Companions for the road

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Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 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.” ~Matthew 26:36-38

“When Jesus begins his public ministry, one of the first things he does is to find companions, those individuals who will share his life and ministry in a special way. Whenever Jesus faces a difficult situation, he gathers these companions around himself- sometimes all twelve, sometimes only a few. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, needed the companionship of others. Even he, as strong and powerful and food as he was, couldn’t go it alone.” ~From Abundant Treasures by Melannie Svoboda

Isn’t that comforting? The Son of God did not go through his time here on earth alone. He was not intended to. If one of the Trinity, who had a part in the creation of the world, needed friendship and companions don’t you think we need this too? It is so easy to fall into a trap of believing that I need to do this journey called life on my own. Then get mad because I fail miserably.

We were not meant to face the challenges of life without the support of others. The need for companionship is not something to be ashamed of. It is part of the very fabric of our human psyche. This need for others is not about being weak, or immature. This need for others is one more way that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

Jesus didn’t include everyone in his personal business. He had lots of followers, but only 12 were in his inner circle. There is wisdom in this as well. Just as we were never meant to travel through life alone, it is also best to not disclose every detail of your personal life with everyone you come in contact with. Not everyone can be trusted. Even in his inner circle Jesus knew who he could trust. Only Peter, James and John got the privilege of seeing Jesus for who he truly was, the Son of God (Mark 9:1-8).

There is much value in seeking friends to walk life’s journey. They help center us, encourage us and support us. It may seem weakness to seek out companionship, but remember; when we are weak we are strong.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for companions you send to travel this journey with me. May I add strength to others journeys too. Amen.

Freedom

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We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. ~Romans 6:2

When I say I long for freedom, freedom from what? Freedom from the illusion of control, that if I can just make sure things line-up just so nothing bad is going to happen. Freedom from the need to be right all the time, that sometimes I simply just don’t know the answers.  Freedom from the fears of serious things, like being lost, getting sick, the death of a loved one.  Freedom from irrational things like an organized house will bring peace and the feeling of order or that making everyone else happy can by some miracle make me happy.

When I say that “I can’t”, when I see that “God can”, when I take the action of letting Him handle all things then I can experience freedom. Freedom from the try-hard life where I stay strong, put on a good front and think that I can handle all things my-self. When I trust, allowing my “self” to fall to the ground like a seed, that shell of my self-life can burst, allowing the Healers life to burst forth.

New life brings freedom. God’s life allows me to experience a freedom I can never find on my own. I just have to allow myself to be buried with Jesus so that I may also be raised into a new life free of trying hard (and missing the mark).

Heavenly Father, I find myself trying so hard. I want to control everything and know all the answers. Please free my from my “self” so that I may have true life through You. Amen.

Special

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Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. ~1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)

“Special,” my daughter would tell me when she was twelve,  means that you are different. Being different apparently, means there is something wrong with you. God didn’t make us all the same. It would be boring if He did! There is no comfort when you tell your children that God has made us all different.

Sometimes I too find myself longing for someone else’s kind of different. It might be nice to be more outgoing maybe even flamboyant. Some days I think it might be nice to not be so contemplative and analytical. Although sometimes I do find myself more outgoing than others I cannot change the personality that is me.

Henri Nouwen in his book, Bread for the Journey says this about temperaments, “Our temperaments – whether flamboyant, phlegmatic, introverted, or extroverted – are quite permanent fixtures of our personalities.  Still, the way we “use” our temperaments on a daily basis can vary greatly.  When we are attentive to the Spirit of God within us, we will gradually learn to put our temperaments in the service of a virtuous life.  Then flamboyancy gives great zeal for the Kingdom, phlegmatism helps to keep an even keel in times of crisis, introversion deepens the contemplative side, and extroversion encourages creative ministry.”

Nouwen goes on to say that we should treat our temperaments as we do gifts that help us deepen our spiritual lives. God made different people because He has different kinds of service. Instead of looking at how it must be nice to be comfortable in a crowd of people, I should use my contemplative nature as God intends, in service to Him.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for my kind of different. May I use who I am in service to You. Amen.

Forgiveness

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Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy- seven times. -Matthew 18:22-23 (CEB)

“Community is not possible with out the willingness to forgive one another”seventy times seven”. Forgiveness is the cement of community life.  Forgiveness holds us together through good times and bad times and allows us to grow in mutual love…

To forgive a person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you.” But there is more. Were also free ourselves from the burden of being the”offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.” -From Bread for the Journey,  by Henri Nouwen

Forgiveness may be the number one reason that keeps us from living free. It is hard to extend forgiveness to those who have failed us. Especially when they have failed us again, and again… and again. Sometimes I find myself asking,  “God,  just how often should I forgive?” His reply is, “Every time.”

I know forgiveness sets me free.  But this is one area I seem to struggle with on a regular basis especially when it deals with something I want to be changed and promises have been made and changes don’t come… or come as soon as I would like. But in the quiet of the night, when I am receptive again to God’s voice, I hear whispered in my ear, “Every time.”

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the countless times You have forgiven me. Give me the strength today to forgive again and every time. Amen.

Margin

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Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. ~Mark 1:35 (CEB)

It is that time of year again time to schedule, plan and gather information. There is something comforting in the laying out of information and the putting plans on a calendar for me to follow. There is nothing like having “life” laid out on paper (or computer) and knowing where you will be and what you will be doing when. At the same time, it is very daunting as well. Sometimes after getting into the new schedule, I find there is little or no margin. I have learned just because it works out on paper doesn’t mean that it will work out in real life.

So as I look at lesson plans, art projects, Bible studies, music lessons and gymnastics, I am reminded that I must allow some breathing room in my schedule for the “what-ifs”.  I am reminded that a schedule that I am able, to begin with, is not necessarily the same one that I can keep up with. I need room to breathe. I need margin in my schedule before I begin to feel that there is not enough of me to go around. As I plan out how I am going to take care of those around me, I need to also remember to give myself some space.

Jesus realized that he needed times to have space to breathe. He regularly took the time to slip away for time with God. No matter the needs of the people there was still a need for quiet to spend time with his Father.

When I don’t plan some margin in my schedule so that I can find places of rest and times to connect with God I find that I can’t keep up with things. Then I find that it is tempting to cut rest and quiet to make up for my lack of time to get other things done. How crazy is that? The most needed things, rest, quiet, time with God are the things that slowly get left out when we scramble to keep up with our life.

Heavenly Father, in my planning, help me to stick to the need for margins that will allow me the time I need for quiet, rest and most importantly, time with You. Amen.

The well

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The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”  Jesus said to her, “I Am—the one who speaks with you.” … The woman put down her water jar and went into the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” They left the city and were on their way to see Jesus. ~John 4:25-30 (CEB)

What did the woman at the well need? Healing, love, closure. What was it that Jesus was offering her at the well? Real love.  Not temporary, momentary love, but deep, lasting love that could satisfy her for all time. She had tried to heal her broken heart, one messed up relationship at a time. Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter. “Where have you been looking for love?” In all the wrong places.

There is no condemnation in Jesus’ questions. Without addressing the hard questions, healing cannot happen. “Come to me,” is his reply, “I can give you that true love you long for. Come to me, and you will never be hungry or thirsty again. Come to me, and I will heal your broken heart.” No matter what we are broken from aren’t these words that need to be heard?

What was the response the woman had to Jesus’ words? She immediately went to tell others what she had found. She wanted to share the good news. She went back to the same people who had probably been critical of her situation. The same people who probably didn’t know that underneath the behavior was a deep pain. The woman at the well had found healing, closure, and a new life. She was unable to contain the news. It bubbled up from her.

When we look to heal our brokenness on our own or through someone else, we find ourselves going again and again to the wrong places. There is only one Source. When healing is found, and joy is complete, we find we can’t keep this miracle to our self.  Good news must be shared even to the ones who never understood our pain.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for giving me a real love that touches the depth of my soul. I thank You that healing can happen when I take the time to ask the tough questions. Amen.

A neighbor not like me

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A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?” He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”  But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” ~Luke 10:25-20 (CEB)

I grew up watching Mister Rogers.  One of my favorite parts was him singing “won’t you be my neighbor?” I would have given anything to have a neighbor like Mister Rogers living next door to me. He was, after all, looking for a neighbor. But I never really knew my neighbors growing up. We moved too often to get to know any neighbor really well.

Getting to know your neighbor sometimes requires that you are the one to seek out a relationship. You can’t rely on the other person to be the one to do the seeking. Often times these days our closest friends come from school, church, the work place or other groups of people similar to ourselves and this seems enough. Our own circles seem to complete us. When we stick to familiar ground and people we know we cannot grow in our understanding of others.

“We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another.  There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.

There is a lot of road crossing to do.  We are all very busy in our own circles.  We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of.  But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbors.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen

It is hard to think that today we still keep ourselves separate from people who are different from ourselves. Only when we cross the road can we widen our horizon of understanding. The more variety of people I meet the more understanding I have for others. I don’t always agree with other views but my world has been enlarged beyond myself. Sometimes though I learn that I may have been wrong in a pattern of thought I have held.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for always pushing me out of my comfort zones. I thank You for the people You have put in my life to help me to grow more in Your understanding of the world around me. May I walk this journey with Your eyes and Your ears and may I have Your heart in all my dealings with Your people. Amen.

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