Saturday, January 28, 2012

This journey continues to be an adventure...

Ever since I started the journey of blogging my spiritual journey and entitled my blog with the words "The Journey is an Adventure", my eyes and ears have been more attentive to the words "journey" and "adventure".  In books that I am reading, devotions, in meetings, in class discussions, etc. 

The term "journey" for the spiritual journey is not new.  It has been around for centuries.  I researched that at one time, but now as I attempt to recall that exact information, I forget its origin.  Maybe I should take a moment and search.

The term "journey" comes from the Old French journée.  French is part of my heritage and one of my languages, so this is pretty neat.  Here is the entire entry I found at "early 13c., "a defined course of traveling," from O.Fr. journée "day's work or travel," from V.L. diurnum "day," noun use of neut. of L. diurnus "of one day" (see diurnal). As recently as Johnson (1755) the primary sense was still "the travel of a day." The verb is from early 14c. Journeyman (early 15c.), "one who works by day," preserves the etymological sense. Its Amer.Eng. colloquial shortening jour (adj.) is attested from 1835."

Examples of journeys date back to Biblical times as Abraham took a journey, as did the Israelites, Joseph and Mary, and many others through the years. But, I digress on my original thoughts for "journey" and "adventure". ☺

These days, "faith journey", "journey of faith" are common terms once again to describe the spiritual path of growth.

It has resonated with me, as has the fact that it is an adventure.  It could be that seeing it as an adventure is a choice, that at times it doesn't quite match what an "adventure" might feel or look like.  Yet, that choice tends to pull me out of quick sand traps or bottomless pits.  So, it's a choice I will continue to make.

 A couple of weeks back, the daily devotional in Jesus Calling caught my attention on both levels of "journey" and "adventure".  Due to lack of time to think and write (otherwise said: due to keeping plates spinning and balls juggling), I haven't been able to put down the thoughts.... until today.

And, "today" turned in to "tomorrow", which is now today.  The Jesus Calling devotional that struck me was from January 13.  The very first line: "Try to view each day as an adventure, carefully planned out by your Guide." (14)  That was good right there.  It caught my attention and it resonated deep within.  This is how I'm trying to live my life: daily seeing it as an adventure, recognizing and trusting that my Guide has planned things out.  Further on in the devotion: "A thankful, trusting attitude helps you to see events in your life from My perspective."  (14)  Good point, good teaching.  Something I don't always live out the first few moments in situations.

The final portion of the devotional, the last paragraph was full of things that got my attention: "A life lived close to Me will never be dull or predictable.  Expect each day to contain surprises!  Resist your tendency to search for the easiest route through the day.  Be willing to follow wherever I lead.  No matter how steep or treacherous the path before you, the safest place to be is by My side." (14)

The journey is definitely not dull or predictable.  There are definitely surprises.  And, the surprises aren't always easy or happy ones.  Yet, I am challenged to not seek out the easiest route.  And, I am asked to be willing to follow wherever God leads.  Whew.  Those are tough assignments. 

So, the journey continues to be an adventure for me.  It is one in which I continue to learn more about myself and more about my Creator.  I am truly blessed by the many experiences I have already had on the journey-- the people I have met, the places I have been, the things I've done. 

I will continue to trust the Guide and journey onward on the path!

How is it going on your journey? 

Blessings on your journey! 


Friday, January 20, 2012

Holding On by Letting Go...

Earlier this month, there were some thoughts in two different devotions that stood out to me.  I've been chewing on them for a while.

Add to that a conversation with a friend about a week ago in which she shared that her daughter (Summer Grace) sang a song, "Holding On" by Jamie Grace at their church (Hopewell Baptist).  The background story to the daughter singing was pretty neat because it was her mom who was supposed to sing, but couldn't come up with anything.  The demands of work and life had taken their toll over the weeks and there was nothing really coming through to sing.  Then, the daughter tells the Mom: "I have something I could sing."  She shares the song with Mom and Mom is touched.  Wow!   It ministered to her as she heard her daughter share.... and then on Sunday, it ministered to many in the congregation as the daughter shared. 

Here is a link to listen to the daughter sing:

On one of the youtube links of a music video with this song, there is this Scripture reference: "As for you, be strong and do not give up, for your hard work will be rewarded." -2 Chronicles 15:7

Here are the lyrics to "Holding On" by Jamie Grace:

All the signs of life
They're all around me with every heartbeat
I feel so alive,
I am joy and sadness,
Peace and madness
If only I can fight just a little longer
I know It's gonna make me stronger

I just keep holding on to what I believe
Oh, I believe in you
Give me the strength to fight
And the heart to believe
When it's hard to believe in you

Oh and these are the times when doubt's tryin' to creep in
And I need a reason that's larger than life when hope seems hard to find
If only I can fight just a little longer
I know it's gonna make me stronger

So I just keep holding on to what I believe
Oh, I believe in you
Give me the strength to fight
And a heart to believe
When it's hard to believe
I'll just keep holding on, holding on, holding on
Give me the strength to fight
And the heart to believe
When it's hard to believe in you
Oh oh oh oh oh
When it's hard to believe in you
Oh oh oh oh oh
Oh, I wanna believe

If only I can fight just a little longer
I know I'll be stronger

So I'll just keep holding on, holding on, holding on
I'll just keep holding on, holding on
I'll just keep holding on to what I believe
Oh, I believe in you
Give me the strength for the fight
And the heart to believe
Cause I've got to believe
I'll just keep holding on, holding on, holding on
Give me strength for the fight
And the heart to believe
'Cause I've got to believe in you
Oh oh oh oh oh
Yeah I've got to believe in you
Oh oh oh oh oh
Oh, yeah I feel so alive.
So, sometimes we hold on.  In fact, I like the statement:  When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and swing!  Making the most of the situation!  Yet, sometimes we need to let go.  And by letting go, we can still be holding on.

From the January 11 devotion in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, the first line is: "TRUST ME by relinquishing control into My hands." (12)  That is a perfect example of holding on by letting go.  When we relinquish control to God, we are not holding the control, yet we are holding on still to God. 

In the January 12 devotion, "control" shows up in a different way: "You would like to see a map, showing all the twists and turns of your journey.  You'd feel more prepared if you could somehow visualize what is on the road ahead.  However, there is a better way to be prepared for whatever you will encounter today:  Spend quality time with Me." (13)  As I think about that, it strikes deep.  There are many days that I would like to see the map.  Yet, I think I'd be scared off the path by some of those twists and turns.  Odd that we continue to think that seeing will make us feel more prepared, when in reality, preparedness is in our relationship.  That was an "ouch!"

The devotion goes on: "I will not show you what is on the road ahead, but I will thoroughly equip you for the journey."  Whew!  At  least I won't be scared off by things for which I'm not ready yet.  And, it is comforting to know that I will be equipped.

The January 12 entry ends with: "My abiding Presence is the best road map available."

So, if I'm going to hold on to something, I hope I will hold on to the road map of Christ's abiding Presence.

Press onward in your journey,
May you have the strength to keep on going, to hold on, and to let go!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kingdom Hiking...reflections from Jesus Calling, January 18

If you're not a hiker, you might prefer the image of walking.  But, since I enjoy hiking, my thoughts went to hiking, so that is where I'm going to "camp out" for a while. ☺

Living out the faith journey in the kingdom is much like hiking to me.  And, this morning, as I read the devotion from Jesus Calling, I pictured several hiking trails and portions within them.  There are times when I hike a path that is flat and lined with pine trees that have provided a bed of pine needles on which my feet can softly trod.  At other times I find myself going up or down rocks, some of them shifting out of place.  There are places along the journey in which I come upon a waterfall or a pool of water at which I might take a moment's rest (or longer).  There are overlooks and views of the mountains and valleys.  From deep within the woods, sometimes the only clear thing that I can see is when I look up through the trees and see the sky.

These thoughts flashed through my mind this morning as I mentioned when I read the devotion for January 18 in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  Even though there are some thoughts from earlier in the week that I've been chewing on, I'll start today with sharing this devotion.

"I AM LEADING YOU ALONG THE HIGH ROAD, but there are descents as well as ascents.  In the distance you see snow-covered peaks glistening in brilliant sunlight.  Your longing to reach those peaks is good, but you must not take shortcuts.  Your assignment is to follow Me, allowing me to direct your path.  Let the heights beckon you onward, but stay close to Me.
     Learn to trust Me when things go "wrong."  Disruptions to your routine highlight your dependence on Me.  Trusting acceptance of trials brings blessings that far outweigh them all.  Walk hand in hand with Me through this day.  I have lovingly planned every inch of the way.  Trust does not falter when the path becomes rocky and steep.  Breathe deep draughts of My Presence, and hold tightly to My hand.  Together we can make it!" (page 19)

Scripture references: John 21:19; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Habakkuk 3:19

These words resonate for my own faith journey and for the journey of others around me.  It is a good reminder that there will be uphill climbs as well as downward paths and that those are part of the path.  Additionally, shortcuts must not be taken.  That is a very important reminder!  On hiking trails, shortcuts can do damage, causing erosion and destroying plants.  On the spiritual journey, shortcuts can also cause damage.  They are not worth it.  It is worth staying the path, allowing God to direct and guide.

Some parts of the path are more easily traveled than others, both physically and spiritually.  Rest, nourishment, and hydration are vital.

How is your journey going?  Is the path becoming difficult?  Are you tempted to take a shortcut?  Take time out for rest, nourishment, and hydration.  Drink from the Living Water.  Recognize that even through the ups and downs, you are not alone.  Remember that God often sends hiking buddies your way too.

When you get to the overlook, enjoy the view! 

Happy faith hiking,


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Path of Silence at the Life Enrichment Retreat Center

I found something new this time while I was at the Academy, which is held at the Life Enrichment Retreat Center in Fruitland Park, FL.  I found the Nature Trail and the Path of Silence. 

This was the 3rd session/week for our Academy, yet I hadn't yet found these gems.  The Path of Silence was especially good.  I ended up walking it during the reflection time after the morning session several times. 

The first time I walked it I noticed the first wooden post with a Scripture engraved in it. 

And, at the end of the path, I saw one next to the wooden cross.  There was also a bench there.  You could look into the woods or out toward the waters of Lake Griffin. 

As I sat there the first day, some squirrels were playing in the trees.  They started chattering to one another rather loudly.  I had never heard squirrels chatter so loudly before.  Even with their chattering, it was a good place to reflect and write.

The next time that I walked it, I heard a noise in the woods and stopped to listen.  I saw a grey small figure in the brush.  I realized it was a coyote and I readied my camera for a shot when it came into a clearer spot.  However, when it did, it saw me and took off.  After it took off, I noticed that I was standing next to another Scripture post hidden by vines.  I uncovered it.

The third time that I walked it, there was a fisherman in his boat off the foggy shore.  I saw ducks each day and marveled in the beauty of the woods.

The Path of Silence is a great place for reflection on the beauty of creation, the Creator, and that which is going on inside one's heart, mind, and soul.

I thought about the woodsy area behind our church, near the new labryinth that has been recently finished, and I wondered.... is there a space for a "Path of Silence" there?  A space to wander, to meander, to ponder over Scripture, to sit and reflect.  Hmmm....  Maybe that is something to check into...

May there be a path of silence on your journey,


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Re-adjusting my daily rhythm... pace and trust

The rhythm of an Academy is such that there is time for silence, solitude, reflection, worship, and community daily.  When I come back from a week of this, it takes me a little time to re-adjust to my normal routine.  I'd better write, "normal".  The only normalcy about it is the hours around the school bus.  The rest can be unpredictable, though I do keep a calendar and schedule as much as possible.  Why?  Because of all the spinning plates. ☺  At the same time, I attempt to maintain ample time for silence and solitude.  Without it, I have learned, I become detached from my source, antsy, and can be a "grumpy bear".  

An older gentleman whom I admire greatly, referred to me as a grumpy bear (he was kind about it) yesterday in reference to a note I had sent out.  I had not intended the words to come across grumpy at all, but rather I was asking for more head-up time in advance in the future for things.  When I checked my box at work, there was a little bear with honey in it.... I wonder if someone else thought I was being a grumpy bear too????

My tendency is to set a fairly quick pace for myself and run it.  Look back at that sentence at my possessive adjective "my" and then "myself".  That's not necessarily a bad thing, yet if I am allowing God to control my days, that means my pace and my scheduling too.  I do try.  I just tend to run ahead of God at times.

The reason this is on my mind so much is that THE DAY AFTER I get back from the Academy, my devotion was about this.  It has taken me some days to reflect on it, to soak it in.  On January 9 in Jesus Calling, Sarah Young's devotion reads (in parts): "I AM WITH YOU AND FOR YOU.  When you decide on a course of action that is in line with My will, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop you.  You may encounter many obstacles as you move toward your goal, but don't be discouraged--never give up! [...] Do not expect an easy path as you journey hand in hand with Me, but do remember that I, your very-present Helper, am omnipotent.  Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come. [...] Instead of dashing headlong toward your goal, let Me set the pace.  Slow down, and enjoy the journey in My Presence." (10)

OUCH!  And, AMEN!  Thankfully, I've been learning over the past, uh, MANY years to slow down and allow God to set the pace and allow myself to ENJOY the journey.  However, there are still days and times when I get anxious and struggle with allowing God to keep setting the pace.  This is a tremendous reminder for me. 

The bottom line is about trust.  Trusting that God has really heard me and that God cares and has a plan for me.  The first line for January 11 Jesus Calling reads: "TRUST ME by relinquishing control into My hands." (12) You see?  Trust.  It's not as fun and as simple as dropping a coin into a jar and thinking 'yep, I trust God.'  I actually have to follow through and relinquish control into God's hands.  Whew!  That's a tad more difficult. ☺

In the second paragraph, there is something that will help me though.  It will help me both allow God to set the pace and allow God to keep control.  After I have brought my prayer requests before God, my response is to be this: "...thank Me for the answers that I set into motion long before you can discern results.  When your requests come to mind again, continue to thank Me for the answers that are on the way." (12)

So, on this journey, I'm attempting to allow God to set the pace, to remember to thank God for the answers to prayers that are already set in motion, and hopefully I won't be a grumpy bear. ☺

How is your trust and your pace setting?  Who is in control of those things on your journey? 

May we continue to learn and grow as we travel, and may we slow down sufficiently to enjoy the journey!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A different kind of trust fund... reflections from Jesus Calling, January 10

As I read this morning's devotional in Jesus Calling, it struck me that this message gives new meaning to the term "trust fund".   The devotional doesn't even mention the term, but it came to mind as I read it because it calls us to trust in God.

Here are the opening lines: "Every time you affirm your trust in Me, you put a coin into My treasury.  Thus you build up equity in preparation for days of trouble." (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young, page 11.)

What a concept!  Thinking of building up trust equity in my trust fund in my relationship with Christ.  I've never thought about it that way before. 

The first two lines of the 2nd paragraph let us know how to assure we will have enough in our account: "Practice trusting Me during quiet days, when nothing much seems to be happening.  Then when storms come, your trust balance will be sufficient to see you through." (ibid)

By making regular deposits into our account, especially during the calmer moments of life, there will be a sufficient amount to see us through when we need it.  Notice that it doesn't say "if" storms come, but "when".   Because storms do and will come.  If, for some reasone, someone has told you that following Christ was going to be easy, that your life was going to be carefree from the moment you surrendered your control, you have been lied to.  Following Christ is probably the most difficult path I've traveled.  It's about dying to self, giving up control, putting others before myself, etc.  It has also been the most rewarding.  There have been lots of great experiences along the way.  Even the growing pains aren't so bad in the long run. 

Today's devotional reminds me of the Twila Paris song, "Do I Trust You, Lord?"  You Tube Link to "Do I Trust You, Lord?"

Sometimes my little heart can't understand
What's in Your will, what's in Your plan.
So many times I'm tempted to ask You why,
But I can never forget it for long.
Lord, what You do could not be wrong.
So I believe You, even when I must cry.
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the river flow?
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the north wind blow?
You can see my heart,
You can read my mind,
And You got to know
That I would rather die
Than to lose my faith
In the One I love.
Do I trust You, Lord?
Do I trust You?

I know the answers, I've given them all.
But suddenly now, I feel so small.
Shaken down to the cavity in my soul.
I know the doctrine and theology,
But right now they don't mean much to me.
This time there's only one thing I've got to know.

Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the robin sing?
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does it rain in spring?
You can see my heart,
You can read my mind,
And You got to know
That I would rather die
Than to lose my faith
In the One I love.
Do I trust You, Lord?
Do I trust You?

I will trust You, Lord, when I don't know why.
I will trust You, Lord, till the day I die.
I will trust You, Lord, when I'm blind with pain!
You were God before, and You'll never change.
I will trust You.
I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.
I will trust You.
As a physical, tangible, and visible way to see the trust fund lived out, I thought about setting aside a jar (or some sort of container) dedicated for "trust".  And every time I trust God, I can drop in a coin.  That way, I'll be able to see how my trust is coming along.  And, I can figure out something to do with the change later.  Of course, that's assuming I'll have some coins accumulated. 

How is your spiritual trust fund these days?  When the storm hits, will there be enough in your account to carry you through?  Maybe you'll try putting a coin in a container everytime you put your trust in God.

May your trust in the Lord grow daily as you journey,


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wilderness-- it's part of the journey

Today's theme at session #3 of the Academy: Wilderness.   This is a theme that grabs me for several reasons.  One, I enjoy hiking and being out in the wilderness.  Two, I've been there spiritually.  And, three, it is something to which I feel called.  What do I mean by this?  I have shared before about my insight from SoulFeast in the summer of 2010 and how I had the image of me being a guide leading people through the wilderness.  It resonates within me to be a part of people's lives in that way. 

During tonight's homily, some thoughts stood out to me: "In the wilderness God shapes the community."  That was the only one I think I quoted directly and correctly.  Other thoughts:  In leading people through the wilderness, someone has to be there to accompany them.  There is a deeper call to remain in the wilderness a little longer.  These were some of the thoughts that resonated within me, tying into thoughts I've had in the past.

At tonight's evening prayer, there was a song that we've sung before at some time from the Upper Room Worship Book: "The Summons".  It is by John L. Bell and was written in 1987.  It is found on page 60.

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let me love be shown, will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave your self behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
and let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the lepers clean, and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I'll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.


There's not a whole lot to say.  The song says it quite well.  The phrases that stick out the most to me are: come and follow me, leave your self behind, love the "you" you hide, go where you don't know, risk, use the faith you found to reshape the world, quell the fear inside and the entire response in stanza 5.

I'm still marinating and listening this week.  Today is really only day 2, though it feels like longer. ☺  So much information.   So much time to think and pray... and worship.   Time to be reminded of who God is, who I am, who I am meant to be. 

Jesus has been participating in worship and I'm sure I'll blog about that later.  in fact, I have a blog on marinating, part 2 to write as well.  But, I also need to get some sleep.

Tonight, one of the covenant groups had built a fire in the fire ring for their group time.  We were blessed to share in its beauty after night prayer time.  Fire is such a symbol, a sacrament even, for me (based on Leonardo Boff's definition ☺).  And, fire fits in with the wilderness theme. 

Rest.  It is time to rest.  Tomorrow is a new day.  Tomorrow is also Epiphany, Day of the Magi, the wise kings.  I wonder if they will show up here??? 

May the Lord bless you on your journey and may you respond when you hear your name called.


P.S.  So, far, I have not been blessed to see any alligators.  I guess it is too cold for them this time.  Maybe they are wandering in some other wilderness at the moment.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I want to marinate... or be marinated....

It is time for session #3 of the Academy.  I leave tomorrow morning.  I'm excited, yet nervous.  I look forward to the faculty, the worship, the silence, the solitude, the friends, the community, the accountabilty, the alligators, and the Spanish.  I am also looking forward to seeing the Jesus Doll.   The books we've read for this session have been thought-provoking and have been working in me.  (I'm still working on one of them.)

Why am I nervous?  Well, because it seems that everytime I go to an Academy session since I started the 5 day and the 2 year, God has something to say to me and ask of me.  I'm usually having to decide whether or not I will say "yes" to God, accept something, etc. 

This time, I would like to marinate.  You know, just soak it in-- without having to be challenged by something. ☺  I guess I shouldn't have written my first-year covenant to include the words "to continue taking steps of faith and risk in ministry pursuit".  oops. ☺ 

I looked up the definition of the word "marinate" in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  It reads: as a transitive verb-- "to steep in marinade".  As an intransitive verb-- "to become marinated". Definition of marinate from

I see the upcoming week of the Academy (The Upper Room-- 2 Year Academy) as "marinade".  Therefore, I will be steeped in marinade and will become marinated.

As I'm writing this blog, I got a phone call, asking if I would consider praying about being a Table Leader for the next women's Emmaus Walk in April.  Wow!  I haven't even gotten to the Academy and I feel God asking me to take steps of faith and risk in ministry pursuit.  I said yes. "It is time."  It is the week after session #4 of the Academy.  It will mean creative studying, but I can do that.  It also means I'll be giving a talk.  I've not done that on a women's walk before, but I have given talks on Crossroads and Chrysalis.  Upper Room Emmaus Link

Now, I'd better finish packing for the Academy.  I wonder how much marinating I'm going to get to do...... or how many alligators I'll get to see.... it's going to be good.... that I know!"

Take time to listen to God for some marinating and soaking in on your journey!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Jesus Calling--January 1, 2012

Another morning of reading something that hit me square on, causing me to think and reflect.  Here is today's devotion from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:

"Come to Me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed.  A close walk with Me is a life of continual newness.  Do not cling to old ways as you step into a new year.  Instead, seek My face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with Me involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind.  As you focus your thoughts on Me, be aware that I am fully attentive to you.  I see you with a steady eye, because My attention span is infinite.  I know and understand you completely; My thoughts embrace you in everlasting Love.  I also know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Give yourself fully to this adventure of increasing attentiveness to My Presence." (page 2)

The Scripture verses for today: Romans 12:2 and Jeremiah 29:11.

When I read this, there were words and phrases that stood out to me:.  Among them are: "teachable spirit", "continual newness", "open mind", "journey", "adventure".  Then I decided to go back through the devotion and write out in outline form what was "me" and what was "God".  I know, geeky, but it was what I felt like doing.

Here is my chart:

    ME                                                    GOD
--teachable spirit                               --fully attentive to me
--open mind                                      --knows and understands me completely
--eager to be changed                       --offers continual newness
--given fully to the adventure           --embraces me in everlasting love
--do not cling to old ways                --God has plans for me
--increasing attentiveness to God's presence

I don't always live into the things on my side of the chart, but they are things that resonate within my heart, mind, and soul.  They are things I desire and hope to be living out as I journey on this great adventure.  On God's side of the chart, I'm certain that God does live into those.  There may be times of doubt and uncertainty on my part, but that's okay... that's part of the journey too!

An appropriate and thought-provoking devotion to start off the new year!

What words or phrases stand out to you in today's devotion by Sarah Young? 

I hope that I will be able to 'give myself fully to this adventure of increasing attentiveness to God's presence.'  What about you?

Blessings on your journey,


"It is Time" sermon at White Oak UMC on New Year's Day

I got to start off 2012 by guest speaking at White Oak UMC this morning.  It was a blessing to be back with them in worship today on the first day of this new year.  I enjoyed meeting new folks and meeting back up with folks I've met in the past.  Connections in the body of Christ are always a blessing!  A big surprise for me was that my daughter actually stayed through the entire sermon!! ☺ The music and the Children's message were a blessing and it was an overall great time.  Thanks to Tony for running the sound and for bringing in the Lion King theme song audio clip for me!

I think my mentor for Mentored Ministry would be pleased.... even though I didn't move around much (due to the microphone at the pulpit), I did most of the sermon without reading. ☺

Here is today's sermon:
“It Is Time!”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
White Oak UMC, January 1st, 2012

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 (NRSV)

Everything Has Its Time
3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
The God-Given Task
9 What gain have the workers from their toil?10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.11He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live;13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
Happy New Year!  This is the time of year that many folks are making resolutions and commitments for the New Year.  However, the Christian New Year started several weeks ago on the 1st Sunday of Advent, November 27th.  So, this is our 2nd New Year to celebrate.  Other than to wish all of you a Happy New Year, I’m not going to talk about that aspect of time today.

The verses in Ecclesiastes lend themselves easily to a discussion involving Pete Seeger’s hit from the 1960s, “Turn, Turn, Turn” which he took from this Scripture.  How many of you remember that song?  Well, I’m not going to talk about that aspect of time today either.
When I read the verses in Ecclesiastes, what came to mind was Rafiki from the Lion King saying “It is time.”  It’s an expression I use quite a bit.  I became curious and started researching the Lion King for that line and to see what I could learn about it.
A little bit of background in case it has been a while since you saw the movie, as it had been for me..  Simba’s father Mufasa was killed in a stampede.  Scar, Simba’s uncle, was responsible for Mufasa’s death, but made Simba believe it was his fault.  So, Simba left the Pride Lands in fear and shame, scared to face everyone.

Simba grew up away from the Pride Lands, making some new friends along the way.  As Simba grows older, he can’t shake the past.  He still struggles with it.  He misses his father.  He is hiding from who he has been called to be, the Lion King, the leader of the Pride Lands, out of fear and shame.
One day, Rafiki catches some hair in the wind and scrambles down from the tree top to test the hairs.  He soon realizes that Simba is alive and he adds a mane to the baby Simba he had drawn on the tree trunk years earlier at his birth.  Rafiki is laughing with excitement and then proclaims, “It is time.”
Rafiki goes to find Simba.  They talk and catch up.  Simba wants to see his father, so Rafiki takes him to see his father. 

Here is what happens:

Rafiki: [after guiding Simba to a spot where he says will show him Mufasa] Look down there.
Adult Simba: [looks into a pool of water] That's not my father. That's just my reflection.
Rafiki: No, look harder.
[touches the water, as it ripples Simba's reflection changes to that of his father]
Rafiki: You see? He lives in you.
Mufasa's ghost: [from above] Simba.
Adult Simba: Father?
Mufasa's ghost: [appears among the stars] Simba, you have forgotten me.
Adult Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa's ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Adult Simba: How can I go back? I'm not who I used to be.
Mufasa's ghost: Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king. Remember...

Simba looked at the signs—from his father and Rafiki and he trusted them along with the spiritual discernment from within.  Even though he still struggled, he was growing through the struggles.
A later scene shows the grown Simba talking with Rafiki about what he knows he must do.
Here is the dialogue:
Adult Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back will mean facing my past. I've been running from it for so long.
[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]
Adult Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn't matter. It's in the past.
Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the from way I see it, you can either run from it, or... learn from it.
[swings his stick at Simba again who ducks out of the way]
Rafiki: Ha. You see? So what are you going to do?
Adult Simba: First, I'm gonna take your stick.
[Simba snatches Rafiki's stick and throws it and Rafiki runs to grab it]
Rafiki: No, no, not the stick! Hey, where you going?
Adult Simba: I'm going back!
Rafiki: Good! Go on! Get out of here!
[Rafiki begins laughing and screeching loudly]
Simba knew, as Rafiki did, that it was his time.  Yet, he was nervous about going back because of the past.  He knew that going back meant facing his past.  Rafiki taught Simba a valuable lesson about the past… one can either run from it or learn from it.  This is a lesson we can all learn.  Simba takes off, back to the Pride Lands.  It was his time.  His time to reclaim his rightful position as leader, his time to deal with the past, his time to take a stand for what was right and to be who he was meant to be.
These lessons from the Lion King help us today as we look ahead to the future, yet may be held back by the past, as Simba was.  We must look to our Creator God, remember who are, who were created to be—sons and daughters of the King.
Though there are some spiritual connections we can make with the Lion King, let’s look at another example, Jesus.  Here are some examples of when Jesus knew “it was time”.  Jesus knew when it was time to step into ministry (in the Gospel of John, Chapter 2 at the wedding in Cana we see where Jesus revealed himself for the first time, even though it was his mom pushing him into action.  His disciples believed in him after this action), when it was time to step aside to pray (there are several examples in the Scriptures of this throughout his life: Mark 1:35—“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”, Mark 6: 45-46—“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”, Luke 5:16—“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”, Luke 6:12—“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (when Jesus needed strength and refueling, he took time to get aside for a time of solitude and pray), when it was time to return to Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21—“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.), when it was time to die (in Matthew 26:2 Jesus is talking to his disciples and says: “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”. 
How did Jesus know when it was time for each of these things?  Jesus was intimately connected with His Father.  He intentionally took time to pray and listen.  He knew he needed time in solitude and in prayer to be able to live out His calling in ministry.  After he spent time away in prayer, he was strengthened.  Then, he acted in faith and obedience for the task at hand, whatever that might be.
What about us?  How do we know when it is time for us to do something?   Like Jesus, we can take time to pray and listen.  If we are intimately connected with God, we have a better chance of knowing when it is time.  Personally, in most cases, I start to get antsy when the time has come for me to step up and doing something that I am supposed to do.  It is as if the spirit is churning within me and won’t become still again until I take that next step.  It’s a matter of spiritual discernment which comes through listening and prayer, through the relationship we have with God and through the relationship with fellow believers. 
Lebo M. wrote the theme song “It’s Time” for the Lion King.  It has some appropriate lyrics for the message today.   Just a few of the lyrics that I’d like to share with you today:
It's time
And this is meant to be your day, shine
And in your heart you'll know it's time
For you (to) take your place

Sometimes I wonder why people always seem
To turn around and lose their way
Look out your window, be grateful for this day
And make a change, it's okay

“Today is the day to listen to Christ’s voice.  Let your hearts burn and your minds yearn.  You will rediscover that Christ still calls us to his table, that he breaks bread with us, that he gives himself to us, and that his presence goes with us to the end of our days.” (Yearning Minds & Burning Hearts: Rediscovering the Spirituality of Jesus by Glandion Carney & William Long, p. 223)

What is it time for you to do?  Maybe God has been gently knocking on the door of your heart with something.  You know what it is.  It is between you and God.  Whatever it is, the time is now.  Don’t allow fear or shame or anything else to stop you from being obedient.  Remember who you are and whose you are.  Step out in obedience with faith, boldness and courage.   
Remember the words of the great prophet Rafiki from the Lion King: “it is time”.
Let us pray:
"God of this new year, we are walking into mystery. We face the future, not knowing what the days and months will bring to us or how we will respond. Be love in us as we journey. May we welcome all who come our way. Deepen our faith to see all of life through your eyes. Fill us with hope and an abiding trust that you dwell in us amid all our joys and sorrows. Thank you for the treasure of our faith life. Thank you for the gift of being able to rise each day with the assurance of your walking through the day with us. God of this new year, we praise you. Amen."
Link to the Closing Prayer for New Year's Day by Joyce Rupp
Joyce Rupp's Website 

Well, 2012 is off to a great start!  After worship we went to Las Margaritas and had some Mexican food and I was able to speak in Spanish some.  The sun is shining after a brief downpour this morning and the weather is more Spring-like than Wintry. 

Blessings on your journey!