Saturday, March 30, 2013

The quiet wait

Have you ever had to wait? You know something is changing. You're not able to read the outcome of what's coming. You hope it will be good, but the past is still with you - and you're not sure you're going to be able to negotiate the future.

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter has become an annual day of reflection. Today I look out my office window at a forest of bare branches among the evergreens. Inside those trunks, life starts to stir. The cool nights and warming days trigger sap to move and buds to swell and open.

A few plants are early adapters. The Japanese maples have begun to unfurl; the witch hazel is setting out leaves after dropping its blooms; the sword fern fiddles are peeking out of last year's growth. But the big oaks, maples, and alders? They look deader than dead while their new energy accumulates.

Are you a quick sprout-er or does it take you a while to leaf out?

How do you negotiate the "between" day or days - when what's coming may not be confirmed but the past is too uncomfortable to hold onto? When you're being propelled into the future, whether by choice or circumstances?
  1. Remind yourself that God knows the past, present, and future. He's able to help you into - and beyond - tomorrow. Be intentional in asking and listening for His help and counsel. For Jesus' disciples, hope had been crucified. The Messiah was dead. In contrast, God knew the glorious resurrection, the unanticipated wonder of Easter, coming in the morning!
  2. Transition is a process. Give yourself grace as you explore, fail, reinvent yourself, and become more than you are today. Like the disciples, you may huddle behind a door in fear. Or you may be like the women, doing the chores of grieving to move on.
  3. Let the past rest. You can't change yesterday. Resolve to move ahead with who you are and what you know. Yet don't let the limitations of the past determine the rest of your life.
  4. Let the day unfold. Wait and watch. Transition is uncertain, scary, wonderful, awful, delightful, painful, healing, and many other experiences. Emphasize the emotions, actions, and attitudes that will move you forward.
  5. Get a coach or mentor while you're negotiating change. Mentors show you what they've done. Coaches help you figure out what you want and how to get there. (NOTE: I have some "free" hours available for phone-coaching. Please contact me if you're interested in being coached. Your benefit: coaching. Mine: hours toward certification.) Trusted friends and family can also help you see where you are and where you're going.
  6. Take steps toward the future. There are big and small steps in any change. Sometimes it means journal-ing dreams and hopes; sometimes it means making a phone call or sending an email; sometimes it means moving to another job, a new neighborhood, or another city. However, don't just blindly move. In a rafting metaphor, you have some control of the process: get your paddles and safety gear in the boat and make sure it's in good repair. Be purposeful about pointing the raft into the stream, and then let the current help get you there.
  7. Evaluate whether you're moving in a good direction. Change course if you need to. Jesus' disciples spent listening to the risen Christ. The experience of Pentecost empowered them with resources and possibilities beyond their wildest imagination. If they had said, "We've never done this before. It's more comfortable not to think about what God's calling us to do," most of us (2000 years later) would never have known about Jesus.
  8. The future is better than the past. God has taught you through family, friends, school, experience. What you know is important. Who you become serves and changes the world around you. Whether one or many are affected, fulfilling your destiny and following your passion is your choice. GO FOR IT!
What transitions have you negotiated? What about the new place surprised you, either in the moment or in retrospect?

Read more:
*You shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land. Leviticus 26:5 NLT

*And taking the five loaves and the two fish, Jesus looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. Luke 9:16-17 NLT

*Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Jesus, may we recognize you in the miracles of daily life: bread shared; a helping hand; a welcoming embrace. Feed us with your Spirit, so we will be inspired and willing to work toward your just and compassionate realm. Amen. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Lent Day 40: Grateful

Early on Good Friday morning, I tune in to the YouVersion reader to hear Mark 14-15. Each year, believers read the Story, think about God's love, and say thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

This year it's particularly meaningful to me. I listen and imagine Jesus' Friday, which includes:
  • a feast with friends
  • warning those expecting promotion and political wins about hardships and sorrow ahead
  • fervent prayer to endure and stay the course, if there is no other route forward
  • rousing sleeping followers, who fade away instead of supporting you
  • betrayal by an insider ... then watching trusted friends melt away
  • healing someone who's coming to take you away
  • looking a best friend in the eye after he swears up and down that he's never had anything to do with you
  • hearing a mob scream for your blood
  • a politically-rigged trial results in a death sentence
  • humiliation by religious leadership, mockery with a purple robe and thorn crown; then being struck, beaten, beard yanked out, spit upon by foreign oppressors
  • needing a stranger's help to carry your load
  • 3 hours of excruciating physical pain on the cross, while your mother and supportive women watch and cry
  • being shamed in public, knowing that shame will be applied to your family and friends
  • calling out the Psalms to focus on God's plan instead of your human desires
  • letting go of human desires and life itself, to do the work of God - the work that God could do only through you
I am in tears when the reading finishes. What amazing love! What a sense of mission!

What parts of Easter speak loudest to you? What in your Passion week readings brought you to a grateful pause?

Read more:
*Psalm 40:9-17; Esther 8:1-9:17; Romans 10:1-13

*When you said, "Seek My face," my heart said to you, "Your face, O Lord, I shall seek." Psalm 27:8 (NASB)

*Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in thename of God’s one and only Son. John 3:14-18 NIV

*Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” John 19:5 (NKJV)

Moravian Prayer: We look at the cross, O Christ, and see your abandoned, broken, suffering face – looking upon us only with love. May we deeply feel your gaze, making us more acutely aware of the pain in our world and your love for all. Amen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lent Day 39: Easter weekend

Had a great day today. I finished up a week of coach training and spent the evening at a garden workshop, creating a terrarium (birthday gift from our kids). Ahead lies the awe-inspiring Easter weekend.

The next few days encompass one of the highlights of the Christian year. Oh the wonder of God being broken for us ... so that we can be made whole. In some parts of the world, people will harm themselves on Good Friday, as though Christ's pain was not enough for God. Some of us will fast and pray in remembrance of the sacrifice made on our behalf.

Then we'll have a day of reflection on Saturday. The quiet day. The day of waiting. The day to pause and consider how everything changes because of

Easter morning.

Hallelujah for the cross. And God be glorified in the resurrection. He makes all things new.

Hope you take time to ponder what was done for you. Who you are in God's eyes. Valued. Beloved. Cared for. Sought after. Washed whiter than snow. Given a new beginning in Christ. Holy. Acceptable to God.

I'm so grateful for Easter. What are some of your best memories about the celebration?

Read more:
*[Watchword for Maundy Thursday] He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. Psalm 111:4 NLT

*My righteousness is near, my salvation has gone forth, and my arms will judge the peoples. Isaiah 51:5 (NASB)

*Jesus said to the disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Luke 22:15 NLT

*[Jesus said:]  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command." John 15:9-14 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Teacher, friend, and Lord, as we gather in our own upper rooms today, we know that your love is sure, though your way is not easy. Renew and nourish our bodies and spirits to be your people. Amen.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lent Day 38: Almost there

At this point in Passion week, Jesus knows he's headed for the cross. He has another day. What will he tell his disciples? How will he say good-bye and see you again? What kind of organization will he set up so his followers stay on track in the Kingdom of God?

The final chapters of John summarize the interactions between Jesus and his disciples. How tender he is! How grace-filled. Even Judas seems to have the chance to change his course ... until he commits to betrayal.

There's no frantic micromanagement in Jesus' last days before the cross. No: "Let's get this perfect, guys! We're making history here, so let me make sure everything is A-1 for the Passover performance. Hey, you sit there. ... Hmmm, I think we should have a blue towel, not the one the host brought..." (You get the picture.)

Sometimes we fuss over details because the outcome and the moment is so special. What if we took Jesus cue of being fully present, reviewing what we know about God (His life-giving grace and goodness), while preparing others for challenges and difficulties. Jesus acknowledged (warned of) failure, abandonment, and broken trust. But he didn't attack or demean Peter or Judas or the disciples. After all, he was going to the cross for their brokenness and weaknesses, alongside everyone else's.

When I'm tempted to huff and puff, to stress out, and to juggle details so I can control the presentation, I need to remember the "in-the-moment, with-you-always" Jesus. Eating. Drinking. Communing. Teaching. Loving. Praying.
  • with death on the horizon
  • with the cross at the end of the path
  • with the pretense of "all is well" by those around him
  • with his reputation about to shatter through accusations by hateful leaders
 "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross," wrote an early Christian (Hebr. 12:2).

What joy would help you to endure what is before you this week? This season? This year?

Read more:
*If the godly give in to the wicked, it's like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring. Proverbs 25:26 NLT

*The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Psalm 50:1 NLT

*Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV

*See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking. Hebrews 12:25 NLT

Moravian Prayer: God of light, promise, and hope, may we hear your voice calling us again, as if for the first time. May the stories of this holy week dare us to take part anew in the unfolding drama of your love. Amen.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lent Day 37: Too dumb to know better?

Really bad. Really good. It's been one of those days. We classmates almost thought we knew what we were doing yesterday. Today we're sure we have no clue! I sat in the back of the room today to watch more and ask less. (Not sure that worked!)

In the first segment on "How to ask good coaching questions," I asked a dreadful question. The person to whom it was addressed felt defensive and unguarded. My "neutral curiosity" went unsatisfied and s/he didn't get any further in the journey.

I'm glad I typed verbatim notes as we were talking. I plan to examine what I actually said to see why the client - and most of the class- heard it the way they did, rather than how I intended to communicate. I'd like to avoid such crash-and-burnouts in future, both for the coaching client and for me.

In a later session, I remarked on something that seemed obvious to me. The lead trainer said, "Wow. In 10 years of coaching, I've never had someone come up with that observation. That was excellent." (HA HA; I bet raw recruits are like me. = We don't have a clue what we know and don't know, most of the time.)

If our personal worth resulted from any part of "good" or "bad" learning, we would have been in heaven and hell today. Yet no one cares about our failure but we. I chuckled when someone sitting nearby whispered, "Glad it was you, not me," after I flamed out. The class joked about "the awful question" all day.

I marvel at and relish the learning process. My way to understand new information comes from handling the material - sometimes aloud in a group - turning it over and over until it makes sense. Others students sit and listen, processing internally. Still others write everything down, going over the information at home. I wonder how Jesus learned best. If he was quick and nimble or careful and methodical.

No matter what class I'm in, I love to learn. I am insatiably interested in God's work among us. I want to know why people think and feel and act as they do. What is God doing that we can join? And what do we know or have that can help each other?

Thanks to our coaches for great demonstrations, to our coworkers for courage and spunk in the interactions, and especially, thanks be to God for his unsearchable riches in Christ Jesus. What a great day, the weird and the amazing moments included.

How's your day gone? Got any highlights to share? Any disasters to ponder?

Read more:
*'Blessed be the name of God from age to age, for wisdom and power are his. Daniel 2:20 NLT

*The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. Psalm 118:14 NLT

*I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches. Psalm 119:14 NLT
*The world's sin is that it refuses to believe in me. John 16:9 NLT

*Where is the one who is wise? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 1 Corinthians 1:20 NLT

*May the God of peace make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Hebrews 13:20,21 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Lord, work through us and in us today so we may delight in your way and show this way to others. We wish to bring peace to those around us in need of calm and completeness.

God, you are not a God of vengeance, cruelty, greed, or hate. Why have we not learned this? You call us against the world’s standards to love foolishly in all things. Help us to live your way of love. Amen.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lent Day 36: What excites you?

Jodi Detrick is one of three master coaches teaching us principles of coaching. She exclaimed, "When I took coach training, I found what I was made for." (R paraphrase)

I'm with Jodi. I would be honored to copycat her any day of the week, but this instance would actually be a good fit. At the end of the day, the coaching practise (on fellow class members) felt relaxing AND energizing. As I listened to the stories and watched the process of coaching, I experienced God's delight at the various journeys of His children. For me, coaching and observing the coaching process resonated as an act of worship.

Many came to the class already gifted in helping others find their way. These learners are filling their toolbox with new tools.

For some, the coaching ideas were new and a stretch: "I didn't know what questions to ask." "I didn't know what to say as the coach." "I found myself giving advice from my experience instead of listening to what the person I was coaching wanted to talk about." Luckily, we have a few more days to clarify expectations and methodology.

Have you ever had someone say, "Find and follow your passion!" That's a stale-sounding buzz-phrase. What's passion, after all?

Whatever God has wired us to do will resonate from the tip of our head to the soles of our feet. We will find joy and completeness - or "our passion" - when we function in our design. It's worth taking the risk to fulfill the niche for which you and I are here, in this place, at this time, with our education (or lack of it), our personality, and our experience.

Whether or not you are an emotionally "passionate" person, embracing God's calling in YOUR work - whether that is at an assembly-line job or a creative flinging about the world - will produce harmony, peace, and wholeness. Jesus showed us how a human could live in perfect alignment to the Father, moving with joy and expectation through each wonderful and terrible day.

Our spiritual act of worship includes offering our bodies to God. We use our bodies to work. To play. To create. To restore. To produce. To rest.

Does the way you use your body each day glorify God and bring you healthy and holistic pleasure?

Read more:
*The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. Psalm 16:6 NLT

*God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3 NIV

*Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

Moravian Prayer: In you, O Christ, all boundaries have fallen away. You taught us to see each other as siblings and friends, and invited us to see you in the faces of those in need. This day, may it be so. Amen.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lent day 35: A review: surprise at being here

After we told everyone to bring umbrellas, the sun's out. Our peers enjoyed Seattle's sunny spring fling between sessions of the SPS (Society of Pentecostal Studies).

This is the first year of four that I haven't presented a paper in the missions group. (I chose history this time around.) The three papers ahead of mine examined early Pentecostal pioneers. Mine reviewed the effect of Spirit baptism on missionary women of the early 1900s. As always, I learned a lot from the studies of others.

W's paper on the biblical text of 1 Cor. 14:34-35 (translated usually as 'women keep quiet in church') caused a stir. A good one. Several scholars came up afterwards, surprised and pleased by his work. No one refuted his conclusions. And a few people came to him after to say they'd heard about it and wanted more information.

"Please publish this!" some listeners begged him.

So we're done except for the wrap-up meetings (business and banquet). I'm tired out from all the ideas and people swirling around. Looking at the rooms full of well-intentioned learners, I'm hopeful that good things will come from these days. We heard a few shifts away from the Bible to PC culture (like rumblings of accepting homosexuality) but in general this conservative group tries to read the Bible as it is, not as they wish it would be.

So that's my wrap and recap. Short. Grateful. I'm always surprised to find myself among these smart people, who devote their lives to study. As I flip through a design magazine to unwind, I bet many of the others are scribbling notes and reviewing emails  to continue contact for future research. I'm such a little fish swimming near the shore in the big education ocean. Maybe I'm amphibian, since I like to crawl out sun on the beach as well as put my toes in the water?

Read more:
*The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation. Exodus 15:2

*I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws. … O LORD, your unfailing love fills the earth; teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:59, 64 NLT
*As Jesus was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen. Luke 19:37 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Gracious God, may we fully and truly follow you today in the way of selfless and life-changing love. May our thoughts, words, and actions reflect the power of love: to forgive, change, accept, save, and to heal. Amen.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lent Day 34: Sunshine in my soul

What a lot of big brains in one room! I love to listen in on conversations. Scholars get very passionate and emotional about their research.

"I couldn't believe it, but there it was!!!" he's almost jumping up and down.

"You should have seen our faces when we put it all together," she exclaims.

Most of the world worries about what they're going to eat or drink. The researchers at this conference are well-fed and content. But their minds wrestle with God's interaction in the world. I'm glad to sit in the classrooms to hear them read their papers.

There's sunshine in my soul, watching how God has called out a few to learn and tell. Scripture tells us Christ's Body includes many parts. The members of the Body have various functions and are viewed differently. Some of us are "eye" or "ear" or "hand" or "foot." Seeing these "brains" walking out and breathing in their calling fills me with joy.

When do you feel all filled up? What excites you? What's your passion?

Read more:
*Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Psalm 95:1-7 NIV

*Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments. Psalm 112:1 NLT

*Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding. For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly. Proverbs 3:13-18 NLT

*And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 NLT

*In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Lord, grant that we may hear your voice when you call and not be distracted by the world around us. Keep us grounded in your word and help us to do all in your name. Amen.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lent 33: Looking for information

We're attending an academic conference this weekend. W presents his findings on a difficult passage on women speaking in church (1 Corinthians 14). I'm reading a paper on the effect of Spirit baptism on women who were early Pentecostal missionaries. Such different topics, such different interests.

We love scripture and enjoy studying how it's changed the world. He's the theologian. I'm the connector (interested in stories and resources - hence history.)

We read all kinds of books, stay up on international news, listen to speakers, and think about the effect of Good News on people, culture, and policy. Our sources inform and influence our thinking.

What are you reading or learning today? Whom do you consult when you want information or help?

Read more:
*When they say to you, "Consult the mediums and the spiritists," should not a people consult their God? Isaiah 8:19 (NASB)

*When God had disarmed the rulers and authorities, he made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Christ. Colossians 2:15 (NASB)

Moravian Prayer: Thank you, gracious God, for all you have done for us. You have given us life, your love, and Jesus, your Son. May everything that we do and say this day be a pleasing gift to you, in grateful response. Amen.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lent Day 32: Death work, just in time

One of our friends is walking her dad through his funeral program. They're not anticipating the actual day of his death of course, but they're discussing how his memorial celebration will be carried out. What a gift her father is leaving his family.

Scripture tells us to number our days. That life has limits. A dear friend is dying of cancer. Soon she will walk though the door from this life to the next if God does not intervene.

Her days, like mine and yours, are marked out for her from the beginning of time. Consider this: Adam would still be alive if humans didn't have to die. Think about that - every person born ... still alive.

Why do we avoid planning the end of this life? We know it's coming.

God does not guarantee an evening for each morning you or I awaken. One evening or some morning is crossed off your schedule and mine. We'll be dead. (Some days I'm more excited about that than others. Like my father-in-law said, 10 days before he died, "I can't wait! Soon I'll see what I've only believe. How wonderful will that be!")

Here's a question for you: how much do you love your siblings, your husband / wife, or your kids? Have you proved it by writing your will and appointing an executor to prevent a family hassle of apportioning assets and memorabilia? Wouldn't you hate to leave behind a mess that loved ones have to clean up, emotionally and physically? (Or don't you care that much about others? "After all, I'll be gone.")

Here's another question: Are you buildling a worthwhile legacy? How would you like to be remembered once your stuff is out of the way? 

Read more:

*Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Psalm 32:1 NLT

*In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by. Psalm 57:1 NLT

*In Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:14 NLT

*You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:11 NLT

Moravian Prayer: In the shadow of your wings may we take refuge this day in you, Father eagle and Mother hen. As we lean into your enfolding presence, may we feel your heartbeat, the comfort of your nearness, and your life-giving love.

Today, speak again your words of comfort and love, O Christ, saying, “Peace be with you”. May we hear these words in such a way that we are freed to see ourselves and others through your loving eyes. Amen.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lent Day 31: Hello and goodbye

Do you ever get attached to something, only to have it move on or change? Maybe you've had:
  • friendships that nurtured you become broken or diminished by a move, a change of life-season, or other reasons.
  • a child with aspirations and dreams, except they were born with (or acquired) limitations that throw normal life out the window.
  • a job that was a perfect fit ... until it wasn't.
  • a financial plan that somehow turned into financial chaos.
  • a church that used to be home and became toxic for you or the family.
  • a trusted mentor who ended the relationship and told you to go elsewhere.
  • Or ?
From Real Simple Daily Thought
Life swarms with changes. Some of them are so wonderful that we remember them with a smile, embellishing them in memories until they take on epic status. Some changes are so devastating that our scars hurt for years.

"Hello"s and "Goodbye"s share our dreams, our hopes, and our fears. There's no perfect year. Maybe not even a perfect month or week.

Let's focus on the day that is, regardless of the past or future! How?
  1. Be grateful for THIS time and place. I keep repeating the "gratitude" mantra, because it resets our complain button to acknowledge that God loves us. Here. Now. This way. THIS IS the day He made; we shall rejoice and be glad IN IT.
  2. Take time to evaluate what needs doing and what can be left alone. When life is in motion, I don't have to follow unnecessary rituals. You don't have to tie yourself to every routine.
  3. Which resources do you need to negotiate the hello or goodbye? A flowsheet? A mindmap? A trusted adviser? A new car?
  4. Look at what you have at hand. Can you partner with friends who are experts in what you don't know? Can you borrow or rent a tool or vehicle? Can you make do with what you have stored?
  5. Move through the day. Some days it's enough to put one foot in front of the other. Other days I'll have to swim a deep stream. You'll have to climb a mountain. Or we'll only have enough strength to drop on our knees to beg for wisdom. Show up, whatever your motion!
  6. Celebrate the hellos and mourn the goodbyes. No new beginning is perfect. No ending is without its grief. 
  7. How mindful can you be? Notice the food you eat, the way your body cooperates, and the feast of possibilities. 
Wishing you a wonderful day in which you live and move and have your being in the Father's love.

Read more:
*You saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled. Deuteronomy 1:31 NLT

*He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. Isaiah 53:8 NLT

*Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:8-9 NIV

*Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory? Luke 24:26 NLT

*So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. 1 John 4:16

Moravian Prayer: Jesus, our Brother, in your suffering we see the extent to which love can go. You invite us to walk the path of servant love with you. We hesitate, but you promise that we will not be alone as we bring your healing love to a hurting world.

Carry us today, O God, as a loving parent. Encircle us in your arms so we may feel a child-like trust and joy in knowing that we are fully and freely loved and that nothing will ever separate us from you. Amen. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lent Day 30: When worst fears come true

"I'd be the last one who'd run away," he promised. "I'd never say anything bad about you. Never leave you in the lurch."

He was in my trusted inner circle. I took him and two others with me when the rest of the group stayed behind. I'd shown those three the real me; they'd seen my highs and lows. They knew me better than anyone else. And he was the outstanding spokesman among them. The one I was counting on to galvanize my plan into action when I left.

I knew he was telling the biggest lies of his lifetime. He would be the one who would deny that he had anything to do with me. He would swear to be a stranger. He'd insist - THREE times! - that he didn't even know me.

I warned him in advance but he couldn't see what was coming. Though I tried to put him on guard, he didn't catch on. He walked right into the trap. And when he realized what he'd done, he broke down and cried.


The gospel writer Mark tells us how Jesus thus forewarned Peter that he would deny Jesus three times ... before the morning rooster crowed twice. Peter couldn't imagine that he's abandon his trusted friend and companion. After all, Jesus was the Messiah. The King. The problem-solver. The one Peter had believed in and all Israel had waited for. All that Jesus needed was the right moment to shine - and Peter planned to be there.

Instead, things went horribly wrong. Jesus was arrested, betrayed by one of their group. He was taken away, beaten, spit on, and a mob screamed for his crucifixion. This was trouble. And Peter didn't want to risk the same thing happening to him.

So he did the unthinkable. He lied. Three times. And Jesus, bruised and bleeding, had known he would do it. Jesus looked Peter in the eye. Forgave Peter as he was led away.

Have you ever lied or cheated to get yourself out of harm's way? If so, you can relate to Peter. You've BEEN Peter.

We excuse our un-truths as self-defense, as getting ahead, and as "What-I-Had-To-Do-To-Save-Myself." Except that we feel broken and crushed by our betrayal. Maybe we're not the one who pointed out the person who gets axed. Maybe we stayed quiet or denied our part in an affair to protect ourselves, letting someone else take the punishment. Maybe we joined the wrong crowd to guard our interests.

Just like Peter, we look into the eyes of Jesus to find only love and forgiveness. Why not accept what God knows about you and me? We fail. Our worst fears about ourselves are true. We're not who we hoped we'd be when the pressure hit. Thankfully, God - through His son Jesus - suffered our penalty so we can live free and forgiven.

Had Peter not accepted Jesus' assignment to nurture those around him, who knows how Christian faith would have spread? What if Peter had said, "No! I'm too broken and I can't be trusted" when Jesus asked him to, "Feed my sheep and my lambs?" We would never have heard Peter's thrilling speech of Pentecost in Acts 2. We could never have read about his untiring zeal to spread Good News. The early Church would never have had Peter's strong and courageous leadership.

What is God asking of you today? 
Will you accept that God chose you to do this, knowing exactly who you are (and who you were)?

Read more:
*I am the Lord who heals you. Exodus 15:26 NLT

*So the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: "There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man's own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man's lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest."

David was furious. "As surely as the LORD lives,' he vowed, 'any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity."

Then Nathan said to David, "You are that man!"…

Then David confessed to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." 2 Samuel 12:1–7, 13 NLT

*Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. Psalm 39:4 NLT

*The woman declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched Jesus, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8:47-48 NLT

*Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Holy One, what a gift life is! How precious is our time here on earth! May we move through this day with gentleness and unrestrained gratitude. Today, especially, we give thanks for life in Christ Jesus.

Restoring God, thank you for the healing waters of your grace. Grant us the courage and faith to reach out in love to those most in need of healing and hope – especially those who are “the least of these”. Amen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lent Day 29: Knowing which way to turn

Wouldn't it be nice if life had a GPS? Clear signposts? Or lists? Especially if they pointed to the best possible outcomes. Think about it.
  • 16: NU ahead. Study harder.
  • 21: Job from an interview behind the door on the right.
  • 25: Marry. Her. (Him.)
  • 30s: Invest in retirement. Have another kid.
  • 40s: Best boss is the bald guy.
  • 50s: Today is your last chance to ...
  • 60s: Invest in your grandchildren's generation.
  • 70s: Pray more. Complain less.
  • 80s: Heaven on November 30.
Life would be SO much easier! We'd always know when to go straight ahead ... or which way to turn.

It's not that simple, is it? And it's not that boring, either.

Sometimes it seems we have no choices. Other times we are flooded with possibilities. We may have options about whom we marry, any of them a good potential spouse. We guess at the best job offer. Hope we're hauling our stuff across the country to a safer city.

We make the leap. And then we take our chances.

I've had a few milestone moments in my life. What to do after high school? A calling to ministry and missions made my initial college choice easy. Whom to marry? "The guy praying beside you on the right." ("Hey, are You sure? His head only comes up to my ear!" Being one year older meant a height difference between W and me in our mid-teens. He caught up.) Stay in our hometown or move away? W had to finish the degree he'd started: we moved.

I've had a few misses. I worried about a few sure things that didn't come to pass. I lost some opportunities, said too little or too much, and thought I was doing the right thing.

So how do you negotiate a fork in the road?
  1. Pray. Trust that whatever the initial interest, potential process, or eventual outcome, God will give you direction.
  2. Talk to trusted confidants. Gather pros and cons from your spouse, family who love you, good friends, and outside advisers. Don't talk to everyone: in your inner circle, choose those who know you well enough to have your best interests at heart.
  3. Listen for pattens in the feedback you hear. Is it a quick, go for it!? When I took a connecting and creative job designing alumni interactions for a university, everyone said, "Wow! Sounds like a fantastic fit." Or is it a universal, "No way!" When we thought about moving into a dark apartment, my friends rolled their eyes and said, "Don't even think about it! There's not enough light in there for you." (I took the job. Rejected the apartment.) If it's somewhere between, keep listening and praying.
  4. Start moving in the direction of a good fit. Explore options. Do background research: have others done this? What have they liked or disliked about it? Is it a completely new arena? Examine how the first steps feel: are you happy or afraid, at peace or in turmoil?
  5. Keep going until you find your groove or hit a dead end. If doors keep opening, keep moving forward. If there's an impasse, check if it lies with you or others. Can you move the roadblock? Is the road roped off? If you're at the end and prayers haven't unlocked the door, start again at #1.
  6. Be prepared for surprises. You may have stepped onto a wide path, but have to traverse a few narrow trails of adventure between "yes!" and your goal. 
  7. Walk in courageous trust. How does God keep the earth spinning when airplanes and ships and cars and bicycles keep us moving from place to place? How does the sun stay in the sky with such enormous solar flares that could knock it out of orbit? How does He order our lives to connect or avoid connections with people, jobs, and experiences instead of us chaotically bumping through life without purpose?
"Everything is harder, more work, and more wonderful than I think it will be when I plan it," says W. I agree.

We should know: we've lived a life of unexpected wonders. We've tried, failed, and succeeded at many things. We've experienced good times as well as struggles. Great joy finds its match in suffering.

Thank God for his counsel. Though we may only glimpse the possibilities ahead, God will give enough direction that we will look back and exclaim on His guiding hand and constant direction.

How do/did you know when it's the "Right Thing?"
Could you share some milestone moments from your own life?

Read more:
*He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. Isaiah 53:8 NLT

*Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory? Luke 24:26 NLT

*[Jesus said,] "I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father's commandments and remain in his love. … You didn't choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name." John 15:9–10, 16 NLT

*Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Jesus, our Brother, in your suffering we see the extent to which love can go. You invite us to walk the path of servant love with you. We hesitate, but you promise that we will not be alone as we bring your healing love to a hurting world. Amen.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lent Day 28: Writer's block

Writers moan about being blocked. About words vanishing as they think about what to capture on the screen or paper. About the empty-head syndrome that baffles and frustrates them, keeping them from good work.

Each career choice has its own version of writer's block:
  • Violinists get carpal tunnel syndrome. 
  • Composers can't hear the music.
  • Secretaries think they'll lose their mind if they have to write up one more meeting.
  • Construction workers have joints freeze up and have to wait for healing.
  • Pastors experience burnout and need a sabbatical.
  • Doctors lose interest in staying current with research and dread the arrival of patients.
 How do you cope when you feel dead in your tracks?
  1. Stop, withdraw, or step back. Don't try to push past the physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional obstacles. Examine how you got into this state of mind or body.
  2. Think about the last time you rested. Have you been pushing yourself beyond reasonable limits? 
  3. Build in a sabbath routine. Even while you're paused, design a day a week that belongs to you for building relationships and spiritual rejuvenation. God insisted that His people rest one day a week. Jesus did it. Why would we need to be more busy or more focused than He? During my dissertation process, I took one day a week for a complete writing break. I'd return to work after space to relax. My mind was clearer, my thoughts more organized, and writing went quicker after the break.
  4. Establish a realistic schedule. God does not plant and gift us with unrealistic expectations. He doesn't demand a 14-hour workday: why should we?
  5. Emphasize the life-giving aspects of your work. Do you love to interact with people? Does a brick perfectly mortared give you great satisfaction? Does a carving beautifully crafted make your heart sing? You may still have to haul out the cleaning materials, wipe away the mess, and churn out reports. But focusing on the best parts makes the less interesting things more bearable.
  6. Keep learning. Refine what you know. Hone your skills. Pay attention to new developments. You might even want to train for another job that suits you better.
  7. Pay attention to things that unblock you and give you energy. That way, you can keep refreshing yourself to prevent such blockages in the future.
From "Real Simple"

What do you remember most from the last time you had a "block?"

Read more:
*Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles. Psalm 119:50 NLT

*If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? Psalm130:3 NLT

*In Jesus Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Gracious God of new beginnings, there are times when the deep pains of life overwhelm us. Help us to hear anew your invitation to release our distress to your gentle Spirit, which offers love, forgiveness, and life anew. Amen.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lent Day 26: Always the same thing

I blogged 391 pages in 2008. I was astonished, scanning in the writing that amassed.

"When did I have time for that?" I asked myself. That year, I set up the first NU groups on Facebook, wrote looong gossipy alumni enews each month, and kept my private journal. I was stressed between work and courses for my doctoral studies (including 4 big papers and a few projects). I probably wrote myself out of insanity that year.

Dad prints out my blog ramblings so my mom can read it. I have posts going back to 2006 and earlier. I'm scanning them to my computer, and compiling the paper copies into categories for future publication.

I peeked at lines from the blog posts while I was sorting them. Several things are constant:
  • I love change, the new thing. 
  • I'm like a heat-seeking missile on a hunt for information and I delight in passing it on. 
  • I enjoy connecting people to resources they need (especially if someone else feels good about sharing their abundance or knowledge.)
  • I've always hated being micromanaged.
  • People function best in their gifts and strengths, not their weaknesses. Demanding that someone work hardest outside their gifting creates chaos internally and organizationally.
  • Secure people create realities that enrich the world, regardless of what others say. In contrast, insecure people think everything is a negative reflection on them.
  • Follow your intuition! Just because someone says it can't or shouldn't be done doesn't mean they're right.
I learned a lot of other things that year, but those are a few things I'll be mulling over in the next few days.

What lessons from a few years ago have stuck with you and shaped what you do or how you think?

Read more:
*Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Psalm 16:5-8 NIV

*Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing. Psalm 92:13-14 (NKJV)

*That in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. Luke 8:15 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Creator of all that is, we pray for this remarkable, fragile planet: your gift, your creation. Today may we plant seeds of gratitude and hope so that your world will flourish for generations to come. Amen.