Sing a Morning Song
Psalm 30:4-5, 11-12
"...The day is light before we can see. First gray, then yellow, then trees and houses appear. Similarly, we know hope before we can live into it. We know hope because we read it in our Psalms: You have turned my mourning into dancing, you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
We know hope because we have suffered through all kinds of heartaches and loss, and we have healed from most of them. Knowing that hope is real helps, but until we can live in hope, it’s only as useful as the sun before it rises. A promise of joy, but we’re not feeling joy yet.
We can’t speed up the sunrise, but we can help hope become real for ourselves and one another. Just like night and day overlap in that haze of dawn, our grief and our joy overlap, when we tell the stories that break our hearts and break our hearts open....
When I was a kid I could never remember which kind of morning the mourning dove was, because its song sounds sad, but it starts singing at the beginning of the day. Our morning song is both as well. How do we get from night to day? How do we move from grief to joy? Singing a mourning song, pouring all our sadness and despair into our song. And singing with the certainty that the sun is rising and will keep rising.
As Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber says, “Your grief is real, but not as real as resurrection.” Yes the night comes, again and again. We’ve despaired and wept before and we’ll do it again. Our grief is real. And no matter what, the sun rises, life returns, resurrection happens.
You have turned my mourning into dancing, you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. We must mourn before we can dance, or our praise will be hollow and our joy clothes won’t fit right. And we can mourn and dance and sing all at once. Think of a New Orleans funeral, big band sounds, spinning parades through the streets, raucous praise and despair all at once....
At a recent Nigerian pastor’s wives gathering one woman said “Because of the disastrous times we’ve been through, I didn’t know if some of these friends were still alive or not until we met again here. And that makes this reunion a particularly joyful one!” She could’ve walked into the room with despair and anxiety, wondering who had died. Instead she found joy in each woman she saw.
We don’t dance and sing just to feel joy for the sake of joy. When the hurt and loss keeps coming, like in Nigeria, we would be foolish to simply sing and dance our way to joy without seeking change – trauma recovery, rebuilding efforts, peacemaking initiatives. Our dancing and singing are not just for our personal healing, but to fuel wider change. “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution,” said the wise Emma Goldman who knew that joy is essential in healing and liberating ourselves and one another.
When we weep all night, as we sing a mourning song through the dawn, and when we dance in the joy of a sunny morning, we bring the Kingdom of God to reign. May our own healing be the very same acts of courage, creativity and compassion that heal our communities, our sisters and brothers far away, our planet."
Peace by Piece
Mark 4:35-41, Jesus calms the storm
"...They wake Jesus up with their fear and he doesn’t say “there’s nothing to be afraid of” even though he isn’t afraid at all. He says “why are you afraid?” Because Jesus knows that we can’t work on our fear until we start talking about it. Some wise person once said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Some wise person, because when I looked this quote up online I found it attributed to at least five different people. When we encounter something so true, we want to spread it around. Courage is not the absence of fear, but realizing that other things are more important than our fear.
Racial hatred and murder in South Carolina offer us all a chance to consider what is more important than our fear. For many loved ones of the people who have been murdered, it is forgiveness, so that their futures won’t be infected by hatred. For many people of color it is creative resistance, as they seek a world in which they are safe to walk home from the grocery or gather for Bible study and prayer. For us who are white, it is confessing our privilege, releasing our self-righteous sense that we earned what we have, letting go of the lies that have told us we’re better, giving up our desire to stereotype and judge people. We have opportunity in this tragedy, an opportunity for courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but realizing that forgiveness, creative resistance and confession are more important than any fear....
...At midnight, as the clock turned to Father’s Day, I was in the operating room with two tearful, terrified parents as their 37-year-old son breathed his last. He’d been in a construction accident, and for two weeks they waited at his bedside, navigated the intimidating hospital, and prayed for a miracle.
Finally they accepted what the staff had been patiently, sadly saying: Shane would not wake up. The family gave permission for organ donation. With the best love they could summon, they’d been his parole board, sentencing him to both execution and release.
They’d been at his side for those two weeks, but I took them to the OR waiting room while the staff prepped Shane for surgery.
In the OR, nurses removed the ventilator that was breathing for him, and a surgeon waited quietly in the corner. Once Shane was discreetly tucked under blue paper, I brought the family in, and they held his hand and stroked his head for 25 minutes until his heart and lungs fell silent.
I kindly rushed his family out the door so the doctors could take his organs to share with six sick people. Six families were performing their own bedside vigils in hospitals around the region, and their nights would end with the miracle Shane’s parents had earnestly prayed for.
“We couldn’t have lost more that night, and we couldn’t have gained more, either,” Shane’s mother told me months later when we reconnected. Shane’s family had been blessed by letters from the man who now carries his heart, who had gone fishing with his own family for the first time in years....
...We often think of fathers as powerful through their strength, their control, their skills, their wisdom. We rarely see a father’s power in his letting go. Shane’s father spent father’s day saying goodbye to his son, letting him die, letting him go. God prepared Shane’s father for this. God’s own son died and brought life to others, just like Shane. God let him go, weeping just as Shane’s father wept.
Power can be telling the storm to hush. Jesus got in the boat “just as he was” without titles or badges or tools. Doctors are the powerful in a hospital – none as powerful as surgeons. People say surgeons have a “god- complex” and it’s no wonder – these surgeons carved life from Shane’s death. That is God-like. Power in hospital comes with titles and badges and tools. But Jesus gets in the boat “just as he is.” And Shane is naked under that sterile paper. But he saved six lives. And his parents are the ones who gave his life so that others would live. Their worst father’s day imaginable became the best father’s day imaginable for six other families.
The most important power in that OR is not in the doctors (though we appreciate and admire them). The deepest power is the Christ power – of resurrection, of self-sacrifice, an outpouring of selfless love. On the stormy sea of Galilee Jesus’ power quells the storm. But the power we honor most deeply in him is his outrageous, extravagant love for us. Peace, be still."
The moth traveled with me from the laundromat to home. I guess we're all drawn to love, like moths to a flame.
Moth, fan the flames of love and heal this bleeding world.
All Things New
2 Corinthians 5:16-18
"...Where in your life do you need a re-creation?
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
With your God-given neuroplasticity and the teachings of Jesus you have everything you need to create a new reality.
To create friends from enemies.
To choose the ministry of reconciliation.
To live in Christ’s abundant love for all.
How we interpret what happens in the world around us can shape our reality. Imagine a new creation now.
We can see new life and possibilities rather than fear and scarcity.
We can see the best in one another rather than find fault.
We choose to live with Christ again and again, and some days we forget.
Some days we’re too tired to be creative.
Or too sad to choose hope.
Or to angry to forgive.
But then the next day dawns and God gives us a brand new chance to choose to live with Christ in the new creation. To be God’s new creation."
More from Pentecost, Acts 2:1-21
"... In the winter,
before the days of central heating
earth’s early humans learned the power of flint to spark
and the power of friction to flame
and the power of kindling to catch
and earth’s children gathered around a blazing fire
celebrating warmth amidst winter’s icy breath.
In that circle, around that blazing fire,
our ancestors found the gift of warmth
in storytelling and meal-taking and life-sharing.
The ancients found warmth that keeps the beasts at bay
beasts of sharp tooth and
beasts of sharp loneliness.
Now our furnaces keep us from tree-cutting and
log-hauling and fire-building.
As our need for muscles decreases
our need for each other seems to decrease too.
As we snuggle into the couch,
feast our eyes on the flickering screen,
listen to the sounds of our picture boxes
and hide inside the cozy boxes of our car and house.
The early humans’ fire wasn’t bright enough to work by.
When night came,
There was just enough light to weave a spark of melody into a song.
Just enough light to design a dance from a beat.
Just enough light to add inches to the fish in the story.
By day the fire meant food.
By night the fire meant safety, warmth, togetherness,
spiritual and creative transcendence.
When was the last time your furnace or
light bulb or locked door
was the pulsing heart of social and spiritual nourishment?
We can forget, with electricity and power tools and
fossil fuels and cars and the internet,
that we need one another to get warm,
be safe, and transcend.
But we do remember and it brings us here as a fiery family of fiery faith.
We know we need the warmth of storytelling and
meal-taking and life-sharing
just as much as earth’s early humans.
At the first Pentecost flaming tongues rained upon those gathered
as kin and community in the Way of Jesus.
They were gathered in the Upper Room, tradition declares,
the same room where Jesus knelt and washed them in service.
and shared the bread and cup,
pouring himself out for those he loved.
Now they gather without him, they believe.
But thank God, the Divine routinely exceeds our expectations..."
Seeds and Weeds
Mark 4:2-9 Parable of the Seeds (aka Parable of the Sower)
"...The story implies that we, theoretically the faithful finishing the story with Jesus, are the seeds that fall in good soil, have no troubles, and yield abundant grain. But that doesn’t exactly fit, either. We fall short. We fail to be fruitful. We have troubles.
Jesus says of the seeds among weeds, “As for what was sown among thorns or weeds, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.” I believe that we are seeds among weeds, dealing with the cares of the world and the lure of wealth and still we are yielding rich physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment on our best days. We do this in the midst of flooded soil, scorching sun, choking weeds, biting thorns, and pesky critters.
As strong plants amidst weeds, we have a heartier story to tell than the simplistic way we could read this parable. What is a weed? A plant we don’t want. But weeds to one person might be a salad of lamb’s quarter and dandelion greens to another. We can’t see the big picture, let alone the future, we don’t know what God’s plan for thistles or buckhorn might be.
In this story we’re seeds among weeds – we grow into plants and we’re surrounded by other people who on some days seem like healthy, fruitful plants, and other days seem rather weedy. We should trust that we seem like weeds to other people too, when we’re impatient on the phone with customer service or avoid eye contact with the person asking for spare change or when we yell at our spouse or kids or dog cause we’re having a bad day.
The weeds we live with aren’t always people, they can be the traumas and temptations and distractions and disappointments of our lives.
Who would you be without the weeds of your life? Without the heartbreaks and injustices and illnesses and assaults, who would you be? Would you have grown as tall, stretching beyond these weeds to soak up the sun’s gifts? Would you have grown as strong, keeping yourself upright despite invaders and intruders leaning into you? Would your skin have grown as thick, protecting yourself from attack? Would you have become so colorful, drawing bees and butterflies to your flowers to pollinate you? If you had grown up a potted plant, sheltered from wind and beetles, nourished with consistent water and specialized soil, shined on by sunlight and grow lights, protected from competitive weeds or hungry rabbits, how satisfying would your yield be to you or those around you?..."