Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Write your story in hope and joy

Earlier today I stumbled across a quote concerning the coming new year that filled me with hope instead of a desire to reach for a mountain of impossible resolutions - "Tomorrow is the first blank page in a 365 page book. Write a good one." Brad Paisley.

We all have an ideal that we strive for - even this uphill idealist. But what if we looked at each day as writing ONE page instead trying to write ALL PAGES in one day? One day = one page. 

Each day we have one page to celebrate, struggle, hope, strive, aspire, dream and wrestle with our ideals - and then in joy write them down.

Write your own story, you are the only one with that unique perspective.

Each day, each page - write a good one. Even in what seems impossible and unchangeable. In hope and joy this is the kind of story that I resolve to write and live in 2014.

Happy New Year to all! What story do you want to write in the new year?

One day = one page - with hope and joy.

Shalom - Tara 

Friday, December 20, 2013

We all have a gift - open it!

When I was 12 years old, my college-age brother bought me an amazing gift – a stereo system complete with turntable, cassette deck, radio, speakers and a vinyl album of “Synchronicity” by the Police. The giving of this gift required lots of working overtime and thoughtfulness on my brother’s part but the receiving of this gift was one that still makes me smile years later. The memory of that Christmas is one that makes me feel a sense of home, even though the tangible gift is long gone. We all have a longing for things in life to become whole or complete, but we live with the reality of that tension that things aren't quite right. In recent reading of “Undone” by Laura Sumner Truax with First Lutheran’s True Sisterhood group, I have been learning about the tension of living in-between the spaces of Saint and Sinner.

 Laura writes,
“(The creation story) framed and ethic and a worldview. These were stories that helped explain why brothers had a hard time getting along, why men and women were different from the animals around them. They explored the unseen connectedness of everything that lives. Most importantly, these stories expressed meaning and purpose for humanity.” (Undone, pg. 23)

While creation was made for “good”, if you have read the creation account – you won’t have to go far before all of the good begins to fray. Eden was intended to be, “a wholeness…in the beginning…a home” (Truax, 24). However, this ideal of home, perfection, and total wholeness is something that always seems to be just beyond humanity’s grasp.

Sampson from the book of Judges is another example of this desire for home, and the difficult reality of it missing the mark. Sampson was a gifted child, who had been a blessing to his previously barren mother. His mother was instructed to, “be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come to his head, for the boy shall be a nazarite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:4-5)

Sampson’s calling was one that set him apart (nazarite) to serve God fully and without distraction; but before long Sampson’s resolve fray. His veracious appetites (read Judges 13-16) seem to run in total contrast with the calling that God had placed on his life. While in the end, Sampson was instrumental in helping to begin the process of being freed from their enemies; his life literally ended in rubble. Samson ultimately was redeemed and forgiven by God, but I can’t help but imagine what could have been accomplished, if only Sampson had wholeheartedly followed God’s direction and calling.

We all have God-given gifts that we are called to use in service to God and others. Adam had a knack for names, Eve had an ear to listen carefully, and Sampson had great strength. While our gifts can have a shadow side; (Adam blaming Eve, Eve following the serpent’s advice, and Sampson giving his strength in exchange for desire.) ; God desires’ we use our gifts to show his light and love in the world. While we can live as sinners, God calls us as his saints through the work of Jesus on the cross. Like all of the people that we have read about in scripture, “we create our lives with little choices.” (Truax, pg. 31)

The album title that I received for Christmas all those years ago is one that also speaks to the joy experienced when things come together unexpectedly. Synchronicity is: the synchronism of events that appear to be connected but have no demonstrable causal relationship. (thefreedictionary.com)  God-given gifts help to connect us in ways that we never imagine. When partnered together in the body of Christ, using our God-given gifts becomes a joyous experience of synchronicity that can travel well beyond the doors of our building.

The first step toward using our God-given gifts, is knowing what our gifts are. We unwrap Christmas gifts in order to enjoy, use and apply them and enhance our daily lives. Our built-in gifts need to be unwrapped too! While we are always aware of our shadow sides, it is important to take some time to consider what our gifts are and how we can use them to serve God and humanity. What is your gift?

We all have gifts and we have people in our lives that need us to use them. Our gifts, when used with God’s purpose in mind can be a means of light, home and mending that is needed in the frayed edges of the world. 

In 2014, imagine how our God-given gifts can be used to foster light, hope, joy, peace and love. These are the kind of gifts that last – beyond our individual lives and times. These God-given gifts are eternal and call us all to leave the light on for every heart that is searching for home.

For more information on True Sisterhood Jamestown Group, contact Tara L. Eastman @ 716-969-3950 or eastman_tara@yahoo.com

Works Cited: “Undone: When coming apart puts you back together” by: Laura Sumner Truax

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Board the Ubuntu Bus

Image found at My Hero Project

There is the idea of "No man or woman is an island.” The philosophy of Ubuntu lifted up by South African culture to promote balance of relationships within community, says we are not complete when left solitary. “South Africa's first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95. Mr. Mandela led South Africa's transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison for his political activities.”(BBCNews Article) In honor of Nelson Mandela’s life and his death this week – it’s timely to ponder the importance and meaning of “Ubuntu”. President Mandela was a man that risked everything in order to stand up against the injustice of Apartheid. This challenge was not one without fear, but fear did not keep him from stepping into the fray - for the restoration of justice for others.

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." Nelson Mandela

Image found at Art for Ocalan

The South African word Ubuntu was a primary focus of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu in their efforts to end Apartheid – a system of discrimination based on race in South Africa. However, Ubuntu remains to be an overarching philosophy not only in South Africa but is a community foundation of many global communities.

Ubuntu means: humanity, connections, partnership, and relationship. Ubuntu is not only a philosophy that is helpful in a social – relational context, but in a spiritual one as well. Ubuntu is a way of life not only for South Africa but can be here, today, in my life as well as yours.

John the Baptist was a unique fellow. Some might have called him eccentric. He lived in wilderness, ate locusts and honey, and when he ventured a little closer to humanity, he challenged them to repent, to turn away from living for themselves, but to turn towards God in humility through the act of baptism. Before baptism, people tend to live as an island unto themselves.  After baptism – people begin living out “Ubuntu” with God and others. Through baptism, we realize that we are no longer on our own and for our own interests. Through baptism we are embraced in God’s amazing, challenging, beautiful, confusing, imperfect, and diverse family. Through baptism, we are forgiven and adopted in the family of God.

The act of baptism is one that reminds each of us of our need for God. We need God’s forgiveness from sin, but we also need his presence in our daily lives. Some of us may remember our baptism – and others may not; but the power of this sacrament remains with us all the days of our life. Through baptism we are forgiven and no longer are just for ourselves - we are God’s.
In Krista Tippet’s book “Speaking of Faith", the concept of Ubuntu defines humanity in this way: "I am through you and you are through me. To the extent that I'm estranged from another person, I am less than human." (Tippet pg. 182).

 Baptism allows us to experience forgiveness and an adoption into God’s family. Our estrangement and separation from God has been mended. We are still human, but God’s restoration has been made complete. Through baptism, we experience Ubuntu with God and are called to extend it to others.

My understanding of Ubuntu is a great reminder that in life we all need each other. In my hurry to get a job done, sometimes I’ll plow through on my own in order to reach my goal. In the perspective of Ubuntu, flying solo won't cut it. We may sometimes feel that life and work may go  working in a team, but we all are more fully “human” when we work together.
St. John's Bible - John the Baptist

I get the impression from reading about John the Baptist, that he might have been a loner. He lives differently, eats differently, dresses differently and interacts with people differently than most people in his day. But even in his ‘differentness’, God calls him to direct everyone to prepare for Jesus.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:1-12 condensed)

The message that John preaches to the people was not gentle or easy to hear, just like the message of equality that Nelson Mandela spent his life proclaiming – but it needed and needs to be spoken.
Image found at: Write Spirit

[...] A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.” ― Desmond Tutu, No Future without Forgiveness

Through God’s call, John became more connected to humanity. He taught disciples, spoke to, touched and baptized thousands. This wilderness rabbi was a loner, but God called him into humanity in order to help prepare humanity for Jesus. John became a part of humanity and the concept of Ubuntu, even though he never specifically heard that word. John was made a part of God’s team through and with Jesus and impacted millions that he never would see with his own eyes. John the loner’s part may look small in contrast to Jesus, but without eccentric John – people may have never paid attention to Jesus.

Bishop Desmond Tutu says, “Ubuntu [...] speaks of the very essence of being human. [We] say [...] "Hey, so-and-so has Ubuntu." Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, "My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons."

God called John into humanity in order to prepare humanity for Jesus message.  John and Jesus and you and I: “belong in a bundle of life – a person is a person through other persons.” We as brothers and sisters in Christ are called to live and work together. We are not loners, we are family. We are connected, cared for and make true community through actions of Ubuntu: respect, humanity, connections, partnership, and relationship.

We are through baptism adopted into God’s family and share in Jesus message of forgiveness and grace - both only made possible through the help and power of the Holy Spirit. What an amazing team. In this bundle of community and connection with God – we are no longer an island unto ourselves.
Image found at: School Bus Slide Puzzle

Who’s on you bus?
A few years ago, my friend and mentor Pastor Becky Heart challenged me to answer this question. “Who is on your bus?” What she wanted to know was, “who were the people that like John the Baptist, called me to pay attention to Jesus and shared love and compassion with me.” Who were to people of faith that challenged me to grow, that redirected me when I was on the wrong road, and that prayed and supported me in my daily life.

Since she asked me that question, I've been more intentional in asking people to be on my “bus”, being thankful for them, and letting them know it. We all need to have people of faith on our buses. Just like children need help getting ready for school, we need help on our journeys each day too. So who do we need on our bus?

1.     First and foremost, we need God the father, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit on our bus – and thankfully that forgiveness and grace has already been extended to us.
2.     We also need “John the Baptists” on our buses. People that remind us that we are going the wrong way down a one way road. We need voices like Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu that call for us to speak up against discrimination and invite us to engage in our God-given bundles of humanity.
3.     We need parents, teachers, authors, friends and family on our buses – those that occur by blood relation and those God places as surrogates exactly where we have a need.

So as my bus-mate Becky asked me, I now ask you: “Who is on your bus?”  Who calls you to prepare the way for Jesus? Who calls you back to God’s grace and forgiveness? Who calls you into the team of humanity that is Ubuntu.
Who is on your bus?

We all need people on our bus. Sometimes the bus is full and other times there are some empty seats. If there are more seats that need filling, take a look around. There are people that would love to help and fill a seat on your bus.

With God’s help we will be amazed with where this journey of life may take us –  in our buses filled with our bundles of humanity and the spirit of Ubuntu.

Heavenly Father - Help us to fill our buses with people that call us closer to you. Help us to hear the call to prepare the way for Jesus not only for our life, but for the lives of all humanity. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jesus - the missing peace

Image found at: achurch4me
Story of missing puzzle piece – When my daughter was almost one and a half, I was working on redecorating her bedroom. I bought some bright colored fabric and sewed some curtains and bought a new comforter for her new toddler bed. To complete the decorations I found a puzzle that matched the design of her curtains and spent many evenings working on it. I filled in the sky, the houses and all the people in this colorful parade scene. But when I got to placing the last piece of the puzzle, it was nowhere to be found. I searched our apartment from top to bottom, emptied the trash, a vacuumed every corner. I even checked the vacuum cleaner bag – but the missing piece was nowhere to be found.

I had planned to seal the finished puzzle with puzzle glue, frame and hang it on my daughter’s bedroom wall. But now, my plans - along with the last piece of the puzzle were lost.

For a day or so I sulked about the missing puzzle piece. I considered going a buying another puzzle just to search for one I was missing.

Then all of the sudden, a new idea came to mind.

Life is not perfect. There are many things that are missing and out of place, but that doesn’t mean you stop living. 

With that realization, I looked at the incomplete puzzle with new eyes. I got out the puzzle glue and sealed it as it was. The next day it was placed in a frame and hung on the wall. When friends came over to see the room’s transformation, I’d challenge them to try and find the missing piece in that puzzle, and rarely could they find it.

What was first thought of as ruined and imperfect became a focal point that shouted of beauty; when looked at through the eyes of humility and grace. What I had wanted to be perfect, had not turned out to be so; but making peace with the project helped me to see beauty in and unexpected place.

Jesus –Christ the King:  makes peace in places that miss the mark.

Mary P.:
Earlier this week I had the honor of helping the staff of the Resource Center as they grieved the sudden loss of one of their residents. Mary life had its challenges as she had many needs, but what she is most remembered for was her smile, her love of surprises, her joyful response to affection, and her love of dancing. I was so impressed with was how her community at the Resource Center gathered to tell stories of her life and celebrate that she not only was remembered by them - but by Jesus too. Mary’s life was not perfect; but it was beautiful. The beauty of her life was evident in the testimony of the many people that knew and loved her, as well as in the promise of God’s care and forgiveness through the work of Jesus on the cross. By sharing in Mary’s life this week, I was privileged to see beauty, love and grace in an unexpected new place.

Jesus –Christ the King: makes beauty in the midst of the struggle with imperfection.

Jesus is a new kind of King:
When we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, our thoughts may jump to other places in scripture; like the triumphant entrance of Jesus riding on a colt from Luke 19.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

 Or even the announcement of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among who he favors!” and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

But Luke 23 tells of Jesus crucifixion, mocking and public humiliation, and insults. From the sign over his head, reading ‘KING OF THE JEWS’, to the soldiers gambling to own his garments, and the thief next to him shouting, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” This ugly, upsetting and imperfect scene does not seem fit for a king.
Image found at: http://www.omargutierrez.com: Tranlated "Victim of love"

But Jesus was not just any King. He was and is “Christ the King”.

“Jesus … is the one who serves others. The one who takes up the burdens of others is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. “(“With the eyes of faith” by: Delmer Chilton)

While so many turned away from Jesus in that terrible moment on the cross, the second thief recognized this humble, self-sacrificing King,  and recognized his need for him. He called out for help.

“…somehow, the second thief got it, saw what Jesus was doing, saw that here was the lord of the universe, the king of kings, refusing to swat his oppressors, dying so that they could be forgiven, dying so that by his suffering their suffering would be healed.” “(“With the eyes of faith” by: Delmer Chilton)

Jesus –Christ the King: withstood great persecution in order to offer salvation.

The missing peace:
The missing pieces of life are often much bigger than the one I was searching for to make a perfect space for my daughter to sleep and play in. But the lesson of looking for beauty in an imperfect world is one that is enormously important.

The stories I heard of Miss Mary’s life also remind me that while people and life are not perfect; there is beauty to be found all around us.

Jesus, Christ the King, and his conversation with the thief on the cross is the ultimate example of finding beauty in the midst of ugliness. Jesus has eyes to see and remember beauty, where no one else can. For the lost, the missing, the broken and plain; Jesus sees beauty through his eyes of love and forgiveness.

Like the old hymn that goes…(sung)
Why should I feel discouraged
Why should the shadows come
Why should my heart feel lonely
And long for heaven and home
When Jesus is my portion
A constant friend is he
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches over me
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me
I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches He watches me
His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me…
Jesus is the missing piece we all need to restore our lives to God. And not only is a piece of “restoration”; but complete peace. His eye is on the sparrow, the thief, and on each one of us; finding beauty in the broken, missing and all lost pieces of life.

Heavenly Father:
Thank you for Jesus “Christ the King” – the one who came to give himself for us and through him – the pieces and peace of our life is restored.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Creamy Pumpkin Curry Soup

2 Sweet Onions
1 stick butter
Curry power
Vegetable Stock
Garam Masala Spice
Block winter squash
Can of pumpkin 
Pint of heavy cream
Silken tofu
Fresh thyme

Melt butter in large non stick pan.
Thinly slice onions and place in pan.
Cook till glossy and translucent.
Add generous helping (to taste) of curry powder. 
Add handful of flour to thicken mixture.
Slowly add 4 cups of vegetable stock.
Add Garam powder to taste.
Add squash and pumpkin.
Let simmer until thick and comes to a slow boil.
In a separate bowl, mix tofu and heavy cream till blended smooth.
Combine veggie base and cream base.
If you desire a very smooth soup, blend mixture together In blender.
(Suggested approach)

Add additional garam, curry and salt to taste. 
As a last touch, add fresh thyme and a tablespoon of white sugar to blended soup.

Depending on desired thickness of soup 4-8 cups of veggie broth can be added to cream and veggie mix.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Pictures of hope

A few months ago, I asked friends for pictures of hope for a mini "Ted" version talk on the importance of Art and Faith. Today I put together a few pieces to be submitted for Women Create's upcoming show for 2014.

It is a juried show, so I have no guarantee that these pieces will be selected, however I'm happy to have the opportunity to show these pieces for consideration as well a hopeful that for someone they will shine some light, whimsy and joy into their day.

Raven's Dawn

A Woman's Vision

Mother and Child

Saturday, November 09, 2013

We can be ourselves or not...

"The lakes hidden among the hills are saints, and the sea too is a saint who praises God without interruption in her majestic dance. The great, gashed, half-naked mountain is another of God's saints. . . For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self. Trees and animals have no problem. God makes them what they are without consulting them, and they are perfectly satisfied. With us it is different. God leaves us free to be whatever we like. We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours."
—Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
"We can be ourselves, or not." A tree can only be itself. As for me, I can try to hide - discard - and diminish my true self. I can desire myself to be smarter, more organized, and way more affluent ( in whatever kind of currency is most valuable at the time).
Letting go of the should of's sometimes allows for the actual 'of's' to be and to breathe. 
Living in the "true self" means letting go of other's expectations of what image you portray
Living in the "true self" means making some space to say "No" to one thing in order to honor what is true.
Living in the "true self" sometimes means discarding what so easily entangles: pride, fear, failure - to be embraced by God that created and longs to see, hear, and celebrate the true self that was made in his own image.
The world would rather we hide away our real self, in order to fit in and cause no disruption. However, what the world needs is real selves that live out their real lives to address the real needs that surround us.
May your great joy meet the great need of the world - or better said:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 
― Frederick BuechnerWishful Thinking: A Theological ABC
True self - show up. The world really needs you - and you, and you, and you, and...

Earlier this week I took a bit of a risk and had my hair cut quite short. I'd been attempting to grow it out, but kept feeling weighed down by the effort and energy of the seeming never-ending process. It was time for it to go - and my freer true self has been thanking me for it since. From haircuts to deep wrestling to release the 'true self' - we can choose to be ourselves or not. God help me to choose truth.
This post is a response to Abby of the Arts prompt this week to a Community Lectio Divina practice from a reading by Thomas Merton. If you would like to join in the conversation, visit Abby of the Arts.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Roots of Renewal

There are days that feel out of sync.
They jumble, rustle, and rattle your center until all gravity is gone.
The ravens of change caw and cause you to shudder as you walk along the path ahead.
Are you really blazing a trail or just settling for a scenic route to avoid the potholes.

But each day, I'm told, is brand new.
And the restlessness can be a sign that something exciting and purposeful is growing here.
That flock of black birds could be calling me to pay some mind to the dew on the grass and the harvest in the fields that surround me.

Each step could be backwards, but there is movement.
There is progress.
Obstacles are being faced and filled in.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and roots don't grow deep overnight.
Renewal sometimes needs to be wrestled with, wandered around and waited for -
until one day something just fits.

There are days that feel out of sync - but this day something settled in with hope and will dig deep.

The ravens told me so.

Mixed Media Art and poetry T.L. Eastman / November 2013

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Naming the blessing - for All Saints Sunday

There is a great deal of power in a name. At birth we are given a name by our parents and that becomes an identifier of who we are. It’s the means of getting our attention, engaging us to participate and giving us a place to interact with others in community. When we have a name, we have a place in a family, at school or work. Our names become a vehicle of interacting with people. Even after death, our names remain to be a point of connection and blessing that carries on well beyond our lifetime. On this day of the Saints, we honor and remember those that have died and can take encouragement from their lives of faith in God. Their lives and our lives are a tapestry woven together by God’s grace and love; in the joys and the sorrows of life.

Our names give us a place in this world, but not all of the places and experiences of life initially feel like blessing. Martin Luther speaks of the tension of living with the effect of sin, as Christians being “simultaneously saint and sinner”. Luther says more on this tension of living as “simultaneously saint and sinner”:

“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” (Martin Luther, “An Argument in Defense of all the Articles of Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull”)

In the sermon on the plain in Luke 6, Jesus speaks of blessings in dramatic contrast with “woes”. These pairings contrast are not what one would naturally classify as blessings -
Luke 6: 20-21 “You’re blessed when you've lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding. You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal. You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning.” (The Message)

All of God’s Saints carry stories of blessing in all the circumstances of life and death; and just as we've already spoken the names of some of these Saints, I’d like to share a few accounts of how in the midst of loss, hunger and sorrow – blessing is present.

Image found at Dreams Website

“You’re blessed when you've lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding.”
Scott - A little over a month ago, my high school friend Scott passed away suddenly. He was the kind of person that was always kind, funny, and caring. When I attended Scott’s funeral I was reminded of the importance of relationships, reunion and remembering. People shared stories of how he loved to play drums in his church band, his deep love for his wife Emma and six month old son Conrad, and his gratitude to God for the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. Scott’s life was rich deep connections with others had created a multitude of memories and friendships. While to loss of Scott is heartbreaking, his legacy of being found in God’s kingdom is one that will continue.

In and through Christ, Scott was made a Saint.

“You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.” Jeanne – Jeanne lived a life that revolved around the love of her family and her love of God. The joy that flowed from her was contagious. She gave of her time, resources, and energy generously. Her appetite for life was not even abated when she was diagnosed with cancer. She visited people in jail, served in her church’s ministries and taught line dancing at a community center. As she battled with cancer, she gathered unexpected strength from the bread, wine and Word offered through communion.  Jeanne invited others to join in communion with God by the courage of her last years and her faith that one day she would be fully healed.

In and through Christ, Jeanne was made a Saint.
Image found at Alamo City Pundit

You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning. Scott and Jeanne’s stories are just two examples of how blessing and woe can be unexpectedly paired. We all have stories of saints that encourage, bless and live in a way that we hope to follow in. Today is a celebration of the lives of these saints and a call to hear, see and sense God’s presence in sharing their names and stories. The stories of these Saints may bring us to tears, but the telling of their stories is important.

Years ago, my older sister Heather passed away at the age of 15 due to heart failure. I have a memory of silence in the days before her passing. For years I wished that we had filled that time with tearful but joyful conversation. I desired that her life be remembered not for her illness, but for her gentleness – laughter – and love of God. So as you listen to this poem written in her honor, think of the Saints you know whose stories still need to be told.

This yellow leaf once was green with promise. It was connected, nourished, and alive. Hints of the fall were all around: Crisp evenings, rushing winds, and shorter days. But this yellow leaf fell in silence.  You should dance on the wind, swirl dramatically into your favorite wood, and be swept up over and over again: for leaping, laughter and your loud, love of life.There was no sound as she surrendered to the swirling water. Her story was not collected, heaped up or leaped into.

She twirled, calmly, quietly and silently; so as not to cause a stir on the surface.But the space she left behind was deep, wide, and shouted of her absence.Yellow leaf had curly raven hair, ice blue eyes, fair skin and freckles -that showed themselves when you stood close.

Silence should not claim your life. So today, I share your story and the dream of our goodbye that gave me hope to keep on living.

Yellow leaf, no more will you float in silence.

You should dance on the wind, swirl dramatically into your favorite wood,and be swept up over and over again: for leaping, laughter and your loud, love of life.

In and through Christ, Heather was made a Saint. In and through Christ, we all are made Saints.

We all have a name. We all have a story to share. When we are lost, Saint Stories show us the way. When we are hungry, Saint Stories fill us up. When we weep, Saint Stories leave us with joy. Saint Stories are not to be hidden away, but shared so that the Redeemer of Saints can be seen clearly.

Jesus message on the plain is not only a reminder of our great need for God; but a proclamation of God’s provision. We all have been lost, but are found in God’s kingdom. We all have been hungry, but God’s table is full. We all have cried in sorrow, but God has been present. On All Saint's Sunday, we light a candle not only to remember the Saints, but to also remember that God is always present. In our times of feeling lost, hungry, or in sorrow – God is with us.

Image found at Wiki Media Commons

We are both saints and sinners; but through Christ a path to faith has been lit. Jesus sermon on the plain provides a reminder of the growing edges of faith that God calls us to. Joy comes into view in some unexpected places; if the blessings are noted and named.

It is in naming our blessings; like Scott, Jeanne and Heather – that others are pointed to the direction, provision and joy that is found only in Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. Your “Saint story” may be what someone needs to hear: to be found, fed and filled with the joy of Christ.   AMEN

PRAYER:Heavenly Father,Thank you for bringing us into your family. Help us to gain the strength to share our Saint Stories and be a blessing to others. AMEN.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Parker Palmer on living an undivided life & keeping it real

Authenticity, wholeness and having your gifts meet the deep needs of the world. This is undivided life. This is "Sabbath" that walks with a person every day of the week. Thanks, Parker Palmer.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Flick or Treat Family

Saturday shuffle.
Child wrangling.
Appointment keeping.

Long nap cuddling.
Blustery wind pressing.
Accidental Halloween Parade mixing.

Soft pretzel sharing.
Youngest son's film screening gathering.
Pizza noshing.

Rice cereal and lavender baby bathing.
Latte sipping.
Laundry sloshing.
Homework nodding

Living room piling.
This flick or treat is delighting.

T. L. Eastman  October 2013

Yellow Leaf

This yellow leaf, once was green with promise.It was connected, nourished, and alive.

Hints of the fall were all around:Crisp evenings, rushing winds, and shorter days.
But this yellow leaf fell in silence. 

There was no sound as she surrendered to the swirling water.Her story was not collected, heaped up or leaped into.

She twirled, calmly, quietly and silently; so as not to cause a stir on the surface.

But the space she left behind was deep, wide, and shouted of her absence.

Yellow leaf had curly raven hair, ice blue eyes, fair skin and freckles -that showed themselves when you stood close.

Silence should not claim your life.So today, I shared the story of your death and the dream of our goodbye that gave me hope to keep on living.

Yellow leaf, no more will you float in silence.

You should dance on the wind, swirl dramatically into your favorite wood,and be swept up over and over again: for leaping, laughter and your loud, love of life.

By: Tara Lamont (Rain) Eastman - October 2013
Dedicated to Heather Lynn Rain - Sister and first best friend.

This poem is a response to this week's Poetry Party at Abby of the Arts. To post your poem there, please visit: Poetry Party.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

“Nada te turbe”

Let nothing disturb you;

even when your heart pounds, aches and yearns -

warm sand,  the calming rhythm of the waves and a skirt-tugging breeze.

All thing are passing;

even when the weight of care seems like something you'll always wear -

feeling  dowdy, looking tattered and out of season.

God never changeth;

even when the ground rumbles with tremors of uncomfortable impossible things - vertigo inducing, balance shaking and hope rattling.

St. Theresa knew that we all need reassured at times to: "let nothing disturb you" and allow the gentle surf speak peace to your restless heart. For "all things are passing", this moment is not eternal. Because, "God never changes" but is the constant, current, past, present and future where love resides and grace runs deep and wide - Just like the ocean your heart longs to surrender to.

T. Eastman October 2013

This post borrowes segments of "Nada te turbe" prayer by St. Theresa of Avila, picture and weaves prose to respond to Abby of the Arts photo requests to the theme of "softening and yielding" for October. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

The crazy power of gratitude

My friend Kristen is good at reminding me about gratitude. In the last year she and her husband have changed vocations, had a new baby, cared for their active two-year-old boy, self-published a book called “Hyper and happy – 225 toddler activities that work”, and just six months ago relocated from Jamestown to their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. 

Earlier this week, she found a rare moment of quiet in her home and posted a photo that caught my attention. In the picture, I saw a few tree branches that had been collected from her yard that had been artfully placed in a vase, and had small paper leaves had been tied onto the makeshift tree.

When I looked a bit closer, I noticed that the leaves were covered with writing. Each leaf was a statement of gratitude and thankfulness.

The simplicity and beauty of her picture took me off guard. In the midst of the transition, challenge and hyper but happy atmosphere that Kristen was experiencing; she remembered to make a premeditated, intentional and sincere statement of thanks to God. Her picture and voice remind me that “a grateful person reveals humility of spirit and a sensitivity to love expressed by others. (NIBC/Luke, pg.327)

In order to live in a state of gratitude, we need eyes to see, recognize and respond to God’s love.

The lesson from Luke 17:11-19, is titled “The Healing of The Ten Lepers”, but in light of seeing Kristen’s thanksgiving tree, I wonder if it might better be called, “The Healing of The Ten Lepers, the nine who got what they wanted and “the thankful one who received more that he had dreamed of asking for.” (NIBC/Luke, pg. 327)

In this account, there are ten men who had leprosy and were looking for healing. Jesus hears their request, sees their needs, and sends them to the priests to be declared clean. On their way, the Samaritan man notices his healing, returns and bows before Jesus thanking God for his restoration. Jesus takes note that only one man returns to give thanks to God and that he was a Samaritan – or what we might call and outsider. Jesus calls the man to rise and go with the blessing, “Your faith has made you well.”

This is not the only place where Jesus shares these same words of blessing in the gospel of Luke. Pause with me for a moment, as I look to find if there is anything these people have in common.

1.    In verse 7:50, a woman interrupts a meal to wash Jesus feet with her tears and anoints his feet with perfume then dries them with her hair and leaves forgiven of her sin.

2.     In verse 8:48, a woman who had ill with a hemorrhage for 12 years, does not ask Jesus for healing, but reaches out boldly as they walk in a crowd. Jesus sees her, knows her illness is healed and blesses her publicly.

3.    In Luke 18:42, a blind man who was begging on the street, shouts for Jesus to heal him as he is on the road to Jericho Jesus stops and speaks a blessing of healing and the man can see.

In all of these accounts of healing, restoration and forgiveness; Jesus interacts with people who are outsiders. Some had become outsiders due to their illness, others by their race, while others were isolated because of their behavior. In each case, Jesus takes the time to see each person as being “someone worth knowing”, (thanks for this Margot) he then listens to their need and responds with forgiveness and healing.

Each person has a different reason for approaching Jesus, but they are bold in their approach of him. Maybe they had already heard of Jesus abundant mercy and reputation for helping people who were outsiders – in their community or with God – and ability to bring them back to a place of belonging – in their community and with God.

When I hear the accounts of Jesus interacting with and healing people, I wonder what happens after the exciting parts (the healing) have happened. In the other examples we know: 1. a man regains his sight, 2. a woman’s honor was restored, and 3. a woman was healed and able to be embraced by her community once again.

In the case of the man healed from leprosy, we get to see more of the story of what happens after the healing. We get the chance to see what kind of crazy power “gratitude” can have in life.

Before the Samaritan man received healing from Jesus, he was given the gift of being “seen” by Jesus. This man, who lived as an outsider twice over, due to his race and his illness, was not overlooked by Christ. Although his healing was the same as the other 9 men, he is compelled to return to Jesus to express gratitude not only for that healing but also for being seen, loved and restored. The other nine men received physical healing, but they missed the fullness of Jesus blessing. The tenth man experienced being seen and cared for by Jesus, in a way that helped him to see his life through the eyes of gratitude. The act of expressing gratitude was evidence of more than a physical healing. In, through and by being seen, heard and healed by Jesus, this man whole perspective on life had been saved. When Jesus saw, heard and healed him, he was able to see life with new gratitude-filled eyes.

Kristen’s thankfulness tree was a personal reminder to pause and take time to see, hear and remember God’s goodness. By calling my attention to thankfulness, she was like the man who returned to say thank you to Jesus and helped me to see that God I need to thank more than I often do.

This week, I was interviewed by some high school video students and given the chance to be seen and heard in a new way.

 They asked me this question: “What crazy thing have you done for love?”

Immediately, I was nervous about what kind of dramatic answer they were searching for. As I pondered what to say, I kept thinking about the example of Jesus and all the crazy things he did in the name of love like:
 Including those that were outcast, unloved and ill. 
Giving himself up to be crucified and die on a cross – 
all in the name of his and his Father’s abundant love for humanity.

When I responded to my interviewers, I told them about how I had been anxious about coming to work at First Lutheran five years ago. At the time it seemed crazy that I would have the chance work at a church of over 400 members after working with one with 50 attending. But because of God’s love I was willing to give it a try. I told them about how I’m going to seminary and hope to become a pastor. Because of God’s love, I’m willing to give it a try. I told them that even when the process or study is difficult that this vocation is: the crazy thing I’m doing for love.

However, it is important to say that even though these efforts come from a place of gratitude for what God has done in my life, they can never compare to the crazy love of Jesus. Jesus actions proclaim God’s abundant mercy and self-sacrificing love in a way that I can never repay – and for that crazy love I’m thankful.

Just like Jesus saw, listened and healed the man with leprosy, he sees us where we are and loves us.

We are seen, heard and restored by Jesus and his amazing crazy love-filled actions. The only true response to that kind of love is - gratitude.
It is only with God’s help that we can begin to see the world though new eyes of gratitude, and give other the space to be seen, heard and restored as well.

There is an old song about gratitude that goes like this:
Count your blessings name them one by one.
Count your blessings see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one, and count your many
Blessings - see what God has done!

The voice of the Samaritan man and the picture of my friend Kristen’s thankfulness tree are great reminders about an important lesson:

Be quick to count the blessings of God AND be willing to sharing the message of His blessings with others.


Heavenly Father,
Help us to have the eyes to see the blessings and count all you have given us. Thank you for seeing, hearing and restoring us through Jesus work and the power of your Holy Spirit. Now that we know what it is like to be seen, heard and restored – help us in gratitude to see others with new eyes, be ever ready to count our blessings and share the message of your crazy love with the whole world.