Forgiving the church

If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. ~1 Cor 12:26-27 (CEB)

I was once by my perception, hurt deeply by “the church” or rather by the people in the church. I was confused. I couldn’t understand how “Christian people” could act in such a way as they did. I was holding them up to my standard of perfection and not seeing them through God’s eyes… wounded and broken like me.

“When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it.   But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ.  When we say, ‘I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,’ we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.  The challenge is to forgive the Church.  This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially.  But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as ‘over there’ but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen

Although I never officially left a church over my wounds I know I was guilty of losing Jesus while I held onto my hurt and anger. Even though I continued to grace the steps of the church that hurt me I was blinded by pain, thus unable to see Jesus and His Grace for me. As always, unforgiveness only injures me. In time I was able to see that we are all human and none of us perfect. Now I see that time period as a necessary part of my journey. Many life lessons were learned as I regained my sight of Jesus through that time of trial. Most important of all was the reminder that Jesus forgives me every day and I need to extend that same grace to others.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the grace you give me every day. Help me to see others as needing your grace too. May I not let my past hurts blind me so deeply as to not feel Your love this day. Amen.

Ever mindful

We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28 (CEB)

“The more healing I experience, the more I understand one of the most magnificent truths of the Christian faith: God can turn our worst pain into the source of our giftedness.” ~From Ashes Transformed by Tilda Norberg

A little hope for this Saturday morning as we near the end of “Ordinary time” and begin to anticipate Christmas time. I sometimes need reminding that God takes my pain and loss and can use it for good if only I will let Him. In my restlessness, I need the reminder today that He is working in my life even when I do not presently see any evidence. The Holidays ahead are such a mixed time of blessing and sorrow, of things to look forward to or people to miss. As I anticipate gathering with family and friends in a couple of weeks  and  the celebrations of all that lies ahead may I ever remember to be present in the moment.

As we move closer and closer to the season of Thanksgiving and onto the Celebrations of Christ’s birth, may I ever be mindful of all You have done in my life O Lord. Amen.

Thankfulness

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him,  they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”  When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice.  He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.” ~Luke 17:11-19 (CEB)

Only one of ten lepers returned to thank Jesus for healing them. It is easy to criticize the nine who did not thank Jesus for healing them. The sad realization is that is probably my average on a daily basis. I probably only thank God for one out of every ten blessing He bestows on me. If that much…

Sometimes God uses our children to remind us to be thankful. Through my sons prayers I am reminded that I too should be thankful for my bed, a warm house to call my own and a family that loves me. When I tell my son we are not to feel guilty that there are others that do not have these basic needs but that we are to thank God for what we do have, I am reminding myself of all that I take for granted on a daily basis. We are rich compared to some and for these rich blessings I am thankful. So ever grateful.

It is always right, O God, to praise you and to bless your name. Even if the harvest fail, even when economies falter, still you are our God; still you bless us richly. Help us to see your active hand in bounty or in scarcity, in pain as well as pleasure. When we fail to see you at work we fall into the sin of ingratitude, or even suppose that all that we have is the work of our own hands, the result of our own intelligence and industry. Forgive us, and save us from an existence so self-centered. Set us free from greedy and grasping hearts. By your generosity to us, teach us to be generous to others, and thus to give evidence to you that we are indeed your thankful people. This we pray through Jesus Christ, your most gracious and enduring gift to us, for whom be everlasting praise. Amen. ~From the book, This Day, a Wesleyan Way of Prayer, by Laurence Hull Stookey

To choose blessings

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, ~Isaiah 58:6,9 (CEB)

There are days that I struggle feeling as if I am living under a curse. The loss of a friend, an illness, an accident, a natural disaster, war, or personal failure can make me quickly think that I am no good and am being punished. It is an even greater temptation to think that life is full of curses when I am bombarded with all the media day after day presenting stories about human misery.

But then I remember…

Jesus came to bless us, not to curse us. I have to choose to receive these blessings and be willing to hand them on to others.

Blessings and curses are always placed in front of me. I am free to choose.

Today Lord, with all I see reported on the news, I need to recall the blessings You have bestowed on me. It is so easy to let myself get downcast by the oppression, the wars, the politics  and the disasters I see. Some people seem to thrive on the news of others misery but Lord I feel weighed down by all the reported stories. Help me to sort through all the information. Give me Your eyes to see where the real stories lie. Give strength to my hands and energy to my feet to do Your will. Don’t let me shut down and shut out the hurts of the world just because a company wants to capitalize on the pain. I want to see through the sensationalism and see the truth. Amen.

The day before

I will lift you up high, my God, the true king. I will bless your name forever and always. I will bless you every day. I will praise your name forever and always. The LORD is great and so worthy of praise! God’s greatness can’t be grasped.~Psalm145:1-3 (CEB)
“Our society encourages individualism.  We are constantly made to believe that everything we think, say, or do, is our personal accomplishment, deserving individual attention.  But as people who belong to the communion of saints, we know that anything of spiritual value is not the result of individual accomplishment but the fruit of a communal life.

Whatever we know about God and God’s love; whatever we know about Jesus – his life, death, and resurrection – whatever we know about the Church and its ministry, is not the invention of our minds asking for an award.  It is the knowledge that has come to us through the ages from the people of Israel and the prophets, from Jesus and the saints, and from all who have played roles in the formation of our hearts.  True spiritual knowledge belongs to the communion of saints.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

We owe who we are to those who have come before. As we prepare for a day of Thanksgiving, it is my prayer that you have “family” to come together with and be thankful with. I pray that you are able to be thankful for a heritage that has come before you and if you are unable to be thankful for a heritage I pray that God creates a new heritage that you can pull from.

Heavenly Father, I pray this day for friends near and far that they may feel Your blessings on them during this holiday season. If there is sadness may it find moments of lifting so that Your joy may be felt. May we count all our blessings big and small and remember to Whom we owe our Thanks. Amen.

When He came calling

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth. I praise the LORD— let the suffering listen and rejoice. Magnify the LORD with me! Together let us lift his name up high! I sought the LORD and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to God will shine; their faces are never ashamed. This suffering person cried out: the LORD listened and saved him from every trouble. On every side, the LORD’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them. Taste and see how good the LORD is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy! You who are the LORD’s ~Psalm 34:1-8 (CEB)

“You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.” ~From The Confessions by Saint Augustine

Once I began to listen to God calling to me, the more I wanted to hear. A simple taste of God’s word was not enough; it left me hungering for more. To the one who delivers me from all my fears I want even more today. I am never satisfied. As long as I seek refuge in Him I find true and complete happiness.

Heaveny Father, I thank You this day for calling out to me, for searching the dark depths for my lost soul. I thank you for finding me while I was lost, caught up in trying hard to live right. I thank You for the peace that awaits when I rest in Your arms. May I never stray so far to feel darkness’ bleak fear, help me stay in the light of Your love. Amen.

God sings

Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem.~Zeph 3:14 (CEB)

Reading Zephaniah shows us that God pleads for us to turn to Him. He does not want our destruction. He wants us to come away from our self-willed path and find a road that leads to him.

Have you ever wondered what God is saying to you when you line your steps with his? Zephaniah 3 says this:

Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem. The LORD has removed your judgment; he has turned away your enemy. The LORD, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you will no longer fear evil. On that day, it will be said to Jerusalem: Don’t fear, Zion. Don’t let your hands fall. The LORD your God is in your midst— a warrior bringing victory. He will create calm with his love; he will rejoice over you with singing. I will remove from you those worried about the appointed feasts. They have been a burden for her, a reproach. Watch what I am about to do to all your oppressors at that time. I will deliver the lame; I will gather the outcast. I will change their shame into praise and fame throughout the earth. (Zep 3:14-19)

He sings a song of joy and commands you sing too!

Heavenly Father, thank you for your songs of joy that You plant in our hearts for our day of return. I thank You that You are so willing to turn our ashes to joy, our suffering to purpose, and our pain to victory. Thank You for the calm you promise us if only we will look to You, our Hope and Redeemer. Ever guide my steps this day. Amen.

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