Saturday, December 3, 2016

Advent Hedgehogs

The reason remains a mystery, but I adore these little critters.

Ever since last Christmas, I have stumbled upon them in the oddest places.  Craft stores, internet blogs, and boutique shoppes, to name a few locations.

Maybe hedgehogs are following me around.  Or they are my totem animal.

Here are a few things I learned about this little critter.

"...those who honor the hedgehog as their totem - these people always land on their feet and go through challenges with the same calm, cool practicality as the hedgehog does."

But what I found intriguing in this season of Advent- expectation, pregnancy with Mary, waiting- is other meaning of my little critter friend.

"The hedgehog is also symbolic of fertility and being connected to the earth. It's belly is close to the Mother (earth, that is) and this close proximity is symbolic of its connection to earth and all that is fertile. The hedgehog's tendency to curl up in the fetal position is also a message of centering, and connecting with the source."

Finally, as we consider the messages that Mary received from the angel Gabriel, I am tickled to consider the other wisdom this little critter has given various cultures and traditions...

"Being a nocturnal creature, the symbolism of the hedgehog deals with intuition, psychic ability, prophetic dreams and visions. This is because the night deals with concepts that are cloaked in shadow - a realm that is not altogether clear. That the hedgehog's active time is at night is symbolic of "second sight.""  

Advent hedgehogs!  They do help point to the story of the Christ child!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Letter from Holy Spirit to People of Ridge UMC

Before I begin I thought you might appreciate a word of explanation or even warning. This message is not a typical sermon- it is a letter.  Some might call this creatively challenging.  Others may consider this message passionately presumptuous.  Listen and decide for yourself.  And yes, I wrote this.  It is an original piece.  
Let us pray…Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak through them; Take our minds and think through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire with love.  Amen. 
To my precious dear ones at Ridge,
I write you to remind you that I am.  I always have been and will always be.
Once upon a time when nothing but a chaotic formless, dark voice covered the world.. there I was in the midst.  Breathing out life, order, and unity with the wind of holy breathe.  Ione exhale from me dispels darkness and illuminates life; separates waters to create sky and land; fills the land with growing things, and then pouts stars, moon, and planets in their places.  A word spoken by me fills the waters and land with living creatures, and creates humanity in our image.  All of it good.
Since that one upon a time, eons ago in your time lie, I have not stopped.  I am still here.  I move where I will.  Untame.  Wild.  Clever.  You cannot know everything about me. You cannot see me.  I am too vast.  To grand.  So immense.  Yet, you can feel and experience my impact.  It attempting to measure the size of the universe is daunting then you have not yet encountered the reality of eternal existence.
Yet no matter how vast or grand…my best dwelling place is within the human will, soul, heart, mind, and strength.  You were made for me to dwell within.  Remember I helped make Abraham’s pulse race and I quickened the child within Sarah’s womb.  I burned in a bush by Moses and hardened Pharaoh’s heart. I was the cloud by day and the smoking pot by night for four years of desert wandering.  I was in Joshua’s trumpet blast and Deborah’s victorious battle cry.  I got Samuel up on his feet to anoint Soul as king over Israel.  And the prophets…all of them Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Daniel Hosea, Joel, Amos all the way to Malachi…we were all very close.  They told the words I whispered in their ears.  They knew me and I knew them. 
Who do you think whispered in the ears of the stargazing magi?  I was the voice Simeon and Anna heard in the temple say, “This is the One!  God is indeed nearer than ever before!”  And later when His ministry was about to begin I was in the wings of the dove at the River Jordan when he came up out of the waters.
Do you remember me now?
Do you know who I am?
He told you I would come.  The One-Who-Is-God-With-Us said that I would be coming…and that you could know me as counselor, advocate, comforter.  I am activity and movement because I convict, challenge, comfort, counsel, advise, remind, remember, teach, give power, offer truth and pray.  Remember Jesus said to all of you that it would to your advantage.  It is your blessing that I would come…especially after he returned to his place of honor.  I remain.
When I came the wind blew, fire flickered, and voice spoke languages they did not know so that praises would be shared, good news given, and love expressed.  I stirred more than hearts.  I opened floodgates.  It rained, thundered, poured and stormed supernatural power that Pentecost day.  Souls of good folk where soggy and saturated with my fiery fuel.
Because you see, I am not lukewarm, passive or submissive. I dare mountains.  I taunt oceans.  I bring courage to the weak.  I am power. I am conviction.
I am not a charismatic freak.  I am not a religious extremist.  Nor am I flighty and unglued. I am not a magic wand or fairy pixie dust.  I am not moody nor mentally ill.
No, I am God.  I am holy.
And I refuse to be neglected and forgotten.
That Bible you read or refer to when it suits your fancy, I inspire the people who wrote it.  More than that I am available today to fuel your passion and creativity as well as tomorrow’s tomorrow so that you can make sense of what is in your dusty Bible book.  But do you ask me?  Do you seek me?  Do you ever invite me into a conversation?
No, you barely give me a nod of recognition.  As if I am an afterthought.
I seem to be the forgotten of the sacred Three.
But if you read and understood your Bibles; if you poured over the stories and notice the thread of my activity within church history then… then you would realize that you can always expect great things from me.  I deliver.  I show up… and when I do I bring only the best! 
If you look closely at those ragtag disciples, every one of them was unworthy, inept, and prone to do stupid (sounds familiar?!).  Doesn’t matter whether they had education or not; what their age or stage of life was; doesn’t matter the style of their hair or set of designer sandals on their feet… they are made of the same stuff you are.  Clay. Decaying bits of plants and animals.  Dirt and Dust.  But, oh dirt dust with the very breathe of Life blown in. 
In spite of what those first followers were like…notice what happened after I showed up.  When the full-disclosure of my presence filled them…when I dug deep roots in their hearts…when they open my minds to the robust reality of my life-giving presences… wow- no wonder fire alarms blared and people thought they were intoxicated!
You realize that the disciples’ experience is available to you?  You may be from clay but you also made to be a temple a sanctuary a refuge of my presence.  My home is within the dust of the stars and within you (Romans 8:9.  I Corinthians 6:19-20).   
How sad when you choose to put trash into yourself rather than me.  Load up on junk food and junk faith. Empty calories and empty conversations…
When I do dwell within you, you cannot help but experience the difference.  Where I hang out there is a bumper crop of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  (Gal 5:22-23)  Do you see what the fuel of my fiery presence did to the first followers?  Their courage.  Their conviction.  Their perseverance.  They were a mess before me.  It is because of me that they succeeded when they should not have or when all odds were stacked against them.  The movement’s success was not about dumb luck or human ingenuity – the success was because of me…and what I added to the lives of those who follow Jesus. 
And if I can do that for folks who has so little compared to you…. Think about what I can do for you.  What I can do within your life?  Consider how I can strengthen the seedling of faith within your heart into a mighty oak!
I am puzzled and grieved you do not expect more of me. Or ask me. Why don’t you invite me into your life at every moment?  Why don’t you trust me to do what I am here to do?
I know your thoughts.  I get the sense you are afraid because you are unsure if I can be trusted.  Or you fear because you think I may ask too much of you.  Or ask you to give up your illusion of control.  Hang on- allow me to comfort your mind.
I can give you courage to move through any and all fear.  I may not be tame, but I do not bite.  I really do not want to you to hide on the periphery of what a full, abundant life in Jesus would be.  Please remember, above all else, I pray for you.  Yes, me.  I am praying for you right now.  And when you’re in traffic; when the kids drive you crazy; and when you are overwhelmed; and when you are confused; and when you are laughing so hard your sides ache; and when you are crying alone in the shower.  I pray for you.
For am I the gentle breeze on your cheek; the flicker of the flame in the candle you light at night.  I am the stirring of your mind to find another path through a tough situation.
I am that near because I love you.
But we could be and can be closer.  Invite me in…
Never, ever forget me- because I can never forget you.
All my love and prayers,

The Holy Spirit, the third of the Sacred Three

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Campaign

Among all the other news about our upcoming US Presidential campaign, there is another smaller campaign taking place.

Various members of my congregation have taken it upon themselves to begin a campaign to win my baseball allegiance.

It is the campaign at Ridge UMC right now.

They know I have a football team, the Steelers.  They are well versed in the knowledge of my favorite men's college basketball team, the Duke Blue Devils.

And because they love me they have also paid attention to realize this startling truth... I do not yet have a baseball team.

Thus, the campaign has begun to win my heart to their favorite team.

How do I know this?

Because my church folk have confessed their plot.

They tug on their baseball jersey shirt during a worship service to indicate which team they think I should become aligned with.  White Sox jersey in worship one day.  A St. Louis Cardinals tie the next Sunday.

Oh my!  Cubs? White Sox? Cardinals?  What to do?


Being a Tourist

My family now live-near-a-great-city thus, we have become tourists of a sort.

Lists of places we want to see are marked in my travel and tourist books.  Museums and concerts we want to attend are in my calendar.  We each have our own varied interests.

My husband is slowing making his way to all the breweries and pizza places!

My daughter is most interested in Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry.

Personally, I cannot wait to listen to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra live and in person! That will be awesome!

We've been reading travel, history and tourist books.  I confess we've also watched a few of the Travel Channel shows on Chicago history, sites, and stories of this great city.

This is one of the unique treasures about where we now live and the kind of new adventures we can make.  During our daughter's spring break week we traveled the train into the city to enjoy Shedd.  What a fun way to spend the day!

It is good to be a tourist!


He is Risen!

He is Risen! Our Savior's rising from the dead was celebrated by 342 souls who worshipped with us on Easter morning! 

Thanks be to God for the Chancel choir, Ridge Ringers, Brass Ensemble, Praise Band, Worship Committee, Children's Ministry team and so many countless volunteers who made the day special!

For me- it was a pure joy to preach and proclaim that He is Risen!  He is Risen, Indeed!

What a privilege my vocation affords in the opportunity to preach such good news!

Not sure why everyone does not chase me down because they want my job!


Stories of Good Friday


Our Holy Week at Ridge was so meaningful!

Amazing Palm Sunday, meaningful Maundy Thursday with Dyer UMC, personal Good Friday, and joyous Easter morning summarizes our special week.

But it was the personal touch of Good Friday... that was especially poignant.

Seven persons from our congregation ranging in age from high school to long-since-retired shared their personal reflections on the last words Jesus spoke while hanging on the cross.  The testimonies were very, very good.

Wow- not a dry eye in the place!  My folks had never done this style of service before (I have), but they had not experienced how personal it made Good Friday.

My buttons burst with pride because I was so very pleased and moved by what these folks put together for their testimonies.  Sure, I coached them in their writing, but what a witness of their commitment to Christ to share in such an amazing way!

The Crucified Christ was proclaimed and the people were blessed!


My Lent

I struggled for a bit about what my Lent experience would be like.  Add a devotion?  Abstain from technology?

Without my normal sage advice from my spiritual director, I was left to my own.

Whether I made the conscience decision or the Spirit simply moved... I allowed Lent to be Lent.

I did do some extra devotional reading, but because I was keenly aware that I was still grieving our previous home and community I chose not to abstain from anything.  Seems odd, I know, but it was wise.  My previous spiritual director may be proud of me.

Lent was it's own wilderness for me as a pastoral leader. We were in the midst of two key staff changes, several significant leadership issues, and simply the day-to-day of running a healthy mid-sized congregation.  That was enough!

In fact it was plenty... to draw me deeper into Christ.

Because all of that and more- made be realize how much I need God.  I need Jesus.  I need the Spirit. And I need less, and less, and less of me, myself and I.

Indeed, it was a Holy Season of Lent.