Happy are those

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God. ~Matt 5:7-9 (ASV)

“To bless means to say good things.  We have to bless one another constantly.  Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends.  In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings.  We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts.  Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs.  Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

Words good or bad have such an effect on the people in our lives. The words we throw around carelessly can never be recaptured, only wounds can be patched up not repaired. But it is also important to be conscious of the words left unsaid. The “I love you” left off of a good-bye cannot be pasted on at a later time. There might not be a chance to. Also words of encouragement are important. Maybe even more important that the I love you’s.

Older church liturgy addressed in the Sunday service, our daily sins and our sins of omission. I wonder what daily things left unsaid I should ask forgiveness for? Did I barely glance up when my daughter left the house today? Was I busy writing when my son needed words of assurance? Did I slow down when my husband walked through the door? How about that skype call I ignored?

The Common English Version of the Bible says verses 7-9 from Chapter 5 this way, “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy. Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God. Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.” I like this reminder. Not only am I slowing down and taking notice of those I love but when I remember to bless those around me I am blessed too.

Heavenly Father, Help me this day to remember to care for those you have placed in my journey. May I not only be careful of the words I say but also be aware of the things that should not have been left unsaid. Amen.

Compassion

Afterward, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “ Follow me.” Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him. Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them. The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”Jesus answered, “ Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.” ~Luke 5: 37-32 (CEB)

“To go where healing and love is needed, and give it in a way in which it can be received, often means acting in the in the teeth of our own interests and preferences. Christ risked his reputation for holiness by healing on the Sabbath; he touched the unclean and dined with the wrong people; he accepted the love and companionship of a sinner (that most wonderful of all remedies for the wounds of sin). He loved with God’s love and so went straight to the point: What can I do to restore my fellow creature and how?” ~From The Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill

Sometimes I forget just what Jesus gave up coming into the world to save us. More than just coming down from Heaven into this hurtful world, he gave up his reputation, his home, a chance for a family, standing in the community and a place in any local synagogue. Instead he slept where ever he could find a place to lay his head; hung out with less desirable people; and went places that weren’t always safe. We don’t see Jesus hesitating and saying, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this, what would people think?”

Compassion is a gift that Jesus gave to everyone he met. We have just a skeletal view of Jesus’ life before he entered into ministry, but when I think about what compassionate people have in common I can’t help but wonder what Jesus’ life was like before his ministry. Some of the common characteristics of compassionate people often are significant suffering or painful life events of their own, a generous heart, a non-blaming and non-judging mind, a passionate spirit, and a love that embraces the oneness of all creation.

Jesus, being God’s Son probably came to earth already with the qualities of compassion. But I still think that the attributes of his compassion were hard won yet freely given to all. He never held back his compassion from others.

Another gift Jesus gave others was his companionship. With Jesus as a friend people began to realize that they could be forgiven for the lives they had previously lived and could begin a new life because a simple carpenter first loved them. Christ is new life. He came down from Heaven just to show the way.

In Christ I too can think of my old life as dead, the words from the Message translation say it this way, “Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.” ~Col 13:3-4 (italics mine)

Out of my thankfulness for Christ’s compassion and companionship I need to in turn show compassion and give companionship to others. Not to make anything of myself, not to say look at how good I am now, but to say instead, if Jesus could love even me, he can love you too!

Heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Your son down from Heaven to personally touch each of my wounds and to spend precious time with me. I thank You for the gift of compassion. I thank You for Your companionship You have so freely given to me. Out of the over flow of Your love for me may I in turn give of Your compassion and gentle companionship so others may find their way home to You too. Amen.

How they know

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” ~John 13:34-35 (CEB)

It is sometimes aggravating how closely watched we can be as Christians. But after reading this excerpt from Henri Nouwen’s book, Bread for the Journey, I am reminded that that is exactly what we are here on Earth to do.

“Jesus’ whole life was a witness to his Father’s love, and Jesus calls his followers to carry on that witness in his Name.  We, as followers of Jesus, are sent into this world to be visible signs of God’s unconditional love.  Thus we are not first of all judged by what we say but by what we live.  When people say of us:  ‘See how they love one another,’ they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced and are drawn to it as by a magnet.

In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.”

I am to be an example of God’s love in the world. By my reactions to others I could draw someone to Christ or I could repel them. That is humbling, especially in light of all that continues to be broadcasted in the news.

Heavenly Father, as I go about my day help me to remember that I am to be a glimpse to others of Your Kingdom. Help me to draw others to You. Amen.

Companions

 

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.

A neighbor not like me

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 group 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.

Deep wounds

When I kept quiet, my bones wore out; I was groaning all day long— every day, every night!—  because your hand was heavy upon me. My energy was sapped as if in a summer drought. So I admitted my sin to you; I didn’t conceal my guilt. “I’ll confess my sins to the LORD, ” is what I said. Then you removed the guilt of my sin.  That’s why all the faithful should pray to you during troubled times, so that a great flood of water won’t reach them.~ Psalm 32:3-6 (CEB)

I fell. It was storming and wet and I had to get gas. While I was pumping gas, and because I can’t just stand there waiting for my car to fill up with gas, I thought I would move my bag from the trunk to the front passenger seat while I was under some protection. That way when I got home I could just dash in the door with everything. As I stepped over the hose, somehow my foot got tangled and with the lack of traction due to oil and water, I fell with all my weight landing on my knee. To stand and walk did not cause great pain but bending my knee hurt. Taking ibuprofen seemed to reduce the swelling and I seemed to just be black and blue with no major injury.

Because it is just a big ugly bruise, I think it is funny. It makes a good story. One minute I am walking, the next moment, I find myself looking at the underneath side of my car. I kind of enjoyed showing the bruise off to my family as it went through a rainbow of colors. There is no real damage done. The damage is only on the surface and over time it will fade away.

A couple years ago, I injured myself running. It wasn’t so funny. I was embarrassed to have allowed the injury to happen. I should have known better. I should not have let it happen. So I felt. I was afraid that I would never run again. I hated to talk about it. If you looked at my leg you couldn’t see that there was anything wrong. It just hurt. Bad. After a few days I realized that I was not getting better and went to see a physical therapist that sees people at a local running shop. He told me to continue with heat, ice, stretching and ibuprofen. After a week of doing this he said I could try a 3 mile run on flat ground.

One week later, after doing exactly what I had been told I went off for a light run. It was a little sore but no major pain so I finished running the three miles. As the day went on my leg began to hurt more and more. Two day later my leg and ankle began to swell. I couldn’t hide the fact any longer that something serious was going on. This situation had become bigger than me.

It took four months for my leg to heal enough to no longer limp when I walked. I began to run again but the fear of injuring my leg again was constantly in my thoughts. Still I feel twinges in the tendon that I pulled below me knee and I remember the hobbling pain I lived with day and night. The memory of this injury will always be with me. Re-injuring the tendon again will always be a possibility. My leg will never be the same.

When life injures me, I find myself in a similar situation. The surface wounds though painful are easy to share, talk about and even get a good laugh. But the deep really painful hurts that no one sees are harder to talk about. Often it is frightening. Many times it is embarrassing and I think I should have known better than to let myself get into that situation. Sometimes it hurts too much to move to go get the help that I need. Even after I begin to heal the fear of re-injury is ever present. Some hurts are life changing.

There comes a moment when you know this injury has become bigger than you. God has put us in community for our healing. James 5:14-16 says “If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.”

Turning to God in our pain will help direct us to a community for our healing. When we talk with others about what is wrong in our life we find that we are not alone in our pain; we find that there are sympathetic people to our plight and we find that we are not the only ones in this situation. We find that there are people who have been through what we have been through and they survived. In sharing our stories we give each other hope. Hope for the journey.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for community. I thank you for fellow sojourners on this journey called life. I thank You for those whom You have sent to walk with me along the way providing hope. May I always be willing to shine a light for others so that their travels can continue always toward You. Amen.

A living testimony

I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other. ~Gal 5:16-18, 22-26 (CEB)

One of the most intimidating things to me as a child was witnessing about God. Growing up in church we were taught this was important work for God. Wondering where and how to bring God up in my conversations and how to convince others about the need of God’s presence in their life was overwhelming.

As an adult I still find myself overwhelmed with the thought of giving my “testimony”, sharing how God has worked in my life to others. Henri Nouwen in his book The Wounded Healer says, “The way God’s Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruits:  “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).  These fruits speak for themselves.  It is therefore always better to raise the question ‘How can I grow in the Spirit?’  than the question  ‘How can I make others believe in the Spirit?’” By allowing the fruits of the Spirit to work through my life and shine out to others, I can serve God as a living example.

Verse 24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires.” When I am ruled by my “self” it is hard for the fruit of the Spirit to shine through to others. I find myself becoming arrogant, jealous and angry. When I live by the Spirit it is easier to show love to others; joy despite present circumstances; peace that passes all understanding; kindness even when I am not show it in return, goodness even when it’s not the easiest path; trustfulness in all circumstances; gentleness instead of forcing my ideas; and self-control even when I am afraid.

When “self” is at the center of my daily life I cannot be a good testament to the love and good works of God. Only when I die to “self” and am lead by the Holy Spirit can I begin to live the example that shows that God is alive and at work in me. By living differently than the world lives, I invite others to wonder and sometimes ask what is different in my life. Thus doors are opened for conversation without my forcing my way in.

Lord, I thank You for Your Spirit that lives in me. May I ever be listening to its promptings and allowing the gifts of the Spirit to work in me and shine though me as a beacon to others that leads to You. Amen.

In my father’s footsteps

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Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away. ~Matt. 24:35

As a child, I often had to scurry to keep up with my father’s pace. Even as I became full grown it remained a challenge to match my father’s fast stride. Recently, my father and I were in a store together looking for some items. All of a sudden it hit me, I was slowing my steps to match my walk with his. This realization took my breath away. When did his happen?

As a child, I raced to match my father’s tempo in life. I probably get my drive and determination from him. But in this slower pace I have noticed other things my father does. He is quick to say a kind word to people he meets. Quick to go out of his way to lend a hand. He patiently sits with those in pain. He loves deeply those God has placed in his path. There is much I try to measure in my life to my dad’s that will never change. He will always be an example that I will try to live up to.

The cycle of life is hard to live through sometimes. That realization that the way things have always been are now shifting. Children grow up and leave the home. Parents age and slowdown. But there is one constant in all of this, God.

I can’t help but wonder what legacy I am leaving my own children. As they follow in my footsteps, do they see my confidence in God that He is always with me? Do they see patience and love in my actions to others? Will they see by my example that the only constant we have in life is God?

Heavenly Father, You are, You were, and You always will be. Help me not to fear the future or feel sadness in life’s cycles. Help me to see Your constant Presence through it all. Amen.

Love beyond all limits

Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that~ smelled sweet to God. ~Eph 5:1-2 (CEB)Even if you have not grown up in church I feel confident that you have heard that God loves us. Maybe you have heard of God’s love through the simple children’s song, “Jesus loves me”. In church the concept of God’s love is taught but not necessarily known. It takes life experiences to begin to understand what God’s love means in our heart. But this journey towards understanding just how big, how wide how deep how great God’s love really is (Eph 3:18-19), begins with misunderstanding just what love means

For many reasons we find ourselves misunderstanding God’s love. That it is absolute and unlimited for each one of us. The reasons that it is difficult for us to receive, trust or see His love are as numerous as there are people in the world. The relationships we have with others impact us and affect our views on what love means. How we interact in relationships can be reflected in how we interact and relate to God. Somewhere along the way we may be taught that love is based on performance, control, comes with conditions… When we take our first step on our journey of who we really are in Christ, we can begin to understand the concept of God’s perfect love for us just as we are right now.

It wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter, standing over her crib watching her sleep that I began to get a taste of what God’s love is for us. I also began to understand just how human I really was and that I could never love her enough. Matthew 7:11 says ” If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” If  I with all my faults, love my children and want so much for them can I not begin to take to heart the love God has for me? After being a mom for 17 years, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of this kind of love.

Our journey towards grasping the concept of God’s love begins with this verse in Romans 8:38-39, ” But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created”. God’s love for us knows NO limits.

Sometimes understanding is beyond our reach when life has caused deep wounds, Henri Nouwen in his book, The Wounded Healer, has this to say, ” How can someone ever trust in the existence of an unconditional divine love when most, if not all, of what he or she has experienced is the opposite of love -fear, hatred, violence, and abuse? They are not condemned to be victims! There remains within them, hidden as it may seem, the possibility to choose love. Many people who have suffered the most horrendous rejections and been subject to the most cruel torture are able to choose love. By choosing love they become witnesses not only to enormous human resiliency but also to the divine love that transcends all human loves. Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world.”

I walk a narrow path of hope in the midst of a world that has only hatred and fear to share. I look not to the world to define what love means. I look to the Source that is love. Sometimes the people in my life are here to show me what love is not. Other times I am blessed with insights of what love truly can be.

Heavenly Father I thank you this day for Your love that has no limits. I thank You for those people You have placed in my life to love and to love me. May I be an example of love to all I meet this day. Amen.

What’s the point of it all

What do workers gain from all their hard work? I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before him. Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. And God looks after what is driven away.~Ecc3:9-15 (CEB)

What is the point of it all? I have been reading Ecclesiastes so I know that I am not the only person to ponder this question. Earlier in Chapter 3 the author talks about how there is a time for every season in life. A time to be born… a time to die… There are times in my life that everything seems to be going well. God gives me these times so that I can show the world how to live a life of blessings while still fully in tune with God. Other times I find life miserable and full of difficulties. God has allowed these hard times so that I can show the world how great our God is and that being His child brings great peace and joy despite hardship.

It is easy to become disillusioned with the circumstances of life compared to others’. The Psalmist writes about this in Psalm 73 “I saw the prosperity of the wicked.… Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure.… When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God” (Ps. 73:3, 13, 16–17) When I come into God’s presence He gives me peace and joy that surpasses it all. When I read the Bible it helps me to keep my focus on Him and not my current situation.

So what is the point of life here on earth, whatever moment I find myself in? The point of my life is to bring Him Glory. From the coffee break I take on my porch swing, to the words I say to a friend, to the boundaries I set for my kids and the walks I take with my husband, it should all point to Him. “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for Gods glory. “ ~1Cor 10:31 (CEB)

May my life this day Lord, point to Your glory. From the words I speak to the actions I take may it all be done to reflect Your love and grace in my life. Amen.

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