Friday, June 22, 2018

Reflections - Besting Gaints

So there is this guy. . .

This over nine-foot-tall giant standing in a valley - facing an army and he's yelling. In a giant booming voice he's yelling " Who is going to come and fight me!" He's all decked out in his bronze armor with the Philistine army up on the mountain behind him - with Saul and the Israelites on the other side.

This is my favorite part of the David and Goliath story from the Old Testament. I can just picture it.  This bigger-than-Hagrid dude out there by himself challenging a whole army to come and take him on. The scripture says that every day, for forty days, Goliath would come out and issue his challenge with no takers.

Read 1 Samuel 17 

When I was a child in Sunday school I had a teacher who would always tell us to "Put yourself in the story."  And when I was little,  I always imagined myself as David and tried to imagine what it would feel like to be that brave.  I always imagined and hoped I would know what it would feel like to really know that God would protect me, no matter what.

David was a young shepherd and his father sent him to take food to his brothers who were soldiers  fighting for King Saul against the Philistines.  When he arrived to where they were fighting - he sees Goliath and starts asking the soldiers why no one has would battle with the giant.  Saul hears about David's inquiry and sends for him. A little insanely - yet bravely - David insists that he can fight Goliath.  Of course, this is met with doubt because he's not even a soldier. He's a punky young boy  who insists that he has to keep his flock safe from lions and bears so he has the skills to best the giant.  The rest of the story is pretty well known. David uses a simple sling shot to hit Goliath in the forehead and the giant falls over dead.  And the Philistine army runs away.

Reading the story now as I am adulting - I am thinking again about where I see myself in the story.

Some days I feel like that giant  - alone for forty days in that valley facing an army and wanting to fight everyone.

Sometimes I feel like King Saul. I imagine that Saul would have had to put a lot of his worries aside and trust that this young shepherd can accomplish what he says he will.  That's a challenge - giving up control of a situation to someone else. We all have to do that sometimes.  Both David and Saul trusted that God was with them.

Thinks to think about:
So where do you see yourself in this story?
When have you been brave because you knew that God was with you?
When have you put your trust in someone else to fight a giant?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Reflections - Finding Space to Grow

Here is what I am thinking about this week: What do we need to grow?

Not just physically -  but what do we need to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually?

This week's passage from the Gospel of Mark tells of Jesus using parables about plants to teach about the kingdom of God.

Read Mark 4: 26-34

In this passage, we find Jesus alone with the disciples explaining the parables that he told the crowd earlier in the day.  Quick Sidebar: I love the fact that the disciples, even though they were with Jesus every single day, sometimes still didn't quite get what he was teaching about. There's hope for us, too - right?

Jesus explains to the disciples that he told parables to help people who really wanted to understand what God's kingdom is like.  In the first parable, Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a seed you plant in the ground and then forget about.  The seed sprouts and sends roots into the earth underground but you don't see it. Then, little by little it grows up out of the ground and provides food for you to harvest.

In the second parable,  Jesus tells about the mustard seed that is so tiny that you can barely see it. You plant it and it grows into a plant big enough for birds to find shade.

I think with these parables, Jesus is teaching us that God's kingdom, God's world,  is a place where we can't always see the good things that are growing and thriving - like a seed underground. But if we continue to earn more about God's world every day and we help nurture and take care of it -we will see the beautiful plants and fruits of God's creation.  Jesus is reminding us wonderful and nourishing things can come from teeny, tiny seeds

I am getting pretty good a gardening and keeping plants alive. I haven't always been, but I have learned over the years that more you know about the plant the better you are at taking care of it.  Just like people, not every plant is the same. Some thrive in full sun and some thrive in the shade. Some plants need lots of water and some don't. Some plants need to be trimmed or pruned or flower deadheads pinched off in order to keep blooming.

 It's taken me a while to figure it out - but I have learned that I need to take a break once in a while from everyday life and rest, read, and sometimes just be bored.  Daily life is busy and cluttered and I need some distance from my everyday routines.  This helps me recharge and grow and bloom. Even if it's just an afternoon alone in my tree house - getting away from the everyday routine helps me to think clearly and be more productive.

What do you need to bloom?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Resources - FamilyLinks Safe Place/Street Outreach for Youth

Here is a terrific resource to have or share. Familylinks in Pittsburgh is part of the National Safe Space program.  Youth in need of a safe place for shelter or other resources can text "Safe" and their current location to 69866 and a Familylinks street outreach worker will respond and direct you to help.  You can also locate businesses or public place in the city with a "Safe Place" sticker and folks there are trained to get you in touch with a FamilyLinks outreach worker.  You can visit to find the location nearest you. 

Also learn more about FamilyLinks Street Outreach program HERE

What We Are Reading - June 2018

Here are June favorites -

all available through the Carnegie Library.  Enjoy!

The carrot seed

by Krauss, Ruth 

by Cornwall, Gaia 

The Berenstain bears : no girls allowed

by Berenstain, Stan, 1923-2005.

How I became a pirate

by Long, Melinda,

Friday, June 1, 2018

Reflections - Breaking the Rules

 Here is what I am thinking about this week: When is it okay to break the rules?

Rules and laws are put in place are a variety of reasons- mostly to keep people safe and help us to live in community together. At least that's what the Ten Commandments were intended for when they are given to Moses by God.  The people were struggling to live well together so these handy-dandy guidelines were sent to help them along.

Now of course there are rules that are outdated and just don't apply to every situation - or rules that are just not fair to everyone. So what do we do with those?

Check out this site for weird laws from every state.

I think that we can all agree there are some pretty silly and unfair rules. Or just rules that just don't make sense.

Jesus encountered this, too.

Read Mark 2: 23-3:6

Jesus was often confronted by the Pharisees, who believed that keeping the laws of Moses was the most important thing to God. They believed that their own understanding and teaching about the law was the only correct teaching.

In this passage,  it's the Sabbath (the day of rest by law) and Jesus and his disciples were walking through some fields of grain. They were were hungry and began to break of some heads of grain to eat. The Pharisees saw this and called them out for harvesting grain on the Sabbath.

Of course to Jesus there was a difference between breaking off a few heads of grain to eat with and harvesting the whole crop, Jesus answered them, "Haven't you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests were allowed to eat. He also shared it with his companions."

Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath."

The scripture tells us Jesus then went into the synagogue and noticed there was a man who had a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, the Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched to see if he would heal the man on the Sabbath. If so, they would accuse Jesus of working on the Sabbath.

Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, "Come and stand in front of everyone." Then he turned toward his enemies and asked, "Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil?" The Pharisees refused to answer him. Jesus heals the man and some Pharisees high-tailed it out of there to tattle to Herod and begin to plot on how to kill Jesus.

Jesus teaches us to be compassionate and to take care of each other. He healed the man on the Sabbath because it was the right thing to so. 

Knowing when to break the rules is not always easy - but for Jesus healing and showing God's love for the world outweighed the consequences he would face. 

My prayers for all of us this week is that we don't let the rules - and people who are trying to catch us breaking  them - keep us from taking care of others and following Jesus' example of love and compassion.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Family Retreat 2018 - Photos

Enjoy these photos from the annual family retreat at Camp Crestfield Camp and Conference Center. Thank you Julia, Marnie, and Jennifer for sharing your photos!