Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Reflections

We had what was for me a very big Thanksgiving.
The whole family came together - with the exception of my nephew Sean who is in Japan.
They started coming on Wednesday afternoon as my brother Wayne and wife Gail came from New Hampshire and brother Geoff and daughter Gillian came from New York. It was our anniversary and they took us out to eat at J. Liu's which was really a wonderful treat.
Brett met us there and took Gillian out and they ended up at Brett and Kacey's home for games and beverage. Audrey had arrived there.
The next day - Thanksgiving - everyone else came - from New York - Hannah, Mike, Elyssa, Alex and Evan and from Chicago - Tom, Samantha and Sarah. We had a great Thanksgiving meal with more people (33 in all!) and the next few days - more meals, lots of conversation, games, movies, football. It was Thanksgiving!

This was our first Thanksgiving without my sister Ellen and it was - bittersweet. Wednesday night we watched the home movie - taken 50 + years ago - of us as children. We even saw when Ellen came home from the hospital. Gail remarked that the last that arrived was the first to leave. And I never saw that so clearly.

Friday morning we did a time of remembrance of Ellen. We were in the sanctuary of the church and showed pictures through the years and shared our memories. Sean had sent a wonderful letter which Audrey read and then we watched a slide show with "Over the Rainbow" playing in the background. It was sharing our grief and I hope for others it was helpful. It was for me. Afterward I wondered if that is not what everyone needs about 6 months after a loved one has died - a time to come together with friends and family and remember. It is easy to feel like you are the only one who is grieving.

But the weekend was not all sadness. I was pleased that the cousins - 7 girls (Gillian and Sean missing) and companions were able to go out to eat together on Friday night. This summer at my Aunt and Uncle's funerals I learned about that cousin bond - you don't see each other much, but you are so connected through early memories and your parents relationship with each other.

I was glad to see the next generation down - Alyse, Reagan, Addie, Jacksn and Evan playing together. We are all the descendents of Marge and Wayne - they would be so pleased!

And most of all I was glad to be in the company of my brothers. This was our 5th time together this year - because of my cruise and the family funerals - but as I get older I value them more and more. But, as always, I miss Ellen.

I am blessed by my husband. We fed several crowds all weekend with no complaints and lots of new dishes to share (how about dried mango?)

All in all, much to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quotes from my Wellstreams Class

From Sister Carol Ann

"Our God is a God of freedom and we need to listen to where people are un-free."

"God's Will and My Deep Desires are Not Different

Our challenge to to understand our Deepest Desires."

There is a Sufi Saying
"A Teacher will come into our life and when we've learned the lesson, they will go."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Morning Thoughts

I think this is a prayer.

I wake up on a beautiful Saturday

Thinking about the loss of my sister and feeling that pain
As I go to the prayer room I look out the window and see the house next door where my neighbor died suddenly this summer.
I think about a man of my acquaintance who committed suicide last week.

And I know that there is pain and suffering in this world and my world.

I have already read the Columbus Dispatch and its stories about rape, murder, war, crime. Our inhumanity.

and I seek to come to god and to remember the life that pushes through.

The life that encourages life and growth and beauty and creativity

The life as I think ahead to a great family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration after that

The life as I think about worship tomorrow and preparation today

The life as I think of my family - waking this morning all over the country and laughing, working, eating and living.

Wake me up, today Lord so that I can see life in this life.

The life of love and service and engagement.
That life that sees, hears, and feels. Everything!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sermon from Sunday

This sermon was preached on the text about the widow's mite.

You know this story - It is the story that is seems to be brought out in November just in time for a stewardship message - To guilt the congregation into giving

I think that is a mis read – not going to do it.
Instead I see Jesus with a teachable moment for his disciples and for us.
And he compares and contrast a widow – whose years of raising children and caring for her husband – is over
A woman who is completely marginalized by the world that she is in.
A woman who was a close to nobody as you could be during this time.

With the important men in religion – the teachers of the law, scribes, the ones whose dress, education and title, command respect. Start by talking about the scribes

And the first word that you see here is BEWARE
Beware of these scribes – and as he describes them – he is saying three things about them
Beware of their pride. It doesn’t say pride but it describes pride

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you” CS Lewis

Which is a good description of these men. Living in that stratified world – where there are best seats for some and lesser seats for others; where some are respected more than others, where they are set apart by the clothes that they wear.

We live in that world too – and of course, we would like to wear nice clothes, sit where we want, and be treated with respect.
That is a world in which we have to beware of pride – in living like that, expecting that, getting used to that

Second thing to beware is to see that these men – these men of God – have devoured the house of the widow. Several explanations – it could be because these men essentially helped settle the estates of the widows (as women could not be trusted) or that their temple building led to their exploiting the people as they collected offerings.
Devour - Picture of abuse
The abuse that happens in this system of stratification – where some are on top and some are on the bottom
The abuse that happens when there are rich and poor – and while we all want to be rich – too often it can happen at the expense of the poor.
And the third thing to beware of is judgment – These men will receive the greater condemnation. And Jesus is saying that there is judgment for those who are representatives of God. Perhaps the greater judgment comes because these "Bible scholars" should know better. Their training and knowledge should be used to help the weak and helpless, rather than to exploit them.

And then Jesus goes to the treasury and watches and we can imagine that he is seeing people bringing lots of money – a wheelbarrow full! Impressive – but Jesus calls the attention of the disciples to a widow
Watch this he is saying
And what he says is – this is a picture of humility.
She is last person you would notice. A nobody who quietly places what seems like a very little – a mite, 2 small copper coins, a penny
Picture of humility. Nothing to be proud of! So little to give.
And then he reminds them that percentage wise – she gave the most of everyone – because she gave all. It is a picture of generosity
And it was all she had to live on – so that it was a picture of trust. Trusting that I don’t need to hold anything back because God is going to take care of me.

So that is it – beware of the scribe and watch the widow

Now – I have 4 challenging observations – c
1. God calls leaders – God calls, equips and empowers people to be leaders. God has since the very beginning- with the call of Moses until today. As men and women are set apart in ordination; as churches need people willing to serve as officers, elders, deacons – leaders. And we all have to beware of the pitfalls –
- the pride – the danger of abuse – the judgment that is ours when we stumble. I have seen churches poorly served by leaders who acted improperly – sexually or financially – which is all pride – takes a generation to recover
Elders don’t come to church; when there is backbiting and a means pirit among leaders, Leaders who think that they are in charge – and make decisions without consulting others and without consulting God
- For all of us who are called to be leaders – beware.

2. God calls us to be responsible to the widows. James wrote this: “ Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
And the widows are the ones we often do not see – the marginalized – the humble faithful ones. We need to see them. In this stratified world – we are more attuned to those who are successful and prestige – widows and the orphans, get marginalized. We don’t see them, we don’t respect them, and we don’t find a place for them. Some of which is because - get this – they don’t give enough to support the institutional church. We pay more attention to the people who come and bring resources out of their abundance.
This is so hard to face – we are responsible to the widows – and it will not be reciprocal – if we are only interested in the material.
You will not build a church being responsible to the widows – but you will build the kingdom of God

We are responsible to the widows and we also need the widow because of what they teach us..Because those who are on the bottom, the dispossessed, the poor is spirit are the blessed ones.
They have learned about the blessing of a life lived dependent upon God.
And for the rest of us – we can’t quite let go. We give out of our abundance – but not out of our poverty.

Third challenging observation –God is most interested in our motives –
It is not what we do – but it is why we do it. - The condition of our hearts.
And those of us who are in leadership know how easy it is for our hearts to be polluted by pride. We can give and serve and make sure we are noticed
And those who are not in leadership can sit on our hands and criticize those who are
And all of us can find ways to ignore or repel the widows and pay most attention to the prosperous. But it is not that simple either.
I love the story by Anthony Demello (from The Song of the Bird)
“A preacher put this question to a class of children: “If all the good people were white and all the bad people were grey, what color would you be?”

Little Mary Jane replied: “Reverend I’d be streaky!””
So would the preacher, So would the pope and the saints.
All of us – so when we hear that God cares about our motivations – we know in our heart of hearts we ourselves are not always sure of our motivations.

And that really is it – the final challenging observation is that the way of the Lord is the Way of humility. Understanding that we are streaky – this combination of sinner and saint, scribe and widow,
And as Anthony DeMello writes “Attempts to hide your streakiness will sometimes be successful, always dishonest.”

This story is not about stewardship -= but it is about humility. The way of the Lord is the way of humility. And here is the hard part - if you think you are humble – then you are NOT. That is the paradox and the greatest challenge
So – we cannot make ourselves humble because we then are too full of ourselves –
Beware the scribe – beware our wily egos
Story about the minister who had a great sermon on humility but wasn’t going to give it until he had a crowd ready to hear it

Or since it is classical Sunday –

Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play.
Without hesitation, he replied, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

we can only become humble as we are full of God
we can do is ask God to make us faithful.
In AA – there are the 12 steps to recovery – and the first step is to admit that they are powerless over their addiction
And that is the first step of the life of faith – admit we are powerless - over our pride, our ego, our scribe within us.

A life of humility is also to recognize our poverty like the widow whatever we have is not enough – but it is what we have. And we trust it to God’s purposes. So that, we are an offering.
We give everything to God
All that I am
All that I have
All that I hope to be I give to you
I give to you
We are an offering

Finally the way of humility is not to walk in guilt or shame.
When we walk with the Lord we learn how much we have received and our own gifts and genius
God has gifted us and wants to use us – as leaders, as servants,
These gifts have been given to us for others.

So let me end by saying this – beware of the scribe – because, of course, there is a scribe that lives within each one of us. Who will encourage us to walk the walk of safety, security, self protection and self glorification.
But watch for the widow - because there are widows all around us to help us to see the blessedness of living a life trusting God.

And as we continue to seek Jesus and his way and his will in our lives – the widow emerges and we are more and more able to give, to serve, and to surrender to God’s power in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I have not written for a while and the last thing I wrote was about struggle - so maybe it is time to lighten up a bit and share some of the blessings that I really am grateful for!

1. A day off and time doing some good things with Chuck - like going to the Buckeye Cafe and having lobster bisque and watching "This is It" the Michael Jackson movie on Imax (fabulous!!) and of course dinner and playing upwards. Good stuff - all of it.

2. Yesterday was our first Sunday with the New Song Christian Church joining us for the Gospel Praise Service and it was so nice to have a few more people. One of the women sang and it was awesome and we had dinner afterward and I just feel like this is going to be great. One of the women told me that she does "Spoken Word" so we will add that to our service. Pretty cool!

3. I had an Elder's Retreat on Saturday morning and it flowed beautifully. I felt like God had given me some good ideas - like have prayer partners for the elders and having Bill Brown - an 80 year saint - to give an inspirational talk. It was a great blessing to me.

4. Audrey! Audrey came to town this weekend and we got to have lunch and play upwards and talk church talk and just be together.

5. Kacey and the kids came over when Audrey was there. I love having them at the house and watching Alyse and Jackson interact. Alyse is now playing "SET" and is really good and it is just fun. And then watching sisters interact is also wonderful.

6. Marnie and Erik seem so happy and comfortable together in their home. I stopped by to pick up Audrey and Erik is willing to help me with my computer and stringing my guitar and it seems like he is part of the family.

7. All Saints Day worship was really meaningful - especially in the morning. we remembered and lit candles for everyone who passed away this year and of course, for me - lighting a candle for Ellen was especially meaningful. We also gave people opportunities to light candles for any of the saints that they remember. And they did. There were a lot of tears and I know that grief goes on and it is helpful to have some tangible expression.

8. My Well streams classes continue to just fill my spirit beyond all explaining. Every week during half the class we are either guiding, "traveling" (being directed) or observing. And it is fascinating to watch and to keep learning. I have been in spiritual direction for 10 years and am now learning how it really works - mostly through the spirit and through our really listening and emptying ourselves. Taking these classes has been an enormous blessing to me. I love it!

9. My prayer room. I feel like I have a new house since Marnie and the girls moved out. The prayer room is back in place and I spend more time in it than ever. In some ways it seems like an extravagance to have a room devoted to prayer - but I really love it. I will say that when Alyse and Reagan are here, it is the room where they play school. So, it does have another purpose. But anyway.....

10. Seeing old friends. In the past few weeks we have seen many old friends from Bowling Green - the Rupps, the Kirkbrides, Rosalea and Donnan. I talked to Mary Ann. What a rich life to continue to have such caring friends. I pray for that church that i used to serve as well as Karl Road.

anyway, one of my favorite songs is "Grateful" and I think it is becuase that is how I feel. Grateful, grateful, grateful.