a moment of turning

Several years ago, I attended a Gottman Institute workshop, where I heard the expression “turn toward” for the first time. The practice of turning toward has since enriched my most cherished relationships. Throughout the scriptures, there are great stories of God’s people turning toward and away from Him. Often, those who turn away find suffering, while those who turn toward find compassion and healing. When we turn toward, we are recognizing and connecting with the focus of our attention. When we turn toward God, we are recognizing and connecting with love.

Now is a time of biblical intensity. We have suffered and lost much during COVID-19. However, through it all, I believe God has never turned away from us. I have confidence that he is with us and waiting for us to turn to him with every challenge we encounter. I believe he is longing for a glance from us so that he can meet our gaze. Today I ask myself, “Am I turning toward Him?”. Have I allowed the media to divert my attention? Have I allowed worry and fear to distract me from his loving gaze? The truth is, sometimes, yes. So I remind myself today, turn-toward.

Turn toward truth.  

Sometimes, that truth will be painful. When we are willing to let God show us the truth about who we are, we will see we have acted in ways that caused injury to God and others. We can receive forgiveness. 

Luke 22:61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Turn toward Love.

At times meeting God’s glance will be empowering and healing. We will see God’s Love and compassion for us in our suffering. We can receive his grace and mercy.

Matthew 9:22  Jesus turned, and seeing her, he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

Turn toward connection.

In a world of insufficient answers and little peace, we need each other. Turn toward those who bid for your time and attention. Turn toward those who offer you comfort. We can be encouraged.

Romans 15:6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let today be a moment for turning-toward, recognizing God’s love for you and the love of Christ in others.

He bids your glance. He is calling your name.

At that moment, turn-toward.

John 20:14-16  she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

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 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.

A moment to stay home

winking black and brown puppy
Pexels.com

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.