Thursday, December 17, 2015

Advent gift

I read my devotion this morning, not at my usual spot at the table, but on the couch in the glow of the Christmas tree.  (Partly because that was where I left my book last night.)  It has been especially hard this morning to turn off my brain, with the thoughts, joys, and frustrations of this incredibly busy week and month.  Like most people, especially this time of year, it is very difficult for me to shut my mind off the ever-flowing stream of life events and to-do's that seem to pour over and flood any attempt to quiet myself in prayer.

Yet, for some reason that I cannot explain, the words of the hymn "Spirit of the Living God" suddenly appeared randomly and unexpectedly this morning into that stream of busy and worried thought.  Who knows the last time I heard or sung that song in church.  And it's certainly not a Christmas hymn!  I'll take it though, not as an act of my scattered brain, but rather as a small Advent gift from the mystery of God.  Even when I try to create space for quiet and prayer, life creeps in and takes over.  And I let it.  Nine times out of ten.

But perhaps this morning I was freely given the tune and words to a favorite hymn as a gentle (or adamant?) reminder to pause...turn inward....and let the Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.

If only for a minute.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. 
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.  


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Guest Post: You Are My Witnesses


A guest post from Jeff.  Grateful for his words and his call to compassion, thoughtfulness and peace.
...........................

In 2006, I was given the opportunity to go to Poland as part of a Holocaust remembrance trip for college and seminary students.  As a part of the trip, each group was placed together with a Jewish tour guide as well as a Holocaust survivor.  The survivor’s name was Pinchas, and throughout the week he shared his story with us.  We listened to him talk about the prejudice against Jews, and his experience of being forced into a Warsaw Jewish ghetto that was made smaller and smaller, until finally they packed everyone onto cattle cars and shipped them off to the concentration camps.  We stood in the concentration camp of Majdanek where his entire family was murdered and listened to him talk about his experiences in that place.

That trip shaped my life, and it also made me painfully aware of what is possible when a group of human beings are deemed as “other” because of their race, nationality, religion, physical or mental abilities, and even sexuality.  I say this because Jewish people were not the only ones murdered in the Holocaust, although the majority of those killed were Jewish. Close to six million Jewish people were killed.  But Gypsies, Poles, political dissidents and dissenting clergy, people with physical and mental disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and other groups were exterminated simply because of who they were or what they believed.

Why do I say this now?  I am not one to speak politically.  I believe in the separation of church and state.  However, when I hear or read something from the state that strikes to the core of my experience in Poland, I have to stop, and I have to speak.  It is my Christian duty to speak. 

The conversation has shifted, and now we are talking about turning away all Muslims from the United States.  Perhaps this is just campaign rhetoric. However, people strongly agree with this sentiment.  It has gone from turning away refugees (yikes) to turning away a group of people because of their religion.  This is the platform of one of the frontrunners for the presidency:  Turn all Muslims away because we do not know which ones are good and which ones are bad. 

I recognize that this is a complicated situation because the evil we face comes from a radicalized group that is rooted in Islam, yet is greatly distorting the Islamic faith.  But distorting the faith is not something that ISIS has a monopoly on.  With Jerry Falwell Jr saying:  "I've always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in," it should remind us that a violent branch of Christianity is only a trigger-finger away.


Perhaps we need to step back, America, and take a look at ourselves.  Perhaps we need to step back and take a look at history.  If the language we are using or the values we are espousing reflect in any way the language and values of 1930’s Germany, we may have a problem.  Because once we label a group of people as “other,” we begin slowly to remove their humanity.  And when you remove someone’s humanity, anything is possible.  Just ask Pinchas.   

video
Pinchas, standing in Majdanek, telling the story of what it was like the last time he stood there.

Playing "We Shall Overcome" at Auschwitz-Birkenau
Crematory ovens at Majdanek

One of many crematory ovens 
Monument/Mausoleum  of ashes at Majdanek





Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wonder: For Milly

Wonder:  For Milly

Do I have to light a candle?
The lights are on but the world feels dark.
And I am afraid - that if I light a candle
No one will see it.
Those who need it most will never know it is burning for them.

Do I have to light a candle?
These days I wonder - what for?
What good does it do to talk about hope;
To pray for peace;
To desperately ask for healing and answers in a world so broken
And cracked with pain?

Do I have to light a candle
And pretend I have the hope necessary
To muddle through another rainy day?

No.

I do not have to light a candle today.

But then I think of you.
A Wonder I never met.
You caused us all to wonder - what for?
For joy, for life, for love.
Your giant spirit outshining the darkest days,
And brightening lives for good.

You will always shine.
And I -
I have to light a candle.
I have to.
Today.  And tomorrow.
For you.
And for the world you blessed.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bartimaeus

I'm preaching on the blind beggar Bartimaeus in Mark 10 this week.  Needless to say, I'm struggling a bit with my direction.  Isn't it true that Bartimaeus, even blind, could see better than the rest, and Jesus helped breathed new life into him when nobody else would give him the time of day. So what does it mean to be healed...and what does it mean to see?  I realize this is a story, not to be taken so literally and to be viewed in the greater context of the entire Gospel of Mark.  But still!!  The greatest and most frustrating part about scripture - there are so many treasures within and endless ways to look at just a few short verses.  This morning I tried a little poetry....just needing to get it off my chest.

"Bartimaeus"

Without my eyes
would I recognize the glorious colors of sun rising
tell apart the blaze of orange from the sizzle of yellow
or the crystal dew sparkling on a blade of grass

Without my vision
would I be able to reach out and touch
grasping and holding
life that is living and breathing and wondering and calling

Without my eyes
how could I know, how would I trust
that the one walking by me cares enough
to see me
to beckon me
in a crowd bursting with status and esteem

Without my eyes to study and examine and analyze and critique
would I ever understand all that there is
to be realized in this great big world

I am finding it to be true,
though I am hushed,
that this great Life finds me
And, without my eyes,
I see life anew

So I walk along

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September Prayer

I turned the page of my daily devotion - "Glimpses of Grace" (Madeleine L'Engle) and saw the word written in all caps across the page:

SEPTEMBER

I cannot believe it has arrived.  Yet, I say that every year.  Fall is always welcome in my life.  It is my favorite.  I adore the breeze and can stare at the changing wardrobe of the trees for hours.  Pumpkin spice anything is one of the best flavors to hit my tongue since last season.  There is a crispness to everything, from crackling leaves under shoes to the air that brings tears to my eyes when I look up to the sky at dusk.

I love it.  But I'm never quite ready for it.

John Mayer says it best in one of his songs:  "When autumn comes, it doesn't ask.  It just walks in where it left you last.  And you never know when it starts, until there's fog inside the glass around your summer heart."

The other seasons seem to happen more gradually.  And I'm not just talking about the weather because I know that it will still feel like summer well into September!  I'm talking about the weight of the words themselves - Fall; autumn; September.

We attach so many images, thoughts, memories and ideas to very basic words.  We plan our days around the changes each season brings and decorate our homes accordingly.

Fall means that part of creation and the blossoming of summer months is dying, turning in for the season, inhaling its last breaths for hibernation, stillness, barrenness.  And once we're in the thick of Fall, Winter's arrival feels more ordinary and natural (although not always as welcome).

Fall changes the psyche in exciting ways.  Sometimes I have no trouble saying "bye" to summer...the same way Abbey enthusiastically waves "bye" to me as I lay her down at night.  Other years I do struggle with letting summer go.  Fall, despite the thinness of the trees by November's end is a heavier time of year.  It brings physical challenges with the dropping of the temperature and fewer hours of daylight.  The cold and dark can be overwhelming to many of us.   In a few short weeks, the talk of holidays and family gatherings will pop up and settle on us - whether we anticipate these times or dread them like the flu.

We never know what to expect or how our season will unfold.  But one thing is for sure, Autumn comes without asking.  Before the leaves begin to fall and die, I pray the soil of our summer hearts is tilled and ready to keep warm in the cold of night.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ladybug

Stop living your days...weeks...months
every single tiny breath
trapped inside someone else's assumed assumptions
(or are they our own?)
Isn't life more than the "I wonder what he is thinking?"
and the
"I should have done it this way"?

Listen more deeply to the way the sun sets
after a sticky summer day.
Feel the weight of black dots on a ladybug's back
as it carefully crawls up the arm.
Watch the way a child gleefully discovers one leaf among many
stuck across the driveway.
As if last rainfall placed them there on purpose
to see how long it would take them to dry.

The laughter of life unfolds every day
Every sunrise.  Each sunset.
Even on the darkest of nights when the stars cannot be seen.
And the air is so thick you could drown in it.

When the brim of your cup overflows with gushes of goodness,
When your well is so dry you can taste the salt seeping from your skin,
or falling from your eyes....

Don't live your days as if each and every day does not matter.
Or isn't right.
Or holy.
Or meant to be good.

Enough with the voice that screams and kicks and hates.

It only takes a glimpse of sunlight to remind the rose or shimmer the sparkle in the eye.
Even in the rain.
And sometimes...especially.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Longing

She wakes up slowly.  The alarm on her phone buzzing louder the longer she takes to tap its screen.

She rubs her eyes and notices the time.  Yawning all the way out of bed to the bathroom...the living room...turning open the blinds to see it is still summer.

The first cup of coffee is a steamy, slow, comfortable ritual.  Another look out the window.  She wishes for the dewy haze of morning to last until noon.  But by then it's much too hot and the morning is already thought of as a long lost friend.

Wondering where the time has gone, she closes her email and exits out of Facebook.  What did we do before computers?  She taps a pen on the desk and twirls a strand of hair around her left pointer finger.

There is a Longing there.  It is close enough to tap her on the shoulder but quick enough to skirt away when she turns to look.  There is something deep within, closer than her breath, but hard to make out.  Like the direction of wind on a still summer day.

What is it that keeps us from doing what we were created to do?  Who tells us when and how to live our lives?

Well certainly that depends on who you ask and the circumstances of life, she is reminded.

And still.  It feels important...it feels like something bigger than herself... But the finger cannot confidently place its source.  And then the head turns on 70 mph, and the heart tires with guilt and should's and ought to's.  She listens too obediently.

 So why can't she shake it off?  Why can't she go on with the daily routine, happy and carefree?

The Longing.  It is like walking through a spiderweb.  You cannot see it so you walk right through it and it sticks to you like glue.  And you carry it with you because it is too sticky to shake off.  It becomes your second skin.


Friday, July 24, 2015

A Day in the Life

I read the news again, oh boy….

Except this time the lucky man didn't make the grade and the English army wasn't fighting.

But a crowd of people are staring.  In Charleston…Chattanooga….Waller County, Texas…Lafayette, Louisiana.  It's a new day so just fill in the blank. A crowd of people staring.   In disbelief, in horror, in grief.  Faithful church goers; family of slain service men; the loved ones of Sandra Bland; people who just wanted to see a movie.

And other crowds of people are going on their merry way.  Ignoring the horror, not phased by fear.  At least so it seems.

Aren't we tired?  Tired of hearing the same story with different characters every day?  Aren't we tired of the rants, the hatefulness, the arrogance and righteousness we throw at each other?  These stones aimed at disagreeing parties behind the safety wall of our computer screens.  Because that'll show 'em.  That will make a difference.  That will prove that I am right and they are wrong.  That will teach them to shut up. And really...isn't that what it's all about anyway, teaching each other to shut up because we disagree?  It couldn't be about something more, could it?  Like - oh I don't know - another human being's life?  More human blood spilled due to…. fill-in-the-blank because it's all starting to blur together anyway.  More stories of love being denied because it's too offensive.  And all the while people are dying and children are crying out in the streets with nothing to eat and no one to read them a bedtime story.

All I hear is deafening silence about the stuff that really matters.  The kind of silence that remains complacent and ignores hard truths.  The kind of silence that prefers status quo over uncomfortable conversation.

God forbid that God's love would move any of us to change.  Even in the slightest bit.
God forbid that we will finally be so sick and tired of it all that we do the hard work of looking within.  What is (or isn't) going on within our own hearts that allows us to turn a blind eye to the devastation around us?

Would it be too hard?  Too time consuming?  Too inconvenient?

What will it take for our hearts, and the hearts of those in power, to break long enough before we really do something that matters?  Not just for ourselves, but for someone one else who is just trying to make ends meet, too.  Just trying to get by.  Just trying to be happy.  Just reaching for the "dream."

Last I checked the population was more than 1.

I read the news again, oh boy….

But "life gets in the way," we say after another sip of coffee.
And then another life has passed us by.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Praying for Enough.

Zoom in.  To the pen and paper.  The way the ink feels as it slides across the page.  Turning lines into letters.  Thoughts - abstract and uncertain - into words.  Words into sentences, careless about the sense they make.  The question is always what to write.  The weather.  The way the sky looks as the day begins.  The sounds of a house not yet awake.  A day just barely begun.  The list of things to-do today.   My body is tired and restless at the same time.  My heart longs for God.

Zoom in.  To the bucket dipping into the well of my soul, wondering if I have to lower it all that much to get anything.  I hope not.  I hope the water is further down.  I hope insight and creativity pool with it.

I hope there will always be enough.

There's that word again.  Enough.

I think there will.  Always be enough, that is.

If I look at the world - and not just my part of it.  Not just my corner.
Look beyond the scope of my eyes.  There's really a lot out there.  Given.  Provided.

If I think even longer at it, I realize that we had absolutely nothing to do with it.  With the way it got here or how it came to be.  Enough before my very eyes and beyond my very eyes.
All of our eyes.
Blue.  Green.  Brown.  Gray.  Darker Brown.  Steel.  Colors that mix together.

I had nothing to do with how enough got here.  But I have something to do with how it can continue to be enough.

My saddest days are when my green eyes see infinite as finite.  When enough expires.
It comes with confusion, chaos, insanity.  Everyone running around like headless chickens screaming, "mine!"

Then I think about the story of the loaves and fishes.  Every stomach filled.  Every heart full.  Every pair of eyes looked into and cared for.  And then - leftovers.

If that is the meaning of our existence, then we have some work to do.

Zoom out.  Look beyond my eyes.  There is enough.

Go and live as though you see it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wake Up.

I sit here watching her sleep.  I notice the simple rhythm of breathing as her tiny body rises ever so gently with each inhale.  One arm folds around in a self-hug, her hand tucked warmly in the crevice of the elbow.  A sudden movement and she rubs her eye.  A sleepy reminder that this nap is not ready to be over.  I watch her and my heart aches.

What kind of world will she grow up in?
One that values the lives of all people or one that will teach her that no where is safe?  Not even schools.   Or sidewalks.  Or churches.

What kind of world will she grow up in?

A world wrought with the horrors of violence and racism, sexism and hate? Or one of justice and compromise, conversation and respect?

Will the things we teach her now matter at all when she is 5 or 15 or 25?

As someone who was born with white skin, how can we teach her that people who look different are still brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends, co-workers, schoolmates?  And by the time she is grown will the barriers be drawn even tighter than they are now?

I sit here watching her sleep.  So peacefully.  Not a fear in the world.  And my heart aches.

My heart aches because she is so innocent to the horrific things that happen in this world.

My heart aches because there are so many children who do not know the peace she knows...and never will.

My heart aches because every day we come to a church and we always feel safe.  We take it for granted.  And now for so many people, predominately those whose skin is darker than mine, that sense of safety at church has been replaced with fear, and hate, and blood.  Where else can they go?

How long, O Lord, how long?

We all want to do something to create positive and lasting change.
The sooner we step beyond ourselves and our own sense of privilege and pride, the sooner we can cry with those who are afflicted.  The sooner we can mourn the loss of our siblings in Christ.  And the sooner we can step into our specific role in the work of justice and peace.

I don't know where to begin, or what to do, so I suppose I will start with myself and the precious little girl whom I call daughter.

Love people.  ALL people.
Racism is still a problem.  What can I do to recognize it and be a part of healing rather than division?
You never know what someone is going through.  Be kind.  Be kind.  Be kind.

The world has so much to offer.  Why do we feel the need to live as though it has been given to only a token few?
There is nothing we can do to reverse what has been done - violence towards our black brothers and sisters; violence toward those who love different, look different, believe different than another.

As a minister I wish I could say I understood why these things happen.  It would be foolish to pretend that I do.

But as a minister, and most importantly as just an ordinary person who loves God and tries to follow Jesus, I believe with every ounce of my being that God created the world in love for us all.  For us all.  And we are all - all - created in that holy image.  How can we destroy one another with our words, our hate, our prejudice?  How?  And almost more heartbreakingly - how can we go on living as though it doesn't matter?  How?

As I watch my daughter sleep, my heart aches for those whose lives were ripped apart last night in Charleston.  And for those who walk cautiously because they are afraid of people with skin like mine.  And how can I blame them?  So much damage has been done.  We must do what we can in the places we live to turn the tables of hate into platforms of peace.

It starts with one.  One sleeping baby to wake up.  One sleeping nation to be fed up with the way things are.

To my daughter - wake up to the world God so loves.  Claim you love it too.  And do everything in your power to see that love filter through every corner...of every place…you go.  Hate is limited but love knows no bounds.  Choose to be a part of love.  



Praying for Charleston.  Praying for Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
 




Monday, June 15, 2015

(not) Too late to write...

I don't know what I'm doing.  My brain usually shuts off right at or just before 8:12 p.m.  I'm not usually in bed by now, rather curled up on the couch watching How I Met Your Mother reruns - asleep.  So the fact that I'm blogging only means one of three things:

1.  I can't find any reruns of HIMYM while channel surfing and I'm too lazy to grab one of our (every) season on DVD.
2.  Abbey is in dreamland and Jeff is at band practice.
3.  Inspiration has rattled my bones.

Okay it means two of three things.  Or all three but I haven't turned on the t.v. to see if I hit the trifecta.

But mainly, I'm putting a little nugget out here because I've been inspired and I need to hold myself accountable to that inspiration.  On Friday night I returned from the inaugural Frederick Buechner Writer's Workshop at Princeton Seminary.  I'll save the "small-town girl travels to the big city" post for another day.

Right now, with the dwindling bits of energy I have left, I want to put into just a few words how incredible the week was.  So - for brevity's sake, I'll use bad grammar, lots of quotes, and wonderful fragments.

-Barbara Brown Taylor is about as close to God as I've come so far in my 31 years.  And I was standing right next to her at the coffee shop one morning.  (I'm sure she wanted to talk to me just as badly, right?)  I know she's only human, but really, we all have to be star-struck fans every once in a while.
- When asked if there was a particular place she goes to write, BBT mentioned a little place on her property that helps her focus and center herself.  The questioner asked, "So like a hermitage?"  "Well," BBT shrugged, "…like a shed." It was funny. You had to be there.
-New friends are like a giant cold glass of Gatorade at the end of a run on a smothering kind of day.
-New friends who are amazing writers who you never would've met otherwise are like a gallon of cold Gatorade at the end of a run on a smothering kind of day.
-"Writing is sacrament.  Writing provides an occasion for mystery.  And mystery is the presence of more meaning than you can comprehend."  Thank you Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce.
-tell the truth
-"change occurs in the context of relationship"
-BBT - what does it mean to write for thousands of people?  - "it's not about vomiting up your hairballs in public"
-Rachel Held Evans - to be a writer, you need a thick skin and a tender heart.
-Sarah Arthur - What is that one thing you must start/finish/work on?
-"Journal writings are offerings of something like a prayer.  There is an audience who hears us, even if we never share."  Thank you again, Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce.

I want to be a writer.  There I said it.  To all seven of you! ;)

I don't know where to begin or where it will end, but someone once said you have to start somewhere.

Reading is a good place to start.  I am ashamed to admit there are many classics of which I have not creased the binding.

Therefore, may it be so that on this 15th day of June, 2015, I, Anne Ross Bruce, hereby declare this the

"Summer of Reading and Writing"

Which means I'm going to read and write like never before.

I have some thoughts on where to begin, but would appreciate any recommendations you can muster!

(I should set some concrete goals, though, shouldn't I?  But it's already 10:02...)

I knew it was too late to write…more where this came from.

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
Frederick Buechner






Thursday, May 28, 2015

Closing Time

There are two songs I love with the title, "Closing Time."  The first is the 90s classic by Semisonic.  If you grew up in the late 80s & 90s, you know this song and (hopefully) love it.  If you don't love it, then  I'm not sure we can be friends. (Just kidding. Maybe…).  It's one of those songs that perfectly captures bittersweet moments of ending and transition.  It's the ideal high school graduation song - or college graduation since it says something about whiskey and beer.   The signature quotable line is, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."  Sigh. Genius.

The other song with this title is one by Texas artist Sean McConnell.  When Jeff & I lived in Fort Worth, we became big fans (bordering on groupie) of Sean McConnell because we loved his music, and mainly because one of Jeff's childhood buddies was Sean's touring drummer.  I became obsessed with his album, "Saints, Thieves, and Liars" near the time we moved from Fort Worth.  The raw ballads captured so poetically the tearing pieces of my heart as I prepared to leave a place & people I had come to love while also anticipating with excitement the new beginning ahead.  The song on this album, "Closing Time", actually came after my very favorite song on the album.  It's a song about a romantic relationship ending, and so at first I didn't pay much attention to it.  But the melody grew on me and soon I found myself belting it out in the car as a farewell prayer for the life I was leaving.

Closing time.

As May turns to June there are a lot of endings approaching.  The end of Spring.  The end of school.  Graduation season.  Transitions from one place to another.  For us church nerds it is the end of the Easter season.  I think many of us could safely say that the month of May is typically a time of closing, ending, and goodbyes.

I don't have any significant closings in my life this year.  But many people I know are saying goodbye to high school, or college, or seminary.  Many parents I know are hanging on to the slipping thread of final moments in their senior's last year of high school.  Some people I know are preparing to pack up their lives in boxes, say their goodbyes, and move to a new city or state.

Closing time.

Today I wrote in the final page of the journal I have had since December 2012.  This particular journal was the thickest one I have ever owned.  And although I have been writing more regularly in these last few years than I ever have, this is the longest amount of time I have spent in one journal.  There was also a long stretch of time after Abbey was born where I was either too lost in exhaustion or despair to pick up my pen.

It's a weird feeling to write a final entry in a book that has literally been by your side for 2 and a half years.  In one sense it's an ending, but only for me.  It's not like a graduation where you have a whole group of people to commemorate the experience while leaning on one another's shoulders.  In the grand scheme of things, an end to a particular journal is not a big deal - like, at all.  It's not as though I'll stop writing and it doesn't make any difference to anyone else.  But it does to me.  This journal has carried me through a lot.  A lot of new beginnings and a lot of closing times.  It's been there in my continued struggles of call and ministry.  It has been the home for my prayers and most recently, my creative writing exercises.  In the early pages I expressed despair and sorrow for the shooting of children in Newtown, CT in December 2012.  I recorded prayers of hope for Jeff's home congregation when their church building burned down in March of 2013.  My journal holds words of exasperation for the state of our world when racial, sexual, and economic injustices paint the streets of our country and send its people into opposing camps of distrust and hatefulness.

This journal has in its pages the celebration of the birth of my niece Ella in October 2013.  It holds the story of the day my daughter Abbey came into this world on February 19, 2014.  In its pages I have written about the deaths of my grandparents - Nana and Granddaddy - and how their lives have richly touched mine.

Transitions.  Losses.  Gains.  Celebrations.  Frustrations.  Fears.  Questions.  Prayers.  Affirmations.  Searches for truth, and joy, and meaning.

Closing Time.

In this season of endings and beginnings, I hope that I will continue to find God through the act of putting pen to paper and sharing freely the yearnings of my heart, the depths of my questions, and the every day graces of ordinary life.

And I hope that, whatever closing time you are going through, you will find a way to be still before it, bless it, and honor it in a way that only you can.  No matter what our endings may be - whether it's a book, a journal, or a season in life - they are important.  They have meaning and lessons for us.  We just have to pay attention to them.  And then... we have to let them go.  Because, just like the song says:  "every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."




Thursday, May 21, 2015

True love: A girl's struggle with pizza (not a metaphor for life, I don't think….)

I ate pizza one night for supper
That is enough for now, I said.
And then the next day, I ate pizza again.
Really, I groaned, that's enough.  No more.
And wouldn't you know, two nights later
Pizza offered itself to me.

And I said, well,
if you insist.

Well shoot, I've done it again.
I gave in to the temptation.
The cheesiness of its appearance, its scent
too delicious for me to bear.

Why did I cave in and have another slice
Even after I had told it, Enough?
Paying no mind for the way I will feel tomorrow
Or to whom the blame will fall heavily upon
When the guilt of indulgence settles in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Certainty

I never want to be so sure of myself
that I go through life without stopping
to consider the still, small voice.

I never want to talk so loudly
and so matter-of-factly
that I go through life
unable to hear it sigh and breathe.

I never want to project my truth
onto another
That I go through life
rejecting theirs.

I want to be sure of myself.
I want peace of mind.
But I also want peace of spirit.
And that opens up a whole new world of color.

This kind of peace is tricky, I think.
It requires a certain amount of doubt
And pause...
And wonder...
This kind of peace
remembers the still, small voice….
Is much bigger than mine.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How Old Are You?

I was thinking this morning about how my 14 1/2 month-old is growing and changing at lightening speed.  How just a few weeks ago I wondered if she was ever going to choose walking over crawling and somewhere within those short days, she did.  From one day to the next she discovered the location of her belly button.  Since most of us don't have a memory of the day we make that discovery - holy cow, it's pretty epic.  One thing I have discovered from having a child is the emphasis we place upon the growth and changes of each month.  The world of social media has even encouraged a custom of publicly sharing the newfound discoveries that babies accomplish as they make their way from one month to the next - especially within the first year.  We silly parents put round stickers on our little ones to mark how many months they are, plop them in a chair or lay them on a blanket and do the most ridiculous things you can imagine in an exhausting attempt to get them to smile.  Then we post our best efforts online for the world to see.  (The smile part gets easier the older they get, thank goodness, because I still haven't gotten back into cardio exercise yet.)

Oftentimes we list alongside their picture the latest "tricks"our little one is doing this month - what s/he likes and dislikes when it comes to food, we calculate how many inches s/he has grown in the last month in order to communicate just how much can and does change in the span of 30 days.

You know, I guess I should back up and also remind myself that this kind of calculating of time and growth for lots of first-time parents (usually the mamas) begins before the baby is born!  I had an app on my phone when I was pregnant that told me which fruit Abbey was every week as she grew inside me.  I will admit that I had never really thought about the size and weight of a rhutabaga until I was in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.  You really do learn something new every day in this life….

Anyway…my point in all of this is to say - when and why do we stop exploring and being amazed with how much we have learned and how much we have grown over time?  Before a baby is born, we are fascinated with weekly changes.  When they enter the world we move the focus to monthly changes.   Then after about 2 years old we stop calculating their age by month and focus on how old they are in years.  At that point we chart their growth on a yearly basis - pencil marks on on their closet door marking their height and grades in school determining their academic and social advances.

And then…we stop.  We stop paying attention to the small, tiny details in the small, tiny increments of growth.  We stop being so fascinated at how much has changed in our lives from one week or one month to the next.  It's a little bit frightening to think….do we assume that we just stop growing?  I mean, physically yes, I haven't gotten an inch taller since the 7th grade, sadly.  But what about internal growth?  Is there an age limit?  Or a month limit?

Why do we let our days, months, and years blend together at a certain point in our lives?  I wonder what would happen if we took the time each month to think about how we have grown and changed and become a happier(?), fuller person.  What if we took the time to intentionally mark our lives not so much in calculated years but in how much we have grown in the days, weeks, and months that made up those years?  Perhaps we would feel younger and lighter.  Perhaps we would realize that we are wise in a way that we never considered.  Or maybe we would discover more areas in need of growth or celebrate a small success that might otherwise be overlooked.

It's a cause for thought, at least.  Can we still be amazed at what we have learned about life and about ourselves even after a certain age?

If we realize that we never do truly stop growing….I wonder how we would change.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pieces

I have a bunch of pieces before me,
They are scattered and confused across the floor.
Some of their edges are slightly worn
And the bright reds and purples are a little bit faded.

There's a piece for just about everything
All the angles of my life.
And I want so badly to figure out
How to piece them together.

We talk a lot about what it is to be whole.
To know God.  To love God.  To be happy.
But do we even know what any of that means anymore?

The pieces still lie scattered on the floor.

And everything else in the world comes first.
Comes before we even start to try
To bring the pieces together.
To become whole.

We save it for another day.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Dead Tree

In a field behind the house where my grandparents used to live, my Nana would take us to see a dead tree that was still standing.  It felt like an adventure, an exploration.  On pretty Spring days, two young girls with their grandmother, would venture into the great unknown to discover a treasure that no one knew about.  In reality, we probably walked no more than 50 yards from the end of their back porch to the foot of the tree.  When we reached our destination, we froze in mouth-opened awe.  (I wonder now how much time Nana was trying to "kill" with this great adventure.)  There it stood with a sense of self and uniqueness.  Its frailty unmatched by the surrounding greenery, its trunk wearing thin and the leaves browned and crackly.  The dead tree looked tired and worn.  Its branches pointed upward as if to say, "I've done all I can in this life, I have nothing left to give."  We looked on at it with such wonder.  What did it mean to us to be in the presence of something that was no longer alive, yet stood here in front of of our very eyes?  It was a mystery to us - this dead tree.  A mystery beyond our understanding that pulled us back again and again.  "Let's go see the dead tree!"  As if it were the only one of its kind.

And so each time we went, we paused in wonder and disbelief.  Unknowingly considering the connection between life and death.  Unaware of our burning desire to understand the mysteries that filled the world around us.

Mysteries and questions about life….about death….about resurrection…  that continue to call me out on pretty Spring days for an adventure, an exploration - a journey to find God.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Searching for Laughter

One of my favorite books to read with Abbey before she goes to sleep at night is "Time for Bed."  It's a short, simple poetic lullaby of different animal babies - yes, you guessed it - going to bed.  My favorite line is:  "It's time for bed, little calf, little calf.  What happened today that made you laugh?"

Other than the precious act of Abbey leaning down and kissing each animal on every page (o.m.g. it's so precious), this line is my favorite part.  What a great question.  What happened today that made you laugh?

I can imagine the writer of this book at 2 a.m. the night before the final draft was due, refilling her coffee cup and silently cursing herself for choosing a calf for one of the animals.  What rhymes with calf?!  She probably would have thought the snake page would have been her biggest challenge…does anyone really want to think about snakes at bedtime….yea, I didn't think so.

And then I can see her sheer excitement over her own brilliance when she came up with it - right at the moment when she knew if she didn't shower now, she would be running very late for the meeting with her publisher.  (I have no clue how the publishing process goes, so just humor me here…).

"What happened today that made you laugh?"  Oh my gosh that is perfect!  It's so different than the other lines that talk about why it's time for bed or how the Mamas can't believe that the babies are still awake! (like that darn snake!)

I think we all need to ask ourselves this question before we lie down every night.  Too often our days are one big ball of blurry hurriedness.  We have so much to do.  So many things to check off the list.  So many reasons to make us rush through our day just wanting it to be over, only to get up and blur through another one all over again.  How often do we pause to appreciate the simple goodness of our days?  Even when (or especially when) the day is not so good, and it's a long shot to think of something that happened to make us laugh.  Don't you think it's important to look for the joy, the funny, and the humor that really does exist in this world?  I wonder how we would grow and change if we were to make this search for laughter a daily spiritual discipline….

I get excited about reading that page to Abbey when she is old enough to answer the question.  I can't wait to hear the joy in her voice when she tells me something that was funny from her day.  (At this point, I'm sure it will likely involve her buddy Izzy).  I can't wait to laugh with her when she recounts the memory.  And then, with that being one of the last things on her sweet little mind before she falls asleep, I can't wait to find out how the funny story carried her in her dreams and woke her up with a smile on her face.  Ready for a new day.  Excited to find out what will happen this day to make her laugh.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What now?

I asked myself lots of questions when I started this blog (a couple of years ago?).  The loudest question I asked myself was:  am I really going to keep up with it?  The insecurity that lies in the root of the question taunted me.  And it still does.  Do I really have anything important to say?  There are millions of amazing blogs, thinkers, writers, theologians, people out there - so what?  A post every now and then - why bother?

How many times do we ask ourselves that question?  There is something I really want to do, but is it worth it?  I really don't have the time, and it's not a "make or break" thing, so why bother?

The season of Easter is a good example of this.  We've done all this work for the whole six weeks leading up to it.  We've given something up, taken something on, prayed, gone to church, attended special worship services, we've considered our shortcomings and, kind of like on New Year's Eve, promised God that we will work harder - pray more - live wiser.  And then the awesome day of Easter arrives with bells and whistles, wearing new clothes, beautiful flowers, and smiles on the faces of everyone who walks through the church doors - whether they've been there since last Easter or not.

And then Easter is over.  Now what?  What now?

I'm reading an Easter devotional for the first time ever.  Who would have thought someone would write a devotion about Easter?  That seems ridiculous!  The good news is here, Jesus is alive - we don't have to think about it or work at it anymore, right?!

I guess not.  Unless….unless you've ever asked yourself the question, why bother? 
And the more you think about it - the more the nudging and the yearning and the desire grows.  The desire to be a little more than you think you are.  The nudging from God that speaks to your heart.  The yearning to have more from this life than the joy that seems to conclude on Easter night because life picks up per usual on Monday morning.

There's gotta be more, right?  Right?  How are we going to keep up with it?
What now?

When it comes down to it, no.  I don't have anything more important to say than anyone else.  My words are just that - words in the cyber space vacuum of thoughts, ideas, and posts.  But there is something about writing that I love.  There's something about sharing my thoughts and connecting with people that gives me meaning and draws me to God in a whole new way.  And, so, I've decided to bother with it.

What about you?  What now?
Jesus is alive.  Hooray!  We celebrated it a couple weeks ago, and guess what - we'll celebrate it again next year!  Woohoo!
So does it really hold much significance to us in our every day lives?  Or is it just too easy to make it about one particular day and then... carry on per usual?

God is going to keep doing the work of resurrection whether we buy in or not.  Sure, God would love us to participate, but when it comes down to it, whether we run off in terror like the women in Mark's Gospel or not, the hard work of overcoming the hate, violence, injustice and sin in the world is still going to happen.

So what now?  How do we live our lives as though we believe this good news we dress up for on Easter Sunday?
When I watch the news and find that another senseless shooting has occurred, or when I sense the nausea that comes with the beginnings of yet another election season in our country, (which just makes me want to curl up in a ball and never look at Facebook or watch the news again)….

And when I realize that, yes, the calendar does go beyond Easter Sunday….
Then I realize why I want to bother.  Because we really are supposed to live differently.  We really are supposed to love more.  We really are supposed to follow a God who breaks all the boundaries of division.
Huh.  So what now?  I guess, now….we do the work of resurrection.  We do the work of life.

I am excited to see what that looks like.  And I am excited to see if I can keep up with it.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Writing to God: Easter Sunday

2 Corinthians 1: 19-20
Mark 16: 1-8
"Amen"

Darkness covered the face of the Earth, O God, and you said "let there be light."
Yes.

Your people, just released from the chains of slavery, wandered in the cold, dark maze of wilderness, and you guided them at night by a pillar of fire.  You said, once again, "light."
Yes.

The world's darkness had become too heavy to bear.  And your star of light shone brightly in an ordinary town, to ordinary people, for more than ordinary purposes.  You said again, "let there be light."

Yes.

The day of death, despair, hopelessness, and loss is over.  For something amazing has occurred.  You said, one more time, "let there be light."

And Jesus became the Christ.  Life began anew.
Yes.

It is not a one time thing, my God, that you have done this extraordinary act.  You do not make a play and then leave the game.
Oh no.

The light of resurrection shines anew all the time.  Every day.  We cannot be blinded by our preconceived notions or our same ol' status quo ideas of living.

Jesus is Alive!

Thank you, God.
Help us to show this life - your life - in our words, our actions, and our prayers.  There is nothing that can extinguish your light.  For your light is love.

Yes.

I pray for the courage to live it every day.  For the goodness of your beloved world.
Yes!

Amen.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Writing to God: Holy Saturday

I Kings 19: 11-13
"Between Hopelessness and Hope"

The Gospel of Mark, after detailing so precisely the events of the week - and in 3 hour increments the events of Friday - says nothing about Saturday, the sabbath day.  The day of rest.  And for the followers of Jesus, the day of numbness and loss.

And so my prayer today is for those who felt the sting of Jesus' death all too closely.  It is also for those, living today, who have ever felt as though God has left them, and rolled a stone of finality over the hope in their lives.
______________________________

Today.  Today I wait.  O God.

My mouth is dry.  My heart is numb.  My eyes have nothing left to shed.

Does the world go on around me and it is I who cannot move?

Am I the only one who is staring into the face of rock solid emptiness?

O Lord, if it was something I did, can you give me just one more chance?

O Lord, if just one mind could have been changed to have prevented this…I would try.

But the thought of you having anything to do with the horror of this whole mess…no I cannot go there.
Not today.

And so, you must be gone.  But I pray that you will return in glory more magnificent than before.
O God, your people ache.

Today.  Today I wait.
I wait for a still, small voice to tell us that you are here.

And that this ending, this… death… is not the final word.

I wait for things I cannot be sure of.

Amen.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Writing to God: Good Friday

Mark 15: 1-47
"Darkness over the Land"

Today's prayer is one of hopelessness and anguish.  All over the world today, Good Friday is more than just a horrible thing of the past - it is reality.  As we remember and mourn the death of Jesus, let us also remember and mourn the lost, the forgotten, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the lives that we know and the ones we will never know who have lost hope that this life, at its heart, is good.
_____________

The darkness feels suffocating.  God, it is hard to breathe.  It is though all hope, all possibility, every potential for good was just sucked up in a vacuum of despair.

Jesus died and still children go hungry.
Jesus died and war did not cease.
Jesus died and the rules of love and respect tightened around the rules of the privileged and powerful.

Jesus breathed his last and when he did, thousands more were forgotten.  Prayers of hope no longer whispered in the morning.

Why, God?  What now?

Where is your kingdom when acts of violence dominate our world?
Where is your saving grace when all we see is news reports of destruction, hypocrisy, fear, injustice?

Jesus died and children go hungry.
Jesus died and animals are abused.
Jesus died and the kid at school is bullied.
Jesus died and the numbers on death row increase; the fear of dark streets at night follow us into daylight.

The experience of loss and death causes us to cry out to you, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?!"

Jesus.

Don't.  Breathe.  Your.  Last.

O, God, tear open our hearts and stay with your children today.

Weep with us as we collapse at the foot of the cross.  If we are there at all.

Amen.



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Writing to God: Maundy Thursday

Psalm 56
Mark 14: 12-72
"Miserere"

Today is what many Christians refer to as Maundy Thursday.  The day we remember the last Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before he was arrested.  The day began with the disciples following Jesus' instructions to find a place in which to share the meal and it ends with the tears of Peter after he denies Jesus three times.  This day draws our attention to the invitation that Jesus made through the sacred Passover meal, how he broke bread and shared the cup and extended it to his closest friends; even those who would turn their backs on him in very painful ways.  We also remember the prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane - how grief-stricken and scared he was (as it is recorded in Mark's Gospel), and how the disciples just couldn't stay awake to sit with him in this moment.  Today is also where the story becomes violent and fast-paced.
"Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning "command" or "commandment" - and depicts the new commandment Jesus makes with his disciples at the last meal (as recorded in the Gospel of John) to love one another.
The Psalmist's words in Psalm 56 guide my prayer today.
_____________________

Be gracious to me, O God, I don't know what to say.  My eyes are heavy.   I would rather sleep.
Ignore.
Skip over this part of your story.

Be gracious to me, O God.  The week is moving too fast.  The drama is unfolding.  I am panting to catch up.  But perhaps I could just stay behind, where I normally like to be, in the comfort of safety and status quo.

Tonight, all over the world, people will gather around a table.  We will all ask you to be gracious to us. For we think we would have been different.  We are certain we would have stayed through the confusion until the bitter end.  Surely we would have understood.

Be gracious to us, God, when we glance over the hard stuff assuming we are more faithful than another.

When the table is set - the wine poured and the bread broken - when people of all walks of life are gathered round….be gracious to us.
For still, we wish to have the final say.  We just can't handle your mercy, your grace, your humility, given for all.

O God, be gracious to me.  When the sun sets and the night brings a chill.  When I don't know what to say.  You tell me to "keep awake" and my eyes are heavy.

O God, be gracious to me. If I weep because I just cannot handle the pressure of knowing you.  When the moment comes.  When the question is asked.  Will I know what to say?

Watch.  Wait.  Listen.  Pray.
Be gracious to us, O God.

Amen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Writing to God: Wednesday of Holy Week

John 11: 1-44
"John 11:35"

A quick note about today:  My prayer prompt comes from the story in John of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  A range of emotion fills this story.
Though today is Wednesday of Holy Week, and according to the Gospel of Mark, on this day Jesus is at Bethany with his friends; at the home of Simon the leper.  Interesting this unintentional common point between the two readings for today - different homes, different stories - same place (Bethany) and common thread of the anointing of oil in preparation for Jesus' burial.  John 11: 1-44 mentions it and says that it is Mary, sister of Lazarus who anointed Jesus.  Mark's account credits this act of extravagant love to a woman whose name we do not know.  And he tells his disciples that, because of this, she will be remembered forever.
___________

God, how many times did Jesus weep for Jerusalem?  For his beloved city and beloved people?  For the ways that power and wealth was abusing and ruling the poor and the common?  For the way so many were desperately trying to remain faithful while others were giving up and giving in.  How strikingly similar his world is to ours.  How many times does he weep?

God, what did the laughter of our Savior sound like?  Was it high-pitched and sharp or a deep chuckle that rolled up and out from his belly?  Did he laugh and make snide remarks about the absurdity of all he saw?  Of all that was taking place?

When his closest friends denied, or betrayed, or died, how many times did Jesus laugh at the memories and weep in sorrow for his loss?

He showed us how to love.  And we forget or refuse to laugh out loud at the joy of life; the gifts that cost nothing but our time, our energy, our care.

He showed us how to love.  And we seldom weep for the state of the world we love.  For our Jerusalem - whatever it might be.
Because, (we've been told, or we tell ourselves) to cry is to show weakness.  To cry is to be vulnerable and we should never be vulnerable.  To cry is to lose control of the situation.

And Jesus wept for his dear friend.

Lord, forgive us.  Father, have mercy.  Lord forgive us all.

Amen.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Writing to God: Tuesday of Holy Week

Jeremiah 31: 2-13
Enlightenment

Jeremiah is a poem of the joyful future return from exile for the people of Israel.  It is a celebration of the hoped-for journey home - a journey that remembers its brokenness but literally dances in God's delivering presence and love through it all.  The people, it says, "found grace in the wilderness."

In the Gospel of Mark, Tuesday of the last week of Jesus' life begins at chapter 11 verse 20.  It continues until 14:1.  Tuesday is full of action, sayings, and teachings of Jesus - including the Greatest Commandment, predictions of the temple destruction, the lesson from the withered fig tree of Monday, and the widow's offering.
______________

What kinds of lessons do you have to teach us, God?
About love, and mercy, and kindness?
Are they lessons that lend us joy in our grief and a lightness in our daily step?

What kinds of lessons, God, do you have to teach us?
About humility, and patience, and trust?
Will they be lessons to help us in the waiting seasons, the times of change, our losses and failures?

God, what kinds of lessons do you have to teach us?
What about lessons of faith, of hardship, of perserverance?

For you knew what season it was, yesterday, when you went looking for fruit on that fig tree.
And, in the same kind of way, you know the skips and gallops, trips and falls that we take through this life.  You know each and every one.  (That could cause a person to be still before you.)

So we cannot help but ask:  on this long and eventful Tuesday - what lessons do you have to teach us?

But wait.  First we need to understand what it means to be watchful and how to listen - for only then will we be able to hear you.

Amen.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Writing to God: Monday of Holy Week

Psalm 148
In Praise of Green

(Along with this prompt, I am deciding to use Mark 11: 12-14 as inspiration for this prayer).


"Praise the Lord!…Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!  Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!  Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!  Young men and women alike, old and young together!  Let them praise the name of the Lord…"

We sing with the Psalmist our praises to you, O God.

As the fig tree stands in the shadow of early morning sun.  Her leaves full and green.   

What a strange time it is to be so joyful, God.  The Earth is pulling out pastels and highlighters from the drawer, dusting them off, and doodling so much color upon the ground.

She stands tall and proud.  Confident.  In control of her timing and gifts.

What a funny season to be so sad.  It is a week just like any other.   Life is only as hard as we make it, right?  What is it they say?  The grass is always greener on the other side.  Just help me get through this week God, so I can lay down in the greener grass….

As a man approaches the fig tree standing there so proud.  Happy to see a visitor, she gives a stretch and a gentle rustle in the warm breeze.  But his look of disappointment captures her eye.  And he walks away angry.

For the budding of first flowers, and for the silvery dew upon the green grass, we praise you, God.  For the opportunity to walk with you one day at a time, we praise you, God.

In seasons of abundance and in seasons of waiting, help us to stand tall and weather the storm;

praying that, in time, we will bear fruit for your Kingdom.

Amen.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Writing to God: Palm Sunday

Mark 11
"Palms and Passion"

My Lenten discipline of Forty Days of Writing to God ends with special prompts for Holy Week.  Today is Palm Sunday, the day we happily wave the palm branches in church and sing Hosanna.  The day that Jesus "triumphantly" rode into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey.  Today we celebrate the victory Jesus is coming to bring - victory over worldly powers; victory over abusive rulers; victory over death.  Today he is the crowd's Messiah.  Too often we forget the power and the importance of the rest of the week.  Some of us skip from here to Maundy Thursday; some to the cross; and if you're like me, after today I'd like to fast forward to next Sunday.  But we will be missing out on a whole lot of what God is doing if we pick and choose the parts of our faith story to pay attention to.  I hope you will journey and struggle with me this week as we carefully move through each day.
____________________________

Saving God, give me the courage to be wholly attentive to the movement of this week.  Every intricate piece, each grimacing detail.

As the palms wave today, make my song light and free; hopeful and trusting.  Surely something big is going to happen.

As the palms wave today, remind me of the coming of your kingdom.  How the first shall be last.  The lowly, the sick, the suffering.

As the palms wave today, I pray I wave them high for the injustices of the world that Jesus came to abolish.  I pray I wave them for the forgiveness he showed us to accept and to extend.  I pray I wave them for the respect and love he required of each follower to show to each and every living being.

Give me the courage God, to be wholly attentive as I sing Hosanna today, knowing that there is more to your story of salvation and grace than most of us like to acknowledge.  It is more than a simple one-liner.

Give me the courage to watch closely as Jesus sets his gaze toward Jerusalem today, on the back of a humble colt, awkwardly carrying with him the weight of the world.  And too often we think it is only about us.

Give me the courage to be wholly attentive to the significance of this day for us all.
Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Writing to God: Day 34

Genesis 2: 4-14
"Spring Rain"

Water.
Mud.
Sky.

Cleanse.
Mold.
Fly.

Breathe.
Touch.
Grow.

Sing.
Pray.
Know.

We belong to the Earth.  At our fingertips is just what we need to have abundant life.  It does not come from a store.  It knows not what to do with a dollar bill.

May everything that breathes praise you, O God.

As the rains water the Earth and the sun warms the ground, Spring is making preparations for new life.

May everything that breathes praise you.

Amen.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Writing to God: Day 33

Luke 19: 1-6
From God

If you were walking down my street today, Lord, would I scurry up a tree to see you?  Would I run inside and lock the door and pretend I wasn't home?

I pray that today
Is one of those days
That I'll remember to stop;

I'll be ready to greet you
In whatever way
You show up.

And I'll climb to the highest places
Just to see you.
Where ever you may be.

I'll make an effort,
In spite of my weaknesses
to see life from a different perspective.

Perhaps, then, I'll be more open to your love, your forgiveness, your invitation to come inside and sit with me.

I wonder how such a simple thing could change the way I live?

Amen.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Writing to God: Day 32

Genesis 32: 6-12
On "Good Friday" Kind of Days

I think this prayer is more of a reflection of yesterday, and how, looking back on the thoughts and feelings running through me as I drove home last night, it had hints of Good Friday darkness, pain and strange emptiness.  Nothing horrible happened yesterday, per se, so if this prompt hadn't been here this morning I probably wouldn't have even written this.  But just as someone else's words spark your own and guide you in a certain way, this is what came out of my heart as I sat with God in the shadow of an early Spring storm.
_________________

Lightening and thunder greet me this morning, Lord.  Patch hates storms.  His tail was wagging fiercely; his little snout letting out the most pitiful whine.  It was all I could do to ignore him.  I let him out of his bed early, so at least he could hang out at my feet.  The rain is coming down strong.  It's been so long since we had a storm that I wondered what it sounded like!  I even forgot that Patch was scared of the thunder.

Some days just feel longer than others.  For no particular reason.  I am always thankful when the days pass harmlessly and remotely drama-free.  But as I drove home last night, I had a feeling of sadness.

Maybe it was a random, innocent reminder of something I'm struggling with.

Maybe it was the news that my sweet niece fell and chipped her tooth on the concrete.  My sister shedding more tears than she.  The fear and the guilt that comes with simply letting children be children.  The way a day can suddenly turn from ordinary and easy to frantic and fearful.  And thanking God that it wasn't any worse.  Lord, it is emotionally draining.  I hate it when the people I love hurt.

Or maybe it was the random phone call I got 20 minutes before Vespers yesterday.  Cradling a sleeping Abbey in my arms, trying to mentally prepare for worship.  "I need gas to drive to Bowling Green to see my sister in the hospital.  And - do you have any food?"

Two basic needs that the church of Jesus Christ should be able to meet - and I said it couldn't.  Who knows, she could have been lying.  Frustration and sorrow heaped up within me.  Don't you know your problems are bigger than a gas card or a can of food?  It's 5:10 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon.  What do you want me to do?   I cannot fix your problems.  If you want to come to worship we can try to collect an offering….I can meet you for coffee tomorrow, I'll buy your cup and we can talk.  But I can't fix your problems through this phone call.  I can't fix your problems at all.  Lord have mercy on us both.

Maybe it was the story Molly told me of how she randomly witnessed a man whip his dog yesterday afternoon.  She yelled out for him to stop.  He cussed at her, but eventually he quit and they went inside.  I think, if it had come down to it, Molly would have risked getting whipped herself to make that idiot stop hitting his dog.  Perhaps God, you were looking out for that dog in the best way you could, without being able to fix the dog's problem of an abusive owner, you made sure its biggest advocate in the city of Glasgow was there to yell stop.  One less whip.  One less grimace.  One less moment of pain.

God, forgive me, but sometimes I wish you could do more.  I wish we could do more.  But those phone calls always come.  The stories of abuse never go away.

So if nothing else, just sit and cry with us.  When we're driving home at night.  On these Good Friday kind of days.

Amen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing to God: Day 31

Psalm 36: 5-9
Traveling


Creator God -

"Your steadfast love extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds."

On top of the highest mountain, in a little town in Southern France, where the wind bites sharp upon my face,
Your love is as close as I feel to the white fluffy clouds.  I can almost touch them.

Beneath the waters of the sea lies a whole city of colorful creatures.  Strange looking things.  And even more deeper and deeper down.  Your love reaches them.

Across the globe lives someone who does not look like me, talk like me, dress like me, or think like me.  We will never meet.  We will never know what the other struggles with or finds joy in.  Your love reaches beyond our separation and difference.

Within each soul is a light.  Deep within.  It glows and brightens without our control.  We can choose to love it or hate it.  Strengthen it or ignore it.  Tend to it or abuse it.  Keep it or share it.

Yes, your love is the small light within the depths of our souls.  And even it can extend to the heavens; to the clouds; to the sea creatures; to our neighbors around the world.

May we go today wherever your love takes us.
Amen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Writing to God: Day 30

Daniel 4: 1-8
Seeking Signs

O God of Dreamers,

We wonder what our dreams mean.  It's been a stumbling block for most of your people over the centuries and throughout generations.  What are those visions we see after a long day? What is the meaning behind the stories that play out behind closed eyelids?  Sometimes our dreams are scary or confusing, and we are so relieved to wake up.  Other times we wish we could stay a little bit longer in dreamland, as though it's better than real life.  What do our dreams tell us about ourselves, about you?

And then there are the dreams that take place between the hours we are awake.  We all have them.  You know the famous ones:  the "I have a dream's" and the "You may say I'm a dreamer" ones.  These dreams have moved mountains of hate and fear and opened up doors of new realities.

O God, I believe that our dreams are our deepest longing for our lives and for the life of the world.

I am not as prophetic as your son Martin Luther King, Jr…I wish I were.
I am not as poetic as your son John Lennon…though I'd love to be.
Even their dreams made a lot of people mad.
So perhaps all this is for nothing, (but I really don't think it is.)

What is my dream for the world?
For me, it looks a lot like love - the kind that finds itself in the least likely of places; the kind that follows us around no matter how much we try to lose it.

It looks like unity…without uniformity.  It has color…a lot of color.
It walks with a slower pace…it values watching and listening to the secrets of nature.
It looks a lot like people working together and respecting one another.
My dream has the feel of a much needed gentle rain on a hot Texas day.
It sounds like my favorite song in the world and doesn't get annoyingly stuck in my head.

My dream is like the first bite of a hot, home-cooked meal for someone who hasn't eaten in days…mixed with the assurance that this bite will not be the last.

O God, make my dreams come true.
Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Writing to God: Day 29

Matthew 6: 9-13
For a Moment, and a Lifetime

There's the stuff we need every once in a while.  When the season of life calls for it:
-patience in a certain situation
-forgiveness of someone's wrongdoing
-mercy from a mess-up

And then there's the daily bread that is necessary for our every moment.  Our next breath.  Our here and now and future life.  It's the stuff that carries us through each day and, if depleted, so are we.  Like a car putt-putts on "E", without our daily bread we eventually run out of steam and we are stuck in our search for you.

I ask for my daily bread (and I realize that you know what I need far better than I).
I ask for the sustenance to get me through the minutes and hours.

I need the small moments of laughter.  The humor that keeps me light on my toes - but just enough - so that my feet stay firmly planted in the soil of reverence.

I need the honesty of someone's answer to, "how are you?".
I need the excitement of new possibilities and adventures.  I need the yearning for more, for greater, for depth.  Not in the latest fad, but in every encounter with ordinary holiness.

I need the power of simple moments, of gentle awakenings, of thoughtful questions.

I need love.  The kind that fills the body, reaches the soul, and extends far beyond the eyes can see.

Give us this day our daily bread.  Grant us the stuff we need for today.  For tomorrow.  For always.

For all of this I give thanks in the name of the one who taught us how to pray.
Amen.