Friday, May 31, 2019

Success take Three


As we have been prayerfully pondering our own understandings of success...what is roaming and rummaging around my mind is a wonderful prayer by Thomas Merton.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I, especially, love that second line... "I have no idea where I am going"...

Yup.  That seems like a daily truth for me.

I don't always see clearly...I stumble and bumble...fall flat on my face.  I get turned around and confused.

Then, I love that line that in the midst of the confounding and confusing...that the desire to please God DOES please God.

Imagine God delighting in the orientation of our hearts toward God and the good of others/world.  Not because we arrived at some predetermined destination of success.
Not because we have proven ourselves and God awards us with a certificate.
Not because we deserve or earn God's graceful/loving presence.

But because that is who God is.
And who we are in our deepest sense.  That is the desire, to connect with the part of ourselves that is kept hidden because the world is too wild, harsh, and hard to let that vulnerability be exposed to the raw elements.

I invite you to hold this prayer this weekend.

Pray it.

Let it simmer in your soul.

Let the words sit on your tongue ~ to determine/distinguish the taste of each.

Let the truths sink down and see how they sit within you...do they awaken joy or confusion or indifference?

How might this prayer speak to and sing out about the question, what is success, that has been guiding us all week long?

I pray that as we dive together into these waters...there will be more than a trace of grace that buoys us and helps us float in God's presence.

Amen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Success take Two


Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:7-8

We have been letting the question, what is success, stir and swirl and sit within us.

I pray there have been moments of honesty...heartfelt shining of a light on your life. 

I pray there has been a gentleness not to get caught in the dualistic thinking of either/or.  For example, either pursuing a degree is absolutely right or wrong!!

Again, I am grateful for my education...the experiences...the moments that formed and fashioned me.  And I also realize there is more than book knowledge and arranging my mental furniture or passing a test that matter in this world.

Both/And.

I love this third chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians.  A quick note here: any of Paul's letters were not written to us...yet we might still find something for us in these words.

Paul starts off chapter 3 by talking about his accomplishments.  His wonderful history and heritage.  How he was circumcised on the 8th day...ouch...and I bet he really doesn't remember that ~ nor would he want to.
How he was part of the tribe of Benjamin...which was the "cool" tribe...like people who can trace their ancestors back to Pilgrims on the Mayflower.  I think my ancestors came over smuggled on a cargo ship escaping England.
How he was a Pharisee...he had the right degree and pedigree.
How he persecuted the church...which maybe he did not want to bring that up to people who he would have persecuted.  It is like talking to a cow about a delicious hamburger only now you are a vegetarian...you think.


Give that last line a second...I think eventually it might be funny.  Or if not, we can move on.

But then Paul turns on a dime in verse 7 and says...well that was all hogwash.  It was all like putting lipstick on a pig.

That is Iowan speak for rubbish.

Yet...I would also want to say/suggest to Paul that who he was made him who he is!

We cannot rewind time or redo the past or take a mulligan on a mistake.

But maybe...in some cases...we wouldn't want to either.

I fully realize there are painful past moments we would not wish on our worst enemy.  Or were caused by our worst enemy!

But there are also moment that through the difficulty I grew.  Through the pain I found new empathy that I didn't have before.  Through processing the pain I arrived at a way of being that would not have been the same if the road had been smooth sailing alongside a chocolate river. 

How can we hold onto who we were and how that shaped who we are...letting that shine a light on our understanding of success?

I pray if we do this...there would be more than a trace of God's grace in our lives in that moment.

Blessings ~~

Monday, May 27, 2019

Success


 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain -Christ  Philippians 3:7-8

It is graduation season...which means there is a fresh crop of well-meaning, advice-giving, platitude offering speechifying going on right now.  It means that people are trying to both congratulate and motivate...and having sat there in a rented gown a couple of times...I not sure I remember most of what people were trying to impart to me.  Perhaps that was because often it is so warm in those graduation gowns...you fan yourself with your program, maybe the air current causes the words to go in one ear and out the other.  Or maybe by that point, it is such a bittersweet moment.  On the one hand, you worked hard for that piece of paper you are about to get...on the other, you are about to leave the familiar rhythm of high school or college.  There are so many emotions swirling and stirring at that moment.  It can also be this awkward moment of sitting next to someone you didn't really get to know over four or three or two years...and your friends are two rows back because they had the audacity to go and have their last names begin with "M"...while you are stuck making small talk with someone you probably will not see again. 

Good times.

Which brings me to a great question from Denise Pope, what is success?

I grew up thinking success was that educational goal.
I grew up given a script that success meant getting a good job.
I grew up believing that 'the good life' was about a house and providing for my family.

Don't get me wrong...those are all good things.  I am just not sure that is success.  I value my education, but in the end it also made me realize how much I did not know and how learning was going to be continual.  I love my job, but that isn't all of who I am or long to be.  I am grateful for the roof over my head and the food on the table. 

But I don't know if that is really what success is all about.

Denise Pope asks people this question, she reports that youth will talk about much of what I just did.  Job.  Money.  Prestige, even power or position. 

But then...

Their parents talk about success as being good people, caring about others, and being content/joyful in life.

There was very classes on those subjects in school.

There are very few good models of that in the world today.

What we read online and in the paper...what we see in so many leaders today is more of the insatiable desire for more...to continually define the world by winners or losers.

Which is it?

It could be both...but that also makes it really tough to plan the day!

Do I keep reading or enjoy the sunny day splashing in the pool?
Do I put in more hours at work or just sit and breathe?
And yes, while I want to do both...sometimes the to-do list is just too long and we need to make choices.

Will you sit with me on this wonderfully insightful question, what is success?

And may there be a trace of God's grace stirring within us as we try to lean into and live out that question.

Blessings ~~

Friday, May 24, 2019

Eight Hundred posts celebration


So this week, I went over the 800 mark of posts. 

It feels significant.  Although, I really thought when I reached this milestone there would be fireworks or cheering or at least someone doing a kazoo solo.

When I started this blog over six years ago...it was a way to get ideas out there into the universe.  I've always wanted to publish a book...and this offered me an opportunity (a prayer practice as I described in the last post) to share with others. 

This summer I will be working on that book that has been patiently/persistently waiting.  I've read enough and heard enough published author's speak that I know the journey will not be easy.  It will take longer than the 10 weeks I have and will extend into the fall...perhaps even winter...maybe more.  I have no guarantee that it will be published.

Except...

I can publish it here.

Starting in late June I will share some of my early drafts.  They will probably be so rough (like sandpaper) you could smooth any splinter on a board with them.  My point and prayer is not to be perfect, but to keep sharing what is in my heart.  My point and prayer is that I can offer every excuse in the book why I shouldn't do this...but something compels me to try anyway. 

The artist within wants to be loose.  The artist wants to go on a journey and bring others along. 

Which reminds me of a poem I just wrote (again rough draft here...we are talking sandpaper).

The squirrel scurried across the electrical wire high up in the air.
With the ease of a circus act and no net.
No fear of falling the some thirty feet to the unforgiving concrete.
Hurrying to some place...just like me.
While I might know my destination,
I was not aware of where the squirrel was heading.

In the tightrope of life...I calculate the drop down with every step.
In the tightrope of life...I want to minimize any stumble...not bumble.
In the tightrope of life...I am probably less concerned about the physically injuries
And more the emotional and spiritual ones from those around me.

Hurrying, scurrying through the day.
I wonder if that squirrel had been there all along?
Has she crossed my path previously?
Has she been dancing daintily across the wire and I just didn't notice?

Or maybe this was the first appearance...and I was fortunate to catch the premier.
And delighted I am because in that moment there was more than a trace of grace...
There was reminder how I might live life so fearless - and one scurrying step at a time.

Blessings

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Music of our Hearts


Waves move in patterns. Patterns move in rhythms. A human being is just that, energy, waves, patterns, rhythms. Nothing more. Nothing less. A dance. —Gabrielle Roth

If you hold your Bible close to your ear, you can actually hear a sacred soundtrack pouring forth.

Miriam picks up a tambourine on the other side of the Red Sea and breaks into sacred song and dance about our liberating love of God.

Joshua leads a marching band around the outskirts of Jericho with trumpets blaring and blasting to cause the walls to come a tumbling down.

David played what we think was a lyre and it would soothe the troubled soul of Saul.

Mary pregnant with the possibility of being the God-bearer lets loose with a solo worthy of any singing competition on television today sending shivers and goosebumps down our arms.

Our Bible is less some history book and more of a Broadway musical.  There are sound vibration that resonate and reverberate from every book of the Bible.  And those hymns invite us into the holy.  This is true not only of the Hebrew Hymnal we call the Psalms, but also other places in the pages of Scriptures.

Have you ever been in a group where people sing in a serious and somber way?  There is no spirit...the walls of our hearts do not tumble down - might even be bored.  How about when someone is pouring out energy and every note seems to come from the soul?  Now I am leaning forward in my chair...listening to the story being told note by beautiful note.

What if, the poetry and hymns of the church are continually being created because God isn’t finished with us yet?  What if, God is really a conductor and composure of life?

That would make this moment right now part of the melody.  Maybe right now (since you are staring at a screen) the sound of the symphony called, "Your life" would be muted or quiet.  Or maybe you are in such agreement with what I am writing that you are shouting, "Hallelujah!"

I can only hope you are not in a coffee shop where everyone is looking at you now.  But if you are, hey, you do you.

Which leads me to the question, what song is on repeat in your mind and heart and body right now?  What do you hum or sing to yourself?

Part of the power of music is that it is incarnational - it is embodied in its best sense.  Music enters in through our ears...but doesn't stay there.  Good music (however you define that) is what moves our whole lives.  Why to you think people tap a toe or sway or close their eyes when music is happening around us?  Because something is happening IN us.

So, go play that song that is saving your soul right now.  Feel free to blare and blast it...

Again...unless you are at the coffee shop, I'd wait until you are alone or with someone who doesn't mind that you are singing along.

And I'll share one that offers more than a trace of grace right now for me.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Surprised by Joy



I am walking out to my car the other day, when this jacaranda tree caught my attention.  I was taken by the brilliant, bright orange...as if the tree was crying out, "Look at me!  Look at me."  I know this photo doesn't do justice to the beauty on full display.  Here is a close up of one of the branches.


I am still not sure that the vibrant-ness of that tree was captured and how captivated I was by its glory. 

We need moments in our life that stop us in our tracks.
We need moments when we are surprised by joy.

But so often in the blur and busyness of life...we can race and run past.

When I took this picture I was heading from one appointment to another.  I could have said, "Oh how pretty," with just a passing, cursory glance...letting the moment breeze by.  

Yet, I decided to stop and take a couple of photos of this tree, I believe, in full prayer to God.  

What is that you say, "Tree don't pray?"  Tell that to this jacaranda tree, if you dare.  

We have this confined notion of prayer where we have to bow our heads...fold our hands... mumble some words in monotone.  No wonder people want to leave prayer up to the so-called professional prayer-ers...aka...pastors.  What if prayer and practice were more alive?  If prayer is the invitation to be fully awake to God...listening for the song of God and looking for the glory of God in such a time as this...then, for me, stopping to take a photo is a prayer practice ~ and a faithful one too.

Walking with my wife as we process our day ~ prayer practice.
Petting my dog before I leave for work ~ prayer practice.
Asking my kids how their day was...listening...really listening ~ prayer practice.

I believe the mystics who say that God shows up disguised as your real life.  God, who is incarnate ~ self-empties ~ into Jesus the Christ (and each of us too) ~ then life - yours and mine - are one of the ways we can encounter and experience God.  

Pause for a moment ~ look back in the rear view mirror pondering where God showed up in your midst over the last few days.  Name it...claim it...celebrate it.

If it is a moment you are fully awake and aware of the sacred-ness - it is prayer.  The practice part is trying to stay in the state of awareness and awake-ness as much as possible.  

It isn't easy.

Nor is hitting a baseball hurling at you at 120 mph.
Nor is playing an instrument.
Nor is learning about which plants will thrive where - so they can be alight just like that tree.

We practice to improve.  

No one ever is a perfect prayer-er...just like every baseball player strikes out - every basketball player misses shots - and sometimes our flowers don't take for a variety of reasons.

To practice.
To keep our hearts ready and open.
To take a moment to notice and name the traces of grace around us.

That is my prayer for you this week.

Blessings  ~ 

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Frame


Putting a frame around life can be a great way to focus our attention.  So much of what we encounter every second of every day is overflowing with messages and meaning...our brains are on over load.  In a second moment I step outside, I can put a frame around so many things.

While it focuses...it also limits ~ feel free to go back and read the post on Monday about paradoxes.  Don't worry...I'll wait.

Frames can limit because something is being excluded...not part of the picture.

Yet, you and I have to do this all the time.

I frame my sermons...editing out certain ideas that in the first drafts seemed so insightful and now seem to not be as amazing as I thought.

I frame my day...there is only so many hours and some things I simply cannot do.

I frame when I am out on a walk with my wife.  She will notice something on the sidewalk or in the sky she has put a frame around that I have totally missed...and sometimes can't even see when I do try to put a frame around it.

Frames are a part of life.  And to connect with the blog post on Wednesday, it is a spiritual practice to frame the good parts of life as a way to counter the negativity bias that is woven/wired into our brains.

So pause with me...what have you framed this week?

In your relationships?
In your volunteering?
In your life?

What might be just beyond the frame...outside of it...that might also be holding more than just a trace of God's grace?

It is my prayer those questions cause your heart to stir and soul to swirl this day and in the days to come.

Blessings ~~

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Velcro and Teflon


Recently I was reading a blog post by Rick Hanson (click here to read) who was describing the negativity bias that seems to be baked and built into our brains...I guess to make life more interesting??

Basically the hard wiring in our minds is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.  This is great when we are in survival mode.  We want to remember what we heard/smell/ saw and felt right before we encountered that bear a few days ago.  We want to learn from the time we got too close to the fire.  We need to hold onto what we said that hurt another person's feelings. 

But why do we let go of the positive experiences so quickly? 

Maybe there just isn't enough storage space.
Maybe we think that we don't always deserve the positive moments - haven't earned them - although, we will probably never feel like we've earned them.
Maybe you were raised by parents like mine who wanted to make sure I didn't boast or brag too much...because, "No one likes someone who gloats".  I am not sure this is true any more.
Maybe...just maybe...we don't know why we down play the good.

For me, this reality can play itself out at the age old tradition of the pastor standing at the door at the end of the service.  First, quick exit ramp, why is this a thing?  Our amazing organist doesn't do this on Sunday.  But there I am standing there...just waiting for people to shake my hand...like I am a politician running for office.  But it is amazing how often people make comments.  I hear about someone's upcoming surgery I didn't know about.  I hear about prayer concerns...or meet someone's nephew in for a visit...and of course, I hear comments on the sermon.  At the door is where I get someone's thumbs up or thumbs down...and have to wonder if the person who is skipping the line and I thought I saw rolling his eyes at me during the sermon is mad...or just really wants to get next door for a cookie and coffee that has been brewing now for hours. 

I digress.

I think we need to velcro the good in life too.  I am reminded of this in Paul's letter to the Philippians chapter 2.  He starts off by listing all these good qualities and characteristics.  The laundry list is not as long as some other places in Paul's literary career.  In fact, at only 5 verses, actually kind of short when you compare it to Paul's description of love in 1 Corinthians 13...that one always leaves me hearing the words with the Mission Impossible theme playing in the back of my mind. 

And while my initial reaction is that I can't always love people...or be in the same spirit and mind with them...or not act out of selfish ambition but being humble always.  But the point isn't to see all the times I tried and failed, but to notice and name those moments when I felt the spirit stirring and encountered this truth.  There are moments love makes my heart, like the Grinches', grow three sizes in one day.  There are moments I feel closely connected to others ~ who I may not agree with.  There are moments in the stumbling I discover a new movement in my life.

To velcro the good...doesn't mean we deny the bad.  It doesn't have to be either or.  Rather, we up grade our hard wiring in our brain to make room, space, storage for God's grace to show up in many different ways. 

Pause with me...what was one good moment from this last week you would like to hold on to?
What was one bad moment that make should be like water off a duck's back...teflon it?

And I pray there is more than a trace of God's grace in the ways your soul response to those questions.

Blessings ~~

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Paradox of Faith



The other day, I am at a restaurant enjoying lunch with some friends.  On the table is the above vase of flowers. 

Okay...it wasn't a vase...it was a plastic cup, because I eat at only the classiest places ~ as I am sure you can tell from the state of the wooden table on which the vase - I am plastic cup - sat upon.

Okay...maybe calling them "flowers" is a bit of a stretch.  This particular species of God's creation seems to occupy that place somewhere between a dandelion and a mum.  It sort of looks like the kind of flower your four-year-old would bring home clinched so tightly in her hand that some of the flowers start to wilt and droop under the pressure.

Which is actually what the above flowers were doing.  Some looked as healthy as healthy could be... others a bit tired, hanging it's flower-head like it was studying the wooden table.

Yup...been there...had that kind of day.  The kind of day when there are moments of joy and times I just feel a bit deflated side-by-side.  The kind of day when someone says something that causes my soul to stir, only to have someone else come in with unsolicited and unhelpful advice.  The kind of day when you are not sure whether to put a check mark in the good or bad day column ~ so you put perhaps put a check in both columns just to be safe.  Or maybe if you are a plastic cup of flower empty kind of person maybe you just put the check in the bad column. 

The paradox of faith invites us into the messiness of life.  So much of the art of living for me is about seeing God both in the good, perky, beautiful flowers kinds of moments.  Moments like hanging out with my wife on Friday night or kids getting good grades or just laughing kind of moments.  Then, there are those flowers are not going to make it kind of moments - when I feel discouraged because I can't be all things to all people and have to make tough choices or see someone I care about struggling or suffering. 

In the plastic cup of life right now we all have flowers that seem to brighten and some that seem to be on their way to the great flower show in the sky, because I am assuming if all dogs go to heaven so do all flowers too.  Just makes sense right?  (He types sarcastically...then feels the need to make sure the reader knows he is being sarcastic...and then over explains this in a parenthetical detour). 

In the plastic cup of life right now some things seem to be going well and others things not so much.

In the plastic cup of life right now...there might even be beauty in the blossom as well as in those that are now past their prime...but still radiate the beauty of life.  You see the more I looked at the plastic cup of flowers, the more I saw a truth about life and faith and God.  There is a holiness to all of it and God holds of it...us...you and me together. 

Then...lunch came...which was delicious.  And in that moment there was more than a trace of God's grace in my life.

Blessings ~~

Friday, May 10, 2019

Encountering Joy ~~ take three


Recently I heard Atul Gawande author of the book, Being Mortal, talk about one of the most important questions:

What would be the most perfect day for you?

This is a great question for each of us to answer...first on our own.  Step one: try to silence all the "shoulds" and "have tos" in your mind.  We let a lot of voices ~ other than our own ~ define and describe what joy is.  If you don't want to travel...then let go of leaving your home as a source of joy.  If you would prefer to be alone...don't pack or plan a day with family or friends.  The important words in that question are, "for you".  Not for your spouse...children...friends...others.  You.  What brings you joy is what brings you joy.  This isn't a mathematical formula or some element on the periodic table that has to be consistent across all time/space.  You get to be you.

What is that perfect day for you?

Second...let go of the guilt we can have that we would put ourselves first.  There are many hours in every week....168 to be exact.  Yes...sleeping is for you.  But, to suggest or say that you could have one day - 24 hours (minus that whole necessary sleeping thing)...for you could be an amazing gift.

Third...let go of forcing this to happen.  Nothing drains joy of its generative/gracious power than us saying through gritted teeth, "Now have fun!"  Remember when that would happen on family vacations?  Somewhere in a family album there was a photo of me suspended about 10 feet off the ground on the hand of a giant plastic guerrilla.  The sign at the tourist stop said this was a great photo opt.  My fear of heights...and even more not having an exit strategy when my dad pulled the stairs away...told me..."No, not so much."  So in the photo, I look miserable...tears coming out my eyes... not sure why we kept that Kodiak moment in retrospect.

We can't force joy...joy is difficult when guilt is weighing it down...or when we feel like it is something where we have no choice.

Joy needs freedom to be encountered...experienced...embraced.

So, let's go back to the original question from Monday, what brings you joy? 

It may not take a whole day.

Writing this blog brings me joy.
Eating pizza and ice cream on Friday night brings me joy.
A hug brings me joy.
My family including my dog bring me joy.
Reading...
Walking...
Being in nature.

The point is...what if I set aside one day...directed my energy toward those kinds of activities and experiences?

My hunch is there would be more than a trace of grace soaking and saturating that day.

Blessings ~~ 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Encountering Joy ~ take two


“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” ― Mark Twain

How are you doing staying awake and aware of the joy swirling in your life?  Do you sense that you are spotting or sensing it a bit more?  Or did you read the last post...and prompting think, "I am not sure I can do this whole 'joy' thing in the world today...thanks but no thanks!"?

Part of the reason why I think we struggle with joy is because of our isolation and individualism in the world today.

Yes, I know we are more connected than ever.  The fact that I can share these words over the fiber optic lines of the web...the face that social media drives so much of our national conversation...the fact that we count our "Friends" in the hundreds or thousands ~ many of whom we never see face-to-face tells us that.

But usually, when I encounter other's joys on-line, it can awaken that compare and compete part of my reptilian brain.  I can think, "Wait, she got a new car..." which makes me think about a new car.  Or I read how someone did something, and suddenly I want my own amazing, awesome thing to do.  We reply to someone's tweet, text, post with words like, "That is so great you ran five miles, let me know when you are up to seven and I'll join you."  Underneath our compliments are our attempts to compete...to feel a bit better about ourselves. 

Yet, joy longs to be shared with someone else.

Otherwise, all we are left with is the deflating phrase, "You shoulda been there." 

You shoulda been there...cause then we could just look at each other and bust out laughing.  Or we could complete each other's thoughts about the experience.  Or we could just give that knowing look.

We want to share joy...because we know that unlike other resources...joy is generative.  Unlike the dollar in my wallet - when I spend it - it is gone.  When I give joy to someone else - I receive back tenfold.  Joy multiplies when shared.

Notice the importance of sharing...not competing or comparing.  Joy doesn't multiply when you share with someone and they feel like they have to up the ante.  "Oh, you went on a trip to Alaska.  Well, when I was there..." Insert the story that is really about him or her...how awesome that was. 

Joy that is shared...doesn't need the other to add on...just receive.  Just participate in the moment fully with you.

You can see this in laughter.  When someone starts to laugh, it awakes, alerts something with you that wants to join in...unless the laughter is at your expense.  Or when my kids tell me about a good grade s/he got...there is a joy in sharing this.  Their joy fills me with joy.

For the rest of this week...note and notice places where someone shares joy with you.

What is your reaction or response?
Good...bad...or ugly.
Remember your response is what it is.  You don't need to judge it or pull your emotions into submission.  But when we pay attention to what joy stirs within us...it is always my prayer that we might find more than a trace of God's grace in those moments.

Blessings ~~

Monday, May 6, 2019

Encountering Joy



“Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been there or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come at all." C.S. Lewis Surprised by Joy

What was the most joyful moment of your life?  

Maybe it was graduation...wedding...birth of children...job...vacation?

Maybe it was a time you felt at peace and content.

Maybe it was this moment right now, because this moment is bursting and breaking with so much ~ most of which we don't see/sense/hear/comprehend.

Maybe you are a bit flummoxed by the question, because the hard wiring in your brain wasn't configured to seek out joy.  After all, no one pulled me aside in school and taught me how to stay open to joy.  In fact, growing up I was taught joy was to be delayed and even diminished.  You had to have all your chores done because joy could come knocking on my door ~ usually in the form of going to play kickball with my friends.  And if that is the operating system of my brain, we all know that in the adulting world...our work is almost never done.  There is always some glass doors to clean or bath tub to scrub or work task I should...ought...have to do.  I was also taught to diminish joy least someone who was feeling lousy saw that I was not...and you could, the reason went, make that person feel worse.  And you wouldn't want to do that, would you?  Would you?

We can also be flummoxed or frustrated because joy seems in such short supply today.  When was the last time you heard more than one joyful story on the news?  It happens...but usually not for days or weeks on end.  We prefer to shine a light on the brokenness of the world.

To be sure, there is a lot of sharp shards we need to be careful of out there.  There are people who pass along their pain in their comments, actions ~ some of which are downright violent.  There are people who are hell-bent on making sure everyone is suffering - because misery loves company.  

Ever stop and ask, why?

Are you telling me that today, not one single good/joyful thing happened?  I know it isn't going to get re-tweeted a million times (unless some celebrity posts it).  I know there is no chance a news report is going to show up at my home tonight to interview us about how we laughed at our family meal or how a hug made a difference.  But why do those moments seem to be less valuable in our minds?  

Right now I am sitting in a comfortable chair with food in my fridge and soft music playing.  By world standards...and historically speaking...that is living the good life for many people in our world.  Yet, we don't often see that perspective because all we know is the script we have been given.  That script says, "Keep pushing yourself...keeping checking emails...keep responding right away to text.  Keep busy because if someone asks you how you are doing and you dare not to respond with 'Busy' or 'Good...but I gotta go.'...something must be wrong.

Maybe what is wrong is this pace...this addiction to hurry we have.  This constantly on the go, fill our calendars.  For what?  Did it bring joy today?  Did is share joy with someone else today?  

What brings you joy...just let that question sit and simmer in your soul.  I pray as you stay open to all the ways joy might be encountered in your life ~ there will be more than a trace of God's grace.

Blessings ~


Friday, May 3, 2019

Endings and Beginnings


This week we have danced with the beauty of doubts...and faith...together.  We have explored how those two might influence and impact our discipling in the world.

Now, we reach Matthew's ending...which is really a beginning.

Matthew says, "Go."  Go to all the nations.  Go being a light to the world.  Go and share.

And if we wonder what to share...remember the setting is teaching and telling us that.  Jesus and the disciples are on a mountain...which is where Jesus preached his first sermon.

What do we share?  We share the Sermon on the Mount.
How do we disciple?  We let the words and wisdom of Matthew 5-7 continue to be what inspires our lives ~ not that we have it all figured out ~ that is where the doubt and faith dancing together is so important.

We return to the wisdom from the hill of the sermon on the mount.  The beatitudes of faith to go to the fringe and fray as a place where God hangs out.  The invitation to be light and salt for the world.  The call to love our enemies...here is where doubt really comes in ~ can I do that?....be an constant and continual invitation daily in our lives.  To let the prayer Jesus taught be our daily prayer. 

What do we share with the world?  Maybe more than words, it is to embody and fully embrace the sermon on the mount in such a time as this. 

Suddenly, we start to understand that Matthew's short ending is really a long beginning to the life of faith (and doubt) every day.  He doesn't need extra stories or prolonged appearances of Jesus ~ because we are called/commissioned/summoned to be the appearance of Christ.

And if that causes some doubt to stir in you...as it does in me.  Jesus says, "I am with you."  Or in a modern translation, "You got this...because you are not alone."

And there is more than a trace of grace that can feed and fuel our lives if we live and lean into that promise and presence of Jesus.  To remember this isn't the ending...it is just the beginning of your call to live the blessings we encounter/experienced in a God-soaked and saturated world.

Amen.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Endings and Beginnings


Half way through the week...

Where are doubts/curiosities dancing in this Easter season?
Where does faith start to soar and sail like a boat on a windy day across the sea?

Where do you feel stuck/stymied?
Where do you feel like the Spirit is up to something brand new in your life?

The disciples encountering Jesus on the mountain ~ worshiped and doubted.  It isn't as though we have to classify which of the eleven were in each camp.  We don't have to identify who sang out, "Christ the Lord is Risen today."  And which disciples said, "Whose the dude in the Jesus mask?"  Rather that verse can faithfully be translated, "They all worshiped and all doubted."  The two were mixed together inside each disciple.  The two were a powerful concoction.  Because...as Buechner said, "Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith." 

And to be clear, Jesus doesn't seem to even notice that there was some doubt or disbelief in the disciples.  He doesn't wage a finger and say, "Now hear-th me-th...you gotta-th believe-th always!"  Jesus seems to accept that doubt and worship are always going hand and hand.  This makes sense in a Jewish tradition that still to this day values much more discussion and questioning...exploration and wandering off in all directions.  Our Jewish brothers and sisters are much more engaged in tending a fire of faith than saying a prayer in a monotone voice...less we wake the sleeping God.  Jesus doesn't seem to think that it is all that unusual or even worth talking about the doubt.  He just takes both the worship and doubt...and sends the disciples out.

Out into the world.  Not with certainty or confidence.  Not with this notion that we are right and just join our team.

Yes, I know the Great Commission has been used (even abused) to justify that Christians have a mandate to convert people.  "Make disciples," Jesus said it...we yell as we pound the pulpit. 

Only he didn't.

He said, "Go...discipling."

Wait...that isn't even a word!  Discipling is underlined in red...which totally means it is not officially recognized in the English dictionary.

Discipling doesn't sound right to our ears...but it feels right in my heart.

Disciple isn't just something you or I do...some identity we put on.  Disciple should be a verb to describe how we go about our lives.  Discipling should be on all our "to-do" lists every. single. day. 

To disciple would mean...

Caught up in God's grace feeding and fueling our lives in ways we share with others.  Just the other day, our church delivered May Day flowers to the nursing home next door to our church because Jesus invited us to love our neighbors. 

Caught up in God's grace not as an end in my soul...but as a beginning to what will move out of me toward others.

Caught up in God's grace because my soul longs and thirsts for grace.  It is like food to my body giving me strength. 

Discipling is letting our light shine and sharing that light with others, because that is what light does.

What comes into your mind when you hear discipling?
What actions so far this week would you call or classify discipling?  It could be prayer or conversations or listening to music or reading poetry or visiting someone or walking in creation or

Or

Just keep adding because it is what you call or classify discipling.

It is my prayer that you will find more than a trace of grace in discipling...that it might move in life giving ways for you and the world in the rest of the week.

Blessings ~~