Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Palm Sunday Sermon

Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11

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, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.  

There are moments that the words don’t reach,
There is suffering too terrible to name.
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable.
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable…

These are the opening lyrics to the song It's Quiet Uptown from the musical Hamilton. 

In this song, we hear the voices of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza as they recoil in grief at the death of their son who has just died in a duel.  While they struggle to move forward, they are also repairing a broken marriage after Alexander’s affair became public. 

The entire life situation for the Hamilton family is unimaginable. 

A situation no family would want to find themselves in….and so they push away the unimaginable. 

Throughout this Lenten season, we have been guided by the theme: Unimaginable: I am a beloved child of God.  We have leaned on the word unimaginable.  We have heard this word as a good thing.  That what is unimaginable is the amazing love and grace of God.  Yet, the unimaginable things we face each day, are maybe not so good.  And those things we tend to push away.  Pastor Bill touched upon this on Wednesday night. 

Because the unimaginable is too often bad news like death, illness, broken relationships, lost jobs, and violence in our world, and we would rather just push it away…we struggle to live with the unimaginable.

Our gut reaction is to not want to hear bad news, or think about how broken the world is around us.  We push away the unimaginable. 

Yet the unimaginable we need to cling to…comes into our sanctuary week after week.   And this week, this unimaginable love comes in with pomp and palms and shouts of Hosanna!  We are crying out for a savior, just as the people of Jesus’ time did. 

Save us!  Hosanna! 

Yet this savior knows what will happen next and enters in pomp to shouts of acclamation…but still walks a road that is unimaginable. 

There is nothing about Jesus -- his entry into the city, his confrontation with authority, his brutal and lonely death -- that would inspire anyone to devotion.  Think even about his mode of transportation, he’s not riding a stallion…or a camel for that matter…but a donkey.  He comes not in power but in weakness, not in might but vulnerability, not in judgment but in mercy, not in vengeance but in love. Nothing about him conforms to the expectations of a world that has come to believe above all things that might makes right or, at the very least, that might wins.

Yet he rides in…like a king…just not the kind of king they were expecting.
Those of us who shout hosanna today know the end of the story.  We know Jesus is not the king the people were expecting.  We know the passion story that unfolds from this day, one that had been hinted about throughout Jesus’ life and ministry.  We know about the last supper, the death on the cross and being placed in the tomb and how that is not the end of the story. 

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that we, too, lift our palms and shout as they did for Jesus’ entry?

Perhaps one of the reasons we do, is because we, too, still seek a king.  As sinful beings, we still cry out for help, healing, wholeness, for justice and peace in our community, nation and world today.  We want someone here and now to flip this world upside down and change it for us….to meet our needs and desires here and now. 

We want our lives to be all resurrection and no cross.  (Jung)

Because that would push away the unimaginable. 

We want that superhero savior…to swoop in and take away the hurting, the pain, the suffering, the unjust and scary violence in our communities, the struggles we have in our relationships, life threatening illnesses….take it all away.  Please, save us! 

And we have a God who does save us…but in a way that is unimaginable

God doesn’t swoop in and pull us out of the trials and tribulations of this life, but joins right alongside of us for the journey.  Sitting next to us as we mourn, sitting with us as we cry, being present for the hugs of joy and the laughter that we share. 

Let's not miss God’s presence in these unexpected places….

As we shout Hosanna, wave our palm branches in the air and join with the crowd as they gathered around Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, let us see God in all of this.

Let us see that this is just the beginning, that by joining in today, we are a part of a larger passion play. 

We know that next comes remembering the last supper that Jesus celebrated with his disciples.

We know that that night will be followed by Jesus’ death on a cross…

And we know, ultimately, that this week…this Holy Week, will end in the joy and wonder at an empty tomb.  And while it’s so tempting to jump from the hosannas of today to the alleluias next week, today is an invitation to journey through this week together: to remember the events of Jesus’ last week. 

It may sound like I’m trying to get you to come to church more this week, or should I say inviting you to come to church more this week. 

No matter how you say it, that is what I’m doing, inviting you to come back to church this week again, and again. 

Because within this community of faith, we are all facing struggles and hardships, joys and celebrations….and how the heck could we get through all of that without God’s love and grace in our lives seen in this place and embodied through the people of this faith community?   

Are you with me?  We live in a world where we fear the diagnosis of cancer, where violence in our world seems to be in the news every week, where we are more and more busy every day that face to face communication is less and less….the list could (and does) go on and on. 

So, I’m dead serious….how could we get through all of that *stuff* without God’s love and grace in our lives that we see in this place and embodied through the people of this faith community?

What happens in this place, week after week is an expression of hope for change….just like Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem: an expression of hope for change. 

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable….

Forgiveness.  Can you imagine?
Forgiveness.  Can you imagine? 

The unimaginable that comes into the Hamilton family is the grace and forgiveness that Eliza extends to Alexander, as she reaches out to hold his hand as they walk through the unimaginable together. 

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name. 

That grace is unimaginable. 
It embraces us, transforms our hearts and our souls to see beyond ourselves, to see how God is at work in our lives and in the life of this community and world. 

Let that grace and love and forgiveness into your hearts and lives and homes. 
Let that grace and love and forgiveness be shared with those around you through words of forgiveness, and signs of love and grace with those in need. 

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

160 (no foolin')

Thinking about my word for the year...'focus' and I can't believe we're already into April.  

Where did the first 3 months of the year go?  

As I posted a few days ago, I will be focusing this month on rest and recovery.  

I am excited that looking at the last month and my weigh-ins using My Fitness Pal.  I lost 4 pounds in March.  I'm pumped! I have more weight to lose, but I am happy that the numbers are going down.  

I will say that since this month has the focus of rest and recovery I wonder how numbers will look on the scale week after week.  Yesterday I went to the gym and did upper body strength training.  
I will hit the gym twice next week for two days of more upper body work.  

Friday will be day 10 of active resting for me.  
I know, active resting sounds funny...but I am purposely not doing cardio for 10 days and taking it as easy as I can during the day.  

Here I am at the end of day 4 of 10.  I've had some aches each day, but none as bad as Tuesday.  I've been icing in the evenings and taking ibuprofen when I feel my shin ache.  At this point the pain has not gotten worse (a good sign) but also hasn't completely gone away.  

As the days of rest and recovery continue I'm looking forward to a month with reading, some coloring and maybe some sit down projects.  Today I tackled my sock drawer and with some sorting and some tossing...the drawer closes again!  Hooray!  

Oh...and I've also been getting 8+ hours a sleep a night and I think that has made the most difference.  

I think this month will be good, not just for my body, but my mind and soul as well.  

Until the next post.  

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Painful post...

Author's note:  This post is not seeking medical advice or pity party invitations, it's a space to vent, share, and help me process.  

Well, tomorrow is a weigh in day and I'll get there sometime tomorrow, but in the meantime, there is a shift in exercising.  I've had some pain in my shin lately...and it doesn't seem to be going away.   I was hopeful that it was shin splints, but it may be a stress fracture.  Ugh.  (This is a self-diagnosis, by the way.)  

My first step (no pun intended) is to rest.  I went to the gym today and tried to go easy, just a little bit of stationary biking and some elliptical, but I need a full break.  I will hit the gym in a few days for upper body strength training, but no cardio.  

I will be shifting my focus for the end of this month on rest and recovery.  I will still be tracking my food and watching what I eat.  I will be getting 8+ hours a sleep a night to help with healing and recovery.  

I will refocus how I would have spent my working out time with other restful activities, such as reading, playing ukulele and maybe learning how to crochet?  Who knows.  I do know that they will be activities that bring me joy and allow me to sit (and perhaps allow a purring cat to sit on my lap, as well.)

I need to remember a few things.  

1) I stopped running for three months when I hurt my achilles tendon.  (If need be....I know that I could do that again.  I don't want to think about not running for that long, but I have the ability to rest and heal, even if it bums be out.) 

2) Rest is really the only way to heal.  I can't run through this nor should I.  I know I can work some cardio back in at some point, but no need to in the immediate future.  

3) In the past I was able to watch my weight while not exercising and while it's not my go to method, I can continue to watch what I eat and keep track of what I eat. 

4) I will give myself some time to be upset about this setback...which may or may not include a glass of wine paired with some peanut butter Oreos, but then I will refocus and move on.  I can't change the fact that I have some sort of injury, but I can do the best for my body and spirit as a new day begins tomorrow.  

Thanks for listening, friends.  

Friday, March 24, 2017


I weighed in on Wednesday at 160.4.  

I'm up a bit from last week, but not by much and I'm still finding my groove.  
I had lost a good amount in the first few weeks and am not surprised that there was a change this past week.  Part of that, no doubt, had to do with delicious celebrations of St. Patty's day....so many Reubens.  :)  

I'm drooling just thinking about them.  

But I'm still working out on a daily basis and logging my food. On days that I run, I have been stretching more than I used to and have been doing a 10 minute strength/cool down routine.  I also plan on adding some simple body strength exercises after each working.  I'm thinking squats, burpees, and planks.  I'll keep you posted as to how this goes.  

I don't have much else to post today...just the numbers to keep myself accountable.  

Until next week.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Meeting Jesus at the well? Unimaginable!

March 19, 2017
3rd Sunday in Lent

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

Please pray with me,
Lord God, you kept Abraham and Sarah in safety throughout the days of their pilgrimage, you led the children of Israel through the midst of the sea, and by a star you led the Wise Men to the infant Jesus.  Protect and guide us now in this Lenten journey, open our eyes to see and our hearts to experience the unimaginable love you have for all your children.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen. 

The gospel of John is all about knowing Jesus.  It’s all about knowing about Jesus through stories and the opportunity to see Jesus as the light of the world in our midst.  It’s all about knowing God’s unimaginable love for us through the relationship God has with us in Jesus Christ.

This passage is deep.  Not just because it’s at the site of a well, but because of the length of conversation, the depth of conversation, and the outcome of the conversation. 

Last week we heard the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus.  This week we are invited to come and see the interaction between Jesus and the woman at the well.  The two stories have their similarities and differences.  Nicodemus, a man, comes to Jesus under the cover of night.  The interaction at the well is with a woman, in broad daylight at noon.  Both individuals question Jesus and take a guess as to who he is and both are a bit confused. Jesus shares more about himself and Nicodemus is still uncertain and leaves the scene quietly. 

The woman, on the other hand begins to wonder, he can’t be the messiah, can he?  And she runs into town, leaving her water jug behind and tells everyone, “Come and see!” 

Too often when this passage is heard, we get caught up in why the woman was at the well at that time of day.  Noontime would not have been the time to get water from the well.  And when Jesus says to her, “you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” Imagine, just imagine, Jesus speaking pure truth to you.  As he talks with this woman, he tells her that he knows her and her history.  It does not come off with a tone of judgment, but rather as understanding and just knowing. 

While we do not know the woman’s history, think about a person in our day in age who may have been married 5 times….and who knows why those marriages may have ended, death, divorce? In any event, that is 5 broken relationships, not a happy place for any man or woman to be.   So for Jesus to state this truth back to her is, for me, the deepest part of this passage.  It’s the moment when Jesus looks at her, sees her for who she is, and loves her in spite of who she is. 

That, my friends, is unimaginable. 

Her response, too, comes as a surprise.  She leaves the well, to tell others, to “come and see!”  It’s a deep awakening of faith and she cannot keep it to herself.  It’s one of those moments that can only be described at a God moment.  In that moment…her heart is transformed because of God’s love for her.  (Oh to have a moment like that…on that we can only shout about.)

It’s not a moment of confession and forgiveness, it’s a moment where God’s love breaks in and wins the day.  It’s a moment where a woman, is seen for exactly who she is and is loved anyway. 

Each week as we gather in this place, we begin with words of confession and forgiveness. I know, I just said that the meeting at the well was not a moment of confession and forgiveness, but for us, that is a time each week when we are about to see ourselves for who we are...children of God, simultaneously sinner and saint, created in God’s image, imperfect, nonetheless.  When we are able to see ourselves as who we truly are, we become aware, if just for a brief moment, how Jesus sees us. 

Jesus sees us and knows us: our past mistakes, our imperfections, the times we have been hurt and the times we have hurt others.  The times we have been ignored and the times we have ignored others.  In those moments, when we are at our weakest, when we Jesus can see us for who we really are that Jesus says, “I love you.” 

It’s unimaginable. 

The love God has for each and every one of us reaches farther than we can comprehend, deeper than we can fathom and encompasses all of God’s creation. 

It’s unimaginable. 

It’s a love that wants us to be the best that we can.  It’s a love that a parent has for a child, a love that never runs out.  It’s a love God has for us because God is in relationship with us through Jesus Christ, and wants the very best for us each and every day of our lives. 

It’s hard to put into words, hard to comprehend, it’s unimaginable. 

Let us pray,
Good and gracious God, You want for us only good things and yet sometimes we have a hard time accepting your gifts and being the people you have created us and call us to be.  Help us to let go of those things that hold us back, remind us of your unfailing love, your unimaginable acts of love and grace and create in us the hope and courage to accept that love, share it with others and live into the future you have created. and may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


The numbers continue to go down!  It's an exciting place to be.  

Again, I know it's not just about the numbers, because this past week I started to feel like I was loosing weight.  My pants have been fitting easier, which is a bonus :) 
I think I'll notice the weight loss before others, because I seem to know my body best.  At some point, others will begin to see it as well, and that will be helpful to have moral support.  

In other news, I am seeing a difference, too in my demeanor.  On days when I workout first thing in the morning, my mental focus seems sharper and I feel like I'm in a better mood in general.  That could be endorphin related and the fact that by the time I get to work, I've been up for a few hours and am caffeinated and nourished and ready to begin the work day.  

In any case, it's positive reinforcement for myself to get the workout in first thing in the morning.  

This week, with a snow storm yesterday, I was able to get a 6 mile run in Monday morning, with a headlamp and the light of the moon.  :) I played in the snow and dug out my car yesterday.  This morning, I made it to the gym.  With actual winter weather this week, I am thankful for a warm place for my morning workouts.  

Oh, and I'm still logging my food daily and that continues to help prevent late night snacking.  

For all of you working on weight loss or different eating habits, keep it up.  Small changes make a big difference over time.  

Until the next post, be well.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Today was weigh-in day.  One week into March and the numbers on the scale are going down.  

I have been logging food and workouts every day.  And because I am logging my diet and exercise on a regular basis I have not been eating silly snacks at night while I watch tv or read.  I am working on eating more hearty vegetables and protein packed snacks.  

At our weekly dinners at church, we've introduced the idea of sides (instead of breads) and fruit instead of desserts.  Last week I brought a tasty kale salad and tonight I brought a Apple Brussels Sprout Salad with Brussels sprouts, apples, walnuts, cheese and an apple cider vinaigrette.  The complement of the night came from a man who does not like Brussels sprouts.  He said, "It was okay, I think I only had one bite of Brussels sprouts, the rest was lettuce."  I replied, "It was only sprouts, no lettuce."  "Oh, okay."  
I'll take it as a win.  

In other news, yesterday I added a new ending to my run.  

I heard about this DVD on a Runner's World podcast.  The 10 minutes flew by at the end of the run.  I started with the mobility workout.  It's a nice way to cool down that stretches and moves muscles and joints that I have not been giving enough attention.    I felt it a bit in my hips when I woke up this morning, in a good way.  I am actually looking forward to the end of my run tomorrow.  

Here's to week two of focus on diet and exercise.  
It's already making a difference.  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A pep in my step.

I did NOT want to go to the gym this morning.

It wasn't that I didn't want to exercise...I did.
I was debating a bike ride, but as the wind whipped around the house and howled down the street I knew riding outside wouldn't be a smart choice.

So I got up, had some coffee and headed to the gym.

The real reason I did not want to go to the gym is because today was the day that I would have my follow up for 'New Year! New You!'  They checked my weight and body fat at the gym in January.  I knew there would be a follow up in 60 days, but I was not looking forward to it.  As I mentioned this week I have not been focusing on diet and exercise as much as I should.  Let me rephrase that.  I do exercise and I do watch what I eat.  But, since my goal is to lose weight, I need to really work on that focus.

I walked in and said I was ready for my follow up.
I hopped on the scale and weighed in at 164 (this is the closest the gym scale has been to my home scale in a while.)

I headed out to the front desk and went through the motions....and here are the results:

From 2 months ago, my weight has gone down 2 pounds and I went down .4% in body fat.  

I think this is a good start.  I didn't gain and this month this will be the area of my focus.  

I'm ready.  

Let's do this!  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


I weighed in this morning, right before a bowl of oatmeal and a 5 mile run.

As I focus more on diet and exercise this month, I am happy to report that on day one, I got up when the alarm went off and ran before heading into the office.

Day one = check, well the exercise part at least.  I've also logged my food today using the My Fitness Pal app.  It's been a while since I've logged in, but I'm back in the game.

While the goal for this month is a healthier and stronger body, I will be checking the scale from week to week.  Weekly weigh-ins have worked for me in the past, so it will be part of my fitness journey again.

In addition to becoming healthier and stronger, I'm super excited about running again.  Another part of my goal this month is to become a more well rounded runner.  That means adding specific stretching, strength training and cross training that will be beneficial to my running days.  

After hearing about 10 Minute Cross-Training for Runners on a Runner's World podcast, I realized it would be a good purchase for me.  This DVD has 5 different 10 minute workouts to help you transition from your run to the next part of your day.  I realize that in addition to the super quick stretching and infrequent foam rolling, I need to step up my post run game.  10 minutes at the end of a run will mix things up, help with strength, flexibility and recovery time.  (I'll let you know how those 10 minutes go.)

I also registered for my first duathlon.  I did my first triathlon last summer and LOVED it!
The Life is Good Peace Valley Duathlon seems like a good race.  I'm going for the long race...5K, 11 mile ride, 5K.  I know I have those distances in me.  I am looking forward to incorporating longer rides into my workout schedule as solid cross-training days that will mix up the muscles I'm using.

I feel like there is another triathlon in my future as well, it's just not official yet.

It's 9:30ish...and I'm done for the day....tomorrow I'll take some time to reflect on worship this evening.  

Until tomorrow.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Others and their impact.

As this month winds down, I'm taking a moment to reflect upon how 'focusing on others' made an impact on me.  

I purposely listened to other voices.  Sure, that sounds weird, but hear me out.  I listened to music that I don't normally listen to and I listened to musicians whose voices speak a message I need to hear.  I listened to hip hop and rap....voices of men and women who sing/speak/chant/rap who share messages of injustice and proclaim messages of hope.  

Books that entered my reading time included Race Matters by Cornell West, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, First Ladies of Running by Amby Burfoot, and A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachael Held Evans.  Okay...truth is, I would like to spend more time reading....so I finished First Ladies of Running and will read the last chapter of A Year of Biblical Womanhood before I go to bed tonight.  I will continue to work on the others in March.  

I also have rekindled my interested in running by listening to The Runner's World podcast and the Marathon Training Academy podcast.  The stories and interviews have been filled with runners of all ages and walks of life which have both encouraged and humbled me.  

I blogged earlier in the month about my visit to the local Islamic Center.  That experience was holy and beautiful.  Praying with my Muslim and Lutheran sisters was sacred and soul feeding.  

I have been taking more time than I have in the past to read and prepare for the weekly bible study I attend with colleagues.  While I had spent time preparing in the past, I have been digging into Feasting on the Word finding helpful insights, quotes and ideas to share with my colleagues.  I have been absorbing more from our weekly get togethers as I have spent more time preparing.  

As I thought about others, I was more apt to donate to causes this past month than I normally would.  I mean, I don't know what my monthly donations to charities look like, but I took time to support local and far away friends in with different organizations for which they were raising money.  

It's been interesting to think about others and listen to how others influence, inspire and encourage me.  

As I look ahead to March.... I had a few ideas.  I'd really like to focus on getting the most out of each day. I would love to workout, read, work, get stuff done around the house and relax each day.  I will probably work on some of that in March, but more importantly, I will focus on diet and exercise.  I have slipped away from healthy eating and getting workouts in first thing in the morning.  I will incorporate cross-training into my days of running and work on getting enough sleep so morning workouts are doable.  
Starting tomorrow I will begin logging my food regularly and reducing the sweets and snacks.  

I'll keep you posted on the impact.  

Until then....be well and be kind.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Let your light so shine...

I heard this song on Saturday morning last week on WWOZ It's been on my mind and my running playlist ever since.  Give a listen to Kermit Ruffins' rendition of This Little Light of Mine
In the meantime, I had already written, but was preparing to preach on the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany with texts from Isaiah 58 and Matthew 5 which includes the passage we recite at baptisms as we light a candle, Let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  So, I have been praying about light...This song just hits the spot! 

We almost sang it as I handed out glow sticks to the kids during the children's sermon. 

Here is this past weekend's sermon.  Maybe take time this week to light a candle, to let Christ's light shine in the midst of darkness, to cast light and love and grace on a broken world. 

February 5, 2017
5th Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 112:1-9
1 Corinthians 2:1-12
Matthew 5:13-20

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, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! 

Such is the call we hear from Isaiah today…the trumpet would have been the call to the temple.  I thought about starting my sermon with the blast of the trumpet….or maybe a vuvuzela…you know…to draw attention…to call people to focus…or to even wake people up?   Because here we are, settled in worship. 

We’ve heard the lessons, we’ve sung some liturgy and some hymns, and now we settle in for the sermon.  Before our time is concluded today we will pray, share in the Lord’ Supper and be sent from this place to serve the Lord until we return. 

In essence, worship is the most important thing we do together. 

Yes, loving and serving our neighbor is important, as is feeding the hungry and visiting the lonely and praying for our enemies…but the most important thing that we do together is worship. 

“It is the place that forms us into the people of God.  It is the place where we inhale God’s love and grace, so that we can be sent forth to exhale God’s love and grace in a broken world in need of redemption.” (Connors)  

The original hearers of Isaiah’s passage were super focused on worship.  You may think, oh, that’s a good thing.  You just said that worship is the most important thing we do together…and yes it is, but the people of Isaiah’s time were too focused on the acts of worship.  They took the acts of worship, like fasting, bowing down before God and self-sacrifice as a way to say, Hey God!  Look at us!  Look at how pious we are!  Look at our fasting!  Look at our self-sacrifice!  Look at these rituals that we do over and over again to gain your attention! 

What do you think is wrong with that picture? 

The very acts of worship were driving the people to think more and more about themselves and their individual actions than those around them and how their actions impacted the life of the community.

Isaiah, the voice of the prophet, calls to the people to remind them that their worship is not just about their individual actions, but how their actions as a community of the faithful has an impact on the larger community. 

The prophets were sent to speak out for God.  (Sound familiar Fundocy youth?) Sometimes the words of the prophets comforted those who were afflicted.  Sometimes the words of the prophets afflicted the comfortable. 

In my eyes, the words of the prophets came from a God who loves God’s people so much…that sometimes they need to be refocused or redirected to the call of God in their lives. 

And that, in essence, is what worship does for us each week. 

It helps us to be refocused and redirected to the call of God in our lives. 

And maybe, one of the most important pieces of that call is the call to community. 

We aren’t called to live lives of disciples on our own in our own individual bubbles.  We are called together into the Body of Christ, into the family of God to reflect and shine the light of Christ in a broken and hurting world. 

Our gospel lesson today is another reminder of who we are called to be.  As you heard the passage read, You are the light of the world!  You are the salt of the earth!  Maybe you started humming the music from Godspell…I know I did. 

But did you know that as that passage was read that Jesus was talking to the community.  The you in both of those verses is plural. 

As a former English teacher it is easy for me to say the plural of you is you.  There is no need to add an ‘s’ to the end of it.  But apparently in these parts it may be better heard to say, yous or youins…although both of those make me cringe. 

Y’all works much better for me. 

Y’all are the light of the world!
Y’all are the salt of the earth! 

Y'all, get it? 

It’s plural, this command and call is being addressed in a communal and corporate way. 

It’s the reflection and sharing of Christ’s light as a community. 

Many of you may have one of these at home.  Especially if you have a newly baptized person in your family.  Because at a baptism, we light this candle, hand it to a parent or sponsor and say, let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. 

I’m not sure what happens when those candles leave this place. I’ve heard of families that light those candles on birthdays or baptismal anniversaries.  Too often I think these candles are forgotten about.  They are put back in the box they came in and they are placed in a drawer.  Candles in a drawer don’t do much good.

But candles lit…that’s a completely different story. 

As the body of Christ we are called to let our light shine before others that they may see the good works of our community and that those works may give glory to our father in heaven. 

One candle will always break through the darkness.  That is most certainly true. 

But the light of candles, multiple candles, changes darkness in a bold and powerful way. 

The light of multiple candles shines light on the darkness, it allows us to see sin for what it is, the brokenness in our world and the places where we turn from God and turn in toward ourselves.  But it also shines a beacon of hope.  That where light is shined, God is there too. 

Where the light of Christ is shined shows the promise of the resurrection and eternal life. 

Where the light of Christ is shined shows our care and compassion for the community, nation and world outside of our own little bubbles. 

I invite you now to be part of that great light. 

To be reminded of God’s connection to us, and our opportunity and call to share that light with others. 

Please come up, pick up a candle and light it from the Christ candle….let us see how the communal light of Christ dispels darkness and illumines the church and the world. 

Let us pray,
Repeat after me,

Let our light so shine before others
That they may see our good works.
And give glory to our father in heaven.
Let Christ’s  light so shine before others
That it dispels the darkness,
Gives hope to the hopeless,
And enlightens our world
With your love,
In Jesus’ name we pray

Friday, February 3, 2017

Holy moments with others.

Today I had the opportunity and invitation to join my Muslim sisters and brothers in prayer.  

I attended the noon Friday prayer known as Juma at the Islamic Center of Reading.
An invitation was extended to my Lutheran brothers and sisters as an opportunity to to be present in support and  solidarity.  We were invited and many of us attended to show support and presence for Muslims in our community as they worship, specifically in light of the recent orders signed by the president.  

First of all, this was my first experience attending a prayer service in a Mosque.  They knew guests would be present and the members were beyond hospitable in welcoming us into their prayer space.  We were welcomed into their space with care and compassion, with smiles and warmth, with gratitude for our presence.  

We heard a reading from the Qur'an and the Imam shared a message with all who were gathered.  It was a message that encouraged us to remember who we are as people of faith.  While the Imam was specifically talking about what it looks like to live as a Muslim.  He said that it is our actions that show our faith.  It's not our prayer stance or prayer actions, but the actions we take part in every day.  I heard similar themes to the ones I hear in our weekly worship service: care for others, giving to those in need, showing compassion.  

As we bowed in prayer, I was thankful for this experience.  
I was thankful for the invitation, for the warm welcome and for the opportunity to ask questions when the service was over.  
I was also bothered. I was sad.  I am saddened and angered.  Sweeping statements about entire groups of faith are not true or fair and they cause more fear than anything else.  

I continue to pray that as a follower of Christ I am able to do the following things:
I hope that my actions will provide open spaces for people to talk about their faith similarities and differences.  I hope that my words will invite conversation and deeper understanding of my own faith and the faith and faith practices of others.  
I hope that as a leader in a faith community that I model support and care for my brothers and sisters of other faiths.  I hope that I am able to learn more about not just our differences but our similarities.  
I heard about our similarities today at Juma.  Our call to care for our neighbor, to reach out to those in need.  How we do that shows our faith to the world.  

As we live out our faith does it show care and compassion for all of God's creation?  

As I live out my faith do I show care for my neighbor?  Compassion for those in need?  A place of solace and safety for those who are treated unjustly?  Ears to listen to those whose life journey and experience is different than my own? A realization of the privilege I have and how that impacts how I share my faith and how I care for others?  

Many, many questions that will remain in my heart and my mind as time continues to pass.  
More reflections to come . . .

Good and gracious God, 
Thank you for the gift of this day.  Thank you for moments of peace and prayer and community and safe spaces for them all.  Be present in our world.  Guide our leaders to words and acts of justice and peace.  Provide space and comfort for those who wish to worship and respond to their faith in word and deed.  I pray for my Muslim brothers and sisters, for those able to pray in their local Mosque today and for those who prayed at home.  Thank you for their hospitality and care.  Guide my heart, mind and words to share the depth of this experience with others.  In Jesus' name, amen.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Focus on others.

And we're back...here we go, February, the focus will be on 'others'.  

I'm not really sure how this will take place, but I'm ready to give it a shot.  

My top three that I listed last night and prayed about were: others, life, family.  

I think now, more than ever, there is an importance of being present, being with and focusing on others.  For me, it means my phone is away when I am spending time with friends or family.  It means that I will be fully engaged with the people who are in my immediate surroundings.  It means for me that in a moment or a situation, it may be more important to focus on the needs, worries, concerns and joys of someone else rather than myself.  Not that it means taking time away from me, but that I am aware of the time I spend with others.  

For me it also means purposely listening to voices that are different than mine.  Voices that come from diverse backgrounds and experiences.  It means listening to others as they share stories in hopes that we can learn from one another.  It means learning my own story and how it impacts the lives of others both positively and negatively.  It means reaching out to experience the lives and stories of people around me in my neighborhood and outlying community.  

It means taking the time for others each and every day...expanding my daily prayers, expanding the music I listen to, the books I read, the tweets I follow and the people I meet.  

It will be interesting to see how this shapes the next month of 2017.  

I'll be sure to keep you posted.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

One month of focus: a recap.

One month into my one word and it's time (for me to see how it shaped this month for me.)

Some daily changes I made to help overall focus included the following: No Facebook in the office. (I have messenger to keep in touch with folks and only logged on once or twice to post things for church.)  
I moved my Facebook and Instagram apps into a folder marked focus, on the second screen on my phone.  That way I can't see alerts or posts on my main screen and if I'm tempted to check things out, I slow down and smile when I read the word focus.  
I have taken to always playing music or Netflix during cardio at the gym so I do not get sucked into different news channels that get me all fired up.  
I have found that at work and at home, making to do lists are very helpful for my focus.  They help me from getting sidetracked and help me to make the most of my time.  

I hadn't planned on it, but took time each evening to jot a short note about my focus for the day.  
Here are some of the things I focused on this month...
Being present in worship
Coffee & reading :)
Reading at work
Lack of focus
Sleep and healing
Being present
Strength and flexibility
Fitness and family
Being real
Small group
What I can do
Females (meeting, talking, and praying with 3 awesome women in my life)
Youth and music
Rest and work
Time management

It's interesting...that as I let the word focus impact my life each day, I have not set the goal of something specific to focus on each day.  These journal entries or notes are reflections on how I saw focus during the day.  I guess I worry that if I set a goal for a day or a week or a month it feels like more of a resolution than letting the word impact my life.  But I wonder what a month would look like with a focus on one thing.  From the list above...I have so many things I could focus on that it is hard to decide...or hone my focus.  Ha!  

But seriously, I think picking one for the month of February could be a good thing.  
I have a few that are jumping out at me on the list above.  I'll write them out before heading to bed tonight and pray on them and see how my mind and heart are focused in the morning.  

I'll post at some point tomorrow with a word for the month.  

Thanks for being part of my one word journey.   

Friday, January 27, 2017

True Sadness

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

At our text study this week, we talked, prayed and discussed the beatitudes.  While we entered into conversation about Matthew 5:1-12 we spent some time focusing on blessed are those who mourn.  We wondered what grief we all carry.  I wonder if it is a deep longing for all to know the love of God in Christ Jesus, or a deep longing for there to be peace and justice in our country and our world, or a deep longing for hate speech and anger to subside so that people may talk with one another about very divisive issues.  

We are in the season of epiphany...a season of light.  One of the things I realized (post text study) is that the light that shines in the darkness not only reveals the presence of Christ in our midst, but it also shines on the sin and darkness in our world.  The brighter Christ's light shines, the more we see the sin and brokenness in our world, and it drives us to the cross, the place where death and sin are conquered, not by our doing, but through the actions of God.  

We didn't talk about this text, but I started thinking about this passage from Romans:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23)

What if it's not only we who are crying out, longing for a world of peace and hope and forgiveness and love.  What if all of creation groans and longs with us?  

We are just lifting the voices of all who cry out in the world.  

My new favorite song speaks, too, to this text and idea.  (My mind works in mysterious ways.)  First of all, my new favorite band is The Avett Brothers.  I know, just catching on...if you're a long time fan, let me know your favorites.  But what drew me in was the song, True Sadness.  Go ahead, give it a listen here. What caught my attention in a restaurant and on the radio was the upbeat tune.  It took me a while to wrap my mind around the chorus and title being True Sadness.  It doesn't sound like a song about sadness, but it speaks to the deep longing, it speaks to our ability to cover our sadness with layers and layers of joy or imitation joy, but the sadness is still there.  

The chorus is:
"But I still wake up shaken by dreams
And I hate to say it but the way it seems
is that no one is fine
Take the time to peel a few layers
and you will find
True sadness"

I think it speaks to this deep longing, to creation crying out and groaning for the revealing of the children of God.  I think it speaks to blessed are those who mourn...because mourning, crying out, and longing for peace and justice and for the children of God to be revealed is something we will all cry out for until we are all gathered together in the Kingdom of God.  

The first verse talks about someone else shining light on the darkness...

The final verse, I think, lifts up the fact that we are simultaneously sinner and saint (a very Lutheran thing).  

"I cannot go on with this evil inside me
I step our my front door and I feel it surround me
Just know the Kingdom of God is within you
Even though the battle is bound to continue"

For me...that evil inside me, that battle continuing is our continual need for the cross, and the presence of Christ in our lives and our world.  That we can't conquer sin alone.  That we can't banish the darkness with our own good deeds.  But by the grace of God we are able to let Christ's light shine through us and around us.  And may that light continue to baffle the darkness in our world.  May that light illuminate our world as a sign of hope and peace.