Archives for October 2013

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO IMAGINE

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Imagine you’re a 1st century Galilean.
And you’re proud of the hometown boy who made good
down there in Judea.
You’ve heard rumors that he’s got a real way with words,
that he puts on quite a magic show,
and that the crowds are eating it up.

Way to go, Jesus.

The thing is, though, Jesus can see right through you.
Yeah, he can.
He can see that you’re impressed by the bells and whistles,
but you haven’t a clue who he is,
what he’s really about.

Imagine next, an outsider comes along.
Someone who actually follows Jesus over hill and dale,
and begs him for help.
A ‘royal official,’ John’s gospel tell us.
Not only an outsider, but a leader of the band,
the band that has taken so much from Israel already.

And this guy, more than the hometown folks,
gets it.
He sees Jesus more clearly than
any of those who watched him grow up,
than any of those who are on the inside.
He has a sick boy,
and he’s not too proud to beg,
“Jesus, heal my boy. I know you can.”

Imagine that Jesus then turns to all those
round about,
all those old friends and family,
all those who maybe should have seen
and understood more than they did,
but who were, as Jesus himself remembered,
the very ones least likely to welcome
Jesus. . . the prophet.

Because that’s who he was, right?
Yeah, he was a great teacher,
yeah, he spoke with authority,
yeah, he made wine out of water,
and yeah, he did some cool healing tricks.
That Jesus, everybody wants to pat on the back 

But Jesus, the prophet?

Ain’t nobody wants a prophet around.
They get up in your business and they pontificate
and they tell it way too much like it is.

It’s to those very skeptics that Jesus says,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders,
you will never believe,”
with such sorrow and heaviness in his tone.

But to the one who came begging?
The guy on the outside?
Jesus has only one word:
“GO.”

Our pastor put it this way:
“He had to leave in order to believe.”

And you know what?
The guy did exactly what Jesus told him to do.
“He took Jesus at his word and departed.”

And sure enough, before he even sees the boy,
word comes that he is well!

And the timing of that wellness?
EXACTLY when Jesus had said,
“GO,
your son will live.”

 Imagine that!

Can you imagine that maybe you’re at such a point in your own journey?
A point where you just have to take that step,
trusting that somehow, you’ll see the work of Jesus when you get there? 
Maybe you, like I, have to let go of the Jesus picture we’ve cobbled together,
the one that suits our purposes,
that meets our definition of what a
healer, a savior, a friend should look like.
Maybe, just maybe, we have to embrace ALL the pieces
of this strange and wonderful person
and stop with the pats on the back, you know?

Maybe we need to turn into the unknown and say,
“I’m taking you at your word, Lord.
I’m trusting that you are out for my good,
even though all I can see is dark and hard and scary.”

Can you imagine that? 

 My thanks to Pastor Jon Lemmond for his thought-provoking sermon yesterday, entitled, “The Galilean in You, the Galilean in Me. . . ” It’s painful to recognize those Galilean traits in myself, but so important to do it, to let loose of my own carefully defined picture of Jesus and allow him to be someone beyond my comprehension, beyond my power to define. Joining with Michelle today and with Jen, too. 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO DANCE

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Sadly, my husband grew up in a tradition that not think highly of dancing. So we have never danced together.
However, our family has found a wide assortment of ways to engage the world with acts of joy.
Herewith, a sampling, ranging from water play, to miniature golf, to stalking the beach with a camera, to giggling with daddy. Just in case you need something further to give yourself permission to move your body with exuberance, I’ve included some great quotes on the gift that is THE DANCE. 

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”
― Martha Graham

“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.
Great dancers are great because of their passion.” 

― Martha Graham

“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same things,
just moving at different speeds.
A sense of humor is just good sense,
dancing.”
~William James 

“All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes
that fill the history books,
all the political blunders, 
all the failures of the great leaders,
have arisen merely at a lack of skill
at dancing.”
~Moliere

“So the darkness shall be light,
and the stillness, the dancing,”
~T.S. Eliot 

“The dance can reveal everything everything mysterious
that is hidden in music,
and it has the additional merit of being  human and palpable.
Dancing is poetry with arms and legs.”
~Charles Beaudelaire

“I would believe only in a God who knows how to dance.”
~ Friederich Neitzsche

“Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you face.” 
~ Terri Guillamets

“There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.”
– Edwin Denby

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO STOP

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There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want. 
~Bill Watterson,Calvin and Hobbes

Here’s to enough time to do nothing this weekend.
Because it’s the ‘nothing’ time that allows
the seed to grow,

the ideas to blossom,
the Spirit to be heard.

Blessed Sabbath, friends. 

31 Days of Giving Permission to . . . CREATE

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In January of this year, our family gathered to celebrate birthdays. Fully 25% of our current family group was born in that month, and we decided to do something a little bit different to mark this year’s rite of passage.

Did I mention that I have a lot of creative relatives? Well, I do. And the fact that they’re so talented doesn’t intimidate me (most of the time!) — in fact, it encourages and emboldens me. It gives me permission to try a little bit of creativity myself. My daughter, her husband and all three of her sons love to dabble in painting – and their breakfast room looks glorious, decorated with their own work.

So for this birthday gathering, we all came to their house. Taking our inspiration from the art work surrounding us (while the men and children played and watched games), the women gathered around the sewing machine.

I had almost forgotten there is such a thing as a sewing machine. When we moved to Santa Barbara, I packed mine away and haven’t threaded a needle in almost 17 years! But my daughter has one, another daughter and I bought fabric. I found some feed corn, my daughter-in-law helped us measure, and we set to work. 

Our project? Making corn bags! Do you know what those are? Soft flannel pockets that contain kernels of feed corn, which you pop in the microwave for two minutes and then apply to any body part that needs a little soothing heat. Perfect for fall and winter days and nights!

We had so much fun! Why? Because it is fun to make something together – something that is pretty to look at, easy to handle and has such a wonderfully restorative and practical function. We made enough for every family unit to take home two or three bags each. 

And mine have gotten a real work-out ever since! 

And when it came time to celebrate those birthdays? We ALL enjoyed the creativity of our daughter’s youngest son. Joel, age 14 at the time, made this scrumptious and beautiful cake from a recipe in a baking book I’d given him for Christmas. And friends, it tasted even better than it looked. 

In the home in which I grew up, my dad was the admired creative genius — he played the piano exquisitely well. My mom was a talented decorator, seamstress and floral arranger. I, however, did not quite fit into that circle of creativity and felt inadequate and unsuccessful at every creative endeavor I tried.

Until I left home.

In college, I tried my hand at some homemade Mother’s Day cards and began to play the piano for my own enjoyment. I gave myself permission to try things and ‘fail.’ But here’s what I learned — if you try it at all, you automatically WIN. I discovered that the joy is in the process even if the finished product doesn’t quite measure up to expectations. I also learned that the more I did it, the better I got. No, I never reached the status of ‘artist.’ I found something even better — the fun of creating.

And I am delighted to observe that my kids and grandkids do this naturally and well, in all kinds of ways. From photography to baking, from piano playing to imaginative play — they all create. For the joy of it, just that. For the joy of it.


31 Days of Giving Permission to . . . REMEMBER

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Sometimes, it’s good to remember where we’ve been and to look for the connections
between there and here. I was searching for a completely different document on my hard drive (one that I did not find, unfortunately) and came across a sermon that I had written six years ago, a sermon that for some reason did not get filed in the folder marked ‘sermons.’ (Don’t ask about my document filing system. It’s a mess and I don’t really know how to fix it.)
I actually enjoyed reading it, something that doesn’t always happen.
And I remembered where I was back then — in the middle of a family tragedy, in the middle of a massive re-model, in the middle of my husband’s retirement planning.
It was good to see that some things have changed significantly.
It was a little hard to see that some things (mostly inside me!)
haven’t changed quite enough.

Do you have ways to look back on your life and reflect on where you were and where you are? Scripture admonishes us to remember. Over and over again, we’re encouraged to remember the good and build on it, and to remember the not-so-good and release it. Sometimes in the busyness of our over-full lives,
we don’t give ourselves permission to stop long enough
to be reflective about our own journey.
Maybe something in this sermon will help you to do that.

“Gone?”
Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:1-11
Preached as part of the “God’s Big Story” series
Montecito Covenant Church
April 29, 2007
By Diana R.G. Trautwein

It’s been quite a week for me. How about you? Three long car trips — miscellaneous family woes, including some really scary and sad health issues for people I dearly love; the constant noise, dust and confusion of the re-model from planet weird, which goes on and on and on . . . making me more than a little bit crazy and cranky; navigating some tricky interpersonal waterways in my work week – not always terribly successfully; meetings up the wazoo; trying to listen attentively as my husband thinks out loud about some of the complications and decisions associated with his retirement in five weeks.

And then there was this sermon to think about — on the Ascension, of all things. Not something I think about a whole lot, to tell you the truth. Oh, I occasionally refer to it when we recite the creed together: “I believe in Jesus Christ . . . Who ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead . . . “ But it’s not a topic I tend to think about a whole lot.

Doesn’t seem to impact my life much — not like the crucifixion or the resurrection or even the story of Jesus’ birth or the various details of his ministry Nope. Don’t think about the ascension too much. So, adding into an already heavy-duty week the thinking and study required to piece together 20 intelligible minutes on that very subject seemed a daunting and even frustrating task.

But here’s what I want you to hear from me today, before you hear anything else – maybe even if you don’t hear anything else, please hear this: After a week like the one I’ve had – and maybe after a week like the one you’ve had – the ascension is EXACTLY what I needed to ponder, EXACTLY what I needed to wrestle with a little, EXACTLY what I needed to hear from God about.

And, as always, that came as a big surprise to me. Because it never ceases to amaze me that the sermons I preach are always, and I do mean ALWAYS, preached to me first, preached to me and in me – right smack dab in the middle of this messy, ordinary, sometimes glorious, sometimes trouble-filled life I lead. Whatever the topic of the week may be – whether I’ve chosen the text or it’s been given to me – it seems as though the first work of the Spirit needs doing in me before I can even begin to contemplate unpacking the word for others.

And this week, despite my fears and rather listless energy for the topic at the beginning of the week, the same thing happened again. I was reminded one more time, of who I am and who I am not, of who we together are, and who we are not, and, most importantly, of who God is and how Jesus continues his salvation work in me, and in us, minute by minute, day by day, week by week.

Because there are just some weeks when I need a whole lot of saving, a whole lot of shaping and forming and learning and stretching. I need a whole lot of hearing and reading and reflecting and reveling in the story of God’s love, God’s mercy and God’s power. And this week’s scripture just knocked me upside the head and made me say, “Thank you, Jesus!”  and “Help me, Jesus!” and “Lord, have mercy.”  And “Amen!  Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Will you hear the word of the Lord as it is recorded for us by the person we know as Luke – the author of the gospel that bears his name and the author of the book that immediately follow the 4 gospel accounts, the Acts of the Apostles.

Reading first from Luke 24 and then from Acts 1:

Luke 24:50-53:

   When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Acts 1:1-11

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

    So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

    He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

    After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

    They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

This is indeed God’s word for us today.

We have been looking this whole year at the story of Jesus, beginning last fall with the birth narratives and moving through his teaching, healing, disciple-making ministry, his trial and crucifixion, his death and resurrection. Today we arrive at an important point of transition in our 3-year preaching series which Don has entitled, “God’s Big Story.”

Book one of Luke – the gospel, the good news, the snapshot story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in 1st century Palestine – book one is finished. And book two of Luke – the Acts of the Apostles – is beginning. And this strange little story that reads like watching Jesus sort of floating off into the ether is the monumentally important turning-point – transition point – transformation point –  between the two.

In the opening words of Acts, Luke writes to his friend Theophilus that his first volume, his gospel record, was, “about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven . . . “ certainly implying that book two is about what Jesus continues to do and to teach as the story of Jesus, of salvation, of revolution is carried to Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

So, to summarize in a pithy way, the story of the ascension tells us these important things as we transition from one phase of God’s salvation story to another:

Jesus is moving on,

the church is being born,

the Spirit is soon to come.

And it’s all right here, in these words we’ve just heard.

First, Jesus is moving on:

“It is finished,” not “I am finished.” 40 days of ‘convincing proofs’ of his resurrection, 40 days of reminding them there was work ahead of them, important, life-changing, world-changing work for them to do. And how is that going to happen? Well, according to Acts 1, it will happen in two important ways: first by waiting, and then by witnessing.

And that order is so important – for those 11 gape-mouthed disciples on the hill near Bethany, and for all of us gape-mouthed disciples on this hill near Westmont. The first thing we must do – and the last thing we usually choose to do or even think to do – is to . . .

WAIT

Don’t go anywhere. Don’t do anything Just WAIT.

For what? For the gift, that’s what. Hmmm…pretty broad category there. Pretty general statement. So Jesus gets a little more specific. Wait for . . . The gift my father promised, the gift you’ve heard me talk about, the baptism I told you was coming. And don’t wait for it all by your lonesome, each of you in your own closet. No, wait for it together.

Now, in a couple of weeks, we’ll look more intensely at the particular form of the gift that Jesus promises here in chapter one of Acts.  At that time, we will remember and celebrate Pentecost – that wonderful, awesome, strange and even scary visitation of the Holy Spirit on the early church.  That promised baptism that would bring power and the skills and gifts that would make witnesses of all those gathered in the upper room.

But, the witnessing will come later, it is the waiting that begins now.

And while we wait, even as they waited those centuries ago, we need to remind ourselves and one another of what we know, of what the ascension so magnificently reminds us : that God is God, that God is on the throne, that Jesus is now there with him, still wearing our flesh, and that Jesus continues his work of kingdom-building by praying for us, by whispering into the Father’s ears on our behalf, and by releasing, again and again, the great, unfathomable gift of the Holy Spirit, who comes in power and in love to fill the church and to continue the work of the kingdom of God through the church.

For the church, despite its flaws and foibles, despite its foolishness and feebleness, despite the pettiness and the entitlement and the one-upsmanship that can so often rear its misshapen little head in even the most mature of Christian fellowships – the church is God’s chosen vehicle, the church is Christ’s body in the world, the church is the recipient of God’s Spirit of grace and of power and the church is where the kingdom is caught in glimpses while we’re still on this side of heaven.

And there are three important things that the church is given to do, all of them either explicit or implicit in Jesus words to his disciples as he ascended to the Father:

We are to wait,
We are to worship,
And we are to witness.

The waiting is clear in our Acts passage for the morning, but you’ll notice from the lighthearted sense of Luke’s closing words in the gospel reading today that the most natural response to the ascension of Jesus is the worship of Jesus – Luke 24:52 tells us that after Jesus was taken up into heaven, the disciples who watched him go, “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Probably the earliest recording of a distinctively Christian worship experience. And it happened while they were waiting, while they were waiting together.

Wait, worship, witness. All of those ‘w’s’ are important – they each continue to play important parts in the kingdom work that the Spirit of Jesus is doing today, in and through and sometimes, in spite of the church. They need to be remembered, and they need to be practiced, and they need to be kept in sequence.

Because here’s the heart of it all, the thing that we so often lose sight of, that we so easily stop tracking with, that we too often fail to remember, or that we simply choose to ignore – here it is, are you ready for it?

It’s not up to us.

Did you hear me?

It’s not up to us.

Do you see that crown back there? There’s only one crown on that table, and there’s only one person who wears that crown, and it sure as shootin’ ain’t me. And it ain’t any of you lot either.

Jesus Christ is now ascended. Jesus Christ is now exalted. Jesus Christ, still robed in our flesh, is now with the Father,

Ruling in majesty,
Working in mystery,
Loving in perpetuity,
Praying in sincerity.
For us. For you and for me and for this world.

That’s what the ascension is about.

That’s why I can come to the end of a rotten week and say,
“Thank you, Jesus,” and
“Help me, Jesus,” and
“Lord, have mercy,” and
“Amen. Yes! Yes! Yes!”

So…as we come to the close of our time together this morning, I am going to ask you to take just a couple of minutes to WAIT, to wait together on the Lord. And then we’re going to worship with the singing of the last hymn. And then we can leave this place better prepared for all the messy, ordinary, sometimes glorious, sometimes trouble-filled life that we each are called to live. And we can witness to the mysterious, and revolutionary presence  of the kingdom of God, right here, in the midst of it all.

Will you wait on the Lord?

 

 

 

31 Days of Giving Permission to . . . DIVE IN DEEP

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When the water is deep,
and we feel tiny,
it’s scary to take the leap, isn’t it?

But, oh! It’s worth it!
To feel the cool water whooshing around us,
to hear our parents and grandparents on the sidelines,
cheering us on,
to know the exhilaration of moving through the fear.

YES!!

There are so many things in this life that are scary,
so many invitations to leap into the deep water,
to take a chance,
to spread our wings,
to dig, dig, dig. . .
and then . . . LET FLY.

 

And maybe one of the most important places for us to dive in deep
is right into the center of ourselves,
to look and listen and learn
about how we’re wired,
what makes us tick,
what slows us down,
what fouls us up.

Jennifer Dukes Lee is one of my favorite people in blogdom.
She writes her heart and she writes it beautifully.
She encourages people all over the place,
and she tells her story well because she knows her story well.

She invited me over to talk a little bit about writing,
to offer a ‘tip’ of some sort to others.
Well, I’m fresh out of tips, but I do have a lot of life experience.
And I’ve taken this particular leap of which I speak —
I’m still taking it.

The work of self-discovery, self-knowledge – well, it’s never done.
We are always on the journey.

Why don’t you hop on over to her place to read a little bit more about
why I think this particular journey is so  important,
why we all need to dive in deep.

You can find her place by clicking right here. 

And our girl on the diving board?
Yeah, she took the leap!
And we all cheered. 

 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO READ, READ, READ – A Book Review & A Synchroblog

I am happily joining the synchroblog launching Addie Zierman’s wonderful new book,
“When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over.” And so help me, I will, somehow, make this review fit the 31 Day theme I’ve selected.
(And I will probably do this same theme twice more, once on each of the last two Tuesdays of October, because I have had such a feast of reading the past few months. A veritable feast, I tell you!)

This particular idea has never been a problem for me – in fact, I have perhaps given myself TOO MUCH permission to read, read, read over the years (if such a thing is possible). But maybe you need someone to give YOU that permission – if so, please count yourself duly permitted. Because reading is one of the best ways I know to a.) widen your knowledge of the world and how it works; b.) broaden your vocabulary and your ability to dream artistic dreams; c.) take you to another world for a few minutes; d.) remind you that we are all part of something much larger, more wonderful, and more terrible than we know. So, welcome to the 1st of 3 reminders to give yourself permission to . . . READ, READ, READ. 

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I was a senior in high school,
and on my way to an early morning Bible study,
when I crashed my mother’s car and broke my tooth.
I was late to pick up my friend,
I drove my mom’s stick-shift-on-the-steering-wheel,
1950’s vintage Plymouth, which was always sluggish
at 6:30 in the morning,
I lived on a steep hill, which required me to make a turn to the left
as I crested the top of it,
and my books slid across the seat as I turned.

Naturally, I leaned over to rescue them,
and the next thing I knew, I had crashed into a parked car,
which crashed into a 50-year-old oak tree,
leaving the radiator steaming and my mouth bleeding.
And my initial, knee-jerk response?
Mortification that I was going to miss that Bible study. 

I am not a morning person.
I know it now and I knew it then.

But every week, I went to that Bible study anyhow,
because, I mean  . . . how could I not?
I was a Christian, for heaven’s sake.
And I was on fire.

I was a geek, too. Hard to reconcile ‘on fire’ with ‘geek’
but I pretty much rocked it.
And just about everyone in my class of about 500 knew
that I was an on-fire, geeky Christian, too.
I was taught to talk about it, to define it clearly, for myself and for others,
to not be ashamed.

I was also taught, both explicitly and implicitly, that my primary goal in life,
as a good, Christian girl,

was to meet a fine Christian man,
get married, have babies,
and volunteer with women’s ministries.

And we all know how that turned out.

Why is it, I wonder, that the church, and so many of its subsidiary organizations,
get and give such a garbled message?
We too often complicate the beautiful simplicity of the gospel of grace,
add on layers of dogma that were never part of the design,
and insist that others see the same rigid, box-like faith that we see.

There’s a lot of un-learning that needs to happen for many, if not most of us,
who were raised within the confines of an overly conservative,
mistakenly zealous version of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Addie Zierman has been a lyrical voice for that re-learning
for a couple of years now.
Her blog, “How to Talk Evangelical” has been on my top 10 list
for about as long as she’s been writing on it.
And her book is, in many ways, an extension of what you find
in that lovely space.

It is also more.
This is a memoir, a spiritual memoir.
But it is also a story of love gone wrong,
a sad tale of how “Christian” relationships can sometimes slip into abuse,
and how hard it is to recover from the garbage theology
we too often absorb in our ‘on fire’ years.

Slipping between 2nd and 3rd person narrative,
Addie tells a beautiful but painful story.
She writes movingly of adolescent earnestness,
life-long friendships,
moving into a healthy relationship,
then fighting to save it as depression
and churchianity take their inevitable toll.

She speaks honestly about using alcohol to numb the pain,
about stepping into therapy and finding Jesus there,
about her frustrating search to be at home in community.

Addie’s story is not my story,
but there are pieces of it that I know.
Something about my own family system made me wary
of catch-phrases, excessive cheeriness and simplistic recipes for anything.

Also, I did not have a boyfriend in high school,
a fact for which I give heartfelt thanks after reading about the boy
who manipulated and tried to control Addie during those tender years. 

But I do know all about trying to please.
I do know all about wanting to be the good girl.
I do know all about following the rules,
giving a testimony,
playing the role,
being on fire.

And I now know that there was much good intermingled
with the less-than; there was joy mixed in with the angst;
there was redemption, there was hope, there was. . .
and there is. . . JESUS.

And so does Addie.

I highly recommend this book to all who are struggling
through re-learning what they believe.
I highly recommend this book to all who have
done most of that re-learning for themselves,
but want to know what it feels like to
those who are younger.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves
lyrical, thoughtful, honest writing.

And I am honored to be part of this synchroblog
and to have received an Advance Reader’s Copy from Addie
and her publisher, Convergent.

You can find this book here 

 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO BE SEEN

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The sermon topic was centered around the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, one of the richest passages in the entire New Testament. So many layers, so much great stuff to think about. And our pastor did a fine job asking good questions, finding great points of application. It was my turn to lead in prayer, and I wove together some of my own thoughts on that passage and the emotions that were triggered by a poem posted on Facebook Saturday by John Blase, one of my favorite people writing anywhere. The gospel passage is about a tough conversation, and a woman who discovers that there is a man, an amazing man, who truly sees her for all of who she is — and accepts her anyhow.
So as  you pray this prayer today, will you give yourself permission to be fully seen by Jesus? For who you are and what you’ve done and what you’ve not done?

A Post-Pentecost Prayer
October 13, 2013
written by Diana R.G. Trautwein

 I came into worship today with this poem on my heart.
It’s written by a friend I’ve met online. He’s a writer, an editor, a poet,
and a bit of a cowboy, who lives in Colorado.
And he often puts words to things I’m wrestling with,
words that are just behind my eyes, but I can’t quite see.

Do you know that feeling?
His name is John Blase and these are his words.
They’ve been haunting me a bit this weekend:

 

The loneliness lays
claim to you with
cumulative power.
It starts as a wild hair.
You break rank and
keep your eyes open
as others bow to pray.
You see a sea of crowns
for the very first time
and feel adrift: who
are these strangers?
You close your eyes
before the final amen,
a timed acquiescence.
You file out with the
throng into the bright
sunlight. But you can’t
shake the bony chill.
You sense this will
only grow sharper.

-John D. Blase*

As we, in this circle, go to prayer, I want to acknowledge that
some of you may well be feeling what is described here.
And if you want to keep your eyes open while we pray, that’s just fine by me.

 Let’s pray together:

 There are days, LORD, when the only prayer we can find
is the one we just sang: Come, Lord Jesus, come.

The truth is,
we’re all thirsty, most all the time.
We’re thirsty for things we can’t quite name,
hungry for friends we don’t quite see,
often painfully aware that we’re lonelier than we know.

And that’s one of the reasons that we come here,
and we join our voices together, to sing out your praises.
Somehow, we feel a little less alone, a little more connected,
when we sing.

But I’m not sure that connection is as easily found when we pray. 

So, as we begin this part of our conversation with you today, Lord,
I want to acknowledge those who feel the bony chill of loneliness and disconnection.

Our gospel story today tells us about such a one, a woman on the edge,
on the outside of her community.
Yet, you saw her. You acknowledged her and drew her out,
you confronted her and challenged her.

You. Saw. Her.

She gave you water from the well.
But you gave her life, and hope and newness.
And she ended that well-side conversation
with all of that outside-the-edginess gone, her loneliness dissolved.

 So I guess, Lord, I am asking you to remind us — each one of us,
in ways that are as unique to us as they were to that woman —
that you see us.

Tell us again that the water you give is the only water that works,
living water that does what water does –
it filters down into every crack and crevice and brings new life.
It meanders, and slowly but surely snakes its way into every layer of who we are,
and it changes us.

 Even on the lonely days, it keeps on trickling down.
Even when we can’t find the words because the grief is too deep,
or the fear is too high,
or the harsh words we said in the car on the way to church are still hanging in the air —
that water of life keeps working its way into us.

Will you help us to remember that, please?
To know that when we come to the Water that is you,
we will always find what we need?

 We confess to you that we don’t always make it easy
for your water to do its watery thing.

We build dams and we blow a lot of hot air
and we sometimes even turn off the spigot,
with our stubbornness and our proclivity for desert living.
Forgive us, Father, and strengthen us to follow the river of life right to its source!

Thank you so much for the richness of your gift to us,
for the assurance that our hope is in you, and nowhere else.

And help us to see with your eyes, to spot those who are lonely
and reach out in kindness,
to offer that famous cup of cold water
in ways that are specific and unique to each person along the way,
help us to be leaky vessels,
through which the water of life gets spread all over the place.

We will thank you and we will praise you
and we will gladly drink at the fountain again and again.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

*Here is a link to John Blase’s website, The Beautiful Due. I urge you to subscribe and get his beautiful, thoughtful, challenging poetry in your inbox. You will never regret it. 

 

 

 

 

 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO SEE

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“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.
I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend
so that you will always have someone with you.
This Friend is the Spirit of Truth.
The godless world can’t take him in
because it doesn’t have 
eyes to see him,
doesn’t know what to look for.
But you know him already
because he has been staying with you,
and will even be 
in you!

John 14:15-17, The Message

Give yourselves glorious permission to see the wonder of God’s creation!

Blessed Sabbath, friends.

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO TAKE A BREAK

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So, we took this trip.
And I phrase that very carefully:
this was a trip and not a vacation.

There is a huge difference, you know?
There are similarities —
you go somewhere that is not your home,
you travel with someone you like to be with,
you see and do things you don’t usually do.

BUT . . . a vacation (at least in my mind) is going to one
(or at the most, two) places for an extended time,
unpacking once, settling in.
Day trips are certainly allowable in this definition,
but at the end of each day,
you return to your home-away-from-home.

Trips, on the other hand, require mileage of some sort.
Generally, you follow an itinerary,
you visit numerous places at some distance from one another,
and you pack and unpack with regularity.

We’ve had two trips this year,
one by river boat and bus,
the other by automobile.
We also had a vacation.

All three were wonderful, each in their own way. 

Our most recent trip involved a very people- and commitment-heavy front-end.
We reconnected with friends from 45 years ago during the first two days,
then traveled to another state for 2 days of meetings for my husband
and in-real-life blog connections for me.

WE  HAD A GREAT TIME.

But at the end of those very intense four days,
we needed a break. 

So we built one in.
We took two days on the beach at Kennebunport, Maine,
before digging into the heavy-duty driving and multiple
hotel rooms required by a Fall Foliage Tour.

I cannot recommend this break-taking thing highly enough. 

Do  you ever feel peopled out?
Breathless from too many responsibilities?
In need of a small space in which to breathe?

Take a break.

It doesn’t have to be on the beach.
It doesn’t have to be anywhere other than where you are.
It just needs to break the pattern.

Moving from noise to quiet,
shifting from many people to a few,
reading a great book,
taking a walk,
taking a nap.

Maybe you call this decompression,
maybe you call it saving your sanity.
Maybe you’re so unfamiliar with this concept
that you have no idea what to call it!

And if that’s the case,
then you need this more than any of the rest of us.

We all need to change it up from time to time,
to step back, step down, step aside.
To STOP. 

I call it Sabbathing. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our two-day Sabbath on the coast of Maine.
And then we got back in the car and drove. 

These photos are from those two days.

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