Thursday, December 6, 2012

Good Times and Bad-- I thank you for the times I've had and the times to come

Advent Devotional Commentary
Jesus Beloved Son  Henri Nouwen
Isaiah 26:4
December 6, 2012

Here is one of my favorite quotes from the Dr. Who episode "Vincent and the Doctor"

Amy Pond: We didn't make a difference at all. 
The Doctor: I wouldn't say that. The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey. 
[hugs Amy
The Doctor: The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.

I like to think of life like a tapestry (well sometimes).  Imagine such a tapestry with no darkness.  It would float in a way that would make it less real.  It would be cartoon-y and garish. It would have no depth, no gravitas, no contrast, no shadow to reveal the light.  Without the darkness the image would be flat.  Without darkness no brightness would POP!  Indeed without darkness you would not see word on page.  We strive to fight the darkness and without it what would we do -- simply bask?  

It is difficult to praise God in the midst of our storms (thank you Casting Crowns)but it is that praise of God's faithfulness and steadfastness that brings hope and inspiration despite the storm.  I love telling the storm how big my God is and knowing that God understands exactly how big my storms are.  

I think that the Doctor's next line speaks volumes.  "And I think that we added to his pile of good things."  And isn't that what we are called to do, as Christians?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

From Pastor Sarah for Wednesday Dec. 5

Wednesday, First Week Of Advent December 5, 2012

Filed under: Advent — suchkindways @ 11:55 am
“In prayer, we seek God’s voice and allow God’s word to penetrate our fear and resistance so that we can begin to hear what God wants us to know. And what God wants us to know is that before we think or do or accomplish anything, before we have much money or little money, the deepest truth of our human identity is this: ‘You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter. With you I am well pleased.’”Advent
I think what struck me most about today’s reading is that it comes from a book entitled, “A Spirituality of Fundraising.”
Imagine if all of our talk about money and stewardship in the church grew out of this truth–that our identity is rooted in God’s unconditional love for us and pleasure with who we are, and that the only way to really learn and internalize this truth is to listen to God in prayer. As we begin to believe in our belovedness, how would that impact our relationship with money? I imagine less anxiety, more awareness of money as a tool rather than a reward or a measure of worth. I imagine more generosity.
My husband shared with me his concern for one of his favorite authors, Brennan Manning, who in addition to major health issues, has recently lost his home in Hurricane Sandy. If you have enjoyed and benefited from Manning’s work, which has helped many of us deepen our understanding of God’s grace and our belovedness, please visit this update page and consider ways you can extend support through prayers, words of encouragement and donations

The Spirituality of Fundraising??? I think not!

Advent Devotional Commentary
Jesus Beloved Son Henri Nouwen
December 5, 2012
Isaiah 25:9

Okay I was following along with this devotional.  You cannot serve two masters: God and money.  In order to have a right relationship with money we must have a right relationship with God.  How we relate to money and the world is not a simple financial matter but a spiritual one.  I get all that and struggle with the practical need for cash and the faithful dependence on God.  I need to be a good steward of my resources and believe that Jesus is sufficient.
But then in italics at the bottom it says "A Spirituality of Fundraising", huh? what??  What does this have to do with church dinners and bake sales?  Fundraising is to pay our bills right?  What is spiritual about selling our wares to light our building?  But maybe that is the point.  We have forgotten our primary relationship when we strip the spirit from any activity including fundraising.  It is no wonder that the public thinks the church is after their wallets and not their hearts.  I know that there are statistics to back up this statement but I don't have access to them.  People give more to causes that they believe in or have a personal relationship with.  For instance, our change for change collection is always larger when it is personal connection or local focus or has a champion within the congregation.  Our giving to the Relay for life is so generous because we have looked into the eyes of those who fight and we can't not give.  (I know it's an awkward sentence but read it again.) Our greatest giving comes from a generous place and a strong relationship.  Imagine if that relationship and generosity was focused on or relationship with God.  Then perhaps we wold be glad and rejoice.  After all...  This is the day (this is the day) that the Lord has made (that the Lord has made) Let us be glad (Let us be glad) and rejoice in it ( and rejoice in it).  hee hee you know you sang that last bit.  Well so did I and I am glad that Jesus is sufficient for the day and in him are all my tomorrows.  Whom shall I fear?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Filling a bottomless cup- Sisyphus much?

Advent Devotional Commentary
Jesus Beloved Son  Henri Nouwen
December 4, 2012  Tuesday

Isaiah 11:4

I guess it is appropriate to read this as the flu runs rampant.  Blessed are the poor: poor in spirit, poor in connection, poor in relationship.  How frustrating is it when someone we care about is feeling poorly and we can not affect a healing.  We feel helpless and hopeless. When we help the poor we are serving God and the poor person is providing the opportunity for that service.  We will never be done serving God and God's people yet we get frustrated when our service does not give us the results we want in the short term.
The band Kutless has a song called "Even if."
The lyric remarks
"Even if the healing doesn’t come
And life falls apart
And dreams are still undone
You are God You are good
Forever faithful One
Even if the healing
Even if the healing doesn’t come"

If we have chosen to give care to the poor then we we have chosen to also to take care of ourselves and chosen to move closer to God.  We must realize that it is not the short-term result that is central but the moment to moment blessings that are shared.  The scripture from Isaiah reminds us that the poor will be judged with righteousness not by results but with right living day by day.  We are called to serve the poor but not to destroy ourselves in the process.  We are called to rely more on God and less on ourselves.  This is an amazing opportunity to center on the love of God and the love of our neighbor.  We are not called to burn out but to burn brightly with the power of the Holy Spirit, the inspiration of Jesus and in conjunction with God's new creation.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Come and Find the Quiet Center

Advent Devotional Commentary
Jesus, Beloved Son
December 3, 2012
Matthew 8:8

Living in the sacred center where I am called as God's child is a call to innocence?  I would rather call it a place of belief, of faith.  This is a world of possibility rather than probability and statistics.  It is a place of wonder and imagination.  It is based on knowing that God is sufficient.  It is understanding that the world is promoting false needs that leads to the insecurities of what if??  It is believing that we can live in the Kingdom of God now rather than waiting until some unknown time.  This will put us into sharp contrast to the world and we will not meet with their approval.

Yet, in the quiet sacred center we truly are who we were created to be.  We are the royal priesthood.  We are joint heirs with Jesus.  We are vessels of the Holy Spirit and in that we are blessed and beloved.  We can be confident in this inheritance.  And in this confidence we can forgive, we can heal, and we can be part of God's new creation.  We need only to return that innocence, the belief of the child.

I immediately thought of the song from The Faith We Sing, Come and Find the Quiet Center.  The lyrics read:
1 Come and find the quiet center
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.
2 Silence is a friend who claims us,
cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us,
knows our being, touches base,
making space within our thinking,
lifting shades to show the sun,
raising courage when we're shrinking,
finding scope for faith begun.
3 In the Spirit let us travel,
open to each other's pain,
let our loves and fears unravel,
celebrate the space we gain:
there's a place for deepest dreaming,
there's a time for heart to care,
in the Spirit's lively scheming
there is always room to spare!"
These lyrics do not speak of the cynicism of the world and the inherent insecurity of this world.  Even the tune speaks of peace and security.  Please use it as a prayer to inspire us to that attitude of innocence and imagination.You Tube link to the Song Come and Find the Quiet Center

Pastor Sarah's Monday: Our Sacred Center

Advent Devotional Commentary
Monday Dec 3 2012
Matthew 8:8
Jesus Beloved Son Henri J.M. Nouwen

Monday, First Week Of Advent December 3, 2012

Filed under: Advent,Resources — suchkindways @ 8:46 am
I have pledged to join Pastor Jodi Haier in an Advent blogging discipline. We are both using the same Advent devotional with our churches (click the picture below for more information on the devotional), and we will both be sharing nearly-daily personal responses to each day’s readings. We’re excited to see how different our responses might be, and also where there will be places of convergence. If you are using this devotional resource and would like to share your own reflections, post them in the comments of either of our blogs, or send us a link to your own blog–we’re happy to post links!
“Can I choose to make innocence my home, think from there, speak from there, act from there? It is a hard choice because my insecure self wants so much to be part of a world that controls, rewards, and tells me whether I am good or bad.”
Innocence as the antidote to insecurity? Wow. I never would have thought of that. It sits right, though, with my experiences. I’ve definitely felt the ways that insecurity can make me want to seize control and sort the world into well-labeled boxes. Innocence, which in this case I think Nouwen is using to mean a simple trust in God’s provision and love, allows life to happen.
I think of the difference between my 16 month old son and my 4 year-old daughter. My daughter is already developing those insecurities that plague us all, and as a result, she is slightly less trusting, and slightly more controlling. Rather than trusting that I will do what is best for her, she attempts to control my behavior to get the result she wants. My son, on the other hand, is still young enough that he mostly goes with the flow–as long as Mom or Dad is close by he trusts that his needs will be met.
Of course, a big part of the difference, too, is lack of ability. My son has less impulse to control his world because he doesn’t know how to do most of what he wants done–he can’t peel a banana, or fill his bottle with milk, or change his own diaper. My daughter, however, is just capable enough that she likes to believe she can do anything and everything.
And that–that describes me, pretty well, too. Just capable enough that I like to believe I can do anything and everything. It is frightening to imagine relinquishing control and trusting God to provide. Is there a difference between this simple trust and naivete?Pastor Sarah's blog

Heart of My Heart

Advent Devotional Commentary
Jesus Beloved Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Luke 21:34  Sunday Day One

Usually I do not comment on the Sunday devotional.  But this being the first devotional of this series,...  Actually,  The first sentence of the devotional jumped out at me.  "Jesus has to be and to become evermore the center of my life."  I can't get past this.  I know I keep crowding that spot with me and my stuff.    Whenever I want someone to change their perspective I have them draw out their circles of influence and circles of concerns.  When you are done the center circle contains you.  How would that picture change if Jesus was at the center of our life picture?  Where would I go?  Would I surround Jesus?  But doesn't Jesus surround me?   ARGHHHHHH!!

     The difficult reality that scares me is:  The I that is me must fade away so that "the thousands of people, events, ideas and plans that occupy my inner life must become all one in the one and only name:Jesus."  This scares me because it  screams the loss of identity.  Perhaps, it is when I lose myself in Jesus that the true Jodi comes to life.  There is that scripture that says in order to gain my life I must lose my life. (Matthew 16:25)

     Indeed, and in deed, we are to find our sacred center.  We are called on our disciple walk to entrust God with everything not because God will provide us with everything but because God first gave us everything.  Besides I have this (not funny) joke that goes, "If you acquire everything where will you store it?" It is scary to give all of ourselves to the cause of Christ.  What a deep and intimate relationship is called for with Jesus as the heart of our heart, fire of our life, lover of our soul, our only concern, our only desire.  One would not understand the true cost of this commitment if we were not scared.  Yet, this is the only commitment that is guaranteed not to disappoint.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mission Impossible???

Well, I did it.  I introduced  new mission statement for my church and I did it all wrong. (sort of)  I collaborated with God and with the church and community in mind created this statement to help us focus and grow etc.  It should have been created by the people for the people but that just didn't happen.So here it is:

KNOW GOD (as opposed to no God)
BE KNOWN by the love of Jesus
BE MADE NEW through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit

We will use it for all our decision making.  For example:  How would a second service help new people KNOW GOD?  How would we BE KNOWN in the community because of this service?  How is this service tapping into the Holy Spirit to make us part of God's New Creation?

If we can't answer these questions deeply and thoroughly then we cannot move forward with this project.

However, from the get-go I have suspected that this my be an impossible mission.  Who can know an infinite God?  A God that is timeless and forever will always be a mystery. I love the quote from C.S. Lewis' The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe:
 "He'll be coming and going. One day you'll see him and another you won't.
 He doesn't like being tied down - and of course he has other countries to attend to. 
It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. 
He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion."
―Mr. Beaver[src]
After all God is Alpha and Omega, beginning and End, abiding with us and yet...knowable?  I don't know. I have asked on Facebook what do people know about God?  What do people want to know?  What will people be uncomfortable knowing about God and is that significant?  How do people Know what they know? How do they learn more about God?  Is it impossible to KNOW GOD?  What do you think? 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Things I Learned from my Puppy

everything is worth a little nibble just to help us understand that thing more
Rolling onto your back is not an act of submission but an invitation to scratch a belly
every moment is a great time to tell me how cute, wonderful, and/or good I am
It is a time to celebrate if I release my waste in appropriate time and places.
Every meal is a huge blessing
I can count on my people.  When I run to them they will catch me up and offer protection and love.
catching my tail is not a waste of time but part of my mission statement,  I will catch it and it deserves to be chewed on and shown who's boss.
Everyday I grow
My space space is my space.
Outside is a wonderful place to explore smell and chew
It is normal for me to mess up and my people will still love me.
Wiggle, bounce, climb, snuggle, lick

My little Molly Mayhem is already part of the family.  I thank the Wheeler family who loved her from birth right on through today.  I am fortunate that such a wise yet silly friend and pet is now a part of my everyday.  Molly is smart and I am blessed by what she is teaching me but terrified about the things I am teaching her unintentionally.  However the basic skills of living together in love are not to be feared.    She is already enjoying the freedom of living in the spirit of grace.  And I am reminded of the gifts of grace and truth and love that have been lavished on me.  Will I bask in them and bound joyfully into the world not fearing the hawk or the hole which may consume me?  Will I make a joyful noise to the Lord just because I can.  I can't wait to see what Molly will teach me next.  Molly!  Molly!  Molly??  MOLLY!  Hey Andy, where's the puppy?  MOLLY?  MOLLY?  oh molly.....

Monday, June 11, 2012

Job Description

Holy Spirit Series
Forgotten God                                Francis Chan
The God I Never Knew                    Robert Morris
Commentary                                  Jodi Haier

Forgotten God pp. 74-76

“The Counselor teaches and reminds us of what we need to know and remember.   She is our comforter, our advisor, our encourager, and our strength. She guides us in the way we should go.” (yes I changed the He to She)

Wow let me get this straight.
Job Title: Great Counselor
Job Description: Comfort us in all our struggles.  Advise us to hang on to God amongst all our storms and dramas, Encourage us in meaningful ways that go beyond being a cheerleader.   The Counselor is to be our strength not just when we get to the end of our strength but always.  No days off, no hours off, for all eternity.

Scripture References:  Psalms 143:7-10, John 14-16; Acts 9:31, Acts 13:2, Acts 15:28, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 1 John 5: 6-8

Psalm 143: 7-10 (Message)
Hurry with your answer, God! I'm nearly at the end of my rope. Don't turn away; don't ignore me! That would be certain death.
   If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I'll go to sleep each night trusting in you.
   Point out the road I must travel; I'm all ears, all eyes before you.
   Save me from my enemies, God— you're my only hope!
   Teach me how to live to please you, because you're my God.
   Lead me by your blessed Spirit into cleared and level pastureland.

If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice… Isn’t that encouragement?  Isn’t that Comforting?
Point out the road I must travel  Isn’t that asking for critical advise from someone you trust and know you can rely upon. 
Save me from my enemies The role of a counselor to help us realize the resources we have to fight our enemies. 
You’re my only hope! Once again a call for encouragement.
Teach me how to live to please you.  Oops something I left out from the Job Description, life coach; teaching us how to live in the light of God.
Lead me She guides us in the ways we should go.

In one scripture we get this kaleidoscope of understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit.  What more can the Scriptures add?  Please let me know what else needs to be added to the Job Description from the scriptures listed.  

Give Me Words to Speak

Holy Spirit Series
Forgotten God                                           Francis Chan
The God I Never Knew                             Robert Morris
Commentary                                              Jodi Haier

pp. 74-76 Forgotten God

If the Holy Spirit dwells within you, a number of things should (oh how I hate the implications of the word should, but that’s another blog)be a part of your life.”  The book lists several promises of God that we can count on.  I am going to highlight several of them along with the corresponding bible references.

“The spirit helps us speak when we are in precarious situations and need to bear witness.”
Mark 13:11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

Now many of us will say, but I will never be arrested and brought to trial.  I say lets look at the language.  The word arrested means stopped. Your focus has been taken into custody by this person or event.  You no longer can do anything else but address this situation.  And as for being brought to trial, well, how often have you felt judged and you have defended your position before your peers and other interested bystanders?   Now that we have put ourselves into the scripture isn’t nice to know that if we will but calm ourselves and listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will be given exactly the right thing to say.  Gee, how often have we prayed for that.  Well, how often have you actually used the words of the Holy Spirit?  And if the Spirit has remained silent….. hmmm what does that tell you, but SHUT UP!?!

Luke 12:11-12  When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Ok you may say that this is the same verse just a different gospel.  Well, I agree with you.  However, let us look at the language.  “Synagogues, rulers and authorities” are the bosses or leaders of an institution.  They are people of authority, position, honor, influence and standing.  If you are “brought before them” I don’t think it is to discuss your raise.  These are intimidating times.  We have all faced them and often felt alone while doing so.  Here we are not facing the legal system but something far less structured.  Here attitude and relational connections are very valuable.  And who are you to stand before Goliath?  Well, with the help of the Holy Spirit you are you are David and the Spirit has given you exactly the right stones (hee, hee, yes those stones, and confidence too) and reminded you exactly where you have placed your sling.

A person who lives a spirit filled life is in control of what they say and when they are silent.  By listening to the Holy Spirit, we will appear to be wise because our words will reflect our love for God and God’s people. 

Please listen to Aaron Shust’s song: Give Me Words to Speak Here’s the link:

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Holy Spirit is a person

Holy Spirit Series
Forgotten God                     Francis Chan
The God I Never Knew      Robert Morris
Commentary                            Jodi Haier 
June 8, 2012

Forgotten God Chapter 3

“What does the Spirit do?  Her works are ineffable in majesty, and innumerable in quantity.  How can we even ponder what extends beyond the ages?  What did She do before creation began?  How great are the graces She showered on creation?  What power will She wield in the age to come?  She existed She pre-existed She co-existed with the Father and Son before the ages. Even if you can imagine anything beyond the ages, you will discover that the Spirit is even further beyond.” -St. Basil the Great

Well, I did change the Spirit from a he to a she, but the rest is all St. Basil. 

1.  The Holy Spirit is a person; a person who has an intimate relationship with each of us and with God and Jesus.  We see her working with the Father and Son throughout the Scriptures. 

Matthew 28:16-20 (The Great Commission) 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

2 Corinthians 13:11-14 11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.  12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings.  14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

By doing something in someone’s name we are using all the influence and power of that person.  We are acting in the character and under the protection of that person.  And if we succeed, we acknowledge the true victor, the person whose name we lived under.  All glory goes to the one we serve.  That is one reason the Lord’s name is so special.  It implies a relationship that most of us ignore.  This relationship is intense, personal and eternal.  By choosing Christ, and accepting the name Christian we pledge to do all things in the name of the Father, of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  And yet, we sometimes relegate the Holy Spirit to the indefinite article, it.  The Holy Spirit’s personhood is essential to the relationship described above.  The Holy Spirit is not a wisp of a once was but the Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of Christ.  How then can we relegate the Holy Spirit to the Ghost of something past?   
The scripture from 2Corinthians reminds us of how we live in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.  It is impossible to be in fellowship with a thing.  Fellowship requires openness, honesty, accountability, communication, forgiveness, love and hard work; qualities that are impossible to conjure up with a thing.  It is the personhood of the Holy Spirit that ensures and affirms that our hope is placed on nothing less Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  That hope is from the salvation that Jesus offers and the opportunity to live life along the path of love.  And the Holy Spirit is our guide, our nurturer, our protector and comforter, the one we can always count on.