Category: faith

I finally had some modicum of success with my one little word. The first couple of years I tried using one word as a focus for the year, it drifted from thought as quickly as my notions to get up early to work out.

The illusion of its simplicity drew me in. It turns out whether it’s one word or one action it takes intentional follow through.

The word I chose last year was peace. Maybe it took hold because the world seemed to be growing less and less peaceful. The political climate had been the most contentious I could recall. The rate of fatal overdoses was rising in our recovery community. Unrest over situations beyond our control was creating tension in family and friends. Peace was a word I needed to cling to.

As 2017 was ending I wrote about my need to go deeper into this little word. I’d not spent enough time letting it work deeper in me. I’d looked at its surface and not what lay below.

***

The new year has begun with busy hands. I determined to do my best to not add more and part of that meant working through some of the hundreds of ideas I saved on Pinterest.

Do you have that board, or 10, where you’ve saved hundreds of beautiful photos of things you’d like to make or recipes you want to try? If you’re like me, they’ve stayed there on your computer screen looking as pretty as the day you pinned them.

Enough looking. I was going to start doing. And I have.

I chose my Have a Heart board, pulled out my fabric stash, grabbed my sewing basket with the basics and drew, cut and stitched hearts. I put buttons on some and stitched little x’s on others.

It didn’t stop there. I dug to the bottom of my fabric basket and found something I started last year determined to finish it. Done!

Evenings and weekends my table has been cluttered with felt and fabric, cotton and buttons and more….oh my!

If my finger isn’t sporting a thimble it’s pressing the shutter button of my Nikon. The former scraps are now hearts filling a wooden bowl taking center stage in my photography.

And in it all I find peace. There is peace when my hands are making and my mind is free of stuff. I am focused on whether I should add a button or not; this fabric or that.

Making is one of the few things where my mind finds peace from the world. It’s not a temporary peace or the peace that means quiet. It’s an internal feeling of rest. It’s a peace in the soul. Perhaps it is God reminding me of his gift of creation and creating. In a real way, it is communion with God. And that is always peace.

“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive…Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living.” Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art

faith photography

Photo by Anne Preble on Unsplash

Three remote controls rest on our coffee table. One controls the basic operations, another controls enhanced sound and yet another will engage streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix.

I’ve tried throwing them but that doesn’t seem to help my confusion.

At the grocery store, the bread aisle that once offered whole wheat or white is now filled with so many choices you can spend 5 minutes in an internal debate over which to buy.

I remember a time that seemed simpler. When there was one remote control and streaming was something that might be coming from your child’s diaper.

You can’t even find simple instructions for cold medications without wading through the extensive list of side-effects and ingredients. Just tell me how much to take, how often!

I do like simple.

We live in a country of abundance. It’s a blessing, mostly. Right?

Sometimes it’s not much better in church. So many messages, so many views, more and more Bible translations and paraphrases that it’s hard to hear the clear and simple call of Jesus.

When it’s all too much and I want to silence the noise I remind myself of all that really matters. Two simple commands Jesus reminds us of: love God and love others.

That’s it. That’s what all the voices and words and stories and parables boil down to. In the simplest form, we are to above all, love God and then love others. Not some god but the God. Not some others but all others.

We complicate. God makes it simply clear.

Linking up for Five-Minute Friday, a free-writing word prompt hosted by Kate Motaung

SaveSave

faith Five-Minute Friday

To be fair, I need to tell you Henry first told me he felt God’s calling to full-time ministry when I was pregnant with our second child.

We were sitting across the table from each other at a diner. It was 1980. Our daughter was 15 months old and our second child was due in 4 months.

I looked across the table and told him I didn’t think I could do that at this time in our lives. I didn’t want our children in daycare hours on end while we were at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, first through two years of seminary and then in full-time ministry. I had wonderful, godly in-laws. Henry talked to his mom who told him she agreed with me about the timing.

Henry and I met and married in South Florida in the late 70’s. We had two children in quick succession and planted ourselves deeply into the community. Henry was self-employed and worked hard to allow me to be home with the children. We were faithful to church activities and found a wonderful peer group there. Life was very good.

As our children got older, a few people began to joke with Henry about going into the ministry. I guess he would have been voted “most likely to…” I began to ask him if I was holding him back. He always said no. Until the spring of ’93.

He came home from a men’s retreat and told me he felt God calling him again. For something I can only assume was the Holy Spirit, my response wasn’t fearful or objectionable. It wasn’t so much a calling to ministry I felt, but a calling as a wife. Not one in a complementarian way but as ministers in The Salvation Army, husband and wife are both ordained. I felt a strong leading from God to accept Henry’s call as a call on our life together.

To read the rest of my story hop over to The Perennial Gen. My thanks to Michelle and Amanda for allowing me to share my story. 

 

 

faith family Salvation Army

The week between Christmas and New Year’s day is a sort of pause. Sometimes we fill it with more shopping and parties and travel and more, more, more.

 

As a child, we left our Christmas tree up through New Years. The last few years I’ve had it all put away before New Year’s day anxious to start fresh without this chore lingering.
Growing up in (and now serving in) The Salvation Army, this in-between week was a mixture of work and rest. Rest from the long season of serving others and work to put away the kettles and bells. Work to clean up the borrowed warehouse that was filled with toys only days ago. Satisfying work, but work.
When do we pause? When do we exhale the busy and breathe in rest?
We have a Watchnight service to prepare. Our tradition is to gather on New Year’s Eve in worship and celebration, which shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Another thing on our to-do list during this in-between week.
We’re a bit weary but we’ll find time to pause because stopping for a moment is the only way to continue.
We have done our best to hit the pause button this week. While our body clocks awakened us at nearly the same early hour, we stayed in bed enjoying the soft sheets and no morning schedule.
There were things on a to-do list but everything was in pencil giving ourselves permission to do or not do. I’m not a stay in my pajamas kind of girl but there were two days I didn’t even put on mascara.
I thought I would read more and write more but I’ve puttered around getting things back in order and playing mahjong on my iPad. It’s been pure luxury that I struggle with laziness. It can be a fine line.
I have thought about my word for 2018. Last year I chose peace and managed to remember and reflect on it for the whole year. I considered new words for the coming new year. Words like hope, contentment, and capacity were on my mental list. That is until I read Holley Gerth’s post in which she said she was staying with the same word for another year. She says:
“I’m keeping “content” as my word for the year in 2018 too. I feel like I’ve just begun to understand its layers, the true meaning of it. I need more time and practice and leaning into the Love that makes contentment possible. I’m not done with the lesson yet. And I don’t think it’s done with me.”
 
I’ve barely scratched the surface with this word, peace. Yes, I’ve recognized it doesn’t mean calm and quiet that it goes deeper. But as Holley says, I’m not done with the lesson and it’s not done with me. There are layers I need to explore. 
 
I guess you could say I’m in between with this small word with enormous implications. 
 
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT

SaveSave

faith grace Salvation Army

Four weeks of preparing, planning, shopping and decorating were over with the turn of the calendar.
This morning we took our kids to the airport and I started washing linens and making a new grocery list. The tree will be down and decorations boxed before New Year’s Day and just like that the reset button has been hit.
Reset? I need to rethink this.
When I power down my Mac I’m asked if I want to restart or shut down. When I restart things appear as they were. Evernote will be opened to this note, my mailbox will pop up and if I had a Google page open it will still be there. A shut down will close it all.
There have been many times in 2017 I wanted to shut down. The political noise is like a family feud with each side taking loud aim at the other.
The cry for firming up our gun laws should have been louder but seemed to get buried in familiar rhetoric. It’s like the traffic hum you barely notice because it’s always there.
Hurricanes displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes and wreaked destruction in the eastern part of our country while fires devastated acres and acres on the West Coast.
Hate, violence, war, slavery and worse are part of today’s world.
If a reset means going back to 2017 I don’t want it.
But what’s our choice? My voice feels small at best. How can one smile and one laugh grow into more?
It feels like treading water. You’re expending energy but going nowhere and I want to move forward toward more. More kindness.  More understanding and less name-calling. More grace and less shame. More love.
A friend posted on his Facebook, “Don’t tell me Merry Christmas, show me Merry Christmas. Don’t tell me keep Christ in Christmas, show me Christ in Christmas.”
We can blog, tweet and write all the words we want but if we aren’t acting out those words we’re treading water, hitting the reset button and going through the motions. Again.
As shut down 2017, I want to move forward with intention and hope.

How enduring is God’s loyal love;

    the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion.
23 Here they are, every morning, new!
    Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day.
24 Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need.
    My soul boasts, “Hope in God; just wait.”

faith hope

Our house will be ready for family and guests over the holidays. The tree is trimmed and lights are on the palm trees and house. Inside is equally festive with Santas and Nativities, candy canes and snowmen. Being prepared makes me feel competent.

 We are using coloring posters to help tell the Advent story this year but they do more than tell the story. They engage us with questions as to how we’re preparing for this season. What are we watching and preparing for?
Many of these men are new to the church and the bible. Their answers reflect their current focus in their life which is recovery and that’s good. It needs to be a daily focus. But so does preparing our hearts for Jesus.
For years I thought Advent was remembering the birth of Christ. I thought it was to help build anticipation and excitement that the Christ Child was born. It is that. But it’s more.
We give the appearance of being prepared. Presents are bought and some are wrapped. Stockings are ready to be hung and the Honey Baked Ham is ordered. Perhaps the only thing not prepared is my heart. It gets lost in the shuffle of making things pretty and festive on the outside.
I gather Christmas devotionals that steer me to anticipating the second coming of Immanuel – God with us. This year the writings of Richard Rohr in Preparing for Christmas, make Christmas activities more about active faith in our everyday life. Like the questions on the Advent posters, he ends each daily reading with a thought-provoking, sometimes convicting question.
What in your life gives you false happiness and fulfillment and prevents you from letting God’s truth break into your life? – Richard Rohr
At times the questions make my heart feel unprepared. I wonder what needs to be rearranged to make room for this Jesus. The one who took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood. Do I have room for these questions? Am I prepared to follow this Christ-child?
He has come and is coming again.
Joy to the world! 
Let every heart prepare Him room

faith

 

I went through grade school in the 60’s. We all seemed to dress alike. Girls wore dresses that were the same length, ankle socks and similar styles of shoes. Like other moms of that time, mama made some of my clothes. I fit in and to fit in has always meant acceptance.

It was in 5th grade when one particularly obnoxious boy made mean remarks about my dress, a dress mama made. I still remember it’s empire waist and medium-sized vertical stripes in autumn colors. A ribbon went around the high waist to complete the fashionable style. It was the last time I wore that dress.

To be different in any way meant to stand out and all I wanted was to fit in.

That would become increasingly hard in our church, a church whose members wear uniforms. When I told my dad I didn’t want to wear a uniform he told me everyone has uniforms. He pointed out my generation had chosen jeans as our uniform. I didn’t like it when he was right like that.

Maybe it’s ironic that one of my favorite scripture portions tells us not to be conformed to the world. The Message puts it this way:

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” Romans 12:2

Noted theologian, R.C. Sproul, said: “The Christian life is a life of non-conformity.”

This isn’t easy for someone who is more comfortable with blending in. Oh, I want to stand out but just a little. You know, a memorable laugh or smile.

Yes, our church members and clergy still wear uniforms. And I alternate between a certain pride and exhaustion of explaining it all.

But I understand the dangers of conformity have nothing to do with outward appearance. It’s about the heart. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus we need a different heart, a purpose not shared by all. We need to stand out in ways that others want what we have. Our joy and peace need to shine like a city on a hill.

It’s not an easy call. We will often go against the flow of popular culture. But it’s a worthy call.

“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” Romans 12:2 the VOICE

Linking up with Kate Motaung for Five-Minute Friday

SaveSave

faith Five-Minute Friday Salvation Army

We lit the second candle of Advent and we called it love.

We didn’t have a time of sharing in our service this week. It’s busy with the extra bits put in for the season. Richard came to me after church, excited to tell me about another message he’d heard the night before. He was all smiles as he said it was the same thing. It was about love too.

During that service, they’d invited people to write a word on stones and he’d written Love. That was his word for this year. I remember him telling me that but it seems like a hundred years ago, not eleven months. I remember Richard saying he chose that word because he needs to learn to love himself.

These guys are good. They listen to the messages poured into them here. Messages from counselors helping them learn new ways. Even messages from me at times, reminding them that God makes them enough.

Terrace danced to words that sang about God loving us in our good and bad. It’s something Terrance has had to work on too – accepting God’s love.

Love is one of those things we’re better at giving than receiving. We allow ourselves to believe we have to earn love. We’re always trying to get ourselves right, to clean up our mess but we have it backward. Jesus sets us right. His grace makes us clean.

Last week we celebrated the hope found in Jesus. Next week we will proclaim his joy. All of this in the motion of lighting candles. Small flames will flicker great promises in their light.

The old song chimed ‘what the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing there’s just too little of’. Real love came down in the form of a baby. We remember it in the glow of a small flame. Maybe, just maybe, I can carry a spark in me. A love that is freely given, not earned. Love that wants to shine like a city on a hill for all to see.

Enjoy this video of Terrance and his offering of his talent to our Savior who came to be love.

 

 

 

faith grace hope Music Salvation Army

Bright lights line our house and encircle our palm trees. Snowmen, tiny trees, letters spelling out JOY and Nativities fill our shelves. It’s Christmas time!

These symbols are outward signs of the celebration that’s in our heart.

It’s as if we’re celebrating with the world. Neighbors have their houses and trees lit. People seem brighter and lighter. We’re not the only ones who can feel this.

What is it about colored lights and tinsel that, as the song says, makes spirits bright? Is that all it takes t make us kinder to one another?

We may not all be celebrating for the same reason but I like these moments of feeling a shared joy. In a community where few know their neighbors, conversations are struck as we admire each other’s display of the season.

Could it be that these twinkling lights are a reflection of the Light? Is this a preview of kingdom come? A kingdom that will be diverse in language and tradition. A kingdom of believers who have shared little on the outside but cling to the Only one who is the true reason for celebration.

Linking up with Kate Motaung for Five-Minute Friday.

 

SaveSave

faith Five-Minute Friday

My hope was they wouldn’t find these poster-sized coloring pictures childish.

My hope was that the story portrayed in these pictures would help their understanding of the biblical Christmas story.

And I really hoped they do them one at a time in accordance with the 4 weeks of Advent. That one hasn’t worked out so well as they’ve nearly finished them all.

Hope is a desire or expectation for something to happen.

Ous is an audacious hope.

We have many hopes for the men entering this 6-month rehabilitation program. We want them to regain their health, for families to be restored. We want them to find jobs and respect. Our deepest desire is that they’ll embrace a program of sobriety and walk hand in hand with Christ as their Savior. We want to see them give back as they live this example.

Some days are hard in this work where disappoint happens regularly. Six photos hang on the Christmas tree in the chapel this year. Photos of men who’ve passed this year as a result of their addiction.

Friends and family have asked how we can do this day after day. It’s because we have an audacious hope. Hope that stares in the face of relapse and addiction and says we believe in a power greater. We look at hope eye to eye because flesh and blood is wrapped around this Hope.

This is bold and living hope expressed in new lives. This is the Hope of Jesus. He is our only Hope.

In memory of Pat, who found hope in this song.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

faith hope recovery Salvation Army