Saturday, February 20, 2010

Life is good

As a pastor, I spend a lot of time listening to and counseling people as they go through tough times in their life. I hear about various issues people have and how they struggle with questions like "where is God?". At every step along the way I try and tell people the same basic thing, wherever they find themselves, God is already there.

The last several months have not been the easiest for my family, yet through it all I realize that no matter how bad it may seem or how many questions that I may have it is okay. God is here and has been here. It may seem crazy but I think that all came together loud and clear the other night at the gym. I was there with Ginny, and we were trying to figure out the equipment at the gym. It was at this moment when I looked over at Gin and she had this great big smile on her face.

It seems like a silly thing but it wasn't for me. It was a great thing to see because every time that I see that smile and the sparkle in her eyes it helps me remember that no matter what I may be going through or whatever I may be struggling with that I am never going to be alone. God has blessed me with a partner, a "helpmate", as some translations of Genesis say.

my helpmate is a constant source of joy for me and also a continual reminder that God is with me and because of that I will never be alone...Life is good.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

What do you see?

During our visit to Bethlehem we visited a shop that had a ton of products made from olive wood. As we left, we looked in the alley by the shop and this is what we saw. This huge pile of olive wood was simply waiting.

It makes me wonder, is this what God sees when he looks at us in the church. Perhaps a pile of people just waiting, waiting for someone to do something? I know that is what I would see and often do, when I think of us "church folk". We are always sitting around and spinning our heels and waiting for someone to inspire us or someone else to do the work that needs to be done.

Yet I think when God looks at us, he sees so much more. God sees who we are inside, beneath the rough exterior, to the beauty inside us. He sees the people inside of us the ones that are concerned for things that God is concerned about; things like justice and mercy and righteousness.

I don't want to look like a piece of wood on the ground anymore, I want to live my life the way God sees it can be and should be lived.

The day we were in that shop, we got to see what one of those pieces of wood could look in the hands of a master. It gives me hope that perhaps my life in God's hands can look just as wonderful and can have just as much meaning.

So perhaps of asking ourselves and our churches what they see when they look at themselves and each other, we should ask them what they think God sees.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Nothing lives here?

For the last several days we have been guided around Israel by a Palestinian Christian man. He has showed us the places where the Biblical story took place. He has spent many hours with us making the bible come to life for me in new and exciting ways.

In addition to that he has also told us the struggle of his people. He has told us his view of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He talk about the wars and occupation. He has pointed out to us the fence and the checkpoints that make life difficult at times for his people.

The picture above is me standing in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea for those who don't know is ten times saltier than an ocean and three times saltier than the Great Salt Lake in Utah. It is so salty that nothing lives in this sea.

Although as I look at the picture I just have to wonder....nothing lives? In a land where hope was truly born how can nothing really live? In a land where the savior came and showed us what real love truly can nothing live?

Yes the struggle remains for us to tell the story and to live the story each day. However, I for one can't accept the fact that there is anywhere in the world, especially here, where things can't live. Because I believe in Jesus, I believe in the life, teachings, death, and resurrection. Because of that faith, I know that hope always lives.

So perhaps for me the Dead Sea will be just a reminder that there are many people in the world that feel as if there is no chance....they are blocked by checkpoints and walls real or imagined. So I will continue to do what I can to work for hope and life...andnot make things like peace and justice just words but they way I try and live my life.

Because He lives.......hope lives...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Israel - Day Three of the tour

Yesterday we spent much of the day around or on the Sea of Galilee.
It was a fantastic time. As we got on the boat the rain started up. It was a bit windy. As we were on our away across the sea, we began to celebrate communion together. The wind made the water rough enough that it made it tough to conduct the communion for those that were consecrating the elements.

We took about an hour to get across the sea and during our trip the sun burst through the clouds for a little while before it became overcast again. We finally made our way across and then went to a restaurant for lunch that was righ on the water. As we ate the wind picked up and caused the water to be even more choppy then it had been before. Just as quickly that patch of weather passed over.

It brought the scripture story to life of the disciples on the boat and a storm rushing in as they became afraid. Each day as I "walk where Jesus walked", I get a better understanding of the scriptural accounts.

Yesterday Ginny and I got to renew our vows at a little chapel in Cana where tradition says Jesus performed his first miracle. It was a very nice moment and one I will never forget

This has been such a great trip. Not only have I been able to be here with Ginny and Kyle but I have also got to be in the Holy Land with a few of my colleagues who I have walked through the ordination process with.

We have been through a lot together both good and bad and now we all get to share in this experience together. In this land where Jesus brought a small group of people together to teach them and to show them the way, we also have been called together to once again be taught and to find our way to tell the story in our own context.

This has been a Holy time in a Holy Land.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

In the Garden - Israel Day 2

This morning we found ourselves in the Garden of Gethsemane. I had been looking forward to this visit since the moment I knew we would be going to Israel. Every time that I read the scripture account in Matthew and Luke, I just am mesmerized by it.

Jesus knew that all roads to Jerusalem had led to this moment in time. The action was coming and Jesus was overwhelmed with thoughts an fears and questions.

How many times do we find ourselves in those same positions, faced with overwhelming odds or faced with some grief in our lives? How do we respond? I know my normal reaction more often than not has been less than "Jesus like".

At times my reaction is self pity or anger or resentment. I may look at my troubles and wonder why God would do this to me, after all "I try to be the best person that I can be". As I sat in the garden today and reread those scriptures I was once again struck by Jesus' reaction.

He at first asks God if there is anyway that this trouble could pass him by, if there was anyway for the plan to come together without Jesus having to go through the pan and agony to come. Yet, almost in the next breath, Jesus simply turns it over to God and says, "It's not about is about your will and your plan". In other words..."Father I trust you...with you by my side I can do this."

Oh how I pray for that faith, how I pray for that desire to see God's will done. I have good intentions and I have faith...but so many times I don't turn it over to God. I do not let God be God. I decide that what the situation needs is my worry or my concern or my anger. Or perhaps I allow the fear to stand between me and the will of God.

I sat in the Garden today, perhaps just feet from where Jesus was, and sensed a need for change.
I know my way is not the answer. I know that it truly isn't about me and it is not about my ego or my desires. It is about God. I need to learn to live in that place of faith.

Being in Israel has help[ed give me a better perspective on life....It helps point out the lack of real significance on some things that I spend so much time worrying about. Tonight I am going to start something new. Tonight as I lay in bed praying, I will include a list of those things that I spend so much time worrying about. I will name them and then give them to God and I will continue to do that each night until I have truly given them to God.

Here I am Lord....Here I am....

Monday, February 01, 2010

Israel...Our first day on the streets

So many things I could write about today's trip. There were so many powerful events. I guess the event that would be the "default picture/sound" for the journey today, happened at the Church of the Nativity. It was there, while we were in the cave in which tradition says Jesus was born, that I got a glimpse of what this is truly all about. I was listening to people sing Silent Night in their native tongues. I heard my colleagues sing the song not only in English, but French Creole, Korean, Spanish, and the native tongue of my Bishop who is from India. It was a powerful moment. Not because of the song being sung but because of where we were, who I was with, and the simple beauty of the moment.

It was there in that cave in which the king was born, and not like any king had previously been born. The world still struggles with the same things it did then. We have wars and poverty and disease among many other ailments. Yet despite all that as we stood in the cave, I got a glimpse of what we need. I got a glimpse of the power of Love and compassion, grace, and mercy. In that cave today those things shone brighter than they ever had for me before.

I want to be a part of the good things. I want to live a life that shines a powerful light and glorifies the king...who was born here in this land we call Bethlehem.

This is only the first day of my trek here in Israel...but more importantly...this might be the beginning of an even greater trek. I am excited to see where God will take me tomorrow.