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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

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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One of the biggest mistakes people make in planning a project is that they rarely figure out how to measure their success (or failure). How do you measure your progress? When we were children, many of our parents measured our growth by marks on a door frame. Up and up and up the pencil marks would go. But what about our spiritual lives? Can we measure our growth, our commitment, or our change?

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. [Luke 6:38-39, NIV]

measureAre we using the money we give as a measure of our commitment or our sacrifice in the things of God? I am not saying this is a good thing or bad one, I’m just asking.

In the “world,” more often than not, it’s the norm: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It’s a kind of joke, a bumper sticker that had it’s day some years back, and yet, the accumulation of wealth and stuff continues. Western cultures, particular, measure by salaries, investments, houses and neighborhoods, travel and vacations, labels, and let us not forget, cars.

I remember the embarrassment I felt when my half-sister (twenty years my senior) from Estonia had an opportunity to visit us in our home and she was befuddled as to why we had rooms in which their primary function was to sleep. She, with her three room apartment, no running hot water and a wood stove for cooking, raised a child and later housed that same adult child, his wife, and their two children. Every room, every inch of their apartment was multi-purpose.

The other day, I looked outside my front door and saw five cars parked outside our house. Every adult in our home has his or her own car.

all inSo, let me get back to the question of measuring the depth of the soul.

Am I really sold out to Christ, am I all in? Who would know? How do I know? Is it because I tithe now or attend services faithfully or volunteer each week? Are these viable measures? Or perhaps it’s the minutes I pray or read the Bible? Perhaps I memorize verses or know how to open my Bible to the chapter and verse without too much flipping. Perhaps I have kept score of the number of people who have come to Christ by my witness, my story, my relationships?

Being a believer or follower of Christ is not like getting a black belt in Tae Kwan Do or judo. There are no tangible tests.

It’s a way and a journey. It’s a marriage of sorts. It’s an intimacy. And each one is unique and different. So, why do we do all these things, these activities, these measurements? Because people have discovered through the years that our relationship with God can be enhanced. But honestly, it’s a bit of a crap shoot. But maybe, just maybe, this or that practice, will open the door wide to your heart and soul, and once it’s fully open, the Holy Spirit fills you.

And at that point, you simply are, because of I AM and you are bound. And all that is done is a natural outgrowth of that relationship. The surprise comes in the paradox. Give to receive, die to live.

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Start here.

To be faith-full is to believe. . . . in something or someone.

What do I believe? Or you?

Essentially, there is always something people fall back on. For some folks, it’s an amorphous universe while for others, it’s ego alone, and for still others, it’s God or Allah or Buddha. In any these cases, there is still prayer and there is communication that materializes out of a core of understanding or a set of assumptions about the created world and/or the spirit realm.

Through scripture, those who follow and believe in the One God and ultimately, in the Christ who came from that God to complete a covenant/contract, we are given some ways to discover where we land on the continuum of faith and belief. For instance:

FaithLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. [Romans 12:9-18, NIV]

Prayer manifests more readily out of one of these practices or attitudes. In fact, prayer comes naturally as a by-product of these behaviors. But if this is not our characteristic way, then we may have to be more intentional and more conscious of choosing to pray, of asking for transformation into a man or woman of faith.

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Under His Wings

Sometimes I just need to know that I am safe.

He will cover you with his feathers,  and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. [Psalm 91:4, NIV]

under wingsI remember a story about a woman who loved this psalm in particular and memorized it but when the time came, when she was grabbed by a man who wanted to hurt her, all she could think of and imagine were the feathers of God as a great bird protecting her young. And so this woman cried out, “feathers, feathers, feathers.” But God knew and the man, inexplicably, let her go, almost as though a force field was drawn about her.

This is my cry today, my prayer.

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