Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reaching the end of your rope

This weekend we will talk about how faith that can be ignited at the point of desperation.  There are always risks we face.  Some we see coming.  Others hit us from (seemingly) nowhere.  We have many choices that swirl around us -- some are more "comforting" than others.
What to you tend to do when you reach the end of your rope?


 Is it better to free fall?  Do you hang on and swing in the wind?

Image source:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thank you to Jill Koubal for sharing this link:  What doesn't kill ya makes you stonger!  Look at the faces.  Watch the movements.  See hope's victory over perilous circumstances.

So what is challenging YOU today?  How can you see it as an invitation to discover deep trust, hope, faith, gratitude?  If you are blessed with an unchallenged time of your life, is there somebody you might be encourage?  Is there somebody who needs to hear the words of assurance that can be spoken in the midst of a storm?  

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Aunt Catherine, when faced with trials or illness, always said:  "If it doesn't kill you it will make you stronger."   The old gal was one of the strongest people I have ever encountered.  Her life was filled with challenges -- physical, relational, and economic.  She was also a spiritual powerhouse.  You can read more about her here.  She endured every storm with trust in God -- right up til the last day of her life.

Consider these words from Pastor Randy's sermon:  

“Do you not care?”  Isn’t that the question we often ask about each other in terms of trials, tribulations, and difficulties that we face in our lives?  We say to our neighbors, our relatives, our co-workers, our immediate family members in times of struggle, “do you not care?”  It is a question that many times can have some assumptions behind it.  For usually when we ask the question, it comes out of a wounded disposition.  Perhaps something has happened to us, we have been wronged, hurt, cheated, challenged, or greatly frustrated, and we begin to feel as those who we thought were connected to us, those who may even be the ones who have inflicted the situation upon us have not acted appropriately to either consider our well being, or perhaps have intentionally done something to wrong us. So we ask the question: “Do you not care?”  It is a demonstration of the conflict of being a living human being.  Humans have conflict with one another, conflict with nature, and even conflict with God.  The conflict of God often appears in the form that it did to these disciples.  We are going through difficult times and it seems as though God is aloof.  It seems as though God might not be paying attention to us.  It is almost like we are taking water in our ship and are in danger of drowning and it feels like God is asleep, so we cry out to God: “Do you not care?”

For reflection:  When have you faced a struggle that seemed to prevail with no end in sight?  Who was involved?  How did your relationships with others either strengthen your trust in humanity or erode it?  Is the struggle still taking place?  If you have come through it, how does the memory affect you?  

When you come to the end of your rope and cry out "Do you not care?" a shift can occur.  Of course, God does care.  At the moment your faith ignites, strength that defies the circumstance steps forward and establishes the heart and mind on solid ground.  Notice the difference that makes!  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What does it take to see as God sees?

I am convinced that the intellect, the ego and the will often place a lens over our eyes and distort our vision.  Something happens that confuses me.  Then I begin to think about it.  Then I (BIG I) think I can do something to figure it out on my own.  Then I think I know what to do and therefore I don't pray fervently for God's guidance.  I don't "need" to look for God's will because "I" "know" what I "see" and "I" "know" how to respond to it. 

Then something falls apart around me.  I feel empty, lost and perhaps even forlorn.  So I pray.... and there's God! 

One of my friends, Pastor Amy Little, spoke about this, reflecting on what it takes to see as God sees: 

There’s a paraphrase of one of the beatitudes that has stuck with me for many years now from The Message by Peterson.  It goes something like this: Blessed are you when you are at the end of your rope, for there is the place where there is less of you and more of God.  As we let go and diminish our egos, our pride, our self-reliance, our anger, our self -pity (all of which are idols by the way!). . . and allow God to fill us with the fullness of him.  What else could we need if we are filled with God’s fullness?  I can’t think of a single thing.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Old? New? Old? Are you vacillating?

Every once in a while we get a glimpse of what it means to look at others with the eyes of faith.  We may notice something that was previously obscured by our fear or prejudice.  Or we may have been distracted by our own interests to the point of ignoring the others.  Now, we may not literally intend to discount others.  But the fact that we do may place one more burden or sorrow upon somebody who could have been served wonderfully by simply being noticed.

Most of us are willing (and usually able) to respond to the call of compassion when there is an obvious need. Yet "often in daily life, when things are not in crises mode, it is easy to let our humanity overtake our Christianity; to let our old creation emerge and seek to challenge our new creation in Christ." (from Pastor Randy)

Pray that your vision and perception is clarified this week, especially if life seems calm.  Who might be looking for your attention or your gesture of Love in Christ?  Is there a situation that seems so common or routine that you tend to overlook it?

Monday, June 18, 2012

What seeds were sown yesterday?

It's Monday.  What happened that is beginning to germinate (perhaps even sprout!)

Yesterday was the Sabbath Day.  A Day of Worship.

Yesterday was also Father's Day -- one of those days when families tend to make a bit more effort to get together and say "Thank You.  You are important to me.  and (in many if not all cases) I love you" to those who care for, mentor and provide for us.  (a role often attributed to "Father")

What do you recall about yesterday's conversations or shared moments? Does anything stand out as particularly high or low on the scale of joy, peace, harmony or clarity?

If, as stated in scripture, we are made new in Christ, no longer limited to looking at one another through the limited lens of human understanding, what did we see that was different?  Perhaps we looked with compassion and gentleness upon somebody who wasn't always easy to love.  Perhaps we found the courage to offer words of love and appreciation even though we aren't the kind of people who normally do that.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Against the grain

We always think we know what is best for us, even better sometimes than we think God knows.  The reason is this sense of our own self-centeredness, our own lack of sanity when it comes to power, ego, and want.  When Jesus enters into his mission and teaching, his actions, deeds and teachings go against what many at that time thought was normative for life in relationship to God.  This was certainly true for the religious authorities who seek to crucify him for his actions, this is certainly true for many who followed him, but then turned away or rejected him, it was certainly true for those who witnessed some of his deeds of power, quickly wanting to make him appear demonic in some way, and it was even true for his own family as they seek to restrain him from what he was called to do.  

Pastor Randy

For Reflection:   The church is facing changes in the way current members view ministry.  Even more, though, the church is being viewed differently by society as a whole.  Some consider church irrelevant, having little if any meaning as a positive and purposeful component of contemporary life.  Church may be a nice option, they say, but it doesn't need to be prioritized when planning what to do with one's time and energy.  There are many other choices to consider when looking for a life that is complete or whole.  

 Therefore, the church family may be viewed by society as people who are out of their minds, even insane.  

What do would you say in response to somebody who questioned you about the reason you are involved in the life of the church?  If told that you are crazy to devote time and space in your life for something that often offers to tangible or measurable results, what do you say?

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Family Affair

Sometimes we are called to a ministry challenge in the context of our own family.  We may face the judgement of family members who think we have "lost our mind" when we step out to do something in Christ's Name.  We may find ourselves in situations or relationships that would seem out of character or in contrast to the "way" things have always been done in our family.

Sometimes this "crazy" behavior involves forgiving somebody who has been on the margins of our family.

Sometimes it involves presenting ourselves to somebody in the family who judged us, or whom we have hurt or offended.

Are there names or faces that come to your mind as you reflect upon the above?  You might want to make a list of the people in your family who are the "easiest" to love and another list of those whom you see as more difficult.  What does that process reveal to you?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Listening for God

Last Sunday we talked about some of the voices that serve to distract us from the voice of God.  We were reminded that the Holy Spirit assists in providing a filter or lens that helps us see or hear God in the midst of all of the other stimulation that comes our way.  God provides direction and a sense of purpose.  

Yet how do we know when we have our direction and purpose?  That "knowingness" is fleeting -- one moment it is there, the next it is not.

It seems that when we "see" clearly we feel inspired.  We are motivated and energized.  And then we begin to move.  And with that movement we may shift our glance to something other than God's direction.

I find direction.  I lose it...  here's how it works.

When I am praying for clarity and understanding, my focus rests clearly on the space of my mind or my heart that is most open to listening for God's guiding voice. When something becomes crystal clear, I experience an increased energy, a momentum that can move my words, hands, my feet, and most certainly my mind at a more rapid pace.

Then, all too soon, it seems, clarity begins to be less apparent. Perhaps I am focusing too much upon results,  or trying to measure my effectiveness -- or placing more emphasis upon the deed than upon the call which has motivated me to engage in the deed. Whenever that happens, I realize that I am running the risk of moving away from God's call to some self-determined call. It may be a nice thing to do, but the vigor and vitality that  underlies my actions when God is working through me is no longer there. I begin to pursue the task (the self-determined call) under my own steam, using my own power, so to speak.

And then I realize that I must stop!  I must return, to nestle in the arms or sit patiently at the feet of the one who not only knows me better than I know myself, but also knows all times and places where I can serve most effectively.

This return takes time and intentionality.  It may seem to interrupt the momentum I have.  But the truth is that this time spent with God, reviewing my plans in God's presence, often provides a perspective that clarifies my sense of what is possible or critical.  It also enables me to see aspects of relationships with the others involved in ministry that might otherwise be overlooked.

Take a look at where and with whom you are involved today.  Pause for a moment at the crossroad of options.

How do you see God included in your plans?  Are you running on your own steam, or are you allowing God to set the timing and the pace?  Are there people or possibilities you are tempted to ignore?  Perhaps those situations or relationships require a "second look."

Monday, June 4, 2012

God is active

"God acts in this world, God speaks and directs in this world, and things happen.  When God the Father’s voice orders the days of work of creation, the world, the waters, the land and seas, the light, the sky, the plants, animals, and humanity all come into existence.  When Jesus, the Son, commands that through the Holy Spirit we are to make disciples of all nations, the church happens, people come to God.  It is then that God still speaks and directs as we continue to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."   Pastor Randy

For Reflection:   Can you see ways that God is connecting with you today: 

In a creative way -- new life in nature?   A new way of thinking?  Hope that you previously did not have?  
In a way that invites you to serve another?  In a way that motivates you to show somebody else something your faith and love motivate you to do?  

In a mysterious way?  Something that you would not expect to think or dream about, yet you find yourself drawn toward it?  

Give thanks for God's plan for you and for the way God takes the initiative to gather you into God's heart.