To keep listening and obeying

1 Samuel 16:1-13
His whole entire life has been for one purpose – shepherding the people of Israel. Samuel is the prophet who speaks for God. Year after year he moves from tribe to tribe, arbitrating conflict, giving instruction from God, returning home occasionally to Ramah to judge the people, and this is how his life has gone, since he was quite young. 
God told Samuel to find Saul and make him King, so Samuel did. He counseled him and led him. And Saul – who was, by the way, the tallest and handsomest guy in all Israel, real king material – unites the tribes to fight against their enemies and they start winning some battles.  
Then Samuel, by now very old, figures his work here is done and throws himself a retirement party.  He gives a big speech, “I’ve led you since my youth and you begged for a king and now you have one. Hurrah. Is there anything I’ve done that I need to make right?” No, Samuel, you’ve been great. “OK, now remember who God is – and your crops are dry, you need rain…

Being Found Again: A Letter to John

Mark 1:1-11
A letter to our ancestor, John.
Dear John,
Who are you? Under all that sweat and dust and camel hair? Behind all the drama and noise?  What do you think about out there when the crowds have gone home, and the stars are glowing above you, and the sounds of the desert creatures and the wind are all the noise that’s left? What keeps you awake, tossing and turning?  What gets you up in the morning, for another day of locust-eating and yelling yourself hoarse with passion and fire?  
You are pissing people off, you know.  You don’t live much longer than this – you’ll die soon for telling Herod like it is and calling him out on his adulterous marriage.  And you don’t get much sympathy from the establishment after your criticism of them and your direct competition – baptism for repentance? Really? The people can get that in the temple. The favor and forgiveness of God is already available…for a fee. But you offer it for free? All the while saying something greater is brewing and you’…

The truth about Christmas

Luke 2:22-40
A few days after Christmas I looked at my tree and was filled with disgust.  It no longer represented all the joy of the season; it just looked like clutter in my living room, a big depressing task waiting for me.  And while I had room for one more glass of egg nog, I couldn’t even muster another round of Bing Crosby tunes to accompany me in the chore.  
Add to that the fact that I had to take it down alone. Nobody wanted to help me, and I didn’t want to force or coerce them into it. For some reason, the absurdity of it all made me very emotional, and I ended up crying through the whole process. Resentfully wrapping the ornaments, wiping bitter tears off my face while I unwound the lights, I felt unhinged.  I kept saying to Maisy, who was nearby and watching me with a worried look, “I am not trying to get you to help me with this! You get to have a real choice! This is not manipulation! I don’t know why I am crying! I’m just having some big feelings!”
Christmas is weird.  Ever…



Try this practice at your Christmas Gathering (or any family gathering!): ·Have ready a beautiful basket or box, with a lid, and a candle that can burn for several hours. ·When everyone has arrived, gather together for a few minutes, placing the box or basket in the center of you. ·Explain that you would like to shape a certain kind of space for connection and presence by experimenting with being together without your phones. ·There will likely be anxiety about this for some.Have compassion for yourselves. Recognize how we’ve gotten so attached to our phones in today’s day and age, that it is hard to imagine spending time together without them. Name the discomfort. ·When you are ready to proceed, designate one phone for photos – set it to airplane mode, and set it aside. You can share photos with each other afterwards. ·Light a candle to signify your intention and presence here with each other. ·Read the “releasing phones” part of the cell phone liturgy…

Don't be afraid

Luke 1:26-38

This is the famous scene, the angel’s pronouncement, which the church has called, “The Annunciation.”  Denise Levertov’s poem, Annunciation, asks,
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
        Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments,
      when roads of light and storm
      open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
                                 God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

The suggestion that we all have moments of divine invitation to be part of something more feels like a stretch sometimes. In a week where I have spent more time than I care to admit being, as my kids call me, a “Karen,” (which apparently means someone who always asks to speak to a manager), in my case, trying to sort out delivery issues for a bed that has twice been in a truck on …