Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Skimming over the grief to a place of peace

Since the news last week of the shooting in CT, I've been skimming over the grief. A good friend of mine stated, that it wasn't possible for her to look at the photo of the 20 children and 6 adults that lost their lives. I can't either, as least I can't if I stay in this space of skimming.  

The extent of this loss and violence makes me feel as if I might drown in it.
I don't want to really see it.
I'm fearful that it will pierce my heart in an inconsolable way.
And then I'm only looking at this loss from arms length. 
I did not know any of these people personally, however this kind of loss cuts all of us to the quick.
Children and adults that were full of life, hope and promise; were taken away.
This kind of tragedy just shouldn't happen. 

My dear friend Becky send me this Psalm this week to be a help to me. She gave it to me as a reminder of how God in the way that only God can - work in the midst of tragedy, call others to help the hurting and ultimately hold on to hope. 

Earlier today, I was able to (with the help of my church's knitting ministry) give 4 prayer shawls to a friend who works in the area of Disaster Services. Her agency is collecting prayer shawls to be given to the families and first responders who assisted those impacted by the tragedy in Newton, CT. first hand.

Bit by bit, I begin to see how small steps like reading the following text from Isaiah 35 and getting prayer shawls to the people who need them are ways of working past skimming over grief into walking through it  - to a place of help and hope.

May these words give you hope for whatever wild times you are living in and my the God of perfect peace give you strength.

Grace and Peace,

Isaiah 35

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,

And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;

It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,
Even with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
The excellence of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
The excellency of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
And make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are fearful-hearted,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance,
With the recompense of God;
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb sing.
For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,
And streams in the desert.
The parched ground shall become a pool,
And the thirsty land springs of water;
In the habitation of jackals, where each lay,
There shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there, and a road,
And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean shall not pass over it,
But it shall be for others.
Whoever walks the road, although a fool,
Shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it;
It shall not be found there.
But the redeemed shall walk there,
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pictures of hope: always we begin again


Photos have an amazing way of bringing back old memories don’t they? No matter if you collect them in Albums, Scrapbooks, Facebook or Instagram – photo sharing is an important way of telling your families stories in a concrete way. You can point to and talk about who is in the picture, what they were doing and why that moment in time is still important to you today. Photos tell us not only what we were doing then, but what group or community was important as well. When my family was young, each summer we would take a photo at the photo booth at Midway Park. Over the years, we collected these strips of photos, and my husband created a collage. This collage (above) is one of my most cherished possessions. It reminds me of those early days, reminds me of how small my own children once were and continues to give me hope for the future. Pictures that we take at church have to same power to help us remember who we are and carry hope into the future days to come.

The Advent season was a time for many pictures of hope at First Lutheran Church. From Blanket Builds, Christmas Parades, Community Christmas Party, Bell ringing with SLYM youth and parents, visitation at Lutheran, 42 boxes filled and sent overseas with Operation Christmas Child ,Advent Supper, Families reading weekly Advent prayers, Lucia Festival’s 60th Anniversary, Choir and Sacred Fire sharing music each week in worship, Children’s Advocacy Training with 18 caring adults working to promote greater safety for children in our community, and Sunday School Staff, parents, guardians, teens and children working together as a team of 50 people shared this year’s “Sheep Tweets and Camel Tales” Sunday School program. All these moments were times where the hope of God’s message was shared richly.

What is the message that God is sharing in and through First Lutheran Church? I believe the message God is sending is: “I know you, I love you.” I know you and I love you, means that God know our weaknesses and strengths, our needs and dreams, and gave Jesus, “Not to condemn the world but to save the world through him,” (John 3:17)
It is almost a new year, a time where we all begin again. As we think of the year just past, let’s hold on to hope of Jesus; and take a step into many new opportunities to share God’s message. From youth to families, college and career, mid-life and seniors – God sends his message and asks us to share it with hope in our hearts.
 “I know you and I love you”

Now, let’s begin again.                        

Peace and Grace,

Friday, November 02, 2012

Please release me, let me go

The lyrics of the song, "Please release me, let me go.."  (thank you Tom Jones) have been bouncing around my mind all week. I've been pondering on the practical and spiritual meaning of the story of Lazarus and what it means to be "untied" from things that bind or hold people back.

Later this weekend, I will be sharing a children's message based on the reading in John 11, concerning the death of Lazarus. I know the story and I'm pretty sure that we shared it with the kids at VBS a few years ago, but I'd like to be careful in how it's presented. This Sunday is All Saints Sunday, it was just Halloween - and as much as I like the fun of Halloween, I don't want the account of Lazarus and Jesus to sound like another spooky story.
The more I read this account, the more I'm struck on how Jesus walks into a situation of grief, experiences that grief, and takes action to release his friends and himself from it. The words that I keep getting stuck on are as follows, " Take of the grave clothes and let him go."

Lazarus had died, true. Jesus raises him, true. But when it comes to being freed to take his first Resurrected steps, Jesus asks Lazarus' friends and family to help.

"Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

Shortly after this account, the timeline on Jesus own arrest, crucifixion and Resurrection speed up. In fact, it seems that some of the expediency of his own death comes as a result of his actions to assist Lazarus and his family. Stunning, isn't it? While Lazarus' resurrection was not eternal, like Jesus. The act of resurrection was something that caused so much upset, that Jesus was targeted for execution.

All this talk of death, does not make for an easy children's message, but here in lies a theme that will be suitable to their, and their parents ears...

Jesus wants to set us free from the things that tie us up, in this life and beyond. Just as Jesus set Lazarus free from death and his family free from grief; he invited them to help in at action of "letting go" and moving into a new or resurrected way of living - now!

"Take off the grave clothes and let _____ go."

I suppose it could be said, that we all wear "grave clothes" of one sort or another. Instead of looking at life a opportunity, we can always think of the limitations. The negative can often overshadow the positive. However, in this lesson, Jesus overcomes all that, and then asks people to help remove the grave clothes and "let him go". 

In the simple act of asking for people's help; maybe Jesus assigns some resurrection responsibility to us? Could it be, that people have the ability, with God's help, to remove some grave clothes (limitations, negativity, apathy) and help to free others to live a new life that is full of opportunity, positivism and care?

Putting it simply, what things make you and those you care about feel "tied up"? How might Jesus be asking us to help try on some new clothes and be freed up to live?

Jesus took a great deal of risk in reaching out to resurrect Lazarus and invite others into living new lives. I think that risk, along with the repercussions that came afterward for him are a reminder of God's great love for people, and a reminder to work together for freedom and life.

So, in response to this message, I say to myself just as I share it with others:

Put on some new duds. Let go. Live. - and help others to do the same.

"Take off the grave clothes and let ________ go."

JOHN 11:41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up(AS) and said, “Father,(AT) I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here,(AU) that they may believe that you sent me.”(AV)
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”(AW) 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen,(AX) and a cloth around his face.(AY)
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rainy Day Recipe: "Stir it up Sandy" Veggie Curry

3-4 Heads of Kohlrabi
4 Beets (Fresh)
3-4 Yellow and Green Squash
1 Large Sweet Onion
Bunch of Green Onion
1 Bag Baby Carrots
2 Apples
Handful of Kale
Canned tomatoes


Berbere (African Spice) to taste.
Fresh Ginger Root - as you like it.
Olive Oil
Chicken/Veg. Soup Stock

Chop all veggies and toss in large saute pan with olive oil and all spices.
Simmer till all veggies are tender. You may want to add the tougher veggies first (Carrots, Kohlrabi, Beets and Onions) and the more tender veggies later.) Before you serve, mash the stew a little to desired consistency. Serve over rice, quinoa, or with good bread.

I add an additional dash of cinnamon toward the end of the cooking process for an extra dose of taste. If you like, add a little fresh mozzarella to the top of the dish for contrast with the sweet spicy flavor.


Hurricane Prayer

My Facebook friend Gary posted this link earlier today and I can't help but re-share it here. While many on the East coast stand up to oncoming hurricane weather, first responders  have been preparing and those inland watch pray-fully from hundreds of miles away. We all are keeping friends closer to the storm close in thoughts and prayers. We all want to help in some way. At the least, or some might say most, we can all pray, support and work together to bring all people to safety in this stormy time.

Thanks Gary for sending this link out today.

"God of the Universe, at the dawn of creation, your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. You created the oceans and rivers, and all that dwell within them, and at your word the wind and the waves were born. The seasons follow your plan, and the tides rise and fall on your command. In both calm and storm, you are with us.
On the Sea of Galilee, even when the disciples began to fear, Jesus showed that he was Lord over the waters by rebuking the storms, so that all would know that even the wind and the waves obey him.
Creator God, we ask you to calm the wind and the waves of the approaching hurricane, and spare those in its path from harm. Help those who are in its way to reach safety. Open our hearts in generosity to all who need help in the coming days. In all things and in all times, help us to remember that even when life seems dark and stormy, you are in the boat with us, guiding us to safety. Amen." (This link found at the Huffington Post.)
Published originally at America Magazine

Friday, October 26, 2012

Remembering Grumpkins

A little over two years ago, our family friend Pat passed away due to complications in heart surgery. Every Halloween I am especially tuned into memories of Pat and his amazing, creative and artistic skills. Take a few minutes to visit his website and learn a little more about the creator of "Grumpkins".

Happy Halloween Pat -JOY!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Anger does not equal hatred

Anger is a very real and volatile emotion. I do not want to discount those that have been mistreated or hurt as a result of it. Being on the receiving end of anger generally isn't pleasant. 

Image found at Anger control.

However,  do not mistake anger as hatred. Anger is a secondary emotion that can come from a place of frustration, concern or deep care for people. It is an emotional vehicle that is misused all too often, but can also be rooted in love and be a means of defeating injustice and hatred.

Anger is a secondary emotion. It is important to seek the root of it - ugly or beautiful; if you are going to move towards any resolution or peace.

It is important to learn ways - healthy ways - for everyone to deal with anger. It's an emotion that we all experience from time to time. So instead of being the "elephant" in the room of relationships, lets give anger a chance to count to 10 and take a step toward restoration.

For some hints on how to deal with anger, go to: Anger Control tips.

Grace and peace,

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mission Meal October: Heart in my hands

This Sunday at 1pm, Abbi Rajasekhar will be playing a live music set at First Lutheran Church in Jamestown NY. This concert does not have a standard door fee, however please bring a dish of food to share (as we all will share a meal together), a non-perishable food item to donate to Joint Neighborhood Project and a little cash to help Abbi put gas in her tank for this leg of her Fall Tour.

Take a moment. Watch and listen. Your ears - and heart are about to get a treat you'll want to experience again - this Sunday, @ First Lutheran Church Parlors, 1PM.

My Heart in My Hands

Abbi Rajasekhar | Myspace Music Videos

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bread for the road and evicting the gremlin

 I found this quote on a board in the dorm I'm staying in this weekend - who would have thought
that Joan Chittister would meet me here and greet me, just when I needed it the most.
St. Benedict's is a Benedictine Monastery that I visit regularly and it just so happens to be her home community. Coincidence - I think not. :) Here is a short video clip to see what kind of ministry these amazing ladies are active in every day...

Bread to take with me...
This week I'm in Dubuque, Iowa at Wartburg Theological Seminary for a weekend of intensive study in the area of Lutheran Worship. The work week has already been very full after a fun overnight with the Shared Lutheran Confirmation Youth on retreat, planning for an upcoming Youth Sunday, and getting ready to hit the road, and air today at 4am to head west to Wartburg. This bread may not be well thought out, but these things are the ones I take with me for the adventure ahead - I hope this "quick bread" is a blessing to you as well.

There have been many references back to last weeks' bread to "Keep, toss and donate" since last week's 
Sleeping with Bread. I've had a few opportunities to share it as a devotional prompt and have been thankful that it has resonated with some folks. That in itself has been some good bread for me.

What I've continued to leave behind is the nagging feeling of not quite making the cut in some academic terms. No one has told me this, except the gremlin in the back of my brain. But that nagging has held me somewhat captive in taking steps to write, read, and move forward on some school assignments this week. I know I need to press on, and will - but naming this gremlin just might be helpful in requesting it's quick exit.

There are some other amazing encouraging people out there: folks from Cohort B and C from the Princeton Seminary Youth Ministry Certificate Program. This group of folks have been and continue to be bread in my life in so many ways. My family has been fantastic. They have worked out work schedules, made meals, bought laundry soap and put up with my occasional grumpiness about what "Needs to be done!" Oh my, what a drama queen going back to school can make me at times. They are good at keeping the "queendom" rolling along.

For the last few weeks, a small group of folks have been meeting at lunch time once a week for conversation, scripture reading and discussion of moments where we take notice of God's presence and work in our lives and the lives of others. This sharing - especially the time of prayer has been uplifting to my heart.

What bread are you carrying with you this week? Can you pack it into a carry-on easily? Is it giving you life?
Can I give you a suggestion?

Image found at Bing Images

If you have a gremlin on board as a stow-away, tell him to make a quick exit prior to reaching 30,000 feet - or else!

Grace and (A little gremlin booting) Peace,

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Winnie and the Jesus dream

Pastor Cartwright's wife's name was Winnie. At least that is what I think her name was. No she wasn't "Winne the Pooh", but she was very friendly and kind. She had gray fluffy hair, a kind face, and a easy going way about her. All these characteristics were reasons I probably wasn't afraid to tell her about the dream I'd had.

I was no more than 5 years old and I was sitting in her Kindergarten Sunday school classroom. There was I picture on the wall of Jesus and a multicultural group of children crowding around him. I really liked that picture.

At some point, I'd had a dream about Jesus when I was in her class. In the dream, I was one of the children in the crowd huddled around him. In fact, at one point of the dream I was sitting on Jesus lap having a nice chat with him - probably about how much I loved my red patent leather Buster-brown dress shoes.

No matter what I actually talked to Jesus about in my dream, I was so excited to have been "choosen" to be so close to him.

I couldn't wait to tell Winnie.

We all said our hellos and got started talking about the lesson that day, but upon seeing the picture in that classroom I could wait no longer.

"Miss Winny, can I tell you about a dream I had? It's about Jesus!"

She smiled. She listened.
She did not chide me for wanting to be the child in the center of Jesus' attention.
She included the rest of the class in the discussion.
She affirmed me that it was a wonderful dream and brought this dream into the light of day.
We all talked about how it would be amazing to meet Jesus face to face.
What would we say to him?
Who would we tell about meeting him?
What do we think he would say to us?

In our discussion, we read Mark 10:13-16 and knew what Jesus would do.
Jesus would bless the little children, take time with the little children and love the little children.

Just like Miss Winne did.
Thanks Winnie.
You always let us know that God has plenty of space for " All the little children of the world."
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)

Monday, October 01, 2012

SWB: Things to keep

There is a distinct difference in what I actually need and what I want. And if I'm honest, I know that all the seeking after the 'wants' can prevent me from digging into the needs I actually have.

The last week has been a whirlwind of want/needs. When I pause to look at what I'm most grateful and least grateful for - I'm pointed to the spaces of need and the thin residue of want that often gets in the way.

So, if you will bear with me - I'm going to do some thoughtful sorting this week in SWB. It may be a process that will take more than this one post. But the sorting has to start somewhere, right?

If you have ever watched those remodeling shows on TLC - you'll recall the keep, throw away, and donate piles that are necessary to come to a place of elbow room and change to whatever space is being reworked. If I were to remodel my interior life - what would I keep, throw or donate?

This metaphor has a great deal of possibility - so here's whats in my pile of "What to keep" for this week:

Patience with self and others: Transition has been a key word for me this fall. Seminary classes have started, re-working programs and work related roles is an ongoing process, and coming to terms with this is challenging. In this transition, some things have come to the surface that are needed more than ever. 

Thoughtful and life giving conversations: My husband, Ian, and I love to have deep conversations. We like to dream, to ponder, and puzzle with each other over so many things. It's been especially helpful for me to talk out some school-work questions, dream some vocational dreams and have his support and partnership in this process. This kind of conversation with Ian, makes me desire greater depth with my interactions with others as well. 

This week at work, there was a great deal of this activity as Paul Sparks from the Parish Collective came to discuss mission and 'weaving a fabric of love and care in our community." Over lunch, over dinner and walking around Jamestown - this quality conversation happened all week long with many members of the community. 

Openness: Over another meal with friends this weekend, a woman came up to our table and asked us - "Are you all on a team together?" The friends gathered were a mix of family, new acquaintances, old friends and mission workers. We all attend different churches, but the one thing we all have in common is our faith in God. So, we responded, "We are all friends, but I suppose you could say we are on God's team." 

The woman's eyes filled with tears and she said, " I want to be on God's team - I NEED GOD!"

Her honesty took me off guard, my friend got up and embraced her. We listened to her profess her needs. By the end of the meal, she had a glimmer of hope in her eyes. The next day, my friend took her to church with her and got her connected with a supportive faith community. 

This account may seem unreal, but it was very real. Thankfully, the group of friends assembled were open enough to welcome this unpredicted conversation.  What if this sense of openness invaded everyday life? What kinds of unexpected "Bread" would be born into the common?

"What to donate"

The "what to donate" is becoming a little clearer. What that revolves around is discerning what to say yes or no to, but also involves bringing some more partners in holy mischief alongside to help with what is to be. There are some cool things I have on hand, but they might be better used if I placed ownership in others hands. More to come on this.

"What to toss"

If I sort carefully, the 'what to toss' comes down to a central theme: self-imposed limitations that are kept in place by fear. 

I came across this quote earlier this week: "The key to change is to let go of fear." Rosanne Cash

There seems to be so much change that needs to come about. Sometimes I get in a hurry and other times I bog progress down by living into fear instead of living into the promise of hope. I need to uncurl my clenched fists to allow access to that key of change or ask God to help me become free of fear.

All the things I desire to hold on to are a part of that unclenching process: patience, caring conversations and openness. 

What do you need to keep, donate and toss this week?

Blessings on your bread baking and sorting - 

Sleeping with Bread: Getting Re-started

It's been a while since "Sleeping with Bread" was a regular practice for me. A while back, there was a sweet little community of bloggers that would share in this Monday practice but over time, pressing schedules, and life's movements  - it was a practice that sort of fell away.
One of our community posted this to his blog a while back to explain more of what Sleeping with Bread is - 
So here are some thoughts from Unfinished Person...
During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”
Linn, Dennis et. al, Sleeping with Bread

Sleeping with Bread is a Monday meme. You can participate in one of two ways: 1) Pick one of the above examen question sets and answer it in the comments section of my SWB post; or, 2) Create your own Sleeping with Bread post. 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?

For  simplicity's sake, I will kick things off in a  separate  post above with the first question listed (most grateful/least grateful). If you would like to join in, please do so by responding in the comments at this weeks "Sleeping with Bread". 

It's good to be baking with you again.