Thursday, September 30, 2021

God's Calling

 


As September winds down and wraps up, I invite you to continue to hold your list of fascinations and fears lightly.  I invite you to continue to revise, edit, add, or even remove some curiosities from you list.  Your life is like a river that flows.  You have energy that is moving you in certain directions.  There are honest fears or concerns which can be an obstacle, like rocks or trees or even dams in a river.  Like an electrical current that can power my stove to let lose my inner Julia Childs in the kitchen, there are moments when I will be covered in flour, or my cookies will fall flat. 

 

To keep noticing prayerfully the both/and of life with our curiosity and concerns.  So, where is that burning bush like Moses you want to look at something in fascination and also turn away from because you know this is holy ground.  Where do you sense God is calling you like Jeremiah, but not sure you have the knowledge or strength or wherewithal?  Where do you resist, like Jonah going, even as the divine beckons? 

 

Whether it was the lists from Monday and Tuesday or you found the quadrant exercise yesterday helpful; you are doing the work of letting your life speak and sing to you.  For today, rest in God’s grace knowing this is holy work in a time such as this.

 

Prayer: Thank you, O God, that You have never stopped crafting, creating, and calling us to be Your people.  Thank you, O God, for the sparks of fascination.  Thank you, even O God, for the concerns for those remind me that something is at stake here…my fears suggest that following my fascinations is important to me.  I pray for You, O God, to divinely dance in my midst giving me strength to explore where my soul is leading.  Amen.


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

God's Calling ~ Exercise

 


You have your curiosities and concerns.  You have your fascinations and fears. What you want to run toward and run away from.  You have done the work.  I celebrate your list with all its honesty.  I celebrate that your list is never fully complete or finished.  You could go back and keep adding to both the curiosity and concern.  Maybe today you want to do this.  Is there something that needs to go in the curiosity column?  Is there a heartfelt fear that you didn’t write down yesterday but need to today?

When you feel like the list of ten or twenty or more items where your shy soul wants to spelunk is on paper, the next step is to create a graph.

I love graphs.  I love charting things.  I love taking data points and placing them along axis to show visually what is within me. 

On a piece of paper, draw a line horizontally across the middle.  That is your fascination axis.  Now, draw a line vertically down the middle.  That is your fear axis.  This should create four equal quadrants.  If you are Type-A, like me, you may even want a ruler to make certain your lines are straight!  It’s okay.  I’ll wait while you go get one.

Now, I want you to look at your list.  There are some fascinations where you feel your soul surge a bit more than others.  You could probably rank your curiosities.  For example, high on my fascinations is being a loving husband and father, photography, reading/learning about my inner life, writing, preaching, teaching, and gardening.  This is tough to prioritize.  Several things may hold equal fascination.  Don’t force, just see if you feel a bit more energy around some items on your list.  All are important ~ otherwise you would not have taken the time to write them down.  Once you have some sense of ranking (which can change in the days to come!), you can plot those along the horizonal axis ~ with those on the left being MOST excited, followed by those that are just a smidge, smaller amount less exciting next along the line.  Again, don’t force this and feel free to stack several close together on the axis.

Next, see how many fears you named for each fascination.  If at the top of your vertical fear line is the highest and the bottom is the lowest, you can now begin to place and put each your curiosities into one of the quadrants.   For example, being a loving husband and father is highest on my list of calling and also comes with some honest fears about making mistakes.  There is a great meme out there: that behind every successful child is a parent who thinks s/he is messing it all up.  Yup!  So, being a loving husband and father goes in quadrant one.  In quadrant two, which is lower curiosity but still high fear, I might put writing.  There is a vulnerability to putting ideas out into the universe because I don’t know the response (for example, I might be confusing you with this quadrant idea…if so, feel free to stop reading!).  In quadrant three, lower left one, that is high fascination but lower fear.  I would put in this quadrant learning about my inner life ~ mainly because I do this for myself and don’t share with a lot of people ~ so my fear level is lower.  Finally, the fourth quadrant, lower right part, is lower curiosity and lower fear, which I would place photography and gardening.  These are things I love to do, when I have the time.  Because I don’t share my photos or flowers with many people, the fear is lower. 

Please don’t feel you have to force your fascinations into a box.  This is an exercise designed to help you begin to sort through where your soul might want to spelunk first and how many fears might be surrounding those initial steps. 

I pray you find something helpful in the above ~ whether you do the quadrant plotting or not.  May God move through the meditations of our minds, thoughts of our hearts, and stirrings of our spirit as we continue to listen to our lives and respond to God’s calling.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

God's Calling ~ Naming our Fears


 

Yesterday, I invited you to make a list of places/topics/events/experiences about which you are curious and fascinated.  I encouraged you to set aside your inner critic; to silence that voice that wants to say, “That’s silly.”  To name bravely, boldly, faithfully what your shy soul wants to explore.  In some ways your list is where your heart wants to dive deeply, think of your list as soul spelunking. 

Now, I want us to be honest, as Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah were, about the fears and concerns you have.  This may sound counter intuitive.  You may think, “Wait, you just said to silence my inner critic!  Now you want me to let Mr. Bossypants loose.  Make up your mind!!” 

I get it.  Yet, there is a flow to what I am suggesting.  First, we open our hearts honestly to honor what is stirring and swirling.  This is what you did yesterday was a brainstorming activity ~ or soul surging moment.  You noticed where the energy within you was flowing toward.  In those moments of trying to listen to our shy soul, we don’t want our internal editor to chime in too quickly.  To quote the show Ted Lasso, “You don’t bring an umbrella to a brainstorming session.”  You want to get our curiosity out in the open, set your fascinations loose.  The quicker the better.  Often when I am trying to listen to my shy soul, once I open the space, I can’t move my pen quick enough across the paper.  And, if I pause, that might just be enough room for the inner critic to look over my list and start to point out the flaws. 

First, we try to open a safe place for our shy soul, then walk away ~ as I pray you did yesterday. 

Then, next, we can say to that Roger Elbert/Gene Siskel to share their thoughts.  We want to be careful here.  Reflecting on possible pitfalls and risks that are a reality in exploring our curiosity is holy ground.  Just because you have a fascination and to explore that, doesn’t mean it will be easy or without challenges.  Your concerns can have an important voice…just not the only voice.  Please re-read that last sentence!  Before you return to your list of curiosities and fascinations, I want to invite you to pray.  I invite you to breathe.  I invite you to give thanks.

Here is one prayer you might say to yourself: “God who crafts and creates with words, thank you, for opening and engaging my imagination.  Thank you for this list of where I sense energy in my life flowing like a river.  Thank you for this world with its endless experiences and encounters.  Thank you for my life which I long to reflect Your creativity in each day.  Be with me, God.  I am about to take the next faithful step and like Moses asking, ‘Who am I to do that?’  Like Jeremiah recognizing his youth.  Like Jonah honoring his inner-child that just didn’t wanna to go to Nineveh.  Alongside my thanksgiving for what is life giving, there is honest trepidation and some trembling.  What if I mess up?  What if my photography, learning French, painting, teaching, or thing I long to do fumbles or even, fails?  I give thanks that within my calling there is place both to celebrate and share concerns.  Help me, God.  Continue to be with me, guiding me in this next step.  Amen”

Now, be honest about the concerns you carry for your list of curiosity.  Maybe it is that you won’t be successful.  Although, remember it takes Moses ten tries of going to Pharaoh for the first step of liberation and forty years of wandering.  Remember, Jonah gives a half-heart sermon whilst smelling like a fish to the people of Nineveh.  I am saying this intentionally, because the more we can laugh with our honest fears, it helps.  We say to our concerns, “Yes, that is true, I might not make money.  In fact, this could cost me money.  But, I can’t explain it.  I just need to do this.”

May your soul spelunking today go a bit deeper into the caves of concerns, enter into the darkness, trusting that God who inspired your imagination yesterday will continue to do so today.


Monday, September 27, 2021

God's Calling ~ Listing Curiosity

 

We are now three weeks into our “Calling” sermon series, I pray you are finding threads and themes from our scripture stories that are woven into your story.  Maybe a theme for you was hearing how God interrupts and disrupts people in the midst of their ordinary, everyday life.  Think here of Moses tending sheep or Jonah doing whatever Jonah was doing ~ because scripture doesn’t say ~ but we know he wasn’t dreaming of a vacation to Nineveh!  We know Jeremiah wasn’t studying at prophet school.  We know Moses wasn’t planning a trip back to the Egyptian neighborhood where he grew up.  We have also heard the reluctance and resistance to God’s calling from Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah.  We have heard God’s reassurance ~ God’s promise of presence.

A few weeks ago, I suggested that your calling might be where your fascinations and fears meet/intersect.  Or yesterday, I asked a similar set of questions, what are you running from and what are you running toward?  Your calling might be uncovered and discovered where your curiosity and concerns come together. This week I want to explore why/how this is.

Sometimes we make God’s calling out to sound so wonderful and full of bliss.  That once you realize God’s holy prompting, the pathway is paved for you with no bumps or twists or turns.  It is like the Yellow brick Road beside the chocolate river of awesomeness.  Yet, that is certainly not the testimony/theme of Scripture.  The stories we have held for the last three weeks, the calling narratives we will hear in the weeks to come, all tell us that God’s calling might lead us in paths for God’s sake that were never part of our 5-year plan.  The pathways of our calling will be rocky.  Jeremiah is laughed at, Jonah must go to people who impale others for sport, and Moses back to the very household he fled in fear from ~ do you hear what I hear?  That thread/theme is that there is a risk in calling.  We will have concerns and fears.  At the same time, there will be something sacred in that holy prompting that piques our curiosity and fascination. 

Today, I want you to prayerfully ponder: where are you curious?  What are you fascinated to find out more about?  I encourage you to get out a piece of paper and begin to make a list.  Parker Palmer says that our souls are shy and a question like this can open us in vulnerable ways.  You may have a pen in your hand and go to write something down…and idea or thought…and your bossy brain says, “You can’t say that!!  It’s silly.”  Your internal editor, which is really the collection and culmination of comments/reactions/responses from your past, might try to stop your hand from writing down a topic.  Like Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah, we all have reluctance and resistance. 

I pray you will find the courage to move through that initial reaction.  Remember, you are NOT going to share this with anyone else.  You are sorting through your mind, heart, soul ~ investigating YOUR life to see what the Spirit is stirring.  Another way to phrase this question is, “What gives you life?”  This can be small things like talking to a friend, sailing, painting, music, volunteering, or writing a morning meditation.

When I do this exercise, I write down things like: writing, photography, learning more about the inner life, Bible Study, being a loving husband and father, living into God’s image.  For you, it may be learning more about the National Park system or practicing a foreign language or reading or cooking in the kitchen.  When we ask where in our ordinary lives, we are most alive we are opening ourselves to the burning, blazing bushes in your life.  Where you, like Moses, are curious/fascinated and want to know more.  Write those down.  Tomorrow, we will continue to build on this list.

Gracious God, up from the ground You raise Your people, filling our lives, making us whole.  Down through the years we long for our lives to praise You ~ through thought, word, actions, and our whole presence.  Let our lives radiate an “Alleluia” to You as we honestly name the places we long to explore.  Amen.


Friday, September 24, 2021

God Calling ~ Jeremiah Redux

 


This week we have turned toward and tuned into Jeremiah’s words.  I intentionally worked backward through the passage as a fresh way to engage these words. 

 

I wonder, what is stirring within you?

 

On Sunday, I asked you to think about what you wanted to be when you grew up and what we pray our church might be ~ who do we pray we will become?  By look back at our dreams and desires of the younger versions of ourselves, this might be one way to listen to our shy souls.

 

On Monday, I asked you to ponder where you might want to pluck up or what needs to be pulled down personally, in your family, in our church, and country.  This is work that is never finished.  Remember that we are plunged into a story we did not start…and will be finished by another.  The other is God.

 

On Tuesday, I asked you to ponder what fears roam and rummage around your life right now?  Do you have a moment when something seemed so difficult ~ like the worst thing ever, but ended up later to seem less significant? 

 

On Wednesday, I invited you to ponder excuses in your life.

 

Yesterday, I invited you into the imperfect and infinite moment called, “Today”.

 

Today, I want you to name and notice what is stirring within you.  What new insight or idea is starting to germinate or grow?  We need moments to step back and survey the bigger picture.  May today offer you a glimpse of God’s grace guiding and calling and steering you in the art project of your life.  Amen.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

God's Calling ~ Jeremiah Redux

 


Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  Jeremiah 1:5

Last Sunday, I offered the great quote from Eugene Peterson, “We are all known before we know.  We enter a world we didn’t create…we enter the middle of a story concluded by another.  The other is God.”  Yet, how much of our lives are spent pursuing other truths?  We chase after confidence and competence and cash in our lives so that we can appear successful.  We do this individually and we do this as a church and community.  We are wrapped up in counting and numbers.  We keep pushing ourselves toward more, and yet we never seem to reach the golden carrot on the stick.  I’ve heard it said we are overwhelmed, overworked, and spinning in a stress spiral.  We do this because we believe we have to keep pushing to conclude our story.  But God wants to co-author your story today.   

Today is not perfect, but it is a gift. 

Today you woke up.  Today you got up.  Today you continued the beautiful art project entitled, “Your life”.  Your words are paint and God longs to find ways to speak through you.  Your actions are a brush and God’s hand is on the brush with you.  You can choose the colors that go on the canvas because your response/reaction to what you encounter need not be on autopilot and God longs to help you select the colors with God’s wisdom. 

You have a choice.  You decide whether your words will help or hurt.  You decide if you are trying to score points to win some game of life.  You decide whether to let God’s love have the first, middle, and last word.  This isn’t easy.  It won’t be popular or help your poll numbers with most people.  But with the people who matter most ~ family and friends ~ those whose love is a light to your life ~ I believe letting God’s wisdom interrupt and call me to who God knows me to be…to the story God is continually authoring… is always the best way.

May God’s presence and peace be with you.  May God who knows what is in our mind, heart, and soul prompt what you say and do.  May God who has held you eternally in God’s imagination warm your heart.  May God’s grace that finds us where we are and who leads us to reflect more fully the image each of us is created stir deep within each of us for the sake of the world God loves.  Amen.


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

God's Calling ~ Jeremiah Redux

 


Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.  Jeremiah 1:6


Yesterday we spent time prayerfully pondering how our minds are endless spinning webs with threads of fear.  Today, I want to examine and explore how my mind can also come up with amazing excuses, especially when I am facing something difficult or daunting. 

One excuse is procrastination. I say, “I will totally get to that project…just as soon as I finish binge watching all of Netflix. Every. Single. Episode. Of. Every. Single. Show. I mean, someone has to do it.” 

Or another part of procrastination is striving for perfection.  We don’t want to do something until we are sure that someone will not be able to point out a flaw or foible in our thinking or acting or doing. 

Or another form of procrastination is to get lost in the endless bunny trails of research, that if we just read one more book than we will be ready. 

Another excuse can be to use our limitations as a shield.  Jeremiah does this by proclaiming, “I am only a boy.”  He hides behind youth and inexperience and inadequacies.  I get that.  I see my own mistakes and miscues.  To tie this back to yesterday, sometimes our fear is like a flashlight pointing out not only the possible pitfalls out there in the world but also within us, within our lives.  Fear like a flashlight that reminds us of how things went south in the past. 

Perhaps our greatest excuse is time.  To be sure, we cannot solve every problem.  We can spread ourselves so thin that we don’t have energy for anything.  Yet, with every breath we are given life to share life with others. 

Do any of the excuses above ring true for you?

Can we offer to God today the places where we have sidestepped and stayed on the sidelines where we think we are safe?  How might God again softly, “I am with you.” In ways that give us curiosity and courage to take a step (even a small step within our soul) toward living God’s realm today?  May you live the responses to those questions this day as a prayer to God.  Amen.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

God's Calling ~ Jeremiah Redux

 

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.  Jeremiah 1:8

The author Joshua Fletcher says that FEAR is an acronym that stands for: False Evidence Appearing Real.  Our minds contort to convince us that we have it all figured out ~ whatever “it” is.  Yet, how often have I uttered the words, “If I knew then what I know now.”  To be sure, in that past moment, I used the best interpretation of the evidence I could.  I didn’t mean to make a boneheaded mistake.  But sometimes my future self looks back at my past self, shaking its head.  How could I have not seen that the person’s negative comment was really more about him?  Why did I spend hours composing emails in my mind at 3 am?  Why did I create countless fictional problems to solve rather than hold the situation lightly? 

To be sure, we live in a world of a lot of false evidence.  Usually, we want to convince others to see the error in their thinking, but never step back to realize how much we resist someone trying to convince us of our errors?  But just as people might have warned me about possible pitfalls and I just couldn’t hear; sometimes the people we try to help can’t hear or won’t hear or don’t want to hear.  People are at different places and can’t always see from my perspective.  What I love about Joshua’s acronym is it reminds me that I don’t often see clearly.  I can let fear cloud my vision.  Often we fear the future.  Our brains are absolutely brilliant at coming up with countless, “What if” scenarios.  We do this for our health, what if that pain is really cancer?  What if that person never speaks to me again?  What if I get laid off from work or the painful situation doesn’t resolve itself?  My mind can spin in the mucky mud of “what if” for hours.  If this was an Olympic activity, I would have a good chance at bringing home the gold. 

God’s response to fear is not to dismiss the thoughts as irrational or distance the divine from what we are feeling.  Rather, God moves into the discomfort.  God makes God’s home amid the chaos and clutter of our dis-ease in life.  God promises Jeremiah to be with him as Jeremiah seeks to share God’s word in the world (remember the sermon Jeremiah was given from yesterday), especially when God’s word is hard to hear and even harder to live.  The promise of God’s presence is not some money-back guarantee, it is a hope to get through the stress and storms. 

We can encounter God’s presence when we slow down. 

Breathe. 

Notice and name the fears that seem so real and often are. 

What fears roam and rummage around your life right now?  Do you have a moment when something seemed so real, but ended up later to seem less significant?  Let these questions move you into a moment of prayer and may you hear God softly saying, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”  Amen.


Monday, September 20, 2021

God's Calling ~ Jeremiah Redux

 


See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant
~ Jeremiah 1:10

Jeremiah’s call and commission comes from God and his first assignment is to preach the sermon above.  Not exactly the easiest thing to say.  Let’s hope the offering was received before the sermon that day!  The verbs in the passage (pluck/pull/destroy/overthrow) are often seen through a negative lens.  We are a culture that loves growth and success and building, not dismantling or destroying.

Yet, I would suggest there are good moments to pluck up and pull down.

What about an invasive weed that can choke a healthy plant?

What about pulling down personal/communal habits that can cause hurt and harm to another.

I certainly want to pluck up, pull down, do what I can to overthrow racism and homophobia that do not honor a person as created in God’s image.

To dismantle systems that continue to push the people to the fringe and fray generation after generation.

Because of our tendency to only hear, “pluck” and “pull” down as negative, we may not consider how important this work can be with God. 

I wonder is there something in your life you would like to uproot?  Perhaps it involves your health~ physically or mentally.  Perhaps what you’d like to overthrow is a perspective or habit that is causing hurt to yourself or others.  Perhaps what you’d like to tear down are ways of being that are not life giving. 

Jeremiah was sent to people who were going through the motions religiously.  He was sent to a political system where Kings were oppressing their own people.  He lived in a time where priests preached passionately about doing justice and loving kindness and walking humbly with God but those words did not change the people’s hearts.  Like an internal weed, sometimes I need to tend to the garden of my soul.  Like walls of division, sometimes I need to tend to the systems that keep me segregated and separated.  Once the soil of my soul has been cleared, then with God’s grace and love, I can be ready to envision what might be around me.

Today, ponder where you might want to pluck up or what needs to be pulled down personally, in your family, in our church, and country.  What could be built if we had space and grace and a place for all to dream and envision a new way of being where all can thrive?  May the response to that question be a living prayer you embody each day this week.  Amen.


Friday, September 17, 2021

God's Calling ~ Knowing God's Name

 


I pray you have found the reflections this week meaningful.  I pray that the Divine names we have already explored have caused new insights and ideas within you.  More than that, I pray that the images/descriptions/names of God have been experienced in real ways in your life this week.  Today, we turn to the final way the New Zealand Lord’s Prayer describes God:

Loving God

God is love.  I am taken by the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis’ description of God’s fierce love as inclusive of all.  God’s love as moving us toward compassion, care for ourselves, others, and the world.  God’s love is at the center and core.  As Rob Bell says, “We shape (name/describe) our understanding of God and then our understanding of God shapes us.”  In other words, if God is judgmental, this give us permission to be judgmental.  If God is justice-seeking, then we will be justice seeking.  If God is Father and Mother, we will see all parenting as part of who God is.  If God is the Source, we will search for God swirling each day in our ordinary life.  If God is a Pain-bearer and Life-giver and Earth-maker and Eternal Spirit, so will our hearts yearn for encounter and experiences of God in all these ways.

Moreover…because we are in the image of God ~ you and me ~ so we will seek prayerfully to embody these images.  When we name God in this prayer, we name our deepest Divine self too. 

Please re-read that last paragraph.  We don’t just name God, we name our prayer for who we want to become because God is not distant or disconnected ~ God is working in our lives shaping us more and more to reflect the Sacred.  That is what this whole week is about.

That is what the story of Moses is about.  God is I AM ~ present tense ~ God in this moment.  God is love in this moment.  God is calling us to do/be/incarnate/embody/embrace the same.  This is what it means to not just talk about good news, but to BE the good news, especially today.

May the love of God enfold you, hold, be embraced and embodied by you as we continue to explore the ways God is calling us to each be God’s people in such a time as this.  Amen.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

God's Calling ~ Knowing God's Name

 


We continue exploring images and names of God from the New Zealand’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.  Today we open our hearts to this one:

Father and Mother of us all.

I love imagining God as both father and mother.  Do you find yourself resonating with one or the other?  Do you gravitate toward God defined, described as Mother or Father?  How might you experience God in each of these holy genders?  I don’t mean that rhetorically, I invite us to have some conversation around this.  How might God be a father and mother to you?  I sense God’s love as father helping me with quiet presence and protective care.  I sense God’s love as mother in warm hugs and strength that keeps me going. 

Now is your turn.  Prayerfully reflect on the ways God’s presence comes to you like a Father and Mother.  What might that mean?  Do you sense any resistance, reluctance as a response to these images? 

Remember, the power of the New Zealand’s Lord’s Prayer is that the authors did not limit us even to these two images.  Rather they offered us a rich way to engage our imagination and soul.  I pray today you will step into the invitation to encounter God’s parental love for you.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

God's Calling ~ Knowing God's Name

 


This week we are holding and exploring ways we encounter, experience the Divine.  We have brought close to our hearts God who is Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, and Life-giver.  Now we turn toward:

Source of all that is and that shall be.

God was, is, and will always be woven into human history.  This is true not only in the good times, but also in the not so great.  This is true not only in our individual life, but in our shared communal, collective life.  Look back in the rearview mirror of the past month, where and when have you encountered God?  Look around right now, where and how do you sense God moving?  Look toward the unknown future, where do you pray God’s presence might show up in life-giving ways?

I also appreciate naming God as the Source.  Notice the name in this prayer is not “Cause”.  Source means that God’s presence can be found always.  There is nowhere God is not.  Yet, not every experience, event, or encounter is aligned and reflective of God’s will for this world.  The daily news you read this morning testified to that truth.  God’s will is for flourishing and thriving for all creation.  God’s will is for Holy love to be let loose.  God’s will is for us to continue move toward the vision of Revelation where all people and all creation find life under the twin trees where the leaves are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2).

I also believe that the more we can return to the Source, the more we can be renewed and refreshed.  I write these daily devotionals each morning that you would be saturated by the Source of life ~ to bath and be drenched by the Divine. 

What other ways do you find you can wade in the water of the Source ~ Creator ~ Imagineer of all that is and will be?  I invite you to name these in the comments today.

May the Source of this moment and each moment today infuse you, especially when life goes off the rails or the pain comes for an unannounced/unwelcome visit.  Amen.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

God's Calling ~ Knowing God's Name

 


This week we are turning toward and tuning our hearts to various names of God; the One who said, “I AM” as the divine name.  Yesterday we held the images of God as Eternal Spirit and Earth-maker.  Today, we open to the next two ways the New Zealand prayer describes God as:

Pain bearer and Life-giver

What are your initial responses to these images of the Holy?

What would it mean for God to be the pain-bearer?  What about life-giver?

I find the phrase, Pain-bearer complex.  Part of me rejoices that God is there in the deepest, darkest valleys of life when I am stumbling and staggering around.  I give thanks that God’s love is found in a cross ~ not because God had an accounting problem to solve but because God was willing to embody and embrace suffering to show us that there is nowhere God is not.  I am grateful that the stress and strain of life today can be sacred.  Richard Rohr says that moments of great love and great pain show us God.  Yet, as a church, we have emphasized the love…not so much the pain.  Because of that, to call God, Pain-bearer sounds peculiar and puzzling.  God is supposed to be a mighty fortress and omnipotent and Superman times Wonder Woman with all the intelligence/strength of Black Panther.  What if God isn’t a superhero or shero?  What if God’s super strength is to hear and hold the suffering of this world?  What if God’s grace isn’t power and privilege but powerlessness and vulnerability?

Wait…that isn’t the God we sing or preach about.  Maybe that is on us ~ not God.  Let that image of God Pain-bearer roam and rummage around your life right now…meeting you especially in the difficulty, disappointments, and discouragements of today.

Out of pain comes life ~ just ask any woman who has given birth.  To be sure, not all pain leads to new life; but some does.  I think about the pain of this last year giving life to:

Worship on-line;

Bible study with people across the country on Zoom;

New ministries like these morning meditations;

Funerals that can connect us to celebrate the life of God’s beloved;

Our Creation-Justice Covenant, Open & Affirming Covenant, and Racial Justice Ministry Group;

Sacred Conversations on Race;

Oasis Ministry beginning to grow;

And so much more!!

In what ways has your life reflected the truths of God being the Pain-bearer AND Life-giver?  When have you sensed God as Pain-bearer and Life-giver as interconnected?  When have your experiences and encounters with the Divine in suffering and new life been distinctive? 

Prayer: God who is in all, even the broken and bruised, help us continually stay open to You in all the wonderous and mysterious ways we can connect.  Amen.


Monday, September 13, 2021

God's Calling ~ Knowing God's Name

 


Yesterday, we heard and held how Moses, at the burning bush amid his ordinary life, received the Divine name, “I AM WHO I AM”.  This week, I want to explore other names for God.  Specifically, I want us to open our imaginations to the words/images/names for God in the New Zealand version of the Lord’s Prayer.  The first few words to describe and define God in this prayer are:

 

Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker.

 

What is evoked for you when you hear that?

 

Perhaps you hear God as the Creator, Crafter of all that is and will be.  God is the One who shapes the smallest quark to the tallest mountain.  God is the One found in the soil of our backyards and the star dust over our heads.  Mystics have said that creation is God’s first testament.  Creation was how God first communicated and communed with us.  Remember, in the second creation narrative of Genesis 2, God forms a human being out of dirt/dust and then sets out to find a companion or helper or partner for the human.  God is the earth-maker.

 

Perhaps the words Eternal Spirit sing to your soul in another way.  God is the beginning, middle, and end.  There is no time when God has not been or no place where God is not already present.  You could say God is Eternal, Everlasting, and expansively embracing the evolving universe.  God is a Spirt that can stretch beyond – just as Moses went beyond the wilderness of what was known.  God is a Spirit that will continue unfolding into the unknowness of tomorrow.

 

I love the inter-play of these two.  Eternal Spirit is beyond my comprehension and control.  Eternal Spirit is what Karl Barth called, “Holy Other”.  God is God and I am not.  On the other hand, Earth-maker brings God as close as my feet touching the soil.  Earth-maker brings God as close as my next breath.  As Paul Tillich called the divine, “Ground of our being.”  We need both.  The wisdom of these two images of God is that they are Scriptural.  In Genesis 1, God is the Eternal Spirit hovering over the waters and singing Creation into being.  In Genesis 2, God sinks God’s fingers into the mud/dirt/earth forming not just humans but everything as Earth-maker. 

 

Honoring both parts of God – Eternal Spirit who is Holy Other who calls out to us awaking our souls AND the Earth-maker who meets us here in our everyday lives.  May these two descriptions of God be experienced in YOUR life today in real ways.  Feel free to share in the comments your encounters of God in these two names.

 

Prayer: God of many names, God who moves in endless new ways, center us and open us this day to experience You in meaningful and life-giving moments.  Amen.


Friday, September 10, 2021

God's Calling

 


How has this week gone?  Were you able to listen to your life and let your life speak?  Did you find a new path of curiosity to travel down?  Did you take that first tentative step in response?  Or were you reluctant or resistant ~ which is totally understandable!  Remember, letting your life speak is NOT about getting it perfect all the time.  There will be moments when our liabilities and limits, our trespasses and shadows cause us to stay stuck on the sidelines.  Thriving is not about being awesome all the time.  Thriving has a rhythm embedded within it or seasons as I said on Tuesday.  Moments when we are caught up in the spirit and moments when we need to rest on the sidelines.  Moments when we feel our fuel tank full and times we run on empty.  When our souls slouch, we don’t help ourselves by berating ourselves.  We don’t help by trying to compare ourselves to others or giving ourselves a swift kick in the pants to snap out of it.  Compassion and care are God’s give to everyone – including you.

 

To practice self-compassion today.  To notice the ways you are tough, resilient, savvy, and yet shy.  How might you be kind to yourself?  Sometimes our brains are bossy and impatient.  We don’t share love with ourselves, rather we keep pushing and prodding and trying to prove we are worthy.  You can’t earn God’s love, God’s love for you is.  It isn’t about demanding or deserving grace, faith is accepting grace as a gift, then letting that grace beautifully disrupt your life.

 

How can you be kind to yourself this day?  How might that kindness help your shy soul come out into the light to let your life speak?  May those question guide you on a prayer journey that unfolds today.  Amen.


Thursday, September 9, 2021

God's Calling - 20th Anniversary Edition

 


Today is my twenty-anniversary of ordination.  On this day, September 9, 2001, I was ordained into ministry ~ “with all the rights and privileges thereof” as the ordination service says.  Never have totally figured out what that phrase meant! 

 

How do you measure a ministry over twenty years?

 

Sermons preached? (Over 1000 by my count).

Funerals or baptisms or weddings? (I’ve lost track)

Pastoral care visits or cookies ate together? (Again, I stopped counting)

Bible Studies? (Never too much Bible Study in my humble opinion)

Meetings attended? (I probably don’t want to know!)

New members?

Budgets met?

 

Or what about measuring ministry by ~ moments of God’s love shared?  Experiences of the Holy encountered and changed lives?  Laughter and tears openly expressed, letting God’s healing presence move in our hearts?

 

Or maybe ministry can’t be quantified or counted.  Maybe ministry can’t be measure.  If this is true for me, then that can be true for all of us as we explore our callings ~ God’s callings to you and each of us.  Your calling does not need to “produce”…it is about presence.  Your presence being offered with your full, open, deepest self to the world.

 

Here is what I do know on my twenty-anniversary.  I feel as called today as I did twenty years ago to be a pastor.  I feel what the church can offer this hurting world is healing, love, and hope (all are in short supply right now by some accounts, but God will never stop sharing these with us).  I sense deep in my soul that God isn’t finished with us and is prompting us to be the good news ~ not just in words but to embody God’s good news of acceptation and peace and grace for the sake of the world God so loves.  Thank you for the privilege of serving as your pastor.  Thank you for the ways we are crafting and creating the church in these days.  May you and I find ways to be the good news each day this week.  Amen.   


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Calling Part Two

 


Vocation does not come from willfulness…it comes from listening. Vocation comes from the Latin word, “voice” ~ Your inner voice.  Not the voice that demands with “shoulds” and “have tos”. We are taught to listen to everything and everyone but ourselves, to take all our clues about living from the people and powers around us. We listen for guidance everywhere except from within.  Vocation quite differently – not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received.  Not a prize to win, rather a treasure to be found.  Parker Palmer Let Your Life Speak

How?  How do we listen to our life?  How do we let our lives sing and speak and stir us toward the next right step in embracing and embodying our calling?

Great questions!!

First, I think we need to slow down so our soul can catch up.  Our pace of life is fast, frenzied, and overflowing.  When was the last time you heard someone say, “I have so much free time!  Just endless, open calendar.”? Dallas Willard once called hurry “the great enemy of spiritual life in our day,” and urged followers of Jesus to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry.  Yet, even when we retire, we fill our days.  To push pause.  To stop.  To be and breathe.  This has always been the way God has shown up in our lives from the beginning when God blessed the seventh day, stopped creating for a moment, and rested.  That pattern is still God’s invitation to all of us.

Second, when we stop, we need to align our minds, hearts, and souls.  What is going on in your mind?  What is humming in your heart?  What is stirring in your soul?  Write this down each and every day.  I know that often we believe we must think our way through everything.  But your heart and soul have important wisdom for you.  If that sounds too much like a Hallmark card; perhaps it would help you to know that your heart has brain cells in it.  You can click here to read about this:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/new-3-d-map-illuminates-little-brain-nerve-cells-within-heart

Third, follow your curiosity.  I believe that when we cease being curious, following the nudges of God’s grace, we quickly find ourselves feeling worn down and weary and cynical and critical.  What today would you like to know more about?  What would you like to explore?  Your life is both an art project and a science experiment.  You can test and try out new ways of being and living and sharing.  This is not to say it will be easy.  Unfortunately, there are those who benefit from the systems of the world and don’t want change.  Unfortunately, there are those in your life who feel threatened if you set aside your constant criticism and try to name/notice the good.  Unfortunately, there are those who would prefer you stay despondent on the sofa binge watching Netflix.  To live another way, to let your life speak, and let loose your curiosity will not be celebrated by everyone.

But I celebrate you.

Today, pause and listen to your life.  Then, out of that holy moment…let your life speak.  May this be more than words you read, let this be a prayer each of us lives.  Amen.


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 ...