What It’s All About

resurrection-lightEarly on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”… 

 11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 1-2, 11-18)

These hours have been such a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions.  But in this moment, I am beginning to see what it was all about.  I want to hold her and comfort her and explain it all but Jesus’ young friend Mary is running around with a mix of hysteria and excitement.  Maybe she, too, is beginning to understand.  I always knew who he was, knew from that surreal night when the angel came.  I probably would have thought I was losing it but Joseph had had a dream too.   Oh, that seems so long ago and yet, I remember it like it happened just a second ago. No one really understood.  No one ever understood.  But we did.  We knew who he was.  But not until this moment did I really grasp it.

I hope that the world does not take this as a do-over of some sort.  Because it is all part of it—everything up to this moment and everything that comes to be.  All of time and all of space and all creation points to this and is illuminated by it.  All of those generations that carried the story to me and the generations that stretch out beyond where I will ever see are in this moment.  I now understand that that strange brilliance that led us to Bethlehem and then stayed with us through the night that he was born has been with me always.  And he showed me that.  But I didn’t understand until now.

The memories come flooding back to me now—more than three decades of memories.  They will take several days to process.  But now they are not memories wrapped in grief.  I understand that they are the story—his story, my story, Joseph’s story, the world’s story.  God came into the world and walked with me.  God invited me to dance with the Divine, to touch, to love, to hold the Godself.  There was nothing special about me.  I have always been so ordinary.  But now I see that my life is an incredible mix of the ordinary and the sacred.  God has come.  And now I understand that God was always here.  And will be forevermore. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”  I do feel blessed.  I pray that the world will begin to understand.

There was, indeed, something I had missed about Christianity, and now all of a sudden I could see what it was.  It was the Resurrection!  How could I have been a church historian and a person of prayer who loved God and still not known that the most fundamental Christian reality is not the suffering of the cross but the life it brings?…The foundation of the universe for which God made us, to which God draws us, and in which God keeps us is not death, but joy.  (Roberta Bondi)

FOR TODAY:  Begin to make room.  There’s more to the story than you thought.

Peace to you in this often-hectic week,


Faith in the Midst of Everything Else

city-streetsPaul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1: 1-7)

So many of us spend our time trying to “find” God, perhaps trying to get to the place where God is.  We often forget that God is not sitting in some faraway place until we clean up our act or pray more or get more religious or figure it all out. (OK, THAT’S probably never going to happen.)  God comes into the normalcy of our lives.  God shows up on city streets and country lanes.  God appears in places that we wouldn’t dare go ourselves.  God does not limit the Divine to the places that are cleaned up and presentable.  God comes not just to the places where we think we should be but the places where we spend our days and spend our hours, the times when we laugh and grieve and dance and walk and get all confused and discombobulated and feel like we’re all alone.  The coming of God into our midst in this very chaotic and holy season reminds us of that.  God did not sit in some far-off palace eating hors d’oeuvres until everyone caught up with the Divine.  God came into the lowliest of cities and was born in the dirtiest of cribs and was held by the poorest of the poor who had been refused entrance to what most of us would count as normal.

The point is that God comes not to the ones who deserve God’s Presence, not to the ones that are really all that prepared, not to the ones that have done what they need to do, but to us.  God comes to us.  God comes into our lives just as they are and begins to walk, first taking our hand and guiding our steps until we can run on our own and help others along the way.  God comes into the places where God is unrecognized and needed the most.

Once I baptized a baby who was eating a Ritz cracker.  The mother was, of course, trying to calm the squirming child down enough to get some holy water on his head and hear the words that reminded us who he was and who we were.  It worked.  There, with Ritz cracker in hand, Hudson was reminded (or his parents were reminded) that he was a son of God with whom God is well pleased.  And I’m thinking that if all that took was a Ritz cracker, then we ought to spend our whole journey with an open box in tow.  We do not have to clean up our act before God comes.  God is willing to come into the very messiness of our lives.  If it takes a Ritz cracker to calm us down enough to receive it, then so be it.  THIS Advent, THIS Christmas, in the moment that you are now, look up and know that God comes, with our without hors d’oeuvres.

God did not wait till the world was ready, till nations were at peace. God came when the Heavens were unsteady and prisoners cried out for release. God did not wait for the perfect time.  God came when the need was deep and great. In the mystery of the Word made flesh the maker of the Stars was born. We cannot wait till the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, or to share our grief, to touch our pain.  God came with Love.  Rejoice!  Rejoice! And go into the Light of God. (From “First Coming”, by Madeleine L’Engle)

FOR TODAY:  Pay attention to God’s coming.  It’s happening now.

Grace and Peace,


Finding Enough in the Wilderness

Shifting Sands on the PathwayScripture Text:  Romans 4: 13-22

13For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. 16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,  17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) —in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

According to the passage, faith is and has always been the basis of a relationship with God.  (Well, duh!)  We know that.  We are told to believe, to have faith, no matter what.  And so we wander around in another wilderness perhaps beating ourselves up because it just doesn’t make sense to us.  Our pragmatic 21st century minds need proof.  We want to touch it or we want to somehow see it or AT LEAST be able to google it and get more information.  But, as Paul reminds us here, if our whole faith system depends on nothing more than adhering to some limited set of laws or hard and fast Scriptural interpretations that have been laid down by those that came before us, what good is faith?  It’s not bad, mind you, it’s just not enough.  Faith is about relationship; faith is about jumping off into the abyss of unknowing whether or not it makes sense; faith is about knowing only that what you know, what you understand, and what you’ve been told is just not enough.

Now I have to admit, I am a list maker of the highest magnitude.  There is a certain satisfaction, almost power-driven, in “checking things off” my list.  So, faith, for me, is definitely a walk in the wilderness where the winds blow the sands beneath my feet distorting my planned path, where the road winds and turns into unknown terrain, and where nothing, I mean NOTHING, is ever completed or “checked off” as “OK, I got that one”.  See, I don’t think Paul would have ever have meant to dismiss systematized religion or even the rules.  They help shape us; they give us a starting point.  But Paul is reminding us that they have their limitations.  They tend to make sense of something that, in our minds, in our limited human minds, does not and cannot fully make sense.  An authentic, growing, faith making its way through the wild terrain is one that weaves what doesn’t make sense into understanding, laughter into prayer, and grace into the everyday.  It is a mixture of sense-making and transcendence that, sometimes, on our very best days, opens us to an encounter with the Divine when we least expect it in our everyday, carefully planned, list-ridden life.  And in that moment, the path beneath us shifts just a bit as God gently moves us to face a new direction.

As the passage says, the promises of God do not come to us through our religion or through our laws or through even our reading of the Scriptures (shhhh!)  The promise of God comes to us through our faith.  The promise comes to be in the wilds of our lives when our lists cannot be completed and we can no longer control where our path leads.  The promise takes life when we encounter and know God as perfectly revealed and totally hidden.  The promise takes life when we finally know that what we know is never enough.

On this Lenten wilderness journey, we are taught to open our eyes to what we’re missing seeing and opening our hearts to the ways that we’re missing being and opening our minds beyond the boundaries that we have drawn to know that there is so much more, that what we know and what we see is never enough.  We are never called to tame the wilderness through which we journey or to try to redraw the shifting pathways but rather to believe that the Promise will be. The wilderness teaches us that faith fills the void where knowing is not enough.  And, for now, that is enough.

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.  (G.K. Chesterton)

FOR TODAY: Put the list down. Stop checking things off.  Now let yourself travel into the wilderness where faith is enough.

Grace and Peace,



Presence of God Scripture Text:  Thessalonians 5: 16-19
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Pray without ceasing?  Are you kidding me?  Think how much we have to do in this season!  I mean, prayer is a good thing, a great thing in fact.  We all know that.  But pray without ceasing?  As in ALWAYS?  So, what do we do with those distractions, with all those who need us to do something?  What do we do with life?  What do you do with all the preparations that the season holds?  How do you fit that in?  Uh oh…Spirit effectively quenched!  Not good…I hate it when that happens!


The truth is, Paul was not telling us that we had to spend our days body-bent and knee-bowed.  The truth is, there is WAY too much work to do.  We’ve got some Kingdom-building to do, after all.  Paul was not calling us to a life spent in prayer but rather to a prayerful life, a life that is sacred, hallowed, a life lived in the unquenchable Spirit of God.  This has nothing to do with counting the number of hours or minutes or nano-seconds that you spend in prayer.  A prayerful life is one that sees everything as hallowed and holy, sees everything as of God, embraces life as a gift rather than a vessel to be filled with things and to do lists and results.  Praying without ceasing is not about “doing”; it is about being. Olga Savin says that “[the Scriptures] tell us that ceaseless prayer in pursuit of God and communion with [God] is not simply life’s meaning or goal, the one thing worth living for, but it is life itself.”  And a life lived the way it is called to be lived is the very will of God, the very will of, as the Scripture says, the one who is faithful.  It is prayer–ceaseless prayer.


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in our Advent waiting, we found a time of prayer, we found a time, as Mary did, to ponder (Luke 2: 19).  Maybe THAT’S what’s wrong with us.  Maybe we’ve lost our ability to ponder, to be attentive to what resides in the deepest part of our soul, to be aware of God’s Presence in our lives.  Maybe this time of waiting is so that we’ll take the opportunity to do some serious pondering, to pray without ceasing.  After all, what in your life is NOT holy?  What in your life is NOT positively bursting with the Divine?  What in your life is NOT a gift from God?  Well, the answer is nothing.  There is NOTHING in your life that is not full to the very brim–spilling-over-chock-full-seemingly-unable-to-put-anything-else-in-brim–with the presence of the one who calls you, the one who is faithful, the one who is ALWAYS there.  Make everything you do an offering to God.  Let everything you have and everything you are be a preparation for God’s coming.  Offer it to God.  G.K. Chesterton once said “let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”  Praying without ceasing is probably more about living, about loving, about holy waiting, than it is about prayer as we often define it.  It has little to do with the words we say and everything to do with tuning ourselves to the conversation that God is already inviting us to live.


The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.  (Mechtilde of Magdeburg, 13th century)


FOR TODAY:  Pray without ceasing.  Look around you.  EVERYTHING that you see, EVERYTHING that you touch, EVERYTHING that you imagine, EVERYTHING that you let loose, EVERYTHING that you pick up, EVERYTHING that you eat, EVERYTHING that you love, EVERYTHING that is you…EVERYTHING is full to the brim with God.  Pray without ceasing.


Grace and Peace,







The Top of the MountainScripture Text:  Mark 13: 32-37

But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”


You know that feeling when you’re driving up a really big mountain (or maybe climbing the tallest loop of the roller coaster)?  You can see behind you (although that’s probably not a good idea if you’re actually driving!) and you can see ahead–but only to the top.  You can see where the top begins to round out its shape and give way to the other side but in your view, there is no other side.  It almost looks like you’re just going to keep climbing and be propelled into the open sky, to lose control, to lose footing altogether.  At this point, there is no way to plan at all.  You just trust–trust that the mountain will gently curve its way to the other side and give way to another view, trust that the road on which you’re traveling actually DOES continue and that you will not fall into nothingness, and trust that, in just a moment, in just a moment…this climbing will end.


Advent reminds us that we’re sort of on that road.  We feel it under us.  We see it up ahead.  But it continues beyond what we can see, beyond where we can comprehend at this point.  And so we trust and we anticipate that what is up ahead and where we are called to go.  The Scripture text (which we Lectionary readers read this past Sunday) exhorts us to keep alert, to stay awake.  Maybe it could just as easily tell us to anticipate what is up ahead.  I mean, weren’t you told that by your driving instructor all those years ago?  Anticipate the road. I don’t think that means become a psychic or a mind-reader.  After all, the Scripture reminds us that we do not know, that, in fact, we CANNOT know, that we are not at this point in our being, capable of knowing what is up ahead.  Anticipating is not about knowing; it is about readying oneself, preparing oneself, maybe even feeling the road a little more deeply.  Perhaps living with anticipation is about being so awake and so aware that you can actually taste the Presence of the Divine and know that Presence so deeply that life changes.  If one begins to anticipate what is up ahead, one begins to live life as if the road is beginning to curve.  As if…what would it mean to live “as if”?  What would it mean to live as if peace were the norm?  What would it mean to live as if poverty ceased to exist?  What would it mean to live as if God’s Presence was so real that it literally permeated every thread of your being?


Advent is our calling to wake up, to anticipate and begin to live as if God has already come into our midst, because that’s EXACTLY what has happened.  The call to keep alert is not a threat; it’s God’s gift to us.  Stay awake, my child, for you do not want to miss it.  Life is coming, a Life that you cannot even fathom how incredible it is.  The road is beginning to round and another view is just up ahead.  Be alert.  You don’ want to miss it.


A dreamer is one who can find [his or her] way in the moonlight, and [whose] punishment is that [he or she] sees the dawn before the rest of the world. (Oscar Wilde)


FOR TODAY:  What does it mean to be alert?  What does it mean to allow yourself to be awakened to the presence of God in our midst?  What does it mean to anticipate life, to live as if?


Grace and Peace,