Monday, May 1, 2017

Ding Dong Ditch


When I was a kid my mom and I would look forward to May 1st.  Near our home there was an abandoned piece of property that was full of daffodils every spring.  Mom would drive us over and we'd pick them together, and form them into small bouquets.  Then the fun began. We would drive to the homes of the church women who meant so much to both of us.  We would park far away, walk up, place the flowers on the doorstep, ring the bell, and run! The best part was when the door opened and our beloveds would look around and pick up the flowers and smile.  

I've been thinking about those women a lot lately as I ponder my own life and my role in the world and church.  Most of those women who received the bouquets have finished this life, leaving wonderful memories in the lives of so many people.  They gave so selflessly of their time, talents, and even money, that their legacy is one that will live on for a long time.  I miss them.  At the same time I wish I could figure out how to gather up all the women who have been such sources of encouragement and strength in my adult life.  Many of you reading this are probably a part of that group.  Imagine what could happen if all of us were together sitting around the fire-pit with a beer (or a glass of ginger ale).  I imagine laughter that would wake the neighbors.  Trusting relationships are such a gift, even when most of us do not see one another very often.

I imagine that in many neighborhoods these days dinging someone's doorbell and running could be pretty dangerous.  In fact, how comfortable are we when someone rings our doorbell these days?  It doesn't happen very often where I live.  The other thing that doesn't happen all too often are those little random acts of kindness, like leaving someone a little gift, encouraging someone anonymously, or just assisting someone on the spur of the moment.  

Our Student Food Pantry had an excess of macaroni and cheese as the school year drew to a close so we decided we would hand it out in the University Center.  It was kind of funny how suspicious students were of taking something free.  What were the strings attached to this box of mac n cheese?  What were they signing up for?  Was it expired?  Were we crazy?

Suspicious.  The world is suspicious these days.  We look at one another through eyes of suspicion before we learn one another's stories.  We assume that those who look different, act different, or dress different, must be bad or less, or weird.  I wonder what our distrust causes us to miss.  Have we missed out on opportunities to surprise one another with kindness?  Have we  hurried away from strangers at the expense of God-given opportunities for relationship and connection?  Do we unintentionally avoid the unknown because we are so busy, so focused, or so afraid?

We are heading into Pentecost and the story from Acts 2 of when the Holy Spirit comes down like flaming tongues, resting on the heads of those who gathered.  The people were speaking in their native tongues when all of a sudden they could understand one another.  The suspicious in the crowd began to wonder if these people were drunk, but it was early.  They were sure a bunch of celebrating, loud, odd, people.  They spoke of this as what had been predicted by Jesus, the very one who had been crucified and raised from the dead.  Of course they were suspicious!  Of course they thought this gathered crowd was filled with a bunch of nutcases.  Their suspicion may have left them with this understanding unless they got to know the people that were there that day, heard their stories, and shared in their awe and joy of fulfilled promises and faith.

It's a challenge to trust people these days.  I think we are called to think the best about others until they prove otherwise.  Rather than entering into situations with eyes of suspicion, think of what we might encounter if we listened first, looked for ways to be kind, shared our hearts!  We may just realize that we are all much more alike than we are different.  We might see through the eyes and hearts of the "other" with whom we are certain we could never agree.  The hard and fast positions we take for and against might soften and even change as we embrace the persons behind the stereotype.

I'm thankful that my mom taught me to share joy with others those May days in my past.  I believe the joy I saw on those faces is universal and that in some small way God has called us to share in those moments with each other...even if it is done anonymously.

How is our suspicion preventing us from living into the Kingdom of God?
I'm choosing trust today, I hope you might too.

Happy May Day!


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Darkness




It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the 
temple was torn in two. 
Luke 23: 44-45


Darkness.  I don't know about you, but I feel like everywhere I look these days there is darkness.  When it is dark we are unable to distinguish what is real, it is hard to see even that which may be right in front of our eyes.  I don't remember if I was scared of the dark as a child, if nightlights were a part of my life or if I feared monsters or the like.  I have wonderful memories of being outside at night, playing basketball with my Dad or swimming in the pool with the light on and watching the fireflies and other night creatures with curiosity.  Darkness allows for our minds to make great leaps.  Imagining what is in the dark is what can get me scared.

As an adult I have had some amazing adventures, travelling places I never thought I would go and building relationships with people I never thought I would meet.  One of these places is in Kenya, at our children's home.  The darkness in Kenya can seem really dark, as there is limited access to electricity.  We would wear headlamps and the children would laugh.  They were so used to being in the dark that it didn't phase them.  Should we have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night it meant crawling out of your bed, which was covered by a mosquito net that had been tucked in around you, and then heading for the outhouse type bathroom.  Walking out in the dark in Kenya could be a little scary.  The noises were different, the air was different, and I was always expecting a large spider, snake, or bat to follow me right into that little space.  Thankfully it didn't because I know if I had screamed the children would have come running as they were always concerned about our safety.

Another time I found myself on a trail in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia with my soul sister and our bikes.  We took a wrong turn and ended up trying to ride our bikes on a trail that got smaller and smaller, covered with nettle, and then it started raining.  In the midst of all of this it was getting darker and darker and we kept seeing bear poop all over.  I knew the bears were eating dinner by this time and I was certain that I might be the evening meal.  My mind raced as I began to sing loudly every song I could think of, in hopes that the bears wouldn't want to eat me.  Now that I am out of that forest I realize how ridiculous I was, but at the time, in the emotion and fear of the moment, the threat seemed very real.

Today is Good Friday, one of the most solemn and holy times of worship each year.  It is the day we recognize and embrace the sacrifice, the suffering, and the grief of Jesus and those who loved Him.  Everything is dark in worship this day, though the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day outside.  Darkness can sneak up on us sometimes.  I wonder as the people gathered around the crosses if they were really aware that darkness had descended upon them.  The events of the last days of Jesus' life unfolded so quickly, from parades and donkeys to courts of law and criminals.  It all seemed to go downhill so quickly.  The disciples were afraid for their own lives so they hid, their lives turned upside down with the arrest and punishment of the one they had come to know as the Messiah.  Darkness hung in the air as their identities as leaders of this new movement became something to hide.  Darkness can cause us to ask that difficult question, "Who am I?"

I imagine this is the very question Jesus' mother asked herself many times, the same for Lazarus who'd been brought back to life, the same for the blind man, the bleeding woman, the woman at the well, Jairus and his daughter, and the countless other people that had been touched by the ministry of Jesus and his disciples.  Perhaps you have experienced that creeping darkness too.  I have.  There have been times in this last year when pondering that question of "Who am I?" has overwhelmed, saddened, and defeated me.  When things seem so complicated that a solution is nowhere to be found, when that voice in my head tells me I'm not doing enough, working hard enough, just plain enough...that's when the darkness creeps in.

Today I have been thinking about this darkness.  I think in some ways darkness defines our worth.   That day as Jesus was nailed to the cross and the darkness fell over the earth I can only assume that the people began to wonder about their identity.  The darkness only emphasized the mission: that God would go to the scariest, worst, murkiest place in order that we realize our worth.  Maybe it's in the dark times that we set aside our pride, our egos, even that which makes us self-conscious or passive. The darkness is a level-playing field, the place where we like those who were there that day near the cross, realize that it is the love of God that connects us, and that we really are all in this together.  If Jesus went through this for me, He did it for you too....and for all other people.  Suddenly all that divides us seems so petty, so ridiculous, so sinful.

The death of Jesus is easy to overlook as we head quickly into Easter celebrations and resurrection worship services, but I think we need to stay right here.  In this space of grief, of fear, of the unknown, this is where we can grasp onto the immeasurable gift of a God who knows us, not one who judges us harshly for our failures and weaknesses, but a God who embraces us in our sadness, one who comes alongside when the road gets dark, when we can't see our hands in front of our faces, when we think the "bears" that we cannot see are going to come and get us.

Who am I?  Who are you?  Really think about it.  Who ARE you?  Whose are you?

What gives us worth, what defines us?

Oh God, help us live with intention, help us relate to one another as human beings, show us how to make peace, show us how to bring light into the darkness of power-hungry politics and warring madness.  Help us to look in the mirror and recognize that our very breath is of You, that if we have life we have purpose.  Make us light.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Turn them Over


It's Holy Week.  That's why lots of the preachers you know are blogging today.  I am joining the bandwagon, I suppose, but as always expect that you all know that this blog is just the place where I empty my brain after it chews on things for way too long.  
I preached yesterday for Palm Sunday.  It was the most difficult Palm Sunday sermon I've ever preached because I spent so much time reflecting on the juxtaposition of the two worlds in which we live.  We are citizens in the Kingdom of God, yet we are also people of the world.  We are the people living in a world where children are the victims of chemical warfare, where bombs are dropping, where equality seems mythical and racism and stereotypes run rampant.  Into this mess and chaos rides in Jesus, the Prince of Peace while on the other side of town Pilate enters on his stallion surrounded by battalions of soldiers told to keep the people in line.  Struggles for power, chaos, greed, all these continue to plague our communities just as they did at that very moment in Jerusalem.  And I wonder what my role is in this in-breaking of Christ. What happened to the power and prophetic voice of my denomination?

Today the Scripture speaks of Jesus turning over the tables in the temple.  

I think Jesus was a pretty understanding guy, all in all.  I mean his patience and care for people who just didn't get it is clear in nearly every part of the Gospel stories.  That's not an easy task, to genuinely care for the very people who question and doubt your identity.  This day Jesus got mad,  he'd had it.  Turning the Temple into an opportunity to exploit the poor by charging extra to change money for the purchase of sacrificial animals was unacceptable.  I really don't think Jesus was mad that they were selling things, but that in doing so it became another way to harm, persecute, and shame people who were already marginalized. The tables were turned and the message was clear.  It was one of Jesus' boldest moves - an emotional reaction at this highly dramatic space of time when it seems that everyone was watching his every move.  He must have been frustrated, Jesus must have just plain been done.  Done playing the games that society had demanded of him, done keeping his mission out of the light of day, just plain done.  

Do you ever feel like that?  I do. Sometimes situations seem so chaotic, so utterly broken, so hopeless, so maddening that we just have to act, to say something, to turn over the tables of injustice.  There are some tables I'd love to turn over in my larger church context.  These are the things that we are so distracted by, so entrenched in, so afraid of, that we have become unable to focus on what it is that we are called to do as the Body of Christ in the world today.  The tables in the temple of the UMC are keeping us trapped, stuck, and limiting our ability to live out our own theological truths.  

Here are some of the tables I'd love for Jesus to turn over:

  • TABLE ONE:  FEAR OF SCARCITY.  When we are afraid that there will not be enough to go around we make rash decisions about what is most important.  We begin to hold onto the things that are most important to us, rather than what is best for the health of the whole.  Often the things we grip are the very archaic understandings and "things" that got us into the space we find ourselves.  When we operate out of scarcity it is impossible to think creatively or come up with God-sized vision or hope.  


  • TABLE TWO:  JUDGMENT.  Judgment is also often rooted in fear and an attempt to maintain control or to keep things manageable or the same.  We judge based on our understanding and experience of what is right and wrong, often without regard for the "other."  Some judgments are helpful and keep us safe, but right now our church is divided and trapped by useless judgment.  We will not welcome people into our fellowship if they don't love who we want them to.  We won't allow persons called by God to preach, to do so if they are in loving relationships that are different than what we have been used to.  Judgement causes us to look backward to the 'good ol' days' though those days are long gone  (or never really existed) and this prevents God from doing a new thing in our midst.  We are so busy deciding what God would do, that we seem to be forgetting that it's God that judges, it's God that calls, whether we like it or not.  Imagine what could be accomplished through the UMC if we set our judgments aside looked beyond our differences, and stood together to bring light into the darkness of the world.  
  • TABLE THREE:  SELF PRESERVATION.  This one is more personal for me than it should be.  In a denominational system that was built upon "boots on the ground" ministry with and for all people, we have become a top-heavy, slow-moving institution.  What if we tipped this institution on its head, giving the local churches the power and authority, asking those who reside "above" us in the hierarchy to think out of the box, to work with and not against the little people (like me) at the very bottom of the food chain?  What would it mean for funding to be sufficient for dreams to become realities for small communities of faith, for budgets to be less focused on paying the good old boys and more focused on listening to the movement of the Holy Spirit.  Yes this would mean change, yes this would mean ministries may stop, but it also means that we could have some space for new birth, for cooperative ministries, shared power, and relationships based on listening and trust.  


  • TABLE FOUR:  CONVENTIONALITY:  Jesus was not a conventional Messiah.  He was not concerned with living into the Messianic identity that the people desired.  He wasn't in ministry to please the establishment or further the Pharisaic notions of rule-following faith and obedience.  He did what he was called to do and he did it in the name of the God who called him to act, to love, to live and he didn't apologize.  We can't be so afraid of failure that we become meek, politically correct, and voiceless.  This is what makes ministry so much fun, and so terrifying at the same time.  When God gives us ideas, when the Spirit takes us places we've never dreamed, when we face the giants of budget cuts and buildings falling apart, that's the very time we must think and embrace something new.  Change our hearts, Oh God....help us not only to think bigger, but to take the steps to make unconventional ministry the new norm.  Friends, we can't become so concerned with keeping things comfortable that we allow ourselves to be held hostage by the past.  Standing still, or looking back leads to death.  

There are other tables that need to be turned over.  There are tables in our own lives that prevent us from fully living out the life of discipleship that God has in store for us.  We are a work in progress, but can only reach our God-potential when we, like Jesus, look beyond the boundaries and barriers that keep us separated and divided and stay true to our call to LIVE our faith, to be uncomfortable and open minded, to be Spirit-led, to speak for those who are voiceless.  

We are living in a time of chaos, in a time where truth is hard to discover and uncover.  The time is now for us to get over ourselves and be the church God has called us to be.  

See, this is the thing that taints you when you work with college students.  They're not afraid to dig deep into their beliefs, they know what kind of church they want, they know that living faith is the only kind of faith to have in response to Jesus, and they make those of us "older adults" that  love them realize that life is too short to sit around assuming we know what God wants/thinks.  

My prayer for today is that Jesus would turn over the tables in my life and in the life of the UMC, that we would boldly and courageously step into the future as the church that offers grace, mercy, freedom, salvation, and hope to ALL people.  

Boy do we have a long way to go.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Do not be afraid, I am with you.


"I love you, and you are Mine."

This little one is getting a bit of assistance from his older sister as his hand is traced.  We wanted to make sure these children know that they are special, important, and loved.  We had them trace their hands and write their names inside the outline.  Their names are written on the hands of the One who created them. Your name is written too.  We are known. We are claimed.  

The Choctaw people in Mississippi have a history of tragedy as do most Native tribes.  Some of the older members of this tribe spoke of being removed from their homes and sent to places in the Midwest where they were put into public schools and forced to speak English, though their native language was all they had ever known.  They spoke of punishment enforced when they did not understand the rules as elementary age children.  Everything that kept them safe and protected had been removed from their grasp.  We heard of the struggle to embrace one's identity while as a young person it was the very thing you were told to hide.  We were invited in, by toddlers with open arms, middle-schoolers with way too much energy, and the elders who taught us how to sing Amazing Grace in the native tongue.  We ate fry bread and hominy, while we fed the community tacos and spaghetti.  We learned something new about God as we looked into the depth of those beautiful brown Choctaw eyes.  

It continues to take me time to process our recent mission adventure to Mississippi.  For me, mission trip is always a whirlwind of a week.  In the midst making sure tasks get accomplished and people feel useful, checking to see if relationships are built and tended, and of course challenging souls to be open to The Christ in our midst each day, I can get a bit overwhelmed. Just when I start to get the hang of having all these people around I find myself back in Big Rapids thinking about it all.  

Saturday night a group of the Wesley House gang went to see The Shack.  I remember vividly my first read of this book when it was published.  I loved it.  Some of my students read it this fall for our Wesley Book Club, and we all agreed that there were some descriptions of this God-encounter that made us want to go and see for ourselves.  I was afraid that the movie would ruin the beautiful pictures I had within my imagination of this story, but it only reinforced the beautiful mystery that pervades the journey of faith.  Sure, there are those people who inevitably will cry out that this is all fake, that it goes against Scripture, but I am betting these are the same people who will be utterly surprised at who their neighbors are in heaven.  If you haven't read the book, do it.  If you haven't seen the movie, do that too.  Just remember to go with an open Spirit because you never know what God might say to you in the midst of the story.  

There's a scene in the movie that really caught me. I'm not going to give anything away, don't worry.  There's a moment where there are a bunch of children playing. One of them is the main character's daughter who was tragically taken from his life.  To see his daughter was his deepest need, of course.  What moved me about it was not their reunion, but what happened next.  As Jesus entered into this child-like chaos the daughter ran away from her dad into Jesus' arms.  He scooped her up in this beautiful embrace and they went back to playing in the mob of laughing, goofy children.  While much of this story is touching and continues to make me ponder and live into the mystery of God, this moment with children had me needing some serious Kleenex.  


 "Let the children come to me."

Children know how to receive love.  They run to be embraced, seek out the safety of a hug, reach out for a reassuring hand, show their sadness and their joy, and don't worry about what other people might think or say about them.  In that moment in this movie I thought of all the children in my life that have shared their lives and love with me, those young spirits that have taught me more about God's identity than I could ever learn from theology books.  I also thought about our little friends down in Choctaw.  We came in as strangers and they embraced us, we asked them to play silly games and they did, all we had to do was show up and show love.  


Jesus was clear that children were important and that this new way of life was going to be radically different.  It wasn't about following the new set of rules or setting up barriers, it is about freedom.  I learned a lot from the Choctaw children and the freedom with which they entered into our lives.  I wonder how different the world would be if as we age we could retain this innocent openness.  If the political-correctness of the world didn't creep in an squelch out our excitement to play, to love, and to embrace others.  

I loved that scene because I imagine that one day when we meet Jesus we will be so uninhibited that we too run to him, get scooped up and overwhelmed by Love.  So many humans lack the ability to fully receive love, which causes us to do all sorts of things to fix and fill our emptiness.  I see this everywhere, all the time in ministry.  Sometimes I think I'm in ministry because people just need to feel a little love and acceptance, need a hug or reassurance that in all things we are not alone.  For me this is what heaven is going to be like.  All this judgment and nastiness will be drowned out by cries of joy, our fears will be overwhelmed by understanding, and we will recognize our 
belovedness.  

I won't soon forget the little-people hugs I received on mission trip, I will continue to see their faces when I take the time to reflect on my experience.  The thing I love about the story of The Shack is that it just could be true.  Rather than trying to disprove every single thing that might be different than our own thinking, I love to sit with the idea that this depiction of Loving God just might be.  

I'm going to be seeking out the inner-child in the people around me.  Often that's the easiest part to love, anyway.  Remember friends, your name is written on the palms of God's hands.  You are known.  You are loved.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Throwed Rolls

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.  Hebrews 13:1-2

We gathered together on Friday night, the mission team and most of the adults.  Our motley crew of worn-out-from-midterms students had some fun getting to know one another, eat pizza, and of course take the inevitable trip to Meijer for all things last minute!  The team was beginning to come together, finally after weeks of preparation, planning and prayer.  The early moments of mission trips always remind me of Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones in the desert, coming together tendon and bone with the very breath of God.  No matter how ragged we may feel when we pack our bags and pile into vans the connecting, the laughter, and the stress fade as we leave behind everything we know and enter into the mystery of the unknown and the excitement of adventure through service.  

The day started out a little rough.  It was early.  We had to wait.  But before we knew it we were heading south, singing "Gary, Indiana..." until we actually got there and our bus broke down.  Thankfully it was near a place that it could be fixed, or so we thought.  As we started back out the same thing happened again, and again we found a place that would fix the problem (for real this time) and they didn't even charge us a dime.  

By the time we arrived to Sikeston, MO we were all ready to get out of the cars, tired and very hungry.  We were greeted by Sandy, the warm and welcoming church secretary at First UMC in Sikeston.  They are allowing us to stay here tonight and really being gracious to us.  After dragging in our belongings we decided to head over to Lamberts, the place where they throw your rolls at your head.  The place where everyone else in this entire world decided they'd eat tonight too. That's one of the moments when I realized what a gift it is to be with these young adults who are excited about trying something new, who are generally patient with one another, and who were willing to wait for this unique and fun (not to mention delicious) southern meal.  

These two young gentlemen worked at the restaurant.  Obviously, one is the roll-thrower, a high-demand, job that requires good aim and an effort to please.  The other guy was filling drinks and in the midst of it all went out of his way to flirt with a few of our gals.  By the end of dinner everyone had a great time of fellowship, was way too full, and had made some new friends with the servers.  What a place, and what a great way to end a long day.  

Entertaining angels is an interesting concept, isn't it?  It makes us really aware of who is around us, who it is that might be sent from God to show us something or share something profound with us.  Sometimes this takes the form of a new friend or a deep conversation.  Other times it might show up like a roll thrown at your head when you're weary.  

We entertained angels today.  I expect we will encounter some more along the way.  For today I am filled with gratitude for the grace and care that surrounds me, for the friendships that are deepening and blooming in the midst of this trip, for people offering to help, for above and beyond hospitality, and for a God who works in mysterious and powerful ways.

Have a good night everyone!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Surrounded


Tonight is my last night in my comfy bed.  My days have been filled with excitement this week as I prepare to head to Mississippi with a group of 19 students and 5 other adults.  We are headed to work with a mission located on the Choctaw Reservation and will spend time on projects as well as with the local foster children and seniors.  I can't wait to get loaded up and pull away from campus, because I know the anxiety and fear of many of my students will lessen as they leave midterm exams behind and begin to share in this adventure together.  

Our ministry together at FSU Wesley House is rooted in serving others.  Whether it is inside our building, offering food and community or outside our walls in the community, I am surrounded by young adults that want to make the word a better place, if what we do helps one person or many.  For me this trip signifies a transition in student leadership as we have a large number of graduates this spring.  I have worked closely with nine students, sharing in their lives and recognizing their amazing leadership gifts. I can't wait to see what God is going to do this next 9 days as they lead us in devotions, work together with brand new faces, to accomplish goals but most importantly build relationships.  I know they are not technically my "kids" but they sure make me super proud to serve in this ministry.  More than pride, though, I find that I am constantly humbled to my core.

I often wonder what I have done to deserve this life I lead.  I know I have worked hard to earn degrees and that I work long hours and don't see my family as often as I'd like to.  I know that I am often far too driven to prove, earn, and accomplish.  I just don't want to miss out on anything, you know?!  Life goes way too fast to sit still.  I am proof that with God things you never imagined can become a reality.  

Everyday lately I've been praying the same thing when I wake up.  It is a bit like the Celtic Prayer above and it goes something like:
"God, please help me to get myself out of the way.  Help me to be as positive and encouraging as I can, to recognize your image in every person I meet, to really receive Your love and share it in word and through the things I do."  
This is my mission trip prayer of preparation as I look forward to little sleep, hearing my name a billion times a day, and watching young people learn new skills, share in faith, and get overwhelmed by what they learn about this new culture in which they are immersed.  

In closing I'd like to share a song with you.  It's one that I've loved for a while now, hope you might like it too!



AMEN!


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ashes, Baby Giraffes, and Hope




These two pictures were taken in 2010 when I went on a life-changing trip to Kenya.  Not only did I connect with an organization and children that I will support for the rest of my life (www.hthm.org) but I went on a safari that blew my mind.  I've always loved animals, but was not prepared for the beauty of these creatures in their natural habitats.  I have hundreds of pictures of lions and water buffalo, stinky hippos, wildebeests, elephants, monkeys and ostriches.  I can almost go back there just by looking at these photos.  That trip was truly a life-changer.

For the last few days I've been checking in on April, the giraffe in NY that is expecting a calf any day.  The animal park has placed a webcam in her pen and the response from people all over the world has been quite surprising to them.  People are thrilled to watch and wait, asking questions and tuning in for chats with the zoologists and animal caregivers.  Every day people are asking "when will the baby come?"  or wondering if something is wrong because progress is slow.  

The gift of life causes us to pause, to be filled with wonder and hold our breath.  Hundreds of thousands of people are staring at the back end of giraffe with hopes of catching a glimpse of this miracle.  It may be a giraffe, but it represent so much more than that.  This little camera gives us an inside view of something beautiful, something we long for these days.  Without realizing it Animal Adventure Park in NY has given us all a sense of hope.

"Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.  Repent and believe in the Good News," are two statements you may have heard today if you attended an Ash Wednesday service.  Lent has arrived and we have again been given an opportunity to dig into our faith-lives, to look honestly at our connection with God and God's story of redemption for the world.  

When we remember that we come from dust and will return to dust we are humbled.  We realize we are a small speck in the overall picture of what God has done and continues to do.  The astonishing thing in that realization is that though we are a small pile of dust we have been breathed into life by the very God of the cosmos.  This is the God who wants more than our Lenten sacrifices of chocolate or diet coke.  This is the God who wants all of us.  I mean all of you, and all of me.  No holding back the things we think God may not like, no keeping control of the things that we must do or accomplish to try and earn God's love.  Ash Wednesday means we have a limited time on this earth.  It means that we are all on the same playing field no matter what color our skin, which politicians we support, or who we love.  It means that you are important because you are alive for such a time as this.  

People watching this giraffe with me keep telling the zookeepers what they "should" be doing.  They assume that what they see in this little camera is all there is, that they know more about how to deliver a baby giraffe than the vets who stand by off camera.  We do the same thing with God, I think.  We try to tell God our plans, how we should do things, what (S)He needs to be doing.  We take things on with passion and power of our own accord only to limit the perspective of success by failing to include the Cosmic Creator.  

So here I am again.  My students asked me about this blog which surprised me because I am generally a failure at keeping this going.  Who's to say this time it won't stick as a spiritual discipline, which can only help to keep me grounded. Time will tell, I suppose.  For now, for this Lent I am going to give up control, fear of failure, and frustration.  I am going to remember that what I see at any moment is like that little camera focusing on the giraffe.  That in the background God has things in store that we cannot yet see or understand.  I am going to choose everyday to trust in God and try to live into that relationship despite my short-comings and quirks.  

Join me on this adventure.  My joy is to share a bit of this journey with you, in hopes that you will share your Lent journey with me.  We never know what we may encounter on this road!