Friday, October 10, 2014

Can you see it?

Today I was once again reading from Kalas' book, I bought a House on Gratitude Street.  In the chapter I read, he spoke of a sermon he heard that had the theme of "If you can see it, you can have it."  The scriptural basis of the sermon was the story of Elijah and Elisha.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ He responded, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.  (2 Kings 2:9-10)
Do you ever have the experience of sitting in a church meeting and feeling the weight of dread decend?  People talk about the lack of children in the service, the fact that fewer people are members of the church, the idea that people don't want to volunteer, and the list goes on and on.

I don't think we can see it.  I think we are so caught up in the negatives that we can't see a vital, healthy church.  Do we have the hope that we can be what God calls us to be?

If we can't see it, we can't have it.

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Numbering our days



I read a chapter from J. Ellsworth Kalas' book I Bought a House on Gratitude Street this morning. The chapter concerned numbering your days.

The picture in the post today is a sunrise image I snapped with my iPhone yesterday morning.  It doesn't do justice to what I was seeing which was beautiful.  This sunrise followed a lunar eclipse (6:25am the same morning).  I caught just the tail end of the eclipse.

My question to you today is this:  how do we number our days?  Consider that.

I think the answer is multi-dimensional, but I propose that one way we do it is to slow down and pay attention.  See what God is doing around you, whether it is a sunrise or an eclipse.  It might be that God is at work in the grumpy person next to you in line or the child with the sticky face who is screaming in the restaurant. Where is God at work?  How can we get involved in that?

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit


But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.  (Galatians 5:22-23; The Message)

Can you name the list?  ...The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We often call them fruits of the spirit, although the passage above from New Revised Standard Version calls all of them together "fruit."  Either way, these are gifts God gives to us through the Holy Spirit.  Right?

On Sunday, someone called them Christian values.  I think we do value them as gifts, but I worry that calling them values implies that they are personality characteristics that we strive to achieve.  They aren't, as far as I understand them.  I believe Paul is telling us that when we live a life for God, that these are the result - that they are gifts given to us by God.  On my own, I might not be able to achieve peace, for example.  I might value it, but achieving it on my own, no matter how hard I strive to live a peaceful life, is going to be impossible.  But living with God, I can be gifted with peace, and it might show in the way I live my life.

These are gifts, not accomplishments.

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Cornerstone

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes”?  (Matthew 21:42)
We have two sons.  As they grew up, Legos were a mainstay in their toy collections.  Grant or Josh would receive a Lego birthday or Christmas gift - it would be a box of tiny plastic blocks with illustrated instructions concerning how to put the hundreds of blocks together to create a battleship or a Star Wars X-wing fighter.  They would spend hours reading the directions, finding the right piece and working their way to the goal.

Just this past year Josh told us that one day he was mad at his brother, so while Grant was assembling a Lego project, Josh took a single block, and hid it away.  Talk about angst!  "Where is this piece?  I need this piece!"

Jesus is the cornerstone - the Foundation upon which we build our lives.  No one can take that away and hide it, but sometimes we ignore it.  We miss the cornerstone; we overlook it, we assume we don't need it, and what we build suffers.  Do we reject the cornerstone?  Do we need to go searching?

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Friday, October 03, 2014

Silence

Yesterday, in the meeting I was in, we participated together in "A Liturgy for Midday Prayer" before we broke for lunch.  (If you are interested, it is #13 in the Upper Room Worship Book.)  The liturgy begins with a time of silence.

I have noticed that silence is difficult for some, especially for those who lead community prayer.  A very short amount of time seems to be very long, resulting in brief quiet times of reflection before the leader  moves on to the next element of worship.  The time feels insufficient for me.

I liked what the leader of this time of worship did to prevent that rushing to speak; she asked a participate to set a 2 minute time period on his iPhone stopwatch, and asked him to break the silence when we had reached two minutes with the next element of worship, which was the Call to Prayer.

My impression of that quiet time of centering is that it positively effected the entire time of worship.  Those two minutes to be silent with God allowed us to enter into prayer and scripture reading with an openness and readying.  I hadn't thought of that before, but I commend it to you as a practice you might want to try.

Later that day, a person shared that he had had a conversation with a Quaker once, and had asked him, "How do you know when to speak in worship?"  The Quaker's answer was, "I speak when the impulse to do so is more powerful than all of my efforts to remain silent."

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Where are you from?

Where are you from?

Washington DC and Annandale
Carol and George
     Lillian and Bill
     Lucille and George
Divorced parents and a single mom
Huntington and Garden Farms
Not attending church
     Sometimes attending church
          An invitation from a friend
     Always attending church
Presbyterian (Lutheran) and United Methodist
     Where I stayed
UMYF, tour groups and Sunday school
Marshall University, twice
Steve - moving from me, to us
     to mother of two
     Grant and Josh
Ecology and aquatic entymology
     Medical research in diabetes and Vitamin A
A Walk to Emmaus
A sleepless night
Foundation and full time ministry

I'm from joy and a growing relationship with God.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Taking God with me

In 2 Kings 5, after Namaan is healed, he returns to see Elisha again.  Interesting that this time Elisha comes out to talk to him.  Namaan says, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present form your servant." (verse 15).

When my cousin was a young child, his parents explained to him that God was everywhere - not just in Church.  So one evening, their family went to a drive in movie (remember those? - I miss those).  When they got there, Alex rolled down the window and yelled, "Hey, God, we're here!"

Namaan didn't understand that God was everywhere, so he asks for two mule loads of earth to take with him to his home so that he would have God with him.  We (I) giggle at that, but do we do that?  Do we try to control where God is and what God sees?  Do we fail to confess our sins in an attempt to not tell them to God?  I always disliked the verse of Psalm 139 that says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting" (Verse 23-24).  Someone once asked me, "What would you do if Jesus asked to come to your house?"  I would ask him to wait an hour so that I could go clean it.

We don't control where God goes or what God knows.  He goes everywhere and knows our "inward parts."  I know we know that; I know I know that, but do I really know that?

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The role of the servant

Are we tired of the story of Namaan yet? I love this story, with all its layers and happenings.

When we last left Namaan, he had been told, by a messenger, to go wash seven times in the Jordon.  He goes on and on about how the rivers in his home are so much better than the rivers in Israel.  He is disappointed that Elisha didn't come out and wave a hand over him to heal him.

His servants approach him and ask, "Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, 'Wash, and be clean."? (verse 13b).  Interesting that the writer doesn't record a verbal response from Namaan at all.  Namaan goes and does what Elisha commanded, and Namaan is healed.

I don't know the relationship between Namaan and his servants.  Was it hard for them to step forward and confront this angry general?  Or was there relationship more open, and words such as this more acceptable and even expected?

Do you have friends who will point out where you go wrong in your spiritual life?  Do you have someone who would say to you, "Why are you so angry?"  or "Why are you making this so difficult?" or "Have you considered that you might be wrong?"  Are you open to friends who hold you accountable?

And are you willing to be that kind of friend to someone else?  Will you risk the other person's anger or rejection of your thoughts?  Are you open to the idea that your suggestions might be wrong?  The accountability friend isn't a "fixer;" he is a mirror of thoughts - a reflection of God's leading in the person's life back into their eyes.  That's a lot harder than being the person who just shares an opinion, because it means removing all personal motivation, and placing the other person's well being ahead of your own.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

It's not who you are

Continuing on with the story of Namaan, we left him standing outside of Elisha's house, waiting for the prophet to come out and see him.  What does Elisha do?  He sends out a messenger to tell Namaan, "Go, wash in the Jordan seven time, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean." (verse 10).

Instead of being grateful for this, Namaan is insulted!  How dare this lowly prophet not come out and see him in person?  How dare he give him such a mundane task to bring healing.  Namaan is much better than this!

Do we think too highly of ourselves?  Do we have expectations of what we think is fair, or even more, what we believe we deserve from God? From other people? Does our pride and our sense of self-worth sometimes stand as a barrier between us and God?  Between us and other people?

I wonder if that is one of the reasons the Bible tells us that God can reach us better in our weakness than in our strength, and that in our weakness, God becomes our strength?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's not what you bring...

Next in the story of Nahaam, beginning with verse 9, Nahaam goes to see Elisha. He goes to what I picture as a small, unassuming home with horses and chariots and all of his accompanying paraphernalia.  Can't you just picture it?  He is bringing all that he considers wealth, all that he sees as status, and he appears at Elisha's doorstep, expecting a cure.

Many years ago, my grandmother was ill.  I remember my grandfather telling us that he had made a bargain with God.  He would quit smoking if God would heal my grandfather.  She did get better, and he did stop smoking, but I never really thought that God was part of the deal.  Grace is free, and I believe God wanted my grandmother to be whole and healthy, EVEN MORE than my grandfather did, which is unimaginable.  I'm glad he gave up smoking, and God probably was, too, but it wasn't a bargaining chip.

As silly as Nahaam looked coming to Elisha's house with his riches is how we look, coming to God, expecting to bargain for grace - expecting to make a trade for healing.  Grace has already been given to us, and healing will come - be it physical or not - if we will allow it.  I just don't believe that God picks and choose who will receive a miracle based on what we bring.  Do you?

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Where do we go?

Namaan's story goes on in 2 Kings 5.  He goes to the King of Aram and tells him what the young girl had said.  And the king of Aram said, "Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel."  (verse 5).

Namaan goes to the king of Israel with the letter, and with gold, silver and clothing - customary gifts for a king.  The King of Israel doesn't know what to do - he can't heal the man, and he thinks this is all a prelude to war.  Elisha, the prophet, hears of what is going on, and sends a message to the king, "Why have you torn your clothes?   Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel."  (verse 8b).

Who do we go to instead of God?  Who do we place in God's place?  Where do we go, assuming that we will find healing and wholeness when all along God is waiting for us?

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Monday, September 08, 2014

The Servant Girl

Jack's sermon yesterday was based on 2 Kings 5 - the story of Namaan.  If you haven't read it, take a look at it.  It's an interesting story, and I think it offers us much to consider.  My plan is to look at several aspects of the story over the next few days.

First, consider the young servant girl in the story. Namaan is a general in the Aram army.  He is much favored by the King of Aram (which is currently Syria) because he (Namaan) led the army to a great victory over Israel.  During this war, the young girl is taken from Israel and is made the servant of Namaan's wife.  Namaan suffers from a skin disease, and the servant girl said, "If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria.  He would cure him of his leprosy."  (verse 3).

People say the Old Testament is without grace, but I think this story of this young girl is full of grace.  She has been abducted from her home and made to become a slave.  Would you be willing to offer God to your abductor?  She was.  We don't even know her name, but she stands as an example of someone who loved her enemy.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Pray Without Ceasing?

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Pray without ceasing?  What on earth does that mean?  It's hard enough to find time to pray; I'm supposed to pray ALL THE TIME?!  I've heard people say that they "pray without ceasing," but I never really believe them.

So what does it mean to you?

A woman told me a story once about a visit she made to the hospital.  She was sitting in the waiting room, with other members of her family.  I'm sure you've had those times, trying to be patient while you are waiting for news about your loved one who is ill or injured.  While they waited, one of the family members asked this woman to pray.  Later, they told her that she hadn't done it right.  She needed to use more eloquent words - more elaborate syntax.  It was a long time before she would pray in public again.

Do we have preconceived notions about what prayer is?  Must it be "just right?"  Is prayer only those times when you talk to God, in sentences and paragraphs -- explaining to God your needs and wants, and hoping God provides?

Yesterday, I wrote about other kinds of prayer.  Do you think I'm right?

For me, sometimes the best, most productive prayer is those times when I'm not speaking to God. Sometimes, I hear God best when I listen.  And that is prayer.  I wish I could say that I did it without ceasing, but I think we could all open our minds and our hearts more often to hear God speak.

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Is it prayer?

What is prayer?  I think sometimes we are stuck in the idea that prayer is when we stop and intentionally "say prayers."  Don't get me wrong; that certainly is prayer, and it is one that we need to nurture.  But I don't think it is the only prayer we can experience.

I got a call late one night earlier this week that a friend's mother had died.  I went to bed thinking about that - it was sudden and unexpected: shocking.  I prayed, but it felt inadequate.  I couldn't go to sleep.  I'm a card maker, and as I tried to sleep, an idea for a card formed in my mind.  It was the middle of the night, but I got up, and made the card for my friends.  The time creating the card felt much more like prayer to me than the normal, "Dear God..." prayer time.

I have felt the same as I knit, or as I walk in the park or as I drive and plan a sermon, or as I write a sermon, or as I write a blog post, or even as I bake bread.  Not all the time, of course, but actions in our lives can be holy moments of prayer.  We should never limit God, and what we perceive as God's actions.

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