Sunday, January 29, 2017

Now Is The Time

Last night my heart broke as we chanted Psalm 72.

When the poor cry, they will be saved.
From oppression they will be rescued,
for precious are their lives.
Your anointed will intercede
and all will receive blessings.

This morning we sang one of my favorite songs during Liturgy, Sing a New Church.

Summoned by the God who made us rich in our diversity,
Gathered in the name of Jesus, richer still in unity.

Draw together at one table all the human family;
shape a circle ever wider and a people ever free.

Trust the goodness of creation; trust the Spirit strong within.
Dare to dream the vision promised, sprung from seed of what has been.

Bring the hope of ev'ry nation; bring the art of ev'ry race.
Weave a song of peace and justice; let it sound through time and space.

Let us bring the gifts that differ, and in splendid, varied ways,
sing a new church into being, one in faith and love and praise.

We also heard a tremendous homily on the way the Beatitudes might speak to us individually, but they call us to act communally. After Liturgy, we acted.

May we uphold each other right now, keeping hope for the possible. Wendell Berry says it well:

It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old,
for hope must not depend on feeling good
and there is the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight.
You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality
of the future, which surely will surprise us,
and hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction
any more than by wishing. But stop dithering.
The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them?
Tell them at least what you say to yourself.

Because we have not made our lives to fit
our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,
the streams polluted, the mountains overturned. Hope
then to belong to your place by your own knowledge
of what it is that no other place is, and by
your caring for it as you care for no other place, this
place that you belong to though it is not yours,
for it was from the beginning and will be to the end.

Belong to your place by knowledge of the others who are
your neighbors in it: the old man, sick and poor,
who comes like a heron to fish in the creek,
and the fish in the creek, and the heron who manlike
fishes for the fish in the creek, and the birds who sing
in the trees in the silence of the fisherman
and the heron, and the trees that keep the land
they stand upon as we too must keep it, or die.

This knowledge cannot be taken from you by power
or by wealth. It will stop your ears to the powerful
when they ask for your faith, and to the wealthy
when they ask for your land and your work.
Answer with knowledge of the others who are here
and how to be here with them. By this knowledge
make the sense you need to make. By it stand
in the dignity of good sense, whatever may follow.

Speak to your fellow humans as your place
has taught you to speak, as it has spoken to you.
Speak its dialect as your old compatriots spoke it
before they had heard a radio. Speak
publicly what cannot be taught or learned in public.

Listen privately, silently to the voices that rise up
from the pages of books and from your own heart.
Be still and listen to the voices that belong
to the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.
There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,
by which it speaks for itself and no other.

Find your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls
freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
and the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
which is the light of imagination. By it you see
the likeness of people in other places to yourself
in your place. It lights invariably the need for care
toward other people, other creatures, in other places
as you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

No place at last is better than the world. The world
is no better than its places. Its places at last
are no better than their people while their people
continue in them. When the people make
dark the light within them, the world darkens.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Embracing Vulnerability

I spent yesterday in solitude for my reflection day. With that gift, I was able to finish reading Brene Brown's book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't).

In the book, Brene outlines the way shame and fear affect the way we act and behave in so many ways that we often never even realize. She gives helpful reflection tools and outlines how empathy is the antidote to shame. Shame is a major focus of her research, as is vulnerability. I know many people are familiar with her work, but I feel like I cannot return to it enough. Embracing vulnerability has been a major part of my reflection during this novitiate year.

Here is Brene's TED Talk on the topic of shame.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Love Trumps Hate

It seems as though just about every Women's March yesterday exceeded expectations - how beautiful?

Here in Erie, I had heard the number 300 for expectations. As for reality, the number I am hearing is somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000! I think my favorite chant from the day is "Love, not hate, makes America great!" Of course, "We want a leader, not a creepy Tweeter" is pretty darn good!

In addition to a marvelous turnout, the weather was pretty marvelous, too. To wear a spring jacket on January 21 in Erie is quite the gift. God was joyfully looking upon the world yesterday.

Here is a very cool interactive piece from the New York Times showing the different marches around the world, followed by some of my own from here in Erie.

Link to New York Times.

Here in Erie:

Let us walk in the holy feminine presence.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

An Important Sermon for the Upcoming Days and Weeks and Everything Ahead

I first encountered Nadia Bolz-Weber in the episode of On Being she did with Krista Tippett. She is a minister at a progressive church in Colorado. Since hearing that interview I have enjoyed reading her sermons, which she posts online most weeks.

This recent sermon struck me as January 20th quickly approaches. She titles it: "Sermon On Seeing More Than Just What We Look For." (From

Sometimes I do something so stupid that I just really want to share it with everyone. Maybe that’s the pathology that leads one to write memoir. I have no idea why, but when something super embarrassing happens to me – like something really cringe-worthy, for some reason my first reaction is to immediately be disappointed that it wasn’t caught on video. Anyhow, I was discussing this with some of you this week – and how one of the more ridiculous moments of my life happened when I was alone and fast asleep in a hotel. I guess I had slept in such a weird position that my arm had fallen asleep – not just kind of tingly and a little numb, no it was completely dead – no feeling in it whatsoever, so anyhow – in my sleep I roll over and was startled to feel what was definitely a human arm, I screamed “who’s there?” and jumped out of bed, my heavy lifeless arm flopping to my side. I almost immediately started laughing at how ridiculous that must have looked to be afraid of my own arm – and then thought, damn I wish that was on video. In terms of possible things that can happen when you are sleeping, a murderer laying next to you in your bed or your arm having fallen asleep couldn’t be more different and I have to say I had never been so thrilled to be wrong.
Even though generally speaking, being wrong is something I try and avoid. I mean, I like to know what I am talking about. I like to KNOW stuff. And I like to be right, and I like to know what to look for in life. I like to have what I consider accurate assessments of people and institutions and events.
But I started to wonder recently if in some ways I believe that being right about theology or right about politics or right about social issues will save me. Especially as a Lutheran – since sometimes I joke that what Lutherans really believe in is salvation through theological precision.
But this week as I read our Gospel text I started to wonder what we lose when we think we already know things. What do we lose when we think we already know what’s possible and what’s not possible? What do we lose when we think we already know the nature and value of the members of our family? What do we lose when we think we already know who we are and what we are capable of? What do we lose when we think we know who God is, how God shows up in the world and where God is obviously absent.
Because the thing that struck me is how twice in our Gospel reading John the Baptist, when talking about how he was able to identify Jesus as the messiah, said he did not know. He did not know him. John baptized a gazillion people in the Jordon and yet he was able to se that this one man, one of countless men he encountered, this one man named Jesus, was the son of God, the messiah, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the word. John the Baptist in the midst of his daily life encountered God incarnate and was able to see the Lord – but not because of anything he knew or thought he knew, but because he was in a space of unknowing. It was his unknowingness and not his opinions or certainty that allowed him to recognize God in his midst.
That just made me wonder if maybe thinking we already know things totally gets in the way of seeing anything new… it gets in the way of seeing God right in front of us. Or as my mother Peggy says, Nadia once you decide you’re right about something you stop taking in new information.
And man, am I aware right now of how much what I see in life is determined by what I already believe…how I tend to just scan my life for confirmation of what I already think is true. Like how I only tend to look for confirmation of what I already think I know about someone.
I just think that if John the Baptist was baptizing at the Jordon and he thought he already knew how things were going to look, that he would have totally missed seeing who Jesus really was. And then that makes me wonder how often I miss seeing Jesus in my own life.
Because the other thing that really stood out for me in this text is how many times seeing and watching and looking are mentioned.
John the Baptist saw Jesus
John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending
God said the one on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one
And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
as he watched Jesus walk by
he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?”
He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw 
That’s a lot of stuff about what we see and what we are looking for and I just couldn’t ignore it this week. Especially as someone who can feel trapped in her own way of seeing everything. I mean, I’ve been Christian for quite a while now and it still doesn’t feel like I once was blind and now I see. Which is why my friend Sara says it’s more like, “I once was blind…and now I just have really bad vision”
And feeling trapped in how I see things is especially hard right now and I don’t think I am alone because right now in our country we are so bitterly divided each side so sure they are right. Each side locked into our view of each other. Half the country will be celebrating this week and the other half will be marching this week. And right now given the fear and doom I am feeling about all of it you know what I want desperately? To be wrong.
want to be wrong. Wrong about what feels like the Hyrda administration. Wrong about the so called “other side”. Wrong about the future. I want God to give me new eyes to see.
So you know that little part in our Gospel reading where Jesus asked the 2 disciples “what are you looking for?” I heard that question differently this week than I ever had before. Usually I hear that as Jesus saying “search your heart and tell me what your deepest desire is” but this time it felt less like an invitation and more like an incrimination. Like Jesus is asking what are you expecting to see? What do you have eyes to see? What informs your confirmation bias?
Like he’s saying forget what you are looking for and instead see what really is. Which felt like good news I desperately needed to hear. Like Jesus is saying there is more to see than just what I look for.
There is more to see in myself than just what I look for
There is more to see in my enemies than just what I look for
There is more to see in this country than just what I look for.
I need this to be true. I need to stop looking for affirmation of what I already believe and instead see the world and others and myself through the eyes of a God who loves all of it madly. I need Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The one who flips the script and disrupts the narrative and reveals God’s truth. The one who says come and see. Come and see salvation (which is a path we can only experience by not already knowing where we’re going).
My vision is so limited to seeing confirmation of what I think I already know that if Jesus is offering to show me more I am so grateful. Sign me up.

Let us pray,
God of desert prophets and unlikely messiahs,
Help us set aside our pride enough to see how little we really know. Humble us. And then raise us up as agents of your peace. Show us that there is more to see than what we look for. More possibility. More love. More forgiveness. When we look upon those we consider enemies, help us see them as your children loved madly by you. Help others who view us as their enemies to also see us as your beloved children. Heal this nation. Heal the people in this room, Lord. Restore our sight so that we may see you in each other.
We’re not going to bother asking politely because we are basically out of other options. Show yourself, Lord. And if you are already doing that and we are too blind to see, then grant us even bad vision, since even that would be a vast improvement.
We ask all of this and that for which we have no words in the name of Jesus Christ, friend of sinners of every variety, Amen.
Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Various Stuff

After Liturgy today I went up to some friends with "various ideas" for the day. Overall though, it's been a pretty quiet weekend, with not much to report, so I am going to share some "various stuff" I've encountered. Maybe you will enjoy something in this mélange.

Alec Baldwin's latest Donald Trump impersonation:

KenKen puzzles - see the instructions on the picture - sort of similar to Sudoku, sort of not:

Words from Henri Nouwen:
"Our minds are always active. We analyze, reflect, daydream, or dream. There is not a moment during the day or night when we are not thinking. You might say our thinking is 'unceasing.' Sometimes we wish that we could stop thinking for a while; that would save us from many worries, guilt feelings, and fears. Our ability to think is our greatest gift, but it is also the source of our greatest pain. Do we have to become victims of our unceasing thoughts? No, we can convert our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer by making our inner monologue into a continuing dialogue with our God, who is the source of all love.

Let's break out of our isolation and realize that Someone who dwells in the center of our beings wants to listen with love to all that occupies and preoccupies our minds."

Some desert wisdom:

And, if you have Netflix, you MUST check out the new Lemony Snicket series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf is genius!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Three Days Later

It is hard to imagine that what transpired over the weekend would vanish just as quickly. After some rain yesterday and warmer temperatures, I re-embarked on our Sunday adventure this morning.

Here then, quite different now.

While all the snow and ice did not vanish from the lake, the difference is pretty amazing.

And, the contrast should only expand. Tomorrow's high is 53 degrees! You can see, though, how the snow and ice built up at the water's edge. And, you can see the faintest traces of those huge icicles!

But, my two favorite discoveries were 1.) how the water melted leaving a heart on the pavement.

And, 2.) watching the ice melt. That one drop on the right side of the video looks just like a Plinko piece falling on the game board on The Price is Right! See if you can spot it!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Wise Women Also Came

Happy Epiphany! My favorite Epiphanic poem comes from none other than Jan Richardson.

Wise women also came.
The fire burned
in their wombs
long before they saw
the flaming star
in the sky.
They walked in shadows,
trusting the path
would open
under the light of the moon.

Wise women also came,
seeking no directions,
no permission
from any king.
They came
by their own authority,
their own desire,
their own longing.
They came in quiet,
spreading no rumors,
sparking no fears
to lead
to innocents’ slaughter,
to their sister Rachel’s
inconsolable lamentations.

Wise women also came,
and they brought
useful gifts:
water for labor’s washing,
fire for warm illumination,
a blanket for swaddling.

Wise women also came,
at least three of them,
holding Mary in the labor,
crying out with her
in the birth pangs,
breathing ancient blessings
into her ear.

Wise women also came,
and they went,
as wise women always do,
home a different way.

I took a walk with some wise women in my life this afternoon to enjoy the snowstorm. We could barely see at the start of our journey because the wind was so heavy blowing the snow.

But, onward we continued, reaching the lake that is beginning to freeze.

When we turned the corner walking toward where the beach would be, our eyes received a gift.

And, closer.

And, closer.

And, closer yet I went.

To get a semi-risky, but totally-worth-it picture.

Here you can see the size of the icicles in comparison to me.

Finally, another wise woman, Scholastica, with the light shining through the clouds in our courtyard, as we, too, went home a different way.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Amazing Day

Life is pretty amazing. Coldplay decided to capture the beautiful simplicity and complexity of the daily life in a new music video for their song "Amazing Day." They asked fans to send in videos from a single day of life, November 19, 2016. Here are the results. (Click this sentence and scroll to the video.) It's pretty fantastic.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy Words

I came across this on Facebook the other day. It is an article about the Positive Lexicography Project.  The goal is to create an "an online glossary of untranslatable words." To understand, you have to read the article and check out the glossary. Here are 26 of my favorite, choosing one from each letter of the alphabet. What a positive way to start the new year! Happy 2017, everyone!

  • Aroha (Māori, v., n.): (to feel) love, concern, compassion, empathy for someone.
  • Bayanihan (Tagalog, n.): co-operative endeavour in the service of a shared goal; a spirit of communal unity.
  • Cynefin (Welsh, n.): A place where one feels one ought to live; the relationship one has to the place where one was born and/or feels at home.
  • Dadirri (Aboriginal, Ngangiwumirr n.): a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening.
  • Erlebnis (German): living fully, experiencing life deeply and intensely in the here and now.
  • Fjellvant (Norwegian) (adj.): Being accustomed to walk in the mountains.
  • Gumusservi (Turkish, n.): the glimmering that moonlight makes on water.
  • Hachnasat orchim (Yiddish/Hebrew, n.): ‘bringing in guests’; offering hospitality and respect to strangers.
  • Inuuqatigiittiarniq (Inuit, n.): being respectful of all people.
  • Janteloven (Norwegian/Danish, n.): a set of rules which discourages individualism in communities.​
  • Kanso (簡素) (Japanese, n.): elegant simplicity, an attractive absence of clutter.
  • Lutalica (English, new coinage, n.): the part of your identity that doesn't fit into categories.
  • Mangata (Swedish, n.): the glimmering that moonlight makes on water.
  • Nam jai (น้ำใจ) (Thai, n.): lit. 'water from the heart', selfless generosity and kindness.
  • Orenda (Huron, n.): the power of the human will to change the world in the face of powerful forces.
  • Petrichor (English, new coinage, n.): the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil.
  • Querencia (Spanish, n.): a place where one feels secure, from which one draws strength.
  • Ramé (Balinese, n.): something at once chaotic and joyful.
  • Sólarfrí (Icelandic) (n.): sun holiday, i.e., when workers are granted unexpected time off to enjoy a particularly sunny/warm day.
  • Tarab (طرب) (Arabic, n.): musically-induced ecstasy or enchantment.
  • Utepils (Norwegian, n.): a beer that is enjoyed outside (particularly on the first hot day of the year).
  • Víðsýni (Icelandic) (adj.): a panoramic view, or, open-mindedness.
  • Whakakoakoa (Māori, v.): to cheer up.
  • Xibipíío (Pirahã, n.): experiencing liminality; a phenomenon on the boundaries of perception/experience.
  • Yūgen (幽玄) (Japanese): cloudy impenetrability, unknowability, mystery.
  • Zwischenraum (German, n.): an open or empty space in or between things.

I mean how could saying the word "Whakakoakoa" not make you cheer up?!

Let us walk in the holy presence.