Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sermon on Luke 14:7-11

Luke 14: 7-11
The Timeliness of Humility

Humility is one of those abstract words that is hard, at least for me, to define. I looked up Humility in the Websters dictionary recently, and the definition given was this: Noun, the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc. Then, I looked it up in a couple of theological dictionaries and they said this: that in the Hebrew, the word for humility is Anaw. Anaw indicates the act of humility as well as the profoundness of meekness. Anaw also indicates that God, Yahweh, shows favor to the humble, and that the humble are easily taught by God. In addition, it is the humble, and those who are afflicted who have a spirit of dependence upon God, which Yahweh promises to watch over.

In New Testament Greek, Humility, the word tapeinoo caries various shades of meaning. It can mean to make small, or to be obedient. When Saint Paul uses the word, tapeinoo, humility, he indicates that the word implies the compassion necessary to know what's it's like to be in need. To know what's it's like to be in need. That’s a phrase that makes me pause and think.

Okay...that all sounds well and good. But I still struggle with the absolute meaning of humility. Does humility mean that since you are meek, that you have no courage? Does humility mean to have no back bone, and let others walk all over you? My search for the meaning, came up with the resonating answer that humility is a calmness in's in the openness to listen to God and not to the self-indulgent echoes of yourself or others. As far as courage, humility is the strength to follow Jesus. Humility is a Christian practice. It's what is called a Spiritual Discipline. So, what is a Christian practice? One defining quote I found, said this, “The things people do together over time to address fundamental human needs, in response to, and in the light of, God's active presence for the life of the world.”

So, enough of the definitions and what does Jesus mean by the giving and telling of this parable. Let me reread it....

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

I heard a story in my Christian Education course. It was the story of Le Chambon France during World War II. Le Chambon is a village about 350 miles south of Paris in south-central France. This small village is known for giving sanctuary to 5000 Jews fleeing the Holocaust by 5000 Christians. That’s interesting: a one to one ratio. The Christian people of Le Chambon sheltered Jewish refugees. They did this and educated the sheltered children, as well as, arranged for hundreds to escape to safety in Switzerland or Spain through a well organized underground network. Le Chambon has long been recognized for their hospitality. But even more so, they should be recognized for their bravery and humility in following Christ. They could have easily in the words of the French Prime Minister in 2004 while celebrating the victories of Le Chambon, not stood up to all the dangers ; but instead they chose courage, generosity and dignity. And, I might add, humility and faith.

Pastor Andre Trocme served the people of Le Chambon during the years of the Holocaust. Through his direction, the Nazis never took any of the people hidden ,nor the people who gave them welcome and sanctuary in private homes, on farms and in public institutions. When authorities questioned possible wide-scale rescue activities in the region, they demanded the pastor to stop. His response was to say, “These people came here for help and for shelter. I am their shepherd. A shepherd does not forsake his flock. I do not know what a Jew is. I know only human beings.”

Maybe Trocme's words echo a stronger religious admonition....Jesus' words to us: Love One Another. The people of Le Chambon gave a banquet and invited the poor, the crippled and the lame. They knew somehow in the end that they would be blessed for their humility. Because, those who they brought to the table could not repay. The Christians of Le Chambon went past self-interest. Needless to say, they put their very lives on the line out of dignity and humility in Christ. They did not think they were superior to the Jews. They just knew what they needed to do. They exercised the spiritual practice of humility and in return they extended hospitality and protection, spreading God's love to those who needed it. They gave because others needed it. I read once that a person may give to another, simply because he or she could not help it. In other words, something seizes them to give, and to love. This type of giving is the only real way to give. As in Jesus’ parable, the law of the kingdom is this-if someone gives to gain reward, he or she will not be given any type of reward. But if someone gives with with no thought of reward (just doing what is right), then the reward is certain. The only real giving is that which is the uncontrollable outflow of love.

The allowing for that uncontrollable outflow of love, which comes directly from God, is what I term as humility. Interestingly enough. this parable in Luke is sandwiched between a story about the scrutiny of hostile men (Jesus being questioned by the Pharisees about healing on the Sabbath); and a story of the King's banquet and the King's guests (the parable that addresses those who are too busy or those too preoccupied within their world to recognize that they invited guests of the banquet housed in the kingdom of God.)

I titled this sermon, The Timeliness of Humility. Humility does not stop with stories like Le Chambon, France. Humility occurs everyday. Humility also, and most notably, takes patience and trust in God. Humility is not the attitude of I’m right; they’re right; that person is wrong, or they’re all wrong. My interest..Those types of stances are what is called pride. Humility, Christ’s humility, is comprised of the trusting, the faithfulness, the patience, and the openness to God. It’s finding the dignity to recognize God in our lives; and to recognize of all of God’s people, and their importance. No matter what. There’s a lot of tension in the world today. We are a fallen people. So, it’s a given that there is always tension. But it’s seems more ostensible now, economically, politically and socially. It’s in these times that we ask for God to give us humility. Humility, the spiritual discipline that is always timely.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Sermon on Hebrews from 8/8/10

The last two weeks have been trying, so I hope to get back to rescheduled blogging very soon. But until then, here is the sermon I preached in Salado yesterday morning. Hope there's something there that either makes sense, or touches you. Thanks for reading :-)!

Hebrews 11: 1-3 & 8-16
Salado FPC

I was working as a chaplain intern the weekend of July 4, 2009. On this particular Friday night I had many pending crises going on simultaneously. In the middle of juggling the different episodes of care, I remembered a lady I had visited earlier that morning. She had broken her shoulder the night before and was trying to stay positive as best she could in spite of the tremendous pain she was enduring. I remember she said poetry, especially by the poet Emily Dickinson, gave her comfort. So while I had a second that evening, I thought let me print out the poem I saw on my friend's blog by Dickinson, and run it up to her. I found it quickly enough and printed it. I reread the first stanza,
"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—”

That will work I thought to myself.

She was delighted with the poem choice. As she lay in her hospital bed, the poem reminded her of her own faith. She found the touch of hope and calm in that faith. She in return gave me a tremendous gift that evening, as she in spite of her condition, saw God's purpose for me and affirmed God's promise in a few short words, “You are very special; you were meant to do this work.” Her words quelled my own doubts and my momentary lack of faith in God and myself.

Last summer I completed this hospital internship in Austin. Internships of this type go by an innocuous acronym, CPE, which stands for Clinical Pastoral Education. Some people regard, as myself, this time as one of the hardest things they will ever do as part of their seminary training. Not only are you thrown into crisis situations where you have little or no experience to offer pastoral care and direction, but you and the people in your peer group examine your life, your faith walk, and why you act and believe the things you do. Looking back I remember thinking and laughing with my group mates that the day I finish CPE is the day of the eschaton; the day I see Jesus. The end of CPE marked the end of the intense trial of self-examination, the questioning of faith; as well as the hope that I was actually following God's calling, and meant to do the work I thought God was calling me to do. The end of CPE, I thought, would mark the time of divine arrival, a happiness that would permeate my entire being and make every future interaction go perfectly. Now as we can all attest, every situation can never go perfectly. But through our experiences, especially the hard ones, faith's the thing, along side hope with feathers that perches in the soul. This perching becomes the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The Hebrews passage today talks about faith and hope. It's questioned if the letter to the Hebrews was actually written by Paul. But there is no question as to that it was written to encourage, and even written to stand on its own, or touch the soul, as some would consider in the way of a sermon. One of the ways it does this is by providing the example of Abraham to illustrate its point. Abraham listened, obeyed and trusted God so much that he set out for a place not seen. He believed God when told, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them...for so shall your decedents be.” Abraham believed God. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that had foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

But what is Faith? What is Hope? And, are we automatically happy because we have faith? Is faith ever questioned? Was Abraham happy? Was his faith ever tested? Abraham was in the promised land for years and did not ever see the glory of the promise itself. Did he ever doubt, then? Knowing some of the aspects of Abraham's story, and the echoes of Abraham's story in our own story, we know perhaps that this is true. The test of our faith is apparent by living everyday. We strive to be hopeful and faithful. We strive to be happy. We chase the substance of happiness. And think at times that if we're happy, that will be a sure sign that we have unquestioned faith and hope.

This is the 50th year of the longest running American musical, The Fantasticks. Some of you may not know this but the creators of the Fantasticks, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, both went to the University of Texas where they met and collaborated on many projects as students. Matter of fact as a side note, the University of Texas is hosting a celebration weekend of events this fall to commemorate the marking of this milestone in American theater. If you're not familiar with this musical, it's a fable about life with all its sweetness, hardships, turmoil and blessings. At the end of act one, the young couple at the center of the story are happily together, and their fathers restore their differences. Happiness and faith abound. However, the happiness they showcase is a form of brainless, idiotic happiness. They are happy without the substantive understanding that true happiness is more hard won than that. True happiness is found at the end of the play when the boy and girl, he after being badly bruised and battered by life; and she after losing what is most precious to her, find each other again. They realize that you can go through a lot of pain in life and come up standing. Happiness, and really faith, comes when you realize the human race, and notably you as an individual, can go through a lot of pain and come up standing. That's what we need to hear. Is that not the gospel?

I have a friend that speaks truth with humor and relevance, but always without malice. Do you know anyone like that? She recently blogged about a quote she came across that said, “The God-Life is a great life. He turns an ordinary story into an amazing adventure!” Aside from second guessing the author’s true intent, my friend calls superficial phrases like this, self-help drivel with a dash of Jesus juice. She writes that with this type of phrasing, she can only imagine the delivery of the line coming out of a Amy Poehler/Seth Meyers SNL Weekend Update sketch. She wonders if the trend to mask happiness into a sign of faithfulness is just pride parading around in the skin of positivity. She questions how some turn Christianity into an exclusive club, where its members, as she writes, “live such adventurous, glamorous lives where happy juice if the drink of choice and troubles are just little speed bumps that slow you down just enough to get you to pause and reflect but don't get you to stop, look and listen. Happiness is not an object to be captured. Happiness, and faith, are more hard won than that.
Let me give you the second stanza of Dickinson's poem, which I started with this morning,
“And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm-”

Two weeks ago now was one of the hardest weeks I've had in a really long time. I lost an immediate family member that I had no true adult relationship with, and consequently had not significantly seen since my late teen years. On the heals of this unexpected shock, I was not selected for two positions I applied, two dear friends moved to states away from Texas (I know the nerve), and I was bit by a rooster named Sue twice. (It's okay you can laugh at that last part...even though it did hurt and I still have the bruises to prove it). But on the other side of this exhaustive week, I realized that even though things appeared to be against me and coming apart, and perhaps I did not even see hope and faith in the exact moment; I did notice after a few days the ebb of despair dissipate and the pieces pull together. The way was made clearer, and little by little brighter. I could see the seeds of reconciliation planted in fresh soil, the transformation of understanding for the sensitivity of timing, and the appreciation for the promise of new life bestowed upon the friends I love. I regained a footing of faith and subsequently hope. I felt faith-filled. I sensed a tinge of relief centered happiness, but that of which only comes from a covering of peace.

I'm reminded that the gospel does not equal happiness. Happiness is an image, a glimmer from which the gospel resonates. The gospel is peace. It's the peace found in reconciliation, transformation, new life and resurrection. From that peace, we get a glimmer of warm happiness. Some call it joy. Reminder to self: Happiness should never be the object solely sought. Happiness, correction joy, comes out of peace.

Faith then, as a commentary I looked at put it, is an attitude of commitment by which one persists and endures while all things seem contrary. The experience of each person, as it’s shown in the letter to the Hebrews and in each of our lives, shows how faith works at some crucial juncture in each life. Each person 's story allows us to watch individuals wrestle for meaning in contexts that seem crushing and unmanageable. Abraham responds to life as a pilgrim caught between past and future in a very demanding present. And yet his trust, as well as our trust, in God's concern gives us perspective, patience and persistence. As Abraham, we’re of our own time, but stirred by looking forward, we’re seekers; directed by what was yet to be, encouraged by what is anticipated. Abraham sensed that the meaning of his days could be clarified in time and vindicated by God. True faith is characterized by a forward look and an openness to the pull of the future that God has planned. Abraham did not look back. He only looked forward.

But once we go through the hard times and arrive at the promised land, do we stop? Is every situation and interaction perfect now? Unfortunately no. However, no is never the end of the story. Faith and hope continues the cycle. God’s promises and steadfast love always endure.

Please indulge me to end this with the last stanza of Dickinson’s poem, and then once again the first,
“I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.”


"Hope", and I'll add faith, is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—”


Monday, August 2, 2010

A Writing Reminder

From Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson, "While personal experience often provides the material and the impetus-how can it be otherwise?-the act of writing is primarily an exploration of a larger world, entering into more reality, getting away from ourselves, moving beyond ourselves into other lives, other worlds."

According to Peterson, writing is not recast to the terms of ones own experience. I want to remember that in the midst of our crazy narcissistic world.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Prayer

From the book, Stumbling towards Faith by Renee Altson:

o god,
your love does pull at me
if i am silent with myself
I feel it,
as much as i feel my blood, my breath,
it is there, as present with me as my own self.

if terrifies me, this love of yours.
what does it expect in return?
what will it demand of me?
what part of who i am must i sacrifice for it?
how much of me will be lost?

i am afraid of losing what i have left
so much has already been taken away
so much i never gave,
so much i was never able to give
because it was never mine.

i am afraid that your love will take me apart
that it will undo me, rewrite me,
that it will strip me of my defenses,
my pathetic self-securities,
that it will leave nothing left.

my whole life has been a fear of being nothing.
i have held on to my terror, my shame, my grief,
believing it helped to keep me alive.

what does your love do with my shame?
what does your love do with everything in me that resists it?

and always, the same questions:
where were you in those harsh times? where was your love?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Video Saturday: Movie Comforts

This is one of my most favorite movies. And strangely, one I seek when I need a sense of comfort. Maybe it's the beautiful music and underlining quiet of the movie. Maybe it's the scenery (shot mostly on Robert Redford's property in Utah). Maybe it's reminder of the Hero's Journey we're each on. Nevertheless, for some reason it just speaks to me on many levels. Growing up in California, I was attracted to all the legends of the mountain men. So, maybe that's all it is :-). And the juxtaposition of dealing with our own aloneness and the ebb and flow of life. Enjoy, this beginning seven minutes from Jeremiah Johnson.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Quote by Annie Lamott

From an interview with Annie Lamott by Linda Buturian. A question proposed by Buturian: When you lie awake at night, what kind of child are you in the family of God? How old do you feel?

Annie's response is that nothing (no principals of insomnia..something she says she's suffered with since the age of 4-5) can separate herself from the love and strength of God. However, she does see herself about the age of 11. The in-between stage of being a kid and being a teenager. "It means that I can be a little bit formless and a little bit outside of that need to have an image or a definition to hang it all on."

I like that...and I especially love the question. What kind of child am I? At different stages in my life, I've been different ages in the family of God. I've been the responsible and dutiful adult, and the angst driven teenager. I feel currently about the age of about 9-10. I still need a lot of comfort and holding, and able to allow, even desperately seek and desire, that to occur from God. But, shaky as it is, have developed enough sense of self to stand for what and who I am. Also, at this age, typically not too many people are paying attention to you, so you come and go as you please. You have a sense of protection. You have friends but your existence does not hinge on them, as a teenager or someone in their 20s would. Oh yeah, and school is your whole life and existence, and that's a good thing. :-). All of which is how I see myself now. Next year will be a totally different age in God's family, as I transition from the life of a divinity student into a life of ministry.

I thought of what Lamott says about insomnia. Being someone who lets the ghosts of anxiety and childhood fears run rampart in thinking back over the present day(s) while trying to fall asleep, I got choked up when she gives the reminder that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The reality of truth is that absolutely nothing can.

So, when You lie awake at night, what kind of child are you in the family of God? How old do You feel?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Stephen~

Today is Stephen Vincent Benet's birthday. He was born on July 22, 1898 and died on March 13, 1943. One interesting note about Benet: He wrote the musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Didn't know that.

Noted for poetry, here is one of my favorite poems by Benet when I was a child. It's called, The Mountain Whippoorwill. Do you remember it?

The Mountain Whippoorwill
(Or, How Hill-Billy Jim Won the Great Fiddlers' Prize)

By Stephen Vincent Benet
Up in the mountains, it's lonesome all the time,
(Sof' win' slewin' thu' the sweet-potato vine.)
Up in the mountains, it's lonesome for a child,
(Whippoorwills a-callin' when the sap runs wild.)
Up in the mountains, mountains in the fog,
Everythin's as lazy as an old houn' dog.
Born in the mountains, never raised a pet,
Don't want nuthin' an' never got it yet.
Born in the mountains, lonesome-born,
Raised runnin' ragged thu' the cockleburrs and corn.
Never knew my pappy, mebbe never should.
Think he was a fiddle made of mountain laurel-wood.
Never had a mammy to teach me pretty-please.
Think she was a whippoorwill, a-skittin' thu' the trees.
Never had a brother ner a whole pair of pants,
But when I start to fiddle, why, yuh got to start to dance!
Listen to my fiddle -- Kingdom Come -- Kingdom Come!
Hear the frogs a-chunkin' "Jug o' rum, Jug o' rum!"
Hear that mountain whippoorwill be lonesome in the air,
An' I'll tell yuh how I travelled to the Essex County Fair.
Essex County has a mighty pretty fair,
All the smarty fiddlers from the South come there.
Elbows flyin' as they rosin up the bow
For the First Prize Contest in the Georgia Fiddlers' Show.
Old Dan Wheeling, with his whiskers in his ears,
King-pin fiddler for nearly twenty years.
Big Tom Sergeant, with his blue wall-eye,
An' Little Jimmy Weezer that can make a fiddle cry.
All sittin' roun', spittin' high an' struttin' proud,
(Listen, little whippoorwill, yuh better bug yore eyes!)
Tun-a-tun-a-tunin' while the jedges told the crowd
Them that got the mostest claps'd win the bestest prize.
Everybody waitin' for the first tweedle-dee,
When in comes a-stumblin' -- hill-billy me!
Bowed right pretty to the jedges an' the rest,
Took a silver dollar from a hole inside my vest,
Plunked it on the table an' said, "There's my callin' card!
An' anyone that licks me -- well, he's got to fiddle hard!"
Old Dan Wheeling, he was laughin' fit to holler,
Little Jimmy Weezer said, "There's one dead dollar!"
Big Tom Sergeant had a yaller-toothy grin,
But I tucked my little whippoorwill spang underneath my chin,
An' petted it an' tuned it till the jedges said, "Begin!"
Big Tom Sargent was the first in line;
He could fiddle all the bugs off a sweet-potato vine.
He could fiddle down a possum from a mile-high tree,
He could fiddle up a whale from the bottom of the sea.
Yuh could hear hands spankin' till they spanked each other raw,
When he finished variations on "Turkey in the Straw."
Little Jimmy Weezer was the next to play;
He could fiddle all night, he could fiddle all day.
He could fiddle chills, he could fiddle fever,
He could make a fiddle rustle like a lowland river.
He could make a fiddle croon like a lovin' woman.
An' they clapped like thunder when he'd finished strummin'.
Then came the ruck of the bob-tailed fiddlers,
The let's-go-easies, the fair-to-middlers.
They got their claps an' they lost their bicker,
An' they all settled back for some more corn-licker.
An' the crowd was tired of their no-count squealing,
When out in the center steps Old Dan Wheeling.
He fiddled high and he fiddled low,
(Listen, little whippoorwill, yuh got to spread yore wings!)
He fiddled and fiddled with a cherrywood bow,
(Old Dan Wheeling's got bee-honey in his strings).
He fiddled a wind by the lonesome moon,
He fiddled a most almighty tune.
He started fiddling like a ghost.
He ended fiddling like a host.
He fiddled north an' he fiddled south,
He fiddled the heart right out of yore mouth.
He fiddled here an' he fiddled there.
He fiddled salvation everywhere.
When he was finished, the crowd cut loose,
(Whippoorwill, they's rain on yore breast.)
An' I sat there wonderin' "What's the use?"
(Whippoorwill, fly home to yore nest.)
But I stood up pert an' I took my bow,
An' my fiddle went to my shoulder, so.
An' -- they wasn't no crowd to get me fazed --
But I was alone where I was raised.
Up in the mountains, so still it makes yuh skeered.
Where God lies sleepin' in his big white beard.
An' I heard the sound of the squirrel in the pine,
An' I heard the earth a-breathin' thu' the long night-time.
They've fiddled the rose, and they've fiddled the thorn,
But they haven't fiddled the mountain-corn.
They've fiddled sinful an' fiddled moral,
But they haven't fiddled the breshwood-laurel.
They've fiddled loud, and they've fiddled still,
But they haven't fiddled the whippoorwill.
I started off with a dump-diddle-dump,
(Oh, hell's broke loose in Georgia!)
Skunk-cabbage growin' by the bee-gum stump.
(Whippoorwill, yo're singin' now!)
My mother was a whippoorwill pert,
My father, he was lazy,
But I'm hell broke loose in a new store shirt
To fiddle all Georgia crazy.
Swing yore partners -- up an' down the middle!
Sashay now -- oh, listen to that fiddle!
Flapjacks flippin' on a red-hot griddle,
An' hell's broke loose,
Hell's broke loose,
Fire on the mountains -- snakes in the grass.
Satan's here a-bilin' -- oh, Lordy, let him pass!
Go down Moses, set my people free;
Pop goes the weasel thu' the old Red Sea!
Jonah sittin' on a hickory-bough,
Up jumps a whale -- an' where's yore prophet now?
Rabbit in the pea-patch, possum in the pot,
Try an' stop my fiddle, now my fiddle's gettin' hot!
Whippoorwill, singin' thu' the mountain hush,
Whippoorwill, shoutin' from the burnin' bush,
Whippoorwill, cryin' in the stable-door,
Sing tonight as yuh never sang before!
Hell's broke loose like a stompin' mountain-shoat,
Sing till yuh bust the gold in yore throat!
Hell's broke loose for forty miles aroun'
Bound to stop yore music if yuh don['t sing it down.
Sing on the mountains, little whippoorwill,
Sing to the valleys, an' slap 'em with a hill,
For I'm struttin' high as an eagle's quill,
An' hell's broke loose,
Hell's broke loose,
Hell's broke loose in Georgia!
They wasn't a sound when I stopped bowin',
(Whippoorwill, yuh can sing no more.)
But, somewhere or other, the dawn was growin',
(Oh, mountain whippoorwill!)
An' I thought, "I've fiddled all night an' lost,
Yo're a good hill-billy, but yuh've been bossed."
So I went to congratulate old man Dan,
-- But he put his fiddle into my han' --
An' then the noise of the crowd began!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another Link to the Sidebar...Meet Carol

At the end of this past semester, I was introduced to a new book called Tribal Church. The writer is an alum of my seminary, and now even a Facebook friend. At first I didn't like the title of the book. The word tribal to me suggests exclusion to the tenth degree. Traditionally, tribes do not band together with other tribes; they fight against one another. Tribe also suggests to me a clique. Cliques do not let outsiders in easily. Also outsiders must become like the tribe they are seeking adoption before they can be accepted. So, I was quite surprised about the book's actual premise. The book is great and I enjoyed it a great deal in its practicality and reverence. The book is about the changing needs amongst a new generation of people, and how they approach church. The changes in society reflected in the attitudes and needs of younger adults today must be addressed when it comes to providing them with spiritual nourishment and growth. Her blog gives this description of the book,

"lts today, she describes how churches can provide a safe, supportive place for young adults to nurture relationships and foster spiritual growth. There are few places left in society that allow for real intergenerational connections to be made, yet these connections are vital for any church that seeks to reflect the fullness of the body of Christ.

Using the metaphor of a tribe to describe the close bonds that form when people of all ages decide to walk together on their spiritual journeys, Merritt casts a vision of the church that embraces the gifts of all members while reaching out to those who might otherwise feel unwelcome or unneeded. Mainline churches have much to offer young adults, as well as much to learn from them. By breaking down artificial age barriers and building up intentional relationships, congregations can provide a space for all people to connect with God, each other, and the world."

She is coming up with a new book, set to arrive on the market soon. The new book is titled, "Reframing Hope" due out in August. This book continues to discuss the changing landscape of how we understand "church" in a new time and for a new generation of people. Anyway, I frequet her blog reguarly. So, now here's a formal introduction...(click on the word introduction). Today's post spoke on the burn out of ministers. I'm not officially a minister yet, but doing pulpit supply and interacting with others as a minister, I do feel different. I look at people and life differently. God has changed me from the inside out, so it speak. And let me tell you, change is never easy. And allowing yourself to surrender to God's changes takes a tremendous about of chutzpa (Yiddish for courage but even more so). Without further ado, from today's blog post,

The Professional Loneliness—Clearly, after you become a pastor, going to a party will never be quite the same experience again. There are people who will tell you every problem they have had with religion, or every problem that they have in general. They will apologize for cursing or for drinking. Or they are entirely too happy that you’re a minister. And all of it can make a pastor long to be just an ordinary citizen of the world. The problem becomes compounded when the pastor is single. I recently went to lunch with a wonderful group of clergywomen, who explained that they do not tell guys their profession on the first few dates. They tell them that they work for a non-profit."

Check Carol out. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Martha & Mary: A story of obligation...

For this coming Sunday, I'm going to post probably a for today, here is my sermon I preached this past Sunday, 7/18.

Last January I was taking what is called a Jan term class. These courses are usually held, you guessed it, in January and meet everyday during the month. Sometimes they are intense, like when I took biblical Hebrew. And sometimes they are more introspective, like the class I took this past January. This class was a class on pastoral care in alternate settings. It was held in a recovery center, and the eleven of us students not only learned about care for families and individuals who deal with various illnesses and addictions, but we learned how to listen to God. We were tasked to keep a journal, and on a morning basis write a dialog with God. Our assignment was to read a bit of scripture, ask God a question, then listen. After listening, we were to write down what we had heard. This brought each of us not only a whole new awareness of God, but taught us about how we interact with each other. One of my revelations from this activity was to remember friends, get out more, look at things from a different angle, and learn to listen more intently to what God was saying to me. Even if it was something I didn’t want to hear.

So in late January there was a Girl’s Night Out planned and organized by a few women from my home faith community. (Now at this point I was working an internship at another church while taking this January term class...I was quite busy). With some hesitation, I went to the Girls Night Out and watched the movie chosen by the group. When I got home, I wrote a Facebook status. (Yes, I am a big Facebook user.) And this is what I said. “So glad I went to girls night out tonight...funny movie and great company. And it was good for my soul to go. I was totally irresponsible in going...sermon not written; paper not started, and apartment not clean..even dirty dishes in the sink.” The pastor of my home faith community left me this comment to my status, “sometimes it is the absolutely responsible thing to do, to do what the voices in my head say would be the irresponsible thing to do! dishes? homework? cleaning? No Way. Community and laughter and relaxing are what God likes better.”

Now I don’t think he was saying God likes shirking responsibility entirely, but God wants us to listen to the rhythms of life...people and community, and our selves as God speaks to us. In today’s world, there is no argument that technology, cell phones, the impulsion to multi-task, and the bombardment of messages demand our attention, time and concentration. This very issue was written about in a opinion column in yesterday’s New York Times. The writer tells a story about a lovely engagement party that consisted of delicious foods and champagne toasts. Although, one small glitch. The guests, with their cell phones on the table, consistently sent text messages to friends and each other throughout the entire party. The writer proposes, “Enough already with this hyperactive behavior, this techno-tyranny and nonstop freneticism (frenzy). We need to slow down and take a deep breath.”

I met a friend for breakfast last week. We meet at a sweet, bright restaurant. However, as we sat at our table, we noticed music playing, and TVs on. The TVs were playing on various walls. And I noticed that added to the frenzy of what was going on in the dining rooms, was a scrolling news banner toward the bottom of each of the TV screens. Is it too much? I’m sure the restaurant owners are not out to hurt their patrons by giving them a huge headache. They are offering hospitality in accordance, or in obligation to what society demands them to have in their establishment. They believe in order to serve people, they must offer them, TV, music and of course free WiFi. But at what cost? All in the name of Hospitality in our busy society.

In the Genesis reading, Hospitality is slightly different than today’s restaurant. Abraham sees three men amidst the Lord. He scrambles to prepare for his guests, making sure they can be refreshed under his favorite large tree, and the opportunity for them to clean their feet. He elicits Sarah to make bread and cakes. And elicits his servant to prepare a meal, complete with cheese and milk, all from a calf Abraham has personally selected from his herd. Abraham is in a frenzy. He wants to show reverence, and respect. And he wants to show love. His love for the Lord. His reward for the hospitality is the Lord granting he and Sarah their long time wish for a son. Well, maybe reward is not the best term to describe the reason for Abraham’s hospitality. He didn’t do it for a reward. He did it out of reverence, respect and love. His gain by virtue of his faithfulness was God answering his longly felt, deep prayer. Abraham’s example of hospitality would later become during Jesus’ time, societal obligation in order to show hospitality. To show reverence, respect, and love. And so it was when Jesus stopped with his disciples in a certain village and a woman by the name of Martha welcomed them all into her home. She became frenzied by the responsibility of being a good hostess. She wanted to show reverence, respect and love. So, she likely prepared a comfortable place for them to rest. She got things together to cook a delicious meal, and then probably even cleaned up from the meal. Yet, Martha starts to feel overwhelmed in the act of being a good steward of hospitality. Now Martha has a sister Mary who lives with her. However, as Abraham is able to elicit Sarah’s help and his servants help in serving the Lord, Martha does not have that luxury. She starts to feel frustrated with Mary. She continually tries to elicit Mary’s help. Mary should be helping. Should; but she’s not. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet. Mary is listening to Jesus. Martha in her exasperation asks Jesus to say something to Mary to get her to cooperate and start to help.

These two sisters, the story of Martha and Mary, is not about two women, one good and one bad. Not two to be pitted against one another. But, two women who each show their love for Jesus uniquely. Two women who find themselves obligated to show reverence, and to show love. One woman, Mary, focuses on listening to God. One woman, Martha, focuses on serving. Both women feel obligated to show love in different ways. Martha takes the conditioning society has taught to her . Mary looks at things differently. She feels compelled toward a different type of obligation. She knows that she can show reverence, respect and love in a different way. Mary knows that she can show love and reverence for God by listening to God’s son, Jesus. Mary knows that service to God also means listening to God’s voice, and for God’s voice.

For the gospel writer Luke, Jesus is not a divider. In response to Martha, Jesus lovingly tells her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” That one thing he speaks of is listening. He will not insist that Mary help Martha because Mary is learning to listen. She is learning to follow Jesus. She is remaining relaxed and enjoying being in community with Jesus. She is doing what is natural to her. She is open to seeing things in a new way than how she was conditioned.
What struck me this week is this quote I found. The writer says, “Being human we act on what we know, but being followers of Christ we need to constantly question what we think we know. Not women vs. women; nor choice vs. choice.” In the movie, Dead Poet’s Society, the teacher , Robin Williams character John Keating, has his students stand on their desks. Why does he do this? Because, as he tells his students, “just when you know something, you must look at it in a different way.” And so it is with Mary. Mary and Martha each have the goal of the pursuit of the truth. Each goes about it differently. But Mary takes the time to stop and listen.

Listening to God, let alone each other can be hard task in our day. Speaking on the frenzied state of our society, the opinion writer of the Times wrote, “Let’s put down at least some of these gadgets and spend a little time just being ourselves. One of the essential problems of our society is that we have a tendency, amid all the craziness that surrounds us, to lose sight of what is truly human in ourselves, and that includes our own individual needs — those very special, mostly nonmaterial things that would fulfill us, give meaning to our lives, enlarge us, and enable us to more easily embrace those around us.”

Like Mary our conditioning should not control us. Such things as technology (checking e-mail all the time; constantly attached to our cell phones) should not control us and keep us from relaxing and being in community with one another. To listen to one another. To stop and smell the flowers, so to speak, all the while listening to God. For when we are able to easily embrace those around us, we become able to embrace God, to embrace Christ. I’m going to end with the words I found yesterday by the opinion columnist of the New York Times who says, “Listen....Other people have something to say, too. And when they don’t, that glorious silence that you hear will have more to say to you than you ever imagined. That is when you will begin to hear your song. That’s when your best thoughts take hold, and you become really you.

And I’ll add, and that is when you begin to remember that you’re a child of God; and thus, begin to hear God’s voice more intently.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Bonus Post

Check out this blog post. This is a link to Don Miller's, author of Blue Like Jazz, blog. Today's blog talks about a dear person to me and especially to Don, David Gentiles. Don was interviewed by CNN last December, around the time of David's passing. The post talks about the interview a bit, and then directly links to the article. The article is mostly about David and his impact on the lives of others. The article represents a beautiful testament to a remarkable person. What made David so remarkable is how he made each person feel. He made them feel as if they were the most important person to him. Read and find out why. I'm so pleased this article was written.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bends Toward Justice

One of my most favorite quotes comes from Martin Luther King who used the following phrase in several of his speeches and sermons. The phrase: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Something I found on the net said this about the phrase, "In 1961, Dr. King used these words when he explained his principles of nonviolence. On March 31, 1968, only four days before his assassination, he used these same words in the National Cathedral when he gave what would be his last sermon. He employed this phrase many times, before many audiences."

This phrase gave hope to so many during the years of the Civil Rights Movement. This phrase gives me hope. It gives me hope personally, and in how I view the world. Namely, in the balance of good and evil in the world.

An interesting note, and what I wrote for a paper in the Theology and Ethics of Martin Luther King, Jr. class I took years ago, MLK did not come up with this phrase. This phrase was originally penned by abolitionist preacher Theodore Parker in 1853. Parker, who was a Unitarian minister, said this, " "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."

Interestingly, from the article I found, Parker secretly raised money for John Brown's assault on Harper's Ferry, as well as give shelter to runaway slaves. The article said that he was noted to write his sermons with a loaded pistol at his side in order to protect those in his care.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice. God always bends God's own hand toward justice. That's the hope of believing in Christ.

Sunday's Prayers

I usually put my sermon on my blog on the Sunday I preach it. But this time, here's a couple of the prayers I'm using tomorrow. They are mostly adapted from the Book of Common Worship. I'm not that good (wink ;)

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Almighty and merciful God,
from whom comes all that is good,
we praise you for your mercies,
for your goodness that has created us,
your grace that has sustained us,
your discipline that has corrected us,
your patience that has borne with us,
and the love that has redeemed us.

Help us to love you,
and to be thankful for all your gifts
by serving you and delighting to sit at your feet; listening and serving
O’ God, you are a God of mercy and compassion,
your Son gives rest to those weary with heavy burdens.
Heal the sick in body, mind and spirit.
Lift up the depressed.
Befriend those who grieve.
Comfort the anxious.
Stand with all victims of abuse and other crime.
Awaken those who damage themselves and others
through the use of any drug.
Fill all people with your Holy Spirit
and they may bear each other’s burdens
and fulfill the law of Christ.

God of Mercy, hear our prayers.
Be with us in our concerns and worries, and in our hopes and inspiration.
Lord God, Give us assurance that you’re beside us and hear, know and understand
the special intentions of each of our hearts. Remind us of your care and your love. Hold us close. Each day is a new; give us faith for today; help us find the courage to follow our hearts, to look at things differently, and to listen for your voice. Into your hands, O God, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.....And so, we affirm our faith as we pray together in the words Jesus Christ taught his disciples, by saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven...

Eternal God,
you draw near to us in Christ
and make yourself our guest.
Amid the cares of our daily lives,
make us attentive to your voice
and alert to your presence,
that we may treasure listening to you, and being in joint community with one another.

Through the grace of Jesus, our beloved redeemer, teacher and friend
the love of God, our creator; and in
the Communion of the Holy Spirit, our transformer;
Let us go forth in the bond of peace to listen, to be attentive and to love~

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Davis & White perform their Indian OD

Ice Skating was always a childhood favorite passion to watch. One of my earliest memories was watching the Peggy Fleming specials from Sun Valley. This past Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I really enjoyed both the silver and gold medalists in Ice Dancing. This video of Meryl Davis and Charlie White performing their Original Dance always makes me smile :-).

Friday, July 16, 2010

The term "Christian"...a non definition and two Blogs

From Frederick Buechner's Wishful Thinking, a Seeker's ABC,

"Some think of a Christian as one who necessarily believes certain things. That Jesus was the son of God, say. Or that Mary was a virgin. Or that the Pope is infallible. Or that all other religions are all wrong.

Some think of a Christian as one who necessarily does certain things. Such as going to church. Getting baptized. Giving up liquor and tobacco. Reading the Bible. Doing a good deed a day.

Some think of a Christian as just a Nice Guy.

Jesus said, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me' (John 14:6). He didn't say that any particular ethic, doctrine, or religion was the way, the truth, and the life. He said that he was. He didn't say that it was by believing or doing anything in particular that you could come to the Father. He said that it was only by him-by living, participating in, being caught up by the way of life that he embodied, that was his way.

Thus it is possible to be on Christ's way and with his mark upon you without ever having heard of Christ, and for that reason to be on your way to God though maybe you don't even believe in God.

A Christian is one who is on the way, though not necessarily very far along it, and who has at least some dim and half-baked idea of who to thank. A Christian isn't necessarily nicer than anybody else. Just better informed."

I like that last statement by Buechner. By the way, Buechner was the one who wrote the famous line, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." He also said, "You do not solve the mystery; you live the mystery." These quotes for me define being a "Christian" Living the mystery all the while leaning into the tension of ambiguity is what being a Christian is all about to me. It's not about being "nice" (Buechner's ending), Jesus was not necessarily nice but he was thoroughly and profoundly loving. Sidebar: I once came across a retired pastor and he said "Nice" people in churches were snakes simmering in honey. I always liked that. :-). Sidebar finished. :-).

Being a Christian is acknowledging who you belong to, and who you're accountable to...It's also about respecting the Story. The ugly and the beautiful. You might not like it or understand it, but you need to find a way to put it in a healthy perspective without blame and judgment.

Christian denominations are really faith seeking understanding (Anselm). It becomes a problem when that understanding starts pointing the finger at another, and sitting around and elaborating how one is better than another because they have one interpretation of faith different than the other. Faith is not a competition.

Or sometimes people are mired in the hurt caused by people in the name of religion. Not excusing or diminishing the hurt, but one of the most profound things I've learned in the last year is that when someone is deeply enraged at a certain religion, the inner struggle is really within themselves to heal from that hurt, or even an unrelated hurt. Complicated and messy....but I'm not sure it's an avenue to go down that ends up on the road to Apostasy.

Being a Christian is a Pilgrimage. It's allowing oneself to be seized by love, all the while falling down with plenty of scrapes, bruises and near misses. It's standing in humility, not succumbing to what's around or the falls, but grateful for the continuous redemption of grace.

I could go on and on; but I have two blogs to mention. One is a friend who wrestles with the term "Christian" in his most recent post. He writes, "For me, I was the Christian that turned me off. I was the one that “hurt” me. I was the hypocrite. And I did not want to be that anymore.

Of course, I feel that I was not really hypocritical in the typical sense. I was sincere in my faith, and I honestly tried hard to be genuine in the way I lived out my faith (I still do). But the word hypocrite comes from the Greek plays during which the actors wore masks to portray their characters. I look back and see that I was playing a role, (method acting maybe, because I was deeply sincere), and when it came to certain things, I was not being true to myself. And that ended up causing me serious internal, existential conflict.

And I can say that relieving myself of the burden of belief freed me to really pursue God in deep honesty. Today I feel that I am true to myself and true to that “still, small voice” inside me more so than when I was living the life of a model Christian. And while some areas of my life are definitely not easier, today I am more content and peaceful than I have ever been.

For more of the post, go to The Agnostic Pentecostal, the link is on the right as well. Another blog on my blogroll, very different than my friend above, is put together by several young women wanting to become leaders within the Christian faith. They are fellow classmates of mine at seminary. They struggle with some of the same issues in the arena of terms, expectations and definitions. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to follow Christ? What does it mean for a woman to enter the pulpit, let alone the ministry? Their blog is called, The Prebyristas. From one of their recent posts by my friend Kelly, she writes, "
So in Carrie Bradshaw fashion, I can’t help but wonder, what does John 3:16 really mean? It’s like the Christian motto, a verse so well known that just its numbers will suffice as a reference. Is this verse truly what it’s all about? And should it be? The 4th grade Bible camper in me still equates John 3:16 with “the magic prayer”, a prayer consisting of three special lines that would reserve your spot in eternal paradise. It became a very complex equation:

3:16=belief in Christ=magic prayer=getting saved=no hell

Or the shorter version, 3:16= Fire Insurance

(Can I get on my soapbox for a moment? Christianity is not about fire insurance. Ok, stepping off now.)"

Often said for today...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Read my friend Julie's Medium Raw challenge essay: Getting Over Ourselves

Bonus Post...My friend Julie entered this contest by one of her favorite personalities, Anthony Bourdain. Check it out. It's great essay submission for Anthony Bourdain's writing contest about why we should "eat well". It's worth your time to check it out . It will take just a second to read it. In the contest, she is 98th out of more than 800. So, please VOTE FOR HER! The link's below. Thanks~

Read my Medium Raw challenge essay: Getting Over Ourselves

Correction: She's now 96th out of 809 entries.

Not a long post...but better late than not :-).

A few days ago, one of my blogs I frequent, had a contest to give away The Berry Bible cookbook. One of the questions she asked visitors to comment on in order to enter her drawing was this: "Before the summer slips away, I'm definitely going to ___________." I said canning or making preserves. I was looking for a few good recipes and some ideas since answering....I want to do this but have no idea how. I did find one recipe for Bread & Butter Pickles. That seems easy to start with. But the search will go on :-). It can't be that hard I tell myself.

So, another recipe blog to check out...Ezra Pound Cake....enjoy and bon appetite!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You find the darnest things on other people's blogs

I was looking at my friend Elizabeth's blog, Save for Later on the right. She had a link on one of her posts (2nd post from top) to a cooking blog, called Smitten Kitchen. I now have a link to the right. It's one of the better cooking blogs I've come across. Great pictures and recipe ideas. Thinking about these cookies for Christmas presents perhaps. :-).

And now something for the road, in terms of food,...I came across Frederick Buechner's book, Wishful Thinking: a Seekers ABC's.
. This is the definition Buechner gives for the meaning of Bread.
"Man does not live on bread alone, but he also does not live long without it. To eat is to acknowledge our dependence - both on food and on each other. It also reminds us of other kinds of emptiness that not even the Blue Plate Special can touch."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Does God smell?

In Hebrew the word for breath, wind or spirit is a female noun, Ruach (resh, shureq, het...if I could make Hebrew letters I would). As with English, this word can have different connotations depending upon how the word is used in the sentence. Often the connotation can be simply breath through the nostrils, the sign and symbol of life, or God's presence. As in English, there are close relatives to certain words; as well as, nouns that change meaning when they turn into verbs. When I was in my exegesis class in Amos last fall, I noticed this was the case with the word ruach. Close neighbor, Ruwach (resh, yod, het) means scent or odor. In the verb tense hiphil, Ruwach can denote delight, which is transcendent. Think of it like this: You walk into an house, and a smell a sweet smell, like cinnamon and cloves permeating the air, it takes you back to grandma's and a sense of love and safety. Does that make sense? It's associated with a memory. A smell that brings you delight and takes you back to a memory. Can God be represented by a smell? Something to think about.

By the way, you can still enter the cookie drawing by leaving a comment~

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Challenge, a Discipline, and a Contest

I raise my hand when asked, do any of you struggle with spiritual disciples. Last fall term, I needed to adopt a spiritual disciple for my Christian Ed. class, find a group of people to join me on a specific one, and then set out to explore that discipline. I and two good friends chose Forgiveness. I led our research. I talked about why Forgiveness was hard. We watched a film on forgiveness. We told our stories of getting to a place of forgiveness at different times in our lives, and we even cried. When it came time for the final and I was supposed to report how I practiced my discipline. I really couldn't do it. I wrote about biblical and historical examples. I reported how my group was conducted and our activities; but, could not authenticate my own place of practicing Forgiveness as a discpline. Clarification: A heart practice, not just a cognitive exercise done from time to time.

In my last ordination meeting, my pastor tasked the ordination pilgrims with the challenge of sticking to a spiritual discipline whatever that may be.
Sidebar: the purpose of a spiritual discipline (per my friend Kaye) is one that does the following: Stills us; Helps us Endure; Keeps us Connect; Nurtures our Growth; and, Expresses our love for God.

So, forgiveness might need to be on hold for now, but I thought of a couple of different things. I chose writing. I've been writing every day on this blog for the last two weeks. So far, so good. (Thank you to all have encouraged me to stick to it.) To start to get the "word" out of what I'm doing, I would like to have a contest. Many of my friends have contests to give-away a book, or make something. I'm thinking...something I could give away with joy...I came up with baking cookies. Leave a comment on my blog and I will have a drawing, and send you out cookies of your choice. Leave a comment...thank you for reading, and until tomorrow...wishing you many blessings of grace~

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Sunday Prayer

My school seminary produces a publication called Windows three times a year. A year ago the central topic of the 2009 summer issue was Prayer. Many of the professors, and graduating DMin. students, contributed a favorite prayer. My adviser, Dave contributed this prayer by Augustine, which was found at the conclusion of Augustine's theological treatise "The Trinity"

O Lord, my God, my one hope,
listen to me lest out of
weariness I should stop
wanting to seek you, but let me
seek your face always, and with
ardor. Do you yourself give me
the strength to seek, having
caused yourself to be found
and having given me the hope
of finding you more and more.
Before you lies my strength and
my weakness; preserve the one,
heal the other. Before you lies
my knowledge and my
ignorance; where you have
opened to me, receive me as I
come in; where you have shut
to me, open to me as I knock.
Let me remember you, let me
understand you, let me love
you. Increase these things in
me until you refashion
me entirely.

In Dave's explanation of why he chose this prayer, he wrote that Augustine's prayer deals with the importance of knowledge and love, always genuine and growing when it comes directly from God. In class, Dave always would say something to the effect that yes many of the great theologians are old and dead, and some are older and deader than others, but they still have something great to teach us.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Video Saturday

I've always loved this song by Jewel. It reminds me of how we not only each have an impact on others, but how valued we're by God. Our small efforts can have huge results. God works through the use of our hands, even if physically small (and I laugh because I have unusually small hands), to touch others. We also have a tremendous amount of strength that we often ignore. We can make a difference to act out of kindness through God's grace. Enjoy the video, lyrics attached :-).

Friday, July 9, 2010

A very special post dear to my heart....Meet Joanna

I was widowed very young. In the vein of Ruth and Naomi, his family became my family. My husband's eldest sister's first born daughter is Joanna. I remember Joanna and her sisters (and brother) through many dear memories, as they were part of my life for many years. As family's sometimes do, I lost contact with my nieces and nephews as the years went by, and they grew up to live and define their own lives. Recently, through such mediums as Facebook, I became reacquainted with many of them. I found that Joanna was living in New York as a photojournalist. I few months ago I found out about Joanna's new adventurous quest that has taken her to many new and adventurous places. Her blog, Joanna in Action, documents her travels in Asia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, China, and other countries of the far east. Her drive is admirable in my eyes, as she seeks to be in community with the people; to get to know the people she meets, and love them for who they are and what they are...nothing less, nothing more. Her pictures are at level of what one would find in a National Geographic magazine. If nothing else, I would encourage you to look at some of her pictures. (Scroll down through the blog to see the photos). She is able to capture the soul of the people she meets, and the land they inhabit. In her most recent blog, she writes,

"So many places my eyes have seen and my soul has absorbed…Glowing neon, China’s buildings are wrapped with sparkle. Purples, blues, reds and greens, China is eccentric. And when it’s not, it’s filled with acres upon acres of organized farming, and when it’s not, it has boxy brick buildings, gray, bland, repetitive, with the occasional watch towers with giant antennas… big brother, I can feel you watching. China is a place where the name tags have numbers and people often times treat each other like they are one.

In Beijing, there is an immense lack of random personal expression, outside of spitting. That being said, I picked up a plastic face toy… black circle glasses connected to a giant red nose, connected to a black curled mustache connected the birthday toys you blow into that make the sound of a horn. After touring a beautiful palace, my travel mates and I head town to the rush hour packed subway…"

or this,

"Wheels clanking heavily and swiftly along the tracks of the Trans-Mongolian railway. I lay on the top bunk with my head out of the window, feeling the soft, refreshing, open blue sky send it’s wind across my face. Small patches of green are placed evenly among the flat sandy plains of the Gobi desert. Groups of horses graze as the elongated sky stands bright with vibrant dashes of white clouds. A lone ger (a circular home allowed to be built anywhere in the county) stands evoking the curiosity of immense solitude.

Here, the nomad’s life is celebrated, respected and rewarded. When you are in the middle of no where, you know they are the ones who have explored it. The Mongols. The untamable. With their chubby faces, thick skin, rosy cheeks, grand smiles, sly, all telling eyes and their complex language, their culture seems untamed and ambitious… I can feel the same feeling billowing in my chest.

I exit the train at midnight in the town of SainShand… In the Gobi Desert. Somehow manage to get settled somewhere and the journey begins.

I pray for Joanna's safety, but the adventurous spirit once alive within me coupled with a true love of all of God's people, can only be immensely proud of her. I think to myself, wow when she returns home, what a story she will have to would make an excellent movie. And who would play the lead character carving out her own story and exploration of life in all its marvel?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Grand Canyon & Sullivan's Travels

The seminary library where I go to school and where I work recently took out of circulation all of their VHS tapes. Working at just the right time, I was able to take some home with me before the rest were taken off to 1/2 price books. One of the ones I took was the movie The Grand Canyon. No this was not a movie on National Parks in Arizona. This was a movie with Kevin Kline and Steve Martin. Created in 1991 under the direction of Lawrence Kasdan (Big Chill fame), the movie takes the premise of how the precariousness of life takes shape into what could be considered life's destiny. It mixes the bad and the good. No exact rhyme or reason, but still how our lives interweave with one another. The movie ends with the actual Grand Canyon, the unspeakable majesty that through eons of years of creation of this awe-inspiring beauty, God provides an example of God's own wondrous nature. And, just looking at the Grand Canyon can give us new perspective and a feeling that something is greater than ourselves. Life indeed rich in meaning. This movie carries a similar premise.

I found this old review from the Times. It says this: "Mack (Kevin Kline), the central character in Lawrence Kasdan's "Grand Canyon," hauntingly describes the experience of almost being hit by a bus. He was standing on a street corner, he recalls, and was about to step off the curb without looking when a stranger pulled him back. When he thanked her, she smiled and said, "My pleasure," then disappeared. She saved Mack's life, although he never returned the favor.

The spirit of that anecdote, with its grasp of life's precariousness, its awareness of the ominous and the miraculous in everyday events, its understanding of the intricate exchanges and equations that make up our destiny, seems to be what "Grand Canyon" is after. As he did so successfully in "The Big Chill," Mr. Kasdan here uses a deceptive casualness in approaching his contemporaries' most intimate hopes and fears."

The movie also links another famous movie, created when the black and white movie was the norm and Veronica Lake was just starting out. The movie is Sullivan's Travels. It is one of my favorite movies. And often, I think it's a great one for anyone idealist in nature who wants to solve all of life's problems, to watch. Sullivan's Travels is referenced at the end of Grand Canyon. The character Davis (Steve Martin), who is a movie producer and best friend to lead protagonist Mack (Kevin Kline), says to his friend Mack, "All of life's riddles are solved in the movies."... "Sullivan's Travels is about a filmmaker like me and loses his way-he forgets what he was set on this earth to do. Fortunately, he finds his way back. That can happen. Check it out."

And so I say to all of you, check these movies out. Sullivan's Travels also, especially for it's time, carries one of the most profound statements of African-American soul and love for the truth in God's kingdom.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Not a fad...Meet My Barefoot and Beautiful friend C. Beth

My friend Beth has a blog, C. Beth Blog, where she shares recipes, her children's adventures (known as Chickie and Zoodle on the net)and just life in all its specialness, uniqueness, wonderfulness and of course its sometimes bizarre and bittersweet nature. Her blog is often heart-warming,and always real. She is always discovering something new, or a really cool new hobbie and shares it with the rest of us. One of the things that she's covered recently is a developing passion, for running barefoot. Yeah, you read that right, barefoot. From her most recent blog entry, "That's right, I'm venturing into the exciting world of barefoot running....No, this isn't a belated April Fool's Day joke! Sure, barefoot running is still on the fringe in modern America, but humans ran barefoot for a long time before shoes were invented, and in parts of the world, barefoot is still the norm. It seems to be gaining popularity in the U.S. too!

I started getting intrigued by the idea of running either barefoot or in "minimalist" shoes that mimic barefoot running, as I heard from others online who love this type of running. At first I just read with interest, even as I planned to purchase another pair of running shoes. But the more I researched, the more I realized it was something I wanted to try.

You can find lots of information online about barefoot running, but the basic idea is this: Our feet were made to be barefoot; shoes are a (relatively) modern invention. When we run barefoot, our running form naturally improves. Many believe that those who run barefoot are therefore less likely to suffer from running-related aches, pains, and injuries, though studies need to be done to confirm that hypothesis.

Many runners also use minimalist shoes, designed to mimic being barefoot while still protecting the soles. I will probably get some of these funky-looking Vibram Five Fingers. If the ground is too cold, too hot, or particularly difficult to run on, I'll still be able to run with proper form in Vibrams. But this article convinced me to start out totally shoeless. By letting my sensitive soles feel the ground completely, my form naturally improves. Proper form is more gentle on the feet, so our bodies naturally try to figure out what that proper form is when our feet can feel everything.

So twice this week I've gone outside and done warm-up walks and short runs, barefoot. I've run on both the asphalt road and on concrete sidewalks. My soles need to toughen up, and I'm still learning to have a better running form, but so far I love it! My feet feel so light, and in this hot weather my whole body is cooler when my feet are free from shoes. I like the feel of not striking the ground first with my heel. (Running shoes encourage a heelstrike.)

When I was a little kid (me, Laurel), I was always walking around barefoot. I loved it. It was natural for me, and my first independent statement of how I defined myself. So in virtue of my past, I was intrigued with Beth's new interest. I went and looked at one of the sites that sells/gives information on minimalist shoes and, or sports that can be excelled at barefooted. Here's a site that I checked out,, and a direct link by clicking on the word, link. :-). Beth also mentions this site above. The only thing about barefoot running is that as a kid walking around barefoot, I always got an unusual amount of splinters in my feet. Oh well :-).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A blog schdule and a Tuesday evening~

I am just whipped today. Lots going on in general, and a hectic Tuesday. But, I really am striving to blog everyday. It's become a spiritual discipline of sorts. And something that should be healing in many ways too. I've decided to not burn completely out, so generally, I'll write M-F over a wide assortment of subjects. On Saturday, I'll post a favorite video, or a message per video that speaks to me. On Sunday, I'll post a prayer, prayer practice, or something I've written for ministry, like a sermon, which I've done before. That's my new scheduled quest.

So, here's a bonus prayer in lieu of Sunday, late on a Tuesday night. This prayer is out of the Book of Common Worship (Presbyterian), and from the section on prayer at the Close of the Day, number 7.

"O God our Creator,
by whose mercy and might
the world turns safely into darkness
and returns again in light;
We give into your hands our unfinished tasks,
our unsolved problems,
and our unfulfilled hopes,
knowing that only those things which you bless will prosper.
To your great love and protection
we commit each other
and all for whom we have prayed,
knowing that you alone are our sure defender,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Food, Food, Food....Meet Maggie

This is my second post of a sort of series I'm doing (when I think of it) of some of my favorite or interesting blogs I tend to follow. You can find these on the right side of my blog. The one I'm doing today is called Maggie's Austin. I was turned onto this blog by something that was posted in my friend's Elizabeth's blog. I've followed Maggie for a year or more now. I love the look of her blog, the restaurants she reviews, and how she highlights different bands, or things going on in and around Austin. She reviews, well really highlights, restaurants from small scale out of the way places, to expensive, to your remote trailer eateries. She is never mean and takes alot of pictures of where ever she's covering. She has special features too called Song of the Day, Drink of the Day, or Dish of the Day. This summer, she also did highlights of the eating places she visited in her travels to Spain, France and Italy. As you can tell, this is one of my most favorite blogs.

Today, I tried a restaurant that's owned by Sandra Bullock, which I was originally introduced to through Maggie's blog. It's called Walton's, Fancy and Staple on 6th street. It has to be one of the prettiest restaurants in Austin. I turned to my friend Renee when we walked out and said, "This place looks and feels like Sandra Bullock." Maybe even like the set design of the soap shop from her movie Practical Magic. It's wonderful and I got Cherry/Pistachio bread while I was in there for $2.25. Can't beat that :-). I also got one of the best soups I've had in while, Carrot Bisque. A cup is $2 and a bowl is $4. Anyway, for a sniff of Maggie's blog, here is one of her posts on Walton's. Click on the word Here :-); Here, Here and Here. Okay, all those Heres were various times Maggie covered Waltons, but the last one has the most pictures of inside Waltons. :-).

One last food find, not found on Maggies, that you must try if you live in Austin. There is a Kolache place behind Dallas Night Club on Burnet Road. This place is all about the best homemade kolaches ever, and has been in Austin for decades. For my purchase closing 11 years ago to buy my home in Leander, my agent brought in kolaches that she said was near her home. She lives in Allendale. They were so good...and I searched for this one place for 11 years since that morning closing back in '99. By coincidence, I found it this past Saturday. It's called The Kolache Shoppe, 7113 Burnet Road. And they actually have a website, click on the word website :-). You should try it some time.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Simple Gifts - Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss

I found this by chance on YouTube. I found most of the depictions (of course to my favorite Shaker tune) very stirring. For me, it was the thanksgiving of freedom, and very "Americana". It was the childlike rustling of the simple beauty we can create everyday. It's more so even the playfulness found in our immanent relationship with God. I'll end on that note.
Happy 4th!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Meet Melody....the Way of St. James

I am really trying to blog everyday, getting into the habit and developing a spiritual discipline (see Goo, here's my discipline). When I think of it, I'm going to highlight one or more of the blogs on my sidebar, where I've written, "Blogs I like to sniff at and learn from" (Sniff is my expression for giving it everything from a quick glance to looking forward to reading it everyday.) Then maybe you will be introduced to a blog or two, and sniff at them too.

The first one is from a friend of a friend who is experiencing the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Her blog is titled, "Camino Traveling Mercies". This lady, Melody, is a friend of my friend, Christine. I think they were college roommates, if I understand the connection correctly. Melody is walking with her daughter on a 500 mile ancient(well ancient meaning 1000 years old, middle ages...think Chaucer) pilgrimage that goes through Spain to the cathedral, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia Spain, where St. James' (the apostle James that tradition accounts as Jesus' brother) remains is thought to be buried. This pilgrimage is commonly called the Way of St. James. I believe tradition also accounts that this is the path James took to bring the gospel to the Spaniards before returning to Jerusalem and his death at the hands of Herod in 42 AD. Google El Camino de Santiago. The results are very interesting.

I first heard of the El Camino from my friend Mary Paige who said I needed to do this at some point in my life. She also told me about some of the more famous books that were written by others experiencing this spiritual journey. One can bike the trail or walk. I believe Mary Paige did the shorter route by bike. Melody is attempting the full 500 miles by foot. Wow...the determination and fortitude. She (Melody) arrived in Spain this past Sunday, the 27th, setting out to the starting point of St. Jean Pied du Port. Her journey is shared through this blog. Here's a snippet from her last entry today, Friday, 7/2.

Every day, it seems, when we´ve needed it most, blessing has come in the form of a fellow traveler or host who brings us help or bandages or friendship. These blessings (and the fact that they consistently seem to show up just when we need them most) have been an amazing gift, and they bring me great joy. The heartbreak is having to learn that every day, you have to open your hand and let those blessings go. People have left, and I haven´t always had the chance to say good-bye, or fully expressed my gratitude for the fact that they had salt when we needed it, or shared some laughter when I was worn down. The blessing that they have been travels off on another path, and I have to remember to be grateful for the part where our paths crossed here.

So here we are, at the end of one week already. There are some really tough-looking days coming down the road--treks of over 30 kilometers, which the guidebook says will take 8.5 hours to finish. I´m still wondering how we´re going to do that, and still trying to learn to let each day stand for itself. Today I have done what I thought, at the start of it, I couldn´t do. And along the way have been blessings and joys I didn´t look for at the beginning of it. So that, I guess, is exactly where I need to stop, and rest.

Blessings on your rest, and on your journeying.

I love these couple of paragraphs because it speaks to the Way of God. Truth in its most simple form.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Liberation Theology

I've always had an interest in Liberation Theology. To me, Liberation theology is compassion for the poor, but even more than that. It's speaking out for justice. It's speaking out that the poor are not oppressed in cruelty but treated with dignity and respect, the honor bestowed upon every child of God. This theology is biblically profound. Amos will shake you to your core. Not to mention the angle of the gospel according to Luke/Acts. For more information on Liberation Theology, click here.

On Good Friday this year, NPR's program Latino USA broadcasted an interview marking the 30 anniversary of the death of Oscar Romero, and the current state of liberation theology in light of Romero's death. The people interviewed were theologian Ernesto Valiente of Boston College, and associate editor of Sojourners Magazine Rose Marie Berger. Here are some links: hereand the actual interview: here (Cut and paste, or just simply click the "here" next to the links.)

The interview is relatively short and eye opening. One of the things that most struck me in the interview is this question, in the midst of the horrors and violence the poor experience, how can we tell the poor that God loves them. In the interview, it's quoted that the wrestling out of this question, and responding to it, is the root definition of Liberation Theology. I asked my theology professor that same question, plus if Liberation Theology was alive and well here in the States. This is what he said, "Hi Laurel-Good questions. Yes, liberation theology is alive and well in the U.S.--movements in Black and Hispanic theology, in particular, keep the spirit of liberation theology alive in this country. On the second question, I think one of the things that liberation theology teaches us is that it's not the job of the "privileged" to tell the poor that God loves them; rather, the poor actually experience the love of God in the midst of the struggle against oppression. And that is a presence that speaks more powerfully than any words proclaimed to the poor from "on high." I'm not saying, of course, that we shouldn't tell anyone that God loves them; rather, we discover God's love in the midst of life, in the midst of struggle."

For me, the key is loving the poor (meaning not doing things for them but being in relationship with them, and standing next to them [even figuratively] so they are not alone) in the midst of the struggle. I watched the movie version of Oscar Romero's life last night. The depiction was disturbing, and very hard to watch, yet deeply moving. After the movie was over, all I could think about was saying the Lord's Prayer.

Sojourners magazine is a publication that combines faith, politics and culture. Kind of some interesting perspectives. Click here for the link.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Pause Found

Have you ever been reading a book, and then come across something that deeply moves you? Something, where you might say, actually out loud, "Gosh, I want to remember that forever." The something provides a certain resonance that gives a pause, an awakening to something deep in your soul. I had that experience this morning while reading a book I started last week, Open Secrets by Richard Lischer. Open Secrets is a book about a young pastor in the late 1960s who full of ideals and thoughts of living out God's calling with a zest for change and compassion, is faced with the reality of being placed in an impoverished farm area in Southern Illinois amongst people who are used to things as they are in their community, and understanding the world in a certain way. Where his ideals and this community's reality meet are the crux of the grace and beauty of this book. This is the quote that stirred me and provide me with a sense of pause,

"The Protestant church was already in the process of discarding the named Sundays of Lent and Easter even as we blessed and planted the seeds. Now they bear the evocative names, 'The First Sunday in Lent', 'The Second Sunday of Lent', and so on. The Fourth Sunday in Lent was once named Laetare, which means rejoice. It was known in the church as refreshment Sunday. On this Sunday rose paraments [vestments, etc.] replaced the traditional purple of Lent, and psychologically and spiritually, we breathed a little easier. The color rose seemed to say, There's light at the end of the tunnel. Even at the dead center of Lent, Christ is risen.
The protestant church got rid of Laetare as well as Rogate [the Latin word for pray] and many of the other days for reasons I have never fully understood. It created a bland church calendar and liturgies du jour in the image of people who have been abstracted from place and history, who have no feel for the symbols and no memory of the stories. They live, work and worship in climate-controlled buildings. They have largely adopted a digitalized language. Their daily routines override the natural rhythms and longings of life.

I can only say that the Latin words were not too much for my high school dropouts. The simple outline of church history didn't overtax their imaginations. The liturgy and church year made sense to the farmers in New Cana, for who better than a farmer understands the circularities of life? The church year had a rhythm, and so did their lives.

Some would argue that the observance of Rogate arose in an agricultural world and is, therefore, irrelevant to all but the 1.7 percent of Americans [probably alot less today] who live on farms. But my congregation understood the metaphor that underlay Rogate, which is this: When we do any kind of useful work, we join the act of creation in progress and help God keep the universe humming."

Thank you God for helping me find the pause.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sermon on Galatians 5:1; 13-25

This is my sermon from yesterday, 6/27; delivered at Salado Presbyterian Church... Oh yeah, the title is Freedom is found in Communion.

When I was 19 years ago and the first time being independently on my own, I lived on the central coast of California in a town called Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo county. Maybe some of you have heard of it. (I think the name of the town might have been referenced in a Beach Boys song.) My friend Paula and I made up this poem one day as we were sitting in my living room with its rugged cabinesque feel by virtue of its open wood beam ceiling and wood paneled walls. Heard in the background of our girlish giggles and the noise of the pencil as we scribbled down our enthusiastic rhymes were the sound of seagulls and sea lions. In this time of iconic communion, we wrote a poem on freedom. The first line of the poem started with the words, “Freedom rides on the wings of doves.” And the closing line, “Freedom beacons between you and me.”

The New Testament reading today comes from a letter Paul wrote to the church in Galatia. It can be divided into three parts: Christian Freedom; Things to Watch out for that can get in the way of Christian freedom; and, the Lovely things, the byproducts, Christian freedom provides. So to begin, what is the definition of freedom? In my research on this topic, I found that freedom can mean many things. Freedom is found in the ability to choose from many options. I am free to choose what I want to eat for dinner. Do I want to make home made tacos from scratch, which includes frying the corn tortillas in oil until it makes a perfect shell. Or do I want to go out to a restaurant. I have the freedom to choose between the hamburger and beer joint, or splurge on a restaurant that sells upscale Italian cuisine. Of course being a student, the latter is not always an affordable option.

Freedom can be the absence of social, economic or political oppression. Or, it can be in a psychological sense, the freedom found in the absence or removal of emotional barriers or stress. For example, when the woman in an abusive relationship is removed from that situation, and then placed in a safe environment, she experiences freedom. She is now free to spend time in healthier situations with spiritual and emotional direction to help overcome her former abuse.

And freedom, can be found through the ability to define a quality of controlling one's existence by a certain type of self mastery. Like recently, young Abby Sunderland who attempted to sail around the world. This same type of freedom might also include learning to master playing classical guitar, becoming an expert at growing vegetables, playing a round of golf, or teaching yourself to crochet. From the poem, Invictus by the English poet William Ernest Henley, “It matters not how strait the gate; How charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

Next week, next Sunday, one week from today, will mark the 234th time as a nation, we've honored Freedom. We've celebrated our Freedom as a nation that identifies freedom as the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. But, what does freedom mean for Paul, for the Christian church of Galatia, and for us today as Christians. What is Christian freedom? Paul writes to the Galatians, who are beset with bickering and inner fighting amongst themselves. He is trying to help them truly become free and not yoked, so to speak, with the harmfulness vicious bickering can bring. Paul writes in the first sentence of his letter that for freedom, Christ has set us free. We can now stand firm and do not need to submit to the yoke, the tight hold, of slavery found in self-centered behaviors that view others as rivals, instead of equally beloved children of God.

This first sentence of our New Testament reading today does two things. It sets up a precedent to serve God by trusting God; and by loving God. Hence, loving one another. Two things to remember: Trust and Love. When you accept the liberating work of Christ Jesus, you become a person who begins to trust the faithfulness of God. Once you learn to trust God 's faithfulness, then you learn to trust and take risks to serve your neighbor. The responsorial reading today was from Psalm 16. Psalm 16 starts with asking God for protection but then rests in a prayerful state of relying on that trust. Psalm 16 sets up the relationship of serving one another in the freedom of love, as it provides first and foremost our relationship with God.

Love. Love is to serve one another. Christian freedom through love is to be servants to one another. The writer of the gospel of Mark states in Mark 10:43-45, “But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you, must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you, must be slave of all. For the Son of Man (Jesus) came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Now the ability to serve does not mean to be a doormat. It's the ability to trust God's lead and be available for God to move you, to compel you in an instant to serve in love. One source I found put it this way, “To serve through love means that serving is done not to meet the demands of the law or even to feel good about ourselves.” Moreover, “Christ frees us not only from the law, but from the sinful self. Freed from the self, we're free to serve the neighbor in love.”

It becomes all about Leviticus 19:18, which even if you do not recognize the scripture reference, you will recognize the phrase. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” One of the professors on my campus says in her recent book that “ fact, our service [to others] is the concrete manifestation of our love, and our participation in the love of God.” Freedom is found in communion with one another. My professor further writes on the subject, “God's promise, God's grace and God's love are the basis; justice, mercy and humility are operative; bread, forgiveness and freedom are the evidence.”

This past spring term I took Christian ethics and learned about some of the theories of 20th century philosopher Emmauel Levinas, who said that he liked to explore the wisdom of love instead of how the Greeks refer to it, as exploring the love of wisdom. Levinas talked about the face-face encounter with the Other (Other is what we might refer to as Neighbor). He said, in this encounter with the Other, we see the Face of the Other and we're moved to act in love for the Other. Let me say this again by substituting Other with Neighbor. In this encounter with our Neighbor, we see the Face of our Neighbor, and we're moved to act in love for our Neighbor. Reason does not enter into the equation. We are gripped, or seized, by love to act on behalf of the Other, our Neighbor. When the earthquake in Haiti hit this past January, our reaction to pray or to give monetarily came naturally. We were seized by love, uncontrollably. Now, one small clarification. What is the Face? The Face is an old, ancient term to depict the way of acknowledging God's presence in the other person. Simply put, we are all God's creation, so the image of God, the Imago Dei, resides in all of us. We can go astray in different degrees, and we often do, but first and foremost we're beloved creations of God. God's children, and we honor that aspect in others. Levinas' theory, what he called the Ethics of Ethics, is also based upon the Hebrew concept of Hesed. Hesed is what Jesus Christ came to fulfill. The definition of Hesed is two fold. It means love. But, it's more than just love, it means steadfast love, loving kindness, a love that endures. The second prong to the concept of Hesed: God's promises. Through Christ, God keeps the promises set of compassion and mercy, thus loyalty to be in loving relationship with us. God's love endures.

At the beginning, I said that this passage in Galatians can be sub-divided into three parts. The first being Christian Freedom, which we've discussed. The two other parts I want to briefly address. The second part are those things that prevent us from loving (how I like to think about it, honoring ) our neighbor as ourselves; and end up destroying our communities. Paul writes about reacting out of jealousy or anger. Additionally, he brings up the dire effects of purposely bringing about dissension. That's a hard one I know because I'm one person that just needs to pull aside a friend to “vent”. But that “venting” can bring about dissension when we end up separating one person from others. Sometimes even unknowingly. But the other side of the coin, the third part of this message from Paul, provides us with the lovely things God's freedom brings. The things that guide us to lovingly serve others. Such things become the attributes of joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the byproducts that come from acting lovingly to others.

As you already know, I am a divinity student. I am approaching my last full semester in seminary. Needless to say, I am excited at seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I equate seminary with law school in terms of its emotional and intellectual intensity. A year passes and it feels like you’ve been laid out flat by twenty trucks in a row. Yeah, God’s workings is just slightly tiring, as I jokingly say with a smile and an exhausted shrug of my shoulders. This past Friday, I worked in my school library until noon, came home and ate lunch, cleaned my home and then continued my preparations to come to worship with all of you. In the midst of the day, I realized something. I hadn’t talked to anyone all day. I mean yes I greeted people coming into the library and so forth, but I didn’t have a true sharing of my heart and soul with anyone all day. It wasn’t until that evening when I called a dear friend from my church to wish her a Happy 70th Birthday, and tell her that she was loved and special to me that I felt the yoke of my self-involvement lift. In thinking about today’s message after I got off the phone, I suddenly came to the conclusion that freedom was found through love.

Freedom is found in loving communion with one another. We become available for God to seize us, to compel us to act in lovingly service with one another. Our faith must carry imagination for loving service to take wing. How have you served in love recently? For that is where freedom lies.