A moment in winter

“As long as the earth endures,
    seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.”  Genesis 8:22

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The rays that persistently push,

in the early hours,

cannot make their way into my heart.

The clouds are heavy with sorrow.

The night has been too dark.

Trees are barren. 

Leaves crumbled and brown.

Is God not everywhere?

Is he not only in the heavens but in the earth?

I see only the gray hard ground.

No sign of spring.

No memory of the sun.

I have no strength to search.

I touch the ground.

It is not to the hand as it is to the eye.

Though it appears cold and hard,

It is soft and pliable.

Though cold, it moves at my touch.

I feel a warmth from within.

The Creator and I are united.

His vision is mine.

His hands are mine. 

A seed is planted.

And the grey darkness is once again a new life.

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/.

A moment of blindness

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A blind spot is an appropriate metaphor for our failure to see things as they are in actuality.  We fail to see what it is we do not see.  And, it’s those very things we do not see that cause intelligent people to do stupid things.  Daniel Goldman

What causes our blind spots?

We think we have it figured out.  Our preconceived notions are a big issue.  How often do we jump to conclusions about a thing and then act on our judgment?  Often people will get into trouble by either thinking they are capable of more than they are and will then feel disillusioned by the reality.  Or they will think they are less intelligent than they really are and not even try, limiting the possibilities for success.  Those that run as if all the lights are green are dangerous to others and themselves often leaving a wake of hurt.  Those people who put up roadblocks are failing to live into their potential and depriving the world of their gifts.  Keep an open mind and open eyes.  We are always changing and so is the world around us.  What is possible one day may not be the next.  What was impossible yesterday might just be possible today.

We hide from reality.  We live in a world of distractions, and we use them to avoid and protect ourselves.   Avoidance can be detrimental to our growth.  Our temporary solution can ease the immediate pain but can often lead to a long road back.  Life is hard, and facing that reality head-on might just make it easier.  Breaks from reality can be useful when we need to recharge, however, a reality check needs to happen before the escape.  We must make sure we are using flight to restore and rejuvenate our spirit and prepare ourselves for the next launch forward.

We focus in on the wrong details.  Many times I have found myself focusing on one negative aspect and as a result, failed to see the big picture.  Things are imperfect, and indeed there is no way around it.  The world is utterly imperfect, and acceptance is key to a healthy focus. Seeing things as the whole that they are and not the flawed details can help.   We must also be sure to make fair comparisons.  The goodness or badness of something can be entirely relative.  Changing the context of a thing can change the way you see it.

We can’t see what we can’t see.   If we knew what we didn’t know that couple in the garden might have told a different story.  We need each other and God to reveal truths we might otherwise miss.  Trust is difficult but crucial to healing our blindness.   We need people that we can open up to and trust to tell us what we are missing.  There are lots of snakes in the world who will tear us down to make themselves feel better.  Be discerning and find someone who loves you and puts your joy at the center of the conversation.   Consult scripture.  So many answers to so many questions can be found there.

 

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light;  but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!  Matthew 6:22-24  (NRSV) 

We all have blind spots, and it could be overwhelming to have our eyes opened wide all at once.  I am very grateful that is not how God works.  He gives us a little at a time so that we can get it right.  What is God revealing to you today?

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