Love Wide

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God send messengers to inform people about the way God is about to act. “Do not fear” is the most commonly used preface to the word delivered by God’s messengers. It is human instinct to fear change, especially change that occurs without our own control. Fear might be the antithesis to faith. If the prophets and angels had said, “have faith, for God is about to do a new thing,” would that mean the same thing?

Change almost always asks us to let go of one thing and take on another. We change addresses. We change jobs. Most of the time, transitions are not about an equal exchange. I love the kind of change that incorporates who we are and where we have been into who we are becoming. One perfect way to consider this is when a new family member enters our circle through birth or marriage. Change widens our experience especially when we let go and learn how to embrace the new. Another not so easy way to embrace change is when a clinical diagnosis is made. Change during illness may not feel like a widening experience. It may mean accepting many new limitations. I had one friend enduring cancer who told me that even as she was letting go, her prayer life was expanding. She was entering into the expanse of God’s love. Her faith was widening. Why do we wait for a diagnosis to do such a thing?

Start today, limit your fear and love wide as you experience changes in your life, and become the new thing God is doing in our world. Join me in considering ways for the church of Jesus Christ to be transformed, that we might demonstrate limiting our fear and widening our love for the world.

 

Neighborhood Landscapes

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I love driving into our neighborhood. The road passes over a creek, trees stretch their arms to the sky, and sometimes a hawk flies into view or deer stand still in the landscape. I have a sense of communion with each of our neighbors who are shaped and formed by this same landscape. We see one other daily while walking our dogs, driving to work, attending to our lawns and caring for our children. When the wildness of creation tosses a snowstorm our way, we shovel and share eggs and milk as needed. At times, the landscape becomes still and invites us to do the same. We share a common and connected life with our neighbors.

My active role in the church has given me another neighborhood to dwell in. We are clergy and laity, women and men who are shaped and formed by the particular landscape of tradition. The common life we share is under tremendous strain. We cross bridges and climb over fences in order to reach others cut off by social and cultural divides hoping to share the landscape of God’s love which we confess is so deep and so vast that even we cannot fully grasp it.

I am fully convinced that what the church needs, in fact, what the global neighborhood needs, is to practice resting silently in the One who shapes and forms us by grace, forgiveness and mercy. As we become part of that landscape, we might find our connected, common life is already here.

Welcoming in the New

How did you welcome in a New Year? Many of us attended a party with friends, family, food and music and waited until the Big Apple in Times Square dropped.. Did you enter this New Year concerned about whether your work will create more stress than benefit? Are you concerned for how you will make ends meet? Are you concerned about the side effects and efficacy for the health care treatment that you receive? Or were you able to welcome in this New Year excited for what lies ahead, for how God will shine light into your days, and wonder for how God will use you?

Perhaps we can do both. Perhaps we can enter this New Year with an appreciation of the difficulties of navigating our faith in this broken world. Perhaps this New Year will call us to make ends meet through life giving relationships that make all the difference for how we manage our families, our lifework and our recreation. Perhaps we can enter this New Year, knowing that in the midst of our illness, God will use us for someone or something beyond our understanding.

Welcoming in a new year for me always means welcoming in new people. Each year I am blessed by making new friends. Do you have a plan for welcoming new people in your life this year? Those at work? In your neighborhood? At the bus or on the metro? At your church?

Jesus made friends with everyone, the disciples and the lost, children in the family and those outside the family, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the ill. He sent the disciples instructing them, “ Therefore, be as shrewd and snakes and as innocent as doves.” Even in the time of Jesus, making friends and sharing the love of God was a risk taking mission. Jesus instructed the twelve in Matthew 10, “Go to find the lost sheep, preach this message, the kingdom of God is near.” Jesus instructed them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy and drive out the demons. He warned them about the difficulties they would encounter, saying “Do not be afraid, the very hairs on your head are numbered.”

We make friends in the knowledge that God is with us, that our truest form of sharing Christ comes through friendship, journeying alongside one another to encourage, keep one another accountable and strengthen our faith. It’s time to welcome in the new! Let’s look forward to all the Holy Spirit will send in our midst in the year ahead. I am sure we will find Christ revealed in each of our new friends.

Beyond The Tomb

Easter was just three weeks ago, a joyous celebration of the Risen Christ. Easter is more than a day, it is a season celebrating victory over the death, of fulfillment over loss, of intimacy with a God who will not leave us alone. Clearly, the disciples who hid in the Upper Room had their questions and so do we.

When confusion becomes the norm, when loss and decline are inevitable, and emptiness stares us down so we can’t see our way out, there, we anxiously weep and wait. There is nothing more to do. Our best plans have been interrupted.

This is the church today. This is the United Methodist Church today. And the Risen One is waiting beyond the tomb in a form we do not recognize. We might take the road out of town and get back to our fishing boats. We might look for the one who is reaching for healing. We might let the children come close. We might seek the lame who sit outside the gates. We might meet at the well with those who worship differently than we do, listening and learning. We might not worry about the sin of others because of our own. We might be sustained by the bread and the cup.

The Alive One is not in the tomb, not in the confusion, not in the loss and decline, not in the emptiness but waits for us to listen to be called by name. Those who listen and hear come face to face with the Risen One, overflowing with joy, they will go get the others.

Belonging

I love it when I notice something new happening, like the renovation in my office I have been blogging about here these last few weeks. Though I have to say, I am ready for things to be set right again, in the usual order. Today, God captured my attention in the image of a kind of “blooming bush,”  (photo above) and helped me to remember that even things that seem out of place belong.

Precious things grow in creative new patterns when we allow them to. Blooms spring forth in ways they have never before. Newness of life happens when we share space with others and grow together in new ways. Welcoming new people is the primary task of the church. I think the creative act of combining things in new arrangements has made a life-giving difference in our world. That is exactly how (for example)  innovative technology, medical treatment, and artistic expression contribute to our world. Maybe the church would be more welcoming of people, if we would also open our minds to welcome new ideas and new challenges, too. If we have no differences among us, there is no space for unity to emerge.

Look again, everything belongs, even daffodils within an evergreen.