Tag Archives: Love

God delights in YOU

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Pictures of my parents (center) and my grandparents. Photo: TLClark.

It’s Monday morning and, as is often the case, a snippet from Sunday worship lingers with me.  This week it’s from the sermon.  The Rev. David Sickelka emphatically said “God delights in YOU.”

For YHWH will take delight in you … as a newly married couple rejoice over each other, so will YHWH rejoice over you.  – from Isaiah 62:4-5 The Inclusive Bible

You.  Same as everyone else.  Loved in all your particularity.

You.  Beloved of God.  Delighted in by God.

When you look in a mirror, do you see a beloved child of God?

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Mirrors.  Photo: TLClark.

 

“The Wonderer” (3rd stanza)

This is the third of a series of posts in response to the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert William Service.  Read the whole poem by clicking hereThe first stanza is in my first post found here; the second is here.

Now, the third stanza of the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert Service:

What of the wonder of my Heart,
That plays so faithfully its part?
I hear it running sound and sweet;
It does not seem to miss a beat;
Between the cradle and the grave
It never falters, stanch and brave.
Alas! I wish I had the art
To tell the wonder of my Heart.

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Hearts at Faith United Church of Christ, February 2013. Photo: TLClark

The wonder of my Heart.  And your heart, too, for that matter.  Working unceasingly.  Beating dozens and dozens of time per minute, every minute of every hour of every day.  Moving blood – nutrients for life – throughout our bodies.

The wonder of big-hearted people.  Loving and generous and kind.  Forgiving and welcoming and encouraging.  Remembering all that is good.  Sharing nutrients for life throughout our communities.

The paper hearts pictured were part of the children’s message one Sunday in early February six years ago.  The scripture for the day was the great love chapter:  1 Corinthians 13.  I invited everyone in the congregation that day – young and old alike – to write something about love on a paper heart.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  – I Corinthians 13:4-8a  NRSV

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“The Wonderer” (2nd stanza)

This is the second of what I imagine to be several posts in response to the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert William Service.  You can read the whole poem hereThe first stanza and my first post is here.

Here’s the second stanza:

Then there’s the wonder of my Eyes,
Where hills and houses, seas and skies,
In waves of light converge and pass,
And print themselves as on a glass.
Line, form and color live in me;
I am the Beauty that I see;
Ah! I could write a book of size
About the wonder of my Eyes.

“The wonder of my Eyes.”  Being able to see.

The wonder of my mind’s eye.  Being able to see more than what is seen by the eye.

Looking.  Really seeing.  Appreciating the work of light, the wonder of how light works, the color and design that light reveals. 

And also imagining something more.  Envisioning something, as yet, unseen.

Look around – with your eyes or your mind’s eye.  What do you see?  Possibility?  Hope?  Beauty?  Love?

I have seven nephews and nieces (below).  Each unique and wonderful, seeing the world through their own eyes.  Each with his or her own particular personality and primary interests.  Each growing and learning and exploring the world.  Each beautiful (though the boys may prefer I say handsome).  Each loved – and loving – beyond measure.

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The eyes have it!

Or, in the picture below, his eyes say it.  It’s my favorite selfie with my beloved.  I just see love as he looks at me and, since his cancer diagnosis, I am beyond happy he is still around!

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August 2017. Photo: TLClark.

 

“The Wonderer” (1st stanza)

This is the first of what I imagine to be several posts in response to the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert William Service.  You can read the whole poem here.

Here’s the first stanza:

     I wish that I could understand
     The moving marvel of my Hand;
     I watch my fingers turn and twist,
     The supple bending of my wrist,
     The dainty touch of finger-tip,
     The steel intensity of grip;
     A tool of exquisite design,
     With pride I think: “It’s mine! It’s mine!”

Have you considered your hands lately? 

Take a look.  Finger.  Thumb.  Joint.  Palm.  Knuckle.  Notice the colors and the textures.  See the veins carrying blood, keeping you alive.  Are there scars, telling stories of mishaps or something more serious?  Is there jewelry, reminding you of precious vows or a special trip or a favorite person? 

Think about how you use your hands every day.  Marvelous, aren’t they?!!

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Who has held your hand, recently or long ago?  Whose hand have you held?  With love.  In friendship.  To pray.  To teach.  To reassure.  To connect.  To hold up.

“Though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.”  – Psalm 37:24 NRSV

“Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.” – Psalm 73:23 NRSV

“…even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” – Psalm 139:10 NRSV

May your hands be helpful today, to you and to others.  May they bring joy, offer comfort, spread kindness.  May they be a reminder that you are loved beyond measure.

Christmas Countdown: Travelers

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“Wind Gusts 40+ MPH” – The wind did blow and there were 40+ mph gusts.  Thankfully the roads were clear and dry!  (And we drive a low-profile vehicle.)   Photo:  TLClark.

We arrived safely at our Christmas destination.  Wind gusts over 40 mph for the last 250 miles were the only unpleasant surprises along our way.  Upon arrival we were greeted with big smiles and open arms, given a room to call our own while we are here, and invited to help ourselves to whatever we wanted.

As we traveled, my mind wandered to other journeys and other people.

First, travelers from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 and 2:

  • Zechariah went to serve in the temple.  I’m guessing he left his wife at home.  Since they had no children and were in advanced in years, she may have been alone.
  • Mary “hurried” to visit Elizabeth.  It seems she went by herself.  Walking or riding a beast of burden?  Was it far or dangerous?  Why did she go?  How did she expect to be received?  Elizabeth loudly blurted out a blessing as she greeted Mary with open arms; it was indeed an “extravagant welcome” (as noted this morning by the pastor at Mayflower UCC, Billings).
  • Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, as ordered by Caesar Augustus.  An uncomfortable journey, I imagine, for Mary and her betrothed.  Often pictured today with a donkey, but there is no such creature mentioned in the text.  When they arrived, there was no space for them in the “inn” – probably not so much a place to rent a room (i.e., not a hotel or a B&B) but rather the guestroom in the family home (perhaps occupied by earlier arriving extended family).  They made do in the space – likely attached to the home – where the animals were kept.  Perhaps they were not quite the outcasts that I have often imagined!
  • Shepherds, after hearing astonishing news from an angel, rushed off to visit the newborn child.
  • Mary and Jesus took the baby Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as prescribed in the law of Moses.  They were joyfully greeted by Simeon and then by Anna.

That’s it.  Those are the journeys connected to Jesus’ birth as recorded by Luke.

Next, travelers associated with the birth of Jesus as noted in the Gospel of Matthew:

  • Magi from the east journeyed to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem to honor “the newborn king of the Jews.”
  • Joseph heeded a dream to avoid Herod’s wrath and so he took the child and his mother to Egypt – a family fleeing for their child’s safety.
  • Eventually, Joseph took the family from Egypt to the land of Israel but it didn’t feel safe so they settled in Nazareth.

Finally, I think of travelers today and the people who will greet them along the way and at the end of the journey.  I think of

  • those traveling with happy, hope-filled anticipation – to share a holiday, to meet a new baby, to gather with loved ones, to connect with friends old and new;
  • those who travel with heavy hearts for a final visit with one in Hospice care or for a memorial service to celebrate the life of one who has died;
  • those fleeing because home is no longer is safe – refugees, immigrants, victims of domestic violence, persons who identify as LGBTQ;
  • those working to help travelers long the way – staff at hotels, gas stations, restaurants, airports and train stations including security personnel, maintenance crews, janitors,  highway patrols, pilots, taxi drivers, conductors, stewards, hosts/hostesses, and so many we take for granted;
  • those welcoming the road-weary with a refreshing beverage, a good meal, a shower or bath, and a safe place to sleep.

May all travelers be protected on their journeys and be extravagantly welcomed at each stop along the way.

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Road construction / maintenance safety equipment along I-90 in Wyoming.  Photo: TLClark.

Christmas Countdown: Angels

Angels are messengers from God.

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They are – or at least one is – busy in the story of Christ’s birth as recorded in the gospel of Luke.

The angel Gabriel appears and tells Zechariah his wife Elizabeth will have a son whom they will name John.  Never mind that they are both “getting on in years.”  After questioning the angel, Zechariah is struck speechless until after the boy is born. (Luke 1:20, 64)  When she determines she is pregnant, Elizabeth seems to simply wonder and be grateful. (Luke 1:25)

God sends Gabriel to visit a rather young woman with the (good) news that she will bear a child who will be called “the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:31-32)  Mary also questions the angel.  Does she ponder Gabriel’s reply at all?  For a moment, an hour, longer?

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Luke 1: 38a NRSV

Nine months later an angel of the Lord visited shepherds to tell of the Messiah’s birth.  The shepherds, with little hesitation, decide to go and see what has taken place. (Luke 2:15)

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Quite honestly, if an angel visited me with that kind of news my first response is likely to be disbelief.  Frankly, if an angel of the sort pictured here visited me I’d probably pass out.

But what of other kinds of angels, the ones with human faces?  Like the pastor who sent me a note wondering if I’d ever consider seminary.  Like the doctor who called a friend to see if they would adopt another child.  Like foster parents who open their home with love and compassion.  Like seniors who spend time at an elementary school listening to children read.  Like the couple who trained their dog to do pet therapy and now all three visit a nursing home every Tuesday afternoon.  Like the harpist who plays at a Hospice home.  Like ….

Tell me of an angel you’ve met!

 

Christmas Countdown: Family Stories

I tend to think of Jesus’ birth narratives as family stories.  Once you get through the genealogy in Matthew, the tale is told from Joseph’s perspective.  Joseph is visited by an angel.  Joseph has dreams.  Joseph moves the family to Egypt and back.

Luke focuses on the maternal line.  Mary is visited by an angel.  Mary goes to see her relative Elizabeth.  Mary gives birth, wraps the child in swaddling clothes, and lays him in a manger.

Birthdays in my family inevitably lead to stories.  I was born on my father’s second day of student teaching.  When it was time for Mom to head to the hospital for my sister’s birth, I was sent me down the hill to stay with friends of theirs.  When my brother was born, Dad handed out tootsie roll pops to his students.

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Family Reunion. December 2008

Looking at this family reunion photo, I remember that we are family by birth, by marriage, by legal adoption, and by informal adoption (a foster child become daughter and sister).  Grandma Mary is the matriarch pictured, but I knew her mother – Great Grandma Grace.  Of those not in the picture, I recall my Aunt Marlene who died too young (alcoholism is insidious) as well as Grandpa Art (life ending heart attack).

The family tree has changed in ten years.  Marriage.  Divorce.  More great-grandchildren.  Grandma Mary thinks she might live to be 100.  In the meantime she never misses a birthday; no matter how you made into the family you get a birthday card and a $20 bill!

Welcomed

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While Elrond lived there, it was said “His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking, best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.”  – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

My beloved  and I are on a road trip.  We spent three nights, two days with parents a week and a half ago.  We arrived at their home again yesterday.

Their friends call it the party house.  It’s just right for gatherings from four to twenty-four or maybe more.  Help yourself to food and drink.  If they know your preferences, the fridge and pantry will be stocked:  peanut butter, M&Ms, yogurt, tea, diet coke.

They freely share the password for high speed wifi and offer unlimited access to the washing machine and dryer.  Dad is glad to have you play in the wood shop with him.  Mom is eager to have you spend time in the quilting room with her.

Much love.  Good food.  Laughter.  Stories.  Pinochle (a card game).  Sleep.

We are blessed.

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Remembering after an Overdose

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.”  (Isaiah 40:1 NRSV)

Until Tuesday morning I had never heard of the young man.  By Tuesday noon I had met him through stories his parents shared.  Today, I’m preparing to preach at his funeral.

A drug overdose.

He’d been in rehab and was doing so well.  Relatives commented at his grandfather’s funeral just a month ago.  He looked so good.  So clean.  So clear.  (“Clear” is such an interesting description.)

Addiction is a disease.  An illness.  Brutal – for addict and loved ones alike.

“Comfort, O comfort, my people.”

Tomorrow we’ll name the ugly, the gut wrenching, the heart breaking.

We’ll turn to the words of our faith  and to the One who offers comfort like no other.  Nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NRSV)

And we’ll remember this one particular child of God.

As an elementary student he welcomed a new kid in the class.  Befriended him.  Helped him fit in.  A decade or more later, that kid remembers.

As an employee he was glad to cover for a fellow worker – to the extent management made him take a day off a week.  His associates remember.

As a member of the family, he loved to cook.  Great food.  Leaving an equally great mess in the kitchen.  His parents remember.

As an uncle he took delight in children.  “Uncle X” they’d squeal in delight at the sight of him.  “Where’s X?” they’d ask, over and over and over until he appeared.  Siblings remember.

He’d strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere.  Strangers may not remember him exactly.  But the smile, the kindness, the few moments shared surely are held in more than one heart.

He was one of those who’d give you the tie-dyed shirt right off his back.

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”   Matthew 25:34b-35 NRSV

We’ll remember with tears and laughter.  We’ll give thanks for his life.  We’ll pray for strength and comfort.

And we’ll go out, I hope, to gladden the hearts of those we meet, resolved to love, and practicing kindness with ourselves and others.

“Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us.  Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”  (Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss Philosopher, 1821 – 1881)

Pinochle and Grace

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John’s Double Family takes the game. Image: TLClark, December 2007.

48 playing cards.  The usual four suits: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.  Two cards per suit:  ace, ten, king, queen, jack, nine.  A pinochle is a queen of spades with a jack of diamonds.

Whether four-handed (playing with a partner) or three-handed (you’re on your own), pinochle is family fun.  It is about being together, telling stories, sharing laughter, and occasionally holding really good cards.

When “family rules” are in effect – and they are always in effect – pinochle is also about grace.  A few examples:

  • Players new to the game get assistance, often in the form of an experienced player looking over their shoulder to help bid or to offer advice on what card to lead.
  • Young players are allowed an occasional hand signal when bidding – especially when bidding for 300 pinochle (was that two legs or three?).
  • Players of every age and experience are allowed to pull back a card just played when they realized they’ve played the wrong card.
  • When a game goes too long or ceases to be fun or it’s time for a nap or a meal, the cards are put away.

Goodwill.  Second chances.  Much love.  All signs of grace.