Thursday, February 28, 2013

We had our Free Community Dinner last night.  We turned on one of the ovens and it quickly became clear there was something on the bottom of the oven as the room filled with smoke.  So today I was at church on my knees with my head in the oven singing "Because He Lives."  Something humbling in cleaning up that mess and singing that hymn.  It's a humorous sight, but it's also true.  I was on my knees cleaning up a mess...knowing in the humility of the moment that I can get through today and tomorrow because I walk with my Lord.

I spend the day after those community dinners reflecting on the lives that came to the meal.  The turmoil that those lives are in or will face soon.  Today it's the children who caught my heart.  Children in poverty situations are revealing of so many wrongs in our world.

I think about the adults who came to dinner.  Some who are lost to society and ignored...many who are barely making it through....some who are just looking for a friend and other people to share a meal with....some who just like coming and enjoy it....All with a need.

I went to a Lenten Lunch yesterday where soup and bread was served and good Lenten message was preached.  We were all there searching....all from different places in life and different church traditions.  We were deliberate about being on a journey to the cross.  We will gather again next week...we're all in need.

I went yesterday and visited a woman in a nursing home with questions that she will be facing in the next week.  All around her were people who are forgotten...left behind in chairs and beds glimpsing the rest of the world through little TVs, cards and sometimes visitors.  The alarms went off and doors closed and the rooms became smaller....the alarm finally went still, the doors opened and no explanation given for the sudden disruption.  The helplessness of living in this was overwhelming.

There are days that bring us to our knees to be humbled by the reality of life.  I think again how being on my knees cleaning out a dirty oven floor and singing "Because He Lives" isn't quite as funny any more.  I need to be humbled and I need to know it is because Jesus lives I can do anything. 

May I always be humble enough to see the people along the journey to the cross and see them as children of God.   Don't let me not see them...don't let me blind myself, don't let my heart harden to them....God, use me....make me a blessing not a burden....use me.  Amen

Because He lives....I can face tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

God of grace...God of the weather and the creation and the one who breathes life into us.  ahhhhhhhhhh....When I fall today may I know you catching me.  When I succeed today may I feel your Spirit flow through me as I am vessel.  When I sit and reflect may I see you fingerprints.  As I wander through the day may I not forget you...May I remember you're there.  As I encounter your children may I see you and not the things that break relationships....and I mean that in friends, family nad strangers.  (So, that includes driving)

God of the world...may I know beyond myself.  May I be open to where you need me today.

May I know you today, Lord.  May I not be caught up in the me, but in the you.

ok, today....I'm ready.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I'm really not sure where to start with this's really very personal so bear with me if I meander through....I just hope it makes sense.

Today was one of those days where I woke to a bad day.  I was arguing with my husband and children, I had the worst headache in months, my computer freaked out and it was raining.  I was in a VERY bad mood would be just the beginning of my problems.  So you can imagine how praying probably wasn't the easiest thing for me to even atempt today...but it was the one thing I needed most.

I went to the office...but I hit the couch elsewhere in the building pretty quickly and lay there looking at the wood ceiling and beams and letting my mind go.  It was I could be silent.  I could just listen.  I collapsed into the hand of God and just lay there in many ways.  I listened as the rain pitter pattered on the roof and I looked the ceiling imagining the hands that created it.   I just lay there in the fingers of God and let God do God's thing....Romans says the Spirit intervenes where we don't know what to was one of those days. 

I admit the anger was still there when my husband brought me lunch, but we were able to get to completion of the argument and make a plan for resolution and growth.  Growth is important...the argument is only healthy if it brings good stuff.  I think this one will, but it was painful to get there.  That is life...and it's not's worth it, but it's not easy.  And when it's 2 strongwilled people who love each other the process is worth the growth point.

Today I found God in the silence as I collapsed and I found God in the argument and in the rain.  I found God in the wholeness of the day from bad start to now...and I know God will be there as I love life into sleep and tomorrow.  If I hadn't found God.....oh, the pain of being stuck there is not something I want to know.  I am grateful for the prayers of silence and the Spirit's intervention.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength;
 let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment.
Isaiah 41:1
This is where I began today in my devotions.  Now, undertand it's Monday.  Sundays are chaotic so Monday is the aftermath.  So, sitting down and finding the silence was/is painful and impossible.  I managed to be as squirmy as possible, as talky as possible, reaching for distractions and finding every possible way not to be in the silence as possible.  There are just moments like that.
Then as I moved through the day I turned on the radio, I filled the space around me and I have listened to every sound that has passed by.  I'm almost filled to the point of yelling...."turn that damn thing off!" to the next sound that filters in.  I'm ready for the silence.  I want the silence, but I'm so busy.
I had to move and engage life to be able to reach the silence.  Truth...I had things I had to finish.  I a relationship to go deeper in as Ii asked forgiveness for an oversight....I had Bible study to challenge me...I had life details to square away.  I can approach God without all of those things crowding out the silence. 
I finally found the silence.  Or I thought I found it...then the phone rang and  was off again.  Ever feel this way?  Like no matter what you's impossible to filter out life so you can just be in the silence to you can be renewed? 
I may have never hit silence, but I sure found God.  I found God in the warmth of the the story of communion told by a son about his the secret gift a pastor took to the hospice the flood of relief in the words of friendship from a dear the love of my daughter and the kindness of my husband.  I found God in the chaos as I searched for the silence.
Sometimes I'm looking in the wrong place.....

Saturday, February 23, 2013

prayer....Over the past couple years I've been questioned by some relationships on how to pray.   Some saying there are "correct" ways to pray and one person accused a group of us of not praying correctly.  Another conversation about how to pray and "Am I doing it Right?" as the primary question.

Prayer for me is an intimate conversation with the Lord.   As a child it is was on a play phone that I would dial and tap into my own privately phone line to God.  As I grew up I learned to just talk.  I actually knew how to sneak into the church my Dad was serving and "hang out" with God.   We would talk and eventually I learned how to sing.  As an adult I've found driving to be a great place to pray...the shower works well, too. 

Prayer is like talking with my best friend.  Sometimes I talk...sometimes I listen....most of the time we're just together.  Sometimes I laugh....sometimes I cry...most of the time we're just getting through each day together.  Sometimes we're incredibly close and sometimes my walls are up and I feel the loneliness of my isolation.  Sometimes I read scripture...sometimes I watch the wind blow and feel the rain on my skin wash me clean.  Sometimes I feel the sunshine and sometimes I feel the hug of another person. 

Each day is different.  Each day I am different.  Each day finds me in the correct position to pray more often than not....or maybe it's just that I don't believe that are incorrect ways to be with God.  Being correct isn't the's's bbeing with God.  God knows me in my correctness and my incorrectness...and God uses all of it to mold me and shape me.


Friday, February 22, 2013

I laid in bed hearing the icy rain fall last evening...this morning I'm listening to the cars drive quickly towards their destinations.  The scroll on the TV is showing schools on delays and my daughter is happily watching MeTV.  It's a pause in the routine, which I love to have.  Our mornings seem like a whirlwind of activity with me getting glimpses of my girls running out the door to face the world.  Today, one of them got a little pause in the schedule. 

The other is on her way out the door and avoiding my's not the normal's helpful advice.  LOL!  I recognize that too often she gets the don't forget this and don't forget that kind of advice...the things she can figure out on her own.  But this was helpful once she stopped to listen...I even got the kiss on the cheek thanks as she took the advice. 

Between my own busy-ness and my ability to not want to listen (Yep, my daughter gets it from me!) I miss opportunities to be with God, to hear God's voice, to know whose child I am.  Blessedly it's Lent.  I have no excuses.  It's a  commitment I've made.  So today, I will work to listen, to know and to be with the blessings God sends my way.

We're well into this Lenten's too easy to let go and not journey.  I pray we all stay strong.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I'm tired today.  I woke up cranky and dreading the day.  So, I also waited to blog.  The last thing I want is for this to become my person bitch is Lent after all and I'm thinking this faith thing needs to go a bit deeper than that.

I've been in a place of doubt recently.  I've been questioning a lot of things and feeling pretty dried up in my own spiritual life.  This blog is forcing me to drink from the well.  More correctly...Lent is forcing me to drink from the well of God's presence.  (It's more than  that, but I'm not sure on how else to look at it.)

Today in my crankiness I had to face frustration from myself and from others.  It was valid and it is normal.  But we had to work it out and we did.  What I/we found was grace.  I needed grace today.  I needed grace from women who love me in the midst of frustration.  I found God today in these women and their grace. 

So often frustration can lead to anger the desire to dig our feet in and be right.  We get caught in the taking of sides or self righteousness.  We forget we're dealing with people.  Broken relationships can be our society lives are destroyed and changed out of frustration.  Look at the guy on the plane last week who was drunk frustrated and now picking up the pieces of his stupidity.  Anyway...frustration can get out of hand and get in our way very quickly.

Or there's grace...the ability to get beyond and into relationship of love.  To love others.  That's what we're about...the church.  We're called to be in love.  Today it was easy...others days it's not so easy.  But it's always the message.  It may get lost in bunch of theological well meaning other stuff...but the message is a message of love.

I may still be dealing with my doubts....but I'm also finding I'm seeing more love these days.  More grace.  Maybe because I'm craving it and I'm looking for God I'm finding it.  Maybe Lent is more of reminder to drink from the well more often.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I started reading First Samuel again.  I'm struck by so many things especially in light of the world today.  The Philistine caught my attention in particular.  Hard not to when if I pay any attention to what is going in the Middle East these days.  See, I'm intrigued and trying to understand the culture in a new way.  So, I Googled the Philistines...besides going back to the 12th or 13th century BCE the city Gaza caught my attention.

I've grown up hearing about Gaza in the news and 25 years ago had the blessing of studying Israel/Palestinian relations in school as well as the UN Seminar through the Christian Church in Ohio.  I was struck back then by the depth of conviction each side had that they were "right".  I was used to then and even more now...change.  Today I watch as politicians are locked in mud with short vision and shorter memories.  So many people around me have no understanding of their own past nor the history of our country these days.  So conviction doesn't carry the weight of history for me as it did/does in the arguments of the Middle East.

Looking at scripture and reading of the battles between Israel and the Philistines and places like Gaza it is clear that the Middle East is more complicated than I can understand.   We're talking about people who can trace their family trees and lives back centuries and know the history of the land like I know fairy tales.

I live in a place of peace that has barely been touched by war and that war has become a romantic memory to be relived 150 years later as if it were elegant.  It was a bloody hellish thing that scarred our country and destroyed lives.  But we don't recognize that...we block it away.  I grew up with WWII veterans, but they didn't tell stories.  I saw them in their eyes as black shadows would cross their worn and weathered facees, but stories were rare.  They sheltered us from the ugly.

Violence, hatred and ugly is not something you can hide from in the Middle East.  And it goes back centuries into a history we barely even consider relevant.  The NRSV uses the phrase "The Philistines mustered for war against Israel" as if it was something they hungered for.  It was ingrained in the life of the people.

Lent....a time to know God.  A time to grow closer to God.  A time to really understand my faith which means looking at the depth of cinviction, history and scripture.  I can not fully understand Jesus on a cross if I don't understand the meaning of Messiah and I can't understand Messiah if I don't know the story of David and Israel.  I can't understand the future if I stand in ignorance.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I lead a Bible study on Monday morning that is one of the best things in ministry.  Today it got better.  One of the members laid out the challenge last week for all of us to bring a passage today that we had questions about from out personal reading over the week.  Several folks followed thru and we had one of those deep theological conversations seminary students dream of and seasoned pastors get giddy about.  I can't wait until next week.

To engage scripture seems so easy.  We can all read, we can all think.  But so often we just don't do it.  (Pastor friends...I've read the same studies you have about how much we take care of our own spiritual lives.  Thank goodness for Lent!)  Anyway, it's sad.

One woman brought a passage from 1st Kings about David's death.  She was caught by the soap opera aspect of it.  Love that part personally.  It brings that real sense of humanness to the Biblical role models.

We also looked at Proverbs and wisdom....which we're going to pick up next week.  And several other things we'll pick up as we go along.

Lent...a time to be shaped and to grow closer to God....a time to engage the scriptures and know the story.  Today I put the challenge out to read...maybe start with 1st Samuel and really know who King David was between Goliath and the crown.  What is it about him that makes him special?  Come on....there's nothing as good on TV tonight anyway!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Life invades some days...sorry about yesterday...but see if my reflection doesn't give something to ponder in light of Lent.

Ever have one of those days when nothing goes well/right/decent?  EVERYTHING goes wrong?  Yesterday!  It included the all out argument with the spouse to make the day worse.  Neither of us dealt well with anything and made the day one of those that you wish at noon were over.  It was like being stuck in a groove and not knowing how to get out and looking at the other person screaming for help and they are just as stuck...Together we were mess!

Have I painted a good enough picture?  You've been there...we all have.  There are just those days in life.  Today I'm sitting here with the sun on my face looking into the face of a different day...calm, sane and happy.  I'm not yelling....not breaking anything  (Yep, I'm a breaker...that's a whole other blog, but it's also my confession of the moment.)  I have dinner in the crock pot and I'm off with my girls for a lovely experience.

Michael on the other hand woke up cold with a headache...after wrapping up in bathrobe and blankets and swearing he was fine I told him he had the flu.  He, of course, swore he didn't.  He's now quarantined in the back of the house and forbidden to breathe on us.  He's also calling someone else to preach.  I'll save the I was right moment for later since I'll probably come down with it next. 

Lent....Thursday was love...Friday was is life...each day is different.  Each day provides the opportunity to look at another part of our lives.  Yesterday provided the ugly side...the side I don't like living out and really hate admitting to.  It's a place I would rather never visit...but it's also a place where deep passions are confirmed.  Anger is a place where I see how deeply I love my husband and my self.  It's a place where I see my sinful side up close and ugly and start working on it.  It's a place to begin changing my sins into something else.

Anger used to scare me.  I thought it was sinful to be angry.  Then I engaged the picture of Jesus being woken up in the boat to calm the storm.  Or Jesus turning tables in the temple.  Anger isn't the sin.  It's a motivating force in life that when used properly changes us for the better.  When used improperly can become sin.

Lent...each day brings a new challenge to look ourselves.  From basking in deep love to the passion of deep's all good clay for God's fingers.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I have to admit I'm glad to see my blog wasn't completely ignored and lost in the shuffle yesterday....was a pleasant surprise to see people liking and commenting on Facebook.  Thanks for joining along.

Valentines Day for Michael and I has always been very simple.  Our first was a Sunday night in seminary after a weekend of telling our parents we were getting married.  Let me tell you there's nothing romantic in that at all!  The engagement being expected by one set of parents and a complete surprise to the other should have let us in on surprises to come in the future, but we blessedly were naive.  Anyway, we kept Valentines simple....Pizza! thin crust mushroom and sausage.  We're doing our 20th tonight....that's hard to imagine!

Yesterday I went to the grocery to pick up a few things and was joking with the cashier about the overflow of balloons, flowers and stuff all around him.  We laughed about the men who would ravage the display in the next 36 hours trying to make someone happy.  I told him our tradition and he wished everyone could be that simple about it.

The thing is that simple.  It's the gentle touch of a hand to hold walking down the street, the voice you want to hear on the other end of the phone, the presence you want to feel safe in.  I'm not mushy type...I'm more the obnoxious screaming strange things to make you laugh type...but it's ok, he gets it....he gets the way my head works...the way my heart works.

Loving my husband today is such a good way to start Lent.  To know that God's love is deeper and more of everything is intense.  I love my husband and would be lost without him so starting Lent here is good.  God's love being more is amazing to me.  To ponder that love and to know that love as I wander to the cross makes me take a deep breath as if preparing for God's finger to reach over and mold my soft clayness. 

To back in God's love as I walk to the cross this confess my sins in the midst of that basking....Thanking God for loving me so much.....

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday 2013

I debated back and forth as to whether I wanted to do this this year, but I think I do.  If you want to hang with me great...if not, I hope you find someplace to feed you through Lent.  I sat down a couple weeks ago to work on a devotional and got the outline organized...then life settled in again and the devotional isn't happening.  So, I offer my own journey through Lent to share with friends who want to do this with me.  It may get pretty love my honesty some days.

Ash Wednesday...the beginning of Lent!  Ok, so I'm sure everyone has good intentions for the next 40 days (not including Sundays) to prepare themselves for Good Friday and Easter.  Honestly, I don't!  I've been making plans lately and they haven't been working out so well.  Yep, I get up and think I know what I'm doing for the day and by the end of it I'm baffled.  The plan was shot 5 minutes after I made it and the day was not the "planned" day by any stretch.  So, for Lent, I have very few plans.  I hope to blog...I hope to do 2 Bible studies...I hope to be open to God's plans and forget trying my own.  Get the word hope in there.

So, I opened my copy of  The Message this morning.  If you don't have a copy, you need one!  Anyway....Romans 12!  My favorite passage....ok, one of the top 10ish.  Here you go...

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

So, it's the idea of Fixing the antention on God and the last part about how it's what God is and does that's important.  Those were the lines that grabbed me this morning and help me to define Lent this year.  It's not really about all the's about God.  Holding on to God, focusing on God, living out of an understanding of being God's child, living with the understanding YOU are God's child with me.  It's that last part that society differs with in the ever present destrustion of the other person.

So, I, or better yet, we, begin Lent.  We begin this journey that takes us back to the cross and then onto the empty tomb of Easter.  God's fingers molding and shaping know a deeper relationship with this God who created us, breathes life into us and so much more.

May we each know God's voice in this journey!