When the Manna Ceases to Be

MannaScripture Passage (Joshua 5: 9-12)

9The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. 10While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. 11On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.


It was a glorious morning when the manna first showed up, fields upon fields of what seemed to be never-ending sustenance in the midst of deep hunger and despair. They ate their fill and it went away only to show up yet again the next day. It was what they needed at the time. It was God’s mercy and God’s grace and God’s fill raining down upon them. They had come out of Egypt downtrodden and emotionally beaten. They were not who they had been or who they were supposed to be. They couldn’t provide for themselves and the anger and the frustration and the disgrace became a part of their lives. They seemed to be in some sort of never-ending spiral of despair upon despair. And then, one day, they awoke to manna, gleaming pools of white that beckoned them to eat their fill, to feel better. It was comfort food at is finest.


And then one day, they ate unleavened bread and parched grain. It was food that they had grown and harvested, food that they had been able to produce themselves. It was wonderful, wonderful to eat of the harvest that they had a hand in bringing to be. It felt good to feel like they were getting back on their feet again. And then they realized that the manna has ceased to be. It no longer came unbidden in the morning. It no longer just appeared out of the clouds. It no longer came and what was interesting was that they really hadn’t realized it.


The manna was never meant to be permanent. It was never intended to be the thing that would sustain them forever. You can call it a stop-gap of sorts. But it’s probably better depicted as God’s way of helping us stand. We all have times of despair, times when the manna is the only thing we have to sustain us. But if we spent the rest of our lives just eating manna every morning, what would life really hold? We couldn’t leave the place and travel to new worlds. We have to be there in the morning when the fields burst into white. We couldn’t just relax and maybe even sleep in. After all, the manna was only there for a couple of hours. But, more importantly, we couldn’t grow. We couldn’t become those who God intended us to be—the planters, the harvesters, the helpers, those that hope for something more, that understand that God promises something more. So God gently nudges us away from this sort of dependence. (God did that before when we first began…I mean, does anyone even remember where that little Garden is anymore?) Maybe God’s intention is not that we be dependent upon God but that we choose to depend upon God. Those are different.


So in this Lenten season, we remember the manna. We remember the way that God sustained us, holding us, helping us stand. We remember and then begin to walk. And what we learn is that God is not trying to limit our world or constrict our view. God is there when we need help standing. And then when we begin to walk, when we finally begin to hope, when we begin to become more of who God intends us to be, God walks with us as we plant and harvest and become a part of growing God’s Kingdom. And if we fall again, God will pick us up and show us fields of manna—if only for a time. We can depend on that.


Let yourself get shaken up. What are you willing to give up to ensure your own unfolding, and the unfolding of what is holy in your life? Where you stumble, here is your treasure. (Joseph Campbell)


Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!


Grace and Peace,



Mine to Walk

path-795x380Scripture Passage (1 Corinthians 10: 12-13)

12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.


Well, this is enough to rattle anyone’s self-confidence! We like to think that if we “get there”, you know, confess our sins, profess our belief, get baptized, do what we’re supposed to do, check all the boxes of good church people, that everything will turn out alright. The problem is that it’s not a one-time thing. (Yes, I’m Methodist. Sadly, we are not “once saved, always saved”.) I mean, really, what good would that do? We just spend a little bit of time on our best behavior and then we’re “in”. I don’t think God works like that. It’s not about what we’ve done; It’s about who we are. It’s about who we’re becoming. It’s about relationship. Our faith journey is long and sometimes hard and sometimes glorious. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we know we get it right. Sometimes we find ourselves diving into deep and wonderful pools of clear reviving water and other times we seem to wallow in the shallow mud pits of life. Sometimes we can feel so connected to God that there is no doubt in our minds or our hearts that the Divine is right there, almost touchable, almost approachable. But we cannot rest on the laurels of our past. That’s not the way relationships work.


Living a life of faith really does not allow us to become complacent. It doesn’t allow us to sit back and bask in our glorious history that we bring to the table. God’s not really concerned with the fact that my grandparents were good, church-going people (at least not as far as my faith journey is concerned). It was good for them and they taught me well. But, now, it’s mine. God wants to have a relationship with ME. That’s the reason that “inherited” faith can only go so far (which means that, thanks be to God, that whole “sins of the fathers [and the mothers]” thing also only goes so far. My faith journey is mine. It is my relationship with God. It is my walk toward and with the Divine. It is mine to walk, mine to navigate, mine to mess up and get all turned around and not know where to go. It is mine to choose to stop and stay mired in what I think is the “right” way or what hymns I like to sing or what style of worship in which I like to participate. It is mine to halt at any point and sit down and bask in what I’ve done or become laden down by what I’ve neglected to do. And with God’s grace, it is mine to begin again. Oh, don’t get me wrong. We help each other along the way. Hopefully, we can give each other what we do not have. And that, too, is God’s grace.


This journey of Lent is sort of a microcosm of our whole faith journey. We begin where we are (wherever we are) and we look at our self and we look at our lives and we see what we really are—beloved children of God. And then we look at the ways that we’re NOT what we really are, the ways that we have allowed ourselves to overstep or overreach or overindulge or somehow become a little too full of what we imagine we can be. We look at the ways that we do not walk with God. And then God offers a hand (or someone else’s hand) and we begin to walk. And the road twists and turns and the storms come and the sun’s heat bears down on us and the winds whip around and the sand gets in our eyes. And then we see the light of the path ahead once again and we follow it, at least until we get off track again. And in those times when we feel the path beneath us, those times when we are aware of God’s presence, those times when God’s grace seems to wrap around us and hold us, we realize that the hand we hold never lost its grip on our lives. And we relax a little. We become comfortable. We might become a little complacent again. We become a little too certain that we’ve got it figured out. And then the winds begin again and the curtain tears and the darkness descends upon us. But this time, we know to wait, to wait in holy silence until the stone of our lives is rolled away so that we can begin again. That is faith. That is the journey. We don’t travel it alone but no one can do it for us.


Deep within us all there is an amazing sanctuary of the soul, a holy place…to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us…calling us home unto Itself. Yielding to these persuasions…utterly and completely, to the Light within, is the beginning of true life. (Thomas R. Kelly)


Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!


Grace and Peace,



In the Thirst

Dry Parched GroundScripture Passage (Isaiah 55: 1-3)

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.


Thirst, real thirst, probably eludes most of us who are reading this. We have water. We just turn on the tap and, usually, it runs freely. Many of us don’t think it’s good enough water so we spend money buying high-priced spring waters (which may be from a tap anyway!) But when one is really, really thirsty, thirsty to the point of feeling dry and parched, water is the most incredible thing in the world. So, here, we read of an invitation to all those who thirst. That really sort of sounds like thirsting is a good thing. So those of us with bottled water and instant food, those of us who satisfy our longing by buying more stuff or building bigger things or wrapping ourselves in the bounds of what we do, probably struggle with the whole idea of thirsting.


We live in a world that dangles satisfaction and completion in front of us. We live in a world that looks for results. We live in a world that looks for solutions to things that we do not understand, to things that are difficult. And yet, nowhere in the Scriptures does God protect us from the difficulties of life by telling us to run and hide, to avoid pain, to avoid suffering, to avoid darkness or wilderness or unknowing. After all, thirsting for something more means that we are alive. Physical thirst means that we are still living and breathing and our bodies are craving what they need. And spiritual thirst is the same. We are still alive. There is still something more. And in the deepest part of our being, we know that.


There are those that thirst for wealth, those that thirst for stature or position. There are those that thirst for pleasure or happiness. And there are those that thirst for things to be comfortable, to be the way they want it to be, perhaps to be the way it’s “always been”. But, for most people, attaining those things really doesn’t satisfy them at all. It leaves a veritable dryness in life. Perhaps the point is that life is not in the quenching but in the thirst. Alexander Stuart Baillie once wrote that “one needs to keep on thirsting because life grows and enlarges. It has no end; it goes on and on; it becomes more beautiful. When one has done [his or her] best there is, [one] finds, still more to learn and so much to do. [One] cannot be satisfied until one attains unto the stature of Jesus, unto a perfect [human], and ever thirsts for God.” I thirst. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. And life began.



All your love, your stretching out, your hope, your thirst, God is creating in you so that God may fill you…God is on the inside of the longing. (Maria Boulding)


Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!


I know I’ve tended to be a little irregular with the postings this season. I’m sorry about that. Life continues to get in the way. Maybe it’s part of that thirsting. I will try to keep the waters flowing.


Grace and Peace,



Yearning to Fill a Restless Heart

Reaching for GodScripture Passage (Psalm 85:8)

8Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.


So, we’re on this journey, a journey toward who we are meant to be, a journey toward God with God, a journey where we are searching for God. The truth is, God is not lost. God is not up ahead waiting for us to catch up or up above waiting for us to clean up our act so we’ll get there! God is here and has been here all along, from the beginning (actually, even BEFORE the beginning). Actually, God IS the beginning (and the end and the middle and all the stuff around it.) So what exactly is this journey? What is our spiritual walk that we try so hard to maintain?


Maybe we need to go back to the basics. For what is it that you hunger? What brings you life? What gives you energy? All those questions are really close to the same. They all have to do with sustenance, with filling what is empty and satisfying what is wanting. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” That’s our story—we are not evil; we are not bad; we are not unrighteous or ungodly or un-whatever; and we are certainly not “only human”. (I hate that…Jesus was human, fully human, so there’s no “only” about it. Maybe we’re inhumane sometimes, (maybe a lot!) but we’re not “only” human.) We’re not any of those things. We are beloved. God made us. We are part of God. But we just haven’t found our place yet. We are not bad; we are restless. We know there is something more. Our heart knows it. Our heart knows that there is an emptiness and a wanting that we almost cannot bear. It is that “God-shaped hole” again. Our hunger, our emptiness tells us that in our deepest being, we desire to be with God, to walk with God. And God, in God’s infinite love, is at the root of that hunger.


And so we journey. We walk and we walk and we walk and we search and we search and we search. This IS our spirituality. This IS our journey. This IS our Way. We all have it. Some of us struggle with it, muddying it with materialism and prejudice and fear that we will lose control or lose what we have. And some of us somehow, by God’s grace, actually travel further than we dared, into the unknown, into the wilderness. It is always a bit of a struggle, even for those that seem have their spirituality all together. If it wasn’t, then God would have just filled our heart and then hardened it up so it couldn’t go anywhere and never made the world at all. But God made us to journey, called us to journey, called us to search and wander and to, somehow, along the way, learn to trust that our real desire is to be with God, to fill our hearts with God and to, finally, have peace (not to be righteous, not to be holy, not to be perfectly and fully-versed in the ways of God, not to be the “best” at spirituality—just to have peace).


Our journey, our spiritual walk, is the way that God relates to us and the way we respond. It’s a dance. And the best dancers do not drag their partners across the floor or dance in front or over those in the line. The best dancers understand the rhythm that is not theirs but to which they belong. There are no easy directions to your spiritual journey. You will not find this in a self-help book. There is no quick fix, no shortcut, no road that is better paved or with less traffic. The Way is yours and God’s. And as you dance, your heart fills, and when it is full to what you thought was the brim, to the place where you cannot imagine it can fill anymore, you will find that you only yearn for God.


You called, you cried, you shattered my deafness. You sparkled, you blazed, you drove away my blindness. You shed your fragrance, and I drew in my breath, and I pant for you. I tasted and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and now I burn with longing for your peace. (St. Augustine of Hippo)


Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!


Grace and Peace,



A Question of Citizenship

Flags of different countriesScripture Passage (Philippians 3:14-4:1)

14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. 17Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 4Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.



This passage is pretty familiar. Most people read the words “goal” or “prize” and imagine that whatever it is we are journeying toward is some sort of reward for a job well done. So we assume that if we live righteous (or whatever we think that might be) and godly (really? You are planning to become “like God”?) lives, we’ll get to where it is or what it is or whatever it is that we want to go. But the problem is that Paul is probably not implying that this journey is some sort of course of study for life that is all laid out with prerequisites and gold stars and graduations. Paul is talking about a pattern of life, a way of being, a life lived with the mind of Christ. In other words, we are called to enter that Way of Christ, to become the Way of Christ. It’s not about getting a good report card; it’s about becoming someone different.


And then we’re hit with an even more uncomfortable notion. Look around you. What you see, what you know best, what you aspire to be, what you dream of having, what you think you have, what you think you possess—all of that means nothing. In fact, it’s not even yours. Oh don’t get me wrong. We are in no way called to remove ourselves from the world. In fact, we are called to throw ourselves into it with all our might. But we throw ourselves into a world that not only is not ours but is really something that we’re not a part of. To use a well-worn (and now seemingly controversial) phrase, we are “resident aliens”. Our citizenship, where we belong, is not this. Now I don’t think it’s that we belong to another place. We belong to another Way of being. And we are called, with the same mind of Christ, to bring that Way of being into the place where we reside.


There is a certain irony that we are hit with this idea of “citizenship” in this politically-charged time that is already filled with questions of who can run for political office based on where they were born. (Getting very tired already…) This is so Roman. The people to whom this original letter was written were probably citizens of a Roman colony. And in that day, “citizenship” was not a right. It was not something that could be acquired. It was an honor that came with birthright. And with that birthright came power. And Paul is contrasting it with a New Identity, a new Way of being that held no class distinctions and no extra credit for having been there as one emerged from the womb. But we still like to reward ourselves for being, I guess, in the right place at the right time, so to speak. The world does it. Our nation does it. Churches do it. We churches like to reward our members first, take care of ourselves first, limit our grace and our mercy to those who are like us, or, even, who ARE us.


But holiness and righteousness are not things that can be measured or rewarded or achieved or handed out or held away. They are not part of the ways of the world. Our goal is not to become holy or righteous; our journey is toward a fuller relationship with God, toward having the mind of Christ. It is about relationship; it is about caring and compassion and mercy not just for those like us but for all of our brothers and sisters in this Creation. It is about realizing that we live as aliens, as immigrants (there, I said it!), in a place that is not ours, that is not like us, and yet a place where we live and move and breathe and work and love. We do not possess this. This world, this nation, this church is not ours. It is, rather, the place through which we journey for a season, doing all the good we can, the place where we take others by the hand and lead them home.


God leads us to the slow path: to the joyous insights of the pilgrim; another way of knowing: another way of being. (Michael Leunig)


Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!


Grace and Peace,



To Hold Dear and Love

14-11-02-#6-Sermon-Thin PlaceScripture Passage (Genesis 15: 1-6)

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.” 2But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.



We are told over and over to not be afraid. But we still want a guarantee. We WANT to believe that God will work it all out; we WANT to believe that God will sustain us; we WANT to believe, but we’d like to know when things will get worked out to at least our satisfaction, if not our comfort and ease. Now this passage is probably better translated as “trust” than “believe”. Is it the same? Well, probably close. But we tend to think of believing in something as knowing that it’s right. That’s not really right, but it’s what most of us have fallen into. In the 16th century, the Saxon meaning depicted it as “to hold dear or love”. That’s different. That’s WAY different. Do you follow because you think it’s right or because you love it and hold it dear? So is belief more about facts or about the meaning it brings to your life?


When we are told not to be afraid, it seems to be more of a call to trust, rather than merely believe. You can believe something, maybe know it’s right in your deepest being, and yet not fully give yourself to it. But Abram was told to trust, to give himself to it. “Come, Abraham. Trust it. Follow it. Give yourself to it. Hold it dear and love it. Become it.” And the covenant, the relationship, came to be.


This journey that we’re on is not, of course, a straight and unhindered pathway. There are hills to climb and valleys to maneuver. There is a wilderness to traverse. There are things that come along and get in our way and change our whole schedule when we least expect it. (I had some of those the last few days, which is why I’m WAY behind on “daily meditations”. So, I owe you four extras somewhere along the way!) But we’re not just called to mindlessly and aimlessly follow what we believe to be true.  We are instead called to trust it in our deepest being, to turn ourselves over to it, if you will. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be “blips” along the way. After all, Abraham (formerly known as Abram) would become the father of three major world religions, but he was perfect. He probably wasn’t even trustworthy. We all know he tried to manipulate the outcome of it all a bit. But this faith journey is not about making us perfect humans; it’s not about our blind acceptance of what we do not understand; it’s about relationship. Faith is about realizing and trusting that we are part of a deep and abiding relationship between God and humanity, actually between God and all of Creation as the holy and the sacred pours into our being bit by bit. No, it makes no sense in terms of this world. That’s what makes it faith. That’s what Lent teaches us. So, do not be afraid. Follow what you love and hold dear and I’ll walk it with you.


Meaning does not come to us in finished form, ready-made; it must be found, created, received, constructed. We grow our way toward it. (Ann Bedford Ulanov)


Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!


Grace and Peace,



In Our Search for Belief

“Faith, Day and Night”, J. Vincent Scarpace, 2012

Scripture Passage (Romans 10: 8b-13)


“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”



You know, this whole faith journey thing would be a whole lot easier if the rules were better laid out! So, are you supposed to confess your beliefs first or believe what you’re saying first? (because did you notice they get switched in this passage?) I mean, just make it easy! How DO we get this right? Just tell me what I’m supposed to do and I’ll do it! Just tell me what to say. I’m a pretty fast learner. I could probably remember enough to get through the initial exam anyway.


That’s what most of us want. That’s what those that Paul was first addressing wanted. Good grief, just tell us what we’re supposed to do to get this right! They wanted him to tell them what acts, what righteousness needed to happen so they could check off that they were following the law. We’re no different. We’re used to racking up points or grades or salary levels (or for churches, it would be members or attendees or giving patterns or apportionments—aaaagggghhhh!—there, I’m better!), all so that we can check off that we’ve achieved something. But when you read this, Paul isn’t even laying out what it is we’re supposed to believe. There’s no talk of original sin or not, no mention of which salvation theory Paul thought was the right one, and no list of rules or beliefs to which we needed to adhere to get “in”. Paul’s answer instead was to just believe. Just ask. Just open your mouth and pour out your heart and say it. That’s all. Because, see, it’s there. It’s all right there. Just call on the Lord and start walking.


But there’s another side to this. If we’re not told exactly what it is that we’re supposed to believe, then why would we think that our beliefs are the way everyone should believe? The passage says that “everyone—that means all of us—who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In other words, desiring God is enough. Desiring God is what leads us toward God. Wanting to pray is praying. Yearning to be with God is being with God. Confessing our belief is believing. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have what seem to be crises of faith. (I have one about every week lately!) It doesn’t mean that we will ever get to the point where we don’t have questions. (If you meet someone that tells you they don’t question God or question what they believe, personally, I’d run! I mean, are you really willing to stake your whole existence on what YOU’VE figured out God is going to do?)


Desiring God, wanting to be with God, wanting to follow is enough. Beginning is enough. I mean, I’ll be honest, if God had some prescribed list of rules and definitive beliefs in mind, why in the world would God have chosen Paul to be the head writer of the greatest treatise on salvation of all time, with his circular thoughts and grammatically incorrect run-on sentences? Maybe God’s whole idea is that we wander and we explore and we question and we journey not until we “get it” but until we realize that the journey IS the way we live with God, that this wilderness in which we find ourselves IS the Way to God and, at the same time, the way to ourselves. That is the reason that in this season, we find ourselves in the wilderness. It is not a punishment. It is a reminder that the God who created us has never left us. It is for us to realize that in the deepest part of our being, we desire to be with God almost as much as God desires to be with us. That is the reason that God came, Emmanuel, God-With-Us, to walk with us, to perhaps wake up our God-given desires to be with God. So, begin. Wanting to be with God IS being with God. And THAT is something in which you can believe.


There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of every [person] which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ. (Blaise Pascal)


Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!


Grace and Peace,