Tuesday, December 24, 2013

God, he's huge!


My mind’s been on the “bigness” of God lately. The theme of God’s majesty and unfathomable greatness keeps recurring.

Here's a link to my blog on the CRCNA website, The Network.

http://network.crcna.org/content/worship/god-hes-huge

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Holding

Our snazzy new faucet
"Mave, can you hold this a minute?" I knew that request would come. Randy put a new faucet in our kitchen this morning, and as soon as I saw him preparing to put it in, I was waiting for him to ask me to do my usual task during his repair jobs -- hold things. This time it was the faucet. Often it's a flashlight, or a cover or lid of some kind, or...whatever.

It reminded me of a story I often tell of the worst "holding job" I've had during one of his many handyman projects. He was repairing the broken springs of the garage door several years ago. Do you know how heavy a garage door is? It is incredibly heavy! And those springs are huge and hard to connect. I was standing with my arms extended over my head holding the door up, as Randy strained to pull the other end of the spring into place. My arms began to tremble and I started to cry -- I knew if I let go, I'd kill my husband! When he finally said, "OK," I let go and there was a huge THWUMP as that door flew down. But it made it and we made it, and the garage door was fixed. I'm very thankful to have a handy husband, and although I've complained often about my menial holding responsibilities, they're a small price to pay -- usually -- for the benefit of our own personal handyman.

It was kind of funny that my holding role came up again this morning. I had told the garage door story to some friends Tuesday night, and I'd been thinking about my holding role for the last several days. It came to mind when I was reflecting on the fact that I was feeling quite cheerful and strong, even though I'd had a kind of tough conversation at work this week. It's quite common for me to lose sleep and obsess over what I said or didn't say, did or didn't do in situations like that. Yet, even though I was not thrilled with all that had occurred, this time I was finding it a lot easier to let it pass, to put it behind me, and move on.

Why was that? Well, that's when I remembered the holding-the-garage-door story. My arms are weak and trembled when trying to hold up that heavy garage door. But God's arms are strong. Simplistic, maybe, but I am grateful that this time I was able to rest in his strong arms and be at peace.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. --Deuteronomy 33.27
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. --Isaiah 40.11 
You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  --Exodus 19.4

Sunday, September 15, 2013

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

I love it when ministers reference books I've read. Today we had a guest minister who referenced "The Riddle of Strider" poem in Lord of the Rings. I remember the last lines being recited in the movie as the sword for Aragorn is re-forged, but I did not remember the whole of it in the book.

The entire poem is
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
(Wikipedia)
The minister used the second line as his sermon title, "Not all Those Who Wander are Lost," and talked about how it resounds as true not only of Strider, who the hobbits did not know would become king, but of Paul and of Jesus and of the church in the world. He brought up the way the church is not viewed in society as an authority and does not "hold sway" the way it did, at least more than now, in the past. So, in a way, the church, which is "gold" is not glittering, and people may think the church is lost because they do not recognize its power.

The verse that stood out for me in the Scripture reading was
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves... (Philippians 2:3)
I struggle with acting out this kind of humility sometimes. I don't think I'm conceited, in so far as bragging about myself or my accomplishments, although certainly that happens, too. It's more that, especially when I am in a group, I like to be heard. I like to get what *I* want to say out there. When I'm feeling that way, I'm not "valu[ing] others above [myself]," right? I'm going to pray, and try to remind myself of this and improve. I'll try to be the gold that does not glitter.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Beautiful Day at the Ocean

I had a beautiful day at the ocean today. I took myself to Capitola. I read recently that there are negative ions in the air around ocean waves, waterfalls, and rivers which, contrarily, make you feel refreshed and happier. No wonder I like it at those places! When I go to the ocean it makes me feel like it's "blowing the cobwebs" from my brain. And I've always liked staying by rivers. I thought it was the sound of water that I liked so much, which I do, but I bet those negative ions are having an effect, too.

There were more birds there this morning than I've ever seen. I wonder what attracted them. I had especially not seen so many pelicans in close proximity like that.


This looked like a pelican family to me.

I'm reading a book by Jane Goodall with a bunch of stories about groups of people trying to save different animals from extinction. One of the stories was about California condors and she talked about how at first she thought they were so unattractive, but she saw their beauty when they spread their huge wings and flew. I thought of that when I was watching the pelicans.

It was fun sitting on the pier and hearing the kids who were playing close in. Most of them had little boards and were trying to catch waves. Their squeals and screams and chatter were good to hear.

I sat and read -- re-read -- a British mystery, Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. A Lord Peter Wimsey book by the ocean. Very pleasant.

At one point the fog came in very quickly. It receded quickly soon after. I kept thinking of a line of a poem about fog coming in "on little cat feet." My mom put that poem up on our frig once. I seem to remember she put several poems up for a while, to try to make them familiar to us. What a good mom.


Fog
The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on. 

Carl Sandburg

Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Cheeky lad, but a good heart. It matters -- good hearts."

This is a quote from a show I'm watching and it made me think about how often now I say something similar. I complain about someone and then stop and say, "But her (or his) heart is in the right place." It does matter.

I think I'm getting more mellow with age. Things that people do that would previously have made me have a hard time liking them in any way, shape or fashion just don't affect me that same way anymore. I do still have a reaction to what they do, and sometimes an overreaction. The difference is I can still think with love about the person, and remember their heart is in the right place.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Stay for love

Lately, it's been kind of discouraging to see people leaving our church for various reasons. Often, the reason they give is that there are not programs for their kids. I understand that reasoning, and can sympathize with it. All parents would do anything for their kids.

What I wish is that they would stay for love. We love these families. They're our brothers and sisters in Christ. Their children are our children. When their children were born, we promised to love and serve them and help to bring them up in the Lord. And we meant it.

I finally said this to one person who's considering leaving. I said that we love this person and their family and we don't want them to go. I said maybe they could stay for that love. Finally, I said I know they can find love elsewhere, "but there you go, you've got our love already."

And it's true.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Foretaste of Heaven


Somehow as a child I remember getting the impression I was being told that church -- going to church -- was kind of a preview of what it would be like in heaven. I can't say I thought that sounded so great. To me, church was pretty boring. I liked the singing all right. Sometimes it was nice because I got to see friends. But I became an expert at tuning out most of the service, especially the sermon. I remember once when I was in high school thinking to myself, "Maybe if I listened, I'd understand what the minister is saying." What a concept. I spent years figuring there was no use listening because he'd use big words and talk about stuff that I couldn't understand.

I like to think I'm more mature now. At any rate, I do enjoy church much more, and even look forward to it. Last week I was thinking about the process of going through the various parts of the service such as the call to worship, the greeting, the prayer of confession, the words of grace and so on. During the confession I'd felt convicted. I related to what we were confessing, and how often I failed to live up to being a reflection of God. Then I was comforted by the words of grace. 

During the sermon that happened, too, when I heard about how Jesus loved all, even "seedy" people like prostitutes and tax collectors, and the parable of the banquet when we're told to invite "the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame." I realized how often I dismiss people based on their societal stature, or how much I sometimes invest in growing my own reputation in others' eyes. But the good news is we are all invited to God's table.

Thinking about this, I was reminded of scenes in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle and the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Often, when someone would come face to face with Aslan, their first reaction was guilt and fear. Suddenly they realized all their own failures and felt they were not worthy. But Aslan would breathe on them, or whisper to them, and transform them to creatures who were confident and content in the fullness of his love.

In this way, church is a foretaste of heaven, isn't it? We realize our own unworthiness and then become renewed and refreshed as we receive God's words of comfort and grace.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Big Meal

I kind of feel like I'm eating a delicious, multi-course meal right now. I'm reading a few books at once and they're all very tasty. I'll write more about each in my reading blog after I've finished them, but I thought I'd write a little about all now, while I'm still in the midst of the "meal."

One is by Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember. It's a bunch of his essays, some unpublished, some sermons he preached, and so on. He calls it a "grab bag." I've read just the first couple so far but they're wonderful. He is full of such wisdom. And joy.

In the first essay, the one the book title is from, he talks about a dream he has where he stays in a hotel in a room he finds absolutely wonderful and when he asks the host about it, the host says the room is named "Remember." He writes about looking back and remembering, "the need--not all the time, surely, but from time to time--to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves....". He speaks of a "deeper, slower kind of remembering;...remembering as a searching and finding." One thought I had was that my "stories" blog is a bit of that for me.

He writes about the memories of hard times, and reminds us of David and all the sinful things he did, yet he sang a song of thanks. Here's one of my favorite lines: "Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future." And after that, "There has never been a time past when God wasn't with us as the strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom, as whatever it is in our hearts--whether we believe in God or not--that keeps us human enough at least to get by despite everything in our lives that tends to wither the heart and make us less than human." I can't stop. "To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift."

And that's only the first essay!

I'm also reading Life, God, and Other Small Topics: Conversations from Socrates in the City," edited by Eric Metaxas. Metaxas and some others decided to start a speakers' series in New York "with the simple idea that the philosopher Socrates was quite right when he famously said that the 'unexamined life is not worth living.'" He happens to know "a number of brilliant writers and speakers who had thought rather a lot about the Big Questions and who had some pretty terrific answers to those questions" so he decided to invite them to speak at these events. The book has Metaxas' introduction of each speaker (and they can sometimes make me laugh out loud), the speech itself (which they kept to around 45 minutes) and the Q&A after. I'm just loving it.

Again, I've only read a few so far but the other night I was lying in bed thinking how I'd like to send this book to several of my friends, and as I was listing their names the list got WAY too long for me to afford. I'll have to see what I can do. I'm not sure if these events are still happening in New York but if they are and if they're open to the public I could easily see it as worthwhile to plan a trip to New York around getting to one of these nights.

The first 2 essays/talks are named "Belief in God in an Age of Science" and "Making Sense out of Suffering." Talk about big questions, right? The speakers were Sir John Polkinghorne and Peter Kreeft, respectively. Great talks, intros and q&a. A couple quotes from the first one:
...science and religion have one extremely important thing in common--they both are concerned with the search for truth.
Of course, science and religion are looking for different aspects of truth.
Science does not seek to ask and answer every sort of question. It restricts itself essentially to asking questions of process, which are the "how questions" of how things came to be.
Religion is asking a different set of questions, deeper questions,...even than those of science--questions of meaning and purpose: "Is there something going on in what is happening in the world?" 
Sir Polkinghorne was a scientist himself, a physicist, then became an Anglican priest. One of the things he talks about is the incredible once-in-a-lifetime-ness (my "word") of the fact that our world and human beings came to exist. He goes further than saying this shows "intelligent design," but speaks along those lines. I can't be as eloquent as he is so I won't even try, but it's a wonderful essay. I'm so glad to have read it. Just one more quote I much appreciate: "Those seeking to serve the God of truth should welcome truth from whatever source it comes." If only we could all live that.

Lastly, I'm also reading a book called Bad Religion, by Ross Douthat. I would not put it on the same pedestal as the two above books, but it's kind of like the meat and potatoes of the big meal. I'm reading it for a book club I'm a member of, and although at first I wasn't sure I liked it enough even to finish it, I actually am getting more from it than I thought and plan to continue. The subtitle is "How We Became a Nation of Heretics" and, at least so far, the author is kind of writing a history of religion in America. It'll be interesting to get to his conclusions and perhaps propositions for improvement.

I guess I'm also reading one more as a kind of palate cleanser, which is a Georgette Heyer novel I read every so often just to get in a little lightness and relaxation.

So there you go. An embarrassment of riches.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Peter's my fave

Yesterday's sermon was based on Luke 5:1-11, where Jesus calls his disciples. Peter is still called Simon there. Peter reminds me of me. In this story, when Jesus tells him to put his nets out, Peter first has to let him know that they've already done that and it didn't do any good. I tend to do that -- make sure I get my potential "I told you so" setup, you know? So Peter says, "Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." Right. "OKaaaay, since YOU say so."

And then, of course, there's definitely no I told you so happening from Peter. And Jesus -- well, he IS Jesus after all -- doesn't say it, either. But those nets get filled with fishes, overflowing, nearly breaking them. And then Peter's actions take a huge pendulum swing. "...he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'”

Oh Peter, you're a man after my own heart. I'm so glad you are in the Bible. It just shows you, if Jesus could love Peter, he can love me, and you and all of us.

Once I started to gather all the passages I could find with Peter in them. Story after story he proves Jesus loves us in spite of ourselves. Peter gets out of the boat full of confidence and faith,...then loses it. Peter says "You are Christ, son of the Living God" and Jesus tells him he'll build his church on this Rock. Peter says he'll never, ever deny Christ, and then he does..three times! But after all those failures, Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and Jesus does use Peter, and he does build his church with him. There's hope.