Archive for February, 2010

Moving Forward into an Unknown Place

// February 24th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

So I am getting a big lesson in ‘enoughness’ this week. My whole family is down with bronchitus. It is not pretty but reminds me of the simple lessons that I forget when moving faster– the beauty of the moon even as you hold and rock a feverish little one, the joy of a comfortable bed when your body aches or a meal made by a loving partner. It is all enough.
And part of the journey into enough is also one of asking for and receiving help, acknowledging that it is in our inter-woven state, a community of individuals who support each other, that we are in fact enough. So Paul today graciously agreed to write the reflection, which I include below. He is a man of many talents- and I am thankful for his time on this day when he also is hosting our community meal and making home-made pizzas! Please bring an appetite and an open heart as we continue to walk together in this season of preparation.  peace, Courtney
Paul’s Reflection:
How often in our daily lives do we get distracted from what we are up to by petty squabbles and naysayers?  In fact, how often do we act as our own naysayers?  When do we say enough to the challenges designed to derail us or place someone else’s hang-ups on us? 
It is likely that the Pharisees and Herod felt it was important to preserve the political structure in which they lived, not merely to maintain their meager power but because they truly feared the destruction of Israel.  They don’t want Jesus to upset this.  Jesus sees that it is not possible to sustain this and despite the tendency for Jerusalem to murder  prophets, desires for all Jerusalem’s people to gather under his loving wings
I have a tendency towards distraction…
                                                                                         hold on, need to check Facebook…
Often my need to be right will waylay my desire to share. There are a thousand things I need to do, right now, and yet it is more important that I find out who the second recording engineer on The Beatle’s Abby Road  album was (Alan Parsons).
A large part of this is just the product of an unfocused mind but if I dig deep enough I would also find that part of me that is afraid of moving forward into an unknown place. A part that worries if I move off the same pathway I always choose, it will be very unpleasant. How many new ways of being have I killed off because of my reliance on “they way I always do it”?  Join us tonight as we reflect on this and other provocative questions.
PS. A few details about tonight… its pizza night, please bring money to contribute, we will have homemade cheese and non-cheese pizza for all our different Lenten practices. Also we need to get a new list of Wednesday night meal providers.Lastly, the girlscout cookies are in if you ordered from us you can pick them up tonight or we can bring them sunday. 6:30 Casa Semrad108 South Rosemont Ave. 214. 233-4605 for more info.

Ash Wednesday: Enough

// February 17th, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Mathew 6 (inclusive version, selected verses)

Jesus said to the disciples: Be careful not to parade your good deeds before others to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all heavenly reward. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you: this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the admiration of others. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward… And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward… When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let others know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward…

Lent 2010: A Theology of Enough. I am really sick of the idea of abundance. Everywhere you turn there is another church conference on ‘Scarcity and Abundance’ or ‘Resting in God’s Abundance.’ I don’t really get it. I mean-doesn’t this idea collude a bit with the dominant culture? Isn’t it the American dream to have more, bigger, better? Is abundance therefore the best way to talk about God and what God provides in our life?– More than we could ever want, need or imagine? What if instead God was simply enough? And our spiritual work then becomes about resting in God’s enough, even when it looks different than our own expectations. This Lent at Church in the Cliff we are exploring practices that help us discern how much is enough. Enough time. Enough money. Enough contentment. Is breathing in and breathing out in this moment enough? If so, do I recognize it as enough? This articulation our own ‘enoughness’ will likely look different for every one and in different areas of our lives. For some, Lent may be an invitation to pair down. To engage in traditional practices of limiting consumption: giving up red meat, alcohol, desserts or giving more to charity. For others it may mean something totally different. Are there areas in your life where you routinely, habitually deny yourself enough? Sleep comes to mind. Or fresh air. Time spent with people who love you in uncomplicated ways. Most of us probably will find we need to do both: pair down certain things we take for granted and take more or claim ‘enough’ of the good stuff in other areas of our lives. Where is God in enough? And what about those moments when we are not enough, or don’t feel like enough –according to the world’s or our own (often stricter) standards? When we don’t have enough skills to tackle a project that we want to complete, or we launch a creative enterprise and it fails or a relationship turns sour? Here enters the Mystery. God is woven throughout our lives; loving us as we discern that we are enough. Sometimes it is enough to rest in the knowledge that we don’t have to prove our ‘enoughness’ to God. Sometimes the Spirit even rounds out our rough edges and we find that we are more than we thought and that we have enough to do what we are called to do. Othertimes we realize we are less than we thought but we learn to look at ourselves with compassion, and that is enough. Even if you have fallen to what Barbara Brown Taylor describes as the “basement floor of your heart” and feel that rough concrete cold against your cheek– sometimes just the floor is enough. Solid and secure beneath your body. Somewhere to rest until you get your breath again and can rise. Lent gets a bad rap. It is not about showing off your spiritual high-wire acts. (I can fast for x days, I can tithe 117% of my income). It is about cleaning house. Taking stock. Looking around with clear eyes. Maybe realizing you are working too hard to be who you think you are supposed to be. Asking instead- where is God in this? Or what I am invited to let go of? My prayer for us this season is that God might reveal Godself in our practices and invite us to release our desire to control and constrict our own lives and show us how to rest in Enough. en paz, Courtney Join us this evening for a meditative Ash Wednesday Service at the Semrad’s 108 South Rosemont Ave. 6:30 gathering, 7:00 service. No Community Meal tonight. 214. 233-4605 for more info.

Shiny, Happy People

// February 10th, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Exodus 34:29-35 (inclusive version)
As Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the two tablets of the Covenant, he was not aware that the skin on his face was shining from speaking with God. When Aaron and the other Israelites saw Moses, they were afraid to approach him because of the radiance of the skin of his face. Only when Moses called to them did Aaron and the leaders of the community come near, and then Moses spoke to them.
Later, all the Israelites gathered around, and Moses gave them the instructions he had received from YHWH on Mount Sinai. When he finished speaking to them, Moses put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses entered the presence of YHWH, he would remove the veil until he came out again, and when he would come out and tell the Israelites what had been commanded, they would see that the skin on his face was radiant. Then he would put the veil over his face again until he went in to speak with God.



What happens to our bodies when we spend time near to God?
I love this scripture about Moses leaving Mount Sinai after forty days and nights with the Holy One and his face is shining like the sun. And he doesn’t even know it. That is the best part for me.
I have known lots of sparkly people. I have even at times tried to be a sparkly person, or better stated, to perform what I thought other people thought was ‘a sparkly person.’  Who doesn’t want to be described as ‘high energy,’ or ‘witty’ or as ‘having a powerful presence.’ Yet so often I have left events feeling sort of exhausted. (Mixers in graduate school come to mind). In these sessions of meeting and greeting and trying to project the things that interest me, and sharing my ‘story’ and passions I end up consuming myself.  I wonder if this desire to project light isn’t something that many of us struggle with at least some of the time.  It does seem that our world trades on the sparkly.
So what is going on with Moses and how is it any different?
He is deeply connected with the Source. Rather than consuming himself, God’s light seems to just be rubbing off on him and through him rubbing off on the world. What is the quality of God’s light? Here it is more awe-inducing than sparkly. In fact, rather than drawing people toward him at the cocktail party this light seems at first pass to drive them away. Aaron and others are scared. They hold their hands to their eyes and peer out, straining to find the man they recognize, the Moses they sent up the mountain. But he has been transformed.
Have you ever encountered someone with this kind of light emanating from their face?
Ina May Gaskin in her book Spiritual Midwifery talks about the change in a woman’s skin when she is in labor. She describes a softening of facial features and an increase in the range of subtle expressions a woman makes as she opens herself for birth. In Ina May’s experience, a woman is her most beautiful version of herself in these precious moments, for those who have eyes to see.
Now not everyone’s birth experience is one of transcendent beauty, but I do think Ina May is observing something powerful about what happens to our bodies during certain life experiences when we are open to being a portal for God.
This is not lightweight spiritual stuff. And yes, I know it can be talked about in a way that makes it seem sort of new-agey and superficial.  But when I read a passage like today’s from Exodus and its beautiful echo in the Gospel of Luke (Jesus’ Transfiguration chapter 9: 28-43) it brings me around to that first question. What really happens to our bodies when we are near to God? When we experience YHWH as our very own breath, inhaling and exhaling this present moment? How is the spirituality that we practice something that is manifest not just in a heart space, or a head space, but in an energetic and embodied way?
Join us tonight and Sunday. I think we will have fun talking about this one. 
peace and all good things,
PS Wed. Community Meal is now held on an ongoing basis at Casa Semrad 108 South Rosemont Ave, 6:30 pm. All are welcome!  Tonight Rebel is bringing a pasta and veggie dish and rumor has it she’s got ice cream for dessert. Some bread to share would be welcome. Call church number for more info 214. 233-4605. 
PPS Join us for a Love Feast and All Church Meeting this Sunday after worship. Bring a side to share, as the Board provides an update and we celebrate our 11th anniversary as a Church.






One of the joys of pastoring a church such as Church in the Cliff is how engaged this community is in social investment of various forms.  We give money, we organize, we volunteer,  we enter into relationship with the poor, locally and globally,  and we help and love each other.

This week we met and exceeded our goal of collecting $1000 for Partners in Health, an organization that provides community-based health care in Haiti and other developing countries around the world.  They have over twenty years of experience working on the ground in Haiti’s poorest communities and are well equipped both to respond to the crisis and help rebuild the health infrastructure over the long term. Thank you to Ron for his passionate appeal and to all who donated. We collected $1025 which I am mailing in this week with a hand-written note from our community. Thanks be to God for all who shared so freely! 



This new year we continue with a paradigm for worship and study launched in the fall at Church in the Cliff called Feast on the Word: Savoring Scripture in a Twitter World.
As part of this practice we draw our scriptural lesson from the
revised common lectionary (which provides four lessons for each week). The worship team commits to engaging the scripture and seeing what speaks to the life of our church and all are invited to join in the conversation through our worship planning meeting, the Community meal, worship, and by posting comments online at our Church in the Cliff website. 
Worship Team meets Mondays 6pm at The Quinn, 202 W. Davis St. Dallas 75208. All are welcome. We are a community which strives to blend the arts and justice-seeking action into our worshiping core.  We would love your ideas and creativity. Join us!




Live Coals

// February 3rd, 2010 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff, Uncategorized

Isaiah 6:1-8  (inclusive)
In the year of the death of Uzziah, ruler of Judah, I saw YHWH seated on a high and lofty judgment seat, in a robe whose hem filled the Temple. Seraphs were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.
They would cry out to one another, “Holy! Holy! Holy is YHWH Omnipotent! All the earth is filled with God’s glory!” The doorposts and thresholds quaked at the sound of their shouting, and the Temple kept filling with smoke.
Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! I have unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips! And my eyes have seen the Ruler, YHWH Omnipotent!
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal which it had taken with tongs from the altar. The seraph touched my mouth with the ember. “See,” it said, “now that this has touched your lips, your corruption is removed, and your sin is pardoned.”
Then I heard the voice of the Holy One saying, “Whom shall I send?” Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said, “send me!”

There are some days which separate our lives into ‘before’ and ‘after.’ Some moments, be they of beauty, or death, or an unexpected encounter with God, cleave our world in two.


This week’s scripture captures such a day for the prophet Isaiah. He encounters God, the hem of whose robe is enough to fill the temple where Isaiah stands.  And if only the hem, then how much more was there that could not be seen? And in the face of The Great Mystery, Isaiah is shaking in his boots. Before God even has a word for him, before God issues the invitation to be a prophet, or to do anything, Isaiah protests, explaining “I have unclean lips, and live among a people of unclean lips!”


Then one of the bird-like creatures, a seraph, flew to Isaiah holding a live coal from the altar. And with a touch as gentle as a kiss, the ember cauterizes Isaiah’s sense of unworthiness and consumes his fear — leaving more room within him for Yahweh’s words and Yahweh’s work. All of the sudden he finds himself calling out to the Holy One “Here I am-send me!”


The live coal is such a potent symbol in this passage: through it God consecrates Isaiah into his new call.  A wise writer quoted in the commentary for this scripture reminds us that to consecrate someone or something is not simply to transfer that person into the safe world of what is holy. Instead, there are lasting (and dangerous even?) consequences so much so that to consecrate means to “derail from normalcy.” (Feasting on the Word, pp 314-318)


This makes me think of the litany we spoke together in worship this past Sunday, included below.  To acknowledge and engage with God’s call on our lives does not protect us within the church walls, rather it leads us deeper into the heart of the world.


After Communion Litany                                        Inspired by Richard Rohr’s writings Jan 28 2010
The “Body of Christ” is something alive in this world. 
Those who live in communion and love, surely made possible by God, are the church, wherever they are. 
Church is not something you attend.                                          

Church is something you organically are. 
It is more a living organism than a formal organization. 
You don’t join it as much as you breathe it. 
Let us go and be leaven that will change the world.
We do not live in the world and go to church.                                         We live in the Church and go to the world. Amen.

Join us tonight as we read scripture, discuss the beauty and intensity of God’s call and share some good Irish food in honor of St. Bridget.

en paz, 
PS Community Meal is now held on an ongoing basis at Casa Semrad 108 South Rosemont Ave, 6:30 pm. All are welcome!  Call church number for more info 214. 233-4605. 
PPS After church on Sunday we will be marching in the second annual Oak Cliff Mardi Gras Parade. We line up at 1, march at 2, and be done in plenty of time for the Super Bowl. We need folks to bring BIG bags of throwable candy. (Gold coins ideal, but all candy welcome. We just want to make sure our kiddos have tons to throw). Come to church in warm, cozy-wear and ready to walk! We will be marching behind a trailer with our Trinity River Folk Band leading us in oldy-time bluegrass classics. ( This Little Light of Mine and more) They could use a generator for the amp. And Michael and Donavan are spear-heading float decorations.  Come at 10 AM Sunday to Kidd Springs to finalize decorations and lend a hand. All children, dogs, friends are welcome!


One of the joys of pastoring a church such as Church in the Cliff is how engaged this community is in social investment of various forms.  We give money, we organize, we volunteer,  we enter into relationship with the poor, locally and globally,  and we help and love each other.   

Over the past three weeks we collected almost $900 ($865 at current count) for Partners in Health, an organization that provides community-based health care in Haiti and other developing countries around the world.  They have over twenty years of experience working on the ground in Haiti’s poorest communities and are well equipped both to respond to the crisis and help rebuild the health infrastructure over the long term. Thank you to Ron for his passionate appeal and for all that donated. We will also accept contributions tonight. I’m hoping to send in an even grand, thanks be to God!