“You want me to write a weekly article for the newsletter, and the newspaper? What? Are you kidding me?” I’m pretty sure I said those words out loud when I was informed of this expectation. While I have written many things for a number of church newsletters, the focus was always informative in nature, I wouldn’t say they were ever inspiring or thought-provoking. Knowing that the audience was going to be much bigger concerned me a bit. What could I ever say that would cause anyone to stop and read my article. Surely they would just skim right on by my headline.
Here I am nearly 4 years down the road with well over 100 plus articles. At some point along the way I began to see task of writing something weekly as a spiritual discipline. Every week has become a practice in paying attention to the everydayness of my life, being ever mindful of God’s presence all around me. The time I spend writing has become an opportunity for me to take an experience and transform it into something meaningful, giving space for God to speak. What I have discovered over time is that I am more keenly aware of how the most insignificant moments can bring significant spiritual insight.
As I consider this new chapter in my life, I challenge myself to keep up the practice. While I won’t be in an environment that expects me to produce such each week, I will be in a place where I can continue to make an impact through my experiences. Perhaps these last few years learning this practice of crafting a meaningful thought in 500 words or less has been preparation for what lies ahead. Certainly the affirmation I have received has encouraged me to press on with my writing. One friend upon learning of my departure gifted me with a journal and simply said, “keep writing.”
So here is what I leave you with…we all have a story to tell. We all have something to share. And we are all gifted in varying ways to tell that story. When I consider the trivial things I feel I have written and the kind notes, comments, how someone was moved by what I wrote…I’m convinced we all have something to share. And in a world that is so flooded with negativity, criticism, and opinions, the good stories need to be told. The true evidence of God’s love and presence need to have a light shined upon it. And even the least of these need to know that they matter.
So thank you Mountainside UMC for providing the space for me to share, and to the Hot Springs Village Community for reading my words. I am forever grateful. I will keep on writing, sharing my journey in this life, trusting that somewhere and somehow it will make a difference.
Miracles are an interesting thing to consider. There are lots of varying options about miracles, as to their existence or even their validity. I think it is a matter of how one looks at things. It’s always that half full or half empty point of view.
Recently a friend shared with me about a bible study she is doing. It’s all about the miracles of Jesus, and how in our desperate moments we can discover God. The author shares how that miracles come when we are desperate. This holds some truth when you consider the first miracle we have recorded of Jesus. It was at the Wedding of Cana, when Jesus mother is insistent that Jesus do something when they ran out of wine, or when Mary and Martha are distraught that their brother Lazarus has died, or the man who was blind and made to see. In each case, desperation was present.
I can remember when my girls were young and they were dead set on doing something themselves, regardless of my offer to help. I would consent to let them try, but would always promise that my help was available. Usually after many failed attempts, they would come seeking my help or ask my advice and I would happily give assistance. I know I did this to my mom countless times, because I was at best “hard-headed.”
Not much has changed when it comes to our relationship with God. We may know full well that God is our help and strength, our teacher and guide…but we have this stubborn streak in us that wants to do things on our own. Sometimes things work out okay, and other times not so much. It’s in those desperate times that we can see how God is ever-present in all that we do.
We tend to make life really hard. We over think things, make it far more complicated, and burden it with need to be independent and self-reliant. However, that is not how we are created. So desperate times call for desperate measures…and many times that is in the form of a miracle, however big or small it may be. It reminds us of the evidence of God and our need to rely on God for everything. We were never created to be alone, to forge through life with others around us, and we were most especially not created to be without God at the center of our lives.
I love cardinals, I’ve probably spoke of it before. Currently if you follow me on Facebook, you will even see that my page has an awesome picture of a row a cardinal all lined up on a fence. Over the last few years, these beautiful birds have played a role of spiritual significance for me. Many who know this often share with me pictures and quotes concerning the cardinal.
Recently a friend shared with me a post from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Many of you may have her devotional book or get her daily post as well. The image was of a plump red cardinal sitting on an icy limb with this quote, “be willing to go out on a limb with me…if that’s where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be.”
As I make a transition in my life, the quote couldn’t be timelier. There are days when I seem to be on the verge of overwhelming tears. I start feeling incapable and question myself when things seem uncertain. Quickly I remind myself that I must move forward without fear…with a confidence that God has and is calling me to a new place, a new way of ministry, a new and exciting opportunity to change lives.
Being out on the limb can also feel lonely, especially when no one knows or understand what you are doing, or even why. I’ve realized that for much of my adult life I have only taken risk that were a sure thing or stepped out when I knew that the cost to fail were minimal. I’ve always seemed to have a plan B. For me to have complete faith and trust in God’s call, this time there is no plan B. And what I’ve learned is it’s about God’s plan, and not mine.
The safest place to be is where God is leading, however great or small that may seem to you. Even the smallest steps can bring to us reassurance that we can trust where God may be leading. Being out on the limb requires us to stay alert, be ever aware and mindful of the many things that can try and break that limb.
In those moments when I feel tears starting to well, I must ask myself, why? Are they tears of joy, or tears of anxiety or fear? When I know them to be tears that want to derail me from God’s plan, I must remain steadfast in knowing that God’s love and grace far outweigh any inadequacy I may feel. I must hear my own words in my head, “God doesn’t call the equipped, but rather he equips the called.” And I must remember that even if I am out on a limb, that I am never alone because Christ is communicating with me all the while I hold His hand in trusting dependence.
Have you discovered the joy of decluttering and organizing your home and belongings? If you happen to frequent Netflix maybe you have stumbled across Marie Kondo and the series called “Tidying Up”. Marie is a Japanese organizing consultant and assist families in bringing peace to their homes by getting rid of the clutter and organizing in such a way that everything has a place.
It seems that so many have gotten on the bandwagon that donation centers have seen an increase in donations. As we pack and prepare for a move, I too, have been doing my part to increase donations at the Habitat Restore, TEEN Challenge, and Goodwill. After 25 years of marriage and an empty nest, I decided it was time to let go of so many things that we have hauled around move after move. The trick to letting something go is to ask yourself if it “brings you joy.”
How often do we ask ourselves the question of whether something brings us joy or not? Probably not near enough. Marie Kondo says that we should even feel some sort of energy from the things we keep, if not let them go. For so much of my life I have kept things out of sentimentality. Having things with sentimental value isn’t a bad thing, but does the object replace the memory or stir your heart for the connection you may feel? And what about those things we hang on to because we think we might need them? Guilty…thinking I might need some valueless object someday for who knows what.
So as I have systematically gone about organizing and packing, I have discovered huge joy in only claiming what I need and what really does have meaning for me. And the truth is, I still have plenty of stuff!
Sometimes I think that our need to surround ourselves with stuff somehow seems to hinder our relationship with ourselves and the God who loves us. To truly see ourselves as God sees us, we have to let go of things; our habits, our hang ups, our hurts. Because what God wants is for the joy that we discover and know…comes from God…a joy like no other, an everlasting joy. So may we all lighten our loads, declutter our hearts, and let the joy of the Lord live within us…for all to see!
The author, Anne Lamott, has been noted to say; “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
On Sunday as I sat in awe and witnessed the ordination of a dear friend, I was transported back to the very first time I met her. She came to my office, rather wide-eyed, seeking help and needing a guide as she navigated a path toward ministry. I was immediately drawn to her, not sure why, but maybe we were just kindred spirits. Nonetheless, that day began a now twelve-year friendship.
Sonna has taught me so much about life, and love, and grace. You see our lives by no means parallel one another. We are quite different. Sonna was born in a place where violence was rampant. Her parents were absent, her father eventually went to prison…her future was by no means bright. Had it not been for the initiative of an aunt and uncle to remove her from such an environment, she may not even be alive today. Sonna tells the story of looking out the back window as they drove away from such a desperate place. Even at four years old she was astute enough to recognize the situation for what it was.
So, as I watched with tears rolling down my face, the evidence of grace was so real. It was grace that took Sonna out of a no-win situation. It was grace that provided opportunities for Sonna to grow-up in an environment that encouraged faith and learning and that anything is possible. It was grace that was the gentle guiding hand when life seemed overwhelming and too much to handle. It was grace that lit a fire in Sonna to be passionate about how through relationships anything can be overcome. It was grace that opened doors when so many seemed to be closed. And it was grace that never left Sonna where she was…but through the healing power of a God who loves with a reckless love…Sonna reached a new mountaintop full of hope and promise.
It is God’s grace that swoops in and rescues us in our darkest moments. Through grace we find the confidence to trust God with our truest self and with God’s help live into the person we are intended to be. Had Sonna not been given the chance to break the cycle of oppression in her young life, the holy moment I witnessed would have never come to be. Praise God from whom all blessing flow!