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My Two Versions of a Beatitude

Janet O. Hagberg

Beatitude Poem: French Pantoum form

Stanza 1:

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

 

Stanza 2:

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

For your life will be transformed

 

Stanza 3:

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

For your life will be transformed

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

c Janet O. Hagberg, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

My Original Beatitude

Blessed are you who created me along with every leaf and bird and animal and snowflake; and now watch over us all

Blessed are you who know me inside and out and shower me with your love

Blessed are you who weep when I weep and laugh when I laugh

Blessed are you who make plans for my growth in ways too deep for words

Blessed are you who pick me up when I fall and hold me until the fear transforms me

Blessed are you who choose to use all of my weaknesses and imperfections to display your glory and power

Blessed are you who bring forth joy and gladness out of my pain when I attend to it with courage

Blessed are you who make your home in me

Blessed are you

c Janet O. Hagberg, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

Reflections on these beatitudes

Which lines resonate most with you?

How does God most bless your life?

How do you bless God’s life in you?

What is your gratitude beatitude?

Dear Subscribers,

These personal beatitude poems are the last in my beatitude series. I hope you enjoyed the alternative interpretations for the beatitudes.

I am pleased to announce the addition of three guest bloggers for the next 6 months. They are all vitally interesting people, have active and questioning faith and a wonderful way with words. They range in age from mid 30s to mid 50s. With gratitude, I introduce you to Jessica Sanborn, Michael Bischoff and Tracy Mooty. I hope you will read their posts and comment when you feel the urge.

They will take three weeks of each month and I will take one week. I’m doing this partly to introduce you to new voices but also because I’m entering a new phase of life/work myself. I’m facilitating a 10-month process for a handful of people who desire to be healers in their everyday walks of life. I’m eager to walk with them and to learn from them, as well as pour God’s love into them. So keep us all in your prayers as we move forward on this grand adventure. I may post information from the process from time to time. We’ll see how the spirit moves within me. And thanks for being along for the journey.

Janet Hagberg

Dear Subscribers,

Today is the last in the series of What is Church? Why Church? I offer two last comments, one from me and one from a young man who sings his idea of what church is. I hope these offerings have made you reflect on what church is for you and have brought some clarity.

Why Church?

Janet O. Hagberg

 

In 6 words: INTIMACY WITH GOD AND GOD’S FRIENDS

 

Why church?

It’s a serious question I ask myself from time to time. I used to take church for granted, attending because I had friends there, I liked the ministers, the sermons were challenging and the music was great. I guess you could say that I had a sense of community, being with people who were on the journey with me, doing life and faith together, being there for one another. I had a sense of belonging, a place that felt like home.

While all the reasons I’ve mentioned still resonate in me they are not compelling for me like they used to be. I don’t think this is the church’s fault. It’s just that I’ve changed. My soul now longs for something deep and real to be tapped within me. “Like a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1). It’s not that I never find that at church, it’s just that most churches are not set up for deep soul work.

So why not just quit attending church all together, as many people in our culture have done? Well, I’ve tried that! And, for me, sitting home on Sunday morning with a good book or going to a coffee shop leaves me feeling empty, like I’m missing something. (I admit, though, that coffee shops are among my most intimate and sacred places, just not on the Sabbath). This sense of missing church does not feel like just a matter of tradition or guilt. What I miss is the possibility of the surprise presence of mystery that I feel is more alive in sacred spaces and with sacred intentions.

 

What Nurtures my Faith?

Recently I asked the core question, “What do I need most in order to nurture my faith at this point in my journey?” I’ve found that three things are vital for me (all related to spiritual deepening): intimacy with God and close friends, prayer and Eucharist. These are my three highest priorities. When I reflect on these three I am sobered by the fact that the first two, the most vital ones, I find mostly outside the walls of the church, at least for the kind of prayer and intimacy I seek.

The third one, Eucharist, I can only find within the church. And I do. I even plan which church I will attend by when they have Eucharist. I love Eucharist. And for a Protestant, that is unusual. I know Eucharist has a lot of different meanings and it is one of the most contentious issues between different factions in the Christian world. But for me, it is the most intimate moment in the church; Jesus inviting me to his essence, his food, his drink, his love. And all of us rag tag searchers are equally welcome at the table as we trudge to the arms of Jesus.

So where do I find nourishment for my deeper soul needs; intimacy and prayer? This longing is met in various ways, but mostly with my closest friends and in two small spiritual listening groups in which we listen to how God is working in each person’s life. I also find meaning in my daily prayer and journaling time with God…in my spiritual direction sessions…in my spiritual mentoring with young people….in my art studio… in nature… and in my writing. I consider these things to represent a larger meaning of church for me.

While I get most of my needs met outside the organized church, my soul’s longing is further complicated by what I earlier called the “surprise presence of mystery” that still happens more often than not at church. So, just when I get set to check out of the church, when I feel as if I’m hanging on by a thread, I find a spontaneous blessing amidst my confusion and aloneness. When these blessings appear I savor them as gifts that send me back out into the world in a sacred way, kind of like a personal commissioning from God. One time it will come in a challenging question from a sermon. Another time it is the breathtaking musical harmony in the choir. Sometimes it is the touch of a hand holding mine during the benediction or the organ recital postlude.

 

To Get You Must Give

Some who are reading this might suggest that if I got more involved by giving back to the church my soul would feel more connected. I’ve tried that too! And I find that my soul is crying out for less not more, for depth not breadth. Essentially I need a place where I can be real and vulnerable, not a place in which I teach, travel, serve or attend committee meetings. Not that those activities are wrong. I am just no longer effective in those roles and they aren’t life-giving for me.

What is something authentic that I can offer the church? I’d say the way that the Spirit uses me in my role as an anchoress, a non-anxious presence, is part of my gift to the church, as are occasional healing conversations I have during the coffee hour. Or the support I give individually to the pastoral staff. Sometimes just my prayers or a spontaneous mentoring session is my contribution. I imagine myself as a small and simple gift to the church; like a tiny spark of God in the tumult of life, the tumult that arrives with people each week in church.

But more importantly I think what I give to the church is who I am in the world outside the walls of the church, the person I’ve come to be by God’s enormous grace. I cherish my open heartedness to the needs of God’s children who are so much on the margins of society they will never attend church. And feeling God’s grace in my own daily world reminds me, again, of Eucharist. We are all rag tag searchers, looking for home. We are invited to the table to receive the love, the presence, the nourishment, the essence of Christ. We’re invited home…

Then perhaps, just perhaps, we will be asked to go back out into our daily lives and be that Eucharist for the world.

And that may be enough.

 

P.S. Several months after writing this essay I decided to try being in a church choir just for the holiday season, since I wanted to give gratitude to God for my life. It became one of those “spontaneous blessings amidst my confusion and aloneness.” I felt so full of joy as a result of my choir experience, I joined for the whole year. So it seems I am always changing and opening new doors.

 

ÓJanet O. Hagberg, 2014. All rights reserved.
For a refreshing look at Eucharist for Protestants, read Shadow Meal by Mike McNichols. Available on amazon.com

 

Reflections on this essay

What does church mean to you?

How has that changed in the last several years?

What is most important for nurturing your faith?

Where do you receive that?

What do you give back to the church or to your spiritual community?

 

Jeremy Sims sings A Place Called Grace

A Place Called Grace
Verse
It seems I’m longing, longing for a home
It seems I’m wanting, a place to just belong
Where weary souls find rest and are never alone
It seems I’m saving, my heart for just a home
It seems I’m waiting, for a place to call my own
For this weary soul to find rest and never alone
Chorus
A place called grace, a place called grace
where undeserving find mercy
and overlooked see they’re worthy
A place called grace, a place called grace
where the orphan’s never alone
and the prodigal is coming home
Bridge
I’m going home to a city with mercy and grace
where I’m known by my name
Come and go with me to this place
where grace runs deeper than shame
(Try this link to picosong to hear Jeremy singing his song)

 

Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Five versions: NRSV, The Message, Aramaic, C. Paintner, F. Buechner

 

Blessed are you when people revile you.

Verse 11-12:

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. NRSV

 

Count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit you. What it means it that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can even be glad when that happens—give a cheer even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. The Message

 

Renewal when you are reproached and driven away by the clamor of evil on all sides, for my sake…Then do everything extreme, including letting your ego disappear, for this is the secret of claiming your expanded home in the universe. For so they shamed those before you: All who are enraptured, saying inspired things—who produce on the outside what the spirit has given them within. Aramaic

 

What are the quiet voices within you that have been persecuted? How have you shut out the wisdom of these smaller selves? How might you begin to make room for them to emerge? …Remember the cloud of witnesses who stand beside you supporting you in this journey. See if any of them have faces you recognize. Christine Paintner

 

Jesus says that his listeners are blessed when they are worked over and cursed out on his account…It is not his hard times to come but theirs he is concerned with, speaking out of his own meekness and mercy, the purity of his own heart. Frederick Buechner

 

Reflections on this Beatitude:

Which version speaks to you most?

How does it relate to your life now?

What would your own beatitude be, if you would write one?

How is God a beatitude (a blessing) for you?

My new web site is up and active. Please visit…It’s an oasis of beauty, hope and healing. Go there for calm, beauty, learning, connecting, healing. Keep coming back when life gets strenuous. Soak in the warmth, the beauty, and the light of the candle glowing there. And it’s mobile friendly! Yea.

Thanks for your continued support and encouragement along the way.

Janet Hagberg

What is Church? Why Church? Part 8

 

Today I have included a fairly wide variety of responses to the questions What is Church? And Why Church? First I give you a number of six-word answers from a broad age range. Next a NYTimes article about how atheists are forming communities to share rituals that churches usually perform. And lastly we hear from three different clergy women of various backgrounds. Enjoy and ponder all of this. What would your answer be. Next installment will be my answer to this question!

 

Six-Word Answers

Community Celebrates Mourns Sinners Forgiven Grace-full

Messy Community Life-Together Dogmatism Hope Interpretation

Home…Heal…Grow…Love…Deepen…Surrender

Broken…Mean…Selfish…Controlling…Frightening…Ungodly

Walls to break through, and rebuild

Make God visible in sacrificing love

A Place within for personal worship

All that is will ever be

 

Atheists and Church-like Rituals

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/opinion/religion-without-god.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share

 

 

Three clergy women answer the question

What is Church? By an African American clergy woman, baby boomer (in her fifties)

Church is the faithful and disloyal me, the strong and the weak me, the refreshed and the weary me, the full and the empty me engulfed in God’s Holy Spirit seeking to hear God’s voice and to do his will.

 

 

“ Why church?”  Ellen Duffield, a pastor in Canada, also a Ph.d who is a specialist on women and leadership in the church. Ellen is in her fifties.

Some 35 years into a life journey with Jesus Christ I have so often reflected on this … especially while serving as the (female) pastor of an evangelical church … experiencing first hand how flawed and pain filled/inducing the church is … hearing every reason other’s felt we were redundant.

Having played skeptical observer, enthusiastic participant, struggling leader, disillusioned ‘walk-awayer’ and hesitant returnee I get the spectrum of possible human responses. Yet none of these personal experiences really carries sufficient weight to base, what turns out to be, such a momentous decision upon.

To reflect on church is to reflect on what it means to be a present day gathering of the thousands of years old people of God. To consider what it is to be a community of believers who so often absentmindedly limps along -or worse yet, deliberately and defiantly abuses our potential influence – and then suddenly shows up with compassion, healing power, truth or genuine faith.

It is to reflect on what God could possibly have been thinking when He chose the church as the Body and Bride for His Beloved Son; or designed us such that we need each other’s gifts and insights to fully live the promised abundant life.

It is to seek out world views beyond our individualistic, consumerism and results oriented one…realizing we could learn so much from those who more intuitively create the safety nets of extended families and communities… and the richness of traditions that root and unite us.

And it is to reflect on what it means that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection broke down the dividing walls and that the Spirit, unwieldy stone by stone, is building a home for God and us on that very spot, with those very pieces.

The church stands as the God-ordained opportunity for people of all kinds to come together to remember He is worthy to be praised, and worth loving each other for.

Into our beautiful yet broken world God places the church.  His instrument of reconciliation and redemption. Why? That is well beyond the scope of my limited insight to assess. And yet there it is. And here we are. And God help us be that church.

One thing I do know, it will take all of us using our diverse gifts, ‘cause that’s just the way it works.”

 

 

What is Church? Danielle Jones, Minister of Congregational Life, Colonial Church, Edina. Danielle is in her forties.

My parents gave me my very first experience of church.  Both of my parents were committed to church when I was a kid.  We were that family that went to church every single Sunday.  A lot of weeks we even went and served at our church on Saturdays- cleaning the sanctuary, putting cookies on trays for the coffee hour, and helping to prepare things for Sunday morning.  Church felt like an extension of home to me.  A place I liked to be. A place full of kind people in fancy clothes doing things together.

The first place I learned how to really live out church was at camp.  From 4th grade through my college years there was not a summer that went by that I did not spend, at the very least, one week at camp.  To me- camp was a week long experience in church.  It was real, dirty, active, community focused and a whole lot of fun.  I could be myself at camp- playing outside, singing songs in worship, doing silly skits, and asking my counselors honest questions about God and their faith as I tried to figure out what I believed.  Camp gave me a taste for true community.  Living together in a dirty old cabin brought out the best and the worst of all of us with Christ at the center.

The first place I questioned the need for church was when I was in seminary- oddly enough.  My first two years at Fuller Theological Seminary I struggled to find a church.  I visited churches but I often sat alone and wasn’t welcomed by very many people.  Needless to say- this led to a bit of a church crisis for me.  I was after all preparing to go into full-time ministry.  If I couldn’t get connected in church then why would I work in a church?  In that period of my life I realized that for me- church and service are intimately connected.  If I did not have a reason to serve at a given church it was difficult for me to meet people and feel like church was my home.  I was finally able to connect to a church when a friend of mine invited me to help him with the college ministry that he was leading.  This “in” gave me the chance to connect, get involved, and serve.

In these days the place I most like to celebrate church is in smaller gatherings.  Our church serves a meal on Wednesday night and I love to sit around the table, talk to people, and eat together- to me, that is church.  I am a part of a small group of women that share how God is working in our lives and pray for each other on a regular basis while pushing one another to go deeper in faith- to me, that is church.  My husband and I also meet with four other couples monthly to share a meal, talk about the Bible, and ponder tough questions- to me, that is church.

For me- church is honest questions asked and pondered.  Church is sharing a meal and some laughter while encouraging one another.  Church is studying scripture and reflecting on my life by asking the question “where do I see God at work?”  Church is safe, honest and real.  Church is my home.

 

 

 

 

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