Friday, March 30, 2012

Psalm 107:17-22

Psalm 107:17-22

Some of you were sick because you'd lived a bad life,
your bodies feeling the effects of your sin;
You couldn't stand the sight of food,
so miserable you thought you'd be better off dead.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He spoke the word that healed you,
that pulled you back from the brink of death.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves;
Offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
tell the world what he's done—sing it out!

I have a friend who discovered last year that she has cancer.  She’s younger than I am, has two young daughters that she and her husband adopted.  She had the tumor removed, but was told that the cancer had spread to her lungs, and that the doctors weren’t sure if chemotherapy would get rid of it or not.  Her specific type of cancer can be resistant to treatment.  She started a regimen of weekly treatments with no idea if they would be effective or not.  She’s been sick, she’s been exhausted.  Her life has been turned upside down from her normal routine.  She is in a wilderness.

My work took me to her church one Sunday morning, and we started talking.  She said, “God has blessed me so much.”  And she meant it.  What my friend knows is that when you call out to God in a desperate condition, God is there.  It doesn’t matter if your wilderness is caused by an unexplainable fight against illness, or if it is created by addiction, or by violence.  In our wilderness, in our sickness, in our desperation, we can call upon God, and he will bring us home.

We are told in the Gospels that the Holy Spirit sent Jesus into the Wilderness.  I don’t wish that experience on anyone, but I’m grateful that Jesus has had it.  That he has felt lost.  Alone.  Separated.  I’m glad that he knows what it feels like.   I celebrate that you and I can call upon a Redeemer who knows what it means to be in the wilderness.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Psalm 107:10-16

Psalm 107:10-16 say this:

Some of you were locked in a dark cell,
cruelly confined behind bars,
Punished for defying God's Word,
for turning your back on the High God's counsel—
A hard sentence, and your hearts so heavy,
and not a soul in sight to help.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He led you out of your dark, dark cell,
broke open the jail and led you out.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves;
He shattered the heavy jailhouse doors,
he snapped the prison bars like matchsticks!

Maybe the wilderness is prison.  Maybe the prison is a real prison with real bars, or maybe the prison is not steel and concrete, but still a prison.  What dark, dark cell is your prison?  What wilderness prison keeps you separated from God?  What traps the person you love?  Notice what this psalm does not say.  It doesn’t say, “If you are innocent, God will come and free you.”  Guilty or not guilty, sinful or innocent – doesn’t matter.  We pray the words in our communion liturgy – “Free us for joyful obedience.”  God comes to us in the wilderness of prison, and he frees us.  He brings us home.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Psalm 107:4-9

Psalm 107:4-9

Some of you wandered for years in the desert,
looking but not finding a good place to live,

Half-starved and parched with thirst,
staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion.
Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God.
He got you out in the nick of time;
He put your feet on a wonderful road
that took you straight to a good place to live.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
He poured great draughts of water down parched throats;
the starved and hungry got plenty to eat.

Those verses bring to mind a vast desert, dry and hot.  Sounds like wilderness.  You can imagine the exiles crossing the deserts of Syria to return to Jerusalem.  And maybe they traveled through the desert for years, trying to reach home, desperate, and reaching the point of exhaustion.  Expand that image – take it out of history.  Have you been in that kind of wilderness?  Maybe that kind of wilderness is our, or someone else’s, struggle to reach God.  We desperately thirst for God and are exhausted from the search.  Maybe that kind of wilderness is experienced by someone who is lost, away from home, or who doesn’t have a home, and struggles to come out of exile.  What is the good news for us in this passage? 

When we call to God, God hears us.  God will travel with us on the road, placing our very steps, giving us direction.  God will answer our needs, quench our thirst.  God will bring us home.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Psalm 107

Psalm 107

My work involves travel, and sometimes, even with a GPS, we get lost.   

We’ve all had our times in the wilderness, and I think there is an aspect to that experience that is being lost.  Separated.  Distanced from what you know, from the way out, from the control we would like to feel.  We get lost. 

A little more than 2,500 years ago, the Israelites were lost.  They were exiled into Babylon, separated from the only home they remembered.  Their Temple was destroyed, and I imagine they thought their God was no place to be found.  Eventually, a remnant of them returned to Jerusalem, rebuilt the city wall and the Temple.  They found their way home.  It might have been during this time that Psalm 107 was written, stemming from that experience of being lost.   

While they were exiled – lost – while they were in the wilderness -- they found something very precious.  They discovered, or maybe reaffirmed, the presence of God IN the wilderness.  And one of the ways they expressed that revelation was through the song that is Psalm 107.

So, can you imagine the Israelites coming back home after being in exile, singing of their experiences during worship?   Of course you can – we sing about our own experiences of God in worship all the time.  Over the next few days, we'll look at Psalm 107, and what this song tells us about the experience of God in the Wilderness, to think about what wilderness is, why we might be there, and how God redeems us through that experience.


Sunday, March 25, 2012


Steve, Josh and I spent the weekend in Washington -- a spring break trip.

At the hotel where we stayed, I noticed that a previous guest in the room had been writing thank you notes at the desk. I would tell because whoever wrote the notes placed the card directly on the wood of the desk.  The pressure from the pen had slightly indented the surface of the desk.  In the right light, if you paid attention, you could read the writing impressions.

Words like "kind" and "loving heart" were impressed on the desk.

I hope our actions leave those kind of impressions on the lives of the ones we come close to.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jefferson Bible

Two of the source Bibles for the Jefferson Bible

Have you heard of the Jefferson Bible?  The Smithosonian has an exhibit in the American History Museum.  Jefferson decided to create a book using the Bible as its source.  With a razor, he carefully cut out sections of the Gospels, placing them in chronological order.   He did not include "references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus' resurrection are also absent ..." (Source, Wikipedia). He called it The Life and Morals of Jesus Christ."
Jefferson Bible

He never published the Bible, and kept it relatively private, knowing it would be controversial.  The Smithsonian bought it in 1895 for $400 from Jefferson's great-granddaughter. 

The entire text is available online, page by page, at this link.


Thursday, March 22, 2012


I been listening to an album by Adele.  My older son introduced me to her (not literally) and especially to the song Rolling in the Deep.

As I was listening to the song yesterday, the lyrics struck me, speaking to me of a meaning that isn't in the lyrics themselves.

The scars of your love,
They leave me breathless

Imagine for a moment, Thomas sitting, remembering his encounter with the risen Christ.  Couldn't Thomas have said that? Go read the two lines again, with Thomas and his encounter in your mind.

I feel a poem coming along -- for another time, when I'm not so tired.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Healed and Saved

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world,
but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:17

In the sermon today at St. Mark's Lenten luncheon, Monty said that the word for 'saved' in this passage could be translated two different ways.  It can be translated as "saved" as we usually do, and that is a good translation for it.  It can also be translated as "healed."

I like it when words have more than one translation, because I like when layers of complexity are added to the Word.  It shouldn't be simple or easy, and we should be able to explore layers, gaining understanding from each one.

Saved is good.  Saved when we are lost, saved for another purpose, saved because we are loved and precious.  We are saved.

We are healed.  Healed from sin, healed from what is broken.  Our relationship with God is healed.  Our relationship with others is healed.  We are healed.

So, what does it mean in our lives to be saved?  What does it mean that we are healed?  Should it make a difference?  And shouldn't our salvation and our healing effect other people and our relationships with them so that we do not cause people to lost, or cause people to be hurt?

And isn't it true that God saves us each day?  That he heals us each day?  So that each day, we are re-created, made new?


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Darkness and Light

The light has come into the world,
and people loved darkness rather than light.
—John 3.19

Sometimes, when I come into my office after lunch, and the light is off, I am tempted to leave it off, and to work in the dimness.  It seems quieter.  Sometimes more peaceful than overhead lights.

Sometimes, when I walk into our family room, and Steve has the overhead lights on for his work, I find them so bright that I want to immediately turn them off.  I find relief in the darkness.

Why would anyone love darkness rather than light? 

Light shines into the corners.  It illuminates everything.  We can hide in the darkness, but we find it hard to hide in the light.

What we need, though, is light.  We need the corners illuminated so that we can clean them out.  We need the hidden places made plain, so that we can blow out the dust and dirt, and start fresh.  That process is painful, sometimes, and sometimes it is more peaceful to sit in the dark.

But God brings light.  And light is what we need.  Light brings the true peace.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Tipping Point

When Steve Jobs was designing the building for Pixar, he wanted to make sure that the cartoonists, the computer programmers and the business people interacted, rather than isolating themselves into like-minded groups.  So he created a common atrium for the building, into which he placed facilities that all people would share in common -- they would have to "mix" in this area. This led to creative collaborations that they never would have experienced otherwise.

There are advantages to working through the issues associated with being together with people who are not like us.  Who do not share our beliefs.  Who even believe that we are wrong.

Taking that idea to its extreme, there are advantages to staying in an organization with people who believe differently that we do. 

How do you decide?  How do you know when you should stay in a group with people who believe differently?  How do you know if God is calling you to this environment so that you can change minds?  Bring light to darkness? 

And how do you decide that you absolutely cannot remain?  That what is happening is so against your beliefs that you can't be associated with it?

I'm not facing this question, but I've heard of a couple people lately who are.  Where is the tipping point between being an influence and allowing your presence to be taken as assent with what is happening?

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I lift this Church of people to you.
May you guide their feet to walk where you need them to go.
May you guide their hands to reach where you need them to serve.
May you guide their hearts where you need them to love,
and may you cover them completely with your abundant grace.

(Benediction I prayed this morning for worship  and evidence that God will provide prayer when you don't know what to say.)


Thursday, March 15, 2012


Repent.  What does it mean?  We've been talking about it in church lately.  Repent does not necessarily mean sackcloth and ashes or a deep pit of dispair.  But what does it mean to "turn" to God?
  • To repent is to turn to God.  To center on God.  I think turning to God means that we open ourselves to listen to God.  Where is he leading us? 
  • To repent might mean that we confess our sins.  We apologize.  Perhaps to God.  Perhaps to someone else.  It might mean that we restore a relationship so that God can be seen through us. 
  • It might mean that we turn toward God instead of sticking to our stubbornness.
  • It might mean that we set aside our schedules and our distractions to look toward God.
What does it mean to you?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


All-county band with my younger son as First Trumpet.  Solo in Simple Gifts.

There are things in life for which you cannot help but feel grateful.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 12, 2012


I read a couple of posts today from the Painted Prayerbook.

Jan, the author of this blog, says that the antidote to grumbling is gratitude.

I can understand that, and I agree with it, but the hardest part is putting into practice.  When I get going on a good rant, it is very hard to stop and be grateful for what is around me. 

In fact, when I'm complaining, probably the last thing I want to do is to stop and be grateful.

But I should.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Punta Cana Sunise


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Can't be good enough

A few months ago, our older son was facing a decision at school.  Steve and I intentionally pushed him to make the decision himself -- to reason about the problem, examine the possible outcomes to the best of his ability and to choose.  We didn't leave him alone in the decision, and helped him through these steps, but the decision was his.

I think he found it difficult.

I was reading a devotional from Disciplines:
When devout followers of religious laws are told that they have a higher vision (to love their neighbor, for example, even it that means they do not obey all dietary laws), they often exerience both freedom and a sense of burden.
When we are conditioned to live within the rules, then when we are thrust beyond the rules, we do experience freedom, but we also struggle.  To quote the devotional, "It is good to be fee of some detailed laws, but how can they love enough?"

We might think we can follow the rules, and we probably find comfort in them.  But when we are called to move beyond the rules, the we loose our confidene.  How can we love enough?  How do we show grace? 

That's why God shows us grace.  We can't love enough -- we can't earn God's love through our actions.  We can't earn it by following the laws, or by not following the laws.  We can't be good enough, and we can't earn what we have been given by grace.

That's hard to accept, and yet it's the heart of the matter.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 09, 2012

A hope hidden?

In reading about call, I am comparing Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

What I noticed today is that God is sending these prophets to speak to people and yet God knows they will not listen.  He sends Moses to Pharaoh, and God knows his heart will be hardened.  He sends Isaiah to speak to a "sinful" nation, and he knows they will not comprehend.  He sends Jeremiah to a country that God says "shall be put to shame." He sends Ezekiel to speak to a rebellious house -- "they will not listen to you."

And yet God sends them anyway.

Is there a kind of hope in those desolate statements?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


I am (slowly, with enjoyment) reading Tikva Frymer-Kensky's book Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation of Their Stories.  The chapter I'm reading now is about Ruth. 
Ruth gets a "coincidence," miqreh, a serendipituos happening that makes one wonder about casuality.
Ruth's miqreh is that the field she chooses belongs to Naomi's relative, Boaz.  Imagine the story of Ruth if that hadn't happened.

What are the miqreh's in your life?  What "coincidences" have happened to you or around you that make you say, "Was that God?"  I think it takes faith to answer the question, "yes."  I believe that when we grant ourselves the permission of faith to answer the question, "What that God?" with an affirmative YES, then we begin to see the work of God. 

God is with us, working with us, loving us, moving around us, and we will see these perhaps daily miqreh's if we will open eyes of faith.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012


I'm looking at some "call" passages in Hebrew Bible.  A few thoughts from Moses:
  • The notes in my Interpreter's Bible suggest that the fact that Moses didn't recognize God in the fire (burning bush) means that Moses did not know God.  I'm not sure I agree with that. I do think that even though we know God, we can look right at evidence of his presence and not see him.
  • God promises shared risk, but not success.  Isn't that interesting?  What was God risking?  Failure of the plan through human involvement?
  • God's name, as given to Moses on the mountain, is a verb.  Names usually aren't verbs, but it is noticable that God's name is a verb.   Can we go the step further to say that we know God through what he does?  Has done?  I think so.
  • Is God's first task in this work of redeming Israel to convince Moses?  To demonstrate to Moses who he is before he shows Israel who he is?  The snake, the leprous hand -- are they signs to convince Moses?


Monday, March 05, 2012


Last week's Friday Five:

Every area is different. What are the 5 key essentials needed for where you live?
  1. From where I live, you just can't walk there from here.  An essential for living where I live is a car.
  2. I live on a hill, and there are ties when it is best to park at the bottom of the hill and walk between the car and the house (because the car won't make it up or down the hill).  So, a couple of essentials for where we live is a warm winter coat, a scarf, gloves, and a hood or hat.
  3. Along the same line are shoes that will keep you from falling down.  I call mine my "ugly shoes."  Boots would work as well -- tread is the key ingredient.
  4. The key to the weather in WV is to be prepared for anything.  So add umbrella to the list, because it is going to rain.
  5. And in the summer, it is hot, so be prepared, if you live where I live, with cool clothes in the summer.


Sunday, March 04, 2012


The Sunday school lesson I taught today was based on Proverbs 8:22-35 -- a passage about wisdom.

What implications does it have on our understanding of creation to realize that God created the universe with wisdom at his side?  When we attempt to make decisions regarding what we will do in our lives and who we will follow, what difference does it make in our judgment to understand that the first characteristic of God as he created the universe was wisdom?

What about our own creative side?  Do we find delight in the wisdom of creation as God did?  And does?  What difference does it make in our understanding of ourselves to be told that God found joy in the wisdom of our own creation?


Saturday, March 03, 2012

Punta Cana Flower


Friday, March 02, 2012

Roots and Storms

Take a look at the picture to the left.  Do you see the palm tree roots, just hanging up in the air?  The sand around them has been eroded away, and all that is there are the roots, dangling in the air.

The tree is standing high up in the air, as if it is firmly grounded.  I wonder, though, when the next storm comes through or the next hurricane, even, if the tree will still be standing.

Is that an analogy for our lives?  Do we sometimes kid ourselves, believing that we are firmly grounded, when in reality, our situation is tremulous, as best.  When the storms come and then go, will we still be standing?

My goal in Lent is to return to firmer ground through study and devotionals.  My hope is that I will read every day, and that my roots will be prompted to grow deeper and stronger.   And whether there is a storm or not, I hope I end up more firmly rooted in God.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 01, 2012


I've always liked the conversation between God and Moses in Exodos 3-4.  For me, it has always demonstrated something about the characteristics of God.  When I re-read it this week, I took a closer look at Moses' objections, and boiled them down to:
  1. Who am I to do this?
  2. Who are you to ask it of me?
  3. What if no one believes me?
  4. What if I can't do it?
  5. Isn't there someone else who can do it?
Aren't those the same questions we ask when we are called by God?

Labels: ,