Thursday, June 11, 2009


OK, maybe we should think of it more as a reappearance; I haven't been dead, just lazy for 18 months. But today I saw something that inspired me to write!

Usually when I drive past a church sign with a pithy platitude, I shake my head and roll my eyes. Sometimes there's even an audible "eeww!" You know, I just don't see God using the language of most church signs. But today I saw one in San Antonio that (had I not been driving in traffic on 410 would have) made me stop and take note. It asked, in stylish LED flashing lights, "What is God is asking YOU for a sign?"

It makes a good point. We often wish for a sign, for confirmation that God is there, that God cares, understands, or at least is aware. Show me a sign! Tell me what to do! Make the bush burn! (I've been evoking that one lately.)

But does God ever ask the same of us? Hey, you human--are you really there? Do you care, understand, are you aware of what is important to me? Did you hear what I just asked YOU? Sometimes we live our lives on such autopilot that it doesn't seem that we really ARE here, because if we were we'd react differently. We'd be outraged at injustice and discrimination. We'd be heartbroken for all the forgotten, left out, hungry, poor, sick folks we (rather) choose not to notice. We'd make our choices based on how to make God's love real in the world rather than how to make a buck or how to make ourselves feel better.

What if God IS asking us for a sign? We like to tell God what kind of sign we want/need/can interpret (it's even in the Bible!). But we're not as good at listening to what sign God wants from us. It's also in the Bible--kindness, patience, peace, love, joy goodness, faithfulness.

And, since the sign didn't supply the usual hokey-ness, here's a dose for you, from years of Vacation Bible School:

"And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they'll know we are Christians by our love"

That would be a sign God, and neighbor, could see.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sorry I don't write much--my thoughts usually revolve around "When am I going to get the bulletin done?" and wondering what's going to happen today that I don't know how to do. Frantic, but not very interesting.

But last Weds, Dec. 12, was the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We sang "Holden Evening Prayer", as is our community's custom during Advent for evening worship, and for the lesson I read the Guadalupe story. I used to think that the "Guadalupe thing" was very culturally specific, somwhat superstitious, bordering on idolatry. But have you read the story? It's fascinating! And as I have come to know the story and the tradition, and the people who embrace it, better, I have a new respect and admiration for La Santissima Virgen.

Guadalupe, the Most Holy and Blessed Mother, appears to Juan Diego, a most lowly and despised campesino, during the time of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. In the sort of "worst case scenario" of old fashioned mission mindset, the Indians are forced to abandon their religious and cultural customs in favor of the sanitized, civilized Christianity brought over from Europe by the conquering heroes. There's lots of rich (Aztec!) symbolism in the story, completing the transition from one world to another. [At the same time, over in Germany, Luther and Melanchthon and company were preparing to defend the Augsburg Confession.]

We lived in Puebla, Mexico, for a summer, and met many Nahuatl people and heard many stories of these ancestors of Juan Diego. That put things in context for me. We also visited the basilica of Guadalupe, and saw the thousands of pilgrims who visit there daily.

What I have come to love about Guadalupe is the reminder that she embodies: there is nothing God won't do to get to us, to get at us. Despite the powers that overtake us and occupy our souls; despite the condition of our world or of our hearts, despite our failure to see our own faithfulness, God continues to surprise us in amazing ways, to believe in us when we don't, to entrust such things as the incarnation of the Word of God to US. Who are we, that God should be mindful of us? Lucky for us, it isn't about who we are, but who God is, and who GOD knows us to be. God. Knows. Us. THAT is the miracle of Guadalupe.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Best comment in review of a worship (healing) service, at its conclusion:

"Boy, that felt good!"

OK, that will carry me for awhile.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


In a conversation today about why people come to worship, one man made this observation: "It's like music. I can buy the CD and listen to it at home, but when I really want to EXPERIENCE the music, I spend the extra money and go to the concert."

Yes, we can be "religious" or "spiritual" all by ourselves, in our own little worlds. We can read the Bible and pray every day (I commend these practices to you!). But when we want to EXPERIENCE God, we join together in worship, at worship. God's word can transform us in a silent, private reading, of course; but the experience of communal worship cannnot be duplicated when one is alone.

In my home I have a small "altar" for my devotional time. On it are candles, pictures, a goddess rosary, a Muslim prayer rug, a carving of a woman dancing in prayer--mostly gifts from others. A Bible, a hymnal, and my laptop labyrinth are nearby. Many of these elements are present in the congregation's worship space as well, but when I'm at home, there is no church, no gathering of "2 or 3 or more", no one else's voice raised with mine. It's a CD, not a concert; vital to my life with God, but not the same experience.

When I gather with others in worship, I am reminded of the joys and hurts beyond my own. I know parts of the stories that are sitting in the chairs around me, other prayer concerns to lift to God, not just my own. I see how I walk beside, away from, and toward others at various times on this journey of life. I see God's vision for us as we gather around the Table--I would never invite this particular configuration of people to dinner, yet here we are, sharing a meal for life together.

I know 9:30 is early, especially when Saturday night actually ended sometime Sunday morning. But I can't NOT go to worship; it's who I am. A worship nerd as I've always been, yet I believe my life is richer for the rhythm worship provides. And so, like Philip to Nathanael, we say, "Come and see". Come and experience, come and live.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Yes, I'm a slug--haven't posted in awhile, and this is just a post to point out the obvious: I haven't been writing.

Tomorrow (later today) I will have a ceremony to send one of my sheep to Marine Basic Training. I can't even tell you how many different emotions I have around that topic. To quote Ron Weasley, "One person can't feel all that at once, they'd explode." Obviously *I* have an emotional range larger than a teaspoon, because this is going to be difficult. Which may explain why I'm not sleeping and it's after midnight on a Saturday.

Guess I should try. Sleeping. I'll try to be more interesting before too long.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Speed Dialed

"Honestly, I have a problem with Christians sometimes. Some of them are self-righteous and judgmental. But no one here is like that. You have taught me that Christians can be cool people, and that's what I like about this church."

I asked the graduating high school seniors to say a few words about what they're doing next year and something about their faith or what they appreciate about being part of our congregation. I didn't know what I was in for--how honest, how profound, how important their words would be. I'm not surprised that these words came from the person who said them, but again I sat in awe that I get to be part of something as life-changing as this--this congregation, these words, these people.

Honestly, this is why I stay. Despite other bad, cruel, hateful words that come from parishioners sometimes (fortunately, not my own, but *somebody* has to deal with those people at the microphones at synod assembly!), here we stay, because one young person who "gets it", as this one does, is worth all the days of wondering if anything's getting through. God must know when I need to hear this message, for She always sends an angel in the form of a young adult to remind me that this church is messy, but it's our church and it's our mess and it's worth sticking around to see how God will clean it up.

So thanks to all of you who remind me that we're in this together, and that this church is a good place to be when we remember who else is here, and thanks for leading such interesting lives that I enjoy being part of. You know who you are, and YOU ROCK. And together, we are the church, and we're cool.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What We Really Need

Badge-a-minit. Acrylic podiums. Padded chairs. Kitchen cutlery. The incredible digital hymnal. And, of course, a free Reggie Racoon hand puppet. Apparently these are things I need, according to the "Pastor Resources: serving those who serve" catalog. It goes without saying that congregations spend much money and energy on gadgets and gizmos that aren't entirely related to the gospel, even small ones like ours that really have no extra money to spend.

What I really want in a catalog are some words of healing for the families who are struggling, reconciliation for that which is irreparable, hope for the sick, courage for the dying, excitement for the graduates (and their parents). I need to know God is present in ways we can't imagine, to trust the Spirit moves and breathes through us even when we resemble dry bones at the end of the school year. In the midst of transition by graduation, divorce, death, mid-life, menarche, and humidity, I need to know God is holding it all together.

I'm not having a faith crisis, or wondering whether any of this is true. I just marvel at the chasm of difference between what I perceive to be real needs and what someone wants to sell me so I can be a more effective pastor. Thankfully, I'm not much of a shopper, especially by catalog, so I'll take what God has to offer instead, and save our budget for something else. Maybe portable, lightweight Greek-style columns for weddings and baptisms.

Or not.