Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lectio Divina for January

So I'm just making this up as I go along, and don't know if anyone out there is interested, but I decided for this month, after catching up on the handful of days I missed in December, to start reading through Romans.

We'll see how it goes! Anyone else out there doing lectio divina regularly? (Doesn't have to be daily.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Writing an Icon during the 12 Days of Christmas

I had great plans to write an icon during the 12 Days of Christmas. Boxing Day (December 26) I sat down with a Claybord and opened up the paints that I mixed *cough*two*cough* years ago to find all but two had hardened.

I needed new containers and well ....

new paint. This is not just a prayerful meditation in paint, but an experiment in using a different brand of paint. I was taught using Jo Sonja paint, which when watered down, creates a flat matte surface. I don't own any of that brand, but I do have plenty of Golden fluid acrylic paint.

Why new paint? One of the colors mixes that survived was Hair. Which was turning Jesus into a redhead, thus the need for a couple of new Golden paints. I will share the equivalents, when I discover if they work.

So far, the Raw Sienna behaves exactly like the Jo Sonja, which is to say, it's a pain to get even coverage. It is drying flat and matte.

The Parchment, the only other color I could paint without needing later, has dried flat, but glossy. Whether this matters once the varnish goes on, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I paint and listen to Hildegard's canticles and the Benedictines of Mary....

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Magnificat (all the posts)

Here's the list of all the posts I wrote this Advent on the Magnificat. I am not sure how I managed to write two introductions, but there you are:

My Being Proclaims: Luke 1:46-48 (12/1)
For Those Who Fear: Luke 1:50 (12/15)
The Promise and the Call: Luke 1:51 (12/17)
Make Straight The Way: Luke 1:52-53 (12/20)

Trusting in the Promise: Luke 1:54-55 (12/23)

Today, Rachel Held Evans posted about the Magnificat. Well worth a read.

On the 26th, I am planning to start a new icon, so I'll be taken up with that for a while and posting about it, but after that (and the occasional lectionary post), what should I write about next? Delving into scriptures has proven to be illuminative and transformative for me... Ideas?

Trusting in the Promise (Magnificat Series)

54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Mary continues to speak of God's deeds as already completed, so sure is she that God will deliver.

In these last two verses, she speaks of the scope of God's work: Israel, Abraham and his descendants. The promise God makes to Abraham is this "...through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me." (Genesis 22:18) Israel, the nation, restored, and blessings to come upon all nations.

When I reflected upon this passage, the word that shimmered forth was "promise". Sometimes when I do lectio divina, the "shimmer" is a word that attracts, sometimes it's a word that repels. Whatever it is causes me to look closer at why that word or phrase caught at me, and "promise" had both positive and negative echoes.

I think this is because I have serious trust issues with God. I mean, I know I'm not supposed to, but when you spend the first half of your life being afraid of God (fear being "fear" and not "awe") and worrying you're not going to measure up -- and by you I mean me -- trust is hard. 

For a while I couldn't trust God on anything. It all had to be under my own steam and if it was out of my control, so was I. Oddly, I seem to be trusting God better (but not perfectly) on the big things these days, but the little things, the ones that needle and get under my skin? Not so much. And it's not about passively waiting for a miracle to happen. 

My trust seems to be based on the comfort that God is with me. Whatever happens, God is with me. I'm not alone in this. I don't trust that God will fix things, I trust that God will be there for me as I go through them, and that is a transformative trust, instead of flailing about in my own brokenness and generally making a bigger mess of things.

OK, that was probably too revealing.

And so when Mary sings of promises accomplished, promises I still see unfulfilled in this world, I need to remember that she is singing of Emmanuel, God With Us (the name's translation).  She speaks from a place of confidence because she knows and trusts God is with her, no matter how hard the road is ahead. God is with us is the promise, is the song. If we will only listen, and be transformed by it.

This is the last in the Magnificat series. I'll list all the posts tomorrow so if you want to re-read them in order. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

God's love stories, Advent edition

I am sure you have more than enough on your plates, getting ready for holiday festivities and what-not, but in case you need to procrastinate, here are some links to follow:

  • "O Light", an EP by The Liturgists. I haven't listened to all of it, only 5 of the 8 tracks, but "Advent for Weary Souls" by Amena Brown is powerful, powerful stuff. Made me cry. The music is both melancholy and hopeful.
On African-Americans and #BlackLivesMatter:

    On restorative justice as found in scripture:

    • "Living Jubilee" by Rachel Held Evans, part of her Lectionary series. And the first of a confluence of inputs that echoed a conclusion I'd reached about the Magnificat in my blogging this month.
    • "The Memory of Miracles", a webinar with Micah Goodman via the Shalom Hartman Institute. Blew my mind. It's on Chanukah, Passover and how remembering miracles changes the way we act. (Micah's example is King Josiah from 2 Kings). Be sure to print the handout to follow along his scripture reading (he reads it in Hebrew, but he says the verse numbers in English) and set aside about an hour. So worth it. (Also was the second input in the same day for my Magnificat blogging.)

    All, all is grace:

    On a more light-hearted note:
    I didn't really participate in the #adventword online calendar, except for this one. #notice:

    Spotted on the way into work in a sea of green leaves. I didn't even pay attention to the word for today and this is the second noticing. The first was an older deaf man in the pharmacy who taught me how to sign Merry Christmas and we hugged.

    How's your Advent going?

    Saturday, December 20, 2014

    Make straight the way (Magnificat series)

    52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
        and lifted up the lowly;
    53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
        and sent the rich away empty.

    Last week, I wrote about verse 51, which talked about what God does to pride.

    What happens when the core, most central, sin of pride is no more?

    The powerful are brought down from their thrones. There is no need for thrones when all are humble and look to God. Do you remember Samuel protesting to God about Saul being made King? (1 Samuel 8 to refresh your memory.)

    The lowly are lifted up: without pride, without sin, the playing field is level. There's no superiority in this world.

    The hungry are filled with good things: pride is no more, pride that can make us do selfish things, like hoard resources, like grain.

    The rich are sent away empty: everyone has enough. Not stuff for the sake of owning stuff, or nicer stuff, or more pretty-shiney stuff than one's neighbor. All are satisfied, because that pesky sin pride is out on its arse. Sorry, I mean, no longer has a place in our hearts.

    Can you imagine a world like that? Not ruled but all accomplished from the freedom of the heart, for our hearts will have been freed from pride by God.

    Rachel Held Evans's post last week (if you haven't read it already), pointed the way to how this is/shall be achieved. Via the Messiah, through Jesus who showed in his actions how to live a Kingdom Now (or Jubilee) life.

    On the very same day, I saw a webinar given by Micah Goodman. (This is because I work at an incredibly cool place that lets me geek out on theology now and then.) It's called "The Memory of Miracles" and it blew me away in several different ways, and not the least because it was a confluence of my study, writing, and reading Rachel's blog the same day.

    It's worth listening to the whole thing (with printout in hand because he reads the scripture passages in Hebrew).

    He talks about how there are two ways of dealing with miracles: one is passive and relies on God to take care of everything. 

    The other way is that of Moses (Moshe in the talks). In Exodus, Moses hands down the 10 commandments and the other laws from God to the Israelites. In Deuteronomy, it is Moses telling the story of Exodus, including the commandments and he adds an interpretation to the law.

    The first law after the 10 commandments deals with freeing Hebrew slaves. It's simply stated in Exodus (21:1-2). In Deuteronomy 15:12-15, Moses explains why: just as God liberated we Israelites from slavery in Egypt, so must we also liberate our slaves. We don't let go a slave empty-handed but give them gifts so they can make a life for themselves. Truly free, truly liberated.

    As God liberates, so must we. It echoed so strongly what Rachel (and Walter Brueggeman) said about Jesus that I almost fell out of my chair.

    God showed Moses that the Israelites should pass on their liberation to others. God, through Jesus, continues Moses' example and shows us how to make the field level for all.

    To paraphrase Mary: "Let it be ... according to your word." (Luke 1:38, sorta)

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    The promise and the call (Magnificat series)

    51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

    Mary speaks as if God has already acted, that all these things in this and the following verses have come to pass, because this is what God has promised through Gabriel, and throughout centuries of scripture.

    But you know what? They haven't come to pass. There are still chasms between proud and humble, rich and poor. So what happened?

    A Messiah came who wasn't what Mary was expecting either. A Messiah who showed us the way of delivering these hopes of Mary.

    Looking at the second verse:

    "He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts."

    In reading commentaries for today's post, I came across one in Feasting on the Word that said pride is the central sin. From pride comes all other sins and ways of breaking relationships with God and each other.

    Like when we know better than God in a certain situation (like that fruit in the Garden of Eden, which yes suggests sin existed before the fall. Which I'll explore another day.) That's pride, that's breaking relationship.

    This verse is saying that even in the most secret thoughts of their hearts, pride is scattered, no longer a single piece, no longer whole, no longer a force.

    This is a promise and a call. God calls not for destruction of the proud, but the destruction of their pride, an end to sin.

    And thus, Mary's and Israel's hopes are fulfilled.

    In writing about Isaiah 61, posted today, Rachel Held Evans writes about this also. A highly recommended read, even if it does give away next week's post :)

    Monday, December 15, 2014

    "... for those who fear ..." (Magnificat series)

    50 His mercy is for those who fear him
        from generation to generation.


    I get hung up on the word fear when I read this line. I'm pretty certain as a faithful God-believer that I'm supposed to be hung up on the word mercy.


    I think of the phrase from Frank Herbert's novel Dune that for a while I had memorized: "I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." (Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear)

    Pretty sure I wanted to be a Bene Gesserit when I grew up.  I really need to re-read that series...

    In church, I was taught that the word "fear" would be more correctly translated as "great awe". But when angels appear they always start with "Do not be afraid”, you gotta wonder, right?

    This one line of the Magnificat is causing me all sorts of trouble. First, the fear thing, and the whole conditional statement. God’s mercy (God’s love, God’s grace) just if you find God frightening (or awe-inspiring). 

    Huh. Having written that out, it’s clear that everyone to whom God or an angel appeared would be overwhelmed. We can imagine that, whether we would call it fear or awe. I have felt God’s love, and even unseen, God overwhelms once you’re aware of God’s presence.

    God’s mercy/love/grace is thus for all.

    Now that we have that little faith dilemma resolved, this verse is a statement of fact. It’s not a future statement, it’s a now statement.

    Monday, December 8, 2014

    "...All Generations Will Call Me Blessed..." (Magnificat series)

    48b Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
        and holy is his name.

    This is God's work, not hers. That Mary will be called blessed is because God is working through her and her status (as a woman at that time) will be the highest because she is Mother of the Messiah.

    All generations have and do call her blessed, for having that sure confidence and trust to say yes to God, and for being the God-Bearer (Theotokos).

    And yet it all circles back to God. God is important here, not Mary’s blessedness. This isn’t a puffed up moment for her. She’s been thinking about this remember and she knows this for she praises God as mighty and that his name is holy.

    The way ahead is scary: Joseph is in his rights to abandon her; her reputation would be shattered; she could end up on the very edges of society.

    And yet this is a great thing God has done for her because it means the Messiah has come.

    And so Mary praises God, she gives thanks. She trusts God to stay by her side, to never desert her in the rough times which are ahead.

    (This is part of the Magnificat series during Advent...)

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    Behind the Art of the Advent Choral Celebration flyer

    I've been designing the flyers for the Advent Choral Celebration, since I worked at Good Samaritan and with the music director we changed it up last year. This year, instead of finding artwork on Wikimedia Commons, I felt confident enough to try myself.

    I wanted something rich in color and to symbolize the energy of the music we're singing this year.

    The first attempt turned out wooden, like I was trying too hard to color in between the lines and ummm ...

    Can you spot E.T. Jesus? Yeah, so that. One day I will be able to do what was in my head.

    I went about the second attempt differently. I had just bought some new (to me) spray Inks xxx and pulled a couple of those and some glimmer mists.

    I set up the canvas panel on my easel, centered myself in prayer, and turned on the music. I had created a playlist of music I was supposed to be practicing by plus a bunch of Vespers of the Virgin Mary.

    And it all became organic from there: I sprayed, listened to some music, sprayed again. I dabbed and mopped and tried to undo what I just did... Until I was satisfied with the background.

    I drew a very simple shape -- and this is going to sound weird -- channeling the feeling of dancing as light as air through my arm. It's a simple drawing.

    I oohed and ahhed at how the canvas resisted the inks making it look like stars, and that those stars were positioned with in the figure.

    I wrote over the Faber Castell gelato pen with a grey FB brush pen and added ink to make a shadow around the figure.

    And there you have it.

    If you're local, please come along to the Advent Choral Celebration. We're doing many different styles of music from Classical to Contemporary and stopping off at gospel and jazz along the way.

    It's going to be awesome.

    (Also please note these images are copyrighted, so don't use them, okay?)

    Monday, December 1, 2014

    My Being Proclaims...

    Here’s how I started thinking seriously again about writing about the Magnificat. One of the songs we’re singing at the Advent Choral Celebration this Saturday is called Mary’s Canticle by Leon C. Roberts. It’s a gospel piece that has grandeur and solidity and sureness and guts.

    It got me thinking. So here we are.

    The Magnificat opens with:

    “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant." (Luke 1:46-48 NIV)

    For some reason when I think of Mary singing this (ok, the NIV says “said” but it’s a song), I think of it happening right after the angel's visit but it doesn't. She ponders things quietly in her heart. This song, known as the Magnificat from the Latin version, has been marinating for a while. As she readies and then makes the journey to her relative Elizabeth (about 80 to 100 miles) which takes about a week on foot according Logos, she has plenty of time to consider.

    This scene could also be called "when two prophets (and one unborn one) meet". Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit on hearing Mary's voice; she knows Mary is carrying the Messiah.

    Mary's song is a response to this, as well as to the angel Gabriel's visit and how she said yes to a radically transformed life.

    She's unmarried, pregnant, and very young and should be freaking out, but she begins her song in joy and confidence.

    She begins as Hannah began in 1 Samuel 2:1 and where Hannah sings in relief for a longed for child that will increase her status (instead of being belittled), Mary sings in relief that the longed for Messiah is come, that God has answered her prayers and the prayers of her people for a restored Israel.

    I keep coming back to how she said yes to God, even though she surely prayed for the restoration of Israel, did she expect to play such a key part in it?

    Sunday, November 30, 2014

    Lectio Divina ... for December

    OK, I know this is not particularly cool to post twice in one day, but tough.

    I managed to Pin God First (led by Jennifer Dukes Lee) every day this month (of November) except one day when I had an early business meeting.

    How did it go? Well, even though I light candles at my home altar and pray ... my mind managed to whirl and drift and for the most part it was pretty frustrating. I thought my brain would be more quiet, somehow, that I'd hear God more or at least sense the Divine. I was thinking that maybe what I need to do is a month of Anglican rosarying (I'm sure that isn't a word) first thing in the morning to empty out my brain but instead, today, I put together a schedule for myself to continue the lectio divina practice through December. I thought it'd be neat to share it here in case, you know, you wanted to too.

    The names in parentheses are for audio meditations. Todd shares audio lectio divina meditations at Lectio Divina (When in Doubt). I haven't actually listened to them before, so this month will be a test drive for me and which is why I have one marked "new Todd lectio divina". He seems to post at least twice a week, and the readings are based on the Sunday lectionary, so if I like them, then hopefully ...

    Christianne is over at Still Forming, and I really enjoy her guided lectio divina meditations and yet I am somehow behind. The recordings came from being signed up on her mailing list. I can't find them on her website and she isn't currently including them in her emails. Finally, Any Otto at God in All Things shared a couple of examen audio exercises on his blog and I still haven't listened to them, so while they're not actually lectio divina, I scheduled one of those.

    If you'd like to learn more about how to lectio divina, this article by Fr. Luke Dysinger covers it very well, including in group settings.

    On the Precipice: Beginning Advent

    We're on the precipice. It's Advent, the start of a new year.

    We're on the precipice like Mary was two thousand and fourteen years and eight months ago or thereabouts.

    Two thousand and fourteen years and eight months ago a young girl said yes to God and received the answer to her prayers, to her people's prayers. She stepped way out of her comfort zone because of what God promised.

    To her relative, she sings this. She is carrying the unborn Messiah, the one who will free Israel from the Empire, from the oppressive monarchy that has impoverished her people, her family, her father, herself.

    A Davidic Messiah.

    A Messiah like King David who defeated the Philistines and set Israel into its Golden Age.

    We can look back at that moment two thousand and fourteen years and eight months ago and think: boy, did she get that wrong. But how wrong did she get it really?

    Her son was quite the unexpected Messiah. 

    She saw the path ahead as straight, not an easy road by any means, with her reputation now whispered about, facing an impossible rise from poverty to glory, but she trusted in God that he would fulfill this promise.

    Turns out there were a few turns and dips, but isn't that how our faith journey goes? 

    There are stretches where the road is straight and narrow. We come to forks in the road, which path will lead us to God's promise? And sometimes we step off the road entirely and wander around until the Christlight finds us again.

    Two thousand years and eight months ago, Mary looked ahead and saw a Messiah restore Israel.

    Two thousand years later as we look ahead these four weeks to celebrating the birth of the Messiah, what is God birthing in you? Is God calling you out of your comfort zone and into God's promise? We're on the precipice of something new. What do you see on the path? What is God calling you to?

    We'll start in earnest on the Magnificat tomorrow. I started reading The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus by Scot McKnight and this sprung out, partly because I'm already mentally arguing with the author. (And also, is anyone else watching The Sisterhood on Lifetime? About discerning a call to the monastic life?)

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    Advent Blogging: The Magnificat

    icon I wrote last year
    I will finally be blogging a series on Mary's Magnificat for this Advent. (I am also thinking about #AdventWord, the only reason I joined Instagram a couple of weeks ago.)

    I think I first talked about doing this blog series a couple of years ago after I led a series with fellow bloggers on the Prayer Attributed to St. Francis.

    The Magnificat is a song about so much, I didn't know where to start. It's so hard to get my head around. So I put it off.

    Today I made a start on the first post for the series, but looking ahead, given the grand jury decision in Ferguson that I just heard about ...

    I don't know how I can write about this without coming off as ridiculously white-privileged.

    It's a song of joy. It's a song celebrating the Messiah's impending arrival.

    It's a song of freedom coming, long hoped for.

    Yeah, I don't know what I'm going to say. I don't know if I'm going to say it right.

    So I invite you to share your voices. Agree, disagree, discuss in the comments, or on your own blogs or where ever.

    The first post will be December 1st.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    God's love stories: links that bring life

    These are stories that made me think this past month.

    From Oprah's site

    Something to try this Advent (starting November 30): Anglicans invited to 'celebrate Advent using their phones' from the Episcopal Digital Network.

    And last but not least, the rather brilliant feminist twist on quotes from "The Princess Bride" (found on BuzzFeed).

    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    Answering the Call (Blogging the Lectionary)

    (just so there's a picture)

    Gospel this Sunday:
     Matthew 25:14-30

    Diana Butler Bass posted yesterday on Facebook that she has been preaching on these Matthean parables as she visits churches and speaks at conferences and that that has really transformed her understanding of them.

    And after I asked her if she would consider releasing those sermons, I thought: "wait a minute, haven't I been doing the same thing?"

    I went back and looked at my posts on these "the kingdom is like" parables. I found I didn't like a single one of them, that they didn't fit my theology, that I had to dig deeper.

    I identify with the third slave who buried the money he's been given. I don't like the whole judgeyness.


    And I've realized that what I've had to dig deeper past is my theology, that I am so quick to believe that God is Judgemental and Mean, even though I profess to believe in a God of love. Remnants of a theology that was somehow a part of the formation of my character. That has sent me into a tailspin of darkness if I even think I've done wrong. I have a better handle on the latter these days, but it's still there.

    I am quick to believe that this landowner equals God and he is cruel and gathers where he does not sow and yet, this is the same God who sows love indiscriminately on all kinds of ground. This same God whose love I have experienced.

    And I'm like, crap, how did I forget that?

    I have to dig past my baggage, beyond this false theology and false-self-ology, to find truths in these parables.

    A talent of gold, I have learned in my reading, is about 15 years of poverty-level earnings. That's a lot of coin. In other words, it took some serious effort for the third slave to move and bury what he has been given.

    It's a conscious act of rebellion. Like the no-wedding-robe guy in the wedding banquet parable, the third slave refuses what is offered and is even too afraid to keep the abundant coin for himself.

    Perception is everything. Presumably, the other two slaves did not think of their master in the same way, for if the man was harsh and cruel, with the amount of money they were given, they could have run away and made new lives for themselves. Easy.

    The wailing and gnashing of teeth is life without the God of love. The third slave is already there, along with the no-wedding-robe guy not just because they refuse God, but they cannot see that God is love.

    I have days like that, don't you? When I don't even think to call out to God in thanksgiving, or in need and instead I suffer in a darkness of my own making (like the foolish bridesmaids who forgot their oil). I forget about God.

    These kingdom parables are a call to that life-giving love of God and the kingdom that is near-here. Answering that call is a step toward transformation, resurrection, and finding our place in helping make the kingdom of God fully present.


    Friday, November 14, 2014

    be still, a poem (Pin God First challenge)

    After missing one day on the Pin God First challenge, Thursday I got back into it but the NRSV of Psalm 37:7 didn't resonate even a little bit. So I went to the next verse and this poem/reflection resulted.

    be still
    the psalm says

    I try
    and end up itchy --
    antsy --
    a mind-racing failure 

    be still
    the psalm says

    like a forested pond
    smooth glass

    life teems hidden
    skims the surface
    is that really still?

    A trout crashes upward,
    Pirouettes a response
    To an unseen call

    Step down to the shore
    Taste flowing waters,

    Being still
    Is not becoming stone.
    To soften, give, respond,
    Some movement
    Is required

    Yeah, I don't have forested ponds where I live. I've seen them back east though...

    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    Heart and Guts (Ping God First, Day 11)

    Romans 2:29:
    "Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God."

    During lectio divina, the phrase that resonated was "a matter of the heart".

    One is usually passionate about a matter of the heart. The phrase also evokes emotional responses. 

    I did wonder if the Greek had been mistranslated, as so often "heart" is substituted for "gut". 

    A matter of the gut, where instinct and intuition dwells. Today we talk about having a gut feeling. It's kind of primal, visceral. 

    If gut is what is really meant, the "real circumcision" Paul talks of is that the Way of God has taken residence deep in our being, within our cells.

    It means we respond to the world instinctively with God's love and compassion rather than with the mind working out the law.

    And yes, I'm aware of the irony that I just used my brain to figure that out!

    I am continuing to find it difficult to stop the brain chatter and listen for God during these lectio divina sessions. I am more likely to wander off down a mental pathway, whether it's a song or a work issue.

    But I keep at it because just this time spent in the presence of God is worth it.

    And maybe one day I'll get out of my head and into my gut/heart.

    I should really take a photo of my candlelit angels at night, rather than morning.

    Friday, November 7, 2014

    Lights, Waiting, Blogging the Lectionary

    (BTW, the Pin God First challenge is still on track.)

    The gospel for this Sunday is Matthew 25:1-13. This parable is of the foolish and wise bridesmaids seems to preach an exclusion that I don't care for (aka doesn't fit my theology).

    What to do then? How to reconcile the ending of unprepared foolish bridesmaids being left outside, strangers to the kingdom of heaven?

    Commentators (I read a bunch this week) pontificated on the audience that the author of Matthew was writing for, apparently struggling not only to distinguish themselves from what was becoming rabbinic Judaism, but from those who truly waited for Christ's coming and those who said they did, but didn't mean it and recanted when persecution came their way.

    Fine. But this theory is why the historical Jesus Seminar says this isn't really a Jesus saying.

    And while that may be true, that seems like an excuse.


    This isn't the first time in the Bible that there has been a call to be reAdy for the kingdom. God has called us to return to Him time and again since the first humans were asked to leave the Garden of Eden. Again and again, through leaders and prophets and reformers, God calls us back into right relationship with God. "Right" being nonabusive, reconciliation, responding in love. It's often called  salvation history by theologians. 

    God doesn't give up on us. (Ok, except for the Flood, but even then...)

    Every Sunday (at least until we change the Eucharistic service), we declare the mystery of faith;

    Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

    I am most emphatic on that last part, every time I say it. I am waiting for an hour that I know will come even though I have no idea what it will look like.

    We wait for the kingdom of heaven like the bridesmaids wait for the bridegroom, like the servant waits for the master's return.

    And what will the kingdom of heaven be like? This parable is embedded among others about the kingdom to come with varying degrees of judgement.

    The kingdom that is here-near-not-quite-here.

    For me, God's kingdom is not a kingdom of the dead (although I like to think there's a huge party going on in some other sphere while waiting for God's kingdom to be fully realized).

    God's kingdom is of the living. Where the hungry are fed and there will be "no more crying or pain". Where God is seen in the least of these and is fed and cared for and loved.

    The waiting is not passive. We move toward this, individually, communally, with God's help. 

    Right now, my church is in a time of transition, while we wait for a new rector to be called to lead us.

    It is not a passive time. We mourn the departure of our two clergy (who have gone with our blessing to start answer God's call elsewhere -- blessed, but they are missed). It's nearly a yearlong process: we discern who we are now as a congregation, putting it into words before we even start looking at resumes and interviewing etc. We pray that we will find the one God has called to join us in our faith journeys. Meantime, we get on with the business of being the church.

    Waiting is prayer-filled and co-creative, bringing the kingdom of heaven into realization one tiny bit at a time.

    One little tiny bit of light at a time. Like the light of a lamp of a bridesmaid, showing the way to the kingdom of heaven.

    That's what one commentator said about marriage in Jesus' time and land. The bridegroom comes home with his bride and the bridesmaids light his way home when darkness has fallen.

    If the wise had shared with the foolish there would not have been enough  light to last for the groom's journey home.

    Without that light, can we see the way? Or do we stumble, get distracted from the waiting?

    With that light, we can see Christ in the one who approaches, whether he looks like a bridegroom or a beggar.

    With that light, we act in kindness, we feed, we clothe, we heal, we shelter, we mentor, we love.

    With that light, we get the kingdom party started.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2014

    Pinging God

    This morning I lit candles, having added some to my home altar space, quietly chanting in my mind and settled down to the day's lectio divina, which took about 15 minutes. 

    On the 2nd, the Scripture selection was 1 Thessalonians 1:4 and the phrase that resonated was "please God". Not to gain favor with God, but as a response to God.

    Yesterday, it was Matthew 5:11, a verse from the Beatitudes, which I'd heard as part of Sunday's readings for All Saints. The phrase that resonated "Blessed are you". Explored that as gratitude and then got sidetracked by thoughts of work. (Just in case you thought this was easy for me.)

    Lectio completed, I set a timer and pulled out Feasting on the Word and the Jewish Annotated New Testament, thinking to write a belated "blogging the lectionary" post.

    Maybe tomorrow. I've asked for some Hebrew assistance, so I'll get back to you on that. Maybe.

    The effect of pinning God first thing resonated throughout my morning yesterday. I felt unrushed as I headed off to work and during the work morning. Unrushed, calm. Probably annoyingly so. It lasted until mid-afternoon which surprised me.

    I had hopes that restorative effect kept happening, but this morning, I got sidetracked into a work-stress (technically trying to apply the phrase "I came not to judge the world but to save the world" from John 14:42-50 to my life) and then I needed to email something this morning and got caught up in more anxiety via email.

    Maybe that peaceful feeling came from not reading my email as opposed to soaking in and studying Scripture. Hmm.

    Saturday, November 1, 2014

    Find Your Life, Day 1 of the Pin God First challenge

    Pin God 1st - from Jennifer Dukes Lee's site
    The first piece of Scripture for the Pin God First challenge is Matthew 10:39:
    Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
    The phrase which came to me was "find your life" (and that's not even correct, it's "find their life"). I delved into the context, as this is toward the end of Jesus talking about loving God first above all else, even family, taking up the cross and leaving all behind.

    Last night, my hubby and I went to see "The Good Lie" which has Reese Witherspoon in the supporting cast. It's about the lost children of Sudan and their long journey to America. It broke my heart twice -- because it's a recent release I won't reveal the spoilers -- so let's just say it was an incredibly unjust moment and a beautiful heart/soul moment.

    Tears kept welling up on the way home and this movie disturbed me. Disturbed me in my inaction. How could I know about these things and not help? How could these stories of survival cause admiration and not the conviction that I had done nothing to help?

    In the dark of morning I knew I had to do something.

    Find your life.

    What if the two halves of this scripture are not bad/good, or negative/positive but both point to the Way. The psalms use this structure frequently: saying the same thing twice but differently. (Pretty sure there's a technical name for this, as its poetry, but I've forgotten it.)

    What if "Those who find their life shall lose it" means that one has found the point of living, that is, in Christ, and what we lose is the rest of the world's ideas about what life should be like: big houses, disposable items, many possessions, a concept of human beauty that never matches reality, the distractions and numbingness of entertainment news (aka all news), reality shows, and TV dramas.

    Thus, the life we have is living the way of Christ and the world thinks that what has happened is that we have lost our lives. But in following the Way, we have found the true life.

    After the movie, I couldn't rest, I still can't, I wanted to be "all in". Go to West Africa and be love to the children orphaned by Ebola. Do something.

    And this is me: I am "all in" until I reflect on my life circumstances: husband, dog, job, fighting my own fears in "catching something", whether or not this is even in my wheel-house/skill-set...

    I am going to look for ways I can be part of the body of Christ to the lost children. Maybe instead of Liberia or the Sudan, it'll be Burundi or right here where I live.

    I will find my life.

    PS. In the sitting in silence part of lectio divina, I listen to God, but today I heard nothing. I am woefully out of practice of listening to Him, but perhaps he came through in my ruminating as I'd always seen this scripture as either/or before. I thought I would mention this in case you thought that somehow lectio divina means you always hear from God.

    There are also little activities for each day. Today was buy flowers for yourself

    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.)