Tag Archives: Jansen

June 21, 2015

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What Does Unity Look Like?

“We’re celebrating! Woo-hoo!” Peyton squeals. His younger brother Cohen runs and runs. Both boys skip and fling straw into the air. Peyton plops down, stretches his arms open wide and catches the straw as it falls. Cohen dumps it on his brother’s head. They roll and “bury” each other, then rise up and shout, “Pop goes the weasel!” Their giggles echo through the neighborhood.

Today’s verse says, “Look how good and pleasant it is when brothers [and sisters] live together in unity.” (Psalms 133:1, ISV.) These two little boys, my grandsons, paint a picture today of what wholesome unity looks like. Children as young as they are—age two and three years old—haven’t learned to hide their inner selves and their joy. What you see is truly what you get.

Of course, these brothers don’t always get along!! But when they do, I wonder if being true to who they are from the inside out contributes to their celebration of being alive together.

Unfortunately, adults do learn to hide their inner selves in public. We say the right things to the right people to get what we need or want. We bury our dark thoughts rather than confess them to God and another person we trust. The outer husks of our beings grow, and we bring dry, divided selves to our communities. We disintegrate individually and together. When that happens, our bond as brothers and sisters becomes rooted in peace-faking rather than peace-making.

Ultimately, peace-faking leads to forgetting who we are and who others are. Mother Teresa says, “Today, if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Question:
How have I hidden myself from others today? How have I forgotten my brother or sister?

Prayer:
Open my heart, Father of all, to truly live with others in life-giving unity. Amen

Written by Deborah Jansen

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

June 14, 2015

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Things are not the way they seem

beaded dragonfly

A woman placed a beaded dragonfly in my hand. Photo by Deborah Jansen.

Years ago, a woman placed a beaded dragonfly in my hand and promised to teach me about it the next day. She looked directly into my eyes and spoke softly, “I don’t know where you’ve come from, but you’ve come to a safe place.” I had met her at the door of a retreat center after being harassed by eight men in a nearby campground. Even though the woman had not known my situation, her small act of compassion was exactly what I needed.

The inexpensive, beaded dragonfly did not look like much on the outside, but it emerged as a source of hope for my heart.

A verse from today’s passage states, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
(I Samuel 16: 7b, NLT).

God seems to specialize in exposing assumptions. My experience in the campground appeared harmful—and it was in the moment. But, afterwards my emotional vulnerability deepened my desire to let God transform me and produce new strength.

Weak dragonfly

When an adult dragonfly finally emerges, it is vulnerable, wet, and pale. Photo by Böhringer Friedrich via Creative Commons, Share-and-Share Alike license.

I still have the dragonfly gift on my desk. I remember how the dragonfly nymph spends up to five years crawling on the bottom of a muddy pond—a symbol of endurance and hope. When the adult dragonfly finally emerges, it is vulnerable, wet, and pale. The insect stays exposed to the sun and wind to grow strong. Finally, the dragonfly rises and flies—a powerful symbol of transformation.

Question:
What will improve my spiritual eyesight?

Prayer:
Lord, I open my eyes to reveal the unexpected and unseen. Amen

Written by Deborah Jansen

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

December 21, 2014

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“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.”
Luke 1:51 (NRSV)

My heart raced, neck stiffened, and face reddened. A crystal choker around my neck burst—an heirloom from Mom—and vintage beads scattered across the church floor. I scrambled to the floor, clenched my beads, and stormed home in a huff.

My siblings and I had just cried our way through Mom’s funeral. To honor her, my sisters gathered all floral arrangements and plants to take apart and give to others. The potted plants given to me were included in the line-up.

“I want to keep my plants!” I said.

They disagreed.

Today, that repaired necklace reminds me how grief and pride had blinded me that day. It’s said that the key to understanding pride is seeing the “I” enthroned in the middle—all things are measured by that I. That in turn, leads us inward rather than towards others. It shatters community and scatters our thoughts.

Wandering away from God and others is easy, but coming back is sometimes hard. It involves kneeling, confessing, and making amends.

Once we’ve cleared the way, the Spirit opens our hearts. We experience Christ, who entered the world to reverse the damage of pride.

Prayer:
Son of God, come in your fullness and show us all we’ve scattered in pride. Amen

Question:
How might pride be skewing my relationships with God and others?

Written by Deborah Jansen

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

October 19, 2014

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[Moses said,] “ ‘If Your presence will go with us, then let me see Your glory!’
[God answered,] ‘I will cause all My goodness to pass before you. . . . ’ ”
Exodus 33:18-19a (The Voice Bible)

October stirs a love of bonfires. Green kindling hisses at the start. Pine cones crackle and pop. Bystanders fan the fire until it leaps high above their heads. Flame spreads across full-sized logs and chars the surface. Flares ignite pine branches, and tree becomes torch. We scramble and scream.

I wonder if Moses craved an inferno-sized sign from God—a show with over-the-top, bonfire drama. Stand apart, look away, hit the ground, cover the face. Earlier, Moses had kneeled in the middle of a dazzling display like that, and it had dispelled all doubt.

This time, however, God invites Moses to experience a softer side of the Presence. I’ll show you my goodness, mercy, and compassion, God says. Minutes later, God goes before Moses, surrounds him in a cloud of glory, and shelters him in the cleft of a rock.

If goodness were a fire, could it be a campfire with blue-orange flame and red embers? Maybe a fire carefully tended by our mutual friend. A gentle blaze inviting us to come close, sit down, warm our hands, and stay a while.

Prayer: Sacred Fire, hold us in the warmth of your goodness. Amen.

Question: How am I sharing the fire of God’s goodness today?

Written by Deborah Jansen

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

April 13, 2014

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“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey. . .”
Matthew 21:5 (NRSV)

Jesus deliberately chose a donkey for his ride into Jerusalem, an event we celebrate on Palm Sunday.  The people who followed along didn’t clamor after a mighty conqueror on a black steed. They applauded Jesus, an unlikely king who rode on a pack animal.

The Palm Sunday people celebrated a leader who lived simply, spoke boldly, and gave life and healing to the riff-raff of society. As the story unfolds, these followers shout, “Hosanna” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Sometimes, I’ve heard pastors label the Palm-Sunday people as ruthlessly fickle. Some sermons suggest this crowd flipped to the dark side without a second thought. Riding high on mob mentality, they shouted ecstasy one day and execution the next.  “Crucify Him” came out of their mouths as easily as “Hosanna…”

I suppose that’s possible, but what if there were two separate crowds? What if the Palm Sunday followers were ignored while the merciless mob gained strength? What if the “Hosanna” people were pushed aside as powerless? What if they were silenced—even punished?

That would be true of the King on the donkey, who still comes in seemingly powerless ways. Sometimes we hear him in the voice of a neighbor who immigrated recently, an elderly woman who can’t leave her home, or a man who finds himself homeless.  Other times, we’re oblivious to a Palm Sunday Jesus—it’s just more comfortable that way.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me find you and follow you into unlikely places. Amen

Question:
How is Jesus revealing himself today?

Written by Deborah Jansen

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry whichprovides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

February 16, 2014

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“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
Deuteronomy 30:19b” (NIV)

Looking for the beauty of God in everyday life isn’t some quaint exercise in poetry. It’s an essential part of staying alive.

Choosing life means deciding to see I’m surrounded by gifts—even when wintry, gray skies seep into my spirit. This morning I wake to subzero temperatures and consider how fragile we are in the face of such cold. I want to roll over and cocoon myself in blankets. But I choose to rise as millions of others also make the same choice.

While eating breakfast, I scan my surroundings for colorful gifts. Gray clouds give way to magenta and indigo as the sun climbs over the eastern horizon. The show lasts only fifteen minutes, but the beauty opens me to noticing more of God’s gifts.

I catalog items on the table—deep green spinach, creamy yellow eggs, gentle brown tea, crunchy red apples. I thumb through National Geographic and see a blue-green underground river, icy blue glaciers, an Afghan bride in pink and green, a Korean vocalist with a tear streaming down her cheek.

I wish I could say that seeing such beauty inspires me to dance a perky jig. But, noticing gifts around me does open me to receive the food of gratitude for this day. Of choosing life and savoring it.

Prayer:
God of all beauty, open our eyes and ears as we embrace all that is life-giving. Amen

Question:
What sights, sounds, and tastes are inviting me to pause and give thanks today?

Written by Deborah Jansen

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

December 8, 2013

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“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”
Isaiah 11:1 (New Revised Standard Version)

As soon as my neighbor Will died, the city cut down the towering maple trees in his front yard. Some said our neighborhood needed sidewalk where the trees had once stood. I walked over the mounds of sawdust left behind by the maples. So much was gone—shelter, shade, leaves, laughter, life.

While Will was alive, he opposed sidewalks on our block—insisted trees were more important. When he died, his fight for the trees ended too. We could no longer visit his yard to climb trees, launch helicopter seeds, build leaf forts, or carve marshmallow-roasting sticks.

Trees tell a story of seasons, continuity, perpetuity. We grow up with them, count on them for shelter, and expect them to outlive us.

Such was the case with God’s people in Isaiah’s time. They expected both their trees and their way of life to outlive them. But, the prophet Isaiah warned that warring nations would level all that was familiar, precious, holy. Only a stump would remain. All would appear barren and lifeless.

But, today’s verse gives hope. Even stumps contain hidden life. What seems like senseless loss can yield new growth. In this season of the year, we celebrate a new shoot deeply rooted in God’s story—a shoot that reveals Christ, our Messiah and Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, we give you all the seasons and stories in our lives. We trust that you alone can ground us in life and growth. Amen

Question:
What emerging, new life is God asking me to see?

Written by Deborah Jansen

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com