Are you awake? June 28.2012

Matthew 5: 38-39
When they came to the house of the leader [Jairus] of the synagogue,
he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
When he had entered, he said to them,
“Why do you make a commotion and weep?
The child is not dead but sleeping.”
In this story of healing Jesus insists that the small girl is only sleeping. Again and again in the Gospel texts Jesus sees and reveals new life where others only see death. What are the places we’ve left for dead in our own lives? Are there people, communities, practices or even countries we’ve declared a lost cause? How do we wake up to God’s presence in our lives? Even in the smallest of moments and the most mundane of tasks?
In this story of healing Jesus insists that the small girl is only sleeping. Again and again in the Gospel texts Jesus sees and reveals new life where others only see death. What are the places we’ve left for dead in our own lives? Are there people, communities, practices or even countries we’ve declared a lost cause? How do we wake up to God’s presence in our lives? Even in the smallest of moments and the most mundane of tasks?

Someone I talked to about this text this week said, “These people weren’t idiots, how could they mistake someone who is alive for Simone who has died?” And I agree the family, friends and crowds gathered at the bedside and in the courtyard of Jairus houses weren’t idiots and neither are we. But often do we get caught up in the whirlwind of life’s tasks or in the habits of our coming and going and fall asleep to the wonder and potential for new life all around us?

How do we look past what scares us, challenges us or is just plain disgusting and dig around in the dirt for new life? Jesus invites the small girl to wake up, and in doing so invites us to wake up as well. Wake up to the places where death seems to be winning but rather than be defeated or succumb to our own fears of being infected by death Jesus invites us to wake up to the new life that is emerging from these places of darkness.

I leave you with this blessing from one of my favorite poets, e.e. cummings:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)



Musical Meditation
I See God In You


Restoring Community, June 27.2012

Matthew 5:25-28 
Now there was a woman who had been suffering
from hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had endured much under many physicians,
and had spent all that she had;
and she was no better, but rather grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus,
and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,
for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”
Imagine this woman, this unclean and bloody woman, holding in her hands all of humanity‘s brokenness, every illness and every broken heart and broken relationship. Imagine her as the vessel that carries everything that fills the world with fear. The fear of the unknown and the stranger, the bloody and hateful and broken, all of it. Imagine this woman carrying the hurt of the world for years, generations even. Imagine that she has walked the earth searching for healing, hoping to find a path to wholeness, to peace, praying for something… anything to mend this torn, battered and bleeding world.

Then the woman hears of a force of healing so powerful it works on the sabbath and challenges all the rules that have drawn boundaries between the beautiful and the broken, the chosen and the outcast, the clean and unclean, the one who belongs and the stranger. It’s a force so strong that it moves among people breathing new life, healing and wholeness where there was once only sickness and death.

The woman crosses all the boundaries of propriety and decency to reach the one who has this holy power of healing. She reaches across the boundaries of fear and distrust, hatred and humiliation, across the broken community and touches the cloak of the one who will heal the world. She risks everything but she’s carried the pain long enough. The power of Jesus to heal the world moves into her body and there is restoration. Can you imagine this story big enough to hold the whole world? To heal the whole world?

Debra Dean Murphy writes on the Ekklesia Project’s Blog that “we are conditioned in our culture to think of healing as first of all a highly individualized, exclusively physiological event. But Scripture is quite clear that healing has to do with the mending of all creation, and that curing the sick has to do primarily with restoring a person to his or her community.” When you hear this story of the hemorrhaging woman do think wow, Jesus really helped that woman over there? Or do you understand that your own healing, your own restoration is tied up in hers?

We often divide our word into categories, insiders and outsiders, healthy and sick, abled and disabled. How are we restored to the community? How do we aid in the restoration of all people? Are we willing to cross borders and boundaries and break commonly held rules to do so?

May you be held in the arms of the one who seeks restoration,
May your own healing be woven together in the healing of the whole world,
May Christ continue to move and breathe,
teach and heal us as we move together towards wholeness.



Musical Meditation
Michael Jackson
Heal The World


Joy In The Morning, June 26.2012

Psalm 30: 1-5 
 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God,
I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
Sing praises to the LORD,
O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
I have always been intrigued with the phrase, dark night of the soul, it’s a concept that’s been around since the early church. It implies that our whole lives, the physical, emotional and spiritual are a journey rather than stuck in time. That rather than arriving at some set point of physical, emotional or spiritual perfection we are travelers journeying together through a life time that holds dark valleys and high peaks and for many of us a whole lot of flat lands as well.

The dark night of the soul can be an experience of crisis of health or family, it might be a time of spiritual darkness, even brokenness, a time fraught by fear, sadness, even death. Our spiritual mothers and fathers speak of the dark night of the soul as unavoidable–a part of the journey. Movement forward, movement towards God and one another requires that we examine our most difficult questions, our most painful stories and the ways in which we shield ourselves from living fully in the attempt to protect ourselves from feeling pain or suffering.

These journeys require faithful companions, other travelers and they require songs for the road like today’s Psalm. We sing this Psalm to God as we move forward seeking the way home to God. We sing it to remind ourselves and one another that weeping may linger but joy comes with the morning. The sun will rise on even the darkest of nights.

Have there been times in your own life that the bright sun of the morning has broken through the darkest of nights? Did you feel a sense of relief? Joy? Freedom?

May your heart sing with joy in the morning,
May you know the comfort of God’s companionship on your journey,
Don’t wait for the sun or quiet morning to begin your journey towards God,
May your footsteps be joined with fellow travelers as you seek God in the midst of your life today.



Musical Meditation
Cat Stevens
Morning Has Broken


Community Memory, June 25.2012

Lamentations 3:22-25 
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
God’s mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in God.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for God,
to the soul that seeks God.
The word mercy speaks to both the epic power and the deep compassion of God. The word mercy implies that the one who holds the power could wield that power to create life or to destroy life. How do we attribute such power to God? These verses come in the middle of the book of Lamentations when the Israelites were in the midst of exile, death, loss and fear of being annihilated. In the midst of their cries for God’s help the writer clings to this story of God:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
God’s mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
When the powers of fear, death and real danger threaten to overwhelm us we often call on God as if we imagine God has abandoned us. When isolated or alone it’s easy to let the whole story of God go and become focused on only our own story in the moment. We rely on the words of the faithful, the Prophets, the communities that we belong to and the ancient ones who again and again tell of the story of God’s compassion, God’s accompaniment, God’s faithfulness and God’s mercy.

In the midst of darkness we often begin to worry that God is angry or punishing us. Human beings have wrestled with this since the first humans walked the earth. What is the nature of God? The writer of Lamentations reminds his own community and those that would follow and us, “The Lord is our portion.” That is, God will join us in our struggle, will provide comfort and give refuge. And so we wait on God together reminding one another, telling and re-telling the story of the God of love, compassion and mercy.

Holding the story together that would be lost if we tried to carry it alone. We need the collective memory of the community to hold us tight and give us hope.



Musical Meditation
All Sons and Daughters
Reason to Sing


Why Are You Afraid? June 22.2012

Mark 4:40-41 
Jesus said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
And the disciples were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
“Why are you afraid?” It’s such a raw question isn’t it? What drives our fears? Our deepest fears are often grounded in what we feel we might lose. That could be our independence, respect, loved ones or even our own lives.If we don’t do things well or right, will we be abandoned? Will we be left alone? Will we lose a love one, a child, parent, a partner? Will we have enough resources to survive? Can we support ourselves and families? Where will we turn if things collapse? What will become of us if we fail?Jesus answers his first question with another question, “Have you still no faith?” If we read the word faith here as believing then we can add it to the list of things we can and will at times fail at. Belief as in mind-over-matter is theoretical and intellectual. It’s something we talk about and work to describe, it’s the words and ideas we have about who God is and how we relate to God. This is important and life-giving work but not what, I think, Jesus is talking about in this passage. Jesus is not asking about faith as in belief he’s asking about faith as in trust. “Have you still no trust?” asks Jesus.

Jesus invites the disciples to understand that in the midst of the worst possible moments forgetting to trust that God is with them will surely help their fears eat them alive. Think of a time you have experienced a bad storm. Did you let your feelings of isolation and shame multiply the winds and increase the size of the waves that threatened to tip your boat or did you reach out to trusted friends, to loving family to compassionate strangers and let them in on your pain and fear?

Jesus invites us, remember to trust in God. God who joins us in the boat, who stirs the heart of all creation, who did not abandon the disciples or Christ at the cross and will not abandon us in the worst of times or the most joyful of moments.

Instead of a prayer I offer you these blessing words by Marianne Williamson today. May it be so.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”



Musical Meditation
Indigo Girls, Jewel & Sarah McLachlan
(I know what you’re thinking… what a combo!)
The Water’s Wide


Agents of Peace, June 21.2012

Mark 4:37-39 
(A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.)
But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a boat in the midst of a storm but it’s horrible. I once took the boat that goes back and forth across Lake Michigan between Michigan and Wisconsin. It’s not far, and shouldn’t take long to cross. But a storm hit the lake as we got to the middle and it was if we were powerless in the face of the mighty winds slamming into the boat from every direction. As we bobbed around like a cork the all attendants could do was tell folks to buckle up, pass out puke bags and sit down and hang on themselves. Let me tell you, it was the worst three hours I’ve ever spent in a confined space. After we docked on the other side I remember finding a bench just outside the ‘station’ and laying down in order to get my bearings. I laid there for what seemed like hours before the world stopped spinning around me.

So when I imagine an epic storm on the lake like Mark describes I think to myself, those disciples must have been desperate. Here we have some expert fisherman who know their way around a lake and a boat and they’re being tossed around and are filling up with water. When they call out to Jesus I imagine a bit of accusatory tone, “Don’t you care?! We’re going to die in this storm!” And then Jesus wakes, and looks around and speaks, not to the disciples but to the wind and to the sea. He turns to the source of the chaos and rebukes it. ‘Be at Peace’, says Jesus.

The words he uses, Peace and Be Still to bring a dead and sudden calm to the chaotic sea are the same words he uses to rebuke demons. These are the same words Jesus uses to quiet the chaos that rages in those who come seeking healing, seeking calm, seeking wholeness. Jesus stands in the boat amidst the chaos and responds with a non-anxious and commanding presence that is both frightening and inspiring.

In calming the storm Jesus claims the power of our Creator God that has worked to bring life and order to chaos since the beginning of time. God does care that we are perishing, God cares very much. God will stand in the boat with us and speak directly to the storm. Ordering it to be still, to be at peace. Sometimes we are like the disciples and we lose our nerve, we are frightened and fearful, and rightly so. There are some crazy storms out there. Other times we are called to be agents of peace, to speak with God, to stand with Christ, to model our own non-anxious presence on the saints that have gone before us. To join our voices with others who rebuke the storms, the raging and chaos, who rebuke what is evil and frightening and wrestling for power.

Can you think of the people in your life that stand up against the storms of injustice, of unfairness or illness. Who speak words of peace, sometimes gently and sometimes with passionately but always with the knowledge that God is with us?

May you be an agent of peace,
May you move forward in the storms with courage,
Knowing that Christ is with you,
That God will not allow chaos to overtake the world,
May your own voice be made stronger joined with the voice of Christ,
Claiming the power to say, Be StillBe at PeaceLove one Another.



Musical Meditation
Sarah McLachlan


Surprising Storms, June 20.2012

Mark 4:35-41 
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.
A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.
Mark’s Gospel clips along at such a fast pace Jesus and the disciples retreat to the lakeside for a moments peace. I imagine them heading out with the hopes of a few quiet hours before they are met by the crowds again on the other side. Instead of a quiet night on the lake they were greeted by a great windstorm.

Storms come up in our lives at inopportune and and unexpected times. Often times it seems as if they strike when we’re already burnt out or exhausted. Do you ever feel as if water is coming in faster than you can bale it out?

Once when working with a group of people who are living with young onset Alzheimer’s one of them talked about how difficult it was to deal with every day life, often feeling out to sea as conversations and information raged like storms around them. He talked about how when he came together as a group he remembered that he wasn’t alone. That they were all in the boat together. The difficulty of dealing with memory loss and their shifting identities and family responsibilities were not erased but being  reminded that they weren’t alone in the experience and that others truly knew their pain gave them a sense of peace even amidst the storm.

In the midst of the storms in our own lives we often forget that we don’t face them alone. The disciples aren’t alone in the boat, in the midst of the storm and neither are we.

May you remember that Christ is with you,
even in the midst of the storms that blow up out of nowhere,
May you also be with one another in the midst of life’s difficult storms,
and when the sun breaks through the clouds.





Pushing Limits, June 18.2012

Job 38:4-11 
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Tell me if you know.
Who set its measurements? Surely you know.
Who stretched a measuring tape on it?
On what were its footings sunk; who laid its cornerstone,
while the morning stars sang in unison
and all the divine beings shouted?
Who enclosed the Sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment,
the dense clouds its wrap,
when I imposed my limit for it,
put on a bar and doors
and said, “You may come this far, no farther;
here your proud waves stop”?
In the epic tale of God’s conversation with Job these words come to Job out of a whirlwind. It’s almost as if God is saying, “Listen up Job, let’s review a few things here…”I must admit the first image that comes to mind when I read these verses is of a mother saying to their child, “I carried you in my womb for nine months, I struggled and worked through hours of labor… I could of died! Then I fed you and clothed you and loved you, I sent you to school, I listen when you talk and hold and hug and love on you when you cry… and you dare question my motives? You dare question my decisions?”

Have you heard a lecture like that one? The “After all I’ve done for you” lecture? Maybe you’ve heard it or maybe you’ve given it yourself. Most of us know what it means to give of ourselves, our time, our passion, our lives and most of us have also had someone push on our boundaries or question our significance. It seems as if it’s human nature to test boundaries.

I remember when my boys were little and I read somewhere (probably in a fit of desperation) not to worry that my child behaved all day at school and then came home and unleashed his crabby, bossy and mischievous self. The ‘expert’ assured me that my child was pushing boundaries where he felt the most comfortable, where he knew he would be loved no matter what. As I washed chalk off the wall for the hundredth time I remember thinking, “well maybe he’s a bit too comfortable.”

But maybe Job is comfortable enough with God to push God’s buttons. To shake his fist at the heavens and say, “Hey you, aren’t you going to fix this? Can’t you do better than this? I’m miserable here!” And it seems Job’s God is comfortable enough to dish it right back. “Were you there at the beginning of the world?” God asks Job. “Do you have any idea the power I have? Look around, you’ve seen my work!” It’s almost as if God is saying, “Don’t you even know me? Come on Job, I’ve got this.”

I like this conversational and sassy image of God. This God as a mother that’s just not going to put up with any nonsense. Not because God’s love isn’t big enough or strong enough to handle the pressure. Not because God hates questions. But because God insists that we recognize the depth and breadth of God’s work in us and in all of creation. Because God insists that we recognize and remember that we are not alone in this. Even in the midst of anger, despair and chaos God is with us. God has been with us from the very beginning — since the first song was sung by the first morning star; since the first giant wave rolled across the ocean and God’s not going anywhere. God’s got this.

May you live into the knowledge that God won’t leave you,
even if you have doubts or push on the boundaries of God,
even if you ask God questions or shake your fist in anger or despair.
May God’s love surround you,
May you see it in the beauty and power of God’s creation,
and in the eyes and loving touch of one another.



Musical Meditation


Where is God’s house? June 15.2012

Psalm 92:12-15 
The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
In old age they still produce fruit;
they are always green and full of sap,
showing that the LORD is upright;
God is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Where is God’s House? How do we know where to find God? Where to be planted?

I’m rereading a favorite book with a colleague called, An Altar in the World. It’s a book about practice; about practicing at noticing God in the world. We’re reading it and then practicing noticing God together. The author, Barbara Brown Taylor tells us that when looking for God’s house we don’t have to choose between church buildings and the secular world. We don’t have to choose between beautiful sanctuaries and green ball fields, between tall cathedrals and long swimming pools, or between Sunday mornings and Friday evenings. Instead she invites us to remember that it’s all holy ground.

This Psalm reminds me that God is working wherever there is love and justice being done in the world. God is working in the gardens where the food is grown and in the forest where the trees reach for the heavens without instructions on how to do so. God is working among the strong arms that comfort the sick and sit patiently with the lost. God is working in church shaped buildings that host homeless youth and God is working in train station shaped buildings that host worship. This is the work of righteousness, this is the work of God’s kingdom and it’s our job to notice the places where God is working, to be planted in God, to be nourished by God and to build an altar from time to time that marks the holy ground we find ourselves standing on.

Where is God working in your day-to-day places? Where is God’s house in your neighborhood or corner of the world? How can you build an altar? This might mean setting the table in a sanctuary or setting a rock in the sand and saying a quick blessing for the beauty of a day at the beach.

May you find yourself in God’s house in both expected
and unexpected places,
May you have the time and courage to set an altar for God,
to say a prayer and remember your calling.
To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God.
This is our call to righteousness, this is our call to flourish.
And may you know that wherever you go,
you are at home in God.



Musical Meditation


Made Glad, June 14.2012

Psalm 92:1-4 
 It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Glad is not a word I use very much. In fact I often forget to name out loud the people, the places and the experiences that make me glad. This week I said goodbye to two of my children who will spend most of the summer in Iowa. I am sad to see them go but am reminded in their absence of how much they fill my heart with gladness. If I’m honest I will report that I am also filled with thanksgiving for the opportunity to rest. I am glad in the stillness of the morning, the gentle breeze of an evening outside and the extra time to reconnect with other blessed and important people in my life.

Our gladness is often intermixed with our sorrows. Our joys made more tangible by our disappointments.

The poetry of these Psalm verses remind us to pause our coming and going, our busy thoughts or fast past days and be reminded of what makes us glad.

How is God working in the world around you? Whether in the darkness of your sadness or grief or in the sunlit joys that fill you and surround you? May you take a moment or an afternoon… even a whole day and celebrate what makes you glad!

May you see God working in both of life’s joys and disappointments,
May the tenderness of God’s love and attention to the details of creation,
of our lives together and in our communities make you glad.
Go in peace and gladness and celebrate life.



Musical Meditation