Friday, August 28, 2020

Perspectives: Our perspective

 

This is a panoramic image of the river from Hawks Nest, a State Park in West Virginia.  Views such as this are so wonderful to behold, and so difficult to capture, don't you think?  The panoramic shot shifts the perspective to make what is straight, curved.  It forces the straight into something that it doesn't normally fit.

What perspective are you using today? Is it realistic? Or is it forcing something from truth to fit your mind set?

I will be on vacation soon.  I'll try to post, but if I'm absent from the blog, that is why.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

What's the purpose?

I'm slowing working my way through the book Short Stories by Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine.  Slowly, not because of the quality of the book - it's wonderful - but because I only read about 10 minutes a day from it.  It is my morning devotional reading. 

Anyway, I found this gem last week:

She is quoting the Apocryphal  book, Fourth Maccabees.  Eliezer the lawyer is speaking, and he says that the Torah has invaluable merit: it "teaches us self-control, so that we master all pleasures and desire, and it also trains us in courage, so that we endure any suffering willingly; it instructs us in justice, so that in all our dealings we act impartially, and it teaches us piety, so that with proper reverence we worship the only living God (5.23-24).

You may agree or disagree with Eliezer.  This is, after all, his view of the purpose of the Torah (what we consider the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (aka for us, the Old Testament).  But the question is a good one.  What is the purpose of the Bible for you?  I don't mean why it exists - I mean, what purpose does it serve in your life? What difference does it make in the way you live, the courage you demonstrate, the fairness you offer, and your relationship with God?

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Monday, August 24, 2020

Our Thoughts

During an online devotional last week, the leader said she had read that we all think 50,000 thoughts a day. More than 50% of them are negative, and at least 90% of them are thoughts we had the day before. 

That phrase stopped me in my tracks.  Really?  90% of our thoughts today are the same as the thoughts we had yesterday?  I just picture rerun after rerun of thoughts.  And if more than half of them are negative, what does that say about our what is going on in our minds.

If we want to grow in Christ today, it seems to me that our thoughts would be a place to start. What thoughts of ours, that echo through our days, reflect hatred, judgment, or grace-less-ness? How can we change them?

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Friday, August 21, 2020

Perspectives: Be the Light

 

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Who is Lost?

 Read this from Luke 15:25-32:

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

I'm reading Short Stories by Jesus written by Amy-Jill Levine.  The parables in Luke 15 -- The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal and his brother -- is Chapter 1.  I highly recommend this book.  I'm not going to write a post explaining the entire first chapter (I have written a post or two already about it); you should get the book and read it yourself.

Have you ever noticed that when the older son comes in from the field, the celebration of his younger son's return is already happening? Think for a minute.  Imagine that one of your family members returns home after being gone - thought to be gone forever.  It's time to celebrate! What do you do? Before you gather the ingredients for the meal or set the table? You tell the rest of the family so that they can share in the joy.

Why hadn't anyone gone to the fields to tell the older brother that the younger one had returned? To share the joy and bring him back for the celebration?

Could it be that the lost brother is the one in the field? Who among us is lost? Who, right in front of us, is excluded? And what will we do about it?

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Monday, August 17, 2020

What CAN we do?

 I knit, and I follow a few knitters' blogs.  My favorite one is yarnharlot.ca; this is written by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.  She is a knitter and writer from Canada.  In addition to what she does for a living (write, knit, lead workshops, etc), she is highly involved in a charity called Toronto People with Aids (PWA).  Each year she not only rides in a fundraising bike rally from Toronto to Montreal, she also helps to organize it.  This year, the bike rally had to be cancelled due to, obviously, the coronavirus. The cancellation meant that the organization lost one of its biggest fundraising activities for the year.  The need doesn't stop - in fact it increases - while the funds are much less.

Stephanie's biking team, Team Knit, was talking and trying to figure out what to do to help.  What struck me about her description of their discussion was this:

Team Knit has been trying to figure out how to fix it – or what we can do, or how it is even remotely possible to make some lemonade here, but absolutely everything has proved impossible, and Ken put it best a few weeks ago after a meeting when he said “I feel like all we do is talk about what we can’t do.” That stuck with us. What could we do? What if we flipped it, and asked not what’s restricted or impossible or hopeless…but what’s possible?

How often and how much are we talking about what we cannot do.  We can't sing in worship. We may not be able to even worship in person together.  We can't play sports, and we may not be able to send our kids to school.  We can't go to the beach. We can't hug our friends or family.  We can't.  

But what CAN we do?

How can we do church differently during this time? How can we love from a distance? How can we make everyday life less of a complaint about what we cannot not do and more of a celebration of what we are able to do?

It takes intentionality, creativity, and a positive outlook.  But all of those can be transformational.

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Perspectives: Lake

 

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Your Hands

Earlier this week, I wrote about breathing, and how we can be grateful for breath.  In the same devotional time when I was asked to breathe deeply, I was then asked to look at my hands.  

We've thought alot about our hands lately. We wash them. We try to keep them away from our faces.  We cover them with sanitizer.  And then with hand lotion. We try not to touch our faces.  We wash our hands.  

There are those things that our hands have not been able to do lately.  We can't shake hands.  We rarely are able to wrap our hands and arms around someone we love - either for fear of infection or just plane distance.  We avoid touching surfaces.  I am a tactile person, and touching something brings me information I need to process it.  Even the act of picking of a package in the supermarket leaves me with the worry that I have somehow contaminated it for the next person who may touch it.  Our hands may not be turning the pages of a hymnal or receiving the bread of communion.

And then there are the things are hands are doing that isn't usual.  We may be typing on the computer more or starting more Zoom calls.  We may be picking up the telephone to speak with someone when telephone conversations aren't our favorite way to communication.  We are using our hands to hook a mask around our ears and to then carefully remove it.  We wave goodbye as we leave a virtual meeting, and we hold our phones up to the laptop camera to show someone a picture. 

Take a moment and be grateful for your hands.  Grab some hand lotion and give your hard-working hands a moment of peace as you care for them.  Hold your hands together or hold them open and give thanks for the ministry that God is doing through you, even if it is different than it was a few months ago. Give thanks for the hope your hands can bring.  Give thanks. Receive peace. Amen.

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Monday, August 10, 2020

Breathe

 In the past few weeks, I have participated in two different devotional moments in which the speaker asked us to consider our breath.  To breathe deeply, releasing whatever tension has accumulated in our lives and to breathe in the presence of God - of hope and joy.


Both times that has happened, I have thought of those in our world who are not able to breathe as easily or as deeply as I can.  Most specifically, I think of those infected with the SARS-CoV-2, who are suffering from COVID-19.  A person who is battling the disease would not be able to breathe deeply; he (or she) would have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.  Or perhaps he would be on a ventilator, unable to breathe on his own at all.  And as I sit at my desk, I can breathe easily and deeply, thinking of those who cannot.

For just a moment, as you are reading this, pause and take a deep breathe.  Hold it.  Release it.  

I pray you are able to breathe easily and deeply, and that you are filled with thanksgiving for what we every day take for granted.  May God fill you with hope and peace this day as you breathe in God's presence. Amen.

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Friday, August 07, 2020

Perspectives: Beauty



This is an image from Colorado.  I'm posting it solely because it was such a beautiful place to be.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Hopeful Language


We just helped our son move from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Henderson, Nevada.  The three of us each drove a vehicle - my son drove his car, I drove our minivan, and my husband drove the moving truck.  To get there, the three of us drove 1800 miles, eating in our car and in hotel rooms (trying to be safe).  The scenery out the window was usually fantastic (on the way back, there were just a few too many cornfields). 

Much of the drive through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada was through areas that were dry.  Dry dry dry.  And hot.  HOT HOT HOT.  I don't care what they say about a dry heat, it was 110 degrees when we unloaded the moving truck, and all the dry heat meant was that you got dehydrated faster.

Anyway, Dry and hot. But along the way, there were small bridges that passed over what were called "Washes."  Such as Rattlesnake Wash.  These were what I would call dry creek beds.  There must be times during the year when water washes through them.  And there are parts of Henderson named Green Valley and Spring Valley.  Lush, even green, names.  There were "rivers" where there was barely any water.  Tiny things we would not call a river - we would call them a creek.

What struck me about all of this was that the language used to refer to them was hopeful.  Even though a wash had no sign of water, the language suggests that it would, eventually.  Even though Green Valley didn't look very Green, the name suggest that sometimes it is.  Calling a small creek a "river' suggest that sometimes it is a river, or it suggests that even though we know this flowing water is tiny, we are so grateful for it that we will call it a river.  It is that abundant to us.

How does our language reflect our hopefulness? 

For example, I am usually annoyed by someone calling the period of time we are in, our "new normal."  To me, that does not convey any hope at all.  To me, it says, "This is normal.  This is what we expect in the future."  I would rather call it the "current reality."  This is what it is now, but nothing in that phrase says that where we are now is where we expect to be in the future.  To me, "Current reality" connotes that there will be a future reality, and it may be different. 

What hopeful language can you use today?

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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Walking

At John Lewis' funeral, Bill Clinton talked about John Lewis preparing to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday (as it would become known)Read what President Clinton said about Lewis' preparation:
Bloody Sunday, he figured he might get arrested. And this is really important for all the rhapsodic things we believe about John Lewis, he had a really good mind and he was always trying to figure out how I can make the most out of every single moment. So he’s getting ready to march from Selma to Montgomery, he wants to get across the bridge. What do we remember? He cut quite a strange figure: He had a trench coat and a backpack. Now, young people probably think that’s no big deal but there weren’t that many backpacks back then. And you never saw anybody in a trench coat looking halfway dressed up with a backpack. But John put an apple, an orange, a toothbrush, toothpaste to take care of his body ‘cause he figured he would get arrested. And two books, one by Richard Hofstadter on America’s political tradition to feed his mind, and one, the autobiography of Thomas Merton, a Roman Catholic Trappist monk who was the son of itinerant artists making an astonishing personal transformation. What’s a young guy who’s about to get his brains beat out and planning on going to prison doing taking that? I think he figured that if Thomas Merton could find his way and keep his faith and believe in the future, he, John Lewis could too.

So we honor our friend for his faith and for living his faith, which the Scripture said is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. John Lewis was a walking rebuke to people who thought, ‘well, we ain’t there yet, we’ve been working a long time, isn’t it time to bag it?’ He kept moving. He hoped for and imagined and lived and worked and moved for his beloved community. He took a savage beating on more than one day. And he lost that backpack on Bloody Sunday. Nobody knows what happened to it. Maybe someone someday will be stricken with conscience and give some of it back. But what it represented never disappeared from John Lewis’ spirit.
Many days later, that passage of the speech still sticks with me. We are in ministry in the world.  What can learn that will strengthen our walk with Jesus from Representative Lewis' preparation for the March from Selma to Alabama?
  1. Preparation.  John Lewis thought he might be arrested; in fact, he was beaten severely.  He suffered a skull fracture and bore scars from the beating for the rest of his life.   He didn't know that would happen, but he assumed the march would not be without resistance, so he prepared.  He prepared to care for his body and his spirit.  We need to take both of those steps as we walk out to serve Christ.
  2. Courage. He didn't know exactly WHAT would happen, but he anticipated that it would not be good.  And he went anyway.  
  3. Faith.  You can see it in his choice of reading material.  "If Thomas Merton could find his way and keep his faith and believe in the future, he John Lewis could too."
  4. Perseverance.  He kept moving, in the face of strong resistance.  He kept moving as he walked across the bridge. He kept moving after the march.  He did not give up on what he knew was right.
This is all inspiring to me.  We need to prepare for ministry. We need to have the courage to start the journey, even when we see resistance, and we need to keep walking in ministry, all the time, knowing that God is with us.

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Friday, July 31, 2020

Perspectives: One view of Colorado



One of the images I took from the car as we traveled.  I think this is Colorado.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Correctness

I'm listening to a Great Courses series of lectures called "The Secret Life of Words: English Words and their Origins." The lecturing professor is Anne Curzan. She is the dean of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. The lecture series is fascinating. I've been springing tidbits on Steve each evening - there are many ah ha moments regarding language. 

 Today as I was driving into work, the lecture topic was "Firefighters and Freshpersons." In this lecture, Curzan defines politically correct language as "language that respects all groups of speakers and respects what groups would like to be called. It also works from the premise that language matters." 

 Think about that for a moment. In my workplace, we spend a lot of time making sure that we spell people's names correctly - correctly being defined as how that person spells his or her own name. If Jayne Smythe says that is how her name is spelled, then to spell it Jane Smith would be wrong. I like this definition of politically correct language because it pulls its "correctness" from the subject of the language, and that makes sense to me. 

 Language does matter. How we speak is what people hear. What they hear has an impact on them, and on their beliefs about us, and about their beliefs concerning what we believe. It shapes what is acceptable behavior. And it shows our respect (or lack of respect) for someone else. The old adage that "words will never hurt us" is wrong. You know it, and I know it - both of us, I'm sure, have been hurt by words. Word choice is important. And we can't refuse the accept the responsibility for the impact our words have on someone else. Or even on society. 

 For example, it's been a very long time since I was a girl. Or a young lady. And there are still people who use those words when speaking to me or about me. To me, they denote a lack of respect for who I am. No one would come into our office and refer to the men (man) here as a boy or a young man. Because he isn't. And when someone uses them to refer to me, my image of that person is shaped by the disrespect I perceive. To say that I am being "overly sensitive" is to deny the responsibility for the impact of the words. 

 The truth is, I want people to be respectful of others, and I want to be respectful of others. Respect is a sign that you see the person in front of you as another human - not as an object. And if we can't sum up the change of heart to be respectful in truth, then we can at the very least, demonstrate correctness by our word choice. It's trite, but fake it until you make it. Our language can change the world, even if our heart has not been changed. And then, maybe then, our hearts will grow, too.

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