Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Breathe on me, breath of God


As I start this day I sit with coffee on the patio, listening to the waterfall.  The elementary bus just pulled up.  [By the way, I miss those days of the elementary school bus swallowing up my child and others outside my house and spitting them out in the afternoon.  Ah, the early years.]


My first thoughts this morning as I stepped outside were 'breathe in the breath of God'.  As I thought about that, I started thinking about the song "Breathe on me, breath of God".  It's an "oldie".

Edwin Hatch wrote "Breathe on me, breath of God" in 1878 and it is published in over 270 hymnals.

Verses 1-3: (From Cyberhymnal)

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.




Breathe on me, breath of God.

That is my desire today.  Daily.

Yesterday I took a step of faith that I knew I had to take in the moment.  One of those steps of faith like when I was on belay and going australian style down the mountain or regular style rappelling OR running off the ramp (tandem with an instructor) to take my hanggliding flight.  You knew it was the right thing (okay, maybe not for some folks) to do, but it was scary.  That's how it was yesterday. I knew that it was time, that it was the right thing to do and the right time.  As Rafiki says, "It is time." Yet, there was that tinge of fear inside me.  It didn't hold me back yesterday. Why was I fearful of declaring that I was following the way of Christ and living into loving the marginalized, etc.?  Isn't that what we are all called to do by Jesus Christ himself if we claim to be followers of the way of Christ?

Oddly enough, there is some fear and trepidation in truly following the way of Christ, in living out how Christ lived.  Every time Jesus got in that boat (at least in Mark's version) to get away to the other side, it seemed folks followed him or beat him there.  Jesus had compassion on the people and did ministry.  He still made time for time apart though.  That's another area of Jesus' example that I try to follow too.  It's also difficult.

Breathing in the breath of God each day.  Making time and space to be still and know God.  Those moments help tremendously.  In those moments I can listen.  We all need those moments and longer times of times apart.

In taking that step of faith yesterday, I had no idea what would come of it.  That was not mine.  Mine was to take the step.  To have had over 400 hits in one day on one blogpost was a shocker to me.  I was also amazed at the many comments in different places of how the words shared were words on others' hearts and minds.  I was humbled and encouraged by the support yesterday.  Thank you people.  Thank you God.

My prayer is that God will breathe on me so that I will be filled with life anew to do the things I am called to do in this day.

May it be so.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Monday, August 29, 2016

Boldly moving forward in love for all


Boldly moving forward.  Or at least desiring and attempting to do so.  There have been so many things around me pointing to moving forward, continuing to listen to the Spirit, etc.  As I continue to listen and discern, I find myself still questioning and wondering if what I hear is really what I hear.  Would God really call me to be bold and courageous in that?  But that's risky.  Yeah, I know.  I've said I would live it risky. I saw a post once where someone had posted ministry to people working in strip clubs and the question from that became, would you minister to folks no matter where they were, even if it caused you to be judged or ridiculed or worse?  Because of my conviction to love God and love others, I felt compelled to say that I hoped I could be so bold to follow Jesus wherever Jesus might lead me.

Yet, I fly under the radar with my love for some people.  I may mention it briefly along with mention of other people, but I haven't come out and said it, except in safe places.  Why haven't I said it other than in safe places?  Because there are many people who aren't loving and kind to these people and they seem to think that anyone who supports them can't really love Jesus.

Over the years Jesus has opened my eyes to what love is, in the streets, under the bridges, in tent city, to those with homes, to those without homes, with people who have been blessed financially, with those who have nothing, with people throughout the world, and I've seen this love of Jesus exhibited in and through people who are heterosexual and those who aren't.

That confused me at first because I had been taught that if you were gay that God didn't love you.  So when I met people who were gay and loved God and I felt the very presence of the Holy Spirit flowing from them, I was confused.  If God's love and presence isn't in them and flowing through them, then what is this?

In this post I'm not going to quote Scripture for or against homosexuality.  That's not what this is about.  In fact, that's not what Christianity is about from everything that I can gather.

What I am saying in this post is that I am coming out as an ally, for ALL God's people. You see, in Psalm 139 it talks about God, the Creator, knitting us together in our mother's womb.  God created all of us.  We are uniquely and wonderfully made.  I believe that.

I also believe that we are to treat all persons with dignity, respect, and love.

Why now?

I've been an ally for years.  Why come out as an ally now?  There are several things brewing that feel like the perfect storm for me.

First, maybe I should say why I haven't been openly out as an ally for people who are different in society.  I will start there.

Fear.  I have been afraid to be open about it.  Why?  Because loving folks that are different isn't always accepted by others.  It is questioned and often rejected.  Therefore, it was about learning, growing, and loving while under the radar, yet not fully under the radar because I was openly loving to all.

Back to why come out now.

Orlando.  Too many lives were cut short because of hate, fear, and ignorance.  It's time to show love.

Suicides.  There are kids and adults taking their lives because they feel unloved by society, because they are told they are unloved, etc.  I don't get it.  As a follower of the way of Christ, I can't see how this is loving God and loving others-- by pushing people to the point of taking their lives.

I read yesterday's devotion in The Upper Room, "Trust God", and that caused me to spring forward a little more.  The verse was from Joshua 1:9-- "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  The author, Lynn Karidis, wrote: "When faced with a new challenge, we can remember God's past faithfulness.  These memories provide the courage to accept each new challenge that comes our way."

Courage.  I also heard about courage yesterday from Jasmine Smothers as she addressed our District Conference in both a workshop setting and worship.  She challenged us in reaching the younger generation and doing whatever it takes.  She also shared from Nehemiah 2 and how Nehemiah encourages us to take risks.

She said that there is no time to waste; to get on the risky journey.  Maybe that's why I'm jumping in today.

If I am going to truly love God and love neighbor, then can I pick and choose who that neighbor is?  Can I say that God loves one neighbor and not the other?  Jasmine reminded us that we need to grow up in God and grow up out of selfishness.  She said, "God is challenging the church to grow up."  It takes courage to grow up and change.

Nehemiah challenges us to overcome our fear.

Whether we have fear of the unknown, fear of the "other", fear of being rejected, etc., we are to trust God and know that God is faithful.

Another quote this past week, by Rilke, has been floating in my head.  It is this: "I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language.  Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." - Rainer Maria Rilke

I still have questions.  I don't have all the answers.  I know that by saying I choose to love, then there will be questions.  I don't have all the answers.

What I know is that Jesus has made it clear to me that I am to love God and to love neighbor as myself.  I am to share the love of God with everyone, including the person on the other side of the road that I might want to avoid, for whatever reason.  I know that we are all knitted together in our mother's wombs, uniquely and wonderfully made by the Creator God.

It is for these reasons I choose to love.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Yesterday... gifts and blessings

Yesterday I blocked time for sermon reading, studying, and writing. Amazingly, I was able to spend several hours in that mode. That was good. The things prior and after were good too.

There were unexpected gifts in the day yesterday.

I went to the YMCA for a short workout, then to the Greenway for a short walk. This was my first walk with the hip unloader brace and I wasn't sure how much walking I could do. I was able to walk about a mile without pain.  There were some pretty flowers growing in the private garden and to the side of it.





From there I decided to pray the labyrinth at Burks UMC on my way home since I hadn't in awhile and that would prepare me for the rest of the morning.

There were two bunnies in the grass nearby for the majority of my time there.




After my prayer walk I popped into the church to greet the bible study folks. Perfect timing. It was good to greet, hug, and catch up briefly.

After my study time I went to Erlanger for a visit. I had not been to the new chapel yet, but went in after my visit. It is beautiful. (Here is a link to learn more about the chapel.)



On my way to the car, I found a dime, reminding me of Marcia's dime story. I know have a stack that I have found.

Lighting in parking garage wasn't good.
From the hospital I headed to one of the three churches for a meeting prior to Bible Study. At a red light a gentleman with a cardboard sign caught my attention. It read something to the effect of 'hungry veteran. Anything helps. Thank you.'  I rarely carry cash. I rarely have food with me. But, because I had rushed out of the office on Monday to go to the ER to meet someone, I had grabbed a few things. I still had a box of animal crackers. The ones with the cage décor.  I was hesitant. What if he only wanted money? What if he rejected my offer? Did he know about all the veteran services available? There isn't much time at a red light. One has to decide quickly whether to obey or not. I grabbed the box from the back seat and waved them in the windshield. He grinned real big and came to my car. I handed them to him through the passenger window, apologizing for not having more. His response? He said he loved these cookies, kept that huge grin, and walked away as the light turned green and I drove away. As I drove away, the song on the radio was "Jesus in disguise". Hmmm.




As I look back, yesterday was full of God moments for me. Times, spaces, and places in which God met me, blessed me, and even surprised me.

Many times it is not that God isn't there to meet me or reach me for those connections, but that I am not mindful or aware. Being more mindful and aware of the things and people around me helps. 

I don't always succeed in awareness or mindfulness. But I am blessed in those times when I do.

How about you?

Where have you seen God show up? Or, how has God blessed you?

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Friday, August 19, 2016

My abiding time this morning


This week has definitely been marked by "One Never Knows".  It has been a full week of adventure, ministry, unknown, ups and downs, ins and outs.  There hasn't really been any "bad"; it has just been busy. Many may ask how that is different from a "normal" week (or even day), but it just has been.  I can't fully explain it.

Yesterday I attended the Rossville Engage Prayer meeting and was blessed to pray again for the community of Rossville-- for its businesses, its schools, its churches, its people, etc.  What a wonderful time of prayer and worship.  It has been encouraging to see and hear things that are happening in Rossville.  The faith community continues to come together.  The Holy Spirit continues to do things beyond our imagination.

This morning, I knew in my spirit that I needed to take time to abide. I didn't get to right away this morning because it was my day to drive the kids.  [On a side note, I am super grateful for a neighborhood friend with whom our family shares carpool duties.  Her kids have been like my own since they moved into the neighborhood about 5 years ago.  I will miss them when they move at the end of the month.  Thankfully they will still be in the same area, but I will miss our spontaneous coffee and firepit moments as well as the carpool gig.]  After dropping of the kids at school, I went to the YMCA for a morning workout.

Now that I'm back at home, it's time for a fresh cup of coffee and time to abide.

Turning to Macrina Weiderkehr's Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God, I find my place: Chapter 4-- "Don't Look Back", #6 "A Rule of Life"-- Philippians 4:4-9.

Philippians 4:4-9 (CEB):

"Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people.  The Lord is near.  Don't be anxious about anything; rather bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.  Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.  From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.  Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us.  The God of peace will be with you."

This Scripture passage has several things that speak to me this morning:

1. "Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people." That's an "amen" and an "ouch" for me because there are moments and days when I do it well and other moments and days when I don't.  I am thankful for grace that covers the latter and for fresh opportunities.

2. God's peace does exceed all understanding and is that ever flowing calm river underneath the raging waters that are at times on top. When it's peaceful all over, then that's pretty awesome too, but to have an inner peace when things are hectic on the outside is pretty amazing.  It doesn't always happen, but when it does, I know and recognize that it is God's working in and through me.

3. Focusing my mind.  That can be a super challenge when there are trillions (exaggeration) of tasks on my mind, on hundreds (not so much of an exaggeration) of sticky notes, emails to respond to, folks to visit, call, etc.  However, it is my daily goal (and often moment by moment goal) to live my life open to God and say, 'what is it today, that you would have me do, have me be?'  As I ask that question daily, I often physically open my hands flat, palm up to signify my openness.  This may not fully clear my mind, but it helps me focus some and set those priorities.

Looking to Macrina's words, she talks about how Philippians 4:4-9 can serve as a rule of life.  Just a few things that stand out to me from her writing:

1.  from verse 4-- rejoice / joy (glad in the CEB)-- "Spend quality time with joy this week.  Even in the midst of the anxieties and struggles that beset you each day, get in touch with the joy that abides in those hidden places of your soul." (154)

Ah, the hidden places of my soul.... finding joy there and getting in touch with it sounds good.  That reminds me of the "Hidden Grace" post I wrote earlier this week.  There is hidden grace in us and in others too.  Getting in touch with these things is important.

2. from verse 5-- kindness--"Living lives attuned to the daily needs of others is a form of kindness that can lead us to the even deeper kindness of compassion." (154)

A possible breath prayer to help be more aware of opportunities to be kind to others might be: "Lord, God, show me practical ways to be kind to others this day." [Adapt it to how you address God and to your breathing pattern.]

3. from verse 6-- having no anxiety-- "Living the spiritual life requires a childlike trust in God." (155)

Replacing anxiety with trust is easier said than done.  The childlike part I can do.  It's that peace thing again.  When it's there, anxiety melts away.  Calm replaces fear and anxiety.  It takes letting go and leaning in.

4. also from verse 6-- a grateful heart, being thankful-- "A heart filled with awareness of reasons to be grateful is a superb guide for living." (155) "If we practice living with grateful hearts, we will become even more aware of daily blessings." (155)

What am I grateful for right now? What are you grateful for right now?  May our hearts become full of gratefulness.

5. from verse 7-- the peace of God-- "The peace of God standing guard at our hearts and minds is a comforting image-- an uplifting promise.  This promised peace will arrive at the door of our hearts if we are willing to practice the art of rejoicing always, trusting radically, living with grateful hearts, and letting our kindness overflow into the lives of others. Then comes the peace!" (156)

Putting this all together does become a great rule of life.  Spending time abiding in the Vine this morning has brought peace.

It's a daily walk, a daily adventure.

May you find joy (gladness), kindness, peace, gratefulness, and childlike trust on your path.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Morning quiet times and throughout the day


Today's view from the deck.
My morning quiet times vary.  Sometimes I am able to spend anywhere from 10-20 minutes in centering prayer. Other times I spend time in Scripture reading and reflection. There are those mornings I read devotionals or books and reflect on what I read there.  Some days I drink my coffee, listen to the sounds of nature, and simply try to "be".  Yesterday my quiet time happened after I dropped off the kids to school.  I sat on a bench by the Chickamauga Lake at the boat launch by the dam watching the remainder of the sunrise.

Sunrise at Chickamauga Lake, 8/17/16
My morning quiet time varies depending on the day or the pulse check of my soul in the moment. The one thing I know for sure is that I need morning quiet time.  In fact, I need moments of quiet throughout the day.

When the day becomes hectic, it's time for a "pause" break.  Some silence, some quiet.  Though it's counter-intuitive, it is exactly what is needed for me.  A moment to recenter.  Granted, there are times and days when more than a moment is what is really desired or needed.  But that "moment" gives me what I need to keep going until I can take more time.

Breath prayers are a great "pause" break for me as are Ken Hagler's minute meditations.  Yesterday Ken posted a minute meditation that was timely for me as it has been a busy week.

It begins: "Quiet now... you will be."


"Fret not."  "Be still.  Wait.  Patience."  I needed that yesterday.  I need that today.  I need that everyday.  Fretting and anxiety become toxic.  Detoxifying is important.

This has been a busy week in ministry with several opportunities to wait on God, to be patient, to not fret, to watch God work.  It has also required some extra time and energy.  God has been faithful in it all.

I have to remember my part in being still, waiting, and being patient.  I have to remember to create space for God to fill my cup before I can create space for God to fill the cup of others.

Creating space.... that is another topic that will come out more fully one day..... :)

I am grateful for morning quiet times that allow me to to center myself, to be quiet with God, to "be still and know".

Peace on this day and blessings on your journey,

Debra

For more of Ken Hagler's Minute Meditations, click here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hidden Grace




This morning I read a poem by Susan Gregg-Schroeder, "Hidden Grace" in this month's Alive Now issue, "Treasure".  The first two lines caught my attention: "So often, Divine One, the tasks before me feel overwhelming and impossible."

As I go through a mental to-do list today, I can relate.  Church charge conference time is upon us and moving into high gear.  That means meetings, Nominations, lots of paperwork, etc. I'm beginning an 8 week study next month to use as part of my Provisional Elder requirement.  My co-pastor and I are doing a stewardship series next month.  Advent is coming. There are weekly sermons still too and regularly scheduled meetings, community things, etc.

Then, there are the things that come up.  Yesterday I wrote about not knowing the things that are going to happen and how God works in things.  I wrote about being excited to learn about the things that were happening in the Rossville faith community.

My day changed.  One never knows.  In that change, I found hidden grace.

I didn't make the lunch meeting.

I got a call from a guy who has been coming to our church for about a month now. He's new in the area and has been helping a veteran out, staying in a spare room in the house. Yesterday, he got kicked out of the house.

When he first called, I couldn't place him. The name on the caller ID was different than the name he goes by.  Then I place him.  I've met him.  I sent him a card after the second week he visited.  (Because he didn't put his address the first week.)  Now he has a need.

The grace in the situation is that God pushed me to reach out to my neighbor, to extend help in this situation.

I made it to a meeting after the meeting at La Familia restaurant in Rossville, where I got to hear some of Paulina's vision of a safe place for people to come and worship.  We talked about Discovery Bible Studies, and other things before I needed to head home to the bus stop due to inclement weather yesterday.

I still need to learn about the other great things that are starting to happen in Rossville, but that will come.  I saw a glimpse of things yesterday.  I was a part of them too.

God reminded me that if I am going to preach "Who Is My Neighbor?", then I had better live it out.  I can only lead where I have been and where I am living it out.

Susan Gregg-Schroeder ends her poem with these words: "When I lift the treasure from its hiding place, I find that you have graced me with adequacy for all that lies ahead."

Yes, God tends to do that.  God graces us for all that lies ahead.  I had NO IDEA that in my "being still" time yesterday and my reflection time of "one never knows" that I would live into "one never knows" so immediately.  But I did.  It was an adventure.

Each day can be an adventure.  If I am willing to keep my eyes open, to allow God to lead my path, to allow grace to fill me and flow through me, then the tasks that are before me aren't so overwhelming and impossible.  I will remember to make time to "be" before I "do" so that the grace can have its space.

May there be hidden grace in your day.  May you become of aware of it.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Monday, August 15, 2016

One never knows...


This morning as I drink my coffee on the patio, listening to the waterfall, I read what was going on this day in the past.

One catches my attention, in particular, from 2012 on this day August 15: "Stepping (way) out of my comfort zone and writing/sending a letter to someone who owns a house that keeps calling me for ministry purposes.  I'm hoping that "be bold and courageous" wasn't just for Joshua back in the day....."

Ah, The brick house on Hixson Pike. I wrote the letter to the owner and sent it. I never heard anything back. When I sent that letter, I didn't what would happen. All I knew was that I that hiuse wouldn't leave me alone.

I did go to the house and visit the owners when it became a hair salon. They did well for a while. It is now a tattoo shop. Every now and then the little brick house still whispers to me. I continue to pray blessings over it as I drive by. However, I recognized that occupancy is one of those dreams that one let's go of..... In that house I saw ministry... Bible studies, activities, a place to be, knit, crochet, play music, share life, drink coffee, learn English, who knows what else..... it could have become anything. Yet it wasn't to be. It takes money to make some dreams come true. Money wasn't what I had, just a dream.

But, I followed through with the nudge I had, because one never knows. What if the owner read my letter and felt nudged by the Spirit to join in the adventure?! I can only do my part, follow the nudges I am given.

Today at lunch ("Engage Rossville") I will learn about some new things that are happening in Rossville, GA in the faith community. I am looking forward to hearing those things. Where will I plug in? Where will the churches I serve get involved? I don't have answers to that yet.

I do know that I continue to see good things happening. Therefore, I will continue to walk by faith, to trust in the nudges I have, and be bold and courageous in living into the calling.

Live into the nudges, because one never knows....

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

P.S. As I finish writing this, I look up and see this cloud formation. To me it looks like a big hand.