"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.
How we treat one another is probably the most discussed topic of scripture. Even individual holiness requirements often have social impact. It always boils down to love, right? “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8) However, if it were that simple, there would probably be a lot less Bible. Sometimes, we need examples, specifics, on what love feels like, looks like, sounds like. Thankfully, we have it in Jesus and in so much of God’s word, but it never hurts to be clear about expectations.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada has ethical guidelines that lay out our expectations of one another. They include:
A. We will treat one another with courtesy and kindness. We will endeavor to maintain an attitude of Christian love in all our relationships.
B. We will welcome the expression of differing viewpoints and will seek to create an atmosphere of trust and confidence that will encourage free discussion.
C. We will seek to keep confidences and will refrain from gossip. We will seek in all we do and say to strengthen character and dignify personality.
D. We will remember that our personal conduct gives evidence of our sincerity and reflects upon the good name of the Church, the Body of Christ.
(You can read more here: https://www.discipleshomemissions.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SC-EthicalGuidelines.pdf )
What might change if you wrote a code of conduct for your relationships or your household? How might the conversation help those relationships?
Values are one’s judgement about what is important in life. Roy E. Disney said,“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
Many of us find it hard to articulate what their values are beyond very generic words like “faith” and “family”.
When we are not clear on our values, we can fall into the trap of passing judgement or having opinions that are unrelated to our values. Spend a few moments understanding what your values are by using the exercise provided here by CMU: https://www.cmu.edu/career/documents/my-career-path-activities/values-exercise.pdf
Once you have done that holy work, use your core values to be sure that your life is reflecting them. Then, keep the long list of values in the beginning of the article. Stick it in your Bible. As you are reading your Bible each day, ask yourself, “What does the Lord value?” Does your daily reading reflect a value of God? Are you seeing some values reflected more than others? Do they match your own?
Julian Treasure, a sound and communication expert, said “the art of conversation is being replaced-dangerously I think- by personal broadcasting.” He’s referring to the danger of all talk, and no listening.
Treasure suggests we remember the acronym RASA. “RASA stands for "Receive," which means pay attention to the person; "Appreciate," making little noises like "hmm," "oh," "OK"; "Summarize" -- the word "so" is very important in communication; and "Ask," ask questions afterwards.”
Finally, hear the advice of scripture about listening.
“If one gives answer before hearing, it is folly and shame”. Proverbs 18:13
Don’t simply be working out your answer while the other person is speaking. Deeply listen and try to understand what another person says.
“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19
After you’ve heard what someone has to say, don’t rush to answer. Don’t rush to judge. Don’t rush to argue. Slow down. Take a minute. Getting angry? Take another.
Finally, if you spend more time listening to God, it makes it a lot easier to listen well when others start talking.
To read more about being a better listener, consider reading:
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.
Please note, links in the blog send you to Amazon, and a portion of the proceeds of the sale go to benefit the ministry of the church. Pastor Jana only includes those resources that she endorses and that can be of benefit to your faith life. Thank you for your support.