Thursday, April 24, 2014

Since Easter

And my birthday .........I have been tired but happy but tired and kind of sick

but still happy.

This time last week I was preparing for our Maundy Thursday worship service which was, as always very meaningful. There was something that happened to many of us at the end as we sang the familiar words of "were you there" and came forward and placed a nail in the cross. There is something about the image of Jesus on the cross that speaks to me about God's love and the place of sacrifice in our faith that touches my soul in ways that words cannot express. The next day I was part of a group of northland clergy that participated in a "reader's theatre" of the passion of Jesus. And again that place was touched within me. What I know is that faith is a relationship with the one who "emptied himself" in order to show us that way of life. A life of self emptying and allowing and trusting God's spirit. And the end of Lent - the time at the cross speaks to me in a way that nothing else does about this essential message.

At the same time I was experiencing one of the best birthdays of my life. I turned 65 on Saturday and was determined to spend it in the way that gave me joy - and I did. My granddaughters alyse and addie spent the night on Friday. They are cousins and not siblings so instead of fighting they just talk and laugh and run and imagine together. And they played games with me which just gives me joy. They stayed up on Friday night until 1 AM talking and giggling in bed, but even that gave me joy in seeing them and pretending to be the stern Ogram.
Saturday we went to Camp Christian where I sang in a little Easter service for the free store population. We also brought 2 fishing poles and fished. As soon as I cast the first time I caught a fish and several more after that. Addie caught her first fish that day. More kids came and shared in the fishing with us and it was fun to watch them cooperate with each other in baiting hooks, sharing rods and removing the fish. after everyone left Addie, Alyse and I were alone at camp for about an hour. I just fished by myself and they ran and ran and ran all over camp exploring. What could be more fun for a 9 and an 11 year old. Before we left, we walked to vespers and the path there was lined with daffodils in bloom. Gorgeous.
that evening I went to my favorite restaurant - The Boat House (formerly the confluence). The service and food were mediocre but the view was wonderful as I got to watch the sun set and the lights of Columbus come on.

And the next day was Easter - with three services. The sunrise service was wonderful. We started at 6:30 in a circle outside in the garden. There were 23 of us and we began by telling the story of the events of holy week, placing items on the table - like palm leaves, money, bread and cup, linen cloths, etc. then a time of silence and the celebration of EASTER - and the sun was UP and we sang "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" and it was perfect. at the end I gave everyone a gladiola bulb for reflection on "new life" and then the opportunity to plant it in our "Easter Garden." It all worked as I had dreamed that it would and I felt blessed. The other services were also inspired and meaningful and the day in worship was good.
That afternoon the family and some friends came over for smoked turkey, cheesy potatoes and games. Fun for me - not just to play but to be in the presence of people I love who are with each other.

So, this Thursday, I am still in recovery - not from trauma - but from a blessed weekend. A cold came upon me yesterday and God is telling me to rest. And so, I shall.

I am awed by all of it. Worship that reminds me of who I am as a follower of Jesus. and birthday celebrations that keep me connected to the real joy of life with family and friends.

I am grateful. and tired.

and happy.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Prayer on Maundy Thursday

Jesus, Servant

Your towel around your waist
you are washing the feet of your disciples including Judas
including me
a parable for all of us

Jesus Servant

with a loaf and a cup before you
you broke bread and shared wine at the table
you are broken open and poured out
for us

Jesus servant
on your knees in the garden
grieving in your soul as you ask for direction
must you drink the cup of suffering
your struggle is for us

Jesus servant
you keep calling me to drink the cup
of serving
breaking open
pouring out

Jesus, servant
be with me today
as I sit by the cross
and ponder this life
with you


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

God Alone Never Changes

We are almost at the end of the "Lenten Retreat" with Teresa of Avila and so many of the prayers have spoken to me intimately. Today we remember that - unlike us - God never changes.

she writes:
Sometimes I feel completely detached, when I am in a moment of trial
yet the next day I discover that I am quite attached to the very things that I would have laughed at yesterday,
and I hardly recognize myself.
One day I am so full of courage that I would do anything for God.
The next day I would not kill an ant if I met the slightest opposition.
There are days when nothing anyone says disturbs me,
An d yet there are also days when a single word so devastates me that I long to flee this world.....

I see this within my spirit constantly. I am so inconstant -one moment strong and wise and the next weak and fearful. And truly sometimes I despair of who I am.
Reading the prayer this morning is so helpful because it names our fickle and changing condition and the truth that God does not change

So I sit in an empty sanctuary and reflect on this very good news. You never change God - you bring your strength, compassion and love into this sometimes weak, self centered and judgmental person that is me.

I come in prayer to receive you - or as my sermon Sunday said it - to be "re-membered" - re-attached to the body of Christ. It is when I come to the community, to holy spaces, to read your word that your spirit is awakened within me and you who never changes can bring a change within me. Always my mantra is "I am here to be with YOU" And that is where the abundant life is found.

One of my favorite prayers of all time is by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - who am I? And it speaks to this reality that we are both strong and weak, And that while others may see the strength and peace within us, we also know of the weakness and confusion. here is how that prayer ends:

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine

And so I pray this morning.
Who am I?
Weak or strong?
rebellious or faithful?
fret full or at peace?
Self centered or self giving?
Who am I
Whoever I am, Lord, I am yours.

I write all this in a journal that has this quote at the bottom of the page:
"if your seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Jesus" Thomas A Kempis.

May it be so. Amen

Friday, April 11, 2014

Trials are the measure of God’s love.

This is today's mantra from Teresa of Avila: TRIALS ARE THE MEASURE OF GOD'S LOVE

I sit in the sanctuary this morning and see the flowers that are from the "Stefani's Champions" luncheon. This luncheon honors the caregivers of those who have cancer. Several years ago Trixie was honored by her daughter Lisa and we went as part of "Team Lisa" in support and love. We continue to go to this event because which is both inspiring and bittersweet because both Stefanie Spielman and Lisa have passed away. And so as I read today's prayer and mantra I cannot help but think about Fred and Trixie and my family members who have been through the trials of cancer and know that it strips away everything that doesn't matter.

I started today looking at the mirror and wondering about whether or not to have a haircut and all that involves. new style? color? money? And now I sit here and remember my sister, my mother and Lisa with their hair gone. Trials are the measure of God's love?

This is a hard and simple and probably true statement. It seems that in the trials God burns away the external issues and cares and what remains is what really matters. Years ago I used to do videos asking people "the meaning of life" - and I have my Mom on tape saying that it was all about Relationships. And that is really IT.

I do not seek or want the trials of life. But I know they illuminate the purpose of life. The only thing that truly lasts is love. The love of God that is ever present and often expressed through the love of family and friends.

My prayer for this day is that I might be a source of love for those who are going through their trials today.
may it be so

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Compassionate Communication

I just spent a day and a half in Cleveland at a Workshop on Compassionate Communication. I went to it originally to learn more about Compassionate Communication (or non violent communication) to help my keynote at Advance Conference this year.

However, it soon became clear that I really needed to be there for myself. We began by filling out intention cards and I realized that my intention was to improve in deep listening. And this was really really helpful. It was truly about learning how to bring empathy into every situation - coming to it was "a silent mind (non judging) and an open heart.

And so much of this resonated with what I am learning from Brene Brown about being vulnerable and from Richard Rohr about non dual thinking.
He listed examples of what he called conflict generating language:
1. Judgments...good, bad, right, wrong
2, demands - threats
3. Imposing my judgment about what you should or ought to
4. deserve - reward and punishment
5. blame
6. labeling - stereotyping
7. no choice - you cant, you have to, you must

And some of the people said that this described their workplace. And I found myself thinking - this is a description of what I would call "bad religion". Jeff said we life in a culture that has an "empathy deficit" and I would certainly agree with that.

Anyway, the point was that what we need to do with one another is listen non judgmentally so that we can hear what happened, what are thefeelings of the person and then and most importantly - identify their needs.

What I know is that we have so many people who do not know how to really talk to each other and so many who feel like no one hears them. This was absolutley a wonderful workshop.

One of the ideas I wrote down from today was that empathy received takes the tension away and then you start to solve the problem.

There is more, much more - but I will stop there for tonight. I look forward to sharing this with our elders and others.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Do Not Hope For Too Litte

This really spoke to me in my morning devotions today.

Do not hope for too little.

I became aware of how easy it is to be "realistic" and therefore complacent.
It all may come back to the fear of being vulnerable.

Anyway here is MY morning prayer

Devil is at work within me as I start this day in distress and anxiety.
Until I come to your sanctuary and this time with you.

Lord, I want to be faithful
guided by you to do your healing work
I want to be bold in what I do today
I do not need to think about what anyone else thinks

I need to allow you to guide me to serve, to love to share, to illuminate

Do not hope for too little

I have seen how easily I settle but you keep calling me to MORE

Do not hope for too little

These words just shout through my smugness and complacency
these words speak volumes about what we can do and become
these words burst within my soul today

Do not hope for too little

PS - on the bottom page of my journal this morning was this quote from St Francis De Sales

"God most often works gently and gradually. he draws us nearer one step at a time.
The first action is his alone.
He awakens us"

Do not hope for too little.