Thursday, April 21, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Birthday Edition

Jan over at RevGalBlogPals gave us the following gift: What do you think of birthdays? 1. What are your feelings about celebrating birthdays, especially your own? You know... I'm pretty ambiguous about this. As an adult, I think celebrating my birthday is... well... stupid. I will admit this could be a control issue as I don't like to be the center of attention if I am not controlling it. There, I said it. I have also found them to be overall disappointing, so why bother. I have NO problem celebrating other people's birthdays. In fact, one of my favorite people is having a BIG birthday and I've been enjoying planning some thing for her to enjoy. 2. Do you have any family traditions about birthdays? No. My Mom grew up with an airline pilot for a Dad so that left out any scheduling traditions and has probably led to our own family's 'take-it-or-leave-it' approach to birthdays. 3. Is it easy to remember friends' and family members' birthdays? If so, how do you do it? No. It's not. In fact I have a very small people that I make sure I remember (Mom, sister, son...). If you are an adult, you know it's your birthday. A message from me isn't going to save the day. 4. What was one of your favorite birthdays? (or your unhappiest?) My sophomore year - yep, 16 - I was invited to prom on that same day but wasn't allowed to go (too young?) and then my parents forgot my birthday. And Matthew Schoeffling did not show up to salvage it either. 5. Post anything else you want to share about birthdays, including favorite foods, songs, and/or pictures. I think I've been depressing enough for one post. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More than Those Who Watch for the Morning

I don't know what I was thinking.

My nephew and his father wanted to go on an overnight hiking trip. I had never done this before. Worse yet, they had never done this before. Sure, I'll go.

While still at home I read up as much as I could about the trail we would be on, our start and finish points, and what to pack. I practiced hiking with a heavy pack by walking around Kings Gap with my friend's infant son on my back. I read up on GORP - because what I remembered from my Girl Scout hikes was the trail mix: granola, m&m's, dried fruit and nuts.

On the night before we were going to go, I measured out enough GORP for a week-long trek through the Amazon. This was one overnight, up the Appalachian Trail, then off on a side trail and back again to our starting point.

Instead of packing 10 pound bags of GORP, I should have been doing altitude training because our hike began at the Fontana Dam, right at the edge of the North Carolina and Tennessee border and ascended quickly. In one day we climbed 2,000 brutal, exhausting feet… "Did I volunteer for this torture?"

I was out of shape, but my brother-in-law was hurting. He not only had his backpack,
overloaded with the stuff inexperienced people bring on such treks, but he also had about 50-75lbs of extra body weight he had intended to lose before our little adventure AND the pride he was carrying which was refusing to let him give me anything from his backpack to put in mine.

My nephew was an eager and able 12 year old whose energy knew no bounds nor
understanding of why he kept having to run back and check on the grown-ups. Finally, at a particularly peakid point of our journey, his father acquiesced and let the woman take some of the weight out of his backpack and put it in mine.

Of course, now as we journied on I was the one burdened with not only the added weight in my backpack and the extra pounds of body weight I had meant to lose before our adventure... but also the weight of pride. Because we all know there was NO way I was handing any of that stuff back for him to carry.

As the old phrase goes: Pride goeth before the passing out.

We did manage to make it to the top of our ascent and revelled in our victory. Nephew and I even climbed up a fire tower so we could look out over the vast expanse of mountain sides that surrounded us and all the way down 2,050 feet to Fontana Lake and Dam below.... the terror I felt at that moment will be in a sermon for another day.

As we made the turn down a side trail to make our return to the truck and civilization (read: flushies) we also started to look for the campsite we had reserved… or to be more specific, the clearing that had a painted number on a piece of wood over it.

Here is why it was so important that we find that clearing. At these campsites they had pulley systems set up between two trees so that you could hoist your backpacks into the air in order to keep them away from… the bears.

Seriously, what were we thinking?

Dusk began to descend and unfortunately so did the raindrops. We were just about to camp i the next clearing no matter whether it had a sign on it or not when finally we reached our barren campsite. We managed to grab a bite to eat, change our clothes, set up the tent on seemingly as many roots as possible and haul our edible gear into the trees on their pullies so that the bears didn't get it - just as the rain really started to come down.

We laid down in our cramped tent, my nephew in the middle, and eventually he drifted off to sleep. The two adults in the tent were left to feel every aching part of their body and hear every sound of the forest.

I learned two important things that night about an overnight hike. One, the campfire isn't just for show. It's to ease the body you just abused into a relaxed state so that you can better go to sleep. If the campfire doesn't work then that leads to the second thing I learned - bring Tylenol PM.

As I lay on the ground, feeling every piece of dirt, stone and stick that we had not seen when we put up the tent and wondering if my sleeping bag had been so heavy to carry because of the rocks that seemed to be in its lining, I realized that I was very far away from ever sleeping.

In fact, that night I never slept.

I layed there… and prayed that the rain wouldn’t come in the tent, that at the very least it would keep the bears from looking for lonely pieces of GORP, and that the morning would come so that we could be done with this adventure.

I waited.
And waited.
And waited….

At one desperate point I actually thought to myself, “What if this is the day that the sun doesn’t come up?”

“What if it’s never morning?”

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sometimes I forget...

In some ways it seems forever ago since lives were upended and hearts were broken. I have moved on both physically and emotionally and this is a good thing.

But every once in awhile something brings me right back to that place and reminds me of just how far we've come. This time it was notes from the sermon and worship service of three years ago, yes... only three years ago. In those notes from the past I found this preamble to the pastoral prayer:

I want to thank all of you for your love, care and support as P and I have walked through a valley that frankly I never though we would go through. There is no way I would have gotten through the last several months if I did not feel like the church family was behind me.

Throughout this time I have repeatedly asked P if he wanted to come home, if he wanted to work on our marriage and his response has been a consistent, 'no'. So although our bond will continue through the parenting of our son, we are no longer married.

It breaks my heart to say that, yet I can honestly look at you all amd more importantly at myself in the mirror and know there was absoltuely nothing more I could do.

You are wonderful, faithful people, and I know that you will continue to keep me and The Boy and The Boy's father in your prayers. Let us pray...

God bless that woman who had to stand up in front of that congregation Sunday after Sunday and say words like that or at the very least keep her head high and her shoulders back. And God bless each and every one of you who prayed for her to make it.

It's good to be here. And even better to be here with all of you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Just Reward

Today I sat at a Lent Prayer Breakfast, start time: 6AM.
They start that early so that people can leave afterwards and get to work, but none of them do that. They are all retired.

It was our church's turn to host so I put together the bulletin/program and gave the meditation. At first I was told by the contact person at our church that the sermon should be about 15-20 minutes. But once I reminded him that I don't preach that long on a Sunday, he relented. And really once we got started, no one was going to complain that it was too short. It ended up being 5 minutes to gather, 20 minutes to eat, 15 minutes of program and then off to conquer the day.

I don't know these folks or their stories. I do think there were a few pastors in the bunch. One introduced himself afterwards, your jovial, over-the-top type. He set off something in my gut of nothing I can prove, but I've learned to trust. He introduced himself, talked about his own sermon that he did once and then I turned to his spouse. I extended my hand to her, introduced myself and she seemed genuinely shocked.

She said, "Oh... I'm the quiet one... umm.... I'm ----." She tentatively shook my hand and began to walk away. Her husband said, "Yes, I took out a rib and here she is!"

I didn't even fake laugh.

God bless that woman and may her blessing at the great heavenly banquet be that for every time she has heard that joke she gets to sit 1000 places away from him.

Monday, April 4, 2011


You will not believe why they went to all this trouble...

You can find more information about it here.
And I originally saw it here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mud in Your Eye

(A sermon for Lent 4a, April 3, 2011, John 9:1-41)

What a wonderfully rich and well presented story.

So many theological themes...

So many narrative nuances…

So many characters with so much character…

So it’s particularly sad that I just can’t seem to get over that dirt and saliva combination. When (Jesus) had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes.

I believe the theological term for that is: iwwwww…..

According to John’s narrative the blind man does not even ask for healing. Presumably this man who relies on his begging for a living is doing his thing when he hears some men talking, the sound of someone spitting and then feels granules of sticky dirt on his eyes.

He is told to go and wash his eyes – as if having a stranger’s spit and mud in his eyes didn’t already compel him to do that – and his eyesight is restored.

A little dirt, a little spit, the actions of Jesus towards this man and his transformation has begun. He has begun his movement from darkness to light.

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?

Lent has been full of stories of coming to an understanding… of eyes being opened… movements from darkness to light.

Jesus in the wilderness – his own eyes having been opened at baptism, it is now the Tempter’s turn to recognize God incarnate.

Nicodemus in the dark – taking just about the entire time of Jesus’ ministry to walk fully into the light, from examiner to disciple.

The woman at the well – blazing, noonday sun and social mores aside she drinks in the word of truth sitting beside her and sets off to quench the thirst of others.

And now the man born in blindness… he doesn’t confront Jesus. He doesn’t ask to be healed. He is merely spotted along the roadway, living his existence as he has since the day he had been born. Potentially flinching as he once again heard the accusation against him and his family – sinners. Once healed he doesn’t exactly shout out the Good News:

“How did this happen?”

“Some guy named Jesus did it.”

“Where is he now?”

“I dunno.”

But next he calls him a prophet and finally, by the end of what must have seemed like a ridiculously long day, the truth becomes clear.

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

Lord, I believe.

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?

I love theologian Jack Shea's poetic imagination on this passage, Listen to his retell of the story:

Another time
Jesus smeared God like mud
on the eyes of a man born blind
and pushed him toward the pool of Siloam.
The blind man splashed his eyes
and stared into the rippling reflection
of the face he had only felt.
First he did a handstand, then a cartwheel,
and rounded off his joy
with a series of somersaults.
He ran to his neighbors,
singing the news.
They said,
"You look like the blind beggar
but we cannot be sure."

The problem was never
that he was blind
and could not look out
but that they could see
and did not look in.

"I am the one, the seeing blind!"
They seized him in mid cartwheel
and dragged him to the authorities.
"What do you think
of the man who made the mud?"
But the man born blind
was staring at a green vase.
His mouth was open slightly
as if he was being fed by its color.
"He is a sinner," said the priest
who knew what pleased God's eyes.
"Can one who lights candles in the eyes of the night
not have the fire of God in his hands?"
said the man fondling the green vase.
The priests murmured
and sent for his parents
who looked their son
straight in his new eyes
and said,
"Looks like our son.
But he is old enough
to speak for himself."
Off the hook they hurried home.
"All I know," said the man
with the green vase tucked under his robe,
"is that I was blind
and now I see."
But with his new eyes
came a turbulence in his soul
as if the man who calmed one sea
turned another to storm.

So before those who locked knowledge in a small room
and kept the key on a string around their neck
he launched into a theology of sin and salvation.
It was then
that the full horror of the miracle
visited the priests.
"You, steeped in sin, lecture us!"
They tore him from the podium
and threw him into the street
where a man was rubbing mud from his hands.

"How did it go?"
"I talked back."
The man with the new eyes
took in every laughing line
on the face of the Son
who was as happy as a free man
dancing on the far side of the Red Sea.[i]

He once was blind and now can see…

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?

Those who proclaimed they could see are shown to be more blind than he ever was.

And worse, so much worse… they think they are in the light. They think they can see.

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says:
‘Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
(Ephesians 5:8-14)

This is what happened to the blind man. He had been sleeping. He had been in darkness and slowly we watch and listen as he moves towards the shining light of the truth of Christ.

He once was blind and now can see…

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Charge: When I was in Youth Ministry and was asked to do speaking engagements I would always warn those who were organizing the event that I didn’t have The Story.

“What story?”

“You know, the story that stuns everyone and has them all thankful that God has saved a wretch like me.”

I was brought up with faith, I stayed with faith, I made faith my own, I now proclaim faith to others. If I was never lost, how can I be found? It’s a very boring story.

I never was blind, I could always see.

Some of you are nodding in agreement. “Yes, yes we have always been able to see.”

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see and those who do see may become blind.”

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?

[i] John Shea. Stories of Faith. Chicago, Illinois: The Thomas More Press, 1980. Pages 193-194.

Friday, April 1, 2011

RevGalBlogPal Friday Five: Quick Pick Edition

Greetings all!

We're in the midst of 'it' and I'm hoping that it is not just me who is starting to get a bit overwhelmed. So for today I am asking for five quick picks of things that are good in your life. And as a bonus, 1 pick for a thing you could do without.
If you want to describe them? Great.
If not? That's fine too.

Good in my life:
  1. Tax return
  2. the @BronxZooCobra feed (totally cracked me up)
  3. morning coffee that I wisely did not give up for Lent
  4. Jesus
  5. Peeps
Thing I could do without: love handles (not that I am actively doing anything to be rid of them, but if they would just go away of their own accord, I could be okay with that.)

How about you, what are your quick picks?