​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!

A moment for fighting part 2

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“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NRSV)

How to not be a bully:

-Don’t let your fear control you- We often bully others when we are afraid.  We are worried that if we don’t act first, we won’t be ready for what will come at us.  Trust that things will work out ok, even if it is not how you thought it should be.

For fear is nothing but a giving up of the helps that come from reason;   Wisdom 17:12(NRSV)

-Don’t let your agenda drive you- We all want our way most of the time.  However, a collective effort will always produce a better result.  Listen well to others and look for where your opinions merge with theirs.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Jeremiah 29:1 (NRSV)

-Maintain compassion for others- Everyone has insecurities that you can use to push your agenda.  Instead of using them to your advantage, be an encourager.   Use their strengths to balance your weaknesses.

Encourage one another and build up each other.  1 Thessalonians 5:10

-Notice resistance- When you sense resistance or disagreement beginning, you are likely coming on too strong.  Try a gentler approach.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, 2 Timothy 2:24

Trust that the world is more good than bad- The world is a beautiful place when we are kind to ourselves and to others.  Being kind to ourselves, loving ourselves is often the most challenging part of the scripture above.  We see in others the things we do not like in ourselves.    Focus on the good in yourself and the good in others.  Be gentle, be kind, be loving, and be forgiving of yourself.  Then you will see others in a more gentle, kind, loving, and forgiving way.

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.  Ephesians 4:31-3 (NRSV)

This is how we fight for peace.