Thursday, November 19, 2009
Image found at the blog Social Probiotic.
When playing the game of hide and seek, it is important to be good at quietly hiding once you've hidden and switching up the places you hide, so that whoever is it won't know where to look for you on the next turn. If each time it's your turn to hide and you go to the same place, like say the hamper in your Mom and Dad's room with all the clothes piled on top of you, chances are your siblings are always going to find you first; no matter how many dirty clothes you hide under.
Sometimes the church can think it has the corner on the market of faith. There are times when church-goes become so comfortable within the walls of the church, that they find it hard to comprehend finding any remains of faith outside the walls. From behind the church was, it can be difficult to see where God is at work in the world. If we the church and its members want to get a better glimpse of what God is up to, then maybe we should follow Jesus example in the account of the Roman Commander in the book of Matthew. Jesus was walking in the city with the people of the world, when he was approached by the Roman Commander and was asked for help.
I've always wanted to know more about this Roman Commander. I've wondered how he'd learned about Jesus in the first place. I've wondered if he'd been searching for Christ for a long time. I've wondered what would have happened if Jesus had not been walking through town that day, what would the man had done for his sick servant. Somehow, I think he would have been persistent in is searching; and kept on looking for Jesus until he found him.
This man's faith was so great that even Jesus was taken aback by it.
"What I'm about to tell you is true. In Israel I have not found anyone whose faith is so strong."
All of Israel is a big place. By today's standards, many people would think that the greatest amount of faith would be found within the synagogue or church. That day however, Jesus found the person with the greatest amount of faith to be someone who was not and Israelite. The man with the greatest faith was unexpected, like a great hiding place for a long game of hide and seek. God was at work in the heart and life of a man than many would have dismissed as ever taking an interest in a life of faith.
Today, I believe that God is at work in many hearts and lives of people out there in the world. Instead of thinking that we, the church, have to be the ones to bring to light to the world; we may want to consider looking for people and places that God is already at work and finding a way to help with God's work in that unexpected place. Just like a good game of hide and seek, we have to get up and go to look for the treasure we are searching for. We may be surprised by who God places in our path or where that path may lead, but there is no need to be afraid. God arrived there long before we decide to show up.
Take a chance and prayerfully ask God to show you the places and people to play faith hide and seek with in the world. We may find that there is someone out there like the Roman Commander who has faithfully searching for Christ, but needs your help in finding Him. It's time to play hide and seek. You're it!
Matthew 8:5-12A Roman Commander Has Faith
5 When Jesus entered Capernaum, a Roman commander came to him. He asked Jesus for help. 6 "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home and can't move. He is suffering terribly." 7 Jesus said, "I will go and heal him."
8 The commander replied, "Lord, I am not good enough to have you come into my house. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 I myself am a man under authority. And I have soldiers who obey my orders. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes. I tell that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. He said to those following him, "What I'm about to tell you is true. In Israel I have not found anyone whose faith is so strong.
11 "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west. They will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of heaven. They will sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 12 But those who think they belong to the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness. There they will sob and grind their teeth."
13 Then Jesus said to the Roman commander, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Image found at How stuff works.
As I sit on the living room floor, the Christmas music plays on the radio as I look to the already collected gifts sitting all around me. I begin the process of wrapping up each one carefully. I'd gather the gifts for each person, wrap them in shiny paper and then stack them one atop the other and finally tie them with curling ribbon that I'd take my scissors to and make piles of shimmering ribbon curls at the peak of the gift pyramid. With all that wrapping around the gifts, it usually was impossible to guess what was inside. It was only when the wrapping would be torn open, that the true identity of the gift would be made known.
The process of shopping, organizing, and wrapping the gifts was always fun. Waiting for Christmas morning to give and have the gifts get opened was always difficult. I always want to give my gifts as soon as I wrap them, but somehow I manage to contain my excitement and wait until Christmas morning.
In 1 Corinthians 12, God is described as the giver of gifts to each and every person. The variety of gifts God distributes is amazing: "wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues." The gifts lists we are more familiar with this holiday season are filled with things like WII game systems, ipods, toys and stockings filled high with candies and treats. The gifts that God gives, thankfully are not limited to one day a year; and they are ones that hold an infinite value here on earth as well as in heaven.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (The Message)
God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
The gifts of God also include the fruit of the spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)"
Image from Howto.com
With all these gifts and all the people in the world, I wonder if God looks at each one of us and says, "Ah here is the gift for this one. I think I'll give her trust." or "Wow, that gift would work together so well with peace, I'll have to give him wisdom as well." Does God expectantly line up his gifts to us and imagine our reactions when we open them?"
I sometimes wonder about the different gifts God give to his children. I even have wondered at times at my own gifts and thought that they might be better used with someone with more time, more focus, or more of something that I might feel I'm running low on.
Sometimes I may wish that I could ask God, "Hey can I exchange some of this proclamation for some peace? Because proclaiming means I will have to declare something for you that is typically insistent, proud, or defiant in either speech or writing. You know God, peace seems like a much better fit instead of having to be bold all the time..." What kind of disappointment would I feel if someone reacted that way to the gift I'd given? Do you think God feels disappointed if we don't really want the unexpected gift we've begun to unwrap?
Image found at Photobucket.
The truth is, I'm not the one that gets to choose my own gift from God. God's gifts aren't ones that can be, or should we, desire to exchange or return for something else. I have to take each gift from God, unwrap it, figure out what it is, and ask God to help me as I search for it's function in my life. While the unwrapping of Christmas gifts happens in a flash, God's gifts sometimes take time to be revealed.
As we draw close to the season of Advent, we are in a time of waiting in expectant anticipation for the gift of Jesus to arrive on Christmas day. In this time of expectancy, I desire God to better reveal the gifts he has given me. I desire to gain a better grasp of how to implement and be faithful to use the gifts that have been given.
I like to imagine God, looking at me in the midst of this process of unwrapping, learning and applying his gift; and smiling wide because I'd learned to truly understand and appreciate and use it for the purpose he's designed. This Christmas I'd like to take my God given gift use them to give back to others and make God smile wide.
I know there is nothing like the feeling of seeing someone I love, love the gift that I've given them. It would only be right, for God to feel that sense of joy too.
Blessings to you on this upcoming Advent and Christmas season. May you unwrap all your gifts with expectancy, especially the ones that God give all year round!
Image found at The Informercantile.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
When I was a kid, I recall my Mom saying to me at moments I was not behaving so gracefully - "Pretty is as pretty does." I used to pour over Seventeen and Young Miss Magazines to see the latest fashions, make-up tips, and trends. I'd read those magazines from cover to cover and back again. Everything inside of those pages seems controlled, fun, beautiful and well... the ideal.
At that time I remember being frustrated by my big bone structure, because no matter how thin I'd wish and try to be, but with my German/Welsh/Irish/Native American heritage -I would never be the magazine ideal.
Over the years, I've become much better about loving myself the way I am. It was not an easy or simple process, considering the pressure most women feel to become the ideal picture of western beauty, but it's better than it used to me. Sometimes I think as we get a little older, its a little easier to feel comfortable in the skin that you're in. However, it may not be the same for everyone.
As I was wrapping up lifting free weights the other day, a woman in her 20's or 30's rushed in to say hello to another person working out there as well. As she came through the door, she thrust a magazine in the face of her friend and exclaimed, " Here, see this? This is want I want to look like!" as she pointed to the photo of a model in an exercise magazine.
After she left, I asked the other person, "Does she understand that no matter how good the models look, that they always airbrush them to look better?" The person replied, " I know that, but I'm not sure she was aware of that."
Humans have a tendency to work and strive towards the ideal, for perfection or what we happen to perceive as perfection at the moment. It's sad though, that when I was a teen and this woman at the gym use unfair and biased standards to compare themselves to. Health and wellness are well and good, but an obsession to be something you can't, is well, crazy.
To the people striving to be what they see in magazine ads and TV commercials, please understand that what you are seeing is NOT reality. Take care of your body, mind and spirit; but don't strive towards a goal that is purely fictional.
Being pretty truly has more to do with the attitude and character exemplified by each individual and less to do with their size and beauty products applied to their face. What huge changes could occur if people were willing to live out lives of "pretty does" instead of "pretty wears"?
If this shift in the perspective on beauty could happen, we all would have a voice to become catalysts and promoters of real beauty.
For more information on the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty click here!
Monday, November 16, 2009
This last weekend I had the privilege of helping with a local community beautification and clean up project in Jamestown, NY. The group cleaned up debris and painted under a train bridge and then got to work on the start of a mural 12 feet high by 20 feet wide that will be fixed to a central area of the downtown. The mural is the first of what we hope to be many community art projects to help build home-town pride and to help dissuade the graffiti tagging that has been occurring at increasing rate recently.
When the dump truck pulled away from the underpass on Saturday, it was filled to the brim with dirt, garbage and debris that had built up over time. This underpass is located close to our city's high school and many students pass through it each day. This morning, I wonder what their reaction was as they walked through a cleaner, freshly painted path in contrast to what it had looked like prior to the hard work of the volunteers on Saturday?
Sometimes you have to see some dirt and ash in life, before the beauty becomes visible. This comparison of ashes and beauty fits in with our theme of contrast in this Sleeping with Bread practice, I think.
What are the ashes that collected in your life in the last week, and what beauty came our of or in spite of their presence?
"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."—Isaiah 61:3.
Although the examen Sleeping with Bread is a Christian practice, I would hope that anyone who has something to share would feel welcome here. Also, if you don't have your own blog and would like to participate, share your bread in the comments. To holding on to what gives life,