Monday, June 12, 2017

Witness

"You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth".  "Let this be a witness between me and you."   


We talk a lot about witnesses, witnessing, witness in the church and it always has that kind of churchy testimony feel about it--as if someone stands on a street corner with a sandwich board sign and preaches to the people and vehicles that don't even pause on their way to a busy life.

Yesterday, half way through a marathon stretch that included an annual synodical meeting of 2-1/2 days, a wedding rehearsal, a 40th anniversary renewal of vows party, three regular worship services, wedding, beginning of VBS and a funeral - I stopped at a stop light on my way home.  Stopped and waiting, I noticed a car approaching very fast in my rear view mirror.  Yep, rear ended me while I sat waiting for a light to change.  I'm fine, but this is the third, yes third time I have been rear ended, all while I waited at a light or stop sign!  I asked the officer if he thought I had magnets in the back bumper of my car!

While waiting for the officers to come and then to complete their report I noticed a third car a little way back of the car that had bumped into me.  I didn't speak with anyone but the driver who had hit me.  I later learned is was a witness who patiently waited to give her testimony to the officers; someone who saw everything unfold from way before I knew it was happening.

I am profoundly grateful for that witness.  Not because I didn't think I would be believed, but because it was someone who saw what happened and shared the truth.

Jesus has left us here as witnesses: to the truth of the presence of God in the world and in our lives, as witnesses to the forgiveness that is ours through God's grace, as witnesses to the strength and power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the world.  But how often we rush by others; consumed with our own agenda, our places to be and things to do.  Someone you pass by may need your witness today, or tomorrow.  Someone is by the side of the road of their life and you can be a witness.  Who needs your testimony?  Can you share your truth?

"You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth!"

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Peace and Pieces

This morning my colleague Pastor John spoke of the peace of Christ and the pieces we try use to make peace in our lives.  I was reminded of this lovely pottery that I have seen. The technique is called kintsukuroi.  It's a Japanese technique of repairing pottery that is broken, with gold.

Usually when something is broken we try to repair it or fix it as if had never happened.  In the wisdom of these artists, they know that breakage is a part of life; a part of the history of that object. They believe that things are more beautiful with their imperfections.  Go ahead and Google the word and see the bowls, vases, cups...  They are breathtakingly beautiful!  And so are we!

Life breaks us all.  We are chipped, broken, scratched and sometimes believe that we are beyond repair. Not so.  Made in the image of our Creator, we are breathtakingly beautiful! When life breaks us apart, God, the master of kintsukuroi, sets about to repair us...with gold!  I know that I haven't the skill to make this repair myself, and trying to pretend that there are no breaks requires more than I have; it only breaks me more.  But letting the peace of Christ and the hand of God fill me in, I become more beautiful and show the history of my life.  

Let your life show the cracks.  But more importantly, let your life show the kintsukuroi wrought by God.   


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Signs of Spring?

Yesterday, as I sat at home, pondering the weekend sermon, there was a thumping in the house.  I knew I was alone, and at first went on with my activities; laundry, reviewing sermon stuff, a bit of knitting...the thumping continued.  It was irregular, but kept on. Finally getting up to investigate I heard it coming from the kitchen. Our kitchen has a large picture window looking out over the back yard and there on the evergreen bush outside the window was a robin.  Periodically, she flew into the window trying to get in! Crazy bird!   I remembered the definition of insanity; doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!
I have since heard from a reputable source that the robin is not the most intelligent of birds (in other words not so politically correct)--kinda dumb.  Well certainly we had evidence of that!

I pondered this as I was looking at the lessons for the week and reading the lesson from Acts 11 I wondered if that was some of the problem in the church today; are we just doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results-beating our heads against the window?  The passage in Acts for this weekend talks about Peter going to the Gentile community, eating with them and being critiqued by the early church.  They were a closed group at the time and this was the beginning of seeing what God was up to and out-of-box thinking.  Something we're still not too good about.

Back to the bird.  I stepped back and noticed that she was flying into the window right where I have an Easter wreath.  Stop it, we are only in week five of Easter, I can still have an Easter wreath up!
The twig wreath with pastel eggs on it, must be the attraction.  She was trying to get to her nest and the eggs in it!  Suddenly, this was not so dumb.  Call me crazy, but the Gospel for this weekend is the passage of the new commandment, that you love one another as Jesus loved!

The unrelenting love of God is manifest in the world each day.  God loves us so much, smashing into a window, time after time, with the tiniest prospect of getting through is not even a deterrent.

So there you have it!  Lessons for the weekend, courtesy of one slightly confused and misplaced robin.  How is God speaking to you this week?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Welcome to the Journey

A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to join with 48 other clergy women on a cruise for a Continuing Education event.  Yes, I know, "tough life--a cruise for continuing ed"!  We can talk about that later...
What I remember after boarding the ship and leaving shore was that my phone went all crazy!  We were advised to put our devices on "airplane mode".  Since then I've learned a lot about this wonderful mode!

Airplane mode turns off the wifi and data connections.  No texts, calls, or email.  So while away, sailing the sea, there were no texts alerting me to the latest sale, or emails from--well anyone!  Handy thing, since these would have added to an already growing bill from my provider!

Turns out it has some other great advantages.  According to those who know...first it can save battery life.  Yep, didn't hardly use any power during airplane mode.  So if you're low on battery at the end of the day before you reach your charger--airplane mode!  Second, it speeds up charging.  Bingo!, charging your phone on airplane mode charges faster!  Your phone isn't busy doing all that other stuff and concentrates on the job at hand!  The third advantage is that it helps you avoid distractions.  Sure enough a week without email or texts to distract me, left time to really focus on the conference and meeting new people.

Lent - is the ancient version of airplane mode.

A time to disconnect in order to reconnect.  Disconnect from the busyness of life, to reconnect with God in a closer way. Our batteries are constantly being drained and at times, it's hard to get recharged because we're constantly still going; minds working, driving everywhere, calendars full.  We need this time; to go on airplane mode and save battery life.  To recharge and connect with God through prayer, worship, reading scripture, doing acts of love, giving to others.  Lent helps us to focus on what's important and put aside the distractions that bombard us day in and day out.

So stow that extra baggage for the journey, go on to airplane mode and focus on God; listening, looking, and loving.  When the journey's done, you'll be able to turn on your devices again and collect your baggage.  Be forewarned...some of it may have shifted during your journey!







Wednesday, August 26, 2015

God, Connections & Doughnuts

During these weeks it's back-to-school time for almost everyone around here.  College students have been settling in to their new digs, new lockers are being decorated at high schools and middle schools (when did that change from Jr. High?) and grade schoolers are getting used to their new teachers.  It's a time of transition for everyone.  It's a transition time for those who stay at home too. Somehow the noise level in the house makes it sad for the preschooler left at home or quite empty-feeling for family members who watch others depart on a busy weekday schedule.  What makes it easier? Sometimes a chocolate doughnut!

Last week Charlie, one of our grandsons, watched everyone taking off for their respective daily schedules and was feeling a little glum.  So, dad suggested a stop at the local doughnut shop.  As they placed their order, the man behind them offered to pay for their order.  He was remembering doing the very same thing with his son, that he had just dropped off at college for the first time.  He graciously paid and then walked outside, overcome with watery eyes remembering those long-gone days.

But then... he stepped back in, sat down and began a conversation with them.  He had recently closed on his home in the same neighborhood having taken a position in a new area.  They had waited until his son was off to college before moving.  Remembering all the fun family times, and seeing a family much the same as his, he marked the transition moment as he had with his own son, years before.

Later in the conversation another connection was made.  The man had been a pastor in a local congregation.  Knowing what a small world it is for pastors, my son-in-law mentioned me. Turns out, this is a colleague I know and in fact his new congregation is one I formerly served as an interim pastor while they were in transition.

A transition time, a moment of grace, a move by the Spirit to conversation and connection.

Sometimes we forget just how connected we are.  As beloved children of God we are part of a family. At times we forget just how small that family is.  The noise of the world that crashes in on us, and the busy times of our life taking over, we push away the nudging of the Spirit to make a connection and miss the profound grace that God lays in our path.

Life always brings transitions and changes.  The challenge is to slow down and let God be a part of them.  Who knows, maybe you'll share a doughnut together!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Grace Happens

It's been a full week and it's only Wednesday morning!  At our Tuesday night study I was asked how things were going...my response was, "It feels a bit 'full-moon-ish'.  I hadn't looked at the calendar.
We used to joke about crazy things happening when the moon was full, but when I was doing my clinical pastoral education at the hospital it was no joke.  ER staff prepared and carefully watched the phases of the moon.  Sure enough traffic picked up and seemed like crazy things happened on those full-moon nights!

Just checked the calendar and sure enough, today is a full moon!  The craziness isn't anything specific, nor is it anything very out of the ordinary; it just all seems to come at once.  People dealing with grief, accidents, scheduling, needs, needing to talk, needing time, needing my action on things. All quite normal things, just all seeming to be constant.

At our study last night we read again the story of the Risen Christ appearing to the disciples on the beach.  They had fished all night, casting the net time and time again into the dark waters with nothing to show for their effort.  In the morning as they come in from a long and unproductive night, Jesus meets them and says, "Do it once more-over there, the other side".    Really?  Again?  As they drag in that amazing catch with no broken net, he is waiting with breakfast on the beach.

Holding the image of tired fishermen being told to cast the net one more time in our minds, we are asked what that image says to us in our life right now.  I was incredibly humbled when the first response was, "I think of you, Pastor."  hummm

As I drove home after doing yet another errand for someone else the light was red.  A small oval with whimsical lettering on it on the car in front of me read, "Grace Happens".
I'm not a huge fan of bumper stickers, I resist them almost at all costs.  But that one...

Grace happens...in the midst of full-moon-ish days and nights
Grace happens...while doing errands for others
Grace happens...when we continue to cast the net, again, and again
Grace happens...getting a wonderful email from a new friend and colleague
Grace happens...when a grandchild pats me on the back as I carry them
Grace happens...when Jesus makes breakfast on the beach
Grace happens...when leading a discussion in bible study
Grace happens...in the faces of the preschool class as the ask again, "Can we do the church and steeple again?"

Grace happens... all the time, everywhere.
Sometimes we just need to slow down, cast the net on the other side and recognize Jesus on the beach.

Thank you God of Grace and God of Glory!



Monday, April 13, 2015

Waiting and Reservations

"Seems like only yesterday"...  that's what the other side of waiting looks like!  But oh, until we get there--ouch!  I must confess, I don't do waiting very well, maybe you don't either.  I only wait well when I have something else to do, like read a book or work on my knitting!

We waited through Lent for Easter but then we waited some more.

One year, I remember waiting for two hours to get a table for Easter brunch when we had made a reservation!  I always have this indecision in restaurant situations; do you believe the wait time and hang in there (hoping they'll call your name at any moment) or move on and try someplace else? Problem is, by the time you've gotten to "someplace else" and waited there, the original place would have had you seated!

The early disciples waited too, even when they thought they had a reservation!  They waited through the long Passover dinner with Jesus, waited in the garden to pray with him and they were tired.  Falling asleep after a big meal sounds familiar doesn't it?  Then they waited through the next days, hoping that what they were experiencing wasn't true and someone would just walk into the whole mess and say, "Wait a minute folks, let's just listen to the guy, maybe it's true!"  But that didn't happen.  Then they waited to see if someone would be coming for them next.  Was their reservation in the wrong name? Did they give it right?  The ladies set out to carry out the proper traditions and anoint the body and they came back with astonishing news!  But they all waited some more.  Some abandoned the first restaurant where the wait was too long, some went on to find another reservation and a few just went home to raid their own fridge and come up with a sandwich.

In these Easter weeks, we hear the stories of disciples waiting and Jesus appearing to them.  He gives them something to do while waiting...to remember and to tell.  While we wait with Jesus, he feeds us, strengthens us and gives us work to do (not reading or knitting exactly!).  Filled with the Spirit, we are sent out to all this "waiting" world with the message of Jesus.  We are to remember the story and to tell it; for the anxious heart there is peace, for the wounded soul there is wholeness, for the lost and empty there is grace, for the angry there is forgiveness, for the waiting, there is a reservation and table ready.

Doesn't really matter whether you've waited at the original place, tried a new one, or given up and gone home--Jesus is there, he has our name on the list and leads us to the table, no waiting!    Enjoy the meal!