Monday Beginnings

Sunrise and sunset
Your rhythms offered for all
every morning, every evening
without fail.

Breathe in and out
Sight, sound, touch, taste, smell
every day, every night
without fail.

As long as we are here
we are still together
every moment, every hour
without fail.

Attentive to work or rest
laughing or crying
Your words remain faithful
without fail.

Celebrations and sorrows
Ordinary and miraculous
Life here and there; profound gifts
without fail.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made
    and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
    he put the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him,
for he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

– Psalm 33:6-9


God, as we embark on our Monday beginnings, we welcome your assistance and presence. Let our steps be ordered by your Spirit even when we are unaware. Where work is started, let it bring good to our lives…the “good” that honors the life you give us today. Where rest is embraced, may it bring peace. When tears of sorrow or joy need release today, let them flow like fountains; watering our souls and reminding us how wonderfully you’ve created the world. Every beginning is an offering from you. We are grateful; we receive. Thank you for loving us. We need you, Lord, and we trust you completely. Amen.

Monday Joy

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
– Lamentations 3:22-26

I often think of how gracious God was in giving us something new every morning. The new expression of sunrise, while the rhythm remains steadfast. The new song of the birds, though the familiar melodies. The new breath in our lungs and the new beats of our hearts…that have never before been expressed!

Every moment of every day is an unfolding of something new God is creating. While that “new” is being discovered and lived one hour at a time, there is also a steadfast presence that does not change. The love and grace of God is always available and ready to be offered. The peace that only God can give, is accessible in the humble asking.

However we come into this Monday, God is right here with us. On game or not; feeling it or not; scared to death or celebrating your greatest accomplishments…the presence of the Creator is standing at your side. Listen for that voice as you walk through this week. It is far beyond the opinions and noise that swirls around with hope of distracting us from God’s wisdom that comes in the pause. Listen.

God, this morning we pause to reconnect and remember your presence and faithfulness. We embrace the mercies you give for this day. We give thanks for the compassion and love you hold; ready to come quickly and abundantly as we seek. It is our desire to honor you with the gift of life you have provided today. Help us, Holy Spirit, to do it well. We welcome your JOY into our lives. We love you, LORD, and we trust you completely. Amen.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:11

Where is Our Faith?

“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water and they obey him.”

Luke 8:25

The disciples are in a storm on the lake. The waves and wind came upon them very quickly and began to overwhelm the boat. If you’ve ever been caught in a storm on the lake you know the fear. You do everything you know to do and if the waves still come and the wind stays up there is a point at which you realize, “I’m not sure we’re going to make it out of this.” I’ve had a couple of those experiences and they are unforgettable. Any trip to the lake or sea can end in disaster; you have to know that if you are going to be on the water. That’s where the disciples are in this moment. The way Luke tells it, “they are in great danger”. Jesus, meanwhile is asleep, probably exhausted from teaching and ministry.

Atlantic Coast, May 2021

When they wake Jesus up and tell him their situation, he gets up, tells the wind and waves to stop, and they do. Just like that.

When the power of God reveals itself in our ordinary lives it does often bring “amazement and fear”. How can we be so close to a God that will get so intimately involved in our daily human situations? God invites us and even encourages us to be that close.

The disciples are still grounded in the temporal. No doubt they were navigating this storm that blew up in the best way possible. They had experience on the water. They were skilled; they know this lake. This is not their first storm, but it is their first storm with Jesus involved in their lives.

When they had exhausted their own efforts, they asked Jesus to get involved. Jesus doesn’t tell them to adjust a sail. He doesn’t give them any nautical wisdom that will suddenly put the boat in a different position against the raging waves. Jesus has a spiritual strategy and draws from the eternal. After all, he created the wind and the water.

Sometimes it feels like our world is in a raging storm. The waves are crashing over our boats! The wind is shifting us in directions we didn’t plan or intend to go. The sky will clear for a day or two and then here it comes – another storm. This story with Jesus and his disciples on the lake seems to encourage us to take on a different strategy when the storm descends. Rather than first going to our temporal methods, what if, in the storm, we reach first for the eternal. What if we run right on down and wake Jesus up and ask for divine intervention? What if we put all of our skill, knowledge and wisdom at the faithful service of Christ? Even if it means, we don’t use anything we have known or used before.

Jesus is showing the disciples what is possible with God. Christ gives us access and encourages us to ask for help. It means letting go of how we think “help” needs to come or what it needs to look like. It means trusting that the God who created the wind and the waves (and us!) will guide us to a safe harbor that we will never reach on our own. Where is our faith?

Creator God, you who set the skies and seas in place, we love you. We welcome your help and wisdom as we walk into this day. We humbly and boldly ask for your intervention in the situations we are navigating. In our families; our minds and hearts; our businesses; our health...whatever it may be. We name it before you now and ask, "Jesus, we are in danger, please come and calm the wind and waves. Lead us to safe harbor. We trust you completely.  Let it be. Amen. 
Sunrise on the Atlantic Coast, May 2021

Advent Monday

It was always a special gift.  Once the tree was up and the ornaments were on, or perhaps we were getting a bit rambunctious and bored, she would pause the activity and begin her presentation. It was the “special ornament” giving time.  Mom and us.  We loved it! We couldn’t wait to see what she had so carefully chosen.  When we were very young those ornaments were often themed, which somehow connected our experience for that year, that moment…for forever. She created something we could never forget.

I don’t always put up a tree. Occasionally I decide to let the trees I pass while driving be my “Christmas tree”.  If I’m spending time in Guatemala, I let that be my “Christmas tree”. And for the past many years…being with the church community serving, worshiping and celebrating together with parties, feasts and special music…that all serves more than enough for any Christmas decoration for me.  It doesn’t bother me a bit to look at my schedule and determine a more minimal approach like setting out a nativity, hanging my stocking and using some Christmas napkins to call my home “decorated”.  But it’s 2020. I’m not traveling. I’m zooming from my home or office for most everything.  Any COVID “risk taking” is reserved for the most important in-person moments. And I need the Christmas tree!

So it is up! The lights are shining. Every ornament is hung; each with its own memory. The tattered and fragile ones are from my childhood. I hang each one with memories of my brother and sister, mom and dad; the family celebrations – all complete with tears and meltdowns; laughter and love; the life-shaping ordinary moments.  There are ornaments from special places I’ve traveled; places or memories I wanted to remember every year for the rest of my life.  On this tree are ornaments my friends have given me over the years that add grace and joy to not only this moment, but all the ordinary days too. 

For this Advent season of 2020, I am grateful for the many ways memories and people are woven into the fabric of life that a global pandemic cannot unravel.  I’m glad the tattered ornament that looks like nothing to someone else, still causes my heart to fill up with hope that just can’t stop.  I’m humbled to see that over a lifetime of years that were challenging, amazing and all uniquely blessed, there is a theme of Joy running through that I cannot miss.  The tree is up! Ornaments are hung. Nativities are placed to make the true visible.  We are blessed beyond measure. Advent has begun. Come Lord Jesus, come!

Prayer: God help each of us and all of us to know what to do this week to increase our sense of wonder, hope and joy. We know you are here. We trust you are guiding us and shaping us for heaven no matter how tattered or worn we may be on any given day. Thank you for the ways you are coming to us right now…making sure we know how deeply we are loved.

The Petersons

A Prayer After Labor Day

After Labor Day we rush
into the months
forgetting quickly the blessing
of days and moments.
Help us, Lord, just today
to take the moments into account;
hold each as precious gifts;
stop to tend to the neighbor
whose name we still don’t know.
Protect us from filling our
months, seasons and remaining year
with frivolous busyness
while you are inviting us into
something bigger than we can see.
Help us, Creator, just today
to appreciate conversations that
shape us for peace;
to love without question;
pray without ceasing;
plan without striving.
Let this “after Labor Day” moment
be like no other
leading us into Grace for these days.
Amen and Amen.

Fancher Falls

Virtual Chapel: The Monday Trust

Is there a way for Monday to be something more than the onslaught of email, social media messaging and weekly expectations that no human can possible do? Good news: the answer is “YES!”

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Photo by Melinda Britt @ Abbey of Gethsemani: The Walk to the Statues.

I recently had an experience in silence at the Abbey of Gethsemani in KY. A time of retreat, praying the psalms with the monks who live there and getting back in touch with what some people call “God’s first language”: silence.  Somehow in silence our inner voice becomes clearer. Moving through the noise in my mind, passing through those moments of “what now?” and persisting in the journey, actually leads me into the gift.  Eventually the mind begins to settle: we are here. stop the striving. just be here. let it be.

From that place of “let it be”, I hear the psalms differently. I hear the chants  of the monks crying out my human heart – our human hearts – with all of the joy, fear, doubt, confidence, questions, strength…and eventually: trust.  My voice joins the song.

The “songs of ascent” is what it’s called – these psalms (Psalms 120-134) that voice our deepest thoughts and brings them raw and real, to the Creator of the universe.  These ancient prayers are powerful in every generation; we need only to pray them.  When the weight of the world or the constants in our minds becomes overwhelming, this is a place to turn. A way to voice all that is in us and ultimately help us fall into the arms of grace, trusting the hands of our Creator to catch us as we fall.

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Photo by Melinda Britt @ Abbey of Gethsemani: The Walk to the Statues

So this Monday begins differently.  With a song and prayer of trust, my voice gives rise with all the other voices who need to be reminded: God’s plans will prevail. Nothing will remove the foundation of God’s love for you, and for the world. Let’s trust this.

Psalm 125

Those who trust in GOD
are like Zion Mountain:
Nothing can move it, a rock-solid mountain
you can always depend on.
Mountains encircle Jerusalem,
and GOD encircles his people –
always has and always will.

The fist of the wicked
will never violate
What is due the righteous,
Provoking wrongful violence.
Be good to your good people, GOD,
to those whose hearts are right!
GOD will round up the backsliders,
corral them with the incorrigibles.
Peace over Israel!
– Psalm  125  THE MESSAGE

Whatever our weeks hold – we can trust that no evil, no disappointment or chaos or tragedy will STOP the amazing love and grace of God. Period. Just keep going.  Here’s to another Monday…another choice to trust…another week of wonderful, full and amazing LIFE! Live the days well in whatever way your path asks of you.  Trust the rest to God.

Prayer
God we trust you completely. Let it be.

Sunday Morning

The trucks are blaring through the trees at Bambu; there is no sound barrier. The birds are singing and flying all around. I search out coffee and explain why I need it “to go” so I can be outside.

Snow at home; heat and sun here. A bit of travel later today and the heat will be gone. I love the way God created nature.

I’ve had three dog encounters this time that have been unusual. The K9 officer, an angel of mercy; Lucia’s two companions who didn’t want me to leave yesterday morning; and Manuel’s dog, whose name is Michael, who lay down at my feet and wanted to play. Perhaps they all know I come as a friend.

We visit with scholarship students this morning. And Norris, Dr. Robin, John Hembree, Woody…the crew. We are talking plans, again. It is a day of grace unfolding. I miss my church family in this moment and am grateful for the body of Christ that is connected across the world. All is very well.

Prayer: God, thank you for the way you work all things out for good..and for your glory. We trust you with all that has ever been, and with all that will ever be. You are faithful and we are yours. However and wherever we worship you today – thank you for hearing our hearts and praise. Amen and amen!

Kristene DiMarco

https://youtu.be/YNqo4Un2uZI

All In Part II

It’s the simple things: clean water, health, a safe place to sleep at night, education; and even more important than all of that: a community of relationships that help us navigate life. Right? We all need it.

The team at ACD devotes their time and talents to moving the needle of these basic issues in the lives of children in Guatemala. Everyone’s life is changed along the way, especially anyone who gets near the realities of life.

Migration is an issue. We know that too. The current culture in Guatemala has become: finish 6th grade and then find your way to the USA. No one tells you what that means, what risks are involved, what it’s going to be like when you arrive or what happens beyond the journey. And there are not many voices reaching other options. ACD is in this conversation and educating the little ones so they have choices and are prepared for life success in Guatemala. It’s is a beautiful gift – and it takes being “all in”. This is joyful but very tough work.

Classroom at ACD. Notice the train on the wall…teaching the safe and legal ways to migrate.

Children have dreams and someone needs to hear them. Hope comes when we believe something could be different. We humans will go to amazing efforts when a glimmer of hope is present. So – if there is no hope that life will ever be any different, and there IS hope that somewhere else you might have a chance of: work, water, safety, health, peace…. then you will risk your life to find it. It’s not hard to see how the cultural shift has happened. And who will help the little ones envision a different future? Who will encourage them to dream and then care enough to help them prepare to reach those dreams? Who will give their time and talents, gifts and love day in and day out? In this little spot of Guatemala, the team at ACD will. For us to be allowed a close up glimpse into their lives and the families they serve is an honor. They change our hearts and grow our spirits. Who would we be without them? It sobers me to even imagine.

The Lord hears the cries of the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18

I will attempt to offer a glimpse of reality. It is only a glimpse and my knowledge is always incomplete.

Walk to the main road

Water in this community comes from one spout on the main road. All water. So you walk and carry it back. Every day. For every water need. For months there is no rain so you do this in heat and dust and dry conditions. A bit like walking in the desert.

Cooking in this community happens over open fire inside the home. Smoke is a daily presence. Respiratory illness a norm. Cooking all day to feed the family is the work of the day. Getting water. Making food. Cutting wood. Carrying everything on your head or back. Every day. Every generation.

Homes are made from tin and wood. By hand and a machete. Sometimes plastic if tin or some other material is available. What you want is a house with solid shelter. What you have is more like a shed or barn.

Vegetables grow well here when there is enough rain. Big beautiful vegetables! Water must be carried in these poor areas where there is no irrigation. Farmers tend the crops. Agriculture is life. The fertile ground in the shadow of Santa Maria’s grand presence is a gift of God. The land is life. Water is life for land and food and all creatures. But water is not always available; droughts impact life & death; creatures suffer.

So the walk through the desert and paying someone to get you to a place of hope and peace is really not a big decision; it is survival and not wanting to wake up tomorrow to something you don’t imagine or think or dream can ever be different. Because it hasn’t been different for any generation before you.

And so…the trek begins. There are two priorities once you arrive; if you arrive. 1. Work to make enough money to pay the coyote who got you there (even if it cost you all of your dignity and spirit).

2. Work enough to send money “home” so they can start building a house.

And this is what brings hope that something might be different. A home means shelter. A home may have water near. A home, water and land may mean growing crops that someone will buy if the drought doesn’t kill them first.

When I spent a month here in 2011 my Spanish teacher shared that she had spent 2 years in the USA to earn enough money to buy a home. That home made all the difference for her family. And “family” included 3 generations who had a home because she bought it. With USA earned dollars. As a teacher. Legally. She had 2 things going for her: education and a skill that was needed. It changed the course of direction for 3 generations, and all those that follow.

It’s not an easy fix, and certainly not as simple as I may be painting the picture. Suffering is never easy. Solutions are often slow and small. But someone has to be willing to make one decision after another that leads to change.

The mining company that is getting rock from this land is part of the issue. They could put back into the community, something that improves the life of the people who are affected by their mining. For example, help the community have easy access to clean water. They could put some protections in their operation so when the rainy season comes there are not mud slides that literally displace communities that will be completely abolished with one slide. They could engage with living wage jobs, make infrastructure improvements (roads; water; etc.) … but instead, they mine in the poorest of communities where the people have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

And so…trying to get to the USA ..land of the free and brave sure seems like a better way than staying. Land of mountains and valleys and rivers and wildlife and parks and beauty and …peace. Even in the bad days, we have peace as part of our way of being.

The ACD staff team is “all in”. But they are not the only ones. These children have begun to dream. They tell us they want to be teachers and doctors and wildlife managers and engineers. They are also going “all in”. And one day… life will be different around them. Hope is rising. God is stirring their hearts and surrounding them with a community of people who will take the journey. And this journey is filled with Hope.

Here is an article recently published that shares about the situation in Guatemala.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/feb/07/guatemala-hunger-famine-flee-north

Here is a link to ACD’s website:

https://www.acdguatemala.org

Discover JOY

I never get tired of the joy that comes when we pour into young people. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Franklin, TN or Guatemala. There is something so good that happens in our adult spirits when we invest some time and love in the life of those who are “becoming” who God created them to be.

Can you remember someone that invested time and love in you? Keep passing that on to the young people in your life; they need it! And for us adults… we need it even more.

Check out these smiles! I am grateful for the chance to visit and see the investment in the children of Guatemala. Their joy increases my heart and strengthens my spirit. What is strengthening your spirit and increasing your heart?

ACD temporary classroom while construction is in process

Oh the joy of being on a swing with friends!

A puzzle of God’s attributes in Spanish. The children taught me a few words and helped me improve my language quest.

Beautiful gate of welcome at ACD

Remember what it is like when your teacher takes time to sit with you a while just because he/she enjoys being with you? Joanna and Valentin know Yazmin cares!

ACD Facebook Page. Click here to see recent posts and photos from ACD:

https://www.facebook.com/acdguatemalaorg/

BLOG: Generations Rising

Lemoa is a sacred spot in Chichicastenango. It’s a retreat center belonging to the Metodista Iglesia. A small lake, giant pine trees and a stillness that brings peace. The Annual Conference gathering is here this week and we have come to participate today. Here we meet new friends and connect with old ones.

Young persons report in progress

A highlight for me today was a conversation with the young adults who God is stirring into relationship and service.

They shared the story of how they organized themselves into a group of 9 youth and then they began to reach out to others and invite them to come join them. They serve together. They pray together. They keep inviting others and they tell us that “God is creating a connection”. This is what the God of heaven is doing! Even though they are in different places, the desire to connect is strong. Their peers are responding. “I see a new generation rising up to take their place!” What a joy to encourage and pray with them. We hope to connect them with our students at Franklin First UMC this summer.

Pastor Jasón, Manuel, Víctor, Me, Monica, Abigail, Adolfo

The new Volunteers in Mission (VIM) Coordinator, Lourdes Mroczka, (LuLu) is here and she is awesome! She is a missionary with the Global Missions of the United Methodist Church. She is from Mexico and has served in Nicaragua, USA, and is now assigned to Guatemala. She gave an incredible report today about transparency, accountability and working collaboratively with many churches. Very encouraging.

Lourdes, VIM Coordinator of Guatemala

Lourdes and her husband Rich. He is also a missionary; from the Western PA Conference

The Call to Worship brings people in from their lunch conversations. The Bishop has taken his place. Presenters are sitting on the sides. The business of Conference takes place. Sometimes it helps perspective to see how other cultures express their faith and live their rhythms.

Dinner at Hotel Santo Tomas tonight with an FSU team working on their Masters in Urban Planning. Guatemala is their learning ground. Very good to see these students learning and becoming the leaders of tomorrow. God sure is changing our world. I hope our eyes and spirits are wide open.

Much good happened today. So grateful.