On The Healing Journey

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Holy Week Reflection

 



Holy Week.

I could not help but consider the small, beautiful donkey who led the procession during Palm Sunday worship. The service where palm branches are waved, and the congregation senses the approaching events of the week to come. The humble, lowly donkey – being led into Jerusalem, a symbol of humility, yet kingship; a humble acceptance, yet a resolute commitment.

I could not help but wonder if we as church people understood the symbolism.

As Christians we find ourselves wanting the fanfare, the excitement and pomp of the liturgical seasons. And I must say, celebrating the liturgical seasons has taught me much about the Christian year. But there’s so much more. It should take us deeper into our understanding of the walk Jesus would make, the final teachings he would offer his listeners, the continued lack of understanding of his disciples.

But at some point, about mid-week, Jesus abruptly stops teaching and departs from the crowd. I personally think maybe he had had enough. Maybe he was tired of trying to show the people who He really was. Maybe he knew he had to save his strength for what was to come.

He had to get away.

 David Packer says in his excellent Lenten devotional, A Journey To The Cross, “Christ withdrew to a different type of service: to answer the call of separateness. Alone with God, in the company of friends and disciples, He prepared for the trials that awaited Him. The balance of Christ’s life, of time alone with God as well as time with His followers gives us an example to follow. We need this in our lives. No one is able to become all that they should be in Christ without spending time in private devotion and prayer, communing with God privately.”

I love the above sentence, “ Alone with God, in the company of friends and disciples, He prepared for the trials that awaited Him.”

I know from limited experience the value of time away. Anyone who has gone on retreat knows the value of being still. Anyone who has had to remove themselves from daily life due to illness or death can find strength in stepping away. Anyone who has shared an intimate conversation over a cup of coffee knows the restoration in gives. Jesus’ example of removing himself to a quiet retreat with his closest is such a lesson for all of us today.

Here in the middle of the week, can you step away from the to-do list? Push the “pause” button and reflect on this week and the pain, and the passion, and the promise it holds for us. Call a relative or a friend and share your ideas, your failures, your hopes, your faith.

Worship God. Accept others.

I think it is what Jesus was doing in the middle of Holy Week.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Emerging From the Cloud of Pandemic Isolation

 


                                                                        Emerging


I struggle with discipline. I've been meaning to write. I look at a half-finished manuscript and think about where to begin - again. Relieved of response, I answer the phone and walk away from the work that waits. I water the pots and fill the bird feeder and sweep the floor as I ponder the ease of distraction. 

I order another copy of my favorite book on writing-Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. So witty, so real and poignant. She helps me laugh at myself and begin again.  She  says to write every day. Write something. Sit down at the same time every day and write. Put some thoughts down. And if no profound thoughts come, just write about the toast you had for breakfast or describe the workman outside your window spraying for weeds. Put the words down. No one will ever read it. Just observe and write. Why? Because something tugs at you. 

So my writing exercise today is this: I've been thinking about the silver lining in our lives. These days, it seems every conversation of which I am a part, we agree on some silver lining as a result of  pandemic isolation. The phrase "silver lining" can be defined as the good that comes out of bad, the bright side, or some kind of positive aspect that comes from a negative situation. We've all heard that every cloud has a silver lining. Now, I think, is the time we begin gathering the good, silver lining that is to be found from our year in seclusion. Yes, we must sift through much of the bad, but the good is there for those who work to find it.

As we begin to emerge from our cloud of pandemic isolation, I wonder what the silver linings will be for you. For me, just off the top of my head: Neighbors becoming better acquainted with one another. Exercising at home instead of going to the gym. Reading more books. Discovering more ways to cook chicken than thought possible. Dreaming of and planting a long-envisioned garden. "Zooming" with each other to keep the communication lines flowing for families, church/work committees, anniversary and birthday celebrations. 

Like the butterfly, emerging takes time. And it does not happen without some effort or struggle involved. Like the butterfly, emerging has to happen in our own unique ways. For those of us who have survived we'll have to gradually let our barriers down, risk some interactions, take the baby steps in moving back into the world we love. For those who have experienced a harsher pandemic, it won't be so easy. Granted, the world won't be the same. We will miss some people we loved. We must mourn with those grieve. We must sift through all that was bad about this year and try to redeem all the good. 

 The question becomes, "Will I emerge from the cloud of isolation and be better as a result of it?" Even more important that those of us who managed to dodge the virus or financial loss, it is upon us to find every bit of good and share it however we can. We must never forget the tragedy of it all--lives lost, jobs lost, health lost, priorities rearranged. But if we can focus on all the silver linings, we can emerge as whole human beings, ready to fly - like the butterfly.


Light always overcomes darkness.  Jesus said, "Behold, I am making all things new!"


To encourage you:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”—Jeremiah 29:11

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”—Zephaniah 3:17

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”—Romans 15:13

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”—Isaiah 40:31

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”—Romans 12:12

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”—2 Corinthians 4:17-18

“The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”—Romans 8:18

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”—Revelation 21:4

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”—Lamentations 3:21-23

Friday, February 5, 2021

Rhythms of Life

 

The feast outside my window announces spring is on its way.


Somehow the robins know to come. Somehow the berries are perfect for the picking. It happens about this time every year. Just as the daffodils begin to shoot their green spikes from the frozen ground and the quince offers up a few bright pink buds, the rhythm of the seasons proclaim, "It's time."



The winter is quiet and still. Shorter days and cold temperatures beckon a daily fire in the fireplace. Our firewood man, Raymond, claims that those who enjoy fires in their fireplaces are happier people. I marvel at his philosophical thinking. 

Agatha Christie once said, "I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know, quite certainly, that just to be alive is a grand thing."

As we have quietly moved through the winter months of this pandemic, we could all claim some despair, some sorrow, some misery, but I would venture to guess all of us love being alive. It is a grand thing as the mystery writer states.

Maybe the waiting for vaccines and the waiting for the numbers to decline has forced us to quiet ourselves enough to get in touch with the rhythms of life:

                                                 Stillness and action-

             listening and decision.

These, according to Richard Foster, are the rhythms of God. He says, "It is in the everyday and commonplace that we learn patience, acceptance, and contentment." And so we look to nature or a crackling fire for our direction. We find assurance in a starry night or we comfort a friend who needs a listening ear. Everyday and commonplace occurrences - unique for each one and made available by the beating heart of God.

We must ask ourselves if we have learned anything during the recent months of winter quiet. Have we allowed ourselves to practice stillness? Have we waited to take action? Have we become a better listener and less hasty in our decision-making?

Are we more patient, accepting, and content?

Someone once said peace comes when we live in harmony with the rhythms of life, and joy comes when we catch the rhythm of God's heart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Just Do Your Part




For as long as I can remember, my husband selects a "theme word" for the New Year. Words like discipline, focus, gratitude just are a few. One year (2007) which started off rather well, he selected the words champagne and candlelight. Those fizzled quickly and other words like courage and strength  became our focus to lead us through a year of heartache and grief. We would wander through the next several years claiming words that would help us to simply breathe. Words like grieve,  survive, recover, and heal would steer us through those long, dark days. 

We never know where the year will take us, do we? 

This time last year we had no idea how carefree life was as we finalized  plans for a golf trip to Ireland and a family beach vacation early summer. Little did we know the carefree planning would turn into an unforgettable year - one of fear, heartache, uncertainty and confusion. A year that taught us much about ourselves, our neighbors, and the way in which we socialize, shop, and worship. New words came into use - like shelter-in-place and quarantine, and Zoom..

And now it seems each of us knows someone who did not survive this dreaded virus. Hearts are broken and lives are changed forever. Psalm 34:18 reminds us that "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and draws near to those who are crushed in spirit." When we cannot be close to our grieving friends, we can take comfort in asking God to be the arms around those who weep and mourn.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross, the Swiss American psychiatrist said, "It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth - and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up - that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had."

And so, I guess it is fitting that this year's word is a phrase - Just Do Your Part. Living every day as if it is our only day left - it doesn't have to be spectacular. In fact, it can be as simple as picking up the dry-cleaning or making the chile the way he/she likes it. It might just be a friendly text - like today when my girlfriends texted about loving the Christmas season and leaving things up a little longer. All just doing their part to be kind to each other and have a little fun on a cold, wintry day.

What will your part be? When this year comes to a close - and it happens quickly - will you be able to say you did your part to help heal, to offer hope, to be kind, to forgive, to love, to learn and grow?

Eugene Peterson says it well in Romans 12:1-2





Friday, January 8, 2021

In God We Trust



I don't understand how so many of us are shocked at the White House security breach. Horrified, we watch and cry out, "This doesn't happen in America!" 

It doesn't?

If this sort of thing does not happen in America, then please tell me what has been going on for the last year. For probably over a year, we have watched similar breaches throughout our country -  businesses burned to the ground, cities destroyed, lives lost or changed forever and very seldom have we cried out "This does not happen in America!" 

No. Instead, we have watched the destruction across our land and called it a peaceful protest. 

We have read the statistics about the rate of homicides that have sky-rocketed across our beautiful America and we cannot help but wonder if this, too, is part of the breach in our divided country. When it hits home and a precious 7-year-old is murdered down the street from where I live, I'd say there is more than a security breach at our capital building, but a breaking down of our very neighborhoods.

Breach is defined, according to Webster, as an act of breaking or failing to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct. It is also defined as a gap in a wall, barrier, or defense, especially one made by an attacking army. We could make a long list of "breaches" that have occurred in our community, our country, and our world throughout history. 

People have been disobeying the law for a long time. And there are consequences according to God's Law.  (I was recently reminded by a wise young woman that a distinction needs to be made between God's Law and Man's Law.) Read some of the Old Testament and you will see how over and over the Israelites disobeyed God. Over and over there were "breaches" where God removed himself and just let the people have their wicked ways. They suffered mightily, repented, and returned to God's favor. Not without consequences though. Look at poor Moses - he wandered around for 40 years in the desert because his people would not enter the land of plenty. And when Joshua led the people into the promised land poor Moses was not allowed to enter. Consequences. 

 These  words are all synonyms for the word "breach":

 fracture, crack, rent, opening, alienation, split, rift, schism, separation; dissension. 

Whatever you want to call it....however you wish to define it, we (as Christians) find ourselves more and more at a crossroads in our faith. Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, calls this a "crisis of belief".  As Christians, we must decide - will we face the future armed with our faith intact? If so, then we must take action as we wait and watch to see where God is working. Staying close to the Lord, asking his guidance, seeking his will, is the best course of action when we are at a loss of what to do in a complex and confusing world. There would be fewer breaches if we all put God first.

I believe God is in total control of this breach, along with the many other fractures, separations, and cracks that we have all helped to create.  May He forgive us of our sins and guide us through to His Light.

In God We Trust.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Small Signs of God - Day 26 Peace

 


Pondering The Path of Peace

 

They said we might have some snow on Christmas Day!  Oh how I love a good snow.  The magic of quiet snow falling during Christmas - oh, just the thought of it takes me back remembering Christmases in Kentucky on my snow-covered hill – the wonder, the beauty, the silence. 

It can happen anywhere that the heart makes room.

In January of 2008 Atlanta was covered in a beautiful blanket of snow.  I couldn’t resist but to take a few pictures in the garden that now looked so fresh and new even in the bleak of our winter of great sadness.  St. Francis looked especially peaceful and content with a white cap warming his head.  His presence standing strong there in the garden offered me a new appreciation for the man who gave up all of his worldly goods to be an instrument of peace during his life.

After visiting his birthplace and the city for which he is named, I came home and disciplined myself to memorize one of his prayers – maybe the one for which he is most remembered.  Let’s see if I can say it for you:

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

 What strikes me today is that in the first line, the prayer asks the Lord to make me an instrument of HIS peace.  I may not ever find my own peace and that is what we ponder so much, trying to make sense of life and its ups and downs.  But I can, in the midst of pondering offer to be used – to be an instrument of God’s peace – the peace that we seldom understand, but that we have been freely given through the one who came at Christmas.

Jesus said in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I confess that I am not always the peacemaker.  I do not always sow love, pardon, faith, or hope.  Sometimes I am dark and sometimes I am sad and lonely even though my home is filled with abundance.  That’s why I have memorized the prayer and it is amazing the times during the day when the words come to remind me “sow hope, sow love, understand, pardon.”  Peace.

I know that Christ wants to infuse peace into all of us.  He said so.  His peace.  Not the peace of a quiet snowfall.  Not the peace of singing Silent Night holding a candle. But the opening of our souls to receive Him in our hearts – to take on his characteristics of love and forgiveness, of  gentleness and hope and of purpose.  But in this age of “it’s all about me” we find it hard to acknowledge our utter neediness and we simply just don’t need Jesus – or very much of him.   

This Season of Epiphany, open yourself to receive the peace that Jesus brings –now, from eternity past, and forevermore.  And in return, offer yourself as an instrument of that kind of peace.  Knowing peace is the gift above all gifts. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Small Signs of God - Day 25 A Child's Birth

 


"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

The powerful silence of Christmas morning says "Peace, I am here." I smile and rest in that knowledge. Somehow, the world, in spite of great turmoil,  rests as well. Even as the day comes alive, people are kinder, quieter with the knowledge that today something is different. 

I feel it.

Maybe because I believe it. I believe that peace begins with me. I believe angels sing and stars dance. I believe in Wise Men and a virgin birth. I believe Jesus is the coming of God to earth. I believe He will come again.  Today is Christmas and I welcome it and I reread the story:

"This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." (Matthew 1:18-25)

"Christmas is saying 'yes' to something beyond all emotions and feelings. 

Christmas is saying "yes" to a hope based on God's initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. 

Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God's work and not mine. 

Things will never look just right or feel just right. If they did, someone would be lying...But it is into this broken world that a child is born who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior."(Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak)

Savior who has been born to us,

              draw us to you this day and all days

                  until we see you face to face.