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Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!
For those of you who would like to support the vision & ministry of Woodland Hills Community Church (the faith community I serve that continues to encourage me to minister outside the box), please click on the link just above.

Saturday, May 31

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 1; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; John 12:24-32; Hebrews 12:18-29; Psalm 119:89-112

One of the hardest things to gain in life is a sense of perspective. This is especially true when “bad” or difficult things happen to us. We are usually so close to them that it is nearly impossible to step back and see the bigger picture. In today’s passage from John, Jesus reminds us of the importance of perspective when he talks about what happens with a grain of wheat. He says: “Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over” (John 12:24 – The Message). Of course Jesus’ most direct illusion was to what was going to happen with him. The point that Jesus makes, however, applies to other areas as well. Perhaps there is an area of your life where you are currently feeling discomfort: maybe it’s dis-ease in a relationship; maybe it’s frustration with your job; maybe it’s a general feeling of malaise. At these times it’s easy to lose your sense of perspective on whatever it is that you are facing and give in to anger and/or depression. Today, I would invite you to step back from the situation – allow that seed time to germinate – and then see where it takes you. The dis-ease in a relationship, for instance, might take root and finally get you to face dysfunctional patterns that have long been ignored and lead you into a healthier relationship. The frustration with a job might take seed and lead you to a new position that more fully engages your spiritual gifts and graces. The general feeling of malaise might take root and help you deepen your spiritual life as you search for meaning in new ways. Whatever the case, may you open yourself to receiving one of the many gifts our relationship with God gives us: a sense of perspective that is unlike any other. Til next time…

Friday, May 30

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 125; Leviticus 25:1-17; Matthew 7:13-21; Galatians 1:18-24; Psalm 9

I remember twenty years ago hearing how the dawn of technology was going to make our lives so much easier in the 21st Century. “We may have to work 40 hours a week now,” some folks said in the 1980’s, “but once computers arrive they’ll do all of the work for us!” Some went so far as to predict that the 40-hour work week would disappear all together only to be replaced by a 20-hour work week. That sure sounded good to me back then. Fast forward to the year 2008. So what happened? Have our lives been made easier by technology? Are 40-hour work weeks a thing of the past? I suppose the answer to those questions is “yes” and “yes”. Computers have undeniably made pieces of our lives much easier. And yes, 40-hour work weeks are a thing of the past. The only problem is that the 40-hour work weeks have not been replaced by 20-hour work weeks. Sadly, the 40-hour work weeks have been replaced by 60 and 80-hour work weeks. So much for life getting easier. Reading today’s passage from Leviticus made me wish that we modern folks had a better sense of the rhythm of life. The notion of working the land for 6 years and then letting the land and its laborers have a year of Sabbath in the seventh year makes sense. So too does the observance of a year of Jubilee every 50 years. While we may not have the cultural practice of such Sabbaths built into our routines these days, it’s increasingly important for us to find regular intervals of time for rest and renewal ourselves. Have you created such a rhythm in your life? If not, I would encourage you to spend time considering how you might pick up on the wisdom of our spiritual ancestors and find regular Sabbath time of your own. Til next time…

Thursday, May 29

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 106; Leviticus 23:23-44; Matthew 7:1-12; Galatians 1:11-17

In my teens and twenties, I spent a good amount of time working as a community activist. My special field of interest was human rights. I had what seemed to most an unlimited amount of passion and energy around these issues. As I look back on this period of my life now, however, I realize that I spent much of my time attacking those who saw things differently than I did. I was amazingly arrogant and felt as if I had all of the answers that would fix the world. Sadly I failed to realize that hidden in my obsession to fix the world was a desire to overlook the work I needed to do on myself in order to fix my own corner of the world. On some level, I guess, I hoped that if I could fix the things outside of myself then maybe – just maybe – I might feel better inside. Over the years I’ve learned to reverse my priorities and start by tending to my own need for healing and reconciliation first - before I try to advocate this for others. Of course, this is the very lesson Jesus was trying to teach me for years in today’s passage from Matthew 7:1-12. Stop worrying about the speck in your neighbor’s eye; start tending to the log in your own. I was a VERY slow learner in this regard. Today, I would invite you to explore your own life and see if there’s a situation where you have been perhaps lashing out at others instead of tending to your own life. It might be in a personal relationship where you’ve been trying to fix the other person instead of yourself; it might be in a political scenario where you’ve been railing against a party or a candidate instead of examining your own positions; it might be in relation to a cause where you’ve been attacking those whose values are different than yours rather than re-committing yourself to live your values. Whatever the area, this work could be some of the most transformative work you ever do. May God’s grace and peace be with you as you embark on the work. Til next time…

Wednesday, May 28

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 81; Leviticus 23:1-22; Matthew 6:25-34; Galatians 1:1-10; Psalm 147

In this day and age when it is easy to abandon all sense of ritual and tradition in favor of what’s most convenient, today’s reading from Leviticus can be a challenge to engage. That’s because the bulk of the energy in that passage is devoted to spelling out a series of rituals people were called to observe. Lot’s of modern folks read that passage and think of it as extremely dry material. I admit that I wouldn’t exactly refer to the passage as a page-turner. Thankfully, we have Psalm 81 and the text from Matthew to serve as conversation partners with the Leviticus passage. Each of these texts can help us better understand the value of Leviticus. The opening words of Psalm 81 (“Anthems from the choir, music from the band, sweet sounds from lute and harp, trumpets and trombones and horns: it’s festival day, a feast to God!”) remind us that the rituals weren’t simply about going through the motions; the rituals were intended to be a joyous expression of the community’s faith. And Jesus’ challenge in Matthew 6:33 (“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions”) reveals the value of incorporating regular pieces in our day that slow us down and allow us to do just that. In the modern world that places so many demands in our lives, it’s easy to pay lip service to the notion of praise and/or thanksgiving; but how often do we actually stop and do that? Leviticus reminds us that our spiritual ancestors actually made a point of regularly doing just that. I would invite you to pick up on the spirit of Leviticus and see if there are perhaps times or rituals that you could build into your day that could move you from a place of simply paying lip-service to a spirit of thanksgiving into the actual practice of it. Til next time…

Tuesday, May 27

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 12; Leviticus 19:26-37; Matthew 6:19-24; 1 Corinthians 12:27-31; Psalm 15

Over the years I have developed a tool that helps me better understand a person’s true character. The tool works something like this. When I’m spending time with a person, I watch how they treat those whom they interact with. When I say “those whom they interact with”, I don’t mean I watch their interactions with those whom our society would call “important people”. No, I especially watch their interactions with those whom society would deem “unimportant”: people like busboys at a restaurant, clerks at a retail store, people who hold a door open for them as they walk into a building, etc. And why do I feel watching how the person I’m with treats such individuals can provide insights into that individual’s character? I think that because people in the roles I mentioned are often treated by society as someone who simply provides a service for our convenience. Most people don’t even “see” such persons – let alone acknowledge their humanity. I see them differently than most, however. I see them as expressions of the value lifted up in today’s passage from 1 Corinthians. That passage reminds us that each of our lives represents one piece of the larger body, and each piece is essential to the well being of the whole. Now Paul uses the metaphor of the body to talk specifically about those within the faith community. In my spiritual life, I broaden Paul’s metaphor to include the whole of God’s world. Today while you are out, pay attention to how you interact with others. Do you treat ALL of those with whom you interact as if they were vital elements of a larger body, or have you adopted society’s values and treat people according to their perceived status? Don’t answer that question with words; answer that question with your actions. Til next time…

Monday, May 26

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 80; Leviticus 16:20-34; Matthew 6:7-15; 1 Corinthians 12:14-26; Psalm 85

The whole of our lives involves striking a thing called balance between competing aspects of our experience. For instance, some individuals are regularly challenged to balance the amount of time they devote to work and the time they devote to play. Other individuals struggle to balance the food they want to eat with the food with the food they like to eat. Still others wrestle with how to balance the need to save some money with the desire to spend it. It would seem that in every direction we turn we face with the need to strike a balance. This point was brought home for me when I read today’s Gospel passage. That passage contains a portion of what we know today as The Lord’s Prayer, and here’s where the issue of balance came up for me. You see many of us in the church make a practice of reciting The Lord’s Prayer each week during our worship service. And each time we recite it, we use exactly the same language. Today I read the passage from Matthew from The Message, and it used much different language than I normally use. There was a part of me that was a little uncomfortable with the new language because there is a part of me that like tradition or familiarity in my spiritual life. At times this can be a strong urge. In sitting with The Message’s version, however, I was reminded of the importance of bringing fresh new perspectives to things in order to keep my spiritual life fresh and alive. It would be a tragedy to lead an unbalanced spiritual life: one either solely rooted in tradition and repetition or one rooted solely in doing new things just for the sake of doing new things. Instead, by seeking out a sense of balance in our lives we can have the best of both worlds: a place of comfort and familiarity in the midst of a tumultuous world AND a place of fresh insight and renewal that prevents our spiritual lives from becoming boring and routine. May God be with us as we seek to strike a healthy balance in our lives. Til next time…
PS. I realized that last Saturday's posting was my 300th post since I began my blog the end of last May. Thanks to you for sharing pieces of my posting journey. I hope our time together has been meaninful for you! The discipline our (almost) daily "conversations" have brought into my life has been a source of spiritual renewal for me!