cairns me home

being still in God's big world

Category: 2013 (page 2 of 3)

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Tune in to see who the 3 lucky winners of my Team in Training donor raffle! 

Thanks to all 26 individuals and families who have GENEROUSLY donated so far! There is still time! If you would like to donate please go to this link.

If you or someone you love has or has ever had Myeloma, Leukemia, or Lymphoma please send me their name through either the comments below or in an email. I will be writing all of their names on my racing singlet to carry them with me on October 14th!!!

So much love!

Learning to Run: Life and 10Ks

On many occasions I have tried to be a runner. The first time was when I transitioned from 8th grade into high school and I wanted to play on the field hockey team. (I played in middle school and really enjoyed it.)  To play on any of the high school sports teams you had to be able to run the mile loop around the playing fields every day before practice. I could not do that. To make matters worse, I was so far from being an athlete I didn’t even really know how to ask anyone to help me. One of my teachers told me to practice over the summer. Run from one telephone pole to the next and then walk the next length and vice versa until I could run a mile. Sounds simple, but for a chubby middle schooler who looks kind of like a spastic Fraggle when running, it was not simple. It felt impossible. I kept at it on and off for a month and then I decided I couldn’t play high school sports. 
Fast forward to 32-year-old Audrey deciding to run a 10K for cancer.  Yeah, crazy pants! Well, this morning I went out for another practice run. I’m just starting week 3 of my couch to 10K program and I was not looking forward to this run at all. You see – week 2 did not go so well. I was not able to complete all of my runs during any of my training sessions during week 2. I either had to stop running early or skip a running segment entirely during each of the training runs week 2.
For those not familiar with Couch to 10K programs let me offer an explanation:
Couch to 10K (C210K) is an app I downloaded to my phone that is effectively a stopwatch with a trainer’s voice attached. I plug my earphones into my phone and listen to the greatest playlist of all time (click here to see aforementioned playlist) and the app tells me when to: warm up, run, walk, or cool down. When you first start C210K you walk for a few minutes and then run for one minute and then walk again and then run again… each week your runs get longer and your walks, obviously, become fewer. The idea is that the trainer helps you build up to running for distance. It is a 12-week program.
Okay, continuing on:
This morning I was taking my first run since last Tuesday. (You are supposed to run every other day.) Yep, almost a week off! I brought my running shoes with me on my camping trip but after taking 2 days off to recover from soreness the rain set in and running in the mud while camping with 3 small children was not seeming like a good plan. When I got home on Sunday I planned to go out and run but my hip had been killing me so my wise friend, Missy, told me that Jesus thought it was okay for me to take my last day of vacation off. I spent the day relaxing and recovering from the camping trip. (And I searched online for some good hip stretches.) I felt guilty not running on Sunday, but I knew Missy was right.
This morning I went out to run week 3 day 1. I gave myself permission not to time my pace or to hold myself to any standard aside from simply completing the time prescribed. The run segments increased by a full minute this week. That means that even though I couldn’t finish all my 2-minute runs last week, this week I was going to be asked to run for 3 full minutes at a time. While this sounds easy to many of you, it isn’t for me. Three weeks ago when I started this adventure I could barely complete all of the one-minute runs. This morning when I ran my form was better than it has been, my breathing was more focused, and somehow when I checked to see how much longer my run was I saw that I had completed the whole 3 minutes of the first interval! This continued for each running segment. On the last running interval I huffed and puffed but I got through it. I nearly cried when I realized that I did the whole workout without stopping. I am a beast!
When I got home to dress for my first day back at work I realized something. This week off from running only to come back and have my best training session yet is a parallel of the month of vacation I’m returning from today. At the beginning of July I felt like it was crazy to take a full month off. Sure I was feeling burned out and depleted, but taking a full month off with no plans seemed like such waste of valuable time. But as I’ve returned to the office today I realize that my stress level is markedly decreased, my productivity today has been off the charts, and my general joy about my call is revived. Without allowing my soul this time to recover and renew I couldn’t do the work I am doing right now – just as I couldn’t have run (pain free, I might add) with the form and energy I had this morning if I hadn’t listened to my body and rested it. In life and in races we have to push ourselves to be better but we also have to pay attention and realize that sometimes the most important push we can make is to push away the guilt so we can rest, recover, and renew.
I am grateful to my colleagues and parish for making it possible to take this time away to regain my focus and rediscover my light. I am grateful for the strength it took to listen to my body and to rest it enough to run a smarter race. And I am grateful to God that I’ve gotten over my ego enough to realize that running like a spastic Fraggle can be a beautiful thing.

The Art of Saying Yes

This is what saying yes to a walk in the sun looks like.

I am really good at saying, “yes.”
As in:
“Yes, I am happy to help you with that project you are a month late starting and is due tomorrow.”
“Yes, I can drive your children to Nebraska on Friday.”
“Yes, I would be thrilled to taste test your meals to ensure there is no poison in them.”
I exaggerate, but what I mean is that I actually have a history of being really terrible at saying “yes.” “Yes” is an art form. “Yes” requires the ability to weigh pros and cons in BOTH the lives of those asking and in your own. “Yes” when doled out too liberally leads to exhaustion on one end of the spectrum and crabbiness and lashing out at others on the other end. I’ve been working for quite some time on becoming better at saying, “no.” I thought this work meant that there was greater strength in the word “no” than in the word “yes.” What I’ve discovered, though, is that saying “no” appropriately gives strength back to the word, “Yes.” Saying yes in these instances goes from being draining to being affirming. When your “yesses” are balanced they are an opportunity to improve your life, and maybe even the lives of others.
Last night at Beer and Bible we were discussing the Gospel narrative of Martha and Mary. (Luke 10:38-42)  Some of the conversation turned toward who chose the “easier” route in that story. Martha was bustling around preparing food and tidying up for their visitors. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to listen. There are, obviously, cultural and historical elements at play but there is also the decision to say yes showing here. Mary said, “no,” to many of the traditional responsibilities choosing instead to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from and be in fellowship with her friend and teacher, Jesus. This doesn’t mean that Mary is a better person than Martha; rather, in this instance, Mary is prioritizing something that will feed her soul. We talked about the way that Martha “brings Jesus’ rebuke upon herself,” because Martha goes to Jesus to tattle. If Martha were happy going about her tasks this interaction wouldn’t have happened. Sometimes we have to say “no” to the things that will deplete us in  order to have the energy we need to say “yes” to the things that will feed us. Sometimes we just need to say, “not yet” to the things that are necessary but not urgent to take advantage of a passing opportunity. Martha was doing work that may have been necessary, but Jesus was reminding her that it was not urgent.
I am not entirely rehabbed from my “yes/no imbalance disorder” but my recovery is going well. I am using this vacation as an opportunity to practice the art of saying “yes” in my personal life. Today I said yes to something very important to me. I’ve been contemplating participating in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training for the past several years. Each time I’ve thought about it I’ve come up with a reason to say “no.” Those “No”s came from a place of a place of fear. They came from a place of unbalanced priorities. So today I said, “yes!” I am thrilled that I will be training to run in Tufts 10K on October 14th. That doesn’t mean I’m not afraid. I’m terrified. I’ve committed myself to getting into the best shape of my life and running 6.2 miles 3 months from now! I will need all of your help. And I will need to say “yes” to many more things to make this possible. I hope you will visit my personal event page where you can learn more about that decision, about the Team in Training, and about my fundraising for a foundation aiming to rid the world of the cancers that took my mother’s life and that my dad fights each day. (It’s like 2 blog posts for the price of 1!) 
What could you say “yes” to that would make your life better right now?

broken and blessed

Take, Bless, Break, Give. That is the order of the Eucharist. Each week when we pray around the table we pray through the taking, blessing, breaking, and giving of Christ’s body. We watch as ordinary bread is transformed into our sacramental feast. This week, more than usual, I am cognizant of my own nature as a human being who is simultaneously blessed and broken. Living in that dissonance is an invitation into the heart of God and I feel drawn into the discord. My prayers are focused on figuring out how to take my broken, blessed self, shake the dust from my shoes, and walk forward in faithful humility to give what I can and absorb what I need. I am reminded that Christ walked this road before and because of that miraculous fact there really isn’t anything I can feel or experience that will surprise God. Pain, joy, hope, despair, love – all are experiences that God understands deeply and can walk through with each of us. So for today, I choose to fully expose both my brokenness and my blessedness. Today I choose to shine, not in spite of my brokenness, but rather because of the fractures in the crystal of my heart. Those fractures create the rainbows. In the words of Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  

With faith like in child’s pose

Image from this Sarah Suero’s yoga blog.

My name is Audrey and I haven’t been to yoga in eight months. Well, that was true until yesterday. When I moved back from seminary last summer I immediately got a gym membership and found a new Bikram studio. I went to Bikram regularly, but without the enthusiasm I used to have for it. The new studio didn’t feel like home. The focus it brought me in Alexandria was lost and it felt like a chore. The gym I joined felt big and impersonal after three years of workout sessions with my prayer partner at the school gym. I continued my workouts all summer thinking that if I just did what I’d become accustomed to it would eventually feel like home. It didn’t.

As the program year began at church and my stress level rose I did the opposite of what would have been good for me: I stopped going. First to fall away was yoga. Then went the gym. I could mention the length of commute to yoga during rush hour. I could talk about how big and intimidating and impersonal the gym was, but the truth is: I was mourning the relational aspects of working out with friends. Going to the gym by myself was sad. It was work when it used to be worship for me.

During seminary our class chaplains matched each member of the class with a prayer partner. Some prayer partners set weekly times for bible study and intercessory prayer. Some prayer partners went out for coffee or manicures together. My prayer partner and I went to the gym each night at seven o’clock. Our prayers didn’t start with “The Lord be with you” and they didn’t end with a literal “amen,” but they were holy and honest. 

I’ve noticed my energy and mood declining and I’ve resolved to do something about it.

Yesterday morning I went to a new yoga studio. They do hot yoga, but it’s not Bikram. At first I was Judgey-McJudgerson –

“There are no mirrors!”

“What is all this ‘Listen to your body. Do what feels good’ crap?”

“It’s not hot enough in here.”

But when I allowed myself to relax out of the strict Bikram mindset and to be fully present I realized how out of sync I have been with my body. I realized how much I needed to “listen to [my] body and do what feels good.” I stretched and turned and sweated it out and it felt wonderful. The freedom of the prana flow was a release. As the class progressed I got dizzy. I tried to push through it but I realized I needed to rest. The lack of mirrors made me more comfortable when I descended into child’s pose while the rest of the class continued with the routine. The teacher came over and helped me to stretch my back out. As she pressed on my back she quietly sympathized, “ow,” when she felt the knots. As I stayed in child’s pose for a little longer I felt grateful: grateful for the lack of mirrors, grateful to be feeling the pain in my body that I didn’t know was there, and grateful for the ability and resolve I found to do something about it. Our bodies are gifts from God and how we use or abuse them is a reflection of our gratitude. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

I finished the class, but not without going into child’s pose to rest a couple more times. As I got ready for bed last night I could feel soreness that has been missing for a long time. It is a soreness that comes from a good workout. It is a “good ow.” 

Child’s pose is a pose of total submission and surrender. In my practice it is a pose that allows me to let go of everything standing between myself and God. It is an acknowledgement that I can do nothing without Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) At my ordination I wanted to lie prostrate at the point in the service when the congregation prays for the Holy Spirit to descend but it was not what my bishop wanted for the liturgy. I lay in child’s pose on the floor of the sanctuary a couple days before my ordination in prayer and submission. Yesterday, entering child’s pose helped to center and focus my prayers in a way I’d forgotten I needed.

Rarely are the good things in life easy. We have to work for them. We have to make choices. We have to decide that the end result is worth the journey. We have to realize that we are worth the effort. So my embodied prayer life is coming back. Spending 90 minutes in a hot room feeling my body just as it is and pushing it to be more is a place God has been waiting to meet me. I am glad I found my way back there. 

Blessed be the mothers

Have you ever woken up in the morning and lay in bed a moment longer just to marvel at how blessed you are? I find this an especially easy habit in the springtime. The birds have returned with their song and the sun finds its way to our windows earlier. During this Mother’s Day week, I find myself remembering my mother and being so very grateful that I was blessed to have her for the time I did. I think about all of the mothers in my life from my sister, aunts, and grandmother, to my girlfriends and mentors. I am blessed to have so many strong, female role models to look to and marvel at.
All of the focus on Mother’s Day also has me thinking about our images we employ to explore our relationship with the Triune God. Each week at church we profess our faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. For some individuals the masculinization of these Persons of the Trinity makes it difficult for them to connect to God for a variety of reasons. Likewise, the absence of pronouns when attempting to find a gender-neutral way of talking about God can make God seem impersonal and distant. What if this Mother’s Day could serve as an invitation to consider how our relationship with God would be changed if we thought of God as both our Father and our Mother.
There is biblical precedent for such imagery. In the psalms we find instances of God as a midwife attending a birth. The prophet Isaiah paints the picture of God as a woman in childbirth whose breath during labor pangs is the power of God “lead[ing] the blind” and “turn[ing] darkness into light.” (Isaiah 42:14-17) The Gospel of Luke shows us God as a mother hen desiring to gather her chicks under her wings. (Luke 12:34) In addition to these rich images, we can consider that the noun ruach –the Hebrew word for breath, wind, or spirit that Christians have come to name as the third Person of the Trinity– is a feminine word. Thus, even when these concrete masculine images of Father and Son are being spoken we can hold fast to the femininity of God inherent in the Holy Spirit.
This coming Sunday, when many of us go to Dorchester to march in solidarity with the mothers who have lost their children to violence – when you call your own mother – when you are awoken to breakfast in bed by your children – or when you worship here in Epiphany’s beautiful nave, I hope you will consider the question: How can I invite God to be a mother to me? 

Praying your kids through the chaos

Today I got an email from a parishioner asking how she could pray with her kids through the chaos in Boston. She wrote:

Dear Audrey, Do you have any advice for parents on how to pray with our children about what has happened and what is happening in the Boston area today? I find myself avoiding prayer with my kids these past few days, but  know that sends the wrong message. I don’t want to worry them, and yet I know that they know what is going on (we told them the basic gist). What is appropriate to say to a 10-year-old is not appropriate for a 3 year old. Any ideas?

For those of you outside the Boston area: today has been crazy… this week has been crazy. To top it off – this is public school vacation week. Kids are home and people in many towns are being asked to stay in the house. This leaves many parents and children cooped up, indoors, on an otherwise beautiful spring day. How do you explain to your kids why they have to stay in on a beautiful day? How do you explain why they can’t even turn on the television when all else fails? There are several articles talking about how we should help kids cope, including: Tips for Parents at Home in Lockdown with Kids from WBUR. But how do we pray with our kids through such a horrific and unknown situation?

Here is what I sent to her with some embellishment. I hope it is helpful to you:

1. Be honest but reassuring. They need to know they are safe.

2. Remind them that God IS love. God cries with us and holds us. God is with us all.

3. Invite the kids to tell you what they think you should pray for, and if they are able – let them pray aloud (or silently) themselves. You might be surprised at how in-tune they are with what they want to tell God.

4. Use short, Concrete sentences. 

5. Acknowledge the feelings your child has expressed: verbally and non-verbally.

6. Remember that your prayer is to God on behalf of your children. Use words they would use and feelings they are having. Too much expression of adult feelings and thoughts may overwhelm your children.

7. Prayer comes in many forms: do body prayer with music in the background to get off the couch, invite kids to color pictures and write poems to express their feelings, sing songs from church, and generally be creative. God gave us many different faculties – engage them.

8. You could pray together, but I would separate them for a conversation/questions. If you have a 3 and 10 year old to talk to… do it separately. A 3 year old is too young to conceptualize the questions a 10 year old would ask. A 3 year old will respond directly to the way you and a sibling responds. Likewise, your 10 year old will respond to your emotions. Children take emotional cues from their parents.

9. You do not need to completely mask how you are feeling, but remember #1.

10. If they ask why God would “let” this happen talk to them about choices. God loves us enough to let us make choices. Sometimes we make good choices and sometimes we make bad choices. Sadly, these two boys made a very bad choice. They were hurting and angry and they took out their bad feelings on other people. God cries for that bad choice.

Examples: When a colleague from Newtown asked a list serve I subscribe to for help writing prayers after the shooting there this is what I wrote for her:

Ages 2-5:

Dear God, We are very sad because our friends and families are sad. But we know that you love us. Most of all we know that your Son, Jesus, loves us. We are excited for Jesus’ birthday that is coming on Christmas. God, help all of the people in our town, in our church, and in our families to know that you love us and are with us always. Amen.

Ages 5-8:

Dear God, Sometimes scary things happen and we do not understand. We are sad and scared and confused right now and we need your help. God, we have learned that you are with us all of the time. Help us to know you are with us right now. We pray for our friends and teachers who we will not see anymore. We know they are safe in your arms but we are sad because we miss them a lot. Help us to feel your arms hugging us very tight as we start to heal. Today is Gaudete Sunday. That means it is a day to rejoice. We do not feel like rejoicing. Help us to remember all of the good things in our lives and to thank you for them today and always. Amen. 

MOST IMPORTANT: Don’t force it. If your child/children don’t want to talk about it then leave it until later. Wait until they bring it up. If you have a normal prayer time with your family offer your prayers then rather than interrupting play or other healthy activities to bring up this situation. If you are in a lull than it might be the time the Spirit is inviting you into prayer – if the kids are engaged and happy this might not be the right time. Play is both the work and the prayer of a child. Remember: “Pray without ceasing, if necessary use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi
Some bible verses for reference (I could list a lot more… but you get the picture.)
Psalm 46:10 – Be still and know that I am God. (All of Psalm 46 really)
John 10:11 – I am the good shepherd… (this Sunday’s Gospel lesson)
Deuteronomy 33:27 – God is your refuge…
Psalm 32:7-8 – You are my hiding place and keep me safe…
Psalm 139 – God is with us always and in all places…
Isaiah 40:28-30 – Haven’t you heard, God is awesome and won’t leave us… (okay, I’m paraphrasing.)
Matthew 6:31-34 – Do not worry…

Finally: I am praying for all of you who are struggling to make sense of this for you and your children, too. It is an incredible task to be charged with leading a child through the dark places in life – I hope that through prayer and love you will see the light inherent.


Sermon for Easter 2
John 20:19-31

Two years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, and to meet with groups of Burmese Anglicans while we were there. I traveled with classmates from the seminary and we taught bible studies, met with seminarians, and learned from these silenced people what their lives were like living under military rule as a religious minority.

During our month of travel we met a man named Philip. Philip spoke perfect English and had a knack for writing poetry and cracking jokes. Our group leader encouraged me to talk more with Philip, because – she said – “we had a lot in common.” Wondering what I had in common with this 60-something year old man from Myanmar I sat down and entered a conversation with curiosity. Philip told me that when he was very young the government wanted to institutionalize him, but his mother would not let them.
She knew he was smart, even if they hadn’t found a way to access his intelligence yet. His mother experimented with different teaching strategies until she found one that worked. Eventually she was able to teach Philip to read and to write. When he was about 13 years old a missionary from the United States asked to take Philip to the US for schooling so he could reach his full potential. Reluctantly, his mother agreed, not knowing if she would ever see her son again. It was then that Philip boarded an airplane and traveled to Massachusetts for education.
Philip’s mother was displaying blind faith — the kind blind faith that Jesus rebukes Thomas for not displaying. At least – that is what it sounded like when I first heard the story. This woman handed her child over to a near stranger to take him to a foreign land with the hope for a better life. How many of us could do the same thing? But, then again, how many of us are living under oppressive rule with no hope to get out? The more I have considered Philip’s story the more I realize that while some of Philip’s mother’s trust was blind – much of it was informed by the reality she was experiencing. Some of it was an incredible – unthinkable, really – extension of faith in another person… but that extension of faith was calculated in some ways.
Then again, who among us hasn’t been Thomas at one point or another? Sometimes we need to have tactile evidence of that which we are asked to understand or believe in order to fully wrap our minds around it. In this post-modern world we require almost scientific levels of evidence for so many things before we are willing to dive in. What do the studies say is the best teaching strategy so that I will know based on little Timmy’s preschool attendance whether he will get into Harvard? Is this treatment for my medical condition the best one? Our faith in God cannot be measured by the same human standards, but we still try.
The question I’ve most often been asked or challenged on when teaching a confirmation class is when it comes to the creed. When asking confirmands where they have the most difficulty in their discernment it most often comes down to the question of the Nicene Creed.
If I asked you all, right now, to close your eyes and then raise your hand if you believe with absolutely no reservation nor any doubt at all that the entire content of the Nicene Creed to be completely true and accurate – how many of us could do that? How many of us “faithful Christians” sitting here this beautiful first Sunday after Easter (congratulations, by the way, for being here on the first Sunday after Easter – that takes hootzpah) can say that we have no doubts at all with regards to our faith in Christ? A handful, at most, I’d bet you. Having faith doesn’t negate the presence of doubt.
Anne Lamott wrote in her book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith, certainty is.” The moment we claim to be absolutely certain, without exploration or question, of our faith we are denying the real questions that live in our hearts. When Jesus says, “Blessed are you who have not seen yet still believe” he is encouraging Thomas, and all of us, to trust in all of the evidence that is already around us. We are constantly surrounded by empirical evidence for our faith in the created world in which we live, in the encounters with humans created in God’s image who hold a mirror up in our own lives sharing the light within their hearts, with the feelings and emotions and tugging of the Holy Spirit that we sense each day. But those things do not prove to be enough for Thomas.
Philip arrived in Boston and was enrolled in the Perkins School for the Blind. Philip completed the equivalent of his high school studies in 2 years and so his missionary benefactor helped him apply to Boston University, where he completed his BS in education to become a teacher – again in only 2 years. Since he still had a year left on his student visa, Philip then got a job at a piano tuning shop in Somerville and he learned the trade of piano tuning. After five years in Massachusetts Philip returned to Myanmar, despite being offered asylum in the US, to share the knowledge he had obtained in his time away. I was enthralled by Philip’s story. I asked him, what the hardest part of growing up blind was for him and he said, “I can’t think of a hardest part of being blind. A hardest part of life, yes; but of being blind… it is all I know. Sighted people always assume the darkness must trouble me but I don’t think I have experienced darkness. I know what colors and light must look like because my friends have taken such care to explain those things to me; but darkness has been described as the ‘absence of colors and light’ and I cannot fathom what that would be like because, by the grace of God, my whole life has been filled with color and light.”
When Jesus says, “blessed are you who have not seen yet still believe” he isn’t calling us into blind faith. Jesus is calling us into the faith of our ancestors. He is calling us into faith in the God who created all things, who sent manna into the wilderness, who led us out of exile, who came to earth to walk amongst us and then died on a cross and rose again for love of us. Jesus isn’t calling us to blind faith because blind faith doesn’t exist – just as darkness doesn’t exist to a blind man. Our God is a God who has been palpably present since the beginning of time; Jesus is calling us to trust all of our senses as we seek to encounter the divine dwelling among us.

Our new normal

That we might bind to our hearts the words of the prophet Ezekiel: “You shall be my people, and I shall be your God.” we pray to you, Lord God. – Amen
When I am talking with people who have experienced the death of a close friend or relative, I know that I must tread lightly. We all experience death differently, and our experiences with our loved ones are as varied as we are, so my experience losing a family member can never be the same as your experience – we are different people. For this reason, I draw from my own experience and try to answer folks who are asking those impossible questions like, “How can things ever get back to normal?” by telling them that they will, in time, come to live in a new normal.
Waking up the morning after the death of a loved one can be jarring. How is it that the sun is shining? How are all of these people going about their day-to-day activities as though nothing has happened? Don’t they know what a terrible day this is? But then, once we’ve had time to grieve and to breathe, we have a wake. At the wake friends and family come together in their fragile state to hold one another, to tell family stories, and to honor the deceased and the lives they lived. Tonight, the beginning of the service we have just experienced has been our wake for Jesus. We have dusted off our family photo albums and reminisced about God’s love for us from the beginning of time.
We have remembered and rejoiced as God created the world from chaos, made a new covenant with us after the flood, delivered us from the hands of our oppressors, washed us clean, and breathed new life into us again and again. Tonight, we marvel in our shared life with God. Like the people of Israel to whom the prophet Ezekiel writes, we are being gathered up after forty days wandering in the wilderness and are being invited to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. In Ezekiel’s prophesy about a new heart and spirit for the people Israel, God becomes the divine surgeon performing a heart transplant in order for the people of Israel to follow the Torah and turn away from false idols.
In a lot of ways, that is what we are invited into during the season of Lent. We take on a spiritual discipline to turn away from the earthy distractions, or idols, which so often distance us from God. We struggle and stumble, and often we fall, but hopefully, we pray for God’s help and we get back up again. We do this for a season to prepare our hearts for the new normal of Christ’s resurrection and all that means for humanity. We have been living in this new normal for so long that we often pass through daily life without truly internalizing the wonder of God’s love for us in the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.
How would our lives be different if we walked around each moment remembering, as if for the first time, that we are so loved that God’s own Son came to walk among us? How would our outlook be changed if we really felt as though we were so loved that God created us in God’s own image, just as we are… warts and all? How would our relationships be strengthened if we entered into every interaction recognizing the Christ that is in the heart of the person whom we are meeting? We could change the world.
The new normal that we re-awaken to in just a few moments, is the normal that we are ALWAYS loved, ALWAYS forgiven, and ALWAYS free.
We re-awaken, after these 40 days of temptation, to the reality that all of our loved ones who have gone before us are being held in the eternity of God and will be waiting for us at the last because of the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. By the Grace and Mercy of Jesus, we are a people who can boldly go forward shouting our Hallelujahs and joining Miriam in her dance because we are a people who were created in God’s own image, were gifted a new heart and a new spirit when we went astray, and who have been redeemed by the blood of our Savior. So, let’s get ready to roll the stone away from the tomb and in doing so, thank God for this new normal.

Why I am a freethinker

I have been contemplating recently the idea that many atheists call themselves “free thinkers” and the implied statement that makes against those who believe in God. For me, nothing seems less free than the idea that you can believe anything you want, as long as God is not one of the things you chose to believe. To be clear, I understand that the origin of the “free-thinker” moniker comes from 17th century philosophy and truly means that the subscribers form all of their belief structure around the tenants of reason and logic. I understand what they are trying to say; but I must say that reason and logic are very much involved in my faith in Jesus Christ. I do not check my brain at the door nor do I ask anyone else to do so. I do not pass judgement on those who believe differently than I do; but I do ask that the favor of acceptance be reciprocated. I am free to think that there is a god just as I am free to think there is not. I am free to love as I have been loved just as I am free to turn a cold shoulder. I am free to live into my full potential just as I am free to squander the gifts I have been given. I am free to do all of these things and more because of the Grace and Love afforded me by God who is Mother and Father to us all. I am a free thinker because of the Free Will God gave to humanity. And, in my estimation, the freedom to truly use all of my faculties to discover truth, both objective and subjective truth, is the only way one can truly be a freethinker.

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