Thursday, June 30, 2022

Wonderings--June 30

Today I have been lost in thought. While working on a project that I volunteered for, I noticed how my mind travelled around the space where I was working and settled on an interesting reflection from the book I was reading. . . 

First, let me say that I am thankful that I volunteered for this work. . . I had no plans on doing so as we entered the space a few days ago. I just wanted to 'look around' and see what I could support another person here in the church. Entering the space, I recognized that a great amount of work was needed and I trusted that God would help accomplish this. Before long I found my mouth open and I offered to help. 

Surprise, surprise, no one stopped me. . . In fact they were thankful that I would be willing to work on this project. We are all busy in life, but sometimes just carving our some time to help feels good. 

So here I was, sitting down and engaging the problem/task that I didn't need to do and wasn't to do it. And it was glorious work. I had so much fun. 

I tried listening to my audiobook, but that didn't work. The room is too big and I don't want to broadest a Star Wars book for everyone to hear. I switched to Apple Music and thought some worship music would help, and while I enjoyed the music, I didn't really listen to it. It was like I was being drawn into some different reflection.  

Leaning into the silence for the day, I quietly worked. Moving around the space I remembered the words of my morning book: How Happiness Happens: Finding lasting Joy in a World of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations. The author writes these words for us: 

"Intentional encouragement has affected my life. . ."

Then he proceeds to tell a story about how a previous Senior Pastor went out of his way on every occasion to encourage the young pastor. These actions and choices of encouragement helped shape the young leader  as a preacher and care-giver. And as I thought about Max Lucado's ministry and impact on our world, I think the old preacher did help form a Christian in ways that he may not have realized initially when we offered kind words and a gentle presence. 

So back to my morning. . . As I worked I wonder why we do not take more opportunities to encourage and support each other? Why are we quick to let someone else do the work, when we could find the space and make the time, even in a very busy day, to be present and help? 

The person who will ultimately benefit from my morning of work will perhaps never know that I did this. They won't know that I was trying to be a support and encouragement in their work for Jesus as the Senior Pastor was for Max Lucado. My service will likely go un-commented upon. And I think that this is a good thing. The intentional choice to be present and serve someone else is exactly what Jesus did in his time with us on earth. Intentional encouragement can and should be a practice that we engage in. . . 


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Wonderings--June 29

It has been an interesting couple days of listening and observing. 

I have tried to be a quiet as I can. Stillness has been the desire that I sought. As I listened to news and read posts on social media, I have tried to do so as quietly as I can so as not to interject anything into what I am hearing. To use some of the language that Parker Palmer is famous for, I know that the soul is a delicate thing, a timid thing, and so I don't want to scare it off as I contemplate the state of our nation. Gentleness is important. 

As Paul reminds us in Galatians we need to be careful that we do not devour each other with our words otherwise we might find ourselves being devoured as well. And so as I read about the end of Roe and consider the gun control legislation and listen to reports from the January 6th commission, I try to be still and suspend judgment and just listen. 

However, in that choice, I am the minority. 

Even in our 24 hour news cycle where things bubble up and then fade way, these issues seem to live continually before us, and so responses grow more and more hateful and angry by the day. People who I never thought would be so aggressive are becoming more and more aggressive each day. 

It was then that I picked up my copy of C.S. Lewis' book A Grief Observed. Again, trying to read and consider the words as gently as I could, I came across these words that I think are spot on as we try to live faithfully in our world: 

"On the other hand, 'Knock and it shall be opened.' But does knowing mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? . . . After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can't give. Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity." 

Those are strong words from C.S. Lewis and I think that they are applicable in our lives today. Everyone seems bent on pounding their position, or their beliefs, aggressively out as fast as their fingers can post them. But is that again truly serving God? Is rage the necessary emotion right now?  

Perhaps Lewis asks us to suspend our aggression and dwell in stillness with the Lord. I wonder how you might practice this gentleness before the community in which God places you? Perhaps you might a different, more faith-based, response possible? Maybe we can find it together? 


Monday, June 27, 2022

Wonderings--June 27

Already I have had a busy morning. Today I had my yearly physical and found out that I am doing well and my knee is healing nicely. There is some 'housekeeping' that I need to but I expected to hear that. So the news wasn't shocking or upsetting. I smiled and noted that I would need to get started soon. 

But as I waited for name to be called for a blood draw, I was aware that my inbox was filling with emails that I should not ignore. Like you I subscribe to a number of blogs and email services that send me information to consider. Their information or lessons are beginning to distill around one issue that is forefront in our nation--and I know that you can guess the issue.

I am not going to talk about that here because frankly this is not the place for those considerations. I am more interested in how God Shows Up in our lives--and not how we tear each other apart to prove our point or condemn another person. 

To escape (and that is the right word), I opened a journal that I received through the mail. Flipping through the pages I settled on an article by one of my D.Min teachers, Dr. Scott Hagley. As I read his article, I felt his words speaking to our situation now. He writes: 

"We are pressed into practices which pull at the thin threads connecting us to our neighbors and neighborhoods. Our pubic spaces are increasingly commodified, where access depends on income. In between these spaces, we spend hours alone in automobiles commuting to work or other activities. We get drive-through coffee and eat take-out food. We live in neighborhoods with no sidewalks and prefer the back porch to the front. When we do connect with others, it is on a social media platform from within the comfort [and safety] of our own home. . . 

Learning to love. . . connects us to the social, political, and economic ecologies of the place [and person]. In this way, we must become good neighbors before learning to love our neighbors."

I have not heard much love being offered recently. 

I have read op-eds and scathing cultural conclusions being drawn. Grace is not being offered to anyone. My heart is saddened when I meet people, or talk to to people, whose preferred response to times such as this is to attack, judge, divide, and vilify. Finger pointing is the easy choice but I am not convinced that it is the right choice. 

I wonder if God is offering you today a chance to love and be attentive in a manner similar to what Scott is talking about in his article? I wonder what might happen if you dwelt with an individual?

If we leave the agenda aside and just show up, we might notice that God shows us as well? 


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Wonderings--June 23

As Bible School prepares to end for the summer, I went for a walk this morning to help stretch my knee and listen to my devotions. And God Showed Up. . . 

My devotional app began with a musical selection from a chamber choir. The title of their piece was Thy Kingdom. I couldn't understand a single word that they sang, and yet I felt the emotion of the words radiating out from them. 

Knowing where the choir was based provided a powerful testimony to my heart; the choir is from Kyiv, Ukraine. 

As I listened to them singing in Ukrainian, and thinking about the war that devastates their country, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. How could they offer praise to God when they look out their window and see broken buildings? How can they use their gifts of music so passionately as they remember the suffering of their citizens and the senseless death that stalks them? 

In the midst of war, something beautiful was sung. The song spoke about God's presence with us and it made the struggles of my morning slowly retreat as God Showed Up. 

When we hurt. When we are tired and beaten down. When we feel the pressures of the faith presses down on us. In my case, when the work of VBS has worn the physical body down to its core. God offers us healing and a reminder that He is with us. We may not feel that we have the strength to continue onward in the mission that we are called to We may feel that one more encounter with the local community and culture so one more than we can take. . . But in showing up we create space for God to show up.  

For the rest of my walk (about 20 minutes), I walked slowly around the cemetery here at Bethesda. 

The sun attempted to burn through the cloudy morning and glow. It was not instantaneous. The light would come then it would go. The breeze came with the light and then the humidity overwhelmed the breeze and I saw no blue skies. 

But I can still hear the words that choir singing praises to God; thanking Him for His presence with them. I wonder how God might break through your day today? 


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Wonderings--June 22

What surprises you? It is a straightforward question, and yet, I don't know how often we stop and consider how we might address it? 

Today I want to share with you how I was surprised at VBS last evening. . . 

Each evening the children meet me in the sanctuary for our Bible lesson and story. It is a wonderful time of sharing and listening to each other. I have these lessons long enough that I have a good flow to how I attack the story. I feel comfortable with the work. As each lesson begins I ask the children to remind me about what they learned on the previous day. This choice accomplishes two things: 

1- It helps cement the lessons from God's Word. 
2- It buys me a little wiggle time if my lesson plans don't flow as smoothly as I hope and time is short. 

So as we began together, I followed my normal flow and asked the children to tell me about the story that we talked about on Monday evening. This is a fairly simple and foundational story that I knew they would remember --the crossing of the Red Sea. 

The children told me about the plagues and how the water split on both sides so God's children could walk through on dry land. They reminded me of Moses' staff that God asked Moses to raise as the waters divided on the right and the left. They remembered the anger of Pharaoh because he lost his slave-workers. We even heard about the baby Moses who was floated down the Nile and raised by his mother in Pharaoh's house. 

And then it happened. . . 

One little girl, no older than 3 or 4 years old, raised her hand. Her eyes were filled with excitement. Her face told me that I forgot something and she was going to fill it in. She spoke about the burning bush and said this: "God told him (Moses) to take off his shoes because he was on Holy ground." 

I didn't tell them that part of the story. Frankly I didn't know if they would understand the concept of Holy ground so I moved past it. And the story is so long that I did not have enough time to tell them everything from God's Word. But God showed up in her life and made sure we were aware of it. 

I paused and just looked at her with a smile. She got it!  

Affirming what she said, I commented that I left that part out last night, but that she was absolutely right.  When God and Moses met the space was Holy. It was my moment of surprise. A surprise in the faith can happen at any moment. It can touch any life, and if we are willing to dwell with each other, God does indeed show up and changes people. 

The rest of the evening my mind was focused on this little brown-haired girl for God had indeed been with her. 

I wonder if you have had this experience recently? I wonder if God might be getting you ready to surprise you in your faith walk? How might you respond to it? 


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Wonderings--June 21

Last evening we had a great experience with VBS here at Bethesda. It was our first day and the children who came to Bible School were excited. They were ready to learn and encounter God. And I saw that passion throughout the program. Whether they 'crossed the Red Sea' with me, or sang with Donna, or created their crafts with Liz, or played games Jennifer and Leslie, God was with them. Even as we ate dinner that Edie, Linda, and Esther provided, we could sense God was going to be there. 

It was such a good evening that, as we get ready for Day 2 I wonder if we have the energy to do the whole thing again? 

The program of VBS stretches the church and its members at the convergence point of faith and service. Certainly we believe totally and completely in how God is at work with us, and how God is at work with the children. But VBS also offers us the time to wonder: can we truly do this? 

As I thought about this question I remembered something that I read in preparation for my Doctoral Final Paper that still sticks with me. In his book, Incarnational Ministry: Being with the Church, Sam Wells says this: 

"The conversation we're about to have, this conversation we're now having, could be the most important one of your life. It doesn't have to be-- I can laugh, I can relax, I can have fun, I can just be with you in joy or in sorrow. But it can be. It may not be the right time for you, but it's always the right time for me. I will never tell you [that] I'm too busy. I will never make light of your struggles. I will never tell you something more interesting actually happens to me. . .

I'll never do any of those things because all of them in different ways are saying I'm out of my depth. . . I am someone who, however deep you wish to go, will never be out of my depth. You can trust me to listen. You can trust me to withhold my personal investment in the issues for another time and place. You can trust me to be alert to the ways of God however strange the story you tell."

This is the ministry of VBS I think, as it is also the way that Sam describes the ministry, from his perceptive. At VBS, as in Sunday and in instances throughout our church life, we find ways to show up and care for the children by granting our children the time that they need to be with us as they are also with God. 

We always have time for them. We always let them push our patience and ask us just one more question. We always grant them to opportunity to derail a conversation because something special in them is beginning to feel God at work. . . And as God is at work in them, we are in the perfect place to listen and dwell and encourage. 

I wonder, can we do it? I believe we can. 


Monday, June 20, 2022

Wonderings--June 20

VBS at Bethesda begins today. Quietly, and diligently, the preparations have come together. Crafts are being laid out and demonstrations prepared for the children. The food for dinner rests in the kitchen in a neat row. Jennifer and I have talked out the games that she will play with the kids and I know that she is excited to begin working with them. 

For my part, the Bible story is ready. I am pretty sure that I can tell the story of the Red Sea parting from memory, but props always make a story better and more memorable--and so the props are ready too. My decorations are siting in a bag across from my desk on the chair. I still need to place them, but that will not be hard. I am ready. But as I get ready I cannot shake an interesting reflection that continues to return to my mind. 

What will this year's VBS be like? 

This is my first VBS here at Bethesda. I have experience leading the stories at every church I have served. Each story and program requires a bit of an adjustment based on the culture of the church. I am sure this will be no different tonight. And I also know that the numbers tonight may be smaller than Bethesda remembers, but that does not matter.

Instead we are called to give all we have to God. 

Annie Dillard talks about this idea in her book, The Writing Life. Even though she speaks about writing and how to 'do' it, I feel her lessons are applicable to us as VBS begins. She says: 

"Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. . . . [T]he impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."

Whether you believe that she is speaking about writing a book, or serving at VBS, or sharing God's word with the community, it does not matter. The message is the same. We are not called by God to hide our "light under a bushel basket" anymore than we are called by God to hide the blessings of God with us in a safe where no one can receive them or learn from them. 

We must give it all away. . . All of it. Hold nothing back but faithfully and continually give what God has given to us so that others can learn who God is and how God changes our lives. I wonder who God might be putting in your path that would benefit from you taking what you've learned from God and share it with them in totality? 


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Wonderings--June 16

As Bible School is upon us, and as my excitement grows for the our first VBS at Bethesda, I wonder about how the program of VBS mixes with the mission of the church? There are times when that mission does not seem to intersect with how the church sees itself. But should that conclusion still be validated and supported? 

I once heard it said that we put so much work into something (VBS) that provides so little on Sunday morning (in worship). As I remember hearing these words I still believe that they are wrong and show that the individual who said them was, and is, missing the larger calling of God in their lives. 

Perhaps VBS is an invitation for us as leaders in the church to care for the children of our community differently? 

Rudy Wiebe once wrote: 

"Jesus says in his society there is a new way for [people] to live: 
You show wisdom, by trusting people; 
you handle leadership, by serving; 
you handle offenders, by forgiving; 
you handle money, by sharing; 
you handle enemies, by loving; 
and you handle violence, by suffering.

In fact you have a new attitude toward everything, toward everybody. Toward nature, toward the state in which you happen to live, toward women, toward slaves, toward all and every single thing. Because this is a Jesus society and you repent, not by feeling bad, but by thinking differently."

I think buried in this quotation is the formula by which VBS becomes less 'what we do' and more 'the mission we live into.' We learn to 'think differently' about what it is that we do as the church. 

We may not have as many children at VBS this year as we have in previous years, and that might be a reality because of covid, but that does not mean that God will not be showing up next week and changing the lives of the children. 

This upcoming week, whether you volunteer at VBS or not, whether you drop someone off or not, I invite you to join me in thinking differently about the program. And as you think differently about VBS, I wonder what God might say to you and what God might call you to do? 


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Wonderings--June 15

I wonder why we feel like we have to perfect Christians? Why do we have to understand everything clearly and be able to trace a thought-line from beginning to end theologically? 

Elie Wiesel wrote the following story as the preface to his novel The Gates of the Forest

If you are not familiar with Wiesel's work, then I encourage you to find a copy of his seminal work, Night, and read it slowly. But, I caution you, Night is not an easy book to read. The book tells the story of Wiesel's time in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. With heart-piercing details, he tells of what he experienced in that horrible, evil, place. 

In The Gates of the Forest, though he writes these words: 

"When Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw that the Jewish people were threatened by a tragedy, he would go to a particular place in the forest where he lit a fire, recited a particular prayer, and the miracle was accomplished and the misfortune averted.

Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Maggid of Mezrich, had occasion for the same reason to intervene with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say, "Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer." Again, the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later, Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say, "I do not know how to light the fire. I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient." It was sufficient, and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire. I do not know the prayer, and I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient." And it was sufficient. For God made us because he loves stories."

Evangelistic perfection is not necessary when we speak about God or seek God in our lives. Instead, a faithful memory, or a faithful story, that is what God seeks from us. Certainly God has come down from heaven into our lives, and in the life of the church, and done extraordinary things. . . great things. . . powerful things. . . things we must remember and share. 

But God has also crept into our lives and answered the deep prayers of our souls. When we are so worn down, bruised, confused, or unsure. God does not ask to us to perfectly remember every detail of scripture. Instead, God asks that we faithfully remember that He is with us.

Perfection is not needed....


Monday, June 13, 2022

Wonderings--June 13

Wow it is hot in York today. It is going to be hotter and hotter as the week goes one. Someone told me recently that South Carolina is still preheating. . . I wonder if the oven has 'beeped' yet? 

So, I have a simple plan to escape this most recent heat wave. . . I withdraw. Grabbing a book from my shelf, I sat down in my chair next to my desk and I began to read. I didn't get very far before I read a story that I wondered about. I wonder if this story illustrates for us how we engage our local community? I further wonder if a better approach is called for from God?  

Allow me to share it with you now. . . 

A certain woman was out at a social event with others. She meets a woman at the gathering who describes herself as born-again. The main character of our story, an Episcopalian, began to discuss religion with this unnamed woman whom she just met to see if a commonality can be found. The woman confidently proclaimed: "You aren't saved." 

Never one to back down from a challenge the Episcopalian shot back quickly that she attends church every Sunday. Our irritated unknown woman said, "Going to church has nothing to do with it. You aren't saved." The discussion went on for a few more minutes, and the woman was becoming more and more agitated as repeatedly proclaimed: "You aren't saved." 

Finally the Episcopalian said, "But I try to love everyone. Isn't that what Jesus said, to love others as ourselves?" 

Almost shouting the woman explained, "Love has nothing to do with it!"

"What do you mean love has nothing to do with it? How can you say that?" asked the now shocked Episcopalian woman who couldn't believe what she was hearing.  

The woman insisted, "Love has nothing to do with it! It as to do with whether you have been saved or not!"

I don't think the issue was ever resolved. Certainly the author of the book makes no mention of restoration and healing coming into this relationship. But like I said earlier, I wonder about how often we engage in an evangelistic practice in the same vein? 

Do we push our agenda onto another person, someone we have not met yet? Do we make assumptions about their faith (or lack of faith) and then allow those assumptions to dictate how we serve God? Is it truly not enough to love and be present with another person? 

Perhaps today God is providing you with the chance to dwell and listen to someone. I wonder if you might make the same mistake as our unnamed woman? 


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Wonderings--June 9

I was listening to Krista Tippett interview Rachel Naomi Remen as I took Bianca to the groomers and as I listened I was captivated. My mind ventured back to my doctoral studies on story-telling and story-sharing and as I drove I wondered about what I was hearing. . .  

The story Rachel was telling was from her Jewish grandfather. He "gave" her the following story as a birthday gift when she turned four (that is how she remembers it). She cherishes it and shares it often in the work that she does. She says: 

"In the beginning, there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. . . the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. 

And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world, was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light. And they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this [moment]. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again, and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world [to God]. This is a very important story for our times, that we heal the world one heart at a time.

As I drove on I silently wonder about what I was hearing and thought about my day up to that point. Driving Bianca to the groomers I recounted that I had engaged in eleven conversations to this point of my day. They varied in their length and their seriousness. 

I spoke with my mother about a picture that I shared on Facebook and I also spoke with Laura, Ernice's daughter from Brazil who shared with me a lot about their work for the Lord. Now as I write these words I have participated in two more conversations, but the question that I first discovered on the way to the dog groomer remains. 

Of my conversations today, how many have attempted to lift the light of Christ that lives in each person? 

Or have I been too busy trying to make sure things work the way I want, that I have not stopped to notice how God is with each person in their own unique way?

I wonder if today you might take a moment out of your hectic day. . . count the conversations and remember Rachel's story. Then ask yourself, have I lifted the light of Christ that lives in another person up? 


Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Wonderings--June 8

I wonder when your mind becomes so cluttered, so full, and so focused on one issue or on one item, how do you find room to speak to God? How do we "pray without ceasing" when we cannot even determine where to start of how to begin the conversation? 

As I was researching for Sunday's worship service, I stumbled upon something that I want to share with you that I think helps us to begin this process. On May 20, The Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr. offered these words at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. 

He said: 

"Over the past several weeks, I have found myself asking numerous questions of God. Our conversations are often filled with questions but it is not difficult for me to conclude that the recent circumstances have pushed me into questioning almost every facet of life experienced personally or imaginatively contemplated. Time after time and moment after moment in the midst of this COVID reality, I have desired to know what God is doing, where God is working, why is this happening, and why is there such injustice and inequality in this world? The list of questions does not stop there but continues until my questions become more personal in nature. 

It is at that moment that the space between my questions appears to grow larger. My thoughts grow deeper and more consuming while at the same time my listening become clearer and more focused. It is somewhere at this point I hear the Spirit telling me, “now we can talk.""

As I sit here in my office this morning, I can confess that I too ask many questions of God each day. Some make sense and address issues that I will face today or issues that the church faces in its ministry.Yet some of my questions are self-serving or self-motivated. Some of my questions only address things that are important to me, and as I ask them of God, I find myself leaving behind any sense of mission and ministry and I become self-focused. 

Life begins to revolve around me and what I feel and what I want and I stop giving God the space to speak to me. But perhaps Rev. Hamlin is correct. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is sitting beside us right now wanting to continue the conversation. I wonder what comes next in your life when God says to you: "now we can talk." 


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Wonderings--June 7

Outside of sharing this blog, I don't post a lot of Facebook or any other social media platforms. As I think about my rationale for this choice, I can only conclude that I don't seem to have anything witty, interesting, or necessary to add to the communal conversation. (I know that this stance is a bit ironic since I do share my blog--which is my daily thoughts for the church--every day). . . . But that's me and that's how I feel, and that is how I act as I open my social media apps and scroll through them for a few minutes each day. 

However, I do check-in often to see what topics or issues are bubbling up to the surface of life on social media. Sometimes I chuckle at what I read and sometimes I shake my head in shock and confusion. From time to time I find a recipe that interests me or see a something that is truly beautiful looking back at me. But mostly I notice the feelings of others on social media each day and I take those wonderings to God in prayer and hope that God comes. 

The people I am 'friends' with seem upset quite often. They are frustrated. I see people who are worried for the safety of another person or wishing that our world would stop consuming itself and return to the Lord and seeking God's will for their lives. I find people on social media trying to escape the trauma of daily life by retreating to whatever their favorite platform might be. . . And again, I understand why and can sympathize with the choice.

To that end, I offer you today some words from the book I was reading as part of my devotion. The book is entitled: Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others. At the close of a chapter the author leaves the reader with the following benediction. These words were spoken after a site visit for a group of college students. As part of their class work they were visiting various houses of worship in the Atlanta area and reflecting on what they learned there. Here are the words:

"Our deepest desire is not that you become Muslim, but that you become the best Christian, the best Jew, the best person you can be. In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Thank you for coming."

These words spoken by an Iman, and they left a mark on my heart. According to the story, the Iman did not seek that the students convert to his theological worldview. In fact, this idea was never discussed in the visit. He didn't seek to brow-beat them into submission with is thoughts or commentary. 

Instead, he asked God to help them to be the best version of themselves--not the best version from his perspective, but just the best. Let God sort out for the individual who they are called to be and how they are to live faithfully. 

Our hymnal has a song that supports this point: Give of Your Best to the Master

Whether it is the hymn or this blessing, the point is clear. Be comfortable offering God the best that you can of yourself today. Work at being faithful to the revelation of God in scripture that you read and study. Spend your time in prayer and let God mold and shape you. Do not allow a social media post, or a news article, to define you or your self-worth. Instead be who God calls you to be today.



Monday, June 6, 2022

Wonderings--June 6

Returning to the office after a week of vacation (stay-cation more accurately describes the week), I have been reflecting on the week that was. We had a wonderful time! It was good to welcome JonMark and Autumn home to South Carolina. It felt like our family was 'whole' again. While I know that our family was not broken in any sense, having a full house, with loud 'children' felt good again. 

JonMark requested that I make him some of his favorite foods while he was with us. So each morning, I would prepare a multi-course breakfast and watch with love as he enjoyed it. His tiny kitchen in his apartment does not allow him to cook big meals like I can here. . . biscuits, home fries, cheese and bacon grits, pancakes and eggs work better in my kitchen. He smiled as he saw each morning what was waiting for him.  

Not surprisingly JonMark purchased Emma a fishing pole and he helped her buy all the necessary tackle to go fishing later in the week. Wes and Susan graciously welcomed us to their pond and we had a great afternoon together. 

For me the highlight of the week was seeing JonMark sitting on Jennifer's right (his natural place) in worship. He shared his hymnal with Autumn, and hugged his momma during the passing of the peace rather than shake her hand. He may have made faces at me in church as I sat on the platform, and it felt good to see it happen. As I like to say: I saw God at work in many places this past week. 

I think that part of our job as Christians is to help people recognize that the most basic, most mundane, the most seemingly boring things of life, are in fact glimpses into heaven--glimpses into God and blessings for us. 

The coffee that I drank in Sunday school, and the conversations I had in class, they are God-moments for me. The way people came up to me before and after church was filled with God's presence and their care and support. 

Even eating cake in the fellowship hall on Pentecost was a chance to see how God is present with other people. The times that I spent in my chair in the living room with JonMark resting on the couch were also times where God could be felt and seen. God was everywhere and I was thankful for each little blessing. 

I wonder if your call, your mission from God, is help people recognize that God is speaking to them and rather than control or program the moment can we just sit back and enjoy them for what they are? 

As the week came to an end, I found JonMark in the backyard one last time. He had cut a large branch from a dead tree, stripped it of bark, and held it above his head. Luna, his German Shepherd, sat at his feet. Sweat glistening on his face, he threw the stick for her a few more times before it was time to leave. He didn't talk to her, and she didn't bark or jump at him. They just enjoyed being together again. . . This was his personal God-moment and I know it meant a lot to him that we let the two of them have it silently and without commentary.  

As I watched I didn't say anything about what I saw. I just took the stick when he came up the steps from him, gave him a hug, told him I loved him, and watched as they headed for Pittsburgh. Maybe all our training as Christians that takes place each day is helping us to relish these moments and see God at work in them? 


I Wonder--November 29

I wonder if you would pray with me for someone you have not met?  Today I had my yearly physical with my doctor and it went very well. Heart...