Wednesday, February 28, 2018

God of Grace and God of Glory ~ take two


Krista Tippet once said, "Hymns are the way good church people walk around poetry not calling it that."

Listen once again to the hymn, reading or singing, the third and four verses.

3 Cure your children's warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss your kingdom's goal,
lest we miss your kingdom's goal.

4 Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of your salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving you whom we adore,
serving you whom we adore.

These two verses land with a thud in my lap.  These two verses make me mumble and mutter to myself, "Yeah...I resemble that remark."  These two verses offer both a moment of confession and assurance.  The third verse starts with shining a light the fact that the violence we do to ourselves and others is an illness ~ from which we need to be cured.  While, I am not fond of Henry Fosdick's word "shame" ~ because I don't think that is the way God works or wiggles in to our life ~ I realize that might be my ego trying to defend and deflect and deny.  But those words, "Rich in things and poor in soul," have been true for the nearly hundred years we have been singing these words.  Perhaps we are secretly glad that the organ doesn't stop playing right there causing us to have to ponder what we just said aloud.  Because, as Fosdick says, we can miss God's realm when we are possessed by our own possessions ~ like the one Jesus told to sell everything to follow him, but instead just want away sad for he had many things.

So, when you get to that final verse...about being saved from weak resignation ~ that we might have some resolve and resiliency and respond to the brokenness within us and around us.  Not that we can will ourselves or just try harder...but with God's presence...with God moving in us and through us... we do start to inch-by-inch set out in new directions.

This is what the season of Lent is all about.  It is about be honest with ourselves, about ourselves, as well as the world God so loves.  It is about making amends and finding new ruts, rhythm, routines to live our life.  It is about having the wisdom and courage to see the beauty and brokenness and how sometimes those two things are the same thing ~ beauty of the brokenness and in the messy middle of the brokenness.  It is that which God can use to free us ~ not with some golden ticket to heaven ~ but to serve and to be of service.

This hymn is a prayer and poetry that sets my soul ablaze and helps me find more than a trace of God's graces.  I pray it might for you too.

Grace and peace ~~

Monday, February 26, 2018

God of Grace and God of Glory ~ take one


As you listen to this hymn here are the first two verses to either read ~ or sing out loud

1 God of grace and God of glory,
on your people pour your power;
crown your ancient church's story,
bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.

2 Lo! the hosts of evil round us
scorn the Christ, assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.

It has been over a week since the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida.  In moments when the question, "why" sit so heavy and hangs/hovers unanswerable in the air.  When our collective hearts break.  When emotions stew within us and we feel at once both anger at yet another shooting, sadness for the families grieving, fear for our own children ~ grandchildren.  When we wonder why it is never the right time to talk about what people's access to guns are doing to our culture, because our attention spans will soon be on to the next story. 

It is in these moments I turn and tune my heart to this hymn.  I do this because these words are a prayer for me.  That God's grace, wisdom, courage would be poured out ~ saturate and soak my life.  When I sing these words I often find the words, "From the fears that long have bound us" get caught in my throat.  Fears we have of each other.  Fears about our own self-worth and wisdom.  Fears that the world drunk with power and privilege might never find a way to sober up to the reality around us.

Fear has been, if not in the driver seat - at least in the passenger seat (as Liz Gilbert says) picking the radio station we listen to, ever since 9/11.  Fear for seventeen years has driven debate and discussions and put a wedge in the ways we talk to each other.  Fear has forced us to divide the world into us and them.  It isn't as if this new...we are repeating the history we perhaps did not learn well from movements for equal rights in the past.  It is far easier to say, "They are the problem." and keep your opinion...then to say, "They might have a point." and might need to change.

That is why we need wisdom and courage every hour and for the living of these days.  May we find more than a trace of grace of God to so.

Blessings and peace ~~

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lent Two ~ Creation as the Original Gospel


Over the last few days, we have been turning and tuning our ears to the hymn, In the Bulb.  It is a song about being open to creation, because we know God as the Creator.

Or Artist.

Or Author.

Or Conspirator (which means to be breathe together).

Or Conductor and Choir Member.

Or Imagineer.

Or Envisioner, embracer, and enlivener.

God has the artist touch and flare and fire.

Which is why I love the above page from the St. John's Bible.  I love the seven panels, each visually representing a day.  I love that way light looks like fireworks against the black sky in the first panel.  And the seas and waters separating in the second.  Richard Rohr recently noted that God does not call the first two days, "Good", because there is separation.  But starting on day three land appears with vegetation, starlight like sequins, whales and walruses and waves of water creations, animals and humans ~ call crafted with a creativity we see around us.  Finally rest ~ Sabbath silence of ceasing and being.

I love the image of the dove that hovers and hangs over the last few panels.  Spirit of the living God falling afresh and anew...blessing us from the beginning to today.

Creation displays the handiwork of God.

Yet, so do you!!

Do you see that and sense that when you look in the mirror?  Or do you just see a few more gray hairs as I do in the morning?  Do you see God's spirit hovering or just the frustration fuming?  Or what about both/and?  Because it isn't just either or.  And it isn't just the beauty of creation, there is also danger in lightening and storms and ice and cold and heat.  To live close to the land is to be in awe.  Not just with rose-colored glasses, the kind of awe that is one of respect and reverence and reserve for we know creation has power too. 

If you go outside right now, do you see a painting or hear a hymn?
Or do you sense chaos?
Or both?

May there be more than a trace of grace as we let Creation sing to us today.

Grace and peace everyone ~~ 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lent Two ~~ In the Bulb There is a Flower


As you listen to this hymn for a second time, pay attention to the second and third verses.

I am particularly taken by the both/and quality of what Sleeth is saying.  She is inviting us to ponder how and where there is light in darkness and doubt in believing.  We can get so caught up in dualism and either/or thinking.  This problem plagues us.  We want to be able to classify and categorize everything, label and store it on a shelf.  We want to do it quickly and would rather than admit if we make a mistake.

There is a great and ancient Chinese proverb about needing to trust in the slow work of the spirit rather than racing to define and distinguish everything it goes like this:

A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Trying to wait before we run head first in to something is not exactly seen as an important characteristic today.  We would rather be first than right.  Many have lost a job recently jumping to conclusions rather than trying to untangle/twist what has always been complex, complicated human moments. 

Where have your already labeled something as good or bad with a sharpie?  Where have you made up your mind and won't consider any further evidence?  And I particularly mean in your own life?  In your unfolding narrative are there places where the period has been placed, rather than a comma?  Are there places you think the chapter ended and yet the character keeps re-appearing? 

I invite you to know only trust in the slow work of the spirit this hymn invited, but also to hold lightly our opinions and understandings.  After all back in 2008, I had never even been to Florida...that was a place of hurricanes and strange news.  And now I actually live here.

So may the trace of God's grace lead us with the wisdom and love we need to take one step at a time.

Blessings ~~

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lent Two ~ In the Bulb There is a Flower


The hymn, "In the Bulb There is a Flower" was composed by Natalie Sleeth in the early 1990s.  The three verses offer a poetic vision that we might use as a prayerful meditation this second week of Lent.  The first verse talks about mystery and hidden-ness of God's presence.

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

So often we don't see as clearly as we think we do.  The obstacles that obscure our view becomes so ordinary and common place...that we don't even notice them.  We come to believe that we have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  So, we post it, tweet it.  Gone is any sense of humility, that we might be wrong. 

Think back ten years ago...2008.  The first faint signs of the Great Recession were starting to be seen as the stock market skidded and slid.  It was then that a car manufacturing plant in the city I was serving as pastor closed.  Suddenly the problems of New York sent shock waves closer to home.  My kids were barely in school.  I did not even have a blog!  Rarely do we ever look in the rear view mirror of life and think, "Yup, just as I thought!"

So, why exactly are we so certain and confident today?  There is a phrase from a poem/prayer I use as a mantra in ministry, "Trust in the slow work of the Spirit."  I could use, Sleeth's beautiful images.  To trust in the slow growth of the seed in the soil.  A seed goes down...reaching and establishing roots before it ever springs up.  Or to trust in the process of cocoons...did you know that a caterpillar sheds it's skin several times before ever entering the chrysalis?  I wonder if a few times the caterpillar might think this is finally the time to be a butterfly?  Or maybe that is me being anthropomorphic.  Because there are times I want the seed to grow faster, the butterfly to be born and the snow to melt.  

Yet, we are called to wait with God.  To follow the savory pace of God which means 40 years of wilderness wandering or 40 days of preparing for Easter's resurrection.

What are you waiting for right now?  Medical test results?  News about whether an apology was accepted?  For spring to actually be sprung?

Hold onto that waiting.  Is there some way trusting in the slow work of the spirit can give you strength and sustain and offer more than a trace of God's grace in these day?

I pray so.

Grace and peace ~~   

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lent One ~ Gospel of Disney


Part of what captures and captivates me about Disney is the imagination.  C.S. Lewis once wrote, "But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."  We need space and a place for engaging laughter and imagination and dreams.  Perhaps this Lent you can take time to laugh.  I know this may sound odd in a season that has become defined and distinguished by being serious and somber, but I do believe God laughs with us...that laughter itself can be a prayer.  Our imaginations can help open us to new ways to engage and encounter God whose creativity is still speaking/singing/ crafting and creating.  Our dreams...well dreams are God's territory.  Think of Joseph of many color coat fame who can interpret dreams.  Think of Joseph Jesus' father who dreams a dream of taking Mary as his wife.  Think of Peter on a roof seeing a vision of a buffet of off-limits animals coming down on a blanket.  These dreams of God are always expanding and encouraging us to do the same.

Laughter as a prayer.
Imagination as a place to encounter God.
Dreams as a territory of experiencing our expansive God.

What ways can you lean into and learn from these truths?
Who helps you laugh?
What ignites your imagination?
Where do dreams grow legs to go to new places?

I pray these questions might open you to more than a trace of God's grace in these Lenten days.  Please pray with me.

God, thank you for the sound of laughter that surrounds us and can sustain us.
Thank you for ways we can dream new dreams.
Thank you for ideas that stretch the boundaries of what we think is off-limits.
We pray You would continue to move in our midst.  Enter in with contagious joy, with animals that have giraffe necks and owl wings, with ideas about what might until in the remaining days.  If Easter is an awakening to new life here and now, then we can laugh ~ even if others see us as foolish.  We can believe to look for life where others only see death.  We can follow One who was not just resuscitated, but resurrected to show us that matter matters to You, O God.  Come, O God, come with a grace, love, peace and presence we need in these days.  Amen and Amen. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lent Week One ~ Gospel of Disney

Having already engaged one song from a Disney movie, we continue with one of my favorites, The Lion King.  There are many reasons why I find this movie fascinating.  First, it is a great commentary on families who put the "fun" in dysfunction.  All of us know what it is to have unresolved conflict hanging and hovering around the Thanksgiving table.  We know how power plays are not confined or contained only in Washington D.C., but find their ways in to our own households.  The conflict between Scar and Mufasa might not be exactly what we experience in our family, but there are sometimes echoes at reunions and picnics.  Second, I find the commentary on our abuse of the environment compelling and convicting, especially considering that this film is a few decades old.  Third, the opening song has some great theological themes.  Listen...and watch the amazing art those who drew the frames crafted and created...



 The middle verse strikes and stays with me:

Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars

The questions of why this may be...why do some stumble and some soar?  Or the question might be how do we notice our own stumbling and our own soaring?  Too often, it is easy to tripped or trapped into thinking that we need someone to validate that our stumbling doesn't define us or that our soaring is for real.  There is a circle, cycle, to life.  Moments when we can accomplish more than we ask or imagine.  Moments when we fail spectacularly.  Moments when we taste goodness, grace.  Moments when bitterness lingers, lasts too long.  Sometimes those moments happen simultaneously.  As we enter into Lent, where are you?

Do you feel like your soul is soar or sinking?
Do you feel like your life is trekking like a train or has gone off the rails?

Perhaps again...it isn't yes or no...but both/and.  Depending on the day, the time, we might respond with an emphatic, "Yes" to both.

Take some time today to settle and let these questions soak into your life.  And may you sense more than just a trace of God's grace in this moment.

Blessings ~~ 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lent Week One ~ Gospel of Disney

My family are huge fans of Disney.  They love the rides.  They love the excitement of amusement parks.  They love the food and crowds of people.  They love the giant talking mouse.  Me?  I love them.  

But over the years of going to the parks, the pixie dust of the Magic Kingdom has a way of working its way into your DNA.  The catchy tunes and constantly cheerful people start to wear you down.  As the Borg would say on Star Trek, "Resistance is futile." (Which is another whole blog post for some other time).  

For me, it was, is, and will be the music that has drawn me into Disney.  In High School, I can remember taking dates to see Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.  I fully accept that these films have their flaws.  They can play on unhelpful, hurtful stereo types of men saving women and cultural racism as well.  But nothing is ever perfect.  I have appreciated how the films have tried to evolve over the years.  I particularly enjoyed a more recent film, Moana about a Pacific Island tribe and a princess preparing to take over.

Most Disney films are a variation on the theme of trying to find your identity...which is something that plays very well in modern day American.  We are all trying to sort ourselves out, answer question, "Who am I?"  The shift from a world where you were a farmer because your father was a farmer and your grandfather was a farmer...to today when we have to construct our identity.  Too often today it is in advertisement and consumerism that we are told we can purchase our sense of self - prepackaged on a shelf.  The shift from a world where you lived in the same town your whole life with your family....to today where we are all part nomadic.  I live a state where the roots don't run that deep, most of us have all been transplanted here.  

This is Moana's (the lead character's struggle).  She finds herself wedged between parent's expectations to continue the traditions and what her heart tells her to do.  I think we all identify with that to some extend.  As Iowan who has come to love the sea - the far horizons that are not filled with endless fields of corn.  As an Iowan who has come to sense the truth of the line of poetry, "The sea is so vast and my ship is so small."  This title song from the musical sings to my soul.  I invite you to listen for the ways these words can sing to you.




I am particularly taken by the middle verse that goes, I know everybody on this island, seems so happy on this island/Everything is by design/I know everybody on this island has a role on this island/So maybe I can roll with mine/I can lead with pride, I can make us strong/I'll be satisfied if I play along/But the voice inside sings a different song/What is wrong with me?"

I may not have written these words, but they have been written on my heart.  We are all called to roll with the roles we've been assigned...but can find a restlessness.  My hunch is that this is true not only today, but I am sure some of our ancestors struggled with not wanting to be farmers.  I am sure several farm wives longed for a different kind of life.  St. Augustine would write, "Our hearts are restless until we find rest in Thee."  It is my prayer that in this season of Lent we will be willing to explore the horizons of faith.  I pray we will take leaps of faith that might take us in new directions.  And that the restlessness that swirls, stirs in us all, might find more than a trace of God's grace in these forty days.

May God bless you and grant you a Holy Lent.

Grace and peace ~~

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Preparing for Lent 2


In the last post I asked two questions....

What would cause your soul to sing and stir as we prepare for Lent?

How do you long to connect with God as we prepare for Lent?

I can only be descriptive in my own prayerful thoughts/responses to such questions and don't want to be prescriptive in how you might enter into the forty days of the Lenten season.

Some of the ways I connect with God are walking labyrinths, spending time in prayer, laughing with my family, and reading.  I connect with God in worship, in Bible studies, and in service out in my community.  I try to connect with God in many different ways.  To acknowledge that God is there with every breath I take to support and surround me and cause a holy shift to deepen between us.

What causes my soul to sing is music.  Some may have read my blog posts from Advent on singing our way to the manger.  I want to build on that this Lent with a little different bent.  Each week I will post three reflections on some music that moves me.  It might be a hymn or it could be from a musical.  Rather than sticking to a classical understanding of sacred OR secular, I want to blur the line to ways that God's still singing presence can be found in varied and vast ways. 

I pray this allows you to sense God's blessings and love moving in real ways.  I am looking forward to this series of posts...please feel free to share them with others who may need a reminder of forgiveness, grace, what pain unprocessed can do to our souls, and how when we love another we see the very face of God.

May the coming week's posts be a blessing and more than a trace of God's grace.

Blessings ~~

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Preparing for Lent


The word, Lent, is one that can evoke and even provoke strong reactions from all of us.  For some reading this post...I wonder if I lost you with the title of this.  For others...I pray you might be interested in re-capturing and re-framing this word for a new day.  For all...I hope you will give me a chance.

Lent is at the heart a season of renewal.  It is a time to remember and reclaim who and whose we are.  We are more than just a spouse or parent or our job...we are beloved children of God.  We find our deepest sense of self and our soul takes flight in relationship with God.  But most days, while we know that to be true, we may not always live that way.  What if Lent was less about feeling guilty and more about shining a light on new or renewed ways we can lean into and live out this truth?  What if Lent was less a dirge and more of a dance with the divine?  What if Lent was less about going through the motions and more about deepening our connection to God?

That is the promise of these forty days that begin on Valentines Day in a little over a week.  I think that is significant and sacred.  Can Lent this year be grounded and guided in a love that isn't purchased at the Hallmark Store, but is found in the incarnation of Christ?  Love that doesn't only come down at Christmas but stirs in our life every day.  One poet I love described/defined Lent as the time we pull back the heavy drapery that too often covers our souls to the let the light of love shine through us and in us and to us.  Too often the drapery goes by the names such as obligation or guilt or not enough.  But I believe those drapes were made by human hands....not God's.  So, we pull back the words of humans so that God's words can get a word in edgewise and bring us into the light.

As we enter into February...what would cause your soul to sing and stir?
As we enter into February...how do you long to connect with God?

I pray you will let these questions simmer and stir in these days and find more than a trace of God's grace as you ponder.

Blessings ~~

Friday, February 9, 2018

Scripture Imagination take three

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.  Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.  Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.  When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.  Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.  When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.  When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

Because our Scriptural imagination needs to see the humor in life.

Because our Scriptural imagination can find meaning in laughter and joy.

Because our Scriptural imagination can make meaning even in jokes.

We hear Philip sarcastically say, "Thanks Jesus, I will run down to Walmart and pick up bread for five thousand...can I have your credit card."

We hear Andrew say, "Look...look...here is a lunch...that I totally now realize doesn't really help the situation as much as I thought it would."

We hear the people in the crowd say, "Um...wait...no one told me it was a potluck...was that in the newsletter?"

We hear the people say, "Um...I will take a doggy bag to go because that was the best bread I have ever had."

What other smiles do you see there just waiting in the margins of this story waiting for us to notice.

Because it isn't only about being on the sidelines OR about sacred serendipity...it is also a holy story that causes a smile to cross my face.

I pray brings you more than a trace of God's grace ~~

Friday Prayer


When the week is almost done,
And our souls feel they've been spun,
In a thousand directions we've run,
We long for God's love to make us one.

We enter into this time of prayer
When the good, bad, ugly we share
We want to be wrapped in God's care
Let's us breathe in holy air.

We come with hope
That we can stop walking a tight rope
For God doesn't as us to blindly grope
Rather than we might have strength to cope.

We need a grace more than a trace.
We need a presence to help us brace.
We long for the time and space
That can guide us to see God's face.

So, come, Holy Spirit move in our lives
Come and help us be satisfied.
To know that with you we are enough
And whisper our name with more love.

For our prayers are deep and our hearts are restless
Until in You we can sense there is peace in Your presence.

Calm the storms
Drive doubt away
Be with us God
Not just now...
But every day.

Amen.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Scripture Imagination take 2


After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.  Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.  When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.  Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,  “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.  Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.  When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”  So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.  When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

It was an audacious ask...Jesus might as well asked me to fly to the moon or walk while chewing gum (because I would totally trip over my own two left feet).  Feed everyone...can you imagine?  Why is it my responsibility?  Why didn't they bring their own food?  I brought something for myself.  Aren't we taught to be self-reliant and self-actualize...or maybe that will come later in the world.  Ask me to help out so many because most times I can barely help myself.  Six months...wouldn't even give me enough more for everyone to get the smallest unsatisfying morsel.  Six months working my fingers to the bones...blood...sweat...tears and not enough.  Not enough.  I think that a lot sometimes.  Not enough when I try to pray.  Not enough when I talk to my family.  Not enough when I try to help my neighbor.  Not enough are two words that rumble around my mind and roam around my heart.  I know not enough...we've met many times before ~ we are on a first name basis.  So why ask?  Why ask me?  Why do I feel like Jesus is still asking me today to watch out for the least, to care for the lonely, to love the unseen and left behind.  Yet...even as that request longs to be expressed in my life...I still have that nagging and annoying feeling of not enough.  So, exasperated and a bit exhausted...thinking I might have even someone off on the sidelines watching my every move...I simply shrugged my shoulders.  And while I was so excited by a boy with a small bagged lunch...what was that meager amount among so many?  What is a few loaves of bread that would barely feed five let alone five thousand!  Ever initially been excited only to have reality burst your bubble?  Sure...I would love a free lunch only to sit through an hour long sales pitch for a time share.  Sure....I would to test drive a car and be pressured into buying it now...because the sale is almost over.  When reality settles hard like the rain on the day we wanted to go out for a picnic.  Because that is what that moment became.   A sudden picnic.  A moment that became more than a trace of God's grace.  Sacred serendipity.  When have those two words paid a visit in your life this last week or last month?  Sacred serendipity.  When have your prayed and craved for those two words to visit but it felt like they were on vacation.  Sacred serendipity...may not always come in the form of a cure or miracle...sometimes its just a little bread when you are hungry and don't know where lunch is coming from.

I pray the sacred serendipitous grace of God leaves more than a trace in your life this week.

Grace and peace ~~

Monday, February 5, 2018

Scriptural Imagination Take One

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.  Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.  When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.  Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,  “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.  Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.  When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”  So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.  When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

What do you wonder about when you read this passage?  Do you wonder what it was like to to sit by the sea side, waves lapping on the shore with the smell of salt in the air and on you lips?  Do you wonder how five loaves and two fish could ever feed a crowd so large?  Do you wonder about the boy who offered his lunch?  Do you wonder what it was like to taste the bread...was it sweet or savory or ordinary or like the best bread you've ever had?  Did you eat a lot...so your belly burst OR was it like communion where just a little can satisfy you with more than a trace of grace?

What do you wonder about?

Who are you in the passage?  Are you in the crowd...faceless and nameless but there?  Are you one of the disciples a bit confused by Jesus asking you...imagine YOU to help feed everyone?  Do you feel that exasperated and exhausted by such a request?  Are you on the sidelines or front and center?  Are you the boy who is willing to offer his lunch?

Enter the story...and ask why are you that person?

While I want to be the boy...more than likely I would be someone hanging back...waiting and watching to see what happens.  I would be off to the side even if I wanted to be in the middle.   Longing to offer some of my lunch to help the cause, but concerned how others might receive or perceive me.  Because that is what we do so often, especially in a world where current events so divide us.  We stay safe on the sidelines.  We want to help, but the arguments we had over Thanksgiving about something said or tweeted or sharing the opinion we heard in the news and suddenly the air was thick with tension ~ the pumpkin pie was light/air in comparison.  There on the side, scanning and surveying the scene unfolding.  Watching the disciples look frustrated....perhaps a look they had wore at other times.  Watching the people in the crowd restless, confused about what would happen.  I saw how that crowd had followed Jesus.  How the story of Passover, the narrative of Moses freeing the people from Egyptian's boot on their neck.  Now, Egypt was going by the name Rome, but the feeling of the boot was all the same.  The people knew God had fed their ancestors with manna in the wilderness.  The people had sat with family every Passover asking, debating, and discussing the question, "What makes this night different?"  And what do we need liberation from this year?  And yes, there is always some powerful person wanting to control and confiscate our authority.  And yes, there is always some person at work or in our family or neighborhood...BUT what do I need to be liberated from in my own life.  Not only in the world I live in but in the world that lives in me.  Now, suddenly, what that bread and fish tasted like was not just about food, it was about tasting grace that could set us free.  That what it tasted like to me when the feast finally made a stop in front of me.  I tasted God's presence.  I saw a loaf of bread that kept the same size.  I saw person after person take, eat, and see that God is good all the time.  And all the time God is good.  You can read the story above from John or from me.  I pray both together would remind us that God feeds us in ways we cannot always comprehend cognitively, but nevertheless satisfies us with a presence and a peace.

But I wonder...who are you in the crowd?

Grace and peace everyone ~~

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Prayer


God whose presence spirals around us...whose fingerprints are on the DNA within us.
God whose grace guides us with meaning....whose infinite love helps us find our way when we are lost.
Meet us where we are as we enter this second month of 2018.

For some the pattern of Ground Hogs Day, Valentine's Day, and President's Day will find a new holy code.
For others this pattern is weak and worn out and weary.
For some this pattern is a blur.
For some this pattern is a bore.
For some this pattern is a blessing while it causes others to sing the blues.

Help us see in the patterns a new meaning for such a time as this.
Help our lives leap and land into new ruts of holy faithfulness.

Guide us this weekend with a song and a story and a sacredness we need...and that patterns our life with You.

In the name of the One whose life is a pattern, code, and holy rut of our lives, Jesus the Christ.

Amen.