(Numbers start at the left and move to the right in two rows. Click the image to see it in more detail. )
I remember someone telling me once that stained glass windows were meant to be seen from the inside of a church -- that their beauty was only targeted to the people inside the building, not those on the street.
Our son decided that he wanted to learn to play the piano. We started him in lessons last fall, and he loves it. He never complains about going, he practices, he can't walk by a piano without tinkering with the keys.
Tonight was his first formal recital. He's been playing for less than a year and tonight he played Simple Gifts and The Entertainer in front of family, friends and strangers. His crutches for his broken ankle didn't stop him; nothing stopped
I am so very proud of him.
I attended another funeral today. One of the scriptures read was from John 16:
When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. John 16:21I hesitate to disagree with John, but what does he know? After childbirth, when you hold your newborn baby, there is great joy, and love and life transforming feelings. You do not, however forget the pain. You remember the pain, but you decide that the child is worth the pain.
This Sunday is Pentecost, and one of the lectionary readings is from Acts 2:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.We talked about this passage as the basis of our office meeting devotional today. What aspects of the passage jump out at you?
I was teaching a week ago Sunday. One of the questions for discussion was:
Think of the phrase “the wisdom of God in its rich variety.” What do you see the rich variety of God?Is God evident in the variety around us?
In the darkness and in the flood,Standing under those trees, listening to that song, I was reminded of the day before, standing under a canopy of trees, with blue sky above. It was a cemetery, for the funeral of a friend's father. Steve was near the hearse, acting as a pall bearer, and I stood waiting under this high tree, certain of the grace of God, covered.
you're there with me, you're there with me.
And in the desert and in the sun,
You're holding me, you're holding me.
You cover me with your love
You cover me with, you cover me with your love
You cover me with, you cover me with your love.
I was reading Living Stones, the blog of the annual conference, when I found this sentence, written by Rev. Amy Shanholtzer:
Another handshake, another hug and an invitation to the evening worship service and dinner told me that there is a culture of welcome here and folks who are willing to take responsibility for it."A culture of welcome...and folks who are willing to take responsbility for it." I think that's a great description of what hospitality in a church means.
I bought a ring the other day. It's a silver open work band composed of the words Faith, Hope, Love. I'm not sure which way to wear it. Do I wear it so that I can read the words, or do I wear it so that someone else can read the words?
Oh Lord, you're beautiful.
Take a look at this quote from Philip Yancey's book The Bible Jesus Read:
By itself, Psalm 23 leads to an easy-answer faith; by itself Psalm 22 leads to spiritual despair; together, the two offer a bracing mixture of realism and hope.What do you think? Do you agree? I think I might disagree.
I have come to see these psalms as calling for different kinds of faith. Psalm 23 models childlike faith, and Psalm 22 models fidelity, a deeper, more mysterious kind of faith. Life with God may include both. We may experience times of unusual closeness, when prayers are answered in an obvious way and God seems intimate and caring. We may also experience dark times, when God stays silent, when nothing works according to formula and all the Bible's promises seem glaringly false. Fidelity involves learning to trust that, out beyond the perimeter of darkness, God still reigns and has not abandoned us, no matter how it may appear.
Memories from Steve...
Some bright morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away
That's a line from the song The Stand by Michael W. Smith. I was listening to it tonight as I drove home, and is was struck by the phrase, "with heart abandoned."
What does that mean?It occurs to me that heart abandoned might be love, given freely and without reservation. I've abandoned my heart to my husband, to my children, to my family, to my close friends. I stand with heart abandoned.We wonder why there is suffering. I wonder if a small part of the reason is that our hearts are abandoned. When do we suffer? We suffer when a loved one is ill or dying, hurt or lost. We suffer because we have abandoned our hears.
I taught Sunday school today. The lesson was based on Ephesians 3:1-13. We talked about what makes a church welcoming, and I told them a few stories of churches across our conference where I had been made to feel welcome and at home. We talked about what makes a church welcoming, and how we can sometimes, without even realizing it, do something that makes people feel excluded (Sorry, JtM, I didn't mention the fortress-doors.)
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Isn't that a great prayer?
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
When you finish with your Emmaus walk, you receive a cross on a rainbow colored cord. It's large. It's bright. And it's worn with a name badge, so that everyone at the Gathering knows everyone else's name.
The other day I was praying for my friend who is facing his father's critical illness. I had just read the lectionary Psalm for the week, which was a portion of Psalm 22 (verses 25-31).
...and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it. (verse 31)As I prayed, asking for support and grace, healing and comfort, I was struck by that Psalm. "...saying that he has done it." My prayer turned into praise. Instead of asking, I was praising. Instead of praying for comfort and support, I found that I was thanking God that they had it. Instead of asking for mercy and grace, I was praising its God-given presence. Instead of hoping that my friend could see the presence of God, I was grateful that he did.
...and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...
...my cup overflows....
I don't believe that I have ever literally been asked to lay my life down for a friend -- certainly not like Jesus did. I think, though, that we are often asked to "lay down our lives" for our friends and family. Consider "laying down your life" to mean setting down your routine. We are called to a certain life, and we lead that life. We work, we play, we raise our children, we walk the dog. It is a routine, ordinary life, but we find joy in it, and in it, we answer our calling to serve.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.We are called to love one another. Setting aside our lives for each other is a way that we abide in the love of Christ, and he abides in us. It is how we shine the light of God in each other's lives. It is the means by which each of us sees God.
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.It seems very strange to say that actions in times of stress like this bring joy, but I believe it to be true. Don't think of joy as happiness. Joy is something else. Joy is the knowledge of the presence of God. Being shone Christ by someone else's actions in love, brings joy. Do we remember that shining the light of Christ by showing love to someone else brings joy as well? I know that it does. It is joy to me to be a friend. I'm not at all happy by what is happening in my friends life; it makes my heart ache. But I, and all of his family and friends, would find joy in helping him. I find joy in seeing how many people are reaching out to help, if they can. It is how our joy is made complete.
...you anoint my head with oil...
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.He brings us peace by bringing us to peace.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil...
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.
We were on retreat this past weekend with our youth group. The program for the weekend focused on Psalm 23. I don't know about the youth, but I certainly learned more about Psalm 23 than I ever known before.