Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Observations and a story

Halloween observations:

Why is it that there are trick or treat parents who follow their children through the neighborhood in a car, moving at about 5 miles an hour? This neighborhood has hundreds of children running around on Halloween, and a car can be a dangerous addition. Just park and walk!

Who is it that taught my children that if they eat a piece of candy with a wrapper that they can just drop the wrapper onto the floor. I know that they know what trash cans are -- who taught them to not use them?

And a story:

My brother-in-law (R) and his wife (J) have just moved to town and are looking for a house. The went to see one downtown, and took their boys with them. While R and J were speaking with the real estate agent, their son, N, was looking around. He walked down the stairs to the basement, and they heard him yell up the stairs, "Hey, Mom, look at this! The basement looks like the Phantom of the Opera!" There was three inches of water covering the floor.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

The next beatitude is found in Matthew 5:9 --

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (NRSV)

You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family. (The Message)

I think the first question that we need to ask ourselves as we look at this verse is ‘what is peace?’ or perhaps more correctly, ‘what was Jesus’ concept of peace?’

I think we limit it. I think we have taken the concept of peace and made it small. We have squeezed it into a box that we call “absence of war,” when it really means something much, much larger.

I did some reading about the word shalom. I thought it was important to look at the Hebrew definition because Matthew is speaking to the Jews, and Jesus himself was Jewish. The etymology of shalom includes words like completeness, fulfillment and wellbeing. Frederick Buechner says that “shalom means fullness, means having everything you need to be wholly and happily yourself.”

Being a “peacemaker” doesn’t mean being merely peaceable. It doesn’t mean just “getting along with each other.” According to old red (my RSV Oxford Annotated study Bible), being a peacemaker means “those who work earnestly to make peace.” If we insert the shalom definition, then we are left with “those who work earnestly to bring wholeness or fullness.”

Another Buechner quote – Peacemakers are those who, because they know that they have not necessarily found peace in its fullness, “try to bring it about wherever and however they can – peace with their neighbors and God, peace with themselves.” I keep coming back to this idea in all the beatitude posts – it isn’t the achievement that brings us the blessing – it the attempt. God will bring grace to those who turn to him and say, “There is no possible way that I can do this." It is in the recognition that God is a necessary ingredient that we receive the blessing.

So how do we become peacemakers, and what does that really mean? I was thinking about this on the way to work this morning, and I think it has something to do with being the Body of Christ. If we are the Body, then we need to be reaching out to others – not just feeding them, but finding out why they don’t have food. Not just housing them, but finding out why they don’t have the means to house themselves. Not just visiting them in prison, but striving with them to make life changes. I think it has something to do with bringing both mercy and justice to the Body. I think we need to be pulling people into the Body of Christ, so that the Body can become whole. So that all of us can be made complete. Perfected in grace. Each of us, all of us, the Body of Christ, made whole. Shalom.

And what is the blessing? We will be called “children of God.” We will all find “our place in God’s family.” We will find our place in the Body of Christ -- we will recognize whose we are. We will know what it means to be completely convinced that we are each a child of God.

One more Buechner quote – “…for Jesus, peace seems to have meant not the absence of struggle, but the presence of love.”

Image: Shalom

Monday, October 30, 2006

I am

Exodus 3:13-14 But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.”'

The title of the section from which these verses orginate is, "God's Divine Name is Revealed." He tells Moses, "Tell them that 'I am has sent me to you.'" Just like God, this name is amazingly simple and short, but almost unfathomable. To me, without exploring it much in references, this name has several meanings, and most of the ones I want to highlight can be seen in this chapter of Exodus.

  • We talked a few days ago about faith, and how it doesn't prove anything. In this passage, God calls himself I am. He doesn't try to prove that He exists -- he demands that we take it on faith that he exists. "I am."
  • I am is very similar in my mind to the word "be." "I am," says God. Looking at Exodus 3:11-12a "But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’He said, ‘I will be with you;..." God will be with the Israelites. He will be with them. It is an affirmation of his presence and his support of them.
  • I never thought about this before, but I am is a verb. (Thanks to Andy at Enter the Rainbow for that observation.) God doesn't just see them -- he is aware of their plight, and he takes action. It is a call, I think, for us to do the same.
  • I am _____. I wonder, perhaps, if it is a call for us to fill in the blank. What do we need? How can he help us he most? He will be for us what he knows that we need the most. He will provide for us that which we need to do what he wants us to do. I am ... comforter, listener, leader, friend, father. I will be whatever it is that I need to be in order to reach you.
  • I am indescribable. No matter what we do to try to make him small enough to understand, he will always be larger than our words.
I think the name I am unites the concept of faith and action together -- it is a statement of existance as well as a verb calling for action. It is the combination of "being" and "doing." It is the statement that is so large that is tries to encompass God, but fails.

Image: Woods near VA parking lot this morning.
Correction to Packing post -- JM/reunion group members did not cover 26% of the prayer vigil -- it was 13% -- I forgot the time segments are 1/2 hour instead of 1 full hour and did the math wrong. Is still think it's pretty incredible.

    What have I done?

    A meme, from see-through faith (A real post will follow later tonight) :

    Things I’ve done (for good or bad) are shown in bold.

    1. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
    2. Swam with wild dolphins
    3. Climbed a mountain (Does Seneca Rocks count?)
    4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
    5. Been inside the Great Pyramid
    6. Held a tarantula (Why would I want to?)
    7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone (Husband is too tall for bathtubs, and that may be more information that you wanted to know)
    8. Said “I love you’ and meant it!
    9. Hugged a tree (I'm 42 - I just can't remember if I've had a hugging relationship with a tree)
    10. Bungee jumped (Nope -- and I'm not going to -- A "bungee" is just a rubber band, and those always break when I use them.)
    11. Visited Paris (Does Charles de Galle airport count? Security was so light that we could have just walked out the door and then back in with no problem -- and no one stamped our passports.)
    12. Watched a lightning storm at sea (Oh, and it was great!)
    13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise (all night long? I don't think I have, although I might have come close)
    14. Seen the Northern Lights (No, but I would LOVE to)
    15. Gone to a huge sports game
    16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
    17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
    18. Touched an iceberg
    19. Slept under the stars (well, in a tent)
    20. Changed a baby’s diaper (countless -- do I get extra credit? Some of them were doozies.
    21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
    22. Watched a meteor shower (It was the coolest thing!)
    23. Drunk champagne
    24. Given more than you can afford to charity
    25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
    26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
    27. Had a food fight (No, but I got potatoes dropped on my head a church a couple of weeks ago).
    28. Bet on a winning horse
    29. Asked out a stranger (No, but I've gone out with a stranger)
    30. Had a snowball fight
    31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
    32. Held a lamb
    33. Seen a total eclipse
    34. Ridden a roller coaster
    35. Scored a winning goal
    36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
    37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
    38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
    39. Visited all 5 continents (Nope -- only two)
    40. Taken care of someone who was drunk
    41. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
    42. Watched wild whales
    43. Stolen a sign
    44. Backpacked
    45. Taken a road-trip
    46. Gone rock climbing (Can I count Dolly Sods? -- Can I even spell it?)
    47. Midnight walk on the beach (Not midnight walks -- but walks at night)
    48. Gone sky diving
    49. Taken a train through Europe
    50. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
    51. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table, and had a meal with them (Steve and I did this in Lisbon. They were the most interesting couple)
    52. Milked a cow
    53. Alphabetized your CDs (No, not my CDs, but my spices are alphabetized, and I don't care who knows it. I love being able to find them when I want them.)
    54. Sung karaoke
    55. Lounged around in bed all day (Probably not all day)
    56. Gone scuba diving
    57. Kissed in the rain
    58. Gone to a drive-in theatre
    59. Started a business
    60. Taken a martial arts class
    61. Been in a movie
    62. Crashed a party
    63. Gone without food for 5 days
    64. Gotten a tattoo
    65. Got flowers for no reason
    66. Performed on stage
    67. Been to Las Vegas
    68. Recorded music
    69. Eaten shark
    70. Buried one/both of your parents
    71. Been on a cruise ship (only if we use a loose definition of "cruise ship")
    72. Spoken more than one language fluently
    73. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (when I was six)
    74. Walked a famous bridge (New River Gorge Bridge on Bridge Day)
    75. Had plastic surgery
    76. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
    77. Wrote articles for a large publication (if we define "large" loosely)
    78. Tried to lose weight seriously.
    79. Piloted an airplane
    80. Petted a stingray (Manta ray, yes, but not a sting ray)
    81. Broken someone’s heart
    82. Broken a bone
    83. Eaten sushi
    84. Had your picture in the newspaper
    85. Parasailed (no, but Steve has)
    86. Skipped all your school reunions (I went to my 20th and had a great time)
    87. Shaved your head
    88. Caused a car accident (Not me, but Steve was driving mom's car one day -- all three of us were in it -- on the interstate. The car in front of us stopped, Steve veered into the passing lane and the car behind us hit the car in front of us. Steve didn't cause it, but he did keep us out of it.)
    89. Pretended to be “sick”
    90. Swam in the Pacific Ocean (no, but I have touched it)
    91. Saved someone’s life
    92. Fainted
    93. Been in the room while someone is giving birth (HA!)
    94. Hitchhiked
    95. Adopted a child
    96. Been caught daydreaming
    97. Been to the Painted Desert
    98. Called off a wedding engagement
    99. Donated your blood (more than a gallon, less than two)
    100. Become a follower of Jesus Christ

    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    Prayers abundant

    I'm back home from the walk -- via Trunk or Treat at church and then dinner -- and I'm sitting here tired -- so a short post tonight.

    Part of the Emmaus experience is prayer. I sat in a chapel with five other women. Between the five of them, they had experienced 20 deaths in the last few years, including parents and children. It was an without a doubt an emotional 15 to 20 minutes.

    I tell you this to share with a you a grace moment. I mentioned in my Packing for a Walk post that I was taking the little "prayer box" angel that Steve had given me. I said in the post that I wasn't putting a prayer in it; that I was depending on the prayers of other people to "fill her up." After the ladies in the prayer session that I mentioned above finished discussing their prayers and concerns, I pulled the angel out of my pocket, and told them why I had left her empty. I explained that people none of us knew, that people they knew, and that people I knew had been praying for them -- before the walk and during the walk. I then showed them the angel -- she's broken. Literally, the clasp no longer keeps her closed.

    She is overflowing with prayers.

    Saturday, October 28, 2006

    My Faith

    Please welcome my second guest blogger, Steve, my husband:

    My faith, Christianity. My profession, lighting. An interesting factoid, light and dark are featured in both. As Christians we refer to the devil as being dark and God as being light. Star Wars played this up by trying to keep the heroes from “turning to the dark side." The good side was considered the Force, but they did have light sabers.

    My professional life is focused on recommending and providing proper lighting for a given space; office, gym, classroom, factory, ball field, etc. As I apply my training, I find it kind of neat that one cannot measure ‘dark’-- only the absence of ‘light’. I would not presume to say that the devil is not real, but shift gears and plug into that same equation, my faith. When it appears to be getting dark in my life, it’s because I have let the Light go down. I turn the LIGHT up and the dark goes away.

    Ps 139:12: Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for the darkness is as light to you.

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    De Colores!

    As I mentioned yesterday, Jeff the Methodist is a guest blogger today:

    I’m honored to be a guest blogger on my favorite blog (sorry WabiSabi) while Kim is on an Emmaus Walk. On this weekend a year ago six women from our church were on their original Emmaus Walk in Ashland. Now Kim is back as one of the servant leaders. It seems fitting to say to Kim, to my wife M, and to B, S, D, J: “Happy Anniversary.”

    What is it about the Emmaus Walk?

    The past several years the movement has been growing within our church, and it has been gratifying to watch as God changes lives and the church. Two weeks ago four more men from our church took the pilgrimage, and I am witness to four more life-transformations. One said, “No one in the history of the Emmaus Walk ever had more reservations about going than I did…but this has meant everything to me…this was a conversion event.” Another said, “This experience changed me.”

    They aren’t (or weren’t) religious fanatics. They are regular guys like me, who surrendered to something they felt called to, drawn to, and received blessings more than they could have ever anticipated.

    How does it work?

    I could explain the whole program here, but it wouldn’t seem evident to cause such a revolution. The secret to the success of the Emmaus Walk is, in my opinion, in three elements.

    First, it is based in prayer, before, during, and after the weekend “walks.” Second, the participants surrender—they give in to something that is unknown, they trust, and they “don’t anticipate.” Third, the weekend is wrapped in agape love—sacrificial, unconditional, selfless love that drives home to the participants some idea of what God’s love is like.

    This past year, I have observed tremendous spiritual growth in Kim as well. Already a committed servant of Christ, her Emmaus Walk intensified her desire and ability to serve. She is blessed to be a blessing. God has gifted her with discernment, wisdom, knowledge and voice…I never asked her directly, but I imagine this blog to be one of the fruits of Kim’s own conversion—a new medium to tell the story.

    I know I speak for many others in our church and our community when I give thanks to God for Kim.

    Images: (also from Jeff) One is "Oh, the colors on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan." The other is the flag we (Jeff and M) traditionally fly at our house during Emmaus Walks. (The tradition is just starting now).

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Sitting at the Table of Joy

    I've already mentioned (if you can call that long post, "mentioning") the Emmaus walk. Another member of my reunion group, MH, is also going to be an assistant table leader on this walk. Her table name is "Table of Encouragement." In preparation for the walk, she looked up the Bible verses that use the word encouragement, wrote them down, and read them.

    I thought that was a really cool idea, and since my prep for this walk has been a little bit, uh, small, I thought I would follow suit. My table name is "joy." In case you need to know, the word "joy" in in the NIV version of the bible 242 times. I decided that writing all of those verse references down and then reading them, might take all of the joy out of joy. Instead, I chose one reference to read instead. Paradoxically, there is more joy in one Psalm than in 242 references:

    Psalm 96
    O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
    Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
    Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous works among all the peoples.
    For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.
    For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
    Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
    Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
    Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.
    Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.
    Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!
    The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
    He will judge the peoples with equity.’
    Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    let the field exult, and everything in it.
    Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming,
    for he is coming to judge the earth.
    He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.

    Packing for a walk

    I leave this evening to go on an Emmaus walk as a member of the servant team. I’ve never done this before; the only walk I have been on was my own walk as a pilgrim. As with any trip, there are decisions to be made. What will I take with me? What will I leave behind?

    First, what will I leave behind?

    I’m leaving the blog behind. For the next two days, I won’t be posting. I am, however, leaving Sandpiper’s Thoughts in very good hands. There will be two guest bloggers taking charge on Friday and Saturday.

    On Friday, Jeff the Methodist will once again be blogging, not in response to a challenge this time, but to a request. If you click on that “challenge” link, you’ll see his previous guest blogging appearance, and my words of introduction. Those still stand, but I thought I would add to them today. To give you a taste of Jeff’s post tomorrow, I want to feature his involvement in the Walk to Emmaus program in our area. Jeff went on his first walk in 2000, and since then, has served on five walk teams, including on one in the role of Lay Director of the walk. He is now serving on the Board of our local community. All of that tells you that Jeff is very familiar with the Walk to Emmaus program, but doesn’t tell you much about who Jeff is. He is a man who walks daily with God and says “yes” to His leading. He constantly shares God’s gifts of proclamation, exhortation and leadership with our church. He is also a friend who said “yes” when asked to write for the blog. Thank you, Jeff.

    On Saturday, my husband, Steve, will be blogging. Steve has blogged before. You can read two of his prayers here and here. One of Steve’s gifts from God is the ability to pray straight from his own heart to God’s heart. To get to know a little bit about Steve, check out the post from his birthday. How can I introduce you to my best friend? He is the biggest blessing God has given me in this life. He is kind, considerate, thoughtful and faithful. He listens – to me, to our sons, and to God. I’ve known him for over half of my life, and in July, will have been married to him for 20 years. Nothing is real until I share it with him. He continually puts other people first. I stand where I am, doing what I do, because he stands with me. Wherever God leads me, Steve is saying, “I’m here, and I’ll help.” Steve’s original walk was a year and a half ago; he just finished serving on his first walk team. The post he has written for Saturday is an analogy that he shared during his walk. I liked it so much that I asked him to share it with you. Thank you, Steve, for saying “yes,” and I love you.

    So I leave you in very good hands.

    What else am I leaving behind? My watch. I didn’t put it on this morning. I’m taking a clock and my cell phone, both of which will tell me what time it is, but I leave my wrist bare to remind myself that during this walk, I am on God’s time.

    What am I taking with me?

    I mentioned that Steve served on a team a couple of weeks ago. The Lay Director of that men’s walk asked Steve to serve back in June. He thought about it all through vacation. Sitting on the beach one day, he told me that he was going to tell David ‘yes.’ That day, we went to an outlet mall, and we stopped in a Bible Outlet (Did you know that there are outlet stores for bibles?). While we were there, I purchased a cross. I habitually carry a cross in my pocket as a touchstone. I don’t use it for prayer as often as I should, but when I reach into my pocket, I find it, and I remember whose I am. Once Steve told David ‘yes,’ I began to carry this cross in particular each day. My plan was to carry it until Steve left to go on his walk, and then to give it to him, so that he could have it with him that weekend, as I reminder that I was, and had been, praying for him.

    Great idea, except that I lost the cross. It fell out of my pocket and was gone. Later I bought another one – a different one – this one has a little alpha-fish on it. From the day of Steve’s first team meeting until our team consecration service, I carried this second cross, attached to an angel that Steve had given me months before. After communion during the consecration service, I gave him this second cross. He carried it on his walk, and is still carrying it.

    Yesterday, I was walking in front of the couch downstairs, and looked down. There on the floor, as bright as day, was the first cross. If I tell you that it was in front of “my spot,” I mean that it was on the floor right where I sit each and every evening, watching TV, working on the lap top computer. Right in plain view. I picked it up, attached it to my angel (which I was still carrying), and it will go with me on the walk.

    The angel itself is actually a prayer box – you can open it up and stick a very tiny prayer inside of it. I thought of doing this, but instead I’m going to leave it empty. I’m counting on the prayers of others to fill her up. I looked at the 72-hour prayer vigil for the walk today. Of the 72 hours, 19 of them will be filled with either members of my reunion group or of my church. That’s 26% (I have the heart of a counter). I have no doubt that this walk will be surrounded by the prayers of my friends and family.

    I’m taking with me a note from a friend in my reunion group (see the pretty card in the picture?), and email notes from friends, who have encouraged and affirmed. God’s blessings are abundant.

    I’m taking the book you see in the first picture. It is my Emmaus prayer journal. In it, along with other lists and prayers, will be a copy of the prayer vigil list. I want to know who is praying and when. I’m not sure how I’ll do that without a watch, but we’ll see. Attached to the book will be a piece of agape from my own walk – a lighthouse from our Andrew’s Brothers.

    What else am I taking? I have no idea. I haven’t packed yet!!! I leave in seven hours, and I’m not sure where my suitcase is. That’s a lie. I know just where it is, but I’m not telling.

    May God use me this weekend, and may he keep me out of his way. Amen

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Fear as a stumbling block

    This is late this evening -- I wrote it late, and then Blogger had some kind of snit, and wouldn't let me access the blog or the publishing pages. Looks like we are back in business now.

    My older son goes to middle school on the top of a hill. No place in our town is very flat, but his school is high up on a pinnacle. I drive him to school at least once a week, usually more often. To get him to the door, I drive up a road which is, and I’m not exaggerating, steep. From the beginning of 6th grade, I have always dreaded driving up this hill, because sometimes, when there is a line of cars for "drop off," and I have to STOP on that hill.

    Stopping is no problem. It’s the starting again, in a car with a standard transmission, and the fear that I will roll back into the car behind me. As I said, our town is full of hills, and I have been stopping and starting on them, driving cars with standard transmissions, since I was 16. I can do it; I do it all the time. For some reason, though, this hill has always been my nemesis.

    Amazingly enough, this year I am getting over it. I have realized that it is the fear of rolling back, of not clutching and braking and hitting the gas with the right speed and combination of agility have caused all of my problems. This year, I’ve given up the fear of this hill, and I now stop and start with no trouble.

    Are we like that? Does fear become so large that it is the fear that causes the problems? If we gave up the fear, would we give up what we are afraid of? Is it the fear that allows the consequences to happen?

    There is fear that is healthy. It is good for me to be afraid of venomous snakes, of speeding on ice, and of walking in dark alleys alone. These things are dangerous, and to be afraid of them is wise.

    There is, however, fear that is a stumbling block. There is fear that stops us from trusting God, from stepping out in faith. When we fear failure so much that we fail to try anything, then the fear has become the problem. When we stay standing still because we are afraid that if we take a step we will fall down, then the fear has kept us from walking down the road as much as the fall would have.

    In God, whose word I praise,
    in the LORD, whose word I praise-
    in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?
    I am under vows to you, O God;
    I will present my thank offerings to you.
    For you have delivered me from death
    and my feet from stumbling,
    that I may walk before God
    in the light of life.
    Psalm 56:10-13

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Useless Trivia

    LogoThere are:
    people with my name
    in the U.S.A.

    How many have your name?

    If I use Kimberly, then 423 people have my name in the US.
    If I use my maiden name, along with Kim, then the number jumps to 1,919
    If I use Kimberly and my maiden name, then the number is 4,694.

    Useless trivia. Sometimes I feel like I get email for all of them.

    Blessed are the pure in heart

    It’s that day, again. It’s Beatituesday. I’m not entirely convinced that I’m doing a particularly good job at delving into the meaning of these pieces of Scripture, but I’m going to keep going.

    Matthew 5:8 says

    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (NRSV)

    "You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (The Message)

    What does it mean to be “pure in heart?” Does it mean purity in actions? Is it a moral uprightness? Does it mean to be free from sin? (If it does, then we are all in trouble). I have to say that all of this sounds terribly legalistic to me, and not in keeping with what I see as Jesus’ teaching. I don’t mean that Jesus taught against any of these ways to live; he certainly did not. What I do mean is that Jesus taught us a better way – a bigger way. God wants more than this.

    What is our heart? I think Jesus is referring to our mind, our emotions and our will. Our heart is our center. It is that part of us that makes the decisions, and directs our actions, from which arises our love and devotion for God and for each other. Our heart is what makes us who we are. Our heart is our core.

    On what do we focus? I think those who are pure in heart focus on God. Their focus is pure and single-minded. Look at this verse from James (4:8)

    Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

    Double-minded is a good phrase. Are we double-minded in our dealings with God? Are our motivations pure? Is our focus solely on God?

    Have you ever had a divided conversation? Have you ever found yourself listening to a person, but not really listening? I have, and I imagine that everyone has. Do you walk away from that conversation knowing what was said? Or do you hear, “blah blah blabbity blah blah.”? It’s difficult to “see” someone when we don’t focus on him or her. Have you ever been on the other end of that conversation? Knowing that you are talking, but the other person is hearing “blah blah blabbity blah blah.”? Doesn’t it give you a feeling of “why bother?”

    The analogy doesn’t stretch as far as the beatitude, though. Focus is more than listening. It is centering our hearts – our core – on God. Single minded devotion which is not alloyed by anything else.

    Wow. That sounds impossible. It is. That’s the beauty of it; that’s the grace of it. The beatitudes aren’t statements about how to live perfectly. They are statements about what happens when we turn to God, and look for him. When we try – when we focus on God – he gives us grace. He purifies us with grace, and we can SEE him.

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Center of Worship

    Do you argue in your church about worship? If it's not loud, fuss at each other arguments, is it snide, talk behind each others' backs comments?

    Do you want to answer "No!"? Me, too, but it happens. Disagreements happen all the time, about everything. The ones about worship can be especially hurtful.

    The lectionary reading I read this morning was from Job (42:1-6):

    Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans.You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?'I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head.You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.'I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor."

    Do we babble on about worship? We argue about which music inspires us, what message the minister should deliver, whether we should clap or not, whether we should be so bold as to install screens to project images, and even where to place the flowers in the room. Why do we do that? Why do we babble on about things that are, apparently, far beyond us. Where is God in that?

    I like the NIV translation of verse 5: My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Why is it that we center worship on ourselves rather than on God?

    I read today, after I started thinking about this topic, that one on of the biggest blunders we make is worship without sacrifice -- and that this blunder leads to violence (M. Ghandi -- whole quote here). Perhaps our sacrifice needs start with placing God at the center of our worship instead of ourselves. To do anything else is to miss the point -- it is to settle for crumbs of God, hearing rumors of God, rather than placing our eyes on God, where they belong -- where we can SEE him.

    Empty hands held high
    Such small sacrifice
    If not joined with my life
    I sing in vain tonight

    May the words I say
    And the things I do
    Make my lifesong sing
    Bring a smile to You

    Lifesong by Casting Crowns

    Images: That great tree on Washington Blvd, and some leaves on the ground, again.

    Sunday, October 22, 2006


    I have a book sitting on my desk. Understand, please, that my desk is a wreck. When I say that this book is always floating on the top of the stacks on my desk, I say it to indicate that it gets picked up often and perused.

    The book is called Beyond Words by Frederick Buechner. It's a book of 365 "faith words" with Buechner's thoughts about them. I've never read it front to back, but I pick it up often, either to look for a particular word for a particular purpose or to just flip through it, glancing.

    As I "glanced" the other day, I stumbled on the word Faith. If it weren't plagerism, I'd just type here what he says about Faith -- it really is good. Instead, though, I'll pull out a few quotes, and add my own thoughts.

    Consider first the classic "faith" scripture (Hebrews 11:1):

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
    the conviction of things not seen.

    I wore a new bracelet today -- five silver blocks, each engraved with a different word -- love, trust, faith, charity and hope. Two of those words are in the scripture; the other three expand on it, I think.

    Trust: Can faith be proven? Can the existance of God be proven? I think we would all agree that the answer to those quesitons is no. Buechner uses a good analogy. He compares faith to the faith we have that a friend is actually a friend.

    I can't prove friendship with my friend. When I experience it, I don't need to prove it. When I don't experience it, no proof will do. If I tried to put his friendship to the test somehow, the test itself would queer the friendship I was testing. So it is with the Goodness of God.

    Charity: Let's make that an even larger word -- "action." Faith is a verb. If one were to look at the entire chapter 11 of Hebrews, one would find that it is a list of people and their actions. Buechner writes:

    Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. It is on-again-off-again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you're going, but going anyway. A journey without maps. Paul Tillich said that doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.

    Love: Don't you think that love is the ultimate response of faith? When we believe; when we trust, our response is to love God -- how could we help it? When we have faith that what God says is true, when we place our trust in that relationship, then how could our response be anything but love?

    Buechner ends his little Faith essay with one line, and I love it:

    Faith can't prove a damned thing. Or a blessed thing either.

    Images: Some interesting (to me) ground cover, and a red vine on the bridge in the park.

    Saturday, October 21, 2006

    Who are they?

    With the rain this week, there have been changes made to the tennis schedule. G made it to the finals (hang in there; this is not a tennis post) of the county championship. We were talking to his coach about scheduling and plans, and were told of a four and a half hour window during which he needed to be present. Anytime during that time, he might be asked to play.

    If you know me, consider how I reacted to this news. Four and half hours? No idea how it will be structured? Give me a break. So I asked her -- Will the girls play first? The boys? The singles with boys and girls playing at the same time? Just what is the plan!?

    Her answer -- She didn't know. THEY hadn't told her. THEY have made the plans, but have not passed them on to her.

    Who are THEY? Can we go talk to THEM? Isn't there SOMEBODY with a clipboard or a list who has the information that we want?

    Who are THEY?

    Do we do that in life? Do we sit around and say things like "THEY will take care of it?" "SOMEBODY ought to ..."

    Why do we do that? Who are THEY?

    It's easier to expect someone else to do something than to do it ourselves. If we think someone else will do it, then we can abdicate responsibility for the action ourselves. By the same token, if something goes wrong, we can blame THEM, rather than accept fault ourselves.

    Who are THEY?

    Here's the deal. In the church -- if we are to be the Body of Christ, then THEY are WE. If we are the Body of Christ, then it makes just as much sense to say, "My hand is responsible for that action, not me," as it is to say that THEY will do it. We all have different skills and gifts, and we all don't need (and shouldn't) do everything, but we don't get to pass the buck. We aren't allowed the luxury of sitting back and blaming other people for what does and does not get done. We don't get to say, "THEY didn't do it." It's "WE didn't do it."

    When people go hungry, WE didn't feed them.

    When people are cold, WE didn't warm them.

    When others feel lost or alone, WE didn't love them.

    WE are a body. WE are corporate. WE are not alone in this venture, but by the same token, neither is anybody else. WE are ONE in the Body of Christ. There is no THEY.

    Image: Saw this beautiful tree on Washington Blvd on the way home today, and finally got a non-blurry tree picture.

    Tennis: G/M 2: Fatima 8 -- (L), but BHMS is team county tournament champions and team county overall (regular season) champions. And tennis is DONE.

    Friday, October 20, 2006


    Tennis update: G and M were ready to play doubles in the second round of the Middle School County Tennis tournament yesterday. All matches were rained out. This evening the weather was fine, if way too cold to sit outside, but one of the Cammack players was sick. Cammack forfeited the match, so G and M won by default. They are playing in the final round, after never having played a single game in the tournament.

    Deal Gently With Us

    It is my habit to read from the book Disciplines each morning. On Fridays, since I know I won’t keep to my habit on the weekend, I read Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s entries. Today that created a juxtaposition in my mind of two lectionary readings for the week as well as two devotional readings.

    The two lectionary readings are Job 38:34-41 and Hebrews 5:1-6.

    In the Job passage, God and Job are continuing their “discussion.” God’s purpose seems to be to demonstrate to Job that he (Job) is the created one while God is the creator, and Job shouldn’t forget it. It is a passage that reminds me of the hugeness of God. The author pointed out that it also shows us that we are not in control; God is in control.

    The Hebrews passage talks about the idea that even those among us who are “priests” have still sinned, and therefore need to treat those who make mistakes with gentleness and kindness.

    There was one line in the devotional which really caught my attention. The author was talking about a time when she had asked for forgiveness from another person. As well as the weight of the guilt being removed, the author was amazed by the sympathy and concern that was offered to her by the other person – the one who was doing the forgiving. Pam Crosby said, “That person dealt gently with me and my offense.”

    It occurs to me that asking for forgiveness is particularly difficult. We live in a world where we want to feel as if we are in control. Asking for pardon – confession – removes us from that position. We are vulnerable. We are not in control. I don’t imagine that any of us like it.

    Perhaps what the passage from Hebrews is telling us is that when someone else lays down the reins of control and asks us for forgiveness, it is not our job to pick up that control. As the conversation in Job tell us, God is in control, and we need to leave it that way.

    The confessor, when he asks for forgiveness, is standing in front of the Body of Christ, vulnerable. We have a unique opportunity to allow God to be in control of the situation, and to deal “gently” with the one who has made the mistake. It can be hard, and I know that even this week, I have failed to do this. My actions in failure haven’t built up the Body of Christ – all that has been created is two people who need forgiveness instead of one. The opportunity to build the Body of Christ is lost or postponed when God is not in control.

    Steve sent me a text message this morning. He typed it out on the phone, intending to save it as a draft, and to send it to me when he had cell phone signal. When he finished typing it, he looked down, and he had signal – in a place where there shouldn’t have been any, so he sent it on. It arrived at my phone right at the time I needed it.

    Amazing isn’t it?

    Here’s what he sent:
    Man’s way leads to a hopeless end.
    God’s way leads to endless hope.

    Image: Leaves on the ground since every time I try to take a photo of leaves on a tree, it comes out blurry.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    What is God like?

    Have I mentioned that I’m teaching a class with JtM based on the Philip Yancey book, The Jesus I Never Knew? We’re having a great time – it’s a good class, with lots of discussion, and each week I learn something new.

    As I was driving to work this morning, I was thinking about the class session we had last night. The CD Coming up to Breathe, by mercyme was playing, and the song Something About You started playing. It became interwoven with my thoughts:

    Where…where do I begin
    How do I say what’s on my heart with paper and pen
    How …how can I describe
    The God of all the universe and make it rhyme.
    That’s kind of what the class is about – at least at this point. I hope people can begin to understand that the image of God we have is really much smaller than the God who created us and who sustains us. One lady last week said, “We create God in our own image.” How profound and how true.

    Why…why do I even try
    If I could speak the tongue of every man I’m still tongue-tied.
    What can I say about you.
    When everything I have won’t do
    Oh it will not do.
    The question asked last night was What is God like? It’s a huge question, and I think we all found it hard to answer. What is God like? He’s like nothing else, and yet, the paradox of it is, is that he is like you, and he is like me. Or, rather, we are like him. And also very much not like him. Clear?

    As long as life runs through my veins
    I will live to praise Your name
    And if a hundred years I live
    I won’t even scratch, I won't even scratch the surface.
    I was trying last night to give people an idea of how big God is, so I used Job 38:19-20 as an example:

    Do you know where Light comes from and where Darkness lives
    so you can take them by the hand and lead them home when they get lost?

    My point was that God is huge, and yet he chose to come to the world to as a tiny baby. I missed the comment that was made after I finished reading the verse, but remembered it this morning. God can take the light and darkness by the hand, and lead them home. The comment: And he takes us by the hand, too.

    What is God like? He’s like that! He is so huge that He guides light and dark, and so small that He can hold our hand and lead us home.


    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Lessons Taught?

    J is a safety patrol at his school. This position at his school has been linked to good behavior and good grades. If your behavior or your grades drop, then you “lose your belt.” Safety patrols all wear belts to designate their position. For J, and I imagine for other kids in the school, it’s a “big deal.”

    October is Fire Prevention month. Our town has an annual Fire Parade in October, and the safety patrols from the various elementary schools in the county march in it. Other groups march as well – bands, dance troops, Cub scout troops – it just a little hometown event.

    The theme this year was “Watch What you Heat” – kitchen safety awareness was the thrust of the parade. J and his 5th grade safety patrol group dressed up as items one would find in a kitchen – he was a box of macaroni and cheese. Just imagine the fun I had making that costume (that’s sarcasm, in case you missed it).

    After the parade was over, J came home from school to tell me that one of his classmates had “lost his belt.” The reason J gave for his friend’s removal from the group was that he had marched with the football team instead of the patrol group.

    I was sure that J had it wrong. I couldn’t imagine that this would be correct. J insisted he was right – of course, he always insists he’s right – that is no guarantee of his ownership of the correct facts. When I pulled out the parent’s handout about the parade (I guess I should have read it before the parade), there it was, in black and white. Any student coming to watch the parade, but not participating with the patrols or marching with any other group, would “lose his belt.”

    Upon further investigation (as in “Hey, J, tell me more”), I found that the football coach had told the team that anyone not participating with the team would not be allowed to play in the “big game.”

    So what are we teaching this child by these rules?

    • We are not going to allow you to be part of the organized sports AND a group which has the responsibility of monitoring safety in our school – a group which honors academics and good citizenship. Sorry – you must choose.
    • As adults, we cannot work together to solve problems such as this.
    • No matter what, what I (the adult) is doing is more important than what anyone else is doing. Me, first.
    • If the rules had been written just slightly differently, then the child could have stayed home, not participated in ANYTHING, and still have maintained membership with both groups. It was in participation with one of them, that he was punished.
    • The safety patrol sponsor is considering it BAD behavior to participate with another group. The football coach is elevating the “big game” above anything else the child might need to do that evening.
    I am at a loss. This seems wrong to me on SO MANY levels.

    Is it any wonder that we are in need of a savior? We can’t even seem to handle the rules of a silly little fire parade with any love or caring.

    What do we want to teach the children?

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    A Mom Post

    This is a Mom-post. There is a "real" post right below this one for today, but this is just an extra -- just because I'm a mom.

    I went to J's school this evening for an Open House. One of the projects that the teacher had had the students do was to complete a "newspaper" about themselves. Below are two newspaper articles that J wrote (I have corrected for spelling, just because I had to).

    Meet My Hero G (his big brother):

    My brother does alot of stuff that saves me. Like one time I was only 4 and this 12-year-old was being mean to me and punching me, and my brother saved me.

    Write a news story about an important event in your life:

    Once when I went to Kings Island and rode the Drop Zone, and my dad told me I was the man. It happened this summer, and I went with the church youth group. There was this girl who rode the Drop Zone. She is afraid of heights. She rode it 7 times! Her name was Cara.

    Blessed are those who care

    Today is Tuesday, and the beatitude is this one:

    You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for. (Matthew 5:7)

    I've seen a lot of "care-full" people this past week.

    The man came into class.
    He looked different than the rest of them.
    His past, his future, his present,
    Were probably woven of a different fabric
    Than theirs.
    But he loved God, and he came to hear about Him,
    And talk about Him.
    “Who is this man?” they whispered.
    One woman, who was no bigger than a breeze,
    Came in, wrapped her arms around him from behind
    And hugged him.
    She was small,
    But God’s love was not.

    She was care-full,
    And because of her,
    The Body of Christ is built.

    Four men, who had never walked this path before,
    Came into a room filled with candles.
    They had felt like they were in this experience
    Separated from family and life.
    Set aside for God’s grace to take wing
    In their hearts.
    In this room, they saw light.
    Reflected on the faces of their family,
    Their friends,
    Even strangers.
    All who had come to show them
    That they were never in any thing alone.
    They were many,
    But God’s love unified them.

    They were care-full
    And because of them,
    The Body of Christ is built.

    A teenager,
    Perhaps only hoping that someone
    Would see him.
    Would include him.
    He walked the footbridge
    From childhood to adulthood.
    That most awkward of ages.
    He came, only because others insisted.
    But he found himself in church.
    Two other boys, who weren’t only in church,
    But were also at home,
    “Kidnapped” him, and included him in their group.
    Sit with us.
    Stay with us.
    Be one of us.
    They were young,
    But God’s love gave them wisdom.

    They were care-full
    And because of them
    The Body of Christ is built.

    Preparing worship
    Putting their hearts and minds
    Their creativity to the task.
    Believing that their church
    Would be a church for them.
    Laugh with us.
    Worship with us.
    Sing and dance with us.
    Show us that we matter enough to you
    That you will be one of us
    Just for this hour.
    Show us that you believe what you say.
    The church is older,
    But God’s love is eternal.

    They were care-full
    And because they were
    The Body of Christ is built.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Jesus at the Temple

    At class last Wednesday, a comment was made about the story of Jesus as a twelve year old boy, left behind in Jerusalem after Passover to finally be found at the temple. (Luke 2:41-49) A few verses:
    When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."

    "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
    A comment was made by a member of the class that, "They should have known where he was."

    Is that right? Should his parents have known where he was? I've always sympathized in this story with Mary and Joseph, not with Jesus.

    • This is their son. They had the raising of him for twelve years. They love him. And they've lost him. How do they feel? How would you feel?
    • Even if they don't understand exactly WHO he is, Mary and Joseph do know that they have been entrusted by God with someone very special. Do they fully understand who he is? We don't, and we know the rest of the story. So how do they feel when they loose him? I imagine that they feel as if they have failed God.
    • Like any parents, they have an expectation that their son will obey them. As parents, we all have to have that expectation, or we are doomed in this "raising a child" project. We must believe we have authority, or we do not have it at all. When he disobeys them, they have a right to be angry.
    • They are parents -- they have been given this job by God. They have a right to be respected by their son. Staying behind in Jerusalem may have been necessary to the mission he was on and may have been commanded by God, but Mary and Joseph have a right to be surprised by it. And hurt. And frightened.

    Should they have known where he was? He says they should have, but they didn't. None of that detracts from the fear, anger and puzzlement that they feel. It is right and natural, and when we denigrate them for feeling it, we lessen their role as parents to this human.

    God could have sent Jesus to the world as a fully grown human, but he chose to send him as a baby. A baby that was dependent upon parents for his life and his maturity. A baby who had to be taught how to walk and talk, to hammer a nail and to grow into a man. Fully human AND fully divine. Let's not forget the humanity in the bright light of the divinity.

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Who is he?

    At our first "The Jesus I Never Knew" class, we did an exercise where we listed words that describe Jesus. I though the list was interesting, so here it is:

    Best friend
    Son of God
    The Anointed
    Son of Man
    Friend of peace
    Prince of peace
    Light of the World
    Alpha and Omega
    I AM
    Wholly human
    Wholly divine

    In addition to that question, we asked them (the class members) to list the words that their neighbors or coworkers would use to describe Jesus:

    All of the above
    Historical figure
    Famous man

    Love is all you need

    The following is based on our Children's Sabbath service today, planned and implemented by our youth and their leaders with musical help from the children, and love from the congregation.

    Just love.
    All you need is love.

    It began with announcements,
    delivered with finesse.
    Trumpet and trombones.
    A debut.
    I Love you Lord.
    Perhaps that is where we should all begin.
    A prelude to our church life.
    Our entire life.

    Where is love?
    It is down in my heart.
    Love for Jesus.
    Happy, so very happy.

    Worship began with a call.
    All you need is love.
    Are you sure?
    Yes, love is all you need.
    What is it?
    It bears, believes, hopes and endures.
    Love never ends.

    I have not loved as I should.
    Jesus has.
    Jesus loves me.
    Thank you God, for love.
    For all of our blessings.
    For love most of all.

    Where children are teachers,
    and adults are children of God,
    prepared to hear a lesson.
    LOL: Love out loud.
    Is it easy?
    No, but it is all we need.

    Giving of ourselves and our gifts.
    The Lost Sheep gather,
    and love is ushered forward.

    Love lifted me.
    From sin, from despair.
    Love lifted me.
    Even me!
    Jesus completely saves.
    He is the Master of the Sea.
    Love lifted me.
    Even me!

    Welcome children in my name.
    Welcome me.
    Welcome the one who sent me.
    Truth from the Word of God.
    Truth from the words of Youth.
    May it be so.

    Proclamation from a teenager
    From many teenagers.
    From a woman and a man.
    Love Stories

    The Good Samaritan
    Beaten, robbed.
    Passed by a dude.
    Ignored by another.
    Saved by a girl and her donkey.

    Heart Gallery.
    Children needing love.
    Love is all they need.
    Will you give it?

    Two youth.
    Be yourself, and I'll show you how.
    Because that's what friends are for.

    A heart home for hurt children
    A home in your heart.
    Will you speak for them?

    Two youth.
    Hunger of the heart.
    Way. Truth. Life.
    Surely it is a great day!

    Love Train.
    Come to church to dance.
    Dance for God,
    To celebrate Youth.
    To show them that, truly,
    Love is all you need.

    Join hands,
    make a knot.
    May the Lord bless you,
    shine upon you,
    turn his face to you,
    and give you peace.

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    Prayer like water

    I ran across a blog post by Lorna of see through faith a couple of days ago. It is called Barriers, and it is about the barriers that we find that seem to block our way to being a prayerful people. I wanted to pull out a couple of really good lines:

    ...the church of today (that’s you and me by the way!) is powerless because of our prayerlessness.

    Jesus didn’t say if you pray, he said when you pray.

    It starts with us recognising that there is a huge barrier to be overcome in our lives (not only in the lives of them out there!) and that barrier is complacency.

    I've been working on a Sunday school lesson for tomorrow called "Prayer Makes a Difference" based on 1 Samuel 7:3-13. The theme of that lesson is to look at the conditions and causes of people's return to God.

    Part of what I have prepared to talk about tomorrow is to examine the hindrances to turning to God. I think Lorna is right -- complacency is a big one.
    • Everything is OK now; there really is no need to make any changes.
    • It's not great, but we can't do any better than this, so let's just be glad for the way it is.
    • Nobody wants to make any changes, so why bother?

    I read in Ortberg's book that in order for change or growth to occur in a church, the members have to have an optimism or a hope that the church of tomorrow will be better than the church of today. Do we have that? Does your congregation have that belief? Without it, why bother?

    Prayer. How do we know if it will make a difference unless we do it? Are the events at your church, at my church, supported by prayer? I said a couple of days ago that 95% of what a church does can be done without God. If we want to change that, if we want to involve God in what we do, how do we do it?

    What's our move to involve God? My favorite line from the teacher's book this week, which isn't actually from 1 Samuel is this one:

    Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord (Lamentations 2:19)

    I think that's a wonderful description of prayer. It's what we need to do. My question of the last few days is HOW.

    Images: Ritter Park and geranium on VA grounds

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Carry Out

    My son, J, has developed a bad habit. When he participates in communion, instead of eating the bread and wine at the altar, he brings it back to the pew with him – or at least part of it.

    Do we do that? Are we given the privilege of communing with God, just to hold it in our hand instead of accepting it?

    The devotion I read this morning was based on Mark 10:26-27:

    The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.
    The Disciplines author for the week, Jerry Lowry, says that he has heard that “ninety-five percent of what the church does could be done without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.” That really struck me. To me it explains how our churches could continue to stagger along, acting as if they are trying to be a church, and yet nothing happens. Ninety-five percent of what we do can be done without God.

    But what about the other 5%?

    The other 5% -- the part that we can’t do without God – is the impossible. With God we are able to do what for us would not be possible. Look at that verse again. Lowry paraphrases the scripture to say, “Who can be saved? Jesus says, God can save anyone. Nothing is impossible for God.” Pass a camel through the eye of a needle? No problem.

    What are we doing? Why are we part of a church? What is our mission? To go and make disciples. Everything that we do on our own – none of it is enough to do what we are really supposed to be doing. God must be involved. It’s the other 5% that is the point!

    God will equip us, walk with us, nurture us, and guide us in our walk to be and to make disciples. The impossible becomes possible. The club becomes a church. We are recreated, transformed, and put to work. When we involve God in all that we do – the whole 100% -- we can stand as the disciples did, and be amazed. And there is joy.

    J doesn’t actually keep the bread. He eats it in the pew. He acts like it is “carry out,” instead of a dine-in meal. It’s “carry out.” Isn’t it supposed to BE “carry out?” Meet God, be changed, and then go out.

    It is carry-out.

    Images: Sky on the way to work yesterday -- it was gorgeous. Maple leaves.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Micah 6:8

    I was previewing a talk for the upcoming women’s Emmaus walk in our community, and I saw a familiar scripture in an entirely new way.

    He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8:NIV)

    But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously. (The Message)

    Before, I’ve always liked the passage, but I saw it as what to DO rather than also how to BE. I saw it as a description of how to live – what to do to obey God – rather than anything else or anything larger. For that reason I’ve always found this passage incomplete.

    Then I listened to Beth’s “Changing our World” talk. She used this scripture as a backbone in the structure of what she had to say. (That may be the basic outline as given or her own innovation, I don’t know). Look at it this way:

    • Walk Humbly with God – start with yourself
    • Love mercy – or as The Message says, “be compassionate and loyal in your love” – expand your action to your neighbor
    • Act justly – Then to the world.
    Does that remind you of anything? As I listened to her, it reminded me of this:

    Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself. (from Matthew 22:36-40)

    I’m not sure why I didn’t see the parallel before.

    Walk humbly with your God – Love God
    Act justly and love mercy – Love each other

    The Micah passage is certainly about how we live our lives – it is about what we DO. In some ways it, in my mind, walks hand in hand with James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself form being polluted by the world.” The Micah passage is also a passage about the way to BE – how to relate to God and to each other, as the passage from Matthew is.

    Do you know what it is, JtM? It’s “cross-shaped.” I just didn’t expect to see that in Micah.

    Image: Bird bath on the VA grounds that I found during a lunch walk yesterday. It reminds me to look more deeply.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Hometown Hero?

    I'm working on a class which involves a look at Mark 6:1-6. Take a look:

    He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. "We had no idea he was this good!" they said. "How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?"

    But in the next breath they were cutting him down: "He's just a carpenter—Mary's boy. We've known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?" They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.

    Jesus told them, "A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child." Jesus wasn't able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that's all. He couldn't get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.
    Question: Jesus doesn't do much healing in his home town. Why, exactly, is that? One reference I have (NIV study Bible) says that Jesus chooses not to perform miracles in this "climate of disbelief." Another reference (Oxford Annotated Bible) says that Jesus required faith to perform his miracles. Does that mean, if he required faith, that he was not ABLE to perform miracles because of the lack of faith? Or does it mean that he CHOSE not to perform miracles.

    I like the phrase, "could not get over their stubborness." Was he surprised by the reception he received at home? As I thought about this passage on the way into work this morning, it occurred to me that this was not one of the many towns of strangers that Jesus would find himself in during his ministry -- this was his home town (obviously, I know, but sometimes it takes a brick). Who were the people who made up the community? Families for which he had built furniture or with which he had built their homes. Friends of his parents who were comfortable enough with him to yell at him when he behaved in a way they considered inappropriate. He had eaten with them, worked with them, perhaps even dreamed with them. He had most certainly worshipped with them.

    What did it cost him to walk away? I understand that he was pragmatic enough to realize that no one in his community was going to be able to hear his teachings past their history with him, but did he just "shake the dust from his shoes" and walk on? Did he hope one day to send someone back to continue the work that he was unable to complete? If, as the Oxford Study Bible suggests, Jesus chose to perform no miracles without their faith, then imagine how hard his choice became. To walk away because he is UNABLE is one thing; to walk away by CHOICE is another.

    I think another question is raised by this passage. If Jesus could not (not chose not, but COULD not) perform miracles because of the community's lack of faith, does that create a requirement for grace to act?

    Or, could it be that the community members, by choosing to not believe, were unable to receive grace?

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Hungering for Righteousness

    Consider this beatitude (Matthew 5:6)

    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (NRSV)

    You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat. (The Message)

    What does righteousness mean? I tried to find a definition, and all of them relate to the idea of abiding by divine or moral laws. Righteous. I ask myself if that is what Jesus meant when he used the word. He didn't often advocate adherence to specific rules -- perhaps the righteousness that he speaks of is a closeness to God. Perhaps rather than an outward legalism, he means an inward state of walking with God. Does that make any sense, or am I on the wrong track?

    Consider also the words hunger and thirst. Hunger and thirst are basic, elemental responses to need. I think that they may be even more ingrained in us than desire or want. Consider this quote from C.S. Lewis:

    If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

    I think we have a hole, a place within ourselves that we yearn to have filled. We are designed -- created -- to need God.

    So what does the promise mean? What does he mean when he says that "we will be filled?" I think it means that we will be filled with grace. We will be filled with joy. We will be filled with God. That space within us that knows it is empty will no longer BE empty. We will be recreated into a wholeness that includes God.

    But look again at the beatitude. No where in it does Jesus say that we will be filled when we achieve righteousness. Take a look at this quote from Frederick Buechner:

    Not the ones who are righteous, but the ones who hope they will be someday and in the meantime are well aware that the distance they still have to go is even greater than the distance they've already come.

    It is a paradox. We have a deep, ingrained need in ourselves to achieve closeness to God. We want it so badly that we can taste it. And yet it is beyond our grasp. We want it, but there is no way that we can touch it or reach it. It is in the recognition of the need -- in the awareness of the hunger -- that we discover how far from God we are. That is when we are filled.

    It makes no sense, and that is why it is grace. What we need to be made whole is beyond our grasp, so God has already given it to us as a gift.

    Images: Sunrise, again, at the VA, this time with a spider web. The second image is of the sky yesterday as I came back from lunch. It was amazing -- I have no idea what kind of clouds those are, but they were beautiful. I was wearing my sunglasses, and wanted the picture to look like I was seeing the image myself, so this one is taken through my sunglasses.

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    More about anger

    I asked a question a few days ago about anger -- is it OK to be angry with God? Have you seen John's comment?

    If we're never angry at God, we've led a sheltered life.

    I reached one point a few years ago in which my life would reach a horrendous catastrophe, or not. I depended on God to act decisively. He did. But had he not, I would have cursed his name and never ceased hating him. And looking back, I can still see that reaction as reasonable. Every person has a faith breaking point, even if we're not aware of it.
    Linda has also posted on the topic (at this link).

    First of all, I am totally not the person to write this post. I've never been the to the point that John describes, so know that what I write today is the way I would HOPE it would be -- not the way that I KNOW it to be.

    I think anger is totally interwoven with blame. Sometimes the blame is misdirected or unfocused, but I think it is hard to separate anger and blame. When J was born with the brachial plexus injury, was I angry? Some. I was angry with the anesthesiologist, who ignored three pages so that he could stay outside and smoke instead of being the in the delivery room, assisting with the birth. He would have had the role of elephant, pushing from above to help deliver this baby, and yet he was not to be found. I've been angry with myself about it, as well, but that's about it. Sad? Yes, very much, but not really angry. I don't blame God, so why would I be angry with him?

    Linda's post, that I linked above, talks about the killings in the Amish schoolhouse and the response of the families -- how forgiveness plays a role in this issue. These families have been models of Christian forgiveness, but one sentence that struck me was, "God allowed this to happen." I wonder if it was said with faith that all things are within God's plan, and that it is part of faith to trust that he knows best. Do I believe that God allowed those little girls to be killed? Only in that I believe God set the physical world in motion. The man who pulled the trigger killed these girls, not God.

    Does God send miracles to stop situations such as this? Sometimes, I believe, but unfortunately, not often. What I think we overlook is our own role as miracle-makers. God calls us to action; he will guide our steps, and we can make the difference in a world of sin. So I think the better question is whether there was someone, somewhere along the way who could have stopped this. Maybe -- maybe not -- I have no idea, but God works through us to change the world.

    Look at John's comment again. He says, "I would have cursed his name and never ceased hating him." Wow. That's very honest, and that's anger. What would have been God's response? He would have continued to love John, even in response that kind of hatred. That's grace -- it's there before we know of it, it's there when we need it, it's there when we think we don't need it, and it's there when we loose faith in it. God peruses us, and I think he would have chased after John, no matter what.

    John also says, "Every person has a faith breaking point, even if we're not aware of it. " That may be the case; I don't know. What I do know is that God's faith in us does not have a breaking point. It is extraordinary and unbreakable. That's why it is OK to be angry with God. He can take it.

    The lectionary scripture that I read this morning was from Job 23:1-9 and 16-17.
    But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. (8-9)...Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face. (17)
    I have a feeling that this would be my response to a situation that John describes. I would loose God -- not be able to find Him. I would not be angry so much as lost and alone -- "a thick darkness covering my face."

    As I said, though, what do I know? I have thankfully never faced that kind of crisis.

    Thank you, John, for sharing.

    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    The Body of Christ

    Loosely based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-18

    Look at yourself.
    Look at your body,
    at its wonderful connections,
    one part to another.
    Each part -- your eyes, your ears,
    your heart, your toes, your stomach --
    each part has a function.
    Each one is nothing on its own,
    separated from the body,
    and yet together,
    they are A Body.
    Wonderful, mysterious,

    Look at the church.
    Look at the Body of Christ.
    It is very much the same.
    One body, one spirit, one God.
    We have left behind our piecemeal lives
    to become something more.
    Wonderful, mysterious,
    The Body of Christ.

    We stand at the altar
    and are flooded by the water.
    Flooded by grace
    as God claims us as his own,
    and makes us part of something more.
    We are recreated, claimed, unified.
    We each are part of a resurrection.
    No longer dead, but alive in God.
    Our thirst is quenched by One Spirit.
    His Spirit.

    We shed what we once were.
    The old labels are no longer truth.
    No longer who we are.
    No longer what defines us.
    God defines us.
    None of these is big enough.
    None of them is useful.
    We leave them behind
    to be the Body of Christ.

    God has crafted us,
    equipped us,
    so that each of us is necessary.
    Perfectly designed by God
    as part of something larger than ourselves.
    None is less.
    None is more.
    All a part.
    All dependent on each other.
    Each one of us placed by God.
    Lovingly incorporated into the
    Body of Christ.
    Wonderful, mysterious,

    Saturday, October 07, 2006


    Steve and J went to dinner on Friday at a Chinese restaurant. Steve's fortune:

    What's hidden in an empty box?

    Steve said, "I don't get a fortune. I get a stinkin' riddle!

    I was walking to the car a few weeks ago after work. I had an unexpected meeting with my boss downtown, which means that I had to carry extra books and such. I had my own bag which included books and my laptop computer, a work bag with notebooks for the meeting, my purse, which is not a whimpy, tiny purse -- it's large and heavy, and a cooler, packed with eggs, cheese and ice (Rather than leave you guessing, I'll explain that at the end). All heavy, and more than I normally carry. Our parking lot used to be a ballfield, and I often park far away from the building, so I headed out -- two briefcases, purse and cooler. I got all the way to the end of the parking lot -- no car. Then I remembered. I had actually gotten a CLOSE spot that day, right next to the door. I had pretty much walked right by my car already. Not only had I walked way too far from the building, but now I had to walk back. I was not happy.

    We miss things. There are, however, moments of revelation in life -- moments when what had been previously hidden or ignored is brought to light. These are "Ah Hah!" moments, and they are great. I had a few of those today at our Emmaus walk team meeting, and I thought for the blog entry, I would just randomly list them.

    • The name of the Priorities talk has been officially changed in the manual to Priority -- singular. For some reason, this was an "ah hah" moment for me. Priority -- singular.
    • One of the ALD did a devotion today based on Max Lucado's book "God Thinks You're Wonderful." As she read the book, I wrote down the line, "You have captured the heart of God."
    • Bruce Heiner said today, "We ritualize that which is important to us." That's true, but I had never thought of it before.
    • One of the team members was talking at a table during a break. She said that her husband tells her that she is beautiful, but she knows she is not. Another one, who had recently lost her husband, agreed with her. I thought for a moment, and said, "They are so close to us that they see beyond the outside to what is on the inside, and that IS beautiful." The first woman said, "I believe that is true for everyone else, but not for me." I had no answer for her, but a fourth team member said, "What makes you so special that what is true for everyone else is not true for you?" It was a very interesting conversation.
    • At the beginning of the day, someone asked the recent (in the past year or so) widow how she was doing. She said, "As well as can be expected." She paused. "But I really don't know what is expected." Also interesting to me.

    In the consecration service which followed the team meeting, Bruce Heiner did a meditation about the Walk to Emmaus passage in Luke (24:13-35). If you remember in the passage, Jesus walks with them toward Emmaus, but they do not recognize him until he breaks the bread. Bruce said that the point of the story isn't the revelation of the identity of the one who was traveling with them, it is their response (33-35):

    They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

    They told people about the about what they had experienced. That is our calling -- to share the Good News about God. That's the point of Emmaus.

    Why eggs and cheese? A few weeks ago, my weekend schedule included preparing cheese grits as a gift for the UMM breakfast at our church. In order to make everything easier for myself, I stopped by the store at lunch and picked up supplies rather than waiting until later in the evening. These food supplies included eggs and grits, which I took in from the car and stored in our lounge refrigerator for the afternoon. Because of the unexpected meeting, I had to figure out a way to keep them cool in the car while I met with my boss on the way home. Hence the cooler and ice.

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Approach like a child

    One of the lectionary readings for this week is Mark 10:2-16. Until I read the Disiplines devotion for this Sunday, I never compared the two groups represented in this passage -- the Pharisees, coming once again to try to trick Jesus, and the children whom he receives. I spoke yesterday about the approachability of God -- how do we approach Him? Are we more like the Pharisees or the children? Verse 15 says, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." I was thinking about that on the way to work today, and thought of this illustration:

    The schoolyard was blustery – one of those rare fall days when the sky is bluer that it should be allowed to be, and the trees are covered with the splendor of leaves on fire with color. The wind blew, making the air a little bit chilly, to remind those who stood outside the school that winter was on the march, approaching.

    A man stood on the sidewalk near his car, watching the door of the school in anticipation. He wore a business suit which had obviously been tailored to fit him perfectly. It was a dark, almost black, blue with a nearly invisible purple thread running through it, creating a very subtle but regular pattern. His shirt was white, starched cotton and the outfit was completed with a very purple, silk tie. The tail of his jacket was slightly wrinkled from all the meetings he had attended during the day. As he watched, he reached up, loosened the tie, and unbuttoned the very top of his shirt in anticipation of the sweatshirt and jeans that were waiting for him at home.

    A woman approached him from a couple of cars away. “Chris Adkins? Is that you?” Her voice was smooth with a slight rasp, like olive oil striking a hot skillet.

    He looked at her, vaguely thinking that he should know who she was. “Yes. Hello.” As Chris shook her extended hand, he realized that he remembered her from a business meeting he had suffered through a couple of weeks ago. “How are you, Phoebe?”

    “Oh, I’m wonderful. It’s great to see you.” She reached out and squeezed his arm, her perfectly manicured nails making dents in his sleeve. “That’s a great suit – I love the fabric.” Getting no response, she let go, she turned her attention to the school. “Another Friday evening pick-up. I tried to talk my ex-husband into doing this, but HE’S too busy.” Chris just smiled with abstraction, making no comment. Phoebe leaned toward him, as if wanting to share secrets. “So, do you know anything else about the Huffman merger? I mean, I know I shouldn’t ask, but….”

    He looked at her, perhaps for the first time since she had walked up and stood beside him. Her smile was fixed and her eyes seemed to hide messages that her voice wasn’t pronouncing. “No,” he answered, “I don’t.”

    She leaned closer, looking more shark-like than she had before. “Are you sure? Not one little bit that you could share? I’ll keep it to myself, I promise.”

    At that moment, he heard, “Daddy!” All of his attention snapped to the little girl running down the sidewalk toward him. Leaving Phoebe standing behind, with an angry look on her face, he took three long strides, dropped to one knee, heedless of the effect the dirt had on his suit, and opened his arms to receive his leaping little girl. Catching her, he held her tight, and enjoyed the flood of her love as she hugged him. “You’ve been gone so long! I’m glad you’re back. I hate buzness trips.”

    He kissed her cheek and stood up, carrying her with him. “I’m glad I’m back, too. I’ve missed you.”

    She reached out and grabbed his tie. “You wore the purple tie! It’s my favorite. Did you wear it for me?”

    “Of course I did. Just for you.” He carried her to the car, deposited her in the back seat, and waited until she buckled her safety belt before carefully closing the door.

    Phoebe was forgotten, left standing on the sidewalk as her son approached, barely acknowledging her, throwing his backpack in the car. “Let’s go, Mom. I have things to do.”

    10/3 --> G/M : 8 -- Barboursville : 3 (mine, mine, mine, yours, yours, yours) (W)
    10/5 --> G/M : 4 -- Fatima : 8 (L)