Hope

Dear companions on the journey,
These last months of writing and thinking on what words God would have me offer have been delightful, at times challenging and rewarding as I have heard back from you.  
It is time for me to take a break from my morning writing before we resume live worship on June 28.  I know now that writing will be an important part of my spiritual expression and growth.  I will begin again and will let you know by post when that time arrives.  Until then, I leave you with a Christian writer that has inspired me for as long as I have been in ministry. 
Fredrick Buechner’s words are somewhat dated as you read some of his references. Much has happened since he gives this sermon on our need for hope.
May we find time to continue to visit with God, listen, be inspired and take hope with us each day.  Jesus would have it be so, for He does love you! God knew in your creation that it was good – you are good!  
I love you, you remain in my heart and prayers.  God holds you at the center of God’s heart.
Pastor Lisa
A Sprig of Hope
In our blog post every Monday we select a reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday, and pair it with a Frederick Buechner reading on the same topic. Next Sunday we will celebrate the third Sunday after Pentecost.  Here is this week’s reading from the Gospel of Genesis:

Genesis 6:9-22; 7:248:14-19
These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, ”Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh–birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth–so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families. 

Here is  Buechner’s sermon “A Sprig of Hope” which was originally published in The Hungering Dark and later in Secrets in the Dark.

 
It is an ironic fact that this ancient legend about Noah survives in our age mainly as a children’s story. When I was a child, I had a Noah’s ark made of wood with a roof that came off so you could take the animals out and put them in again, and my children have one too. Yet if you stop to look at it at all, this is really as dark a tale as there is in the Bible, which is full of dark tales. It is a tale of God’s terrible despair over the human race and his decision to visit them with a great flood that would destroy them all except for this one old man, Noah, and his family. Only now we give it to children to read. One wonders why. 

Not, I suspect, because children particularly want to read it, but more because their elders particularly do not want to read it, or at least do not want to read it for what it actually says and so make it instead into a fairy tale, which no one has to take seriously—just the way we make black jokes about disease and death so that we can laugh instead of weep at them; just the way we translate murder and lust into sixth-rate television melodramas, which is to reduce them to a size that anybody can cope with; just the way we take the nightmares of our age, the sinister, brutal forces that dwell in the human heart threatening always to overwhelm us and present them as the Addams family or monster dolls, which we give, again, to children. Gulliver’s Travels is too bitter about humankind, so we make it into an animated cartoon; Moby Dick is too bitter about God, so we make it into an adventure story for boys; Noah’s ark is too something-or-other else, so it becomes a toy with a roof that comes off so you can take the little animals out. This is one way of dealing with the harsher realities of our existence, and since the alternative is, by facing them head on, to risk adding more to our burden of anxiety than we are able to bear, it may not be such a bad way at that. But for all our stratagems, the legends, the myths persist among us, and even in the guise of fairy tales for the young they continue to embody truths or intuitions that in the long run it is perhaps more dangerous to evade than to confront. 

So what, then, are the truths embodied in this tale of Noah and his ark? Let us start with the story itself more particularly let us start with the moment when God first spoke to Noah, more particularly let us start with Noah’s face at that moment when God first spoke to him. 

When somebody speaks to you, you turn your face to look in the direction the voice comes from; but if the voice comes from no direction at all, if the voice comes from within and comes wordlessly, and more powerfully for being wordless, then in a sense you stop looking at anything at all. Your eyes become unseeing, and if someone were to pass a hand in front of them, you would hardly notice the hand. If you can be said to be looking at anything then, you are probably looking at, without really seeing, something of no importance whatever, like the branch of a tree stirring in the wind or the frayed cuff of your shirt where your arm rests on the windowsill. Your face goes vacant because for the moment you have vacated it and are living somewhere beneath your face, wherever it is that the voice comes from. So it was maybe with Noah’s face when he heard the words that he heard, or when he heard what he heard translated clumsily into words: that the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, filled with violence and pain and unlove—that the earth was doomed. 

It was presumably nothing that Noah had not known already, nothing that any of us who have ever lived on this earth with our eyes open have not known. But because it came upon him sudden and strong, he had to face it more squarely than people usually do, and it rose up in him like a pain in his own belly. And then maybe, like Kierkegaard’s Abraham, Noah asked whether it was God who was speaking or only the pain in his belly; whether it was a vision of the glory of the world as it first emerged from the hand of the Creator that led him to the knowledge of how far the world had fallen, or whether it was just his pathetic human longing for a glory that had never been and would never be. If that was his question, perhaps a flicker of bewilderment passed across his vacant face—he lines between his eyes deepening, his mouth going loose, a little stupid. A penny for your thoughts, old Noah. 

But then came the crux of the thing because the voice that was either God’s voice or an undigested matzoh ball shifted from the indicative of doom to the imperative of command and it told him that, although the world was doomed, he, Noah, had a commission to perform that would have much to do with the saving of the world. 

“Make yourself an cause if the voice proceeded not from the mystery of the human belly but from the mystery and depth of life itself, then Noah had to obey, and Noah knew it. And out of common humanity this is the point to shift our gaze from his face, because things are happening there that no stranger should be allowed to see, and to look instead at his feet, because when we have to decide which way we are going to bet our entire lives, it is very often our feet that finally tell the tale. 

There are Noah’s feet—dusty, a little slew-footed, Toonerville trolley of vessels, clouted from side to side by the waves and staggering like a drunk. It was not much, God knows, but it was enough, and it stayed afloat, and granted that it was noisy as hell and stank to heaven, creatures took comfort from each other’s creatureliness, and the wolf lay down with the lamb, and the lion ate straw like the ox, and life lived on in the ark while all around there was only chaos and death. 

Then finally, after many days, Noah sent forth a dove from the ark to see if the waters had subsided from the earth, and that evening she returned, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf once again, for the last time, the place to look, I think, is Noah’s face. The dove stands there with her delicate, scarlet feet on the calluses of his upturned palm. His cheek just touches her breast so that he can feel the tiny panic of her heart. His eyes are closed, the lashes watery wet. Only what he weeps with now, the old clown, is no longer anguish, but wild and irrepressible hope. That is not the end of the story in Genesis, but maybe that is the end of it for most of us—just a little sprig of hope held up against the end of the world. 

All these old tales are about us, of course, and I suppose that is why we can never altogether forget them; that is why, even if we do not read them anymore ourselves, we give them to children to read so that they will never be entirely lost, because if they were, part of the truth about us would be lost too. The truth, for instance, that, left to ourselves, as a race we are doomed—what else can we conclude?—doomed if only by our own insatiable lust for doom. Despair and destruction and death are the ancient enemies, and yet we are always so helplessly drawn to them that it is as if we are more than half in love with our enemies. Even our noblest impulses and purest dreams get all tangled up with them just as in Vietnam, in the name of human dignity and freedom, the bombs are falling on both the just and the unjust and we recoil at the horror of little children with their faces burned off, except that somehow that is the way the world has always been and is, with nightmare and noble dream all tangled up together. That is the way we are doomed—doomed to be what we are, doomed to seek our own doom. And the turbulent waters of chaos and nightmare are always threatening to burst forth and flood the earth. We hardly need the tale of Noah to tell us that. The New York Times tells us just as well, and our own hearts tell us well too, because chaos and nightmare have their little days there also. But the tale of Noah tells other truths as well. 

It tells about the ark, for one, which somehow managed to ride out the storm. God knows the ark is not much—if anybody knows it is not much, God knows—and the old joke seems true that if it were not for the storm without, you could never stand the stench within. But the ark was enough, is enough. Because the ark is wherever human beings come together as human beings in such a way that the differences between them stop being barriers—the way if people meet at the wedding, say, of someone they both love, all the differences of age between them, all the real and imagined differences of color, of wealth, of education, no longer divide them but become for each a source of strength and delight, and although they may go right on looking at each other as very odd fish indeed, it becomes an oddness to gladden the heart, and there is no shyness anymore, no awkwardness or fear of each other. Sometimes even in a church we can look into each other’s faces and see that, beneath the differences, we are all of us outward bound on a voyage for parts unknown. 

The ark is wherever people come together because this is a stormy world where nothing stays put for long among the crazy waves and where at the end of every voyage there is a burial at sea. The ark is where, just because it is such a world, we really need each other and know very well that we do. The ark is wherever human beings come together because in their heart of hearts all of them—white and black, believer and unbeliever, hippie and square—dream the same dream, which is a dream of peace—peace between the nations, between the races, between the brothers—and thus ultimately a dream of love. Love not as an excuse for the mushy and innocuous, but love as a summons to battle against all that is unlovely and unloving in the world. The ark, in other words, is where we have each other and where we have hope. 

Noah looked like a fool in his faith, but he saved the world from drowning, and we must not forget the one whom Noah foreshadows and who also looked like a fool spread-eagled up there, cross-eyed with pain, but who also saved the world from drowning. We must not forget him because he saves the world still, and wherever the ark is, wherever we meet and touch in something like love, it is because he also is there, brother and father of us all. So into his gracious and puzzling hands we must commend ourselves through all the days of our voyaging, wherever it takes us, and at the end of all our voyages. We must build our arks with love and ride out the storm with courage and know that the little sprig of green in the dove’s mouth betokens a reality beyond the storm more precious than the likes of us can imagine.

How can we pray to thee, thou holy and hidden God, whose ways are not our ways, who knowest what it is to be a man because thou hast walked among us as a man, breaking with us the bread of our affliction and drinking deep of the cup of our despair? How can we not pray to thee when it is thy very Spirit alive within us that moves our lips in prayer?
Hear, O God, the prayers of all thy children everywhere: for forgiveness and healing, for courage, for faith; prayers for the needs of others; prayers for peace among the desperate nations. Whether thou withholdest what we ask, whether thou answerest us in words that burn like fire or in silence that burns like fire, increase in us the knowledge that thou art always more near to us than breathing, that thy will for us is love. 
And deep beneath all our asking, so deep beneath that we are all but deaf to it ourselves, hear, 0 God, the secret song of every human heart praising thee for being what thou art, rejoicing with the morning stars that thou art our God and we thy children. Make strong and wild this secret song within until it bursts forth at last to thy glory and our saving. Through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen. 

 
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Praying peace, hope and love abound with you always!
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Humbleness

Humbleness

Humbleness, or humility, is a virtue that appears incongruent with the nature of humanity.  Much of the conflict that emerges in relationships relates to the lack of humbleness.  Rather than give you a definition of humbleness, just consider that the lack of humbleness usually is seated in self-centeredness.  Anything or any ways of self promotion or aggrandizement for our benefit is an anathema, abhorrent to the way of humbleness.

Society has hijacked humility, changing the truth about what humbleness is, a strength of character that promotes fairness and equality, to a perception that humility reveals weakness. In fact, humility is risky business.  Humility requires that we put ourselves in a position of vulnerability.  Humility takes courage, a strong awareness of purpose and worth in the eyes of God, and trust that no matter the circumstance, our way of humility is the way of Christ.

Jesus revealed humility in his interactions with people.  Those seeking him were not turned away because of their place, or lack of status in society.  He ate with the disenfranchised, the lepers, he taught women, healed indiscriminately all who sought relief from life’s pains and sorrows.  The penultimate act of humility was when Jesus stood before Pilate and others who could release him from sure death, he stood silent.  His humility in strength, not weakness enabled us to be reconciled by God.  Jesus could have brought the full force of God down on the nation of Rome and the people demanding his death.  Jesus’ choice to be obedient unto death for our salvation is our most profound witness to the way of humility.  

When we react with retaliation, verbal or physical, to win the upper hand, we have lost our way as Christians.  This need to be in control over others has been with us since Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden.  A lack of humility separates us from the love of God, and the way of Christ.  Consequences abound.  

We are witnessing a world of upheaval these days that originates with a practice of inequality  against people of color.  The fuse has burned long and deep, causing generations of pain for our black brothers and sisters, a form of enforced humility pressed upon them.  We, who are privileged white, have mistakenly bought into the message of “we are better, smarter, etc.” and have taken this sense of entitlement to heart.  Some have only just begun to examine the ways of speaking, interacting and relating to the black community individually and moreover as a whole that reflect Christ.

We have allowed the “way we were taught or brought up” to be our shield against a more vital mounting pressure of a spiritual nature.  This call of Christ to show humility and repentance must now overshadow our former “comfortable” ways of speaking, our communal ways of accompanying the disenfranchised, only seeing ourselves as beneficent givers.  We must accept that generations of black men, women and children have suffered under the heavy hand of oppression in education, job opportunities, healthcare, and even the freedom to vote.    

As followers of the first Way-Maker of life and salvation, we can no longer excuse our lack of awareness, turn a cold cheek to the ways we may be propitiating a practice that diminishes black people, for that matter, anyone. If God can humbly take our form, becoming both Human and Divine, how can we not humbly take on the same form of love and mercy that has been given to us?

A Prayer for our Spirit.

Lord, give us the courage to examine our hearts.  We can not change the world without You. We desire to please You, so change us Lord.  We trust you with our all.  So, Lord, bring to light the hurtful and harmful ways that we have, without thought, or with intent, diminished our brothers and sisters of color.  

Help us to repent of our actions. We humbly invite Your Holy Spirit into this vulnerable moment of our soul.  As we confess, we humbly pray that you would release us from the shame of our own actions, planting within us a new conviction and a fresh insight into the adjustments we need to make in our thoughts, words and actions. 

We worship You, Lord Jesus, and give thanks for the grace you continue to bestow on us.  We have not earned your love, you have given it freely.  May we embrace Your love and give freely to the world, unencumbered by our past, emboldened by You for our future.  May we be your love and light for Your Glory.

Amen.

Pastor Lisa 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2: 5-8

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

“Humbly We Adore Thee”. May the simplicity of the song bring you near to God.
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Gratefulness

Gratefulness

I am not sure that gratefulness is a virtue, but if it isn’t, it should be.  Gratefulness changes everything of the heart from bitter, angry, power-hungry, self-centeredness to sweet, forgiving, humble, loving ways.

I can wax poetic about gratefulness and what it offers when we live that standard, but what we need is to BE grateful.  Grateful in ways that develop out of awareness of what is good, resilient, hopeful and promising for us and for our world. 

Gratefulness seems to be in short supply these days.  And if something comes along to spark goodness that inspires us to be grateful for anything, you can expect somebody, somewhere to make every effort to tear it down.  I read a story about Rahul Dubey, in D.C., who opened his home to 70 marching protestors as the curfew hit and people could not get home.  People were asking to sit on his steps, get out of the way of advancing police, avoid being pepper sprayed or arrested. Through the night, he entertained and gave shelter to a host of strangers.  It was inspiring.  It made me proud and very grateful that someone could overcome the obstacles of personal space and safety to offer shelter.  Sure it was dangerous, absolutely there was risk of Covid virus. But I was pressed into a deeper awareness of how much that selfless act changed me, and I am sure those who gratefully accepted his hospitality.  And don’t you know it – yesterday a journalist wrote an expose on the host, saying that he had ulterior motives, that he worked a field that would benefit from his hospitality, and that he had only opened up his home for selfish reasons.  NAH! I don’t accept that.  

I don’t know if Rahul is Christian.  Virtues can be lived and exhibited without having the source of the Holy Spirit.  However, I can say that having the source of God inspired and Spirit strengthened resolve to live in ways that change me for good, that offer hope and promise, is a sacred and holy unearned gift.  Inspired out of God’s goodness to us, gratefulness seems to be a summation of the attitude that we can develop by telling the story of Jesus Christ.  Here is the a big picture story that will provide heart and soul gratefulness.  I am grateful to God for loving us so much that God sent God’s self to humanity to resolve the dilemma of a broken world.  I am grateful for the obedience of quiet, unknown vessels of God, like Mary and Joseph. They, at great risk, obediently accepted responsibility to receive Jesus, the gift of hope for the world.  They nurtured  prepared him for his call to live the Gospel of Love with selfless abandon.  I am grateful that while Jesus lived over two thousand years ago, in a tiny spot on a huge planet, despite power, evil, wars, temptations and human failures, that the Gospel is still the greatest story ever told.  I am grateful for Jesus, divine and human, who took on our sins to reconcile us to God.  I am so profoundly grateful that in Christ, I can be forgiven and come to God for all that I need, confident in God’s mercy.  

The immensity of the love of God is a source of gratefulness.  Like parched land without rain for days on end, showers of love renew us as we read and remember God’s character.  New life springs out of our awareness.  Grateful.

The small ways of gratefulness must be cultivated.   It is a practice.  We are called by our faith to build up not tear down ourselves and others.  Gratefulness seems to me, to be a gateway to a holy perspective. With gratefulness we are able to move beyond our “sometime nature” of negative, self-absorbing complaints.  Gratefulness sets us apart from society, which appears to breed and thrive on suspicion about every action, everyone, everything.

Gratefulness allows us to see the good in God, the good in ourselves, our community, our leaders, our nation and our world.

May we live gratefully, in ways that witness to Jesus Christ’s story, our hope and the hope of the world.  May we cultivate the life-giving, daily practice of naming what we are grateful for, each morning and every night.  To God be the glory, in whom all things are found!

I am grateful for you, for your love of God!  Pastor Lisa 

“Hymn of Grateful Praise”.  Best enjoyed outside in the cool morning, with the birds accompanying this lovely rendition.
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Patience

Patience

In the next days, I will be spending some time in exploring virtue’s that we hold valuable as a reflection of our Christian life.  I did a bit more reading, and was reminded that the Catholic Church is a proponent of the seven virtues.  The Stoics and early church recognized the meaning of virtues, using them as either a moral or Christian character that can be developed.  Christians believe that virtues are developed by obedience and reliance on the Holy Spirit to refine our nature towards holiness of life and heart.  In a very short explanation, therein is why we are engaged in seeking a virtuous life.

As we recognize the need for improvement, the Holy Spirit will bring certain experiences to light revealing our need to grow in Christian life and actions.  So we begin to be conscious of the impatience in ourselves.  And all of a sudden we find that we have many occasions of impatience! One after another. It’s like when you get a red car, thinking how you never see many red cars on the road.  The minute you drive off the lot, you begin to see red cars. Everywhere. All the time.

I remember when our girls were young, I was at home with them, working and enjoying being able to have so much time with them.  However, being together was also demanding.  My patience wore thin.  I knew I could do better, so I began to pray to the Lord that I would have more patience with our children.  And it felt like my patience got worse.  I struggled, prayed more, and still found myself impatient with whatever came my way.  Finally, I realized.  My patience was being refined by my prayer.  The only way to gain patience is to have it tried and found strong in the Lord’s leading.  So what I asked for was being given so I could get better with my shortcomings.  It was a long time before I prayed for patience again!  But I do still pray for patience.

The Holy Spirit has prompted me to “refine” my patience these days.  Like the red car, when I need to refine my patience, I notice a glut of impatience.  With myself, with others, with circumstances, with – hey – you know we can be impatient over anything! Letting impatience take root in us opens the way for unholy actions – road rage, yelling or demeaning others for their lack of doing what you want as fast as you want them to,  holding the impatience until it simmers to a boil, creating an opening for many ways we hurt others and ourselves in the process.  Surely, patience is a holy work.

It is easier to look to others rather than ourselves, but Jesus had something to say about that.  In Matthew 7: 4-6 Jesus says “Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”  Jesus is reminding us that there are those things within us that demand addressing before we begin to blame others or excuse our actions because of what someone else has said or done.  

Being patient requires that we take stock of our own thoughts, judgements, actions, words before we bring them to light.  Learning to trust that God already knows us, our thoughts and desires, and still wants a relationship with us.  In that trust, we allow the Holy Spirit to reprimand us for things that are not of God, not redemptive in nature, not revealing love.  In short, not Christlike.  So we face our impatience and the outcomes it creates, repent and ask God to form us into more gracious, patient people.  For the love of God!

Loving God means letting go of the ways that separate us from the presence of God.  Impatience builds walls with others, most especially God.  If that virtue is part of our growing edge then we have an open invitation to grow in patience.  We are being taught with by the Master of patience.  Just think how patient God is with us.

I love you, am praying for you.  Pastor Lisa

“Patience, People”    While this is an Advent refrain, aren’t we always waiting on the Lord?  May the refrain inhabit our day, inspiring us to patience.
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Compassion

Compassion

Yesterday was a full day.  I realized for the first time since beginning to write morning devotionals that I hadn’t written one.  It was noon!  Where did the time go?  So I sat down and thought.  Kindness.  

After sleeping on that, this morning God gave me the direction for the next few days.  Write about the virtues of an active Christian life.  We don’t often think “so what virtue will I build into my daily life?”.  Perhaps this is part of the virtue of virtues (Snigger!). Yes, there is a benefit to recognizing that virtues are developed out of a larger perspective:  having Christ in our lives transforms our understanding of who we are, what is of value, and how we can be more of Christ and less of ourselves.

Virtues are kind of a sidebar to our development of spiritual habits.  Whether we are praying more, seeking ways to serve others for Christ, worshipping alone, or with others in any form, from small gatherings to online services, or studying and reflecting on God’s word, each has an impact on our spirit and soul.

As we develop these spiritual disciplines we become more aware. Aware of God’s presence, mercy, compassion, love, grace.  The list is endless.  Encountering any facet of the litanies of God’s character is a revelation.  Read the story in Matthew 6: 25-34 about worry.  Jesus looks upon the crowds that are following him, seeing more than people, but into their souls, wracked with all kinds of concerns, questions, fears.  Fears about what they will eat, wear, how they will survive.  

Jesus, in holy and true compassion, speaks to the very essence of their need.  He says, “Don’t worry.”  Now that is a tall order isn’t it!  Some of us make a profession out of worrying.  We may know someone who has actually earned a doctorate in worrying!  We can joke about it, but worrying is debilitating.  Worry stops us from moving forward in life.  We become immobilized. We tend to settle into the “worr’a space”, building on one worry after the other.  In short notice, worry can consume our every thought, erasing out any room for life. Life that includes joy, gratitude, hope, and especially trust.  

Worry eats trust up like my grandson eats dessert, with amazing gusto, even when there is still food on his dinner plate.  Worry can become such a normal way of thinking that is becomes our comfort zone. There are some, who, if there is nothing to worry about, will create something to worry about.  Now that is sort of crazy-making isn’t it?  Crazy for the person who needs to feel unsettled to feel right, and crazy-making for the people around them, who have no understanding of why this person is creating problems that are not even there.

Trust is key to banishing the worry syndrome.  Trust in God.  Worry feeds on the reality that we are not in control.  We fight for control over circumstances, people, even ourselves at times knowing that there is little that we can change.  God breaks in and speaks truth through Jesus, saying, “Therefore, not worry… about what you will eat, …or drink… or wear”.  Compassion resonates through these admonishments.  All the things that can pull us away from the benefits of trusting in God are given perspective.

Jesus is constantly placing the goodness of God before us, so that we can receive and live life to the fullness we were intended to experience.  These beautiful words of Jesus are compassionate.  Giving without harming.  Speaking hard truths, but offering healing and hope to us.  Never withdrawing the mercy and compassion that we are coming to know is of God.  

Jesus reveals the nature of God to us in transforming ways. Being on the receiving end of compassion is heart awakening.  We see God with us, accompanying us with gracious compassion.  We feel the love of God, not judgement, for our shortcomings.  We know the acceptance of God and the healing energy of compassion that re-shapes us into trusting and knowing that God has Us.

God has got this, whatever is our worry.  God offers compassion to You, whatever your need.  May we experience the compassion from God, so that we can be more compassionate to others. I love you, pray for you, and trust in God for our needs.

Pastor Lisa

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 5:33

 

Compassion Hymn Live.       Embrace God’s Compassion!
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Kindness

Kindness

Being kind seems to be in short supply these days.  I am just making a general statement, based on observation.  One could make some guesses about why.  What do you think?  The lack of kindness among society speaks to my pastor’s heart. Being kind opens up a place for us as followers of Jesus Christ to examine how we are holding up to Christ’s model.

Maybe we have surprised ourselves in being unkind.  We can say: it is because of circumstances, like the pandemic, or it’s because someone has parked in our favorite place, or we can’t eat out where we love due to the pandemic, or we can’t worship how, when or where we want.  Maybe we say: it’t their fault.  The famous “they did it”. It was the other person who acted, said, or did something that has caused us to be angry, and respond with unkindness to others.  

Whether circumstances or people initiate our internal feelings, it is ultimately our responsibility to address the discontent within, to work through it with the Lord, with trusted council and prayer.  Unkindness causes the person distributing it the most pain, for they end up distancing themselves from others by their actions or words.  The true weight rests with the one who has lost the passion and desire to be kind.                             

What is important about kindness and our faith?  We worship a generous and kind God, who loves beyond all understanding, remains faithful to us, regardless of our shortcomings, failures and struggling faith. Our God is so kind to us.  God does not use God’s authority to make us do anything.  God gives us choices and wisdom (if we seek it), overlooking our human mistakes.  Kind and generous to us without cause or reason, except that we are loved by our Creator.

Much has been said in media these days about who is right, who is wrong, who is not being fair, who is acting, saying doing things that are not in keeping with who we are as Americans.  There is a general movement for change.  

Seems like we could start to respond by changing just our minds, our hearts to be kind.  Kind in welcoming all into our community, kind when we meet strangers, kind when we meet with family.  Thinking before we act or speak.

Kindness is not in short supply, it is just not being practiced.  We have that element of soul care within us.  How could we not, as we know the kindest God in our life?

Kindness is planted in our life at our baptism.  That spiritual gift is always there and ready to be used. The Holy Spirit will awaken us to the opportunity to show kindness, no matter the circumstances.  It has to do with faith.  Faith that gives us new ways, fresh understandings, and a gracious remembrance of God’s kindness to us that inspires us to be kind to others.

After all, if we receive the benefit of God’s kindness, doesn’t the world?

I love you, am praying for you and look for God’s kindness to flow from us by the mercy and grace of God.

Pastor Lisa




Hope

Dear companions on the journey,
These last months of writing and thinking on what words God would have me offer have been delightful, at times challenging and rewarding as I have heard back from you.  
It is time for me to take a break from my morning writing before we resume live worship on June 28.  I know now that writing will be an important part of my spiritual expression and growth.  I will begin again and will let you know by post when that time arrives.  Until then, I leave you with a Christian writer that has inspired me for as long as I have been in ministry. 
Fredrick Buechner’s words are somewhat dated as you read some of his references. Much has happened since he gives this sermon on our need for hope.
May we find time to continue to visit with God, listen, be inspired and take hope with us each day.  Jesus would have it be so, for He does love you! God knew in your creation that it was good – you are good!  
I love you, you remain in my heart and prayers.  God holds you at the center of God’s heart.
Pastor Lisa
A Sprig of Hope
In our blog post every Monday we select a reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday, and pair it with a Frederick Buechner reading on the same topic. Next Sunday we will celebrate the third Sunday after Pentecost.  Here is this week’s reading from the Gospel of Genesis:

Genesis 6:9-22; 7:248:14-19
These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, ”Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh–birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth–so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families. 

Here is  Buechner’s sermon “A Sprig of Hope” which was originally published in The Hungering Dark and later in Secrets in the Dark.

 
It is an ironic fact that this ancient legend about Noah survives in our age mainly as a children’s story. When I was a child, I had a Noah’s ark made of wood with a roof that came off so you could take the animals out and put them in again, and my children have one too. Yet if you stop to look at it at all, this is really as dark a tale as there is in the Bible, which is full of dark tales. It is a tale of God’s terrible despair over the human race and his decision to visit them with a great flood that would destroy them all except for this one old man, Noah, and his family. Only now we give it to children to read. One wonders why. 

Not, I suspect, because children particularly want to read it, but more because their elders particularly do not want to read it, or at least do not want to read it for what it actually says and so make it instead into a fairy tale, which no one has to take seriously—just the way we make black jokes about disease and death so that we can laugh instead of weep at them; just the way we translate murder and lust into sixth-rate television melodramas, which is to reduce them to a size that anybody can cope with; just the way we take the nightmares of our age, the sinister, brutal forces that dwell in the human heart threatening always to overwhelm us and present them as the Addams family or monster dolls, which we give, again, to children. Gulliver’s Travels is too bitter about humankind, so we make it into an animated cartoon; Moby Dick is too bitter about God, so we make it into an adventure story for boys; Noah’s ark is too something-or-other else, so it becomes a toy with a roof that comes off so you can take the little animals out. This is one way of dealing with the harsher realities of our existence, and since the alternative is, by facing them head on, to risk adding more to our burden of anxiety than we are able to bear, it may not be such a bad way at that. But for all our stratagems, the legends, the myths persist among us, and even in the guise of fairy tales for the young they continue to embody truths or intuitions that in the long run it is perhaps more dangerous to evade than to confront. 

So what, then, are the truths embodied in this tale of Noah and his ark? Let us start with the story itself more particularly let us start with the moment when God first spoke to Noah, more particularly let us start with Noah’s face at that moment when God first spoke to him. 

When somebody speaks to you, you turn your face to look in the direction the voice comes from; but if the voice comes from no direction at all, if the voice comes from within and comes wordlessly, and more powerfully for being wordless, then in a sense you stop looking at anything at all. Your eyes become unseeing, and if someone were to pass a hand in front of them, you would hardly notice the hand. If you can be said to be looking at anything then, you are probably looking at, without really seeing, something of no importance whatever, like the branch of a tree stirring in the wind or the frayed cuff of your shirt where your arm rests on the windowsill. Your face goes vacant because for the moment you have vacated it and are living somewhere beneath your face, wherever it is that the voice comes from. So it was maybe with Noah’s face when he heard the words that he heard, or when he heard what he heard translated clumsily into words: that the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, filled with violence and pain and unlove—that the earth was doomed. 

It was presumably nothing that Noah had not known already, nothing that any of us who have ever lived on this earth with our eyes open have not known. But because it came upon him sudden and strong, he had to face it more squarely than people usually do, and it rose up in him like a pain in his own belly. And then maybe, like Kierkegaard’s Abraham, Noah asked whether it was God who was speaking or only the pain in his belly; whether it was a vision of the glory of the world as it first emerged from the hand of the Creator that led him to the knowledge of how far the world had fallen, or whether it was just his pathetic human longing for a glory that had never been and would never be. If that was his question, perhaps a flicker of bewilderment passed across his vacant face—he lines between his eyes deepening, his mouth going loose, a little stupid. A penny for your thoughts, old Noah. 

But then came the crux of the thing because the voice that was either God’s voice or an undigested matzoh ball shifted from the indicative of doom to the imperative of command and it told him that, although the world was doomed, he, Noah, had a commission to perform that would have much to do with the saving of the world. 

“Make yourself an cause if the voice proceeded not from the mystery of the human belly but from the mystery and depth of life itself, then Noah had to obey, and Noah knew it. And out of common humanity this is the point to shift our gaze from his face, because things are happening there that no stranger should be allowed to see, and to look instead at his feet, because when we have to decide which way we are going to bet our entire lives, it is very often our feet that finally tell the tale. 

There are Noah’s feet—dusty, a little slew-footed, Toonerville trolley of vessels, clouted from side to side by the waves and staggering like a drunk. It was not much, God knows, but it was enough, and it stayed afloat, and granted that it was noisy as hell and stank to heaven, creatures took comfort from each other’s creatureliness, and the wolf lay down with the lamb, and the lion ate straw like the ox, and life lived on in the ark while all around there was only chaos and death. 

Then finally, after many days, Noah sent forth a dove from the ark to see if the waters had subsided from the earth, and that evening she returned, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf once again, for the last time, the place to look, I think, is Noah’s face. The dove stands there with her delicate, scarlet feet on the calluses of his upturned palm. His cheek just touches her breast so that he can feel the tiny panic of her heart. His eyes are closed, the lashes watery wet. Only what he weeps with now, the old clown, is no longer anguish, but wild and irrepressible hope. That is not the end of the story in Genesis, but maybe that is the end of it for most of us—just a little sprig of hope held up against the end of the world. 

All these old tales are about us, of course, and I suppose that is why we can never altogether forget them; that is why, even if we do not read them anymore ourselves, we give them to children to read so that they will never be entirely lost, because if they were, part of the truth about us would be lost too. The truth, for instance, that, left to ourselves, as a race we are doomed—what else can we conclude?—doomed if only by our own insatiable lust for doom. Despair and destruction and death are the ancient enemies, and yet we are always so helplessly drawn to them that it is as if we are more than half in love with our enemies. Even our noblest impulses and purest dreams get all tangled up with them just as in Vietnam, in the name of human dignity and freedom, the bombs are falling on both the just and the unjust and we recoil at the horror of little children with their faces burned off, except that somehow that is the way the world has always been and is, with nightmare and noble dream all tangled up together. That is the way we are doomed—doomed to be what we are, doomed to seek our own doom. And the turbulent waters of chaos and nightmare are always threatening to burst forth and flood the earth. We hardly need the tale of Noah to tell us that. The New York Times tells us just as well, and our own hearts tell us well too, because chaos and nightmare have their little days there also. But the tale of Noah tells other truths as well. 

It tells about the ark, for one, which somehow managed to ride out the storm. God knows the ark is not much—if anybody knows it is not much, God knows—and the old joke seems true that if it were not for the storm without, you could never stand the stench within. But the ark was enough, is enough. Because the ark is wherever human beings come together as human beings in such a way that the differences between them stop being barriers—the way if people meet at the wedding, say, of someone they both love, all the differences of age between them, all the real and imagined differences of color, of wealth, of education, no longer divide them but become for each a source of strength and delight, and although they may go right on looking at each other as very odd fish indeed, it becomes an oddness to gladden the heart, and there is no shyness anymore, no awkwardness or fear of each other. Sometimes even in a church we can look into each other’s faces and see that, beneath the differences, we are all of us outward bound on a voyage for parts unknown. 

The ark is wherever people come together because this is a stormy world where nothing stays put for long among the crazy waves and where at the end of every voyage there is a burial at sea. The ark is where, just because it is such a world, we really need each other and know very well that we do. The ark is wherever human beings come together because in their heart of hearts all of them—white and black, believer and unbeliever, hippie and square—dream the same dream, which is a dream of peace—peace between the nations, between the races, between the brothers—and thus ultimately a dream of love. Love not as an excuse for the mushy and innocuous, but love as a summons to battle against all that is unlovely and unloving in the world. The ark, in other words, is where we have each other and where we have hope. 

Noah looked like a fool in his faith, but he saved the world from drowning, and we must not forget the one whom Noah foreshadows and who also looked like a fool spread-eagled up there, cross-eyed with pain, but who also saved the world from drowning. We must not forget him because he saves the world still, and wherever the ark is, wherever we meet and touch in something like love, it is because he also is there, brother and father of us all. So into his gracious and puzzling hands we must commend ourselves through all the days of our voyaging, wherever it takes us, and at the end of all our voyages. We must build our arks with love and ride out the storm with courage and know that the little sprig of green in the dove’s mouth betokens a reality beyond the storm more precious than the likes of us can imagine.

How can we pray to thee, thou holy and hidden God, whose ways are not our ways, who knowest what it is to be a man because thou hast walked among us as a man, breaking with us the bread of our affliction and drinking deep of the cup of our despair? How can we not pray to thee when it is thy very Spirit alive within us that moves our lips in prayer?
Hear, O God, the prayers of all thy children everywhere: for forgiveness and healing, for courage, for faith; prayers for the needs of others; prayers for peace among the desperate nations. Whether thou withholdest what we ask, whether thou answerest us in words that burn like fire or in silence that burns like fire, increase in us the knowledge that thou art always more near to us than breathing, that thy will for us is love. 
And deep beneath all our asking, so deep beneath that we are all but deaf to it ourselves, hear, 0 God, the secret song of every human heart praising thee for being what thou art, rejoicing with the morning stars that thou art our God and we thy children. Make strong and wild this secret song within until it bursts forth at last to thy glory and our saving. Through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen. 

 
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Praying peace, hope and love abound with you always!
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Humbleness

Humbleness

Humbleness, or humility, is a virtue that appears incongruent with the nature of humanity.  Much of the conflict that emerges in relationships relates to the lack of humbleness.  Rather than give you a definition of humbleness, just consider that the lack of humbleness usually is seated in self-centeredness.  Anything or any ways of self promotion or aggrandizement for our benefit is an anathema, abhorrent to the way of humbleness.

Society has hijacked humility, changing the truth about what humbleness is, a strength of character that promotes fairness and equality, to a perception that humility reveals weakness. In fact, humility is risky business.  Humility requires that we put ourselves in a position of vulnerability.  Humility takes courage, a strong awareness of purpose and worth in the eyes of God, and trust that no matter the circumstance, our way of humility is the way of Christ.

Jesus revealed humility in his interactions with people.  Those seeking him were not turned away because of their place, or lack of status in society.  He ate with the disenfranchised, the lepers, he taught women, healed indiscriminately all who sought relief from life’s pains and sorrows.  The penultimate act of humility was when Jesus stood before Pilate and others who could release him from sure death, he stood silent.  His humility in strength, not weakness enabled us to be reconciled by God.  Jesus could have brought the full force of God down on the nation of Rome and the people demanding his death.  Jesus’ choice to be obedient unto death for our salvation is our most profound witness to the way of humility.  

When we react with retaliation, verbal or physical, to win the upper hand, we have lost our way as Christians.  This need to be in control over others has been with us since Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden.  A lack of humility separates us from the love of God, and the way of Christ.  Consequences abound.  

We are witnessing a world of upheaval these days that originates with a practice of inequality  against people of color.  The fuse has burned long and deep, causing generations of pain for our black brothers and sisters, a form of enforced humility pressed upon them.  We, who are privileged white, have mistakenly bought into the message of “we are better, smarter, etc.” and have taken this sense of entitlement to heart.  Some have only just begun to examine the ways of speaking, interacting and relating to the black community individually and moreover as a whole that reflect Christ.

We have allowed the “way we were taught or brought up” to be our shield against a more vital mounting pressure of a spiritual nature.  This call of Christ to show humility and repentance must now overshadow our former “comfortable” ways of speaking, our communal ways of accompanying the disenfranchised, only seeing ourselves as beneficent givers.  We must accept that generations of black men, women and children have suffered under the heavy hand of oppression in education, job opportunities, healthcare, and even the freedom to vote.    

As followers of the first Way-Maker of life and salvation, we can no longer excuse our lack of awareness, turn a cold cheek to the ways we may be propitiating a practice that diminishes black people, for that matter, anyone. If God can humbly take our form, becoming both Human and Divine, how can we not humbly take on the same form of love and mercy that has been given to us?

A Prayer for our Spirit.

Lord, give us the courage to examine our hearts.  We can not change the world without You. We desire to please You, so change us Lord.  We trust you with our all.  So, Lord, bring to light the hurtful and harmful ways that we have, without thought, or with intent, diminished our brothers and sisters of color.  

Help us to repent of our actions. We humbly invite Your Holy Spirit into this vulnerable moment of our soul.  As we confess, we humbly pray that you would release us from the shame of our own actions, planting within us a new conviction and a fresh insight into the adjustments we need to make in our thoughts, words and actions. 

We worship You, Lord Jesus, and give thanks for the grace you continue to bestow on us.  We have not earned your love, you have given it freely.  May we embrace Your love and give freely to the world, unencumbered by our past, emboldened by You for our future.  May we be your love and light for Your Glory.

Amen.

Pastor Lisa 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2: 5-8

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

“Humbly We Adore Thee”. May the simplicity of the song bring you near to God.
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Gratefulness

Gratefulness

I am not sure that gratefulness is a virtue, but if it isn’t, it should be.  Gratefulness changes everything of the heart from bitter, angry, power-hungry, self-centeredness to sweet, forgiving, humble, loving ways.

I can wax poetic about gratefulness and what it offers when we live that standard, but what we need is to BE grateful.  Grateful in ways that develop out of awareness of what is good, resilient, hopeful and promising for us and for our world. 

Gratefulness seems to be in short supply these days.  And if something comes along to spark goodness that inspires us to be grateful for anything, you can expect somebody, somewhere to make every effort to tear it down.  I read a story about Rahul Dubey, in D.C., who opened his home to 70 marching protestors as the curfew hit and people could not get home.  People were asking to sit on his steps, get out of the way of advancing police, avoid being pepper sprayed or arrested. Through the night, he entertained and gave shelter to a host of strangers.  It was inspiring.  It made me proud and very grateful that someone could overcome the obstacles of personal space and safety to offer shelter.  Sure it was dangerous, absolutely there was risk of Covid virus. But I was pressed into a deeper awareness of how much that selfless act changed me, and I am sure those who gratefully accepted his hospitality.  And don’t you know it – yesterday a journalist wrote an expose on the host, saying that he had ulterior motives, that he worked a field that would benefit from his hospitality, and that he had only opened up his home for selfish reasons.  NAH! I don’t accept that.  

I don’t know if Rahul is Christian.  Virtues can be lived and exhibited without having the source of the Holy Spirit.  However, I can say that having the source of God inspired and Spirit strengthened resolve to live in ways that change me for good, that offer hope and promise, is a sacred and holy unearned gift.  Inspired out of God’s goodness to us, gratefulness seems to be a summation of the attitude that we can develop by telling the story of Jesus Christ.  Here is the a big picture story that will provide heart and soul gratefulness.  I am grateful to God for loving us so much that God sent God’s self to humanity to resolve the dilemma of a broken world.  I am grateful for the obedience of quiet, unknown vessels of God, like Mary and Joseph. They, at great risk, obediently accepted responsibility to receive Jesus, the gift of hope for the world.  They nurtured  prepared him for his call to live the Gospel of Love with selfless abandon.  I am grateful that while Jesus lived over two thousand years ago, in a tiny spot on a huge planet, despite power, evil, wars, temptations and human failures, that the Gospel is still the greatest story ever told.  I am grateful for Jesus, divine and human, who took on our sins to reconcile us to God.  I am so profoundly grateful that in Christ, I can be forgiven and come to God for all that I need, confident in God’s mercy.  

The immensity of the love of God is a source of gratefulness.  Like parched land without rain for days on end, showers of love renew us as we read and remember God’s character.  New life springs out of our awareness.  Grateful.

The small ways of gratefulness must be cultivated.   It is a practice.  We are called by our faith to build up not tear down ourselves and others.  Gratefulness seems to me, to be a gateway to a holy perspective. With gratefulness we are able to move beyond our “sometime nature” of negative, self-absorbing complaints.  Gratefulness sets us apart from society, which appears to breed and thrive on suspicion about every action, everyone, everything.

Gratefulness allows us to see the good in God, the good in ourselves, our community, our leaders, our nation and our world.

May we live gratefully, in ways that witness to Jesus Christ’s story, our hope and the hope of the world.  May we cultivate the life-giving, daily practice of naming what we are grateful for, each morning and every night.  To God be the glory, in whom all things are found!

I am grateful for you, for your love of God!  Pastor Lisa 

“Hymn of Grateful Praise”.  Best enjoyed outside in the cool morning, with the birds accompanying this lovely rendition.
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Patience

Patience

In the next days, I will be spending some time in exploring virtue’s that we hold valuable as a reflection of our Christian life.  I did a bit more reading, and was reminded that the Catholic Church is a proponent of the seven virtues.  The Stoics and early church recognized the meaning of virtues, using them as either a moral or Christian character that can be developed.  Christians believe that virtues are developed by obedience and reliance on the Holy Spirit to refine our nature towards holiness of life and heart.  In a very short explanation, therein is why we are engaged in seeking a virtuous life.

As we recognize the need for improvement, the Holy Spirit will bring certain experiences to light revealing our need to grow in Christian life and actions.  So we begin to be conscious of the impatience in ourselves.  And all of a sudden we find that we have many occasions of impatience! One after another. It’s like when you get a red car, thinking how you never see many red cars on the road.  The minute you drive off the lot, you begin to see red cars. Everywhere. All the time.

I remember when our girls were young, I was at home with them, working and enjoying being able to have so much time with them.  However, being together was also demanding.  My patience wore thin.  I knew I could do better, so I began to pray to the Lord that I would have more patience with our children.  And it felt like my patience got worse.  I struggled, prayed more, and still found myself impatient with whatever came my way.  Finally, I realized.  My patience was being refined by my prayer.  The only way to gain patience is to have it tried and found strong in the Lord’s leading.  So what I asked for was being given so I could get better with my shortcomings.  It was a long time before I prayed for patience again!  But I do still pray for patience.

The Holy Spirit has prompted me to “refine” my patience these days.  Like the red car, when I need to refine my patience, I notice a glut of impatience.  With myself, with others, with circumstances, with – hey – you know we can be impatient over anything! Letting impatience take root in us opens the way for unholy actions – road rage, yelling or demeaning others for their lack of doing what you want as fast as you want them to,  holding the impatience until it simmers to a boil, creating an opening for many ways we hurt others and ourselves in the process.  Surely, patience is a holy work.

It is easier to look to others rather than ourselves, but Jesus had something to say about that.  In Matthew 7: 4-6 Jesus says “Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”  Jesus is reminding us that there are those things within us that demand addressing before we begin to blame others or excuse our actions because of what someone else has said or done.  

Being patient requires that we take stock of our own thoughts, judgements, actions, words before we bring them to light.  Learning to trust that God already knows us, our thoughts and desires, and still wants a relationship with us.  In that trust, we allow the Holy Spirit to reprimand us for things that are not of God, not redemptive in nature, not revealing love.  In short, not Christlike.  So we face our impatience and the outcomes it creates, repent and ask God to form us into more gracious, patient people.  For the love of God!

Loving God means letting go of the ways that separate us from the presence of God.  Impatience builds walls with others, most especially God.  If that virtue is part of our growing edge then we have an open invitation to grow in patience.  We are being taught with by the Master of patience.  Just think how patient God is with us.

I love you, am praying for you.  Pastor Lisa

“Patience, People”    While this is an Advent refrain, aren’t we always waiting on the Lord?  May the refrain inhabit our day, inspiring us to patience.
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Compassion

Compassion

Yesterday was a full day.  I realized for the first time since beginning to write morning devotionals that I hadn’t written one.  It was noon!  Where did the time go?  So I sat down and thought.  Kindness.  

After sleeping on that, this morning God gave me the direction for the next few days.  Write about the virtues of an active Christian life.  We don’t often think “so what virtue will I build into my daily life?”.  Perhaps this is part of the virtue of virtues (Snigger!). Yes, there is a benefit to recognizing that virtues are developed out of a larger perspective:  having Christ in our lives transforms our understanding of who we are, what is of value, and how we can be more of Christ and less of ourselves.

Virtues are kind of a sidebar to our development of spiritual habits.  Whether we are praying more, seeking ways to serve others for Christ, worshipping alone, or with others in any form, from small gatherings to online services, or studying and reflecting on God’s word, each has an impact on our spirit and soul.

As we develop these spiritual disciplines we become more aware. Aware of God’s presence, mercy, compassion, love, grace.  The list is endless.  Encountering any facet of the litanies of God’s character is a revelation.  Read the story in Matthew 6: 25-34 about worry.  Jesus looks upon the crowds that are following him, seeing more than people, but into their souls, wracked with all kinds of concerns, questions, fears.  Fears about what they will eat, wear, how they will survive.  

Jesus, in holy and true compassion, speaks to the very essence of their need.  He says, “Don’t worry.”  Now that is a tall order isn’t it!  Some of us make a profession out of worrying.  We may know someone who has actually earned a doctorate in worrying!  We can joke about it, but worrying is debilitating.  Worry stops us from moving forward in life.  We become immobilized. We tend to settle into the “worr’a space”, building on one worry after the other.  In short notice, worry can consume our every thought, erasing out any room for life. Life that includes joy, gratitude, hope, and especially trust.  

Worry eats trust up like my grandson eats dessert, with amazing gusto, even when there is still food on his dinner plate.  Worry can become such a normal way of thinking that is becomes our comfort zone. There are some, who, if there is nothing to worry about, will create something to worry about.  Now that is sort of crazy-making isn’t it?  Crazy for the person who needs to feel unsettled to feel right, and crazy-making for the people around them, who have no understanding of why this person is creating problems that are not even there.

Trust is key to banishing the worry syndrome.  Trust in God.  Worry feeds on the reality that we are not in control.  We fight for control over circumstances, people, even ourselves at times knowing that there is little that we can change.  God breaks in and speaks truth through Jesus, saying, “Therefore, not worry… about what you will eat, …or drink… or wear”.  Compassion resonates through these admonishments.  All the things that can pull us away from the benefits of trusting in God are given perspective.

Jesus is constantly placing the goodness of God before us, so that we can receive and live life to the fullness we were intended to experience.  These beautiful words of Jesus are compassionate.  Giving without harming.  Speaking hard truths, but offering healing and hope to us.  Never withdrawing the mercy and compassion that we are coming to know is of God.  

Jesus reveals the nature of God to us in transforming ways. Being on the receiving end of compassion is heart awakening.  We see God with us, accompanying us with gracious compassion.  We feel the love of God, not judgement, for our shortcomings.  We know the acceptance of God and the healing energy of compassion that re-shapes us into trusting and knowing that God has Us.

God has got this, whatever is our worry.  God offers compassion to You, whatever your need.  May we experience the compassion from God, so that we can be more compassionate to others. I love you, pray for you, and trust in God for our needs.

Pastor Lisa

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 5:33

 

Compassion Hymn Live.       Embrace God’s Compassion!
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Kindness

Kindness

Being kind seems to be in short supply these days.  I am just making a general statement, based on observation.  One could make some guesses about why.  What do you think?  The lack of kindness among society speaks to my pastor’s heart. Being kind opens up a place for us as followers of Jesus Christ to examine how we are holding up to Christ’s model.

Maybe we have surprised ourselves in being unkind.  We can say: it is because of circumstances, like the pandemic, or it’s because someone has parked in our favorite place, or we can’t eat out where we love due to the pandemic, or we can’t worship how, when or where we want.  Maybe we say: it’t their fault.  The famous “they did it”. It was the other person who acted, said, or did something that has caused us to be angry, and respond with unkindness to others.  

Whether circumstances or people initiate our internal feelings, it is ultimately our responsibility to address the discontent within, to work through it with the Lord, with trusted council and prayer.  Unkindness causes the person distributing it the most pain, for they end up distancing themselves from others by their actions or words.  The true weight rests with the one who has lost the passion and desire to be kind.                             

What is important about kindness and our faith?  We worship a generous and kind God, who loves beyond all understanding, remains faithful to us, regardless of our shortcomings, failures and struggling faith. Our God is so kind to us.  God does not use God’s authority to make us do anything.  God gives us choices and wisdom (if we seek it), overlooking our human mistakes.  Kind and generous to us without cause or reason, except that we are loved by our Creator.

Much has been said in media these days about who is right, who is wrong, who is not being fair, who is acting, saying doing things that are not in keeping with who we are as Americans.  There is a general movement for change.  

Seems like we could start to respond by changing just our minds, our hearts to be kind.  Kind in welcoming all into our community, kind when we meet strangers, kind when we meet with family.  Thinking before we act or speak.

Kindness is not in short supply, it is just not being practiced.  We have that element of soul care within us.  How could we not, as we know the kindest God in our life?

Kindness is planted in our life at our baptism.  That spiritual gift is always there and ready to be used. The Holy Spirit will awaken us to the opportunity to show kindness, no matter the circumstances.  It has to do with faith.  Faith that gives us new ways, fresh understandings, and a gracious remembrance of God’s kindness to us that inspires us to be kind to others.

After all, if we receive the benefit of God’s kindness, doesn’t the world?

I love you, am praying for you and look for God’s kindness to flow from us by the mercy and grace of God.

Pastor Lisa