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 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

 

A moment for joy

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This evening, I with many others will begin a weekend retreat.  For those who cannot be there tonight, I want to share the opening discussion.  Some of the words are my own, but much credit must go to the books I have read this year. The most influential books are cited below.

The theme of the weekend:

WHOLEHEARTED JOY

Wholehearted  (whole·heart·ed) adjective–showing or characterized by complete sincerity and commitment. Synonyms:  devoted, enthusiastic and unshakeable.

What are we devoted to?  What is the condition of our heart?

The Dalai Lama says love, kindness, and affection are the source of joy.

Archbishop Desmund Tutu says we should have a generosity of spirit, be big-hearted, be broadminded, be forgiving, be kind, be magnanimous, be an oasis of peace.

There are difficulties in life that make wholehearted joy sometimes seem distant or unattainable.  Saturday morning at the retreat we will explore some of the things that fill the spaces in our heart and prevent the fulness of love from entering in.  We will release them as best we can over the weekend to allow more room in our hearts for love, kindness, affection, and joy!

Before we begin this process, we need a solid foundation.  So, let’s start with the solid foundation of God’s love.  We were created by love, in love, for love.  God delights in us.  God wants us to be happy and full of joy.  Until we believe this with our whole hearts, we will keep working to be happy thinking that we must control our lives, thinking it is up to us to make things good.

In God’s story of creation, his love story of the beginning of the world, everything is good from the start.  Take a moment here and read the story.   I am sure you have already read it, but I encourage you to reread it.  Read it as poetry and, listen for the love the excitement and the joy as our creator forms the world and us.

Genesis 1 (NRSV)

What do you imagine God was feeling?  Can you see the care he was taking?  And every day he declared His creation good!  On the seventh day, God rested.  God must have thought his work was complete or he would have continued.  But, God had thought of everything, made provisions for it, and so he rested.

Proverbs 8:22-31  Wisdom in creation joins with God in delight!

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
    or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
    then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the human race.

Psalm 104 is a song of praise for God’s creation, and it is full of joy! Can you hear the joy?

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
    O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
    wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
    you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
    you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
    fire and flame your ministers.

You set the earth on its foundations,
    so that it shall never be shaken…

In wisdom you have made them all;
The earth is full of your creatures…

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

 

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4-5

In his wisdom, God created us in His image, and he delights in us.  All that we are and all that we are becoming.  He is pleased with the process of mankind being and becoming like him, and he has provided everything for it.  He blesses us from the beginning and eagerly waits for us to rest with him in love.
Take a moment this evening to make a list of all the good things that God has blessed you with, in your life.  Include the good attributes he has given you to share with his creation.  Use this list and write your own Psalm of praise to your Creator who created you; by love, in love, and for love.
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Citations:

LAMA, DALAI TUTU ARCHBISHOP DESMOND. BOOK OF JOY. ARROW BOOKS LTD, 2018.

Benner, David G. Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality. IVP Books, 2015.

“BibleGateway.” BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 150 Versions and 50 Languages., http://www.biblegateway.com/.