This Sunday we will be celebrating Love, particularly the love God has for all of us.
I believe the word LOVE is a word we often use carelessly. I say this because the word LOVE has its definition in what and who we want to love, who we want to love us, and what our definition of love means. The love of God for us is built into our DNA. It is always and forever, dependent only on the constant nature of our God who dwells within and is constantly leaning into us, desiring a deeper connection, a stronger uninterrupted knowing. When we read the scripture that announces, “Love casts out all fear and does not involve punishment,” those of us who live prisoner to deep abiding wounds, prese our lips and think, “If this is love, if this is true, why am I afraid?” Why does it hurt when someone we care about extravagantly shares their love for us and then our protective mechanisms kick in and create all sorts of reasons about how the presence this extravagant love must have hidden or unhealthy motives? It hurts because our unhealed wounds are desperate thieves and liars who want us to feel like they do, unworthy, not good enough, not important. How can we trust the love of another, especially our Creator, when we allow our cells to be on high alert to protect us from the possibility of being alone, abandoned or misunderstood? One of the saddest realities among us is how many of us sabotage the love we seek by believing we will be devoured and unable to be free to be who we are. The truth is, healthy love empowers one to be their best self and then live into their gifts and dreams. Unhealed wounds may be able to lead others to healing waters, but the reality is, they become a lens of either – or, confusing independence with the empowering journey of inter-dependence that creates connection that causes us to soar, expanding us to be able to receive more love and give more love. It’s amazing how fast we can conjure reasons to run like the wind away from the presence of the very thing we need, love, and then blame or shame the presence of this present love into silence.
Extravagant love joyfully pours itself out for another. Jesus had to cram pouring out God’s extravagant love into a 3.5 year journey and his pouring caused either extravagant peace and joy, or internal, and then external chaos, everywhere he went. The impact of the love of God depends on the state of our minds with regard to the state of our wholeness. Many of us miss the birth of love, the opportunity for loving healing relationships, because our wounds, our cellular memory, our unconscious, demands love to look and feel a certain way, a way we have defined as “safe”, because we are trying to be in control of the uncontrollable.
This Friday my daughter Amy and I will enter into our traditional Christmas date that we anticipate with wonder and joy every Advent. We will dress up and go out to enjoy a beautiful meal, sweet and fun conversation, and then venture to the Jack Singer Hall to watch and FEEL the music and movement of The Nutcracker. Amy and I have been enjoying this date with love, music and movement for twelve years. One of the beautiful aspects of this familiar adventure is that each year, both of us are independently moved by a different piece of music, familiar music to be sure, however, we acknowledge that time has passed and we are evolving, experiencing a new moment. Our acknowledgment of being moved by what we are experiencing creates room for the familiar to surprise us and fill us with joy. Every year, we glance at one another in a different place in The Nutcracker and we smile in awe and appreciation of the music, of the movement and for our relationship, our shared love for one another. This is yearly shared experience is intentional because we allow room for love and music to rapture our senses. Life is too fleeting to allow the past to steal love’s rapture, love’s gifts and love’s empowering lessons.
Everyone of us have been created by perfection to enter into the world of imperfections where for whatever reason, fear continues to try keeping us living wounded, emotional and spiritual zombies, desperately searching to be devoured by love. Extravagant love, God’s unexpected love alive in another, the kind that intrigues, surprises and opens our hungry wounds, arrives when we least expect it, when we most need it and usually when we believe we are open and ready while we lace up our inner and outer track shoes. The deal is, real love, extravagant love, and God’s love can be terrifying, especially for our wounds who do not want to lose their grip on us. But as a friend recently shared with me, things that are terrifying can be “Kinda Awesome”. This Advent, dare to receive the “awesome” this Christmas because love is on its way…in fact, it may have already knocked your socks off while you are tripping on your laces. Love and music have a way of stripping us to our beautiful core. Terrifying? No! Beautiful and healing and freeing! When the love we need shows up, may we dare to take the plunge and be fully immersed in the extravagance God has gifted to us, trusting that we will land upon the shore of safe and encouraging sands.
If our countenance is authentic, what does it reveal about the state of the union of our hearts and minds?
What does “being filled with joy” mean to you?
What or who is the source of your joy?
When do you feel joy?
Where does joy come from?
Who is joy to you?
How do you become filled with joy?
Come to church this Sunday and bring your questions. Joy is waiting to fill you. Fill like getting pregnant with joy?
Next Sunday we will be lighting the Candle of Peace not long after we have passed the peace.
The peace…hum, I began to wonder if many of us or any of us are aware of what passing the peace really means. Then I began to wonder if we knew what it meant would we keep enjoying our weekly love fest, the hugs, the kisses and the handshakes, or would we enter into the role of being God’s peace, intent on creating God’s peace in our midst?
First, I thought, whose peace am I passing and what have the effects of my passing the peace been? Then I began asking a few questions like: WHAT exactly is THE PEACE? WHERE can I find PEACE? WHO is the source of PEACE? If THE PEACE is something unworldly, HOW can I access it and exchange my anxieties for the real deal, for PEACE? WHEN is PEACE available?
I received some answers and, well, these answers sent me to PEACE where I sat down and indulged myself and you know what happened? I became PEACE. This Sunday I am prepared to pass THE PEACE with you because I AM with I AM. Daily I make room for God to rule in my heart and my life and I end my prayer saying, “Your will be done in me and on earth as it is in heaven”. And guess what? PEACE reigns in my soul even when it is raining impossibilities on the outside. Mary, the mother of Jesus, understood this experience all too well. Join me this Sunday as we explore THE PEACE that we are called to be, THE PEACE that passes all understanding, THE PEACE of who God is and longs to become within us.
- A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
“he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information”
synonyms: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, design
a feeling of trust
- want something to happen or be the case.
“he’s hoping for an offer of compensation”
synonyms: expect, anticipate, look for, be hopeful of, pin one’s
hopes on, want
This is Google’s definition of “hope”. When I was a little girl, living with my father and step-mother, waiting for my mother to pick me up for my weekend visit I would sit in the window and hope that she wasn’t going to be late because I would lose time with her. When I was a teenager, I hoped my boyfriend would call me the day after we kissed. When I was married, I hoped we would have healthy children and a strong and happy family. Today I have two spiritually and physically healthy adult daughters with strong and happy marriages as well as two healthy and happy grandsons, oh yea, and two failed marriages. So now I hope that I have grown, healed and will continue to live a whole and authentic personal and professional life. Most of my hopes are for others – for my family, friends, my church and the world. I hope to be healthy for a long time so I can continue to practice the presence of God and give God’s love away. I hope to dance with my grandsons at their weddings. I hope to finish my books, record my songs and make people laugh and ponder until my last breath.
These are my hopes, but what is the Biblical definition of hope? I don’t think it’s “I hope the Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl”. Biblical hope is not a hope-so but it is a know-so. It has nothing to do with feelings and it isn’t a waiting game watching for things to turn out the way we wish. Hope is about possessing knowledge of facts. Lately, I have heard many people say, “I hope things turn out the way we hope” but these good intentions do not provide any guarantee. To possess a biblical hope is to live into the anthem the choir sang last Sunday which encouraged us to place the anchor of our soul into the Rock of who God is and will always be. Hoping in God’s nature and God’s desires for us has nothing to do with wishful thinking which is completely powerless to make anything happen. As a Christian, a follower of the ways of Christ, my hope is concrete in the unchanging heart of God who cannot lie (Hebrews 6:8). My hope is wrapped up in “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
This coming Sunday we will enter the Season of Advent where we hope for the coming of Jesus. I know that no matter what unfolds between now and Christmas Day, my faith will not be shaken by what I see or do not see, for I know and trust God because I have seen his/her faithfulness to me. The Star of Hope is already in the sky. I invite you to join the Jedi Magi and me as we find the manger underneath a Death Star and rescue the promised Holy Jedi. The Force is with us so if you need your hope to awaken, come join The Force. God promises you will not be disappointed. I don’t know what is coming, but I know we are not alone.
Yesterday a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:
“We need more love in the world, so let’s keep it going! If you like this status I will tell you something I like about you. Feel free to do the same in your own status.
So I pushed “like” and an hour later this is what she wrote about me:
“I am so grateful that you are in Calgary and that I know you. You are upper division compassionate. Your empathy is wide. But you are also a do-er. You are the change you want to see in the world, and you live your authenticity every day. I so admire and respect that.”
I am not sharing this to toot my own horn. I am sharing this because the timing of her affirmation for me could not have been more perfect. Her words reminded me of Proverb 25:25
“Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.” My friend does not know what is going on in my life but God knows and I believe the Sacred sent me some much needed encouragement yesterday. As of noon today, she has sent affirmations to 125 people on Facebook and their responses mirrored my own.
This Sunday is Children’s Sunday in the liturgical year and I am preaching on the power of a word. I have been researching what children around the world are feeling and saying about a bully being elected as President of the United States. The uncertainty and fear that children are experiencing over Trump breaks my heart. The monies educational, government and work institutions are spending on bringing awareness to bulling and how it has literally murdered millions in personal and global wars and has also caused young people to commit suicide is astronomical.
Words are one of, if not the greatest, tool we possess. Words are free to share yet their intent may cost more than we can imagine. Words are assessable anytime we want to use them. Words were meant to be gifts not weapons.
Imagine what could happen if we contacted one person a week with the intention to share how they have made a positive difference in our lives? Imagine affirming 52 people a year! It’s easy. We can affirm the way someone gives us customer service, or the way someone smiles, or the way it feels to see how excited your grandchild is to see you. We can send a hand written note to a parent, child, friend or leader who has touched our lives in a special way. Words have the power to kill and heal. Words have the power to stop wars and bring peace.
This Sunday we will have two canvases in the Sanctuary. One has a manger painted on it while the other has a star. The children are going to take the manger canvas to Sunday School and write the words of affirmation they need to hear from adults so they may be empowered and the manger is a precious place to land. The adults are going to have an opportunity during the Offering time to write their words of affirmation for the children under the star. These canvases will hang in our Narthex during Advent as we focus our attention on “Hope Awakening” through Christ and through us.
I look forward to seeing you there, prepared to share a word that just might be the very word someone needs at such a time as this. May the Power of Peace, Hope, Joy and Love Be With Us.
The unexpected has happened. Trump had a card we didn’t expect. He looked for the broken and angry voices, he listened to them and he gave them what they wanted to hear and now he will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. He conquered and divided and then accepted his crown with a new and gentle face. Who Trump is will be revealed as all truth comes to light.
Today, voices are crying out across social media, streaming and screaming, what is going to happen to me and those I love? Some in the global church are saying, “I now believe God is not in control” while another clergy quotes Joel 2:17, “Between the vestibule and the altar, let the ministers of the Lord weep.” This morning a theologian and professor of theology and preaching at Southern Methodist University shared, “I woke up in a foreign land. For me, lamentation and weeping is not a sign of loss of hope, or loss of trust in God – but is rather biblical.”
I want to say some something to clergy and people of faith. Jesus wasn’t politically correct. He listened to the voices and needs around him and courageously spoke up and out on behalf of the marginalized, the sojourner in a foreign land, the excluded, the ones assumed untouchable and non-redeemable. He had the courage to speak the truth with love, compassion, strength and power. He was clear about his purpose. He was not running a race to win a title, but to die for love, even love for his enemies. He was bold when he spoke to the hypocritical clergy who were spiritually abusing and exploiting the church. Jesus knew his purpose and he lived into divine love courageously, with his eyes wide open, sharing the burden of the people’s pain.
As America waits to crown Trump with a title many feel he does not deserve or know how to live into, people of faith, this crowning calls us to be Christ. When we remain silent from the sidelines, afraid we will rock the boat if we speak up for the victims of abuse, exploitation, exclusivity, racisim or any other form of denigration and demoralization, we are imitating the ways of the abuser. When we refuse to be silent, when we dare to show up and when we choose to feel the burden of painful stories, we open doors for change and healing and we imitate the ways of Jesus.
The cost of imitating Christ in the church and outside her walls may be considerable and the divide may widen before enough people are willing to step out of fearing the costs and step into being light in the dark. If people of faith, if church leaders, are unwilling to speak the truth in love, we have nothing to offer the world. If we are unwilling to be people of integrity no matter the cost, what will the witness of our lives amount to at the end of our days?
Today, I am called to be brave. I am called to embrace a Hope that by nature cannot disappoint me. Today, I am called to remember that God knows me and loves me unconditionally and His/Her love is not exclusive to me. The grace of this Presidential election is it has revealed the depth, width, length and height of America’s divide and divides that exist in nations, cultures, places of worship and homes around the world. This election has taken the scales away from our eyes. We can longer pretend to be blind to ways that we are being called to be the hands, feet and heart of God in our stories and in our world. This sad and despicable race has shown us the shadows with whom we dance with in complacency and friends, the music of our selfishness must stop. Today, we are being called to rise strongly for the weak, live courageously for the exploited, love humanity greatly and awaken hope for the hopeless. This is a new ADVENT. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot extinguish it.” People and leaders of faith, be strong and courageous just as the Love that came down and dwelt among us. Hope for the hopeless lives in you and me. We were created for eternity, so for now we are all sojourners in a foreign land but we are not alone. God is with us and we are stronger together. God have mercy, Christ have mercy.
One has to learn how to be objective and then live intentionally trying to be just that…objective. Having been in Calgary 17 out of the last 21 years and now a Canadian citizen, I have been watching the presidential election circus and as a dual citizen, I am embarrassed and saddened at the actions and words from both candidates ceasing to shock me any longer. In fact, when I turn on the news, I expect to hear absurdities instead of platforms, lies instead of truths, deflections instead of plans, blame instead of leadership. Not once have my Canadian friends or my congregation cracked a joke about my country of birth or thrown the circus below our border into my face. Thank you.
The headlines of porn cameos, a shimmy, a fat Miss Universe, sexual harassment, zero accountability, affairs, I could go on and on, has captivated the world more than who shot J.R. and that was big folks…that one held millions around the world prisoner for months. Our appetite for the bizarre is bottomless. Why? Why do we keep flipping from channel to channel to get yet another biased perspective about two people degrading one another? I have been trying to find vocabulary to explain how watching all of this makes me feel and today it hit me. I feel like I did as a young child when my big brother talked me into going to the Freak Show at the Texas State Fair. As I looked at the human beings with their deformities and exotic ways of contorting, I felt scared and ashamed. I also felt sad that these people believed they had no other way to earn a living than to be exploited by self-centered managers and voyeurs who bought a ticket to laugh at another in order to feel better about themselves. I began to cry out of fear and shame and asked my brother to leave the tent with me. I shared my feelings with him and he apologized for taking me to “the show”.
The people in “the show” were real people. They had feelings, needs and dreams just like everyone else on the planet. The people in the United States are real too. And I feel helpless to bring healing to a system of governing that began with the best intentions yet currently exists as a Freak Show for the rich to run, the super-packs to empower and industries meant for healing to exploit.
The blind are leading the blind, the hungry, the hurting, the dying, the trying and the ones who have given up on being a voice in a good and just system. How do we become the change we wish to see when the stage, the system, the world we live in inside our community and home, is not respected by those with more of everything?
We step back and become objective and remember that every life matters. Everyone has a voice and we are responsible to offer our voice for the highest good of all, especially those labeled a freak. We are citizens of the Holy, not consumers of souls. We can own our desire to feel smug as we click through the channels, imprisoned in apathy instead of free to be empathizers who can make a difference. We can feel disdain for our choosing to be entertained by the circus. We can refuse to allow our lives and the futures of our children to be dominated by obscene intentions. We can be objective and realize that we are the people in control of the thermostat for our government. Our taxes, our voices, our votes, our awareness of what is just and life giving for ALL, our choices, what we accept, what we allow, is the homeostasis of where and how we live. Our hands are not tied. We are citizens of the Holy and we are here to bring create the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. As long as we have the right to choose who leads us, as long as we have the freedom to create a system that functions on a higher bar of authenticity and honesty, as long as we understand that one voice can ignite a collective voice that can bring justice and liberty, we can dismantle the theatre we have co-created with those who lead us and build a new way living together.
I believe God desires us to be a people who share our gifts and our strengths with one another. Perhaps I am watching the United States implode and deconstruct itself to make room for real change. I cast my vote, I shared my voice but I am not finished. My letters to the local government leaders in Tarrant County Texas are on their way. My letter of gratitude to President Obama and First Lady Michelle is still in the works. My letter to the next President of the United States is pregnant and in labour. America is the Land of the Free where we have the hard-earned privilege to lift our voices and cast our votes while many voices we share the planet with are silenced under dictatorship. Where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom. I wonder, do we think and live as people who are truly free or have we accepted a freak show that exists on the sweat of our backs? Are we a people worthy of our freedom? We’ll see, that’s for sure. The show’s almost over. CLICK.
The Trial of Resurrection – October 24, 2016
Today was an interesting day for sure. A day that sent me to read and think about Jesus on trial and I wondered…
What do you do when you are doing your best but others read meanings into your words and actions that are inaccurate and hurtful?
What do you do when a story has been crafted about you to deflect from what is really going on?
What do you do when you stand up for something that is true because you love the offender and the offended yet those you are trying to help and protect have swallowed a lie and do not know it?
What do you do when you have taken an oath, live into that oath the best you can, and by doing so you are crucified by tongues?
What do you do when you follow the ways of Christ and have no security?
What do you do when your family and friends are tired of the drama you want and need so badly to end with understanding and healing?
What do you do when you are in a room with people who don’t understand the urgency to deal with elephant in the room?
You seek wisdom.
You obey the Spirit over all other well intended or ill intended voices.
You love anyway.
You serve anyway.
You trust God anyway.
You speak truth anyway.
You choose silence in front of those deceived and love them anyway.
You spend yourself on those seeking the Spirit for no time is wasted and every soul matters.
You take care of yourself.
You have healthy boundaries.
You live aware of balance.
You pray. You pray. You pray.
And then you wait…trusting God…trusting that God is true to her nature of desiring love and wholeness for all and that all things hidden and in need of healing will come to light. And those who have the chance to be informed by the light will be healed but those who choose to stay in the dark, you love them anyway.
You love them all. You forgive them all. That’s what you do for that is what God does for you and for me every day. Every day God’s love is swallowing us whole no matter what.
So much of the time we want to hear “It is finished” without learning how to be poured out for love.
Resurrection is coming.
I’m a little broken teacup short and stout…
Confirming the Affirming – October 12, 2016
Last weekend I met with some youth and adults in my home to explore our faith. The fireplace was on and gentle music surrounded us as we open the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and dove in with abandonment. We looked at human creations, creeds and doctrines, written by groups of intentional sojourners and scholars who desired to give voice by way of definition to their individual and communal experiences with God. No question was off limit and no insight discarded. While I facilitated the conversation, and did a great deal of teaching, I enjoyed becoming a student of my students. I separated folks into two groups. One group read Genesis Chapter 1 while the other group read Genesis Chapter 2. When we came back together to share our experiences with two creation stories two young people shared this with the group:
“It was like God was just sitting in the dark by himself fiddling his thumbs and said to himself, “I’ve got to move. I am bored.” So God began to move and think about things and then BOOM! He thought about light and BOOM light was created and God said, “Cool. That’s really good!” Then God began to think about water and dirt and BOOM! Water and dirt were created. And God said, “Cool! That’s really good.”
I loved their enthusiasm with their interpretation and responded, “That is a really awesome perspective on creation. I love the idea that God’s thoughts and energy manifest creations! And I love that God enjoyed the experience and thought His/Her creations were good. And I love that God took some time to celebrate each creation and have fun creating.”
Smiling and glowing they said, “Yeah right?”
I said, “Imagine what the world would be like if we were so connected into God by faith, by practice, that our thoughts did the same thing? Because the truth is that we do effect change with our thoughts and energy. What is the change we want to see? The answer depends on the change we are willing to be.”
On Sunday, three youth and three adults were confirmed into the United Church of Canada and another adult transferred her letter of membership from a sister congregation into our congregation. Last Sunday seven people joined our Living Spirit family of faith. It was a day that confirmed for me that affirming one another’s experience with God is a bridge we need to build together so we may be able to experience wholeness in God. We all have snippets of the Holy and only when we join our snippets together will we be able to behold the mystery that lives within all.
National Coming Out Day – Thoughts from Traci Hubbard
I believe the human journey is all about stepping out into being a whole person. The term “Coming Out” speaks to me across the spectrum of humanity. To become whole persons, living joyfully and fearlessly into our purpose on the planet requires us to step out of anything that is holding us captive from living authentically. For me, the term “coming out” means letting go of all that is false and life stealing and “stepping into” all that is true and life giving. This movement is a courageous act for the arena we step into has spectators in comfortable seats watching, assuming and judging. This being true, there are also people willing to step into the arena with us, cheering us on and wiping the blood and sweat off of our faces and these are the people whose opinions matter. Coming out and stepping out means something different to every soul on the planet. We all have personal work to do as we discover our work and our pathways on our journey. If we would all dare greatly and step out of the dark and into the light just imagine what we could create together!