Friday, February 17, 2017

A Pause to Notice

Sometimes you just have to stop for a moment and look.

I did that one day this week.  I looked out the window and I saw an eagle soaring, and I just focussed on that eagle for awhile.  I watched how it soared effortlessly, noticed how wide its wingspan was, considered for a moment where it might be going.

And then it came to me how seldom I just stop -- and look -- and consider.  

More often than not I am moving, trying to stay active all the time, checking things off of my list.  There is a lot to do in life, after all.  Life is getting things done.  Or not.  And when I stop, I just stop.  I stop and go straight to bed.  I stop and turn on the television.   I don't look around, I don't notice what's going on, I don't see that beautiful huge eagle, or that child holding out the tiniest flower, or the look on the face of the clerk at the supermarket.

But when I found myself looking at that eagle, I realized how many things I don't notice, how many times I walk right by someone or something without paying any attention.  But it is really essential human activity.  Noticing gave me joy.  I felt human, and not separate, but connected with the world.  Just for a moment.

I believe this is true not only about eagles, but about our relationships with God, and with one another.  It is part of what worship is about.  Worship is not about doing, although we are doing things in worship.  Worship is the pause when we take time to notice, to acknowledge, to praise God.  Worship is the pause when we take time to look into the heart of God.  Worship is the pause.

And then we stop and look into the image of God in one another.  

Sometimes, you just have to stop for a moment and look.  Or maybe for more than a moment.  If you are lucky.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Who You Are

Recently I have been visiting a young woman who had a traumatic brain injury after a car accident.

Her mother called us, from Montana, asking if someone could go visit her daughter.  She is living in a rehabilitation facility not far from my congregation, getting therapy and hoping to heal.  It's a large, impressive campus, but until last month, I had no idea that it existed.  Her mother called at least in part because her daughter wants to go to church.  She was brought up Lutheran.

This young woman has short-term memory issues.  It's difficult to remember what just happened, or what you just said to her.  What is the name of my church?  What time do we worship on Sunday?  Even though I just told her those things, she doesn't remember.

Before her accident, she was a pre-med student.  She remembers her studies well.  She was a good student.  She wants to go back and continue her studies.  She still wants to be a doctor.  Her father even told her, there must be a reason that you survived the accident.  There must be something that God wants you to do.

She is sure that God wants her to be a doctor.  That is who she is.  It is frustrating not to be able to get going.

When I read the end verses of the gospel reading for this week, I can't help thinking about her.  "Be Perfect, as your Heavenly Father is Perfect."  There are lots of ways to think about being perfect.  I was an oldest child, so I know a lot of them.

Get a perfect score on the test.
Be perfectly well-mannered.
Be perfectly attractive.
Never make a mistake.

I don't know this young woman well, but I wonder if she learned some of these ways of being perfect.  You have to be pretty over-achieving to be a doctor.  You have to be pretty close to perfect.  

"Be perfect, as you heavenly father is perfect."  Some of us spend our whole lives striving for it, and also spend our whole lives believing we are not good enough.

But what if this is what it means to be perfect:  To be who you are, just as God is perfectly who God is.  We are all broken, but we are also becoming who God wants us to be.  We are all broken, but we all have a purpose, a reason we are here.  And to trust that is to be perfect.

Maybe it is to be a doctor.  But maybe it is just to be You, in all parts of your life, and to strive to be more and more You through all of your life.

This young woman wants more than anything to come to church.  She doesn't remember everything, but she remembers that she is a child of God.  It is a start.