A moment for our graduates

Now it is a time of grand celebration! Our graduates are on the cusp between a work coming to completion and a new work begun. Though there is much to be thankful for, our 2020 graduates have been deeply affected by COVID-19. During this unprecedented time, they need our support and encouragement like never before. We should take a moment to honor our graduates and uphold all the emotions they might be feeling at this time! 

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

Upon entering freshman year, the dream of graduation looked nothing like this! It is okay to be disappointed at this moment.  

With the economic uncertainty, colleges reinventing their learning strategies, and not knowing what the future looks like, it is okay to be afraid at this moment.

With the unusual way the school year ended, and the vast open space of the future, it is okay to feel lost at this moment.

Friendships that have been made distant by the stay-home orders may be even more distant as you move into new experiences. It’s okay to feel sad at this moment. 

Many have lost loved ones, and their absence at this time will deeply felt. It is okay to mourn at this moment.

Mistakes will have been made, and due to the circumstances, they may be unable to be corrected. It is okay to have regrets at this moment.

What’s done; is done. It is okay to forgive at this moment.

…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts… Romans 5:3-5

You had a dream and lived it; you had a goal and accomplished it, so also, at this moment, it is more than okay to celebrate!  

 Because God is God, and God is good! God has your past, your present, and your future. He cares about your hopes and dreams.  

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 29:11

A Mary/Martha Moment

“Now, as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:38-42 (NRSV)

This time of staying home has been very different for all of us. Some people have had more time for contemplation and prayerful moments, and others have been busy cleaning closets and garages, while some are hard at work holding themselves together as best they can. Sometimes I get a little frustrated by this scripture that seems to tell us working hard is a bad thing. We can’t all drop what we are doing and sit at the foot of Christ. People are counting on us to do our jobs.  

I understand how Martha feels when she asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her. I can hear the groan as Martha, likely tired and resentful, hears that “Mary has chosen the better part.” Couldn’t it be said she selected the effortless task? The way I look at it now is that Mary was Mary at her best. And Martha would have been equally at her best if she first accepted Mary for who she was, and second, admitted that perhaps she was most comfortable serving Christ by, literally, serving him. Could Martha have turned a listening ear to Christ while going about her tasks? Would Martha have seen things differently if she was less focused on what Mary wasn’t doing and more focused on the guest she had welcomed into her home?

     I have a dear friend who often tells me when I am busy to “take it easy, Martha.” I always respond with, “I am my best Mary when I am Martha.” I have my time sitting with and listening to Christ. But some Martha moments are so filled with His presence that I cherish them deeply.

One such Martha moment occurs, at the end of the day, during a retreat I am facilitating. I love to return to the empty conference room and in the silence of the evening straighten chairs, clean up tissues and glasses, and other such tasks. It is a sacred time for me, a time of reflection, prayer, and listening.  

Another sacred Martha moment is when I am cooking. I like to cook, but I love to cook for people. It is a time of prayer and listening, where I feel deeply connected with Christ and those for whom I am preparing. I feel such love when I cook for others that I know I am my best Mary and Martha simultaneously.  

To be honest, I am not always a joyful worker. However, I will continue to refocus when I find myself taking my eyes off the Guest of Honor.

Whatever you are doing at this time, be your best self.

Remembering,

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 (NRSV)

I would love to hear about your Mary/Martha moments!

Feel free to share in the comment section below.

Peace

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.