Posts

Showing posts from March, 2018

God's Friday

Image
On this day, when we wonder, "What in God's name is going on?"  How can Jesus' death ever been good?  And is this Easter faith even worth celebrating...or should we just dive into discounted chocolate and candy?  I want to share one of my favorite videos with you that I believe is so poignant and powerful.  I pray it sings and speaks to your heart on this holiest day.

Grace and peace ~~

Poem for Maundy Thursday

Image
Broken Moments 
There is that experience we all know well. When the glass slips from our grasp, When the plate plummets from our palm, When the measuring cup free falls from our fingers. Crashing chaotically on the ground. The eerie sounds of that which is fragile, Smacking against that which is solid, fierce. When the vulnerable lands against an unforgiving, And unrelenting force. Suddenly sharp shards of glass scatter across the floor. Splintering and sprinting in all directions The small pieces suddenly free to escape to corners far flung.
We know this well because it not happened once, But because it is happening all the time. When the sharp shards of life scatter across our days and years. When relationships we thought invincible; When our bodies we believed immortal; When our hearts once taught to be impermeable; Suddenly encounter forces and our lives feel fragile as glass.
We bring broken moments tonight to the table. Words spoken too quickly. Hurts and harms we can’t quite let go of. Neighbors we …

Lenten Rituals

Image
This Lent, we tried something a bit new with lighting a candle each Sunday.  It is meant to be an echo, mirror of Advent when we light the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  So, during Lent, we will light a candle each week too.

We began where Scripture began ~ in Genesis 1 ~ with our belovedness.  We are formed, fashioned with the fingerprints of God.  To begin at the beginning of being blessed by God.  To let this light guide us not only for one Sunday or one week...but to continue to let that shine brightly in the coming weeks.

We moved on to lighting a candle of healing/wholeness because we all need healing in our life.  Theologian Ruby Sales asks the question, "Where does it hurt?"   That question belongs to all of us.  Some hurt because of racism/sexism/homophobia.  Some hurt because of job/food insecurities.  Some hurt because they can't find affordable housing or difficulty in school.  Some hurt because of stress or anxiety.  We all hurt.

Next, we lit the c…

Preparing for our holiest week

Image
It is well with my soul...how can you sing that when so much in our world seems to present evidence to the contrary?  Famine...struggle....lies and scandals....a world that seems to have gone off any script any of us were taught in school...friends who live with devastating illnesses....people grieving.  The list could go on, but you get the point. 

It perhaps feels like this song is trying to wallpaper over such pain and suffering...but it is actually born out of it.  The author wrote this hymn after his wife and child died at sea.  Notice, the opening lines,When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll
Those words are not just some aesthetic, they are autobiographical.  The writer knew all to well the sorrow billowing like the sea...in fact...because of the sea.

When the writer goes on to say, Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, "It is well, it is well, with my soul."  Again, I don't think this is because of a denial of reality…

Les Mis for Lent...last one

Image
Okay...one final song...appropriately on Palm Sunday.  This is the finale from Les Mis which is a total spoiler alert if you haven't watched the whole thing.  But I absolutely believe the final line that, "To love another person is to see the face of God"  That for me is what holy week is all about.  This is to see God's love from the Palm Sunday parade to the sharing of bread at table to the pain of death on Friday to the glory of Easter.  God's love is in the good...the bad...and the ugly.  It is the final two categories that are the hardest for us.  It is easy to see God in the sunrise or laughter or love of family.  It is harder when bridges collapse and kill people, or school shootings, or just turning on the news.  It is harder when the crosses of life keep popping up inconveniently in our lives still today.  And we have a choice...we can follow faithfully toward that light of love and live that way...or we can get bitter.  We can connect with communities t…

Les Mis for Lent take three

Image
One of my favorite songs in Les Mis is the following one, "Do you hear the people sing?"  It is a song about protest and passion and possibility.  It is a song about hope in the face of the hardest times.  It is a song about Holy Week...facing our deaths and standing courageously with a strength not of our own making/manufacturing.  I pray that this song stirs and speaks to your soul today...give you strength of the One who is our hope ages past and love for days to come.


Where do you long for the kind of freedom God's love lets loose in the world?
How can you co-create with God in these moments toward such freedom?

Grace and peace ~~

Les Mis for Lent take two

Image
As we continue to let the music of Les Mis guide us and ground us in this week before Palm Sunday, we turn back to the theological question of law and grace.  In some ways it is a false choice to think it has to be either/or...rather than the all embracing both/and for so much of life.  I want you to listen to this solo Inspector Javert sings about stars being a witness to his goodness.  Listen for the ways his certainty blinds him and his black/white ~ either/or thinking causes him to stumble and struggle to see that change might be possible.


This passionate and poignant performance is masterful.  His singing brings to light the power of Javert's position.  Javert believes he is so right that Valjean can never be right. 

That speaks...sings...into our position today.  We have too many people - on many sides of the issues - that would shout about the stars being their witness to their own rightness.  People who can't see their own need for grace and God's love.  Or people …

Les Mis for Lent

Image
Music can move us, awaken us, heal us, give us words for that which we thought we had none, offer insight, and connect us to others.  There is music that serves as a soundtrack to our lives.  For me, the music of Les Mis is poetry set to music that I have returned to time and time again.  If you are unfamiliar, let me give you a bit of back story to help catch you up.  The main character is Jean Valjean, a man who was convicted of stealing bread to feed his hungry family in the days before the French Revolution.  He is caught and convicted of the crime.  This detail serves as a driving force in the plot line of the story.  Was it okay to steal the bread?  Or is it once a thief, always a thief?  What is the role of forgiveness/grace verses always following the letter of the law?  Which brings me to introducing Inspector Javert, who as the antagonist, haunts and hunts Valjean throughout the musical.  The musical opens with Valjean scheduled for release after serving his time...BUT...and…

Poetry and Praise take three

Image
The above anthem...and the poem below seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly.  They fit together and sing to my soul.  I pray the two blend together singing out to you with more than a trace of God's grace.

Everything Is Waiting for You ~ By David Whyte

 Your great mistake is to act the drama
 as if you were alone. As if life
 were a progressive and cunning crime
 with no witness to the tiny hidden
 transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
 the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
 even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
 the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
 out your solo voice. You must note
 the way the soap dish enables you,
 or the window latch grants you freedom.
 Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
 The stairs are your mentor of things
 to come, the doors have always been there
 to frighten you and invite you,
 and the tiny speaker in the phone
 is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease…

Poetry and praise take two

Image
Sometimes the church can overuse the word, "Grace" ~ the unconditional and unceasing presence of God.  Or we can drop the word grace in the midst of a bunch of oughts and shoulds and coulds - which is a contradiction.  Or we turn grace into a carrot that if we are just good enough or volunteer enough or believe enough we might finally be able to earn...again the exact opposite of what grace is and does and prays for our life.  Grace is.

Grace moves with a wild abandon...
Grace interrupts and disrupts in the most delightful ways...
Grace dances
Grace laughs
Grace beckons us to see that joy is the fuel that feeds our life.

Yes...there is too much violence and we are too much in the world (especially when the world is at our fingertips twenty-four hours a day).  Yes...grace can be elusive and we can miss the traces in our life.  Yes, it certainly doesn't always come in the ways we wish or want. 

But grace will keep inviting us to travel another road.  The road as described…

Poetry and praise take one

Image
Where is the ache today?

Where is the restlessness that makes placidness practically impossible?

Where does it hurt?

Often times our frustrations sit on the back burners of our life simmering and steaming.  The unresolved feuds with family members.  What our co-worker said to us.  The pains that we collect throughout our life.  Eventually, these can boil over, coming out in ways we immediately and instantly regret.  As Richard Rohr says, "Pain that is not processed is passed along."

But how?

How do we process pain?  Because sometimes we think a wound has started to heal, only to be bumped by some other experience/encounter/event...and we can feel like we are right back to square one.  Sometimes, we think we have taken care of that pot simmering on the back burner, only to have it boil over unexpectedly.

For me, music helps soothe my soul.
For me, poetry helps too.

When processing pain, I love the following poem.  Not only reading it, but enacting and embodying it.


The Eye o…

How Can I Keep From Singing

Image
This hymn has been stuck on repeat and replay in my heart over the last few days.  The words are poignant and powerful...pointing out that life is not all chocolate rivers and pony rides.  It asks us to notice and name the brokenness, the tumult and the strife, the pain, the stress and the strain.

Yet...yet...it will not let the brokenness have the last word.

That is so difficult to do in our world today.

How can we sing when schools are no longer safe?
How can we sing when loved ones die?
How can we sing when the plumbing needs to be repaired - again...I mean we just had the plumber out last week.  Good Lord!
How can we sing when divisions are so deep and we can't even talk to each other about what matters most?

Maybe the singing doesn't solve the problem.  Maybe the singing is the start of something else.  When we sing we are conspiring - a word that literally means we are breathing together.  When we sing - even different notes - we call that harmony.  Not everyone has to …

Poetry Prayer

Image
Yesterday, along with our ministry of music, I offered a session called, "Prayer, poetry, and praise".  In addition, to what I think is a very clever use of alliteration, those three words are also synonyms.  Poetry is often prayer to me.  Poetry, one poet said, is 'The language from which we have no defense.'  Words that challenge and convict us in the best meaning of that.  Here is a poem by Bonnie Thurston that has been sitting as a prayer for me recently:

 Ein Sof*

We scrabble to fill the world with noise:
relentlessly grinding intellect,
perpetually moving tongue,
electronic racket our grandparents couldn’t imagine.

If you are quiet,
strive for inner stillness,
waste few words, many will think you mad.
You will hear within
the vast emptiness which they fear.

In the beginning,
God created,
made everything from darkness and silence.
What surfaces,
emerges in your empty spaces,
might be a full moon on your darkest night.

* Ein Sof is a Kabbalist term meaning ‘no l…