Friday, April 30, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In

 


Holy One, here we are wrapping up another week and winding down another month.

How can it almost be May?  Time sometimes flows like a class-five-rapids through our lives.  We can feel like we are trying to keep our oar in water as we get drenched and doused with another wave in the raft of life. 

It is hard to enjoy the ride when we wonder if we are about to slip off the side and slide into the water.  It is hard to sense Your holiness when we are using all our strength to stay upright.

While the dangers are real in the world, and the news tells us as much each night, so is Your grace.  While the are reasons to fear, there is also faith that gives us the strength.

Meet each of us, O God, in the waters of life.  Awaken within each of us a holy moment of laughter.  Stir within us an experience that causes us to ponder our expectations.  Continue to be with us as we turn the calendar to a new month.  We pray You will continually invite us to name the gratitudes and do the holy work of forming a habit of letting Your Easter light into our lives.

May God’s love and presence be with each of you now more than ever.  Amen.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In

 


A prayer from Pastor Ted Loder ~ I invite you to read slowly, savoring every word. Or even go outside to read each sentence aloud to creation, pausing at each period to let God's first testament of trees/grass/plants/ants respond to you.

I Tremble on the Edge of a Maybe

O God of beginnings, as your Spirit moved over the face of the deep on the first day of creation, move with me now in my time of beginnings,

when the air is rain-washed, the bloom is on the bush, and the worlds seems fresh and full of possibilities, and I feel ready and full.

I tremble on the edge of a maybe, a first time, a new thing, a tentative start, and the wonder of it lays its finger on my lips.

In silence, Lord, I share now my eagerness and my uneasiness about this something different I would be or do;

and I listen for your leading to help me separate the light from the darkness in the change I seek to shape and which is shaping me.

May the shaping and swirling God surround you today filling you with grace, gratitude, generative love for the sake of the world. Amen.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In

 


What is stirring and swirling within you this morning as you wake up?  How did naming and claiming gratitude as you laid your head down last night cause something to shift?  Or maybe you did not notice a difference.  This is not a magic trick that instantly or immediately makes everything better.  One night of naming a gratitude doesn’t mean you will wake up happiest person every for the rest of your life. 

Gratitude is a muscle.  Yet, not much in our world today encourages you to practice gratitude. 

There are too many voices clamoring and claiming that you are being Pollyanna or neglecting the suffering of the world.  Or there is that part of us that feels guilty ask, “How can I be happen when this person over here is hurting?”  We tend to think that our hearts can only hold one emotion, but part of letting the Easter light in is the complexity of life that is embraced. 

Remember last week, Christ still bore the wounds of Good Friday, even as he ate the leftover fish of the disciples.  Remember ambiguity and astonishment can both sing to your heart – hopefully in harmony.

When we give voice to all that is stirring within us, we start to explore and experience God’s presence in deeper ways.  When we let both frustration, fear, and faith sit at the same table and be in conversation, it changes the ways we live as well as the ways our minds are wired.

Sometimes our emotions are stuck back in Middle School, where perhaps someone told you, you could only have one best friend, or you were forced to choose who you like best.  We do this all the time with our emotions and expectations and encounters.  It is perfectly holy and sacred to both laugh and cry at the same time.  It is perfectly grace-filled to both name our pain and celebrate ways we feel alive.

I encourage you again, tonight, to name the gratitude of this day that is unfolding around you.  Not because these are somehow truer than the difficulties we all face, but because if we can find ways to see God’s grace at work in our lives such a perspective can expand and embrace more and more.  To continue to practice showing up and opening up to God who is already at work.  We can commit to working on this together this week.

Prayer: God continue to guide, for You are at my side, and even when I snide, help me find a way to open wide.  Amen.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In

 



How did paying attention to the art project called, “Your life” yesterday go?  Did you have a few moments where you were able to change your expectations in ways that sacredly shifted your experience?

How did acknowledging your expectations before you entered the experience make a difference?

Or maybe, it did not.

What we are dealing with here is that your brain is hardwired a certain way.  We have been conditioned by our families, friends, culture, church, and your life up to now.  And maybe you just think, “That’s the way it is.  Nothing I can do about it.”

But actually, your brain is constantly being rewired, especially when we sleep.  Recent research suggests that up to a trillion nerve cells are at work reforming and refashioning every night as you snooze.  “Oh, that is why I wake up so tired,” you are thinking.  The researchers say, that while you are in dreamland your brain is making a map of information - making new connections and breaking apart other ones.  While we are not conscious of this, what we can be aware and awake to is what sorts of information we are taking into our minds while our eyes are open. 

One simple practice is when you go to sleep, offer gratitude for at least one experience and one person that day.  You can level up this practice by not repeating the person or moment you are giving thanks for over a period of time.  So, I can give thanks tonight that people actually read these morning meditations.  I mean with all the YouTube cat videos, you have lots of options out there to start your day.  I can give thanks for the person whose love makes a difference.  I can give thanks for the person whose challenging comment was said with compassion and care.  Try this out tonight and I will see you in the morning!

Prayer: God, now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray my mind and heart to meet.  Help me name the places of grace, open me know You are in this place.  Amen. 


Monday, April 26, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In

 


Within each one of us we hold a space between our expectations and the experiences of our daily life.  Sometimes there is no space between these two realities, they overlap and intertwine in harmony. For example, I expect ice cream to be delicious and am rarely disappointed.  Then, there are moments when there is a Grand-Canyon-like-gulf between what we want to have happen and what actually happens.  Often the dissonance and disconnect decides to live in our jaws and shoulders is because our hopes are unrealized, unfulfilled.  The tension sits restless in our souls and we can pass along our pain to others.

Pause with me.  Where did your life just whisper, “Amen”?  Where do you sense this to be true?

Let’s dive deeper, because even when our expectations and experiences are aligning, doesn’t mean everything is coming up roses.

For example, when you go to the grocery store just to pick up bread and milk, do you expect that the express lane will live up to its name?  Or has experience taught you that of course the person in front of you will have fifty containers of yogurt he is counting as one item, his milk container will start to leak, and his credit card won’t process.  And you think, “This always happens to me!”

Or when something good happens, do you immediate start to look for something bad to occur because that seems like the way life goes?

We carry around with us expectations about doctor’s visits, traffic, relationships, ourselves, and our faith.  Which brings me to the Easter question: do we expect Jesus show up in our lives?  Do you expect to encounter and be embraced by Christ as your companion today?  In story after story in the Gospels Jesus appears after Easter: to Cleopas and his companion on the road; to the disciples in a locked room and out on the beach; and on a hillside before ascension. 

Maybe you are saying. “Well that was nice back then…but doesn’t feel like that happens much for me today.”  What if, our expectations end up causing us to miss the traces of grace?

Here is the experiment for the art project called, “Your Life” today.  Think about your expectations for the events on your calendar.  Do you expect this to be a good day or a bad day or a meh day? 

If you are venturing out to bravely interact with other humans, what sorts of anticipations are there before you even enter the room? 

Could you change one of those anticipations into the hope that Christ is already at work before you even leave the house to go to that meeting?  Or sign on to your computer for that Zoom gathering?

This week, I want us to play with our expectations and experiences as a way to let the Easter light in.  The disciples did not expect to encounter the risen Christ, which is why I think Cleopas missed that it was Christ on the road…which is why I think the disciples had joy in their disbelieving. 

How might you expect God to show up in beautiful ways that surprise you today?

Prayer: God interrupt and enter into the places and spaces of my day, reordering my expectations with Your grace.  Amen.  

Friday, April 23, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In

 


The final phrase of the passage we have been living with this week proclaims, preaches “You are witnesses of these things.”

Pause with me, what is your life witnessing to right now?

How have your words shared God’s Easter light of love this week?

Where has the shadow side sometimes insisted that it’s interpretation is the right one, the only one?

Where were you gracious and with whom did you hold back?

To witness to others isn’t just about testifying to Jesus or sharing your faith.  You witness in your conversations with others.  You witness in your social media posts.  You witness with your calendar (see the post from yesterday).  You witness with your checkbook and credit card.  You witness with showing up in prayerful ways to God.  You witness in sitting silently with a friend who is suffering, struggling, and searching.  You witness physically, emotionally, spiritually all the time.  You witness in being honest about doubts and disbelieving.  You witness in moments of sharing joy.  You witness in bringing a Tupperware casserole to someone.  You witness when you receive someone else’s love in the form of a casserole left on your doorstep.

You are witnessing right now.  Rewind and review your week.  Not with guilt or looking only for the boneheaded mistakes, but also the blessings – both are there from these past five days.

May the Easter light of God’s love enter in showing you, blessing you, opening you to witness incarnationally – in your life – in these days.  Amen.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In

 


36-41 While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true. 41-43 He asked, “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.  44 Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.” 45-49 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.”

Sometimes scripture has such a wonderful turn of phrase that sits in my soul.  Verse 41 says, “While in the disciples joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.  Or from the Message translation above, “They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.”

I want to invite this verse to simmer in your soul today.

Where do you find doubts creeping or crawling around your hearts?  I sometimes wonder how much progress have we made dismantling discrimination?  I wonder why the human heart has such compacity for hate.  I can doubt decisions I make personally or as a parent or professionally.  I can constantly question and find faults/flaws with what I think is the next faithful step.  Sometimes I have this internal dialogue between my mind and heart, where my heart wants to do one thing and my mind tells me all the reasons I should not – under any circumstance – do that!!

Maybe your find yourself doubting whether the Easter light is true or can be trusted.

Maybe you question who is God, Jesus, Spirit, or the purpose of a church community right now?

Maybe you are pondering how best to unfurl from the COVID cocoon and why the CDC still isn’t texting you every day telling you what is safe to do?

Now, shift to joy.  What brings you joy?  Where are you, to quote Howard Thurman, fully alive?  Where does your soul sing, “I could do this forever!”?  Where are you curious and want to know more about a certain topic (like the history of music or how to weave baskets) right now?

Let these questions stir and simmer and sit with them.  Take these questions for a walk around the block.  Come back to these questions at lunch and as you wind down, wrap up your day. 

May you find a joy holding hands with your doubts, each singing with each other in harmony about faith.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Letting the Light of Easter In


 

At that very instant, as they (Cleopas and his companion) are still telling the story, Jesus is there, standing among them!

Jesus: May you have peace!

They’re startled and terrified; they think they’re seeing a ghost.

Jesus: Why are you upset? Why are your hearts churning with questions?  Look—look at My hands and My feet! See that it’s Me! Come on; touch Me; see for yourselves. A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you can see that I have!

Then He shows them His hands and His feet.

Now their fear gives way to joy; but it seems too good to be true, and they’re still unsure.

Jesus: Do you have anything here to eat?

They hand Him a piece of broiled fish, and He takes it and eats it in front of them.

Jesus: I’ve been telling you this all along, that everything written about Me in the Hebrew Scriptures must be fulfilled—everything from the law of Moses to the prophets to the psalms.

Then He opens their minds so they can comprehend the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Jesus: This is what the Scriptures said: that the promised Anointed One should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, that in His name a radical change of thought and life should be preached, and that in His name the forgiveness of sins should be preached, beginning in Jerusalem and extending to all nations. You have witnessed the fulfillment of these things.

 

I have a squeamish stomach.  When people show me a scar or stitches, when they give me a detail account of how long the needle was or a play-by-play of their surgery, I consciously plaster a smile on my face and mentally say, “Don’t faint, don’t faint, do not faint!”  So, when Jesus on Easter eve shows the disciples his wounds, I must confess that my stomach is a bit unsettled.  But I find it fascinating that Jesus comes back with the woundedness of Good Friday.  Easter, Resurrection, and new life pouring forth from the tomb which becomes the womb of God’s love, does not mean that the pain of the past is erased.  This has been true from the very beginning.  In the Genesis creation poem, Genesis 1, it is God and chaos hanging out, chillaxing together.  When God creates from the chaos or in cahoots/collaborating with the chaos, never does Genesis 1 say that the chaos was completely eradicated or eliminated.  Chaos persists and still exists.  This we know to be true from reading the newspaper today.

Jesus echoes and amplifies this truth by still bearing the woundedness of cross.

There is a holy invitation for you and I to name and claim our woundedness in these days.  The woundedness of racism, sexism, discrimination of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, the ways we are hurting/harming the earth, and our continued discounting people who are politically or economically or socially different than us. 

We all have a shadow side.  We all have things about ourselves we’d like to change.  We all have moments when we wonder, “Why in the world did I do that?” 

Jesus shows his woundedness giving us permission to do the same prayerfully and intentionally with God (this is what prayer is all about - but that is a topic for another meditation).  Some of my shadow side includes: perfectionism, using sarcasm as a defense, and pushing myself too much.  We sit with our shadow side letting the Easter light in, trusting in God who loves us fully.  Remember from last week the great line of the Hymn, The Summons, “Will you love the you you hide if I but call your name”?  The parts of ourselves we push down so we don’t have to deal with it.  Hold those in the Easter light of God’s emphatic, “Yes” to love – loving you fully and wholly in these days.

Prayer: God let your unconditional and unceasing love embrace and enfold me today, giving me courage to let your love loose in my words and actions today.  Amen.


Monday, April 19, 2021

Letting in the Light of Easter

 


Our scripture yesterday was full of so many profound and powerful metaphors, I want for us to let this passage linger and leave an impression upon your life this week.  Today, I want you to read this passage two times slowly.  Savor every word as if it was the best dark chocolate you have ever tasted.  After each reading, pause for thirty second.  During that time, ask yourself, what word or phrase reverberates and resonates in me?  I encourage you to read aloud!  I know we are all taught in school to read silently to ourselves.  But history tells us that in ancient times, when you went into a library you would hear people mumbling, reading, aloud the words to themselves.  For Scripture to be embodied and embraced, it needs to be heard as well as seen.  By both seeing and hearing the word, we can awaken our imaginations.  So, step into the story and ponder what do you smell or sense hovering in the air.  I pray you will be playful as you read Luke 24:36-48, two times.

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,  and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,  and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. 

What word leaps off the screen into your soul?

For me, it is “Peace be with you.” I long for peace like a river in my soul.

Where do you, like the disciples, feel started and terrified amid the weary, worn world today?

Where do you sometimes feel faithfully bewildered trying to move about or make sense of the world today?

Can you smell the broiled fish so that your mouth starts to water?

Now, read aloud the words again.  As you engage this story, where do these ancient words connect to you today?

When we say scripture is true and can be trusted, this means we see, hear, encounter ourselves in these words.  These words can be like a mirror showing us a reflection of who and whose we are.  So, read and read again as we let these words sink deeper into our lives in such a time as this.

Prayer: Creative God continue to open our minds, imaginations, hearts, and souls so we might let the Easter light fully into our lives in these days.  Amen.


Friday, April 16, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In

 


Today, rather than any more words or assignments or invitations; I want to give you space to breathe.  I invite you to reflect on the ways you have experienced and encountered the Easter light so far.  Remember, Easter is about more than chocolate and good vibes/times.  Easter can be baffling and bewildering.  Easter can sound like an idle tale.  Easter can be moments of feeling wounded and wondering at the marvel of the mystery of life.  Easter is about the complex, sometimes contradictory, feelings.  Amen to that after this week.  After a week of violence - including a police shooting and a mass shooting last night at the FedEx facility.  After a week of more polarizing politicizing and posturing of who has power.  After a week of more ranting on social media.  After a week when our souls can feel weary and worn out.  To let the Easter light in does not mean we dismiss or discount the pain.  Jesus shows his woundedness to the disciples on Easter Eve (spoiler alert for the scripture reading this Sunday!).  

You may today want to take yourself on a walk.  Feel the ground beneath the soles of your feet and feel the grace supporting our soul.  Enter into with all that is unresolved and undone from this past week, trusting in God who meets us in the incompleteness with a wholeness we need.  Show up and open up trusting as the truth of Cleopas that Christ meets us on the road ways of life.

Try to listen to a soundtrack of God's love for you.

Try to let God's grace enfold and hold you.

Try to listen for ways you might let loose God's love to others.

The invitation to be “You” is not an item on your to-do list to check off.  You are a mystery to explore and experience in these Easter days. 

Prayer: God saturate and soak me this day with the light of love I need always.  Amen.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In


 

I am wondering, how did your list of words that describe and define “you” go yesterday?  Is the page full?  Do some of the words make you smile?  For example, I wrote down, “competitive Uno player.”  Yes, that is a challenge at some point for you and I to play a game!  Do some of the words you wrote make you cringe?  Like when I wrote down “perfectionism” yesterday.  It’s okay…it isn’t like I am confessing this shadow side of myself online where the whole world could access it, I say sarcastically.  This invitation to describe and define yourself is not just one and done.  Hold that paper.  Keep coming back to it today and adding new insights and ideas.  I pray you might pay attention today to your own responses, reactions, and how this might awaken new words for you to write down.  Try at dinner time, as you review your day, to think back upon three experiences and what those might teach and tell you about you! 

 

As you add to your page, continue to affirm the truth that God loves you.  God loves you from the top of your head to your pinkie toe.  There is not a part of you God does embrace and enfold with love, even (or I should say especially) the parts we do hide from others and ourselves.  Go through the list, circle the words that bring a smile to your face.  Put a square around the ones even now you wish you had not written down. 

 

We name and notice the “you” you hide so that we can bring our full self out into God’s Easter light.  Like the women at the tomb, who are willing to go into the dark, damp cave to experience God’s light of love.  We too are invited to go into our own caves of ourselves to see what God is up to in the beauty and brokenness – the variety of parts that come together to make each of us who we are.  Throughout scripture God doesn’t call the best and brightest.  God calls people who had struggles and stumbles.  God called Abraham and Sarah, not as rising young stars, but as two beloved people whose AARP cards were torn and worn.  God called Moses (who had some anger issues and who was on a wanted poster for killing a guard) to set people free.  God called Jonah, who ran in the opposite way from Nineveh.  Jesus called twelve disciples who didn’t always understand his teaching/preaching; sold him out; scattered when the going got tough; and stood as far away as possible at the cross – when Jesus needed them the most.  Suddenly, my lists of less-than-desirable qualities does not seem so bad.

 

You and I can be honest about what is in our lives in the season of Easter.  The more vulnerable we are willing to be can open us to the truth of God’s love even embracing our brokenness – which can also help us be empathic to others brokenness.  Hold this truth in the marvelous; mysterious light of Easter today.   

 

Prayer: Holy One, meet me in the messiness of my life with meaning.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Letting the Light of Easter In

 


We continue in the season of Easter, exploring the Cosmic Egg, and focusing on “Your Story”.  We remember that this season after Easter is about more than finished off the feet on your chocolate Easter bunny (or are you the type that eats the ears last?)  The season of Easter is fifty days of living into the mystery and meaning of Easter.  Easter didn’t stop when the sun set on April 4th.  Easter unravels each day revealing a new insight into the beauty of God’s emphatic, “Yes!” to life. 

During Holy Week, I asked for you to let Christ’s story connect to your story.  Let the “Hosannas” (which means, “Save us”) meet you in the moments where you need healing and help; relief and release.  Let the liberating love of God found in broken break meet you in every meal.  Let God’s suffering and vulnerability meet you in owning our weakness, wounds, and weariness.  Let God’s silence, stillness ground us.  Let God’s love echo off our hearts in life-giving and life-changing ways.

We don’t stop living the mystery just because the Easter candy and decorations go on sale today.  Although, at prices that low, feel free to stock up.  I want to continue to build on the mystery and meaning of Easter singing and saturating your soul that we started last week.  For you to continue to build on the insights on the questions, what is it like to be you?  The created-in-God’s-image you.  The “you” that is still being formed, fashioned, and loved into being by the breath of God.  The “you” that wants to emerge from the COVID cocoon and feels a bit like life has shifted…that “normal” won’t be the same…or pray that it won’t.  I think of the great verse from the hymn, “The Summons” by John Bell.  It goes:

 

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world a round,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?


My invitation today is to write down all the roles and responsibilities you embody.  First, get out a piece of paper.  Next, write, “Beloved Child of God” at the center – the core of the you “you” are.  Then, all around you can write down other words/ways that could describe or define you.  I might write, “husband,” “father,” “dog-lover,” “writer,” “amateur photographer,” and “Pastor.”  Now, I want you to dig deeper into the well of creativity.  Open to the “you” you hide as God calls your name.  For me, that might include, “perfectionist,” “novice nature noticer/ Henry Thoreau-wannabe,” “anxious by the state of the world,” or “constantly questioning why I did that?” Keep going.  Keeping coming back to this list as you could fill the entire page with words.  The more creative, the deeper into yourself you can go, I pray you will let the Easter light of God’s love saturate and soak the fullest meaning of “you” there is. 

Prayer: God, we begin this season of Easter with the affirmation that You love us unconditionally and unceasingly.  Help this truth of Your acceptance meet us in these days.  Amen.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Prayer

 


We wake up this morning to hear the news from Minneapolis of Daunte Wright being shot by police, protests, the on-going George Floyd trial, I am so aware of the grief that hovers and hangs in the air.  I am aware this grief is collective as a country and individual for each person reading this.  Some of you are grieving the death of a close relative; some are mourning the passing of fellow church members whose lives we celebrated; some have anticipatory grief for those on hospice or in the hospital where hope is slipping away.  Grief can leave us feeling raw.  Grief can awaken emotions that had laid dormant for years, the pain we pushed down unable to process, and grief can leave us feeling, to quote the Spiritual, Precious Lord, "tired, weak, and worn."  Grief can also leave us feeling powerless.

What can we do?  What can we do to dismantle discrimination that exists and persists?  What can we do to comfort those who weep and mourn?  Bringing this to the personal, what can I do?  I am taken by the words of Makoto Fujimura who writes about Jesus' tears in the face of Lazarus' death (John 11).  Fujimura writes, "Jesus’ tears transformed Mary’s view of her Lord. Soaking the hardened ground of Bethany, Jesus’ tears commingled with hers. Jesus was not only a Savior but proved to be an intimate friend; the glory of God shone through such a deep friendship with the Son of Man"

Deep friendship opens space for each other to speak.  I think about Cleopas from our Bible passage yesterday whose eyes were too blurry to see it was Jesus.  My eyes are blurry today too.  For the funerals this last week.  For the saints of our church who have died and are on hospice care.  For family members and friends within the church whose hearts are broken.  Lament is the prayerful invitation to be honest and heart-felt.  Lament also finds ways to do justice, to embody loving-kindness, and to walk humbly with God, these words of Micah stir afresh in me today.   Jesus wept and then called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb.  Both are needed and necessary.  Both tears and faithful action.  One informs the other.  I pray for our country, community, church, and for each of you to find ways to let loose Micah's vision in your life today with those you encounter on life's road...may each of us encounter Christ in person before us - even through tear-soaked eyes.  Amen. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Letting the Light of Easter In


 

As we wrap up and wind down this first week after Easter, I want to offer an invitation to you from Pastor Steve Cuss.  I recently heard him describe what he calls “Life Giving List”.  The instructions are to come up with the range of activities that fill you with life/energy/cause your soul to stir/embraced by goodness.  These can be things that take just a few minutes or need several days.  There may be no cost, or you might need to save your pennies.  Pastor Cuss says you need to be very concrete about what is life giving to you, intentionally take time for these activities, and that in those moments you are worshipping God. 

Here are some examples from my life-giving list:

Hiking with a camera in my hand, out in nature, preferably where there is no cell tower so I can be offline.  Cost might be a tank of gas.

Walking with my wife at night around our neighborhood, processing our day, living our wedding vows to comfort and support each other.  Cost might be a new pair of shoes every now and then.

Writing these morning meditations for you to share what is in my heart.  The only cost I can come up with for this is my time.

If you want to explore more about this invitation, click on the link below.

May you find moments in the days to come to write down your life-giving list.  More importantly, may you experience moments of embodying the very activities and ways that you find the Spirit stirring and swirling in your life.


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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Letting the Light of Easter In

 


As we cross the threshold into Thursday, pause with me.

Start with exhaling all that you have been holding this week, then into that empty space let in the breath of God.

Be with me in this moment with all its beauty and brokenness; with all it celebrations and concerns.  With its befuddling faithfulness.

This series of morning meditations was inspired by the work of Richard Rohr.  He talks about what he calls the Cosmic Egg.

No, this is not some dish you can order at a local farm to table restaurant.  Nor is it a recipe for you to use up those hard-boiled Easter Eggs from Sunday. 

It is a symbolic, Easter-inspired, image for you and me.  Rohr says at the center of the cosmic egg is you.  You are like the yoke of an egg.  You are full of the building blocks of life.  Not just in random order, but crafted, created, loved into being by God. 

The white part of the egg is known as “our story”.  This refers to the people you connect to and find meaning alongside.  You can think of communities like your family and friends.  Or you might view this through the lens of your neighborhood, city, or state.  Your community might be on-line with group chats.  You can think about your political community as many scholars suggest that our political identity/connects have become more important than family in recent years (that is another whole series for the morning meditations).  What connections/community impact and influence who you are?

Finally, there is the shell of the egg which is the bigger story or what Rohr calls, “The Story”.  As people in the world today we are very suspicious of anyone telling us something is “the” story.  It sounds oppressive and we often find ways to criticize how that story isn’t true for me in my story.  To be sure, the vast variety of voices and beautiful diversity means that trying to capture “the” story is fraught and fragile.  The story can silence or sideline people.  Perhaps that is because what we are often told is “the story” is only “our story”.  Trying to name “the story” is challenging.  But I do believe, deep in my heart, Holy Week is one example of “the story” in which we can find both “our story” and “my story”.  I can find myself in the Hosannas of Palm Sunday, brokenness of bread, suffering of Good Friday, and the hope (even when baffling) of Easter.

I invite you to hold this image prayerfully in your heart this day.

Prayer: God who is the author of a story that connects us to each other and is at the core of who I am, let Your words and wisdom be written upon my heart in these days.  Amen.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Letting In the Light of Easter


 

At some point in our education, we heard the wisdom from the Ancient Greeks, “Know thyself.”  Did you know that is the first of three maxims that are inscribed outside the Temple of Apollo?  The other two, because I know you are curious, were: “nothing in excess” and “surety brings ruin”.  Suddenly you might realize why the other two maxims never quite caught on in our current climate.  But we are fascinated by trying to know ourselves.  Exhibit A of evidence for this is the “Self-help” section of any library has pages upon pages of words devoted to this topic.  Exhibit B are podcasts produced every day for you to living your best life every where you thrive.  Exhibit C is just Google “how to know yourself” and in less than a second there are almost two billion possible responses and results for you to view.  So, you know, feel free to look over those at lunch!

The quest to know ourselves is endless and eternal.  Actually starts at a young age.  I remember moments when one of my children colored on the wall or didn’t study for a test or did something I wish they had not done.  When frustration fumed off me I would ask, “Why did you do that?”  Of course, the reply was often, “I don’t know.”  Looking back, I now see how that is so true for me.  Why did I say that last night at the meeting?  Why did I procrastinate when my gut was saying, “Go head take the risk.”?  Why do I do what I do.

It wasn’t just philosophy that finds this mystery of why we do what we do fascinating.  The Apostle Paul says in Romans, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” 

We are a mystery.  Or as Kristen Bell once said, “We are our own best science experiments.”  To explore our lives with an endless curiosity is an invitation.  But we need to be careful because often when we begin to ask why we are doing what we are doing, we have to get out the umbrella because it is raining guilt.  This is perhaps because of those childhood memories of being disciplined when we disappointed our parent.  But grace and good news of Easter says, we can ask questions of why trusting in God’s original blessing and God who calls each of us, “Beloved.”

Keep turning the question, what is it like to be you, in your mind, heart, and soul.  Keep prayerfully pondering how the past, present, and future are meeting in you.  And continue to find ways to explore your life gently and gracefully.  Stay open to the faithful, fascinating ways you embody and live in these days.

Prayer: God, continue to open me to the ways You are at work within me and beyond me and beside me this day.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Letting the Easter Light In

 


God’s grace and love enfold and hold you.  How is the sacred, scientific experiment of exploring your life going?  What insights or ideas did you discover as you held the question, “What is it like to be you?” yesterday?  What might be breaking forth this morning as we return to this inquiry right now? 

This question gets to me in such a profound way.  I feel it right in my gut.

This is a holy question as we are all living through how to emerge from the COVID cocoon of the last year. 

For some of you, you are ready to break, burst out of that cocoon like a butterfly and take flight to somewhere, anywhere than the four walls that you have been staring at the last twelve plus months.

For others of you, there is still this twinge of uncertainty. What really is safe, even after I have my vaccine?  Why can’t the CDC send me a personalized scientist to guide me through every decision each day?  Has Apple developed an app for that yet I can put on my phone?

For still others, you are somewhere in-between ready to roam freely about or still sticking close to home.  You want to dip the tip of your toe back into the waters of life, but just don’t know if you want to dare to dive.

What is it like to be you has baked and built into that question the past, present, and future.  What is it like to be you is about what led you to this point.  You didn’t wake up this morning for the first time.  You have a past that has left the impression of the good, the bad, and ugly upon you.  You have this present moment you are trying to navigate and perhaps feel stuck like that cargo ship recently in the Suez Canal.  You have the future, what is unfolding and being unveiled in your life.  All that is present, just beneath and behind the surface of this question.

I invite you today to keep that white lab coat on, your pencils sharp and the clipboard ready.  I ask you to think about the good, the bad, and ugly of the beautifully created in God’s image known as “you” that stares back from the mirror each morning at you.  You may want to make a chart, get out a piece of paper, across the top write, the good, the bad, and ugly.  Along the side write the past, the present, and the future.  And in each box see what awakens within you.  By naming and noticing what is within us, I believe is one of the ways God gets a word in edgewise in our lives.

Prayers: God who loves both the ways we try to categorize, compartmentalize life only to discover the confusing and confounding mystery, meet us in this moment and throughout every hour today.  Amen.


Friday, April 2, 2021

The Melody of Lent


 As we center our hearts for this Holy Friday, when we stand/kneel beneath the cross of Jesus, let these words of Richard Rohr sink/stir in your soul:

Today the primary human problem is both revealed and resolved. It is indeed a “good” Friday. What is revealed is our human inclination to kill others, in any multitude of ways, instead of dying to ourselves—to our own illusions, pretenses, narcissism, and self-defeating behaviors. Jesus dies “for” us not in the sense of “a substitute for us” but “in solidarity with” the suffering of all humanity since the beginning of time! 

I invite you to lean in and listen to the beautiful Spiritual, He Never Said a Mumblin' Word.  Let its mournful melody and profound preaching invite you in the sacredness of God in solidarity with our suffering.  

Prayer: Beneath the Cross of Jesus, we take our stand, guide our feet and hold our hands.  Let our mumbling words today, O God, give voice to the ways You meet us in the messiness of life.  Let Your love shown on the cross challenge our lives every day.  Amen.  

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Melody of Lent

 


Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee
In life, in death, o Lord, abide with me
Abide with me, abide with me.

Today is Maundy Thursday.  Maundy, like “Abide”, is not exactly a word we use a lot.  Okay, honestly, we don’t use it at all.  When was the last time you said this word in a causal conversation?  Maundy means commandment.  At the Last Supper, Jesus gives the commandment to love.  The fact that Jesus is talking to his friends, the disciples, about love isn’t all that surprising.  But, consider that these so-called, “friends” are about to desert, deny, and betray him.  Talk about actions that are the exact opposite of love.  Jesus preaches and teaches about love and the very next moment the disciples leave skid marks in the sand running away from Jesus or turning him into the authorities.

With friends like that…who needs enemies?

Jesus didn’t just talk about love, he embraced and embodied this word.  He activated and animated love in his life.  He radiated love from the core of his being.

I have said that the Holy Week story is your story.  You know moments of being betrayed or denied.  You know moments when people hide knifes in their words or smile to your face only to criticize you behind your back.  Tonight we will gather with bread and juice/wine because Jesus preached the commandment on love around a meal.  And you have had holy meals before too.  Meals where laughter is practiced as a healing art.  Where what is served is about more than what is on your plate, what nourishes you are the connections around the table. 

Tonight is a night that is metaphor rich.  Broken bread – symbolizing the brokenness of life.  A cup of grace poured out to saturate our lives with unconditional love.  Human emotions of distrust and distain and distance.  And the shadow of a cross across our path because grief is woven into our lives. 

Hold all of this.  Abide in all of this.  And bring all of what you have experienced this Lent to our service tonight.  Bring your whole self – that your whole self might dwell in the one who meets us in our woundedness, wants, longings, hopes, fears, prayers, concerns, celebrations, deepest desires, all of this, and so much more.

I will see you tonight at our service.

Prayer: God of broken bread – meet us in all that is unresolved and uncertain; God of grace poured out, saturate and soak our souls on this day with Your love that overflows our lives.  Amen.


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