Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lent Day 7

(my Lenten discipline this year is to write a short devotion, without extra editing or excessive thought, on the coming Sunday's lectionary texts for each of the 40 days. Later I might go through and edit/rewrite, but for now these are first thoughts.)


Wednesday

Philippians 3.17-4.1
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be confirmed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Citizenship in heaven. Sounds pretty great, right? It must be better than earthly citizenship. My American citizenship comes with a lot of rights and privileges—voting, driving, purchasing power…and extensive travel privileges as well. Imagine what heavenly citizenship must entail!
Glory, transformation, power…but it seems that Paul has in mind here not privileges but responsibilities. Apparently, citizenship in heaven means living according to the example set by Paul and his other communities. It means living differently, setting our minds not on earthly things, not allowing our bellies to be our gods.

It doesn’t sound like the problems of the church have changed much in the past dozen centuries or so…the culture still proclaims the belly as god (or money, or power…), still encourages us to look away from heaven at all the earthly goodies and the prestige we can find right here. And Paul still sits here and encourages us to look somewhere else—to the cross. Yes, we live on earth but our citizenship, along with our rights, privileges, and responsibilities, are elsewhere. So we live differently, following the Way of the Lord, standing firm.

Paul doesn’t say here what that Way is, but from his other writing we can infer that we shouldn’t be indulging our appetites unhealthily, we shouldn’t be placing stumbling blocks to the faith of others, we should help out other people, contribute to the needs of the saints, and we should be praying continually. Right after this Paul exhorts his listeners to rejoice in the Lord always. That sounds pretty different from the way the world works. Heavenly citizenship can be hard work!

Gracious God, we sometimes get so caught up in our everyday earthly lives that we forget where our real citizenship lies. Make us mindful of the rights and privileges we enjoy with our earthly citizenship, and make us mindful also of the responsibilities that come with the citizenship in your kingdom. Strengthen and encourage us to follow you, to stand firm, and to serve your people. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

stuff

first Africa class: good.
Amy's at my house: excellent.
Today is Jason's and my 3rd anniversary: lovely.
sermon for this weekend: doesn't exist yet.
coughing: still with me.
plan for how to get everything done in time to take off Thursday afternoon and not come back until Sunday: ummm....the beauty of the plan is that there is no plan.

that's all for now.

Lent Day 6

Tuesday

Psalm 27 (selected verses)
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

This psalm is so beautiful I’m not sure I can even say anything about it that is worthwhile. And yes, it’s one of my texts for preaching this Sunday!

I am particularly fond of the first and last paragraphs of the psalm: the idea that the Lord is light and there is nothing that can trouble me or inspire fear because of that, and the idea that God’s goodness can be seen even here on earth…both are so wonderful. Pop Christianity often has this idea that we can only see God after we die, that the whole point of living the Christian life is to be rewarded after death…but that’s not how I believe at all. I really believe that God can be seen in the land of the living—not just in creation, but in other people and maybe even in me…and I also think God does reveal Godself in different ways, including here and now.

Seeking God often looks like wasting time—to do one thing single-mindedly, to seek God’s face, to look forward to seeing God in God’s own house—but it isn’t. It does take waiting, which is not easy. Waiting requires strength and courage, seeking requires diligence, but the reward is to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Even during Lent. Isn’t that what these holy seasons are about? We clear the clutter, we leave the busy-ness, and we seek God’s face through prayer and fasting, through worship and study, through rest and renewal. God said “when you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me” (Jer. 29.13). It’s a worthy pursuit…but it requires waiting. I hate waiting, and so I am one of those who needs extra strength and courage! In our instant gratification culture, waiting is unpopular. But God doesn’t work on our culture’s time—as Abraham learned yesterday. And so we wait.

God, I hate waiting. Give me the courage and strength to wait for you, to seek you diligently. Reveal yourself to me here in this time, and fill me to overflowing with your light and love that I might share it with the world. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lent Day 5

Monday
Genesis 15.1-6
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendents be.” And he believed the LORD, and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Abram is beginning to get a little anxious here…the promises God made sounded so great when he was leaving his homeland and his family and all he knew. But now things are a little sketchier. There are no children yet—and children are the crucial part of this whole plan. What kind of reward is it if there are no children to pass it on to, no family name to continue, no one to receive the inheritance?

Abram sees his life as one marked, at the moment anyway, by scarcity. And he complains against God out of that mindset—“you have given me nothing important” he says. But God has a different view. God sends Abram outside to look at the sky, filled with an abundance of stars. This is what will mark Abram’s life—abundance. And somehow, that is enough for Abram. Just a look at the abundance God has already created and provided in the heavens, let alone on the earth, and Abram believes that his descendents really will be innumerable. Quite a change from a few sentences before, when Abram sounded decidedly doubtful, and maybe even a little whiney!

Eventually, we all know, Abram manages to have two children, and beyond that his offspring really are innumerable…but there were moments of doubt. Even Abram operated out of a mindset of scarcity and doubt sometimes. Even Abram, the exalted ancestor, the one held up as a model for our faith, questioned God. And believed the answer. And that is a right relationship.

O God, you give abundantly. Your creation, your history, your people, are full of your abundant life. We pray that you would hear our questions, take our doubts and even our whining, and turn them into faith. Help us to be in right relationship with you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Lent Day 4

(my Lenten discipline this year is to write a short devotion, without extra editing or excessive thought, on the coming Sunday's lectionary texts for each of the 40 days. Later I might go through and edit/rewrite, but for now these are first thoughts.)

Saturday

Luke 4.1-4
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Other versions of this story say that Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit, or led into the wilderness by the Spirit, but Luke says that Jesus was led in the wilderness by the Spirit. There’s something wonderful about that—being in the wilderness, seeking God, being tempted, being intentional about discerning what God is calling you to do, filling your days with prayer and fasting…and being led by the Spirit the whole time.

I’m a Presbyterian pastor. When I lived in Scotland, anytime we used the phrase “led by the Spirit” what we meant was “we didn’t have time to plan this out the way we Presbyterians really like to do, so we’re going to be led by the Spirit instead.” I’m pretty sure that isn’t quite what Jesus was doing. Though I doubt he planned to spend forty days fasting in the desert and hanging out with Satan making snide remarks about stones and bread, he probably wasn’t using “led by the Spirit” as a euphemism for “flying by the seat of my pants.” I suspect that he was actually being led, discerning, praying, and resting in God. Isn’t that what Lent is about? This wilderness time—whether we gave something up, took something on, or are doing our best to ignore the season—is a time when we stop pretending we have control over every little bit of our lives, and instead intentionally seek God’s spirit, letting her blow where she will, following where she leads.

Come, Holy Spirit, and lead me where you would have me go. In this season, we are trying to be open to your movement. Blow among us and through us and in us, and show us a new path. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lent Day 3

(my Lenten discipline this year is to write a short devotion, without extra editing or excessive thought, on the coming Sunday's lectionary texts for each of the 40 days. Later I might go through and edit/rewrite, but for now these are first thoughts.)

Friday
Psalm 91—a metrical setting
Whoever lives beside the Lord,
sheltering in the Almighty’s shade,
shall say, “my God, in you I trust,
my safety, my defender.”
From unseen danger and disease
God will keep you safe and sure;
beneath God’s wings a place you’ll find,
a refuge from all danger.
You will not dread what darkness brings—
hidden danger, deadly plague;
nor will you fear in daylight hours,
the evil that surrounds.
A thousand may die at your side,
thousands more fall close at hand;
but with God’s truth for strength and shield,
no threat will ever touch you.
God says, “I’ll save from every harm
those who know and love my name.
In trouble I will honor them,
and show them my salvation.”

The metrical setting of Psalm 91, to the old Scottish folk tune Teann a nall, is so beautiful that every time I hear or read the first verses of the psalm, I can’t help but sing the tune. And what a beautiful image, too: sheltering in the Almighty’s shade, a place beneath God’s wings.

The thing is, the psalm, read uncritically, seems to be a big fat lie. Sure, you can rest in the shadow of the Lord, but the reality is that disease, danger, and threats do touch us, even those among us whose faith is so sure and sound that it can’t be shaken, even those whose lives seem perfect, even those who really ground themselves in the Word…danger and disease are part of the human reality.

But Psalm 91 assures us that these things are not the end of the world, that danger and disease do not have the last word. Not even death has the last word, really: God does. Trouble may come, but God will still be around. “in trouble I will honor them and show them my salvation.” What good news tucked in this beautiful Scottish psalm tune.

Almighty God, clothe us with your truth, cover us with your wings, shelter us in your shade, keep us safe and close to you throughout this season. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday Five: Companions on the Way

From the RevGals:
Dante had Virgil as a guide. Before he had younger siblings, my oldest child had an imaginary friend named Patrick. Betsy had Tacy. Laura Ingalls depended on her brindle bulldog, Jack. All of them were companions on the way.

As we take the beginning steps of our journey through Lent, who would we take as a companion? Name five people, real or imaginary, you might like to have with you as guide or guardian or simply good friend.

let's see, in no particular order:
~Jason (not just in Lent, either!)

~Jane Austen (cuz who wouldn't want to talk like her?)

~Isaiah (he knows how to write...and what to say to get people on the straight-and-narrow...and how to eloquently point out when they're not! Plus, what a cool prophet, I mean, really...too bad I'd have to explain Lent to him.)

~someone who can really cook....Rachael Ray, maybe? Or Giada diwhatever who makes yummy italian desserts?

~mom (no explanation needed)

blah

I am sick, and have spent two days at home now--as can plainly be seen by the excessive blogging of yesterday.

Being home sick when you live alone is incredibly boring and kind of awful. It's much better to be sick when someone is around to take care of you--to bring you more water, find the chapstick your cat stole, locate your kleenex box, cover you with more blankets, make tea, bring you lunch, etc. Home alone sick is lame. I have to keep getting up because I didn't get every little thing I might need set up next to me. Andrew keeps stealing my chapstick and taking it God-knows-where. My kitties are adorable and all, and I love them sleeping with me, but the chapstick stealing (and the sneezing) has got to stop.

I need more water now, so I must go get up yet again.
I hope your Friday is better...and I hope I get well before tomorrow because I have a lock-in that will be kind of high-energy. oh boy.

Since you won't find me here much tonight (sleeping and whatnot is taking over), check this out. They're having a worse day than me. Prayers for that family and for the sanity of the zoo workers...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

almost

Today while I was home sick, watching the Food Network, I saw an ad that really caught my attention.

there's a shot of a homeless man apparently sleeping on a sidewalk.
"this is Jack Thomas. Today someone almost brought him something to eat. Someone else almost drove him to a shelter. Someone else almost brought him a warm blanket. And Jack almost made it through the night."

Then it flashes "don't almost give: give."

There are five other ads like this one, most of which end with "almost giving is the same as not giving at all." These are such interesting ads--I hope that they really do turn America into a Generous Nation. We have such need alongside such wealth, it's quite disgusting. We often think we can't do anything about it, but this ad shows that's not true. We may not be able to quickly change the systemic problems, but we can help individuals with a sandwich or a blanket.

almost...

what kind of soul am I?

I am feeling like this is scarily accurate...

You Are a Warrior Soul

You're a strong person and sometimes seen as intimidating.
You don't give up. You're committed and brave.
Truly adventuresome, you are not afraid of going to battle.
Extremely protective of loved ones, you root for the underdog.

You are picky about details and rigorous in your methods.
You also value honesty and fairness a great deal.
You can be outspoken, intimidating, headstrong, and demanding.
You're a hardliner who demands the best from themselves and others.

Souls you are most compatible with: Old Soul and Peacemaker Soul

Lent Day 2

(my Lenten discipline this year is to write a short devotion, without extra editing or excessive thought, on the coming Sunday's lectionary texts for each of the 40 days. Later I might go through and edit/rewrite, but for now these are first thoughts.)

Day 2

Deuteronomy 26.5b-9

“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Humans are naturally storytellers—if you don’t believe me, head to any school and listen in the hallways or the cafeteria while the kids talk between classes. Everyone has a story to tell. We also have some communal stories—stories about our family, our country, or the world, stories that we connect to in some way even if it isn’t something that happened to us. This is the kind of storytelling that lets us say “those are my people” even if you’ve never met them or never been to their part of the country/world.

This is one of those stories that we tell because it reminds us who we are. Once upon a time, we were a mighty nation. Once upon a time, we were slaves. We were rescued and brought to this incredible place. This is our family story.

This story also tells us whose we are. Once upon a time, God made a covenant with our ancestors. Once upon a time, we called upon the LORD and were heard. God brought us out of slavery with signs and wonders, with a mighty hand, with terrifying power. God gave us this land. We belong to God, we are the people of God, we are the people God rescued and brought home.

And that’s what storytelling is really about, isn’t it? Coming home? Stories help us to live, to re-live, to inhabit our space and time. Telling the story brings us home again, brings us closer to one another and to the God who gave us the story and who continues to write the story with us.

Story-making God, today we affirm with the ancient Israelites that a wandering Aramean was our ancestor, that once we were mighty, once we were slaves, and many times we have been rescued by your mighty works and terrifying power. We pray today that you would be with us as we tell the stories of our life and faith in this season of Lent, that we might come ever closer to our home in you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

sad

Today an Egyptian blogger was sentenced to 4 years in prison because he expressed his views on his blog. He was charged with, basically, insulting Islam and insulting President Mubarak. His main target tended to be al-Azhar university, longest continuously operating university in the world and bastion of Sunni Islamic learning and culture.

There's mixed reaction in Egypt, of course, with some people saying he shouldn't have said those things and others outraged, saying that freedom of speech is clearly missing in Egypt (duh). For a "democracy" or a country that supposedly abides by things like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Egypt still has a long way to go.

You can read the story on the BBC here. There is a "free Kareem" campaign going on, with the web HQ here. It's a particularly interesting campaign because it is being run by Muslims who disagree with the things Kareem said but are trying to educate people that free speech includes speech you disagree with. You can also scope out another well-known Egyptian blogger, SandMonkey...until he gets arrested too, I suppose.

This kind of thing makes me sad and angry. I hope that Egypt can get its act together, and that we will stop supporting their non-democracy, before the whole Middle East really does implode (or explode).

I think I'm glad not to be in Egypt right now...but I'm sad that some of my friends are there and can't talk about things that are important to them. Pray for the people of Egypt.

Gifts of Women

March 4th is "celebrate the gifts of women" Sunday on the Presbyterian calendar. I am preaching that day, we're having communion, and there's a baptism at one service. The theme for Lent is "abundance" (as in, God's abundance, abundant life, etc, not as in prosperity).
The lectionary texts do not lend themselves to weaving these two themes together, so I am going to choose a new text about a woman.

The question is, which woman? I'm actively soliciting suggestions. We do the bulletins on Tuesday morning, so I need an idea before then. Help!

Ashes to ashes

I expected yesterday to be more emotionally taxing.
Perhaps my strange illness (the flu? a cold? something else?) has dulled my response time, but I didn't find Ash Wednesday to be as emotionally draining as I expected.

I've put ashes on people before, so that wasn't new.
But not last year (cuz in Egypt that's just not done by protestants). Which means that the last ashes I touched were my mother's. And that was an emotionally taxing experience.

But yesterday afternoon I was reminded, as I mixed my ashes and oil, that palm ashes and people ashes are not the same. Palm ashes are dark and fine. people ashes are light and grainy. It hadn't occurred to me until yesterday that different things make different ashes. I think that might be part of the reason it was easier than I expected, the pressing my thumb into the ashes and marking people's foreheads.

Also, instead of saying "remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return" we said "you are dust and ashes, and for you the world was created," based on a Hasidic tradition which Richard talked about in his extraordinarily brief meditation. (I appreciated the brevity, since I was sick and my fever was coming on at this point!)

I like this--it nicely holds up the paradox of life. As my therapist put it: "you're worthless, and you are incredibly valuable."

Last night I read the book Penguins, Pain, and the Whole Shebang. While the theology differs from mine on several points, I really enjoyed the first chapter, in which God tells the archangel Michael all about the new "human being" creation, who will inhabit "that new planet I made...the blue and green one." God tells Michael (Mickey) that this new planet was made just for these human beings, who are the crowning achievement of God. It's a great conversation. and it fit really well with the ashing words of last night. And then the emotionally drained tears came, but they were short lived, and I went on with the business of trying to sleep while having a fever.

Today my cough and I have stayed home reading, writing, sleeping, and petting the kitties. There's lentil soup being made for dinner. Hopefully by Saturday I'll be all better, since there's a confirmation class lock in then!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday
Joel 2.12-13
Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

This is an odd day. It’s not often in our culture that we come face-to-face with our own mortality, and it’s even less often that we choose to think about the fact that one day, in the not-so-distant future, we will once again be nothing but the dust from which we were made. To put ashes on the forehead of someone else is a powerful thing—to look into someone’s eyes and tell them they are only dust, blowing in the wind.

Yet I still greet people on this day with “Happy Ash Wednesday!” I get strange looks and confused emails and text messages, but I really think this is a great greeting. Yes, we’ve put away the pancakes. Yes, Lent is often seen as a time of deprivation and denial. Yes, we’re putting ashes on ourselves and confessing our sin and thinking about how we’re going to die. But it’s also the beginning of our yearly 40-day journey, the time when we clear out all the nonsense and the false abundance, the time when we confess so we can move forward. Without this confession, this recognition, we can’t even begin to get back on track, to start the journey home. We can’t return to the Lord with all our hearts if our hearts are full of wrong things. And so we empty them, and ourselves, to make room for the love and grace and mercy that God gives in abundance, so we can be filled to overflowing by God who is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love.

Gracious God, may the ashes on our foreheads be a reminder not only of our mortality and our sin, but also of your incredible love for us. Help us to empty ourselves of false abundance and to return to you with our whole hearts. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shrove Tuesday

yay for pancakes!

I love the tradition of having pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Every year for the past several years I have had people over to eat pancakes together. Even in Egypt! So great! Tonight I had Richard and the girls, Sherri, and Cecily. We ate pancakes with berries, syrup, whipped cream, and bananas as topping options. We also had scrambled eggs and juice...cuz why not? It was excellent. I love having people over!

Anna and Ella love to play with my kitties, and I think my kitties love to play with them--and now they are both totally exhausted. Both Andrew and Ollie are passed out on things (one on the ottoman and one on the laptop case), sleeping and oblivious to the fact that they are being talked about.

At the end of the evening, Ella (age 2 or 3 ish), when prompted to tell me "thank you for the wonderful pancakes and for having us over" said to me in her adorable but not always understandable little-girl voice, "thank you for the wonderful pancakes and for having us over and for loving us!" aaawwww!

And now Ash Wednesday is upon us. should be interesting....we're of course doing the imposition of ashes. I pointed out to Richard that the last ashes I touched were my mother's, so it will be an interesting day for me. I don't know yet how that's going to go, but we'll see.

I also began learning about drumming today, in preparation for our class on the church in Africa. exciting!

And on that note, that is the end of this random and non-cohesive blog post.

new blogger

I finally sucked it up and switched to a New Blogger template. It's a surprising amount of work to move links and whatnot. However, changing the color seems simpler now--no need to go in and change all the code for every line. So that's nice and all...
BUT
I was using Haloscan for comments (since I started blogging before Blogger had comments). I think I'd like to use blogger comments, but maybe I should go ahead and insert the Haloscan code. We'll see. The thing about switching, of course, is that we can't see the old comments now. Perhaps I'll add them back this weekend, perhaps not....we'll see.

anyway, yeah...New Blogger, here I am. You'd better be easier than the html I learned for my old template....

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday Five: Tourist Edition

1. What is one place you make sure to take out-of-town guests when they visit? (you can be vague to preserve your anonymity if you like)
Umm, I usually take people to the Hancock Tower and/or the Art Institute and Millenuium Park.

2. When visiting another city or town, do you try to cram as much in as possible, or take it slow and easy?
I like to see lots, but in a relaxed way. I'm not interested in seeing everything and remembering nothing while being cranky, so I try to see the highlights, some unknowns, and relax the rest of the time. I'm one of those people who walks around cities, apparently aimlessly, just enjoying the place and seeing what I happen upon.

3. When traveling, where are we most likely to find you: strolling through a museum, checking out the local shopping, or _________________?
Museuming, for sure. If it's good. I'm not likely to be found looking at Egyptian stuff outside Egypt (unless I'm in London) for a long time, though.

4. Do you like organized tours and/or carefully planned itineraries, or would you rather strike out and just see what happens?
umm, as per #2, I'm a strike-out-and-see-what-happens type, with the occasional tour tossed in. Town trolley tours are fun cuz you can see the neighborhoods before you go walk around. And places you can't see without a tour, I'm all for the tour! (The Scavi tour in the Vatican is the most memorable of these for me...)

5. After an extended trip, what do you find yourself craving most about home?
my own bed, my kitties, and access to all the things my house has (food, clothes, fuzzy socks, etc...)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Shiny"--a sermon for t-fig

edited Friday 11.30a CST (or is it daylight time now?)

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
Shiny
Exodus 34.29-35, Luke 9.28-36
Transfiguration C

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
~~
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is exactly the kind of thing many people claim they want. It’s exactly the kind of thing that many Evangelicals say is absolutely necessary. It’s exactly the kind of thing that many people say doesn’t happen anymore:

Talking with God. I mean, direct, two-way conversation with God, the kind where God does some of the talking.

Nowadays, if you go around saying that God has been talking to you, one of two things is likely to happen. Either people are going to write you off as “one of those Christians” or they are going to make a call to the nearest mental health professional. And if you’re glowing on top of that, they may very well step away and call 911, just in case you’ve been exposed to some kind of radiation or something.

Even when Moses came down the mountain the first time, the Israelites had started a big party because they weren’t sure he was coming back or that he was even talking to God anyway. And this time when he comes down from Mount Sinai, tablets in hand, face shining with the Glory of the Lord, they know he’s for real and they also know that is a very scary thing—so they run away. Only when he shouts for them do they come slowly crawling back to the foot of the mountain. Voices carry a long way in the desert. Light goes quite a ways too, especially when it’s dark, and especially when it’s this kind of light—not a mini mag light, but God’s light, the light that comes from within, the shine that accompanies someone who has been talking with God.

The Israelites aren’t alone in their fear. On the mount of the Transfiguration, probably Mount Hermon, in the Golan Heights, Jesus and his disciples are praying. Well, Jesus is anyway. The disciples are sleepy, but they’re holding their eyelids open. While Jesus is praying—talking to God, as it were—he too takes on this light, he begins to reflect God’s glory. And the disciples are afraid! They don’t know what to do, what to say, or what’s going on. It’s all they can do not to make fools of themselves in front of Elijah and Moses…except Peter, of course, who does manage nicely to say just the wrong thing. And then, of course, they get included in the conversation that Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and God have been having: God booms from the cloud “this is my Son…pay attention!”

Now, since Moses’ face shone because he had been talking with God, and since Jesus was transfigured into shininess while he was praying, I have to wonder whether the disciples, too, were shining just a bit after God had been talking to them. After all, they’ve just seen the true divinity of Jesus, they’ve been basking in the glow of glory, AND God’s voice spoke to THEM! There must be some residual glow. But even if they were shining, I wonder if they noticed? Or if they thought they could just head back to normal life, saying nothing, and have everything go on as usual?

These incidents both happened on mountaintops, away from normal life, away from the busyness and the needs of the world. People have been climbing mountains to talk to God for ages—pretty much since there were people. High Places, places of sacrifice and worship, dot the Middle East. Some even have remains of the altars, statues, or poles used for worship. Throughout Scripture people go to the mountain to encounter God—Abraham, Moses, Elijah, prophets, Jesus, the John who wrote Revelation. The holy places tend to be high places—the Temple was on a hill, the Mount of Olives is nearby. Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The sign for Moses and the Israelites after the Exodus was that they would worship God “on this holy mountain”, thought by many to be Mount Sinai. Jesus delivered the sermon on the mount on a hill overlooking the sea of Galilee. There is an abundance of holy places on high ground. It seems that people have been meeting God, and God has been meeting people, on mountains pretty frequently!

I know a lot of people who say they find it easier to meet God, easier to talk to God, out in nature. There’s no better place to pray than hiking on a mountain, they say, because it brings you closer to the sky—God’s own cathedral. It puts you in touch with the creation. It’s quiet and many think you can hear God better “out there.” And it’s true that going away to a quiet place, to a mountaintop, to worship and to pray is a biblical thing to do. It’s also true that going to a worshipping community and its sanctuary is a biblical thing to do. It’s also true that going to feed the hungry is a biblical thing to do. God talks in all these places—the question is where we expect to find God, and where we can best listen.

In the Celtic tradition, as many of you have been learning, some places are “thin”—the boundaries between earth and heaven, between sacred and secular, are thinner, fuzzier, more porous in some places. Many of these thin places are on high places. And at many of them, especially in Scotland, pilgrims have been building cairns for centuries. A cairn is basically a pile of rocks. The rocks carry the prayers and identities of the people who place them. Nearly every thin place has one—something to mark the spot, to bring it even closer to heaven, to preserve the moment. But unlike Peter’s suggestion of dwellings, the stones stay and the people go.

The thing about encountering God, of course, is that God doesn’t live on a mountaintop. We can have mountaintop experiences in church, on a bus, in school, with friends, while praying at home, or even out on the plain—a good thing since we live in the prairie, not the mountains! What matters is that we encounter the living God, and once that has happened, we can never be the same.

What goes up must come down, even on the mountain, even in the church, even at home. In the thin place, on the mountain, we encounter God. Then we go down the mountain again to everyday life, but we are different. We carry with us the glow that comes from talking to God. Like Moses, we’re shiny. And we have a choice to make: to hide our light, as Moses did, so we don’t scare people (or so we don’t inconvenience ourselves), to stay silent as the disciples did, or to share our light with the world.

Some people will say they aren’t good enough, that their light isn’t strong enough. Some will say that it’s too difficult or too risky to share the light. Others will say they don’t want to brag. But Jesus told us that even though it would be difficult, we’re to let our lights shine—a lamp belongs on the lampstand, not under a basket. Light is for sharing, not for hoarding. And the light that comes from an encounter with the living God is long-lasting and genuine, not boastful or fearful.

One of my favorite quotes is often attributed to Nelson Mandela but is actually from Marianne Williamson. She says, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." (1)

When we encounter God, our inner lights are renewed, and we go out as mirrors of God’s grace and glory, bearers of God’s presence—to let our lights shine on the world. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.


(1) by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles.

procrastinating

it's writing day. I'm working on my t-fig sermon. and for some reason I cannot stop obsessively checking my email...every few minutes. It's like "oh, I wrote two sentences...must be time to check my email." I can't stop. I might have to unplug my internet cable just to get anything done. I really want to have the sermon done by 5.

It's 3.10.

And I'm blogging, checking my email, praying for a way out....or an inspiration.

Monday, February 12, 2007

prayer on the mountaintop

for Transfiguration...

PRAYER ON THE MOUNTAINTOP

You always seem to speak on mountains—
make this place a mountaintop today.
On mountains your glory shines—
make this place a mountaintop today.
On mountains we can hear your word—
make this place a mountaintop today.
On mountains you show yourself to your people—
make this place a mountaintop today.
On mountains your presence is easy to see—
make this place, and every place, a mountaintop
and make us the mirrors of your glory,
the speakers of your word,
the bearers of your presence.
Amen.

hair

Am I really asking so much?

All I want is a good hair day on a Sunday.

Is that so much to ask?

Am I having good hair today? yes. Friday, when it was my day off? yes. Sunday? no.

I have yet to have a good hair day on a Sunday in this church. What is that all about?

please??? Especially when the video people are actually taping?

cold

it looks like the forecast that gave me hope--the one that said it would get up to freezing this week!--was wrong.

Now for Thursday (the day they thought it would get up to 32) we're looking at a range between 0 and 10 for the day. sad.

On the bright side, it was above 0 this morning when I woke up, so I went to the gym. I feel better already.

But it's snowing, so the brightness comes from blinding white snow...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

days off

I love being organized enough that I can actually take days off.

This week I managed to be organized (and disciplined!) enough to not only take both yesterday and most of today off, but also to go home at a decent hour every night that I didn't have a meeting! That's awesome. I feel pretty good about my time management this week. Oh, if only I can do it again....

what might be helping: going to church 30-45 minutes earlier than usual because I skipped going to the gym this week. I'm morally opposed to going to the gym if it's below zero degrees when I wake up and want to go. Therefore I've not gone for a whole week. It's supposed to be warmer this week--highs getting up to freezing! (I can't believe I'm excited about that, when a year ago "cold" was 50 degrees.)

In other news, Ollie drank a whole bowl of pineapple juice. I can't even believe it. In still other news, Andrew is still sneezing. And he finds the best time for olympic-training to be "anytime it's dark outside."

Today's tasks:
1. children's sermon
2. butterscotch brownies for the bake sale tomorrow
3. read
4. nap
5. watch Food TV
6. make some kind of excellent dinner involving vegetables and probably brown rice.
7. play with kitties.
8. read
9. nap
10. panic about children's sermon, have anxiety dreams, wake up at 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am, 6am until I come up with something.

Sounds like a good day!!

:-)

Friday, February 09, 2007

happy birthday amy!

Today is my friend Amy's birthday. Go wish her happy birthday!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

kitty olympics






Here's the olympian-in-training.
What events is he training for, you ask?
Well, let's see:






  • attack and flinging of oblong objects (pens, chapstick, remote controls, telephones, etc.)
  • retrieval and shredding of kleenex (more points if it's retrieved from its box)
  • single-bound-bed-leaping
  • trash-can-tipping

It's been an exciting couple of nights at my house...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

dots

  • I came back from Atlanta to discover that the HIGH temperature here, with wind-chill factored in, was -17 degrees. BRRRRR. yesterday it was so cold that school was cancelled. Today it's really cold and snowing too. Who even knew it could snow when the high temp for the day is 0?
  • I got my car back. It's beautiful. I hadn't realized how comfortable my car is to drive until I spent time driving two different rental cars that were decidedly UNcomfortable to drive.
  • My computer was doing weird stuff yesterday. But today it seems better (knock on wood).
  • my to-do list for this week is going excellently!
  • It is so cold outside that cars don't start. My car starts, at least so far, but wow. Also, I have had to close all the blinds/shades/curtains in my house in an effort to keep some heat in. My 25 year old furnace has trouble keeping up with the -30 windchill thing. My cats do not like this because they can't see out without, you know, climbing through the blinds. But they were cold before, so too bad. Ollie was acting like she was going into hibernation or something.
  • I cannot even believe it's only 3:00 in the afternoon. I think today might be the longest.day.ever.
  • Did I already tell you that I watched Jesus Camp a couple of weeks ago, and it was a really well done film, and one of the scariest movies I've seen in a long time? Tonight's movie menu: Little Miss Sunshine. Don't tell me about it! I haven't seen it yet!!
  • I am collecting copies of the Northwest Herald article about me. If you read this and you also get the Herald, please bring me the article! I need to send some to my fam. Thanks!
  • Richard went out and bought us all space heaters yesterday. God bless him. it's a beautiful thing. For the first time since coming back from Atlanta my toes are not freezing.
  • Sherri (the church musician) and I are getting ready to teach a class during Lent: The church in Africa. The class is called "Uyai Mose" (Come All You People). It's going to be cool. If you have stories about the church in Africa, your experiences of a church in Africa, or resources for stories/personal experience, please email me ASAP! And if you're here in town: come to our class, it's going to be awesome!