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keep drinking.

imageJesus said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37–38 (NIV)

I need that living water flowing through me. These have been some difficult days in our world and in my heart and I feel parched. Feeling like I can’t drink enough of the goodness of God, of living water that drowns out evil.

So I keep drinking. Come Lord Jesus come.  Fill our hearts, fill our lives, fill our world with love and compassion and all that is good, to overflowing heights and depths. To you alone do I give glory. Amen.

God’s rescue mission.

Psalm 97: 1-6

The Glory of God’s Reign

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
    let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
    and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
    the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
    before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
    and all the peoples behold his glory.

Fear. …. (My cursor has been blinking in this space for 5 minutes now.  Literally, “Fear has stopped me in my tracks.”)

This past week has certainly given us pause and cause for worry and fear; both in the global and local arenas of our lives.  In my sermon yesterday I began by listing the top stressors in our lives that cause fear, according to an article I had read earlier..  Things like fear of failure or fear of success (!)  Fear of public speaking, and fear of spiders. Fear of heights or small spaces, and fear of dying.  But what didn’t make the list, was fear of nuclear war, or fear of a hatred and bigotry so intense that it causes violence, anger, destruction, and even death.  Or fear of hunger, or a whole country’s economic collapse. Fear of natural disasters such as earthquakes, or fear for the life of a infant born with severe physical and mental problems.  Or the fear of another friends’ unknown medical test results. And those are just the fears from this past week..  Indeed, the world is in need of rescue.

In the gospel text for yesterday we witnessed the disciple’s fear in the boat, all alone, on the raging seas, and then we hear the voice of One familiar who calls out, “Don’t be afraid. In fact, come to me.”  And then one brave enough, trusting enough – at least for a moment – steps out of the boat, until this one too is in need of rescuing.

If this walking on water text indicates one thing besides the questionable, wobbly, unsteady faith of a disciple, it reminds us even more, that because of our wobbly insecure faith, that we aren’t in charge of our own rescue mission.  That Jesus is the One who rescues.  And to that, I say AMEN.  For the many many times that I sink in fear, there is Jesus, each and every time, stretching out a hand for me to grab a hold of.

When I read the Psalm text above for today, I must admit that at first all I could see was a powerful, violent God, even if this God is on “my side!”  I literally run from uncertainties with fear.  And I run even faster away from violence.  When the earth trembles and the mountains melt, we are talking some significant power force to be reckoned with. It makes me want to run and hide.

But then I stepped back for a moment (maybe back into the boat?), and as I read,  the Hebrew for these translated words reminded me of this somewhat poet use of the word ‘fear’ in this context.  ‘Fear of God’ in Hebrew,  is not being afraid of a destructive God, but rather being in AWE of this majestic God who has come to rescue you and me and all the world. Not tear it down or destroy it, but rather bring the earth and the seas and the mountains and you and me  – all of creation – to our knees in AWE and glory and honor.

There is clouds and darkness and destruction that surrounds our lives and casts a shadow over the world – you bet. But in the midst of that darkness, is the Light able to shine so so brilliantly and brightly. My response can only be one of AWE, affording me the opportunity to see the light  – in you and me, and in the voices that refuse to let evil and darkness have the last say.  God is rescuing us each and every day and calls us out of the boat to follow God on God’s rescue mission – yes, even with our wobbly legs.  To God be the glory!

nothing more precious than that.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5: 17- 21

When anything is entrusted to me, I get a little nervous.  Am I capable?  Can I take care of it?  Will I break it?  Will I ruin it? Will I lose it?  The word “entrusted” by itself causes me to be anxious.  Like something precious is being handed over to me – for whatever reason – and now I’m responsible for it. Now I get to hold on to it, whether I want it or not.

When I think about what has been entrusted to me, I can think of material things that have been handed over to me, either temporarily or for a lifetime to be passed down through the generations.  But I also think about people who have been entrusted to me. Together, Mark and I have been entrusted with our two children, Jason and Sarah, precious precious gifts from God.  And as the generations grow old, when I was once entrusted to my parents, my mother is now entrusted to me.  To hold, to love, to care for, by the grace of God.

In the text today, Paul talks about being entrusted in another way.  Instead of focusing on any thing or person that we are being entrusted with, God entrusts us with God’s self. God is entrusting us to bring God’s message of reconciliation into our lives, and into the world.  The message of the cross.  The message of love. The message that God sent God’s Son to reconcile us to God – to wipe away our sin – and make us a new creation!

There is nothing more precious than this.  And the thing is, I can’t break it or lose it or ruin it. But I also can’t hold on to it.  For it has been entrusted to me so that I might share this Good News – give it away –  so that the world might share in the reconciling of Christ.     Just as an ambassador is an official envoy, especially a highest ranking diplomat who represents a state, so are we called to be God’s official, highest ranking children of God, representing this God who has already reconciled us to God’s self – entrusted and called to bear this message of reconciliation for all the world. Yes, there’s nothing is more precious than that.

sweet. sweet. goodness.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

After a rest-filled, family-filled, “stay-cation” of sorts, I’m back to the routine I have grown accustomed to.  I am grateful for the time to step out of routine, to rediscover some lost passions, to try some new things, and to reconnect – not only with friends and family, but with myself and the One who created me. But I am also grateful to be able to step back into the routine – for it gives me a renewed sense of purpose and passion.

Psalm 34, of David, was written from anything but routine. David was seeking deliverance from the trouble he had encountered, and his feigned madness in front of Abimelech was the “rescue routine” that gave him cause to be praiseworthy of God’s deliverance.  Perhaps the only thing routine in this psalm is David’s self-identifying with fear and God’s deliverance from that fear. It’s a pattern:

Name the fear. Cry out for deliverance from the fear. Embrace the Divine rescue mission.  Take refuge. Give praise to the One who delivered.

I wonder just how difficult it was for David to even just name the fear and in so doing, embrace the fear.  I’m pretty sure that I spend a good portion of my time suppressing my fears.  Oh – it’ll go away, I tell myself.  It’s no big deal… That can’t really be true, I tell myself.  When we look out into the hurt and brokenness of this world, it is often the practice of humanity that if we are not directly affected by a glo-cal event, it’s easy to walk away from it and not worry about it or be afraid of it.

Nuclear bombs aimed to cause destruction of human lives. Famine, sickness and death caused by unjust caretakers of peoples rights. Unsheltered, hungry mouths and dis-eased minds on the banks of Cherry Creek.  Do we or can we let ourselves be vulnerable to these hurts and evils of the world?  Or is the fear of being overcome by its brokenness cause us to remain motionless to the cries for help from these injustices?

Fear is a game changer I think.  I read an article the other day that suggested that instead of perceiving fear as the opposite of faith, what if we let our fear inform our faith, or our faith inform our fear? That together, fear and faith can propel us into action, to stand up bold and challenge the injustices and evils of the world.

I think that’s what the psalmist is talking about when he says, “taste and see that the Lord is good,” and that happiness is indeed found in the refuge of the Lord.  Let us each embrace and taste the sweet sweet goodness of the Lord through acts of courage and compassion to face our fears and yet to stand firm as we wait on the refuge of the Lord.

Peace. peace. prL

 

 

 

more than down dogs, cat cows and savasana.

 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. Colossians 1: 11-12

I’m rediscovering my yogi this summer.  Until I moved to Denver a year ago, I had practiced yoga consistently for a number of years.  In fact two of my dearest friends are yoga sisters that I met on the yoga studio floor. But when I moved to Denver, through the whole transition of new call, new house, new town, new grocery store (that took me 9 months to embrace!) new friends – my yoga practice suffered. I couldn’t find a studio I could bond with… I couldn’t find the rhythm in my day…. but most importantly, I believe, I didn’t have my yoga sisters with me.  Sisters who in our bonding relationship, encouraged one another, challenged one another, supported one another, and ached and sweat together! Yoga together made me stronger and knit the ties between us so that we shared much more than down dogs and cat cows and savasana.  We shared life and love.

The entire first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians is one of encouragement (actually the whole letter is!).  It’s like Paul is a yoga instructor of the faith, instructing and guiding us in the faith, while at the same time acknowledging how tough it is to be a follower of Christ.  Yet he promises and paints a picture of reward for all the hard work – having strength and patience through it all.

There is one part , though, that I especially am drawn to today: Be prepared to endure all things with patience. Just as the yogi in me is being slowly retrained and strengthened, physically and spiritually, I also know that in all things of life, I am called to embrace life with patience, as I slowly train the muscles of my heart and soul to follow the path God is leading me on.

And on the days when the “mat of life” is calling my name and my body is slow to respond, let me know that God is working with and through me – strengthening me here and now and for the days ahead.  And for that I am to be thankful. And for my yoga sisters? I am forever thankful for their love and compassion, encouragement and support; for we are each made stronger in the other.

How about you? Where is God building your strength and for what?  And who are the ones encouraging you along the way?

Dedicated to my yoga sisters.

 

moments of excellence.

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4: 4-8

My husband, Mark, and I will be married 36 years next week.  Ours has been a life full of joy, surprise, adventure, sadness, worry, laughter, a little yelling (on my part :-|), peace and quiet, confusion, thanksgiving, defeat and celebration, humbleness and pride, hardship, accomplishment, misunderstanding, and understanding; but most of all, it’s been a life full of gratitude.

And it all started with Philippians 4: 4-8.  We chose this text for our wedding – believing it to be a guide for our days ahead. To be honorable to each other, to love each other and the world around us justly, and to share God’s love with each other with a contrite heart and a gentle spirit.  We promised 36 years ago to turn to the Lord in all matters, those worth rejoicing and especially those that bring on worry; to pray together and to find those things in our lives for which we can be thankful for at all times.

Simply put, we promised to live in the Lord.

Paul in this text is calling the Christians of Philippi to live and love together in the Lord, and to support each other in the doing.  In all things, no matter what, Paul says, in prayer and supplication…WITH THANKSGIVING… make your requests known to the one who created you, redeemed you, and empowers you to love and live in the Lord. And from there, will be moments of excellence, worthy of praise….. whatever it is.

May today be an excellent day, worthy of praise.

btw- we also choose this text because one day some 38 years ago, two blue airmail letters crossed over 10K miles of ocean – one headed to Hong Kong, the other to a small school in Tacoma, WA; each bearing the words of Philippians 4: 4-8, intended to be shared with the one loved on the “other side” – for that day at that moment. Little did we know it was intended for each day since.. 🙂

Dedicated to that one loved for 38 years.

 

Super heroes for God.

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. Philippians 3:17

We have all been asked over time – who are our mentors, who taught us the faith, who are our heroes?  And there’s always some extraordinary individuals that rise to the top, who exemplify the things we want to be noted for in our own lives but haven’t yet achieved; who ultimately we call our super heroes.

Paul was one such individual.  And he had his own story to tell- warts and all. But he led his life striving to be who God created him to be.  And so he walked the earth , telling his story and inviting others to use his life as an example to learn how to follow Christ.

That’s a tall order.  To live a noteworthy life.  To live a life that others look up to.  To live a faith-filled life where we’re called somebody’s hero. But God desires nothing less for us and believes in nothing less of us.  We are ALL exemplary individuals because we have been splashed with the waters of baptism – owned and claimed by God for nothing less – to be the people that we were created to be – super heroes for God.

May we all continue to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

 

new paths.

All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decreesPsalm 25:10

Traffic-Signs-RM227-lg

So I use google maps exclusively, with the exceptional Siri inquiry.  Moving into a new city a year ago with traffic mayhem pretty much 24/7, I consult GM nearly every time I get into the car, whether I know where I’m going or not.  GM is my life saver.

 

 

But there’s just one problem – while I get to my destination with very little glitches, I sometimes don’t know where I actually am.  I know if I’m North/South, East/West – but where I actually am in relation to my surroundings is often questionable.

The Psalmist is asking the Lord for guidance and deliverance.  And one of the things that s/he is sure about, is that following the way of the Lord will promise God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.  That’s covenant keeping, and life saving. Trusting that in all the places we go, God will provide, surrounding us with steadfast love and faithfulness.  Yet covenants are not a one-way street.  Covenants are made between separate entities, coming together, intersecting along the way.

During these Summer Sabbath days, I find myself covenanting in new ways with the One who created me.  It’s a journey of  letting myself be guided on new paths. Yet because of the promise I know exactly where I’m at – surrounded by God’s love and faithfulness. Always.

My prayer for you is to let God be your guide, trusting is God’s steadfast love and faithfulness – even when the way seems unclear.

peace.prL

Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

You were marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 (NIV)

signedsealedI remember one of the first times I wore a clerical collar.  I went quickly from being honored and humbled at the same time, to self-conscious, to forgetting I even had it on. All in one day.

In the beginning of the day, it was daunting to consider the responsibility that the collar represents – the actions that it would demand, and the attention that I would get just by wearing “the collar.”  But as the day went on, the “awesomeness” (daunting or not) of the collar began to fade.  I realized this while on my way home from a long CPE shift at the hospital.  A driver had cut me off on the highway, and I instantly reacted with feelings of anger and I wanted him to know (in my passive aggressive way) that I didn’t like that. Now lest you be concerned that I’m a “road-rager,” this was but a fleeting moment, ending when my finger got caught in my collar!  I instantly remembered who I was and with that came, “Who’s” I am. Marked in Christ.  Signed. Sealed. Delivered… And that matters.

Now this is  a story about a collar, but each of us has been marked in Christ in our baptism. Collar or no collar – we are Signed. Sealed. Delivered….. by God for the sake of the world.

And that mark never goes away.  So no matter what we do or don’t do, God names us and claims us with the promise of the Holy Spirit.  And our response?  “I’m yours!” God calls us to remember our baptism daily – to go out into the world with an oil cross traced – etched – tattooed on our foreheads and on our hearts as a way to remind us to imitate Jesus and to show God’s love – to name and claim Jesus out in the world – To say, “You’re mine!”

So what if from when we woke up in the morning until we laid our heads down at night, we journeyed through our day consciously aware that we are God’s peeps, marked with Christ and promised and ordained by the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world, for the sake of the world?  Would that change how you act, where you go, what you do, who you encounter, how you encounter them?

May we embrace God’s marking, calling (singing) out, “Signed. Sealed. Delivered. I’m yours, God!”

peace. prL

Clarity.

54DBC13C-2823-4C7A-8D71-88D829A35D43Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4: 29

One of the reasons that I enjoy the book of Ephesians so much is that Paul is real. He’s talking to real people, with real struggles, and he understands them because he’s been there too. So he’s frank and honest and tells it like it is.  And for what reason? To build up the body of Christ; to share a word of GRACE for all to hear. And I’m one of those who needs to hear today!

It’s true, at least for me, that it can be so easy to just blurt out any and all things on my mind, without taking the time to ponder their intent or lasting impression on the one my words are breathed upon.  This being the case, I know that I have missed many an opportunity for building up, but instead, my words have torn down relationships.

So if I am to be about building up the body of Christ, I know that I need to spend time in being built up myself. When I spend time in  prayer, meditation, scripture, and intentionally listening for God’s voice and guidance, I am given a better clarity of what it means to imitate Jesus in this world and in my life… so that [my] words may give grace to those who hear.

Sitting on my desk today is a candle given to me by a young couple soon to be married. It’s called Clarity.  My prayer for today is that God grant each of us clarity to separate the evil from the good in our hearts – so that we might be drawn to loving acts of kindness, mixed with words of frankness and honesty, to be about the work of building up the body of Christ .  peace. prL