Monday, February 19, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Lent in the Library

Grace and peace, friends. This post is full of all sorts of fun information. Imagine it like a spilled bag of Skittles--a little bit of everything! 

First, an invitation:

Next, a practice:
Lent in the Library

We are asking for your help.  As we enter into the season of Lent, we are looking for creative ways to name God’s presence.  During Worship, all of our senses are engaged.  One suggestion is to invite you to write a haiku about the Sunday Scripture readings and sermons.   

What is a haiku?
"Haiku" is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. Haiku poems consist of 3 lines. The first and last lines of a Haiku have 5 syllables, and the middle line has 7 syllables. The lines rarely rhyme.

Where to write a haiku?
This is the fun part. We encourage you to write about God’s presence wherever and on whatever you want. If you see God’s presence at a coffee shop, write a haiku on the back of a napkin or a receipt and bring it to the church library. Or, write it on a piece of paper, your journal, or anywhere else, take a picture, send it to Adam, and we will display them in the library. The opportunities and ideas are endless.

When can you write a haiku?

Anywhere. Anytime. Lent is forty days long, after all! 

Here is an example, or two:

Here is an example from Sunday's worship service written by a parisjioner:
"Beloved spoken. What we hear, sometimes other. Woo us, belonging."
And another example from Transfiguration of Christ Sunday:
"Both sides of mountains
alive with transformation
sparks from the top fly"

Finally, a 'meditation':
Long John Silver
The White Witch
The Joker
Captain Hook
Cruella de Vil

What do all these names have in common? They are all considered to be the adversary in their respected story.

Of course, what is the definition of an adversary? Some define it as one's opponent in a contest, conflict, or dispute.

Synonyms: opponent, rivalry, enemy.

This past Sunday, like every first Sunday of Lent, we enter the wilderness with Jesus. It is in this desolate place where we encounter ‘Satan,’ or ‘the adversary.’ But that’s not the only character who greeted us in the wilderness. Take a look at Mark 1.13:
“He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him.”

What you’ll notice if you placed Matthew, Mark, and Luke side by side by side, you’d see only Mark adds the ‘wild beast’ detail. And for centuries theologians and other church-y people have debated what these wild beasts were and whose side they were on.

I want to add my two cents. First, to the ancients, the wilderness was merely the headquarters of all things dangerous and evil. These wild beasts, they argue, are not on the side of the angels. They are the opposite of the angels, symbolic minions of evil, representatives of the Adversary, children of the Tempter whom Jesus is facing in the wilderness. They were, some suggest, jackals and hyenas in every sense.

Time and again in life, you and I meet our own wild beasts. Not jackals and hyenas, instead our wild brutes have names like “depression” or “breast cancer.” They are fearsome creatures like “widowhood” or “loneliness,” jackals with names like “shingles,” “alcoholism,” “drug addiction,” hyenas named “unemployment,” “self-doubt,” “divorce.” Every life has its wild beasts, every last one.

There are many theories out there about these beasts and the purpose of evil. The truth is, there are too many pains far too sharp to be justified by what they might teach us. The beasts are wild beasts after all. You know the names of your own. Some of us have faced them together. I cannot look you in the eye and tell you to “look on the bright side” or that the beasts are for your own good.

What I can tell you though is this…

No matter how wild the wilderness may be, and how vicious the beast is, you aren’t alone in whatever you face. God, as S/He was with Christ in the wilderness, will be with you in yours.

Also, chances are, after your wrestling match with the beast, you will walk away, even if it is like Jacob at the Jabbok, changed. I like what once pastor said about this when he said, “No choice about that. Some people grow embittered, jaded and broken, but others grow the other direction, deeper, better rooted in compassion, more firmly grounded in love. You have no choice about whether you face the beast, but you do have some choice as to how the beast changes you.”

If there is anything we can find comfort in from the first Sunday of Lent, it is that God has made a promise to be with us. Did you notice that? God doesn’t say there won’t be any hardships, wilderness places, or beasts. But God makes a covenant to be faithful through it all. Our God is one who knows our pains and sufferings.

And with God’s help, not only will we be able to endure and out last our adversaries, but we might also be able to make sense of it all once we are on the other side.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-dog days & psalter prayers

I took this photo last night (2.5.18) while I was walking my dogs.
Below was a journal entry I wrote after our time outside.
I share it with you below.

Letting Go

Let go of the day.
Let go of the expectations.
Offer up your prayers as an evening sacrifice, or a morning prayer.
Relinquish your hold on the hour and your worries.
Be still.
Rest in God’s presence.

Now, read Psalm 102.

Reflect on the closing verses:
25  Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth,
          and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26  They will perish, but you endure;
          they will all wear out like a garment.
     You change them like clothing, and they pass away;
27       but you are the same, and your years have no end…


What can you let go of to embrace God’s outstretched hand that brings healing?

Naming God’s Presence

I love this weather. I really do. I remember sitting outside in August when the humidity and heat weren’t the only things weighing heavy on my spirit and thinking, “Every chance I get this winter to walk in the snow, I must.” It’s cold. It’s sleeting more than snowing. The streets are slick beneath the mixture of precipitation. The cars traverse down them as gently as an autumn leaf falling to the ground. The world is muted. No air conditioners disrupting the night with their incessant roaring. There are no cicadas humming. There is only silence. This silence is what I miss during the dog days of summer. So we walked, the dogs and I, our breath rising as prayers and our steps gentle as the glow of a lightning bug. There’s solitude in the silence that only winter can provide. Yes, I’ve complained about how winter is taking full advantage of its limited time. And yes, I’ve asked him to hurry along so I can get back to doing the things I love:  gardening, playing catch with my brothers & friends, and smoking a pipe while the sky goes indigo around 8:00 pm. I miss seeing the dogs drink from the hose and writing beneath my “Nashville lights.” But, I love this weather. I love seeing Silas prance with white flakes on his gold coat. I get much pleasure out of seeing Chloe make snow angels in the yard. Above all, I welcome how the bitter cold makes my hands hurt, and my cheeks turn red, a feeling that takes me back to when I was a little boy. I celebrate and embrace how winter reminds me of my humanity and how there’s a season for everything. It’s up to us to decide how we will spend our days and what we will do “with this one wild and precious life.” Seasons are gifts that help us become what we hope to be...

Where have you encountered the Divine this winter?

Taking Hold

Psalm 102 is a prayer for restoration. The psalmist walks us through the destruction of Jerusalem with bird similes and describes his troubles as a sickness. The end of the psalm speaks of God’s permanence. Everything we create, as beautiful as they may be, will one day no longer be. But the love of God remains forever.

So, how will you live in this permanent, never-ending love of God?
How will you with your one wild and precious life offer hope to those in your life?
How will you help restore the reign of God on earth, as it is in heaven?

May you enjoy the new day with the assurance of know God hears your cries for help. May you receive the chill of winter’s wind with confidence trust Christ to lead you back toward the warm light of love. May you join the Spirit in her work of restoring God’s earth and your beautiful life!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Faux News, Good News


I love Jesus.

More importantly, Jesus loves me. For the Bible tells me so.


Jesus loves you.

Not for anything you’ve done or haven’t done but because Jesus loves you.

That is the thesis of the Gospel. When Jesus commissioned the disciples to go and proclaim good news, this is what he meant. They were to go into the entire world proclaiming the good news that God did not come to condemn the world (which is a good thing since, well, God created it…) but to save the world—to rescue the world from itself.


Friends, we are created in the image and likeness of God, who is Love flowing between Three—the Trinity. We read this truth in the very beginning of Genesis in poetry from chapter one. It reads, “God said, ‘Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26).

Okay. That’s heavy. So heavy it might cause you… because it has me… to have an existential brain freeze.

If God is who we say God is, then we must be who God says we are—beloved—because God would not lie, has not lied, nor shall ever lie or forsake us, right?


Good. We are getting somewhere.

God is love (1 John 4.16). God created us in the image and likeness of God, Love. For God so loved the world (John 3.16), God entered the world physically in Christ not to punish us or remove us from what S/He created, but to save it. With God’s help, we can rescue the world from itself. Richard Rohr said it more eloquently, “We were created by a loving God to be love in the world. Our core is original blessing, not original sin. Our starting point is ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31) and surely not ‘total depravity’ or ‘sinners in the hands of an angry god’” (We Were Made to Love by Love).

Know what I love most about Jesus?

Jesus met people where they were in life.

For instance, check out Mark 1.23-26.
23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

Notice that Jesus didn’t ask if this person knew the five points of “Calvinism.” Nor did Jesus walk down some Roman road before healing him. And Jesus certainly didn’t ask the man to join his ministry before or after the incident. Instead, Jesus offered peace, life, and love without any condition. Let me repeat it: Jesus [simply] offered peace, life, and love (and here’s the kicker) without any condition.

It’s that without any condition that makes it unconditional love, right?

Did a real exorcism take place? The scripture says so. In fact, it was at this confrontation in the early part of Christ’s ministry where we see his authority in both his teaching and healing. Jesus has authority because God authorizes it. Jesus, who is the face and heart of God, came to liberate God’s people from the demons of oppression by stepping into the realm of opposing authorities, facing the world of other spirits, and opposing the potent power of possession and to say, “God is here.” Christ’s authority broke through the barrier that kept the unclean at bay, defeated the evil of the universe, brought light to the places and spaces where it seemed God could never be and destroyed the very presence of opposition to God.

Perhaps that’s where the good news lies for us, some 2000 years later. In a time like ours, when we are quick to make judgements and assume the worst about others, maybe we need a reminder about who we are as image bearers of God—being as little Christs. We need to return to what we are called to do, which is to resist and restore the faux news of how bad things are with the good news of God’s presence, God’s reign, and God’s kin-dom… not by our silly, human-made doctrines but with our loving, divine-led acts of mercy and kindness, compassion, and grace.

Instead of beginning with how messed up the world is or rather than listing all that’s “wrong” with those with whom we disagree and refraining from regurgitating the prejudices, racist, ageist, classist, and sexist commentary often heard behind pulpits and podiums, we shall choose to begin with the good news:
                        you are,
                                    I am,
                                                the world is,
                                                                         created in the image and likeness of God.

So friend, read these words; listen to these words; memorize these words; speak these words:

You are loved. You are cherished. You are enough.

God is here with you in your addiction. God is here with you in your pain. God is here with you in your depression. God is here with you in your illness. God is here with you in your joy.

And that my friends, is the best news I’ve heard in the last 24 hours!