Thursday, December 18, 2014 advent journey of sorts

"Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. ...whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting - that is, of hopefully doing without - will  never experience the full blessings of fulfillment."  Dietrich Bonhoeffer  

Abnormal...the words hit me like a ton of could something that was designed (and used) to provide nurture be abnormal?

  1. deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying.

For a month I tried my best not to worry, between various mammograms, ultra sounds (of course they couldn't do a biopsy the 'normal way'), and finally the big day - the stereotypic imaging truck came to town (you really don't want to know).

A biopsy is not something to blow off.  It is a big deal.  A big hairy deal.  Especially when your mind has time to think of the 'what ifs.'

Fortunately, for me, the results were another interesting word: benign.  

  1. 2
    (of a disease) not harmful in effect: in particular, (of a tumor) not malignant.
    synonyms:harmless, nonmalignant, noncancerous; 
    "a benign tumor"

'What a relief' my son texted when I finally, after a days delay, had the results.  'THANK Heavens' and 'YAY' and 'that is spectacular news' from my other children.  

  1. 1
    beautiful in a dramatic and eye-catching way.

Not all women are as fortunate.  

And yes, I kept it silent.  And I probably could have shared with others...but ABNORMAL sounds so broken and plain messed up.

After living with the relief of my diagnosis for a week, I realized that my silence continues to add to the stigma of: pastors as 'other' and breast cancer as something we talk about in hushed voices, because you can't really say the word 'breast' out loud in polite company.

  1. 1
    either of the two soft, protruding organs on the upper front of a woman's body that secrete milk after pregnancy.

My right breast now has a little piece of titanium in it, as a marker for the radiologist.  Next fall, when I have my mammogram I will see it on the screen.

Get your mammograms, gals.  Know your family history.  And if you get called in for more pictures, don't go on-line and try to look up the what ifs...but DO tell a friend.  Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is invite others for the journey.  I am grateful for my children for being a non-anxious presence during this season.

It is fitting that this journey happened during Advent, a season of anxious anticipation.  I continue to wait with hope.

peace, love in Christ,

Saturday, December 6, 2014

An Advent reflection

Somewhere between Silent Night and Joy to the World a baby rests and new mother and a father wonder what just happened. As the mother of four children I can relate to the fragile perfection of a new born baby but before you know it they grow up! As sweet as it is, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus can't stay forever paused in the tableau that is reflected in Hallmark cards or the manger scene on our living room table.

We may hate to admit it, but truth is Jesus was a normal baby, toddler, child, teenager even - in every way. It would be nice to think that he was perfect, never had a temper tantrum, never climbed a tree too high and of course never refused to eat his broccoli, but that is what makes Jesus so amazing - his humanity is not unlike our own. His experiences are our experiences.

The Message Bible sums it up like this: "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood." (John 1:14)

This is the hope and promise of the Christmas season. What was started in Bethlehem is still going on today as the Word of God, Jesus, the love of God made flesh at Christmas continues to speak to us through word, songs, and our compassion for our neighbors.

It’s interesting to think about, but until the present age most of the stories of Jesus had been taught by mothers and grandmothers. In my conversations with young mothers most of them feel unprepared to instruct their children about God. Does our current life style allow moms, and dads for that matter, time to share their faith with their children? Or asked another way: have we embodied the stories of God’s love at Christmas, let alone in our lives, enough so that we are comfortable sharing our faith with our kids?

That’s the beauty and importance of being part of a faith community. In a church parents have an
opportunity to learn more about God so that they may become light bearers and story tellers for their children, very much like the shepherds who raced to see this marvelous thing that the angels spoke about – a child – the Messiah – born right there in the neighborhood!

“As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed." (Luke 2:15-18)

May I be so bold as to invite you to consider sharing this Advent and Christmas season with one of your neighborhood churches? You don’t have to dress up to come to church, you can even sit in the back row or in the balcony if you like. When you come to church you’ll find imperfect folks seeking to know more about this God who was willing to become more like you and me. How cool is that!?

It is my prayer that you find joy this Christmas season. That you experience love beyond your wildest dreams, that you are able to tell your children the stories of the first Christmas with wonder and hope – knowing that God is with us now and will always be with us. This is the good news that we so desperately need to hear and share!

Hark the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!

Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled"

Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies

With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"

Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
(Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Charles Wesley)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Crazy little thing about reading the could be dangerous!

Sunday, September 28th, we had the privileged of giving Bibles to our 3rd graders and to our first year confirmands. The lectionary text, Matthew 21:23-32 seemed like a perfect opportunity to share with our children, as well as adults, how to be faithful in both reading and giving authority to Scripture.

Just as we enjoy giving presents - we need to be aware of how to use them...and I side with Karl Barth, in this day and age we need to read the Bible with a newspaper (or smartphone) in one hand.

(please forgive dashes and .....'s this is my sermon manuscript for the day)


I believe that in many ways reading the Bible in the 21st century is harder than it was as little as 100 years ago… there are many reasons – for one, many of Jesus’ stories and parables are agriculturally based – and we are by and large a society far removed from the small family farm.

We are also privy to more information than ever before. 100, 200, 300 years ago the Bible may have been the only book in the house… when it was dark and cold outside a family would read the bible – in huge chunks – faith, church, scripture reading became part of the fabric of the family and the community…this changed as books became more affordable – and people started actually owning books – think about it - in the 50s and 60s and on through the 80s even what was the essential book that every house hold have?

World Book encyclopedia – and a Webster’s dictionary. Weekly – probably daily we’d hear three little words from mom – ‘look it up’!

My set of World Books are in a box in the attic – for some reason I still have them. It is faster – and more expedient to look it up on my phone – or have siri do it… –

In the 90s people started buying personal computers…and 10 years ago – not only did most homes have computers, kids even had their own email address. And then, Facebook was born – and now we have dozens of ways to connect with one another, to share ideas and to hear the opinions of others on a wide array of topics…

We have more power in our personal devices than the Apollo rockets! How did they get to the moon and back without one of these?

Our first computer cost 5000 (they threw in a printer) and we had a whopping 50 megabytes of storage! That’s about enough to store 25 pictures today!

There’s something else – because of the sharing of information – around the globe – we have access to more data – I fear that my 1972 World book is woefully inadequate compared to a September 28, 2014 Google search on just about anything…I was at lunch with some members of the church and a name came up – we wondered if it was a bible name – and low and behold one of the ladies pulled out her phone and looked it up – and we learned that it was indeed a Bible name!

Fun fact – according to a Time magazine article written on the eve of World Water Day – the source is the UN…

Out of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to mobile phones. Far fewer — only 4.5 billion people — have access to working toilets.

We are in a new world – a world that requires us to learn and understand and comprehend in new ways… its not bad – it isn’t a burden, but we can’t expect to continue reading the Bible, or anything else for that matter, with blinders on either…Karl Barth, one of the greatest theologians of recent times wrote that one should start every day with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other –

People want meaning – we want to know why others would choose to believe the way they do…we have reasons we like the Hawkeyes or the Cyclones…and we make room for UNI fans too… we just have to be able to articulate why…

this is the blessing of reading scripture with resources that we have available – resources that help us to understand better the context of 1st century Israel…

We have heard it said that the Bible is timeless and has timeless wisdom for us – and I agree that this is true – but we do grave injustice to scripture if we impose our own 21st century understanding and values to a document some 2000 years old written for an audience that was educated in a totally different style of learning from ours.

I say all of this to wrap our minds around this morning’s reading…

Matthew 21:23-32     Jesus’ authority questioned

23 When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching. They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus replied, “I have a question for you. If you tell me the answer, I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. 25 Where did John get his authority to baptize? Did he get it from heaven or from humans?”

They argued among themselves, “If we say ‘from heaven,’ he’ll say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But we can’t say ‘from humans’ because we’re afraid of the crowd, since everyone thinks John was a prophet.” 27 Then they replied, “We don’t know.”

Jesus also said to them, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things

Parable of two sons

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. Now he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’

29 “‘No, I don’t want to,’ he replied. But later he changed his mind and went.

30 “The father said the same thing to the other son, who replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ But he didn’t go.

31 “Which one of these two did his father’s will?”

They said, “The first one.”

Jesus said to them, “I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s kingdom ahead of you. 32 For John came to you on the righteous road, and you didn’t believe him. But tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Yet even after you saw this, you didn’t change your hearts and lives and you didn’t believe him.

Reading this passage as is – we would rightly agree that Jesus is once again in a verbal sparring match with the religious authorities of his day…

But there is a set up – that we will miss if we don’t back up a few verses…

This is actually the day after Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem – a day we call Palm Sunday…we know about Palm Sunday, right? Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem – on a donkey colt – Hosanna! Hosanna! The people cried – as they waved branches and put their cloaks on the road before him – a sign that they were recognizing Jesus as a potential leader – a victor, maybe even, the messiah!

After he arrived in the city…

Matthew 21:12-17 (The Message)
12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;

You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

15-16 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”

17 Fed up, Jesus turned on his heel and left the city for Bethany, where he spent the night.

Then there’s a whole section where Jesus is so frustrated he zaps a poor fig tree – we won’t go there today…

Now, can you see with this background the implications of today’s reading…by throwing out the money changers Jesus was upsetting the economy of the Temple - and it was a major feast week - folks were coming from all over the known world with their own moneys - and it had to be changed into temple currency so that they could buy their offerings for Passover week. 

No temple money, no sacrifices, no sacrifices and the visitors to the city were disobeying the rules - breaking God's commands as overseen by the religious leaders of the day.

But when Jesus threw out the money changers he did something else that could be overlooked at first reading..."Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them."

God's economy was being transformed by a new way of looking at the value of things, people, and the institutional systems that were in place.

NOW we can understand why the religious leaders were questioning Jesus' authority – by what right is this, this Galilean trying to re-write our rules, our laws? By what right is he re-defining our way of life?

From whom does Jesus get his authority?

From the Father…of course we know the answer to the question… and because those who were less learned trusted Jesus, responded to John’s baptism by water and the spirit and put their faith in God as taught by Jesus – their path was the one of the son who repented and turned toward the fields.

So whats our excuse?

We have all of these resources at our hands…we have, hopefully, a clearer understanding of who Matthew was writing to, and the religious and political events of the day…are we going to do something? Are we going to respond to God’s call and claim on our lives???

Or are we just going to give lip service to God?

We can see the unfolding of Jesus’ last days – days where his actions spoke as loud as his words…the implications of clearing the money changers – wasn’t as much a political action as it was to make room for those who were on the fringes – on the edges of society – outcast and prevented access to the Father… just as his verbal sparring with the religious leaders –

He wasn’t condemning them, but he was prodding them to walk the walk that they were espousing…

To turn their lives around and repent – to say yes to God and for their yes to mean yes…to enter the vineyard and gather the harvest of all…not just those who looked like them and dressed like them – but expand the net to gather in God’s beloved children – even the tax collector and the prostitute have a place in the Kingdom of God…

Reading scripture this way is dangerous, boys and girls… you have a choice – as you break in your new Bibles…and for us older folks – as we read our Bibles…

You may read it as an old book that has some words that help us be nice people…or you can dig in with your eyes wide open – explore the world as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul knew it…a world not too unlike ours, when you get right to the core of it…

And you can then let God’s word illumine your lives and inspire you to be kind and gentle and passionate about the building up of the Kingdom of God – so that it means something when we pray…thy kingdom come, thy will be done – on earth as it is in heaven.

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

Just out of curiosity:

What is your favorite scripture passage?  Why?  What is happening in the Story of God before and after the verses you know and love?  

Would love to hear from you!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

what we can learn from Peter and a fellow by the name of John Wesley

To follow is this morning's sermon - using the lectionary reading from the day with a good dose of John Wesley's early life, I invite us to consider what it means to get out of the boat in our faith journey.

(please forgive the punctuation and grammatical errors - this is my sermon manuscript)

Matthew 14:22-33:

22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 And Jesus said, “Come.”

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.

33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”


At the age of 32, having completed a couple of years of teaching Greek at Oxford college and knowing that he wasn’t suited for traditional parish ministry like his father, John Wesley volunteered to be a missionary to the colonies. He felt like God had called him to bring the Word of God to the settlers and the savages who lived along the new frontier. 
A young John Wesley

Crossing the ocean in 1735, long before satellites, an understanding of the weather and first class cabins, was not an easy voyage…it would take more than 3 months for John and his brother Charles, on the tiny wooden ship to cross to the Province of Georgia, where John was to be a missionary to Savannah and Charles would serve as assistant to James Oglethorpe, who had established the colony of Georgia in 1733.

The Wesley brothers had the very best education possible in their day, like their father they were ordained priests in the Anglican Church – they wrote and spoke numerous languages including Greek and Latin, they also took serious holiness of heart and life – that whole living like Jesus lived and taught, they really believed it – this is something that many of the Anglican priests of the day didn’t do. For John and Charles serving God was their life – they studied scripture, they visited those in prison, they cared for the hungry and poor, they went without so that they could give all they had away.

And yet, John would admit, that he did this as much out of fear as out of any other emotion – he worked tirelessly to please God….but did he know a loving, merciful compassionate God at the young age of 32… Oh, and one more thing - he was afraid of dying because he really was not sure what would happen when he met Christ face to face…

Going to the new world satisfied this longing to do something that mattered, he wanted to be a man of significance, but he wasn’t quite sure what this would look like.

On board the ship – Wesley and Charles had a regular schedule…its enough to make your head spin… Wesley wrote in his journal:

Tuesday, October 21.—We sailed from Gravesend. When we were past about half the Goodwin Sands, the wind suddenly failed. Had the calm continued till ebb, the ship had probably been lost. But the gale sprang up again in an hour, and carried us into the Downs.

We now began to be a little regular. Our common way of living was this: From four in the morning till five each of us used private prayer. From five to seven we read the Bible together, carefully comparing it (that we might not lean to our own understandings) with the writings of the earliest ages. At seven we breakfasted. At eight were the public prayers.

From nine to twelve I usually learned German, and Mr. Delamotte, Greek. My brother wrote sermons, and Mr. Ingham instructed the children. At twelve we met to give an account of one another what we had done since our last meeting, and what we designed to do before our next. About one we dined.

The afternoon and evening continued in this manner. and you wonder why they were called – Methodists?

The only thing to change their schedule was when a storm blew up…
Robert Salmon:  Storm at Sea

Saturday, January 17.—Many people were very impatient at the contrary wind. At seven in the
evening they were quieted by a storm. It rose higher and higher till nine. About nine the sea broke over us from stem to stern; burst through the windows of the state cabin, where three or four of us were, and covered us all over, though a bureau sheltered me from the main shock. About eleven I lay down in the great cabin and in a short time fell asleep, though very uncertain whether I should wake alive and much ashamed of my unwillingness to die. Oh, how pure in heart must he be, who would rejoice to appear before God at a moment’s warning! Toward morning, “He rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm” (quoting from the Gospel of Matthew 8:26)

You can see how John, this well educated and proper theologian was a mess – not only because he was afraid, but because he understood deep in his heart that he shouldn’t be afraid, and yet, he couldn’t see any other way of being.

On Sunday, January 25 John writes:

At noon our third storm began. At four it was more violent than before.  At seven I went to the Germans. I had long before observed the great seriousness of their  behavior….In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sang on. I asked one of them afterward, “Were you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied, mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die”

How is it that this small group of immigrants who were traveling to the new world to start a new life for their families – were able to calmly singing praise songs and reading scripture? – not just the leaders, every last one of them!

I want some of that, Wesley thought to himself… how could they be so calm?

When they finally landed in Savannah in February, 1736, John’s quest for ‘some of that’ continued – Wesley’s time in Savannah did not end well, he actually left under the dark of night for refusing to serve communion to an on again off again girl friend and her new husband – poor John.

On the way back to England he wrote the following…

"I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near; but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, 'To die is gain!'

John Wesley’s spiritual wrestling would continue for another 6 months or so – until his heart was strangely warmed during a Bible study with some Moravians on Aldersgate Street.

It was after this that John was pushed and pulled out of the metaphorical boat – to take up preaching outside of the confines of the ordinary church buildings – an occasion that he called most vile - and yet it was in doing so that he began to have a passion to preach and teach the least and the lost, the poor and the down trodden all over England. His brother Charles returned to England and joined him in this venture – and within 50 years the Methodist movement, a movement based on 6 to12 spiritual friends gathering together for prayer and support of one another - was thriving – all over the British Isles and across the new world as well.

6 to 12 spiritual friends – to walk alongside each other, to encourage one another, to hold another accountable in Christian love. To turn to in good times as well as bad, to be willing to open up ones heart to call the other into account….

This is in our DNA, friends…as Christ followers and as members of the United Methodist Church. I believe that the United Methodist church as we know it will die, unless we begin to be more intentional about being in relationship and community with one another – forming groups of fellowship, study and accountability – just as Jesus did with his disciples…

It was because of his relationship with his brother Charles, George Whitfield, Moravian missionary Peter Bohler and others that John Wesley was able to face his greatest fear – a lonely death and a life with out meaning – and stepped out of the boat.

As I think about Jesus – and this morning’s scripture lesson I can’t help but think about the other 11 disciples – we make fun of Peter some times, for being brash, and pushy and yet – here he is willing to step out of the boat…

The other 11…not so much…why do you think they were too afraid to get out of the boat…was it fear of seeing Jesus as one who could command the very sea? Walking across the water was an act of power and strength – surely he IS the Son of God they thought when they realized it was Jesus coming their way. Maybe it was the wind or the rain or perhaps their own self-centeredness that made them deaf in the moment, unable to fathom let alone hear God’s call and claim on their lives…they were unwilling to take a risk for the Master’s sake.

So what’s the point of these two stories?

Well – what about it, church? Are we like Peter – willing to stand up and take a step out in the churning waters, willing to risk failure for our love of God, our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior? or do we prefer to throw a tarp over our heads and wait out the storm?

Remember most of the disciples were fisherman –  they weren’t afraid of the storm – they were afraid of the miraculous appearance of Jesus!   Look again at Matthew 14:

24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed. 27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Are we going to live a life of fear, wrapped up in our own individual insecurities or are we going to take a step in faith, and commit to walk with one another as disciples of Jesus?

Twentieth-century Presbyterian theologian and writer Frederick Buechner writes, 

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”

Its here…waiting for you…a meaningful relationship with God through faith in Christ, this is possible by being in unity and community with people who care about you – and will support you as your life blossoms with hope and encouragement, leading to a future with meaning…

Are you ready to step out of the boat?  If so, let's talk about how you can take next step to be a part of a small group here at Trinity UMC.

Remember – Jesus is here saying the same thing to us as that did to his first 12 disciples…

“Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”  

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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

whatcha gonna do?

Since last summer when Ethan  participated in Running from Malaria, my younger son Justin has been brainstorming ideas to raise money for Imagine No Malaria.  A few weeks ago when he asked if he could color his hair, I said - only if you're doing it for a good cause.  So, we agreed that he could color it blue, for $500 in contributions to Imagine No Malaria.

'Great idea,' I said.  'But what if folks donate $1000?'  'Well,' he responded, 'I guess I'll have to dye it pink!' you go...$1036 in donations.  Wow!  Thank you Trinity United Methodist Church!

And while this may seem silly, consider that because of the generosity of this one community of faith, 100 families half way around the world will receive bed nets...this could save the lives of hundreds of children.  Children who die needlessly from an illness that is both preventable and curable, thanks to those who said yes to eradicating Malaria.

So, thank you, everyone for your support of our young people who say YES to Jesus, and yes to making a difference in the world, even if that means that their hair will be blue, or pink or purple for a few months this summer.  It's a small price to pay.

Well done Justin - and friend Connor - who joined him in coloring his hair this evening in celebration of the $1000+ donation!  So very proud of you both!

Be on the look out next week at the Iowa Annual Conference...Justin will be there as a diakonos and he has some more great ideas to help push us over the 2 million dollar mark!

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Recently I ‘pinked’ a load of laundry.  You know what I’m talking about…when a random item of clothing (in this case a red t-shirt) bleeds all over the clothes in the washer.  In my haste to clean up the laundry room I neglected to pull all of the lights from darks.  To top it all off the t-shirt had never been washed.  Ugh!

I pulled out the dark colored clothes and tossed them in the dryer then I tried to lighten the affects of ‘pinking’ by using a Rit Dye remover and washing everything in hot water. I couldn’t wait for the load to get finished so I could see how I did.  Sigh.  No change.  So I washed the load yet again, this time with a heavy dose of bleach.  You guessed it; everything is still a lovely shade of pink.

I have wracked my brain trying to figure out a way to reverse the stain, but at some point I am going to have to make peace with the fact that I now have one less tablecloth and one of the boys has a ruined dress shirt.

I hate it.  I am angry with myself.  But eventually I need to toss the pink load of wash in the dryer and move on.  I will also need to find a way to forgive myself.

How many of us have made mistakes in life that we are still wearing - like an unnaturally pinked shirt?  How many of us keep fighting the same battles, searching for answers in all the wrong places?  Trying to erase all signs of our mistakes is human, but it isn’t spiritually healthy.

We have all fallen short.  We have all sinned.  It is likely that we will sin again.  This is part and parcel with being human.  However, we have the opportunity, dare I say the responsibility, to learn from our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them.  AND we desperately need to forgive ourselves so that we can move forward. 

I believe the number one spiritual ailment in the 21st Century is the burden the people carry around because they can’t or won’t accept God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.

Jesus knew about these sorts of burdens, many are self imposed because good people think that they have to beat themselves up to begin to make reparations to God for their sinful ways. I think this may be why so many people have dropped out of church, because it can all become so exhausting.  But God’s grace doesn’t work this way.  The Good News is that Jesus offers an alternative vision; a new way of living that speaks to the basic needs of each and every one of us:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  
(The words of Jesus, Matthew 11:27-29  The Message)

The unforced rhythms of grace include prayer, worship, participating in acts of justice and mercy (service to others) and other spiritual practices that bring us into an awareness of our loving God.   

During this Easter season let's celebrate the ways that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples after that first resurrection morning.  We are also invited to celebrate the ways that God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness are extended to us, each and every day!  Even when, especially when, we mess up.

Peace to you and yours,

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bad Friday? Be Encouraged...

Justin - today
To follow is my latest article for the local, Waverly, newspaper.  Special thanks to Justin, my 15 year old, who gave me permission to tell the story of: Bad Friday.

In our house, the Friday before Easter isn't called Good Friday – in our house, it’s Bad Friday.  
Seven years ago, I was a seminary student serving Apple River United Methodist Church near Galena, Illinois.  Our youngest, Justin, was playing tag in the park when a friend threw a stick at him that tore open the side of his mouth.  I heard his screams and raced to find my 8-year-old son.  We met on the front steps, and he was bloodied and tears were streaming down his face.
We drove the 6 miles to Doc Cleary’s office in record time, but he said there wasn't anything he could do other than numb him up and send us on to a plastic surgeon 30 some miles away.  
Justin's one request was that he be put to sleep while the doctor stitched him up, but the doctor explained he couldn’t do so in his office. Justin agreed to stay awake.  We cried silently through the 45 minutes and over 30 stitches it took to put his mouth and cheek back together.  
We returned home exhausted.  It was then that I thought about the community Good Friday service.  I had just spent the day with MY son, MY precious son as he bled and screamed out in pain.  I didn’t think I could 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 as I stayed home.  The next day, I struggled to make sense of it all as I put the finishing touches on my Easter sermon.  The words that had brought joy and hope to me in the past rang hollow.  Justin would be scarred for life because of this, he was unable to eat, his face was swollen and he still cried out in pain. How is this fair?
Somehow, by the grace of God, we made it through the Easter Sunday Service.  
As I tried to focus on the work that I had ahead of me, I realized that I was in a deep funk.  I emailed my professors to request an extension on some course work.  One of my professors, Dr. Les Longden, then taught me an important lesson.  He wrote back; 'Deb, sometimes we need to spend more time in the tomb.  And that’s ok.'
It would have been within God's power to resurrect Jesus 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 Easter Sunday signified the ushering in of the New Creation.  Because of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost we are all new creations!
Some of us are ready to embrace this gift now.  Some of us need some more time in the tomb before we are able to say with peace, hope, and joy - Christ is Risen!  Christ is Risen, indeed!   
Until then, time in the tomb is not wasted time - it is time to work things out by the grace of God.  Regardless of our Bad Fridays (or Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays…) Jesus promises to always, always, always be with us.  Always.
As we approach Holy Week it is my prayer that you are richly blessed by the worship experiences that are offered in our various faith communities.  I hope that you will lean into the telling of the story, our Story; that unfolds from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and triumphantly Easter Sunday morning.   
And if you need some more time in the tomb I pray that you don't try to go it alone...I pray that you have a brother or sister in Christ to be present with you to remind you that God is ALWAYS present even on bad Friday.  
“I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” (The words of Jesus. John 16:33)