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:

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.


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.

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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I See You

That was the theme of this year's Quadrennial of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.)  The Quadrennial is a women's convention that happens every four years and I was blessed to attend it this year.  I went originally because Kay had asked me to help her lead a workshop.  But the reality was that the experience proved to be so much more to me.
There were several aspects of the 5 days that spoke to me.

First - it was a tremendous blessing to worship and not have any responsibility for anything in the service.  I had not realized how hungry I was to just be with God in community. Most ministers, if they were honest, would tell you it is hard to shut out the "evaluative" voice about worship  - since that is what we do.  And I will say, that when I was able to - I found myself literally in tears and experiencing God's presence.  There is something so rich about worshipping with women.  And so, I loved that.

Second it was an opportunity to make and renew friendships.  I ended up staying with Dawn Remster, the pastor of First Christian Church in Zanesville.  The last Quadrennial I had attended was in 1986 (as we were new pastors) - with Dawn, so there was certainly symettry.  She is a pastor who is the "real deal" - a faithful woman of God and I was thankful just to spend these days with her.  Also with "her women" - Susie, Judy and Kim and the women of Bowling Green.  It was just fun to be catch up and be with everyone.

Third - we were in Atlanta and were able to experience some of the history of that wonderful city.  On Saturday we went on a "Pilgrimage" to the Martin Luther King center and the Ebeneazor Baptist Church.  It was really important to be in that ordinary church where he grew up and became the pastor.  It reminded me of how churches can incubate great leaders.  His life and legacy are extraordinary and continue to inform us.

Fourth, I participated in a walk against human trafficking on Saturday morning.  Again this was a time of learning about the issue in a deeper way and helping to raise awareness.  I know that human trafficking is happening in my neighborhood - a mile from the church.  I wonder what our call as a congregation is regarding this important issue. 

And finally, I really like the theme of the whole assembly - "I See You."  A simple three word statement that reminds us of how important it is to see others and to be seen.  Sunday morning Cynthia Hale preached a tremendous sermon that put it all together for me.  We have a God who sees us - who sees our soul thirst and our tremendous potential.  She said "I see you whole and living with overflow" and continued to remind us of the things that block the flow - sin, settling for substitutes and unbelief. I cannot express it in a few words but I did write this sentence at the end of the sermon - "The more you know God, the more you want to know God."

And that is the truth of my life.  This weekend was a way for me to experience God in some different ways - worship, study, justice work, friendships and being away from my ordinary life.