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.