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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

thank youIt’s pretty simple really, and repeated throughout scripture, from the Old Testament to the New, we are encouraged to “give thanks.” It’s a natural response and when it’s genuine, it’s the cinch to a bow or knot, those words wrap up the exchange. . . for that moment, for that day perhaps. But it’s never too late to reopen the conversation and it’s never too late to give thanks, whether it’s to God or to a stranger. The words carry power, the sentiment carries humanity and when thoughtfully given, recognizes the I-Thou in the other.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. [Psalm 107:1, NIV]
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]
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. [I Chronicles 16:34, NIV]
Where human thanksgings, one to another, are considered polite and, unfortunately, in many cases, somewhat rote and even cavalier, the command to give thanks to God is fraught with much more weight. This is increasingly clear when life becomes overwhelming. But Paul, in I Thessalonians, admonishes us to give thanks in ALL circumstances (both delightful and dreadful). Well, we might think, “surely God doesn’t mean I am to give thanks for illness or corruption or betrayal or sorrow?”

Yes and no. I am not giving thanks for the situation itself but I am giving thanks that God is still in the midst of that state of affairs, and because God is there, I am promised that I can have confidence in the outcome, which will be God-covered (one way or another, sooner or later). I can, if I so choose, rest in this truth. I am given the opportunity to trust God again and again. I am given the chance to confirm my faith, my commitment, my relationship with the Godhead. It is a choice to give thanks. It’s not that the world will come to an end if I don’t, but I can improve my relationship to challenges, in that simple expression.

I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? [Jeremiah 32:27, NIV]

Thanks. Yeah. Just sayin.’ Thanks.

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palm treeSometimes it’s hard to believe that there is still life in a thing, in a situation. As people grow older and face their own mortality or, as in my circumstances, walk through the death of a loved one, time seems to be a kind of betrayer. We no longer appear to have the time to do anything new or worse, the energy to even begin, to try, to initiate. And when that happens, we go from stasis to decline. Unless–

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;

    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” [Psalm 92:12-15, NIV]

What is bearing fruit at my age? Generally, it’s a metaphor for having children, but what else? I had an evangelist friend who maintained that bearing fruit meant bringing people to Christ. His quiver then, was full of “saved souls” [Psalm 127:3-5]. Others focus on the fruits of the spirit  [Galatians 5:22-23a]: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, looking to improve their characters through acts of generosity toward others, for truly, these fruits are mostly relationship-based. Still others interpret fruit as prosperity, bringing forth a cornucopia of wealth and plenty (aka, fruitfulness).

For me, today, I put forth a very simple meaning: fruit is the natural outcome of any living thing. We are all bearing fruit, all the time, whether it is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. The nature of this fruit depends on our make-up, our beliefs, and our intentions.

seeds in the wind“A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit, nor does a bad tree produce good fruit. Each tree is known by its own fruit. People don’t gather figs from thorny plants, nor do they pick grapes from prickly bushes. A good person produces good from the good treasury of the inner self, while an evil person produces evil from the evil treasury of the inner self. The inner self overflows with words that are spoken.” [Luke 6:43-45, CEB]

Today may be the result of my decisions made in my past, but tomorrow has the potential for anything, and depends so much on my choices today. And so goes the cycle, I learn to walk the day I made while at the same time, I can blow seeds into the days to come.

I have a future. Today I can plant a dream, still.

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secret gardenNever just enough for our western culture; we accumulate more and more, whether it is “just in case” or simply because we can. Slowly, movements are rising to counter this addictive behavior, but the change is slow. I am no stranger to largess and its grip on my choices, to my shame. But I’m getting better.

The Israelites did as they were told [by Moses]; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer [2 quarts], the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. [Exodus 16:17b-20a, NIV]

I sometimes make fun of my “crunchy” friends [urban dictionary: used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons], but really, I admire their tenacity. More appropriately, it should be Christians and other believers who lead the crusade for saving our planet from abuse, living simply, and letting go of an “over-abundant” mentality. Throughout scripture, God is shown to meet the needs of the people, if only we would trust.

Slowly, not necessarily by election, but by the circumstances of my losses, I am faced with releasing the amassed detritus of my life. I must choose to sift and consider what is enough. Oh, I know all the cliches of downsizing and that sounds so healthy and smart until it’s “you” who is doing it, sooner than later. But I think I’ve been missing the real lesson here. I have been choosing what to “let go,” when I should be examining what is just enough.

God is about just enough.

Back in the early nineties, a revival of sorts stormed Toronto at their “Airport Vineyard” and among the many phenomenon that manifested during that time, the people would wave and bask in the “spirit” and call out for “more.” Of course, it was the “more of you Lord” that was driving those prayers, but I want to start something else: give me what I need and teach me to embrace and flourish within the hedges of God’s endowment. No more is needed.

It is the secret garden of God.

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Pooh loveFew us willingly embrace paradox: loss for gain, death for life, serve to lead, and so on. Each and every type is repeated throughout scripture and our first reaction is reason: that is contradictory, that is not possible, that is absurd. Even faith itself is a type of paradox, to believe in what cannot be seen or proved rationally. Paradox is simply inevitable within the Way of Christ. And those who dismiss it, miss it.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. [John 16:7-11, NIV]

And so I wonder about my own loss. I cannot help but read this passage and wonder, is it the same for the death of a loved one? Will there a come a day when I can look back and see, if Mike had not died, we would have missed this other event, this other understanding, this other transformation? I can almost imagine Mike, in his final moments, seeing our future more clearly than we ever could. And perhaps he also thought, I go that they might live in this other way, within this other road.

Mike’s faith was unshakeable and his mantra was that God would provide [Jehovah Jireh]. And he calls me to do the same. Trust God. Let go of what was freely. All will be well.

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anchorHow quickly I forget. How quickly the words escape into the ether and my faith-filled experiences and my God-given confirmations become a distant memory. I have had my share of minor miracles and serendipitous encounters with wonder. I have felt the Presence of God. I have prophesied truths that I could not have known except through divine revelation. And yet, I forget. I lose myself in my circumstances and my fears and insecurities.

Fix [anchor] these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. [Deuteronomy 11:18-21]

To remember the stories of our past, we must talk about them. In this way, families develop beloved corporate stories that are passed through the generations. Their exactness is not as important as their intent, the feelings they engender, and the bond of memory.

God offers us this opportunity through the scriptures and texts, the oral traditions put to paper were passed to us for our sakes.

Through the prophets, the people were told over and over again, to remember.

Today marks the fifth month of my husband’s death. Who he was and what he did and what he looked like are still emblazoned in my heart, but for the sake of the children and the children’s children, we must remember and share and talk about this man. And while we do this, let us remember as well, his unwavering faith that became a rock for our family together. Mike was our family’s anchor; Christ, my soul’s anchor.

 

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confessionA “good confession,” as a phrase, has been pinched by the Catholics and any Internet search will teach you how to make a good confession in the confessional and thereafter make penance etc. But in this case, Paul is referring to a “confession of faith” which has been appropriated by yet another clerics to represent a formal statement of beliefs by one denomination for another. They are crafted documents and in most cases, cover a wide range of potential controversies discussed by believers through the centuries. But honestly, the confessions of Timothy and the Christ were much more personal. They simply acknowledged who they each were and to whom they belonged and gave fealty.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you [Paul to Timothy] made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. . . .  I command you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and Christ Jesus, who made the good confession [Paul about Jesus] when testifying before Pontius Pilate. [I Timothy 6:12-13, CEB]

There are people who get all “hinky” about the term, saved, as in “Are you saved?” But I think it’s really just a shortcut question about one’s confession. They are asking, “do you profess the Christ?” Do you follow the One God? Do you believe that Jesus was God in the flesh during a particular period of history and yet died and resurrected into a different kind of “body” and heretofore communes intimately with the God of the Universe to this day? Or, even this, do you believe in the Presence and transforming power of a Holy Spirit who lives within, upon invitation, and opens a Way to heaven on earth in preparation for eternity?

What do you believe? What is real to you? Who is this Jesus to you? Whom do you confess?

“This is also why I’m suffering the way I do, but I’m not ashamed. I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.” [II Timothy 1:12, CEB]

 

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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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