Wednesday, May 28, 2008


For the last two weeks, I have been running around trying to do it all.  I have been a student in a Doctor of Ministry program in preaching at Wesley Theological Seminary.  I have been the pastor of a church that is about to make a major transition as we move from borrowed space back into our home sanctuary following a major renovation.  I have been a member of the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference that met this past weekend at the National Harbor.  I have been a friend and fiance.  And, I have been a wedding coordinator, finalizing many details for a June 28 wedding that is fast approaching.  I have done many things, trying my best to succeed.  I have been many things, wearing a variety of hats as I try to check more things off of the list.  And, I have often neglected the core of center - my relationship with Christ - in the process.

I have been Superwoman.  And, Superwoman is very tired.  Yet, Superwoman is also thankful that somehow I made it through these difficult weeks and find my heart restless to find itself centered on God once again.

This morning, I turned to the pages once more of the small devotional book, "Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton," where I found these words:

"Our meditation should begin with the realization of our nothingless and helplessness in the presence of God.  This need not be a mournful or discouraging experience.  On the contrary, it can be deeply tranquil and joyful since it brings us in direct contact with the source of all joy and life.  But one reason why our meditation never gets started is perhaps that we never make this real, serious return to the center of our own nothingless before God.  Hence, we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with God."

Merton then continues, "'Finding our heart' and recovering the awareness of our inmost identity implies the recognition that our external, everyday self is to a great extent a mask and a fabrication.  It is not our true self.  And indeed our true self is not easy to find."

All this stuff I have been doing, as much as I like it, is a mask - a fabrication.  All of this stuff I am doing - no matter how important it makes me feel - is not important.

And so, I awaken myself once more today.  I admit that while I am so thankful for all that is going on in my life, I am exhausted.  I am tired.  

I am going to sit this morning as my true self - one that would long to stay home all day and do nothing but sit alone with God - one who longs to dance with God - one who longs to rediscover where my core is.  It is not in trying to do everything while praying that a ball I am juggling does not fall to the ground.  It is not trying to please someone by accepting more invitations to do things than I can possibly get done.  At my core, at the center of my being, is the fact that I am a beloved child of God - whether I am finishing a doctoral of ministry program or not, whether I am seeking to be the best preacher or not, whether I am planning a memorable wedding worship service and reception or not, whether I am trying to please everyone or not.

God loves us.  God longs to be in relationship with us.  God longs for us to put God first. 

God, awaken my center once more.  Enable me to be poured out for you.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

His Eye is on the Sparrow

When we arrived at the Carnegie Library Building on Sunday morning for worship, I kept hearing the sounds of a little bird. I could not see the bird - I just kept hearing the bird. It was clear that a bird was stuck in the building. Following worship on Sunday, the bird had come down far enough where we could see it. It was sitting on a window ledge, looking as though it would do anything to get outside.

I saw the bird. I heard the bird. But I did not think much else about it when I left the place on Sunday. People had opened the door in an effort to try to get the bird out. Nothing was working, and I did not put much time or energy into the effort.

On Monday, there was a message on the office machine that has made me think a lot, however. One of our church members left a message about the bird. She went into detail describing the bird to me - telling me how the bird was sitting on a window ledge, how it was a brown sparrow, and how the bird could not get out. She explained how she had stayed up thinking about the bird. She wanted us to do whatever we could to get the bird out. She wanted to make sure that someone in the building knew about the bird and would do what they could to get the little brown sparrow out of the building.

This woman noticed something that many of us did not think much about. Many of us had concluded that there was nothing we could do - that the bird would be okay - or shamefully that life would be okay without one little sparrow should the sparrow die in the building.

But this woman took time to notice the bird, to do what she could to get the bird out of the building, and then to remain concerned about the bird the next day.

What if we all had eyes like hers?

What if we noticed the parts of creation around us that were trapped in something they were not designed to be in?

What if we looked - really saw - everything and everyone around us who is crying out for our help?

What if we saw the wounded veteran on the street asking us for money and then continued to allow his image to stream through our head at night, forcing us to really think about what we could do to help him?

What if we saw the man sitting underneath a plastic wrap that he built in a park more than a year ago and then tried to do something to get him out from under the wrap and into a shelter with more permanent walls?

What if we noticed - really noticed - places of pain around us and then took time to call people to find out what could be done to help?

This week, I am taking a class called "Hearing the Voice of the Poor in the Bible." My first assignment was to write about whether this is an appropriate title for the course. I concluded that it absolutely was an appropriate title. I know how many years I went to church without ever being asked to hear the voice of the poor. I know how many times I have read the text without allowing myself to be touched - without allowing myself to be penetrated in such a way that I need to get on my feet and out into the world.

My church member heard a little bird that I had decided was insignificant. She heard the bird and then went to see the bird. She then went to see what could be done to get the bird out.

There is a song about how God's eye is on the sparrow and so I know God watches me. God's eye is on every living thing. Who is God calling us to place our eye on today? Who is God calling us to see? To hear? And then to help escape?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Parental Instincts

I have several window boxes on my condo balcony where I planted flowers last year. The flowers added a great deal of beauty, making me smile each time I saw them. This year, however, I was a little late in my planting. The flowers did not get planted until last week. I was able to plant flowers in four of the five window boxes. The fifth box, however, is one I cannot currently touch.

You see, a bird chose to make a nest in this box. A mama bird chose this box as the place where she would give birth to her next baby. For the last few weeks, I have watched as this bird has sat and sat and sat in this box. When she went away once, I ran outside to catch a glimpse of the egg. She soon returned and kept sitting on the egg, and I kept watching her. Nothing seemed to be changing. There was nothing new in the window box until Friday morning.

On Friday morning, I noticed that the mama bird had a piece of shell in her mouth. She seemed to be chewing on the shell that once held her baby. Soon, she flew away, and I caught a glimpse if this tiny baby bird. It is the smallest little bird I have ever seen with a body covered with hair. It is amazing, and I feel so privileged to be a part of the process - for her to have selected my balcony as the place to give birth (it shows you how much I use the balcony!).

This process has also made me think a lot about parental instincts and especially the ways in which God, our parent, works.

The mama bird is currently sitting on top of her baby. She has not left the nest once when I have been watching. She is doing whatever she can to protect this little baby. When I open the door to the balcony, her eyes immediately turn to me. When I move by the window in my home that leads to the balcony, she immediately hunkers down, providing the baby with more protection.

I like to believe that God works the same way. I believe that God, the one who is our ultimate mother and father, does whatever God can do to protect us. When God sees something coming our way that could harm us, I believe God's hand of mercy outstretches even further to try to protect us. I believe that God's eyes are always upon us and the things around us. I believe God is always with us - God is always wanting what is best for us, God's children. And, more than anything, God wants to protect us, to keep us from harm.

Yet, just as this mama bird cannot protect the baby from everything, there are times when she has to leave the nest to go get food or drink, so we cannot be protected from everything. We have the gift of choice. Some of the choices we make bring good while others bring harm. There are times when bad things happen despite how much God is with us. We cannot be kept from harm's way at all times. Still, God is with us. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. And this promise is enough to prepare me for the week ahead. I go out into this week knowing that God is with me - that God's hand will never ever leave me.

Thanks be to God. Amen.