Monday, August 31, 2020

Music Mondays

We spend most of our lives trying to figure out who we are.  Part of what makes this an endless quest are the constant shifting forces within and around us.  That is, there is a river of movement in our soul ~ we are being continually remolded and remodeled inside through different experiences and encounters with the world outside.  John O'Donohue says that the task of life is to build a bridge between the world within us and the world outside of us...and we are continually constructing that bridge because things change.  Not just in the year of a pandemic and a political election and social unrest.  The shifts may be more subtle and slight...but they are always there.

I think about this particularly today as my kids start back to school.  The relationship within their world inside and outside is changing.  They know this visually as they walk out the door wearing masks, but also internally thinking it is a brand new year with new teachers and new learnings awaiting them.  

The above song sings about how we are shaped by the world around us.  I long to be brave to show the world the wounds and wants, but I realize that is not what we are taught.  In fact, the song seems to suggest that you need to hold your head high amid the hurt and harm people hurl at you.  While that causes my heart to be strangely warmed, the reality is it is hard.  When faced with criticism, it is difficult.  When someone says that I need to do something better or I make a mistake, it is like a thousand paper cuts in the soul.  

Trying to figure out who you are is tough because of the voices inside and outside.  It is not just that you should only listen internally as the only way to live authentically.  My relationships, especially with my family, matters and molds me.  My relationship with God reforms and refashions me.  My relationships with the church, community, and country are also thrown into the mix.  No wonder it is hard to sort out and shout out, "This is me!"  "Me" is not static.  "Me" cannot be manufactured or microwaved.  "Me" is organic, responding to the slow work of the spirit growing inside and the element that I weather outside.

Yet, to take stock of the "me" as I understand that word right now.  To take stock of what is growing, shifting, swirling inside and outside, is holy work.

I invite you to ponder these questions
1. What are three values you want to live today?
2. What new growth do you need to nurture?
3. What relationships matter - to whom are you connected?
4. What ways to the elements of the world impact you - positively and negatively?
5. What prayer would you write for yourself given the responses above?

I pray for more than a trace of God's grace as you pray and live the questions above.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Prayer Friday


God who crafts, creates, loves through words...
I am not sure what words I can borrow today to give expression to what is within me.
August is winding down and this year has felt so chaotic and uncertain.
Every choice felt like being between a rock and a hard place.
The word, "kerfuffle" comes to mind ~ only because it sounds less harsh and hard than all the words I hear tossed, thrown around right now.

God create in me a new heart that seeks healing.
God craft in me a new way that works through the wounded-ness of life.
God love through me to those I encounter everyday.

Where there is misunderstanding, grant me an openness and eagerness to listen.
Where there is tension, grant me a strength to lean in rather than run away.
Where there is joy, let me join in with laughter.
Where there is sorrow, let me be vulnerable to weep too.
Where there is peace, may I be still and not miss the holy moment.
Where there is beauty, let me do more than take a photo, help me enter fully.
Where there is work to be done, let me roll up my sleeves.
Where there is the gift of Sabbath, remind me that I am more than the sum of the things I have crossed off my to-do-list.

Hear my prayer, O God...these words...borrowed from Saints before by this beautifully imperfect person speaking them now.  Take my life, God, let it be blessed, held with hope, and sent out with love to live this day trusting that You are before/beside/behind/within/all around me.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Word Wednesday


On Monday we focused on the opening chorus of Dream God's Dream...

Today I want you to read slowly and savor the final stanza:

I'm dreaming of the way that I want my life to go
I've got hopes and I've got goals I'd like to meet
I'm reaching for the stars, but I won't forget the scars
Of Christ who died to show that the Dream's for all...

The sense that I am reaching for the stars but I won't forget the scars.  That line can feed and fuel my soul.  It is like saying, I am sharing God's love, but I won't forget the vulnerability that can happen.  It is like saying, I will shine my light, but I won't forget that others might say or do things to cause hurt and harm.  The path isn't easy.  The path isn't paved with chocolate rivers.  The path is rocky and sometimes so rough that we stumble.  The path can be beautiful at the same time.

Recently, when our family took a vacation to a cabin up North, it was beautifully imperfect.  That is to say, there were moments of laughter, mixed with times of frustration when something didn't quite work out.  We drove through pouring rain and sunshine, traffic jams and smooth sailing roads.  When we first pulled into a cabin, there was a deer that crossed our path...and when we left the last morning there was a deer that crossed the path.  The holy hums and hovers around us all the time.  But amid the other clutter and chaos we miss this.  Plus, I am not sure we have been taught or told how to observe and be open to the holy around us.  We have not been invited continually to hold the both and of beautiful imperfection.

Stars and scars are both part of life.
The beauty and broken.
The "Oh my word," sensation that gives you goosebumps of joy ~ and the "Oh my word" shiver down your spine that you can't take any more.

The holy...traces of God's grace can be in both.

Where is God's dream awakening you to hope these days?
Where is the frustration, wounds or wants causing you to despair?

Can you pray both right now...then listen to, "Dream God's Dream" again.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Music Mondays


The opening chorus to the above song by Bryan Sirchio is the words slowly ~ savoring each one:

Dream God's dream
Holy Spirit, help us dream...
Of a world where there is justice, and where everyone is free
To build and grow and love
And to simply have enough
The world will change when we dream God's dream

Scripture is filled with dreamers.
Abraham and Sarah dreamed of a son.
Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending.
Joseph of many colored coat fame dreamed of his brothers bowing down to him (not the most humble dream!!)
The people of God in Egypt dreamed of freedom from oppression.
The people of God in Exile dreamed of freedom from oppression centuries later.
Prophets dreamed of lions and calves laying together; for justice rolling like an ever flowing stream.
Joseph had a dream to take Mary as his bride.
Peter had a dream that he should eat un-kosher food.

Scripture is filled with dreamers.

When did we stop dreaming?
Did the pandemic dampen our ability to see other ways?
Did the polarization cause us to throw our arms up in exhaustion or exasperation?
Did the ever present hatred that causes us to blame other make our dreams seem distant?

The cynics will say that dream won't ever come true.
Those who cling to the sharp shards of shattered dreams will tell you, "Don't even bother."

But I believe there is another way.
It starts with a naming what is in our hearts.
It is vulnerability open to the fact that along the way there will be bruises and brokenness ~ the dream may not play out the way you had scripted.
You grieve the moments the dream dims or seems like it will never happen.
You also search for the way the dream continually resurrects to new dimensions.

You see the way the dream starts off may not be the destination where you arrive.  
God's dream is less about a specific policy or practice or purpose and more about a way of being.
God's dream is a love that is expansive and inclusive and embracing.
God's dream is a place where all belong and are beloved.
God's dream is here and not-quite here yet.
So we keep dreaming.

I pray you will find that traces of God's grace every day this week in dreaming God's dream.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Prayer Friday

Hello, darkness my old friend...I've come to talk to you again.

So begins my prayer, O God, who in the beginning befriended the darkness, collaborated with the chaos, and unleashed a creative prayer that is written inside every heart.

And yet, when the days are long...the stress sits on our shoulders...the uncertainty clouds us...and confusion confounds us...we are not sure what to do or where to go or what to say.

While we celebrate our human relationships for all the beauty they bring...we also need our connection to You.  A connection that takes different contours, shapes, and colors.  A connection grounded often in silence ~ Your first language, O God.

Stillness to breathe and be.
Sacred silence where we don't have all the answers, but we do have Your presence.
Holy darkness where we release what is hidden and unknown within us and around us.
Grace-filled confusion where we confess that we don't have life figured out.
Love-awakening and life-giving relationships with others that help us through every day.

Hello, darkness my old friend...for a presence that brings moments of peace.
Hello, stillness that beckons me to another pace of life.
Hello, hope that today need not be like yesterday...and that You, O God, are not finished with me yet.
Hello, trace of grace, awakening the true colors to share on the paper of life called, "Today."

Breathe and be.

Let's embark and see what will be.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Wednesday Word

Twenty years ago today I married my best friend.  I remember my nervousness and hopefulness having a meeting in my stomach.  I remember walking down the aisle, standing before the pastor who spoke about love being a three-fold chord, the person who sang, "In this very room there is quite enough love", the reception, opening gifts then next day, everyone leaving...then thinking, "Now what?"

What happens on the day after the celebration is life.

Twenty years later.
Two teenagers.
Three moves across the country.
Vacations to amazing places.
Pizzas on Friday nights.
Grieving family members deaths.
Ordinary days.
Stressful days.
Days my heart seemed to grow three sizes.

Our relationships matter.  Perhaps more than a profession or any other accomplishment, what we really leave in this world is our fingerprints upon the fragile hearts of others.  That is it.  Regardless of who is trending right now on twitter or what is causing our hearts to break today or what we cling to and try to control - most of this is fleeting and fading.  I am always taken by these words:

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. 

You might recognize that as part of Lincoln's Gettysburg address.  The irony is that his short speech is remembered and memorized and recited still today.  But it is one of very few speeches remembered.  Instead of trying to come up with the best blog post ever.  Instead of thinking that my profession as a pastor will somehow outlive me.  Instead of trying to be seen as successful in the eyes of people, I invite you to consider the people whose opinions matter the most.

The people who know you and love you in your beautiful brokenness.
The people who you can be with and not feel compelled to say a word.
The people who you share the roller coaster of life with every day.

In those relationships...may you remember that is where traces of God's grace are most often found.

Happy Anniversary to my best friend!  Here is to another twenty years.

Blessings ~~ 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Music Monday

A bit of nostalgia today from my growing up.  The Brooklyn Duo in the video above is playing, "True Colors".  It is a beautiful and moving rendition.  

If you are not familiar with the lyrics, here they are:

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
Its hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

Part of what is powerful is the juxtaposition of how we can feel the mixture of fear and faithfulness - both overwhelm and courageous - both unsure and hope-filled that we will find a way.  Inside our hearts and minds is a roller coaster we ride everyday.  That coaster is built both by what we experience and encounter as well as our attempts to make meaning of it all.  

I know I was taught and told that if you paid enough attention to courageous parts, eventually confidence will take hold.  I am not sure of that.  I think it is a daily invitation to listen and lean in to both.  

I don't think faithfulness ever fully rids itself of fear, because there are things in this world that are plain scary.  I don't think courage ever fully puffs out its chest in the face of all the brokenness, because what we face is difficult.  Finding a way to dance with both - the creativity in the chaos - is the call of life.  Sometimes the chaos seems like it is swirling...and sometimes the goodness, newness, hopefully is surging.  Sometime both are side-by-side.  That is actually what the story of Genesis 1:1 is all about.

The true colors of humanity are not just rosy red...but also beautiful grays.  The true colors of life are both blue and green.  Outrageous oranges and mellow yellows.

I invite you today to get out your crayons...color your life, your prayers, your fears and your faithfulness together.  And may you find more than a trace both in praying this way and living every moment this day.

Blessings ~~ 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Friday Prayer

Listen again to the words of, "Invocation".
Hear anew and afresh the call to open your heart to the holy.
Hear anew and afresh the call to listen, lean in to the sacred.
Hear anew and afresh that our connection to God is what feeds, fuels our souls and whole lives.

What this past week would you share with God?
The good ~ moments of joy overflowing and times of peacefulness.  The good tension that can come from hard, holy conversations.  The good blessings of seeing one another, even if it is only on a screen.  The good and traces of grace that littered your life these last few days.

Name and notice, share aloud to the screen.

The bad ~ the moments your heart was heavy; the increasing numbers of people dying from the virus, the systemic racism and discrimination against people created in God's image, the brokenness of relationships that won't mend easily and sometimes no matter what we do.  

Name and notice, share aloud to the screen.

The ugly ~ the quicken pulse of anger and frustration fuming at someone, the polarization that has become normalized in our country, hatred of someone who thinks/votes/believes differently, the ways we treat creation as a means to an end and value people only on their productivity.

Name and notice, share aloud to the screen.

Listen and lean into the holy hovering and hanging around you.

What does God celebrate with you and in you?

Be still and know God.

What breaks God's heart?

Be still and know God.

Where is God's prayer not being lived and how might you be God's hands/heart/head in embodying God's dream in one way?

Be still and know God.

Now listen again realizing that once we awaken to the holy around us, once we invite and invoke our awareness of the holy, we cannot stop.

So may this moment leave a lingering trace of God's grace that transcends every moment this day and week.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Wednesday Word

I invite you to listen to the above song, listen to the words, pay attention to the images, and see what is awoken with you through the melody of the music.

The above song is another by Christopher Grundy entitled, "Invocation".  Invocation is a churchy word for prayer.  And the song starts by asking God to hear us, to hear what is in our hearts.  A great place to start in prayer is by letting loose what you are carrying.  For you to name and notice what is stirring in your soul.

Pause with me...what is going on in your heart right now?
What concerns?
What celebrations are you laughing in your joy?
What ordinary moments do you find yourself coming back to from yesterday?

Go ahead, speak those aloud to your computer screen.

Then, the song continues by asking God to speak to us for we are listening.  I love the invitation to think that prayer/invocation is not only our monologue tossed toward God, but a conversation to connect with the holy. 

If we were to live this prayer today, what would God want to say to us?  If I pray, "Speak to us God for we are listening," it seems to me that I need to be quiet and still for God to get a word in edgewise.

On a deeper level the word, "Invocation" shares a root with the word, "Invoke."  In one way of thinking from years past, the prayer was to invoke God's presence.  That somehow with the right set of words we would magically make the holy appear.  I now reverse that order thinking of invocation as us, you and me, as being invoked and awoke to God's presence.  God is persistently presence around us and within us.

Listen to the music again.
Open your eyes to see the beautiful diversity of images before you.
Open your heart to name what is residing there.
Open your soul and rummage around the shelves.
Open your whole life to be invoked and provoked by traces of God's grace right now...

So that we might live that way always.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Music Mondays

Christopher Grundy, who wrote the above piece of music, is a professor at Eden Seminary.  This particular song touches my heart.  The opening words, "Holy One may Your presence here."

Right here and right where you are.

We share this moment even as we are separated by social distancing.
The word here is not just a place but a sense that even in the vastness there is an intimacy.
We share this time together even as we are apart.

Here in this place called today, here in this moment called right now.

Here is a powerful and profound word because it reminds us that there is no place and time when/where God is not.  So, by that holy thread we are already tethered together.  We don't think that way, we don't always feel that way.

But here can help us reframe and reorder our understandings.

If here is holy than God's presence can renew and refresh us if only we open our whole lives to that movement (more on that on Wednesday).

I am wondering, what did the words of this music stir within you?
How did the images engage you?
Did you feel peace like a river flow through your soul?
Did you feel the rhythm of your breath relax?

Play the song again...and again...and every time you need to remember here is holy and full to overflowing with traces of God's grace.


Friday, August 7, 2020

Friday Prayer

This is the day God has made...let us rejoice and be glad in it.
This day, with all of it's beauty and brokenness.
This day, with all that is hopeful and uncertain filling it.
This day, with all of it's marvel and mystery ~ it's fantastic and frustrating.
This day around you right now.

What is stirring in this moment?
What is swirling in your soul waiting, watching for you to notice?
What is the good...
the bad...
the ugly of right now?

Take the time to notice and name what is on the shelves of your soul, what is tumbling around in the thoughts of your mind, what is humming in your heart.

Write it
Draw it
Put together a beautiful chart in neat columns and rows.

It doesn't matter how you express it, just that your head and heart and hand all collaborate together.
To measure the number of our days, specifically this day.
This one day God has made.
This one day where you and God conspire together to what you can, where you can, with as much love as you can.
This one day where the spirit directs your steps.

This is the day God has made, how do you rejoice and be glad in it?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Wednesday Word


What images dance around your mind when you hear that word, "time"?
Magazine by that name

Is time friendly or a foe?
Does it offer a blessing for this present moment or seem too fleeting and fading ~ like trying to grasp at sand that slides through your cliched fist?

Volaire poetically penned his definition of a day as that longest and shortest; the swiftest and slowest; divisible and extended; neglected and regretted, without nothing can be done, devours all that is little and ennobles all that is great.    

Often the image that comes into our mind when we think about our days is a calendar or planner.  Neat boxes of equal size that form a bigger box that lead to the next month that looks just as orderly.  But that isn’t life.  Some days are filled with laughter and love, some days drag on.  Some days cause our hearts to break and other days our souls to soar.  

Why is that?  

There is a tension within the truth within us in someways with time.  We know every day has twenty-four hours, we know that there are some rhythms and routines that help us tell time from what we have every morning for breakfast to closing out the day by reading and saying our prayers.  But in-between my smoothie each morning and reading when the stars are twinkling each night, there are all sorts of experiences and encounters that fill those hours.  

Look back over this last week.  

If I asked you, one highlight, what might you say?  When made you laugh out loud?  What brought tears to your eyes?  Where was the beauty in the ordinary?  

Psalm 90 asks, How do we number and order our days?

As we enter this new month, how do we number and order our days, trusting that God's presence is a persistent part of however/whatever we do.  

I pray as you look at the days to come, you would sense a trace of God's grace each moment you look at your watch or the calendar to see what day it is.


Monday, August 3, 2020

Monday Muse

Recently I have been living, re-reading, trying to let the words of the following poem sink deep into my soul.  I invite you to read this poem several times...

A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark  By Jan Richardson
Go slow
if you can.
More slowly still.
Friendly dark
or fearsome,
this is no place
to break your neck
by rushing,
by running,
by crashing into
what you cannot see.

Then again,
it is true:
different darks
have different tasks,
and if you
have arrived here unawares,
if you have come
in peril
or in pain,
this might be no place
you should dawdle.

I do not know
what these shadows
ask of you,
what they might hold
that means you good
or ill.
It is not for me
to reckon
whether you should linger
or you should leave.

But this is what
I can ask for you:

That in the darkness
there be a blessing.
That in the shadows
there be a welcome.
That in the night
you be encompassed
by the Love that knows
your name.

What is your initial response/reaction to the poem/prayer/blessing?
Do you find yourself resisting or a sense of relief at the permission to slow down?
What kinds of darkness are around you...or as the ancient Christian mystics called, "The dark night of the soul"?  Perhaps the current COVID19 or trying to dismantle systemic racism or worry about our kids/grandkids going back to school or the political polarization or your health or relations?

Richardson is inviting us to see the vast and various ways darkness can enter our lives.  In some ways we are always living with one foot in the darkness and one in the light, it just depends on which way we are facing.

I join Richardson in offering a blessing to you this week.  A blessing to know whether this is a darkness you should linger or leave.  A blessing to know that not every night time is scary, sometimes it is sacred, holy darkness.  A blessing to embrace and be enfolded by truths that can only be experienced when the stars are twinkling overhead.

Go slow.
Go slower still
Into that good night.
That there may be more than a trace of God's grace.


God's Calling - We don't have it all figured out

  A few weeks ago, I offered the analogy of the Slinky as a serendipitous example of the ways calling can go off course and still end up in ...