A Chance to Give Thanks

Recently I traveled to Carlsbad, California and had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  All I had on my mind was the promise of excellent seafood.  Living in a landlocked state does not afford me many opportunities to enjoy fresh shrimp and oysters. As my friends and I held a glass of wine up in the air to toast a gorgeous California day, we watched as the sun set over the horizon.  I thought to myself; this is a work of art, a true masterpiece of heavenly proportions.  Thank you, dear God, for allowing me to witness this incredible display of beauty.

And so, with the setting of the sun we are called to remember the business of the day.  We give thanks that difficult moments and situations come to an end, and we also rejoice in our accomplishments.  All, fruitful and challenging, falling under the care of God.  The night comes to offer us solitude, and a chance to rejuvenate our souls for the day that lays ahead.  A little Sabbath in which we open ourselves up to new hopes and new dreams.

We need the night as much as we need the day.  There must be times that we can rest and focus our attention on the things that motivate us, our reason for being.  Sacred times allow us to reconnect with the most intimate parts of who we are.  We feed our souls, the places that are starving to come to light.

The truth is, we cannot be complete beings without both the night and the day.  Each one reminds us that we all have different gifts that we must cultivate in our unique ways.  Our attention to divine healing and wholeness encourages us to give proper attention during the correct time of the day.  Our spiritual nourishment should never appear forced but patiently develop and grown at the right time, in the right seasons of our lives.

Today, I give thanks for our Amazing Creator, who gives us every opportunity to enrich every part of our souls.  God offers us the chance to be made new, each and every day. Praise be to God for this amazing gift of resurrection.  We die to self, only to rise again with the hope of what is to come.  Thank you for both the night and the day, for even, You said, “It was good!”

 

Beaten and Broken (Sometimes)

There are times that I feel a little beaten up.  My struggles may come in the form of unkind words, or actions meant to harm me.  There are moments that I want to rise up and defend myself.  I want to shout, “How inconsiderate of you to say that to me!”  There are other times that I want to say, “Stop what you are doing.  It is painful and completely unnecessary.”

The truth is, we all feel a little broken at times.  None of us are exempt from the reality that sometimes people are unkind.  They wage war against us with words that cut like knives, or actions that shake us to our very core.  We leave the scene with emotional cuts and bruises.  We may be Christians, but our hearts can still break.

In times of pain and suffering, God honors my sadness, but also wants me to move past my woundedness.  We are not meant to live in a constant state of bitterness, but we are to live in the promise of new found life. Christ is where our hope lies.  God’s power revealed to us in ways that only holy love can speak.

Today I am grateful for friends that lead me back to the source of my faith.  Praise be to God that people are in our lives who share the gift of the Father’s unfailing love.  Through the kindness of others, we are transformed to bring the presence of love itself into a world that needs to know that holy grace flows back to us, even in times of trial.

 

Walking Around the Fire is Not an Option!

I have to admit that I do not like walking through the fire.  I like to tiptoe around it.  Try to avoid it, and wrap it up in a pretty bow.  Maybe if I ignore the fire, I won’t be burned by the flames.  Of course, while I tiptoe around and ignore what is in front of me, the flame continues to grow larger and larger, until there is nothing left, but ash and smoke.  More often than not, where once there was a possibility of creation, now exists only a clump of mess incapable of sustaining any sort of life.

The hardest part in life is walking through the fire.  Only when confronted with the hottest heat can we breathe onto it refreshing water.  Gushing from the spirit at the wellspring of who we are is a chance, an opportunity to find redemption.  We save the earth, our hearts, our souls, from the ravishes of generations of chaos that burns with fury into the very recesses of who we are.  No, we must move through the hardest part to get to the other side.

And the promise of our faith is this, even though we must walk through the fire and deepest darkness, we are not alone.  That is the promise to which we are divinely appointed.  God is with us.  We need only look at the darkest part of our faith, Holy Week, to see the magnificent claim of divine love that redeems us, that calls us by name.  We are children of the Most-High God.  We are made new, having come through the ravages of the past.  With our amazing creator, we have the power to put out the fire.  But we have to walk through it first, always trusting that the one in whom we trust will deliver us and make us whole.

A Change of Perspective

As a pastor, I am faced with deadlines all of the time.  I have to submit my bulletin information on Monday, prepare the rough draft of my sermon by Wednesday (if I want to practice for Sunday), prepare newsletter articles, and the list continues.  I even find a little stress when writing my blog post each week.  All of the sudden, I find that I robbed myself of the joy of some of the most fulfilling parts of my work.  I am left with a sense of being a casualty to the demands of day to day living.  Where can I find satisfaction in looking at everything as a chore?

When I find myself overwhelmed, I take a moment, and simply stop what I am doing.  I remind myself that there is joy to be found in even the most ordinary and routine of duties.  Preparing the bulletin for the next Sunday, allows me to begin the process of focusing on our next day of celebrating the resurrected Christ.  I set my sights on the next project, the next time that I will stand before my congregation and lead my fellow believers in the liturgy of a Sunday morning.  And this preparation includes writing, insights into the Biblical text, and how our narratives merge together with the sacred writings of an ancient people.  Contentment is found in the process, the journey to another feast day.

What seems overwhelming is the reminder that there is a lot of work to be done before we celebrate another Sunday morning.  Preparation becomes my companion, my guide, and not my enemy.  It becomes my sacred time throughout the week.  It just takes a change of perspective; a new way of looking at the journey.  Praise be to God, who gives us the task of creating a weekly work of art for the human soul each and every week.

My hope for all of us this week is that we transcend our thought patterns, and serve with a spirit of hope.  Let us leave the drudgery of completing tasks to another day.  For this moment in time, let us remember that our preparation gives way to the presence of our amazing creator.  I hope that we grasp on to the reality that God gives us ways to remain connected to the joy that sustains us, cares for us, and constantly recreates us each and every day.

Lent is the Season of…

When I left my childhood faith and embraced the United Methodist tradition, one of the many practices that I never observed until converting was Lent.  I just thought the season was reserved for Catholics, and I didn’t give it a further thought.  I also assumed that Lent was just about giving up things.  Little did I realize that the observance of a “Holy Lent” would become a very important part of my faith practice.

I first approached my first Lenten season with fear and trepidation.  I thought to myself, “This is a dreary and depressing season.  Who in the world wants to observe this time of the year?”  Everything seemed to suggest mourning and sadness.  I was uncomfortable and did not like the tone of the church.

As I grew in my faith, I found that Lent offered me a way to rediscover the very basics of my belief in God.  I learned the importance of remembering my mortality and searching the very depths of my soul for the things that brought me closer to death.  I kept asking myself, “What separates me from my creator?”

Over time, my practice grew to include things that I could add to my day to remind me of God’s love and kindness.  Last year I added a commitment to writing a blog each day, this year I will pray the daily prayers of the Office of the Divine Hours.  Whatever I chose, I hope to increase my awareness of the presence of the Holy One, and to once again offer myself to His service.  I pray that I may grow in the love and knowledge of Christ, and develop something far beyond a faith practice.  I hope to begin a life commitment.

Praise be to God, who constantly reminds us of His love for us. 

Easter, Half Off?

I was walking through a grocery store the other day and happened upon a sign that read “Easter items, half off!” Inside the sales bins there were chocolate bunnies and various and assorted candies. Everything was marked “for sale.” Naturally the theologian in me almost exploded. I thought about the many times that I raced towards Easter having endured the obstacle course known as Lent. It was as if Easter was the official day of celebration and the race was over. The victory having gone to the winner and everything else was a letdown.

For those of us who worship in liturgical churches, last week only marked the beginning of the Easter season. Our themes focus on the triumph of the Spirit and how humanity has received the most incredible gift that could ever be given. We celebrate God and the incredible workings of the Divine in humanity. Christ has risen indeed.

The early church fathers looked forward to each Sunday as being a mini-Easter. They celebrated the victory of the risen Christ and emphasized the wonder of the resurrection and the power of God every week. Their praises to God were for a lifetime and not limited to one day or even one season. Their lives and understanding of the mystery of God’s gift of love empowers us to keep the faith by telling the story of our God throughout the year. We, like the early church fathers who have gone before us, share our journey that is forever intertwined with the story of how Divine love has changed us.

Easter is not just a day filled with Easter Bunnies and great chocolate. There is no such thing as Easter being “half off.” Our full time joy in God’s wonderful and radical love for us is about a total commitment and not simply backing off after a national holiday. Our wishes for a happy Easter are not limited to one day, but are a living testimony to the glory of God! It is with great joy and gratitude that I wish you a very “Happy Easter!”

Where in the world is Jesus? Reflection on John 20:1-18

Where have they taken my Lord? We contemplate the answer to this question. We are led to accept an inherited theology which answers the question for us. We are then challenged to conform to some idealistic way of thinking regarding the resurrection and expected to experience the rebirth of God in the same way. Perhaps another way to phrase the question maybe, “Where is Jesus in the middle of our discovery?”

I do not believe that our faith sustains each of us with a spiritual experience that is already laid out and defined for us. We are not an “assembly line” people of faith. Our spiritual life is made new when we encounter this thing called resurrection. That is, our Lord has come back to us. What once was dead is now alive. Our faith is carried out with our own relationship to this text from the Gospel of John, and how that relationship changes and renews us.

Mary was so caught up in her grief that her Lord was stolen that she couldn’t even identify the man standing right in front of her as Jesus. She couldn’t identify Him until He spoke into her life. He spoke her name.

Many of us identify with this passage. We are like Mary. It is hard to accept the miraculous in our lives. Maybe it’s because we have been wounded to the point that we cannot imagine that such a wonderful event, the spark of the Divine, could ever be revealed in our own lives. Maybe we are so cynical that we can’t even entertain the notion of some divine presence ever revealing itself to the world, much less to us individually. Maybe we are tired of trying to seek God. We have not heard the answer.

Folks, God is alive and in front of you. The Divine can be made known to you in many forms. Maybe you are still in darkness. I am talking a spiritual hell of which you feel that you are trapped. Perhaps you have taken a detour on your path that has taken you to do and say things that you could never have imagined you would do and say. Whatever that is for you, maybe for a second or even a moment, you catch a glimmer of hope. The spark of Divine light rises from the pit of your gut as you begin to hear a still small voice say, “Maybe there is a way out of this.” That is the voice of God.

There are many people who can tell me exactly how and why they came to a moment where they experienced the presence of the resurrected Christ. It was real and alive. It took your breath away. You know that you have given your life over to the care of God. It was amazing.

Maybe there are those of you who are still searching for the promise of a renewal of spirit.
Look around at the people in your life and see living testimonies to the love of God. What were people who were spiritually dead are now reborn.

Now, let us return to the idea of resurrection. Well, I can’t explain it to you. I can present the pages on which the story of our text from John unfolds and tell you that I experience the resurrection on a daily basis. That is my story. That God speaks rebirth into my life every day. The resurrection calls to us. It tells us that Jesus was crucified, died, and rose again for us. The idea of hope and the sense of a second chance pull us in to a relationship with God. We turn to God as the source of salvation. We depend on God and the gift of grace which is freely given to us. The gift of redemption is all about the Divine presence which unfolds itself into the world. The best and only thing that we can do is respond to this message. There is no cookie cutter answer here. It is an individual journey that is between humanity and God.

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