Wednesday, September 19, 2012

september is a little goofy, i mean, Goosey.

Hi people.  It's good to be back after a week.  
Let me introduce you to the Wild Goose.

Did you know that, in Celtic Christianity (early Christianity in what is now Ireland and Great Britain), the Wild Goose was a symbol for the Holy Spirit?  Fascinating, I know.  Bear with me...

As boring as this may initially sound, let me tell you: I have a revelation in store for you; it might rock your world.  And it all popped into my head this week- in the midst of crazy, chaos-filled, September, back-to-school frustration!

The Celtic Christians (we think) considered the wild goose to be a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which is interesting (yes it is!) to us, because we often associate the Spirit with a dove, or something equally as peaceful.  But, the Celts were on to something with the use of this bird, because in days like these it's difficult to think the Spirit is anywhere to be found.  

Let me explain...

We've been going bonkers at church trying to get programming off the ground.  We plan things and either a bunch of people show up (wonderful!) or hardly anyone (major bummer!).  We're having a hard time knowing if we're asking too much of people, or not expecting enough.  We are also considering the fact that we might be offering too much, which is quite possible.  

In any case, as a staff, and as individuals who are trying to transition from summer to fall, and everything that goes with it, we've been feeling a little spiritually depleted.

The image of the Wild Goose brought to mind the geese that I see on a regular basis.  They're usually in some disgusting little batch of sewage water on the side of the road near a strip mall.  Their natural habitat used to be there, but now it's been overtaken by the busyness of consumerism and capitalism that surrounds it.  Just like the church, peoples' lives are so consumed by choices, and the ability to do other things, that the church has been pushed out of its natural habitat.  We're in the world, but not of it.  And, it's a weird and anxiety-ridden feeling, at times.  

But, none of the craziness is going to go away.  So, I thought: time to reframe.  Could it be that this chaotic time of year is, in fact, the work of the Wild Goosey Spirit?  Is the Spirit trying to tell us something new, push us around a bit, honk loudly at us, and tire us out as we attempt to fly in perfect formation for the upcoming program year?  Maybe it's okay to be in the muck on the side of the road because it teaches us something.

I'm learning that in order to find joy in this life, we have to embrace a Spirit like the Wild Goose. One that is unpredictable, loud, annoying, squawking, dirty, and lacks a place in the world.  I have to accept this kind of Spirit because, like the Wild Geese, we must fly together and help each other when we're tired in order to get to a better destination for the months ahead.  We must be open to re-formation, to let a new goose take the lead, to trust that the wind will carry us, that our wings will not fail us, and that we've done this a whole bunch of times before.  And, we have to become comfortable with the uncomfortable- our natural habitat is no longer.  The church is being being forced out.  And yet, seekers are still coming, if fewer in number.  And there is still a stirring among us to move- maybe we just have to fly up?

The Spirit is pushing me.  It's challenging me to be open to newness and change.  It's telling me to stop worrying about details and numbers, and focus on people who need a good word.  It's asking me to stop being upset at the little things, and to start enjoying this frenetic gift of a life.

Embrace the Wild, Goosey Spirit, friends.  It might be trying to tell you something.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

how God feels, today.

As soon as I woke up this morning I saw it- the posts about 9/11 were starting to pour into peoples' status updates.  I don't mind this.  In fact, I think it's good to remember that day.  All of us remember where we were that day, what happened, and how we felt when we saw those planes fly into the World Trade Center buildings.

It has been 11 years, now, and those images are still fresh in our minds.  

I want to suggest, though, something that I haven't seen in too many facebook posts, at least not yet, and not among my non-clergy friends.  It's a reality I think about often, but rarely suggest to others for fear of sounding pious or rude.  But, I figure on a day like today it's appropriate, and so I'll put it out there.  

On a day like today, when we remember those who died as victims, those firefighters and police officers who worked tirelessly for days in the rubble, and those who served in the war(s) following, should we remember, as well, how God felt on that day? how God has felt everyday since? how God, herself, remembers today?

This isn't a political question, or even a theological one, really.  It's just a table-turning kind of question. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that I am grateful to live in a country where many freedoms I enjoy everyday are protected.  But, I guess, that's not really the point of this post.

When inconceivable violence and evil occur in the world; when hatred evolves to such a level as terrorism; when extremist attack is followed by war; how does it make God feel?  And, is it important to reflect and pray upon this very question?  Would it make a difference if, in addition to remembering all the things we remember on this day, we also remember the way God felt as he saw his people- all his people- die such a horrible, tragic death? the way God felt when he saw what we could do to each other? 

My guess is that there are varying opinions out there on who God's people are, and I really don't want to get into that, here.  But, what I will say is this: I don't think God pays too much attention to human-made borders.  I don't think God separates his children by country, or by the governments that run them.  And, for that reason, I believe on 9/11/01, and in the days after, God wept for all humanity.  God knew what would happen in the days to come, and the pain that God felt, that God took onto his very self, was the pain of every human being in the entire world.  

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart." Genesis 6:5-6

God grieves.  And, we should remember that.

But, I'm guessing that there have been glimpses of hope that God has seen, as well.  And, we should remember that, too.  For God does promise a world of the future, where days like 9/11 will be a distant memory for us, and for him, as well.  These words from Isaiah 2 have been a promise for centuries- let's live into them and into the Kingdom of God, for God's sake and our own.

"There's a day coming when the mountain of God's House Will be The Mountain - solid, towering over all mountains. All nations will river toward it, people from all over set out for it.  They'll say, "Come, let's climb God's Mountain, go to the House of the God of Jacob. He'll show us the way he works so we can live the way we're made." Zion's the source of the revelation. God's Message comes from Jerusalem.  He'll settle things fairly between nations. He'll make things right between many peoples. They'll turn their swords into shovels, their spears into hoes. No more will nation fight nation; they won't play war anymore.  Come, family of Jacob, let's live in the light of God." Isaiah 2 (The Message)

I'll leave you with a video someone posted on Facebook this morning.  I love Cantus, anyways, but this hymn in particular is perfect for today.  It's called The Finlandia Hymn by Jean Sibelius.  It's beautiful.  Here are the lyrics:  
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
                                                a song of peace for their land and for mine.

Peace, friends.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

it's the little things.


I had a meeting last night with some folks at church who do the work that is usually thankless, goes unnoticed, can (I’m sure) feel monotonous, at times.  They’re just doing their part to make the world a better place, and they’re doing it with humility.  These people don’t ask for fanfare or recognition, but I try to pump them up once in awhile.  And maybe that’s because I, too, need to remind myself that the task of caring for people is ongoing, and while it is rewarding much of the time, there’s never a “job well done” kind of feeling.  Frankly, I think this is the reason so many people get burned out at church- we’re not good at thinking about the small things we do as having any kind of significance in the world, and that is entirely not true.

So, I read them these words from 1 John 3:
“This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.  If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.  My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love.”

Often times, I think, we get caught up with the word about Jesus “laying his life down for us” or “sacrificed his very life for us”.  And, while I think it’s important to reflect on the magnitude of what God has done there, it’s difficult for us to relate to.  Does God want us to give our lives too?  Is that what that means?  Or, maybe God doesn’t want us to die, but do we have to spend every waking hour trying to be better, do more, etc.?  The answer, clearly, is no.  But, what does God expect when he says that we should live sacrificially? 

Loving one anther, or laying down our lives for one another should 1) not be intimidating, and 2) we shouldn’t think too hard about it.  The love that we know about from Jesus doesn’t have to stay rooted in the past as some unattainable ideal.  We know what Jesus has done, and his act propels us do what we can- to love, and give the world hope that God is still among us.  In other words, if you have any inkling that your life has somehow been transformed by the love of Christ, then you have new life- life abundant.  And you can lay down that life for anyone or everyone you meet- whether it’s through a note or a phone call, a smile to someone on the street, or lending a helping hand when it’s needed.

I loved this quote from a professor I’ve read before.  He says, “To give one's life in this way, in imitation of Jesus' own love, is more than simply a result of believing; it is the concrete shape that belief takes in the world, and the presence of such giving is a sign that God's love is present and active.  If we don’t continue to act, even in the smallest ways, the love of God in Christ is not made known to the world.”

So, friends, keep doing what you’re doing.  Actions speak louder than words (not always true- heck, you’re reading words, now!).  Acting like Jesus, or “laying down your life” isn’t so bad.  Yes, sacrifice implies giving something up, or losing a little bit of yourself for the sake of another, but it can be on a small scale most of the time.  It's these little acts that add up, these tiny ways in which we lay down our life that make all the difference.  In fact, with God’s help, it’s transforming the world, bit by bit.

“My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

i shouldn't be left alone.

I have been all alone since Friday morning.  Well, I mean, I've interacted with human beings, but my husband left me (!) from Friday to Monday night (okay, just for the weekend, but still?!).  For an extreme extrovert this is a long time to be alone.  So, I've been getting projects done... half done- I'm also a little disorganized so I "project hop" from one thing to the next (Mom, if you are reading this, you know I get this from you!).  I've run, spent quality time with my dog, done a little cleaning and shopping, cooked, napped, and rested a bit.  I guess it's been alright to spend some time alone, but I'll be honest and say I can't handle much more of this!!

I AM grateful for Labor Day Weekend, however.  

Timber is doing a really good job, lately, of staying on the porch while I do projects.  This was in the midst of cleaning out my car, which, I'll be frank, NEEDED IT.  I got that turquoise tin tub in the background there at an estate sale on Friday that was amazing.

Timber waits for scraps in the kitchen... no success.

I love my house, I love my kitchen, I love exposed brick in my house/kitchen.  And check out the little system for opening the window above the back door.  Ugh, I would've hated to live in this house a hundred years ago in the summertime, when opening that window would have been necessary.

I made butternut squash soup.  No recipe, really, but I boiled hunks of squash, poured out most of the water, added chicken boullion and italian spice, salt and pepper, and then I used my hand blender to blend it with a little sour cream at the end.  Also good with some parm on top.

Also, I'm coloring.  With markers.

And, for a final confession, I mix funfetti cake mix with sugar free vanilla creamer.  It's a delicious little dessert.  But, it's also why I shouldn't be left alone!

Have a great Labor Day, tomorrow!