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."

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Return to Pilgrim Park Church Camp

Pilgrim Park
Have you ever returned to a place that you haven't been in a long time and the memories of those times start flowing through you? When I was young I spent a lot of time at Church Camp. My Dad was a director and on the camping committee and so we were there a lot.

I had my first real encounter with God at this place. I was 9 or 10 and had escaped from the group. I bounced over the suspension bridge as it swayed back and forth. I climbed to the top of the hill and stopped in the clearing that led to the cross. I was drawn to the cross and moved toward the altar. I climbed to the top of the altar and felt bathed in the light of God. I could see every particle of sunlight. There were yellow wild flowers blooming. I look out and could see for miles and miles like I was at the top of the earth looking down. An impossible feet since there is a valley in between with a large ridge in front of me. I felt God and kept this encounter inside. This would fill me up when I was down, would remind me of God's presence when I doubted the tenants of faith.

As I walked through this sacred place for me I remember a lot of things. I remember when I rescued the baby rabbits. They were at the bottom of the mulch that I was supposed to be spreading and when the tractor dislodged them. I carried them back home. I remembered the boys I sat at the table playing cards with. I remembered the times of dancing and singing. I remember the fun and jokes we told as the staff sat up late at night. I remember the stones we gathered to help build the fire place. I remember the painting contest where who ever got the most paint on them got to go out to dinner with the hot guy. I remember the scary texas chain saw massacre story with a live chainsaw and scary person outside that sent the campers scampering.How many times did I play blob, or snipe hunt or find the councilor.  I remembered the laughter and tears. 

These sacred  places are important for our journey and our lives. To return to these place while having changes and transformed help us to remember who we used to be and help us find those parts of ourselves that we have forgotten or  let go of. To return to these places allow to pause and reflect on where we have been, to consciously choose how we move forward.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Your Passion ,Your Promise, Your End

I was walking the other morning and asked for inspiration as I set off, not knowing what to write to you. Then I hear “Your passion your promise your end.” This line from the song Yes I Am by Melissa Etheridge, stuck with me. I have been thinking a lot about passion. We are in the season when we are to take time in our ordinary lives to allow God to enter as we journey with Jesus in his passion and suffering. Yet the passion being experienced around us has little or nothing to do with lent or Jesus. “In these days and these hours of fury.”
"They’re bringing  drugs, they’re bringing  crime, they’re rapists" & “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
“They were having terrorism problems, just like we do, and he caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood — you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened.
Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”
“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” & “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
“The poorly educated love me.”
In these days and these hours of fury.” I turn on the news, read the paper, listen to the radio and there is fury everywhere. These words of fury have me wanting a different way.
I hear Etheridge sing, “I believe when the truth comes up empty.“I will stand firm in the tempest.” In the midst of this passion for hate and violence how do we take a different path?  How do we stand firm in the tempest, the storm? How are we to speak passionately about the one we are called to follow? How do we share in the passion of Jesus?
 For me the passion of Jesus is more than his last day on Earth. The passion of Jesus is what he felt strongly about, how he showed us how to live our lives and be with other people. I want us to remember the passion Jesus showed. Remember when Jesus is in a sacred place meant for prayer and he see people buying and selling and the poor being taken advantage of. Jesus moves through the place of prayer turning tables and driving people out. Remember when he is in the local church and a person filled with evil screams at him and Jesus drives the evil out of the man freeing him. Remember when Jesus was approached by a foreign mother who begged for her daughter’s life. Jesus is mean and yet as this women begs and pleads for her daughter and changes Jesus’ passion for his people (Jewish people) to include foreigners, outsiders as being welcome into God’s loving embrace and healing grace. Remember when he is tested about the Sabbath. The religious folk place in Jesus path someone who is hurt, who needs our compassion. The religious want to use this moment to speak of following the law as being what makes them spiritual. But while disappointed with these good religious folk, Jesus looks at the man who is broken, hurt and he heals him. Remember when there was one challenge after another with the people raising issue after issue to trap him, test him, show that Jesus isn’t following the law. They pushed him on divorce, on taxes on, on religious authority, resurrection, offerings, prayer, poverty. Jesus answered the challenges with a vision of God who is focused on different questions and answers. Remember when the man came who wanted to know the best way to live and Jesus asked him about the commandments and the man said he followed them all and Jesus told him, with compassion in his eyes, there is one thing left for you to do – sell everything you have and follow me. The man went away sad for he couldn’t let go of his possessions. Remember when people bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus and quote the law saying she should be stoned to death. Jesus asked the crowd if you have never sinned then cast the stone. Jesus invited the woman to go on her way and sin no more. “Your Passion, Your Promise, Your End.” I want us to be reminded of the passion we are to have. The passion that heals the hurting, welcomes the outcast, feeds the hungry, challenges the powerful, and shares compassion extravagantly. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wilderness Journey: Mato Tipila - the Bear Lodge's Sacredness

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.   Luke 9:28-36
Devil's Tower
When I was a pastor in Wyoming, one of the pilgrimages you had to make when people came to visit was to the Devil's Tower. They would see it and a cowboy on your license plate and want to go for a visit. This is an amazing geological formation that can bee seen from miles and miles away. As you drive toward it, you get this feeling that you are never getting any closer. The approach from the south makes you wind around and around. The journey to the Tower was a wilderness journey for us. Coming from Casper, you cross very few people and even fewer towns. There is just wide open spaces, caribou running, and tumble weed blowing. As you pull into the park, the first sign you run into is "Do Not Feed the Prairie Dog's." There is this field as you enter that is the home of prairie dogs.

After you you park, and walk toward the visitor's center there is a sign that explains this is a sacred religious site for Native American tribes. Most people moved right into hiking around the base or getting their gear ready to climb to the top. As you are there at the bottom where you can see how there massive rocks have fallen off and are just lying around the bottom. You wonder about the wisdom of people climbing up the side of the Tower. But for me, I stopped at the sign. I read about the sacredness of this space. For Native Americans this is a space where they draw closer to God. This is a place of prayer and ceremony for the original people's of this land.
So as we stood there at the foot of the Tower I was disconcerted by seeing all of these people climbing up the side of the Tower. For in order to begin their climb they had to pass by these prayers that has been tied to the trees at the foot of the Tower.

Prayers floating in the breeze.

And the tap tap tap of hammers as the climbers put wholes into the rock so they could say they ascended the Tower.


White people climbing a rock for fun.

Prayers and a feeling a sacredness and wonder.
A modern pilgrimage to conquer the top.
Prayers and Wonder.
A place to leap off the top of with your parachute to get down the easy way.
Renaming of the site from  Mato Tipila, which means “Bear Lodge,”  or Grey Horn Butte, He Hota Paha, Bear Rock or Bear Mountain, Tree Rock, and Grizzly Bear Lodge. The first white people took one name the Bad God's Tower to the Devil's Tower.
A place of prayer becomes a Devil's Tower making it easier to see it as a site to conquer, to try your skills at.
A place of prayer.
the base of the Mato Tipila
 While my son and his uncle took the short trail around the base of the Tower, I sat at its foot and prayed. I stopped there for a moment to rest in the presence of God. I stopped there and prayed for those who had left prayers at the foot of the Tower. I prayed that we would one day experience the presence of God where others have prayed for generations. I was still and quiet, waiting, listening, hoping.

Last week's Gospel story from Luke was the transfiguration. Jesus head ups the mountain to pray. Jesus sees mountains as places where you got away and connected with God, a place where you took time to pray, a place of where God drew closer.

As we begin our Lenten journey this week, I am reminded  of this encounter in a sacred place where a place of prayer had become a place of recreation. I wanted to be reminded of the beauty and sacredness where we stop from our normal life and invite God to be present with us. This lent I hope we can take time to stop in those sacred places and listen for God and allow God to draw near to us. I hope we be reminded that God draws near to us in moments and times that cause us to leave behind the ordinary and rest in the stillness of God's Peace.