Monday, December 31, 2007

Poetry -- 2007

Poetry from 2007


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Silk or handwoven?

One of the points in our minister's sermon today was that the flight into Egypt was a horrible hardship. If you think about it, he's right. A young family, fleeing into Egypt, which to them would have been the place of slavery for the Israelites. They were heading to no home, no "job," no family, and fleeing from certain death of their child. It was a long, long trip with a newborn baby. Have you ever traveled with a newborn baby?

I was struck today by this piece of artwork. It reflects none of that hardship to me. Mary is wearing what looks like expensive silk. The baby is in a perfectly happy mood, comfortable. Joseph is wearing shoes that even look like they tie (maybe I'm imagining that). Is this a good artistic rendering of what happened?

Do we do that? Just like my post yesterday about dusting under Jesus, do we "pretty things up?" Do we ignore the hardship for the glory of the gospel story? Do we skip the trip to Bethlehem for the brightness of the star? Do we ignore the smell of manure in the stable for the shininess of the gift of gold? Do we forget about the crucifixion and go straight to the resurrection?

Do we accept the silk clothes and ignore the pain?

Image: The Flight into Egypt, Vittore Carpaccio


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Removing the Dirt

We have a set of shelves in our living room upon which we display nativity scenes during Christmas. J and I were setting them up today. Yes, I know, it's past Christmas, but people were coming to our house today, so we decided to set them up. Besides that, J really enjoys arranging them, and had been looking forward to doing it for a while.

Before I let him start the arranging, I dusted the shelves. Our largest set was already arranged, so I was moving the different pieces around, dusting. The thought went through my head -- we need to make sure that Jesus isn't sitting in dust.

I occurred to me that perhaps we do that too much. Do we clean up the story of Jesus, removing him from the smelly barn in our minds, removing him from the dusty roads and keeping him out of the vicinity of those who might try to hurt him, or kick dirt in his face. Do we try to do the same things in our own minstries?

I have a feeling that Jesus wouldn't thank us for that kind of protection. He wants to be surrounded by the unchurched, the homeless, the hungry and the sinful. He wants to get his feet dirty, and he expects us to do the same.


Friday, December 28, 2007


Today, in the Roman Catholic church is the commemoration of the Massacre of the Innocents, as described in Matthew 2:16-18:

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation,Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
I was considering a way to write about that portion of the Christmas story tonight. Poetry? First person narrative by Mary? I decided that there was no way that I could portray the horrible nature of such an action.

It is only recorded in Matthew, and is not found in other written history. Some historians think that it did not happen. One explanation for this event missing from history is that it was small compared to the many huge atrocious actions that Herod took. It was just too small to be noticed.

For those families which lost their children, it could not have seemed to be a small event. It would have been heart wrenching and horrible.

I was thinking today about the will of God. I've heard, when something really awful happens, that some people might say, "It was the will of God." This was not God's will. It was evil and sinful. God's ultimate will will be fulfilled, but in the meantime, we take abhorrent actions. We were talking about hope in Sunday school last weekend, and how it is present, even though hardship. One class member said that it is all God's will -- part of God's plan. I think that God can make good come out of horrible things, and that in the end, his plan will be fulfilled. I do not think that hardship and horror are the work of God.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Logos -- Hebrews 2:10-18

I was reading the lectionary readings for this week, and I was stopped by some of the phrases in the Hebrews passage -- 2:10-18.

  • Part of verse 13: "I will put my trust in him." -- We spent Advent in Sunday school talking about hope. One thing I learned from those lessons is how much trust is tied up in hope. If hope if the certainty of what we cannot seen, it is grown in the soil of trust. We trust God; therefore, we have hope.
  • Verse 15: and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. -- It is obvious (although wonderful) to say that we are given freedom from death by the sacrifice of Jesus. It occurred to me today that we are given freedom from the fear of so many different kinds of death. Can death be metaphorically defined by an ending? Don't you think that we find ourselves captive to our fear of endings? Our fear of the "what next?" Christ gives us freedom from that kind of fear, too. We know that endings bring with them the presence of God, and that by letting go, we open ourselves up to the gift of the future.
  • Verse 16 -- For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. -- Isn't it wonderful to realize that Jesus came to help us? That we are important enough to him -- loved so much by him -- that he came to help us?
  • Verse 18 -- Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. -- I find wonderful grace and comfort in that statement. He understands suffering, he understands testing, because he has experienced it. If he has experienced it, he will understand what I am going through.

He came to help us, including teaching us what it means to be human -- experiencing suffering and testing, but doing so in the light of hope. We are freed from hopelessness by trusting in God. Amen.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Word

John 1:1-18

Three in One
Together from the beginning
Creator, Son and Spirit
Together, unified, One.

The Word was with God,
The Word was God.
The world was created by Father and Son
The world was created by God.
Nothing was created without the son
Present with the Father.
Through Him came life
Through Him came light
And the light was brought to creation,
To all of the beloved children of the Father.
The light shines,
Stronger than the darkness.

A messenger was sent, named John.
He was a witness to the light
He was sent so that we might believe.
He held up the light, proclaiming its brightness,
Proclaiming its presence.

The Word came to the world
And yet we did not recognize him
We were blind to the light.
Those who believed
Those who believe
Are claimed and adopted by the Father
Children of the light.
Born of God.

The Word became real,
Giving up God-status
To become one of us.
We, like John, become witnesses to the light
Proclaimers of the light.
We see the Word,
And we call it grace,
We call it truth.

Through the Word
We received grace
Grace upon Grace
Life abundant.
The people who were children of the law
Are now children of grace and truth.
We are spoken into being by God,
And receive life through the Word.
We do not see God.
We have not seen God,
But our blindness is lifted
By the Son
By the Word.
The Word, close to the Father’s heart,
Born of a Virgin,
Sent to live among us
To be light.
To make God known to us.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What can you see in a picture?

Our home at Christmas.

What can you learn about me from the picture?

  • See all of the bags under the tree? We didn't wrap presents until after the 11:00pm Christmas Eve service. This year, we discovered the wonder of bags. And, they are environmentally friendly, right? We'll use them again next year.
  • We love candles. See them in the fireplace? We just forgot the light them!
  • Ceiling fan -- it's not running, but that's only because that one squeaks. I love ceiling fans. We use the one in our bedroom all year long.
  • Poinsettia? Yes, there is one -- actually, one of three. After Christmas, out they go. I'm surprised that they are still alive. Notice that they are the only live plants in the room. I don't do well with greenery. It's one of the reasons that the tree is artificial. I can't keep one of them alive, either.
  • The tree is covered with very traditional ornaments -- no theme at all -- just ornaments that we have collected throughout the years together, as well as ones from our families.
  • You can tell a Sandpiper lives in this house -- there is one in the picture. See it?

Merry Christmas to all!

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Monday, December 24, 2007



Keeping their flocks on a hillside
Darkness all around them,
awoke to the light of angels
Singing of glory and joy
Singing of the coming of the light.
Their darkness was overcome
by angelight.

Wise men,
Studying, calculating,
Trying to find the answers.
Darkness all around them,
Unquenchable by knowledge.
They followed a star
to find the coming of the light.
Their darkness was overcome
by starlight.

A crowd, standing,
Struggling to make sense
of the words each other spoke.
Pentecost, beginning in confusion,
ending with wind and fire.
Their lives were changed,
their darkness was overcome
by firelight.

Christmas Eve
A congregation gathers from
all parts of the town.
They come to hear music,
They come to hear a message,
They come to celebrate the birth of a savior.
They come out of the dark,
seeking the light.
The darkness was overcome
in candlelight.


Christ comes,
and is the light of the world.
The darkness is overcome

Note: The choir sang an anthem last Sunday which used these words, call Candlelight Carol (or something similar to that -- I wish I had written it down.

Image: Christ candle in our advent candles.


Sunday, December 23, 2007


So many parts of life require waiting. So many experiences involve a time of preparation:
  • Nine months before a baby is born.
  • The time between beginning a class and finishing (teaching or hearing the last lesson)
  • Watching your children grow up
  • The time between taking an exam and finding out your grade
  • Tme spent baking, waiting until the cake is done
  • Time between catching a cold and being well again
  • Walking the dog, until the "job" is complete

Advent is a time of waiting. Don't rush it. Christmas is almost here, but there is still some time for waiting. It can be a gift, so just wait. There is a purpose to waiting.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Future in the present

I'm reading the last chapter of our Sunday school curriculum for Advent. I was interested in this sentence:

Hope becomes credible when it see the future in the present.

I thought this sentence was wise as well as true.

The author explains that Simeon, when he saw our salvation in a 40 day old baby, was seeing the future in the present. He would never see the young man preaching in the temple, the water turned into wine, the other miracles, the crucifixion or resurrection. And yet, in the present -- the baby in front of him -- Simeon sees the future.

Do we do that? I think we do. We look at our children and see who they might become. We see the men and women who will grow from these immature creatures who leave clothes on the floor and track dirt through the house.

Do we do it with our faith? Do we see a tiny ministry in our church and see what it could become? Do we look at the youth in our UMYF programs, and see future lay leaders? Future Sunday school teachers? Do we see insumountable problems and see their solution in God?

Do we have that kind of hope? Do we see the future in the present?

Image: Morning sky at the VA

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Friday, December 21, 2007

What kind of job?

There is a song by Mark Harris called "Writing on the Wall." Some of the lyrics:

Cause I could see the writing on the wall
It seems no matter how I tried
To stop the roller coaster ride
The pages just kept turning
Even though deep in my heart I knew we had it all I could see the writing on the wall
It's a song about his children growing up, and how quickly that seems to happen

It's right. Our boys keep growing; we turn around that they are visibly older.

Being a parent is such an important. I wonder sometimes, how I'm doing. I'm so busy with so many things in life, am I failing at this very important job? It worries me

Image: Our church's Chrismon tree.


As the Deer Pants for the Water

This poem is the devotional in our advent devotional booklet for tomorrow. I'm posting here because, as I have mentioned before, I like to keep the poems all in one place.

Psalm 42, Luke 2:8-20, Luke 19:29-34

Two shepherds, young brothers
Sat in the field, keeping watch over their flocks.
The night was lonely,
And even though they had their sheep for company
And each other,
They knew that something was missing.
They yearned for something more.

As a deer longs for the flowing streams
As the deer yearns for water,
Their souls longed for God.
For the living God, to fill their emptiness
They had such a need of their Lord.
They yearned to see him face to face.

The night was cold
The stars were bright.
Suddenly, the heavens were alight with angels,
The glory of the Lord was all around them,
And fear filled their souls.

The angel said,
“Do not be afraid,
I am bringing you good news.
I am sharing with you great joy.
The Messiah is born!”
The angel told them how to find God’s son.
And the heavens were filled with the praise of their song.

The shepherds, young brothers,
Left behind their sheep,
Left behind their doubt,
Left behind their fear,
And went to Bethlehem.

There they found the Lord.
They saw him face to face.
They told everyone what had happened,
And their souls were filled
With the glory of God.
They had had a need of the Lord,
And it had been filled.
They had seen their Lord,
Face to face.

Many years later,
When the baby had become a man
And the shepherds had become men,
The Messiah came to Jerusalem.

Jesus sent two of his disciples
Two of his followers
To a nearby village.
He told them what they would find.
A colt, never been ridden.
He told them what to do,
He told them what to say,
And sent them on their mission.

They found the colt,
Untied it,
And told the questioning owners
As they had been instructed:
“The Lord has need of it.”

The disciples had found the colt,
But they had also found two men,
Who had been changed
When they had met the son
Face to face.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007


Christmas is bright. It's full of lights and candles, sparkling ornaments, foil paper, tinsel halos and shimmering angel wings. The symbols we use in our homes are often representative of the light of Christ coming into the world.

I was working with my Sunday school class to hang the greens at the beginning of the month, and I noticed that the newly lighted tree reflected in the monitor hung on the back wall. Reflections of light.

I was in the sanctuary yesterday, taking some pictures. I noticed today as I went through them, that the stained glass windows across the room were reflected in the glass hurricane globe on the candle in the window (I'm not sure if you can see that, but if you click on the image, it will get larger). Reflections of light.

We are reflections of light in the world.

One of the lectionary readings for this week includes this verse:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Immanuel. It comes from two Hebrew words -- immanu, which means "with us" and el, which means "God." Jesus is Immanuel -- God with us. The devotional that I read this morning calls that (and I'm paraphrasing) the summary of what it is all about. God is with us.

So the light that we are called the reflect is God's light. We reflect God with us. When people are examining their lives, just like I was going through my images this morning, they should see God's reflection, through our actions, through our words, through our silences.

Reflections of God with us. Colored like stained glass. Lights like those on a Christmas tree. Bringing hope, love and grace to a dark, wintering world.

Where is the reflection?


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Color Tree?

I took a quiz this morning -- what color tree should I have? Purple? I don't mind being called "creative," but I can't imagine putting up a purple tree. I want it to be green. Like a real tree.

I did threaten to decorate the tables for the Advent dinner at church with purple, but that was because it was the ADVENT dinner -- purple being the color of Advent.

Interesting that the movie the quiz says that I should watch is "The Christmas Story." My boss told me yesterday that he watched it this week and liked it. He's Jewish. He's seen it, and I never have.

So, I may watch the movie, but I'm not putting up a purple tree.

You Should Have a Purple Christmas Tree
For you, the holidays represent a time of creativity and expression.There's no way you'd do something bland simply for tradition's sake.

You are an independent person, and you definitely do the holidays your own way. And you're decadent enough to go way over the top with any unusual holiday ideas you have.

Your purple tree would look great with: Purple lights and ornaments

You should spend Christmas Eve watching: A Christmas Story


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens...

The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies. I've loved it forever. There is a MEME travelling through the blogosphere concerning this song from the movie -- what are your favorite things? A few of mine, in random order, and not inclusive:
  • An organized desk
  • OK, anything organized - it just gives me a feeling that the job is complete
  • Our dog, curled up and asleep
  • Diet Pepsi
  • A good book
  • Time in which to read a good book
  • Checking items off of a list as they are finished
  • The beach
  • An audio book, a beach chair, the ocean and a breeze
  • Time spent with friends in laughter
  • G, when he laughs
  • Holding hands with my husband
  • The day after Christmas (isn't that awful?)
  • Driving with the windows down, the sunroof open, good music on the stereo, singing loudly
  • Teaching
  • Time spent at Panera with the laptop and no worries
  • Going to see a movie
  • Waking up in the middle of the night, certain that the alarm is going to ring in a few minutes, but seeing on the clock that there are hours and hours left to sleep.
  • Chocolate


Monday, December 17, 2007

Do We Dance?

There was nothing.
A wind swept across the earth
The breath of God.

And the Father said,
“Let there be light.”
And the dance began.

The world was beauty,
Mountain bowed to the ocean,
And waves saluted the beaches
With a loud “Alleluia”
Trees reached toward heaven
With their leaves rattling in the wind.
But sin crept into the picture
And the darkness returned.

And the Father said,
“Let there be light.”

Mary answered, “I am blessed;
Let it be as you say.”
And Joseph said, “I am yours;
I will obey.”
They joined the dance.

Into the world was born a baby
A tiny, fragile life.
Created by his heavenly Father,
Nurtured by his earthly parents.
Love incarnate.

In a stable there was beauty
Shining as bright as the star above.
Kings bowed to an infant,
And cows stomped their hooves
Their rhythm imitating the heartbeat of life.
A baby lifted his hand from the straw
And reached toward heaven.
And the darkness retreated
In the face of the light of the world.

The son said,
“Let there be light”
and a promise was fulfilled.
The son taught the children
The steps of the dance.

The Light walked the earth,
The Word roamed the streets.
The impossible became possible
Lepers were healed.
The blind began to see.
Men walked again
And women celebrated
As the son pushed away the darkness.

Until the day when the heartbeat was stopped,
Hanging on a cross.
Sin crept across the crowd,
And the music was extinguished.

In the silence and darkness
The Father said,
“Let there be light”
And there was light.
Death was defeated
As love breathed again,
The spirit rushed across the people
Bringing life,
Bringing hope,
Bringing fire.

The Spirit said,
“Let there be light!”
And it shown across the world.

We live in the now and the not yet.
We live in a time of sin and a time of light.
We live with choices.
Shall we dance?
Shall we listen to the music,
And move our lives to the rhythm of the heartbeat?
Do we echo Mary’s faith?
Do we imitate Joseph’s trust?
Do we carry the light of the son,
The breath of the spirit,
To the world?
Do we say,
“Let there be light”?
Will we dance?

When the homeless child reaches out of the darkness,
When the man who is lost,
Or the woman who is in pain,
Cries out for the light,
Do we shine?

When a world suffers in sin and pain
When God is the only hope that can be offered,
Do we answer His call?
Do we shine with His light?
Do we hear the music of His love?
Do we dance to the rhythm of His heartbeat?


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Poinsettia

Wow. Too tired to post. So here's a 1000 words.

Did I mention? I returned the Canon camera and purchased a Nikon. I really like it much better. We took the youth group caroling this afternoon, visiting three of our shut in familes. What a blessing that was -- for us. I remember visiting shut ins when I was in the youth group. That was many many years ago. I hope our youth today remember, for a very long time, this experience, and that it gives them a joyful feeling based on the enthusiasm and very warm response they encountered as they visited today.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Our actions

I wrote a post earlier in the week about the Matthew lectionary reading this week. It was about how God makes the impossible, possible.

I was reading the same passage today as part of my morning devotional time. The passage -- Matthew 11:2-11 -- is about John the Baptist asking if Jesus is the one for whom they have been waiting.

Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
The author of the devotional says that "Jesus' action reveals who he is."

Is the impossible done in the world because we believe and have faith? Is God able to do the impossible through us because we listen and obey?

Do our actions reveals whose we are? Do my actions reveal whose I am? Is God able to do the impossible through me? Would anyone recognize God through my actions?

Image: Bridge in the park taken with the Canon (which is now gone) I am very much happier with the Nikon.


Friday, December 14, 2007

God in the Waiting

One of the lectionary readings for this week is from James 5. Read verses 7 and 8:

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
Be patient. Wait.

We are told that advent is a time of waiting. A time of preparation. Are we very patient with that purpose? I think that I most often think of Advent as those four weeks before Christmas, and the preparation that I am doing is to prepare for Christmas. I rationalize that through all of this hustle and bustle -- that through all of this busyness -- that I am preparing for the coming of Christ. At Christmas. I have a date and a deadline. He will come on December 25. He had better not sneak onto the scene at midnight on December 24, because I won't be ready.

The Disciplines devotional this morning stopped me. It is based on the James lectionary passage sited above. The author said that in the waiting we find God. In the waiting? No, not in the waiting - we find God at the end, I argued with myself.

We find God in the waiting. We grow during the waiting. We learn trust and obedience in the waiting. I realized that the devotional writer was correct. We find God during Advent -- during the waiting. Sometimes I think of advent as the quiet time before Christmas -- empty of God. A time when I am preparing to meet him at Christmas, in a manger. Really, though, the hope of advent is that God comes now. He comes in the waiting. We find him not in a manger, but in the growth and trust and obedience that we learn in advent. We find him in the quiet of candle lighting and in the shame of repentance. We find him in the healing of forgiveness and in the impatience of our patience. We find him during Advent.

And then we have a party. Then we celebrate at Christmas. Joy to the World, the Lord has come! Alleluia. Amen!

Clip art from Hermanolean.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

What do you sing?

Did I ask this question last year on the blog? I can't remember.

What is your favorite Christmas song? Here are some of mine:

  • Carol of the Bells -- I love this one because of the sound of it. I enjoy this song every time I hear it.
  • Rise up Shepherd and Follow
  • We Three Kings
  • What Child is This?
  • Go, Tell it on the Mountain

My least favorite Christmas songs:
  • All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth -- It's just annoying to me. Sorry.
  • Grandmas Got Run over my a Reindeer -- No No No.
  • Blue Christmas
  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus -- again, just annoying to me.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nothing will be impossible with God

Have you ever had a week when the same theme keeps popping up in what you are doing?

Lately, I keep running across the idea that God makes in the impossible, possible. It came up in a letter I was writing. It came up again in our Sunday school lesson last week. Tonight I was looking at the lectionary readings for the week, and the theme popped up in my mind again. Look at this passage from Isaiah:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. (Isaiah 35:5-7)
Doesn't that sound like God making the impossible, possible?

Then I read the Gospel passage for the week, from Matthew. John the Baptist is in prison, and he is wondering if the one he is hearing so much about is "the one who is to come." He sends one of his disciples to go and check it out. Jesus tells the disciple to return to John and to tell him what he is seeing.
Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. Matthew 11:4-5
Jesus is telling John that he is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. He is telling him and us that the impossible has been made possible through God.

This is Christmas. It is all about God making the impossible, possible. Gabriel says to Mary, "nothing will be impossible with God." It's the last words he says to her. Maybe this is what he wants her to remember the most.

Maybe this is what God wants us to remember the most.

Nothing will be impossible with God.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007


What does it mean to be a reflection? What does it mean to reflect God to those around us? How do we do that?

I went to our department's Christmas luncheon today. We had lunch brought in to our conference room -- long table, with people sitting all around it. At the other end of the table there was a conversation going on about religion and politics. It was about the idea that religion should never be involved in politics -- that it has no place in the secular world, in effect.

It was a conversation that made me think that the people involved in it believed that God should be kept in church. That he should behave himself, and not stick his nose in where it doesn't belong. Of course, none of them said that, and I am putting words in their mouths.

I think that before we start wondering what the role of God should be in politics, we need to ask ourselves what the role of God is in our own lives. We need to invite him into our lives and quit trying to lock him into the church ourselves.

All of that aside, though, how does a person reflect God in a situation where it sounds like God is considered extraneous. In a room where God is shooed into a corner. I said nothing. That doesn't seem to be very reflective to me.

Images: Water droplet this morning on a tree. Christmas ornament, and if you look very closely, you'll see me reflected in the glass.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Whatever he puts his mind to...

Tonight was the middle school band concert. J is in sixth grade -- his first year in the band. His first year to pick up an instrument. Steve and I had worried about how to introduce him to the instrument that he wanted to play. J has a brachial plexus shoulder injury from birth. It limits the motion of his right arm above his head. Over the years, since he was born, he had shown great progress -- from not being able to move his arm at all after he was born to now -- he has relatively free movement of his right hand in front of him, and upwards until it reaches above his head. His arm can only move higher if he lifts it.

Worrying about how he is going to approach a problem has often been a concern of ours. We wondered when he was a toddler how to teach him to use a pez dispenser. We thought of every way in the world to try to show him how to hold it and dispense a piece of candy. Finally we just gave it to him. No problems. Out popped the candy.

We wondered about the trumpet, until we just handed it to him. No problems.

Determination. He can do anything he decides he wants to do. And isn't that a wonderful thing to realize about your son?


Sunday, December 09, 2007

What about Mary?

The Sunday school lesson this morning that we taught was about Mary. I am left with several questions about her:

  • Did God only ask Mary to accept this role? Is it possible that someone could say "no" to God in such a situation?
  • How did she feel during the pregnancy? Did she worry?
  • Was it a comfort for her when Elizabeth's baby lept? Did the confirmation help Mary to believe?
  • Was it comforting to her when Joseph believed in what she had told her family?
  • What about in Bethlehem? What about when "there was no room for them in the inn?" Did she doubt that the situation in which she found herself was of God when it didn't go exactly smoothly?
  • When did she come to understand who Jesus was, and what that meant?

Note: edited for spelling and content the next day. Hint - if you read something I write, and you wonder about my grammar and spelling abilities, it was probably written late at night. Did I not even spell-check the thing before I posted it? Good grief.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Pushing against the Immovable

I was reading blogs the other day, and ran across this post by Real Live Preacher -- go read it at this link.

In short, when RLP's church was built a few years ago, they spent $100 per door on automatic door closers -- on 22 doors. These were fine on the exterior doors, but proved to be annoying on interior doors; so much so that they then installed door stoppers, to keep the doors open. To open the door, you had to expend extra energy. That energy was stored in the closing mechanism as potential energy. Once the door was released, the potential energy turned into kinetic energy, closing the door. The door stoppers kept that potential energy from being released.

One day, RLP removed the opener and the closer on a door. He did so after realizing the irony of spending money to maintain something that could have been maintained with no cost at all. Once all of the mechanisms were removed, the door would stay open, stay halfway open or close, based on their needs.

Isn't that a metaphor for church life, sometimes?
  • We have problems which block the expression of our stored energy.
  • We go to extra effort to maintain situations which would be better changed.
  • Sometimes we just need to let go of control and let God take control.
RLP says:

And if you look around the world, a lot of things that appear to be stationary are not moving because they are pushing hard against something that is immovable. You see this all the time.

Isn't that true?

Friday, December 07, 2007

The frustration of blessing

I'm reading the second chapter of the book that JtM and I are co-teaching -- Rejoicing in Hope. Several things stuck me about the chapter, but I wanted to focus on one in particular this evening.

And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. Luke 1:28-30
The author of the books says:
Perhaps she knew the Old Testament well enough to know that being "blessed" is not the same as winning the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Thoughout Biblical history, being blessed is usually as painful as it is peaceful. Being chosen by God is is usually more dangerous than it is delightful.
Do blessings ever mean frustrations? Do we ever want to say, "Quit blessing me, God; I can't handle anymore of this."?

I received an email this week. It told a story that I'm going to paraphrase -- changing it just a little bit.

There was a man who listened to God. One day, God put a rock in front of the man, and told him to push on it. Being obedient and trustworthy, the man did as God told him to, and he pushed the boulder. It didn't move, but that didn't deter the man. Every day, he got up and pushed on the giant rock, straining and working very hard, but seeing no change.

Many months later, the man, who hadn't complained or questioned God, finally shared his frustration with God. "Father, I strain and I work, obediently doing what you have asked me to do, and pushing on this rock. Nothing is happening. The rock is not changed"

"My son, the rock has not moved, but you have changed. You are stronger, more obedient, more trusting. I don't care about the boulder; I care about you. And you have grown."

Sometimes our blessings bring us frustration. Sometimes we can see no results to what God asks us to do. God is love -- he can't help it -- it is his nature. He does nothing except out of love. When we trust him, and believe that he wants the best for us, we come to realize that even in the frustration of blessings, we are gifted.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

The stump of a tree

Look again at the Isaiah passage for this week -- at the very first verse of chapter 11:

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots
I was reading the lectionary musings of Revgalblogpals. Someone (semfem) said in the comments, "I'm really focusing on the stump/shoot images in all three texts--this idea that from something that looks so utterly dead, something new can spring up."

That's an aspect of this verse that I hadn't noticed before -- life springing up from something dead. It raises some questions in my mind.

  1. What we think something is dead, are we always right? Think about a tree stump. Could it be that the stump is not dead? Are the roots alive?
  2. Could it be that we give up hope too soon? Could it be that we lack the faith to continue to believe in the face of what we think of as the "end?"
  3. Do we lack the faith to believe that God can do what we think is impossible?
I think back to Sunday school last week and the lesson's explanation of spiritual barrenness. Do we experience that lack of faith when we fail to see the potential in a tree stump?

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

There is a Fountain

JtM was working on a graphic for the JM web page the other day. He emailed it to me with the title "There is a Fountain." That sounded like a hymn to me. It sparked this:

There is a fountain, a fountain of grace,
Fresh flowing water filling this place
Bringing us life,
Showing us light,
There is a fountain, a fountain of grace.

There is a fountain, a fountain of life
Rushing to end our battle with stife,
Bringing us peace
Showing us joy
There is a fountain, a fountain of life.

There is a fountain, born in a cave
God as a baby, a son sent to save
Bringing us God
Showing us love
There is a fountain, born in a cave

There is a fountain, nailed to a tree
Christ, blood flowing down, setting us free
Bringing us home
Showing us hope
There is a fountain, nailed to a tree.

There is a fountain, a fountain of grace
Blessings shining from his wonderful face,
Bringing us birth
Showing us hope
There is a fountain, a fountain of grace


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Logos -- Isaiah 11

One of the lectionary readings this week is from the book of Isaiah.

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. (11:1-5)
When we Christians read that passage, we hear a prophesy for the coming of the Messiah -- for Christ. When we read it, we hear a description of Christ.

As Christians, we also believe that to see Christ is to see God. If that is the case, then these verses describe what God is like.

What else? We are called to be Christ-like, so this passage is a call to us, reminding us of what we are to be like. Take a look at it again, from the Message:

Fear-of-God will be all his joy and delight. He won't judge by appearances, won't decide on the basis of hearsay. He'll judge the needy by what is right, render decisions on earth's poor with justice. His words will bring everyone to awed attention. A mere breath from his lips will topple the wicked. Each morning he'll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots, and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land.
Image: The sky this evening as I left work. It was a very neat looking cloud formation.


Monday, December 03, 2007

The silence of Zachariah

The lesson we taught yesterday in Sunday school was based on the passage in Luke 1 which describes the story of Zachariah and Elizabeth. Do you remember the passage from Luke in which Zachariah expresses disbelief to the angel?

Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’
We talked about it in Sunday school and then again in our youth meeting that evening.

Do you think Zachariah's muteness was punishment?

Last week we watched Evan Almighty in youth group. There is a line in that movie that God says to Evan, "Anything I do, I do because I love you."

I like that, and I think it describes God. What he does, he does because he loves us. So why was Zachariah struck mute?

I don't think it was a punishment. I think it was preparation. God was giving Zachariah time to grow in faith, to come to an understanding of what was happening. The last thing he said was doubt. When he got his voice back, his first words were ones of faith. The silence changed him.

One of the recommendations of the curriculum that we are using is that we all observe periods of silent prayer this season to draw us closer to God. It's a good idea. Can we find time for silence? For prayer?

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Youth impressions

It is late, late, late at night. Too late to come up with an understandable blog post.

We led the youth tonight in an exploration of parts of the movie The Nativity Story. I have a few impressions that I will share.

  1. It's a great movie. Watch it as part of your Advent preparations for Christ.
  2. I am constantly surprised and blessed by the spritual depth of our youth. I praise God for the faith that I see.
  3. The lesson we are using is from Christianity Today. It's worth the price of the download.
  4. I am grateful, once again, to God for being given the gift of serving as a youth leader. What a blessing.

Good night!


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Don't lose Jesus

Our Sunday school class met today to "Hang the Greens" in the Sanctuary -- garland, wreaths, tree with Chrismons -- traditional church decorations.

Our church has a papier mache nativity scene -- Mary holding Jesus, Joseph and the three wise men. The pieces are relatively large -- about 2-3 feet tall each. A few of us were setting up the scene today, and we made a "command" decision. We put Mary and Joseph out on the altar without Jesus. On Christmas Eve, we'll add Jesus, and then on January 6 (Epiphany), we'll add the wise men. As Shelly carried Jesus away, I joked, "Don't lose Jesus."

Do we do that? Do we lose Jesus in the Christmas season? We get busy and stressed, and I think we lose focus on what is important.

JtM and I are teaching Sunday school tomorrow based on the book Rejoicing in Hope by James Harnish. I was telling Steve about the lesson as we walked into Lowes, looking for Christmas trees. We were talking about how when the Advent season arrives, we get busy and we stop doing the disciplines that will lead us closer to God -- prayer, devotions. I mentioned that we were smart last year -- we made time for friends in the month before Christmas, and because of that, we had had a terrific advent season. Steve said, "And look what happened. That great Christmas gift of friendship was a gift that we got to play with all year (he can be very poetic). He's right, though.

We need to keep what is important ahead of what is not as important. The resulting hope is worth the rejoicing that it brings with it.

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