Friday, March 29, 2019

Lenten Words

This week we have been letting this list of words guide us through this sacred season of Lent...

13.  Grace
14.  Faith
15.  Crawl
16.  Walk
17.  Run
18.  Purple
19.  Party

Maybe you have found ways to converge and combine this random list into a sentence or sentiment of the sacred?

Perhaps something like...
When the color purple crossed and crawled into my vision,
I slowed my usual frenzied pace of always feeling like I'm running behind.
Walking...strolling...sauntering...until I stood still.
If faith threw a party maybe it would put up purple streamers.
If grace showed up at your house, would it be wearing a purple hat?
Or maybe red...and green...and blue...because God's loves to color with all the crayons in the box.
So, here I stand...color purple joining me on the walk of life and maybe reminding me that
I don't have to race/run.
To slow so that life isn't so blurry.
And the color purple can join in the party.

As we cross the threshold of the halfway point of Lent...here is the next list of words for you to hold lightly and let sing to your life:

20.  God
21.  Jesus/Christ
22.  Spirit
23.  Trinity
24.  Friends
25.  Strangers
26.  Efficient 

Here is my invitation...rather than trying to describe or define each of these words...maybe this week you want to find a hymn that might point toward each of these words.  No one hymn can ever completely capture...but maybe in these Lenten days...the hymn that stirs within you might point to this holy moment. 

Happy leafing through your hymnal.  And may there be more than a trace of God's grace in this holy moment.

Blessings ~~ 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Lenten Words


Any new insights or ideas into these words...

13.  Grace
14.  Faith
15.  Crawl
16.  Walk
17.  Run
18.  Purple
19.  Party

When was the last time grace knocked on your door, showed up in your life, and pulled up a chair to sit for a spell?

Where is faith stretching and growing...evolving and exploring right now?  For me, one place where faith is seeking new growth is as we approach Holy Week.  The services of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter...are familiar that trying to find a fresh breeze blowing through these days is a prayer practice. 

Or where is the color purple popping up?  Do you see it in flowers or in your closet?  What might does the color purple signify for you?  Maybe creativity as in the great children's book, "Harold and the purple crayon".  Maybe today you can find a purple crayon and try to create something...or write a prayer...or just let the color run/race/walk/crawl across the page.

Or where is there a party in your life?  As we keep holding these words we name and notice that party can be something amazing ~ a celebration of an anniversary or birthday or just because you happen to be alive on this Wednesday.  But party can sometimes feel like a forced obligation or I sometimes decide to throw myself a, "pity party...table for one please." 

Do you see any connection between these seven words?

I think of Alice Walker telling us to slow down to a crawl and notice the color purple. 
I think of moments when grace causes my heart to race with indescribable joy...or faith moment when goose bump run up and down my arms.
I think of slowly walking with my wife and dog around our neighborhood, a holy moment of grace as the wind whips around us and the sun warms our skin. 

I pray that initial list might awaken within you moments right now were these words are helping you give voice to the places and spaces where grace, faith, crawling, walking, running, purple and party are more than just a random laundry list and might open you to more than a trace of God's grace.

Blessings ~~

Monday, March 25, 2019

Lenten Words


Over the last few days you have had the opportunity to prayerfully play with the following words:

13.  Grace     
14.  Faith   
15.  Crawl
16.  Walk 
17.  Run   
18.  Purple 
19.  Party

Part of what is stirring and swirling within me is the ways in life crawling/walking/running isn't always just a linear and logical process.  Yes, strictly speaking, I stopped crawling somewhere in my early years.  But in other ways, spiritually and emotionally, there are times when I am brought to my knees and the only way to move forward is from the position.  There are times I can feel professionally, even with diplomas on the wall documenting my achievements, I am still crawling at trying to guide the church in the world today.  And don't even get my started on parenting...or marriage...or any relationship that has any value.  There are moments when I can feel like I am running on all cylinders only come to a screeching and abrupt halt...when I stumble and fall forward on my face...forcing me to crawl.

There is also a beautiful rhythm about coming to a crawl...slowing down.  In the beginning we know that God crafted and created in six days...but ceased on the seventh.  It was not endless productivity for God.  There was a moment to step back, breathe and be. 

Or remember as a kid in school sometimes feeling the clock was crawling along?  Or when you went to go visit that relative where you were not allowed to touch anything...where I was constantly, continually told, "Look with your eyes not with your hands."  So I would sit there staring at all these things glowing with enchantment, but if I got too close...so that my breath might disrupt some of the layer of dust on that collectible, I was scolded.  If only cell phones had been invented earlier, perhaps time might not have crawled along.

But there can also be a struggle when time is flying past.  I sometimes feel like the years, especially with my kids, is sand slipping through the fingers.  You cannot cling or grasp tight enough. 

Crawl...
Walk...
Run...

Where are examples right now where crawling is good?  And where is it bad?
Where is walking outside, strolling with your spouse, or just having a savory pace both good and is there a place where it is not so great/grand?
Where is running...good and where might it be bad?  Like when I am running late or running on empty...or maybe it is more like Chariots of Fire where the lead character says, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."

The beauty of these words is that there are blessings and brokenness in all of them.  There are moments the words point toward something beautiful and positive and powerful.  There are moments they can describe and define the struggle of life.

I pray as you continue to let the words sit, simmer, and sing to your soul...there may be more than a trace of God's grace.

Blessings ~~

Friday, March 22, 2019

Lenten Words


This week we have dived deep into seven paradoxical...perhaps perplexing...and I pray playful words:

6.   Question
7.   Weakness
8.   Strength
9.   Peace
10. Chaos
11.  Hope
12.  Unfair

A quick poem that found its way through this list of words to offer itself to me:

Through the questions of life,
I can start to see weakness as strength...
Moments I bumble and stumble as the path to engage
New thoughts...
New dreams...
new prayers
Previously left unexplored because I was told those roads were closed.
As I wander and wonder, I start to see some strengths as weakness.
Clinging to certainty, when only mystery will do.
Might makes right, as the least helpful/hopeful way.
And through the chaos of random thoughts...peace comes for a short visit.
And through the chaos of random thoughts...hope sits for a spell in my soul.
And while life is unfair, and I am called to do what I can,
I also sense the beauty a well asked question can evoke and provoke...
And even invoke the holy here and now.

I invite you to keep playing with these words...and we will add another seven to sit in your mind, heart, and soul for the coming week:

13.  Grace
14.  Faith
15.  Crawl
16.  Walk
17.  Run
18.  Purple
19.  Party

What is the first word that leaps off the screen into your soul?
What word didn't even really register when your scanned the seven?
Any initial connections you sense/see?
And contradictions?

Can you use the words in a sentence like...

When I learned to crawl, I didn't realize I would one day walk and then run.  But now that I run, I wonder if I could recapture the ability to crawl?  Inch across the ground where the purple flowers look different face-to-face than from above?  Where the smell of fresh mowed grass might be the fragrance of grace.  Where my perspective is turned upside down, which is always what faith invites. This party with the earth, so close to creation from another perspective, found only when I tried crawling again.  Perhaps that is always the invitation of Lent.

Okay...now your turn.

And may there be more than a trace of God's grace in this prayerful moment of playing with Lenten words.

Blessings ~~


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Lenten Words



This week we have been prayerfully playing with this list of words:

6.   Question
7.   Weakness
8.   Strength
9.   Peace
10. Chaos
11.  Hope
12.  Unfair

What fascinates me is that not only are there paradoxes between the words and the worlds they create together, there are paradoxes within each word.

For example, questions ~ there are some questions that evoke wonder and awe.  Questions that stir and swirl within us when we stare at a starry night sky.  Who are we?  Why are we here?  Then, there are questions that can cause our defensive shield to be engaged.  When someone asks us, "What are you doing?"  Or, "Why did you do that?"  Questions can provoke and evoke both the beauty around us and within us...as well as the brokenness that sits side-by-side.  The very word, "question," is a paradox/puzzle.

The same is true of weakness.  On the one hand we try to avoid and hide our weaknesses...cover them over.  On the other...it is through acknowledge our weaknesses that we claim our full humanness.  Humility is not always held as a virtue in our day-to-day world...just go check the most recently headlines.  Yet, I rarely lead a memorial service where someone says the person, "Boasted and bragged and that was a good thing."  It is endless fascinating and flummoxing that what we really hold true as valuable at the end, we don't always acknowledge in our normal course of daily lives.  To live from our weakness is a strength.

The same is true of strength.  In what ways can you see both the beauty and brokenness in that word and the world it crafts/creates?  Sometimes we need strength...sometimes strength tramples on others.  

Peace can be wonderful...and can lead to complacency or so idealized we never realize the way peace is within us and around us.

Chaos can cause our minds to swirl and feel out of control...and can be the spark of creativity we need just as it was in the beginning with God and the sloshing chaos.

Hope...like peace...can motivate us to move in new ways or be so far-flung that we stay stuck on the side lines.

Unfairness is both an invitation to see that our relationships are not always equal...and that such inequality, when seen, can direct our energy toward each other.

Paradoxes between/woven within the list.
Paradoxes within the words themselves.

What ways does that awaken more than a trace of grace for you?

Blessings ~~ 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Lenten Words


You have had a few knows to play prayerfully with the following words:

6.   Question
7.   Weakness
8.   Strength
9.   Peace
10. Chaos
11.  Hope
12.  Unfair

Words not only create worlds...some times they create a space and place ~ which is why I love reading a good book.  In worship, it is not only the physical building in which we dwell, but also the liturgy (spoken prayers/sung music/being with others) that can create a cathedral to enter too.  Good worship invites us in to something/somewhere to dwell for awhile.  This is what makes Sunday morning so sacred.  We enter a space where words (spoken and sung) still reverberate and resonate from the walls around us...if only we listen.  We enter a space where the sacred has been sung by people we will never know...and yet we can still hear the faint echo of presence from the past.  But we don't only enter the physical door, we are invited to cross another threshold through the words that are spoken and sung that day.  Worship that is meaningful and makes a difference takes us on a journey.  Sometimes...when I leave worship that has stirred my heart...it is because the journey was coherent and creative.  Other times...I feel like the journey was chaotic...we took too many exit ramps or the path felt circuitous ~~ like from the Family Circus comic strip where the mother would ask the child to go two doors down to borrow some sugar from a neighbor and the child would go in the opposite direction and all over town before returning one hour later...having forgotten the sugar. 

When words sit closely snuggled together, they start a sort of divine dance.  Some words just make better dancing partners...sometimes the words step on each other's toes...sometimes the words simply want to sit silently on the sidelines unsure if they really know the right moves to be out on the dance floor.  What I notice about the above list of words is the playful paradox woven in the list.  Weakness and strength...peace and chaos...hope and unfairness within life.  All that rings true within my life this past week. 

The moments of weakness when I said something I instantly regretted or just wondered if I was doing the right thing.
The moments of laughter and love filling me to overflowing with strength.
The moments of peacefully sitting or holding someone's hand in the hospital while the chaos of machines help the person to breath or provided needed medicine - noticed again how two seemingly contradictory words could sit side-by-side in the same space.
The moments of hope that come crashing down to unfairness especially when scanning the morning headlines.

What other ways are these words being embodied and embraced in your life?  How are you encountering these words in flesh/bone/breath?  How might these words create space/place for you in these Lenten days?

May there continue to be a thread/trace of God's grace in your life.

Blessings ~~

Friday, March 15, 2019

Lenten Words


So...you've had a few days now to play with these words...

1.   Ashes
2.   Dark
3.   Light
4.   Creating/Creativity/Crafting
5.   Forgiveness

Maybe you've found a poem sitting in your soul like ~~

Out of the dark of ashes,
Streams forth a small creating light,
Crafting a renewal and refreshing understanding that
We are called for each other...
To give generously our full selves to each other...
And maybe that is really what for-give-ness means.

Or maybe you wrote a definition...took a photo...found an example from your life.

A time you sat by the fire burning bright, until there was only ash smoldering.
Or a stumbling in the dark when you stubbed your toes...or watched as a comet soared across the sky.
Or a light that shined on your face or maybe from your face.
To step into the creativity of Lent...to realize that we are for each other and we give to each other because God is for and gives God's self to us. 

So...ready for some more words?  That was rhetorical, because I am totally going to throw out another seven whether you said, "Yes" or "No".

6.   Question
7.   Weakness
8.   Strength
9.   Peace
10. Chaos
11.  Hope
12.  Unfair

Which word do you find yourself gravitating toward first?  Which word do you resist and say, "I am totally skipping that word!"  Or maybe you are thinking, "I really liked the old list better." 

Try this...

What is one question you are carrying right now about life/faith/God?
What is one weakness right now you want to hide deep in the dark shadow of yourself?
What is one strength you want to shine and shimmer with others?
Where is peace found right now?  Where is chaos living within?
What about hope?  Have you drank from that well recently?
Or does all this just feel unfair...insert foot stomp here.

Before I write any more...I want to let these words linger and see what starts to wiggle/work in your life.

Let these words start to write a symphony...chose a key to compose the music...is there a melody in these words you might hear?  It could shift signatures between the words too.

Just sit and let the words simmer and start to sing softly to you.

And may more than a trace of God's grace be with you.

Amen




Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lenten Words


So in the last post we played around the threads that tie and tether together these words:

1.   Ashes
2.   Dark
3.   Light
4.   Creating/Creativity/Crafting
5.   Forgiveness

What is stirring and swirling within you as that post settles in?

What new ideas or insights were awoken?

Was there any resistance or rejection or just plain, "But I don't wanna!"?

Did you discover any distinctiveness or difference with each word?  Any new connections or collaboration with these five words?

Another way to link the five words would be the creation narratives of Genesis 1 and 2.  In the beginning there was chaos and God together.  There was a sloshing sea of atoms swirling around that was disorganized and disheveled and dissonance dancing with the divine.  Just to be clear, that wasn't necessarily bad.  Sometimes the messy mud of life might be preparing for something new.  Because matter can not be created or completely destroyed, the ashy atoms of life are constantly shifting ~ changing forms.  Sometimes that dissonant chord needs to keep being played unresolved.  Sometimes the darkness lingers so that we can see the stars of night...and their beautiful light better.  Sometimes our creativity comes not only when the sun is out and joy comes easy.  The darkness, the muddiness, the messiness can help us too.  Sometimes forgiveness need not only be a word saturated and soaked with guilt...but forgiveness can free us and others from the chains that are holding us back.

See the way that a few words create a cathedral for you to dwell in?  See the way that a few words, playing with them, can set in motion a train you never thought you would board?

Keep dancing with the divine with these words...especially if you can't quite seem to find connections... because maybe there is something lingering in the small space in-between these five words that only you can sense.

May there be more than a trace of grace in that child-like exploration for you.

Amen ~~



Monday, March 11, 2019

Lenten Words

Yesterday, I posted my sermon on Matthew 18:1-4, click here to read, along with an invitation to become child-like this Lent.  The sermon alludes to a series of 40 words...not included in the post.  I want to rewind, review the words starting on Ash Wednesday through today the first Sunday in Lent.  The first series/set of words were:

1.   Ashes
2.   Dark
3.   Light
4.   Creating/Creativity/Crafting
5.   Forgiveness

These first five words might seem on the surface to have nothing to do with each other...like some random shopping list.  By the way, I wonder how much a store would charge for creativity or forgiveness?  Would we think it was worth it if we could simply purchase that?

But for me, there is a thread that tethers and ties these first five words together. 

First, a few words about forgiveness...because I think that word has weight to it.  There has been many descriptions and definitions of forgiveness from the church ~~ usually most of these are drenched and dripping in guilt.  Most of the time we feel like forgiveness is forced upon us.  This starts early in life when a parent demands and decrees that we say, "I am sorry," for taking a cookie without asking or saying something that hurts another person's feelings.  We often in the opening prayer at church use the word, "confess".  And I know that sometimes what people are reading/saying they may not feel like they did...so why confess?  We are given a cultural script of innocent until proven guilty and seen in our culture today people shame and blame others rather than accept that our humanity has brokenness and blessing woven into our DNA.  Forgiveness cannot be defined or confined.  Forgiveness, in my life, has been a process.  Rarely is it one and done.  Rarely can I simply forgive and forget.  Usually, I try to forgive someone...and then that person says something that bumps the wounded of why I was trying to forgive him in the first place!  It can create a spiral.  You try to forgive Uncle Albert for his comment against your boyfriend.  You let go of tending the fire of anger or fueling the frustration.  You try to stop drinking the rat poison and expecting the rat to die.  And you are getting there.  You show up for Easter...only Al seems to have come up with some new material to frustrate you.  Al seems to have the nuclear codes and combination to raise that cackles on the back of your neck. 

Second...just as those who cause us pain seem to be creative...so too we need to be creative as well.  Sometimes with forgiveness you have to walk away for awhile.  This happens in our family all the time.  We get in a frustrating situation and we can either - a). dig in our heels and keep debating feeling the temperature of the air rise...OR b). go cool our jets...count to one million - because sometimes counting to ten I have barely un-clutched my teeth. 

Third....I think there is a light and dark to forgiveness.  The light that shines can sometimes show me both where I might be wrong (my own shadow/dark side - more on that in a moment) as well as what the next right step is in the process of forgiving Al.  Or maybe the light helps me see why Al is saying what Al is saying.  Maybe Al is trying to protect me...or is letting his prejudice show...or is projecting something of unprocessed pain on to me...or doesn't fully realize I am frustrated...or who knows why?  After all, I can sometimes say something and moments later wonder, "Why did you say that, bonehead?!"  Maybe Al doesn't realize what he is saying.  And when any of us are called on the carpet for something we get defensive and try to deflect.  When any of us are called on the carpet that inner five year old trying to sneak a cookie who gets caught comes out and wants to say we are innocent...adjusting our halo.  That is human nature.  That is our shadow side that we want to hide.  The bright light in the darkness can blind us...especially when we prefer that part of ourselves to stay in the dark...thank you very much.

Which leads/lands me on the word, ash.  Ashes are usually the residue and remains from something that has been burnt.  The ash from firewood or from a palm branch.  Ashes are about that in our life which we cannot put back together.  Ashes are a great symbol for forgiveness.  You cannot go back and un-say what Al said to you.  There is no rewind button.  So we have to deal with ashes - our own and others.

So, who is Uncle Al for you?  Who are you so frustrated and furious with that you are not sure you could ever embody or embrace forgiveness toward that person?   Who is that person you might need forgiveness from?  Not to force you...not to demand...not to decree...but to invite you into the creative dance of light and dark with the ash of life that might help us forgive and seek forgiveness.

It is my prayer that there is more than a trace of grace in this invitation for you this day and this week.

Amen ~~

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Lenten Words

Last Wednesday...we began the journey of Lent.  Here is the sermon I preached on Ash Wednesday which will guide my blog posts in the coming weeks.  The sermon was based on Matthew 18:1-4, click here to read.

I have always enjoyed reading articles where people rate and rank, debate and discuss, classify and categorize who is the greatest of all time or GOAT for short.  For example, is Beethoven or Bach the best composer ever?  Is it Gone with the Wind or The Wizard of Oz or Star Wars at the top of the list?  Is it Audrey Hupburn or Meryl Streep?  Is it Frasier or Ali; Brandy or Manning; Michael Jordon or LeBron James, with my deepest apologies to my Cleveland brothers and sisters for that reference.  There is something deep down within us that loves to compare and contrast, rank and rate, that wants to know who is at the front and who is no so much.  So, it makes complete sense to me that at the weekly staff meeting for the disciples, the question of who is the greatest came up on the agenda.  Maybe Peter was thinking he might be nominated.  Afterall when Jesus he got out of the boat, he had the first idea for a capital campaign, and when Jesus had asked who do you say I am, Peter aced that pop quiz by answering, “The Messiah.”  Maybe Judas wanted to throw his name into the hat being so frugal and tight fisted with the common purse.  Maybe James and John wanted to be considered in the conversation, after all just on Sunday they were invited to that special meeting on the mountain and unlike Mr. Rockhead Peter kept their mouths shut in the face of the mystery of the transfiguration.  Who is the greatest might still linger in our lives.  We want to know our legacy and leave a lasting impression on this world, we want to know what people will say at our memorial service.  By the way, I am sure people will say about me that I talked way too much.  We all want that fifteen minutes of fame to be soaked and saturated in the spotlight.
I get it.  What would have confused and confounded the disciples is when Jesus took and placed a child in the middle of the circle.  First, ever wonder why was there some random child who just happened to be walking, wandering past at that precise moment?   Talk about good timing.  Second, a child?  In Jesus’ world the term helicopter parenting was as inconceivable as space travel.  In Jesus’ world the idea that you would work all week only to race and run your kinds to activities on your day off made as much sense as picking up your cross to follow Jesus.  In Jesus’ world where the Greek language for child was not assigned a masculine or feminine root because you were not sure if the child would live.  You see children in Jesus day were property.   Children were more of a liability than unconditionally loved.  Into that staff meeting where Jesus invites a child, and I love N.T. Writes translation this passage as, “Do you see her?  This is who we aspire to be”  Not at the top or successful, but on the fringe and fray.  Such a teaching, preaching would have caused jaws to drop and heads to shake.  I imagine some who heard this might have even been so offended because a child was seen as weak and vulnerable and dependent.  To be like a child would be to strive toward humility, give up pretense of professionalism, give up independence and autonomy and self-reliance.  And if all this sounds even vaguely familiar, I hear in these words the melody of the beatitudes being sung in another key.  To be a child should disrupt and even disturb us a bit.  It would mean to give up our status and rights.  Every one of us have probably muttered and mumbled under our breath growing up when a parent demanded or commanded to finish our brussels sprouts or clean our room or share our toys, “Just wait til I get older.”  Go back to being like a child?  Having a teenage, I remember how I couldn’t wait to drive.  The lure of freedom and the sweet bliss of a few years of my parents paying car insurance.  Good time.  But maybe there is something else here too.  Children have wonder, imagination, constantly and continually changing and growing, questioning, exploring, and trying to expand. 
And perhaps as adults it would behoove us to recapture and reclaim that we are forever and always an amateur in the most beautiful meaning of that word.  That our faith is never finished.  I am so sorry that for far too long the church has seemed to suggest or say that once you were confirmed you could graduate rather than saying faith is always evolving and expanding.  I am so sorry that for far too long the church has promoted confidence and certainty rather than questioning and curiosity.  I am so sorry that for far too long the church would rather be stubbornly stern, serious, somber than playful, joyful, and fully present which anyone under the age of ten can be.  To be child-like could cause all of us to re-frame and re-fashion why we are here and what are we doing.  So, by way of an invitation, I have a Lenten assignment for you.  In your bulletin are forty words.  Inspired by one of my favorite books, Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris, you are invited to take these words and be creative as you feel called.  For my right-brain brothers and sisters maybe you want to go out and take a photograph or paint or write poems that you think captures each word.  For my left-brain maybe you want to write a definition or description of each word or discover an example from your life for each.  Maybe there is a story that can teether and tie all forty words together.  I would love to read that.  Maybe there is a prayer you write.  I would love to share than in a service this Lent.  Maybe you just hold each word for one day and try to use it ten times in a sentence that day, good luck with the word, “crawl” when that comes up.  I want you to embrace and fully embody that child-like part of your soul that is still stirring and swirling within you in this season of Lent.  I invite you to be so playful and passionate that people who go to other churches will wonder, what in the world is being preached at that church.  I invite us as people of faith today to take Jesus’ words to heart, because this is one of the few times Jesus was clear that the pathway to greatness and glory and fully experiencing God’s grace might be by remembering that we are forever children of God.  May that truth simmer and stir within you for the coming forty days.  Amen.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Friday...


Around our house...Friday has a special sacredness.
Another week of school for our kids is in the books.
Another week of work for my wife and I is ended.
Time seems to slow down a bit and make less demands.
Friday night is pizza and ice cream night.
Friday night is time to watch a movie or some frivolous television.
Friday night seems to have this special sacredness that asks us to breathe and be...take stock of what was...what is...what will be.

Of course, this isn't new.  Our Jewish brothers and sisters have said for centuries that when the sun sets on Friday, the seventh day begins (because in Genesis 1, creation starts at night).  Our Jewish brothers and sisters see sun down on Friday to sun down on Saturday as a time for sabbath...to pause, to worship, to remember that we are more than what we produce or consume.  That we do not earn our worth or Gods love.  Friday as a special, set apart time to be saturated/soaked in the sacredness of life.

Of course...tuning out the world can cause restlessness.  What if I don't respond to that email or text right away?  Why would I want to stop being connected?  Why would I not just go to the store, I mean it is open?  Why would I need a different rhythm?

Because our current - constantly on the go...always connected...always trying to catch some elusive carrot on a stick...doesn't seem to be helping our health - physically or mentally or spiritually.  Some are calling my children's generation, "the Burnout Generation." (click here to read more)  After never having any unstructured time...after constantly going from school to sports to music to studying cycle...they are breaking down.  Our children are not machines.  You are not built to keeping going without moments to breathe and be.  Our bodies...our minds...our hearts...our communities...our families...our earth is crying out...but we keep chugging and coasting along ignoring the warning lights on the dashboard of life.

During Lent...a number of people give something up.  What if you gave up always being necessary?  What if you gave up constantly being connected?  What if you gave up your iphone for just one hour tonight?  Don't worry...it is an amazing device that will hold all your texts until you are ready.  What if you went outside...not to walk...but to sit...listen...feel a breath so deep your belly pushes on the button of your pants?  What if you went outside...to remember God called all creation, "Good" including you!  We need that kind of space and place.  We need those kinds of moments to see and sense the traces of grace I post about.  We need that kind of practice, perhaps now more than ever.  So, what if for the next few weeks on Friday, you would take an hour or two...or ever twelve! to step into something special and sacred?  That kind of openness might just change everything.  Now, if you excuse me...there is a chair outside calling my name.

Blessings ~~ 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ashes


The burnt bits of wood broke easily into ash
As I poked at the fire that blazed last night.
I remember the warmth...laughter...roasting marshmallows and watching the flames dance.
Now, no heat rose...no sound was heard...no sweet sugary item was founds...the flames had long since stopped to draw you in.

It is so easy to see ashes as a reminder of what was...
As what will never be again.
It is so easy to see ashes as a reminder of
brokenness...those atoms left over...as a negative remnant that is now useless.

What good can come of ashes??

Today, we take the palm branch from last year to burn on Ash Wednesday.
We take what has gone from green/growing/alive to now brown and brittle.
We take and burn the palm that was still drenched in "Hosannas" from last Palm Sunday.
We take and burn the palm that still has the DNA of the hands that held it.
We take and burn the palm to make something else.
The palm branch quickly is consumed and turned to ash.
We take the ash, trace the place where years ago a pastor made the sign of the cross on my forehead at baptism.
We take the ash as a reminder that from dust...soil and star dust...we are made. 
And one day to that same dust...above and below...we will return.
We take the ash that still hums with life...because energy is never destroyed...cannot so easily be discarded.
On our forehead we humbly bow to receive this gift.
The gift of interconnectedness to all creation.
The gift of God's grace that meets us not just when our halos shine brightly.
The gift of God who says, "Even in the ash, I am there."

On Ash Wednesday...we need not see this day as serious and somber...the start of drudgery of Lent.
On Ash Wednesday...we receive a symbol that forever changes the world...and us.
On Ash Wednesday...in a simple cross on our forehead...there is more than a trace of God's grace.

It is a blessing...that out of the ash of life...phoenixes still rise.
It is a blessing...that out of the ash of life...God still crafts and creates.
It is a blessing...that out of the ash of life...we still can sense the sacred.

May that blessing hover and hang around your life during this holy season of Lent.

Amen ~~

Monday, March 4, 2019

Meeting Matthew Again...Anew


When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”  They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”  And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Matthew 14:15-18

I have to admit that I can be a lot like the disciples.  Around dinner time, I get hangry....hungry and a bit edgy.  I get after standing/sitting all day in the blazing hot sun baking the back of their necks...listening to Jesus preach and teach a sermon that Matthew doesn't even bother to give us - been there and preached that sermon many, many times - the disciples just want to take their bread and fish for a nice quiet picnic. 

I love how the disciples say this place is barren...desolate...a desert-like place.  I imagine there were not many trees around...perhaps a sea of sand as far as the eye could see.  We all have moments like God's people in the Exodus when it feels like we are wandering aimlessly in the desert/wilderness moment.  We have those times when nothing seems to be fruitful...if it wasn't for bad luck we won't have any luck at all...moments when our soul is parched and dried out like a prune.  Maybe you are going through one of those moments right now.  You know that desert place where there is no oasis in sight to refresh or renew.  Maybe you are logging long hours...here we could pray for our CPA brothers and sisters trying to navigate new tax laws.  Maybe you are grieving the death of someone you love.  Maybe it is feeling pushed to the fringes where you sense you are forgotten.  Maybe it is... just feel in the blank from your experience.

When I am in that desert/wilderness...tired...hangry...I can sound a lot like the disciples, "C'mon Jesus send these people away.  No more meetings, Jesus.  No more requests for time or obligations... just some free space in my calendar, please."  In the blurry brokenness, the disciples don't see the crowds as people, just a pain.  They don't see the image of God dancing in the eyes of each person, just one more problem.  So, Jesus wave bye-bye, and we can go have dinner.

Jesus...being Jesus...has to turn this into a teachable moment.  "You give them something to eat."

Wait...me?

Did Jesus not see the weary or worn out look in the disciples' eyes?  Did Jesus not see how their shoulders slouched or hear their stomachs grumble/growl?  Did Jesus not sense that perhaps this wasn't the best time? 

You...yes you... give feed these crowds.

So the disciples say, "Um yeah, we have just enough for us...and it isn't like there is a Walmart nearby for us to go get enough food."

When my spiritual gas tank is on empty...when my body didn't get enough sleep...when Grumpy Dwarf has taken over my head/heart/whole life...scarcity becomes my dominate frame-of-reference.  Scarcity...don't have enough time...enough energy...feel like I am running late from the moment my feet hit the floor until I fall exhausted into bed that night.  Scarcity says, "Whoa wait...if you go and give some bread away...what are you going to eat?  Remember, you are hangry!"  (I promised myself I'd use that word three times in this post...mission accomplished!)

Here is the thing...if I wait for the perfect conditions physically/emotionally/spiritually before I let loose with the love of God within me...probably not ever going to happen.  If I wait until I am ready...probably not ever going to happen.  There is always an excuse.  Always something else clamoring or trying to claim my time.  Always something else on the to-do list that seems more important.

Here is the deeper thing...I don't have to give away five hundred gallons of love or soak someone with a ton of grace.  Sometimes just a little goes a long way.  To say, "Great" to someone's idea rather than just roll my eyes and look at my watch.  Didn't take me any additional time...but might feed both the other person and me.  Or what if I decide that each Sunday I'll bring one item from my cupboard for the food pantry?  Or what if I decide that rather than staring at social media for an hour (an activity that drains energy), instead I go take a walk outside?  As William James wrote, "The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."

No one from the local newspaper will cover this...no one from Action News is going to come interview me...but such small actions help me remember miracles start in our willingness to be and stay open...even when hangry.

And in that small opening there is always room for more than a trace of God's grace to move.

Blessings ~~

Friday, March 1, 2019

What is Wisdom??


I love it when a group of words congregate, converge together in such a way that it makes you pause.  I love it when a sentence is so beautifully put together that it brings a smile to your face.
I love good quotations dripping and drenched with wisdom.
This is part of the reason why I love scripture so much.  The words of Scripture create worlds that sing to my soul.  The words of Scripture cast a vision that compels, challenges and calls out to my heart.  The words of Scripture form and fashion a space.  There is this sense that the words of worship create a place too.  This is called, the Cathedral of liturgy.  Good prayers, call to worships, hymns that flow into a Scripture passage that is amplified, electrified in the sermon.  You enter in...just as you would a house...only it is cinder block or wood structure...but made from verbs and nouns dancing together.  Words that have not just of syllables but evoke meaning and possibility.

So, on this Friday, the first of March...I wanted to share some words that are created worlds for me.  Words that open space for me.

As Jimi Hendrix said, "Knowledge speaks...but wisdom listens."

What are you listening to right now?  Does it have depth or is it surface level babbling?  It is powerful or just more political spinning?  Is it a world of wonder or does it make you want to wander off to the edge of the earth?

Or how about this one...
James Hudson Taylor - "There are three stages in the work of God: impossible, difficult, and done.

I think I get stuck between stages one and two all the time.  Or, even worse, I see something as impossible and don't even start/try.  Parker Palmer says that sometimes we make our visions so small because we are afraid of failing/falling.  While small visions have a place/space...are important... we also need that which might outlast our life time.  What vision is in your heart as we begin the third month of 2019?

Or what about this one...
16th Century poet - Every saint has a past...and every sinner has a future.

I just love the notion that not every halo is as shiny as you think it is...and that no matter what kind of brokenness you have participated in, God's grace is still there, ready to welcome you home.  As a matter of fact, as Paul says in Romans, "nothing separates us for the love of God.  Nothing....Nada... Zip...Zilch...can't do it, even if you try.  That is why grace is unconditional and unceasing.

Finally...even though I could do this all day...

Edmund Burke, "Never, no, never did Nature say one thing and Wisdom another."  There are truths that only creation can teach and tell us.  There are profound mysteries that come from rain drenching, sun soaking, wind whipping, standing on a mountain above the clouds or sinking your toes into the sand or just being on that corner where you call home.  There are more truths in your back yard than could ever be experienced and explored.  We miss them.  Because we see them too much.  So, listen to the wisdom...not only of words...but also the cathedral of creation proclaim and preaching this day.

And may there be more than a trace of God's grace in that.

Blessings ~~