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Although “miracles make me lazy,” I am still deeply appreciative of them when they occur. Although these things that happen to me are not huge, and are entirely “dismissable” (if you are someone who needs absolutes/proof, I cannot give it), the timing is always unmistakable, often humorous and always loving and encouraging.

There is MORE. There is MORE!

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Sunday Prayer – April 22, 2018

Oh God who made all that we see and all that we are; Author and Creator who declared the earth and us “Good”…oh whimsical, witty Artist who designed platypuses, hippos, ostriches and slugs…and rainbows and azaleas, eyebrows and elbows. Oh Creator who delights us daily; Oh God of Wonder who keeps creating, keeps inviting….

Open our hearts, Lord. Open our eyes, open our ears.

In an act we can barely comprehend, you gave up that which was most precious to you for the good of us all. You invite us to self-examination, with the help of your Spirit, to learn to trust you so much that we too surrender and release even those things we think are ours – our time, our agenda, the illusion of control; the endless pursuit of MORE, a sense of power or rightness; unforgiveness; perhaps we bear an injury that goes so deep we cannot imagine abundant life with such a wound.

David reminds us, in the Psalms, that you are good to everyone and every thing, that everything You do is suffused with grace, compassion and love. Jesus repeatedly tells us of streams of living water, inviting us to come and drink. Sometimes we are so parched, God, but we don’t even know it. You stand before us – nail-scarred, compassionate, understanding our complex, messy lives and our pain and struggles – and you whisper, “Come! Taste and see!”

Thank you, God, for this incredible gift of Love. Whether we are only sipping or gulping, may we be inspired to share your love and living water with others who are just as parched and thirsty.

Amen

“Get Up, Neo”

I am a big fan of movies I’ve already watched. I especially enjoy having one playing as I cook; a movie I’ve seen does not require my full attention. I can follow along without watching,  as I chop and stir, but pause my culinary efforts – when I can – for the good parts. I particularly love the Pixar movies, and any movie with a grand story, the arc of an epic (like “Lord of the Rings”) where the battles between good and evil feel truer, deeper and more timeless than mere “story.”

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Sunday Prayer – April 1, 2018 (Easter)

Good and gracious God –

We hardly know what to make of this day. We hardly know what to make of the amazing miracle that occurred more than 2000 years ago, and – if we have eyes to see – keeps occurring, day after day after day. It’s all around us and it’s happening in us – lives transformed, peace held in the midst of storm, love and connection flourishing in the midst of darkness and fear. It’s in the hope and joy and laughter of children. It’s in a baptism. We look around to find trees, azaleas and daffodils bursting once again with life after winter’s apparent death; how could we not see that renewal and resurrection are woven into the very fabric of our entire universe?!

And Christ – Christ came to show us that, to remind us, to help us see…to open the eyes of the blind. The man who was God, the man whose very clothes held healing; the God who wept, whose heart broke for His people; the lover of our souls – He not only LIVED but is ALIVE.

He is risen! The cross is empty, the tomb is empty. He walks among us! His work is finished! Feel your heart leap for joy!

And eyewitnesses then, and eyewitnesses now are proclaiming everywhere that improbable, amazing mystery, the greatest miracle of all.

Lord, you can hear every thought and know every heart. You know that life is not simple, but full – overflowing with seasons of joy, pain, fear, wonder, awe, connection, loneliness, frustration, abandonment, great love and great loss. You know our dual natures – we are flattened by the crushing weight of our own failures, hiding from you — while also desperately yearning to be known, loved and held. We are here today because we know we need you more than anything else…we are here because we followed your Son to this place.

On this day, Dear God, grant us the renewal we seek, whether for the first time or the 300th. Fulfill in us your promises of a clean heart, a renewed spirit, a deeper love for our fellow humans as we share this precious gift of our planet together. We all, as the children just sang, have a place in God’s choir.

Amen

Resilience: Studying with the Masters

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A family gathering in 2012 to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday

Resilience – is it nature, nurture, practice or all of that?

I’ll get right to the sum of my tiny bit of research: I think it’s mostly “all,” but a person is generously helped along life’s path when their FOO (family of origin) provides a lot of love and support and models resilience and positivity, especially when hard times come. The emotional atmosphere around us as we grow is either life-giving or toxic; the latter can be overcome, but sometimes we overcompensate. Oh, humanity.

What struck me the most about those I interviewed was their sense of surprise at being a target of my inquiry into what I see as near super-human strength in them.

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Sunday Prayer – March 18, 2018

Good and gracious God –

We can feel Spring approaching. The branches are budding, flowers blooming. Winter may not leave easily, but we stir, feeling renewal is close at hand. We are reassured by this constancy of familiar change, recognizing – in awesome wonder – that you have built a pattern of rest and restoration, of sleep and rebirth into the very fabric of our universe.

In a similar way, we recognize this language of branch and vine – which we will ponder today – represents a deeper, broader truth. We pray for the wisdom, courage and faith to be rooted more deeply in you, the source of all we are and all we have. We pray that we might open ourselves – in ever increasing trust – to the ways it pleases you to come into our lives: as Truth, to be spoken; as Life, to be lived; as Light and Love, to be shared; as Joy, to be given; as Peace, to be spread*; as Sacrifice, to be offered among our relatives and friends, among our neighbors and all people. We pray that for ourselves and those we love as individuals, and we pray this for our congregation as a whole.

If some here this morning are dry and brittle, disconnected, blinded to your presence – please work, Holy Spirit, even more powerfully in and through this fellowship that we might all see you at work and be encouraged to a deeper trust and faith. We are reminded, in Jeremiah, that God promised – even after their exile – to build the nation of Israel up once more. God says “If you stay here, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you.” Give us the courage to stay in this place, Lord, and be changed.

Amen

*portions of the preceding part of this sentence were drawn from something I read on the internet and then could not find again. If someone finds the author of the original text (mine is similar but not exactly the same), please let me know.

The Hole in the Middle of Normal

(Written in early March)

I have on a hooded black sweatshirt, emblazoned with the word ATOMS across the chest; black sweatpants that say “NSSC” (North Springfield Swim Club) down the side. There is a slight bleach stain on the front pocket of the sweatshirt.

Mark’s sweatshirt. Mark’s sweatpants. He was often careless with bleach cleaner when I asked him to scrub down his bathroom.

It’s 9:45pm.

Steve is at the office (tax season); Sarah is at a rehearsal (she’s helping coach a local high school’s winter guard). The dishes are washed; coffeemaker primed for tomorrow morning. I’ve started another load of laundry, opened the mail (threw most of it away). Fed the cat, cleaned his 3 (yes, he is that special) litter boxes. We need to do our tax return at some point, so I finally finished downloading a bunch of bank transactions to Quicken and I need to sort through and categorize them.

Yee-ha. Livin’ the life.

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Pausing for Savasana

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So, there is a thing you do in yoga, toward the end of your workout (is that apt? “workout”…for yoga?), called Savasana. Our yoga instructor – the same cranky Jeff from spin class (but not so cranky any more…perhaps because of yoga) – calls it the “upload,” where you take what your body has experienced in the class and let it filter into your brain.  I just looked it up, and another name for Savasana is “corpse pose.” Hmm. Not sure actual corpses do a lot of thinking, much less uploading, but okay. That’s sort of how you look in Savasana — completely relaxed and boneless, lying on your back, on your mat, legs and arms spread and loose.

(BTW, that is not me, up there. Just in case you were wondering. I’m curious about that tattoo on her shoulder, though, and I am realizing I miss my ribcage. Menopause: bite me.

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Iron Man, Hulk, Fragility and Mutiny

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This is one of the entries I hesitate to share. It’s not particularly…flattering. I am encouraged, however, by a few who claim they’d rather read what’s true. OK. (Ugh).

I could say I’ve never thought of myself as weak, and that wouldn’t be true because some situations turn me into pee-colored Jell-o™.  I could say I’m a bit of a coward, one to shy away from conflict – and although that has been true at times, it is not always true; I’ve waded into some pretty terrible, dark places, to be with people I care about. I’m guessing most people would, in fact, describe me as “caring” and “strong” (especially since Mark’s death; I think the average person thinks the fact that bereaved parents can walk upright, ever, is phenomenal). I guess what I am saying is that – overall – I’ve thought myself to be reasonably sturdy and not given to dark extremes. So the fragility imparted by great grief has come as an unwelcome surprise, as has the rage.


Sarah loves the Marvel movie series (Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye) and is determined to re-watch all of them prior to the release of the next Avengers movie this summer (when ALL the characters are together). So we’ve been doing that over the last several weeks (yay for snuggling on our too-small couch again). The other night, we were watching Iron Man 3, and it made me think.

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To Dwell – Part 3

It may be that you, personally, do not need to read this post. If you are someone who already feels, in your soul, that you are loved – even in spite of circumstances, or your feelings – then it’s OK to skip this one. Plus, TBH: it’s kind of long. Sorry.

I am writing it because I recently recognized a kind of human crisis, one not limited to those who grieve. I was on a faith-based Facebook page and was completely surprised at how many of those commenting there (these are religious people!) said they do not feel loved or loveable; they are more likely to feel condemnation and judgment instead of grace and forgiveness. That God would feel delight, joy about them, His creation? Pffft. Nope.

Why? Isn’t it hard enough for us to live, in our messy, gritty reality, in our humanity, without feeling there is a divine scorekeeper also watching…and finding us lacking? Why is it that the whole “God so loved the world…” thing has gotten lost?

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