March 31, 2013

He Is Risen! Alleluia!

Happy Easter! I hope your day is blessed. Recently I was reminded of an old favorite song: Lord of the Dance by Sydney Carter. It's really an Easter song, so, for your Easter enjoyment:

Video of the song (with Shawn the Sheep dancing-in honor of a granddaughter who just LOVES Shawn!)

and Words for you to ponder:

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced for the scribe & the Pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:

Refrain
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

Refrain

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!

Refrain

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

Refrain

See you next week for a new series-maybe about how we can join the Dance...!

March 24, 2013

Lively Lent-Awareness

We begin our journey to the Cross today by hearing about the triumphant entry into Jerusalem in church. We wave palm branches or carry palm fronds home to remind us of that brief moment of worldly glory. Before the service is over, we will also hear the Passion narrative read-a sobering image of the cost of our salvation. 
 
As we conclude our Lent meditations here, based on the baptismal service, we come to the  prayer over the water. The words of that prayer link us to all of salvation history including Christ’s death and resurrection.

Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ your Son may live in the power of his resurrection and look for him to come again in glory; who lives and reigns now and forever. Amen.
We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
This prayer can be awe inspiring if we really stop and think about the words as if we were hearing them the first time.

Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ your Son may live in the power of his resurrection and look for him to come again in glory. First we are reminded that we come to fullness of LIFE through Christ’s DEATH, which we know is not the end, but the BEGINNING. Our life is to be a reminder,as Paul says in Philippians 1:20-21 that "Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death..For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." 
Next, the prayer of blessing over the water of baptism takes us on an abbreviated sprint through the saving acts of God in scripture. From Creation, to Freedom from bondage…then to Jesus’ own baptism so that we might be freed from our sin to LIFE. Finally we re-member and become one in the burial of Christ, so that we can be REBORN into a holy fellowship! In that fellowship we come full circle and learn to live the promises affirmed:
To “persevere in resisting evil, repent and return to the Lord.”
To “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.”
To “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.”
And to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”


As baptized members of the Body of Christ, the Family of God, we can enter the Holy Week journey in awed expectation. We know the end of the journey is Easter, but every year we participate and re-live the steps on the Via Dolorosa. If we really take time to pause, think about, and experience the Way of the Cross which starts in triumph with crowds clamoring and ends in agony on a Roman cross. All because our Father, who is God, the Holy One of Israel, loves us and desires reconciliation. 
I invite you (and myself) to a Holy Week of contemplation of the journey to the Cross, whether you attend some or all of the various church services offered or if you just spend time each day considering the events leading up to Good Friday so that your Easter Day will be full of new joy and awe as you find the empty tomb!

March 17, 2013

Lively-Listening

We are nearing the end of our walk through the Baptismal Covenant this Lent. The last question we are asked in the vows is “will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

I wonder how often we are oblivious to the needs around us. Unless an injustice is brought to our attention, we can be too busy with our own routines to notice. News stories can, in fact, desensitize us because there is sooo much violence and injustice that we can start to feel that we can do nothing.
As part of our work at living more fully into our baptismal vows, we might need to become more aware and more active at listening. I don’t just mean listening to what is said, but more often than not to what is not said. Yes, there is pain and suffering. Yes, we have promised to make a difference. Yes, it can be overwhelming. Perhaps we need to ask, "Lord, which thing is speaking to my heart?"


After the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy people responded with compassion in many ways. And so it is after any disaster. Day-to-day struggles to survive sometimes don’t make it to the news, but are just as important.
At the retreat the beginning of March, attendees heard about a ministry to women in two adjacent border communities. One town is in Mexico and one in the United States. It is really one community with a wall through the center. On both sides of the border there are needs that you could easily miss.

Children, who were born in this country and are able to attend school in the US, but whose parents cannot cross to go to school events or teacher conferences. Families who live in such poverty that collecting cans is a means of getting money to buy food.Children who do not have a blanket or even underwear. Women who are raising their children alone because the men in their lives have been killed by drug cartels.
Amid this, one woman is empowering women to create cottage industry and helping provide food, coats, blankets, and other necessities on both sides of the border. She heard the need with her heart and was moved to respond. She did not know what she was getting into, but she heard God saying, “Feed my sheep” and “whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me”. In the eyes of the young and old she sees God and responds. You can learn more about helping the Las Palomas ministry

I have another friend who heard a different need. Her heart heard the need of families who are living under the shadow of having a family member incarcerated. She built a ministry to those children and parents based on sharing the Bible, a meal, crafts, and music in a ‘party’. It has expanded across the nation and there have even been parties in Africa and India. Wings Ministry now has a weekly program to help build assets and support the children and families even further. God is in the least of these-the victims of bad decisions by a parent or other family member. They are learning that God hasn't forgotten them.
There are many other such stories. Ministries to the disenfranchised that quietly go on, run by women and men who heard the need and responded. We may not all be able to actively work with the homeless or the poor or the sick or those in prison. What we can do is ‘hear’ the need and respond in whatever way we are able. Maybe it is filling a shoebox with toiletries and gifts at Christmas for Las Palomas. Perhaps it is a cash donation toward a Wings party. It could be bringing canned goods for your church or local food pantry.

Just possibly God is calling you to personally respond to something you see on the news. Listen to the needs and then listen to how God is calling you to respond.
Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and we will enter the journey to the Cross. Come and see what Love our Father has for us.

March 10, 2013

Lively-Family

So far, in this Lent series about living into our baptismal covenant, we’ve considered the need for community in order to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers”. Many prayer styles help us persevere in resisting evil, repent and return to the Lord” and journaling is a way to learn how to tell our story as we “share the Good News of God in Christ.”

An important part of the Baptismal Covenant is moving beyond our comfort zone to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” As I noted at the beginning of this series, community is how we live into all the parts of our baptismal vows. Sometimes on our journey of faith it is harder to love our selves than to love our neighbor. We know the faults that we try to keep hidden from the rest of the world and that can make us think that we are unlovable.
Not true! God loves us just the way we are. Look at the characters in the Bible-and some of them were really wild characters. God loved each of them and used them to move the Kingdom forward. When we read the Bible stories, we notice, as this blog says, [that] our ancestors in faith were so unafraid of their beautiful mess. What a witness that the full spectrum of human emotion is woven tightly in their relationship with God. What a witness that the people who eventually wrote down the sacred account of humanity and God felt no apparent need to conceal the bruises and wounds to pretty up humans and, for that matter, God. God, it seems, cares little for our perfection, which doesn't exist, except as a false idol. God's love for the whole of who we are and God's work with the whole of who we are is uncomfortable for many of us.” The women and men in the Bible are part of the community in which we live our Baptismal vows.
Last weekend, I attended a retreat, which is a great way to interact in a community that is made up of new and old friends. One thing we did to build community was to choose prayer partners and also to hang prayers on a tree in the garden of St. Francis on the Hill. We then each took a prayer or 2 off the tree when we left.
The keynote speaker was Bishop Vono of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. He talked to us about the Road to Jerusalem and the Road to Emmaus noting that the Road to Jerusalem is life. While it isn’t easy, life is a journey that we participate in as pilgrims not tourists. Pilgrims look for LIFE and discover our personal story in the scriptural record. As pilgrims we are on a journey to being awake (although that won’t completely happen until we die and wake up to the fullness of life).

At the beginning of the retreat we participated in a Renewal of our Baptismal Covenant because Baptism is the start to the pilgrimage to our life. Through it we enter the community, the Family, of God.
The Road to Jerusalem may have times when we experience “outrageous suffering” on the journey. The good news is that we aren't journeying alone. Teresa of Avila said, "The feeling remains that God is on the journey too." After we go through the dark Jerusalem, we find ourselves on the Road to Emmaus where we meet Jesus and find that our minds are opened to the scriptures and to salvation and to each other.
What does this have to do with ‘loving our neighbor and ourselves’? On our journey, we come to terms with our own “beautiful mess” and then we can live lives that reflect the story of scripture so that others are drawn to the Truth and the Mystery. We begin to be awake and to live Holy Mystery in our lives and interactions so that the Gospel becomes person-centered and actively life-centered. Our stories, individually and corporately, become part of the sacred strand that runs through history and life.

Next time, we’ll look at the line in the Baptismal Covenant about striving for justice… What does that mean to you in your journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus?

March 3, 2013

Lively Lent-Telling the Story

It's right there in the Baptismal Covenant: "Share the Good News of God in Christ”. That really is our life’s work. We have to know our own story and how God has worked in our lives before we can share it with others. Some of us have powerful stories of transformation that lead to witnessing. Those of us with more ‘humble’ stories can also share how God works.

One way to help prepare to tell our story and share the Good News is to keep a journal. I know that word makes some of you cringe. Others think; how can journaling be a spiritual aid? Some of us get happy-writing! Oh boy! Others think of it more as a torture. Journaling is more than just writing random thoughts about the day or your spiritual life. It is a way to:
Delve deeper into a Bible passage by jotting down insights.
Store pictures, sayings, drawings, ideas, etc. that are important to you.
Capture thoughts about something that’s troubling you.
Record your prayers and the responses to them.
Remember inspirational sayings.
Consolidate thoughts about what you are reading.
Gather your ideas about sharing your journey

There is no right or wrong way to do a spiritual journal. You may already be keeping a ‘spiritual journal’ without knowing it. Today we’ll look at a few forms of journaling that you may not have thought of as spiritual journals or even journaling at all. They won’t all appeal to each of you. One caveat-to me a journal is not a diary. You know the ones we kept as teens. “Dear Diary, I saw the cutest boy today. I hope he asks me out…” Do girls today even keep such diaries?
The simplest Spiritual journal is a Prayer Diary. It can simply be a spiral notebook that you list your prayer requests in. Once a week or month (or whenever you decide) go back and look over the prayers. Write down what sort of answer God has given. You might, or might not, be moved to add some thoughts on ‘why God?’ or ‘thank you God’. Even if all you are doing is tracking prayer answers, you are journaling because you are looking at God in action and that will help you ‘share the Good news’.

Similar is the Prayer Diary is a Thanksgiving Journal where you write down several things each day you are thankful for. Again, it is a window into God’s actions in your life and an avenue to an easy way to ‘share the Good News’.
So, what if you want to take a step and journal more than just prayers and/or thanksgivings? The blank page can be rather intimidating. Some would say just start writing anything-random thoughts and eventually something will pop out to really focus on. And, some days that’s where I start. I’ll say, ‘it’s a gray day and looks like snow’ and go one for a while in that vein. Sometimes that’s all that gets put on the page, but other times, something sparks as I’m writing and I start thinking about the beauty of snow and the verse in Isaiah 1:18 that says ‘Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool…’ Where else can you get inspiration?

You’d be surprised. It can be a line from the morning or evening lectionary that strikes home. It might be something in an email or a devotional or a picture. The other day, it was when this hawk flew into the tree in my yard. I had to take his/her picture and journal about the magic of such a creature of God, present in my life.
I’ve discovered that many books and even videos/movies and music can have lessons of great importance to our Christian walk. We are used to thinking of Oswald Chambers, Beth Moore, Max Lucado, Rowan Williams, Barbara Taylor Brown, Madeline L’Engle, and others of their stature as authors to turn to for good solid devotional material that can enrich our Journey. These are, indeed, great authors, and there are many more modern and not so modern. A line from one of their books can inspire a journal entry about something in your life. So can non-theological books like Little Women or A Dog's Purpose and moviles like Star Wars.  

You might find a blog that is thought provoking-like say the VarietiesOfGifts or this one that I write, or the site of a favorite author or artist. Their thoughts might just give you something to think about on paper. One that often gives me something to think about is Dirty Sexy Ministry, written by 2 female Episcopal priests. Another is titled While We Wait, by another Episcopal priest.
Another non-traditional place to start both journaling and sharing the message of God’s love is in music, which as we have heard, ‘has the power to sooth the savage beast.” St. Augustine of Hippo is quoted as saying, “He who sings, prays twice.” And Martin Luther once said, “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.”

In my journaling I’ll often include the words of some hymn or song that gets stuck in my head and then chat with myself and God about what those words really mean to me and my Walk. Most recently, the new song by Toby Mac-“Steal my Show” got stuck in my head. The final verse is a reminder that we need to let God Steal the Show and be in charge of what we do.
Come on and Steal my show
My life My plans My heart
It's all Yours, God
Take it away
My dreams My fears My family My career
Take it away Take it away

It's all Yours, God
So take it away Take it away
It's You I wanna live for
There are other aids to getting going in journals. Believe it or not-you can even find online Prayer Journals or downloadable ones-just do a 'Google' search for prayer journal or spiritual journal!

I’ve probably given you way more information than you will ever want or need about journaling. I hope you will give one of these options a try, even if just for a little while this Lent. In order to make your journal really a spiritual aid, you want to make it your own. Do it at a convenient time, in a way that is comfortable-write, draw, add pictures, clippings, sayings, etc. Martin Luther noted, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” There really is something cathartic about writing your thoughts in pen and ink that isn’t present when typing.
When you know more of your own story and how God is present in your life, you can more easily and readily share that Good News! Good luck.

Next time we will look at the “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself” part of the Baptismal Covenant.