In my ongoing quest towards claiming those things that really matter to me in ways that actually show up in my life, I’m experimenting with and learning about essential oils and nature-based hair products and cleaning products. I continue to see connections between these products and…life…and occasionally write these connections down. Here’s one such reflection:
Yesterday I attended a church service of a ministry that is just getting started. We met on the ground of the construction site where the church will be located in the future. We began with a ritual of blessing over the space, praying for peace for all who will enter the space in the future. Meanwhile, our synod is actively preparing to welcome a new bishop through the rite of installation, which will include a laying-on-of-hands, where other bishops surround this one who has been chosen and called and lay their hands on his head with words of blessing. Meanwhile, I’m beginning to think about the season of Lent where we will share anointing oil with pastors and others who anoint babies in baptism, and others in times of sickness and death. THEN (yes…this is going somewhere!!), this morning I saw this link about the rationale for oils in Monat hair products. And it all got me thinking (here’s the connecting point!) about how oil on the head and in different spaces has often been a sign of anointing, set apartness, prayer, etc. So what if using good oil in hair products and diffusers rather than chemicals is kind of like reclaiming that practice of anointing and setting apart? Whether it’s using essential oils to say something about what I want my space to be (tranquil, peace and calming, stress away, etc), or whether it’s using good quality oils in my hair products, perhaps there’s a way to reclaim all that oils can mean–not just for religious rituals.
My congregation is doing a 6-week sermon/study series based on the book by John Ortberg, If you Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. I’ve been familiar with this book for quite some time, but I don’t think I’ve read it. The book is based on the story of Peter walking on water, and the basic premise is that to really experience the fullness of what it means to follow the call of Jesus, we need to step beyond the safety and security of what they know and walk directly into the storm.
So this first week we were invited to ponder what boat we are in that maybe Jesus is calling us out of. Ortberg says, “Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself. Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy. Your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves. Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship” (p. 17).
As I was pondering this for myself, I began to wonder…what if the church (structured religious institution) is my boat? What if I’m missing out on something bigger because all I can see is what I’m doing now…which is good and important and genuinely matters. But is there somewhere beyond this to which I am being called? Continue reading The Boat…
“Prophetic waiting looks eagerly for signs of God’s salvation in our midst; it looks backward remembering God’s glorious salvation in the past; forward to the time in the future when it will break forth again; and all around us for signs of its presence now.” (The Meaning is in the Waiting, by Paula Gooder, p. 58)
In many ways this quote demonstrates a classic understanding of Advent–watching for signs of God’s salvation in the past, present and future. And that is good and true. But sometimes I wonder what this really looks like today. What are these “all around us” signs of God’s salvation now?
Continue reading Advent week 2: Yes, but for how long…
“He replied, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to him, “What do you command your servant, my lord?” The commander of the army of the Lord said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5:14-15)
In the face of adversity, the commander of the Lord’s army shows up. Joshua asks him what to DO. The angel says, “take off your shoes. You’re standing on holy ground.” That ground right before the “battle of Jericho” is holy–set apart by God. that ground in the middle of the journey when the Israelites are not yet to the Promised Land is holy. That ground in the shadow of the daunting opposition is holy. That ground in the middle of the wilderness is holy.
How many times when we face opposition and God shows up do we say, like Joshua, “what do you want me to do?” We imagine that reinforcements have arrived so now is the time to ACT. But God says, “the ground HERE is holy. Take your shoes off.”
How many times recently have I asked of God, “what do you command…what should I DO?” I wonder if I’m even open to an answer like this: “take off your shoes…THIS ground that you are standing on is holy ground”–this ground of indecision and unknown…this ground of journey and wilderness…this ground in the shadow of daunting challenges…THIS ground where are RIGHT NOW is holy.
Dear God, If the ground that I am standing on is holy ground, then there’s no rush to get past it. I can take my shoes off and rest in being in your presence in this place at this time. Help me to see your presence here now–in the midst of uncertainty and indecision…in the midst of the journey and the wandering…in the midst of overwhelming challenge and expectations. Show me what it means that “the place where you stand is holy.”
It’s been a while, but I finally got my Maundy Thursday sermon added. Looking back at this sermon, I don’t know if I got it right or not. You’ll remember that April 2 was Maundy Thursday, but was also the day of the shootings in Garissa, Kenya. I spent the day holed up in a coffee shop working on this sermon, fairly oblivious to the events going on in a country I love dearly. As I wound down my sermon-writing, I saw the Facebook posts hinting at the terror, and I got some texts from close friends checking on my spirit.
My response? “I can’t think about this now…I’m in sermon-writing mode.”
Continue reading A Maundy Thursday Sermon
At a Deaconess Board Retreat, this question was posed:
“Think of one person in your context…what is that person teaching you?”
The first person who came to mind for me was a 4 yr. old in my congregation. When she’s there on a Sunday morning, this little girl sits with her parents until the children’s sermon. When it’s time for the children’s sermon, she runs up and sits directly next to the pastor on the steps of the altar space. She listens intently to the children’s sermon, with her own stream of comments and questions that show she’s thinking…sometimes about what the pastor is talking about. At the end of the children’s sermon, the pastor says, “if you are age 3-grade 5, you can follow Sr. Michelle to KidsTown.” I start walking down the aisle, and as I get to the baptismal font near the entrance to the sanctuary, almost every week I hear this voice calling out, “Michelle! Wait for me!” I turn around and see this 4 yr. old running down the aisle, passing the other kids to get to the front of the line, where she slips her hand into mine and says, “I’m coming to KidsTown today.”
So what is this 4 yr. old teaching me about my call, about my ministry, or about what God is saying to me at this time?
Continue reading What is she teaching you?
I would claim that I’m not one for the more ‘spiritual’ spiritual practices–like yoga, contemplative prayer, holy stretching, etc. I can remember snickering and scoffing at such practices in college and as a younger adult.
Inevitably, when I found myself in a context where we were invited to sit straight in our chairs, breathe deeply, place palms gently on legs, focus on your breath, etc… I would get nervous. Surely someone is watching me try to do this, I would think. I wonder what they think of me? I wouldn’t be able to silence the voice(s) in my head running through a plethora of headline-esque thoughts that would make the CNN news ticker look calm.
And then I went to the Taize monestery in France. Taize worship/prayer is all about silence and repetitious singing. One simple chorus over and over, followed by long periods of silence. Continue reading Deep Breathing and such
During my senior year of high school I took a class called “Current World Issues.” We watched a lot of CNN. And the teacher tried to convince us to care about these news stories we researched and reported on each week. Unfortunately, in our teenage arrogance, we thought we knew all we needed to know about what was going on in the world. I remember one time specifically she told us she was considering bringing in a missionary doctor to tell us about the civil war going on in Sudan. Collectively, we sort of scoffed at her, telling her that, while this was her first year in Africa and so the situation in Sudan was new and traumatizing for her, many of us were raised hearing about Sudan, knowing people who were evacuated from Sudan, listening to the stories coming from Sudan. We knew about Sudan…we didn’t need a guest speaker to tell us about it. Some of us had lived through the genocide in Rwanda and the follow-up chaos in Zaire/Congo. Some of us could tell stories of the elections in Kenya that were surrounded by a bunch of violence. All of us acted like what she wanted to say was a “current world issue” was just part of our life. Admittedly, we were not very respectful to her, and probably made her first year as a missionary teacher in Kenya less than ideal.
Continue reading You’re Going Where? Part 2: to be or not to be…
What follows is a series of entries about how I got to the point where I am getting ready for a 15 day trip to East Africa. I figured breaking it into installments would be better than expecting someone to read a novel. But be warned…it may still be a bit like a novel.
Almost everyone I know who has been to Africa says, “Africa gets in your blood…” For me, that is true. Not just because I was born there. Not just because my dad grew up there. Not just because my grandma was born there. Well…maybe those things helped. But when I was graduating from high school in Kenya and people would say, “do you think you’re ever going to come back?” at that time I would honestly say, Continue reading You’re going where? part 1: where it all began
I’m really excited to have a chance to go back to Africa this summer with a young adult from my congregation. Here’s an ‘interview’ we published in the church newsletter with the information:
I had a chance to catch up with one of Advent’s young adults for a conversation about faith formation, God’s call on her life, and what’s next for her. Listen in on this conversation with Kamy Jesse.
How long have you been a member of Advent?
Kamy: I have been a member of Advent since I was in 5th grade. I was honored to wear the old badges with my name and the word “member” underneath it. I’ve loved growing through Advent and helping Advent grow as well.
Continue reading Journeying with a Young Adult