Friday, January 30, 2015

Isaiah 61

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord 's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
(Isaiah 61:1-4 ESV)

This was painted during Advent at a sunday service at Church of the Ascension.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Step Back From the Mirror...

Sometimes it happens:

I am standing at the mirror and get a close look at my face...

Now I don't fancy myself all that concerned about looks, but I would be lying if I said I NEVER cared...

So close to the mirror, I can see little things that bother me.  Things that might not really be that big of a deal. The problem is when I begin to fixate.  And I soon realize that I've spent way more time than I have the business to be spending on my face, perhaps even making things worse.

This carries over to other areas in my life.

I fixate on a small task at work and then realize I have no time to do the bigger things.  I fixate on a certain detail of a project and spend time meaninglessly making corrections.

This gets worse when it comes to fixating on my failures.

I focus too much on what I feel I lack instead of what I have. In my spiritual journey, I focus on the many little things I feel I should be doing.

I find that I assume God sees me the same way.  Truth is, he DOES.  But he also sees the bigger picture and is full GRACE.  God knows my shortcomings as well as the wonderful things about me...and LOVES me completely.  I fail to see this when I get so close to my crap...I really am often a bad gauge of myself.

Times like this, I really need to learn to catch myself and to step away from the mirror.

I figured this Halloween pic would be an appropriate end to this post...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thankfulness for the Small Measure Given

In the Christian community thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

I was looking up Bonhoeffer quotes recently and came across this one.  It hit me in the stomach and took the wind out of my lungs.

I realized that my struggle to get close to God is in direct proportion to my inability to be grateful.  I am not thankful for "the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience and love" that has been given to me.  Somehow, I think that I should be further along in my spiritual life than I am...whatever that means.

I'm too fixated on my supposed destination rather than being fully in my present reality in the journey.

I have felt for the past 10 years that I'm not sure who my community is and when I think I find it, I somehow lose it.  But, there have been steadfast people throughout my life and have I really stopped to be thankful for those faithful few?  I want to be satisfied with the little I have (which is actually a lot according to Bonhoeffer).

It makes me think of communion.  We only get a small part of the bread and a little sip of the cup.  But it is Enough.  Can I trust God right now, that the small bit that I have is enough?

Bonhoeffer mentions something that Jesus talked about: the fact that one who is thankful in small things will receive the big things.  I can't put the cart before the horse.  There's a "growth" that Bonhoeffer references...I hinder God from growing my fellowship in His terms.  Jesus mentioned the mustard seed in relation to faith: it is the tiniest of seeds, but grows into a branching tree, in which birds can find their nest.

I cannot underestimate the small things in my life...they are where God wants me to grow.  Lord, help me to learn daily gratitude of the small things.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lessons From Flying - Outgoing

We take off east instead of heading directly towards the destination.
As we begin to bank to the left, I glimpse my city amidst the fog:
Its distinct skyline slightly silhouetted by the rising sun.
It is almost too harsh to view, but I look intently for the familiar shapes and lines.

Soon enough, we continue our curve towards the west
And begin to put miles between our steel flying machine and my home.

The landscape below transforms into a thick layer of clouds:
an alien terrain of rippling, puffy ether.
This highway in the atmosphere will lead me to an even more foreign place.
This place is full of beauty and wonder and adventure.
Yet it is not all unknown: it holds the familiarity of an old friend.

Air travel can certainly be argued to be a "point A to point B" experience.
Of course the reason is to cut down the time in order to more enjoy the destination.
But I would say that the journey, the line between, matters.
It has something to teach me as much as the destination.
The question is, do I take the time to really see?

In order to get where we need to go in life,
Sometimes we need to take a good look back.
It seems counterintuitive; but it can be necessary to move forward.
It can be hard to look back: like staring into a bright, burning orb.
But if we persevere, we see what we need to see - and then move on.

The 30,000 foot view of our lives can give us better perspective
And a healthier view of ourselves and our life's path.
The way forward is unknown, but there is promise of Beauty.
And Friendship.
And Adventure.

I try to remember this as I see the miles multiply;
Even as I am not yet where I want to be:
I am exactly where I need to be.