Mission Statement

Cyber Sabbath's goal is to begin to mend the division between Christ and the world (society) that Church has created through reflections, sermons and devotionals

Cyber Sabbath is a place for the stifled Christian voice to be heard. Media gives way to much time to the extremist - over looking the theologically educated and/or the moderates in favor of what sells their view point. Here, politics aside, a pastor reflects on God's voice in every day life.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Unfolds...

Watching Christmas unfold through the eyes of children is truly a special sight.  When my oldest was three, we were traveling through New York City.  And there outside one of the train stations we came upon a giant Christmas Tree.  With wide wondrous eyes, she exclaimed “WOW this is a lot of Christmas here!”  She was overwhelmed by the display as it was bigger than anything else she had seen.  Every year since with bright awestruck eyes she points out every decorated Christmas tree she sees.  And that is just one beautiful example of Christmas decorations – there are plenty: from snowmen to Rudolph. From snow globes to stockings; from wreaths to poinsettias; this is the holiday for decorating.  Stores begin putting Christmas decorations up earlier and earlier each year – now as early as September.  But whenever they get taken out and put up the tradition of decorating during this season is contagious.  Some may decorate for Easter and fewer yet will decorate for lent, advent, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and no one ever decorates their home for occasions like Pentecost.  But Christmas is the one Christian holiday we all do.

And so we celebrate the birth of the baby with such color and excitement that it is easy to forget that Jesus’ beginning was anything but.  In fact one might consider his entrance into this world to very dull.  It is pretty specular that from such a humble birth God’s wonder was revealed to be bigger then we all imagined.  That through the simple baby God’s grace was brought into this world.  Mary delivered a baby whose life was bigger than she could imagine – trusting God she pondered all these prophesies in her heart.  And a simple little package, a humble baby wrapped in bands of cloth lying the manger became the greatest gift we come to know on Earth – our Savior Christ! WOW

No wonder we want to spread this message of love, hope, joy and peace through cheer and decoration; through vivid colors and bright presents; through bows and packages bright until our awestruck eyes glimmer with joy exclaiming “Merry Christmas One and All!”

Today, we heard the Good News of Luke – the angels spoke to the awestruck Shepherd who in wonder and amazement thought “wow, that was an angel – could this be real?” And in that moment they searched in order to find, the greatest gift of all, the infant Savior.

But the greatest decorations and the brightest and biggest packages under the tree are triumphed when we remember what is offered to us through our faith and trust in Christ.  You see the Shepherds who were tending their sheep believed and followed the angels instructions and came upon the infant and with awestruck eyes the angels truth was told. 

It would have been pretty incredible to be one of those shepherds to have witness the angel speak and the heavenly host singing praises.  That would have been a sight for sure and surely enough to make one believe…but unfortunately none of us are old enough to have been witness that.  And yet we still believe!  None of us saw the infant Jesus wrapped and lying in a manger and YET we have come to know Christ in our own ways and have come to feel his love and to believe.  One does not have see to believe one has to feel to know.  And we have all felt the love of Christ throughout our lives. 

Sometimes God’s love seems as big and bright and as full as our Christmas decorations.  There are many “big” events in our life in which we are sure that God grace is filling our hearts and we know that the presence of the Holy is here.  But much of our lives is pretty ordinary.  Much of our lives isn’t spent in anticipation of God’s grace, isn’t spent with decorations reminding us of his love.  Much of our lives isn’t spent believing without doubt. 

The shepherds left Mary and her infant knowing that the things the angel told them were true and they came to pass.  Mary was left pondering all that had happened in her heart.  This Christmas let us remember that through a humble beginning God brought us the greatest gift of all – through an ordinary women God’s son was born.  Without lights or presents Jesus was born into this world on a dark evening vulnerable and without shelter. 

Whatever we may be without this Christmas season let us be filled with the love that God had for us knowing that he sent his only son to come to know humanity not for the awestruck wonder of our lives sometimes but for the quiet and vulnerable moments that make up most of our lives.  And that the biggest present doesn’t fit under the tree and can’t be wrapped for it is God’s grace and mercy.  Let us accept the amazing grace that is the Christ Child and spread the love of God now and forever knowing and pondering that God has even more planned for us.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Current Events

As I look back at the violence that has occurred and the aftermath the last few weeks I realize I should have responded earlier.  In part I did not because I couldn't, because anything I said wouldn't have been right.  When tragedy hits, there is no answer.  There is nothing any religious or spiritual person can say that will make everything better or make the pain go away.  There is NO easy button for pain and there is not a panic button that opens up the maze of chaos into an easy path out.  For these reasons, I didn't respond.  For nothing really needed to be said.  Silence can be grief's best friend and in the wake of violence responding with silence is better then blame.

We can blame religious groups, we can blame guns, we can blame governments and we can find escape goats in every situation.  But we need to own our own part in the story - our own contributions to each day that continue to stir the fires extremist, hate and most of all the anger that is needed for violence. 

I am shocked at what people on FB just repost - most of all shocked for the amount of crazy things people believe and forward without looking into.  We continue to divide ourselves and the world up by forgetting about the grey - forgetting about compassion and grace.  We continue to make hasty and rash decisions and assumptions based on a few "news" worthy situations.  We continue to trust that the "news" is actually reporting all of the news. 

Anger, pain, violence, hate all that is evil is all around us.  When we continue to blame and pin others as the reason for all the bad we are only living into evil.  We are giving in and giving a name to the evil around us - the devil. 

God has not left us.  God has not forgotten about us.  God does not continue to let all the bad things happen in the world.  God is not watching us from afar and laughing at the destruction, but is instead weeping.  Weeping with all of us who know that it is the world that has turned its back on God. 

There is no war on Christmas.  Christmas is here and all round us.  People are "giving" in the "Spirit of Christmas" People are singing hymns of Christ's birth.  But what all Christian's are forgetting is that this is not the time of "Christmas" - we are in the time of "Advent."  A time of longing for Christ to come.  A time for us to yearn for Christ in our lives.  A time of thought, a time of wait and reflection.  Let us then reflect, that perhaps now this Christmas.  Instead of finding a nicely wrapped Christmas present under the tree. Instead of giving to an organization that will probably use your funds unwisely.  Perhaps, you let God into your heart.  Perhaps this holiday you take down one - or more - of your Facebook shares that continues to "other" people.  Perhaps we open our hearts to the others around us, letting in love and grace.  Perhaps this holiday we find real compassion in our hearts and live not so that the Devil has a name but so that all may truly know the name of our Savior - Christ Jesus.   

Sunday, November 8, 2015

God's enormous blessings can come...

Rumor has it that a Puerto Rican and a white girl are moving into the yellow house.  The for-sale sign now reads “sold” and the anticipation of who is moving in can be felt amongst all the neighbors.  The elderly white man next door couldn’t care for he has long forgotten how.  He doesn’t mind noise, his ears don’t work.  He doesn’t mind crime, he has nothing to steal.  He doesn’t mind mess, his house has needed work for years.  The Asian couple on the corner just had a baby and don’t seem to notice much of anything else.  The children are the ones who notice and proclaim there must be children.  They are afraid their “playground” will be taken away.  When move in day comes, rumor has already hit home and the Puerto Ricans across the way come and welcome one of their own.  It will not be until the move out that they realize it is Italian and not Puerto Rican blood that gives the homeowner his color.  The children greet the couple explaining that since their yard is the biggest on the block – a selling point from the realtor – they always played in it and couldn’t wait to play with the new kids; they were disappointed to learn no children would be moving in that day.  But as the block became home and the neighbors grew to know each other, most days you could find the children playing in and amongst the back yard or eating from the various berry bushes planted in the fencing. 

For most days this was a picture of growing up in America and how blended a city life could be; but behind the close doors of the neighbors lived the messy and truly difficult lives of these people.  Down the street from the yellow house lived two children, the oldest trying to keep him and his sister feed would take his family food stamp card and walk to the grocery store and buy food.  His parents, who weren’t married but for the most part stayed together far longer than most married couples, were drug dealers.  Mostly light stuff like pot but still they didn’t leave home much and never answered the door when you happen to knock out of the blue.  Certainty they didn’t go to church but they made sure that their kids did – each summer they forced the near by VBS (Vacation Bible School) on both their children.  Every once and awhile the daughter would ask questions to “white girl” in the yellow house about God.  But the neighbor to the right was the most intriguing.  There lived a woman with three boys, all from different fathers.  The youngest father often lived in the house but many days wasn’t welcome, he had a drinking problem.  She tried to teach her boys right from wrong and she spent more money on rent in order to keep them at least a physically away from gangs.  One day her middle son who had development and mental delays was playing in the yellow house’s back yard.  He was running along the house and bam!  He ran straight into the vent cover for the dryer, breaking it off the house.  Sheepishly he knocked on the door.  He looked shocked when the response was “are you ok?” and after finding out he was the next response was “thank you for being truthful.”  He ran home.  He confessed to his mom because he couldn’t believe that the neighbors weren’t mad.  After that he made friends with the yellow house couple.  He would come over to talk and to eat cookies and one night when the drunk sort-of boyfriend arrived at their house, he and his youngest brother found shelter and a safe place until the police worked everything out in the yellow house.  And it was the yellow house that checked on the neighbor when his wife ended up in the hospital, offering a hot meal in the late evening when he would arrive home.  And it was the neighborhood that rallied together when the MS women’s husband was put into jail for smuggling crack between counties to make sure that her lawn was mowed, her garbage was taken out and her walk way was free of snow. 

It was a neighborhood that came together to make sure that even at life’s messiest points people were not left behind.  That needs were met and God’s love was shown.  I’m reminded that another neighborhood not too many miles from the yellow house experienced great tragedy one night when a domestic dispute became violent and after a rush to the hospital ended in death.   The woman stated she didn’t know where to go, she didn’t know any of her neighbors to seek their help in the middle of the night. This is certainly not the life that God is calling any of these neighbors, or us to live.  We are reminded that God grace extends beyond even the messiest of life’s circumstances.

It is in these difficult moments in life that we hope people feel the amazing grace of God working within and through each other.  It takes everyone treating each other with kindness.  And this is what church and our religious family should be about.  But often we don’t let it.  God knows that our life isn’t perfect that it is messy and sometimes down right chaotic.  God knows that each day we try to live into the boxes of the homes we have made but that often life is oozing out of the sides.  Yet we often don’t admit that.  Neighborhoods are becoming less like the yellow house’s and more like acquaintances nodding at each other on garbage day; but more importantly churches which are not usually comprised of “the neighborhood” anymore are becoming places where we go but we don’t share.  No one knows the “real” mess of anyone’s life and the consequences are leaving us without room for God’s grace and mercy to truly shine.  We sit in the pews on Sunday “pulled” together but no one knows the strings that are close to unraveling.  The book of Ruth is a wonderful reminder to each that each family has its struggles, has its past but most importantly that the bad does not define or prevent the good.  Ruth reminds us that it is good to be honest about ourselves and our own mess in order for God’s grace to be felt.  Naomi’s strength in returning home shows us how one brave and faith-filled decision can lead to God’s enormous blessing.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Balm of God

There is a hymn call "There is a Balm in Gilead" and the refrain is pretty powerful: There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul...

A great hymn.  For those who have been in church recently you may have heard a sermon on Job, currently lectionary is following this fun-loving fellow (note the sarcasm).   Job is a righteous man in God's eyes, perhaps more so then Abraham and he lives in Uz, which is translated as to reflect or meditate.  This book is one meant to be reflected on and to give us pause.  In Job we meet a man who because of Satan experiences a lot of pain and suffering in a short period of time and begins to ask the question that still plaques us today "WHY? WHY is there suffering?  Why do bad things happen to people who seem to be good?" After several days of being good pastoral care friends, his friends lose ground when they finally speak with him and try to get him to admit to living a bad life.  They are assuming that if these things are happening then Job must not be as righteous as he says he is, there must be hidden things.   Perhaps the judgment we find ourselves offering others?  But Job in desperation pleads to God. 

As faithful people - or people searching - the good news is that there is a balm for our agony - Christ our Savior.  This balm doesn't mean that our life is going to be all about the "easy" button or that our desires will be ours.  Believing in Christ and following God does not entitled us to either an "easy button" or a "name that price tool" it does however entitle us to GRACE.  And through grace our souls can be made whole or sin-sick soul can be saved. 

Recently I had a raise Jewish, Communist, Russian and who studied Christianity ask me why there was evil in the world.  When I took the easy way out and answer if there wasn't evil we wouldn't be able to know the shear wonder of God's love she kissed my hand.  In her years no one ever tried to answer that question.  Job asks this big question, why is there suffering and more importantly why is there senseless suffering.  We are reminded in Job that even in the suffering God is there.  God does not abandon but is instead there. 

We cannot understand all that there is to know about our world or about God.  We cannot proclaim to know the goodness of our lives or the blessing to be the only measure of our righteousness.  However, we can know that God is there always for us.  We can as faithful people find God even in the midst of our struggles but more importantly we can find grace!  Through our faith in Christ, we can be whole.  Sure we may still carry a scare around with us - but who doesn't?  Christ is here to heal our souls to give us wholeness and to offer something not found on Earth - GRACE. Now that is something to rejoice in. 

As everyone is getting ready to celebrate Halloween and the demons or scary things remember that the scariest and deepest places for us are those furthest from God's love.  But rejoice in knowing that God does not abandon us, instead God continues to encourage us, strength us and give us hope.  Let us know that our souls can be healed and made whole through Christ the Savior.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

God Winks

God winks are when we our lives are touched by God and a blessing is felt.  Daily I feel that God winks in my life and except for sharing with my husband and occasionally on Facebook I usually don't share my winks with everyone.  Some days I feel like Mary who "pondered all in her heart" at the birth of Christ, for the blessings bring great meaning and joy.  Some days I feel like the Christian world may not be ready for my blessing as it calls into question some of the norms and I just don't feel like fighting with people about God and other days I just don't share because it reveals more about my personal life than people want to know (as a Pastor one must remain in a certain view by the public, which can and does change based on who is viewing and although you might feel like you may never, you should still try to remain this way). 

Either way, I think I should stop living in such a way.  As God continually shows me that we learn through testimony and example.  That people come to faith through testimony - look at the Bible!  And so I will begin sharing my winks with you, when God has truly touched my life and reminded me that no matter where I am at on a giving day, God is with me.

As a chaplain I experience God throughout the day. I feel God's presence as I pray with people and as I hold Holy conversation.  I know God is working throughout people's lives and I am often brought to someone because of God's push or pull instead of my own desires.   One day I visited a man who had left the church several decades ago.  Mostly in anger over politics, a story that I hear daily.  As this man wonder the world - literary he traveled for a living - he experienced great things and many religions.  He was left with a feeling of doubt and yet belief.  He knew there to be a God, he had experienced that in war; yet he didn't know he could believe in the God of the church.  So he was left to sitting in a state of "unbelief" and yet "belief."  We had a very deep conversation about the God he had experienced in his life and perhaps that being the answer in itself.  He joked that if he got to heaven, which he wasn't sure there was one or that he was good enough for, he would let me know.  I joked that if I got there first, I would let him know.  (we both knew he was going first).  The night he died, I had a dream of him.  I usually don't remember my dreams.  As I usually don't get much sleep, I often don't dream and yet I woke up with a profound feeling of that dream.  I shared with my husband that morning I had a dream I needed to share.  I didn't know the man had died until later, except when I heard it, my dream made sense. 

In my dream, my church (which is very welcoming) was having a potluck and the elevator door opened and this man, who had never stepped foot in the church before, was there and was greeted with a warm welcome.  Wheeled the front and offered a meal.  I know that his entrance into the Kingdom was one in which God warmly welcomed a searching believer who finally found his home. 

You see, it takes more then just going to church to be a truly righteous believer.  It takes looking at the church and struggling when you see it do wrong.  It also takes realizing the good and uplifting it.  This man didn't struggle with God, he struggled with the church and with the teachings.  He struggled with his own worthiness because he did't fit into the box that the church likes us to check.  He struggled with God most of his adult life not because he didn't believe but because he cared enough to believe the God he had experienced which was different from the God found in some churches.

Jesus reminds us that we must "cut off" our limbs that are sinning; 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. (Mark 9:43). 

In this case, this man felt his church was causing him to sin as he did not feel he could uphold all its teachings.  And yet, he never felt he could "find" another church.  He felt disconnected from church and considered himself disconnected from God.  What a way to live your life.

Don't make this mistake!  There are churches out there that are teaching things you would like! But more importantly, there are Christians out there you can join in fellowship.  Where 3 or more are gathered in Jesus' name, God is there!  Let us go out then and be the church.  Let us welcome all and most importantly let us testify to the God winks in our life.  For if this man had heard from others their love for not just their church but also God, he may have found a church home instead of living his life searching until his death.   Although he was welcomed home, let us strive to live a life in which we feel and know the Kingdom in the here and now.

Let us spread our God winks!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Let's Be REAL

Sitting in the recliner with a hospital gown draped on each side of his body sat a middle-aged Christian waiting for a Chaplain visit. He was happy I arrived and began to express his journey to believing in great detail.  At the end of his upbeat tale, I asked him what led him to the hospital.  He proceed to tell me his story, which was pretty trying for anyone.  A wife diagnosed with a long-term illness and after many years trying to manger her care at home he finally placed her in a Nursing Home, which was finically crushing him; after years of already being crushed by her medical bills.  They had no children and so he was now alone.  His parents were gone, her father was alive but also in a Nursing Home and most of the time didn’t understand why his daughter never visited.  On top of this, the man had recently lost his job and was in the middle of selling his house.  Deciding to find a hope for his dog was the finally straw and he ended up having a heart attack and was now here at the hospital.  In tears he told me his story, but the funny thing was this wasn’t the same man who just told me about this beautiful relationship with a God that provides and offers blessings to those who believe.  So I asked him about this clear divide and his response hit me to my core.  “Oh I can’t be mad at God for any of that, or God will abandon me.”

My God is certainly not a God that abandon’s anyone! We do a good job of abandoning God as humans, but seriously where did this guy get this philosophy.  Surprisingly from Church; was the church teaching this or was this the man’s own interpretation I’ll never know, but to come away from Church with this kind of view was pretty heart breaking to me.

A relationship with the Holy, is like of that found in Eden – intimate.  God knows our thoughts, our plans, us at our worst and at our best.  God knows.  And so we are called to in relationship with God lift up all our burdens.  Moses when in the dessert with the Israelites yells to God (numbers 11) something like: “you stuck me with this people, called me to do this and this is what I have to put up with.  I am at my wits’ end! Do something!”  God does not just abandon Moses, he gives him 70 men to help shoulder the burden. 

When we teach reward – consequences in our ministry, or that only those who are righteous are reward then we get into a very bad pattern of allowing good people, who are going through bad things to feel abandon by God.  This man was essentially “hiding” his worries from God and not lifting up his burden’s in prayer all because he thought that if he did, worse would happen.  All because he thought he wasn’t living a thankful enough life or doing everything right when it came to praying and devotionals.  If only he prayed more, read more or studied harder then he would be able to see what he was doing ‘wrong’ and make it right. 

God doesn’t magically fix problems, but God can provide the tools needed for you to get through your problems.  Perhaps if this gentlemen was seeking God’s strength instead of avoiding God’s wrath he wouldn’t have had a heart attack.  He wouldn’t have kept all that in with presenting the face of happiness.  Let us all see if we can find a way to be real with God.  

Friday, October 9, 2015

A real family...

We arrived, we aren’t late, we aren’t early – we are here.  I rejoice!  It isn’t like this is a big deal, we have arrived at the YMCA for swim lessons yet it is in itself an accomplishment that we have made it.  The baby still doesn’t have socks on (I believe we have some in the diaper bag, OK I prayed we had some in the diaper bag as we walked out the door); the oldest combed her own hair and well I probably should’ve gone back over it; as we are walking into the Y with three bags I realize the middle child has breakfast left on his face.

YET we had arrived!

I am sure that each morning I hope for more; but I am not sure that is possible.  Some people have children that are seemingly perfect in dress and in general “put-to-gether-ness” not me.  Some days are much better than others and my diaper bag is probably stuffed with more things then yours (as I am often that parent who other’s borrow from); yet in general we are far from perfect.  But it is the little things that our children will remember.  The time I spent with them playing instead of matching socks.  The countless time I put face paint on them just for fun – they won’t remember the days afterwards when the said face paint didn’t come out and they went around with purple eyebrows or green chins.  Hopefully they won’t remember us a chaotic but instead fun.

Some days I look at other parents who seemingly have it “all together” and wish to be them.  But other days I am glad that we are just us.  We are masters at getting ourselves together enough to be presented in the world and have fun.  We may not all have socks on but we do have our feet covered and we are ready.  We enjoy each other’s company and most importantly we have a relationship with God.  Our children know God and I bet understand God to be a pretty unorganized ;)  after all the pictures of creation pretty much show the chaos that transformed into creation…

Life doesn’t fit into neat boxes or squares and neither does God.  God isn’t a one size fits all relationship – in fact Jesus enter relationship with his disciples differently.  He accept them just as they were and just where they were at.  Children have a remarkable sense of God and spiritual understanding they know the true limitlessness of God.  Jesus often said “let the children come” or “enter as a child” because children have a perspective on the world that we are adults have mostly lost. 

Yes, some might see our rushed walk into the YMCA with barely together children as a sign of how dysfunctional our family can be…however I see the story behind our rush in.  I know that we played instead of making our beds; I know we eat breakfast together and read about Joseph that morning, I know we, excited about swim lessons, took too long picking out our bathing suit and I know that we couldn’t find swim diapers.  But most importantly I know that God doesn’t care if we go to the YMCA disheveled; or church for that matter.  God doesn’t care because we are in relationship with the Creator. We are living our lives not for others but for God.  We are striving to teach our children to do right by following Jesus and living into the life God has called us to.  We are encouraging our children to have grateful hearts and giving lives.  We are hopeful that they won’t care if they don’t have the latest fades but instead satisfied for the blessing of God in our lives. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

World Communion Sunday

Today is World-Wide Communion Sunday.  On this day people across the globe all took communion.  That might not seem like a pretty big deal, especially to churches and people who take communion every Sunday but today we are reminded that there is more then just us and more then just our church but we are apart of the greater - Church of Christ.

One member of a church was told me how important it was for them to take communion in a pew, with the small shot-glass style cup  and the individual square of bread, as oppose to dipping or drinking out of the communion cup.  She reminded me, an avid fan in which you come up to the front and drip your bread in ONE cup, that communion in the pews can be very powerful!  She stated that she sits in the pew, which is in a church over 200 years old, and thinks about all the people who sat there before her and all the people who will sit there - here ancestors and those she isn't related to and it brings the communion to a deeper level, one that goes beyond just communion with Christ but with in which brings her into community with all those past, present and future.  Powerful reminder of what communion is really about!

We are reminded today that God is bigger and greater than we can imagine. That the bride of Christ - the Church is also called to not just look within our 4 walls but to go beyond our church and into the world.  We are the body of Jesus in the world and to be such we have to look beyond ourselves and to each other.  As we hold the bread and consume the wine we are touched by Christ in our lives and in the lives of all those who call him Savior. 

Let us remember today the number of people around the world who we share in community with.  That we will always have a friend out there in them and more importantly that on this day we share in the vision of Christ as Prince of Peace offering to all the grace and love that only God can give. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

FALL into ....

I love fall, the changing of the leaves and the wonderful colors that surround us.  The smells of warm apples and fresh baked foods replace the smells of grilling and I am happy.  And yet the fall also means back to school and "back to life" and often it means falling out of practice. 

You see when life gets busy we easily get so caught up in the goings that we forget about the comings.  We fail to remember to look up to God and we fail to take time out of the busy for ourselves. 

Just look at my blogging. I haven't been on here since the end of August!  And a lot has happened we went on a family vacation, we had school start up, we had two of our craft sales and we had numerous pastoral ventures to attend.  We have been busy.  We have been so caught up in the new routine of life and school and everything else we haven't taken much time to just enjoy being together, because we are always somewhere or doing something. 

But it isn't about just living life in the everyday.  It isn't about just accepting life as it comes and taking it one day at a time.  That isn't the life of a Christian.  That isn't the life God is calling us to have.  God is calling us into relationship to forge a new idea of "just living" not one in which we mindless move through the motions but instead one in which we mindfully live.  We are called outside the cocoon that it is easy to make for ourselves and fly free like the butterfly. 

We are not called to fall into the business of life that we forget the realities of God around us.  We are not called to fall into the trap of forgetting about God.  We are called to live each day for our God.  So I challenge each of you to think about how you are living your life every day for God. 

How can you spring up from your trap?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blessings or entitlement? We walk a fine line...

Recently one of my friends on Facebook, made a post about how she is happy with her life even though she isn't married, doesn't have kids, ect... all the things that she reminded people they constantly proclaim they are "blessed" for having.  She called everyone out who has ever made a post about one's blessing as if those who don't have those things are cursed...

This has brought me on an interesting journey of inner dialogue and outright arguments with my husband over blessings.  I feel very blessed.  I know that at times God has truly worked in my life to bless myself and my family.  I also feel grateful to have my children and to see and watch their wonderful personalities grow and blossom.  I hope for the very best for them.  Blessings are gifts from God, plain and simple.  Blessings are not entitlements and blessings are not the same for each person.  And it is here that we walk a fine line both as Christians and as "nones" out there.

First, just because my life does include getting married and having children doesn't mean that is God's plan for everyone and it doesn't mean that those who are childless or without a spouse do not get to live a full and blessed life from God.  It also means those who lose children, whose children suffer from illness or mental retardation or whose spouse dies are cursed by God.  It doesn't mean they did anything - look at Job who remained and stay righteous and faithful despite all that happened to him.   But second, we through the word blessing around WAY to much.  Sure it is right to Give God our thanks and praise and to be truly grateful.  But when we work hard or achieve something we think we have earned - that is not a blessing.  Blessings are gifts from God - perhaps God's gift to you was a determined heart so that you could push through whatever it was to earn what you did.  But to equate God's blessings with entitlement is going about this God thing the wrong way.

God is not here for our purpose!  If we are truly serving God we are following God's will for our lives then yes blessings will come; but not everyone following God's will will have a perfect story.  Not one person following God's will is entitled to whatever they want.  When we accept God's grace, we do so knowing that following God's path for our lives will NOT always be easy but it will make our lives fuller and blessings will come. 

And this is the fine line between blessings and entitlement.  I am not saying we shouldn't be thankful for all we have, but we can't let go of the fact that God is moving in our lives during all seasons the good and the bad.  If we continue to only think that God is giving us "what we deserve" then we fall into the trap of being let down by God when things don't go our way or we end up pushing people away in a "better then you" attitude. 

The best part about God's blessings is not that one has kept up with the Jones and has "everything" in the physical world, the best part of God's blessings is that it takes life and makes it extraordinary.  It takes the childless couple and gives them meaning and fulfillment so that they may come to live and love.  God walks with the baptized every moment allowing for each moment to be filled with new life and new meaning.  God walks with us so that we may find the blessings amongst the chaos and yet still proclaim oh How Great is Thou God.

And so as Christians we need to do better at uplifting our blessings.  Not making it seem like they are simple entitlements but expressing our true beliefs in a way that show everyone that God is a God to worship and proclaim.  Our God is good and blessings do come to those who proclaim and praise.   Let's not simple say you feel blessed for what you have physical but remind people of the character behind - the strength to try new things, the will to go on in the face of danger, ect...

Those of us with God in our lives look around and see more blessings - we are more thankful by nature.  We as Christians see all that God does in our life at every moment and we stand at awe.  Yes simply put it is often for our relationships, children, husband and our homes - but at the end of the day it is simply our happiness that we are most grateful for.  Please try to understand that with God in your life ordinary things can become extraordinary 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Loving Difference

Today is my daughter's birthday!  I wrote this blog when she was about 2 and now she is going to be 5!  She still beats to her own drum and I love her for her vibrate personality that I do hope never changes.  I encourage this read for through her I have been invited by God to really ask the church some hard questions about how we accept differences.  How can we be a church for all if we still don't accept the 'all'.  How can we truly show our Christian love if we still find it hard to accept and love the differences. 

As we enjoy the world around us.  My daughter often points out the people who are "different" - big rings in their ears, purple hair, ect... when she asks why they are like that I always respond "because they are expressing their personality to us. Isn't it nice that they show us who they are?"  She thinks about it and always answers "yes"  I hope that she can feel that it is OK to express herself however she wants to.


On her left foot she proudly parades a pink fuzzy boat with a pretty flower attached to the side.  On her right foot she happily dons a plain black and purple boat.  From there up she is her "own" style.  Complete with a gypsy skirt that makes noise and a handmade head band keeping her long hair out of her eyes.  When you ask this lovely little girl who beats to her own drum how she is she exclaims with a point to her tummy "I'm me!"

And yet her mother knows that as soon as she starts school this wonderful free spirit is going to change - slowly just as it happened once before and happens all the time, children begin to conform.  No longer is it acceptable for them to wear different shoes or crazy tights.  No longer is it acceptable for them to have their own personality or persona, but instead they need to not only get along with the rest of society they need not stand out.

But why?  Why can't we stand out?  Why can't we accept ourselves for who we are and accept others for who they are?  Allowing and embracing the differences?  

It is this dissonance that keeps us from fully being open to the Spirit around us - to the Holy that wants a relationship.  If we can't accept ourselves, our own pain and sins and celebrate in our own joys then how can we expect ourselves to fully experience the divine in our lives? 

If we are living our lives to please others or to prove to others something, the how do we expect our relationship with the holy to truly be divine.  Or for the divine to dwell within and shine in our lives - how can we accept Jesus if we don't accept ourselves?

But the bigger question here is how can we as churches encourage and strive to lift up people and their personalities?  In our current system of church - we expect a lot from our worshipers: we expect that they can read, we expect that they can sing, we expect them to rejoice in old hymns and to connect with organ music.  We expect that people know the Lord's Prayer or the words to the gloria or the doxology.  We expect that people who come know that they and their children should be quiet (and especially if we are a white protestant church, we expect that people will be still keeping comments to a min.) We expect that people will enter and exit with respect and without disruption. We expect that people know how to take communion and how "we" pass the peace.

We expect so much from worshipers and so much conformity.  We don't allow for personality to come out in our worshiping of God and thus, even without trying, we discourage differences, we discourage creativity and most importantly free spirits.  And yet scripture proclaims that God knew us in our mothers wombs and that we are specially made.

If we are uniquely made and God knew us in our mothers wombs - then God knew and knows each of us and our true personality - God knows the beat to which our drum beats and God knows the loves of our hearts.  Let us remember that, and within our worship, within our lives and within our hearts let us accept ourselves and others not for our similarities cause that is easy but instead for our differences and let us worship God in light of that...knowing and trusting that God is offering GRACE to all of us not for our conformity but instead for our uniqueness.   

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Out of the Ordinary

Recently I was reading the classic children's book "The Ugly Duckling" to my kids and I couldn't help but come to the awe-inspired notion that it doesn't matter when or where we are born but that we are born of God.  For the Ugly Duck, it didn't matter that he was born into the duck family, for he was a beautiful Swan.  We can all raise above our start if only we trust in God.  And that got me thinking of a common theological trend in my book - that out of the ordinary extraordinary can happen when you add God to the mix!

I got asked lots by people searching "How do I pray" or "How do I know God hears"  and well I struggle with the answer to this because the simple answer is: you just know God hears and basically you can say anything to God as long as it is directed to our Lord.  But it is hard for us to do this.  More so it is hard in our "easy" button world to accept that perhaps God's timing is not right now.  And yet, God does hear and does know our needs and well just as it took as time to get ourselves into our mess, it will take God time to get us out. 

Yet out of the ordinary, with God, extraordinary can happen!  In fact, God puts the "extra" on the ordinary! 

Recently my daughter was singing about praying to God and she stated: We pray to God yes we do, we pray to God for things we need. We pray for strong, courage, brave, love, not to fight...We pray to God yes we do, we don't pray for horses, people buy horses.

When we got to that last part I couldn't control my laughter.  You see she wants a horse and has been praying for one.  When I tried to talked to her about "selfish prayers" vs. "true prayers" and the realities of the young King Solomon who prayed for wisdom, she took away that she couldn't pray for horses.  (Although perhaps God tried to answer that one, in that we were offered two mini-horses). 

My point is, my daughters song was right.  We can't relay on prayers to "fix" everything in our lives, or especially change our circumstances alone.  Pray doesn't do that, or we would all be winners of the lotto.  Instead prayer helps us to realize the needs we need, come to terms with our relationship with the divine and through that relationship pray allows us to accept ourselves and hopefully through God do a lot more then what was ever possible on our own.  But first we must trust. 

We must put our trust in that when we begin the praying, no matter how formal or informal that God hears us.  We must trust when God asks us to do something even if that seems a bit off of what we should be doing and we must accept that sometimes God isn't going to just hand us our needs.  The ugly duckling found a lot of places before he found where he belonged.  When we are ready to fully and truly accept our baptisms and our selves as "of God" instead of "of men" then we are ready to put the "extra" on the "ordinary"  So let's take our lives to the next level...to the level of extraordinary where each day we praise and thank God for all the good things that our Lord hath done!

Friday, August 7, 2015

following God's path

We enjoy hiking earlier this summer we went on a hike to Clark's reservation.  Although they give you a map when you enter, the map leaves a lot to desire.  We started out on this interesting hike through old glacier rocks which was quite challenging for us, the kids and the dog.  Some nice people told us to go on a different trail and well we were out hiking for 3 hours but we had a lot of fun.  We bribe the kids with ice cream at the end of the hike and the kids have been asking to go back there ever since.  It was a fun hike although very challenging.  Recently we went on another hike at Filmore Glen.  We had to take the rim trails as the gorge trail was closed, three hours later and 2 very tired children we emerged from a very difficult hike.  The kids were troopers.  We enjoy that hike too.  The baby hug out in his carry both times and thus had fun.  Of course we are always prepared, or perhaps over prepared for these hikes with water and snacks. 
On both hikes we didn't start off saying lets hike for 3 hours or over 4 miles or lets take the crazy trail with the lots of grades.  Instead we began both hikes blind as to what was in front of us except a small little map that assured us we were going in a circle that would bring us back to our car.  And isn't that what faith is all about?  Knowing that if you follow God's plan for you it might be a bit vague - you might not be 100% sure where it is going to lead you, but you can be assured that it will be safe and with God you will be amazed.  Sometimes it is better to just follow the path that God has in store for you.  Not carve your own but follow his.  At one point in the Filmore hike we were worried that the kids were not going to be able to make it back, there were several "off shoots" that were not on the map but seemed to go somewhere.  If we had taken one of those we may have come up with even longer trails or harder paths.  Instead we followed the main path knowing that we would get back. 
Jesus asks us to follow him.  Although it is someone blind faith - it isn't completely we have the Bible a map for us to follow.  We have prayer - communication with God.  And of course we have a church to be with us on our journey so we aren't alone.  So we have others we can ask "hows the path up ahead?" or give encouragement to those who worry "this too shall pass." 
At Clark's reservation our trail ended with a large staircase out and at Filmore Glen it ended with large staircase down. Life has its up and downs. God asks us to trust in all we do and to follow.  The best part about each of these hikes for us - and all the other hbyikes that we have done that didn't end up to be 3 hours - is that in the end we all feel proud that we accomplished these.  The kids are excited and can feel glad that they "made it!"  And we can have the same feelings when we follow God's path.  There may be up and downs; there will be moments when you think "I just can't do this" or "I feel lost" but staying on God's path will always end in reward.  More importantly it will end with sense of understanding of the world and ourselves.  We will come out knowing ourselves better and feeling proud of all that we can accomplish if we just trust and believe. 
So I challenge you this summer!  Think of the ways in which God is calling you to follow and the ways in which you are instead carving your own path.  Trust that even if it takes you longer then you had hoped that by following God's path you will be rewarded in the end.  So open your map - the Bible - and start praying that God reveals the path for your life.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The sandwhich passage

Mark 5: 21-43 The Healing of the Women as well as the Raising of the Child.

Motto for day: Accept, Heal and Send

This passage is one of my favorites in the Bible.  It also lends it self to great use in both sermons, church school and of course alternative worship ideas.  Why not eat sandwiches or bring one to show how a sandwich just isn't as good without all the stuff in the middle.  This passage could be a pretty great and amazing example of Jesus' ability to rise someone from the dead and in itself a wonderful miracle passage.  But instead it isn't just about one miracle it is about two.  So why is that?

Here we have Jesus' healing a young girl of only 12 years and also a women who has suffered 12 years of bleeding.  Here we have Jesus going to the house of someone who is desperately trying to save his child and perhaps not as truly strong in their belief in Jesus along side a women with so much faith in Jesus that she need only touch his clothes.  Here we have a women so desperate to belong, to fit in and to be healed for her life and all she has is gone and a young girl who still has her life to live.  If Jesus had not stopped to help this women, the girls story may have ended differently - for perhaps there would not have been the miracle that it was.  Perhaps Jesus would have made it "on time" to heal her instead of needing to raise her.

Although we can go in many ways in this passage: one thing is for sure - Jesus power is great!  For the church a good discussion on this passage is HOW does the church with great faith need to stop in our own tracks and see the world around us?  How does the church need to heal before we can go out and truly be in peace?  How does the church seem like the little girl dying waiting for Jesus to heal?  Are we at a point when we indeed need to die before the church can once again flourish?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Here comes the Hippo!

And he was a righteous man!

These words are found throughout the Bible and today bring about a picture of someone who is upright and an example for all of us.  Yet in our Bible those righteous men were not always such.  Many of them were far from what we would classify as "righteous" perhaps because they are all human.  The story of King David and Bethsheba is found in 2 Samuel 11:1-15 is no different.

I can't help but think of the example of my husband, yes a pastor, speaking to a women who wouldn't attend church anymore because "too many hypocrites" attended church. And although she was right - there were several horrible Christians in that church, my husband's response - not pastoral at all - hit the nail on the head: "well there is always room for one more!"

Church isn't a place for saints.  In fact one of my favorite church signs is "Sinners Anonymous, Sunday Mornings, We will save you a seat"  For we are all sinners.  No matter how hard we try to be better our lives are full of temptation and our days are full of things that are done in opposition to God's will for we are after all human.

Church isn't about a bunch of saints coming together and it certainly isn't the place that should be giving out judgment.  It also doesn't deserve the large amount of judgement from the community when something goes wrong.

David went out and basically raped a women, who was unclean because of her period, got her pregnant and then tried to trick the husband in coming home and having sex with his wife so that he would not be "found out."  When the husband did the right and righteous thing, David had him killed.  For sure not what any of us would consider righteous and in fact if this type of scandal occurred in a church today you better believe that the 24 hour news would be eating this type of sensation up and screaming all about this horrible thing the church did.

It is easy to look inside the church and see all the "wrong" that is done.  It is easy to be involved in a church and fall into the trap of "better then thou" But what takes courage and strength is to stand in the midst of the disorder and fix it. To try and spread God's message and to instead of continuing the cycle of judgment - for it doesn't matter who judges first, to instead spread the love of Christ we are asked to.

I encourage each of us to see the GOOD that the church is doing. That there are churches like the PCUSA which are changing their systems to be open and affirming to all people giving equal rights.  That there are small churches with members numbering under 100 who are serving their communities faithfully and offering people refuge, food and the love of God.  That there are large churches that despite the fighting that might seem to happen too much in the church parking lot gossip - God is working within and through them to do more good.  That although David may have messed up, he was still righteous.  That we too can be righteous in all we do.  And our churches can still be doing good.  Let us find the glimmer of love and justice in all our churches!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Packing Your Bags

There we were a few days after Christmas, heading home with presents, 3 adults, 3 children in car seats and two dogs stuffed into a Mazda 5.  You can't imagine how stuffed we all felt!  We got to the grocery store to pick up some water and a few items that ended up on the passengers lap cause there was not space at the feet anymore.  It was a tight fit and we were all happy when our 3 hours were over with.

When I got home from that trip I took out the clothes the children and I wore and decided to do laundry, I was as I always am on when we get back from vacation as to how little we actually use and wear compared to what I brought.  But isn't that always the case? We don't know what to pack and so we end up with so much "just in case."

I am always challenged when I read the passages in the New Testament (like the Mark 6: 6b-) where Jesus tells his disciples to go and spread the word without anything!  No extras, no bags just go as they are!  Wow!

To think about setting up a trip today, without bringing any "STUFF", no money or food seems like an impossible task.  Most of us would look at a person and call them crazy and certainly wouldn't take them seriously if they said they were doing this.  Most importantly we would probably judge them by modern standards as someone taking advantage of the system.  But that is actual "stuff" we need isn't it?

But no matter how hard it is for us to give up on bringing tons of physical stuff with us, think about the emotional and mental baggage we bring into our lives each day? We carry over everything from yesterday into today and tomorrow.  We continue to enter relationships with the scars of the past and we fail to live like Jesus called us - to go out and to spread the Word.  Jesus tells us that if someone doesn't accept or respond to just simply dust off our feet and move forward.

And YET instead, we people do us wrong we hold on to it.  We continue to wish them harm and we fail to, as the popular saying says, "let go and let God."  Yet that is what we are asked.  Forgiveness isn't about forgetting but it IS about getting to a point when you no longer need revenge.  When you can dust your feet of the event and move forward.  When we can without baggage move forward into relationship with someone knew - be it any relationship: lustlove, friendship, work, relative...

Let us work on this tall order - to go out and not only spread God's message but to heal others along the way! To actually DO God's work in the world for that is what Jesus asked his disciples.  And to do so without bags...without the emotional toll that not forgiving can bring you.  To hold on to hurts and scars so tightly that we can't open up to continue to love and serve.  This is our challenge! 

Not to fit all our "stuff" into a bigger bag but to release the bags we carry.  On a different trip, I took 2 kids and myself on a week vacation to GA from NY and we travel via train.  I had to carry all our stuff and shuffle a 3 year old and just 1 year old through all of this...without all the extras this was easily done.  Test yourself and see how much you can do with God when you leave the baggage behind.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

allowing the gifts of the spirit

"now let me see" came out in a timid manner as this little petit elderly women tried to see the credit card reader at the grocery store.   Her voice was a bit nervous and her actions jerky.  She was in front of me in line and after her credit card was declined three times she rushed out if the store, still with her ice cream.

I paid for my groceries but couldn't help but worry about this elderly lady.  She seemed confused, I saw in her pocket book a benefits card, yet it was at the end of the month.  As I was leaving she was coming back in, with her ice cream.  "I cant let them think I was stealing!"  She explained.  I asked if she was "OK" and she said she was having a bad day and just wanted to get home with ice cream to sit with her cat.

I had had a rough day: woke up late, was later then I wanted to work, couldn't open my window, lost my cell phone in my hand, spilled lunch on my shirt and of course left work later then I planned.  And so I understood.  But I pray for her and as I was walking away had this great need to pay for her groceries.  I counted the money in my purse just over $17.00, her bill $17.19! Wow God works!

And so I followed back into the store to pay this women's grocery bill.  But neither her nor the store would let me. Halted in my willingness to be a good Samaritan, I watched as she just bought the ice cream and the bread and left the other items.  Her card worked.

I don't know this women's story or her money situation but what I do know is that we often fail to see the gifts of the spirit around us.  It could have been a quick and easy exchange, since I had 17.19 to the penny - and yet she was unwilling to accept it.  I wasn't pushy, I offered and double checked.  But I felt God called me to offer, I usually don't have cash on me.  I spent more then I had intended to when I had come in and yet the change of my bill left me with just enough to cover this lady's purchases. 

Sometimes, and I can't say for certain it was the case for this women, in our lives we let ourselves get in the way of the gifts of God.  We let our own ailments or our own woes.  We let our own problems and our own idea of solution get in the way of seeing God's will and gifts around us. 

We began a project several years ago now to restore a house.  At the beginning we let our own thoughts of what the house would look like take over from seeing what the house was saying.  After a change in plans and a more organic approach to the house restoration, our house is completely different from what we imagined - even with a few less walls!  Getting out of our own way can be a difficult thing.  Allowing God's will in can be difficult and even more difficult to understand...

And yet that is what we are called to do.  Allow God's will and gifts be present in our lives and not push them away or chose not to accept them.  Let us do this!  Let us get out of our own paths and hop on the path of God. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hope defeats

Standing under the great Mastodon skeleton I just can't imagine living along side these giant mammals let alone the even bigger Mammoths.   The sheer size of their legs is amazing.  And yet it was not that long ago that we (as humans) walked the earth with these mighty animals.  Humans are pretty remarkable.  I often truly feel wonder at the fleets we have taken and the strides we continue to take.  We have done some pretty amazing things.  (I am not going to talk about how we were also responsible for the complete wipe out of the beautiful creatures mentioned above or how God called us to protect the animals, that is for a different time). 

If we let our size or a few set backs get in our way, human would not have advanced to where we are.  Instead through perseverance we continue to move forward.  I am struck by the story of David and Goliath.  Here a giant, Goliath, had immobilized humans and defeated armies and yet David was willing to not only stand up but defeat the giant. 

Too often we as humans fail to see the hope when we are facing giant obstacles.  Although humans have made great advances, it has not taken many to do so.  Often we run and hide instead of stand and fight.  Often we fail to remember that with God on our side - hope defeats.

David knew that God was on his side.  When we invite God to be presence during our struggles, amazing things happen - we can indeed defeat them.  We can indeed with joy in our hearts find hope. 

Even when life feels like you are standing under a Mastodon, overwhelmed with what is coming at you and fearful that you cannot figure it out - take a breath, invite God in and find the hope that can defeat the negative and shine through. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

To Know what it is like...

This is a repost, but one worth reading:

It was 3:22AM and my eyelids had been closed for just long enough for my mind to settle itself into sleep when I was jolted awake by the buzzing of my pager..."19y/o male eta 5min" Checking the mirror to get rid of my bedhead I turned the light off to the on-call room and made the very lonely trek down the hallway towards the ED.  I was mid-way through my Chaplaincy residency by then and I knew this walk well as I made the familiar turns in silence I prayed that I would be God's hands, feet and mouth in whatever the situation was.
I arrived, along with all the others "on-call" before the ambulance.  All the staff were busy preparing and setting things up; or were standing around chatting with the others about previous cases.  I was too tired, I had already had a busy night of pages and the comfortable bed I just abandoned was calling me back; I questioned if my presence was really needed.  But it was my duty to stand in that sterile back room of the emergency department waiting for this young kid to arrive, it was my job to provide the spiritual and sometimes social services needs that might arise.  So there I was leaning in the corner as the intensity of the moment of arrival drew near.
As the stretcher came crashing through the double doors and the Emergency responders started to bark out the answers the doctors questions the gravity of this young man danger became clear to me.  He was dying.  He had suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance and they had only managed to get a faint heartbeat back.  The blood that he had lost from his wounds was everywhere and the stench of stale blood was beginning to over power the sterile hospital smell.  Then within seconds the machines were going off and his heart stopped.  The doctors and nurses descended into action on him like a well practiced ballet - beautifully and with such rhythm they worked on bringing life back to this young man.  And as I watched in the stillness praying for God's will to be done, I heard a familiar sound that gave me goose bumps: the crack of bones, and not just knuckles, but this young mans ribs were being opened and within a blink the head doctor was pumping a heart in his hands.  As his hand opened and closed the machines started to beep and measure a heart beat.  They rushed the young man down for surgery, leaving the evidence of blood in the space for the bed.  I was left bewildered and in awe.

He did die in surgery and as the rest of the night began to unfold the picture of his life became more uncertain.  Who was this 19 year old and how did he get to the point of being in our emergency department? 

There were a lot of assumptions being made and a lot of judgments being passed out. And the reality for me is that some things still remain very uncertain about thus kid and will never be solved.  If only I could have know what happen that night and where things went so wrong - but I will not.

You see we can't walk in someone else's shoes.  No one experiences life the same way as another - except maybe identical twins.  But the realities of our own life very much depend on the our own interpretations and on how we see things.  Had I only heard about that extent to which the doctors tried to save this young man, holding and pumping his heart with their hands I would perhaps not have believed it, or perhaps not been as impacted.

We make a lot of assumptions when we don't consider the shoes that the other is wearing.  And in the end we usually hurt them more then we help.  But you see what has always been the lesson out of my story, is that before the judgment started - everything possible happened to help save this young kid.  It didn't matter what had brought him into the hospital he was going to get the VERY best treatment and given the best chance for survival.

Too often we just assume to know what it is like for another person, even if they have shared their story.  Too often we just assume and dish out judgment before first offering our best.

Let us offer first our best - the LOVE that God commands.  Let us first offer our Christian selves showing and demonstrating the very best of our own Christian morals before we begin to assume that we know what it is like to walk in their shoes and before we dish out judgment on people lives who we often only see a short glimpse of. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Tremble of Grief

Leaning through the van door to unbuckle my two-year old from his seat I jump from an unfamiliar sound.  "What's that, Mommy?" my son asks.  "I don't know."  "Maybe an Elephant" he suggests.  "sure" I say as I am trying to non-verbally hurry him along.  It is sprinkling out, I still have another child to put into the wrap I've already tied around me and I am in the parking lot of the zoo on a day that I had better things to do.
Again I hear the sound, it is low and long.  It isn't a roar, yet it isn't the normal elephant noise.  Whatever it is, it sounds like distress.  And it is times like this that I begin questioning how good is a zoo (but that is a question I am not getting into today.)

After he picks up on my cues that we are suppose to be moving and not just lagging behind in the car, he starts speeding up the process of disembarking from the car and starting our adventure - the zoo in the rain.  Luckily for now the rain isn't bad and for now we can mange.  But as I see the buses of children arrive for a school field trip I am less then excited to be on this adventure. 

Finally we come to the lion den and we learn what this weird noise is.  It is the lion.  She is alone in the den sitting in a lounge position, everyone is getting great photos.  After a few minutes she stands up and from deep inside her body she lets out this low and long and loud noise - it is coming from deep and her body is trembling with the noise.  It is not quite a purr but it isn't a roar.  I had never heard such a noise and I began to worry about this beautiful creature.  Was she OK?  I wasn't sure.  It didn't sound like a happy noise but instead a noise made in pain.  Come to find out, she is mourning.  Recently she lost the other lions (the male and other female) that she had lived with.  They died.  And in her grief and sadness she called out.  It was beautiful.  All of a sudden the others were all sad for this lion and many felt pity for her but I was overwhelmed with wonder and awe.  As I always am when I see animals grieve. 

As humans we like to think we are much more evolved then the creatures around us and yet when it comes to our instincts and our raw emotions we aren't that different.  It is in wonder that I watch other animals grieve and understand the sense of loss.  It only enhances our understanding of human grief and loss.  And the emotion of pity that all those felt for the lion, stems from their own understanding of loss and grief in their own lives.  They could project that feeling on that lion. 

When I worked at the hospital I was called to a unit one evening for a women who had died.  It was not completely unexpected, however it was a little faster then most thought.  Her daughter, a friend and her daughter's friend were in the room and as the custom in their tradition they were waling.  It was this deep noise that comes from within and as it comes out with the force of the whole body, the body trembles and the wale escapes.  When I got to the room, I realized I was called up not because these women need Spiritual care but because the unit wanted them stop.  It was late in the evening and people were trying to sleep not to mention the noise was basically freaking out the staff.  So we moved into the hallway outside of the unit to finish - although there would be more waling at the funeral.  When the daughter expelled her final wale she stood up, wiped her face off with the back of her palms and headed back into her mother's room calmly to say goodbye. 

When we are struck with loss it is within our nature for our bodies to express the overwhelming feeling that fills us up.  Even if we don't make a physical sound, the body often slumps over or our heads hang low.  In a real way we are struck with the emotion of grief and it hits us in the core of our bodies. 

Therefore grief is an emotion that needs to be felt and to be expressed.  Grief is not an emotion to hold in or to hide.  This powerful lion was no less of a threat to us - had there not been glass - now that she was grieving.  She still was a beautiful and powerful beast, yet in her expression of grief, I was not struck by her weakness but instead her strength.  Her body held her up, even through the tremble.  Her voice strong and clear sent out the sounds of distress.  Her expression of grief was one that transcended above species as I could clearly hear her distress before knowing the source of the sound. 

In our own grief we must be comfortable in expression.  We must not let grief build inside us but instead allow it to transcend us.  All our grief to shed light on our relationship with the Creator and bring us closer to knowing the Spirit that dwells within us.  We can learn from letting go of our emotions instead of letting our emotions take hold of us.  Let us, the next time we experience loss, lift up our grief to God and in that moment let our emotions of loss and fear transcend into moments of hope and love.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day...yes a day late

I knew that it was Memorial Day weekend, not by the red paper flowers being sold outside shops in our of our veterans or by the parades that seem to be popping up everywhere, I knew but the volume of traffic that was racing past our country house. 

As someone who is surrounded by veterans, I can't help but contemplate Memorial Day.  By surrounded, I am not just speaking about the several family members who fought and currently considered disabled vets but I am also speaking of the countless men who cross my path as a Chaplain.  

I am reminded of one such gentlemen who I met while working at the hospital.  He was in the ICU for an unrelated to service injury - basically a injury he sustained while on leave with his family.  He was involved in a terrible accident, or serious of events, that brought him to the hospital bed.  Filled with needles and tubes and anxiety.   He had served 3 tours in our recent war with Iraq.  He was taught to be in control and to keep himself guarded.  God only knows what he experienced and witnessed in war and yet we expected him to sit in the ICU bed and calmly breath through a tube.  Instead he woke up tearing off the tubes and pulling out the needles.  His anxiety got to the point they had to take action for his own safety.  I visited him often and provided peace while there.  He was a believer in God, not religion and although he couldn't talk much my peaceful presence allowed him to breath a bit better. 

I am not sure what happen to this man, as I couldn't follow up with him.  But I know that war and service changes people.  It changes how we respond to life and especially how people respond to stressful situations.  And so Memorial Day weekend which has become a weekend that marks the beginning of summer and about hot dogs and mac salad has in many ways left behind the true meaning.  Showing thanks - being grateful - for people who have fought in wars for America.  Even if we don't agree with the war itself or fighting all together.  Even if we disagree with our government or feel that peace was an option.  On Memorial Day we are asked to take a moment, a day, and honor those whose lives have changed because of war and those who lost their lives because of war. 

People who have served in the military lives will never be the same.  If they made the choice to sign up themselves or were drafted in, if they made it home or died in battle war changed them.  And we must honor their sacrifice.   

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Evoking Power of Pentecost

Out of the slits of the batman cape / hat you can see the gray eyes of my two year old.  He is no longer the loving two year I named but is instead Batman!  Dare you call him by any other name and be prepared to hear "NO! Batman!!" When he is batman he is fearless...jumping off tall buildings with a single bound (ok our jungle gym) and of course using his "tool belt" to find ways to beat the bad guys - aka his sister.  On Sundays he particularly likes to be batman and one Sunday morning informed me that "people like batman church."  In his two-year-old lingo I think that means that church people like to see batman?  And well they have been extremely patient and gracious about batman's appearance on Sunday mornings that for years to come they will have quite the story to tell about this PK (Pastor's Kid). 
But when proclaims himself as a hero - batman, superman, spiderman and TMNT are his favorites - he is evoking a power greater then himself.   What two year old doesn't want to be stronger, faster, smarter and better then everyone else?   When his world revolves around him, why shouldn't he be the hero of his story? 

As adults we know that just by adorning our lives with superhero costumes and tools does not actually make us a superhero kids do not.  In fact, we know the true realities of the world, which can be difficult to find solutions to the big problems we face.  And yet, we are called as Christians to remember the power of God's Holy Name. 

On Pentecost we read the story of Ezekiel (37 for those who want to know) and the dry bones.  Not just the catchy kids song about what part of the bones is connected to what but a powerful story about evoking God's name!  Ezekiel in the name of the Lord God brought bones back from the dry pit to flesh with human life.  Now this isn't like those crazy zombie shows were they are half dead and the flesh on them is still exposed from their death, but is instead a story of God's power bring them back into the fullness of who they were. 

The power of evoking God's name! 

Imagine what the power of evoking God's name can do for our lives if only we let it.  Let us not live to the point that we must be dry bones before God's word can touch our soul.  Let us not lose such sight of the power of Christ's name that we hit bottom before we can finally open our ears to hear God's message.  Let us allow God's word to ring in us and through us - evoking the power of the Divine to transform our lives.

On Pentecost Sunday we read this back to back with our Acts 2 reading of the very first Pentecost Sunday - when the tongues of fire allowed people to understand and listen to each other.  Through the power of God, people were brought together. Through the power of the Holy Spirit people who spoke different languages were able to understand each other and feel God working through them. 

Wouldn't it be a wonderful Pentecost if we too through the power of God's Holy Name found the ability to come together?  Wouldn't it be amazing if God's name could bring forth peace and love instead of strife and hate.  Wouldn't it be amazing if our dried up churches that sit in the pits of failing buildings could hear the Word of Christ and in a blaze of wonder and love understand each other?  Putting away difference in order to bring life to Christ's message? 

I don't think that hope is too lofty - in fact it is right here on this day available to all our Churches.  As we celebrate Pentecost let us ask ourselves how do we as a church emerge from the pit to bring people together in God's name?  The Holy Spirit on that morning, did not come in flaming tongues to bring forth arguments or to challenge each person but instead to bring them together in God's love. 

Let us pray for our churches, let us pray for people and most of all let us pray that the Spirit's power can be felt in the pit of each person bringing ablaze of passion and God's message so that all may know and here the power of God's name.

Let us evoke God's name not to separate but to join us in love, strength, compassion, grace and forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Everyday Choas

There used to be a time in my life when I could roll out of bed and be dressed, feed and out the door looking completely presentable in 45 minutes.  Now, I am lucky if after an hour and half of struggling with kids I have clean clothes on.  Life changes and I am constantly shocked at how busy life can get.  There seems to never be enough hours in a day or enough days in a week.  Monday alone I had to get up and dressed, dropped a kid off at school, hit the grocery store, go back to said school for a special parent day, go home and have lunch, go to a meeting, take the dog to the vet, clean up after said special party, cook dinner and not touch any of my laundry or dishes.  My husband, thank God for him, picked up some of the slack, but in doing so didn't get to everything on his to-do list either. 

There are always things to do, places to be and responsibilities to deal with.  Yet as Christians we are called to in everything we do, remember God.  Which on a day like Monday when you can't always remember what time you are suppose to be where and end up calling the vet to make sure you know, it can be very tricky to remember God.  It is easy on days like that to fall out of the routine of keeping God in our life.

But we are called to keep God in our life, we are called to be faithful first and foremost, to love our God with all our heart.  And how much better is our day if we take a moment to stop and remember God's blessing and presence in our life.  How much more special is our children's day when we thank God for their life and light in the world.  How much more exciting is our meeting when we know in all we do we glorify God.  How much more exiting and chaotic is our life when we remember how the Spirit is working in us and through us touching other's with God's love!

Please friends, even in the chaos, which is everyday, remember God's presence and rejoice!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

"Mom can I wear these?"
"No! You will be too hot."  I replied while inside my head I am wondering what happen, all winter she wanted to wear shorts and skirts and now that it is 76+ degrees out she wants to wear stockings with her dresses!
"I don't want to go to church!"
"Why not? All your friends will be there."
"no they won't!" Humped my 4 year old
"Yes they will it is Mother's Day, everyone comes on Mother's day" I explain
"It is Mother's day??  OH shoot!" And she runs off....

"Daddy, daddy, it is mother's day!"
"Yes, did you say Happy Mother's Day to mommy?"
"Yes! But we forgot to get her a gift"
"No we didn't".....

I didn't need a mother's day gift this morning from them, as this conversation was enough.  That she thought of me and wanted to do something special for me was a gift in itself.  Each day I can't believe how my children grow and change. Each day they are truly a gift to my life as they bring love, hope and joy in new ways.  Children are special.  And the love that comes out of family is truly amazing.

But what is very cool about our God is that God's love is unconditional and full of grace.  In the same way that our love for our children - especially when they are small and helpless - is unconditional.  I love my newborn even when he keeps me up at night, or throws up down my back.  I love my two year old even when he is refusing to get dressed because the "right" superhero combo isn't clean.  As our children get older, it can be harder to show that same kind of unconditional love because they too begin to categorize love differently.  As our understanding for love changes and the love we give and receives gets challenged we can find hope in the fact that God's love is unchanging. 

Recently a friend posted a picture of her daughters school assignment, why she loved her mom.  The common factor of all 10 reasons was a big one: quality of time - she spends time with her daughter doing things her daughter enjoys.  She is there for her and I know even on days when she is tired from work and would rather rest, she sits and plays with her daughter.  That is showing her daughter a love that goes beyond, a loved filled with grace. 

Yet, as we age it can be easy to look at one another and begin to quantify love.  To say that mom loves one child more then another (which my mom is guilty of saying that her mom loved "the boys" best).  We begin to look at friends and family and expect things from our love - things, time, ect...

But we can be comforted, find joy and most importantly worth in knowing that for God love is unchanged.  God loves us unconditional - flaws and all.  We might disappoint God a time or two or perhaps a dozen but the Divine won't stop offering love.  We might refuse the love, we might challenge the love, but the Creator won't stop offering love.  We might run from it, hide from it and we might even do evil in its name, but the Holy won't stop offering love.

So today let us celebrate the love.  The unconditional love that parents and children are taught from the beginning and let us rejoice in the Lord who so loved us that neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come can separate us from that love.   


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Pruning the Vines

So we live in wine country...in fact as part of the finger lake region we can't go anywhere without seeing a vineyard but for us all it takes is a look out our window and across the street.  Yup our neighbors are wine makers and vine growers. And this illustration is used throughout our New Testament to talk about us, God and of course our relationship with God.  But John 15: 1-8 really has been on my heart lately. 

First, many of you know from pervious blog posts and for being my friend that two years ago I had to leave one of the churches I was serving.   However, my husband and I remained with the other the church; thus separating a long-standing relationship between two churches.  Two years later, the church we stayed with is doing amazing and really thriving on its own.  The relationship between the people of both churches as begun to mend and well the fruit of the vine seems to be growing.  However, there is still hurt there.  Especially with the way in which the church treated my husband and me and of course our children.  As most people know, church is not just where we find saints and for the most part the majority of the population has felt some sort of hurt from "church people" in their lifetime.  Working for church doesn't shield you from this, instead it makes it all too real.  The hurt that people can unleash and still call themselves Christians is remarkable. 

Nonetheless, two years later I was reflecting on all that has happened to us.  Our continued joy and success with the one church, my job in the nursing home and of course our project house.  We have come so far in these last two years and at the same time have been truly blessed along our journey.  We are changed - we have to be - but we are not broken or angry.  We are blessed.  This journey has taught me a lot and yet has not scared me out of church work.  And I can't help but reflect on John 15.  In verse 2 we hear these words "The vinegrower removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.  Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit." 

Jesus never says that life is easy or that by following him your life will be a Disney Fairy Tale; on the contrary, time and time again Jesus makes real the true difficulties in following him.  The vinegrower removes branches that bear no fruit.  Sometimes life is hard, sometimes things seem to be going the wrong away and then the outcome is more beautiful that one could imagine.  I wasn't sure what two years was going to look like two years ago, heck I even had a hard time thinking about what 6 months was going to look like.  But now in reflection I know that God was just pruning us so that we could flourish.  That we are here today, better then we were and with more blessings from God because we didn't turn against God.  We didn't in bitterness believe that God was doing this to us.  We didn't accept the truth that many do that all Christians were like this.  We didn't leave our callings because of one negative church but instead walked away only to do be bearing more fruit.  Only to have our ideas and our strengths uplifted by others and spread God's Word to people who will truly listen.

If you are in the middle of your vines being pruned, have courage!  For it may feel that God is taking away but instead with your faith - with your core as Christ, abiding in him, - you will find the strength you need to flourish and to come back with bigger and better fruit. 

For anyone who has ever tried to grow grapes knows, they actually need a lot of pruning for success.  They need help to grow in the right direction and to produce fruit and not just vines.  Jesus has said that he is our vine, the core of our faith.  That our strength comes through the Divine.  If we trust in God's ways, it might not always be perfect but with trust in our core we can find hope in knowing that we will flourish and that there is always more fruit to come!  Let us rejoice in the pruning and find strength in the God who is our core!