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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