It’s Friday! Gratitude 6/30

I’ve been a bit out of sorts the past few days. I’m not sure why, but suspect it’s not due to any ONE thing. 

This is part of it: Politics bleh. I know that I should quit paying attention to the news because every time it seems as if we’ve hit bottom, it turns out we can go lower still. I fear the normalization of disrespectful and uncouth behavior. We had an incident at our Vacation Bible School, where one child called another “stupid” and things escalated from there. In talking to our youth director about it I wondered how we are to teach our young ones to respect one another when our national leader models disrespect. We must resist by modeling the command of Jesus to love one another.

And this: On a slightly related note, I continue struggling to understand how the majority of white Christians supported this person for president. And how can they continue to support someone who models the complete opposite of the teachings of Jesus. Many of my pastor friends, and many members of my church do oppose this ugliness. But I wonder if we are a minority among Christians, and if so, the church has completely lost its way. I struggle with this every day…and wish I didn’t have to.

And this: I’m tired this week…sleepy tired, heavy legs tired, wanting to eat tired.

Thankfully it’s Friday…a day off. I won’t be resting much as I’m going to start moving stuff from the garage to the POD (see Sometimes You’ve Gotta…). But still I’ll take a nice nap later, a nice bubble bath, and go with my daughter to get my first (and probably only) tattoo.

Today I’m personally thankful for: the gift of gratitude and the spiritual benefits of being grateful, even and especially when out of sorts; for the ability to exercise away frustrations- more spiritual benefits here; and for all those who are working very hard to save our country because it is worth saving.

My tattoo will sort of look like this, but with a silhouette running figure and better font for the words: gratitude, breathe, live, run.

Sometimes You’ve Gotta Stop and Clean Up the Mess


Where oh where are my tools? Way in the back, where I can’t reach them!

As we read of the daily mess that is our national politics, I’ll share another mess with you. This mess won’t lead to you to anger or disgust or frustration with the disrespect of a certain person’s Twitter feed.

This mess is our garage! The clutter and disorganization is now so bad that we can’t even walk in it.

The problem started the day we moved in to our 100 year old Craftsman Bungalow (just over 4 years ago). You see, we’d downsized about 1,000sf and had way too much stuff. So everything that didn’t fit into the house was crammed into the garage.  It also didn’t help that the previous owners never bothered to dispense with much of their junk, and it fills the old cabinets, and the rafters, and other nooks and crannies.

Over the years we’ve made half-hearted attempts to clean things up. We’ve sold and thrown stuff away, but we’ve never managed to get it organized. I’ve also, over the years, worked on some home improvement projects. I even have my own sets of tools! Now I’m doing some work in my hallway, but am increasingly frustrated because I can’t get to, or even find, the tools I need. One day, while looking for a tool I experienced an incredible urge to throw something. Not good!

Our, for today, empty POD. I wonder how much stuff will fit inside.

So…a pause for a cleanup. Today a POD was delivered. Starting tomorrow (my day off work and thus my day for projects around the house) I’m going to empty the contents of the garage into the POD. Then we can start over!

I just wish that we could pause to a cleanup in Washington this easily.

When have you had to pause, so that you could clean up a big mess?

A Small Thing – Gratitude 6/28

I am one of those people who cannot start the day without a nice hot cup of coffee. On early run (or strength class) days I’m up at least an hour early, just to I can have a cup to get me going.

A couple weeks ago I set up our Cuisinart drip coffee maker, for the next morning, and slid it back to the wall when there was a big flash. That was scary! We thought that maybe I splashed some water on to the electrical outlet. The coffee maker was fine though, and fresh brew was waiting at 5am the next morning .

I’m surprised it worked for even a few days

But the pot wasn’t really fine… at least the electrical cord was not. We just didn’t discover this for another week when the pot only produced 1/8th of its volume before quitting. I tried to turn it on, and when that didn’t work I unplugged it to see if restarting would help. That’s when I discovered the damaged electrical cord. It was almost severed completely and I surprise that it actually worked for a week. I’m also thankful that this hazardous situation didn’t result in a fire.

Of course the big dilemma at the moment was obtaining a cup of coffee. We have a Tassimo (like a Keurig but more for espresso) and a few pods for coffee. Problem solved for the morning. I tassimo-t47asked Scott (husband) if we should get a new coffee maker and he said replacing the cord would be easy, so “no.” Of course we need to find the time to do so.

After two days of the Tassimo I remembered our French Press. This used to be in our motorhome and we used it when we didn’t have electricity for camping. It makes great coffee…its just messy and takes more time.

And a week later we are still enjoying the French Press. I think the urgency is gone for the coffee maker repair.

img_4300.jpgToday I am personally thankful for: coffee; for the Republican senators who derailed the horrible health care bill for now (it should be called the removal of health care bill); the end of post marathon recovery and ramp up to some real distance running.

Untied and United

The other day I posted a sermon (Sermon on Romans 6:1-11) which to my embarrassment I did not carefully proofread. It had way more typos than I care to admit. I remember sitting in my office, reading the post and having a verbal reaction that caused a church member to ask, “if everything ok?” “Sure” I responded, “I just can’t type!”

The particular typo was one in which I had replaced the word, “united” with the word, “untied.” Nothing like putting in the opposite!

But then I thought about it… and one of the messages of my sermon was that Black Lives Matter and I realized that we’ll never be united until we are untied.

Untied from our fear of our neighbor… especially those who are different (race, religion, language, and nationality).

Untied from our apathy… If I believe that my life is just fine, thus I don’t need to care for my neighbor then I am deceiving myself and not really living.

Untied from our fear of what others may think… some try to say that being an ally of Black Lives Matter means being an enemy of the police. This is absurd and we all benefit from better police training. Let’s not allow the loud voices defending the status quo silence us.

As long as we are bound by fear and apathy we will never experience the life giving, life enhancing unity that is before us. It is only when we are untied that we are free to truly see our brothers and sisters are beloved, as created in God’s image, and a true brother or sister. I don’t think we can experience unity, or be united, until we are untied.

What else do we need to be untied from?

Really?!?! Racing Weight Week 3

Now that I’ve completed three weeks of my focused efforts to lose those last pounds I can say that I’ve reset my habits…mostly in omitting processed foods and added sugar. I’ve not deprived myself, and have enjoyed food and drink related social events each week. Most days I’m trying to eat more protein, with fewer carbs than I do when in full marathon training mode. The biggest challenge here is that I find it hard to increase protein without simultaneously increasing fat. At least these are healthy fats.

Something else happened that has me a bit perplexed…

Last Friday can be labeled, Big Day of Activity. First, a one hour strength training class. This was immediately followed by an easy 4 mile run. I scraped paint for a few hours in the middle of the day. Took a bubble bath and then joined some friends for Bikes and Brews. The bike ride was my longest so far…about 30 miles in 2 hours.

I’m new to cycling, thus: I don’t dress properly (it was cold! and I would have been overdressed for a run); the physical exertion of these easy rides don’t create as much thirst as running, so in retrospect I didn’t drink enough water (plus I’m not confident enough to drink while moving 😬); I would take in some food in a two hour run but didn’t even think of it in a bike ride.

When we finished I was famished and thirsty. I took a sip of my water when I should have downed the contents of the bottle. I ate the best tasting burrito ever, along with drinking 2 beers.

The next morning my % body fat went up about 3 points. What? I went on my weekly long run (thankfully it was a short 7 miles).  Halfway through the run I was exhausted and really just wanted a nap. That run ended up being a simulation of late-race fatigue.

Once back at home I tried to figure out the increase in body fat and discovered my scale actually measures hydration and calculates body fat from that. So I was dehydrated…that explains the fatigue.

Unfortunately I’ve been rehydrating ever since and by all other signs am well hydrated, but my little scale doesn’t agree. This means that I had a nice weight loss of 3.8 pounds. And a gain in body fat by 3.2%. If this is true I’ve seriously burned through muscle, which doesn’t seem possible. We’ll see how this next week goes.

You can find other entries in this journey here: Racing Weight – Getting ThereWeek 1Week 2

Today’s Sermon (Romans 6:1-11)

Lately I haven’t been writing out my sermons…usually just notes. This message was/is difficult for me and so I had to write it all out. I’m not sure how much will change in the preaching, because I never stay exactly with what I’ve written, but I decided to share this one.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5)

“A death like his.” I wonder…what comes to mind when we hear those words? “A death like his.”

A death in which Jesus is sacrificed in order to please an angry God?

A death so that I can have forgiveness?

A death that happened to an innocent man? A murder?

I once thought, had been taught, that Jesus death was solely to pay the price for my own personal sin. This death was to replace the ancient sacrificial system that had been so abused as to become meaningless as well as oppressive to the poor. For who could afford to buy a sacrificial animal but the wealthy? The emphasis was less on the issues of justice and instead on atonement. That idea that Jesus paid for mine, and your, sins. But, and this is a big but… we had to repent of those sins, we had to ask for forgiveness.

The more I’ve learned, of Jesus, of grace, of the life of faith, the more I see the truth of so much more going on than Jesus giving himself so that I personally would get that free ticket to heaven.

But this is a tricky topic…it always is when someone starts messing with cherished beliefs. So maybe I’ll just say here that my intent is not to change beliefs so much as it is to amplify them and to understand Jesus’ work in today’s context.

“A death like his.” Jesus was murdered for political reasons. Specifically he was murdered because he cast judgment on an unjust system. His attaching the moneychangers and animal vendors in the temple was not so that we could later say that we shouldn’t ever hold a fundraiser at the church (while we should still have a very good reason for doing so). No, he attacked the moneychangers and animal vendors in the temple because they were indicative of the oppression that was the daily life of every day people. The wealthy and powerful, or better said, those who were profiting off this system were angry at the disruption. Jesus was dead less than a week later.

Of course cleaning out the temple wasn’t Jesus’ only offense.

  • He…horrors…talked to women, ate with women, allowed women to learn along with the men… and this was unacceptable.
  • He talked to foreigners…although not too much.
  • He touched dead people…he touched sick people, and in doing so gave them back their dignity.
  • He healed on the Sabbath…in essence he was a breaker of the law.

From a purely legal, historical perspective, Jesus was not murdered, but received the death penalty…legally. He was “justifiably” killed for breaking the law. It was not justice. His death on the cross was a form of torture, the purpose of which was to deter others from following in his footsteps… all to support a system of oppression.

“A death like his.” I’m not sure that I want to be united with Jesus in this sort of death. I’m comfortable living my middle class life, in a middle class neighborhood, pastoring a middle class church. None of us has reason to fear the state…however, in our own political climate we see many in our own neighborhoods whose status as “undocumented” has them in fear of arrest and deportation each day. It’s not right, but it is legal. These brothers and sisters of our can probably relate to the words, “a death like his” far better than can I.

This week I’ve pondered the tragic case of Philando Castile. I remember when he was first killed. His girlfriend filming immediately after the shooting, “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

These words speak so much. That she continued to use the word, “sir” as maybe an attempt at de-escalation…to save her own life and that of her daughter. Late last week the officer was acquitted…as most are.

A couple years ago (I think), after the events in Ferguson, when another black man was shot and killed by police, I preached a sermon on the reason for the Black Lives Matter movement and on why we should support it. People said that Mike Brown was a criminal, disrespectful to the police officer…as if he deserved to then be shot. Even if one were to believe this, the opposite was true for Mr. Castile, he was respectful and calmly told the officer he was legally carrying a gun. What is a black person to do?

This past week, there was a call from many within our denomination to get behind the movement for Black Lives Matter…the movement for justice. Why now? First, there is the reminder that 9 members of Mother Emmanual AME church in Charlston were murdered two years ago. Their killer? A member of an ELCA congregation. Second, the killing of Philando Castile took place in the heart of Lutheran land. The shooting was only a few blocks from Luther Seminary.

This is a Lutheran issue…it’s a Christian issue and sadly recent studies show that the majority of white Christians don’t think that racism exists. We can do better.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Maybe in this context our being united with Jesus is to truly see our black brothers and sisters as precious children of God and in seeing them to advocate for their lives…because they do indeed matter.

In this week’s gospel lesson Jesus is reported to have said,

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)

I usually see this verse on Facebook with the challenge to share it…as if that were the acknowledging that Jesus is requesting. I never share it…actually never share anything that comes to me with the instructions, “share this…” to show you’re Christian. Words on Facebook matter little.

How we live matters a lot. Acknowledging Jesus before others is to also in some mysterious way be united with Jesus in his death…they are linked…and they remind us that living as a disciple is not always easy…sometimes we are called to step out of our safe spaces.

As difficult as this is, it is not bad news. Following Jesus includes the promise of resurrection. This is life…glorious, sometimes scary beautiful life. The promise that we read of in Romans is that we receive this wonderful gift of God’s grace…completely free. As I say over and over that we don’t have to do anything to earn it. This free gift of grace comes with an invitation, a call, to live as a disciple…to follow Jesus into the painful places… and in so doing to discover life…resurrected life…life lived for each other.

Having Your Back

Says Jesus (as recorded by John):

15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. -John 14:15-17

They, and we, will have an advocate. I like that word, “advocate.” With this word I think of: someone who goes to the defense of someone else; someone you can depend on; or a great helper in times of struggle. Or better:

Someone who “has your back”

The tragedy of our world is that true advocates are so hard to find. How many people can we count on when we truly need them? How good are we at being available for those who need our support? As I think about it, I can think of people in each category…actually it is the same people in each category.

As a pastor I like to think that I am available for people when they need me. Sometimes I feel frustrated when I don’t really know what’s happening and thus can’t help. I also have to then confess that I’m not always as available as I should be. Having one another’s backs is not always easy!

I wonder if some of the problems in our nation (even world) are because we sometimes get so focussed upon what is happening in our own lives that we miss the opportunity to be advocates for others. Sometimes it’s easier to get caught up in the drama of social media than it is to really see & hear what is happening with those we care about. And then sometimes, it is through social media that we learn that maybe we can step up our advocacy.

A few weeks ago I was involved in a FB conversation…actually it was a let’s just yell at one another conversation. I started the conversation from a place of feeling offended and it devolved from there, until I listened to my own inner voice which told me nothing good could come from continuing the conversation. That inner voice in my advocate and once I left the conversation it let me to reflect on how I can move from defensiveness to advocacy.

The particular issue is very painful and all too familiar, sexual assault. This time in the military. The victim of this assault was voicing her frustration with the treatment that she received after the assault. Having heard pieces of the story over the past couple years I can’t help but think of the continued assault women (and men) must experience in the aftermath of the first assault. We seem to be seriously short of advocates…or at least enough advocates to be effective.

So what can be done? First we must continue to fight a culture in which rape is excused, tolerated, and ignored. We must teach our children (and all ages) to respect one another. We must emphasize over and over again that consent to any activity (especially sexual) cannot be given when one is under the influence of anything (or anyone). I feel as if we’ve been talking about this my entire life…and indeed the conversation, the advocacy has been going on much longer. I believe we’ve made some progress but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a long long way to go.

We must be advocates for those who have been sexually assaulted. And here dear friends is where I’ve failed. I’ve been available to listen and to pray… and there is some value here. But what is also needed is for me (and others) to publicly advocate for change, especially when our government is failing in protecting those who serve.

PS: the text tells us that Jesus gives us the advocate…so we have the power within us to have one another’s backs.