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Posts Tagged ‘love’

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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anxietyHistorically, I have not been an anxious person but when I checked the definition, I recognize a build up of some anxiety over the last few months, understandable I suppose, as a relatively new widow. The future carries a lot of unknowns that have generated emotionally charged days. Anxiety is a state of mind created from an expectation of future threat. I get that, totally, as they say. But I am told, instead:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Phillipans 4:6-7, NIV]

The essential information here is that anxiety can be pushed back successfully, but not by trying to “not be anxious.” Instead, I am encouraged to actively transfer my anxious feelings into and onto the Holy Spirit, that Presence within, that gift of God, who is willing to apply a strong filter. The future is still unknown and filled with dangers even, but a God perspective minimizes its impact and ability to cause actual anxiety.

It’s important to ask for help. That’s where the prayer part fits in.

grief angelI believe God is actually OK with me learning how to handle some difficult situations (as part of maturing). The more time and energy I spend with God, the more I am able to walk with God, be more like God, and dwell in the Presence of Christ’s Spirit. But, it’s important to keep tabs on this relationship. My tendency has been to blunder along and convince myself that I can do it all, I can manage, I can handle hard feelings and I can make lots of decisions, all the while working full time and running a household (at least, what’s left of it). That’s the old me who used her busyness and quick thinking and “bull in a china shop” approach to everything in order to side-step the anxiety, a fear of failure, overwhelming loss and grief.

That will not work this time. I have discovered that I, too, can drop into a kind of general malaise that manifests as anxiety that is peppered with muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue, and problems in concentration.

So, I’m asking God. Right now. I’m asking for that transcendent Jesus to go to work now. Thanks.

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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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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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Asking and thanking go together. They are a song that has perfect but unique harmonies. Asking & thanking in prayer is a tight union, like an A Capella group that intertwines the main melody with sounds and riffs, highs and lows.

Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. [Philippians 4:6, CEB]

I cannot ask without thanking. Well, I should not.

If I take my anxieties and concerns to God in prayer, then the next thing from my lips needs to be my thanksgiving because “God’s got this!” That’s the point. The prayer part, the appeal, is not so much about God or Christ, but about me. I am sharing, as transparently as possible, how I understand my  situation and what I believe I need to happen. But listen, I may (more than likely) be wrong about the best outcome. Thank God. I mean, sincerely, I thank God who listens but is not particularly moved by my limited discernment.

But when I’m hurting, I tell God. When I’m confused, I complain. When I’m angry, I confess. When I’m convinced, I give God an opening to disagree.

Thanks for your patience Lord. Sing with me.

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Toll 05192008 cdbToday, within my Lenten Devotional for 2015, I shared a poem I found on the Internet called Pennsylvania Turnpike by Shawn Self because he expresses so well a small but significant experience when someone paid it forward for him, just for him. We never know when a small gesture might change a life.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. [Matthew 5:38-42, NIV]

We can’t always know where the giving will lead. When Mike died, there was a stream of giving that I could not have fathomed. People with whom I rarely socialize, came out of the proverbial woodwork, and stepped into the chaos with their gifts of time, money, food, and even a mop and bucket to clean up the floor where Mike fell. Another group of people took my dogs into their homes and another set drove a total of eight hours in the middle of the night to pick me up and bring me home from New York. Another group wrapped their arms around my young adult children who never, ever imagined that would encounter death in this way. Each and every person paid it forward. To this day, my gratefulness is beyond measure. And the giving has not stopped in these ten weeks of sorrow. dog and horse

Every time we “pay” it forward by giving in the moment, for the moment, God is in it. Don’t hold back. This could be the day your action, like the rudder of a ship, turns a life around.

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