His Name is John.

Recently, I wrote about the man who frequents an intersection on my daily commute. (See the blog post here…)

I saw him again today, and again reached into my lunch and handed him some food. Today it was two peeled oranges and a bagel with cream cheese. And I asked him, “what’s your name?”

He looked up, startled. “John,” he said.

“Well, John, I’ll be watching for you.”

He tilted his head, smiled, and said “thanks!” and moved on down the line of cars.

It’s a cold night here… please remember John and people like him who may not have a warm place to spend the night. I’m grateful for a furnace that works, a warm bed and safety.

Today, I Choose Beauty

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Today, I choose Beauty.

I know there are wars and conflicts,
Disease and death,
Selfishness and greed,
Abusers and liars.

I choose Beauty.

I choose Beauty because of the sights around me that take my breath away.

I choose Beauty because I have seen Love acted out in a million different ways.

I choose Beauty because I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and a car that works.

I choose Beauty because I have the ability to act in ways that show Beauty to others.

I choose Beauty because the One who created it paints the trees and fall flowers with a wild paintbrush of color, a riot of joy.

I choose Beauty.

The “OFF” button

This weekend I have been practicing something that I haven’t done in a long time. I practiced using the “OFF” button. This particular one is on the cell phone issued to me by my employer. Though I am not required to use it to field voicemails and answer emails, on previous weekends, I have “just taken a quick look” at what is waiting in the queue. I’m not expected to be available on evenings and weekends. If they need me, they know how to find me!

As a pastor, there is ALWAYS another call to answer, another email to write. It’s ministry; there’s no timecard to punch. It’s part of our calling and our passion – to love and serve God and our people.

I love what I do, but I’m learning that as a hospice chaplain, the needs and questions are non-stop. I want to be helpful. I want to be there when I’m needed. But I can’t be “on” all the time. I just can’t. There is no “S” on this “Super Chaplain’s” chest!

The problem is, the emails and voicemails ping over to my phone 24 hours a day. If I forget and leave the ringer on, the little “beep-beepity-beep” is audible, even if I leave it in another room. (I guess my hearing is too good.)

So this weekend, after a couple of heart-breaking cases, I decided to turn off my phone. For the entire weekend. I buried it in the bottom of my work bag, and left it there. And it’s been a good thing.

Daughters were home for part of the weekend, and I did a lot of cooking and baking. My husband and I both got a lot of non-work tasks accomplished. I read, knit, and relaxed. I stopped and admired the leaves as they are beginning to change. I spoiled 2 cats. I wrote more for the essays I need for my certification paperwork.

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In short, I let other things go and focused on those things (and people) who were more important at the moment. I absorbed the love and beauty around me. I cleared my mind and my heart. Once again, I learned the lesson inherent in resting and waiting:

It. Can. Wait.

Blessings: A different perspective

Offering a priestly blessing

Offering a priestly blessing

I was touched by a pastoral act I performed yesterday… giving and anointing those who came forward for a priestly blessing. The blessings I used were based on Numbers 6, one loosely based on Jeremiah 7, and others which were in liturgies or prayers that I have used before.

It was an honor to be asked to offer these personal blessings to members of the congregation. Many are dear friends. Many had their own burdens and heartbreaks that were unknown to me, but I could see in their eyes or on their faces that they wanted to hear and know the blessing of God in their lives.

Don’t we all want to know God will bless us? Don’t we all sense we need a touch of the Divine in our lives, each an every day? The problem is that our contemporary Christian culture equates blessings from God with material things. This is so far from the truth!

What greater blessing can I offer someone? The blessing that I offered affirmed God’s promises are true… now and always. I wanted them each to know how deeply they are loved by God, and how God cares for them providentially and personally.

In the act of offering this blessing, I was blessed. As I spoke words over others, I heard them for myself. And when tears rose in their eyes, they were in mine as well.

There are days that I wonder at God’s Call on my life. But today — today I have it strengthened deep in my heart.

Thanks be to God.

 

~–oOo–~

 

These are the blessings I used:

May your ears hear the uplifting and the encouraging.
May your hands help those in need.
May your heart be humble and receptive to the things of God.
May your mind be strong, disciplined, and balanced.
May the grace of the Lord, the spirit of God and the peace of Christ be with you always. Amen.

The Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord’s countenance lift you up and give you peace
In the name of our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,
Amen.

In the Name of Christ,
I bless you with the promises of God.
In the power of Holy Spirit,
may you be healthy and strong in body, mind and spirit.
May God’s angels be with you to protect and keep you always.
Amen.

May God be your strength and your source of power
May you know God’s salvation
May God lead you, protect you and defend you
All of your days.
In the Name of our God, Amen.

Don’t go changin’…

Don’t go changin’… That’s what got me singing:

Don’t go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore
I would not leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are
– Billy Joel

Well, maybe a little change is a good thing…

Those are great lyrics to demonstrate unconditional love. Not so great when it comes to home repair and upkeep!

Recently, we had to do a major repair, clean-up and de-clutter for a home appraisal. (No, we’re not moving. It was for other reasons!) In the process of preparing for the appraiser’s arrival, I had to look at rooms in our home from a stranger’s eyes. Rooms that I thought looked cozy and comfy were under piles of clutter. I realized that some quick spruce-ups were necessary.

Several hours of cleaning and straightening up by myself and my beloved, and we were ready. The sun sparkled through the windows. The floors gleamed. The cats cooperated and kept all of their hair off the freshly vacuumed furniture (sort of…)

Look quickly! There's no clutter. (Well... OK there's a book left on a chair.)

Look quickly! There’s no clutter. (Well… OK there’s a book left on a chair.)

It was worth the effort, but it took a lot to get to “show room” quality. For a few hours, we were picture perfect!

It got me thinking…

There are many things in our lives which are right in front of us and need improvement. But instead of addressing them, we just choose to ignore the mess. OR (perhaps worse) we see the problems, and decide it isn’t worth the extra effort to improve.

As I went about my day, picking up and clearing the decks, I couldn’t help but think about the way I approach the unwanted tasks in my life. Whether it’s mending or ironing, cleaning or de-cluttering, I make excuses to do ANYTHING else. Or perhaps it’s that last 20 pounds I am trying to lose and I sit and read (or play on-line) instead of exercising. (That stepper machine isn’t a coat rack… sigh…) I can find any excuse not to “just do it.”

Why is it so hard?

Because I’m selfish…
Because the status quo is easier than making a new habit…
Because I am afraid to put myself out there…
Because it’s slightly scary to decide to make a change when those old ruts are so familiar…
Because I don’t have enough confidence…
Because I have tried and failed in the past…
Because improvement takes work! And lots of it!

I think it’s a combination of all of the above. However, when I finally do overcome an obstacle (self-made or environmental) the feeling of accomplishment is huge. Our home is clean and inviting. The results were worth the discipline.

It’s lots of baby steps in the right direction (as FlyLady would say).  Lots of little tasks that add up into a big difference. Cutting out between meal carb-type snacks and walking more every day helped me lose 20 pounds in 4 months. The next 20 pounds will take more effort, but I still have it as my goal in 2014. (And I’m proud to say I’ve lost the first 2!)

Peter’s words come to mind:

This is why you must make every effort to add moral excellence to your faith; and to moral excellence, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, endurance; and to endurance, godliness; and to godliness, affection for others; and to affection for others, love. If all these are yours and they are growing in you, they’ll keep you from becoming inactive and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:4-8, CEB)

It’s a little staircase of intentional thoughts, words and deeds. Each depends on the other for forward progress. Slowly. Gently. Carefully. Thoughtfully. And with God’s help, we’ll all get there…

Blessed be.

I could have earned 50 cents. Maybe a dollar.

When I was little, my grandmother would offer me a quarter if I would sit still for 5 minutes. Yes, she knew her money was safe. But this morning, in the quiet and the dappled sunshine, I would have earned four shiny quarters. When I was ready to go back inside and finish up my chores before work, I took some pictures.

Here’s where I…

Sitting in silence.

Sat in silence with God.

listen

Counted the leaves as they fell.

Watching the sunlight.

Watched the sunlight and dappled shade.

My grandma would be tickled.