a moment of thanks

Photo by lilartsy

I am encouraged by your presence, and I pray today you will have a rich encounter with Jesus, that you will be encouraged and strengthened in your faith.

There are many turning points in our lives and people who walked with us through them. Those moments and people are part of the story of how we ended up here in this place at this time.

As I reflect on the turning points in my life, my grandmother comes to mind. I called her grandmommie shortened to Gramma as I got older. In Highschool like most teenagers, I was in the midst of an identity crisis, and I had very little sense of direction. I also struggled with dyslexia which made the academic aspect of high school extremely challenging. I was embarrassed that I didn’t read as fast as others, and being called on in class was particularly stressful. Finally, I decided I wasn’t smart enough and pretty much gave up. I got lazy and neglected school.

Gramma, a retired teacher, saw something in me I didn’t see. She saw potential; she saw a future I couldn’t. She knew things I didn’t know. She had skills to teach me to help me cope with the learning disability that educators didn’t understand well at the time. She didn’t let me be lazy. She helped me see where my efforts and commitment were lacking. Gramma was my tutor, my encourager, and my guide. With her encouragement, I made a deeper commitment to my life. I went to college because she helped me see the person she saw in me and taught me how to live into it. Who I was; evolved into who I would become. I was the same, but then again, I wasn’t the same at all. Her love transformed me. She was my bridge.

The book of Malachi forms a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Malachi could see both the past and the future. He saw the priest’s laziness and lack of commitment to God and worship. He saw the people of God as disillusioned, prideful, and disobedient. But he also saw the promise of the coming of the Messiah and how he would heal and mend those who came to Him. The breach was not irreparable, and God’s first message through Malachi was, “I have loved you. I am coming. Prepare the way. Commit to me as I have committed to you.

There are times in our lives that bridge where we have been and where we are going. It can be challenging to see these bridges. Sometimes, we can see them but are unwilling to cross. When we lose our commitment to God and ourselves, we cannot see what we cannot see. I believe God puts people in our path to help us. He gives us moments that refine us into his vision for us if we don’t shy away. In Genesis, he creates all things and declares them good. As we move through the Old Testament, goodness never leaves, but it is tarnished by laziness and lack of effort to live into being the people God wants us to be.

“In the reading we hear the question who can endure the day of his coming who can stand?” Jesus will be like a fuller’s soap. The fullers job is to clean and whiten cloth. It is soaked in soap and beaten to remove impurities, and the end product is beautiful and valuable. But the fabric must submit to the process.

There were many frustrating moments as I learned new ways to study and process information. But I knew my Gramma loved me, and I trusted her. So I met her commitment and made an effort to change and learn what she was teaching me.

As I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I hear a great deal of love in his words. Paul is grateful for the relationships he has; he feels held. He recognizes the goodness of the people yet understands the continual need to show them how to live successful mature Christian lives. He was committed to them and prayed that they would have more love, knowledge, and insight.
This love and encouragement will help them become the people God created them to be. He had confidence that the future would be promising because he recognized commitment in them.

Love is the first ingredient in this recipe for success. Love dissolves bitterness; love breaks barriers; love inspires. With love, we feel safe to go into those problematic places to push ourselves harder to do the work needed to become the people we are called to be. He didn’t teach them what to do and what not to do. Instead, he taught them about the love of Jesus, the power of that love, and how to let it work in us to develop our character. As our character is strengthened, we are more willing to be disciplined, be obedient and make good decisions. When loved, we feel safe enough to see the things about ourselves that we cannot see and strong enough to make the changes we need to make.

Who you are and who you will become is dependent on letting others teach you and help you while allowing the process of refining moments to do the work of transformation.

In the gospel lesson, we are given a gift of Old Testament scripture within New testament scripture, another bridge.

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Mark 1:3-5 NRSV

God commits to you, loving you perfectly and completely, guarding, guiding, and giving through others. Allow God’s love to restore you, refine you, and bring you to the place of repentance and preparation so that all you offer is as beautiful as you are.

In Creation, you were made, precious, and good. In the love of Jesus, you are made complete and beautiful.

What is your commitment to living into this beauty?
What is your commitment to loving others into theirs?

We are in a transitional time of our lives. We are being refined and called to prepare. You all are an integral part of the bridge between who I am and who I am to become. In these last two years of deacon school, you have been my guard, my guide, and you have given me much encouragement and strength in my commitment. You have been Jesus to me. I thank my God every time I remember you.
Amen

The Scripture Readings

https://www.lectionarypage.net/YearC_RCL/Advent/CAdv2_RCL.html

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 of turning

Several years ago, I attended a Gottman Institute workshop, where I heard the expression “turn toward” for the first time. The practice of turning toward has since enriched my most cherished relationships. Throughout the scriptures, there are great stories of God’s people turning toward and away from Him. Often, those who turn away find suffering, while those who turn toward find compassion and healing. When we turn toward, we are recognizing and connecting with the focus of our attention. When we turn toward God, we are recognizing and connecting with love.

Now is a time of biblical intensity. We have suffered and lost much during COVID-19. However, through it all, I believe God has never turned away from us. I have confidence that he is with us and waiting for us to turn to him with every challenge we encounter. I believe he is longing for a glance from us so that he can meet our gaze. Today I ask myself, “Am I turning toward Him?”. Have I allowed the media to divert my attention? Have I allowed worry and fear to distract me from his loving gaze? The truth is, sometimes, yes. So I remind myself today, turn-toward.

Turn toward truth.  

Sometimes, that truth will be painful. When we are willing to let God show us the truth about who we are, we will see we have acted in ways that caused injury to God and others. We can receive forgiveness. 

Luke 22:61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Turn toward Love.

At times meeting God’s glance will be empowering and healing. We will see God’s Love and compassion for us in our suffering. We can receive his grace and mercy.

Matthew 9:22  Jesus turned, and seeing her, he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

Turn toward connection.

In a world of insufficient answers and little peace, we need each other. Turn toward those who bid for your time and attention. Turn toward those who offer you comfort. We can be encouraged.

Romans 15:6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let today be a moment for turning-toward, recognizing God’s love for you and the love of Christ in others.

He bids your glance. He is calling your name.

At that moment, turn-toward.

John 20:14-16  she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

A moment for the inner-critic

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

We all seem to have voices in our heads; some are loud and intrusive, like the inner-critic; and some are gentle whispers like the inner voice of love. One of the most significant challenges in my life has been quieting the inner-critic so that I could hear my inner voice of love speaking and encouraging me to become my best self.

The inner-critic was with us in childhood to keep us safe. It was essential. It protected us from the things that were harmful to us. It is that same critical voice within us, that now lets us know when we are moving into new or dangerous territory. It will never leave us. Our inner-critic will be there to chime in when we approach something new, either hazardous or productive. The complication is the inner-critic cannot differentiate between the two. It is not useful in decision making on its own. We need to be able to hear the other voices inside us for honest discernment.

Perhaps, we can equate the inner critic to a helicopter parent. The inner- critic, with all its good intentions of protecting us and preventing harm or embarrassment, fails to teach and encourage us to become our best selves. It tells us we are inadequate to the task and must not move forward on our own. Like the helicopter parent, the inner-critic operates out of fear and mistrust, which is fair enough in this dangerous world. However, we are in this world and must learn to navigate our experiences for both survival and enjoyment. In addition to the protection we need love, encouragement, and trust.

We should not silence the inner-critic. We need to give it a moment. Identify it, name it, and appreciated it. You will, then, be able to calm this part of your ego. This calming will free your inner voice of love to tell you what your strengths are and how capable you are of tackling the danger or novel situation.

Once the calmed inner-critic steps back, the inner voice of love and empowerment is more apparent. With this dual perspective on your internal processing, you are more equipped to distinguish between what is a new experience and what may be a dangerous one. We can now intellectually weigh the pros and cons, and well informed proceed on the path to becoming our best self.

You can!
You have what it takes!
You are beloved!
You are worth it!

The beloved of the Lord rests in safety— the High God surrounds him all day long— the beloved rests between his shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6