Image: Stained glass window at Valley Chapel United Methodist Church, Fairmont, WV
Image: Stained glass window at Valley Chapel United Methodist Church, Fairmont, WV
I'm working on a Sunday school lesson for this Sunday, based on Ezekiel 11:14-21. Is it wrong to say that I just don't like Ezekiel? That if I had my own choice about the matter, I would be teaching something else?
Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far away among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a little while in the countries where they have gone.The author of the teacher's manual says that the people, separated from the ways that they knew to be in touch with God -- through the temple and the sacrifices -- would now reach God through God's people. People like Ezekiel.
I was reading the Disciplines book this week. The author talked about the idea of being "dust." Remember that you are ashes, and to ashes you will return.
In the sermon last Sunday, Jack showed us a film clip from the archives of the College basketball tournament. It was a series of exciting plays, set to music.
Standing on the edge of Lent
A few years ago, I knitted a shawl. When I moved into my new office, I brought it in for chilly moments. Truthfully, it matches the chair where I leave it, and I suspect that our home hall closet has a moth. The shawl is safer at work.
And he said, ‘Go and say to this people:I'm not sure what Isaiah meant when he wrote these verses, but at the time, what I thought as I read them was that God will lead us to do his will, but we won't always understand why, or what the results will be.
“Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.”
JtM taught Sunday school today. The topic was specifically about Isaiah and his call in Chapter 6. More generally, though, we talked about the general structure of stories when God has called the people in the Bible (and us).
Steve was taking a picture the other day of a cardinal. See it on the bird feeder? When he started looking through the pictures, he found that he had caught a gold finch in mid-flight. (Click on the picture for a better view)
Are we open to see the unexpected? Do we remember that God may appear in our lives when we least expect it? And when we finally do open our eyes, we find the beauty of God.
It's motivation to keep our eyes open!
A few months ago, an acquaintance came up to me at an Emmaus gathering and asked me to pray for her. We were serving on a team together, and I had been the assistant table leader on her walk, but that was the only ways we knew each other. She told me that she was having health concerns, was worried about some upcoming tests, hadn't told anyone about them, but was telling me because she wanted me to pray for her.
I was in a meeting this week of church leaders. We were having a discussion about church growth and the possibility of using neighborhood meetings as a means to invite others into fellowship. The hope is that once a guest becomes integrated into this kind of social situation, that it would be easier to invite him or her to worship and church.
Bob left a comment on a post fews days ago that said:
I think it is way easier to know when someone has impacted your life. Maybe we should take a lesson from the Sunday School participant who sent you a note and let people know when they help us grow.I think that we all have a need for affirmation. I worry sometimes that my affirmation quota may be higher than it should be; I know that I have a need for it.
One of the lectionary readings for the week is 2 Kings 2:1-12. This is the story of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah is about to ascend into heaven, and these verses describe his last period of time with his student, Elisha. As I read it today, a few thoughts came to mind:
I wonder how this passage can remind us of Christ's ascension. Are we called to follow Christ -- whither he goes -- and are we to be a reflection of him in the world?
I was listening to a knitting blog today. The speaker was talking about her "talisman scarf." This was a knitting project that she started during a vacation to Alaska, so as she looked at it, it reminded her of her vacation adventure. Just following vacation, she fell down her basement stairs, breaking her neck. The next several months were a time of healing, and as she slowly recovered her life, she received hope from knitting her on scarf -- that life would at some time return to normal.
In Sunday school today, we were asked if we could think of an instance where something we had done (and I don't remember the question exactly) had a positive impact on someone else's faith. Have you ever done something that helped someone else to see God or that led someone else to a transformational realization?
I don't know if I have shown other people the presence of God, or if I have been part of God's transformational work in the world, but I know God has worked through other people to change my life. And I am grateful.
Image: The Ohio River last Thursday.
St. Marks UMC, in Charleston, where our offices are located, removed a door and installed a waterfall. Just saying that sounds odd to me, but the results are really kind of stunning. The water falls down in sheets on both sides of a glass window. The cross and flame is etched into the glass (I think).
When we were walking in from lunch the other day, we ran into someone in the parking lot with whom we have had several conversations lately. He and his wife have opened a mission project in their part of the state.
Imagine holding your newborn child on one of those nights when it was still a novel adventure to be caring for a baby in the middle of the night. Remember standing in the nursery, rocking your child back and forth while she slept, and singing some wordless tune to her, loving the sight of her peaceful face and the touch of her soft hair. Remember that love.
Image: The sky this evening was yellow right after a big storm front rolled through.
You You’re singing over me
You’re singing over me tonight
With every star that’s in this midnight sky
You, You’re singing over me
You’re singing over me tonight
And my heart is overcome with Your song
with Your song (Building 429)
The Disciplines devotional this morning started me thinking. The author focused on listening. Do we value listening enough? Do we listen? Do we consider that it is important?
Labels: Old Testament
Acts 5:38-39: So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’
One of the lectionary readings for this week was Isaiah 40:21-31. It's a beautiful passage which begins with a reminder to remember God, a lament concerning the idea that God has forgotten us, more reminders of who God is, and then this, which is probably one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible:
but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Verse 31Think about this passage for a minute. God knows and we know that we will face challenges in life. Jack, today in his sermon, talked about how when everything is going well in our lives, we tend to forget the presence of God in our lives. When everything seems to be going poorly, we tend to think that God is no where to be found.
My cup this afternoon at Starbucks said:
The irony of commitment is that it is deeply liberating -- in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress iteself up and parade around as rational hesitatition. To committ is to remove your head as the barrier to your life. -- Anne Morriss (Starkbucks customer from New York City who describes herself as an "organization bilder, restless american citizen, optimist."We rarely see commitment as a liberating act, but I think she's right. What is the effect of commitment? How is it freeing in your life?
One of the lectionary readings for the week comes from 1 Corinthians 9:16-23:
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.In order to spread the gospel, Paul is willing to be a slave to all. He will be a Jew for the Jews, a person outside the law for those outside the law, and weak for those who are weak.
Let's think about my house -- yes, I know that topic just THRILLS you! Here is last Friday's 5 from RevGalBlogPals:
In his book The Life You've Always Wanted, John Ortberg says, "Confession is not primarily something God has us to do because he needs it...We need to confess in order to heal and change." He talks about how we often think of confession as being legalistic -- make a confession and have a sin erased -- transactional. Instead, confessional should be transformational.
There is no union with God without transformation. Paradoxically, the person who has struggled with personal transformation and become psychologically stronger is the person who can be empty and receptive before God. This vulnerability is an act of strength, since we no longer need to hold tightly to a false self that protects us from our inner pain and fears. We are free at last.Confession. Is there anything that makes us more vulnerable than confession? To admit before God that we are wrong is to become vulnerable before God (and ourselves). Confession empties us -- our hearts and hands and spirits -- so that we can be open before God and accept the freedom of forgiveness and grace.
And I sobbed, too, because this is what God wants from us, not rules and rituals and lines of exclusion. God wants the I'm sorry written on our hearts, sobbed and sung and wrung out of us,...
I found this quote on Out of Ur, the blog for Leadership Journal:
"As a pastor, I'm not a theology policeman...But if we are part of a community where the Scriptures are honored, I don't think we have to worry too much. The Spirit works through community. Somebody will have a stupid, screwy idea. That's okay. The point of having creeds and confessions and traditions is to keep us in touch with the obvious errors."
The above quote is by Eugene Peterson, from Having Ears, Do you Not Hear?
You can include this on the list of reasons that I am blessed to be a United Methodist -- we learn from each other in community. (Maybe members of other denominations would say the same thing, but I only know about my own).
Got a different idea? Share it among your community. We learn from each other through the stretch and pull of conversation. Disagree? Discuss it with each other with love and grace. From that environment, we learn from each other. We have creeds and beliefs as touchstones of faith, to keep us on the path. God will live among us and guide our thoughts through each other.
It's a wonderful gift, to share questions of faith with friends. From this can grow understanding.
Image: African Violet in office is about to bloom.
The devotional at our office meeting today was based on parts of Psalm 91.
That's right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. Verse 3That particular phrase stopped me. I was thinking as she read -- there are so many traps that I fall into. Traps that grab me when I say things that I should not -- when I do things that I later think are mistakes.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? Verse 1How often do I need someone to stand in front of me and say, "Don't you remember? You say you have faith, and yet there are times when you do not seem to act as if you are aware that God is God."
One of the lectionary readings for the week is Mark 1:21-28. Jack preached today about healing -- how we all have ways in which we can be healed and ways in which we can heal each other. I thought it was a good word to bring to the congregation.
Silence, Lord, the unclean spiritWhat are our "demons?" We think of them as BIG -- as evil incarnate -- but instead think of those things that cloud our thoughts and separate us from a feeling of peace. What kinds of things disturb our minds and dance through our thoughts?
in our mind and in our heart;
speak your word that when we hear it,
all our demons shall depart.
Clear our thought and calm our feeling;
still the fractured, warring soul.
By the power of your healing
make us faithful, true, and whole.