Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An After Christmas Pre-Easter Wish

Ok, so I know I have these strange thoughts but since Jimmy Stewart and his wish that it would be better "if he had never been born" is still hanging around my mind I wonder what would have happened if Jesus had a angel show up that night in the garden when he felt so all alone and fogotten? Like Clerence, this angel might have heard Jesus in his agony say something like, "Maybe it would be better if I had not come."

After all it seemed that all was lost. Those he depended on were sleeping off that last glass of wine. The guy who was the treasurer for the group was out adding to his take with a fresh 30 pieces of silver and wouold soon cash in on the deal. Maybe it would be better if Jesus "had never been born."

Can't you see some aspiring angel look up and say something like, "Well what do you think. It might work. Maybe this would help him out if he could see that he really does and will make a difference."

Then zap it happens. Jesus gets to see a world where he was never born. It all happens quick because it has to. After all Judas is on the way over with his merry men and the disciples are almost ready to wake from their reoccurring nightmares that what is getting ready to happen might happen.

Jesus in a flash gets to see Peter and his brothers out fishing...not for people, for fish and that's all it will ever be. Matthew is sitll sitting at his tax table exercising his right to cheat whomever he fells like cheating. Thomas fills his days with skepticism and doubt and will have no reason to ever believe without seeing.

The only one who seems better off is Judas who truly is better off because Jesus never shows up. Then there is the rest of a flash of time Jesus is shown a world where he is not. For one, Jody never has a vision of hands reaching out to him at age 17 and touching his own hands as if to say, "I want you to be one of my ministers." Jody ends up being...well...maybe a teacher or a UPS driver....or something...anything but a minister of a church that does not exist...

And the world...would we even be here or would we have gone done a path of self-destruction where there are no schools or hospitals that bear his name? And of course there would be no churches where people light candles on Christmas Eve and sing "Silent Night" hoping that the dark outside is not the final answer to life.

So Jesus for an instance gets his wish to glimpse a world where he was never born...He wipes the sweat from his brow, nods toward "his" angel...whispers something about "not my will but thine be done" and allows the drama to continue....but perhaps with a bit more assurance that his life and upcoming death really will make a difference.

So its time to take the Christmas tree to the street and put the manger scene back in the attic...but hey, in spite of the dark and all the heavy stuff of life because he "was" born it's a wonderful life...


Friday, December 24, 2010

A Snowglobe Christmas

Suspended snow swirled around her. She was frozen but it was not because of the temperature. Her gaze was transfixed on the child. She would not take her eyes off his face even though the snow seemed to blow into her wide open eyes.

As the scene unfolded without unfolding "Silent Night" played from somewhere beneath the holy couple. They were captured in a world all their own. Unlike that first still night they were protected. The elements that would in reality be bitter and cold did no harm to them now.

Snowglobes are a sweet way to remember a not so sweet story. These snowy renditions are like our manger scenes. They come out once a year and adorn our homes, but the "real" characters of that first Christmas, that we now freeze-dry to remind us of the story, were not surrounded by a glass dome or packed away in Styrofoam peanuts for safe keeping. They were probably cold and for sure they were homeless.

For the real-life Joseph and Mary there really was "no room" and the smell of animals was ...well...the smell of animals. Snowglobes are really wonderful but they are not "real." The real Mary felt the pain of her labor. Joseph still wondered how this could be happening. An innkeeper figured these folks possessed really poor judgement for being out on a night like this with a child so close to being born. Those real shepherds would not have been welcomed in town because of their reputations as riffraff, thieves, and scoundrels. (Yes snow globes may clean them up but shepherds were at the bottom of the food chain back then.)

So wind up those snowglobes and let them play their music while soft flurries surround a frozen baby. But rest assured that the reality is that it was a labor of love. For Christmas Eve this year I'm using a song by that name...just so that we will remember that the story is "real."

Here are the words of the song to help us remember the "real" story:

Labor of Love/ lyrics by Andrew Peterson

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town
And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of love
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night
So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of love....

So just as Jimmy Stewart in the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," "woke up" from his dream-like trip to a world where he no longer existed to discover that he was in fact "real, imagine a frozen Joseph escaping from your snowglobe to run through you house screaming, "Merry Christmas world!"

O holy child of Bethlehem be born in us today.


Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas Identity Crisis

Each year at Christmas I have this identity crisis. The Sunday before Christmas it is my tradition to take on a "character" in the Christmas story. I've been the innkeeper, a shepherd, a wise man, Herod (mean, nasty guy), Joseph (a confused "dad"), a guy who happened to be staying at the inn that night(lucky fella got a room)...and one year I attempted to be Gabriel...I'm not doing that one again. I simply cannot be an angel. Ask Betsy.

So this year as you can see I've run out of anyone near the manger that night...but alas...there had to be other people in Bethlehem that did not get into the least into the Bible's version of the scene. So using the old imagination I discovered this potter who lived in Bethlehem. I woke up in the middle of the night to "let him out" now he is on the printed page. I'll bring him to life this Sunday in church.

I never know who these people "are" until I put words to paper. Can you guess what Christmas present the potter ends up giving? ..... Give up? He gives him a chalice...a cup. Mary promises to tell her baby when he grows up about this gift of love given that night. The potter ends up following the adult Jesus around later. Because of some interesting circumstances the potter finds himself nearby when Jesus and his friends have a meal.

Yes, you get the picture. Jesus lifts the Christmas gift that night at the table and says, "Take this...take this is a gift of love." Merry Christmas world. It is a gift of love.

I also woke up in the middle of the night with a poem to go with the here it is:

The Cradle and the Cup

Empty that first crystal
clear evening-
the wood waited
food for familiar guests

But suddenly it was
full of hope-
a manger that
a cradle for a child

What it held was love
for a waiting world
but the cradle was
the beginning of the journey

Empty was the cup
that night
he lifted it to
out a covenant of healing

His lonely mind remembered
as he poured-
a story from Mary
of a cradle
filled with surprise that night

So that evening filled with words
of invitation
to "take and drink"
he thought of
the cradle and the cup

And as he looked into
their eyes
he saw how empty
they were
and what was needed

So now again we have the
cradle and the cup
so both may be
filled anew
for the world's waiting emptiness

God with us
cradle and the cup

Blessed Christmas

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Christmas Mirror/ My Annual Christmas Poem

The Christmas Mirror

It was her own reflection
that she glimpsed
the first night
she looked into
his eyes

Those eyes-they seemed
to already know
so much even
though he was
newly born

Mary saw herself in
this mirror of
love that was after
all a whispered
miracle of God

So now close your own eyes
and try to imagine
his eyes looking
into yours for
is what Christmas
really is-
You too are God's child.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

How John the Baptist Stole Christmas

If you read Matthew 3: 1-12 you will hear crazy old John screaming in the wilderness yet again this year. Between the bugs in his teeth and his sweet tooth he shouts words to the church folks who've come out to hear him. With breath that smells of "wild honey" and left over locusts John tells the people of First Church Jerusalem that they are no better than snakes and that they better shape up or their family "trees" are going to get the ax.

Wow, Merry Christmas to you too John. John thinks that before we get to the Christmas carols and sweet baby Jesus that we need to clean up our act. He sounds like a combination of Euell Gibbons (you know the "wild hickory nut" guy who used to advertise Grape Nuts cereal) and a street preacher. So John eats his natural wild honey and it energies him to scream "repent before it's too late. " Sounds like the Grinch to me....but his words of warning for us to "repent" are simply his way of saying that if we are going to unwrap the present that comes in the manger we need to "change direction" and find some new ways to think and act. Repent simply means to turn and go another way.

So for my folks this past Sunday and for you out there in the Blogosphere I've composed "How John the Baptist Stole Christmas."
Here you go....Blessed Advent to you.

All the religious types in Jerusalem
Liked Christmas a lot
But John who lived out in the desert did not
He ate bugs and sipped honey
No one quite knows the reason
But he kept screaming "Repent,
Before you get to this season"

He yelled and he yelled at the
Church folks who came
He told them their religion
Was nothing but lame
With all of them wanting
Their tensel and glitter
John said it was all going
To turn to cat litter

"There's one coming whose ax will
Cut your Christmas trees down
Santa Claus this year will
Not come to your town
One's coming to separate the
Wheat from the chaff
No need to wrap all those
Presents you have
You better come clean and
Get right with God
Then up the chimney John went
With a blink and a nod
(O Well I'm combining stories patient)

The people were left with stockings
Empty and hanging
While sugarplums and questions
Filled their heads with a banging

Perhaps Christmas cannot happen
Until we come clean
Just what did old John in fact
Really mean?
Turn around, turn around before
It's too late
All those shopping days until Christmas
Will Just have to wait

John's message is clear but it's
Not popular now
He says, "If you want to come
This year to the manger and bow
You have to shed your old skin
As does a snake
When it comes to the Christmas rush
You must put on the brake
It's time for a change in
Some of your ways
It's time to rearrange the way
You've been spending your days

So for Christmas to come no
Grinch heart needs to grow
It's your heart my friend
That must change and must know
That the best Christmas present
You can give the Christ child
Is the change in y0ur heart you've
Been putting off for a while

So this Advent season John
Sounds like the Grinch
And yes his words are like lightning
That may cause you to flinch
So get ready for Christmas by
Not just putting up a tree
Get ready for Christmas by
Repenting you see
For what God wants from all the
Church folks this year
Is a heart full of love
Not a cup full of cheer

John's words in the desert-they come
With a reason
To help us get ready for
The whole Christmas season
"Turn around," he says with
Bugs in his teeth
And John the Baptist himself
Hung a giant Christmas wreath.

Bless you

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wild Turkey

"Wild Turkey" can lead to some spirited conversation. You can begin the conversation with your ABC's or at least at the store with the same name. But I'm not talking about "brown water" that comes in a bottle. I more or less have in mind the wild turkeys I've seen lately out and about. They are the ones who you will not see on our tables at Thanksgiving. They know nothing of the holiday and would be in mourning for their tame relatives if they got wind of such a thing.

For me Thanksgiving makes me pause and remember. Somehow every thanksgiving I fall down a rabbit hole and pass Alice and the Mad Hatter as I turn left down a winding pathway of memories.

I remember going to Betsy's Lutheran church the night before Thanksgiving and singing, "Let All Things Now Living." I loved that song for some reason. It was not in the Methodist hymnal so when I "grew up" I would steal it and print the words so my congregation could sing it. It is now in the Methodist Hymnal supplement for which I am of course "thankful."

The next day we would all cram ourselves into probably the smallest house of all the extending family dwellings. Reason was not the operative norm. This is where "the family" gathered and that was it. Maw Maw Lee's house was in the country next to the Christmas tree farm where we always hiked after lunch in the hopeless effort to "walk off" what we had just consumed.

And of course gluttony was the sin of the day. I can still taste some of the casseroles and the desserts. There was one uncle who would always disappear for a while and come back from his car a little happier than when he went out. He evidently found another kind of "wild turkey" to help him get through the holiday season.

I can't find those casseroles anymore. The house belongs to someone else. A good number of the people I remember are gone to the place not made with hands eternal in the heavens. We are trying to create new traditions but you can't go back home least in some ways...I suppose we are not supposed to.

Our youngest child was born on one of those Thanksgiving mornings. She messed everything up that day. I never got a taste of one of those casseroles. At 11:17 we had a 10lb 2oz turkey named Amanda. I've always kidded her about that. She now laughs. She did not use to.

On another Thanksgiving evening my mother did her usual second feast for us in the evening. We had a grand old time. She read an essay written by our oldest daughter who was then a "I'm not paying attention to most anyone but me...and no longer want to go to grannies house cause my friends are everything...type of teenager." The essay was about "the person who influenced me the most in life." The words were about my mother. They told of "Grannie breakfasts" and times of singing "Fly Little Blue Bird." The message was of a woman who made that little girl feel like a queen and who saved pantie hose "eggs" to put toys in for her even when my mother did not need any more pantie hose."

My mother cried...said, "I thought you had forgotten"...hugged that not so distant adolescent...and then later that night while reading a book simply bowed her head and died. When I got the phone call from my father saying that, "She was gone," I looked over at Betsy and said, "Well I'm thankful that at least we had a going away party without knowing we were having it." She was only 67. I had other questions for her. I think of her often, especially on Thanksgiving.

So Thanksgiving is "loaded" with memories. I'm thankful for most of them. What about you? Close your eyes this Thanksgiving and smile. Pull out from your flock of wild turkeys a special memory then turn toward the present and create one for the future.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Killing off the King to Have a Baby

The Christian year ends in a rather strange way. On the last Sunday of what is called "ordinary time" time takes a not so ordinary twist. All of the scripture readings have to do with Jesus dying. The one I picked this year has Jesus standing all beaten up and bleeding before Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus if he is in fact a king.

Jesus says something like, "Well that's what you must think." Pilate has no use for this guy who is making him work on a holiday and replies, "Look idiot I'm not a Jew...I kill Jews for a living and you better start showing some respect for your superiors."

Jesus' reply, which you have to read between the lines is, "Whatever." He then offers Pilate something that Pilate would never quite get. "Look Mr. King of Rome, my kingdom is something you would not understand anyway. My kingdom will be around when you are dust."

Pilate then finds some hand sanitizer and washes his hands of this poor soul thus showing Jesus once and for all who is really king. Of course we now know that there is no First Church of Pontius Pilate but there seem to be plenty of places around that have King Jesus at least on their signs out front.

But as soon as we kill of Jesus at the end of the year it is time to have the first day of the year that begins the Christian New Year. We call it Advent. We have the death and the birth right up next to each other. What gives?

It seems that for the Christian we need to be reminded about what kind of king that God sends in a manger. Actually the manger is not as far removed from the cross as one might at first think. There was the death of a dream that night that Mary was told there was "no room." After all she was promised by none other than an angel that she would be the mother of the new king of the world. What kind of king would be forced to be born in a barn.

So we face the death of expectations as we start the New Year. Advent is a season to be told, "ready...set....stop." This is no countdown for the shopping days left until the credit card statements come. For the Christian there is the speed-bump that jars us to a stop if we take it too fast. have a king that gets crucified by the world. are to be servants of a servant king. Stop...the world can be different if you serve a different kind of king...the kind of king who rules with a shepherd's staff and who wears a crown of thorns.

This Sunday, as I have done in many years before, I will place a chair in the chancel area of my church, place the processional cross behind the chair, put a crown of thorns over the cross beam of that cross, lean a shepherd's staff on the cross....and invite my people to come kneel and say "thank you" to this servant king.

We face the death before we hear the soft cry of the baby. It is the reason we can say "thank you" to a God who is willing to come suffer with us and promise us a new day beyond our suffering. Shades of Christmas are present even as a wounded Jesus looks at another king and says, "My kingdom is not of this world.....but it will make a world of difference."

Before Mary has her baby we are reminded that things in the new kingdom will be upside down in order to set things right side up....Happy soon to be New Year...

Friday, October 29, 2010

For All the Saints

I last wrote about going to my 45th High School reunion and the request for me to do a "memorial service" for those in our class who "are no longer with us." It was an interesting evening. Wow, those people got old somehow.

We looked at a power-point slide show of "the ghosts of High School Past" as we ate our food and chewed on memories. My old girlfriend was there and I spoke briefly with her despite my dear wife's accusation that I flirted with her at our last reunion. I figure we are owed a few reflections from the past. After all she was the first to break my heart. Yes, she fell for an older guy while on a beach trip. She ended up marrying the guy but all I remember is the deep ache that was new to me.

The ache started somewhere below my stomach and came up around my windpipe, then seeped into my chest. It was a strange feeling. I did not know someone could do that to someone else. I had only played with feelings until that point. What was this sensation that felt like a roller coaster going down and not coming up?

So how do "you" describe a broken heart. Anyway I lived even though I thought for a while I would not. Sure we all can laugh now about those first love downdrafts but it sure was not funny then. So all that rushed by as I listened to her tell stories of her grandchildren.

But back to the "saints." Yes I conducted a brief memorial time for those names that were below the pictures that were mounted on a board in front of us. The pictures were from the High School Annual. The all looked so young and so hopeful and now they were memories. They were gone from our midst. It was a somber moment in the swirl of laughter and surprise at how we have changed. So I'll share with you the poem I wrote to read to my classmates. It is based on that reflection I shared with you earlier where many of us gathered just before graduation and sang a song of both hope and desire: "Climb Every Mountain."

I share it with you for those of you who read these words and have climbed your mountains and discovered your valleys....

The Mountain Climbers

We sang of mountains
That could be conquered
And with our knapsacks full of
Hope we set out...
Maps and charts were not needed
For at first we were
Full of hope
That needed only time

But soon we found that mountains
Have valleys between
Their rugged peaks so
We stopped our separate
Marches and joined
Hands with another or many
For in our days
Of youth we dared
Not ask about
the fear of mountain climbing

So today we gather to smile
even about the tears
For remembrance is our tool
That we strike into the side
Of this- yet another peak
That we call "reunion"

And as we stand beside this
Slope of a past whose
Story is much bigger than
The simple song we sang
We step into a sacred silence
As we hold in our hearts
The names of those climbers
Who are beyond the
Range of our gathering
Who are not lost to the
One who made all mountains
And who transverses all valleys

Hold on to them
O God who listens so well
To songs of youth
But who knows how quickly
Hope can be swallowed up
As pilgrims on the way
Discover their need
For ropes and charts and

So we hear their names and
Speak them tenderly
From yet another mountain
That we climb this day
Hear them O God of all
Knowing...and complete
Their lives that are
So sacred to you...


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Climb Every Mountain

We sang "Climb Every Mountain" and swayed back and forth in our melody. Then we set out to climb those mountains. We had no idea how many valleys there would be. You don't ask about valleys when you are 18 and full of hope.

Now those singers will gather next weekend for our 45th High School reunion. The mountain climbing song was a last minute idea for our senior class day play. We sang it and then headed for various mountain ranges.

At the reunion they always want me to read the names of those who have climbed their last mountain and are now in that "place not made with hands but eternal in the heavens." Of course there are always more names at each reunion. There was Vietnam that took some of us and then came traffic accidents and those various diseases and infirmities that no one thought would catch up to those idealistic mountain climbers.

After a few words and the reading of names we'll play some beach music and shag a bit. We will not sing the mountain climbing song. It was only for one shining moment anyway. We'll shag and offer a toast to those who have crossed over. Old romances will be remembered and maybe even a strange embrace will take place.

We've encountered a lot of mountains and valleys since our chorus 45 years ago. We've learned to sing the "blues" too. The text I used last Sunday reminds me of the distance from the peaks to the valleys. A group of people gathered one cloudy afternoon much longer ago than a few years and tried to sing but found it hard:
...."By the waters of Babylon we hung up our harps for our captives required of us songs...'Sing one of your holy songs now that you're up the creek without a paddle'...but How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Psalm 137)

Maybe I knew my reunion was coming up or maybe it was one of my teacher's comments that led me to write a blues song based on the Psalm. Mrs. Messiemer put on my report card, "If Jody does not quit showing off he'll never amount to anything."

So I'll close my nostalgia with the song I sang in the sermon as I spoke of the need to sing the spiritual blues when we are sad. I dawned my sun glasses and with some piano blues notes in the background I sang "The Babylon Blues" goes:

"Been thrown in the River
They call Babylon
Been stripped down to my soul
Seems my God is gone

Ain't singing no sweet songs
No hymns coming from me
Done tossed my harmonica
Out to the sea

I'm crying in exile
This land seems so strange
My captors done told me
Things ain't gonna change

I've got the Babylon...Babylon...Babylon blues....o yeah....

Climb every mountain...forge every stream (walk through every valley too) follow every rainbow till you find your dream....(even if some teacher tells you to shut up)


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Honesty in Exile

So this week I've been preparing a lesson on the book of Revelation for a class I'm teaching and working with the scripture text for this Sunday's sermon, which is Psalm 137. On one hand I'm dealing with the "mark of the beast" and the four horseman of the apocalypse and on the other hand there are the words, "we hung up our lyres because we would not sing one of the songs of Zion" for our captors who mocked us with such a request.

Both Revelation and Psalm 137 are cries from "exile." The folks to whom the Revelation is written are in a type of exile. They think Jesus is coming back any moment and hopefully will take them out of the evil world that seems to be becoming more evil every day. John tells them to hold on because "the time is not yet." He does affirm that it is exile indeed and that it is going to get worse before it gets better. It is not the news the people really want to hear.

In the middle of it all God is still in charge, believe it or not...and some do not. Beasts with horns and horses with riders who spread destruction all over the place are rampant. In the middle of the "tribulation" and mess is a wounded lamb who reminds the hurting people that they are not alone and that the lamb knows and feels what it means to lose. The lamb announces that the victory's been won but the war seems to be still raging. (For those of you without the 3-D glasses the "lamb" is Jesus.)

A vision of heaven is thrown in to make sure that those who lose know that "no more tears" is not just a baby shampoo but is a promise for those who hang in there. It is the good news in the midst of the bad news.

Psalm 137 goes along with all this because it is the Bible's version of "the blues." It goes something like, "My God seems to have left me and I ain't gonna sing one of those happy songs from the past." Like those lines from David Wilcox's song, "Levi Blues;"..."I was doing my laundry baby/I thought I'd do my new jeans too/Yeah, I was doing my laundry/I threw my new jeans in too/And when the spin and rinse was over/Every single thing in there was BLUE...

The people find themselves captive in Babylonian exile and in the spin cycle. God seems gone so after the rinse phase they hang up their harps. They also feel like laundry that has been hung out to dry...and blue on top of that.

So from Psalms to Revelation the people of God are called to "Make a joyful noise"...and when necessary to "sing the blues." How "do" you sing the Lord's song when you are blue and are in exile? sing the blues.

God always listens....maybe especially to the blues.
bless you

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Holy Spirit and Horton the Elephant

I think I frightened the church staff the other day when I did the worship opening time at our weekly staff meeting. I told them that as I was preparing what I was going to say, Horton the Elephant spoke to me.

Ok I admit I've been feeling a bit stressed lately. As I told our daughters when they were teenagers and trying to grow up fast, "You might want to slow down. This grown-up thing is not all it's cranked up to be." That day before staff meeting I was a little tired of the grown up world. It is a world full of meetings and budgets and reoccurring problems. As the "leader-CEO-Main Guy-Head of the Team-Sr. Pastor" a lot of the list comes my way.

So I told my befuddled staff that this week I was tired of some of it. I was tired of some of the negative stuff I had heard of late. I was weary from my work even though much of it is still very worthwhile and after all it is "God's work." But I took this moment because I also told them that I thought maybe Jesus was giving me a "pass" to do so for a brief moment.

I had been working on what to say the upcoming Sunday on Children's Sabbath. I was working with that text where Jesus reaches over and pulls up a small child and places her on his knee and says to a bunch of "grown-up" disciples who were having trouble getting along and arguing over who was top dog; "Look at this child. Come as child and you'll finally get the idea of what this new Kingdom I keep talking about is like."

So that morning before yet another "meeting" I noticed a small statue of Horton the Elephant starring at me. I must have used it for some children's thing I did years ago and one of the support staff found it when she was helping me "organize" my office. Horton seemed to whisper something to me.

Horton the elephant heard "a small sound but there was no one around." That small sound was the cry of a Who and he decided that it was "some sort of creature of very small size, too small to be seen by elephant eyes." But Horton knew he had to respond because "after all...a person's a person no matter how small."

Remember that the third "person" of that very grown-up doctrine we call "the Trinity" is the person of the Holy Spirit. So it was on an early morning a few days ago the "still small voice" of that spirit spoke to me in the form of Horton.

"Listen," it said, "to that small voice within your busy world...You are my child...that's all you need to be right now...the grown-up world will wait for a moment....just be my child right now."

Jesus told stories about sheep and coins that got lost in the busy world. He often said that his kingdom was like tiny seeds or small bits of leaven. "The kingdom of God comes in small ways" he reminded his grown-up disciples. "Come as a child."

So this week I was blessed by the parable of Horton the Elephant who reminded me of the small child who never grew up that lives in me...that small child that is not supposed to grow up. It is the child who reminds me to stop, look, and listen. Once in a while the fast paced world can wait...wait for me and you to "come as a child."

I need to sit on Jesus' knee occasionally and remember. Giving to others in his name is wonderful and yes tiring at times so the whisper that came this week from a blue Elephant who listened to a small voice was a wonderful spirit filled reminder.

Bless you

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Far Country

I talked with a prodigal recently. He was "home" now and pretty grateful but he shared with me how he actually missed the "far country..." that is before the pig-pen stuff.

A preaching professor told me a few years ago to be careful using the image "prodigal" and assuming that young people knew what you mean. He said young people were no longer familiar with stereotypical biblical images because they had not read the bible and did not grow up hearing such things as, "You're going to end up my prodigal."

So for those of you who are "young" I'm referring to the story of the prodigal son that is in Luke. Luke is in the bible. If you don't have a bible you are welcome to steal one from the next motel you find yourself in. The Gideons actually want people to steal them. By the way the Gideons are people who "push" bibles.

What am doing? Young people aren't reading this...are you? Anyway the prodigal I talked with was longing to go back and visit the far country. He missed the excitement and told me that the "good life" was not as full as he had hoped it would be.

He was feeling really guilty about all this and perhaps that is why he was telling me the story. He had been viewing travel posters of the far his head of course...and he longed just for a quick trip back to some of the places where he discovered some really wild stuff before he got lost and had to "come to himself."

"I never thought I would want to go back," he said. What he realized was that he left part of "himself" in the far country and he could not really find it at home.

Have you ever been to the "far country?" A lot of people who have not been there quickly judge those who have. It is one reason maybe people leave the certainty of home.

I wonder if the father in the original story had ever "strayed" when he was young? Maybe that is one reason he ran down the road to grab hold of his "stinky" prodigal child.

I told the prodigal that he probably needed to "stay home" but that it was okay to share the memories and longings with me. The one who originally told the story told it to portray how "his father" was like the father in the story. So I put my hand on this "prodigal's" head and I blessed him and his wondering thoughts. He will of course go unnamed but I blessed him in the name of the one who knows his name and who loves him like a father.

If you are in the far country when you read this...try to go home. If you're the "elder brother" loosen up and try to understand prodigals. If you're a parent of a prodigal pray for patience and remember life is messy and nobody is exempt from longings that lead to pig-pens. And if you don't have a bible...steal one or something...It's a good story worth reading.


Sunday, September 12, 2010


I've served seven churches over the years. I just went back to one I left thirty-one years ago. Where did the time go?

I helped baptize the child of a child I baptized when I was there. How many children have I baptized? I should have kept a record but somehow when it all started I thought it would not matter.

One reason I did not keep "records" is that I thought I would not be doing this ministry thing for this long. I looked for a way out early on. I had too many strange thoughts and my understanding of God was too big and the church was too small...for me. At my "little country church" one of the Furr boy's pegged me when he was overheard to say, " This new preacher will never make it. He's too short, he's too young, and he's read too many books."

Well I'm "old" now and if I carry on in my father's tradition I'll soon start to shrink so I'm destined to even get shorter. I've read even more books and even written a few. I suppose most days I'm glad that brother Furr was wrong.

What a joy it is to hold a child and drip water over his or her head. As I looked around during "Homecoming" I remembered being at this church of my past. The sanctuary seemed smaller than when I was there. The people all looked older of course and when some of them said to me, "Why you haven't changed a bit" I remembered why I loved them so much when I was with them.

"You can't go home again," it is said. I suppose that is true. It felt strange and memories came up like those sayings that popped up in that novelty item called "an eight ball." Do you remember those?...You held the eight ball, turned it slightly and a sayings would pop up in the tiny window in the ball. The sayings that seemed to come from nowhere were supposedly an indication of what your future might hold.

Well these memories that popped up were full of the past not the future. I did not find a way out of the ministry. It seems I found a way "through" it and now it's been 38 years. I can count the years even though I've lost track of the babies.

You can't go home again...but it was good to drop by and remember. Life needs some "homecomings." We travel so fast theses days. It is good to at least "visit" home again. For so many of us "home" is constantly being made as we go.

It was T.S Elliot who said, "We shall not cease from exploring and in our exploring we shall come to the place from which we started and know it for the first time." As I looked around the old place that I used to call home I pondered that I am coming to know that life is daily and home is where you show up...really show up.

As I got in the car to leave "homecoming," I remembered what the choir sang to me as I walked down the aisle my last Sunday with them: "Happy trails to you until we meet again...Happy trails to you keep smiling until then.." I smiled...I remembered....and I said, "thank you" to that amazing presence who would not let me out of this wonderful, crazy, thing called ministry.

Bless you

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's Only a Matter of Time

It is an expression used to designate a situation in which fate will have its say. You know, you meet someone and they seem friendly but you sense that there is an underlying agenda in the friendship and you feel that something will happen to reveal what is hidden. "It is only a matter of time."

Well this past week I experienced time. I stood overlooking canyons that had been "cut" out by the Green and Colorado rivers. Revealed before me were layers of history all the way down to the bottom of the canyons. They tell me it reveals 300 million years of geological history.

Everything was "big" last week. The reason I was out there in nature observing "time" was that I was attending a conference of the largest 100 United Methodist churches in America. I serve one of them. I did not know that until I got the invitation to attend.

So after observing big canyons I sat in a room full of big church pastors. My church barely made the list because the biggest canyon when it comes to churches is 17,000 people attending every Sunday. I wonder how long it took that guy to create that canyon?

Anyway it was a big week but it reminds me that time happens one second at a time. The river does its work over time. The 17,000 can seem vast and the 300 million can seem completely beyond grasp but it all happens one instant and one person "at a time."

Overlooking all these vast numbers I realized that God's hour glass must be really big. We look at our watches and hurry off in order to make an appointment while the river keeps cutting away its path. It's only a matter of time.

"So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Believe today that whether it comes to big churches or big canyons God notices every grain of sand that passes through the hour glass. After all the old story says, "that a thousand years in thy sight is as a watch in the night." So it takes 300 million years to make one of those canyons and it takes one member at a time to make 17,000....I marvel though that the God of all time counts by individual sands and individual people.

Don't get lost in time...take time...feel moment at a time...It's only a matter of time.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Counting for Something

So what do you count for? It may not be good grammar but you get my point. To the world you are a Social Security number. To the State you are the number on the back of your car. I had a "number" during the last Selective Service draft. It was an important number: 305. It meant I "did not have to go to Vietnam."

I have two more numbers for you: 2,394,415, 296 and 498,836,520. No it is not anything to do with the National Debt. Unfortunately both of these numbers are far too small to even approximate what we owe.

The numbers are from the calculator found on health You put in your date of birth and you find our what "you count for." So the first number is my number of heartbeats since the time of my birth. The second number is the number of breaths I have taken.

You might want to stop now and see what you count for. Both of those numbers are really "what counts" not the number of dollars in your stock portfolio or what is left on your mortgage. Either of those numbers do not really matter if you don't have the first numbers.

I would imagine that no one reading this right now has as much money as either of the first two numbers mentioned. If you do we need to become really good friends before you take your next breath.

When I saw "my numbers" I almost lost my breath...nice turn of words, huh? I mean I have not been counting, have you? But someone has because those breaths and beats come from somewhere.

Psalm 139 says that the place from which the breath and beats come has this cosmic calculator. It seems we are "known" inside and out. Every aspect of our insides are known. There is a phrase in this Psalm that I love, "We are fearfully and wonderfully made." We are not put together on an assembly line nor or we ordered from some kind of "Lands End" catalogue. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

It may sound strange to say "fearfully" because we live in such a fear-filled world where terror lurks around corners but this is the kind of "fear" that means "wow...awesome...unbelievable." It is the kind of fear I felt when I looked at our first child just after she came out of the womb. There was joy mixed with...well...fear at what just happened.

We loose that fear and wonder don't we. We just go about our days beating and breathing as if it does not "count." Well, it counts to someone. Someone is doing the numbers. It all adds up.

So today I think I'll stop somewhere and listen to my heart and pay attention to my breath. If I do that perhaps I will pay more attention to all the breaths and hearts out there around me.

Part of the problem in our wonderful yet broken world is that we no longer see each other as fearfully and wonderfully made. That is why we can blow each other up in the name of the wrong kind of fear. We need to go back to the beginning where real fear and wonder come from.

It all counts...people count..."breathe in breathe out move on"....


Friday, August 20, 2010

Does the 800 Pound Jesus Give Medals?

For those who know the Bible well or at least have hung around it for a number of years (there's probably a difference) the words on the page can become a bit like elevator music. You hear the words but they blend into the background of the familiar so that the "tune" sounds good but you do not really pay attention and then go on about your business.

I don't think it's supposed to be that way. So being one who has "hung around the Bible" for a number of years and who falls victim to the "elevator music syndrome" I use Eugene Peterson's translation of the Bible, "The Message" so that I can hear the words in a different and often refreshing way.

He translates Jesus' words at the end of Matthew 5 this way: "If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run of the mill sinner can do that...In a word GROW UP. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity."

Last week I used a wonderful song in the sermon by Sawyer Brown, "800 Pound Jesus." Here again sometimes we need different words to really "hear" Jesus. The song is a country song so of course it tells a story...and as often happens in country songs the story has a sad ring to it but offers "redemption" in the end.

The story song tells of a guy on the way home one day who sees an 8 foot statue of Jesus at a garage sale. The concrete statue "held out his arms and seemed all alone so I loaded him up and drove him home." The new owner paints the rebar and concrete statue "white with a long purple robe" and then declares "He's a rock of ages on a gravel road."

Now don't you love that phrase! Eugene Peterson could have used that somewhere in his translation.

Anyway, back to the story. The guy who lives on this gravel road loses his job to tough times and his best girl to his best friend so life becomes unbearable. He takes a rope and climbs up on the 800 pound statue of Jesus which happens to be placed next to an old oak tree. He is going to "buy the farm" and end it all when he jumps off the limb and lands in the "arms" of Jesus.

Hold on there's more. Realizing that Jesus has "saved" him from a moment of despair he acknowledges that he has never had a more "solid he planted some flowers all around his feet and bought him a flock of ceramic sheep."

I mean come on this is too good to be true. So the chorus is now a haunting refrain in my mind:
"He's an 800 pound Jesus standing taller than a tree.
He's an 800 pound Jesus, a bigger man than you or me."

So do you think this 800 pound Jesus gives medals if we are simply nice to those who are nice to us. Such a big man expects much more of those who get caught up in his arms. He even talks about loving enemies, for God's sake!

I'm sorry but I'm not usually "big" enough to love those who "give me a hard time." But then I/we are dealing with an 800 pound Jesus...or in reality one even bigger than that. Most of us want medals if we show up at church and try to be "nice" most of the time. Well....this Jesus is "bigger" than that and expects bigger things than simply being nice.

To really follow Jesus is to take a "flying leap" and hope that he'll catch us because living as "kingdom subjects" will require us to really "grow up." Can't you just imagine an 800 pound Jesus coming to life and walking around saying something like, "What have you people done with what I gave you? You have domesticated it like some pet. What I gave you is untamed and wild and you've locked it in a cage only to feed it once in a while and go on about your life. Grow up."

He's an 800 pound Jesus, a bigger man than you and me....and he doesn't give medals, he gives love...not to be love...even our enemies. You say, "That's ridiculous these days." Well, that's because he's the "rock of ages on a gravel road" and remains a "bigger man than you and me."

He probably does not need any more ceramic sheep but I bet he could use a few good once in a while take a flying leap. Don't expect medals when you jump but you can expect some pretty big arms waiting to catch you...

Bless you

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Leaviing the Faith and Keeping the Faith

As I read the recent article about the author Ann Rice who announced that she was "no longer a Christian" and that she was "leaving the faith for the sake of Christ" I could not help but think of Billy Joel's song, "Keeping the Faith." Joel tells in this narrative song of how he was "saved" by the music of "wild boys." His hunger for that music later lead him to be what he is today so his refrain is, "the good old days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems" so he's "keeping the faith" and singing his music.

Ann Rice says that she is leaving the faith because she can no longer be part of a faith that is full of rigid doctrines and people who condemn homosexuality while speaking of love. She then goes on to say how she does not want to be part of a Catholic Faith where the Pope issues an "edict" preventing people from using condemns in Africa in spite of the AIDS epidemic and then excommunicates a nun who allowed a woman to have an abortion in order to save her own life.

Well Ann, "the good old days weren't as always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems" so there are ways of "keeping the faith" in spite of the faith. Heck, years ago I left the Christianity you just left and I'm still keeping the faith. The problem with most religion is that we all paint with broad brush strokes when small fine brushes are needed to paint such an important canvas.

Ann, the faith you walk away from also includes those folks mentioned in the book of Hebrews who were fed to lions and set on fire for "keeping the faith." Don't paint with such a large brush. In fact I do not want to be included in your painting.

At the place I hang out, called church, we are starting a New Faith Community for people who once thought they had to "walk away." In fact some of them have and we are inviting them to look at Jesus for a second time. We are offering them a faith "in" Christ and not just a faith "about" Christ.

The religion about Christ comes in a lot of different forms some of which I walked away from years ago when I realized that the Jesus "they" were espousing was not the Jesus I had come to know. The Jesus I came to know included people who were excluded. The Jesus I discovered did not recite creeds but told stories about lost boys who deserved not to be taken back but who were, lost sheep whose finding caused a party even though the "ninety and nine" did not quite understand, and a Jesus who got the door of religion slammed in his face. In fact it was religion that contrived to slam him up on a cross to make sure that "orthodoxy" and business as usual stayed put.

No Ann, leaving is too easy. Staying...well that's another story. I've wanted to leave at times. The most judgemntal folks I know are church folks and yes the church, if it is not careful, can end up being a self-preserving, condescending institution focused too much on survival. But so many before who have kept the faith have known that the "good old days weren't always good" but they kept on believing that "tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."

Hey Ann, don't leave. Come join our New Faith Community and stay restless within the church so we can help that revolutionary Jesus who started the whole thing keep on keeping on. Yes Ann, the church is a mess. It's made up of people like you and me. Remember what that Catholic heritage of yours emphasizes, "The church is the BROKEN body of Christ," but it still offers so much healing for so many.

In my rebel days when I tried to walk away from a God I thought too distant and a church I felt was too confined to be relevant, my dear mother pointed her finger in my face and said, "Look boy, I put up with the church so the church can be the church when the church needs to be the church."

She's gone now but because of her and some of those distant folks who hung in there and who were hung out to dry for their faith I think it's worth "keeping."


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bonhoeffer, Spiders, and Sunrises

What do the above all have in common? It takes time to take them all in.

Last week I had time. The new biography about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is almost 600 pages so that takes time but it and he were worth it.

Then there was that spider that spun its web just off the porch at the beach house where I spent the week. I watched him or was it her all week. After seeing the patience it took to both spin and constantly repair the web I'm going to assume it was a "her." No man would ever be that enduring when it comes to the persistence it took to tend that web.

And then there was the waiting. She waited. She waited through an unbelievable storm one evening. The winds blew at 40 miles per hour. The rains came in torrents. She held on and never moved. Most of her web held although there were noticeable spaces where the wind took its toll.

It takes time to weave a web and it takes time to watch a spider. Jesus missed a chance by not telling the parable of the spider or maybe he did and those busy minded disciples were again not listening. They obviously did not know how to "ponder and consider." That's why Jesus sat them down in the middle of a wildflower field one afternoon and told them to "consider the lilies." They were not paying attention.

I also got to ponder some sunrises. To watch the sun come up over the ocean early in the morning is one definition of "mystical." You observe the sign of the gift of another day. As the massive star peeks over the horizon you realize that for some this will be their last day and for others it will be their first day. For most of us we are somewhere in between but that between is sacred space...but...we do not pay attention.

We simply assume the sun rise and go on.

So on those sunrise days I spent some time with Dietrich Bonhoeffer...a lot of time. I do not usually read anything that takes 600 pages but then I usually don't guessed it, time. Bonhoeffer's time was one of standing up to the church and to the government in Nazi Germany. I could not help but wonder if I had anything in me that was anything like him.

Would I have gone against "my" church when it went along with the nationalistic tidal wave and forgot who its true master was? Would I have risked family and everything because the haunting voice of God would not let me alone? Would I have walked away from the woman I loved, as he did, to tie his morality to the convoluted knot that lead him to participate in a plot to murder the evil leader whom we now know was a true personification of cruelty and deception?

How many times have I sold out because the masses wanted comfort? How many times have I spun a web only to desert it because I could not hold on? Bonhoeffer believed enough in God to offer his life for a cause he felt was bigger than the popular religion that opted for the road well traveled.

So today I did not take time to watch the sunrise. I'm back to business as usual. There's probably some spider outside right now "holding on" but I will not see her. And Dietrich....well he's gone but not really. His holding on will haunt me as it should. O God of sunrise and spiders let me not forget how hard it is to hold on in the face of the storms of comfortable culture. I figure you and Dietrich are having ongoing conversations about how we miss so much in the time we have. Help us pay attention....


Monday, July 26, 2010

Intolerant of Intolerance

Yea I'm getting intolerant of intolerance. I got another one of those "anti-Islam" e mails today full of incorrect assertions and seething with intolerance. The Internet is fine sometimes but when it is used to spread fear and ignorance in the name of free access or "free speech" somebody needs to say "stop."

I liked the article in the paper today that tells of an "inter-faith" camp where kids come together and share their lives and their faith perspectives. There were Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, Hindus, and a Unitarian or two. They did not "back off" their beliefs or water them down, they simply spent time together, shared worship together, and listened to each other.

The Jesus I believe in would have liked that gathering of young people. Where did we Christians get the idea that to claim our faith as unique and wonderful means that we condemn those who seek God on a different path? I know, I know there are a few passages of scripture that if interpreted as some chose to see them seem to exclude anyone who does not see Jesus "our" way.

Well, like dear old Mary Chapin Carpenter sings, "I'll take my chances" by saying that the intolerance of such positions is not Christian. I like the way Eugene Peterson translates Jesus' message in his version of the bible known as "The Message"...He has Jesus say in Matthew 7, "Knowing the correct password, saying Master, Master for instance isn't going to get you anywhere with me...doing my Father's will is what is important...(to me) you missed the boat...all you did was make yourself important. You don't impress me one bit."

We need to learn to listen, live together, appreciate each other's faith, and let Jesus do the sorting out. That wheat and weeds parable he told is a good analogy of how we need to learn that we are not good "sorters" when it comes to judging what is "wheat" and what is "weed."

I have some dear folk who are leaving our church now because they want more certainty and do not like the questions that are raised when one is open to a God who is really big. I understand their need for a black and white world where a certain view of faith is fixed and prescribed. They also want a Bible where there are no questions or different interpretations. I wish them well but I could not go where they wanted to go much less lead them as a pastor to that place of certainty.

The spirit and love "of" Christ is bigger than the religion "about" Christ. What do we really think that the power that overcame death one morning wants us to do in a world where so many people differ in their views of faith and God? Are we to build walls or bridges?

We can still hold to the uniqueness of our faith without condemning those who walk a different path. We can especially listen to the "truths" about other faiths without spreading false realities based upon a lack of understanding. Most of what comes out of the mouths of "radical Islamists" is a complete misconstruing of that faith just as some of what I hear coming out of the mouths of certain "Christians" is nothing I want a part of. (See, I'm intolerant of intolerance...told you.)

In Isaiah God makes an offer that we need to take up: "Come let us reason together." Religion that is based on fear is usually unhealthy religion. God is at work in all sorts of places in this world. Those of us who claim the title, "Christian" must be careful not to think of it as an exclusive "password" that get us in while we claim that other are left out.

The one who gave us this marvelous faith cautions us not to make our spiritual journey a seeking after a password but a following of a "way." That "way" is a way of love, compassion, attentiveness to others...especially those with whom we disagree, and a joining with God in the healing of the nations.


Monday, July 19, 2010

When Preachers Lose Faith

That was the title of the recent article in the newspaper. I suppose those who read it and who were not one of "us clergy" probably thought those words have the same ring as a life insurance salesperson who does not have their own policy, does not pay a premium, and in fact does not really believe in life insurance. Would you invest with such a person?

We who "wear the robes" and use the lingo read that article with different eyes. We know that using the language does not mean that we always live the language. Hey, listen I understand that you do not want your personal trainer to have a "spare tire" around his or her middle section so you probably do not want your pastor to....well...have doubts.

Well don't get too close. You might discover the "man behind the curtain" (or woman of course) does in fact have some doubts. I am sure you will find a different variety of doubts depending on the individual clergy but if you peer behind the robe and the ritual you'll find some garden variety uncertainties.

I remember a certain person in one of my churches being very disappointed when one of her former pastors "crashed and burned." It seems he used poor judgment when it came to hanging around a certain woman. He barely survived and was allowed to stay in ministry but he was moved and given a much smaller church. This disappointed woman simply said to me after sharing her sadness at his "failings", "Well, I suppose ministers are human too."

I turned to her and said, "If you only knew how human it would scare you." She seemed startled.
Do you folks out there in the blog-0-sphere think that when we get ordained that we go through some kind of security check point that somehow renders us well...not human? Check out the David story in the bible. Old David was "chosen of God" to be the leader but wow was he ever human. Seems he could write wonderful lyrics that later became Psalms but he could also bribe, steal, and become the material for afternoon soap-operas with that Bathsheba affair.

Yea, we're human alright, real human. So you might suppose we have doubts and even crises of know like those people we try to serve and care for. We did not receive an inoculation against the ups and downs of the spiritual journey. We are on the road, the same road as the "flock" we attempt to shepherd.

I've written a book about all this because I know that we who spend so much time giving other people water can become thirsty ourselves if we are not careful. I've learned the hard way that my weekly preparation and study for the sermon is "not" my spiritual stop by the well for is my "job." It is up to me to stop by the well for just drink for me...not my people...for me. Handling the water is not drinking the water.

So...shock and awe...we doubt at times. But take heart, in the midst of all those doubts is the reality of what Alan Jones, one of us, taught me. He said, "The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty." If you are certain and sure of everything you do not need that faith that often times has to take a leap or believe in spite of rather than because of...

I wonder if the guy who responded to Jesus that day and said, "I believe Lord, help my unbelief," was investigating being a minister? In the valley of doubt, dark as it is, guess who is present...a shepherd..."the" shepherd...thank God.

Bless you,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Bush Full of Butterflies

We two legged creatures seem fascinated with the winged wonders known as butterflies. It may because they literally squeeze time in front of our very eyes. If one pays attention the sequence of life can be condensed for observation.

In a time span that at most is a year an egg on a leaf becomes a caterpillar that becomes a cocoon that becomes the colorful winged creatures that now cover the three "butterfly bushes" in our backyard. These butterflies seem to be really having a good time. They glide from flower to flower while absorbing the sweet substance that keeps them flying.

All this joy lasts on average "two weeks." Some butterflies only live five days. Monarchs get as much as an extra year. We get to watch all of this. We have a little longer so we become the observers of their lives.

Relatively speaking this tiny speck of dust we inhabit is to "the" cosmic observer a bush full of butterflies. We have our own kind of "seed" and for a while inhabit a warm dark space which resembles a cocoon. The difference is that we do not do our own spinning. Our warm hiding space lasted about nine months and all was taken care of by someone called, "mother."

We did, however, burst forth from that time of development and stretch our "wings" so that we might explore the new light around us. Our pace was of course much slower. We were not suddenly able to dance from flower to flower like our nature's kin. Perhaps they are more advanced than we are.

They seem so eager to enjoy the flowers of the butterfly bush. Is it because they know they have so little time?

Long ago a poet came up with a phrase, "So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I wonder. Are we the wise ones or is it the butterflies? They seem to know how special every day is. There's is a dance of joy.

We are the "observers" who get to watch "their time" and get to see it end. Listen this day and perhaps in the breeze there will be words whispered by that cosmic observer: "Your days are like the butterfly only you seem so unaware of it."

Someone who said he came directly from the "studio" of that cosmic observer once commented to a busy-minded group of followers, "Consider the lilies." I think he meant, "Pay attention, now...Where are you going so fast? Enjoy each individual flower and each individual day."

So today I will take a few "longer" moments and observe the bush full of butterflies and realize there is one who observes me...and I will say, "Thank you for the time."

Bless you

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mourning for the Death of the Internet

OK I'm sort of lost between two worlds. Part of me is a poet-Renaissance-kind of guy who loves to ponder. Then there is the part of me that has one foot in the "tech" world. After all I'm doing this blog thing but I'm lost in the I-Phone stuff and part of me does not like the twitter effect that seems to be doing in some forms of "real" communication and community. So, I'm lost.

I'm not sure which part of me found amusement at what popped up as I logged on today. There was the face of "Prince" with the words, "Prince says the Internet is dead." I'm not a Prince fan so I do not even know what it means when the next line says, "the artist formerly known as Prince." So the guy has had some kind of metamorphosis but he's... well still Prince sort of.

Anyway where I'm going with this, I think, is the star/celebrity world we seem to live in where stuff like the Lebron James phenomenon grows in the fertile soil of a media-tech-driven feeding frenzy kind of atmosphere. I'm not sure how a guy like Lebron or Prince or whoever he is today keeps any kind of perspective. But then maybe they don't and that is the problem.

Fame has always been a blessing and a curse. Now the Internet and fast paced broad based information sharing fuels the fame flame. Hey, I like that, "fame flame." You can quote me. I did not google the phrase so I might not be original but until I do it's original for now.

Fame and idolatry are first cousins. As I understand it first cousins are not supposed to "get married" or there is trouble ahead. I rest my case on that one.

So for now I will not mourn the announced death of the Internet. I seem to have a love-hate relationship with it. E mails are helpful and demonic at the same time...know what I mean? Too much of a good thing is a bad thing...

I'm not sure what all the above was about, but after all it's a blog. I guess I wanted to "say" something before the line went dead. After all Prince sounded the call and he's Prince..or at least used to be.

Bless you,
Jody...the blogger formerly known as Jody

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Inserting God

Ah what a country. Recently a group of atheist got together and pooled their resources to put up a billboard reading "One nation Indivisible." They wanted to make a point that the original Pledge of Allegiance did not include the words "under God."

The huge sign ended up being placed on none other than Billy Graham Blvd. The "don't insert God into my life or my pledge" group claimed innocence at the placement of the billboard and "pledged" that they were not trying to do the "in your face" kind of thing by putting their protest on the road named for a guy who spent his life putting God into most everything. The atheist simply said it was "the cheapest place" to put their no-God advertisement.

The saga continued a few nights after the sign went up. Some folks figured out a way to get high up using evidently two ladders (figure that out) and spray painted the words "under God" just below the atheists proud words. The "under God" graffiti had an arrow pointing upward just in case folks did not get the need for the insertion.

So now we have clandestine God inserters roaming about with spray-paint cans. I suppose that you could consider this act as one of "defacing" the professionally done billboard.

I wonder if God needs this kind of help or if there is a willing suspension of the rules to allow for graffiti if is in the "name of Almighty?" I suppose God doesn't mind being "inserted" when left out but then from what I've seen God is used to being left out of a lot of things.

We used to insert God into public school prayers and before High School football games until the "not in my back yard" atheists lobby made enough noise to get the High Court's attention. God was "overruled" or at least the insertion of God was. I'm personally convinced that omitting "school prayer" and pep-rally type prayers are not the real problems when it comes to the leaving God out issue.

Leaving God out of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag might be a "sign" of the moral decay around us or it might just be full of sound and furry signifying not much of anything. I wish the pro-God sign painters would have inserted the words "feed the hungry" or "work for peace" to leave passer-by's scratching their heads in order to figure out why those words were inserted.

Such graffiti might lead the observers to a God who is more concerned with justice and mercy than with whether his/her name is left out of a pledge. Let's insert God into where God really needs to be: in the messy stuff of life where balance is needed when it comes to what America is really all about.

Where did I put that spray-paint can?


Monday, June 28, 2010

Bloom Where You are Planted

It is that time of year when Methodist ministers move. In the past few weeks you may have seen those of "our type" sneaking in ABC stores trying to quickly obtain boxes...or maybe some other stuff. After all moving is stressful.

We've moved 7 times. I celebrate that I was not on the list this year although it is almost a reflex action to start looking for boxes this time of year.

I think back on the memories of moving. There was that move from seminary to our first church. A hurricane came through the night we moved. We packed in the rain. When we arrived at our new parsonage the guy we followed had attempted to save a few steps and planted his rented moving truck at the front door with the wheels on the lawn. When he attempted to leave he bogged down in the wet grass. The tow truck also bogged down so when we arrived it looked like someone was putting a septic tank in the front yard...or maybe a swimming pool.

My first thought was, "The people who come to see us will think I did it and know that their new preacher must really be stupid." I quickly put the word out that it was that other "stupid" preacher not this one.

I then remember the move where we decided that we had enough money to actually have someone move us. That was the good news. The bad news was that the guy showed up with another preacher's furniture already in the truck figuring that Methodist ministers do not have that much stuff...He got only half our "stuff" in the truck and then said, "You must have been hiding things when I came to give you an estimate."

What? So I ended up borrowing one of his other trucks and driving it to the new place. When we got there his movers were quite drunk. They must have helped some other Methodist preachers find boxes at the ABC store and hung around a while.

I remember finding my dear wife crying out in the backyard of one of our "new places." She told me that moving was hard. I reminded her that when we started dating years before she informed me that "She always thought she wanted to marry a minister." The problem was that her "model" for this was her Lutheran pastor who was with the church for 35 years. She married the wrong denomination...and maybe the wrong guy...but not really.

Anyway I remember and empathize with all those dear ministers who just moved. We Methodists laugh at our Baptist and Presbyterian minister friends who talk of "interims." Presbyterians often have as much as two years of interim time before they get a new minister. The interim time for we Methodist ministers is "two hours."

Everybody moves the same day. You say bye in the morning and hello in the afternoon. It is kind of like those divers who do not "de-compress" and come up too quickly from the depths. They get cramps called "the bends." Well...such quick transition can give one the emotional "bends" as we go from tears of goodbye to greetings of hello...but that's the way it is.

"Bloom where you are planted," is our motto even if there is a bit of "transplant shock." So to all my Methodist minister brother and sisters I send a prayer your way...let me know if you need me to make an extra trip for you to the ABC know to return some boxes for refunds or something like that....


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jesus Has Left the Building

The newspaper article was accompanied by a photo of people taking pictures as it happened. From street level the cameras were focused on the roof as Jesus left the building. The 12 foot sign which read "Jesus Saves" was taken down the other day by a crew that was donating their services in order to "save" the Jesus Saves sign.

It seems that Jesus was being saved so that he could reside at another church campus that is offering him a home and another building to inhabit. They want the 60 year old "Jesus Saves" neon sign to continue to be a landmark for people who need to "find their direction today."

It seems that a campaign was launched to save Jesus from the wrecking ball that was soon to destroy the building upon which his name rested for all these years. Progress was going to destroy Jesus. His saving sign would no longer beam across the way. So the powers that be came together to save Jesus so that he could continue to "save" all who would pay attention.

I wonder how many who passed by paid attention to the sign? Are we saving a piece of history or are we saving something else? Do some people see Jesus much like they view this sign? Is Jesus like a museum relic? His shinning message was nice but now it is time to move on. We must make a place for modern things and new highways that take us places faster.

We no longer have the time it takes to pause and watch the on and off flash of words that say, "Jesus Saves." What is it that Jesus saves anyway?

Maybe one day it was a sign that people heeded but after all it is a bit "dated" don't you think? My friend Ed Kilbourne says in one of his songs, "I'd rather be 'used' than 'saved'". Well this Jesus was so used up that he almost fell victim to the recking ball.

So Jesus has left the building. The truth is that he left long ago. His rusting sign may have graced the roof for years but he was not there. The neon lights may have peered into the night but if you had investigated you would find the same thing that those distraught women found early one morning long ago when they went to find a relic in a graveyard. To their surprise they faced an empty tomb with a sign across it that read, "Jesus has left the building."

The "Jesus Saves" sign is something that some of his followers came up with much later. I suppose that "sign" has turned as many people "off" as it has turned people "on." I used to have a book entitled, "I'm Saved, You're Saved Maybe."

The Jesus I encountered a while back can never be confined to a sign or a building or a phrase. Religion likes to capture him but he will not have it. Jesus is...well...out there offering transformation to all who will pay attention. The choice is not whether to preserve an old flashing sign or relegate it to a museum. The choice is whether to be "used" by the very alive spirit of Christ or to be safe and "saved" from a world where change happens all too fast.

Jesus has left the building. Jesus "saves" all right; he saves us from hiding in the past and relegating his revolutionary message to a placard that decays along with that famous "moth and doth that corrupts."

Bless you,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Old Dust

Wow and I thought that the dust in our house was old. We just spent 200 million dollars to dust an asteroid. It seems a spacecraft was launched in 2003, landed on a 1600 foot piece of rock that is 2 billion miles away, collected some "dust", and returned a few days ago.

So let me get this straight. This was a 4 billion mile trip in order to dust? I have a hard time hitting the squirrels in my back yard with a BB gun. The rascals want to gorge themselves with the seed reserved for my birds so I try to pester them with tiny pellets to keep them from thinking they are guests at a free backyard buffet. The squirrels are quite safe due to my inability to hit the broad side of a barn. (Except that one who fell victim to a lucky shot a few months ago but that is another story)

With our technology it seems we can hit a moving target that is 2 million miles away, gather some asteroid dust, and return the "dust broom" safely back all in seven years. Why do we need to dust an asteroid? Well, why did the chicken cross the road? Why climb a mountain? Why pay taxes?

Anyway we did it. As if we do not have enough dust on the top of our refrigerator we have to go millions of miles to bring some more of the stuff to earth.

It seems this dust is really old. They think it will help reveal how planets like ours formed. It seems that the "building blocks" for planets were asteroids. So you do a little dusting on a chunk of rock 2 million miles away and alas what is under the dust is none other than the great, great (keep on going) great grandparent of

"From dust you came and to dust you shall return" goes an old saying. Well now we've "returned" some dust that may tell us about our own "origins." As the water soaked Wicked Witch of the West said as she returned to dust in a cloud of smoke, "What a world, what a world."

Next time I do some dusting in our house I shall smile and think of the big time Creator who, according to the old, old story, created us humans guessed it...the dust. It seems this same creator created most everything. There are billions of galaxies out there, a lot of them dust covered.

It seems now that God does not have to do any dusting throughout the heavenly hosts that we call the universe. We do the dusting for God. What a world!



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What a Tangled Web We Weave...Us not Spiders

This morning I marveled at the overnight work of a spider who wove her web between two day-lillies. The sun's rays caught the morning dew that collected on the web illuminating its almost perfect symmetry.

Spiders use special internal glads to "spin" their silk. Usually there are at least two kinds of strands in the patterned web. There is the sticky filament for the unsuspecting prey and there is the non-sticky one for the spider itself to walk across. Flies, wasps, and large creatures who gawk at such wonders on sunny mornings do not know the difference. So if you run into one of these pieces of art work that happens to be stretched between two trees on your morning outing you need to whisk away both types of spinnings because somewhere in the "trap" is the creator of the web. Ask the fly corpse you see in some webs if this "ain't so."

How does a spider know how to do this? Do baby spiders spend time at the "knees" of momma learning lessons in how to weave? Are there late night lectures on the "art of web making?" Does each spider have to take an end of semester test that they must pass and in order to be set free on the world to weave?

Unlike the spectators who marvel at the spider's web these multi-leg spinners simply "know." They are born with the wisdom it takes to weave what would take us years to learn. I suppose this should be a lesson in humility.

The webs we weave are often messy. We seem not to know the difference in the "sticky" and the non-sticky so we often get stuck in our own web.

We "spin" out harmful words that pull in those we hurt and find they we are also trapped by our own creation. We weave patterns that we call habits and then sit beside the web complaining that we are victimized by some unseen power forgetting that we are the spinners of our own webs.

Perhaps we need to spend some time with our spider sisters. You know, watch and wait and learn. They simply know. We, however, wise masters of technology that we are...must learn.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Getting Off Our High Horse

I believe it was my grandmother who first used the expression, "Get off your high horse." I found it to be rather strange since as a child I noticed none of our family owned a horse.

I later came to realize that she was not talking equestrian etiquette. She had in mine something that was closer to a dinner table image; "Eat some humble pie."

It seems lately we've had to get off our high horse and eat some of that pie whether we want to or not. Clouds of ash ground our mighty birds of the air so we can't travel. Billowing masses of oil gush from the pipes of our progress and our robots and our might can't stop it.

Psalm 8 might be a good place to "dismount" from our high horse so that we can walk over to our Creator's "table" and have a piece of pie.
"O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth...
When I consider Your heavens and the work of Your fingers...
What are mortals that You are mindful of us????
...Yet you have made us a little lower than the angels...
You have given us dominion over the works of your hands"

But alas the Psalm ends as it should, "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth." Our dominion is but dust and ashes in the face of a mighty volcano. Our wisdom and the fruits of our technology cannot produce an "on/off" switch so we have to wait.

Then from the depths of the mighty sea we again watch as our "power" fails us. We witness our self-made destruction of the very creation the Creator gives us dominion over. It is time to get off our high horse and chew...slowly...our humble pie.

I wonder what we will learn? Is there some "power" for which we cannot drill but must wait on in order to gain? Long ago a wisdom teacher instructed his followers to "wait on the power I will send you." They were ready to mount their horses and ride off into the sunset but they were told to wait for power. The result was something called Pentecost.

So pillars of smoke make us wait and plumes of oil cause us to wonder how in charge we really are. Humble pie is not as sweet as I would hope but I suppose it is time for a piece.

It seems that we cannot see all that we need to see from atop a high horse. I hope we will notice things more closely now. Mother Nature, as we call "her" has a time-table we cannot set. And it seems we need to be more "care-filled" about how we use our dominion over the earth. After all the earth is not ours. It is a gift on loan from one who probably needs to hear just now, "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth."
Bless you,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Apple and a Flag

Don't you wish that people did not have to stand beside a flag in a cemetery and weep? The flag represents what the person died for and why they died. Our word for it is "war."

I suppose it all started with an apple. Two people were told that they could have most everything but that there was something they were not supposed to possess. But a tempting voice told them that limits were something made up by those who were different from them so they stepped over the line and took it because they could.

We fight wars over land, causes, and maybe because "we can." Wars used to have a kind of strange nobility to them...if you can call killing someone who breathes the same air you do, noble. People would face each other wearing the garb of their nation. Flags would fly representing the "cause" and then it would start...the killing.

People looked at each other while they took life. A soldier would fall and another would step up and take the place of their comrade. The arrows would fly or later in history the smoke would clear and "time out" was called so that the dead could be buried.

Now we are "smarter" so we have smart bombs and drones that kill from a distance. They say our technology saves lives. It's tempting to believe this but then the apple was tempting too.

It would be nice if we could go back to that "garden" and try a "do over." Maybe this time there would be a debate as to whether or not the cause or new freedom was worth it.

But we live east of Eden. I wish we could be more careful with war though. It seems that all of our weapons these days are ones of "mass destruction" because they kill in powerful ways and even from great distances so that we no longer look at the breathing of the breath we take.

As the poet/song writer once said, "they may say I'm a dreamer...but I'm not the only one...someday I hope you'll join me...and the world will be as one."

For now I offer a prayer for those who stand beside flags and I remember those who could not wait for the dream to come true but who stepped into the cause because they felt they had to...

Bless you

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stock Markets and Stray Dogs

That' it. It's official. The stock market is like a stray dog at a whistler's convention. Someone whistles in China and off goes the dog. Then someone whistles down at the Gulf Coast about a leaky well and the dog's head jerks in the other direction and it runs toward what must surely be the beckoning of yet another "master."

Then for a while "man's best friend" sits obediently at the feet of the latest one to call, but then there comes yet another whistle from some far corner and since the poor thing does not really have an owner off it goes on another chase. It is no way to live life.

I went to the Y the other day to "work out" and there on the screen were the talking heads and the ticker running at the bottom of the screen with those little colored "arrowheads" pointing both up and down. To look at the screen was to counteract any effort I was putting forth to "stay healthy." From the corner of the room I think I heard someone whistle because some of the arrows changed direction and color.

The word "faith" has more to do with trust than it does belief. Faith is not really opinions about something but rather reliance on something. It is hard to trust a stray dog who does not know who its master is.

A wise man once said, "No one can serve two will end up loving the one and hating the other." It is not that the stock market and all it represents is bad but I'll tell you it makes a "hell-of-a-master." But then according to the old wisdom it is not supposed to be a master.

So I have to again decide in what do I "trust?" Trust has to do with what you lean on. My mother used to love the old hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." I'm learning why she liked it. In our high-tech world of instant communications where whistles can be heard from far too many places in rapid fire succession maybe we need these old words from some music that should be sung and not whistled:

"What have I to dread, what have I to fear
Leaning on the everlasting arms
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near
Leaning on the everlasting arms
...O what peace is mine....leaning on the everlasting arms."

Bless you

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dog Days

I think "dog days" are supposed to be in the sultry month of August, but I almost had one recently. It seems our aging dog needs "hormones" so we have these small pink pills that must taste like bubble gum because she swipes them off my hand without a thought.

With sleep still playing with my eyes I pressed down on the cap of what I thought was my blood pressure medicine the other morning and started to toss the medical wonder down the hatch only to discover that alas the small blue pill that was meant to keep a lid on my bodily temperament was pink. I almost took the dog's hormones.

I wonder what would have happened? I suppose one thing for sure, my blood pressure would have been up that day. Would my voice have a slight high pitch to it? At mid-afternoon would I suddenly be compelled to scratch behind my ear? I might find myself wanting to get under my desk rather than sitting at it.

Upon returning home would Betsy comment about how sad my eyes looked and was it that hard a day? But would all be OK after she rubbed my head and tossed a treat my way? I suppose I would have had a "dog day."

I remember years ago when I discovered that I had high blood pressure. I barked come to think of it. I could not believe it. I ran every day, I was not overweight, I ate little red meat....I was supposed to be healthy. I growled at the doctor who asked me if anybody in my family had high blood pressure? "Well, my mother did before she died of a sudden heart attack...and yes my dad had" He looked at me and then asked, "And from your chart I see what you do for a living."

That ended the conversation. I was given my little blue pills. It was a dog day but I've been panting along ever since so perhaps taking one of the dog's pills would have been fine.

As I write this she is snoring beneath my feet...under the desk. It's her favorite place to spend the day. She likes quiet dark places. Her days of chasing squirrels and running beside me are over. Now she simply looks up at me with those eyes and more or less says, "Give my my pills, scratch my head a bit, and move your feet so I can get under the desk."

It's a simple life but she seems quite content. She has trouble getting up steps these days and when I clap my hands to see if she wants a dog biscuit her old dance is rather subdued. I suppose the pills help. Where is that bottle? I wonder if it does taste like bubble gum?

Bless you

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Butterflies are Back

I was lost in thought I suppose. I get that way a lot. Sometimes I end up somewhere way down in a kind of valley where "thinking" covers me like a heavy fog on a cold morning. So the yellow creature of the air almost ran into me.

In the midst of the fog there was a butterfly. He or she had been in their own dark valley. How much "thinking" did it take to risk spinning that cocoon that would lead it to a surrounding pattern of thought that rendered it incapable of seeing any light?

Ah the purpose of that spinning is beyond what I do when I get too heavy in thought. The butterfly anticipates something more. Its pondering points toward a new beginning where old thoughts become simply bricks that will be used to build a temple to the sky.

I need some butterflies. This past season the world again turned toward that needed dark so that seeds could ponder growth in their graves of anticipation, trees could do their waiting as their empty branches reached toward the cold sky, and grasses could turn brown knowing that colors of Spring would not be rushed. So it was with the season of my soul. There was a lot of death and part of my ongoing "job" is to plant those seeds of lives lived and speak words beside graves that give grieving people the hope that a Spring will indeed come. But the job has its "side effects." I find myself, if not careful, becoming heavy with thought.

So I welcome the season of butterflies. This bouncing yellow angel of creation seemed to whisper in the breeze, "Hey wake up. I did....the time of pondering is over for a life now."

Perhaps the skeptic will say, "Ah but butterflies do not talk." But they do if we listen. An old prophet who was lost in thought long ago found this truth the day the creator of butterflies asked him why he was so down on himself. The heavy with the task prophet responded from his dark cave of hiding that the "work" was just too much. So the story unfolds and earthquake, wind, and fire appeared...I suppose to get the old boys attention. But the truth he needed came in the form of a "still small voice." One translation says, "the sound of gentle stillness."

It's time to listen to the butterflies. It's the season of resurrection and that's worth pondering with ones eyes open and an ear to the breeze.


Friday, May 7, 2010

A Final Goodbye

It took a while to get there. They wanted to make sure we could view her favorite place when we said our final goodbye. Her favorite place was "Nippers."

Nippers is a multi-colored outdoor bar overlooking the Sea of Abaco. Caroline learned to swim in one of its two small pools. So she got to do two of her favorite things while visiting Nippers: dance and swim.

The boat's motor ceased its gentle roar. I reached into a small gray box and pulled from its darkness the wrapped ashes of Caroline. Her tired eight-year old body was now reduced to this small package. The stain of the cancer that she fought so bravely all her earthly life I suppose was still contained in those ashes. But as the sun came through the clouds and the boat slowly rocked back and forth the wind whispered to me, "Ah but she is not in the ashes or trapped by some disease."

But still there was the need to say some kind of goodbye at the foot of Nippers. So along with a few friends and her beloved parents I took Caroline's ashes and scattered them into the vast sea. I spoke some words but now I almost do not remember what I said. The words were also tossed into that waiting motion of the same waters that God used to create all that is.

I think I said something like, "O Caroline we give you back to the Creation from which we all come. This is what remains of what we remember of your small body but as we give it back to the sea we know that you are not here, but we are. Your body we commit to the oceans but the real you, no longer trapped and held down by disease, is dancing with God."

I then turned to Caroline's parents, Kirk and Mary, and placed my hand on Mary's bowed head and prayed, "O God, hold Kirk and Mary who love her so. We know you loved her even more. Give them healing one day at a time...gently...and we shall know that dear Caroline is completely healed in the wonder of your love."

Then.... after some tossing of flower petals her way and some healing tears the boats engine cranked and we went to Nippers. I discovered why she loved it so. From its open air dance floor you could see a breathtaking view of the ocean...and there was music...loud music...and people from all over the world, literally, were dancing. We toasted Caroline with some of the local beverages, we ate some really good food...gosh did that girl love to eat....and yes, we danced...O did we dance...we danced with people we did not know and who did not know Caroline...because that is what she would have done.

We bought caps and shirts consisting of loud colors...some of them pink because she loved that in the future on days when the sun may not shine as bright as we need we shall put on the bright colors and have people view what we wear as they ask, "What is Nippers?" And we'll get to tell Caroline's story. We'll get to tell of her love for life. We'll help her live again as best we can...but the truth is our story will only be at best a tale told from the side of a "glass darkly" but she....sweet Caroline lives just the other side of that dark glass. She dances with the God of sea and sky.

It was a final goodbye...but not really. We will never be the same because of her. Her ashes may now be part of God's big Creation but her spirited life is now more alive than ever. I'm going to stop now and go put on my Nippers shirt.... We love you Caroline....we always will.

Bless you,

Monday, April 26, 2010

What Have They Done to Our Lady?

I suppose she could be considered, "Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows." Her head is missing and the lost-to-some-cause vandal who cut off her hands as well as her head is I suppose looking at the same picture I looked at this morning in the newspaper. The act of rage is now for all to see.

She still stands in the midst of the flowers that her eyes used to watch over. She was placed there by some artist so that those who passed by her would not pass by her without stopping and remembering. Someone must be very mad at her or perhaps the God or church or son she is associated with. This butcher wants her to be remembered as thoughtless and helpless. After all he took her head and her hands so surely she must now be useless.

But alas this statue of the Virgin Mary is not only the subject of this article but she is in the news yet again thanks to some poor soul who wants to do away with her. She is used to being dismissed. Joseph was offered a chance to "put her away" when her shame was exposed that night in Nazareth. Her son even slighted her one day when she showed up to speak to him. "Hey your mother and your family want to see you," they shouted. Jesus responded with something like, "My real family are those who follow the will of God." I wonder if Mary thought, "Gee thanks for the support son?"

No one paid much attention to her when she stood beside his beaten body that day. She probably begged somebody to stop it. She was only part of the crowd the afternoon that they nailed him and his cause down for good. She is used to being dismissed.

But she keeps showing up in my life and in my writing. I've probably written more about her than any character in the Bible...except maybe her boy. She wonders around my soul I think. It may have something to do with hanging around my Catholic dad when I was young. Maybe that water that poured over my head from the hand of some priest when my father had me Christened seeped into my mind.

Whatever the reason I really like Mary. And now I get to write about her again because of one of her enemies. I bet that is not what you wanted is it O one who wants to chop her up?

Her eyes still peer into my soul and her hands still reach out to me. Her tender yet strong love cannot be destroyed by hate. She taught her boy well. Who do you think helped make Jesus who he was? No, it was not all God's doing. God picked Mary for a reason.

You reach to me once again, Mary, from your woundedness. Though a stranger took your silent smile with a stroke of anger you still reach out to me from your silence. Your hands go missing but they are there as they always are...reaching...hoping...loving.

Wherever you are O stranger, I hope you discover that in this act of destruction you have allowed Mary to live again...even in these words. In her tradition she prays for you. Perhaps you thought that you silenced her but her words are for the ages. Her hands that you thought you destroyed are even now seeking to comfort your hurting spirit.

Hail Mary, mother of God, pray for us you always do.