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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

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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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askgodIn the same way, you have sorrow now; but I will see you again, and you will be overjoyed. No one takes away your joy. In that day, you won’t ask me anything. I assure you that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Up to now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive so that your joy will be complete. [John 16:22-24, CEB]

Won’t ask, ask, not asked, ask. What a strange passage with its combination of not asking and asking. Here’s my simple take on this: in the day of Christ’s return, we will not need to ask (we will get it), but until then, we can, not only ask, but ask with the name of Jesus as our co-requestor. Before Jesus, humans could not invoke His name or His consciousness, but now, we can.

I have had an additional bit of a revelation through the writings of Oswald Chambers on this matter.

We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer. When a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life. . . . To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature. –Oswald Chambers [My Utmost for His Highest, Aug 28 entry]

In the days of “blab it and grab it” teachings, this selected verse in John was often used to encourage people to pray, in faith, for anything, including a new car, a job, a mate, etc. All was possible, as long as we believed and prayed this scripture. But now I see, most clearly, what is offered–a life within, one completely surrounded by the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus through the Holy Spirit (for it was the Spirit that given to us at His resurrection). How different the ask becomes then. What would God withhold? Nothing.

  • Create in me a clean heart, O God. [Psalm 51:10]
  • Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. [Psalm 4:1]
  • Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. [Psalm 86:11]
  • Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. [Psalm 119:34]
  • Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. [Psalm 30:2]

All for the asking.

To participate in an ongoing 2015 Lenten devotional, download the PDF here.

 

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hocus pocusWe can’t understand everything. In fact, we can’t understand most things. When life moves along logically, the idea of “why” we choose to go one way or another might make perfect sense in the moment. But as soon as circumstances drop a bomb in our midst or we look back with 20-20, no answer to “why” explains or justifies the outcome. Not now, not ever. Whether the events are good or traumatic, the why this or why now will remain a mystery. Some can accept the miracle and others cannot.

As soon as Jesus threw the evil tormenting spirit out, the man talked away just as if he’d been talking all his life. The people were up on their feet applauding: “There’s never been anything like this in Israel!” The Pharisees were left sputtering, “Hocus-pocus. It’s nothing but hocus-pocus. He’s probably made a pact with the Devil.” [Matthew 9:32-33, The Message]

Personally, I would say it’s equally miraculous to make a pact with the devil as it would be to make a pact with the Lord. Both require a leap of faith. But what these Pharisees were really doing was rejecting something that was  “not-I.” They did not enter into the event; they remained aloof and thereby guarded.

It’s a negative view of the world: It’s a trick! The devil made me do it. My glass is half-empty. Fake! Liar! Thief!

All of these possibilities may be true since I would be the last to say that evil does not exist and people can be less than altruistic.

miracle02But, when a person crosses the line into faith, the potential for good manifesting out of the seemingly bad circumstances goes up exponentially. When a person accepts the Presence of God in the universe (both macro and micro), then why becomes less important. (Please, scientists, I’m not blasting your world at all, you grace our world with understanding.) I simply believe that there will always be inexplicable events and human decisions that cannot be explained away by what we know now, or more likely, ever. Our reality is not driven by 3-D but by an unseen realm we cannot fathom.

Miracles are possible because this world is fleeting. And in the same vein, sorrows happen too.

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God listensI have been told, eventually, I would grow angry over the loss of my husband, who died so unexpectedly. It’s only been a couple of months and people may be right, but today, I can’t really generate emotional wrath. With whom should I be angry? Should I blaze at Mike who experienced the widow maker, when a specific artery to the apex of the heart was blocked and caused nearly “sudden death” (or certainly within minutes). Should shake my fists at adult children who didn’t even know their father was home? Should I chastise myself for being out of town . . . again? Or, the most common fury, at God, who allowed or orchestrated this moment. But if Job couldn’t get away with it, why should I? “I know you can do anything; no plan of yours can be opposed successfully. . . . I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand, wonders beyond my comprehension.” [Job 42:1, 3, CEB]

Instead, I see God’s hand manifesting in my daily life now in a way that I never did before. Into my confusion, God still is. Into my sorrow, God speaks. Into my fear, God breathes.

Come close and listen, all you who honor God;
I will tell you what God has done for me:
My mouth cried out to him with praise on my tongue.
If I had cherished evil in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.
But God definitely listened.
He heard the sound of my prayer. Bless God!
He didn’t reject my prayer; he didn’t withhold his faithful love from me.
[Psalm 66:16-20, CEB]

Back in the day when I used to speak to women’s groups and conferences as well as perform my one-woman show, I would share my testimony. And at the end of the story, I would always remind them that I was the “woman at the well,” “the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her hair,” the woman caught in the sin of adultery.” And now, in my widowhood, I am her again, for I am thrown into His mercy.

Today, I am able to stand against the bitterness that stole Naomi’s heart [Ruth 1:20] and instead, I take the refrain of Ruth, ““I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” [Ruth 3:9b, NIV] It’s enough for today.

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T1221029-roadrunner.gifhis day could be any day, even today. Or perhaps “this day” has already happened and, looking back, we can say, “Oh, yes, that day–that day caught me off guard.” When Mike died, not even two months ago, a thief crept into my life and plundered me–that day. I thought I knew the way of life; I thought I had the God journey rooted in my understanding, but that day became this day for me.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. [I Thessalonians 5:4-5, NIV]

My faith is strong enough to keep me standing. I am grateful for the love and steadfastness of the Holy Spirit consciously whispering and sustaining me in ruach (breath of God). I am conscious of the prayers of the people that allow me to crowd surf these days and now weeks.

In some ways, it’s hard to disallow my former self to run this show, that planner and problem solver. She would have had everything worked out by now, she would know how to make all the ends meet and put order to the chaos. She is my cheerleader but she is also my goad. She is impatient to move on, to be in control, to make decisions. Over the years, she has buried her feelings and disappointments and simply built new paths instead. If a way is blocked, she goes another. She is her mother’s daughter, persistent and undaunted, self-sufficient and capable, enthusiastic and confident with energy and passion spread about like buckshot.

She has experienced what happens when her Road Runner stops moving, stops running. Everything in her warns of the danger. Keep moving. Keep talking. Keep busy. If nothing else, at least turn on the white noise.

But another voice is speaking as well, with questions: what’s important to this day? What is needful? Can we negotiate this time? Can we be more like conjoined twins and work together, and not compete to be one way or the other?

And if there is no decision, my “Martha” asks? Who will do the work?

Just wait. The pieces are not all in place yet. Wait. Stand a while longer. Try. Test the silence. Test doing nothing.

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I wrote the obituary for Mike, it’s below. I thank you all for the prayers of family, friends and neighbors. I am in awe of the touch of love through eyes and arms and words through people, whether they were close to me (or Mike) or not, every touch matters. I see that now in a way I never saw it before.

Right now, I know this one thing. Mike was a healthy man with no history of heart disease. His death was both out of his control and mine. And for this reason, I understand, Mike’s passing is part of the journey set before me and my young adult kids;  we must all walk this road in faith and trust. We cannot know what lies ahead, but I rest in my God as best I can although this night of sorrow is long. I am so grateful for the presence of the Holy Spirit from whom I draw my hope.

The Obituary

Mike headshotMichael Leigh Brown died Saturday, Dec 13, 2014 of a massive heart attack at home; he was 64. Mike was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the youngest son of Vernon Stockton Brown and Lina Snead Brown (both deceased). He attended the University of Georgia, served in the U.S. Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground, worked at Georgia Public Television, and in 1982 married his beloved wife, Irmgarde Berzins Brown. In 1987, he moved to Havre de Grace, Maryland and began his 27-year career at Aberdeen Proving Ground as a television director and videographer. In 1997, he and his wife adopted two children, Arturs “Kip” Brown and Vernon Sergei Brown from Riga, Latvia at ages four and five; seven years later, they adopted Liliana Victoria Brown from St. Petersburg, Russia at fifteen. In addition to his creative work for the government, Mike donated his time and talents to both Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air and more recently, Restore Church in Havre de Grace. Mike participated in several para-church organizations: Kairos Prison Ministry, Walk to Emmaus, and Cursillo. Mike volunteered at two orphanages in Africa: Children of Zion Village in Katima, Namibia, and Village of Hope, Zambia. He and his wife were leading a team to Africa in the fall of 2015. Mike was a man of faith who walked out his beliefs by working for the good of his community, both near and far.

Mike used his video skills to create personal projects (see his YouTube channel, vydeoynkhorne), record family and life events, as well as church activities. Mike was a history buff, a Robert E. Lee re-enactor, a regular blood donor to the Red Cross, an avid reader, a conspiracy theorist, an investigator into the cryptic, and a champion for ambidexterity and healthy living.

Mike is survived by his wife, three children, and brother, Vernon Stockton Brown, Jr. and several cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Visitation with the family will be Thursday, December 18th, 2 – 4 pm followed by a Memorial Service at 6:30 pm at St. Patrick’s Fellowship Hall at 650 Pennington Avenue, Havre de Grace, MD. There will be no viewing as Mike requested his body be donated to science. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the benevolence fund of Restore Church, Havre de Grace [https://restorechurch.cloverdonations.com/give-online/] or one of the orphanages he supported.

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