vision

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From early on in my almost 20 years of pastoring, people in the two churches I’ve served have asked me, “What is your vision?” Vision and strategy, it may surprise you to know, were not taught in seminary. Now, I’m not opposed … Continue reading

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remember that you are dust…

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I did not grow up observing Ash Wednesday. It simply was not a part of the tradition in which I was raised. And when my colleague, Steve, and I first decided to hold an Ash Wednesday service nearly 20 years ago in a joint service of our two congregations, I was nervous. Continue reading

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go and do likewise

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I woke up early this morning with a thought. Clear as day. I am certainly not the first person to think this, of course, but I felt compelled to write it down and share it anyway. What I’m about to … Continue reading

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advent: day one

Redwood ExtremeIn the midst of all of the internet cultural warfare over the last few weeks, and no small amount of societal angst, some prayerful reflection for the season.

 
 

Not too many days hence, and the Christ will emerge from the womb.
The glory that spans the Universe will find its home in one tiny life.
The love that gave birth to all life will itself be given birth,
     a home, a family made of flesh and blood.
The grace that called Israel out of bondage will rise up,
     at first, like a child at play under the quilt on her parents’ bed,
     then as a redwood from a sea of crabgrass or low-growing moss.
All Creation will turn and look and gasp in disbelief and hope.

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detachment

If I could sit on that bench,IMG_3589

look back across the green and see myself,

then I would be

detached,

some distance from the false self that is me.

What part of me would go and sit there?

What part of me would be left over here?

Would we gaze at each other, my false self and I?

The me that is there is far more trusting,

far more at peace, freer, calmer, more aligned with God’s purposes,

less fearful, less angry and judgmental,

and okay with the reality that not everyone sees the world as I do

(nor do they have to).

Yes, no doubt, the view from that bench would do me and all who know me

a world of good.

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like depth in darkness

Yesterday I went to prison. That is, I went to visit someone in prison. When I arrived they were on “lock-down”, so the trip took a little longer than I expected. Once I finally got inside and was assigned my seat in the visiting room, however, it was a meaningful visit. After just under an hour the person I was visiting went back to prison life and I took a seat up against one of the Prisonwalls to wait for the next shuttle to take me back to the entrance.

As I waited, my eyes panned the room. There must have been 75 people in there, all talking loudly, some with great animation. Prisoner visitation was limited to 2 hours and it was obvious that some intended to enjoy their full two hours with a loved one – a brother, a boyfriend, a son, a husband, or a father – who, for one reason or another was “doing time.” What struck me as I looked at their faces was their personhood, each of them sharing joys, walking through pain and suffering to one degree or another, longing to love and be loved. I reflected on how God looked at that room, what God thought about those sitting there, talking, laughing, filling their 120 minutes with as much life and goodness as they possibly could. God loved them, of course; he looked at them, knew their sins, their mistakes, their faults, their wounds, their potential… and loved them. Period.

God’s love made me reflect on my own attitude toward these prisoners and their loved ones, and it reminds me of one of my favorite passages from the journals of Thomas Merton. On March 18, 1958, on a busy street corner in Louisville, Kentucky, Merton had a revelation that redefined how he understood his calling as a monk.

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers….There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

I’m sure that most people in that visiting room yesterday did not feel they were “shining like the sun,” but to the degree that they bore the image of God, to the degree God loved and loves them still, they did (and do). That room was holy. That space was sacred. And if that space and those people were holy, the same is true of each of us and each person we meet, be they strangers or intimate friends. These encounters we have each day, each moment of each day, are divine. That is, God is in them already, like warmth in sunlight, or depth in darkness. God is in them, and we will see that, if we will stand, watch, and listen long enough.

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sheep

Sometimes I feel like a sheep in wolves’ clothing…

How can no one see this? Are they blind?

Eventually, I’m sure, someone will find me out;

they will notice that I’m not what

I appear to be (or what I think I am, for that matter).

And they will shred me to pieces.

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