Standing on the outside looking in

Sometimes life is like that. The haunting sense of loneliness can touch our lives in the middle of a crowd or in the silence of the wood. I recently had a day like that, surrounded by life in my urban neighborhood I felt lonely so with journal in hand I sought refuge in a familiar setting. 


Living on the outside looking in.

     Refuge in a coffee shop

           In the middle of a crowd,

In the middle of noise and nothingness

   Seeking a place, seeking…


In the middle of the crowd, Lord

          Help me hear your voice,

In the middle of the silence, Lord

           Help me hear your voice

  In the middle of life, Lord

          Help me live in you, Lord.


 “One with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 CSB)


“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.” (John 15:4 CSB)


September 13, 2018

Prayers of the Saints Thomas a Kempis 1380 -1471

Grant me, O Lord, to know what is worth knowing,

To love what is worth loving,

To praise what delights you most,

To value what is precious in your sight,

To hate what is offensive to you.

Do not let me judge by what I see,

Nor pass sentence according to what I hear,

But to judge rightly according to what I hear,

But to judge rightly between things that differ,

And above all to search out and to do what pleases you,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. 


September 2, 2018

Walking as Pilgrimage

Leaving home seeking…

Returning home humbled…

  …always celebrated on our return…

        When God’s heart is our home


Jesus tells the story in Luke 15:11-32 we identify as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” One son stayed home and the other took his Father’s gift and walked away.


What was he seeking? His fortune? he already had that. A different identity? a 2nd son lacked the prestige of the 1st. Fun? perhaps. We only know that he took his inheritance and set off on a pilgrimage hoping to find something new. Thomas Hawkins (Every Step a Prayer: Walking as Spiritual Practice) speaks about a pilgrim as “one who seeks to go beyond their normal routines by disrupting everyday patterns, hoping to encounter something new that fills them with awe or wonder.”


The son returned home and was met with great celebration. Thoreau has written that “to go for a walk is to become a pilgrim, a wayfarer who leaves the safety of home in search of holy ground. Yet whatever long, winding roads wayfarers travel, their steps usually lead them back to their own doorsteps” (ibid). And in that arrival we are always changed.


I don’t suppose every walk I take to be a pilgrimage, but when I am intentional of my steps and aware of God in my journey I will always find myself returning home to my Father’s loving embrace....August 16,  2016


"In the Garden"  is a favorite hymn of mine and was inspired by the gospel of John, chapter 20. It reminds me that the human story began in a garden, that Jesus prayed in the garden and that God continues to call to us to walk in the garden with him. I have focused this summer’s writings on walking using the small book, “Every Step a Prayer; Walking as Spiritual practice” by Thomas R Hawkins and I hope that you discovered some new insights along the way. I can see now that every step is sacred and the journey we are on is holy when God guides our steps.  


I come to the garden alone

While the dew is still on the roses

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear

The Son of God discloses


And He walks with me

And He talks with me

And He tells me I am His own

And the joy we share as we tarry there

None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice

Is so sweet the birds hush their singing

And the melody that He gave to me

Within my heart is ringing


I'd stay in the garden with Him

'Tho the night around me be falling

But He bids me go; through the voice of woe

His voice to me is calling


August 26, 2018


Listen to the song



Always greet the world with innocence

 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. Matthew 10:16 NIV


When you open your eyes let them be eyes that see true colors, unfiltered by this world’s light and let your words be original words not rehearsed lines from last years script. Watch expectantly with your new born eyes for sights that you have not seen and listen for the newness of sounds just spoken. The sky might have been just as blue yesterday as today and blue the day before as well. What does that matter but that the sky you see today has been born anew for you.


You are an original, a one of a kind and never to be copied creation of God who loves you and delights in the wildness of your innocence. He sees hope for the nations when we live freed from the world’s expectation and lifeless good form to become living witnesses to His grace and transformation.


Greeting the world and living daily in authenticity to the person God created is difficult and can be met with skepticism and disapproval from people we meet on a daily basis. Walking a different path from the world’s perception of goodness, embracing those that the world tells us to avoid and being vulnerable in every meeting is not an easy choice but it is the way that Jesus walked and it is the way we must follow if the world is to know of God’s great love....August 5, 2018

The Walk

“By the blessing of the upright, a city is raised up; but the words of the wicked tear it down.” Proverbs 11:11 CEV


There was a time that San Jose had more trees than people. There was a time that streets were safer and people friendlier. But today I walk past garbage in the streets and am saddened by the homelessness of this community. I fear walking at night. I hate to admit the extent of my grumbling as I look for better places to walk.


But God does not look for nicer places to walk and is intimately aware of every person along the way. Because God lives in the heart of every Christian, each path we walk holds potential for God to transform another life. Through history many well-known transformations have taken place on the road ‘as they walked.’ Jesus touched the eyes of the blind, the skin of the leper, a soldier’s daughter as he walked along the road. The disciples met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Saul’s transformation to Paul, and Philip’s meeting the Ethiopian eunuch all took place ‘as they travelled.’ There are countless more examples throughout the centuries of people meeting Jesus ‘on the road’.


The paths we tread are the places of spiritual transformations. When we learn this and become aware of God’s presence in every place along the path, when we open our hands and humbly allow God’s work to be done through us then San Jose will surely be blessed.


Ezekiel followed his heart back to a place of ruin to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and God renamed the city “The LORD is here” (Ezekiel 48:35 NIV). Can you imagine San Jose with the name of “The LORD is here?” Can you imagine the power of God’s people when they walk and when they pray?

Pray that God’s presence is made known in any place and any time that you commune with God. Walk On.... July 2018


Think on these things . . .

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things”. (NIV).


We have just returned from 16 days in Colorado. Much of that time we were in or near the Rocky Mountains that I love so dearly. It was easy to meditate and to write about the beauty of God’s creation while sitting in the cradle of Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. This cannot take away from the magnificence of the giant sequoias or the rhythmic return of the waves along the beach. These are the things that make the psalmist write psalms. God has created all things beautiful for our pleasure. The following poem is written by a favorite poet of mine. She writes about loving this world as her life work. I think this would be a very good career choice.


Messenger 

by Mary Oliver


My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—

equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be

astonished.

The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

Prayer

Bethlehem is characterized as a sleepy little town. Our favorite carols sing about a silent night, a baby sleeping in a manger with gentle animals hovering over his sweet face. All is calm. Yet the birth of Jesus was no small thing in the spiritual domain of our world. You can bet the incarnation of God sent shock waves throughout Satan’s kingdom. What might seem quiet and even dull to our eyes might be quite the opposite in the heavens. So, it is in the churches around the world today. It is hard not to be discouraged by shrinking numbers and drowsy Christians in our churches today. But do not be fooled by such misperceptions. Steve Hawthorne of Waymakers.org reports that more Christians are praying now than at any time in history. At least 200 million believers pray every day for the advancement of world missions and 15 million groups around the world pray weekly for missions in their communities. There is a massive surge of prayer in the Christian church going on right now. God is on the move. Just as a quiet baby in the manger was the redemption of all humanity so the church today thunders with God’s movement when she humbles herself and prays. “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” Colossians 4:2 new living translation.


December 24, 2017


Read more articles here

hope

In this blackness,

In this midnight of my soul,

God, I must know that you are there,

Loving me still,

Redeeming the lost,

And gathering broken remnants of my smile.

Echoing silence

pressing hard on starless night,

Winged prayers, in due haste, take flight

these ragged dreams,

with gentle passion lay

neath sacred chords

of angel’s whispered celebration.

Sky fills with dancing.

Tear-stained laughter plays with light

darkness relents to Royal Birth.

Mystery of Light,

soft light, and gentle,

Love’s lullaby,

God’s voice in a baby’s cry


. . It was a cold night, starless and the hope of dawn was bleak. I found myself bracing against time as I might press against a prairie storm. Head down, clutching my coat close to my body and leaning at a 45 degree angle I cursed the storm that held me back from all that I imagined life might have been. I am not sure which steps were made out of a determination to beat the darkness and which steps were made in a fainting hope that I would see the light of dawn again. A sudden blast of icy snow stung my cheeks mocking my efforts to stay alive. But there was an ember, ever so dim and nearly cold that whispered of a hope that this darkness would relent to the dawn.


Is this the song of advent? Icy storms and cruel nights? Wondering if we will see the light again? Is this the preparation we make for Christmas? Indeed it is. For how can we know the Light if we do not recognize the darkness. Israel knew this darkness and sought the dimmer lights of other gods. It is a frightening thing to stand in the dark and to wait for the light when dimmer lights of this world taunt us. Advent teaches us to wait. Christmas celebrates the Light.  


“ The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:4-5 (NLT)


December 17, 2017

Advent Traditions

Advent is a time rich with traditions. Many families bake cookies. My family made things. Every year we tried our hands at some new craft. It was my 7th Christmas. Grandma and I had our Christmas task spread out on the bed between us. I sat cross-legged, head in hands as she showed me the amazing project of the year. It was a red felt chimney with a pipe-cleaner Santa climbing out of the top. I carefully glued red felt around a styrofoam block and painstakingly drew lines on it to make bricks. Puffs of cotton created snow. I fashioned a Santa from pipe-cleaners with a small wooden bead for his head and cut out felt triangle for his jacket and hat and placed him into the chimney. Our art was given a place of honor that Christmas. The artwork met its demise decades ago but the message inscribed in my heart remains today. It was a message of belonging. I know who I am because of the connections that have been made throughout my life. I have held the hands of my grandmother born in the 19th century and cradled my grandchildren born in the 21st century. I am part of a lineage and a link to the next generation.


A more important connection was made over 2,000 years ago. A baby born in a barn, sleeping in a manger in a small town may have seemed mundane. The manger decayed but the message of that night remains in the hearts of every human being. We know who we are by the connections that have been made. The birth of this baby means we are part of the lineage of Abraham and David. And we are links to the world around us spanning generations and circling the globe.


Let the traditions of advent become physical reminders of the spiritual connection that last forever. Remember that we are the links to the world around us. Pray for the compassionate hearts and willing hands to make connections in our world today. Let Advent be a time of prayer.


UPCOMING PRAYER VIGIL January 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ urges us to participate in a world-wide prayer vigil on January 2nd,3rd, and 4th of 2018. Whether this is in your home or at the church plan to be part of this time of churchwide prayer. Pay attention for more details on how to be part of this important event.


December 10, 2017

Advent prayer focus


An almighty God, a small baby boy, and prayer

Mary did you know that that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod and when you kiss your little Baby you’ve kissed the face of God? These words to the familiar Christmas song, sung by Clay Aiken among others, grab me every time I hear them. I visualize Mary as she held Jesus, caressed and nurtured this baby. She knew the true identity of her baby boy. Can we comprehend that baby Jesus was the face of God? The thought that the baby Jesus was the Almighty God is more than the human mind can embrace and yet it is because of this baby that we have access to God. The death and resurrection of Jesus opened the doors to our hearts which became the dwelling place of God. It is in this place that God hears our prayers. Let the contemplations of this baby born on Christmas day be an invitation to energize your prayer life. God invites us to come. Just come. Come and pray.


Three Days of Prayer


The Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ urges us to participate in a world-wide prayer vigil on January 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of 2018. Whether this is in your home or at the church, plan to be part of this time of church wide prayer.


December 3, 2017

prayer focus

Like a running back with the ball held close, head down and stiff arm rushing head \long into the defense, so we seem to enter the season of Advent. The greeting, “Hi, how are you” is replaced by “Are you ready for Christmas” in conversation. Certainly, Advent is a time of preparation, but not the frantic activity of consumer gluttony that seems to be the hallmark of this season. Advent is a time to quiet our minds, and slow our pace, to prepare our hearts to embrace the mystery of Christmas sung in the words of a familiar carol,

“Hark! the herald angels sing

Glory to the new-born King

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled…

Here are some ideas to slow yourself down this Advent Season


1. Practice waiting. “Lord unrush me” Lysa Terkeurst

Waiting is a radical act in the month of December. Resisting the sprint towards Christmas requires us to go against the grain of popular culture, which is more consumed with unceasing activity than the long and slow journey to Bethlehem. Waiting demands we slow down, open our distracted hearts and make room for the sacred in the middle of the frenzy. It means not rushing to the manger, but absorbing the unfolding story of Scripture that leads us to the birth of the Christ child. Waiting can also mean not singing Christmas hymns the first few weeks of Advent, keeping the tree in the box for a while and setting up the Nativity scene on Christmas Eve. In the end, those who wait are rewarded with the deeper satisfaction of growing closer to God rather than the empty feeling associated with holiday exhaustion.


2. Develop a discipline of daily scripture reading

5 minutes a day of faithful bible reading will change your life through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”


3. Develop a discipline of daily writing

Record the bible verses from your daily discipline of scripture reading. Write a few words of your experience. Even the word WOW could be enough to capture your experience.


4. Join a small group (new advent study begins this week!)

Sharing Advent with others is a meaningful way to experience the season. Try joining a small group during Advent that will give you a place to connect with others and travel the advent journey together. An organized small group focused on the themes of Advent can take you to a place that cannot be reached on your own. A small group experience builds relationships that enrich and sustain your spiritual life. A new group study, “Awaiting the Already”, begins today at Gloria Dei. Join us as we explore the advent message presented in each gospel.

Some material borrowed from Pastor Mark Altrogge and Pastor Billy Doidge


November 26, 2017