Sunday, April 24, 2011

Family... tied together by EASTER!

Gratitude Journal 4-24-11
1. Easter egg hunts
2. Beth's Easter meal! (delicious as usual)
3. Photos that remind me of precious moments...
4. Feeling welcomed
5. The gift of good rest!

'And they found the stone rolled away...

For the first time in ages my mother-in-law attended church with us today. She is almost 93 years old and now lives in an Assisted Living facility 30 minutes away. But today, we sat side by side. She allowed me to hold her hand through most of the 'preaching' - she could not hear and looked out the window in long distant gazes.

I wondered where she was. Visiting church services long ago? Reviewing previous Easter's with family and friends?

Secondly I noticed I was sitting between grandma on one side and my grand-daughter on the other. A chronological distance of over ninety years in the making. Harper was at ease, listening to the music and the different voices. She was attuned to the movements. She was more at peace than we had anticipated. It was almost as if there was an echo between her 'presence' and grandma's 'presence'.

Easter ties family all together for me!

My family was not all under one physical roof today - two more grands, son/daughter-in-law, sister/brother-in-law and family, aunts/uncles/cousins. Like millions of others we struggle with relatives far away and we long for greater time together. Visits always are too shot and too infrequent!

It reminds me of the message of the 'stone being rolled away'.

I may not have been physically present with many of those I love but I am thankful for the larger roof that covers us all... both near and far. It is Christ's LOVE! God's mercy and grace and the very gift of life itself is mystery. I don't know how the stone got moved away on that Easter morning - maybe God's hand itself OR the angels OR... who knows? I don't know why our family is 'our family' either! Why were we born at this particular time? Why are we related? Why have we been so blessed?

It is all mystery. It is not for us/me to know the answers now. Yet, in some strange way it is all about EASTER - all part of the EASTER message - ultimately all about the LOVE OF GOD!



Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm SUNDAY - not just childs play!

Gratitude Journal
1. Subtle stories and simple truths
2. Anticipation...
3. Teaching opportunities that go well!
4. Classie restaurants in small towns.
5. The 'Family of God'...

"Hosanna: to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna" in the highest!" (Matthew21:9

In a recent review of my years in ministry I began to reflect on the high holy days of the Christian calendar. How did I lead the various congregations in celebration? How did we enter into the experience? What would I attempt now that I did not do then?

One of the most glaring omissions was the involvement of adults in the pageantry! I remember well that on many a Palm Sunday we would have some form of greenery for the 'children' to walk down the aisle waving, while all the adults in the congregation smiled or sang a hymn. Some of the bystanders laughed at a wayward child who was 'doing his own then' with his palm branch. I don't remember a time when the whole congregation - particularly any adult - waved a palm branch. Maybe the one walking with the kids, trying to get them down the aisle to the altar, but never the whole 'body of Christ' we were there to embody.

What a loss! If I had it to do over again I would place a branch in every ones hand. Or better yet, have the whole church go out into the church yard, cut a small branch (first hand) and begin singing and waving the branches as we re-entered the sanctuary.

Young and old alike would be singing Hosanna in the highest. There would be singing and maybe a tambourine or two. A careful reading of the Matthew text indicates 'Nearly all the people in the crowd threw down their garments' and 'others cut branches from the trees'. There is no indication that this was child's play. No, adults were surely involved and celebrating and rejoicing... showing the children how it was done. The adults were very much involved.

Indeed, what a loss! I lost the opportunity to encourage adults to express their own deep joy of what the Christ had done for them - not just for children - but for all creation. It might have been awkward, but it might also have drawn all of us into the story a bit deeper.

O God, forward me for this small oversight along with oh so many more sins.
In the most Holy and Blessed name of Your Son - the Christ - I pray...


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Contemplation... the task of the second half of life!

Gratitude Journal 4-10-11
1. Three days of 'retreat' to Norwood Louisiana
2. Renewing kinship's with Wes, Ryan and Charlie from MROP
3. Talking to trees... and taking in all of creation!
4. The growth of men's spirituality within my own journey.
5. The 'ministry' and 'gift' to my life of Richard Rohr

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength," Isaiah 30:15

It is way past time to 'listen' to God! For so many of us reared in evangelical circles, filled with plans and programs and projects, we have missed so much.

This past weekend (April 1-3) I was blessed to join 127 other men at a rustic retreat center with the purpose of rest and to slow down. It was peaceful and very quiet. We actually heard the birds and saw squirrels and fish stirred the small pond in swift, unexpected movements. The fresh spring green was just beginning to arrive as bright new faces amongst the evergreen. They darted in and out.

We were from 22 different states and a couple of foreign countries. Most did not know one another and our life path will most likely never intersect again. There were a few grand-fathers with their sons and grandsons. One dad was surrounded by his five young adult sons. Many were loners like myself, traveling far to 'get away' and reflect.

So what did I learn? Once again I was touched by grace. I was totally free to be me. I was accepted and affirmed for who I am - warts and all. We tried out contemplation as opportunity to 'be still and know'... Why Lord haven't I embraced this avenue more? Why has it taken so long?

I wish I had encouraged my son to join me for the weekend. It is not too late. There will be other times, I pray. Lord, slowing down is something I will do. Promoting contemplation and healing is a worthy goal but it must begin in me.

May it be so Lord.