Thursday, October 21, 2021

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 a holy place.  Richard James, inventor of the Slinky, was trying to create springs to keep sensitive ship equipment stable out at sea.  He wasn’t trying to create an amazing toy.  And this isn’t a one off, rare example.  There are many others including: corn flakes, silly putty, potato chips, the pacemaker, post it notes, and penicillin.  All those started off as mistakes.  For example, delicious potato chips were “discovered” by a chef responding to a French customer who kept sending fries back to the kitchen until that chef made them so crisp they became the famous potato chip.  Art Fry wanted to find ways to stick papers into his hymnal for church choir that would not fall out and viola the Post-it note was born.  Yet another benefit of church!  Sometimes we start off heading in one direction only to take a U-turn, followed by a quick left, then right, and end up in a neighborhood we have never seen before. 

 

I pray that you are hearing in these morning meditations this week the permission that you don’t (probably won’t) have your whole calling all figured out even as we wind down and wrap up the sermon series.  I hope you hear that your five-week plan is fuzzy, and your five-month plan might have a great deal of fiction.  Things shift and swirl and spin in new directions and we try to pivot. 

 

One final part of the Samuel story is in the beautiful interplay between the interior and exterior life.  Your calling will have both components.  God comes to Samuel in the night when Samuel is all alone.  God calls to Samuel, causing Samuel’s heart to strangely warm.  Yet, this wasn’t just the interior call about Samuel feeling God’s love. Samuel had an exterior call too.  He needed to stand up and share the words God had laid on his heart.  Interior/exterior.

 

Both matter and make a difference.  Interior life is about listening to our shy soul, where our heart surges and mind is curious, and God speaks.  Then, the exterior life are the people who support you and how you share your light.  Also, there are ones who stand in your way ~ as God can work through even those who push all your buttons.  You move constantly from the interior to the exterior parts of calling ~ often without really giving this much thought.  You sense the Sacred guiding your step in that direction, you take the next logical step.  You may feel your heart glow, or you may stumble and fall flat on your face.  Or maybe it is somewhere in-between, in the messy middle.  Sometimes we go a few steps, only to realize how fraught with fears the next few moments will be and wonder if we can keep on keeping on.  Or maybe things start off awesome and you can almost see a major mile maker right ahead.  And you blink and the mile marker is now missing, gone in a flash!

 

When have mistakes and miscues actually guided you in a holy way?  When have those mistakes and miscues caused frustration to fume within you and pour out your ears? When has the sailing of calling been smooth?  When has it been rough and rocky?

 

Pray these questions this week.  May the One who move in all things and through all things ~ from calm to chaos center you as you seek prayerfully to follow your calling in these days.  Amen.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

God's Calling as Listening

 


Throughout the Calling Sermon Series, I have been amazed by the truths that: 1. God rarely calls the perfectly polished or powerful people.  God seems to call people who questions their own ability.  As Parker Palmer says, “You can’t be fully yourself if you are full of yourself.”  When we are willing to admit our fumbles and false starts, I think that is where the seed of the Spirit starts to sink deeper into the soil of our souls.  2. God’s call is rarely an easy to accomplish task.  3.  Often times, following our calling is one step forward then two (or twenty-two) steps backwards.

 

Samuel is called by God.  Samuel hears God’s voice.  God tells Samuel that he needs to go fire his mentor/boss/spiritual leader Eli.  Samuel says, “Come again!”  Samuel sees the difficulty of the task set before him.  Just like Moses had to face his past returning to Egypt.  Just like Jeremiah had to acknowledge his youth and the ways people discounted his voice.  Just like Jonah had to trade in his definitions of who God loved.  Just like Hannah had to cry out for God, wondering if God was listening.  So, too, Samuel is giving a task that will take more than just his chutzpah and courage and curiosity.  Most of the call stories set the person on the pathway s/he never expected or wanted.

 

As we continue to listen for God’s guidance, we do this because we need God’s strength and support every step of the way.  Perhaps during this sermon series, you have tried to follow your fascination and your fears have shown up gnashing their terrible teeth.  Perhaps you have followed your curiosity only to have concerns cause you to veer off course or stop completely.  We get lost following the threads of our calling; we show up knocking on doors where we may not be welcomed or expected.  Callings are circuitous and confounding.  But there are moments, when the light bulb goes on, when the a-ha relief and release floods our bodies, when we sense a trace of God’s grace.

 

For those moments, in those times, we echo Samuel/Moses/Hannah/Isaiah/Mary and proclaim, “Here I am God!”  Remember the phrase from Sunday is both, Here I am – which means behold and ready to serve.  Then, we pray, “Speak for your servant is listening.”  And then, the hard part, we listen for God.  There may not be a magical, neon sign, James Earl Jones voice booming moment that sets us on the path.  In the stillness and silence, the seeds of calling sink deeper into your soul.  In those moments, there is enough grace and love to feed and fuel our life for the next stage of the journey.

 

Prayer: God interrupt my life in intimate ways that let me know, even if I am on the wrong track or running low on energy, You continue to go beside, before, behind, and within me always. Amen.


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Calling as a Nudge

 


Yesterday, we continued to reflect upon Samuel’s call.  We honored his confusion as speaking to our lives in these days.  We recognized that we can be in a hurry (physically, mentally, and spiritually) missing God’s prompting.  We confessed that the church has not always taught practices for listening for God, discerning the Divine’s guidance.  We named that we live in a world of endless opportunities!  For example, I receive at least one email a day asking me to join a “new, amazing, best-ever” online study opportunity.  Everyone has found Zoom and invites us to join. 

 

Yet, there are many times I long for clear answers from God.  I long for neon lights to tell me how to pastor in a world that has so much fear, hurt, hate, self-centered-ness, and driven by money.  I long to find words that might compel and challenge and change the hearts.  If I could just have God’s five-month (or five-day) plan for my life.  I will accept God’s wisdom via email, text, phone call, or even fax!!

 

Maybe God’s calling isn’t some finish line I cross or item I can check off - moving from my to-do to my to-done list.  Maybe calling isn’t a linear or logical list.  Maybe God’s calling isn’t something I possess/control or understand or can ever know fully.  Maybe built and baked into calling is not a super-highway that is smooth sailing, but calling is discovered through wrong turns, missed exits, and the GPS of my soul recalculating when I get lost!  Maybe a calling is not about my control or crafting a five-year plan with God’s seal of approval.  In fact, I may not ever be able to comprehend more than a few steps.  As I have heard it said that if we knew more than the next few steps, we would be so overwhelmed by the journey, we may not start.  God says, “Go where I send thee!” (To quote the great spiritual!).  And God says, “I will go with you.”  The promise wasn’t just something tactile, tangible, to be put on a to-do list, the promise was presence.  God’s presence.  God’s witness to with-ness.  God’s stirring and showing up in serendipitous ways. 

 

Where is God’s nudge for you today?  You will need to keep the prayer posture and practice of listening.  Where is that place curiosity is calling you to explore even when you can’t explain it to others?  What is that holy on the horizon that is softly whispering that you don’t have to have it all figured out.  Go.  Go to share God’s light.  Go to learn by faithful fumbles.  Remember, Samuel didn’t get it right the first few times, but our persistent and patient God continued to call him.  I trust that God is never one and done with us, rather God continually reaches out to our minds, hearts, and whole lives to respond, “Here I am, God.”


Monday, October 18, 2021

God's Calling

 


Yesterday, we listened to and learned from the call of Samuel.  I pray this week you will adopt the prayer posture and practice of every day saying, “Here I am, Lord.  Speak for your servant is listening.”  Then, you will listen.  Remember at first Samuel was confused and baffled.  At first, he thought the voice was Eli, his mentor and boss and leader of the synagogue.  This is an important detail to dwell with today because, for me, I can mistake and mishear and misunderstand God’s voice in my life.

How?  I am so glad you asked.

Sometimes we miss God’s movement in our midst because we are too busy.  Busy physically racing and running around.  Busy mentally trying to process all the words we encounter and experience.  There is some much information to consume and that can consume us!  Busy spiritually.  We believe the lie that taking time for ourselves to be with God is selfish.  Self-care is caring for the image of God in which you are still be created.  I write that because I still need to practice with this in my life. Dallas Willard said that hurry was, “the great enemy of spiritual life in our day,” and urged followers of Jesus to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”  Don’t just think of hurry in terms of perpetual physical motion.  Our minds can be overwhelmed and darting different directions; our souls sagged down with stress and strain and still pushing for more.  Where do you need to clear the chaos and clutter in your life so you can listen to God, for God, and with God?

1 Samuel says that the word of the Lord was rare.  We can get out of practice listening for God’s presence.  I believe God’s voice can sometimes sound like comfort and care, especially when we are hurting.  Sometimes the holy hum is more challenging and convicting from someone who I struggle to love.  Sometimes the Spirit hovers and hangs silently in our lives; not so much with instructions or a series of steps to achieve but with a reassurance and reminder of who we are.  We need to exercise the Spiritual muscle of sitting silently with the Sacred.

It can be easy to want to go down every rabbit hole or chase every waterfall.  We can be lured by the bright and shiny and new.  Or someone tells us we have to/ought to/need to do something and we think, “I guess that could be God’s voice, so I guess I better go after that idea just to be safe.”  What if, rather than racing and running; chasing chaotically; you paused.  My hunch is God will understand if you check with God to be clear this is God’s call.  Of what if you talked to a trusted friend or mentor about the various directions you feel tugged toward?

Sometimes we have a clear sense of where we are being called.  I am grateful for Samuel’s confusion, because I am often baffled and bewildered and betwixt and between lots of different (competing) calls for my energy.  I need moments of holy pause, sacred silence, to let God’s wisdom to take my life and let it be guided by grace and love and unity. 

Prayer: Still speaking and singing and swirling God, cut through the clutter and chaos this day helping me center down in Your presence and letting You get a word in edgewise.  Amen.


Friday, October 15, 2021

Giving Your Calling the BEST Energy

 


Here we are, halfway through the month of October.  We are also starting to wind down the Calling Sermon Series…just two more Sundays left.  To be sure, that doesn’t mean that by the end of October you will have your calling completely figured out and your five-year plan firm, ready to carry out.

 

Chances are you will have guesses and glimpses of where God’s holy prompting is nudging you right now.  I want to offer one more framework for thinking about calling.  This one is to look at your day.  We often say that how you live your hours/minutes of life is how you live your life.  Moreover, your day has an ebb and flow.  We all have moments when we are more awake and alert and alive.  I tend to be a morning person.  I love the hours of 7 am to 11 am.  That is when I tend to do most of my writing and feel my most creative.

 

By 11 am, I am starting to get a bit hungry, ready for a break.  After lunch, I do get a small burst of energy.  By 2 pm, I am slowly down.  By 4 or 4:30 pm, I am approaching Zombie status.  Sometimes, rather than engaging our calling when we are at our most creative and awake, we tend to put it off.  I think this comes from our childhood when I had to eat my Lima Beans before I could leave the table.  I think, “Well, I can’t work on the sermon until I do that task I don’t really like.”  This is not the best way to calendar or live your life.  Rather, why not do what you love when your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health is at its peak?  Why not volunteer when you have the most energy and do the dishes later.  Why not go connect with a friend, then you can answer emails.  Think about your day and how you can make sure what is most life giving happens when you are most able to give that moment your best energy.

 

That is how you let your light shine brightest.  Amen.


Thursday, October 14, 2021

God's Calling

 


This week, I have shared a bit about what led me to this calling of being a pastor.  Early experiences in the church that were bread crumb moments to going to seminary.  My two opportunities I to dive deeply in seminary and learn about being a pastor.  What about now? 

 

I sense that my calling continues to shift in new directions.  I was recently asked what my favorite parts of being a pastor are?  I quickly, without overthinking the question, said:

1.     Sunday morning worship and preaching;

2.     Pastor care, hearing your stories;

3.     Creative writing – like these meditations or my book of devotions coming out in November.

 

I know, you thought I was going to talk about how much I love meetings.  I actually do like committee meetings especially when we share what is in our hearts, support each other, and talk about the calling of the church.  These moments matter too, but in the moment the person asked that question, meetings didn’t quite crack the top three.  The above three holy duties of worship, sharing God’s love, and creative writing is when my soul feels most alive.  Within your calling, where you feel most alive and engaged, there might be many layers.

 

What is it about volunteering at school or the hospital that fills you the most?  Try to be as descriptive as you possibly can.

What are the top three moments in your life each month? When you review your calendar, what is the cream that rises to the top?

 

Those questions can help you continue to explore your calling and clarify the unique ways you can share your light.  To be sure, there are many pastors who would not have the same top three as me.  So too, even if you share a passion and vocation for a certain way to volunteer or care or lead, the way you do that is uniquely beautiful to you! 

 

I pray for God to awaken your imagination and cause your shy soul to speak up as you seek to embrace and embody your calling in these days.  Amen.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Sampling of My Calling Story Part Two

 


Yesterday I shared a bit about my experiences that led me to the doorway of seminary.  Today, I will share with you my two experiences in seminary, which provided a foundation for and formation of my calling.  I received my Master of Divinity from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.  It was a time of great learning, challenge, exploration, making mistakes (a lot of them) and growing (usually most from the stumbles and bumbles of mistakes).  I went to seminary full-time.  I enjoyed the classes.  If I had to pick, my favorite was my New Testament classes because the professor was engaging and caring. 

 

The joke among pastors once we graduate and begin to serve the church is, “Seminary didn’t teach me that!”  This could refer to filling the boiler on cold New Hampshire Sunday mornings, as I did in my first calling.  Or how to deal with a grief-stricken parent at the death of a child.  Or how to preach Sunday after Sunday; where do I find the strength or original content each week?  Another insider joke is that most pastors have three to five sermons in us that we repeat on a loop.  I will leave it up to you if you find that to be true about me. 

 

Eventually, I came to understand that while I loved many of the tasks of being a pastor, my favorite was Sunday morning and preaching.  I loved the art of crafting a sermon.  I loved the creativity that went into writing, the exploration of Scripture, and weaving a connection begin the holy words in the Bible and God’s holiness in our lives.  This led me to enroll at Luther Seminary for a doctorate program in preaching.  Those are some of my fondest memories of my education.  Every summer for three weeks, I would travel to Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  Teachers would help us explore what it meant to embody God’s word and share a meaningful message for the day.  It was a time of growth and my mind felt heavy with new ideas.  It was during my doctorate process that I left behind a manuscript and began memorizing my sermon.  This helped free me from words on a piece of paper.  My practice is that I still write a full manuscript that I memorize each week.  There is a wonderful dance between the work of writing and memorizing and inviting the Spirit in as I speak the words on Sunday morning. 

 

I have heard it said that a gift or calling is something you find life-giving that others think is too difficult.  For example, I see someone sit down, play the piano, and sing, I think, “Wow, that is impressive!!”  I could never move my fingers and my mouth at the same time.  When I ask the musician about it, she will say, “It’s nothing.”  Part of the reason is usually the person practices, just as I practice memorizing my sermon.  But sometimes finding your calling from God is an activity you find life-giving and comes to you.  This is not to say that you never feel stress when doing your calling.  I know I am still nervous on Sunday mornings.  I know musicians also have butterflies in their stomachs.  I know teachers who don’t eat before lecturing.  The nervousness is because we know we are doing something that is life-giving and where our deepest prayer is to let God’s light shine through us.  When we do what matters and makes a difference to us whether that is music or quilting or teaching or listening or being a nurse or sharing a sermon, we know something is at stake.

 

I hope in the comment section you might post something that for you is life-giving.  Or better yet, call me to talk.  Maybe it is an activity someone says you are amazing at and you think, “Really?”  Yes, really, it is amazing when you sing, play the organ, lead a meeting, teach, help a child learn to read, listen to a Middle Schooler, care for animals, garden, and even preach. 

 

I pray you will hold these words in your heart and God might move from them unveiling a calling for you in these days. 


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A Sample of My Calling Story Part One

 


As we are going through the Calling Sermon Series, I have taken out the reel-to-reel film (remember those from school?) of the art project called, “My Life” to rewind and remember where I sensed God’s movement and motion in my life.  I am recalling where I felt God swirling and stirring and calling.  Remember, calling is never finished.  Remember, calling can take time ~ twenty-five years for Abraham and Sarah to welcome Isaac or the countless, untold years for Hannah to welcome Samuel.  Moreover, our calling may not work out exactly as we plotted and planned. (as I said Sunday, there is the life you plan and the one you live).  Think of Moses never getting to put his pinkie toe into the Promised Land, he never got to taste the milk and honey.  Most of the prophets we have studied (outside of Jonah) did not convince or convert people to hear God’s wisdom or to change ~ something I hold in my heart when I stand to preach each Sunday.  Our calling may not have spectacular results or a legacy with its own Wikipedia page. 

 

I looking back, I grew up going in the church.  I was in the children’s choir, Christmas pageants, and I even got perfect attendance pins for Sunday School.  I can remember the adult choir sang from a balcony at the back of the church.  At the end of the service they would sing, “Shalom be with you.”  I always turned around to watch.  I sensed God’s peace (which is what the Hebrew word, “Shalom” means) in that moment.  In middle school, I began going to summer camps and youth gatherings sponsored by UCC.  While there was never a bolt of lightening with God’s voice saying, “Thou shalt be a pastor, Wesley”, there was a slow, steady sense of the Spirit guiding me toward serving the church.  I had this peace/shalom when I was at church on Sundays or youth gatherings.  I felt most alive and most authentically myself in these settings.  While I did a brief stint in customer service for a credit card company after graduating college, I began investing and applying to seminaries after just a few months of working in that business setting. 

 

I know in Scripture it is often dramatic, Divine moments of God interrupting and intentionally calling someone to be a prophet or to a new way of life.  For me, it was a bit more subtle.  There were bread crumb moments of God’s leading grace along the way.  God leading me on a savory pace toward seminary.  God spoke to me through moments of being out in creation as a counselor at camp or when I was canoeing on a lake.  God helped me in crafting early sermons and feeling people’s support.  God moved through pastors who showed up in my life to help support, love, and suggest to me, “Maybe you should think about seminary.”  There was no neon sign.  There was no blinding light or booming voice.  Just seeds of the sacred planted, tended, until my soul was ready to take this path toward being a pastor.

 

Callings can happen both slowly over time and dramatically when you know you have to do something now!  When you look back at your life, how do you sense God’s guidance and nudging you within your history/story?  Was it one moment your soul surged, and your heart said emphatically, “Yes,” to an opportunity?  Or was the movement toward your calling more gradual and gentler?  Or perhaps, it was a bit of both.

 

I invite you to review the reel-to-reel film of your life today as you think about your calling and where you might be calling on or being called upon by the Holy to move in these days.  May God bless such mediations today.


Monday, October 11, 2021

Owning and Saying Our Prayers ~ God's Calling

 

A week ago on Sunday, we opened our hearts and whole lives to the narrative of Abraham and Sarah’s calling from God. We held lightly that God is never finished crafting and creating in us and through us.  No matter how many birthday candles were on your cake last year, God is still moving in your midst in meaningful, life-giving, and life-changing ways.

 

Yet, our minds have a few false phrases that can be repeated on a loop. Have you ever found yourself saying, “It’s too late.”? Or “You missed your chance.”?  Or “I guess that ship has sailed.”  Sometimes we say this to excuse ourselves from the calling. We want to convince ourselves that the window closed, ignoring the other door that opened. To be sure, there are moments when it is too late.  I cannot rewind time to go back to when my kids were little.  But it is a false narrative to think that it is too late to be a loving parent. If there is breath within me, there is an opportunity to share God’s love, to forgive, to do justice, and walk humbly with God. 

 

Abraham and Sarah learned that lesson late in life. Hannah learned this as well in her life.  She thought that the chance to have children was never going to happen.  She called out to God.  I love that part of our calling story isn’t just us sitting passively by waiting for God to text us or hit us up on social media. We can call on God. You can call on God.  You can awaken the courage of your inner-Hannah and call on God with the deep desires of your life.  To be sure, God’s collaboration and cooperation and co-authoring your life may not exactly look like your five-year-plan.  God often takes me on circuitous routes, with many exit ramps, where my five-day-plan is no longer relevant or realistic.  But, in each moment every day, I try to be honest about what is stirring and swirling deep within me.  Hannah reminds us that we are not just some puppets with strings God is pulling; we have a voice (remember vocation, calling, comes from the Latin root for voice); we have agency; we have prayers for our lives.  We need to voice those honest and heartfelt prayers, own those prayers, let the deep part of ourselves vulnerably have a seat at the table.  Remember, your soul is shy and takes time to open (or unfurl and unfold like a flower).

 

What is your deepest prayer for yourself today?  Not your prayers for others, who I know you love.  But for yourself?  If you were like Hannah to cry out to God, what would you long to be born within you today?   I hope you will sit with those two questions today and let them simmer prayerfully in the stew of your soul this week.  Amen.


Friday, October 8, 2021

God's Calling ~ Day by Day

 


I pray you found some faithful fodder in the invitation to explore and examine your life this week.  I pray you will continue to do so.  Our callings are not discerned in the blink of an eye.  We cannot manufacture or microwave the movement of the Spirit.  We stay open to God’s continual calling ~ seek to unfurl and unfold like the flower our life is.  Part of what I love about the Abraham and Sarah narrative is that they are called late in life.  When we arrive on the scene of the story, we don’t know much about their past.  We know they don’t have children.  We know that Abraham seems to be financially secure in life.  Maybe Abraham sold camels or rakes to made designs in the sand because both those jobs sound like a fun and profitable professions.  We know that God calls them at age 75.

 

I will let that last sentence sink and settle in.

 

You are never finished with your calling.  Your calling shifts.  Abraham and Sarah were already called to one way of life ~ or more likely many ways of life ~ prior to when we meet them in Genesis.  Maybe they were trying to enjoy the good life, going to go spend more time at the beach or take up golf.  But, God continues to call them, AND God calls each of us as long as we have breath.

 

In new ways…each day.

In life-giving moments…and sometimes on the spur of the moment.

In staying the course…and sudden shifts in new directions.

 

Your life, minute upon minute, is one way God shows up.  I pray each of us continues to both pay attention and find the courage and conviction to respond to the holy beckoning us forward.  May your life be a faithful prayer of words and actions and openness and willingness each minute today. Amen. 


Thursday, October 7, 2021

God's Calling ~ Threads and Themes

 


This week we are opening our life each day with our Sherlock Holmes’ hat on to see where we might be sensing the Spirit and where we feel like we are in the doldrums.  Where do we want to drop the anchor of the boat of our life to enjoy the Eternal and where do we feel like there is no wind in our sails.  Where do we feel like we are cruising along skimming the surface of the stream of life and where are we depleted.  Hopefully you are continuing to each night look at your life.

 

One way we explore our calling is not through some intense prayer retreat or some survey we fill out or psychological tests ~ although all three of those can provide beautiful insights and can be helpful.  One way we explore our calling is to notice the patterns of life that get played out.  Are there any themes or threads of experiencing the Eternal that are starting to emerge through this exercise?  By the way, it may be way too early to see or sense any patterns that are being played out.  But today is a good day to look over the last three days at moments that filled you with life.  Because where there is life, there might be seeds of your calling.  Or, maybe you are filled with curiosity and fascination, this could be what you are reading and can’t wait to share an insight with others.  Or perhaps threads and themes of teaching and learning are seeds of your calling.  Perhaps where you are feeling alive is connecting with others.  Maybe you are alive outside in God’s first testament of creation, there is a calling to help others notice the beauty of the world.  Is there any connection day-to-day where you are feeling most alive?

 

Today, take time to see if there are threads/themes starting to slowly emerge, just like a small sprout peeking out of the soil in Spring.  There may not be any themes yet, so continue to be open to God’s movement on this Thursday.

 

Prayer: Gracious God continue to remind me that calling doesn’t need to change the world and solve every single problem.  You crafted and created me in particular and powerful ways with gifts and limitations, so help me continue to life Your image which embraces both.  Amen.


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

God's Calling ~ Holy Ordinary

 


Day three of the nightly challenge to review and remember your day for traces of God’s grace and moments when you felt wanting.  To be sure there are many, many moments in-between.  On this hump-day, this day in-between Sundays, this messy middle moment, I want to invite you into the ordinary of your life.

 

Honestly, not every lunch can be categorized and compartmentalized as either holy or lacking.  Sometimes my sandwich is just a sandwich.  It didn’t taste like manna from heaven and it was not awful, it just was.  The sandwich nourished my body so I could move on to other tasks that day.  Not everything has to be awesome or amazing or the best moment ever.  Not everything that happens to you each day will be able to be put in a neat and tidy column on your piece of paper.  Many moments are in the messy middle.  There was good and there was bad or it just was. 

 

I invite you today to pay attention to those smaller, subtler moments, like lunch.  Or like a meeting.  Or like a doctor’s appointment where everything is fine and the doctor kind of listens to you but clearly needs to get on to the next patient.  Or like driving down the road to pick up milk.  Hold the ordinariness of that in your heart. 

 

I don’t believe Abraham was hanging out in the desert, looking at his watching and thinking, “Well, God should start speaking any time now to call me to be a great nation.”  He was going about his day.  I wonder if God had tried to get Abraham’s attention before, but he was too busy feeding the camels day old bread or raking the sand or patching the tent.  (By the way, I have no idea what Abraham did to fill his days, but I like the image of him tossing old bread to his camel to try to catch.)

 

Maybe God had tried to clear God’s throat and Abraham thought it was a rumble of thunder, so he went inside.  Maybe God had said, “Abraham,” but he thought Sarah needed him so he went to talk to her.  Maybe God had been crying out, “Look at me, look at me,” but Abraham was too busy replaying a conversation with his neighbor in his mind thinking that next time he is totally going to tell that neighbor what he really thinks!

 

The holy in the ordinary.  Our calling coming not in moments of spectacular or set apart, but in the sacredness of this in-between day called, “Wednesday.”

 

May the words you have just read come to life with God’s spirit in life-giving ways this day.  Amen.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

God's Calling ~ Prayer Practice

 


How did the exploration of your life go last night?  Did you pause before you closed your eyes to rewind the tape of the day in your life titled, “October 4, 2021”?  Did you look through the moments, minutes, hours, and all that was experienced within the container of yesterday? 

If not, it is not too late.  Pause now.  Breathe in the breath of God.  Close your eyes.  Picture what you had for breakfast yesterday.  Did you taste manna from heaven in your pumpkin-flavored English muffin (remember, I love all things pumpkin)?  Did you sense God mid-morning as you went to the grocery store?  Did you feel a bit worn down by the afternoon, closing your eyes for a few moments of rest and renewal?  Did the holy help wake you up refreshed?  What about dinner time?  How did your wind down and wrap up your day?  Or were there moments of frustration, fear, and feeling worn down? 

This prayer practice is a wonderful way for you to keep track of moments in your life.  This is a great way each day to notice and name where we feel alive and where we feel worn down and weary.  We like to think that our mind is like a state-of-the-art camera capturing everything.  But there are so many filters on our mental camera.  Filters of emotions, our brains processing ~ sometimes projecting, the spiritual soul which is shy trying to offer a few thoughts, other people’s interpretations.  No one really teaches or tells us how to process all that is in us.  Plus, for many, we were taught not to listen or lean in to our lives.  We were taught and caught that the better script in life is the one given to us by the culture, by others, and we have no choice in following that narrative.

When we take time to explore our life, we are opening ourselves to the foundation and formational truth ~ you are created in God’s image.  Yet, God’s image is under layers of others expectations and social media posts and the divisiveness that hangs in the air we breathe.  To step into a sacred space of looking at our life is a vital way to let God get a word in edgewise.  To unfold and unfurl like a flower ~ to use the image from Sunday’s sermon ~ each day.

Prayer: Speaking and sending God, as You called out to Abraham and Sarah on an ordinary day in their lives, help me listen for Your holy prompting on this Tuesday.  Amen.


Monday, October 4, 2021

God's Calling ~ A New Month

 


I love all things October.

Apple orchards ~ clearly the best fruit;

Craving pumpkins ~ clearly the best fruit in which to make a spooky or silly face;

Halloween ~ which allows me to pretend I am a superhero;

Leaves changing color ~ granted in Florida so the change is subtle and small from one shade of green to another, but it is there;

Cooler temperatures ~ I hear you friends up North reading this laughing;

As we turn the calendar to the new month, we enter the fourth and final quarter of 2021, what prayers are on your heart??

This new season ~ autumn.  In some ways, this is like a new year…before the new year of 2022.  Each month is a new beginning.  I am convinced and try to live by the wisdom that, “Today is brand new and tomorrow is too.”  We don’t need to be confounded or contained or control by the past.  We do often need to grieve the past so we don’t project our pain onto others; we do need to deal with the past; we do need to seek forgiveness and reconciliation because of the past.  Yet, so often we let the shadow of yesterday determine and decide what happens today.  We let the unprocessed pain linger and leave such a lasting impression that when we say, “This is the day God has made” we are about as convincing as Eeyore.

In October, I want to invite you to pay attention to the moments of goodness and grace alongside the unresolved and unresolvable.  The ancient practice among Christians at the end of the day, before they laid their heads down to sleep, was to ponder prayerfully ~ where did I feel most alive and where did I struggle, suffer, feel stress, and separated from the sacred.  To be clear, just because I feel like God is distant or disconnected, God still hovers/hangs around my life.  For my logical, linear friends, please take a piece of paper and divide it in half ~ horizontally or vertically.  In one part put those places and spaces you felt most alive.  Maybe when talking to a friend; going outside; sitting still; watching a good television show or reading a good book.  The point is to put on your Sherlock Holmes’ hat and investigate your life.  Remember, God often shows up disguised as our ordinary life in the simple and sacred.  Then, on the other part of the paper, list those places and moments when there was a storm in your soul.  Your friend telling you about cancer, watching the news, the repeated refrain of “What if…” scenarios that can dance around our hearts; creating endless fictional problems that you must solve; loneliness or frustration that sits on simmer in your mind. 

The more honest we can be with ourselves, the more we can tap into the holy.

I pray you will engage in this holy examine each evening this week. 

Gracious God, help me be open in rewinding and reviewing where I sensed Your spirit hovering and where I felt left out hanging out to dry.  May I continue to explore how to be open to You in all experiences and encounters.   


Friday, October 1, 2021

God's Calling ~ New Month

 


A brand-new month.  Pumpkin-spice is everywhere now.  Some of you are seeing the leaves change colors in a spectacular fireworks-like display.  Others, like me, are trying to notice the shades of green shifting subtly on the plants around us…waiting for the humidity to exit.  Every new month is a new beginning.  It is a reminder of the truth that Jon Acuff describes as, “Today is brand new and tomorrow is too.”

 

With a new month, we have a chance to take a step toward embracing and embodying, exploring and experiencing our curiosities and fascinations.  Not all of them, but I do pray one of them will be offered your holy energy this month.  You may want to select one that has less fears surrounding it, even if it isn’t your top curiosity.  Or you may want to swing for the fences and go for that top fascination, even with its honest fears. 

 

I suggest you plan and think today about a process.  For example, if in October, I am going to explore my calling, curiosity, fascination with photography, I might ~ put in my calendar three or four days this month I am going to pick up my camera and go.  Then, I might identify the three or four places close-by where I am going to take my camera.  The week before my “date” with the camera, I might go out on the web and look at photos or glance at the latest copy of Photography magazine to inspire.  Finally, when the day comes, I need to be careful not to let an emergency – internal or external – cause me to abandon my exploration of this calling. 

 

To be sure, at each step above, I will remind myself, “This isn’t about perfection.”  My date with the camera isn’t about capturing an Ansel Adams like picture that will make me wildly successful.  This first step is about showing up.  God can’t work with us when we don’t show up.  Life is about participation, paying attention, getting out there, and being part of what God is up to in this world.  Yes, photographs are part of that, because they remind me how beautiful the world is, even as news reports tell me about the brokenness. 

 

Prayer: God help me right now schedule time for the soul sperlunking I long to do.  Enliven and enlarge my imagination to travel the road toward bringing my curiosities off the page into this world.  Thank you, O God, for this month of October where we can each let our light shine…let them shine…let them shine in beautiful and blessed ways for You.  Alleluia and 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 ...