Monday, December 29, 2014

End of the year message

Sermon for 12-28-14      To Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church               Text: Isaiah 61:10-11
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God;

2014 is about to end. For me, this year held so many important events, and experiences. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, sporting accomplishments, school achievements, the rain, and the coolness of winter. We have worked to gather to provide hope for the hungry, by supporting Empty Bowls (fundraiser that benefits the hungry) and the Baily Center at the Tujunga UMC.(a place where those who need food and a shower can go during the week)  We have worked on peace through educating ourselves about the concerns of others that perhaps we had not understood before, issues like prison life, hunger, education of those who are considered uneducable, HIV/AIDS.
We worshipped and held meetings; we shared food and fellowship, love and concern, prayers and greetings.
We cried when we felt the pain of living in such an imperfect world, and the sorrow for those who have lost loved ones. We witnessed new families being born through marriage and expanded through birth and adoption. We laughed until we lost our breath, and listened to a stream of stories. We spent money, earned money, received money, gave away money, and tried to be good stewards of money. We sang songs both familiar and new adding to our repertoire, we tripped and fell, we scraped our knees or scratched our arms, we listened to the news and it broke our hearts more times than we thought possible, violence and ignorance running rampant in our world. We said goodbye to those we knew by their art, those who made us cry or laugh, or feel comfort or who moved us to action.
We faced moments when we did not want the moment to end and moments when we thought this was the end.  We shook when the earth moved, burned under the intense sun, sneezed during windy days, and bundled up when it turned cooler.
We gave thanks for the blessings, and yearned for finding the words to express our deepest desires for connection to God, to one another so we could find peace.
We discovered once again the world is scary and magnificent, enormous yet small, strange yet familiar. We discover just when we thought we had it all together, it all fell apart, and yet we started again, and again, and again.
We learned not to trust advertising to give us the truth about the world, nor movies or fiction. But we learned the truth in just a little more depth than the year before even if we cannot put it into words.
We learned that our experience of the world is not the same as others even our neighbors, but somehow we all stop for red lights, and go on green, even when chaos threatens our safety. We have learned once again there is always another way to look at a situation, and how hard it is not to give an opinion before all the facts are presented, how we want things just to stay neat and tidy even though the reality is very chaotic. How do we not fall off of the earth?
As we move into a new year, we will make promises, and break them, resolutions and become unresolved, set goals we will meet and accomplish, we can rejoice and be glad because God prepares us, and gifts us with all that we need to move into the future. That is not to say life will do all it can to steal away the garments of salvation and robes of righteousness from God, but do these thieves foil God? Will God’s gifts be taken from us never to return? Yes life does often give us more than what we can handle, but God gives more, so we can find purpose and honor in the days ahead. God will always be with us and For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

So in those times ahead when we experience a flood of anxiety and worry and fear about whether or not God has been defeated, that our best efforts go unrecognized, that our gift seems to small to impact lives, take heart, God will always spring up again, no matter how many times God’s work gets torn down, plowed under, destroyed, cemented over and abandoned. God is always at work and so we are those who move into the future with hope, and with the assurance that God is at work in the world, in us and you shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

As Howard Thurman said it in his poem The Work of Christmas,

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Our work, our lives have been born anew, it is time to make music, seek peace and rebuild the nations! Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fears and Halloween

What we think is ours is really not.

I have trouble sometimes with giving away my love and blessing to others. For example, when I meet someone new for the first time, I tend to be careful about letting down my guard, of fully being present with that person in that moment in time. There are too many voices in my head who distract me. I love that Jesus was able to understand the moments he had with others, and made the most of these encounters.
Fear is a big part of my reluctance, I am afraid of far too many things to be fully Christian. I feel afraid of being taken advantage of, being ridiculed, insecurities I have lived with and never let go of.
I feel in control I guess if I withhold my love and blessings, I am the decider, you have earned my trust, you have not.
So my practice is to sign all my emails of late with , Blessings, Pastor Steve. I have to think about it sometimes, but the idea is that the love God pours upon me is such a blessing, I want to share this with others. This blessing is not finite, it is not petty, it is not withheld, even in those terrible moments when I behave badly. I find it takes more energy to withhold than it is to give freely, and so much work that keeps me from freely living.
Life is a gift, I may not always understand or feel wonderful as I live the gift, but when I remember that all I have has been given to me freely, no strings attached, I mean the important stuff, then I can remember that those who  have been left out by myself or others and have not received the gift. They instead have felt love withheld, food withheld, because others think they own these things, but they don't.
I know we need to live lives that reflect the depth and the beauty, and the love of God. We need to be kinder to one another, help one another, forgive one another, share with one another, instead of withholding these gifts.
When we become humble, admitting when we are wrong, seeing how no one is greater than or less than ourselves, we can see the way to be in the world that brings blessings, and love.
There are far too many with big loud voices who want us to judge one another, who want us to do violence against one another, who want us to be afraid, so very afraid. Cause they know when we fear, our best selves go into hiding.
I heard today that Halloween costumes often reflect our greatest fears so we can make fun of those fears when we wear a scary costume.  So I wonder what a bully costume would look like? What would a greedy politician look like, what would a judgmental Christian look like? What would our darkest and most dangerous self look like? We need to name all of these so we can get over them. We need to move forward in bringing blessing, not threats of being left behind, to a hurting world.

Friday, October 17, 2014


J.M. Barrie in the book, "The Little White Bird" writes "Shall we make a new rule of life...always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary". I read this in another book called "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio.
It is a book about many things, but this quote helps me to remember that kindness is so important, yet is often in short supply. I am guilty of feeling unkindly towards others, of letting my judge rule my heart more than the prince of peace, of conforming to the need to fit in and not be ridiculed for being different. I am a mixed up person of many emotions which often play tricks on my logic and so I act in unkind ways that harm or hurt others. This is not my true intent, my true intent is to sow seeds of kindness and acceptance wherever I go. I want to honor each part of creation as I live out my day, but so often I fail, and see myself acting out of unkind motives.
So, perhaps if I focus on being a little kinder than necessary, go beyond the expectations I imagine others have of me, or I have for myself, I will see an opportunity to act with radical kindness. Maybe this starts with myself and instead of putting myself down for those times I do not act with the best spirit, to let go and accept my murkiness. The only thing I can do is stay in the present and be kind.
To find ways of nurturing that kindness and pushing out the rest means seeing others as human, a mixture of kind and murkiness just like me. I choose to connect to their kindness or to the murkiness, in how I act, how I think about them.
There are those who really test my patience, and who seem outside this rule, kindness? Sometimes I rather they just go away to some isolated place and think about the bad they have done. But, if I give up on them even if they have given up on me, am I really being kind, am I being kinder than necessary?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Walk to Defeat ALS®

So it has been several years now that Lil came to live with us as she grew dependent on others to care for her after being a radically independent woman most of her life. I was never prouder of my daughters who voted to issue the invitation to her once her ALS started giving her fits and the possibility of a cure was fading. She came to live with us at first with reluctance afraid of what the future might hold, but as we grew together as a family, unsure, unsteady, ready to tip over, we made the choice to put other stuff on hold so we could give her all the care she asked for. Her friends supported her days out, and would as long as she could manage it, pick her up for a dinner, for card games, celebration luncheons.
I spent time watching tennis and dancing with the stars, with her in her room we had emptied so she would have space, and lifted her from place to place when needed.
Our new family was far from harmonious, we disagreed, we were angry, we were exhausted, and often at wit's end. But somehow we held it together, knowing a bit more intimately how precious life is, how we cannot take for granted we will be able to do anything we want anytime we want. I am not sure if I learned enough about the precious gift of health and life, I am still chewing on what I learned, but in the meantime, we walk to support the research, and the ways the chapter supports families. If you would like to help, follow this link,

Participant Center - Walk to Defeat ALS®


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sacred Work

Sunday in church we worshiped using the passage from Matthew 16:21-28. I preached about how important our work is in building the beloved community of God. Much to my surprise I was saying how it is by seeing our work as sacred that we can transform the smallest tasks into ways to bring hope and love into the world. I said even being an usher or hosting fellowship time can be an opportunity to build up the community because who knows if someone will be coming to church and you are the first person they see, and maybe you are the first person all week who has smiled at them, asked them how they were doing. And who knows by providing coffee and a snack you are giving someone an opportunity to talk about their lives with others and find an answer to a question nagging at them all week.
What was surprising about this for me was I did not really plan on saying this exactly. I must confess I was really trying to tie in Labor Day with the scripture , about how sacred work does make a difference. But to compare transformational work that changes lives to ushering? But then it did make sense in other ways, because I have known some very cheerful and inviting ushers who you are always happy to see when you come to church. One of those ushers in fact was on a committee that was interviewing me about my call to ministry. "Do you believe in Jesus Christ?" was his question that set the tone for the rest of the meeting. Yes, I do, and I do believe that God is calling me to a life of ordained ministry, not just then, but now, and every time I doubt this call, when I want to give up, I think of this man's question, of how he put all of the business of ordination into the context of my belief in Jesus Christ.
If we believe with our whole hearts, minds and souls in Jesus and the path he walks with us on, then I don't have to have all the answers, for all the many challenges of life. But I will find that it is often in the ordinary acts of life that I will find hope, and love, in the kindness of the faces of those who greet me when I come to church, in those who faithfully serve their positions in the church so we can make decisions and move forward in offering a message of love and hope to everyone we can. Is that home baked cookie just a home baked cookie, or is it God working through the person who made them?  All I know is sometimes a hot cup of coffee is just what I need, and having the time to talk to others over that cup of coffee is a divine experience of building a beloved community.
I challenged my community to look at everyone they meet with an open heart, mind and soul, to learn who they are, and in some way remind everyone whose they are. We are God's mysterious and beloved children who are united with one another through the love and hope of God.  As you go through your week I wonder if you  can look at each person you encounter as that sacred child of God who you may want to at least see with loving eyes...let me know how this goes.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Human Sexuality and the Church

On the issue of human sexuality, we are a society that is very often divided. In the midst of this division, how we think about our sexuality is changing. The standard descriptions are being blurred, gay, straight, bisexuality, transexual, definitions are changing from hard set to softer lines. This understanding is one of exploring the depths of each of us, and who we are, not just as we have tried to define ourselves. In the past sexuality has been a mystery to be feared, boundaries set, rules of engagement established. We have divided ourselves into camps, and spent little times to understand one another.
This is all to our failing our understanding our complexity as a human and as a human race. This keeps us divided and perpetuates the ill will towards one another. I would like to imagine a world where we are free to be all God has created us to be, in the great diversity united in the common passion to create a world of peace and justice.
What does the future hold? I am not sure, but hope we can at least have a discussion, figure out how to heal the hate, and prejudice towards people of differing sexual orientation, so people can come out of the shadows and live in peace. is the site where the conversation is going on in the United Methodist Church. You can join the conversation there, or on line, or with persons in the church community you belong.
Human sexuality is an issue that will not go away as people discover who they are, who they want to be in public, in a free and just society.  My hope is that we learn to accept one another and not blame the ills of society on the scapegoats of those who are different than us. We need to stop living in fear of who we are, how diverse we are, and come to join together to face the hard issues of life, to feed the hungry, to break the bonds of prejudice, to transform the world.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Wedding of friends

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man." Luke 6:22

I recently went to a wedding of two friends of mine who happen to be both women. Their service was held in the back yard of supporters of theirs and although it was small, the spirit was of celebration and joy. However, the words from Luke hit me like a lighting bolt  as they said their vows. I have listened to my friends stories of what it is like to interview for church positions and people ask, "What is your sexual orientation?'. Their ordination journey is similar to those who have a call from God to serve, and to make new disciples for Jesus Christ. They have done their work to educate and prepare themselves for this work. They have submitted themselves to the process of interviews, personality tests, and written manuscripts. Their call has been confirmed by those in authority. Yet, this simple question about sexual orientation is asked as though the sexual orientation of someone would then somehow void all the preparation and their call from God to be effective pastors.
Our United Methodist discipline calls on us to affirm the sacred worth of every being, as a child of God, yet we often fall into the trap of defining others by their sexual orientation, by the color of their skin, by the income they earn. We sin against God when we choose to believe that someone is less than, unworthy of being treated as a sacred child of God. And those who live outside the circle of unconditional love and acceptance live persecuted lives, feeling the hate and the anger daily. Yet in the midst of this reality two people, beautifully alive, servants of God, dare stand up and commit themselves to one another, and preach to us a word of love. They did so quietly, not to cause too many ripples, and this reflects who they are. I on the other hand would dare to stir the waters and challenge us to overcome any prejudice, any hatred, any sin with God's grace to welcome those who are persecuted, to offer them a place in our hearts.

Help me O God to melt away all that keeps me from loving unconditionally those you have created and hold dear, Amen

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sacred Beings

In the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline it states that we consider all persons as having sacred worth. This is more of what we are living into, than have established. Our church like many have those who want to be gatekeepers, keeping in certain people, and keeping out others. I wonder, how does God see us? Are the prisoners,  sex offenders,  homeless, LBGT, republicans, democrats, terrorists, soldiers, welcome or turned away?
I know my heart welcomes some more than others, I am sometimes appalled with how easily it is for me to judge, and to hold grudges towards those who I want to suffer for their sins. I want to throttle that motorist who needs to cut me and my fellow travelers off as we go down the freeway. I get passionate about those who do not look at those with learning disabilities with compassion and try to find ways to include them in life's activities such as school, church, scouts. I have a hard time with those who kidnap people and turn them into slaves.
So how can I reconcile my urge to punish with the words of Jesus, forgive them for they know not what they do? I don't think I can always, rather, I can look at these enemies of mine with eyes of compassion, holding them accountable for their sins, but trusting that God will work in me to bring them peace, not eternal damnation. Ah, such a messy world we live in, it would be much easier to be a gatekeeper than a peacemaker..

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Not Writing

As I reflect on this time in my life, I realize I have not been writing on a regular basis, not here in this forum at least. What does this tell me about myself?  I have busy, and there is much on my schedule. How busy my life is, and yet I have forgotten to make time for the expression of my learnings and my reflections on life, I have not taken the time to pause, to revisit all that I have done to see if indeed these activities are really what God is calling me to be and do. And it means that I have stopped creating in a way that has always helped me connect to God.
I also realize that I am not being recognized for this blog in any way and so the temptation is to let it go, I mean who is taking the time to listen and reflect with all the choices that are available to you?
However, if I remember these writings are a prayer, to be lifted up, then I trust they reach the God in you, just as your comments below reach the God in me. I am creating in harmony with the Great Creator, and doing so to grow in my awareness of how God is working, in me, in you. If I believe creating is not required, but an invitation to deepen my sense of who I am in relation to God, then I can let go of the need to go, go, go all the time. How is it with you?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Who Are You Today?

Who Are you today?

As I think through who I am, I reaffirm I am a child of God and I am a member of the family of God. This family supports me and prays with me, this family offers guidance and advice, which I sometimes listen to and other times ignore. I am not always happy with the family, we tend to bicker and argue and call each other horrible names. I wonder if I could find another family that is more healthy, more together. Alas, there is no such thing as a perfect family, there is no place where all is well all the time. I treasure those moments when we are in harmony, when we can raise our voices and praise God, and the abundant love poured upon us. I love those moments when the walls tumble down, and we connect. Those are precious times, too few, too scarce to take them for granted.

So how can I break through all that separates us? Perhaps by writing a blog and hope it connects us together in this one moment so we are energized to continue to work for a world full of love and peace. That is who I am right now, how about you?