Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Glory Bound - Wailin' Jennys

When I hear that trumpet sound
I will lay my burdens down
I will lay them deep into the ground
Then I'll know that I am glory bound

I'll be travelling far from home
But I won't be looking for to roam
I'll be crossing o'er the great divide
In a better home soon I will reside


When I'm in my resting place
I'll look on my mother's face
Never more will I have to know
All the loneliness that plagues me so

So I'm waiting for that train to come
And I know where she's coming from
Listen can you hear her on the track
When I board I won't be looking back


Monday, February 22, 2010

Bread, Wine, and Ashes

And so it is Lent again. A time of waiting, and preparation, and, if we allow time - for introspection.

This past Wednesday was the first day of Lent, and we took a family friend visiting from Toronto to the Lenten Evening service at our church. We meet in the chapel; it is a simple setting, with singing from the children's choir, and a homily reflection on the meaning of Lent.

At the end of the service all are invited forward to receive the imposition of ashes and communion. As preparation was made for this, two women of our congregation stood and moved forward. They had been given the task of placing the sign of the cross in ash on our foreheads, as we each came forward in the chapel, before we received communion.

And suddenly it hit me. This was the perfect choice. I have known both of these women for a while, and as their friend, I also know their stories. They are both remarkable. Their lives contrast mine. They have struggled, I have had it easy; they have found God in remarkable ways, my way to God has been much more simple, and well, boring.

Tough Choices, Courageous Woman
One of these women is a single mom. We will call her Mary. When she was younger, like lots of us, she made some bad decisions in life, and has spent a number of years recovering. Some days don't feel like recovery. She has raised a daughter on her own, a girl who is now 17 or so, and is doing alright. There are still tough times, and everything has not always worked out perfectly. It has been a challenge every step of the way.

Several years ago, in near mid-life, Mary sensed that God might be calling her to a completely unusual challenge - service as a military chaplain. She is now working part time in this role, attending seminary, and plans on entering this professional full time in the near future.

Mary's journey is the story of a life redeemed.

Pastor's Daughter, Becoming a Pastor
The other woman we will call Susan. She is the daughter of a pastor. When she was 16 years old, out of a sense of emptiness and with a troubled heart, she told her father that she no longer believed in Jesus. Religion was a farce.

Since she was a great student, she did fine in high school, and went to an Ivy League college. After graduation she became involved in community organizing and politics. Very important politics. At the same time, she also developed an addiction to drugs. She dabbled in Eastern religions, and attempted rehab. It was not working well, and one night, she decided to ditch the intake rehab program she was attending. So, she called a cab to take her away.

As it turns out, an angel was driving that cab. He was a Christ follower, listened to Susan's story, and told her God wanted her to return to that rehab program right away, and get her butt back in therapy.

To make a long story shorter, other people were praying for Susan during her struggles. She found her way home to God. Today, she also is in seminary, preparing for a life of ministry to others.

Hers is the story of a life rescued.

Bread, Wine, Ashes
Some think that God is dead, and lives of faith are merely manifestations of insecurity. But, last Wednesday, as we all stood in a line, waiting for a mark on our foreheads, and a little bit of bread dipped in wine, I thought differently.

I saw, standing before me, two lives, transformed.

Genesis 3:19:

...for dust you are
and to dust you will return.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Deus Semper Minor; The Small Way

Recently, and for the first time, I heard a friend speak the Latin words Deus semper minor. The literal translation of this is "God always smaller". I have been thinking about this. A lot.

Big American God
This little phrase seems to me to be disconnected with what we Americans like to hear. I mean, after all, we are Americans, dammit. We won the West, built the Transcontinental Railroad, conquered polio, won World War II, and put a man on the moon. Our God is not smaller, He is Bigger, and don't you forget it!

And today, we have lots of attractive televangelists telling us things like "It's Your Time" and "Become a Better You" and "Your Best Life Now". That God is not small. He is powerful. And Big. And friendly, and has good hair, no doubt. He even wants us to get rich, and He thinks poverty is for loosers.

A small God? We think not! We like him Big, and Tough, and Vindictive for our side.

Little Real God
But just look around at real life. Seems that quite often, God is actually, well, small.

Small in His seeming inability to stop poverty, unless we help Him. Small in His ability to heal all the sick, unless we fight like hell for years to find the cure. What about My Best Life Now, where is Big American God? What about that baby born with the genetic defect that will take his life before he is even three months old? Is this a little God? What about broken relationships, where is Big God in this?

But maybe the problem with God's apparent size is not really about size at all. We have distorted our expectations of both God's size, but also of what He is choosing to do in our world, and what He might want to do within, well,

Perhaps God's way is small. Small in the love we offer a friend, who is lonely, or sick, or hurting. Small, in sitting still and quietly listening to a friend share their hurt and frustration at how life does not seem fair. Small, in the form of money spent to feed others, rather than make ourselves feel comforted. Small, as we love those around us who seem to be poor in spirit.
Small in the form of a hand held at a bedside in the final moments of life.

Maybe, after all, Deus Semper Minor. What do you think?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Lord Save Me From Myself

Turn this up....the sound is not so good, but the song is amazing:

My mind is dull and jaded
From these years of buy and sell
My eyes have seen the glory
Of this hollow post-modern shell

And sex is a grand production
But I'm bored with that as well
Ah, Lord save me from myself

Electric sun keep shining
Ripen daughters of the chrome
This world is where I breathe
Let it never be called home

The vultures make the money
Is where our bodies fell
Ah, Lord save me from myself.

The vultures make the money
I'm bored with that as well

Wow. Amen.
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