Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday 2018 - Show up and be

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day where Christians all over the world participate in a public expression of faith. Many, as part of this worship, prayerfully choose to give something up as an act of sacrifice and discipline. Also, many will attend worship services, much like ours tonight, and have ashes marked upon their foreheads; remembering Jesus – fully God and fully human.
There is much of this day that is public and open. It’s a day, that as a pastor, I look forward to; as people seem more open to spiritual things like receiving ashes and prayers.

So it’s a little paradox, or a big one, that our gospel reading for today begins with this statement:
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6

As we take part in worship, in this public place, we will pray – proclaim and yes we have already received ashes; but Matthew’s warning against public acts of worship is a warning – a warning to consider what is at the heart of our worship. Tonight, I pose that Matthew’s critique of “showy worship” is actually a call to authentic worship. In short, Matthew calls us to be ourselves – our true selves; in worship, in our daily lives, in our relationships; and most deeply in our relationship with God.

Matthew’s gospel reminds us, to keep things real. To be who we are, wherever we are – to come to worship and into our relationship with God; as we are and as we happen to be. Jesus warns against showy acts of worship, because they can distract us from the grace that God gives us through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Faith isn’t about a show – faith is about showing up.

Several years ago, an Anglican Pastor friend introduced me to an icon that helped me to see worship in a new way. This print is called Rublev’s Icon – it depicts three figures seated around a table with one open space. The Priest explained to me that the Rublev Icon was a tool for worship and prayer, saying that the three figures were representative of the Trinity and the open space was the space where a person was invited to sit – to pray – and to be in the presence of God. The icon was not something that people would pray to, but a visual prompt, or a window to invite each person to simply be with God. Time and time again, scripture reminds us of God’s action of coming to humanity – reaching out to people and calling humanity to be in relationship with God-self. Lent is a season, where we all are called to the table – in communion, in prayer and in pause – to simply be the presence of a loving God.

The season of Lent, a time of devotion and prayer, is a space where we are invited to bring all that we are; to be reminded that “from dust we came, and dust we shall return”; but in all of it – we are dust that is beloved by our Creator. Lent is a space for us to spend time, to soak in the fact that each of us is known by and beloved by God. Lent gives us sacred space to be our authentic selves with God – to allow God to bridge the gap between secular and sacred – to show up as beloved children of God where we are. Lent calls us to be ourselves with God in all sacred-secular spaces.

Have you had an opportunity to meet with a close friend face to face, after a long time and distance apart? That friend may reach out to you, set a place and time and you meet to catch up. Something amazing happens in time and space with a dear friend; all pretenses are gone, all time apart disappears, somehow in the confines of that space, with that person – who knows you so well – authentic connection happens. As you and your friend share; you are open and vulnerable – you share who you really are because you know you are loved and accepted.

Lent is a special space and time, with not only a close friend; but the creator of life – the Creator of you. Lent give us time to remember Jesus, but also give us time to BE WITH JESUS. Lent gives us time to simply be with God.

This Lent, I encourage you to not only remember Jesus; but to take time to pause and be with Jesus. Each of you will find many ways to engage in this time with Jesus; through prayer, scripture reading, or fasting. But before we get too busy doing things in Lent; I encourage you to be in Lent with Jesus.
Like a long put off reunion with a friend, I encourage you to take your time, to be yourself and to embrace this space of spiritual nurture. Open your heart to this opportunity for Lent as a sacred space built on the foundation of God’s love and forgiveness.

There is an old love song that goes like this, “getting to know you, getting to know all about you; getting to like you, getting to know you like me…”; this tune captures the heart of vulnerable relationship, a space made sacred by love. This Ash Wednesday, being Valentine’s Day – this emphasis of giving and receiving love – is not lost on me. As human beings, we have an innate desire to be loved.  In Jesus words from Matthew’s gospel, the Rublev Icon, and St. Valentine’s Day – God calls us to the table or relationship. God reminds us that we are beloved children. As we remember we are dust and to dust we shall return; we know that God has already set the table. The sacred space of Lent is set – God help us to show up and be.

Dear God,
Help us to walk into and through Lent not only thinking about Jesus, but being with Jesus. Help us in our weakness and open our hearts to your never-ending love for the next 40 days and beyond.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What if...

What if I…think on what isn't sinking and ponder what is fine.
Can I focus on what is present, what is pleasant and what is kind?

What if I…think about today and cherish what I hold.
Draw attention to beauty and see what is sweet, rich and bold.

What if I… stop and think of things that matter and last beyond today.
To want what I have and not long for someone else’s way.

What if I…focus on what is, instead of what’s not and know what I have – is a lot.

What wonder would be discovered, what treasure would be found, if all my “What if’s” were tempered by the blessing of what already surrounds.

What if?

Copyright T.L. Eastman 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Essential Encouragement

John 14: 15-21[Jesus said to the disciples:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
  “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

I have been a writer since about the fourth grade, when my teacher Mrs. H taught me about “creative writing” – and particularly poetry. For years after that I used the practice of writing for my own journal, for college and seminary and for some songwriting. One of the places that much of this writing took place over the last several years was on my blog: Uphill Idealist.

For those who have taken part in the practice of “blogging”, you learn that it is a place to share your ideas and thoughts that is more public than a diary; in fact through blogging – I’ve made pen pal friends of sort. People would leave comments and in turn I would start to read and comment on their blogs too. While we might not have known the people in a real life face to face way; I knew and appreciated my blogging friends in a very dear way. Their insights, comments and writings became a place for me to grow as a writer; to gain confidence and have the gift of human feedback. Through blogging I found writing friends.

In an unexpected way, this week as I read Jesus words from John 14; I was reminded of my blogging friends and the relationships we have built for over 15 years. In this environment of support and encouragement, we have grown as writers and as human beings. So if encouragement is important to writers; perhaps it is important to faith formation too?

In today’s text, Jesus speaks with his disciples about some important things that they need to know in the days to come. In fact, from John 14- 16, Jesus gives at length directions and affirmations that after his arrest would be words that the disciples would return to for hope and encouragement.
John 14:16-21 in particular introduces the disciples to the Advocate – otherwise known as the Holy Spirit.

Advocate – according to definition on human terms is:
“To speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly.” (
Other words that capture the meaning of Advocate - its synonyms are: “champion, upholder, supporter, backer, promoter, proponent, exponent, spokesman, spokeswoman, spokesperson, campaigner, fighter, and crusader”

Scripturally speaking, Advocate in defining the Holy Spirit can be explained in this way:
“The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; and 16:7) is parakletos. This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another”; the word carries a secondary notion concerning the purpose of the calling alongside: to counsel or support the one who needs it. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity who has been “called to our side.” He is a personal being, and He indwells every believer.” (

At this point in the gospel account of John, Jesus wants to assure the disciples that even if he physically isn’t with them – that God will not leave them alone. That even in the midst of great conflict, challenge and loss; that the disciples will never be orphans. The disciples in all of their need and confusion will not be left alone.

Jesus promises them the company of the Advocate – called to the side of the disciples; to comfort, strengthen, support and encourage for all that was to come and more.
This promise of the Advocate was not only for the disciples; but is a gift given to all believers. This promise of the Advocate is our gift too.

There were many times in my blogging and writing life that I felt discouraged or that the time I was spending playing with words was wasteful – what good were my words even doing? Is anyone even reading them? And then a comment or an email from one of my blogging “paracletes” would come. Someone would come alongside of me, give me some hope and help me to continue in the practice of being a writer.

I think that the life of faith is somewhat like the writing life in that it needs encouragement to continue and grow. In our faith life, there are times that we aren’t sure that our actions are making an impact or that there is someone more qualified or skilled in the call to follow Jesus. We worry that we aren’t doing this discipleship thing right – and then the Holy Spirit comes and lift up our hearts through our friends that walk with us, through an encouraging word and so many other ways.

Connection with an advocate – in writing or following Jesus is life giving. The amazing part about the life of faith is that there is no Wi-Fi connection necessary to receive encouragement and the gift of the Advocate. This is a gift that is given, through the grace and mercy of God, by Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. It can’t be shaken, or stopped or taken away – the Holy Spirit is the forever friend that will never leave us.

Perhaps today, it is good to be reminded of the promise of the Holy Spirit – the Comforter – the Paraclete – that stands by your side today and always. It is good to recognize that we are not alone in our lives and that the Spirit of God is our nearest and dearest friend forever.

In what way do you need to recognize that you have been given the gift of the Advocate in you daily life? Are there challenges with work, family, health, school, home…

Remember today, that you are not alone in the challenges. The Advocate is there with you. You are not an orphan left alone in the struggle, you are a beloved child of God and the Spirit is at your side today and every day.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Woman - Thank you

For bringing life to light
and carrying it with you.
woman - we thank you.

For offering your life
to nurture, teach and lead us -
woman - we thank you.

For the way you walk with us,
care for us and teach us to care for others.
Woman, we thank you.

For your intellect, your grace and the millions
of ways you bring the world hope...
Woman, we thank you.

Teacher, Parent, Friend, Strength giver, Playground supervisor, Chef, Creative....
you are impossible to define and life would be impossible without you.
Woman, we thank you.

Tara L. Eastman Copyright 2017

Thursday, May 04, 2017


When swimming in a sea of turbulence
the first reaction
is to fight
to strain
and overcome.

When I learned to swim
my lifeguard
"The water can be your enemy
your best friend."

Funny but true
how water can be more than two things,
but it is.

My first swimming lessons
were with my Dad,
teaching me how to float
on my back.

"Pretend there is a string
attached to your breast bone
pulling your chest towards
the sky."

"Relax your arms out wide."

"Arch your back."

"Let the sky pull that string."

"Let the water be your friend."

Be buoyant.
Be calm.
Breathe and...


By: Tara L. Eastman
Copyright 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Plant something new

Last week I was on a stay-cation with my husband. While we wanted to take some day trips to some area parks. zoo, and other local stops that we don't have time for in our regular life, we also wanted to try a small "gardening" project too.

We live on a corner lot with very steep hills that are six to eight feet deep and have mowed these hills for all the years we've lived here. These hills have claimed many hours of mowing time, two gas mowers and one people powered reel mower. This summer, it's our hope to try something new on these hills.

We did the research on landscaping options, we consulted with a local nursery on what to plant, and we got our supplies in hand:

Four flats of ivy
Six bags of black mulch
Two pair of gardening gloves
A hand tiller
Black weed blocking material - one roll
Two days to try out our experiment

Over the two days, we removed by hand the top sod layer, tilled the soil under by hand, removed the stones and weeds, laid the black fabric, placed our plants and laid the black mulch on top.

At the end of the project with a twenty foot section of the hill, we had blisters, sunburn and a happy little corner of hill that is filled with baby ivy plants that are beginning to take root and grow. Over the first two days the plants were in, we experienced torrential thunderstorms that we feared would wash our work away - but thankfully so far the mulch and plants are staying put and perking up in their new home.

Our hope is that new ivy plants, and the ones we continue to add, will cover the entire hill section on the two corners of our lot  to reduce mowing AND have it look beautiful.

The process of this project coming to fruition took a long time to come to pass. For over a decade we struggled with the hills and kept doing the same thing to mow the grass. We invested time, tools and lots of sweat equity - but the hill, grass and frustration remained the same. Finally, we realized that we needed to remove what was growing - and plant something new.

Our project is still in it's testing stage and we are not sure how it will turn out, but our hope is that this ivy (this new plant) will take root, grow and become an asset to our yard instead of being a pain in the ass like the previous grass was. Sometimes, you just have to plant something new, even if you get blisters and sunburn in the process.

Life is a lot like the hills on our lot. We look at how steep they are and bemoan that things will never change. We mow the hills and sweat. We break tools that aren't suited to the environment and wonder why they don't work - we long for change, but rarely look for new things to plant in our corner of the world.

I think the advice to plant something new is helpful to many areas of our lives. We all have hills that seem too steep to climb. We all have environments that need change. We all have embankments that need ivy planted on them. We all need to plant something new - or have something new planted in us.

For fun, for growth and for change, I'm gonna go dig something up and plant something new. How about you?

Friday, January 06, 2017

The epiphany of "WE"

In life, it can be easy to succumb to the idea that we are better off left by ourselves. People can hurt or offend us. We can become tired of all the noise of being in community.We can long for peace and quiet that we find in solitary space. Even as a extrovert, there are times that living in the atmosphere of "WE" becomes too much.

Taking a pause needed?
Collecting our thoughts is important?
But saying farewell to community forever because it's challenging, frustrating and stressful?

In the account of the Kings coming to see the Christ Child, we see three people traveling to seek something - someone - that made living in community something good, life-changing and hope-giving. This Christ Child brought with him God's promise of love, forgiveness AND a call to be in community. To be "We" instead of "Me".

God, help us in the midst of conflict, frustration, and anxiety. Holy Spirit, help us to live into the new life of community that the Kings searched for and protected. Jesus, remind us by your life of fostering, redeeming and preserving community and helping us to move from "ME" to "WE".

May your Epiphany bring you love, joy, peace and hope to live as "WE".

Matthew 2:2-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Visit of the Wise Men
Matthew2:2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd[d] my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men[e] and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,[f] until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.