I want to consider how this word can be a mindset. I see it in three ways.
The first thing jumping out at me about inspiration is a question: what inspires me? Do I know where to turn when I need inspiration? Is there an activity, an author, a place, a song…What gets my creative juices flowing? What charges my battery, jazzes my mood, and puts a pep in my step? Here are a few of mine:
The important thing is to know yours. Know when to reconnect with them. And, keep your eyes and heart open for inspiration to break through.
In the collage I posted above I hope there was at least one pic that gave you pause to wonder. The middle top pic was something I saw one day when I was riding my bike on a rails-to-trails path. I love to see things that make me giggle, snort, and spew my coffee. The sign was on the post to warn drivers that there was a bike path crossing. All I could see was the upside down bike. All I could think was, “now that’s some kind of trick riding.” And I must have chuckled about it for the next five miles. Seeing the quirky and unexpected inspires me.
Next as we think on inspiration I want to encourage you to think about who inspires you. Do you have their books? Can you call them on the phone? When was the last time you connected with them in some way? Don’t lose touch with your inspirers.
Finally, who will you inspire today? Whose mood will you intentionally seek to lift? Whose creativity will you encourage? You will come in contact with a multitude of people by chance–live inspiringly! But who will be on your heart or mind to reach out to? Have you ever gotten one of those out-of-the-blue calls that resulted in renewed verve and vigor? Who can you do that for today?
Definition: admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering
Good Monday morning to you! And greetings to those who find this later. As promised, we will bring a Monday morning post that is focused on a word given to us by a friend on Facebook that will hopefully help us to get our week started on a positive note, and help to carry us through. Today’s word was given to us by my friend, Dawn Baldwin.
I’ve given you the internet definition of our word, resolute. I’ve also supplied you with a mini collage of pictures that I found on pixaby.com.
A quick search of Bible references led me to these verses:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7.
To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:29
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
Which of the pictures above speaks the loudest to you of being resolute? Which Bible verse?
For me it’s the snails. I’m not sure if you can tell, but they’re either at a start or finish line. Sometimes life feels like it flies by at NASCAR speed. But not always. Often it truly does move painfully s l o w. Waiting for results or returned calls. Being on hold. Trusting others to do their part. Not knowing. Not seeing. Uncertain. Doing and overdoing can make us feel bone-tired weary…but so can doing nothing.
Here’s the major lesson I learned in 2022: God’s got this. And while I live in an instant, do-it-right-now world, there are things that take time. I came back from Arizona and I was ready (or so I thought) to jump right into my next assignment. And it didn’t happen. Month after month. Opportunity after opportunity. The fullness of God’s plan did not unfold for almost the entire year.
I will not pretend that I was patient. Nope. I shed tears and cried out to God. But I also kept on. I kept on trusting. I kept on watching. I kept on serving. My commitment was unwavering. God placed a call on my life and I knew that whatever was next would be divinely orchestrated. And, I was right.
Now as you look out over what this day, this week, your life holds, I invite you to check your resolve, your commitment. Don’t grow weary in the waiting or the doing. If the path takes a turn, anticipate the adventure. If the way seems hard, remember how you’ve made it through hard times before.
Go back and look at our definition. There’s a word included that gives added meaning to our commitment. See it: admirably. You will not admire your own resolve. God will not be impressed. Nope. Our resolute living is our testimony, our legacy.
So, hang on. Keep going. The world needs to see us trusting God’s power. The wold is hungry to see how to run the race. Our commitment and faithful running of the race will not only result in our reward for finishing. It may also encourage other weary runners along the way.
This is my grandmother’s prayer book. She received it in 1914. I knew it contained prayers for Christmas so I took it from the shelf this morning, and carefully began to read.
I found this prayer attributed to Rev. J.W. Nicely, D.D. : (I’m leaving it in its original form for now)
Our gracious Lord, in the rush of many duties, we would be quiet before Thee. Above the confusion of the world and the tumult in our own hearts we would hear the sweet Christmas message of peace. Unless our hearts be at peace with Thee through the Bethlehem-Born Prince, our lives will add to the discord and darkness of the world. This day, loving Father, we travel once again to Bethlehem beautiful location, but more beautiful because of the sacred and hallowed association. We descend the stairs in to the crypt and care not for mitered priest or soldier guard, but as spiritual travelers kneel before the silver star that marks the birthplace of Him who ever guides men to kindness, peace, brotherly love and the Father’s home. Come, O Christ, and be Immanuel to our beloved church. May Thy holy love enter with new joy and vitalizing power into the hearts of all our people, especially those who are ill, or bereaved, or sacredly troubled. Omnipotent God, purify “as by fire” the hearts of kings and the rulers of armies and let the Christ of Bethlehem rule in all our social, and industrial, and international relations. May the heaven-sent message first sung by angelic voices be heard this year above the roar of battle and the tramp of marching armies so that “Peace and Good Will” may as never before be established in the hearts of men. May the abundance of our blessings in America and the richness of our Christmas joy find grateful expression in unselfish service in behalf of those whom He loves. In His Name. Amen.
I love reading written prayers. I try to imagine the context the writer/pray-er finds themselves. Why would these things be their concerns, merit lifting to the Giver of life and peace?
In this prayer the phrase, “sacredly troubled,” stopped me. In all my years of ministry and through my faith journey I had never come across it. So, I looked it up and it is so incredibly timely for our current situation.
A quick survey of social media or overheard conversations in the local coffee shop reveals an overwhelming concern, even angst, related to questions about religion, faith and practice. Much of this seems linked to a lack of integrity and hypocrisy of those who have assumed roles of leadership within the Christian Church. Spiritual abuse, misogyny, legalism, and nationalism have usurped the message of scripture and teaching of Jesus. Those with questions don’t know where to go or to whom they should take their questions —so they leave. Leave the Church. Leave their faith.
And this breaks my heart.
So to those who are struggling, and sacredly troubled, I want to extend an invitation to come back. Bring your question, your hurts, your anger, your wounds, all the things troubling you. The most precious word in all of scripture is come.
Jesus made this invitation to “all those who weary and heavy laden” Come. Come learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.
This Christmas I invite you to come to the manger, with fresh eyes, open heart, and allow the Prince of Peace, Immanuel (God with us) to heal the hurts and restore your faith in ways that can move you forward and closer to the One who knows you best and loves you most.
It’s Monday morning. A new start to the week and the beginning of new patterns for me. I am posting this to create a space for accountability, and to invite you to walk with me on this path.
I’m going to be reading more. When I read I write because I need to reflect. The books I read seem to beg for conversation. I don’t remember when I decided, but the reason I write so much in the books I read, dog ear the pages, scribble in the back pages stems from my need to process what I’m reading.
I started reading last night. I pulled a book from my TBR (to be read), sat there in the dimly lit room and began to digest Eugene Peterson’s book, Working the Angles.
ASIDE: At one of the first writers conferences that I went to a highly respected writer stated that introductions are unnecessary. It didn’t sit right with me then…still doesn’t. If the introduction doesn’t grab me and get marked up, I’m just not sure I want the book.
So last night, I tripped into Peterson’s intro. I was captured boy his illustration (something I’m definitely going to refer to when I teach Pastoral Care again) of the “angles” need to be working: prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction. He goes on to describe how instead of tending to these internal things, pastors focus more on the externals and pleasing the people, often leaving God out of the script completely.
As I consider moving back into pastoral ministry, I want to be sure I’m building on the angles. So that’s why I grabbed John Dear’s book, The Questions of Jesus. And the first question he lifts up Jesus’ question of his potential followers: What do you want?
Sitting here in my favorite coffee, with people milling about, grinders whirring, and country music blaring, I melted into a puddle of tears. Jesus cares what I want…do I?
God. It’s Monday. New day. New week. Thanksgiving in a few days. Big changes may be coming my way. Family stress brimming and threatening to overflow. And you slip into the chair across from me at my local coffee spot. You skip the small talk, the meaningless chit chat about how cold it is in Ohio and what pie I’m taking for Thanksgiving dinner. You lean in and in a quiet voice ask me what I want. How much time do you have Jesus? I don’t always know. Don’t know how to put it all in words. And you smile and let me know you have eternity to figure it out. Thanks, Jesus.
(Be sure to come back. We’ll be looking at Jesus’ questions for a while together.)
(Another post from long ago…right when I needed the reminder.)
For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength. But you were not willing, (Isaiah 30:15).
When our first grandchild, Penelope, was born I created an ABC lullaby that was quite effective at calming her and lulling her to sleep. She heard it nearly every day for six months and then she and her mommy moved away. My second grandchild, Caden didn’t get to hear the song much since they lived away from us when he was little. When Asher came along he lived with us and even when he and his mommy got an apartment he came to see us nearly every day. Needless to say, Asher heard the lullaby almost daily. As calming as it was for him, singing it also calmed my spirit.
I have come to appreciate quiet and not just the quiet that comes after the kids are gone. I mean the stillness of a fresh morning when I whisper even to God. This has not always been the case. For far too many years I had way too much on my on my plate. Keeping myself busy, taking on more and more tasks earned me recognition at work and seemed to impress people. So I kept at it, all the while feeling a niggling in my spirit that whispered of my need for quiet and rest. But I was not willing, and the result was tragic. I’m still trying to put the pieces back together, but some days it really doesn’t feel like there any pieces to work with (see Isaiah 30:14).
Recently Asher was obviously needing a nap, but desperately fighting to stay awake. He had crawled up into my lap so I started to sing the ABC lullaby. Knowing that he didn’t want to go to sleep, he put his hand over my mouth and said, “No, Mema.” He knew if I continued to sing he would fall asleep and he just couldn’t afford to miss anything. Or so he thought. He had a miserable afternoon which resulted in his spending some time in Time Out where, finally alone, he fell asleep.
Just like I knew that Asher needed a nap, God knows what we need. He knew what the children of Israel needed, too. They foolishly wanted to put their confidence back in Egypt. They didn’t want to trust in God or his word. The prophet is warning them that they needed to return and find their rest, their satisfaction in God and his plan. They needed to surrender their disquieted spirit and find their strength in him. But they weren’t willing. Are you?
This note came up as a memory on my Facebook page. Perhaps you need to know you’re enough…I did today.
M: MVNC, Michigan, Misfits, and Maturity
One of the greatest enemies to my relationships is thinking I’m not worthy or I don’t belong. I have spent my life battling with “I-don’t-belong-syndrome.” So, the irony that M should land on this day is not lost on me. Today has had plans in it for a very long time, plans that God made that superseded anything that could have been done by me. Today is the 30th class reunion of my college graduating class. I was excited to go and see people and reminisce at my Alma Mater. Trouble was I didn’t write the dates on my calendar. I read material from the Alumni Association, but the dates never penetrated my brain. In the meantime, a friend from high school came up with a wonderful idea to travel to Michigan to see another one of our high school friends. When the miracle happened that we all had a Saturday off together I rejoiced and marked that date on my calendar. A final piece of material came from MVNC that was meant to remind me of the reunion and it hit me that I had made the mistake of not marking my calendar. Now what a mess that was! Or was it? Today seems to be a day to deal with my own demons of feeling like a misfit and wanting instant maturity.
Feeling like a misfit goes way back into my childhood. I recognized it most at Christmas each time when I watched the Rudolph Christmas special. I would sit and listen to the misfit toys sing their woeful song and then get all excited when in spite of their differentness they were able to find joy and love when they were reunited with the other toys. Even the “Bumble” found usefulness and meaning. As I grew I seemed to always find ways to lock into the group where I never felt like I fit in: I was never quite smart, talented, pretty, rich, or loveable enough. Those were terrible monsters to battle and I know that those feelings are a part of teenage angst and from a developmental psychology perspective I was struggling to find my identity. Throughout the process I felt like David in Saul’s armor: nothing seemed to fit. But unlike David, I didn’t know how to throw it off and find myself.
The other component that made life that so difficult for me was that I wanted instant maturity. I remember standing on the stage at the end of the Miss Teenage Columbus Pageant. I had actually made the top five. I was now going to have to answer a question that would determine my place among the winners. I was given a list of characteristics and told to chose the two I felt were most important and why. I distinctly remember that one of my answers was wisdom and I think the other was happiness. I wanted wisdom because I knew it was knowledge well used. At seventeen I wanted to have all the answers and the ability to function wisely. Now perhaps that seems like a good thing, but in my answer I see my propensity to want to short-circuit the process. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that someone finally helped me realize the importance of process, the need to value the process not just to strive for the end result. So now in my fifties, I feel like a kid just sucking the life out of the process and it feels weird and people look at me even weirder.
As I was thinking about all of this I was prompted to pick up my copy of Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.” I was required to read this at work several years ago and while I found pieces of it interesting, I was at such a different place spiritually than my co-workers that it wasn’t a good experience for me. I chaffed against it to be quite honest. So this morning I was flipping through some of the pages and I found a section on the misfits of God—imagine that!
Here’s what Warren writes:
“What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived. If you’re not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using? Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zaccheaus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses.” (p. 233)
Speaking of maturity, Warren also refers to the process of maturing fruit and vegetables. He writes: “When you try to ripen fruit quickly, it loses it flavor. In America, tomatoes are usually picked unripened so they won’t bruise during shipping to the stores. Then, before they are sold, these green tomatoes are sprayed with CO2 gas to turn them red instantly. Gassed tomatoes are edible, but they are no match to the flavor of a vine-ripened tomato that is allowed to mature slowly.” (p. 217)
So what does this all have to do with going to Michigan instead of MVNC? I’m glad you’re still with me to ask the question. Today I’m spending the day with the woman who was class president and so popular I didn’t realize she even knew my name. She has a life that I used to dream would be mine. And today by the grace of God I call her my friend. And we’re going to visit the woman who won that Miss Teenage Columbus Pageant when I was fourth runner up. She is one of the smartest, most gifted women I know and God has blessed my life with her friendship as well. Today I’m marveling in a process that has taken way more than 30 years to effect. Three of us will enjoy the day together, but there are multitudes who have made it possible for me to do so. I can’t name you by name here, but know that you will be in my heart there. Today there is no misfit. Talk about maturity.
Here’s the context for the meme verse: Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1:15-18, NLT).
There are three dogs living in my house. Two belong to my daughter with whom we share the house. And one is mine. Half the time we walk the dogs together, but some days I walk them by myself. Our walks together are full of conversation and much laughter. When I walk alone, I occasionally talk to the dog, or myself. Sometimes I talk to God.
A friend of mine used to live in one of houses I pass often. She moved away this year. I miss her. A few walks ago as I walked past her old house I told God I missed her and asked for a special blessing to fill her heart. Without missing a beat, I felt God nudge me that I should let my friend know I thought of her and prayed for her.
That’s what Paul did here. Beyond that, he also listed what he would ask God for his friends. Consider his list: spiritual wisdom, growth in knowledge of God, understanding of the hope God offers to those who believe and follow.
The friends Paul prayed for “unceasingly” were seeking to walk in faith in a new way. Some were building on their Jewish roots, but others were building as they went. The things Paul asked of God represented how the Ephesian believers hearts and minds needed to be equipped for the persecution they faced for choosing to walk in a different way.
The world doesn’t understand our choice of following the way of Christ. Our friends need prayer for strength and wisdom.
One other thing jumps out at me from Paul’s prayer. Appreciation. It’s not a big thing, but expressing our gratitude for others can go a long way, and deliver a huge blessing. Today let’s make a point of telling someone how much they mean to us. Let’s thank God for them, and let them know we’re holding them in our prayers.
Day 3. 5 at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference
I was walking to breakfast this morning, and I began to notice I was walking differently. I felt alive. The air was invigorating. I felt an unusual spring in my step. I must have grown at least an inch taller. And then I heard my mother’s voice, “Stand up straight. Put your shoulders back. Walk with confidence.” The memory made me chuckle.
Why was it always so important to walk confidently, to walk like I was getting ready to enter into an important meeting?
As I reached for the door to enter into our gathering spaces, with this memory and question fresh in my mind, a new awareness came to mind: Mom was encouraging me to always be ready. I couldn’t know who I would meet. I wouldn’t know what important contact would be waiting ahead. The what or who didn’t matter as much as the how.
Our keynote speaker, Eva Marie Everson, drew her morning message from Exodus 3 and 4, The Calling of Moses. There were so many good points, but the one that struck me was the reference to Moses’ response to God in 3:4, “Here I am.”
Moses wasn’t giving a childlike response to a school teacher’s role call. Moses’ answer was clearly, “I’m ready.”
As much as my mother would deny her admonition was God’s message for me, I heard it that way this morning. God used that memory, that feeling as I walked to breakfast to remind me how each time I enter a door I need to be ready. This reminds me of the wise counsel of an elder pastor speaking to a group of us newbies, once upon a time, how we should always have a sermon, a prayer, and a song ready each time we enter a church.
At the very first writers’ conference I attended one of the people I heard speak was Torry Martin. Torry is an actor, writer, comedian, and very wise speaker. He introduced me to the phrase, “divine appointments and holy introductions.”
What would happen if we would walk through every door, enter every interaction with an “I’m ready God for whatever divine appointment or holy introduction you bring my way” attitude? Imagine for a moment that God has people who need your readiness, your message, your encouragement waiting for you to arrive. Truth is: they are there, and they need what you bring.
Confession: I hate unpacking. I’m not a fan of moving either.
Growing up, one of my mother’s favorite Momisms was: a place for everything and everything in it’s place. Trouble for me was I had too many things and never enough places.
Not much has changed.
But I don’t just haul boxes from state to state, town to town, and house to house. There’s this emotional baggage I cart from place to place. And those boxes can be big, and extremely heavy. I’ve been carrying some of those boxes since childhood. And my kind husband has been kind and mostly quiet about the weight and the amount.
I’ve come to understand some of this baggage in new ways over the past two years, and more recently, thanks to Noom.
One of the things in my life that has been skewed and generally out of control has been my response to food and my propensity for overeating and eating unhealthily. It’s not that I haven’t known better (and taught others to do better), but I have lacked both the understanding of why and the willpower to stay committed to eating for health. The lessons provided with my Noom program fee, helped me to see what distortions and unhealthy rules I had adopted and lived by.
And while this isn’t a post about eating rules that sabotage health, the very thought that I continue to live by rules (aka unhealthy baggage) leaves me discouraged and waffling in my hope for things to get better. Unless I decide unpack the boxes, and get rid of the stuff, the thinking, the believing, holding me back from healing and happiness.
But what does it take to unpack the boxes I carried for a lifetime?
Grace. And by this I mean absence of judging and shaming. I’m referring to a gentleness that understands how beliefs are formed, and how they often necessary for survival.
Courage. I don’t see courage as the absence of fear, but as the commitment to move ahead in spite of it. The realization that the goal is important, but so is the process of achieving it.
Support. We were created for relationship. Not a one of us needs to go this alone. I love the biblical image of how during the battle the Israelites were winning when Moses lifted up the staff. When his strength wavered, his friends and family came alongside him and held up his arms. We need to find those who will offer strength and support when feel weak and vulnerable. And we need to find those we can lend support to.
Hope. We have to have that spark that encourages us to keep trying. We have to believe things can be better. One of my favorite movie lines comes from the movie “As Good As It Gets.” The main character wants to see his therapist, but without an appointment. When the therapist holds the line, the character walks out into the waiting room and looks at the other patients and asks, “What if this is as good as it gets?”
Because of the devastation of COVID-19 pandemic, many people are asking when things will get back to normal? When will things get easy and familiar again? When will things stop being so difficult? Why do things have to be so difficult?
Just as there is little sense in carrying around belief baggage that no longer serves, there is very little logic in trying to back in time. Life and time are always moving forward. We can choose to not go along with that, to carry unnecessary baggage with us…but why?
And therein lies my hope. Life is ever moving forward. I was made for life. I was made to move forward. That my friends is what is normal. Not reaching back. Not trying to fix today with outdated strategies from yesterday.
Here’s a terrific piece of good news! The roadmap I choose to follow, the Bible, teaches that God is making things new…every day. And for each day there is a promise: because of God’s great faithfulness, each new day is met with new mercies (Lamentations 3:23-24, author’s paraphrase).
So while I hate unpacking, I’m ready for a lighter load. And looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.
Today is Worldwide Communion Sunday. I love this Sunday. I loved it when I was a pastor. I observed it in all the denominations I worked with. The thought and feeling of partaking of the Lord’s Supper along with believers all over the world moves me, encourages me, humbles me. Today was no exception.
Today I worshipped outdoors with a group of people I have only met with twice before. The weather was perfect. The message clear and inspiring. Two of the pastor’s points stuck out to me.
First, he described a study that was done in which people were asked what their favorite phrase in the English language were. The number one response was, “I love you.” Understandable. Don’t we all love to hear that? Also high on the list, and pertinent to the message, “Dinner’s ready!”
Time to eat. Come and get it. Come and dine. Come to the table. Do you remember how you were called to dinner as a child? I don’t have particularly fond memories of dinnertime as a child–but oh how precious those shared meals became when shared them with friends in college, and later with community in the church.
The pastor’s text was Jesus invitation to the crowd as recorded in John 6. Everybody was invited. Everyone was included. Y’all come.
Who doesn’t want to hear that? We may need a bigger table.
The second thing that hooked my heart was the concept of remembrance. Living with Mom I’m daily dealing with issues of memory: odd rememberances, distorted memories, lost memories. Hers and mine!
As I sat in the gathering on Sunday morning, one question percolated to the top: What do you want me to remember today God? It seemed like a simple question, but it brought on a whole slew of recollections. They came in waves: communion services from across the years; faces of clergy mentors and friends; different places; and different times.
Sitting alone, in a gathering where I knew no one, I drew comfort in the sense not only of God being present, but with me–speaking my name. Just as the bubbling memories spoke to the how there had been people all along in this journey of faith, the Spirit gave clear assurance that even now when I felt so incredibly alone…I was not, and would never be.
Remembering this, hearing this, feeling this prods me to wonder if you, dear reader might be feeling alone. Jesus calls you to the table. There is clearly not just space, but a space for you. As you take your seat, please remember the times and places where God has brought you into the company of others as a means of assuring you of your place in the family, and God’s great grace and provision for us all.