Thursday, April 30, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
This afternoon has been wonderful. My boys are asleep. My dishwasher and washing machine are humming away. My floors are clean (this is rare, and will last for exactly 30 seconds after the kids wake up). Everything is quiet.
I sat on the big chair in my living room and looked around... seeing, hearing, and feeling that I am blessed.
Finger prints on windows, appliances, and furniture: Children live here.
Flowers on the table: My friend loves me.
Books everywhere: We are learning together.
Toys behind the couch: We have been playing hard.
Pictures and art on the walls: This is our story.
Monday, April 27, 2009
faith and doubt
pain and joy
love and loss
bitter and sweet
always and -- never or.
both, not either.
there's talk of times and seasons
these things were orderly,
spring following winter;
collectible cars behind
the fire brigade.
but on my street
the marching bands
and waving hands
and floral floats
and four-wheeled boats
and dancing troupes
and hula hoops
are in a heap.
Friday, April 24, 2009
The Perfume Filled the Lepers House, by Wayne Forte
We live in a culture that worships balance. When someone is stressed out, how often have I heard (or given) the advice, You just have to find the right balance. High school students are told that colleges want "well-rounded" students -- students who have demonstrated the ability to balance schoolwork, extracurriculars, sports, volunteer work, etc. As adults we all look for that perfect balance of work, family, and recreation.
Depending on who you ask, Jesus was either the most balanced man to walk the earth or the most unbalanced. I'm not sure what to think about that. He did seem to balance his public and private time well, withdrawing from crowds to be alone or with his close friends. But he also condoned acts of unbalanced extravagance: the wedding at Cana and his anointing at Bethany come to mind, not to mention telling his disciples to take up a cross and follow him into death.
I wonder if Jesus cares whether or not we live 'balanced' lives. Is that why he lived, died, and rose? So we can juggle all the balls without dropping them? Is that discipleship?
We know it's not, and yet that is hard to remember in the midst of our balance-loving culture. We know it's not about balance. It's about calling. Maybe there are times when God's calling is not in opposition to a so-called balanced life. But when it is -- when God calls us to do something extravagant, crazy, unbalanced -- which way will we choose? Will we break the jar of perfume? Will we allow our very selves to be broken vessels, poured out in love at the feet of Jesus?
I can juggle fairly well, but I think it might be time to let the balls fall where they will and just listen.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
There is an unspoken annual holiday in Seattle, celebrated city-wide. It is usually observed in late-April, though the date varies from year to year. When this holiday arrives, people take off work, skip school, cancel meetings, and ditch appointments. There is no official name for this holiday, but I have dubbed it The Day of the Sun.
It is the first day of honest-to-goodness beautiful weather -- sunny and warm, bright blue sky, no wind... glorious. Today is that day.
For those of you who live in warm climates, this will not make any sense to you. But today, people in Seattle are losing their minds over this weather. Losing. Their. Minds. The thermometer in my backyard says 65 degrees, and I have seen guys without shirts on, girls laying out in bathing suits, convertible tops down, and full parking lots at the beaches and parks. It's madness and I love it.
We just had a picnic lunch in the backyard, and now that the boys are sleeping I'm headed back out there. If you're in Seattle -- get outside!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Tonight I saw my first ballet.
I had to leave space after that sentence because I can hardly begin to describe it... I was completely blown away.
My friend Christy and I treated ourselves to an early Mother's Day present and saw Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of Swan Lake. I was excited enough before it even began - just sitting in our amazing seats, admiring the sparkly red curtain and listening to the orchestra play the prelude music. When the curtain came up I could hardly take in what I saw: the beautiful faces and bodies and costumes moving gracefully across the spectacular set... It was more than my poor eyes could handle, and they blurred with tears of protest against the overwhelming magnitude of it all. For a good part of the first act I was just trying to regain my composure and not miss a single moment.
Start to finish, it was an incredible night. The perfect first ballet experience, and hopefully the first of many!
Friday, April 17, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Verrijzenis (Resurrection) by Paul van Dongen
Like poor little Alexander of children's book fame, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day yesterday. I mean, it was a real stinker. One of those days where, by the end, you don't even know what you're upset about anymore. Where your state of emotional disintegration goes far beyond what could be considered a reasonable reaction to the present circumstances. Where you feel utterly and completely done: defeated, crumpled, and lying in pieces. Broken.
[I feel the need to stop here and remind my readers that I am a criminally over-dramatic person. Don't freak out - I'm OK now. Really.]
Anyway, this morning I woke up with a crying hangover but very thankful for a new day. As I drove to work I put some Sara Groves on the iPod, and the words were exactly what I needed to hear.
Friend I know your heart is raw
but love is still a worthy cause
Picking up and pressing on
O love is still a worthy cause
So today, though my heart is still raw, I will pick up, press on, love, and be loved. It is a worthy cause.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Journey, by Matthew Whitney (commissioned for John Knox Presbyterian Church)
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"
"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. It is also Brian Moss' last Sunday as the Director of Worship, Music & the Arts at John Knox Presbyterian Church. He will soon be moving to Vancouver, BC to attend Regent College, on his way toward a Master's of Divinity and ordination in the Presbyterian church.
Since we moved here almost two years ago, Brian has been our worship leader, our neighbor, and our friend. We have shared meals, drinks, movies, games, books, art, and lots of good music together. We have laughed a lot and cried some too. We have prayed for each other.
Brian, we love you and we will miss you.
[Stephanie and kiddos, we love you too but you're not leaving for awhile... and I am so not ready to think about that yet!]
I will end this post with the words to one of my favorite songs. Brian wrote this as a hymn for today, Holy Saturday.
Here In Between (listen)
Here in between the death and life
Of broken God and risen Christ
We watch and wait, we kneel and pray
For hope to breathe at break of day
The temple torn by sacrifice
How can this be the way?
The Son of God nailed to a tree
This is not how we thought it'd be
Your condemnation makes no sense
An act of hate and violence
We broke the bread and spilled the wine
How can this be the way?
Within this day of Sabbath rest-
A gift to those whom you have blessed-
Your peace transforms our hearts content
In this already and not yet
In stillness beats the drum of life
How can this be the way?
Your never-ending sovereignty
Still flickers with eternity
It brightens fading eventide
The gospel hums of mercy wide
Oh Lord of Life, open Your eyes
You are the only way.
Trial, by Matthew Whitney (commissioned for John Knox Presbyterian Church)
Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?" But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
Now it was the governor's custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, "Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.
While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
"Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor.
"Barabbas," they answered.
"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked.
They all answered, "Crucify him!"
"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"
All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"
Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I have a love/hate relationship with preschool art projects. On one hand, I love seeing the creativity of my three-year-old. On the other hand, honestly - what am I supposed to do with the half dozen pieces of macaroni-bedazzled paper that come through my doors each week?
This week they talked about Easter at preschool, so Nate brought home a tissue-paper stained glass window with a cross on it. He wanted to hang it in a window. Great - how about in your bedroom? Nope. Window on the kitchen door? No, Mommy. I want to hang it on that window (points to front window in the living room, facing the street). Um... Can't we just put it on your window - then you could see it when you're in your room! No, no, I want it on that window, right in the middle.
He was not to be dissuaded. I gave in, taped it up, and went back to emptying the dishwasher.
Five minutes later Nate calls out to me from the living room, Hey Mommy! Yes Nate? Do you know why I wanted to put it on this window? No, why Nate? Because now everyone who comes to our house will remember that Jesus died on a cross.
Can't argue with that now, can I?
Feast / Flood by Matthew Whitney (commissioned for John Knox Presbyterian Church)
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
by Scott Erickson
Last night at the prayer meeting we shared requests with one another and prayed for each other. I asked that we pray for our church as we begin this huge transition process -- even as we were meeting to pray, our session was meeting to discuss the hiring of two new staff members (interim worship director and interim senior pastor). The second part of my request was related, but on a personal level - for wisdom and insight into how God wants to use me during the transition process. I've been praying about that for awhile, for clarity and a sense of God's call and purpose for me in the church. I tend to spread myself too thin and get my hand in too many things, and at a time like this there is even more potential for that. So I've been asking God where He wants me.
This morning I got some answers, but (in his usual way) God answered the questions behind the question... which are always more important anyway. The question behind, Where do you want me? has actually been, Can you really use me? Or will I overstep and over-commit and burn out? And behind those questions are others: Will we be OK? Will I be OK?
Here is God's answer from Psalm 92, verses 12-15.
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, "The LORD is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.
Where does God want me?
Where I am planted, in the house of the Lord.
Can God use me?
I will bear fruit throughout my lifetime, even in my old age.
Will we be OK?
No. We will flourish.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Today is the first day of Holy Week, which marks the days between Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Our church will be introducing new works of art in four different genres at each of the four Holy Week services (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday). Visual artist Matt Whitney created four paintings, poet Hannah Notess wrote four poems, dancer Stephanie Moss choreographed four dances, and musician Brian Moss wrote four songs, all corresponding to this week's holy days.
The image above is the painting for today, Palm Sunday. Matt took photos of individuals from our congregation and painted them into his work, interweaving the Biblical stories with our own individual lives and stories. Our very own Jon Ballast was the model for this painting -- maybe I'm biased but I think it is absolutely amazing. I'll try to post an image of each painting on their corresponding days this week. If you're in the area, come by for one of our Holy Week services to worship with us and experience all the new art.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
...introducing my brand-spankin-new nephew, Noah Charlie Thompson!
My brother Travis, his wife Emma, and their son Joey welcomed their new little one into the world on April 2 at 6:20 PM. Weighing in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces, Noah is beyond precious -- perfect skin, blue eyes, light brown hair, pure white eyelashes and eyebrows.
I took the boys to meet their cousin at the hospital last night and they loved it. Dexter kept pointing out all Noah's body parts ("Baby eyes! Baby hair! Baby mouth!") and Nate got to hold him on his lap with a little help.
We love you Baby Noah!
(He was only a few minutes old in this picture... he's cheered up a lot since then!)
Friday, April 3, 2009
leaf buds on our lilac tree
The calendar says that March 20 was the first day of Spring, but let the record books show that the real first day of Spring in Seattle this year was April 3. It is simply glorious outside today.
I weeded the raspberry patch this afternoon. It was the first time I've worked in the garden this season and it made me blissfully happy. I get lost out there, addicted to the warmth of sun on my back, the sound of birds hopping between branches, the smell of earth and new life.
I know this giddiness will probably fade, but right now I feel like turning my computer off until early October and spending every one of my precious nap-time minutes in the garden. If you don't see me for awhile, that's where I'll be...
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Jacob and the Angel by Wayne Forte
When a person first decides to follow Christ, there are some basic questions that naturally arise. How do I follow Christ in my daily life? How does following Christ change my attitudes, thoughts, and relationships? What does it mean to trust God? How do I know God's will for my life?
Everyone who chooses to follow Christ will wrestle with these basic questions. But what I'm realizing (again) is that this wrestling is a repetitive, perpetual part of our discipleship. There will never be a point where I can truthfully say that I'm done answering these questions, and if I can there's a problem. The basic questions are, in fact, the only questions, and struggling with their answers is the essence of discipleship.
One of the most paralyzing things in my spiritual life is the defeated feeling that I have still not answered these questions adequately. I get stuck in place, frozen by the fear that I will screw up again and fill in the wrong bubble on my spiritual scantron sheet. Where did I get the idea that this is how it is, how life is, how God is? Not from the Bible, and there's only one other source. It's the familiar voice from the garden, Did God really say...? Satan was the original over-analyzer.
There is something God has been saying to me over and over lately, particularly in the times when fear, confusion, and sadness have crept in and set up camp. Keep walking. Keep walking. That's it. Don't stand there paralyzed, analyzing whether or not you're paralyzed and why and what that means. Take a step, and then another. Keep walking, and keep wrestling with the basic questions of faith. So here I go. Like Jacob, I am limping along my blessed way.