Staying in the Moment

Practicing with some pre-schoolers last week for Palm Sunday, we had a little parade in our Sunday School room.  As we marched, smiled, and waved at the invisible crowds I felt a real sense of excitement and joy from the children that I have always loved about Palm Sunday.  There is this real overwhelming happiness that Jesus is entering the holy city.

Yet the excitement quickly turns to confusion, fear, disbelief, despair, deep sadness, and then just as quickly as these feelings came on – they disappear and give way to the joy of Easter.

This Holy Week journey is incredibly important even though it happens so fast.  We must however be careful that as we prepare to experience it anew this year – that we allow ourselves to stay in the moment.  Sometimes I can hold onto the joy of Palm Sunday to help me get through the sorrow of Good Friday, or I can get stuck in the misery and suffering of the crucifixion.

I encourage you as Palm Sunday and Holy Week approach to be able to stay in the moment.  Allow yourself to fully engage in the Palm Processional.  Encourage your children to feel the emotions of each day and event.  Don’t rush, but don’t get stuck. Hop on and get ready for the ride – trying to remain open for the the Holy Spirit to work and speak to you at every moment.

  • I wonder…
  • what feelings you have as you travel to celebrate holidays with those you love.
  • what feelings the disciples might have had, traveling to and entering Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.
  • what the crowds were expecting of Jesus as they spread cloaks and palms down in front of him in celebration?
  • who was afraid of Jesus and his disciples?
  • what they were really afraid of?
  • who are we (the church) afraid of today?
  • what keeps us from entering so bravely into the city to bring the message of God’s love – especially for the poor and the weak, as well as the powerful that keep others poor and weak?

Holy God of surprises and parades, your courage and bravery give us strength. As we approach this Palm Sunday, we excitedly celebrate your coming to our cities and our lives.  We don’t know exactly what will happen, or how we will feel – yet as we walk this Holy Week journey with you, help us to keep our eyes on you.  Give us the strength to be your followers wherever the Spirit may lead us.  In your holy and triumphant name we pray, Amen.


The Wrong Question

This weeks lectionary texts:  Psalm 107:1–3, 17–22; Numbers 21:4–9; Ephesians 2:1–10; John 3:14–21

  • In my nutshell: (PLEASE read them though. Seriously. Just click that link and spend 4 minutes of your day.)
  • Numbers – God sends poisonous snakes to wandering Israelites.  Moses says – what do I do about that??? God tells him to make a gold snake and put it on a stick.  People still get bit – but then look at the gold one and they don’t die.
  • Psalm – Oh give thanks to God – for God is GOOD. God saves you from trouble.
  • Ephesians – You were dead: sin.  God gave you life. By grace you have been saved. (not works) You were created in Jesus – made for good works intended by God.
  • John –  Just like Moses lifted up the gold snake – the son of man must be lifted up for the people as a sign for the people to believe so that they may have eternal life.

We hear in these texts an overwhelming promise of God’s redemptive love.  As I sit with these texts I see a deep love from God to creation – a love that desperately wants to bring life where there is pain.  Yet God does not take the easy path – just get rid of the snakes, take away the trouble, program humans to simply love and follow.  God offers a deeper relationship.  Instead of sweeping us up like plucking a rose off a bush – God comes near to us and offers a way of grace, a way of life.

I am a questions girl.  I know that not every question has an answer.  My poor mother called me her “why child” (sorry mom).  I believe that everything has a purpose – a reason for why it is done.  However, why can be the wrong question.  It can be a question we hang on to, especially in the dark times.  Why God, why did this happen to me?  Some of the platitudes that try to answer this question can be worse than dwelling on the question.

  • God won’t give you more than you can handle.
  • If God brought you to it, he’ll bring you through it.
  • When God shuts a door, he opens a window.
  • Maybe God is using this to bring about something even better.
  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The tricky part here, is not dismissing problems and feelings, or placing blame or responsibility solely on God.  We live in a world tied to human systems – systems that advantage some over others.  There are many problems that a cheery disposition won’t fix – or even help.  Sometimes we make Jesus into this gentle and soft child hugging person who always said the right things – like anger is a bad thing.  We pretend and dismiss instead of sharing honestly.

Friends I believe that God gets angry.  I believe that God laments.  I believe God experiences our full range of emotions.  The good news in these scriptures is not that God wants us to look on the bright side – it’s that God is always there with us.  That God is always loving us.  That God is always providing ways not to magically make our deep suffering go away – providing ways for us to live.  To fully live with the grace and love of our creator – redeemed and loved.  Called to do the work of God here on earth.  To play our part in bringing about the kingdom.  There are no promises that this will be easy or good.

My husband works as a crisis counselor.  When he is on call, he gets calls at 12:30 am and has to respond.  This is his work.  This is good work.  When he gets home at 7:00 and we kiss hello and goodbye as I go off to work it doesn’t always feel all that good.  Yet this is good work.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to keep our spirits up and look on the bright side.  (If you met me, you would know I am a cheerful spirit!)  I’m saying that we need to be careful of our platitudes, and of perpetuating the lie that God sends the bad things that happen for some reason.  Why may not be the right question here.  Perhaps I may offer – where is the life in this chaos?

  • I wonder…
  • when you feel God’s presence the most in your daily life?
  • what helps you when there are no good reasons?
  • what gifts God has give you to bring about life?
  • how the gift of grace makes you feel?

Oh Redeeming God, we come to you together as a community together through technology, grateful for your amazing gift of grace.  Holy one it is you who set everything we know into motion.  Help us to not be afraid of the feelings that come with living our lives.  Dance with joy with us.  Lament in our sorrows.  Spirit, help us to feel your presence, especially when we are in trouble.  Give us the confidence of the children of God to speak out against the evils of our world and to shine your light.  In the name of Jesus we claim our power as heirs to your kingdom.  Amen.

Child of God – activity

I am a child of God.  Sometimes I am happy, sometimes sad, sometimes hurt, sometimes helpful.  I am many things.  I am always a child of God.

Art by Mary Brack and this collage can be found on her blog

I am

Finding and claiming my identity in Christ has been one of the hardest and most wonderful things I’ve ever done.  My assurance has changed over time and at times I have been convinced that there either is not a God, or that God didn’t love me.

Guiding our children and young people to explore and claim their identity as children of God is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Teachers, parents, and friends also have a huge impact on hearing and believing this message.  This weeks passages address some difficult situations in which God doesn’t swoop in and save the day as we are want to have God do.  This is reminiscent of many times in our lives that God doesn’t fix our problems.  When we are feeling sad or lost, God is with us.  God’s love always surrounds us, and these scriptures teach us – God suffers with us and provides paths to healing and restoration.

SO – CRAFT!  We often associate emotion with color, so I encourage you to have your child (ren) think about and make a list of some things that describe themselves.

Search through magazines and find some pictures of all the colors of the rainbow – or whatever colors your child wants to use.

Cut, lay them out, and glue them out like rays of a sun.

Add the text where your child thinks it fits.

There are good and difficult things about each of us – you can use the colors to show that.  Sadness and pain are not bad things for us to avoid with kids.  Acknowledging feelings helps make them more real. Talking about how God is with us through our sadness, through our pain, helps develop a relationship with God that is not simply transactional.  It becomes more than “I believe in God because I will go to heaven, or because God will give me good things.”

I recommend reading Dr. Suess’s “My Many Colored Days” with this activity!

Ego or Communion?

Psalm 19 reminds us of God’s place in the world as creator, 

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and the firmament tells of God’s handiwork…the law of the Lord is perfect,reviving the soul.”

 – which we humans seem to be okay with – as long as we have our place of honor as well.  “Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.”  

We tend not to want anyone or anything to have “dominion” over us.  A modern catch phrase we hear often is – “Don’t tell me what to do!”

YET – what if the intention is more like this graphic…

ego-vs-natureThe law of the Lord is a phrase that catches my attention in this psalm.  In my life as an outdoor educator I loved teaching students of all ages about the amazing interconnectedness of nature.  You can see slowly changing tree lines and layers of forest in natural cycles of life.  These incredibly intricate patterns are predictable – what I understand as the law of the Lord.  Nitrates, nitrites, and seasonal water patterns dance together forming unique communities and ecosystems that interact with one another adjusting and changing together.

This is how I understand God.  God exists in community – three in one.  Each “person” of the Trinity having their own role in the community – yet constantly interconnected to the others.  This is how I believe God has created all of creation to be.  No one aspect of creation is more important or elevated above another – not even humans.  We each must understand our unique gifts and roles that affect the others – hopefully to benefit them.

It is our own ego that throws this system out of balance.  That pinpoints the verse about God giving humans “dominion over all the creatures of the earth” to argue that we were designed to be set apart (above really though).  Is this following the psalmists prayer? “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  (Vs. 19)

I believe God created in communion and therefore humans are also meant to be in community.  In true balanced community with other people, with other animals, plants, and all of creation.  When we open our eyes to this law of God – we will see that we are called to open our eyes every day to all those around us and interact in love.

I wonder –

  • what about creation helps connect you with God?
  • what connects the law of God to the laws of nature in your understanding?
  • how your words and actions line up with God’s design for all of creation?

Prayer:  God of heaven and earth, you live in the reality of community.  Help us to see beyond ourselves and our ego to your designs for all of creation.  As you modeled for us in coming to earth in Christ Jesus, we long to play our part in bringing about your kingdom.  Spirit help us feel your ever present guidance to keep our words and our actions acceptable to you our God.  In your holy name we pray, Amen.

Hard to Believe Promises

Sickness hit my house like a sledgehammer this week.  There was one 24 hour period where my husband slept for almost 20 hours straight.  Not exactly the “stepping back” or reflective time I had planned for this second week of Lent.  I had a bit of a different image in my head when I read “Then Abram fell on his face…”

This Genesis text (17:1-7, 15-16) continues to tell a story of God making promises to God’s people.  I think of promises I have made – the small ones and the big ones… I struggle with the lifelong illness of lateness – to the point where friends will tell me to be somewhere 1/2 an hour before I need to be.  So when something really important is coming up, occasionally I make a specific promise to be there on time!  (Can’t wait til I have kids to throw into the fun…) There are those times where the promises are bigger though – when they build upon the foundation of relationships we have had for years.  Promises that seem to go beyond the word promise into something bigger.

In the story today, we call the promises God makes to Abram and Sarai a covenant.  In our world today so many of our interactions with others are simply transactional.  We deal with people to give and get what both of us need.  While that is an aspect of life – sometimes I wonder what would my life be like if I made more of an effort to be in relationship with some of those I simple transact with?  If I made more of an effort to be in relationship – covenantal relationship with God?

God enters into a deep relationship with Abram and Sarai today – a covenant relationship.  We saw signs of God’s covenant last week in the story of the rainbow after the flood.  This week we see God claiming this family as God’s own and changing their names to mark their identity.  There are expectations both ways – like there are in any relationship.  Expectations based on mutual love and trust.

I wonder – especially on those days where life (or the flu) has knocked us down how do we find hope in the promises – the covenantal relationship we have with God?

I wonder – when those promises seem unbelievable (like a baby when your in your 90’s…)  how do we hold onto our faith without blindly following?  How can we go to God and to our community with our doubts?

I wonder how I can see the love and blessings from God in my life while also seeing the privileges I carry in this society.  I pray that I do not attribute all of my advantages to God’s blessing and my hard work, while I look upon my neighbors who struggle for daily food, livable wages, affordable health care, and adequate education.

Oh God of holy communion, it is you who has set in motion this amazing world we know.  It is you, the Three-in-One who models how to be in true community with one another.  I thank you for your desire to be in covenant with us – to be in a relationship with us.  Your patience is the stuff of legends oh Lord.  Help us to hear the stories of your people kept in the holy scriptures.  Send us your Spirit to guide our steps as we engage one another not only for what we need, oh Lord, but simply because we are all yours and we are all worthy.  In the name of Christ Jesus we pray, Amen.