Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Two Things to Compare

Two things to compare:

On Sunday a couple of weeks ago, the Bishop pointed out in our worship service that when Jacob responded to God, he said, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God,..."  (Genesis 28:20b-21)

What she wanted us to see was the If.  The sentence begins with If. It is a sign of doubt.  Jacob is stepping out in faith. "A faith that begins with if is looking for God - expects an encounter with God."

Compare it to this, which I read on Facebook on the way home:

A friend wrote a beautiful post about the presence of God in Florida during the shooting. Someone replied that it "is difficult to believe in a diety..." and then went on to discuss how the faithful can be hypocritical. Someone else replied and told him (the commenter) that he needed to be baptized and then all would become clear.  The commenter asked how the man knew that he hadn't been and did go to church.  The reply: "By your comments and wavering faith! Those how have been saved and truly believe do not waiver in their faith in god above!"

I have to say that the Bishop's words ring more true to me that the words of the man who answered the commenter.

Doubts and questions are only a sign of growth. Without them we are stagnant, assuming we know everything (we don't) and that God is only as we believe God to be (God isn't). 

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sacred Place

I mentioned yesterday that the Bishop came to our church to preach. She did so because we were rededicating our building after a serious renovation. 

I think in such a time it is important to realize that the building is not what is important. Even though it looks so much nicer, and it welcoming and wonderful - it is not the church.

She said something I'll remember for a while. She was preaching about the Jacob's ladder story. The place Jacob stopped had no name, and after he encountered God, Jacob named the place Bethel (House of God.). 

Our building isn't sacred because we say so - not even because the bishop says so. Our building is a sacred place because it is a place where people have and will encounter God. If that isn't happening, then it's just another building, like any other. 

"The no name place becomes crucial.  It's is a place of encounter - and that makes it holy."

May it be so.


Monday, February 26, 2018

God of the Mess

Bishop Steiner Ball preached at our church a couple of Sundays ago.  The basis of her sermon was the Jacob's ladder story. Do you remember it? Jacob has tricked his father into blessing him instead of Esau, effectively disinheriting his brother. Esau is (understandably) angry. Jacob's mother warns him, and Jacob runs away. 

He ends up in a place with no name. The Bishop said, "he was a mess."  And yet, this is when he encounters God.

Do we sometimes try to get out of a mess before we approach God? Have you ever heard someone say, "I can't go to church: I do too many bad things."?  

Jacob is a mess of sin and guilt. He's running for his life. And he has gotten no where.  God stands at the base of the ladder with him, even in the mess. 

God will do the same for us - and for those around us. Be reassured that you don't have to be "out of your mess" in order to reach for God. In fact, in our weakness, we are the most ready for God.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Perspectives: Lent

Where is your Lent jouney taking you this season? How will you get there? What tools will you use? What commitment will you make?

Where is God calling you?

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Summons

Have you heard or sung the song The Summons?

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Read more about the hymn, John Bell (who wrote the lyrics), and the Iona Community in Scotland at this link. I found it all very interesting.

According to the material on the Discipleship website: 
The Summons” of Christ is to a radical Christianity. We are challenged to “leave yourself behind” and to “risk the hostile stare” (stanza two), “set the prisoner free” and “kiss the leper clean” (stanza three), and “use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around” (stanza four).
A few weeks ago at church, Terry preached a sermon based on Mark 1:14-20.  This is the call of Jesus to Simon and Andrew --> "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."  A summons if we ever heard one.  In the sermon, she said, "We live in a time of decision. The Summons is on us fresh and new every day. Every day there is a new, urgent opportunity to transform the world."

We don't always think of call as something that arrives on our doorstep every day, do we? I love the idea (and am entirely frightened by it) that there is a new call of us every day - a call that is urgent and that is an opportunity to transform the world.

What call is on your heart today?

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Recognition to Faith

Last Sunday, Alan preached using the Transfiguration text as the basis of his sermon.  

Look at this verse, which is Mark 9:9 -- As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Have you ever wondered about that? Why would they need to keep silent about what had happened?

Alan preached that the experience on the mountain had moved them from recognizing Jesus as Messiah (which had just happened) to Knowing Jesus was the Messiah. That transformation in their faith would transform them.

Think about that. Faith is assurance. It isn't believing - it is KNOWING. Seeing what they saw, they would not just recognize him, but they would KNOW who he was.  The faith would change how they lived - their lives would become a witness to the Christ - and probably be even more convincing than their words ever could be.

Are we that convinced? Do we have that kind of faith? Do our lives witness to it, more than our words ever could?

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

To Endure

No temptation has seized you that isn't common for people.  But God is faithful. He won't allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation,  God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
I'm readying - in case you haven't noticed - Adam Hamilton's book, Half Truths. My thoughts in this post were inspired by the chapter called "God Won't Give You More than You Can Handle."

That passage of scripture is often used to support the half truth discussed in the chapter, but look at it more closely. What really struck me as I read that passage is the phrase, "God will supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it."

That's such as switch on the common thought, isn't it? It isn't about God testing us - it isn't about God placing temptation in our path or hardship in our lives up to our capacity to endure. It's about God's presence in our lives, helping us to make it through life.

And, for me, that is much more in line with the God of the Bible - and much more encouraging for the faithful.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Silence in Noise

I wrote about Silence last week in response to a class and worship service I attended.  

This week in Sunday school, the moderator told us about a concert she attended.  The music was VERY MUCH not to her taste. She said that she discovered as she sat there, trying to block out the music, that silence was something you could find even when there is noise around you.

I thought that was interesting. I'm going to give it a try this week. Is silence something we can find even when the world around us is noisy?

Is that the only way to find silence? Is it always noisy around us?

Am I too dependent on the lack of sound to find silence?


Friday, February 16, 2018

Perspectives: A Tree Grows on a Rock

Sometimes conditions are not ideal.
Sometimes perservenence is all that gets us through.
God present.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Poetry 2018

I link each year's Poetry in the sidebar. You can ignore this post - it's just for housekeeping and organizing purposes.



I have been attending a class at my church about finding God through silence and starting conversations with God. It was taught (very well) by one of the college students who attends our church. Last summer, she spent some time in France at the Taize Community. Go read about it - it's fascinating.

Her class centered around helping us to understand some of the practices they use in the Community, especially music, silence, prayer, and study. The class culminated in a worship service.

Part of the service included several minutes of silence.  Have you tried to be silent? A few things I noticed:
  1. It is hard to find a silent location. Noise is all around us.
  2. It is hard to silent your mind. Let me rephrase. It is impossible to silent your mind.
  3. The difficulty in finding silence is magnified in a room of people. 
I think silence - real silence - is something we rarely experience. Even right now, sitting at my desk, there isn't silence. No one near me is speaking, no television or radio is on, but cars drive by, the keyboard makes noise, people on the floor above me are walking around. When I'm looking for silence, I hear all of those things. Normally, I ignore them.  Silence amplifies.

My mind moves from one item to the next. I'm not sure this is bad - if I'm centered, I think God can move my mind from one thing to the right thing, but I"m never sure if that is the case.

Have you tried to experience silence? Have you been able to find silence? Does it bring you closer to God?  I may keep attempting it and see where it goes.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018


I feel it 
as the ashes placed on my forehead
dust down onto my face.
My sins.
Obvious to the world.
My faults.
Staining not just my skin
but the life I lead.

Oh, God, 
Our God,
My God,
Forgive me.
Clean the ash from my face
as you clean the sin
from my life.

And may you cover me
May you cover us
in your sanctifying grace,
so that tomorrow
we might say,

I am doing better.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018


I wish I had written this, but I did not. I found it in Adam Hamilton's book, Half Truths, and he is quoting someone else.  I'll leave it to your reading.

Suffering is not God's desire for us, but it occurs in the process of life.  Suffering is not given to teach us something, but through it we may learn  Suffering is not given to punish us, but sometimes it is the consequence of our sin or poor judgment  Suffering does not occur because our faith is weak, but through it our faith may be strengthened. God does not depend on human suffering to achieve his purposes, but sometimes through suffering his purposes are achieved. Suffering can either destroy us, or it can add meaning to our life.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Comfort in Control

I'm reading Adam Hamilton's book, Half Truths.  In the chapter, "Everything Happens for a Reason," he writes this about why it is comforting to some to assume that God is in control of everything:
"In a world where there is much uncertainty, where doubt and questioning are such a prominent part of life, one reaction is a retreat toward absolute certainty. And in a world that seems so out of control some find it comforting to imagine every detail of life begin controlled by the plan and will of God."

Are we tempted to respond to the uncertainty in the world by developing faith that says "God is in control"?  Don't get me wrong - I do believe God is omnnipotent - all powerful, but I also believe that God has given us free will.  Is the fear we feel in our world - our sense of a lack of control of what happens around us - responsible for our retreating into the idea that "everything happens for a reason"?


Friday, February 02, 2018

Perspectives: Perspective

Sometimes, what we see is completely connnected to where we are standing.


Thursday, February 01, 2018


I have two sons, aged 24 and 21. One of the most difficult aspects of parenting adult sons (or daughters, I imagine) is a lack of control. When they were younger, we made the decisions for them. Now that they are adults, they make their own decisions. And we watch those decisions play out in their lives.

It's the way it has to be, isn't it? It's actually one of the main goals of raising them - that they could live a life, making their own decisions. 

Why are we sometimes reluctant to believe that God has given us free choice? If we can let go of our children - because doing so is in their best interest and our own - why are we reluctant to think that God doesn't do the same thing?  

Or do we on the one hand say, "We have free choice," and then on the other hand think, "Everything happens according to God's will - God is completely in control of all that happens." Do we believe the second statement and not the first, or do we miss that believing both things is a disconnect?

Adam Hamilton, in Half Truths, says, "God is more like a parent who invites his children to make their own choices, even knowing they will sometimes make the wrong ones." If that is true, and I believe it is, then we have responsiblity for the consequences in the world, and it's much harder to blame God for them.

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