Saturday, February 28, 2015

I'll try to do better...

I'm not doing very well at my Lenten practice.  I forgot yesterday until very late, so I thought I would do two today.  I forgot again.  So, maybe I'll do one tomorrow since everything is snowed under here. 

I'll try to do better, of course I am reminded of the immortal words of Master Yoda, "Do or do not, there is no try..."  It's one of my favorite sayings that I tend to share with anyone who tells me they will "try."  Particularly, if I feel it seems to be an empty promise. 

My efforts to do better, come with all the best intentions though.  I just know my tendency to procrastinate.  What I can promise, however, is to keep making an effort.

For today though, I will leave you with this thought from St. Francis of Assissi

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.



Amen.
 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Winter

In many parts of the U.S., there is snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain, and all around yucky weather.  The sky is gray and the ground is hard.  I'm ready for warmer weather, buds sprouting, and sun.  Of course, we have to go through the winter to get to the spring.

As much as I want to hurry through the cold, I am reminded of words of wisdom my mother would say when I would wish something would come to pass, "Quit wishing your life away."  I did not fully appreciate this as I do now that I am older.  My children have been born, were children, teens, and are now young adults.  I have aged -- some days more gracefully than others.  I have learned, and soon I will be graduating--again.  But it isn't always just education from books and school, I have life experience as well.  I hope this all means that I have a certain amount of wisdom. 

Life is meant to be lived, one day at a time.  We should enjoy or at least experience life every day.  The ups and downs are what make us who we are, and learning from these things is what gives us life experience, wisdom.  At times we would like to avoid the pain, but it is the winter that makes me appreciate the warmth of the sun that much more.  We appreciate the ups in our life, because of the down times. 

Romans 5:3-5.  "And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My View is Limited

I do not know many people who enjoy walking in the dark.  Most of the time we stumble around, stubbing our toes and knocking our shins.  We prefer to clearly see where we are going and any obstacles in our path.  

While we can flip a switch to light the room, we cannot do the same with our future or understanding spiritual truths. There are folks who claim to see clearly in the dark--maybe they think they can--maybe they do not know what the world looks with the light on. 

1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us "We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!" (The Message)

We may be squinting trying to see through the dimness of this world, but God sees things clearly. We will too one day, but until then we can trust in the One who sees clearly until that day when we can see. 






My Covenant

You may be familiar with the Covenant Prayer

Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. 
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
Exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
To your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
You are mine and I am yours.  So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth.
Let it be ratified in heaven.  Amen.

I find as I repeat this prayer, a couple of lines stand out to me.  "Rank me with whom you will," "laid aside for you," and "let me have nothing."  These lines are tough to pray--God might think I'm serious.  (Just kidding.  Tell me you haven't had the same thoughts.)  I am also curious that doing is paired as a counterpoint to suffering

As I think about my ministry over the years, I find that my suffering is often associated with doing.  Either not doing something someone thinks I should, or doing something someone thinks I shouldn't.  At times it feels like a no win situation.  Being able to stay grounded in God helps keep me from being tossed about like a ship in a storm.  The Covenant prayer helps me to remember that it isn't about me, it is about God.  So be it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Less about Me

As I mentioned in my previous post on Ash Wednesday, I should probably think about why it is so important for me to make sure others begin Lent well, while I tend to be "late" getting into Lenten practices.  It is very simply that I see Lent as a time to be less about me.  If I think more about others, then I have little time to think about me.  Yet, I want others to have a meaningful start to Lent, because it is such an important time to me.  A time to look honestly at ourselves, in all our mortality and fallibility, yet in light of the eternal promise of resurrection.  It is a time we can put aside self to grow closer to God and deepen our discipleship.  Join with me as we seek to observe a holy Lent.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ash Wednesday

No, I am not trying to sneak this in as if it is Ash Wednesday.  I did think it would be good to reflect on Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season as a way of getting into my Lenten practice--to blog daily (except Sundays) through Lent. 

Ash Wednesday is generally one of the busiest days of the year for me.  You would think it would be Christmas Eve or Easter or some other high holy moment in the Christian year--no Ash Wednesday.  I see Ash Wednesday as the day that sets the tone for the whole season of Lent.  Lent is a time of repentance, of reflection, of looking at ourselves and our relationship with God honestly--no sugar coating or rationalizing or hiding--just us raw and vulnerable with God. 

I find it interesting that we often do not like looking in the mirror of our souls.  What is it we see?  What is it we are afraid of?  All of this comes to the surface to be cleansed and healed during the season of Lent.  We walk through the valley of the shadow toward the day of Resurrection.  It is...intimidating.

I am so busy preparing for the evening Ash Wednesday service, because I feel that in order to set the right tone, the service should be prayed over, thought out, with a specific aim of preparing those in attendance for Lent.  It isn't that the usual Sunday morning service doesn't have a specific focus or isn't prayed over--it is.  But the Sunday morning service happens every Sunday.  The format rarely changes, it is comfortable and predictable.  It isn't that Christmas and Easter aren't intentional or prayed over--they are.  But these services tend to be traditional, so while not every week, every year there are similarities--including the scriptural text.  Ash Wednesday, however, while every year, comes with more thought of what those in attendance need to come fully into right relationship with God.  What will begin their journey in such a way that they are inspired to continue it?

For the past several years, I have incorporated a time of prayer, meditation, and reflection, including prayer stations.  I have typically had four, but this year I added six more.  In the past, I have taken these stations down following the Ash Wednesday service, but this year I have placed them in a room near the sanctuary.  These stations will be left up all Lent long, open and waiting for those who need to renew their commitment to observing a holy  Lent. 

It is my prayer, as I worked to set these stations up, making sure everything necessary was provided for, that those who visit these stations--maybe once, maybe several times--will connect with God in a real and meaningful way.  That they will begin to see themselves--the good and the bad--through God's eyes.  That they will make the necessary changes in their lives, in their attitudes, and in their hearts to grow in their discipleship and draw closer to God. 

My prayer and my practices tend to be for others and their relationship with God.  Maybe I will explore why that is in future posts.  Blessings for a holy Lent.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Time to Get Back to It

It has been almost a year since I last posted.  It isn't that I have not been writing.  I have been doing a great deal of writing--my doctoral paper is finished.  I found out yesterday I will be graduating this May.  I hope to use some of this work for future publishing purposes, so I thought now is a good time to get back to this blog.

This happens to coincide with the beginning of Lent.  I would say I am giving up school work for Lent, but that would not be quite right.  I still have to make sure that the pages are formatted just so and the other minor details associated with preparing a doctoral paper for publication.  So, I thought I would write for Lent.  I am already two days behind.  This is pretty usual for me--getting a late start on Lenten practices.  Ash Wednesday consumes my time entirely, and then yesterday--well yesterday, I was celebrating.

I will attempt to keep up with blogging daily, Monday-Saturday, for the rest of Lent.  Who knows?  Maybe this will become a regular practice, and I will continue it.  Lent is good for developing good habits such as study or meditation and to end bad habits such as over indulging or negativity.  So, my practice this year will be to offer a Lenten reflection/meditation each day.  I hope somehow God uses this blog to speak to you.  Blessings for a Holy Lent!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Keeping Vigil


If you have been driving--at least around Oklahoma--you will see at least one roadside memorial which has spontaneously sprung up in memory of someone who died in a vehicular accident at that point in the road.  Families and friends, bring flowers and memorabilia to the site to remember their loved one and to keep the memory alive.  Some families may even put up signs that say "drive carefully in memory of ____________" as a way of reminding others of the danger in that portion of the road.  It is a practice that has mixed responses and some feel these impromptu shrines should be removed. This, however, is not an uncommon practice in human history.  Many cultures have set up shrines and memorials of various varieties in memory of loved ones and as a way of keeping vigil.

Immediately following the bombing in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, a fence was erected to keep out those who might be curious to keep them from getting hurt, and to keep the crime scene from being tainted. Following the placement of this fence, people began flocking to Oklahoma City to see the destruction and leave flowers, mementos, and messages of hope at the fence.  Children came with parents and left teddy bears and toys.  Parents, who hugged their children a little tighter, left words of sympathy and prayers for peace for the parents who lost their children in the daycare.  For several months following the bombing people came from all over the world to bring a token (something to show their love and support) to the fence and left it there.  These items have been faithfully gathered up and preserved in the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.

Today, the 19th anniversary of the bombing, falls on Holy Saturday-the time between the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I wonder what kind of things would have been left at such a memorial for Jesus.  Perhaps a cup and plate?  Maybe coins or possibly figs?  What kind of words would have been spoken?  Who would have come to keep vigil?

Yesterday, we remembered the death of Christ.  Tomorrow we celebrate the resurrection.  Today we wait.  I am aware of the waiting that is being done by the loved ones of the bombing victims and all who have lost someone they hold dear.  They have mourned the loss of loved ones.  Through the hope we have in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we can celebrate with them again.  Right now we wait.  This is why we remember.  This is why we spend time in grief and holding on to memories.

I always spend some time between 9 am and 9:30 am on April 19th each year remembering the day that time seemed to stop.  The unthinkable had occurred just a few blocks from me.  A bomb in the heart of Oklahoma City--where it seemed so safe.  Days after the bombing I drove through Oklahoma City on a different route than I used to take.  Streets were blocked off, there were armored vehicles everywhere, a makeshift morgue was set up.  It reminded me that there were those in other places--in Bosnia and Kosovo, in Korea, in Europe, in Soviet states, in the West Bank, Gaza, and the Middle East, in Southeast Asia, in Palestine--those who had to live with a military presence because their lives were disrupted by explosions, war and violence.

For 19 years I have been remembering, because I was there that day.  No, I did not lose someone close to me, but because that was the day I truly realized how much suffering was in the world.  I realized violence before this, but that was when suffering was made known to me.  So for 19 years I remember not just those lost on April 19th in Oklahoma City, but all human suffering around the world.  People who were killed needlessly in violence, those who grieve for them, the anger and resentment that naturally comes from profound loss, and all who stand aside and watch from the outside looking in.  Just like in Palestine on that eventful day so long ago when those who followed a radical teacher watched the whole of human suffering in one moment on a cross.

May you remember this Easter Vigil human suffering in all times and in all places, and may it so profoundly shape you that you pray--not only for yourself, not just for those who were lost or who lost someone, but for everyone. Amen.


We remember those who were killed, those who survived, and those whose lives were changed forever.  Mission of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fragrant Love

John 12:1-11 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.




As Mary watched her friend and teacher sitting in her house talking with their friends, sharing a meal, and teaching about a kingdom without walls, perhaps she wondered, "why would he do all this?"  Then a stark realization came to her, "they are going to kill him."  There had been grumbling among the religious leaders about the audacity of bringing her brother back to life.  "It is blasphemy!" they said.  They were calling for witnesses against him, but Jesus can't die yet.  He is so full of life.  He has so much to do.  There is so much Mary wants to learn from him, but even as she thinks this, she knows that his death is certain. 

Mary spots the beautiful alabaster jar sitting in the alcove across the room.  She purchased the costly oil knowing that their family will need it someday, but perhaps....  There was conversation and food.  Martha was busily serving.  Lazarus was quietly sitting off to the side.  People were still not certain what to do with him; it was shocking to think that only a few days ago he had been dead.

Walking through the crowded room without anyone even noticing her, Mary retrieved the jar and came back to Jesus' side.  Without thinking too much about her next actions, she broke the seal on the jar and knelt at Jesus' feet, pouring the fragrant oil lavishly over his feet.  She became aware of tears falling and mingling with the oil.  The oil seemed to multiply.  Having no towel or cloth, she began to wipe off the excess with her hair.

The fragrance of the oil floated through the air.  Those in the room began to cease their conversation as Mary's actions became apparent to them.  Looking up, she noticed the people in the room were  watching her.  Then she looked at Jesus who was watching her with the eyes of pure love.

Judas, the reprobate and thief, was the first to speak.  Mary cringed as his voice thundered in the rafters of their small home.  “What are you doing?  You have been holding out on us,” he said accusingly.  “This is really expensive stuff you are wasting all over his feet!  Why was this not sold, we could have used the money to help the poor,” he said slyly.  Although she despised Judas, she wondered briefly if that was what she should have done with the ointment.  A moment later, still wiping his feet she shakes her head—no!  She did what she should have done; she anointed Jesus preparing his body for whatever the future may hold.

Mary glances up to see what Jesus would say.  Jesus is staring at Judas harshly.  When he does speak, the anger in his voice rivals the volume of Lazarus’ previous outburst:  “Leave her alone!  She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial,” he shouted.  The people in the room gasped.  His voice softening, he looks back to Mary who is trembling now from the sheer adrenaline coursing through her.  “You always have the poor with you,” he says softly, “but you do not always have me.”  Although his words bring her sorrow, Mary feels affirmed in her gesture and heedless of everyone else in the room, she meets his eyes.

How often do we risk ourselves out of our deep love and profound gratitude for Jesus?  Are we worried about what others might think?  Do we second guess our own joy?  Perhaps, we are not profoundly grateful.  Just as those who only followed Jesus around hoping he will provide them with bread again, we are discontent with what we have and are looking for more.  We may ask, “What has Jesus done for me lately?”  Just as those who wanted earthly bread which will only leave us hungry again, we miss the blessings that are much deeper and much more sustaining.  Mary was profoundly grateful and willing to respond with profound generosity. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring!

Spring is coming!  Spring is coming!  Of course, for many parts of the country it is a bit too soon to rejoice in the coming of Spring, but here in the central south US we are seeing robins!  I love to see the robins show up, because even if there is a nip in the air or a chilly rain, you just know they know something you don't--warmth is coming!
 
In Spring we see the days begin to lengthen and the sun decide to stick around a bit longer.  We have days that are so warm, you are tempted to pack up the turtlenecks and the parkas, and bring out shorts and flip flops.  Ah!  Can't wait!
 
I am one of those who need to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and love to experience the rebirth of the earth.  However, after the wintery season we are just now coming out, there have been dire warnings floating around the internet for the first person to complain about the 120 degree weather that is inevitably coming.  
 
Part of the coming of Spring is the holy season of Lent. It is the time of year we reflect and remember, we repent and look toward the resurrection.  As we celebrate the rebirth of the earth and the change of seasons, we remember the new life found in the resurrection.  Happy Spring!