“What is Essential?”

June 3, 2018    II Corinthians 4:5-12   Sermon given at Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church

Among the ordinary people of this world Helen reigned supreme: quiet, unassuming and even timid.  There was nothing about her physical appearance or personality or worldly achievements that would mark her as noteworthy or recognizable.  Her eight years of public education in Northern Minnesota definitely was not significant on a resume, if she ever created one, which she did not.   Sickness and near blindness stalked her life until the day she died on an operating table with only her husband in the waiting room.

And yet I saw and experienced the living God in her daily life and in her commitment to prayer.  Helen Susan Taitonnen Jacobson was my mother, and she was the one who taught me to pray and to come to Jesus on my knees as my Savior and Friend.

My mother was not a theologian.  Though she read her well-used Bible daily, she did not have a trained, academic understanding of “Biblical criticism” or scholarship.  She never preached a sermon; she lived them.  She never thought of “giving her testimony” to anyone.  She lived that also.  

Yet, I remember returning from worship one Sunday and Mom gave her critique of the sermon, something I remember her doing only this one time.  She said, “Pastor preached today but he did not use the name Jesus once!”  A sermon was to be centered in Jesus for my mother, centered in the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ.  Jesus was to be “lifted up” and a sermon without Jesus was no sermon at all for her.

Helen was my mother and I think that she breathed the same air, the same Spirit, as the Apostle Paul who knew that preaching was not to be based on personal theories, the latest fads to hit the theological, social media or the thoughts of theologians.  My mother and the Apostle Paul knew that for a sermon to be a sermon the focus, the power, the substance had to center in the person, the work, and the accomplishment of Jesus Christ for us. 

In our Epistle lesson Paul wrote, “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord…” and in I Cor 2:2 he wrote, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

I remember English classes in junior high and even high school where we had to diagram sentences.  I’m not sure if they do that any more.  The subject of the sentence is what or whom the rest of the sentence is about.  The verb tells what the subject is doing or what the subject is.  

It is so very easy for us as individuals and for us as a church, both as a congregation and as a denomination to lose the true subject and verb then of our faith and our life.   When I become the subject of my life, or you become the subject of your life we are forever seeking to find fulfillment, happiness, purpose or worth and value in that which cannot provide for us what we need.

In my internship year at seminary I was at Good Samaritan hospital in Puyalup as a chaplain.  I walked into a hospital room and there lay a retired pastor.  I had often seen him visiting people in the hospital and now he lay in a hospital bed himself after suffering a sever heart attack.

He was crying; he was moaning: “I can’t visit people anymore.  I am a nobody.  I can’t do anything.  I’m worthless.”  He repeated this over and over.   In his desperation he had forgotten who he was, the beloved of God in Christ Jesus.  He had tried to find his purpose and worth in visiting and now he felt that opportunity was gone, so he was now a nobody in his mind, worthless, having no value.

When anything, anyone becomes the subject of the sentences of our lives or the focus of our message, when we become the center of our lives, the source of our purpose and life then we have forgotten our message and forgotten the true subject of our lives.  We have forgotten that we are truly loved, just as we are.

In John 5 Jesus said “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.”  We can do all the study in the world.  We can study the Bible; we can study the writing of theologians or other authors, but if our study does not lead us to a relationship with Jesus Christ we only learn about God, about Jesus, but we do not get to know and experience God in Jesus personally.  Getting to know about God is never enough, for to know about God leaves the knowledge in our head and not in our heart.  To only know about God is not to experience ourselves as God’s beloved. 

Paul wrote, “Let light shine out of darkness.” It seems that there is a darkness that is slowly, and sometimes rapidly sweeping across our land and our world.  This is a darkness of corruption and of violence.  It is a darkness of inhumanity and of self-centeredness.  It is a darkness of isolation and of disrespect.  It is a darkness that sometimes claims the name of Christ, but lives as if there is no Christ.   It is a darkness that picks and choses from Jesus what one likes, what makes a person comfortable in their self-centeredness.  It is a darkness in which we have forgotten who we truly are, the beloved of God, loved intensely.  We have forgotten that all people are truly, deeply loved by God.

It is when the world is so dark that the Church has a tremendous opportunity to proclaim the true light of God in Jesus Christ, for we have a message that the world desperately needs to hear.   The light of Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  

And the gospel message given to the church is the gospel light for the world.  Whether the world accepts it or not, the church is to be consistent in its proclamation.  The method of proclamation will change, but the content of the gospel will not.   The church loses its power, its foundation, its message if the church gets swept up by the spirit of the age in which we live, if the church loses the content of the gospel.  When Jesus is no longer the subject of our sentences we have lost what has been given to us as treasure.   Then the church becomes as dark as the world around.

Paul went on to say “But we have this treasure in clay jars.”  One translator said, “We have this treasure in cracked pots.”  

We have a treasure, a fantastically beautiful and needed treasure, the gospel of God’s gracious love and forgiveness, that we are loved just as we are, lock-stock- and barrow.  

That is the treasure of our message and we proclaim it, live it, breath it just as we are, cracked pots.   It is both because we know that we are loved the way we are that we can see our crackness, our brokenness and sin.  It is also because we see our brokenness that we are open to hear Jesus call us beloved.

In Japan, instead of tossing broken items into trash heaps, some craftsmen practice the 500-year-old art of kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” which is a method of restoring a broken piece with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.

In our society broken objects is have lost their value, but practitioners and admirers of kintsugi believe that never ending consumerism is not a spiritually rewarding experience.

The kintsugi method conveys a philosophy not of replacement, but of awe, reverence, and restoration.  That is also the message of the gospel.

God’s forgiveness and God’s restoration and God’s healing of our lives is of infinite value and it is only found in the message of Jesus Christ.  May we breath the air, the Spirit of the Apostle Paul and also of Helen Susan Taittonen Jacobson.  May we ever rejoice in and proclaim and experience the message of God in Jesus Christ that each one of us in him are beloved of God.

Second Love

On June 14, 2013 I began chronicling the journey of Diane, our family and myself as Diane faced the onslaught of small cell lung cancer.  That journey ended at 11:28 p.m. on July 18, 2014 as Diane quietly slipped through the door called death, being held by Jesus all the way.  At that moment I was propelled into another journey, a journey of grief and sorrow, of aloneness, of healing and now of second love.  It is the adventure of second love that I want to share with those of you who read this blog.

This journey, this adventure began a few days after a spiritual direction session with my director, Paula Mitchel.  In that session I shared how I had come to accept my aloneness, but not only accept it, but relish the depth of relationship with Jesus that my time of aloneness was affording me.  I acknowledged that I was not sure if I even wanted to get married again, and yet…and yet deep within there was that longing of having a life partner with whom the journey and adventure could be shared.  This I also shared with Paula.

A few days later it all began very innocuously as I wanted to see the movie A Wrinkle in Time, but I did not want to see it alone so I very calmly called another member of a new ministry at Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church called Friendly Visitors. At the time we were both involved in this ministry.  Nancy Mitchel said “Yes, she would love to see the movie,” but then said “No” to an invitation to go to dinner.  That might have been the end, but it was only the beginning.

Those of you who know me, know that I tend to ask difficult questions and rather not be involved in shallow conversations, and the same is true of Nancy.  As a consequence, beginning from our second date, the depth of our conversation has been the seedbed for “second love.”  At a future time both Nancy and I would like to share with you some of the important, sometimes humorous, usually life-giving questions that we discussed in our journey into Second Love, but that will come later.

Nancy and I have much in common:  a simple life style, a love of nature and the outdoors, the thrill of new adventures and journeys and a desire to grow as people to name a few, but both the magnetic force that drew us together and the glue that binds us together is our deep love for God in Jesus Christ, our hunger to grow in him as individuals and as a couple and our eagerness to serve him by serving others.

Neither one of us were specifically looking for a life partner, but we were both open to God’s leading, and so both Nancy and I consider our relationship of love to be a gift given to us by God, who earnestly desires us to both love and be loved.  A “Second Love” is exactly that, it is the gift of being loved by another and it is the gift of being able to give love to another.

Second Love in the second half of life seems to me to be a more mature love than my first love with Diane.  Diane and I both fought to be right; we fought to do “it” our own particular way and your way was wrong.  Those things which seemed so big over forty years ago, now seem so trivial.  Furthermore, love in the second half of life seems more urgent.

We know we do not have forty plus years to experience our love together and to grow in our love.  And so, we have said to each other, “Why postpone our wedding?  Why do we need more time?”  Oh, we have made mistakes in this process.  We should have given our sons (both Nancy’s and my sons are named Andrew and Peter) more time to get to know the one we are marrying, but we will work hard at developing and maintaining our family loves.

We have been told that we are acting like fourteen year olds!  What a complement for seventy-plus-year olds!  We have also been asked if we have had our first fight or even our first major disagreement.  Those are honest questions, questions that I have often talked about in pre-marriage counseling.  So Nancy and I have worked very hard at having a “heated” disagreement and the end result is laughter.  The time will come when that might happen, and we look forward to that time when our communication practices bring us through such stormy waters.

The wedding vows which we will proclaim in a little over thirty-six hours from this writing say “In the presence of God and this community, I, Stan, take you, Nancy, to be my wife; to have and to hold from this day forward, in joy and in sorrow, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.  This is my solemn vow.”

In the second half of life each of the reverse, contrary phrases are very much a reality, and we realize this.  Yet it is the very gift of God to each of us, that gift being our love for each other encircled in the love that God has for us, that sees all the realities of life now being lived and shared with one with whom we are deeply in love.  That Second Love is PURE GIFT!

 

 

 

“Truly Known” A Sermon

May 22, 2018 John 10:11-18   “Truly Known”  (Preached at Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church, Sequim, WA)

Perhaps there is no metaphor or image of Scripture more sanitized and sentimentalized and made into a fuzzy-wuzzy nothing than Jesus as the good shepherd.  Not many of us these days have direct experience with sheep, although perhaps some of you have raised sheep in the past.  Most of us are sheep illiterate.  And yet the images of sheep and shepherd are prolific in the Scriptures:

The good shepherd

The lost sheep

The Lord is my shepherd

We are all like sheep that have gone astray

The Great Shepherd of the sheep

And to Peter:  tend and feed my sheep

We are sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves

And the political leaders of Israel where called shepherds

And they failed their calling so God took on the role of the Shepherd of Israel

Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd.  This is not a sentimentalized or sanitized image, but the word good implies that Jesus is the true, honest, valuable model for the role of the shepherd.  As the good shepherd, Jesus willingly lays down his life for the sheep. It is that attitude and action of Jesus that God wants to impress upon us this morning.   Jesus not only gave his life, laid down his life for you on the cross, but he lays down his life for us every moment of the day.  Have you thought of Jesus laying down his life for you right now?  How does Jesus do that?

I visited a person who was terminally ill and I asked him the perennial question:  “How are you doing?”  His reply was truthful.  He said, “When I am asked that question I usually say, ‘I’m doing ok,’ but I am really lying through my teeth.  To you, I’ll tell the truth.”  He then went on to tell me how he was progressively getting worse.

We pick and choose whom we will let into our lives, who will get the privilege of really knowing us.  Most of the businesses with which we deal, have us in their computer with some number.  We are merely social security numbers or student identification numbers, but to our Good Shepherd we are more than a number, we are intimately known.  We are known by name.

In my younger years, much younger years, even before seminary, I worked in a training program at Glendale Lutheran Church in Burien, WA.   I got to know identical twin boys.  They were in high school at the time.  One day, as these young men were leaving worship, I took the chance at calling them by name, but I missed.  One of them, angrily spoke up: “My name isn’t…..  It’s ……   Nobody knows my name.  Everybody gets it wrong.”  It is still a fear that I have, calling people by the wrong name.  

Jesus does not mess up our name, for he knows us inside and out.  Jesus lays down his life for us every day of the week, as he knows us intimately.  He knows our idiosyncrasies, our fears, our failures, our true hopes and our dreams.  He knows who we truly are, not just who we portray to the public, not just our facade that we present in order to look good.   

When I do not really understand myself, Jesus understands me.  When I put my foot in my mouth, for the millionth time, and I cannot really understand why I am so impulsive-so Peter-like- Jesus knows and still accepts me.  Jesus knows my dark side, the parts of me that are even hidden from myself. He knows my gifts and my abilities, my potential.  He knows me and still gives himself to me and for me.  That is true love.   When it says that Jesus willingly gives himself up for us, in part, at least to me, it means that he truly loves us and shows us that love by knowing us and accepting us.

It takes a great deal of work to really get to know a person.  As I did pre-marriage counseling, it dawned on me how a young couple, who spends hours and hours talking to each other, still doesn’t really know each other.  Nancy and I have spent hours talking, sharing in deep, deep ways, but to truly know each other it takes time, takes a life-time.  

Charlie Brown said, “There’s no problem so big that you can’t run from it,” but to really know each other is to stick together in all weather, in all our problems and challenges.   Margaret Mead wrote that one of the most serious things that has happened in the United States is that people “enter marriage with the idea it is terminable.”  But our Good Shepherd does not run from us when our dark side, our weaknesses and even our sin is revealed.  God knows us, and forgives us.

Now we think of the shepherd as one who cares for the sheep by bringing them to safe pastures and abundant water supplies.    Jesus, our Good Shepherd, does provide for us and protects us, but he cares for us on a much deeper level.  The following story relays part of our Shepherd’s care for us:

One day the doorbell rang and there stood a woman’s beloved brother.  It was a delightful surprise to the woman.  Her brother was an executive of an international petroleum company and he was extremely busy.  He stayed and visited for a few hours and then got up to say good-bye.  Tears began to slide down the woman’s face.  He asked her why she was crying.  “Because I simply don’t want you to go,” was her reply.  He gave a surprised look and then went to the phone and left a message for the pilot of his company’s plane.  He stayed with his sister for two days, but all the time the sister had a nagging feeling that she had caused her brother a great inconvenience.

Some time later the brother received an important award for his contributions to the oil industry.  A reporter asked him at the time, “Is this the greatest honor that you’ve received?”  

“No,” he said, “my sister gave me my greatest honor the day she cried because she didn’t want me to leave.  That’s the only time in my life anyone ever cried because they didn’t want me to leave.  It was then that I discovered the most precious gift one human being can ever bestow on another is to let a person know that he/she is really needed and loved that much.”  

Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, knows us and cares for us at the deepest, most intimate levels of our being.  He sits down and has coffee with us, walks the early morning walk with us, stays awake in the stillness of the night when we cannot sleep.  Jesus gives us of his time, his presence, his loving care, and even more than all of that he tells us that we are his beloved.

An elderly man on his golden wedding anniversary was asked, “And do you still love your wife after all those years together?”  His reply was, “Yes, sir, indeed I do.  In fact, there are times when I have a real hard job not telling her so!”  Some men have a hard time expressing love, but our Good Shepherd never tires of telling us how much he loves us.  

We are fully known, fully loved and fully cared for by Jesus, our Good Shepherd.  Take a moment, take your life-time and allowed yourself to be loved up by your Good Shepherd.

HOLY SATURDAY

Today is Holy Saturday.  It is the day after and the day before.  It is a day full of Easter egg hunts and final preparation in families for the gathering of loved ones tomorrow and for Christian leaders it is the last opportunity for preparations for tomorrow’s big worship services.  Yes, today is Holy Saturday, forgotten as Holy, busy as usual, but today is not forgotten by me.  It is one of my favorite days!  Why?

Can you image the first disciples on this day?  Perhaps full fear, full of guilt and even shame, full of questions and even doubts, full of despair.   Today is the day of waiting, and waiting for what?  Oh, we know, but the early disciples where living with blinded faith.  They did not know the rest of the story, and so they waited for the unknown.

I am the disciples, at times full of guilt and shame, full of blinded faith and questioning doubts.  I am the disciples, not knowing what is around the next corner and so I too have to wait.  Holy Saturday is the day of WAITING, and is that not what most of life is about?  WAITING!

BUT WE DO NOT WAIT AS THOSE WHO HAVE NO HOPE, FOR WE KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY!

Guided Meditative Retreat

GUIDED MEDITATIVE RETREAT

WHAT IS IT? The Retreat is an opportunity to spend a portion of a day personally listening,  praying and asking God speak to you through his Word and through nature. When was the last time, if ever, have you taken six hours and said, “Here I am God, speak for I seek to listen?” You will be guided in spending time alone with God and we will meet together a number of times to reflect upon our experience.

WHERE AND WHEN? APRIL 14th is the day. We will meet at Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church in Sequim, WA and leave DVLC at 9 a.m. to go to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Port Angeles. We will return at 3 p.m.

WHO WILL LEAD THE RETREAT? Pastor Stan Jacobson is a new member of DVLC. He is a recently retired ELCA pastor and a spiritual director.

WHAT IS NEEDED AND WHAT IS THE COST? All you need is a notebook or a journal a pen, a Bible and a SACK LUNCH. Lunch will NOT be provided. We will take an offering to defray the cost of using the facility. There is no other cost.

SIGN UP: There will be a sign up sheet in the narthex at DVLC or contact Stan directly at 206-445-3576.

COME, ENJOY, BREATH DEEPLY, RECEIVE

Broken Heart

My heart broke the other day.  My sister, brother-in-law and I were walking along a marina on Sequim Bay and a “hunter” showed us an old squaw duck, now called a Long Tailed Duck.  He had “captured” and killed the duck that day so that he could have it stuffed and put on his wall to admire his handiwork.  My heart was broken and in grief I was also very angry.

The picture above is from the internet, for in the wild I have never seen one, except for one now being stuffed.  The Long Tailed Duck spends three to four times longer under water while foraging than on top of the water.  It can dive up to 200 feet.  In 2014 it was identified as a “Common Bird in Steep Decline,” and now there is one less in the wild.

At three a.m. the other morning I continued to lament the death of my sister Old Squaw or Long Tailed Duck.  When one’s life is only centered in one’s self and one’s own desire, there is no connection with the rest of creation.  “The wild” is only present for one’s pleasure, but if God is the Maker of my life and the Maker of the life of the old squaw duck, then we are connected in this same Creator God.  I am to be the steward and caretaker of all of God’s creation, all the created order.  All of creation is my sister and my brother.

St Francis understood our connection with all of creation through our Lord God.  May we all come to love both God and all that God has made.

The Canticle of Sister Moon and Brother Sun                                                                     St Francis

“Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.”

Lesson One Taught to me through Grand Daughter Hazelle

When my granddaughter Hazelle was only hours old I was talking with her and I pondered, “Hazelle, what are all the lessons that you have for me to learn through you?”  Lesson One is described below.

There is no one more dependent, more vulnerable than a new born baby, especially a baby in the neonatal unit of a hospital.  “Truly I tell you, whoever does to receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)  Vulnerable?  Vulnerable…it is not a word that I relish to hear, nor to experience and yet it is Lesson One.

A week or two ago I met with my spiritual director and after sharing a number of personal things with her, she asked the perennial spiritual direction question: “What is God’s invitation to you in all of this?”  After silence, thought, prayer, listening,  I said that I think God is calling me to rest in him.  My director reframed the word rest by asking, “Might God be saying, ‘Let me take care of you?'”  Being taken care of by God sounded good, but then I pictured Hazelle…dependent, vulnerable.  Is that what I want?  I am the caregiver.  I always have been the caregiver, in my marriage, in relationships, in ministry.  Caregiver, that is my role, that is my identify, but now I was being invited to be cared for.  Wow, how absolutely hard is that?!

But the drama of vulnerability inches forward.  A few days ago I had group supervision for the spiritual direction, certification program in which I am participating and the word that surfaced continually for me was the word vulnerability.  But then the word carried with it more than simply being taken care of.  In supervision, vulnerability came to mean allowing myself to feel, to be angry, to be hurt, to feel grief and loss, to not have all the answers, to not have to fix things, fix people, fix problems, fix myself.  Vulnerable came to mean being known, being know at the deep levels of my being, not simply by others but even to be known to myself.  Can I allow myself to be vulnerable?

Why would I even want to know and be known in such vulnerable ways?  A hundred years ago in my confirmation class I learned that God is omniscient, all-knowing, but am I really willing to invite Jesus into all the deep` crevices of my heart and life?  It is one thing to have a doctrine about what God does or does not know, but it is another thing to be personally, intimately known by him.  If God in Christ intimately knows me, he also invites me to know myself at those levels and to know that even in the hidden areas of my life I am still his BELOVED.  Why do I want to “know and be known in such vulnerable ways?” Because I deeply desire the love of God to fill every corner of my life.  To be open to God is to be vulnerable to God and even to myself.  To be open to God is also to be open to others, for I am not on this spiritual journey alone.

Why do I want to “know and be known?”  Because if I can know and be known at such levels and be set free to also know the deep, deep love of God, then maybe others can also come to know that love while I am with them.  Maybe God’s love calling us his Beloved will also set others free through me. Can WE be set on fire TOGETHER by God’s love?

Such love is a non-judgmental love.  It is a freeing love.  It is a love that heals and forgives.  Such love at the deepest levels of our being is the only thing that can begin, one person at a time, to make a difference in this world that desperately needs love.

Hazelle, teach me how to be truly vulnerable.

Buffeted by the Winds

It is night time and the wind is blowing.  No, not simply a gentle breeze, but strong gusts rock the trailer which is my temporary home.  Noise, shaking are all part of the night’s buffeting.  No, it is not a hurricane nor a tornado, just a lot of wind buffeting my small home.

As the night wind continues to blow, I have been thinking of so many people, both know and unknown to me, whose lives are being buffeted by the winds of sickness, loneliness, financial difficulties, emptiness, a sense of fear and uncertainty, disasters, grief and loss and the list is legion.  Such buffeting comes from life itself, from choices that we have made, circumstances beyond our control, from the deep, deep “demons” within us, from our own insecurities and insufficiencies and perhaps from the Evil One himself.  Yes, the forces are legion.  The buffeting winds of life are often immobilizing and even terrifying.  So what are we to do?

Some times we go into our “problem-solving-mode” and try to figure out some remedy for the buffeting winds.  At other times we “go to work,” go to the office, or simply fill our time with business and try not to think about anything.  Isn’t there a saying “Idle hands are the devil’s work place,” or something like that?  At other times we pray and we pray and we pray, but it seems to me that often our prayers direct our thoughts more and more upon ourselves or upon the problem.  When the buffeting winds of life happen we try to take shelter from the storms in whatever way we are able.

The ways of God are often just the opposite our inclinations, our natural, intuitive actions.  The people of Israel were up against the Red or Reed Sea on one hand and the advancing Egyptian army to their rear.  What did Moses tell the people?  “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the  LORD will accomplish…. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14: 13,14)  And the Psalmist wrote, “Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him…. .  Be still, and know that I am God!” (Ps. 37:7; 46:10)

Now I have hear all the arguments against being still:  God has given us minds to figure things out; we just can’t do nothing;  we have resources to use that God has given us; we can’t expect God to do “everything,” and the excuses for not “being still” drive us to frenzied activity.  And my word to all those who rely upon our own efforts is “If it is working for you, keep it up.  There will be a time when all you do will not be enough, and God’s invitation to you is to “Be still, and know that I am God,” rather than you.

 

 

Karla and Life Goals

Let me briefly tell you about Karla.  Karla is my physical therapist.  During the first week of this past June I spent eight hours in a kayak class.  The class was going to be sixteen hours, but I did not make the second day.  In addition to all I learned in that first day, I also received the bargain of a “tennis elbow!”  My general practitioner gave me a cordizon shot which did absolutely no good, thankfully.  I asked to see a specialist who gave me a prescription to see a physical therapist and that is where Karla comes in, nearly four months later.

Karla has a doctorate in physical therapy plus a three year residency and she,,, is… GOOD!  Karla also is a kayaker so my goal, with her direction, is not simply to heal my tennis elbow, but to deal with all the issues which created it in the first place.  My kayak instructor showed me what I might have done wrong in holding my paddle, but the reality is that my body is a very complicated, intricately, intertwined unit.  Karla is working with all the muscles, tendons, etc that need to work together so that I can kayak, not just tomorrow, but for years to come.

With all of this I have pondered and also prayed about goals.  My general practitioner and even the sports doctor had the goal of healing my elbow.  Karla helped me see that I could have a bigger goal of being able to kayak now and in the future with my body working effectively.   I am glad that kayaking is not the only goal in my life though.

I have the goal of building a home in Sequim, but I have a bigger goal than simply building a house.  I have a goal of having a home of hospitality, contemplative prayer and service to others.  That is a bigger goal than simply having a house.  The house is the shell, the outer trappings for what I want to see happen in the house.

Now here is the challenge, where my primary, my over-arching goal supersedes all my other goals.  If the goal of building my house and even the goal of the purpose of the house were my primary goals, then I would have cataclysmic problems.  See, I want my goals to be accomplished NOW and they are NOT!  The snail pace of accomplishing my goals surrounding the building of my house might  lead to frustration, to impatience, to anger, to anxiety, to ulcers, to a heart attack.  Who knows what a snail pace of goal accomplishment might lead to

But, and this word BUT is very important, I have another goal, a primary goal which over-rides all other goals.  I have a goal that God might create in me the person that he desires, my true self in Christ, my new being and God uses EVERYTHING in my life to accomplish that major goal.  Snail pace construction might be God’s hammer and chisel to smooth out my rough edges, to create within me a person of trust and serenity.  I believe that which happens in my daily life are the building blocks, the tools in the hands of my Master Craftsman to construct in me the person he desires, and I know that this primary goal is a life-long goal, not a quick, temporary achievement.  Therefore, I am able to say “Thank you” and to surrender the moment into the Master’s hands.

 

“If you will, you can become all flame.”

I have read the following conversation between two of the saints of the fifth century many times over during the past twenty plus years and it has never made sense to me:                                                                Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts.  What else can I do?”  Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven.  His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

Why would I want my fingers to become like ten lamps of fire?  But today the story makes sense to me, at least my interpretation of it.  To me it all has to do with passion!  So often we live our spiritual journey with routine, on remote control.  We have our moments when something comes alive, but then we go back to remote control.  Passion is the missing ingredient in our faith journey.  Maybe that is why I so much enjoy being with Christians in the developing countries.  Many of them have a passion in their faith that I do not see in the United States, nor in myself.

Henri Nouwen is quoted by author Tony Jones as saying, “In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”  Passion is not something we create, but I think it is enhanced when we have the opportunity to experience God doing something that we “hadn’t planned or counted on.”  The Psalmist said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” and the more we experience the goodness of the Lord, the greater our passion for our Lord becomes.

The word that I have used a couple times in the last few sentences is experience.  In my Lutheran tradition experience is not often mentioned.  Lutherans tend to be “head oriented,” not heart oriented.  Heart is not simply feelings; it is feelings, thoughts, intentions, intellect. Heart is all of who I am.  It is that which we believe in the head lived out in our total life, that is experienced!  No wonder so many people are leaving mainline churches if they do not have the opportunity or even the expectation of living, experiencing God in their lives.  Passion is a lived experience.