Sunday, April 24, 2016

Potty Talk

*Disclosure: this is literally about poop, which may not be your thing.  (It's not really mine either,  but it's relevant. ..even theological). So, you may want to skip this post and move on to the next. 

My dear sweet child unfortunately has weak teeth (or poor hygiene, or both) and she has had more dental work in 3 years than I have had in 33 years.  She has 5 crowns,  maybe 6. And on Friday,  one came loose and she swallowed it.  I called the dentist and she was out of town,  so we have to wait for Monday.  Insurance won't cover the replacement,  so we will owe around $400. (Yippee)  Sigh.

The hygienist suggested we "watch" for it.  I can't even begin to describe how giddy that makes me.  So we talked and talked to Ruth about not flushing and letting me know if she had a bowel movement. 

At dinner I asked if she'd pooped and she said,  "Yes, and I didn't flush,  just for you!" Oh goody!

So I grabbed a bucket and gloves and went upstairs.  And I "looked" for this $400 treasure piece. 

I warned you. .."literally about poop".

And,  ironically I started thinking theologically. ..where is the God-message in this?

And I thought,  "I wonder how often this happens. ..we accidentally swallow/lose something precious that God has given us, and then we wait for it to "appear" and hope God will sift through the shit to recover our treasure."

Regrettably, the crown didn't appear, so I get to look forward to this "joy" again today.  And I couldn't help but think of God..."Oh boy, I get to do this again tomorrow. .."  sigh.

Sometimes we have accidents,  and sometimes we lose very valuable things because of it,  and then we have to sift through the shit (excuse the language, but if you've ever done this chore, you get it,  it's not glamorous) if we ever want it back. And God, who is a loving and faithful parent, will grab a bucket & get some gloves on, and help us recover that which is precious.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lessons from church (s)hopping: A little recognition

Over the last few months,  while on maternity leave,  I've had occasion to visit a number of churches. It's been interesting since I haven't been church (s)hopping in 12 years (and then I was single with no kids).  My intent hasn't been to critique churches, but I can't help but notice certain things along the way. I offer these reflections as a note to myself for future ministry and for whatever it might be worth to those who work/volunteer in the church.

When I was in college,  I began attending the campus Intervarsity group.  I started going to worship mid-week and when I first showed up,  I met one of the key leaders. He was very friendly,  "Hi, I'm Jarrod, what's your name?" So I told him my name and that it was nice to meet him. 

The next week I went back.  Again,  he approached me, "Hi, I'm Jarrod, what's your name?" I figured,  well,  it is only my second time here,  it's OK.  I liked the worship and the teaching and so I went back again.  Week 3, the same thing,  "Hi, I"m Jarrod, what's your name?" Not even a glimpse of recognition. It was a decent size group of students,  but not enormous and I had met him EVERY week.  So it was odd that he didn't even have a minimal memory. I get not everyone does names,  but not even a "I think I should know you're name,  but I'm not good at remembering."

I really was trying to be part of a faith community and did like the worship, so I went back,  4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 times.  And do you know what happened every time?

"Hi, I'm Jarrod, what's your name?"

Every. single. week. for 10 weeks.  After that I started a Bible study with IV and Jarrod still never learned my name.  He grew to know my face,  but never my name.

Now,  I'd grown up in the church,  so I cared more about worship and study than my interaction with one guy.  But, it was significant that I, seemingly, wasn't memorable (at all) to a key leader.  So significant that I remember the story and his name 17 years later...

It is interesting when we visit a church who (if anyone) greets us, and then who (if anyone) remembers us when we go back. 

I know church folk can be pretty overwhelming in their effort to greet the newcomer, but in trying to avoid that tendency it seems like of folks have fallen off the opposite edge. 

In our recent visits,  the church who has done the best at welcoming and remembering us is Pacific Palisades Community Church. We had 5 or 6 people greet us on our first visit, and a good number who remembered us when we came back the following week. 

We want to be noticed and welcomed (as opposed to ignored) but we don't want to stick out like a sore thumb. And it is nice when people pay enough attention to remember us when we go back

Monday, April 11, 2016

Music Monday

Music is powerful in our house.  We even have a picture that says, "Where words fail music speaks." It's true.  So, I'm sharing various pieces of music that have either spoken to me or I think will speak into situations of friends. 

I regularly post on Facebook:

"Prayer Roundup: What can I lift up for you?" 

I'm always honored for how people share with me so that I can hold them in prayer.  And I am often overwhelmed by the level of pain in our lives.  Depression. Addiction. Mental health struggles. Grief. Betrayal. Abuse. Family conflict....the list goes on. 

There are a whole lot of storms that rage in our lives.  And this song speaks into our need to have faith that God is in the midst of the storm:

Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Word of Hope

The Easter message matters. We need to know that sin, betrayal, death, abuse, death, heartache, loneliness, depression, fear, anxiety, loss, confusion, and dead ends don't have the final word. It may feel like it, but all those things lose because of Christ. In him we are given (freely without strings attached) forgiveness, second chances, reconciliation, redemption, freedom from our past, and promise of hope in our future.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

If you want my help

Let me just start by saying God is growing me so much as a parent. I am (slowly) becoming a better person day by day. And I'm learning a whole lot of humility, both from my failings as a parent and as I learn to re-image God.  

The other day Ruth wanted "3 Queen Elsa braids" in her hair. Now, she doesn't have enough hair for much, but she is content if I give her any kind of braid that make her feel like Elsa.  So, I sprayed and conditioned her hair and started to divide it into sections (at which point she normally likes to argue with me that she wants braids not pony tails...but if you do hair you know you have to do pony tails first to keep the sections separate).  I remind her she should trust me.  She said ok and then began to bend all the way forward.  


"Ruth, you need to sit up straight!"


I continued separating sections and then began braiding.  I don't remember exactly what she did next, but my response was "Ruth, if you want me to help you, you have to let me do it." 

Click in my brain.'s another one of those  lessons.  If I want God to help me I have to let God do it...

Let's just say I'm about as cooperative as my almost-5 year old when it comes to asking God for help and then either staying out of the way or being an active (and helpful) participant in following God's direction.  I'm trying. I'm learning.  I'm definitely a work in progress.  

I just have to remember, if I ask for help, I need to let God do it!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter prayer

Merciful God, 
thousands of years ago, 
in the dark of the morning, 
in the midst of profound grief
[Mary/the women] drew near to the tomb.  
Her heart broke as she came to say goodbye to her rabbi and friend.  
But instead of the stench of death she breathed in the gift of new life.  
Jesus was alive! 
The gift of resurrection is mysterious and confusing--
As are the ways you touch the dark and dead places in our lives.  
Where we have failed you forgive us. 
Where we sin you redeem us. 
Where the darkness threatens to overtake us,  you shine your light. 
And where death steals our joy, you proclaim I give joy abundantly. 

We thank you this day for new beginnings,  second chances,  and resurrection from death. 

We praise you in Jesus' name, 

Easter prayer

O God of death & resurrection,
we come today rejoicing in the fact of the empty tomb. 
Jesus Christ is risen! 
Where death and darkness threatened to overcome your promise of grace, mercy, & justice you stand victorious. 
We can't deny the power of sin or the presence of suffering in our lives.  
But because of Christ,
We know they don't have the final word. 

So we praise you.  
Hear us now as we lift our voices in thanks & praise 
for all you do & all you've done,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wickedness and Weakness

Luke 22:14-23The Message (MSG)

14-16 When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.”
17-18 Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, “Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I’ll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives.”
19 Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory.”
20 He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.
21-22 “Do you realize that the hand of the one who is betraying me is at this moment on this table? It’s true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out—no surprises there. But for the one who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man, this is doomsday.”
23 They immediately became suspicious of each other and began quizzing one another, wondering who might be about to do this.

Most folks in the church are familiar with this story. If you've been in a church that does regular (monthly) communion, you've probably heard it a dozen or more times. If you're a life-r you've probably heard it hundreds of times.  

Funny thing is Scripture, as the living Word of God, has a way of speaking in new and different ways each time we read it.  That's what happened for me today, I heard this passage differently.  For me, today, it was less about the Passover meal (a.k.a. communion) and more about who Jesus included, or chose not to exclude.

It is clear here Jesus eats with one he knows will betray him. Throughout the whole meal, Jesus knew Judas would betray him (and he knew Peter would deny him) and yet he included them anyway.  This holy meal--to which Jesus gave new depth and meaning--wasn't reserved for the faithful and the righteous. It was meant for all--including the sinners, the liars, and those who would betray him.  

That's good news for us because if Jesus included the "worst" disciples then--the most wicked the the most weak--then Jesus also includes the "worst" of the disciples now. Whether we're defined by wickedness or weakness, Jesus invites us to the table. He shares the blessing with us, even knowing we're going to keep getting it wrong.  

And the kicker is, if Jesus is willing to include us at our worst, then he's also willing to include them at their worst.  The gift of forgiveness, of salvation, new life, and God's promises aren't reserved for a select few, they are made available to all--over and over again because of and in spite of our sin. 

Preachers' Prayer

Lord God,
This week is big in church life. 
It's hectic. 
It's demanding. 
It's blessed. 
It's holy. 
And it's exhausting. 
For all the pastors preparing sermons & liturgy,
Give energy,  stamina,  inspiration,  health,  and help. 
Bless them so that they might experience the truth of the Gospel as they proclaim it to/for others. 
Be big. 
Be bold. 
Empower and use your faithful servants. 
In the mighty name of Jesus,

Prayer of preparation

Loving God,
Still and focus my mind that I might hear from you. 
Help me as I read your Word.
Guide my thoughts so that what I write and what I plan would speak to your people. 
In Jesus' name, amen. 

Are you ready?

Luke 22:7-13The Message (MSG)

7-8 The Day of Unleavened Bread came, the day the Passover lamb was butchered. Jesus sent Peter and John off, saying, “Go prepare the Passover for us so we can eat it together.”
They said, “Where do you want us to do this?”
10-12 He said, “Keep your eyes open as you enter the city. A man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him home. Then speak with the owner of the house: The Teacher wants to know, ‘Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will show you a spacious second-story room, swept and ready. Prepare the meal there.”
13 They left, found everything just as he told them, and prepared the Passover meal.

  There are a number of things that happened in this passage that required obedience, faithfulness, and timing.  
-Peter and John were prepared to cook the Passover meal (not generally something they would have done as men--fish, maybe, but not a feast for a high holy day)
-There was a man carrying water (also not normally the job of a man) and he managed to be at just the right spot at the gate at just the right time for Peter and John to see him
-Peter and John had to follow him
-The homeowner was home
-the homeowner honored the request of the "teacher" even though he wasn't present
-the room was already ready and furnished
-The disciples found the food, got a lamb, and prepared the meal for all of the men to share together

In this we see incredible faithfulness in the various men who are present. Peter and John were ready to do what Jesus asked--even though it wasn't "men's work" (and they knew/figured out how to do it).  Then there's the man with the water (presumably a slave) who just happens to be carrying water at the moment they come into the city.  He would have been easy enough to spot, as it typically would have been a woman carrying the water, but still he was there for Peter and John to find and follow. Then we have the homeowner.  He was home and didn't see to argue or even flinch at "the teacher's" request.  

God ordained or otherwise, the collision of people who were willing to live in the moment or do as God said or some combination of both is incredible and important.  The events of this night came together because multiple people were faithful and obedient.  We often say "God is in control", which I believe (to some extent), but God is also reliant upon us to participate.  We need to listen, we need to follow, and we need to do as God has asked us to do.  

Are you ready?
to listen?
to follow directions?
to work outside your comfort zone?
to help the stranger?
to be used by God?


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Quote of the day

Daily Prayer

Precious Lord,
Prepare my heart to hear your voice. 
Help me to be a faithful listener.
Guide my heart to the place you are calling.
Speak into my places of fear, doubt, and anxiety.
Give me instead your perfect peace.
This I pray in Jesus' name,