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Life goes on

BirdsI posted this on Facebook a few weeks ago:

I don’t suppose he will be overly missed. I pay more attention than many, and I am not certain who he was.

I heard a homeless man died last weekend (near my office). I asked about it, from the only source who will have information to share…another “homeless” person, working that intersection.

“John,” she said. She said everyone thought it must be him, because they haven’t seen him in a while. He was known to drink a bit (a lot). Apparently, he’d gone downtown, gotten drunk, got in a fight which resulted in a head injury, got staples and released from ER, made his way back north, to his home (the campsite near the intersection), or maybe directly to the intersection, where he went to sleep (passed out?) under the bridge and died.

“What’s your name?” I asked, as the light turned green.

“Elisha.”

Elisha, I wish you well. It’s a hard life.

They aren’t really homeless, or without friends, but they exist beyond the fringe. And, when they die, they disappear without much notice.

We see them on the corner, working. Like it or not, they are part of our society. Let’s notice. Maybe offer food (something soft, since many have dental issues) … (or socks or a bottle of water) and a kind word.

I never met John, but I probably saw him. Maybe he was working on a day when I squeaked through under a yellow light. Or on the phone, or distracted, or….

It doesn’t take much effort to roll down a window and have a 30 second conversation, especially if you are already stuck at the light. It might even help you start your day with a better perspective.

This FB post was effectively my first “blog post” in almost a year, reminding me of the process: contemplation, urge to share, freedom in writing, concern for public opinion, and ultimately, confidence that if it’s God’s will, it will be blessed.

Sunday’s readings included God’s revelation of plans for Abraham and Sarah, that they would conceive and bear a child in their old age, and of Sarah’s response (laughter) and her anticipation that others would laugh with her. (Genesis) And, from the New Testament, we heard Jesus’ instructions to his disciples, sending them out, like sheep into the midst of wolves, to share the good news of his coming, to perform miracles of healing, raising from the dead, cleansing lepers and casting out demons. And, we heard of the risks (betrayal, hatred, flogging, persecution, death). (Matthew)

Although we’re not told of their reactions, I can imagine the range of emotions that must have followed these instructions. I can relate, even though my challenges (and risks) are significantly less than theirs.

I am striving to be more intentional, raising my own awareness of God at work in the world around me, listening carefully for instructions, trusting God. It’s what we’re each called to do. It’s our lifelong mission.

LORD, help us hear your voice. Help us know your instructions. Give us grace, to overcome our emotions, so we can carry forth with courage and strength. Amen. 

The Trinity

Hibiscus budGlory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen.

On Sunday we celebrated the Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Our first reading was the story of creation, Genesis 1:1-2:1:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

We’re introduced to God, the Almighty creator of heaven and earth, and the Spirit, present from the beginning.

In John 1:1-2, 14 we are introduced to the Son, relative to the beginning.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Isaiah spoke of Jesus’ coming in the context of the Spirit:

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord

Ultimately, the Spirit was given to us:

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. …. You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17)

“The Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13a)

“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. ” (John 14:26)

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for  wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28)

The Spirit is with us. The Spirit is in us. The Holy Spirit is our connection to God. There is one Spirit that works with each of us. With all of us. Although we are diverse, we are one in the Spirit.

This period of Ordinary Time, the Trinitytide, stretching between Pentecost and Advent, is an opportunity to focus on the Spirit – the one Holy Spirit that is in us and around us. Our Advocate and teacher, intercessor and helper, our spiritual and worldly guide … I’d like to grow deeper in my relationship with the Spirit of truth, wisdom, strength, and understanding. How about you?

Paul’s blessing is appropriate, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

When lit up by the fire of the Spirit….

SpiritLast Sunday was the Day of Pentecost, the 50th day of Easter, commemorating the New Testament blessing of the Holy Spirit, received by believers, filling them up and spilling forth in testimonies told in alien languages, witnessed by a diverse group of devout foreigners who’d gathered from every nation, and were able to understand the message about God’s deeds of power (Acts 2:1-6).

During the last few months, I’ve been studying the Benedictine Rule of Life, and more recently a study on Experiencing God. As I listened to the readings during last week’s Service, I thought about my own role in the greater community. How do I serve God? How do I allow the Holy Spirit to be active within me? How well am I receiving the breath of God?

Doesn’t it just figure that as I began to seek to know God’s will, and ask for God’s blessing in my endeavors, and to knock on the door of opportunity I found myself sucked into a swirling, gnarly mass of distractions and obligations?

“God, isn’t this what you want?”

“God, did I misunderstand your direction?”

“God, is this the right door? Was my knock too timid?”

I think I know the answers. In considering my own actions, and reflecting on my tiny progress on this path, I know it is the right direction. I must remain diligent and faithful. God doesn’t promise that service will be easy, but that the burden will be light. I know that some of the distractions should not have distracted me and some of the “obligations” were not mine to bear.

The last time I sincerely gave myself over to God, praying every day, “Here I am, God. Send me!” God didn’t send me, so much as brought His mission to me. That was three years ago, and it seemed like an impossible assignment. My knees have buckled more than once. Bowed down, I’m in a better posture for prayer. I’m learning to let God shoulder more of the burden, letting Him own the yoke He gave me. Learning that it’s not all on me.

Experiencing God means letting God be God. It means being humble. It means being intentional, turning to God, not relying on myself.

As we sang this hymn for the Gospel reading, I prayed the prayer:

Breathe on me, breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours
to do and to endure.

Entering into the Season of Pentecost, the Ordinary Time that fills the calendar between Easter and Advent, spanning so many uneventful months…let us pray for the life of the Holy Spirit within us, to seek and to serve God, according to His will.

LORD, you sent your Spirit, breathing life into our souls, renewing your kingdom on Earth. Renew us each day, reviving, awakening and purifying our hearts, giving us the strength and courage to obey your will. May your glory endure for ever. Amen. 

Where is your joy?

Fruit{Today I started to write a post about joy, and found this draft I started some time ago. I decided to finish the original thought.}

DATE UNKNOWN: 

I’ve been thinking about joy for weeks. As a fruit of the Spirit, it’s elusive. By definition, it’s a feeling. Yet, we’re told to control this emotion. To rejoice always. To be joyful in the face of trials. To be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.

The Book of Hebrews honors those who lived their faith, demonstrating confidence in what is hoped for and assurance in what is unseen. We are called to imitate the faith of our leaders, anticipating the same righteousness. Paul quotes Habakkuk, “The righteous live by faith.”

James tell us that faith without action is dead.

I profess great faith, but I live in fear and comfort. Comfort holds me in a warm embrace, rewarding me with prompt responses to email, tasks crossed of a to-do list, hours spent in meetings, or doing chores, or …. time wasted in the familiar. Fear prevents the actions that will open doors of uncertainty and doubt.

I know what I want, what I pray for, but days slip by without progress. I’m strong and determined, yet weak and unsure. Every day, I think, “Tomorrow.” But, tomorrow never comes. Until, today.

This week, I’m making changes. I’m taking action. I’m opening the door and, God willing, I’m stepping through.

Like the man who found a treasure in a field, and joyfully s….

June 16, 2016

A friend and I have been going back and forth via email about, well…life, I guess. Our discussion came around to the topic of joy. How to find it, how to embrace it, how to cling to, despite the gale force winds that might blow it on down the road without us.

I started this post over 2 years ago, and once abandoned, it might as well have been far down that same road. I’m guessing this post was written around the time our grandchildren moved in with us. A lot has changed since then, but much remains the same.

Another friend posted this on facebook today:

joy“Good” is the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23a)

Peter writes about “Life by the Spirit” and offers a similar counterpoint as this Cherokee grandfather: walking by the Spirit excludes negative emotions.

Here are some no-no’s from Peter’s list: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.”

Sometimes we forget (or downplay) the highlighted items. Perhaps we don’t consider them equal to other forms of “evil”. But they are definitely joy killers.

Self-control is key.

With a little self-control, can we turn our thoughts away from the things that erode our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being? Can we be intentional in our pursuit of joy? Can we create joy (I find joy in creating, as I sew for my grandchildren). Can we retain joy in the face of someone else’s “evil” (see the highlighted no-no’s)? Can we refrain from “evil”? Or are we victims of our lack of self-control?

Each day, with each encounter, we must choose our path, deciding how to respond to the world around us. Let’s choose to be like the man who joyfully sold all he had in order to acquire the treasure he discovered. That treasure is the kingdom of heaven, where joy abounds. Live by faith, in this truth.

Dear LORD, guide my thoughts. Help me turn away from that which tears me down. Let my heart seek (and find) joy. Amen.

 

Celebrating life!

20160422_133202On Friday, my focus began to shift, as I learned more about Jim, the man we tried to resuscitate on Thursday. He was a year older than my own husband, Jim. He was a man of deep faith and conviction. He married his childhood sweetheart, and they have two 20-something daughters. He was a dedicated employee, and by all accounts, a good man.

A memorial in the hall outside of his lab offered a place to note thoughts and feelings, so I did. And, I went in the lab and visited with Jim’s coworkers.

I’ve stayed in communication with the three other members of the impromptu first responders. We’re advocating for CPR training, and better education and awareness of on-site equipment (I learned well after the fact that there are AED defibrillators available, and oxygen). I’ve volunteered to be on the Building Emergency Team.

I’m giving/getting lots of hugs. I’m rejoicing in this day. I’m trusting God’s greater plan, and celebrating life.

As we move through this Easter season, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Today’s Gospel reading serves as a reminder of the directive given to us by Jesus himself, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

What greater expression of love for humanity than to invest a few hours in training that you pray you never need, but will prove invaluable if you do.

LORD, Thank you for shaking me awake, for catching my attention, for directing me and others to the glory of your Kingdom. Let us celebrate life! Amen.

How quickly things change

EMT1A friend of mine (Bernie) recently encouraged me to take a course on Psychological First Aid. An important lesson from that training is that we, as humans, need to tell our stories in order to effectively process tragedy.

Today, I experienced tragedy. I’ve told the story 10 or more times already today, but I’m not done. I’m still processing the events of this morning. So, I’m telling the story again, here, as a means of healing and creating a framework for hindsight.

This morning, I arrived at my office later than usual, due to traffic, due to rain, due to not-one-but-two accidents on the interstate. As I came around the corner into the ground floor hallway, I saw a small crowd of people, gathered around someone who’d collapsed.

“Does anyone know CPR?”

I dropped my jacket, backpack, purse, and gym bag and I started CPR. I don’t know CPR. I was certified when I was 16 years old, and I took a refresher in ~1995. That was a long time ago. But whatever I could do was better than doing nothing.

For the next ~10 minutes, 3 of us took turns performing CPR while a 4th person remained-on-the-line with 911.

Finally, the EMTs arrived. We stood by and watched, with a few others, waiting, hoping, praying. Finally, some 40 minutes later, they wheeled him away, still compressing his chest and giving him oxygen. Still helping him fight for life.

An hour or so after that, I learned that he didn’t make it.

There’s a lot more to this story, coincidences of encounters with folks who were able to later provide information I might not have otherwise learned, but the overarching power came from the convergence of strangers. The 3 of us who took turns, the 4th on the phone, and, most importantly, the person we fought for…prayed for…encouraged and cajoled to fight. Strangers. Now, bonded in a way you can’t know unless you’ve done something similar.

It would be an understatement to say I was rattled, but I’m at a loss for words to articulate all that I felt. All that I’m feeling now.

Alan, Pete, Bernadette…thank you for being there with me this morning. We were a great team. Jim, I’m sorry for the ending of this story. If I could, I’d give it a happy spin. I never knew you, but you will be missed. Rest in peace, brother.

LORD, may we never forget that through you, we are empowered. Despite the outcome, it is by your will. May your kingdom come. Amen. 

Resurrection: the restoration of life

20160410_164545Ask me how I’m doing, and I’ll likely tell you the truth. I’m tired. I’ve been tired for two years, which coincides with the life-changing onset of Parenting Round 2.

But, in truth, we’re finally moving past the transition (2 years is a long time, but … it’s a big change). I can’t say that we’re good at this, but we’re getting better, and it’s the new normal. So, there.

Today’s Scripture readings were spot on, as we continue our focus on Easter’s theme of resurrection. The first reading, from Acts, tells of Saul’s conversion from antagonist to disciple. This time, it wasn’t Saul’s story that got to me, it was Ananias’…who said, “Here I am, Lord.” Then, “NOT THAT! That’s a dangerous assignment!” (paraphrased)

But the Lord said to him, “Go….” So Ananias went….

I know that feeling.

God calls, and (hopefully) the natural reaction is, “Here I am, Lord!”

But then, when you get the memo, we react with,”Oh, no! I don’t think so. Can we try something else?”

I appreciated the Psalm today, “You have restored my life, O Lord.”

  • You have lifted me up (from day 1 of this adventure)
  • You restored me to health (whew! I was sick for the 1st 6 months!)
  • You brought me up / restored my life (finally!)
  • Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning (yes!)
  • You have turned my wailing into dancing (I’m not quite there yet)
  • You have clothed me with joy (working on it!)
  • My heart sings to you without ceasing (a lofty/worthy goal)
  • I will give you thanks forever. (Yes, yes I will)

I have no doubt, and will tell anyone who asks, that the only reason I’m standing is by the grace and strength of God almighty. I’m over 50 years old, and my house has been overtaken by the 7-and-under chaos of 3 children who are learning to read and cope with society and their own feelings of strength and weakness. And, I’m right there with them (in many respects).

In the middle of the chaos of my garden-that-was-once-an-oasis rises the annual glory of Easter lilies. They’ve arisen, budding, from the midst of the chaos created by Bermuda grass invaders and dwarf bamboo infiltrators and various other competition for earth and light and nutrition and survival. I lack the strength/energy/fortitude to cultivate the children and the garden. I’m not sure how this battle will end, but I’ll retain focus on the children, and God, and the light of the Son he sacrificed for our salvation. In the end, I remind myself, that’s what matters.

LORD, by your peace I am refreshed. Help me keep my eyes on you and your eternal glory. You have restored my life, O Lord. Once, I felt strong as a mountain; then, in the face of your calling, I was filled with fear. But you had mercy, and you are my helper. Let me never forget. Amen.