Category Archives: Writing

A Confirmation Blessing

For your head: may the words you have committed to memory today return to you often to guide, encourage, and sustain you. And may this day mark the beginning of a habit of lifelong study and learning. There will not always be a hefty notebook and tests, but there will always be those with something to teach you and those needing you to teach them.

For your mouth: may you continue to speak aloud what is true about God; may you regularly confess your own faith to those who understand and affirm it and to those who do not; may you learn to pray often and to sing loudly.

For your heart: may the words of faith you have spoken here today take up residence in your heart and may they define you. May you never forget how very deeply you are loved by your Father in heaven and may you cling to your identity as His child. Do not listen to any voices that seek to tell you differently.

For your hands: may your profession of faith today take on flesh through a life of service: service to God and service to others, when it is comfortable and convenient and when it is not; when people are easy to love and when they are not; when it takes you down the paths you expect and when it does not.

For your feet: may you understand that the story you have told us today; the story of God and the people of faith; that is your story. You are the next pages of this history, and there are adventures to be had and roads to travel. May you walk boldly, knowing that God is with you, the Good Shepherd who knows you by name; the One who will never leave you nor forsake you.

“And God looked at all he had made…and it was very good.”

Amen.

“Now Show Me Your Glory”

Moses went up the mountain, early in the morning

To see the glory of Yahweh

“Come alone” God had instructed

“Leave Joshua, Aaron, and Hur below”

not even goats or sheep could graze within sight of this meeting

only his two feet, two hands, two slabs

the basket boy of Nile birth

slow of speech and tongue

the “who am I” who met the “I AM”

and took command of the sea

His climb was harsh, the way hidden

leaving light and friends and flocks behind

level ground and tents and food abandoned

for this trust-walk into darkness

Believing, following, expecting Voice and Presence

Found in fearful, fiery cloud

He had begged to see that which should strike a man dead

A showing of glory that would kill

And Yahweh agreed to the meet-up

Promising mercy to the one whose staff had split the sea

A way would be made, a space would be given,

And so this man stood atop the mountain, protected

Death again pressed back by the hand that summoned him

A fissure of rock prepared

A chasm of stone holding the holder of stone

Carved embrace crafted by covering hand

And so a man pressed into mountain cleavage

Allowed to catch a glimpse

of the back of the Presence passing

And hear the Name declared:

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

The promise spoken:

“I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you.”

The union sealed:

“Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

Moses’ climb met God’s descent

Union, reunion, communion,

Glory of God come near to one alone on mountain rock

for forty days Moses feasted there

Tasting neither bread nor drink

Only Presence, Glory, Word

The two empty slabs he carried up

Once lifeless stones now invited to become flesh

Words binding one to another

A promise chiseled that would endure rejection

Generations of rejection already begun in tents below

Tablets declaring a lover’s faithfulness more powerful than any wickedness

And a promise to walk together

Faithful, obligated, entrusted, promised

a people belonging to the beautiful name

The abounding, maintaining, forgiving Name

Whose every right it is to punish

Whose glory deserves to kill

Is it any wonder Moses’ face was flushed

With the unbearable radiance of such a meeting

And the weight of goodness declared in a name

that is at once a promise and prophecy

Mercy ever new, unfailing

Like a widow’s oil that cannot run dry

Compassion hounding, chasing, searching

Coins and lambs worth dying for

Love that lifts up its skirts and runs

Majesty that stoops and scrubs

A king whose borning cry screams hope to every nation

This is the Presence we too long to see

this One who could have withheld or struck down

but reached down instead and joined

This is the Name we speak aloud

Or wrestle in dark silence

Or flee from altogether

This Mercy, Compassion, Forgiveness we cannot exhaust

This summons to meet and see and taste

Glory shown, heavy as stone, tender as flesh

God with us

Blog love

So, in honor of Blog Comment Day, I have spoken up online at blogs that I visit but where I typically remain a quiet observer. So, here are the five posts that stirred my comments! Check them out…and join the challenge to leave five comments on the blogs you read and enjoy.
Eugene Cho’s post on influential movies

Grace’s post on growing disciples

Tyson’s post on prayer and suffering

Dan Kimball’s post at Out of Ur

and Jamie’s post reflecting on justice and Black Friday

I dream of blogging

Last night I had this extensive dream about a live performance of a symphony Doug had written. The dream included the performance, different people who were there with us, and a host of things that happened immediately following the performance. Then, very clearly, I dreamt the blog post I wrote about the whole experience. I dreamt a blog post. That’s just weird.

Alessandra

I love poetry. Recently I have been reminded of this from a range of sources, and I am enjoying the recovery of this part of who I am.

A few weeks ago, Doug was sitting on the futon piecing together worship songs and powerpoint slides while I sat at my computer trying to find a way out of the slaughterhouse that was our Scrabulous game. I clicked over to my email and found a message from Doug waiting: “read this” was all it said. I scrolled down to find a poem written by a young woman at our church, and discovered a talent and voice I could not resist.

Anyone who has ever walked the streets of our neighborhood at this time of year knows about the purple blanket of Jacaranda flowers that covers June sidewalks. Here is a recent entry on her blog I love:

Jacarandas Bloom

On 8th Street,
where the legless and drug addicted
mumble pleading eyes
for the change in your pocket,

On Raymond Ave,
where teen shotandkilled
sparked retaliation gunfire and prayer,

we fast forward to exhale.

Arthritic fingertips of trees secrete hope:
lavender droplets of ice cream fall
carpeting the sidewalks in bubble wrap.
Our eyes waft skyward to birdsong.

The trees have not forgotten it is Spring.

But perhaps my favorite was her description of a man showing up on her bus with her stolen bike and how she bought it back from him for $20.

I am thankful for the artists I am fortunate to share life with here, and glad to know that the beautiful girl I see on Sundays has a gift like this to share with the world.

Missional: is it rocket science?

Last week a group of us from Servant Partners gathered for a workshop on Knowledge Management, ably led by a dear friend to our organization. When our executive director introduced Jason, she shared with us about his ministry involvements in Northwest Pasadena through an organization called Northwest Neighbors. And then, almost as an afterthought she said: “Oh, and he is a rocket scientist.” We all laughed.

As he led us through a great discussion about how knowledge transfer is happening in our organization, he would regularly use examples from his own workplace: JPL. To illustrate a point about distinguishing explicit knowledge from tacit knowledge he would say something like: “You know, like when we were receiving all of the data from the first images of Mars…” Or to make a point about key staff members who hold some specific piece of knowledge: “Like if there is one guy on the team who is just really exceptional at calculating orbits…”

Honestly, I couldn’t help laughing every time he did this. And while we could perhaps argue whether building a spacecraft or church-planting in the world’s slums is more difficult, I felt a sense of awe at what is for him another day at the office.

There was one example from his presentation that struck me and has pressed my imagination a bit the last few days. He said that, at JPL, one of the most successful ways they have fostered a culture of knowledge transfer is through a kind of story hour. Senior engineers are invited to simply tell the stories about designing this spacecraft or calculating that orbit or solving some problem, and the junior engineers bring their lunches and just sit and listen to the older guys tell their stories.

Jason said that part of what makes this effective is that people like to both tell and listen to stories (as opposed to being given some textbook-like document or a bunch of data), and there is an emotional impact that helps binds the knowledge being presented. And the emphasis isn’t as much on the actual results as it is the process of discovery and problem solving.

Bill Kinnon posted a challenge of sorts for those who would consider themselves “gurus” in what is called the Missional Church movement. He writes:

I confess that I’m really not interested in hearing theories anymore. I want to know how the missonal profundities emanating from the particular guru are applied in their own lives – right now. Not last year, last century or last millenium. But. Right now.

“Where are you plugged into a local expression of a missional community? How does that impact what you are sharing with us?”

His question resonated with me a bit and I thought about how hearing someone discuss competing theories about rocket science would stack up against story hour at JPL. Scot McKnight recently highlighted a post by David Fitch on “picking out a house missionally”, and as I read it in the context of this larger discussion I thought it was a good example of someone sharing their story of process and discovery; of calculating a missional orbit of sorts.

I have thought before that maybe I should try to write more “theory” here, and there are any number of reasons why that is not what this blog has become. But I have sensed that, in the Christian blog world, theory is elevated. Strong opinions and arguments get readers, links and comments, and while I don’t blog to acquire those things, I have wondered about what unique contribution I am making here.

I think I’m pretty happy being a story hour kind of girl, though often enough I don’t feel very far along in the journey. But then I remember the kind words Rebecca spoke and I am reminded that stories that don’t have all the orbits calculated can useful too:

This is why I was glad to find The Margins. Because the story is being told while it happens, there is no over-arching thesis to be proven. Her brain has not had time to protect her from the memory of being scared for herself and her children. Because of this, her faith in the midst of all she is going through shines all the brighter. Read especially Erika’s post A Walk in the Park to see what I’m talking about. She doesn’t know yet that it will all turn out to be OK. But she does it anyway.”

Sharing the love

It is not uncommon for certain details to get lost in the shuffle of our little life here, and just today I noted that two generous souls tagged me for different blogging awards and I have yet to respond in kind. So, thank you Suz and Jim for your kind words and your appreciation of what is offered here. Thank you.

In response, I am invited to tag ten blogs that are excellent and five that are subversive (originated by Jake Bouma)…I think I will do some variation and pick five blogs that are one or the other, or likely both!

Here goes…

Rebecca Murphy

Dick Staub

Edward Gilbreath

Will Willimon

Llama Momma

Sisters are especially good for this…

I appreciate those people in my life who help keep me honest.

I got home after a long day of meetings for Servant Partners, and after picking my kids up and making our way back home, I met up with a dear friend for some prayer time in preparation for her wedding. When I finally sat down at my computer to check email late this afternoon, I found an email from my sister waiting for me that totally made me laugh.

You see, I wrote here about the evening we spent at her house on Monday. I spoke of the peaceful dinner we enjoyed in her backyard, and I painted an idyllic picture of my children at play. Anna’s email reminded me of how the night actually looked for my family:

Hey hermana,
I logged onto your blog this afternoon at a point when I just needed a break from Engine House #18
[a grant proposal she is working on for our Community Development Corporation]. Can you guess my favorite parts…?

“Her yard felt like an oasis in the midst of all the sirens and commotion in the air and on our streets, and I was grateful for the feelings of peace we enjoyed there.”

So, the mental picture I have to go with this sentence is you and doug in folding chairs sitting next to mercy while she screamed through her timeout
[one of MANY that night, most of which involved a great deal of screaming].

“I was especially grateful watching Mercy and Aaron’s carefree play…”

…and now I’m seeing them run behind the barn [a storage shed that the kids call 'the barn' that they are NOT allowed to play behind]…oh, and Jordan and Mercy calling each other ‘stupid pirates.’

I don’t in any way question the truth of your account of the time, I’m just totally amused at what now passes as a peaceful, relaxing evening for us. =)

And the things is, her descriptions of the “peaceful evening” hardly do the true chaos and craziness of the night, and my children in particular, justice…

Let me think…

One of my favorite bloggers, More Than Stone, has honored me with the Thinking Blogger’s Award. Thanks, Jamie!

So, now I am to pass the honor on to 5 blogs that make me think. So here goes…

Jamie-Arpin Ricci

Bill Kinnon

Don Johnson

John Santic

Maurice Broaddus

Your mission (if you are one of the tagged), should you choose to accept it, is to pay it forward as well … the rules are simple and they are three:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is the gold version and the silver to better meet your needs for blogolicious decorating).

And enjoy the blogs……