Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some pics, some thoughts, and a challenge...


Me--at the beginning; I am quite the happy camper!


Me and My husband (who has lost 60 pounds) at my baby sister's wedding.  Here I feel like a happy camper.

My whole happy camping family!  Evelyn (6), Elijah (3), Isaac (9)


Alright, so even I can see I've changed.  I'm now un-officially at the size I was when I got married...although not the same shape; it's kind of amaing what shifts around after you've given birth to three beautiful babies!  I just put on the outfit that I wore when Steve proposed to me...and it was actually kind of big! 
Here's the thing though:  nine months ago, I set a goal--that I would be at my goal weight by my 35th birthday.  I do feel good...but, I'm not at that goal yet...still about 35-40 pounds to go.  I want to succeed at this--If I don't, I won't feel like a failure (at least today), but I'd like to do this, to accomplish this, to feel like I set my sights on something and didn't bail when things got difficult.  I want to move into a size I've never been in before--I want to wear an Ann Taylor dress for my birthday party!   
So, here's what I'm going to do; first, I'm being gracious with myself during the holiday season...I simply cannot resist all this damn frosting that meets me on every cookie!  But beginning January 01, my marathon begins!  I am going to go free-day-less!  And, I'm going to enlist the help and support of my friends--real and virtual.  First, Jan 01, I'm blogging everyday (I know you'll believe it, when you read it!), and you all will hear my rants, ravings, and cravings.  Two, here's a challenge--if you're a TNCer, it requires no freedays; if you're a weight watcher, it's no flex points, if you're another dieter it's whatever your system on perfection...if you choose to accept it you'll put $15-20 into a pot...whoever goes the longest without a free day, w/o using flex points, w/o cheating...you get the pot!  If we all succeed, at my birthday (since it's my challenge, I get to pick the date!), we will take all the money and go out for a big, splurgy, calorie-laen dinner!  If you want to join me, leave a post!  If you want to support me, do the same! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A new invention...

    I think someone needs to invent the following:  some sort of device where you look into it and you truly see yourself as you are.  I know...if you're an obnoxious soul like my husband, you're saying..."ummm...a mirror?"  But, there's something about a mirror that doesn't quite work.  I think there must be this haze that goes over it when you peer into it...a haze that is full of all your doubts, all those "miss piggy's" you've heard, all those "you'll never be good enough's;" so the reflection that greets your eyes is one that makes all those things come true; one where no matter what stands in front of it, truly will never measure up to anything worthwhile. 
   Now, I know I'm only half-way through this weight loss journey...but from what other people say...and truthfully, the way my clothes fit, I should be seeing someone different gazing back through the frame.  But, I don't.  I still see someone who takes up too much space...someone simply not smart enough to make a difference in the world.  Now, this is not the "Sarah's going to moan and complain so you'll all compliment me and tell me how wonderful I am..."  Because, there is a difference between hearing those things and believing them; between wearing smaller pants, and actually feeling transformation deep within your soul and seeing that reflected in the mirror.  Part of me knows I have to be changing, and yet a bigger part (no pun intended) keeps telling myself that I am simply a failure who will not succeed at anything I try.  I guess when they (whoever the hell "they" are) say that it's not about the weight...they really mean it.
    So, what to do?  How do I change over 30 years of dialogue that have been cycling through my head?  I do I look in the mirror and believe that no matter what I see, I am loved by God, I am loved by others, and that damn it, I really ought to love myself? 
   When I preach, I end each sermon with a Tuesday faith assignment (because what good is worship if it doesn't still matter on Tuesday?); so my Tuesday assignment is not going to create a new invention...but it's going to be to look in a mirror...to actually look at myself, and see if just maybe I can see a little glimpse of what God might be seeing. 
    I'll let you know how that goes...
   And if you wouldn't mind, look in that mirror yourself...and tell me, who do you see?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sermon for Advent One

Hi guys--remember me?  I'm the long lost writer of this said blog, who is getting her feet wet with this post, and soon, will let you in on the recent struggles of my losin' it journey...

I’m really not that big into Black Friday—it’s not because I hate shopping—I love it, but I don’t think there really is anything that could coax me out of be at 3 o’clock in the morning. What I do like, however, is to hear about some of the crazy lengths that people will go to, to get that one thing that their heart desires. Case in point—there was a couple somewhere—who pitched their tent sometime last Wednesday, not day before black Friday Wednesday, but week before black Friday Wednesday. They were outside of the Best Buy, living their lives until that one day, nine days later, when the doors would open, and they would get—what you ask? That’s the thing—they didn’t know. “We’re not quite sure, what we’ll get,” they said…”a flat screen, an iPad, we really don’t know. But, it’s gotta be something good.”


Here’s the thing—as much as I think those people are kind of crazy…we’re actually a lot like them. Except things in our line are just a little different. First, in our line, we have absolutely no idea what time the doors are going to open. There’s no 4am countdown in our line…those doors will fling open when we least expect it. Secondly—we know precisely what we’re waiting for—and it’s going to be something really, really good; we’re waiting for Jesus—for a time when swords will be beat into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks, when nations will live in peace and war will be ended.

And, as much as I hate to talk about it…as much as I’d like to explain it away, we’re waiting for a time when some judging will be going one…when some of us will be left and some of us will be taken away; when you and I will be grinding mill side by side and I get whisked away to be judged and you get to live peacefully within the reign of God in the world.

Which I guess leads to another difference about our line—why in the heck are we still in it? Why do we keep standing here, when we’re pretty sure there are no flat screens in our future; why do we keep waiting for Jesus (either judging Jesus or gracious Jesus)…when we’ve been waiting for him for thousands of years and he still hasn’t come. It might lead to us to wonder if maybe there are some other lines with a little more promise—if there are other lines where doors will open on time and the gift on the other is one that makes a makes a little more sense. I don’t know about you…but, there are times I really, really want to cut in somewhere else; there are times when I’m tired of hoping for something that never comes, and believing in someone that seems to be absent more often than not. There are times when I want to throw my hands up in the air and go work for someone who doesn’t send me strange memos that leave be wondering if I’m going to be resting in the presence of God or standing alone with all the other sinners.

But, then a funny thing happens and Sunday after Sunday I end up right back here—with all of you—where we stumble in here longing for our cataracts to be removed so that we can see God again. I think that’s why we stay in this crazy line—because deep within us we know that this is the only one where the doors will open and we will see God. We’re still waiting because when those waters splashed over our foreheads, we were giving these new eyes to see the world. Maybe we’re still waiting, because even in the midst of some pretty boring line standing, and some pretty awful world happenings, there are still these amazing glimpses of a new world and our risen savior.

I came across this quote recently Catholic Sister Joan Chittister tells the following story: "Once upon a time, the story goes, a preacher ran through the streets of the city shouting, 'We must put God into our lives. We must put God into our lives.' And hearing him, the old monastic rose up in the city plaza to say, 'No, sir, you are wrong. You see, God is already in our lives. Our task is simply to recognize that.”

This Advent season we are not called to put God in our lives—like God is something that we can add to our lives like a big red bow…we are not called to stop all our Christmas shopping, and present wrapping and party going and simply to look at the baby Jesus in the manger. What we are called to do is to stay in line, to live our lives, and to see where those places where the door opens when we least expect it; to see those places where swords have been beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; to see those places where Christ meets us.

Here’s a few places where Jesus has already flung open the doors in the world—The USS General Vandenberg—a naval warship from WWII—was recently sunk in the Florida Keys to become a reef for marine life…sounds a little like swords used for war, being beaten into plowshares that give life.

For me, Christ opened doors in the story a friend tells…from one mother who yells too much to another who does the same, her words became life for me—“Nathaniel, my son, is pretty good at reading me,” she says. He knows when I’m going to get really, really mad about something. Just as I’m winding up and ready to yell, he’ll give me a big smile, put his arms out for a hug, and say, “Mommy, I love you.” It works every time. This is how God reminds me that God loves me, too. It’s not always easy to remember that—it takes a lot of energy to move away from the anger and over to the love. But that’s where God wants us—in the love.”

And that’s where God wants us—in line…in line waiting, waiting for the wonders of Jesus, waiting for the doors to be opened wide, waiting to meet Jesus in the world. My guess is you can guess your Tuesday faith assignment—stay in line…but keep those eyes open…because you don’t need to put God anymore, God is already there…and that, my friends, is waaaay better than a flat screen tv.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In This Corner...

To save you all a little bit of heartache, I'm going to post just sermons for a bit...at least until I hit 50 pounds, and then I'll post pics :)


If you’re like the rest of the world, those 33 Chilean miners buried underground for 69 days, captured at the very least your attention, if not your entire heart. After hearing all their stories, you feel like you almost know them...The beautiful ones: of babies been born in hope while their daddies sang lullabies to them from underground; the comical ones—of wives and mistresses fighting over who had rights to see their loved one first (the wife probably wanting to say more than “I love you”). As we heard more about them, those men began to symbolize for the entire world, what it meant to live...to survive in hope; what it meant to fight to stay alive. In just a few short months they’ve already become legendary...because those men actually lived through what we all sometimes feel—that overwhelming, heavy, oppressive darkness—but instead of giving in, like we all sometimes want to do...instead of letting that darkness swallow them whole, they practiced their faith, they prayed each morning, they communed with each other, and they wrestled...they wrestled with God.


Just an hour after being extracted from the mine, freed miner Mario Sepulveda said, "I was with God and I was with the Devil, they both fought me but God won.” I wonder if Mario knew that thousands of years ago, his great-great-grandfather Jacob, whispered those same words. That thousands of years ago, there too was a man who met God in the darkness of a mine...who wrestled with God...

Let me tell you a little bit about this our first fore-wrestler Jacob, a guy you should have learned about in Sunday School—someone from your own family tree; someone who makes me think our branches should be a little better pruned. Jacob, was a wrestler from before he was even born. He and his big brother Esau would play tag in their mama’s belly, constantly trying to get the upper hand on each other, and on the day they were born, he was trying as hard as he could to pull Esau back in, so that he would go first. Those early escapades led him down a slippery slope; as time went on, he lived up to his name (Jacob indeed means liar, swindler, deceiver) when he stole his brother Esau’s inheritance by lying to his dying father; he then went on to marry two sisters, one who he loved, one who he didn’t and had 13 children with them and two of their slaves; he was shrewd, building up his own flock of sheep and goats, while making sure his father-in-law got the smaller, sickly, and weaker ones.

And so finally after living dishonestly for almost two decades and after getting all that he had ever wanted—wives, money, children, livestock, he decided it was time to listen to God and head back home, to face the wrath of the brother he cheated, and to live in the land that he had inherited.





So, he cries out to God—oh God please deliver me; save me from my brother who probably wants to kill me and then I will faithfully serve you; I know I’m not worthy, but you did promise that you would watch out for me, that you would always do good for me, so let me live, and I’ll give you what I owe.

And God answers, but not in a nice—of course I’ll always love you, come on home—kind of way. Instead there’s a reprisal of his early years, and there’s an all night long drag down fight; they wrestle together, and pull each other’s hair and knock each other down. Jacob even seems to be winning at one point, and to show his power this strange being strikes him, dislocating his hip. And as dawn draws near, this man, or angel, or maybe even God, tries to get away, but Jacob grabs him and won’t let go. He pulls his hand behind his back and demands that he be blessed—demands that he be smiled upon—demands that the man in front of him looks into his eyes, sees him for all the crap that he’s done and call him his child anyway.

And the man does just that—Yes, the man says, You are blessed. And furthermore, Your name is no longer Jacob—the one who steals, and lies, and deceives, but your name is Israel—because tonight you wrestled with God, tonight you looked into God’s eyes, tonight you held on for dear life, tonight you saw God face to face and you survived.

And Jacob—Israel, for his name was the not the only thing changed. His body was too. And each time he took a step and felt the pain radiate down his leg, he remembered; he remembered the promise of God—a promise that came through a knock-down, drag-out fight; a promise that blessed him body and soul for always.

You know what though, You and me; us and Mario—we’re still in this struggle; we’re still wrestling with God each and every night. We’re still living in this world where the darkness seems oppressive and the light dim. We’re still living when we wonder if God’s face will ever be made known; or if God’s left the building a long, long time ago. We’re still living lives that simply to not reflect the grace of a God who claims to love us; and we’ve been hurt too deeply, too many times, and continuing the fight is simply too exhausting.

But, please, what we can’t do, is leave the fight. We cannot leave God alone, on our mantle in a nice, safe, neat little box. We can and pretend that the wrestling with what God wants, what God needs from us, what God desires of us is over. We cannot let go. can’t let go that easily. We have to keep wrestling; we have to keep believing that we have fight left in us—that even though we’re just a small, country church, 35 strong, we indeed have something to offer the God of the world.

We have to keep fighting, holding on to God, demanding for God to bless us, demanding that we will not let go until God looks us squarely in the eye and says “I don’t care what you’ve done, or haven’t done, you are my child; you have wrestled with me and you will live.”

The thing is we won’t walk away unscathed; we’ll develop a limp that sends fire up our bodies with every step because facing God is far from easy; but we will walk away, and having seen God, having wrestled and demanded our blessing, we will absolutely never be the same. Having seen God, we’ll will tell the story of how our name was changed…having seen God we’ll remember the words of our brother Mario—Both the devil and God fought me in there. And God won. God took me by my best hand…the hand of God and I held on to him. I never thought for one moment that God wouldn’t get me out of here.” Never…never think for one moment that after all this wrestling is over, God will not get you out of here. Because when the night ends and the morning begins, God will take you by your best hand, and you will live.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lookin' Kind of Fuzzy?

I've decided that since Christianity as a whole is really just re-saying over and over again what Jesus said, I'm not going to feel guilty for reading columns that spark my imagination, give me an idea, and then send me on my way.  For cryin' our loud, if our dear gospel writers could copy from each other, and embellish a little now and then, I think Working Preacher will simply have to forgive my using of their ideas.  So, here is credit where credit is due...again...Mr. David Lose, thank you for the cataact image, which actually you stole from someone else.  The stuff about Jesus, however, is all original...

For the longest time my mom couldn’t see anything; she even gave up shopping (which at the time was one of her favorite pastimes), because she couldn’t read the prices on any of the clothes. She wouldn’t drive past dark, because all the cars would get those little “angel lights” around the headlights, and she couldn’t tell if they were 100 yards away or just around the corner—well, that and because everyone else refused to be in the car with her. She had to hold things at the oddest angle to try and make the words or pictures visible through the patches that were clouding her vision.


For those of you who’ve had cataracts, you probably know what I’m talking about…and for those of you, who’ve had it removed, you probably know just as deeply what she’s felt since her surgery. Seriously, she’s almost like a brand new person. I remember just after her vision became clearer, she said she never realized how much not being able to see affects you—how much it changes how you interact with the world, how much it makes you…well, cranky. And since then she walks around with this new kind of sight—she reminds me of Mary, from my much quoted favorite scene from Little House on the Prairie when she gets her new glasses—“Pa, look at the leaves. Pa, just look at those leaves.”

We’ve talked a lot about why worship is a central part of being a Jesus follower—and here’s another one: you come to worship, to cut away all of that gritty, nasty film that clouds your vision. You come to worship for cataracts surgery…seriously. Let me take a little guess about how your week works. You wake up on a Monday morning, you either get ready to go to work, to go to school, to stay home with kids, or to do whatever you have planned for the day. You most likely have lists of things you need to accomplish, of places you need to go, of things you need to do.

You’ll do those things, go those places; you’ll eat some meals, talk to some people—you’ll work hard, maybe watch a little tv, get a little frustrated with your partner or your children; you’ll do a load of laundry, a few dishes, brush your teeth, go to bed, and wake up again on Tuesday. Is that kind of right?

And I’m wondering, where did you see Jesus? Because I’m a pastor…I’m guessing by virtue of my job, I think about these things a little more than you do, and I didn’t see him at all. Now, I believe with my entire being that even though I didn’t see him, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. I believe with my entire being that God IS active in our world.

I believe that God heals you every single day—that you are like those 10 lepers—simply doing your job (by the way—lepers jobs were to call out for people to have mercy on them—hence the calling our for Jesus to have mercy)…so you are doing your job, and someone tells you to do something or something happens like well…like Jesus saying, go show yourself to the priest…and more often than not, you’ll do just that. All those 10 lepers did…they did what they were told to do. The difference…the difference is that nine of those guys still had cataracts. Nine of those guys did what they were told to do, and their eyes still couldn’t see. But, one of them…one of them had surgery right there…right in the middle of nowhere, and when he looked up…he saw the green leaves and the blue sky and the clear skin and you know what else he saw? He saw Jesus. And I guess when you see Jesus, your body simply knows what to do, and it falls flat in front of him, and says Jesus’ favorite prayer—thank you, thank you, thank you.

So, you come to worship: one…to be reminded that indeed your vision is cloudy (I think we like to pretend it’s not). And two…we come here to let God remove that nasty film. And for those of you who’ve had eye surgery, you know it’s not the most pleasant thing—there might indeed be times where cutting away that layer of cloudiness hurts a bit—where you thought you were functioning just fine with a nice little veil between you and the world.

There might be times when you will hold onto that film for dear life, because you really like holding things at odd angles and making up what you actually see. And afterwards, it might even take awhile to get your balance, to re-orient yourself into a new way of seeing…because not having to squint at the world takes some getting used to, not having .

But, imagine, then…imagine what you will see. Because if we truly believe that God IS active; if we truly believe that God heals us, meets us on the way between Samaria and Galilee, between Lee and Dekalb, between Chicago and Rochelle; if we truly believe that, then I would imagine, cataracts surgery the good ol’ Jesus follower way…actually lets us see Jesus. That sounds pretty fabulous to me. That even though on Monday, I’ll still get up, argue with my spouse, go grocery shopping, make dinner, and put the kids to bed. I’ll still do the same things I’ve always done…but, instead of going through my day cloudy and blinded, I will see Jesus. I will hear him speaking in places where before I’d just hear noise--from little girls saying ‘you know there’s this God who will heal you;’ from grandmothers who pass on their faith through old warn baptismal gowns;’ from siblings who faithfully struggle with how best to help their mother; from little 3rd graders who are so excited to meet a brand new teacher. With that film gone—you will see Jesus.

Now there are some weeks, where the film might become so thick by Sunday evening, you don’t even make it to Monday. Sometimes I can’t even make it out those doors. But, that’s okay too. Because that’s why you keep coming back here…so we can remind each other. So, that we can hear anew in the Word where God has been active and promises to continue to be. So that we can walk by that font, and wash our eyes clean with the miraculous waters of baptism. We come back here so we can eat Jesus and be transformed from the inside out; so we can greet our brothers and sisters in peace and see that Jesus stands among us.

So, shut your eyes for a moment, feel that film fall away. Open them. Now healed ones…it’s up to you…are you going to keep going on as you’ve always gone…or are you going to fall flat on your face in front of Jesus, and whisper one of his favorite prayers--thank you, thank you, thank you. And then how about going out into the world, where the leaves might just be a crisp new shade of green, and where you pretty much want to tell everyone what God has done. And remember if Jesus starts to get a little fuzzy after awhile—remember he is indeed still there…and then get yourself back here, because your surgery is scheduled for 10:30 each and every Sunday.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Sermon that God wants me to preach...(that means I won't get in trouble, doesn't it?)

I really need to quit reading David Lose's columns from Working Preacher, because I get these ideas and actually do them, and one of these days I'm going to get fired.  So, my congregation has an almost $200,000 endowment fund that literally is keeping the building running for 30 people.  And it makes me a little angry...that maybe we're the rich man, walking past Lazarus each and every Sunday, just so we can worship in the same building their grandma did.  So, my intent is to challenge them a bit--they'll each get $5 of that $200,000, and maybe they'll love spending it so much, they'll want to give it all away.  If not, maybe it's time for a new call, anyway...So,here's rough outline of what I'm planning to say tomorrow.  Tomorrow might end up with a Jesus loves you...Amen kind of sermon. (ps.  Thanks for listening yesterday, you guys...I love you all.)

Another one of these tell you what I really want to say kind of sermons.


I read an article written recently by an English professor—and her concluding sentence. Greed is bad…it is really, really bad.

I think Jesus might agree—you know what Jesus talks more about than absolutely anything else—more than sex, more than heaven, more than fig trees—money. And why? Well, probably because we think about money more than…well, more than fig trees. Our entire lives seemed to be consumed with it—how to we earn it; how do we get more of it; how do we spend it; how do we keep it so one day we don’t have to work for it anymore. And, you know what? That makes Jesus really, really angry—because what does he want you to think of more than anything in else—no, not fig trees…but, he wants you to serve him? And that leads to how do you serve him? By seeing all those Lazarus’ on our doorsteps.

I saw him on Thursday; I was making a quick trip while the kids were at their piano and violin lessons—I saw him twice; first on my way into Wal-Mart, and then on my way out. And both times—all those questions went through my head—you know them. I wonder what he did to get here? I wonder what bills he decided not to pay. It says he has a family—probably just a ploy to make me feel bad. What good would my little dollar do. It’s not like giving him something would change the world—heck it wouldn’t even change his world. So, I drove on—cursed the stop light for being red, and for making me have to sit there and look at him for so long. And then grateful when it finally turned green, and I could drive on—pretend that he was no longer there and let someone else take responsibility for him.


You know that’s actually what happened to our dear Lazarus. Of course the English doesn’t tell us, but the Greek makes it clear that Lazarus was actually tossed haphazardly onto the front doorstep of that rich man. People who didn’t want to take care of him any longer, picked him up, dragged him across down and threw him upon the mercy of someone who had the resources to actually care for him. They threw him down upon the mercy, upon the compassion of someone who was supposed to…upon the mercy of someone who should care for him.

Most of the time, I think we’re the guys who throw Lazarus onto the rich guy’s doorstep. We think we don’t have enough; that our little bit won’t make a difference, so we give up, overlook our responsibilities and turn the problem over to someone with a little more authority, a little more clout, a little more money to share. But, you know what, we’re not them…we’re that rich guy. We have everything we need…we have more than we need—we’re told we don’t with all those blasted commercials, and new clothes and cars and things we could have—but we have more than enough. And instead of moaning that we don’t have enough—we’re called to look deeply into the eyes of that man standing at the Wal-Mart intersection…we’re called to not get defensive or suspect or doubtful…but we’re called to give out of the gifts that God has given us…and actually give it to him---give him the scraps off our table...because as one preacher said “not a single one of us will get into heaven, if we don’t have a reference letter from the poor.”


Here’s where I’m going to get a little too concrete for you—but you know who the rich man is among us? This congregation. As a whole, we have enough money to build a homeless shelter; as a whole we have enough money to feed thousands of children for a number of years; as a whole we could do a whole lot more than simply give someone the scraps that fall of our table. As a whole, we have hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting in accounts, so that we can keep these lights turned on and the fans running. I think Jesus is angry—because instead of seeing Lazarus sitting at our front gate…we’re making our own couches more comfortable and our own wine easier to swallow.

Now, before you start a coup and try to throw me out of here…I’d like to try a little experiment—because it’s quite possible I’m wrong—and the money in those accounts should just sit there to help us survive—maybe there’s something bigger and better we’re waiting for. But in the meantime—remember how we looked at our hands and saw they were God’s hands and by doing so made us use these hands differently.

What if we actually looked at this money and saw it as God’s money? What if we actually believed what we said…and acted as ones who’s lives overflow with compassion for those who are poor-who were overwhelmed with mercy that God longs for us to have for each other. What if we lived as ones who served only one Master—who served only God, and not the money we cling to.

So, this week—you indeed have a challenge. Take this $5 and use it. Keeping in mind that this is indeed God’s money—money that two days ago was sitting in our church’s account wondering what it was to be used for. Give it away—give a quarter to 20 people; give a five to one; buy a cup of coffee for someone who is lonely. But, while you’re pondering how to use it—pay attention to what happens to your heart. Do you see this money differently, because you know it’s not really your’s? I wonder then…is any of your money really your’s? Does it make you angry that you have to give it away, or does it make you joyful? Maybe…just maybe giving it away, will change more than the one who receives. Here’s the thing. Ihave no idea what’s going to happen here. I have no idea if this is the right thing to do. But, what I do know, is that Jesus wants us to serve him, through those sitting at our gates…I do know that serving, clinging to, loving our money, is not the way to get that done. What I do know, is that I’m tired of simply talking about what I believe, I’m ready to actually live it...And I also know this—that Jesus promises that whenever we give a cup of water, a bit of friend, the coat off our back to the least of these…we give it to him. I’m ready to meet Jesus…and if it takes me to give away God’s money to see him…maybe that’s a price we should be willing to pay.

Friday, September 24, 2010

You win; I lose...

        I am forever keeping score.  I'm behind Brant by six games in our Cribbage matches.  I'm vitually tied wins to losses in Words with Friends.  I've done 36 loads of laundary to Steve's two.  He's gotten up in the morning with the kids 182 times; I've gotten up with them 182 times in the middle of the night.  My dear friend Kris has twice as many followers as me on her blog (hence, I can go longer keep track of how many people follow me).  I will only arm wrestle people I know I can win (hmmm....six year old girls), and will quit absolutely everything (grad school, weight loss, writing....)  before I actaully become the failure, I know I already am.  This thing goes waaaay past being competitive--because it would be a good thing if it just kept me striving until I got better.  But, that's not what happns.  What happens, is my entire self-worth becomes tied up in numbers and games and who gives more than I do. My entire self worth depends upon if I'm good enough, or smart enough, or doing enough.  And since more often than not...actually way more often than not...I do lose...well, maybe self-worth is over-rated.
   Right now, I'm thinking, why even write this?  Blogs are supposed to be for the good of all, right...I'm not as eloquent and uplifting as Kris, not as brilliant as Brant (sorry guys that I pick on you--you're my "I wish I were like them" right now--love you both).  I merely take up space complaining and who in God's name wants to read that.  But, I need to do this; I need all of this shit out of my head--and you're the ones who get to read it (so, adivce:  stop reading now...you'll feel much better).
    So, weight wise--you'd think 40 pounds would make me feel fabulous.  Not so much, because Steve has lost 60, looks so much better than me, and because I'm so angry at him for that, I've started eating....for three days now I've had movie popcorn, frosted cookies, donuts, french fries and ice cream (probably 10000 calories in less than 40 hours) .  And, you know what, I don't feel better--the scale goes higher (my self-worth goes lower) and my anger at Steve for getting smaller doesn't seem to abate. 
   Two--This last six months I've been having lots of pain--if you've been around me, you see me hobbling, because my feet hurt so bad, I can hardly walk. I've now been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (which appropriately enough is a diease where your body attacks itself--a perfect one for me).  And I'm now taking a low dose of a cancer drug--which makes me feel pretty crappy.  And I so badly want to feel bad for myself (w/o feeling guilty), but I can't, because Steve's mom is really, really sick with complications from a lupus-like disease and is in the hospital...so she's actually sick...and now he's gone to take care of her and I'm angry that he can't stay home and take care of me.  Honestly, what kind of person thinks these things...
   I simply want to go bed for about three days and cry...and just so you know that butterfly crap I wrote about last post is well...nonsense.  So, here's the real me--bitter, angry, tired, full of self-pity, and someone who in the next four hours has to write a sermon (that should go over really well...)...If you've actually read this far--you are indeed a saint...and maybe next time you see me, pretend you don't know my deepest, awful thoughts.  I'd tell you to pray, if I really thought it mattered...so think kind thoughts for Donna (mom-in-law), tell Steve he's a great man for no leaving me yet, and simply tell me there are plenty of people with real problems in the world and  to get over it... 
 
  until next time (if I don't quit this whole blog-thing)
 
   your ridiculously unholypastormommy

Sunday, September 12, 2010

No complainin' here!

Imagine that!  Today has been a fabulous day.  Are you ready to hear some positive words come out of my fingers!  I woke up early...which on a Sunday morning is a feat in itself.  And guess what?  I have officially lost 40 pounds!  40 pounds!  That's 4 bags of flour, or 8 bags of sugar, or 160 sticks of butter...or in non-food terms...it's an Elijah!  For some reason i'm weird THE END (Isaac took over for a minute); So, for some reason it feels real time...like I look in the mirror and can actually tell that it's working.  It is indeed a wonderful feeling!

But, the day doesn't end there!  Then, I got to go to church and we actually have children in sunday school!  And they were so excited to get to acolyte!  And then after that, I preached a pretty dang good sermon that connected with me and with others, as well (see previous post); I know God really deserves the credit, but I'm taking it today!  And we sang some really great hymns (played by great musicians!)...and then...

I got to get a fry from Burger King (yeah free days!) and take a wonderful nap, and then I made an apple pie (again, yeah free day!). 

It's just been one fabulous day, and I had to share!  So, next time I'm moaning and complaining, remind me to look for butterflies or stray kittens...because Jesus is here.  I love being tagged!

Night!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

You've been tagged...

Our faith life is a lot like a game of tag. Sometimes we hear something coming up behind us, and just as the words “I finally got you” are uttered from God’s lips, we yell “oh no you don’t” and we dodge God’s touch and get away. Because we are not simply not ready for the chase to be over. So, we wildly run in the other direction, or we quietly turn the corner, or we slip into the shadows, hoping that at least for a moment, we can stay free; at least for a moment we can pretend that God will never find us and our lives will never have to change.


Other times you’ll run and run and finally you simply give in, and let yourself be tagged. Writer Anne Lamott says Jesus is a lot like a stray cat. He just keeps following you around, nipping at your heels, looking longingly at you through your windows, trying desperately to come into your home; and finally, after shooing him away, and trying to pawn him off on friends, in utter frustration you fling open the door—“fine, you’ve got me. Come on in.” And the cat Jesus settles himself on your lap and the game is over.

And then, there are those times when you feel like you’re the only one playing. When you find yourself in this huge field of shrubs and thorns and really tall grass, and you look around, and you wonder—am I still in the game? Has everyone gone home and forgotten to tell me? Is God still ‘it?’ And you even start to shout out loud—“hey, come and find me…where’d you go. I’m right here.”

I have to be honest with you…I spend a lot of time in that field, surrounded by prickly grass, wondering if the game has ended without me. One of the great things about being a pastor is I get to talk a lot about God; one of the bad things about being a pastor is I have to think a lot about God. And the more I think, the more I struggle, and I turn God into this really knowable reality. I may preach about God being present and active and about how God works in the world. But, when I think about when was the last time God tagged me—it feels like I’m playing hide-n-seek, and God’s forgotten that I’m still hiding.

Until last week—last week some of you came to listen to Joe Kissick, the author of the Fourth Fisherman—and although he said a lot of wonderful things, what stood out to me, was in this crazy journey of searching for three Mexican fisherman, he started to doubt if he was doing the right thing, and he longed for God to send him a sign, to tell him if he was going the right way. Along the way, a plane ticket came open on a previously booked flight he really needed to be on; along the way, he was driving through the jungle and suddenly his little car was completely surrounded by hundreds of butterflies, beckoning him to move forward. Along the way he was tagged by God; God found him time and time again and ushered him into what turned into a vital new ministry. I left that evening longing for God to tag me; longing to feel something…anything…for God to find me, tag me, and curl contentedly up in my lap.

This story is long…but the next week, I suppose this last week has been kind of difficult—I won’t go into details (imagine that), but again I found myself doubting my call, questioning my worth, wondering if indeed the game was over or changed on me midstream. And the following happen, I kid you not; I was walking down my drive way, looking down at the ground, ready to cry, and I see the shadows of three butterflies—seriously, three butterflies—and I look up and they are circling around my head. And in that instant I was tagged. In that instant God found me; and I was no longer wandering and waist deep in that awful grass, wondering where God had gone, but in that instant I knew Jesus had indeed been following me around like a stray kitten longing to be welcomed, I simply had my curtains drawn, my head under the pillow and had been closing my eyes to the butterflies that surrounded me.

And you know what I had to do to get to see those butterflies. Absolutely nothing. There was nothing that I did. There was no confessing my sins; there was no huge prayer that I prayed; there was no major bible study I went to, or book that I read. There was simply me…walking in a field run-over with scratchy grass and when I looked up I was tagged. I was lost and Jesus found me.

Just like that sheep that was found wandering in the field; he didn’t do anything but get lost. That coin missing under the sofa—yep…didn’t do anything but jump out of the woman’s purse. It was the compassionate shepherd…the faithful woman that did the searching; it was the seekers—the “it-ones” who stopped everything they were doing, to play the most elaborate game of tag and who wouldn’t stop until every last one had been tapped on the shoulder. And then what happened? They all rejoiced—not just a “goodness gracious, I finally found what I was looking for” but an all-out, throw-down party, where there is dancing and singing and laughing and stories and joy—pure unadulterated joy. Because when you’ve spent so much time wandering around in an empty field…when you’ve been laying for days with the dust bunnies under the sofa…when you’ve been wondering if everyone has gone home…once you see those butterflies, once Jesus taps you on the shoulder, there is nothing you would rather do than jump into God’s arms and join the party.

So, what do you have to do this week? Absolutely nothing. Be lost…wander in the field, look down at the ground, lie under the sofa; because Jesus is “it” and there is nothing Jesus likes better than a good game of tag—and the next best thing?  To throw one heck of a party.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lots of Law...oh well...

Sermon from August 29, 2010

Isaac was just minutes old; the nurse was weighing him; I was exhausted, but ecstatic to be a brand new mom, when I noticed that another nurse was coming near me with a scary looking needle, for a shot for something. “What that’s for,” I gasped. “Why do I need a shot?” “It’s not for you,” she said. “It’s for the baby.” “Oh good,” I said relieved. Seriously, that’s what I said…Good! Obviously not the kind of mother that would jump in front of a moving car to save her child. My first opportunity to be a fierce maternal protector and I failed. Not a great way to begin motherhood.


And now it’s been nine years and I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be a mom; what I’m supposed to do; how I’m supposed to act. Sometimes it comes naturally…I love those moments, but more often than not, it’s the most difficult thing in the world—that I have to keep practicing at, that I have to keep failing at; that I have to keep trying, because those little moments—those moments when I get a hug bigger than I could imagine, when I watch them sleeping and imagine their dreams, when I see them be kind to another…that makes this living into being a mommy thing worth it.

So, whether you’re a mom or not, you know what I’m talking about. Just because you all of a sudden graduate, doesn’t mean that you know what it means to work 9-5…taking orders from other people. Just because you receive your AARP card in the mail doesn’t mean you instantly know all the places you’re entitled to a discount…Just because you’ve had to move out of the home you’ve lived in for decades, doesn’t mean you still don’t long for your old bed and your pots and pans. And just because you walk through those front doors…just because you’ve felt the gracious waters of baptism wash over your head, doesn’t mean you automatically know how to be a follower of Jesus.

A little tangent here—most of you know that I’ve been doing this lifestyle change thing to get healthy. And although it’s working, a little faster for my husband, but still…although it’s working, I get some really strange reactions because of the non-conventional rules. “What do you mean a calorie’s a calorie”—“you honestly don’t think you can lose weight by eating a candy bar a day,” they say…well, actually you can. And they to get really angry and defensive when they learn the guidelines, because it’s nothing like they’ve ever followed before…when the rules for losing weight don’t conform to the “normal” way, they assume I’ve lost it…and do their best to try to talk me into a more established program.

We’ve also started following Dave Ramsey, a financial turnaround guy…I think we’re turning into guru worshippers…He lays out these quite simple rules, tells you it’s not complicated…but, it’s very, very difficult, and one way you’ll know if you’re on your way to financial freedom is if everyone thinks you’ve gone completely insane.

So? How do you know if you are faithfully living into your role as a follower of Jesus? If everyone thinks you’re absolutely crazy. Honestly, that’s one of the best tests. Because the Bible, these stories, this passage in particular, is not just a guide or a rulebook. Jesus is not simply telling these people where they should sit at a dinner party—Emily Post could and would tell you the same thing.

But following Jesus, almost always means that you’re throwing conventional wisdom out the window, that you’ve finally discovered “the way things have always been” is not usually the ways of God. Because we, those of us living into this follower of Jesus life, often get so tired of the difficult parts, and so we revert back to the complicated. And we create all these rules about who’s in and who’s out; we say you can’t build there, you have to build here; we make laws about who is worthy and who is dirty…and what once was difficult, yet simple, we’ve now made complicated, yet livable.


And believe me, we aren’t the first ones to have made up this system of hierarchy…Jesus was attacking that very thing…a quick note about history. In Jesus day where you sat was of the utmost importance…the most important guests sat right next to the host, and the lowliest spot was the farthest away. The closer you sat, the more honorable you were; the farther away, the more shameful. So, your job was through money and time and power, move your way up the table. You would invite someone to your house for dinner, so they would in turn invite you. This was something they had done (and we continue to do in some form) for centuries.

But remember, Jesus wasn’t really into that whole hierarchy thing. Because in God’s world, the most important people were the ones at the end of the table; actually the most important people were the ones who weren’t even invited…were the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…those whose honor had already been lost. And Jesus wasn’t afraid to speak up and tell everyone…he didn’t care that people would think him crazy; he didn’t care the he knocked over the table and sent their places of honor flying; all he cared about, was the people that no one else cared for…and in the long run, it got him killed.

So, how do you know if you’re living into this follower of Jesus thing? One, people have labeled you a little crazy because of all the new people you’re talking to, and the boundaries you’re crossing, and the way you no longer seem to care what others think and what those constraining rules are. And two, you know you’re doing a pretty good job, if you’re starting to make some people a little angry. Because being a follower of Jesus means looking at the world a little differently; it means seeing things through the eyes of Jesus, not through the eyes of power and honor.

It means living as one who opens your very soul to the world, because in doing so, you might be entertaining angels…in speaking to the one that no one sees, you very well, might be speaking to Jesus. So, this week live into your identity as a follower of Jesus. Embrace those moments when you encounter the living God, when you see the face of Christ, when you hold the hand of the angel in your midst. Embrace those moments and see Jesus. And close your ears to the words from the outside—to the ones calling you crazy, to the ones wondering what the heck you’re doing talking to her—because you know that you’re a Jesus follower…and if you make a few people uncomfortable along the way, smile just a little—because I imagine, Jesus is grinning from ear to ear.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Am Beautiful...

First of all...I love all of you!


Second of all...after letting this drift away (a few times it's come back), but you're all right. Damn it...this big bottom has given birth to three crazy children; my hips help me carry them, even when they should be walking (ahem...Elijah...walk!!!). You know the other funny thing...is literally the week before I told Steve that I was starting to like my body: I was beginning to appreciate my curves, and how I can show a waist (and without a butt, you can't do that!), and then I gave this power to someone I don't even know! So, you know what, that boy indeed has no power over me! I am beautiful, damn it (I say that expletive a lot; I need a new one!). I am a woman, created by God, exactly the way that I am. And instead of worrying about what everyone else thinks, I'm going to love what I've got! And, I'm going to get healthy, so I can dance with Evelyn, and tackle Isaac when he's practicing football, and chase the balls that Elijah hits over the fence. And instead of waiting for everyone else to say "you're beautiful," I'm going to say it.

So, here I go...

"Sarah, you are a child of God; a creation of God. You have been blessed by the most amazing of friends and family; and you know what, you are beautiful, exactly the way that you..."
 
Maybe each and every morning, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and say that exact thing.  "______(insert your name here) YOU are a child of God.  YOU are beautiful."  I bet if we all did that, the world would become more beautiful in an instant, and everyone we met, might see the beauty in themselves as well.  I'm not sure...let's try it!  Let me know how it goes...
 
I love you, my beautiful friends! 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Throwin' it to the Sound...

    After very long, strange days at Harborview (a Trauma One Center in downtown Seattle) my CPE supervisor would have an equally long, strange commute home; she would drive down to the ferry dock and ride the waves of the Puget Sound back to her home on Bainbridge Island.  Each night, she said, she would cast the day into the sea.  Some of the things that she (and sometimes we) would see could leave these indelible images in your mind.  You'd encounter people that would challenge, confront, and test you, and merely walking away from the hospital campus wasn't enough.  So she developed a practice where on the ferry ride home, she'd "let it go;"  by gently casting or ferociously throwing those images and words into the ocean, she could enter again her home, unincumbered, and as the whole, confident woman who began today. 
     I've decided that you...that this blog is my Sound.  Writing it is my ferry ride.  Knowing that at least one person reads it, helps me "let go" of these images and thoughts and words swirling around in my soul. 
    So, today I am ferociously throwing.  I've talked to Steve already, and sometimes he's amazed at the things I'm willing to share, but here it goes...

     I've been having a pretty difficult week since returning from Oregon.  As you know, I gained back 10 pounds (maybe more; I refuse to weigh myself until the end of Sept); Anyway...when I got off the plane and saw my husband standing there, I felt like I had gained it all back.  Steve looks amazing!  He's lost 50+ pounds, the Wii doesn't say obese--and I am so proud of him.  But, that being said, he weighs exactly two pounds more now than I did when I started this damn journey.  He's getting skinny, and I'm getting bigger.  And his skinniness makes my bigness look even bigger.  And so for the last week, I have been awful to him--really, just ask him.  I'm throwing him glares and being mean...and just being not only an awful wife, but an awful person.  And yesterday evening, we had one of those great late-night conversations where I'm literally sobbing and he's holding me and he says "Sarah, you know that I would protect you against anyone.  You know that if someone was hurting you, I would stand up for you...would help you.  I'm just tired of having to protect you from yourself, from your self-hatred, from your punching yourself over and over again..."  And of course, as any over-emotional spouse would do, I cried even more and realized anew that indeed he loves me...that maybe I'm not as bad as I think I am...that I can do this, and I am doing this.  Nice story, huh?  Except this one doesn't need to crash into the waters...
This does:  So, the aforementioned leaves me a little more positive today; I'm still feeling that nagging feeling of having cried for hours, but otherwise feeling okay.  Until...
    I went to Dekalb (a college town where the kids just arrived yesterday) to pick up a few groceries, and as I was walking into the store I hear (and I quote, because I haven't thrown it in yet) "And there goes a girl with a fat bottom."  My stomach sinks and my eyes begin to fill with those left-over tears, and instantly I'm back in second grade where those damn boys called me Miss Piggy for six years, and when someone in high school said finally a boy liked me, but only because he liked the song by that god-awful performed who rapped about "liking big butts..." and my soul literally shrank inside of me, while at the same time I kept thinking--why must I take up so much space in the world?  I try to be positive--at least he called me 'girl,' not old lady (which I attribute to my haircut--thanks Barb!)...but honestly I can't seem to explain it away.  It's not like he's lying ("pear-shaped I am," as Yoda would say).  But, damn it, I'm in a journey--doesn't he know that.  What would have been said 30 pounds ago?  Who says those kinds of things?  Doesn't he know I will forever have his voice and his words in me?  And I left wishing, I could flip him off, or have some wise retort, or at least walk away with my head held high.  But, alas none of that happened.  I walked away, stayed in the store for as short as possible, went out of my way to find my car another way, and immediately thought, where is that frickin' Sound, so I can let this go...
   So, here it is...I'm throwing it...dammit, I'm throwin' it.  The problem is...I'm pretty sure there is no amount of winds or waves that will carry it far enough away for me to forget it...  But I'm still going to try.  Thanks for being the Sound, dear friends...take it...and swim far, far away.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Guest Blogger--The big 5-0

If you have come here to read the wise words of my wife, you may be sadly disappointed. Today, I want to share what is going on in my weight loss journey. It's not just the unholypastormommy that is losin' it, I'm working at it too! I was going to write a couple of weeks ago when I hit the first big milestone but I got busy and the initial excitement wore off and I didn't get to it. Now I've hit another milestone and well, I want to say more than a Facebook status update will allow.

The big milestone of a couple of weeks ago was when my Wii Fit announced that I was overweight. How exciting! For so long I had to hear that dreaded word that I was obese. And I was excited to hear the word overweight. I think my Mii still puffs up too much but I can't control that. This morning I hit another significant milestone. Today when I weighed in, the scale read 239. This is significant because I honestly don't know when I weighed this much last but it was probably in college or when I lived at Holden or something. The other big thing is that I hit the big 5-0. I have lost 50 pounds since I began this weight loss journey! It is an absolutely amazing accomplishment and I don't know what is next. I still have a little more spare tire to lose but it looks more like a bike tire than the tractor tire it once was.

But, I would also like to say how much I miss my wifey. She is my partner in this journey and we are good for one another and we support one another and this whole being apart really stinks. Thursday will come but not soon enough.

I hope you don't mind my disruption in Sarah's blog but I had to share the news with someone. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

They say you can't go home again...

And actually I think they were right.  I'm ten again; you wouldn't know it by looking at me.  But, the emotions are the same; the dynamics are the same, and the results?  the same.  I love my family so very much, but I can't be ten anymore; I can't keep trying to fix all the problems (yes...I'm the oldest); I can't take the drama; and honestly if me and my baby sister spend any more time together, I'm going to have to file for bankruptcy (I love you Bekah!).  So, this post is for all those people who have known me since I've turned 10.  Will you remind me that I am a grown-up?  Will you remind me that I do not need to drown my sorrows, my fears, my anger in brownies (I'm in the midst of a five day binge--hello 200's...)?   Will you tell me that I am a good mother, that I can be a smart woman, that I can be a faithful daughter and sister even if I can't live in the bedroom I grew up in anymore?  I need your help, you guys...so tell me to put down the cookie--and to make things easier, tell me why. 
That's all...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What's the Magic Number of the Day?

     That's right people, it's one!!!!  I did it, I did it, I did it...hooray!  (that's Dora song for you non-parent people).  I am officially weighing in at 199 pounds.  I know, can you believe it!?!?  And, do you know how I did it?  I finally caved and ate that damn cookie in the freezer.  Seriously...I have spent so much energy keeping myself from eating that thing, I think my body thought the world was going to end, and wanted me to live off my fat for as long as possible.  So, once I ate it, it knew indeed the world continued, and would let go of those ridiculous 18 ounces!  I know I still have a long way to go...but 34 pounds down and now only 40 to go.  I have to say I am one happy unholy pastor mommy! 
    Now that I've shared my news, I really have to go and pray to the sermon fairy for a preachable sermon.  Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you how my week sans children is going... 
    Love,
    Your friend whose weight starts with a ONE!!!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

No Rants for Now, Just a Sermon

You can hear her, can’t you? “Lord, do you not care that this sister of mine has left all the work for me to do by myself?” I am tired of every time company shows up for dinner I am left alone, bringing the water to wash to their feet, taking their coats, making sure they are content and cared for. That’s what you tell us to do, isn’t it Jesus? Help each other? So tell her to get off that floor and to serve someone. Tell her to help me.


You not only can hear her, you can see her. She’s standing there, with her arms folded, her foot tapping, her teeth clenched. All compassion and patience left hours ago, and what stayed around was this frustration at always having to be the responsible sister, of never getting to run off and play like everyone else, of always being good and noble and hospitable, and for cryin’ out loud, if Mary won’t pay attention to the glares and sighs she’s been giving her for the past hour, she’s goin’ directly to the top, Jesus at least will plead her case. “Lord, do you not care that this irresponsible sister of mine is sitting there doing absolutely nothing.” “Lord, do you not care…”

I think her telltale sign, is those crossed arms. Stop for a moment, don’t move and look down at your own arms, where are they? How are you sitting? Are your legs crossed and turned away from me? Are you folding your hands? Are you leaning forward? Or maybe you’re just trying to keep your eyes open? Any good body language expert would say that if you’re arms are crossed and your trying to get as far back in your seat as possible…if you’re drawing into yourself, you are definitely not engaged…you’re not open…you’re pulling in on yourself, and unwilling to receive what’s being offered. Because there is no way you can receive Jesus when literally and figuratively you’ve blocked off your heart.

A story: About four or five people were on a mission trip in an inner city. They were working in some soup kitchen or food pantry or something like that. And one of the workers invited them for dinner at their home. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m hosting a dinner party I spend most of the week cleaning—I vacuum up the broken pretzels on the floor, I clean the bathrooms, spray pretty smelling stuff in the air, buy flowers for the top of the piano. I get matching napkins and tablecloths and try to project this perfect hospitable persona. On this occasion, however, when the mission trip people entered the workers’ home, it was evident there was no such preparation—there was cat hair all over the floor—a pile of laundry waiting to be folded next to the couch; there were mismatched plates and folding chairs and box mac and cheese for dinner. But, what the storyteller also said, was there was this most amazing air of openness, the most amazing hospitality. The table had two empty place-settings, waiting for the daughter and her boyfriend; another friend called in the middle of dinner, and was instantly invited over to join the party, not told to call another time. The conversation didn’t center around how lovely the centerpiece was, but on the travelers’ experiences in a new city and their hopes for renewal at home. The hosts didn’t present themselves with arms folded, but opened wide their arms, longing to receive what gifts of presence their guests had to offer.

“Martha, Martha…why are you distracted by so many other things—there is need of only one thing…and your sister here as chosen the better part.” Here’s the thing—we all can be Martha’s, trying so desperately to do what’s right, putting on a good show, showing the world that we’ve got it together. But, more often than not, we do so, with our arms crossed, pushing that very world away. Jesus doesn’t chastise Martha for serving, he’s actually giving her a gift—calling her to open her arms, to open her eyes, to open her heart, to the gift that is sitting right in front of her. “Martha…Martha, there is need of only one thing…”

So you know, this really isn’t entirely a story about Martha, or Mary for that matter, but it’s about Jesus. It’s about a God who took on the glorious body of this world and did it with arms wide open. It’s about a Savior who sees us trying so desperately to serve our way into goodness and who wants us open our eyes to the one and only thing. It’s about Jesus, who loves us so much, that he meets us as we’re vacuuming the floor, or drying the dishes or listening to a sermon, and he walks right up to us, takes a clenched fist in each hand, and gently unfolds our arms.

You know this story doesn’t have an ending—we have no idea if Mary got up anyway and helped with some dusting or if Martha took her hand and sat down to listen. We have no idea is Martha stomped off in disgust or if she realized that sister Mary was doing the right thing. What we do know, though, is what Jesus did…that he ended his life with open arms—open wide enough for all of us cross-armed ones. What we do know is that following Jesus is more difficult than we ever dreamed it would be, but that opening ourselves up to the world, eating at a table with room for one more, serving with fists unclenched and hearts ready to receive, living in the love of Jesus is the one thing, the only thing that will never be taken way.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

About to throw in the towel...

     I've been here before...lots.  I'm at this point where a milestone looms, where new territory beckons, where I might have to stop thinking that everyone is staring at me, where I might not have to worry about how much space I take up in the world.  And, I'm scared to death...
     It's been 12 weeks since I began this whole life-style change and actually I'm finallyy to the point where I was exactly a year ago.  Last summer I weighed 203 pounds, left to visit my family in Oregon, planned on losing 10; instead gained 7 and spent the next 9 months gaininig another 23.  This summer, I'm in the exact same place.  I weigh 201; I'm leaving to visit my family in Oregon in a couple of weeks, and I'm wondering why this year will be any different. 
   Because when I get to this point, and those glorious 100's smirk at me from 18 ounces away, I turn and run the other way.  Is it because that's what "normal" people weigh?  It is because then I might have to stop making excuses for not doing things?  Is it because it's too damn hard weighing carrots, and still seeing the same ugly, fat girl in the mirror?  Is it because I've known nothing different than hating my body, and what if I get to that magic number and still seeing nothing but hate for my eyes and my thighs?
     I'm about to apologize for venting in my own blog--but I am sorry!  I'm sorry for complaining, for worrying about such shit when there are people with actual problems in the world.  I'm sorry for gaining and losing thousands of pounds over and over again.  I'm sorry for not loving the body that God has given me, for teaching my daughter not to love her own.  I'm sorry for quitting every time I get so close to actually succeeding.  I'm sorry...hell, I'm sorry for being sorry.  But, you've all found me on a really bad day.  Maybe tomorrow I'll try again, but for now, I don't expect this to work...and I think I'll go eat a brownie.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Braggin' Pastor!

My little church in Lee, IL has hit the bigtime!  We're in the Lutheran--hey, for us, it's not so bad!  Following is the article I sent to them, and then the link to the distillation thereof.  But, I am so proud of them!  Go Lutherans!  Especially those in little churches still serving in the country!

Once upon a time, there was this little church in the middle of the country, and they decided they wanted to do something nice for people. “Feed them”…Jesus said, so they did. They opened up their doors and made these really great signs and some really fluffy pancakes, and they were feeling so wonderful and hospitable and gracious, and pretty good about themselves. Which was good, because sometimes little country churches don’t always feel that way. But, for some reason, no one came. They’d hear the door open, and get all excited, but alas it was just another one of the nice little church people. “Where are they,” they asked each other. “Don’t they know how great and wonderful we are? Don’t they know we want to help them? What kind of people can’t take the time to walk the few blocks and come through our doors?” And the little country church started to get a little discouraged…and wondered if maybe they really couldn’t do it. Maybe God really wouldn’t use them; they were too small, too insignificant, too different…when suddenly a little angel voice said “what if we took the pancakes to them?” And the world flipped on its head. What if we took the pancakes to them…what if instead of asking others to step out of their world, we stepped out of ours…what if instead of complaining that no one ever comes!, they decided to put some legs on the gospel.


So the little church opened their doors again, this time not asking others to come in, but in order to go out. And they met some really hungry people; some people who said “we haven’t had a hot meal in such a long time;” they talked with some people who needed to tell their story as much as they needed a plate full of syrup. They met some people outside those little county church doors…actually they met Jesus, and the view from that upside down world, has never looked better.

Are you hungry yet!?!? If so, join our Nurture Kitchen at First Lutheran in Lee, IL with your presence or your prayers. We are currently open the 3rd Saturday of the month (although we’d love to expand!), and we serve a free meal of pancakes, sausage and bacon to anyone who happens to come through our doors, (or when no one shows up) to those gathered at the local NICE Center food pantry. Bring your apron, your pancake flipper, and your hungry heart—because amazingly enough, pancakes can change the world.

 
Since I don't know how to make a link, you can just copy and paste.  Sorry!   http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article.cfm?article_id=9166

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sermon for this Sunday!

That's right people!  It's Thursday and it's done.  I'm posting it b/c you can now respond and I can actually make changes before the people of God have to hear it.  Also, my ending (as per usual) is quite weak.  Suggestions would be appreciated.

     So, I’ve started this new diet—or life-style change. And one of the “rules” is that you strictly follow the guidelines for six days and on the seventh day, you get a “free day,” no rules whatsoever. Taking full advantage of that day, I normally eat as many calories on Sunday as I do on all the other days combined. And although I look forward to my chocolate chip cookie with frosting on top all week, once the day begins, it’s not always such a good one. I know I have the freedom to keep eating—so I do, and then I get really, really sick. And it takes me until Thursday to lose back everything that I had lost the previous week; and I spend the whole day praying for it to be finished so the rules can take over and I can start behaving like a normal human being again. Maybe I should actually read Scripture a little more often—because if I did, I would hear “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence…” and I would add, because it will make you throw up.



     We normally think of freedom as something that’s entirely positive…as something we long for and desire. But, once you’ve got it, it’s really hard work. Not only in the diet world, but the real one as well. Inmates freed from prison often have an extremely difficult time making it on the “outside.” Slaves, freed during the Civil War, found no more open doors or open hearts than they did when they were living on plantations.


     Once your world opens up, and there are all these choices and decisions to be made in front of you, the narrow path of being bound, often seems much more appealing. I really think that’s why the more fundamental mega-churches are thriving—you go to church on a Sunday morning, the pastor tells you what to think, who to love, what not to do, and the world is suddenly black and white, good and bad, right and wrong…and the days are much more structures, much more focused, and rarely send you to bed with a stomach-ache.


     But Jesus really isn’t into black and white—he’s in love with color—with the world opening, heart-expanding hews of the rainbow. And even though he knows looking at the world through his eyes isn’t easier, he definitely finds it a whole lot more life-giving. So, since we’re Jesus followers—and this whole season of Pentecost is about trying to discover what it means to be a Jesus follower—what does freedom mean for us?


     First of all—holy cow, here’s my three points in a sermon—oh well. First of all, we follow a God who journeys to a cross and dies. Which probably means that being a Jesus follower won’t always lead us to a happy, easy life. So, if you’re going to stay on this road, plan on getting sick, laughed at, ridiculed, or even killed along the way. And, if that doesn’t scare you away…and don’t let it, because what’s on the other side is way better than what you’ve got now--the good news is that through that death on the cross, is this amazing new life—a life where God promises to meet us; a life where there are these grace-filled, mercy-abundant, wholly unexpected encounters with the God who is leading us. There is this life that promises in the midst of it all—death will not be the final answer. The good news is…is that we are held captive to nothing—not to our own successes, not to our failures, not to our wants, or needs or desires…but our chains have been broken and we are free…free to live following Jesus. We are free to focus on what really matters in this life—and it’s not losing weight or planning parties or going to work or even burying your dead. What really matters is Jesus…what really matters is living this brand new life that he gives.


     And living in that freedom brings me to point number two—as freed ones, you do what Jesus does—you love your neighbor. And this is not the black and white rules of loving those who think like you or act like you or you love you too. Loving your neighbor, very well might mean, breaking every rule you’ve ever heard—kind of like Jesus does. Loving your neighbor means stepping outside those boundaries you’ve made and touching someone who makes you cringe. Loving your neighbor means taking pancakes across town, even if they can give you nothing in return; it means seeing a man with a cardboard sign on the side of the road and not instantly thinking he’s a drug user, or it’s knowing he’s a drug-user and giving him some food anyway. Loving your neighbor means living out of that difficult, rule-breaking, make-you-sick kind of freedom…it means seeing a world full of color…really it means following Jesus.


   Which brings me to point number three—let’s see that sigh of relief—and it’s more of a command. You are freed ones, your life is found through the cross, and each morning when you awake, I challenge you to say…”Today I’m a Jesus follower; today the world is full of color; today my chains are unlocked, my boundaries are blurred…and gosh darn it, I’m going to serve my neighbor.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

To Their Daddy...

My Darling,
     Do you remember our first baby?  How excited we were?  I think the minute we found out I was pregnant, we ran to the store and bought cute little pajamas...in green of course, because we didn't know whether she'd be a boy or a girl.  Do you remember how everything seemed to be going so perfectly, and we had told all our friends and our parents were ecstatic?  And then, I know you remember, what the doctor said..."there doesn't seem to be a heartbeat..."  And in that instant, all those dreams were shattered...and that feeling of utter emptiness and loneliness, that palpable emtpiness.  Although that had to be one of the most difficult times of our lives, a time that we would re-live four more times...it was then that I realized the kind of man that I had married.  I realized the depth of not only your love for me, but for the children that we would have...for those adorable ones in that picture up there.  I realized that no matter what our future held, it held us, together. 
    Steve, together we've discovered that this parenting thing is so very difficult; not only during those times before they were born, but during the crazy ones since--those times when Elijah wants the green bowl (not the Thomas one!), when Evelyn has colored the walls, and Isaac hasn't moved from the TV in hours, that we wonder what we've gotten ourselves into.  But, there is absolutely no one I would want to look to and roll my eyes with.  You are the daddy that our children need; that teaches them not only how to play Mario Kart, but how to sing harmony, and cast a fishing line.  You are the husband I need to keep me calm and sane and to remind me that these babies of ours are God-given, parent-blessing gifts that will change the world.
   I love you...and now the whole blogosphere knows it too!  Happy Father's Day, my darling!         
     YFAUE...Me
    
   

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sharin' the Love Part II

A total of $1.32.  Let's share the love!

Bishop Mark Hanson
Office of the Presiding Bishop
8765 W. Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631

 

June 14, 2010

 
Dear Bishop Hanson,

 
Thank you so much for your continued faithful guidance during this time of high anxiety and pain in the ELCA. I simply cannot fathom how difficult this has been for you. Know, however, that you do have support and prayers from those of us who wholeheartedly support the Churchwide Assembly decisions. I am so very proud to be a pastor in the ELCA; I am proud to be raising my children in a church where all God’s children are welcome, loved, supported, and accepted.

 
Thank you Bishop Hanson. You, and the whole of the ELCA, will continue to be in my personal and congregational prayers.

 
Shalom,
Pastor Sarah Schaffner


Mr. Carlos E. Pena
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 W. Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631

 

 June 14, 2010

 
Dear Mr. Pena,

 
There’s a movement in the blogosphere to spread the love! So, here is a letter of support for you, for your staff, and for the entire ELCA. We indeed are a church who is faithful to God and God’s Word, and I am so very proud of the decisions made at the Churchwide Assembly; I am proud to be a pastor who can tell her children and her congregation that God’s grace, love, and acceptance has no boundaries!

 
Thank you, Mr. Pena. Thank you for your faithful leadership and guidance, and I pray this letter helps create a stack that far outweighs the negative ones that sit on your desk and in your heart. Know that you and the entire ELCA are in my personal and congregational prayers.

Shalom,
Pastor Sarah Schaffner

 

 

Sharin' the Love

I'm jumping on the bandwagon!  I have a friend who thought there is simply too much negative energy going on in our beloved ELCA, so he has sent a letter of affirmation to our synod bishop Gary Wollersheim, ELCA bishop Mark Hanson, and ELCA VP Carlos Pena.  I've decided to do the same.  Following is my letter to Bishop Wollersheim.  If you've a member/pastor/part of the ELCA, why don't you do the same.  Sometimes even those big-wigs in our lives need to hear something positive.  Let's see if we can send enough love to far outweigh the death threats and you're going to hell letters they've already received.  So, come on--share the love!

Greetings Bishop Wollersheim,



I simply want to say thank you. Thank you for being such a faithful leader during this difficult time of high anxiety and conflict. Thank you for your grace and compassion in tempering that anxiety. Thank you for your prayers, your kindness, and your support to those of us discovering what new life awaits in the midst of these blessed changes.


My guess is you do not hear this enough: the ELCA has indeed been faithful to God and to God’s Word; I am so very proud to be a pastor within this church, and pray that we might continue to welcome in all of God’s people regardless of sex, or race, or age, or sexual identity.


Thank you again for your leadership. Know that you and Polly, your fabulous staff, the Northen Synod, and the ELCA are in my prayers, as we all journey forward, together being Christ’s hands and feet in the world.


Shalom,


Pastor Sarah Schaffner

     So spend your .44 cents and share the love!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Sinner Pharisee and Jesus

--Before I began the sermon, I set the scene. I actually set out a low table and a few pillows and explained how this dinner might have looked. Explained the openness of the courtyard; how people could come and go; how they could listen in even if they weren’t an invited guest. Then I told them that sometimes when you read from Scipture, you can imagine you are a part in the story. And I encouraged them to see themselves as the Pharisee. That they were Simon, a smart, well-educated servant of the Torah, who has heard about this Jesus guy and invited him to a well-planned dinner, well-planned in menu, and well-orchestrated in conversation.


--Imagine yourself reclining here at the table, dining with Jesus.

The holy gospel according to Luke, the 7th chapter.

36One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. 37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him — that she is a sinner." 40Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "speak." 41A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?"


43Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." 44Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." 48Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" 50And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."


     What kind of person are you? Seriously, did you hear yourself? Did you hear what you said…actually what you arrogantly scoffed—“if this man Jesus really was a prophet, he would know what kind of woman she really it. How dare he let such a sinful woman touch him?” Her? Her? What about you? You didn’t even welcome Jesus when he came into your house? You didn’t offer him a towel to clean off the dust from the day; you didn’t give him a kiss, or ask if he needed a glass of water.


     I haven’t seen you giving him your comfortable jacket when he’s cold on the street, or the groceries out of your trunk when he’s holding a cardboard sign. You simply sat him down at the table and started working your own agenda. That woman may be a sinner…but, you, my friend, are too. A sinner who chooses self time and time again…who, maybe every once in awhile does something kind, like working in the NICE center or serving pancakes, but it’s not like your soul, or the world, can be saved from a Saturday a month. Because, you’re still at home snuggled under a warm comforter with your air conditioner going while others sleep in cardboard boxes. You’re still feigning disgust over this oil spill, while continuing to pay no attention to the oil that gushes into your life on a daily basis. You still choose each and every day to serve the gods of money and comfort and security.


     You, my friend, my dear Pharisee relaxing at the table, you… just like that woman you shun, are a sinner. A sinner…and the whole town knows it; and you know that don’t you? I’m not telling you something you don’t already know…Which is why when you walk into the grocery store you walk in with downcast eyes; it’s why you dress in muted colors so as not to draw too much attention to yourself. It’s why you hesitate to speak outloud, not wanting your perceived inferior ideas to sound foolish. You know deep within that nothing you ever do is good enough…and no matter how many committees you’re on; how much money you make; no matter how many friends you have…deep within you know that if someone truly knew the real you, they would shake their heads in disbelief and walk away.


     That’s why you’re the one standing at the back of the crowd…straining to hear the words being spoken, not wanting to be seen, but still wanting to hear because you still have this glimmer of hope, that there simply has to be something there for you…that there’s something there even for you. And for some reason then you hear more than words; suddenly you see him, you see Jesus; and those downcast eyes of yours begin to focus; and you feel this tug at your heart. And even though you know what everyone else thinks; even though you know what you think…those stories no longer seem to matter.


     Because in front of you is the one who sees everything you’ve ever done, all those selfish choices, all those pains you’ve caused and those pains you’ve endured. Right in front of you is the one who sees right into your soul--past all those walls you’ve built out of your shame and mistrust and fear…he sees you with…well, he sees you with the eyes of God. He sees your heart and as if your eyes were opened for the first time, you see too. And what you see is what God sees—a beloved child; you see yourself for the very first time; and you’re no longer held captive to all those thinks you’ve done and failed to do—or even those things you’ve yet to do. You see yourself exactly the way that you are—a forgiven, freed, adored, child of God.


     And suddenly your once blind eyes begin to fill with newfound hope, with boundless possibilities, with a joy that cannot be contained, and you push your way through that crowd, and you fall at his feet and soak them with the love he has shown you, with the hope he has left you, with the life he has given you. And you hear nothing…nothing but the words. “Look. Do you see this child? Do you see this child of mine?”


As I crafted this, it became increasingly clear that I was preaching to myself.  As I wrote it, as I preached it, as I re-read it now, I feel so convicted and then maybe...for a moment some new life breaking forth.  I'm just curious...my intent was obviously to have people be the Pharisee, and then subtly (or maybe not so subtly) move them to the role of the woman...did you get that?  In my head it made sense...but, I knew what I was doing!  My favorite way to preach is to take on the thoughts/actions/insights of the characters and I might want to develop this one some more--any suggestions--do I need more gospel, more descriptions?  What are your impressions? 

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Second Worst Mom in the World

   The only thing that gives me hope is that maybe there's one mom out there just a little bit meaner than me.  So, I'll let her claim the number one spot.  First a little caveat--I think an awful lot about what I want to post here, and then I think some more, because I've read other people's blogs--and actually they're quite good--they're coherent and witty and make me think; they do exciting things and have interesting things to add to the world's conversation.  I, on the other hand (and this isn't a self-defeating attitude here), am quite boring.  I've absolutely never traved, I grew up, got married young, had kids young, and watch too much t.v.  I'm not sure I've ever had a brand-new thought, and really have nothing to add to the world.  But, yet, I like this whole blogging thing--so, I'm going to stop thinking so much.  I'm going to pretend that no one is reading this (although I'd love comments and conversation, so not sure how that will work--oh well...); I'm going to write and complain and share my joys and sorrows and crazy, boring life...and not worry what everyone else will think--imagine that!
    Okay...caveat over...So, the other evening, I said to a teenage girl next to me, "you know, since you haven't yet, you might want to think twice about having children, they're overrated."  And, I got the response that I'm pretty sure you just had--looks of shock and disbelief.  How can you say such a thing?  What mother...what human being, actually...would think that having children is not a vocation, if they're physically able, that they wouldn't want to fulfil.  And, although I was only half-joking, I decided that for a moment, Number One worst mom was definitely my title.
     But, honestly, no one really warned me, how incredibly difficult this mom thing would actually be.  No one said that I will never have a full night of sleep ever again; no one ever said that in that rare moment I am asleep, the daughter who refuses to sleep in her own bed, would suddenly awake and throw up down my pajama sleever.  No one ever said that I would envy convicts because they at least had moments to themselves.  No one ever said that I would be planning an escape...wondering where I might retreat to, where no one would ever find me.  I know this is the moment, where I'm supposed to transition to the but....but, they're so cute, and loving, and adorable.  At this moment, however, I'm not even close to being there.  I'm pretty sure I need some therapy...or at least Super Nanny...or maybe even just a nanny, but although I love them, I spend entirely too much time counting the moments to when I'll be alone.  So, you people who aren't actually reading this....what am I supposed to do?  How do I not dread the moments we're home alone together?  How do I experience peace in my home? and stop experiencing the contant longing to take a nap?  How do I love them (and like them) like those wonderful moms who get the #1 Mom coffee mugs for Mother's Day, and then after receiving them, don't give them away to the GoodWill?  
   Okay, I'm done!  and I'm not going to re-read this rant.  If any of you have words of wisdom, please share, and if not, well...don't think any less of me.

Another Sermon

Yep, this one got an eye roll (from me, and most likely others--although I couldn't tell, b/c I take off my glasses so I can't see their responses).  Sometimes I'm in the middle...pause, and think "if I stopped right now, would anyone actually notice?"  Oh well,  sometimes the Spirit arrives, sometimes she's a wee bit too late.  Makes you wanna read it, doesn't it?!?!?!

     Has anyone ever seen a jack-a-lope? I’ve been told that they are a cross between a jack rabbit and an antelope—one of those never seen, but always sought after creatures in the heart of the Midwest. It took me an entire youth trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota to finally realize that there wasn’t such an animal. I’m not exactly sure why they spend so much time making stuffed animals and creating signs warning of their presence if there isn’t such a thing. I suppose to deceive and trick innocent and trusting souls like myself.
     I’ve always tended to be a bit gullible. Actually quite gullible. I assume that because I never lie—which is a good thing for you all—that no one would ever really lie to me. I will believe pretty much anything that you put in front of me, because being rational is not part of my nature—letting myself get drawn into a good story or carried away with fanciful illusions apparently is.
     And honestly that’s not all bad, because sometimes a story can tell you more about the world, than a newspaper article—and a fairy tale might explain human nature better than any textbook ever could.  Scripture understands this. It often blurs the line between true, hard facts, and images that help explain something even greater—leaving us to simply be drawn into the story. Leaving us to suspend our rational, “that could never happen so why does it matter” minds at the door and put on an imagination that helps to see how God works in the world. We’re asked to accept burning bushes that are never consumed, building that fall with the blare of trumpets, believe it or not—there are even talking donkeys—there are bread boxes and wine pitchers that never empty and dead people that sit up and begin to speak. Each and every strange occurrence asks us to re-think what is real and what is not and invites us to experience something deeper.
     Getting drawn in, lets you forget about trying to explain things away, and simply lets you listen to the story. Today two crowds collide. One is following Jesus, joyful, expectant, hoping and praying that the man they follow is set out to change the world. They follow, unsure as to the greatness that will happen next, but loving being a part of the story.
     And the other crowd—the other crowd is mourning, following, not the Son of God, but the only son of a widow. Following not with grand expectations, but with the real, hard, concrete knowledge that death has come, and the young man’s smile will never be seen again. They follow, completely sure what is going to happen next.
   And when these crowds collide, everyone’s world changes. For with Jesus, everything you were certain about, everything that seems to be true and rational gets left at the door. Because with a single word—Rise—this sure and certain death opens his eyes and begins to speak. Because with a single word, even death is no longer certain.
     Most of you are probably aware that this last week, Margreta Hawbaker died. She was a faithful member of this congregation for decades, actually for nine and a half decades. She participated in worship, taught the children, served in the Lydia circle. I wanted so desperately for her family, for her friends, to hear a word of hope, to be able to cling to the faith that sustained Margreta throughout her entire life.
     Using this reading for today would have been a beautiful option—But I was hesitant—do you really want to hear a story about the dead literally be raised at a funeral? Is the real, concrete reality that faces you as you gaze upon the face of your grandmother going to allow you to hear the word of hope in the word of Jesus? Actually, I think we could have…
     Because you know—this son of the widow, he was still going to die. He was still going to live his life, be with his mother, maybe start a family, and then, he was still going to die—and that reality would once again face him. He would once again draw his last breath. But, this miracle, this raising, this thing that makes us question our rational nature, this points us to something greater. This miracle points us to a God that promises that even death, even the certainty of death, will not be the final word. This miracle points us to Christ, to our God who chose death, and who then in rising again made sure that death is not the end.
     Our rational minds simply cannot understand. Because we experience death all of the time. We just watched as our dear friend was laid to rest, we watched as her family cried and although they rejoiced for her long life, they still mourn and wish for more time. Our rational minds simply cannot understand this illogical story, because we too feel pain and fear and sadness, and know that death does indeed come.
     And, this is where our imagination—this is where our faith comes in. We draw on the strength of those who have come before us, we draw on the stories in Scripture, we go forward in hope, knowing that hope will never disappoint. We live knowing that even though death is here…and the funeral procession walks down the road, it is not the end. For Jesus will forever meet us, touch the broken pieces of our soul; will speak to the dead, weary places and give us new life. Jesus will meet us, each and every time—“Do not weep, my friends, but rise. For death is not the end and life will always be the final amen.