God’s Promise of Community

God’s promise of community.

Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

 

Psalm 119: 33-40

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.

Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.

Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you.

Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good.

See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

 

Matthew 5:38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

Questions to Ponder-

How can we be a loving community? By living these Scriptures! Now, the challenge is how to help us hear them today. We can say we don’t steal, but do we “borrow” our neighbor’s wifi? (Probably not the best example….but there must be modern examples of how we hurt each other. I would love to know what modern examples come to mind for you). And I wonder how we can move this up to the corporation level. Even though I believe corporations aren’t people, how does what businesses do hurt us and what can we do about that for ourselves and each others?

I’d love to hear your examples of where you see us living as community. God has promised us community and we need to do the hard work of making it a reality.

A Month of Letter Writing

A Month of Writing Letters
When I walk to my mailbox each night, I am hopeful that something fun will be inside. Somedays I open the mailbox, and it is empty. This happened just last night! When my mailbox is empty, I always assume it is a holiday that I didn’t remember. Somedays I open the mailbox and find only advertisements. On the best days, I open the mailbox and find a card or letter from a real person. It makes my day.
I love writing letters, and I love getting mail. For those two reasons, I enjoy participating in A Month of Letters Challenge. During the month of February, I sent out (at least) 23 handwritten letters or cards. As I write I think of the joy I am sending to another person. As I write I pray for the person who will receive the letter. I appreciate that in this wintry, cold month I have a goal to accomplish, and it is spreading cheer across the country.
I invite you to join me this month in writing at least one handwritten letter. Together we can share joy with others who just need a reminder that they are loved.

Writing a Letter-A Spiritual Practice

Writing a Letter-A Spiritual Practice
When I have too many thoughts running through my head, I write a letter. Other people may write in a journal or go for a run or write a song or find another way of clearing their heads. As someone who enjoys letter writing anyway, writing a letter as a spiritual practice makes sense. Sometimes the letter is to a person about whom I’ve been thinking. Sometimes the questions I’ve been pondering are answered as I write the letter. I don’t have to send the letters I write or then again I might. The letter can be to myself, to whom it may concern, to God, or to someone I know. The letter I’m sharing is to my best friend, Kristi. I needed some help working through something and I knew she’d know what to do. I commend to you the spiritual practice of letter writing as a way to soothe your soul and quiet your mind.
A Letter to My Friend
Hi you!
Is the nearing of my 39th birthday the reason you are on my mind so often lately? When I think of 39, I think of you. You’ll always be 39. You’ll never have to admit you are 40 because you are always 39. How can I have caught up with you? You were always 5 years older and soon I’ll be the age you were when you died. And that makes me realize that it has been (almost) 5 years since you died. So lately, I’ve been thinking of you.
This birthday feels different. I’m not afraid of getting older. You know that. I’m grateful for every year. I guess I just want you to say it is okay for me to be the same age as you and then get older than you. Of course, you’d tell me it is okay. You never held me back. You were always pushing me outside my comfort zone to new places, new experiences, and new people. So I’m going. I will turn 39. I will celebrate being 39. Thank you buddy for living all of your 39 years with reckless abandon. As I blow out my 39 candles (hopefully just a 3 and 9 candle because we don’t need the fire department involved or do we?), I will be grateful for the years I have lived and the people who have walked with me, and I will look forward with anticipation and excitement to my next adventures.
You know I have ninety-two billion other things to tell you, and so for now, all I will say is thank you for helping me prepare for 39. Thank you for helping me clear my head and my heart.
Susannah

Sitting by the Christmas Tree

Sitting by the Christmas Tree

In our home, we celebrate the season of Christmas by leaving our tree up until at least Epiphany. I love the practice of celebrating the liturgical season of Christmas (December 25-January 5). I feel like I have more time to sit by the Christmas tree after everyone else is done celebrating Christmas. The presents have all been unwrapped and the must do list is done. I’m sitting in the living room with all the lights off except the Christmas tree writing this now. It is a silent night with time to think about hopes for this new year and time to give thanks for those I love. It is a holy night feeling God’s love in the midst of this sacred time. It is a time to remember Christmases past and ways I have celebrated throughout my life. Merry Christmas!

What traditions of this season make it meaningful for you?

How do you celebrate in unique ways?

What do I want to do today? Nothing! – A Prayer for One of Those Days

Just like everyone else, I have days where I do not want to do anything I’m supposed to be doing. Instead of getting ready for work or something that must be done right away, I do 20 other things, read a book, or watch tv. When I finally start to get ready, I have to hurry which means I forgot something (most often my lunch). I don’t have the answer to eliminating these days from your life. I would like to share this prayer which may help stop mornings that start like this from turning into terrible days.

God, Another day is here. My bed looks so inviting. Would another 15 minutes hurt anyone? God, I hear you trying to keep me on track. Reminding me of my gifts and calling. I know all this, and I don’t want to do it today. Yes God, I know I am your beloved child. And yes, God, I know I must get on with my day. And yes, God, I know I need vacation and Sabbath time. (Breathe deeply). Holy One, I hear you calling me to make time for work and Sabbath time. I will. And now I will go where you have called me to serve. And I will remember the Sabbath and find more time for joy. Amen.

What You Do is Appreciated

Not too long ago I had a call from my supervisor asking me to stop by her office. Maybe you are one of those people whose mind doesn’t jump to the worst case scenario immediately. I am not. While driving to her office, I wondered what I had done wrong. Had I missed visiting a new patient? Did I offend a patient or family member? Did I chart incorrectly? The questions ran through my mind as I tried and tried to figure out why I was being called to her office. When I arrived, she thanked me for my work and gave me a bag full of goodies as appreciation for all the good work I was doing. I shared with her how I had been worried the entire time I was driving to her office. We laughed. I wish I could say that I learned my lesson and never worry about being called to the office. It isn’t true. I try. And because I felt so much love and appreciation when I received this bag of goodies, I wanted to share it with you. Know that you are loved and the work you do makes a difference in the lives of many others. You are enough. You are God’s beloved.

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A Gratitude List

Tomorrow we interrupt our regular lives and say thank you. I encourage you to express your gratitude to your loved ones for all the ways they brighten the world. I encourage you to notice your abundance and share. I encourage you to get outside and enjoy creation. That is how I hope you’ll spend your Thanksgiving! And as we celebrate this holiday, I am thankful for you, dear readers, for walking this journey with me. Thank you!
I’m going to start this prayer/gratitude list and hope you join me by adding those people, places, and things for which you are grateful-
Dear God, We thank you for
turkey, stuffing, cranberries, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, and pumpkin pie
tables where we gather to eat together
farmers who grew our food
family, friends, and all our loved ones
changing seasons
warm drinks and fuzzy socks
dishwashers and people who love to cook
the warmth of the sun
a day off of work
work we are called to do
laughter
small children learning and growing
elders among us who share their wisdom
candles and tablecloths and paper plates
stories of our ancestors
family recipes
naps and games
memories
walking around the block to make room for dessert
opportunities to notice our abundance and share
traditions and flexibility…
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We Are Called to Remember!

Today would have been my buddy, Rev. Kristi Foster’s 44th birthday. She died at the age of 39 from colon cancer. She was fearless with an amazing love of life and a strong faith. Her family and friends were so important to her and you knew she loved you. In celebration of her life, I’m sharing this list I created in 2013 of some of the times I miss my friend!

Moments when I miss my friend-

when I listen to a CD you made

when life is awesome

when life stinks

when something funny happens

when I need to make a big decision

when I can’t believe what one of God’s beloved children just did/said

when it is Thursday pizza night

when a Friends reference seems appropriate

when The Amazing Race is on

when I just want to hear your voice

when I have to go camping

when I make salsa-with or without a wooden spoon

when I have a veggies only day

when I enjoy a glass of wine I know you would enjoy

when I have a guess what my niece did story-Aunts rock!

when I’m lost and in need of a reminder of my call

when I need a laugh or a good cry

when I need a partner in crime

when I discover a fun new place to eat, hear a great new song, or see a fun new tv show

when my long hair drives me crazy and I want to chop it off-I remember I started growing it out to donate as soon as I heard you had cancer

whenever the Blue Women sing

when I remember one of our crazy trips (Geneva, Taize, Scotland, road trips!)

when I pull something out of the trash to recycle it

when I use cloth napkins

when I cannot remember something I know you would remember in great detail

when I hear your voice still saved on my voicemail

when I remember my wedding or your wedding

when I wear stripes

when I see your picture.

 

Loving God, thank you for all those we love. We miss those who are gone. Today, I am missing my dear friend. Thank you for the many years of friendship we had. I lift up to you in prayer all who love her and miss her. Mend our broken hearts. Amen.

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What to Wear to Church?

I have a confession to make. I wear jeans to church. For most of you, this may not seem like something I need to confess. Let me give you the background. In my family, we went to church every Sunday during my childhood. Our nicest clothes were our church clothes. I remember new dresses for Easter and shiny church shoes. When I started working in churches, I continued to dress very nicely for Sunday worship. I was leading worship and wanted to look the part. Now, things are different. I must dress nicely Monday-Friday for work. I want to wear something different on the weekends, and so I wear my jeans. As I got dressed for church recently, I said to my husband, “I am wearing jeans today.” He reminded me that I told him that God doesn’t care what we wear to church. I believe that and need to live into the belief for myself. So with apologies to my grandmother who might not like it, I wear jeans to church. And upon further reflection, I don’t think a confession is needed for this wardrobe choice because God does not care what I wear to church. I am working to get on God’s page with this one.

My hope for all of us is that we spend much more time growing our faith on Sunday mornings and much less time worrying what we or anyone else is wearing to worship!

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Today is All Saints’ Day

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Today is All Saints’ Day. This is a day when we remember and give thanks for everyone throughout the centuries who has shared their faith with the next generation. Today we are thankful for our ancestors of faith in biblical times, the saints we’ve known in our lives, and everyone in between. When we say saints, some people think that only applies to certain important people of faith. In fact the opposite is true. We are all saints of God doing our best to live our faith and share our faith with others.

Today, I encourage you to take a moment to remember a saint you have known who is no longer with us and a saint you never knew. You can give thanks for someone whose name you know or someone whose name is now known only by God. As people of faith it is important for us to remember that our faith was passed down to us and it is our job to pass it on to others.

I’d love to know more about the saints you are remembering today.