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Strength by Faith
AUTHOR
Joan  »
This quote comes to mind as I look about me and see each person, old and young, making their way through these strange and challenging times.  We can often believe that if we are strong enough, resilient enough and have a strong will we will make life the way we feel it should be.  Then something like a virus comes along and we are stunned into disbelief.  Holding onto what I expected of this summer, this school year or job search or retirement will only wear me out and possibly make me bitter and discouraged.  Letting go of those expectations allows me to be strong in the present moment – to be loving, kind, compassionate and wise because all my inner strength is not going towards the fool’s errand of changing reality.  I pray to be given the true wisdom of letting go.  I pray that I will be strong in my faith that God is present in these challenging times and my future is in God’s hand.  That God holds that future with a gentleness beyond my imagining.  I am not asked to be strong in will but strong in faith. Strong is my releasing of my will and my ability to let go and most definitely let God.  
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The Meek Mentality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Strength. Two passages of Scripture populate when I hear the word strength.

Scripture passage number one, “I can do all things, through Christ, who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13); Scripture passage number two, from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the meek…” (Matthew 5:5).

Strength is a fickle word to define. A good leader, especially in politics, like a good lineman in football is thought to be “strong,” but certainly the strength of the lineman and the strength of the politician are not the same, or are they? I think strength is born of will or desire, determination or practice. I think also strength should not be thought of as entirely synonymous with the word “might” or relegated only for the concept of physical strength. A better synonym for strength, on a football field or in a hall of power might be the word resolve. Strength as resolve is the reason, I think of those two Scripture passages. And I think those two passages are very much interrelated.

Blessed are the meek, I do not think means blessed the weak. Rather, the meek are those who are gentle, those who have the power, the strength to overwhelm, strike-down, to hurt or annihilate, but have also the strength to not react in that manner. The meek keep their swords sheathed, they do not react or over-react with their might. And, I think, that that is hard. I think it’s Christ who strengthens our resolve not to respond with might but rather with meekness. Many times, a show of force or lashing out is easier, perhaps automatic, compared to walking away, being meek. Because meekness is hard, perhaps unattainable on our own, we need Christ to strengthen us in meekness, to choose peace, or quiet, or gentleness, or compassion, or empathy, over “I’ll show you,” or “what about me!” actions and mentalities.  We do not have to up the ante, we do not have to view life as a zero-some game, but it takes strength, or rather meekness to choose a better way.

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Refuge in Friendship
AUTHOR
Joan  »

These are words to remember during these challenging times.  When I keep my friends in my mind and heart (and maybe in the little image box on my computer screen) I find the time of social distancing and staying at home are much easier.  I find myself complaining less, if at all, because I know I have friends who I can reach out to and find common ground with – if only in our sharing of creative ways to manage this new normal.  So Eeyore, the perfect mascot for the less than content and optimistic among us, finds the bottom line is friendship.  His friends in the Thousand Acre Woods keep him moving along.  Similarly, my friends keep me from feeling overwhelmed or discouraged and I do my best to keep them from feeling discouraged and isolated.  As with the inhabitants of the Woods, we all share this common space called Earth and are called to find in friendship a refuge and salve.  

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Patient Practice
AUTHOR
Jill  »

Traffic, long lines, end of a work day it’s these little things I miss most of all (just kidding). The daily practice of patience is not for the faint of heart. Actually patience takes much heart; in 1 Corinthians 13:4 we learn love is patient. In the past the watching of a clock or the jitter of a limb gave our angst a “free pass” to steer us emotionally onto the road of intolerance. Learning to take a deep breath and trust in God when you feel you have lost all control; exercises an even more substantial virtue…LOVE.

 Practice does not always make perfect, but the practice of patience during these enduring times will steady our focus on the journey ahead of us.  So easily we may forget, and become short tempered or anxious; but it only fuels ignorance and fear. We must remember we are all in this together, so keep practicing!

How are you exercising patience in the world around you?


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AUTHOR
Joan  »

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
(Romans 12:12)

At first, this quote from Romans is easier to read in “normal” times.  But, without a doubt, these are not in any way normal times to most, if not all, of us.  However, I find a surprising sense of calm emerges when I reflect about the circumstances in which these words were written.  The people this admonition was directed at were having some pretty rough times.  They probably often felt besieged and unsteady in their daily lives.  The uncertainty of the future was very real and they had little to depend on BUT hope, patience and prayer.

I remind myself of this passage often as I move along in these challenging times.  To be “patient in (my) troubles” often seems too high a bar but when I pray I find it is possible not only to be patient but to be joyful.

What simple phrase can help you sustain a sense of patience, hope and joy during these days of uncertainty?

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AUTHOR
Mark  »

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I'll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged--though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
-- Robert Frost


April showers bring May flowers. And as we are in May the poem above seems both apt and timely; for flowers and for each of us. We have bent low or laid lodged, but we have also two reasons for hope.

First, knowing that every storm we’ve experienced eventually ends and because this rain has fallen so hard and for so long, we have reason to believe that we are progressing, in time, towards a break in the storm or even this rain’s end.

Second, we have the capacity, like flower stems, for flexibility, for bending without breaking. We also have trust that with God’s grace our roots that can keep us in place even as the previously solid ground around us morphs into messy mud.

Now knowing how the flowers felt, we need not feel stuck in sorrow, but planted in empathy and solidarity. We know we can pray just as hard as the wind can push or the rain pelt.

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Unknown Faith
AUTHOR
Jill  »

During this time of uncertainty, we must remember to keep the faith. Our days right now are being strung together with news broadcast and media, that continue to alter our daily existence. It feels like a “tall order” some days to have faith in the unknown of tomorrow, but we must remain vigilant in the encouragement of one another. As we safety connect from a far via our phones, computers and through our prayers. We must keep our faith in God our redeemer; He has brought humanity through the wilderness and will do it again. For all the uncertain things, have faith we will overcome together.

Share your faith, and think of ways to encourage someone today?

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AUTHOR
Joan  »

When I consider the aspect of my life I’ve always had faith in I am struck by how this faith was based upon assumption.  I had “faith” that I would go to my job and earn a paycheck, my grandchildren would get up and go to school and learn with their friends in their classroom, I would go to the store, and get my haircut and hug my friends.

The word Faith comes from the Latin fides meaning Trust or Confidence.  I had confidence in these aspects of my life.  I trusted the normalcy of my life.  I rarely considered God in this equation and in that way I suppose it was not truly Faith as traditionally viewed.  But for me it was a foundational container for life.

Pandemic has led me to reflect upon what I really should place my faith in.  The foundation of my daily life has been shown to be only assumptions.  I need to reach out to God each morning for the grace to embrace a much stronger and less presumptuous source of Faith.  My faith is grounded in a daily renewal in a belief in a loving and consistently present God.  My hope is that once I am allowed to once again assume haircuts, hugs, classrooms and offices I will recall my true source of Faith in the time of pandemic.

How do you find faith in these times?  Has it changed with this altered reality?  How do you maintain your sense of a loving and present God? 

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A Sacred Act
AUTHOR
Joan  »

Ah…the things we seem to sacrifice as we move through our lives.  We might sacrifice a night’s sleep to sit with a dying friend, a big expenditure in order to save money for a grandchild’s camp fees, a Saturday in order to help an elderly friend move  When we do this we are reflecting the true meaning of the word Sacrifice.  The genesis of this word is sacrificus – sacre meaning holy or sacred and facere meaning to make or to do.  This seems important to me.  When someone sacrifices for me I need to see the holiness, the sacredness of this act.  And when I am called to relinquish something important to me can I do so with a sense of the holy rite of compassion and love that this action reflects.

What have you recently sacrificed and did you feel the true depth of how this impacts your world and those around you?

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The True Cost
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Be careful what you sacrifice. Be mindful of how your sacrifice affects both you and those around you. Do discernment.

 

Two be’s and one action help buttress how we engage in sacrifice, because by itself, I believe sacrifice is neither good nor bad, it simply is. I believe this because some sacrifice is brought on due to external factors, such as a change in health, income, or relationships. These changes prompt us to perhaps make sacrifices to our routines to ensure health, make sacrifices to ensure ends-meet, and make sacrifices to improve relationships. Some sacrifices are brought about by internal means: spiritual discipline, psychological well-being, a new goal that requires you sacrifice the amount of time you’d spend elsewhere.


If we “have” to sacrifice, or if we “choose” to sacrifice, we must employ discernment to know the true cost of the sacrifice and to take into consideration how our sacrifice might affect others. Discernment is key. If I choose to give up caffeine, to sacrifice caffeine either for the sake of a spiritual discipline (like Lent) or simply to assist in better health, I need to ensure that my going into caffeine withdrawal should not make those around me miserable.  If I sacrifice my time to help the team at work, I need to be mindful that the time I’m giving up outside of work is perhaps time I might spend unwinding, not time I’d spend with my kids, if at all possible. We are interconnected, what we choose to sacrifice can very well affect us and those around us and so it’s very important to be careful, be observant of our sacrifice, and discern if the sacrifice is achieving the positive end and/or how the sacrifice is affecting other aspects of life.

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