Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mother Teresa's faith

"The tendency in our spiritual life but also in our more general attitude toward love is that our feelings are all that is going on, and so to us the totality of love is what we feel. But to really love someone requires commitment, fidelity and vulnerability. Mother Teresa wasn't "feeling" Christ's love, and she could have shut down. But she was up at 4:30 every morning for Jesus and still writing to him, 'Your happiness is all I want.' That's a powerful example even if you are not talking in exclusively religious terms." Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, compiler and editor of Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light in an artilce in Time

Monday, May 24, 2010

The spiritual practice of paying attention

Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling? Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice? She's taken her stand at First and Main, at the busiest intersection. Right in the city square where the traffic is thickest, she shouts, "You - I'm talking to all of you, everyone out here on the streets!

"God sovereignly made me - the first, the basic - before he did anything else. I was brought into being a long time ago, well before Earth got its start. I arrived on the scene before Ocean, yes, even before Springs and Rivers and Lakes. Before Mountains were sculpted and Hills took shape, I was already there, newborn; Long before God stretched out Earth's Horizons, and tended to the minute details of Soil and Weather, And set Sky firmly in place, I was there. When he mapped and gave borders to wild Ocean, built the vast vault of Heaven, and installed the fountains that fed Ocean, When he drew a boundary for Sea, posted a sign that said "no trespassing," and then staked out Earth's foundations, I was right there with him, making sure everything fit. Day after day I was there, with my joyful applause, always enjoying his company, Delighted with the world of things and creatures, happily celebrating the human family. (Proverbs 8:1-4; Proverbs 8:22-31 (The Message)

I invite you to read this passage from Proverbs as a starting point and inspiration for a spiritual practice that is much neglected in our frantic, overly-electronic, preoccupied world: paying attention to creation in order to deepen our relationship with God. Quiet time. Listening. Being observant. Being. (Not "being" on our cell phones, but just being.) Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book on spiritual practices, An Altar in the World, is helpful with this practice. She reminds us that classes, meetings, and even worship services in sanctuaries are not the only (or perhaps even primary) way we might connect with God. Taylor writes evocatively of twelve different ways that we might encounter God in our everyday lives, in the embodied lives we lead, including practices like walking on the earth (groundedness), paying attention (reverence), getting lost (wilderness), and waking up to God (vision). "Wisdom," she writes, "is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails. Wise people do not have to be certain what they believe before they act. They are free to act, trusting that the practice itself will teach them what they need to know….Wisdom atrophies if it is not walked on a regular basis." And yet she clearly doesn't expect us to take her literally; that is, an excellent form of practice is attentive inaction: "The easiest practice of reverence I know," she writes, "is simply to sit down somewhere outside, preferably near a body of water, and pay attention for at least twenty minutes. It is not necessary to take on the whole world at first. Just take the three square feet of earth on which you are sitting, paying close attention to everything that lives within that small estate."

adapted from the website Weekly Seeds

Monday, May 17, 2010

Who is The Holy Spirit?

Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever –the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.
“I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you. In a little while the world will not see me any longer, but you will see me; because I live, you will live too.
“I have spoken these things while staying with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. John 14: 15-19, 25-26

Summer is almost here. My oldest child is home from college and my youngest is getting ready to graduate. Our summer planning is underway, and looking toward this summer, I recall summers past.

I spent every summer from the time I was born until I was 7 years old at camp. My dad was the camp director at 4-H camp on the beautiful shores of Lake Esquagama, near Biwabik, MN.
On the last day of school, we would load our green station wagon with necessities, bid goodbye to city life and all of our friends, and head north for 3 months of outdoor fun.

Our little cabin, called Elsin Lodge, sat at the end of the winding, pine tree lined driveway which was the entrance to the camp. This was our address for the summer. There was a shower in the basement, but I remember taking my Sunday night bath in the big sink.

Mosquitoes were our constant companions at night, buzzing in our ears and leaving red welts on our arms.

More than once our brown wiener dog Toby tried to wrestle a skunk under the front porch (and lost) causing a horrific odor that would last for weeks. I remember our accommodations as primitive and less than comfortable, and we were 60 miles from home.

It was during one of those summer nights at Elsin Lodge, an hour’s drive from our doctor in Duluth, that my little sister developed the croup.

I awoke to her coughing, and the sound was unlike any I have heard since. Barking is what it was, but along with the barking was wheezing, and crying, and then doors opening and slamming shut, and then I heard the shower running and running and running – for what seemed like hours.

And then it was quiet. I tiptoed out of my room to find my mom sitting in the steaming shower room, holding my baby sister who was now breathing easily and sound asleep. The steam from the hot shower had calmed her coughing and opened her airways and allowed her to breathe.

The steam that night was the Holy Spirit, the breath of life for my sister.

Who exactly is the Holy Spirit and how does she work in our lives? Think of water.

Even though there are three uniquely different states of H2O, (solid, liquid, and gas) they are still water. In the same way, these states of water can remind us of the triune nature of God.
The solid form of water (ice) reminds us of God the FATHER. Ice is hard. It is solid. In the same way, God the FATHER is our solid foundation.

The liquid form of water reminds us of God the SON. Jesus called himself the living water. Water is used for cleansing. Jesus died on the cross to cleanse us of our sin.

The gas form of water is steam. Steam reminds us of God the HOLY SPIRIT. You can’t always see steam, but you can feel the effects of it. In the same way, the HOLY SPIRIT cannot be seen, but the effects of her presence can be seen and felt in our lives as the HOLY SPIRIT works to make her will known to us and to change us.

The bible describes the many and various works of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the world:
In the original languages of the bible, Hebrew and Greek, the word spirit is from the same root word as breath or wind (ruach, pneuma) – we might think of the Holy Spirit as the breath of God, blowing through our lives like the wind.

The bible mentions the Holy Spirit 92 times. It:
· Conceived a child in Mary
· Baptized Jesus
· Speaks for us
· Intercedes for us
· Filled Elizabeth
· Rested on Simeon
· Teaches us
· Led Jesus into the wilderness
· Revealed scripture through David
· Is received by us
· Gives us power
· Gave the people at Babel the ability to speak in other languages
· Is our advocate, our comforter
· Sends us out
· Makes us overseers of the church
· Pours love into our hearts
· Sanctifies us
· Inspires joy in us
· Resides in our bodies, making us living temples of the holy spirit

I saw the Holy Spirit at work that night so many years ago in the little shower room in Elsin Lodge, giving my mother the strength and wisdom to know what to do, giving my sister the gift of breath, giving me the courage to get out bed and lend some night time comfort.
And I have seen it many times since then.

It isn’t always visible to the naked eye, but if you listen, and pay attention, you will notice that it is breathing life into the world, blowing comfort, courage and strength through our lives.

The Holy Spirit is the active presence of God in creation.

Take some time today and think about and then tell each other about where you’ve witnessed the Holy Spirit working in your lives. I bet you’ll have some steamy stories.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What If God Was One Of Us?

Close your eyes for a minute and picture the face of Jesus.

I bet I know what he looks like to you. It’s probably the same image that comes to my mind. There are no pictures of the real face of Jesus. Legend tells us that Luke may have been an artist, and that he may have drawn a picture of Jesus but nobody has ever found anything to prove that. Even though we think we know what Jesus looked like, the truth is that we really have no idea.

And why do we even want to know?

In her song “What if God Was One of Us,” Alanis Morissette imagines, “What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home…”

It is in the incarnation, God’s word, Jesus, who was made flesh and who lived among us, that the words to this song are true. In the person of Jesus, God was one of us.

God came to earth and for a short time, joined the human race. He was born, he was a member of a family, and he had a job. He had to eat and sleep, and pray and travel. He was scared and happy and angry. He loved his friends. He was truly human, and so we believe that he was just like us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus…

There was just one difference – Jesus was also truly divine. At Christmas time, we hear Jesus called Emmanuel, a word which means “God with us.” Jesus was one of us, and while he was here, the people that he met were face to face with God.

So what did they see? Our image of Jesus, and the image of Jesus for each person in the world who believes in him, is the image that helps each of us to relate to and to form a connection with this part of the Holy Trinity, that is, God with us.

A few years ago, some British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, used forensic anthropology to create a model of what Jesus might have really looked like. Words from Matthew’s gospel offer a clue to the fact that Jesus wasn’t a tall, light skinned, blue eyed western looking man. He looked like the rest of his disciples. We know this, because in order for the soldiers to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion, Jesus had to be indentified by Judas. Jesus looked like everyone else, a typical Galilean Semite.

For me, and maybe for you, it doesn’t really matter what Jesus looked like. When we imagine Jesus sitting next to us, when we share our worries and our sorrows and our successes and our joys with him in our prayers, Jesus looks like each one of us. He was here, on this earth, for each one of us, and he died for each one of us, and because he rose from the dead, each one of us will have eternal life.

In Japan,

In Africa, or as an African American,
in the Caribbean,

At Mount Sinai,

In Turin, Italy.

God is one of us, Holy Trinity, three in one. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Something to think and pray about this week

In the northern hemisphere, May brings the special joy of brighter sunlight and longer days. Throughout the scriptures God is spoken of as the source of light, living in inaccessible light. Jesus is the light of the world, bringing sight to the sightless. We are to walk as children of the light. Light is more than just a condition to see by. Sunlight opens the world to us, nourishes our skin and our body, shows us we are still alive. Dylan Thomas' angry poem bids his sick father, ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light'.
Lord, I treasure your light, and the feeling of the sun on my back. May I never lose my gratitude for the sight of my eyes and the glory of sunlight. I need your light too in the dark hours, when I am baffled by the evil of the world. Be you the light of my life.

borrowed from
click on the link to continue the prayer

Monday, April 26, 2010

Where is God in the storm?

I listened to the news coverage of the tornados in Mississippi this past week with an especially broken heart. Five years ago I travelled for twenty four hours in a bus with a group from Mount Olivet to lead a Camp Noah week in McComb Mississippi, about 150 miles south of Yazoo City. The participants of our camp were refugees from the Hurricane Katrina ravaged areas of New Orleans. We spent the week talking about the hurricane and the broken levees and the flood and how God cares for us through the storm.

Our group devotions for that week came from a book by Dr. Gary Harbauch called “Act of God - Active God: Recovering from Natural Disasters.” In the introduction, Gilbert B. Furst, director of Lutheran Disaster Response writes,
”Instead of seeing disasters as 'acts of God,' Harbaugh shows that when disasters occur, God in fact is active: in and through our questions, confusion and doubts; active in and through our responses and actions; active in and through people of faith.” p.ix.

It is our faith that sustains us when everything is falling apart around us. In a CBS "Early Show" interview, the faith of the decimated community shines through.

“Ashley Saxton, who was driving to her family's restaurant with her husband Rob as the tornado approached, said the storm came upon them very fast.

‘It's a miracle we're here," Ashley told ‘The Early Show’. Rob Saxton said the tornado was powerful enough to lift up their car and briefly send his wife airborne. ‘I had to snatch her.’

Sunday was sunny and breezy as Thrasher and about three dozen members the Yazoo City church stood in a circle and sang ‘Till the Storm Passes By.’ Thrasher reminded the group that the church has survived tough times before. They rebuilt after their building was destroyed by arson about 10 years ago.

‘The Lord brought us through the fire, and brought us back bigger and better,’ Thrasher said. ‘The Lord will bring us back bigger and better this time, if we stick together.’”

Harbaugh writes, “Through the eyes of faith, we see Christ present and caring for us in times of disaster, making it possible for us to ‘comprehend’ with the heart of not with the mind. The word translated in Ephesians 3 as ‘comprehend’ also means ‘perceive.’ Especially when disaster darkens our vision, we pray that God will strengthen us in the inner person and give us power to perceive the presence and care of Christ.” p. 21. “The light never shines so brightly as when it appears in utter darkness. There is no way to experience the joy of the resurrection except by way of the cross.” p. 17

Till The Storm Passes by Mosie Lister.

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face while the storm howls above me and there’s no hiding place mid the crash of the thunder precious Lord hear my cry keep me safe til the storm passes by.

Chorus: Till the storm passes over till the thunder sounds no more till the clouds roll forever from the sky hold me fast let me stand in the hollow of thy hand keep me safe till the storm passes by.

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more let me stand in thy presence on that bright peaceful shore in that land where the tempest never comes Lord may I dwell with thee till the storm passes by.

Chorus: Till the storm passes over till the thunder sounds no more till the clouds roll forever from the sky hold me fast let me stand in the hollow of thy hand keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Many times Satan tells me there’s is no need to try for there is no end of sorrow there’s no hope by and by but I no thou art with me and tomorrow I’ll rise where the storms never darken the skies

Chorus: Till the storm passes over till the thunder sounds no more till the clouds roll forever from the sky hold me fast let me stand in the hollow of thy hand keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Hound of Heaven

by Francis Thompson

I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated
Adown titanic glooms of chasme d hears
From those strong feet that followed, followed after
But with unhurrying chase and unperturbe d pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat, and a Voice beat,
More instant than the feet:
All things betray thee who betrayest me.

I pleaded, outlaw--wise by many a hearted casement,
curtained red, trellised with inter-twining charities,
For though I knew His love who followe d,
Yet was I sore adread, lest having Him,
I should have nought beside.
But if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of his approach would clash it to.
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clange d bars,
Fretted to dulcet jars and silvern chatter
The pale ports of the moon.

I said to Dawn --- be sudden, to Eve --- be soon,
With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
From this tremendous Lover.
Float thy vague veil about me lest He see.
I tempted all His servitors but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him, their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness and their loyal deceit.

To all swift things for swiftness did I sue,
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind,
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue,
Or whether, thunder-driven,
They clanged His chariot thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn of their feet,
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following feet, and a Voice above their beat:
Nought shelters thee who wilt not shelter Me.

I sought no more that after which I strayed
In face of Man or Maid.
But still within the little childrens' eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me.
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair,
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
Come then, ye other children, Nature's
Share with me, said I, your delicate fellowship.
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
Wantoning with our Lady Mother's vagrant tresses,
Banqueting with her in her wind walled palace,
Underneath her azured dai:s,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice, lucent weeping out of the dayspring.

So it was done.
I in their delicate fellowship was one.
Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies,
I knew all the swift importings on the wilful face of skies,
I knew how the clouds arise,
Spume d of the wild sea-snortings.
All that's born or dies,
Rose and drooped with,
Made them shapers of mine own moods, or wailful, or Divine.
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the Even,
when she lit her glimmering tapers round the day's dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning's eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
and its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine.
Against the red throb of its sunset heart,
I laid my own to beat
And share commingling heat.

But not by that, by that was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.
For ah! we know what each other says,
these things and I; In sound I speak,
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor step-dame, cannot slake my drouth.
Let her, if she would owe me
Drop yon blue-bosomed veil of sky
And show me the breasts o' her tenderness.
Never did any milk of hers once bless my thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase, with unperturbe d pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
And past those noise d feet, a Voice comes yet more fleet:
Lo, nought contentst thee who content'st nought Me.

Naked, I wait thy Love's uplifted stroke. My harness, piece by piece,
thou'st hewn from me
And smitten me to my knee,
I am defenceless, utterly.
I slept methinks, and awoke.
And slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours,
and pulled my life upon me.
Grimed with smears,
I stand amidst the dust o' the mounded years--
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst like sunstarts on a stream.
Yeah, faileth now even dream the dreamer
and the lute, the lutanist.

Even the linked fantasies in whose blossomy twist,
I swung the Earth, a trinket at my wrist,
Have yielded, cords of all too weak account,
For Earth, with heavy grief so overplussed.
Ah! is thy Love indeed a weed,
albeit an Amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must, Designer Infinite,
Ah! must thou char the wood 'ere thou canst limn with it ?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust.
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver upon the sighful branches of my

Such is. What is to be ?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind ?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds,
Yet ever and anon, a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity.
Those shaken mists a space unsettle,
Then round the half-glimpse d turrets, slowly wash again.
But not 'ere Him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal; Cypress crowned.
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether Man's Heart or Life it be that yield thee harvest,
Must thy harvest fields be dunged with rotten death ?

Now of that long pursuit,
Comes at hand the bruit.
That Voice is round me like a bursting Sea:
And is thy Earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest me.
Strange, piteous, futile thing;
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of Naught (He said).
And human love needs human meriting ---
How hast thou merited,
Of all Man's clotted clay, the dingiest clot.
Alack! Thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art.
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save me, save only me?
All which I took from thee, I did'st but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in my arms.

All which thy childs mistake fancies as lost,
I have stored for thee at Home.
Rise, clasp my hand, and come.
Halts by me that Footfall.
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
Ah, Fondest, Blindest, Weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest.
Thou dravest Love from thee who dravest Me.