Monday, March 30, 2020

Signs of God's Promises

Signs of God's Promises

In mid-morning, on sunny days, for about two hours, I have rainbows that dance all around my living room. I would often play a game we called chasing the rainbows with certain kids in my life. We would run around and try to stomp on the floor rainbows and 'tag' the wall rainbows. Whoever caught  the most would win. Then we would try to land rainbows on our bodies. This game always ended in laughter.

Last night as I prayed in bed I said to God,  "Could I please have a sign you are with me. My faith tells me you are with me; my mind knows you are with me, but a tangible sign would be helpful right about now." Now there are many times that I pray for a sign from God and God seems incommunicado. Silence. Nothing. Then there are times that eventually God reveals God's self to me. Not this time. Boom - first thing in the morning I got my sign.

You see when you have rainbows dancing around your living room every sunny day you stop noticing them. I had totally become oblivious to the kaleidoscopic colors that fleetingly make daily appearances. But not today. After finishing breakfast I stated to climb the steps to the bedroom when in my mind  I heard the words 'Stop and look'. I turned my face to the living room and there were  all these multi colored arches that seemed to be screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!."

The rainbows stopped me. They were there to remind me of God's promises to all human kind. Not just that God would never again destroy the earth with a flood, but that God keeps all of God's promises. I saw the rainbows that are created from  heart and cross crystals in my windows in a new way. A tangible sign saying, " God's love is refracted through the cross and spread throughout your home; throughout the world."

I went and got my phone and started to take pictures. As I was trying to get some good shots I noticed that the rainbows were moving and some were disappearing. These disappearing rainbows and my desire to "see" God made me think of  John 14:19; "[Jesus said], In a little while the world will no longer see me but you will see me; because I live , you will also live." God was telling me trust your faith Maggie, trust your faith. I am here - sign or no sign.

If this wasn't good enough God blessed me with one more sign of assurance of God's constant presence. Before sitting down to  write this blog I pulled out my daily devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Today's devotion included this paragraph; Every day provides many opportunities for you to learn My ways and grow closer to Me. Signs of My Presence brighten even the dullest day when you have eyes that really see. Search for me as for hidden treasure, I will be found by you.
Okay God, I think I got it!

I realize there are many people who would say that this was not a sign from God but observation skills with a healthy dose of imagination. I don't believe that. I believe that God listens when we talk to God and responds. I am grateful that God responded to my request so swiftly and opened my eyes to see what I needed to see.

My suggestion to you is to go ahead and ask for signs and then get ready to be surprised. Let me know how God shows up for you.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Creating Sacred Spaces

What is a sacred space and why would I want one?

Sacred spaces are places where we go to welcome God. They are areas that we have created or natural places that invite contemplation, prayer and worship. They are nooks and crannies where we intentionally go to spend time with our loving Creator, Jesus our Savior and friend, and the Holy Spirit.

I have had sacred places my whole life but as a child I would never have called them that. Alongside of the Churches I have attended there have always been other special locations.There was a big rock that I called the Rock of Gibraltar that was located in the landscape of my elementary school where I would go to pray when I was anxious or afraid. I had an old vanity in my childhood bedroom that was set up as an alter of sorts. Arranged in holy order was a plastic glow in the dark statue of Jesus the Good Shepherd, a cross, a plaque of the twenty third psalm and my blue GMG (Girls Missionary Guild) bible and miniature book of God's promises. From the time I could hold a fishing pole and could go fishing with my uncle  a certain slough, backwater, connected to the St. Croix river became  a location  for contemplation.

Now I have other places as well. In my home I have a sacred space within my office. On top of an antique book-shelve I  have a cross in the center signifying God's extreme love for all. A shell is filled with water as a reminder of the baptismal promise from God that I am a  child of God's for all eternity. I have pottery blessing cup to help me recall Psalm 23...My cup over flows.... I have a candle holder made of amethyst, my birthstone, that I light as a signal to center myself and be open to God's presence. I have many things I have found in nature and keep a bible and hymnal there as well.

I know that I can be with God anywhere and in any place but my sacred space is set up for intentional times of contemplation, prayer and worship. Sometimes when I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off it reminds me to stop and spend time with God. Sometimes when I don't feel like worshiping just seeing it pulls me in and I meet God.Now it is a place of solace and reminder that I am not alone.

Do you need a place of solace and a place of worship? At this time we cannot meet in our church building. Where are you worshiping?

If you want to set up a sacred space remember it can be as simple or elaborate as you want.It can be as simple as a certain chair or maybe an area in room. You can add things that help you focus and draw you into a mindset of being in the presence  of God. You can add and take away from the space. In the winter my space has a soft blanket that I wrap myself in. In the summer the blanket is not a part of the space but fresh flowers often are.

 Think about the things that will help guide your attention to God. Have fun with this and enjoy your time with God.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

   Let our prayers rise up as we join together in worship.
                                                                                                                                                             "Let my prayers rise up like incense before you, the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you.
 O God I call to you come to me now; O hear my voice when I cry to you.
 Let my prayers rise up like incense before you the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you.
 Keep watch within me God deep in my heart, may the light of your love be burning bright.
 Let my prayers rise up like incense before you, the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you.
 All praise to the God of all-creator of life; all praise to Christ and the Spirit of love.
 Let my prayer rise up as incense before you, the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you." 
All day long the Psalm canticle from the Holden evening prayer service has been playing in my head.This canticle is my favorite part of the Holden service when we sing it together during worship.The the music and words in this round are beautiful but it is the way our voices go back and forth echoing the phrases, wrapping each of us in praise and vocally producing a sweet sound that matches the visual of incense rising up to God.

As the music of this canticle played in my head today I also heard the voices of our community of faith. It was not as good as being with you but somehow your voices also became faces and I felt much closer to you.This is the mystery of the body of Christ. We are the church when we gather together and we are the church when we are sitting in our homes by ourselves.

It is the Holy Spirit that binds us together with the love of God. The Spirit is not constrained by time and distance. We can worship together even when we cannot be in the same space. This can happen anytime we call on the Spirit to join our hearts and minds with other Christians. Maybe you can try this, this evening. At 6:30 let's light a candle and try singing or saying the above canticle. As you sing or speak the canticle ask the Holy Spirit to join your voice with others that are singing their praises to God at the same time. Then let us take some time to pray for one another;to claim our love and concern for one another. May God keep watch deep in your heart! 

Incense, Avengers, Censer,, Smoke

Sunday, March 22, 2020

This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever!
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
    What can mortals do to me?

10 All nations surrounded me;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
12a They surrounded me like bees;
    14 The Lord is my strength and my might;
    he has become my salvation.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
    O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God, I will extol you.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
       Psalm 118: 1,2-6,10-12a, 14, 21,29

     If we would have gather together for worship today, I most likely would have greeted you with “This is the day the Lord has made; and you would have responded “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It is a ritual our family of faith does before my final announcements. It is not so much a call to worship as it is a call to mindfulness of why we worship.
     Psalm 118 is jammed packed with emotions. Thankfulness, distress, bravado, fear, certainty, praise, desperation, assurance, resolve, gratitude and more. The psalmist lays it all on the table. It is not one emotion or another; it is life with all its complexities. What is the glue that holds our messy lives together according to the Psalmist?  God who is trustworthy as seen by God’s past actions/deeds.
     Martin Luther wrote a commentary on Psalm 118 while hiding in the Coburg Castle as men sought to imprison or possibly kill him. He said, “(in Psalm118), the dying live; the suffering rejoice; the fallen rise; the disgraced are honored. It is as Christ says, 'He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.'"
     This is why we worship; no matter what is going on around us, God’s promise of salvation is steadfast. Ultimately our life on this earth is not the final chapter. We look forward to God’s eternal kingdom. This is also why we can rejoice and be glad in each and every day.
     So join me in worshipping God this day with a heart full of gratitude. Grab a hymnal, go online, find hymns or contemporary songs that fill your heart with joy and sing with abandon. Yes, sing!  Even if you think you can’t sing – sing. Remember the only people who will hear you is your own family and if they have never heard you sing, let’s just say it is about time. Then tell others at least 5 things you are grateful for this day. End your personal worship with prayer with raising your arms in praise and singing the doxology:
Praise God from whom all flow                                                                                                Praise God all creatures here below.                                                                                  Praise God above ye heavenly host:                                                                                          Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  (LBW 564)
 “Now be at peace and serve the Lord

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Are Christians Immune to Fear?

Are Christians Immune to Fear?
It may seem like a ridiculous question. Of course Christians are not immune to fear. Yet over the last few days as I have been talking with members of our church, I have heard the same sentiment repeatedly “I know Christians are not supposed to be afraid… but, I am … a little”. They always, but hesitantly, include the word “little” so I won’t be to disappointed in them.  Rest assured, I am not critical in the least of people who are fearful at any time but certainly, not while we are trying to figure out what is happening during this COVID -19 outbreak.
Fear – it is a natural human survival response. Fear signals us to stop, look, listen, be cautious about how we precede in unknown situations. Fear can save us from disastrous consequences. Praise God for fear.
If God had not created us with the fear safety mechanism our species would have self-destructed thousands of years ago. All you have to do is watch a couple of YouTube videos or episodes of Americas Funniest Home Videos to know that statement is true. One of my personal favorites of a malfunctioning fear emotion is a YouTube video of a bearded guy licking flames from a blow torch with his protective eyewear sitting on top of his head and his fire proof hairnet in hand. Ahhhh….the smell of singed hair! I wonder if it occurred to him that at the very least losing the beard might have been a good idea. Human beings are wonderfully and curiously made by God and often in our free will are incredibly foolish. So once again praise God for fear.
So if fear is a good and precious gift from God, where do many of us get the idea that Christians should never be afraid? Most likely this notion comes from all those bible verses (over 75 in the NRSV bible) telling us “Do not be afraid”. You see, fear is a good thing until it isn’t. Fear, when it is a warning signal to real danger is helpful. When our fear is disproportionate in a situation or if we perceive a threat where there is none, then fear no longer serves us well. Fear is a tool, not the whole skill set.
 God desires that when we are afraid we ask ourselves to stop, look, listen and pray for guidance. In most cases a better Biblical translation of “Do not be afraid” would be, “Don’t continue to live into your fear” or “Put aside your fear so you can let God in and hear God’s words of instruction and comfort.”
As Christians we do not have to be ashamed of being afraid nor do we need to think that fear is an unchristian response to those things that threaten our life.  However, God wants us to be grounded in our faith so we do not let fear spin us out of control.
So the next time you are afraid, grab your computer or a pencil and paper and stop to write down what you are afraid of. Then pray to God and ask for God to help you discern what is your wise course of action. List the things you can do and the things you cannot do concerning your fears. Then continue by writing about a difficult time where you experienced God’s presence through the experience. End this calming practice by breathing in the phrase “May the peace of God” and breathing out “Fill me with courage and hope”.
Another option would be to pick up the phone and call someone to talk/walk with you through your fears.
As always, let us remember, that as Christians, to walk in faith means to walk with God and one another.

Does God Send Trials Into Our Life to Make Us Stronger?

I just finished  reading a devotional for April 2nd from Jesus Calling . Today's  devotion was centered on cultivating God's peace. ...