The Anchor Holds

8 Nov

How to we speak about the power of the Eternal Presence in our lives?  How do those who personally encountered Jesus of Nazareth tell the story of his power?

Too often as people we have talked about if what is described in the sacred history of our faith actually happened, rather than seeking the experience that is embodied in the story.  I believe the story at the end of the fourth chapter of Mark is diminish by questioning the details of how it happened rather than experiencing the power that is described.

Jesus has finished talking to the crowds and gets his disciples in a boat to find some quite, going to the other side of the lake.  A storm arises. . .

Mark 4:35-38

35-38 Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

39-40 Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

41 They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”

So my question is, “have you experience God’s divine love calming the storms in your life?”

This is my story:  2010 was a difficult year in my life.  In January an earthquake hit Haiti and shook up my life.  In April my husband, Mike, was headed to Haiti for a 6 month assignment to help those effected by the earthquake. I was filling in for his full time pastorate and continuing my part-time pastorate, my dad had a very serious heart attack in May, and my young adult sons were busy with their own thing – some things not so good.

I remember standing in my kitchen, exhausted, overwhelming, trying to continue to put one foot in front on the other.  Christian music has always helped me to make it through difficult times and I was listening to Micheal Card’s Scribbling in the Sand album and Soul Anchor came on.  I had probably listen to the album a dozen times, but this time I stopped cold, tears running down my face and knew, “It’s a soul anchor, Hold on to the hope.  It is a soul anchor, Just hold on to your courage.  Before we call, He answers us with hope.”  I felt the storm calm and the loving power of the Divine Eternal strengthening me; in my kitchen, in my exhaustion, in all things. . .

I believe the scriptures are to be lived.  It is a sacred story begun by people of faith thousands of years ago, written down as best they could, so we could continue the story.

 

Maybe we shouldn’t ask if Jesus actually calmed the storm on the lake for the disciple, but if his presences calms the storms of our lives so we can continue to be his witnesses.

Note:  I hope the video works. .  I have never tried it before.  It should be the song I heard that day in my kitchen.

Blessings and peace,

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Always Got a Story

5 Oct

Mud Princess 1

So here is one of my latest stories.  I was a Holy Mudder and in the Muddy Mama Mud Run (actually I walked it) benefiting Girls, Inc and Girls on the Run of Washington County.  I was a blast and as you can see, I was a Mud Princess.

Here’s the thing.  What it gave me was a fun day with women from my Garfield church.  And it gave me a bunch of stories to use in my sermons about humility, working together, and joy.

As we continue reading through Mark’s gospel it says, “He (Jesus) was never without a story when he spoke.”  For me that means that Jesus made faith in God a real and living thing.  Here Jesus says that God’s kingdom is a growing thing, sometimes it is not even clear how it happens, but it does happen.  I think Jesus wanted us to know that we could sense God near at hand, in the simple, everyday parts of our lives; like bread and juice.

26-29 Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!

30-32 “How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it.”

33-34 With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.

I hope we can all continue to tell stories about how God’s kingdom is real to us.  Where did we experience it today?  Too often we only talk about where God’s reign is not: like shooting in Las Vegas, like gossip about neighbor, like the next bunch of stuff we want to buy and figure out where to store it in our overcrowded houses.

If you say you don’t have a story about God presence, ask God to give you one; talk with a friend in faith and see if they have story to share.  Make it real, make it about today, make it so it changes the way you look at things.  God wants to permeate very single moment of our lives; enjoy the invasion.

 

Peace

 

 

Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes

14 Jun

maryGood morning friends,

I wanted to share a joyous celebration that was given to me.  On Saturday my Garfield church was having a Father’s Day BBQ/potluck meal.  The sweet folks turned it into also a early 60th birthday party for me.  It was so much fun, as you can see from the photo. (Just once I would like to look like a size 8 or even a 10. . )

I also wanted to continue with the Gospel of Mark.   We are in the fourth chapter and Jesus trying to explain the spread of the Good News, tells the parable of the seed sower.    You probably know this story, but I invited you to read it again as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson.

1-2 He went back to teaching by the sea. A crowd built up to such a great size that he had to get into an offshore boat, using the boat as a pulpit as the people pushed to the water’s edge. He taught by using stories, many stories.

3-8 “Listen. What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

10-12 When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people—

Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.”

13 He continued, “Do you see how this story works? All my stories work this way.

14-15 “The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them.

16-17 “And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.

18-19 “The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.

20 “But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.”

21-22 Jesus went on: “Does anyone bring a lamp home and put it under a washtub or beneath the bed? Don’t you put it up on a table or on the mantel? We’re not keeping secrets, we’re telling them; we’re not hiding things, we’re bringing them out into the open.

23 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?

24-25 “Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.”

I remember one of the times I read this story and realized that it is not my responsibility to make sure that anyone receives the great news of God’s love, I just have to share what God has done in my life.

As I close in on celebrating 60 years, I am so thankful that I grew up in church and that my spirit was receptive to the wonders of the Divine Presence.  I encourage anyone of reads my blog to remember, we are not here to judge anyone, we are not here to force anyone to believe as we might believe, but just to live in a way to show the amazing power of God’s grace.

Generosity begets generosity, Stinginess improverishes

Naming things correctly

3 Apr

Good Morning Friends,

The statistic on my blog site says I have blogged 365 times.  A whole year’s worth and it just took me a little under 5 years!

The last time I blogged Transfiguration Sunday was coming up and now it is Palm Sunday is coming up fast.  Time flies when your renovating.  That ‘s right, I am changing stuff up again!  A friend of my brother is putting down laminate wood flooring on the second floor.  No more gold and green shag carpet from 1976!  Now I have a wonderful soak tub and wood flooring in my bedroom.  There is an extra bedroom that has wood flooring too.

But let’s get on to the scripture of the day.  We are working our way through the Gospel of Mark and we are up to the next half of Chapter 3.  Jesus has just named his traveling companions and he is getting into trouble.

20-21 Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered—so many making demands on him that there wasn’t even time to eat. His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was getting carried away with himself.

22-27 The religion scholars from Jerusalem came down spreading rumors that he was working black magic, using devil tricks to impress them with spiritual power. Jesus confronted their slander with a story: “Does it make sense to send a devil to catch a devil, to use Satan to get rid of Satan? A constantly squabbling family disintegrates. If Satan were fighting Satan, there soon wouldn’t be any Satan left. Do you think it’s possible in broad daylight to enter the house of an awake, able-bodied man, and walk off with his possessions unless you tie him up first? Tie him up, though, and you can clean him out.

Those who are in power in the Jewish community are saying slanderous things about Jesus.  Would they be tweeting today?  Jesus speaks plainly when he says that their slander doesn’t make any sense; if he were using black magic, then why is he ridding people’s life of evil.  He adds that speaking against his ministry is trash talking God too.

28-30 “Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.” He gave this warning because they were accusing him of being in league with Evil.

31-32 Just then his mother and brothers showed up. Standing outside, they relayed a message that they wanted a word with him. He was surrounded by the crowd when he was given the message, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside looking for you.”

33-35 Jesus responded, “Who do you think are my mother and brothers?” Looking around, taking in everyone seated around him, he said, “Right here, right in front of you—my mother and my brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

God is the center.  The Divine Presence is the first relationship in Jesus life.   We are invited to believe in Jesus, the Christ, and claim that same Divine Presence for our first relationship.

This past Sunday I spoke on John 3; the born again passage.  The question I posed was, “If we are born of the spirit, then why would we worry about the color of skin of our brothers and sisters in Christ;  or, any of the other details about their lives.

Here is my wisdom of the day.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  People are always going to try to find fault in others.  Focus on the Center, the Presence that brings grace and hope and peace into our lives.  Love the people who are in your faith family and love people who are outside your faith family.  That’s our job.

Peace

And the beat goes on

23 Feb

Good Morning Friends,

There are many mornings that I think about adding to my blog, but so often I get distracted by something else.

Once the Christmas was done, I started working on renovating my upstairs bathroom. A great guy from my St. Paul’s used gifts of dry wall, tiling, flooring, and I added painted and hung  new towel bars and a shower curtain.  Plus, a plumber to connect a new toilet, and faucets for the bath, shower and sink.  Mix it all together and I have a beautiful bathroom where I soak in a deep bathtub almost every night.  It’s awesome.

And, as I revel in my new project on my home, I note that Jesus did not invest in buildings.  Jesus invested in people.  In the gospel of Mark chapter 3 we have Jesus naming and empowering his co-workers.

13-19 He climbed a mountain and invited those he wanted with him. They climbed together. He settled on twelve, and designated them apostles. The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out to proclaim the Word and give them authority to banish demons. These are the Twelve:

Simon (Jesus later named him Peter, meaning “Rock”),
James, son of Zebedee,
John, brother of James (Jesus nicknamed the Zebedee brothers Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder”),
Andrew,
Philip,
Bartholomew,
Matthew,
Thomas,
James, son of Alphaeus,
Thaddaeus,
Simon the Canaanite,
Judas Iscariot (who betrayed him)

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus – Son of God – most powerful – Prince of Peace – etc, wanted helpers to do what he did.  He wants the apostles [literally, one sent forth] to increase the amount of people that could be reached with Jesus’ message and ministry.

Christianity was never suppose to be a one person show; even Jesus.  The message was what matter and Jesus wanted to get that message of God’s good news out to as many people as possible.  AND having a building doesn’t seem to be on Jesus agenda.

This Sunday we will celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Whenever I think about that passage, I think of Peter saying,  “It’s a good thing you invited us to be here, now we can build a booth for you and Moses and Elijah”.  Having a dwelling on earth was not the priority, dwelling with God wherever we go was the important part.    The journey with an awareness of the Presence of God is what will transform our lives and our world.

Yes, church building are convenient.  But, they are not the dwelling place of God.  They can become sacred places because of what we do in them, not just that we  build them.

Think about your most sacred places today.  Realize that you have brought that meaning to that place because of God’s presence with you

Peace

Good News Travels Fast

14 Jan

Good Morning Friends,

Reading the Bible is so amazing.  It has really been a gift to read it over and over again through a number of years.  I read it so often not because I am particularly devout, but because I have got to come up with something to say on Sunday.

Anyway, this morning it slapped me in the face again about the nature of human beings.  Jesus is clear that he has come to tell the Good News that God is with us, and loves us and wants relationship with us and wants us to live in just relationship with one another.  Yet, everyone starts mobbing him because in his compassion he healed some people too.  He keeps going to new places to tell about God, but the word has spread about his ability to heal and people are coming from everywhere.  Even the historian of the time, Josephus, records the news of a great healer in Galilee.

7-10 Jesus went off with his disciples to the sea to get away.  But a huge crowd from Galilee trailed after them—also from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, across the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon—swarms of people who had heard the reports and had come to see for themselves. He told his disciples to get a boat ready so he wouldn’t be trampled by the crowd. He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him.

11-12 Evil spirits, when they recognized him, fell down and cried out, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus would have none of it. He shut them up, forbidding them to identify him in public.

In the gospel we hear that the evil spirit could recognize him and Jesus makes sure that can’t continue to speak.  I am not sure what this looks like, but it seems clear that this is not about Jesus, it is about God.  Jesus’ entire life was trying to tell about God and make God presence on earth really. . .to be a living example of the Divine Presence.

So, here’s my question.  Do we only come to God when we want something (like those folks who wanted healing.)  I am not saying it is a bad thing to look to the Divine Presence for healing, but IS IT THE ONLY THING?

Jesus came to tell Good News of God’s grace, to show what it was to live on this earth as God’s person, the healing was just a side line.

I think living into the fullness of the Divine is the way to live a whole and holy human beings; to live as we are meant to live.  That’s what Jesus was trying to tell us.  Yet, too often we get distracted with wanting a miracle cure, wanting God to change something in our life to make our lives easier.  [actually I find that we want God to change someone else so our lives with be easier].  I think the wanting of a specific healing or outcome closes our awareness to the blessings that are all around us.

So, here is my invitation today.  Think about the good news of God-with-us.  We just celebrated a month of this gift of the Divine Presence dwelling with us.  Imagine, God’s spirit walking along with you all through the day and see what that spirit might be trying to show you in your life.  I usually find it is showing me the blessings that are all around me.

Peace,

Let Me Make This Clear

2 Jan

Good Morning and Good New Year Friends,

When we last left Jesus at the end of Chapter 2 he was doing things he should do according Jewish law; specifically breaking the Sabbath law by doing “work.” [doing anythings at all on the Sabbath was illegal]

1-3 Then he went back in the meeting place where he found a man with a crippled hand. The Pharisees had their eyes on Jesus to see if he would heal him, hoping to catch him in a Sabbath infraction. He said to the man with the crippled hand, “Stand here where we can see you.”

Then he spoke to the people: “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?” No one said a word.

5-6 He looked them in the eye, one after another, angry now, furious at their hard-nosed religion. He said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out—it was as good as new! The Pharisees got out as fast as they could, sputtering about how they would join forces with Herod’s followers and ruin him.

There are so many things going through my head as I read this passage;

  •  The Gospel writer is clearly showing why people wanted to kill Jesus.
  • The work that Jesus was given to do didn’t match the “God rules” of the day and he didn’t care.
  • People hate to be embarrassed and out maneuvered, particularly when their word has never been questioned.

However, the question that Jesus leaves us with is, “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best?  Doing good or doing evil?  Helping people or leaving them helpless?”

To answer Jesus question, I like the quote from John Wesley, founder of Methodism, best.

The best thing of all is God is with us. Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

I think it is a good idea to keep in my head to start this journey into 2017.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Mary