A moment to stay home

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Statistics are showing that social distancing is working, And yet, we are still hearing stories of people, groups, and congregations rebelling against the directives given by our leaders. 

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:1, 7

 In the social distancing and stay home directives, we are asked to give up many things.  We are giving up routines and rituals, comforts and assurances, as well as some of the “stuff” to which we have become accustomed.  Amazon boxes used to show up on my porch fairly often with books, office supplies, and some fun things too. My dog is missing the UPS treats!  

It is interesting to notice my own reaction to the changes imposed on my life as a result of COVID-19.  Sometimes a little rebellion, some frustration, some sadness, and some moody statements, “I didn’t need it anyway.”  How quickly I shift into. “It’s going to be ok.” “It’s worth the sacrifice.” “Others have given up or lost so much more.” matters.  Quite honestly, I did not need it anyway.

What is it that is prompting people to ignore the directives and leaders as they, too, navigate this unchartered territory?  Withholding judgment and anger, I will not even speculate.  

I miss my church.  So, I light a candle, open my Bible, and imagine someone somewhere at that exact moment is reading scripture with me, and I pray with them and for them.

I miss my friends.  So, I make calls, write letters, face-time when I can, and remember with compassion all those who felt alone even before all this began.

I miss the freedom to go wherever, whenever.  So, I walk outside. Interesting how luxurious this feels now. I am mindful of those who are without even this.

I miss the exchange of hugs.  So, I stop and pray for all those who have been lost or have lost loved ones to this virus.

Jesus knew very well the feelings of isolation and disconnect from those he needed for support.

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Matthew 26:37-41

This is but a moment.  Stay strong and keep watch.  

As you read this, know that this day you are in my prayers.  I am sending you love. I know with certainty you are not alone. God is with you.  Prayer is our most significant connection. Close your eyes, breathe deep and feel the love surrounding you.

 

A moment of retreat

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Have you ever had the opportunity to meet someone who, even though they are going through a difficult struggle in life, seems not only be joyful but also shares their joy with others?  These people who carry the weight of the world with grace and courage inspire us and make us feel as if the world is a kind and loving place.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who take their struggles and seem to leak them out on others.  The weight they carry is massive, and so they are continually unloading it and often at inappropriate times.  We recognize them by their anger, bitterness, and pessimism.

In the previous post, I shared with you the poem How Can I?  I share these dark moments not to be morose, but to recognize the authenticity and importance of those moments. I Feel we are at our best when we can acknowledge and accept them as a gift.  Life will throw us curve balls, and sometimes really hard and fast!  However, at that moment when we are afraid, empty and have no answers, we have a great deal of space in our heart, mind, and spirit.  We can choose to be active while waiting, filling our time with distractions like television, internet, and projects.  Or we can choose to actively wait.

This month a fantastic team is working together to put the finishing touches on The Joy Retreat.  There is a great deal of actively waiting involved in the preparation.  Actively waiting means simply being, being in the place and doing the things that can bring us answers and fill our empty spaces in a healthy and fulfilling way.  We need to be actively pushing away the habits of instant gratification and embracing the moment between not knowing and knowing.  What we do in those moments our team is calling Habits of Joy.  

How can we have joy and feel joyful when life is hard and grievous difficulties are close at hand?  How can we feel joy when we cannot see the rainbow at the end of the journey?   The joy in waiting comes when we are actively practicing habits of joy.

I believe we all have habits of joy and we exercise them.  Although, if you are like me, it is not as often as we should and generally it is at the moment when we have just had enough.  But the more we exercise Habits of Joy, the more ingrained the habits become and our ever-present inner joy , will surface, even in moments of deep sorrow.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.                        Hebrews 3:13-14  (NIV)

I invite you to take a moment and participate in the Joy Retreat by sharing here…

What do you do when you are actively waiting?  What are the habits that spark or restore your joy?

Peace to you all,

Alana

​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 on the bright side

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“Look on the bright side.”  they

I probably shouldn’t, but I always get bristly when cliche phrases are said to try to make others feel better.  Sometimes things are just dark, and the bright side is too far off in the distance to even imagine what could be there.  But if we are in the darkness, and Jesus is the Light of the world, and Jesus is God made flesh, then the bright side would be God’s side. As I looked at this photo, from the dark side, I saw the light reaching over the mountains, reaching over to the dark side.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  John 1:4-6 (NKJV)

I may not be able to look at or imagine what the bright side is like as I am in the darkness, but knowing there is another side brings me comfort.  Let me assure you, there is another side to our pain and our darkness.   There is God’s side.  And as I notice the light coming over the mountains, I am reminded God’s side is not separate from our side.  He has a plan and a purpose for each of us and for all the events in our lives.  His purpose is to draw us ever closer to Him.  Pain, suffering, and darkness are a necessary part of the process.  So that when we glimpse the other side, we long for it, we move toward it.  We open our hearts and trust in it.  And the light that may seem distant at the time can settle deeper into our hearts.

As I read the following passage this morning, I was struck by Simeon’s delight at seeing the Messiah and what must have been compassion as he tells Mary of her future suffering.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  Luke 2:25-35 (NRSV)

Though we may not be able to fully comprehend these things. And though it may not soften the blows of our individual suffering any more than I imagine it could have for Mary.   Perhaps like Mary, we can trust the bright side, knowing the bright side is on our side.

In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  John 1:4-5 (NRSV)