New Things

Look! I’m doing a new thing;
now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
paths in the wilderness.   –Isaiah 43:19 CEB

My Grandmother loved daffodils. She collected them. In all their various forms. Drawings, prints, sculptures, tiles she had painted, prints from artists, photographs, needlepoint pillows with Shakespeare quotations, and, of course, the bulbs themselves.

At my grandparents’ house, especially at this time of year, there are literally hundreds of daffodils blooming, from nearly fifty years of stopping at the roadside and collecting them, and purchasing them, and having friends give the bulbs to the family.

It’s a funny thing about the bulbs, you plant them in the fall, when the flower has died, and when the bulb has drawn back into itself, protecting the parts that grow again. And then you put it in the ground, and hope that you’ve placed it right side up, and wait.

You have to wait.

And then it blooms.

At 216, there are hundreds of blooms. And there are thousands of blooms, everywhere, because it is daffodil season. A new way is being made. See, my Grandmother died a week ago, at her home, with all of her favorite blooms out in her front yard. And these words from scripture, about new things, I read these words at the service in celebration of her life, and I believe them.

Because even when it is hard, even when it seems that I am going to miss her so terribly that I cannot figure out what is next, I know that there is a way being made in this wilderness. A path even in this desert.

Dancing in the wind
Dancing in the wind

And so, I smile, sometimes through the tears, at all the daffodils that I see around me, every time I drive somewhere I see more of them.

I see them out my kitchen window. And they are bright and beaming and saying: Rejoice! We were hiding, but now we celebrate! Come, Dance with us!

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Think, think, think.

Think. Think. Think. Think. Think.

It is as if Winnie the Pooh were in the room, thinking heavily for such a small bear. Thinking very hard indeed, trying to come up with the next solution to the ever present question: how to get more honey.

Think, think, think.

And usually it may be very cunning, considering the fluffiness of his stuffing. But even with all the thinking, and all the scheming, and all the new and different ways that he comes to hover under the honey hole, but then he falls, and fails, like always. At the end, Christopher Robin is there. And it is Christopher Robin who brings him the honey, so that Pooh can be satisfied.

Think.

How often are we like Winnie the Pooh, straining all of our brain cells, striving ever harder to get the unattainable goal. And we come up with the analog to dangling under a grey balloon, singing a song of disguise as a rain cloud. Too often, it is too easy for that balloon to pop.

And then we fall. And we nurse our wounds, and we, unlike Pooh, think that we need to try again. That only if we had planned more, thought harder, followed the plan closer, then we would have succeeded beyond human capabilities.

We’re wrong. We can’t just try harder, pressing against the concrete wall of whatever seems to be in our way, and expect anything different than a shoulder out of whack and bruised and bloody knuckles.

Perhaps we need to be more like Pooh, after he has fallen back to the ground, stung by those who produce his most valued treasure. See, Pooh may have fallen, and Pooh may have been stung, but when Christopher Robin shows up, Pooh is happy just to have him. Pooh is happy to be loved by Christopher Robin, and the honey that he brings is a treat, yes, but only a small part of the joy that he feels.

How much more do we need to be open to the love that comes? How much more do we need to accept that we cannot do it ourselves? How much more do we yearn for the acceptance from our Christopher Robin?

As Christmas comes closer, we hear much about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and how she “pondered the news in her heart.” She thought. Deeply. She kept having new things added to what she would continue to learn and new ways of seeing the different expressions of those who came to find and praise this baby that she had carried and then born into a messy world.

And as she pondered, as she thought, I wonder what she thought about. I wondered if she thought that she could protect her son. I wonder if she thought about the things that she had heard from readings of the scripture in the temple, and overhearing what the men around her said about the Messiah and the current Roman occupation. I wonder what kind of games she played as a little girl. I doubt that she played games that were able to prepare her for bearing the promise of the world.

And, I wonder. I ponder. I think about her, and about Pooh, and about the honey, and about the rain clouds. And I wonder about the love of Christopher Robin, who only wants the best for Pooh. They are fictional characters, they are players from a children’s story book.

How much more, does Christ want to share love with us?

Comfort: An Advent 1 Meditation

Comfort oh comfort my people.

I have a love/hate relationship with being comfortable.

Comfort allows us to heal when we are broken or tired or worn out. But we can be too comfortable?

Are you comfortable? Are you easy in your skin? Are you resting well? Is the bed right? Why do we call the comforter a comforter? You know, that thing that goes on the bed to keep you warm. Are we only supposed to be comfortable in bed, and so that is the only thing that we can call the comforter in our homes?

Where is the great comforter? The one who wipes our tears away and promises that all oppression will cease. And can we really relate the Messiah to a thick blanket that goes on the bed?

So, where do you find comfort? Holding hands with a loved one? Cozying up with a warm blanket in front of the fire? At a concert listening to your favorite band play your favorite song? Sitting in a pew while the celebrant recites the liturgy of grace and Eucharist?

I’d imagine that most of you don’t really find it at the last one. Even if you grew up in the church, do you feel that Jesus our Messiah gives you comfort? Even those who are around you, as members of the church, do they give you comfort? Or do you have to put on your church mask, pulling it out of the collection of the masks that you continue to collect?

O God, comfort the afflicted, those who cannot find rest or peace. And God, afflict the comfortable.

We can become so comfortable that we disregard the struggles and worries of others. If our lives are comfortable, we can get to a point where we will not be able to see the needs and hurts and pains of others.

Why can’t they snap out of it? Pull yourself up, by your bootstraps, aren’t you strong enough for that? Be stronger. Then you will be able to be comfortable.

That’s the message that our culture tries to tell others.

It’s a lie.

One cannot simply snap out of it. Those who are privileged and comfortable have no place of reference for the systemic brokenness that prevents the oppressed from rising above oppression.

This is not intended to be an affront to those who are comfortable. Well maybe a little bit. This is intended to open eyes to the possibility that handing someone a Bible and telling them to believe it, and accept it, then walking away is just the exactly wrong thing to do as a witness for Christ.

Those who hand bibles out on street corners do not spend the time and energy necessary to build the relationships that are needed to help others find comfort and strength.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the Church.

And so, maybe we do need to go to the street corners. And stand there, with the drug dealers and the commercial sex workers. Not criticizing their sin and declaring that the only way out is conforming to our way of life. Rather, standing there, learning and building trust. Forming a relationship with them, and loving them, as the image of God.

It’s called living the Gospel. And maybe, you don’t know where that street corner is. Maybe there is somewhere else, where you can shove yourself out of your comfort zone, and grow.

Stop being so comfortable. When you are too comfortable, you get fat. Fat on the spiritual junk food of self righteousness and milk of surface level theology.

Instead of growing spiritually fat on those things, go out. Force yourself to be uncomfortable. Only then will you grow. Only then will you be part of the Gospel people. The Kingdom of God was not made to be kept closed up inside a brick box with a pointy roof. The Kingdom of God is out there. And in our love for others, and in our sharing of meals and seats and relationships with others, the Kingdom of God becomes more and more real.

So if you need comfort, if you are hungry for more, even if you don’t know what it is more of, seek it. Go to someone who can help you find comfort. Not cheap comfort. Not comfort for one night only. Instead, the ultimate comforter is Christ our Lord. That is where real comfort is. But cuddling up with a hard heavy book that is difficult to understand may not be what you are looking for. I pray a person, one who can offer help and healing through Christ, will be open to giving comfort. Even if you don’t agree on politics or economics. Even in brokenness, even in the midst of despair, you can be a gateway for others to receive the love of Christ. As it is felt, real, present, and open. The good news of the coming messiah is that we don’t have to have all the answers before we love each other. As we learn how to love each other, we learn more and more about loving God.

Eventually they will be flipped, we love God and so we learn more about loving others. But first, to feel and know God’s love, to learn how God loves you as formed in God’s own image, we learn through the love and friendship from others.

The Gospel was not proclaimed to make us all comfortable. Indeed, the Gospel itself is quite unsettling. The Gospel was proclaimed to declare the coming of God, and the presence of the Kingdom of God. Here. Now.

Go. Be unsettled. And if you are in great need of Comfort, know that the Comforter wants to share peace with you. A peace that surpasses all understanding. It will be then that you will find rest.

The Bad Foot Blues

my foot hurts…. my foot hurts… oh my foot.

 

duh-na-ne-na-ne

early one morning, duh-na-ne-na-ne

or was it late at night, duh-na-ne-na-ne

I was tossin’ and turning, duh-na-ne-na-ne

with no sleep in sight.

 

I said I could stand it, duh-na-ne-na-ne

but it was a bit rough, duh-na-ne-na-ne

my foot kept on hurtin’, duh-na-ne-na-ne

oh what a bad rub!

 

this foot, this foot, just won’t stop a achin’, duh-na-ne-na-ne

you’d think it was bored, duh-na-ne-na-ne

for every time that I’m breathing, duh-na-ne-na-ne

it always seems worse!

 

my foot is just achin’

just achin’ it goes.

this foot just keeps achin’.

right down to my toes.

Home Is

Home is the place where you are comfortable.

Home is where you go to be yourself.

Home is rest, and comfort, and peace.

We travelled a bit this holiday season, so that we could be with our family. It was a set of two very different experiences. One was a trip to a place where—granted, I didn’t grow up—but I had been before, and we didn’t really go out, but we stayed in, watching movies, resting, taking time to be together. The second was a bit more active, we travelled to a place where I had not spent any time at (a least as an adult) and we hit all the major tourist spots, ate out every single meal (at really great restaurants!) and yet, still had time to be with each other, and be together, and share.

Both sets of travel were the same exact length of days and even the same exact days themselves, just one week apart.

On Monday, we toured a house. You may have heard of it, we toured the Biltmore. It was 5 stories high, and built over a hundred years ago by a 33 year old bachelor. In room after room we saw new things, new spaces, new rules, new decorations, and extravagance upon extravagance. It took us Four Hours to see the whole place. As I hobbled along, I could appreciate the beauty, the creativity, the detail, but it also was more than anyone would actually need. It was not as big as Versailles, but it reminded me of it, as a copy, a trial to see just how big the owner could make this place. The place where someone lived and many people visited, has now become a practical museum. It didn’t feel like a home to me. My favorite room was one hiding off and away, looking over the grounds, but hidden, where people would have to be specific to go to. While we were there, it was filled with people, but I don’t really want to think about what it could have been like when people lived there… Cold. Empty. Echoing. A new outfit every two hours to go with the custom. And no home.

I’d rather be warm, with people I love, and not fancy at all. That would be home.