God and the slave-girl

ADVENT 2: PEACE (Grace Embodied, Part 2. Go here for Part 1.)
Genesis 16
The Hebrew word for Peace, Shalom, means “fullness” or “completion.”  Saying Shalom as a greeting is to say, “May you be completed.”
Peace is not an ethereal idea. It’s an actual thing.
Conflict and division – they are real, heavy and dark and sharp, crushing and weighty things. Peace is not just taking that away, leaving nothing but a vacuum, shallow emptiness where squashed-down discord smolders or discontent breeds like mildew.
Peace is not an empty space of enforced silence between otherwise foes.  No. Peace has substance and girth. It exists in the world. It is something you can hold and touch and smell; Peace is tangible and real wholeness.   It’s what God’s kind of life tastes like and feels like in your hands. 
We know the feel of peace. It’s that thing that happens between people when forgiveness is slowly labored into,
and when love is discovered and shared.  It’s when, drifting along untethered, someone sees you…

In our humanness, Hope.

ADVENT 1 (Grace Embodied, Part 1)
Genesis 1:26-2:9, 2:15-25, (and some of Genesis 3)
There are things we can’t control.  Like this crappy weather.  Or the calendar.  We are carried along on the current of life and here we are, once again bumping up against the time of year most fraught with expectations, and staring down the last page of 2018 with all the millions of things that get jammed into December.
It’s Advent.  Advent is the beginning of the church year, and the church version of the countdown to Christmas.  As the world around us comes to the end of a year, we have come to the beginning.  We’re returning to the silence, the darkness over the face of the deep before the Creator says “Let there be Light” and life begins. Every year the Church cycles through this pattern of seasons of worship that help us understand our story inside God’s story. In Advent we use the color deep blue to signify the darkest night just before the dawn starts breaking in, and we see it as a time of hushed…

Turkey tracks, monkey mind, and other places to glimpse God

Matthew 6:24-34
On the church retreat last weekend Maisy and I went for a walk through the snowy woods.  We saw all sorts of tracks in the snow – deer, mice, turkeys (which look like big arrows pointing in the way somewhere).  We spotted Jen and Brian, and little Ava sitting atop Brian’s shoulders grasping his head like the world’s cutest smiling hat.   When we had nearly returned to the lodge, we passed a small red squirrel, sitting in the snow, gnawing on an acorn.  It was only about 6 feet away from us, and didn’t seem bothered as we came near.  Suddenly it looked up from its work and noticed us. It’s animal instinct must have kicked in, because it made to run, only instead of dashing across the vast empty field away from us, it must have made a quick calculation about the single tree, a mere two feet from where we stood, and ran toward us instead. A second after it landed on the backside of the trunk, its little tufted, squirrelly face suddenly peeked around the tree, right at our f…

A pastor suggesting how you should vote

In case you hadn’t noticed from the million dramatic TV ads, Election Day is upon us. 
I hope every one of you in the US will vote – if you haven’t already.   If you haven’t voted yet, I am going to give you a suggestion for how to vote.   And I am going to begin with two important reminders.
The first is this: The Way of Fear gets a megaphone at times like these.
The lie of the Way of Fear is easy to recognize by some key characteristics: –It labels people as enemy, and points fingers at those people, dehumanizing the “other.”  –It pounds home a message of scarcity and urgency, wrapped in language of warning and doom.   –It tells you things that make dread or despair churn in your gut, or bring anger and rage bubbling up your throat, and then seeks to harness that negative energy toward its cause. –It produces hopelessness, apathy, terror, fury or resignation that reduces and exhausts you.
Motivating an electorate in the Way of Fear sounds like this:  “We are divided between the good and the b…