We all think of Blessings as being the good in our life. Nice house, newer car, nice clothes, good job and on and on. We really need to look back at the “bad” things that have happened in our life and see whether those experiences were blessings.
I’ve written about some of my experiences here. Sixteen years of caregiving for my husband taught me patience. I learned to wait on the Lord. I also learned to trust the Lord, that he had everything under control. My faith grew. Yes, I had times when I would say, “When, Lord, when?”. Just wondering when my life would change. Sometimes I felt stuck. I couldn’t just walk away from my husband, but there were many things that I wanted to do and couldn’t because I had to take care of him. I learned to not let the bitterness overcome me, to give it to the Lord.
So, you would hardly think that having a husband diagnosed with a brain tumor and then having to take care of him, watching him slowly (very slowly) deteriorate and then eventually die would be a blessing. Romans 8:28 says it all:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I’ve put this song up on the blog before. Laura Story’s husband also had a brain tumor. He is still doing well from what I have been able to hear. She wrote this song after he was diagnosed.
as he braved a twisted, tortuous road
beneath an angry, grey-streaked sky
burdened by wood and love
he held me in his heart
so carefully I did not fall
and shatter on the stones
when he stumbled
He laid him down in dirt
until ribbons of pain tied him
to the angry, blood-stained sky
still holding me in his heart
so carefully I did not suffocate
as his lungs clawed the heavens
to keep from bursting
When it was finished
he held me in his heart
I did not spill out
when his blood rained down
beneath an angry, night-black sky
to purify the broken earth
When he died
he held me in his heart
as I have always lived
as I shall always live
so carefully held
in his heart
[NOTE: I wrote this on Resurrection Day (April 4), 2010.]
Matthew 7:13 & 14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Jesus of course was speaking of the afterlife. Why is it that it’s so hard for people to get to heaven? And why is it so easy for us to find ourselves in hell? Apparently if human kind were a pie graph, a narrow 10-20% sliver would be in heaven and the other broad part of the pie would easily be in hell. The thing is, we LIKE doing bad things. We like to drink in excess, eat in excess, and smoke our paychecks away. There’s plenty of evidence that Americans fornicate without restraint as well. Look at divorce rates (even among Christians), look at how many have sexual relations before marriage, and how many registered sex offenders there are. And when it comes to gossip, complaint, little white lies, slander, or plain ol’ discouragement . . . look no further than the social giants of the internet. Pleasure however, is not happiness. And if we continue to revel in what pleases us, what we are really doing is refusing Christ. We would do well to remember that.
The truth is that it takes discipline to do right. It takes restraint and focus to keep ourselves safe from, well ourselves. But there is hope and His name is Jesus Christ. Even if we fail at trying, that’s something. It means that we are no longer just stopped, but we’ve turned around, and made an effort to move toward Jesus. We don’t need to be perfect by any means, because Jesus did that for us. Still, there’s a difference between messing up and regretting it, and knowingly messing up and justifying it.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Philippians 2:1-2
Voting on the fanning the flame project was delayed for a few more weeks in order to insure that the requirements of our church constitution for a special meeting had been met, and proper notification received by all. However, discussion at the meeting revealed a couple of things.
The good news — enough people volunteered to serve on the planning committee, if the program is approved. As we are a small congregation, this was a legitimate concern.
The bad news — there is not yet complete agreement. Some are concerned about the cost; others don’t really understand what will be achieved. There is probably even some fear — what will happen, and how will we have to change? Will I be able to do what is asked of me? Do I even want to do it?
My prayer for St. Paul’s is for unity in whatever decision we make. Total unity is, of course, not possible this side of heaven, but if we’re sharply divided, if we’re angry with one another, if we’re intent only on getting our way, no plan will succeed. This is a time for listening — to one another and to God.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
Pray with me friends and readers, as we attempt to discern the will of God in this matter.
A few months ago when our theme was “Food, Feasts and Gluttony” I purchased a copy of I Am the Bread of Life by Sister Suzanne Toolan and Elizabeth Dossa. Sister Suzanne is the composer of the song, as well as many others and is also a gifted teacher of music. The book is made up of a series of essays –some are biographical, others Sister Suzanne’s thoughts on topics such as Silence, Liturgy, Ritual, Celebrations, and some contain practical advice on prayer, music and liturgy.
As a Lutheran, I didn’t agree with everything in the book, but much of the material on liturgy resonated deeply with me. It’s obvious that to Sr. Suzanne, music is a spiritual practice. She took care to make sure her students understood what they were singing. She felt the music should encourage their faith. She speaks about liturgy not as something to study, but as a beloved and thoughtful discipline. Here are some of her quotes:
“A good hymn is almost instructional.”
“Entertainment or liturgy as theater has no depth to it.”
“There is a unity of spirit in the singing.”
“The Liturgy is about leading the congregation to the Real Presence.”
Sister Suzanne is an amazing woman, and anyone interested in the liturgy and music of the church will enjoy this read.
Did you know that simplicity is a spiritual discipline? Not something we think about much, is it? I’m currently reading a book, Awake My Soul by Timothy Jones and I just finished a chapter titled, “The Soul and the Simple Life.” He says that learning to live simply will allow us to be freer and less anxious, but it requires radical trust. Here’s a quote:
“When I follow God, generosity becomes an option. Knowing that today will provide the daily bread I need allows me not to exhaust myself in storing up what I think in my worst moments I will need. I leave the issue in hand far bigger–infinitely so– than mine.”
I admit this is not easy for me. I like to be prepared for the worst (or at least fool myself into believing I’m prepared). However, Jones is right. It can be exhausting trying to imagine and provide for every potential problem; it’s probably not even possible. How much easier to simply (no pun intended) trust God and do our best day by day. I try to work on that, but often fail. Here are some words of advice on simplification from Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline.
First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status ….Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life. ..
Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. Learn to distinguish between a real psychological need, like cheerful surroundings, and an addiction. …(he says if you find you cannot live without something such as particular foods or technology get rid of it).
Third, develop a habit of giving things away. If you find that you are becoming attached to some possession, consider giving it to someone who needs it.
Sounds pretty scary and drastic doesn’t it. What it boils down to is stop worrying about how to impress others, avoid the things that tend to control you, and be generous. I know even I can take baby steps in trying to do this. What about you? Can you simplify your life so that it becomes more satisfying?
From a young age, we are told that we need to have a balanced diet. Our bodies require a variety of nutrients. Although some foods are more wholesome than others (and some have no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever), there is no one superfood that provides one hundred percent of our needs.
Like our bodies, our spirits require feeding so that they do not wither and die. We “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). The difference is that there is only one food for the spirit: our Lord Jesus Christ. We receive this food in many forms: the waters of baptism, Christ’s body and blood in communion, God’s divine Word, confession and absolution, corporate worship and fellowship with other Christians, solitary prayer and meditation–and so many ways that God reaches out to us in our daily lives.
Just as we give thanks for our meals, we should give thanks–daily, constantly, not just one day in a year–for God’s grace, mercy and love, our source of life.
Taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8)