Friday, September 25, 2015

A Word about the Pope


That really is the word that has come to me this morning as I watch the Pope praying at Ground Zero in New York.  He stands there in prayer while people watch him, photographers walk around getting the best picture, the news media commentates and the police protect him.  He stands in prayer to God at this site of evil that was the beginning of so much more bloodshed in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But he prays as if they are not there.  He is calling on a power that is not of this world.  In faith.

Watching him for these days has been a revelation of what a life lived for God looks like.  I was struck by one newswoman who in describing his reaching out to people past the comfort zone that his protectors what for him said:  "There is such freedom to not worrying about protecting your life."  That is - there is such freedom to trusting God.

And now I see how he is making choices to go to places of pain and tension and brokenness

*  eating with the homeless
* speaking to  the deeply divided congress
*  speaking to the  conflicted UN
* Praying and comforting at Ground Zero

It could be all ceremonial but it so clearly isn't.  I am touched by this man who speaks and lives the way of Jesus.  Who tells the leaders of our country and the world to apply the Golden Rule as they make decisions that affect everyone.

John Boehner is resigning and it was reported that he read aloud the famous prayer by Saint Francis and the speculation is that somehow this visit nudged him to a new path in his life.  That is surely the way God works - through people who have the courage to truly put their trust in God.  What could be more freeing or more powerful than that?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Last Time

Warning - this gets kind of personal......

Yesterday I had my last pap smear.  Unless they find something problemmatical - this is it.  Who knew that when you got to a certain age they stop needing to do this very intrusive and personal procedure?  Not me.

I told my doctor that I was probably going to blog about this because it seems actually noteworthy.  One more step on the aging path leading me closer to "Crone - hood."  The wise old woman, I hope and not the old crank.

I asked my doctor if she remember her first pap smear - I remember mine.  It was a big surprise and my mother did not prepare me for this at all.  And it was, as was usual for that time, a male doctor.
Much different these days as there are explanations throughout the procedure now and a familiar women  and (after three children) it is almost routine.  But that first one!  Wow - it was startling and embarrassing.  Talk about feeling vulnerable!

So, I say good bye to that part of my life.  And embrace this interesting experience of aging.  There is much that I miss - like my youthful metabolism, smoother skin and better memory.  But this is one part I will not miss.

Good bye pap smear.  I won't miss you at all!

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Life Worthy

The texts of today are: Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-13; Psalm 19, Matthew 9: 9-13

My first reading is Paul:
Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace:

And I reflect on yesterday and find myself struggling with my irritability and impatience with my husband.  he is aging, he doesn't hear well, he processes slowly and I react - out loud - with it all.  Wanting him to act differently, to be someone he is not.

Not exactling living a life "worthy" of the calling I have received.

It is the gospel lesson of today that gives me hope and comfort. As I read about Jesus who calls Matthew; Jesus who eat with sinners, Jesus who says:
 Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

And so my silent prayers ensue.  Asking for a loving spirit to fill me so that I might receive mercy and walk in the ways of the Lord.  So that I might grow - not only in faith - but in love.  Love for everyone - but especially for those who are closest to me.

Lord Jesus, son of the living God, have mercy on me.


Sunday, September 20, 2015


It is Sunday afternoon and I have been to church in Findlay Ohio and returned home to read the Sunday times and then to spend time in the prayer room.

The text for both the sermon this morning  and meditation this afternoon was Mark 9: 30-37.  Jesus is traveling with his disciples and teaching them about his coming suffering and when they arrived there is this dialogue:

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

In the meditation on this text I read about "philautia" which means love of self and was called the "queen of all vices."  I know this vice very well.  How we get caught up in our own egos and ambitions and miss out on what God is doing.

So, I sat in what I was calling prayer pondering this and trying to let go of my philautia.  But even in prayer there is this question - how am I doing?  am I doing this right?  when I see my new spiritual director will I be "the greatest" prayer? am I going to be rewarded (like with a great insight or something!)? If you could read my mind during my "prayer time" you would be appalled by the "philautia" - the self concern -  that keeps floating and in and out of what I really want to be time opening myself to God and God's spirit.  And what I know is that my comparing myself with others is always coming out of a sense of anxiety and inadequacy.  But how do I stop?

I gave up and went to my IPAD for something and my eyes fell on the end of the scripture and I did see something new.

 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

 And maybe there is some hope for me here - something about  uncovering, discovering, recovering the child within me who is not ambitious or wary or self protective.  That child who is vulnerable, open,  joyful, trusting and fun.  I feel like this journey with God is one of letting go of the serious and anxious Margot and rediscovering a much more playful and joyful part of myself.  A little girl who knows she is loved no matter what.

Sometimes when I get to this place of seriousness and self flagellation I remember a home movie of me when I was about 6 - and I am jumping and running and excited by something.  Which is who I so often was when I was a child.  Excited.  So I picture that little girl and I know the blessings of her life - too many to name - and feel ready to welcome her.      Here she is with her big brother, Wayne.

This little girl knew she was loved no matter what and like her I can trust enough to listen to God instead of trying to manage everything for myself.  
I return to the silence and in it I hear a voice of love and yes, laughter.  God is HERE, I am HERE. we are HERE together and it is good.

Friday, September 18, 2015

At the beginning

I am beginning a new undertaking and today is the first day.
I have just returned from the opening retreat for the 30 week "Retreat in Daily Life" and I am excited to say the least.

There were about a dozen of us in the opening circle who gathered with our Spiritual Directors.  We heard the story of St. Ignatius.  This was not new to me but I heard different things this time.  And it is helpful in understanding the "Ignatian Exercises."

Janice Bachman read to us some of "St. Ignatius Own Story" by Williams Young.  We learned about a man who was "given over to the vanities of the world" who had a "great and vain desire of winning glory."  He lived over 500 years ago, but his story is my story too.

It is the story of transformation that began in the tragedy of a wartime injury that ended in his life that gave glory to God.  As I listened today, I heard all kinds of ways in which God was actively guiding Ignatius.  Afterward, we were asked "where is God in this experience?"  I found the word "Waiting"come up in my.  God was waiting - always waiting.

And that is how God works.  God was always present with Ignatius as God is always present with me and waiting for us to notice.  Ignatius in his recovery started to notice.  He noticed the times he was happy and the times he was not.  Or to say it more completely - he notices what gave him consolation and what led him into desolation.  He reflected on his life and paid attention to his dreams.  And of course, his noticing came because he could not do the things he wanted to do to "win glory."  Instead of a life of activity, his notcing, reflecting and attention guided him to what he would otherwise have missed - God's subtle healing, movement and guidance.

So I begin a discipline tomorrow of an hour a day with God and will spend time noticing, reflecting and paying attention.  There is in me a longing for going deeper with God and I welcome this structure. 
I heard two quotes today that really spoke to me:
"Our yearning for God is but a mere reflection of God's yearning for us."
"Go with expectancy, but not expectations"

And so, I go with expectancy trusting that God has been waiting for me.  The past 9 months of my retirement has been filled with lots of activity.  Some of it ministry - preaching a little, doing a wedding, a funeral, a retreat, some spiritual direction.  Some of it with family - being available to children and grandchildren and having Brian move in with us. Some of it with friends and traveling.

What I wonder is whether this will continue or whether "something new" may be being birthed in me.  I wonder.  I welcome this time and this opportunity for spiritual growth. And I wonder.  And something in me says - trust, relax, let go and have fun with all of this. 

The retreat started with a prayer song by Meister Eckhart which goes like this:

In the core of the Trinity, the Father laughs;
the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son.

In the core of the Trinity, the Son laughs
the Son laughs back and gives birth to the Spirit.

In the core of the Trinity, They all laugh;
They all laugh and give birth to us!

May I experience JOY during these 30 weeks!

Hanging out with Taylor

Last night I went - with Kacey - to a Taylor Swift concert.  And it was something else.

For the past few years I have stopped giving my daughters material presents for Christmas in favor of experiences.  And the best ones are the ones I get to share with them.  So, this last Christmas (and for her birthday) I gave Kacey tickets to this concert that was 9 months away! 

Not knowing at the time that Kacey would have parent conferences that night and that Jackson would have soccer practice and Alyse would have cross country practice and Brett would be out of town.  It was a big question early in the week whether Kacey could manage this - but thanks to her wonderful mother in law Karen and friends who drove the kids we did it!  And it was worth it all.

This was her 1989 concert - based on that music from that album and 1989 is - of course - her birth year.  Mine is 1949 and I wonder if I was the oldest person there.  It seemed like it but it really didn't matter.  This was, without a doubt, the biggest concert I have ever been to and it was noteworthy for many reasons
1. The first thing was the noise - I have truly never been in a space of so much sound - the musicians were part of it, but most of it was the crowd of mostly young girls.  Boy, do they know how to scream.

2. The lighting and the production values were fantastic.  Everyone of the 15000 in the arena were given bracelets that changed colors and Taylor sang different songs.  It was extraordinary and just exciting to be part of it.

3. Taylor Swift is one polished performer.  She had lots of costume changes, played several instruments, danced and pranced on the moving stage.  They had screens with dramatic close ups of her face and it was amazing.

4. Somehow, she managed to make all of us feel like she was blessed that we were spending an evening "hanging out" with her.  There is the cynic inside of me that was silenced as she earnestly spoke about broken hearts that heal, about  being brave enough to love again and the importance of girl friends.  It was a good message.

5. The best part was being with Kacey.  She loved it and I love her and what can be better than that.

I have been listening to a book by Jane Paul about reinventing your life and I thought that while I may not do this again for many years - I am happy to be doing something very different for me.
Having just a fun evening hanging out with Taylor and one of my favorite people on the planet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Friend Request

That is the name of the retreat that I just Keynoted this weekend at Camp Christian and I am still coming down from the fun of that time.

On my last post I wrote about how "Slowly but surely" things were coming together for this very big event and they did.  Beautifully and Awesomely.

The greatest blessing of this time for me was that I was working with friends to put together a weekend devoted to celebrating and exploring what it means to be "spiritual friends."  And here are some of my personal highlights and learnings of the time.

1. We had some ideas that we wanted to try out and they worked well.  One of them was that we had a frame on which we put the words "Friend Request" and we took pictures of everyone with old and new friends and put them on facebook.  It was so much fun to watch the way the women really entered into this.  Here is one of my pictures

2. Our worship was wonderful - particularly Sunday morning.  We had Judy Alston leading music and Nicole signing and Wendy and I did a drama about Mary and Elizabeth.  When it was almost over, I sat in a chair looking out at the lake and watching women take communion and just felt overwhelmed by the joy of it all.

3. I loved our "team" and how much fun we had together and how we just deepened our own friendships.  One of the best parts of the whole weekend was the storytelling on Sunday night.  And seeing Marsha, Kerry and Wendy and others tell stories was extraordinary.  It was a time of laughter and connecting as the stories went from why Kerry told her daughter there was no Santa Claus when Norma was 4 years old to stories about the death of a mother or a dog that gave comfort when someone felt suicidal.  It could not have gone better.

4. The keynotes gave me pleasure to write and then to deliver.  I loved thinking about friendship, reading and learning and then sharing what I found out.  I have not really written a sermon in almost 9 months and this was just a whole weekend of that creative work for me.  And the best part was it was not stressful at all.

What was the greatest part of all of this was the realization of the many friends that I have in my life.  It is certainly true that life is challenging but the blessing of friendships really helps me to not only "get through" but to experience JOY in it all.

The Bible study that we did on Saturday morning was John 15: 9-16.  Here is one of my favorite verses from it:

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Slowly but surely

I woke up this morning thinking about the women's retreat that I am keynoting in 10 days.  It has been on my mind for the last few days and now I wake up with ideas for my talk and a song in my head.  And I know that slowly but surely it is coming together.

Last night Kerry called me.  We are doing a workshop together at the retreat and she came over and in an hour's time we had it put together and outlined.  Monday Wendy and I had breakfast and we talked through both the icebreaker games, the Friday night dances and our drama for Sunday.  And today Marsha and I will work out her "Making Mandala" workshop.  Slowly but surely it is coming together.

At the same time we are living with Brian and watching as slowly but surely his life is coming together.  He has found resources and - amazingly - most of them have been close to home so that he can ride his bike or drive.  He is in counseling and has found a job training resource.  He is finding people to help him to apply for assistance in various ways.  Slowly but surely I see changes in him and know that God's healing is happening.

Sunday morning I preached in Lima a sermon about following Jesus and it really is taking the risk of the God dependent life.  For me, that becomes something more than just words when I find myself in situations that are beyond my ability and really have to trust God.  And that is how it is for me these days.  And what happens is that I find myself on a morning like this in awe and I see the glimpses of the spirit at work - bringing me (and Brian) people to help and guidance at sometimes hard and confusing times.

The women;'s retreat is about "Spiritual Friendship" and I really think those are the people that God sends our way to support, guide and love us in life.  I am grateful for all the people who help me to "Keep smiling, keep shining".
This is the song that came to me this morning.

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That's what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends are for
Well, you came in loving me
And now there's so much more I see
And so by the way
I thank you
Oh and then for the times when we're apart
Well, then close your eyes and know
The words are coming from my heart
And then if you can remember
Keep smiling and keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That's what…