Saturday, September 20, 2014

Participating in Christian disciplines leads to godly living


This morning I picked up the green book, A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God, and turned to week 46 "Making Room for God" to see what other readings might speak to me this morning. 

The first paragraph of was starred and highlighted already from a previous reading.  As I read the selection and reflected upon it, I decided to share it.

The reading selection is found on pages 344 and 345 of the Guide:

     "By participating in Christian disciplines, we live out our desire and intention to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  As we do so, we are encouraged, instructed, healed, challenged, loved, renewed, and beckoned to God and godly living.
      While it is true that God is in every when and where and that many other things besides disciplines contribute to our deepening relationship with God, we discover that it makes a meaningful difference in everyday life when we set aside time, space, and ourselves to be more fully present with and attentive and responsive to God.  Disciplines are like faithful companions on the way. The benefit we seek and desire most is deepening companionship with God.  We come away from other pursuits to listen for the still, small voice that is our best friend, our beloved Savior, the Holy One, our Creator, God."  --From Holy Invitations by Jeannette A. Bakke

Everything in this reading selection speaks to me.  It resonates within my soul and receives an "amen".  The author points out that the Christian disciplines in which we participate do the following things to us: encourage us, instruct us, heal us, challenge us, love us, renew us, beckon us to God and godly living.  That has been my journey.  Whether it has been the discipline of prayer, Scripture reading, blogging, or one of the others that have become part of my life, I have benefited from the disciplines (practices) in my relationship with God.  The author points out in the second paragraph the importance of setting apart time and space to be present to God and the benefits of doing so.  It comes down to being still and listening. 

That is where my journey has settled.  That is the center.  Being quiet, being still and listening.  It has been (and will continue to be) a long journey of exploration and practice, but one that is well worth it.  It all started with that UMW (United Methodist Women's) meeting and making bookmarks that night at Grace UMC with Judy Kroulek in charge.  I had no idea what to put on my bookmark...nor verse nor decoration.  I believe I ended up with some butterflies and the verse God gently gave me, Psalm 46:10-- Be still and know that I am God. 

I am glad that this verse is where I still am after all these years.  It's a great place to "be".  This week in the on line seminary campus for Asbury, Dr. Dale Hale wrote about being still in the chaos.  That's just what my husband and I were discussing while hiking on Wednesday morning.

Here is what Dr. Hale shared with us:

Be Still
by Robert Hale - Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 9:47 AM
 
I don't know about you, but sometimes I need help.  Sometimes, the help needed is something I can get from family or friends.  Other times, it is much deeper, more difficult to satisfy.  I was listening to another of those lectures of Dr. Seamands this morning in which he was describing an interview of Joni Erickson-Tada, the quadriplegic who has turned her handicap into a witness of God's grace.  In this interview, Joni spoke of trying to get her head around what it meant to be a quadriplegic, the eternal "why".  She concluded that one day God is going to give her the key that unlocks the answer to that question.  That's not now, though.  For now, she needs to be content in Him.

A few weeks ago, I was at a gathering of academic leaders.  That day, one of our group led us in a devotional.  Honestly, I can't remember much about the devotional.  However, one thing the leader said was that he and his wife practiced scripture memorization and would find opportunities to use that scripture over and over.  It helped make relevant the scripture while at the same time spoke into that point of their lives.  I thought to myself, "That's what I need to do.  I need to use the scriptures in that way."  Yes, I've heard others say the same thing, but I got it this time.

Following that lead, I decided to do the same.  I picked a verse of scripture that has not been far from me for quite some time.  Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  Be still. I don't know about you, but sometimes my life gets in a major uproar.  I start worrying, fretting over what is or what might be or what isn't.  "Be still."  But, I need an answer to this terrific problem!   "Shhhh.  Just be still."  Yes, but...  "Be still."  The still small voice whispers, "Be still and know that I am God."  Don't worry about this.  Just rest and trust in Him.  I keep having to hear that but every time I do, I hear the comfort, grace, love of the Father compelling me to "cast all my cares on Him because He cares for me." (1 Peter 5:7)  Hear it?  "Be still."

Friends, I don't know what you face but this one thing I do know.  God is fully aware and is not in the least caught by surprise by your predicament.  We can have every confidence that He will work all things for our good.  He will answer.  He will reveal some of those answers later, when we are with Him in person.  But, until then, rest in Him.  "Be still and know that He is God."

In Him,
Dale
----------------

How does what I've inserted about "being still" fit with the reflection of Christian disciplines?  For me, the disciplines (practices) take place when I create the space, take the time apart.  I don't always need to "be still" physically because walking can be a time of discipline and used for prayer, etc.  But, there are many times that I do need to be still physically for my time with God.  Whether I am being still physically or mentally, I know that the time apart with God in whatever discipline (practice) I am participating in for the moment will result in a deeper relationship with God.  And that's how it fits.

There are classic Christian disciplines (practices) such as prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, Sabbath, journaling, worship, etc. and then there are disciplines (practices) that I have come to see as such on my personal journey such as blogging, walking/hiking, praying the Native American flute, etc. 

What are the Christian disciplines that draw you into participation? 

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Additional links:

Jeannette Bakke
An interview with Jeannette Bakke in Christianity Today (Making Space For God, April 2001)
Holy Invitations: Exploring Spiritual Direction by Jeannette Bakke (information on her book at Amazon.com)

Christian Disciplines
Spiritual Disciplines List (Bill Gaultiere, July 2012 at Soul Shepherding For You and Your Ministry)

For further reading, check out these authors

Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Marjorie Thompson, Ruth Haley Barton

(These are just a few.... there are others that have written on spiritual disciplines.  And, likely I've written posts on them too in the past. ☺)

Friday, September 19, 2014

When Morning Gilds the Skies...

This morning as I took my morning walk at the Greenway Farms in Hixson off Hamill Road, a song popped into my head.  That isn't abnormal for me.  Songs are always randomly popping into my head... spurred on by something I see or hear.  The songs can be something from camp, something from the 70s or 80s or even oldies (because I grew up listening to 45s and still listen to oldies) or classic rock.  Yesterday a song from Kermit the Frog and the Muppet Movie jumped into my head as my husband and I were hiking.  But this morning the song was a hymn.  That's right, a hymn.

As I walked around the gravel curve at the Greenway and headed toward the barn and the gardens, I looked up and to my left and noticed the most spectacular view in the sky.  Immediately, the words "when morning gilds the sky" came to mind.  I had to look up the song to see that the last word was "skies" and to also clarify the rest of that phrase.  I knew it had "praise" and "Jesus" in it, but I couldn't remember exactly how it went.  It finishes like this:  "may Jesus Christ be praised".  I used the word "let" in my Facebook post. 

Friday, September 19, 2014 (Greenway Farms) "When Morning Gilds the Skies"
As I continued my walk, I noticed the changing of the sky and took another picture.  I had posted the first picture on Facebook with the first part of the song.  And the second picture I posted with the ending.  What a glorious sunrise this morning! 

Friday, September 19, 2014 (Greenway Farms) "let Jesus Christ be praised"

It filled me with hope and joy and reminded me that circumstances don't need to get the final word because God inhabits the praise of the people.

If that weren't enough, on my next round, I look up and see a cloud with its outline glowing brightly.  Wow.  It reminded me of that proverbial saying of clouds with silver linings.  That made me smile too.  Once again, the circumstances in our lives don't have the final word.  There is a silver lining in the cloud.  What a timely reminder.  I posted that on Facebook too and tagged my husband to encourage him.

cloud with silver lining (Greenway Farms), September 19, 2014
So, if all of that weren't enough, when I got to my computer this morning (after having studied Hebrew for a while), I downloaded my pictures from my Facebook feed.  As I was saving them, I saved them as "when morning gilds the skies" and the title pops up in my picture albums.  I already had a picture with that title.  Here's the cool part.  From last year, Friday September 20.  A year ago today, the sunrise caught my attention and put that song in my heart, mind, and soul.  Wow! 

Friday, September 20, 2013 (from front yard) "When Morning Gilds the Skies"
Now, that's something to sing about!

Per the hymnary.org site, the hymn is a German hymn (Beim frühen Morgenlicht)first published in 1828, but possibly written in 1700s or early 1800s.  It was translated in1854 by Edward Caswell.  It has been published in 584 hymnals.

So, join me in singing "When Morning Gilds the Skies" through the links below.



LYRICS TO "WHEN MORNING GILDS THE SKIES":
  1. When morning gilds the skies,
    My heart awaking cries:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Alike at work and prayer,
    To Jesus I repair;
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  2. Does sadness fill my mind?
    A solace here I find,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Or fades my earthly bliss?
    My comfort still is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  3. When sleep her balm denies,
    My silent spirit sighs,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    When evil thoughts molest,
    With this I shield my breast:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  4. The night becomes as day
    When from the heart we say:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    The pow’rs of darkness fear
    When this sweet chant they hear:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  5. In heav’n’s eternal bliss
    The loveliest strain is this,
    [*Let earth’s wide circle round
    In joyful notes resound,]
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Let earth, and sea, and sky
    From depth to height reply,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  6. Be this, while life is mine,
    My song of love divine:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Sing this eternal song
    Through all the ages long:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!

A link to the lyrics in German

Also, the song "My Soul Magnifies the Lord" by Chris Tomlin struck me as I was walking, so I have included it here for you to enjoy too.


I don't know what circumstances in your life might be a tad cloudy and/or heavy right now, but be encouraged that there is hope and joy even in those circumstances. 

Peace, strength, courage, and blessings to you on your journey,

Debra

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Making Room For God-- mid-week vespers service

Hixson UMC, 6:30 pm weekly, chapel (old sanctuary)
Last night's mid-week vespers theme was "Making Room For God" from Week 46 of A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God.   This weekly service is all about opening space in our lives to allow God in, to work, to move, to heal, etc.  For the theme to be all about what the service is about was very timely and appropriate.

The service begins with a few announcements and then the ringing of a chime.  Last night I got to be the chime ringer.  I was in the chime choir at a former church and enjoy those better than bells, so that was fun to have one in my hand again.  The chime is rung three times semi slowly to signify the beginning of the service.

The order of the worship service is below:


The meditation by Rueben Job is on pages 341 and 342 of the green prayer guide.  He asks this question toward the end of the reading: "What do you feel called to give up in order to find room for God in your life?" (342)

Last night's service was a time of opening space for God, making that room.  Through the quiet, the reflection, the prayer, the singing, the sitting and being.  I felt my soul catching up to my body and relaxing into God's presence.  That's a good feeling.  It comes back to one of my favorite verses.... Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). 

Carving out time to just "be" so that I am strengthened and energized to return to "do" is a necessary rhythm in my life that I've come to understand, appreciate, desire, and live into.  The rhythm isn't always the same.   Sometimes the rhythm might be slow and methodical, going throughout the day or week.  At other times, there are situations that require much more "be" time and the journey inward and outward takes on a more frequent pattern.  It is similar to taking a "time out" when one knows they need a moment (or more) to cool down, to think things through.   Taking "be" time in silence and reflection allows one to slow down. 

The mid-week service is a great time for me to find room for God in my life.  But that's not the only time I slow down to listen or "be".  Walking, writing, reading, taking pictures.... those things help me just "be" at times.  Sitting on a rock by the flowing waters of the creek.    Sometimes for me, "be" is mental and at other times it is mental and physical.  I attempt to listen to my body and my soul to see what is needed at the time. 

In my times apart and silence times, I have not yet done anything more than a 1/2 day of silence.  I hope to one day in the not-too-far-off future do a silent 3 day retreat.  Then, maybe, I can attempt a longer one.  Silence is a friend.  It's a bubble that allows God to work in me and allows me to rest in God.  I wouldn't claim that the silence is always restful, however, since the work that God might do isn't always something I'm wanting, willing, or ready to face.  But God is gracious and works gently.

Enough of my rambling....

I want to share the beginnings of two readings in this week's theme.  The first is by Norman Shawchuck.  He writes: "My God, I lift my face toward you now like a hungry child asking to be fed.  My soul is starved; my flesh yearns for the touch that only you can give.  Come to me, O God, and stay with me; I abandon myself into your hands.  Do with me as you will, and whatever you do with me, I thank you.  I am prepared for anything; I will accept everything so long as your will is accomplished in the totality of my living." (342)

I have read quotes by Norman Shawchuck before, but don't know anything about him.  So, I decided to look him up.  I learned that he passed in May 2012.  Here is a link that links to the obituary.  In this link at The Upper Room site, I saw that he was quite involved in leadership.  I found a resource that listed some of his conflict management books for the church.  The article with that resource is: "Staying Cool When the Heat is On: Causes and Cures for Conflict".

The second reading I would like to share talks about solitude and its benefits.  The author is Simon Peter Iredale and his quote is from The Interior Mountain.  Here is a portion of the beginning of the reading: "Solitude is obviously intended to be far more than just being physically alone.  It is the way we form a habit of retreat, creating a space and time when God can speak to us." (343)  The reading ends with this: "For you, too, solitude can be a place of transfiguration, a meeting place with the living God." (344)

I could share more.... because there are some other great readings in this week's theme.  But, I've already rambled on.

May there be silence and solitude along your journey.  May you find/make ways to make room for God. 

Blessings on the journey,

Debra

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

4 year blogging anniversary!

Wow!  It's amazing for me to look back and realize that I have been on this blogging journey now since 2010.  As of September 3rd of this month, I marked my 4 year anniversary of blogging.  This calls for a celebration... or at least a review blog for the year. ☺

As I have mentioned over the month, things have been busy with the start of Fall semester for me (and other responsibilities), so I wasn't able to write my "year-in-review" celebration post closer to the 3rd of September, when I first began this journey in 2010.

But I am taking some time today.  As I have done with the other yearly reviews, I will share the countries that have visited my site, the top ten countries overall, the numbers for the monthly readership for the past year, and the top 10 posts overall.

Before I get into the data, let me say (once again), "THANK YOU".  Thank you for joining me on this journey, for traveling with me as I have been on this adventure of life, growth, trials, studies, ups and downs, life and death, joys, etc.  Though I can't see you, I recognize by the "hits" that you are out there and therefore we are connected as community.  Some of you comment from time to time and I always appreciate feedback, questions, etc.  But it's not necessary. 

When I began this journey, I had an inkling (a feeling) that this was something I was to do in my faith journey, but I had no idea that it was truly part of my spiritual journey and one of my spiritual disciplines to draw me closer and deeper in relationship to God.  But it has.   If what has brought growth to my own personal journey has also created ripple effects of growth (or at least reflection), then that is like an unexpected gift (as in grace) and I am blessed and humbled at the possibilities.

Enough of my reflections.  I'll share the data now.  Though it would be nice if I were to go back to previous years and follow a set pattern (if I had one), I'm going to post the information randomly. (The random factor is in honor of a friend who also loves duct tape and used to read from Camel Land.)

Here's the data....

Over the past year, the monthly readership hits (according to the stats chart) has been:

September 2013........ 3614
October 2013............ 5336
November 2013........ 5418
December 2013.........5344
January 2014.............3934
February 2014...........3813
March 2014...............3696
April 2014.................6097
May 2014..................4734
June 2014..................3873
July 2014...................3670
August 2014..............3811
September 2014........ ongoing ☺

TOP TEN COUNTRIES OVERALL:

United States       42,862
Germany              11,280
Russia                     5,614
France                     1,575
United Kingdom     1,312
China                       1,012
Canada                      814
Ukraine                     741
Poland                       535
Malaysia                   392

TOP TEN POSTS (overall):

Some notes from two chapters in Conversion in the Wesleyan Tradition  (May 7, 2013)  [9846]

Thoughts and quotes from Jesus Calling over the last few days and weeks  (November 24, 2011) [2227]

Jesus Calling--January 1, 2012 (January 1, 2012) [440]

Academy #32 Tú has venido a la orilla / Lord, You Have Come  (October 3, 2012) [346]

Pushing 5...reflections of an example of living well from Will (May 5, 2014)  [341]

Jesus Calling--December 30th (December 30, 2011) [321]

"A Space of Love"... quotes and reflections from Macrina Wiederkehr's chapter in Abide (May 15, 2013) [296]

Several hours at the creek...roaring waters and waiting  (March 12, 2011) [241]

WO 510-- Day 2 of class (end of class)...Shalom, friends (February 23, 2014) [204]

Some thoughts on hospitality...  (May 30, 2011) [191]






 WHERE ARE THE FROM WHO ARE READING MY BLOG?  (COUNTRIES)

Vanuatu, Norway, Oman, South Korea, Switzerland, Morocco, Macau, Guatemala, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, New Caledonia, Russia, United States, China, Turkey, Israel, South Africa, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Canada, Italy, Germany, Latvia, Albania, Poland, France, Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Malaysia, Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Panama, Netherlands, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Honduras, Hong Kong, Spain, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Algeria, Cambodia, Ireland, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Estonia, Ghana, Moldova, Hungary, Austria, Namibia, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Libya, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Curaçao, Papau New Guinea, Finland, Turkmenistan, Northern Mariana Islands, Belgium, Zimbabwe, Iraq, South Africa, Luxembourg, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Peru, Lebanon, Slovakia, Belarus, Venezuela, Romania, Qatar, Zambia, Bermuda, Ecuador, Aruba, Kenya, Maldives, Pakistan, Georgia, Dominican Republic, Macedonia (FYROM)

(Unless I've left out a place, which is a possibility, I count 90 different locations.)


Previous anniversary blog posts:

Blogging...tomorrow makes one year 9/2/11
2 Year Blogging Anniversary This Month! 9/23/12
Tomorrow is my 3 year blogging anniversary 9/2/13


Thanks again for joining me on this adventurous journey!

Blessings,

Debra



























A prayer from A Guide to Prayer For All God's People

Yesterday morning I was looking through my devotional books for some inspiration and I found a prayer that spoke to me from A Guide to Prayer For All God's People in Week 46.  The theme for the week is "God's Unlimited Grace" (pages 280-285).

The prayer was the Invocation prayer for the week: O God, whose grace and mercy flow like and endless river from your great being, help me now to place myself in the path of your rushing love and limitless compassion, that I may find my spirit renewed.  Amen. (p. 280)

As I read through the prayer, my mind went to the flowing waters at the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge where I enjoy walking, hiking, and hanging out.  I looked through my pictures and found one where I thought the prayer would show up decently on the picture.

Using the application (app) "textgram" on my phone, I created this:


The Psalm for the week is Psalm 141

The Benediction for the week: O God, it is true that no eye has seen nor ear has heard what wonderful things you hold in store for your children; yet in these moments with you, I have seen more clearly and listened more deeply.  I give you thanks.  Amen.

There are several readings for the week that spoke to me.  Choosing only one of those to share is difficult, but if I were to give you everything here then you might not read the book yourself. ☺  There is a neat evening prayer on page 281 by C. Maud Battersby.

Not knowing who C. Maud Battersby was, I decided to research real quickly and learned that the evening prayer written by him was put to song by him too.

Maud is also written as Maude and he went by C.M. in several places.  On hymnary.org, the only song I found was this evening prayer, though it was in three different languages: English, Portuguese (I think), and Spanish.  The English version is found in 56 hymnals.  You can find the sheet music on the link in this paragraph.

Here is a short reading that caught my attention among the many wonderful readings for the week.  It is by Carlo Carretto, from his book Love Is for Living: "I feel immersed in God like a drop in the ocean, like a star in the immensity of night; like a lark in the summer sun or a fish in the sea."

Maybe you needed to hear a message of grace today.  If so, maybe there is something here for you.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

"Transformed Living, It's a Sacrifice"--Sermon from August 24, 2014 at New Salem UMC, Rising Fawn, GA

I am finally able to take some time to post the sermon from three weeks ago.  I don't know how far I'll get in posting "catch up"posts today.  Whether or not I will have time to post my 4 year anniversary blog post or not is yet to be seen.  It is a matter of timing and switching from one discipline (study, writing, exercising, silence, etc.) to another.

The written word of the sermon is never exactly what is spoken in the moment.  But it is typically a good idea of what the overall theme is/was.  In reading the sermon, you don't get the added comments and you do get the things that were left out during the sermon.  It's a different experience, yet hopefully and prayerfully there is something in the message to take away and reflect upon, at least for a moment or two.

A few thoughts and reflections prior to the sermon.

New Salem UMC in Rising Fawn, GA has two services, the first at 9am and the second at 11am.  It has been a while since I've had the opportunity to preach twice in one morning and I was looking forward to doing it.  I was also looking forward to being up on Lookout Mountain, one of my favorite spots, no matter where on that mountain I am.

I had a wonderful time of meeting new people that morning and interacting with folks who knew our worship leader at Burks UMC, Wil Martin.  It was a blessing to be there to worship with them and to share together.  I met some retired missionaries and spoke Spanish after the second service briefly with them.  ☺

The pictures at the bottom of the page are the visuals I used in the service.  You can picture them being used about the time they are mentioned in the service.  It may be hard to tell from the pictures themselves, but the pictures in the bags represent the cocoons.

This sermon fell the week after an intensive week of seminary on campus at Asbury Theological Seminary where I took Philosophy of Religion.  My prof shared a story about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and that made it into the sermon.  I will include a link at the end of the post for a detailed version of the story. 

Interestingly, "transformation" was one of the themes I was living into throughout the summer.  I was on a team for a Chrysalis Flight (youth Emmaus) and we talked about transformation and growth throughout our team meetings.  Also, the July/August edition of Alive Now was all about transformation with  a butterfly and an empty cocoon on the front cover.    I thought I was just preaching the lectionary, but it turns out that the lectionary was preaching me.... working not just through me, but definitely in me throughout the entire summer.  I love how God works like that.  The theme of transformation was applicable in other areas of my circles too.

I don't know about you, your life, your ministry, etc. I don't know if or how this message will touch you or even relate to you.  Maybe the Holy Spirit has something in it for you.  If not you, maybe someone else.

Blessings on you and your journey,

Debra



"Transformed Living, It's a Sacrifice"
New Salem UMC
August 24, 2014

Romans 12:1-8
12I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. 

LEADER: This is the Word of God for the people of God.

ALL: Thanks be to God.

As I read and studied this passage, I kept staying on verse 2: "be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God"  That is a key verse for this passage as everything hinges on it.  Without the transformation, we are not able to discern what is the will of God nor are we able to sufficiently use the gifts God has given us according to the grace given us.   

So, what is this transformation?  What does transformation mean?  Let's look at transformation and how this relates both to our gifts and to a sacrificial living.

The word transformation here is from the Greek "metamorphoō" and means to undergo a spiritual transformation as it is used here in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18.  We get the English word  "metamorphosis" from this and we'll talk more about that later.  I know there is danger in throwing out Greek words in sermons, but I'm a language geek by trade, having taught Spanish and French for 24 years and just couldn't resist this time. 

The verse here in Romans tells us that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  How do we accomplish that?  [feedback??]  We could consider the means of grace, such as study, read the Scriptures, prayer, fellowship, gather for worship, fasting, journaling, etc.  There are classic means of grace and there are some practices that are just as ancient, but not always considered and there are modern ways, which may simply be variations on classic or ancient ways of doing things. 

For example, take reading the Scripture as a way to renew the mind.  You may read a daily verse, or a chapter, you may read from the Upper Room or another devotional.  You may listen to the Scripture on the radio or a DVD or an mp3 or online.  You may use some form of online Scripture resource to aid in your reading.  You may read the Scripture in a studious way or you may read it more in a sacred reading way, lectio divina, to see what the word has to say to you for that particular reading.  Regardless of the format or method, the Scripture has potential to transform our mind, as we allow it.

As you reflect on these various ways of transforming the mind, you may be more accustomed to some and practice them more regularly.  You may be introduced to a new way of transforming your mind by a practice you haven't considered.

The goal of our transformation is new life, a life from which we offer the gifts given to us uniquely back to the body of Christ.  The gifts given to us can be an entire different sermon and it's worth exploring if you're sure about your gifts.  We'll take a brief look at them now from verses 6 and 7: "6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness."   Gifts are just one part of the transformed life, but it does help to know that we are all uniquely gifted as different members of the body.  And, it helps to know what our giftedness is.  Spiritual gift inventories are a good way to figure these out.  You can also figure out some of these by listening to what others say to you.  For example, has anyone ever told you that you encourage them?  If you've heard that over and over, you might have the gift of encouragement, exhortation.  Ask a trusted friend what he/she thinks your gifts are if you're not sure.  Study the Scriptures for more references to spiritual gifts.  This isn't the only passage that mentions them.

Verse 1 tells us that we are to be a living sacrifice.  How does that fit with us being transformed?  Well, that's where the metamorphosis explanation comes in.  How many of you know about the cycle of the caterpillar and the butterfly?  I'm not a scientist, but this does interest me.  But because I'm not a scientist, I'm not going to explain this in scientific terms. 

Here's my explanation:  the caterpillar munches on leaves and grows bigger and stronger (visuals).  Then it makes its cocoon (chrysalis) and remains in there in the dark, waiting, while it is being transformed.  When the time is right, the new creation, the butterfly struggles to break open the chrysalis to get out.  We are told to not help the butterfly break out because it must do so on its own in order to strengthen its wings.  Then, upon becoming free, the butterfly's wings must first dry before it can fly. [visual throughout]

Much like the caterpillar and the butterfly, we go through transformational times in our lives.  Our cocoons, our times of waiting and darkness look much different, but they exist.  There are often struggles that strengthen us along the way and many times of waiting before we can fly.  Not knowing, the waiting, the struggles.... it is all a sacrifice.  The caterpillar gives its life in order to become a butterfly.  It may not realize the sacrifices nor the transformation that is about to occur, but the transformational process occurs nonetheless.
Just like the caterpillar, we must be willing to let go of what was (the former life) in order to live into the new life.  Sometimes we enter times of waiting and sacrifice more aware than the caterpillar.  At other times, we are thrust into the waiting and impending change because of illness, accidents, and other situations.  These transformational situations may not always be evident to us until we look back and recognize that we have indeed been transformed.  Yet, even if weren't fully aware of the transformational process, there usually is a time of giving something up and/or letting something go along the way.  So there is always an aspect of sacrifice, no doubt about it.  One that results in a transformed, changed life.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis there is an example of the sacrifice of a transformed life in a scene between Eustace and Aslan.  Eustace was tired of being a dragon--the result of being selfish and stubborn-- and wanted to return to being a boy.  He was unsuccessful in tearing off his own dragon scales.  Aslan came and began to tear them off.  Eustace was scared.  It was painful.  But, the transformation was made complete.

Transformation is often painful because growth and change don't come easily.  But the pain endured for transformation is a worthwhile pain and leads to restoration and wholeness.
Bishop Rueben Job of the United Methodist Church says this about the transformed life in A Guide to Prayer For All Who Seek God:   

 "Living a transformed life is not possible on our own.  Most of us do not live up to the best we know how to live.  Deep within we know that there is room for improvement.  We can do better.  Connecting our desire to do and be better with God's amazing grace creates a partnership that leads to transformation.
     We know that living a transformed life means living at God's direction with grace-given capacity.  This is more than we can do on our own, and, in fact, living the transformed life does not mean trying harder.  It means trusting more and staying close to the only One who can make us more than we are. 
     As we learn to put our trust and faith in God, we become open and available to receive God's forming and transforming power in our own lives.  In our better moments we know that it is God at work within us that provides the transformation.  This is the day to claim God's presence and help as you live the transformed life."

--Rueben P. Job (141-142) A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God

This IS the day to claim God's presence and help as you live the transformed life.....
How will you live out your transformed self with the giftedness that God has graced you?
As the Holy Spirit continues to work in the renewing of your mind, may you await with eagerness the moment your wings are dry so that you can fly!

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!



Pictures of the church:





Pictures of the visuals used in the sermon:

the baby caterpillar ate the green leaf
the caterpillar grew
the caterpillar made its chyrsalis/cocoon
this hat contains both cocoons
the butterfly is preparing to emerge its darkness

the butterfly allows its wings to dry before it flies


A selfie taken between services in front of the church front doors:


LINKS TO ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

The passage mentioned from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Blog post by Adam Powers-- "Pleasing Pain"
Blog post by Luma Simms-- "My Dragon Skin Torn Off"


Alive Now Transformation Reflection (June 30)
Alive Now Transformation Reflection (July 26)
Alive Now website (one of The Upper Room publications)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Living into this new adventure.... next steps on my Native American flute journey

A while back I wrote about the beginnings of my Native American flute journey that began a while back as I felt the sound of the flute calling me and then I was able to get my first lesson this summer at the FUMSDRL / HOF retreat in MN.

Upon my return from there I looked into ordering a flute.  I looked into several different flute makers.  I considered the Odell Borg flutes, Dana Ross because he is located in North Georgia, and Jimmy Yellowhorse because I got his name as I searched for local flute makers.  I found him through his wife that I had emailed because I found her on a website.  When I learned that Jimmy Yellowhorse made flutes and was located in Chattanooga and Northeast Alabama, I felt that I was to go that route for my first flute.  I thought I could go with Dana for my 2nd flute, whenever that will be. ☺  I got in touch with Jimmy Yellowhorse on July 30 and we spoke about what I was looking for in a flute and he educated me on flute making.  I left the details to him, knowing that my first flute was in good hands.

This past weekend I was able to pick up my flute at the Holston Conference Gathering at Coker Creek Village.  My husband and I went up for the day on Saturday since we weren't able to stay the entire weekend.

Being out in the countryside and able to enjoy creation with others while learning new skills, meeting new people, etc. was especially good for me on this day as my cousin was getting married in Colorado and we were unable to make the trip out there.  I could be there in heart, mind, and spirit... and that is what I did.... I was able to see pictures after the fact once we got back into the land of cell service and signals.  What a beautiful wedding it was!  Such a gorgeous couple and family.... and my cousins, my aunt, etc..... the scenery, setting, and weather were perfect for them!

So, back to my flute....  I took a beginning flute class with Ryan Little Eagle Molina.  We had a group of about 9 beginning flute players.  I literally got my flute minutes prior to the class.  In fact, I was a few minutes late to class because of it.


I am super pleased with my flute and am blessed that I got to get to know Jimmy Yellowhorse and his wife Tammera Hicks some.

Having been reminded of the basics of the scale and breathing in Ryan's class, now that I have my flute the main thing is to practice, practice, practice.  As my fingering becomes smoother and my breathing becomes steadier, I will learn how to create songs with this beautiful instrument.

I have started to learn "Taps".  I played it last night prior to bedtime.  It is a song that is fond in my memory from Camp Skyline days.  I remember being in the cabins of Hut Row and hearing taps played nightly.  I think it was at times played in person by someone on the coronet or trumpet.  But often it was played on a record, you know, vinyl.  Taps has my attention currently not just because it's a good song to end the day, but because I've had some friends pass recently.... my former colleague at Bryan College and most recently, my friend Leila last week.

I look forward to various heart songs coming out as I learn to "pray" the flute.  There has already been a few things flow out of me related to "Creator God".

What I am most looking forward to is what scared me most when I first contemplated the possibility of playing the flute... and that is deepening my relationship with God through this adventure.

Though it did scare me at first and it was something I had to come to terms with, I am grateful now for the journey to be here at this point.  Now that I have my flute, I look forward to playing and praying it.

It has been a step (or leap) of faith for me, this flute journey.

What in your life is calling you, waiting on you to take a step (or leap) of faith into the adventurous journey?

Blessings,

Debra



me and Jimmy Yellowhorse