Saturday, September 24, 2011

Coffeehouse song picks

Last night, some friends and I who are part of a praise team called 'Sacred Fire', held a coffeehouse concert at our church. We had a great time getting ready for the performance and playing last night. I was graciously given space in the set to play two songs that I've written....

See breathe

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You turned on the light

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(Please take a listen to the tunes embedded here and let me know which one you like best!)

It is a joy to share music with people and see and hear the effects of it. Last night's crowd was very kind and receptive to everything that was presented and the variety of our set list was broad: "I will rise" by Tomlin to "You look wonderful tonight" by Clapton.

If you were to sing a song for a coffeehouse - what song would you choose to play and why?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The dots be done, well - kinda...

For all of you following the progress of the "dots" banner, the trim and ties were completed and one is up in the contemporary worship space and the other will be hung up in the Nave after a wedding on Saturday.

Each banner is a work in progress as each week people will be invited to respond to the question, "How have you been made aware/seen/understood God's presence this week?" or in simpler terms - "Where did you see God?".

These banners will be continually added to for this Sunday school year, but this project is not limited to the youth. Its my hope that all attendees and visitors will feel welcome to add to this visual display of God's love and grace.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Swinging between

Image from Helex blog.

"It seems the swinging of life races between two extremes of beginning and end, birth and death, and light and dark.
It's raining tonight, the dog snores and the fridge hums; and the swinging is happening now.

The pendulum is racing down rain covered brick streets, past just yellow almost red stop lights.
Brakes squeal, horns blast and the safe space wins at this light.
But what will happen at the next intersection?

We could take up running up hills in rain storms to feel alive.
Our hearts would pound, our breaths would have to be deep and our
rain drenched legs would tremble to reach the top -
to sprint with arms flailing on the downhill slope that is just over the crest.

I can't answer if it's the beginning or if its the end.
But I can put on my sneakers, press the remote to start the car,
and open my umbrella and hold it upside down.

I will swing it side to side like this pendulum of life,
and catch each raindrop that falls from this unpredictable sky
and into my reach.

Quench this thirst, bring things into balance, and let this rhythm be one I've lived before."

T.L. Eastman Sept 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weeds or Beauty Meme

"Where some see weeds, some find beauty." (Me)

Where do you find beauty, that is missed by others? Where do you miss beauty, and others find it? What do the commonalities and differences say about us as individuals and as groups of people?

Here are some quotes to help you ponder these ideas more from, the 'Quote garden'. Which one is your favorite?:

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. ~Doug Larson

A weed is but an unloved flower. ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit. Weeds are people's idea, not nature's. ~Author Unknown

Weeds are nature's graffiti. ~Janice Maeditere
(I like this one!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God connects our dots

Sunday school banner for 2011-12 school year at First Lutheran Church of Jamestown.

“God has a way of working dot-to-dot of our lives. For the last almost two years, I’ve been searching for a continuing education program specific to the ministry situation here at First Lutheran Church. I knew it had to be something I could do from Jamestown, it had to require a minimal amount of travel, it needed to engage my heart and mind and it had to apply to and assist me in the work I do on a daily basis. In February, my husband came across a book called, “The God bearing life.” by: Kenda Creasy Dean. In this book he learned about a Certificate program specific to current trends in youth and family ministry that fit all the requirements I’d hoped to find…”
Click here to read the original post.

Over a year ago now, I gave a version of this essay as a talk at the 9am Sunday service. I’m sharing it with you, because the idea of God connecting our dots is one that has carried throughout the time of me first sharing it to now. Our Sunday school children have worked to create two banners on it with the phrase, “GOD CONNECTS OUR DOTS!” and the scripture verse from Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Throughout the upcoming year, these two banners will be hanging in the traditional and contemporary worship space. These banners will be a place for people to write or draw the ways God is working and moving in their lives directly on the canvas. The question that we request to be answered and placed on this banner is: “How have I seen God at work in this day, week, month or year?”

Each week in youth group, we ask our teens this same question and are always blessed to hear the ways God is working in all our lives. Sometimes we just need a reminder that it’s something very important to share with each other! You are invited to add your thoughts to these banners. There will be markers placed close by them so that you can write your “God dot connections” on the banner in the Nave or the Parlor.

Looking back over the year or so since God helped to connect me to a means of greater learning and connection through the continuing education opportunities through Princeton Seminary; I’m only more encouraged and excited to see how God will continue to work in my life, your life and in the story and mission of First Lutheran Church of Jamestown. Thank you in advance for being willing to take up your marker and join in on the puzzle and journey, with God and each other, connecting our dots!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sleeping with bread: Lessons from an old tree

Photo of me loving a huge tree on the coast of Lake Chautauqua on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution.

Lessons from an old tree

"Encased in marble, the letters were old.
The spelling was odd, but not to far off to be told.
The "U's" were exchanged for the letter "v" -
the reason for this is far past what I can see.

Discomfort, confusion, frustration and fear
are fellows that hang around letters hard to hear.
Their message is odd and hard to grasp;
like something that made sense in years that have passed.

Moving down a path where the shade is just right,
the breeze is blowing and still-green leaves dance in sunlight.
A fountain flows freely in the midst of this place,
with Lilly pads floating in a pool of water with incredible grace.

At the end of the path there was an enormous old tree,
with branches reaching high even with all the age we could see.
It stood proudly there in this place it had grown,
half-facing the water and half-facing the stone.

This tree has wholeness in the place that it stands,
even though it's surroundings are half-water/half-land.
Fullness, beauty and purpose can be found;
in the spaces of paradox and unpredictable ground."

T.L. Eastman September 11"

Sleeping with Bread is a Monday Meme. Pick one of the examen prompts listed and write on that topic in regard to the last week of your life. You are free to post a link to your blog post here in the comments below or at the host page "Sleeping with Bread".
Here is the list of prompts to choose from: You can also phrase the question in any of the following ways:

For what am I most grateful? Least grateful?
When did I give and receive the most love? The least love?
When did I feel most alive? Most drained of life?
When did I have the greatest sense of belonging? Least sense of belonging?
When was I most free? Least free?
When was I most creative? Least creative?
When did I feel most connected? Least connected?
When did I feel most fully myself? Least myself?
When did I feel most whole? Most fragmented?
In this photo, the marble sign has the u's replaced with v's - If you know the reason, leave me a comment. Thanks for helping to solve this mystery.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

God is...

Image found at Classic Mary Moments.

God is holy, loving, creative and generous. If you had to choose one word to describe God, do you think you could do it? When I asked the children at my church this week the same question, they all agreed that one word is not enough to describe God. God is wonderfully complex!

I told them about the word from Old Testament times that people would use to try to capture the essence of God, Yahweh. Most folks agree that this word is a combination of letters that attempted to represent God and might have meant "I am" or "To be". The word Yahweh is really amazing, but event this one can't capture all the details of God. One word simply isn't enough to describe the greatness of God.

This week's gospel lesson was from Matthew 20:1-16. Jesus tells a parable about God's generosity, challenging the common assumption that God rewards people according to what they have earned or deserve. (If you want to read the lesson, I'll post it below.)

In the parable we are reminded of God's generosity. The workers in this story are called to the vineyard to work and the owner adds to the number of workers throughout the day. Some of the day laborers start work in the morning, some at noon, some in the afternoon and some are called to work at the end of the day. At the end of the day all the workers are paid the same wage, no matter if they worked a full day or just a few hours. The full day workers were unhappy with this arrangement, but the end of the day workers were joyfully surprised that the land owner had been so generous.

How would you feel if you came to work early, in the mid-day or at the end of the day and would all be paid the same wage?

Just like trying to find a single word to describe God is impossible, it can be impossible for us to understand the generosity of God. The gifts God gives are not based on our ability or performance, but on God's grace and mercy. All of this can be hard to understand logically, but it is a good thing that God does not treat us in a way based on performance or logic. No matter what we tried, we never would live a perfect life.

In all of God's complexity, it is wonderful to know that grace and mercy are additional facets of his character. While I may not have succeeded in finding a single word to describe God, I have a metaphor of God being like a precious jewel. A jewel is costly, a jewel is beautiful and every time you look at it you can see something wonderful and new in it.

Thank you God for your generosity to us, help us to be generous with everyone you place in our path this week!

Matthew 20:1-16 (New International Version)

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”