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Archive for June 2013


We’ve been doing some deferred maintenance around our house this spring and summer.  The leaky shower in our bathroom — gone!  The chipped tiles in our kitchen — out of there!  By the time we replaced the ancient carpet in our family room and changed the color of the walls, the house felt (almost) brand new.  

It’s not so easy to pull off that same magic on myself.  So many things I’d like to improve — a little tweak here, and a larger tweak there — but in spite of my best efforts, the list seemsremarkably long.  When I begin to think of myself as another “project” to be embarked upon, it helps to step back and try to imagine myself through God’s eyes.  I let myself see me as Ibelieve God does — much the same way I see my own imperfect and cherished children.  Try it sometime when you are feeling self-critical or discouraged; I think you’ll find that no matter your wear and tear, the you that God sees is beautiful and beloved.  



A recent “Peek, Ponder and Prayer” took up this theme.  I hope you’ll take some time to sit with these words and images, and be reinvigorated for whatever type of remodeling you have ahead.  


Ponder: Feeling dilapidated? Like your exterior could use some sprucing up? Maybe you have some deferred bodily maintenance? Whatever, just because you’ve let yourself go a little doesn’t mean you have to hide. Don’t board up your soul . . . let the light in and let your light shine — even if your windows need washing.



Pray: I know it wouldn’t kill me to do a bit more painting, pruning, and training for marathons, but meanwhile I know my soul is in there, as bright and shiny as the day I was born. Thank you.


 Another way of looking at it:

“Instead of lamenting the ailments that come with growing older, instead of wishing I were as young and fit as I once was, I take my medicine with a prayer of thanks that modern science has found ways to help me cope with these ailments.”

Harold S. Kushner in The Lord Is My Shepherd


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Once a month we head up to the Hillcrest JuvenileDetention facility to spend an hour with a group of teenage boys.  Every hour begins
the same way:  Bill leads them in a game.  It’s always the same Game.  There are two teams, in rows, and each team is charged with
repeating a sentence that is passed from person to person, in whispers, until it is finally repeated at the end of the line.  It’s the old telephone game. Sometimes the guys are really good at it, and the sentence is perfect.  Other times — well, let’s just say that communication can be a tricky thing. Whichever way it turns out,  there are plenty of laughs and grins, and boys who entered the room looking like wary individuals are suddenly a group.  Bill tells them we play the game because it demonstrates how important communication skills are — listening, clarifying, being careful with our words.  And that’s all true.  But I think the playing and the laughing and the kidding around are the real ways he is communicating God’s love and acceptance.  Connecting. 

Every Wednesday a group of us gather in the Chapel for prayer.   We share the joys and concerns of the prior week, and we  often share  precious memories from years gone by.  We cheer each other through difficult times, commiserate with one another in times of mutual loss, and savor the beauty of our lives.  Sometimes I will suddenly look at my watch and exclaim “We better start praying — it’s getting late!”  And then we chuckle, because we know that prayer is much more than “official” sounding words.  Payer is what we’ve been doing  since we walked through the door:  communicating  with God and one another.  Connecting.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend (with Kathie Fosgett and Laura Babbitt) a one day conference on Social Media for Non-Profits.  Facebook and  Twitter and  Websites.  Oh my.  The focus was on using the technology now available to help us  reach out to one another — to support and  create community in new ways.  I have to admit, I felt my ignorance.  I had to fight the fear that the new ways of communicating might supersede — even eliminate– the older, more personal ways we relate.  
But then I thought about the boys at Hillcrest, and the Prayer Group, and the hugs we share at Sunday worship. Nothing will ever substitute for the personal relationships that happen in those settings.  The new technologies, at their best, will merely give us new tools for doing what we already do best:  Connecting.  
The following is an excerpt from a commencement speech Melinda Gates made at Duke University this spring.  She, of the Microsoft legacy and the high tech world, reminded the
graduates of the power and limitations of technology, and of how we are called to use it as a means to a much more worthy end. 
“Technology is just a tool. It’s a powerful tool, but it’s just a tool. Deep human connection is very different. It’s not a tool. It’s not a means to an end. It is the end — the purpose and the result of a meaningful life — and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love,
generosity and humanity. …
I want you to connect because I believe it will inspire you to do something, to make a difference in the world. Humanity in the abstract will never inspire you in the same way as the human beings you meet. Poverty is not going to motivate you. But people will motivate you.” 
Amen.  Kim

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Peace Be With You

 “Peace be with you,” we sometimes say to one another in worship.  It’s a lovely sentiment, but I wonder if we think about what it really means.  Is it just a more churchy way of saying “Have a nice day”?  

Joan Chittister, one of my favorite spiritual writers and guides, offers these words about Peace:

Peace comes to us when we know that there is something that the Spirit has to teach us in everything we do, in everything we experience.  When we are rejected, we learn that there is a love above all loves in life.  When we are afraid, we come to know that there are those who will take care of us whatever the cost to themselves.  When we are lonely, we learn that there is a rich and vibrant world inside of us waiting to be explored if we will only make the effort.  When we are threatened by differences, we come to realize that the gift of the other is grace in disguise meant to broaden the narrowness that constricts our souls.   Then peace comes, then quiet sets in; then there is nothing that anyone can do to us to destroy our equilibrium, upset our inner balance.  

(For Everything a Season,
by Joan Chittister,
Orbis Books, 1995,2013)

 Peace.  Not the absence of turmoil, but the steadying hand of God leading us through.  The peace of God is that which is beyond the chaos of the day, and beneath the surface of our anxiety.  It is the gift of knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Nothing.  That is what we mean when we say to one another:  “Peace be with you.”  

May it be so.


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I arrived at Bing Concert Hall to find an oddly shaped object placed on a stool in front of the orchestra.  I had come to hear the final concert in the “Beethoven Project”:  six months of performances of every Symphony and Concerto written by this most famous of all composers.  We were to hear Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, and I could hardly wait to sink into the symphonic and choral strains we know as “Ode to Joy.”

But first there was that funny looking thing up front.  A long, conical piece of copper, it looked a bit like a wizards hat.  I had never seen an instrument like that, and I wondered what part it had to play in the music.  As we settled into our seats, the conductor, Jindong Cai, stepped forward and lifted it up. “This is an ear horn,” he said. The earliest form of hearing aid, the small end was placed in the ear and the larger opening was directed outward, to catch and amplify whatever sound it could.  Maestro Cai reminded the audience that Ludwig van Beethoven was almost completely deaf by the age of 40; in fact, the symphony we were about to hear was written long after he could no longer hear the sounds made by the instruments for which he composed.  What he could do, and sometimes did, was to place the ear horn right on top of the piano and listen as he played the notes.  We do not know what he actually heard, but audiologists have speculated that he might have been able to pick up some sound:  distorted, faint, jumbled, but something.  

The first piece in the program was entitled Near the Inner Ear, and it was a musical imagining of what Beethoven might have heard as he composed.  The two composers, Dohi Moon and Chris Chafe, produced an intriguing and disturbing piece of music, with screeches and wails, sharp tones and themes that  could just barely be discerned.  It was hard to conceive that this might have been what Beethoven was hearing with his ears, even as he was writing the melodic and majestic Ninth.  How could it be that he was able to hear beyond the cacophony to the true music?

Solomon asked God for the gift of a “hearing heart”, a sensibility for listening and discerning that is far superior to anything our ears can do.  Perhaps that is what Beethoven had — the ability to listen inside himself for what he knew to be true, even when his physical reality could not confirm it.  In our own lives, we can be so focused on our limitations or the distractions around us that we  forget to listen more deeply for the inner voice (or the inner music) that allows us to live creatively and lovingly.  Beethoven’s physical deafness was a great burden to him, but his ability to listen with his heart became his great gift to the world.  

May we each be graced with hearing hearts, so that no matter how noisy or confusing the world may seem, we can still make out the voice of God calling our names.  



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