Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Five - Signs of Hope

Today's Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals is from Songbird, who lives in Maine and is one of my favorite bloggers. She writes:

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. Song of Solomon 2:10-13

In the late, late winter, as the snow begins to recede here in Maine, we begin to look almost desperately for signs of spring, signs of hope that the weather has turned and a new day is on the horizon. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Easter and Spring twine inextricably, the crocuses and daffodils peeking through the Earth as we await the risen Christ.

Share with us five signs of hope that you can see today or have experienced in the past.

Well, if someone living in Maine can be hopeful about spring, I here in Ohio should be able to be too! So here goes:

1. Sun! We had a very gray fall and early winter, but for the past couple of weeks, we have seen more of the sun - and even today, that deep blue sky that I used to see in New England. No matter how cold it is (it is in the 20s today!) the sun reminds me that spring is coming.

2. This morning on our walk, my friend and I saw the first Great Blue Heron who returned to the lake near our house. I have in the past counted up to 14 here, and it is always a treat to see them, so majestic, walking in the shallows. We live in the city, so it is even more of a treat that they come visit us here.

3. Spring Break! This afternoon begins a week of spring break for Skye and Freckleface, and Brown Eyes gets two weeks beginning today as well. We aren't going anywhere, but we will watch movies, sleep in, and just enjoy each other, I hope!

4. Soccer! I started playing soccer with a group of moms about 1.5 years ago, and next weekend we will try to begin our outdoor season. I am amazed at how much I enjoy this hour on Saturday mornings, running around and playing a game I have never played before. We are supportive of one another, play for fun, play hard, and have a great time. Two weeks ago, the coach of our high school boys team found out about us and offered free footskills clinics for us, so we have been in the gym the last two Tuesday nights - what a great opportunity!

5. M - the little boy I have been tutoring on Friday mornings - was very excited to read a book well above his level today. He worked hard to read every word, repeated the ones he couldn't get at first, and went back to the classroom literally hugging the book. As I went to leave - he showed me a butterfly he had cut out and colored. With a grin he said "I did this for you!"...I will keep that butterfly above my desk this spring as a sure sign of hope.

Thanks Songbird!

Friday, March 13, 2009

A guest blog from Starman

Hi folks, I wanted to post this Lenten reflection from Starman, well, just because I really like it! It talks about things I have been thinking about a lot, especially after reading a recent post written by my friend WisePastor which you can find at his blog Electric Circuit Rider. Let me know what you think:

On occasion I am asked "What does a scientist see in religion?" For
years my response to this has been to wonder aloud why anyone should
care what a scientist thinks on this subject? Why should it matter
more than, say, a lawyer or a doctor or a factory worker or a letter
carrier? Why should my opinion on this subject matter to anyone in
particular? You should go ask an expert.

Lately, however, in the popular culture we see articles and books by
people who seem "speak for science" on these issues. So it is worth
remarking simply that there is no consensus among scientist on any of
these issues despite what you may be reading.

Science is an amazing and wonderful thing, and if you ask me about it
sometime, I will happily give you an earful. As a species and as a
culture, we literally owe every major aspect of our modern lives to
the impact of science and associated technology, and this has been a
huge benefit to humanity. (Yes, the modern world has its multifold
dangers and problems, but we really do not want to go back to living
in a world where life expectancy is less than 40 years and most
children die of hunger or disease before reaching adolescence.)

Science as we now know it depends on two things (1) the historical
discovery and codification of the "scientific method" a few hundred
years ago, and (2) the happy fact that our universe seems to be
governed by a relatively small number of mathematical rules -- rules
that can be inferred and verified by careful observation and

Science is a powerful tool for finding detailed answers to all kinds
of important well-structured problems. But science does not help that
much to help us solve a wide range of ill-structured problems. We can
use science to predict to six decimal places where a given electron is
likely to appear. But we cannot use science to help us much in
deciding what career to choose, how to spend our time, who to marry,
who to vote for, and what the right and just thing to do is in any
given situation. For all kinds of important and challenging problems
that we face every day, science comes up short.

By the way I am not comfortable with some idea of "God of the gaps",
and I find very uncompelling this idea that there are some things that
can be explained by science while other things cannot. In fact, it
seems to me that science is extremely comprehensive when it comes to
"explaining" pretty much every aspect of our existence. Science tells
us that all of our thoughts and feelings result from a series of
complicated interactions between the neuron cells in our brains.
Science further tells us that the human animal, like all other
animals, has evolved from earlier species, and that all life is
governed by the genetic information encoded by the DNA in our cells
which follows rigorously the rules of chemistry that in turn result
from the fundamental properties of sub atomic matter and energy. This
"story of science" is supported by a vast structure of interlocking
observational evidence. This story that tells us that who we as human
creatures, and what we are made of are governed from top to bottom by
the fundamental mathematical laws. I feel strongly that this "story
of science" is important for every person to know about, even those
people who have no direct connection to science. For example, if
tomorrow morning the physicists at CERN make a discovert that allows
for a new theory to accounts for every particle ever observed -- a new
Theory of Everything -- then such a discovery will almost certainly
have huge practical impact, leading to great new technical innovations
and new discoveries that can be used to make the world a better place.

But we need more than an explanation. Even a Theory of Everything
will not help anyone understand how to live a compassionate and
fulfilling life. If I am wracked by guilt, unable to forgive the
person who hurt me, or paralyzed by an ethical dilemma, then any
"explanation" -- that all of these experiences are a by-product of
certain patterns of firing synapses in my brain -- is not actually
going to help me cope with what I am experiencing. It's not that
science fails to explain, it's just that explanations by themselves do
not actually solve our problems.

During the season of Lent, we are asked to turn inward and to reflect
on our faith. We are all on a journey of life, and the real questions
about God are not primarily concerned with whether or not there is any
scientific evidence to support or deny God's existence (there isn't).
And despite what you may have heard from Intelligent Design advocates,
it's not about finding unsolved scientific mysteries or documenting
miracles or anything else that seems to demonstrate how faith in God
trumps the laws of science. In my view none of these things gets at
the heart of the matter which is this: What is your relationship with
God and what does this mean in terms of how you will live your life?
This is what we are asked to reflect on during Lent, and indeed for
all our lives.

What is your relationship with God and what does this mean in terms of
how you will live your life? How will you answer this ill-structured,
knotty and sometimes messy and difficult question? As Christians we
look to Jesus, what he said and what he taught us to help us answer
this question. The life of Jesus, the value of the church community,
and the message we share with the world by our love.

To me it is an amazing and wonderful paradox that even though we all
journey through life alone, we also journey together. What is your
relationship with God and what does this mean in terms of how you will
live your life? Each of us must answer this for ourselves. Each of
us will have a unique answer. And yet, we come together to share in
our journeys. We find common ground even through our differences, and
this common ground is what it is all about. When we come to worship
and prayer, when we turn to God, and we turn to each other, we do so
not because we are seeking explanations, scientific or otherwise, for
it all. (Indeed, I am very suspicious of anyone using a religious
argument to "explain" something). Instead, we come to God for meaning.
We come to God to understand who we are and why we are here. We come
to God to help us cope with the pain and injustice of our world, to
cope with broken relationship and broken dreams, to help us face our
own too-obvious flaws. We come to God with gratitude, the joy of
life, the support of family and loved ones. We come to God to learn
what we must do to work together to make the world a better place, how
we must share with others, and what it means to love your neighbor.

Feed my sheep, said Jesus.

My two cents.

Can I just say, I love this man?

Friday Five - MidLent Check In

Can it really be the middle of Lent? Over at RevGalBlogPals, Sophia writes:

So here's an invitation to check in on the state of your spirit midway through "this joyful season where we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed" (Roman Missal). Hopefully there's a good deal of grace, and not too much crisis, in your mid-Lenten experience!

1. Did you give up, or take on, anything special for Lent this year?
I am trying to do several things this Lent. I want to develop a time for devotion, separate from my daily dog walks/pray-as-you-go sessions, so I have been trying to spend some time each night on my knees in prayer, and then some time journaling. This has been working out ok, probably 5 nights of 7. Not bad. I wish it could be better. A couple of things I have tried (like limiting facebooking to 1x a day, and playing my guitar) have utterly failed. BUT at least I have learned something about myself - I need and crave social interaction, and if I don't get it then I will seek it out via electronic means. Now to figure out WHY that is so important to me (is it that I am unsure of myself? Is it that I am avoiding things I really need to do?)
2. Have you been able to stay with your original plans, or has life gotten in the way? see above!

3. Has God had any surprising blessings for you during this Lent?
I wish I could say yes. Learning more about myself has been a blessing, but in many ways I am still stuck in some same old ruts, that I need to get out of.

4. What is on your inner and/or outer agenda for the remainder of Lent and Holy Week?
I am planning a meeting with my spiritual director, whom I have not seen for about 6 months. And I am ordering a copy of Kathleen Norris' Acedia today - I am surely suffering from this malady/sin, and I want to deal with it! I will continue to work on my evening devotions, but some of my daily agenda stuff needs to change. Writing a sermon all in one day (Thursday) to preach on Saturday really isn't working! I need to come up with a better pattern, that still fits with the girls' and our family schedules.

5. Where do you most long to see resurrection, in your life and/or in the world, this Easter?
Ah. I long to feel an inner spring that has nothing to do with the miserable weather. I long to be a more empathetic mom. I long to become a better preacher and really feel I have a good word to give to the people each week. I long for our church to know how much it has to offer, and to offer that to the world.

Bonus: Share a favorite scripture, prayer, poem, artwork, or musical selection that speaks Lenten spring to your heart.

This song came up on my iPod this morning and I realized it is all about where I am right now:

The words really fit my life, and how I feel, straying again and again,
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Thank you Sophia!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Lent. The concept of repentance and making new are really resonating with me this year. I have some habits that I know I need to break, or to at least change, and I am trying so hard to do so. But the ruts are worn so deep, the responses are almost unconscious. I cannot do this on my own, but I guess that is the point, isn't it? Even Jesus had the angels ministering to him in the desert.

I pray that I will find some angels to help me through the wilderness.