Guide and Friend

Acacia trees dotted the grassy plains as far as I could see. Our Maasai guide, Jacob, explained that the 580 square mile preserve is named the Maasai Mara Preserve in honor of his people who have called the area home for centuries and for the spotted look of the plains from the trees and shrubs. Mara means “spotted” in Maasai.

Suddenly, the 2-way radio in the Land Cruiser crackled to life with his brother’s voice speaking excitedly in Maasai (his brother is also a safari guide) and Jacob raced off in a new direction calling out to us in English that lions had been spotted. We were headed to find them.

I marveled at how Jacob knew where he was going, as we bounced along rocky dirt roads and crossed boulder studded rivers in our Land Cruiser. Brilliant, iridescently colored birds flew beside us. He didn’t have a map or GPS, and everything looked the same to me. When I asked him about this, Jacob pointed to his head and responded, “Internal GPS.” For someone who doesn’t have a strong sense of direction and who can get lost in places I’ve been a dozen times, I immediately envied his internal GPS. Then it dawned on me. I do have internal GPS. It’s called the Holy Spirit and it helps me navigate the landscape of life.

This same thought came to me again as I walked through the narrow, twisting streets of Stone Town, the old city of Zanzibar. How easily I could get lost here if not for my friend and guide who used to live in Nairobi and has been to Stone Town many times. How easily I could get “lost” in life without my friend and guide Jesus beside me.

As we look forward to the hope of Easter, may we remember and find comfort in having internal GPS with the Holy Spirit and a friend and shepherd in Jesus who can guide us no matter where we find ourselves in life and how lost we feel. Let us walk forth with faith that no matter what lies ahead, God goes before us.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

This post asks us the question, who will be your guide and friend next week during Holy Week?

Shared by Patricia Wu

A guide and friend for our journey.  Who will you choose?

Jump

I’m told I’ve got to strum a lyric myth of the afterlife to come 
So I don’t die of fright of death or waste the life I’m in.
Right now my back’s against a rock so hard it almost cracks
my spine – my back’s against a time-machine of life that’s tellin’ me, 
“no holdin’ back” and of-a-sudden Brother Orpheus rises up
as Brother Van upon the screen and beats a syncopated riff so strong
it hypnotizes brain and feet - 

Jump!
Jump!
Jump!

Of that I’m sayin’ I’m not too keen when I’m not sure if I will land or
just keep goin’ down – hey, I’m sayin’ where’s the promise I’ll rise up
in Jesus’ lap in an elevator-up machine – show me where it says
I’ll have a place in Elysian pastures green if I should choose to take
the risk to Jump - what then, dear Brother Van, and
as for landin’ in the lap of Jesus – tell me what that means.
	
Brother Hopkins sings that Jesus plays in limbs and faces not 
his own – plays to the Father – 
Hey! it’s time to get to what is real - make a leap of language here! – 
Jump off the lyric script, the twelve-tone scale, the alphabet, 
dare to screech between the notes what’s not been heard
or just left out or overlooked
Bring in some cover here –  
Sister Julian’s lovin’ cover song of Jesus as our given Mother
and God as like a Mother Hen that’s givin’ cover to her brood.

Jump! because there’s everything to gain if you land in Sister Jesus’ 
lap or even Sister Mary’s – can’t you hear her whisperin’
in the ever-rushing wind that the better thing to do is Jump in trust
and make it true though it’s the hardest thing you ever have to do.

Practice-jumpin’ off the bottom steps of stairs, seats of hard-back
kitchen chairs wavin’ kitchen tools – your pastry blender as a steel guitar
you’re pluckin with your thumb – become a child who jumps for joy 
because she can, in trust she’ll land in Mother’s lap, Sister Miriam’s,
Mama Maudie’s, Mary Magdalene’s – you got it!

Take your pick and plink your vision/version in your Hard Rock 
Hybrid Band with your sisters and your brothers singin’- yeah –
how hard it’s been – hard as a rock – and here’s a lyric play on words –
hey, don’t you know that rock can be a metaphor, another name for God?
Jump for life that you may live – Jump in trust of who you are – 
Jump for all the crucified – 
Jump that even if afraid – 
you’ll be risin’, risin’ - risen everywhere to
God.

By Margie Dimoplon

The Whole Picture

I wonder if you might notice anything a little strange about this image?  

I was in my newly-discovered neighborhood woods on my birthday in January, when I happened on this scene.  I was struck by the vibrancy of the seemingly dead surroundings, the deep blue of the pond, the way it mirrored the woods surrounding it with such brilliance.  I found myself caught up in the detail of the reflected pond, almost forgetting the reality of the trees encircling me and confused as to why the sky seemed even bluer there.  

I had to remind myself I was seeing only a mirror image.  As real as it seemed, it was not the truth of the reality before me.  

Love is a mystery.  In this age of despair and conflict, all that love manifests: empathy, forgiveness, hope -- seem at times to be outdated virtues of a simpler era.  How can they possibly create the change we so desperately need?

But these three remain: faith, hope and love; and therein lies true power, even if it might seem impossible to us.  We just aren’t seeing the whole picture yet. 

Figured it out yet?  The image is upside-down. 
  

1 Corinthians 13: 12-13

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Shared by Karla Hendrick

Tiny Practice: Smell the Flowers

“Flowers grow out of dark moments.” Corita Kent

Be sure to take a moment in the next few weeks as the Cherry Blossom-blossoms, the Tulips–sprout, the Daffodils–wander in the wind, or even the lowly Dandelion’s seeds blow away, to smell the flowers of spring. The smell of flowers heals the soul.

Marcie Doll

A Little Joy and Encouragement

As you probably know by now, music brings me so much joy in life. And I am open to music of many different genres…I hope that music will always bring me joy as much as the man in the checkered shirt in this video. In some of life’s darkest times, I look to some of my favorite songs to lift the darkness and walk towards the light.

Here is the background: The musician, George Ezra’s song Budapest was a sleeper hit that won song of the year in Britain in 2013. For some reason, this video captures the power of music to reach all ages. It is called George Ezra vs. Seniors and just enjoy how music can connect people.

Shared by Marcie Doll

Oh and if you want to listen to the whole song, check this out…

The Mission/How Great Though Art

On this Sunday, I share a beautiful combination of two favorites…and different versions. Today, there is much to pray for and I ask you to pray as you listen to music from the late Ennio Morricone, who passed away in July of 2020.

Shared by Marcie Doll

A few African Sunsets for Day 3

A Sunset in Zanzibar

“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.”

Samuel Smiles

Two sunsets from The Mara Narok, Kenya

These photos were shared by Patricia Wu from her ongoing journey to Africa.

Africa’s Splendor…Day 2

Today, we will spend some time with Lions and Cheetahs….the glory of God in nature.

A Three Day Journey to Africa

Today, we start a three-day journey with one of our leadership team members, Patricia Wu.  She is currently traveling through several countries in Africa and shared some stories, pictures, and video for us to center our Lenten journey on nature.


Nature has always been a source of inspiration, wonder and wisdom for me. On a recent visit to Nairobi National Park and the Maasai Mara National Preserve in Kenya, nature once again had an important reminder for me.

First, I saw zebras standing shoulder to shoulder facing opposite directions and then I noticed the giraffes doing the same thing. I asked my Maasai guide why the animals stood like that. He replied that it's for security so they can watch over each other's shoulder for any sign of danger.  They've literally got each other's backs! I even saw two cheetah siblings standing like that so that they could look over each other's shoulder. Perhaps in their case it wasn't so much about danger, but who could spot dinner first! 

Whether you're a zebra or giraffe and live in the Mara (a vast expanse of wilderness in southwest Kenya where natural predators such as lions, cheetahs and leopards roam freely) or you live in an urban jungle like Manhattan, knowing that someone has your back eases the burden of the struggles of life.  Knowing that God always has my back has given me the strength and courage to face the valleys I have encountered in my life. During those trials, I have held on to God's promises that "As my days are, so shall my strength be" and that "God will turn my mourning into dancing and give me beauty for ashes."

As we move from ashes to Easter, let us remember that we are not alone, and that God is with us and providing the strength and grace that we need to move forward.

Lucky for me…

I’ve been through trials that gave me a lot

…of music for grieving, encouragement, hope and faith.

Lucky for me…

That I noticed that trials require seeking

…sources for leaning into grief, encouragement, hope and faith.

Lucky for me…

That I can recognize that trials can be muted by

         A word or phrase from a friend,

         A familiar or never considered scripture

         A bud in the sunlight

         A goose honking ‘get away!’

         The light on the river – night or day

         The billowing clouds racing across royal blue skies

         Something funny – a cartoon, a comment, a wry interjection.

Lucky for me…

That I believe that God is joining in always with my

         Grief, encouragement, hope and faith

         Through the words, the writings, the sunlight and rain

         Through the animal kingdom and through humanity

         Through the nurture of nature and the nature of nurture.

Lucky.  Lucky. Lucky for me.

Susan Ceely Phillips

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