Thursday, May 29, 2008

Home Again

I'm baaaccck! And it is good to be home. Interestingly enough, there is much to write on from annual conference, but I don't seem to have it in me, must be tired.

This morning I went to a worship service in the manner of the "emerging" church experience. I found it all to be very interesting. I liked a great deal of what was happening and the experiential aspects of it. I asked my 16 and 20 year old children what they thought. My 16 year old liked it, except she didn't like the part where we took Communion in table groups. "We are to all be the body of Christ," she said it felt like we were just bits and pieces. My 20 year old thought "there were too many activities." I felt that they were a good judge of what they liked. I was too busy trying to keep my mind open.

When it all comes down to it, I find that there are bits and pieces of how I conduct worship that would be considered very "emerging," however, I still am a fan of "how we've always done it." Not in the "we-can't-do-things-differently-because-the-good-Lord-would-strike-us-dead" way, but rather the respecting tradition way. I too think we need to make worship relevant to the people in the context they find themselves. I just think we need to keep tradition balanced with enough fresh ideas to keep it really interesting.

With that being said....I am adding an early morning worship service on Sundays in June. I am planning on working this idea of "emerging worship" into this new service. I figure if we are going to do something at a different time, we might as well play around with new ideas! I'll update you on how it works out.

Last night at Annual Conference was the ordination service. I have always found this service very moving, probably because every time think, "this is what I am working for." Next year will be my turn...good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise and the Board of Ordained Ministry don't decide otherwise!

We did have a bit of controversy on the floor today. It seems that the committee on parsonage standards wanted to include a bit about parsonages should be smoke and tobacco free. Now, that make sense to me; however, it seems that it wasn't as clear cut as I'd assumed it might be. We had numerous people who stood up to speak about it. Most of the started this way..."now I'm not a smoker myself..." I kind of appreciated the lay gentleman who stood up and said, "I'm a smoker, but I would never smoke in someone's home that wasn't a smoker." At least he was honest. In any event, it was quite a lengthy debate with plenty of speeches for it and against it, a motion to amend it and then a motion to amend the amendment. It came down to a motion that basically made it all right to smoke outside the parsonage, but not inside. It was so close they had to take a vote. Go figure. In any event, the amendment passed.

So, other than the above, there wasn't too much excitement going on, or I can't think of it one or the other. I'll write more when my brain is fresher.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Annual Conference (Part 3) I am not posting this on Tuesday, as I should be, but between getting to a 7 a.m. Communion Service (I know, shocked me too!) and staying out until close to midnight for Gridiron, I just didn't have time. (I am actually stealing a little time right now.)

Yesterday, we had several wonderful reports, one of the most moving was from the Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries (CJAMM). A young mother with three young daughters came and talked about being sentenced for ten years, and is currently serving her term. She talked about how her upbringing drove her to seek comfort in unhealthy places. She found God through people who reached out to her from prison ministries and she knew that she needed to make sure she got herself together for her daughters and herself. She spoke of how she had become addicted to Methamphetamines and how Meth was a powerful drug, but (in her words) "Meth is not more powerful than my God." Her children were with her, and her family was in the congregation. This was the first time she had seen her children in over 6 months she told us through tears.

The good news was that she was granted early parole and had been accepted into an Exodus house program. We were thrilled for her, and one laywoman commented that if she hadn't been paroled, she would have "gone to bat for her."

Of course, we had other wonderful reports and our church received an award called "It Worked for Us" on a lay ministry area. We are also receiving an award today for the Outstanding Rural church attendance 41-100. Other things discussed was the implementation of a Strategic Vision Plan, but I believe I need have a separate post for this, so I will wait to comment on this after conference is over.

Grace and peace, blessings and joy for our wonderful heritage and connectional ministry in the United Methodist Church!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Annual Conference (Part 2)

Well, the first day of conference is always a time of endings and beginnings. We have the memorial service and recognize those saints who have gone on before us and surround us with the great cloud of witnesses that cheer us onward toward the prize that is eternity with Jesus.

We also have our commissioning service sending into ministry those who have, with the great efforts of friends, mentors and others, jumped through enough hoops to be barely recognized as real official ministers, even though that most of them have been in ministry already. I can make fun of them, because I are one of them. On Wednesday we have the ordination service in which they become real official people who are *special.* I too hope to become *special* next year.

Of course, I am making light of a serious thing, only because, is kind of funny that we have to be 'probationary' (the new language calls us 'provisional' which I think sounds a bit more ominous) for three years. I understand the purpose behind this process, in fact, I believe it is a good thing. I think it is a good thing to check people out, see what you are getting yourself into. Of course, being in the middle of the process myself, I want to tell them "sure, you can trust me, just ordain me already." But, alas, I am a committed Methodist, and that just isn't the way it works.

In any event, the first day was good and I am looking forward to tomorrow. Apparently, it is "casual day" but the Bishop was certain to inform us that in no way should we look "like we are going to the beach." "It's dressy casual" he tells us. Of course, many people come like that everyday!

Blessings for your ministry whether it is ordained or commission, clergy or lay, regardless of our designation, we are all called to be ministers by our baptism. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Annual Conference (Part 1)

Well, it's that time of year...the time of year you get to go hang out with friends you never get to hear amazing testimonies of ministry in have wonderful spirit-filled worship services and fellowship with other Methodists....and if the reports get boring, you can always go shop at Cokesbury!

I will be posting daily this week about things that have moved me, maddened me, or otherwise ministered to my heart and pass along the blessings.

For starters, we worshiped this morning at Boston Ave., and heard our Bishop preach. I am always blessed by his messages, and this morning was no different. He spoke of Jesus healing on the sabbath and of Peter and Paul healing the man at the temple. Basically, it was of how Jesus was turning things upside down and right side up and everyone knew it was no longer business as usual. He spoke of how when the spirit fills us - we may look the same on the outside, but we are UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT on the inside. Thank God for God!

As I am writing this I am sitting in the hotel lobby where there is free wi-fi and watching the arrivals check-in. I am reminded that although this week is largely about business, it isn't our business. We should be about the ministry of Christ. It isn't our agenda, but Christ's. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Get Real

I read a blog called beauty and depravity by Eugene Cho. Recently he had an “open mic” post which opened the forum to those who read his blog. The following is by a woman name Rachel:

this is my first time really reading your blog. my aunt kept sending me the link
and always forgot to check it out. really love your blog. i have been chewing on
something for a while now and wanted to share.

i teach 4th grade
ESOL (english speakers of other languages). my kids are mostly refugees from
africa and burma mixed in with a lot of cuban, mexican, p.rican flavor…i’m on a
mission trip everyday it seems like! i love it. love is in full force…. my
husband on the other hand is in construction. he rarely meets warm-hearted
people who love God.

so, his ministry, aside from buying his crews
lunch and sitting down and spending time with them, is the “PPM
“(portapottyministry). he writes encouraging scriptures inside the potty. one
day last week, he got a response back…”Religion is the cause of war, genocide,
hate crimes, etc. Your God is responsible..Why would i want to be involved in
that?”. It hurts because we as a church (worldwide) can represent God in such a
horrible way…

then i read your blog…and relate to the people who
post comments…no religion, just real….it’s so relevant..anyone would be open to
reading it.

I pray that everyone who knows God now, is really led
to know Him more-so confident in their relationship that they can be normal with
everyone-that they can stop hiding behind their religion for one second and
truly be Jesus’ hands and feet.. Paul wouldn’t have a religious flow if he
walked the earth today…neither would Jesus…so thanks for being like Jesus…

I think her observations are interesting. We are so busy being “religious” we forget to be “real.” We want God to change us so much, we go about doing the work ourselves and it comes out as the cheap, second-rate imitation that it is.

I have read a great deal recently on how “religion is the cause of war, genocide, hate crimes, etc.” But as Christians we should know, as others do not, that God isn’t responsible for this. This is the work of people who have created God in their own image rather than allowing themselves to be transformed. What have I done to embarrass God? What have you done to embarrass God? It’s time we get “real.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spinning out of Control

Have you ever felt your life spinning out of control? You are going along in life with a nice little rhythm, and the next thing you know, the rhythm is messed up. Now sometimes it isn’t messed up to the point that it truly disrupts things, or it isn’t critical if it does – like…forgetting to dust the house one week, after all, the dust is going to be there next week and you can get two weeks worth of dust for the same amount of effort! (This is especially true in Spring when we have windows open all over the house – lots of dust!) Maybe you can get the cat to jump around on the furniture and knock a lot of it off to the carpet which is your husband’s job.

But there are systems that are so delicate that the littlest disruption sends things spinning out of control. For me, this delicate system that the slightest thing can totally disrupt is paying bills. I have a very tight budget (did I say VERY and TIGHT). There is a little wiggle room (I have learned a few things over the years) for those bills that tend to fluctuate such as heating and cooling costs seasonally. So although it is tight, it isn’t impossible. But then there is the time that it takes to actually sit down and pay bills.

I had a nice little rhythm of income and a nice little system of paying bills and life was good (or at least okay). But something came along, I am not even sure what it was, and I got behind in the rhythm. Then I got really busy at work and I didn’t take time to sit down and pay bills, and then BAM – the next thing I knew it was “out of control.” Unfortunately, I tend to handle “out of control” by ignoring the problem. (FYI – not the best way. I do not advise.) Then out of control turns into nightmares and panic attacks that things are going to be cutoff or hauled away or whatever said penalty is for being a financial idiot.

Can you tell I have been this road a few times? And each time I get it back together, generally by the skin of my teeth, or more likely by the grace of God. I vow never to let it get that way again and purpose myself to stay on this nice little rhythm that enables me to sleep at nights without evil utility people with wire cutters lurking in the dark recesses of my imagination. But then….

There are always times of craziness. Sometimes it is just a period of blowing the budget on outdoor and gardening stuff (my most recent error). Sometimes it is a period of having to be away on business and then attending to stuff piling up at work because you were away, and not spending enough time sitting down taking care of personal business. Seriously, I am too poor to need a personal assistant this much! But no matter how much I intend not to let it get bad again, occasionally it does; it just does.

This is like sin. Sin is missing the mark of perfection. We can try and try and work and work to try to lead perfect sin-free lives, but something always comes up and we miss the mark – again. Some people have that wretched personality type that we quit trying something that is impossible. So we quit trying to live perfect lives because it isn’t possible and therefore it doesn’t really matter what we do, and oh yeah by the way, we aren’t as bad and Mr. and Miss XYZ living down the street, and then we feel that we’re okay and aren’t we just perfect the way we are, we like ourselves. Rationalizing is one long run-on sentence.

Then one day something comes along to rock our delicate system built on lies to ourselves and others that we are doing okay, and we are face to face with reality. BAM. Don’t ya just hate that?

That’s where God comes in. Unlike my financial woes, where there is often nothing to bail me out of these stupid situations, in the case of sin in our lives Jesus has erased our sins and is faithful to forgive us when we ask forgiveness. And unlike my not having a personal assistant, we have the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and encouragement to continue on with the rhythm of our journey of faith. Do things happen? Of course, they do, but we need not fear the evil lurking in the recesses waiting to capitalize on our mistakes, because God has told them to shoo!

Of course, this is a slightly simplistic view of sin, but isn’t it really simpler than we tend to make it? So, what do you do when life gets crazy?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Things to Check Out

My friend, Jeremy Smith at Hacking Christianity has posted on what he is reading, and a few videos to watch. In this same spirit, I would like give you a few things I have been reading or looking at online, and have you check them out for yourself.

Of course, check out Hacking Christianity for a wide variety of interesting observations. Don't forget to watch the video of them moving the 100 year old church. Pretty interesting!

Adam Hamilton is senior pastor at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection and author of several wonderful books, including my favorite, "Selling Swimsuits in the Artic" which is about evangelism. He writes a blog called Seeing Gray. His recent post And Jesus Went to a Quiet Place to Pray talks about getting away to spend some quality time with God, but it also talks about the "process" preachers go through to come up with sermons. I like they way he gets ideas for sermon planning from the people of his congregation. Here is a quote from his post:
Over the next month I will invite our staff, our leaders and our congregation to share with me their thoughts and reflections on what our congregation most needs by way of sermons to deepen their faith, to bring healing and help for their lives and to be equipped to live for Christ. At the end of June I’ll spend a week in Colorado praying, reading and meditating on the scriptures before outlining possible sermon series for the next two years.

I believe this is important, and I will see about the best way to implement such an idea. Until I formally implement this, feel free to give me feedback by email.

Also on preaching is my friend, David Mercer's, blog Deep Calls to Deep. David is a UM pastor soon to be moving, but hopefully will continue his blogging in his new location. His post on The Myth of Certainty really punctuates how ignorance is truly bliss. Here is a quote from his post:

People don’t like their preachers to be uncertain. They don’t want to hear my verbal meandering where I say, “on the one hand we have this view… then on the other hand there’s this thought.” Many people come to church to hear what they’re supposed to think and do. They want answers stated in snappy phrases that remove all doubt and uncertainty.
I think we have a responsibility to seek to know more, but more knowledge often means more wrestling; and therefore, more work. We like things in neat nice packages and wish our pastor's would put it all together for us. Sorry folks, we wrestle just like you. Which is why, I will be implementing Adam Hamilton's suggestion above - to find out where we need to struggle through the questions together.

There is a blog I have stumbled across entitled beauty and depravity by Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest Church in Seattle. In the age old gender struggle, he weighs in and in order to fully appreciate the male side of this check out his post Ultimate Fighting Jesus. I loved reading his post on his conversation with Rob Bell. Here is a quote from the blog:

Rob Bell is bluntly, one of the most visible and influential figures of Christianity in the 21st century. He is arguably the face of the emerging Evangelical Christianity in North America. It must be both a burden and blessing and I’m interested how he will use the platform of his visibility to distribute and share that power and influence.

For women and on a lesser level, people of color, it’s an uphill journey. It just is. And if you have to ask…you just don’t understand. And on this uphill journey, it’s uplifting when those who have power can acknowledge and advocate for those on this uphill journey.

Rob Bell, is the senior pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church, author and is well known for his NOOMA videos.

Of course, the really funny gender struggle post on Eugene Cho's blog is 10 Reasons Why Men Should Not be Ordained for Ministry. This is of course, in conversation with the top arguments given on why women should not do thus and such. It's a hoot and worth the read.

Of course, I have to keep track of my favorite author - CurtissAnn Matlock. She writes delightful books about women and life in a small fictional town called "Valentine, OK." She has a blog entitled Pressing On which talks about a variety of topics, writing, living gluten-free (she is a Celiac), and life in general. Of course, I keep up with her blogs not because she is my favorite author, but because she is my friend. One of her blogs in particular is near and dear to my heart, Blessed Bread. It is about how her pastor included her in communion.

Of course, I check out Scribbit almost everyday. It isn't about theology or posted by someone I already know, it is something I actually stumbled across and have been going back to check it out. It is about parenthood, family, and life in general in Alaska. My favorite was a guest blog by her husband entitled Driving Miss Gracie: Teaching My Teen to Drive. Apparently in Alaska a 14-year old can get their learner's permit. YIKES! Glad I live in good 'ol Oklahoma. But it is a delightful recounting of what those of us with driving children have all been through.

These are but a few and will keep you busy for a bit.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother Plants

In our family tree with more nuts than leaves, we have an eclectic selection of mother's to choose from:
  • There is the mother that you dutifully tend (much like a delicate plant that you periodically get tired of coddling, you know...the kind that you tend to fertilize quite a bit)
  • The mother that you ignore (like a weed you can't get rid of, no matter how hard you try, and no matter how hard you wish, it will never be a rose)
  • The mother that loves whatever you thought of at the last minute (the hardy variety that can live through the cold, but prefers warm; that can make it through the dry periods but really blossoms with a little water and attention)
  • The mother that never really bloomed (I always call plants with a lot of promise, but with no results - duds)
  • Those who have no children yet, but you know they will make great moms some day (the seeds)
  • And those who love everyone else's children like their own, but they don't have any themselves (I can't think of a good analogy for this one so I will simply call them surrogate plants.)
I know I must write on these mother plants, because I am certain others can relate to this.

Because of the strange and broadly ranged types of mother's which we must deal with in our lives, to have a holiday in which you must make a choice as to exactly how you are going to recognize/honor such people seems to be....well...annoying - and I am a mother! The truth of the matter is, no matter how much we might wish it to be, not all mothers are the "Hallmark" variety. In fact, I am positive that no one is the Hallmark variety, but some put forth a good effort. However, there is just no card out there that says, "gee, you were not a very good mother but Happy Mother's Day to my favorite egg donor." I know that comes out as harsh, but seriously, some people who produce children were never meant to be parents; yet, their children are often quite delightful, so I'm glad they put forth the effort anyway.

So, we have this holiday that makes us not only look at the type of card we would purchase for our mother, but makes us stop and think about what type of card our children are really thinking about when they buy one for us. Are we being that hearty variety that loves whatever your children bring to you, or the variety that is so gosh-darned particular our children live in fear of never being good enough, or even worse are we weeds or duds. Then there is the surrogate plant that feels unfairly left out of this particular holiday all together.

Don't get me wrong, I love Mother's Day, because this is the one day a year that my children will make the effort to be there all at the same time. But even if my children are in another city or not right there with me for Mother's Day, I am still a mother, and the relationship I establish with my children will be carried on to the next generation, and quite possibly the one after. If my children think I am a horrible mother that they completely want nothing to do with me, then I will never know my grandchildren. But if they think I am a bad mother then in their effort to be nothing like me, they will throw out good teaching with the bad, which will have an effect on how they raise their children.

At any given time my children, who have no children of their own, have judged me as b0th a good mom and one they disagree with, (if they don't hate me, they have seriously disliked me from time to time.) I am curious what they will think of my parenting when they have children of their own, and have a greater appreciation for parenthood in general. I don't believe any of us are perfect, and those of us who have that wretched "A type" personality with a smattering of perfectionism can go absolutely stark-raving bonkers if we are trying to judge our parenting by whether our children like us at any given moment.

But motherhood isn't a popularity contest, it isn't even an endurance test although it feels that way on occasion. Motherhood is about being a trustee, a caretaker for another, in this case, we are caretakers for God. God gives us children to raise up in the way they should go, so when they are old, they will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6) Once they are ready to go out on their own, the only thing we can do is to pray for them and give them over to God.

Too often, with those who want to win the motherhood popularity contest, we do our children a great disservice because we never train them up as God wishes. We would rather them like us, than to tell them they are going to go to church. In the effort of being a good parent, we give them too broad of choices for their lives, and when they make the wrong choices, we abdicate our responsibility with the cliché that "children will be children." Yes, but children shouldn't be acting like children when they have their own children.

So, I guess the point of this rambling mess is that Mother's Day should not be the day that we seek glory for having gone to the bother of birthing children, which would require our children to honor us whether they feel like it or not. It should be the time in which mothers around the country ask, "what kind of plant am I?"

For my friends out there who are the surrogates, I love you. There are too many children out there seeking a good mother figure. Provide one for them, whether they are yours or not and Happy Mother's Day to you as well.

Her children rise up and call her happy. Proverbs 31:28

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nasty People?

In my blog travels I have come across two very different sites. One is by a woman in Alaska who wrote a very good piece on dealing with nasty comments by those who leave remarks on your blog. It really was very good advice on dealing with nasty people in any area of life, whether hiding behind anonymity on the internet or up-front, in-your-face people in real life. She was so thorough she even included a flow-chart!

The other is at an “Internet Newspaper” site which is quite opinionated, as the Internet often frees us to be. In this article/blog a man writes how anyone who believes in the God of the three monotheistic religions is wrong. He goes on to post a quite articulate, however, inaccurate accounting of Judaism, Christianity and Islam which is obviously only focusing on partial information as he believes all three are quite insane, war-mongering and violent.

Now, as you may imagine, the latter’s blog really disturbed me. It did not really make me angry, although I know people who would have immediately become defensive about such vitriol* splashed out everywhere for the world to see. I just really felt sorry for him because he misses the entire point of faith, focusing so much on flawed humanity.

Now, the first one really helped me to deal with the second as you could imagine. The fact of the matter is that there are people out there who will not agree with us, and even attack our deepest held faiths and most sacred beliefs. We have a few options on how to handle these things, we could return jab for jab the hate-filled comments, OR we could follow the leadings of Jesus…turn the other cheek, love our enemies, and pray for those who would persecute us.

Too often we (in the name of God, Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, etc. ___________ fill in your own good and righteous cause here) respond exactly the opposite that our faith dictates we should. We rise to the goading of those who want to see us stumble and fall just so they could say, “see that is exactly my point.” We even make it easy for them to write articulate articles on how crazy and violent religious people are all the while they have the ability in their reason to sit back all cool, calm and collected like without having their beliefs and faith stepped on.

Speaking from a Christian standpoint (because I cannot speak from a Jewish or Muslim one) we are to pray for these people. (No, not that God will smite them.) St. Francis of Assissi tells us to “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” We are to live our faith, not bitterly fling venom back at those who would fling venom at us, that isn’t want Jesus would want us to do, nor is it what Jesus did.

It saddens me that over the centuries we have so created God in our own image that we truly believe God hates everyone we do.** When the fact of the matter is God tells us to love everyone God does. Whew…that will be a lot of people, even the man who thinks we are all wrong.

* vitriol (vĭt'rē-ōl', -əl) definition #2 in the American Heritage Dictionary, “Bitterly abusive feeling or expression.” OR also definition #2 by WordNet, “abusive or venomous language used to express blame or censure or bitter deep-seated ill will.”

** Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, referencing her priest friend Tom.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Of worth and value...

Good Monday morning! Of course, if you are reading this at another time then, "Good (insert day) (insert time of day!)

Since I have begun this endeavor of blogging, at least once a week, I have been looking more at other's blogs (it's only fair after all), and I find I must ask myself a question....what's the point? I originally started this as a discipline of writing for myself, which one would assume then it wouldn't matter if others read it or not; however, I have discovered that I appreciate it when others read my blog, so maybe my motives have changed.

In looking at other's blogs around blogspot and those I know of in other venues, I have found some really good blogs with a variety of purposes. There are those that are casual and mainly for the purpose of keeping up with friends and family who live far apart (pictures of babies, etc.), there are those which are written on parenting, on gardening, and on cars. There are those like mine which have a decidedly religious point although many times there are many different angles. I have even found a blog where two people post - one inside Gaza and one in Israel about their lives (for those who took my Israel/Palestine study). And in looking at all of these, I have discovered that the really good ones are much like writers of articles in magazines. Some offer 'how-tos', some offer insight and wisdom, some offer quirky recipes, both for life and food.

So after a great deal of research, I have discovered that I do this, as I attempt to do all things, for the glory of God. Yes, sometimes, as it happens, stuff gets in the way, like life and self. Sometimes, strongly held opinions are spouted, or single-mindedness occurs. But I pray that if you do follow my blog on a regular basis, it has helped you grow in your own faith as I continue to grow in mine. We are all on this journey together, and often rely on one another for information about the path, much like OTR truckers do (for my driving friends out there.)

So, this post isn't wrestling with ideas of faith, but ideas of examining motives and why we do things, and if what we are doing is of any worth or value. I hope my weekly blog is of worth and value to those who follow. When it ceases to function in that way, I will cease to blog.

By the way, for those who only check on Monday, I have posted twice since last Monday, so see below. Thanks for all the comments and feedback, they are appreciated.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Reader Service Available

If you will look in the right hand column, you will see where I have allowed my blog to be subscribed to a reader service. What this means is you can click that cute little orange button (Subscribe in a reader) and it will give you a choice of reader services to pick from. I have a friend's blog listed on my Google homepage and I get regular headlines of his updated blogs. Kind of like having a news feed with current headlines. You can play with it. Just something I thought would make life easier for my few loyal readers!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Journey of Faith

I had an opportunity today to be at a hospital which has a labyrinth prayer garden. It generally isn't good when I have an occasion to visit a hospital. It generally means a member of my congregation is there. And this particular hospital is a two-hour drive from my home, so I rarely get the occasion to pray and meditate at this labyrinth.

A labyrinth is not to be confused with a maze in which you can get confused and turned around, a labyrinth is a ancient way of prayer and meditation in which you walk a path that leads you into the center of the labyrinth and follow the same path back out.

The labyrinth at the hospital is based the labyrinth found in the Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France. (See picture to the left.) It is a very intricate pattern in which you wind your way toward the center. The idea with this type of pattern for a labyrinth is that it draws you inward to a reflective place in which you can commune with and listen to God.

As I began to walk this particular day, I was a little cranky (okay maybe a lot cranky) at the unjustness of life sometimes. "God, I don't understand why people have to get cancer" I groused in my mind.

As I walked in to the labyrinth, and I was struck as always by the path. It is relatively a very short distance (as the crow flies, so to speak) from the entrance to the center. But that isn't the way a labyrinth works. It is a long journey to get to your destination, and even the destination isn't the end, as your journey leads you back out.

As the path wound and twisted, and I walked and prayed, I made the observation that life is like that. It winds, it twists, but we never want to rush to the end, and yet sometimes we do. We rush through life never enjoying the journey.

As I came to the first of the outer circuits, I noticed the annoying prickly holly bushes that were not intrusive when originally planted, but after reaching full size, invaded the outer circuit. If you stayed on the path, you risked pain and discomfort. If you veered off the path, you risked losing your place. (At this time, a risk I was willing to take, but you see the correlation with life.)

Also, there were annoying branches hanging over the path from a near by tree, and I was irritated by the lack of much needed tree trimming. I also noticed various organic debris from various trees, bushes and whatnot which had most likely deposited on the path by the recent storms that had went through the city.

As I continued to walk and whine, and argue and fuss with God, about things I don't understand (which could fill all the oceans), God began to speak to me through the labyrinth. The road is long, and isn't always easy, deal with it. You are going to have things that knock you off the path, get back on. There will be things that bring pain, persevere. Nothing is neat and tidy, get over it. If you are irritated by the lack of care others are showing to a particular issue, do it yourself.

Well, as you can imagine, I wasn't happy with God's apparent lack of compassion to my whining. And then I began the last walk into the center of the labyrinth and heard in the ear of my heart, "leave it here with me." So I stayed in the middle and prayed, and left it there.

I noticed as I returned from the center that I wanted to continue my rant, but I really couldn't get a good head of steam worked up. As I walked, I just kept thinking "leave it here, with me."

I came out of the labyrinth and my spirit felt lighter. I didn't receive any divine revelation that the situation would turn out peachy keen fine just the way I wanted it. The situation had not changed when I returned to the hospital waiting room. Nothing had changed - except my spirit was lighter. I was no longer carrying all the negative whiny thoughts, I had left them with God. God could deal with them.

Some people may wonder what the point is to faith, if it doesn't change anything. Circumstances and situations may not change, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, but faith always changes the person with it for the better. I told two of the nicest people in the world today this..."it is one thing to believe...people always say what they believe 'I believe in God' or 'I believe in Jesus', but is holding on to your beliefs when everything in the world is trying to knock you off the horse." Okay, so it is a bit of a mixed metaphor, but you get the message.

Hold on to faith, and when things get really rough, take them to God. Even if you are delivering them whining and crying and fussing. But when you get them there...leave them there, with God.