Tuesday, July 30, 2013

As Christians, the oneness we seek is the oneness of living in Christ‑‑being an incarnational presence of God. Paul asks that we live in Christ, be rooted and built up in Christ, abounding in thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a prayer without boundaries, for prayers of thanksgiving do not seek to control or manipulate, only celebrate.  Paul cautions us to allow ourselves not to be taken captive through "philosophy or empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe..." In other words, whatever binds and controls and limits - keeps us from being fully embodied in Christ. The mystery is that being embodied in Christ is a boundary‑less experience. Our point of entry into oneness with Christ is our baptism, which is a time of dying to the old and the beginning of living into the new.   To achieve this, like Jesus, we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This, as our Gospel passage for today points out, can be the thrust of our persistence in prayer.
           Because the human will is so strong and there are so many pitfalls, we can seek each other's help, and coming together for worship and hearing again the core of our life and faith goals, helps us to get at that.  As each of us grows stronger in our relationship with God, the whole community grows stronger in its relationship with God; and the realm of God, which is in our midst, becomes ever more known to us and to others who walk through this door, and to others we encounter through the week.  How can we grow stronger as a community of faith?  (From Pastor Randy's Sermon 7/27-28) 

From Pamela:  I remember when the issue of "boundaries" was the current most necessary topic for workshops and inservices.  Issues regarding time, space, personal intimacy, public interactions all factored into the discussion of boundary violation.  

I understand the importance of these considerations, and I also appreciate the freedom unleashed when we are securely rooted and built up in Christ.  When we abound in thanksgiving we are in a mode of gratitude (and appreciation).  We see others as gifts and blessings, and we are compelled to be a gift and a blessing to the other in all we do and say.  No manipulation, no controlling, no violation, no judgement.  

So here are my questions:   Whenever we are with another -- where do we see Christ in the interaction?  How did the encounter bringing us closer to one another and closer to Christ?   

Monday, July 22, 2013

Martha was caught up in what she had to do, and she was missing what was being done. Jesus tells her "you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing." As Christians we can ask ourselves today: Where is our attention? Where is our focus? What is blocking our path? What are our distractions? It is when we can step back and take a look at our lives, that often we open the door for the comforting presence of the Spirit. May each of sit at the Lord's feet and listen to what is being said to us.  

(From Pastor Randy's sermon last weekend)

 From Pamela:  I believe that sitting at the Lord's feet is, ultimately, activating.  God's presence can be comforting, healing and transforming.  It is also instructive; and once we have moved aside from our own preoccupations and received what God is offering, the next movement is often to "Go and do"(something) in the name of Christ in response to the blessing received from God. 

I pray often and I pray, sometimes, for long periods of time.   Yet it isn't about just sitting around enjoying the feel good feeling of being in God's presence.  After praying (that is, sitting at the Lord's feet) I set about "doing" whatever is before me in a more clear (not distracted) fashion.   I benefit from the way God helps me perceive people and places differently than if I am left to my own devices. Listening to God opens my ears to hear the requests or the opinions of others through a filter of God's love and wisdom.  

Sometimes that makes all the difference!  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Powering through or sailing with the wind filling your sails?

The journey.  Author John Ortberg talks about our journey in life being a one of piloting a motorboat or a sailboat.  How are you living your journey?  In the motorboat we become so goal minded, sometimes so obsessive that we are focused only on gassing up the tank, and setting our course, that sometimes we miss God’s gifts happening around us.  We start the motorboat engine and we live life being in control as much as possible.  But a sailboat is a different story. We play a role in hoisting the sails and steering the rudder, to be sure, but we are utterly dependent on the wind.  The wind does the work.  I am not simply speaking about being laid back assuming that God will do everything and I have to do nothing.  It is much more complex than that. Our task is to be spiritually transformed by our course in discipleship.  And our spiritual growth requires discernment.  As our journey continues we look for God’s spirit, which literally means wind, we look for God’s wind to direct our sailboats.  An experienced sailor can simply look at a lake and tell where the wind is blowing the strongest.  The wise sailor knows when to raise and lower the sails; so to it is for us as we mature in the faith.  We learn to respond to the fresh wind of the Spirit, for God does provide them. 

Where is God’s wind in your life?  What is the Spirit directing you toward?  Are you going there?  Or are you going the opposite way?  And how many times in our lives when God called us one direction, did we try to go another?  How many times have we tried to flee God?  Have you ever had an experience when you simply could not see God in your life and even rejected the whole notion of faith?  Perhaps sometimes we become such a motorboat in our life thinking that we don’t even realize that we are not stopping to let the wind of God direct and redirect us.  

Listening and watching for God’s wind, God’s Spirit, is not a call to sit back and watch the world go by.  It is not a call to let everyone else make decisions and do all the work, it is not a directive to say we are not influential in the direction of catching the wind in our sails, instead the journey is about being wise enough, and faith filled enough to know that living and sharing God’s grace, is bigger than my one boat, is bigger than my one engine, and receives its power not by my own supplied gasoline, but by God’s wind and Spirit.  May we catch God’s wind in our journeys, may we watch for signs of the times, that let us remain open enough to have our life redirected along the way.

 From Pastor Randy's Sermon 6/29-30, 2013

From Pamela:  

Most of the readers know that I am an experienced sailor.  Years ago, I would go out on the lake, often single handed, and sail for hours wherever the wind was blowing.  If I had crew, I would go out on the edge of storms (the best wind is often on the edge of a storm) and press craft and crew to maximum capability.  

Now my boat is almost 40 years old.  I am over 60. Although I am confident my boat could manage "sailing on the edge" of the storm, I am not sure my body or my psyche are interested.  It is all about allowing life to provide lessons about taking risks, pressing one's resources and respecting the desire for longevity (that is, I would rather stay in port and sail into the future than confront a passing storm).  

The boating metaphors relate well to the practice of spiritual discernment.  In life and ministry (as well as in sailing) it is wise to check out the craft (ie, physical resources) the crew (ie, the people involved) and the wind (ie, the sense of God's inspiration) when making choices about vision and mission.  

It is true that passengers on my boat often are frustrated with the amount of time I spend checking my rigging, "ship shaping" the lines and the gear.  But I always remind them that things happen very quickly in a high wind, and that is not the time to be working with fouled lines.  

In the same way, people may get frustrated or impatient with the amount of time we take to pray and discern God's will for our individual lives and our shared ministry.  But time taken to prepare our hearts and minds to confront the hard facts and details of life in this world is time well spent. 

Prayerful discernment is a source of balance that enable me to travel safely through the changeable paths of life and ministry.  When I am balanced I can navigate safely through all sorts of winds, with maximum effectiveness, by staying under the wings of God's sheltering wisdom.