come to the waters

28 02 2010

For the past few days, a flock of geese–maybe two flocks, I can’t tell–have come down to the waters in our backyard. And the church backyard.

Sunday, Feb. 28th

I’m not sure if it’s because our backyard has more pools of water than anywhere else in the neighborhood, or they just like our melting snow… or what.. but the first geese we noticed the other day were extremely thirsty.One goose drank and drank and drank from a puddle right behind our house. Others soon joined him/her…. and a few hours later, there were probably over 25 geese in our backyard. And hierarchy had begun–some geese who tried to waddle in were chased away.

This afternoon, I noticed that several geese seemed to be snoozing in the sunlight, while others drank from various pools of water.. and others continued to protect the newly found watering hole.

I’m pretty certain that God wasn’t thinking of Canadian geese, when he spoke–through Isaiah the prophet–about the thirsty, the waters, etc. “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, but and eat!…. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” (Isaiah 55:1 and 3) But I couldn’t help but think about these thirsty geese today when I looked at the scripture again. (for this coming Sunday) Come to the waters… everyone who thirsts.

I’m thirsty, often. I hope that when I thirst, I will acknowledge a thirst for God and not just for the things of this life. I hope that I will listen to God… and receive whatever waters God has provided for me.

the people

27 02 2010

I know–“What people?” you might ask, when looking at today’s photo.

My response?: “all the people.” The people who built this church literally… the people who built this church spiritually… the people who sit in these pews, including the balcony… the people who walk through those doors… the people who walk through other doors of this church… the people who don’t walk through these doors and sit in these pews and yet they might if there is something in their lives that makes them think about life and death and faith… the people who come alone…. the ones who feel lost… the ones who have lost…the people who built and designed that gorgeous stained glass window… the people who took the old glass from the original building and used it to make ornaments and candle holders for the people…the people who take minutes… the ones who shovel and plow…. the ones who make sure the heat is working…. the ones who stock the cupboards…

Saturday, Feb. 27th

The people who work behind the sound board up in the corner, and keep trying to make our microphones work effectively…the people who dust the pews and vacuum the carpets… the people who light the candles and turn the lights on and off…. the people who sit in the offices downstairs and upstairs…the people who offer encouragement to the struggling, and to the leaders–paid and unpaid… the people who trained the paid and the unpaid… the people who believed in the call of those who pastor… and the ones who modeled Christian faith by their examples… the person who fields all the phone calls, requests, manages the calendars, checks the mail, and does more stuff than we can even imagine… the person who teaches the children about music and lyrics and who helps the rest of us try and make good music…

the people who play instruments that provide worship music… the people who attend to the website and the technological details that the rest of can’t handle… the ones who sing.. the ones who can’t… the ones who can’t attend worship… the ones who teach –behind the scenes, and in front… the ones who help the pastors out at the last minute… the ones who remind us to head back to pray before the worship service begins…the people who buy the wine, grape juice, bread, coffee, napkins, etc… the people who do the dishes… the people who pour the coffee… the people who fold chairs and tables and tablecloths… the people who come and sit and think they offer nothing and yet they pray for the rest of the people… the ones who knit….. the people who babysit during worship… the people who do the odd jobs like check the roof leaks and paint offices and fix up the parsonage and put out signs…. the ones who guide visitors to where they need to be…the ones who greet newcomers… the ones who invite others… the ones who have never been through the door of this church, but will hopefully come someday…the ones who drive by and sometimes wonder what this place is like but have never come in… the people who patiently play with the very active two-and-a-half year old so her parents can focus on other people and events…. the people who provide rides and hospitality… the people who struggle with why they might show up for worship when their faith might hurt right now… the countless people I probably forgot, but want to include here–because everyone is included…  the ones who believe… believe in this church, believe in God, believe in the journey, as hard as it might be.. and the people who believe that together–and with God’s help– we can be the people God intended us to be. Not only believe in this, but work towards becoming the people.

So on this Saturday before the Second Sunday in Lent, I am thankful for the people represented in this photo… and their part in the Lenten journey.

“What the heck?”

26 02 2010

Jim and I have a nephew who used to say, frequently, “What the heck, man?” He probably said this more and more, as we laughed more and more, but it became a standard phrase for Jim and me. When one of us is doing something that the other one is confused about, or when we observe something else going on that is confusing.. we occasionally turn to one another and ask, “What the heck, man?”

Sometimes, that’s how I feel with Lent. What the heck? Why all the bother? Why the fuss? Don’t we do this year after year, journeying to the cross,

Friday, Feb. 26th

trying to be more disciplined, or intentional, or less engaged in other activities that distract us from God?

I could state the obvious: God’s working on us, God’s growing us up, God’s using us and others. But the obvious doesn’t always help, when we’re in the middle of it. This sounds as though I’m really struggling with Lent. I’m not. At least not this year. But nor am I seeing any significant changes in my life–spiritual or otherwise. And so I wonder, “what the heck?”

This afternoon, Jim, Kajsa, Abby, and I took a drive out and about. I took this photo, because I couldn’t figure it out. What was it? What the heck, man? I couldn’t make it out, and we couldn’t exactly pull over at that point. So I took a photo with my zoom, in anticipation of viewing it later on the computer. Funny thing is, that even through my zoom lens, I didn’t take the time to see what this was.. I knew I would look at it later. And, voila, it appears to be (but I could be wrong) a bunch of bird feeders. That’s about all I know. But at least I know a little more than I did from my first view.

I’m hoping the same might happen with my Lenten Journey, 2010. I’m hoping that though significant changes in my life aren’t obvious today, change is still happening.. that God is working, that God is growing me up, that God is using–me and others. I’m hoping that though I may have more  “what the heck?” moments, that the picture will become clearer later on.


26 02 2010

I’ve wanted curtains for the living room windows since we moved here. There were some curtains up in the parsonage, but I said go ahead and take them down, not realizing it would take me two months to find something I liked in a reasonable price range. But here we are. The other day I bought them. Tonight Jim and I put them up. And whew.. I can relax.

Thursday, Feb. 25th

I have relaxed anyhow, at our “new house”, as Kajsa still calls it. But I like to have windows covered at night. So now I can relax even more. I know, this photo doesn’t really show much… but they’re pretty simple: brown corduroy. Not what I would have thought I’d pick. But I did.

It’s hardly comparable, I know… but I like the image in Psalm 27, of God hiding the Psalmist. (Psalm 27:5: “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.”) Of course I wish God could literally hide me some days, under his tent. Or behind brown corduroy curtains. And then on some days, I wish God would set me high on a mountain, because I feel so confident of where I am in my faith, my life, my etc.

More frequently, though, I find myself wishing for the big curtain… a big tent, to hide behind. Then I could relax, I tell myself. And yet, I can relax now–If I so choose.  Whether or not I think I can feel God’s “curtain” to hide behind, God is present. Whether or not I think God is actually hiding me is irrelevant–God is present. Not shielding me from trouble or pain. But God is present, ready for me to relax in the knowledge of his love, guidance, and shield.


25 02 2010

Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

Wednesday, Feb. 24th

Reward. I’m extra aware of the word “reward” right now, because we’re trying a new system of accomplishing certain daily tasks with Kajsa—a rewards chart. It’s pretty simple: when Kajsa cooperates with us in one of four tasks, (taking medicine, getting dressed, brushing hair, and brushing teeth), she gets to put a sticker on her new chart. She’s pretty excited about it all. It’s only Day 2, but so far, these daily tasks have become a bit easier.

God tells Abram in a vision that his reward would be great. From our perspective, we can see the truth in that. But from Abram’s perspective? Hardly.. the cards were stacked against him. Or so he thought. But I wonder how much God’s promise of a reward inspired Abram to trust, to no longer fear, to have faith in God—most of the time.

I don’t want to criticize Abraham, nor do I want to question the wisdom of God’s parenting techniques… but I do challenge myself to reflect on motivation. What is my motivation for placing my trust in God? What rewards do I seek? When I don’t trust, is it because a reward is not visible? Or because I momentarily lost sight of the difference Christ makes? or is it something else And if so, what is it?

How often?

23 02 2010

In Luke 13:34, Jesus said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

How often have I wanted to: gathered safely under God’s wings?

..let God brood over me and those I love?

..feel protected, and completely trust God’s provision? willing to let God gather me?

..wanted to be protected, yet also want to do it myself? Or partly myself?

..have God still gather me, whether or not I’m willing, and whether or not I recognize my willingness or lack thereof?

Tuesday, Feb 23rd

In Luke 13:34, Jesus says to Jerusalem, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

I would hope that my willingness to let God be Mother Hen is greater than that of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day. I would hope. But honestly, there is reality. There is the fact that I am human, and though I am not two-and-a-half like my daughter is, I waffle.. one day I want God’s protection, the next I want to protect myself. Or maybe one minute, and the next minute. And then I waffle back and want God to step in again–but in my timing, of course.

Doesn’t sound like I’m always that willing, does it?

Maybe it’s time do some more trusting of the Mother Hen wings that desire to gather and brood… and let God do it.

count the stars

23 02 2010

One of the Scripture passages for this coming Sunday is Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18. In it, God’s word came to Abraham (Abram) in a vision, and told him not to fear, because God was his shield..

Monday, Feb. 22nd

Abraham questioned God… God seemed to say that Abraham would have an heir, which Abraham found hard to believe, since he and Sarah seemed to be infertile. Then God took Abraham outside and told him, “‘Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!'”(from The Message, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of The Bible).

Of course I struggle with this passage, because not everyone’s dreams of having children–biological or adopted–come true. Not everyone’s hopes and hearts’ desires come true. And not all of us have the faith Abraham often showed. Often, and in some pretty serious situations.

Count the stars… count them? I can’t even create a nice-looking star from Tinker Toys… thus the mess, in this photo. The mess of trying to create a star. And, of course, I can’t count the stars–neither could Abraham. Yet Abraham trusted, believed, hoped.

How do I believe in the God of the stars-I-can’t-count? How do I place my hope in this same God, even when my dreams, my hearts’ desires, those of my friends and family aren’t fulfilled? I give thanks for the blessings I do have. Like Kajsa… obviously an incredible answer to prayer, and incredible blessing… despite the heartache that preceded our meeting her. I give thanks for the people in my life who are like stars in a dark sky at various times. And I keep acknowledging that I can neither count the stars, nor create the stars… that’s part of God’s job description.

But I can appreciate them. And give thanks for them.

my refuge and my fortress?

21 02 2010

“You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust…” (Psalm 91:1-2)

For as long as I can remember, I have been comforted by the idea of God as my refuge and my fortress. I have envisioned strong stone buildings–some real, some imagined. Places like Mont St. Michel, some stone churches I’ve visited over the years. And some occasional stone walls or other structures. I like them. I consider them strong. Even the ones that start to fall apart–I still think they’re strong. Or represent strength. But what does it look like, for me to trust GOD as my refuge and my fortress? What does it look like for me to have that strength from God, my refuge and my fortress?

I hope it looks a little like this photo–a strong fortress, despite outside influences such as potential choking vines nearby. Vines sometimes do climb the fortress. And not all outside influences are necessarily “bad”. But when they distract me from trusting in God, when they take over and threaten to distance me from God.. then I consider them unhealthy influences–at least in my own life.

Yet, if God is my fortress, my refuge.. won’t I remain strong in the faith despite potential “choking” vines? Hopefully. Not always the case, but sometimes. Hopefully more often than not.

not that far away

20 02 2010

Jo Ann is visiting from Chicago, and today was our day to go into the city–that would be Philadelphia. So this morning Jim, Kajsa, Jo Ann and I took the train from North Wales to Market Street East, right by Chinatown. We ended up at Nanzhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, a  highly-recommended place to eat lunch. I highly recommend it. More on that later… hopefully.

After lunch, Jim and Kajsa headed back home on a train, and Jo Ann and I explored some more. Chinatown and some Independence area sites. We were looking for a good place to sit down and have some coffee… but kept walking, looking for places to photograph, and to rest. But we couldn’t find anyplace within our price range. Standing outside Christ Church to take photos, Jo Ann noticed a passerby carrying a to-go coffee cup. She asked her where she got it… and the lady pointed down the street–more like a glorified alley, really–to a coffee shop.

After we took some more photos at Christ Church, we walked down the street, and found Old City Coffee Cafe. It was not that far away. And, had Jo Ann not asked the lady about her coffee cup, we probably would have headed a slightly different direction, ending up at Starbucks. Not that I’m opposed to Starbucks–I’m not. But Old City Coffee was a more “local”, intriguing, fun choice for today.

God often seems far away, I think. What I want spiritually often can seem far away. And yet, it might not be as far away as it seems. Who knows? Maybe it is. But I’d guess–and experience tells me–that God, at least, is closer than I think. And often what I truly want spiritually could be closer than I think. But left to my own habits and choices I might end up going a different direction, missing out on some spiritual opportunities close by. And, like Starbucks, it’s not that my choices or directions are always bad. Rather, they simply aren’t the full experience I could have.

Hopefully I will pay attention to more signs, clues, passersby around me… pointing me to a closer and more fulfilling experience.

Lenten disciplines…or whatever

20 02 2010

Whatever you call it.. whatever you don’t call it. Or them. Whatever we do –or don’t do–for Lenten disciplines, practices… I find these practices fun, exciting, engaging… at first. Then, it gets hard. Drudgery. Not yet, for me, although even this photo-a-day practice is already a bit hard for me. I’m taking the photo each day, but am already behind on posting them. (this is the photo for Friday). Regardless, I like the idea of a discipline. I like the practice of it, when I’m doing it. But keeping up when life keeps going at full speed is hard.

Like the swings in this photo… as much fun as it is to swing (and it is!), we have to leave the swings behind to get on with the rest of our to-do lists, and obligations. We can’t swing all day. I can get off of the swing, but when the swings keep moving, it’s so hard to not get back on them. At least it is for me.

Hopefully the Lenten practices will be less difficult for me. or hopefully, if they are difficult, I will still engage them despite their difficulties–not for the sake of practicing a disipline, but for the sake of growing closer to Christ. Granted, swings are likely a lot more fun than some Lenten practices. But these moving swings remind me of what I’m trying to experience this season.