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Aug 1 2011

Living Good News

Mondays are for counting thanks to 1000 and beyond

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One of my church’s missionaries, Carl, told a story about the healing impact of the Gospel that he has seen through his ministry in Asia. The projects that the mission is involved in hires people from the surrounding area. During training for the jobs, they discuss values found in scripture, such as forgiveness, service, and equality, which provide the foundation for the relief work.

After one of these training sessions that focused on God seeing all people as equal, a local man shared that he started to view his relationship with his wife in a new way. In his culture and tradition, his wife would prepare his meals each day, serve him, and then leave him to eat. After he was finished, she would eat whatever was left over.

The clash of the teaching on equality and his own practice disturbed him. One evening, when his wife came to serve him dinner, he invited her to stay and share the meal. He split the food into equal parts. It was the first meal they had ever shared together.

From that point on, their relationship was transformed.

Good news. God news. Life-changing news.

It doesn’t have to be something huge, just listening and seeing, and then being obedient to what the Spirit calls us to do. And I don’t think it’s about expending a ton of energy to do “the right thing” or “what we should,” but simply allowing ourselves to be troubled and then taking the next smallest step toward a new possibility.

A step, such as eating a meal in a new way.

**

Seeing through the eyes of gratitude today…

401. Carl’s work with Wycliffe in Asia and that the Spirit transforms lives and relationships.

402. Wind rustling in the trees

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403. Sweet peas in bloom

404. The Anne of Green Gables stories…what a delight!

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405. Bees on flowers

406. Sunshine!!

407. My mom’s recovering and healing

408. Madeleine L’Engle’s wonderful book on art and faith, Walking on Water.

409. Joy

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410. A place of peace

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411. A furry creature–what colors God has given her!

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412. The Tierra Nueva mission team. What a great experience to work alongside them! (For more photos from the Bethany Presbyterian Mission Trip, go here.)


Jun 20 2011

Answered Prayers

Mondays are for counting thanks to 1000 and beyond

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While I love Seattle, I need to get out of the city every so often to a place with more grass than concrete and more birds than cars. My ears long to escape from city sounds and I want to smell the earth and trees and sea. A couple months ago I had a talk with God about it. Not being a driver, leaving the city (and public transit) behind requires a little more planning, and I’ve loved seeing how God has been working things out without me thrashing about trying to orchestrate it. He’s been teaching me trust and patience–inviting me to tell him what I need, then step back and see what happens.

392.  On Friday I leave for the high school mission trip. Leave may not be the right word since the students will be staying in Seattle for the week working with, mostly, inner city ministries. When I said yes to helping out, I knew that this was not going to be one of those times to get out of the city, but I felt both a call and joyful excitement to be involved no matter what.

Without my saying anything to anyone, I was placed with the team of students going to Tierra Nueva, a ministry reaching out to migrant farmers, 90 minutes outside of Seattle. Most of the week will be spent working on the farm there.  I am thrilled!

393. An wonderful invitation to spend some writing time in a rural house on the peninsula.

394. The gift of a pile of beautiful garden magazines.

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395. A lovely day at the Nisqually Estuary with friends, seeing so many different kinds of birds.

(for more photos of the wildlife refuge, look here.)

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396. A balcony sanctuary, where I can listen to the mingled sounds of city and nature.

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397. A spontaneous day in Bellingham and journaling time on a rock at Larrabee State Park.

“If I spend too much time in these wild places, I will shed the trappings of what I wear in the city and slowly meld into the rock, and sea, and woods. These words even now are full of the waves and foam and splash, no longer empty, no longer easily erased. Words written on my heart.”

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398. Pots of growing things now blooming.

And while not about getting out of the city, two more amazingly wonderful answers to prayer:

399. The long-term loan of a piano keyboard from my friends Cathee and Brian.

400. Fifty one pages done toward my dissertation first draft, and no more anxiety as I write.


Feb 28 2011

Cup Overflowing

Continuing to count all that I am grateful for…

385. Leading the retreat, Cup Overflowing: Joy as a Lenten Practice, for an amazing and wonderful group of Massachusetts United Church of Christ pastors.
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386. The beauty of Ipswich, MA, and the Notre Dame Spiritual Center where the retreat was held.

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387. “who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

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388. Resurrection joy and the tree with the leaves of healing for the nations…

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389. A feathered friend’s home.

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390. Watching ducks land. Hilarious.

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391. Visiting with many good friends in Boston and being back on campus.

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392. Signs of spring when I returned to Seattle.

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393.. A wonderful surprise visit from a friend I haven’t seen in a long time.

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390. A great birthday,  crowned High Queen Susan, and served a yummy dinner with an amazing dark chocolate cake. Thank you Kimberlee, Doug, Jack, Jane, and the twinfants!

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391. Chocolate smiles and dancing.

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Dec 13 2010

Patience

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A quiet day of sunshine, writing and prayer…deep in Advent waiting, working on my dissertation and cooking a batch of soup.

“Instead of asking why the help has not come, the person at prayer learns to look carefully at what is actually going on in his or her life,… and ask, ‘Could this be the help that God is providing?'” (Eugene Peterson, Earth and Altar, 76)

Meditating on this poem by Teilhard de Chardin as I write:

    Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
    We are quite naturally impatient in everything
    to reach the end without delay.
    We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
    We are impatient of being on the way
    to something unknown,
    something new.
    Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
    by passing through some stages of instability
    and that may take a very long time.

    And so I think it is with you.
    Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
    Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
    Do not try to force them on
    as though you could be today what time
    — that is to say, grace —
    and circumstances
    acting on your own good will
    will make you tomorrow.
    Only God could say what this new spirit
    gradually forming in you will be.

    Give our Lord the benefit of believing
    that his hand is leading you,
    and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
    in suspense and incomplete.

In gratitude for….
Sunshine after a pouring rain weekend.

Singing in the Bethany choir and the little community we are.

Words. No matter how much I wrestle, I still love them.

Lovely dinner with Anna, Maggie, and Erin at a yummy vegan restaurant, Plum. Who knew faux cheese could taste so good?

Delightful conversations at church yesterday.

Ornament making with Jack and Jane, with Sam and Alex.

Glitter–everywhere, especially in hair as a shimmery crown.
A wonderful sermon on Peace.

An interim pastor comes January 10th!

The worship song, Hear us, a prayer for when I don’t know what else to do except pray.


Nov 29 2010

Practicing Resurrection

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My immersion in Eugene Peterson’s books continued this past week with Practicing Resurrection. Alongside Answering God, it is one of his finest, and a great introduction to the lovely way his theology of God meshes with his theology of prayer and church and intimacy and God-human relationship, using Ephesians as the starting text.

Reading the book was more like having a series of conversations about life and faith with Peterson in front of a fire on a winter’s evening, drinking hot chocolate, all the while attentively reflecting on Paul’s text.  Gentle, yet direct, encouraging, yet challenging, he shares his love for Jesus and writes of subjects close to his heart. His words spurred me on to pray for and love others, more and more.

In fact, by the end of the book, I was even more convinced that loving and praying, and pursuing a life that cultivates loving and praying (not as abstractions, but loving real people and allowing my heart to break in prayer for concrete situations) is the best way to live.  Over the next few posts, I will be sharing more about this.

The book also confirmed a little desire that has been growing in me for awhile: to memorize an entire book of the bible.  As I’ve been slowly recovering the sacredness of words this past year, my love of scripture has been rekindled. Encouraged by Ann Voscamp at A Holy Experience to create a memory book, and then catching Peterson’s own love for Ephesians, I started last week.

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Memorizing does not take much daily time–20 minutes of re-reading the verses each day is enough to let the verses sink in deeply. And, memorizing gives me permission (and that is key!) to spend a week on the same verses, rather than move to new ones each day.  The focus is now on the verses, not on the scripture reading plan!

Memorizing is also a natural partner to the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina (Latin for divine reading), a centuries old way of reading and praying scripture (here is an intro). The movements of lectio divina are often described as a meal: reading the verses is eating, meditating on them is chewing, praying them is digestion, and contemplating them is that lovely full feeling after a good meal–and the words (the Word) are now nourishing our very being. Memorizing fits well into the reading stage and is closer to what Christians would have done in earlier times.

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If you are interested in making your own memory book, an example is here. Here is a lovely reflection on memorization as well as lots of suggestions.

If you’ve never memorized scripture, then start with a verse or two (and see how easy it is!)  Here is a great musical version of Philippians 4:6-7. I guarantee you will have the verses memorized by the end of the video!

***

Thankful today for…

“the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us (drenched us!) in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Eph 1:3)

Scripture and the written witness of Christians centuries ago to the presence and power of Christ in their lives.

Eugene Peterson’s books and the privilege of this time to immerse myself in them.

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A wonderful thanksgiving feast with dear friends.

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Wind swept views.

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Friendship…over time and experiences and years of conversation, grateful for the knowing and the being known.

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My godson Ben.

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Nov 22 2010

Deeper Magic

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Worried about the future, a woman stepped out of the campus library into the cold winter darkness. Decisions yet to be made pressed in upon her. Hungry and tired, she waited for the bus in the street lamp’s glare, wearily wondering where God had gone.  She worried at the question as she worried at her frayed sleeve, plucking threads and watching the fabric unravel. Familiar tears prickled at the corners of her eyes.  She clenched her teeth against the ache and shoved her hands in her pockets, roughly setting her thoughts and eyes to look for distant headlights.

That’s when she saw them, on the sidewalk, just at the edge between light and dark:

Paw prints.

Large paw prints, like some gigantic creature only meant for the wilds had stepped through paint and then sprinted into the night.

She half-turned away. It was cold. Late. The tiny lights of a bus appeared in the distance. She imagined supper and bed, warmth and sleep.

Yet a little spark of adventure flickered to life in her heart, a little less weariness weighed down her limbs.

She hardly noticed stepping out from the certainty of the stop, questions stilled by curiosity.

She followed up and around, down and back, street lamps lighting her way, one moment certain she had lost the trail only to find it again further up and further in, until the paw prints finally stopped.

And she stopped, breathing deep from the chase, hope of a deeper magic rising in her heart.

At the end of the trail, scrawled joyfully on the pavement, were two shimmering words from her childhood, catching her up in the story, breaking past all her doubts, filling the ache, until her heart spilled over in laughter and tears and laughter again:

ASLAN LIVES!!

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Today I am grateful…

That Christ is risen indeed!

For C.S. Lewis, whom I remember today, and how the Narnia stories still speak to me of The Story, and that children are still reading them.

For the paw prints of God’s guidance: I may not know where following them will take me, but I know Who waits at the end.

For the story kernel, based on Deborah Smith Douglas’ mention of actually finding paw prints on Duke University’s campus and following them to the joyful words.  She writes: “I simply, with all my heart, recognized the transforming truth of the affirmation. Aslan is alive. Resurrection happens. Christ is risen.  In a single leap, Aslan had bounded past the watchful dragons of my mind and all the intervening years to return…Because my whole childhood rose up to greet the Lion, my tenuously sophisticated young-adult self had no defenses against the saving “allelujah!” truth of that moment.” (Weavings, Jan/Feb 1997, 21)

For my young friend, Jack, who has read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on his own for the first time.

And for this morning, like going through the Wardrobe, I look out on a snowy world,

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and the feathered friends who eat breakfast with me:

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