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Monday, April 23, 2012

One of my Favorite Prayers

Last week was a huge week- I guest preached for a friend on the 15th- I worked on the Women's Retreat, I had two funerals, I prepared for the Open House where we invited all the church to come!

 


 I had a horrible asthma attach last Wednesday night and ever since- struggled with breathing and with having a voice.  Went to Dr today- bronchitis ugh! Chest X-ray tomorrow...

Throughout the week everything went together so well.

Today I noticed that there was a typo in our favor we gave out to everyone who came to the Open House (it is small-- but I noticed and thought- why didn't I find this sooner?) Somehow when one thing got moved on our note-- the signature where we said "With Deepest Love and Overflowing Joy" got knocked off-- so it read, "With Deepest Love and Overflow"   Ugh-- It's silly, isn't it? but hopefully they understood the point.  :) If you're reading this and you came to the open house - you can fix your version :).

 I went to Church Council tonight and as I shared what is coming up for me in May - it just feels like the next two months are really coming down fast.  I cannot believe we are moving and I am excited and joyful and sad all at the same time.  The Open House was pretty essential for me to say thank you to our church for the joy of serving as their pastor.  It was a wonderful day!  And thankfully my voice held up - through Sunday Worship and 2 baptisms, and stopped working as I taught Sunday School.

As I prepare to move-- I think of Thomas Merton's prayer.  While I do "know" where I am going- I don't "know" how it will be-- I know God will be with me.  I know I am called there.  I know God is sending me there.  Just as God called and sent me here to Messiah 6 years ago.

I really dislike feeling less energy than normal- I really feel frustrated whenever I am ill.  I really hate asthma.  I have so much to do- and not sure how it will all get done. So this prayer is good- this prayer is what I need. 


"My Lord, My God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"
© Abbey of Gethsemani

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting Shoes On

This morning I yelled at my 5 year old for not listening and Not  getting her socks and shoes on.


 It was not my best moment.


I had asked her about five times.
 She had them in her hand and I had likely gotten distracted.
I was in a hurry.
 I wanted to get things done.

Why do I do this?  Why do I let chronos time dictate?
 Why can't I be more gentle?
Why can't I be like the moms who always speak gently, with full patience?
  Please I am hoping that even perfect moms lose it every now and then....

 I apologized.  I asked her to forgive me - that I was sorry I yelled and I needed to work on my patience and I asked her to please work on her listening.

 I'm not sure if its helpful, but I said, "Gracie, when your teachers ask you to do something, do you do it?"  Yes
So, let's do that with Mommy and Daddy too.

This morning I got the karios time right- the perfect and wonderful snuggling the whispers of I love you!

But then the rush and rush and rush, and then the thinking
- if I had gotten up earlier, if I had packed lunches last night, If I had done... all these other wonderful organized things.

It has felt like a more stressful week than usual.
I've dealt with some things and some folks that has required a little extra grace.
The week feels pretty stacked...

But I know that God is breathing in me, that God is creating in and out of the chaos, I know that all will be well.
I know that it may not be perfect.
But in the midst of it all- may God help me remember and know that
what is more important than being on time,  
more important than the house looking nice, 
more important than anything anything in the world
- is that I am gentle with my children's souls.

 I don't want them to remember me and be afraid.
I don't want them to stop listening because they tune out of someone sounding constantly demanding- pick up your toys, do this, don't do that, stop that....

I really love bathtime and bedtime-- for some reason I let go of rushing then- not always but way better.
I just BE with them.
I did have hopes of getting things done when they got to bed... but somehow my agenda didn't get in the way. 

During bathtime we sang everything- like a musical.
I made games of-- who can wash their tummies, their arms, their feet, legs, etc.
And they got it done- and we had fun.



I pray that I can be more focused on the joy of being with them,
the joy of being in the moment, 
I pray that I may delight in them.
I pray that I will not seek to make them regimented, soldier like.
I pray that they will be joyful, silly, kind, peace pulsating, children of God's kingdom.
I pray that I may be a beacon of light - that is calm, warm, peaceful, loving, affirming, encouraging.
May I be filled with the fruits of the spirit,
Love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!
 May I embody these fruits, so that my children may know my love and know your love God. 
God, make me the kind of Mom you call me to be,
Amen.

 More on this

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Prayer for Tax Day


 

Today some may grumble… but today I am thankful.  

Lord, I am thankful for our country.  
 Especially on this day, as tax day nears, 
I am thankful for its citizens and for the part we all play to work together as one nation so that we may live in this freedom.   
Today I am grateful for programs that allow hungry children to eat, 
I am thankful for roads- for interstates , and highways, for streets and avenues.  
I am thankful for bridges and damns, and, waterways.  
I am thankful for National Parks, State Parks, Local Parks. 
I am thankful for Rangers who help protect wildlife and teach us about nature and conservation.  
I am thankful for National treasures, and historical places, and art that nurtures the soul of our nation. 
I am thankful for Police officers, Firefighters, EMTs who protect us and keep us safe. 
I am thankful for schools –for preschool for poor children,  for principals, teachers, teacher assistants, cafeteria workers, guidance counselors, social workers, janitors, volunteers and for their dedication to instill a joy of learning in our children. 
I am thankful for libraries and librarians and for books and space to learn and grow in knowledge.   
I am thankful for my mailman Matt, and for all who work at the Post Office.  
I am thankful for all who serve in the military- and their families (who equally serve) – I am thankful for them and their sacrifice to keep our country from harm.   
I am thankful for people who work in and for the government who work very hard to do things we rarely see, but because of them things run smoothly.  Many of these people are my parishioners.  They are hard workers who care about this country.  I thank God for all of these people and the work they do, I thank God for their love our nation, their integrity and their dedication.  May God continually fill them with pride for our nation and the patience and fortitude to do the work for which they have been called.  
I am thankful for those who are able to pay their taxes, and for those who are too poor to pay taxes and everyone in between,  Lord, be with all of us.  
I am thankful for those who volunteer to help others prepare taxes with the utmost honesty, giving of their time, and helping others.  

There is very little we can look at and not be thankful for. 

I am thankful for you and everyone who takes part in what it means to be One Nation and not just a collection of states.   
We are One—Yes, and we are One Nation under God and,
I thank God for our nation and I thank God for you.    
Amen.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Force of Forgiveness


Rev.  Elizabeth Anderson
John 20: 19-31
“The Force of Forgiveness”
Guest Preaching- Dranesville UMC

Most of us when we hear today’s Gospel lesson think immediately of the story we hear. 

 We become refugees hiding with the disciples locked away in a room.  




We are amazed with them by the peace Jesus brings.  We either understand or judge Thomas and his desire to touch and see Christ risen, to soak into the wounds he suffered for us.  And yet, I cannot help but linger on verse 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 
Here – after Jesus has died on the cross for our sins.
Here after Jesus has said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”[i] 
After Christ has forgiven us “while we were yet sinners”  -- we hear this.
Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” 
He breathes on the them the Holy Spirit—which fills them with power, ability,  and authority to live out this commission. 
And then Jesus charges them with the work of reconciliation: “If you forgive the sins of any- they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 
A few months ago, a dear friend and parishioner lay dying.  His wife asked us all to pray the Lord’s Prayer and just keep praying it.  She had no other words. She knew no other prayer in these moments. She just knew that is what she needed to pray and needed others to pray. 

We need no other words really- than these words Jesus gave us all-- when the disciples asked him how do we pray?
We did exactly as this wife of a dying husband asked.   
We prayed it morning, noon, and night.
I ran into another person and we were discussing these friends, she also was praying.   

“It is so hard,” she said.
I raised my eyes.
“You know- to pray it.
To really pray it and mean it and say those words.
TO say, “forgive us AS we forgive others.
I have to really forgive—really forgive.”

She’s right- no matter if you say sins, or trespasses or debt—that “AS” is always there.

““And forgive us our trespasses, AS we forgive those who trespass against us.
Forgive us- AS we forgive others—it is there.

In fact Jesus gets fairly explicit in Matthew’s Gospel saying “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”[ii]

 We are nearly forced- to forgive…
Jesus died on the cross for our sins—we are forgiven.
 It’s all done, right?
But Jesus said, “As the Father as sent me, so I send you.”
And Jesus said, ‘You must also take up your cross and follow me.”
And Jesus said, “If you forgive- they are forgiven- if you retain- it will be retained.”
Jesus doesn’t ONLY come and pay the price for our sins,                                    he invites us into participation in his life, death, and resurrection. 
He sends us, He commissions and commands us to also Carry the Cross- to make disciples, and to go and forgive as we have been forgiven. 

Forgiveness comes from Christ, but it does not end with Christ.
Once, Jesus healed a man and told him, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Some of the scribes saw this and were grumbling, questioning in their hearts- and Jesus knew this.  They thought, “Why does this fellow speak in this way!  It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” [iii]
Jesus wanted them to see this forgiveness and know that he- the Son of Man had authority to forgive.  And not only did he have the authority- but he gave this authority to others—to share in the work of forgiveness. 
Can we do this work?
John Wesley said of the Lord’s Prayer that “uttered from the heart, and in its true and full meaning, [it] is indeed the badge of a real Christian.”[iv]
 While the beginning of the prayer notes our need for daily bread- for physical sustenance-- that need is quickly supplemented by the need for forgiveness—“not once, but continually.”[v]
IF you forgive the sins of any”  -and  this is going to need to happen a lot—
There is an IF here-  just like that “As” in the Lord’s Prayer- it tells us that this is going to be a continual thingand here as Jesus is breathing on the disciples (giving the gift of the Holy Spirit), giving them authority, sending them out- he gives them an IF—this is a condition--- a call to a radical way – an always do this way of being. 
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any; they are retained.”  -- There is no letting go if we don’t forgive.
 There is no healing – there is retaining all the pain—it is held on to if there is no forgiveness. 
All of that pain and fear is- still locked up if there is no forgiveness.   
Locked up – Like those disciples in the locked room and hiding- thinking Jesus is still dead. Not fully able to live in the forgiveness of the cross.
If we are not participating in the life of Christ               by forgiving as he has forgiven-                                       its as though we’re still locked up                                 with the disciples                                                                and Christ is still in the tomb. 
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says, “Truly I tell you , whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”[vi]
What are we retaining? What are we binding here and now and thus binding in heaven?
What is God holding onto because we are holding onto?
When we have accepted that Jesus has forgiven us from our sins, we are washed anew- we are freed!  This is indeed “the inner core of the holy experience”[vii] to soak into this well of forgiveness and let our Savior’s love wash over us.
  Can you imagine what it is to also extend this?
When we give and accept forgiveness from others, we extend this holiness!
We share in grace! Grace upon Grace! 
We carry out our “sent” authority that Christ has given us!
We see and know that essentially – “forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian faith.” [viii]  We live into our new our identity as Christ followers—
“Christ’s followers are called to
radical forgiveness,
unreasonable forgiveness,
reckless forgiveness,
endless forgiveness,
seemingly impossible forgiveness.” [ix]

It is not easy- in fact Peter once tried to find where the wiggle room in this forgiveness command lay?  Where was the “out”? 

“Lord, how often should I forgive?” As many as seven times?”  Jesus said, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy seven times.”  [x]
Jesus then told a story about a servant who experienced forgiveness, but did not carry it forward—it did not propel him into a life of forgiveness.  He did not forgive someone as he was forgiven



The servant was forgiven by his master and refused to forgive another- when his master found out he said, “You wicked slave!  I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?  And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.  So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”[xi]
This forgiveness is serious business
This is the force of forgiveness.
Now that may sound harsh…-Force…
But think of what “force’ really is—
Force-- is any influence that causes something to undergo a certain change, either concerning its movement or direction. 
Now, I’m not a physicist//
-----but I remember learning that force is that which can cause an object with mass to change its velocity.
Being in a relationship with Christ is a force in our lives that causes real change in us. 

The Christian life is a prayer of forgiveness:
“Forgive us as we forgive them.”
The Christian life is a suffering cry of forgiveness:
“Father, forgive them.”
The Christian life is a commission to forgive:
“If you forgive anyone, they are forgiven.” [xii]

Being a follower of Christ means that we are compelled- in fact we are sent out-by a powerful the powerful force of a life in Christ- sent with a velocity of love and grace fueled by the Holy Spirit

You are commissioned – don’t be locked up—Jesus breathes on you the gift of the Holy Spirit! 
Go and do as Christ has done for you! 
Amen.




[i] Luke 23:34
[ii][ii] Matthew 6: 14
[iii] Mark 2:1-12 and Matthew 9:2-8
[iv] JW notes 11:1
[v] JW Notes11:4
[vi] Matthew 18:18
[vii] Wesley Study bible page 1200
[viii] Zahnd, Brian, 8 “Unconditional?”
[ix] Ibid, 35
[x] Matthew 18:21
[xi] Matthew 18:32-35
[xii] Zahnd, Brian, 11.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Joy Robber Prayer



Lord, When I feel hurt.  Let me look to you.
Hold me.
Hold me so tight that my loneliness disappears-
Hold me so tight that the dismissive words, the forsaken feelings, the isolation is gone.
Your presence is so big- it can fill any void.

I am tired and I am weary.
You are strong.

When joy feels ripped from me.
Ignite gratitude to flame in me
so that I may still see the beauty of your grace
and be flooded in joy once again.

Let me not be robbed of joy.
Let the darkness be overshadowed by your brilliant light.

I am not stronger than this.
Lord, you are.

When the joy robber comes,
Let me lean stronger into your arms.

Armor me in the kingdom way of seeing.
Turn what is ugly into beauty.


I am tired and weary.
I feel like all I can do is curl into a womb of your love.


Wash me, Hold me,
Take deep breaths in me, 
Until this is gone and I can be born into your freedom again.
Freedom to stand.
Standing strong, Beholding you.

In Awe once again.

I pray in the name of the One who has come and is here and is still coming.  Amen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Forgiveness

This Sunday's Scripture usually leads folks to preach about doubt and Thomas or the Holy Spirit, but I can't help - after coming off Easter and celebrating that Christ is risen, that we are forgiven-- to keep coming back to this

"If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
 (John 20:23).

So I am preaching on Forgiveness this week.

Forgiveness is hard.  I think it is life long.

 When I was around 15 my Mom married a man who turned out to not be a nice man.  He was manipulative and emotionally and verbally abusive.  I have not talked publicly much about this time.  Occasionally this part of my life comes out in the Call story- because it is indeed significant to my call and my understanding of God's everlasting love and presence.  But usually, I just skim past this-- its not a pretty story- its the ugly side of life- that God indeed transformed into beauty.  I don't think my life had to have a "sad" story- a story of woe- a "nobody knows the trouble I've seen" kind of story in order to be reclaimed and redeemed- in order to know God's saving grace-- but it is my story.  This is part of me.  It kind of lives with me still.  It doesn't really go away.  Survivors of abuse- no matter what kind of abuse- sort of live like that I think.  He did not beat me, he did not strike me...but he did leave some scars. Thankfully God grace is like a never ending tube of neosporin...  the wounds heal.



At first I embraced him and loved him.  He was smart, intelligent, full of life experiences and stories.  It did not take long to become worn down, it did not take long for charm to give way to abuse.  It seemed like so many were blind to it-- and I was angry at him and at the blindness of others.  I had close and wonderful friends who saw all and held me through it.

Once in college-- and after a year of being a camp counselor at Camp Hat Creek - after growing closer into knowing God was calling me-- every day in the rhythm of worship, and love, and grace, and joy-- I began to feel that God must really want me to forgive him. It was the one place in my life still darkened.... I felt this weight that I must forgive.  I began praying on this and praying.  On Fall break or Thanksgiving break my sophomore year I felt this need and felt and felt a gnawing.  But where was justice?  He was still abusive, and manipulative-- he would still dig in these words that slaughtered me over and over... But I prayed- I just kept praying. Kept talking with my chaplain, with my friends.

Shortly after I returned from break, my mother called me.  She had awoken in the night and felt as though the Holy Spirit had led her to discover the depths of his abuse.  There was more than I had ever imagined- the lies and manipulation, the darkest parts of sin.  The very very ugly of life.

My mother soon moved to be closer to me and divorce came.  It was like she had woken up out of nightmare that she didn't see, one that I had been fighting already.

I didn't want to forgive then.  I thought I could- but NO- I didn't want to say it was okay-- none of this was okay.

I used to say he was my reason for believing in hell.
That may sound harsh-- but I knew there had to be justice for this kind of evil.

That was a long time ago now.
He still represents the darkest parts of my life.  Those wounds no longer control my worth. Although every once in awhile the scars seem to ache. 

 I still believed and I do today that God's grace can break anyone and thus make them whole.

Whole in brokeness.
 
And I still have hope that this includes all people-- even abusers.  


This has been my greatest struggle with forgiveness.
I will never see him again.
He no longer has power.
But I cannot not forgive.

But it is not a one time thing.
 I think every time the hurt, and shame, and pain, and fear, and self doubt arise-- its like I'm going back to that place where he had power to hurt and injure.  Where darkness sought to erode the light.

I'm reading UNconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness by Brian Zahnd.  I want to read Unbroken

I have learned and I know cognitively that forgiveness doesn't mean it's okay.

Whenever I am teaching forgiveness with my girls- one has been in the wrong- and I they say they are sorry-- I have the other say, "I forgive you."
Not "It's okay."
Because it isn't okay.
Someone has done a wrong- you can't go back.

But, forgiveness is possible. And justice will come.

How does justice come? What does it look like?  What does it mean?
These are places for me to continually explore while I trust in God.  

Forgiving is not forgetting- but forgiving ends the cycle- it ends the anger- it ends the desire for revenge.  
We remember.
I think memory is powerful.
God continually tells the people to Remember-- Remember I am your God who brought you out of slavery-- Remember I am God.  Remember what I have done for you.
When I remember- forgiveness gives the ability to remember what God has done- -not what he did.

I cannot deny that there is a possibility of forgiveness- "to deny the possibility of forgiveness is to deny the very heart of the Christian gospel."(Zahnd, 11)

If I am to live out my faith.  I must forgive.  I don't need to understand the exacts of how it all is working.  God is doing the work.  I am living the results. 

Brian Zahnd says, "The Christians life is a prayer of forgiveness:
                                                    'Forgiveness us as we forgive them.'
                               The Christian life is a suffering cry of forgiveness:
                                                     'Father, forgive them.'
                                The Christian life is  a commission to forgive :
                                                   'If you forgive anyone, they are forgiven." (page 11)





 
Here is where I landed on my sermon. 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Waiting

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.
--Psalm 130:5-6
 
"To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God's love and not according to our fear.                   The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.                                              That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control."                        ~Henri Nouwen
 
 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scatter Joy




"There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us."

  --  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 9, 2012

Prayer for Today

It's painful and sad how much words can hurt others. We hurt others with our thoughtlessness, we let anger rule our hearts, we allow sin and shame and the shadows of this world to chain us. Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy. Forgive us. Heal those we have selfishly hurt. Unite us to be One in your love and grace. Christ has Risen! Amazing grace, our chains are gone! May we live this as truth! May we truly be the Body of Christ!