When Martha Takes Over Your Life

Jan. 24, 2012

Luke 10:38-24

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

It’s not a good sign when, on Jan. 24th, the only Christmas decorations that have been taken down are the tree and the outside decorations that the hubby took down. I’ve carried some things downstairs to a building pile in the basement. Rick’s gently put a few bags of things there also. I keep thinking one little bump to something in the pile will create a cascading of Christmas decorations. They still are less conspicuous than the decorations in plain sight when someone comes into the house.

Yes, I’ve taken some time here and there to get a bit more rest, spend some time with family and even have had some time with my husband. But I desperately want to put the brakes on life, if even for two days. I want to relish life and not feel like I’m constantly running from the most immediate need to the next. There was the Thursday night when a church meeting was cancelled because of the weather. The Men’s Badger Basketball team was playing on TV. I made a big batch of homemade soup and Rick pleaded with me to just sit on the couch, eat soup and watch the game with him. Everything else waited.

Just once, I’d like to be able to ask Jesus how he kept all the balls in the air and at the right height. Sure, he wasn’t distracted by the constant barrage of e-mail, phone calls and messages, Facebook and the never-ending flow of paper. Seriously: when did Jesus decide to make one more pastoral call or choose more prayer time?  When did he stop futzing with his next message and get an extra hour of sleep?

Yesterday, my Mom had knee replacement surgery. Knowing that I wanted to be at the hospital throughout the day, I took a vacation day. Nonetheless, I lugged an overflowing workbag with me, used the free wireless at the hospital multiple times for e-mail and read over 200 pages of a book for church. On a vacation day? After things went haywire with Mom’s blood pressure and it took too long to get it within an appropriate range, I stayed overnight with her in the critical care unit. I moved some of those vacation hours to this morning and didn’t officially work until this afternoon. But seriously. Could not I stop for one day?

I have struggled with the Martha versus Mary passage for years. I know that I’m cut out of exactly the same cloth as Martha yet privately long to be a more relaxed Mary. We have vacation planned for Feb. 6 – 15. I have already made the long “Things to do before Vacation” list with high expectations of getting everything crossed off the list by Feb. 5. Since our flight is not until Feb. 7, technically, I have one wiggle-room day. How is that for advance planning? What I long for is Feb. 6 to be a wonderful day of packing, exercise and dinner with friends with maybe a load or two of laundry. We’ll see how that pans out. Martha will be looking at the list, deciding what absolutely has to be done and what can wait.

Do you join the band wagon and make New Year’s Resolutions? I haven’t broken any yet, as I haven’t made time to officially name them yet! This is the way to avoid feeling awful about not accomplishing them! High five, Martha!

Unfortunately, the 2012 “strict” exercise schedule still remains elusive. I’ve had “post a blog” on my weekly to-do list for three weeks running. The only way Martha is getting something posted this week is because she is lamenting her unorganized schedule and over-packed life. Way to go, Martha!

I hear myself and others say things like, “When it slows down next week,” “We don’t have much planned for this weekend,” “I’ll try to squeeze it in ____.” I know that I am suppose to be spending 80% of my time doing the 20% of the things that mean the most to me. I’ll do that when I have time to figure out the 20%. (Actually, I pray that I have the 20% figured out.)

I have missed writing the daily blog because this was the one hour a day that I would force myself to pause and reflect upon something meaningful. It allowed me to discover something personally meaningful. If someone else benefited from my writing, this was a bonus. Unfortunately, I have caught myself thinking, “Thank goodness I didn’t commit to continue writing the blog every day! I would not have had time to do it!” Ugh. Martha – can’t you ever take a break?

My jealousy meter registered this afternoon when I called Rick. Grandson Waylan answered the phone and asked where I was. Why wasn’t I at Rick’s parent’s house, playing Bingo with Grandpa, his sister Ellie and Great-Grandma Vielhuber?

What was Martha doing? Not calling Bingo numbers. Oh, how I wanted to be a Mary, play hooky from my afternoon and evening commitments and place dried seeds of corn on faded and slightly curled fifty-year-old Bingo cards. Wonder what the prizes were …

Yesterday, I was always confident my Mom’s blood pressure would stabilize and she would get through those few difficult hours. Nonetheless, it’s almost inhuman to not let your mind wander and remember the memories that captivate your life in those unsure moments. Helping me buy the only sewing machine I’ve ever owned. Making ebleskivers, little Danish popover’s that are a long-standing tradition from my Mom’s family. Teaching us how to decorate the fancy Santa Claus cookies my friend Pam still wants every Christmas.

I know just where I got my Martha blueprint from. Honestly, it’s not the most awful trait she could pass on to her children. As the elder Martha recuperates from surgery these next few weeks, I pray she can indulge and appreciate more Mary time in her life.

But what to do with my Martha tendencies? I’ll deal with that next week, when I have more time, right after I get my “before vacation” list done.

Let us pray: As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You. You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship You. You alone are my strength, my shield. To You alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship You. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

A 2-Year-Old’s Crisis of Faith

Jan. 7, 2012

Philippians 2:5-11

In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

A Midland UMC mom shared this story on Facebook this week. It is just too good not to share with you. The story includes her 2-year-old daughter Rae:

Rae woke up sad this morning, missing Fasa (our cat that died in November) and wanted to hold her. Let Rae know Fasa was in heaven with God and Jesus, to which her eyes got really big and she yelled, “You mean baby Jesus DIED too!” Oh, this is not good, I thought. So, now I’ve upset her even more. 😦 Trying to explain Easter can be confusing to a 2-year-old!

Have to love it when innocent children force us to make our faith not just something we “believe” but some that we “live.”

This is what is called “practical theology.” Theology is the study of religion and how this influences religious truths. We most often think of theology as what someone studies at a seminary or university.

Personally, I think there is much more to theology than this. Each person, ultimately, decides what his or her personal theology is: what is at the core of your faith, what negotiable tenants of your faith are and what are non-negotiable.

In the end, theology must be practical. If we can’t actually live our theology, then theology fails us. If what we believe does not fit situations in our daily lives, then it’s probably time to re-examine our theology.

And so, we go back to Rae. Her mom and I would both like to know where Rae thought Jesus was before she discovered that he too, like Fasa, died. When death happens, we’re forced to ponder if there is something beyond this earthly life. Do we have souls and do they live beyond our physical bodies? Where do our souls go? Is there more than one option?

Of course, these topics are way too complicated to discuss with a 2-year-old. Rae’s mom used the wonderful approach of getting out a kid-friendly Bible and using this as a learning tool with Rae. Her little story forces me … and hopefully you … to ponder the underlying lessons from Rae’s experience.

  • I’ve frequently been asked, “Just tell me the basics of what I need to know.” Too many folks want a 2-year-old understanding of God and do not want to move any further than this. We want the basics. We want the dumbed down version. This may work OK for awhile, until we have a “practical” experience like Rae that no longer fits our 2-year-old theology.
  • Your personal beliefs, your personal theology, will be highly influenced by the practical things that happen in your life. I use experiences from my life as examples for how faith does and does not work. When something challenging happens in our lives, does what we’ve been “told” or “believed” helps us? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. When clichés like “Faith can fix anything” or “Everything happens for a reason” no longer fit your personal experience of God, people hit spiritual roadblocks. This is quite often when people give up on God.
  • As discerning, smart and educated people, somehow we must bridge the gap between personal life and a theological understanding of God. Our beliefs must be influenced by the long-standing beliefs and traditions of the church. Our beliefs must also be fit into our daily lives. There is a tension between the two that is real and must be lived. Without this tension, there are no appropriate answers for 2-year-olds who just discovered that the baby in the manger whose birthday we celebrated on Christmas really did die.
  • Finally, this little story shows the importance of connecting the whole life of Jesus together. The Christmas story ultimately cannot be separated from the Easter story. Without both stories, we loose the value, the importance, the symbolism of how and why Jesus came into this world with what happened at the end of his life. What started out in a manger ended up on a cross, which then became an empty tomb.

Within the Christian church we celebrate Christmas and Easter annually to help us connect the two events. I cannot imagine only celebrating one of those events each year. Doing so would not give us “the rest of the story.”

Like Rae, we are going to and have had little faith crisis’s throughout our lives. Where do we go back and get information to help us sort through this? I pray we challenge the Bible and a good Christian mentor to help us make our faith practical, livable and reality driven.

Let us pray: God sent his Son, they called him Jesus; he came to love, heal and forgive; he lived and died to buy my pardon, an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives. Because he lives, I can face tomorrow; because he lives, all fear is gone; because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

PS — So, I added one post beyond Epiphany; I just wanted to incorporate Rae’s story. At this point, I’m thinking I’ll continue to post something once or twice a week. I hope you’ll continue to check for posts and/or share posts with others you think might enjoy them. Thanks for going along on this Advent/Christmas devotional adventure. I pray these simple words of faith have brought a little joy to your life, as well as maybe even a little pondering on your part. Happy New Year!

What is January 6th in the Christian Church?

Jan. 6, 2012

John 1:18

No one has ever seen God, but the only and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

In theWesternChurch, today is the day we celebrate Epiphany, or the “vision of God,” the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Christ. It’s the understanding that God has become a human being in Jesus the Christ.

Most often in practical application, Epiphany is the day the Western Church celebrates the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem to see Jesus. We do not know if they arrived a mere 13 days after his birth. My guess is that Jesus was older. More importantly, it’s picking a day to recognize this important part of Jesus’ story.

For the Eastern Church, January 6 is celebrated either as Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. Eastern Churches or Orthodox Churches, such as the Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and others, use the Julian calendar. The Western Church uses the Gregorian calendar. There is a 13-day difference between the two calendars. Thus, most Orthodox Churches celebrate today as Christmas Eve and January 7 as Christmas Day. There is one exception. The Armenia Orthodox Church celebrates Jan. 6 as Christmas Day.

Are you all now confused?

I’ll share a quick church history lesson. Basically, there was one Christian church until 1054 AD when the Eastern Church split from theWesternChurch. The Eastern Church was centered in Constantinople as part of the Byzantine Empire. The Western Church was now centered out of Rome and the Bishop claimed supremacy. The Eastern Church is also known as the Orthodox Church. Many church practices within the Eastern Church have not changed since before 1054 AD. For example, instruments are not part of worship, icons are part of the church embellishments, no chairs or pews are generally within the sanctuary and the accepted language was Greek.

The Western Church, which also became known as the Roman Catholic Church, was originally based out of Rome and used Latin as the accepted language. This church remained basically one entity until Martin Luther challenged the Roman Catholic Church with the Protestant Reformation in 1517. This was the beginning of the eventual creation of a whole host of Christian denominations: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc.

As a Protestant American, I was unfamiliar with Orthodox Church until I went overseas as a missionary. I went to a country that was part of the Eastern Church. There was a Russian Orthodox Church just a couple blocks from the apartment where I lived. Quickly identified by their onion-shaped domes, I was exposed to some Orthodox traditions, which were very interesting for me.

Three years ago today, I was in Bethlehem– the birthplace of Jesus. We visited the Church of the Nativity, a church built at the supposed site of Jesus’ birth. Three churches – the Roman Catholic, Armenia Orthodox and Green Orthodox – share custody of the building and property. When walking through the building, it’s impossible not to notice three very distinct architectures; each representing the space oversaw by that particular church.

Because we were there on January 6, half-dozen Armenian priests were celebrating a Christmas Day service in their section of the church. Icons surrounded their worship space and incense was a significant part of their worship experience. The priests did not want us walking through their section of the building to get to the Grotto of the Nativity, the actual cave that is honored as Jesus’ birthplace, during the service. Fortunately, they knew our Palestinian Christian tour guide who was able to scoot us through without having to wait for the service to be completed.

Various veins of the Christian church celebrate specific noteworthy events within our faith tradition at different times and in very different ways. Some of these traditions are extremely important for some people and have been passed along for so many generations. What I find personally meaningful may not resonate with another person and vice versa. Certainly our Western Church traditions look very different from our Eastern Church cousins. Protestant traditions differ greatly from Roman Catholic traditions.

Just yesterday, I was part of a discussion about biblical authority and how we interpret this within United Methodist Churches in Wisconsin. Believe me: there are wide opinions about this. Add to this a variety of denominations and this becomes even trickier.

Understanding the culture of the time in which these historical events happened is very important. Many American Christians, in particular, wrongly think that the first Bible was written in English for people of our time and place. Oh my, I quickly discovered at seminary that this is not how it happened.

We may not all interpret the Christmas story exactly the same. I’m OK with this. What I hope is that I can respect others views, as I pray that my view would also be respected. This is venturing into one of the many sticky places of Christianity. It saddens me how many folks have been turned off and away from the Christian church because we simply can’t agree. This was a problem when Jesus was alive within the Jewish tradition. It continues to be a problem within Christian circles today.

I provide no answers here. Whether we celebrate today as Epiphany, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, my deepest prayer is that we honor God the Son in human form as the person we called Jesus the Christ.

Let us pray:

A Russian Orthodox Church

Star of the East, oh Bethlehem star, Guiding us on to heaven afar, Sorrow and grief and lull’d by the light, Thou hope of each mortal, in death’s lonely night. Fearless and tranquil, we look up to Thee. Knowing thou be m’st through eternity. Help us to follow where Thou still dost guide Pilgrims of earth so wise. Star of the East, thou hope of the soul. Oh star that leads to God above, whose rays are peace and joy and love. Watch o’er us still till life hath ceased. Beam on, bright star, sweet Bethlehem star.

 Blessings –

Dianne

The Church of the Nativity

Simple Faith?

Jan. 5, 2012

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Yesterday, I lead a worship service at a local nursing home. This is one of those things that I do nearly every month. With the residents, we sing a few songs, I share a message and then we celebrate with the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Because we are still in the season of Christmas, I picked all Christmas carols. One of the things I’ve learned in leading worship at the nursing home is to pick songs the folks are very familiar with. The people may not be able to read very well or know all the words. But many folks will know the words to the first verse and/or chorus of well-known hymns. They can join in as they know the words.

The message is usually something I’ve done as part of a children’s message of late. This Christmas, I’ve used a little lesson of making homemade “snow globes” of sorts as a way to remember the three gifts the wise men brought to baby Jesus. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this little lesson. Last Sunday, I sat on the floor with grandkids Waylan and Ellie and made “snow globes” on the living room floor while the adults watched the Packer’s game. They “oohed” and “ahhed” as I poured water into the globe and it turned color, based on the couple drops of food coloring they’d chosen for their snow globe.

After the message, one of the nursing home staff and I offered communion to the residents. As we approached one woman with the bread and the juice, she asked, “What is this for?” This is a woman who not too long ago recognized and appreciated receiving holy communion.

I know it’s not her fault that she didn’t recognize what we had before her. In situations like this, often dementia or Alzheimer’s clouds a person’s ability to grasp reality. Having had a grandmother who suffered for several years with dementia at the end of her life to the point she couldn’t put two words together, it’s difficult to understand why such a disease must be present.

I gently explained to the woman that we were offering communion and assisted her in receiving it. This brings forth potential questions regarding whether this woman understood what communion really is and whether or not she should have received it. I’ve had this discussion several times in relationship to young kids receiving communion, people who may or may not fully understand who God is and whether or not they should participate in a sacrament.

My intention today is not to discuss each of these situations and what is “right.” It is not my intention to start a discussion that could become very passionate with a variety of opinions.

One of the great challenges of the Christian faith is that very few aspects are what I’d call black and white. Personally, I see a lot more grey in how I interpret our so-called rule book, The Bible, than specific mandates. For me, there are two mandates, as stated by Jesus: love God and love your neighbor. Outside of this, wow, it gets sticky very quickly.

Too often, I think we try and put faith into nice, neat and square boxes. We want to categorize right from wrong, good from bad, better from worse. Yes, there are times when we need to draw lines and uphold the basic tenants of our faith. But when the basic tenants become more important than faith, we begin to loose what I feel basic faith is about.

There are many aspects of faith, God and belief I cannot adequately explain. Try as I might week in and week out, there are times when I simply must stutter and admit that I do not have adequate words or understanding to speak on behalf of God. Does this mean I stop believing or give up on faith? I pray not.

When the shepherds arrived at the stable, they certainly did not understand everything that was going on. Why would sane, highly educated men travel for months following a star? Only because they had faith this journey would enrich their lives.

Sometimes, we will be challenged to rely only on faith that there is a God who had a son Jesus who lived and died as our Messiah. We see this lesson over and over in the Christmas story. Faith is what granted Mary to say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me according to your word.” Faith is what Joseph kept in mind as he went against culture and did not leave his fiancé. Faith is what allowedElizabethto know that there was a special baby growing inside Mary’s womb. Faith is what beckoned Joseph to take his little family out of Bethlehem and into Egypt in the middle of one night after he’d been warned that King Herod would try to have his way with the Holy Child.

When have you had to let faith carry you along? I’m quite confident there has been at least once in your life when it would have been easier to abandon your faith … but for some reason you did not. Or maybe you did give up on God for awhile but now you are trying to redevelop that trust and or confidence in God again.

Is the journey of faith worth it? As my friend and artist Bonnie Mohr wrote and put on one of her prints, “Have faith, it fosters hope – it make the difference. Believe, with God all things are possible.”

Let us pray: O come and sing this song with gladness as your hearts are filed joy. Lift your hands in sweet surrender to his name. O give him all your tears and sadness; give him all your years of pain, and you’ll enter into life in Jesus name. Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill your lambs. Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill your lambs.  

Blessings –

Dianne

 

“Doing” versus “Being”

Jan. 4, 2012

Matthew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

One of the aspects of Christianity that I’ve struggled with is the “doing” versus the “being” roles.

Here is how I view the difference. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he clearly told the disciples that it was now their responsibility to carry on the things he had taught them. They were to become the voices and doers of the ministry he had laid out before them. Jesus couldn’t remain on earth forever. Now, the disciples were instructed to make disciples, baptize and teach other folks.

This is the “doing” part of the gospel.

Yet, Jesus was very clear about how important it was to “be” with God. That’s why he regularly set aside time to just “be” with God. This is also what he tried to get Martha to focus upon. In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was upset because Jesus and the disciples came to her and Mary’s house unannounced. We see Martha scurrying around, getting her guest’s feet washed, a meal prepared, making sure they are comfortable and have something to drink.

She gets very irritated with her sister, Mary, who makes no effort to help out. In pure disgust, Martha asks Jesus to instruct Mary to help her with all the household work! Jesus simply laughs at Martha. He says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” In essence, Jesus tells Martha to forget about everything and simply “be” like Mary – sitting at his feet, taking in all that he is sharing.

This is the “being” part of the gospel.

For me, there is a big tension between the two. When do I do? When do I be?

Most people tend to be either more Martha or more Mary. I am a self-defined doer. I was raised to be a Martha. I live this way and will probably be this way until I die. I make no excuses for this. The problem is that too often I focus on the doing and not enough on the being.

The last few days, I have tried to not be so driven by what I do. Yep, I’m not getting the work done that I feel I should be. But it also feels good to let my soul rest. I haven’t had any great revelations about my spiritual, professional, emotional or mental being. I did not really expect it. What I need is a little time to be in God’s Spirit; to move at a slower clip; to not get so caught up in “doing” and ignoring my need to “be.”

There is always plenty to do. If we wait for the clear spots to suddenly appear on our calendars to “be,” I’m not sure they will appear. We are the ones that adjust the tension between the two. I clearly know there are times when I need to be in high production. These times must be countered with spaces of “being” or I loose focus on Who I’m doing this for. Without the “being,” the “doing” becomes a lot more about my abilities and talents and successes than why I’m even doing the doing.

How do you manage this tension? If you’ve discovered a secret or two about balancing the “doing” with the “being,” I’d love to hear them. Meanwhile, I ask Jesus to guide my “doing” and my “being.”

Let us pray: O let the Son of God enfold you with his Spirit and his love. Let him fill your heart and satisfy your soul. O let him have the things that hold you, and his Spirit like a dove will descend upon your life and make you whole. Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill your lambs. Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill your lambs.  

Blessings –

Dianne

 

Removing a Little of Your Prickliness

Jan. 3, 2012

Isaiah 53:2

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of a dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

Yesterday, we took down our Christmas tree. I like to leave it up until Epiphany on January 6, but the number of falling needles encouraged us to move up the tear-down date. On New Year’s Day, grandson Waylan touched the needles and declared them as “very prickly.” As the needles have dried down, yes, they no longer have a soft feel.

I’ve been pondering my spiritual soul the last couple of days. The Advent blog has helped me keep a bit more focused during Advent. As a new year begins, how would I envision my spiritual journey going forward in 2012? I’m still pondering this.

There is one thing that I’ve discovered over the years about my spiritual life. It’s never stagnant. I’m either drawing closer to God or finding myself wandering away from God. It’s never just still. Sometimes when I desire for a closer relationship with God, it is easy. Other times, it seems the harder I try, the further away I feel.

As a pastor, this is the time of the calendar year that is a transition time; the time between Christmas and Lent. I know, can you imagine? My mind is already pondering Lent! I ordered some Lenten resources online today … just a little over a week after celebrating Jesus’ birth! But I’m not the only one thinking of this. I received an e-mail last week from the United Methodist printing house promoting their Lenten resources!

This has me thinking. Am I just gearing up for the next cycle on the Christian calendar more so than gearing up for my 2012 spiritual journey? If I just focus on the next season within the church year and forget to “water” my soul, soon I’ll become like our prickly Christmas tree: still looking like a Christmas tree (Christian) on the outside, but inside, dry and barren.

How do we prevent our spiritual souls from becoming simply dry? By being intentional, anticipating how we might help ourselves spiritually and then putting into place one or two things to help us along the way. Whether we make these decisions Jan. 4, Jan. 30 or Feb. 15, a little time pondering these things and then gathering helpful tools is the first steps in keeping ourselves from becoming a prickly Christian.

You see, when we become a prickly Christian, it becomes very easy to judge and value other people’s spiritual journeys more critically than we do our own spiritual journey. Then, we focus on where someone else “should” be rather than doing an honest assessment of our own spiritual soul. And when we begin going down this path, we begin to move into dangerous spiritual territory.

This verse from Isaiah reminds us that Jesus came like a shoot out of the dry ground. And while there was nothing “beautiful” about Jesus to attract us, we should so desire this. Yet, Jesus captures our pain if we allow him. Our barrenness, our prickliness can simply be replaced with the beautifulness of Jesus.

After removing the tree from the living room, I vacuumed the needles still lying on the floor. When we fail to water our spiritual souls, we begin to loose little pieces of our spiritual souls. And I don’t want my spiritual side to be broken down, piece by piece, only to get sucked up by the culture around me. The best way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to work on my spiritual journey on a regular basis. I pray we will all make sure this is a priority for us in 2012.

Let us pray: Saints, before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear; suddenly the Lord, descending, in his temple shall appear. Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King.  

Blessings –

Dianne

 

Defining Winners

Jan. 2, 2012

Romans 5:6

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

Like most UW-Madison Badger fans, I watched with anticipation the Rose Bowl today. Sorry for the late posting; I wanted to enjoy the game this afternoon.

What an exciting game! At the end of the first quarter, there were more points scored than any other Rose Bowl. Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders record for number of touchdowns scored in a year by a college running back. There were lots and lots of points scored. Yes, the end result wasn’t what Badger fans desired.

Are winners only defined by the points on the scoreboard at the end of the game? Or are there other ways that “winners” are determined?

Personally, I think there are lots of ways “winners” are determined. I think of Aaron Henry, the #7 Badger who plays safety. From Florida, Henry grew up in a challenging background. He didn’t learn to read until his grandmother taught him in third grade. His father is currently incarcerated and he harbored resentment towards his mom for many years.

Henry feels that God has put him in a position where he can make good choices for his life. He easily could have been on a corner, doing drugs, or in jail. Instead, he recently completed his college diploma. Selected as one of the four senior captions, he stepped forward after the team lost back-to-back regular season games and encouraged the team to fight back, which spared them to reach the Rose Bowl.

While I’ve never met Henry, it seems to me that he has discovered that winning is more than one football game. How you live your life, what choices you make – these are the things that are most important in winning in life. Henry lives his faith, as demonstrated by the fact that he leads a bible study with about 20 players in the team hotel the night before games. While lots of kids go to college to play football or another collegiate sport, there are others who are involved to make an impact in the lives of everyone around them. Henry chose to do the later.

So, if Henry were to lead a bible study tonight, after the Rose Bowl loss, what might he say? I pray that he would emphasis how when Christ is a part of a person’s life, they are always winners. Thank goodness with God, a scoreboard isn’t necessary. Grace is offered to us to freely, without cost or having to be earned. And when we make God’s grace a part of our lives, we’re all winners.

Let us pray: He said, “Freely, freely you have receive, freely, freely give. Go in my name and because you believe, others will know that I live.” Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

 

Covenanting with God

Jan. 1, 2012

Jeremiah 31:31-34

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband tothem,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbors, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

A Methodist tradition started by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, is the Covenant Renewal Service. Often celebrated on New Year’s Eve and called a Watch Night Service, or on New Year’s Day, this is a reflective opportunity which asks people to commit themselves to God.

In 1755, John Wesley was at a French church inLondonwith 1800 people in attendance. This congregation of Huguenot refugees whose ancestors had escapedFrancewere acutely aware that they had nothing on this earth to call their own, except the relationship they nurtured with God. During the service, many mourned and were comforted … it was a time of remarkable blessing.

From this, Wesley wrote a Covenant Prayer, which has become the heart of the Covenant Renewal Services. This service is used by Methodists around the world. InItaly, it is a joyful time with fellowship over food. InLiberia, dancing is a part of the tradition. The African-American community has always prized this service. It had special meaning in the days of slavery. In the South, at the end of the year, slave owners would count up their property and if necessary sell slaves to pay debts. Slaves did not always know on New Year’s Eve if they would stay together or be separated. New Year’s Eve was sometimes the last night a family of slaves remained united. The Covenant Prayer, re-read with that precipice in mind, is extremely powerful.  Watch Night took on new significance during the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation; it was to take effect on January 1, 1863. Slaves sat up the night before, Freedom’s Eve, waiting for their freedom to arrive at midnight.

Within the Christian tradition, the covenant prayer of John Wesley is a response to the covenanting God who speaks and reveals himself above all in his word made flesh, the Christ of Christian faith.

On this New Year’s Day, I pray that you will quietly take time to find meaning in the covenant prayer. Ponder your status with God. Use this as a great opportunity to re-dedicate your life to God on this New Year’s Day. Keep this prayer handy and contemplate praying it weekly or even daily. It is the kind of prayer the memorizing is worth the effort.

A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt,

Rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,

Exalted for thee or brought low by thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things

To thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Thou art mine and I am thine. So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

 

Blessings –

Dianne