A moment of longing

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 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:15-16

I recently had a conversation with my thirteen-year-old son that given his permission I want to share with you.  As we were driving home one evening, he was feeling nostalgic about his cousin’s former home and all his good memories there.   It was a sad moment with longing for the way things were and wishing they had not changed.  I mentioned to him that it seemed he liked the sadness of the memory and that often it seems he enjoys melancholy thoughts.  He agreed with me and said, “I don’t know why.”  I was about to move into a lesson moment of how that is not healthy, and he should focus on the good things, but I stopped myself.  Instead, I told him the story of when at four-years-old he told me he didn’t want to turn five.  “I like being four,” he said.   I then told him of the time when he was eight and while watching a father and son play together looked up at me and said, “I can’t wait to be a dad.”

It was a wonder-full discussion.  Longing for the cherished moments in our lives is a good thing that we should not cast aside too quickly.   It is an expression of gratitude for the people and places, for the moment and the memory.  It is okay to be pensive at times.  But we should not stay there.   We must also remember that the past was not perfect, there is always a blending of joys and sorrows.  We can use the joy and love in those moments to carry us through difficult times to come.  Those moments enable us to anticipate the future with hope.

Those moments that we long to return to were leading us to new adventures, in new places, with new people.  We cannot go back in time, but we can take the joy and love of those moments into the future with us. Our future will be richer than the past for the experiences of love and connection we bring into it.  If we remember each day to connect and build relationships with each other and with our Creator, we will continually be led toward something better.

The following day on our drive home he asked me, “Is it weird that I am a little excited about dying?  I kinda can’t wait to see what heaven is like.”  A moment of melancholy transformed into a moment of hope for a future in the city that is prepared for him.

I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  Philippians 3:13-14

Can you recall a moment from the past that was so cherished you would like to return to it?  Can you move past that into a thought of anticipation for a moment that is yet to come?

​A moment for questions

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So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”   John 20:25-27 (NRSV)

As many of us do, I live with a heart like Thomas, asking “show me.”  What specifically am I asking for?  In the Bible, there are many stories where the proof is shown.  Am I asking to see the wounds of Christ? Am I seeking a burning bush, a rainbow or to be swallowed by a whale until I have an understanding?  Maybe really I am just asking for some clarity.  How important is it that I believe in God and Satan or burning bushes and rainbow promises.  It doesn’t seem likely that we will ever have the privilege of the certainty that Thomas received.  So, what can we be sure of?

Perhaps more important than certainty is being able to recognize love and hate and to know that good and evil do exist.  We may never see a burning bush, hear the audible voice of God, or be swallowed by a whale.  But we can recognize the power of love, the peace that comes after a storm, and the push of our conscience to follow our gut.  Sometimes the stories in scripture frustrate me because the literal interpretation makes them implausible.  The intended message, however, is not.

When I see the sadness in the world, I think “There can’t be a God,” and the despair I feel brings me back to the story of Thomas. The disciples gathered in a house after his death.  They were full of the desperation they must have felt for the loss of Jesus and the leadership they had come to rely on.   Jesus entered and in the act of love and understanding showed Thomas his wounds and offered comfort.

The absence of God leaves despair, and the presence of God brings peace.  That is clear enough for me.  God is Love.  Jesus shows us what love looks like.  By our loving each other and bringing comfort and peace and we remove doubt and despair.

A moment to measure

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This must be “the pearl of great price.” To the extent that our soul is alive and connected, we are satisfied with the “enoughness” of who we are and the “more than enoughness” of many present moments.  Richard Rohr

As I begin to meet with the Joy team to plan and prepare for The Joy Retreat 2019, I realize I need to recall my personal ups and downs regarding Joy 2018.  looking back and recognizing the places of growth and the places for new growth is a beneficial exercise for me.   This exercise brings to mind my strengths, which give me confidence, and my weaknesses which give me the desire to do better.  It brings me to a place where I can recognize my success and with humility begin to embark on a new adventure.  I am also reminded that the practice of recalling my ups and downs has not always been healthy for me.  I have been known to spend more time on my weaknesses than my strengths, and to beat myself up to the point of paralysis.    Learning to give equal measure to both, and limiting the amount of time spent on recounting events has turned this act into a starting point rather than the stumbling block it used to be.  What a gift to let go of regret and disappointment and make room for more gratitude and grace.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to share God’s grace and guide others toward a new experience of joy as it is by the grace of God that I am being led.

But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect…  1 Corinthians 15:10

Every day offers us the opportunity to look back for a moment and see where we have grown and where we would like to see growth.  How can you use yesterday’s moments today as a starting point toward becoming more polished?  You are already priceless!

A moment in summer

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I don’t know about you but, the “lazy days of summer” does not apply to me.  Summer is full of fun,  good times with friends and family, and a hefty dose of chaos.  This summer, we traveled for swim competitions, college tours, and to spend time with loved ones we don’t get to see often enough.  This means a lot of packing and unpacking in addition to the usual chores of life.

…but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances… (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18)

This is all good stuff, but for an introvert, who cherishes time alone, it can create quite a challenge.  I didn’t have time to sit in my favorite room in the house to pray, contemplate, imagine, and write.  I didn’t have much time to work through the joys and sorrows of life.  I was in a sprint.   These are the times when pray continually is the only way to have time for prayer.  For me, it feels a bit like telling God, “I am not sure why you gave me so much to do. I don’t have time to sit with you right now so come with me!”  I grab his hand and drag Him through my days.  When I have a moment alone, it is brief and the moments of prayer are quick, “Thanks, this is awesome!”, “Wow, that’s a beautiful sunrise!”, “Help, this is not going well.”, “This is a perfect moment, thank you.”  Often it feels like I am holding fast to His hand to make sure He is with me, sometimes squeezing tight, pleading for help, in the midst of the chaos.  I am suddenly reminded of Jacob and his moment in honest conversation with God in which he won’t let go until he is blessed.

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.  Genesis 32:20-28

Do your moments of chaos include moments of blessing?  Do you demand a blessing?

Be Blessed!