Laying on of Hands

laying on of handsThere are times when a church or body of believers wants to raise up people among their own to take up some of the tasks and ministries that have been traditionally done by the pastor alone. And although many cannot go back to school or attend seminary, many faithful can and do pursue God and God’s Word privately. For this reason, through the laying on of hands and public prayer, both outward expressions of blessing and trust, I will, along with a few others, be so invested soon. I am humbled.

The community presented these seven to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. God’s word continued to grow. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly. Even a large group of priests embraced the faith. [Acts 6:6-7, CEB]

With this designation will come some enjoyable opportunities like conducting weddings, blessing babies & families, and helping others navigate grief and coordinate memorial services. I expect to do some additional short term coursework again in counseling and hopefully, do more devotional writing. Feels right.

I have to confess, initially, I was rather cavalier about this idea, even thinking of it solely as a side job and a little extra income. But it has not taken long for God to show me that “ministering” or caring for others is not a lightweight mission but carries the burden of keeping them in the heart, praying for them, and diligently seeking God for what is best in that moment. Marriage, birth, and death are milestones of a life.

When the New Testament church expanded the responsibilities of its own people and publicly commissioned them, the believing community experienced exponential growth, enfolding some of the most “religiously” bound traditionalists as well as the lost and hurting into the koinonia of faith.

May my own faith be an authentic reflection of the God in whom I believe and entrust my life. And perhaps, as with so many Christian paradoxes, through reaching out to others in this capacity, my own healing with continue.

God’s Hand

Gods handWhether I like it or don’t like it, whether it’s fair or not fair, whether it’s convenient or not, I am a child of the Living God and this is my journey. When calamities happen to people (losses, illness, or trauma) and we did nothing to set the stage for those things to occur (we didn’t drink ourselves into stupors or ride the edges of cliffs), then peace comes only from knowing that God is God. And like many others, I too have been given a set of circumstances to navigate and learn and grow and maybe, just maybe, help someone else.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
    and the breath of all mankind. . . . [Job 12:7-10, NIV]

Throughout these months of grieving over Mike’s death, eight months ago now, people have asked me if I was angry yet. I suppose the implication is that I would become angry at Mike for dying or God for allowing it. But in neither case do I find these to be good material for anger. That’s not to say I haven’t had an array of other emotions like disappointment, sorrow, loneliness, and even misery, but anger, not so much.

Well, that’s not totally true. I did cut loose on my son one day for being so self-absorbed and insensitive to my chaos and insecurities and bafflement. But really, what twenty-two year old would do much better? He’s already boxed up his feelings about his father and he’s uncomfortable with any further displays of anguish. (He can save these up for the therapist down the road.) And perhaps, if I had to analyze that horrible episode, my ravings and tears and emotional collapse into a heap on the floor could have been anger as well, pent up and explosive.

I scared myself that day. I fasted soon after. For a week. Looking for the center of God in me. Again.

In the end, there was only the same certainty, God’s hand is on my situation and with me. My years are not over yet and time will reveal what is still intended for me to know, to live, to walk, to understand. Job figured it out. I guess I can too.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” [John 6:35-36, NIV]  I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” [Psalm 81:10-12, NIV]

 No one can make or convince another person to believe, particularly in the things of God. The proofs will always, somehow, fall short; the explanations sound hollow; the passion suspect. Believe or not: there is no try.

Belief in God requires an acceptance of “other” that is outside our normal range of perception. God is not like us. God is not just me or you or nature or the universe. God is all and God is nothing. God is paradox and logic. God is light and dark. alpha omega

God manifests among us through humans in a variety of ways and for this reason, there have been (and still are) saints and charlatans. Jesus is our prime, for those who believe, of course.

Jesus is the physical God with a specific message and example of grace and redemption and love. Jesus completed the circle of promise that was initiated in the heart and soul of sentient human: Adam, if you will.

But Jesus, the physical, departed earth more than 2000 years ago. What’s left? More God. Spirit. And faith that it all really happened, God really IS and WAS and WILL BE.

Help Carry

tearsLike so many things in life, we are part of a circle. As we help bear the burdens of others, God bears ours (and that of the others we took upon ourselves). When a friend’s heart is heavy or circumstances pouring over them, we have a responsibility to help. Our fear is that we will be crushed or infected. But God’s promise is sure:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2, NIV] Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. [Psalm 68:19, NIV]

I had the opportunity this week to meet someone new and to hear her story, filled with disapmourn with those who mournpointment and sorrow. She needed to talk. She needed someone to listen. She need to offload. My cost was only time and my faith that God would ultimately carry the most of it. We are all so similar. Human pain and loss is universal. It’s easier to see it in others than to walk it. But time does bring some reprieve and the touch of others helping us hold up our heads, our hearts, our souls.

Another brother in my extended community of faith has passed, a contemporary with my own husband. I cannot reach out physically to his wife who has moved away, but I do lift her and her family up in prayer. This lifting is a conscious carrying that is just as important as listening or talking to someone in person. Prayer is vital to burden bearing. Even though she may not know about it, God is faithful. And another, closer to me, will feel the call to hold her close, to wipe her tears, to sit and listen, to laugh when she laughs and to weep when she weeps. [Romans 12:15] It is the way of faith.

Budgeting God

How do we spend our money? How do we spend our time? Are we choosing or just reacting? Are we skimping on the God part of our lives in the name of the human needs? Are we still missing the paradox of faith: where giving is receiving and less is more?

unfamiliar wayWhy spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.  [Isaiah 55:2-3]

I’m faced with a pretty stark budget these days since my house hasn’t sold and I had to buy a car. Boom! as they say. So, I spent the good portion of last night getting back on the Dave Ramsay train; unfortunately, it’s the caboose. I bought a car with payments (verboten) and I still have the house priced in what I think will provide me with the most bang. All common decisions and not out of line with the current norms. But it’s likely, I’m still missing the point.

It’s hard to get the big picture while some part of me is still kicking against the goads. While I am moving on in some ways, I am still in denial about others. I’m just a little afraid of a downward spiral; reinvention of self through appearance is one thing, reinvention of a lifestyle is another.

God is working overtime I know: “Listen to me; listen to me.” God wants to introduce me to a way I have not walked before. The unfamiliar path will take some courage to walk. My heart is beating fast.

Reinventing Self

reinventThere comes a moment in a our lives when we just know that something has to change. The same choices are no longer working and circumstances are fraying the edges of what has been familiar for so long. Sometimes, it’s a dramatic event that calls us to lay down our cards. Other times, it’s recognizing ourselves in someone else. And still other times, it’s a slow descent until the bottom looms large before us, sure to cause a crash and burn.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. [Ephesian 4:20-24, NIV]

Before Mike died so suddenly seven months ago, after thirty-two years of marriage, we had fallen into a rhythm of the good life. We had figured out who did what and when; we had quietly negotiated the battles worth waging and those that time would address. We had learned to let go of the “small stuff.” We were committed to both our church and our faith and each other. We were comfortable. We were planning our retirements. We were launching our adult children.

Then everything familiar stopped. Oh, there was some semblance of the old life: the house, the dogs, the young people, the work, the church, and the ever present grass needing to be cut. Dishes and dust and laundry  accumulated faster than I could sweep them away.

transformBut eventually, I began to see that I couldn’t keep trying to keep the old life. I had to allow a “me” to ev0lve that was not defined by the old parameters. I needed to try on some new clothes; I needed to experiment. I needed to move the furniture.

In my case, this has all been about grief playing out and my moving on. But I’m not so sure it’s dissimilar to someone who has yet to consider relinquishing his or her soul rights to God, to the Christ. We can keep on going for a while, but eventually, the tally sheet of good choices and bad choices is weighted to one side or the other. To move into a life of faith takes some reinvention, some experimentation, some practice.

Change comes from within. Change comes with discovery. Change comes with acceptance–of what is now, so that what could be has a chance to grow. But change also comes with stepping onto the stones of the creek, testing the stable ones and skipping over the wobbly ones. I’m just glad I have that Jesus to grab my hand when I lose my balance.

The Heart as Gut

God does not participate in Valentine’s Day. God is not particularly interested in the hearts and flowers of young lovers wooing one another. God is not about Cupid and arrows and online dating. God is about our innermost being, the center of ourselves, our gut, our center, our soul and spirit. Our identity. That heart.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.heart of the matter
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit. [Psalm 51:6-12, NRSV]

Anything else, and we are lying to ourselves and to God. We could be living a myth of faith if our “hearts” are not in it. If all we have is a semblance of faithfulness, a Sunday morning piety, a “Praise the Lord” verbiage, we are missing the depth and breadth and length of God within.

The heart of a matter is the crux of it, the most vital part that implies the rest is totally dependent upon it. Is your faith totally dependent on the presence of God in the core of you?

It is from this center that decisions are made and hunches are formed and hope is nurtured and sin is birthed. But it is also here that faith is planted, where God manifests as the Holy Spirit, where change begins.

Oh yes, “create in me a clean heart, oh God.”


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