Thursday, February 21, 2013

Loving Jesus

I am pretty busy this Lenten season. There are some new activities I have taken on just for Lent.
One is morning prayer and we are doing daily readings of a book called "The Miracles of Jesus" which has been a really rich and meaningful way to start the day.

Last night I had my first meeting of the 5 week study of "Who is this man?" by John Ortberg. The subtitle is: "The unpredictable impact of the Inescapable Jesus." We saw a video and spent time talking about the revolutionary teachings of Jesus. We looked at a worksheet that listed 10 of them that included Bible verses. They are:
1. Embrace a surrendered and sacrificial life.
2. Love your enemies
3. Do not take revenge; turn the other cheek
4. Forgive - without ceasing.
5. Share the best of who you are and what you have with those who can't reciprocate
6. Do not worry
7. Practice servanthood - it is the path to greatness
8. Protect yourself from greed
9. Do not judge or condemn
10. Humble yourself.

It is instructive to just look at these 10 statements and recognize how culturally revolutionary they continue to be. And they really are a window for all of us into the abundant life - but very, very hard to live out.

This morning the scripture we read and reflected on was Mark 5: 1-15 - the healing of the Gerasene Demoniac. He said to Jesus: "What do you have to do with me?" Here is a quote from the book:

"Perhaps we expect Jesus to treat those hidden parts of our lives the same way other do. They bind, reject, and abandon us. But not Jesus. We let Jesus touch these parts of our lives with love. He gives us hope. Jesus can restore lives and heal our brokenness. We find our new identity in God's love."

And so I begin this day loving Jesus - not only the revolutionary teachings that show us a new way of living in this world - but also Jesus who can touch the broken and damaged and ugly parts of ourselves and restore us to wholeness.

May my life be open to his touch today.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Morning Prayers : Healing the deepest hurts

This season I start the day at 8 AM in the sanctuary for a half hour of contemplative prayer.

We have a reading to start, light candles, play some reiki music and sit in silence.
This morning it was me, Ruthie and Gerrie. We come sometimes just waking up or sometimes already in the middle of a busy morning. But we come.

This morning the reading was about Jesus who healed paralytic man and forgave his sins. (Mark 2) One of the points of the reading was that the healing of Jesus was more than the symptoms and went deeper to whatever is beneath them.
The reflection question was: what have you been praying for? What deeper issues might God need to address before resolving your "surface" request?

And the focus - Make every effort in your time of prayer to bring all matters to God, including the hidden herts of your life. Allow God to speak into them, and drust that divine wisdom guides God's healing.

This really speaks to me of the value of contemplative prayer. I think that in our busyness we tamp down what is really hurting us and keep moving. Often then, there can be some physical manifestation of the stress - like back pain, hemorrhoids, weight gain, sleeplessness, skin issues. And we deal with them but fail to really see what is going on within ourselves.

In prayer I come and ask God to reveal to me those hurts and work within those places that we want to avoid or deny.

Here was the closing prayer today

O Lord, we bring our herts, fears, and life situations before you, we acknowledge that you see deeper and know more clearly; therefore, help us graciously accept your work of healing, affirming that you treat more than the symptoms. Amen.

I am grateful for the prayers of this morning that help me to face my need of God's deepest healing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

The beginning of the season of Lent - that we can call the journey to the cross.
The journey.

Every year is different and I look forward to this season more and more every year.

I just finished putting together the powerpoint for our service tonight. And Melissa just left and the sanctuary is ready.
I have already given ashes to 7 women at Oakleaf retirement community this morning. It is such a meaningful symbol of faith - putting a mark on our foreheads as an act of humility and witnessing to God.

And so, we begin again a holy time that is set apart for the practice of our faith. I have been leading a small group on the subject "Embracing and Adult Faith" with videos by Marcus Borg. This past week the subject was our practices that guide us into a deeper connection with God.
I am not particularly disciplined and so a finite amount of time to do something works very well for me.
This morning I began the day with contemplative prayer in the sanctuary. I can do it very well at home but it is so much more powerful to do it here at a prescribed time with whoever shows up. One of the learnings from Sunday night was that there is a different energy when 2 or 3 are gathered together.

But even still I sat there this morning with my mind going all over the place. But I sat there. I practiced. And it is the beginning.

My prayer is that I might be open and ready for whatever is next.
May it be so.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

By Ruth Haley Barton.
This is a book that was given to me at Christmas and I am very slowly reading through it. it is really speaking to me. The complete title is:
"Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry"

On the cruise last week I would read a little bit, write a little bit and often share it with Susan as we sat and talked together. There is one chapter about living within your limits and how easy it is to become depleted because we have overreached. She quotes Richard Swenson:

"When you reach the limits of your resources or abilities, you have no margin left. yet because we don't even know what margin is, we don't realize it is gone. We know that something is not right but we can't solve the puzzle beyond that. Our pain is palpable but our assailant remains unnamed."
Here are the symptoms that might manifest themselves when we are dangerously depleted:
= Irritability or hypersensitivity
= Restlessness
= compulsive overworking
= Emotional numbness
= Escapist behaviors
= Disconnected from our identity and calling
- not able to attend to human needs (our own)
= hoarding energy
= slippage in our spiritual practices

It is good to be home and feel fresh and centered again and truly ready to step into the life of ministry that is mine. My prayer for myself is that I might "know the difference between being driven by grandiose visions and responding faithfully to the expansion of God's work in and through me"

Here is a wonderful prayer from the book (by Ted Loder)

O Eternal One
it would be easier for me to pray
if I were clear
and of a single mind and pure heart,
if I could be done hiding from myself
and from you, even in my prayers,
But I am who I am,
mixture of motives and excuses,
blur of memories
quiver of hopes,
knot of fear,
tangle of confusion,
and restless with love
for love....
Come, find me, Lord,
Be with me exactly as I am
Help me find me, Lord
Help me accept what i am
So I can begin to be yours.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Home from the Cruise

We do this every year and I feel priveleged, blessed and slightly guilty at the extravagance. But it is really, really helpful for me to get away in the winter and find rest and refreshment. And again this year - I did.

There are so many aspects to this vacation that were memorable. Here are a few:

1. We spent the first 2 days at the Ursuline Guest house in New Orleans and it was really fun to be there. It was charming and on the very edge of the French Quarter. We walked a lot for two days and went to the market to buy gifts for grandchildren, Cafe De Mond and had the requisite beignets and cafe aulait. A street musician entertained us there with his trumpet and played "Just a Closer Walk with God" followed by (Chuck's request" Summertime. During the meals there I had rice and beans, a shrimp Po boy and a muffalata. The best part was that it was Mardi Gras and we saw a parade (mostly drunken people dressed up in funny costumes) and were the recipients of tons of beaded necklaces thrown down to us from revelers in the balcony. To say it was fun is an understatement.

Susan and Ken arrived on Friday and that was such a blessing for me as we had not seen each other for over a year and a half. Saturday morning Susan and I sat in the court opposite her hotel drinking bloody mary's and listening to a wonderful jazz singer.

2. Our companions were a blessing. There were 10 of us who had dinner together every evening and recapped the activities of the day. The Veatches were the youngest this year and clearly the most physically active. The Hockmans enjoyed hours in the casino and the rest of us played cards quite a bit. One of my highlights was watching Susan and Marsha climb the wall - fun to watch friends become friends.

3. Our island forays were fine but not exceptional this year. We went to Jamaica which is always somewhat disturbing with its beauty and its abject poverty. We hired a taxi and literally went from the bottom to the top - both physically and economically. We spent some time in the primitive native craft area that was behind the conventional gift shop. There were over a dozen men and women trying to lure us into their little area to purchase their merchandise. I bought a bracelet and a turtle and a cross for Ken. But it felt so uncomfortable getting away from it all.
Then the driver took us to a "Great House" on the hill with a swimming pool and a spectacular view. It was like a different world from the one we just left.

4. What was most important to me this vacation was the rest. I slept. 8 or 9 hours a night and dreamt every night. And had time to read, write and reflect about everything. The slowing down is what has come to be most meaningful to me in my time away.

A cruise ship offers all kinds of entertainments but I found the best part was sitting on a deck chair looking at the ocean and maybe reading or talking or just being.

Today is the superbowl and all last week, whenever we turned on the TV there was so many stories in preparation. Today - finally - it is going to happen. Good.

But what I look forward to is next week as we begin a new season of the year at church. It is funny to me how I have changed over the years and enjoy different forms of recreation and look forward to different kinds of events.

And so, starting next week - a wonderful meditative Ash Wednesday service, morning devotions in the sanctuary every day and a new Bible study on Wednesday night.
I am home from the cruise, rested and ready for whatever is the new thing that God wants to do with me.