Escalation…

As I sat in the first session of the parishes Lenten Study, we talked about relationships and how escalation is a part of broken relationships. The idea that we are constantly upping the ante with one another, to be better than someone, or to try and be something new constantly. I thought about how easy it would have been for Jesus to simply put all the people to shame with his gifts in those final days, but he didn’t. Jesus let things happen, and lived out his calling.

On a more personal level, I thought about how I never feel good enough for the people around me. I feel a constant need to be fresh and new, and do something exciting to impress people. I can never find contentment in what is happening at that time. I can’t believe that I’m accepted just as I am, and don’t need to impress or be better than others. I am, who I am. If people are my friends, than I should be okay with who and what I am around them, not worrying about whether I can be something better or different. I need to pause and appreciate what I have and not worry about the need to escalate situations to impress or sustain a relationship.

This song came to mind as I was reflecting on this:

Come and Find the Quiet Center

Come and find the quiet center
In this crowded life we lead,
Find the room for hope to enter,
Find the frame where we are freed.
Clear the chaos and the clutter,
Clear our eyes that we may see,
All the things that really matter,
Be at peace and simply be.

Silence is a friend who claims us,
Cools the heat and slows the pace.
God it is who speaks and names us,
Knows our being, touches base.
Making space within our thinking,
Liftting shades to show the sun,
Raising courage when we’re shrinking,
Finding scope for faith begun.

In the spirit let us travel,
Open to each other’s pain.
Let our lives and fears unravel,
Celebrate the space we’ve gained.
There’s a time for deepest dreaming,
There’s a time for heart to care,
In the Spirit’s lively scheming,
There is always room to care.

Come and find the quiet center
In this crowded life we lead,
Find the room for hope to enter,
Find the frame where we are freed.
Clear the chaos and the clutter,
Clear our eyes that we may see,
All the things that really matter
Be at peace and simply be.

This song has always been moving to me, and really forces me to think about my life and where it is leading. I need to take the time and see what is around me and recognize God’s presence. May you too find time to pause and find room for God to enter.

Grace and Peace,
Z

You did it to me…

Matthew 25:31-40

<!– 31 –>

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Something from scripture finally made into my journal/blogging today. This passage was shared on the bishop’s daily e-mail devotion. These verses remind me of our interconnectedness as humans. There is a connection through God that each and every person has, whether everyone recognizes it or not. How we act towards one another matters. The way in which we work for justice and mercy, matters. If we even think about the problems in the world, matters. We have not been called to a “wait and see” faith, but a faith of action.

One specific line moved me today: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” This is really making me think about life, calling, and just general treatment of others. God is a part of everything, and the way in which we respond to each other is an embodiment of God’s creation, God’s love. There aren’t exceptions to this, not any “levels” of worthiness. People are sacred in God’s sight, and thus should be in our sight as well. That means as a progressive, liberal person I need to recognize the sacredness of people like Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson. Now, I can disagree with them, but how I respond is what matters. How I act and listen is important to the treatment of others.

How are you embodying God’s creation in your actions with others? How can you improve on this? Why are you waiting to change the way you see others? What is God calling you to do in this area?

Grace and Peace,

Z

Something to listen to and watch…

I have continued my Lent discipline by journaling, but I didn’t have a great revelation to share to the masses. However, I was reminded of the greatness of this song and how I can find some peace in listening to it. Take the time to pause and listen to this song and reflect, or pick another song and do the same. Enjoy!

Grace and Peace,
Z

The Cold…

Cold Poem by Mary Oliver

Cold now.
Close to the edge. Almost
unbearable. Clouds
bunch up and boil down
from the north of the white bear.
This tree-splitting morning
I dream of his fat tracks,
the lifesaving suet.

I think of summer with its luminous fruit,
blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,
handfuls of grain.

Maybe what cold is, is the time
we measure the love we have always had, secretly,
for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love
for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe

that is what it means the beauty
of the blue shark cruising toward the tumbling seals.

In the season of snow,
in the immeasurable cold,
we grow cruel but honest; we keep
ourselves alive,
if we can, taking one after another
the necessary bodies of others, the many
crushed red flowers.

I have found myself looking towards poetry and music for inspiration and meditation this Lent. So far Mary Oliver has made two appearances, and will probably make a few more before the season is over. Her writing brings to life the simple things that embody complex emotions and feelings, they bring to life creation and God. Her writing brings to life my imagination and faith like it hasn’t been in some time. I hope that you also can experience some of that when you read poetry or listen to music.

A few line in this poem really focused my thoughts today. “Cold now. Close to the edge. Almost unbearable.” Almost unbearable is the key. At times, life and its challenges seem so unbearable, almost enough to cause a stop to everything. But we fight, keep ourselves alive, remembering the things that are worth it. Remembering the things that brought us to this point in time. Just like the seasons, sorrow will pass… these moments keep us grounded, recognizing over humanity. The cold of winter reminds us of hte hard times, but a brighter, happier season is only a few months away.

Our faith is kind of like the cold. When we struggle, question, doubt, we think that it may be unbearable. However, we are always reminded of something to get us to the next season. Something or someone comes and guides us to recognition that God was present all along. “Cold is the time we measure the love we always had.”

Grace and Peace,
Z

Validation

This Lent, my churches are studying together, through our sermon series and weekly group study, the complexity of relationships. Specifically, how to prevent their demise and heal those that are wounded. The first Sunday’s sermon topic was on “Invalidation.” It focused on the invalidation of Jesus through the treatment he received from the Roman soldiers. They mocked him and beat him because of who he was and what he stood for.

From there, we talked about how we treat others and recognize their feelings and beliefs. Each person holds these beliefs and experiences close to them, and how we react to their sharing can really change how the person feels now and in the future. If someone tells you about a problem and you brush that off or don’t really listen, you’ve invalidated their feelings. It’s important to think about how we react towards others in this way.

Also, I thought about how we respond in disagreement. There will always be things that people can’t agree on, and those things usually revolve around politics and theology. How do you react to others when in disagreement? Do you simply blow them off as uneducated or not compassionate? Is your reaction in disagreement one that would invalidate someone’s feelings?

I have thought long and hard about how I invalidate people, and about times I may not have even realized I was doing it. Those are the times I feel horrible about. The times when I thought I was listening and caring, but probably wasn’t enough and gave off a message that I did not value the other person. I pray that I can receive forgiveness for the times I invalidated people and their beliefs or feelings.

One moment of validation I felt just today was when a church member asked for a copy or notes of my sermon from last week on the Transfiguration. I was very worried about that sermon and took a lot of time to get it done, and to find out that this person wanted a copy to put with other sermons he enjoyed, really validated my work and my presence in that community. Too often, I think, leaders feel they are not validated and then do not return validation to others.

I pray that each of you realize you are validated by God, through Jesus, and can find peace and happiness this season.

Grace and Peace,
Z

Now’s the Time…

My reflective reading today came from a book called, “Something About the Blues: an unlikely collection of poetry” by Al Young. I just started skimming until something caught my eye. This poem caught my attention today, and wanted to share it. After I read it a few times, I spent my daily reflection time with my journal and focused on this poem. Under the poem you will find some of my reflection and questions for today.


Now’s the Time
By Al Young

7:47 a.m
Charles Parker’s message from 1946
or whenever it was teaches us

that beautiful eternities dwell inside moments
& reverberating forever
charge us with godliness of creation,
creating by the moment,
ignorance of which
brings us to dead end
upon dead end. I am not anything less
than soul shedding layer after layer
of no-soul that soul may reveal itself
to itself so to speak,
an unvicious actually joyous
circle of commitment & revelation ensues

but you got to get in that groove,
you got to take chances &
avoid romances of daydream
which is no-dream really
but imprisonment,
the door closing,
tears crop up
in automatic
misery
vs.
freedom,

atoms become atoms
the earth is built to crumble away
as God smiles
crumbling begins, ends,
the smiling goes on,
you happen,
keep happening.

Place: everywhere
Time: Now –

7:54 a.m.

More often than I should, I wait to follow, to be safe, and hopefully be accepted by others. I don’t want to jump out and risk being without company. There are things I care about, things I want to see done, that may not be happening because I’m waiting. Maybe, just maybe, I am the one who needs to “create” the circumstances for movement or action. While I’m waiting for others, they might just be waiting for someone as well. I need to take some chances. Chances create opportunity, and opportunity creates experiences, and through experience is how God is revealed to me.

Life is not a “wait and see” activity. I have never been a believer in predestination, but I seem to live my life in a “wait for it to happen” mentality. I wait for it to be completely planned and safe befor I act. I’m waiting for God to somehow do it all and make it easy for me. I operate with in this thought process, even thoug I have never felt I believed God acted this way. I don’t believe that God exerts Godself into our situations and controls everything. I believe we are given guidance, resources, and support and then need to act accordintly– not wait to hope it happens for us.

Questions: Will I see meaningful change in society and the church in my lifetime? How do we recognize the moments when it’s time to jump out and act on our own? When should we wait for others to help us? When is it just our human ambition pushing us to act, and when is it God’s calling?

I pray each of you find your way to recognize what God is calling for you to do today and in the future. It’s not an easy task, and know that we all are walking with you in the journey.

Grace and Peace,
Z

Wanting to see the sun…

Yesterday as I sat in a coffee shop enjoying a latte, my fixed iPod, and some journaling/doodling, I came across a song that spoke some lyrics that opened my eyes a bit. The entire song doesn’t fit into what I heard, but a few lines started the process of thinking. This is exactly what I am hoping to do more of during Lent. I want the seemingly simple things around me to remind of God and my life, and start me seeking for more.

I was listening to the song “The Sun Never Shines (On Closed Doors)” by Flogging Molly. I’ve always enjoyed the music of Flogging Molly and thought nothing of the song being on my iPod until I heard some of the lyrics. A few of the lines are “The sun never shines on closed doors,” and at the end, “we all go the same way home…” For whatever reason my mind started to wander a bit hearing these.

As I reflected on the idea of the sun never shining on closed doors, I journaled the following (edited and expanded from original):


The possibilities are endless, unimaginable in so many ways. Faith is what gives the chance for us to be open to the change of God in our life. Lent is a time to recognize this. Lent is in a lot of ways a dark time before a bright sunshine. The sun will rise, and hopefully the door is still open to let it in. Lent prepares us to feel the presence of Easter. At Easter, we recognize that Jesus rises to overcome ALL barriers that separate us. Don’t close the door yet! Don’t close the door ever! There is a new day coming, and another chance at barriers being broken and love being shared. Don’t’ close the door, because the sun won’t be seen!

My goal for personal growth this day:

Don’t close the door in life. Let the sun have a chance to shine through the open, or at least cracked door. Leave the possibility for change everyday!

What are the “closed doors” in your life? What is keeping you from being fully happy, and seeing the sunshine? Can you open the door just a little? It may not just be about your relationship with God, what is keeping you from seeing the sun in all things (work, relationships, hobbies, etc.)?

Grace and Peace,
Z