Against the Wind

Against the WindThere are times when we feel like we are sailing against the wind.

An adverse wind hits us in the face and we find ourselves struggling to move forward.

What can we do when we are against the wind?

Our message for this week focused upon a similar experience of the disciples. While they were trying to sail across the Sea of Galilee one evening, these men encountered an adverse wind. They struggled at the oars as they attempted to make their way forward.

The story can be found in Mark 6:45-52. Jesus sees the disciples in their distresses. His response brought comfort and peace to the disciples. And, his response stands to offer comfort and peace to us during our times of struggle.

Jesus response can be quickly summarized by four observations:

  1. Jesus goes to them.  Jesus does not pass by them; rather, Jesus goes to his disciples in the midst of their struggle. Likewise, God has a funny way of coming to us through our relationship with Jesus in the midst of weakness and struggle. 
  2. Jesus reveals himself to the disciples. He does not simply come to them; rather, he reveals his identity to them in the midst of their struggle. Our times of struggle may not seem like the most opportune time for God to be revealed, yet God has a way of not only showing up…God reveals God’s love to us (in and through Jesus) when we are most in need of love! But, be clear, God’s revelation of love must be received. God’s grace and mercy must be accepted. 
  3. Jesus climbs into the boat with the disciples. Jesus takes it a step further, literally. Jesus doesn’t simply come to his disciples in the midst of their distress, nor does he only reveal himself to the disciples in the midst of their struggle. Jesus climbs into the boat with them — Jesus enters into their struggle alongside of them! To those of us who are willing to look for God in the midst of our struggle and to accept God’s  revelation of grace, mercy, and love, we will be quick to discover the presence of God alongside of us as we struggle against the winds in our life. 
  4. Finally, the wind ceases, but the disciples must continue to row. The presence of Jesus alongside of the disciples delivers a sense of peace, comfort, and calmness. The presence of Jesus, however, does not negate the struggle!!! The disciples must continue to cross the sea…only, crossing the sea is a little less of a challenge and a little more peaceful with Jesus in their boat! The presence of God in our life will not remove the struggle of needing to move forward, but the presence of God through our relationship with Jesus (and by the power of the Holy Spirit) brings a peace, comfort, and calmness to our lives. The struggle is real, but there is peace in the presence of God.

So, these are just a few quick notes on the message from Sunday! If you have a moment, I would invite you to listen to the full audio message.

Blessings to all!!!

Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

Not able to make it to a worship service this morning?

Feeling a little uninspired?

That is okay!

Because, sometimes we just feel a little uninspired.

But, have a listen to the message Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way.

Because, there is peace for us still…!

 

Wilted: Exhausted of the Spirit

WiltedEver feel like you are wilting? Does it ever seem as if you’ve been exhausted of the Spirit?

The issue of “spiritual wilt” was the topic of a message from a few weeks ago – Rivers of Living Water.  The message covered the words of Jesus in John 7:37-39 — where Jesus encourages those who are thirty to come to him and those who believe him are invited to drink. For a more complete consideration, I would encourage you to have a listen to the full message.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post about my new adventure into gardening and how this new adventure has begun nurturing inspiration for my spiritual growthMuch has occurred in the garden (and, I am sure a few more reflections will arise in the coming weeks).

Something very interesting happened about a month ago: my family and I returned from a 48-hour trip to discover our largest plants in a terrible way. Both of the plants were beginning to wilt. The leaves had no life in them and the stems were already limp.

I took a quick inventory of the garden and soon realized the plants were completely out of water. While I drench the garden the morning we left, the following 48 hours were extremely hot. The plants had fallen into distress with the two largest plants already beginning to wilt.

The lives we live are often big and busy – we try to do all we can and as often as we can.  And, quietly frankly, living this way is exhausting.

Even when the betterment of others is our aim, we are susceptible to exhaustion. Sustaining our family, supporting our friends, serving our clients/patients/students is all very exhausting!

Living big and busy lives can wear you down, physically.

For many of us, the exhaustion is more than physical.

The exhaustion is something else; something different.

The exhaustion brought out by our big and busy lives is felt from within — within the body, within the heart, within the place where joy is supposed to thrive.

When our lives gets a little too big and a little too busy, the thriving of joy feels a lot more like a wilting of the heart and the wilting of the spirit.

Back to my plants…

One was of a squash variety and the other was a zucchini.

They were in terrible shape…serious exhaustion, serious wilt.

Over the course of an hour, I began to slowly add water back into the containers. An intentional offering of water was contributed to the roots of these distressed plants.

The response was almost immediate as the stems began standing tall and the leaves became firm within an hour.

The water restored life to the plants.

The water offered to these plants would further sustain their life.

And, most amazingly, two weeks later those plants were producing “fruits” (vegetables) that would sustain the life of my family.

Jesus cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” Now [Jesus] said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive. — John 7:37b-39a

The more complex our lives (and, by here, I specifically mean the more we attempt to do, the more frequently we attempt to do it, and everyone we attempt to serve), the more susceptible we are to wilting of a spiritual nature.

“Out of the believer’s heart will flow rivers of living water,” which is true. But, the believer must first go to the source of the water and drink. The believer must receive and be filled by the water that sustains authentic life. Then, and only then, will the heart nourished by the Spirit grow and bear fruit.

Discover the hope in these words of Jesus for all who have or may be feeling a little wilted…

You are not meant to be the source of water that sustains, supports or serves.

You are invited to come; and, you are meant to drink, to be filled, and to allow the Spirit to work in you and through you.

The fruit produced by you (through you) may sustain the authentic life of another, but you are not the source of the water that restores and sustains. You are simply a witness to the power of the Spirit at work in you.

Feeling a little wilted?

Has life gotten a little too big and a little too busy?

Do not be discouraged!

Your exhaustion does not signal your insufficiency. Your exhaustion is simply a reminder of your need to pause before his presence, to receive the restorative and sustaining power of the living water, and to joyfully experience the power of the Spirit at work in you and through you.

Side Note – I encourage those who have time to listen to the message related to this topic. Properly understanding the full significance of the invitation of Jesus “to drink” requires consideration to a key detail in the passage – Jesus spoke these words “On the last day of the festival, the great day.” (John 7:37) The message takes the timing and the setting of Jesus’s words into account for a more complete interpretation of the significance of this Scripture. 

Mothers Moving Mountains

Mothers Moving MountainsWhat if your lack of patience is actually the presence of faith?

Parenting is difficult.

Parenting certainly requires patience.

Because parenting requires patience, there will be times when a parent’s patience feels a little thin…

The presumed lack of patience does not have to signal inadequacy as a parent! What if the lack of patience distracting a parent’s heart is actually the presence of her faith?!

Patience has its place within parenting, but it is not the most significant component of healthy parenting! The faith of the parent is the most influential aspect of healthy parenting – the parent’s faith in God; the parent’s faith in herself as a parent; and the parent’s faith in the potential of her child!

The thinning of patience may actually be the revelation of one’s faith in her child – the belief in the potential of her child to grow into an even more amazing person!

The faith of a parent – faith in God, self, and child – has the ability to do the impossible. A little faith has the power to move a mountain…faith has the ability to move a child into adulthood!!!

So, the next time you find yourself praying for patience…maybe don’t! Rather, ask God to strengthen your faith – in God, in yourself, and in your child.

If you would like to hear more, check out this week’s message, Mothers Moving Mountains. Consideration is given to the amazing influence mothers have upon the hearts of their children…and, the how faith strengthens a mother to move a mountain!

Lifted Up: Overcoming the Isolation of Weakness

Jlifted upesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up… — Mark 1:31a

Illness holds an incredible power over the human body and spirit – illness is exhausting. The illness starving our bodies and spirits could be physical or mental. Either way, illness has the same debilitating effect. The ill are drained and forced into the isolation of weakness.

“Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up,” (Mark1:31a) provokes a hopeful image. Jesus’ extending of a hand to a woman who is at her weakest signals a message of hope for anyone who knows this exhaustion. Offering a hand of strength, comfort, and assurance transfers a power untouched by modern medicine. Reaching out to another in their weakness is transformative.

Jesus offers his hand to the mother-in-law of Simon Peter. While this miracle story is not the first of Jesus’ deeds of power in the gospel of Mark, the care and concern he shows to this feeble woman is the first of his “healing miracles” in Mark’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry.

A fever had overtaken this woman. Her illness brought her to fragility, confining her to the bed. Jesus sees the woman in her weakness and he reaches out to her.

Mark seems to make a statement with this first healing miracle. He offers his audience a clear impression of Jesus of Nazareth: Jesus is a man with the authority of divine power, who chooses to reach out to people when they are at their weakest; and, therfore, we can all trust that God reaches out to us in our weakness through Jesus. 

Jesus takes the woman by the hand. He holds her. He connects himself to her in her weakness. He believes for her. He believes in God and the power of God to heal. But, Jesus also believes in in the woman. Jesus believes in her potential to be moved from weakness to strength. He believes in the power of God to deliver this woman from her fragility and to raise her to a newness of life! He believes in her ability to be lifted up!

In faith, he took her by the hand and…

He lifted her up.

Accepting the hand of strength, comfort, and assurance offered to us in our weakness is not easy. Relying upon God, trusting in the power of God, believing in the freeing power of God’s love is not easy for all of us. Believing God would determine us worthy of this hand of power is even more of an obstacle. And, yet, in your weakness you will discover this hand of God is not only being offered to you, it has already taken hold of your hand.

Accept the hand that is holding you and know the power it provides.

Be lifted up…

But, allow yourself to be lifted up to a newness of life so that you might become the hand of God for another, who is drained, feeble, and forced into the isolation of weakness. Reach out to others in their weakness with the hand of strength, comfort, and assurance that you know possesses the power to lift up.

 

Together

TogetherHave you ever wondered what a cucumber plant could teach us about the Christian community?

Well, take a moment and listen to this past week’s message, Together, and learn how intertwining our life can help us grow to a greater exposure of the Son.

tillit: Nurturing Inspiration for Spiritual Growth

Slide3Spiritually misplaced is what I will call it…

The way I have been feeling for the last couple of months…it is like I am spiritually misplaced.

It is not the feeling of being lost; it is something else…

Feeling spiritually misplaced is a little like forgetting where you put your cell phone when you walked into the house.

You know what I mean?

You know the phone is there. It is still working – beeping, buzzing, chiming! But, you don’t know remember where you set it down.

You know that frustration?

That’s what I mean when I say I have felt spiritually misplaced. I know my faith is still there, working – beeping, buzzing, and chiming – but it feels like it is just out of reach. The calls are going unanswered because I can’t remember where I set the phone down!

Frustrating!

Have you ever felt spiritually misplaced?

Have you ever felt like your faith was working – beeping, buzzing, and chiming – but it felt just out of reach? Have you ever felt misplaced because you can’t answer the calls?

My spiritual misplacement has had me searching, but I haven’t been searching for my faith, per se. I have come to realize I’ve been searching for something intrinsic to my faith…

I’ve been searching for inspiration.

I’ve been searching for the inspiration supplied by my faith.

I’ve been searching for the inspiration that gets me over doing life so that I can live life – and live it immersed in the abundant grace of God.

I’ve been searching for the inspiration that nurtures my spiritual growth – a growth away from the self and into the presence of God in Jesus Christ.

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One of the most influential teachers from my time in divinity school was Dr. Ellen Davis. She is an Old Testament scholar. Her teaching and instruction was a blessing to my classmates and me.

She brought our attention to a verse in the Bible, which changed my life: “The Lord God placed the man in the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.” – Genesis 2:15

She encouraged her students to consider the meaning of the words translated “till it” and “keep it.” She argued a compelling case for translating the verse to read: to serve it and to observe it. (For a closer examination of her argument, I would encourage you to read her book Scripture, Culture, Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible.)

Without getting into a full discussion about her argument, she influenced me to reconsider my view of creation! She encouraged me to reconsider the relationship God intended for humanity to have with the dirt. She influenced me to question God’s intent for God’s creation, the responsibility God entrusted to humanity, and the blessed ability to encounter the beauty of God’s presence in my life by valuing life around me.

To till it no longer meant to work the ground  for my own delight, or to exhaust the earth of her resources! To till it meant to care for the dirt that nurtures and sustains life! To till it meant to relate to God by valuing, serving, and observing God’s creation.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? – Psalm 8:3-4

How does the dirt of the earth relate to my spiritual misplacement? How does the glory of God’s creation speak to my lack of inspiration?

In the midst of dealing with my misplacement, I decided to till it and keep it.

Literally.

I started a garden.

My son and I went to the local feed and seed at the end of February and bought some seeds, a bag of plant mix, and a couple planting containers. I thought it would be a fun activity for him. He could learn about plants and eat the vegetables he grew.

We returned to the house and tried to figure out how to make plants grow, which is when I discovered I did not know what I was doing!

So, I did what any good millennial would do – I got on youtube and watched videos on germinating seeds, transplanting, and gardening for beginners!

Our initial afternoon activity became a daily opportunity for my son and me to explore and learn together.

We learned how to germinate seeds.

We learned how to transplant seedlings.

We learned how to start a garden, build a raised bed, and create row crops.

In the midst of our new adventure, my inspiration began to emerge from the dirt.

The emergence of inspiration within a garden is not surprising. There is a prayerful quality to considering and caring for the dirt, to watering and tending the plants, to tasting the sweetness of the fruit.

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My son showing his mother the first snap pea.

The garden is not the only place to discover the inspiration that nurtures spiritual growth. The location is not the issue; rather, one’s approach to faith is what matters. It is a matter of perspective. It is a matter of how you choose to see things and how to respond to situations in your life.

What can you do when you are feeling spiritually misplaced?

tillit.

I don’t mean go start a garden (unless that appeals to you). Consider the meaning of “to till it and keep it” for you.

What are you tilling and keeping?

Where are your giving your time, energy, and spirit?

If you are feeling spiritually misplaced, maybe God is urging you to redirect your efforts. Maybe it is time to tillit…to serve and observe the things God values. Maybe it is time to give yourself to the thing or the person you otherwise overlook.

Maybe if you learn what it means for you to tillit, you might discover the emergence of the inspiration that nurtures your spiritual growth.

The Imperishable Inheritance

ImperishableBeing alive to God is a lot like biting into a freshly picked strawberry — it is tasting the beauty of God’s glory in the simple and the subtle of the present; but, the fruit we taste does more than reveal the beauty of God (and the newness of life with God in Christ), the fruit we taste is actually the seed for the abundant inheritance growing for us in heaven!

My previous post, Life Resurrected, shared a link to a sermon from a couple of years ago. The message considered what it means to be alive to God.

As I wrote, “Being alive to God does not always look or feel like the grand or the spectacular; rather, being alive to God is often experienced in the simple, the subtle, and the serene…like biting into a freshly picked strawberry!”

And, in the message I shared how biting into a freshly picked strawberry awakened my senses to the power of God’s glory!

In this week’s message, The Imperishable Inheritance, I return to the story of the strawberry! The fruit we taste in this present life, which reveals the beauty of God’s glory, is actually the seed for the abundant inheritance growing for us with God in Christ!

If you have a moment, have a listen to the message, The Imperishable Inheritance, from a couple of weeks ago! Blessings to you all!

Life Resurrected: Being Alive to God in the Simplicity and the Subtly of a Strawberry

Strawberry“I thought to myself, ‘This is the best strawberry I’ve ever had in my life.” Not because of where it came from, but because of what it came to represent for me…In that moment, I tasted what God has to offer: the beauty of the now; the very natural; the blessing of what is already before us. And, there before me was the beauty of God’s creation, the beauty of God’s presence, in a simple strawberry.”

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He is Not Here

He is Not HereSearching for something in the wrong places?

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary return to the tomb of Jesus on the third day.

They return to see the tomb of Jesus so the can continue their vigil. They return to the place where they believe Jesus is supposed to be.

The one place Jesus is supposed to be turns out to be the wrong place. The right place to see Jesus is actually the wrong place…He is not here! 

What can we do when the right place to find the something we are searching turns out to be the wrong place? What can we learn from the experience of these women?

Take a moment to listen to the message He is Not Here and discover how we can respond in faith and move forward in obedience…