Daily Faith

In the Lord’s Prayer we ask for ‘daily bread.’ This morning I was meditating on the notion from AA – “one day at a time” – and thought about ‘daily faith.’

Lord let me have enough faith to fully live this day. Let me accept what comes with grace. Let me move slowly through the day. Let me notice all that is around me with the eyes of faith, hope, and love. Let me trust in your goodness and mercy for me today. This is enough. Amen.

I Miss Writing

When I was in college I’d spend my afternoons studying at the Big Moose Cafe, which was located on the ground floor of my dorm, Xavier Hall at Seattle University. With a double tall mocha at hand I’d read theology books and contemplate life. I always had a notepad with me and I’d write down ideas, poems, questions, etc.

These days I do most of my writing on the computer, pressing keys to get my newsletter article done, or to work on the church budget, or to wonder about moving to a new house in the city, or a bigger house with more land – a quiet, private retreat space – type, type, type. What I miss is writing. The feel of the pen moving across the paper. Feeling the weight of the paper. Drawing arrows from one idea to another, not in the order they tumbled out of me. Sometimes, the things I wrote would need to be reviewed, a day or two later, and new things written, ideas shaped in a new way due to a dream or insight. Just as I’ve struggled for years with having my calendar on the computer, I now struggle with wanting to carry around a notebook filled with life-affirming gibberish that feeds and nurtures my soul. ‘It’s too cumbersome to carry a paper calendar and a notebook,’ my inner critics cry, so, yet again, I try to do it all online. But I’ve finally realized that ‘online’ is not as soul satisfying as writing on paper and carrying it around. Be damned ye inner critics – I’m going to start writing again – on paper!

Wedding Joy

My wife and I are both going back to work today after taking a long weekend off to celebrate our daughters wedding. The whole week-long celebration was filled with pure joy. It feels a bit odd to dive back in to work, although I suspect we will both take the joy of love into what we do today.

As two introverts, I think both of us were surprised at how much we enjoyed spending time with family and friends each day. Seeing our parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews, cousins, and friends from work all mingling together at the reception was amazing. Dancing with the little kids who lost themselves in the music was one of the highlights of the weekend, especially when little Emma would bow at the end of each song.

I feel like we drank from the fountain of ‘leaping-for-life’ water and that it will be a long while before we thirst again.

Down the Aisle

This afternoon I get to walk my daughter Anna down the aisle. She is getting married to her beloved Anthony. This morning when I woke up early, I thought about the time when, in college and thinking I was going to be a Jesuit priest, I had a vision of myself holding the head of a small baby and looking down at ‘my daughter’. Due to that vision I changed the trajectory of my life, or had the trajectory changed for me. I’ve looked forward to this day ever since Anna’s birth almost 27 years ago. I’m so thankful for all the joys she has brought our way and today I am very thankful to be able to accompany her down the aisle.

Fruit of the Spirit

In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” He contrasts these to the “works of the flesh” which are “…fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.”

Until this morning, I never noticed that the ‘works of the flesh’ are plural but the fruit of the Spirit is singular. When we settle into the grace and mercy Jesus offers us, and allow the Spirit to bear fruit in our lives, we become “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Yet while I’m sure most of us aren’t rampant practitioners of “…the works of the flesh,” I’m not sure how easy it is for us to believe/trust that are have the fruit of the Spirit growing in our lives, especially when the ‘goodness’ of the fruit of the Spirit is so rich and plentiful. My mantra for today is: “I am love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Not the shortest mantra, but a nice invitation to use to invite myself back to the goodness that resides within me through Christ and the presence of the Spirit within.

The Last Supper

Last night my wife and I had dinner with a dear friend and his wife on their last night in town. Today they will be departing for Venice, FL, their new retirement destination. Kirkwood is no longer 'home'. Now it is a place they will visit (hopefully often).

I realize this morning how much I'll miss sending a text asking, "Can we chat?" and knowing that if Paul is in town there is a good chance our 'chat' would be face to face. Emails, phone calls, and texts only go so far.

I wish the very best for my dear friend even though part of me wishes for a flat tire on the moving truck and a change of heart. Just kidding – sort of.

Terror in Charlottesville

Three days ago, I returned home after visiting Charlottesville, VA. I was sent there by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. My ‘assignment’ was to sit with five pastors, listen to their stories, and help them discern what might be next in their ministry. When 43 people showed up to talk, I knew it was time to through my expectations out the window.

Several of the pastors talked about being trained in non-violent resistance techniques in anticipation of encountering neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other white supremacists. What they all shared was that no one prepared them to confront evil face-to-face. Some of these good people were terrified by what they experienced. What we saw on television was only a small fraction of the insanity that terrorized Charlottesville. As I sat listening to the stories, I kept hearing, “Peace be with you!” in my heart.

I spent a lot of time on the street where Heather Heyer was killed, reading the messages written in chalk. The messages where of hope, defiance, resilience, love, support, and peace. One message simply read: “NO H8!”

I continue to pray for the good people of Charlottesville who tasted terror. “Peace be with you!”

Back at Church (part-time)

I returned to work yesterday following three weeks of house-arrest (I was recovering from lower back surgery). Even though I wasn’t able to last the entire day, it was nice to be back at church. My main goal was to delete all the emails I had received that didn’t matter. Out of 728 emails, 645 of them did not matter – that’s 89%! But I got it done!

And I was also surprised by a visit from two dear friends, Sister Margarita (my ex-nun friend) and her friend Skittles (it’s a long story). They brought me a t-shirt that read “Be a Friend” printed backwards on the front and “Committee Be Quiet” on the back (the ‘committee’ is the group of negative voices you hear in your head). It was so nice to see them and catch up.

It’s amazing to me how rich a visit can be. As I continue to recover from surgery and re-enter pastoral ministry (albeit part-time for a while) I do so with a deeper appreciation of the significance of a personal visit. One of my main mottos for ministry is: just show up. In my time away, I’ve been blessed by others who have shown up to visit me. Don’t be afraid to simply ‘show up’. You don’t need to know what to say, showing up is enough.

One Week and Counting

One week from now, I will be on the operating table at St. Luke’s Hospital. The surgeon will be working on my lumbar spine in order to relieve symptoms in my legs that have gotten progressively worse since the car accident I was in on April 4th. I’ve been assured that this surgery will be less invasive than the one I had in April of 2016, where they fused 5 thoracic vertebrae together. For that surgery I was in the hospital for six days and had to wear a turtle shell-type brace for three months. If all goes well next week, I’ll be home on Tuesday. The recovery is supposed to take a couple weeks. There will be no brace. I’m looking forward to not having my legs tingle, go numb, hurt, and sometimes just plain give up on me. I’m not sure what my blogging schedule will look like in the weeks ahead. As interesting things emerge, I’ll share them. My primary invitation is to pray, breathe, and trust in God’s desire for peace and wholeness for all creation, including me.

Sweet Marie and More

I got the nicest card in the mail the other day from a dear friend. She had given out a copy of the Sabbath book we studied together and shared her experience. She is such a kind person, a positive force, and a wise teacher. I learned from her that all the voices we hear in our heads that talk ‘down’ to us are called ‘the committee’. It was wonderful to hear from her and I so appreciate the act of kindness she showed me. Thank you!

And then, on a Monday after preaching, I received a phone message from a congregant, who was in his car driving somewhere. It said: “I was just thinking what a good job you did yesterday and thought to myself, rather than think it, why don’t you call him and let him know. So this is me, calling you, and letting you know you did a marvelous job not just with your sermon but with the whole service.”

And then, I go to the neurosurgeon for an appointment. My wife is with me. We talk about my back and the kind of surgery I need next. He shows me areas of compression on the MRI. He brings out the plastic model and shows me what he will do. We talk about the recovery process and how I should feel afterwards. And as I grab the door handle to go out to the nurse to schedule the surgery he says, “Hey, wait, I want to tell you this before you go. Your congregants that I treat; they really think highly of you.” I was stunned.

I’m not sharing these things because they point toward something good that I’ve done, rather I’m sharing them because they point out how simple it can be to bless another––a card, a call, a comment. May we all find the time and courage to bless others with simple acts of kindness and acknowledgment.