Tag Archive: forgiveness

baby_frog_2_by_jay_k_pics-d3nwm43A typical second grade boy cannot be expected to understand when a parent says “Just a few minutes.” He was in the garage dressed in his nice jeans with his button up shirt tucked in, and hair all combed ready to go to the church dinner on a Wednesday night. Mom sticks her head through the door and says, “We will be leaving in just a few minutes.” The door shuts as Mom goes back in to finish getting ready. The 2nd grader thinks that “Just a few minutes” gives him permission because it is enough time for a small adventure despite knowing that she most likely intended for him to stay there to be ready. Behind the houses across the street there is a canal which has been the source of many previous adventures. Despite knowing better he found himself leaving the garage. The canal slopes down on each side dropping around 10 feet below street level and always have at the minimum of about a foot of water flowing slowly even on the driest days.  On this particular day walking along the edge of the canal near a drain pipe emptying a trickle of water into the canal provides an amazing discovery. Hundred upon hundreds of baby frogs scatter with every step. This of course requires further investigation. So closer to the edge of the water the 2nd grader discovers hundreds of these creatures are transitioning from tadpole to frog. Many are still in the water with both legs and a tail. He has just a few minutes so off go the shoes and socks and he rolls up his jeans and the slimy clay-like earth squish between his toes as he enters into the water to catch these amazing creatures. The adventure takes him deeper when above the rim of the canal he hears a familiar voice drift down to the muddy water which awakens him from his fascination. He looks down to realize how deep he is. He realizes how there is sediment, clay, and mud all over him and his clothes. Awareness of his situation and all of his choices fill him with some remorse as he quickly grabs his socks and shoes and rises over the top of the canal dripping with him the stale smell of the neighborhood’s drainage system. He begins to move in the direction of his Mom’s voice.

Mom was filled with great emotions as her beloved son who had disappeared from the garage had now returned. The boy begins to tear up and apologize, but Mom interrupts saying, “shhh, baby…I love you. Take my hand. Let’s go get you cleaned up.” Mom graciously took her sons dirty hand and gently ushers him into the garage and shuts the outer door. She instructs her child to strip down out of those once nice church clothes. As the shirt comes off little frogs begin appearing jumping out of every pocket, nook, cranny, and crevice and scattering all over the garage for safety from the dirty little boy. Some of the little frogs didn’t survive. His wet and muddy jeans end up bunched around his ankles. No matter how hard he struggles, twists, and pulls the jeans won’t come off. He is filled with a mix of guilt and gratitude as Mom reaches down and helps him out of those smelly wet jeans as the last few frogs are released to safety as she empties the pockets. Mom brings her son inside straight to the shower. The water starts off cold and shocking, but warms up as the soap and water begin doing their wonderful transforming work. As if Mom has some magical powers, when he get’s out of the shower he sees that a new set of clean church clothes mysteriously appeared on the counter-top next to the sink. Moments later that 2nd grade boy is clean and dressed in these fresh garments. He is hungry and looking forward to eating dinner with his Mom. His Mom is smiling as he gets in the car. They get to the Wednesday night church dinner right on time instead of arriving very early as planned because it all took just a few minutes.

  • I wonder where you see yourself in this story?
  • I wonder where you see God in this story?

Good Friday Reality

A slow wading into the strange midday gloom of Good Friday listening in the darkness to the words spoken. Chosen words. Cross words. Words that would have taken concerted effort just to gather enough breath to utter. Heavy words that identify with our breathing and our aching.
“Why have you forsaken me?”
“I am thirsty.”
Words that speak to us with the unseen gravity of hope that draws us to and draws us through the dark places.
“Father, forgive them.”
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Forty days of journeying toward resurrection is a journey with one’s eyes on the ground as these Good words move out of the peripheral and into focus. The moon in orbit still pulling and affecting things below still sets our dates for celebrating The Life. On this particular annual trip around my eyes have focused on something much closer instead of a detached and distant view through the scope. These words have drawn my eyes to see the spirals, swirls and ridges that make up the imprint of a finger. Original one-of-a-kind fully fully human. The dignity of the divine is unforgotten, but the blood and pulsing pressure system that moves the red life around the body more real this year than before.
Chords and words of hymns of wood and blood sharpen the focus. Weekly gathering in community both large and small proclaiming and sharing magnifies things all the more. Today thanks to friends new and old I more than remember things which had gone soft in focus. I am re-membered because what came into view as those cross words were spoken was firm reality. Real as the warmth of the sun, the touch of a hand, and the force that holds me to the earth and pulls me to the grave. The solid reality of no more beating, the finality of a last breath and the concluding words from the cross saying

The Word went silent and breathed no more. The strangeness of this good dark day has placed firmly in my life the reality of a servant and a ransom, of a gift and lost things found, and of peace near and far. The reality of clear access to the Holy and the One because of the concrete reality of blood and breath.

This season of Lent as we have focused on the words Jesus Christ spoke from the cross has been like what I understand praying with an icon is to be like where you are simply drawn deeper and deeper into the profound reality of our faith.

Lord Jesus, when we distant ourselves from reality, we distance ourselves from you. Help us as we approach Easter to live into the reality of your loving sacrifice so that your gift of life becomes the real solid ground we walk on. Amen. 

Difficult Reading and Prayer

I don’t have answers as much as I am simple inviting you into some of my reflections that are stirring in me.

Bishop Hope has challenged me and some friends on the ordination journey to explore racial issues. One of the things we were asked to read was about the race riots that happened in Wilmington, NC in 1898 (you can read the articles here from the News and Observer). One things that keeps happening in me as I grow older is that I have a different appreciation of time. When I was a kid I would have thought that something happening in the 1960s was ancient history, but now I read these horrific events of 1898, and I feel like they are much closer at hand where the effects linger and stifle the air we breathe. In the midst of imperfect efforts of cross racial cooperation that seemed to offer a small sense of hope in Wilmington in the 1890s, rose up a wave of white supremacy that crushed that hope and radically reshaped our states future.

It is interesting that since living here in North Carolina I have heard the news reports of rearranging voting districts and the concern was over taking power from African American voters. I don’t know what motivations truly lie behind things like this, but I just find myself more sensitive to things now after these recent reflections of our past.

Another thing that disturbed me reading these stories was that some of the hateful propaganda of the 1890s spoken against black lives and anyone thought to be in support of them, seems to carry an echo of the words and thoughts I have heard floating around toward other peoples groups today including immigrants and refugees. Like the concern of who has the jobs and who doesn’t.

During morning prayer I was in Psalm 72 and I found myself praying in a voice other than my own. Even though this was a prayer of Solomon, I still was imagining it on the lips and hearts of the oppressed. I prayed that the mountains would yield prosperity for those in need and righteousness would flow down the hills to the people. I prayed for leaders to lead in righteousness and justice. I prayed that leaders would defend the cause of the poor and give deliverance to the needy. Thinking of a black man facing the fear mongering of the 1890s or of our current neighbors who are experiencing the injustice of today I prayed for the crushing of the oppressor. I trust in God’s love and righteousness that God’s crushing of an oppressor doesn’t look like my version of crushing that would just be perpetuating the more of the same violence and hatred.

Lord God, deliver the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. Redeem the lives of those oppressed and living under the arm of violence. God, it hurts to look at our history of hatred and sin, open our eyes to the places that these vile forces are still at work in us and in our community and guide us in your love and righteousness. By your grace free us. Amen. 

Sunday night I had the chance to teach a little of our Methodism in America history along with a little bit about Millbrook UMC’s own history. It was an interesting experience for me to weave a story that covers hundreds of years in 50 minutes. Telling the story of history is interesting because you really have to work hard at being faithful to the story. You can’t say everything. You have to tell a story. So what things do you emphasize? What things do you leave out? Then come the questions about the motivation behind those choices. These questions I have dealt with has made me more keenly aware of the voices I listen to that are narrating the world around me.

IMG_1117Remembering the story this time I was struck how the Methodist church in America didn’t start as just another split in the long line of dissenting voices arguing about doctrine, money, or practice,  but out of a situation where the people participating in the Methodist movement had limited opportunity to participate in the sacraments like communion after America claimed independence from England. The other thing that grabbed my attention was how our faith family tree looks. While we didn’t start as a typical split we Methodists have had our splits, however there is something beautiful about seeing the lines come back together. Reconciliation between individuals is hard enough, but at an institutional level…. something tells me the Holy Spirit had to be involved in this. Even after one of the splits was over issues as intense as slavery there were efforts early on after the Civil War toward reconciliation.

There is still reconciling work to be done across racial lines today, and in this generation our Methodist movement faces a potential split over differences of understanding scripture in regards to sexuality. My hope is that we would remember the great moments of reconciliation that we have participated in before and our prayer at communion: “By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world.”

That’s the story I hope I am weaving.

Lord Jesus, you who taught us to pray ‘Our Father’, help us to understand the depth of significance of being apart of the ‘our’ together with those who differ from us so that together we find ourselves moved by your Holy Spirit in reconciling all things so that we reflect your kingdom and your will being done on earth, in us, as it is in heaven. Amen.