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Showing posts from December, 2018

New Year's Eve

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On the cusp of a new year we find ourselves in a threshold moment.  Our minds drift back with hindsight to trips taken, experiences and encounters that filled the days of 2018, and even moments when we sensed a trace of God's grace.

What moments this last year still cause a smile to cross your face?
What hurts still linger and last, sitting restless in your soul?
What insights or ideas were awoken in the last 365 days?

Yet, this day isn't only about looking back.  We look around at our lives today.  If you were to take a piece of paper right now and write, "The Good; The Bad; and The Ugly" what are some of the things in your life right now would you categorize and classify in each?  Or are some things on the line.  Or are some things unable, unwilling to fit neat and tidy in those boxes?  Play around at bit with this.  Or, if you don't like that, my spiritual director always asks, "How is it with your soul?"  That is a good question everyday and especi…

The first noel

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I pray that in these twelve days of Christmas you have sensed God's love like the moon shining and shimmering in your life, lighting the way.

I pray that you have continued to find ways to be wrapped in the hope, peace, joy, and love that is a bridge from this year to the next.

I pray that you are sensing the beautiful truth that we are surrounded by a sacred that will not ever let us go.

If not...if perhaps you need a few reminders of the holy ways God is shifting, swirling, stirring...here are two.

First, Christmas isn't Christmas without watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  With childhood nostalgia in me, here is one of my favorite scenes.


Second, for something a bit more modern one of my favorite version of "The First Noel"


May you sense more than a trace of God's grace in both these.

The First Noel

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Christmas is past.  The presents under the tree have disappeared.  While bits of wrapping paper are still stuck to the carpet...while the light still twinkling...while there is still leftover ham in the refrigerator...we have moved on making plans for the New Year.  These dwindling December days. 

It wasn't always this way.

Some of you might remember when you didn't even put up the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve.

Some of you might remember that the twelve days of Christmas isn't just some strange song about the. worst. Christmas. presents. ever.  Seriously, eight maids...ten lords a leaping...and pipers and drummers...who is going to feed all these people? 

Some you might recall, remember that Christmas is not a day...it is a season.  Christmas is...as the song states...twelve days.  Between December 25 and January 6 (Epiphany - when we say the wise ones came to worship Jesus), these twelve days to ponder prayerfully the mystery that words can never confine or define.…

The First Noel

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The other night, I am out taking a walk around our neighborhood.  Strolling along.  Enjoying the Christmas lights people have put up.  Hula Santa is very popular ~ making at least three appearances regardless of which way I go.  There is one neighbor who has a twelve foot light up Santa...a twelve foot light up Snowman (always ironic in Florida)...then a two foot manger scene that has been faded by the sun over the years tucked in behind the other two.  I might be the only one who sees that juxaposition as funny.  We also have at least three neighbors who are trying out for the Great Christmas Light Fight television show.  Music blaring, lights twinkling so fast and furious, every inch of every tree, lawn, and front of the house is dripping and drenched with something that sparkles and shines.  I am not sure what their electric bill is in January...but good Lord.

But my point wasn't to take you on a trip around the block, but rather the above photo.  After being soaked and satura…

Poem for such a time as this

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The Inward Sea by Howard Thurman

There is in every person an inward sea, and in that

sea there is an island and on that island there is an

altar and standing guard before that altar is the “angel

with the flaming sword.”  Nothing can get by that

angel to be placed upon that altar unless it has the

mark of your inner authority.  Nothing passes “the

angel with the flaming sword” to be placed upon your

altar unless it be a part of “the fluid area of your consent.”

This is your crucial link with the Eternal.

Re-read this poem...is the sea of your life right now calm and smooth as glass or churning and chaotic?
As you sit on the island of life...what has been placed on the altar of your life? 
Where do you want to discuss or debate Thurman...what has been put on your altar you didn't want?  Maybe a relationship struggle or medical illness. 
Rob Bell often asks these two questions, "Is this all there is?"  Meaning - is what I am seeing and sensing on the surface all there is or might t…

Isaiah: Pastor, Prophet, Poet for the Present Moment

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Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.  Isaiah 60

If there is one truth I pray you have sensed throughout this series of posts it is that Isaiah loves paradox.  Isaiah would have loved to discuss how sometimes the things we want the most can also cause pain.  Isaiah's favorite song might be Every Rose Has Its Torn...(click here to re-live that classic 80s moment)  Isaiah's favorite meal might be a Turducken (that is a chicken in a duck in a turkey - which we do because...I guess we can?!).
Isaiah loves putting two things side-by-side in tension.
Lion and lamb standing side-by-side - check. Swords (weapons both literal and the words of our mouth) being turned into a tool to cultivate growth and life - check. All people...even that one friend on Facebook who annoys you and you blocked - being invited…

Isaiah: Pastor, Prophet, Poet for the Present Moment

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Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.  Isaiah 60
On the surface this seems like a hopeful and peaceful poem.  On the surface these words can bring a smile to our face.  On the surface these words can bring back memories of moments when your grandmother would say, "Rise and shine," to wake you up in the morning.  Or at camping singing, "Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory."  Dig deeper.  These words are not being spoke or sung to people who have overslept but have been captured, carted off to live in exile.  These words are offered in a time when the people were not being woken from a peaceful slumber, but living a nightmare.  And in the long book of Isaiah - often divided into three parts of pre-exile, during exile, and then post exile - we are now entering the third and final…

Poem - of a different sort

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There is something about Linus' telling of the Christmas story that sets my soul stirring.
There is something about Linus sharing the story at the center of this sacred season that tells me it is Christmas time - even when it is 70 degrees outside.
There is something about this video that is poetic...prophetic...and pastoral all at the same time. 

I pray in these December days...this short video might provide more than a trace of God's grace for you.

Blessings ~~

Isaiah: Pastor, Poet, and Prophet for the Present Moment

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Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Isaiah 55:2

Wow, Isaiah, way to cut to the chase here. 

This might be one of the most prophetic lines in all of scripture.  It might be the one that makes us feel the most uncomfortable.  We know today that we are far too busy.  We know that we worship at the altar of "perpetual motion".  We know that so much of our identity is caught up in what we've accomplished, degrees that hang on our walls, awards sit on the shelf saying, "You are someone."

What happens when the calendar is blank and bare?
What happens when our bodies won't let us keep moving at such a frantic, frenzied pace?
What happens when the degrees and awards just collect dust and their shine suddenly doesn't seem so bright?

Ouch.

Isaiah...a little less bright light on the brokenness of our lives.

This could be where the church usually says, "Try hard!"  Or tells us, "You…

Isaiah: Pastor, Poet, and Prophet for the Present Moment

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Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Isaiah 55:1

If I was to add one more defining description to Isaiah...and keeping with my beautiful alliteration above....I would use the word, "paradoxical".  Isaiah never met a paradox he didn't want to play with.

Isaiah 2 - everyone comes to the mountain...and everyone means everyone.  That person who annoys you?  Yup.  The family member whose politics is different and always pushes your button?  S/he is there too.  The person who cut in-front of you in the line yesterday?  Probably trying to do it again at the mountain.  We struggle with the "all" part of "y'all come".   We'd rather divided ourselves into our carefully constructed tribes.  People who think like us...or at least we think they think like us...because when we dig deeper maybe they want medical care for all but in a slightly diff…

A Poem of Hope

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The more I think about hope...the more I return to this beautiful poem by Jane Kenyon.  I believe she sees a trace of God's grace in the beautiful ordinary of the every day.  Perhaps that is where hope hangs out and hovers.  Perhaps hope is there in the corner, waiting for us to notice that the course of our life dances with delight deep within as hope beckons us to come and play.  In what ways does Kenyon's poem describe or define what hope might be in your life?


Otherwise by Jane Kenyon
 I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,

Isaiah: Prophet, Pastor, and Poet for this Present Moment

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Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth!  Isaiah 42:10

If you want to stir the pot amid the people of God...try singing a new song.  Where the words and melody are unfamiliar.  Where the rhythm is on the off-beat.  Where people bumble and stumble their way through...only to sit down frustrated and flummoxed.

We say that to sing is to pray twice.  So perhaps that is why singing new songs feels frustrating.  We want our prayers to be eloquent...well rehearsed....believing God prefers it that way.  But when was the last time you did something for the first time perfectly?

Try never.

The first time you walked...you fell.
The first time you wrote your name...the "e" was backwards.
The first time I preached a sermon...well let's just say I have tried to learn from my mistakes.

Maybe singing a new song is about trying and testing out a different way of connecting with God.  Maybe singing a new song is about a different chord and harmony that leads us t…

Isaiah: Prophet, Pastor, and Poet for the Present Moment

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Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching  Isaiah 42:1-4

Hope can often be confused or conflated with optimist...or positive/wishful thinking...or looking on the bright side.  Yet, hope is deeper than just nice thoughts.  Often when we say we hope something will happen, we are attempting to express a deep desire.  Hope, like a north star, will guide us in a particular direction and point our toes toward that which we are passionate.  Hope lives inside each of us.

So, what do you hope for?  In your life, your relationships, your community, and the world?  Hope is expansive..…