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."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Walking the Way

A father and son are in a car.  The father is trying to talk the 40ish son out of this grand adventure he is embarking on to see the world and live the cultural anthropology he has only studied. 
Son: If I don’t have your blessing that’s fine, but don’t judge this. Don’t judge me.Father: My life here might not seem like much to you, but it’s the life I choose.Son: You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live one.
“You don’t choose a life.  You live one.”
This is from the beginning of the movie – The Way by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen.  The son dies in a freak accident and the father goes to claim the body.  When he arrives in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, he decides to continue the journey for his son who was walking the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James, when he died.  The father is leaving the ashes of his son along the way.  As the father begins this journey, he is determined and walks quickly and is rather grumpy and out of sorts.  He doesn’t want any companionship and yet people begin to attach themselves to him. There is a Dutch man who loves to talk and is on the journey to loose weight in order to fix his marriage, an Irish writer with writers block who pontificates and wants inspiration, and a Canadian woman escaping an abusive relationship and an abortion, and this father who is now alone with both wife and son dead.  The way is not easy.  They walk for between 10 and 15 miles a day from one small village or hostel to the next, following the yellow arrows and the shells.  They run into odd people.  Along the way this father begins to see his son in the unexpected: drinking and laughing with a table of strangers, beside a tree, spreading incense with the monks.  The father begins to learn what it means to live a life.  The task of putting one foot in front of the other provides the time to let go of the pain, to ask for forgiveness, and to learn to experience the joy of faithful, if annoying companions. 
            During the summer, we often spend a lot of time walking.  As we walk, we can turn the time into our own little pilgrimages or ways.  We can use these times to pray and let go.  Thich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk suggests a simple prayer that anyone can pray from the youngest child to the oldest person.  As you walk say yes, yes, thank you, thank you. He tells you to smile while saying: thank you.  Your breath, your footsteps, and your words begin to flow together.  This can become a time of peace and happiness.  As the thoughts come in of what is worrying at your soul, return to your breath and your steps.  Allow the steady rhythm to help you to release the troubles and allow gratitude to enter.  May you take time to choose a life and walk the way.
Buen Camino,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Life with a New Puppy

River Song and I are out for our morning walk.  It is 6ish in the morning.  We have hit Library Park and are sitting on the bench to meditate or contemplate eating ducks and sticks.  A man is slowly approaching from the east.  As he draws near River is sitting for a moment as asked.  But then the man is upon us and he speaks is his deep bass voice.  She can't help herself she comes over, rubs against him, falls down for a belly rub and then piddles.  She shows him respect as only a little puppy can.  He could be my alpha.  He should take me home.  I would follow him.

Unfortunately she is stuck with me.  The person who gets up before dawn to let her out, the person who feeds her, walks her, supplies her with bones and toys.   She is not willing to acknowledge me at her Alpha, I'm someone to herd and chew on.  But he could be the one.

I wonder if we all are a little like RiverSong.  We are searching for something we can follow whole heartedly.   Someone or something that inspires us, that we are willing to turn our lives around to follow. In the United States between 64 - 69% of us believe in God or a higher power, yet only 16-22% of us attend church on a given Sunday.  So only of a quarter of us believe that church is the place where we find who we will give our life to.  2/3s of us are willing to hope for the possibility that God or a Universal Spirit exists.

So how do we share and show that Jesus is the one to give my life to and follow with my tale up and my ears relaxed, willing to do so because Jesus is a calm non-anxious presence who has transformed me, inspired me.  I want to trot along wherever he will lead me.  I think we often have trouble moving into this relationship.  But by following Jesus what I do and where I go is my chance to share the faith and learn more about God.  It is my chance to change how I respond to the world and the people I encounter there.  Will I immediately change course and seek out the lost, the lonely, the hurt, the hungry, party with the sinners, and argue with the religious?  Will I follow the Alpha of my existence?
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen.And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Mark 1:14-18

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Risk-Taking Mission & Service

And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."  Mark 4:20
 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's  will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. Colossions  1:9-10
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’  Luke 10:25-28
Be fruitful.  Bear Fruit in every good work.  Grow in God.  Bear fruit, 30, 60, 100 fold.   This week we will be  exploring how we can bear fruit in our mission and service.  In the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Robert Schnase argues that our mission and service should involve risk taking.  What does this look like?   How can we step outside the box to serve our neighbors?  As Schnase says: “What have we done in the last six months to make a positive difference in the lives of others that we would not have done if it were not for our relationship to Christ?”
 There is a UCC congregation near where I was serving in Pennsylvania that seemed to embody these Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.  It began with a need of a parishioner and turned into a practice of generosity and risk-taking mission and service.  In 2002, St. John's United Church of Christ in Coopersburg, church members worked to raise money for a fellow church member who was seriously ill and in dire financial condition due to the cumulative medical expenses that accompanied that illness. They decided to hold a block party that raised money for her chronic health needs.  Through their efforts, $8200 was raised and given to the family. As they took this action to help a known neighbor they brought a lot of life and joy to the community.  They decided not to stop there.  They wanted to continue the block party the next year only this time seek applications from people in their neighborhood who were struggling with medical debt due to chrinoc diseases.  Out of that effort COB (community outreach benefit) was born, and has raised $330,502 for 31 families each year.  Today they have a large organizational team from many area churches and over 300 active volunteers from throughout the Southern Lehigh and surrounding areas.  As one recipient wrote: 
“I will never forget sitting at home after spending a hot day in the parking lot of the church. I was totally exhausted, but elated at the same time. We felt so overwhelmed with the love shown not in words, but in deeds. All the people that worked so hard and did so much just for us left us staggered and numb. It wasn't about the money raised, but the fact that people cared enough to labor under the hot sun for hours for our benefit. It is still unbelievable." 
At the heart of COB lives unselfish service and example to all of fruitful living.  This fruitful congregation through their desire to be generous to a hurting member, allowed their life as a congregation to be transformed.   One of the people who sang in the band began to worship with the congregation and bring vibrancy to their music.  Their Sunday offering began to rise and attendance went up.  They learned to bear fruit.  How can we here in Lake Geneva learn to take a risk and serve our neighbors?  Are we willing to allow our lives to be transformed as we help another?