Neighborliness

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Smoke coming in to the ally behind my church. Thirty minutes earlier it had been clear.

So far the Thomas Fire has been burning for more than a week. Here in Oxnard, we are not in any danger from the fire but are occasionally experiencing heavy smoke. My husband and son work in Carpinteria (north of here) and have been out of work because of the fire. I think they are going a bit stir crazy.

Yesterday, Scott and I did a bit of shopping at lunch time. When we went into a store the skies were clear and blue. When we came out, that smoky haze and smell had returned. I commented, “I guess I need my breathing mask again.”

A man standing near his SUV heard me and asked, “are you from Santa Barbara?” We said, “no, we’re from Oxnard.”

He stated that he and his family (wife and small children in the SUV) had driven to Oxnard to escape the smoke, which was (is) oppressive in Santa Barbara. He said he’d looked at the air quality charts and thought Oxnard would be a good choice. We told him that it was clean and clear just an hour earlier. Scott asked him about Carpinteria as he’d have driven through the city and he replied that “it’s horrible there.”

I suggested that he drive to Thousand Oaks. He said, “we’ll keep driving until we get out of the smoke.” I suggested taking the kids to Disneyland and then said goodbye.

As we left I realized that we never have conversations like this…with strangers in parking lots. It’s another example of how catastrophes bring out the neighborliness in us all. Maybe we need to find ways to chat with one another when all is good in the world. Meanwhile I’ll be thankful for all the good that counters all that is bad.

Concentration – Training on Trails

Running in Malibu with my daughter. Can’t beat the view.

I crazily signed up for a 50k that will be on a local trail December 2nd.

While the race is more than three months away (and I have a marathon in October), I realize it will be here soon. Will I be ready? I am confident I will be able to do it, but I want to run it strongly, and I’m not ready for that.

Today, Megan and I ran our first run on the trail. We’ve hiked it many times but running it is completely different. Running up those hills was hard. Running down was obviously easier but I had to be very careful not to trip as I seem to be having issues staying on my feet.

To avoid falling (I did trip at the beginning) required great concentration… much more concentration than running on pavement. This was a good thing. I love the ability to think about life when running and I do much sermon preparation while running. But lately I’ve been fatigued with thinking. Not with sermon prep, but rather with thinking about the state of our world. It turns out that I today I couldn’t think about anything except the trail. The benefit of this was that my body was tired but my mind a spirit were rested. I love running!

We encountered this picnic table after 3 miles. The engraving says, “my home where I am free.” I think we need a picnic here someday.

Gratitude 2/8

“Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.'” -John 8:12

What does it mean to have the light of life? I would guess some of us have differing interpretations. For me, it is experienced in speaking, writing, doing…living… with integrity. It is also in bravely advocating for, and walking alongside, those who are different from me because this is how my faith instructs me to love God and love neighbor. These days seem dark and many are feeling hopeless. I understand this, as I vacillate between feelings of despair and the sure and certain conviction the Jesus is here alongside, saying, “you go, girl!” One piece of advice that I will be giving often is the importance of self-care. Please remember that you cannot adequately help others when you are not operating from a place of health (more on this later).

Today I am personally thankful for: my running coach who likes to have good discussions and who challenges me on my assumptions (and for his training me!); all the pastors I know who are living their own calls with integrity and who feel the struggle; a good early morning workout.

Gratitude 2/7

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As they left the demonstration, protesters attached their signs to the fence at parking lot C at LAX

 

“Let your light shine before others.” -Matthew 5:16

Before we can let our light shine before others we need to recognize that the light we possess is a gift of God’s grace. Jesus said, “you are the light of the world.” He said this to the community…you all. With this proclamation, you are light, I am light, we are light.

This is good news! We have the opportunity to recognize that light that exists in our neighbor. Then as we walk together our cumulative light shines ever more brightly on a weary world. I experienced this when I joined the Justice for All March, as well as the demonstration on behalf of our Muslim neighbors as LAX.

Some might believe that these marches and demonstrations are a waste of time, that they don’t really change anything. I believe that they do much! They energize those who gather together…they remind each of us that we are not in the struggle alone…they let the vulnerable know that they are not alone.

Of course more needs to be done…and will. My call as pastor reminds me that my role is the public proclamation of the Gospel…the good news of Jesus the Christ. This good news is that through Jesus we are loved…and we are all called to love God and to love our neighbor in return. Happy Tuesday!

Today I am personally thankful for: the reminders of God’s love and grace that I receive, especially when I am feeling down; the members of Our Redeemer who gathered last night to work on our upcoming Silent Auction Fundraiser; the opportunity to run 5 miles this afternoon.

 

Blessings?

Yesterday I help with the Ventura County Homeless Count. The geographical area for counting that was assigned to me didn’t have too many people in it yesterday…maybe because it was so cold that people weren’t yet out on the streets. Yes, it was cold and we were counting (interviewing) people who had no place to sleep the night before. It is a sad state of affairs. There are many reasons for homelessness and thus need to be many solutions. I know that many people dedicate their lives to helping in any way they can. Participating in the count (for 2nd year in a row) reminded me that we need to do more and that we need to actually “See” the people who seem to be invisible as we go about our daily lives.

14364767_10154005598513775_7633342390373738549_nOne of the people I spoke with was a young man who was sitting in front of a fast food restaurant with a sign. You are familiar with this as we are all familiar with this. This young man told me that he wanted a job, but that nobody would give him a job because he was homeless. “So here I am (pointing at sign), I don’t want to do this, I just want a f—n job!” I had no adequate words while I also fear that things will get worse.

Sunday I will be preaching on “The Beatitudes” or blessings that Jesus offered at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. According to these, this young man is blessed, as are those who advocate for him and all the homeless. May we all begin to live and act as if he truly were blessed so that he would then know it in this day.

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:1-12

These “blessings” are radical because then, and now, to “be blessed” is often equated with having an easy life…having riches…having power. The blessings that Jesus pronounces here are for those who struggle in all kinds of ways.

In seeing the direction our country is heading I feel the “blessed are the poor in spirit” in ways I’ve never felt before. My faith tells me that we are to be advocates for the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, the orphan, the widow, the prisoner, the outcast. These groups are explicitly mentioned numerous times in scripture. Yet, we as a nation are about to officially turn our backs on these people and I am saddened.

As the words of Jesus tell me, I am also blessed and it is that blessing received that is leading me to speak up, to march, to protest, to call, to write…the join the resistance to what betrays my faith as well as the founding values of my country. It is this being blessed by Jesus that will help me (and others) to stand strong even when attacks come and guess what…we’ll just be more blessed…Jesus said so!

March 7 – Spirit

The thing about disciplines is that they require discipline! I am attempting a Lenten discipline of posting a photo to illustrate a word each day while also adding some thoughts. My last post was March 1, so I need to work on that discipline. Today’s word is Spirit.

IMG_0358This morning I received a text message from a former church member and current friend. She is a former member because she now lives too far away to actually attend worship. This morning’s text led to a wonderful discussion about grace. Then later, as I thought about it, I realized I’m so thankful for the technology that allows me to be in meaningful contact with some who’s so far away. Of course face to face is good, but I’ve found that technology has allowed the fostering and growth of many different relationships. So today I show a photo of my phone as I express my thanks for the Holy Spirit working in our world in so many different ways.