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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lessons on Learning






I love it when awe-inspiring wisdom comes from unexpected and innocent places.

This past spring I taught a Confirmation class of 24 eager (okay, somewhat eager) middle and high school students. With such a large group I knew it would be difficult to get to know them on a personal level so I decided to do an activity to get to know them a little better. I printed out random photos and placed around the classroom. There was a surfer riding a monster wave….a bubbling mountain stream….a bird soaring through a blue sky…a child being drug away from his computer by agitated parents...you get the point. I asked the kids to choose the picture that currently described their faith journey and be prepared to tell me why they chose it. I thought this might be a little too challenging for the younger kids but was curious to see what they would pick. I had one honest kid that chose the picture of the child being drug away from his computer – it was obvious that this class wasn’t his idea of fun. Other kids predictably teamed up and ran to the same pictures, those easy to interpret. There were a few, however, who dared to stand on their own. One of them was a quiet, shy sixth grade boy. I admit I was a bit hesitant to call on him at first because I didn’t want to embarrass him but my curiosity got the better of me. I had expected the boys to be drawn to the sports themed pictures but he had chosen a beautiful scene in which the camera was focus up into the trees as rays of sunlight broke through the leaves and scattered on the forest floor. “Why did you choose this picture?” I asked. “How does it describe your faith right now?”

His response blew me away.

“My faith is like the sunlight in this picture. Some of what I learn about Jesus gets through, I understand it, and some of it doesn’t, I’m still in the dark.”

Oh, if only we could all be as enlightened (and honest) as this young man. It seems in this world we are told there is only value in having all the answers. We don’t like to admit we don’t understand or comprehend everything.

I was once at a meeting with two other ministers. I was a brand new local pastor having served only a few months in a church while I completed my final semester in seminary. Another minister was a season “pro” in his 50’s having served most of his adult life as a church pastor. The third pastor was newly retired but had been asked to return to supply a pulpit temporarily; he was nearing 70. The retired pastor was eager to ask me questions about my seminary studies. He quizzed me on the professors and the kind of courses the seminary offered. The other pastor sat without comment. After some time the retired minister asked, “Would they allow me to come and audit some classes? I would love to refresh my mind and be challenged by some new lessons,” and turning to the seasoned pastor asked, “Wouldn’t you?” To which he uttered a scoffing laugh and said, “No, I learned everything I needed to know the first time around.”

How sad to think that we have all the answers and there is nothing new that God would have us to know. My sweet little confirmand had no idea how wise his answer was. (Thank you Grayson for teaching your pastor something that day). The light of Christ shines in all places of our world…sometimes it gets through and we understand it…and sometimes we are still in the dark. How glorious it would be if we allowed those shadows to prompt us to draw closer to Christ and to know him more.

Lord, help us to see the shadows of uncertainty and the dark corners of the unknown as challenges to dig deeper. Let us sit dazzling in the sparkling glory of the forest floor and contemplate your mystery. Let us revel and dance in the twinkling light of your love as we ask our questions and seek your answers. May we ever be seekers of more…more of you…more answers…more life…more love…more peace…more understanding….more.

Amen

Thursday, March 28, 2013

CUP: Lenten Devotional Day 45

Lenten Devotion Day 45

CUP

But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. 
Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" 
They said to him, "We are able." 
Matthew 20:22

Late last night I set the table. Today is Maundy Thursday and our prayer station is the table...the table where cup was shared, bread was broken and feet were washed. Each Disciple has a seat around the table and as I set each place I tried to put myself in their shoes. What were they thinking this night? What was their mood?

I thought it would be Judas' place setting that gave me the most trouble but it wasn't...it was Peter's. Peter is the one that frightens me. Right or wrong I can firmly convince myself I could never betray Jesus...surely there is no Judas in me! But denial? Well, that is something altogether different. I sat in Peter's seat and wondered as his own confidence that he would never deny or abandon Jesus and yet before the cock crowed he had done so not once but three times.

 "Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?"

Peter was so sure he was...and eventually he did...but at that moment he couldn't.

Am I? Will I? Could I?

Are you?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

LIGHT: Lenten Devotion Day 42

Lenten Devotion Day 42

LIGHT

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. 
Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 
Ephesians 5:8-9

God is light, in whom there is no darkness at all.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world,
and we loved darkness rather than light.
(UMC Book of Worship: Service of Tenebrae)

These words of greeting struck me to the core yesterday. Their truth still has me reeling a bit today - dizzy with a reality that I would much rather deny. In the beginning...God created...let there be light...and it was good.  There is no denying the goodness of light. It bring us warmth, illumination, photosynthesis, as well as understanding, clarity, and guidance. For these reasons and more, Jesus is called Light.

God created light, God is Light, God sent Light
Light for the world

And we loved darkness rather than light.

The truth still cuts doesn't it? Light is found in all that is good, right and true....yet we are drawn to that which is bad, wrong and false. We choose to lurk in the shadow - uncommitted to step fully into light and live as children of that light. We have every excuse in the book as if we have developed a sudden sensitivity to light that requires we never enter it would glasses to shield our eyes and an umbrella of shadow to hid behind. The Light shows too much truth for our comfort, shames us with too much good in light of our weakness, and challenges us with too much right for all of our wrongs.

Christ
Light of the World
Rising on that Easter morning for all eternity
Offering each of us the chance to rise also
Into the Light

And we loved darkness rather than light.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

RESTORE: Lenten Devotion Day 39

Lenten Devotion Day 39

RESTORE

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, 
who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, 
will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 
To him be the power forever and ever. Amen. 
1 Peter 5:10-11

All of us at times find ourselves on the brink of brokenness. We suffer in all manner of ways: some self-inflicted, some accidental, some inflicted by injustice. The stress of life can become just as visible on our bodies and souls as the stress inflicted upon the walls of the old house I live in. All around my home the walls are littered with stress fractures brought about by years of settling, shifting and...well...living. Despite the cracks, however, our home is secure and safe because the foundation is sure. 

Life may create all kinds of stress fractures in my body, mind and soul...but there is good news and hope that serves as the strong foundation to hold me together in the threat of brokenness. "...Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you...." 

This promise doesn't mean I will never experience stress, suffering, or brokenness...but it does promise that those things will not get the better of me. It does promise that those things will not do permanent damage.
It does promise that Christ will
RESTORE
my scars and establish new life. 

ALONE: Lenten Devotion Day 38

Lenten Devotion Day 38

ALONE

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 
"Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." 
And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 
When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; 
and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 
Jesus straightened up and said to her, 
"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 
She said, "No one, sir." 
And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again." 
John 8:7-11

Close your eyes for a moment and let the powerful image of this story sink in. A lone woman, dragged to the middle of a crowd of men who seek to condemn her to death for adultery. Her terror and her shame are palpable as John recounts the story. She is brought before Jesus and probably never once realizes they are just using her as a trap - they could care less about her and her fate.

Then Jesus writes in the sand

Who will cast the first stone? I'm sure none of you have ever done wrong - let the one who is completely innocent throw the first punishing blow.

Then Jesus writes in the sand

The earth must have twitched as each stone was dropped...the women must have felt the weight lift off of her own shoulders in disbelief. One by one the men walk away and the woman is 
ALONE 
with Jesus.

A sinner standing with a Savior
forgiven
and alive.

HOME: Lenten Devotion Day 37

Lenten Devotion Day 37

HOME

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 
Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, 
when you lie down and when you rise. 
Deuteronomy 6:4-7

I look often at this cabinet in my home filled with objects from long ago. My great-grandmother's plate, my grandmother's buttons, my husband's grandfather's watches...and on it goes. Objects taken so that we might remember those special times like when my sister and I would use my grandmother's buttons as money to play a version of Go Fish that we adapted for gambling (I have no idea where we got that idea, lol). Those simple object matter to me a great deal now. They are not worth anything to anyone else but to me they are the greatest treasury of memory and love. They tell my story. They remind me who I am and where I've been. 

Despite the gambling issue (give us a break, we were only in elementary school) we were blessed to have been raised in a godly home full of godly lessons. Our extended family taught us so much about faith, honor, ethics and love.

As I read Deuteronomy today, I am reminded that this is an God-given task issued to families. "When you are at home..." teach your children about the love of God; the kind of love that involves you heart, soul, and might. 

HOME
is where the love of God is taught, lived, and proclaimed
so that it might be passed down
generation to generation
so that we know who we are and more importantly
whose we are.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BELOVED: Lenten Devotion Day 35


Lenten Devotion Day 36

 BELOVED

To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: 
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Romans 1:7

Beloved
called and loved
follower and master

Beloved
broken and poured
body and blood


Beloved
fed and quenched
bread and wine

Beloved
I am Christ's
Christ is mine

I am beloved