Sunday, June 17, 2018

Live By Faith-- today's sermon with some thoughts and reflection

Today's sermon was "Live By Faith".  It was my first sermon after Annual Conference 2018.  It was good to be back in the pulpit today, in community, worshiping God with and in community.

I am officially returning to this appointment of the Holston Georgia Parish-- Flintstone, Fort Oglethorpe, and Simpson United Methodist Churches as of July 1.

Today, as an ordained elder, I was able to wear a stole for the first time.  It was a blessing to be able to wear the "joy" stole that was given to me as a gift upon becoming a Provisional Elder three years ago by the Tuesday Ladies Bible Study at Burks UMC.  This stole has the word "joy" on both sides in stained glass fabric and the celtic knot below.  There is a stained glass cross on the nape of the neck in the middle of the stole.  It was made by Holy Cloaks and has a tiny mustard seed tucked inside it.  There is a card in the pocket that reads, "Your Holy Cloaks stole has a tiny mustard seed tucked inside.  This seed is to remind us that our faith is like a mustard seed-- it begins very small and grows throughout our lives.  "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to a mountain:  "Move from here to there" and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20"

It has been a faith journey for me to be where I am today.  At some point I will take a moment and write about my ordination day because that was a blessed experience.

Below is today's sermon, "Live By Faith" from 2 Corinthians 5:6-17.  As I always remind folks, what you read hear is not everything that was shared in its exact form during the sermon.  It is a decent representation, but it isn't word for word.  You also miss out on any inflection or emphasis.  You also miss out on my oral mistakes and goof ups.  But those are part of the human aspect of the sermon, too.

When you read through the Scripture and the sermon, what speaks to you?  What will you do with it?

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

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“Live By Faith”
2 Corinthians 5:6-17 (CEB)
June 17, 2018 (4th Sunday after Pentecost/Father’s Day)
Flintstone UMC

2 Corinthians 5:6-17 (CEB)

So we are always confident, because we know that while we are living in the body, we are away from our home with the Lord. We live by faith and not by sight. We are confident, and we would prefer to leave the body and to be at home with the Lord. So our goal is to be acceptable to him, whether we are at home or away from home. 10 We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad.
11 So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. We are well known by God, and I hope that in your heart we are well known by you as well. 12 We aren’t trying to commend ourselves to you again. Instead, we are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us so that you could answer those who take pride in superficial appearance, and not in what is in the heart.
13 If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. 14 The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. 15 He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.
16 So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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What does it mean to “live by faith” and “not by sight”?  Do we really believe today’s Call to Worship that “In all times and in all places, God is with us.”?  Are we ready to become disciples for Jesus?  If we’re already disciples, are we ready to grow deeper?  We responded today in our Call to Worship, “Lord, make us ready to serve you.”  Did we mean it then?  Do we mean it now?

What about when we don’t understand what God is saying or calling us to do?  In those situations, are we able to “live by faith” rather than by what we know or can see on our own?

Twenty years ago I was in Guatemala, after my first mission trip to Costa Rica, 4 days after I had signed divorce papers.  That first mission trip to Costa Rica was a whirlwind, yet a blessing.  The trip at the end to Guatemala was an incredible “add- on”. In the market in Chichicastenango, I felt led to buy a stole for my pastor on Long Island.  We also bought one for the pastor at Hixson UMC.  I sensed a nudge to buy one for myself, but it made no sense to me at the time.  I was fulfilling my call by teaching languages at Bryan College.  I was freshly divorced.  What was this nudge from the Holy Spirit telling me?  I ignored it.  It didn’t make sense to me.  It makes sense now, in hindsight. But I couldn’t “see” what the Spirit was trying to tell me back then. Thankfully, God continued to nudge me, to guide me, to work in and through me.  I didn’t then (and don’t now) always have the “live by faith” down 100% well, but God was (and is) faithful to me. 

Let’s take a closer look at today’s passage to see what it says about living by faith.

What we find here in 2 Corinthians is a call to remember who we are, whose we are, and how we are to live.  It is meant to encourage the disciple to live for Christ, and to live by the standards of Christ.

Verse 15 reminds us that we are to not live for ourselves, but to live for the one who died for us and was raised.

How do we live for Christ?

Verse 14 says that the love of Christ controls us.  If we live in such a way that the love of Christ controls us, then we will live our lives not for ourselves, but for Christ.

Verses 16 and 17 tells us that the standard is no longer a human standard, but that we are a new creation and the standard is now based on that.  We are to see one another through the eyes and lens of Christ.  We are to love as Christ loves.  We are to have compassion on ourselves and others as we seek to love God and love others as ourselves.

If we are living for Christ and living by faith, we are going to dig in deep to see what Christ says about how to live, right? 

Jesus gave us many examples on how to live by faith, to go deeper, and to live our lives in such a way that the love of Christ controls us.

Jesus opened up space for others at the table, literally inviting people to join him for dinner so he could get to know them better.  He met people where they were and took time to listen to them.

During our Bible study time at Annual Conference, Reverend Kim Goddard shared with us about following the Rabbi so close that we would be covered in his dust.  She taught from Luke, giving examples of Jesus’ journey from Jericho to Jerusalem.  Part of what she said was that if we are following Jesus, we are going to get dusty.  And that our #1 agenda is to kick up dust together as we travel in obedience to God’s call.  She reminded us that we need to be aware of the hurting around us and be intentional to spend time in relational evangelism.  She noted that in the coal mines, everyone was covered in the same dust and they needed to rely on each other to help one another in the mines.  The challenge she gave us was this: “What if we all went home and tried to be a Christian, covered in the same dust so that we don’t see the things that divide us, but rather we only see the dust that connects us?”

What “IF”? 

If we set about to live for Christ and to live by faith, then what WOULD that look like?

How would that change the way we interact with people  in our community and beyond?  Take a moment and silently name as many places of business as you can in the community.  Now, of these places, how many do you visit?

[Mention gas stations (Mapco/Kangaroo), Dollar General, hair salons, Susan’s Diner, the Dinner Bell, Flintstone Ready Clinic, Pharmacy, etc.]

What about those people with whom we disagree?  Can we live for Christ side by side with them?  If we heed the words by Reverend Goddard, I think we can.  If we focus more on the dust that covers us from following Christ rather than the things that divide us, then I think we can accomplish more together than apart.

On Monday morning of Annual Conference I learned that a dear lady had passed away from pancreatic cancer.  She had just recently celebrated her 80th birthday.  She was one of those persons who lived by faith, who was covered in the dust of Jesus, and who lived for Christ.  She impacted many lives locally as she loved God and loved others.  I had the privilege to get to know Frances Nevels and her husband Matt over the past several years.  I was blessed to be part of her life celebration on Friday.  I hope to gather as much dust as Frances gathered, always looking to Jesus, giving Jesus thanksgiving and honor for her life, and seeking to love God and others continually.

Janet Morley, in All Desires Known (London: SPCK, 1992), p. 9, wrote this:

Christ our teacher
Christ our teacher,
you reach into our lives
not through instruction, but story.
Open our hearts to be attentive:
that seeing we may perceive,
and hearing, we may understand,
and understanding, may act upon your word,
in your name, Amen.

(found in Resources for Preaching and Worship, Year B, page 196)

Where is the Holy Spirit nudging you, nudging me to pay attention these days? 

May you and I pay attention to those nudgings.

May we live for Christ and be covered in the dust as we live by faith, following Christ.


May it be so.  

Picture in front of Flintstone UMC with the joy stole


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Annual Conference 2018 begins tomorrow


It's that time of year when the United Methodist Churches are holding their Annual Conferences.  Holston Conference's Annual Conference begins tomorrow, June 10th and goes through June 13th this year. Why would I write about Annual Conference this year?

This year is a big year for me.  I have been a Provisional Elder for three years and have been approved to be Ordained at Annual Conference.  I am excited to be moving forward as an Elder in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church.

I imagine I will continue to reflect on the long journey that has brought me to this point and continue to wonder what in the world God plans to do with me and through me.  It is definitely an adventure as I seek to listen to the One Voice and to live, love, and lead like Jesus.

As you read this post, you may or may not be United Methodist.  You may or may not have any any interest in the Holston Conference that is located in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

However, I thought that I would post an informational post for the one person (or maybe two persons) who might be interested in checking out what goes on in the 2018 Holston Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska this year.

First, there is a livestreaming link where you can watch many of the sessions during the conference.  It is from Lake Junaluska and you can CLICK HERE to access it.  They include a link on their page for a schedule of their events.

Second, if you really want to dig in deep, I'm including a link to this year's Book of Reports.  It is from our Holston Website. (holston.org).  You can CLICK HERE for the 2018 Book of Reports.

Third, if you decide to tune into any of the worship sessions, you may find the Worship Book helpful.  On Wednesday, June 13 at 9am, you can watch "The Service of Ordination, Commissioning, and Sending Forth" on the livestreaming link. It begins on page 63 in the Worship Book. You can CLICK HERE for the 2018 Worship Book.

That's not all!

To keep up with what is going on at Annual Conference DURING Annual Conference, you can check out THE CALL.  The staff does a great job of taking pictures and covering news stories for both social media and a printed paper (which will also be available online).

Here are some links to help you stay current for Annual Conference (and for Holston Conference throughout the year):

Official Link for Holston Conference:
holston.org

Official Link for Annual Conference:
holston.org/about/annual-conference


THE CALL:

We're Doing Annual Conference From A to Z, June 7, 2018

The Call-- A.C. Editions (Currently, there are archived editions here.  I am hoping 2018 editions will be posted here.)

The Call on Facebook


If you are heading to "the lake", I hope to see you there.  If you are experiencing it via media, I hope the links will be helpful and informative.

Praying for a great Annual Conference in which the Holy Spirit guides, moves, and flows!

Blessings on your journey!

Debra




Friday, June 8, 2018

Clay Pots-- Sermon from June 3rd

Last Sunday's sermon was "Clay Pots" based on the passage from 2 Corinthians 4:5-12.  I almost went with the title of "Cracked Pots", but decided not to use that, though I liked it.  I think my co-pastor did. I did use a version of the story of the cracked pot in the sermon, however, to share the message.  I will say more about that after the sermon notes below.  I also just came across a good resource that fits in well, so I will share that too.

As with any sermon, what is written here is not always exactly what is shared during the sermon time.  Things are added or taken away.  I wish I could remember some of the Spirit-led, God-breathed things that come out during the sermon, but I usually can't, don't.  At least not very well or in detail. I know I said some things about "this" or "that", but not well enough to add them here for you.

Since I don't know what you need to hear/read, I share what was prepared prior to the speaking of the sermon, in case there is something that strikes you as you read it. Maybe, just maybe, there is something for you here.

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“Clay Pots”
2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (CEB)
June 3, 2018 (2nd Sunday after Pentecost)
Flintstone UMC, Simpson UMC


We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord, and we describe ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.
10 We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies. 11 We who are alive are always being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies that are dying. 12 So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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In today’s passage we are reminded that light will shine out of darkness, that the treasure we have is in clay pots, and that Jesus’ life can be seen in our bodies that are dying.  We also are reminded that as we experience all kinds of trouble, we aren’t crushed, we aren’t abandoned, we aren’t knocked down. The CEB version says we aren’t “depressed”, yet we know depression exists.  Another way to say that is that we aren’t driven to despair.  Each of these situations show getting to the brink, the edge, but not going all the way over.

What is it that makes the difference?  It is the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ (verse 6) that helps us through any situation.

But, we do have troubled times, right?  Things happen and we can’t make sense of it all or we are overwhelmed.

I want to share a parable that has been around for many years about clay pots.  This version is slightly different, however, so pay attention to what might be different.

Once upon a time, there lived a servant who fetched water every morning for her mistress. She carried it in two large clay pots that she hung on either end of a pole, which she bore across the back of her neck and shoulders.
The pots were smooth and rounded, and perfectly suited to the task of holding the clear, clean water from the river. They were identical except for the fact that one was older than the other. After the long dusty walk up from the river, the water bearer emptied the clay pots into storage vessels at her mistress’s house.
One day, the water bearer saw that the older of the two pots had developed a crack through which a little water dripped. Over time, other small cracks appeared, and more and more water leaked out as the servant made her way up the hill from the river to the house. It wasn’t long before the cracked pot was only ever half full by the time the water bearer arrived at the kitchen door.
“Throw out that old cracked pot, and get a new one,” the cook scolded the water bearer. “Soon it won’t be able to hold any water at all! It’s broken and can’t be fixed, and it’s only half as good as the other.”
The pot that remained crack free seemed to swell with pride as the cook shouted. The water bearer said nothing. She emptied the old pot’s contents into a barrel, and then placed it gently back in its rope sling, ready for the next day’s journey to the river.
The poor old pot was ashamed of her deficits — miserable that she could accomplish only half of what she used to. That night, she lay next to her clay companion who hadn’t talked to her since the cook’s harsh words that morning, and she wept because she was so much less than she had been.
“I’m no good to anyone anymore, just like the cook said,” the old pot thought as she cried, and the pain caused her cracks to crack open a little wider.
The next day when they got down to the river, the old pot plucked up every ounce of courage she had and spoke as the water bearer dipped her into the fast-flowing current.
“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you,” she said.
“Why?” replied the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I used to be perfect and appreciated, but now I’m old and cracked and worthless, just like the cook said,” the words rushed out as swiftly as the river ran. “Because of my flaws I’m a burden rather than a help. You do all of the work, and I’m no use at all.”
But the water bearer was full of compassion, and she loved the cracked pot, “Look at the beautiful flowers on the way back to the house. I think they will cheer you up,” she said.
Indeed, as the water bearer carried her up the hill, the old pot paid special attention to the flowers. She had been so preoccupied with her cracks and flaws that she had failed to notice their beauty before. She soaked in the warmth of the sun on her curves, and swayed gently as the water bearer trudged along the path. She even felt as if her cracks might be closing slightly.
But at the end of the trail, once again half of her water had leaked out, and she returned to despair.
“I’m so sorry,” she cried.
“Did you notice the flowers only grow on one side of the path?” the water bearer questioned. “I planted seeds on your side when I first noticed you had a crack. When you cracked a little more, I planted more seeds, and as I carry you up to the house you water them and the flowers they produce every morning.”
“In the afternoon, I pick the flowers for my mistress’s table. Without you being just the way you are, she wouldn’t have this beauty to grace her house, and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it as I walk down to the river and back.”
With that, the old cracked pot never felt “less than” or worthless again. Instead, she felt loved and useful. She fulfilled her destiny, and relished the journey back and forth to the river every day. She took pleasure in watering the flowers, and watching them grow. Eventually, the cracks weakened her to the point that she broke into pieces, which the water bearer buried on the side of the path so the flowers might wrap their roots around the clay for stability and strength.


This version of the “cracked pot” was written by Susan Macaulay on her alzheimer’s blog so that she could reframe the stigma associated with aging and dementia.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.  We are all aging and need to be more aware of symptoms and resources.

May we remember that God can use us, if we are willing to let the light shine out of the darkness, to our dying day.

May the treasure in you, the light and love of Jesus Christ, shine forth for others to see so that they can come to know the love of Christ and the glory of God.

As we gather at the Lord’s Table today, may we remember that we come together to remember the One who shone in our hearts, who gave us the light of knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.


May it be so.

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Prior to posting the sermon above, I mentioned a resource I just found that might be helpful. I read an article that interviewed Bishop Carder and it mentioned resources.

Here is a link to that article: Alzheimer's/Dementia: Ministry With The Forgotten

Here is a link from UMC.org about this too: The United Methodist Church Releases Alzheimer's/Dementia Resource.

Here is a link to those resources from the TN conference: TN UMC Dementia Resources.

Here is an article from UMC.org on a book that discusses faith and aging and the spiritual pilgrimage that it involves: Faith and Aging: A Spiritual Pilgrimage

Here is a link for the Aging and Faith Facebook page: Aging and Faith.

Whether the sermon and resources are for you, your loved ones, or others in your circles of life, may they be the start of understanding, compassion, and helping all to see the beauty in shining the love and light from who and where we are at a given time in life.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra



Saturday, June 2, 2018

Embracing Soul Care-- Identity

This afternoon I picked up Embracing Soul Care: Making Space for What Matters Most by Stephen Smith and saw that I'm at part 2 in the book, "Soul Identity: Embracing Who God Created You to Be".

Hmmm... this is going to be an interesting section.

Just today I have been contemplating about this very thing.  Today I was a bee.  Yes, a bee.  And because my name Debra (Deborah-- though I don't spell it thus) means "bee" in Hebrew, I was living into my authentic self.

This is the 2nd year that I dressed up as the Honey Bee for the Honey Bee Metric Ride, which is part of the Honey Bee festival.  Last year I learned rather late that the route would take the riders right by one of the churches I served.  I borrowed my teenager's (Charlie) bee outfit and stood in front of the church cheering on the riders.   A few stopped to get a picture with the bee.  One knew who I was, even in my bee outfit and yelled out my name as he rode by.  He then yelled out his name and I knew how he knew me.  Our church sign welcomed them and encouraged them too.

This year, I made plans to be at the rest stop at Rossville Park, to greet them, cheer them on, and be available for any photo opportunities, if people wanted.  I helped get water for some folks too.  There were lots of photos today.  Riders from last year rode in and had wondered where I was, because I wasn't at the church. Others asked about my bee honeycomb glasses from last year. We couldn't find them for today.

As odd as it sounds, living into being a "bee", who I am, felt perfectly right today. I was able to connect with people in community and with people far away. I lived into part of who I am created to be, someone who connects with others and shares love and encouragement.  That's what this "bee" did today.  Debra, the bee, had a blast living into and embracing that aspect of who God created me to be.


a few pictures-- other folks are sending me theirs

It takes me longer to embrace other aspects of who God has created me to be.  Over dinner Thursday evening I shared that it took me to the nearing the end of seminary to claim I was a seminarian and to buy a t-shirt from seminary. I wrote a blog post about that on September 20, 2013, 6 years into seminary: "Hello... I'm a seminarian." (I started in 2007 and graduated in 2015 with the M.Div. I did get a Certificate in 2009.)

It took me a while to live into being a language teacher and professor too, so it isn't just things related to my faith journey.

I don't think I'm alone in learning to embrace who God created me to be.

In fact, in the chapter I just read, "The Beloved" (Chapter 8), I learned that Gideon struggled to accept who he was called to be and did not accept his true identity as a mighty warrior.  The author states: "We do not see ourselves as God views us.  It takes a lifetime to even begin to realize who we really are in God's eyes." (47)

I have shared that the journey to become a pastor has been a long one for me.  It has been unfolding for many years.  I have wanted to hear correctly the One Voice and not be confused by other voices along the way. As I have traveled the path, folks from SoulFeast, the 5 Day Academy, the 2 Year Academy, FUMSDRL/HOF, seminary, friends, family, Bible Study groups, Centering Prayer group, etc. have been on the path with me.  There have been many discussions, prayers, exhortations, etc. along the way.

As I near Ordination to Full Elder in Connection, I have been reminded of a few things recently.  One is that I preached my very first sermon the last Sunday I was at Christ Church UMC in Port Jefferson Station prior to moving to Dayton, TN to be a language professor at Bryan College.  My first sermon as a Lay Speaker there was "Are You Available?"  I still have it on paper and cassette.  That was nearly 30 years ago.

Then in 1998, on my first mission trip to Costa Rica, we took a trip to Guatemala at the end of the trip.  There, in Chichicastenango, at the market, I saw some gorgeous stoles.  We got one for our pastor at Hixson UMC and I bought one for my pastor that got me into youth ministry and Lay Speaking on Long Island.  There was a nudge in my spirit to get one for myself.  But I pushed it aside.  It didn't make sense.  Why would I, a Spanish and French professor, need a stole?  That was 20 years ago.  I have often given myself a pretend kick in the rear for not having listened to the nudge that day. 

I have learned that even when things don't make sense to me, it's okay to follow through.  The nudges are real.  The Spirit has something in mind.  Whether the nudge is for me to call someone, to send a text, to send a card, to go visit, etc., I am beginning to listen better.  I don't have it down 100%. I'm still learning.  I will always be learning.  But I'm beginning to live into who God has created me to be and I am embracing my identity as a unique beloved child of the Creator.

My identity is in who and whose I am.

As my life unfolds, I am learning who I am to be.  Gideon was called to be a "mighty warrior". 

The author tells us that "Gideon moved forward in courageous faith, certain that God accompanied him.  Knowing God's view of him, Gideon became a mighty warrior." (48)

I hope to continue moving forward in courageous faith.  I hope to keep loving God and others, as I love myself.  The unfolding will continue, day by day, week by week, etc.  It is an adventure to see where all this unfolding will end up!

The author quotes Walter Trobisch, a Swiss Christian psychologist, "We must learn to accept acceptance." (48) He goes on to say, "This is one of the great challenges of the spiritual journey-- to accept the truth about who we are." (48)

Yes, that is true. It has taken me years to learn to accept acceptance.  I don't always do well with it, but again, I am learning and continue to grow in this too.

Growth is a life-long journey. 

I'm exciting to be living into this next step of becoming Ordained as an Elder in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church.

I'm looking forward to more unfolding and growth personally and otherwise.

And, I'm looking forward to next year's Honeybee Metric Ride!  I hope to be able to be the honeybee for another year!

Blessings on your journey,

Debra


P.S. 

To watch the Ordination and Commissioning Service at Lake Junaluska on June 13th at 9am, go to the LIVESTREAMING LINK HERE.

To follow along in the Worship Book for that service, you can download the WORSHIP BOOK HERE.

Ginger and the bee
 (Ginger, my Provisional Elder mentor, has also served in the Rossville community. with me these past 3 years.) 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Embracing Soul Care-- Help Yourself First

I'm enjoying Embracing Soul Care: Making Space for What Matters Most by Stephen W. Smith.  Today's chapter, "Help Yourself First" (Chapter 7) used a familiar analogy to me, that of placing the oxygen mask on yourself first when flying.  We have to breathe first before we help others to breathe.  I have heard that used before in self-care, soul care and have used that when talking, sharing, and teaching too.


Living it has taken years of practice, however, and I continue to learn to live into it.  Maybe I'm not the only one.

Why is it that something so logical (taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of others) becomes pushed aside because it seems almost illogical, selfish, or something contrary?

I think part of why we push against taking care of ourselves is that we have been made to think it's selfish.

I have slowly, but surely, learned that it is NOT selfish to take care of myself.  Quite the opposite.  It is loving and caring for myself and others to do so. If I don't take care of myself, then I am not able to take care of others.

The chapter brings up the acronym J.O.Y. (Jesus, Others, You) and how "You" is always last.  I think that is another reason many people think we are not to take care of ourselves. That acronym is mis-used.  While Jesus does come first, taking care of ourselves IS putting Jesus first.  We honor Jesus in us by taking care of ourselves.  The author notes this about the acronym: "What this doesn't take into account is that Jesus lives in the soul of every Christian.  Jesus is in us.  By taking care of the soul, we honor the Christ who dwells within.  We honor him first by taking care of ourselves."  (43)

What things do I do to take care of my soul, to take care of myself?

I make time to rest, to slow down, to read, to write, to take pictures, to be with friends and family, to enjoy a cup of coffee, to take an adventure trip to see waterfalls, to sit and breathe (literally), to sit and be still, to take a walk or a hike.  These are a few of the things I do for soul care, self care.

Questions at the end of the chapter for reflection: (page 45)

  • Does it seem self-centered to talk about taking care of your soul first?
  • How can you begin taking care of your soul first?
  • How will taking care of your soul first affect others?

The quote for this chapter is from Thomas À Kempis: "A humble understanding of yourself is a surer way to God than a profound searching after knowledge."

The Scripture is from Psalm 119:80 (MSG): "And let me live whole and holy, soul and body, so I can always walk with my head held high."

Two pictures today of the beauty of creation.  One from my backyard and one from the 5th floor of The Edney:




Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Embracing Soul Care-- Be curious!

I started reading Embracing Soul Care: Making Space for What Matters Most by Stephen W. Smith a few weeks ago.  It has been on my shelf for a while, in my self-care, soul-care section.  


The format is great.  Short chapters with questions at the end.  It is meant to be a daily devotional, something you can chew slowly.

Today I read the chapter on curiosity, "The Art of Curiosity".  Chapter 6. I wanted to share a few of my notes and thoughts from my reading, and the questions at the end.

When I think of the word "curious", one of the first things that pops into my mind is a man with a big yellow hat and an adorable monkey named George.  Yes, I'm referring to Curious George.  

Curious George is the epitome of curiosity.  His curiosity takes him on all kinds of adventures.  It is this openness to learning, to risking, to trying new things that I think of when I hear the word "curious".  

But that has nothing to do with the chapter. 

The chapter begins with a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor: "I became a detective of divinity, collecting evidence of God's genius and admiring the traces left for me to follow."

The Scripture for this chapter is from Exodus 3:3-4 as Moses observes the burning bush and God has his full attention.

"Amazing!" Moses said to himself.  "Why isn't that bush burning up?  I must go over to see this."  When the LORD saw that he had caught Moses' attention, God called to him from the bush, "Moses!  Moses!"  "Here I am!" Moses replied."  Exodus 3:3-4 (NLT) [The book says it is NLT, but the NLT linked here from Biblegateway is slightly different.]

Some of the words and phrases that caught my attention in this chapter: 
  • curiosity
  • slows me down
  • innocent wonder
  • asks questions
  • explored
  • entered the experience
  • awareness
  • holy curiosity
  • sacred invitation
Some quotes: 

"...curiosity is integral to soul care.  Curiosity invites us to wonder." (40)

"To reclaim our curiosity, we simply become more like a child, which is something Jesus told us to do." (40)

"Scriptures encourage us to become detectives of divinity." (41)

"Curiosity becomes a sacred invitation to experience God." (41)

I have begun to slow down over the years, intentionally. 

I enjoy looking with curiosity for the hidden wonders in creation.  I find that when I am curious, when I slow down, when I look with eyes of innocent wonder (and one can do so even if one cannot visually see), when I ask questions, when I explore, when I enter the experience and am aware, when I accept the holy invitation, I find myself in the presence of my Creator.

This morning I took some time to explore the back yard.  Here is a collage of what I found this morning in my exploration:


As you grow in your soul care, here are three questions that the author poses at the end of this chapter:
  • What are you curious about in relationship to God?
  • What robs you of holy curiosity?
  • How can you practice more spiritual curiosity?
Blessings on your journey, 

Debra

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Finding Forrester


Last night Riley and I watched "Finding Forrester" on TV.  I had never seen it before, but Riley said it was familiar to him.

''Finding Forrester" is PG-13 and lasts 2 hours and 16 minutes.  There is some language in the movie, but it is normal for street scenes.

There were many life lesson nuggets in the movie and I enjoyed it.  The film came out in 2000, stars Sean Connery and Rob Brown, is filmed in NYC, the Bronx, and is about a high school student and a recluse one-book author.

Here are some of the things that struck me in the movie:

The theme of fear and how it controls people by keeping them from moving forward in life, whether that it a fear of failure or a fear of success, or a combination of both.  Fear of getting out into the unknown is paralyzing to many.  Fear of facing oneself causes some to treat others disrespectfully and with disdain (teacher at prep school).

The theme of friendship and how that overcome fear in the long run was a good reminder that relationships are what break down stereotypes, barriers, fears, and ignorance. When we get to know others and enter into relationships, we learn about their lives and they learn about us.  When that happens, change happens.

The theme of writing was threaded throughout the movie, but it wasn't a movie about writing.  There were some good nuggets about writing, however.  There was the admonition to sit at the typewriter and write the first draft.  To just write it.  Not to think about it, but to write what flowed.  The first draft came from the heart and then the second draft was to be from the mind.  Good words.

It was refreshing to see and hear a typewriter-- to see the paper go in and be pulled out, with the zipping noise. To hear the deep clicking of the keys, and the whirring sound of the return chamber after the "ding".

The basketball scenes were pretty fun, the street game and the high school team ones.  Watching the interaction between the personalities made you feel that you were in that world, observing it first hand.

There were painful moments of society not treating the student with respect or dignity.  There were scenes that reminded you that we still have racial inequality and that saddens me.

But there were scenes that encouraged me and gave me hope too. When classmates took up for each other, regardless of background and when the friendship between author and student showed fruit in several ways.  I was reminded that it is worth investing in relationships when we are led to do so.

As a retired teacher, I was reminded on how not to teach or lead.  It is easy for us in our pain and brokenness to take things out on others, in order to have a sense of control.  Yet by letting go, by not holding on to bitterness or pain, by showing respect, etc, we can make much more of a difference in someone's life.  The teacher had a reputation, but it wasn't for being a teacher that students admired or sought to learn from.  They knew if he was challenged, he would find a way to destroy them.  Because of his own fears and insecurities, he couldn't see to bring out the best in his students.  We all have to work through bitterness, pain, hurt, and difficult things.  As we do, we can find healing and wholeness.  When we live out of the place of healing rather than hurt, we are all better for it.

Even though this movie came out 18 years ago, I'm glad I finally got to see it.

There are probably more themes that spoke to me last night (about life and relationship), but as I reflect on the movie today, these are the things that stand out.

The acting was good and the scenery of NY was like being there again.

If you'd like to check out some reviews on the movie, here are a few links and clips below!

IMDB
Rotten Tomatoes
Movie Review by Roger Ebert

Movie Trailer and a few clips from the movie:


                                      


                                      









There are other clips on YouTube if you'd like to search for them. Better yet, just look up the movie and check it out.  It might speak differently to you-- or not at all, but maybe, just maybe, you'll find something worth while in it too.

Blessings on your journey, 


Debra