If

If you hate injustice, tyranny, lust and greed, hate these things in yourself.                 Gandhi

It feels sometimes as though we are consuming ourselves.

I read last week that the state of Minnesota is considering harvesting trees from state park lands to sell at the market to bail us out of financial woe.

I read this morning that cuts are being made to health care for the poor in our state.  They will be shifted to private health care in order for the state to cut its costs and while surely cuts must be made we know beyond a doubt that many will fall through the health care cracks.

Schools are fighting for survival, infrastructure is unraveling and the words being traded across public airwaves are hate and fear speak.

And most troubling to this mother’s heart is this report from my daughter.  In checking her voice mail upon entering her work day, she heard on the recording the sound of automatic gun fire.  Just that.  Just that.

She works for NARAL.  She works with an organization that works to insure that all women retain the decision-making power over their own bodies.

Evidentally the work of her organization inspired someone to spew the deadly sounds of hate and fear into her office and most fearsomely, into her heart.

How do we, as a people grounded in a movement insistent upon care for creation, get honest about the health and honesty of our own hearts? How do we root around and name the resentments, fear, injustices and tyrannies that lurk in our own hearts?  Once found, how do we exorcize them, making room for the cultivation of belief in a peace that generates life?

Rather than grinding the seed corn of our future, we are called to mulch the soil of that which we tend first and foremost:  our own hearts.  From such tending, the future of creation is made verdant.

Rather than consuming ourselves, we choose to grow grace and peace and hope, assured that there is enough for all:  enough compassion, enough food, enough care, enough.

We choose.

living waters

Today in worship we will share Living Water, one with the other.

The text is the story of how it was Jesus found himself in conversation with a woman outcast in her society.  He asks her to share what she has:  a cup of cold water.  She does, and because of that elemental sharing, she becomes a part of the movement of freshening we’re trying to remember is our own.

Rob Bell has written a book asking why it is the “church” writ monolithic has become so enamored of the notion of hell fire and damnation.  It’s a book that is causing a ruckus in circles theological.  It’s a book I like very much.

I’m in the first chapter, but already I know I have met a compatriot who mourns, as do I, the ways that the Christian church has become more about barbed wire and less about living water.  The message of love gets lost, both within our churches and in the ways the church is perceived in the arid world around it.  Who would want to be a Christian, he asks (and we know this question oh so well) when the church and the Living Water it seeks to share seems almost gleefully judgmental and the withholding of juicy good seems to be driving motivation?

The story we will encounter this morning has to do with seeing the holy in each; in outcasts, in the lonely, in the society-assures-us-is-damned and in our very selves.  It shares with us, does this encounter between the Samaritan woman at the well and Jesus, the ways that grace is elemental and human encounter conduit and the cellular cry for holy communion real.

So we will offer it, one to the other.  And we’ll seek to live it, this way of sharing the Living Water of Jesus.  The burble of life is meant to be taken into our bodies and sung through our souls.

We’re tired of living parched.

not here

I have heard tell of people soaking in the splash of seed catalogues as a reminder that the earth is capable of soft.

As for me, it is the REI catalogue that wings my imagination.

I got my dividend check in the mail yesterday and it has sparked a delightful run on summer thoughts.  I page through the catalogue wondering what kind of gadget simply must be mine.

Maybe this year is the year of the new tent.  Every year I take teens into the Boundary Waters.  We have a great crew of adults who know the rhythm of it all and together we make village together on the edge of the big wilderness.  Last year began a yearly tradition of taking a group of women in.  It is yet another excuse to be on the water in the midst of wild.  Creation is teacher and therapist, both.

For years I have wanted my own tent.  I’ve borrowed Cooper’s (this is love, to allow another to borrow their tent) for years.   It’s a fine tent, but for a long time there has been a longing for a tent of my own in which to dwell for a time.

So the REI check and catalogue have me examining tents.  What color, what style, what weight; what matters?  I know before too long I’ll be at the store clinching the deal.

And in the meantime, I am no longer in the midst of winter.  I am setting up camp in some impossibly beautiful site,  savoring coffee and sparkling water and the reassuring zip into the tent of my dreams after a day spent living in my body.

It may be spring/winter outside, but inside, I have canoe paddle in hand and I’m off on adventure.

Not a bad dividend!

otherwise

Otherwise – Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed on two strong legs.

It might have been otherwise.

I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach.

It might have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill to the birch wood.

All morning I did the work I love.

At noon I lay down with my mate.

It might have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks.

It might have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day.

But one day, I know, it will be otherwise.

from Otherwise, 1996 Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minn.

It is snowing in Minneapolis.  Dumps of fat flakes follow the rain and sleet of last night. 

I am at work, interfacing with the world via computer and the crafting of worship.  Outside my window are grave stones in a cemetery that holds the body husks of church members and a cloud of witnesses engaged in living in ways beyond my ken.

There is this day.  This day to savor coffee and pancakes bursting with blueberries prepared by my favorite in-home chef.  There is this day to  laugh at the primal scream bubbling in me provoked by this March snowstorm.  There is this day to put my heart to thinking about the living water we are offered every day we are given to live and thirsty we are and slake our thirst so often we do not.

Some day it will be otherwise.  Some day we will not have the great gift of being vexed by snowflakes.

But this day, this day the call to presence sounds louder than the call to whine.

It certainly has been otherwise.

death by paper cuts

Someone once said that the practice of ministry is like death by a thousand paper cuts.

It was belly laugh material, that quote.  It was belly laugh material because it hit a spark of true deep within.

The world is a changing.  In the midst of the changes going on around us, the role and function of local church pastors is changing as well.  It is a challenging time to be a church leader, because the needs of the job today often disappoint those who have a vision of what the ideal church pastor of the past was called upon to do.

First and foremost, pastors have to be gifted organizers.  In a culture where most couples are both working outside the home and the claims upon time and energies is seemingly relentless, churches have to figure out how to mobilize volunteers in ways that bless.  We are run by the members of the church.  Increasingly church members are stretched overly so keeping an organization alive that relies upon the passion and gifts of volunteers is no small trick.

Secondly, the financial realities are relentless.  Running a building, supervising and funding staff and program are clamorous challenges.  In an age when the gospel of scarcity is being pounded into our beings, lifting a vision of the good of giving to an organization designed to give itself away is full-time must.

Thirdly, remembering why we exist takes spiritual discipline.  The interpersonal jabbing and squabbling that happens in Bodies is sometimes demoralizing.  Perhaps the greatest place of heart ache for me is the demeaning and denigrating of what is without helping to create what could be.  It’s a lot easier to sit on the sidelines lobbing in criticism than joining in to build a vision that transforms.

After church on Sunday I was exhausted.  It wasn’t the preaching and conversing and worshipping that got me.  It was the paper cuts.  One at a time, comments thrown my direction are easy to slough off.  But collectively?  Collectively the effect was an oozing pastor desperate for Sabbath.

We are doing transformational work at our church.  Transformation asks us to move into a different way of being and on most days that movement hums in the very air we breathe.

On other days I become aware that my own spiritual practices are not optional.  Moving into a new day and being church in a new day requires naming of paper cuts, conversations about how to facilitate healthy communication, and a goodly and endless sense of being grounded in grace.

We get to do this thing called church.  It is gift.  It is messy.

It doesn’t have to be fatal.

grace

Yesterday I got an email that held my day.

It was from one of my spiritual sisters.  She is a Benedictine nun living in community at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Indianapolis.  What she told me was this:  she was praying for me all day.

Sr. Mary Luke is a visionary.  Knowing that clergy women are an often desperately lonely and challenged people, she worked with others to create a program called “Women Touched by Grace”.  Through the program, she brought to the monastery for a span of three years a group of clergy women from throughout the United States and Canada.  While in the lap of community, our lives were changed.  We came to know that we were enfolded in that thing we name often and long to experience more:  grace.

One of her Lenten practices is to hold each of the women she has enlivened.  That number is now fifty, since after watching thirty of us open to the light of love, she offered the experience to another group of clergy women.  Applications are now being taken for the third unfurling of good.

Yesterday was “my” day.  All day, I was aware that in the chapel of Our Lady of Grace, my name was offered.  Even more powerfully, I was aware all day that in the heart of a woman who is light to me, I was bathed and blessed by the intentions of a sister.

Life feels so often a place of shards.  Headlines would have us know that the steady shatter of God’s vision for creation is relentless.

Not so.  Yesterday, Sister Mary Luke prayed for me.  Today, I arise filled with awareness that the Word became flesh and dwells among us that we might know knitting of soul and hope.  We are not alone.  We hold the world in the imaginations of our hearts and in the care of the Holy.

We participate in healing each time we reach into each other with tidings of great joy:  you are not alone.  I am praying for you.

love roast

Watching my children unfold is like opening the best present ever imagined.

They zig and they zag and sometimes it feels like there isn’t room enough in me to hold worry and love.  The stretch that is parenting is excruciating beauty. And, it has grown me more fully than any other adventure.

What I am loving on this day is our children’s humor and tenderness.  We have gotten to that stage in life together where parents and their foibles are fair game for the art of the roast.  Our children pick up the pieces of goofy and fine that their parents are and have at with gusto.  This is a good thing.

It’s a good thing because in the house I grew up in, it was fully against the unwritten rule of family to move into the honesty that goes with good roasting.  We had a family joke (or was it a joke?) that if our mother told us to jump in front of a car then by golly we ought jump.

I’m seeing a different dynamic with my children.  While sometimes I WISH I could command and jumping (not in front of cars but in the directions I think are best) would happen without question, I seem to have participated in parenting children who are willing to check in with their parents on questions of direction but are not driven by parental commands.

This is good.

And, I think that the more mature their parents are becoming (please God I hope this is so) and the more we as parents are able to take ourselves less darn seriously, the more room there is for flat-out great fun at our expense.

I really like our children.  They are, each one of them, seeking to use the good that they are to build good around them.  They have a network of good people who hold and challenge them, and best of all, they are appreciative of the gift that is good loving.

I don’t get my mother mitts on them near often enough, but I watch their exploits via Facebook and texts and phone conversations and they make me laugh and they make me know that miracles are real.

God knows what they will come up with next in the living of their days.  What I know is that they are solidly fine, funny, and unique creatures who somehow came my way.

Amazing, that.