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, July 27, 2013

Don't Give Up

One of the themes of this week's scripture is persistence or perseverance in prayer.
5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  Luke 11:5-13
The suggestion of the passage seems to be annoy God by bothering him constantly.  If you prayer your concern again and again eventually you will wear God down with your prayer and  the prayer will be answered.  So if this worked every teen girl in the country would be married to their celebrity crush from their teens.  We all know that didn't happen.
So what do we do with this passage.  What does being persistent in prayer mean?  When we are in the midst of hard times : divorce, illness, job loss, death... We start praying,  We pray for the pain to go away.  We pray for a good outcome:  the job we want, the perfect spouse, a cure... We prayer over and over again that where we are won't be where we will be.  We ask and ask, knock and knock, and yet in the moment it seems like the prayer was not answered, the door is not opened.
So what if persistence and perseverance is not about wearing God down and giving you the answer you want?  What if this passage instead is about not giving up?  When in the midst of grief, pain, loss our desire is for the feeling to go away, for a change to come.  And in that pain can we hear this persistence as don't give up, seek God, search for God.  Don't give up.  I am with you. I will be with you. I will help you get to the other side. I was struck by this, as RiverSong and I took my morning walk.  For the second song that came on the shuffle was Don't Give Up as sung by Bono and Alicia Keys.  I usually listen to Peter Gabriel singing this.  But this morning Bono showed up and sang
Don't give up 'cause you have friends Don't give up, you're not beaten yet Don't give up, I know you can make it goodDon't give up, you still have us Don't give up, we don't need much of anything Don't give up 'cause somewhere there's a place where we belongRest your head, you worry too much It's going to be all right When times get rough you can fall back on us Don't give up, please don't give up
Don't give up.  Persevere.  And in your prayer, God will be there seeking you, listening to you, answering the door.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Wilderness: A Time of Waiting

I kept running into the same story this week, a story that I will admit I’m not all that familiar with:  the story of Jephthah from the book of judges.  I knew more about his daughter than him and what I know of what he did to his daughter did not make me very sympathetic to his story.  But two preachers saw this story as talking about the fallow times, the times when you are in the wilderness, when you are waiting and longing.

So how many of you are familiar with your Judges 11:1-12:7.  Jephthah was the son of a prostitute.  His brother drove him out into the wilderness.  They wanted him gone so they wouldn’t have to share his inheritance.  Fleeing into the wilderness he gathered around him a gang of men, outlaws.  This gang was full of powerful warriors.  They spent time preparing and honing their skills.  Jephthah was preparing and getting ready.  When his former people, the ones who kicked out, who had treated him badly because his mother was a prostitute - the elders, the leaders of this community come to him and ask him to defeat their enemies. That time away allowed him to become the leader that Israel needed.  
RiverSong in  Lake Geneva, WI

As I was walking this morning with RiverSong to the lake, my IPod decided to play a prayer from the Wild Resource Group about this wilderness times, this waiting time.  “On God alone I wait silently.” from There is One Among Us.

The wilderness time.  You have been to the doctors, the tests have been run.  The first prognosis was not good.  You’ve done the treatment and now you wait.  The answers will come, the results will be known.  But right now.  In this moment you wait.  You stay in the wilderness between health and fear.  But where you are heading you do not know.  Not yet.
Estes Park, Colorado

The wilderness time.  You are starting a new adventure.  You have packed your stuff and bought the tickets.  You have said all the important goodbyes, but it is not yet time to leave to start anew.  You wait.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The wilderness time.  You have lost your job.  You have cleared your office and search and search but what is next is still ahead.  Still unknown.  What you do and how you will support your family is unknown.  It’s a wilderness time.  A time to reevaluate and rediscover who you are.  It’s a time of anxiety and fear and hope for what’s next.  It’s a time of waiting and preparation. 

The times when you feel rejected and yet God is preparing for you something unexpected.  God has before you something that you couldn’t have predicted or wanted.  But before you can get there you have to spend that time in the wilderness.  The time when you have prepared and said the honest prayer, the deep serious prayer.  But you don’t yet know the answer. 

Yellowstone, Wyoming
As John Bell prays:
God, keep safe all who wait,
and give them the patience and a sense of proportion;
for we  are not in charge of time. 
You are;
And we believe you have a purpose for every season,
even the waiting one. 


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Be Open

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’  Mark 7
Be Opened.  These are words I need this morning as I think about gun violence and senseless killing and the injustice of our justice system.  Be Opened.
These words come from Jesus as he looks up to the heavens and groans deep in his soul and prays:  Be Opened.  Jesus is healing a deaf man who speech is garbled.  He prays to open him up.  To unstop his ears which he does by poking his fingers inside and unbind his tongue by spitting on it.  In this gritty scene of healing, he opens up this man who has been bound.
This man is a despised nearby neighbor.  He is part of the community that is outside the safety and comfort zone.  He is from a community seen as not us, not good enough.  But Jesus is expanding who is part of God's Dream.  He has just healed a Samaritan, an outsider.  And no with this story of the being opened, Jesus moves the ministry to the left out and rejected.  He heals this man.  Be Opened.
Be Opened.  Jesus has just preached about what makes people unclean and shared with us that it is the those things that hurt others, that comes out of us this is what makes us unclean, that defiles us.
20And he said, ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’  Mark 7
 Jesus speaks to us about what makes us worthy and unworthy.  And while he is talking about food and makes all food clean, he wants us to think about what is in our hearts and minds, not our stomachs.  Jesus opens us up to people who are different, who are outsiders.  Jesus wants us to look and interact with those who are different from us and see them as God's, as part of God's mission and ministry.  Be Opened.
As we pray for justice, this prayer speaks to me so that I learn how to open myself.  Open myself to those who are different from me, who I have been told to be afraid of, who the world wants me to be scared of. Be Opened.
Be open to that child with dark skin and a hoody that you meet today.
Be open to having God work through you to see a child of God, a Holy Creation, Beloved.
Be open to the Spirit bringing you to a place a discomfort to see and experience the Holy.
Be open to challenge the unjust justice system.
Be Opened.
Jesus is ready to open you,
Jesus is ready to unstop your ears.
Jesus is ready to give you the words to share the hope and justice of God with the world.
Be Open to the light that is meant to shine in the dark places.
Be Opened.