Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Mosaic

By Marilyn Travis

 

 

I’ve been contemplating the idea of my life long spiritual journey. I used to picture a linear path, from birth to death, growing in Christ as I get older, and hopefully growing in grace and knowledge as well.

 

Lately, though, that image in my mind has changed. I realize, of course, that my life on this earth still begins with my birth and ends with my death. My spiritual journey is so much more complex than that linear vision. I began to picture a wide, winding path, with hills and valleys, lush vegetation and barren expanse – much more indicative of real life and real growth. Then I began to imagine the path itself. The base I believe is faith. My faith in Christ is the foundation of my life. Yet what makes my life different from every other life? What makes my journey unique to me?

 

Imagine a path made of a mosaic of tiles. Each tile an integral piece of the path, a stepping-stone creating a pattern. Each tile represents a person, a relationship, a place, an experience, or a lesson. Some tiles may be large and contain several small pieces within themselves. Others are a tiny fragment of the whole.

 

The inspiration for this contemplation came from a piece I wrote in 2002 about my relationship with my brother Robert. For those of you who may not know him, my parents adopted him when he was seven months old. He is three years older than I am and has developmental disabilities.

 

I titled it “Mosaic.”



My life is a mosaic of contrasts.

I am the little sister, yet the big sister.

To my brother I’m also a parent.

I must guide yet appear to be guided.

I am a disciplinarian and a friend.

I am an advocate, yet I’m reluctant to get involved.

I feel great love weighed by great responsibility.

I long to be free,

yet I would not trade my brother for any other.

I didn’t choose to be his sister;

the choice was made for me.

Sometimes I’m embarrassed by him

or feel he’s a burden,

but truly he is a blessing.

I have been entrusted with the privilege

of caring for a special child of God, 

and God creates a perfect pattern,

placing these contrasting shards

and fusing them together

into a beautiful mosaic.

 

It is comforting to know that God loves me and knows everything about me. He knows every detail, every thought, and He has a grand design for my life. If I allow Him to, He will create a lovely path for me to follow. He can expertly place each “tile.”

 

Psalm 139: 1-14, 23-24

 

Oh Lord, you have searched me

and You know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

You perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

You are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

You know it completely, O Lord.

You hem me in behind and before;

You have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from Your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

If I make my bed in the depths, You are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

If I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there Your hand will guide me;

Your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to You;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to You.

For You created my inmost being;

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Your works are wonderful.

I know that full well.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

I encourage you to reflect upon your own journey, and the mosaic that creates your path. I also encourage you to do an internet search of “mosaic pathways.” They are beautiful!

 

Don’t forget to thank the Lord for each tile piece in your life’s journey.

 

Remember Proverbs 3: 5-6

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Going Deeper for August 9, 2020


By Pat Russsell


Considering the sermon by Pastor Bruce on August 9, 2020
Scripture Reading: Mark 5:21-43

Jairus' Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus' Cloak

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this and told them to give her something to eat.

The two stories within this one episode have much in common, as Pastor Bruce pointed out and I will augment:

  1. Twelve years played a part in both the older and the younger women’s lives.
  2. Both females were healed by touch; one reached out and one received.
  3. Both were daughters cherished by God.
  4. Both Jairus and the older woman had to deal with their pride and their fear.
  5. Both Jairus and the older woman acted on what they believed with all their heart.
  6. Both the older and the younger women were socially ignored in life although the older woman probably suffered much more than the child of the synagogue leader.
  7. What would you add?

Do any of these parallels add meaning to your faith?  How?  Talk with God about that insight.

We don’t often think about the structure of the Gospel accounts --why Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote their accounts of Jesus in the way that they did.  When we study this aspect of their writings, we can often “go deeper” in our faith because we see some truth or realize something about Jesus that may change our life.

Scholars have given us significant clues to these mysteries, and I urge you to do some prayerful commentary reading about the Gospel structure.  You will be enriched.  Yesterday Pastor Bruce revealed a very significant truth in why Mark and the other Gospel writers put together these two stories the way they did.  Jesus lived out this truth with those around him and the writers wanted to make sure others who read their accounts understood this.  The truth is, “The first shall be last and the last first.”  This is a principle in the Kingdom of God, whether here on earth or in heaven.  This is how God operates.

What does this truth mean in your life?  When have you been first?  When have you been last?  What were your heart attitudes in each situation?  How did you regard being first?  How did you regard being last?  How might you change your living pattern if you are going to live in this truth?  Spend some time talking with the Trinity about your thoughts and then, find an earthly person with whom to share your thoughts.

I am including the benediction today.

Benediction

As we go from this place, we bless you, O God.
You are the peace of all things calm
You are the place to hide from all harm
You are the light that shines in the dark
You are the heaven's eternal spark
You are the door that's open wide
You are the guest who waits inside
You are the stranger at the door
You are the calling of the poor
You are my Lord and with me still
You are my love, keep me from all ill
You are the light, the truth, the way
You are my Savior this very day.

Friday, August 7, 2020

A Place to Pray


By Pastor Bruce


Last Sunday, on Zoom Fellowship Hour, we talked a bit about tree houses, green houses and she-sheds. What these places had in common was that they were places to be away from the noise of life and to be able to sit and pray, journal and ponder.

This is actually an ancient theme of the Celtic Tradition as seen in this poem which Esther de Waal has collected along with many others in her book, Every Earthly Blessing: Rediscovering the Celtic Tradition.

 O Son of the living God, old eternal King, I desire a hidden hut in the wilderness that it may be my home.

A narrow little blue stream beside it and a clear pool for the washing away of sin through the grace of the Holy Ghost,

A lovely wood close about it on every side, to nurse the birds with all sorts of voices and to hide them with its shelter,

Looking south for heat, and a stream through its land, and good fertile soil suitable for all plants,

A beautiful draped church, a home for God from Heaven, and bright lights above the clean white Gospels,

Enough of clothing and food from the king of fair fame, and to be sitting for a while and praying to God in every place.

“These early Celtic scribes and hermits lived,” De Waal writes, “by the destiny of their dedication to a life of prayer and solitude, in places of great beauty, and they brought to their environment eyes washed miraculously clear by continual contemplation.”

And they open our eyes to the blessing of having a place of natural beauty where we can go to pray. Living in Elbert County makes this blessing even more accessible as many of you have a window next to which you have placed a comfortable chair to watch the sun come up or a path out your back door which leads in a few minutes to a spot of breathless beauty which city dwellers must drive a number of miles to experience. These places are “beautifully draped churches” where you enjoy God’s presence and can pour out your hearts in prayer.

Even city dwellers like myself who take walks along that token of nature called a “green belt” have a bridge or a bench along the way where we can stop to listen and notice the artistry of God around us. And in these trying times we are living through, nothing is as important as the calming, renewing presence of God experienced in contemplative silence.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the turbulence and horror of World War 2 longed for these moments with God and was continually upheld by these times of prayer. He writes:

Thousands of years ago, a devout person, tossed by the storms of life, knelt down before God in the silence of the temple. Only when this sacred silence had penetrated the depths of his soul was he able to say these words: “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.”

O you ancient poet, you appear to us like an image from a pleasant dream that we long for yet find so distant from us. We are attached to you, but we no longer understand you. Teach us something about the silence of the soul, the soul that waits for God.

Where is your favorite place of prayer and how has it been a refuge for you these past few months?

I’ll leave you with this conversation between the seventh century King Gooary of Connaught and his brother Marvan who had renounced the life of a warrior-prince in his brother’s court to take up a life of silence and prayer.

King Gooary:

Why, hermit Marvan, sleepest thou not
Upon a feather quilt?
Why sleepest thou abroad
Upon a pitchpine floore?

Brother Marvan:

I have a hut in the wood:
Only my Lord knows it;
An ash tree closes it on one side,
And a hazel like a great tree by a rath* on the other.

The size of my hut, small, not too small,
A homestead with familiar paths.
From its gable a she-bird sings
A sweet song in her thrush’s cloak.

A tree of apples of great bounty,
Like a mansion, stout:
A pretty bush, thick as a fist,
Of small hazelnuts,
Branching and green.

Fair white birds come, herons, seagulls,
The sea sings to them,
No mournful music:
Brown grouse from the russet heather.

The sound of the wind against a branching wood,
Grey cloud, riverfalls,
The cry of the swan,
Delightful music!

* an earthen bank

de Waal, Esther. Every Earthly Blessing: Rediscovering the Celtic Tradition . Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Road Ahead


By Brooke Momblow


“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:8 NIV

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from
that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton –

These days, I’ve felt as though I don’t know where I’m going. I’ve wondered what everything the Lord has been teaching me leads to. I’m struggling with grief for many things: losses physically, losses relationally, heartbreak in society. I don’t recognize myself or the thoughts I think. Politically I’m different than I was. My grief isn’t wrong and God comforts me, but I find myself wondering if I had God’s perspective would I grieve these things in this way?

I want to consider God in all of my thoughts. I wonder in prayer if my new ideas about politics are how I should apply God’s word when I vote or if I’ve totally gone off the reservation?

I want to consider God in all my ways. I think I am following God’s will for me on a daily basis, but in prayer I ask God to help me know His will because I’m not sure I do.

Above all else my desire is to show Jesus how much I love him by walking in obedience. Many days I allow that desire to get buried in the activities of life and find at the end of the day I haven’t acted on it.

This last month I took a break from personal study. Most of my prayers were short and sporadic while walking in the splendor of the outdoors. They went something like this: “Hello, God.” “Good morning.” “Wow, this is amazing. You are amazing.” “Thank you.” With such wordless prayers I spent more time appreciating the Awesomeness of God and the knowledge of His presence all around me wherever I was. That was revelation enough. I considered ways to return simply to enjoying my first love, Christ, and being present to Him.

Because He loves me, I can trust Him. This gives me such peace in my spirit and strengthens my endurance in the hard places. Though I may not know the road ahead, I will follow Him. He is a communicative God so I will seek Him.

“God made the world that he might communicate and the creature receive his glory; that it might be received both by the mind and the heart.” Jonathan Edwards

“The great goal of all Edwards’ work was the glory of God. And the greatest thing I have ever learned from Edwards… is that God is glorified most not merely by being known, nor by merely being dutifully obeyed, but by being enjoyed in the knowing and the obeying.” John Piper

“Each morning let me learn more about your love because I trust you. I come to you in prayer, asking for your guidance.” Psalm 143:8 CEV

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Essential Guidance


By Marilyn McGrath

Quotes taken from The Soul's Slow Ripening by Christine Valters Paintner


Celtic monks saw things in threes. It seems to have been a special number for them. St. Columcille of Iona was committed to virginity, wisdom and pilgrimage; St. Ita of Kileedy to faith, simplicity and generosity. When asked what three things pleased God most and what displeased him, her answer was that “what pleased God were ‘true faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a grateful spirit, and generosity inspired by charity.’ What was most displeasing were a ‘mouth that hates people, a heart harboring resentments, and confidence in wealth.’”

For these saints, their three essentials seem to have remained constant throughout their lives. I love the guidance and encouragement I receive from the stories of the desert fathers and their Celtic counterparts; however, I am not nearly as consistent. I find that essential guidance in my life changes as I mature spiritually. Just as the focus of life with God for the Israelites shifted from obeying the ten commandments and placing the scriptures from Deuteronomy (Deu. 6:4-9; 11:13-21) in the Mezuzah on their doorposts...


...to a New Testament focus on love for God and your neighbors (Luke 10:27 and 1 Cor. 13:13), I am making the same shift from obeyance to love and thanking my Lord daily for his guidance.


There are two scriptures that guide my life:

“Seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

I meditate on these two scriptures to absorb a deeper and more complete understanding of their meaning and the guidance they have for my life today. I do not know if my essential guidance will change in the coming months or years. There is plenty of wisdom and truth in these verses to carry me through my life, yet I remain open to changes the Lord may have in store for me.

Paintner, in writing about the Celtic monks, says this about “essential things one must do in life… None of the monks say the same three things. Does this mean that one is right, and the others are wrong? Or does it open us up to the possibility that the ground can shift beneath us during our lives and what feels essential during one season becomes of less importance in another? Each monk speaks from his or her own experience, each offers the wisdom earned from years of practice. Their stories point to the need to stay committed to one’s own truth in this moment with the guidance of wise elders,” spiritual directors, or a spiritual friend.

What has remained constant for me in my spiritual walk is that my life is richer and fuller. Nature and landscapes are thrillingly filled with God’s presence. I am happy to be alive and look forward to moving on into the future, both here and in heaven.

May your walk with Jesus be engrossing, vibrant and filled with love.

When Reality Hits


By Marilyn Travis


A week ago, Mitch and I were in the mountains, enjoying the majesty and beauty of nature, reveling in God’s creation. We had no cell service and no television. We were able to briefly forget masks, Covid 19, and politics. It was glorious! It was easy to praise God and find restful peace.

Then we came home.

The trailer needed unloading. The grass needed cutting. Laundry had to be done. Bills needed to be paid. The cat box needed attention! All the email and messages that had not been delivered that week flooded our phones. We were back in the real world.

The problem with the reality of everyday life is the never-ending cycle. No matter how many times I clean out the cat box, I know as long as we have a cat that task will repeat itself. There is no end to laundry, grass mowing, and house cleaning. Our escape into the mountains was wonderful, but we spend most of our lives in everyday reality.

Fortunately, God does not only dwell in the mountains. He dwells in us every day. He understands how important everyday tasks are. We can serve Him even when cleaning out the cat box.

Mother Theresa says, “Whatever you do, do it all for His glory and the good of His people. Always do small things with great love.”

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 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)

If I keep in mind who I am serving even when doing the most mundane tasks, it makes it worthwhile.

Brother Lawrence was a dishwasher in a monastery. His job couldn’t be more mundane, and he did it for many hours every week. He didn’t see his job as just washing dishes, though. He redeemed his time spent working by praising the Lord while he completed his task. He wrote a hymn about his experience.

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
Since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven’s gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food,
In room, or by the sea,
Accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.

I came across this rendition of “Simple Gifts” which perfectly blends the majesty and beauty of God’s creation with the message that our work and the simplicity of everyday tasks can also be an act of worship.


Thank you for loving me, for walking with me and for caring about the smallest details in my life. Fill me with grace, Lord, that I may have the strength to face what is before me today. I know not what today will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.

Amen (prayer from ChristiansTT.com)