Friday, February 28, 2014

Day #57

February 26, 2014

The discussion in Looking at Scriptures Bible Study tonight was especially good. Sunday is the celebration of Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain (see Matthew 17.1-9). What the disciples witness there is more than just an outward change of Jesus’ appearance, it’s a foretaste of Jesus’ future glory - after his crucifixion, after his time in the tomb, after his resurrection and ascension.

But really, it’s not a foretaste. Instead, it's a reality check of who Jesus really is. Not just the healer, the teacher, the miracle worker - but the Son of God. The Savior. The very one who, when the disciples wind up face-down in fear, reaches out to them and says, Get up. Don’t be afraid. And later says, take my hand and follow me. I promise to take you where I will go and what you saw on that mountain is what you’ll be with me. Forever!

This brought out a line in our discussion that stuck with me: you have to really believe in someone in order to be willing to die for them. Those disciples, ordinary men as they were, did believe in that someone, Jesus Christ. And as afraid as they would be, they were willing to stand up for who they believed and even die for him. Their belief changed them completely and their witness lives on in us.

So, when I read a commentary by Douglas John Hall, it made me wonder: when we, or the church for that matter, takes that kind of leap of faith, what might God be able to do through us?


Day #56

February 25, 2014

Today was my beginning day of tax preparation. I have a goal this year - have all the information ready for the tax preparer BEFORE Lent begins. It’s a lofty goal even though Lent begins late this year. Last year, it didn’t get done before Lent and I vowed never to let that happen again.

But, let me just say this, I have yet to find an Intersection between life, faith and tax preparation. Can’t there just be an easier way?!

Humbly, however, I remember - I should simply be thankful that I am blessed with the income/need to have to complete an income tax return. That is truly sufficient for an Intersection.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Day #55

February 24, 2014

It was newsletter article due day. Each month I try to write a little something special. For next month, the focus is Lent and Easter. Hard to believe it is already that time of year, but what a special season it is that is just around the corner. Writing about Lent started me thinking seriously about it.

Lent may not lend itself to joyful music, bright colors, or the saying or singing of alleluia. Nor may it be very exciting to think about prayer, fasting and giving alms in a very intentional, penitential manner. But Lent can be an awesome time of reflection, sacrifice and deep consideration of what Easter is really all about. I still remember the depth of the first time I experienced more fully the joy of Easter morning because I had walked the journey of Lent and Holy Week. How can any of us truly appreciate the resurrection without a time of “wilderness” reflection and sacrifice? Not in some martyrdom way, however, but in an “all this just for me” revelation of gratitude and thanksgiving.

It is time to be thinking of Lenten discipline for 2014. What will I do intentionally this year? Give up something or add something?


Day #54

February 23, 2014

Oh, for the love of Sunday! Coffee and Conversation, worship, lunch, a baby shower and time with my husband. What more can I say about the intersection of faith and life?!


Day #53

February 22, 2014

There was an early Saturday morning phone call. Those never seem to be good. Can you come and be present with someone who is about to lose one of their best friends - a very special animal friend.

How is it that we become more attached to some of our animals than we do other people? How is it that our animals can work their way into our hearts and fill them with such love and acceptance? How is that having to say goodbye can be so very hard?

It happened to me years ago with a Yellow Labrador named Zack. Not being a fan of big dogs, I was determined this one would definitely not work his way into my life, much less my heart. But he did. With his wagging tail, perpetual presence, and easy way, I came to love that dog so very much. Saying goodbye was horrible.

The memory of that awful day came flooding back as I watched the events of Saturday unfold and prayed with and for the owner and the animal. Truly God’s creatures are our companions and truly it is holy ground to have the honor of being with someone during one of their most difficult times.

My heart is heavy and yet thankful, for what would we do without the love of a good and faithful pet?


Day #52

February 21, 2014

Some days the sermon just comes together so easily. It’s a holy moment anyway, having the Spirit give ideas, insights, and words that will be declared on Sunday morning. Hardly ever is what I think the sermon will be about, or how it will unfold, actually what ends up on paper.

Some weeks, however, the sermon is something I just truly like. I only wish my delivery was worthy of the words. Anyway, this week the sermon is about church and its relevance. Does God care about the church? Is God just letting the church self-destruct? What is our generation being called to do or be as the church? These are all questions that came to paper based on the reading from 1 Corinthians 3.10-23. The reading is spot-on, by the way, based on the experiences of the week I’ve been blogging about.

I can’t say honestly that I have always seen the relevance of the church. Many years of my early life meant I had nothing to do with church, religion, or even God for that matter. But once I became a part of a community of believers, my world changed, along with my perspective. It isn’t always easy being a part of a community, but it is definitely worthwhile. To worship and hear those words in Holy Communion that Jesus’ body and blood were given and shed FOR ME. Well, there is absolutely nothing like receiving the assurance that God loves ME that much!!


Day #51

February 20, 2014

I  especially look forward to Thursday mornings. Several months ago I attended a workshop on Centering Prayer - the practice of being intentionally quiet with God. Listening, resting, simply spending time with God are the principles of Centering Prayer, as I understand it. The practice is not particularly about praying, as in conversation with God, but just being with God. The recommendation is to practice twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening each day. But on Thursdays, I join with a couple of other pastors for a time of "individual" group Centering Prayer. It is a special time, being alone with God with others present.

But this week it was especially difficult to focus. Sometimes there is too much on my mind to simply “be.” This has been a week of grieving for the church - disillusionment as I described yesterday, a local pastor who lost his temper and attacked someone because of road-rage, a snake-handler who was bitten and died from a bite (hard to understand the concept anyway, but it is very sad for this man), and comments on a FaceBook post - I won’t ever go back to church because of what the pastor said to me; I don’t need the church because I can worship God anywhere, etc.

Why do folks consider the church to be a museum for saints instead of a hospital for sinners? Hmmm..that phrase, coined by someone else, just might make Sunday’s sermon.


Day #50

February 19, 2014

An interesting news clip came out about a local growing, vibrant, mega-church. Seems there may have been some orchestrating of a massive baptism of hundreds of people on a particular day. In other words, what seemed to be authentic working of the Holy Spirit may have had some help from the humans. It appears that people were “placed” in the assemblies to come forward for baptism, enthusiastic people were focused on, etc.

What happens to our faith when what appears to be authentic is discovered to be fabricated? How does something like this affect the church as a whole? Is the church, as in universal church, in trouble? What is our call to BE the church? Are we “responsible,” “accountable,” or does each report of such things just make us more disillusioned?

There are no easy answers. Or are there? Who’s church is it, anyway?


Day #49

February 18, 2014

[This was actually written several days past the 18th. That is important because there have been several instances of road rage reported since this happened, which makes it all the more a moment of grace and intersection.]

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been driving a lot in the past few days. Today a true moment of grace happened. I saw the face of Jesus on the man behind me at a stoplight.

Let me explain. I was stopped at a light coming off the interstate. I am used to having to wait quite a while for lights to change, and there were several cars in front of me, so I was fiddling with something in my car. When I looked up, I realized the light was green and all the other cars had gone. I took off as quickly as I could, but the light caught me again. I fully expected that when I looked in my rear view mirror, I would see an angry driver behind me. But I was surprised to see a most patient look on the gentleman’s face, as if having to wait again didn’t bother him at all.

It was a true moment of grace. How many times have I blown the horn at someone for doing what I had just done. Or thrown up my hands or given them the ugly look I was expecting. After all, patience on the road is not a gift of mine. But I was certainly thankful for his and wish I could tell him so.


Day #48

February 17, 2014

Driving has never been a real chore for me. Perhaps it dates back to turning 16 and being excited about having some real independence. But five hours on Sunday, followed quickly by almost that many on Monday, is a little too much.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s entry, I attended a celebration on the coast Sunday evening, which is a long way from where we live. Not to say the trip wasn’t worthwhile. The ocean was, as usual, gorgeous and calming. Watching waves is soothing to me in a way that cannot be duplicated, even though the mountains will always be my favorite. But while I was so glad that I was able to go, I would have loved to have had company on my drive.

Yet, there was plenty of time for me to think, pray, sing, and generally be quiet. All in all, it was a good time for God and me and I am grateful for a safe journey. And not too anxious to make that kind of trip again alone - I prefer having my favorite traveling partner along!


Day #47

February 16, 2014

Sometimes the wheels of change move slowly. Relationships take time to foster and grow, but when they blossom, the work can be worth it and the joy abound. Today was a celebration of just such an experience.

The ties that I have with the event run in strange and wonderful ways, but suffice it to say it isn’t about me. I was just fortunate to be invited.

This is the story: several years ago a Lutheran pastor and a Moravian pastor got to know one another. As the friendship and collegiality grew, so did the possibilities for their respective congregations. Eventually the Lutherans rented space from the Moravians and joint ministry events began to happen.

Today, however, was a bigger celebration. The Lutheran has been called as pastor to both congregations - the Moravian and the Lutheran. Not that the two congregations are merging, but the bonds of ecumenism and shared ministry continue to deepen.

The possibility of something like this even happening goes back over a decade when other Lutherans and Moravians began having conversations about what joint ministry might look like and how to foster its development. It is a step in the direction toward the church being made new and whole.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that we have the mind of Christ. What does that look like? I think it looks a lot like this celebration: seeking ways to foster relationship growth where there are common goals of loving and serving God. It’s exciting stuff and I was blessed to be a participant in the event.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day #46

February 15, 2014

My husband and I had a delayed Valentine’s treat. We went to see a movie: Monuments Men. This movie is based on a true story about seven men who did their best to recover stolen art and literature near the end of World War II. It seems that in an attempt to wipe out completely the memory of certain races and people, Hitler had managed to have stolen millions of pieces of art and hidden them in mines. These brave 'Monuments Men' risked life and limb to recover as much as possible.

It made me wonder, what am I willing to risk for what is important? How do I determine what is important? The question that was asked in the movie, is art worth a person’s life, made we think about what is worth a person’s life? Is it how their life impacts the world? Is it their love of others? Their beliefs? Their faith that they pass on? What risky things do I do for any of those things?

Interesting questions. Troubling questions, too. How much risk should I take, how can I take more and for what?


Day #45

February 14, 2014

Day #45 is Valentine’s Day. The day of love. The day for telling the one you love that you love them and generally celebrating that love. This was the FB post on the church page: “The sweetest love and most amazing grace is God’s love for creation made manifest in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Prayers for assurance of his love for all. Happy Valentine’s Day. Blessings.”

I am so fortunate to be loved by a wonderful husband, have friends that I love and who love me, and church family that I love and cherish. But none of that compares to the love God shows me every day through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ - God’s grace. It’s that simple and that amazing. God loves you, too! Happy Valentine’s Day. Happy Amazing Grace Day!


Day #44

February 13, 2014

Some days things just seem to want to go wrong. On a snow day, there should be rest, eating snow cream, and doing those things we never have time for otherwise. But not this one - everything on this snow day seemed to fall to the ground and break, burn my fingers, twist my ankle, or generally just go the opposite of what I expected or wanted.

So, do I chalk it up to a bad day? Only if I decide to let it get me down. Only if I decide to forget God’s blessings. Only if I decide I wanted it to be a bad day. Sure, I was a tad grumpy (breaking the ceramic liner to the crock pot stinks), but I also remember the blessings - folks were taking care of the church property/parking lot, my husband and I had an unexpected day together, and the snow was beautiful. Lots to be thankful for, even in the midst of the yuk.

Really, this IS the day the Lord has made. We WILL rejoice and be glad in it.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Day #43

February 12, 2014

What is it about snow that gets folks so excited? At least folks in the south?

Maybe excitement isn’t the right word. But then, maybe maniacal is too rough. But if you had to go to the grocery store before the snow storm, that might be the appropriate word. Crowds buying bread and milk off the shelves as fast as it was stocked. My aunt jokes, what are folks doing, eating milk sandwiches?!

Maybe we just like the thoughts of getting “snowed in” for a day or so. And we have to eat, right? And need a little snow cream, right?

But with all the getting ready, we still had to wait for it to come. Checking the weather every five minutes meant seeing the predicted start time pushed back over and over. Will it really come? Then those first flakes arrived.

I think our excitement has to do with seeing something different, something we cannot control. No matter how much milk and bread we buy, we cannot control if the snow will come. Or how much there will be.

It sure looks pretty outside with a blanket of white (at least for a little while). And it sure is still and quiet. It’s like the whole world pauses, takes a breath and hits restart. We all need a time like that!


Day #42

February 11, 2014

One of the things that seems very important in the life of the church is planning for the future. Not telling God what we think we should be doing, but discerning from God a congregation’s purpose, it’s place in the community, what gifts it has for ministry, etc.

There is exciting work happening where I serve. A group of folks have come together to consider that very task. Where do they start? What is God calling the congregation to be and do? How do they have an impact on their community? Do they?

There was a great first meeting. Lots of ideas were flowing. Many questions were being asked. Much was being considered, not the least of which was how to even begin the process.

What is my role? Perhaps to step out of the way of the Holy Spirit and simply cheer the folks on. God has a plan and will reveal it. After all, it’s God’s church.


Day #41

February 10, 2014

Another moment from being with youth. Confirmation Class. It’s two hours with a dozen sixth, seventh and eighth graders. It’s truly one of the highlights of ministry (and I am serious).

So we are talking about the Ten Commandments. All the things we should do and should not do regarding relationship with God and with one another.

We get around to an exercise. Written out is what Martin Luther had to say in the Small Catechism about each commandment. The youth are then asked to write out what each one means in their own words.

Here comes the question - "what does it mean for number two that we should not practice magic?" We talk about it a little and out comes the quote of the day: "you know, if it’s not good for you, then you just shouldn’t do it!"

Out of the mouths of babes!!!


Day #40

February 9, 2014

If you want to be kept on your toes, spend time with youth. I love it! They challenge me, are honest with me, help me, and cut to the core.

You should preach like so and so, I was recently told. They are funny. You know, you just aren’t funny. That’s why no one laughs at your jokes in the sermon.

Ouch!!! Until I began to really think on the comment. Is preaching supposed to be “funny?” Is preaching supposed to be entertaining? Not that it should bore folks to sleep, but what is the purpose of preaching?

It seems a lot like the Daily Intersection. Connecting the dots between God’s ancient word and today’s life. Using examples, sometimes humorous, to help make a point. And to focus, always, on what God does for us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As one professor said, if Jesus did not have to die on the cross for your sermon to be preached, consider rewriting it.

Christ’s death is not "funny"! The cross is not "entertaining"! It’s reality. It's grace. Not that I don’t also want to be a little funny, too, but Jesus’ death and resurrection is very serious. And amazing. Worth doing the absolute best to talk about each week.

So thank you, young one, for being honest. And challenging me. Maybe this Sunday will be different… I don’t know, have you seen the text?!


Day #39

February 8, 2014

It was recently time for the annual Council Retreat. It began with devotions. Part of the devotion was an invitation to divide into pairs and tell our partner what gift(s) we see in them that helps clothe them for Christ’s service.

Mine? I was told I am like a computer, being able to keep track of many things at once. I am thankful for being able to multitask, but if you have been reading this blog, you saw post #35, just a few days ago, where I admitted falling short of the very thing I was just complimented on being able to do; keep track of many things at once.

What has been taking my focus lately? What is the main thing that has kept me from keeping my mind on the main thing? How have I gotten off track?

I have been thinking about it a lot. Not that I think I am too good to make mistakes like the one a few days ago, but that I know it’s not like me to forget folks. Something must be on my mind. Better yet, something must be getting in the way.

For help I think I’ll begin with prayer. It’s always a good place to go when I need some discernment time - a little extra intentional conversation with God. What better place for an intersection?!


Friday, February 7, 2014

Day #38

February 7, 2014

Sometimes the simplest way to make the connection of the daily intersection is to witness something in God’s creation that speaks to your soul. Nature provides ways of doing just that. A flock of geese flying over can be a reminder that God takes care of us when our loved ones die (geese remind my husband and me of his father, who we both miss, but are comforted and have been comforted in our grief).

Today it was a flock of turkeys. Actually two flocks. Spring is coming, and the turkeys are on the move. This cold, dreary and scary (especially for many in the northern regions) season will be over one day...soon. New growth will come again. Hope will spring. Once again we will be reminded that God has not forgotten us. Never will!


Day #37

February 6, 2014

Time is moving so fast. It is already the end of the first week of February. Thirty-seven days of blogging. Where has the time gone?

Maybe I am just having too much fun?! But it concerns me. If time is going this fast now, what will happen when Lent arrives? Less than a month away, Ash Wednesday brings in the season of preparation, and the season of even more busyness in the church. Maybe I am just tired at the end of this week, but could we slow things down, just a tad, and let us get prepared? Guess not. Lord have mercy!


Day #36

February 5, 2014

What an affirming conversation I just had with a young adult, although a sad one. The affirmation is in what I have heard and read over the course of the last few years: something that keeps many young adults away from the church is the lack of authenticity they find there. That the church, and Christians, say one thing, but act another. The conversation affirmed that a group of young adults verbalized that very thing as their reason for not attending worship.

Now, perhaps some would call that behavior hypocrisy (saying one thing and doing another), but that doesn’t seem to be what is meant about not being authentic. It is not being “real.” Young adults give room for folks to make hypocritical mistakes, but pretending they don’t do it seems to be more the issue. That all the finger pointing Christians do about behavior needing to be a certain way, or belief needing to look a certain way, and basically indicating that I have all the answers that I need to get you to understand and accept, instead of listening to or caring about your perspective, is what is considered to be a lack of authenticity.

At least that is my perspective of what is meant. I may be way off base. How do I authentically go about finding out?


Day #35

February 4, 2014

I needed forgiveness, because I made a mistake. I forgot to include three people in an important communication and, boy, did I mess up!

The first thing I notice is all those “I” statements in that first paragraph. That seems to be a good indication I have been running on “me” power lately, thinking I am doing just great all on my own.

That thinking always gets me in trouble. However, it just so happened I was reading Max Lucado the same day I realized my error. He was writing about Jesus ‘untying knots.’ That when we get all messed up and in a knot (or pickle or mess), Jesus is always there to help untie it. We are not alone.

But, how? This was a big mess that I made, so how can Jesus help untie, or fix, it? Would he help me humbly admit my mistake? He did. Would he soften the heart of the offended to accept my apology? I trust that is happening. Will he give me grace to forgive myself? That is just a little harder, but I am certainly praying about it.


Day #34

February 3, 2014

There is a young girl in the congregation who just cannot seem to make the connection that I am not Jesus. When I am in that alb at the front of the sanctuary, she is just convinced I am Jesus in the flesh. We, her parents and I, have tried on many occasions to help her learn I am the pastor, not Jesus, but she insists otherwise. She even calls my husband, Mr. Jesus.

Quite cute, actually, yet somewhat disturbing. I trust she will figure it out at some point. Meanwhile, there are some comments she makes that are too cute for words and are truly “out of the mouths of babes” moments.

Like the one her mom just shared. Seems last week they were not able to attend Sunday events because mom and daughter were both sick. On Saturday night mom broke the news they would not be going to church the next morning. To which my sweet little one said, but mommy, I have to go and see Jesus. I love her.

How is that for understanding the need for worship and learning!? is that for all us female clergy who wonder if folks will ever “get” that everyone can be, and is, called to be a part of God’s ministry!?


Day #33

February 2, 2014

It was cold in the sanctuary for worship. Looking back, we should have moved the service to another part of the building. But, who knew the heat would not ever come on, or what was the reason it couldn’t?

The reason, it seems, was that someone had helped themselves to about five feet of pipe that runs from the propane gas tank to the underground line that connects to the furnace. Five feet of conductive pipe was all that was keeping a room full of people from being warm. Five feet of conductive pipe was all that disconnected us from the fuel needed to make the system work properly.

What keeps us from being connected to what makes our own “system” work properly? For me, when I am feeling confused, hurt, angry, bitter, put upon or generally upset, I try to remember to take stock of what is generally going on in my spiritual life. Have I maintained the spiritual disciplines that help me be aware of Christ’s peace? Usually not. It is as if I removed five feet of my conductive necessity. It means my “system” needs help.

Prayer, worship, study, conversation - they all are part of that five feet of pipe in my spiritual life. Yours, too, probably. If I remove it, I’m running on empty. Just blowing air and not accomplishing much. Have to love that image! And be thankful God is patiently waiting on me to “reconnect.”


Day #32

February 1, 2014

There was a baby shower at the church. What a joyous occasion! What an eye-opening occasion! Who knew there were so many things needed for a precious little one that will soon come into the world?!

Diapers, clothes, blankets, quilts, strollers, bottles, wipes, spoons (that even “show” you if the food is too hot), thermometers, toys, and the list goes on and on. How in the world does a parent figure out everything to get, much less pay for it?

Of all the “stuff” that is accumulated for a baby in America, 2014, which of it might have been available to Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus? Perhaps a blanket, although we hear about swaddling clothes. Can’t imagine a stroller. After all, Mary and Joseph came into town with a donkey. They probably had no idea about needing a thermometer or wipes or even diapers (especially disposable ones); not to mention what they were or how to get them.

What was available then? Surely the love of an earthly mother and father. The security of arms that held Jesus and rocked him and stroked his head and cheek. The voice of parents who spoke gentle words and encouraging phrases.

Isn’t that the most important “stuff” anyway? But, boy, those baby clothes sure are cute!


Day #31

January 31, 2014

Waiting. It’s about my very least favorite thing to do. Especially waiting in line or, the worst, waiting for a table at a restaurant.

But, that’s not really true. Waiting isn’t always such a bad thing. While waiting at a restaurant recently, Doug and I realized we had opportunity to sit close to each other, share little tidbits of our week, and generally have conversation and enjoy the time together. Something we don’t always do when we are rushing to the next thing or sitting at home with the television running or each of us reading.

This made me think: how often do I grumble about those long stoplights, traffic jams, or grocery store lines, when I could actually take advantage of them and use that time wisely - for conversation with God; just like Doug and I did at the restaurant. God is listening all the time - but how often do I miss the opportunity to listen to God and make good use of the time I am waiting?

Next time, I will be more intentional about using the “wait” for prayer time. Maybe I will be less grumbly!