I should really blog more. I think. I mean, I think I’m supposed to. Do you read blogs? Are you a cult follower of your favorite so-and-so? I always think about things to blog about, and hopefully to spark conversation about, and then, well, honestly THEN I just don’t.

I write every week. Sometimes I’m writing book content. Other times it’s liturgies. And always it’s either 1 or 2 (yes I didn’t stutter) sermons. EVERY. WEEK. So the thought of more writing can just get downright difficult. Instead of being a creative endeavor, it just seems arduous.

But the what-what’s of the world will tell you to blog. That you need a bigger presence. That your voice needs to be heard (among all the other voices in the blogosphere/social media empire.) And meh. I don’t know about that.

I’m writing this content while waiting on a flight in a very busy metropolitan airport. As I like to do, I’m people watching. The Cowboy-Business man, a clash of of a sleek satchel alongside his full quill boots and Stetson hat. The Grandmother wrangling way too many little ones, sighing every couple of minutes as they vie for technology. The 4 Young Adults, in their stretch pants and boots, eagerly talking about the “getaway” and going over the itinerary. Not one of them is reading a blog. Not. A. One.

I think we are saturated. I think we are tired. I think we are overwrought keeping up with all the channels and all all the statements and all.the.things. I think this because I am, too. This teacher from Nazareth so many years ago invited the world to step away. To be still. To view the wonder without all the noise. We need that more and more each passing day, it seems to this over-scheduled-harried-frenetic-writer-pastor-chica.

So I probably will continue my only sometimes pattern of blogging. Back to staring into people’s eyes, smiling and being a part of humanity in the here and the now.

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About 6 months ago I worked to get my aromatherapy certification. The more I read about why I wasn’t sleeping and focusing, the more I began to use essential oils to try to help, and that lead me to study the properties of oils and their usage.

I was astounded. As a minister-churchy type person, of course I had heard about Frankincense and Myrrh, but I didn’t realize how much oils were used not only in lavish gifting, but in the every day, day in-day out world of our ancient brothers and sisters. And I knew. In that moment I knew… I wasn’t taking care of myself or honoring the gift of my life with the manner in which I was living.

You know what I mean. Don’t shake your head. And don’t think I’m getting all ready to shame you. But maybe you are like me. You stay up too late. You constantly return emails. You over schedule yourself. You feel guilty for just sitting. For napping. For staring. For dreaming. For picking flowers. For walking the dog. For taking a picnic. (I could go on.)

But then I unlocked the power of SCENT. When sit and diffuse oils, or put them on me, I get still. I breathe. I slow down. I process and notice. And my urgent-don’t-forget-about-me tasks don’t seem near as important.

So sit more. Breathe more. Go pick some lavender.

And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. (Mark 6:13)

This year during Advent in my morning gatherings we are considering the texts of Advent/Christmas where God speaks…. through the extraordinary, through human relationships and how we can continue to listen to the voice of God in the mania we find ourselves in at the close of 2016. As I have begun to consider the texts from the Psalms and the Gospels that I have chosen for worship, I have collected thoughts, stories and commentaries so that their assumptions about the scriptures could sit and stir in my soul.

This morning, I opened up my the Christian Century magazine, the November 23rd issue… and read the article from the Publisher this morning before I delved into Advent 1 sermon crafting. It blew me away.

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This is for all of you who cannot seem to stop posting about the news. Who have nothing else to note in a world that is wrought with amazing things and awful things. Take note:
 
“Alain de Botton… (author of THE NEWS: A USER’S MANUAL) believes that in contemporary culture news has largely replaced religion as ‘our central source of guidance and our touchstone of authority.’ The news–not scripture, tradition, or inspired ritual–informs how we handle suffering and make moral choices. A desire to know what’s going on all hours of the day and night actually makes us more shallow than we may want to admit.”
 
I love these words. I hate our obsession. And I abhor my timeline right now, riddled with hate speech (all sides), negative views (all sides), and general malaise. I say: TURN IT OFF and start exercising! Make an ornament or two for someone. Go volunteer at an animal shelter. Go play bingo with some elders. Reconnect with the Divine in all things… and I believe joy will find you. I truly believe that nothing is impossible is God.

I’m preaching from Isaiah 65 this week. It’s a lectionary text, so I didn’t “choose” it to sway us towards something after this election cycle. It is one of my fave texts and garners such a vision for us to be captured by.

Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth:
    past events won’t be remembered;
    they won’t come to mind.
Be glad and rejoice forever
    in what I’m creating,
    because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy
    and her people as a source of gladness. –Is. 65:17-18, CEB

Martin Luther had a great response to people asking him if he thought the end was near. His reply? “Plant a tree.” In other words, invest in a hopeful and life giving future, even though those about you may seem to be working towards destruction.

So, my prayer for the coming days, is not a lament, but a call to hope.

Creation-Caster, we find ourselves star-gazing at the expanse of the universe, lingering in its light.

As we choose to be in a posture of love and life:
may a grander vision capture us,
may a sense of adventure move us,
may a new heaven and new earth envelop us so that we become the bearers of mercy, justice and peace.

Surprising God, we turn to You, expectant in our hope.

Amen.

I know this post is going to put me into some very hot water. I’ve been muddling it over in my mind all weekend and now it’s 3:14p on Monday and since it won’t go away….

Maybe you listened to NPR this weekend. Or watched FoxNews. Or hey, even read the CNN ticker line. If you did, you couldn’t escape the number 5.  And if you are super savvy in the social media world, you were captivated by the CIA ‘live tweeting’ the events of 5 years ago.

Why? Well, it’s been 5 years since Osama bin Laden was found and killed (if you missed it go here.) The world’s most hunted and wanted man… gone with the shot of a sniper rifle by the elite special forces.

I think what has bothered me the last few days is the celebration of it all. I know he masterminded acts of evil. I know. I know that countless lives have been taken and altered because of what this man stood for and ordered. I know that, too.

But I’m just itchy about “celebrating” his death, and it seems a bit odd to this Christian pastor chica. I’m sad.

I’m sad we’ve spent gazillions of dollars in war. I’m grieving the numbers of persons who have been maimed physically and mentally because of terror and war. I’m perplexed at how our news cycle wants to sanitize horror into a celebration. It’s all a bit much for me.

Instead I am waiting with the expectant hope for a story about how these last 5 years have meant more women in the world are reading. Or maybe a story of how disparate faith groups come together to pray for peace. Or, hey, I’d even take a short spot or some white space with the simple phrase: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. The stories are out there, true, but you have to know where to look. These stories certainly don’t take the headlines these days.

5 won’t leave me be. 5 is the most important number to our news cycles, and the most frightening to me. Countless studies have been conducted of late at the effects on our mental health by the continual cycles of violence we are exposed to. More and more work is being highlighted on how violence will only increase violence. As a pastor, I’m concerned. No, that’s not true: I’m horrified.

As we continue to see some downward trends of faith-based community gatherings where I believe we reenact joy and hope in the midst of our everyday lives, where will people go? What will they do? Where will they find alternate sources of love and life? One author I rely on Todd Henry encourages us to take in the best of what feeds our creativity, and I would go further to say that we need to surround ourselves with life-giving messages of information to create a new pattern in our world.

I don’t want to be an alarmist… okay, maybe I do. Maybe it’s time that we begin to flood our personal blogs, our Facebook pages, our Twitter feeds, our Instagram handles with joy, hope, mercy and love. I know I am going to try to take the challenge to do so.

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image courtesy of BILLBOARD MAGAZINE

Surely it can’t be true. Hours after the news has broken that the artist known as a symbol and a name, Prince, died of complications from influenza I’m still in shock. I’m in a haze.

I don’t know if it is because of my cultural icons that were formative in my growing up years are leaving the planet, or if it is because I’m feeling my age, or if it is because we are a culture obsessed with anything BUT death, but I’m in a funk… and not the kind Prince and the Revolution played.

Have there ever been such gloriously true and radically welcomed words as these:

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.

What a way to gather people. What an invitation to be who you are. What a simply perfect phrase to even out the playing field of the game of life.

Here we are, gathered on this bit of water and dirt in the grand design of this particular star system, beloved creatures, and we are to pull together to do this thing called life. To love, radically. To feed, generously. To hope, unabashedly.

For today, it was nice to hear Prince tunes and memories instead of the political nonsense. Today, we the beloved, gathered. And it was holy.

It’s been a fascinating journey. Daily combing through historical photos and famous geographical locales. Daily combining scriptures as I went through Lent. I know it was a spiritual practice I was engaged in. I found the work to be most holy and even noticed that while I was perusing and matching, my anxiety subsided. It became a way of prayer.

Easter is upon us. There is pomp. There is circumstance. There are bunnies and eggs. There are dresses and hats. There is an Easter dinner. There is family.

But in the celebratory chaos, I wonder if just for a moment we can be mindful of the reassurance of a God who cast a vote for LOVE.

Easter

This photograph was snapped at the 2015 Caribbean Cup of Freediving in Roatan, Honduras.

Thanks for journeying with me. Alleluia!

 At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus.

 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.

Scripture Reference: Luke 24:1-8, The Message

Image Credit: Alex St. Jean

Saturday

This ariel image was taken at sunrise at Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

“Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon.”

Scripture Reference: Psalm 31:24, The Message

Image Credit: Jassen T.

Good Friday

This photo is the site known as Golgotha, in Israel. While the actual site of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is not known for sure, this site is outside the gates of what was ancient Jerusalem, and has a garden near it that is believed to belong to Joseph of Arimathea.

“They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill (the name in Hebrew is Golgotha), where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote a sign and had it placed on the cross. It read:

Jesus the nazarene the king of the jews.

 Many of the Jews read the sign because the place where Jesus was crucified was right next to the city. It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The Jewish high priests objected. “Don’t write,” they said to Pilate, “‘The King of the Jews.’ Make it, ‘This man said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’”

Pilate said, “What I’ve written, I’ve written.””

Scripture Reference: John 19:19-22, The Message

Image Credit: Israeli Tourism Society

Maundy ThursdayThis image is the famous painting from Tintoretto (a student of Titian) The Last Supper. He imbues his tableau with complexity and even mystery, as he plays with the notion of light and dark.  He also gives nods to the ordinary people of the day, including a few people preparing and serving food, along with a dog at an apostle’s feet, and a cat sniffing the contents of a basket.

For this is what the Lord himself has said about his Table, and I have passed it on to you before: That on the night when Judas betrayed him, the Lord Jesus took bread,  and when he had given thanks to God for it, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, “Take this and eat it. This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new agreement between God and you that has been established and set in motion by my blood. Do this in remembrance of me whenever you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you are retelling the message of the Lord’s death, that he has died for you. Do this until he comes again.

Scripture Reference: 1st Corinthians 11:23-26, The Living Bible

Image Credit: Jacopo Tintoretto,  this painting is part of the collection at the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy.