Sunday, January 11, 2015

Blessed Mountains

The day of New Year’s eve I was in the Cascade Mountains overlooking a beautiful lake at the base of Mt. St. Helens. The trees, roads, and hills all had a fresh dusting of snow; a present left by Christmas past and the mountain stood majestically in the background, plastered white and lumpy. It was the definition of a “bluebird day.” The landscape was pure and undisturbed.

Many see the New Year as a fresh blanket of snow; undisturbed and pure. In my mind’s eye, this blanket of snow is a meadow in the middle of the forest. Flat and pristine, with no footprints made in it yet. But, do we ever view a new beginning as a mountain with fresh snow? A mountain is not an easy thing to climb, but in the world we live in there is inevitably going to be mountains in the new year ahead. Maybe you are still standing on a mountain from this past year.

As I stood on the shores of Coldwater Lake beneath the crater of Mt. St. Helens, I felt really small. The mountain loomed above me and, yet, it was beautiful. The realization of being small in comparison to life around us is humbling. It is healthy.

Looking up at Mt. St. Helens, a mountain, I heard this phrase going around in the back of my head, “He must increase, I must decrease.” I think this comes from a healthy hunger for someone to walk beside us and up these mountains life brings to us. After all, God did not create us to live life in a solitary way. Even the most introverted of us still long to share life’s joys, adventures, and needs with another. To feel a hunger for Someone greater to walk with us is a healthy way to live and look at life’s mountains. Jesus talks about this in his sermon on the mount, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

It is healthy to be hungry. It means our bodies and minds are functioning in a healthy way. But what does it mean to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness? Righteousness is defined by Google as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable.” To be “morally right or justifiable” are pretty rigid words, but here is a way to soften them: God is and Jesus embodies what it means to be righteous or good; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self control. As human beings who strive to be bent on being ‘good’ or moral, how can we not hunger and thirst to live in parallel with the Creator of our universe and our personal Savior? It is healthy to hunger and thirst and even more than our desire to live a good life, God desires to fill us with righteousness! What a guy!

May we seek to enter into this year with hope and a hunger to climb mountains with a heart bent on being filled from head to toe with the love, patience, and goodness of our climbing Guide. For in our hunger and thirst for something more, Someone Greater, we are called “Blessed.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Coming Change

Change. Not even all of the leaves have fallen off the trees yet and the snow clouds have come and plunged the Northwest into a natural state that looks much like the arctic. Mother Nature took leave of her usual schedule and skipped a few weeks ahead into a brilliant world of snow, ice, and the crunch of the leaves forgotten underneath the dazzling white blanket of snow.

Change: it requires us as humans to live differently; to work at adjusting, but change is necessary in order for life to renew itself. Each season waltzes in and over and around the earth and in its wake leaves (no pun intended) the earth and its features in a new state. Seasons happen in our lives as well, maybe in a more emotional sense than what happens in the natural world around us, but this is not by mistake: God is making things new.

The mountains are steep and strenuous, but there is a view to behold at the top that leaves one feeling accomplished and satisfied. The valleys are low and sometimes very dark from the trees shutting out the light from above, but there is something new to see in the valley even still. I believe God calls us to both places. If we are given new glasses, it takes time for our eyes to adjust, but in the end we see the world around us in a different way.

God desires for our lives to be ones filled with vibrant color and for us to become individuals and families who thrive! In order for this to happen, we have to be willing to flex; to be creatures willing to change. I asked myself this question last week, “Have I made room in my life for Jesus to move around and to change things in my heart?” I was disappointed when I discovered I had only allowed Jesus to fit into the cracks of my life instead of giving him enough room to work in my life. In order to make more room, I have to be willing to cut some things out of my life or move them around in priority; I have to be willing to change. This is hard. This takes time.

In Alaska, people are aware of the drastic seasons. They spend time weather-proofing and preparing for the long winter. They are aware of and anticipate the coming change. May we as individuals who seek to live fuller lives, full of Jesus, hope for, open our hearts to, and anticipate the coming change.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’” - Jesus (John 10:10&11 NIV)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Rain Rolls In

The rain rolls in,
billowing, pushing plumes of H2o and oxygen
up against the trees.
The rest of the sky hangs low and blue over the hills,
shielding us from something; protecting.
The pine needles shiver and dance
with their partner the branch.
This time the wind is the rhythm and
the droplets of rain are the melody.
A fishing boat drifts by in the grey and
winks back with an orange glint in its eye.
Waves, steel blue, bobbing up and down.
Brown, the land curves towards the expansive
windows I sit behind, watching
the rain roll in.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wide Open Spaces

I took a drive. There was an hour to kill between classes and I took a drive. Sometimes there is a craving deep within me for wide open spaces.

The view outside my windshield was mostly brown, but there was the glint of sunshine off in the distance as it teased the turning hands of the windmills. Leaning forward in my seat, as if the action would suddenly tele-port me to be with the waving hands of the windmills on those blue-brown hills, I let my thoughts travel the wide-open spaces.

Driving the hilly passage of Frog Hollow Road, I looked out of the corner of my eye and watched as fields and hills rolled passed my window frame like the waves of the sea. Brown fields transformed into the wide open spaces of waves and wind-swept fields of winter. Beautiful.

If I think about it, I am living the dream: I attend a private university, have a car, two jobs, and am part of a religion that strives to know what 'Present Truth' is. The 'dream' can sometimes turn into a bubble of sorts; a lot of time spent honing your mind and writing skills to achieve a personal goal of graduating with a degree. And, is that degree enough? Will my life breech this bubble eventually and flourish; reaching towards what is good and what is good for others as well?

Lately, as winter quarter has been drawing to a close and the sunshine has shown its glorious face giving those of us who live in the upper left U.S.A. that there is hope for summer, conversations with friends have turned towards graduation, but more importantly life after graduation. Let's be honest, the world is shifting. For those studying the sciences and aiming for jobs in healthcare: healthcare is changing its focus and those unknowns make a future ambiguous. For those of us graduating with B.A. degrees of some sort, we often wonder if we'll ever find a job that aligns with our degree without having to go to graduate school and then start wondering if we should have gone to nursing school afterall.

This is why I go to the wide-open spaces. Not only does it give me time to be and to breathe, but it gives me space to wonder and ponder and actually look at the physical landscape of the earth and the way Eastern Washington is so wide-open, it reminds me that my life, goals, and future is WIDE-OPEN!

My degree does not define me. The unknowns don't define me, but the way I approach the wide-open present moment and future does, because how I react to this present moment does in fact define who I am and how my future is shaped. In Jesus I have my identity, but he created me to have a brain that holds perspective, the ability to see beyond myself, and a faith that gets out of the chair and walks into action-into the wide-open spaces.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What if the earth could console itself?

What if the earth could console itself?
Molding green, blue together.
Would it be fuller?

What if the world could console itself?
Rain and wind dancing together.
Would hands grasp another?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

καλός μόνος

Smooth sidewalks spread all over like cracks in an iced-over pond. Trees older than the brick buildings next to them stand with arms held open-wide in praise. The grass below and beside hasn't yet decided if its going to wear its winter or spring color, but I know. My flannel shirt is the top layer of my two-shirt combination and my scarf hangs on the chair next to me. My brown leather boots laced and tied to the top. It's winter. The world has chosen its attitude with the season and I look out these huge framed windows over its scene and find that my soul is still along with the world outside. This is good.

In Greek, the word for "good" is καλός (kalos). This word also means beautiful. Stop and think or meditate for a moment on the word "good." What sort of connotations, pictures, or emotions do you associate with this word? 

Often when I think of the word "good" I see pictures of places, people, or times when I see people or myself smiling. And the occasions with smiles aren't just anytime, but when the smile was derived from something pure like watching a sunset with a friend, sitting in the pew at vespers and hearing the Gospel spoken with new words, seeing good friends after months, making rice and lentils in fellowship, or having a child fall asleep in your arms during church. 

It's an incredible paradox that there is even καλός in our world. Adam and Eve chose to know the distinction between what was good and what wasn't. Before The Choice that shaped what our world looks like today, they knew only καλός. Only good. Only good. Can you imagine? And so we live in a world of the knowledge between what is good and what isn't. We now have the opposite choice to make. We have the choice to see only good. Only good. 

Καλός μόνος.

May we reach towards Jesus with the goal of becoming more like our original created being. May we see the contrast in our day and may we seek to see the good and move towards the wholeness of our creation.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Door

The door.
It has a way through and a way out.
I consider it as I stand about.
The way it is built strong,
I cannot relate with its structural stays
knowing within this door a body lays
on a bed of white sheets.
White, a reflection of my hands as I hold them tight
in anticipation of a long-suffering night.
For this body is hooked up to machines
and I often do not know if this body will sleep in peace.
The door.
It has a way through and a way out.
A frame of passageway I wonder about.
Knowing within this door a body lays
with a head and a heart and blood running through those veins.
Again I look down and see a tag
with the words "CHAPLAIN" written in black.
I've been named with so much to give
and what if my words are not what they need to live?
Oh, but I am reminded:
Words are not needed.
Only a hand to hold and a heart wide-open.
These are the gifts we are given.
So, I told those hands to open and my feet to move
and I knew I had nothing to loose
because we are given a great gift of connection!
One where we find love and affection.
Moving towards the door,
I looked harder than before
and found as I walked through
a face much like my own.
And this is where the healing takes place
when we look at each other and can see a face
and not just some colored space where
there might be an eye and a nose,
but a face in which communion in brokenness knows
there is the gift of
the door.

In my work as an intern chaplain at the hospital, I find myself standing before many doors every day. Each door is a physical and metaphorical passageway into someone else's life. I am reminded often as I walk through these doorways what a gift I have been given as a broken human being to have the opportunity to connect with another's heart in a matter of moments. It's an extremely humbling experience. Now, full and deep connection doesn't always take place and I respect and can often relate to the patient's boundaries for when they do not feel comfortable sharing, but when connection does happen it is a beautiful awakening in which I realize the patient and I are not much different from one another. We are broken human beings in need of a Savior who will restore us. May we become aware of the great gift we are given in each other and feel the full weight of the importance of being with someone, valuing them.