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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

cornerstone[Peter said] “. . . then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” [Acts 4:10-11, NIV]

This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone; . . . [Psalm 118:20-22, NIV]

gateOriginally, a cornerstone was foundational to the construction of a building because all other stones would be laid out in reference to it. Later, this stone became more ceremonial with inscriptions and time capsules and the like. I am sure that both Peter and the Old Testament writers were referencing the Messiah as a cornerstone to the faith in its most traditional sense. For the disciples, Jesus was the cornerstone for something very new upon which believers would build a church–a force of change. For the psalmist, the prediction would be that the One Messiah would be rejected (unrecognized for his assigned role to humanity) and despite being a way to God, the way would be closed. And yet, despite rejection, the foundational stone would remain and the “building” would grow.

We are living the outcome, for good and for ill. The “house” is still standing, rooted and grounded by the cornerstone. And inexplicably, this structure is also a gate. As soon as anyone links up with the cornerstone, that person becomes a “gate” for the next person to enter, to connect.

holdinghandsIt’s a strange metaphor when combined, and yet, I get it. In this picture, the gates (the people) are transparent but linked up. We are transparent because we want people to be able to see inside, to behold the glory as it were, the spark and flame of life.

Jesus, the cornerstone of the Church as it was meant to be. Jesus, the cornerstone of my life as it is meant to be as well. Come in. The way is open; the gate is open.

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woman walking labyrinth

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear [as in adore] him,     on those whose hope is in his unfailing love . . . [Psalm 33:18]

I’ve written about “unfailing love” several times. This phrase captures so succinctly my heart toward God and my faith in God towards me. It’s a mantra. I am resolute.

It’s always a challenge for me to select source material for each day. People think of me as creative but really I’m more adaptive. Give me a kernel and from that I can often spring forward. Over time, my structured responses have been around the seasons such as Advent and Lent, and once, for three years, I plodded through the New Testament. That was a wonderful time of discovery. But at the closure of these efforts, I flounder. I once tried the same kind of slow journey, section or verse by verse, through the Old Testament, and although there were many fascinating moments and stories, by the time I reached the histories, I missed experiencing the message of grace upon which I thrive.

So, today, after a two day hiatus from posting, I am going to attach myself to a Lectionary. The concept of lectionary comes down through the Judaic principle of “appointed scripture readings” according to a calendar or given days. This practice is referenced in the gospels when Jesus is asked to read the day’s assigned passage in the synagogue [Luke 4] and it was from Isaiah 61, a prophecy of his own coming. Although there are various lectionaries from a variety of denominations, I’m not really concerned about those differences. For now, I’ll reference the Episcopalian one I found online.

Art by Delores Develde

Art by Delores Develde

And so it has happened today, that I find myself back to my Beloved and the unfailing love of God through Christ Jesus. And for this year, I will be His bride, for I need the protection and stability of that love and the confidence that my Lord will collect my tears.

You keep track of all my sorrows.     You have collected all my tears in your bottle.     You have recorded each one in your book. [Psalm 56:8, NIV]

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The crowd was disappointed in Jesus. He did not turn out to be the Messiah they wanted. He did behave as a warrior king.

Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. [Luke 23:20-23, NIV]

disappointmentI had an unpleasant confrontation with my daughter about this very point, but in somewhat different terms. Relatively new to the contemporary and casual worship (having been exposed to Russian Orthodox practices most of her life), over the last couple of years, she was coming into a place of understanding and personal commitment. She was getting direction from the messages and found solace for her many losses as an teen adoptee. And then her father, my husband, died this past December. Her world crumbled and her faith faltered. After all, how many losses can a person take? I knew it was hard for her. But I thought she would bounce back. Today, I discovered otherwise. I could hear in her voice and her attitude that she felt betrayed by God. This God who supposedly “saved” her from her circumstances and yet plunge her into grief.

Jesus had stopped being the kind savior who had intended the best for her. Her seeds of faith had dried in the heat of sorrow.

How can I help her? Although my many years in my faith in God and Christ has sustained me through these months, she has not had the same foundation. She is disappointed like the crowds that day on the streets of Jerusalem. They wanted something else, not what God was offering, not what this Jesus was offering.

I grieve twice over now for my daughter. Nothing is the same and nothing will ever be same. I am sure the disciples were not much better. They scattered at the arrest of Jesus. Only a few came to his execution (John, Jesus’s mother, and Mary Magdalene, who believed). She believed he would survive the cross and live again. So much so, that even in the face of his death, she returned to the grave on Sunday morning, just in case, just in case. When the body was gone, she wavered (and for this reason perhaps, she did not recognized Him).

I believeDisappointment feeds upon our thoughts. We must consciously choose to believe in the face of the “evidence.”

I am reminded of the little girl from Miracle on 34th Street, who rides in the car in the last scene, repeating over and over again, “I believe, I believe, I believe.” Sometimes it simply takes that much.

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follower of ChristBecoming a follower of Christ was a choice. I did not choose under a haze of emotion or outside pressures or a well-meaning but overly enthusiastic “witness,” but upon completing my first cover to cover reading of the New Testament. The question that came to my mind was simple: Is Jesus the truth or a lie? And despite all my arguments, this one belief found root. Jesus is and was and is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end [Revelation 22:13]. And when the chapter (and the book) ends with these words, “Even so, come Lord Jesus,” I accepted this Way. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and serve the Lord. But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Choose the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But my family and I will serve the Lord. [Joshua 24:14b-15, CEB] I cannot convince anyone of anything. I cannot “make” you or anyone believe what I believe. I can only speak of this core of Spirit that was born that day and has blossomed into an integral part of myself. Are there things I don’t understand? Of course. Do I ask for clarification? I do. And one day, I believe, though I “see through a glass darkly” still, I will have the fullness of wisdom. But for now, I will hold fast to my God, my Jesus. One of my beloved and venerated church mystics is Julian of Norwich. Some of her sayings capture my meaning today:

Julian of Norwich and her cat

Julian of Norwich and her cat

See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?” and

“Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.” [from Revelations of Divine Love]
and most well known of all,
 “And all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceeding well.”
So, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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First of all, then, I ask that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for all people. [I Timothy 2:1, CEB]

While preparing for Lent, I did a lot of reading on the Internet and among the many posts and essays I read, I was taken by two questions (in the spirit of thanks):

  1. What are 3 things I can thankful for in my life today? and
  2. Who are 3 people I can be thankful to have in my life and why?

I think these are good questions we should ask ourselves periodically (if not every day). And so I dedicate this post to them today.

Three Things

  1. healthI am thankful for my health. I suppose that’s a natural thing at my age. The last time I went out to dinner with some of my same-age friends, we did find ourselves bemoaning our aches and pains and talking about our regular we were or weren’t. All of us have had at least one if not two of the required colonoscopies. Absurd in its truth. And yet, I am still grateful. I still have energy and even some to burn. My aches are still minor, I am mobile and can exercise. I am not particularly physical or particularly fit, but I’m not a couch potato nor am I a slug. The last time I went for testing, the nurse was surprised that I only have one (now two) prescriptions which I must take every day, the rest are vitamins by choice. Yah. I’m thankful for grace that keeps me well.
  2. librarianI am thankful for my career. As a librarian I am among people who are interesting and challenging intellectually as well as caring and service-oriented. I am an extrovert among introverts, but I have a significant role among them. As a manager, I have learned patience and tolerance and respect. I have learned to let go of some of my “controlling” nature and watched others grow as a result. My work varies from day to day and year to year. I work and live in my community and as a result, I am known. There is a comfort in this work and I feel appreciated. And of course, I thankful for being gainfully employed which, at this juncture in my life, is critical.
  3. I am thankful for our home. For me, this thanks is bittersweet, as the “house” I have called home for the last 17 years will have to be sold since I can no longer afford it on my new widow’s budget. But it has been a place of warmth and joy, a broad space nestled near a wood where small animals wander and birds nest. Our house is the dream house of a little girl who grew up in a white ghetto where boarders shared our one bathSONY DSCroom and neighbors brawled in the alleys. This house, with its many rooms, was big enough for everyone to have a private space and for children to run outside at any time of day or evening to safely play. This house was big enough to embrace visitors and family and even my elderly mother who died in this house. And my husband, too, died in this house. And several pets. The memories are strong here. We shared half of our married life here and adopted and raised our children here. So many blessings.

Three People

  1. mikeI am thankful for Mike, my husband, with whom I lived for half of my life and who I lost to a heart attack just three months ago, today. We knew each other well. We accepted one another “as is.” We gave up trying to fix each other. We lived an honest life. He was often hard to live with, but he felt the same about me. We disagree on many things, but we agreed we never separate. We honored covenant. And for this, we were secure. I was blessed to know him. And I grieve the loss of him still. And will, I know, for a long time.
  2. SONY DSCI am thankful for my children, of course. Now that they are young adults, they bring a new dimension to my life. And they have journeyed the sorrow of these months with me and they have each matured in inexplicable ways. From being more attentive and helpful to including me more in their lives. I am blessed by their laughter as well as their tears. I am loved and they give me plenty of opportunities to love them back. They want “family” to continue. Whether near or far, they are ever present in my mind and heart and prayers. As they begin to move into their own lives, I cover them in blessings, not only my own, but the ones that their father would say over them as well.
  3. SONY DSCI am thankful for my friend, Kathy, who was with me on the day that Mike died, who spoke into my pain and into my heart and held them both without reserve. We have been friends even longer, since college, we are only seven years shy of a “golden” anniversary. Friendship of this kind is irreplaceable. And really, is she any less family? I don’t think so. For she, too, knows me. And I am grateful for a woman-place to share my thoughts, my complaints, my joys. Our time has been full of all things: weddings, funerals, births, and graduations. We have transitioned together from hot chicks to wise women and everything in between.

Thank you God for this day and this time in my life. Thank you for the memories as well as the future. Thank you for the things and thank you for the people.

And now, you. Give thanks.

 

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Photo by Wayne Karberg

Photo by Wayne Karberg

I know just enough about “cultivating” anything that it’s hard work. Last summer, I had my first 10×10 vegetable garden. Just getting the dirt right was huge and honestly, somewhat costly. So, when I ask God to “teach me” how to do something, I understand there’s going to be work involved. I’d like it to be a fairy godmother thing, but it’s not.

Teach me your way, Lord,
so that I can walk in your truth.
Make my heart focused
only on honoring your name.
I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God,
with all my heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.  [Psalm 86:11-12, CEB]

So, what will this teaching look like?

Since I probably don’t naturally comprehend the “way” of God, I mean, not really, there will be nudging, I’m sure, and correction. I don’t like correction. Honestly. It’s not that I think I’m perfect (although some of my issues come from trying to be); I get defensive all the time as though getting suggestions for an upgrade or recommended modifications to my behavior means I’m worthless. Where did that black and white response originate?

Okay, along with adjustments to my path, I will also need to learn how to focus. Great. Back in the day when multi-tasking was the buzzword, I was golden. But now, the latest and greatest productivity gurus are recommending single focus, laser vision, and essentialism. Guess what? God expects the same kind of focus. Over the years, I have had a few of these intense experiences; I have been in God’s Presence, and when I was, the excess baggage fell away. It’s a form of “flow,” but spiritually-based.

And yet, despite those wonderful encounters, it’s not my norm today. So, for me to learn God-flow, I must be much more intentional. I will have to actually say “no” to some of my favorite peeps and activities. That’s where the teaching/learning will start. I get that. I can’t expect to center on God’s presence while running from one meeting to another, one commitment to the next. In this week alone, I will have worked or volunteered or attended an event every night of the week in addition to my clocked in 37.5 hours.

energizer-bunny-downPart of me is running from the grief, I know it. Another part of me is caught up in the momentum, like a wind, and I’m not sure how hard the landing will be if I stop flying, so keep going, the energizer bunny is back. But the cost?

Here is the correction: I took on Lent with a vengeance, as though participating in Photo-a-Day or Praying the Hours or creating a devotional or blogging every day here, would focus my energy, my heart, my soul, and mind on Christ. And God has blessed those efforts, but they are not the stuff of “being still” with God.

This is how I know. We are promised: if we spend time in God-flow, thanksgiving will burst forth naturally. And why? Because, when we are in that flow and experience the wonder, magnificence, and holiness of God, we are inspired to appreciate God’s Presence. An authentic response to God in Earth and God in Me and God in Thee is thanksgiving and praise. God is God, the Alpha and Omega, who was and is and is to come. Thanks be to God. Make that real in me.

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grateful heartSaying “thank you” should not be just a polite expression or automated response. When the words come from the heart, they can germinate and roots will strengthen them. The words sound differently when they bubble up from the truth center of our selves, and as a result, they have the power to reach into the hearts of others. True thanksgiving is compelling. But, ya gotta mean it.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV] and The Lord does look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. [I Samuel 16:7b, NIV]

When expressing thanks to another person, I think it’s important to make eye contact to reveal one’s intent, an acknowledgment and appreciation for the efforts of another. It is an I/Thou interaction. Another way of saying this: when a person feels thanks and shares that thankfulness with another, there is an exchange of energy and recognition, much like saying, “I see you and you see me.” It is the simplest form of gratefulness.

surrender 1God asks no less. Acknowledge Me, appreciate what I-God has given to You-Human, celebrate gratefulness, and express all of it with thanks. Trust Me.

No doubt, when circumstances are difficult, I tend to withhold thanks. I make assumptions and judgments: no, not this, no, this is a bad day, no, this is a bad choice, no, this is too sad, no, this is too painful. And so I reject the situation and look for another. I decide on my own that this is not the way I want to go, that this can’t be the path God intended me to take. I’m outta here.

But there is more loss; I’ve missed important lessons along the way because I ran, I eluded, I buried my head in the sand.

aloneI am facing such a time again, this newly minted widowhood. Can I find an inner thanks, a genuine “yes” to God, despite the tears, the loss, and the anxieties? Can I surrender into gratefulness? Can I fight off disappointment?

Little by little. Little by little. I must. I can. I will.

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