Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Friend of the Jews

A long time ago I had a dream I've never forgotten. In my dream, it was a future when the world was in turmoil. It was a time when it seemed like you had to stand up for what you believed, or maybe you just had to stand up for people who were your friends.

In my dream the Jewish people were again being oppressed, segregated. Nobody knew what was happening for sure, but I remember that somehow I had been labeled as someone who might be a "friend of the Jews." This was not necessarily so unusual; in high school, I had a number of Jewish friends.

In my dream, I remember that I was looking for places to hide, but I was pretty sure that at some time I would be discovered. When that happened, I wanted to be able to stand up for what I believed, to stand by my friends, but the truth is: I didn't know what I would have done.

All these years I have been haunted by this dream. What would I have done? What would I do? Would I stand by my friends? Would I stand up for what was right?

On Friday, Pilate put up a sign on the cross. He wrote, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." He wrote the sign in three languages, to make sure that everyone would understand. The religious leaders took offence. "He's not our king," they said. But Pilate didn't care. He thought it was a good joke, maybe. "Here is the man," he said more than once. "Who's powerful now?" he was saying. "Here is the man who was supposed to be the king."

He thought he was telling a joke, but it was the truth. He was the king of the Jews, and of everyone else. He was the friend of the Jews, and the friend of sinners, the friend of those who stood at the foot of the cross and wept, the ones who denied him, the ones who ran away, the ones who laughed at him.

On Good Friday, we stand at the foot of the cross, we keep vigil, like people who gather a bedsides, we grieve, and we listen for last words, clues, words of wisdom that will help us go on. On Good Friday, we stand at the foot of the cross, and we see the words, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

Maybe we are wondering what we would have done. Would we have betrayed him, not understanding his mission? Would we have denied him, afraid? Would we have wept at the foot of the cross?

The truth is, we don't know what we would have done.

But we know what he did. He did not deny us. He did not run away. He stood up by his friends. "King of the Jews, friend of sinners." He loved us to the end.

And because of this, we stand at the foot of the cross this day, knowing that in his love, there is no end.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Plain Old Socks... what's next?

... using pretty spectacular yarn.

I know they are what everyone called "plain vanilla socks", but this represents an achievement for me.

I'm looking for the next "hurdle," hoping to get out of knitting beginner status, but I have a problem with the way I purl (or knit and purl, in some people's view). (Or, maybe it's just that I'm left-handed.) Anyway, I've found trying to learn to do lacework challenging. I keep ripping it out.

I bought some great, beautiful sock yarn, but it's rather thinner than what I have used so far, and it makes my palms sweat, a little.

Any ideas?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Different Drummer

Today was Passion Sunday, otherwise known as "Palm Sunday". It's always a big day in my congregation, because one of our traditions is a live donkey, who leads the processional from the fellowship hall into the sanctuary. We have huge banners in purple and scarlet as well. At 10:30 the children (all the children, not just the children's choir) lead the processional, all dressed up as if they were living in Jerusalem in Jesus' time.

This year, though, we had our annual Mardi Gras brunch on Palm Sunday. I realize this means it is no longer a Mardi Gras brunch. But we're not quite sure what to call it yet. (We're also not quite sure if this is a new tradition, a blip on the radar screen, or a paradigm shift.) But because of the brunch we couldn't process from the fellowship hall.

So instead we had a dramatic presentation of the Passion Story. It's called "The Cry of the Whole Congregation"; it was published in Walter Wangerin's book Ragman and Other Cries of Faith. It features four narrators, a children's choir, a soloist, a drummer and a liturgical dancer. I organized the readers and rehearsed them.

Today, I didn't have a major part in the worship service.

Except that I played the drum.

The drum beat begins when the crowd cries, "blasphemy!" It continues, varying the speed and intensity until Jesus dies.

In the past, when I didn't play the drums, I thought of it as a heart beat.

I'm not sure if it was exactly that. There's a relentlessness to the beat. Sometimes it feels inexorable, like the "it is necessary" clause in the scriptures: "It is necessary for the son of man to suffer...." Sometimes it feels like the beat of the anger and fear of desperate people trying to preserve the status quo. It's the beat of something set in motion.

I found it a very different experience for me as a pastor. Instead of standing in the spotlight, I was behind the scenes. The gifted people who had rehearsed with me were standing in the spotlight, telling the story with words and music and movements. I was in the back, worrying a little, but keeping the beat.

It's a different image of leadership, at least much different than the ones I have been taught to strive for and embrace.

But I'm convinced that choosing and rehearsing and then standing in the background beating the drum: this is an image of a real leader, too.

Today the dancer moved with the grace of Christ, and the readers spoke with the passion of Christ, and the musicians sang and played with the beauty of Christ.

The drummer kept the tempo.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How I'm Doing, Reading-Wise

First, I finished Nineteen Minutes. (7) This was our February book club offering. It's one of Jodi Picoult's many novels, and it offers a fictional account of a school shooting. In the novel, the boy who becomes the shooter is bullied terribly. He hear his point of view, as well as the point of view of a young woman who had been his only friend, and both parents. When I first started reading, I was immediately skeptical, because it wasn't that long ago that the book Columbine came out, and I read excepts. The excerpts revealed that the two boys had not been bullied; this was not the cause of Columbine. But there is such a thing as bullying in schools, and despite my skepticism, I was still drawn into Picoult's story. Now, I see that the book Columbine is out in paperback. I picked it up off of the shelf a couple of times....

(8) I read our March book club book, Olive Kittridge, while on vacation. We are discussing "Olive" tomorrow night at my book club meeting, so I'll save comments for afterwards.

(9) I read The Help on vacation as well. This is a civil-rights story of a young woman who wants to be a writer, and two african-american maids ("the Help") who tell their stories about what it's like to work for white families, raise their babies, be a part of their lives, but also to be treated like 2nd class citizens. I had conflicting feelings about this one; in part, I thought it was well-written, and there are things it made me think about in my own life, about what stories I might need to tell, and about who has encouraged me. But I also was aware of the fact that, at least in part, it was a white woman telling the stories of black women, and I wondered about that. I want to know how this book is received in the African American community as well. More on this later.

(10) Transforming Congregational Culture, by Anthony Robinson. Lots to think about regarding how to lead a congregation -- will post more with quotes soon...

I've got more than a few books on the "interested" list right now. So many people have told me I "have to" read Walter Bruggemann's "The Prophetic Imagination" that I guess I really have to! Our April book club book is "The Book Thief." I have many books that I am pining after, but I don't want to clutter up the house any more than it is already cluttered, so I am pining after a "Nook" as well.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Forget it

I've been reading Isaiah 43 all week, even though I had pretty much decided to preach on the anointing story in John 12. I love all of these anointing stories; we read Luke's version at a Bible study on Saturday morning. The trouble with stories I love sometimes, though, is that I don't see the continuing ripples in them.

But enough about John....

I've been reading Isaiah 43 all week, as well, probably because of the phrase, "I will make a way in the wilderness." I was thinking about the desert, connecting the scripture to my trip to the desert last week, and that phrase about the wilderness kept coming into my mind, perhaps too obviously.

But last night, and today, as I read Isaiah 43, this is what I heard:

"Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old."

And this right after God reminds the people of how he saved them from the Egyptians through the Red Sea.

"Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old."

It seems that our faith is built on remembering. The Jewish people remember the Passover; their basic identity is formed by the story of how God saved them from slavery, how God set them apart. Each week we gather to hear the story of God in Christ, and to taste God's love, "The body of Christ, given for you."

But today, instead, we heard, "do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old." Today we were encouraged not to get out the photo albums and reminisce, but to close our eyes and imagine: God is about to do a new thing.

There are so many exhortations in the Bible about remembering. I don't think that God wants us to forget the forming stories, the stories that tell us who we are. I don't think that God wants us to forget the old photographs and the stories of courage and cowardice we find there. But perhaps sometimes when we spend too much time on the past, we forget that the past only serves to prepare us for the future, for the vision that God is creating, that is more than we can imagine.

A wandering Aramean was our father, a humble carpenter is our Lord, the wilderness is where we began, but in the end there will be the river of life, with its streams for the healing of the nations.

God is about to do a new thing. That's what Isaiah promises.

There will be streams in the desert.

Visiting my sister, we were mourning the rainfall. We wanted sunshine only during our brief stay. But my sister, with the perspective of one who actually lives in the desert, was rejoicing. "We've been in a 14 year drought," she told me. They know as only those who live with scarcity know, that water means life.

In the meantime, North Dakota is in a flood watch, reminding us that water can destroy as well as give life. It was water that drowned the Egyptians so long ago, when the Israelites escaped on dry land.

But do not remember the former things, God says. I am about to do a new thing.

Just for a little while, put away the photo albums, and don't think about your ancestors. Instead, close your eyes and imagine the future, God's future, a new thing. Enemies become friends. The lion lies down with the lamb. The dead are raised. Love wins. Waters bubbles up from deep wells, and waters comes down from the sky, and water flows from clear rivers.

Forget all those voices that tell you that the future has to be just like the past, that the things that have bound you will always hold you down, that you'll never change.

God is about to do a new thing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sunday Sermon Lent 5


“Measuring our Lives”
John 12:1 - 8

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our creator....

“You are going about this the wrong way,” she said to me.
“You are too conservative and cautious. You need to find something you are passionate about, something you are going to love.”

She was only talking about knitting – I was thinking about knitting another pair of socks, and she was asking me to consider something big, something beautiful – a sweater!
After all, she reasoned, who is going to look at your feet?
And the yarn would cost – oh, somewhere between 150 and 180. “Dollars?”
I was not quite ready for that.
That’s when she rebuked me – and though she didn’t make a sale that day, she gave me a lot to think about
– especially in the light of our gospel story today and the two disciples that we see pictured there: Mary, and Judas.
Yes, we know that Judas the disciple will also become Judas the betrayer, and soon – but no one else knows that yet, as they all gather at Lazarus’ house for dinner, and Martha serves.

Judas and Mary – what a contrast!
Think about it. As the scene opens, Jesus and his disciples are gathered at Lazarus’ house.
Just one chapter before this, Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead.
Now his family gathers with Jesus and his disciples.
Perhaps Martha wants to show her gratitude by throwing a big dinner party.
She is so grateful that her brother was dead, and is now alive, sitting and eating and talking and laughing. But Mary – Mary steals the show.
We know that Judas is shocked by her actions, but I expect that the other disciples might have been taken aback as well
– the sheer expense of what she did, the way she poured all that perfume over Jesus’ feet – and then wiped his feet with her hair.
That meant that this respectable woman would have had to let her hair down – maybe in this day an age it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but then, it would have been considered a very provocative act, which possibly embarrassed all the disciples, not just Judas.

So on the surface this seems to be a nice story about Mary’s generosity – but when we look a little closer it is not just a ‘nice’ story, but it is a story about two disciples, and it is a story about what true discipleship looks like.
What does it mean to be a disciple? What does it mean for us to say that we are disciples to Jesus?
To be a disciple is to be a student; Jesus’ disciples followed him, studying and copying and sitting at his feet.
During Lent we practice disciplines of prayer, fasting, service to others.... what does it mean to look at Mary and see that she is a disciple, to see what she did as an example for us?

First of all, if we really picture Mary, we will see that being a disciple involves being around “feet.”
There’s something about feet that really defines discipleship.
Feet get down where the action really is – feet are the part of us that get dirty and smelly – and even more so in Jesus’ day than in ours.
When you walked everywhere, feet could be pretty tired and dirty.
Disciples, too won’t stay where things are clean and fresh and bright, but will go where the action is – where people might be tired and dying, poor and hopeless, hungry and thirsty and homeless. Disciples will get down where the feet are.

Another part of being a disciple has to do with “filling up the house with perfume.”
When Mary broke the jar and poured the perfume over Jesus’ feet, the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Remember that it had not been that long ago that Lazarus had died and Martha was concerned that his tomb be opened for the smell of death would be there.
Now, a few days later, Lazarus is back from the dead, but perhaps the smell of death still lingers – the pain of missing Lazarus, all the memories of his illness.
Mary’s action covers up all the smells associated with Lazarus’ death, and puts a fresh, new smell in the house. The smell of life, instead.
That is just what disciples are to do. With their presence, the smell of death is covered up with life.
The smell of hatred is covered up with love.
The smell of evil is covered up with good.
In a world that often feels overcome with evil, hatred and death, disciples of Jesus are present with words and actions of goodness, love and life

– pouring out the perfume of their lives over the wounds of the world.
Disciples of Jesus are present in places like Haiti, lifting up the poorest of the poor, rescuing people from the rubble and ruin, comforting and healing.
Disciples of Jesus are in Louisiana and Mississippi, rebuilding houses, in it for the long haul.
But disciples of Jesus are also in other places where there is fear, or death, or hate.
They are at bedsides in hospitals, they are in nursing homes, at funerals.
They are friends, co-workers, neighbors, advocates, grandparents – anyone who is not afraid to walk alongside someone who is lonely,
say a good word when someone is being vilified,
welcome and speak well of the one who is a stranger in a strange land.
Disciples are present among us, too, bringing the perfume of love, healing and goodness wherever there is misunderstanding, where-ever there is separation, where-ever people hurt one another.

And last – and perhaps the most important, being a disciple involves wasting – pouring out – something valuable.
Who was most scandalized by Mary’s action? Judas was.

It seemed like a waste, to use so much perfume. And to be honest, it’s not just Judas who would be scandalized.
I know I would – I’m “too conservative and cautious”, as the yarn store woman put it, and it got to me because I realized that she was speaking truthfully, and she didn’t even know me.
I “measure my life out” in prudent amounts, considering what is wise and what is foolish.
But Mary does not count the count, doesn’t measure little bits, but gives her whole life.
Do you know that 300 denarii was about a year’s wages at that time?
Mary poured a year’s worth of wages over Jesus’ feet.
How was she supposed to live for the next year?
Most people would call Mary foolish for what she did.
It reminds me of how I felt when I heard a story about a man who was giving a presentation on stewardship.
As he spoke, he took a $100 bill and put it n an ash tray and set it on fire.
Everyone was clearly uncomfortable, one person made a comment that he thought that this was illegal, some people joked about it.
The man said, “Do you not understand? I am offering this up to God.
That means it will cease to be useful to the rest of us.”

Still, our discipleship – our lives -- are not measured by what we save, but by what we spend, not by what we conserve, but by what we waste for one another.

It is as Jesus said, “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it eternally.”
And there are many examples, even here, of this kind of wastefulness – the choir or musicians who spends hours and hours learning a piece of music which will be heard once
– and then not again – offering up that beauty –
the husband or wife who spends hours every day with their spouse, even when they are no longer recognized
– the little church who gives sacrificially to support a cause they are passionate about....

What is a disciple? Who is a disciple?
What does a disciple look like? A disciple of Jesus is simply one who follows Jesus –

the one who washed his disciples feet, bent down to serve them, the one who loved his enemies, and conquered hate with love, conquered evil with forgiveness, death with life,
and the one who poured out his life, pours out his life for Judas, for Martha, for Lazarus and Mary – for you and me.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Abraham Lincoln Couldn't Get Elected President Now

My husband is reading a biography about Abraham Lincoln, and once in awhile I benefit by hearing one of his insights.

"Did you know that Lincoln had a problem with depression?"

"Did you know that Lincoln failed at a business and took 20 years to pay back the debts he incurred from it?"

"... he was skinny as a rail and wore all of his pants too short."

"....he was a spell-binding public speaker and used to like to get up on a soap-box and hold forth."

It has occurred to me, more than once, that Lincoln could never get elected President today.

Or, at least, I would be very surprised, if he was. He was President during the worst time our country ever had. And in four years, he did not win the war of solve all the problems of slavery.

Sometimes I think we suffer from a kind of delusion: the 60 minute TV delusion. We think that every problem has a perfect solution, and it should be be simple, and solvable in 60 minutes (2 hours at the outside), about the length of a TV show.

Sometimes patience is necessary, and humility as well. Difficult problems require patience, and the knowledge that no possible solution is perfect. After all, we are still dealing with the divisions between southern and northern states and the consequences of slavery even now.

So right now we're trying to figure out health care. Some people want single-payer, and others think that Medicare was a big mistake. Some people die because they are unable to get cancer treatments or they have a pre-existing condition. Some are afraid that the solution proposed is too complicated.

Right now if you are over 65 you get Medicare. If you are employed, you often have access to private insurance through your employer. If you are poor enough, you have access to Medicaid. If you are a veteran you have access to insurance through the VA system. If you are unemployed or working poor, you might have no insurance, or you might have some access to insurance through your state, depending on where you live. The cost of your insurance and the choices you have are different depending on the state you live in, and often depending on whether you live in a rural or urban area.

It seems to me that insurance is already complicated.

In the meantime, we're all just trying to make things better for our neighbors, our children.

There are only three things I'm sure of:

1. It's going to take more than 60 minutes to figure it out.
2. Whatever the solution, it won't be perfect.
3. Abraham Lincoln still couldn't get elected President.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vacation in the Middle of Lent

...I used to give a play by play of my vacations as they were happening, under the misguided impression that everyone was fascinated by what I was doing and what I was thinking while I was doing it.

Lately, I have realized that this is probably not the case. And, to be truthful, we do about the same thing every year when we go to Arizona.

The only thing different this year was that we visited Arizona in March, smack dab in the middle of Lent.

I'll be truthful, this was a nice break, but it also made me a little nervous, because Lent just doesn't stop because I went away. Holy week is still the same number of weeks away.

I had hoped that the desert would be blooming here, but it is not quite so. There were a few buds, but no blooms yet. I have seen the desert bloom, but it was long ago, and it is barely in my memory now. However, there were many blooming wildflowers at the Botanical gardens, and the butterfly garden was open also. This is not the case in January.

One of our first days on vacation, we ended up at an unexpected place: The Scottsdale Fashion Mall. We were there searching for a pair of pants for my husband. We weren't sure he had enough warm clothes for our overnight trip to the mountains. So we were wandering around through these ritzy stores. Even for one familiar with the Grand Canyon of Malls, which exists in my state, the Scottsdale Fashion Mall is something special, in a wretched-excess sort of way. For example, there is not a Sears store in the Scottsdale Fashion Mall.

So we were wandering around the Fashion Mall, and I was looking in store windows (often a big mistake), and I suddenly realized that I was wanting things. I was wanting things that I did not even know existed an hour before that. I was wanting a pair of really good-looking tennis shoes, for example, that I was sure would make me run faster, jump higher and instantly be healthier and thinner. I was wanting a pretty brightly-colored purse, some fashionable sunglasses, earrings.

I thought, when I didn't know these things existed, I didn't want them. I don't think I need a bicycle until I see someone riding one. I think I need a cell phone because I keep seeing people all around me, flipping theirs open and talking. Suddenly I feel lonely. There must be someone I need to talk to, I need to connect to.

I came to the desert during Lent this year. I spent a week's vacation in the wilderness. But I am not sure where the wilderness really is any more: is it really in those barren places where I am tempted, or is in the places where there is so much I see, so much I didn't realize that I wanted?

Or maybe the wilderness is really within me?

"I will make a way in the wilderness...."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Trouble with Knitting

For just a little while longer, we're here in the sun on vacation, here where the cactus is not quite blooming yet, but the wildflowers are beginning to be bright. For a little while longer, we're not quite observing Lent, at least not in the way we do in the midwest, in that fitful way.

It wasn't so sunny here the first few days we arrived. It was cold and rainy, a shock to our expectations. It absolutely opened up and poured while we were shopping on one of our first days here. We were crestfallen; but my sister and her family, who live here, were overjoyed. They've been in a drought for about fourteen years, they said. They need the rain.
So, I brought my knitting, my new obsession, with me, and I have had opportunities to knit: while riding in the car, while it was raining, when we're tired in the evening. I finished my first pair of socks, a thick pair of house socks out of a pretty worsted-wool. I didn't have to learn the dreaded "kitchener stitch" for this pair. And I felt so good that I have finally done something that has amazed me for years.

I wanted to start another project. I found a wonderful little yarn shop in Scottsdale near where we are staying. It's a tiny building, but I think it's a well-known store among local knitters. And it's chock-full of beautiful yarn and needlepoint materials, too. I walked in thinking I would try a pair of "real" socks", maybe not with the thinnest yarn possible, but maybe with a sport-weight yarn.

But the proprietress showed me this sweater, a kimono sweater, she called it. It was easy, just four rectangles, and I could do so many things with it, and it knits up very easily, she said.

To be truthful, I have never really thought about knitting a sweater. And I did convince her to sell me some more sock yarn and a book to get me started. But I kept thinking about the sweater, how nice it would be to wear something that I had made. I've loved wearing my mittens, but soon it will be too warm. But I also thought about how expensive it would be to knit a sweater, how much time it would take (I have a short attention span, and have unfinished sewing projects to prove it.) I thought about how my mother loved to sew when I was growing up; she sewed almost all of our clothes, including a spring coat for my sister and me when we were small. My mother saved money sewing clothes. Knitting does not save money. So yesterday I stopped back in to get help with my sock, and to buy a crochet hook in the right size. And I looked at the sweater again, but said I wasn't quite ready to make the investment. It would be nine balls of yarn and they estimated between "150 and 180". I wasn't sure what they meant. "Dollars?" I said dumbly. "Yes."

So I kind of thought this would not be prudent of me, to spend that kind of money. And the proprietress said something like this: "You are going about this the wrong way. You are too conservative and cautious. You need something you are passionate about."

And part of me thought, she's just trying to make a sale.

But another part of me thought, she's right. I am conservative and cautious. In many things. Money being just one.

And I just keep thinking about her words, about the possibility of making a kimono sweater, about the other things I am too cautious and conservative to do.

I am still on vacation, but I can't help wondering about the things I am conservative and cautious about, the things my congregation needs me to do, for the sake of the gospel.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Every Desert Is Its Own Place

The season of Lent begins with Jesus going into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. Well, actually, the scene is "the wilderness", but the wilderness and the desert have a lot in common.

The first time I came to visit my sister here in Arizona was shortly before I would be leaving for Japan, and about a year after she got married and moved away, permanently. I had barely been out of the Midwest before this; soon I would be traveling to a small island in the Far East to teach for three years.

We did a lot of sightseeing in about ten days -- to the ghost town of Tombstone and to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, down to Tucson and across the border into Nogales. We stopped in a town called Florence one day and toured the ruins of Casa Grande. It was exotic to me, this desert landscape where I was stopping to reflect before another, greater adventure.

My favorite place, I think, was the Desert Museum, just outside of Tucson. We spent a long time learning about the history, the geology, the animals of the deserts. The museum not only told us all about the Senora Desert, but about the other deserts of the southwest, and compared them to other deserts throughout the world, deserts much more famous: the Sahara, the Gobi, the Kalahari.

Every desert is different; there are cold deserts and hot deserts, deserts with sand and without. The Sahara's sand looked like oceans; the many small southwestern deserts claim beautiful moutain ranges and exotic animals.

Every desert is different; every wilderness holds its own temptations, unique to the time and the place. Every desert holds its own temptations and its own lessons to be learned: You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone. Do not put the Lord your God to the test. You shall not live by bread alone.

Every desert is different, just as the geography of each of our lives is different. And yet we all walk through the same forty days, from death to life, from despair to hope, from loneliness to community. Because even though the deserts are all different, they all need one thing: water.

Every year in Lent we go into the wilderness. And each wilderness is different, each struggle is different, with different temptations, and different gifts, too.

At the end is water.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Life in Lent

I've been working on my very first sock, using this great Swedish yarn that makes me want to make sweaters, even though it's about spring and nearing the end of knitting weather. I've turned the heal, and am headed toward the toe. It's going to be a thick "house sock"; there's no way it will ever be able to be worn with shoes; but it's great to learn on.

It's not as easy as you might think to throw away, or somehow get rid of one thing every day. A couple of things were no brainers: an old black wool skirt that has unrepairable tears, a pair of shoes which never fit me, an old coat which doesn't fit anybody. But, it's easy to get behind. Someone expressed a sense of awe that I could find 40 things to get rid of, but the reality is, there are probably many more than 40 things I have that I could probably live without.

I'm reading Olive Kitteridge for book group. I've also begun reading a book called Transforming Congregational Culture, by Anthony Robinson. I just saw this one quote on Facebook, and got really really intrigued. I've been zipping right through it, underlining and circling many things.

I had to buy a new phone today. oh-uh. My phone froze. Then it died.

We are leaving for Arizona on Monday, a week's vacation during Lent, and I don't think I have one pair of shorts that fit me. There's a topic for reflection.

And I'm taking Scout to day care tomorrow, probably for the last time this season. The weather is getting warmer, and it will be easier for us to make sure she has the required amount of exercise.

So, I called to make sure she had a spot this afternoon, and the woman who answered the phone said, "We might be full." She put me on hold for awhile, and when she came back on the line, she asked, "Which Scout is this?" I told her my name, and after another pause, she said that she needed to find out which play group Scout was in.

Play group?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Living For Jesus

I went to visit my dad at the hospital today. He went in Sunday night with pneumonia. I didn't sleep very well last night. I was a little worried about him.

He wasn't on oxygen today; his bed was set low toward the floor. At first, I don't think he knew who I was. He commented about my glasses (thought they were nice) and said the problem with having two daughters was....

I couldn't find the nurse, so I didn't know how he was coming along. I saw a note that he might be going back to the nursing home today, but no one seemed to know if that was the case or not. He crooned a little of the song that drove me crazy when I was a kid, "Smile for me, my Diane." I hated it when he would sing that song for me.

We said the Lord's prayer together, and because he was having some trouble following the conversation (and this made him upset), I decided to start singing "Living For Jesus," the old gospel song.

He knew all the words.

Apparently, he knows this song better than he knows "What a Friend we have in Jesus."

After awhile he thought he had to get up. I had to persuade him that this was not a good idea. He kept talking about trying to get to "the other side". Maybe singing "Living for Jesus" made him think that he needed to get to it -- living for Jesus, being a disciple.

"Living for Jesus a life that is true/striving to please him in all that I do"

I've been thinking a lot about that: living for Jesus. It's Lent after all, and time to meditate on what we are living for, time to turn around and see if our values and our actions and our words match, or not.

Singing the song with my dad, I thought about living for Jesus. Being a disciple for my dad meant caring about his work, his family, going to church and singing the hymns (and the baritone part on the three-fold amen). It meant being kind, and firm, and trying to teach his children what was important. I think a lot of his faith had to do with music.

"Living for Jesus a life that is true", you spend your whole life singing. Then one day your daughter tells you you can't get up any more; you have to stay in bed because your legs are too weak. And the nurse has to bring you water and you drink from a straw because you might spill. And you wonder what your life has been.

And if you are fortunate, you might realize that you have been carried your whole life, carried and fed and given water when you were thirsty. You might realize that every day you lived for Jesus, every ordinary and heroic thing you ever did was really a gift, that the power to live is the power of the Holy Spirit, deep inside.

Living for Jesus a life that is true...