Faith for the Ages

This month we celebrate(d) days that speak to a whole variety of people. We had the holidays of Labor Day on the 3rd and Grandparents’ Day on the 9th, and coming up on the 26th is See You At The Pole Day, which is a day that students gather around the flagpole at their school and pray. One of the most awesome things about faith and spirituality is that it’s something for everyone. It’s not something that only young people are interested in or only senior citizens, or only people from one country or only people of one language, it’s something that can speak to anyone at any time throughout their lives.

The Bible begins with chosen groups of people, from Noah’s family to Abraham’s family to Joseph’s family to David’s family, all part of a chosen group of people: the Israelites, as those who are “God’s people”. Then in the New Testament things get turned on their heads and we’ve suddenly got Jesus dying for everyone’s sins, and then Peter dreams of a sheet of animals in Acts 10 which blows the field open more specifically and clearly saying that anyone and everyone is able to access Eternal Life through Jesus.

All of this says there’s never a wrong time to start to get to know God or to rebuild your relationship with Him. There’s nothing going on in your life that God hasn’t been through with someone else before. There’s nothing you can tell Him that will surprise Him. You can share the Good News with anyone whenever God gives you an opportunity. You can have your new day whenever you need it. Grandparents can sit and read Bible stories with grandchildren.  Partners can read together.  Parents and children can read together.  Anyone can join a Bible study and develop their faith and their faith community.  What have you learned and how has your faith journey changed as you’ve grown?

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Dealing with Life Experiences

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.” Byron Katie

Byron Katie is well known for “The Work.” If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a simple process anyone can do to understand and address problems with clarity. It’s a simple process but can bring honest healing to yourself and any others involved.

When we talk about personal victories, one thing that has to always come up is that before the victory comes the challenge. You can’t be victorious in something if you haven’t gone through the journey to get there. Sometimes the journey is more challenging than others, but each journey comes with the opportunity to learn something, to experience grace, to share forgiveness, and to grow personally or professionally. The sooner that we accept that life is full of challenges which bring us to victories, the easier it will be to approach those challenges.

When you fight something every step of the way it only becomes more difficult. When you complain about the terrible lot in life you’ve received it makes it more difficult. When you impatiently wait for the pot of gold to just show up in your lap instead of searching for a rainbow it makes things more difficult. One of the biggest choices we each have to make in our lives is whether we’ll accept the simplicity laid out by Byron Katie or continue to fight our lives and our journeys every step of the way.

I encourage you to see what happens in your life journey this week as a gift, not as a hardship, not as God spiting you, not as punishment, and not as a chore.

Remember Again

Recently I’ve been thinking about the topic of remembering. I’ve been remembering those early back-to-school days, contemplating summers at the beach, about the joy of eating watermelon in a backyard on a hot summer day, of taking walks on warm summer nights, of summer Vacation Bible Schools, hymns of old and songs of new, and of Noah and of the rainbow that is a reminder on several levels.

A big part of our lives is centered around remembering. We’re supposed to remember birthdays, appointments, where things have been put, people’s names, songs we’ve heard, books we’ve read, things people have told us, the list goes on. But not only are we supposed to remember what goes on in our lives we’re supposed to remember what goes on in the lives of our coworkers, friends, family members, significant others and/or kids. We’re also supposed to remember what God has taught us. It’s not surprising that we find ourselves forgetting things and feeling overwhelmed, it’s a lot to remember, more than most people can remember (which is one reason I write a ton of stuff down and feel very little guilt about it).

Much of the Bible is about remembering as well from Noah’s rainbow to the 10 Commandments to the Psalms to the many genealogies to the stories and traditions. One thing that sticks out with many of the remembered events of the Bible is repetition. It’s one of the greatest tools for remembering and most challenging as well. Repetition as seen in both hymns of old and songs of today, in the verses of the Psalms, signs of the Cross and occurrences of rainbows continue to be present in our lives, sometimes bringing hope, other times bringing frustration.

As frustrated as some people get with the repetition, it’s a crucial part of our lives and an important way of sharing about God. Someone may not believe or understand the first few times they hear something, but as they hear it repeated again and again they can reflect on it and learn from it and let God speak to them through it. Sometimes it’s exactly the reminder that we need to pick ourselves up, or turn ourselves around. If they can repeat the same lines throughout the book of Psalms, why can’t we repeat the same lines in the spiritual songs of today?

So the next time you’ve got a song stuck in your head, take the time to consider what the words are really saying. Thank God for the reminder and take a minute to discover what He may be trying to tell you.

Taking Time to Listen

Given the events of the last week as well as the big meeting between two world powers happening somewhere half way around the world, today I thought we’d take a look at the words of Proverbs 8:33: “Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it.”

My heart hurts whenever someone chooses to end their life before God has determined it’s their time. The world lost two public figures last week to suicide, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. While we may never know what truly caused them to make that decision, many who choose suicide do so because they don’t have hope, don’t believe life could get better, don’t feel heard or have been so beaten down they can’t take it anymore. Statistics show that on average over 100 people choose suicide each day, which is a really scary number, and means there are thousands of hurting families out there.

The Bible teaches us that we should love our neighbors, that we should be giving and support each other, that we should look out for women and children, to trust that the God who knows the petals on a flower and all the creatures of the sea could look out for the little details of our lives, and that God has a plan for good for our lives. But these are not assurances that everyone knows because not everyone knows the Bible.

These aren’t just spiritual messages, they’re life messages. Anyone can love, listen and be compassionate, regardless of race, sex, age, location, or language. Are you taking the time to listen to the people in your life? To the ways they’re trying to help you and things they’re trying to tell you? I encourage you to choose love and compassion this week, to stop and listen when people speak, to make time to listen to what God is trying to tell you, and make time for those who are most important to you.

Reality Reflection: The Legacy of Ireland

Today we’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, honoring the man who was later honored with the title of Saint, as well as remembering and celebrating all things Irish. As I’ve been enjoying learning more about the world of Ireland, celebrating my Irish heritage and appreciating the beautiful products they create, I have been reminded time and again about something that isn’t really unique to the Irish but is part of who they are: history, legends and lore. Whether you believe in faeries, pots of gold, leprechauns, luck or not, these stories have been passed down through the generations, and are a big part of the culture. Also woven in with the legends and lore are symbols that are iconically Irish like the Claddagh, trinity knot, and many knitted patterns like the basket, honeybee and cable stitch.

These symbols may not be only found in Irish culture and products, but all of them have a story connecting back to Irish history that is uniquely Irish and has remained tied in to Irish beliefs and lifestyles. For example the Claddagh is based in a story of a man who was kidnapped before he was to marry, learned to create jewelry while away from his bride-to-be and came up with the Claddagh design and presented her with that ring when he returned to her and they were married. Many other connections tie in with the land and work that people do like fishing, bee keeping, and basket weaving. And we can’t forget the clover leaf, which became an icon when St. Patrick used it to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity when he came to Ireland.

I think these stories, icons, symbols and legends do more than make Ireland a place tourists visit. I think in many ways the stories and rich history has given the Irish a leg up in life where the history of some other places and cultures has been a point of contention. The joy of finding 4 leaf clovers, looking for magical fairies and pots of gold, and believing in love that lasts has taught many Irish to have a better outlook on life, to respect each other more and have more faith. That doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges, bad days and problems, it means generally they’ve learned how to bounce back better and to keep the faith. It makes me very proud to be part Irish.

What do you appreciate about the Irish, or about your heritage?

Celebrating St. Patrick

Saturday in the US (and in Ireland) we’ve celebrated St. Patrick‘s Day.  While many people celebrate it by drinking, eating and wearing green, the holiday itself is named for a Saint.  So I thought we’d take a look at who the individual was and why he’s honored on this holiday.

He, Patrick, was a missionary back in the 5th century to Ireland.  He is one of the primary saints of Ireland and many credit him as having brought Christianity to Ireland.  Of all the holidays that are celebrated in the US today, St. Patrick is one of the few people that a holiday is named for specifically, and not as part of a larger celebration or remembrance.

I don’t think it ruins the memory or honoring of St. Patrick to have a drink and wear a little green, just like decorating a tree, having cookies or hunting for eggs doesn’t hurt Jesus or the true meaning of Christmas/Easter.  One of the reasons we celebrate St. Patrick is to honor our heritage if we’re Irish, and to honor and remember our heritage in general.  St. Patrick’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate whatever heritage you have, and especially to pass traditions, stories and icons on to the next generation so they’re not lost.

But it is also important to take time to remember what the stories of Jesus and St. Patrick are all about: their faith.  Both men are known because they chose to step up for their faith and the faith of countless others.  It’s not necessary to go to another country and share your faith like St. Patrick did, that’s just one way to do it.  You can practice the countless much smaller but not less significant examples of faith that Jesus showed through every kind word, loving touch, and prayer you pray.

How will your faith and heritage live today?

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?