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Posts Tagged ‘love’

helping-othersTherefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. [Romans 12:1-2, NIV]

Me, my body, my person, a sacrifice, but not unto death, no, that’s a very different thing. In some ways, to sacrifice one’s life and to die for something is amazing and total renunciation, but let’s face it, once and done. Is that crass? I’m not trying to be, honestly, but I keep pondering this living sacrifice concept and I’m seeing a lot of time involved here and commitment and ongoing surrender in the midst of daily life. It’s re-framing everything. It’s a state of mind of “otherness” where God’s way, no matter how we might disagree or misunderstand or hedge, is to be submitted to completely. God is God all the time. And of course, then, it makes sense to call this one direction, worship. It’s total mindfulness, Presence, and prayer.

In our not so distant past, there were “people of the cloth” (clergy, nuns, priests, and so on), who entered their calling with these words emblazoned on their hearts. And although this may still be true, there is a new trend where people of all walks of life are being called into a more consuming surrender.

Am I there yet? Not even close.

I have had a few supernatural immersions into the heart of God. My most memorable was over 20 years ago, and yet it has stayed with me as a very sweet memory and experience. A friend once told me that God often gives us glimpses of the kingdom of God, that we might get a taste of heaven and “see” God. To make a long story much shorter, this was a time of intense study and fasting when I lived alone in a cabin in the woods for a short season. My heart was seeking the “secret place” and I found it. I was mesmerized. I experienced a peace that passes all understanding. I walked in trust. I entered into comprehension and walked in that peace for . . . wait for it . . . a week. Yah. Only a week.

So the question remains: Do I really hold back from God, this living sacrifice? I do. Even after all this time. Not in every area. I’m pretty good in the tithe area, at least for standard income and I do volunteer. But, am I so close to God that I check in before I fill in that calendar square? Not so much. They say one’s calendar reflects one’s sacrifices of time to who or whatever appears the most.

As a somewhat artistic type, there’s always a type of tension when it comes to dedicating one’s time to the traditional things of God. Let’s face it, everything I write isn’t straight-up Godly or spiritual, but the process itself, the flow of words from inspiration to thought to words on screen or paper, that process (especially when it’s flowing) feels Spirit touched. Or taking and processing photographs, or cooking a meal, or making something for someone else, or acting/directing; these all have moments of giving. I can remember back in my early years of faith when I so wanted to be “all in” for Jesus and a popular Christian teacher of the day pronounced my love and work in theater as unacceptable to God, in fact, he believed all performance was out since it was too close to edifying self instead of God. I was crushed. I avoided my love for doing theater for quite a while. But that wasn’t me either.

heart-rock-on-the-beachSo here’s where I have landed on this score. It’s probably not 100% right, if there is such a thing as a right/wrong in this discussion. I am more about my heart being surrendered to God. I am convinced that the more doors (particularly those secret ones) I open to the work of the Holy Spirit, the more my life will reflect Christ in me so that no matter what I do or where I am, I am in a state of service to God. And how do those doors open? Prayer, meditation, self-examination, and selfless serving (giving of time and energy). The church is the easiest place to serve but it’s not the only place (e.g. the mission field, the soup kitchen, hospitals, shelters, emergencies, etc.). Generally, it’s the church that creates opportunities to serve, that’s the point.

And because it’s directed outward, whatever it is, in the name of God, there is an element of worship present. But if our acts of service or whatever, lose the focus, it becomes self-serving.

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askSo I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [Luke 11:9-10] 

I think I used to think of these three terms as sequential. But today, as I read this passage, I wonder if it’s not a reminder that any of these will work, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, it’s best to simply ask for for what is needed, but in other cases, I may need to go looking for the answer, and still another time may require me to face an obstacle with stubborn persistence.

Perhaps, if I thought about it, I would need to confess that I do a lot more asking than seeking or knocking. Asking is the drop back and punt position. I know I am not alone in that kind of prayer life, filling the space with ask after ask after ask.

But, when the answer is elusive, do I seek and search. Do I prowl the scriptures for an answer or a direction? Do I speak with others more knowledgeable than me? Do I go into my prayer closet with an open mind to hear something new?

And knocking, well, I’m quite sure that’s the last of my choices. I’ll simply cave in and say, this must not be for me. If it doesn’t come easily or right away, I don’t really persist like I could.

Just taking this time to study a bit through the Hillsong Ministry School, is a beginning of seeking; getting back into a small group; meeting with other widows through Modern Widows Club; reading and writing again. It’s a start.

My circumstances have made me somewhat weary, I know. It’s been a tough year and a half, so many changes and challenges. But moving to the next level means I must begin to work my spiritual muscles again, to get back to the “gym” of God.

 

 

 

 

 

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FinishedIt’s the last breath, this “giving of the spirit.” We breathe in an out, minute by minute and day by day, but then, there is eventually the last breath. And so it was for the Christ.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. [Matthew 27:50, NIV]

The one thing that has crawled around inside my head ever since Mike died is a simple question: Was Mike really done? Had he accomplished his mission, his purpose? There were so many plans yet and so many possibilities. Was he really done?

And as I reviewed the stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, of Jesus’s last day, especially his time in the garden, I sense a similar question. For he does ask in verse 39 (and 42 and 43), . . . “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” or some version of this. There are many treatises on this request, but for me, today, I am simply caught with the similarity to my own question. Could Jesus be asking, “am I done?” “Am I done already?” “Is it enough?”

God’s answer was clear. To that point, what needed to be done was done and what needed to be done next, had to be endured for the completion of the whole package.

Jesus’s moment was in the garden, the moment he let go one more time, and trusted in the Spirit of God that indwelled him.

There was another flash of crisis I think, on the cross, before he last breath. In verse 46, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lamas sabachthani” –which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Another question about the end? Is this it? Some have written that Jesus was separated from God in that moment as he took on the sins of the world. But I’m not so sure. I believe God spoke and it was private. And God said, “Come.”

I believe the same for Mike, who lay on the floor alone, in much pain, and probably cried out to his God, to his Savior, and he was no longer alone but joined to the world of Spirit who said, Come. It is finished.

And he too, gave up his spirit, into the loving care of God of gods, King of kings, Lord of Lords. Rest now, my husband and my friend. I give you into God’s care now too.

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Lenten heartOn Ash Wednesday, at Restore Church we had an opportunity for some self-directed worship through meditations on light, clay, the communion elements, and promises (written on cards). I had the honor of collecting these cards and finally, today, read through them. They are filled with hope and sacrifice, renewal and confession. I share them here, all anonymous, as the gifts they offered to God in Jesus’ name.

Letting Go of . . .

  • Two meals a day (promised by several people)
  • French Fries (promised by several people)
  • Sugary drinks & sodas (promised by several people)
  • The Past
  • Spending
  • Coffee (promised by several people)
  •  Cell phone at night (promised by several people)
  • Repetitive thoughts of loneliness
  • Social networking (promised by many people)
  • Red meat
  • Food by fasting each day until 6 pm
  • Sin
  • Gossiping
  • Amount of time on the phone (promised by several people)
  • One meal a day (promised by several people)
  • Candy and/or sweets and/or refined sugar (promised by many people)
  • Negative comments
  • TV after 7 pm
  • Complaining
  • Judging others
  • Snacks
  • Soda (promised by several people)
  • Angry thoughts at work
  • Food by fasting lunch
  • Resentments and unforgiveness
  • Food by fasting one day a week
  • Internet surfing
  • Words with Friends
  • Movies
  • Future Plans
  • Guilt & shame & jealousy
  • Smoking

Do any these resonate with you? Some of these items are not inherently bad but simply eat up our time and energy. Another set are actually bad for our bodies, the sacred physical home of Christ’s Spirit, and yet some are besetting feelings and sins that are constantly begging for free reign in our hearts. Letting go of some of these things are a sacrifice while others are a prayer. Many of these promises are difficult to measure, to assess our growth or success in this venture, in this time of journey with Christ. These less tangible things could be spoken each day, or many times a day, for they are really a prayer.

Gods promiseThe second list encompasses the adds, what we promise to add to our lives as we let go of the other things. We will fill our days and time instead with . . .

  • Read the Bible (promised by many)
  • Praise God
  • Pray (promised by more than half)
  • Reflect
  • Give thanks
  • Pray morning, noon, and night
  • Serve intentionally (promised by several)
  • Pray for my family (promised by several)
  • Write devotionally each day
  • Talk intensely with God
  • Study the Bible
  • Listen in prayer (5 am)
  • Read a Devotion each day
  • Draw closer to God and/or spend time alone with God
  • Wake up early to read, pray etc.
  • Praying every Monday
  • Say one positive thing to a different person each day
  • Submerge myself in the word
  • Save money

Are there any surprises here? We know what to do. We know how to draw closer to God. So, we can either berate ourselves for what we have not done before, or simply, choose: Today, I begin. No rules. Just promise.

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Feathers

Art by Chris Maynard

Art by Chris Maynard

God will protect you with his pinions [feathers];
    you’ll find refuge under his wings.
    His faithfulness is a protective shield.
Don’t be afraid . . . [Psalm 91:4-5a]

I just moved from a very large to a very small one. The moving process is awful, no matter how you cut it unless you know from the beginning that you’re simply packing everything and taking it along.

In my case, I had to divest myself of at least 2/3’s of my “things.” Every day for six weeks, I was having to decide yes or no, take or store or let go. Exhausting. The longer I did this, the more rash I became. Just take it. I even gave away a $1500 bedroom suite. I couldn’t use it. I couldn’t sell it. What was the point?

But there were odd things I couldn’t seem to part with. One small item I packed and unpacked several times: a feather. So odd. It’s a big feather, almost the size of a writing feather. And yet, it’s just a feather. I found it on a beach somewhere, Cape May I think. feathers

I also like feather pillows and I just indulged myself with a feather bed topper.

Forrest Gump, the movie, had a feather symbolically float in and out of the film.

In Native American culture, feathers symbolize the thunder gods as well as the power of air and wind. Other cultures, like the Celtic Druids also wore feathers as symbols of the “sky god.” Some say that back in the day, even Christians took on three feathers as symbols for charity, hope, and faith. That’s a new one on me.

The bird probably thinks differently of his feathers as they are his sole protection, from heat and cold and precipitation. Every bird has feathers and everything that has feathers is a bird. Of course, feathers enable a bird to fly. And lastly, give each bird a unique appearance.

feathers2But what does this have to do with me and God? Nothing much except, this scripture verse has always stayed with me, the picture of safety under a bird’s wing, the feathers covering softly but with strength. When I sorrow, this image is a comfort place for me and has key elements to the Secret Place.

A friend of mine told me a story of a woman who was being sexually assaulted and the only part of this psalm she could remember was “feathers, feathers, feathers.” The attacker let her go.

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humilityDo I really want to know? Or, more likely, don’t I already know it? And yet, in the course of troubles, how often have I said, “What do you want from me God? How much more must I endure?” And in the still small voice, the answer comes again and again:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. [Micah 6:8, NIV]

These words come down to us before Christ. These are ancient words by the prophet Micah and much like the two great commands from Jesus (also based on the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6:5) to “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself” [Luke 10:27]

These words of Micah are another way of walking out the two great commands because acting justly is God’s foundation to true humanity. Those who are unjust break all of the commands in one swift blow since no love can live within the sphere of injustice.

Other translations of this verse write “loving mercy” as being compassionate and loyal in love or to embrace faithful love. In any case, acting out of mercy is other oriented, leaving both the heart and the hands open.

And finally, “walking humbly” requires a certain self-knowledge: a knowledge that recognizes that God is God and sovereign. If God is sovereign, then I should be able to rest in that understanding. All circumstances can be held in the hands of God and transformed accordingly (much like the potter and the clay). To walk humbly implies explicit trust in God’s ultimate desire for my good.

higher powerEven for those who shun the language of God or Christ, they too can benefit from the words of Micah if they acknowledge some “higher power” or “Spirit” or “consciousness,” as long as humanity is in this 3-D world, in human form, constrained by time, we can choose to walk humbly in that knowledge, doing what we can for others in the name of justice and unconditional love.

All of these things I know, what God requires of me. Today, as with every day, I must choose to enter the activities of this day with intent, to act justly, to extend mercy, and to humbly accept those things I cannot change, those things I give over to God who promises to carry them for me and when the time is right, to transform them.

Surrender to God is the first step in a humble life.

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laying on of handsThere are times when a church or body of believers wants to raise up people among their own to take up some of the tasks and ministries that have been traditionally done by the pastor alone. And although many cannot go back to school or attend seminary, many faithful can and do pursue God and God’s Word privately. For this reason, through the laying on of hands and public prayer, both outward expressions of blessing and trust, I will, along with a few others, be so invested soon. I am humbled.

The community presented these seven to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. God’s word continued to grow. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly. Even a large group of priests embraced the faith. [Acts 6:6-7, CEB]

With this designation will come some enjoyable opportunities like conducting weddings, blessing babies & families, and helping others navigate grief and coordinate memorial services. I expect to do some additional short term coursework again in counseling and hopefully, do more devotional writing. Feels right.

I have to confess, initially, I was rather cavalier about this idea, even thinking of it solely as a side job and a little extra income. But it has not taken long for God to show me that “ministering” or caring for others is not a lightweight mission but carries the burden of keeping them in the heart, praying for them, and diligently seeking God for what is best in that moment. Marriage, birth, and death are milestones of a life.

When the New Testament church expanded the responsibilities of its own people and publicly commissioned them, the believing community experienced exponential growth, enfolding some of the most “religiously” bound traditionalists as well as the lost and hurting into the koinonia of faith.

May my own faith be an authentic reflection of the God in whom I believe and entrust my life. And perhaps, as with so many Christian paradoxes, through reaching out to others in this capacity, my own healing with continue.

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