God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It's What's Inside That Counts

Do you remember Jr. High Gym Class?  Are your feelings about Gym Class directly proportional to your athletic prowess or popularity?  I have to admit, I dreaded gym.  You would never have caught me saying that gym was my favorite subject.  I dreaded the whole time form beginning to end.  First there was the uniform.  I mean how could these gym uniforms look so bad on both fat kids and skinny kids.  Then there was the next step.  The most popular athletic person was chosen to pick the teams:  you all lined up and if you happened to be a nerd and totally didn't care about competitive sports one person after another was called.  First all of the athletic people were called and then the popular kids who may not have been athletic and then you waited hoping at least you wouldn't be last.  You were chosen based upon your outside.  Who you were internally was ignored or dismissed?

But there is hope for all of you who were chosen last.  David gives us hope in the story in 1 Samuel 16:1-13.  Samuel has been sent to find the next King of Israel.  God is displeased with the current King.  A king God had set as ruler over the people because they had whined that they needed a king, God as the King was not enough.  So God gave them Saul, but Saul had lost God's approval.  God sent Samuel to find the next king.  When Samuel looked for the king he was sent to Bethlehem and Jesse.  Jesse was asked to bring out his sons.  He brings out the first son handsome and tall, Samuel thought this must be him.  But God said no.  Samuel met one son after another.  Seven sons and none of them were the next king. 

So Samuel asks if there is any other son.  Jesse remember there was one more.  The youngest he was with the sheep.  They bring in this boy who Samuel sees is ruddy with beautiful eyes and is handsome.  And God says this is the one.  This is who I have chosen and then the Spirit enters David and stays with him through his life.  The last one in line is the one God needed, the one God had called.  "For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).  God doesn't look at the outside; God looks at the inside. 

God sees into our hearts.  That is the hope of everyone who has been the last in line.  For God sees what the world may not recognize.  Think of what that can mean for you.  God can see what is on the inside and can use what is in your heart to help transform the world. 

When Michelangelo was 26, he was asked to carve a statue out of a block of marble that had already been begun.  Within this piece of marble, he saw David and brought him to life.  Within a block of stone he freed perfection.  Within a rock he saw something of incomparable beauty and set about to make it free.  As Michelangelo says of sculpting:
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."
“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

God looks at your rock of marble and sees the angel that you can be.  God sees the inside of you.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Waiting on the Master

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!  Psalm 27:14

At this Japanese garden, I visited; there is a path that leads you to a teahouse.   Outside of the tea house and a little down the path is a waiting room.  This house is where you wait until the master is ready serve tea.

A place to wait for the master.    

Waiting for the master. 

We aren’t a people who like to wait.  We can share every thought the instant we have  them.  There is rarely a place where we can not be reached by phone.  So to wait is challenging in a culture where we can have our every whim granted almost instantly.  In a culture where we don’t wait, how do we share the power in waiting?  How do we share that God is a Master on whom we sometimes have to wait?   We have to wait for each new revelation.  We have to learn to wait for answers to prayer.  We have to wait for the teacher to arrive who came help us take the next step on our journey of faith. 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope;  my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.  O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.  Psalm 130:5-7

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Garden of Reflection

Have you ever searched for something and been unable to find it?  I went with a group of women from our congregation to Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, IL.  As we were walking, there were these signs that kept pointing to the Garden of Reflection.  The arrow kept pointing on ahead.  I tend not to look at maps I just follow the signs.  Well the sign kept pointing and I was looking for a garden - a spot with benches where you could sit down and pray while looking at the flowers and trees.  We were walking and walking around this pond that was not the prettiest pond at the gardens although it did have koi fish that would flock toward you and there was a lily pad blooming.  But I didn’t see a garden beyond the path.  It wasn’t until we were at the other side of this big pond that I looked at my map which read Garden of Reflection on the pond.  I had been looking in the wrong way.  I had missed the garden of reflection while searching for the garden. 
            When I got home and started looking at the photos I had taken, I noticed two of them that showed the Garden of Reflection.  I had captured the reflection of the foliage on the water.  I could see in the photo the reflection that was clearer because the camera had chosen that to focus on.  The reflection I had been looking for was found.   But I had missed part of what I was seeking.  I had missed the chance to stop there at the pond and reflect.  I missed the chance to see what was being reflected in the pond both literally and figuratively because I was so busy searching. 
Do we sometimes miss God, because we are so busy searching that we forget to find what we are looking for?  There is a story told about Elijah, who meets an Angel who helps him on the journey and tells him that God will pass by while he is on the mountain of the Lord. 
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him…… I Kings 19:11-13
Elijah almost missed God because he was searching for the spectacular.  He was so busy searching in all the incredible chaos of nature that he almost missed God coming in the sheer silence.  Take time this summer to stop searching for God and you may be surprised where God finds you.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What will be our legacy to our children?

David answers this question in the charge and commission he gives to his son Solomon as he is dying.  He lays out his hope in 1 Kings 2:1-4.
1 When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. 2 "I am about to go the way of all the earth," he said. "So be strong, show yourself a man, 3 and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, 4 and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: 'If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.
Be Strong, Be Courageous, and Be Faithful.  Is this a legacy you would like your children to have?

Be Strong.  What kind of strength do you want your children to have?  Was David interested in a kingly strength, a physically powerful strength that is about being able to defend one's nation?  Is this a superhero kind of strength when we have the power to defeat our enemy?  Is there an alternative to this style of strength that is about force?  My foil for David this week is Horton the Elephant.  We see a strength found in compassion.  Horton is the elephant who believes that a person is a person no matter what size.  In Horton Hatches an egg, a lazy bird Mayzie decides she doesn't want to hatch her egg.  She needs a vacation and tricks Horton into sitting on her egg.  Horton sits on this egg through rain and snow, through the teasing of friends and their ability to play, through the terror of hunters, through a cage and boat.  Yet, he remains with the egg.  He stays with the egg, guarding it, caring for it.  Horton shows strength of character by his compassion and determination to take care of the egg.

Be courageous.  Did David mean he wanted Solomon to be brave or was he hoping that Solomon would have courage in the face of fear?  Nelson Mandela is a person I believe represent both strength and courage.  In Richard Stengel's book Mandela's Way, he writes that Mandela often spoke of being scared.  "He was scared during the Rivinia Trial that led to life in prison; he was scared when wardens on Robben Island threatened to beat him; he was scared when he was an underground fugitive known in the press as the 'Black Pimpernel'; he was scared when he secretly began talks with the government; and he was scared during the turbulent before the election that would make him president of South Africa."  But Mandela had learned early in life that to act in spite of fear.  He learned not to let fear stop you from fighting injustice and righting wrongs.  Courage is acting in spite of fear.

Be Faithful.  David encourages Solomon to follow the laws of Moses, to walk in God's way.  What a legacy for our children to teach them to be faithful to God with their heart and soul?  David through his life shows us how one can live one's life with God and yet still be fallible.  He is not prefect.  He commits adultery and murder.  He breaks many of the commandments and yet he shows great faith in God.  He shows a person who can praise God with heart and soul and yet still be human.  Although Horton is probably a more faithful in that he shows what it means to be there and protect someone no matter the circumstances.  As Horton says:  I said what I mean and I meant what I said.  An elephant's faithful one hundred percent.

Be Strong.  Be Courageous.  Be Faithful.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

King David & Dr. Seuss

What do King David and Doctor Seuss have in common?  On the surface nothing, but both stories tell us about morality.  They deal with stories of friendship, faith, fear, compassion, remorse, arrogance, jealousy and creativity.  We will look at how the stories of David chosen by God in childhood became a hero and king.  David was eloquent, passionate, courageous, faithful and at the same time manipulative, self-destructive, irresponsible, and disobedient.  He lived a life with God and yet was a very human person who stumbled and forgot the way.  As we see how God was at work in David’s life, we will discover the ways God may be working in our lives.  If you want to experience the entire story of David it begins in 1 Samuel 16 and ends in 1 Kings 2:12, and an alternate version is found in 1 Chronicles 10:13-29:30.  This is a story not for the faint of heart: armies clash, sons try to kill fathers, brothers hurt sisters, brothers fight brothers, adultery, betrayal.  Dr. Seuss takes some of these same concerns and puts it  into a story with fantastical creatures and the power of rhyme.  In these stories of Seuss, there is a message of hope that there are people who are compassionate and courageous.  Joins us this summer on the adventure.

June 19     Faithful                  1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12  Horton Hatches an Egg
June 26     the Shepherd King    1 Samuel 16:1-13    Too Many Daves
July 3        Soothing Music         1 Samuel 16:14-23  My Many Color Days
July 10      David and Goliath     1 Samuel 17             The Big Brag
July 17      Friends                     1 Samuel 20             Green Eggs and Ham
July 24      Fear                         1 Samuel 22:10-15   What was I scared of
July 31      David & Abigail        1 Samuel 25:2-43     Horton Hears a Who
August 7   Dancing & Jealousy   2 Samuel 6:1-23       Gertrude McFuzz
August 14 David’s Prayer          2 Samuel 7:18-29     O the Thinks You Can Think
August 21 I’m  Sorry                 2 Samuel 12:1-15     Bartholomew the Oobleck
August 28 Thanks                      2 Samuel 22:1-51     Beyond Zebra

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Holy One of Israel Has Created This

Anderson Japanese Gardens 
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
                          Psalm 118:24

Today, I spent the morning experiencing these words walking through Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, IL.

Anderson Japanese Garden West Waterfall 

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul. 
O LORD my God, you are very great;  
10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines; 
it flows between the mountains. 
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field; 
the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 
12 The birds of the air nest by the waters; 
they sing among the branches. 
16 The trees of the LORD are well watered, 
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 
17There the birds make their nests; 
the stork has its home in the pine trees.  Psalm 104

Anderson Japanese Gardens
17 "The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. 18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. 19 I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, 20 so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41