Faith, Love and Moms

With Mother’s Day just a few days away here in the US I’m thinking about moms, and maybe you are too. It’s not always easy to be a mom, and we don’t always give moms the credit they deserve for the amount of time and effort they put in to their kids. Even the 9 month commitment and accompanying sacrifices to carry a child is more than some of us give to things in our lifetimes. No, not all moms are great, and not all women are really cut out to be moms, and some moms need more help than others. There’s nothing wrong with admitting and recognizing that you’re not cut out to be a mom or that you’re in need of help, there are lots of people who are willing to help you and plenty of families who are great with kids and can raise the next generation.

So as I was thinking about moms, it got me thinking about the very complicated topic that love is. Love is so many things, it’s an emotion, how we describe relationships, how we describe others, something that can unite, something that can soothe, something that can hurt, a feeling and so much more. But one of the biggest things that love is, is a choice. Even in cases of love at first sight, we have to choose to love the other person, and choose to do the work that it takes to keep that love healthy and strong.

One of the most important choices moms make is whether or not to love their children. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, and moms have to make a choice to choose love, or something else. One of the most important qualities a Godly mother can bring to the table is not just an attitude of gratitude, but an attitude of love.  When she teaches, guides and even disciplines with an attitude of love, it creates a solid foundation for us to grow into the people God has create us to be, and gives her the strength to do it in a way that honors God.

It’s almost guaranteed that we’ll be hurt in our lifetimes, but if we have learned from the cradle to have faith in Jesus, how to be thankful and how to love, we’ll understand the importance of forgiving, have the foundation to be able to do it and be able to move on in our lives with love, confident in knowing that God’s got something better for us.  So this week, so a mom you know some love. Maybe it’s with a card or gift, or maybe just the gift of time and a visit from you.

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Earth Day Encouragement

Earth Day is less than a week away, and as I was reflecting on some of the earth/nature related Bible verses, the earth related events I know about coming up this weekend, about tax time, and still about Easter which is only a few weeks ago, I was reminded that it all eventually circles back to one thing: community.

Let me explain. Yes, the Bible tells of God doing things for just one or a few people, but Easter is really about everyone, not just one person or a few people. Everyone pays taxes, because it’s too big of a burden for just one person to take care of. The earth is something we all share and we’re all going to either keep it or lose it depending on how we live on it. As much as we’re all individuals and God sees us that way and has individual relationships with each of us, we’re all still part of a body of believers and called to meet together, care for each other and love each other.

Earth Day is one of those things that individually we’re responsible for doing our part to pay better attention to how we live on the earth as well as make sure we give back to the earth. But it’s only when we look at our collective effort that we can really see the difference over the years since 1970 when Earth Day officially began. It’s only when we recycle all year long, and not just on Earth Day, that we’ll make a difference. It’s only when we consistently choose the environmentally friendly choices that we begin to see a difference.

The same is true for our faith communities. You may not think you’re doing much only talking with one person about what faith means to you, but when many people are talking with others about their faith, not only does the Great commission not seem so overwhelming, but it actually looks like we’re making progress spreading the word.

So today I encourage you not to give up. Don’t be disheartedned if you don’t see your personal efforts having huge effects. Take the time to be part of your community and see what your community is doing to make a difference in the world, both your local community for Earth Day and your church community for the Great Commission. I’m not suggesting that when you see everyone else is doing the work that you let others do all the work and don’t give a personal effort, but rather be encouraged that the work you’re doing in connection with the work they’re doing is making a difference.

“Sometimes—by sheer determination–we can just kick the stone away from the door of the tomb and march out triumphantly into Resurrection Life. More often, we must wait: wait for circumstances to change, wait upon on God, wait on others for help. When Lazarus was called out of the tomb, Jesus said: “unbind him.” You –you friends and family of Lazarus—you unbind him. Sometimes we cannot unbind ourselves, but have to wait for others to help us into freedom.” Br. Mark Brown

Cross Reflections

As we look ahead to Good Friday and Easter Sunday I was again reflecting on the symbol of the cross that we’ve used since the first Good Friday throughout our churches, on rosaries, around our necks on chains, in stained glass windows, and in paintings as a way of remembering Jesus and showing our faith in Him. There’s always been some discussion as to why we focus on the cross rather than other things that would be symbolic of Jesus and the salvation Christians have.  After all, we could be using a rock or dove, or angel wings as a much more easily recognizably positive symbol.

As I was thinking about it, the one thing that I was reminded of is that as much of a symbol of pain and suffering as the cross is, it’s also a symbol of hope. Each and every one of us go through challenges in our lives and there are times that we wonder if we’ll get through them. Jesus experienced a big challenge of facing death on the cross in His life, and seeing the cross is a reminder to us that as much as we will be challenged, as much as we may have to sacrifice, if we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons, we’ll see a great reward.  There isn’t any greater reward than knowing that Heaven is waiting for you.

So if you’re going through a challenge today, I encourage you to stop and remember the cross. Sometimes you have to go through your darkest of nights to get to the best and brightest of days.  There may not be a pot of gold waiting for you at the end of this dark path, but the victory will be worth the effort.

A Life of Faith and Fire

This week a well-known individual and leader passed from this life to the next: Billy Graham. He touched so many lives in so many ways and was outspoken about his faith and belief that life is so much more than what we deal with in our day to day lives. I believe that some of the reason he was well-known was because that was God’s plan for his life. Some of us are meant to live quiet lives of faith while others are given a lot more responsibility and a more visible calling.

But there was something else that he had that not everyone else shows the world, or is able to sustain for the many decades that Billy Graham did: passion. Billy Graham lived his life with a passion for living and for his faith. Anyone who knew Billy Graham could tell you about the passion he had, and how his life reflected that passion. He wasn’t shy about sharing his faith, but he didn’t do so in an abusive or aggressive or offensive way.

You may never have the world stage that Billy Graham did, but if you have any dreams or desires of getting there you better have a serious passion, whether it’s regarding your faith or something else. It’s not about being loudly vocal about something, or having the finances to put yourself on stage, or even about being something so that you can be on stage, it’s about having a true soul-deep passion for something (or someone), something that others identify with and can get excited about too. Where does that passion come from? It’s in large part about being true to yourself and following through on the abilities and passions you were born with or have developed.

Are you living in line with your passions and purpose, regardless of whether you’re on a national/world stage or just hanging out with friends? Focus on being who you are and choose to make a positive impact on each person you meet.

“If you are what you should be, then you will set the world on fire.” Saint Catherine of Siena

A Fresh Take on Lent

This week Wednesday was Ash Wednesday which signified the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is approximately 6 weeks of reflection that begin on Ash Wednesday and end right before Easter Sunday. The church I grew up in didn’t really have a heavy focus on the religious observance of Lent, I can’t remember going to church on Wednesday to recieve ashes or really being instructed to give something up for this season.

As I alluded to, Ash Wednesday is named as such because ashes are placed on the forehead of believers. Today as I was watching TV I saw one of the hosts on TV had ashes on her forehead, and while I may not have done it as a child I have occasionally attended Ash Wednesday services as an adult. One thing that I was reflecting again on today is about how visible Ash Wednesday participation makes people and how some people aren’t that visible in their spiritual practices. For some people their faith is a very personal thing, and while they do follow the Great Commission, they don’t typically broadcast their faith to the rest of the world.

As I was reflecting on Ash Wednesday and Lent, one of the devotional emails I opened today reminded me about an aspect of Lent that isn’t frequently discussed. The majority of the time I hear Lent talked about people are discussing what they’re giving up or what they’re abstaining of for the 6 weeks. However, that’s not the only way that you can practice Lent, the other option would be to give time to those who are less fortunate. I absolutely grew up giving my time to others, that’s something I’m very familiar with. I understand the very spiritual idea of giving something up, but I feel like so many more people would participate and there would be so much less grief about it if people chose to donate their time instead of giving something up.

If you’ve wanted to participate in Lent or want to do some deeper reflections leading up to Easter, but haven’t been able to give something up (or don’t really want to), my encouragement to you would be to find a way you can give back. There are tons of people in communities around the country and world who would benefit from support and help, including the areas that were hit hard by hurricanes in the past few months. Will you be observing Lent this year, and if so how will you be participating?

Not Alone

This week I’m feeling encouraged to share some hope with you.  We live in a really big world where it can be easy to feel forgotten or overlooked.  We feel hurt by family members, ignored by our bosses, abandoned by our partners and irrelevant to our friends.  We sometimes feel that even God has left us alone.  I hope that these words from scripture remind you of the truth:

Psalm 37:23
“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.   He delights in every detail of their lives.”

1 Peter 1:7a
“These troubles test your faith and prove that it is pure. And such faith is worth more than gold.”

Romans 8:31
“So what should we say about this? If God is for us, no one can stand against us. And God is with us.”

These verses each touch on a very special message: God delights in every part of your life, finds you unbelievably valuable and is with you.  I’ve spent enough time working (and living) with people to know that we all have moments where we don’t feel like these statements could possibly be true. Honestly sometimes we don’t deserve God’s delight or presence, we’re humans who sin and have failures. But God knows that, and still loves us.  We’re still allowed to meet with God and be loved by God because of grace and forgiveness.

On those days that you struggle, remember that you’re enough. You may not be perfect, and you may need to grow some (we all have room for growth), but don’t ever let anyone tell you you aren’t important or special. God hasn’t forgotten you, and will never leave you alone.  He’s also put people in your life to encourage and support you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help (I’m an email, call or message away!).

This week, instead of focusing on what goes wrong, take time to turn to that which inspires and encourages you.  Read the Bible, your favorite devotional, or listen to some Christian music or a sermon that’s online when you’re feeling particularly challenged or discouraged.  You’ll not only feel better, God may give you the wisdom for how to work through your situation in that time of worship or reading.

Don’t give up, God’s got a plan for your life and plans to go with you every step of the journey.

Seeking Mercy, Finding Healing

I thought today we’d take a look at the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:

“Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.”

Bartimaeus’ story reminds me of many of our lives. So many of us are crying out for some attention, even something as simple as just to get a word in edgewise. With the wonderful inventions of technology we’ve been given the ability to connect with more people than ever, which both helps and hurts our cause. It’s easier to get an apology to a family member, communicate a message of love to our partner or learn something that could further our lives. That doesn’t mean that they’ll listen of course.

Which is exactly what Bartimaeus experiences in the beginning. But Bartimaeus doesn’t give up. He persists in sharing his message, believing that he knows the truth and that Jesus can help him. Maybe Bartimaeus would have run into Jesus another time, but more likely this would be his only chance to connect with Jesus. Fortunately we usually get more than one chance to make things right.

So Jesus hears Bartimaeus and decides to listen. Then Jesus, who knows everything, asks Bartimaeus what could be considered an obvious question: what do you want? Sometimes it’s important to ask the stupid questions to make sure we’re on the same page. In Jesus’ case, He was checking Bartimaeus’ faith and heart out.

Bartimaeus just wanted a little attention from Jesus, what he got was a whole lot more. Sometimes when we turn to Jesus for help, or reach out to others, we get a whole lot more than we asked for. He may have been happy to just have been noticed by Jesus, happy for people to stop telling him to shut up and just listen to what he had to say, but I’m sure Bartimaeus’ dream was to see again. Maybe you’ve been asking Jesus for a job, but He’s got something bigger and better for you. Maybe you’ve been praying for a relationship to be fixed, when God’s got a better one in store for you. Maybe you want healing, but God wants to do something bigger with your life story. I can’t answer for what God will do in your life, but I do know that like Bartimaeus you have to get out there and start seeking if you want to find.

What about you? What are you seeking? Will you join me this week in being open to what God could have in store for you?