Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Moonlit


I love how a half moon ~ which that glinting glimmering of halo light is above ~ sends and shines forth as a full circle.  Now, had I had my a camera other than my iphone, you might have been able to tell that it was only a half moon.  But I still found it wonderful that the moonlight sends forth a glow in all directions.

When Jesus said, "Let your light shine," he didn't mean just toward the people you liked.  He didn't mean just in the places and spaces you will/want it to go.  Light escapes in all directions.  Once a candle is lit, the only way to stop its benefits from being sent/shining forth is to extinguish it.

Of course, we are great about doing this.  We would rather stumble, fumble, and fall in the dark than let someone we don't like get some of our light we don't think s/he deserves.  We want to cling to control.  We want to determine the direction of our energy.  We want to be the master of our destiny and destination.

But light being light doesn't always cooperate with our scheming, plotting and planning.  Again, Jesus said that the rain falls on the just and unjust.  Moonlight does the same.  It generously soaks and saturates all the earth.  The beautiful moon was not just for me...but for people who hold different thoughts, vote differently, see the world differently with those same moon beams. 

Oh, I know, we are taught a very, linear and rational way of being.  You need to behave so you can get ahead.  We are told to finish our broccoli before dessert.  We are raised in a conditional way of life.  But, that doesn't mean everything operates that way. 

In fact, it seems, that God does not.  Which is why we are so flummoxed and frustrated to explain God intellectually.  You cannot always prove beauty.  You cannot create an equation for grace.  You cannot always quantify/qualify love.  Somethings are bigger than the container of the word that seeks to describe it.  Somethings are bigger than our minds, which is where our hearts and souls and goosebumps down our skin come in joyfully dancing. 

I can't prove the beauty of the moon.  I can't tell you want it felt like to snap a photo of a celestial body 238,900 miles away could cause me to catch my breath.  I can't tell you how a subtle breeze broke through the blanket of humidity just at that moment and slipped away just as fast.  I can't prove any of that to you, because the moment has faded away.  It was thirty seconds on a Thursday.  One moment that will continue to sing and speak to my heart for days to come.

Sometimes, an author once said, there are single moments that take days to unpack in the stillness and solitude of our souls.  The photo above is one such moment ~ a trace of God's grace ~ I share with you as we prepare to enter into August tomorrow. 

Grace and peace ~~ 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Flow and Flowering


I took the above photo one week ago when I was in Chautauqua, NY.  I was struck by first the beauty of the lilies.  To be clear, I am not the biggest fan of this flower.  Or more to the point, my allergies are not a fan of this flower.  It's potent pollen invades my head like a hostile takeover...it storms into my sinuses stomping on every nerve until my head is pounding.  As you can imagine, Easter Sunday at the church is in two words...good times!

But since this flower was outside.

But since I had my camera with a really good lens that I could stand back to get this picture.

But since there was not a whole field full of this flower, just a few scattered here and there, I could take in the beauty of the flower.

But after studying the purples and pinks blending together...the black freckle spots randomly dancing across the petals and the bright orange anthers dangling down...it was like creation was putting on a fireworks display that didn't disappear or dissipate after a bright burst but lingered for all to be beckoned toward.

But it wasn't only the lilies that were open that called to me...it was the three closed mouth pods just waiting for the moment and time to shine, spring forth.

That seems to be a metaphor...a sacred truth...for our lives.  At any given time there are parts of our lives that are flowering...brilliantly and boldly.  Then, there are parts that are still closed, waiting and watching.  Then, there are other buds that have dropped their leaves to the ground having already released its energy (and pollen!) into the world.

What for you right now, this summer as July is coming to a close, is blossoming and blooming?  What is brilliant and beautiful?


What is still closed, waiting ~ perhaps needing more rain or sun or for the soil of your soul to send forth its nutrients?  Which also leads me to wonder, what is nourishing the soil of your soul right now? 

What has passed its prime?  Releasing, that within nature - including us as humans - energy/life is never fully destroyed.  The same number of atoms exist today that existed 13.6 Billion years ago.  Resurrection is continually woven into our lives, we don't call it take or haven't been taught/told to look at the ways we shed dead skin cells as new ones take their place every single day.

What is blossoming for me is the gift of grace I've had this summer away on Sabbatical.  I've laughed with my family; visited some amazing places (like Alaska, Chautauqua, and places here in FL); I've met new people; I've gotten rest and renewal.

What is still closed and waiting are classes and sermons I am planning and preparing to share with my family.  What is closed and still waiting is school around the corner as displays of supplies show up in stores.  What is closed and still waiting is the second half of this year.

What has passed its prime?  We are always growing, changing, shifting...that is part of life.  I am still processing some of the flowers that once bloomed in my life but no longer are present.  Certainly, with two kids in high school, it feels like a blossom has passed (known as elementary and middle school).  Certainly, my marriage is entering a new place and space with two teenagers ~ one about to drive.  But within me, I always feel like there are moments slowly fading away. 

I pray within the photo and reflection there is more than a trace of grace ~ I pray there is a truth for you in these summer days.

Grace and peace ~~ 

Friday, July 26, 2019

Tangled and Twisted


Where does one branch end and the other begin?
Where in this tangled, twisted mess is order?
Like a ball of yarn in the paws of a cat,
Or the Christmas tree lights hastily put away last year,
Or metaphorically, my life, things are not always neat and tidy.

Relationships are tangled in words spoken to prove points.
Silent moments to commune with the swirling sacred are set aside so I can look busy.
Energy is given to that which does not evoke and invoke life.

Nature declares the holy truth that tangled and twisted can be beautiful.
Scripture declares that for creation to spring forth, there needed to be playful chaos.
Our lives are a living witness to this truth.

What feels tangled and twisted in your life today?
Whether it is your spouse...your friend...your family...your co-worker...your connection to God...your whole enterprise of trying to paint on the canvas called, "life" and all you keep getting is something that looks like a mess.

Is there any holy in that?

I stare at the shades of brown in the photo.
The variety of sizes and shapes.
The beautiful intricacies that intimately are growing side-by-side.
And I smile, because the twists and turns in the patchwork quilt of my life, I pray might bring forth a trace of God's grace this day.


I pray the same for you.

Blessings ~~

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Things We Miss


This summer, I have let loose my inner Ansel Adams and explored the beauty of photography.  There have been sweet, serendipitous moments when through persist patience...and sometimes just stubborn doggedness, I have been able to capture a moment like the one above.

But, as much as this photo makes me smile...and I pray it might evoke and invoke something with you too...I don't necessarily want to talk about just one photo.  Rather, I am excited about the creative process that leads to one split second when my finger finds the button to snap this one.

A bit of background.  We were at Sunken Gardens.  We had just started to wander around.  We saw some turtles, who were most cooperative at moving slowly so I could capture their picture.  We saw the yellow variety of the Golden Shrimp Plant, which I am sure you remember from high school biology class is really Pachystachys lutea.  And yes, I did totally Google that because even though I was just at Sunken Gardens...even though that Scientific Classification was clearly labeled on the sign in front of my face...I could not even begin to remember those Latin words!  Like the turtle, the plant posed and even slightly swayed in the breeze like a model smiling for the camera.  Then, we went to the butterfly garden.

Now, when one goes to a "butterfly garden"...one expects to see...butterflies.  But, when we first started to wander and walk around the colorful plants, there was one butterfly.  One.  Let's call this butterfly, "George".  George, I believe, had ingested the last few drops of someone's discarded 5-hour energy drink or perhaps had visited a humming bird feeder to sip of the sugary substance usually inside...because George could not and would not stay still.  George would no more than land on a flower petal, then he would be off again.  George flight path was a bit woozy.  The brown and golden parts of George's wings would forever remain elusive and evasive from my eye.

Not that I didn't try mind you (see the comment above about me being stubborn and dogged).  I must have had 10 blurry photos of "George" on my camera.  5 more of where George was in the frame just seconds before, but then suddenly gone.  5 more of me trying to get a picture of George, but what I really got was the ground or the sky or my wife's left ear because as I was trying to follow George's incomprehensible flight pattern, my reflects would flick my wrist in a failed attempt to get George and his beautiful brown butterfly wings to show you.

I never got the photo.

So, often what we show the world is the perfect.  We post to Facebook and Instantagram the parts and pieces of our life that will get the most likes.  Even when we post something bad, it is often as a straw man set up to show how we overcame the difficulty and that the struggle is real.  And this isn't new, by the way.  I am sure in Caveman times people didn't paint on cave walls the time someone slipped on some ice, landed on his face, and almost impaled himself with his spear...which by the way would have totally been me.

The photos we don't get.
Or the blurry ones we don't post.
Or what I like to call, a thousand ordinary days when life unfolds in brilliant, technicolor boringness.

When there is no beautiful butterfly to post.

For me, it is trying to stay open to the moments of God's grace in the blurry mistakes of life that makes faith most vital and vibrant.  Staying open to God's love, especially when there is nothing exciting happening.  That is my invitation for me and I pray might stir the sacred in your soul too in these July days.

Grace and peace ~~

Monday, July 22, 2019

More than a Cliche take Four

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.  The Message

I don't see things as they are...I see things as I am.  The mirror is smudged and smeared with our own experiences, encounters, bias, and beliefs.  Or as Anne Lamont says, "Of course, we think our opinion is right...otherwise we would get a new opinion!"

Today, I want to offer you some space.  Room to breathe and be.

Rather than tossing and throwing a bunch of words at you.  I invite you to re-read 1 Corinthians 13 by clicking here.  Read slowly and savor each word.  Read slowly letting the tiny spaces in-between the words of scripture settle and sing to you.

What insights or ideas spring/stir within you?  Listen to your own life's response.

What questions still linger?  We don't always need responses or answers to such questions.  We can live the questions of daily life.


Just sit with this passage and let it sit within you.


May there be more than just a trace of God's grace in this.

Blessings ~~ 

.

Friday, July 19, 2019

More than a Cliche take Three


Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. - 1 Corinthians 13, The Message

Paul never met a list that he didn't love.  Paul never met a run-on sentence that couldn't use just a few more words to make it better.  Paul never missed a moment to pile on more and more images so that your mind was swirling, soul saturated, and heart soaked.  Paul had a flair for the dramatic.  I like to think he was the kind of person who puts out the candles on his birthday cake with a fire extinguisher!

I mean just look at that list above.

Put others first, don't covet, don't boast/brag/puff out your chest, don't get a big head, don't insert yourself when it is not your circus and not your monkeys.

Okay, that is a pretty good list, Paul...thank...

Wait...he says...I got more.  It isn't about you, don't get angry, don't see life has a balance sheet, don't think you are better than others (or in the words of my grandmother, "Get off your high horse".).

Um...thanks Paul....really given us a lot to think....

Wait...he says there is more.  Focus on truth, everything and everyone belongs, trust in God, look for traces of grace before you, keep going, and don't live life staring at your rear view mirror.

Awash in a litany that won't end.  Swimming in a stream of images that are overflowing.  Thinking to yourself, "He could have just said - leap over tall buildings and save the world."

This is impossible.

I wonder if that is the point.

I wonder if Paul is really describing God...not us.  If Paul is trying to suggest and say, "Let me tell you how God works and wiggles in the world."  We made this into a to-do list, perhaps to prove ourselves worthy of the One who already loves us unconditionally and unceasingly.  We think, "Wow, that is a lot, but I guess I better get started."  When actually, this is already complete because of God's presence in our lives. 

I also wonder if Paul is being a bit overly dramatic to make a point to the bickering community.  It is as if he is saying, "Listen, baptism and what you serve at church dinners and what leadership roles you have or don't have, to put your time and energy there might not be the best way faithfully forward.  Because love will take every fiber of our being...and even then we are only going to get it right maybe 5 percent of the time!"

Love isn't wishy-washy.  We think that because of too many Hallmark cards.  Love is actually the most powerful part of the world.  Love isn't just being a doormat, anything goes.  It will have a strong back and soft front.  Love invites us into a place where we see, as if for the first time, who and whose we are.  Of course most folks don't want to visit love.  Of course we distance and dismiss and deny that it is even possible or plausible.  Of course, because otherwise we'd have to change! 

We do this with Jesus.  He had to die for our sins.  We make God's unconditional love transactional.  It is not a commodity, like when I go to buy bananas and swipe my credit card.  We turn God's unceasing love into something that is depended on our belief - which by the way keeps us in charge the way we like it.  Rather, God's love is not just warm and fuzzy, God's love has known the pain of denial, desertion, and death.  That isn't something we can buy, it is a mystery that will change everything. 

In what ways do you resist Paul's words?
In what ways do you welcome them?
Who in your life can you share these words with in embodied ways?
Who do you struggle to let these words see the light of day with?

I pray as we let Paul's words really sink, settle, and sing to our souls, we will discover and discern more than a trace of God's grace.

Blessings ~~

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

More than a Cliche take Two

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.   If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.  1 Corinthians 13:1-7, The Message

Paul starts off his challenge to the bickering, bitterness, and brokenness by pointing out that love is the source that can energize and enlarge our lives.  But he realizes that goes against the grain of conventional wisdom - both in his day and still in our time too. 

Conventional wisdom that says, "Might makes right."  Or, "Life is a game of winners and losers".  Or, "You gotta get yours while the getting is good....there is only so much going around...don't miss out."  Conventional wisdom that loved to listen to the poetic prose and be amused by someone's profound insights and ideas.  Conventional wisdom that wanted to be astonished by someone's amazing feats.   Conventional wisdom that even said you should sacrifice and be humble.

All those boxes were clearly labeled with permanent marker for you to compartmentalize and categorize your life.  You organized your mental furniture into something rationale and reasonable. 

Paul says, "Not so fast."

Yes, people who can enchant and enthrall us can be good, but what is the source beneath and behind the poetic prose?  Is it love or it is the love of the spotlight?  It is a question I ask myself on Sunday mornings.

Yes, people who do great things for 15 minutes of fame can be good, but what is the energy around those amazing moments?  Is it love or just loving the attention? 

Yes, people who are willing to walk into the fire and no longer sit on the sidelines of life can be good, but deep down in their hearts is it the action of God or just being an actor?

The questions are rhetorical.  I don't know if deep down I can ever know what motivates and moves within you.  And even deeper down, I am not even sure I can ever know what motivates and moves within me!  In fact, you might remember, later in this chapter Paul is going to talk metaphorically about "seeing in a mirror dimly"...that is because we don't even see/know ourselves!  The stranger isn't always out there, but can be within us.  We walk up and don't recognize the face of the one staring back at us.

I don't think Paul is against being entertained or amazed or the deep desire to do something great.  I don't think Paul is trying to suggest we should never go see a movie or magician or believe that the Spirit might stir something deep within us.  Sometimes the greatest moments are found in a story that transports us to truth we might not otherwise be able to see.  Or, we need folks, as poet Emily Dickenson wrote, "Who tell the truth, but tell it at a slant." 

But, we can also hold in paradox the sense that seeing is not always believing.  Or as Barbara Brown Taylor said, "Sight is one of our weaker senses."  Yet, we have elevated what we receive and perceive to be the ultimate.  Paul, two thousand years ago, called that into question.  And perhaps today, we might close our eyes for a few moments, enter deep into the shadows of our own souls, to listen and to feel and to smell what is swirling within us and around us.

May the traces of God's grace move in our midst in more than just amazing ways, but in subtle ways like a hug, a soft spoken word, and the stillness of your own soul.

Grace and peace ~~

Monday, July 15, 2019

More Than A Cliche


So, you opened this post, saw the words at the top, and I wonder what were your first thoughts?

Maybe you thought back to a wedding you recently attended where the passage was read.
Maybe you recalled a sermon where the pastor pointed out that Paul penned these words not to a couple getting married, but to an entire faith community.  The image of love is not just for two, but for a whole house church to try to embody for and with each other.
Maybe there was even a bit of cynicism that crept in or you even thought, "That is so cliche." 

When a passage becomes so familiar that we think we have exhausted every possible meaning.  When a passage becomes so drenched and dripping with our own comfort and we think, "Been there, done that."
When our minds start to wander or we even excuse ourselves from trying to dive deeper into a passage because it just doesn't seem fresh or new, I wonder if we do this both to distance and even dismiss the demands these words invite us to inhabit. 

So, over the next few posts, I want to step into these ancient words of 1 Corinthians, explore and try to encounter them for right here and now.

To start, we could notice and name that Paul was talking to an early church community.  But this church had some problems.  They disagreed and debated about everything!  They argued about whose baptism was better (Apollos or Cephas or Christ - not sure if some were actually baptized by Jesus or if they were that person who always is trying to one up you - or Paul).  So, I picture Paul pacing around, pounding the soles of his feet into the ground, exasperated as he exclaimed, "Well, I am just glad I didn't baptize any of you people!...Well, okay, I did baptize a couple of you.  But that isn't the point!!"

If the Corinthians only were in a tiff about baptism that would be one thing. 

But, this messy human community (which is a bit redundant because all human community is messy at some moments), goes on and argues about leadership, spiritual gifts, what to bring to the church pot luck (I mean is meat dedicated to Zeus okay or is that off-limits?), and so much more.

For twelve chapters Paul tries to lay down the law, draw the line in the sand, teaching and telling them, and moments I picture Paul pulling out his hair saying, "Why can't we all just get along?!?"

There is a tension that simmers and sits in-between the words of this letter. 

Given this realize of disagreement and being disagreeable, when Paul starts his riff on love it is about as out-of-place as an inflatable snowman on a lawn in Florida in July!  If we thought Paul's description and definition of love was over-the-top and unattainable, imagine hearing this in a community where people are constantly bickering and bitterness hovers/hangs in the air.  Imagine hearing these words where there is supposed to be unity and all you are feeling is pain.  Imagine hearing these words when you are frustrating or feel forgotten.  Imagine hearing these words when people have stopped talking to each other or the only communication is passive aggressive.  Paul images a kind of love that isn't transactional, it is a holy love that is transformational.  A love that will change everything because this love changes everyone.

Do you feel the tension of speaking these words into a community where they were not singing, "Blessed be the tie that binds..." because the bonds had been stretched so thin that the fabric was down to a few threads? 

Do you sense that such descriptions above are not just about two thousand years ago, but also about here and now in a world where we don't talk to our neighbor?  Where tension still hovers and hangs around our communal moments.  Where we are frustrated and flummoxed and Paul wants to talk about love, but that feels too wishy-washy.

When the only time we prayerfully ponder this passage of scripture is a moment when love is palatable and dances in the eyes of a couple, we are not fully embracing the power of Paul's vision.  When the only time we encounter these words is at a wedding where the pastor knows that a twenty minute sermon is really out of the question and talking about how this was really written to a whole community will probably land with a thud. 
When we distance ourselves from these words, we also miss the moment and the power they might have for us in such a time as this.

I encourage you to go read 1 Corinthians today or tomorrow.  Read the words slowly, savoring each noun and verb.  Maybe read the passage in two or three translations.  You can click here for an online bible.  

So, dare with me to step into this passage for a few moments to encounter and experience what might be a prophetic and pastoral word for our souls in these days, and I believe might have more than a trace of God's grace.

Grace and peace to you ~~ 


Friday, July 12, 2019

The Meaning Music Evokes take Three


"Music washes away the dust of everyday life" so wrote Berthold Auerbach...

Which by the way...Berthold might just be the coolest name I had never heard of before.

But I also want to add to Berthold that music has a way of helping us make sense of the dust in our lives.  Sometimes the muck and mud...the dust won't scatter so easily.  Sometimes the thick layer of the past doesn't even budge when the winds of change swirl in the room.  The dust of life can be stubborn and cling tightly.

Because maybe that dust is trying to tell us something.

You see if the goal is only to clear and clean our lives of dust, most of us will not pass - I am talking both literally about my living room AND metaphorically about my life.  There is dust on the shelves and on my soul.  But that dust...the remnants/remains of past might actually be important for this moment.  Sometimes what lingers and lays in our life is trying to tell/teach us something.

Maybe the goal is to eliminate all the dust...but to listen to it and pay attention to it.

But Berthold is right in that I think music can help us make sense of the dusty remains of yesterday.  Music can help us process pain...both physically/mentally/spiritually...and help us imagine new todays and tomorrows.

So here is a hymn that for me that sings out I am trying to say...


It is my heartfelt prayer that the music and thoughts this week have caused new ideas to stir within you.
It is my heartfelt prayer that considering the profound power of music this week has unclogged your ears to hear new music around/within you.
It is my deepest prayer this week has offered more than a trace of God's grace.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Meaning Music Evokes take Two


What songs...melodies...are moving around you this week?
Which notes are nudging you in new directions?
What lyrics are awakening you to the traces of God's grace all around?

In the last post I offered a quote from Charles Darwin.  And recently scientists have been hopping on that bandwagon studying the positive impact of music.  Recent research suggests that music releases dopamine - the natural feel good chemical of your brain.  Music can, at the same time, decrease the stress hormone cortisol.  When you are working out (walking or running or biking) music has been shown to boast your performance.

To be sure, I am not convinced that all music does this for every single person.

You probably known of music today that doesn't do any of that.  Music that can sound more like a cat screeching on a hot tin roof or nails being run down a chalk board.  Some music may make your soul shout/sing out...but for the next person those notes only produce a yawn and a glance at his cell phone to check the time.

Some people love classic music...others enjoy jazz.
Some people prefer organ...others piano...guitar...ukulele (which I discovered when doing research for this week, I learned Warren Buffet plays the ukulele. That is awesome!)

The invitation isn't just for you to decide and then defend your preference to everyone else.

The invitation is for you to know what stirs your soul...try to finger out why!

Why you find a song meaningful is so much more insightful and interesting to me than you trying to convince me that I should love the song too and join you for a three-day opera fest going on next week.

For example, here is another song stirring my soul by Carrie Newcomer


Why do I find this meaningful??  I am delighted you asked!!

First, I really love storytelling folk music...guitar/voice/piano/light drum is part of the soundtrack that stirs my soul.
Second, I love it when the melody and words invite us into something deeper.  I am not a huge fan of lyrics that repeat over and over and over...and over again.
Third, I think that Carrie is exactly correct that everything we need isn't somewhere out there, it is right here within and between us.  I love the notice that within me and between you/me God's grace is awakening what we need for such a time as this.

That is a prayer I long not only to sing, but I pray my life sings out with more than a trace of God's grace.

Blessings ~~

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Meaning Music Evokes take One



Recently, I have found myself invited into music that was evoking and invoking traces of God's grace. 

Music has a profound power in our lives.

The notes stir the soul.
The words awaken new ideas and insights.
It can take us back to our childhood and grandmother humming hymns as she baked bread.
Or dad's bass voice booming from the choir.
Music is ingrained within us...and can bring us together in ways that prose - no matter how poetic or prophetic - may not.

Vincent Harding, the civil rights leader, recalls the way people would constantly sing before, during, and after marches.  "We Shall Overcome" wasn't just some words to pump up the crowd...it was a heartfelt prayer of African-Americans being denied rights and liberties.

Music has a power to transform us from the insight out.

This only makes scientific sense since inside each one of us is a beat of a heart...a constant rhythm keeping us alive.  There is a time signature to our breathing.  There is a melody of every single moment.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says, “Religious music is an attempt to convey that which is within our reach, but beyond our grasp.”  He also said... "To sing means to sense and to affirm that the spirit is real and that its glory is present. In singing we perceive what is otherwise beyond perceiving."

Or consider this from Charles Darwin once remarked, “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.”

And you thought his best work was on evolution.

So, this week, I want to invite you to listen with me.  Listen with ears and hearts wide open.

The first song that is stuck on repeat in my heart is by the Indigo Girls.  Krista Tippet recently shared an interview with them...which is where I got the Heschel quote above.  You can click here to listen or read that episode of On Being.

But the song, "Closer I Am to Fine" has been part of the music swirling in my mind and speaking to my soul.  Here is a video:



For me, the opening words are an invitation for me during this time that I have away on sabbatical:

I'm tryin' to tell you somethin' 'bout my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It's only life after all...

That to me sounds like a beautiful prayer.
This to me echoes in my soul as truth.
The melody and words offer me more than a trace of God's grace...and I pray will do the same for you today.

Blessings ~~

Friday, July 5, 2019

Sitting at the Table


The last drips of coffee have crossed my lips...the last spoon of granola has too.  Outside a neighbor's noisy saw cuts and chops away at an overgrown bush, dropping branches on our side of the fence.  Our dog lets her protest be known by barking at how this is interrupting and disrupting her nap.  I wonder sitting here at the table, what today might hold?  What will unfold as the seconds slip past and minutes pile up making hours?

I know what is on my list...but I wonder if in the small spaces in-between the lines of my list...God might be move in mischievous ways?  I wonder if God beside me, here at the table, might pick up the pen and start to scratch out other priorities and tasks...like laughing, listening, being, breathing, staying open, noticing...along side vacuuming and washing the floor.  Is God's to-do list for me different than what I have written?  Or is God moving in the midst of every moment?

I love the quote that says God is the one whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is no where.  That is, wherever we are...there God is.  That the burning bushes can be encountered in our daily wanderings.

As I sit at the table this morning, I wonder as I wander around this day...how might I be open/awake/ aware of God? 

It is time to see.

May you and I be surreptitiously surprised by traces of God's grace today.

Grace and peace ~~   

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

I Had to Hurry take Two



In the last post I shard a picture and poem about capturing the beauty of the clouds when I was out walking one morning last week.  I was taken by the ways orange, red, and pink were all playfully painting the sky...but also noticed how the gray was starting to erase the colors.  The thought, "I have to hurry..." crossed my mind because I wanted to get a picture of the beauty before it disappeared.

Which makes me think about how much in the blur of life I might miss those traces of God's grace because it isn't on my calendar.  I mean, why can't God schedule the burning bush moments or text me when I should pay attention?  Perhaps that is why Paul encourages us in 1 Thessalonians 5 to, "pray without ceasing." 

Yet, I am not sure I was every taught or told how to persistently present and open and aware/awake to God's swirling presence around/within me.  It is a practice.  Rather than the rut of getting stuck in my schedule (as I am wont to do)...or stuck in my mind (that I am really good at too).  This reminds me that on vacation I saw a t-shirt that read, "Wait a moment while I overthink this."  I resemble that remark.  Yet, Paul is inviting us to pay attention to God's presence in our midst...to have a running commentary or listen to God's play-by-play of our life.

I love the idea that God might offer a running reflection on my life.  I just hear God, "Wes is in the store, going down the cereal aisle.  He has picked up the Fiber One, scanning the nutrition label.  Oh, wait, he is eyeing the Captain Crunch, looking around to see if anyone is watching, he tosses it in his cart covering it with some lettuce and quinoa.  I did not see that coming...or maybe I did."

Maybe that is a fun prayer practice for you.  To pause and listen for what God might be saying at that moment in your life.  To pray without ceasing may not mean that we have an endless monologue to God...it might mean we take regular moments to listen/lean in to what the sacred might be trying to say to us.  When we are stopped at a red light (especially if you are running late).  When we are about to meet a friend for lunch.  When we are settling in at night to watch some television or read a book.

What might our still speaking/singing/stirring God be up to?  Even right now as you are reading this?  Maybe you might even write down some what you are hearing God's reflection and response to you.

It is my prayer that such a practice might offer more than a trace of God's grace this day.

Grace and peace ~~

Monday, July 1, 2019

I Had to Hurry



I had to hurry...
Not because I was running late.
Nor was it because of a date.
Nor to avoid a line where I might wait.

I had to hurry...
Not because of a calendar demand.
Nor for me to stay, stick with my daily plan.
Nor because someone would be mad.

I had to hurry...
Because the pink of the cloud was fading away.
The brilliant beauty was starting to turn gray.
In a few moments it would be gone to my dismay.

The fleeting, fading glory that greets us each day
I too often miss because my schedule holds sway.
But not today! The red, orange, pink invited me to pray.
And not miss the beauty as the colors in the sky played.

I had to hurry...
To soak it all in with a smile on my face.
To know that in that moment I was in the right place.
To sense the holiness in this trace of God's grace.

And may you be quick and open to such sacred moments that saturate each day this week.

Grace and peace ~~