The late Albert Schweitzer had his faults, to be sure, but no one can say he wasn't busy. He was a theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, medical missionary, and musical scholar, and winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize. And yet, he managed to sum up the importance of rest and refuge in a quote about cats.
Now, I know that not everyone is a cat person. For you it might be books and dogs, strawberries and lizards, long walks and wool, but the simple things in life tend to be the most healing, relaxing, and peacemaking. In my experience, they tend also to be the holiest.
I think of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33, "But strive first for the kingdom of God and God's righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well," and I know that those simple, quiet pleasures are certainly Kingdom things.
Draw close to God by taking a few moments to revel in the refuge of simple kingdom things today, music and cats or parrots and pralines. As long as you spend the time being grateful, you've entered Holy ground.
The above is a beautiful piece of art made out of old tires (Click here to see more). There is an increasing artistic sensibility to use trash to make new treasures, from belts made of bottle gaps to book covers made from license plates. It puts me in mind of Theodore Roosevelt saying, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Sometimes, we see the world through eyes of scarcity instead of possibility. We aren't the first ones. Remember the disciples when Jesus commanded them to feed the crowd? "They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish. "
When we look at what needs done, we fall into the scarcity trap with the disciples. We think about what we DON'T have, how impossible it is, how much easier it would be if we were here or there or an entirely different person. Take Roosevelt's advice, and heed the generous nature of God himself by seeing what you already have, who you already are. Then, do your best and let God fill in the gaps. God's nature is abundance, and it doesn't change just because you're scared.
The human mind is one of God’s great wonders. But it has its quirks. For instance, there is a law of economics called, “The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility”. It tells us that people are less satisfied with a product the more readily available it becomes. We don’t have to know economics to know that about ourselves. Our brains adapt so easily to new information that unique experiences tend to be what keeps our attention. Even when it comes to something we love, our brains can seem to shut off. Does the fourth bite of ice cream taste as good as the first?
Our religious life plays by the same rules no matter what we intend. That is the gift of the season of Lent. You won’t find the word Lent in the Bible. It comes from the Old English word for spring season. In the Disciples tradition, because of our motto that “where the scriptures speak, we speak, and where the scriptures are silent, we are silent” there were many years when we rejected the concepts of Ash Wednesday and Lent simply because they weren’t in the Bible.
Lately, however, there has been a resurgence of honoring the season of Lent, not for its own sake, but for ours. The fact is we don’t pay attention to anything equally all of the time. Our brains adapt. We get used to things, even to wonder. When we set aside a season to pay special attention to following Christ, even to the cross, we protect our faith from becoming only a habit.
Lent began with Ash Wednesday, March 6th. Often, people will choose something to give up during the season of Lent, which helps us realize our selfishness and greed, connects us to those who have very little, and connects us to the sacrifice of Christ. Others choose to add something to their devotional life or life of service. Many choose to do both. It is a time of introspection, to consider those parts of our lives that don’t bring Glory to God, to repent and ask for God’s help to change. However, you choose to honor it, consider celebrating Lent this year to revitalize your walk with Christ and to prepare you to welcome Easter with a new-found joy.
"A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking." Earl Wilson
Ok, I know it is only February 28th, but I will be honest and tell you I'm already taking mini breaks dreaming about someplace warm. A summer vacation... someplace warm. It is important to look ahead. Research says that part of the effect of vacation actually begins before you take it. While you're planning it, you become more relaxed and hopeful.
So, no, please don't look to tomorrow and worry, however looking ahead to imagine the wonderful things coming up, the joy about to be had, and the goals that Christ has put before us are an important part of life.
Philippians 3:13-14 tells us, "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Kindness is not optional for a Christian. It isn't something we share when we feel like it. It isn't something to give to those who give it to us first. It isn't something we roll our eyes at when we are sick of hearing about it. In fact, scripturally, if there is a test about whether the Holy Spirit is within us, kindness is a part of it.
"...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." --- Galatians 5:22-23
So, even though the cold winter won't let much blossom and grow, we can bear plenty of fruit. And when we carpet the winter with kindness, not only does the world get more beautiful, it gets a bit warmer, too.
So the story goes, in the year 287 AD (or so), St. Valentine was beheaded by the government of Claudius the Cruel. Claudius had seen his armies struggling to keep soldiers and blamed it on their hearts. He felt that men stayed home with their wives and children, so he banned all marriages. Valentine continued performing these marriages in secret, and was then imprisoned and killed.
"The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail."
I was interested in the two fighting images in this scripture of "parched places" and a "watered garden". Then, I did some research. There are springs than can turn parched places into watered gardens.
In fact, these watered gardens in deserts are incredibly important. According to the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative, "Spring waters support an extensive array of microbial, plant and animal species, including many native and endangered species. Over 10% of the endangered species in the US depend on springs for their survival."
God keeps us watered in dry places, and strengthens us for our tasks. And as we become like watered gardens, we are able to share home, shade, and provision for others. Where is God guiding you? What needs are God satisfying? How are your bones being strengthened right now? Who are you sharing your provision with?
Ships don’t sink because of the water around them. Ships sink because of the water that gets in them.- unknown
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 ESV
There is a dangerous delusion from which many people unsuspectingly suffer. It is the belief that we feel the way we feel and make the choices we make because of what happens to us. When we have this dangerous belief, we put the power over us into the hands of luck, strangers, the whims of the world. It is like having a hole in your ship, inviting the world in and asking them to sink you.
The scripture from Isaiah tells us how to avoid letting the water in. Keeping our minds on God. When situations present themselves, our thoughts return to Christ. We don’t let our circumstances guide our behavior. Instead, we make choices based on our faith, our prayers, and God’s guidance. Then, we’re putting God in charge instead of giving all the power to the water around us.
I'm going to ease back into blogging by sharing a great song for the New Year.
It is called, "Fear is a Liar" by Zach Williams. Take a moment and listen, pray, and think about how a fearless 2019 might change your thoughts, relationships, and choices. Happy and Fearless New Year!
“The mind that is not baffled is not employed.” Wendell Berry
"Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” Job 11:7
How does God do it? How does He manage to take a season in which all things are returning to the earth and dying and make it so magical? What is it He adds to the air to make it so crisp? How do the turning of leaves make our hearts sing with possibility? How does He make us forget the winter to come with the promise of pumpkins, bonfires, and crisp apple cider?
Clearly fall is my favorite season. And I love it for the mystery. We play with mystery mostly at the end of October as adorable little ghouls knock on our doors demanding candy, but how much more mystery is contained in the wonders of the season?
We think of Job’s questions above as rhetorical. The answer, of course is “no.” You can’t discover the depths of God. You can’t discover the limits of the Almighty. But why has that stopped us from trying? Why does God’s unknowability mean that we stop trying to know Him, stop wondering at His power, stop trying to find His footprints left on our days?
Heed Wendell Berry’s words and be baffled. Turn Job’s questions into a challenge. Can you discover the depths of God? We won’t know until we try. Let’s look around us in this, the loveliest of seasons and seek his wonders, open ourselves to awe, actively look for amazement at His creating beauty. He has enchanted an entire season with glimmers of His presence; surely He’s left them as clues to be followed to find His love more fully in our lives.
Rev. Jana Quisenberry is the minister at Brightwood Christian Church. She's an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN, She now resides in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, two children, and dog, Sookie. Pastor Jana loves the church, science fiction, and coffee.
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