Monday, November 28, 2016

Almost ready...

November 27, 2016
Advent 1A

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Well I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving seemed to sneak up on me this year.  And so here we are in the season of Advent already...I’m not quite ready. 

The good news is that this season calls us to a time of reflection and awareness of Christ in our midst.  This season also seems to ramp of the speed of time, the business of schedules, and to do lists and preparations that we just do not have enough time to accomplish.  My guess is that if Thanksgiving surprised you, this season is just as much of a surprise. 

Yet what I do like about the season of Advent is the focus on preparation.  The time to ready our homes for the coming of the Christ child and the preparation of our hearts and our lives…we take time this season to light a candle on the advent wreath, to pause and pray and let Christ’s light shine into the world around us.

And as we pause to see that light shine, it gives us time to think about the complexity of God with us right now and the reality that we are preparing for Christ to come again. 

We are especially called into this when our gospel message leaves us with a sense of urgency, and tugging, that reminder that the Son of Man is coming…and it is at an unexpected hour.  We don’t know when…but we must be ready. 

As Jesus is talking with his disciples he hearkens back to the story of Noah.  An interesting choice of illustration, right?  But it works.  
In Noah’s day, the people didn’t know about the coming judgment but it still came.  Noah tried to warn people about the flood, but they wouldn’t listen, they wouldn’t help, they probably watched him, called him crazy and went back to work.  They didn’t know what Noah knew…that this coming of the flood was a new beginning…that all the sin would be washed away, that the world would begin anew…and most importantly that God would be there in the midst of it all. 

The flood would be a new beginning, creation begun anew again. 
So maybe, this retelling, this reminding of the Noah story pre-echoes , or foreshadows, the story of Christ.  That when Christ comes, sin is washed away, we begin anew.  This IS a new creation…where forgiveness and eternal life are gifts and death is not the last word.  That, my friends, is good news.  The good news is that tomorrow will be different than yesterday because the future is based on the promises of God which are always new.  (Feasting on the Word, Erskine.)

Even though this story IS good news, how do we hear it today? 
Do we hear it as a gift coming to be live with us, teach us and who will die for us? 
Or do we hear it as a command to get ready…for the judgment is coming? 

How do we hear the message of Christ’s coming today?  I think we hold in tension that this both a message of good news, but also that we are commanded to be ready.  We are called to be awake, to be ready and prepared…yet we still tend to carry on with our lives.   We continue to eat, drink and be merry, we go to our jobs, we care for our families.  Our lives go on…and as much as we hear about preparing for the coming of Christ, we may not see the urgency. 

So that’s the wake up call to us today, right?  Get ready….stay awake…be on guard….as we prepare for the coming of Christ. 

We are called,  commanded even, to be prepared…to be the church militant…the church awake and aware of our circumstances…ready to be active in the world around us…ready to respond to God’s call in our lives today and all days…ready to march away to onward Christian soldiers! 

But as we are called to march…we may not truly be aware of what our actions can and should be in the world today… we have a deep sense of longing for the coming of Christ, yet at the same time, we seek to see him in our midst here and now. 
And that, my friends, is the heart of the tension of the season of Advent. 

The longing for a wonderful counselor when we feel utterly alone. 
The longing for a mighty God when we are need of guidance and support. 
The longing for the Everlasting Father…a parent who never leaves us, who is always there for us. 
The longing for the Prince of Peace in a nation deeply struggling with conflict.

So where does that leave us today? 

Called to be the church at work in the world today….what does it mean that God is already with us? It may look different than we expect. 

Look back at our reading from Isaiah,
“God shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not light up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”  

Imagine that world…that in God’s vision, in God’s eyes…the people and nations turn implements of conflict -  like swords and spears into tools that cultivate and support community. 
How beautiful is that? 

How powerful is that vision?  That view of the world… view of God’s kingdom…

This transformational image is the inspiration for a large sculpture that stands outside the General Assembly tower at the United Nations headquarters in New York.  

The hope is that through the cooperation of nations, the tools of community can replace the weapons of war.  (FOTW, Birch.)

“In a similar way, a small Jesuit chapel at St. Louis University has light fixtures that are made of twentieth century cannon shells, converted.  Emptied of their lethal contents, they now hold light for people to pray by.  In such light we pray and live.” 
(FOTW, Duke.)

In such light we pray and live. 

In Christ’s light we pray and live. We are called to transform implements of conflict into instruments of peace that cultivate and support community….in our homes, in our community, in our nation and in our world. 

We called to respond to the darkness in our world by allowing the light of Christ, the gifts of the Spirit to guide our words and actions. 

We are called to live our lives not out of fear, but out of the faith that we have in God always being present with us and willing to trust that enough light lies ahead. 

I pray that this Advent season allow us time to reflect on God’s presence in our lives here and now, and that we see who God created us and continues to call us to be, not just as individuals but as voices joined together as the body of Christ in our community and world. 

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, Amen.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pieventure 2016

The day began with prepping the crust for the brown butter pumpkin.  Time stamp: 7:50am
Soundtrack: Living Colour - Vivid

After work, the baking began.  Brown butter pumpkin crust par-baked. Time stamp: 4:30pm
On Netflix, Buffy is telling Willow how great Riley is.

As the pumpkin crust cools, cranberry sage is constructed.   Time stamp: 4:52
On Netflix, Spike is wearing Xander's clothes because he shrunk his doing laundry.  

Cranberry sage ready for the oven.  Time stamp: 5:12 pm

Salted caramel apple ready for the oven. Time stamp: 6:39 pm 
On Netflix, Buffy is getting important intel from Professor Walsh at the Initiative.  

Snack break (dough scraps baked with cinnamon & sugar!) Time stamp: 6:41 pm 

2 to go.  Time stamp: 7:44 pm
On Netflix, Faith just woke up from a coma. 

Butter brown pumpkin is in the oven!  Time stamp: 7:54 pm
Note the extra custard baking below. :)

Here they are...mission completed.  Time stamp: 8:44 pm

Pies done, dinner picked up and grapefruit pale ale.  Time stamp: 9:19 pm.  

And now for SNL Thanksgiving Special....a good day.

PS...the extra custard is already gone...and it is delish!

Friday, November 11, 2016

The numbers don't lie...

Well, it's been an interesting week, to say the least.

My eating hasn't been great, my sleeping hasn't been great which means the exercising has been off as well.  I did hop on the scale last week, but did not post numbers.

I did make it to the gym today and saw the poster inviting folks to join in on Maintain not Gain.
You can weigh in any time before Thanksgiving and then weigh in after New Year's Day.  They also measure body fat....and that's the number to maintain through the holidays.

I could have put it off...I could have waited to get on the scale... you know waited for a day when I hadn't already had breakfast and a few cups of coffee...but I didn't.


I'm not happy about it, it's more than my scale at home says, but it is what it is.


That is where I start.

After the scale, they measured by body fat.  I've had it done many times at the gym, but I think this is the highest it has been.

27.4 (oh boy)

The good news is, I have until Jan 1 to hold these numbers, or even get them down a bit.
We'll see how the next few months go.

Until then, I'll be weighing in weekly at the gym, just to keep an eye on the numbers.

I'll be checking in next week, if not before.


Friday, October 21, 2016

oh hey, push notifications....

The past several weeks, I've received friendly reminders from My Fitness Pal.  
They've been pretty friendly, you know the usual, "You haven't logged any food for today.  Would you like to do it now?" 

Each morning I see it, sigh deeply and swipe it away.  
The deep sigh is because I know I need to watch what I'm eating and log my exercise.  
I sigh deeply because this fall seems to have kicked my butt (and it doesn't even feel like fall, but that's not the point).  Between an actual fall and several weeks of recovery and healing and now a week off because of a cold, ugh....I'm deflated.  

So, tomorrow, I will hop on the scale...and start logging again.  
I know this works for me, when I stick to a plan, log the calories and tell others about it, for accountability.
I've been here before, and know I can do this, I just need to start.  

Last time I worked on losing weight, I just took into account the numbers on the scale.  
Tomorrow I'll take some body measurements as well so I have a baseline.  
I plan on posting my weight weekly.  Good times.  
So, dear readers, thanks for reading, for holding me accountable and for your support.  
If you are on a similar journey, let me know how I can support you, too.  
Prayers are appreciated. 
See you on the other side of the scale...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"Increase our faith!"

October 2, 2016
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

Increase our faith! 
How often have we said something like that?

Increase our faith! 
That apparently the faith we have is not great enough. 
That faith comes in different sizes.  Small, medium, large….super sized? 
Is it a muscle that we can increase? 
Have you ever met someone and thought…wow their faith is amazing…I wish I had faith like that. 

I’m reminded of a scene from The Empire Strikes Back,
Luke is in the swamp with Yoda and his Jedi skills are being honed. 
He is lifting stones, backpacks, even the droid, R2D2….
Luke wants to get his ship out of the swamp…he tries to use the force to do so, but he lacks the force or the faith…he lifts is up a little, but can’t seem to get it out of the puddle.  He gets all pouty…and says,

Luke: I can’t. It’s too big.
Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.
For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.

Yoda then demonstrates by focusing on the X-Wing and using the force to move the craft out of the water and onto the land, next to Luke. Amazed, Luke says:

Luke: I don’t, I don’t believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.

To the apostles in our gospel passage this morning, faith is something that they want more of.  They feel that they do not have enough…that more is needed…

Would you really want to say to a mulberry tree be uprooted and planted in the sea…and have it do so?  If we had faith to uproot trees and move mountains, clean up days around the church would be much easier…not to mention moving from one house to another.  But that’s not what it’s all about. 

Perhaps this is similar to the person who states: "I can't do it," and a parent/mentor type insists: "Yes, you can."

My two and a half year old nephew has taken to using this phrase.  “I can’t.”  My sister and brother-in-law don’t know where picked it up.  The funny thing is…is that he will say it in the midst of actually doing something.  For example, while climbing up a ladder, he’ll say, “I can’t!”  And they’ll say you can…and you are…

 Sometime we need to hear that we actually can do something….even when we ourselves doubt that we have the ability to do so. 

How many of us have said, "I can't do door to door evangelism."
"I can't talk to him/her about the hurt they have caused me."
"I can't forgive him/her."
It would seem to me that the issue in such statements is not that of "can't do," but one of fear -- which is the opposite of faith.

It is more fitting with the Matthew and Mark parallels, that if people are unable to move mountains or trees into the sea, then their faith must not be as large as a mustard seed. I know that I haven't been able to conjure up such miracles with my faith. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we can't trust even our faith. It isn't even as big as a mustard seed. Salvation comes from trusting God to give us what we can't do ourselves -- including faith.

A brief prayer I read recently is related to this text. It goes something like: "O God, I don't pray for enough faith to move mountains. I can get enough dynamite and bulldozers to do that. What I need and ask for is enough faith to move me.” 

What I need and ask for is enough faith to move me. 

Because here’s the thing…

I can’t do it on my own. 
I know, I just said all those things about using the phrase, “I can’t” and then I used it anyway.  But that’s the real truth, isn’t it….
That I can’t do this thing called life on my own. 
I can’t love, forgive, heal or help on my own…

I am unable to life out God’s love and grace without that love and grace in my life already. 

The apostles cry out, “Increase our faith!”  As if to say, we don’t have enough to love others as you love us, we don’t have enough to feed the hungry, to speak out for the voiceless, to speak the truth to lies….but the real truth is God has equipped us with the faith that we need….we don’t need more…

God has given us all the faith that we need. 
Sometimes we just forget how amazing that gift and blessing is. 
We are given the ability to do exactly what God calls us to do. 

This faith is a gift.  And it’s not just free floating faith…that is just out there…it is faith and trust in Jesus Christ. 

Faith isn’t something that is ours alone that we can change and grow and increase…it is through God’s promise in Jesus Christ that we receive the basic forgiveness we are called to share…

Maybe this passage…Lord, increase our faith…needs a rewrite…
Bishop Bill Gafkjen suggests this,
Lord, draw us deeply into your creation and resurrection…into that forgiveness and grace. 
Lord, draw us deeply into your creation and resurrection…into that forgiveness and grace. 

That’s what it’s all about. 

Being drawn in to God’s promise, God’s love, God’s forgiveness and God’s grace. 

Being drawn into the community of a family of faith where we realize our imperfections, weaknesses, faults, mistakes, and are loved and used for service in the midst of them. 

Knowing that God calls us to tasks that we may not be ready for…but we go anyway, trusting in the promise of the resurrection….and knowing the forgiveness and grace we have already received and will continue to receive. 

That’s what this meal is all about…
This is the table that speaks to us and says…
All are welcome.
No matter what your faith, no matter what your sins…there is a place for you. 
No matter what your questions, problems, fears, doubts….there is a place for you. 

There is a place for you….to know and feel God’s love for you. 

That is what is at the root of faith…A loving, compassionate, forgiving and saving God.  Who wants the world to know that it is loved. 

So God, draw us in…
Into this place for forgiveness and fellowship, for honesty and love for one another. 
Draw us into this table…where bread and wine overflow for everyone, where sins are forgiven and grace is poured out….
And draw us more deeply into you…in our homes, in our schools, in our places of work…that you may guide our hearts and minds to share this redeeming love and grace with those whom we meet. 

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and let all God’s people say, Amen. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This weekend's sermon.

September 25, 2016
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Today’s readings overflow with a central theme: recognizing that all we have is a gift from God and what we do with it is an expression of our faith in God – lies at the center of a life of discipleship. St. Augustine in his writings differentiated between the terms “use” and “enjoy.” God gives us the things of this world to use for our benefit and the benefit of our neighbors, not to enjoy as ends in themselves.

The only true object of our enjoyment, in this ultimate sense, is our relationship with God. Both Amos 6 and 1 Timothy 6 illustrate Augustine’s point that it is to our detriment that we fall to the temptation to view wealth and possessions as ends rather than as means to the greater end of living as God’s agents of blessing to those around us.

Surely that is the great tragedy of the unnamed rich man in Jesus’ story. He has been so blinded – we could even say, intoxicated – by the abundance of his material possessions that he fails to notice the proximity of one of God’s creatures in need. This story is perhaps the most prime example of the great reversal of fortunes that is a central theme of Luke’s gospel. We hear about this reversal from the very beginning of the Gospel, when Mary sings her song that the lowly shall be lifted up, the rich sent away empty….We know from that point that Luke’s gospel will have a theme that God will turn the world upside down.  (the world turned upside down….)

The rich man had a life. No doubt he had the benefits of religious instruction. He heard the part about his abundance being a sign of God’s blessing. He missed, however, the lesson about those blessings having a purpose. As a result he never got to experience the greatest joy that wealth and possessions bring; namely, the joy of using these things for the sake of others, especially those in need of a tangible reminder of God’s never-failing love.

It seems to me that part of what is at stake in Jesus' parable is the link between our wellbeing and that of others. If we cannot feel compassion for others we have lost something that is deeply and genuinely human. In time, the wealth that has numbed us to the need of our neighbor deludes us into imagining that we ourselves have no need, are sufficient unto ourselves, and can easily substitute hard work and a little luck for grace and mercy. At that point, we are, indeed, lost.

But I think the reverse is also true – that as we become more responsive to the hurts, hopes, and needs of others we become more acutely aware of our own humanity, of our own longings and insufficiency and thereby can appreciate God's offer of manifest grace in Christ, the one who took on our need, our humanity, our lot and our life, all in order to show us God's profound love for each and all of us.

We, too, have the law and the prophets to direct us to care for the needs of our neighbor. Yet deep down I suspect that when confronted by the One who was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification we might just be cajoled from our numbness and drawn back into relationship with both God and each other. At least I hope so. Or, maybe I should say, I trust God to make it so.

What does it take…to see the transforming love of the resurrection in our lives?  In our world?  How are we called to proclaim a word love love…a word of grace…a word of forgiveness to a divided nation and a hurting world? 

The good news is that God has given us all the gifts we need…God has provided us with all that we need…God is taking care of us by giving to us the means, the time, the talents and the treasures to continue on God’s mission in the world around us.   

Here’s a story that you may have heard before….but in a way it echoes our gospel lesson for today. 

The rains had begun and a flood warning was in effect.  The police were driving through the neighborhood evacuating people from their homes before the waters began to rise.  They knocked on a door…and the man who answered it said, oh, don’t worry about me.  God will take care of me.  They urged him to leave his house, but firm in his faith, the man remained at home. 

Several hours later the man was on his porch and a boat came by, rallying the last of the people still in their homes.  They urged the man to get in the boat, but he said, nope.  I have a strong faith, and God always takes care of God’s people, God will keep me safe, God has saved people in worse situations, God will save me.  Try as they might, the rescuers could not get the man to get in the boat.  So they motored away. 

In the evening, the waters had nearly covered all the houses in the neighborhood.  Yet before nightfall, a helicopter was flying around to make sure everyone had been evacuated.  They flew over the man’s house and shouted down to him, as he was now on the roof, and said…hey, climb up the ladder, we’ll save you…the waters are expected to rise through the night, you MUST come with us!  The man was still insistent that God would save him and he refused to climb into the helicopter. 
Well, the waters did rise through the night, and the man remained with his house, and drowned. 

When he got to heaven, as we all do, saved by God’s grace and all, he said, hey…I had firm faith.  I knew that you would save me…I waited and waited and waited…and you never came to get me. 

God said to him, I sent a police car, a boat and a helicopter…what more did you want? 

Similar to the parable….we hear that God has sent prophets to teach and preach to us about the abundance in our lives and how we are called to share that with others. 

It’s not just about having faith….it’s about trusting in that faith that we are able to think about others…to open our hearts and minds to the needs of others in our community and world.   And when our hearts and minds and eyes are opened…we will be transformed.  We will know the healing power and saving grace of a God full of love and compassion.  We will be moved to share that love and grace in our world, so that others may know it…feel it….and see it around them. 

Having faith is one thing…but we don’t just hope and pray that it will keep us from trouble and harm’s way.  We have the faith and the gifts from God to continue God’s mission in this community through this congregation. 

We are called to use what we have, what we have been given by God, to continue to share God’s grace and love with others.  We cannot just hope and pray that the time, talents and treasures will come from somewhere…we have all that we need…how will we respond out of this abundance? 

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A trip, a fall and a break.

Last Saturday, on my long run of what should have been 15 miles, I tripped.  

Just over 14 miles in...back in town (thankfully) I met with some uneven sidewalk and went down.  
Luckily I could get right back up.  It was probably a combination of the shock and the desire to just be done that got me across the street and allowed me to jog the few blocks home.  

I was a sight to see.  Both knees scraped, my left elbow and palm scraped, and a scrape on my right forearm.  I am thankful that neither my face nor head hit cement.  

The day after the fall my upper arms were achy.  

I tried some elliptical on Tuesday and it was okay, but not great.  

I have not run since Saturday.  I'm getting antsy.  

But while I recover from the fall, I'm also very aware that my body needs time to heal.  

The bruising is beginning to show on my left knee and the scrape on my right knee is in need of more healing.  So I'll wait to run.  

And while I wait, I have some things to think about.  

Truth 1: I've been struggling a lot this training plan.  
Not as much physically as mentally.  I'm running the training runs in the times I should be, I just don't feel the joy that I have in the past.  And that's the biggest struggle....when it's not a joy to go out for a run, then I have to work that much harder to make it feel good.  When I feel like I'm working harder then I am not able to let my thoughts and prayers fly freely to clear my head and my heart.  What used to be a time of freedom and joy feels more like a chore.  

Don't get me wrong, I know that training for a marathon is work.  I know that it can be grueling.  I know that it will take its toll mentally and physically.  But this is more than finding myself in a rut.  It seems that this feeling has been with me since the first week of training.  

Truth 2: There is a bit of joy.  The joy I do feel is when I am in the middle of a speed workout.  When it's me and the track and a stop watch.  I can push and push and laugh and feel great.  

Truth 3:  I absolutely LOVED the triathlon training and my first tri this summer.  It was a new set of workouts.  It got me out of old training routines.  It was great for my body.  The tri itself was an amazing experience and a joy filled day.  

Truth 4: Last year I PR-ed 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon and full marathon.  (It was a pretty great year for me, race-wise.)  I know that I am not at that caliber right now.  That is part of the nagging feeling I have right now....that I'm not as fit as I was last year.  The other side to this is my weight.  The numbers on the scale have gone up this past year and I'm feeling that in my training and seeing it in some not great eating habits.  

I've always thought to myself, if it's not fun, why do it? 

I will say, up until this fall running has provided joy, a time for prayer and reflection and some time during my day for solitude and mental rest, not to mention great exercise and endorphins!  

Where does that leave me?  I'm not sure.  

I share this because I feel that my running and general fitness is a part of who I am in the community and at Trinity. I want to be honest with people, especially people who continue to encourage and support me in all that I do.  I share this because it's a tough time for me right now and I feel that I have some discerning to do about upcoming races and training.  I have had these thoughts over the past months but the recent injury and recent conversations with friends has helped me put my thoughts into words.  

I guess I share this, too, to be real that sometimes feelings change and our own reactions to things we have done with joy in the past may change...and when that happens, it's okay to think about it, pray about it and talk with friends about it as you figure out what happens next.  

Thanks for listening....

I'll keep you posted.