise, no end in sight
Oh Savior, won't You come and make the wrong things right
Let me be the place You start
Give me a clean heart

What is forgiveness if it isn’t given
We measure our mercy
When mercy is a flood
Give us a vision
Your eyes of compassion
In all this division
May we be known by our love

When everybody's looking for another fight
When trouble's on the rise, no end in sight
Oh Savior, won't You come and make the wrong things right
Let me be the place You start
Give me a clean heart
Give me a clean heart

You blessed those who cursed You
You loved those who hated You
On the cross You died for me
To bless those who curse You
And love those…