A Faith Journey

When He left, Jesus gave the command to take the Good News into all the world. His time on earth showed that some people needed to rethink their idea of who was welcome into the kingdom, because Jesus did a really good job of turning them on their heads by eating with tax people, caring for those who were ill, and talking with those who had multiple husbands. God made sure the message got reinforced and shared after Jesus went back to heaven with Peter’s vision of the animals in the sheet (Acts 10-11) representing the welcoming of any nation who fears God and does right.

So it’s not a huge leap to get to the idea that anyone could get into heaven, as long as they’ve been forgiven of their sins, have a relationship with God and believe in Him. Which is why we should first and foremost be open and willing to tell whomever God puts in our path about the love that He has shown us, about how He has supported us, and how He cares for us. We should do the very best we can with each and every opportunity that God sends us, give them the care, respect and opportunity that each of us would want.

But there’s two other sides to this, neither are as hopeful. The first is the fact that you individually can’t save everyone. Even someone with the reach of a Billy Graham, Kirk Cameron, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, or Steven Furtick can’t save everyone, it’s why we are all called by the Great Commission. Sometimes we have to choose to save the one or two people that we can. The lesson applies to other areas of our lives; we should do our best and let God handle the rest. God knows the potential of that one person you may bring to God, you can only do your part.

The third side is a story that is seen in 3 of the 4 gospels (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9 and 10) and in Acts as well. It’s the recommendation of Jesus to shake the dust off your feet when you’re not welcomed in a home or town that you’re traveling through or bringing God’s message of peace to. Basically it’s suggesting to leave them to whatever fate they may have. Maybe that means years from now something will change, maybe it doesn’t, but according to these stories, it’s not our job to be overly concerned or focused on their future. Of course we can pray for them, but each person is ultimately responsible for their own future.

So this week I encourage you to walk with faith.  Do the best you can, live a life that honors God, share your faith and don’t let the negative take you down with it.

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Balance with God

I recently read an article about Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame in which she shared about some of the things she’s tried and choices she’s made when it comes to the topic of life balance. I’ve always believed in the concept of balance from a ‘you can’t just give or take all the time’ perspective and with a thought to how significantly (and negatively) many areas of your life can be affected if you only give your attention and time and resources to one area of your life (i.e. your work). Life balance doesn’t have to be defined as spending equal time in each aspect of your life, life balance can be defined as making sure that the ways you’re spending your time fulfill the different needs and wants in your life as well as meeting the commitments you make.

Going back to Joanna Gaines, one thing that was shown frequently in her TV show was the kids coming to work with her/her and her husband. The article talks about how she, like many of us, tried to put her life into neat and tidy boxes and found it didn’t work for her. She found that “balance” didn’t equal wholeness for her. Maybe that’s something you can identify with, that trying to separate out your life doesn’t work so well, because you’re not just a mother or father or sister or brother or significant other or employee or boss or homeowner or runner or biker or foodie, you’re many things all put together. Trying to separate yourself is like trying to separate the red from the purple so you can have blue.

All this goes right back to you and God. God doesn’t want to be in your life for only part of it or in certain ways, He wants to be part of all of it. He wants to celebrate with you and pace with you and struggle with you and work hard with you and succeed with you. He wants to be there for the ups and the downs. He isn’t a God of only Sunday mornings and/or Wednesday evenings, He wants to be part of the other 5 or 6 days and other 160 some hours too. God is God because He’s aware of everything and everyone and can be everywhere at the same time. He’s capable of dealing with what’s going on in my life as well as your life and 100 of our closest friends all at the same time.

God doesn’t need or want you to tuck Him into a little corner or part of your life, He wants to be part of all of it.  Think of it like taking your cell phone everywhere, He just goes where you go.  What will you do this week to help God be part of more of your life?

Be Who God Made You To Be

You’re probably familiar with David from the Old Testament. He’s really famous because he defeated Goliath, became king and had a special relationship with God. There are over 900 references to his name in the Bible, and there’s only one David, so that makes him a really popular guy. David’s life is one that in many ways mirrors our own because he’s got highs and lows, he tries to follow the path God has him on, he tries to be someone others can respect, he has a family, and he makes mistakes.

The verse I want to take a look at today comes from early in his story, during the time that he defeats Goliath. I Samuel 17:39 says: “David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.” (NIV)

The context of this verse is that David was brought into Saul’s tent because he questioned why no one was defeating Goliath, Saul said that he was more than welcome to go fight Goliath and gave him a bunch of armor and weapons to do so. As our verse says, David passed on the armor and weapons and went back to his tried-and-true method of stones and sling. He went onto the battlefield and swung the sling, struck Goliath in the forehead and Goliath was dead.

This verse caught my attention this week because it was such a powerful reminder of how wise David was and why God chose him to work through in such a big way. Sometimes what we need are the extra resources like the armor and weapons that were offered to David. Sometimes we take them because we think that’s the right thing to do, when in fact we should just be relying on what works for us and what God has gifted us with.

God wants you to be confident in the person that He made you to be. He didn’t create you to be someone else or to try to be someone else. We all should be learning and growing on a daily basis, but that means becoming a better person, a better version of ourselves, not someone we’re not.

This week I encourage you to work on trusting yourself, trusting God and fully using the tools, resources, blessings and gifts that He’s given you. What difference can you make in the world just by being you?

Healing with Love

One topic that has developed and changed a lot over the centuries is that of healing. People have tried everything from human sacrifice to bloodletting to blessings and exorcisms, not to mention today’s pills and surgeries, to try to help with the healing process. We should be proud for how far we’ve come, how much we’ve learned about healing and our bodies over the years. So where does God fit into all of this?

Yes, there still are divine healings, God still does work today and make miracles happen. Even some of the things we’re able to do with modern medicine we’re only truly successful with because of what some people would call luck but we know is God. One of the more public illness/healing stories we’ve heard recently is that of Alex Trebek who is fighting pancreatic cancer and cautiously optimistic about how well he is responding to treatment and the positive thoughts and prayers of the many who have watched him on TV over the years. His journey isn’t over yet, so there’s no definitive answer on his healing, but good news is always good news.

Br. David Vryhof said “God’s work is healing work: bringing health and wholeness to human lives – physically, emotionally, spiritually. We ourselves have been healed by Love, and we are to be agents of that same healing and love to others.”

Brother Vryhof speaks to a big part of what God’s healing is all about and that’s love. God doesn’t like us broken and ill any more than we do, but it’s part of the human condition. As part of our relationship with God we can ask Him for healing and He’ll respond in whatever way He sees fit with some type of healing. But that’s a lot of room for interpretation, which is why you should always hope for complete physical healing, but if all that you get is the healing and calming influence of love, that’s something to be thankful for.

This week I encourage you to be a force of healing love for the rest of the world. There are so many people who need love in the world, and even just a little love can help them begin their healing journey. How will you share love with the world?

Courage Like Daniel

With it being graduation season as well as Father’s Day and last month Mother’s Day, one topic that comes to mind is courage. It takes courage to step into the next chapter of your life after graduation. It takes courage to step up and really be the parent your kids need you to be. It takes courage to step up and be the partner that the mother/father of your children needs you to be. Some people do try to give a partial effort, and they’re partially successful, which usually ends up being more frustrating and ineffective than anything worth giving credit to.

One of the Biblical figures that often is thought of when the topic of courage comes up is Daniel. Daniel’s this larger-than-life figure who has an incredible passion for God, is called into the presence of kings and leaders regularly, and gets himself into some incredible situations including being thrown in a lion’s den (and coming out alive).

Daniel showed courage in several different ways, including being courageous enough to tell the truth when it was asked of him, to stay faithful to what he believed, to continue to practice his faith even when it was considered illegal, and to trust in God when his life was threatened. He also had one of those incredibly close relationships with God, and God revealed much to him because he listened to God. The book of Daniel also records one of the longer prayers in the Bible, a prayer of confession, humility and a seeking of forgiveness.

We may never have the relationship with God or live on the national stage that Daniel did, but that doesn’t mean that our lives are any less important, or that it takes us any more courage to live them that it did Daniel. This week I would encourage you to work your way away from fear and into courage and live your life with the power and confidence that come with being a loved Child of God.

All In This Together

If you’ve been around this blog for a while you know I love to celebrate our differences. I love that the areas in which I’m not as capable there are other people who are not only capable, they really enjoy these things. It’s healthy to have differences of opinion and see things from different perspectives and to like different things. But a quote I read this week reminded me that it’s not always good to look for the differences:

“One of the most basic things we all share in spite of class, race, economic status, or age is our need to eat. It was no accident that Jesus shared a meal with his disciples in that upper room before his betrayal, death, and resurrection. It is that very meal we commemorate each Sunday in the sacrament of the altar where we hear once again Jesus say: Take, eat, this is my body. Drink this all of you, this is my blood of the New Covenant. After Jesus’ resurrection, it was in this way that his disciples came to recognize him as their risen Lord.” Br. Jim Woodrum

If we want to be alive we all have to breathe and we all have to eat and we all have to sleep. Everyone has relationships of some kind. Everyone is born young and grows up, and most die old. Most of us have dreams and goals in our lives. Most of us want to be loved. All of us have a group of people we call family, whether they’re related to us by blood or choice. And as Christians we’re all united through our faith in Jesus and His Resurrection.

It’s good to see, appreciate and even celebrate our differences. A world where everything was all the same would be boring and lack the life and depth that our current world does. I also don’t think we’d be nearly as successful with solving our problems if everyone/everything was pretty much the same. But we have to be careful to not focus so directly on our differences that we forget that we’re all human, all in this life together and that we all want to live and love just like everyone else.

So this week rather than celebrating your differences, I encourage you to celebrate your similarities and the things you all love with those you spend time with. Talk about that basketball game or TV show that you all watched, talk about the races you’re all preparing for, talk about the pets you all love, get their advice and insight on the situation you’re all working through at work, and celebrate how connected you all are.

Standing in Sacred Spaces

As we head towards Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Passover and Easter Sunday, it’s a time when many people are planning to attend church, even if it’s not something they do on a regular basis. Some will make a point to check in with a TV or online church service, while many others will take the time to go to a physical church or synagogue. During this “Holy Week” people attend church more frequently than they normally do, some going 6 or more times. And that’s great, if you have the opportunity and feel moved to attend church you should.

But the Bible doesn’t talk about Jesus going to traditional church services. Yes, He did lead many spiritual sessions and taught in front of many crowds in a whole variety of places from boats to hills to water wells. But the two most notable times that Jesus spends specifically alone in God’s presence are the 40 days that He wanders the wilderness, and the hours He spends in the Garden of Gethsemane the night He was arrested. In preparation for the biggest hours and days of His short life Jesus takes time in a garden to stop, reflect, and pray. For Jesus this simple olive garden was the sacred space where He felt closest to God.

Yes, go to church this weekend, be with people who share the faith with you, celebrate the resurrection with other believers in the space you all call God’s home. But I also encourage you to spend some time in the places and spaces that feel sacred to you, where you have personally connected with God. Maybe that’s going to a church during an open prayer time where people are allowed to just come and go and say prayers or just sit in God’s house. Maybe that is a park or garden or other outdoor space where you go to be alone and let it be just you and God. Maybe it’s a dedicated spiritual space like a retreat center, monastic or other spiritual community that people spend their days and lives in and welcome the community as well. Whatever your sacred spaces are I encourage you to find time to visit them this week and connect with the God who gave you life, has forgiven you and has given you eternal life.