Friday, October 31, 2014

Pin God First -- November Challenge

Jennifer Dukes Lee has challenged her readers to a "Pin God First" challenge for the month of November. She'd found that with her iPhone by her bed, her prayer time for God at that waking time had been lost to playing with her iPhone.

I knew I had to read this before I left for work this morning because I have been struggling to not go to the computer first thing in the morning (that is, after getting dressed, feeding the dog and getting breakfast for myself to bring to the computer). My iPhone wouldn't last a second on my bedside table, it'd get lost amidst all the books. 

I read a catalog this morning in order not to be on the computer first thing. Normally, I pray to God during my commute, because I take a bus and I do tend to get off track in my prayers sharing my concerns to God. I think for me, the hook is getting caught up -- this need to know what's been happening in the world and in my family and friends' lives. For Jennifer it's a rollercoaster of emotions and has the negative effect that she is not enough (because she hasn't got a exotic vacation planned or whatever, read her blog for how it affects her.)

yes, this view.
I have fasted from the computer and have not missed it. You see, when I go on retreat, I get a spectacular view where I can sit in the early morning with a cup of tea and just be with God. I don't have a spectacular view at home, but I miss that time. So I'm hoping I get a new habit here -- although the day Daylight Savings departs? That's gonna be *hard*.

The challenge is doing lectio divina with Scripture quotes first thing in the morning, which involves reading a selection of scripture and listening to where God is speaking to you in it. 

I love lectio divina so I'm going to take this challenge on (and write about it too). However, I will take a more traditional approach to the lectio divina practice than what is listed over at Jennifer's site. There, it says to read it three times and respond to it.  I have learned a couple of different ways of lectio divina, but the one I come back to is:
  1. become present (via prayer, breathing, etc)
  2. read it (noting the phrase or word that leaps out), 
  3. read it again (ditto)
  4. read it a third time (ditto). The reading can be aloud, or silent. I've listened to meditations where it is read for me.
  5. Ponder why this word or phrase resonates -- what images and stories come up? (This is where any knowledge about the quote in context (audience, history of the time, what it might have meant to that audience to hear this) usually comes into play for me, but if I don't know, I don't got to look it up at this point.) Tell God about it.
  6. Listen to God's response (which means ceasing the chatter)
  7. Thank God for the time together.
  8. And at this point I usually journal and/or sketch something
If you would like to join in, head over to Jennifer's blog to download the printables.

I'll be blogging my reflections, as part of an accountability practice, but it might not be the whole journaling session, and it certainly won't be first thing in the morning -- 'cause that means getting on the computer! I'll also link back to Jennifer's reflections for the day. There are going to be days where I don't hear God, and I'll share those too.

You're welcome to join in -- and if you'd like the accountability but don't want to share how the session went, that's fine too!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

God's Love Stories .... lots of links

I'm not even sure why I'm calling these God's Love Stories, except that they point to God and us working toward God's kingdom here and near us.

Plus, there were a lot of really good links and I needed to close some tabs on my browser.

And to end with a delightful song written based on text between Jennifer and Joe Fulwiler about their kids. (I read Jennifer's blog Conversion Diary)

Anything you read lately (or written) that's impacted you?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Let's Get this Party Started: Blogging the Lectionary

This Sunday's lectionary readings are:
Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

The gospel is another parable about the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus is sharing in the temple. It's the wedding feast for the king's son. Invitations go out and are ignored, or excuses are made, or the messengers are even killed. The king does some killing right back, and invites anyone his slaves can find in the streets, those who wouldn't normally get invitations, to the wedding feast instead. Then this poor guy shows up, without a wedding robe and is cast into the outermost darkness as a result.

And I'm thinking, geeze, God, have a heart. It's not like he had time to go buy something to wear.

I really dislike this gospel, not just because it seems so damn unfair, but because it has resulted in some pretty huge atrocities against Jews. Christians do love to take things out of context. It's very judgemental, and seems to be focused on who gets in and who doesn't.

So what does one do when one doesn't like a gospel reading? Dig deeper.

According to the Jewish Annotated New Testament (a great resource for the mindset at the time), clothing often represented righteousness in the New Testament. OK, so that tells me we shouldn't be taking this quite so literally. Plus, the gospel points out it's a parable, which means it's a way of telling a deeper truth about the kingdom of God.

But is the deeper truth God slam dunking unprepared guests who arrive at the kingdom of God?

No. The deeper truth is not about what God does, but about what we do in response to God's invitation. I can't be alone in making my excuses not to participate in God's kingdom, or of choosing the busyness of work (or Pinterest) instead of enjoying the presence of God.

And "enjoying" is the key here.

This man without a wedding robe has turned up, but is not rejoicing in the wedding banquet.  As it says in Sunday's selection of Philippians:
"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone." (Philippians 4:4-5)
The no-wedding-robe guy has arrived, but is not participating in the kingdom of God. He's not even happy to be there. In a sense, he's already in outer darkness.

The invitation to God's kingdom is extended to us all. Our response is to show up and rejoice in the Lord's presence.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

God's Love Stories .... post High Holy Days

So I got caught up in the combined overwhelm of High Holy Days and catching a dreadful cold and have neglected this blog for the last couple of weeks. I thought I'd reboot with a selection of interesting blog posts from the last month or so.

Sarah Bessey Fan Club (she wrote some amazing things this past month)

Other Worthy-of-Reading Posts

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blogging the Lectionary, Sort Of. On Forgiveness. Kinda.

Last time I wrote about the lectionary it was for last Sunday’s gospel and the gospel from about three Sundays before that. Blogging about the lectionary is really struggling with what the Gospels are really saying, especially when I find it hard to understand or implement. 

So when I read today’s Gospel  (Matthew 18:21-35) and Jesus saying we must forgive “seventy times seven” and then his hyperbolic parable about a debt that's impossible to incur let alone repay, perhaps to represent an unforgivable sin? … I struggled with what seemed to me to be an impossible ask laid out in this part of the gospel: to forgive unconditionally — even though that’s more or less what I pray for each time I say The Lord’s Prayer. It's what Christians are supposed to do.

Today’s sermon by Rev. Daniel Pearson helped immensely in this — and I was particularly struck by a story that he told about a friend who referred to Desmond Tutu talking about forgiveness from the heart and then choosing to release or renew that relationship.  What did this mean?

Read this interview with Desmond Tutu.  I have bought the book and will be reading it. 

Um, informal book group anyone? Maybe beginning of October?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Conformity of Love: Blogging the Lectionary

Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15)

That's from the lectionary of three weeks ago that I never got around to writing about. This might end up a bit of a series, personal reflections on these questions. I invite you to join me in them. (Take your time with them. I have.)

  1. Who do I say Jesus is? (And the corollary is: and do my actions reflect that?)
  2. What does the Cross mean to me? 
  3. Why the Church?

Who do I say Jesus is?

And is it different from who I say God  is? (Inasmuch as I know who God is anyway...)

I say Jesus is Beloved and Lover. What I mean is that Jesus as the Son of the living God, is the embodiment of God's unconditional love (chesed - loving kindness). He loves us, he listens to us, he comforts us.

I was going to say more than this, share my history of how my view of Jesus has changed over the years: from this divine guy who pats the heads of children but is distant, to the brief period where I claimed him as mortal prophet only but worth following, and to where I am now, currently. And it’s almost like I know both less and more about Jesus, through study of the Gospels and in my own experiences. But I trust more. (If not completely yet.)

Do I show my belief in Jesus as Beloved and Lover in who I am? In my actions? 

Probably not. Probably more than I think I do. And that’s what today’s gospel from Matthew is about. (Matthew 18:15-20

It has been bothering me all week, this gospel about confronting sinners and gathering the church — because of the stories of ostracism and how victims of abuse are the ones who end up outside their community. 

Not one commentary that I read this past week addressed this. It was all about church conflict and how to handle it, albeit with some recognition that this isn’t a cookie-cutter, or the only, solution. Matthew isn’t talking about how to negotiate the conflict over whether there should be all white flowers or all red flowers for Christmas, or whether the rectory should be kept or sold, or if one’s theology is right or wrong.

He’s talking about relationships. Relationships that make up a community. It’s not the issues, it’s the people.

Last night, my husband and I watched “Divergent”, the movie about a girl who doesn’t fit in to any of the factions and who may end up Factionless, without community, without family, as a result. While watching the movie, I did think that the Factionless are actually a faction and could pull it together. (Maybe I should read the books.) Ultimately, “Divergent” is about the dangers of conformity: don’t look in a mirror, accept your orders, etc.

And I think if Matthew’s community and Jesus’ disciples had a place in this post-apocalyptic world, their conformity would be that of love. Which I very much suspect would put them square with the Factionless and the Divergent, because love is all the virtues of each of the factions rolled into one: kindness, truth-speakers, putting others first, even dauntless with their courage and leaps of faith.

A conformity of love. 

Not a conformity of shaming.

Not a conformity of power-wrangling.

Not a conformity of ostracism.

Not a conformity of fear.

A conformity of love.

In Matthew 18:17, Jesus says: "if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

And how was Jesus with Gentiles and tax collectors? He loved them, he ate with them, he talked with them. Sin is breaking relationship. Jesus is about restoring relationship.

But what do you do about murderers and abusers and … and … ? This is where I get stuck. How do you restore relationship with those who destroy them? 

What this gospel makes clear is that it is not up to you or I alone. There’s a community. God is among us and within us. I think it also helps that relationship is a two-way street and it takes two to agree to a right relationship, but beyond that I just don’t have any answers.

Do you? (Please post in comments if so. I think I have managed to turn threaded comments on which should still work even if you post anonymously. Let me know if you have issues.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

What I Learned in August

Given that I've missed two weeks of blogging the lectionary (sometimes the questions raised take more than a week to untangle--presumably ordained priests work this out in seminary, or before they get there or something), here's something a little light-hearted.

Things I Learned in August:

1) Scones in Australia are biscuits in the U.S. (biscuits in Australia are cookies in the U.S.; scones in the U.S. are pretty close to rock cakes in Australia). How long have I been living in this country before I figured this out?

2) I experimented with not liking any post on Facebook for a couple of weeks. My newsfeed reduced the appearance of Pages that I follow (but didn't "like") although there was still sufficient past likeage, I guess that they didn't disappear. So if I wanted to "like" something, I would comment. I would not have said this resulted in deeper conversations, but it felt more connected. If I didn't like anyone's post who likes to count likes, I'm, um, not that sorry. :)

3) Babies aren't as terrified of me as I thought -- and I'm not scared that they'll scream or cry or puke. Witness:

4) I am very patient hand-feeding a dog, more patient than I thought I'd be. Ours is recovering from vestibular syndrome, which means he walks about drunk and has difficulties getting about, etc

5) "The Hebrew letters that comprise the word Elul – aleph, lamed, vav, lamed – are an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” a verse from Song of Songs that means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (from here)

I am participating in chatting at the sky's What I Learned in August.