Tag Archives: process

Taken by a Sunrise!

Three days per week I get to drive my daughter, Lydia, to Fremont High School. As the days shorten, the sun is usually rising as we drive. The sunrise is at our backs as we drive to school, but when I head over to my office, the sunrise is right in front of me. It is always a gorgeous way to come to work! Most mornings the sunrise is brilliant oranges and yellows. This morning I was treated to a show of blues, grays, and pastel oranges. The photo doesn’t do it justice. I saw colors I’m not sure I have ever noticed before, particularly a blue that was like a pale robin’s egg blue with hints of aqua. There was also a pale peach color, warm, soft, and reassuring. As you can tell, I was taken by the morning sky!

Taken by a Sunrise!

This sunrise reminded me of a passage I read earlier this week.

Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
(Psalms 104:1-3, NIV)

Whether we acknowledge it or not, God is amazing! God’s handiwork is magnificent! God provides it for our enjoyment, encouragement, and as a vehicle for our praise. I already touched on the enjoyment piece above. The aspect of encouragement comes from the fact that we can hold these images in our minds as memorials to God’s greatness, faithfulness, and love. Even though we can’t see a sunrise at will, we can remember and gain confidence that the same God that created this glorious sunrise lives within us and through the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to us. We just need to pause, remember, reflect, and allow God’s loving words to settle in our hearts. This is why the Psalmist reminds us to “Praise the Lord, my soul.” Praise opens our awareness to the beauty of God’s creation and the greatness of God’s love, setting us on course to receive the grace made available to us if we, again, pause, remember, and reflect.

Grace and peace,

The Lord’s Appearing

http://brookfonceca.vsco.co/media/560da23d4dfaf718a4ea9ba7I know it wasn’t much, but it rained in the SF Bay area this week! For me, rain is a significant image. It speaks to me of God’s presence and blessing. The thought of autumn rains got me thinking about some passages in the Old Testament, but all I could remember was the word “rains.” You know what it’s like. There’s a song that you heard a long time ago. You remember that you liked it. You even remember a few words of the chorus, but that’s about it. That’s how it was with me and rains this week. So I looked up “rains” in my Bible app. I found the passage I remembered. (I think!) This led me to other related passages, even one in the letter written by James.

Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises, he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
(Hosea 6:3, NIV)

This passage in Hosea speaks about God’s faithfulness, especially the faithfulness of God coming to us. We can trust that God will come when we call. There are times that we need God’s help, but are not aware that God is right here. The Lord’s appearing happens when we acknowledge the presence of God. The sun rises and sets. The seasonal rains come and go. It’s not much of a surprise for us, but then there are the moments when we appreciate a gorgeous sunset or stand out in the rain, just to soak up the refreshing environment. It just takes a moment to turn our hearts to the Lord, who is always here, and in that moment God appears!

Grace and peace,

Loving unto Wholeness

“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”
(Matthew 5:4, NIV)

I have been sitting with this passage for a few weeks, not really knowing how to interact with it, not really sure of what it was trying to speak to me. It was the idea of mourning that was tripping me up. I don’t really know what it means to mourn, what it looks like or even how to do it. I think that says as much about me as it does the American culture we live in. Americans don’t mourn well, especially American Christians. We are taught to say “It is well with my soul” when we are confronted with any kind of loss. We are encouraged to throw a party instead of a funeral. But, setting that aside for a moment and returning to the passage at hand, I think that mourning is a stand-in for processing loss.

rocky path in the woodsIn this Beatitude, Jesus is inviting us to mourn when we need to mourn. He is saying that if you choose to enter into the process of grieving a loss and stick to through the end, you will come out of it comforted. This process is not supposed to be a lonely journey. God, through the Holy Spirit, is ever present and walking through it with us. There is also family, friends, and the community of faith to whom we can lean on throughout this process, if we choose to invite others into it with us.

“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.”
(Matthew 5:4, CEB)

I cannot prescribe what this process will look like, nor how long it will last, but I do know it will include three things: love, acceptance, and forgiveness. This is first and foremost a work of love. It is love for those around us and ourselves that will lead us into the process and sustain us through it. Acceptance involves trusting the process and the new reality that the loss brings us into. Lastly, loss will most likely require some amount of forgiveness, and probably more than once. All told, we will come out of this process not only comforted, but able to comfort others. Choosing to go through a season of mourning is a very brave thing to do. There is nothing glamorous about it. It is a lot of hard work. But, there will be an end to it, and that end will bring love, joy, and peace.

My hope it that in embracing Jesus encouragement here, we can begin to establish a healthy environment for those experiencing the pain of loss and even help to change our culture so that grief would not be something to be dismissed, but seen as the next loving and logical step to living a life of wholeness and love.

Grace and peace,

In All Things

This week I have been reading through Romans 8. This is a very familiar passage of scripture for me, and I would bet, for most of us as well. As I came to verse 28 I was pleasantly surprised. I have read and quoted this verse so many times that it is simply automatic. But, in the latest edition of the New International Version, they have updated it.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28, NIV)

rocky pathWhat I appreciate about this reading is that it move the work of God from the cosmic to the personal. Instead of God working “all things together for our good,” it reflects how God works with us in the circumstances for our good.

The reason I appreciate the difference is that so often I look to God for a magical escape from the circumstances I am experiencing. When things get too difficult, inconvenient, or embarrassing, I want God to get me out as quickly as possible. When the reality is that God is more interested in walking us through the circumstances, providing opportunity for learning, growing, endurance, and strength. I believe this is where the good is accomplished. This good then empowers us to not only to reflect the image of Christ (v.29) but also to be Jesus in our world, walking and processing through difficulties with others.

This distinction was helpful for me. I pray that it is for you as well.

Grace and peace,

Living with Weeds

This week I have been meditating on the Parable of the Weeds from Matthew 13. It is a story of intrigue and deception, and as well, patience and hope. After spending some time with it, I discovered that there is a valuable lesson to be found under the surface.

Woman walking through barley fieldAfter sowing his field with wheat he discovers that an enemy has contaminated his field with weeds. Instead of weeding the field, he decides to let them grow together, separating them after the harvest.

While not disregarding Jesus’ explanation of the parable, I found that it can be applied on a personal level as well as globally.

How often do we look at our lives and find aspects, characteristics, or personality traits that we just don’t like? These can even be areas of brokenness that seem to define us. We try to change ourselves. We pray for God to change us. Yet, we remain the same. Some of this is a product of our upbringing, culture, heritage, even DNA. Others are a product of the fall.

My understanding is that God loves us as we are. Yes, we are made new in Christ. Part of that newness is the grace to live in God’s presence, “warts and all,” allowing the Spirit to impart patience and instill hope that one day we will not only see Christ as he is, but also ourselves as we are.

Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face- to- face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known.
(1 Corinthians 13:12, CEB)

My encouragement is simple. Learn to live with the weeds. There are some that God will lovingly remove as we mature in Christ. Then there are some that only God can sort out in the end. Until then there is grace realized in the love of God and in the love of God’s people.

Grace and peace,

Responsibility: Empowering Us to Be Present

Over the month of January, I wrote about presence and the act of being present. I addressed being present to God, ourselves, and one another. My main point was that presence is a place of mutuality where life is lived and shared. When we are present to God we find our point of reference from which we can navigate the rest of our lives. For God is our ground of being and in God “we live, move, and exist.” (Acts 17:28) This reference point in God empowers us to be present to ourselves, or have a healthy sense of self awareness. We know our limitations and motivations. We know our context and what it is that contributes to the way we are feeling. We don’t need to be afraid of ourselves, but it is through self awareness that we can be present with others in full humility and honesty. Lastly, it is in being present to others that the “rubber hits the road.” It is where we live and move and express our existence. It is my prayer that we can do this responsibly or with the responsiveness that comes from God’s presence in us. Like I often say, “We love God best when we love others well.”

mountain vista of valley belowFor me, the month of February is the Month of Love. My hope is to write about love as action throughout February. The first thing I want to explore I already mentioned above, love as responsibility. Being responsible empowers us to live responsively, to be present to those around us.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
(Psalm 15, NIV)

I first heard this passage of scripture in youth group when I was 16 years old. The youth pastor asked us what we thought it meant. I replied, “It describes someone who lives responsibly before God and others.” As you can tell, I’ve never forgotten that. Being present and responsible before God and others is not so much a progression, but a concurrent process. I pray that God’s grace would empower you to love responsibly.

Grace and peace,

Embracing Trust

There is a song I’ve been singing in my head a lot lately. It’s called Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United. If you’re like me, my mind will loop a portion of a song rather than the whole thing. With this song it was the bridge.

rock cairn with ocean backdropOceans (Where Feet May Fail)

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

The first line, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,” has shaken and stirred my soul. It’s easy to trust when expectations are clear and the boundaries are visible. I’ve learned, though, that Jesus calls us beyond what is expected and into uncharted territory. The situations or issues will change, but it usually takes place in the realm of relationships. This is also an inside job. Jesus is stretching us to expand the borders of our heart. It’s never easy, but loving our neighbor as ourself rarely is.

Just as Jesus called Peter out of the boat to walk on the waves with him, we can trust the Lord to meet us in the place of uncertainty. Even if we feel ourselves sinking, we will find that his hand is holding us up, and that hand is usually the person to whom we have extended trust.

Grace and peace,

Beautiful Day: Embracing Freedom One Step at a Time

We were out to dinner at a popular restaurant for my daughter’s birthday. I was enjoying my family, enjoying my burger, and not paying much attention to anything else. Until, Autumn mentioned the song that was playing in the background, Beautiful Day by U2. It’s an iconic song. It holds in tension beauty and destruction, hope and disappointment. The main point the song tries to make is that no matter how bad things get, there is still hope. You can find beauty in a horrible day when it is viewed through the eyes of hope.

I’m a huge U2 fan and have been since I was eleven years old. Beautiful Day is one of my favorite songs. So, when Autumn mentioned it, all of this came flooding into my heart and mind.

As tough as it is to confess, my family and I have been going through a long season of living in survival mode. Most days it is quite hard to find beauty amid the chaos. Then there are days where God’s grace enables us to catch a glimpse of hope and embrace the beauty around us.

One day a few weeks ago, I asked the Lord, “How can we get out of this mess?” I had not yet realized that we were in survival mode. God told me, “One step at a time.” This was so liberating for me. I have labored for decades with the notion that if God really loved me, all the chaos and crap would just go away and that we would have perfectly ordered and blessed lives just like that. But in the moment God said, “One step at a time,” I began to see pathways to freedom that Jesus was inviting me to walk down with him. One specific path was to re-establish small routines, building on those successes.

Even though we are still in survival mode, we have caught a glimpse of hope that allows us to see the beauty of the day and the grace of God in the process toward freedom, one step at a time.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Grace and peace,

Make Sure You Are Hungry

This week I came across a devotional that really touched me and seemed to continue in the same thought as my message last Sunday.* It comes from a daily email devotional by Fr. Richard Rohr. I thought it best to share it in full.

* Note: Eucharist is the same as Communion or the Lord’s Supper.

In my message last Sunday I applied my equation of Proximity + Process = Presence to Eucharist. At the Lord’s table we draw near to God (proximity), expecting to be changed through healing, forgiveness, salvation (process), and thus experience God (presence). Fr. Richard describes an aspect of how this works.

Grace and peace,

Make Sure You Are Hungry

“Christ is the bread, awaiting hunger.”  – St. Augustine

Bread and Wine by Anna Tikhomirova

Bread and Wine by Anna Tikhomirova

Eucharist is presence encountering presence-mutuality, vulnerability. There is nothing to prove, to protect, or to sell. It feels so empty, simple, and harmless, that all you can do is be present. In most of Christian history we instead tried to “understand” and explain presence. As if we could.

The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger. Somehow we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there’s room inside of us for another presence. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for “another.” Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to Eucharist is hunger. And most often sinners are much hungrier than the so-called saints.

– Fr. Richard Rohr

Embracing Process, Part 2: The Process Is The End

Last Sunday Kim Nowlin spoke at our worship gathering here at VLC. Due to some technical difficulties, her talk did not get recorded. I believe, though, that its impact is not in any way diminished by that. I was not in the gathering to hear it, but I did ask a few people to share with me what they heard. On each occasion they quoted something that Kim referenced from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. “What we call the process, God calls the end.” That phrase pulled up a chair and sat down in my soul like a caring loved one who won’t leave until the issue is resolved. If you couldn’t tell, I’m still in process with it.

I encourage you to read Oswald Chambers’ devotional that Kim referenced. It comes in two versions, classic and updated.

A few weeks ago I wrote about proximity and that closeness with Jesus us essential to learning from him. One of my main points was, “Closeness is not a matter of worthiness, but willingness.” I’m still working through that. If what we call process, God calls the end, then that means we need to invite Jesus into the now of our process. It’s easier said than done, especially if we are not too proud of our current process. It would feel much better to invite Jesus in at the end of the process, asking for his blessing, instead of inviting him into the process. But, that is precisely where the greatest value is found, in the one with whom we process, not in the finished product.  It is our willingness that God values, not our worthiness. “Come near to God, and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8, CEB)

My prayer is that we invite Jesus into our processes daily, for wherever he is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Grace and peace,

Embracing Process: It’s OK That Things Just Take Time