Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Five - Social Media

This Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals seemed like a good one, since I have not posted since October (!). I have been wondering what is bloggable and what is not. I have been wondering why I chose to blog and what I get out of blogging. So let me respond to the FF here:

Kathrynzj writes:

I had the joy of spending time with Songbird last weekend, someone I would have never met had it not been for the blogosphere. Now we keep in touch using a large variety of methods: blog (hers a lot, mine not so much lately), facebook, twitter, text messaging, chat and email. So far there has been no skype.

It got me to thinking of the pros and cons of these relatively new means of communication and interconnecting and so I ask you the following:

1) What have been the benefits for you of social networking (blog, twitter, facebook, etc...)

The benefits are many - meeting new friends through RevGals (although I have not met many IRL, there are a few who seem like kindred souls), finding old friends through Facebook and keeping in touch with people's daily lives, even those who live in the same town but don't have time to call, and for my two best college friends, feeling like a part of one another's daily lives twenty years after graduation.

2) Which medium do you use the most? Or if you use them all, for what do you use each of them?
I have used chat programs for years, since Starman was in Australia in 1989 and we got in trouble for all the bandwidth we used (hah! kilobytes, it must have been) while using emacs chat on Unix machines. By far, chat has been my most used social media - my two best friends from college are on Windows Messenger, and I often chat with at least one of them every day, although they are in the West and I am here two time zones away. My mom and I use Skype, and I always have my FB window open while I work. I find FB most useful for keeping in touch - I often have a quick minute to write a comment on a post, and when I post, I find that lots of friends chime in with support or a laugh when I need it most.

3) If you could invent a networking site (with no limits on your imagination), what would it provide? What would it not provide?
Hmmmm...I agree with some others that all the silly games (Farmville, Mafia Wars, etc) could go away from FB and it would be better as a result. And the chat feature on FB does not work well at all. Otherwise, I am pretty happy with what I use. In fact, I use it too much! It feels like a guilty pleasure to pop open that FB window a lot of the time, when I am supposed to be doing something "useful".

4) Who have you met that you would not have met if it were not for the 'miracle' of social networking?

I was so happy to meet up with some RevGals at the Festival of Homies last year, and I hope to do the same this year. Otherwise, I haven't met anyone new, just a bunch of old high school buddies. I wonder about that. I am not an extreme extrovert in my blog or on RevGals, but there are bunches of RevGals with whom I would really enjoy spending time. I guess I am a bit intimidated since everyone else seems to know everyone else so well.

5) Who do you secretly pray does not one day try to 'friend/follow' you?
I am glad that there is an "unfriend" feature on FB. 'Nuff said.

BONUS: What was the most random/weird/unsettling/wonderful connection you made that would not have happened if it were not for the ease of which we can find each other in the computer realm?

Nothing amazing, but getting back in touch with my seminary faculty advisor has been richly rewarding, as has the support I have received from HS friends, actually some friends I had from 1st grade! For that reason, FB continues to be my favorite.

Thanks KZJ!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rev Gals Friday Five - Lifesavers!

I found this Friday Five intriguing and worth musing about, and it is a good way for me to finally post! Thanks Kathrynzj. Here is her post over at RevGals and my answers:

In honor of BE Three I thought I'd offer up a Friday Five of lifesavers. I'm going on our cruise (are you?) because I am excited about meeting up with my blogging buddies again, I am interested in the speaker and because when I went on the first one my life was saved (okay, that may be a little over-dramatized but if you saw me getting on the boat and then the difference when getting off the boat you would know of what I speak).

I don't expect - or need - another life saving moment but I want to support the conference.

Of course lifesavers can come in all sizes and with far less drama. I would readily admit that I have considered a person (children's sermon substitute), the location of a bathroom, and a beverage (the last diet coke in the back of the fridge - score!) all to be lifesavers at one point or another.

And so today I ask you - dramatic or fairly common - what have been/are your lifesavers:

1) Your lifesaving food/beverage. Can I have more than one? The first would be Coke Classic. Not diet. Even while on Weight Watchers I allow myself 8 oz. a day at lunch. There is nothing like the flavor and the fizz and that nice little jolt of caffeine to keep me going, especially since I don't drink coffee or black tea.
Then there is a daily hot cocoa, preferably made by Starman using our cappuccino machine (given to me by my dear M-I-L) - I use skim milk, Hershey's special dark cocoa, and granulated sugar. Yum. I have to give this up while on WW and it is quite painful!
But really, chocolate in any form, mostly dark, has gotten me through life - through having three under 5's in my house, through long nights of studying physics and chemistry and then Tillich and Barth.

2) Your lifesaving article of clothing. I have a few of these too, but I will just mention two - my light blue polarfleece zip-up from REI - comfy and warm. And my Wicked Good Slippers, fleece lined with plastic soles, from LL Bean. Did I say warm? And did I say I spend my winters being COLD all the time? Yeah. Wool socks, too.

3) Your lifesaving movie/book/tv show/music.
When I am down, Phil Collins cheers me up. No doubt. Or helps me wallow. Depending. Right now, I like

Follow You Follow Me, which epitomizes the 25 years Starman and I have been together. I saw this in concert, and loved the background too!

It doesn't fail to bring me up when I am down!

4) Your lifesaving friend.
Many of these, actually. Too many to list - I have been blessed. Two are my best friends from college, who now live 40 minutes apart from one another in Colorado. We've been together since we were 18. We lived together, and Starman lived with us, so they know him well. We IM each other three or four times a week. They accept me for who I am, and they know me well.

Starman of course. I never get tired of being with him! Looking forward to a date night tonight. He is funny, and fun, and caring. And sometimes he even cleans the bathrooms!

5) Your lifesaving moment.
One that I can think of happened about 6 weeks after Skye, my eldest daughter, was born. After four miscarriages and a stillbirth, her very presence seemed like a precarious gift. She was "born blue" with the cord wrapped around her neck and had to be pulled out with forceps. It took her two weeks to learn how to nurse. I felt as though we were fighting for her survival. But one day, when she was six weeks old, she looked at me and smiled. And I knew she was ok, and I knew I loved her, and I knew I could trust that love. I don't know why I received the gift of her life, or the gift of the two others who followed her, and did not get to hold the five before, except in my heart. But I finally trusted the gift, that day.

Of course there were more of these as well...

What about you?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sermon for Pentecost 15B

(ed. note - this sermon has no real title, cause I couldn't think of one!)
Did you find yourself missing the smell of fresh pencils and new markers these past few weeks? Did you maybe find yourself wanting a new notebook or a new backpack? Maybe you even found yourself shopping for some back-to-school clothes – at least for fun!

I know the majority of you here no longer start school each September, or even have anyone in your household who is in that mode any more. But there is something about the fall weather, and the air in September, that makes us think of new starts, and school days, isn’t there? Of course, you know in my house, I am the only one who doesn’t go to school. This year, I have three girls at Amazing Elementary – a kindergartener, a third grader and a fifth grader. And of course my husband Starman never left school – he got his PhD in 1991 and since then he has been teaching physics in one form or another at university.

There is a certain sense of expectation that comes with September, no matter how long it has been since you last sat in a classroom. Here at MidCity First, as well as at other churches around this square and in fact, around the country, this is the Sunday when we start our programming for the year – new Sunday school classes, choir at the 10:50 service, a sense of “hustle and bustle” to the church that we don’t see as much of during the summer. New Sunday school teachers are commissioned – in fact, this past week I met with 8 people, including a some of you here , to begin a year of Disciple Bible study, that, if all goes well, will finish up next June. Oh, and by the way, I would love for a few more people to join that class, so see me after service if you are interested! The class will meet from 6:30 to 8:30 on Wednesday evenings starting September 23.

So, with all this talk about school and classes, it seems kind of fitting that our scripture passages for this week are centered around the ideas of teaching, and wisdom, and knowledge. We have a passage in Proverbs that talk about Wisdom.
And in James, we hear about what it takes to be a teacher, and how dangerous the very act of speaking can be. And then, in Mark, Jesus gives his disciples a pop quiz – one that Peter alone seems to pass, but then Peter fails the big midterm exam that comes a few verses later.

We started reading from the book of Proverbs last week, and will continue with this book as our Old Testament lection next week as well. Proverbs is kind of a sticky book. A lot of short sayings make up the book – sayings that people like to quote when they work for them – like “better a neighbor who is nearby, than kindred who are far away” (Prov. 27:10). But like most short sayings, there is often another side to the story.

In today’s reading we hear about Wisdom. Wisdom is one of those great and wonderful things. Wisdom is a quality we want to possess, but which remains elusive and hard to define. To help the reader gain an understanding of Wisdom, the writer of this section of Proverbs has created a character, a literary device: Wisdom personified as a woman. This character, Wisdom, has some things to say. And some of these are not very nice things. In this section of Proverbs, Wisdom is full of scorn and anger. She is angry that her people are not listening to her, angry that she has stretched out her hand to help and the people have ignored her. A teacher whose words are ignored by the students is not a happy teacher! So, says Wisdom, because you have chosen to ignore me, because you have chosen to reject my advice, I will not be there to save you.

Wait a minute. If this Wisdom is an aspect of God, as we may believe it to be, then is this a God we want to know? This isn’t the God revealed in Jesus, who grants us grace even at the last hour. This God, this Wisdom, seems particularly devoid of grace. I have to tell you, I am not really sure what to make of Wisdom, here, laughing at those who have messed up.

H. James Hopkins, writing for the preaching resource Feasting On the Word, has this to say:
Many of us struggle with this side of Wisdom, this swaggering, self assured, “I would listen to me if I were you” representative of God. Perhaps the poet who penned Proverbs overstates his/her case just a bit. Perhaps God does not actually laugh at the calamities we bring upon ourselves. Still it is difficult to argue with the truth of Wisdom’s warning. When we forget about the ways of God, we often get ourselves into some terrible predicaments. When we think we are beyond the basic lessons of loving justice, doing kindness, and walking humbly with God, we often end up doing or saying things we regret.

Did you ever have a teacher like Wisdom is personified here? A teacher who made you realize the consequences of your actions? A teacher who pushed you a little bit, maybe made you grow in ways you didn’t want to grow?

My eighth grade algebra teacher, Mr. M, was such a teacher. I can’t think of anyone who liked Mr. M. He was strict, and never once cracked a smile in class. And he introduced us eighth graders to the horror of pop quizzes. We never knew when they were going to come. We would walk into his class and sit down (none of us ever talked before class when we walked into that classroom). And he would always march in right after the bell, at a fast clip. And then would come those dreaded words, never on any particular day – he was very good at surprising us, without any warning at all. “Put your books inside the desk or on the floor.” That’s all I remember. “Put your books inside the desk or on the floor” and then he would hand out the paper for the day’s pop quiz.

I learned to be scared in Mr. M’s class. But I also learned to be prepared. I learned a lot of algebra that year, and maybe even enough so that I was ready for the rigors of engineering school when they came along 5 years later.

The kind of God portrayed in Proverbs is not an easy God to live with. I am not even sure I do believe in that kind of God. I think it's a huge mistake to tell a story of God's judgment and wrath without also telling the story of God's love and saving grace. But the warnings from Proverbs ring true, nonetheless. I have seen the consequences of my actions played out in ways that have taught me a lot – and made me even more grateful for the grace I know God provides.

The passage from James is more of a cautionary tale than an admonition in the way of Proverbs. James is considered a form of wisdom literature, but in James the words that are spoken are more reminiscent of Jesus’ own sayings.
This week, James has a lot to say about a very small part of our bodies – the tongue. The writer uses every kind of comparison to make the point of how much power is wielded by what we say, and how we say it. This is not the time to bring out the adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” – do you remember that one from your school days? Was that true for you? I think this is one of those cases when a proverb doesn’t really work.

Language is a powerful tool. And when you are in a position of power over others, it becomes especially important to be aware how you use language. Think of the teachers you have known who have inspired you, encouraged you, challenged you in ways that made you a better person than you were before you knew them.

My track coach and calculus teacher, Mr. K, was one of those teachers whose words I will never forget. Mr. K was not a young man when I met him – and he certainly wasn’t a runner. He had been stricken with disease when he was a child and had been hospitalized for over a year. And one of his legs was about 2 inches shorter than the other, causing him to walk with a permanent limp.

But he was an inspiring and encouraging coach and teacher. His attitude was that each of us should try to do our best, every day, in the classroom and on the field. He would print up time sheets after our races – not noting so much who came in first, or second, or last – but comparing our times on the course to our previous times and noting when we had beaten our time – had gotten a “personal best” for the course. When we ran a race, he would pace up and down the field about 100 yards from the finish line, yelling for each person on the team – and he would not stop cheering until his last runner had crossed the line. I know – because sometimes that last runner was me. As soon as I came out of the woods and started that last sprint toward the finish of our cross-country course, I would hear him. “Come on Di! Come on Di!” he would shout – he had nicknames for everyone on the team.

One year our girls’ cross country team wasn’t a particularly strong one, and I happened to be the seventh best runner on the team. Seven runners went to the state meet every year, and so, I along with my six much better teammates started some extra practices to get ready for the meet. The problem was, I was always a few minutes behind my fellow runners, no matter how hard I tried. One night after practice I was waiting for my mom to pick me up, and feeling pretty sorry for myself, and wondering if I should just quit the team. Mr. K was walking to his car when he saw me. He came over and put an arm around me. “Tell Uncle Frankie what’s wrong” he said. We never called him that, but the funny name he called himself did get me to smile. I told him how I felt like I wasn’t good enough to run in states, and I was just letting my team down. “I chose you to run that race” he told me, “and I think you’re good enough. Just get out there and do your best.” A few weeks later, I ran the race. I didn’t come in last, and Mr. Kelley was there, cheering me on, somehow managing to be at several points in the course, just when I needed to see him. “Come on, Di!”

Every now and then when I go back to my hometown, I’ll meet up with Mr. K in the grocery store or around town. And I will always remember how he encouraged me – how his words made me be a better person, if not a better runner.

The tongue can be used to encourage or discourage. That’s true not just for those who have jobs that label them as “teachers” but for all of us. Those of you sitting in the pews tonight might think “well, no one really pays any attention to what I say. It doesn’t really matter.”

But I can tell you, your words matter to me, even when I am the one who is supposed to be speaking. I am always looking out for those of you who are smiling and nodding at me during the service (don’t worry I don’t expect any amens!) And it means a great deal to me when one of you tells me afterward that something I said resonated with your own experience. I wouldn’t be here, if I couldn’t also trust you to tell me when I mess up (there are a few of you who can do that well) and to tell me to get out of the way on occasion so we can all worship.

Words matter. As United Methodists, here in this place today, I would not be before you and you would not be here listening if we did not agree on this. Indeed, for me an important component of my call to ministry is a call to preaching. But how does God act in the world through our words? Who speaks for God?

I must confess that I've never much liked that prayer from Psalm 19, the one we said at the end of our call to worship: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” When I was growing up, we had a preacher who said those words – and then went on to condemn us all from the pulpit. Now he was a real “fire and brimstone” preacher – something like the writer of our Proverbs passage. And, I will confess, after a while I became convinced that this man was not speaking well on behalf of the God that I knew, the God of Love.

So is seems kind of pretentious for me to pray those same words up here before I preach. I know despite my studies and training and earnest striving that my view of God is really just one small sliver of all the wonderful things that God is about, and I know that for all my experiences, I cannot hope to comprehend all of the different ways in which God interacts with the people of the world, with the people here in this place. So from my small and limited view, despite my prayers, I am not going to get it right every time. Occasionally I am going to miss the mark. Some of my sermons are going to be clunkers. And despite the fact that I stand here before you now, my words are my own words, not God's words. I do not, by myself, speak for God.

And yet, I do believe that something powerful, something of God, can happen when we are together – when we use our tongues to praise God together. The thing is – it takes all of us, singers and musicians, preachers and hearers – to make worship happen. Not just the words of my mouth. But the prayers and hopes and open hearts of all of us. For the truth of God's words comes not in the speaking in one voice, but through the voices of many. Together, all of us can speak for God. And the words of God act not just in the speaking, but in the listening, where each of us is here together. Yet alone in our hearts, we each find the one truth we need to hear today. Just as God speaks in many voices, we each receive from God in accordance with our where we are and what we need to hear.

So consider, as James tells us, how we can all use our tongues in wise ways instead of foolish ones. Let us look to each other for models. Consider those wise and wonderful teachers who have shown us what it means to speak with wisdom. And remember, each of you are a speaker on behalf of the family of God. Your voice can be God's voice. As you go forth from this place, know that the God of truth goes with you. Know that you, each of you, has something to say, a word to share, that can encourage someone, and bring the Good News to someone who needs to hear it today. Go forth to share what you know – this Jesus, who came to lose his life so that we may all be saved. Thanks be to God.


Friday, September 4, 2009

RevGals Friday Five - Recharge!

Hello friends, it has been a LONG time since I have paid any attention to this here blog. Mostly, I have been confining myself to SpaceBook, because I just dig the instant feedback and for some reason when I blog, I get all concerned over whether anyone reads what I write. Not a good reason to blog.

This Friday Five, from one of my fave bloggers, Sally who blogs here brought me back. Here is what she writes over at RGBP:

A few weeks ago my lap-top battery died, suddenly I found myself looking at a blank screen and was rather relieved to find that it was only the battery and not the whole computer that had failed. This morning a new battery arrived in the post, and suddenly I am mobile again!

After a week with what feels like wall to wall meetings, and Synod looming on the horizon for tomorrow I find myself pondering my own need to recharge my batteries. This afternoon Tim and I are setting off to explore the countryside around our new home, I always find that walking in the fresh air away from phones and e-mails recharges me. But that is not the only thing that restores my soul, so do some people, books, pieces of music etc....

So I wonder what/ who gives you energy?

1. Is there a person who encourages and uplifts you, whose company you seek when you are feeling low?
That would have to be my husband, Starman...we have been through a lot together, and he is a great listener, comforter, and even better a great dancer! We don't usually get down at the same time, so we can bring one another up. On October 25, we will celebrate 25 years of togetherness (our first date was that night in 1984, when I was a freshman in college and he was a senior).

2. How about a piece of music that either invigorates or relaxes you?
When I am feeling low, I like music that has a beat, to lift me up. I like some of Phil Collins' or Genesis' stuff, and lately Axel F, the theme song from Beverly Hills Cop of all things, has been playing loud in my car.

3. Which book of the Bible do you most readily turn to for refreshment and encouragement? Is there a particular story that brings you hope?

I love the "comfort passages" in Isaiah. This week while at the bedside of a parishioner I read Isaiah 25 to a woman who has been in her hospital bed for 3 months.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 8Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

9It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

4. A bracing walk or a cosy fireside?

Both, in that order! I walk every day, and I do mean every day, no matter what the weather...and it clears my head and recharges me and readies me for what lies ahead. But in the evening, a cosy (love that British spelling Sally!) fireside is the place to be, with the family gathered round.

5. Are you feeling refreshed and restored at the moment or in need of recharging, write a prayer or a prayer request to finish this weeks Friday Five....
I am in serious need of a recharge after a very busy summer of trying to fit work in around the girls' summer schedules! But today, Starman is taking the three, right after school, for a weekend in Michigan at his parents' cabin. I can't go, since I have to preach. It will be the first time, ever, that I have been alone for more than a few hours in our house! I have been looking forward to it for weeks. I have a long list of cleaning chores, but the hammock is already set up in the backyard, and it promises to be a beautiful weekend - my prayer is that I can balance making the house look better with taking some time to read and reflect and journal. If you could pray that I end the weekend feeling refreshed, recharged, and accomplished, I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you! And if you are not a reader of RGBP, post your own recharging thoughts in the comments :)

Thank you Sally!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Five - Exercise!

Sophia over at RevGalBlogPals has created a meme based on one of my favorite things - exercise! So, without further ado:

She writes:
So how about you and your beautiful temple of the Holy Spirit?

1. What was your favorite sport or outdoor activity as a child? I loved them all - my mom played basketball, softball, tennis with us. We skated on the cranberry bog near our house. Once, my best friend David and I took a yardstick and measured 50 yards on our street so we could run 50 yard dashes and time one another. He taught me how to hit a wiffle ball. We climbed trees, and rode our bikes everywhere. In the winter, we had great sledding hills nearby. We lived near a small lake, and the ocean, so swimming was another favorite pastime. We spent a LOT of time outside, and it was fun!

2. P.E. class--heaven or the other place?
I actually really enjoyed P.E., starting in 7th grade, when my new best friend and I decided to take it 5 days a week because we liked the teacher, Miss Littlefield. With all that practice, although I had very little innate athletic ability, I learned to swing on the rings all the way across the gym, to run the hurdles, and to do at least three pull-ups. I learned, more than that, to enjoy sports and that practice made me better at them.
In high school, P.E. became more dull, but by then I was running track and didn't really have to pay attention to it.
In my college, we were required to take 4 semesters of P.E. class to graduate - this was a very nerdy engineering school, so it was kind of an interesting requirement. There, I learned how to scull on the Charles River (really fun!), how to play water polo, and a little bit about rock'n'roll partner dance. Again, really fun!

3. What is your favorite form of exercise now?
I walk 6 days a week with my Golden Retriever dog Dunstan, around a small lake near our house in the early morning. These walks are always what I need, whether they are alone with the dog (when I listen to pray-as-you-go on my iPod and generally try to be in a state of prayer) or with several close friends.
On Saturdays, and a couple of nights a week, I have been playing soccer with a group of moms who are mostly like me - 40 something, in basically ok shape, with varying levels of skill. It is really fun to play a team sport and not be as self conscious as the teenager I was the last time I played! You need to understand, I never, ever saw myself as a jock, especially since my mom is one, and can beat me still at just about every sport. So I marvel that I can actually score a goal once in a while.

4. Do you like to work out solo or with a partner?
Both - although I never look forward to the solo walks as much as the ones with friends, they are often just what I need when I haven't taken the time to pray.

5. Inside or outside?
Outside. All the time. No such thing as too cold, too hot, or too rainy or snowy when I have finally accumulated the right equipment after all these years - rainpaints, rain jacket, layers, waterproof walking shoes, crampons for icy sidewalks, a headlamp - I will not be deterred!

Thanks Sophia! This was fun and one of my favorite topics!

An Update - if you can call it that

Hello gentle readers,
I have been quite remiss in posting to this blog, and I notice those who used to read it haven't been lately, probably because my posts have been well, rather DULL! But that is my life - watching girls grow up, writing sermons, trying to keep the house in some sort of order, walking my big fuzzy dog and petting my too furry cats. Not very interesting. But lots of fun!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Watching for the Morning - Pentecost 4B

His daughter was dying. He was sure of it now. The little, ragged breaths she took had slowed down and he could barely hear them. Her body, once lithe and strong, now sank into the blanket on the mat he had laid on the floor beside their own. Her mother would not leave her side – she sat there all day, all night, moistening her child’s dry lips with water, praying silently, singing all the childhood songs she could remember.

She had only been this way for a week. The fever came on suddenly, and would not leave her. But she hadn’t eaten, and yesterday she couldn’t even swallow the little bit of water her mother tried to give her. She was dying, he was sure of it.

He had been in the synagogue every morning and every evening to pray, joining the minyan of old men there for the death-anniversaries of their wives or their fathers. He had asked everyone he met to pray for her. He had called the doctor in not just once, but every day, but at this point even the doctor with all his ideas and remedies didn’t know what to do.

It was from one of his neighbors that he heard that this man Jesus had come to town. Jairus had been hearing about Jesus for a while now – he seemed to be attracting a bigger and bigger following. Some people said he had performed miracles – had cured a man who had a withered hand, made a paralyzed man walk again, had made many sick people well again. But then again, he had done some of this healing on the Sabbath, in direct contradiction to the Law. And the last Jairus had heard, this Jesus was over on the other side of the lake, hanging out with Gentiles, even talking to pig farmers. Pig farmers! Talk about your unclean Gentiles!

After praying in the synagogue that morning, he went back home to see how she was doing. His wife met him at the door. He had never seen her look like this – her face drawn, her whole body curling in upon itself. But it was the fear in her eyes that hit him the hardest. He had never seen her so afraid. “She’s not speaking any more, Jairus, and she won’t respond to me at all!” his wife said, “Please, do something! She is going to die!”

It was that fear that drove him back out. He headed for the doctor’s house – but on the way he saw the crowd, with Jesus in the middle of them. Some of his friends from the synagogue were there, on the outskirts of the group, trying to seem uninterested and aloof. They saw the desperation in his eyes.

When he saw Jesus, that desperation took over. No one else could save her. This man had healed so many, he knew it now. Jesus could save her, too. Ignoring his friends’ stares and whispers, he pushed to the front of the crowd and fell at Jesus’ feet, “Please, sir, please, you can make her well, I know you can. Please heal my daughter, my only daughter. Come and lay your hands on her, so she may be made well, and live. Come, please, lay your hands on her so she made be made well and live.”

Have you been where Jairus is? Have you been to that place of desperation – that place where you find yourself just begging for something to change in your life…that place where you will do anything to make it happen?

Our Psalm for today, Psalm 130, speaks from that place. This Psalm is titled “A Song of Ascents” and is one of a group of songs with this name. It is thought that these songs were sung by faithful Jews on their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a festival celebration. On their journey, they would sing or chant these songs to express their feelings as a group, but also as individuals. It is interesting that these psalms are not all psalms of joy, but speak of the many different emotions the pilgrims may have been experiencing on their journey.

Psalm 130 begins at the point where Jairus is when he speaks to Jesus. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” The depths, the deep places of our souls, where we can do nothing but cry out to God.

Our Old Testament lesson, from the 2nd letter of Samuel, also speaks from this place. This summer we have been reading about David – about his anointing by Samuel – the youngest son of Jesse, brought in from the fields. And last week, about his defeat of Goliath – the little guy with the slingshot and no armor defeating the mighty warrior.

But now David is in a different place. David is in the depths of his soul. Saul, the previous king of Israel, had spent months chasing David and trying to kill him while asserting his own authority. And Saul’s son, Jonathan, had stood up for David against his father. David had run from Saul, and had even had the chance to kill Saul, but he had not taken it. David and Saul had continued as adversaries, with Jonathan trying to support David, until a final battle with the Philistines, when Jonathan is killed and Saul, badly wounded, kills himself so the Philistines will not have the satisfaction of killing him.

In our passage for today, David uses an ancient hymn called the Song of the Bow to express his grief and sorrow – not just for his close friend Jonathan, but also for his adversary Saul. His words echo through the ages in a cry of pain and loss, especially the last verse, where we read of his deep love for his friend.

Unlike the gospel reading, neither the 1st Samuel reading or the reading from the Psalms offer healing. In both of these readings, we hear instead the pain and agony of fresh grief – we hear the cries of those who are overwhelmed by all life has thrown at them.

Can you hear your own voice in those cries? What do you do when you are in that place, that place of depth and sorrow, that place of grief and fear, the place where you are so overwhelmed? How do you move from that place? Is it even possible to do that?

I believe all of us encounter those places in our lives. I know I have shared here some of those places in my own life. There are places, it seems, when God has left us, when we are all alone, and we have no idea where to turn.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord…where is the morning, the dawn we seek? Why are we stuck in the darkness?

When I was a little girl, I was a pretty nervous kid. One night my cousins from Belgium were at my grandmother’s house for a visit– Su, who was my age, and David, who was the same age as my sister. We were having so much fun playing together that we decided it would be a great idea to sleep over that night. So, around 8 o’clock, my parents left for home, about 20 minutes away, and my grandmother got us all settled in bed. It didn’t seem to take anyone else very long to get to sleep, but I tossed and turned and began to worry and fret. I didn’t have the stuffed elephant I usually slept with. Would I ever be able to fall asleep? What if I didn’t sleep all night? My grandmother was a pretty strict woman, and I thought if I woke her up, she was going to be really mad at me. But finally my worries got the best of me, and I tiptoed into the living room. My grandmother heard me, and came out of her bedroom. I tearfully told her I just couldn’t sleep. Instead of scolding me, she offered to call my dad, and while we waited for him to come, she told me how she herself had been scared to sleep away from home, and how when she went to Girl Scout camp she couldn’t sleep all night, either. I was not scolded by her, or by my dad who got out of his own bed to collect me. And once back home, I fell asleep immediately. The dawn came again.

In my desperation, I cry to you O Lord. O Lord, hear my cries!

The Gospel story shares a response to desperation – in desperation, Jairus leaves behind his worries about what his friends may think, his concern about what someone with his standing in the community would do. He ignores proper protocol and instead reaches out to Jesus with everything he has.

The woman with the hemorrhage reaches out to Jesus as well. As a woman living with a bodily discharge for 12 years, this act of pushing through a crowd, of even touching Jesus’ cloak, was an act of courage born of desperation. According to Jewish law, a person with a bodily discharge was unclean and could not be touched, could not be in a group of believers. We can imagine that for 12 years, this woman had been alone. She had been isolated, ostracized – and probably weak and worn out. Finally, she cannot take it any more. She overcomes her fear of retribution, her fear of being recognized and called out, and makes her way to Jesus. Unlike Jairus, she doesn’t beg for Jesus’ attention, but quietly reaches out to touch him – and receives his power, and his blessing.

What does it take for you to reach out to Jesus? Where do you have to be before you recognize that God is right there waiting for you?

One of my blogging friends led me to this year’s commencement address to the graduates of Wellesley College. The journalist Kimberly Dosier spoke of her own times of life in the depths, and the choices she made. Her words, as recorded by the New York Times on Sunday June 14, are these:
You chose a Wellesley grad who spent the first decade of her career broke, begging for freelance work, who constantly heard that she was under qualified or, later, overqualified (that means old) or basically just plain wrong for whatever it was she wanted to do. She eventually ended up with a really great job, doing exactly what she wanted to do, exactly where she wanted to do it: in the Middle East. And she got hit by a car bomb; they nearly took her legs off. She had to come back from the dead, roughly five times, and learn how to walk again. So it tells me a lot about you and your current state of mind that you all thought you needed to hear from me, with whatever lessons I had to offer from those experiences, as you leave college for the rest of your life. In short, you all want to know how to be bomb-proof, right? So, you're right: I learned a lot. Most of all, that every time I ran into a wall, I had two choices on how to face it: hope or fear.

Hope, or fear. Do we really always have such a choice? Sometimes, in our depths, it doesn’t really seem like hope is a choice we have. When we have exhausted all possibilities, when someone we loved more than life itself has died, how can we choose hope? Where is the hope?

I have asked myself the answer to that question during dark days of grief and anger. And sometimes, I haven’t had an answer to that question. When we are lying in the darkness and feeling alone and afraid, the answer may not be there. When I tossed and turned in that bed at my grandmother’s house that night, I could not see an answer, for fear had consumed my ability to see. God was nowhere to be found, until I got up and chose the hope that my grandmother would not scold or punish me, but listen to me.

Where is the Hope? Where is the morning, the dawn we seek? How can we wait for the dawn when we are sitting in the darkness? In our Scripture, the word for hope and the word for wait, or watch, are the same. So when we choose hope, we join those who watch, who wait for the morning.

Choosing hope over fear is not easy. It is a decision we have to make over and over again. It does not solve all of our problems – it does not mean that suddenly our child will be raised from the dead, or our illness will disappear. It does not change the diagnosis the doctor makes.

What it does change, though, is how we live. If we can take one small step in hope, we will become aware of God’s presence beside us. Because I truly do believe that God has not left us, even when we are crying from the depths of our souls.

So, this is where the hope lies. The hope lies in the fact that even in the darkness, God is with us. God is with us is through the night. Somewhere deep in our souls we recognize that the morning will come. Somewhere, we know God will not abandon us. We can mourn, we can cry out to God, knowing that God will come to us. Knowing that in fact God is right there with us even if all we see is darkness and despair. And so we know, the morning will come. In what time, in what way, we do not know. And this is where the hope lies. Thanks be to God.