A moment of faith

I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
    for the Lord has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust—
    there may yet be hope.
Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
    and let him be filled with disgrace.
For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.  
Lamentations 3:17-32 (NIV)

Often faith is the difference between a person who is fearful and miserable, and a person who is hopeful and joyful.

Without faith in ourselves, we struggle to accomplish things. Without faith in others, we struggle to trust, and without faith in something bigger and more loving than ourselves, we fail to have hope for the future.

Faith brings confidence that, in the midst of things that are difficult, we are being challenged, strengthened and upheld. I love the verse that says it is good to bear the yoke when we are young. So true! We will all have difficulties at some point in our lives. But when we are young, we have energy and openness to growth. If we know where to look, we have support from those who have “been there done that.” It also gives me hope that our youth struggling, though painful to see, is building their character and strengthening them so that they will be able to carry on into the future.

I, like the author in Lamentations, remember the struggles of my youth and I also remember the reconciliation of those struggles. In those moments there was growth and I benefit from the faith and resolve that makes today’s difficulties seem lighter and less painful to move through. With faith in the God who loves me, the people who sustain me and the inner strength that guides me I am confident in the impermanence of life’s difficulties. I am confident in the goodness of the world. And, I am most confident in the joy of it all.

With faith, we believe in the positive outcome of all things. With faith, we believe in the essential goodness of humankind, and with faith, we are confident in our potential for growth.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NIV)

HAVE FAITH

A moment with Job

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Are you afraid of the dark?  I am.  Silly, but it is true.  I don’t like turning off the lights at night.  My vision changes in the dark, and I often see things entirely differently and usually not in a good way.  So, in my room, I have several electronics that keep me from being in total darkness.  My alarm clock and my phone charger both give off enough light to keep me feeling ok.

Reading the scriptures about Job feels a lot like being in the dark.  I am a bit afraid of his story.   I have glanced through it, but not willing to look too hard.  For this Sunday’s teaching though, I needed to look deeper.  What I needed was to move into the darkness of it all to understand it better.  Job was a man who was “Blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” Job 1:1.  He lived a life of wealth and prosperity.  And yet, God wages a bet with Satan regarding Job and suddenly he is found alone, wanting, and in poor health.  For thirty-six chapters we witness the suffering of Job.  Thirty-six chapters!  His conversations with God, his friends, and family offering no relief.  Why was his agony so long?  Why was it so harsh?  The God of my understanding does not play with our lives. Therefore I know he must have had a profound purpose.

In the Gospel of Mark we witness another kind of darkness.  A man named Bartimaeus is blind and begging by the roadside.  As Jesus and his disciples walk by, he calls out to Jesus. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”  Though the crowd tries to hush him, he cries out again, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”  In the span of one paragraph, Jesus hears him and heals him saying “Go your faith has made you well.”  This seems utterly unfair to me when read alongside Job’s story.  And yet, once again, the God of my understanding would have a profound purpose for this man as well.

This truth for me is realized in the life of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  He had a distressing youth.  As a young boy, he suffered from polio.  Then, at the age of 15, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He noticed that almost all of the patients who started to hemorrhage and cough up blood ended up being wheeled out to the morgue.  When he began coughing up blood, he spoke to God and said.  “God, if you want, if this is curtains for me, Then it’s okay.”  He was surprised by the calm and peace that came over him.  He turned 87 this month.   In 2016 in The Book of Joy, he speaks of death, saying,

“Because God is God, because God is infinite, because none of us who are creatures will ever fathom the infinitude that is God, heaven is going to be forever a place of new discovery.”  The Archbishop’s eyes were transfixed, his gaze distant.  “I would say, ‘Oh, God, you’re so beautiful.’ And I will call, I will call, ‘Come, come and see,’ and this other one will say, ‘Have you seen just how beautiful God is?'” p. 162

Perhaps these stories bound together by dark times are also bound together by the prayers that they have offered and the light that they have shared.  I can only imagine the prayers of intercession the Archbishop has offered on behalf of others in his lifetime.  And how many times he would have shared his vision of the beauty of God.

Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, whose sight was restored in an instant, followed Christ and the apostles whose next destination was to Jerusalem where the progression toward the cross begins.  Perhaps his eyes were opened so that he could see clearly as Christ offered himself for the sins of others.  Maybe he went on to share with others what he saw.

And Job, well Job allowed his suffering to transform his faith. He spoke with God and agreed to listen better.  As a result, he grew even closer to God.  He saw people differently.  He had compassion for the friends who had thrown accusations at him.  And after offering prayers for his friends, his fortunes were restored and doubled.  We know he saw the world differently when he broke social ground, by naming his daughters and giving them an inheritance along with their brothers.

‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;  Job 42:4-5  (NRSV)

Are you in the dark?  Do you feel afraid?

Speak with God.  He listens.

Allow Him to give you a new vision of things.

Perhaps you need to see a friend differently.

Perhaps you need a new vision for your future.

Perhaps you need to see God for the first time.

Speak, God listens.  Listen, God speaks.

A moment in the mirror

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But be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.  James 1:22-24

As I was putting on my makeup this morning, I remembered that as a child our bathroom had a three-way mirror.  With the end mirrors spread wide you could see only the surface, however, if you pulled the end mirrors together, you could see infinite images of yourself.   Spiritual reflection can be a bit like looking into that mirror.  Looking only at the surface, you might focus on the perceived imperfections and be critical.   Pull in the sides, and you will see deeply, so deeply you may lose focus on what is real and true.  There is, however, that perfect angle, the angle where the end mirrors are pulled into just the right place, and you can see all sides of yourself.  Without distortion, you can see a clear reflection of who you are.  Even if only for a moment hold onto that clarity, it is a gift.

For me, scripture is the guide I use to set the angles.  Scripture gives me the guidance to go deep into my spiritual search while keeping the image of myself from getting too deep and distorted.  The words in James remind me to look, see, reflect and then go back out and live.  Live with and into that perfect clear image of myself.  Perfect does not mean flawless, but perfect as I am created in the image of God, who knows me from all angles and loves me deeply.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Take a moment today to look into the mirror at as many angles as your mirror will allow.   Look into the flaws and the flawless parts of who you are and know that God loves you from every angle.

Peace,

Alana