“Oh.. this ol’ thing?”

You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4: 22-24

My mother taught me how to dress.  I always thought of her as a fashionable dresser, who loved to make sure everything coordinated – even and especially when she and my dad went out to socialize or go to church, his clothes always matched hers, down to the tie!  She followed all the fashion etiquette – you know, no white shoes before memorial day, and no white pants after labor day!  She sewed many of my clothes growing up, and taught me to do the same for my daughter.

I grew up in Hong Kong, and the reason I tell you this is that British fashion etiquette is a whole new ballgame.  Shorts weren’t worn out in public, and to this day, I still get dressed up to get on an airplane.

So I’ve always taken pride in what I wear, even to the point of not offending anyone with my choice of attire.  Clothes make a statement, either covering up what’s underneath, or they enhance what’s already beautiful. And even though I was taught to be fashionable and respectful at the same time in my attire, I was told that what mattered most was what was inside.

Paul is writing to new Christians; Gentiles who’s hearts are learning to love and imitate Jesus. He’s encouraging them to purge the things in their closet that represent their old way of life and instead to put on a new creation, one that will bring compliments of righteousness and holiness.

Just like getting dressed is a daily event, so is the need to purge the old way of life and put on the new.  We are reminded in our baptism that this is indeed possible. That because Jesus died and rose victorious over sin death and the grave, we get to wear something new everyday – righteousness and holiness!

Have you ever noticed what you feel like when you’re wearing something that is new, and feels good, and fits so well? It can put an extra skip in your step, a hop in your jump, a smile on your face – it can just plain make you want to do the dance of joy! But one thing it will not do: make you say, “O, this ol’ thing?”  Cuz there’s nothing old about it – God makes us new each and everyday, clothing us with righteousness, and giving us the opportunity to spread holiness in the kingdom.  And when we fall short, that’s the beauty of it all: we get to purge the closet once more, and be adorned by the Creator with something new the next day. May we wear it with pride.

Dedicated to my faith fashion consultant, mom.

A routine day…. and God.

Mary said, “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.” Luke 1:51

I read this text early this morning, and decided it would be good for me today to walk through my day, and anticipate and seek out the strength of the Lord.  In other words, pay attention to God’s work in the world I encounter, and then reflect on it later in the day.

Using St. Ignatius’ Prayer of Examen, I recounted God’s presence today in a listening ear who allowed me to be me – expressing my hopes and dreams, and my fears and failures. God showed up in two young hearts in love – preparing for a life together and sharing that with me. I encountered God in colleagues who shared their daily struggles and joys. And God’s love came in the form of a furry grand-puppy who exudes God’s unconditional love – well not entirely…. treats are always involved.  And God brought an old friend back into our life, and connected me with each of my kids today.

So, that’s all nice and “routine,” but what about the “strength of God’s arm?” and the “scattering of the proud?” I mean, where’s this majestic God who brings the proud down a few notches, so the lowly can rise?  The Messiah, the Savior of the world whom Mary, soon to be the mother of God, proclaimed has finally come!

I checked CNN to see if perhaps during my routine day, all had been righted in the world; that indeed the lowly, the outcast, the immigrant, the refugee, the hungry, the poor, the captive, the marginalized have finally all been elevated and rescued, and the rulers of the world who want to make their own rules that benefit them and them only, have finally been scattered.

Well, it didn’t happen that way today.  So I went back to the text, looking for signs and answers.  And I realized something else; perhaps it’s me.  I’m the proud, the one who needs to be brought down and my thoughts scattered. And when I examined my day once again, I realized that indeed, today was just such a day.  It’s like God took God’s strong arm and swiped across my desk and my daily schedule, sending my agenda flying, and instead, provided moments of sweet intimacy – God tended instead, to the matters of my heart.  God laughed with me, cried with me, led me to ponder God’s word, and drew me into prayer, and God used a routine day and those whom I encounter to bring me near to God.  In God’s mighty love, God re-aligned my thoughts, my prayers, and shared my fears and struggles. God lent me God’s yoke.

And so on this day, I humbly sing with Mary,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

 

A living prayer

Devote yourselves to prayer. Colossians 4:2

I took a class on prayer while I was in seminary the first time around.  Sounds kind-of odd, doesn’t it?

Now you might think that we studied all the GREAT prayers of the Christian Faith.  You might think we studied all the components of a GREAT prayer.  You might think we studied the many GREAT ways we can address the one we’re praying to.  You might think we learned a few public speaking skills to “perform” a GREAT prayer.  Maybe.  But not really.  But here’s what I learned:

To listen…to and for God.

To see God present in my everyday life.

And then, to make my life a prayer.

I’ve been pondering this for 20 years. To be a living prayer.  God wants so desperately to be a part of my life.  Scripture tells us that God created us to be in relationship with God. Period.  Every moment of every day.  Now I’m not talking about the Benedictine practice of daily prayer or any other spiritual discipline of “scheduled” prayer (although those are wonderful disciplines).  I’m talking about living, breathing, engaging the world with a heart that speaks to God and listens to God. A life that reflects a deep abiding with the Spirit.  For this is my prayer!

Now I am well aware that I fall short of the glory of God many moments of my day.  But I also know that my God walks with me, picks me up, laughs with me, cries with me, and sets me on my feet…again and again….as I strive to be a living prayer.

My prayer for us this day is that we experience God’s tap on our shoulder, as God says, “Wanna chat?”

peace. prL

 

 

Remember.

Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you. Deuteronomy 32:7

Today we celebrate 241 years of remembering when our country became an independent country.  We remember the sacrifices that were made, and we remember the visions that were dreamed by our ancestors, the first immigrants. And we acknowledge the deep privilege we have been afforded but did not earn, to be able to call ourselves Americans.

Last week along with others from our congregation and a visiting youth group from MN, we heard the story of Bianca, an undocumented immigrant who at the age of 15, fled (or actually, was sent by her family as a matter of survival) from the gangs and violence of her country to America. Her family sacrificed and compromised their lives so that she could have a better life.  She told of her life-threatening experiences to cross the border and then what life has been for the past nearly 20 years in the US.  Being detained and treated as a criminal, eventually gaining status to stay, but always being reminded that she does not belong, even to the point that she has a black dot on her driver’s license that tells everyone – I’m undocumented and don’t belong.

Bianca’s 10 year old daughter follows Bianca and others around from place to place as Bianca tells her story.  But that has only been recently.  You see, with the state of our country’s affairs when it comes to who’s welcome and who’s not in this free land, Bianca and others like her, feel compelled to tell their story – to put a face to a name;  to put a face to a label – Undocumented.

The text for today comes from Moses song – a song that the Lord put on Moses’ lips to teach to the Israelites so that they would remember where they came from, the generations that went before them, and how the Lord has led them through to this promised land of “milk and honey.”  It wasn’t anything that they had done, its wasn’t anything that they had earned.  As a matter of fact, it was in spite of what they had done, that the Lord still fulfilled his promise to them.  And this song, the Lord said, was to remind them of their story, in the midst of their forgetting and going their own wayward way, which the Lord knew would happen again and again.

I need to be reminded each and every day of the mark that the Lord has made on me, child of God.  The mark that names me and claims me to be who I am created to be – to love and serve my neighbor and to be welcoming to all people in the name of Jesus. The mark that reminds me who’s I am.

So, yes, today we celebrate freedom.  But not all of us experience freedom in the same way. I choose to celebrate my freedom, being reminded by Martin Luther who wrote in the Freedom of the Christian:

A Christian is an utterly free man, lord of all, subject to none.

A Christian is an utterly dutiful man, servant of all, subject to all.

  May I remember each day to live this life of freedom, bound to the other. Have a blessed 4th.   peace.prL

 

My fervent prayer…

Paul wrote: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

This verse and the few surrounding it are the precursor to what is known as the “Christ Hymn,”  calling us to be of the “same mind” as Christ Jesus, imitating Christ in all ways, including and especially imitating the humility of Christ.

I have been in a new ministry for about 10 months now.  We have danced to a new song – sometimes I’m leading, sometimes the faith community leads. We strive forward, and then we pause.  I’m learning from them, and they from me.  But sometimes, and I think we can all admit to this, the dance is awkward, as we try to figure out where each is leading.

For me, I am often battling, if you will, an internal heart-sense of whether the direction I am leading us is from self ambition, or if it is truly from God.  I so desire to lead a life that honors God’s call in my heart and that of those I shepherd.  One that ultimately is a life of humility, regarding others as better than myself.  But I know that self pride and doing things “my way” can and does get in the way.  And so this is my fervent prayer – that God guide my thoughts, and that what I do is to the glory of God and not my myself.

Throughout my life I have come back to this prayer; like discerning the call to go back to seminary for my M.Div in preparation for Ordination.  It took several years for me to discern if being a pastor was my idea, or God’s.  It took the community around me, my family, friends, colleagues, and faith community to help me hear God’s voice.  Today I stand blessed to have the opportunity to  pastor a community of God fearing people.

So I wonder if when St. Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves,” that this is indeed a community event. That it is those around me that call me into being of the same mind as Christ.  That it is the community around me that holds me accountable to be full of humility.  That it is the the loving community around me that reminds me that I am no better or worse.

There have been times in the past 10 months that I have failed and disappointed especially the ones I am called to shepherd. So perhaps the truest test of humility is to ask forgiveness, and to once again, join in the dance, together.

 

 

Ride with Perseverance.

Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

So I hang out with a bunch of exercise enthusiasts.  My husband and daughter are sports physical therapists, and our son and daughter-in-law are physicians. And then there’s me…. the church lady.  It seems that every time I turn around, someone (other than me!) is running a mini/marathon, cycling a century, or training for a triathlon or half ironman.  As I write, my daughter just flew out to CA to head to Tahoe with her brother and sister-in-law to train for the Boulder Half Ironman later this summer.

And then there’s the cycling group of friends that Mark and I ride with every Friday evening. Of course they are all physical therapists, who do multiple forms of exercise DAILY, so the rides we do on Friday evenings are a leisure ride at best for them.  I, on the other hand, do my quiet yoga several times a week and walk the trails around the neighborhood, but about Wednesday I start getting anxious about the Friday ride. You see, while they’re having meaningful conversations along the ride, I’m sucking wind, big time.  The new rule is that you can’t ask Libbie questions during the ride… cuz I have no air to respond!

Now if you know anything about Colorado, there’s a few inclines out here that can be challenging in the least… well at least for some… like me.  It feels as though I’m pulling 2 times the weight when I hit the incline.  My legs have to work twice as hard to push the peddles forward to keep my bike upright and moving forward.  I shift into an easier gear, put my head down, and persist to the top of the hill.  Along the way, though, I am ever so tempted to just get off the bike and walk.  “It’s too hard,” I tell myself.  I can’t breath fast enough.  My legs aren’t strong enough.  I can’t do this.

But just when I think I can’t pull this weight to the top, along side of me will come my husband, or one of the other cyclists, cheering me on.  “You can do this, you’re almost there, be patient, keep steady, let the bike work for you, you’re doing great!”  Of course at the time, I’m not believing a word he tells me, but before I know it, I’m at the top, feeling like the weight of the world is behind me!  Cruising down the other side of the mountain is such bliss. With the wind in my face, I feel as light as a feather! Ahhhhh!

When I ponder the text today from Hebrews, I believe the upward climb on a bike is is the very physical component to carrying the burden of sin, worry, and fear of the unknown.  It can become so heavy, that I can’t help but think that I can’t go on.  The burden is too great for one to bear. And then Jesus comes along, and says, “Keep going! Come to the top of the mountain and lay your burden down.” “Don’t give up!” I hear God calling, “I’m right here.”  So I believe we are called to persevere in seeking the blessings of God – the wind (of the Spirit) in our face and the gentle Spirit-push from behind.

God calls us to persevere in all  avenues of our lives – through the good times in our lives and the tough stuff; because God knows the reward for us – a persistent God who in return loves us no matter what – In spite of our shortcomings; in spite of our desire to give up and give in; in spite of how heavy our load; in spite of our inability to fully trust. God knows us and loves us for just who we are.

For me, that’s sobering.  To know that God’s perseverance does not necessarily involve taking the burden from me, but rather God’s perseverance is riding/running the journey right next to me.  Cheering me along the way, loving me, encouraging me, showing me I don’t have far to go. And most of all, assuring me that I’m not going it alone.

So my friends, let us lay our burdens aside, and ride with Perseverance. She’s right alongside us.   peace. prL

Dedicated to my Friday Cycing friends.

Are any of you angry? You should pray…

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. James 5:13

It’s one of those days.  As I read the extended text for today, the writer of James is making it clear that in any and all circumstances, we are called upon to pray.  In fact, wasn’t it St. Augustine who said, “whoever sings, prays twice?”  Though I believe the word “well” was in there – whoever sings well, prays twice! Ha!

Well, today for a variety of reasons, none of which I’m proud of, I’m angry with God.  So my inclination is to shut God out.  Turn my back.  Close the door behind me.  Ignore this God who always seems to have the final word….

Are any of you angry?  You should pray…

Yesterday in a pre-marriage counseling session using Prepare and Enrich, we began to talk a bit about conflict resolution; about the need to communicate no matter what; about finding the right time, space, and words to use that don’t incriminate the other, but express our own feelings while at the same time practicing active listening that then draws both together into life-giving conversation.

I think I need a little of that today – conflict resolution with God.  I need to express my anger to God – not towards God – and then I guess I’m going to have to actively listen.  I guess I’m going to have to pray.

Are any of you angry?  You should pray…

Prayer is what keeps us connected to God.  I think that’s what the writer of James was talking about – to pray no matter what and for all circumstances.  To communicate with God both in expressing what lies within my heart, but then listening for God’s grace, love, compassion, and peace that may pass my understanding, yet draw me further into relationship with God to trust in God’s unfailing mercy to have heard my cry and to have already acted. And so I pray.

I’m going to be ok today.  Tomorrow will bring it’s own set of challenges and joys. But by the grace of God I will remain in God and God in me as my mourning will turn into dancing.

Are any of you angry?  You should pray…

Stewards of the mysteries of God..

Wow.  That’s pretty big.  So big that I’ve had to spend two days pondering what it means to be a steward of the mysteries of God.

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 4: 1-2, “Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.  Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”

So not only an I called to be a keeper of God’s mysteries, but in so doing, I am called to be trustworthy.  That’s a big deal.

When folks ponder the “mysteries of God” there is often a mixed bag of responses. Some, as a friend of mine once told me, believe that’s a “cop-out.”  That when you can’t explain God, that you just say, “Oh well, that’s just the way it is!” and hold no defense for God being God.   As a matter of fact, he and I would get in great debates all over the mystery of God.  He, a new Christian, wanted answers, and wanted to “prove” God’s existence, perhaps as a way of validating his new found faith.  But I’m not sure.

For me, that’s what my faith is about – it’s being able to wrestle with who God is in my life, but then living/resting in the “knowledge” that this God is so much bigger that I can either fathom or put words to!  And for me, that spells out HOPE.  To know that I don’t have all the answers, so that when something is too big for me, when the world seems broken beyond repair, that “surely nothing good can come out of this,” that there is this God, my God, that breaks through my Chronos time in the fullness of God’s time, creating a Kairos moment.  This, I believe, is the mystery of God unfolding before me and all the world, bringing a Hope that I cannot explain; yet draws me to embrace this mystery of God, anticipating God’s breakthrough; and in so doing, being entrusted with this Hope to share it with the world.

 

There’s nothing still about that.

Psalm 83: 1-2

O God, do not keep silence;
    do not hold your peace or be still, O God!
Even now your enemies are in tumult;
    those who hate you have raised their heads.

While it’s not my general habit, I often, in the morning, will turn on the news to find out what’s going on in the world.  On this lazy Saturday morning, that was my practice.  Yet with the news in one ear, and now this text in the other, I find myself falling on my knees and crying out once again, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”

At all angles of life it seems that evil pervades. Lives are lost in senseless acts; natural disasters bury communities and generations of families; injustice often rises above justice; lies win out truth; famine, violence, and war are the norm; and evil seems to go unpunished.  Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

For 17 verses, the writer of Psalm 83 calls upon the name of the Lord to beat the enemy down; to show the Lord’s strength. To act! But it seems to fall on God’s deaf ears.

There was a time, a short time ago, when I remained vigilant. Erect, with arms waving high, crying out at the injustices of the world, standing up for the forgotten, the mistreated, the rejected – the ones living on the margins of society.  But my heart, mind and soul grew weary over the never ending mountains of brokenness, and now, I fear, my heart grieves only silently.  Is it possible, friends, to become complacent to the ongoing litany of destruction in the world?  I believe my heart aches for my heart, now, which aches for the pulse of the world.

And in times like these, it’s easy to believe that God is silent; still.  As Martha and Mary both proclaimed, “If you’d only been here, Jesus, our brother would not have died.”

So where to go with this profound sense of hopelessness for the world?

To the last verse of the Psalm, verse 18:

“Let them know that you alone,
    whose name is the Lord,
    are the Most High over all the earth.”

Perhaps all that’s needed is to hear again that still small voice deep within my heart, casting a flicker of light and hope, reminding me to once again have faith and believe and to make known that this God, this God of great power and majesty, this God who alone Creates, Redeems, and Sanctifies all creation, is the Most High over all the earth.  Period. Amen. And there’s nothing still about that.

Far more than we can ask or imagine..

I smiled immediately as I read one of today’s Moravian Daily texts, Ephesians 3: 20-21.  It falls within a larger text, Ephesians 3: 14-21, which is one of my most adored texts in the letters of St. Paul.  He is writing to his beloved Gentile Christians in Ephesus, beloved friends and partners in ministry who are supporting him in his sufferings during imprisonment. And in this particular text, he is blessing them, praying over them, loving on them, if you will, that they may come into the fullness of God, in heart and mind and soul.  He is praying for their young faith – that it be “rooted and grounded in love” (v.17b).  His deep deep love for those he is called to witness to and to shepherd is so evident in his words to them: “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith..” (v.16-17a).

What may be most compelling in this prayer/blessing to me though, is that Paul in a way is challenging the Ephesians to embrace this God who is so, so much bigger than they can ever fathom! To not put God is the tidy box, but to expect this God to surprise you, to challenge you, to confuse you, to frankly be more than you are able to comprehend. Paul is calling the Ephesians, you and me, into the mystery of God. Not in a way that renders us complacent to the mysteries of God (as if to say, “I don’t get God, so I’m not even going to try”), but instead, we can almost hear Paul yearn for our stretching, reaching and grasping of the mystery when he writes in v.18 -19, “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  And in so doing, we will experience this God at work – creating – restoring – renewing – far more than we can ask or imagine – through us and in us and in the world – this God of abundance and love. (Now that’s a Pauline sentence if I ever wrote one!) To this God be given honor and glory!

I have prayed this blessing over all the faith communities that I have been called to serve in ministry.  I have prayed it before I met them, while living among them, and as I departed for a new ministry. It’s deep rootedness in love, compels me to love those I serve with the same depth.

I have been pondering for the past few months a purpose statement for my life, and perhaps the Moravians have given me a gift today to dwell in this text, once again, and hear its deep call in my life.  How about you? What in this text is challenging you?

Have a peace-filled day. prL