Rarely do we see ourselves as the voice of John the Baptist. And yet in many ways that’s exactly who we are; the messengers before the coming of Christ! We are the voices crying in today’s wilderness, preparing the way for those who come after us. Our voice matters! Without it, how could our children know what and whom to look for? Without it how will they know which way to go? Without it how will they discern the ways of this world. We’ve heard the cries before. Where there is no justice there is no peace. In this season of hope and expectation, peace is the furthest thing from our minds. So how do we get peace back in our lives? How do we get to an undisturbed freedom, a freedom from violence, abuse and disrespect, a freedom to be whom God has created us to be? How do we get to that civility that is the responsibility of both the people and its elected authorities. How do we get to that peace reflected in God’s kingdom – here on this earth, in our country, in our community? We need to be that voice to remind us and particularly those in authority that the freedoms for which all of our ancestors fought was first given by God to all of God’s people, that God’s law came before man’s interpretation of it and no where does it separate or segregate it’s application to the people of God.We have an obligation to not only be conscious of those keepers of injustice but we must name them out loud. Call it for what it is. John cried in the midst of abusiveness and so should we. As we continue to pick up where John the Baptist left off, not one individual will ever be able to say they could not, – did not hear that voice urging us to “make the path straight” and do what is right! Let the protestors protest. Our voice matters. With every moment of injustice, the cries of John the Baptist becomes our cries, to prepare the way for true justice, and prepare the way for true equality, in order that we too may live in the way of true Peace.
I’ve had this retreat scheduled for months. Usually I am quite happy to be getting away, in fact rather excited. However, this time it was different. I really did not want to leave home! I’ve come to understand that essentially we walk in wilderness everyday. It’s not necessarily a place but more states of environments. It’s also not all necessarily bad. Sure – stuff happens! Things around us are being constructed and deconstructed at every moment of our lives. We don’t always know what’s about to happen. We only know what it is that we are called to do today, right now, this very moment. If we want something to change, the process of that change must come deep from within the passion that is within us. Life’s journey is about responding to the various experiences we have in these environments and some experiences are more wilderness than others. But life in Christ is about learning to respond in peace in that wilderness, guided by the spiritual presence of God. So, finally, with a workable understanding of “being in the world and not of it, (John 17:15-19)” I’ve learn to accept my “wilderness” as part of life. But more importantly once I return from this retreat, I get to be filled with the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14-30) back in to my wilderness with so much more peace knowing that it is the Spirit which guides me.
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live. Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32 The key word as I see it is turn. It’s as simple as that. Every now and then, I allow the GPS in my car to guide me home from unfamiliar places just until I get to a place of recognition in the journey. There have been other times when I started out using the GPS and decided that it was taking me in the wrong direction because I had already determined that where I needed to go was in a different direction. These are the trips that often leave me somewhat anxious and very confused in the beginning because my sense of direction is in conflict with where the GPS is trying to take me. Even as I make turns contrary to the GPS it will continually recalculate the route according to my “misdirected” turns. This recently happened to me the other day and I found myself in various places, all of which were unfamiliar. Finally I decided that I would just follow the direction of the GPS. Although it took me twice as long to get home I did eventually get to a place of familiarity in which I could then take the shortest route from where I was at that moment directly to my home. Sometimes in life it takes us longer to arrive at various destinations because we make predetermined turns which lead us to unfamiliar and difficult places and we spend a lot of time self-navigating. We forget that every turn we take that is away from God requires recalculation. When we decide to allow God to guide our direction, it may take us longer to get to our desired destination, but eventually we will find that place of familiarity – that spiritual place of peace, which leads us home.
Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:14-29 There are times when we need help with believing. I’ve been away since Monday without access to internet and today was the first I’ve been able to get connected. I was given a gift of an all expense paid trip to Delray Beach Florida for a retreat conference and although I have been disconnected, I have been pleasantly surprised and uplifted. Credo (I believe) in Delray Beach Florida has been a blessing and opportunity to help me remember that I still believe and what it is that I believe in. Praise be to God. Thank you all who have continued to read and respond. Sometimes it is difficult to let go of the things you love so much and this blog is one of the things I love to do. Although retreats sometimes can be hard work, this one has been well worth the time put into it. Thanks for your patience and I will be be back with you on Monday. In the meantime never lose hope – only believe. Peace and Blessings
Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ Mark 9:14-29
I lift my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come? He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber Psalm 121:1,3
The ebb and flow of recent years has at times left me tenuous. Yesterday, in particular I awoke feeling tired and ill. Although the past weekend was extremely busy, in my heart I felt I’d earned a day of Sabbath, but in my mind I felt like I needed to do the things I have committed myself to do. Somehow the flow would be consistent and the hope I have for things to come as a result of my commitments would be held up and rewarded. Today, as I drank my early morning coffee I realized that I felt 100% better than I did yesterday. Perhaps all I really needed was rest.
I share this testimony because this weekend was not without some small yet reassuring rewards of God’s faithfulness throughout this ebb and flow of my own life. Ebb tides can’t really be separated from the flow tides. Sometimes the tides are high and sometimes low. From a physical point of view we have a tendency to pay too much attention to the ebb and flow and equate God’s faithfulness with what is or is not physically happening. When the ebb is overwhelming, the feeling of desperation rises. In our heart we know that God’s faithfulness is everlasting and ever flowing, but in our mind we question and doubt because we can’t see the flow materialize in our everyday life when we want it to occur. Things happen when they happen. In this faith journey we have to accept in both our heart and our mind that through ebb and flow God’s faithfulness is always at work. While this is easier said than done, it is worth every effort to work towards this level of actualization because in my experience it is the difference between walking in peace and walking in chaos. It helps to recognize desperation for what it is, as a form of fear. It is a response to the ebb tides of our physical life, a loss of hope. So, whenever we find ourselves with feelings of ebb tides great or small, we should remind ourselves that we walk in faith, not in desperation.
Luke 6:5 The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.
Psalm 127:2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.
Hebrews 10:34-35 …you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward.
I had a very troubling experience yesterday which for a short period left me in a difficult place. I wasn’t there very long because by the grace of God I was able to recognize and accept the reality of the situation. Stepping back from the event and not running from it, I was able to find a place of peace and when I awoke this morning I found myself in a place of strength with the ability to say “no” to a familiar situation, which in the past, would have left me struggling. Today however, there was no struggle. I didn’t have to think about it. I had no feeling of guilt and no worry about the impression I may have left.
We often find ourselves in very uncomfortable places. The good news is that God is in each and every one of them. Where are you today? Seek God while he wills to be found (Isaiah 55:6). He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Let all who seek God rejoice and be glad and be confident in your salvation!
Psalm 118: 1, 5-6 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His mercy endures forever…In my constraint I called to the Lord; the Lord answered and set me free. The Lord is at my side; I will not fear; what can flesh do to me?
Thomas Merton wrote; “It is in deep solitude and silence that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brother and my sister.” Jesus himself often went off to pray, meditate and be in conversation with God. Some of us have learned to create that kind of space in our lives, while others grab it whenever we can. When we do, it is often quite rewarding as well as rejuvenation for the will of the spirit within us. We come to realizations and affirmations about who we are, as human beings in love with a merciful God ready and willing to bless us with his love, as we commit to sharing that love in our prayers for our bothers and sisters. When we are done we accept that we can’t stay in that quiet place forever. We are called to go back out into the midst of whatever chaos we left in order to attain some quiet peace. As blessed as we are in that solitude, we must learn to love our brothers and sisters in the midst of our interaction with others, to call upon the strength of God in the moments and events of our lives even as they occur. Its not easy to work through the chaos to get at the peace but when we do we will experience the power, strength and authority of the presence of a reconciled spirit within, and laugh without fear of the future.
Proverbs 31:21,25-26 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson…Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (NRSV)
I had a very interesting weekend and by all accounts quite enjoyable. However, it never fails that principalities against God’s will, that being peace and unity is confronted with an otherwise disengaged event, which only serves to disrupt the joy in the spirit that God desires us to have. In my case after considerable thought as to what I might learn from this encounter, I relate it to several scriptures which help to remind me that throughout this journey, in the same way God uses us as vehicles to build His kingdom here on earth, the enemy attempts to use God’s creation to break it down. Yes, even within the “church” meaning the body of Christ, we must always be conscious of being under attack. One cunning strategy is the use of scripture to justify adverse behavior. It is not only important to know the word of God but to study it. Most times it makes sense to simply walk away from what seems to be a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the scripture. Other times for the purpose of the Gospel, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, you will need to stand firm and having done all that you could do, give it over to God and then move on in peace.
Matthew 4:5-7 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’
Romans 12:9-21 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Matthew 18:15 ‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.
Matthew 5:23-24 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
1 Chronicles 29:14 ‘But who am I?…For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. Today I am in a new place and as I was searching for something to write I came across this post from my own blog written on July 29, 2011. I decided it was a good way to begin yet another renewal in my life. No more forgetting who I am. No more waiting for other people to get them selves together, only living my life through the eyes of Christ, like it is gold, precious and yet moldable only by the skillful hands of God and building my life on his promises alone.
Forgetting Our Heritage (29 Jul 2012)
It’s not only when things in life go wrong do we quickly forget who we are, but also when things are going exceptionally well. We can just as easily lose confidence in our selves as quickly as we can become full of arrogance. Both extremes have the tendency to instigate storms. When our spirit is low the enemy attacks. When our spirit is high the enemy attacks. The balance (peace) will come when we begin to trust God’s presence in our life and give him praise regardless of our circumstance as Paul so eloquently encouraged in Philippians 3 and 4. We don’t have to blame our selves for the low times, nor give an explanation for our high times. In either situation we have only to give God the glory, remember that we are heirs to the promise of salvation and redemption as believers in Christ, and strive towards the peace of God, which passes all understanding. If we say we believe, only our next step really matters.
Philippians 3: 13-14 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
In spite of it all, our history, traditions and reasoning, God seems confident that we, his creation are worth waiting for. Yet we make him wait for our affection, compassion, commitment and ultimately our love. Perhaps the gift of the Holy Spirit is not a risk at all, at least not on God’s part but rather a challenge. Dare we open our hearts as children, that we may receive it fully and completely so as not to allow the obstacles of the storms, fears and doubts, overwhelm our desire to travel this Christian journey in peace? The alternative of course is to do what many of us have done and receive it conditionally and with restriction in our lives, in that as long as we experience the good without disturbance we are all too eager to acknowledge it’s power and authority. Soon afterward mistakenly believing that it doesn’t matter what we do or whether we do anything at all the spirit is favorably guiding us. Subsequently, when the storms come (especially the the sudden ones) we tend to feel as if they are a personal attack specifically against us resulting in the all too well-known disparaging thoughts; “Why me? and Where is God in all of this?” While the Holy Spirit has no respect of person, the reality is that neither do the storms. Whether we walk into the storms willingly or whether they come upon us without warning, we are the ones who happen to be in its way. Either way the challenge is to hold fast to the power and authority of the Holy Spirit while in the midst of the storm, which historically and traditionally submits to that over which it ultimately has no authority or power.