Thursday, May 29, 2014

And this is Eternal Life...

This week's blogging the lectionary (Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11) is a poem inspired by the sermon ideas at Working Preacher.


And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am bread,
Warm loaf, heavenly aroma,
Broken and shared
Enough for all
Abundance to spare

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am living water,
Refreshing, cleansing,
A benediction over your head,
trickling down your face,
Down your collarbone.
I am rain drenching the land,
Knocking the dust out of the sky
Revealing what is hidden,
Revealing heaven here on earth

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am light,
Revealing the darkest dark,
Keeping you safe
From the terrors of the night,
Showing you
The way to wholeness.

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am sacred touch
That heals.
I am spit and sweat
And callouses.
A touch that recognizes
You as existing,
as beloved.

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am voice
That names your pain
That names your goodness
That names the injustice you have done
That names you God’s own.

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am the gate:
enter into holy,
walk in the garden with God.

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am the good shepherd
Even if you cannot see me
Even if you cannot hear me
You are never alone
I am always with you

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am anointed,
The Messiah nobody expected
Calling for the world
To turn inside out,
Right side up,
Not through royal decrees
But expressions of love.

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am the vine
Twisted branches,
Sticky sap,
Bringing life to you,
My branches.

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.

I am the resurrection and the life,
Together we
Create a world filled with
The kindness of strangers,
Entertain angels,
Protect the widow and orphan,
Walking with God,
Each of us filled with a perfect love
That casts out hate and fear
And makes them no more.

And this is eternal life:
That we may know God and Christ.
Amen.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kidnapped, but not missing

So it's been on my mind to remember the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped almost two months ago.

I checked out the news and discovered that as of yesterday, the Nigerian military know where they are, but how to get them out without them being killed? (According to the Chicago Tribune.)

I've been praying for one by name in particular (an idea that I found via Facebook) and for all of them, and I will until they are returned to their homes.

If you're the type who prays, pick a name, or pray for them all.

Rebecca Sower is also selling bracelets to raise funds to end human trafficking, and you might consider spending time learning more about human trafficking of all kinds and what you could do to help.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Love and the Commandments

I'm taking part in Rachel Held Evans' blogging the lectionary, which is turning out to be quite the challenge.
Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:7-18
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. 
This sentence from 1 Peter (1 Peter 3:13, NRSV) is probably precisely the wrong thing an obsessive compulsive perfectionist needs to hear.

Ah, but see -- this is what happens when scripture is taken out of context because the very next bit says:
Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.
Which is a great message of hope for recovering obsessive perfectionists like myself.

I read something on a blog yesterday that once I would have blindly agreed with before I had EfM under my belt and having spent the past year reading about Judaism and early Christianity. Now, it left me profoundly uncomfortable.

I commented as much on the blog, which I regret now because there isn't enough space to properly explain or recognize the process of how I'd gotten to this place. Fortunately, the blogger was all grace and kindness in response.

All this to say that it is in the following verse that God is meeting me today. Not just in pointing out how my ego-need-to-be-right (aka recovering obsessive perfectionist) gets in the way:
'They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.' (John 14:21, NRSV)
Reading this verse seemed to confirm to me: God hasn't deserted Jews. They love God and God loves them, as God ever has since Abraham and Sarah when God made that first covenant. (My theology also argues that God has loved since the beginning of time, inclusively all.)

That a little Jewish sect grew exponentially and became its own religion does not make us superior. Both faiths love God and are loved by God. Judaism doesn't need Jesus to tell them this, but I think He needs to tell we Christians that.

How do we show our love? "They who have my commandments and keep them..." As Christians, we speak of the commandments Jesus gave us: "You shall love The Lord your God with all your heart..." and "You shall love your neighbor as yourselves."

The sage Hillel, 30 or so years before Jesus, added: "The rest is commentary." (Actually, it might've been a different sage, but I can't find that reference at the moment.)

How do you love God? How do you love your neighbor? (And who is your neighbor?) These are the rest of the law found in the Torah, which Jews today keep to varying degrees and reapply to today's world, just as we Christians do.

And sometimes we fail to do.  Just as I failed to do in that moment of commenting on that blog -- did I do it with the gentleness and reverence called for in 1 Peter?
Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15-16, NRSV)
Nope.

But in the remembering and returning to these commandments, to Jesus, to God, to love, I, you, we are restored. By remembering and acting with love at our hearts, we extend God's lovingkindess (chesed) to others.
They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. (John 14:21, NRSV)
It all boils down to love. 


Saturday, May 17, 2014

High Tea 2014

My theme for this year was "Call the Midwife". While the hubby was a bit worried that I'd decorate the table with bloody babies, I went far more sedate.

You see, in the current season of "Call the Midwife" (season 3 I think) they've used this service a number of times. So I just had to.


Around the edge I decorated with hankies that belonged to my grandmother, my mother-in-law, and myself. I think the lace square in the middle belonged to my great-grandmother. The lace tablecloths are antique store bargains (because they have holes and are stained but who cares about that?)


 Hot air balloons can wait until next year.

So the centerpiece is a sedate carnations in a pearl filled jar, on top of a stack of Cherry Ames books (about a WW2 nurse and after), which I'd read as a kid and which belonged to my mother (not quite these editions though).


A couple of rosaries -- one Anglican, one Catholic -- to symbolize the nun-midwives and we were off.


I gave a little gift of organic honey and loose leaf tea with a little quote included on the top that I found via Pinterest.
"In the East End I found grace and faith and hope hidden in the darkest corners. I found tenderness and squalor and laughter amid filth. I found a purpose and a path, and I worked with a passion for the best reason of all: I did it for love."
And then I decided to rescue the hat I was going to pull the flowers off of (bought from an antique store in Ocean Beach) and go all Chummy.



It was fun and delicious. (Also, my only purchases were the flowers and the little gifts -- which I found on etsty from Lulu's Island Honey.)


Aside from me staring at the partially completed table as I was setting it out and going ... "Silverware....?" [Note: I actually said: "Cutlery??" but then had to translate.]

And not five minutes later going "Oh $%^$#^ I forgot the teapot" (and sundry other things). Apparently, my expression was priceless.

Next year, instead of packing a bit here and a bit there after work, I'm just going to do it all in one session. Oy.

Can't wait until next year...

Here are previous years' tables that I hostessed:

2013: Venice in winter theme
2012: birdcage theme
2011: woodland theme


Friday, May 16, 2014

Way, Truth, Life, Take 2

Perhaps the first rule of blogging the lectionary, especially if it's gonna sound like a sermon is, that it is like writing a novel. For God's sake, never show anyone the first draft, even if you think it's a second or third draft.  So now that I've meandered through my issues with John 14:6 yesterday, here is what I hope is a better version.


First reading: Acts 7:55-60
Psalm: Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
Second reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Gospel: John 14:1-14

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife,
Such a life as killeth death.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, NRSV)

Here, Jesus is making "I AM" statements which is part of God's Name, the one he revealed to Moses when trying to convince him to go back to Egypt and free God's people. "I AM Who I AM." Jesus is laying claim to the same name and using it as God's name. 

"God is The Way, God is Truth, God is Life."

Imagine George Herbert's poem as coming from Jesus. It is an invitation, an offering of a great gift:

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife,
Such a life as killeth death.

It is by accepting this invitation that we become life-giving, that we find our way deeper into God and finding God in us. Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Jesus, so too, as we accept this invitation, we are in Jesus and the Father, and this, Jesus says, "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)

By accepting this gift, we become the gift and will do greater works than Jesus. Can you imagine?

But what does it take to accept this gift? Imagine George Herbert's poem as an entreaty, a yearning to be nearer to God:

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife,
Such a life as killeth death.

In Truth, in Life, in the Way, we find God and he is in us and we are in God.

And what has been read as a one-way declaration of how to get to heaven, becomes a way to build a relationship between the Divine and the Incarnate Created. Through that relationship, in remembering God is the Way, the Truth, the Life and giving this relationship all our hearts, minds, and strength, we just may transform the world such that life is on earth as it is in heaven.  Can you imagine?

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a light as shows a feast,
Such a feast as mends in length,
Such a strength as makes his guest.


Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a joy as none can move,
Such a love as none can part,
Such a heart as joys in love.


Amen.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Way, Truth, Life

I decided to take a crack at blogging the lectionary along with Rachel Held Evans. This is hard, even for an Education for Ministry graduate, but here goes:
First reading: Acts 7:55-60Psalm: Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16Second reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10Gospel: John 14:1-14
Here's what I don't like about this week's readings: they all appear to be about being "more clued in" than The Others, which is the Jews in the Acts reading (although technically Stephen and the Jesus-followers of the time would have still considered themselves Jews), in the Psalms it is the persecutors who are probably non-Jews but could also be "less than faithful", and in 1 Peter and John, it can be read as: "We Christians got it right and the rest of you are wrong, neener neener".

Except Jesus isn't sneering. So what's going on?

 I started to read through the various commentary resources and the words started to blur together, blah blah blah, although all (that I read) seemed pretty clear that we'd been mistranslating John 14:6 but they weren't really clear on how that was the case ("not so hot on how" as Judas sings in Jesus Christ Superstar) at least not in words I fully understood.

Then I found myself humming a tune this morning:
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life...
As sermons at Good Sam occasionally include singing, it finally dawned on me to listen to the music.

And then I had to go look up the words, which are by George Herbert (1663).


Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife,
Such a life as killeth death.
Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a light as shows a feast,
Such a feast as mends in length,
Such a strength as makes his guest.
Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a joy as none can move,
Such a love as none can part,
Such a heart as joys in love.
And the theology-speak started making sense.

Let me back up a little. In John, Jesus is making "I AM" statements which is part of God's Name, the one he revealed to Moses when trying to convince him to go back to Egypt and free God's people. Jesus is laying claim to the same name. 

Yeah, that one.

"God is The Way, God is Truth, God is Life."

Which thus makes it inclusive of all monotheistic faiths at least.

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life...
It's not about the right way vs. the wrong way. It's all about relationship, the relationship the disciples had with Jesus (and thus God), the relationships 1 Peter's audience had with each other and Jesus (and God), down to today:

To my relationship with God and Jesus, who are (is? Is the Trinity a group noun?) my Way, Truth and Life.

It's my choice to be in this relationship but it's not the only way God is in relationship with people, because if we believe that God continues to act throughout history (and I do believe that) then God is continuing to reveal Godself and in ways that are new and unique and creative.

The covenant formed with the Israelites continues, and as Jewish people today continue to study and interact with the Torah, God reveals Godself to where they are in their lives right now.

(Although I do need to ask the rabbi I work for why one of the lectures in the Hartman Dilemmas of Faith reads: "Dilemma of God's Absence: Grappling with God's Departure from History" although the follow up lecture is called: "Dilemma of Human Responsibility: What Does it mean to live a Life of Faith in an Age of Divine Hiddenness?" so maybe the question is asked to provoke an opposite answer.)

God reveals Godself in Love and in Truth, and  in Life.

As for The Way? It's from where ever you are to where God is waiting to be discovered, loved, praised. The Way is both unique and universal. It is mine and it is yours.


[and now that I've written all that,  I'm wondering if I should've done a meditation on Herbert's lyrics instead....]

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Conversation (a poem)

My monthly bible study group was supposed to meet tonight, but our hosts' children and grandchildren were evacuated to our hosts' home in the fires we're having, so we had to cancel. (Photos below are from this afternoon.)




We are reading Mark and studying it through the lens of Marcus Borg (Conversations on Scripture). I read the study group questions ahead of time and in one of them we were asked to imagine a conversation between the daughter of Jairus and the woman who touched Jesus' cloak afterward. This kind of flowed as I fell asleep and then spent the day recovering it. Hopefully I got it all.

Conversation

There she is
Dancing sunshine
In the midst of all her friends.
They say
Jesus raised her from the dead.

Who is that woman?
She sits by the well alone
A glorious halo surrounds her.
Is she the witch who was
Haggard, bent double,
They say
Jesus cured?

I am free of blood
But they won't believe it.
They test me again and again
Searching for an excuse
Not to believe
I am restored.
The girl skips closer.
What can she want with me?

"Shalom,
I am Tabitha bat Jairus."

"I know.
Shalom,
I am Miriam.
Jesus redeemed
Your life."

"I was sleeping
And he awakened me.
Do you know him?"

"I touched his cloak;
He restored me to health."

"He is kindness."

"Yes,
And sweetest compassion."

Our voices praise:
"He is love itself."

"Then why are you sad?"

"I am no man's child,
No man's wife."

"But you are life!
Restored,
Redeemed!"

Solemn, intense:
"My mother is dead.
My father hovers
As if I'll tumble
Back into the abyss
When he's not looking."

"But you are life!
Redeemed,
Restored!"

"And so I live
And dance
With joy and thanks."

"And so shall I."

She takes my hand
And we are
dancing sunshine,
Reflecting His love.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Why keep the Sabbath?

It's been one of those things I've always wanted to do: keep Sunday entirely for God. That's one of the reasons I spent Saturdays in Lent unplugged

The desire for rest is great, especially these days of working full time and having the weekend left for chores.

Keeping the Sabbath is one of the commandments and I can remember a time when no store was open on Sundays. Even now in my home town in Australia many of the shops are closed on Sundays, or have shortened hours.

You had to be intentional about getting to the bank before it closed, of getting your groceries ahead of time, especially over Easter when shops kept Sunday hours Sunday through Tuesday.

Today, we bank online, we shop for groceries at any almost any hour, we can make a run the pharmacist, ditto ditto.

Everything is convenient, instant, on demand. There is no curb to prevent us from consuming any meal we like, enjoying any product we like at any time. Preferably yesterday.

And life becomes a blurring rush of "What's next?" "What's next?", of hands never idle -- even now I am writing this on my iPhone while waiting for the bus.

Is stopping to take a breath, to rest, to assess our thoughts and actions, something we even think about doing these days?

I do in a wistful way.

And then I remember that all I need to do is remember, and:
  • Take a breath between tasks at work;
  • Limit my online time on the weekend (and also solitaire games!)
  • Take a breath, right now; and really see what is around me, right now and know God is with me, right now.

And sometimes I can choose to spend a little more time there and sometimes the email beeps, the laundry shuts off, or someone needs my attention and I am back in the pell-mell of life.

My goal throughout the Easter season was to continue unplugging on the Sabbath, switching from Saturday to Sunday.

At this almost halfway mark, have I completely stayed off my iPhone or computer from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday?

Well, no. That's the bad news.

The good news is that I've cut down on plugging-in. It's enough engrained in me that I am more intentional with how I choose to spend my time.

There's a sentence of scripture that reads:
"Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." - Colossians 2:16
(Aside from my general dislike of pulling a line of Scripture out of context and proof-texting it, I did read this as part of morning prayer last week and this line leapt out at me.)


I read this as: don't beat yourself up about rules and regulations of how one ought to keep the Sabbath but be kind to yourself and remember you are God's.

How do you feel about keeping the Sabbath? Do you have Sabbath practices? Please share your Sabbath thoughts below.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Making a new journal ...

I've collected flower fairy cards since I was a teen. During Lent, I made a book to hold them all. (Yes, this is a result of the Lenten unplugging on Sunday.) The method is the one I learned from Mary Ann Moss at Dispatch from L.A.



Do I believe in fairies? Well, I do not expect to ever see one, but they represent Nature's beauty and in the cards I've collected they almost always are expressing joy, contentment, and occasionally mystery.




I'd also purchased some paper doll fairies and so I decided to make the book a little more interactive: the fairies look for their clothing, accessories etc and "talk" to other fairies on their way to the Ball.



Just another benefit from unplugging!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Little Art Every Day

Does the idea intrigue?

Tammy at Daisy Yellow is starting ICAD: an Index Card A Day Challenge, 61 days of daily art starting June 1st. Head over to her website for the FAQ.



The idea of cheap stationery supplies like index cards (which I have in abundance, having rescued some from recycling, no guesses from where after you see the picture!) and using what I have, maybe even playing with supplies I've hardly touched, is intriguing.


I've used index cards a couple of times, once as a tiny piece of art to send to the World Vision child that I sponsor, the other time I incorporated them into a larger piece of art.

Already, I can see these being collaged into backgrounds.

Stay tuned to see how I do. I'll report back at the beginning of August as to how it all went.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

God's Stories ... taking a breath and seeing beauty

It's been a little while since I've posted one of these. Some beautiful stuff written in the blogoverse and thought-provoking too.


"You are what is written on God’s Hands: Safe. Held. His. Beloved."