Dorothy Day was most well known for her work with the poor and the Catholic workers movement. She lived from 1897-1980 and was utterly focused on hospitality, always talking about how we can welcome people as Christ. She also happened to be a heavy smoker. Her day began with lighting up a cigarette. Every Lent Dorothy would give up smoking, but by halfway through Lent the rest of the community was usually praying that she would take it up again! One year, as Lent approached, the priest who ordinarily heard her confessions urged her not to give up cigarettes that year, but instead to pray daily, "Dear God, help me stop smoking." She used that prayer for several years without it having any impact on her addiction. Then one morning she woke up, reached for a cigarette, and realized she didn't want it and never smoked another. (1)
I share this story because I do believe that prayer is powerful and affective. I also believe that prayer is a lot of work sometimes and that many times it’s hard to know what affect it is having on us or on others. Mother Theresa said that prayer is to our soul like blood is to our body. I find that an interesting metaphor because of course we can’t live without blood in our bodies; and blood is also what carries nutrients, oxygen, proteins, and hormones throughout our body. Prayer is the carrier within our souls— bringing life and health and joy to us and to God. (2) Read More
Relentless Joy. In January when we decided on Relentless Joy as our theme for Lent, and it sounded wonderful to me. Six weeks to focus on joyful living; six weeks to read Paul’s letter to the Philippians and soak in all of the joy he talks about. I’ve always like Lent for this reason— perhaps because I grew up Methodist and wasn’t forced to give up chocolate every year, I always saw Lent as the time to do things different for six weeks and see how those six weeks then shaped my relationship with God. One year in high school I fasted every Friday with my best friend. The year I went before the Board for Ordination I added an hour of prayer to my morning routine to keep myself calm. One year I just committed to reading poetry because I missed reading it and knew that it would be good for my soul. One year Todd and I gave up TV and didn’t take it back for about four years after that. I liked the idea of Relentless Joy because it truly reflects what I’ve always thought was the best part of Lent— choosing to live joyfully by trying something new for a little while. As it says in the Westminster Catechism, our purpose is to worship God and to enjoy God forever. If our purpose is to enjoy God forever, why shouldn’t we start in Lent? Read More
Every year on the Sunday before Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, we read this story. It is the story of Jesus being transfigured— changing somehow in ways that no one could explain, even then— while also being accompanied by Elijah and Moses, and even by the very voice of God.
At first blush, this seems like it would be a dream come true for the disciples. How often do we, as people of faith, long to have assurance of that faith. How often do we want to see Jesus— and not necessarily the humanity of Jesus, the muddy footed, tired, sweaty guy who walked through Palestine, but the divine Jesus— the one who fed five thousand people and spoke of love and makes everything right again.
Yes, this story brings with it awe and amazement and longing as we hear it because everything seems so clear. Moses is there: the one who led the people out of slavery and organized them into being God’s children; Elijah is there: the greatest prophet who ever lived; and then God’s voice comes out of the heavens and declares once again that Jesus is God’s Son and they should listen to him.
Yes, this seems like a story that puts everything in its rightful place.
It’s very similar to what I was hoping would happen at General Conference this past week. Read More
This past fall we, as a church, been learning more about ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences, as we continue working on our goal to support stressed out parents and kids. And as we’ve learned about trauma, we’ve also been learning more about resilience— that remarkable thing that makes it possible for people to find healing, hope, and a future even though they’ve been through extremely difficult things in life. In Physics, the definition of resilience is the ability of a material to absorb energy and then release that same energy, springing back to its original shape— you might think of a rubber band, for example, after it has been shot across a room— it still comes back to its original shape. (1)
This is true of the little things that happen to us in life— we get a flat tire, or we catch strep throat, or some of life’s annoyances get us down, but our life goes back to some kind of normal afterwards. When trauma happens in our lives (someone close to us dies; someone we love and count on has an addiction; someone abuses us either emotionally or physically) particularly if it happens while we are a child, our life doesn’t go back to what it was like before. There is no going back, even when the world around us pretends that all we need to do is go back; even when we ourselves talk ourselves into thinking that’s what “should” happen. Read More