Tuesday, January 15, 2013

baby steps

Drum roll please.....

I went for a walk today.  Nothing uber-strenuous.  I didn't time it nor did I push myself to go super fast. I was just feeling incredibly stir crazy this morning and knew that I needed to get out.

It felt great.  Not just the fresh air, but also the time to pray, think and reflect.  I plotted out some of the trek that I'll be leading at the YouthQuake this weekend and pondered my newsletter articles and upcoming events.

I saw a fellow who I used to pass by on a regular basis back when I was running and biking more regularly.  He said, "You're walking now, huh?"  I told him about my tendon and the 3 months of rest and how I hoped to get back into being out and about by walking first.  He touched me on the arm as he said it was good to see me.

So often I talk about the affirmation of my call to serve in this place.  The affirmations are not so much the 'nice sermon, pastor' comments, but the connections that I see throughout the community.  (Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate feedback on my sermons....especially questions, thoughts or prayer concerns that may have stemmed from hearing the gospel that day.)

I'm thankful for those brief moments where a smile or conversation is shared....and the presence of God is in the midst of it.

In other news, I go to the doctor next week to see how my tendon looks.  It hasn't ached for over a week which is a good sign.  I'm hoping that I can get back into movin' and groovin' a few days a week with some strength training a few other days and feel a little more human again.  But it's one day at a time.

Until the next post...

Monday, January 14, 2013

You WILL get wet!

Yesterday's sermon remembering the baptism of our Lord and our own baptismal call.

January 13, 2013
The Baptism of Our Lord 

Isaiah 43:1-7
Psalm 29
Acts 8:14-17
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

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

Pilgrim’s Plunge is the first ride I ever went down with my hands up in the air.  It’s a water ride at Holiday World/Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana. 

It looks like this: 

It’s actually the World's Tallest Water Ride.  Riders in 10-person boats will first float calmly through a tunnel before entering an open-sided elevator lift.  After swiftly rising to the top of the 135-foot tower, each boat will pause briefly before descending rapidly down the flume at a 45-degree angle, creating a dramatic splashdown.

Here’s a view from the front: 

The maximum speed tops 50 miles an hour….which makes it even scarier to ride with your arms up in the air. 

And as if you needed any more warning before approaching the plunge, riders see this sign. 

As if it wasn’t obvious, right?  That you’ve paid admission and you're in a water park, just in case you didn’t realize it yet, you WILL get wet. 

Speaking about getting wet, let me tell you about the baptism of the Gauls.  Dr. Mark Allan Powell shares this story in his book Giving to God: The Bible's Good News about Living a Generous Life

"The Gauls were a warlike people who in ancient times inhabited what is now France and Belgium. They spoke a Celtic language and were Druids by religion. And by the time that Christians arrive on the scene, they had been conquered by the Roman Empire and were supposedly under its control.

Well, a number of Christian missionaries entered into Gallic territory and, over time, many of the Gauls became Christians. And so the story goes that whenever a converted warrior was baptized in a river or a stream, he would hold one arm high in the air as the missionary dunked him under the water.

This seemed to be a most peculiar custom and the missionaries were very puzzled until they finally learned the reason for it. When the next battle or skirmish broke out, the warlike Gaul could proclaim, “This arm is not baptized!” grab his club or sword and go off to destroy his enemy in a most un-Christian manner.

No one knows if this story is authentic. It is probably just an ancient version of what we would call today an “urban legend.” But the picture is compelling of the way we all try to keep some part of identity free from the influence of baptism." 

But here’s the thing, when it comes to baptism, you WILL get wet….and try as we might, we need to let go and let the water completely soak us. 

Water, is something we think of as life giving, necessary for life even, and usually it is not a frightening thing.  That’s not so much the case for the hearers of our text from Isaiah today.  

The book of Isaiah, all 66 chapters of it, is broken into three sections, First, Second and Third Isaiah.  The passage we hear from today is in the beginning of second Isaiah, also known as Deutero-Isaiah.  It is a section of Isaiah that brings words of comfort promising that God would free the exiles. 

In this section, the prophet takes words and images that were dangerous or scary and turns them into examples of places where they should no longer be afraid. 

The images of water and fire were common throughout the Old Testament.  Waters signified the threat of chaos.  Remember back in Genesis…and a voice moved over the waters….the waters seemed uncontrolled and just whirling and swirling. 

Passing through the waters also brings back memories of passing through the Red Sea.  The second exodus as some call it, as the Israelites fled from Pharaoh and Moses parted the Red Sea.  They passed through the sea, but Pharaoh’s army was washed away by the rushing waters. 

But as we hear about waters today, it is in a different tone.  It is one that comes with comfort and protection.  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;”

When you pass through the waters….not if….but when.  It’s as if the prophet is telling, even warning the people, that their journey will not be smooth sailing.  There will be trials and tribulations, but God will be in the midst of them, with you, through it all. 

They will get wet.  But God has called them by name…and God will be with them. 

We, too, will get wet.  But God has called us by name…and God will be with us. 

We may want to keep part of ourselves from getting wet….we may not want to give our whole selves up to being plunged into the water….but all of who we are, all of who we were created to be is God’s creation….is God’s.  And because of that, we can take comfort knowing that God is with us through it all. 

All this talk about water is because today is the day we remember Jesus’ baptism….and as we hear about it…we are reminded of our own baptism.  A reminder that we have been baptized, anointed with the Spirit…and that we, like Jesus, will encounter evil and temptation in the world around us. 

Yet in the midst of it, we know that we have a “beloved” and “well-pleasing” relationship with God.  It is a relationship that God created with us, through the waters of baptism and the work of the Spirit.  Try as we might, we cannot sever this relationship because it began with God loving us. 

Being in relationship with God comes with some responsibility though, doesn’t it.  It doesn’t mean we need to do things to be in God’s good graces, or to earn God’s love.  But out of this deep and unconditional love that God has for us, we hear and fulfill the mission God sends before us, to live up to the confidence God has placed on us.  No pressure, right? 

God created us, knows us and claims us for who we are.  In that we can do our best to see God’s work done in the world around us.  Because of God’s love for us, we can let the waters completely get us wet….and give all of ourselves to the work of God in our homes, in our church, in our community and in our world. 

The waters of baptism have washed over us all…we have been called by name.  The challenge for us is letting people know of our baptism…through our words and actions in response to a hurting, aching world. 
May God continue to bless all of our journeys as we continue blessed and nourished in this Christian community and may we go forward, ready to get wet and live out our baptismal promises. 
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, January 9, 2013

684 miles.

Two years ago today was the longest ride of my life.  With Marley (my cat) by my side in a travel crate, we journeyed the 12 hours (684 or so miles) from Loogootee, Indiana to Robesonia, Pennsylvania.  It's a day that I went through a range of emotions in the truck as the journey began before sun up...and ended well after sundown.   I remember watching the back of a Uhaul truck for pretty much all of the driving time....and truth be told, I would have followed anywhere that truck went.  It was the Little Bo-Peep of moving vehicles and I was the little lamb.

It took a good 3 hours for the meds to kick in for Marley and for her to sleep for a majority of the trip.  To keep myself awake for the early hours of the trip, I sang, sang, and sang....and for the first several hours Marley sang with me.

Our best duet was to I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash provided a nice lead, and you can sing along with him in that link if you wish....)  My version was on the Gross Pointe Blank soundtrack.  I clearly knew most of the words to the verses, but Marley joined in on the chorus.

Me: It's gonna be a bright.

Marley: Meow

Me: Bright.

Marley: Meow.

Both: Sunshiny day/meow.

Good times....and hard to see it in her now, but she was quite uneasy in our new digs for the first week or so....but she has definitely learned to call this place home.

I, too, have learned to call this place home.  From the first meal with folks, through the deconstruction and reconstruction of the kitchen, to more relationships growing and deepening...to sharing God at work in our world and our lives....I continually feel affirmation of my sense of call to serve in this place.  It's a pretty amazing feeling.  That, yes, this is my home.  And yes, this is where I am called to serve, live and fall in love.

From that long ride....to this day, so many things have changed.  Yet the ebb and flow has been a real experience.  Not all experiences have been good, but God has been at work in them, all of them.

In the meantime, I realize that I am still the little lamb...following and following...maybe not a Uhaul truck....which some folks are worried about now that I'm engaged.  (Let me say it one more time, I'm not leaving Trinity.)  But I'm still following.....Still continually listening for God's call in my life and allowing it to take me to places I've never been.  Still meeting new people and being in new situations that are sometimes challenging, sometimes life-changing and most often call-affirming.  I'm blessed to work with a great group of folks and to have a great circle of friends nearby as well.

A good friend once said I did a pretty brave thing moving across the country all by myself.  Thanks, CT, but I didn't do it all by myself.  The call of God led me, the people of Loogootee sent me with blessings, the people of Robesonia transported me...and a congregation of 1,300 people plus my family and friends carried me in thoughts and prayers through the journey.  I've been welcomed with open arms....and continue to seek new ways God is working through the congregation and through me.

Thanks to you all who have been on the journey through the blog....

Monday, January 7, 2013

stuffed shells: two ways.

In Rachael Ray's last magazine one of the items on the bucket list was to try a new recipe in each cookbook in the house....I'm trying to work through all of my cookbooks this year.  We'll see how it pans out.  Some readers will probably be involved in the tastings....others will just read and savor.  :)
In any event, enjoy...and try a new recipe!

The Book: Rachael Ray 2, 4, 6, 8 Great Meals for Couples or Crowds

The book is on the island...you can see it opened up to the right page....it's next to the zester, 1/2 an onion an open container of ricotta cheese and some jars of sauce.  

The Recipe: (p. 52) Mega Meat-Stuffed Shells

Chef's Notes: So, growing up when we had stuffed shells they were stuffed with ricotta cheesy goodness.  I love them.  Truth be told....I made some ricotta cheesy goodness to stuff a few shells tonight.  The fun part was mixing ricotta, mozzarella, an egg, oregano, basil, salt & pepper and nearly pouring it into the shells.  It was fun to make it up as I went along.  Meanwhile, back to the 2013 Great Cookbook Challenge....it was fun to try a meat & veggie filling for the shells.

First, (well, earlier I started the water for the shells) I sauteed a pound of meatloaf mix, added some onion, garlic, nutmeg, and s&p....

all that was happening while I thawed some frozen spinach in the microwave...and drained it in the sink.

Here's the cheesy goodness I mentioned earlier...

(Delsym was not included in this recipe in any way.)

And, well, there are no pictures of the final product.  Sorry.  I pulled it out of the oven after my company arrived, so it went straight to the table with a side of garlic bread and extra sauce just because.  

The Verdict: I'm already looking forward to leftovers tomorrow.  This is a do-over....and the combo of the cheesy goodness and and the scrumptious meatiness would work really well layered together in a lasagna.....

Until the next recipe . . .