“Brighten the Corner Where You Are”

The lectionary passage this past Sunday was Psalm 27:1, 4-9. The first verse resonated with me. “The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

While I am familiar with the Psalm, when I heard it, it soaked into my being as verses sometimes do so I had to read it in it’s entirity. The Psalmist is in a terrible situation and God will make all the folks who threaten him/her stumble and fall. As I read I thought, “Wait a minute! I’m not being threatened by anyone. I don’t have to worry about being killed!” But at the risk of taking the Psalmist out-of- context, I AM at the risk of falling into my depression and I’m not going to do it. If I catch it early enough, I often can prevent it from taking over.

I will start by remembering this verse. God is my help and salvation. Martin Luther often slung an inkpot at the place in the room where he thought the devil was, yelling “I am baptized” and you can’t get me, devil! While remembering my baptism doesn’t have the effect on me that it had on Luther and others, it does help me immensely to think of being in the light. I often close my eyes and feel God’s light basking over me. One of my Facebook friends, Fred Wise, is an incredible artist and thinker.

"Brighten the corner where you are."

“Brighten the corner where you are.”

A few weeks ago, he posted this picture of himself bathed in light and gave me permission to share it here. He wrote, “Brighten the corner where you are.” I’m trying to remember these words, for I’ve been hit again with the realization there is much I am unable to do. There’s a huge march in Raleigh on Feb. 8 and I would love to go. However, after considering all the options for getting there, I decided it is just too difficult for me to attend. Perhaps I am not called to go to Raleigh, but there are other things I can do here.

I love the story Mark Ramsey told in a sermon about Will Campbell and a priest in New Jersey. In the 60’s, the priest called Campbell and said he wanted to come down south and join his ministry because he felt called to do something important with his life. Campbell asked him where he was and the priest told him he was in a glass phone booth in Newark. Campbell asked him if the streets were deserted as he looked out the window and the man said, “No, there are lots of people out there.” Campbell then said, “Well son, that’s your ministry. Go to it.” My ministry may not be to go to Raleigh but I, like all of us, need to minister right where we are.

In worship yesterday the choir sang an arrangement of a Hebrew Folk song by Schlomo Carlebach written by Samuel Adler. Esa EinaiThe words are from Psalm 121. “I lift my eyes up to the mountains. From where does my help come? My help comes from the One who made the heavens and the earth.” It’s a catchy tune. The choir anthem was in Hebrew which was fun to sing but I liked singing the English transliteration for the song has more meaning for me then.

So today, I am remembering both of these popular Psalms. I particularly like the final verses of Psalm 27 which reads, “Wait for The Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for The Lord.” I do not know what my future holds and it is so easy to fall into depression. When I’m there, I can’t help thinking about the things I cannot do. As I sing, pray and try new things, I will wait for God to lead me

A Prayer

I read the following prayer by James Finley, today in Richard Rohr’s daily blog post and several thoughts came to my mind. The picture below is of a 10,000 year old cave painting called “Tree of Life” and it appeared above the prayer.

"Tree of Life" A 10,000 year old cave painting.

“Tree of Life” A 10,000 year old cave painting.

May each of us be so fortunate as to be overtaken by God in the midst of little things. May we each be so blessed as to be finished off by God, swooping down from above or welling up from beneath, to extinguish the illusion of separateness that perpetuates our fears. May we, in having our illusory, separate self slain by God, be born into a new and true awareness of who we really are: one with God forever. May we continue on in this true awareness, seeing in each and every little thing we see the fullness of God’s presence in our lives. May we also be someone in whose presence others are better able to recognize God’s presence in their lives, so that they, too, might know the freedom of the children of God.

It is difficult to be overtaken by God in the midst of little things. We run from one commitment to the next without having time to pay attention. I don’t believe God wants us to spend our lives like this. Colossians 3:1 – 2 says, “Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.” (New Jerusalem Bible). Christ is in the little things meaning we must find Christ in the midst of them. As much as I dislike being a TBI survivor one benefit is, I HAVE to slow down. It gives me time to look for the things that are above which most often are the little things.

We think we can do it alone – or rather separately – which isn’t true at all. It seems those of us who have disabilities are more aware of this fact than others and it is so very true. I sometimes find myself not doing things because I believe someone who doesn’t have my TBI challenges can do it better or faster. It seems our society rewards folks who work or play “better” than anyone else but often “better” is a judgment call. I’m also coming to the conclusion that “faster” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for often, much is lost in the process.

Waters of Baptism

Yesterday was the Baptism of the Lord Sunday when we are invited to remember our own baptism and what it means for our lives.  I don’t like to admit it, but I can’t get into the day AT ALL. I imagine there are others who can’t get into my favorite time of the church year which is Lent, so I guess it all evens out.

Since I attend two different churches, a Presbyterian church in the morning and an Alliance of Baptist/UCC church in the late afternoon, I listened to two different sermons on Matthew 3:13 – 17. I even heard the same sermon illustration about German Reformer Martin Luther. He kept an inscription over his desk that read, “Remember, you are baptized.” He would often touch his forehead and remind himself, “Martin, you are baptized.” Sometimes, he would grab something near-by and throw it at the place in the room where he felt the devil’s presence and say, “I am baptized.”

In the morning we had an opportunity to “remember our baptism” by dipping our fingers into a bowl of water. I couldn’t help myself as I plunged my hand into the bowl, swishing my fingers around as I played in the water. Fortunately, the Elder serving didn’t chastise me or no child was around to see my irreverence. I watched as others first touched the water with their fingertips and then made the sign of the cross on their forehead. Like Luther, the ritual certainly had meaning for them even if it fell flat for me.

Last night at Circle of Mercy in the evening, Nancy Sehested painted a picture of Jesus and John the Baptist fighting over who would baptize who. We also sang several water themed songs such as an African Freedom song, Wind Upon the Waters. The following is one verse from it:

      Wind upon the waters, rain upon the sand,
Grace your sons and daughters, newborn by your hand.
Come, O Spirit, and renew all the life that comes from you,
Send your winds upon the waters of my soul.

During this service, it all came together for me. Like Kristy Farber in the morning, Nancy reminded us that after his baptism, Jesus went out into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil. He needed the baptismal waters to withstand those temptations just as we need them to withstand our own challenges. In that service, I realized how much meaning water has for me and one of the reasons I played in the bowl of water in the morning at Grace Covenant Presbyterian. Water touches the core of my being. Whenever I’m around it, I feel the creative power of God within me.

I hate that due to my hand surgery, I’m not able to swim at the Y for I always feel God’s comforting energy around water. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4, it is “living water” for me.

Jeff Clayton picture in Monterey, CAWhen Rev. Jeff Clayton posted this picture he took of the waves in Monterrey, CA. last year, I wrote and asked if I could use it in my blog. I had no idea how I would use it but I knew I would do so. This picture is what being baptized means to me. Remembering my baptism, is to remember all those times when I passed through the waters with the waves crashing around me and how I will do so again. Isaiah 43:2 comes to mind : “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”

Does the Baptism of The Lord have any meaning for you? What sort of images helps you remember God’s care as you live your life? For me, it is rivers, lakes and oceans. Feel free to share your response to either of these two questions in the comment section.

A Half Empty Glass

I hate when someone says, “You should be grateful you can do as much as you can for many TBI survivors would love to be in your shoes.” I can’t help moaning about my difficulties and watching others around me who do not have them. For this reason, I often dislike statements like the one on the right.  However this time it was just what I needed to read.

It occurred to me yesterday that two thirds of my life is over. I don’t want to spend what I have left of it worrying about what people think of me or comparing myself to others. I like my life. I really do and it’s a waste of the years I have remaining to moan about what I’ve lost.

In a sermon during Advent, Mark Ramsey reminded us that living in this moment – in faithful trust – is a spiritual struggle. We spend too much time thinking about something that has already happened or trying to control the future. It really is a spiritual struggle and one I want to take on this year.

I appreciated his suggestions for things to do as we trust. First you act’ Then you imagine a world of God’s justice and peace. In addition, you pray and you sing. The hardest thing for me in that list is acting especially when I don’t know what God is calling me to do. I think what he means is to do something – anything – even if you don’t know what to do. I have a tendency to sit around waiting for something to happen.

I’ve spent the last month sort of withdrawing from life. I had hand surgery the beginning of December and it’s taken a little while to get my energy back. I’m glad I stepped back for I feel more energized now. I have to be careful how I use that hand which is a bit of a challenge since it is my dominant one but not being able to use it has forced me to slow down. So now I am ready to act as I imagine, pray and sing.  It really doesn’t matter if my glass is half empty or half full. Two-thirds of my life is over so I’d better begin my spiritual struggle of living in the moment.  Who knows how many moments I have left?