Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Meander December 29, 2008 It finally happened! “Meander” was the word of the day on Miriam-Webster’s word of the day (OK, laugh if you want but what did YOU get excited about today?) Meaning 1 : to follow a winding or intricate course 2 : to wander aimlessly or casually without urgent destination : ramble Hmmm, there’s a crucial difference between those two, isn’t there? One implies an aspect of guidance or purpose. A course is followed or formed. The other could be utterly chaotic. Either way, there’s no way to meander quickly. It’s a sabbathing kind of activity that requires one to slow down while risking getting lost or trusting being found. …"Meander," which comes from Greek "Maiandros," an old name for a river in Asia Minor, implies a winding course and lazy movement, and it is still sometimes associated with rivers (as in, "the river meandered through the town"). "Meander" can also be used as a noun meaning "a winding path." If one never risked getting lost, played it safe, stuck to the straight and narrow, you’d miss a lot of wonderful discoveries in life. At the same time, a certain amount of shape and form to the journey are assumed even if not always noticed. We are provided with ground to walk on, air to breathe, one foot to put in front of the other (or wheels to turn….) that facilitate movement’s purpose. I wonder if Mary and Joseph felt a little lost as they expanded their reasonably simple lives to include Jesus? Perhaps the course wasn’t clear for many years, when it was possible to look back over a lifetime. But would the world be like if they hadn’t put one foot after the other into the great unknown God surrounded them with? May you find yourself trusting the Holy Spirit to wander with you as you practice the unfolding purpose of living in Christ this year. To read about the original Christmas wanderers check out Matthew chapter 2. In Joy, Karen

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday Meander In a re-run of the popular drama, “House,” Dr. House’ boss and his best friend conspire to trick him into thinking he was wrong about a diagnosis. They think that if the arrogant genius learns a lesson in humility, he may have an epiphany about his character. Over the centuries, many human messes have been explained as God’s attempt to teach us a lesson. There’s an alternative that seems more in keeping with God’s character; that God works with us to create something wonderful out of the messes we make for ourselves. Christmas is God’s decision to do that in such an odd way that it just might work. By coming in Jesus, God invades the tiniest openings in our human armor sneaking in with a baby’s soft touch and smell, a quiet everyday healing, an outstretched hand offering to be a brother to one who has no family. Could cleaning up the messes we make really be as simple as that? Inwardoutward.org shared this from a favorite poet’s journal last week: I wonder whether it is possible at nearly 60 to change oneself radically. Can I learn to control resentment and hostility, the ambivalence, born somewhere far below the conscious level? If I cannot, I shall lose the person I love. There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour---put out birdseed, tidy the rooms, try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me. Now at 10:30 there is such radiant light outside that the house feels dark. I look through the hall into the cozy room, all in darkness, right through to the window at the end, and a transparent sheaf of golden and green leaves. And here in my study the sunlight is that autumn white, so clear, it calls for an inward act to match it . . . clarify, clarify. ----May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude Redemption comes down to the simple choices we make in moments of clarity. It may be clarity s to the affect our business choices make on others. It may be a choice to notice someone standing alone and invite them into the circle of conversation. The choice may be as simple as investing equal moments practicing what Jesus taught as we enjoy traditions that have sprung up around his birth. If the humble approach works for God, it seems certain to lead to betters things for those made in God’s image. In Joy, Karen Keeping in Touch: *Do you have a neighbor you can call to check in with? Whether it’s to see how they’re making out with the recent snow or just to say hi, make today the day! *Christmas Eve services will be Wednesday at 7:00 PM (Torsey Church-bring a favorite family candle) and 11:00 PM (Jesse Lee Meeting House with the wood stove warming us). *The popular Christmas Carol communion returns December 28 in 10:00 AM worship.

moment by moment

Midweek Meander Well, here we are midweek again….how’s your journey with Jesus going? If you’re like me, it’s day to day (which I think is progress from week to week). But I’d like to get it to moment by moment. Paul wrote that the goal was to pray without ceasing. Since I’m teaching Hinduism right now at Kent’s Hill School, I have to think about that differently from the type of meditation that require one to stop everything they are doing. (Not that that’s always a bad thing at all!). I learned at this year’s Society of Biblical Literature meeting that scholars have now established Buddhist thought had reached what we know call Palestine in the days of the early church. I have to think that what Paul is teaching is more like the constant mindfulness that Buddhist practitioners strive for. Except that for Paul, that mindfulness is Christ shaped. I’ve been asked more than once how I can refer to “joy” so often. Isn’t it a rather na├»ve or overly idealistic approach to life? For me, recalling joy on a regular basis is a litmus test of how “in Christ” I am. When I feel myself doing a “gut check” whether I can authentically sing off “in joy,” I know that I need more focused, Christ shaped, awareness. Joyfulness can feel thin when I let things interfere with my connection to the living God. But it’s never the “big things” that interfere. On the contrary, the bigger the challenge, the more naturally I turn to God. It’s the little things that interfere with joy. Thus Paul’s call to practice prayer becomes more pressing in the minutia. (Who was it that said the devil is in the details?) It’s the little things that wear us out and drag us down if we’re not ever mindful of God’s priorities, the greatest of which is to love us, each of us at every moment, and to love us into loving each other just as thoroughly. (deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a river flowing deep and wide….) I can’t fill myself up with that kind of joy, much less others. But I can open myself to the never ending source. The one who preaches to me, N. Gordon Cosby puts it this way: "Too many tired Christians are trying to be good news for the world. God is saying, 'I want you to trust me. I'll do the majority of the work. I want you to go along with me and just watch the miracles.' What's the good news for you? Are you having a good time in life? Do you have news that's so good you've got to share it? Do you feel safe, inwardly? Are you trusting the goodness and grace of someone who loves everyone? We need new forms for sharing the good news of God. The good news has to be embodied---so we must BE before we DO. Our first task is to become new creatures. Like C.S. Lewis said, "God doesn't want improved creatures, but a new creation." Source: Conversation recorded in the newsletter of Wellspring, a ministry to renew and revitalize the church (www.inwardoutward.org 12-17-08) May your day, no matter what kind of day it is, be full of Christ. In Christ’s Joy, Karen

Monday, December 8, 2008

effective Son Shine

The weather forecast today was “Ineffective sunshine,” Bummer, it looks so glorious out the window! It’s when we step out the door that reality will hit. Cold!!!!!!!!!!!!! Advent makes a forecast too, effective Son shine! Today’s cold didn’t really hit me until I went out the door. The cold was outside. But Christ’s warmth doesn’t really hit us until it is inside. Christ is waiting to warm us from our nose to our toes when we open the door to our hearts. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus friends didn’t recognize him until he was gone. Then “They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24: 32) We seek to open our hearts in a season that celebrates Jesus’ coming, Advent. We long to know the peace, compassion, generosity, and justice that the reign of God promises to bring. But there is so much to fear, so much that closes our hearts. If we really thought Jesus was coming, at any minute, might we risk opening up to holy warmth? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God chose to come in the irresistible, heart warming tiny person of an infant. What better way to pry our hearts open? It’s keeping our hearts open that takes real effort. Good thing God sends the Holy Spirit to help. The Son is shining! The holy forecast is more of the same. Let’s keep our windows clean, our doors open, our faces turned to the light of Christ’s presence. In Joy, Pastor Karen Keep in Touch: Many thanks to all the Fair Folk: especially our fearless fair queen, Nona Boyink. All the many hands made wonderfully light filled work! Spread the word….the children are working hard on this year’s play. Invite your friends and neighbors to worship on Dec. 21 to receive their message. (And enjoy Scandinavian treats from the parsonage kitchen during fellowship time). AND….make a point to put this year’s caroling party on your calendar for Dec. 21 at 2pm. Last year’s date was snowed out, so we have many elderly members and neighbors wondering if this touch of God’s grace will come this year. The more the merrier!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ready for Advent

Monday Meander 12-01-08 Does any body else find it easiest to pay attention to the first two of John Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules?” Do no harm, and do good are notions we can grapple with, so something about. The third one, “Stay in love with God,” seems trickier. Why do we tend to set this one aside until we’re “up to it?” Living in a divorce inclined culture certainly doesn’t prepare us for the work that love across a lifetime takes. Are we afraid God is the kind of lover who will compete with other things we love? Or are we afraid of getting our hearts broken? . Perhaps we’re laboring under the illusion that we have to be “just right” for our first date. Some stories just make you stop and take notice, even in the business of trying to wait for and get ready for Christmas at the same time. This week I’d like to share one that got me square in the midst of my Advent. Psychologist Daniel Gottlieb writes: …when Debbie was six years old, I had just come home from the hospital and was unsure of myself personally as well as professionally. It was evening and the first patient I would see after my accident was about to arrive. As I was looking in my wheelchair outside Debbie’s room, looking in the mirror (the only one in the house at wheelchair height) I started to comb my hair. (That was back when I had hair!) It was Debbie’s bedtime. She was supposed to be sleeping. Instead, she came out of her room and stood beside me, watching. Finally, very seriously, she said, “Daddy, why do you always worry about how you look before your patients come?” “I don’t know.” She reflected a moment. “It seems like you always have to look perfect.” “I don’t know. I never thought about it.” I was still trying to get my hair combed and beginning to feel uncomfortable with her probing questions. “They’re only people, you know.” Now I replied with a little more discomfort and animation. “I just don’t know, Debbie. I never really thought about it.” “Well, think about it,” she said, “and we’ll talk about it in the morning.” With that, she went into her room and I went off to see my patient. Sure enough, I was up all night thinking about it. Once again, she had seen right through me! -Daniel Gottlieb, Letter to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life. I wonder how aware we really are of the energy that goes into creating the perfect appearance, the perfect Christmas, the perfect persona, the perfect life. Oh sure, we nod to the way we inevitably fall short of the mark, “I’m just doing the best I can.” But we still tend to set the bar pretty high. High expectations are not a bad thing. Striving for excellence hones talents and brings out new gifts. But the habits we get into trying to present ourselves at our best can get in the way of reality. None of us can do it alone. We need the innocent observation of a child, the honest feedback of a trusted friend, the insight of a role model. Advent reminds us that God wants to be all of those for us. While we’re busy straightening our hair in the mirror, God is waiting for us to turn around and say, I need you.” As naturally as a mittoned four year old who needs help zipping up his jacket. As awkwardly as an old friend calling after an absence to say, let’s get together. As eagerly as a student ready to learn. God is waiting to take us as we are. But we have to recognize how we are. Why is it so much easier to recognize the flaws “out there,” than “in here.” The economy’s a mess, a problem much bigger than any one of us. And yet, might each of us have had some role in the tangling, either by what we do or by what we didn’t? We’re all tired of the divisive rhetoric of political campaigns, of seeing and hearing more than we ever wanted to about minor celebrities, of commercial promises to make our lives perfect if we’ll only buy…..but don’t we feed the frenzy with what we do and try to wish it away with what we don’t? No wonder we’re in such a rush to get to Christmas! Here’s the thing….. what do we really need Christmas, the birth of Christ for. Is it for the sheer distraction from the rest of what’s going on? Is it as an excuse to gather family? Is the coming of Christ a lovely way to mark the changing of fall into winter, the natural tide of life? What is that gnarly wild guy, John the Baptist, doing showing up in the scripture this week as we light our candles and sing our almost Christmas songs? Repent, Repent, (turn around, turn around)! John’s Advent message is that we don’t need to be afraid to let God see us as we really are, what we should fear is the impulse to hold God off until we’re perfect (or perfectly ready). It’s urgent. We need to allow ourselves to be eager for the kind of love that will take us as we are. That love is the only thing that can truly perfect us, in the image of the God who speaks love into the world. This advent, how are you staying in love with God? It’s not a matter of “why wait.” It’s recognition that we can’t wait to be perfect before inviting the Christ into our life. Come, Lord, as honestly as a child, come make yourself a home in our hearts this day. In Christ’s Joy, Pastor Karen Staying in Touch *It’s Fair Week!!! The fun and fellowship begins on Thursday night. Hands are needed to decorate wreathes under excellent guidance (its never too soon or too late to learn). Friday evening is an “all call” for set up with a pizza break…come help make the magic happen. On Saturday, help is always appreciated especially around clean-up time, 1:00PM. *Among the new Fair Weekend offerings is a nativity display. Do you have a favorite manger scene you wouldn’t mind sharing? Bring it by no later than Friday at 7PM to be placed in the sanctuary. *A little further into Advent, we’ll host the Kents Hill School Vespers on Sunday evening, December 14. Claire Piddock is organizing hosts from the congregation to greet, take coats, and serve goodies afterward. Students from Kents Hill handle all other set-up and take down. Please let Claire know you can help by calling 685-9347. *The new phone book is here, the new phone book is here! Be sure to get an updated church directory (yellow) from the greeters table. Thank you, Carol!!! Keep in Prayer …All who are struggling with the economy, both to survive it and to revive it. ….The Mills family and Alleigh’s friends as the trial for her accused killer begins. ….Communities efforts to make Ricky Gibson’s wish come true and to express love for him and his family. So you have a prayer request to share via the prayer tree? Contact Nancy Perkins (lanaperk@roadrunner.com) or Marie Rodriguez (marierodri@aol.com).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When does the Monday meander become the Tuesday twaddle? Walking home from the office yesterday I smelled it. Must have been the rain we got this weekend mixed with the now brown leafed layer on the church lawn. It was definitely the rich scent of late fall. No more making hay while the sun shines; now everyone is buttoning up for the cold spell ahead. This harvest season coincides with what the news anchors are calling “these uncertain times. Philosophers and Theologians have been referring to the “age of uncertainty” for a number of years now. It’s interesting to think about the words we seem sure of. For example, we talk about “making money.” But really, only those who work at a mint (or forgers) make money. The rest of us accumulate it, or not. Do you, or someone in your family, “earn a living?” How can anyone ever earn the right to live? We work for what we need to live and hope that we will be able to live well with the reward for our work. What we earn are tangible goods like the produce from a garden, or less tangible goods like money, or perhaps the least tangible and most valuable, respect. In the Bible, God expends a great deal of effort untying our sense of self from the money we manage. Put in perspective, money is the means of exchange that allows us to enjoy more to eat than what we can grow ourselves, more to wear than what we can weave or sew, more to enjoy than what we can make or imagine. Money is an instrumental value, good for what it can be used for. People, on the other hand, are not instruments. People have value in and of themselves because you and I are made in God’s own image. In this time of harvest, may God provide all that you need, including the blessing of becoming day by day more like the God we recognize in Christ Jesus. That is a grace unearned and a value beyond measure. Keeping in Touch: *Feeling crafty, or just like getting out of the house to be with friendly faces? Join the fair crafters Sat. morning at 10 in Torsey Fellowship Hall. On November 29, we’ll need extra hands with sewing machines to zip up the thermal window coverings for the sanctuary. *Rev. Don Hegeman of the Winthrop UMC will be available for Pastoral needs Nov. 21-25. The number will be on the church voice mail. *Please keep in prayer- those who are anxious about the coming winter or the financial turmoil the world is experiencing. -thanks that we’ve been able to help two more families with fuel needs this week as they wait for state assistance to kick in. Continue to pray that those looking for employment be guided to the right doors. -parents of teens testing life’s limits. -Our Sunday School as they gear up for this year’s Christmas play.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Monday Meander November 9, 2008 What’s your favorite children’s game? Nothing beats hide and seek in my book. A couple of times a year I play hide and seek on Google to see where our story pops up in the new public square of the internet. Today when I searched on “Readfield United Methodist Church” I found two treasures hiding in the back yard jungle of ads. Both are trips down memory lane. The first is a reminder of a “God incident” with a visitor in worship several years ago. I had forgotten completely about it. http://carolyncholland.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/it%e2%80%99s-not-that-small-a-world/. The second describes one of our former Sunday school students becoming a teacher in her new faith family. http://peoplesumcnews.blogspot.com/2008/03/welcome-our-newest-members.html The way we tell God’s story resonates beyond us in ways we never expect. Glimpses like these remind us of what others see when we’re not looking…and of the larger story of God in which we’re privileged to play a part. Thanks be to God! Like these glimpses, overhearing provides tidbits of a larger story. Our community, like our country is in a time of extraordinary transition right now. The speeches made by Senators Obama and McCain on Nov. 4 will go down in history. Each of us will remember where we were and what we were hearing. Since then, I’ve overheard conversations ranging from exuberance to fear: hope for things that may come to be, fear of the unknown. Both wait for a future coming into being, much like the kingdom of God, a kingdom that we can be confident is larger than anything we know. A kingdom that is hidden and yet closer than we suspect. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13: 11-12 KEEP IN TOUCH: On the calendar this week: Monday@ 7PM Trustees, Tuesday @6 PM Finance and 7PM Administrative Council. Please keep these groups in prayer as they meet for work and worship, and feel free to visit if you’d like a glimpse. Thursday @ 7PM Music Makers, Saturday 9:30 AM-3 PM Order of St. Luke mini-retreat @ Torsey Church, Saturday 10AM Church Fair Crafts. Let us keep in prayer * Those who are frightened- by the economy, by change, by their own potential, or by the immensity of the unknown. *Our veterans and all who have served their country, often giving in ways hidden to others. *Those who find it difficult to ask for help. *Our health care system and its ability to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities, insured and uninsured. *Churches prayerfully considering their futures, those voting to close or downsize staffs and those ready to step out in faith.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Little Saints and All Saints

Last night Torsey Fellowship Hall was filled with extraordinary characters of all shapes, sizes, and colors (even glitter). The community Halloween party was a rousing success. Children fished for goodies, hit holes in one, made gourd creatures and flitted around the goodie table before running off to make the circuit of trick or treat staions on all three levels. Treats definately outpaced tricks but parents were tugged two steps behind. Watch for photos to be uploaded on the website soon! (www.readfieldumc.org). Today attention turns to older characters with All Saints day. We remember those who have taught us, prodded us, comforted us into stronger relationships with Christ. Here's poem prompted by memories of one of my favorite saints, Gerald May. It was originally shared in the Shalem News, Winter/Spring 2008. FOr modern icons of some of these saints, visit. www.trinitystores.com (or the upper room at Torsey Church). MORE THAN IMAGES by Tony Sayer ...a desert like spaciousness...(Gerald May) A spacious room. A high ceiling. A world. Candles flickering. Souls kindled. Around the walls paintings, posters, icons. Images. But more that images. Presences. Merton and Bonhoeffer are drinking beer. Their bottles clink together as they confer. Saint Francis and the Sultan play chess. The Sultan alwayus wins-Francis seems not to get the game. Fiervcely he protects his pawns, but gives his bishops up with glee. Mother Seton, Sojourner Truth, and HIldegard of Bingen are making a quilt. Hildegard wants to add more and more green to the pattern. Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks and Ignatious of Loyola tred the turns of a labrinth together. Inigo's limp slows him down, and the others keep to his pace. Elijah and Julian share a barley cake. The raven on his shoulder and the cat on her lap eye each other with suspicion. Gandhi and John of the Cross and Martin Luther King are swapping jailhouse memories. They want Bonhoeffer to join them, but Merton keeps opening another cool one. Rumi and Meister Eckhart have been writing song lyrics. Teresa of Avila rounds up John Woolman and Black Elk and Frederick Ozaman and Simone Weil to start a garage band. Dorothy Day and Clare of Assisi want to sign up. They want Howard Thurman to be come too. But he's learning Tibetan chant, his deep throated voice growing ever more resonant. Etty Hillesom looks upward, murmuring contentedly, "So many stars." William Blake is teaching an art class, but his students aren't paying attention. Chuang Tzu and Albert Einstein have gotten paint all over themselves. "Angels," says Blake impatiently. "Ranks of angels surround us." He waves his hand in the air. He points at us. For we too are here. Among these witnesses, servants, pilgrims, martyrs, in this patchwork communion of saints-we are here. holy one, by what fiery grace have we come to join this company?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Meander 10-27-08 Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. - Martin Luther King Jr. I hope this is true, I pray this is true. I’m no longer sure that the arc is smooth, perhaps it’s more of an undulating wave. Perhaps the justice inherent in God’s character acts as a magnet… exerting its powerful draw, even when the detritus of life’s shattered shell’s are falling away. There is no justice we don't make daily like bread and love. - Marge Piercy, from her poem "The Ram's Horn Sounding." The little daily choices we make decide whether justice gains or recedes on any one day. Did I choose to laugh at a racist joke told by a friend rather than admit it was offensive? Did I choose to buy the cheapest brand I could, without consideration for the economy that produced it or the environment affected by its creation, use, and disposal? Did I choose to tell the sad child in the corner how utterly loveable he or she is? Did I choose the strange attraction of God’s character over the compelling consumer in me? This morning, in Africa, a small earth shattering moment occurred. Twenty four year old Hadijatou Mani won her day in court against her country, Niger. "It was very difficult to challenge my former master and to speak out when people see you as nothing more than a slave. But I knew that this was the only way to protect my child from suffering the same fate as myself," Mani said in comments published by Anti-Slavery International. (Reuters, 10-27-08 http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/world/international-us-niger-slavery.html?ref=world_ ) Perhaps Mani’s choice will curve the arc of justice for the other 43,000 slaves in Niger and for their children. The courage and tenacity of this young woman, the same age as my children, awes me. Her master claimed that when he freed her, she became one of his wives, and when she married she was jailed for bigamy. Our choices are made in a web of invisible power structures that emerge like a secret message when warmed by the fire of pain. Today I will choose to thank God for Mani and ask that her family be blessed as I gaze out over my laptop at the sun striking the blaze of tree gold across Torsey. May her life light all of our moral horizons. In a week I will choose to vote and pray that my choices bend the arc a little further toward the character of God, not by wishing for heros as I make the checkmarks, but by committing myself to be partners with those we choose to lead us into a future of attentive justice. Keeping in Touch: Please pray for *families already struggling with the onset of cold weather. *caregivers of aging loved ones. *those experiencing raw grief. *ongoing school and health care system restructuring. *Ricky Gibson and his family. Don’t forget to invite the wee ones of your neighborhood to the Church this Friday from 4-6 as we host the community Halloween party. Join in the fun and bring along a donation for UNICEF. (Have you put a UNICEF box on your desk or dashboard???) You Have Our Attention, Lord A prayer by Max Lucado - October 2008 Our friends lost their house The co-worker lost her job The couple next door lost their retirement It seems that everyone is losing their footing This scares us. This bailout with billions. These rumblings of depression. These headlines: ominous, thunderous - “Going Broke!” “Going Down!” “Going Under!” “What's Next?” What is next? We’re listening. And we’re admitting: You were right. You told us this would happen. You shot straight about loving stuff and worshipping money. Greed will break your heart, You warned. Money will love you and leave you. Don’t put your hope in riches that are so uncertain. You were right. Money is a fickle lover and we just got dumped. We were wrong to spend what we didn’t have. Wrong to neglect prayer and ignore the poor. Wrong to think we ever earned a dime. We didn’t. You gave it. And now, tell us Father, are You taking it? We’re listening. And we’re praying. Could you make something good out of this mess? Of course You can. You always have. You led slaves out of slavery, Built temples out of ruins, Turned stormy waves into a glassy pond and water into sweet wine. This disorder awaits your order. So do we. Through Christ, Amen In the Joy of Serving Christ with you, Pastor Karen
Welcome to your website, the new home of Monday Meander, the storm day stand-by for bible study, and our entry into the conversations of the digital realty all around us. Questions for the day..... What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up this morning? What was the most beautiful thing you saw today? What one thing would you like to say to Jesus before you go to sleep tonight?