Worth Revisiting: Cleaning House This Advent

You may have heard the expression that “cleanliness is next to Godliness” and without a doubt this would not be a beloved mantra by most. Yesterday just so happened to be my opportunity to catch up on all the neglected household chores of the week. From the kitchen to the bathrooms, floors and counter tops, laundry and mealtime preparation it all lay before me demanding my diligent attention. Were there other things that I would have preferred to be doing on my day off? Most certainly, and make no mistake many of these diversions occupied space in my thoughts as I moved from room to room.

Yet, despite these thoughts, God was also calling me to see his presence both in the work at hand and introspectively in making ready for the season. Thus, advent, it seems to me, is a time of preparation of heart and home for the celebration that is to come. For, in a mere matter of weeks we are to rejoice in the birth of our savior and more than an calendar observation it requires our active participation.

If we are to make a home, a resting place for the Christ child, and a welcome for the visitors who come to see Christ within us what do we need to do this advent?

First, we need to prioritize. Recognizing, that as conflicts arise that we need to put God first. While Christmas shopping, parties, concerts and plays are all enjoyable albeit unavoidable excursions, we cannot forget to make time and space in our days for God. If necessary, put this appointment with God on your calendar. For many, if it is on the calendar it is more likely to be a reality. Then research the availability of local churches for adoration time, healing Masses, and reconciliation that will work the best.

  • “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” Prov 24:27
  • Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me” Heb 10:5

Consider the interior work that needs to be done this Advent season:

  • “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28
  • “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15

Create an Advent action plan:

  • Be determined and serious: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13
  • Spend time with scripture: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Ps 119:105
  • Examine the idols, or misplaced priorities in your life:

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Prov 3:6

“If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and… direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only.” 1 Sam 7:3-4

  • Seek to be Sanctified and Holy: Are there sins in my life that need to be removed in order for my heart to be a home?  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” 2 Tim 2:20-21
  • Bring others with you on the journey: so that when the Christ child comes we will be a people ready for celebration and joy!  “And he will go before him in the spirit…to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:17

Reflect:

What spiritual housekeeping have I been neglecting lately? Have I made time to clean the corners of my heart and prepare a place for Christ this Advent?

Peace,

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The Grace of Vulnerability

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me..
for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Cor. 12:9-10

What does it mean to be vulnerable? From its Latin root, this word has come to symbolize both a state of openness to physical and emotion wounding. We even often refer to the vulnerable as those that are in an undesired place with little to no defenses and in constant need to protection and assistance. So, the idea of grace as a potential gift or, better still, placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability may seem undesired and inconceivable. And yet, time and time again God asks us to do just that, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent. 

What does it mean to be vulnerable? From its Latin root, this word has come to symbolize both a state of openness to physical and emotion wounding. We even often refer to the vulnerable as those that are in an undesired place with little to no defenses and in constant need to protection and assistance. So, the idea of grace as a potential gift or, better still, placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability may seem undesired and inconceivable. And yet, time and time again God asks us to do just that, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent. 

 In seeking to minister to or care for others,  our willingness to become vulnerable can also be of tremendous value. For, listening with our hearts requires a letting go of pride and a seeking to meet one another eye to eye. Knowing that each of us is but one or two steps shy of finding ourselves in a similar circumstance. In this way, we begin to glimpse our commonality and walk with others in the challenges that this journey of life can bring. 

Recently, I sat down with a beautiful family who had just lost a loved one to suicide. As they spoke I heard and experienced the ache and yearning of their questioning souls to probe the reason why. Confusion, regret and intense longing to turn back time had consumed their thoughts and added a profound layer to their grief. This path I knew very well having lost my own brother to suicide 20 years ago. Should I become vulnerable and share, or merely listen and help them through the funeral planning process?

Sensing the Holy Spirit’s urging and guidance I realized that this was indeed a moment for vulnerability. And as I did, visibly their tension eased a bit, each leaned in and God’s grace filled the room. Rather than speaking in overwhelming detail, I touched on our sudden and shared experience of tragic loss. A rip in the fabric of family, suicide is a death considered socially and religiously unacceptable making the grieving all the more difficult. They needed to know, that day, that they were not alone.

Just how vulnerable should I be? 

While vulnerability can be an asset, there often is also a need for a few appropriate boundaries. Far from perfect, we know all too well what revealing our faults, fears, and difficulties can bring. Oversharing can be detrimental both to you and to those you feel led to help. Remember this isn’t about your need to share, as it is their potential need to be helped by what is being said. 

“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power”

1 Cor. 2:4

And here, though an inner prayerful conversation, is where the Spirit should be given the lead. Though you may still initially wonder if the invitation to vulnerability was well spent, God’s promise is that you will know it by its fruits.  In God’s hands our weakness becomes strength and “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”  are often most fully revealed.  

Peace

Worth Revisiting: My Delight

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph.  3:17

Have you ever experienced a time of holy delight with God? Lately, I have noticed something quite exquisite happening in my daily walk with the Lord.  Though it is not unusual for me to notice God’s presence in my day, my amazement in discovering him has now turned to sheer delight. And the more my delight rests in finding joy in him, the more he responds lovingly in return.

Much like courting, there is a growing desire to be near one another and to make the other’s happiness your own. This is what it is to be in love and to desire to show that love constantly. Then, even the tiniest of favors does not go unnoticed, but is rejoiced with gladness. From an answer in the depths of my heart, to a song played just because he knew I longed to hear it, to a person placed in my path intentionally who needed to see Christ..this has now become my heart’s delight.

But how do we come to this place of delight with the Lord?

  1. First, we are to to delight solely in his will in our everyday and to keep his law always within our hearts. (Ps. 40:8)
    So much so, that it penetrates our inmost being. (Rom. 7:22)
  2. We are to seek truth and be trustworthy with God and others. Prov. 12:22
  3. And we are to honor and find delight in the Sabbath “not (by) going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words” Is. 58:13-14

What does God promise in return?

  1. Rescue: “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Ps 18:19
  2. Vindication: “But let the one who boasts boast about this:that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,  justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord” Jer 9:24
  3. Direction: The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him. Ps. 37:23
  4. Desires of our Hearts: Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Ps. 37:4

Reflect:

Do I take delight in God’s will for my life? Am I ready for God’s promises in his delight of me?

May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” Ps 35:27

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Around the Table

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With the approach of Thanksgiving, my thoughts return to the table which I so customarily gathered around in my childhood. There in the small kitchen of my grandmother’s home was a simple maple table with 6 chairs around. To the eye there was nothing unusual about it, but the love and memories that always surrounded it fill me with warmth to this very day. Endless games of dominoes played, many great discussions weighed, numerous pies and casseroles made- family life had encircled its relatively small frame.

On most occasions there was plenty of room, as family would come and go at various times. Sundays after church no one dared miss her homemade fried chicken and mashed potatoes or the dessert cooling on the back porch. And though it was a small home, surprisingly it rarely felt small. Yet for Thanksgiving and Christmas every square inch of space in my Grandmother’s home seemed in use, especially her table.

As one of the youngest generation, I was always at the kid’s table. A fact that for many years I optimistically looked to change. Why you may ask? First of all, we were the last to be seated and fed. More than that, however, was that all of the interesting conversations seemed to happen at the adult table. Here, they shared their joys, sorrows, while supporting and challenging one another to stay the course. They told stories, jokes, laughed and cried.Through it all love, faith and hope remained.

Before you knew it, all my wishing to be included at the adult table became a reality. My cousins and I were home from college and were even entreated to sit for a spell. This was it, I thought, now I am finally regarded as a grown up. What I did not pause to consider, though, was the graced responsibility that being present in these conversations entailed. These were not easy problems with a ready answer, but quite often required more listening than speaking and a great deal of prayer.

Over the years, I have become a solid member at the adult table, now in the upper tier of my family. Looking back, I finally realize what all those years around the kid’s table had been for. Preparation. It was in that time spent with my cousins where we too had laughed, shared, and formed community that we would return to when we would later need to rely on one another.Thus thankfulness is for me found around the table. For more than the delicious food consumed there is the presence and gift of fellowship.

Please take time this season to offer up praise for your place around the table, whether it be at your home or at another’s. Be willing to be vulnerable in your sharing , be generous in your listening, and merciful in your response. And always let prayer and love be your guide.

In Thanksgiving for each of you,

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Sowing Gratitude

Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7

About this time of year many of us take a moment to reflect on all of our blessings and the things that we have to be grateful for. Yet, why is it that gratitude so often has become such a seasonal pastime or a clever marketing cliche hung up on our walls? And, what about the challenges and trials we face, are we ever thankful for those? I’d venture to say that most likely we do more complaining than we ever do praising God for his constant companionship and the smaller things in life in experienced difficulty and joy.

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Growing up, though I never had everything I thought I wanted,  I always had all that I needed. A life lived in gratitude began not, however, from suddenly receiving the perfect gift or from an act or two of kindness, but from constantly witnessing it in the lives of those closest to me. For my mother, more than an acquaintance put on for social norms, gratitude was sown much like the soybean and cotton fields she worked on with her family.

As a small girl, she would awake shortly before 4 am, dress and quickly head for the barn. Though she might not have been ready, the cows were and she understood the great responsibility for their care and that of family. Breakfast depended and waited on the cows being milked, the eggs collected and chickens fed. And while she worked rather than bemoan the lost time in bed, she would often dream of the warm biscuits and pan gravy that would accompany her morning efforts.

With an assortment of hand me downs and few things of her own one might incorrectly assume that she simply never knew the difference. One pair of new shoes a year were not the result of an expectation but rather of a summer’s hard work out in the field.  And blessings, well they were recounted on the front porch under the stars listening to stories of health and financial storms weathered and new possibilities on the horizon. Sunday service was then a true celebration, a time to give thanks for all that God had given and to share that with their neighbors in need.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,  for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:8-9

I thought of this spirit of gratitude last weekend as my family and I worked to collect food for our local food pantry drive. Home from college, my son had decided that there was no where he would rather be at 6:30 than out in the cold with me greeting parishioners with bags in hand.  Joining us a bit later my husband and youngest arrived too and my heart felt full. This was the legacy of gratitude that had been passed on to my mother then to me and that now I could leave to my children.

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way” 1 Cor. 4-5.

This is none more evident than at the close of day when we gather together as a family to pray. Going round in a circle, from oldest to youngest we offer up our prayers of petition and praise. Any guests that happen to be present are also invited to share. In this way, all things big and small in our lives are brought before God and one another. It has become such an important part in our lives, we have even have had call ins when one of us is away.

Wherever you are today, God is calling you near. If you long to hear His voice, begin with a moment of gratitude for something, however small, that you are truly thankful for. Odds are this will be followed by other things perhaps forgotten or overlooked in your life. Then you are invited to share these occasions with someone else. Become a sower of gratitude today. You need not know or see all its effects to realize that gratitude is a gift that cannot be contained but overflows in many expressions.

A Blessed Thanksgiving to you all!

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Worth Revisiting: Good and Faithful Servant

“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability…” Mt 25: 14-30

 Today’s Gospel reading, if only taken on its surface, can leave us with a challenging understanding of God and his expectations of us. After all, didn’t the servant with one talent return his loan in full? And why were some given more to start with? Perhaps the servant with one talent might have invested some if had the security of a reserve. Yet, as per usual, Jesus is revealing more about what is possible with God than what we could ever do on our own.

First, we see that each servant was given talents “according to his ability”. Our Father who knows both our strengths and limitations isn’t going to give us more than we can handle. Rather, he recognizes where each of us are in our journey and gives us the tools and support to do the work ahead. So, the servant with one talent did have the ability, but lacked the trust in God to go any further. Not only could he not advance the kingdom, but he was unable to grow in relationship with his master.

But what about the other two servants, what can be learned from them? Each had been given a portion to use, and both in trusting in God’s provision had doubled the gift. I am reminded here of 2 Kings, in Elijah’s utmost desire to inherit a double portion of the gift of the Holy Spirit which Elisha had. Elijah wasn’t seeking a talent for his own purpose, nor was he asking for simply a change in leadership responsibility. In asking for a double portion, he was asking to be given more responsibility and expressing his conviction in God and dedication to the task. This is what the other servants did and their reward was God’s recognition of their faithfulness and confidence that they were now ready to accept more.

‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’

Do we yearn to hear these words in our journey as disciples? Or are we content to simply return the gift unopened for fear of failure in the tasks ahead? Much of my work as director of ministries, is to help those I encounter to discover just how their gifts can be used in the work of the kingdom. And to date, I have yet to find anyone who is without a talent.. though perhaps a bit unused.

Reflection:

Are there unused talents that I am failing to recognize or use today? How might I better trust in God that he will use my gifts to build his church in the world around me?

Peace,

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Facing the Music

Ever have a day where you focus on one mistake and in its place you made several more? Where you can’t seem to get back on track, or even see the track because for whatever reason you can’t get out of the weeds?  Couple a stellar combination of exhaustion and perfectionist tendencies and you have a perfect storm. Teemed with emotion and a desire to stop the purge,  each task strung together seems but a unending comedy of errors.

At an early age, I discovered a love for almost anything musical. From children’s and adult choir to accapella  and from recorder to tenor saxophone I relished the opportunity to encounter the world around me musically. That is not to say that I would distinguish myself as a virtuoso, by any means, but more that I enjoyed embracing the troubadour identity within. For everything encountered could be made more bearable when set to a lively tune.  I even put study materials to music and sung my way to remembering the most obscure facts for exams. So it was, that I not only learned about the world around me but music taught me about the inner workings of who I truly am.

As a sophomore in high school, having worked for months to prepare a difficult piece for a solo competition I felt ready. With all of the practice behind me, I told myself all that was left was to breathe. Surely I could do that. Yet, what began with flawless fluidity soon began to unravel with just one inarticulated note in the second movement. The more I tried to focus on the note in front of me the more obvious each previous mistake became. Now, my only hope I thought was to merely finish the piece and bow out gracefully to end the day. This is when I came face to face with an unexpected act of kindness.

I had never met her before in my years of competition. A small thin woman, she had given no indication of a merciful disposition other than her initial smile when I had entered the room. “Elizabeth, is it? Can you stop for a moment?” This was quite unusual and I wasn’t sure what was coming next. Was I being stopped because she couldn’t tolerate any more, or because there was just no use in continuing?

“I would like for you to take a minute, close your eyes, and breathe. Feel the notes inside, the sadness, the joy of each measure and when you are ready..open your eyes and begin again.” Doing as she said, I remembered all of the hours of practice and the reason why I had chosen this piece in the first place. And forgetting the past few minutes, I began again. This time, the result was a nearly unblemished performance and a satisfied pause.

“Thank you,” I said, “Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to try again. I know that there are many other students awaiting their turn.”

“Elizabeth, at this minute you are the only student I have before me. Sometimes, we look back at the small mistakes we make and are unable to face the rest of the music ahead of us. I had a feeling all that was needed was a break–not to recall the mistakes but the joy. If you can remember this, beyond today,  then you can be more patient with yourself as a musician.”

Her words and the mercy that I was shown that day are reminiscent of the grace found in reconciliation. For, our patient heavenly Father knowing that we are far from perfect, always sees our trying. He wants us to know the joy and love that following His lead can provide. And rather than staying focused on the past mistakes , and allowing that to create new ones, He is the Author of new beginnings.

“I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” Isaiah 43:25

Reflect:

Where do I need a new beginning today? How can I show mercy to those most in need of it in my daily walk?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Reaching For the Poles

At the age of 7, I had decided to teach myself to roller skate. Birthday money in hand, I selected a beautiful pair of skates coupled with amply cushioned knee and elbow pads. Not wanting to wait till I made it to the rink to practice, a surefire way to ensure embarrassment, I looked around for a suitable substitute. Living in an open courtyard apartment complex had finally offered an advantage. With its long connecting pathways and supporting poles I now had the necessary environment to train properly.

Learning to propel my body forward was both exciting and frightening in understanding that I also had to stop. Soon I learned that the concrete pathway was a much more worthy adversary than its polished counterpart. And the pads though covering several points of contact, did not encompass every inch that was exposed to face abrasion. If I was to continue learning, there was a need to not fear the falls and the pain to follow. In holding back, I had already fallen before I ever tried. And in seeking the safety of the poles, I was neither trusting the acquired skills nor experiencing the joy I had hoped.

I was reminded of this lesson in conversation with a few other women this week. Struggling with the courage to seek God amidst the violence in the world, and feeling a bit overwhelmed in their daily struggles too they found themselves at the poles. Interestingly enough, while realizing all too well the temptation to remain stuck here they also heard God’s call to take a step in faith. Fear of the next fall, guilt of past mistakes and doubt of  reconciliation can make moving forward seem like a near impossibility. And yet,  as believers, we know that it isn’t on our own strength that we are asked to rely.

First we need to pray for help in letting go of worry and fear and it’s grip on us.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me; 
he freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
 
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38

Next, we are invited to get suited up.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:14-17

Then to take a step not knowing what lies ahead but with the assurance that God is with us wherever we go.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
And though we may stumble, and fall at times, it is in our getting back up that we express our “yes” to God. In releasing our grip on familiar fall backs, and regret we can begin to

embrace what God has in store for each one of us.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power and of love and of a self discipline.. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:7,9

Reflect:

What poles am I clinging to today that are keeping me from participating in the love, joy and promise that God has for my life?
Peace,
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Worth Revisiting: Work Harder, Pray More

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In light of upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.

At this time in my life, I  seek to have an active life of prayer, a discipleship in community, and in small everyday ways to be engaged with the political realities in the world around me. Yet, in my youth, I was undoubtedly more political- even devoting my undergrad entrance essay to the the apathetic attitude of Americans towards voting and working towards change. In the last 10 years, admittedly I have become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve  life, and determination to truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of  working towards the kingdom of God  is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, “What can I do?”, we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a “Yes!”

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.

“Ora et labora”

For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to  further“seek after peace and pursue it.”

“Praying with my feet”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.

“May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.” Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13

Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need…to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.

Reflect: What shape does “costly discipleship” take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to “pray with my feet”?

Peace,

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On the Right Path

Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think Then you will learn God’s will for you which is pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

“Why is it that it seems when we try the hardest to do everything right that everything seems to go all wrong?”, he asked.  The question itself is a loaded one, and there isn’t an easy answer.  At its heart is an engagement of evil in the world and an assertion of righteousness. And yet, though not always privy to all the details, we can be assured that there is a multitude of underlying questions and situations present here.

In this case I was well aware of the back story.  Always the protagonist of a seemingly unending drama, choices past and present had become instrumental in determining the future.   Prior friends, and lifestyles had in fact become so constraining that the opportunity for change almost unthinkable and hope but a distant thought.

“All my hard work is just for nothing..I am beginning to wonder why I should even try.”

As a prayerful pause occupied my soul, I sought for a worthy response.

“Adam, It isn’t that you are being punished for choosing to do right here, but that life is a series of choices not just yours but that of others. The gift of free will affects not just our lives but all those around us and sets into motion consequences that may not be immediately recognizable. Doing the right thing is not simply one or two choices, but a daily decision to choose to walk in life and love. Especially when faced with disappointment and we are tempted to walk away that is when we need to recommit  and ask for help.”

This is what it means to walk and grow in virtue. As a child I enjoyed the simplicity of the proverbs. Do this and this happens, or in contrast don’t do that for it will bring about ruin. While there is profound truth here, these platitudes barely scratch the surface on the challenge of our human condition. We think that we would much rather have a detailed list of steps, a tailored prescription as it were on the right course in life and corrections where necessary. However, I wonder if that were available would we follow it or even understand it.

“I guess I get that, but I have nothing left. I am tired of the struggle, tired of working hard and having nothing to show for it. Not sure how much more I can give” After a brief discussion about concrete ways to practically approach his situation with work and finances,one thing became glaringly apparent. There was no room made in his life for anyone else but him.

“Adam, you mention all the things YOU have tried and relied upon, but do you realize you were never meant to do this alone? It isn’t all about what YOU can do but what Someone much greater than you can do. “

“Oh, you mean God..you know I haven’t gone to church. Not sure that will work for me.”, he answered. “Well, you say that you have tried everything and that you inevitably find yourself in the same predicament. That, you cannot do this on your own, and you are running out of steam. What needs to happen before you try something different? What have you got to loose?”, I posed. “Not sure…” he responded hesitantly. “Well, Adam I will be praying for you. I am always here if you need to talk.”

Lord these are the words you wish to speak to each one of us. Oh, how you wish for us to invite you into the messiness of our lives. The path we are on can be so difficult, and made even more so by our stubborn independence. Jesus help us to reach out to you for help, quiet our fears and guide us on the right path.

Peace,

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