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Showing posts from November, 2019

Rounding out week one

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The world is awash and alive with the fingerprints of God. But in our rushing and racing, the holy becomes a blur. Such was true of the day two thousand years ago, when God entered the world in the oddest place: a stable. The world was caught up in jumping to Caesar's plan for a census. The world was in a tizzy and minds were dizzy.The world was out of focus and fuzzy. You had to hurry to get where you were going. Don't be late. Don't forget that piece of paper we need. Wait!! Did I tie up the goat before we left home? Too much gawking, too much squawking, and too much of too much.
How much have we really changed? How far are we really from the crowds crammed into dirt roads of that little town of Bethlehem?
Most of them didn't see the stars. Most of them didn't follow the shepherds to the stable. Most of them were too wrapped up in all that was happening to look outside their tunnel vision. Most didn't saunter or prayerfully ponder. Most of those in Bethlehem did…

Visio Divina Take Three

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Part of my invitation to you this Advent is not just to ponder prayerfully the images for a few moments, but to continue to focus and frame as you move around your daily life.  I hope you might enter the photo, stand in the center, move to the fringe and fray of the picture, and try to see what is beyond the edge.  What do you smell, hear, taste, or feel touching you on your skin?  Let this practice linger in your life.
Perhaps one way you can move from Visio Divina into the rest of your day is each day after reading the devotional, you might go on a contemplative walk.  The purpose of the walk is not just to hit 10,000 steps on your Fitbit, although when I do, I really like the fireworks on the screen.  The purpose of a contemplative walk is to engage the living color of the world around us.The purpose of a contemplative walk is to move from one still photograph to a moving picture of our world spinning at 1000 miles per hour.
There is nowhere to "get to". Just walk. Just breat…

Visio Divina Take Two

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I know.  It really looks like the same picture from yesterday, and you are starting to wonder if every day is going to be an abstract photo and if you should keep going with this devotional?!?
Part of this reaction comes out of the world today.  When three hundred hours of new content are uploaded every minute; when there are millions of results and websites for every single Google search; when we swim in a swirl of information and images, we sometimes gloss over anything that seems too familiar or strikes us as boring.
We continually long for what is different and distinctive. We are constantly scanning and searching for the "New and Improved" promise.
So, why would I share two very similar photos back-to-back?  I do this because Advent is a season of staying awake, alert, aware of the world and Advent is a time of waiting.  Sometimes waiting means living with the same, well-known, even boring, parts of life.
Sometimes we hope for something new and instead we get leftovers.…

Introducing Visio Divina

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I love this photo I took.  I used the creative settings on the camera.  I am sure some folks could tell me what was happening internally in my camera with the lens, filters, and the speed of the shutter opening and closing.
I think it looks cool.
I like the way the reds, oranges, greens, and browns dance together.
As you look at the photo, what do you see? After you exhaust all you can notice and name, dive deeper to ask, why are you seeing those images? And even better if you can talk with someone else who answered those two questions on his or her own.
I see hints of blue dancing in some places. I see swirls and spots. I see the colors on a canvas that might be like daily life.
Each day, we paint on the canvas called, "Our life".  Rarely is the canvas completely blank.  There are smudges, shapes, and swirls from days gone by.  We try to keep adding paint here or there.  Sometimes we add beautiful strokes to the painting of our life, sometimes the strokes we add are abstrac…

Focusing and Framing take Three

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Beholding happens when you stop trying to ‘hold’ and allow yourself to ‘be held’ by another.  You are enchanted by something outside yourself, beyond yourself.  Behelding is perhaps more accurate. --Richard Rohr
What do you see in this photo???
An ordinary lighthouse. A white structure reaching toward the sky. A beacon to lost ships trying to navigate the world. A tiny window near the top reminding you of how much you loved the story of Rapunzel as a child. The need for symmetrical structure to support, which is true both for buildings and for our lives. The brilliant blue sky with clouds dancing around.
Let's go deeper than our initial list.  What else do you see??? The symmetry of the structure reminds me of how I long for order to my life. The white cross that is formed on the far side of the structure near the bottom of the photo begins to emerge the longer I look at the photo. The way different shapes (circles, triangles, rectangles, straight lines) all meet playfully and bea…

Framing and Focusing take Two

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So here we are, on the second day of trying to gaze and prayerfully ponder the world as it is spinning and streaming past us.  As we engage this practice, it is good to realize that even with our hearts flung wide open, there will always be moments we miss.  Consider this, you could look at a picture a thousand times (after all the cliché goes that a photo is worth a thousand words) and still see something new every time.  You can visit a place over and over again, but still be surprised by something you didn't notice previously.  It may be because the space shifted or something new stirred within you.  It may be because you had always thought trees or flowers or birds to be a bit boring, but then an experience awakens you to the beauty of that part of creation.  Suddenly, everywhere you go there is a robin swooping into the scene.  Once you have seen anew and afresh, you cannot un-see. Which brings me to this important truth: We do not see things as they are, we see things as we ar…

Framing and Focusing Take One

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We swim in a sea of images today. Consider that... It is estimated we spend ten hours each day staring at screens; whether it is our smartphones, computers, or television sets. Or three hundred hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute each day.That means, just now while you are reading these words, three hundred hours of new videos were posted.Suddenly, I feel so behind. Or 269 billion emails are sent every day.But I am pretty sure that estimate is low because I get that many from Amazon just in the morning. Or Nielsen reports that the average person spends seventy-seven days each year watching television. It is tempting to go Google all the information above to verify the truthfulness for yourself.Go ahead, I'll wait while you do your research because I've got a few videos on YouTube to watch. It is no wonder there are moments when the saturated synapses of our brains feel like they are crying out or short circuiting from overload. Now consider this, of the countless pixe…

On the Edge of Advent take Three

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A prayer for the days ahead...

On the edge and eve of beginning to walk toward Bethlehem, we pause to breathe and be in the presence of the One who goes by the name, Emmanuel, God with us and for us.

Holy One, born in a barn, a most peculiar place;
Move in the ordinary Tuesdays and odd Saturdays of our lives.
Open our ears to hear Your holy song in the wind sailing through trees;
In the sun sneaking and peaking through rain clouds;
In the moments we focus and frame our whole lives to You.

Holy One, born in a barn as a tiny baby, vulnerable ~ fragile ~ fierce with love;
Let that be born in us in the days to come.
Open our hearts to the beauty and brokenness within and around us.
Remind us, like a piece of glass, that we can sometimes be broken whole.
Infuse and inspire with us a love to practice Your words rather than read from the script of the world.

Holy One, born in a barn, witnessed by shepherds and foreigners from afar,
Open us to sense the traces of Your grace,
Invite us to sta…

On the Edge of Advent take Two

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Life can sometimes move at a dizzying, frantic, frenzied pace.  We see ourselves through the lens of accomplishment and achievements.  We judge ourselves by things we can cross, check-off, and move from our "to-do" to our "to-done" list. 

To slow down.

To breathe.

To be.

We are not taught or told such practices are not just good for us, such moments are needed and necessary.  It is a lesson I learned (and keep re-learning) each day on my sabbatical.  Some of the most meaningful moments happened serendipitous.  Some of what my camera and I conspired to capture together in a single frame was not even on my radar before I found myself on that holy ground.  In the coming weeks you will see and hear stories about sensing God on the beach ~ which is not usually a place I go to encounter the holy.  Or sensing God on a crisp, chilly, rainy day in Alaska ~ when this Florida adopter was bundled up in multiple layers.  Or encountering traces of grace when a butterfly landed …

On the Edge of Advent

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Beginning next week, November 24th I will launch a daily Advent devotional that will take us through the dwindling days of 2019 in to the dawning of 2020.  This devotional was crafted and created while I was on Sabbatical last summer.  It is based on the prayer practice of Visio Divina (more about that next week).  It is an invitation on a journey.  To travel with me both through the weeks of my Sabbatical, but also toward a little town of Bethlehem, where God was let loose in the world in a new way.

The series is based on forty photos I took through my travels.  Forty photos that I pray help you invite you to see new truths yourself and your connection to others/the world.  Almost all the photos are nature-themed.  I believe being out in creations helps us uncover and discover the invisible ties to all things.  Out in creation we uncover truths our ancestors have known for centuries but as modernization has moved us less away from living with the land, we have forgotten.  We uncover

Jonah Final Poem Prayer

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Gracious God, for moments I feel compelled and call to go in directions unexplained and to places off-limits...
Let the story of Jonah continue to rummage and roam around my life.
When I prefer to push others away, treating them as people like Nineveh,
Call me back to the beloved-ness of every person.
When I drag my feet and give half-hearted effort,
Remind me that You can even work in and through that.
When I want to puff up my chest and prove I am in charge, control,
Nudge me back toward the mystery of star-dust in my soul and seas surging within my body.
When I am tempted to run away, flee for the places where the grass promises to be greener ~ and a peacock for everyone ~
Let the wisdom of not everything that glistens/glimmers is gold convict my heart.

Grant that I would have the courage to look at those who vote differently, see the world differently, act in ways that are foreign or talk in languages I may never understand (even if I am speaking English).
And may I see Your belo…

Jonah take Seven

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I imagine Jonah, shoulders slouched, kicking the sand at his feet, grumbling and gripping, “Silly God.  Nineveh, Nineveh, Nineveh.  Can’t believe I am here with these people.  I might be here, but I don’t have to like it.  Look at the guy over there, just standing there breathing in and out, spreading carbon dioxide everywhere.”  I can say that, because I have been there.  At a gathering I didn’t want to attend.  At a meeting where someone keeps adding unhelpful ideas that is only serving to make the meeting longer.  At some place and among some people who don’t seem like they belong to my tribe.  So I imagine Jonah sulking like my kids used to do when we would drag them out shopping.  Nineveh is so large it took three days to walk across.  Jonah goes one day, not even a third of the way into the city.  He is not at the corner of Main Street and 1st Ave, if anything he is barely out of the suburbs.  He stands there, clears his throat, and preaches, the worst sermon ever.  "Forty…

Jonah take Six

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With a population of three and half trillion fish swimming and swooshing around the seas and almost thirty-three thousand different, diverse species, there is a beautiful mystery just beneath the surface of the water.  Scientists suggest that as much at 95 percent of our oceans are unexplored and unknown.  The final frontier may not only be amid vastness of stars and galaxies over our heads but also to dive deep into the waters that wash on our sandy beaches, touching and tickling our toes.  The mystery of water is not only outside of us, our bodies are sixty percent water, our brains are seventy percent water, it is a wonder I am even able to write and not some puddle on the floor. I have stood out at Siesta Beach, wading in the water, and been mystified that there may have been a droplet of water I am swimming in that at some point touched the distant shores of Japan.  Because water is constantly being recycled, a droplet of water right outside the window may have been around centu…

Jonah take Five

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In the last post we ended with letting this truth sit and sing to our souls:

Prayer is less about what we do, rather how we do it.
The more Jonah's prayer sits and sings and settles into my soul, I start to realize that it really isn't about him.  Whether his prayer came from his heart or was an attempt to get out of the pickle of a situation in which he found himself, the deeper (even harder) point is that I can find myself in the belly of the whale.  I can feel like I am swallowed by a situation.  I can feel gulped by a grouper of trying to do it my way.  I can find myself in a fishy situation and unsure of what to do or where to turn. 
In the belly of the whale is a place we can find ourselves physically when we face illness; we find ourselves there emotionally grieving someone we love; we find ourselves there spiritually when maybe a prayer practice that always felt full of light and love suddenly feels like you are going through the motions.  The belly can refer to the som…

Jonah take Four

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Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.  Jonah 2:1-3

So, here is what I will never know, how sincere is Jonah's prayer?  Does he really mean these words you just read above?  After all, Mr. Runaway Prophet turned Sleeping Beauty in the bottom of the Boat doesn't exactly have a great track record so far.  The evidence against Jonah is compelling and convincing.Exhibit A: God calls Jonah to go to Ninevah and preach to God’s people there, but Jonah resists and runs away leaving skid marks in the sand. Exhibit B: Jonah doesn't just go to a yurt the next town over, he heads toward the Las Vegas of Jonah's world, Tarshish.The place that promised to take all your troubles away with silver and g…