Fitting In

…the one who sent me is with me…  I remember when my parents sent me off to college. As they drove away I immediately experienced a different kind of wilderness celebrating all of the possibilities and yet wondering if I might actually fit in. Holding to some old ideals and relationships admittedly made “fitting in” a bit difficult. It was my mother who helped me understand that by being there I had already fit in to a culture of higher learning. Learning to put things in proper perspective would be my first challenge. This is one of the moments in my life that helps me remember how much my mother’s presence carries on within me, still guiding and comforting me in those times I’m feeling like I don’t “fit in.”  Thank you God for your love and presence are everlasting.

Drawing Closer

…I know where I have come from and where I am going… John 8:12-20  Remembering the past while embracing the future requires focus, courage, flexibility and above all faith. Half way through this season of Lent perhaps we’ve fallen off a bit from our journey towards reconciling all that we’ve come to know with all that is yet to be known; as we leave what needs to be left of the old and graciously receive all that is new. Gracious God thank you for the strength of your spirit that guides us as you continue to create your love within us and draw us closer to where you desire us to be.

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr

…Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Luke 2:41-52

The following are excerpts from one of Dr. Kings earliest recorded sermons given on February 28, 1954 at 2nd Street Baptist Church in Detroit Michigan, titled “Rediscovering Lost Values.” **

Now, the real thing that is to be seen here is this: that the parents of Jesus realized that they had left, and that they had lost a mighty precious value. They had sense enough to know that before they could go forward to Nazareth, they had to go backward to Jerusalem to rediscover this value. (That’s right) They knew that. They knew that they couldn’t go home to Nazareth until they went back to Jerusalem. (Come on)

And I think, my friends, that that is the thing that has happened in America. That we have unconsciously left God behind. Now, we haven’t consciously done it; we have unconsciously done it. You see, the text, you remember the text said that Jesus’ parents went a whole day’s journey not knowing that he wasn’t with them. They didn’t consciously leave him behind. (Well) It was unconscious; went a whole day and didn’t even know it. It wasn’t a conscious process. You see, we didn’t grow up and say, “Now, goodbye God, we’re going to leave you now.” The materialism in America has been an unconscious thing. Since the rise of the Industrial Revolution in England, and then the invention of all of our gadgets and contrivances and all of the things and modern conveniences—we unconsciously left God behind. We didn’t mean to do it.

Go out and be assured that that God is going to last forever. (Yes) Storms might come and go…..

If we are to go forward, (Oh yes) we must go back and rediscover these precious values: (Well) that all reality hinges on moral foundations (Lord have mercy) and that all reality has spiritual control. (Yes) God bless you. (Amen, Amen, Amen)

**The full sermon can be read at : The Martin Luther King Jr, Research and Education Institute of Stanford University

Staying Focused

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 2:11-22). Prayer is always a good way to sustain the spirit and this one from Ephesians I believe is particularly good to embrace. The writer commends the readers and encourages them to focus on their relationship with God in order that the gift of the spirit of God within will continually guide and strengthen them.

Often the issue we have in this journey is whether or not we will allow God’s love to guide and strengthen our resolve to do the work God has called us to do. Our focus on the spirit within will help us stay a course that is pleasing to God. This is not to say that the course will be perfect by human standards. Rather it is a course that involves praise and thanksgiving for our blessings (including hardships & lessons learned), confession and repentance for our mis-steps (including disobedience to God’s word) and our testimony to the glory of Christ to which God in his grace heeds. Thus, when we lose focus (as we sometimes do) in this journey, God’s discipline and mercy will help us regain our focus on his spirit within and move us forward.

Creating Thorns

As we grow from infancy to adulthood both physically and spiritually, learning to be content with God’s grace is a constant challenge for many of us. We spend a lot of time learning to be independent as children and as adults we spend a lot of time valuing the independence that we’ve gained and finding the balance between independence and dependence can take time, patience and most of all faith. To the world dependence can be nonsense. Most people worship power and strength that independence can provide. Having to depend on others is viewed as a weakness that is despised above all things.  The world teaches us to conceal our vulnerability, or we will be hurt, and it teaches us to hide our weakness, or we will be taken advantage of.  The world teaches us to camouflage our inadequacies with self-confidence, self reliance and self assurance, so that we can build a heaven for ourselves here on earth.  The world teaches us that we can help ourselves, that we can do what we need to do on our own, and that all the answers we need we can find in ourselves. (But) The first time we find our selves in a situation where we really need help, we have already independently lived to a point where we have become so full of the self, that we are afraid to ask for the help we need or we reject help when it is offered because we fear what others might say about us. This can happen in every aspect of our lives, individually, socially, and professionally. Subsequently, we end up making difficult decisions and unfortunately we create our own thorns before we realize that all we had to do was acknowledge our weakness, admit our inability to change the situation on our own, and ask in faith for God’s grace and mercy to intervene. Regardless of the pain, we face reality and make a better decision to move forward. Why not move forward through God’s grace?

Faith: A Spiritual Place

Today perhaps we are the seed, but rest assured eventually, like Christ, Moses, David, the Disciples, Paul and the rest, God also intends us to be the sower. As the child who comes full circle in her relationship with a parent, our reconciliation with God is a process of challenges, questioning and growth, and graciously the seed that is sown is our faith in God. Eventually that faith becomes like home; a familiar place that we, and others will come back to time and again. Faith is the key that encourages us to knock and opens the doors that we by our selves would not have otherwise confronted. Faith is the confidence in knowing that in spite of our selves we will move forward because even through us, surely our God can do anything.

Mark 4: 26-34 The Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” 

“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 

Sufficient Grace

Lent: Day 24 – If Jesus had waited for perfect disciples, he wouldn’t have any. If Jesus had waited for circumstances to be perfect 4000 people would have gone hungry. Do you think Jesus will wait for you? God will move in those who allow themselves to be moved. Even when we aren’t ready, God is always ready. Indeed, our faith in Christ is sufficient! Today and everyday we must trust God and move forward in faith!

Mark 8:1-10 ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven.’ Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people.

Psalm 94   For the Lord will not forsake his people;
  he will not abandon his heritage;