Friday, April 29, 2011

kick a** shoes - part 2

well, its time to fess up,
and own up...
I'm trading in my kick a** heels 
for a pair of Keen hiking shoes!
Trust me - 
they kick a** too!

I am so frustrated by the rising prices of gas and since I don't have my own, private, oil well or refinery, the only thing I can do is be more responsible about my driving habits.  I am upside down in a loan for a Chrysler Town and Country van - its a great vehicle and we've been all over the country in it - is what it is...and when it costs $70 to fill up the tank its time to wave the white flag.

So, rather than drive to the hospital (about 1/2 mile from the church - 1 1/2 miles from home), I am going to walk.  And while I do need to have a vehicle at the church in case I need to make an emergency trip out of town, I will walk home for lunch (1 mile each way).  The same for committee meetings in the evening.  The weather is nice enough - why not walk?!  Now, it may get a little trickier with grocery shopping...the nearest store is 1.5 miles - but going home with grocery bags may be interesting (tho its up a bit of a hill).  

The reality is - that the extra $1 per gallon really hits me pretty hard financially...and if it affects me, someone who has a good job and is well provided for, I can only imagine how this is affecting what our government calls the 'working poor'.  Something is very wrong here, my friends.  We need to figure this out!

The Gospel of Luke makes me pause and think about what Jesus would have us do:

He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
   God's Spirit is on me;
      he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
   Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
      recovery of sight to the blind,
   To set the burdened and battered free,
      to announce, "This is God's year to act!"
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, "You've just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place."

(the words of Jesus, according to Luke the physician.  The Message translation)

As followers of the Risen Christ - beloved Children of God and part of the priesthood of all believers - how are we preaching good news to the poor?  announcing pardon to prisoners?  recovery of sight to the blind and setting the burdened and battered free?!  How will we, as the Church, journey together in times such as these?

My walks about town might give me more time to think about are welcome to join me!

in Christ, together,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter joy

"the Good News is that the bad news is only temporary..."

Bishop Julius C. Trimble said these words of assurance at a clergy gathering in January, 2010.  Little did he know it was just what I needed to hear in that moment.

Mary Magdalene learned this was true as well when she approached Jesus' tomb on the third day; found it empty, and unsure what it all meant ran to tell the disciples.  As she tried to wrap her mind around things she ran into Jesus of all people!  And as she fell at Jesus' feet her weeping turned to shouts of joy.

May you experience the hope, peace, joy and love of the Easter Season!

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen, indeed!

in Christ, together,

Monday, April 18, 2011

bad Friday

     Funny how little things stick with you.  In our house, the Friday before Easter isn't called Good Friday - its Bad Friday.  Justin renamed it - and he has every right to.
     Four years ago he was badly injured on Good Friday morning - he was playing tag in the park near the house and a friend threw a stick at him. The stick hit him in the face and tore open the side of his mouth.  I heard his screams from the open window in my bedroom and raced down stairs.  I met my 8 year old son, hand bloodied and tears streaming down his face, on the front steps with a towel in my hand.
     We called ahead to the doctor, 6 miles east of us, and raced to his office.  We were immediately ushered into an examining room where Doc Cleary said there wasn't anything he could do but numb him up and send us on to a plastic surgeon, some 30 some miles further east.  A few minutes later we were on our way again, Justin's screams were silenced, but we were all somber as we wondered what awaited us at the next stop.
     Justin's one request was that he be put to sleep while the Doctor stitched him up...but this Doctor didn't have the equipment to do that in his office - to do so would mean another hour in the car - and after a brief conversation Justin agreed to stay there and get his mouth and cheek repaired.  It took 45 minutes and 28 stitches to put him back together again.  We both cried throughout the procedure.
     When we finally returned home, exhausted and broken hearted, I looked at the clock and realized the community Good Friday service was to start in a couple of hours - but I just couldn't wrap my head around it.  I had spent 3-4 hours with MY son, MY precious son as he bled and screamed out in pain.  How could I keep it together enough to talk about another mother bearing witness to the brutal torture and crucifixion of her precious son, Jesus?
     The congregation was very understanding and the lay leader assured me that they would be fine, the Presbyterian Pastor would be there as well and they would take care of my part.  The next day, I struggled to make sense of my feelings as I put the finishing touches on my Easter sermon.  But the words that had brought joy and hope to me in the past rang hollow.  Justin was unable to eat, his face was swollen and he still cried out from the pain.  He would be scarred for life because of this.  How is this fair?
     We made it through the Easter Sunday Service.  His friend, the stick thrower, brought over a basket full of Easter candy and apologized through his own tears.  Justin was gracious enough to say, 'it's ok.'  Later that afternoon I struggled to write a couple of papers for my seminary classes.  I was finally forced to email my professors and ask for an extension, apologizing for my inability to wrap my mind around the assignments that were due.
     One of my professors, Dr Les Longden, then taught me an important lesson...he said; 'Deb, sometimes we just need to spend more time in the tomb, and thats ok.'
     It would have been within God's power for Jesus to be resurrected any time after his death on the cross.  But the time spent in the tomb was not in vain.  It was the Sabbath, the 7th day of creation, the day of rest.  Christ's resurrection on the 8th day signified the ushering in of the New Creation.  We are all new creations through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  
     Jesus began his ministry with an invitation for all people to participate in the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven - “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (the words of Jesus of Nazareth - Mark 1:15 NIV).   The Kingdom of God as a reality here and now as well as in the future...Whoa!  What a gift...and all we must do is repent and's almost unfathomable! 
     Some of us are ready to embrace this gift now...some of us will need some time in the tomb; at rest, in prayer and reflection and even to struggle through feelings of doubt before we are able to say with peace, hope, and joy - Christ is Risen!  Christ is Risen, Indeed!
     Until then, the time in the tomb is not wasted time - it is time to work things out in fear and trembling.  Regardless of our Bad Fridays (or Mondays, Tuesdays, get the idea)  Christ is Risen - Christ is Risen indeed - and he is waiting to give us the greatest gift of all - unconditional love and acceptance.
     Justin may need reconstructive surgery some day - we just won't know for sure until he is fully grown.  The scar on the left side of his face and his lip is noticeable to me, but I don't really think it has much of an impact on him.  We never really talk much about Bad Friday until Easter approaches.  I am ok with that too.
     May you find peace and hope this Holy Week - and if you need some more time in the tomb - I pray that you don't go it alone...I pray that you have a brother or sister in Christ to sit and be present with you and remind you that God is ALWAYS present...always waiting to receive you with open and loving arms.  Sometimes when we enter the tomb its the last thing we think we need, but its the greatest gift of all...and there's no rush leaving - it is what it is - a safe place for rest and renewal...I even visit there from time to time myself.

"I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."  (The words of Jesus, the Messiah.  John 16:33)


Monday, April 11, 2011

Head and shoulders, knees and toes

To follow is the message that I shared with the students, faculty and guests at Wartburg chapel this morning - the text is Ezekiel 37:1-14 and it was read beautifully by a young drama major by the name of Maddie.  You may read it here Ezekiel 37:1-14 (The Message)  (remember I write for the ear - so punctuation may be a bit unconventional)

The first time one hears this text – it sounds kinda like a script for a scary movie…Ezekiel whisked away to a plain out in the middle of no where – and surrounded by piles of bones…dry, sun bleached bones… paints quite a picture doesn’t it?  But after I picked this scripture passage for this morning I started getting concerned– you are into your last week of classes for the semester aren’t you?  Yikes!

Are the minds of the geography students going to wander off – pondering where this valley could be located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean sea?
Are the anatomy students going to get distracted by the talk of sinews and flesh and bones coming together – and try to mentally put the bones back together into human form?
Are the Early Childhood Education students going to think of the little song that we probably all know – head and shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes…and then start thinking about final projects that are due…
We can get easily distracted can’t we?  I think its how we’re wired… perhaps its just me… but to make connections we try to find ourselves, our passions, our likes in the things we experience – the books we read…the music we listen to…the scripture lesson for the day.
Here God is trying to connect with his people who are in a spiritual dry spot – they lost their land and are now exiles living in a foreign land.  Deep down they know what God is – but they just don’t feel him any longer…They feel lost, confused and out of sorts.  They have doubts – they aren’t even sure if they believe there is a God any more…maybe they just imagined him.
Have any of you ever feel that way?
God gave Ezekiel a mission – to speak truth into dark places.  To do this, Ezekiel had to dig deep in his own heart and life experiences and rely on the spiritual gifts that came from God to even make sense of all that was happening to his people.
 In Romans chapter 12 – the Apostle Paul talks about how each of us – followers of Christ are part of the Body of Christ – and how each of us are unique and important parts of the whole…Paul then goes on to talk about these spiritual gifts –
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Ezekiel was a prophet – that was the gift that God gave to him… if everyone here was a prophet – well, that could be interesting – drive the administration a bit crazy perhaps…but after a while, it would get rather intense, don’t you think?
Ezekiel the prophet brought hope and an assurance that the very breath of God – the Holy Spirit of God – was still at work in the lives of God’s people… breathing new life and vitality into their very existence…even if at that moment they were in a foreign land.
Does anyone here feel like college is a foreign land?  Now that the freshmen are in their 2nd semester – perhaps not so much…but you are far away from the comforts of home.  For the seniors – you are facing a foreign land – as you prepare to enter the work force…your foreign land is the unknown – what ever will happen after graduation  next month?  will you have a job?  Get married?  Have to move back home – shudder at the thought!
Regardless of where you find yourself – there is one thing for sure – God is in the midst of things.  Really – God is!  
While it may not seem to be the case as you’re wrapping up the semester and putting the finishing touches on your papers and preparing for the adventures of your May term God is in the midst of everything.
And here’s the really cool part – the very breath of God –the same Spirit that breathed new life into those dry parched bones has given you all that you need for life…for your career…for now and for the future… you have been given gifts that you are only now exploring – growing into and experiencing in fresh new ways.
And so, in the midst of your final week of classes I have one last assignment for each of you – I want you to pause from time to time and allow the Spirit of God to refresh you – I want you to pause as you walk across campus and look at the beauty that surrounds you – the flowers, the beautiful blue sky, the dazzling displays of lightening in the spring storms, the smiles on the faces of the faculty and your classmates – are all gifts from God and reflections of God’s love and beauty. 
And this is what I believe with all that I have and all that I am… It’s God’s Spirit that gives our lives meaning – encourages us to become the people we were created to be – beautiful and beloved and unique creations of God.
It is God’s Spirit that is always at work in our lives - we may not be able to put a finger on it – but its there – you know, in those moments when we have a gut feeling to call someone or pray for someone or check on a friend, to send a text to someone you know - do you think that is all our doing?  I tend to believe it’s the very Spirit of the living God!
How about when you are with friends –and you are so comfortable with one another and there is joy and happiness and a sense of contentment in that moment – when I have those moments I sometimes want to weep out of gratitude to God for the beauty the joy and the hope and love that he has provided me… it’s God’s love – the very kingdom of God - breaking in and telling us that this is what God wants for us – more than anything else… this kind of beauty, this kind of fellowship with one another – this kind of peace of mind and hope and joy…and love

Love really is where its at – Paul sums it up back in Romans chapter 12 – and one of my favorite passages of scripture:

 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

And I would add – use your giftedness to be part of the solution – to bring God’s hope and truth and beauty and love into those dry and desolate places…

In the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

United Methodist Call to Action?!?!

the middle of my day this past Wednesday was spent watching the United Methodist Leadership Summit via the web.  At the same time I was participating in an exciting global twitter conversation.  If you twitter you may want to check out #umclead

I think that the summit itself was interesting and challenging - I am concerned a bit about how the policies that are being proposed will be implemented - but thats for another day.

Here is a blog post that is worth a read - if you are United Methodist and concerned about the future of our denomination - I don't have a long history as a church leader, so I must rely on others to provide the long view...

Let us always remember that its about God...Father, Son and Holy Spirit
its about how we
love God
love one another
nuff said,
peace - deborah

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

one day without shoes

one of my favorite 'old family pictures' is a picture of my mother-in-law's class from the 1930s.  Note the obligatory picture of George Washington, the class flag, the map of the United States and the children reading diligently.  Oh, and something that horrified Clara, but really interested me...the children don't have on shoes.

It would be unimaginable today to think that American school children don't have fact, we have more than we could ever use.  But this is a common thing in much of the world.  Most children and adults don't own one pair of shoes - let alone the dozens that we have in our closets here in the USA.

That is why today, for most of the day anyway, I will go without shoes - so that I am reminded of my many blessings, so that I think about the children around the world who are without shoes and whenever anyone asks me about my barefeet I will have an opportunity to tell them why.

This actually is a nationwide movement - you can read more about it here; and if you are so inclined - you may make a donation of money to the One Day Without Shoes folks or perhaps your church or family or organization could have a shoe drive.  I know that does a great job distributing donated shoes around the world!

The really cool thing is that we CAN make a difference, it just takes someone willing to take that first step...

peace, hope, love and joy,