a Moment of Eagerness

Photo by Brent Keane on Pexels.com

I was watching a youtube video of the Volcano in Kilauea and happened to notice a comment below the video that read, “Watching a bubbling cauldron of lava is soothing when compared to watching the insanity of politics.” I did not find the volcanic image soothing, but I appreciated the analogy.

Watching lava finding its way out of the rock from the center of the earth made me very aware of how small this time in history is compared to the earth’s age. Scientists estimate that the earth’s age is 4.5 billion years old, and its estimated lifespan is 7.6 billion years. In contrast, the estimated lifespan of humans is 78.9 years. Our current difficulties, like our lives, are just a blip on the timeline of the earth. And yet, today’s scriptures tell us how very significant we are.  

We hear in Psalm 139 how important we are by the message of how well God knows us.

God discerns our thoughts.

God is acquainted with all our ways.

God’s hand is upon us.

God knew us even before our formation in the womb.

I am blown away. As I read the words,

How deep I find your thoughts, O God! * how great is the sum of them! To count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.” Book of Common Prayer    

We do not have enough years on earth to come even close to knowing God the way he knows us.

The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible says, ” It is not beneath God’s dignity to get involved in ordinary history and national politics.” “The aim of God in history is the creation of an inclusive community of loving persons with God himself at the very center of this community as its prime Sustainer and most glorious Inhabitant.”

Yes, there is a great deal of disturbance in our nation at this time. The LIturgical readings for 2 Epiphany do not necessarily address politics. However, it is evident in them; we have a God who gets involved.  

In the Old Testament Book of 1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20), we read how deeply God is involved in the house of Eli. Eli knows God, but his faith seems to be dimming as it has been quite some time without direct communication. Samuel, who does not recognize God’s call, mistakes it for Eli’s. But God is persistent and eager to be heard.

There is an eagerness about Samuel as well, as he listens and tries to respond to the call, first with Eli and then under Eli’s direction, he eagerly responds to God. Eli is aware that he has failed to build a loving community within his household. He did not know God as God wished to be known. Eli’s eagerness to hear the message though it would be disagreeable, and his acceptance of God’s judgment as righteous indicates that he is seeking a closer relationship with God.  

In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, we are told that anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him. We belong to God. We are of great value to God, so much that we are the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. We are not alone. God is deeply involved. He wants us to recognize Him as He reveals himself to us.

In John 1:43-51, we are given a beautiful image of that recognition. Jesus is building his loving community. As the apostles are drawn to him and recognizing him as the Christ, his community begins to form. Jesus isn’t selecting perfect people or specific skillsets; he is choosing those who are seeking him. Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree. One commentary says that it was a shaded place to study. Nathanael would likely have been studying scripture when Jesus, the Word, saw him. As Jesus tells Nathaniel how he recognized him, Nathaniel recognizes Jesus, and in that instant, a relationship grows.  

Nathanael’s relationship is significant, But Jesus goes on to say, we will see more extraordinary things, “heaven will be opened.”  Our relationship with Jesus is both small and intimate and vast and glorious.

Our lives are a tiny part of the 7.6 billion years of the earth’s expected life. And yet, each of us is individually, intimately, and entirely known by God. We are valued beyond our comprehension.  

As we are united in spirit, God’s aim in history to create an inclusive community of loving persons becomes our aim.  

As co-creators, we must

Be like Samuel, eager to listen to and share Truth.

Be like Eli, eager to hear even Truth, which makes us uncomfortable.

We must be like Nathanael, seeking Truth and eager to have it be recognized in us.

And we must be like Jesus, inviting others into His beloved community.

God has billions of years to bring his people closer together and closer to him. We have a small piece of that time to do our part.

a moment to take a knee

Photo by Sharefaith

“that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (NRSV)

The first time I saw my son, take a knee on the soccer field for an injured teammate, I was moved. My little boy was becoming a gentleman. In soccer, players take a knee to show respect and concern for another who is injured. At that moment, noise and movement on the field will stop, and the attention will turn to the player and those attending to them. It is a moment of support.

In the military, taking a knee is also a show of respect. A soldier in this posture at the gravesite of a fallen friend honors the lost. It is a moment of sorrow.

In prayer, being on your knees is a show of humility. It is an acknowledgment that there is a Divine being who cares for all creation. It is a moment of supplication.

At this time, our broken country reflected in our broken hearts needs a moment of solidarity. As the publicity grows on this subject, the shifting of our focus has also turned. What we turn toward is significant. As a native Louisiana girl, though not a sports enthusiast, I cannot help but be a Saints fan. Watching Drew Brees these last few days first turn toward the flag, showing his love for his country and then after criticism, with humility, turn toward his teammates and show his love for them I am touched. His character, though challenged, is unwavering. “I live by two very simple Christian fundamentals, and that is love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself, The first one is very self-explanatory. The second one, love your neighbor as yourself, what does that mean to me? It means love all, respect all, and accept all.”  

I appreciate Drew Brees; in his faith and posture of humility, his pride in his country, and his love for humanity. I admire how his character demonstrates them woven together with love.

We have lost many lives these past months with Covid-19. We have lost many lives over many years to violence as a result of racial prejudice. We have lost faith in each other. Our country is gravely injured. Our flag represents us all. When one member suffers, all suffer together. Let us with sincerity come together as “One Nation, under God, indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all.”

 Take a knee. 

A moment the heart hears

Photo by jonas mohamadi

Often I wonder, as I pray, where do prayers go? Can anyone hear them? The words, “When we pray from the heart, the heart hears.” came to mind and has been with me all week.

At this time, when many of us cannot be together to pray or offer support and encouragement face to face, I would like to share these reflections with you.

I believe that prayer is a conversation of the heart. With the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of Christ, and an omnipresent God, our prayers are invisible threads that tie us all together. God both hears and responds to the heart, with his heart, by speaking to our hearts and to the hearts of those for whom we pray. Though I cannot visibly attest to God’s presence, I am assured, by the words speaking to my heart, how much we are loved. I pray that these words may reach your heart and give you hope.

Many of us are praying for the sick who are far away. We are praying for the dying who cannot have loved ones at their bedside. We are praying for the lonely and shut-in. And we wonder, does it matter at all? 

Yes! When a heart speaks, another heart hears.

We pray from our hearts:

Genesis 24:45–“Before I finished praying in my heart

Prayer of Manasseh 1:11–And now I bend the knee of my heart, imploring you for your kindness.

Our hearts connect to God’s:

Genesis 8:21–The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart

Luke 7:13–When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her, and he said, “Don’t cry.”

God speaks from His heart to ours:

Proverbs 2:10–For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

2 Thessalonians 3:5–May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Our hearts hear:

Song of Songs 5:2–I slept, but my heart was awake. 

2 Corinthians 3:2–You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts.

Praying for each other is a conversation of the heart:

Romans 10:1–Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

Colossians 2:2–I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself.  

Conversations of the heart make a difference:

Psalm 21:2–You have granted him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.

Philemon 1:7–Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

The apostle Paul, in his ministry, knew the pain of being separated from those he cared for deeply. He did not lose heart and continued to offer prayers for the hearts of others.

1 Thessalonians 2:17–As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face.

He prays:

1 Thessalonians 3:13–And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Perhaps the thread of prayer is felt as a tug connecting one’s heart to God’s and God’s heart to another’s pulling us all closer together.

“Wherever a person is in their life’s journey, there may come a time when the longings of their heart ask, ‘Is this it? Is this all there is?’ In these moments, someone could have a tug in their heart that says, ‘Maybe there’s more.  I want to take it to that next stage .”- Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

May your heart, in this moment, hear the promise of God’s heart hearing. 

A moment scattered

“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:31-33 (NIV)

A paradox, being alone and not alone simultaneously. I have only once before personally encountered such a time. In 2006 during hurricane Katrina, southern Louisiana scattered, across the country. Though families moved apart and friends became geographically distant, there was a unity to the New Orleans area that was a strong thread. It was this thread that tied the people together and helped them heal.

Once again, I find myself scattered, separated from family and friends. This time that scattering is global, and it seems no one will escape unaffected by this scattering. We are directed to stay in our homes and keep our distance from each other, which has left many of us alone, a bit lost, and somewhat afraid. The followers of Christ must have felt then similar to how we are feeling now. Separated from the routines they had become accustomed to, a bit lost without Jesus, and afraid, not knowing for sure what is coming next.
I am so deeply moved by Jesus’ prayer in John 17. In a longing plea with God, he speaks on behalf of those he loves. He knows that they will feel alone and lost, and he pours out his concern for them. He does not request that they are removed from the circumstances that will cause them pain. He pleads for protection that the pain will not overtake them. He asks that they are set apart from the suffering. The way to set them apart is once again paradox. He pleads for unity, that those he loves and all who share in that love be made one with Himself and God.

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them, I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
John 17:13-24  (NIV)

In this present moment, when we are scattered to our homes, separated from our routines, a bit lost, a bit afraid we are also united in our desire to not let COVID-19 overcome us. There are many stories of people reaching out in safe yet powerful ways to keep others from feeling lost and alone. We share each other’s burdens and lift each other’s hearts. We are separated but we are not alone.
We are united by Jesus’ prayer on our behalf, our unity is sealed by his death, and the glory of this Divine Unity will shine across the globe as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Redeemer.

We are no longer scattered.
Peace.