Monday, September 28, 2009

Oh Such Shiftings

There are times when one's day off must be shifted or sacrificed. Much of today was full of that shift and sacrifice, twistings and turnings.

Today, I spent good time with the chaplain at Hospice. She and I recently have been working together because of one of the beloved members of Grace was a patient at Hospice Woodside. Ellie spent time with me today as I reflected on what it means that M has left Florida to head back to his home state. Such a shifting, especially given the fact that he and his parents and sister worshiped with us yesterday. Such quick shiftings.

I am grateful for a time with a chaplain, Ellie, who helped me begin to process M's absence for our community. And helped fill in a couple of gaps about his leaving.

Our prayers are that he makes it to his intended destination, that he survives until then.

Ellie brought to my attention the need that I have to be in a regular schedule of meeting with a spiritual director. Thanks be to God for those who are partners through this process.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Four Pounds of Licorice

As M got settled in his new living facility, I had a few occasions to talk with him. I learned that one of his passions was black licorice. Yikes, not my first choice and probably among my last choices. But this is what M loved. I told him that I would bring him some.

The next time I visited him, he was in no condition to eat ANYTHING much less licorice! The time after that he was ever so much better. But, alas, I forgot the licorice. M suitably chastised me. ;-)

Then a series of events began to unfold very quickly through which M was in touch with members of his family from whom he had been distant for the last many many years. And a few days ago they gathered around him, bearing licorice. They knew of his passion for it (despite the lapse of many years)and they brought one pound, I was chagrined that I had forgotten the visit before and brought one pound. I learned of another of M's friends who mailed him two pounds.

A one hundred pound child of God and four pounds of licorice. Seems about right.

Grateful again!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Let a Child Lead Us

Like many congregations, over the years the acolytes at Grace typically have been middle-schoolers. But as this congregation has shifted and changed in its demographics, we now see that even adults can light candles. Imagine that. Serving in the chancel can be something that even adults do.

And today one of our grown-up acolytes, Kristie, asked me if she could have her 2+ year old son, Nicholas, walk with her as she performed this service. What a delight it was for all of us to see a mother and son participate in this simple service of lighting the candles and then extinguishing them.

I wonder about what it would look like if we were like Nicholas, eager to serve, following the example of others, and eagerly wanting to do it again!

Blessings to all!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Over the past few days, pastors, rostered leaders, bishops, and some lay leaders came together for an annual conference regularly scheduled. Together we enjoy time to rest, reflect, talk, worship, and work. Our evening worship yesterday included an opportunity for prayer with anointing and laying on of hands. Serving as one of the prayer ministers is one of the very sacred times of ministry that I have experienced.

I remember many of their names, the feel of their hands as I touched and asked them if there was something specific they would like prayers of healing for, the smoothness of the oil on my thumb and the various textures of the skin on their foreheads.

I remember the pain in some of their voices as they raised a specific need, the weariness in others where there was only a need for stamina and strength of spirit. I remember some of their eyes – those who met mine, and I remember those who did not for reasons that are all their own.

There is that moment when one approaches for prayer and the one offering prayer asks if there is a specific need. In that split second, one decides whether to speak of that which is heaviest on their heart and spirit. This is an intersection of fear and hope that PB Mark had been describing over our days together -- that place where we risk personal vulnerability because of our trust in the one with us and our hope that in this time of prayer and anointing, God will do what God promises – that he will bind up the broken-hearted, give release to the captive and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.

And most amazingly, in this time of prayer with each of these, I am humbled to realize that their expression of their need gave silent voice to my own. I was not only praying for them, but in our time together we were praying with each other.

Holy Ground.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Walking with a Wounded Hip

Such a contrast. Today the congregation I serve was preparing for Rally Day and Ministry Fair tomorrow. There was such energy and laughter and joy as this gathering of folks prepared to "pat themselves on their (collective) back" for the lives being touched, both within our family of faith and those who are within our reach. Then I returned home and saw even more emails and postings and links with angst over some of the actions of the Churchwide Assembly last month. Such a contrast.

I know that even writing this makes me subject to the justifiable criticism that our faith is not simply a matter of laughter and joy and enthusiasm. That is not what I mean to convey. Certainly, that is not the case. Rather, it becomes clear to me once again that that which is the source of our greatest joy is also the source of our greatest pain. 

Like hundreds or even thousands of Lutherans right now, I am wrestling. And I expect that, like Jacob, as the dawn comes, I will walk into it with a wounded hip. Perhaps, like Jacob, I am wrestling with God. But perhaps not. Some of my brothers and sisters in faith assert that unless I stand against the actions of the Churchwide Assembly with regard to homosexuality, I am apostate and outside the Christian faith. Others share their own wrestlings. Others continue to get ready for Rally Day.

It seems that our task now is to live in the tension of Rally Day and tornadoes.

Tonight I will finish preparations for tomorrow. Tomorrow I will teach and proclaim the Word as God equips me to do, I will worship Him as the Spirit enables me, I will celebrate the Eucharist as one called and privileged to do so. All with a most grateful heart.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day

Don't you find it funny that most Sundays, the Sabbath, the day of rest, is the day that many of us run errands, do housework, do work work; in short, we do anything but rest. Tomorrow is Labor Day and most of us will do anything but labor -- we will sleep in, putz around the grill, cook an easy meal with an easy clean-up.

Labor Day marks a transition of seasons -- from Summer to Fall. When I was very young, Labor Day was the last day before school started. At the ready were my new shoes for school, new school supplies, perhaps some new clothes. The more fashionably minded among us mark Labor Day as the end of the time for wearing white shoes, white jackets, most all things white.

I think about the labor of my parents. Arden, my dad, was a meat-cutter for all of his working life. Dad worked 6 full days a week for much of my life. Then he began taking Wednesdays off (in addition to Sunday). As I used number 2 pencils to fill in the circles in elementary school testing, I didn't know how to answer demographic questions -- is your father a blue-collar or a white collar worker? Well, my dad wore a black tie and a white shirt to work every day. But I was told that he was a blue-collar worker. This was quite confusing to this second grade daughter.

Yvette, my mom, worked behind a desk. This was most unusual for a mother of the 50's and 60's. But the elementary school testing didn't ask anything about her. In the demographic questioning, Mom's work didn't matter, didn't amount to anything, according to this survey. Yet, clearly they labored and they taught me well about laboring.

So, there was the line between the "blue-collar" and the "white-collar"; and there was the line between the work of the 'husbands" and the "wives." In my 7th grade classroom there was the line between the Christians, and Pat Moses, the one Jew. Such a very large number of lines to define us.

May we all "rest" on "Labor" Day


Friday, September 4, 2009

Fit for the Dogs

Usually at this time of night, I would be turning off the TV, closing down the screen of my laptop and noticing Sam lift his head from his little "dog nest" and look at me with those eyes that say "is this it?"  Then "it" would be moving from my office to having a little time as I perched on the hearth of our fireplace. I sat. He was petted near my feet or with my feet. Sam settled in and so did I for a time, a time of quiet and a time of peace, a time of sitting, and a time of doing not much of anything. Oh, my Sam.

When I think of "dogs," I think of the dogs we have loved and lived with and cared for -- Sheba, Molly, and Sam. The dogs in our homes have been indulged, fed lavish meals at the ending of their days, bathed in human bathtubs, and on their own and sometimes unbeknownst to us they settled into the coziest places in our homes.
They have trembled at the approaching storms and climbed into our laps for comfort. They have ignored intruders. They have run away from us (because there is such a world out there to explore!!) and then quickly jumped into Earl's truck as we went looking for them and they were looking for the next adventure.
Oh, these dogs of ours. Our life would not be the same without them.
In the gospel reading for this coming Sunday, Jesus speaks to the "dogs." The dogs are cared for and fed.
We are dogs who are fed at the Table of the Lord.
Who else shall we invite close to the Table of the Lord?

Heading to the hearth.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lost and Found

A member of the congregation I serve (I'll call him "M") was hospitalized a few weeks ago and was in the hospital, indeed, for a few weeks. This afternoon I went to visit him and he was gone, had been discharged. Normally, that would be cause for a prayer of thanksgiving. But this is not a "normal" situation. M is one of a small handful of our members who is homeless. I couldn't imagine that they would simply discharge him to the street so I assumed that he was in a facility someplace. Given privacy rules, I figured that he was lost to us until he could find a way to contact me.

Thank you God for hospital staff members who were compassionate (or, alternatively, uncaring or ignorant) and gave me discharge information for M -- in a round-a-bout way M ended up at another hospital. This raised many questions and wonderings in my mind. Fortunately, the other hospital wasn't awfully far away. I traveled a bit and found M, blessed him, and prayed with him. His discharge planner stopped in while I was there -- thank you again God!

Once lost and now found. While I had other important calls and visits to make today, I could see that M was to be the focus of my shepherding this afternoon. Those others whom I had planned on visiting had others around them who cared for them. M was alone. Not surprisingly, the parable that occurred to me was the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7). Several years ago, a friend, colleague, and seminary professor told me that she met a pastor once who termed that parable the Parable of the Incomplete Flock. Lost, then found, because someone searched. And the flock was complete again.  Holy Ground.

But, of course, the flock is never really complete.