Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sometimes











Sometimes
     when you see me
I feel
     like I just crawled out
     from beneath a rock.

Sometimes
     when you call me
I feel
     like I want to hide
     behind a big ol' rock.

Sometimes
     when you're near me
I feel
     like I wan to stand out
     high on a mighty rock.

Sometimes
     when you surround me
I feel
     like I am so invincible
     leaning upon my rock.


Tiwago

  

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who Moved My Swiss Cheese?


All right boys and girls, here's a blast from my past - why did the church-mouse only eat swiss cheese? Because it was holy!

Many of us in business or government have read the tiny 1998 anti-tome by Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? This parable deals with how its different characters living in a maze relate to CHANGE. It includes 14 "proverbs":
  1. Having cheese makes you happy.
  2. The more important your cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it.
  3. If you do not change, you can become extinct.
  4. What would you do if you were not afraid?
  5. Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.
  6. Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.
  7. When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.
  8. Imagining yourself enjoying new cheese even before you find it leads you to it.
  9. The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.
  10. It is safer to search in the maze than to remain in a cheeseless situation.
  11. Old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese.
  12. When you see that you can find and enjoy new cheese, you change course.
  13. Noticing small changes early helps you adapt to the bigger changes that are to come.
  14. Move with the cheese to enjoy it.
I don't know how many church leaders have read this, but I'd recommend it. Although we are to be in the world and not of it, we unfortunately must adopt human management models to organize emotional fearful humans. When Church is what you are and not what you do, when your church is a congregation or a building, the outside can seem like a maze. When asked, many church-goers will admit that they go for the fellowship, family, inheritance. Others go for the music, or the youth programs, or the sermons, or the basketball court, or the...

What ever the cheese is, we hold onto it with a death grip, the fear of extinction becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. We need to periodically re-evaluate or vision, programs, missions and actions to see if our swiss cheese has gone blue on us. Change does not often come to us sitting still, we have to move even if we do not have the perfect plan. It is safer to go somewhere new and take up new ideas than it is to stay and hope a cheese delivery truck will just show up. Envision the new cheese. What is new cheese to us personally and to our churches? Is it new members? Is it a relationship with God? What? We have to drop the old cheese to free ourselves up and grasp this new cheese we see before us, When we see that we can, we do.

As leaders, our job is to help others identify the cheese, old and new. It is to witness that we can. It is to get others moving beyond the grasp of their own fears. It is to speak the prophetic word of moldy cheese. It is to help people shift with the tiny daily changes so it doesn't build up into one giant tidal wave of change.

Friday, January 29, 2010

xXx Goes aAa



The Three “A”s to Green (T.A.G.)

Let’s play - tag you’re it!  We are each of us members of communities both small (families, friends, co-workers, etc.) and large (neighborhood, village, state, etc.).  A community is held together by an interconnected web of rights, privileges, duties, relationships and dependencies; a social web of life.  Native Americans frequently considered nature to be an integral and participatory member of the community.  This concept has recently been gaining ground with the birth of the environmental movement and among western religions.  This is more of a personal relationship however than a political or corporate one.  It is the function of government to protect rights, assure opportunities of access to the benefits of membership in the community, and to balance conflicting rights, and responsibilities.  Since nature is silent it is up to us to give it voice.  Democracy is meant to be an interactive game, not a spectator sport.  You’re it; now how do you play the game?

There are three strategies to use during the game:  Activism; Advocacy; and Apathy (the three “A”s).  The activist fights against what is bad for the environment and society; the advocate fights for what is good.  The Advocate speaks out for preservation and holistic planning, while the advocate fights against incompatible projects, development trends, or short sighted “planning”.  The activists are the paramedics and firemen, and the advocates are the health professionals; bandages versus vitamins.  Both are equally important when working together in a complimentary fashion.  What is important is that both are active members of their community – the vocal minority.  The silent majority are those who from apathy or frustration are just along for the ride.  But do the apathetic truly not care, or are they feeling that they have been disenfranchised from the decision making process and that their input is not wanted or will have no impact?

If you don’t use your legs they will atrophy.  If we don’t use our freedoms we lose them.  How can we make an impact on environmental, preservation and quality of life policies?

  • Vote!  Very few exercise this right.  Many who do, make their decision based upon sound bites, advertising or looks.  Often the best campaigner wins, not necessarily the best candidate.  Make informed decisions; check out each candidate’s position and record on environmental, social or other issues important to you.  An excellent source for information on state and national candidates is the League of Conservation Voters at http://lcv.org, or at 1920 L St., NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC, 20036.

  • “Think globally, act locally” has become an axiom to the movement.  While there are numerous national and international organizations that do excellent and important work that merit our assistance, for true citizen participation, we must lend not just our money but also our time and effort within our own communities. 

  • Get involved with your community’s open space, environmental, or tree preservation committee, or if it doesn’t have anything like this, work to create something.


  • Many faiths are becoming more and more involved in preservation; especially issues of social and environmental justice.  Regional ecumenical and interfaith opportunities include:


Web of Creation
National Council of Churches, Eco-Justice Working Group
1100 E. 55th Street
Chicago, IL 

Faith in Place
c/o the Center for Neighborhood Technology
2125 W. North Avenue
Chicago, IL  60647-5415

Check with your church and explore your denomination’s web site for other local opportunities.

All ye, all ye out is free!  Get in the game.




(originally published in the Forest Preserve Citizen, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2004)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Take a Hike!



I like to hike. My feed is cheaper (marginally) than a horse's and bikes are tres expensive! But there is something about the word hike I don't like.

It is short and curt. Hike the football and run down the throats of the Packer's, er I mean the other team's defense. Starting with the aspirating sound of haunt, harm and havoc, it soon ends with a harsh abrupt glossopharyngeal click. Taking a hike sounds like serious business; if you've seen me walk you know better.

I prefer the word saunter! It starts with the lovely sibilant of perfectly good indirect movement words like sidle, sashay, and side-wind and then goes on to include the relaxing word sauna; now that's my style. A good walk isn't about getting somewhere on time, but about moving through and among the world and seeing, hearing and smelling. That, and I ain't as nimble as I once was...


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Memories of a Field Archaeologist





Contrary to how it may sometimes feel, I have not always been a Planner.  In a previous life I was a darn good field archaeologist.  In the 70s it was an expensive “hobby” that often involved dawn to dusk hours, seven days a week (try to have a home life that way!) as we rushed to excavate and record as much as we could before the bulldozers swooped in.  The strongest memory I have is my first Field School.  Field School is a cross between Boot Camp and Survivor.  It is a good barometer if you have what it takes; you actually pay them for the privilege of working yourself into a stupor!



Accommodations

It was the mid 70’s, and I was at a field school excavating a Middle Mississippian city known as the Ohrendorf site in western Illinois, a long way from my home in Danville.  The local Junior High in Canton was generous enough to donate space for us to sleep on their floors.  It was amazing how comfortable those linoleum floors soon became after a fourteen hour shift of “shovel scraping”.  The most memorable moment was standing in a building made mostly of glass watching several tornados bearing down on the town.  Although there was major damage to the community, we were fine.

The Work

We had started the summer thinking that we would have another field season next year to finish excavations, before the site became a strip mine for coal, but we were wrong; this would be our last chance to “save” anything.  Mitigation in archaeology is almost the opposite of what it is in the natural resource area; excavation of a site destroys the resource you are studying, only the data is saved.  We were in a hurry therefore.  We would all walk in a line back and forth across farm fields, placing flags for every single item found on the surface.  We would then use a transit to map the location of every single item for later analysis.  The areas with the greatest concentrations of artifacts and debris on the surface were assumed to be above intact sub-surface features.

Earthmovers were then brought in to remove the plow zone which had been disturbed by farming activity.  We would then come along behind with the sharpest (ouch) hand shovels known to man and shovel scrape acres and acres to a perfectly smooth surface.  Shovel scraping involved a technique where you brace your left forearm on your left knee cradling the balance point of the shovel, and clamp the end of the shovel handle with your right hand to your right hip.  If you bend your legs and swivel your hips in just the right rhythm, you would shave off a paper thin slice of soil and flip it into the waiting wheel-barrow in front of you.  This would reveal dark stains of fill in the pits, post holes, house basins and middens which stood out against the surrounding yellow clay.

These features would then be excavated in 3 cm. increments with hand trowels and whisk brooms, with all the soil sifted through screens or bagged and sent back to the lab for study.  All artifacts and the features would be mapped by hand in 3D detail.  The 900 year old city of 2,000 to 3,000 people that we were excavating had apparently all burned down at the same time, so there was a lot to map!

Working Conditions

Since I was paying, I guess it wasn’t technically slavery, but….   Since we didn’t know any better at the time, we wore as few clothes as descent (in most cases) to work on our tans and hair lightening.  Now though, I have to pay special attention to moles or other cancer markers and my hair is snow white naturally!  The weather was a major factor that year.  For two days we had 99º temperatures, with 130º heat index and 100% humidity.  The fog was so think that you could not see anyone else.  The only way you knew that there were 30 people out there working was the sound of trowels and shovels, and the occasional dirt clod hitting you upside the head!

Before the tornado hit, we were in the field trying to get stuff covered up.  Some of us were out in the open holding stadia rods for the surveyors as lightning was hitting around us.  There was a rumor going around that just the year before, one of the group had been hit by lightning while doing this and has stuttered ever since. Though it turned out to be false, it was very motivating: trying to flee the site as the gale front hit, the van was blown sideways in the slick clay into an already excavated pit and broke its axel.  So we all rode in the back of the pickups for a 20 minute ride in the storm to the school.

Food

My measure of any trip or vacation is the food.  I will forgive anything if well fed.  Archaeological Field Schools are the perfect weight loss diet.  Every single day, the 5:00 a.m. breakfast was corn flakes with powered milk.  Every day, lunch consisted of two PBJs (which fermented in the heat each time) and three salt tablets.  Luckily 5 days a week, the school lunch lady would come in and fix the typical school cafeteria food for supper; a relative delicacy.  Often though, people skipped supper (and the shower!) and went straight to bed from exhaustion or heat stroke.

Volunteer


As should be obvious by now, this was the greatest summer of my life!  I learned not only about archaeology, but also a lot about myself.  Although working conditions are much better now days (wimps), it is still something that I would highly recommend.

For field school or volunteer opportunities contact your local museums, colleges and universities, or check out the following:

  • Passport in Time, USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 31315
Tucson, AZ  85751-1315
Opportunities at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Elwood.

  • Archaeological Institute of America
Boston University
656 Beacon Street
Boston, MA  02215-2006
Opportunities across the world.

Next summer, dig into some fun.


(Adapted from the Forest Preserve Citizen, Vol. 22, No.4, 2004)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mission Statement Part 2

I'm continuing my quest to distill the "perfect" mission statement. It should be memorable to be usable - succinct and catchy. it should be applicable in life situations, on the job and while doing church. and it should be alliterative or rhyming; just for fun! The mission statement I'm enamored with today is "Preach, Teach and Reach".

To Preach is more than just aiming words at someone while sermonizing and testifying. Have you noticed that people who are passionate about something can't stop talking about it? Watch their face come alive! Such enthusiasm is contagious, it is an I'll have what they're having moment! Something that captures the imagination and releases such damned-up energy must be something to covet, worth time to explore, worth stopping and listening.

Once passion has opened the door to listening, we teach. When we are passionate we teach without thinking about it. Teaching is an act of reproduction; we share the genes of knowledge so as to give birth to something new,  to nurture hungry minds and thirsty souls, to raise up our replacements. We teach to prepare others for the day they go out. Preaching magnifies the light and starts a flame. Teaching refocuses preaching from internal consuming passion, and fans it into an external conflagration of action.

When scales fall off the eyes and vision can focus out beyond the edge of the nest, we reach. We reach out into the dark scary world. We reach out to shake hands in greeting and invitation. We reach out to hold hands in love and support. We reach out with helping hands to lift others up and with working hands to remove obstacles and barriers. We reach out to embrace a world in need of a good hug. Passion is an epidemic that spreads from contact, a pentecostal wildfire.

When others have felt the touch of our reaching they'll be more open to hear our preaching. The synergy of the cycle.

If you adopted this as your mission statement, how would you externalize your passion?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Need Your Help




I'm still working on Transfiguration Sunday's sermon. I'll be talking about transformations. On the Church calendar we transform from ordinary time after Epiphany to holy time at Lent. On the secular calendar we celebrate Valentine's Day and the transforming power of love.

Moses was so transformed that he had to wear a veil to hide his radiance. Jesus allowed his disciples to see his face radiant but commanded them to tell no one. I need your input on these questions I have:

1. What images do we have in popular culture involving being radiant and aglow?
2. What does it mean today to be transformed to the point that "the future's so bright that you have to wear shades"?
3. Why do you have to keep change hidden sometimes?


Saturday, January 23, 2010

What Are We That You Love Us So?

Created to create -
     we destroy.
Gifted to give -
     we take.

Blessed to bless -
     we curse.
Beloved to love -
     we hate.

Forgiven to forgive -
     we judge.
Here to be out there-
     we judge.

Small and
     mean and
          petty and
               narrow and
                    human -

We are loved!


Tiwago

Friday, January 22, 2010

Stewardship Part 3



So, the seventh day (aka the Sabbath) is dedicated to the Lord but we find it hard. Then, every seventh year  there is a year with 365 Sabbath Days (the Sabbath Year) and we find it impossible. Well, since God asks us to go beyond the impossible we shouldn't be surprised then to learn that at the end of a cycle of seven Sabbath Years (the year after the completion of the 49 year cycle) is the Yovel or Jubilee Year; downright outrageous! In one of those boring books of the Bible we seldom read, it says:

"And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you." Leviticus 25:10) and;

"The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is Mine; with Me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land." (Leviticus 26:23-24)

In the Jubilee Year, slaves and bondsmen were redeemed and set free and foreclosed land reverted back. The Sabbath Day reminds us that our time is God's time. The Sabbath Year reminds us that our fruit is God's fruit. The Jubilee reminds us that in spite of imaginings we do not own our brethren and our land, we are not in control, we are stewards for the Owner.

Jubilee has come to mean liberty. As a renter, I know that being a tenant has its obligations, but much less than being an owner. Jubilee frees use from serving things above God, from having to defend earthly treasure while losing sight of heavenly treasure, from separation from creation caused by our confused relationship with it. In other words, who owns creation?

"You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell." (Numbers 35:34)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stewardship Part 2



If you are like me, you probably did not know that last year was a Sabbath Year. (Or this year depending on your calendar.)

"For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your property may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat." (Exodus 23:10-11)

Resting the soil was an act of stewardship in a fragile environment. Like the weekly Sabbath, it was an act of worship and thanksgiving. We also use the word "stewardship" when we talk about money as if it too is something we can not own but manage for someone else.

"Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts." (Deuteronomy 15:1)

I'm sure that many of you reading this are thinking of Haiti in this context. There are calls for the countries of the world to forgive Haiti its current debts during this crisis. The Sabbath Year allows both creation and steward to be refreshed, so we also refer to it as a "Sabbatical Year".

"The Sabbath is made for people and, through them, for all the rest of God's creation. The Sabbath year is given to protect the land from relentless exploitation, to help rejuvinate, to give it a time of rest and restoration." (Calvin B. DeWitt; "Reading the Bible Through a Green Lens", in The Green Bible)

The feeding the poor and releasing of debts aspects extends this purpose to protecting the poor from relentless exploitation. Man is both part of creation and its servant. We can readily see in places like Haiti how the desperation of poverty can destroy the future  by destroying the land; destruction of forests for fuel and farmland, subsequent loss of fertile soil and slope erosion, overcrowding, etc. Poverty leads to resource depletion which leads to greater poverty. Helping Haiti restore its woodlands, farms and homes would be an act of eco-justice and righteousness. "Righteousness" is to be in a right relationship with the Creator; requiring us to repent and restore a right relationship with creation.

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stewardship

For years, it was the goal of the Forest Service and others to put out every single wild-fire immediately. We've since learned that many natural plant communities are dependent upon periodic fires. Sun-loving oaks need fire to keep down faster growing but less fire-resistant maples that would shade them out. Prairies need to burn once in a while to keep out trees, to minimize thatch build-up, and to recycle nutrients. The mighty sequoia's cone will not open and release their seeds without being "toasted".



We have now learned the value of this trial by fire, but now have a century's worth of tinder built up to deal with now which makes the fires much worse than they would normally have been. By trying to avoid the test we became less safe! Sounds like our lives doesn't it?

Think about the challenges you've seen in your life and how they have helped you grow and become stronger. Do we dare to be grateful for the fire?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter Photography

Sometimes there is no secret to taking good photos in the winter.






Sometimes it is just a matter of seeing and jumping to.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Who Owns a Piano?



To some, the piano is their instrument.
To others, 'tis their source of music.
But an artist would avow that
the keys serve the melody.

To some, the Bible is their answer-all.
To others, 'tis their source of good.
But a Christian would avow that
the Book serves the living Word.

Tiwago

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw

(Warning: graphic pictures below)

Recently while hiking, I came across a kill-site in the snow where a coyote had taken a rabbit. How often we romanticize nature, only to be confronted face-to-face by the unavoidable nature of nature - it can be wild and dangerous! We seem to be torn between two ancient memories: the nurturing womb of the Garden; and the frightful nights spent exposed and vulnerable among the predators when we left the sheltering trees.


O, yet we trust that somehow good

Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;
 
That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete.
That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shriveled in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.


Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;
 
That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,
 
I falter where I firmly trod,
And falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world’s altar-stairs
That slope thro’ darkness up to God,
I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope.

Alfred Tennyson

How can God cause or allow an earthquake we ask. The world is a functioning ecosystem; tectonic plates move and replenish and revitalize the earth. It is not punishment or cruel indifference, but an ugly blessing. Do we yearn so for the once and future God of the Garden Paradise that we ignore the comfort of God of the Fearsome Night, Emmanuel? We are not alone. We are known. We are beloved.

Jesus weeps for us.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sorry Pat

When Pat Robertson said A) the people of Haiti made a pact with the devil during their revolution from Napoleonic France, and B) that Haiti has been cursed ever since, the "liberal media" (aka moi) connected the dots and heard C) the earthquake from a vengeful God was the fault of the people! I hope that this is not what was meant, but the resulting conversation has been stimulating.

Any good drama requires three roles: the victim; the villain; and the hero. In retrospect, Pat may have had the people as the victim, with God as the hero and Satan as the villain in his play. But, what I heard was: people = villain; God = victim; and Christians = hero. This first reaction made Pat the villain, the people his victims and myself as their hero jumping to their defense. Confused yet? The roles we define in life for ourselves often come into conflict with the roles that others define for themselves, and the roles we define for others may not fit. Discernment is discovering the role that God has for us. Discernment is a bear!

Two themes dominate this discussion:
     1) The sins of the father; and
     2) God punishers the sinner.

The Old Testament frequently talks about the children suffering for the sins of the fathers generations past. The logical extension of this is the concept of original Sin - that we all suffer for the sins of Adam and Eve. The New Testament however shares Good News that we are no longer under that debt, that we are no longer slaves of sin, that we have been washed clean in the blood. Or as John says (John 1:29): "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

Job's friends were all positive that God was punishing Job for some unknown sin, that bad things could only happen to bad people. While they followed their theology in blind faith, Job challenged and questioned God's motives. God of course won the argument and they reconciled. God then said to one of the so-called friends: "My wrath is kindled against you and against your friends; for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has," (Job 42:7)

What do you think?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Scarab in the Dung


If dirt in the sky can become
     a beautiful setting sun;
If patient water drops can
     erode a canyon grand;
If a crack in Earth's mantle
     can feed Old Faithful;
If a skeeter has a reason
     and a germ its season;
What a wondrous mystery
     will I grow up to be?

Tiwago



















A scarab was a sacred symbol of eternity and a subject of beautiful art in ancient Egypt. A scarab is a dung-beetle. look for beauty where you least expect it - even if it's within!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti Needs Us

Haiti desperately needed our hearts, prayers, money, presence, service and witness before the earth shook;  I can't imagine the horror there now!

http://www.foodforthepoor.org/newsroom/news/earthquake-in-haiti-1.html

We're Having a Heat Wave


The temperature is supposed to climb all the way up into the 30s this week out here on the plains of Illinois.  Now a couple of months ago, that would have us all bundled up like walking star-fish. But after "enjoying" 10 below zero temps and 30 below wind-chills, I wouldn't be surprised to see kids in shorts while they wait for the bus! Maybe the trials in our lives are 10 below moments?

Have a toasty day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Non-lineallity of Eternity





I'm in the research phase of a sermon I'm doing on Transfiguration Sunday in February; and yes, sometimes my mind goes off on a tangent.  Free will, shining thing, Spirit nudge? Who knows. The random thought that side-swiped my mind this time was about time travel.

As humans, we tend to think of eternity as something linear; without beginning and without end, but still going from second to second in chronological sequence of temporal train tracks - chronos. Yet, when we talk about an omnipresent God, we are referring to His being everywhere and everywhen at the same time - kairos.

So. Did Simon Peter, James and John experience the transfiguring moments of Moses, Elijah and Jesus all at the same instant? Did they see a quantum nanosecond of God time?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Peace Abides




Peace is more than just un-war.
Justice’s broad span of love and care
crosses the chasm of fear and despair.
Peace abides on the other side.

God loves us, so love we must.
Shards of a shattered mirror collected;
only together is His infinity reflected.
Love the other as our brother.

Tiwago

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Friends, Romans...



I'm subbing for a Sunday School small group study of Romans. Apostle come-lately Paul's letter to the churches in Rome had a major influence on the subsequent development of Christianity.  It was also was a catalyst shaping the Reformation:


"Romans is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul."  Martin Luther 


"When anyone gains a knowledge of this letter, he has an entrance to all the hidden treasures of Scripture." John Calvin 


Upon hearing a preacher read Luther's preface on Romans, John Wesley said: "My heart was strangely warmed." 


Read Romans in a new light and ask yourself: "What is so reforming about it?"




Sun-dogs at Dawn



Ten degrees below zero; beauty in the pain.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Creativity



Creativity - being able to turn an out of focus photo into art.

May you be creative in your life.
May you see the beauty in mistakes.
May you be beautiful.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Prayer


Abba:

Give us the strength to be living stones in your Temple – bonded together by the mortar of our common mission.

Give us discernment to discover our unique spiritual gifts, and the wisdom to use them together as the Body of Christ in the service of others.

Give us the courage to be your royal priesthood – proclaiming the Word of the Good News to a world thirsting for hope and meaning.

We are each sinners in search of mercy; saints in search of purpose. Lead us towards our true selves. Call us into our full potential. Use us for Your will.

Amen




Thursday, January 7, 2010

Come Sail Away

Wearily, Noah wiped his sweaty brow as finally his construction project came to an end. His son Shem said, “Golly gee father (they spoke in the tongue of ancients back then you know), that thing’s bigger than your house!” His brother Ham (the actor) said that it was almost as big as their brother Japheth’s boat-like shoes. So Noah called it the House-Boat. The Mrs. wanted to name it the “Ark”, but since no one ever remembered her name they ignored her; they wanted an easy to remember name.

Since he’d finished with time to spare, Noah decided to have an open-house for all the neighbors who had laughed as they went by, maybe some of them would like to book a berth on its maiden and final voyage. On Sunday morning, he placed signs (“openings now for all”) on every single rock and tree (and one very slow turtle) in the neighborhood to promote the Boat. But since it was a beautiful sun shiny day, everyone had more important things to do. Such a day is a gift from God after all; it would be a sin to waste it sitting inside listening to a stale sales pitch! Right?

Early on the following cloudy Monday morn, a few families with nothing better to do came by to gawk. Since the monstrosity had no curb appeal, they started to leave. “WAIT” shouted Noah, the all-caps catching in his throat, “why are you going with out even coming in?” “It may float your boat” said they, “but it’s not our cup of tea”. They took their mixed metaphors and went on. Later that gray and dismal day, a young couple came looking for a wedding at sea. The man was appalled when he caught wind, sight and sound of the pets, livestock and other critters; he didn’t want a bunch of uncouth, unwashed, and undressed (except for the poor dogs – don’t get me started there…) “beasts” ruining his special day. His fiancé was more open until she found out their bunk would be in steerage with everyone else instead of first class.

After Noah’s lunch and two cat naps (think about it), a travel agent came by out of the looming fog to scope the Boat for a pleasure cruise tour of the Holy-land (where else?). “Where are all the oars?” asked she, “How can we make any progress at sea without backs bent in labor? And mercy me, where can the rudder be? How can we be sure we go where we want to go? Is there a money back guarantee on this trip?” Before Noah could finish explaining that if it failed there would be no one to give the refund to, she was long gone into the flashing premature twilight.

Just as Noah and kin were starting to batten down the hatches for the night, a tired lonely man in torn and filthy rags shyly peeked in; looking for shelter from the raging elements on his heals. Looking in, he liked what he saw, but soon deflated. “This is way beyond my means. I’ll never ever” he thought, “be worthy of such fine accommodations as these. I need to hurry on.” Putting his faith and hope in something more familiar and modest; like a card-board box. He silently slipped off into the abysmal night, not even noticing the tear on Noah’s cheek.

The rain fell. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Invention of the Man-Cave

Now Elijah had just opened and closed a major can of whup-ass on a posse of pagan priests, but suddenly he has himself a Peter walking on water moment and ran away to hide from the original Jezebel under a tree. God sees that the shade probably isn't the best of hiding places, so He sends Elijah off on one of His famous 40 day and 40 nighters all the way to Mount Horeb. Once Elijah got there, God asked "Why are you here?" Well back when I was a smart-mouthed kid, I would have given the obvious answer "Because You told me to!" Elijah gives the grown up version "This is Your fault! I'm all alone! The entire world is out to get me because of You!"

Since Elijah is obviously feeling sorry for himself and in no mood to listen to reason, God tells him to get out of his new-found cave and get ready for God's big reveal. But Elijah doesn't budge from his hidey-hole.  A mountain-splitting rolling-stone wind comes and Elijah just hunkers down all the more; it's not God. An earthquake shakes the world by its collar and still Elijah won't stick his nose out; it's not God. Then it's "fire on the mountain run boy run" but still Elijah refuses to come out and meet his maker;  it's not God. Finally, a pure silence falls - a stillness that wraps your skull in its hands. In awe, Elijah pulls his hoodie up over his head and face and comes out of his cave.

Again God asked Elijah (don't you love how we keep getting second chances!) "Why are you here?" Apparently still in shock from all the wind, quaking, fire and silent treatment, Elijah sticks with his rant. It's a perfectly good rant, and he's not going to give it up easily: "It's all Your fault!" So, loving the poor schmuck and all, God gave Elijah a side-kick like He had for Moses so long ago, and sent him back to work to get his mind off his troubles.

(1 Kings 19)

My man-cave is a refuge. My fish and house-plants hide in here from the cats. I also hide in here with my books and my computer. Some times, we need the stillness to hear the silence. Eventually though, we have to come out of our hole, look for our shadow, and get on with life among humanity and inhumanity. But thank God, grace comes our way in friends and supporters!

Come Sancho Panza; the wind-mills await!



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Walk With Another





A lunchtime hike for mental health;
     a daily trek of exploration to Emmaus.
A little me and Thee time.

Tallgrass prairie in September glory;
     swaying to the hymn of rustling leaves.
Amen from church-lady-hat flowers.

Shoals of shimmering dragonflies dance;
     ephemeral gemstones in an eternal sky.
Nimble angels on Jacob’s ladder.

Flocks of clouds peacefully graze across

     a calm luxurious azure pasture.
God is extravagantly good.



Tiwago 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Always With the Questions!



A wise woman shared with me last night some thought provoking questions - don't you just hate when that happens right before you go to bed? I'm sure I must have sounded like a fool; my diurnal brain was low on on energy and my solar and caffeine powered battery needed recharging! This is what she asked of me:
     1. Can you worship God on your own at home?
     2. Do you need to believe in God to go to heaven?
I love these kind of questions! Debating them around a table in a small group is what brought me to believe. Blind faith needs not the light of Christ. An untested faith is weak: a sapling that has too much support and is not allowed to twist and flex in the wind matures into a straight but brittle tree that is vulnerable to the first gust that comes along. We each need to bend with the pneuma to grow strong in the Spirit!

1. As my Pastor said Sunday, we worship many things: stars; sports teams; etc. Not only does this demonstrate that society retains the capacity and drive to worship, but it also demonstrates that it is a group activity. Each star has a solar system of fan clubs. Each team has its avid sports-bar following. To me, worship is a party (Psalm 100) and a party of one is lame. Would a game without a crowd be as exciting? My worship experience depends not only on the Spirit moving me, but also on the Spirit moving others. Yes, you can worship God alone in your room, but why would you want to? Where is the bonding experience of butchering (or rocking) a hymn together? Where is the powerful witness in word or act? Where is the hand-holding, the sharing of joys and our burdens, or the pentecostal flame jumping from head to head? Am I the Son of God that I can change the world alone?

2. Is Gandhi in hell? God's mercy is bigger than our minds can encompass; He can do anything He wants. I think that you can live a life of personal and social holiness without the prerequisite of being Jewish, Christian or Muslim (John 10:16). But, it is a narrow gate/eye of a needle proposition - we are not all Gandhis! If we depend only on our own works for salvation, we are passing up the life-line of grace, Isn't life hard enough as it is without doing it the hard way? Thankfully, God is very persistent in His call. Maybe, just maybe, that call leads us to righteousness before we even believe?

So folks, what do you think? What is scripture and the Spirit telling you? Can one person alone make a joyful noise? What is the sound of one hand clapping? Can you live a "Christian" life without being a Christian?


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Where Does Your Mind Go?



I have a confession to share; my mind wanders sometimes during church. I know I'm the only one there not paying attention, but there it is. Yes fine, I know I'm a sinner; but hey - that's why my butt's in a pew instead of on my couch while I watch football!

Take today for example. While I'm busy mangling a hymn, I see someone bring the communion elements up late - only to turn around and take them out. Being a creature of routine, and knowing that we ALWAYS share the Lord's Supper on the first Sunday of the month I am immediately distracted by this new shiny thing. I look at the bulletin over the top of my hymnal and don't see communion. Next I sneak a peek at the altar and see so many candles there is obviously no room for the elements. Then my mind wanders over to the large nativity set and I think to myself "Wouldn't it be symbolic if we replaced the ceramic baby Jesus with the bread and juice?"

I need some insight here:
     Do you think my idea is inspired, blasphemous or just silly?
     Where does your mind go during church?
     Is a wandering mind weak flesh or strong Spirit?

PS: If you want to use my baby Jesus = Living Bread idea sometime feel free!

Fear and Hope






A dead fire’s cooling remnant.
Blood-red embers slowly darken.
White-washed death mask of ash.
Spark of Phoenix in waiting.

Fear-sweat soul at three AM.
Tangled in rumpled-sheet chains.
Lonely center of dark imaginings.
Bird-rise, a hymn to dawn-to-be.

Lowered from a shameful cross.
Hope lay buried in a dark tomb.
Survivors isolated by self blame.
Stone unsealed in light of new day.

Never left alone within despair.
Constant rebirth all around us.
Soft strong arms embracing us.
World’s hope living through us.

by Tiwago

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Without a Prayer, I Pray



Worldly ills upon weary mind doth prey.
Midst sinful sorrow I "forget" to pray.
For Father's sake and mine MUST I praise!
Rock and blood, the Son beside me stays.
Yet daily from the winding path I stray;
Abba's hopes and dreams for me I betray.
My sins even so by cross washed away,
Right here today and each coming day!
Spirit communing with me in varied way,
I'm not darkly alone, come what may.

                                                      Tiwago

Wordle @ http://www.wordle.net/gallery

Friday, January 1, 2010

What Color The Son?




Jesus is the Son of a woman; earthy hues and daylight.
Jesus is the Son of Man; rainbow color of us all.
Jesus is the Son of God; indescribably aglow.
Jesus, the warm wine-red of blood, spilled for all.

The calm dark blueness of deep felt stillness; cleansing water.
The frothy, dancing, laughing prism of a brook; living water.
The clear cool color of fresh rain and baptism; giving water.

Jesus is the bright shining beacon of hope and right.
Jesus is the brown of bread, skin and body broken for all.
Jesus is the glistening white of pure new fallen snow;
Jesus is the green of new growth; resurrection for all.

Jesus is the Light. Light is all color.
Sin, black as night. Night is no color.


Tiwago