Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sabbatical Blessing

There is something perched in our garage that my three year old grandson describes as 'amazing'. It is a wooden houseboat, almost finished, in the process of being built by my husband. Eighteen feet long and six feet wide, complete with windows, decks, sleeping area, 'bathroom' and kitchen, she sits, waiting patiently for July, when she will float down the Erie Canal and take us away from the world until September.

This little life adventure will take place as part of my husband's sabbatical...a three month rest from pastoral duties, from which we hope to return physically refreshed and spiritually renewed.

And so last Sunday morning, at the close of the service, my husband and I were called forward in order to receive a blessing from the congregation as we begin our sabbatical journey. I knew that this had been planned. I thought it was a beautiful idea. But what I didn't know is that the hands that were laid upon us would belong, not to adults, but to children.

They came hesitantly, a little shy, unsure about placing their hands on us as we knelt. But as we encouraged them, they surrounded us with grins, and chubby fingers, and an air of innocence and spirituality that I have seldom felt before. To my left, a little boy lightly placed his hand on my shoulder, smiled shyly, and whispered our names as the pastor started to pray.

And as I knelt at that altar, listening to the pastor's words, surrounded by these little ones, I thought about Jesus, and how he wanted to be surrounded by little ones too. And I thought about his words, and wondered if, when Jesus said let the little children come to me, was it really so that he could bless them, or was it so that they could bless him?



David and Glenys,

May God, who is present in sunrise and nightfall,
and in the crossing of the sea,
guide your feet as you go.

May God, who is with you when you sit
and when you stand,
encompass you with love
and lead you by the hand.

May God, who knows your path
and the places where you rest,
be with you in your waiting,
be your good news for sharing,
and lead you in the way that is everlasting,
with fair winds and following seas.

Amen.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Power of One


It is Sunday morning, 9.30 am. I walk into my classroom, armed with my lesson, which I have spent quite a lot of time preparing. And I am met by one solitary child sitting on the couch. I can't help it. I am disappointed. Not by her, but by the empty chairs that surround us.
 
Has this been your experience too?

And yet as I take my place beside this faithful young girl, and her mom who teaches alongside me, I remember that some of Jesus' most powerful lessons were taught, not to the crowd, but to the individual.

I remember Nicodemus, who after his night time encounter with Jesus, would undoubtedly use his position to quietly, yet powerfully, witness to the Sanhedrin.
 
I remember the woman at the well, who after her conversation with Jesus is so excited that she has the attention of the entire town.
 
I remember Zacchaeus, who after his meal with Jesus, would astonish so many with his utterly transformed life.
 
Jesus knew the power of one.

And so next time I walk into my classroom and I am met by one solitary child, I will not be disappointed. Instead, I will thank God for the opportunity to teach...because today, I might just be teaching a Nicodemus, or a woman at the well, or a Zacchaeus.

And I will remember the power of one.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What's the Purpose?

So this is what I see outside my window this morning. My front deck is all newly painted. My purple pansies sit proudly in their pot. My perennials are making their appearance. The sun is shining and the birds are feeding.

But all this spring beauty is out shadowed by a million, annoying, little shriveled buds that are strewn absolutely everywhere I look. They insist on appearing every day, blown incessantly from the maple tree above and covering both front and back decks. There is no end to them.They are the sole reason why my broom perches permanently beside my front door.

But no matter how often I venture out to sweep these annoying buds away, they still manage to find their way into my home, where they are trodden underfoot, squashed into the rug, and scattered on the hardwood floors.

And yet without those annoying buds, I know that my maple tree would never blossom. If I found some way to remove this temporary annoyance I would never get to see those fantastic leaves that will turn a brilliant orange and red in the fall. And so I reluctantly have to admit that what is a problem now, does actually have a purpose.

And I know there's a life lesson in there somewhere, for me and my children. I just hope that I will remember it.

Friday, May 2, 2014

What is Your Explanation for the Resurrection?

Holy Land Visit, 2013
If Jesus' enemies had stolen his body, all they had to do to disprove the resurrection was to produce it.

If Jesus' friends had stolen his body, they would have been hunted down, arrested, and charged for the crime.

I am sitting in my last lecture at Bible Study Fellowship as my leader says these words. They make so much sense to me that I struggle to understand how anyone could disagree with them. No intelligent person with any knowledge of historical data could argue with the fact that Jesus Christ was a real, breathing, human being, who lived and walked the streets of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

And once we acknowledge that fact, how do we explain his resurrection? If this was a story made up by his disciples, why would they risk their lives to spread such an incredible, unbelievable, unimaginable lie? Why would Paul suffer beatings, and shipwreck, and imprisonment? Why would Peter ask to be crucified upside down? Why would Stephen choose to be stoned to death?

If I am one of the millions of Christians duped by an enormous lie, then so be it. But I am convinced, along with Paul, that the only plausible explanation of what happened on that Sunday morning so long ago was the impossible truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. No cave could contain him.

And if I believe this astonishing fact, then I must also believe that God has the power to do immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine.

Imagination is a wonderful thing. What do you imagine for your children? When you close your eyes, what do you dream for them and their future? 

Be encouraged. God can do more.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Temporary Landscape

Walking on Frozen Lake Michigan
On Wednesday morning I looked down through the window as the plane from Heathrow to Chicago brought me home. Thousands of feet below, light sparkled on Lake Michigan's blue waters, making it hard to believe that just one month ago, I was walking, along with hundreds of others, on her frozen surface, witnessing a landscape that was utterly amazing.

People had told me about the frozen waves. I could already see them in my mind- there would be hundreds of little frozen ripples on a flat sheet of ice and snow. But nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, it felt more like traversing a mountain than a lake.

I stood, several hundred feet from the shore, beyond the end of the pier, where fish would normally be swimming in the deep, and surveyed this unbelievable landscape.

Huge rectangular blocks of ice had pushed their way up from the frozen depths, making mini-mountains on which people climbed and children slid. The lighthouse stood captive- totally engulfed in frozen fingers, like an alien from a horror movie.

For as far as the eye could see, the lake had become a mass of ice caves, boulders, deep caverns, pits, and ice platforms. People clambered to the highest points to capture the scene on camera. Because now, of course, it is all gone. Every peak and cave, every pit and platform-  forced to give way to warmth, and blue, and calm.

We walked a temporary landscape... just as we do every day of our lives.

But as we walk, wherever we look, Easter whispers hope. 

No matter how deep the snow, winter gives way to spring. No matter how cold the ground, earth gives way to flowers. No matter how bare the branches, frost gives way to buds.

And no matter how certain the grave, death gives way to life.

What a wonderful message for our children!

He is risen! Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Time To Let Go

'Time to Let Go', a sculpture in Traverse City, MI
One spring evening about twenty years ago I was running around a tree in our back garden. I was tired. My back was sore. With one hand I simultaneously pushed and held upright my youngest son's bike. He was riding it. Without stabilizers. For the first time.

I thought he would never get it. The bike wobbled precariously as he careered around the lawn, trying to keep his balance. The thought of giving up and trying again tomorrow was more than appealing, at least to me. But he clung to the handle bars, determined, his little legs whizzing around on the pedals. It was time. I let go.

And joy of joys...he was riding alone! We laughed as he continued to wobble, but despite several falls, my son no longer needed my hand. And the stabilizers were forever discarded.

Twenty years later, I am still letting go. In all sorts of ways, and of all sorts of things.

But I don't let go of joy. I don't let go of hope. I don't let go of the One who helps me keep my balance as I career through life, whizzing around worries, and pitfalls, and Lent.

How could I discard the best and strongest stabilizer I know, the One who is holding me, and all the children in my life, as we wobble home? I couldn't.




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Difference Between Me and Jesus

I recently discovered a marvelous little app that allows me to manage and track my followers on Twitter. 'Unfollowers' sends a message via my inbox every day to alert me when anyone decides to stop following me.

I check their name to see who they are. I briefly peruse their profile. It hurts, just a little. I wonder, just for a moment, why they would choose to unfollow me. But then, to make me feel better, I do what I'm sure most Tweeters do...I simply hit the red 'unfollow' button next to their name, and do what they did to me. Why worry? Why follow someone who doesn't follow back? Far better, methinks, to focus on the 603 faithful followers I do have, than on the one I lost today.

And then there's Jesus...who needs no app to alert him to new unfollowers; who instantly knows their name; who knows exactly why someone would walk away from his truth; who hurts, not a little, but a whole lot when this happens; and who would never, ever choose to 'unfollow' them; but rather- insanely, unbelievably, unselfishly, crazily, sets out over any and all terrain to bring that one lost follower back to him.

Like that persistent shepherd who falls and stumbles as he searches against all odds for that one lost sheep, Jesus steps out over the treacherous terrain of atheism, skepticism, unbelief, and downright ridicule with the sole aim of lifting his child high on his shoulders, and carrying her all the way home, rejoicing.

Now that's what I call a Savior.

And that's the difference between Jesus and me.

And that is why I teach.