Thursday, February 28, 2013

Earthly...

Sometimes it is hard to just be.

I find myself having to do, to produce, bothered by unfinished tasks, thoughts, business. A place for everything and everything in its place... Order.

Why?

Do I somehow think that my doing makes me better?

When maybe, just maybe if I just was - I just let myself be, just the way I was created (chaotic, scattered, angsty, passionate, emotional) - I might just bloom in radiance.



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hear...

This beautiful little girl was born with club foot, a physical deformity that makes walking difficult and carries a significant stigma in the society. In India, little girls born with club foot may be drowned as infants rather than bring shame and burden to their family.

While in India, we met Dr. Santosh George who directs a network of clinics throughout the continent where children are treated with a series of casts and corrective shoes. Correction is 100% effective if children receive regular treatment and follow up.

This little girl was born into a brave and loving family that is committed to her treatment. On this day, her mother shared very sad news. Her husband had died suddenly and unexpectedly, the result of an adverse reaction to antibiotics he was given for an infection. The mother might have been 18. She was clearly completely enthrall end with her little girl. She was accompanied to the clinic by her deceased husband's brother. The whole family is committed to this mother and daughter. Mom has high hopes for her daughter's recovery. When asked what she hoped for her daughter, between shy giggles and a blush, she said she hoped her daughter would become a doctor to help people the way she was being helped.

In the midst of what was clearly a difficult season, there was love coursing through these lives. You could hear hope and joy layered with the grief and anxiety. You could hear the pride. You could hear the vision amidst the uncertainty. You could hear faith alongside doubt.



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lift...

The moments in my ministry when I feel the most fruitful, the most alive, the most useful are the engaged, dynamic teaching and sharing moments that show up sharing new ideas and insights with folks on a journey through life. I am fortunate that these moments show up in my fundraising, my church work, my family life.

I have had the privilege through the month of February of reading Take This Bread by Sara Miles with an amazing group of folks from Liberty Grove. It is my second read of the book. It's a brilliantly crafted book and as I have delved deeper into theology, I find myself identifying all of these layers of meaning and interface. At the same time, I am excited about the access my co-readers encounter. Good times. Synapses firing at every turn.

I lift up these moments and chapters of life with joy and thanksgiving. God is good, discovery is good, exposure is good. Questions are good.



Monday, February 25, 2013

Cover...

This evening by the time I arrived home, a number of circumstances - ranging from mildly annoying to true family crises - had co-mingled to leave me in an anxious froth. It was hard to find space to breathe. For just a short while, I buried myself under the cover of my down comforter and wallowed in a bit of lament.

I have been doing really well at managing the ups and downs of life, but since returning from India, it has required a little effort to keep my head above water. Just yesterday I resigned myself to being at that point in the fiscal year, the academic year, the church year where things just aren't going to get done. Meals will not be well-planned. Dust will gather in corners. The car will be messy. My hair won't get cut. My toes will not get painted. Meetings will not always run smoothly. Reports will be late.

I know the busy-ness will ebb again eventually, and so I can muddle through another busy season.

But I have to remember to breathe. So I crawled out from under that warm blanket, threw on some yoga pants, docked the iPod with Krishna Das and unrolled my yoga mat. For the first time in months, I offered sun salutations, opened my chest, breathed in and out in rhythm, honored my center, balanced and reached.

The cover I found was not hiding, it was opening myself...making space for breath and light and spirit...the best cover and anxiety med ever.

Namaste.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vision... Day 11

I met these beautiful faces in a rural village somewhere on a bumpy back road between Agra and Delhi. The community was teeming with children. They followed us with curious eyes and lively chatter, amazed by our clothes, our shoes, our electronics, our hair, our own curiosity.

We were told that the girls don't go to school. To quote a neighboring community leader. "It would give them modern ideas. It wouldn't be good." Mind you, he had on a pair of dark wash jeans, a roguishly buttoned lavender Oxford shirt, sunglasses, and hair that was cut and styled to Italian male model standards as well as a cell phone in his pocket.

My empowered western female self wanted to hiss back, "Yes, they might like to be older than 14 when they marry, or be able to learn geography and multiplication as 8 year olds rather than being appointed the caregivers of infants and toddlers in the community. They might like to graduate at 18 rather than await the birth of their second or third child."

And I am aware that they don't seem overtly unhappy or neglected or abused. Look at their brilliant smiles! Can't you see their curiosity and passion for life? Can you see their potential beyond their current joy?

I do know that without education, they will be disenfranchised - not just in their small village, but in the whole global society. I know they will have little voice in their future or their daughters' futures. I know that they would not meet the eyes of any male in our group. I know that they will not pray in the same place as their fathers, brothers and future husbands.

Do they have a vision of something different?

My vision is a world where women's gifts and potential reach well beyond their ability to bear and nurse children. I had never encountered such imposed limitations on women and it makes my heart hurt. I know that the work of helping girls emerge toward their full potential is dicey, dangerous, long. But it must be done. And done well. For their sake.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Live...

This is Paige on vacation in Western New York a couple of summers ago. We rented a fabulous home on Trout Lake and spent the week sitting by the water, watching the sun rise and fall, swimming, fishing (not catching), reading, paddling, talking, laughing.

I love Paige's passion for the world around her. What does one do with a diving dock and a crystal clear lake? Seize the day and take the running leap. Grab life. Live out loud. Squeal. Laugh. Splash.

As I look through the pictures from this trip, I ponder how much easier it is for me to feel alive apart from he daily grind. I'd like to be more liberated than that, to feel the fun energy of grabbing life with both hands every day.

God, help me to LIVE into moments as they show up...

Spirit...

...you are the air I breathe...

I have been enchanted - completely taken in by - the ocean since a first vacation on Cape Hatteras in 1998. Matt has asked me what it is about the ocean that I love so much, and I find the answer very hard to give.

But when I stop and think about what I do on the seaside, I sit and watch and breathe and listen. Waves rise and fall, dragging across a million glittering, singing pebbles. The ocean comes and goes, expands and contracts, wraps itself around impediments...coming and going and always returning...

...like respiration. The very breath of life coming and going, lungs rising and falling.

The Spirit is for me the very air that I breathe. The ocean is an enchanting embodiment of rhythm, of life force, of in and out. The Spirit quickens my senses and expands my worldview, my passion, my compassion. And it is everywhere.

This picture was taken on Delaware Bay, not far from Cape May, and the waves came and went among the rocks with steady rhythm and consistency while being unique with each cycle...foam, wind, water, sand and sun combined to create an ever-changing backdrop for the steady rhythm of life.

...you are the air I breathe...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Love...

Love is complicated.

It's not simple, universally "good," or always tangible.

This is me and my dad. I think this is the summer of 2008. He passed away in February 2010. Everyday he is present with me in my decisions, in my actions. He wasn't always perfect or "good." Not every memory I carry is positive. And he knew this about love. In his pragmatic perspective, love just was... He was full of grace but he also had high expectations. I love him dearly....and in saying that, I can feel the deeply complexity of the word.

Love.



Evil...

I have hurt people. I have made bad choices.

I live in a world where there are car bombs, mass shootings, abductions, genocide, war.

Surely evil is real.

And surely it creeps in, something we are all susceptible to...

What starts out small and seemingly harmless is like a wound open to infection.

I think that half the battle is being aware. That evil does indeed exist...
...and then making a choice not to contribute to its power, not to expand its reach, and to be present for those who experience it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wonder...

Today when the reflection came out for today's photo prompt - wonder - my mind and heart went to the pictures from my India trip, specifically to pictures of sweet veiled girls in an Islamic village outside of Delhi. I was framing profound reflections about cultural differences and mutual wonder.

After my workday, I waited to pick up Emma from her after school activity, knowing that I had to race home to make dinner and then turn around and head to church to help with confirmation. The clock was moving too fast, Emma was moving too slowly, and it had begun to rain - a cold, gray rain that darkened the evening sky. I fought to keep the stress in check. I read, checked my phone, thought about the reading I had to do for class, for work, for church, for candidacy...

Emma appeared and as we drove away from the school, the sun, about to set, emerged below the banks of clouds still raining on our journey. It wasn't sunlight filtered through clouds - it was brilliant blue (almost turquoise) sky, spattered with just a few brilliant yellow and pink clouds. To the east, the sky was black...and there was a brilliant, full, high-arching rainbow...the biggest, brightest rainbow I have ever seen. We were both craning to see the wonder on both sides of the car...

I knew I couldn't capture that rainbow with my camera. And so I absorbed it with my soul...the very best I could...brilliant colors, glowing at both ends, arching high into the dark sky. And to the west, a changing palette of pink and blue and yellow and orange without lines or arches - abstract splotches and blots.

I was able to capture a glimpse of that wonderful western sky on the phone when we got home. Wonder isn't some high-minded thing. God shows up in dark, stressful, and unexpected places. With signs and wonders.

Monday, February 18, 2013

World...

It is so hard to be in the world, not of it...

I love nice things. I am not great at self-control. Good clothes, good food. Good shoes. But, hey, these were from the thrift store! Italian leather for less than $10. I shop well.

I have trouble with humility too.

It is so hard to be in the world, not of it...




Sunday, February 17, 2013

Settled...

The last decade has been marked by shift and upheaval. But recently it seems the mud is settling and the water is beginning to sparkle with new clarity. (It's hard to write this tonight because right at this moment it seems quite untrue, but taking the broad view...)

Matt recently posted to Facebook a celebration of having lived in one place for four years, a lifetime record for him. I take a stagnant address for granted...my mother lives in my childhood home, a home my parents moved into with my siblings before I was born on the day that JFK was assassinated.

But lately, with kids that travel back and forth between two custodial homes, settled is not a concept that rolls off my tongue when I think about daily living in the here and now.

So I am trying to celebrate the places and spaces that are consistent, solid, settled. We have a wonderful home - a sanctuary that reflects our life passions. I feel like in he past year, my call has also become a more settled place. God keeps showing up and I am better and better able to listen, to submit, to grow. I love my husband and my children. And so, despite the ebb and flow that is my somewhat unusual life, I celebrate "home," where I am settled.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Injustice...

Matt did this illustration for an illustration class about 6 years ago. At the time, several area churches were confronting issues of immigration and fair labor practices, issues that ultimately diverge into many tributary streams - housing, food, job skills, literacy, education. Our church was embroiled in a disagreement about whether day laborers could gather in the church parking lot. The topic set into motion discord among members, among neighbors, with the police, with county and local government.

Men who desperately needed fair pay to shelter and feed their children stood outside a building owned by a faith community that struggled to know how to respond. Their first responses felt like anything but loving a neighbor, serving the widow and the alien.

In that conflict, justice became real for me...not just something debated or enacted in large systems, but something shaped by our daily decisions.

What does The Lord require?

Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.

...and do not exclude anyone from the Kingdom.

Friday, February 15, 2013

See...

Today, as I sit in a meeting of the Board of Governors of the seminary, I am struck by the importance of seeing in two ways...

One with Zoom.
One with Wide Angle.

It's hard to find a camera that does those things equally well. So, too, it is hard to find the skill of big picture and detail thinking in the same person - on the same resume.

And yet leaders are called to hold these things in tension...to bounce back and forth without lingering too long in either one. Moving toward the big picture while maintaining the integrity of the warp and weft of the constructing fabric... Some sort of juggling challenge where the eye is on all the balls and none is delayed in its arc.

There is not one big picture that isn't built on thousands of pixels.

And the pixels matter.

See?








Thursday, February 14, 2013

Return...

Simpler things, simpler times, simpler ways...

The word return drew me back to a place and time when kids were small and their joy was large. We read together so much. When they were very small, there were books that we had memorized. I still recite to them bits and pieces of Sandra Boynton books, or Where the Wild Things Are, or Jamberry (one berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry, hat berry, shoe berry in my canoe berry, under a bridge and over a dam, looking for berries, berries for jam). As they got older we made the leap to books chocked full of rhymes and sight words. Dr. Seuss ruled the day for phonics ease. Then there were the Harry Potter years, the earliest spent reading chapters aloud, the later years marked by waiting for midnight releases and racing through our individual copies to see who would discover the ending first.

I am blessed by three teens who really enjoy reading. Everyone has their favorite genre. But I do miss the shared world of books consumed together.

God help me savor good moments and cast away "stuff" that gets in the way of being fully present and living. Amen.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Our Dustiness...A Meditation for Ash Wednesday


On Monday morning, the first news I heard on the radio was that Pope Benedict had announced his resignation. Now admittedly, as someone employed in the “work” of religion and having taken a church history class somewhere in the last four years, I pay more attention to some of these stories than the average person.But there was something about the historic nature of this man choosing to step down from this globally powerful post that caught my attention.  It’s been nearly 600 years since that was done by someone else.

Why was this his choice?

One part of me scoffed a bit – he’s wimping out. 
He’s leaving a lifelong post. 
God’s not going to be too happy with that.

But then came this awareness…
He knows what he is called to do, and he’s done with this call and moving on to the next thing…whatever that may be. 
He’s faithfully walking ahead. 
He knows his limits. 
He’s making a choice about how he approaches his own finiteness. 
         He knows there is transformation as old things pass away.

From dust he has come and to dust he shall return…

Here’s a man who is looking at his dustiness and moving toward it, admitting a limit, ending a call, moving toward a new call and eventually a new creation. 
Journeying forward with intention. 

And in that moment, my own journey through Lent was framed.
How am I called to live, knowing that I am beloved by God AND finite?   
I will return to dust. And new life comes from things that die.

I want to invite you to join me on the journey.

Ash Wednesday is the gateway to the season of Lent. 
Depending on our life’s journey, we have varied understanding of this somber season. 
We begin by marking ourselves with Ashes, being reminded that we have come from dust, and to dust we will return. 
We confess our sins and seek to make our lives better for God.
For 40 days, we walk through the last days of Christ’s ministry on earth toward Jerusalem.
We drape the cross and strip the altar on Maundy Thursday,
toll the bell and recount the last moments on Good Friday
and on Holy Saturday, we wait. 

Throughout these Lenten days we watch and wait
with the crowds that greeted Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem,
with the disciples in the Upper Room as Jesus breaks bread and passes wine,
with Jesus himself in the garden praying for suffering to pass,
with Pontius Pilate and with Herod as they hear the complaints leveled against Jesus and bat him back and forth like a political hot potato. 
We wait with the Roman guard and with Mary and Mary and John.
We wait with Peter – one crow, two crows, three crows.
We approach the end of Jesus’ earthly life knowing what happens.

We know that Christ dies.  We know is that Easter is coming
…that transformation occurs.
                  That life from death is possible.

So what are we doing right now at this gateway, on Ash Wednesday?

Why are we remembering our very dustiness? And by sharing this evening together, remembering one another’s dustiness?

Historically, we are called to confess our sins during this time, to repent, which means to turn away from sin and dedicate ourselves to being better. 

Sin is anything that separates us from God and from loving others. 
Remember that the greatest commandment is to Love God and Love Your Neighbor.  Therefore the greatest sin is to fail to do those things. 
Wow. 
We fall so short sometimes.
And repentence requires drawing nearer to God. 

In the next 40 days, we have the opportunity to intentionally start walking ahead on our journey with God, quite literally toward our death, because we are - after all – mortal – with the knowledge that we are God’s.  Building a relationship along the way.

In that time,
we have the chance to remake ourselves into the persons we are called to be.
We have the opportunity to be God’s and not the worlds. 
To let our dust be real, to not run from our dustiness. 
To see that others are also dusty
...and dustiness has its place.
         Knowing that we can, in our dustiness, be transformed. 
         Knowing that new life comes from death.

There are things we may want to prune away –
habits, preconceived notions, judgments…
rather than letting them become part of our dustiness.

There may be new things we want to take on –
new awareness, new practice, new light for our path. 

We have this special time to listen very closely for the things we are called to do;
we also need to listen very closely to hear what it is that we are NOT called to do. 

We can use these days to examine whether or not we are being all that God has created us to be…and nothing more or less.

And we’ll likely walk this path again in another year. 
What grace to get to do it more than once…a little dustier each time. 
         Each time with the promise of new life through the journey.


Praise God.

Return to the Lord your God for he is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive…

Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Your Father, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

who am i

So I am trying to use the Rethink Church 40 day photo devotional to walk through this season. I hope to take the appropriate photo and write about it a bit each day. Tonight, I preached at Liberty Grove, so my heart and head are a little drained. Here goes what is left (finite!).

I am a finite human being, but one who continues to grow and thrive and reach. My lotus blossom pendant helps me remember that I am unfolding in light and beauty. I hope that is true even as the life-days get shorter. Lent seems like a good time to take stock, to refocus on that which is really important, cast off things that keep me from light and truth. I am a mother, a lover, a pastor, a friend, a thinker, dreamer...a daughter, a sister, a neighbor. I am created with all that I need, and I am called to live fully into that - nothing more, nothing less. My lotus blossom needs to thrive in clean, clear water...not a clogged, polluted, stagnant pool.

I hope that I can be joyful and proud and present, curious and strong like the women we encountered in the village outside of Kolkata. As I ponder sights that breathed life and potential, that gathered council radiated warmth. They were blossoms in full tilt, drinking in light and participating in the ecology and biology of their community.





Monday, February 11, 2013

Writing on to perfection...a Lenten discipline

While I was in India, I rediscovered my writing muscles. Like so many muscles, they are subject to atrophy when not used. After trying to blog about the lectionaries weekly while being a student, being a parent, being a new wife, buying a house, having a career, getting a church job ... You get the picture. I haven't exercised my writing muscle very much or very well. One of the gifts of my travel was the freedom from life distractions so that I could give time and brain space to the work of words. And in the process, I found a cleanness, a refreshed spirit, a sharper view of the world.

As Lent approaches, I find myself casting about for a Lenten discipline. I grew up in a largely catholic community where there was a whole lot of giving things up for Lent while enjoying the feast of "Little Easters" when you could indulge on Sunday. Thanks to the Pope's resignation, my Ash Wednesday lens is sort of focused on how we live in our mortality, knowing we return to dust.
All of this against my Wesleyan backdrop where I ponder sanctification - going on to perfection - has brought me to this idea. Maybe during Lent, I need a writing discipline. The trick will be to keep it out of the realm of naval gazing (yawn) and to keep it from being too trite (gah!) and to keep myself from being too picky (because then I just won't write).

I kind of like the idea of writing being a discipline that helps me go on to perfection!

One idea would be to ask others for writing prompts. Another would be to reflect on where I see God at work each day. Another thought would be to pick one picture from India each day to write about. ( hmmm...I really like that one! ) Do you have other ideas? I would love to hear them. Obviously the idea is half-baked...and Ash Wednesday's just around the corner! Help a girl out!!

Ready, set, recommend!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I don't want to shake off the dust...

Luke 9: 1 - 6

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: "Take nothing for the journey - no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.

This scripture surfaced with me this week as I reflected on my trip to India. I am also in the midst of planning Ash Wednesday services, and so I think "dust" is resting on my heart right now. Dust, and fleetingness, and longing and call.

Our journey to India was not much like Jesus' sending forth. You see, when we went to India, we didn't go empty handed. In some ways, our packing betrayed our faltering faith. We had bags, money, food, clothing, medication. We didn't go so much to preach and to heal - we went to listen and be healed. We were received with abundant hospitality at every turn. Our very best experiences were in the homes, by the hearths, of fellow pilgrims on creation's journey. Our hosts did not always share our commitment to Christ, but they all spoke of a common God, of a call to love one another.

We walked through the dust of a Muslim tribal village to see fields of mustard awaiting harvest, to laugh with children and to face the preconceptions of the west held by our host. We walked on the dusty paths between rice paddies, fish ponds, bamboo houses and dug out canoes to hear women speak with pride of their role in community leadership. We walked through the dusty halls of a crowded hospital where people waited in long lines for basic care, but where doctors and counselors literally work so that the lame can walk.

Now i am back. And I find myself feeling dusty and exposed. And that dust bears witness to all that I saw and felt and heard and tasted. It bears witness to God's faithfulness and to Jesus' vision of Kingdom where the lame walk and the meek inherit the earth, where kingdom comes on earth as in heaven.

And as I walk toward Ash Wednesday, as I prepare to mark foreheads and speak the words, from dust you have come and to dust you will return, I find myself cherishing the dustiness of life and the dust of our common humanity, frailty and mortality and recognizing the call to keep moving ahead into the places I am sent, dusty.

Gracious God,
Thank you for the experiences that leave us dusty with the lives of others.
Help us know the places we are to linger as well as the places we must leave behind.
Help us wear the dust we gather in ways that tell your story
And build your kingdom.
Respectful of the many ways your children cry out to you, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ,
Amen.