A moment for the tangible

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Tangible:  Perceptible by touch.

I have to admit, though the thoughts in my head are plentiful, I have found putting them into words very difficult lately. Hoping for some kind of clarity or inspiration, I have spent a great deal of time in scripture and prayer and still, radio silence.

What am I longing to have? It hit me this morning. I am longing for something tangible, perhaps in the form of clear answers or a visible sign. Maybe that is what you are longing for too.

Toilet paper is tangible. Perhaps the borderline crazy paper product purchases are signs that others are also seeking something tangible.

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:24-29

I’ve heard and read this story so many times it has almost become cliche. And yet, it comes to mind again, as a powerful message of Christ’s compassion amid fear and doubt, and his desire to offer tangible evidence to a fearful group.

In the passage before Christ appears to Thomas, the disciples have hidden away, with the doors locked, for fear of the Jewish leaders. We, similarly, are hidden away confined to our homes, keeping the outside world out, keeping to ourselves, and perhaps somewhat fearfully.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.     John 20:19-21

Peace may not be, by definition, tangible, but I can certainly feel it as I read this scripture.  I can close my eyes and sense the change in the room where the disciples were.  I then can feel the essence of the place I am in altered.

If we again back up in the scriptures, we will be with Mary, who, upon seeing Christ did not recognize him until he called her name.  Then there was no holding her back.

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!”  John 20:18

The visible Christ may not visit us as he did those whose stories are told in the scriptures, but we can be the tangible Christ to others.  In this time, when leaving our homes poses a threat to ourselves and others, we can still reach out in tangible and safe ways.

We can make the phone call to someone we haven’t talked with in a while.

We can dust off that stationary that has been sitting idle and send a tangible note of care and concern. 

 We can take a few groceries and drop them off on the doorstep of someone we know could use them.  

We may not be able to touch the hands of our neighbors, but we can still touch their hearts with compassion and peace.

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 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