Sunday, April 12, 2009


Alleluia! He is risen. He is risen indeed! Thank you Sam, and Ken, and Cyndi - and Henri Nouwen, for helping to show me the way. Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

death: Life

Death: existence
Life: promise

Death: cruel end
Life: beauty

Death: cling
Life: appreciate

Death: relativized
Life: revitalized

Death: sad recognition
Life: dear memories

Death: the end
Life: a beginning

Death: "What you should do is..."

Life: "I'm sorry"

Death: serious...
Life: ... but not hopeless

Death: placate
Life: present

Death:"That won't work.  I tried it already"
Life: I think I know how you feel.  I felt that way one time.  This is what I found..."

Death:  law
Life: grace

Death: Friday
Life: Sunday
Death: who is the greatest?
Life: dirty feet

Death: lent
Life: relent

Death: givers and receivers
Life: community

Death: certainty
Life: faith

Death: my answers
Life: mystery

Death: the fall
Life: creation

Death: my way (or the high way)
Life: the Way

Death: reality
Life: the Truth

Death: life
Life: the Life

death: Life

Waiting and believing

Waiting for the third day, having hope that there will be eternal life, that leaving behind all that means something to us comes with an awareness that this is not all there is - there is hope. Jesus asked simply that we believe, just believe. Enjoying this life here and now, and the beauty that is in this world, I believe, is also part of hope about the eternal life. Practicing the Golden Rule that Jesus taught us, to the best of my ability, helps me to keep it simple about what I need to do in regards to relationships - I fall short often, but it's my responsibility to act as God would want me to act to the best of my ability. In the process, I am waiting and believing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

No More Tears

In the Maundy Service Thursday night, the Invitatory Psalm (Ps. 125) really spoke to me, especially the last three lines:

“Those who sow in tears sing as they reap.
They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing;
They come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.”

It is true that many times tears are required for anything good to happen.

In Mark 9, we have a father bringing his demon possessed son to Jesus for healing. The encounter with Jesus ends in the father crying out with tears, “Lord, I believe...” Often tears are required before we believe and trust God.

In Luke 7, a woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears born out of so much love for the Master. Often we love so much that we shed tears and reap the joy that comes.

In Hebrews 5, Paul says that Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane pleaded with tears and agony of soul. Out of these tears came my salvation. Out of these tears, Jesus showed me that He loved me more than Himself and gave His life for me.

In this world, we will sow with tears as we “love one another, as Christ has loved us.” As we sow, Jesus has put a song in our heart because we have a harvest to look forward to.

At the harvest, when Jesus comes back, there will no longer be a requirement for tears:

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain...'' (Revelation 21:4)

Reflections on This Lent Thing

Things aren't as they appear to be.

If there is one "lesson" that's screamed at me consistently during this Lenten season, it's that sentence, that observation, that fact, that state of mind.

Bad pretends to be good.  Good, however, is hard.  And painful.  And thankless.  And inconvenient.  Which makes it bad to those of us accustomed to the easy life.

Good Friday is anything but good.  Or so it appears to be.

The desert is anything but good.  Or so it appears to be.

Lent, like life on earth, is a journey.  Or so it appears to be.

Lent has turned out to be a lot more like Scripture than a journey for me.  It's a practice.  A discipline.  Let's face it, a chore.  Kind of like creative writing.  It glistens in the storefront window, but requires ongoing maintenance once at home.

But the more I've glimpsed God through the eyes of Lent, the more I've realized how much more there is to see.  And I want to see more.

Lent is a beginning.

Easter is a beginning.

Heck, each day is a beginning.

That's the joy of life in Christ.  No matter how many times I fall, there is always a new beginning, a second chance.  I don't have to be imprisoned by the fear of failure or humiliation, since my life is not about me.

And as devastating, frustrating, painful, horrific and unbearable life is or becomes (and it will), this discipline of seeing the familiar in unfamiliar ways will offer others, if not myself, hope for a new beginning.  If not today, maybe tomorrow.  (Or maybe the third day.)

My hope is that Lent has not been what it appeared to be for you.  My hope is that it has changed you a little each day.

It has for me.

Good Friday

Good Friday. "The cross of horror became the cross of hope." This paradox of Good Friday is something that will probably always be troubling for me. "Why" people are so cruel and ignorant that they/we crucify people who are good and glorify people who are not, especally as this occurred in the life of Jesus, makes no sense. I understand that this was to happen to fulfill the prophesies of the Scriptures and lead to Christianity, but how it still occurs today among believers and non-believers alike is quite disturbing. At least on this occasion, Good Friday, despite human ignorance, something miraculous happened.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Appointment With A Donkey

Sunday’s meditation by Henri Nouwen was titled “Christ on a Donkey.” I can easily picture Jesus in my mind riding on a donkey into Jerusalem because of recently seeing a lot of donkeys at work.

Last October, my wife and I visited Egypt and Jordan for several weeks. There we saw many people riding donkeys or donkeys pulling small carts in the countryside and even in Cairo itself. The donkeys were very small and always looked over-burdened with the people and loads they were carrying. They looked gentle and willing to serve as required without protest.

Jesus, as he approached the cross, had an appointment with a donkey. As prophesied in the Old Testament (Zech. 9:9), the Messiah as King was to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. The Messiah was also prophesied in Isaiah to come as a suffering servant. Furthermore many theologians believe the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem as King was exactly prophesied by Daniel (69 weeks of years) when counted from the commandment to rebuild the temple in Nehemiah’s time.

Because they were aware of the Old Testament prophesies, the Jewish people of Jesus’ day expected the Messiah to come during their lifetimes. Somehow they forgot the Messiah was to come on a donkey, be a servant to the people, and reign as King in their hearts.

As I think about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and the expectations of the Jewish people, I wonder what my expectation is of the King. I also wonder when Jesus has an appointment with me if I, like the donkey, am willing to accept my burdens with gentleness, serve without protest, and come when the Master says “I have need of thee.”

A mystery

The last days of Jesus' life on earth, with Judas, Pilate, the Romans, the believers, and that final walk he had to make, is a mystery to me. Fulfilling of prophecies, dying for our sins, a mystery. God's will for me; what is it? I keep coming back to church, I keep reading the Scriptures, I keep praying, and hopefully I will listen more than I talk. That quiet, still voice within keeps telling me to listen more carefully, and that more will be revealed.


Have you made the transition yet?  Have you made the turn from "action to passion"?(p. 159)  


Are you finding yourself absent-mindedly circling Ted's Montana grill now that you have been without red meat for 40 days?  Find yourself without any more blog posts to offer?  Ready to turn from passion back to action?  Ready to go where you want to go again?

Theologians and liturgists, I understand, have been stressing the importance over the past few years of less celebration and more passion on Palm Sunday.  Faith communities, the reasoning goes, (for what ever reasons) are finding less time and energy to devote to the passion week Worship of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in favor of the celebration of Palm Sunday, the Easter Egg Hunt on Holy Saturday, and of course the celebration of Easter Day.  We are a spring break culture and a culture of busyness and  "a culture that savors a more upbeat religion."

Maybe.  But we are certainly no strangers to that transition from action to passion.  Whether you welcome Jesus joyfully at the gates of Jerusalem or you are one of the few who stick around for the whole week: we're all looking for the same thing.  The word is the same: Hosanna (Help!).  I remember the first time I understood the real meaning of pall bearer.  I remember after the death of that special loved one as I stood shoulder to shoulder with the other pall bearers.  I remember watching the mourners throng out of the sanctuary with tear filled eyes and broken hearts.  I remember feeling that weight.  I remember the tangibility of it.  I remember I didn't want to be there.

We have seen our children grieve.  We have watched them live with the consequences of love.  We know of the child who leaves in anger.  We celebrate the ones who come back, but we also know that some: we never see again.  We live forever looking in the distance.

I often thought that I wouldn't have to worry about the time when " somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go"(p. 160) until I got old, but I realize that time is already here.

To turn yourself over to love means you are not in control anymore.

I'm ready for Lent to be over.

I'd rather not be here.

Monday, April 6, 2009


The sentence that keeps standing out to me in Nouwen's passage for today is: "Beyond physical poverty there is mental poverty, beyond mental poverty there is spiritual poverty, and beyond that there is nothing, nothing but the naked trust that God is mercy." Then he goes on to say that we need to have Jesus with us on our walk to the place where there is nothing but mercy, and that we need to help others through service. Prayer, action, service. Those open our awareness of grace somehow, and our own poverty, and our need to have help along the way. Grace, love, mercy, trust.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Saturday's reading indicates that "God cannot be understood; he cannot be grasped by the human mind."  (p.148)  Now you tell me.  I read a piece in the New Yorker magazine one time about the difference between a puzzle and a mystery.  With a puzzle, according to the article, there is a direct correlation between amount of information compiled and ability to solve the puzzle.  Understanding a mystery on the other hand isn't directly related to how much information you can put together and process.

As I become more genuine in my participation in communities in our church and in the world, I realize the importance of taking time to learn about one another.  I'm coming to realize the importance of being tolerant of different ways of thinking about and of doing things.  I'm finding a connection with understanding others and having them understand me because I find that we develop respect for one another when this starts happening.  It takes time and usually works in smallish groups, but I'm finding that once we take time to learn about one another and begin to respect our thoughts and passions and gifts, then we can love one another.

If we can struggle through our "limitations of our human capacities to 'have' or 'hold' the truth" (p. 148), and find that indeed God is love, this might be as close to the truth about God as we need to get.

For all the times I try to find the right pieces to put together in a meaningful way.  And for all the times that I think if I can just get the right words or have everybody on the same page as me or speak the same language about God.  And in my efforts to make sure that everybody understands that the way we want to do things is the best way:  I realize it's really about understanding and allowing myself to be understood. It's about respecting and being respectable.  It's about loving and being lovable.  That might be as close to grasping the way of Christ as I will come.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Keep Me on the Path Lord

I know so little about Jesus, about God, about life, that I sometimes feel quite inadequate. I liked today's reading, 'Divine Humanity' because it reminds me that God is all about love. Jesus told us that, emphasizing that our primary job during our lives is to love. He showed us how to do that by how he lived his life. I don't do this each day as I should. I need reminders, teachers, the Holy Spirit, the church, wise counsel, all of these, to help keep me on the right path.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


With most of the things in my life that have really given my life meaning and have given me peace inside, I have had to work at them. They 'don't come easy' so to speak - my relationships with family and friends; my relationship with God; becoming part of a church; learning to play guitar; being in a band; getting my blackbelt in karate; getting and staying in recovery from addiction; becoming physically fit; I could name a few more, but these are the things that really mean something to me - and I've had to work at all of them. Nouwen's passage today based on Jesus's words from the Gospel of John ask that we stay in the church - that the church is where we need to be. That takes effort, and that's ok. I'm pretty sure that Sam gives extra credit for coming to church when it's raining.

Communion Prayers

The best assurance that we’ll keep listening to the church is our regular participation in the Eucharist. - Henri Nouwen, p. 143.

The ushers gesture and some seem startled, surprised that it is time to stand.  No matter how many times we’ve done this, there is still uncertainty.  Already time?  Isn’t there something else we need to do first?

Give her your grace, Lord.  Let her know that she belongs to you and to us and is welcome at this table.

Parents carry a squirming toddler; they wear grim smiles, shushing as they stand in line.

Abba, Father, may your delight in this child be contagious.  May we all join in your love for this family. 

A child whispers loudly; those nearby chuckle.  “But it tasted like juice.”

Thank you, Lord, for the joy of being together.

Barbara walks alone, slowly raises hands once again.

Abba, Father, she looks so small without Tom standing with her.  Surround her with your love, with your presence, your peace.  You don't forget her; neither will we.  Help us to surround her with your love.

This is my body.

Amen.  Alleluia.