Thursday, November 17, 2022

Center


Colossians 1:17,19 (WEB)
[Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things are held together. For all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him.

"His presence was healing, and it changed the world. In a sense he didn’t do anything! 'Everyone who touched him was healed' (Mark 6:56)."
-Henri Nouwen

It is so easy to lose track of the reality that Jesus does so much in us that we don't see. We are so often more concerned about our outer actions than we are about our inner selves. 

I have been in a season during which focusing on Jesus was hard to do. I am thankful that God sent help through my husband, our doctor, my therapist, and understanding friends and family. 

Healing comes in so many ways, and whether we realize it or not, Jesus is there at the center of it all.

Thanks, Jesus.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Flow

Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash 

Psalm 46:4-5a (NLT)
A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. God dwells in that city.

Driving in the city is a novelty for me these days. I have become accustomed to rural roads. So as we drove over and under endless flyaway interchanges yesterday I saw them with new eyes and they looked like such a jumble of chaotic action.  They look like giant concrete spaghetti that can't be eatten because it got left out overnight and hardened into a knot of noodles. 

Life sometimes feels like the busyness and chaos of freeway flyovers. So many places to go and things to do, and not enough time. The cars going every whichway reminds me of the song...Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with you...

Psalm 46 gives me a different perspective. Instead of chaotic spaghetti, rivers of life flowing through the city, carrying bits of God's love in their hearts to all the places they go to share with the people they meet.

Sometimes the difference between chaotic spaghetti and flowing rivers is a night's sleep, or a favorite song, or even just a few good deep breaths.

Thanks, God.

Photo by Kermit Nicou on Unsplash 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Speak

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash 

"I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
Exodus 4:12

Speak. Words fill our world. On our phones and computers we text and message and email. We read and write blogs and articles. On TV, the radio, podcasts, audio books, we hear words. In our interactions with people in person, we fill the air with words.  

Do we need more words?
Or do we need different words?

I sometimes pray Ephesians 4:29 for myself: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Words that build others up, encouraging words, are a joy. They soothe our souls. But sometimes silence is helpful, too. Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is "a time to be silent and a time to speak;"  

How do we know when to speak and when to be silent?  Or what to say?  God told Moses, "I will help you speak and give you the words."  Jesus told the disciples something similar. Luke 12:12 says, "The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them."

I have a hard time trusting God for this. What if I get stuck? What if I blurt out something God didn't give me to say?  Sometimes it's tempting to give up trying or to think words don't matter. But they do.  And somehow God gets the right words through despite my fears, and despite all the noise.

Thanks, God.

"So speak life, speak life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak life, speak life
When the sun won't shine and you don't know why
Look into the eyes of the broken hearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak life"

Toby Mac
Songwriters: Jamie Moore / Ryan Stevenson / Toby Mckeehan
Speak Life lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group, Capitol CMG Publishing

Monday, November 14, 2022

Ebb and Flow

Galveston Bay

I will sing about the Lord’s faithful love forever; I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations with my mouth.
Psalms 89:1 CSB

For many years I loved this verse because it reminded me of the joy of singing. Today I am more focused on the second half and the idea of proclaiming with my mouth. So much of my life now is about writing and preaching, but I tend to feel like those are inadequate as service to God and to the world. Words are so small and fleeting. Most of what we read or hear is so easily forgotten.  But a song goes on forever. 

I was surprised to learn today that the mouth of a river is not its beginning, as I had previously thought, but instead it is the point at which it flows into a larger body of water. The picture above is where the San Jacinto and Trinity rivers flow into Galveston Bay. The waters mixing together make fertile environments for all sorts of wildlife. The mouth of a river is a place of abundance. 

In Matthew 12:34 Jesus says, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Surely that's why so many verses in the Bible encourage us to take good care of our hearts, our inner selves. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Whatever comes out of our mouths is where the river inside us joins the larger body of life that is the people around us.  

Words can hurt or heal. May we be taking care of our insides so that we are pouring out God's goodness and hope instead of cynicism and despair. It can be challenging. I wish talking to a psychologist were as easy as seeing other kinds of doctors.  It's worth the effort. 

May God bless our efforts to be the mouthpiece of his grace.
Thanks, God.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Dealing With Our Junk

Photo by Joshua Coleman on Unsplash 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Psalms 51:10 NRSV

I am taking a class on spiritual care in trauma. This week the instructor talked about the importance of self care. The idea isn't new to me. Pastors get reminded about this often. But the reason she gave was what struck me:  "If we do not care for ourselves, we risk harming those we are trying to help" (Jennifer Ohman-Rodriguez).  In other words, if we don't deal with our own junk, we could be passing it on to the people around us. 

I know the signs of burnout and unresolved junk in myself: resentment, cynicism, exhaustion, apathy, depression, and, once in awhile, anger.  I am learning new ways to take care of myself: therapy, art, honesty, to name a few.  It's a long and winding road, as the Beatles sang, and it does lead me back to You (God).

Knowing how much work it takes to deal with my own junk, I am not surprised that there is unresolved junk in our lives, or that our churches have been places of harm, rather than the safe havens we want them to be. But we can work on that and make it better. I think it starts with honesty with ourselves about the existence of the junk. 

Thanks, God.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

How Do You Draw Grace?

Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash.

I have been working on drawing the images that come to mind when I think about verses of scripture.  The Bible is full of narratives that give us entire scenes, but even the non-narrative parts are full of imagery. I have gotten stuck, however, in thinking about how to draw grace. 

The word grace in Greek is charis. In Greek letters, χάρις. The first letter looks like a cross laying down. One way to draw grace would be to draw a cross, especially since the cross is one of the most common symbols of Christianity and of the gift of grace we have through Jesus who died on a cross.  Also, the first letter of Christ is that same χ, so a cross would be an easy answer. But that seems insufficient for the immensity of grace.

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8). Based on this verse I might draw grace as a face.  Even though we cannot literally see God's face, I think we find God's grace in the eyes of the people around us sometimes.  Hopefully often, actually. 

Psalm 23 in the International Standard Version says "Truly, goodness and gracious love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will remain in the LORD's Temple forever." For this verse, I would draw one person chasing another (in stick figures, of course). Though I don't know that we are running away from God, necessarily.  Then again,  maybe sometimes we are. 

Titus 3:7 says, "Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life." (NLT) Here are God's eyes again!

Ephesians 2:5 says "That even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)" (NLT) Again a cross would be a good picture, or maybe a life preserver. 

Photo by John Torcasio on Unsplash 

This photo reminds that there is a brand of soap called Lifebuoy. Grace could be drawn as a bar of soap, since God's grace makes us clean, just as if we'd never sinned.

Based on this verse: Ephesians 2:8-9 "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God." I would draw a box with a ribbon around it and a big bow on top, but then what would be inside the box exactly?

I suppose I will keep on pondering this one. What about you? How would you draw grace?


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

God Smiles


May the Lord smile on you
    and be gracious to you.
Numbers 6:25 NLT

 What does it look like or feel like when God "smiles on you"?

I suppose that's the unanswerable question in some ways. But I have a theory. You know how we automatically smile back at someone who smiles at us? Maybe whenever something happens that makes us smile, that's God smiling on us.  When it happens, we probably don't really notice that much, but if it's God smiling on us, maybe we should at least say, "Thanks, God."

Today my daughter shared a picture of her two-year-old son wearing a baseball cap, a headband, mom's slipper and one of mom's crocks, carrying his fishing pole, dead Alexa, and stuffed fox.

How cute is that?!? This pictures makes me smile.  I think God smiled on me this morning through this picture.

Thanks, God!