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.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Where to begin?

Since inauguration day, many, many things have been happening.  

Events that have evoked celebration and joy.
Events that have evoked fear, worry and concern.  

My word for the year is focus.  
As I spend time sifting through different posts on different social media sites, it is hard to focus on what is actually happening.  It's hard to focus on issues that I feel are important, not only to me, but to  my neighbor (locally and around the globe.)  

I've been trying to focus my energy and attention on what is important...and my mind keeps jumping.  

I get that people have different opinions.  
I get that we don't always agree.
But I also struggle greatly with how we have been interacting with one another and treating one another.  It's perfectly okay to see a post you do not agree with and just move on. Sometimes that may be the smart choice.  

Now, back to focusing...seeing as I need to think about it all the time.  

I tried to think about how to focus in our fast paced political situation.  I tried to think about how to (as educated as possible) to follow all that is happening.  I tried to figure out where to begin.  
And when I did, I remember where it all started for me.  

At my baptism.  That's when by God's act, I was welcomed into the Body of Christ.  When I was in middle school I was confirmed.  I affirmed my baptism.  I confessed the creed and I was asked this question:  You have made public profession of your faith.  Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:
to live among God's faithful people, 
to hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper,
to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, 
to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?  

And I responded with, "I do, and I ask God to help and guide me."

Living among God's faithful people (the family of faith at Trinity) I pray that as I am fed and nourished in word and the Lord's supper that I am able to share the good news of God in Christ through word and deed (sharing the good news of God's love for all of God's people, the good news of forgiveness of sins, the gift of grace and that you are loved no matter what!), to serve all people (ALL people), following the example of Jesus (and Jesus asked who is your neighbor? My neighbor is the person who lives across the street and across the nation.  My neighbor is someone who looks just like me and shares my faith, or more likely, my neighbor has different color skin, learned a different language growing up, has a different faith or does not practice a religion, is a different gender, is surrounded by a family who loves them or who lives alone, my neighbor is someone who may not even have a place to call home, my neighbor is someone who struggles to make ends meet or is financially well off - I'm sure I've missed some similarities and differences here, but you get the idea.  My neighbor is who I am called to serve...not myself.  Especially when I have a voice.  I feel that I am called to speak for those who have no voice and to listen to the voices that are different than mine so I can better understand how we can come to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.  

Justice and peace in all the earth...for me that means starting at home...moving into the community and across the nation and globe.  It means writing to and calling my representatives.  It means not allowing hate filled speech to be part of interactions I have with people.  It means taking time each day to read or visit multiple news sites to compare and contrast the news stories that are hitting my news feed.  It means being as educated as much as I can be to the faith and beliefs of others so I can enter into conversation with others with humility and love.  

This by no means is the answer...
This by no means will make anything easier...
But I hope and pray that I will be able to share my voice as a voice of care, compassion and love for others as we navigate a new administration together.  Remembering our call to care for others...and to work for justice and peace in all the earth.  

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sermon from this past weekend.

January 15, 2017
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Since we don't read the Psalm each week, I read this before the sermon. (Psalm 40)
I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
   a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the Lord. 

Happy are those who make
   the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
   to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
   your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us;
   none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
   they would be more than can be counted. 

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
   but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
   you have not required.
Then I said, ‘Here I am;
   in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
   your law is within my heart.’ 

I have told the glad news of deliverance
   in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
   as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
   I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
   from the great congregation. 

Do not, O Lord, withhold
   your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
   keep me safe for ever.

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. 

Six years ago on a Friday evening my ministry in this place began.  Surrounded by 30-ish youth and many adult chaperones we were given final directions on how to get to the Hilton in Harrisburg for the Harrisburg YouthQuake.  I jumped right in and have been loving it here ever since. 

Each year following that first year I’ve enjoyed attending the quake.  Well except for last year with that 30+ inches of snow…it was good that we stayed home. 

One year the keynote speaker was Tiger McLuen.  They youth enjoyed his larger group presentations and the adult chaperones were able to attend two adult leader sessions with him as well.  My one big take-away from the adult session was this.  As he talked about youth ministry he said, number one: It’s all about you.  Talking with the adults he said you need to be a person to whom and with whom the youth can relate, you need to be accessible, open, understanding and honest.  We thought, okay we’ve got this.  We understand, it’s all about us. 

And then he said and number two:  It’s not about you. 
A few of us thought, huh?  But he continued to explain…as soon as you have their attention, trust, relationship, you immediately get out of the way and point to Christ.  And we all went, oh….that totally makes sense. 

Hey, look at me, look at me!!! Now, look there! (at the cross) 

You ebb and flow between the two (it’s all about me….it’s not about me) and while relationships deepen, you continue to point to the cross and to Christ. 

And that…is the same thing that John does in our gospel lesson today.  John has been out and about baptizing and calling people to repentance, in preparation for the coming of Christ – look at me, he says, look at me!  This is my message to you…and then John has their attention and he says, look – here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Look, here comes Christ.  Look….this is the one you have been waiting for and preparing for…not me…but him. 

For us today, we are still seeking that savior…the one who takes away the sin of the world, the one who has experienced our joys and our pains and continues to be there for us no matter what and the good new is: The messiah has come! 

And the even better news is:  It’s not you! 


Am I right?  We look at the people in our world around us, looking for the one who will save us…well that person has already come…in Christ. 

God is present with us here and now through the gift of the Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah…the savior. 

Does that mean the life will be smooth sailing? Oh, heavens no.  We will continue to live our lives in a broken world, one where we struggle with death and dying.  A world where we struggle to feed the hungry, care for our neighbor and work for peace and justice for all the world.  A world where we struggle and argue with others about the state of our environment and the state of our nation.  A world where we seem to speak more than we listen. 

Yet in the midst of it all…God is with us. 
We are reminded of that in the word of our psalm for today.  
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.”

Upon reflecting on this psalm, a colleague wrote, “God is present with us in the pit and has the power to draw us out, but a life of discipleship requires turning right back around and entering the pit once again, in the name of preaching good news to those still held captive within it.” 

God is with us, especially when we are most in need of a savior.  And we, then, turn and return to the depths or the pit where others may be to proclaim that good news, that they too have been saved, that they too are free from sin and death to love and serve their neighbor.  Because in essence that is what we continue to do for one another.  Someone drags us out of the pit…and we are able to be there to lift up others….the cycle is cyclical….I wish we could be pulled out of that pit once and be good to go…but we return to that place sometimes through fear, sometimes through doubt, sometimes through loss and sometimes because we have lost all hope. 

But the truth is this: Our present hope stands on the solid foundations of the past, saving acts of God. 

Look as we might, to the world around us for a hope for the future…our present hope stands on the solid foundation of the past, saving acts of God. 

Whatever the future may bring, we look to it, knowing all that God has done for us in the past, knowing that God is here with us now and that God will continue to be with us in to the future.  May we, go forward, knowing what God has done in the past, proclaim that good news…and point to the cross so that others may see and know the presence of God and the hope in Christ Jesus. 

Let us pray,
O God,
None can compare with you, for your wondrous deeds for our salvation are without number. 

Make us bold witnesses to your faithfulness that all the earth may rejoice in your love toward us in Jesus Christ our Redeemer.  And let all God’s people say, amen.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

I'm focused....oh, squirrel! (drat)

Today started off with great focus.  

Breakfast with an amazing young woman.  We reconnected over bagels and coffee.  We shared stories.  We prayed for one another.  My life is enriched by her presence, her compassion, her every growing faith and her tenacity to seek out and speak the truth. 
The last time we met up, we were completely immersed in conversation that I was late to meet someone at the house.   Today, so I wouldn't be watching the clock I set an alarm.  :)
I was able to make it to the gym promptly for my Friday morning strength training session: legs, back and biceps.  I was told to go easy on the warm up, because it was going to be a tough day.  And it was.  After over an hour of lifting, there was no cardio for me.  I was completely wiped out.  A solid strength day.  And now we wait....a day or two...to see how the aches set in.  The good news is that my soreness from Monday's workout was all related to lifting properly.  No pulled muscles, just tired ones that have not been worked like this in a while.  
After a tasty lunch with Billy, I picked up groceries got home, put them away, ate some pie...and lost focus...
This afternoon I found myself idly 1/2 watching tv and 1/2 playing 2 dots on my phone.  An hour went by before I got up and moved on to more important things, like a shower.  Over the past week I've noticed that I fill time more efficiently when I have lists to help me focus.  I don't use them all the time, but they help to keep me from getting distracted.  
I also lost focus as I was strength training today...I guess I am easily distracted by people talking and waking by at the gym. I found it important to look myself in the eyes as I did squats and bicep curls.  It kept the focus on my activity, posture and movement.

This evening I read the book 'One Word that will change your life forever.'  I ordered the book when I started thinking about praying about my one word for 2017.  It was helpful and insightful to see the many ways people have embraced and been embraced by their word.  This word will change my life. 
Here's to more focus...and being more aware of focus in my everyday life.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Shift in focus.

I got up first thing this morning and hit up the treadmill at the gym for a run.  I debated 4ish miles.  As I got moving, I began to think that 3 miles would be a good run.  I felt the strength training from yesterday in my arms, chest and abs as I ran.  (A good ache.)  Also, the person on the treadmill next to me started coughing like crazy...so as soon as I hit 3, I was done.  

The weather forecast for this evening had the chance for some slick precipitation, so while my original plan was to hit the gym for a yoga class tonight, I changed my plan and focus for the afternoon/evening.  

I had a cup of tea, and found a good quiche recipe.  I thought I had seen a roasted butternut squash and goat cheese quiche recipe in Runners World...turns out it was a roasted butternut, caramelized onion and feta cheese frittata.  So I tweaked it.  

I found this recipe on Pinterest http://www.tasteandtellblog.com/quiche-recipe-butternut-squash-kale/ With no kale in the house and a desire to add goat cheese to a quiche, I adjusted the recipe and it came out fantastic.  The fact that I had made the crust ahead of time was a bonus.  

And in other news, I should make quiche more often....

Oh yeah, and since I was famished while it was cooking, I started with a salad.  It was a tasty and healthy homemade dinner.  When I focus on cooking, I enjoy the food I eat so much more.  I'm thankful for the shift in focus this afternoon.  
I also enjoyed having Zootoopia on in the background as I prepped dinner.  A great movie that I will watch a few more times at least.  The tears in the kitchen tonight came from some great scenes, not when I sliced the onion.  

I’m definitely feeling the muscle soreness from yesterday’s strength training….from chest, to shoulders, to tris and abs.  I'm glad I feel it in those muscles because that means I lifted correctly yesterday.  I'm glad that strength training is a focus for me right now.  

**PS….also slept like a champ last night, thanks to a solid strength workout and a bit of cardio yesterday.  My goal tonight is another solid night’s sleep.  My body is ready for bed…..and now I can hit the bed now that the Huskies have just won their 90th game in a row, to tie their old record!  Woo hoo!  

Good night everyone.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fitness focus accomplished...for today.

Focus on fitness today.  

The alarm went off at 6:20 and I wanted to stay in bed.  I was awake but was not interested in getting up for a run.  After some internal debate I remembered/realized that if I wanted to make a difference in my weight then I needed to get up there and then.  And I did.  

I bundled up for a run at 20°.  Little did I realize that the real feel was 9°.  

I made it out and completed my 6 mile run. Finishing as the snow was coming down was a joy in itself.  

I feel good about getting out there this morning.  With that in mind tonight at a gathering I was aware and modified my food and beverage intake.  I left comfortable full and not stuffed.  I'd say that was a good day.  

I'll take it one day at a time...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Focus on diet & exercise.

So...on January 1, I began the year without a new year's resolution but with a word: focus.
(Want to lean more about One Word? Here's the link:  One Word.)

I thought and prayed about what word would help shape my year.  Many words floated around my mind, but focus kept returning to the center.  I've been taking time each day to hone my focus on the different things I do each day.  I realized that in my day to day life I was multi-tasking almost all the time.  I would have my phone out while watching tv or would be playing games on my phone while eating or trying to accomplish too many things at a time in the office.  It was, it is time to stop doing too much at a time and focus - my attention, my time, my listening, my presence - on one thing or person or situation at a time.  I found this quote after I chose my word for the year.

My current focus, in addition to seeing how focus still plays out in my day to day life, is to work on my diet and exercise.  I have gained some weight over the past year and it's time to work on taking it off.  There was a challenge at my gym: Maintain not gain.  The goal was to maintain weight and body fat rather than gain during the holidays.  I weighed in prior to Thanksgiving at 167 and the body fat registered at 27.4.  Today I weighed in....just under 167....but my body fat was 27.5.  Ugh....But in all reality, those are not bad numbers.  The fact that body fat only went up.1% is good.  The fact that I pretty much maintained my weight, is also good.  But now it is time to change those numbers.  

And yes...I know it's not all about the numbers, but I have some weight to shed.  I have been feeling sluggish and workouts have been tough because of the extra weight.  

With past, positive weight loss experience, I know I can take the weight off.  This past week I tried different classes at the gym and have gotten back into yoga.  I will add a day of strength training and continue to mix up the classes.  I have returned to logging my food and exercise daily.  (This is a system that has worked well in the past.)  In 60 days, I'll weigh in again and check my body fat.  (The gym is kicking off the new year with a Happy New You challenge, hence the 60 days.)  I think the 60 day limit on this is good for me.  I need attainable goals.  While my ideal body weight and shape may not happen in 60 days, I will definitely be on my way and will have daily and weekly habits that will continue this journey.  

In the midst of these 60 days, I will still see how the word 'focus' shapes each day.  It has already helped keep me in the habit of morning devotions and a cup of coffee to start each day.  It's those little things that make a difference for me.  

Thanks for reading.  

Until the next post...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year! A sermon on what always stays the same.

January 1, 2017
Name of Jesus
Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 8
Luke 2:15-21

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. 

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

A great passage to hear on the day of a baptism, right?  And on the day we celebrate and remember the naming of Jesus.  Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, is given his name by Joseph.  In ancient times, the giving of a name publicly showed the community to whom this child belonged.  As Joseph shared Jesus’ name, he was saying, this is my son. 

And in the waters of baptism, we too, are named as we claimed by God. 
We are reminded that this action…is God’s action…and that being washed in these waters welcomes us into the body of Christ, into the family of God. 

And as part of the family of God we are heirs, recipients of the inheritance of God, which is grace upon grace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. 

What can you do to get an inheritance? 

As an heir, you receive the inheritance, NOT because of anything you have done, but because it is a gift for you. 

And so it is the same with the grace of God.   There is NOTHING that we can do to earn that grace, love, forgiveness, and eternal life. 

It is a gift, a free gift, no strings attached.  Period.  End of sentence.  Full stop.   

That’s it.

So…what does that mean for us? 

We know that there is nothing that we can do to earn this gift, yet it has been given to us. 

And upon receiving this gift, we are free to share it with others.  We are free to love one another, free to care for one another, free to not worry about our own mortality and live in the here and now, and the joy of God’s love and grace. 

This free gift will not mean that life is smooth sailing from here on out, but it will mean that God is with us no matter what. 
And that is very good news. 
Washed in these waters, we are named, we are claimed, and we are sent to share this good news with others. 

Washed in these waters, just like Emmett Ash, we are welcomed into this family, knowing that there will always be a place for us…when we are happy or sad, when we are healthy or hurting, when we feel alone or forgotten, when we are able to love or when we are in need of love…there is a place for us. 
We are God’s chosen, we are God’s children. 

So maybe, just maybe the trickiest part of today’s message is that we are God’s…that is we belong to God.  And that all that is in our lives…our jobs, our families, our homes…none of these things are truly ours….they are all gifts from God for us. 

The tricky part is realizing – yet again – that God is in control and all that we have and all that we are is God’s. 
That’s what happens in these waters…
That’s what happens in this family…
There is an element of letting go…yet in that moment of letting go, God continues to hold us. 

God continues to put us first…to gather us in, to care for us, provide for us, so that we are free to do the same for others. 

I want to share a poem by Kahlil Gibran, called On Children. (Found in the book The Prophet

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children." 
And he said: 
Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.


Your children, are not your children…they are God’s children, as are we. 

What I would love for us to this day, as you feel able…is to come forward, come dip your fingers in the font, make the sign of the cross on your forehead…remember to whom you belong…and who will be with you always…until the end of the age. 
As you come forward, we will listen to a version of this poem called Of Children by Sweet Honey in the Rock 


The sermon ended in the same way on Saturday and Sunday, but also differently…
We closed with a time of prayer at the font…remembering that as we go into a new year we are called to remember who we are….and who’s we are.  What unites us in a diverse world is our baptism in to the family of God, into the Body of Christ, and that will guide us into this new year and God will be with us eternally.  And all God's people said, Amen.