29 Sep

Trying to find Sabbath rest as a clergy person is always a bit of a challenge.  I usually took Monday as a day of no appointments – of course, for me there was always laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping.  Yet, if I didn’t have to go to work and I could spend extra devotional time, I counted it as Sabbath.  The most precious Sabbath rest for me was time spent at Mount Saviour Monastery.  It is a beautiful place and retreat time there was sacred.

So, the reason I am talking about Sabbath is because of a new study I am doing in my churches [OK really just Garfield people showed up, but I have people and that is the important thing.]  The study uses a DVD from the Great Lecture series.  The presenter is Amy Jill Levine from Vanderbilt University; she is incredible.  The study is the entire Old Testament, but we are just studying Genesis for now.

As you might guess, the first lesson was on the first creation story.  I have been around a long time, so I have heard a lot on commentary on this study, but this time I really had an “ahha’ moment.  The first creation story was most likely written during the Babylonian exile.  The first line of the Babylonian creation story, The Enuma Elish, is, “When on high the heavens had not been named.”  The first line of the Genesis creation story in Hebrew sentence structure is, “When God began to created the heavens and the earth,”

Dr. Levine posits that the Babylonian story is about place and the Hebrew story is essentially about time.  Think about it, if you are in exile is a place that will not let you worship your God, and they say their gods are “bigger” than yours, then you take their creation story and turn it to your advantage.  Your God created out of nothing and your God made time sacred so that your God can be worshiped anywhere.  So, even in exile, you rest on the Sabbath day and proclaim the power of your God.

Genesis 2:1-4 says:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And 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. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

So, let us say that the great thing about our God is that the Divine make time sacred.  We can worship our universal God anywhere because God created all that is, but it is the Sabbath that is redeemed and made sacred.

So, how do we spend our Sabbath. Do, we have one anymore?  The rest of primitive people was imperative because of the physical nature of their work.  Yet, according to the morning show, we still need rest.  We need rest to restore our health, to manage our stress, to be fully human.  I wonder what the world would look like if we all took a day of rest?  Would we be kinder to one another, would we be more patient, would we find creative alternatives that we didn’t see before???  I know that all of these things have happened to be after I have spent time at Mount Saviour.

So, think about Sabbath rest today.  Think about the idea that our fore-bearers in the faith, as they lived in exile in a foreign  land, claimed God’s power to transform time.  Can God transform the time in your day?

Just wondering, always thinking.  Peace, Mary

Being Human

26 Sep

I’m back again to say ‘Hello’ and write down a few thoughts.

The scripture designated for this Sunday’s worship service has been flowing around in my head, as usual.

The gospel reading, Matthew 21:23-32, recalls Jesus walking into the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the center of religious power and questions of power are asked.  The chief priest and elder asks what gives Jesus the authority to preach and heal and forgive and speak of God’s kingdom.  In essence, “where are your credentials Jesus?”, with the implication that if Jesus can show the credentials, they will respect his authority.  Jesus, who would make a get politician, never gets trapped in a question.  He turns the tables and challenges the men who claim themselves to have the power to decide if he has “proper authority” to continue preaching and healing and teaching as he wanders around.

23 Then he was back in the Temple, teaching. The high priests and leaders of the people came up and demanded, “Show us your credentials. Who authorized you to teach here?”

24-25 Jesus responded, “First let me ask you a question. You answer my question and I’ll answer yours. About the baptism of John—who authorized it: heaven or humans?”

25-27 They were on the spot and knew it. They pulled back into a huddle and whispered, “If we say ‘heaven,’ he’ll ask us why we didn’t believe him; if we say ‘humans,’ we’re up against it with the people because they all hold John up as a prophet.” They decided to concede that round to Jesus. “We don’t know,” they answered.

Jesus said, “Then neither will I answer your question.

Jesus knew the source of his power and never felt the need to prove it to anyone.  It was his connection to God that provided strength, and power, and grace to respond to the needs of those with whom he traveled and those who came to hear him preach and those who came to him for healing.  I like the juxtaposition of this gospel lesson with the reading from the epistle.  We have finished reading through Romans and have begun reading through Philippians.  The passage for this Sunday is thought to contain one of the first affirmations of faith regarding Jesus.

In verses 1-4, the writer is personal and trying to talk the Christian community into acting like Christ!  So, in verses 5-8, the writer gives details as to what that exactly looks like.

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

I don’t think this kind of humility means letting people walk over us, or never making a disagreeable statement. I think it means being clear about who we are – Children of the Divine – and who’s we are – God’s – and what are purpose is – to continue the work of Christ.  We are to continue to preach and teach and heal and care and listen as Christ representatives in the world.  To be fully convinced of who we are and what guides our lives gives us the power to live transformed lives.  It is not a power that bullies anyone, or dominates the other; it is power that offers choices and lures us into a whole and holy life.

Alicia Keys wrote a new song that asks the question of what we are doing here – like on the planet or with our lives.  I wonder how many answers have God in the midst of them?    I wonder if we can truly give any answer to that question that does not involve the Divine?

I always have questions that lead to questions and then lead onto more questions.  But, I enjoy the journey.  Thanks for reading, I hope some of it made sense.     Peace

It seems like a long time

6 Sep

Hello Friends, 

I have thought often of putting up a new blog, but I have let the details of the day distract me.  My niece’s wedding dress is done and now church work is coming to the fore. It is charge conference season and now I have two churches to work on the details.  

Alfred North Whitehead wrote in Adventure of Ideas, “The essence of Christianity is the appeal to the life of Christ as a revelation of the nature of God and of his agency in the world.  The record is fragmentary, inconsistent and uncertain. . [but] elements in the record have evoked a response from all that is best in human nature.”

I think about my Christian faith.  I love God and what to live in the journey of faith that God’s grace and Christ’s example reveal.  Yet, it seems sometimes that the institutional church as long since bury this love of God and the journey of faith under piles of debris.  There are buildings and traditions and budgets and egos and . . .  

I think it takes a lot of energy to draw close to the heart of God.  I think it takes even more energy to bend our will to the divine; to lose our lives, so we can find them.  

Please pray for my little churches.  I pray they find the joy of joining in the divine dance and continuing the work of Jesus of Nazareth.  

Where do we go from here?

14 Aug

This is a question that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Life always seemed to be twisting and turning in directions I had not imagined. In High School a Jimmy Buffett song, Cowboy in the Jungle, became a theme song for me. The refrain is:

With no plans for the future
He still seems in control
From a bronco ride to a ten foot tide
He just had to learn to roll.

Roll with the punches
Play all of his hunches
Made the best of whatever came his way
What he lacked in ambition
He made up with intuition
Plowing straight ahead come what may.

In this morning’s reading from The Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister writes concerning Priests becoming part of the monastic community. The Priests needed to know that they were becoming part of a family and their ordination would not get them special privileges. Yet, Chittister’s commentary is also about getting on with our lives.

“Benedict knew what most of us learn sooner or later; it is hard to let go of the past, and yet, until we do, there is no hope whatsoever that we can ever gain form the future”

She also quotes the Tao Te Ching,

“The Master leads
by emptying people’s minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.”

I am living a life I never imagined. It is a challenge to let go of the past and the expectations that were a part of that past life. Yet, if I do not let go of those expectations, I will never see what is in front of me. I think it is an opportunity, one more time, to cling closely to the Divine and find the peace and joy and gifts waiting in the present moment.

I experience wonderful blessings everyday; perhaps it is not the way I thought it would be, but I find myself grateful and hopeful.

I pray for you this day, as you reflect on the path you are on, that you see the beauty of God in this moment. Maybe it is not what you expected, or wanted; but it is beauty all the same and we cannot experience the richness of it until we let go of the past.



8 Aug

Hello from Charleston, NC. I am here to perform a wedding for a friend’s daughter and it is HOT. I have packed ‘heavy’, so I have my laptop and my devotional book, and book I have been meaning to read.

It is interesting that today’s reading from Joan Chittister’s commentary on the Rule of Benedict lands on possessions. The monks were never to own anything privately and even gifts given to the could not be accepted without the Abbot’s or Prioress’s permission. In this time of bulging closets this seems like crazy talk. However, Benedict is endeavoring to create an environment that give life to our spirit, not our bodies, or pride.

How much lighter our lives would be without all the heavy baggage we carry around. Having said this, let me say how much I have enjoyed shopping in Charleston. I think it is a matter of attitude. Perhaps it is as simple as separating our needs from our wants. Everything I have acquired so far on this trip I could have done without, but I have enjoyed finding a great sale and an item I will use well. AND, have been so very grateful for the of buying a treat for myself. Maybe my baggage is heavier, but I try to keep my heart light.

So, the place where all of this intersects for me is in also reading, The Return of The Prodigal Son:A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen, which was written four years before his death in 1996. Just reading the prologue about Nouwen leaving the life of a Harvard professor to go and carry for a community of mentally challenged adults has been helpful for me. But the book really focuses on the painting of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt. It is a painting which captured Nouwen’s heart and mind.

The opening chapter of the book describes the early life of Rembrandt which was weighted down by arrogance and indulgences. Yet, throughout his life he experienced the deaths of his children and wife and finally was bankrupt. Nouwen describes Rembrandt’s paintings which document the changes in his life. The bright light of success and decadence which illuminated his outer world transitions to an inner light of humility and wisdom.

I feel as though I have been rambling during this blog. Maybe it is the effect of a freer schedule. Yet, what I want to say, what I think I always say, it to spend your heart, your mind, your time, your money on that which is life giving, that which is of God. Know that the baggage that you carry can be no weight at all if you give it to the Divine with a joyful heart.

I find there is not end to counting my blessings. I pray you find blessings in your life today.


Blessed to be a blessing

5 Aug

This phrase goes through my head quite often. It occurs several times in the Scriptures, beginning in Genesis.

My journey has not turned out the way I thought it would, but in each day I can find blessings upon blessings that I receive from the Divine. I know that the challenge is that even as I accept and acknowledge all the wonderful gifts in my life I am given an opportunity to be a blessings from God for others.

Have you considered that lately? The blessings; joy, health, strength, talents, everything is a gift to you so that you can share it with others. I tell the story of when I received my first car (a yellow ford pinto) my senior year in High School. My mother was very clear with me that it was not for my personal, private use, but was a gift so I could help others. My mother meant that it was for me to drive my sister around or help her with errands she needed to do, but I heard it in a broader sense and have been picking up hitch hikers ever since.

Blessed to be a blessing . . . I think each of you have a wonderful, gifted life. First, you woke up this morning, so that’s a good start, then you could get out of bed, found clothes and food and hopefully good work to do. . . what blessings!!

A few days ago I read one of my favorite sections from the rule of Benedict. It says that everyone should have some work to do. If they are strong and able then they can work in the fields, and if they are old and infirmed then they can be given a task that can be done within their limitations. Also, if they have talents or special skills then they should be given the implements to practice their talents. In a Benedictine world people get what they need to work for the community. Blessed to be a blessings.

I travel tomorrow: a new adventure awaits. I will be gone almost a week and am praying my parents will weather my absence with no problems.

I hope this day brings new, deeper understanding of all that God has gifted you. If you don’t feel very gifted, try some prayer, or just listen to someone with all your heart and attention. That will be blessings enough for one day. Peace

More than skin deep

23 Jul

The last two morning of my Benedict devotional have talked about showing up and showing up on time. Benedict is really strict about the monks getting to chapel and meals promptly. This is not just an obsessive/compulsive thing, it is about honoring the community and the commitments we make. When was the last time someone made an excuse about not being where they were suppose to be, OR you made that excuse??

People will often come up to pastors and explain why they have not been in church. (Actually, this does not happen as often as my early days of ministry.) It was if making the excuse made not showing up OK. Yet, if we are not willing to at least show up, how is God going to be able to work any change in us. How can our hearts be penetrated. This is not just about the worship hour, but also our prayer life, and also our attention to God throughout the day.

Of course, showing up is just the first part, being open to the transforming power of the Divine is the big step. Joan Chittester includes this Sufi story.

To a group of disciples whose hearts were set on a pilgrimage, the elder said, “Take this bitter gourd along. Make sure you dip it into all the holy rivers and and bring it into all the holy shrines.” When the disciples returned, the bitter gourd was cooked and served. “Strange,”said the elder slyly after they had tasted it, “the holy water and the shrines have failed to sweeten it.”

The goal of our worship, the goal of our prayer, the goal of our lives is to be changed from the inside out by God’s penetrating power. Sometimes we need to be inconvenienced, to have God’s agenda be at the top of our agenda.

You see, I have been working on my niece’s wedding dress. I love making it with all the details. Yet, as I sew all the pieces of expensive fabric I want her marriage to be the thing that costs the most and has lots and lots of time invested. The wedding dress will be there for just a day, yet we have spent so much money and energy on the pretty outward dress. I truly pray for her and her fiance to spend as much money and energy making their married life as beautiful as her dress will be on her wedding day.IMG_20140720_141252


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