Saturday, March 17, 2018

Christian Becoming

I finally picked up at the library a book I have been wanting to read for a long time: “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything” by Col. Chris Hadfield. Hadfield became legendary for his pictures and tweets from space, as well as his musical performance of “Space Oddity” from the Space Station.

At nine years old, watching Neil Armstrong take that first step on the moon, Hadfield heard the call to be an astronaut. From that day forward, everything he did—the books he read, the school he chose, the assignments he sought—was to prepare him in the hopes that he would be chosen to be an astronaut.

Hadfield knew that as a Canadian citizen, the chance of him ever being an astronaut was slim—Canada did not have its own space program, and the chances of him being chosen by NASA was not great. But still, he persisted and was eventually chosen as an astronaut in 1992, nearly 25 years after he first heard the call.

I love how he described his first trip to space, realizing his long-pursued dream:

“In one sense I felt at peace: I’d been to space at last and it had been even more fulfilling than I’d imagined. But I hadn’t been given a lot of responsibility up there—no one is on their first flight…The difference between [the veteran on the mission] and me, in terms of what we could contribute, was huge. Training in Houston, I hadn’t been able to separate out the vital from the trivial, to differentiate between what was going to keep me alive in an emergency and what was esoteric and interesting but not crucial. There had been so much to learn, I’d just been trying to cram it all into my brain. During the mission, too, I was in receive mode: tell me everything, keep teaching me, I’m going to soak up every last drop.

“So despite having traveled 3.4 million miles, I didn’t feel I’d arrived at my destination. An astronaut was something I was still in the process of becoming.” (p. 28)

We who follow Jesus are in a continual process of becoming. Our spiritual growth doesn’t stop once we call ourselves “Christian”. Every day provides us with a chance to grow more loving, to follow the Jesus Way more closely, to be drawn to God and others in deeper ways. There are some further along the journey who are there to mentor us just as there are those just starting out who need our nurture. John Wesley said of our spiritual growth that we are “moving on to perfection.” Hebrews 6:1-3 provides instruction for growth and The Message version is quite frank about it:

“So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it!

So let’s get on with it! Let’s decide to take another step further in the faith, increasing our love of God and others. Let us find our faith opening us up to God in more intimate ways. Let us see the footsteps of Jesus more clearly. Let us continue in the process of becoming Christian.

Saturday, February 24, 2018


For the past two weeks, our TV has been tuned to the Olympics, watching the winter sports event from S. Korea. My love of the Olympics began in elementary school, when one of my teachers introduced the event to us. I love watching young people from all over the world compete together in a spirit of good will.

There was a tipping point, over the years, when the athletes were no longer older than me. This was not a happy moment! Instead of dreaming about being an Olympic athlete (doesn’t everyone?!), there came a time when I “aged out” of the Olympics (except for maybe the luge). The Olympics were reserved for younger people who were dedicated in their commitment to better themselves in order to be the best in their sport. Once they reached for the gold, it seems they either became Olympic commentators, coaches, or simply slipped out of the public eye.

As United Methodists, we know we don’t peak early in our discipleship. John Wesley reminded us, we are “moving on to perfection.” But for many of us, our continued growth as Christians slowed sometime early in our lives. We have forgotten that every day is an opportunity to deepen our spirituality, expand the sharing of God’s love, and follow more closely the ways of Jesus.

This is the season of Lent, a time to prepare ourselves for Easter through prayer, fasting, study and self-examination. It is a time of Cross Training, of preparing ourselves for the risks of discipleship by committing ourselves more fully to Christ and community, no matter what it might cost us.

Whenever you enter worship, be prepared for a spiritual workout. May your soul be stretched. May your heart discover that it can hold still more love than you thought possible. May you fall head over heels in love with God all over again, and then leave to put into practice what you’ve learned.

The Christian walk is rigorous. It is demanding. It at times feels as if we are pushed beyond what is comfortable or even possible. But keep your eyes on the cross, and then the empty tomb. With God, nothing is impossible. Dare to be your very best, for God’s sake. Day after day after day, dare to be your very best self.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

To Become Intimate with Generosity

This week I listened to a TED talk that literally stopped me in my tracks when I heard the presenter say, “Become intimate with generosity.” Become intimate with generosity? That is a whole new way of understanding generosity: generosity is a relationship first, and an action second. It is because of our relationship with generosity that we become generous people.
This is reflected in 2 Corinthians 9: 6-11:
Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.
God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it,
God throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon.
God’s right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. God gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.
How intimate are you with generosity? I believe as we become more intimate, God helps us have lives that are more generous, not only with our material wealth, but in all aspects of our living. We are able to create generous spaces where others feel welcomed. We become generous in our language, helping speak in ways that build bridges between others. We are generous with our time, making time with others—family, friends, those in need—a priority. We are generous with forgiveness, not only for others who have wronged us but also for ourselves when we have fallen short of our self-expectations.
When we are intimate with generosity, our heart is expanded and our living changes. Tomorrow, as you enter your church, bring generosity with you and see how your engagement with others is enriched.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

"Follow Me"

Mark 1:14-20 is about Jesus calling the fisherman—Andrew, Simon, James and John—to drop their nets and follow him. I have known professional fisherman and have seen the deep commitment they have for their work: leaving early in the morning, no matter what the weather and sea conditions, to haul their nets, fill their boat, and return.

What was it about Jesus that made these four—and millions since—drop what they were doing, walk out of their old life, and step into faith’s unknown future? What did they see, what did they hear, that convinced them that Jesus promised a far better life, a more meaningful way to move in the world, than what they were currently experiencing? 

When did you hear Jesus beckon to you with the words, “Follow me”? Have you been willing to drop all that is predictable, all that is safe, all that makes sense, to fully enter into the life that Jesus invites you to? What keeps you from entering completely into the ways of Jesus?

I invite you to sit in prayer, listen for the voice of Jesus saying, “Follow me.” What is it Jesus wants of you, from you? What part of God’s plan cannot be fulfilled unless you step out in faith? Are you willing to let go of whatever nets you cling to, to step out of the life you know for one that leads you more fully into the Way of Love?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Can Anything Good Come Out of ____________?

In John 1:43-51, Jesus has begun to gather his disciples. After Jesus invites Phillip to join him, Phillip excitedly tells Nathaniel: “We’ve found the one Moses and the prophets told us about! Jesus of Nazareth!” Nathaniel scoffs, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”--because Nazareth is considered the other side of the tracks, the wrong side of town. For Nathaniel, who believes the lies he’s been told about the place, certainly Nazareth can’t be a place where a savior could be from?
Phillip doesn’t let him wallow in what John Wesley called, his “popular prejudices.” He tells him to put what he’s been told aside and see for himself. It is in his personal encounter with Jesus that his prejudices fall and he sees Jesus for who he truly is.
This weekend, may we put down the lies we have been told about others. May we drop our prejudices and biases and allow the truth of another’s life to shine the light of God’s love into our own life. This weekend is “Human Relations Sunday” in The United Methodist Church. It is always held the Sunday before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. In these days when falsehoods are being fostered and prejudices are promoted, may we bear testimony to the world of an alternative vision that the Gospel provides and that King lived out in word and deed:
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
May we challenge the falsehoods that diminish and deny the dignity and humanity of others. May we commit ourselves to inviting others to “Come and see” the love of God that dwells in the lives of those around us.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Thoughts on Epiphany

Thoughts on Epiphany

I loved seeing the pictures my Hispanic and Latin American friends posted on Facebook today, for it is el Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos—Day of the Three Magi. Today on Epiphany, not Christmas, is the day that gifts are exchanged, as a way to celebrate the three wise men finally finding Jesus in Bethlehem and offering him their gifts.

The wise men had come from the East, looking for Jesus. They had seen the star and knew that the King of the Jews had been born. This frightened Herod terribly, for he knew this King could threaten his own power. So he asked the wise men to let him know when they found Jesus, for he wanted to pay homage as well. At least that’s what he told them. We who stand on the other side of history know that Herod wanted to destroy the One he perceived was his enemy.

The wise men followed the star and kept looking for this King. It is their commitment to this task that moves me so. They didn’t stray and they weren’t distracted from their search, even when it led them to an unlikely place and a baby.

This defenseless baby was the one who Herod feared yet the wise men worshiped. For in this baby, all heaven broke loose as God became one of us. Who could have imagined this?

God continues to come, showing up in our world, infusing it with holiness and offering us a love that will never let us go. Are you willing to have the dedication of the wise men, to keep on the lookout, pursuing God in the most unlikely people and overlooked places? For as the Gospels show us, this is where God is most likely to be found.

May we be extravagant each time we gather for worship, showering one another with joy and love, for Christ continues to dwell among us.

Stay on the lookout, for God will show up!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thoughts On Power and Privilege Post-Charlottesville

Much has been written about white supremacy and white nationalism since this weekend’s deadly violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, and rightly so. We must condemn this evil that is seeking to fray the beautiful tapestry of American society. The hatred and racism that sustain these movements are literally life-threatening and must be confronted and dismantled.

But it is all too easy to point fingers and not do the hard work of personal soul searching, to be honest about the “every day racism” we whites participate in and benefit from. As a white woman, I have to confront my privilege, and the fact that my walk in the world is much easier because of my race than persons of color. Every day, I must confess my racism. Racism is so deeply embedded in our culture and entangles all of us in its web of inequity. I have to consciously reject it every day and the main way I do that is through the power of empathy, listening deeply to how those of color have a much different experience of the world than I do. I must understand that doors that open up automatically for me because of my whiteness open with difficulty—if at all—for persons of color. My race affords me places of safety not granted to those of other races.

I am not frightened of police officers. I don’t worry that by putting on a hoodie, I will be perceived as dangerous. I have never given my nieces and nephews “the talk” about how they should behave if ever stopped by a police officer. I have never been followed in a store by the owner because he or she automatically assumes that I am a suspect for shoplifting simply because of the color of my skin. I have never had to look very far—in books, movies, television, or church meetings—to see people who look like me. In white America, the color of my skin grants me power and privilege.

Racism isn’t an inconvenient social construct.  It is a deadly way to control others.

Racism permeates all corners of American society. Even the church is not immune from its cancerous presence. My own denomination’s history reveals a theology once held that supported the outrageous belief that owning another person and treating them less than human was in line with Christian values. Racism fueled segregation in the church through the creation of an all-black non-geographic jurisdiction in order to preserve (white) “unity”.

If we are to effectively oppose and defuse the movements of white supremacy and nationalism, the starting point must be with our own collusion with racism. Until we do this hard work, we will keep in place the social fuel that will allow these movements to flourish.

My white friends, we can no longer remain silent. We can no longer pretend we live in a post-racial society. We can no longer deny the privilege we possess. We can no longer believe that racism no longer exists.

With eyes wide open, may we dismantle the sin of racism, in our own lives and in the systems and institutions of which we are a part. May Love guide our work, focus our anger and fear, and lead us all into the promise of Beloved Community.