Weekly Meditation

Each Weekly Meditation is offered by Dan Schmiechen, a retired minister and a member of Linden Hills United Church of Christ.


  WAITING

8/17/2017

We spend a lot of time waiting, don’t we? I thought the Presidential election was over but we are waiting for government to effectively govern. We wait for a doctor’s appointment. We wait for fish to bite.  We wait for a job to improve.  We wait for stronger health. We wait for a meal. We wait for the Twins baseball team to field a team.

 

Waiting can go deeper. For example, you and I may wait to change a bothersome habit. Maybe it is to grow a deeper faith. Or perhaps I’m still dealing with a grief to subside. One may wait for the beginning of wellbeing for a family member or dear friend.  

 

Waiting can be deeply personal. I can wait for new faith traits to emerge in my life. How can I be more honest? Where can forgiveness be shared?  Where can I get my mind off myself and help a neighbor?  

 

One spiritual practice says write down on paper what you are waiting for.  Did the words you wrote surprise you?  Where they helpful? What would you change? Where can God lead me?  Sometimes when I write my inner thoughts down on paper, it can be helpful. I can see what can strengthen my faith life.

 

Where can I spend quiet time to look at myself? Where can God lead me to examine what is really worth waiting for? I find it’s worth the effort.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope; my soul waits for the lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for morning.”  Psalm 130:5-6

 

-Dan Schmiechen


 

Hold Fast To God’s Good

8/1/17

The President of the United States has some unique ways of leading and gaining the confidence of the country, to say the least.  I’ll let you figure out what that is according to your political persuasion and value tradition.  

I do know this.  Each day that passes in our news addicted society, we seem to have a news story more newsy than the previous day’s news.  I mean how much news information can one tolerate?  We live with hyperventilating reporters and news outlets high on steroids.   

I grant there is a lot of nuttiness going on in the world including the “moral swamps” in Washington DC, “the moral swamps” in the Twin Cities in and “the moral swamps” in Ely, Minnesota.  All of us live in “moral swamps” where good and evil fight for the higher ground, and where humans struggle for inclusiveness.  Let’s not dump all “moral swamps” on our nation’s capitol.  We live in them, too!

Our staying power does not come from ourselves but from God’s love in Jesus Christ.  I believe the word is: Hold Fast To God’s Good.    

  1. Hold fast means forgiving love can cross barriers; merciful grace can overcome hate; and neighborly acts can bind.

  2. Hold fast means rivals (not enemies) can live together; common problems can be compromised and worked out.

  3. Hold fast means to be kind, tolerate and civil.

  4. Hold fast means neighbors can share trust and live in community.

  5. Hold fast means bridge-building and helping one another has not gone out of fashion.

  6. Hold fast means God’s love in Jesus Christ does hold and holds fast.

What message in these uncertain times do we witness to?  Hold Fast To God’s Good.

-Dan Schmiechen


BEING SUBVERSIVE: DOING NOTHING

7/13/2017

Sounds heretical, doesn’t it? After all, we should be productive and creative every minute of our lives. I remember people asking me what I do in my retirement. At first, I gave out a long list as though I had to justify my retirement. Often, people seemed disappointed I didn’t regale them with adventures proving I did something. Now I say, “It is relaxing and enjoyable.”

In retirement, I still wrestle with the same temptations to fill the day with regular assignments, tasks and projects. How can I use some time “doing nothing” without giving an accountability report? So why not try it? The other day I sat in a chair and looked at a tree. Another time I watched the wind ripple across a lake. Recently, I tracked a violent thunder storm come in from the southeast. Did I complete a task? No. Did I solve a problem? No.

At first glance, this sounds like I need help from a therapist – he’s lost it. I don’t play golf. I don’t play cards. It sounds so un-American; I must re-order the priorities in my life. I have to justify everything I do or my world will collapse.

I am learning how to do nothing even in the schedule of a busy day. Guess what? Nothing broke. I did not lose my mind. The police were not called. Barbara is still with me. My children still love me. Neighbors still talk to me. I wish I had done more of “doing nothing” in my past life.

“Yet you have made them (humans) a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:5 

-Dan Schmiechen

A TREE: REMINDERS OF OUR LIVES

7/6/2017

The next time you walk down the street where you live or go to a nearby park, look at the trees.   There are needle and leaf type trees.  There are five inner parts of the tree like we have vital organs to live.  The inner rings of the tree reveal life cycles.   Trees grow one ring at a time – they do not skip rings.   They have the different colors and shapes of bark as protection.  Trees are in many ways like humans.  

  1. A tree is a tree as a human being is a human being no matter age or size.

  2. Every tree is different from every tree even from those in the same tree species.

  3. Tree branches of the same species are different in size, shape and form from one another.

  4. Every tree needs sun, rain, oxygen and nutrients.  So with us.  Besides food, shelter and loved ones, we depend upon love, forgiveness and reconciliation.

  5. Every tree tells a story of its own life story -  broken branches, the trunk shattered by a lighting strike, toppled by wind storms, and susceptible to disease.  We, too carry physical marks (outward and inward) in our life cycles.

  6. Every tree has its own peculiar story.  Looking at a cross cut of a tree trunk; the rings tell a story of a tree’s life.  There are uniform ring patterns marking a tree’s age.  Sometimes the rings are filled with dark spots or irregular in circular design telling us a forest fire, drought or disease came into its life.   So in how we live our lives.

  7. Every tree has its own beauty no matter what.  It is a living organism.  So are we but more.  Each one of us is given a free will, a conscience and a life to live.

  8. Scripture tells us each one of us is “wondrously made by God.”

-Dan Schmiechen

 Nobody Jumped So I Had To Jump

June 29, 2017

 

Two people got into an altercation on the platform of a subway station In New York City – a homeless man and a young passenger.  A young ballet dancer returning from a performance with his wife and mother ran upstairs to get help.  There was no one around.

 

He ran back downstairs to the platform.  The homeless man was now lying on the train tracks.  Somehow he got pushed off the platform.  People were screaming – it was a chaotic, frightening scene.

 

The young ballet dancer said: “Nobody jumped, so I had to jump” down to the tracks.  Suddenly he heard the whistle of an incoming train.  He picked up the man and realized the platform was higher than he thought.  He stretched one leg onto the floor of the platform and people hoisted him up with the unconscious man.

When I read the story on line, I could only say, “Holy Smokes.”  It was one of these unbelievable inspiring stories where someone stepped into the breach.  He was an unexpected neighbor.

 

Since we don’t have an underground subway in Minneapolis, we can’t duplicate those heroic efforts.  Still this story reminds us when people need help – who will help?    In this case it was “jump.”  One never knows when human need suddenly surfaces and calls for a quick response.  In this situation it was dangerous and risky.

 

When and where are those times and situations when people need help.  I’m not talking about jumping off a subway train platform.   I’m not talking being a goody two shoes running around frantically finding someone to help.

 

Keep alert to those times when unexpectedly someone in your life – family, friends or strangers needs an act of spontaneous help.   One never knows when and how.  

Pray your own prayer.  “Nobody jumped, so I had to jump.”


-Dan Schmiechen

 


  Watch Your Tongue

A flash back: I am 8 years old spending two weeks on a farm of family friends outside Augusta, Missouri. I’m standing next to a mother and her two squirming daughters. The Mom is pumping a water pump and using soap to wash out the mouths of her girls. They used dirty language. The Mom turned to me and said “If I catch you swearing, Dan Schmiechen, I going to wash your mouth out, too.”

That story from my childhood popped into my mind after hearing the constant daily barrage of foul, hateful, barbaric language in our public life today. No matter what your political party or value system that kind of behavior is a no, no. The national media revels in such excesses. It helps their ratings. We have come to a point in our culture if one can’t think of a civil response whether talking politics, religion, sports, family, neighbors – you name it – insulting and dehumanizing people is “the in thing.” We are turning into “an insulting intolerant society.” This kind of behavior breaks down a crucial fiber of national life called civility and respect for all. Besides it is harmful to people. And Jesus forbids it.

There is always an open season to say to a friend, family member or neighbor – “Look, we may not see eye to eye on this subject. Would you be willing to talk (name subject) as we hear each other. I’m not going to try and change you. Can we talk?”

 

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 3:6

-Dan Schmiechen

 


 Summer Time is Ordinary Time

The calendar for the church year seems to be in a quandary.   No high market publicist can remedy the situation.   We began the church year with the four Sundays before Christmas, the birth of Jesus.  Then we moved to revealing the story of Jesus to the world, Epiphany.   Lent followed, the forty days and nights of self-examination and reflection on Jesus’ life.  We entered Holy Week and celebrated Easter.  Pentecost followed meaning “fifty days” after Easter, the birthday of the Christian Church.

 

Here comes the quandary.  We enter what is called Ordinary Time which means “counted time.”  The emphasis is upon the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.   Local congregations celebrate their own themes pertinent to their faith, mission, and life.  The color is dark green meaning “new life.”  I’m sorry to report that for me, there is nothing titillating about Ordinary Time compared to more familiar seasons of the church year.   Even the commercial markets are befuddled about what to do with Ordinary Time because the cash pickings are slim.    

 

What the Christian Church calls Ordinary Time is completely different than what our world calls Ordinary Time.   We live out our lives quietly and faithfully in witness to God’s love.   It’s a time of giving thanks and affirming what we have – our lives, our friends, our families, our neighbors and our church.  We live in Ordinary Time.   We are given the gift of time already saturated by God’s love and forgiveness.  It’s not a matter of trying to see how clever we are filling up the summer days and making them worthwhile.  God already has graced wonders to see, use and share.

 

Another way to talk about Ordinary time is to say: “let’s make ‘counted time’ really count by shaping our faith and life with our neighbors for the next three months.”   Hurrah for Ordinary Time! “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.”  Psalm 121:8

 

-Dan Schmiechen

(Photo: Linden Hills UCC Church Picnic June 4, 2017 at Lake Harriet)

 


A New Surprise

May 16th was an eagerly awaited date for our family.  Our oldest grandson, Aidan graduated from high school in Fairbanks, Alaska.  We had a fine time celebrating with the family.

Returning home we flew to Anchorage, rented a car and drove two hours south to Seward by the Gulf of Alaska opening into the Pacific Ocean.  We signed on board a 60 foot ocean tour boat for six hours.

I watched the weather reports carefully because I get sea sick.  The prediction was heavy seas.  I never doubted going but I was a bit apprehensive.  Yes, I took my obligatory anti- seasickness pills and still got sick.

Sea life was abundant – killer whales, a humpback whale, sea otters, seals and colorful birds.  Our craft sought protection behind islands and darted between them.   We watched a glacier fall apart.  

Then the captain slowly maneuvered our craft into a bay and announced “Look up this cliff” as he parked the boat several feet from shore in deep water.  Up the vertical hillside was a mountain goat standing behind a scraggly bush.  The goat did not move.  It stood there and it stood there.  

Then came the surprise!  Suddenly a baby mountain goat emerged from under the mother.  All this time we were watching a mountain goat give birth.  The baby goat emerged from under the mother and started walking up the vertical cliff – a wobbly step after step, slipping and sliding but up and up the little one went.  It was a breathtaking sight.

Summer is here.  Why not put yourself in a place where you can be surprised and meet an unexpected wonder of nature.  One never knows what you will come across.  Maybe it says to take a walk in a park or sit on a bench and be still.  The wonders of nature can happen in the most unexpected places.  

I was not too keen going on this boat trip but I’m glad I went despite hours of discomfort.  I do believe summer wonders await us no matter where we are or what we do.  

Prayer: O God, open my soul to see the wonders of creation.  Amen.

-Dan Schmiechen

 

For your Bible study this week

June 4 - Sunday John 14:21-29
June 5 - Monday Luke 17:1-10
June 6 - Tuesday Luke 17:11-19
June 7 - Wednesday Luke 17: 20-57
June 8 - Thursday Luke 18: 1-8
June 9 - Friday Luke 18:9-14
June 10 - Saturday Luke 18:15-30
Pray your own prayers.

Trees

 

 One spring my sister Abigail and I ordered a bundle of 25 white pine seedlings.  We planted them in the family woods up north.  I learned these lessons from planting trees.  They can easily be translated into growing our faith.      

 

1. We dug the tree hole wider than the size of the roots and deeper than the length of the roots.   God encourages us to use the spaces in our lives for deeper growth.  We can start anytime when we are ready to grow. There is no time table or age limit to grow.  

               Do I want to learn to forgive more?  Is it shaping a deeper prayer life?  What did Jesus teach?  

 

2. After we dug the hole, one picked up a seedling and pointed the roots downward into the hole – we did not want the roots to curl up and starve the tree.  Also, we wanted to make sure the roots would grow down into the hole to receive earth’s food. 

We need the steady nutrients of practices of prayer, Bible reading, Sunday morning worship and helping our neighbor to grow our faith.

 3. We added loose dirt to fill up the tree hole.  We packed it down (with foot or hand) to close air pockets.  Then we watered it.

 

4. We need the steady nutrients of practices of prayer, Bible reading, Sunday morning worship and helping our neighbor to grow our faith.

 

 “They are like trees planted by streams of water….” Psalm 1:3

-Dan Schmiechen

 


Let the Scriptures Speak

Buy An Understandable Bible Translation: Speak to Pastors Eliot and Lawrence for recommendations.

 

Church Year: Easter for Christians is not just one day, but rather a 50-day period. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).  Colors are gold and white. 

 

Daily Scripture Reading: *Choose time of day  *Choose a quiet place  *Light a candle (symbol of God’s presence)  *Begin with a prayer (Open my heart to your Word, O God.”   *Close with a prayer (May your presence be with me today.”

 

In Conversation with Scripture:  The Bible is filled with a variety of writings.  A few examples – poetry (Psalms); history (Joshua and judges); prophets (Joel, Isaiah, Micah); Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John); the early Christian Church (Paul’s Letters) and end times (Revelation).  It is helpful to know what type of writings you are reading.  Again, check background information in your Bible.  

 

Spiritual Practice:  *When you read scripture, what word/thought comes to your attention)?  *What do these words say to you?  *What do you hear God saying to you?

 

Bible Readings For The Week:

May 14 Sunday Matthew 7: 7-14

May 15 Monday Luke 7:36-50

May 16 Tuesday Luke 8:1-15

May 17 Wednesday Luke 8:16-25

May 18 Thursday Luke 8: 26-39

May 19 Friday Luke 8:40-56

May 20 Saturday Luke 9:9-17

 

Pray your own prayers. 


 Easter: What Keeps Me Going

 

I go through regular ups and downs in my life.  I’m sure many of you do, too.  When I’m down, sometimes I feel like a little kid kicking a tin can down the alley of my home in St. Louis.  Everyday events and personal issues accumulate and before I know it, I’m in the dumps.  Sometimes my world is not going according to order – I get stuck shaping better faith habits, and frosted when my views and beliefs take a beating.  

   

I handle these times well and at times I don’t.  Easter Hope is a constant in my life.  But let me say what it is not.  Easter Hope is not feeling good.  Easter Hope is not hoping things will get better – often they get worse.  And it is not looking for a silver lining in the clouds.   

Somehow God’s love triumphed over what the world offers.  Somehow a motely group of first century disciples became a community of believers testifying to an inclusive grace that overcomes the world.  I am thankful to live in such a life giving community of faith at Linden Hills.

 Easter Hope pulls one out of the dark funks to affirm life.  I learned:

1) We still receive God’s love in our lives and for the good of the world.

 

2) God’s love overcame hate and violence in the life of Jesus Christ.  The world cannot overcome hate and violence – it does not have the power to do that.  There is another alternative in the face of despair and cruelty - that is forgiveness, and reconciliation.  No one says it’s easy.  We carry on believing God’s love is constant.  

 

3) We are called to witness with acts of love and forgiveness no matter how our lives are going or how we feel.  This power is not our power; it only comes from God in Christ.  I am called to witness to that power.

 

Somehow God’s love triumphed over what the world offers.  Somehow a motely group of first century disciples became a community of believers testifying to an inclusive grace that overcomes the world.  I am thankful to live in such a life giving community of faith at Linden Hills.  

 

Scripture: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening scripture to us?”……..

 

Read Luke 24: 13- 35

-Dan Schmiechen 

Let the Scriptures Speak

Buy An Understandable Bible Translation: Speak to Pastors Eliot and Lawrence for recommendations.

 

Church Year: Lent is a season of forty days, not including Sundays. It  begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring."The color for the season is purple.

 

Daily Scripture Reading: *Choose time of day  *Choose a quiet place  *Light a candle (symbol of God’s presence)  *Begin with a prayer (Open my heart to your Word, O God.”   *Close with a prayer (May your presence be with me today.”

 

In Conversation with Scripture:  The Bible is filled with a variety of writings.  A few examples – poetry (Psalms); history (Joshua and judges); prophets (Joel, Isaiah, Micah); Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John); the early Christian Church (Paul’s Letters) and end times (Revelation).  It is helpful to know what type of writings you are reading.  Again, check background information in your Bible.  

 

Spiritual Practice:  *When you read scripture, what word/thought comes to your attention)?  *What do these words say to you?  *What do you hear God saying to you?

 

Bible Readings For The Week:

April16 Easter Sunday: John 1:1-18

April 17 Monday: John 14:1-14

April 18 Tuesday: John 14: 15-31

April 19 Wednesday: John 15:1-11

April 20 Thursday: John 15:12-27

April 21 Friday: John 16:1-15

April 22 Saturday: John 16:16-33

Pray your own prayers. 

   

 


On Prayer

 

 Do you have a favorite section in the Sunday morning worship?  Some people look forward to the scripture reading.  Others value the sermon and yes, even the offering.  Some love singing hymns and listening to the choir.  When I was in high school, I looked forward to the benediction.  I wanted to get out of there.   

 

The Prayers of the People in the Sunday morning worship moves me into a stronger faith.  I know of no other place where people are publicly invited to voice the heartaches of their hearts and the joys of their hearts.

 

This is not listening to gossip from the congregation.  No, these voiced prayers speak of faith struggles with life.  

The Prayers of the People in the Sunday morning worship moves me into a stronger faith.  I know of no other place where people are publicly invited to voice the heartaches of their hearts and the joys of their hearts.

The Prayers of the People breaks silence and spills out a slice of life before God and the congregation.  I’m inspired by their willingness to openly voice what is going on in their lives.  There is a bedrock trust of faith that God will hear.  

    

Longings of the heart are formed into words.  My reality becomes the shared reality of the congregation before God.  All we receive is an assurance we are heard.  We wait for God’s word of hope and life.  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119:105                                                                 

-Dan Schmiechen    


Spend Time With Loved Ones

 

Here are some unorthodox suggestions for the third week in Lent.

1. Watch clouds

2. Walk in a park

3. Hold hands in silence

4. Walk around the block

5. Wash dishes together

6. Visit a museum

7. Read books sitting together

8. Go to a coffee shop and sit in the corner 

9. Call a faraway friend or relative

10. Browse around an ice off lake

 11. Go to a morning worship together

12. Watch the sun rise

Here are some unorthodox suggestions for the third week in Lent.

7. Read books sitting together.

8. Go to a coffee shop and sit in the corner.

13. Shut off the TV and listen to your favorite music

14. Sit on a bench in park silently for ten minutes and see the birds 

15. Say words of love to someone. 

16. Try a kiss when nobody is looking

17. Hug someone

18. Give thanks to God for your life and the lives of loved one

 

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all thins, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”    I Corinthians 13: 4-8

 

-Dan Schmiechen

 Lent 4: Wait to Listen

 

This is an old spiritual discipline.  It goes like this.  

 

Every day during this week choose a scripture passage from the Bible.  Choose your favorite passage or choose a passage from the weekly scripture lessons posted in the Linden Tree. 

 

At the beginning of each day and throughout the day keep repeating the chosen scripture passage.  Do this wherever you are: at work, driving the car, sitting at home, shopping at a store or taking a walk – anyplace.

Every day during this week choose a scripture passage from the Bible.  Choose your favorite passage or choose a passage from the weekly scripture lessons posted in the Linden Tree. 

At the end of each day, ask yourself:  “What thoughts keep rising within me?”  “Do I need to listen to them?  “Where am I being lead?”

Don’t give up – it may feel strange to do this but stay with it.   Just like we learn to write by writing; hike by hiking; being a friend by offering friendship – so with this practice.  

 

There are no guarantees what will happen if you try this spiritual discipline.  There are no prizes, food coupons or phone calls offering a free cruise trip to the South Pole.  This is an invitation to open your life to God’s presence.  Listen where you are lead.

 

Daily Scriptures: You choose  

 

-Dan Schmiechen


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