“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
The other day I was thinking about some of the new, different, welcomed, and not-so welcomed practices that I have engaged over the past two months. Some of the things I have experienced have been enjoyable, some tedious, some challenging, and some have become new habits.
Below is a spoken word piece I wrote about five years ago as I was experiencing some changes in my life that were welcomed but deeply challenging. I viewed my life at that time as a period of "Becoming". As we are living in these times where many of our routines are turned upside-down, challenges await around many corners, and we are learning something new each day about ourselves, others, and our communities…
We are becoming.
She said that it hurts to become.
It hurts to become... greater than you are... to grow and flourish and move beyond.
Oh and yes it hurts, it hurts deep inside and all over...but looking back, it feels so good.
It hurts to become as I leave behind the old and familiar ways,
the comfortable and easy routine, that which I know so well and delve into areas unknown...
It hurts to become.
The darkness calls me to bring my light and my life and my questions and my answers.
It is only dark because it is a new way and a new road and my light has not shone there before,
but soon it will be bright and colorful,
full of love and joy and safety and security and the darkness will be no more.
For I move through the darkness knowing that it is part of my becoming.
In the darkness the questions are asked and answers are sought and brought to light.
And some of the questions are left in the dark
swirling around waiting for their time to come to light.
In the darkness I begin to see the beauty in and around me;
the beauty that was trapped, held back and not given room to grow...
not able to find a place to become.
This beauty has been there, and was not seen...
The beauty that was ignored and not cherished
The beauty that I longed for and dreamed of has come into her light...she has become.
As the light begins to break forth and peer through the cracks I am becoming...
the breaking and molding of me becoming, becoming who I was made to be,
becoming a woman of strength to take on the way ahead...
the way has been calling, the way that I have finally opened my ears to hear.
The way of becoming
And I am becoming a woman of insights and presence with something to say and place in the world to say it.
The light continues to move in and around me overcoming the darkness to bring my life to light.
And even as the light takes over and I am becoming the fullness of who I am and who I am to be...
sometimes it hurts to become.
Andrea Gibson’s spoken word piece, “I Sing the Body Electric, Especially When My Power’s Out” contains the following line and was part of the inspiration for the above piece.
“I said to the sun, ‘Tell me about the big bang.'
The sun said, ‘It hurts to become.’”
One day a virus came out amongst us
Causing a great big fuss
Schools had to close jobs and restaurants too
What was everyone supposed to do?
Stay home they said you mustn't come out
People soon began to pout
How could this be
We can't even see our friends and family!
So we cooked and baked and ate and ate
Not even realizing it was getting very late
To bed we went saying a prayer
That this would be over
But the next day it was still there...…
Weeks went by we played games and did puzzles
I think I even practiced how to juggle
Nature walks when the weather was nice
Even a bike ride once or twice
We had movie nights
Sometimes my siblings and I would have a little fight
But through it all I can't lose sight
That God is protecting us with all his might!
I know that one day this will be over
And we will be as lucky as finding a four leaf clover
For now I will continue to pray
And safe I hope we all will stay.
God has a plan for you and me
Just keep believing and you will see
Quarantine Schmarantine you won't last forever
this virus will soon leave
God is almighty and in thee I trust and believe!!!!!!
Something Tells Me
Words and music by Anne Herring
The song "Something Tells Me" has been a life changer for me. It was written over 45 years ago by one of the true icons and pioneers of the early Jesus rock genre. It came to her after meditating on a painting of the resurrected Jesus joining two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. See Luke 24:13-35
Something tells me it’s time to go
to meet him - alone
To see him, to love him
When I start home
So, it was sometime in the late 1980’s and I was exploring Philadelphia with my friend, Ken, who was visiting from Arizona. It was a typical humid east coast day in August, and the two of us were sporting our latest “cool enough for the city“ summer attire - designer t-shirts, summer shorts and canvas shoes, no socks - you know the look. It was mid-afternoon when a light rain began to fall. It was then that I saw an entirely different side of my, till now, calmly reserved friend. With each drop of water that hit his skin there were embarrassing shrieks and yelps of mild terror. As the rain increased he quickly shifted into high gear, dashing from one store to another in search of an umbrella and a raincoat, howling and caterwauling all the way - literally prancing around puddles. I told him it was just a passing shower, but it made no difference. Being from Arizona, I guessed, did little to prepare him for city life under a rain cloud. Looking back, I realize that I am not so far removed from the antics of my comical friend.
I’m sure we’ve all been caught unaware in a sudden downpour. Like Ken, we usually run for cover when the skies open unexpectedly upon us. With a little more forethought we would have checked the weather app before heading out. But, as usual, we are too busy trying manage our way through daily life. Is the diaper bag ready? Ugh, why is my employer texting me now? Oh yes, Mom needs milk, eggs and shampoo. Oh crap, I forgot my face mask! Where are my keys? Stop hitting your little brother! Did I turn the stove off? Etc.
And then it happens. The skies open and all of nature assaults the earth with wind and rain. If possible we wait under the safe canopy of a grocery store until the storm passes. Other times, we are not so lucky. We are literally caught in the deluge and, for safety's sake, we have to think carefully and act quickly. There are also entire rainy seasons when the sky is a perpetual drizzly gray for days and weeks on end. It's at those times when there seems to be a definite link between our own depression and the gloomy expanse of clouds.
The perfect storm
I know His voice
I’ve heard it through the shadows
That clouds make when they break into rain
It's the horrific week following Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The clouds gather and the wind begins to blow. With the utter ferociousness of a cat 5 hurricane, the wrath of the Pharisees and Roman rule tear through the lives Jesus' followers - completely obliterating everything they had built their hopes on. Having been crushed by the bloody and brutal crucifixion of their dearest teacher and friend, they were left only with the dark aftermath of their now dead leader. Nothing to do but clean up the devastation and move on, I suppose. Suffering, despair, confusion and grief all rolled up into one.
The walk - the bread - the host
I want to walk by His side
When the rain starts pouring
To clean me
To wean me from myself
It is in this post-crucifixtion desolation that the resurrected One meets two of his followers on their sad seven mile journey home. And yet they are kept from recognizing him. No matter - he walks with them anyway, listening to their sorrow and ramblings and inner turmoil. And in true Jesus style, he carefully and gently explains why these things had to be. They invite him to their home to eat. It is then that he no longer assumes the role of an invited stranger, but the host. He takes the bread - he blesses it - they recognize him - he disappears. And now they understand saying - “Didn’t his words burn in our heart has he spoke?”
In this song, the voice of Jesus calls, asking to walk with us on our own Emmaus road of questions and confusion. I find it incredible that after all the suffering Jesus had been through, this One who had just conquered the power of death and hell, now wants to hang out and console two confused disciples, and then share a meal.
See the raindrops
On her LIVE album "How the West was One", Anne tells how the song was written. She quotes the following lyric:
"See the raindrops hit the ground
Just like tears they can’t be found
When the Son shines down His light
And brings forth the fruit of Life"
And then, with deliberate pause, she slowly and softly continues - "Oh, you know, in my life - every time I’ve had to cry because of a trial he is drawing me through, and I finally come to that point where I surrender it - he brings forth fruit. And I pray that Jesus will speak to your heart - and it will burn in your heart - and his light will cast out the shadows in it - and the doubts and the fears - and that the fruit will remain in your heart.”
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
One of the blessings of the stay at home/shelter in place order for me, has been extra prayer, meditation, and reflection time. I find myself continually looking for God's spirit to teach me something. What is God trying to reveal to my heart and my mind?
This morning I received an email that included the following story- no commentary for you, just a sweet story of seeing things from another perspective:
There was a boy, whose family was very wealthy...
One day his father took him on a trip to the country,
to show his son how poor people live. So they arrived
at a farm of a very poor family, as he considered.
They spent several days there.
On their return, the father asked his son, if he liked the trip.
“Oh, it was great, dad” the boy replied.
“Did you notice how poor people live?”
“Yeah, I did,“ said the boy.
The father asked his son to tell in more detail
about his impressions from their trip.
“Well, we have only one dog, and they have four of them.
In our garden there is a pool, while they have a river that
has no end. We‘ve got expensive lanterns, but they have stars above their heads at night. We have the patio, and they have the whole horizon. We have only a small piece of land, while they have endless fields. We buy food, but they grow it. We have a high fence for protection of our property, and they don‘t need it, as their friends protect them.”
The father was stunned speechless.
Then the boy added, “Thank you, dad, for letting me see how poor we are.”
Happy Thursday! It is Thursday, right? Today’s connection blog has a little something for everyone… poetry, scripture and a song.
This post was inspired by all that is going on around me and feeling, at times, that I am the only one with these thoughts and emotions. I texted a friend yesterday and her response was, “I love your text! I felt the exact same way!!!! (insert two hearts here.)”
Church family, you’re not alone. Others are experiencing something similar. And thankfully the words of the Psalmist are just as applicable today as they were long ago. “If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me fast.”
I am not alone You are not alone We are not alone
I drive to work and I come to the stop sign
I look left, right and left again
there is not a car in sight
I think I am alone
Sitting with my emotions, my wide-ranging and wide-raging emotions…
There is joy knowing those I love are well
There is grief as a watch a friend mourn her mother with 6 other people
I think I am alone
As the sun and I rise the crisp morning air alerts me to a new day
It is Monday I think, I pause, Is it Monday?…
I haven’t opened my planner in weeks as one day runs into the next
I think I am alone
Sitting with questions of, What is next?
What will life look like when…? How will we resume our activities?
What will be the new normal?
I can only think of now
I think I am alone
But I KNOW I am not alone…
I am not alone in how I feel
I am not alone as I sit with my questions and worries
my uncertainties, my grief, and yes, my joys
I am not alone in my inabilities to sit still
or move from the same damn chair I’ve been in for hours
I am not alone when I throw myself into a book only to look up after the last page.
And I am not alone when I can’t read more than 5 words without thinking… SQUIREL!
I am not alone when all I want to do is laugh, laugh, laugh…
only to find myself in tears.
We are not alone!
You are not alone!
I am not alone!
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence? f I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night’, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:1-3,7-12
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35,38,39
My friend Jennifer Sanborn shared this video of "We Are Not Alone" sung by Virtual Hartford Seminary choir. This short piece is a profound reminder that we are not alone, “God will make us strong, God is with us. We will press on for God is with us.” Jennifer, who is in the upper left corner, works with ABHMS and sang at our church about 5 years ago when she and her family came down to visit me and Sandy. May you be blessed by this simple song.
Easter has just passed and I keep reflecting on how Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross. What a gift that was for us as believers! It got me to thinking about a book I read awhile back called The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel. It was given to me by a member of a church I started attending after I had been out of the church for years.
I went through a period of just living my life the way I wanted to and that I saw fit for myself. I was always a believer as I was raised in church from birth until I was old enough to live on my own. I was struggling with faith however not even realizing it. I figured I was in control of my life and I would call on God when I needed to. I didn't feel as though I had to go to church every Sunday holidays were good enough.
Years went by and then I became a mother! One of the best decisions I made in my life. I felt like I owed it to my son to give him a foundation in Christ. So not too long after my son was born I decided to start attending church again. I had in my mind that I wasn't going to go every Sunday. I figured I would test the waters so to speak. Well, God had other plans for me the power of God hit me so hard that first Sunday I went every Sunday after that I became apart of the ministry leading the children's choir and started teaching Sunday school. I was doing things in church that I had never imagined I can remember saying really God you want me to do what?!
In the midst of all of my spiritual growth I carried the extra faith that this book had given me inside. It helped me to see that I was in a way doubting God even as a believer and not fully connected spiritually. It was confirmation that allowing God to abide within me, gave God the ability to use me in ways I never thought were possible. This week I was trolling on Netflix and spotted the film version of this book. Of course I had to watch it. Through the movie I thought about the power of God. I mean wow, if an atheist can be led by the spirit to become a believer and then become a pastor!
We as Christians have the ability to touch someone's life for the good just by a simple gesture or conversation. I'm so grateful for this connection blog! We are spiritually connecting, uplifting and encouraging in ways we never thought we would. God pours so much love into us for it to be shared with others. So I wanted to share this with you! If you haven't read the book or had a chance to view the movie check it out.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26
This song, with its simple direct lyrics, encourages us to place our trust in God during turbulent times. I love its straightforward and personal plea for help, recalling several of the Psalms, each bringing to mind images a God who is both strong and loving, exalted and personal. The full context of these scriptures is worth looking up, as each is preceded and followed with great dramatic verse. What I find especially beautiful is how the psalmists often portray God as the majestic mighty ruler, but also a close loving parent and protector. Indeed, there is no social distancing when connecting with God. As Richard Rohr to aptly says, “God is both intimate, and ultimate.”  Check out a few of the following lyrics and supporting scriptures:
Lyric: “Hide me now under Your wings”
Guard me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
Lyric: “Cover me within Your mighty hand”
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Lyric: “You are King over the flood”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
Lyric: “I will be still and know You are God”
Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.
 CCLI Song # 3940963 Reuben Morgan. © 2002 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia CCLI License # 11537482
 Just This: Prompts and Practices for Contemplation - by Richard Rohr © 2017 CAC Publishing
I enjoy books and reading. Books give me comfort… books on a shelf waiting to be read or read years ago. I love a book that takes me on a journey to a new or even familiar land. I usually have a book or two going at the same time and with one or two on the side awaiting my return. One of the books* I am currently reading has me thinking about sacred spaces…
Where are the sacred spaces in my life?
Those spaces I deemed sacred six months ago, do they still hold for me?
How have sacred spaces shifted in my life over the past few months?
A coffee shop, a cabin in the woods, a church. These are my sacred spaces. In these spaces I can connect with others, share feelings, listen and be heard. In these spaces with people I love, and some I am just getting to know, I experience a sacred time when “the divine in me honors the divine in the other”. In these spaces I share a cup of coffee, the beauty of creation, or a song and a prayer.
Likewise, entering these spaces alone I can quiet the world around me and listen to the stirring of the Spirit within. Sometimes the busyness of a coffee shop is just the atmosphere I need to be still. Other times my sacred spaces involve connecting with creation or sitting in a time tested and traditional church sanctuary. Alone in these sacred spaces I can be still knowing there is a God, and She loves me just as I am no matter what.
I realized lately that I don’t have access to my sacred spaces like I am used to. The coffee shop is drive-thru only or closed, the cabin is out of state and I am not sure how far I should wander from home, and the church sanctuary is there, but missing about 75 people whom I would love to be there with.
So, I am working on creating new sacred spaces in my life, like the blue chair by the window with a small table where I can place my coffee or book. Here I comfortably read, talk with my wife, connect with others via Zoom, scratch a pup or two behind her ears, relax, or sit quietly and meditate.
My other sacred space is where we usually take our dogs for a walk. This was once just part of our daily routine but has now become a joyful ritual. Going down Union Street to Locust Park while breathing in the fresh air, saying “Hi” to strangers who have become dog-walking friends, and then making a left and going up Locust to hear the dog viciously barking (but is probably the friendliest pup), and then a left onto Main Street as we comment on the beautiful flowers by the blue house. Being out in the fresh air with the person I love and our pups is a sacred space to me these days.
As the days go on I am sure that my sacred spaces will continue to shift, and I need to be open to that. Although, I do look forward to being back in my good ol’ coffee shops, quaint cabin in the woods, and with you all in our church sanctuary.
So I invite you to think about your sacred spaces. Are they the same? Where can you create or find new ones? And all the while, be mindful of the Spirit moving within and around.
*The book I am reading that has me pondering Sacred Spaces is Baby You Are My Religion – Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall by Marie Carter. The premise of the book is that gay bars provided a space where people could “be seen”, find themselves, and serve a community in a similar way as churches have. “Religion has provided a space where you could find out who you are, what you are made of, how you wish to live, and for what or for whom you might die. This is what the butch-femme bars and surrounding communities gave to their participants.” (p.4)
The other book I am reading is Orpheus & Eurydice A lyric Sequence by Gregory Orr. This has me constantly asking, “Why did you turn around, darn it!?” and “What if Orpheus didn’t turn around what would their life together be like?”
So yes, we are all in quarantine at this time. I know it can be difficult waking up and finding something exciting to do everyday, a way to occupy our minds or something to keep the kids entertained. I heard through the grape vine that museums were offering free virtual tours online and other interesting things. So I decided to explore some over the past few days and made a list to share with all of you!
1.The Smithsonian Virtual Tour- There is so much history in the building of The Smithsonian! We can all learn from history. I like this site because it is easy to navigate. My favorite exhibits were Western Culture, Dinosaurs, Q?ruis Jr. and Written In Bones. To access the virtual tour go to https://www.purewow.com/family/virtual-museum-tours-for-kids and scroll down to number 6 click the tab for Tour the National Museum of Natural History and go exploring. I had planned to visit The Smithsonian with my son this summer but may have to wait. We both enjoyed this tour and it satisfied our curiosity until we can actually visit.
2.Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre- This site has loads of fun for children! There is video story time that young children will enjoy. Kids can learn how to draw characters, get at home experiment ideas, do crosswords, puzzles, and crafts all which can be printed or downloaded at home. They can explore the Journey Inside the Giant Peach with a story, sing-a-long, and learn interesting facts about peaches and more! This site made me feel like a kid again. https://www.roalddahl.com/museum When you go to this site click on Things to do Indoors at the top left scroll down and let the fun begin!
3.Arts and Culture- This site is for the Art and History lovers! This was probably my favorite out of all the ones I explored. I found this site through Easter Island but you can go through this link https://artsandculture.google.com/ to make it easier. You can start with a virtual 360 tour of the 5 Iconic Parisian Rooftops and then continue to scroll down from there or click explore in the top right corner to visit my favorites Art Camera, Street View, and Historic Events just to name a few. This site offers endless exploring. I will probably visit once a week from now on.
4.Monterey Bay Aquarium-This aquarium offers a live web cam everyday from 10 am to 9pm to view some of the animals! This is so much fun for kids and adults!! You can go to the site or click this link https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/ to make it easier. Click visit and go to exhibits or animals at the top left and enjoy your day at the aquarium. There are options to meet the animals and learn their names, fun interesting facts, habits and what they like to eat. My absolute favorites were the penguins and the jelly fish!
I hope this will help you to find some joy in the midst of what we are going through. God created this world full of life, animals and nature, a world that developed history. God gave people the gift of artistry with their minds and hands to create all these wonderful things for us to enjoy and explore!
Luke 24:4-8 The Message (MSG)
They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.
One may be thinking, “how will we ever rise from this pandemic?” or one may say “how will we recover from this tragedy?”
I thought these same questions 35 yrs. ago when my daughter became ill. She contracted meningitis twice before she was a year old. Some of you know this story, but some do not. After spending months in the hospital, for the second time, she came home in time for Easter. To her that did not mean a lot but to me it was a sign. A sign that we will rise from the ashes of this tragedy. Tragedy you may ask. She was left without her hearing. Despite all that laid ahead of us, we rose up.
Today, we are amid what would be considered a tragedy of events. However, believing in what Jesus taught, we can rest in the knowledge there will be a light in this darkness for us to see and to follow. This light will lead us to the place where we will rise up and be renewed. The world as we see it and know it may change, but the one constant we have, is knowing that there will always be a Good Friday which leads us to Easter morning and a Risen Lord!
Let this be your prayer for such a time as this, RISE UP!!!! The Son is shining!