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."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sign

My Advent word of the day is sign.

Ok. I know there is no sign in this picture. When I look at this picture I can't help but remember the sign that came before you took the path. The sign said do not stray from the path. My son had just learned about the supervolcano in Yellowstone which would totally wipe us out like the dinosaurs. He had been telling me as we lived in Wyoming at the time that there would be nothing we could do, if it blew we were goners. So that summer when we took our vacation to Yellowstone the sign stuck with. Do Not Stray from the Path. So I am of course thinking about walking on those spots where the supervalcano is bleeding through the ground. There is not much chance that I will stray from the path. Beside the words telling you that the ground is soft and porus and you could slip into extremely hot and dangerous conditions. There was not much chance of me straying from the path. But then we saw someone straying from the path. They were on the edge and could fall through into the boiling hot water/land. So there was the sign, don't stray from the path and yet the park rangers were called to rescue them from the scalding of falling through the earth's soft crust. There are signs every where with detailed explanations and yet people continue to stray from the path.

During Advent we are invited to watch for the signs of God coming among us. We are to watch for the presence of God among us and with us. We are to wait and watch for God coming among us.

When I look around the world, having just watched a report on the number of attacks on Muslims and Sikh. Hate crimes against Muslims and people perceived as Muslim  have risen dramatically. Some of these crimes have vandalism with messages about Jesus as the way, the one. But if we stayed on the path that Jesus lays out for us. A path where the least. the last, and the lost become the first, the found, and the most. Where Jesus shows how to love by healing the wounded, feeding the hungry, welcoming the outcast, and arguing with the comfortable. The path of love speaks to the foreigner, the stranger, and provides comfort and hope. The path of love calls us to be different than the world around us to meet violence with the other cheek, to meet someone who takes from you by offering them more, to love your enemies, pray for your enemies. The path of love calls us to take a different course than the rhetoric of the day invited us into. We are see see people as beloved children of God, we are to seek forgiveness when we have fallen from the path, we are invited to turn back to God.

God bless us and disturb us as we celebrate the feast, 
When he who ranked the highest came 
to earth to be the least,
Lest we consign to Satan’s power those
for whom joy has ceased:Refrain: Oh, come, Christ the Savior from below, from above, and infect the depths of earth with heavenly love.                                                                                                                     John Bell, Iona

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman


Monday, December 14, 2015

Rejoice

My advent word of the day is rejoice.

With the sadness and fear that has been pervasive this year, to rejoice becomes a challenge. My little bit of daily joy has become the morning drop of Bloom County. As the day begins there is Opus and Bill the Cat running for President with a restore the two spaces platform. There is Brinkley in love with Abby. There is Steve broken hearted. There are Star Wars, yoga and Trump references. 
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/2d/22/23/2d222308949e731ba79d5dbab85d14d2.jpg
Who can resist a Zenguin in a Kaleidoscope of colors with the words be kind on his bottom and a flower growing out of his head. This Zenguin has brought me much joy this fall. Opus helps me to remember to get my Zen on when the world seems out of control. He reminds me to be kind when the world seems particularly unkind. Bloom County has helped me to experience joy and to rejoice.

One of the themes of Advent is joy. In the season of Advent we are reminded how we are a brood of vipers, how we need to repent, how the world can be a dangerous place where we need God to enter. Then comes the week we light our pink Advent candle and we are invited to rejoice. We are invited to remember that even in those moment when the world is a hard, fearful place to live that we can turn a corner, spend a moment in joy, spend a moment rejoicing.
16 But may all who seek you
   rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
   say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
   but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
   do not delay, O my God. 

                           Psalm 40:16-17
 Jeremy Camp "O Come O Come Emmanuel"

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Grace

My advent word of the day is grace.
When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
   and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25
How do you speak of grace at Christmas time? As I thought about grace - the experience of God looking at you seeing all your warts, flaws. failures and God loves you. God looks through all that has happened the good and bad, God knows you better than you know yourself and loves you.

In the Christmas story found in Matthew, depending on my mood upon reading the story I experience God's grace. Joseph has been placed in a very uncomfortable position. The woman he is to marry, is pregnant and he is not the father. As he struggles with what to do, he decides to break off the engagement but to do so quietly so that Mary will not be publicly shamed. Then Joseph is visited by an angel in a dream. Joseph is told that the baby is blessed by God and will be God is with us. Joseph who was set to think ill of Mary because she was unwed and pregnant  is invited to see Mary through God's eyes. God sees Mary with the eyes of love and grace and shares that love and grace with Joseph showing him a new way to look at the world. A world where God is with us and grace is offered to us despite our flaws and failings.

Away in a Manger/Amazing Grace

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mystery


My advent word of the day is Mystery. 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/ArthurConanDoyle_AStudyInScarlet_annual.jpgI was in the the Barnes and Nobel to get my Mom's Christmas present yesterday. Her favorite books are mystery stories. So I am in the mystery section reading the backs, looking at the covers and searching the date printed to make sure she couldn't have read them yet from the library.  I gravitated to the Christmas ones. Who doesn't want to escape into a Christmas story usually with recipes you can think of trying. I mean you got rouge elves, Santas that are not so jolly and the spunky solver of mysteries. These are fun quick reads that just let you escape the world for a moment. One of the joys of these reads is that you along with the hero work your way through the mystery. You try to solve the problem along the way looking for the clues  and waiting to that last moment to see if your conclusions were right.

A Mystery is something that is impossible to understand or explain. We often talk about God and faith as mystery. For some of us this becomes a puzzle that we seek the answer and draw the right conclusions. We come to a clear picture of God and how it works. For others of us God is a mystery that we can never fully understand or explain. Every time we think we we have learned who God is a new puzzle, mystery occurs and we have a new journey of discovery. We may never fully understand God and that is sometimes an uncomfortable place to be. When the world is uncertain it would be nice to have a certainty about how God acts and where God will act. But God shares glimpses, pictures, songs, moments, words that evoke a beautiful, deep and impossible to grasp moment of clarity and peace. Then the mystery begins again.
Immortal Invisible God Only Wise

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.


Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.


To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.


Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.


All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Awake

My advent word of the day is awake.
                                                                         ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’                                             Mark 13:32-37

Stay Awake. This is one of the themes of Advent. We are to remain awake. To be ready for the coming of God.  Advent is the times of the year when we are reminded to keep on the look out for the coming of God. We don't know when or where God will be so we always need to be aware, be alert, stay awake.  We are invited to learn that we never know when and where we will encounter God. If we are  not awake we might miss God.




Nothing Can Trouble

Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten.
Those who seek God shall never fo wanting.
God Alone fills us.
Stay awake, keep watch, there is no peace on earth.
Nothing can frighten those who make the journey and seek God.
Nothing can frighten those who make the journey and seek God.




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Justice

My advent word for the day is justice.

When I was a teenager there were pins passed out at a youth event that I attended. It funny I can't remember what the English version said. But the translation of the Spanish was struggle for justice. The context of these pins were how do we help create a world where the poor are lifted up, where racism does not determine economic status, where bombs and guns are not what we spend so much of the budget on. In order to bring God's vision to life we must struggle for justice. My words cannot compare to the prayers/songs of Mary and Zechariah on justice. There words at the birth and coming birth of babies are words of God's Justice.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
47   and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
   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.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
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.
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 for ever.’ Luke 1:46-55
 Mary believes in a God who has scattered the proud, brought down the powerful, sends the rich away empty. Mary's song is song showing God on the side of the poor, the hungry, the weak, the lowly. God is a God of mercy.
 68 ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
   for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us
   in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71   that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
   and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
   to grant us 74that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness
   before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ Luke 1:68-79
 Zechariah justice means liberation, it means being redeemed, save, delivered from our enemies. For Zechariah, he looks around the the world and sees an unsafe place, a place where fear is prevalent, where the need for a savior to free us from fear, to free us from the danger, to set us free from our enemies. And yet for Zechariah this call for justice is also a call to peace. To confront fear and enemies, is to be done with God guiding us through peace.
Mary Did You Know

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Peace

Advent Word of the Day Peace
 78 By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ Luke 1:78-79
Does your heart ever break when you open your Facebook feed. This has happened to me a lot lately. Sometimes this is where I receive news first. I find about people shot by terrorists, people shot by mass shooters, people tortured by Chicago police, people killed by police, global weirding events, and then the just hurtful memes and quotes of hate.  The quotes bothering me today are
"I've always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them," Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University
 “We need a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States while we figure out what the hell is going on.” Donald Trump
Hate is spilling out of our airways. Hate is filling our ears and eyes. Words hurt. Words are powerful. So I need my words to speak of love, to speak of peace. To say no, this is not what I believe. This is not ok for people with power and influence to say and believe. I want to share with you the words that come from the Jesus I follow. 
 ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:27-31
Now I don't want you to think that I believe that Muslims are our enemies. I believe there are some fundamentalist Muslims out there who have an ideology that does want to fight us and believes that we have a culture that is destructive. But that group of Muslims is not all Muslims and not even all of the people from a country that is predominantly Muslim. There are Muslims who practice a different form of Islam, there are secular Muslims, and there are nonmuslims within those countries.

Mr. Trump while you believe we have no choice. We do have a choice. We can choose to love, to practice peace. To stand with our fellow humans and say that hate is not okay. I get the fear. I have thought about going to the movies and whether I will be shot. I understand there is fear and worry. I understand there is anger. But the answer is not hate. The answer is not to carry guns to take out Muslims. The answer is not to close our borders. We do have a choice. We can choose to love. We can choose the path of peace. On my wall I have picture which says,

 
"What is most important is to find peace and to share it with others."
                           Thich Nhat Hahn













"If you make one peaceful step, than peace is possible."
              Thich Nhat Hahn






I don't always succeed in following the wisdom of Thich Nhat Hahn. I get angry. I get angry when I see hate and racism. I get angry and then I have to take the next step, the next and often a few hundred after that until my steps allow me to feel peace once again. And if I can make one peaceful step than I know that it is possible to overcome hate, to release anger, and to build a world where love is the answer.

So once again this week my prayer is for "God to guide my feet in the way of peace."

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
 It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing. Edmund Sears











Monday, December 7, 2015

Wonder

My advent word of the day is wonder.

Have you ever looked up at the stars at night and wondered? This is the question I was asked in the first philosophy class I took in college. The professor wanted us to think about the ability to look at something and be inspired to have questions, be curious about what is is there. To study philosophy he wanted to argue was to wonder, to be curious, to ask questions. I loved this question because it was the first time my desire to wonder was validated. To wonder, to be curious was seen as something good, something that would lead to asking ore questions and seeking more answers.

Last week went to the Science and Industry Museum in Chicago. While went to look at the Christmas Trees. The exhibit that drew my eye was the Tornado. I was drawn by the colors with all of the blues. But in the middle was this swirling vortex of white swirling air. Now when I first look I thought wow that pretty I wonder what it is. Then I realized it was a tornado exhibit. I try to avoid tornadoes having grown up in the Midwest. I have in interest in how do we make ourselves safe. The museum was set up to draw us in and make us curious.  

During advent, Mary is our symbol for one who is curious, who wonders.
But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Luke 1:29
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19
His mother treasured all these things in her heart. Luke 3:51
When the Angel appears and says "Greetings Favored One, the Lord is with you." Mary is perplexed by these words. She wonders why she is favored. This is the first we learn that Mary thinks about things and wonders. She hears what others say about her son. She hears the words spoken about her son and treasures the words. thinks about the words, wonders about this child that God has blessed her with.

Mary invites us to wonder, to ponder, to treasure what we have heard and learned about Jesus. So may you take time to wonder, to ponder, to treasure in your heart.

I Wander as I Wonder
I wonder, as I wander out under the sky
How jesus the saviour had come for to die
For poor orn'ry creatures like you and like i
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When mary birthed jesus, 'twas in a cow's stall
With wisemen and shepherds and farmers and all
And high in the heavens a star's light did fall
'twas the promise of the ages, it then did recall

If jesus had wanted for any wee thing
Like a star in the sky, or a bird on the wing
Or all of god's angels in heav'n for to sing
Well, he surely could have had them, for he was their king

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How jesus the saviour had come for to die
For poor orn'ry creatures like you and like i
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Doubt

My advent word of the day is doubt.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ 18Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ 19The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’ Luke 1:8-20
When you are a minister, you aren't supposed to be full of doubt. You are supposed to have faith. To believe in the faithfulness and steadfast love of God. So when it's your turn to be in the holiest of places, you expect it to be like any other day you are there. You wish God showed up and let you know what you should do, but well it usually just ritual. You do all those comfortable familiar acts that you do. While the congregation may think that you are holier than they and that God falls on you. Usually you just pray more, study more, and get the chance to show compassion more. So their you are in the holy place. And God's Angel shows up. Really. There in this place where you may speak of God living, an angel shows up, in all his sparkly, glowing brilliance. The angel starts speaking telling Zechariah his pray has been answered. He will have baby. This baby will prepare the way of the Lord.

At this point Zechariah says how can this be. You know I'm old, and well my wife's getting on in years. Zechariah is doubting that it is possible for a baby to be born. After all it would take a miracle; they couldn't even attempt the modern medical practices. But as Zechariah gently put it, my wife is getting on in years. So Zechariah has a lot of doubt. Even if he remember the old story of Abraham and Sarah. They too reacted to the announcement of a baby by laughing and then taking on a a slave girl and getting her pregnant. But that was old testament times. God did those miracles and wonders long a go not now. So Zechariah had doubts. He was pretty sure that this was not possible.

The angel was not pleased and told hi he would be silent, he wouldn't be able to speak until what the angel said came true. From that moment Zechariah was silent. He had nine months to be silent waiting for the answer to his prayer.

I wonder if the lesson we are to take from this story is how to respond to doubt. Maybe we are to respond to doubt by spending time in the silence. Spending time praying without out words just listening and waiting. Maybe our doubt is not supposed to be replaced with certainty, but with a constant life of prayer.
The Benedictus

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Prepare

My advent word of the day is Prepare.
That moment when all of the food is ready, the lights are on, the drinks are out. You have prepared for your holiday party and now you wait. Will anyone show up, will people have fun, will the food be enough. You prepared and than you wait.

You have studied for years. You have been studying for months. It's the day. You are in the room with those four professors who will determine your fate. You have answered the written questions which were harder than you expected and you hoped you wrote enough. But now you get to see if the preparation was enough. You are in the room. They start asking questions about what you wrote. Then they ask a question and you are blank. The silence gets uncomfortable as you think. The men are waiting it out, waiting for you. The woman gives you a prompt. You prepared and now you have the knowledge there in your head.

This is it the final stage. You have written a paper that is supposed to share your faith, your knowledge, your dreams, your call. They asked you questions. You answered even the one that was meant to stump you. And now you are out of the room while they talk. It is taking for ever. Did you prepare enough.

You are on your way home. The baby is the back seat in the car seat. You wonder will you be good enough. Can you do this? He is so small and you may have read all the books. Are you prepared enough? Can you prepare enough?

Prepare. This word is part of our Christmas story. We have Zechariah, John the baptists father saying:

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 

                                                                            Luke 1:76
This baby is got a lot of growing to do. His life becomes a preparation for who he will become. He will end up out in the wilderness, calling people back to God. He will explain what he does with these words.
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight.

                                        Luke 3:4
John is preparing the way for the one to come. Later in the story we have John asking if Jesus if he is the one. 
 This is the one about whom it is written,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way before you.” 

                                        Luke 7:27
 Prepare the way. This time of year as we prepare our houses for Christmas, As we decorate, as we plan menus, parties, presents, we are reminded that what we are preparing for  is the coming of God. We are preparing in order for there to be a place for the Lord to enter our lives again. We are reminded that we can alawys prepare the way of the Lord.

Take time this season to prepare for for the Lord, to prepare for teh coming gain and always for the coming of Jesus.
Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Friday, December 4, 2015

Comfort

My advent word of the day is comfort. 
 This week, month, year has been a year where comfort has been a desire for most of us. As we struggle with the idea that people can pick up a gun, explore the internet and learn how to make a bomb and then go and kill just random people. When the world seems out of control we search for a feeling of relief, consolation, solace. We wanted to be comforted.

When I was going through the hardest moment in my life, comfort came from family and friends. The ones who didn't ask questions, who gave me a hug, listened, or just told me a story to laugh. During this time when I was getting divorced and trying to figure out what this meant for my son and I. I was trying to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be, where I had failed. I had some very good friends and family who made a space for me to land. Who welcomed me back. One of the places that brought me the most comfort was church. I needed the familar. I needed that sense of peace that you get when all of you are singing together the songs of faith. Those songs brought such comfort. When the whole group sang together Be Thou My Vision, Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee, Amazing Grace. The prayers and words that I knew from the time I were little, comforted me, reminding me that I was part of something larger. My home church became a big comfort for me. Especially when they didn't ask questions they just welcomed me and my son back in the communal life of faith. The flow of love was of comfort from the passing of the peace to the sharing of cookies and coffee. 
 
Comfort. This week if the news is feeling overwhelming. Find what brings you comfort. Whether it is gathering around with you cousins and singing songs to the guitar. Taking the time to sit around the table playing games. Drinking hot coco with marshmallows. And maybe return to church or turn to a faith community for the first time. Where we will sing together songs that have been sung for ages. Where we will be comforted by the familar story. The story we here this time very year. The story of how God was sending in babies, little one who would grow and change. These story tell us of the messengers of God who enter our lives to bring light to the darkness, comfort for the oppressed, hope for the hopeless. These messengers ask us to prepare for God's life among us. The story of faith we here this time of year is a reminder that God comes among us to comfort us, to bring light into a world full of darkness. Let this time when we talk about hope, peace, joy, and love bring comfort to you.
 
O Come, O Come Emmanuel 
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Open

My advent word of the day is open.
My photo is from a painting project I started this summer. I did the first canvas quickly and knew what I wanted. But the second blank canvas stumped me. I didn't know where to go to reflect the colors and feel of the first canvas but create a new reflection and image. So a deadline approached. Company was coming for dinner. The table had to be cleared. So it was time to be open. To let the creative juices take me to a place where beauty is created. This was a time to be open to that space with in where I often feel the Spirit moving me. 

When I was in seminary I took a class on teaching the bible. We were assigned a group project where we had to come up with a lesson and teach it to the class with the other person who had chosen the scripture you did. So the person I was assigned to work with based on the lectionary passage I wanted to use was for Mark 7:24-37. So out first meeting and she told me what and how we were going to present the subject. Not a good approach for my personality type. If you tell me what I have to do and how I am goign to respond like a toddler and say no. So I made suggestions of changes we could do that would include me. She said this is what we are doing and how. So I did the only sensible thing a rebel can do, I said no and formed my own group. So she did the first part of the passage on the Syrophoenician Woman and I immersed myself in the more neglected text, the blind and deaf man.
 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.’
What I was struck with were the words be opened. They took on a whole new meaning to me as I studied the text and in placement in Mark. I took this approach to teaching the text which took you through finding the center of the passage. The center of this story are those words be opened. But when looked at in the context of Mark these words are also at the beginning of the end for the discipleship narrative. After this we as the readers are asked to be opened. To hear what is to follow when the characters int he story are going to lose their way and their connection to Jesus. The words when directed to us the listeners of the story are about staying there present with Jesus as he expends the kingdom of God to the world and sets his face toward Jerusalem. We are asked to be opened. But in the story world we encounter a deaf and mute man. Jesus does this really gritty healing. Where he spits and rubs, where he sighs, groans up to heaven. Then speaks a word that is then translated for us to be opened. Then we learn that this man who could not hear and therefore spoke unclearly had his ears opened and his tongue freed and for the first time could speak plainly.

Those words have become a breath prayer for me. When I am anxious, I stop and breathe those words. Before I enter a hospital room, have a tough ministry meeting, visit with someone, I try to stop and say those words on my breath. Be opened. So that when I enter the space of anxiety, I have invited the Spirit to go with me so I can hear, speak, and listen with ears that can hear and a mouth that can speak clearly.

Be Opened. This Advent where do you need to be open. Where do you need to have your ears opened to hear what may be tough, what may be challenging, what may tear and you heart. Will you allow Jesus to touch your ears and speak the words that will open you to hear. After you have taken that time to listen, to listen with the guidance of the Spirit. When you have listened deeply, will you then again hear Jesus speak to you, 'Be Opened.' Will you allow you words to be clear. Your words to be guided by what you have heard and by the Spirit. Will your words be plain and open.

Be open.
There is violence in the world. More violence than we can understand.
Be open.
Where guns have cause pain. Listen.
Be open.
Where sorrow and grief are raw. Listen.
Be open.
Where lives, black lives are cut short. Listen.
Be open.
Where women seeking healthcare are attacked. Listen.
Be open.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Guide

My Advent word of the day is Guide.

When I was in Mexico a couple of years ago, I took a bus tour to these Mayan Ruins. Our guide was smart, funny, insightful, and made the journey more than I expected. Others of our group didn't go by bus they hired a car and went to the ruins. I'm glad I did the tour for he changed the way I saw the countryside we drove through, the culture he came from, and the history of these ruins.

One of the ways he guided us was to take a look at the ways the Spanish had come through and taken this religious and cultural site and built a church on this spot. The Spanish colonizers came into totally change the culture. But what our guide shared with us is that even this church is now a ruins. And the practice of his people has become a mix of the Mayan culture and Catholicism. But what I was struck by was that both of these were now crumbling and something new was being born elsewhere.

As I am watching the breaking news on TV about another mass shooting in San Bernadino, CA, I want a guide. I want someone to tell me about the local culture, the history, the loss. I want a guide to lead me to struggle with and change this violence. We don't know why. We don't know who. We just know that this is the second mass shooting today. We want someone to guide us through this senseless violence that has led to a mass shooting a day this year. We want someone to change this. We want a guide who can bring us together so that we don't sit in our camps where we can do nothing. We want a guide who says enough easy accessible guns. Prayers are not enough. We need to act. We need to change. And we also need to pray, for the victims, for the fearful, for those who ran into danger to protect us. 

This advent we remember that after the birth of Jesus, there was an order sent out to kill all the little boys. Innocent life was slaughtered in the hopes of getting one life, Jesus. All those little ones died. Jesus escaped this death sentence for Joseph was told in a dream to take Mary and the baby and flee. Jesus' family became refugees from serious violence. The Christmas story which we like to think of sweetly shows a world where there is danger and trouble.  In the midst of this, we have songs. The song that speaks to me in this unfolding tragedy is Zechariah's song.

Zechariah sings, prays -
68 ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
   for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
   in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71   that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
   and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
   to grant us 74that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness
   before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
So God this night, guide us as we pray " By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Guide our feet into the way of peace.
"Ego Sum Resurrectio Et Vita & Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel" by Capilla Peñaflorida
Guide our Feet in the way of peace.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wait

My advent word of the day is wait. As I was thinking about the idea of waiting my Grandmother came to mind. I lived with her for a year during grad school. Every week her younger brother would come over to play canasta. Sometimes I would join in on these games. My great uncle believed in waiting. He would hold his hand as it grew and grew. His goal was to lay down and go out all at once. So he didn't pick up the pile and just kept drawing. He would never use a wild card to lay down his cards. My grandmother had the opposite strategy. She would lay down as soon as possible. As soon as she had enough points she would lay down using wild cards and would pick up the pile even if it only was to get one card. My grandmother seemed rushed when you played her, a little impatient and eager to get the cards. My Uncle Millard on the other hand waited. He was patient. His style of play almost always won. But grandma would sneak a win in while he waited for those 7 cards. So when I played with them, I realized I was in the middle. I did hold my cards because I wasn't willing to use my wild cards to early. So I did wait, but not as patiently as my Uncle Millard. The irony is that playing the middle I would compete with my uncle for wins.

When I was little waiting during Christmas time seemed like an eternity. Christmas was coming but it couldn't come quickly enough. Yet it seemed to take forever for that moment to arrive. First there was church to go to. You wanted to be still, but it was so beautiful and full of people. There was music and candle light. Jesus arrived with song and bauety and light. Then when you got home wiht your orange and candy cane, you got those new pajamas on and your parents sent you to bed but you were quivering so much with excitement knowing that the next day Santa would come. That night of waiting was full of longing and expectation, wondering what you would get. The night took forever and then you were asleep, awaking early while it was still dark. Some of those morning you were sent back to bed to wait for the light. The morning dawned seemed to take forever as you sat by the window waiting for the sun to rise so you could start the morning.

This year waiting has taken on a new meaning. As we have come face to face with the violence of the world we are waiting. For those who have had a loved one killed violently, in over the top ways, people are waiting for justice. Living here on the outside of the Chicago suberbs, we wait for justice for LaQuan. We wait for people to be held accountable for the murder of a teenager by 16 bullets. We wait for black lives to matter. We wait for guns violence to end. We wait for women to have safe and equal access to healthcare. We wait for terrorism to stop. We wait for the words of hate to stop. We wait for people to wake up to our common humanity. We wait for a world where black children don't have to be taught that they could be killed by the police. We wait for women to be able to access healthcare without a gunman able to walk in and begin shooting at their clinic. We wait for a world to see that refugees are not terrorists. We wait for refugees to find a safe place to land where they will have food, shelter, and safety from bombs. We wait for the day when it is safe to go to the movies, to hear music, to sit at a cafe and not have to worry about a bomb going off or gun fire bursting forth.

This advent we wait. We wait for you God to come again. We wait for you to show us a different way, a better way. We wait for a world where peace is possible. We wait for Jesus to come gain. We wait for Jesus to teach us to love unconditionally. We wait and we hope and we work for the world God dreamed.
Wait for the Lord



Monday, November 30, 2015

Work

 I was assuming that my day was going to be a litle hectic. I was going to do work since I am taking a day off later in the week for my mom's birthday. So instead of resting and goofing off like a normal Monday, I was a set to get to work. Manic Monday


The advent word for the day is work. So I sat down to do some of my office work today and the computer decided to update and restart. Two and a half hours later,  I had reached this page. My day of work was not going the way I had planned for it to go. I was going to get the bulletin done and work on why I choose the topic I did. But my computer decided that I could not use it. I had to wait. I had to approach the topic a different route. I had to actually pull out my paper bible and look up the passage with paper rather than a couple of clicks. I couldn't just jump to googling  my key words to see what blogs, sermons, images came up. Instead I had just the words from my bible. I had to sit with the words first. Rather than using google for inspiration I had to stop and approach my task differently. I will admit that I really wanted those new features now and not later. I was frustrated and annoyed. While I worked my way into a new manner of working, I really longed for my computer to be back.

I was pushed into a little Sabbath rest. I had time to reflect on what happened on Sunday and  think about how we could take the theme further. I had time to rest with the words and themes.
2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:2-3
Granted my Sabbath lasted for 2 hours. It was a nice chance to slow down with God's word. To just dream. But then the computer was back and work moved in its normally manner. ALthough not very manic.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Listen

One of the practices of advent suggested this year is to take a picture that reflects the word of the day. Today's word is listen. Listen. Such a simple and a yet a hard thing to do. I think this was something many people struggled with this morning in worship. There was a little one. My guess would be he doesn't attend church very often because the way his voice echoed and could be heard just made him want to talk even more and louder. So while we prayed, there was an extra voice; while we sang, there was an extra voice; while we spoke about missions, there was an extra voice. He had so much to share in such an acoustically rich environment. His words and actions were probably a distraction to many. With a second competing voice to listen became a challenge. To listen require acknowledging his voice but choosing to concentrate on a different voice or sound. When he went out to play, it was time for our moment of silence. That time when I invite people to breathe in and rest in the silence of God's Peace. This moment was very short this morning. There was rustling of bulletins after a few seconds. So I began the prayer. Listen. Not always easy or comfortable. Listen.

Silver Bells

The song that stuck with me this morning in worship was Silver Bells. It began with the church bell chiming. The bell told.  Then while decorating my parents tree we put up a set of jingle bells. Bells are something that always  cause me to stop and listen. Bells pull us out of the space we are in and take as to a place of beauty. I always tell the bell choir when they worry that the tune they are playing doesn't sound like the song it is supposed to be that bells are always beautiful and sometimes they sound like the song we want.

When I first learned how to meditate, I was using practices by Thich Nhat Hahn. In these meditations he would start and stop them with the sounding of a bell. But he had one meditation where a bell would sound reminding you to return to your breath. So at intervals while you were breathing in and out the bell would sound to bring you back to listening to your breath in case your mind had wandered down those familiar paths of worry or planning. This meditation took time to practice well. The bell at first was constantly pulling me back from my thoughts, worries, plans. The bell would remind me to get out of my way and let the stillness in. May you take time to listen today. To hear the bells chiming, calling you to stillness, calling you to rest in God's Peace.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wherever You Go



When I was young, my dad used to tell us stories. I had two favorites that I would always ask for. One was the story of Daniel and the other was the story of Ruth. We learned of a family who were forced to immigrate to another country because of the famine in Bethlehem, but were chased by devastation. I loved to hear about Ruth. He would tell of the drama and pain of losing her husband, his brothers and father. How she loved this new family and her new mother, and didn’t not want to leave her when things got hard for these immigrants. How she chose to follow Naomi into a new land and live with a new people and a new religion. We heard of her struggles to feed herself and Naomi and how she had to work and struggle to get by. And we learned about how life moved on, how a new love could be found and a new family created. Dad taught us about how God would change the life of this immigrant and make her the great grandmother of King David.
The story of Ruth still tugs at my heart strings. This is the story of three people, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, who through tough circumstance find each other and figure out how to walk together on a path that leads to healing and wholeness. While Naomi wants to give up, through the hard work and persistence of Ruth, she is brought back to life and faith. Will we be like Naomi and dare to name the broken places in our lives and the world?
Boaz sees the hard work Ruth has put into feeding and taking care of Naomi who has given up. Boaz sees this love and help to ease Ruth’s burden by making finding food easier and his generosity leads to the creation of a new family and home.  We we like Boaz, say let me help  even if the cost is great and may change our lives.
Ruth is a woman who takes the law and challenges people to live beyond common practice, to live as God intended not as it is written. Ruth is a woman who pushes us to believe that the world can be different and then sets out to see that it happens. Ruth is a woman who comes to believe in God and then challenges others to be better in their faith. Will we like Ruth hear the brokenness in the world and commit to be there with others through the pain?
Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried.” Ruth 1:16-17