Birthday blessings

It’s all in how you look for them, but the blessings are everywhere…

…in the shy bunny greeting me on the church sidewalk
…in the lazy, snoozy purrs of our feline residents
…in the tranquil beauty at sunset
…in the glory of a Peace rose

But most of all, in the love of the faces nearest and dearest to me. On today of all days, I feel very blessed indeed.

There is a lot wrong in the world, and a lot of injustice that breaks my heart. I’ll keep making space for those whose voices are not being heard. I’ll spend another day with my patients, eerily aware that their lives and their families are on the edge of death… and I go home to enjoy life.

It is a strange juxtaposition that many pastors feel when we rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Rom. 15)  Today it is all the more poignant, and perhaps more striking as I mark the start of another year.

Life is so very full. And all by Grace.

soli deo gloria

Bone weary gratitude

 

Something hit me. Hard. Whatever it was (or is!), I went from 100 mph doing chores, cleaning dishes and getting charting done to about 5 mph as I crawled into bed at 9 pm and slept for about 12 hours. A fever and GI symptoms knocked me FLAT!

I have gardening to do, housecleaning to mow through, reading to finish and reviews to write, and absolutely none of them grab my attention. My pillow, electric blanket and bed are calling me…

I am emotionally and physically run down. But I am also blessed down to my toenails with the good things in my life. So what do you do when you know you need a quick re-start to get back on track again?

You. Rest.

I know. DUH. But that’s what I need to do. So today I slept almost all day. answered a few emails that couldn’t wait (about 2 out of 50) and followed my cats’ examples of getting into a good nap.

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I’m still tired. I’m still facing the problems and discouragements of yesterday. I’m still angry at the lies and collusion that appear to be rampant in our government. But I’m a little better rested than I was yesterday.

And maybe, just maybe, I can tackle my “do list” with more enthusiasm and grace.

Wearing a legacy

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Lace created by my grandmother, Claudia Bishop Harsh.

This morning I put on my robe and reached for a purple stole. I have two… but I chose this one.

I pieced this stole last year from odds and ends and purchased purple swatches. Considering I had never created a stole before, it was a work of much guesswork and happy accidents.

As I wrote last year, I was a bit uncertain how to finish this stole. The embroidered findings of a cross or bread and cup would not show clearly on the piecework. And it needed something, oh… a little more personal! 

And then… as I rummaged and searched for the right finishing touches, I found the family heirloom lace and knew… a commercially created cross would not work. Carefully, I trimmed and sewed pieces of this lace on my stole. I would wear the handwork of my foremothers around my neck.

On Easter Sunday, I will wear more of my family’s heirloom lace on my white robe. As I pray and sing and offer Communion, I will again wear the legacy of my family’s faith. This lace trim, created by my great-aunt Maurine, was painstakingly sewn on late into the night on Holy Saturday last year.

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In the basting stages last year: hand-tatted lace created by my Great-aunt Maurine Bishop.

Not everyone gets to wear their family’s love on their sleeve. I know that as I celebrate on Easter Sunday, I bring my family with me. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins bring a sense of “grounding” to my faith. I wear a labor of love!

I serve from a place of privilege, for I know I am encouraged and prayed for, welcomed and loved. I worship in safety. I can express my beliefs without fear of persecution.

I wear a legacy… one that I hope to never forget.

Thanks be to God!

Hands and Feet. Serving God.

It came as an urgent request in my email.  A local women’s shelter needed a Saturday evening meal.

A quick check with Daughter Chef, who was willing, and we were signed up. Soft tacos with all the trimmings.

She created the meat mixture’s seasoning from scratch. I chopped a ton of peppers, onions, tomatoes and lettuce. We also made refried beans (ok, those were from a can), sweet corn off-the-cob, and Mexican rice. Chips, salsa, guac and cheese rounded out the food. Then we made cakes… Chocolate, angel food and spice cake.

It took the two of us all day prepping and cooking for these 30 guests. And we commandeered family and friends to help. It was a hot day, and there were hungry guests. There was plenty left over. Enough for lunch. Enough for the staff. More than enough.

We came home tired and ready to put our feet up. And it felt really good to know that some tired, hungry women had a good meal before they went to bed. Some came back for seconds. Then thirds. And they raved about the cakes.

Sometimes when the call comes asking me to do these out-of-the-way ministries, I balk. It’s inconvenient. It’s tiring. It is such a little request. And it makes a huge difference. For 30 women, we were just a meal. For God, we were God’s Hands and Feet.

What a privilege and blessing!

Thanks be to God.

Some Things Take Time…

2015-06-25 11.15.29“Some things take time…”

That’s what came to mind as I walked down this lovely sidewalk, shaded by wisteria vines. I knew how many years it would have taken to get these lovely, mature plants to grow over this arbor.

Years. Years upon years!

Someone watered, pruned, trained, tied and retrained vines for many, many years. The result is a beautiful and cool walkway from one building to the next in an otherwise hot, asphalt-and-concrete neighborhood.

Someone had the vision and motivation to persevere with a labor of love. Someone moved past weather challenges, pests, and leaf blowing. Someone knew it would be worth the effort.

As I walked under it, enjoying the way the breeze played with the leaves, I thought of many who have gone before me in ministry. Men and women, who, even if we are poles apart theologically, contributed to the body of knowledge that I studied in seminary. Professors and writers who created the grammar texts and lexicons that I struggled through for language class. Philosophers and academicians who argued finer points of theology.

So many people… 

I meditated on the great “faith chapter” of Hebrews 11. An ode to the men and women who believed God would do as God said, whether or not it seemed possible. Their faith and trust in God’s truth and direction took over for their doubts and frustrations…

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:1-3)

I walked beneath this shady arbor and gave thanks for my foremothers and forefathers of the faith. For as I watch society change before my eyes, I know theirs is a heavenly witness, whose praise to God joins mine.

Whether it is a societal growth in understanding racism, or accepting social change, God’s justice prevails.

Thanks be to God!

Here’s to Mud on Your Boots

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PRE-mud on my boots!

 

Winter is over. The sounds of birds singing (and the gardener sneezing) fill the air. Time to set up the water feature in the back yard, clear away fallen branches, attack the early crop of weeds, and think about the growing season.

The hours I have spent raking, hauling and pruning are part of the groundwork for the lush flowers of late spring and summer. I remind myself that it’s worth it… At one point, I stopped to rest, stretching out in the sunshine, reflecting on the seasons, each with their unique challenges.

Last month we still had snow to shovel and windows to scrape clear. This week I navigated pot holes and downpours. In just a few weeks, I’ll be swearing at the mosquitos and humidity. Each season has it less than lovely moments. But each one also brings breath-taking beauty, memories worth celebrating, and moments of sweat equity.

So here’s to mud on your boots and a tissue in your pocket. It’s (finally) spring!

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Standing on the Promises

It’s an old, old hymn that doesn’t get sung a lot these days. For some reason, I can’t get it out of my mind!
Especially, the last two verses…

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

There’s days where serving God just isn’t a lot of fun. It’s painful. It’s sad. It’s frustrating. It’s “long-haul” faithfulness when you pray and pray and nothing happens. And then there are days where you SEE the faithfulness of God unfold, and you wonder why you doubt.

redstoleYesterday I had the opportunity to watch another servant of God receive her ordination recognition. (I phrase it that way because GOD ordained her a long, long time ago. It just took humans a while to get with the program.) I wore my robe and red (Pentecost) stole to celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit. I was on the periphery watching God be center stage.

There was a moment when one of the presiders made a comment, perhaps in passing, that touched my heart… “May this also be a time for those of us who are ordained to fully walk in our Calling.”

My first semester in seminary, almost 10 years ago, a wise mentor said almost those exact words to me. She reminded me that God had made the way, that God was directing, that God had the path prepared for me. I just had to walk fully in my Calling.

As a chaplain, I practice active listening, meaning I try to talk less and listen more. (Yes, extroverts can do this!) As a pastor, I strive to do the same thing with God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call…

I know that as I lead a Communion service, or plan a funeral with a grieving family, or sit with a dying patient, or walk the halls with someone with dementia, or try to study and comprehend the latest research of my craft, that I must keep listening to God. Over and over, I hear the wrong voices judging and “correcting” me.

I stumble a lot as I try to ‘stand’ on God’s promises. Fortunately, I am given Grace to get up and try and try and try again. And to help my brother or sister up to their feet as we stumble along… together.

Thanks be to God!