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Showing posts from October, 2018

Isaiah Prophet, Poet, and Pastor for the Present Moment

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Just when you think we had encountered the weirdest passage of scripture with Isaiah in the temple and given the worst sermon ever.  Just when you think your Bible couldn't get any stranger.  We land in Isaiah 8 which opens with this verse:
Then the Lord said to me, Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, “Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz,” Isaiah is asked to take a tablet (No, not made by Apple...like stone tablet) and told to write down a phrase.  It means "Hurry to the spoils!" or "He has made haste to the plunder!" Okay...not the strangest Tweet I have ever read.  Not exactly the most inspiring.  But given what Isaiah had to preach in his first sermon, I guess this one doesn't exactly strike me as all that odd.

The text continues: and have it attested for me by reliable witnesses, the priest Uriah and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah. Apparently God likes to have divine speech notarized...I get that.  If you don't copy write the stuf…

Isaiah: Prophet, Poet, Pastor for the Present Moment

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And he said, “Go and say to this people:‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears,and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”  Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the Lord sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.  Isaiah 6:9-13

Isaiah goes to the temple one day.  Not a special or sacred day.  Just an ordinary, average, I don't have anything else to do...I guess I will go to the temple kind of day. 

At some point, Isaiah encounters and experiences God. 

Not just warm, fuzzy …

Isaiah: Prophet, Poet, Pastor for the Present Moment

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How might we listen for God's love song in the world today?  How do we open our eyes, ears, hearts, and whole lives to the beauty alongside the brokenness?  Maybe this insightful poem might help provide you an entry point on the practice of paying attention.  I hope you find more than a trace of God's grace as I did when I read it.


Litany on an Autumn Late Afternoon by Joanne Esser

Bless the slow walkers of old, gray-muzzled dogs
and the quick ones with their sleek young dogs
and the patient ones with rambunctious pups
they allow to take a dip in the lake.
Bless the new mothers pushing strollers,
cooing nonsense to their babies, tucking in
blankets as the breeze rises.
Bless the boy zooming along the path
on his orange bike who calls out
in his ten-year-old, high-pitched voice, “On your left!”
as he swishes past the white-haired man
pedaling his steady rhythm.
Bless the weathered woman in a wheelchair
and the young woman who pushes her along. Bless
both of their genuine smile…

Isaiah: Prophet, Poet, Pastor for the Present Moment

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So, last time we heard Isaiah invite us to turn and tune our ears toward God's love song.  I invited you to consider ways you might listen and be lured by such a melody.  It is important to circle back around to the truth that we cannot ever silence that which will sour our soul.  We cannot turn our backs and plug our ears from the harsh, hard realities around us. 

We know that even as I sense God's love song in laughter with my family or walking with my wife or being at a PRIDE fest...there is too much hate and violence in our world.  There are too many people calling us to take up arms against those people.  The vast majority of the 5000 ads I see right now every day are political commercials tell me that if the other person wins it will be the worst thing ever because clearly we can see that the other person might be the most selfish/self-centered ever created.  No one comes on a political ad and says, "I disagree with the policy my opponent proposes but s/he is still…

Isaiah: Prophet, Poet, Pastor for the Present Moment

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Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.  He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.  Isaiah 5

One of the great insights Isaiah offers us is the prayer/poet practice of weaving hope and harshness of reality together.  He continually returns to both the promise and problems that comprise life today.

In the above passage he invites us to hear God singing a love song to the vineyard.  Quick timeout  ~ when you see the image of a vineyard that is a metaphor the Biblical writers employ for the people of God.  We are to be like a vineyard producing the best, plumpest, most delicious grapes ever!  Okay... now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

So, God sings to the grapes...sings to us.  How do we hear God's love-song to us?  Especially amid the tweets an…

Isaiah: Prophet, Poet, Pastor for the Present Moment

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If Isaiah is more than a prophet or pastor...but a poet; it might behoove us to read some poetry prayers from today.  Here is one in particular I read this week that stirred my soul:

“We Are All Writing God’s Poem”
by Barbara Crooker

Today, the sky’s the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, “The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it’s stranger than we can think.” I think
I’ve driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over bark’s bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren’t we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: “There is no end of things
in the heart,” but it seems like things
are always ending — vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit —
And where do we fit in? How …

Isaiah - Prophet, Poet, Pastor for the Present Moment

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As we explored and entered into in the last post, Isaiah is called to be a poet, prophet, and preacher in a time of upheaval and pain.  He ministers in a moment of tension.  Isaiah is willing to shine a light BOTH on the brokenness as well as God's blessings co-existing in that that time.  Isaiah calls people to accept both that we have fallen short of God's dream/prayer/love for the world...but that God isn't finished with us yet either.

From theologian Walter Brueggemann - the difference between a whiner and a prophet is that the prophet brings HOPE.  The prophet doesn't lead us to despair just so we can all have a pity party about how bad things are, the prophet calls us to act with faithfulness that God is still creating and speaking and singing in our midst today.

Too often today we get caught up in only seeing that which is broken and painful that leads us to cynicism and being overly critical.  While there is much that is wrong in the world today, I also acknow…

Isaiah - Prophet, Poet, Pastor for the Present Moment

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It all started with Doctor Seuss.  His one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, not only helped me catch a love of poetry, but to my type A always multitasking personality, Seuss also helped me learn my colors and how to count.  The love of poetry was fanned to flames by Shel Silverstein who humorous tells of a child listing all these reasons why she cannot go to school today because she has, "the measles and the mumps, a gash, a rash and purple bumps. Her mouth is wet, her throat is dry. She is blurry in her right eye. Her tonsils are as big as rocks, She counted sixteen chicken pox.”  And after a long list of ailments when she hears that today is Saturday does she say she is really okay and going out to play.  Whether it is Robert Frost’s inviting us to see two road in a wood diverging or his playful commentary on how fences make for good neighbors; whether it is Mary Oliver asking that powerful and profound question, “What is it that you intend to do with your one wild and pr…

Stillness

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For one second...just be and breath like a bubble sitting for a blink of an eye on the water.
For one second...nothing to produce or prove.
For one second...nothing to do other than be open to the mystery and majesty of right now.
For one second...suddenly five or ten seconds have piled up

And the world is still spinning...and CNN hasn't broken down your door with breaking news...and nothing has imploded without you running yourself ragged.
How could this be?
How could everything just keep moving when we are not?
When did we get this sense that to rest is to rust?
When did we equate breathing and being with laziness?
When did we adopt the stink thinking that we are only what we produce or consume?

Perhaps like a sly, sneaking fox at the hen house, these words have been working and wiggling in our lives.
Perhaps like a stream over a rock slowly working away at the granite, these words have set up for us a false choice:
Either you work yourself into a frenzy or you freeload.
But to…

October

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A time to transition from summer heat to cooler breeze...
A time to transition from long sun-drenched days to darkness draping the world earlier...
A time to transition from hazy, even lazy, summer days to moments our schedules crowd out space
A time to transition from one year toward the next, new year.

The trees teach and tell us about transition.  Not clinging to leaves ready to fall or pushing that final one off the thin twig to leap to the ground.
Not by hiding when they vulnerably shed all the glorious green leaves or radiant fall colors.
Not be saying, "It's okay."  Or "Nothing to see here."

Rather the tree audaciously cry out with fireworks of red, yellow, and orange...only to lose the spectacular-ness in less than fifteen minutes of fame to stand bare before the brutal winds of winter.  Why would our lives be any different?
Just when we get the corner office, we feel the stress and strain.
Just when the bathroom remodel is complete, our eye goes to th…

Words of Wisdom

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“The simple rose, at each moment of its slow blossoming, is as open as it can be. The same is true of our lives.” - Mark Nepo
I recently heard this quote on a podcast with Parker Palmer/Carrie Newcomer and was struck by it's profound and powerful wisdom.  These words invite us to let the truth of nature sing and speak to our lives.  We can get caught up in wanting to race and run through the stages of growth.  We are always longing to be at the next place.  Our phone pings with breaking news taking us out of the present moment or our calendar dings reminding us we need to leave...now...right now...okay now you are five minutes late.  The texts and emails pile up.  
Some of the difficulty with slow blossoming is being present.  It is hard to notice what is right around us when we are being pulled and pushed in all kinds of directions by our to-do lists and phone calls and countless other things all demanding our attention.  Some of the difficulty with slow blossoming is a world th…

Prayer

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What is stirring in your soul right now?
Right in this moment as you are pausing over breakfast to read this blog... or checking it quickly over lunch ~ hopefully that I am not too long winded?

To pay attention to what is within us is the first step into the door way of prayer.
But too often we stay on the threshold of what could be rather than venturing too far into the room.
We fear that if we go sit on the couch with prayer it might make us as uncomfortable as the plastic on the sofa at grandma's house.
We fear that if we go too deep into the house of prayer it will be like a library where we are constantly being told to, "Shhhhhhh!"
We fear that we will just shift uncomfortably and try to spill in God's presence.

But prayer is about being fully open...even when it is messy.
But prayer is loud sometimes....especially when our emotions are on edge.
But prayer says all the wrong things in the presence of God who loves us unconditionally and loves us anyways and all…

Words to Ponder

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The above quote from Mandela has been sitting and simmering on my soul all week long.  So often I believe our choices are more grounded and guided by fear than by hope.  Fears that someone might make more money than us, gets us up early in the morning into the office.  Fears that our neighbors might have a better vacation keeps us always trying to feed Facebook positive images.  Fear is the tool our political parties seem to return to time and time again.  This is not new.

When Jesus was born, Herod was so paranoid by a baby that he ordered all male infants killed...so Jesus and his family fled in fear.  During Jesus' life, the Pharisees feared that Jesus was eating with the wrong people so they accused him of being a glutton and drunkard.  Jesus died because he was misunderstood by people.  Crucifixion was a weapon of fear.  Jesus came to confront fear.  This doesn't mean that fear is completely removed from our lives...perhaps far from it. 

We know fear all too well.  And w…

Normal

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What pops into your mind when you hear the word, "normal"?

Do you think of your daily routine and rhythm?
Do you see "normal" as positive?
Or is it negative?
As in, normal is boring?

For the past four weeks, we have been remodeling our house.  There has been no normal!  There is no normal when you are making daily visits to Home Depot to stare at plumbing fixtures.  There is no normal when a thin lay of dust covers every possible surface. There is no normal when you are trying to balance work, kids, and life.

So, after all these days, normal sounds like an amazing place.

This can be true when you are going through grief or trying to heal or struggling in any way.  You start to crave normalcy.  You begin to want normal not just a place to visit for a few hours...but want to take up permanent residency. 

Normal has some tremendous positives.  You can know what to count on when you are in a normal state.  There is almost a grove...it might now be the most exciting be…