Friday, December 5, 2008
The constant refrain on the radio and television, in shopping malls and churches, about the happiness of the season, about getting together with family and friends, reminds many people of what they have lost or have never had. The anguish of broken relationships, the insecurity of unemployment, the weariness of ill health, the pain of isolation - all these can make us feel very alone in the midst of the celebrating and spending. We need the space and time to acknowledge our sadness and concern; we need to know that we are not alone.
Our spirits sink, as the days grow shorter. We feel the darkness growing deeper around us. We need encouragement to live the days ahead of us.
For these reasons, St Timothy’s for the first time will offer a special “Blue Christmas” service on December 16, 2008 at 7:30 PM.
Come out, and join with us in sharing and hearing prayers, scripture, and music that acknowledge that God’s presence is for those who mourn, for those who struggle - and that God’s Word comes to shine light into our darkness. Everyone, regardless of church background (or lack of it) is welcome.
The short service will be followed by a brief time for light refreshments and fellowship.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
My husband is working, thank you God that Sean has a job.
The electricity is on, the water is running, and the heat is working: Thank you God, that I live in a house with comfort controls.
I called my nephews, and heard a chipper 3 yr old screech in delight "Happy Thanksgiving, Aunt Kim" Thank you God for the gift of children and for keeping my nephews healthy and safe.
There is much to be thankful for in the midst of this economic down turn. We might not be able to do everything we desire, but for most we have what we need. May God give everyone their daily bread today.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Over the years I've realized that this is what scripture tells us.
Don't Panic, God is in control.
Don't Panic, God is with you.
Don't Panic, Christ has risen from the dead.
As the news media paints a more dire picture of the economic situation,
Don't Panic. Be smart and relearn the age old custom of separating wants from needs. Using your local public library rather than buying books is another great way to save.
Don't Panic. Others have traveled this path with God. God has seen them through to the promised land, and will see us safely to the other side as well.
Last night, I put a sticker on the front of my bible:
Monday, November 3, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The song portrays a young artist being pulled by two worlds. With a hope of being "Saved by Zero"
Our faith gives a much different and deeper hope. When you feel yourself getting tugged in all sorts of directions, be still and know God. It's an important skill to learn in our 24/7 fast paced do more with less society. Sometimes, you need to find a place of solitude, even if it is only for a few minutes. There are countless studies out there on how we are suffering from sleep deprivation. One study says it is more important to get to bed before midnight, so you sleep in natural darkness. (ask our parish nurse for the full details)
Make an appointment with God daily; write it on your calendar and honor it like any other appointment. During that time, pray simple prayers...Help Me! and Thank you! are perfect prayers. Try to be surrounded by silence, or natural sounds. While listening to the silence, the small voice of the Almighty Creator becomes more clear. Hear it remind you that we are not saved by zero. We are saved by Jesus, who died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day. We are saved by someone, very real, very human and very Divine.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
We have worshiped the god of pleasure only to discover that thrills play out and sensations are short-lived.
We have bowed before the god of money only to learn that there are such things as love and friendship that money cannot buy....These transitory gods are not able to save or bring happiness to the human heart. Only God is able. It is faith in Him that we must rediscover."
460 years earlier, Martin Luther wrote in the Small Catechism, "We are to fear, love, and trust God above all else" as an explanation on how to keep the First Commandment. (Some people substitute "honor" for "fear" because they don't think we should be afraid of our merciful and loving God. I believe a little fear is healthy because it keeps us humble and reminds us to listen to God's commands.)
Both of these preachers implore us to fully rely on God, trusting the Almighty in times of fear and doubt. This week, each day I'll write some thoughts on the list Paul provides in Philippians 4:1-9 that encourage us to Rejoice in the Lord Always.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
This father could have joined them, if not for the quick thinking of his wife.
The following story tells of the willingness of a family to work together. The father was a chimney builder. He would stay at the high top of the chimney until the finishing touches were done by other workers. Then he would drop a rope that he used to let himself down. One day he made the crucial mistake of not keeping the end of the rope for himself. The young son raced to his mother and told her the problem, but what other than earnest agonizing prayer could she do? She knew that often you need to put feet on your prayers. She raced from the house, and yelled at her husband, high on the chimney of the house being built. Despite his experience he was bewildered and shaking dangerously with despair. "Unravel the worsted from your sock," she yelled to him. Both of them knew that the socks were made from one large thread of strong wool and that it could hold together. "Hold one end, and put some mortar on the other end to lower it," she called.
He did; the heavy worsted thread held. After lowering the thread they tied a heavier rope to it, and he pulled the heavy rope to himself. He secured the end and then was able to let himself down as was normally done, and he was safe in the arms of his wife.
Just as the thread held and lead to safety, so our Lord brings us to safety.
The hands of Christ, Seem very frail
For they were broken by a nail.
But only they reach heaven at last
Whom those frail, broken hands hold fast.
Monday, September 15, 2008
We pray that the situation in Zimbabwe stabilizes and people are no longer threatened for being a part of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Once Zimbabwe was the bread basket for Africa, bless President Mugabe with your wisdom so he no longer fears losing power, but is motivated by a desire to do what is best for the people in his country so that Zimbabwe is once again a wonderful place to live.
Today, I read in the New York Times that President Mugabe is willing to divide up the power in Zimbabwe and is giving some power to his rivals. God has intervened in the situation, sent others to help negotiate the settlement, and once again Zimbabwe is filled with hope.
You can read the full article: Zimbabwe Rivals Sign Power-Sharing Agreement
I pray that this agreement will be honored by all people and is just the first of many steps the country takes on it's path back to being in harmony with all people and God's creation.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Today though, my thoughts turn towards what is the proper balance between remembering the horror of Sept 11th, 2001 and the need to move from the shock, grief and pain to a new normal. My heart still grieves for those who lost their lives and for those still suffering from the nightmares of leaping over body parts as they fled the towers. We need to remember the significant event; but do we need to focus on the destruction? Do we need to focus on the day we figured out that as a nation we were sort of the emperor in the emperor's new clothes?
We do need a little focus on those parts of the day, but also to remember how quickly the nation responded to help. A few days after the event, I was in a state correctional facility to lead worship for medium security inmates. Those men were hurting, because they couldn't do anything tangible to help the victims.
Today, perhaps the balance is to remember the whole story. To grieve a little, rejoice a little, and ask God to intervene to bring us true peace and justice throughout the planet so that no one need remember a day like this again.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Jesus recognizes that things will not be easy. Followers of Christ will be picked on for standing against the crowd: whether being kind to the outcast or making the comfortable feel like they've been scrubbed with a brillo pad by holding up mirror to point out their short comings. Paul was living this message and in the future facing death.
In this clip from 12 O'Clock high, the new general states the truth about war; there is fighting and some may die.
If you worry about dying you are paralyzed by the worry; if you accept that death is normal you are free to make the best choices in any given circumstance. Paul reminds us in Romans 6, that we have died in our baptism and been raised to new life in Christ. The encouragement is to let the earthly worries and fears take a back seat to the joy and freedom of living to further the kingdom of God.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
If you know of someone who will be in 9-12 grades in June 2009, send 'em to CONVO!
Sunday, May 25, 2008
In the mid to late 1990s, "Touched by an Angel" did an episode with Wynonna Judd titled "Psalm 151". The story line is about a single mom whose son is dying of CF and her struggle to finish a hymn of praise she began on the day he was born. The completed song has a refrain I find inspiring and remind me of my call: "For as long as I shall live I will testify THE LOVE, and be a witness in the silence when words are not enough. With every step I take, I will give thanks to God above, for as long as I shall live, I will testify to love."
Below are some clips of the show I found on Youtube with some key elements of the show. It's a powerful witness that God provides in times of need.
Finishing the Song
The song is performed
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
And now for something completely different and totally silly Martin Luther does the Chicken Dance
Monday, May 12, 2008
Calm: we experience this when the Spirit leads us , equips us, and gives us peace. This is the gentle breath of Christ as he comes to his disciples and says “Peace be with you” Then he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
When the spirit scale reads “Calm” we are given a sense of peace, we know we belong to God. Amazingly, it is possible to experience spirit scale calm even though it seems that our lives are being pounded by hurricane force winds.
Strong Wind: The creative qualities of the Spirit lead to surprising improvements and dramatic new directions in our lives. This is when we say "Yes" and wonder how on earth we can accomplish what we just agreed to be a part of. The Bible is filled with images of this strong wind empowering individuals for specific tasks: the 70 elders helping Moses, Saul and David experienced the pushing power of the Spirit, Esther standing up to the King. Whenever we head into a situation where new directions, fresh opportunities and unlimited possibilities face us, we look to the Holy Spirit to empower us according to God’s will
Gale Force: Here we discover the power of God to break unhealthy patterns and to shake up the status quo. This is the student rejecting the "everybody's doing it argument" or when you decide to bring blankets and sandwiches to the homeless at midnight. It's when the addict decides it is time for recovery, or a neighborhood decides it's time to unify at look out for one another.
Hurricane: This is what hit Jerusalem on Pentecost around 2000 years ago and it turned the lives of the disciples upside down. They were reoriented from looking inward at themselves to looking outward toward a world in desperate need of the good news. They were transformed from timid fearful apostles to fearless evangelists…spreading the word to unfamiliar and unknown lands and peoples.
When a hurricane force Spirit-wind blows across the landscape of our lives nothing is ever the same the power of the Almighty God breaking down barriers of culture and language is a powerful sight. These Spirit Hurricanes reveal the power of the Almighty God filling and transforming the timid into powerful witnesses.
Whether it is a calm breeze, strong wind, gale or hurricane, the Holy Spirit constantly blows through our lives. One day it is providing order in the midst of chaos just as it did at creation. Another day it’s providing the courage to change the world making it better for all people still other days it’s blowing through our lives providing a sense of peace when we need it most.
May you feel the winds of the Spirit today and always.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Come and listen, all you who fear God
And I will tell you what the Almighty
Has done for me Psalm 66:16
THursday, May 1 is a day to praise God and do a dance of joy
28 yrs ago on May 1
my dad came home from Magee rehabilitation hospital
after being institutionalized in 3 different hospitals
for a total of 23 weeks…
or 5 1/2 months November 79 to May 1980
And my mom stayed at her parent’s house
To take the bus ride to the hospital everyday
And be at dad’s bedside as doctors and nurses cared for him
Elementary school, 70 miles south during the week
We were not orphaned during this time
Mom’s parents took care of us
Grandma and Pop-pop
speaks of God testing the religious community
I admit my dad’s paralysis has been trying
As a family, we have been through fire and water
The fire of infection racking his body
And the watery tears shed as we came to terms
With his physical limitations
knows something of facing trying times
the problems we face are widespread in our country
every week somewhere a family
Hears the diagnosis…cancer
Faces a life changing medical condition
Wonders how to pay the bills
Grieves the death of a friend
Aches with loneliness after losing a spouse
or faces problematic relationships with
Children or parents
For some these trying times
Can be viewed as
As a trap or snare that holds them captive
Like a horse that has been captured
And then trained
To wear a bit, bridle and saddle
The trying time is a heavy burden
Slowly wearing them down
Breaking your will
Forcing you to do something
To change direction and do things you’d rather avoid
Locking you in a tiny space
Isolating you from others
Limiting your ability to move
Making God seem super far way
As if god was unknown
in the dark, dank prison looking for God
hoping that God is nearby
because we recall the scriptures
“In him we live and move and have our being”
Our God is not unknown
Our God is revealed daily through actions
Like love and forgiveness in a community
Which is reflecting the love God the father
has shown in God the Son
we’ve made it through these trials
Because God has brought us
Out of the prison, snare or trap
To the wide open space
A place where we can look back
And acknowledge, yuck…that was a rough time
As well as look to the future and have hope
We have hope because of Christ’s promises
“Because I live, you will live also”
And his words preparing them for his death
“I will not leave you orphaned;
I am coming to you”
Jesus knows the challenges
we face in our lives
Jesus felt the tugs of temptation
And the pains of being human
Remind them that he will return
And to reassure them that he would give them
What they needed to have in order
To continue the ministry he started
A ministry of love and faithfulness
The trials and challenges
Inviting us to remember we worship a triune God
And how strong the ties
between God the Father and God the Son
especially how these bonds are discussed in John’s Gospel
We face in our lives
Require assistance to get through
Illness and injury
Arguments with family or friends
Addictions and divorce
Derek Redmond a young British runner,
one who had sky rocketed to fame
by shattering his country’s 400-meter record at age 19.
But then an Achilles tendon injury
forced him to withdraw from the 1988 Olympic Games
When the Summer Olympics arrived in
Derek Redmond was absolutely aching for a medal.
On the day of the 400-meter race,
65,000 fans streamed into the stadium,
anxious to witness one of sports’ most thrilling events.
High in the stands is Derek’s father, Jim,
a faithful witness to every one of his son’s world competitions.
through the pack to seize the lead.
Heading down the backstretch,
only 175 meters from the finish line,
Derek is a shoo-in to win this semifinal heat
and qualify for the Olympic finals.
But then Derek hears a pop.
It’s his right hamstring.
He pulls up lame, looking as if he has been shot.
His leg quivering,
Derek begins to hop on the other leg,
and then he slows down and falls to the track.
Medical personnel run toward him
as he sprawls on the ground, holding his right hamstring.
At the very same moment,
there is a stir at the top of the stands.
Jim Redmond, seeing his son in trouble,
begins to race down from the top row.
He has no right or credential or permission
to be on the track,
but all he can think about is getting to his son,
to help him up.
He is absolutely single-minded about this,
and isn’t going to be stopped by anyone.
of an Olympic medal is gone.
He is alone.
The other runners streak across the finish line,
He is orphaned, as it were,
a lonely figure on the track, friendless, parentless and alone.
and all he can think is, “I don’t want to take a DNF.”
A Did-Not-Finish was not even part of his vocabulary.
When the medical crew arrives with a stretcher,
Derek tells them, “No, there’s no way I’m getting on that stretcher.
I’m going to finish my race.”
And so he lifts himself to his feet,
ever so slowly and carefully,
and he starts hobbling down the track.
Suddenly, the crowd realizes that Derek
isn’t dropping out of the race.
He isn’t limping off the track in defeat,
but is actually continuing on one leg,
in a fiercely determined effort to make it to the finish line.
One painful step at a time,
each one a little slower and more agonizing than the one before,
Derek limps onward, and the crowd begins to cheer for him.
The fans rise to their feet and their cries grow louder and louder,
building into a thundering roar.
At that moment, Jim Redmond
reaches the bottom of the stands, vaults over the railing,
dodges a security guard, and runs out to his son
— with two security people running after him.
“That’s my son out there,”
— he yells back at his pursuers, “and I’m going to help him.”
about 120 meters from the finish line,
and wraps his arm around his waist.
“I’m here, son,” Jim says gently, hugging his boy.
“We’ll finish together.”
Together, arm in arm, father and son struggle
toward the finish line with 65,000 people cheering, clapping and crying.
Just a few steps from the end, with the crowd in an absolute frenzy,
Jim releases the grip he has on his son
so that Derek can cross the finish line by himself.
Derek faced a tough challenge that day in 1992
But he didn’t go through it alone
The fans in the stands and his father
Reached out to him, and helped him finish the race
And so when you’ve metaphorically felt your hamstring tear
Recall the psalms
And how many of them describe God’s saving actions
Today we hear that God is the one “keeping our feet from slipping” It is a phrase that I love
It is a phrase that I love
Because there are days
When it feels as if the rug
Has been yanked out from under our feet
And I love the idea of God
Placing our feet back underneath us
So we don’t land on our bumpters
But there are days when we do land
On our bumpters
Some days, the trial has gotten the better of us
We’ve made a poor decision
We uttered words we wish to take back
We feel despair and hope has left the building
And on these days…God the Son comes to us
Filled with guilt…we cry out Lord have mercy
Filled with grief…we cry out Lord save me
Before the words leave our lips
Christ is moving to us to bind up our wounds
This is what Jesus meant by promising
To send an advocate, a helper, and a comforter to be with us
Christ knew we needed help
for the challenges and trials we face
Christ knows we need someone
With us until the end of the race
Just as Derek needed his dad
To get close to the finish line
Blessed be God
Who has not rejected our prayers
Nor withheld divine steadfast love from us
Blessed be God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Who has seen us safely through
The trials of life and promises to bring us
To life everlasting.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
A young wife sat on a sofa on a hot humid day, drinking iced tea and visiting with her Mother. As they talked about life, about marriage, about the responsibilities of life and the obligations of adulthood, the mother clinked the ice cubes in her glass thoughtfully and turned a clear, sober glance upon her daughter.
'Don't forget your Sisters,' she advised, swirling the tea leaves to the bottom of her glass. 'They'll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need Sisters. Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them.'
'Remember that 'Sisters' means ALL the women...Your girlfriends, your daughters, and all your other women relatives too. 'You'll need other women. Women always do.'
What a funny piece of advice!' the young woman thought. Haven't I just gotten married? Haven't I just joined the couple-world? I'm now a married woman, for goodness sake! A grownup! Surely my husband and the family we may start will be all I need to make my life worthwhile!'
But she listened to her Mother. She kept contact with her Sisters and made more women friends each year. As the years tumbled by, one after another, she gradually came to understand that her Mom really knew what she was talking about. As time and nature work their changes and their mysteries upon a woman, sisters are the mainstays of her life.
After more than 50 years of living in this world, here is what I've learned:
THIS SAYS IT ALL:
Children grow up.
Jobs come and go.
Love waxes and wanes.
Men don't do what they're supposed to do.
Colleagues forget favors.
Sisters are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you. A girl friend is never farther away than needing her can reach. When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's' end.
Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you....Or come in and carry you out.
Girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, Mothers,
Grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins, and extended family, all bless our life!
The world wouldn't be the same without women, and neither would I. When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other.
Every day, we need each other still. Pass this on to all the women who help make your life meaningful.
Friday, April 25, 2008
So now I cling to the resurrection promise and pray for God to comfort Kevin's family by swirling in the empty void where he once stood; making them feel whole. Blessed are you O' God of Israel, you have come to your people to set them free. Indeed you have set us free from death, strengthen our faith and trust in the promise of Christ "I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me even though they die will live" Strengthen us in our trust so that this promise is sweet sugar to remove the bitter taste of grief. Amen
Monday, April 14, 2008
Fast forward, it is now May 1995 and the pears have been sitting under a pile of clothes for 5 months. My buddy had been transfered to a new job at Cape Canaveral Air Station. While he started packing up his apartment, he noticed an unusual odor from the corner of his room. He moved the clothes and found...the box of pears. Much too his dismay, he learned that pears when rotting get rather juicy. The juice of the pears changed the light blue carpet into a swirling pattern of reddish brown, orange, and purple.
Nothing could remove the stain. Not Resolve, the Bissel spot lifter, even the professional carpet cleaner guy threw his hands in the air and said "It's a permanent stain, there is nothing a can do." So my buddy attempted to dye the carpet, no luck. The fibers wouldn't hold the new color.
Our daily sins are rotting pear juice. They stain our lives, and make us less than perfect. Yet unlike the carpet, there is something to remove our stain. The blood of Christ. In it we are washed clean and appear before God unblemished.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I'm reminded on Matthew 19, when a young man asks Jesus, "What good deed must I do to get eternal life?" 16Then someone came to him and said, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" 17And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." 18He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 20The young man said to him, "I have kept all these; what do I still lack?" 21Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.
By the world's standards, I am rich: a solid floor, walls, roof, indoor plumbing, running water, appliances for cooking, a car, a house for my car (aka a garage) This passage from Matthew drives me to my knees in shame at what I have when others have so little. So I confess, and ask Jesus for help in making wise decisions that make the world a better place. Simple acts like donating clothes I haven't worn in years that are in good shape, fixing things rather than buying new are small steps of a bigger transformation.
This Easter Season and season after Pentecost, I'm learning more about simple living and striving to adopt their methods. Their slogan: Live Simply so others may simply live.
Monday, March 31, 2008
When he extinguished the last candle, he stood and bowed before the altar. When he turned to walk down the aisle, tears streamed down his face. At that moment, I too began weeping, along with several others who sat nearby.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied.
Jesus wept. Then the Jews said "See how he loved him!" But some of them said "Could not he who opened the blind man ave kept this man from dying?"
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Even still, I never gave up on the idea. During Holy Week, I reconnected with my friend, Dr Draw, and Bill took the idea and ran with it for me. Enjoy this short cartoon
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I could not believe that people truly thought the listing on Craigslist (free internet want ads) was true. Are we so desperate for stuff that we would go and do such a thing here in NY?
Martin Luther has some words for us in the explanation to the 7th commandment, "Thou shall not steal"
We are to fear and love God, so that we will neither take our neighbors' money or property, nor acquire it by fraud or by selling them poorly made products, but will help them improve and protect their property and career.
What would you do if you saw a crowd of people coming up to your neighbor's house and carrying off household goods?
Me, I'd call the police and go confront the people. May the Lord show us a better way to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Friday, March 21, 2008
I haven't thought of Dr. Draw in a while, but on a whim this morning, went to God tube to see if Bill had ever shared on the site. Sure enough, I found this
During this Holy Week, may you feel contacted to the whole body of Christ. For in Christ, we are one.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
While the Easter Bunny is a wonderful symbol of the free gifts of God in Christ, we also need to remember the reason for the joyful celebration: Christ is Risen from the dead! He lives!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Maundy means " command" in Latin and on Maundy Thursday we remember the new commands Christ gave us: the command to love one another, the command to remember him in the simple meal of bread and wine known as Holy Communion, and the command to serve others as he serves us.
Why is it called Good Friday?
It is a good day for us; the day Christ took our punishment. This week is not only Christ's Passion story, it is our story of being saved.
Monday, March 17, 2008
This week is a time of remembering the final days of Jesus. We journey from cheering and praising Jesus on Palm Sunday, to the confusion and fear on Maundy Thursday and then cry "Crucify Him" on Good Friday. Then the waiting begins, the sense of lose, the realization that his death was for me, for my family, for my friends, for the whole world. There is a feeling of despair on Good Friday (named for our good, not Christ's).
Then the roller coaster turns up, the elaborate joy on Easter morning is indescribable. You have to experience it. Hollywood is made the resurrection a thing of zombies; but we Christians know better. The resurrection of the body is eternal life with God and Christ where we sit around the great banquet table, and realize the promise of Revelation 21 has become true:
This is not a scary vision; it is a hope filled promise. One that gives each believer energy and hope in the darkest of times.
God is good, all the time.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I'm wondering what happened to the older phrases, "You're welcome" or "my pleasure." I've realized that when I say "No Problem" to someone, it is actually implying...ya know, I was doing something else but since this wasn't a big deal, I did it for ya.
I've decided that I'm repenting of my "no problem" answer, and going to phrases the convey something more positive. If I help someone, it is my pleasure to do it, because I have been given the gifts and skills to do that task.
I can't picture Jesus saying "no problem" as he hung on the cross. But I can hear him say "You're welcome" whenever I'm on my knees saying Thank you God for forgiving my sins.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
The gospel text in John 4:4-42 totally changed me in 1999. Sean Burke, a TA I admired and respected at seminary, had just come out to me. I was stunned, shocked and not really sure what I said as we ended a chat after worship. What I do know, is that my homework for Biblical criticism that night was to read John 4.
God opened my eyes that day. Christ encountered a woman of a different faith background who was by Jewish law committing a sexual sin. Christ didn't respond to her with judgment or demand she change her ways. By simply meeting her, and her getting to know Christ, she went away and converted her whole village. We do not know what happens to her later, but she responded to Christ with tremendous faith.
So, the habit I needed to learn was clear. Lose the judgment, I had picked up in the military. It wasn't easy. I worked at it daily. Over time, it became a habit. Be the light of Christ in these challenging times. Welcome and accept people where they are at, and invite them to come and see the goodness of the Lord. It is Christ who melts hearts with love and mercy, not judgment and threats.
Once a week, late at night, I'll see Sean is online. We'll IM back and forth and share the joyous of ministry. He is now a New Testament professor at a college helping students see Christ in the world around them.
God is good, all the time.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Bill Maher takes aim at Christians as well in this clip found on youtube.com, the language is not totally clean, HBO cable is not regulated by FCC.
It would be easy to respond with anger, or to laugh this off. I disagree with practicing my faith privately, Christ so shapes my life that is fully integrated into my thought processes.
All that said, I take some of Bill's comments as a prophetic word. It reminded me of one day in the USAF, when Capt Jewell and I debated faith issues. He asked point blank, "If you believe in forgiveness so much, why are Christians so afraid to admit when you make a mistake? Would you be better off to just say, Sorry, we got it wrong, and we'll do better next time"
Since then, I have strived to admit mistakes and failures. Daily, I examine my life and see where I too fall short and fail. Then following Christ's teachings, I repent. If what I did hurt someone, I seek them out and apologize, maybe even doing something as restitution. Next step is turning around to realign myself with God's Word. Psalm 51 humbles me
"1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge."I think over the last 20 years, the word Christian has changed its social meaning. Many view Christian as a brand name...Christian books stores, Christian bands/music, etc. Christian is not a brand name that we wear like Izod, Champion, or LL Bean. It is a way of living in the world, trying to bring God's light of love and mercy to the dark scary places of the world. I think that's why the Mac/PC mock ad struck such a chord with me.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Originally, Christians were called people of the way. (Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life). To get back to that focus, maybe a name change is in order. I remember in my high school Creative Writing class, Rob wore a t-shirt that said "I'm Christian, not religious" It was a great conversation about the difference between living as a disciple and doing faith stuff by rote. How do you define Christian? Is it a way of life? Or is it an accessory you put on occasionally? How would your life be different if you woke up every morning and said, "I am a Christ follower!" Try this out for a few weeks, let me know if it makes a difference.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Seriously, I identify with Scooby Doo. Almost daily, I encounter situations where I want to be brave and courageous, but instead I feel anxious, afraid, too scared to try. Then I remember, the Scooby Snacks of faith, the sacraments that connect me to the divine. Yup, the water, and the bread and the wine, all remind me God made a promise to me. Remembering God is with me fills me with courage to "do" what needs to be done.
Philip Melanchthon was afraid to enter a debate one day, and begged Luther to take his place. Melanchthon whined about not knowing the faith well enough to promote the reformers views appropriately. Luther retorted, "Sin boldly and believe more boldly still."
In other words, sometimes we step out in faith to do the right thing and later discover it wasn't perfect. Then we trust in God's mercy and forgiveness found in the Christ to continue living. If I err, I confess (apologize) and return to the Lord.
Remember, God came down, so we can reach out to others. Share the good news of Christ and rejoice.
Monday, February 18, 2008
A quick search of the internet lead me to his home page; and there I encountered his followers. People who had known him from high school, a home town boy made good. I was hooked and wanted to know more. So I started reading everything I could locate on the 'net, posting obscure articles about this man so others could know what was being said.
Others in their following of Scott Riggs, write original pieces to encourage fans and the driver alike, check out http://scottriggsfans.yuku.com/topic/910/t/Twas-The-Night-Before-Daytona.html.
My following the events of NASCAR is like my following of Christ. It is a daily thing, daily devotion of time to read scripture and see what God is doing in the world. The old stories of rescue are still happening in the world around us.
As a group of people, as a community of believers in Christ, we are called to encourage one another. Think of it as drafting. Working together makes things easier because there is less resistance and we can go further then we dreamed was possible.
Friday, February 15, 2008
When will we learn, learn a new way to resolve disputes and conflict. What is this fascination on taking things out on others to restore honor...to be remembered for acts that hurt and horrify. I don't understand. I don't know how to stop this insanity...and so I turn to you in shame and humility and beg you to act for you are my rock and fortress in these times.
Be with all the victims of the shooting, the families and the community. Heal the wounds, the physical injuries, the mental trauma and the spiritual doubt that has come upon the people. Swirl in the open spaces of those who mourn so that they feel whole.
Use us to build a living temple, one which brings you on honor and glory through our living in peace and harmony with all of creation. Amen
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Why do it? To get reconnected to the power source of our life, God almighty, our Creator and Redeemer, who makes us holy.
I'm reading Nehemiah right now. Chapter 1 always blows me away, it starts with prayer and confession. It starts with the author humbling himself before God, and begging God to act. This is what I need in Lent; to drop to my knees admit my failures and short comings before God and beg God to act.
- admit my failure to follow through on ideas
- my failure to keep Christ the center of everything in my life because I've allowed the distractions to pull life out of shape
- my failure to serve the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength
in my confession comes an answer in the silence that follows...dear child of God, long ago, my son went to the cross for you. He paid the fine for your sins, and I still raised him from the dead. Do you think I would treat you differently? He made you holy and righteous, with a clean heart. Move on, do justice, love mercy, and continue to walk humbly with me, your God.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
I spent Friday with Lutheran Disaster Response Groups from NJ, PA, and MS. We toured from Mobile, AL to New Orleans learning about the different styles of response to Katrina. Each volunteer camp has the same mission, but approach it slightly differently. Seeing the devastation that lingers almost 29 months after Katrina is shocking.
In the third picture, Lee Zandstra, LDR of NJ, is 5'10". The water in the area came to the top of the wall behind her. Unreal, the power of a wall of water to clear everything.
Our tour guide for New Orleans grew up in East New Orleans and is now a pastor in Slidell, LA. Driving through the ninth ward and witnessing the marks on the door, that signify the day entered, number of deaths, and whether or not to demolish the house, I realized there are no words for the emotions of saddness and regret that things were not different for this area.
What brings comfort, is the promise from God to Noah in Genesis: "Never again will I destroy all the earth with a flood." And so with the words of Ecclesiastes 3:3 ringing in my head, we are now in "a time to build"
May the light of Christ illuminate your path so that others are drawn to the hope of the World.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
"Bind us Together, Lord" is a hymn I sang often while a member at Peace Lutheran Church in Lompoc, CA. The refrain goes
"Bind us together Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. Bind us together Lord, bind us together Lord, bind us together in love."
I was a little more awake today at 0600. While strolling around the dorm area before breakfast, I noticed the sign from my parent's church on the wall. It's amazing how many different congregations have little works of art to say, "We were here to help." The connections between congregations in the ELCA and beyond who have worked here are incredible. The map shows people have come to help from Germany, Austria, England, South America, as well as all 50 states.
Today, I did more caulking and cleaning. Then, after lunch we were sent to a home that needed to be gutted. The original repairers from '06 mixed copper and aluminum electrical wire. This is a serious fire hazard, and while the electrical crew was attempting to just redo the wiring, it was determined that the insulation was not replaced from the flood.
Sheet rock, insulation, duct work, everything removed from the house. Twenty people working hard, so that next week the house can have new drywall installed. I don't recommend climbing into a dumpster to pack down fiberglass insulation so more can fit in...it makes ya itchy :)
It's hard right after a disaster, to imagine anything good coming from the situation. Yet, Paul in Romans 8:29 provides a glimmer of hope: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
In just a few days, I have seen the good God has done, uniting a diverse group of people for a common mission of taking care of our neighbors.
God be with you
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
"Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy." Psalm 61:2b-3
The day began at 0600, lights on and folks rolling out of their beds. Me, I was grateful that I didn't have anyone singing "I'm alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic" to get me to move.
I went to two homes with a mixed crew from PA, IA, MI, NJ, and I'm representing NY. Our task was to do the final cleaning and tweaking so folks can move in. Sweeping, mopping, window cleaning, caulking, etc. Whatever needed to happen to make the home look brand new, ready for someone to move in.
What a surprise, when the homeowner came by to say "Thank you, God, for sending these people. After two years, I'm finally going to come home." She's been living in a FEMA trailer on her front lawn with most of her furniture in a P.O.D. While she was there, we asked "Where do you want your towel rack?"
At the second home, WC, the owner also came into see the progress. The building inspector was on site, and WC will be able to return to his house next week once the stove is connected.
WC was one of the people who choose to ride at the storm. The winds blew at 150+mph for hours and the storm surge came at high tide. This 30 ft surge, pushed the water from the Gulf back up the canals and into neighborhoods. WC had water in his house up to about 24 inches. He and his wife were forced to live elsewhere for the last two years. Sadly, his wife of 50 years died in August, never seeing her home restored.
Today, I saw the promise of Psalm 60 come true. The transformation from despair, to hope and trust.
"O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses; you have been angry; now restore us! You have caused the land to quake; you have torn it open; repair the cracks in it; for it is tottering"
The Lamb of God is here, repairing what has been torn open. Thank you, Jesus, Amen.
Feel free to reply to this blog, that me know you're out there :)
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
My heart has been opened to the need: 60+ families still need help with food every week. Only 20% of the homes have been restored/rebuilt in south Mississippi. The statistics are mind numbing. Jesus invited the disciples to come and see. That invitation fits coming to Mississippi; there are three church camps that house and feed volunteers. Come and work in a wide variety of jobs, come and encounter the Lamb of God.
Tomorrow at 0800 I'll get dirty. I've been added to a church group from South Carolina to go to a housing development in Biloxi, MS to help paint, run electrical wire, and hang sheet rock.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I'm excited, bubbling with anticipation. Finally, I'm heading off to Mississippi to help with the continuing rebuilding efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I've been wanting to do this for two years, and other things were a higher priority. In December I decided, now is the time for action. So with hammer, steel toed boots and some work clothes in the bag, and several more items to squeeze in...time is growing short because I leave in 36 hours.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
In honor of this event, I invite you to remember your baptism. Go outside, find a mud puddle...roll around in it, splash in it, have a blast like an energetic two year old. Yeah, go get really dirty.
Then, come back inside, take a warm shower and as the water knocks the mud off; remember how in baptism, your sins are washed away. Everything you've regretted doing, everything that still makes you feel guilty has been washed away. Because Christ was baptized, we are made holy, pure and perfect before God.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
It is this unity that provides comfort after the death of a loved one or friend. To know that because the circle around the altar has no beginning, or end the people we miss are there...family members yet to be born are present...Christians from around the corner and around the world are next to us. In short, we are one gathered around Christ. It is mind blowing. To borrow phrases from Science Fiction, the space-time continuim is stretched and bent so that God's kingdom is fully present in those moments.
For this I thank God.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
In Matthew 2:1-12, they are called "Magi" and there is no particular number given in this passage. It could have been three, it could have been 30. Matthew didn't bother to let us know...therefore, it probably doesn't matter that much.
What does matter is that the Magi were the "Miss Cleo's" of their day, horoscope, astrologer, pseudo-scientists, who knew how to read the stars. In Matthew's gospel they were neither kings nor wisemen. Our word magic comes from "magi".
God used Magi, who were heretics to the community, to be among the first to worship Jesus as King of the Jews. God met them where they were with a sign they could understand.
And here's the good news for us: because God brought these outcasts to Jesus, there is nothing that we can do that will keep Jesus from us. Sure there are days were God may feel far off. Numerous psalms reflect this feeling, but all the while, Emanuel, God with us, is calling take my hand, I'm right next to you.