Saturday, December 27, 2014

Accept you are accepted.

    Going through an old blog, I found an old sermon I posted. I generally don't like my old sermons. But I dig this part of it. So I am re posting. Apparently this was my most popular post.      

            For me, this story, this Christian life is not about us “finding Jesus.” I’m sure you've heard some Christians ask you “Have you found Jesus?” My first thought is always to answer “I didn't know he was missing, did you look behind the couch?” I make myself laugh sometimes.
            But there is truth in my joke. Jesus is not the one to be found. Sure, a relationship with him should be sought after, but Jesus not the one that is lost. For me, every day is one that I must ask myself, what has separated me from God? What has lead me astray from my relationship with Jesus? Will I LET JESUS FIND ME?
            You see, because Jesus has already found us. He has already accepted us for who we are; cuts, bruises messiness and all. I recently read a chapter of theologian Paul Tillich book “Shaking the Foundations.” The chapter is entitled "You are accepted." He writes that our sin is a separation from God; grace overwhelms us, claims us and we are accepted in spite of being lost or rejected. In Christ on the cross, whose rejection on that cross was accepted by God, Christ has reconnected us to God. He finds us even when we separate ourselves from his love.
            So I challenge you to accept that you are accepted! Accept that though you may be lost, but God who is in Christ longs to find you. The one who breathed life into us has already accepted us and has instilled a sense of purpose and meaning into the very fiber of our being.  He loves us enough to seek us out. How will we share this good news on this speck of dirt we call earth? Who knows, but life is a journey. We do not seek the destination, because we know God seeks to be on the walk with us.  So let us rejoice in the refuge and strength that is our God. Will you travel home with me as we become lost and found?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Life sucks sometimes. It's hard. But we were never promised an easy life, we are almost always guaranteed a tough life.

Scripture is chock full of examples of life being hard, of it sucking, of it beating the crap out of people. But it talks about a God who continues to walk with us and love us and ask us to live for others.

Life is worth it. Because how we live our lives shapes us and it can shape others.

Watch this short video about Caio Terra, a Ju-Jitsu black belt. He speaks much wisdom. He is speaking about martial arts but the ideas apply to all of life.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


I found a post that I posted last year for Lent. And the message applies today. Especially now that my blog is on black belt spirituality: I've gone and updated it as needed but I hope it does what I hope to continue doing with this blog: Incorporating martial arts, spirituality and Christianity.  Enjoy:

My therapy this week was great. Physically painful, but great. But what  therapist would inflict physical pain on their clients you might ask. Not many. And for me, therapy is actually my training at my Tae Kwon Do dojang. It was painful tonight because on 8 months ago while doing take down drills I fell improperly and rolled my shoulder, and this week I aggravated it. Oh well, I love it, and pain just reminds me I'm alive. (Twisted, right!?)

Tae Kwon Do has been a part of my life for the better part of 25 years. It has been a valuable source of discipline and structure. Also it instills the values of honor, self respect and respect for others and perseverance. ( How do these translate to our Christian life? To pastoral care?)

As of late, it has taken on more of a spiritual meaning for me. Martial arts have always been rooted in spiritual thinking and practice. I found this time of physical training has also become my spiritual discipline as well. In the moments of silence as i preform my hyungs I finds moments of meditation and prayer. Time to reconnect with self and with God. In sparring and defense drills I find connection and intimacy with my training partner. I put trust in another human being.

So as I train and having just received my 3rd Dan black belt, I take solace in my (re)new(ed) spiritual discipline. This may be the one discipline that maintains me through this Lenten season and beyond. And in that, I will seek comfort.

"But as for me, afflicted and in pain-may your salvation, God, protect me." Psalm 69:29

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Create your art

Recently while helping teach a children's martial arts class I was reminded of something.

For those who don't know, I am a third dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Hence the name of my blog.  

At one point, to encourage the kids, the head instructor stopped everyone and said the following.  "You are martial ARTISTS! I want to see you create your ART!"  

Kicking and punching as art?

Yes! Art. We are living breathing contradictions. We learn the martial. The mechanics of defense. 

But we also train in a spiritual mind and body art. We strive to sync the emotional, the physical and yes the spiritual. A constant journey of self learning and self actualization.   

Now did the kids fully understand that.  Probably not.  But I almost did.  It reconnected me with the artistic(read spiritual) side of my work out. 

I gave a talk to a group of Chaplains about this this afternoon.  I hope it was effective.  Keep moving on the journey of self knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.  They are more closely tied than you might think. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Sunset Road- Reflection on Luke 24 and the walk to Emmaus

Reflection given in Chapel today.

         Have you ever gone somewhere and been so immersed in thought or discussion that you don’t noticed that you've past a few people along the way. Or maybe gone on a road trip and get so lost in thought that you arrive at your destination and think, “Hey, how did I get here!?” There’s been a few mornings I have arrived at Bristol Glen and wondered that. 
In this afternoons passage we join two of Jesus’  followers, Cleopas and his unnamed companion, who were not of the inner 11 disciples. These two followers are are walking. Where they are going, ultimately, we don't know only that they are on the road to Emmaus, a town 7 miles west of Jerusalem.  Its Easter, towards the end of the day. They are walking west, into the sunset. Into darkness.The sun is probably in their eyes, keeping them from recognizing this stranger who joins them on their walk. Their walking but they aren't paying attention.1 
When I look at this passage, I read about movement. Movement in the walking away from Jerusalem. Movement in that the two were actively being prevented from seeing jesus in that moment. But there is movement. And Jesus doesn't force himself into that movement. He merely joins in and lets the two invite him in. So much about life is about movement.
I couldn't help but think about what the two disciples were carrying. And I think it is something we all carry with us on our journeys. That is that we carry our disappointments with us. These two followers are walking to Emmaus and they are blinded, by the sun maybe, but more so by the weight of their disappointments. Their very hope of new life, of a savior, had died a nasty death. These two were so focused on their disappointment that they lost sight of hope. They lost sight of the very person in whom their hope lied…And He was walking with them. But they couldn't see that because of their disappointment.
But I think that is very much what this “Christian” life is about. We have gone through the jubilation and excitement of Palm Sunday. We have gone through the disappointment of Good Friday and the Joy of Easter…But then we still have our disappointments. 
As Christians, like Cleopas and his companion, we walk to the sunset. We walk into darkness, no matter where we are on our faith Journey. Portions of that walk will be dark. But we walk. I mentioned in my palm sunday message, that even though we walk through the valley of death, we walk. We keep walking. It is in our very disappointments that Jesus meets us on the road and walks with us. He even waits for us to invite him in. 
Eventually in our passage today, Jesus is finally known in the breaking of the bread. At a regular meal, in a regular house with regular bread. Jesus entered into these two people’s lives in a moment of the ordinary. In the ordinary moment of sharing a meal they could finally see that their Hope was with them. Out of disappointment came hope. 
  It isn't just at the communion table that we are able to be with Christ. Sure, that is how we formally, as a group can be with Christ. But it can be the dinner table. It can be on a bench over a cup of coffee. It can be anywhere.  He is the host in church, but also a guest at every home.
When the two recognize Jesus, they are overwhelmed and filled with such Joy, so much so that they need to share it. Immediately. With the disciples and promptly begin walking back to Jerusalem. Thats a 7 mile journey. At night. Walking. With no car. At night. 7 miles. And they arrive to find the others have had a similar experience. They have shared their experience.  And it is in this shared experience that they find joy and fellowship are able to celebrate their hope. Together. As we are called to do. 

So let us celebrate. Disappointments and all. Let us walk into the sunset on the road to Emmaus, confident that we walk to the sunrise. Let us come to the table of our lord Jesus and know that our Hope is right here. Right now. Amen.

1: Barclay, William Gospel of Luke.  The New Daily Study Bible. 2001 Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Return of the King-Reflection on Mathew 21:1-11

This post is a reflection I shared in chapel at the continuing care facility I work in for Palm Sunday.

       I’m sure that most of us have watched or can remember watching a military parade. Some may remember the victory parades after WW2. I can remember the parades after the First Gulf War. The returning army marching in all their glory. The Commanders, with their glistening medals and badges proudly leading the parades. 
I remember that when I was in high school, I fell in love with American history; specifically Civil War history after watching the movie Gettysburg and then visiting the battlefield. I think I have been there at least 5 times, not that I was counting. But what drew me in was the regalia of military pomp and circumstance. The drama of the victory, and defeat. I mean who doesn't like a good story about a victorious warrior marching into his city to the cheer, and adoration of the people. It can be very moving. (more so maybe if you are on the winning side. )
I can’t help to think that perhaps the disciples on Palm Sunday were feeling like me when I watched Civil War reenactments or military parades-their chests puffed out with honor, their cloaks placed at the feet of Jesus. This was the great victory march of their King into the capital city.  They were expecting a great warrior king.
But Jesus enters Jerusalem not in full regalia. He rides on a borrowed donkey. Does a warrior ride a donkey? I don’t remember U.S. Grant or Robert E. Lee riding a donkey. There is not pomp and circumstance. There is great joy and jubilation from the group. They lay down palms, a symbol of victory. It is a very spontaneous parade. They throw down their clothes before him. I think I could probably get caught up in the excitement of the moment. Wouldn’t you?
Here are the disciples and people of Jerusalem, full of pride at the return of their “king,” about to enter the feast of Passover. The very celebration of their people’s liberation from Egypt. Jesus has come to liberate them from the oppression of Rome, or so some of them thought. There is great Joy on this day. 
But we know that just a few days later their bubble will be burst . Their joy will be replace with fear, uncertainty, betrayal, and even death.  Christ came into the city and marks his kingdom. A kingdom that is meek and humble. A kingdom that doesn't meet our (or their) expectations. 
On that Sunday as Christ entered Jerusalem, the people shouted Hosanna. Hosanna comes from the Hebrew; it literally means to save or to rescue. It can literally mean “Save, I pray!” but is not a specific request for personal salvation. Here it was used as a shout of jubilation. Five days later that same crowd would yell crucify him!
Today is Palm Sunday! We should be filled with joy, for our king has come. We should, and we will, shout Hosanna. Our king has come, not to fill our expectations, but to call us to live to his. We should be filled with joy and pride for this. But we also are called to be deflated, defeated, and ashamed as we walk through Maundy Thursday to Good Friday, and eventually Easter Sunday. 
When I was here last weekend for a memorial service, a great point was made. And I think it applies to Holy week, and Jesus’ passion. Even though we walk through the valley of death, we walk. We keep walking. Death does not stop us. Christ’s death on Friday does not stop us. 

We MUST keep walking. We must get to the glorious empty tomb on Sunday. And Christ has gone before us, he will come again, but he is walking with us. Neither life nor death, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Hosanna! The Lord saves us and has urged us too keep walking.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bread of Life. A reflection on John 6:35-40

        I love this middle part of John’s Gospel. From chapter 5 through 12, John’s Gospel deals with unbelief. Well, persecution and unbelief, but today I want to focus on the unbelief. John’s Gospel is the Gospel of Love, a spiritual manifest of who Jesus declares, repeatedly, who he is. And we don't we believe him.
I think it would be safe to assume, that a lot of us go through periods of belief and unbelief. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I did. It was only for about two years, but who’s keeping track. I know many folks in ministry, maybe more so in my field of chaplaincy, that struggle continuously with unbelief. But it doesn't make you a bad person, and especially not a bad Christian. 
I recently read a quote by Timothy Keller. He’s a well known Presbyterian Pastor and has written about experiencing God during periods of doubt and struggle. He says: “The basic premise of religion-that if you live a good life, things will go well for you-is wrong. Jesus was the most morally upright person who ever lived, yet He had a life filled with the experience of poverty, rejection, injustice, and even torture.”Found here
We have all experienced our own trials and periods of unbelief or doubt. For me; my 2 years of doubt was caused by divorce and feelings of unworthiness. Yours may be similar or completely different. 
But thats the beauty of todays passage from John, Jesus is always reminding us of who he is and why that matters. Having faith in Jesus requires that we have an active faith. A faith that hears Jesus’ voice, and then feels the spirit move that faith into action. John’s Gospel is the Gospel of Jesus’ “I am” statements. I am the vine… I am the Way…I am the bread of life…We then should be a people of “We are…” We are followers of Christ. We are redeemed. We are alive. Jesus himself tells us later in John 16 that in this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome this world. 
This last summer I had the privilege of taking a group of about 34 teenagers from across the presbytery to our denominations triennial (3 year) youth event. And those 34 young people, who still didn't know who they were, found great comfort that it didn't matter, because Jesus declares I Am.
I am the bread of Life is the “I” statement of our passage. Jesus declares that he is the thing that gives sustenance.  I love the beauty of this chapter in that in begins with feeding of the 5000. I am sure most are familiar with the story; that while on the shores of the Sea of Galilee a great crowd comes to hear Jesus, and they are hungry. Physically hungry, and all that they have to eat is what is brought by a young boy. 5 loaves and 2 fish.  When this story was shared at the youth event last summer the importance that it was a young person who prompted the miracle encouraged many people there.
As humans, we need to eat. We need food to survive. Out of curiosity I “googled," I looked up on the internet how long a person could survive without food.  A few different answers came up. One article, pointing to hunger strikes, like that which Ghandi did in India, showed that a person could go 3 weeks to a month without food. But the factor that aided in this was these people usually still drank water. 1
A second article that I found showed, that with patients in hospitals who were taken off artificial sustenance, food and water, that the human body could survive for about 10 days.2 Pretty grim stuff, I admit, but it shows that we as living breathing carbon based “things” we need fuel to keep us going. It is important for us to live and have a life, we need bread. And Jesus knew that. He came to feed us, physically in this chapter.  And if you look at the scope of scripture, thats a pretty big deal for Jesus right? 
That he, or the people who claim to follow him, provide for the very physical need of the people around us. If I remember right, throughout the old and new testaments, there are at least several hundred references for the people of God to feed the poor or provide for the needy. In God’s eyes it is a matter of Justice. Jesus wanted people to have physical life!
The great thing about scripture, I believe, is that it is open to be read and interpreted and understood to each person as he or she reads it. And of the four Gospels, John is the great spiritual Gospel. John’s focus was not to defend Jesus’ Jewishness, or his scientific authority or his lineage. The keynote of John’s Gospel is Love, and God so loved the world that he gave his son. His son Jesus to be the bearer of light in the darkness. 
But what is life? Is it merely physical or is it spiritual?I, we, think it is both, and Jesus cared for both. For Jesus, you couldn't have one without the other. If you were fed physically great! But he wanted you to be fed spiritually too.  Real life is relationship with God. A relationship of trust and obedience and love and that relationship is made possible through Christ. Without Jesus there may be existence but not life.  Therefore if people need food to live, Jesus is the bread of life. The hunger and restlessness of the human soul in search for God are fed and satisfied in Jesus.
The theme of the of that conference this summer was "I Am." This is based on several scriptures, including Exodus where, at the burning bush, Moses asks God’s name. Gods reply is “I am who I am.” This was emphasized through out the week with the Gospel references of Christ’s declarations of “I Am.” I am the bread of life, I am the shepherd, and ultimately I am the vine, you are the branches (John 15). 
So through out the week, as the worship and small groups and sermons progressed, the message remained for our youth. And I think it remains for us grown up youths too, because Christ is the I am, we are. As Desmund Tutu has said, “I am because we are.” We are a community, based in and rooted in the great I am.

So; If Jesus is the bread of life how should we be nourished?

The great thing about this passage is that it describes  the stages of Christian life.  ( I found this analysis in William Barclay’s commentary): It can be the foundation of our journey and our growth as followers of Jesus. It is an outline for a spiritual life.
  1. We see Jesus (church, face to face, bible)
  2. Having seen, we come to him. (he’s accessible)
  3. We believe (accept his authority, we submit)
  4. This gives us life (loving relationship with God)
  5. This is free and universal offer to all people. the bread is ours for the taking
  6. New relationship with God is only through Jesus. 
  7. God is behind this. He moves toward the human heart
With Jesus as bread of life, we enter a life of new satisfaction. Our human heart finds what it is searching for and life moves past merely existing and becomes a thing of thrilling joy and peace. 
We are then safe; God, in Jesus, will be with us for all eternity. When we eat of the bread of life (Jesus) absolutely nothing can separate us from the Love of God.  There are times of unbelief, but that is ok, because nothing separates us from God when commit to  a Christian life.
Jesus came to give us all Life. Full life; physical, emotional and spiritual life. Jesus cared for the whole being. He is active. He is present, and in him we can find sustenance.  Truly, nothing, nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ. When we can swallow that for ourselves and make it our own, we begin to live. 

I asked my youth this question this summer. This morning as we prepare our hearts to be feed in communion feast; I the same question.You can answer this silently or aloud, now or later, contemplate it as we celebrate communion. Finish this statement: I am.... Here, I will give you an example. I am…those I fight for. I am…Redeemed, renewed and refreshed. I am…feed.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Listening to the Voice of Jesus.

I haven't posted in a few days. Lenten Fail. But as I tell folks I encounter in the hospital and nursing home; We believe in a God of forgiveness... So here is a sermonette I will be giving at work this week. Enjoy.

         This weekend I had the chance to take my confirmation class to a service at a pentecostal church. It was quite a change from the traditional presbyterian worship we are used to and for the kids in the class it was quiet the change and almost shocking. If you aren't familiar with the Pentecostal church, a focus of much of their belief is focused on the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.
But the focus of our scripture this afternoon is Jesus. Who Jesus is, what authority he has, and what happens after the final resurrection.  Jesus in our passage is talking about the time that is coming when he will call out to the dead. And those dead shall hear his voice and they’ll live again! Pretty impressive stuff right? To think that something that is dead may live again?
But what if those who Jesus is speaking of here are not actually dead? If they haven’t really ceased to be? In studying John I have read and heard John’s Gospel described as the “Spiritual” Gospel. The other three clearly are similar and systematically lay out who Jesus was, what he did and why he did it. John; takes a spiritual road. In John, God is Love, and Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness to show that love. Jesus here in our passage is life giver and life bringer, he will raise the dead to life and be their judge. 
Jesus used the word dead in two senses in this passage. He uses it to address those who are spiritually dead, and also to address those who truly are dead but will be raised on the Judgement Day.  I want to focus on spiritual death. Jesus main focus is to those around him who have stopped trying, stopped listening and stopped feeling and stopped repenting. These are all things that someone who is physically alive SHOULD do, but doesn't ALWAYS do. 
Having faith in Jesus requires we have an active faith. A faith that hears Jesus’ voice, and then feels the spirit move that faith into action. John’s Gospel is the Gospel of Jesus’ “I am” statements. I am the vine… I am the bread of life…We then should be a people of “We are…” We are followers of Christ. We are redeemed.  When we come before Christ on that day, will he say well done, good and faithful servant? Or will he say why did you stop trying listening and feeling for others.
In sitting down to write this meditation for today, I thought about that visit to the pentecostal church. IF anything, they are spirit filled. Something we Presbyterians (my ordaining denomination) aren’t used to.   But the preacher touched on the most famous verse of scripture. A scripture that sums up John’s larger context of Love. God so loved the world he sent his only begotten Son.(John 3:16) Will we hear the voice of the Son and be raised from the dead? Will we be filled with the spirit?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Green Beer and Lent.

Today marks Saint Patrick's Day. 

So what do green beer, parades, Leprechaun's, snakes and all things Irish have to do with the saint we call Patrick? Absolutely Nothing!

Patrick was actually Scottish (possibly Welsh or English, depending on your source) who as a boy was taken into slavery in Ireland. Only after escaping at 20 and returning to Britain did Patrick become a bishop and return to Ireland as a missionary. Read some history here and here.

But what can we learn from St Patrick.  We can learn how it means to truly be a follower of Christ. How we can love our enemies as our neighbors. Going back to minister to those who enslaved you is pretty radical showing of God's love. We can learn to be rooted in the mystery of the trinity and work of Christ.

"I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."

St. Patrick's "Breastplate Prayer."1

Friday, March 14, 2014


There are certain times in our day or in our lives that can be routine. We can get seem to be stuck in the same old thing, doing the mundane of life.

We have our daily "to-do lists." Our morning stop for coffee on the way to work, reaching for our iPhone to check Facebook as soon as we wake up.(Guilty as charged)Taking a moment to thank God for that breath, coffee or phone.  Little or big things that we do, subconsciously or not, that define our days.

Now I sit here writing this in my office, realizing as I drink my coffee and check my usually websites before doing the task of visitations. The mundane can take a big chunk out of our day. For me, this blog is an intentional break from the mundane. Its a break from my routine, and a chance for me to work out my thoughts with whom ever actually reads it. Anyone? Buehler....Buehler?

And thats the thing about this serious yet joyous time of Lent. This seriously joyous time of Lent. Its a time to intentionally break from our routine. To break from our mundanity and to focus ourselves inwardly and on the cross.  So take a moment in your day and ask: Is this thing mundane and why? And how can I use the mundane to learn about myself and God.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  James 1:2-4 (NIV; my emphasis added)

Monday, March 10, 2014

It was Good.

Yesterday I spent the day with a good friend walking through the Cloisters in New York City. It's a great part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was built from the bones of 5 cloisters in Europe. Click here to check it out and plan a trip! We saw dead people. Okay, not really but we saw tombs. I spent the time in contemplative  thought in the various chapels and looking at religious art. 

It was a very nice day, and refreshing for my lenten journey. I felt a connection to the great history of spiritual observance and imagery of the church. There is a great beauty of having the stories of the bible and the passion of Christ presented on the detail of stone sculpture or simple wooden cross. 

I feel that we as protestants tend to shy away from Liturgical art. The whole graven images/idolatry issue.  But there is something to be said for medieval church art. Not only was it a tool of the church to teach illiterate congregants, but it served as a reminder to focus our eyes and hearts to things not of this world. It evoked raw emotion, emotion that then connects us with the divine. 

I encourage you this lent to look for the beautiful. Yes Lent is at time to strip away things that can distract us from our attempt to walk with Christ. But that doesn't mean that God hasn't put a few flowers along the road. Look at them, smell them. Be reminded that God's creation is good and right and beautiful.

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day." Genesis 1:31

Friday, March 7, 2014

God is (T)here!

Yesterday I sat in my office at the nursing home towards the end of the day I had the chance to chat with the daughter of a resident. I had grown close to this resident, and this week the resident passed away. Her daughter had been in that day collecting items and preparing to empty her mom's apartment; and she stopped in to thank me for helping out her mom. (Mom having struggled with bi-polar disorder and all that that entails)

During our chat the daughter was thanking me for being part of her moms life and bringing her comfort. All very nice compliments, but I had to thank her as well for the honor I had to be part of her mom's life; truly we were both better for our relationship. That's the great part of chaplaincy, you get to share in people's spiritual and life journeys, however brief that walk together may be.

That's kind of what Lent is about. Yes, its a time to remember that we are created beings. To remember that we are flawed beings. That we are beings attempting to live up to Christ's standard.  AND we are loved. We are redeemed.

Lent is a time for personal introspection and personal spiritual fine tuning. BUT we get to do it together! We're told to do it together.(Romans 12, Galatians 6) Where ever two or more are gathered, I am  there among them. (Matt 18:20) We are meant to walk together. It's in our spiritual DNA. For in our shared experience, God is there!

"5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.....8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you."-Philippians 4:5,8-9

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Yay! It's Springtime!

Before you call me crazy and tell me to look outside at the foot of frozen snow we still have outside, let me say again Yay it's springtime! Yes, I know officially, spring doesn't start until March 20th or the spring equinox.

But for those of us observing the Christian calender and the period of fasting before Easter, we call it Lent. And Lent in old English means spring. So, there's that. It's Spring; be happy.

Lent is perhaps the most serious season in the Church calender. We take time to pray and fast. We consider our mortality and our sinfulness. We take time to look within ourselves. We look to do penitence and confession. (Scary Roman Catholic-y sounding words for some of my Protestant friends I am sure). But, they are biblical, and they focus us towards Christ. We are called to look at our lives and examine them in light of the one we call Lord. Its a good time to be honest with ourselves and with God.

So this Lent I suggest you take some time to earnestly pray and examine yourself. Rather than saying I give up french fries for Lent, ask yourself what deep dark dirty thing in your life you want to work with God to change. And then fail. And then try again. God honestly wants you journey with you to the cross, so that those deep dirty things can be left at the foot of the cross while we walk with the resurrected Jesus.

Oh, and if you tell me you are giving up chocolate for Lent....I'm walking away.( But you can follow me and we can discuss what to really give up.) This Lent, be serious. Commit to serious discipleship and the hard work that entails. BUT; be happy. Easter is coming. The resurrected Christ is coming. We are a people of "Yes, but not yet!"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why all the smudges? Or, why we should celebrate Ash Wednesday

Growing up as a kid, like many kids, I paid no mind the the church calendar. Unless it was Christmas. I was a kid after all. When I was in high school, I began to explore my faith. I was enrolled in a Catholic school, while being confirmed into a Presbyterian Church.  That's when I began to notice the weird (to me) practice every Lent of my classmates walking around with smudges of ash on their forehead. 

So what exactly is Ash Wednesday.  For some of my Protestant friends, yes I agree, there is no biblical directive for us to celebrate Ash Wednesday. Just like there isn't a directive to celebrate Christmas or Easter. But there is at its core a great biblical theology of creation, sin, our mortality, grace and death.  It calls us to community in our shared brokenness and the humility of our mortality. 

The last few Ash Wednesdays I have spent imposing ashes in a major Hospital in the City. The same hospital that I did my chaplaincy training and now work as a per diem chaplain as an ordained Presbyterian chaplain.  The picture below is my thumb, after only half a day imposing ashes.

What I appreciate the most about Ash Wednesday it calls us to reflect on our shared frailty and brokenness. We come together and confess our sins, as a community, and visibly display our recognition that we are mere carbon based beings that return to that dirty red clay. (That's a Genesis reference)

But thats the great thing. We follow a gracious God. A God that took on our brokenness on the Cross of Jesus. And it's the road to that cross, and the resurrection story that we begin to reflect and pray about on Ash Wednesday.  We take the time to reflect on the sacrifice and the service of our savior Jesus Christ and to attempt, however much we fail, to live a life that models his grace and love. 

As I said to those I met today, I leave with you today: Remember that you are dust; and to dust you will return. And remember that our God is with you. 

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, 
since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19 NIV