Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Near sighted

Since High School, I have had to rely on corrective lenses to see anything at a distance. These days I prefer to wear contacts and only switch to my glasses for morning and evening use. I was staring at my coke bottle lenses last night. If someone picked them up, they would know one thing for sure: someone really needs these.

What would not be so evident about my glasses, is how much they help me...how many books they've helped me to read, roads they've helped me to travel on, hazards they've helped me to avoid while walking around late at night in my house. My glasses are a useful tool to me--they have and continue to help me see the world more clearly.

I wish I had such an instrument for understanding the happenings of the world outside my comfortable home. I wish I could process the hurts and sufferings of those in my community and those in places far from my home with some clarity about why...some clear vision about when such suffering and pain will end...some greater understanding about where God is in the midst of all of it.

But I don't have something as handy as my glasses that will instantly bring such things into focus. So I pray...I pray those people and places in the world that are in pain. I pray for relief and comfort...for help...and for a shared understanding that when one of us suffers (however far away and distant that one is), we all suffer.

I invite you to be at prayer for those you know...for those we read and hear about on the news...for the many nameless and faceless people whose stories we'll never read about or hear about.

Journey On...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Still Here

I haven't blogged in a LONG time. I can't even describe what the first three to four months of 2008 have been like. Exhausting...overwhelming...busy....

January and February were filled with trips, weddings, retreats and other events that kept my family going from one thing to another. We kept saying, "If we could just get to March, we'll finally have a weekend." But March came and there was a family crisis with my relatives in Corpus and then, of course, Holy Week and Easter to get ready for. The only problem is that I came down with full blown influenza just before Palm Sunday. So did my daughter. And at the same time, our family dog starting having grand mal seizures. By a miracle of miracles (and with the help of Tamiflu) my husband stayed well through the whole ordeal. I however, being 4 months pregnant, could not take much for the flu.

So...all these weeks later I still have the remnants of a cough, but am finally, finally feeling like life is coming back to me. It has been rough. And through these months I have tried to tune into my spiritual side without much luck. I have been too tired, too sick to notice or, at points, to even care.

The small glimpses of grace came in little moments of thanksgiving--thanks for a roof over my head to keep me dry, thanks for the blankets on my bed to keep me and my daughter warm while we were sick, thanks for a husband who went above and beyond to take care of everyone. My glimpses of God through these times has come in little, seemingly ordinary things for which I am deeply grateful.
I am grateful too for Spring (strange as the weather has been this year). The visual reminders of God's beauty in the earth around us is astounding. My husband John took this picture at the Van Lierop Bulb Farm (which is close to our home).
I hope that whatever road you are meandering down right now, you will also be able to know God's graces in some of the small, ordinary things of daily life. Blessings to you.
Journey on...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Home From Minnesota

This past weekend we flew to St. Paul, MN for my niece's wedding. The ceremony was held at St. Paul's United Church of Christ. I presided, my husband did the photography and my daughter was the flower girl. Everything went beautifully and the service was very nice. I got a little choked up, talking about the love of God.

It is funny that in this day and age, I still get funny looks from people because I am a female pastor. I wonder if people think that a woman loves God less than a man or is incapable of feeling called to do God's work. I'm not sure. It is puzzling at times. But the reason I got choked up speaking of God's love is because I believe in God's love...I feel it in my heart that God's love is greater than all things. If I didn't believe it, I guess I wouldn't be doing what I do.

The other thing I believe is that I don't care to go back to Minnesota anytime soon =). It was WAY too cold for my thin blood =). It was such a beautiful feeling to fly into the Seattle area with the sun shining and the temps in the mid 50's...it was like re-entering paradise =)

Journey On...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Waiting for the Muse

It is good that the Psalm this week is Psalm 32 which begins: "Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." Forgive me, for I have comitted the sin of not blogging in a while. Life has been busy and sometimes, I just don't feel very inspired. This is one of the greatest challenges of ministry for me--finding the inspiration to fill others spiritually, when I myself am struggling.

We have been very busy in my household and it won't slow down until March. So I keep reminding myself to "stay here" and not worry too much about tomorrow or next week.

One of the things I like about Psalm 32 is the idea of "not hiding." For the Psalmist, it is not hiding iniquity...for me, it is not hiding the fact that I am tired and not very inspirational right now. If I can be transparent before God, like the Psalmist, then perhaps I will again find refreshment and energy for tomorrow. I hope the same for you.

Journey On...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

To Whom Do You Belong?

In I Corinthians 1: 10-18, Paul seems to be venting some frustration. It has been reported to Paul that there are quarrels among the people--some who claim to belong to Paul...some who claim to belong to Apollos...some who claim to belong to Cephas...some who claim to belong to Christ.

The division of the people into separate groups is probably more than merely frustrating to Paul...it is also painful. It is painful for any leader of the church to see people become fragmented because of differences in opinions...differences in preferences...differences in desires.

I came to my church from a much larger church in a much more "religious" part of the country. I tried to transfer much of what I observed and learned from that larger setting to a smaller one--namely the idea that the church has to have certain programs or "services" in order to appeal to people. And my thinking was, if we don't have x, y or z, the people won't come.

What I have learned in my church is that success is not measured by the amount (or lack of) programs and services a church has, but by amount of faith in the people who do the very best that they can to serve God.

"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power." It is faithfully proclaiming the gospel in whatever way possible that really matters. And it is in proclaiming the gospel that we are able to rise above our differences in opinions, preferences and desires to recognize once again that we all belong to One--Jesus the Christ.

Journey On...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Belated Blogging

We had out of town guests visit for the weekend and so I spent my time with them (and doing a funeral and Sunday services)...which is why I am behind on my blogging =).

As I read Isaiah 9: 1-4 and Psalm 27, I was really struck by the image of light. Both passages seem to speak about better days for those who have been through some pretty rough days. I particularly like Isaiah 9:2--"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who live in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined."

As I read this, I was reflecting on the incredibly unusual weather we've had here in Western Washington the last 24 hours. The skies have been completely and utterly clear (not even one little cloud in the sky). This is really weird for winter--usually it is cloudy, maybe raining, and a bit warmer.

But what the clear skies have afforded is an unbelievable view of the mountains and a visual reminder of the majestic beauty of this place. My daughter and I sat in the warmth of our house last night and stared at the biggest brightest almost full moon we've ever seen. It was so bright that Mt. Rainier was visible in the darkness. This morning was so clear that the snow covered mountains of the Olympic Peninsula were also visible (with the moon suspended overhead).

I have said that it is, in a way, a gift not to be able to see the mountains all of the time--that way we don't ever take them for granted. But in the throes of winter...in the darkest, coldest of days, a little light would be nice.

This break in our weather has reminded me of what lies beyond the veil of clouds...that something wonderful and beautiful is there, even if I can't always see it.

The words of Isaiah and the Psalmist remind me of a similar lesson--that the beauty of God is always present, even if I can't always see it. It is a reminder that even in the darker days, God is present, waiting to show forth light and hope.

Journey On...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When I first read I Corinthians 1: 1-9 , I am thinking that perhaps it doesn't relate to me because the person of whom Paul speaks sounds so perfect. What's even more, it seems as though Paul is not speaking to/about an individual, but to/about an entire church--an entire church "has knowledge of every kind...is not lacking in any spiritual gift." Wow! That is quite a picture.

I have no idea how big the church at Corinth was, but any group of people (small or large) can become rather complicated. Individuals have their own history, background, likes and dislikes that rarely coincide with other individuals in the group. And how that all comes together and works as a whole is a mystery to me...but then again, it is not.

Paul says that the positive attributes of this worshipping community do not originate in its human participants, but rather as a gift from God. It is God's gracious activity in Jesus Christ, shared with this community that brings wisdom and spiritual gifts.

As human beings (individuals and communities), we have the great potential for doing great things, but we also have the potential of being snared by our all-to-human selves. And so, it is good to remember that God is there to help...that there is a power greater than our own that can strengthen us and carry us through. And God is there in the mystery...holding together disparate groups of people, transforming them into faithful communities that witness to Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!

Journey On...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Listening and Speaking

I love the first paragraphs of Psalm 40 that speak of restoration. I can think of many, many times in my life when I have needed restoration in my relationship with God. There have been times of grief and times when I've just been so busy, I'm not praying and being attentive to God's presence in my daily life. But when the moment comes that my relationship with God is restored or renewed, it is a joyful experience...a moment when it feels like I could sing a new song (even though I don't have a terrific voice =).

I also think that it is interesting what the Psalmist says God desires and what God does not desire: "sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear." When I read that, I think that sometimes God wants us to stop doing so much and wants us to listen--to open up our ears and listen.

I am as guilty as anyone else in putting my own thoughts and desires onto God--eisegesis. And that is why it is imperative to stop and listen...to pray for discernment between what it is that we desire or think that is best and what God desires...and to know when both desires are one and the same.

Beyond sacrifice and offering, there is listening...and beyond listening, there is witnessing and sharing. "I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips...I have not hidden your saving help in my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation."

So perhaps today, we should pause for a moment to listen to God and look for those opportunities to share God's love with those around us.

Journey On...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Finding Fruit in the Failures

Isaiah 49: 1-7 points towards the restoration of Israel in the leadership of a new ruler who will bring light (and hope).

I feel for this servant. It seems as though he (we can assume it is a he) does not feel very powerful...does not feel very effective in his current circumstance.

The Lord says to him, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I shall be glorified" But the servant responds, "I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity." I can identify with that kind of feeling...when it seems like you have really given something a good effort...you've really tried to do what you feel God is calling you do and you do it with all of your heart...and still there is no fruitful outcome.

Failure. It's something we all have felt at some point in life. The tricky thing is to not be thwarted by failures...to figure out how to get back up and try again. Even in that moment when the servant laments the failure of his efforts to produce a fruitful outcome, he still has hopeful words on his lips: "...yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God."

It seems in ministry, the temptation to feel like my efforts are futile is very strong. My church is not busting at the seems with worshippers...we struggle with finances...and there never seems to be enough people to do all of the things that should be done. Yet, "surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God."

I will remember the servant's words and I minister with my heart, my mind and my hands.

Journey On...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Five--Las Mananitas

Mother Laura at RevGalBlogPals writes:

Éstas son las mañanitas These are the morning verses
Que cantaba el Rey David, That King David used to sing,
A las muchachas bonitas To the beautiful young ladies,
Se las cantaba así. He would sing them like this.
(The Mexican birthday song, sometimes sung as a dawn serenade).

Youtube Mariachi version here.
Piano music and eleventy-zillion more verses here.

My forty-third birthday next Wednesday will inaugurate the "Birthday Madness" season in the Grimes-Honkanen household. The next day Katie will turn five and just over two weeks later, on Feb. 3, Nicholas will be eleven. In the middle, on January 30, we celebrate the gift of Grandma Di; Nicholas and I were both due on my Mom's birthday but I was uncharacteristically early and he was little late. We will be doing a trip to Disneyland to celebrate them all in a couple weeks; in the meantime I offer this birthday-inspired Friday Five.

1. When is your birthday? Does anyone else (famous and/or in your own life) share it?
My birthday is in late October. I don't know of anyone who shares the exact date, but my mom's birthday is also in October and that's kind of a nice thing to share with your mom.

2. Do you prefer a big party or an intimate celebration for the chosen few?
I think I like smaller parties...or bigger parties that offer the chance to have good conversation with individuals or small groups of people.

3. Describe your most memorable birthday(s)--good, bad, or both.
My most memorable birthday was several years ago when my husband and I were dating. He surprised me with a trip to Colorado (we were living in TX at the time). We spent four days (I think it was about four days) driving through the mountains, seeing the aspens and breathing in the crisp air. It was the best birthday ever!

4. What is your favorite cake and ice cream? (Bonus points if you share the cake recipe). Or would you rather have a different treat altogether?
I love chocolate so I guess I would have to say any kind of chocolate cake will do...and I love Baskin Robbins Chocoalte Chip Ice Cream--yum!

5. Surprise parties: love 'em or hate 'em?
I don't think I have ever been given a surprise party and I'm not really sure if I love them or hate them. I suppose if I were to be surprised on a good day, it would be good. But if I were surprised on a difficult day, that might not be so good. There are too many surprises in ministry already, so maybe a planned party is the thing for me =).

Bonus: Describe your ideal birthday--the sky's the limit.
I think the ideal birthday would be to be surrounded by family and good friends. Doesn't really matter where or what...just to be with those folks and celebrate the gift of life that God gives would be a wonderful thing.

Journey On...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Jesus' Baptism

Matthew 3: 13-17 tells of the baptism of Jesus by John. I have had lots of thoughts about baptism as I have read through the Lectionary texts for this week and blogged about some of those thoughts.
For today, I want to lift something out of the Tuesday's Lectionary Leanings posted by MomPriest on the RevGalBlogPals site for your reflection and discussion:
"Jesus' baptism with Spirit does not substitute for John's baptism with water. Both are needed. The revelation of Jesus includes the revelation of John even while it transcends it. John is the forerunner and essential preparation for Jesus. John clears a path. Without this cleared path Jesus will not arrive. There must be both repentance (baptism of John) and the coming of the Spirit (baptism of Jesus), a disidentification with sin and an identification with the Spirit-infused Child of God. This carefully reflected exchange reflects this nuanced position: the ultimate goal of John's baptizing activity in Jesus, but the advent of Jesus does not make obsolete the work of John. John and Jesus are fundamentally linked, and they symbolize the essential relationship between the forgiveness of sins and the new life in the Spirit. "(pg 50).
Where are your thoughts, reflections, ideas, leading you this Sunday?
Journey On...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Beyond Baptism's Waters

I don't think that Acts 10: 34-43 can be fully understood outside of its greater context...including the verses that precede it (Acts 10: 1-33) and the verses that proceed it (Acts 10: 44-48). The whole of the story is about a man named Cornelius--a God fearer--who finds acceptance and belonging.

As a God fearer, Corenlius was devout and faithful. But Cornelius was also a Gentile, which meant that in spite of his devotion, he was not fully accepted into the Jewish community. But that all changed when God intervened.

God sent visions and dreams to Cornelius and to Peter. The text for today is what Peter says to Cornelius and those gathered in his home after Peter is summoned to go there. What is very interesting to me is that as they listened to Peter, "the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word."

On the Sunday when we will be thinking about Jesus' baptism and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, I am wondering what baptism means for us? The question is partly rhetorical--I understand that baptism is "an outward sign of an inward, invisible grace"...baptism is a ritual act in which we say "yes" to God's working in our lives...baptism is a washing, a cleansing moment when we start over and accept Jesus into our hearts and lives to be forever changed...baptism is the moment in which we receive the Holy Spirit on our journey of faith...

But Acts raises important thoughts. If Cornelius and the others receive the gift of the Holy Spirit without baptism (by "hearing the word") is the same possible for us?

I'm not saying do away baptism...baptism is a central and important part of our Christian walk. But perhaps the story from Acts shows us, once again, the ways in which God works outside of the box...the ways in which God works, unexpectedly and graciously.

So if you think you have it all figured out, be careful. God may just be waiting to surprise you in some very unexpected way.

Journey On...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

God is great...God is good

Sarah Hinlicky Wilson in her December 28, 2004 Christian Century article entitled: God on the Loose says: "Inevitably, in the course of a pastoral career, one encounters that person -- the spouse of an active member, or an avid golfer -- who claims not to need to attend weekly services because 'I can worship God in nature.' Possible comebacks range from mild to sarcastic, but they rarely make any impression. A better question is whether the assertion is correct. Can the voice of the Lord be heard outside protective church walls, in the wilds of creation?
Psalm 29 answers with an emphatic yes. With one catch: you might not like what you hear."

I would call myself a "naturalist" in many ways--one who experiences God in a very powerful way in nature. But the God of nature in Psalm 29 is not the God of the Lily's in the field or the God of the sparrows happily chirping in the trees. In Psalm 29, the awe and power of God is displayed in the awe and the power of nature in almost overwhelming, fearful grandeur.

I remember once, in a Bible study, talking about "the fear of the Lord" as that phrase appears often in the Hebrew Scriptures. One woman in that study took great offense that anyone today would have that kind of experience of God. I was surprised by her visceral reaction. Certainly when I consider the vastness of God, the works of God's hand, the thought of it is overwhelming to me...and I am awed and somewhat intimidated by how great God is.

But I also understand that for many us to be overwhelmingly awed and intimidated by God's greatness (so much so that it induces a sense of fear) is just too much. If we have known fear in many sectors of life...if we live in fear in our homes, in fear of losing our homes, in fear of losing our jobs, in fear of what is happening in the greater world, the last thing we want is to fear God.

Psalm 29 is one of the Lectionary readings on the Sunday of the Baptism of Jesus...and I think one of the reasons it appears this week, is to help us remember God's greatness and to remember how our great God became flesh and dwelt among us. The God who rules the water, was subdued by them at the River Jordan. God did remain a distant, powerful, fearful deity, but one who walked with us, talked with us, embraced us in human arms and showed forth not forceful power, but gracious love.

Psalm 29 reminds us that God is great...and God is so very good.

Journey On...

Monday, January 7, 2008


Isaiah 42: 1-9 is the Hebrew Text for this week in which we will celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. The passage from Isaiah speaks words of comfort to a people who had been exiled and promises a better day for them. The passage will also be important for Matthew as the words describe the type of leadership that Jesus will offer.

At first glance, the words from Isaiah draw me to thoughts of current presidential debates, caucuses and primaries. Candidates are going all out to try to convey the message that they are the right candidate for the job of President.

So that makes me wonder, what qualities do we look for in leadership? Is leadership (in a president, in a church, in a family) important to us?

William R. Long in his commentary The Baptism of Jesus describes leadership in terms of servant leadership and describes the passage from Isaiah as setting forth a "fourfold role of this servant: (1) he is inconspicuous; (2) he is gentle; (3) he perseveres, and (4) he triumphs.

What stands out to me in this list of servant leadership qualities, is gentleness. In a time when there is so very much violence in the world, what does it look like for a leader to be both strong and gentle?

Long continues: "How do reeds become crushed or oppressed? By the forces of nature and of people. Reeds become smashed because of storms and diseases, because of people stomping over them, because of inadequate nourishment. We are reeds, subject to the forces of life that we cannot control and that sometimes descend on us with frightening speed and mercilessness. And so, we live our lives in a crushed condition."

And so, perhaps, we are ready for a civic leader who is gentle is her or his leadership. And certainly we, like the people of Isaiah's time...like the people of Jesus' time long for gentleness when we feel like crushed reeds. God, in Christ, will prove to be both a strong and gentle leader for all.

Journey On...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Magi

This is one of those rare years when Epiphany (observed on January 6), actually falls on a Sunday. The focal text for this Sunday is Matthew 2: 1-12 and the focal characters of the story are the Magi.

Many of us believe that we know this story so well, we don't have to read it and reflect on it. But much of what we have come to believe about the Magi, comes to us not from the Bible but from legends. The Bible does not mention the number of Magi (although it does indicate that three gifts were given)...the Bible does not tell us the names of the Magi...and perhaps most important, the Bible does not label these visitors from the east as kings.

Magi were probably more closely related to astrologers--pagans who interpreted dreams and looked to the stars in the sky for guidance. Understanding who the Magi are, makes all the difference in understanding their importance in this story.

As Brian Stoffrengen says in his Crossmarks commentary: "The Magi should not be there. They are heretics. The don't worship the right God...they would have been much better models of unbelief and false trust, than models of faith, trust and worship." Yet, in spite of this, God gives the Magi a sign they can understand. "Magi understood stars. Magi looked for and understood signs in the sky...the sign came to them where they were. God got their attention in a way that they understood and in the place where they were at."

With this in mind, these questions that Stoffrengen poses to us are so very relevant in light of Matthew's text: "Where are the unchurhced at today?" and "What signs will speak to them?" And a further consideration: Is the church concerned with the unchurched?

Journey On...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


I'm a few days behind in my blogging (and everything else =). We had a really nice Christmas and enjoyed quality time with my 3 year old daughter whose preschool was out for the Winter Break. Now to catch up!

During the time just before Epiphany up until the last Sunday of Epiphany, I'm going to be blogging on the Lectionary texts for each week. I invite any reflections or comments...and, with permission, they might make their way into my sermon for the week.

The first three texts for this week come from Isaiah 60: 1-6, Psalm 71: 1-7, 10-14 and Ephesians 3: 1-12. The three texts lead to the beginning of Epiphany this Sunday--Epiphany being the commemoration of the revelation of Jesus to humanity, particularly to the Magi.

When reading the Scriptures for this week, it is easy to see why these three (and Matthew which we'll discuss tomorrow) are chosen. There are words like kings, camels, frankincense, the revelation of God's mystery to the Gentiles...Though each of these passages was written within a specific historical context, to a specific people in a specific situation, they certainly speak to us in the rhythm of our church year.

I like the title for Isaiah 60: 1-6--The Ingathering of the Dispersed. The text speaks to the exiled Israelites, but in the context of Epiphany, could the Ingathering be of the Gentiles or other "outsiders" to Christianity? What about those who are not officially members of the church--does the church matter to them? Is the church a place of ingathering for those who have been disenfranchised? Or is it a place only for those with membership privileges?

Psalm 72: 1-7; 10-14 is entitled, "Prayer for Guidance and for Support for the King." As I ponder what those words mean to us today, they seem so relevant. God reigns in our life, but we have heads of state, presidents, prime ministers, who hold a lot of power and make decisions that affect millions of lives. Why would we not pray for those in power and pray with a fervor they would be just...that they would remember the poor and needy...that they would be more than politicians, but compassionate human beings? Perhaps it is too far fetched of a thing to hope for in those who have so much power, but as a people of faith we hope for that which seems impossible.

Ephesians 3: 1-12 carries the theme of revelation to humanity--in particular, to the Gentiles through the Apostle Paul. The words that strike me here are: "I have become a servant." What does it mean to be a servant? Is it attending church on a Sunday? Is it sharing encouraging words with family and friends? Is it feeding the hungry or clothing the naked? Is it spreading the news about Christ to strangers? How does servanthood take shape for us individually and corporately as church and to what end?

I look forward to sharing in discussions with you.

Journey On...