LOVE Born Vulnerable

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The desire to give birth to your own child is overwhelming.  In 1988, I got pregnant, I had been married two years and when the test came back I was ecstatic.  I remember lying in bed imagining the child growing and wondering what it will be like to feel it moving in me. Would it be a girl or a boy?  What would their name be?  In my 11 week when I had a miscarriage. The longing, the yearning, the helplessness and the physical ache created a thirst begging to be quenched.  I could have just let it go. Stop hoping but deep within I could not.  The desire of my heart came in other ways.

All the adjectives I used to describe my desire: longing, yearning, helplessness and physical ache are all a part of waiting for something hoped for.  When my Nephew was born, It was the first time I got to be present at any birth. I was the first person to hold him, to look into his eyes and he in mine.  I was in awe of the innocence and the beauty, the love without condition and the deep sense of how totally vulnerable and depended this baby was.

The beginning of the Christian Story is truly amazing when you consider that God, Creator of all things. comes into the world like the rest of us,  a baby. God’s desire, longing, yearning need  to know and be known  determined the  course which would be taken to make it so.  The Christ Child enters the world not as a grown man but as innocent and beautiful and totally vulnerable and dependent on a human mother to survive, to love and nurture him unconditionally.  This is truly overwhelming when you stop and think about it.  He became like us so that we could become like him.

I am convinced just as God’s yearning is to know and be known by us, we also have the yearning to know and be known by God.  It is not uncommon for people to look for God when they are vulnerable and at the end of themselves. I do not believe people turn to God simply out of desperation. I believe God is able to reach us because we have lowered our defenses and are more open.  This kind of vulnerability is vital. When we are in that place there is no one to look to but God.  The Christ knows that vulnerability is vital because as a baby He had no one else to look to but his mother and father.

The song , “Mary Did You Know”  By Mark Lowry  speaks to this great truth in a introspective way.

[Verse 1]
Mary did you know that your baby boy will some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

[Verse 2]
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

[Verse 3]
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am…

Will you consider what Great Love God has for you. will you think about what he did to know and be known by you?  His desire caused him to come into the world as a baby needing people to take care of him?   Will you stop resisting and let yourself become like a child, vulnerable and depended and allow God to care for you?  God loves you unconditionally not because of anything good you have done. He love you because you are a beloved child? 

Three Kinds of JOY


Euphonic Joy is feeling intense excitement and happiness.  As I write this my grandchildren are sleeping at home in Boston.  I on the other hand, am in Florida with Audrey. They think they are going to New Hampshire tomorrow.  However, when they wake up they will be opening a box with the biggest surprise of their lives.   “YOU’RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!”   Imagine the intense feelings they are going to have all day. They will be flying on a plane for the first time in their lives. They will be going to Florida for the first time in their lives.  They will go to their hotel then get on a bus to Epcot and will be greeted by their grandparents, who they think are back home.  To be honest even as I write this I am feeling intense excitement and happiness in anticipation of greeting them.

Illusionary Joy is the kind of Joy that is temporary and fleeting and comes from a false sense of reality.  Sometimes it can be the letter you get in the mail that says your investments have increased by 10%.  A month later they have decreased 15%.  Rene Descartes said, “Illusionary joy is often worth more than genuine sorrow.” The reality is until you cash out your investment, the letters you get in the mail are Illusionary which can bring joy or sorrow.   Another way we experience Illusionary joy is when we are eating a favorite treat or meal or giving into a forbidden temptation.   We experience this illusionary joy and like a puff of smoke it is over.  Some people chase after this joy with abandonment.  This we name addiction.

True Joy:   This gives out an energy that empowers us to do things that once seemed too difficult to attempt.  True joy looks at problems and sees ways to fix them.  True Joy feeds your confidence.  No problem! You’ve got energy, buoyancy. You’re alive!  True Joy is the deep happiness that comes with fulfilling your potential.  True Joy can be a constant as it stokes the power within for living life.  True joy does not deny the reality of pain and grief. It faces it, names it and says I will get through this.

  Euphonic and illusionary joy is temporary and often covers up the reality of our pain. We seek out these kinds of joy thinking if we avoid we don’t have to deal with the issues.  Sometimes avoidance is needed but at some point you have to face reality. We just need to know that when we seek these kinds of joy happiness is temporary and come from outside ourselves.  True Joy is born within and is a matter of the heart rather than the mind.

“The Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17 NLT)

Euphoric and Illusionary joy are a matter of the mind. The quest for true joy is a matter of the heart.  The journey form the mind to the heart is only 12 inches long.    It is from the heart…we discover the depth and breadth of Hope, of Peace, of Joy and of Love.  True joy empowers us to open our arms wide and breathe deeply! True joy looks at creation and sees clearly and more dearly all that exists around them.   True joy endows us with the ability to press on and overcome.  True Joy declares: FEAR NOT! BE NOT AFRAID! For unto you is born a child who is Christ the King.     Those who take the journey from head to heart find God and discover ALIVENESS!  Rev. Dr.  Howard Thurman said it best.  “What makes you come alive? Go do that, the world needs people who are alive.”  This is living in true Joy.

Why Must We Wait For Peace?


Mother Teresa said, ” We have no peace because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Christmas time we sing: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”

We live in a world where  peace surrounds us. Whether in our personal lives or in politics or world affairs there are weeds  of evil, chaos, suspicion and fear that are growing….choking out peace  tresspassing boundaries.   We long for peace yet it often evades us.    We have no peace because we are unaware that belonging is the fertile ground which allows it to grow.

We are starving for peace. It is difficult to fully understand but peace must begin with each of us.   You may consider yourself a peaceful person.  But then I will ask: What are you afraid of? what makes you anxious?  What makes you angry? What makes you question your self-worth?   What is the source of anger, anxiety, fear, shame and guilt?  all of these elements litter the fertile ground of the soul.   When we pause and truly think about these feelings it isn’t long before we can name the source of our frustration choking out our peace. Often it is a person or people who are involved and  we blame them for our suffering.   However, we have the power to get peace back.

How do we remove these weeds choking our peace? To make room for  peace we must take out the weed killer…. forgiveness.  But the  perception that forgiveness releases another from the very thing that has hurt us, the very thing that stole our peace… the very thing that causes our suffering… STOPS US…. dead in our tracks. Because we are led to believe we must wait for peace until the one who has trespassed against us owns up to what they did to us.  Alas, with this mindset we let the weeds grow unchecked.    We often hear, “Why the hell should I forgive them?  don’t you know what they did to me? “  Yes! They stole your peace and now you are in a constant state of hurt in varying degrees.  Peace is chocked out  by the weeds of anger, anxiety, fear, shame guilt and depression which ultmately makes room for the Root of Bitterness. Bitterness then begs for revenge so PEACE MUST WAIT!

Forgiveness is like weed killer. If you don’t deal with the weeds they thrive and peace lays dormant.  Peace is powerful when understood as a strength rather than a weakness.  When we forgive ,this weed killer  transforms the garden of the soul.  Nevertheless,, we often have to get to the place were it just hurts to much before we surrender the weeds to God.  Here! Take this from me.  I don’t want to hurt anymore. I don’t want to be angry anymore. I don’t want to be afraid and guilting anymore. I don’t want to become bitter.

Forgiveness is the pathway to PEACE. This PEACE allows us to bear witness to all that is beautiful again. It allows us to experience a new sense of belonging.  It allows us to rise above the very circumstance that held us captive and experience faith, hope, love, and Joy.

Jesus is the prince of peace! The season of ADVENT begs for hope, peace, joy and Love.  Jesus came to bring this peace and was killed for trying.  Nevertheless, in the midst of His greatest moment of suffering ,he said to those who mocked him who crucified him, ‘Forgive them Father, they know not what they do’.  His suffering ended moments later.  Rising again… three day later.  He did not seek revenge….NO!  His disciples did not seek revenge…NO!  Instead, His message of Peace through forgiveness has been carried forth from those who have been transformed by it…from one generation to the next until this very moment. This Peace we crave comes from within…. it is born in love, it is fed by hope and when we are free to live in this peace we experience true  Joy!

This is the season of Advent…..The season of waiting…..The Christian story begins with the Birth of Jesus…..The one the prophets foretold. Jesus  who left eternity and entered time to show us the God kind of love that feeds our hunger for peace…for belonging…for knowing and being known by God.    The world longs for Peace… yet the weeds of social, racial, ethnic and religious injustice run rampant.  The disparity of rich and poor,  the sick and healthy, the marginalized and oppressed reveal the overgrowth that informs us why we have no peace.

Nevertheless,  this revelation of peace  transformers those who understand its power. Those who seeks peace instead of strife, seeks to make things right instead of revenge,  Seeks mercy rather than judgement. This Peace is the hallmark of someone who has known forgiveness and now forgives.    Why must we wait for peace then?  We do not! We have the tools of forgiveness which creates fertile ground for peace thrive!  Who do you need to forgive so peace can come to life in the garden of your soul?

Let peace begin with you.

The Reaction to Compassion is Action.


It was the third day of a heat wave. I was going to visit a relative in the hospital. I had to make a stop.  when I was on my way agains waiting four cars from a light, I saw a young man so sunburned his eyes were swollen/ He was holding up a sign….Homeless and hunger could you help me.  So I rolled down the window as I passed by and give him a ten dollar bill and a handful of change. I was hoping he would find some peace and shade  the rest of his day.   As I drove away I wondered how someone can do that. I wondered if he experienced humiliation or  maybe the shame or just maybe he was so dejected he didn’t feel anything. I wondered had he gotten used to the looks of discussed as others pass him by.  I filled with tears thinking of so many who do this. So many I pass by because I don’t have cash on me often. I asked God to forgive me for all those I have passed by who I judged as addicts and lowlifes and wonder if this man’s story was different from the stereotypes manufactured by society standards and politics.  Stereotypes that allow me to justify turning my head away pretending I did not see.

I continued on with my plan and traveled 58 miles down the highway.  We decided to took the road less traveled to stop and get gas and ice coffee.   We pulled away and about a quarter of a mile down the road, sitting on the side of the road, a man we often see who has a prosthetic leg just below the knee was on the ground.  He was disheveled scooting slowly on his butt throwing his crutches out in front of him.  We felt the need to stop and get out to see if he needed help.  He told us his leg had been stolen and he was making his way back to his trailer just a few yards away. I asked him if he wanted us to help him stand and he said no no…it is easier to make my way on the ground. It is safer for me. So I wished him well and went on my way.

As the day went on I couldn’t stop wondering about these two men whose path I had crossed that day. I had allowed myself to look beyond the disdain and challenged the script that played out in my head.

I realized that we may have purposes and plans but if you are  awake and aware because of God’s compassion our purpose and plans might include strangers and situations that cause us  to stop and offer some form of action.  We may not be able to change the whole world but we can make a difference each day for someone.

Come Away From Rush And Hurry!

technology_distractionHello folks, many of you know that I was in a car accident at the end of April. I got a concussion and was told I had to do a visual fast. I was not allowed to watch TV, use my computer, read or write. Thus the reason I have not written in my blog since Easter.  It took me almost a whole week before I emotionally let it all go. Over the time of this fast my experience helped me to rediscover the centering peace that comes with pause. I also realized just how much I had been living with worry and distraction.  I had come away from rush and hurry.

The way we engage in our western world began to shift with the advent of Cable TV, then  video games then Computers then  Cell Phones and now tablets and other devices.    It has altered the way we participate with the people around us in dramatic ways. Both for the good and the bad… We are inundated and involved in an endless array of information and business daily. Both good and Bad…..Tonight I want to  focus on two things that seem to go unchecked and that is ….the impact of worry and distraction cause by this new normal…….. and our need to come away from technology and rediscover centering peace.

First:  Worry.

How do we react to life and others when we are worried, anxious, and stressed!    Many are plagued with stress overload. Name any phobia and someone in this room has one. We worry about money, about jobs, about getting to places on time, about our safety, about our things getting stolen, about who is getting more than we are.  We worry about worry?
We are like that couple from Connecticut where the wife worried constantly about all their stuff. One night their home get  broken into. The husband heard a noise He goes downstairs to investigate and found a burglar emptying the silver chest. He said to burglar, “Stay right where you are….. I want to get my wife. She has been expecting you for twenty years.”
Second Distraction.

To be distracted is to be unfocused. Our thoughts, our plans, and our lives feel like we are out of control and pulled in every direction.

To be focused, on the other hand, is to have a plan, a purpose, a meaning that directs and enhances one’s life.

In this new normal

  • What are those things that keep us from stillness and solitude?
  • What are the events that distract us from being mindful and truly present with our loved ones and friends?
  • What are the surplus of ideas and thoughts and impulses that obscure the wonders and beauty that surround us?
  • What are you missing out on because you are sitting looking through a window to a virtual world?
  • More importantly from my perspective where does God fit into this new normal?

A thousand distractions leap into our lap and demand, “Follow me, buy me, go here, go there, do this, do that!”

To come away from rush and hurry we actually being ourselves into a place of balance.   Our minds are given time off to be rejuvenated to rest.    Pete Seager …wrote a song years ago, “TURN TURNTURN.        He was  inspired by King Solomon of Israel who wrote 4000 years ago:   
“for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven …

  • a time to be born and a time to die …
  • a time to work and a time to rest…
  • a time to cry and a time to laugh
  • a time to keep silence and a time to speak … there’s a time for everything.” .

Life is all about balance.  Our inner being will alert us when it is time to come away from rush and hurry. GardenPrayer

It is alerting us and hungering for God’s Peace….. When we are feeling especially worried or anxious or stressed begging to to come away from rush and hurry… When we are feeling distracted the inner person hungers and desires to come away from rush and hurry but Busy keeps coming instead.

My experience was profound. I encourage stop and ask yourself… I worried and or distracted? Is it time for me to come away from rush and hurry?   What needs to be done to better equip myself to take on the challenges of the day?  In what ways can I come away from rush and hurry?  Get your balance by being purposeful do a personal assessment. Do a Visual fast.  Find a place of quiet and meditate and pray.   Go for a walk and let yourself be present awake and alert to what you are thinking or feeling…what are you worried about? I extend an invitation to   consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air they do not worry or fret  Our inner being is and will alert us and come away from rush and hurry.

1.Come away from rush and Hurry is a song title:

Why Easter at the Worshiping Oak?

Worshipping_Oak_-_Haverhill,_MA_-_August_2012 (1)First Congregational Church Haverhill has had a continuous, systematic narrative that can be traced back to a tree next to the Merrimack River and a man named John Ward. Members of First Church Haverhill were proud of their Christian Heritage   So I ventured to learn more about this man John Ward. Call me a romantic I had been called into this linage and this old church closed to form A New Church for A New Haverhill  called Phoenix Rising United Church of Christ.  My research brought me to the University of Massachusetts archives on the early history of Haverhill.

I read that on October 24th 1642 John Ward was ordained and upon his ordination he was given 16 acres of land, one cow, two pigs, a dozen chickens, six cords of wood that would be cut and stacked at his door, 400 shillings a year, and a portion of the crops from the village would be share with him so he could devote himself to the study of God’s word.

A fun fact to this story is that when I was   making plans to move to Haverhill, there were only five houses for rent  in our price range.  Only one person called us back, we got the house and it literally sits on those 16 acres.   When serendipity happens it humbles me and causes me to thank God for guidance.  It also becomes both an affirmation and confirmation that I am indeed  am on the threshold of fulfilling a mission with the help of God.  As fascinating as this is, there was even more.  More than once the narrative mentioned the “Worshiping Oak”.  It was the place where the first villagers held worship.

I discovered in my research that the Worshiping Oak still existed and I set out to find it.  It really wasn’t hard to find. It is on the site of the Buttonwoods museum and the John Ward house.  I went there a few weeks later.  I felt a deep connection!  It is that feeling when ones awareness is so acute your senses seem to pierce the veil of the past.   There it was the great Oak!  I imagined it as an ancient sentinel present for over 350 years. I imagined those first settlers gathering there under its branches.  I stood beside the tree and watched the Merrimack meander toward the ocean. Then I stood in front of the tree facing the grassy knoll. I imagined that John Ward had once stood in the very spot I now stood. I wondered what sermons he preached.  What was worship like?  What vision or dreams did he and the people of the village hold  for their future.  This was “The” place it all began.  This tree shaded the first worshipers and now centuries later looked down on me, a new kind of Pastor about to lead a reemerging Christian Community that can trace its roots back to this very patch of earth! I said a prayer.   In that moment I imagined planting the seed called Phoenix Rising UCC. I imagined circling back to this very spot and gathering members of this new congregation under the Worship Oak t joining  our hearts with  our Christian ancestors. This is why  we will be gathering  Easter Sunday Morning  at  the Buttonwoods Museum   Everyone is invited.  Bring your  family and friends  and join us in this historical moment . We will, dedicate and celebrate the history of First Congregational Church and its new child Phoenix Rising United Church of Christ, come and make a memory with us and experience the awe and wonder of the moment? God is still speaking

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12


Who is Jesus for you?


Jesus started his ministry on earth teaching from the Old Testament scriptures. The first reading we hear from him is this:  from Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed and to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners…’  After he had read this he left the synagogue and went about fulfilling these words.

When we read the Gospels, we are reading the story of Jesus in the flesh encountering others with good news. We learn what he did and what he talked about and the trouble this caused him. We see how people reacted to him both good and bad. Many rejoiced in the Good news. because it addressed issues at the core of humanities existence:  suffering, evil, life, death and more. Then there were many who were suspicious of him and his motives.

Imagine what it must have been like to see people actually get healed from blindness, deafness, seeing the disabled walking.  What would it be like to be a prostitute about to be stoned to death only to see people drop rocks because of a spoken word: “He who is without sin cast the first stone!”  One day after feeding 5000 people in a miraculous way, Jesus and his disciples went on their way.  When they had settled in for the night, Jesus asks these questions: “Who do people say that I am?” They reply, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets who has come back to life.” Then Jesus asks, “But what about you?” Who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:13-20)

Today I want to ask a similar question:  Who is Jesus for you?   

To begin to address the question people often realize that one question raised others such as: What do I believe about Jesus?  How do I understand Jesus? Was Jesus really crucified and buried…then rose again?    When Jesus asked the disciples, “who do you think I am? Or who am I to you?  Only The Apostle Peter spoke up and said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God”.  Jesus said to him, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you.  (Matt 13:20)

Phoenix Rising UCC is on a quest to know who Jesus is for us.  We are not afraid to ask if Jesus really is the Son of God, Did Jesus really heal the sick and did he really rise for the dead? Is he really the Savoir (Messiah)? And if all this is true can Jesus become as real to us as Peter?  The truest answer will come in the form of a revelation as it did for Peter.   To get to know someone you can’t just talk about yourself. You have to ask a lots of questions and listen for the answers.

So, who is Jesus for you?  I invite you to share your thoughts, your doubts, your impressions and your questions. If you can answer this question: Who is Jesus for you. Please share, many would love to hear your story.