Friday, November 07, 2014

14 Day of Courage - Day 1: Your Inspiration

Starting today begins a 14 day challenge to post images that inspire courage. For the next two weeks, I'll be posting one image a day to participate in this visual adventure in courage. If you would like to join in the challenge, just follow the guide for themes and add the hashtag #14DaysofCourage.

Have courage!

Day one image: Your Inspiration
Title: Emmanuel "God with us"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mr. Rogers and being thankful

One of my favorite TV shows as a child was Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. You may recall his catchy song, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood”, his cardigan sweaters, and his red toy trolley that traveled to the land of “make believe”. Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who was unsatisfied with television programming for children and created the well-known TV program that has become an icon in children’s television history.

Years after watching the program, I read a memoir by Tim Madigan called, ‘I’m proud of you’. In this book, I learned how important compassion and thanksgiving inspired Fred Rogers not only to reach out to the children of world, but also to singular individuals. After an interview conducted by Tim, Fred befriended him and became an important friend and mentor throughout his life. What could have been a one time meeting turned into life-changing friendship. Fred Rogers seemed to have an amazing ability to connect with people – and stay connected in meaningful ways. 

Some might not first consider friendship, mentor-ship and making children’s television programs to be mission work. But I disagree. I think Mr. Rogers life – professionally and personally – reflected God’s love in everyday but life-changing ways. I for one am very thankful for Fred Rogers example as well as Mr. Madigan’s book expressing gratitude for one person’s caring actions.

Gratitude is a powerful tool in the battle with discouragement and disillusionment. Gratitude is a gift God gives to us and helps us to find the “beautiful day” in the midst of the challenges in our everyday life.

Psalm 28:7 reads, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” 

This Psalm helps to re frame where our strength comes from and reminds us that there is a song of thanksgiving that we are called to sing. Sometimes this song of thanks can help us to carry on in life, but other times it is a tune that projects out to those around us that are in great need of compassion – like Fred was for Tim.

Thanksgiving and compassion are more than a day or season to kick off the 2014 holiday season. Thanksgiving is what we carry in our hearts, put on like a cardigan sweaters and tie on our feel like comfortable walking shoes.

Thanksgiving is the foundation for starting to sing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor…won’t you be mine, won’t you be mine, won’t you be – my neighbor.”

Sing your song of thanksgiving – make a new friend and let the love and friendship God has given be what motivates action of love, encouragement and thanksgiving throughout your neighborhood and mine. Happy thanksgiving, neighbor.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Monday Sleeping with bread returns - Run the race

It's been quite a long time since I've posted a Monday Meme of "Sleeping with Bread".
Every Monday a lovely group of bloggers would gather to post reflections of thanksgiving on the bread that God had given for the week as well as the bread that was needed for walking the week ahead. 

Over the weekend, I have been working ahead for some bread to share this coming Sunday (Oct. 5th) at my home congregation at First Lutheran Church in Jamestown NY. What you find below is also a message that is part of my studies for an online Preaching class with Wartburg Seminary facilitated by Professor Samuel Giere . All this said, I am thinking that the message below, connected once again with the "Sleeping with Bread" Meme may be a good combination for conversation and encouragement to consider this question...

"What do I need to let go of, and what do I need to hold on to in the week ahead?"

If you like, take a few minutes to watch the video below (please keep in mind I am a student preacher) and ponder the question ...

"What do I desire to give to God...
what do I need to receive from God?"

May this week bring you hope - knowing you are not alone on the path - 
for we are walking together - and through the grace of Jesus - God walks with us.

                                          Image found at ELCA Facebook Page

PS. Dear Sleeping With Bread friends... I hope you'll give your insights and feedback. It's been too long since we've broken bread together. Mary Lue, Mel's Dream Bethany Rick Blaine

Friday, August 29, 2014

Use your hands

A reflection on Matthew 16:21-28

Do you know that there is something very special about your hands? There are 29 bones in each of your hands. Also there are 37 muscles that help your hands to move and pick things up. What is something that you do well with your hands?

Can you think of anything else that is really interesting about your hands?

Your fingerprints are really interesting!

Fingerprints are the tiny ridges, whorls and valley patterns on the tip of each finger. They form from pressure on a baby's tiny, developing fingers in the womb. No two people have been found to have the same fingerprints -- they are totally unique. There's a one in 64 billion chance that your fingerprint will match up exactly with someone else's.
Fingerprints are even more unique than DNA, the genetic material in each of our cells. Although identical twins can share the same DNA -- or at least most of it -- they can't have the same fingerprints.
(Info from article at "How Stuff Works".)

Your fingerprints are unique to you! In our lesson today Jesus tells his disciples to take up their “cross” and follow him. I know it can be hard to understand how we can carry a cross today, but I’d like to suggest that a good way to explain it might be by using the word – fingerprints- in place of cross. Your finger prints are unique and are a part of your hands. Our hands can be tools to serve God and care for people. You, your hands and your fingerprints have a unique way to serve God. So take up your hands and fingerprints – in your own unique way – and follow Jesus!

Prayer - From Last Tuesday's song "Empty" from Resolve...

I give all to make this thing, take it. What You need it. For Your will it's Yours. I won't need it, give it meaning. I give it up, take me make me, something new, I still believe. Still learning to let go..

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Two tickets to childhood please

Yesterday I traveled about 2 hours southwest of my home to attend a class orientation for a new course in my seminary studies. The location I was headed was very close to a small amusement park that my family would visit each summer when I was a child: Conneaut Lake Park. While things never look the same as an adult as they did as a child, I was still anxious to stop by the park and see it - through adult eyes.

The day before, I had another chance to unexpectedly visit my childhood, when I met my fellow classmates for the new class. I missed general introductions when the rest of the class had started before arriving, so I gave a short bio and introduction late. As I told the class who I was, where I worked and what I was hoping to learn a fellow student chimed in...
Wait, you are from Warren County?
Do you know where the Agway in Youngsville is?
Yes - I grew up at the top of York Hill Road.
York Hill? I live on York Hill!!!
I'm Todd and I think I remember you when you were a little girl.
Now it was my turn to say - What?
I tentatively asked - "Did you ride a bus called Y14?"
Oh my - Yes! He replied.

This classmate that was now in my seminary class, used to ride my school bus and still lives on York Hill - 25 years later.

Life is weird.

Just when you think you are going to a place where no one will know you, you will find an unexpected connection. Sometimes these connections bring your eight year old perspective to your forty something life. What you thought was long gone - returns to remind you of your roots as well as that people can grow and change.

The amusement park is not what it used to be. Many of the rides have been torn down. The Midway is not as sparkly as I recall, but my feet used to walk there when I was a child. For that fact alone, my connection to that place remains.

Time passes - people change - amusement parks become weary; but connections remain.
We all are connected.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pot luck Theology with Antioch Session

Today a piece I've written was published at Antioch Session. If you like the post below about the Red Crock Pot and are hungry for more, go to read more about the main dish at the Church pot luck here at Antioch Session.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Red Crock Pot

It's been almost 14 years we've cooked together.
How may meals is that?
What curry was the best?
Remember the soup cook offs?
Do you remember? 
I do.
Hopes were tossed in.
Some spices and veggies too.
So much hunger we have abated together.
Choosing the temperature.
Setting the timer.

Let's keep on cookin.

Tara L. Eastman June 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sherlock Holmes, the tortoise, the hare, Dukan Diet and me

Pick up the phone and call Scotland Yard - I have a mystery for Sherlock Holmes!

My mystery was not a crime - but it was one of a nutritional and physical matter.

Last year due to repeated foot injuries, there came a time that I had to lay off the running habit that I'd established over a five year period. I'd gone from thinking I could never run a mile, to running a 5k and not thinking twice about running 2-3 miles 6 days a week. Progress had been made - and I didn't want to loose the ground I'd worked so hard to gain.

I'd never say that I was the "hare" kind of runner, but loosing my "tortoise" daily run was a difficult loss.

However, the injuries meant I'd have to rest from running. Unfortunately, that six months of  PT and rest led to me gaining the twenty pounds I'd lost from running over the last five years.

The mystery continues...

In response to the weight gain, I consulted a nutritionist, logged my calories and after 3 months had lost 7 pounds. It was progress, but not quite as much progress as I'd hoped for. Over the summer I tried a vegetarian diet, but did not see a significant change.By the fall, I was determined to find a solution so I could get back to running (less mass = less impact) and tried protein shakes two times a day for a month. At the end of that month I'd lost two pounds. After a year of food diaries and only nine pounds loss, I began to consider a plan that my friend Kathy had been working on with the help of her doctor.

Maybe with the group support and a doctor's insight - this mystery might be able to be solved?

Image found at Deviant Art

While I was amazed by her progress (she is now 60 pounds down from her starting place), it took some convincing for me to try this high protein, low fat, low carbohydrate plan. I decided to give it a month and see how the Dukan Diet worked.

In that month, I lost a little over ten pounds. My energy level was improving and my foot pain continued to decrease with the loss of mass. (less mass=less impact)

From December to the end of May, I've now lost 40 pounds and am approaching my goal.
Over the last six months I have lost weight, but my blood pressure (upper number) has dropped 25-30 points and I've discovered that I have some sensitivity to gluten. These are all good clues that lead me to think I'm getting closer to solving this mystery.

Let me clear to say that this change was not motivated to meet an ideal or accepted by the world around me. I have been and will continue to be a strong, sturdy, and healthy woman -it just turns out with this change in my diet that I'm a tad lighter than I thought was possible.

While I'm posting the before and current picture to show a physical change in my physical state, this change was not originally motivated to "change" my appearance. But the change in my appearance is conclusive evidence that there is a distinct difference seen over the last year to six months.

I'm happy to say that my love of running and being active are things that can continue to be a part of my life. Slowly, I'm hitting pavement - but (maybe this is wisdom from experience) I'm much kinder to my body than I used to be.

Slow and steady could be the answer to this mystery...

Left side - May 2014              Right side - October 2013

Making changes can be a difficult. In the last year there were many times I'd wish the Sherlock Holmes of nutrition would have shouted, "The solution is elementary, my dear..." Tara. But finding a solution to this running and nutrition mystery was no sprint (tee hee) - it was and continues to be a marathon. 

That said, progress on this mystery has been made. 

From one turtle to another, the Dukan Diet has been quite helpful to me in solving some nutritional mysteries. It may not be a sprint to reach your health goals, but slow and steady...remember this.......
really does win the race of life.

(Please make healthy changes with the help of your doctor - don't just take my word for gospel. I'm not a nutritionist - obviously!)

Happy mystery solving and be kind to you!

 Tortoise Tara

Friday, May 30, 2014

Unexpected ties

For Mel -

Unexpected ties

We try to walk the path alone.

The ties that bind us don't always seem to be a blessing.
These connections make us vulnerable to all kinds of impact.
Sometimes we are so wrapped up in ties that we can't budge.
But true ties that bind are not ones that make us captive, but hold us secure.
True bonds give a space for new life to be the ground we walk upon.

We should not walk the path alone
These ties are life lines - our rescue inhalers - and cool cups of water that make it possible to live.

Life-giving ties support and release us to travel to the scary growing edges, and take us to the places we are not sure we can get to.

We can’t walk the path alone.

Our tapestry of ties is not tidy or exact. There are snags here and knots there.
But this tapestry is a blanket that unexpectedly gives warmth to the chill of the autumn night, and just-right coolness in the balmy day.

Blessed be the ties that bind us to walking in newness of life, so we continue to take steps on the path where our feet have been placed.

We do not walk our path alone.                              

T. Eastman May 2013

It's been over five years that Miss Mel and I have been blogging buddies. She tends her blog, Mel's Dream, as a faithful gardener in all seasons - except her harvest is words. Thank you Mel for sharing living, loving ties.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Coffee Klatch

It's been a while, but the conversation is one of ease.
Not that what is discussed is always easy, but the foundation is secure.
This space lets us stand strong - even in hard times.

Spoons clink and words swirl to fill the air.
Ideas breathe new life into spaces that were dusty and dim.
Hands move to punctuate important points.

If someone didn't know us, they might think this was an argument.
But it's not.

This dance of words and movement of hands is how we stay connected.
This is how we "talk".

Like a pen scratching on paper or nails tapping on a keyboard -
we are getting our message across.

With coffee in cups in hand, we face life's challenges and hold on to laughter.
Our eyes flash with treasure of these memories and all the times we've taken to sit down at the table -
face to face - eye to eye

This is coffee klatch with a good friend.

T. Eastman  May 2014
Image found at: Jack and Friends

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya's words against prejudice is the balm we need to live with courage...

Over the last week there have been news reports, online commentary, and what seems to be a never-ending display of chaos, anger, grief, ignorance, and disbelief over the terrible loss because of the shooting in Santa Barbara, California as well as the feedback over Elliot Roger's actions.

While I rarely post responses to current events, this event is one I can't allow to pass. Sides are being drawn in the aftermath of this tragedy from every perspective imaginable. This account has lit a fire for so many people. The sheer tragedy of this story is beyond comprehension; but the root of its cause is something that people live and struggle with every day. Prejudice.

Maya Angelou, a brilliant poet, speaker and human being; who sadly passed away earlier today has this to say concerning the effect of prejudice:

"Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible."

At this very moment  confusion, threat and inaccessibility, are great descriptive emotions consistent for many people so effected by this backlash of this tragedy. Somehow, I think Maya's words concerning prejudice may be a clue to the root of actions like this. 

The person who carried out this crime felt judged by those who rejected him, the people attacked and killed received (more than) judgement for declining his attentions. The action of judging or being judged as one thing or another, as well as what we fall short of being is another ground for prejudice to be bred. The laundry list of prejudice is already too long: race, gender, orientation. There needs to be a tool to help dispel this tug of war of acceptance or not accepting one another;before there are any more casualties. 

Once again, Miss Maya gives some wisdom concerning what this protective tool against prejudice may be:

"One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

Today is a day where we all need more kindness, truth, mercy, generosity, and honesty; but these characteristics are not sustainable with out the foundation of courage. Courage, I pose, may be the very tool we most need. 

In the day's ahead, there is sure to be disingenuous and hurtful statements posted, commented, and shares related to this current news story. However,thinking and speaking with courage, usually is done out of the concern and benefit of others.  In light of the lives of so many that are impacted by this loss; may we all remember that these posts and articles are about real people, with real emotions and real families. 

Taking courage in the days ahead will call all to lay down their prejudices, threats and barriers and consider what might be possible for our communities with a strong foundation. If courage is laid first, then kindness, truth, mercy, generosity, and honesty could be a living reality; instead of a far-off ideal.

Peace, comfort and condolences to those who have lost friends and family in the Santa Barbara shooting. Thank you Miss Maya for your challenging and inspiring words. God speed. You will be missed.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tree mural is coming to life

It's a work in progress, but I wanted to share a glimpse of what I've been working on for the last several months. The mural is located at First Lutheran Church in Jamestown NY and has been a community effort of the True Sisterhood Jamestown group. It is a rendition of the seasons of a year represented by a tree and landscape scene that changes within the piece.
 It's to help depict the Sunday School theme of, "Growing and known in Christ.
 Thank you for all your help team TS. We are 90% done!

By Easter week this project will be complete! Stay tuned art friends...

Time for beautiful things

For the first time in forever I was home from worship because I was under the weather. I'm resting and doing some fun internet wandering finding some lovely music that met me where I was today - in my jammies, drinking lots of fluids and cuddling with my dog, Aggie.

I came across two bands I'd not heard of before: The Rend Collective (Experiment)  and Gungor. If you follow the link to Rend you'll find the song "O my soul" (it's time to look up) that got this thinking all going to result in a long-needed post here.

I had intended on talking with the children this morning about playing the game "I spy" during the children's message. This week's lesson was about a blind man who was healed and able to see the world for the first time. The questions I was going to ask them was, "What do you think was the first thing the previously blind man saw when he regained his sight? How do you think he felt suddenly seeing the world?

The truth of the matter is, we all carry blindness with us.

There are beautiful things all around our lives, but we are often short-sighted in seeing and being grateful for them.

We just need to have our vision restored to see the beauty.

The first video posted above is the performance of Gundor's - "Beautiful things". The one I post below is a clever fan work to emphasize and help the hearer "see" the message of this song.

"You make beautiful things out of dust."

God has made you beautiful -
even in our blindness.
God had made beautiful things out of dust...

It's time you knew you were beautiful and loved.

Friday, January 31, 2014

True Sisterhood: Breaking and Rebuilding

This week the True Sisterhood group in Jamestown met and we tested out a art/prayer/project from my friend Lynne. We have also been reading Laura Truax's book "Undone" and had come to a place where this hands on project fit perfectly. We did our best to " Ring the bells that still ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack - a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."(Anthem by Leonard Cohen).

We broke clay pots. We wrestled with re-gluing the broken pieces. We laughed, encouraged, and cheered one another on. We rebuilt. We painted. Here are some pictures of our project where we embraced brokenness and discovered beauty.


Beautiful Mess

Beauty from brokeness

Works drying

Definitely not perfect 

Exposed rough spots




Sharp edges

Superman's house - Fortress of Solitude


Happy Heart

The only kind of proverb or wisdom that I’m used to getting in addition to my Chinese food is the tiny paper that comes out of a fortune cookie. At the end of the meal we ceremoniously hold up the tray of cookies and carefully choose the cookie. We bite into the cookie to reveal the fortune that is tucked inside of it. Then we read our fortunes out loud and ponder how they could come true. Often we save each fortune to decorate the bulletin board at home.
Wisdom - it seems, is something we all are hungry for.

“You can be skinny and you can be pretty, but you have to feed a happy heart.”
When I first heard these words, my first reaction was confusion. All I had been trying to do was pick up some Chinese food for dinner, but in addition to my order and fortune cookie, I had been given a personal proverb from the cook. 
This conversation with the cook had started when I had asked specific questions about how the dish was prepared. “What sauce is it served with? Can you go light on the oil? Can I have chicken instead of beef?” and my final request – “No rice, thank you.”

With each of my questions, the woman who was preparing my food continued to smile at me. She looked amused at my fretting over oil until she could hold back no more and exclaimed:

“You can be skinny and you can be pretty, but you have to feed a happy heart.”
In that moment, I realized that while the cook was talking about the dish she was preparing for me now, she also was talking about something bigger, lasting and spiritual. Her words held wisdom for the present moment as well as in the future.
Beatitudes a form of wisdom writing and found all throughout literature. In Jesus day they were commonly used and would have been statements about general human virtues. These statements generally would “declare certain people to be in a privileged, fortunate.” (NIC, 176) Other words to describe beatitudes could be: “content, happy, well-off, peace, well-being and blessed by God.” (NIC. 176)

“You can be skinny and you can be pretty, but you have to feed a happy heart.”
Whether or not the cook knew it, her words fit the description of being a literary beatitude. The wisdom that I took away from her was this… there are many things we may want in life, but a content – happy – well off and peaceful heart, is one that needs to be fed. Humanity is obsessed with external beauty, but real contentment comes from nurturing the heart.
Getting to the heart of the matter is wisdom we all are hungry for.

The beatitudes listed in Matthew 5 are great examples of general human wisdom literature, but they also are problematic because they speak opposite of common wisdom. Listen for a moment to Matthew 5:1-10 as found in the Message. Allow the different paraphrase to help you hear the beatitudes text anew:

3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Wisdom can come from unexpected places, (like cooks at Chinese Restaurants) as well as take some thought to unpack. The Beatitudes call us to be more aware of our need for God than anything else. Unpacking meaning and wisdom from the Beatitudes can be difficult for a few reasons:

      1. Changes in the meaning of language: Our current understandings of words like poor, meek, hungry are an obstacle for grasping the meaning of the Beatitudes.  However, the intended meaning of these words was to point to our great need, reliance we have for God in our lives.
It is in our trust and dependence for God that we receive the blessing of peace, comfort, and mercy.

  2. Who is being addressed? We read the Beatitudes to be spoken to an individual, but they are addressing the whole community of faith. “Not every member of every congregation can claim to be meek, merciful, and pure of heart, but the beatitudes are addressed, not initially to individuals, but to the whole faith community”. (New Interpreters Commentary Matthew, pg.181)
It is impossible to live the beatitudes alone. It is only by God’s power and work through Christ that the community of faith lives in meekness, mercy, and purity of heart.

  3. We think we are in control: We are used to buying, learning and getting to a goal by following various, “Philosophy’s of life”. It is unsettling but true that, “Christianity is not a scheme to reduce stress, lose weight, advance ones career, or preserve one from illness. Christian faith, instead, is a way of living based on the firm and sure hope that meekness is the way of God, that righteousness and peace will finally prevail, and that God’s future will, be a time of mercy and not cruelty.  (New Interpreters Commentary Matthew, pg.181)

It is God’s responsibility to vindicate the world and our responsibility to hope in and follow God.

“You can be skinny and you can be pretty, but you have to feed a happy heart.”

So many times I try to fill in my own “Can” statements. It’s like I’ve gone shopping for meaning and purpose without knowing where to find it. “You can be successful or wealthy or beautiful”.

But the happy heart knows that it source of strength does not come from itself, but from God.  The happy heart knows it can only “be” when God fills it up. Julian of Norwich, a Christian mystic and nun from the 14th century, penned this response on how God’s fills us up…

     You must learn to understand that all your deficiencies, even those that come from your past sins and vicious habits, are part of my loving providence for you, and that it is just with those deficiencies, just the way you are now, that I would love you.
Therefore you must overcome the habit of judging how you would make yourself acceptable to me. When you do this you are putting your providence, your wisdom before mine. It is my wisdom that tells you, “The way you are acceptable to me, the way I want to love you, is the way you are now, with all your defects and deficiencies.
I could wipe them out in a moment if I wanted to, but then I could not love you the way I want to love you, the way you are – now.” (Undone, pg. 73)

The beatitudes remind us that God’s ways are different than our ways. We will not find contentment in things. We will not find peace in accomplishment. We will not find the wisdom that we long for in and of ourselves. For the present and the future – God is our source of wisdom, blessing and hope.

I’d like to take some liberty with the Chinese Proverb given to me earlier this week because I want it to be clear that it is through Jesus that all blessings are given.

“You can be content and you can be at peace, but only when you let God fill your heart.”

God’s blessing is for today, tomorrow and all eternity – that is a promise. The beatitudes call us to hear Jesus’ blessing to live together as a community of faith and surrender our wisdom in exchange for God’s wisdom. Happy hearts are ones given to God and filled with a purpose that can’t be stolen or bought. May you be content, may you be at peace, and may you allow God to fill your heart.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your blessings for today and in the days to come. Help us to always rely on you and share in this community of faith. Fill us with the hope, peace, mercy and love – that only comes from you.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Join the Jesus Dojo

In the last year or so, my nephew Eli has been taking karate lessons at a martial arts school. When he goes to class he wears a special suit called a Gi and has even earned two different color belts as he’s grown in his skill. Eli has learned all of this by going to class, looking at the sensei (teacher) to see how to practice the exercises and he follows his teacher’s instructions.  Over time Eli showed he had a gift for endurance. When other students were getting tired, he still had energy to burn. Each student in his class excelled in different ways. Some were good at jumping high, kicking, and rolling. Have you ever been in a class like this – what were you good at?

In John 1, we have a chance to look, see, follow and come along with Jesus as he becomes the teacher to new students. Just like karate students, we all have God-given gifts. In addition to gifts like running, jumping and energy you also have spiritual gifts. Some examples of spiritual gifts are: wisdom, faith, or knowledge. You have gifts! How are you going to use them?

Imagine that it’s a warm summer day and you are relaxing in a pool of crystal clear water, or happily body surfing over the  ebb and flow of a lake, or slowly floating down the lazy river at a water park. The sun is shining, the water is warm and the day is perfect.

As you float along, you suddenly hear the blow of whistles and an announcement that everyone must leave the water. The sun is setting, the lifeguards are going on dinner break or the park is closing for the day. While the water remains inviting, it’s time to go. If it were up to me, I’d stay in that body of water until the lifeguard came to get me. I’d soak up every last moment of floating with my ears just below the water to muffle all sounds of the world.

However, it’s time to get out of the water. It’s time to open my ears and eyes and get up on my two water-wrinkled feet and walk back into the world of dry land.

In chapter 1 of John’s gospel, Jesus and the first disciples were moving from the waters of baptism to walking the journey of living as teacher and students on the road of discipleship. The promises of God that were given in baptism would travel with them, but it was time to hit the road.

Our gospel reading is filled with many names to describe Jesus and also shows the calling of his disciples to action.

The disciples are called to: Look, come and see, and follow.

As you listen to this message, allow yourself to consider what description of Jesus you are looking for. What Jesus do you need today? Will you come and see? Jesus is not only calling to the disciples in John 1, but each of us. It’s time to hit road. As Jesus walks with us, let’s LOOK, COME and SEE, and FOLLOW.
LOOK - Who is Jesus?

In John 1:29-42 we learn a great deal about who Jesus is. Jesus is given many different names to clarify whom he is, by whose power he acts, and what his new role is in public ministry. In verse 29, 36 he is called the Lamb of God: the one who takes away the sin of the world. In verse 34 he is declared the “Son of God”, to show his authority comes from God the Father. Verse 38 refers to Jesus as “Rabbi” or in our definition – teacher. And in verse 41, he is called “Messiah” in order to fulfill prophecy and emphasize that he is anointed by God.

As Jesus begins his public ministry, he is defined by many names and roles. These definitions help his followers then and now to better understand who he is as well as meet the various needs humanity has of God. The vastness of titles in John 1, “suggest that to insist on one name for Jesus is to miss the fullness of his identity.” (New Interpreters Commentary, pg. 533) Consider the fullness of ALL Jesus is: Messiah – anointed one, Son of God - holy, Rabbi - teacher, Lamb of God – sacrifice.

It is because of Jesus and all of his names that you and I have been named beloved by God. We have a name and purpose because of all Jesus is.

COME AND SEE – Who are we?

Our lives have forever been changed because of the work of Jesus on the cross, but our relationship with God does not stop at being saved. Jesus could have accomplished his work in ministry without involving people, but he choose to call people to help him in the work of serving God and others.

One of my favorite authors, Mark Scandrette, is the leader of an intentional Christian community in the San Francisco area. He and his fellow community members intentionally moved into the mission district to live as a community of faith. Their desire was to learn who they were in Christ and live as Christian community in the world. Mark says,” The struggle for meaning among people of faith, at its root, has to do with our collective understanding of what “good news” is and how to live into that “good news”. (xviii, Soul Graffiti, Scandrette) A part of that struggle is reflected in the name they have given to their church learning space. What we might call Sunday school class, they call “Jesus dojo”.

Think back for a moment about my nephew Eli taking karate. The place that you learn karate is called a Dojo. If we think about learning about God from the perspective of karate, Jesus is our sensei (teacher) and the church is our Dojo (classroom). Just like a karate student learns from looking at their sensei, we can learn how to follow God by looking at Jesus. We take our lessons by engaging in scripture, worshiping God and serving others in mission.

Just as Jesus called Phillip, Andrew and Peter to “Come and see”, he calls us to our Jesus Dojo to come and see as well. Jesus understands that his disciples need a tangible example to follow. In order for us to follow Jesus, we need to come and see first. It is in this coming and seeing that we gain better understanding of who we are in Christ. Our gifts to serve others are revealed in the hands on practice of our faith. Just as Eli discovered his gift of endurance at the karate dojo, we discover our gifts when we engage in our church community – or as Mark would say, our Jesus Dojo.

FOLLOW: Where are we going?

There is a song that reminds me of my love of water – remember how I hate to leave the beach? It goes like this:

Well I went to the water one day to pray. Don't you know that God's gonna trouble the water. And my soul got happy and I stayed all day. Don't you know that God's gonna trouble the water.

Wade in the water, wade in the water children, wade in the water – God’s gonna trouble the water.

For a long time it bothered me that this beautiful spiritual song about water had to include trouble. Our baptism is an amazing gift from God. It was so important that Jesus, the messiah, rabbi, Son of God and Lamb of God; demanded that John baptize him. In John 1, Jesus is baptized one day and the next he calls disciples to follow him and hits the road. Jesus does not stay in the water. Jesus knows that while the water is the start of his ministry, it’s not his destination. The road is where Jesus and his disciples are called to go.

The song “Wade in water” reminds me of my desire to stay where I’m comfortable, but it’s time to hit the road. I’d often like to: stay in the water and pray all day; but the water is stirred up – troubled – and moving. The troubled water is a reminder that I need to move as well.

Yes we can thankfully remember the water of our baptism, but we are called to walk the road with Jesus.

We are called for a purpose – John prepared the way for Jesus, Jesus prepares the way for his disciples, and his disciples prepare the way for humanity. It’s time to hit the road.

Remember what we learned from our karate metaphor:
Jesus is the sensei and the church is the dojo where you learn to use your gifts. You are a beloved disciple of Jesus – you have a gift and a purpose.

It’s time to get out of the water. It’s time to LOOK, COME and SEE, and FOLLOW Jesus as we hit the road together.

Heavenly Father,

Help us to look to see who Jesus is. Show us what discipleship is as we come and see where Jesus is in daily life.  Remind is that you are with us as we follow after Jesus. Challenge us to invite others along to look, come, see and follow Jesus too. AMEN

Thursday, January 09, 2014

A writing project is starting to take shape - The Best of Uphill Idealist

For a long time I've considered developing a collection of writings from the last 12 years (really? YES!) of into a cohesive book (also in a Kindle format for easy download). So, with some trepidation and excitement I'm beginning on the sorting and organizing stage of this project. There is much to consider,but I'll be filling you all in bit by bit as things develop. I may even use Kickstarter as a means to expedite finding resources to help with printing costs. Upon first steps, I'm already amazed at the sheer quantity of writing that has taken place over this period of time. (2004 had 200 pages alone!) At this point, it looks like there will be at least three volumes in this project - but I hope to have the first one available by summer of 2014.

Thanks to all the 18,679 readers that visited Uphill Idealist in 2014 and to all the readers before. This would never have been possible to even consider without you.

If you are interested in ordering a copy or have favorite posts you'd love to read in "The Best of Uphill Idealist: Volume I", please let me know and comment below.

Upwards and onward -


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A Hercules inspired poem for January 2014

On Tuesday morning I was inspired by the recent cold, blowy and frigid weather to write a little poem/prayer. I hope it warms your heart and puts a smile on your face. (By the way, remember to wrap that beautiful mug up in a sweater and hat!)

Keep the heat in my house - keep us warm like a

 mouse. Keep the heat in my house today.

May the pipes freely flow - despite the cold and snow. 

May those pipes freely flow all day. ( and night)

Not only for me, but all people let this be, not only for 

me today. Heat, water and shelter for all humanity, for

 all humanity I pray.

Stay warm folks - and happy 2014!