Monday, April 26, 2010

Imagine Your Best Self

Women of Faith:

Have you heard the song: “I can only Imagine” by Mercy Me? While it talks about “imagining God when we are called to heaven,” we should remember that we are continuously in God’s presence. And we shouldn’t only strive to be good to be saved on the last day, but we should do good to honor God’s presence every day in our lives.

So, do I ACT like God is “near” me every second of every day 24-7? I wish I could say yes, but then that would mean I was perfect and I most certainly am not a perfect person, not even close. I have the same issues as most other humans—I am selfish in wanting “me” time; I haven’t given away all of my belongings or used all my time to serve others; I haven’t quit judging others for what I think are short comings; and while I strive to love others –well, I have plenty to work on in that area and many others as well.

Sunday night we listened to a presentation by Matthew Kelly, author of the bestselling book, ‘The Rhythm of Life,’ (he’ll be in Cedar Rapids tonight and again on Weds night in Iowa City, in case anyone is interested in attending). He says, “Become the best version of yourself. This is your essential purpose. Embrace this one solitary truth and it will change your life more than anything you have ever learned. In every situation, ask yourself, which of the options before me will help me become the-best-version-of-myself.” Or as Zig Ziglar puts it, “will this action move me closer to, or farther from my goal.”

This is consistent with Peter Kreft’s book, ‘Before I go’, which has a chapter entitled “Only One Thing Necessary.” “I don’t care whether you’re rich or poor, only that you’re good. ..You don’t have to be smart,… You don’t have to be beautiful,… You don’t even have to be successful. If you were poor and stupid and ugly but good, you’d be successful. If you were rich and smart and beautiful but evil, you’d be a failure. Why? Because good is what real is, good is what God is.”

The chapter that follows says, “Step one is to stop pretending you are ‘good,’ and to stop “accepting yourself as you are.”

So, in essence, while we can only “imagine” what being with God in heaven is like, God doesn’t have to “imagine” what he wants us to be like. He tells us what He wants us to be, we are to be like Him. God wants us to be good, because we were created in his image and God is good. And none of us are “good” enough, we must continually change and continuously strive to be our “best self.”

My own plan of action is this: change myself to follow Christ’s actions by being less self centered, and more self giving; to work to serve myself less, and serve others more; to judge less and pray that more people will accept God’s call; and to live, love and work “out loud” so that the joy and happiness found through Christ will radiate through me.

So how do I “imagine” myself; what are my dreams, my visions of myself? Is it a “healthier” me (not necessarily beautiful or skinny, definitely not “perfect” in my own eyes) but healthy? Do I look at the tasks before me not as “what it will do for me;” but as “how will this help someone else?”Or is my prayer that I will make my choices to “be good” and to “be my best self.”

Dear God, “The Lord is good, His mercy endures forever.” Forgive the times when I took control of guiding my own vision, rather than listening for “Your vision.” When I have “only imagined” you at death, and forgotten that you are with me every step of the way. Thank you for reminding me of what your vision for me is; for putting the right people before me, for giving me constant reminders that “goodness” is by your standards, not mine. Help me to give You the chance to be near me every second of every day.” Guide my choices to allow me to be “the best version of myself.” Amen.

Blessings on your week.

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Focus

Women of Faith:

Have you ever needed to refocus your life? That is the way mine always is right after April 15th. Stan said my writing this morning needed a new GPS system—the GPS went on overload, and my writing was slightly misdirected, needed guidance, and took several detours and a couple of dead ends in the process :)

So I completely started over and am going to borrow this morning from a good friend. Those of you who read Faye’s website will recognize the following—

From Duane’s writing--“What I was thinking about in the tractor was what I had done to the ground. I was using heavy equipment to turn over the ground, uprooting the plant, totally disturbing the field so that it could be prepared for a new purpose; a new crop. Without going through the total disruption of the ground, it would become less fruitful; stagnate from doing what it always did. But now the farmer can come in and begin anew. There is unlimited potential for an incredible harvest.

“Well you can likely see the comparison coming. What I was struck by was that God had come in and totally disturbed my field, my life. He had turned it over, exposing the roots of all that I had known and cared about and now my field was laying bare and exposed. It looks barren and dead, but what God sees is my life being readied to begin a new, to be ready to accept a change from what could become stagnate. What fruit will be harvested remains to be seen, but it is that hope that drives the farmer to plant each spring and wait for the harvest (well actually they don’t do well sitting or waiting) but they understand they cannot produce the crop on their own. It is the hope of the ground, my life, becoming productive and showing evidence of new life, that encouraged me that day in the tractor and continues to give me hope.

“Now apply this to your own field. What shape is the ground in? Has it gone to weeds and become overgrown with worthless brush (busy work)? Is it in the 10 yrs set aside and laying dormant, inactive and not much to look at? Does it have houses, boats, cars, jewelry, shoes galore, all over it, so much so, that you can’t even see the ground anymore? Is it torn apart and used by many different people without regard for anyone? Are you so busy you haven’t been out to check the field in months? No one should have to work in the field just so that they can enjoy themselves.

“You assess your own field, but be prepared, the owner may come in and uproot everything. Will God plant a crop and see a great harvest or will your ground remain barren?

“You all will play a part in my ground producing fruit as any good farm ground needs to be worked and kept up. Exposed ground can be very susceptible to the weather, erosion and washing away of the valuable top soil, so it is important to not let it set long without planting and getting a ground cover.”

I think of my life after tax season like the earth in Duane’s analogy, different reason, but like his dirt, dug up and ready to be refreshed. Glad to have time to spend with God, and to see the next path on which I will be lead; Assessing my choices, my path; knowing that I must be guided by God, looking forward to new seed, a refreshing spring rain and the Son’s shine.

Dear God, “Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.” Ps 30:4 Thank you for guiding my path, for keeping me awake during the long hours and for giving me friends and especially a husband who cares and supports. Give me wisdom and understanding: a recalculating my GPS, a new focus. Refresh my soul.

Blessings, and Many Thanks to Duane for his words of wisdom!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Let Go and Let God--Trust in Letting God Have Control

Women of Faith:

Do you ever feel like your life is spinning out of control? Like no matter what you do, things aren’t going to go your way? Like you just want to make the world stop and go back to a simpler time, a simpler place, or a place from the past?

I felt that way last week when my computer decided to catch a “virus.” Like no matter what I did, or how organized I had tried to be, something or someone was out to get me, through my computer screen or lack of one, trying to reach out and pull me down or under. Obviously my computer had gotten too much control in my life.

So how did I regain control? I didn’t. I said one very long prayer, and remembered the postcard I have in my kitchen… “Good morning Charlotte, This is God, and I will be handling all of your problems today, I will not need your help. So relax and have a great day!” And I gave God control, I placed my trust in God.

I decided maybe this was God’s way of telling me I wasn’t supposed to work all of Easter weekend (the repairman had the weekend off). I gave up the computer and trusted that God would give the repairman the knowledge and tools to help fix it (he did). And I trusted that God would take care of it in the right time and give me the right tools (like an extra laptop, and backups) to meet the April 15 deadline in my schedule.

Now I am sure some of you are saying, “that might work for you, but not for me.” Or, “my problem won’t get fixed by a repairman.” Or, “my problem is a lot bigger than technology problems.” You could be right: your problem could be a parent who is ill; a child who is misbehaving; a husband who doesn’t help out around the house or with the kids; or that a friend or family member has died and left you grieving. So, have we asked God? Did I pray today? Did I give Him control, and listen to His advice?

None of these problems are as easy to fix as taking a computer to a repairman. But all of these problems are out of our control. We can’t heal our parents, change our children or our spouses, or bring back our best friends, anymore than I could “immediately” fix my computer and continue to work.

But we can all “let go and let God.” We can let him calm us (as he did me that day), guide us, comfort us, or give us peace. We can ask his blessings on repairmen and doctors, on children, spouses and parents. And we can ask for forgiveness and understanding for the people in our lives that don’t know or want to seek God. Most importantly we can ask God to help our own attitudes, to help us change, to give us perseverance, to help us change ourselves. The only thing we really have any control over is our self, our attitude, the way we handle a problem. Everyone else, and everything else is in God’s control.

The apostles must have felt some of these same feelings after Christ’s death and resurrection. They were afraid of persecution, they felt abandoned, and they were so scared without their best friend that they hid behind a locked door.

They did not want to believe in Jesus’ presence or give Him control. Thomas was very bold about doubting Christ’s presence and asked for proof that he was really the same Jesus who had died on the cross.

Thomas’ response was similar to ours when someone tells us to “trust” that God is present in our life: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. …. Jesus replied to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Jn 20:19-31

That “locked door” represents our hearts. Hearts which must “open” so God can get in, so He can help change us. But we must give up control, we must give up our selfishness, so that God can “get in, and have control.” Our sufferings, our needs, are given to us, so that we can share Christ’s sufferings on the cross with Him. He didn’t take control and take Himself down from the cross, He gave God control and let Himself suffer so that we could live.

My Lord and My God! Don’t let me be a “doubting Thomas” asking for proof of you in my life, because “blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Thank you for reminders and signs that you are in my life. Thank you for computer repairmen and deadlines which give closure. Help me to believe without seeing; to trust without touching; and to always give you control. Thank you for giving me support, for wrapping your arms around me when I am hurting, and for calming my fears. Give me appreciation for the people in my life who reflect your love and who remind me of your healing power. Amen.

Let Go and Let God,

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Meaning of It All

Happy Easter!
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

If we had been with Jesus that first “Holy week” and thru Easter we would have celebrated the “meaning of it all” in those few days?

The Tridium celebrations (Holy Thursday Jn 13:1-15; Good Friday Jn 18:1—19:42; and Holy Saturday Lk 24:1-12) are the beginning of the traditions of our Church, of Christianity. They let us experience, through Him, suffering, dying and resurrection (Love and Hope in Sacrifice, Death, and Eternal Life) in a few short days.

With Him on Thursday night, we celebrated His first mass, the sacrament of the Eucharist and the first rite of Holy Orders. There, He gave us His body and blood to continue to be shared; there, He blessed his apostles, anointing them and making them our first priests. Holy Thursday is the beginning of our Church, the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass), and the continued sharing of our faith thru the leadership of our priests.

On Good Friday, we walked the Stations of the Cross with Him. We experienced His unjust sufferings, as we too suffer “unjustly” in our own lives. And we experienced another giving of a sacrament, in the Confession and forgiveness of the thief on His right. On Good Friday we experience true Love. The love he showed by His forgiveness of those who condemned Him, the Love and respect He gave to His mother, Mary, and ultimately the Love and forgiveness He gave us in allowing us to be forgiven so that we might enter the Kingdom of God when we pass from this life.

Without his sufferings where would we be? What hope of forgiveness would we have? What hope of salvation would we have? Old Testament Jew’s had rituals and sacrifices to please God so they might enter his kingdom but Christ came to be the ultimate sacrifice so that “all” would have the hope of the kingdom. The suffering on the cross is the “meaning of life,” the reason that we love, the reason that we can have hope in our sufferings and death.

And on Holy Saturday, thru the rites of the blessings of new fire (light) and new water, we witness two more sacraments, Baptism and Confirmation. These sacraments cleanse us and make us a living part of the church, first at baptism and secondly as we reconfirm our role and relationship, thru the sacrament of Confirmation. We will also be reminded of the gifts of the Spirit in the celebration of Pentecost which end the Easter season.

Ultimately, then, we are able to experience the true joy of His resurrection on the third day and the knowledge that we can join him in celebration of Easter whenever we are called.
We are blessed to know, 2010 years later, that we too can be forgiven, that we too can rise on the last day, that there is Hope and Love for us all, no matter what our sufferings and sins may be.

This is the meaning of it all. The reason we suffer, die and love. Without these “three days” of remembrance there is no meaning, no reason for our lives, for our sufferings, for our hope to be resurrected and to enter the kingdom of God.

So what are we doing to honor God? How do we celebrate these rich traditions of our faith? How do we accept our sufferings, forgive our enemies and care for those we love? What is the “meaning of our life?” Who in our lives do we treat like the thief, with forgiveness; like Mary, with caring; like those who condemn us, with love?

Dear God, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Praise and Thanksgiving! Thank you for your forgiveness and suffering on the cross. Thank you for your undeserving love. Please help me to be more like you each day: help me to accept my sufferings; to forgive those who condemn me or wrong me in ANY way; and to love unconditionally, with no expectations of something to be given in return. Thank you for giving me the traditions of the church and the bible stories of your life to serve as a constant reminder of what is “the meaning of it all.” Amen.

Let us too, be resurrected to renew our faith, love and hope In Christ Jesus!