Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Advancing the Kingdom: Capetown, South Africa

The second article in the new series, "Advancing the Kingdom", comes from blogger Mike Print. You can visit his inspiring and informative blog here: http://mikegprint.wordpress.com  "Advancing the Kingdom" is a series that hopefully will inspire all of us in considering more ways we can serve the poor and needy and advance the Kingdom of God among us.  Each article will give accounts and insights of brothers and sisters who have answered God's call to step out of their comfort zones and serve the Body of Christ. Enjoy the article and be inspired!

I wonder whether you've ever found yourself in a situation where you've thought 'what on earth am I doing here, I am way out of my depth'? Such was my situation in 2005 as I woke in a homeless shelter in Cape Town. I had arrived the previous day with a team from the UK, having spent 3 days getting to know the team and being briefed on what we might face on our six-week trip. We were going out with African Inland Mission (AIM) International to work with St Stephens, Claremont, as they took care of homeless people in their area of Cape Town, South Africa. The year before I had become a Christian and been confirmed in the Church of England and had started attending a local church St Andrew's, Leyland. I felt strongly that I was being called to step out in faith and work for the good of others and I had been helped to find the right team by the Curate of my new church. I had never travelled on my own before and felt fairly nervous as I stepped onto the train from my home in the Northwest to meet up with the team for the first time in London. The team brief had gone well, the people in the team were great and the flight and welcome had been good.

Now, however, as I awoke in the homeless shelter the reality hit home, I had nothing to fall back on, no experience, no training, nothing. For the first time in my life I was forced to rely completely upon God. That morning I prayed like I'd never prayed before simply asking God to take care of me and equip me; 'You've brought me here God, I've been obedient now I need your help to get me through'!

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matt 14:25-29)

Like Peter I had stepped out in faith and like Peter as I now looked around me and saw the enormity of the situation I began to doubt.

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matt 14:31-33)

It was at the point when I realised that I couldn't possibly do the work by myself and that just like with Peter, Jesus reached out and caught me. As I grew in my faith and in my confidence with God I was able to do many things I hadn't thought I could possibly do. We worked serving homeless people, going on walks to find those who didn't attend the shelter and inviting them back for soup lunch. I spent time with some of the guys who stayed in the shelter, some who had been drug and alcohol dependent and chatted and prayed with them. I led Bible studies, spoke at church services, played with street kids and even preached my first sermon and believe me none of these things could I have done in my own strength. I learnt over those six weeks that the only thing God asks of us is to trust Him when He calls and then He does the rest. I learnt I can't do what God asks me by myself, but then God doesn't ask us to, He asks us to do something and then equips us to do it. Sometimes God graciously allows us to feel completely lost and out of our depth so that we have no option but to trust Him and through that process God depends our relationship with Him. It's easy for all us to stay within our comfort zones whether we're in our home towns or overseas but I learnt that summer that if we dare to take God at His word and step out in faith we find a whole new world opens up.

So my question to you is this: will you step out in faith, choose to do something bold for God, something where you feel out of your depth and in a place where God alone can support you? Perhaps it will be in speaking to your friend about Christ, perhaps it will be in taking part in an activity or going on a mission trip? Whatever it is God is calling you to do but up 'til now you've shrunk back because it all seems too much. Perhaps I can encourage you to follow Peter out of the boat and trust God to equip you!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Grief's Gallows

As I neared the end of my walk tonight, taking my usual route  through the cemetery, I couldn't help but be touched by the sight of a woman stooped over her husband's grave. She was meticulously clearing the overgrowth away from his headstone and its surroundings.  Bright red flowers in trays beside her waited to be planted. I thought of their vibrant colors and how they sang out beauty and life to all whose eyes might fall upon their tender crimson-hued petals, leaves a soft emerald. What a juxtaposition to the death that lay a short distance beneath them, buried in fertile soil; bones being gnawed on by time's relentless hunger. Time consumes everything in the end. The only thing left, spirit.

I felt sorrow for her. She looked so sad. My first instinct was to embrace her, but I didn't want to offend her! I noticed on his grave that he passed away in March of 2008, the same month and year our son was born. Our time of joy, her time of grief...there's a time for every season I suppose. That truth doesn't make it any easier when life's waves take away your castles though. The strongholds in our lives that we cling to sometimes even more than He Who gives all life. God is the only permanent reality. Everything else is shifting sands of  impermanence.

When pain is raw and heart empty, never before is the time more fertile for God to fill it. I prayed God's peace over her as I walked by. I'm not sure she'll ever really know that. Nor does it really matter. What matters is that her soul feels full of His Spirit. For that I pray. That healing will flood her soul that is tethered to grief, releasing her from pain and into the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Have I known grief? Yes. I think we all have. There comes a time when we have to let it go though, or let ourselves go in a way, forming our identity around our attachments, around our pain, instead of being liberated from them and finding our identity in Christ. 

Our savior was hung up on the cross, died a horrible death, and nailed right up there with him was our sorrows, our sins, our grief, our pain. It doesn't mean we won't ever experience those things, but it does mean that we can be liberated from them, not being enslaved to them. Being free in Christ and free from the bondage of pain and sin that bind us from having a fulfilled life of joy.

It's not always easy, but I know I (and hopefully you too)  want to put my grief to the gallows.  I want to trust in the only man that was able to rise again after being taken to the cross. The man who wasn't only a man, but a savior. Who taught us love and compassion and the path to our Father's heart and home. I want to see life's abundant blessings all around, the manifestation of His glory and grace, and know that all is truly  well.  Knowing that, though our savior was resurrected from his death on the cross, our grief can truly be shattered on the gallows if we open our hearts in the vulnerable trust that is necessary, opening our hearts to His will, which is to do good in our lives, to help us prosper and not to harm us. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Are you ready to put your grief to the gallows? Your pain? That which keeps you from peace?

These are just my reflections on the topic of grief as they came up during my walk tonight. It's obviously a much deeper and complicated topic that could fill books and books. It's an issue that should be, in my opinion, approached with sensitivity and love. But these are my thoughts on it tonight.  What are yours?

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Advancing the Kingdom: Lynns Mission Educational Society, India

"God has identified himself with the hungry, the sick, the naked, the homeless; hunger, not only for bread, but for love, for care, to be somebody to someone; nakedness, not of clothing only, but nakedness of that compassion that very few people give to the unknown; homelessness, not only for a shelter made of stone, but that homelessness that comes from having no one to call your own."

~ Mother teresa of Calcutta

                                                 picture courtesy of google images

India, a land rich with history and culture, unfortunately is also largely consumed by poverty.  Though much progress has been made to advance this country economically in recent years, much of its landscape is still saturated with the suffering. Educational opportunities for the poor are essential in lifting poverty from the face of this nation and bringing it into greater prosperity.

This world wasn't made for such darkness. It was never God's intention. But we live in a fallen world where sorrow interweaves itself in our reality and darkness threatens to overshadow life's joys. God calls us all to move past our comfort zones and reach out to the poor. The theme of helping the poor and suffering is found all over Scripture. We are to let our lights shine in the darkness of this world and carry the message of Christ, the message of truth, hope and joy to the suffering. Not only are we to speak out the gospel, but we are to live it out. Like the good samaritan, we are not only to extend compassion with words but by meeting the material and physical needs of our local and global brothers and sisters in need.

There is a beautiful ministry in India whose light is shining in the lives and hearts of over 150 children and 350 members, who, without its help, would have little chance for a future. Lynns Mission Educational Society is located in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh India. It has been involved in a multitude of ministries that have brought hope and relief to those suffering in their communities.

Lynns Mission Educational Society was founded by Reverend Victor David Soupaty, who resigned from his government job in 1990 to pursue the call he heard from Christ to serve those in his local community full time. On his website, these are the words the organization uses to describe their objectives and mission:
Sharing their love in order to uplift the downtrodden communities and their children by providing food, clothes, education, shelter and eradication of illiteracy are the objectives of this organization. Every child needs good education which helps the child in turn to help others. With this aim they have started a primary school in 1998 and it was upgraded to upper primary school with qualified faculty and staff.
In its history Lynns has been involved in relief, rehabiliation, development, adult literacy, AIDS awareness programmes, Street Children awareness programmes and establishment of education institution. It has focussed primarly on the most needy people of India. LYNNSMES understands the process of transformation as wholistic in that we are committed to addressing the socio-cultural , economic, education and spiritual aspects of the life of the community.It also deals with both the material and Spiritual aspects of humans and dealing with both people and all of God's creation. In principle therefore LYNNSMES (Lynns Mission Educational Society) is committed to intergrated programmes that eventually contribute to all process of transformation.The images of change that lynnsmes envisages are best summarized in the Biblical understanding of Kingdom of God.  

Individuals like Rev. Soupaty, who are willing to take a leap of faith and live out their lives for Christ, are truly inspiring. They are examples of those who are living out Christ's compassion and love. This is the first article of a series I will be running, titled "Advancing the Kingdom". The purpose of the series is to highlight those in the Body who are actively living out the gospel and, indeed, advancing the Kingdom among us. It is my hope that they  and their ministries will serve as examples and inspirations to others and perhaps connect others to their ministries who might be willing to support them in either prayer or with material donations, or both.

For more information on Lynns Mission Educational Society and how to help, please visit their website:
http://www.lynnsmes.org/ I will be having an opportunity in the future to interview Rev. Soupaty and look forward to sharing that here with you.

If you are involved in a ministry that is touching the lives of people, spreading the love and compassion of Christ, please let me know. I'd love to include it in this series.

Let's spread the joy of Christ to others!


Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Enjoying the Dance

" The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyse them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours, can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed we are in the midst of it, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not."

Thomas Merton, Seeds if Contemplation , p. 230

What is the cosmic dance of life? It is the Presence of God, playing and dancing and weaving itself throughout all of Creation and within our very hearts. In our culture we try to understand and dissect every natural and supernatural phenomena. That can have it's place.

There comes a time, though, when it is necessary to put away our intellectual scapels and magnifying glasses. To simply come and dance, dance with our Lord. To experience and enjoy the presence of God without trying to understand it. As humans it's natural that we have the tendency to try to understand things so much with our heads that as a result we fail to experience them fully with our hearts. I have that tendency at times, and I have to say that the moments when I feel closest to God, the most fulfilled, saturated with His Spirit and full of joy, is when I abandon myself entirely to God, losing myself in the depths of His love.

Our intellect will only lead us deeper into despair when we rely on it alone in the pursuit of knowing and experiencing God. For it is limited. Scripture tells us to not trust in our own understanding but to instead set our heart's focus fully on God. When we do this, He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

This isn't always an easy thing to accept, that we have a limited understanding of things and instead have to trust in God in obtaining knowledge, enlightenment and in understanding our spiritual experiences. This is something I had to grapple with mightily, and almost fought against for awhile stubbornly, in my own walk. We are taught to be independent and many of us feel comfort in being in control. To trust whole-heartedly another, even God, can be a difficult leap of faith to make. But when one makes that leap, it is truly liberating!

In regards to enjoying the experience of God's presence and not getting caught in the intellectual trap of continually pursuing to understand it, David Adam puts it this way:

The sad thing about most people is that they can see only the blatantly obvious or the problems of life, they rarely enjoy its mysteries. We need to realize for ourselves the great mysteries that are talked about. We need to take time to explore them and to enjoy them. We must learn to treat more things as mysteries to be enjoyed rather than as problems to be solved. Facts such as the Presence, the Love of God, the Peace which passes all understanding, are available to us and can be experienced...for each of us to enjoy.
                    ~The Eye of the Eagle, p. 75

So, my suggestion:  let's put down our intellectual tools of dissection and take up our banners, lift them high to praise our great King and dance in and with His presence, experiencing the peace and love that surpasses all understanding as we enter into His courts with trust and joy.

Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Awed Adoration

"The life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration. It does not grow elsewhere." ~ JI Packer

I remember when my husband and I, early on in our relationship, travelled across our country's beautiful landscape, from east coast to west,  in search of exploring its natural treasures. I had hardly been outside of Connecticut, with the exception of a few high school trips to Canada, where the distance and views in between, went largely unnoticed. And there was that trip to the Bahamas on Spring break my first year of college, memories thinly lined by sandy beautiful beaches but mostly consisting of the inside of clubs and chartered cruises overpacked with swelling crowds of college students feeling free and careless. Youth's wasteful days!

It was only until that trip cross country that I began to realize the sheer beauty and diversity that adorned  the mantle on the part of earth's crust called "America". Mountains the likes I had never imagined rose up, like giants, standing tall and proud, their peeks reaching to the heavens.  Colorado forever changed my perception of what I always imagined the Rockies looking like.  The pictures do no justice. We trekked across the badlands, stepped carefully through the bubbling geysers of Yellowstone, slept on the mysterious shores of Oregon, got caught in blissful rainstorms in the rainforests of Hoh National Park as our clothes, wet, became plastered to our bodies. Laughing together as heaven rained down, exulted by the radiance and energy of creation all around us. My passion for nature blossomed.

It wasn't until we arrived at Glacier National Park, in Montana, by the border of Canada that my heart nearly stopped in my chest as it decidedly found God in that meadow of wildflowers, encircled by mountains garbed in a patchwork of iceburgs and lush green.  I'm not sure why it was there, considering there were so many other amazing places we had been, but I just froze and took in my surroundings, breathing in deep the life that pulsated with the glory of God all around me. What seemed like infinite species of wildflowers in an abundant array of colors and forms gave my heart the impression that I now stood in a garden, planted by God. I remember reverently standing in silence, in awe, at the handiwork of our Creator. I turned to my husband, whispering, "If someone doesn't believe in God, they just need to come here."

I had always thought of God as far away, distant, and removed. But it was there that I realized He was part of the beauty and miracles that abound in nature. He was the very author of Creation itself.  When one really thinks about that, what that really means, it's an amazing thing. It makes me, anyways, completely amazed and at awe. His creativity and love, grace and mercy, are interwoven in the DNA of life. God wasn't just about who goes to heaven and hell.  He was so much more than that.  He is what holds all of reality together. He is reality. He is love.

The rolling meadows of Montana, with its wildflowers planted by God and lined with mountains was the first place I really stood in awe at the magnificience of the reality and love of God. His power, His love, His mercy and grace gently whispering through the tender wildflowers and powerfully carving out mountains of stones. It makes me heart sing out with joy to our great God :)

It was at that moment, also, that I knew, if I ever had a daughter, I would name her Montana Skye, after the place where I experienced a deeper and fuller reality of God's love and beauty than I had ever known before. I proclaimed it on that warm breezy morning to my husband and we wrote it years later on a birth certificate, as our daughter, just having entered this world, lay in my arms;  warm and new, a gift from God filling my heart with a whole new adoration once again of God's mercy and handiwork.

What has made you stand in awed adoration of our great God? Please share in the comments section!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Dare to Live Fully/Ann Voskamp

I am currently reading a powerfully transforming book by Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, in which she shares the journey that  awakened her to the reality of living fully, moment by moment, in her daily life. It is a brilliant masterpeice where she chronicles the voyage that brings her from darkness to light, from being  enslaved in the bondages of emotional pain and fear from her past to being liberated in the joy and peace that comes through the awareness of the abundant blessings and love of God which saturate the world and are waiting to be discovered.

It all had a simple beginning. A dare from a friend and a scrap of paper and a pen. From that humble start a transformation within her began that would bring her a greater awareness of God's presence and revelation of what it means to live a life full of gratitude and joy.

I introduced this book in a post called "Gratitude's Greatest Gifts", you can read it here:  http://ascendingthehills.blogspot.com/2011/05/gratitudes-greatest-gifts.html

I'd like to share the interview she had with Moira Brown. I hope it inspires many of you to consider reading this great book!

Part 1

Part 2

The complete interview is about eighteen minutes, but well worth the watch! I hope you enjoy!

I'd like to share more of my list from my gratitude journal, and perhaps after watching this interview, or maybe after reading my previous post, "Gratitude's Greatest Gifts", you'll be inspired to take part in the dare yourself...the dare to live fully and find abundant blessings in your everyday moments!

14. sun-kissed waters dancing to last light of day
15. mallard ducks bobbing, diving, gloriously feasting
16. soil, fertile with the promise of life
17. open book, words inviting me
18. picnics outside
19. walks to the grocery store, son chattering, bags heavy and full
20. open window, breeze drifting in, fluttering curtains
21. water from the garden hose sparking in the sun's light, a delicate arch, nourishing petals to root
22. rainbow in the spray from hose, making my son jump and clap
23. sounds of children playing happily together
24. heron gliding over water
25. bike rides with my daughter
26. mug heavy with hot coffee
27. pages of Scripture turning
28. reading together as a family at night
29. laying next to my son while he sleeps, watching his delicate chest rise and fall

What did you think of the interview? What simple blessings have you found in your day or week? Please share in the comments section!

Monday, May 16, 2011

God's Two Languages

"What do all the words written in the world really spell out? I had read it in Job, what makes reading God's message in every moment a form of art, fullest life: God speaks to us not in one language but two: "For God does speak-now one way, now another" (33:14NIV). One way, His finger writing words in stars (Psalm 19:1-3), His eternal power written naked in all creation (Romans 1:20); and now another way, the sharp Holy Writ on the page that makes a careful incision into a life, blade words that kindly cut the tissue back to where soul and spirit join, tenderly laying bare the intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

To read His message in moments, I'll need to read His passion on the page; wear the lens of the Word, to read His writing in the world. Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world, because The Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, "I know. I know. " The passion on the page is a Person, and the lens I wear of the Word is not abstract idea but the eyes of the God-Man who came and knows the pain.

~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 86-87

This passage is from Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. What struck me was the concept of God having two languages and the important fact that to come to a fuller understanding of the language of God through the world one must fully understand, or at least be well on one's way towards understanding,  the Word.

To properly see the world we must have a proper relationship with the Word. When we read Scripture and become more and more familiar with Christ we start to see from a more holy perspective; the Spirit conforming our thoughts and desires more to the thoughts and desires of Christ and less to those of our own false egos. We start to see with a lens that is prescribed by a heavenly doctor, the great physician himself, carefully crafted to bring us, over time, the clarity of a Christ-consciousness.

Here's a verse from scripture that describes the importance and phenomenon of transforming our minds to that of Christ's. To  know Christ, through His Word, leads to a consciousness that is attuned to God when approaching the World and reading it through God's language. 
Romans 12:2

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When we know God through His Word, the Spirit of God awakens within us, pumping into the arteries of our hearts the nourishment His Word provides. The life and love of God. When our relationship deepens with Christ, who is the Word incarnate, the ears of our hearts become more sensitive to the gentle whisper of His Spirit found throughout Creation. The gifts and lessons in the natural world are revealed through our deepened connection with God. We are able to decipher between our own ego's desires and our attachments towards illusions and God's Will because we know it in our minds and God renews our hearts into embracing these truths.  After disciplined exposure towards reading both languages, while becoming more and more familiar with the Spirit within us, God's will becomes natural, not a second nature, but our nature...our heart and mind intertwining with God's, becoming more and more one with the author of man and all of Creation.

How beautiful is that?

Any thoughts? Comments? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Beyond Creation

More joyous than new day's precious song,
More beautiful than colors painting sky and earth,
Is the the shudder my heart feels when it is with
He with Whom it belongs,
Experiencing release and ecstasy of soul's new birth.

I wrote that short poem upon returning from a walk a few days ago. Spring is in full bloom here in New England. My senses were inundated by the unrestrained beauty of God's Creations that seemed to be singing out "Holy Holy Holy is our Lord God Almighty!" as His glory rained down among all who opened the eyes of their hearts to see.  His glory saturated the clovers in rich green and made the buds brim to nearly bursting with the promise of new life. Tulips, adorned by a vibrant array of colors, stood tall and erect, lifting their petals up high in praise.

Walking down the trail I noticed carpets of thick, lush moss lining the face of the cliffs where intermittently water would come rushing down their sides, caught in the many crevices and trickling down into the stream below. Dropplets of water, when caught in midair between sun and stream were like a rainbow of translucent pearls; treasures for the eye to behold. 

Treasures. Blessings. A million of them, surrounding me everywhere, on the earth,  in the sky  and everywhere in between. I thought of my gratitude journal I have been writing in, the goal of jotting down one thousand blessings and how I could imagine going far being a thousand.

I could probably sit all day if given the chance in a shady nook by the river's edge and meditate on the presence of God all around me, singing His love song to us through and around Creation and within our very souls. I couldn't help but contemplating, no matter how beautiful nature is...wow, God is even more glorious, more beautiful. The very "stuff of life" that causes me stop in my tracks, wondering at the glory of the Creator it reflects, is still a mere reflection of the total reality and magnitude, of the holiness of God. Wow. God is immense! God is an awesome God indeed.

That very conclusion was what conceived the above prose. For more beautiful than anything we can herald in nature, is God. Further still, the Love God has for us, the love which ignites the fire of the Spirit within our heart's temples, is even brighter than any midday sun. More diverse and beautiful than the colors that line the world's robes are the many facets of God-His faithfulness,  Love, grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, humility-they shine through the world and man's hearts brighter and more colorful than any supernova. His love is better than life. His love holds life, sustains life, is life pulsating His glory  and presence. To acknowledge the creation is to acknowledge the Creator, but to know the Creator within your heart goes even beyond all of that, it solidifies a reality that is truly transforming. It goes beyond just admiring creation to accepting a reality that changes our hearts forever, cleaving us to the Spirit, making us one with God and whole in His love.

I came across this passage today just as I was about to write this post and I found it compatible to what I'm trying to express.

Every time you feel in God's creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thoughts to God and say: "O my God, if Thy creations are so full of beauty, delight and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight and joy art Thou Thyself, Creator of all!

~ Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

When our hearts our touched by the beauty of nature, may that spur us on to give praise and adoration to the love Creation reflects. The great incomparable and infinite love of God. The very love that rests in the center of our hearts waiting to be awakened, and if already awakened, nurtured by the eternal waters of His mercy and grace and the manna of His Word.

Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section. Thank you!

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gratitude's Greatest Gifts

When we show gratitude to God for the gifts he gives us, joy begins to blossom within our hearts, drawing us deeper into richer and more fulfilled living.  Part of the process of recognizing the gifts that abundantly surround us, but all too often go unnoticed, is consciously naming those things which we feel thankful for. Those things that cause us to pause and take a breath, savoring their simple existence. Oftentimes, it's the things found in the simplest moments of the present which bring an internal awareness within us of our loving Creator.

I'm reading a great book right now, One Thousand Gifts. The author, Ann Voskamp took the suggestion from a friend to create a list of one thousand gifts, or one thousand blessings, that she experienced during her daily living. One thousand things that touched her heart in a simple and profound way, ultimately causing her to recognize the beauty and glory of God, producing joy and fulfillment within her heart. During her waking moments when she was struck with simple wonder or awe at something, whether it be the beauty of grated cheese piled high on a country plate before put on top of rising dough to make pizza for her kids, a windmill's droning in the evening breeze or moonlight on pillows, she would note these ordinary moments that produced gratitude within her heart down in a journal that was always within reach. They were all things that brought her a simple Joy and reminder of the loving Father we have and the world filled with glory He created for us to dwell in.

Voskamp shares some insights on gratitude from Albert Schweitzer:

"The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live...He who has penetrated the whole mystery of life; giving thanks for everything."

Voskamp talks a lot about the ancient Greek word eucharisteo, and how within this word three meanings can be found. Charis means grace, Eucharisteo, thanksgiving and Chara, Joy. When we take part in the eucharist (or communion), we break bread and observe God's grace that He gave us through the sacrifice of His only son. Being thankful and the realization of God's grace and love for us produces Joy. Gratitude's greatest gifts are joy and the realization of God's great love for us. How beautiful!

I have written much on the present moment and how transforming it is, but a list like this, I have yet to create, at least to such an extent as I am now attempting. It sounds like something that has a potential to draw one deeper into gratitude's depths and deeper into a more fulfilling life of joy. So, I'm joining my book study group (who I am reading this book with) in trying out this discipline, of recording a thousand blessings...and who knows, maybe I won't stop there! I would love it if you would join me and create your own. Whether you completely contribute and make a list during your day on your own and set your goal (like mine) at one thousand blessings, or after reading my posts regarding Gratitude's Gifts leave a few of the moments that you were thankful for that you remember throughout your day or week, I'd love to have you share your precious moments here as I share mine with you.

So...here's the beginning of my list :)

1. music turned loud while I take a long hot shower
2. fellowship's sweet laughter
3. water running down cliffs lining the trail's edge
4. warm towels right out of the dryer
5. a chorus of birds overhead singing in a new day
6. the river's song as inifinite beginnings of rushing and falling water serenade my soul
7. light filtering through delicate leaves
8. tiny hands clasped in prayer
9. carpets of moss lining the forest floor
10. paint, shiny and wet, thick on my son's hands
11. my daughter reading to me
12. the sun's warm rays penetrating my skin, making me feel alive
13. wind's gentle whisper, causing goosebumps to rise, soul to stir

What are some of the blessings you have discovered today, or in your week? Please share them in the comments section!

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rally to Restore Unity

# RestoreUnity

Writer, blogger and speaker Rachel Held Evens came up with a great idea. Her idea was to unite Christians from all across the denominational spectrum in the pursuit of unity. Calvanists, Emergents, Arminians and everyone in between were encouraged to make a sign that spoke something of unity and God's love, in their own way. This event, "The Rally to Restore Unity",  calls attention to the reality that our love for Christ is the common thread that weaves us all together and far outweighs any doctrinal differences we might have. You can find out more about this event by going to her site: http://rachelheldevans.com/rally-to-restore-unity or visiting its community page on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/update_security_info.php?wizard=1#!/restoreunity

When I learned of the "Rally to Restore Unity" I immediately knew I wanted to participate and incorporate it in a blog post. In a world  plagued with darkness where war, famine, greed, poverty  and uncertainty run rampant, there has never been a more crucial time for us Christians to lay aside our differences and pick up the banner of love and compassion Christ has given us and stand in unity, for the sake of manifesting His Kingdom here on earth.

Isaiah 61 helps describe the purpose God has for His children. We are to: Proclaim good news to the poor,
bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.
Arguing and throwing insults at one another (like heretic) only takes our eyes off the vision God has laid out for us.

My sign says: One God, One Church. For we are all members of the same church even if we don't always agree. And every member of the Body is vital for it's functioning...we need every hand and foot there is among us to fulfill God's will and bring peace and hope to others. My sign also gives a excerpt from a letter Thomas Merton wrote in response to a friend who wrote to him troubled about the inability of Anglicans and Romans to find common ground and harmony among each other. I hope it's not too small for you to read, if it is, here it is in larger font. I had condensed the passage for the sake of having enough room on the sign, here it is more in its entirety:

“…it is enough to be united with people in love and in the Holy Spirit…where there is a sincere desire for truth and real good will and genuine love, there God Himself will take care of the differences far better than any human or political ingenuity can…”

So, my question to you, is what would your sign say? Please leave your answer in the comments section, I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Avoiding Emptiness

"In order to kill the self, we must be ready to endure all the wounds of life, exposing ourselves naked and defensless to its fangs; we must accept emptiness. Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness.
                    ~ Simon Weil

"I came to in a gloomy wood..." Gustave Dore

When I think of the above quote I think of how we are called to empty ourselves of our egos, attachments and illusions and fill ourselves with God through the lifelong process of sanctification; of transforming our hearts to be  more and more like Christ. In Romans Chapter 6, the apostle Paul relates the truth that when we accept our blessed Savior we die to our old selves and are raised anew in Christ.

As God renews our hearts and minds through His Spirit they are transformed in His love and mercy. How often, though,  through the pursuit of our own pleasures and desires, do us humans neglect this call God has for us? How often do we also avoid this call because it forces us to look at how things really are, it makes us face our true characters and flaws and encourages and prompts us towards change?  Nobody likes to feel "naked and defenseless" to the truth.  Reality and the need to change can be very uncomfortable. Instead of dwelling in the presence of God we dwell in the pleasure of our own transient and fleeting pleasures to avoid such truths.  Instead of emptying ourselves so God can fill us we fill ourselves with trivial and meaningless things that distract us and keep us from the full revelation of God's glory and the realization of our shortcomings. This is where I start to think that perhaps, indeed, sin does have a role to play in the avoidance of emptying oneself.

Our avoidance of the presence of God in filling our hearts, in order to pursue our own pleasures could very well be considered a sin, for it separates us from God in a way that is unnecessary but created entirely by us. We create the barrier that blocks us from our Creator.  Our inability or unwillingness to shed our old skins so that we might be transformed by the glory of God is our choice and to deny a God, who gave us His all, to work through us to magnify His glory and manifest His Kingdom here on earth because of our own selfish attachments...well how could that not be a sin?

Not only could the means at which we use to avoid empyting ourselves so Christ could fill us be considered a sin, but it also creates a great disservice to ourselves as well. We fail to experience the most beautiful precious gift there is-

John Piper puts it this way:
“Every sin is the failure to treasure God above all things.”

How can we be treasuring God above all things when instead of opening our hearts to Him we are closing the gates of our souls to Him and opening it to other things?

It's not always comfortable when  we get rid of the clutter of our false egos and scatter the  illusions we have about our lives. These illusions can make things oftentimes seem a lot better than they really are and bind us to the attachments that feed them and obscure us from really seeing the reality that surrounds us. Let's go back to part of the passage:

"...we must be ready to endure all the wounds of life, exposing ourselves naked and defensless to its fangs..."

When we take away the things in life that obscure our view of who we really are and what are lives truly consist of, it's often a view that is unsightly, filled with perverseness. Us humans have a great way of implementing "escapism" to protect our egos and keep us on plateaus that are comfortable, yet don't encourage positive change and certainly don't propel us down the path of sanctification. We fill our time, thoughts and attention with things like movies, the internet, alcohol, drugs, sex and other pursuits that might not be all too bad or immoral but when we use them to avoid God and growing in our relationship with Him and developing in our identity in Christ, that's when they start to become stumbling blocks (or sources of sin) that keep us from fulfilling our full potentials.

David Adam describes sin this way:

Sin is living below par when it is within our power to alter it. Most often this happens when we have lost our vision and no longer see where our true riches lie.

When we avoid emptying ourselves of the trivial things that steal our affections from God, we lose our vision of our identity in Christ.  When that happens we take our eyes off the most precious treasure there is: experiencing the presence of God and letting Him work in our lives to His glory. We lose out on experiencing the richness and fullness that there can be in our spiritual walk and instead accept the shallow and superficial road that only leads to temporary pleasures and ultimately a sense of restlessness as our purpose can never be totally realized and fulfilled. Our souls will only feel satisfied when resting in the heart of our Father and that comes about by emptying them so that He might fill them.

May we all find a moment today where we can come before God in silence and open our hearts to Him, emptying them of all distractions, and simply welcoming Him into our hearts.  God will do the rest. He will reveal to our innermost selves the areas that need to be changed and with compassion and mercy He will provide our hearts with the healing, encouragment and strength for the journey onwards.

Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments Section!