Showing posts from January, 2020


The glass of the ornament reflected me back to me.
My hands abnormally large.
The other decorations nearby distorted.
Ornament comes from the Greek to be mean, "Cosmos".
Could it be in one ornament is an entire galaxy?

So small I could hold the vastness in my hand?
So fragile one slip of my grip would cause thousands of sharp shards scattering?
So beautiful I can see why the Greeks thought of the universe when gazing at ornaments.

We need places and especially people who reflect back to us.
We need to hold in our hands something that is at once small and yet larger than we could imagine.
We need to sense You, O God, moving with traces of grace not only at Christmas but as we turn the calendar to the next month.

"Every hour," O God, the hymn prayerfully proclaims that, "I need thee."
Words that seem to be in short supply during this year.
As the bickering and bitterness and back-biting human ways take hold.
As Christmas trees ar…

Sunrise to Sunset

Sometimes, O God, the only way I know Your light is in the dark.
When the difficulty creeps and sneaks along the edges of life,
When the only thing that keeps the night at bay is You.

Continue to move in my life, O God, as this first month of 2020 winds down.
Continue to guide me, trusting that in order for grace to be grace, Your presence is not earned by...
Good behavior or
Perfect attendance pins from Sunday School or
Being nice to someone at the store and letting him go in front of me (although clearly he has twenty items in the express lane because his fifteen containers of yogurt don't count as 1!)
Grace comes like the night.
Grace sometimes comes in the night.
Unseen until it is right there as close as my next breath.
Unknown until I find a peace that strangely warms my heart.

Who would have thought that the night could evoke or awoken such a thought?
Who could have believed that the setting sun was not the end of the day, but a beginning of a new way?
Who woul…

Around and Around

Spinning, swirling, still-singing-to-the-chaos God,
Sometimes life can feel like I am going in circles.
There are moments this is fun,
Laughter leaps from deep in my bones,
And escapes in giggles from my lips.

There are moments when the perpetual motion
tickles my tummy and I sway to the movement.

There are moments when I want to stop,
Raise my hand and shout,
"I want to give off this ride...

In the beginning You found creativity in the spinning circles of chaos.
You were willing to let your imagination dance.
You found ways to center Yourself even when the flow was ceaseless.

Help me do the same.
Help me know it is okay to enjoy the ride.
Help me find quiet centers.
Help me be okay when I need to exit for awhile to find steady, stable ground.

I pray that in You, O God, I would move and have my being.
I pray that in You, O God, I would find the calm, centering grace and moments of stillness.
I pray that in You, O God, there would be joy and quiet...

Midrashing with Mark

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Another healing story.

Notice that in this one the beloved child of God comes to Jesus - feels empowered to name and claim what he needed.

Notice that in this case we hear that Jesus is moved with pity...the real word here is compassion.  Compassion is that physical response, deep within our gut that tells us we…

Midrashing with Mark

That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Jesus has been working all day long.  The lines have been long.  Beloved child of God who was hurting after beloved child of God who was hurting appeared before Jesus.  It is like a moment when you are at a free community meal and see person after …

Midrashing with Mark

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

There is a pulse, urgency, and an immediacy to Mark's gospel.  The beat is up tempo, one that would match and mirror our modern day, fast - even frenzied - pace of life.  The urgency for Mark one that wants to lead us to the cross as quickly as possible.  To be sure, Mark wants to make sure we see specific scenes, but the shadow of the cross looms large.  Mark takes the interstate to Holy Week, without stopping at any rest stops...never visiting the tourist traps of the biggest ball of twine...always saying, "Move along folks, got lots to do and see...not much time.  Let's hurry."

Part of the reason why I want us to slow down and savor these words is not only because I think ev…

Midrashing with Mark

Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

In Mark's gospel, the first one to name and claim who Jesus a man with an unclean spirit.

Not a religious scholar.
Not someone who studied the Bible daily.
Not someone who had the right credentials or a certificate of accomplishment up on the wall.

Seriously, the one who gets it first is the one who would have been last, least, and pushed to the fringe of society. 

What do you make of…

Midrashing with Mark

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

I remember going fishing as a child with my brother and dad.  We'd go down to the Cedar River, a couple of baloney sandwiches and grape sodas in our cooler; our fishing poles and tackle boxes in hand; and a hope that we would come home with dinner for that night.

We rarely did.

Our hooks were empty more than they were ever full.  And the initial enthusiasm and excitement for fishing would dissipate within the first hour.  My brother and I would wander off to the play ground while my dad watched the fishing poles for any sign of a bite.  I think my dad just liked the peace and quiet. 

To be fish for people might mean that we are called to provide for others ~ help sustain those who we come into connect with each day. 

When did that happen so far this year for you?  Have you had a mo…

Midrashing with Mark

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Whew...there are so many small places in-between these words.  So many stories tucked neatly at the end of sentences just calling, crying out to be written.

First, notice how wilderness now is not a place of liberation but temptation.  Wilderness isn't either/or, wilderness is always both/and.  Wilderness is both the place where our soul can be free and we can feel free.  Wilderness is the place where we might touch the soil that is embedded in our soul, but also the place where there are creepy, crawling things that would prefer we not pay a visit to where they call, "home."  You reflected on wilde…

Midrash-ing with Mark

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Hands down, Jesus baptism is one of the moments in scripture that causes my soul to surge and swirl.  There is so much meaning, possibility, and promise in the words above.

First, the fact is that John selects the Jordan as the space and place for baptism not just because it was a beautiful, natural setting.  Actually, I once read a scholar call the Jordan River a, "meandering ditch." Sounds delightful, right?  The Jordan was the place where Joshua (who took over leadership from Moses) led the people into the Promised Land.  The Jordan is that sacred space where your soul can breathe because you are arriving at the place where you longed to go.  The Jordan is the place where you…

Midrash-ing with Mark

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

As we continue to midrash with Mark, continue to let his story open our imaginations and awaken ideas about how these words are speaking, singing, swimming, and stirring in our lives early in 2020, we focus a few days ago on beginnings.  Today we move to the image of wilderness.  A couple of things about this passage~

Wilderness would awaken the truths from the book of Exodus, where Mose…

Midrash-ing with Mark

In the coming weeks, I want to invite us into the spiritual practice of Midrash.  This practice comes from our Jewish brothers and sisters who see Scripture not as some black and white rule book, but as a living dialogue with our dynamic, still creating God.  Scripture not as something only to be memorized but is a conversation to be entered into with God.  The dialogue of Midrash is meant to discover and uncover meaning in our lives today.  Midrash invites you to step into the small spaces in scripture in-between the words.  You can do this by sliding into the sandals of one of the characters.  You can do this by asking questions and bringing your insights/ideas.  You can do this by writing a story about a story (for example, what is the story of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son?  Can God's creativity artistically find a voice through you in telling that story?).

Richard Rohr writes this in his daily devotional from January 7, 2019,  "[Midrash] lets the …

Prayer for the New Year

God of beginnings that beckon us to something, somewhere fresh, even when we are not sure we are ready to go.
We offer to You, what is unresolved from 2019.
The words we'd like to rewind and take back.
Actions where we wished we had a mulligan.
Moments that now that we are in 2020, we realize the profoundly powerful truth of hindsight.
Help us release, set down, what no longer needs to be carried forward.

We offer to You this day, God whose presence is part of every moment.
Three days into the year.
Places we feel certain and confident.
Places we feel like our feet are standing on shifting sand.
Places that are ordinary as we get back to the routine of trying to find You, O God, amid making school lunches, navigating traffic, doctor's appointments, and the to-do lists that occupy our lives. 
Break through each days this year with more than a trace of Your grace we can experience in the moment rather than only in reflection, looking back.

We offer to You the coming days and we…

Wrapping Up: What Are You Seeing, The End

As our forty days conclude, let your thoughts center you.  Let your soul find a calm, spacious place.  Let your eyes, ears, and whole life enter right now into the prayer practice of Visio Divina.
Breathe and be.

Reflection.... The invitation at the beginning was to gaze, to behold, to be-held by a holy presence larger than ourselves, and to listen to what was evoked and invoked within you.
The invitation at the beginning was to a journey of forty photos as we prepared for the birth of Christ, celebrated Christmas, and now have crossed the threshold into a New Year.
The invitation was an opening like in the clouds pictured above.
I am so grateful for your willingness to walk with me through Advent. The prayer that guided me as I wrote, edited, and then let this devotional loose into the universe was that somehow, in some way, these photos and words might be for us an incarnational moment - a time when God's love (which can feel elusive) was seen, heard, or experienced in some way within…

Wrapping Up: What Are You Seeing take Four

On this first day of a brand-new year, may the waves of God’s grace wash over the sands of your life in ways that renew.  Enter the prayer practice of Visio Divina either with words stirring or silence settling your soul.  Focus and frame this breath and the next breath with your hopes for this time.  
So, breathe and be.

What do you see in this photo above?

You can make a list of what literally is there.
You could write a story about what is metaphorically shining forth.

What thousand words might start to pour forth from you in this one picture?
May one of the words that settles and stirs in your soul be more than a trace of God's grace, hope, peace, love, and joy.
Blessings ~~