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Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Are You Tired?

wearyI’m tired all the time. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am. I also know I’m tired because I keep carrying more of the load than I’m supposed to be carrying. I’ve done it all my life. No change there.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. [Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.] Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” [Matthew 11:28-30, The Message]

One day I will get it, I mean, really get it long term. For now, I still have great big heavy days until I remember again to set some of the stuff down and often, the next day is better. Vicious cycle of sorts, but it’s all I can manage these days.

One of sentences from the devotion today (by Cindy Lowcock) is so true: “When we take on Christ we become like Him: demanding our own control seems unimportant, aligning ourselves with Him becomes as easy as if we were professional dance partners.” This would be the best scenario of all, dancing with the Christ, knowing which way to turn just by a simple touch, a minute pressure. That takes lots of practice.

Painting by Alfred Gockel

Painting by Alfred Gockel

When I was younger, I used to tell my friends that I could dance all night. I never grew tired of the movement and the music. I was fully engaged. This is a great metaphor for being a follower of Jesus. There is freedom and even abandonment, but there is also structure and cadence. It’s one reason that many jazz dancers learn ballet first, to learn the precision and the control, before breaking out.

Being tired comes from misuse of my body, my mind, and my spirit. Unfocused and scattered.

It’s why I need the yoke of Christ really. For, like the young oxen that must learn how to work together in the field, I need to learn how to be in communion with God. I keep pulling away from that yoke. Sorry.

Thanks be to God, it’s never too late to start again. It’s time to suit up.

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water flowingWhat does it mean to you, this never ending water?

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [John 4:13-14, NIV]

This week begins a series of devotions based on the word, Reflect. And one of the best ways to reflect is to ask ourselves questions. What do these words really mean to me?

beaverIf the water from the Christ should truly be as a spring of water welling up within me, then why am I not continually refreshed? Is it the fault of the water? I don’t think so. Instead, there’s some pesky beaver damming up the stream. I’ve allowed a lot of sticks and mud and stones to get in the way. Despite tearing it down, the industrious beaver will rebuild overnight. (Please, don’t think I’m picking on beavers in particular, it’s just a metaphor.) My point is that keeping the water flowing is a daily task. And only when the water is flowing can we actually drink.

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serveBoth Jesus and Moses served God, but Moses out of the covenant of the law from without while Jesus served out of the nature of God within. Pick your way. Personally, my desire is to serve because it is a natural expression of my identity, it is a reflection of God through Christ.

Jesus was faithful to the one who appointed him just like Moses was faithful in God’s house. But he deserves greater glory than Moses in the same way that the builder of the house deserves more honor than the house itself. Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant in order to affirm the things that would be spoken later. But Jesus was faithful over God’s house as a Son. [Hebrews 3:2-6, CEB]

Get_out_of_jail_freeI am contending a bit with the young adults in my house right now. We have all been through an ordeal, the death of a husband and the death of a father. But the sorrow, after a time, cannot be used as a “get out of jail free” card forever. The laundry still needs to be washed, the floor swept, the dogs fed, the meals prepared. It is not a hotel. When I suggested to one of them to wash our windows, the protest was immediate. But then, when I asked, who should do them? Nominate someone else to do tsave the earthhe work. Silence. The windows were done, and yet begrudgingly. Other times, I am given a report a what was done or not done. I have to laugh. I really don’t want to keep score. We all live here; we all have a responsibility to maintain our home.

Is this microcosm any different from the macrocosm of our earth, or county, or state, or county, or city, or neighborhood? We live here.

God is not keeping score. But the responsibility for our environment and the people who live in it is irrefutable. If we don’t serve, who will? Who do you nominate to the work you don’t want to do?

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sisyphusSisyphus is a character in a Greek myth who was punished for his deceitfulness. His reparation? To push a large boulder up a hill and then watch roll back down again. He experienced, firsthand, futility as a result of his pride. Sometimes, people serve God as though it’s a punishment: they repeat and repeat the tasks and get the same results and wonder why. Being a servant to God should not be drudgery and if it is, something is terribly wrong.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Matthew 20:25-28, NIV]

Warren Wiersbe identifies one of the core reasons for this type of dreary service: the servant lacks understanding of the principles that underlie the work.

different giftsWhether it’s volunteers or employees, everyone needs to know how they fit into the big picture. It doesn’t really matter how clever or creative or well-funded we might be, without a substance understanding of why we are asked to do what we do, the task becomes heavier and heavier, the joy escapes like air from a balloon, and the grumbling begins.

If you are serving uphill, stop and take a break. Ask questions of the leadership. Pray about the part you have been asked play. And if those two things don’t line up, test other tasks. No two people necessarily serve in the same way. It’s the whole foot-hand/eye-ear scenario in I Corinthians 12, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. . . .  Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” [verses 4-6, 15-20]

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Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. [Philippians 2:5-6, The Message]

cursillo crossFor many years, Mike and I served in a variety of para-church organizations whose mission was to create a once-in-a-lifetime 3-day retreat based on the Cursillo model. While in Georgiain 1984, we attended our first Cursillo weekend (#14) and thereafter served on a number weekends sponsored first by Atlanta Christian Cursillo, emmaus crossthen Walk to Emmaus as well as Tres Dias. When we moved to Maryland, we served in the Delmarva area for Walk to Emmaus and eventually found Maryland Emmaus (the weekends are numbered and although they are in the hundreds now, our weekends were #5 and #6). These retreats were a lifeblood for both the attendees and the “servants.” It was on these weekends that we learned about servant leadership and sacrificial service. Later Mike moved his energy to yet another outgrowth of these weekends into the Maryland prisons, and kairos crossserved on several Kairos weekends. There also evolved weekends, called Chrysalis for teens. Together, Mike and I contributed and served on over one hundred weekends. And we did this out of love. chrysalis cross

It was here that we experienced the joy of serving, where each and every person on a team gave 110% of their time and commitment to the weekend and its preparations (anywhere from a 12-25 week commitment, depending on a person’s role). There was structure and yet there was creativity, laughter, tears, music, clowning, teaching, sharing, and great food (or at least, lots of food).

Being a project-oriented person, the process appealed to me from beginning to end. Being a results-oriented person, I saw changes to both team and participants. And several of the relationships formed on those retreats lasted far beyond the weeks of direct service. One of most popular jobs or roles on the weekend was the “cha.” This person demanded the most of the person physically, running errands up and down the hill, setting up chairs and tearing them down, moving sound equipment, delivering gifts, dressing up in silly costumes, waking up very early and going be the churchto bed very late. The focus of every retreat weekend was the participants who were first-timers. At the heyday of the movement, people would be on waiting lists for years, to attend. The weekend experience was life-changing.

These retreats were the best of Church.

the-80-20-ruleBut they were never intended to replace the local church. And often, the men and women (who attended separate weekends) would return to their home church, ready to serve. Unfortunately, in churches everywhere, everyone who attends church is not on the same page. And so, the people who are willing to serve freely often serve into burn-out. It’s so much harder to serve in a community when only a small percentage (often the proverbial 20%) of the people are actively pulling/contributing the bigger share (time, money, energy, etc).

decoloresI cannot imagine what serving on an Emmaus weekend would have been like if every team member didn’t know what his/her role was, didn’t give that role his/her 100%, and didn’t understand how that role impacted the experience of the pilgrim participants. What teams did understand was that each person has a gift to give and each gift is like a different vibrant color, the same kind of rainbow of color that typifies the love of God shining through the prism of Christ. DeColores.

The message of each servant/team member was really the same: “I am here serving you because someone served me.”

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Art by He Qi

Art by He Qi

This week in our Lenten journey, we’ll be talking about Service. What I like about Richard Foster’s words in the devotional selection for today, is that service needs to be in a symbiotic relationship with spirituality. There is no doubt that spirituality, represented by one on one time with God, is the “one necessary thing” but the true manifestation of that time is in serving others. The story of Mary and Martha shows us how one cannot be isolated from the other: the women were sisters after all.

By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. [Luke 10:40-42a]

first things firstIn another interesting lesson I found online (Lesson 52, Bible.org), the writer builds on two questions from First Things First by Stephen Covey. He asks the questions this way: “What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your walk with God?” Then, “If you know this would make such a significant difference, why did you not do it this past week?” I believe the young people would yell “Booyah!” which is a bit of slang for “gotcha!”

So, let’s put these two ideas together, if service is best done out of relationship with Christ (more than likely through prayer), and if we prayed consistently and authentically, we would indeed experience significant results in our walk with God and undoubtedly, choose to serve more consistently as well. Why don’t we do it?

I cannot speak for you. I can only confess my own sin, for it is, I suppose, my story to tell.

private prayerI don’t pray privately much because it’s amorphous (another word from the Thesaurus: blobby!). Prayer is just so: private and lonely; there is no one who knows if I pray or not, or if I talk out loud or silently, or if my mind wanders and creates a menu for dinner. Prayer, when it’s truly just me and God, requires concentration, relaxation, and intent, all rolled up into one. There are no benchmarks. There is no one to say I’m doing better or not. There are no fireworks for the well-said prayer or the prayer that struck home, engaging God in a decision to change circumstances. I can’t measure prayer. Oh I suppose, I could monitor my time, but truthfully, I’d have to filter out the wasted minutes, the distracted candle-lighting or wrapping up in an afghan or escorting the persistent, playful dog out of the room.

And maybe, if I was really honest, maybe I’m not even praying. It’s easier to read a prayer or read scripture. It’s easier to write prayer or blog. It’s easier to think about praying or to think about God. It’s easier to do anything but center down.

rosaryI’m sure, in some ways, this is why Eastern religions may have a little edge on us Christian types. There are practices and breathing and instruction that is aimed toward emptying the mind. Sometimes I wonder if I should try some of the Catholic practices, would the rote repetition settle me into an inner place where the Holy Spirit and I could really commune?

I’m a woman of flash prayers and thanksgivings and even, service. I am a woman who can pray in public with intensity and love for my God. I can gather others into prayer. I am a woman of the Word for I find much solace in its depths. But I am not a woman of private prayer.

Going back to Stephen Covey, do I believe it will change my life? I do, or at least, I suspect. But maybe, secretly, the changes are too slow for my 21st century-cultured mind. Perhaps I am still looking for results too soon. I have trouble with the long vision. And yet, here I am, almost forty years a believer, and still I can’t pray with consistency, alone?

St. augustineI know, I know. This post is supposed to be about service, but my spirit is quickened to consider the importance of service growing out of spirituality. I “do” or “serve” because God leads me to do it. I serve because God is present out there as well as in here. And when I pray, I serve. That’s the idea.

Whether it’s learning a sport or a martial art or flying a plane, automatic body/mind memory only comes from repetition, practice, and consistency. If there is any time to practice, it’s during Lent. Now. Now.

Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done in Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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There was an old game show called “You Don’t Say” in which contestants would try to figure out the missing word and thereby get points. At the end of the show, the M.C. would invite people to come back to watch the next show because, “It’s not what you say that counts, but what you don’t say.” We sometimes carry this idea along in life.

stillnessOur God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you’re to be.
You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it’s a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it’s only right that we give thanks. [II Thessalonians 1:1b-3, The Message]

We live in a culture of having and so often, despite our best efforts, it’s hard not to want what others have. We are constantly inundated with images of nice cars (mine’s 10 years old and counting), perfect figures with amazing clothes (I’m on a perpetual diet and shop thrift stores), and high-powered tech toys (I just got my first personal laptop from a pawn shop). How do we keep our eyes from roving the commercials and ads (not just on TV, but everywhere). Their message is clear, what you have is not enough.

Not true.

contentmentThe truth, the real truth underneath all the trappings of pretend, is that each person has all the raw materials for the life God intended. We have been given a variety of gifts and abilities, families and friends, circumstances and challenges, and they all add up to a life designed to building up the human spirit within. If we agree to walk it. The path is not easy, but if we take our own way, the road only becomes longer, more complex, and yes, even more difficult.

“Come to me,” Jesus said, and “I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. As I am in God, God is in me, and you are in me and we are in God [paraphrase of John 17:21].

Within God understanding, it doesn’t matter whether I am as good looking as another woman or as rich or smart or talented. It doesn’t matter if I am a Queen or a housemaid, a teacher or a writer, an athlete or a businesswoman. I am walking out a life within and hopefully, using everything I’ve learned along the way, I can be united with Christ.

And for this reason, I can give thanks for everything. Even this.

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