Monday, December 29, 2014

My Last Sunday

Well, it is Monday morning and I have preached my last sermon at Karl Road Christian Church as the full time pastor of the church. 

We go today to Toledo to continue Christmas celebration with Chuck's family so it certainly does not feel like the "beginning" of retirement.  And there is still a celebration party next Sunday so it is not the "end" of my time at the church yet.

But I am almost there.

I have not blogged much this month because it has been such a strange and weird time that I haven't felt able to put it into words.  Even yesterday people asked me how I felt and my answer was "weird."

But this morning I just think I will unpack some of the emotion of all of this transition in my life and in the life of the church.

My decision to retire has been a long time coming - probably the seeds were planted two years ago.  I have noticed a lessening of energy and resilience within me.  At the same time I wondered whether this truly was a movement of spirit.  My original "plan" was to wait until August or September of 2015 but as this year began I knew in my heart it was the last year of full time  ministry for me.

What I have always known is how much I love being a pastor.  I love spending time with God's word and wrestling with the weekly message that becomes a sermon.  It is not easy but it is extremely satisfying.  I love doing Bible study and watching the way the Word comes alive and we truly grow together.  I love being with people in times of trouble and joy and representing God's presence and love.  And I love praying - alone and in community and trusting and sometimes seeing God's activity in our lives.

The past two months have been a time of "letting go" in so many ways.  As budgets are formed for the next year and new leaders are being sought I have known that I will not be present for this year. The elders are in a process of discernment about the interim minister and I have certainly learned to trust them.  But it is very strange to let go ......

The greatest awareness of this time has been my understanding of how much I felt  the health and future of the church rested on my shoulders. And letting go of that burden is (going to be) a gift.
I still feel it as I sit here   but I know that gradually it will be gone.  You can say - that it is Christ's church and it is the congregation's burden too.  I remember going on a retreat and praying that I could just lay the church on the cross.  And maybe I did for a time.  But my reality is that gradually I start to feel responsible and this burden.  And maybe this has something to do with having less resilience than I used to.  Anyway, today I know that it was time to let go  on every level.

The worship service yesterday was overwhelming for me.  There was the awareness that this was "the last time" and it felt heavy.  At the same time I wanted us to remember that it was, of course, about God.  And the gift that God had given to me of this amazing relationship with the people of Karl Road Christian Church.  My sermon was slow in coming and I found myself still working on it at 6 AM Sunday morning.  My entire family was present - all three girls and their families and 2 brothers and their wives - who drove from North Carolina and New Hampshire respectively. 

Carol and Sharon Fry did a duet that touched me immensely, Kerry and Nikki signed "Jesus the Center of my Soul," we ended the service with a litany for retirement and then the children - including 4 grandchildren - sang a "Thank you" song to me.  At the end the entire congregation stood in my honor. It was unforgettable and overwhelming.  And then last night my family came together at the Spaghetti Warehouse for a dinner in my honor.  Whew!  It is a lot!

And so I sit in my basement on the computer in what will soon be my new "office" and ponder all of it.  At this moment I just am awed by the incredible blessing of being a pastor.  During my sermon I quoted Ruth Haley Barton about this peculiar role being called by God to lead God's people:
"the great paradox of calling: God was saying in essence, it is all about you (because you are the one I have called) and it's not about you at all (because it was all about me and my work in and through you.)"

I have had some wonderful and amazing experiences during these years - like mission trips, leading retreats, walking in the gay pride parade, going to Nehemiah Action meetings, doing countless reiki treatments, officiating at weddings and funerals, leading games at VBS, being part of the Acts of Faith for the 12 Days of Christmas - it has been fun and really fulfilling.

I wonder what is ahead and truly who I am going to be when I am no longer a pastor.  I have learned to trust God through it all.  And I do.

My Final Sermon at Karl Road Christian Church


Luke 2:22-40

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22When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.

 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of

 all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.

34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

++++++++++++++++++

On this last Sunday of this last year – a year of living boldly.  I kept thinking what did I want to preach about and finally decided I would stick to the lectionary. And allow it to guide me

And so this week I have spent time with Simeon, an old man, an old priest  who blesses the baby brought by Mary and Joseph. As a 65 year old woman with 30 years in the  parish leadership who has dedicated quite a few babies – I can identify with him.

As I spent time with him – I saw him as an example for us of what you might call mature faith.  I find in him the gospel message that I want to leave you with.

First of all – the Bible makes clear that “the holy spirit rested” on him.  He is guided by the spirit.

As Oprah says - this much I know is true – that the holy spirit is real and it guides us. I know this and I hope you know this.

Some examples from my own life – many of you know that I came to this church as  Reiki practitioner and some of you have been trained in reiki – and we have performed hundreds of reiki treatments over the years.  And reiki – KI – is about spirit.   It is a prayer form of spirit – and when we pray for one another and lay hands on each other God is working.  Bringing peace, a sense of being loved and sometimes verifiable healing.       It is all about spirit.

I know about the guidance of spirit when I have walked into a hospital room immediately following some very bad news from the doctor. It was as if God sent me there at that moment of need.

Simeon is guided by the spirit and sometimes I am and you are.  That is mature faith – and it is all about connection – and disconnection.

Spirit comes as we ask for it, as we wait for it, as we take risks in faith, when we are open to it. Spirit comes the most when you are on your knees and don’t know what is the next thing you are supposed to do.

I have a secret that I am now going to share with you – and it is that I am pretty inadequate.  This is not false modesty  - this is just true –preaching every week is relentless,  hearing about members being sent to the emergency room, just a prayer in a meeting – there are moments when I don’t know what to do – and I can testify to divine help – without a doubt.  God’s spirit flows through this world, this church, my life and your life. Sometimes.

We can ignore it, block it, dismiss it.  We can get full of ourselves, our anger and addictions.  But I am telling you – God’s spirit is real.

Second thing I see in Simeon is he is a prophet – has spiritual vision and sees the baby and knows that he is  the one they have been waiting for and he say: – “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel” 

 - He understood, or saw – the power, the purpose, the paradox of Jesus. And really the heart of the transformation that God wants to do with us as we follow Jesus.  He is Destined for the falling and rising of many.  Which means he is going to be a stumbling block.

If you read the Bible you will see a lot of people that trip over Jesus  - the saducees and the Pharisees, and Herod and Pontius Pilate and the rich young ruler       And of course -   the disciples – Jesus can be a stumbling block.  

Think about those men:   do you remember the story of James and John who wanted to be on the right hand of Jesus – in a position of status and power – because after all don’t we all want power and position

James and John  also wanted to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans who rejected their message – give them what they deserve

Do you remember Peter – who rebuked Jesus when he said he was going to suffer on the cross – isn’t following  you is about avoiding pain?

They stumbled over the teachings and the path of Jesus  And don’t we as well

How many of us stumble over his words of forgiveness – unequivocal words of forgiveness to our enemy – looking for loopholes

How many of us stumble over a kingdom where every person is of value not matter what –

How many of us stumble over his message of non violence –we are called not to attack or defend but to be peacemakers –

And of course at the center of it all is the call to love – A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Richard Rohr wrote – “but do know this: every time you choose to love, you have also just chosen to die…..every time you truly love you are letting go of yourself as an autonomous unit and have given a bit of yourself away to something or someone else.”

Here is what I have learned – you WILL stumble over these teaching –they stretch us – and  they force us on our knees

But this phrase – destined for the falling AND the rising of many. The rising comes as we recognize God in the midst of it all!

 I receive an email meditation from Richard Rohr every day – this morning he wrote:

We each move at our own pace, mostly very slowly, with many stumblings and regressions. Yet at every stage we see grace (unearned love and growth) at work.

It's not primarily up to us. God is here – and  living itself within us, even in spite of us. We are simply invited to join in the dance with our intention and desire, to allow grace to flourish all the more freely and abundantly. And as we practice being conscious in our loving, we find an always available love becoming our most foundational way of being

So -  it is in the falling – that we find Jesus and then there is the Rising to answer his call upon our lives.  To love – to live in love

Simeon  - full of spirit – saw Jesus in all of his  power – and he praised God for the blessing of this encounter

This passage is called the Nunc dimittis[1] is a  canticle often used as the final song in a religious service    And so how appropriate – it is a song of gratitude and appreciation.

This is a song of deep satisfaction – as he see that God is at work in the world and bringing Jesus who comes to  save us.  He is saying I can die happy, I can die in peace.

And that is my song this morning. – Appreciation for all that God has done for the past 11 years – in and through our ministries together.

And I come before you today and sing a song of praise – celebrating the good news of Karl Road Christian church – that works together and grows in faith.  I praise God from whom all blessings flow – because I have been blessed here and  Chuck has been blessed.

Finally, Simeon is the perfect figure for  today because ultimately  Simeon fulfilled his role – he is here for just a moment in the text to bless this baby and do his part in sharing the gospel – to Mary. And help Mary in her pondering.

In much the same way, I hope I have fulfilled my role here. I have preached, done baby dedications, officiated at weddings and funerals.

I have led Bible studies, attended meetings and had lots of conversations of spirit with so many of you.  I know that I have not been anything close to perfect – and I ask your forgiveness so that you can be open to spirit as God leads you to the next leader who is going to take this church into – I hope – new mission and new territory for service

But what I do now is praise God – for you – for your faith. For the honor and blessing of seeing God at work in your lives.

Several years ago I had an insight into who I am – I think you know that my name Margot is a nickname and that my real name – is Margaret. I am named after mother and grandmother – now with daughter and granddaughter who continue that name. 

Margaret means pearl – and I like that  - a pearl as you know is formed as an object intrudes in the oyster and the friction somehow produces a beautiful gem. That will preach!

But I am one of this line of Margarets – and I am one of a series of pastors at this church – and a series of pastors in your life. One on a string who did what we could to serve God and God’s people in this place.  And grateful to fulfill whatever role I had in your ongoing spiritual formation and in the life of the churches I have served.

If you have been here during these years you know – we have done quite a bit – core values, bedrock beliefs, a motivating vision – Ignited by God – changing the world – first years

We have had years of reading through the bible and years of appreciation and this year of being bold.  We have developed some new ministries and some old ones have ceased.  We have marched in parades and done Family Fun Day and Vacation Bible School and all kinds of activities.

And through it all my prayer is that we have been faithful to God’s leading.  Let me end by saying that honestly – it has been an honor and a challenge to be in full time pastoral ministry.  Because today for me – is the end of that – I think.

Pastoral ministry is a very peculiar calling –Ruth Haley Barton wrote – “the great paradox of calling is that God was saying in essence – it is all about you – because you are the one I have called – and it’s not about you at all – because it was all about me and my work in and through you.” (from Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership)

There is no doubt in my mind that I have at times been led by the spirit, and it is also true that there has been a fair amount of stumbling – falling and rising but I leave with a sense of awe and gratitude for the blessing of being here with you.

People keep asking me – what are you going to do now and where are you going to worship? I don’t know

I hope I can find a church that  takes seriously the call to welcome all people – black white brown gay straight young old rich poor, conservative and liberal.  It is not just what we say – it is the choices that we make in worship and mission that helps us to continue to be a church of inclusion

I hope I can find a church that takes   the risk of being guided by the spirit and the values of Jesus.  Which means – sometimes we make choices that may not seem practical or financially sensible – because we have been guided by spirit.

I hope I can find a church that risks radical hospitality – reaching out to people in the margins even though it will mean stains in the sanctuary and probably disorder in the brand new fellowship hall

I hope I can find a church that loves the  way Jesus loves – genuinely caring for each other and our shut ins – as well as confronting systemic injustice in our community and reaching out to all corners of the world

Finally I hope I can find a church where I can laugh and sing and dream and celebrate the freedom grace and abundance of this life with Jesus.

It has been so good to find that church here – at Karl Road.

It has been good , friends – a real adventure for my soul.  And I pray that as we part we continue to be guided by the spirit, not afraid to stumble over the hard teachings of our Lord and be ready to praise God in all times and places.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Joy in Advent

I have not written in this blog for almost a month and finally, finally I am.
Right before Thanksgiving I purchased a new computer - preparing for my retirement and tired of the frustrations of the old one.  However.....there seemed to be a problem.  It was slow, slow, slow and more frustrating than the old one.

So, I messed around with it and worried and wondered what to do - and finally last night Jason came over and fixed the problem - I had purchased an antivirus and put it in - before removing the one that was already on the computer for a trial run. 
And wow - 2 antivirus fight with each other and slow everything down.  I think there may be a sermon illustration in this  about self protection - there can be too much and it can prevent us from doing what we are supposed to be doing??  Yes, I think that is it.

Anyway, we are now fully into the season of Advent and I have not reflected at all on it - so this is a beginning.  I may find myself writing a lot more for the rest of the year - because there is a lot going on.

The theme that we selected for this season is JOY and we even purchased a devotional - "Joy in Jesus."  I want to highlight three occasions for JOY that come to mind as I look back on the last few weeks.

First, I led an Advent Retreat - my annual time at Camp Christian.  The theme was "Comfort and Joy" and it really did provide that for me and I think for most of us.  We spent the morning reflecting on the discomfort of our lives and then receiving the comfort that God has for us.  Some of our activities included coloring mandalas, meditating on Bible verses and praying for one another.  It is always powerful to be in a small group who listens and then prays.  The afternoon was all about joy and we sang and danced and did our craft.  The joy comes when we can really trust God and let go.  I often see signs on facebook that says - "Choose Joy"  and there is something to it!

Second, I have done three baby blessings and dedications in the past two months with the third and final one being for my granddaughter Maggie.  I cannot overstate the blessing of being able to be part of this.  When I walk a baby around the sanctuary - it is like I am carrying a lightbulb as everyone smiles and reaches out for him or her.  Maggie is a very expressive baby and her smiles brought even more smiles.  What a gift for me!

Finally, we had our Acts of Faith present acts of faith service on Sunday night.  We had a lot of people come from our church as well as from the community.  And it was just uplifting and fun.  We ended as we did last year with the 12 days of Christmas and I got to join the group with the 5th day - "5 songs to Sing."  It is me letting go and having fun and truly experiencing joy in the season. 

There is a bittersweet element to everything for me as I am so aware that this is my last....district meeting, board meeting, elders meeting, acts of faith concert. Etc. And yet in it - the joy is almost palpable as I live in deep gratitude for the gift of being a minister here at Karl Road Christian Church.

Lots of questions about the future - for me, the church, but I think this is a time to choose joy.  In the midst of the struggles of the world and the question of the future - there is the present.  And I choose joy and get glimpses of God at work - always.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Road Trip

Today is my 7th day of a vacation that has been very unique for me - a road trip away from home.
And tomorrow we begin the trek back home again.

It has been a good time and I just want to record some of the highlights

1. Lake Tygart - this year I have found state parks to be pretty great places to visit - often restful and beautiful.  I found Lake Tygart online - a West Virginia State park.  It was restful - but not actually too beautiful - the Lake - manmade - was shrunk and kind of sad.  Wednesday was the beginning of the "big freeze" across the country and we didn't really want to walk.  So we rested.  There was pretty much NO ONE staying at the lodge which was nice and sort of creepy.  But the benefit was that we could eat by ourselves in the dining room and like it was OK to play gin rummy at the same time.  So....Lake Tygart was memorable.

2. The driving was another aspect to this whole trip.  Chuck and I have a few basic differences - he likes maps and I like mapquest and in a pinch - a GPS.  And so we had a few issues along the way - especially when I realized his map was 12 years old and then when we found out that the GPS had the wrong address in it when we were visiting his sister in Richmond.  And I won't even try to describe the "conversation" between us driving to Geoff's in Southport NC when I am trying to follow Geoff's directions and he is struggling with his OLD map.  Let's just say we both decided that this is why we like cruises so much.

3. We had a wonderful visit with Miranda and Audrey doing the things that I love on vacation - talking, eating and playing games.  Unfortunately Audrey has now introduced me to a NEW game - TriviaCrack and it is addictive.

4. It was really interesting to go to church with Audrey at First Christian Church in Lynchburg.  Cyd is their brand new minister (this was her 2nd week) and we got to meet her and her husband Ben on Friday night.  I found myself thinking back 11 years to coming to Karl Road Christian Church as the new minister - and realizing that in another year someone else will be coming there.  It is good for a church to have new leadership and you could see how energized people were with the possibilities that she brings.

5. We then went to Richmond and visited with Chuck's sister Jan and brother Don.  They are getting ready for a major move in their life - leaving the house they have lived in for 51 years to go to a retirement community.  I remember talking to Don about this 3 years ago and hearing how difficult the decision is.  Now the decision has been made and they are beginning the arduous task of discerning what to keep and what to give away and what to throw away.  And in this, too, I found myself thinking about the move that is ahead for me in just getting out of my office.  You do accumulate STUFF over the years!

6. Monday we made it to Southport North Carolina where Geoff and Vicky now live.  And they are so happy in this beautiful place.  Married less than 2 years, they have left the northeast to make their first home together and to really be married!  Their home is beautiful but what is most heartwarming  for me is to hear them talk of their friends, their church, their community involvement already.  They are making a life here - a new life and it is good.

And so I write this as I prepare to go home and begin the last weeks of my ministry at Karl Road Christian Church. 

I do feel like I have rested and had some time away mentally from what is ahead.  And know that endings lead to beginnings - both for me as a minister and for my church. There are goodbyes ahead and cleaning up the loose ends and then there will be some hellos and new experiences beyond my imagining today.

But in the meantime - two days of driving for me and Chuck.  Let us hope that the route Chuck and Geoff have come up with is well marked.  I don't want to get lost again.




Monday, November 3, 2014

SBNR Revisited

It has been a couple of years since I heard Professor Linda Mercandante speak on the subject of her recent book and research - the SBNR people who are growing in numbers.  Saturday I heard her again in a talk she gave for a Wellstreams Fundraiser - it was called "Spiritual, Religious. Restless?"


SPNR - is shorthand for "Spiritual but not religious." More people (25%) identify themselves this way in our country and   around the world.  It speaks to the decline in the confidence of religion

She spoke of the social factors:
1. Rise in diversity of religion and thnicity in our country
2. Decline in :"felt" importance of religion.
3. Disaffiliation and unaffiliation.  I learned that there were more people who just had not been exposed to religion and fewer of the "church hurt" folks
4. More "mixed" marriages - people who come from different religious traditions and do not raise their children in either
5. Fewer children raised with religion period.,
6. Competition in the religious marketplace with the growing "commodification" of relgion.
7. Concern over mixing of religion and politics

She also spoke of the intellectual changes over the last 50 years.
 - distrust of authority
 - commitment is less valued
 - no claims of universal truth
 - we have lost our "meta narrative" and each person creates their own meaning and identity.  She introduced the term "spiritual tinkerers" as people are finding their own faith journey.

Their rejection of religion has to do with rejecting what seems superstitious on the one hand and then claiming exclusive truthfulness on the other.  There is a fear of religion taking away freedom.  And what she said is that people want to be "customers" and not subscribers."
  She also said that people seem proud to assert this identity - "Spiritual but not religious" because it is seen as non-offensive.  Unlike perhaps the way Christians can be seen to be  judging and recruiting!

There was alot of content to her talk and it has me thinking.
There were two aspects that I found particularly interesting.  One of the learnings for me was the fact that they believed (as I do) in this energy force of divine power  however - unlike me - there is often not a sense of personal encounter with God.
And the second was the sense of community on our own terms - as in a meditation community or a yoga class.

I found myself thinking about this as I stood in front of the congregation on Sunday morning at the table.  And realized that this is what is central to my understanding of religion.
We separate our communion into two parts - first the congregation passes out the bread and we eat it individually and then I come to the table and invite us to drink the cup together.
And that represents both aspects of faith in a religious community like the church - we do have a personal relationship with God.  The God who calls us by name and invites us - not only into relationship - but also a life of growing in love and service to others.  I have - throughout my life - experienced that very real guidance.

At the same time in the Christian faith we are called into community, church  - we call ourselves "the body of Christ" which is a mystical union with God. There are ways that God  is present and guides us together that are holy and truly awesome.  The church  also is an institution made up of very flawed people.  That is the "both - and" of being in a church.  We sometimes call our church a "family" and it is like a family in which we are stuck with each other - and some people without a doubt rub us the wrong way.  But also like a family, when we are in trouble we find there is genuine love and care.

I certainly understand the lure of being spiritual but not religious.  As I prepare for retirement I do not know what the religious community is going to look like in my life.  However, I also know that without it - I lose that sense of being really challenged to love. I miss out on the modeling of a life of following Jesus in the saints and I miss out on the  possibility of working together to make something new happen that I could not do myself.

And so, I am spiritual for sure.....and also find comfort and challenge in religion. .  Call me an SBR.  Spiritual but Religious!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Circle of Life

It has been a long time since I have posted a sermon - but I thought I would like a record of this one for myself.  So, here it is



 This month I want to spend some time with the Psalms –
After two months of Practical Faith – lets explore a little bit what Walter Brueggemann calls "the most reliable theological, pastoral and liturgical resource given to us in the biblical tradition.   In season and out of season, generation after generation, faithful men and women turn to the Psalms as a most helpful resource for conversation with God about the things that matter the most."
There are 150 Psalms and they are often poetic as they express the gamut of our speech from profound praise to anger and doubt.  And this month I am going to lift up three of them.. They represent the  different catagories of Psalms – according to Walter Brueggemann
Today’s Psalm 33 – is a Psalm of orientation – which represents a confident serene settlement of faith issues. As we say in one of our most common table graces: God is great and God is Good
Life is well ordered by God – and it is in many ways a NO Surprise world – and therefore a no fear world.  Invite you to open your Bibles and follow along
Organization of the Psalm  - 22 verses, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. This is not a classic alphabetic acrostic (each verse beginning with a successive Hebrew letter) but a case can be made that the versification is deliberately intended to show the coherence of the psalm’s message.  God is great and God is good and God is in control.
And it reminds us that God has order in this life   - we see it every day as the sun comes up  – we see it in the seasons of the year – and the seasons of life – a time to be born and a time to die.
And so the Psalms are God’s people praying to God and this kind of Psalm is a Psalm which is God’s people praising God – it is about the primacy of praise.
Psalm 33 is a psalm without a title. We do not know who the author of the psalm was nor the occasion of its composition, but we do know that this psalm exhorts the people of God to praise the Lord with passion, freshness, and skill.
1Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous. Praise befits the upright.
2Praise the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings.
3Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
This exhortation is given in six commands in the first three verses: Sing joyfully, praise the Lord, make music to him, sing to him a new song, play skillfully, and shout for joy. –
And then the rest of the Psalm tells us why  .  First, God is Steadfast –
4For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.
God can be counted on – three times  - steadfast love, hesed – changes around us, changes within us, changes in relationships , changes in job circumstances, changes in weather, changes in the stock market.  Change is constant – but God is steadfast
And steadfast means with us in our goodness and our badness, in our responsibility and in our times of rebellion,   And it means loving us, forgiving us, strengthening us, healing us. Steadfast -
Second, God is Creating–
  • 6By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
  • 7He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses.
  • 8Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
  • 9For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
powerful word – creation – creating babies, creating the  Grand Canyon, creating butterflies.  creating  grasshoppers – poem by mary Oliver –
Who made the world?  Who made the swan, and the black bear?  Who made the grasshopper,
This grasshopper I mean – the one who has flung herself out of the grass
The one who is eating sugar out of my hand
Who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down
Who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washer her face
Now she snaps her wings open and floats away
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention…..

why is it that we find peace and illumination in a walk in the woods – we become aware of the creating work of God – there is something so deep about it all -  may we pay attention!
Finally, God gives Oversight –
  • 13The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.
  • 14From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth—
  • 15he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds.
looking over us – from a distance – no where we can go that God is not seeing us.  Not in a Santa Claus judgmental way.  In a way of care, concern, God is free of the world and utterly attentive to it and to us
Psalm  139 is about the unescapable God   Begins like this:
Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways

And so, for Israel – they need not be anxious – there is confidence in God’s love, creating work and attention to us!  We pray this today – joining Christians who have  prayed and sung the psalms for 3000 years.  Because something happens to us when we say these words and remember this God
And here it is – our praise enables our spiritual sight.  Our praise of God lifts us up beyond our little lives, our provincial concerns, our fears, our anxieties   And we start to Read God in creation – our praise enables our spiritual sight. 
So that when we sit at the bedside of an aging parent or friend and they leave us – to go to the next destination – we remember that this is part of the circle of life.  That there is birth, life, death, new life.  It is a circle – it is not a tragedy – it is all God’s plan for life.
I love that All Saint's Day we remember and celebrate those who have touched our lives. I love imagining that this is one of the times (because of our attention to such things) that the veil between the daily, ordinary and spiritual is very thin.  And in our spiritual sight feel that they are not so far from us.
We celebrate all saints and this psalm and know that we are all saints in our own way, worthy of love and memory.  And with god – we are passing that love along.
And so we praise God through psalms like this – so that we can see God and the new world that God is creating.  And the climax of this Psalm is found in verse 18 which is translated here as TRULY – but better as BEHOLD – the eye of Yahweh is on the faithful -  - those who fear him and who HOPE IN HIS Steadfast love
18Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
It is our faith – our praise – our looking up pass the mess of the moment to recognize the HOLY GOD who is here
It made me think about a man  who recently had cataract surgery. He realized he needed the surgery when he could no longer see where his ball went as he was playing golf – he has he had priorities straight!  Once the cataracts were removed, his vision was a lot crisper and clearer.
It’s easy for us to  develop cataracts over our vision – layers of worry, fear, cynicism, expectations of how things  ought to work and then disappointment when they don’t work out that way – which can cloud our vision so that we cannot see clearly what is in fact there (just like a  golf ball which  was someplace out there – hopefully on the green) God’s kingdom, God present and at work in  our world.
And the more we live this new song praising a new world of God’s justice, the more we see evidence of that new world around us  And the more we sing and the more we sing, the more we do and the cycle just keeps going.
I have made an announcement this month – about my upcoming retirement – which I see to be part of the circle of life  For a while I have had a sense of God breaking through and telling me that it is time – to prepare myself for the next chapter in my life – which will not be full time ministry any more.
At the same time, the God is preparing someone to  be your next pastor  - someone younger with new ideas and ways of growing disciples and reaching out to share the gospel.
And I know God is s preparing you to go through the stages of grief and excitement that this kind of change brings to a church.
And this is – of course the circle of life. And this is part of God’s work in this world.
We don’t sing songs of praise for God without ignoring the reality of the world,  - that change is hard for all of us - but in the face of those realities singing this song reminds us that God is steadfast, creating something new and watching over us.
The Psalm concludes the words that we all need
20Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield.
21Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
22Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Let us continue to be people of faith.  To go back to the very first verse – Praise befits the upright  May we praise our God and  live with our eyes looking for his presence
God’s steadfast love anchors us through all the changes that are part of the seasons of life
God is great – God is good.  Amen

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Awaken Me


I like this and thought I would share it.  It is best read aloud!

"Awaken Me"  by Joyce Rupp


Risen One,
come, meet me
 in the garden of my life.
 
Lure me into elation,
Revive my silent hope,
Coax my dormant dreams,
Raise up my neglected gratitude,
Entice my tired enthusiasm,
Give life to my faltering relationships,
Roll back the stone of my indifference.
Unwrap the deadness in my spiritual life.
Impart heartiness in my work.
 
Risen One,
send me forth as a disciple of your unwavering love,
a messenger
of your unlimited joy.
 
Resurrected one,
may I become
ever more convinced
that your presence lives on,
and on, and on,
and on.
 
Awaken me!

++++++++++++++

Outreach Retreat


          This past weekend we had our second "Outreach Retreat" at Camp Christian.  The purpose of it was to gather an diverse group of people from church together to discuss outreach, to do it and to then reflect upon it.

          Last year, that was exactly what we did.  This year, we did not do the discussion or Bible study but instead  - on Friday night - engaged in  one of my favorite activities in the world!  We played dominoes and ate junk food.  We were a group of folks - there were 8 of us around the table - men and women of all ages who did not know each other very well.  But really bonded in playing this game.  While we were doing this, Wendy and her daughter were working together and making a blanket for the free store. 







Here is their finished work.















Saturday morning we worked at the free store.  What that meant was different for different people.  Marsha brought Halloween crafts for children, many people organized the materials in the store, others greeted the shoppers and Tom and Bonnie cooked hot dogs for everyone.  The free store is part of what is called "The Delaware Project" which is a new church in our denomination that is beginning - not with worship - but with service.  And the central service project is this store which provides free clothing and household goods to anyone who is in need.  It is like the grace of God - free.  And our participation last Saturday was a true blessing to all of us.

Chuck brought his fishing rods and he and I went to the lake with Raven, a little girl whose grandma was shopping. She told me that she had fished before with her Mom but her Mom and Dad did not get along, so they did not live together.  And right now she was living with Grandma.  And so on a beautiful October morning we were just blessed to help and watch Raven fish. (and catch some fish ourselves.!) 


Afterwards we gathered back in the lodge and talked about our experience of helping others.  It is a rare place where everyone comes together on the same playing field - so to speak.  The "shoppers" were not clients or customers - they really are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  There is such freedom in getting rid of the labels and just trying to be together. . And  I realize more and more how many kids need to be around caring older adults - grandma and grandpa figures who will just be patient and kind with them.

And so, again, I cherish the gift of serving a church of the size of Karl Road Christian Church.  We keep learning that coming together with each other  - in all of our differences - to play and work is just life giving for everyone.
 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

In the Arena

Yesterday I witnessed Marnie running and finishing the 4 mile race at the Octoberfest.      This is not her first race or her longest - but she just had a baby 10 weeks ago and so it may have been her most challenging.



  I honestly thought she might not make the whole 4 miles - with it being a 2 mile loop it would be very easy to quit in the middle (I saw at least one person do that).  I also thought that she might end up walking. After all she had just had a baby!   But she did not - she kept going, kept running and finished the race.  And I was so happy for her and proud of her and she was proud of herself.

Tomorrow I will have a second book study at my home on Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and I realize I am watching all three of my daughters who are putting themselves "In the Arena" of real vulnerability.  In Marnie's case, it was a conscious choice and in Kacey and Audrey's it is life circumstances.  In my last post I wrote about the strike at Reynoldsburg Schools and Kacey is in there picketing and involved in every way.
Audrey accepted a teaching job after being unable to find a job in ministry and every time I talk to her I am realizing how challenging it is to be in the classroom - especially after a break of a dozen years.  She is learning on the spot with critics all around her and she is doing it!

And I don't want to write about only my family - my life is full of examples of people who are "in there" - taking risks and trying new things.  People like Jason who with some friends started a brewery, or Kim who is entering the Wellstreams program or Gail who continually is challenged in trainings and new experiences as part of the BREAD organization. And then there are people like Lisa and Jan who had the courage to quit jobs that were toxic and seek employment elsewhere.  There are all kinds of ways that we find ourselves in the arena.

It was fun for me to be present watching Marnie but what I know is that life is really rich and full (and sometimes scary) when we are in the arena ourselves. . I celebrate my daughters and all who have the courage to take the risk of trying hard tasks.   I also stand with those whose life circumstances have put them in that difficult vulnerable place of not knowing what is coming and wondering if  you can persevere. 

Here is the quotation from Theodore Roosevelt from which the title of book comes:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the person  who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly....."




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Strike

This is now my daughter Kacey's profile  picture that she displays on facebook.  She wrote it is not a good picture but it describes how she feels - "what the hell is happening?"

I look at that picture and remember her as a little girl trying to do the right thing. And it breaks my heart - all of it.

The Reynoldsburg Teachers are on strike and today is the third day. Teachers do not go on strike casually or easily.  There is a long process of failed negotiations that have led to where they are today.  And that is - picketing outside the schools, watching children they care about and teach go into schools with inadequate teachers and security,  and not getting a paycheck or medical benefits. 

Every time I am in a prayer group I find myself asking people to pray about this situation.  97 percent of the union voted to strike but that doesn't mean that this is easy.  These teachers love kids and want to teach and walking a picket line outside the schools is something they never imagined they would do. Emotions are high as they watch some refuse to join them and others cross the picket line.  I am sure when all of this is over, there will be hard feelings and a real need for reconciliation.

And so, I write this blog just to ask for prayers here.
  •  Prayers for those people - on both sides -  who will be sitting around a table trying to come to resolution - that they might come with wisdom and compassion and care for the students. 
  •  I pray for the students who are going into the schools today and this week - that they might be safe and be able to learn something.  Kacey is a special education teacher and I can only imagine the emotional disruption for her kids as they encounter new faces in the classroom. 
  • I pray for the students who are staying home that they might be safe and able to learn something.
  • I pray for the administration that is making decisions in the present and for the future.  May they have compassion and wisdom.
  •  I pray for the teachers who are walking the picket line this week - that they might be strong and compassionate.
The hardest part to these situations is how easy it is to fall into "us" vs. "them" thinking and behavior.  Always, my hope is that we can continue to see one another as sisters and brothers - not the enemy.  And know that working for justice is hard but it does not have to be hateful.

Prayers all around.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Outdoor Worship

Yesterday morning we worshiped outside in the garden behind the church.  This picture was taken by Kim Veatch during the service.  It turns out that, like me, she was struck by the clouds moving across a very blue sky throughout the service.

I found myself thinking about change and mortality.  The day before I had attended the funeral of my seminary and clergy sister, Deb Hayden.  We had graduated from Methodist Theological School in Ohio with M Div's in 1985 and our lives would intersect periodically throughout the next 25 + years.  I remember babysitting each other's kids and conversations during regional assemblies and coming together at various times.  It is always sobering to lose your peers - especially those younger than you.

At the same time, as we sit outside it is clear that the changes of life are more than losing people.  It is also the new life that is constant and unrelenting.  In the past month I have watched Marnie give birth to her third daughter (and my 5th grandchild) and Audrey  do a career switch in going back into the classroom after over a decade away.  Change and new life.  And that is just in my family. 

The blessing of being part of a church "family" is that you can see the growth and new life in so many ways.  Yesterday our speakers at church were Dave and Anna Young who talked about faith in the workplace - Dave, in his 50's and Anna in her 20's both had wisdom to share about discipline, gratitude and prayer to get through the stresses of daily life. 

What is clear to me as I sit and watch the clouds move and form and re-form in the sky is that change is inevitable and is part of life and growth.  And it is often difficult.  So, as always, I am grateful for faith that reminds me that God is the constant in my life and our lives.

And that God brings us to change and through change and enables us to have the strength to begin and begin again.  After death, after a new job, after whatever changes have come our way.

God is good,  all the time.




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ginger

We have a new member of our family - her name is Ginger.  She is a dog that we got from the animal shelter last Monday.

I don't know how it came to be that I decided that it was time to get a dog.  I know it had something to do with "Shadow," Nicole's dog who we have babysat and I have come to love to be around.  Shadow comes when he is called and knows when he needs to go outside.  Shadow plays with his doll, "Baby" and can bring it to you on command.  And Shadow does not jump up or bark.  I found a dog that I like alot and something within me that yearned for that companionship.  Who knew?

Chuck acted like he did not want a dog until I said we weren't going to get a dog since he didn't want one.  He said. "Let's go look."  And we did and found exactly one dog in the whole shelter who we wanted - it was Ginger.  Ginger is a beagle, 4 years old, house broken.  She is small (19 lbs) and hardly barks.  She is not a dog that jumps up on furniture unless invited and is not a "licker".  She is perfect for me.

And I truly am feeling like God brought her to me and Chuck.  Chuck is, of course, spoiling her and feeding her table scraps. There have been some changes - we have spent a fair amount of money already - between the shelter, the pet store and the vets.  We are getting used to taking her outside when we get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  And we now have neighbor kids knocking on the door and asking to walk her. 

I am surprised to find how much I talk to Ginger and how much comfort I find in her presence with me while I watch TV or just live my life.  What I truly believe is that something was missing in our lives and we needed someone to take care of.  And God gave us Ginger.


And now we have Ginger. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Advance Conference

I write this on a Wednesday afternoon at the computer in the administration building at Camp Christian.  I am in the middle of a busy and yet restful week at Camp Christian.  This is the quiet time of day for me - in between the busyness of the morning and the events of the evening.

Advance Conference in our camp for young adults - from the ages of 19 - 29.  I have been on "Faculty" for over 10 years and also serve as co-director.  Every year is challenging and different and wonderful.

The week's events are guided by the officers who were elected last summer.  They have already planned two retreats during the year and now have invited all the faculty to come together this week under the theme of Peace. The day has a certain routine which has become very familiar over the years. We start with breakfast and our first faculty meeting at 9 and then a Bible study, devotions, keynote and small groups.  It is a busy morning.  Then lunch and another faculty meeting and "demois" or committee meetings. And now in the afternoon - some free time - to rest, read, talk, swim, walk.  Then dinner, vespers, small group, the evening's activities and finally the closing circle.

 As I write this I realize that there is a good reason why I am tired - it really is alot.  The good news for me this year is that I did my "Keynote" on Monday and so the pressure of preparation for that is over.  But I will say that it is a lot of work to put together a talk, a powerpoint and some experiences and questions for this group.  My keynote was on the subject of "non violent (or compassionate) communication.  I have been very interested in this for the past few years and attended a workshop on it (and wrote a blog about it ) in March.

The most important learning for me from NVC was the understanding that every person's actions have a need behind it.  And when we can learn that need, we can better communicate.  .  Yesterday the keynote was about "Inner Peace" and  how important our own self image is in terms of attaining inner peace.  And today we learned about conflict mediation.  All of this is somewhat new and somewhat familiar - but really in practice - hard. It is hard to live thoughtfully and truly aware of our own feelings and needs and also honoring the feelings and needs of others. There is no question that I teach what I am trying to learn.

What is the greatest gift of the week. however is the genuine community that happens here.    I am always happy to be with my clergy colleagues and friends as we work together and care about the young people who gather every year.  We really get a window into their lives as we watch some as they are going to college, then graduating, then finding that first job, and that special someone.  There are always so many who are in transition and that  makes this week so much more important.   We watch people changing jobs and careers, facing losses in their families, struggling in relationships... and faith is so important during those times.  Our theme of peace has been really powerful this week as we keep learning that peace is what God gives and what we do and how we live.  It is a paradox and a gift.

And so, halfway through the week, I write this in gratitude for the great blessing of another week at Camp.
There is more to come - more keynotes, discussions, fun and surprises.
And I am grateful for Camp Christian, for young adults who take on leadership, for my church which allows me to be here.
I am grateful to God for blessings and blessings and blessings.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Be Still and Know


      This has been a very challenging week.  On Tuesday I visited John and Ella Mae Lindamood at their home.  She had a small stroke on Friday (the day Maggie was born) and seemed to  be recovering.  Ella Mae could talk and walk and  even play Farkle.   I showed her the pictures of the baby and thought about how nice it would be to see her holding Maggie.  Then I prayed and left.

I had no idea that the very next day she would have a stroke that would lead to the end of her life.  I sat in the hospital with John on Wednesday night.  She died yesterday morning.  They have had a 61 year marriage and have truly been each other's best friends.  The sadness is just overwhelming.

Today I went to the morning session of the National Convocation which is a gathering of African American disciples of Christ from all over the country.  The Bible study by Rick Lowry really touched me.

The theme for the  convention is "Be Still and Know" which is a quote from psalm 46.    And he started by talking about the major question of the Psalms: How can we worship our God when we are in exile?   Here is the Psalm:


1
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
6The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah


This Psalm is one that is very familiar to me - I read it often to people in the hospital when something catastrophic has happened.  And that line "Be still and know" is often a mantra for me.
This morning I learned a lot more about the Psalm 

 .

1. . God is our refuge and strength - a refuge is a place of safety.

2.  "A help especially found in the midst of troubleS - in the Hebrew it is plural. The word for help is the same word used in Genesis 2:18 as God who called everything in creation GOOD or VERY GOOD said it is NOT GOOD to be alone and created a HELPER.  And that helper is a "corresponding opposite", that is one who is not above you or below you, but one who is with you face to face.  So that the reminder is that when we are in troubleS, God is with us.

3. Selah - No one seems to know exactly what it means - perhaps it is a musical refrain in between verses of the Psalm that is sung.  Maybe it is just a PAUSE as we allow the words of the Psalmist to soak in.  I like that - because I keep learning that too often I just keep moving and miss the real message.  God is with us  - can we pause with that?

4. The Lord of hosts is with us - that is the heavenly hosts - Yahweh is the commander in chief of the armies of heaven

5. The God of Jacob - he reminded us that Jacob goes into exile in Mesopamia and that God is especially present with Jacob in the midst of troubles.

6. he makes wars cease - STOP - using the same word as in Genesis 2: 1-4.  The 7th day when God stopped work.  Here he stops war!

7. Be still means - relax and don't give up because God is here.

8. Exalted - I am rising up in the world.  "I am a rising tide that lifts all boats.


It reminds me of the verse that I carry with me ever since   Bible school  where Jesus said  “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”  (John 5:17)

There are times when I am struck by how hard life can be.  It is not good to be alone and so we find - if we are lucky - a partner for our lives.  And then it is so hard when they leave us to go to be with God.  And then we feel like we are in exile - away from home and lost. But today as we spent time with this ancient text I remembered again that there is nowhere we go - no valleys or pits - that God is not with us.

Be still and know that I am God   I am with you.

Selah




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Margaret Rose

On July 18th at 1:32 AM Margaret Rose Schultz came into this world.
And I am still awed by the miracle of it all!

Here are some of the blessings of these past 2 days:

 - being with a large family that gathered to support Marnie and Erik through the labor.  We spent about 10 hours together in the waiting room at Riverside Hospital - playing cards, eating, talking, watching "Big Brother", and going back and forth to see them and report on progress. 

 - much of our communication in the last hour was through text.  As I look back over my cell phone - here is what Erik wrote: "I think we are getting close"  and 20 minutes later  "We're pushing" and then 20 minutes later: "She's here and beautiful!".  And we in the waiting room we erupt in laughter and cheers!

 - nine of us were there at 2  clock in the morning when we got to have our first glimpse of Maggie and hold her.  For me,  it was so wonderful to watch this family - Reagan, Addie, Marnie and Erik welcome her. 




 - being part of a church family that so obviously cares about us.  This has been Vacation Bible School Week so every day there have been questions and prayers for everyone.

 - watching Reagan and Addie as they got ready for their little sister.  They have been so gentle with her and delighted to hold her, feed her and change her.

 - seeing Erik as a new dad.  He is a wonderful step dad to Reagan and Addie and to see him hold Maggie  and care for her fills me with joy that is beyond description.



- so a new family member has arrived  and she is already bringing people together and changing us in ways that we cannot  imagine.  I continue to be awed by God's movement in our lives that brings healing and wholeness and love and life.

 -
Margaret Livingstone (margot ) holding Margaret Rose (Maggie)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Being With God

If I were going to write a  book on my week of silence at the pines I would title it "Being With God."
That is what a silent retreat is all about and that is the gift and the challenge of spending a week in retreat.
This year I went to "Our Lady of the Pines" in Fremont and my spiritual director was Sister Breta - who was my spiritual director during the time I served as pastor in Bowling Green.

This is my third silent retreat (I have done one every other year) and I continue to learn the benefit of time away with God and the great blessings.  I write throughout the day on retreat and at the end of the week this was my summary of the time spent.  It is always hard to describe the "movement of spirit" and the ways in which God appears and touches my soul but this is what I wrote that last morning.  And this is what I experienced:

Good Morning God
As I begin this last day I come to you in awe and gratitude.  This has turly been a blessed time and I have remembered and learned much.

1. Slowing down has been a gift and a challenge.  But it has been in slowing down that I was able to breate and see and taste the beauty and the blessings. We ate in silence every meal and I ate slowly and literally had space between the bits so that I could taste the eggs and the cheese in my omelet today.  Wait and taste the canteloupe and the strawberries.  Wait and taste and savor the bacon.  So much of my life is taking it in and hardly knowing what I am tasting and eating.  And that - of course - is a metaphor for every aspect of my life.

2. Time spent Gazing - walking and stopping, sitting and seeing and pondering the beauty, the freedom, the mystery of the trees.   I spent a fair amount of time looking up toward the sky and watching the trees dance in the wind - it is mesmerizing and beautiful beyond description.  I sat by the pool in the afternoon and just watched the clouds move and change and move some more.  And realize that this is life as struggles come and go - always changing.  "This too shall pass" is more than just a trite statement - it is a truth of all the events - the good and the bad, the hard and the easy.  They come and go and we can enter in to everything and endure and appreciate it all.

3. God's Word - I spent time with God through reading and God's word.  The very first day I was drawn through the book "Wayfaring" by Margaret Silf to the paradox of Jesus found in John
     Jesus is in the Father
     I am in him
     He is in me.
That mystery - that ultimate mystery - is comforting to me.  There is comfort a in being with Jesus.  There is the call on my life knowing that I am in him and power that He is in me.  And I walked and sat and prayed in that truth.

4.  Touching the Wounds -  I was very aware that on retreat my numbing activities were unavailable to me - no television, no I Pad activities, no eating beyond the three meals. Intellectually I know that there is a reason that everyone engages in "numbing" - it is because there are wounds that we do not want to experience. And the gift of retreat is a time and place for honest reflection and facing what I don't want to feel.  God is with me to bless the encounter and redeem my life.
    One of the great wounds is aging - I am 65 years old now and know that I am nearing the end of my time as senior pastor.  And such a change in status - retirement - is a loss of identity and the joy of this ministry that has been my life for 29 years.  Who will I be when I am no longer pastor of Karl Road Christian Church?  And I was able to name that fear, enter into it in an honest, real and tearful way.
      And at the same time I experienced a very real sense of God's presence in that moment - I had a "blessed assurance" of God's comfort and abiding love.  One of my favorite hymns is "I was there to hear your borning cry" and that understanding was expressed to me in a very real way by God on Monday night - the first night of retreat.  I cannot explain it and do not want to cheapen it - but God revealed to me God's presence and love and strength that has been with me throughout these years of ministry.

Later in the week I touched other wounds - the wounds caused by my failures, sin, pride, and shame.  I went to the Labyrinth and allowed myself to see that I pretend is not there - and gave it to God in confession as I slowly walked into the center.  It was a time of naming and emptying myself.  And then I could stand in the center to receive grace.  Stand in the center grateful for God's continual grace and mercy.  And then return back receiving the spirit as I sang over and over again "Spirit of the Living God."

5. In the middle of the week I experienced boredom - or on reflection and more honestly - Resistance.  My resistance was this sense of "been there done that", a dryness, an impatience.  I thought "I've gotten a lot out of these few days, I have a lot to do, maybe I should just go."  "Maybe this is enough"  And how wasteful to do nothing.  I shared this with Sister Breta and she talked about "the enemy" which was really helpful to me.  And that being with God - that is being with and not doing for - is really challenging.  I learn again that being with God is being open and empty and waiting and trusting - that with God there is more.  But, I waited and waded through this.

6. A Deep JOY and Renewed PURPOSE.  How this happened I do not know.  But it did by the end of the retreat.  Maybe it was as I started re reading "The Untethered Soul"  and finding freedom and wisdom there; maybe it was the gift of prayer in the woods and being visited by 2 baby deer that sat 10 feet from me, maybe it was gathering with a community of saints Friday night (most of the other 20 + participants in retreat this week were nuns); maybe it was the time of silence in the prayer room on Friday night.

I do know that the great blessing of community with the "Sisters" spoke to me.  I am on a silent retreat - but not alone.  Ultimately I so identify with these holy women even though I am married, mother, grandmother and ordained minister in the christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  We are all women who have devoted our lives to serving the Lord.  And we all serve within flawed institutions but ultimately it is not the church - but the Lord who has called us from the womb, named us, formed us and is using us.  It is the God who is underneath all creation, who created the pine trees and the rocks and the grass and the sky - that is calling me into new and more life.  Still.

How can I express that deepening awareness of call?  I cannot express it, but I have experienced it.

And so I am grateful for this week - 6 days in which I reconnected to the source of my being.  I have re committed myself to be faithful to you.  And I pray that I will be open to Your guidance in the future.
Amen


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ten Commandments for Mature Living

I have been slowly reading "Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity" by Ronald Rolheiser.  The first book I read by him was "The Holy Longing" which he describes as a foundational book - a Spirituality 101 course that is inteneded to help us "get our lives together and achieve an essential discipleship."

Sacred Fire is a book that address the deeper questions as we continue the journey of faith: How can we live less self-centered, more mature lives?  What constitutes deep maturity and how do we reach that place?  And what constitutes a truly mature following of Jesus?

Near the end of the book he writes about these - his ten commandments for Mature Living. (or 10 commandments for the Long Haul!)  Instead of "thou shalt not" these invitations invite us to a higher place, a deeper maturity, and a more intimate relationship with God and one another.
Here they are: 

1. Live in gratitude and thank your Creator by enjoying your life.

2. Be willing to carry more and more of life's complexities with empathy.

3. Transform jealousy, anger, bitterness, and hatred rather than give them back in kind.

4. Let suffering soften your heart rather than harden your soul.

5. Forgive - those who hurt you, your own sins, the unfairness of your life, and God for not rescuing you.

6. Bless more and curse less!

7. Live in a more radical sobriety.

8. Pray, affectively and liturgically

9. Be wide in your embrace.

10. Stand where you are supposed to be standing, and let God provide the rest.

May we all continue to grow in our faith and seek a deep and lasting intimacy with our God.