Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

When it Rains it Floods…and Makes Lightening

 

Scripture doodle art by Jennifer Clark Tinker

Scripture doodle art by Jennifer Clark Tinker

Living in Texas has had its ups and downs for me. I’ve had the joy of getting better acquainted with my in-laws, and the honor of being with my mother-in-law in her dying days. I’ve enjoyed spending time outdoors more days out of the year. But I’ve also had the worry of drought, and the terror of lightening striking my house.

Lately we’ve had massive rains and severe flooding near us and my worry and terror leftover from past calamities have crept back up on me.

We were in Houston the other night with flash-flood warnings blaring from smart phones all night. The power at my father-in-law’s house went way down low–I guess you call it a brown-out–but it never went out completely. It was an eery and restless night.

The next morning, interstates and schools were closed all over the metropolis. I was supposed to go to a conference, but I was prevented from making the trip.

We were able to return home safely, and sleep in our own beds the next night. But more rains came that night too. And there were more flash-flood warnings. And there was lightening–violent outbursts of shocking, white light filling the sky, penetrating the darkness of my bedroom.

The lightening that Tuesday night took me back to that night of the lightening striking my house. My breath felt shallow, my heart was in panic mode. I got out of bed–sleep was not even an option at that point–and tried to outsmart the flashes interrupting the darkness by lighting a candle, and I sang and played on my ukulele until the sun showed up Wednesday morning.

The next few days remained edgy for me. The next couple of nights I defied the wet of rains and floods by lighting a fire in my backyard. This was my own little way of trying to take back some measure of control over elements that are actually far beyond my reach.

Saturday came and I needed to pull myself together to prepare a sermon. I had read and re-read the Gospel appointed for Sunday, and had given some thought to my message. But I needed to get to it for real, so I sat down and read all four of the scriptures that were appointed.

[Sidebar: The Lutheran tradition of which I am a part generally uses a 3-year cycle of scripture readings called the Revised Common Lectionary. Each Sunday has four readings appointed; ordinarily these include an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament epistle (or letter), and a New Testament Gospel.]

And I tell you, I know that no cycle of readings can be perfect, but I am so grateful for the tradition of having a lectionary. It helps tremendously to stretch me to read parts of the Bible that I might otherwise overlook. I mean, favorites are favorites for a reason and worth reading and re-reading, so that’s often what I do when I approach scripture on my own.

But Saturday was a shining example of  how my faith, my life, are enhanced by having a lectionary. I would not have happened upon Psalm 29 by chance. But it was appointed for this past Sunday. And the words of that Psalm washed over me with peace and comfort.

Here are some nuggets:

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” –Psalm 29:3-4

“The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.” –Psalm 29:7

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” –Psalm 29:10-11

These words spoke to me in my uneasiness about the weather. For all of the out-of-control I feel, God is bigger yet than those flashes of flooding and of lightening. And I laugh at myself trying to defy the elements, lighting my candles and fires, for God is even above my vanity, my folly, my fires.

I don’t know exactly what it means that God is above all these things. I shudder when some attribute vengeance to God, suggesting that God sent floods to discipline God’s created people. I don’t perceive God as working that way.

For me comfort comes from knowing that God is steadfast. God is not shaken by even the most aggressive tempests. God’s love is a constant on which I can rely–rain or shine.

I am in awe of the work of brothers and sisters in the faith who have woven together lectionaries. I am thankful for this Psalm that spoke to me in the middle of the rain. And I am relaxing into the peace that comes from knowing that God is enthroned over the floods and lightening.

Give-Away: Watercolor Scripture Art

IMG_4380

Art by Jennifer Clark Tinker

You could win a one-of-a-kind scripture watercolor similar to the one pictured here!

These paintings were inspired by Grace & Peace: Devotions for Lent 2015 for which I was one of three writers (see cover photo below; click for more information or to order now).

Grace&Peace

The paintings all have the same verse, “Live in love as Christ loved us” (Ephesians 5:2), but since the backgrounds and scripture verse were all hand-painted by me, no two paintings are exactly alike.

I am giving away five of these paintings in a drawing for anyone who supports the Grace & Peace devotional project in some way and tells me about it as described in the following “Two Easy Steps to Enter.”

Two Easy Steps to Enter

Step #1 On or before Wednesday, February 11, 2015, either order one or more Grace & Peace devotionals (regular print, large print, or e-book format) -or- recommend the Grace & Peace devotionals to someone else. [If you’ve already done one or both, then jump ahead to Step #2]

Step #2 Leave me a comment at the end of this blog post by Midnight (central time) on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 telling me how you fulfilled step #1 (above). [Note: This is going to be on the honor system here–no “proof of purchase” necessary.]

Winners will be announced here on the blog on Thursday, February 12, 2015 and will be notified using the e-mail address associated with the comment. If your name is chosen, I will ask you for a mailing address to send you the painting.

If your name is not picked, please know that I appreciate your support. I am so excited to see this project getting into people’s hands. And of course, I pray this resource will enrich you as you draw close to God in your Lenten pilgrimage.

Rain, Rain, What Can I Say?

Artwork by Jennifer Clark Tinker Watercolor with gel pen

Artwork by Jennifer Clark Tinker
Watercolor with gel pen

It has been cold, wet, and rainy all day. And I keep telling myself not to complain because we need the rain.

It was only a few months ago I was fretting about drought conditions, worrying that we weren’t getting the rain we so desperately needed!

So, all day as I have shivered to the bone–I mean, to the bone, people–I have tried not to curse this cold, wet, much-needed rain.

I did complain a while about being cold at lunch out with my husband and son, but I was careful not to curse the rain itself.

“Mom, you really should bundle up more,” was my son’s unsympathetic reply.

I muttered something about not having a warm enough coat, but I did not curse the rain.

Out again into the rain to get into my car, I shivered yet again. Still I did not curse the rain. I blasted the heater as soon as I got my car running, hoping it would warm up noticeably on my way home.

Turning into my driveway, the rain continued its steady downfall. I braced myself for the moment when I would have to quickly gather my belongings and run into my home, trying keep as dry and warm as possible in that transition from car to house.

Then I looked up toward the bend in the driveway and I saw water streaming around the bend from up by the house. I wanted to curse, not the rain, but the gravel driveway that has ruts worn as river-beds.

My gravel driveway with "ruts worn as river-beds" Photo by Jennifer Clark Tinker

My gravel driveway with “ruts worn as river-beds”
Photo by Jennifer Clark Tinker

But then, the word of the the Lord came unto me. A verse of a Psalm sprang to mind:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High. –Psalm 46:4

 These streams of rain are glad tidings for our drought-recovering lands!

And so, my heart was turned from barely holding back curses, to delight. I sat back and laughed at my fickleness about rain–wanting it when I’m scared of drought but cursing it when it gets inconvenient for me.

I laughed at my shivering and my complaining. And I chose gladness instead.

Rain, I know you don’t need my approval. What else can I say, rain, but that I am glad for you streaming here this day.

Let It Be – A Dramatic Monologue from the Perspective of Mary

This dramatic, in-character monologue is what I imagine as the continuation of Mary’s story after she hears that she is to bear God’s son as recorded in Luke 1:26-38.

I wrote and presented this at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Greenvine, TX on the 4th Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2014.

Click the following link to listen to the monologue or scroll down to read the manuscript:

http://www.spreaker.com/user/5989422/let-it-be-dramatic-monologue

 

Let It Be

Part 1: Who Me?

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” That’s what I told the angel Gabriel.

“Yes, sir, Gabriel, sir!”

So obedient…like a good little soldier taking orders.

I’ve watched the Roman soldiers enough to see them take their orders. They occupy our land to “keep the peace” by intimidation and threats…or worse. Is there even a soul inside those dutiful shells?

But my orders are from The Lord, the God of my ancestors. I am The Lord’s servant!

Yes, here am I, the servant of the Lord!

But…to let it be with me as Gabriel said? What have I gotten myself into? I’m not ready for a baby. I’m not even married yet!

Oh, this is too much. This is too much, Lord!

I knew my life was changing when I became betrothed to Joseph. I know I’m not the care-free child I was. My mother has been preparing me for my life with Joseph—like she’s trying to fit all the lessons of womanhood in these last few months before we are married.

And of course, I knew that motherhood would come soon after our marriage. Oh, how I have longed to hold a child of my own in my arms!

But this news from the angel Gabriel? Nothing in all of my mother’s lessons prepared me for this.
But sure, Gabriel, “let it be with me according to your word!”

Yet, what else could I say?! It’s not every day an angel of the Lord comes to some random daughter of Israel with such a high, holy commission.

 

Part 2: The Hope of Israel

The angel said I have found favor with God and I am to bear our long-awaited Messiah—God’s Chosen One!

Yes, of course, I’ll do it, Lord. I am your servant. Let it be, let it all be as your angel has said.

This child—my child—will be the fulfillment of the hope of all of Israel—and all the nations of the world will be blessed through this child. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, longing for.

Our land, promised to Abraham, is not our own. We live under these filthy Romans.

But to have our kingdom restored forever? To have my son sit on the throne of his ancestor David?

We will never have to suffer under this foreign army ever again. The Lord has remembered his promises to his faithful servants!

Yes! Let it be Lord! Let it come to pass at last! Lift us up from under the feet of our oppressors and restore us once more!

 

Part 3: Disgrace

Yes, I am to bear the Chosen One because I have found favor with God!

But the timing is a bit perplexing. The angel Gabriel said the time was “now” for this child to be conceived. I asked how exactly that was going to happen since I have not, ahem, been with a man.

The answer was something about the Holy Spirit…It’s all very strange and perplexing.

And as for Joseph, how am I going to explain this to him?

“Well Joseph, you see, the angel Gabriel visited me and said that God was putting the Messiah in my womb.” And if that doesn’t convince him, I’ll just be sure and let him know it’s because I have found favor with God.

Ha!

It will never work. Lord, this will never work! I’m not saying I won’t do it…I just, I know what he will think. I know he will think I have been with another man.

And I know what the law says could happen to me if that is what he thinks. I could be stoned to death.

Lord, I am willing to let it be with me as your angel has said, but I’m not sure if I can sell this Holy Spirit business to Joseph. I confess I do not understand it myself.

 

Part 4: What Kind of Man is Joseph?

How can I explain to Joseph these…circumstances? I realize now how little I know him, how little I know what to say to him, how to explain…myself…to him.

Lord, you know me through and through. I cannot understand how, why you are giving me—me!—this honor.

But this “honor” will only end in my disgrace unless Joseph is the kind of man who will hear me and understand and see your hand in this.

Oh Lord, I cannot explain it to him myself. If I had the power to persuade, I would say a great many things—I would right all the wrongs of this world with my voice.

But words fail me. Power eludes me.

I am your lowly servant. I will do what you say. But on this Lord, I must insist: you must go to Joseph, send your angel, send however many angels it takes to convince him that this is your plan, your doing.

 

Part 5: God Keeps His Promises

Indeed Lord, it is your plan. And it seems impossible.

But your angel reminded me that nothing is impossible with you, oh, Lord.

“Remember your cousin Elizabeth?” Gabriel reminded me.

Dear, sweet Elizabeth.

She has waited so long for her arms to be filled with a child. She had given up hope of ever having a baby of her own.

Oh, the ways you work, Lord! What a wonder! Elizabeth—who we all thought could never have a baby—is six months pregnant—her belly getting bigger by the minute!

Elizabeth who couldn’t be pregnant and I who shouldn’t be pregnant!

If you can work this miracle for Elizabeth, Gabriel is right! Nothing is impossible with you, Oh Most High!

And so I trust you, Lord, my Lord. I know you can do this. I don’t know how, but I know you can, you will! You are faithful to keep your promises and you will do all that the angel said!

And you will deal with Joseph?

Of course you will. I trust you will, and you can!

This is a wonder! I must go and tell my cousin Elizabeth of this news at once!

I am your servant Lord! Let it be with me as you have said!

 

Light Show & Tell

This message based on John 1:6-8, 19-28 explores the hope that we have in Jesus as the light that shines in our darkness.

This was preached and recorded at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Greenvine, TX on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 14, 2014

Click the following link to listen to the message or scroll down to read the manuscript:

http://www.spreaker.com/user/5989422/light-show-tell

 

Light Show & Tell

Hope. We hope for lots of things in this life. Some of what we hope for is really profound, like the tenacious teen who says, “I hope we will have peace on earth.” Other times we hope for something more of the moment, like a child who says, “I hope I get what I asked Santa for this Christmas!”

Grown-ups hope too. They may say something like, “I hope I get the job promotion I’ve been working toward.” Or, “I hope I don’t have to have surgery.”

And in the church, we hope. In fact, “hope” is one of the major themes of our time of Advent.

Our Gospel reading from the book of John has a lot to say about hope. But to get the full meaning, I’d like to back up to the beginning of the chapter and read a selection for you. You can look this up in your pew Bibles if you’d like to follow along. [Read John 1:1-8]

The “Word” referred to here, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” is Jesus. And in Jesus, “was life, and the life was the light of all people.”

While the emphasis of the verses officially designated for the day is on John the Baptist, it’s important to see the connection to Jesus. John’s entire role was to be “a witness to testify to the light.” In other words John was there to show and tell people about Jesus.

Jesus coming into the world was the fulfillment of many hundreds of years of hope by the people of Israel. God had made promises to them over the centuries, setting them apart as God’s chosen people. But the people of Israel saw their kingdom rise and fall and spent most of their history occupied by foreign powers.

But all throughout that time, even the darkest days for the people of Israel, the light of God’s promises shined in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

It seems difficult to fathom—holding out hope over centuries of uncertainty. And even when Jesus did come, he wasn’t exactly the Mighty King for which many had hoped.

And that’s a tricky thing about hope—sometimes we hope for one thing, but we get something greater still.

I don’t know about you, but hope tricks me like that. My greatest time of longing in my life was the time after I was married and before I had my son. My history of infertility made it difficult to have a child. I had hoped so hard to become a mother, but year after year it wasn’t happening.

When I couldn’t have a baby—and I knew it was my fault—my thoughts grew very dark. I began to question my value, my worth as a woman. I wondered if God had brought this infertility on me as a curse because I didn’t deserve to be a mother. I felt hope slipping away.

But light shined in my darkness.

Y’all know that I have a son. And he is an answer to prayer, but I tell you, his being born was not what restored my hope.
In the midst of my darkest days, God met me and assured me of his love for me no matter what. Not because I was “good enough,” not because I was “woman enough,” and not because I would be a mother some day. But right then, God loved me, God cherished me even in the depth of my pain.

I don’t know what all made it possible for me to have my son. I did have some help from modern medicine, I also was on a special diet at the time. I wish I knew. I had hoped I could have more kids. And even now, some days I go to that dark place and wonder and worry about my “womanhood” and my “worth” since I still can’t have another child.

But God continues to shine his light in my darkness, giving me the hope and reassurance that only God’s love can give.
The specific words that bolstered my hope when I question my worth were spoken by a theology professor of mine years ago, “Remember that God loves you for Christ’s sake and will not let you go.” In fact, when children come forward at the communion time and ask for just a blessing, those are the words I use. “God loves you for Christ’s sake and will not let you go.”

We can hope for lots of things. And some of what we hope for will come to pass—we may very well get what we asked Santa for or that job promotion. Yet, our faith tells us that there is something deeper still in which we can place our hope. It’s what John the Baptist came to bear witness to, it’s what is at the heart of Jesus’ story: That God loves us for Christ’s sake and will not let us go.

No matter our circumstances, God loves us. Whether we are naughty or nice, God loves us. Whether we can do all the things we wish we could or not, God loves us. Whether we accomplish what we want to in life or miss one opportunity after another, God loves us.

It’s not wrong to hope for all kinds of things in this life. But sometimes the circumstances of life don’t go our way. And if everyday circumstances are what we place our hope in, we may disappointed. But this light, this love of God, is a sure and certain hope in which we can place our ultimate trust.

May you bask in the light of God’s love and allow God’s love to radiate through you that you may also bear witness to his love, and show and tell others, “Remember that God loves you for Christ’s sake and will never let you go.”