Sunday, January 30, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
"Twenty years ago, I was on a Pastoral Search Committee, and one of the questions we asked the ten candidates we interviewed in the first round was to tell us their three favorite passages of scripture. I loved hearing the variety of verses quoted and even learned some that I didn't know, such as the last line of one of this week's lectionary passages:
In no particular order: (From biblegateway.com--all New Living Translation)
1. Acts 2:1-13
1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.
13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”For the last few years, we've had a moment in worship on Pentecost Sunday, where several members of the church who speak various languages all stand and read the same passage in their specific language. I've written about it before. It is a powerful reminder, for me, that God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit came for all nations, all people and not just for my little corner of the world.
2. Micah 6:8 (New Living Translation)
8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
My friend Jolynn brought this Scripture to my attention on a Mississippi trip. We used it as our theme verses for a subsequent trip. The simple words are seemingly easy to understand and yet so hard to undertake at the same time. When General Assembly was in CA a couple of years ago, that was their theme. Being on the "inside", I was able to get a print out of the artists rendition of that verse. It's on the wall in my office, reminding me of what God is calling me to do every day.
3. Proverbs 3:5-6 (New Living Translation)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
In 1990 or 1991 I chose these verses for a testimony I gave in church. I didn't know but it turns out that those verses were the lifeline G.G. would needed to get through that year and the years after my Boompa's (grandpa's) death from cancer. Trust, seek and God will show up. Simple and hard...a common theme I find in the Bible.
4. Psalm 22 (just the first few verses to give a hint) 1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.
5 They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.
Over the years I've been more and more convinced that we, in the church, don't allow people to lament, grieve or petition God. When people express doubts as to how God could allow X, Y or Z, we quickly label that person as "losing their faith". And yet the book of Psalms is filled with laments and petitions. I was first really introduced to this Psalm through an Out of the Grey album and have connected with it deeper through the years. I find comfort and safety in a God whom I can cry out to when my heart is hurting and lost, who I know is there but whom sometimes seems so far away. The whole Psalm confirms that I can lament to God without losing my belief in God.
5. Luke 8:40-48
40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
This story has captivated, fascinated and encouraged me for a few years now. Jesus didn't just feel the power flow out from him, he stopped to recognize the person, to confirm the healing, to affirm that the woman's desperate faith was enough. I fully admit that may be my own reading into it. I also admire the courage of the woman to speak up, even though she faced rejection and humiliation from the crowd. A part of me relates to the woman's hope to be healed unnoticed and I am challenged by her to speak up when Jesus asks.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Our Snow Trip last weekend almost wasn't a snow trip. There was no snow around the cabin that we stayed in, as opposed to last year when we had to shovel our way in. There was snow at the ski area and at the tubing area, but you could see patches of brown beginning to peak through on the tubing runs. People were wearing shorts at the ski area. It was too warm.
Now, I'm not meaning this to be a post on global warming, all I'm saying is that I want rain. I want snow. I want to be dressed in layers and blasting the heater in my car. I want to wake up to the sound of the rain gutters working over time. I watched the news this morning and was actually jealous of the east coast and the snow they have been getting...though I know that most are ready for the snow to stop, I get that too.
All I'm saying is that I'm ready for it to be winter. A real northern CA winter with lots of rain, flood warnings, power outages and all. Yep, I'm ready for the rain.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The coolest part of the whole thing is that all the leaders going were once youth going on the trip...except for one, she never went on the snow trip but she did go on others. I love that they have re-invested in the youth group and I'm looking forward to seeing how God continues to work in and through them this weekend.
Catch ya on the flip side!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday I had lunch with K and Train Guy (who still needs a new nickname...star wars boy? hmmmm...) and we were talking about Train Guy's newest accomplishment, riding a bike without training wheels. I commented that he could go for bike rides now with Yo Momma, which caused him to get that little smile on his face of happiness and satisfaction that just melts my heart every time. K said something like "Yeah, Yo Momma needs someone to ride bikes with!". I then said, "I would say you could ride with Papa Bear, but he's having a little trouble with his balance lately." Train Guy thought about that for a second and replied "Saturday I was trying to ride my bike between two cars and I was having a little trouble with my balance." "You can understand Papa Bear's trouble then, can't you?" was my reply. To which Train Guy nodded his head solemnly.
There is something super precious about a 6 year old empathizing with the troubles of 60-some-odd year old Papa Bear. He's a keeper.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The music that I'm listening to at any moment in time is usually a good hint to the mood that I'm in. There are songs that I specifically turn on when I'm feeling sad and want to cry. There are songs that I listen to when I'm mad at the world and just want the radio really, really LOUD! There are country music times, 80's pop times, indie-rock times, christian rock times, all Amy times and Christmas music times, just to name a few. There are times when I just need to be back in college or high school. There are times when I need to be introspective and quiet. Music is the indicator of my soul's needs at the moment.
Lately I've been plugging my I-Pod into my car's stereo system. For some reason I have two options with the stereo system. It will either play the songs from the first artist only or it will play the songs on shuffle. Being one who grew up with cassette tapes, I am REALLY used to listening to one song right after another as they were put on the album. One song will end and I can usually start singing along in the right key to the next song, pretty much in time. It's just how I am. So, the shuffle setting has been a little frustrating.
Until this morning. This morning I put my newly uploaded IPod in and was ready to be hit with whatever song shuffle choose...only to have it start with the first artist on the IPod and go through that artist's album song by song. Such a letdown! I wanted the randomness of the shuffle setting. I wanted to be thrown from introspective to high school to angry music to indie-rock, to alt-country to All Amy.
Which made me wonder if this is an indicator of my soul right now...all over the map, in shuffle mode. I kinda think it is.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
~I made Sweet Potato pancakes yesterday too. I officially concede my inability to make pancakes. I either burn them or don't cook them enough. Sigh.
~Driving to Star$ this morning before church, I realized that if someone was behind me they might think I was drunk as I weaved left to avoid pothole #1, right for pothole #2, left again for pothole #3, right to get back into my lane, left to avoid potholes #4-10 and then right to be back, finally, in my lane.
~The youth group Snow Trip is next weekend. We're gonna be talking about the covenants God has made with people in the Bible and with us. I started thinking about the difference between a resolution and a covenant a couple of weeks ago as a lesson for the High School youth and God started talking even deeper. I am always amazed at the process of crafting a lesson or lessons. I ponder a lot...and procrastinate a lot too.
~It is a beautiful January day...so nice that I could put top down on the race car as I headed home from church. Which then made me think it was time to clean it out, which lead me to realize that the back window is beginning to really wear out, which isn't good in a convertible. I think I know where my tax refund will be going. Sigh.
~I LOVE RIB SUNDAY! Uncle B makes the best BBQ sauce ever. It would be even better if I had a whole bottle in my fridge so that when meatloaf makes it's appearance at my house there would be yummy BBQ sauce instead of plain ole ketchup to put on said meatloaf. Yes, I am a little spoiled.
~I also love that Cousin T reported at the dinner table "Uncle L (also known here as Papa Bear) talked to my math teacher and told her 'Tell me if T doesn't do her homework.'" Ha! Small town living has it's benefits. I'm pretty sure that Cousin T was appropriately dismayed and yet glad that her family loves her enough to talk with her teacher...though she might not get that for a few years.
~Today's Chocolate Chip Oatmeal and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies redeemed by pancake failure of yesterday...I can bake.
~And to end the randomness...I love NCIS marathon's. Just sayin.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
La·ment --verb \lə-ˈment\
Definition of LAMENT
A couple of years ago Opinionated Friend and I joined forces and held a worship night on Sunday evenings. It was an hour of music, prayer and scripture. We a series of themes to be woven together and tell a story. One of my favorites was the night on lament. We had post-it notes available for each person and invited them to write down their laments, the sorrows, their worries, their questions for God on the post-it note. They brought them up and stuck them on an old window that someone had hanging around. I forget the symbolism of the window, but one of our team took that window with the post-it notes and transferred the writings onto the window. She then took pages from an old Bible and put them behind the notes to create a kind of collage. The effect was dramatic and poignant.
The window collage wound up in Opinionated Friend's office. When she moved, it came to my office. It sits just across from my desk, in my line of sight every day. There hasn't been a "right" place for it to reside, so it sits and waits for a proper home...and I look at it every day. I am not in the same place that I was that night that the window of lament was made and yet it still speaks to my soul.
It occurred to me the other day that there aren't many places in the world where we can safely lament...where we can pour out our worries and concerns, where we can cry out the injustices that have struck our hearts and lives, where we can cry out our uncertainties about God...which is why that night and that window was so important to me. For that hour, it was safe to rail, to question, to cry out and doubt God. No one would question or tell us that we were wrong or not good enough Christians. We were gathered as the people of God...truly coming just as we were before God...with no one to edit or add to our statements of lament.
Tonight at High School group we talked about being filled with sorrow before we can find joy. Giving voice to our grief before we can find laughter. The context of tonight's discussion was in relation to our own sinfulness, but there is something to that line of thinking. In order to fully appreciate joy we must first fully appreciate lament. We must first give ourselves over to the mourning, the wailing, the sorrow before we can find joy again.
My experience with grief has shown me that the times of joy that come after grief are sweet, pure and even more profound in light of all that I have experienced previously. There's an appreciation for the lightness joy after walking through the darkness of grief that I would not have known. That joy is even sweeter when I find the freedom to lament...strike that. Joy is even sweeter when I am given the freedom to lament, to give voice to the sorrow and the pain inside my soul, to cry out to the God that I know holds me close but yet seems so far away at times.
I've spent the past few days looking at the window of lament, thinking that the world needs permission to lament, to wail, to mourn, to regret what has been and clear the way for joy.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
When I left the Bible Study we were going through a study book about women of the Bible. Written by men. Our format of study is a little different than how the book was written, so our group went a little bit more in-depth the with study than most people would. Our first lesson was on Eve. We read the scriptures, read the questions, read the author's commentary and, well, all H-E-double hockey sticks broke loose. The filter through which the author's read the scriptures and answered their own questions was not the filter through which the Bible Study group read the scriptures and answered the questions. One of the ladies in the group started taking notes on the differing opinions that we had with the authors. There were many.
Take, for instance, the fruit that Eve and Adam ate. What was that fruit? If you've been to Church, Sunday School or even heard the story or seen a painting of that incident, you would likely say that the fruit that Eve and Adam ate was an apple.
Here's what is says in Genesis 3:1-7
3:1 Now the serpent was more shrewd than any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard; but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." (Courtesy of NET.Bible.org)
A straight reading of this story shows that there is no mention of the type of fruit that was eaten. It could have been a fig (which would explain a LOT about Jesus' frustration with the fig tree in a later part of the Bible!!), it could have been an apricot or peach or pear or orange or pomegranate or anything else. It does not say that the fruit was an apple. And yet, some way, somehow we have gotten it into our heads that an apple was the fruit that gave wisdom to Eve and Adam. My original filter for that story says that it was an apple, so every time I read the story I saw "apple" where "fruit" was written. But that's not what it says.
The things we read, the things we hear, all run through filters in our brain. Many times these filters are made up of experiences that we have had, lessons we have learned or something that we have heard somewhere along the way. Sometimes the filters stop us from really seeing or hearing what is written or said. The information gets tweaked, just enough, so that by the time we receive the information, it's a little different.
That can be a good thing. There are times when we need to filter out useless information to get to the heart of a message. I know plenty of people that need to give 15 minutes of back story before they can get to the heart of their story...my filters work overtime in those instances. When on the receiving end of criticism, filtering helps. Get through the ugly words to the meat of the criticism...which can still be ugly. Filters are there to try to help us make sense of what is being said.
When it comes to reading Scripture, though, sometimes our filters aren't so helpful. Which is why this Bible Study has been a challenge and an eye opening experience. My filters are much different than the author's. I have been forced to look at what the Scripture actually says, not what we have conjectured into the story, to seek answers and understanding. Even then, my filters put things in that are not there...Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem...wait, what? There isn't a donkey in that story?! Are you sure?!
Rejoining the Bible Study, I was very aware that they were on the 2nd book of women of the Bible (the study books were bought together...before we knew better) written by the same three men...which could be a whole different blog post but I'll leave most of my feminist instincts on the editing floor for the moment. This time I am going into the study with my eyes wide open. I read the Bible through a different filter. I'm okay with that.
*This post came about because of this blog...which my filter's are telling me is a little sarcastic.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
One of my friends works at the S.C. Beach Boardwalk. It's a place that I have spent many an hour...I worked at the wharf adjacent to the Boardwalk for a couple of years. The Boardwalk has a roller coaster called the Giant Dipper. It was built in 1924. A little while ago, the ride operators of the Giant Dipper realized that they were close having a million riders for 2010. They decided to do a little promotion and try to reach the 1 million rider goal by closing on December 31st. This last week anyone could come to the Boardwalk, pay for one ride and ride as many times as they would like. My Middle School Intern, Jon-boy, and I thought it would be fun to go and ride Giant Dipper and help them reach their goal. So Friday, Jon-boy, R-girl and I headed to the Boardwalk. We arrived about 2pm. Our friend LN was there as we boarded the train, all laughing and having fun. We got off and immediately got in line and went again. We got off and went back to the line for another go-round. That's when we heard the cheers...the train that loaded as we got off had the millionth rider on it. LN told us later that she knew that the train after ours would be the one with with the millionth rider. We respected her integrity in not giving it up so that we could be on the train. So Jon-boy, R-girl and I have the distinction of being riders 999,973, 999,974, 999,975 (or somewhere close to that) on the Giant Dipper for 2010. I think that's a great way to end the year!
Goodbye 2010...thanks for the memories.