Archive | May, 2014

Not One, Not Two

28 May

I am once more enjoying The Rule of Benedict by Joan Chittister during my morning devotions. One of the things I like most about the book is the stories from ancient traditions that give a deeper meaning to the Rule.
This was today’s story.

“How does a person seek union with God?” the seeker asked.
“The harder you seek,” the teacher said, “the more distance you create between God and you.”
“So what does one do about the distance?”
“Understand that it isn’t there,” the teacher said.
“Does that mean that God and I are one?” the seeker said.
“Not one. Not two.”
“How is that possible?” the seeker asked.
“The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and the song. Not one. Not two.”

I had a brilliant friend in seminary who wrote in her theology paper (the major one where you had to describe God!!) said, God is the author of the song, Jesus the dancer, and Holy Spirit the music. We are asked to join in the dance.

One of my favorite thing is looking at God from a new dimension. Thinking about our relationship with God, thinking about God’s faithfulness and love, and what Jesus revealed about the nature of the Divine.

I believe that God is with us in each breath we take and will be there even when we can not breath anymore. The God knows our deepest, truest selves and loves us more than we could imagine. And God imagines who we could become if we will yield our choices to the way of the Divine. God invites us to live the reality of being light to God’s sun – are you ready to shine? God invites us to be the wave of God’s ocean – are you ready to live that deep rhythm of life? God invites us to be the singer of God’s song – are you ready to live God’s dance?

So, this is your life – your real life – to enjoy the God rhythm that is stamped into your bones and live as God unique creation in the diversity of God’s created world.

OK, my brain is a little weird – but I love this stuff. Enjoy the beauty of the Divine presence today.


In Memoriam

26 May

I am relaxing on this Memorial Day morning. I have little that I have to accomplish today. But, more than that, I want on this Memorial Day to take time to “celebrate” the holiday. Today is set aside to remember those who have died while in military service.

So often in my mind the military gets lumped in with the political maneuvering of those in power. Or, the complete waste of war and the powerless who are caught in its destruction.

Yet, in our country we are asked to re-member, to reconstruct, what it means that there are people we have commanded to die in service to our country. I always think of this as our request, since we are the people who have voted representatives in our government to act on our behalf. (If you haven’t voted lately think about those who sacrificed their lives and maybe you can give up a little time and energy to get it done.)

So, if we are to think about those who have died, here are same facts. Memorial Day began as Declaration Day to give honor to those who died during the Civil War – close to 2% of the population – 625,000. In World War II – the generation that sacrificed much to end that war saw 405,399 people die. In World War I it was a smaller number – 116,516 – but to those who lost loved one, the number is not important.

Today we still have military women and men willing fighting in deadly situations. So far, 6717 people have died in the “War on Terror”. And around the world there are those who continue to grab for power and resources without regard for laws or people. Are we the world’s police force?

I have never found any easy answers in my life. But, today I can remember those who have died. Soldiers who were good people and not so good people; Soldiers who commanded and those who followed the commands; Soldiers who understood the cause they were fighting for and those who just showed up to fight. Today I don’t have to consider the ambiguity of why these men and women were being killed, or even the stupidity and waste of war. Today, I am just grateful that in each generation there have been those who stood in harms way for our country and that I can write whatever I want in this blog because of their sacrifice.

I pray God’s blessing on their souls and for peace for those who loved them.

Life keeps moving

21 May

We have had visitors at the old homestead, so it have been a challenge to blog. My brother came last week for a visit and now my son, Nathan, is here. In celebrated of his graduation from college he can to see me and his grandparents. We have had a great time.

I have been trying to hone my listening skills and I have amazed at what others see in a song or sermon. My brother was talking about a song that he liked and the verse that he really like, I had never notice. My son came with me to church and when my parents asked him if he like the service he said he did and said the sermon what about a topic I didn’t even think was in there.

I have always like idea of diversity and the richness of our planet. Yet, so often I forget how different people are; how differently people can experience the same event. Would you be willing to surrender you perceptions/opinions for a time in order to experience what someone else is experiencing. We can learn a lot about another person when we open ourselves to their reality.

I am not quite sure why I have written all this. I guess it is to say, that the more I center myself in the Divine, the more I can reach out to the other. It is a growing edge that offers me insight into my life and to those around me.

See if you can quiet yourself enough today to hear not only God, but those who you share the journey with you. Peace.

Why do the job

13 May

There is one piece of advice that I gave to my sons quite often, “Find something you love to do and find a way to get paid for it.” That has been my life. I love talking about God, and sure enough, there is a way to get paid for that.

I am still reading through “The Rule of Benedict”, in the section of the leader of a monastery. The lines from Joan Chittister’s commentary always move me.

Benedict does not want people in positions simply to get a job done. He wants people in positions who embody why we bother to do the job at all. He wants holy listeners who care about the effect of what they do on everybody else. Imagine a world that was run by holy listeners.

I think about all the people I encounter in my day. There are people in every job and every profession who hate every minute of their jobs and you can see it on the face. Then there are others who, no matter what they do bring a hope and a joy to the work. Johnny Cash has a great song called “Get Rhythm”. There is one of the verses I love.

A Little shoeshine boy never gets low down
But he’s got the dirtiest job in town
Bendin’ low at the peoples’ feet
On the windy corner of the dirty street
Well, I asked him while he shined my shoes
How’d he keep from gettin’ the blues
He grinned as he raised his little head
Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
A jumpy rhythm makes you feel so fine
It’ll shake all the trouble from your worried mind
Get rhythm when you get the blues

I know not everyone in the world has a choice of what they do in their lives, but most people who read this blog do. We have an abundance of types of education, an abundance of types of work to do, we even have people who will test us and tell us what we are good at doing. So, find what you love to do and find a way to get paid for it.

Life is too, too short to miss any of it being miserable. Maybe you have a job you don’t like now, maybe you have co-workers who drive you crazy. Well, pray God into the middle of it. If God has the power to raise Jesus from the dead, then why can’t God bring joy to your work. Be a holy listener . . . get rhythm . . . whatever works for you find a way to celebrate God’s presence, power, grace and joy. Peace

Bumper stickers, gotta love’um

12 May

I have started back to the gym after hibernating for the long, cold winter. As I was driving back home this morning I saw a truly wonderful bumper sticker. This is coming from a woman whose car was covered in bumper stickers in her twenties. Mine said things like “Have Jesus, Will Share” and “I’m not prefect, just forgiven”. I can remember the other ones.

This morning this morning said, “Keep Your Religion/Out Of My Uterus”. I love things that make me smile. And perhaps you think my sense of humor/irony is a bit demented. You would be right.

But, I think people make all kinds of fights about religion that has nothing to do with their lives. I think our faith journey has to do with making choices that honor God with integrity for our lives, not legislating what someone else should do with their choices. [Also, it is clear that the people who choices are legislated and truncated are usually women].

Today’s reading from “The Rule of Benedict” is on the role of the leader of the monastery usually called an Abbot[man] or Prioress[woman]. This is one of my favorite chapters in the Rule because I think it reflects what a Pastor should look like for the church. It says:

“they must point out to the monastics [congregation] all that is good and holy more by example than by words, proposing God’s commandments to a receptive community with words, but demonstrating God’s instructions to the stubborn and the dull by a living example.”

I have taken this teaching to heart in my ministry and try to never ask anyone in the church to do what I am not doing myself. One of the truly wonderful men in my church says, “Your, the workingest pastor I’ve ever met”. I take it as a great compliment.

I dream of a time when people of faith will live clearly the love, forgiveness and openness of the Divine. And will not inspire bumper stickers like, “Keep Your Religion/Out Of My Uterus”.


life in community

7 May

One of the reasons that it is a challenge for me to write a blog is that one idea goes it a number of difference directions in my head. I find it difficult to follow and harder to communicate.

The reading from Acts 2 for this week bring along with it tons of questions about how we are to be living as Christians.

Acts 2:42-47
The Message (MSG)
41-42 That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

I think we are suppose to take this text seriously and consider what it means to live in community. I think when we stand outside this radical commitment it seems an impossible utopia. However, throughout history it has been tried, been successfully, and given blessing to those inside and outside the community.

Saint Benedict created a community of brothers to live with a rule guided by the scripture. Benedict’s rule stated that each person should be provided with what they need to do their jobs, but no one could hold anything in private ownership. There are books and books and books on what the Rule of Benedict has provided for civilization since it was written in the 6th century. Mostly, I know the peace I have found at the monastery that continues to live by the rule today.

Clarence Jordan began what he called a “proving ground for the Kingdom of God” in Americus, Georgia. Koinonia Farms not only became a witness to peaceful coexistence between whites and blacks before the civil rights movement, but provided a place of inspiration for Millard and Linda Fuller’s concept of Habitat for Humanity.

So often the church complains that God is not doing anything. The United Methodist Church runs from one Great Program Idea to another. It is not really a mystery what we need to do to live the power of God’s grace in the world, yet, it is not a very popular idea. We like our own house, our own money, our own church, our own way.

As always, I don’t have an answer. Just questions about how I can be more faithful in my decision making today. Blessings and peace to you all.

May Day Celebrations

2 May

Yesterday was May Day AND my mom’s 89th birthday. She received birthday greetings from 9 am to 9 pm. You would have thought she was on Facebook. It was a great day; we went out of lunch and she ended up eating too much sugar. Kids will be kids.

I love days to celebrate; a reason to party. For one thing, it is my nature to laugh and it doesn’t look so crazy if you laugh at a party. The other thing is the joy that God is with us seems a cause of celebration.

The scripture text that I am using this Sunday is the resurrection story from Luke. Luke’s gospel wants the faithful to know that Christ is walking among us, trying to get us to listen, and particularly revealed in ‘the breaking of bread’. Do you know the story?

13-16 That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

17-18 He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

19-24 He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

This is the text that gives the name for the Emmaus Spiritual Life weekend. The imagine given is that Christ is walking among us, but like these first disciples, we didn’t see him. How often we let sadness or bitterness or just our own busyness distraction us from the truth that Christ is walking with us. I like Christ’s response to the disciples sad story.

25-27 Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

28-31 They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

32 Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

I believe it is our task, as people of faith, to develop an awareness of the Divine in our midst and listen to the leading of that Spirit. Of course, I did not come of with this idea.

Today, I began reading again [probably for the 10th time] The Rule of Benedict by Joan Chittister. It is one of my favorite books. Sister Joan writes a wonderful commentary on the 6th century rule of Benedict. This morning, the beginning of the rule, says, “Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” I have always loved the imagine of ‘the ear of your heart’. We are to listen to The Rule and to God as we would a lover, one who our whole world is wrapped up within.

Our faith life should be full of passion. One where we rush to spend time with God alone. One where we focus on what our lover would want us to do. A life of joy, in love with the Divine, creating, renewing power of the universe.

Sister Joan writes in her commentary, “To the wise, it seems, life is not a series of events to be controlled. Life is a way of walking through the universe whole and holy. Let’s try that today. Peace.