Sunday, February 21, 2016
While doing something renewing in visiting a couple of art galleries last week, I found myself thinking back to seven and eight years ago when the recession was beginning to grip our nation and realize that the fact I was still working was a blessing despite the many battles I had over scheduling and just not enjoying my work. Not sure why it came up at that time, but it just did. Never take it for granted when you hear the phrase "but you have a job" or "you're still working" considering someone who doesn't have what you have would love to be doing what you're doing. A humbling experience indeed. It's a trip deeper into the wilderness as we sit at the second Sunday in Lent. Sometimes, going deep into the wilderness is a good thing, giving oneself a new sense of focus and self-awareness. It's a chance to reconnect with God, but also reconnect with the world around as well, something I have found by also disconnecting from social media (Facebook and Twitter). This week should bring some new insights, but also a chance for God sightings too. So, let's go deeper into the wilderness as we press on in Lent.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
It almost brings to mind a hit song from 1990 by Michael W. Smith, "Place in This World" whose chorus goes
Feels like I'mRev. Elnes brings up an important fact in the introduction and first chapter that too often, we spend our time searching for our place in this world even with all of its pitfalls and challenges, or unrealistic expectations that revolved around success. Sometimes, wandering through the wilderness and the dark wood gives us the focus to help us pay attention and listen for God's voice which helps show us where our place in the world is at. Eric Elnes explains that "sometimes it takes a journey into darkness, even deep darkness to fully awaken to the smallness of our success-based world. Sometimes you need to lose your way in order to discover the grandeur, mystery, and freedom of the world that awaits you" (5). And getting lost is okay (Barbara Brown Taylor has a chapter on "The Practice of Getting Lost" in her book An Altar in the World). It's in those moments of being lost where we tend to find God and in those moments of darkness. What do you think your place in this world is? What are you doing to reach your fullest self?
Looking for a reason
Roamin' through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Luke 4:1-13 (NRSV)The Temptation of Jesus4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”5 Then the devil[a] led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil[b] said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written,‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”9 Then the devil[c] took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’11 and‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent and a time to turn inward, examining ourselves from the inside out for these next 40 days and nights (not counting Sunday). But now that we got our ashes and have begun this journey of introspection, it's now time to step into the wilderness. Coming this Sunday, our Gospel lesson from Luke talks about Jesus's own journey into the wilderness following his baptism in the River Jordan. The wilderness is one of those rich metaphors, full of many possibilities, yet the wilderness oftentimes gets such a bad rap. Perhaps because the wilderness is oftentimes so desolate, devoid of the necessities of life with a bleak landscape. During Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness, he was faced with many temptations by the Devil. That crafty Devil tried in every way possible to trick Jesus, but to no avail.
Even amidst the temptations, the wilderness is not always what we think it is. The wilderness can be part of our faith journey without even stepping foot into an isolated place. Last year, a group of us from Wesley spent ten days in the wilderness of Pine Ridge, South Day. It literally was wilderness,complete with a stark landscape filled with extreme poverty among those who lived in it. Sometimes, the wilderness is necessary to open our eyes and transform us. But at the same time, the Wilderness is not a bad thing. Four years ago when I was beginning my discernment of seminary and ministry, Pastor Tina preached about the wilderness and her own time in seminary being like the wilderness. But what stood out in the message was that the wilderness can be a time of seeing yourself in a new light and getting to know yourself in new ways. Following worship, Pastor Tina said she hoped I was paying attention and it has stuck with me since. While I have definitely gotten to know myself in new and exciting ways, I also still have a lot to grow on, as I'm sure all of us feel that way at one time or another. So perhaps it is time again for a trip to the wilderness, a time to face temptations, a time to form disciplines, and a time to see ourselves and know ourselves in a new light. What is on your mind as you step into the wilderness?
Monday, February 8, 2016
Lent is also typically a time of giving something up, or adding something. As I have been contemplating what I want to give up to help me become closer to God, I have decided to give up social media (Facebook and Twitter in particular). I have been finding that I really do spend a lot more time on Facebook and social media than I need to which could free me up to actually have face to face conversations with people, or conversations with people on the phone (i.e. my parents). But this time away from social media can also help me seek answers to the question, "who am I?" I have to admit there are sometimes I struggle with this question, as sometimes I'm not sure I entirely know who I am. Perhaps it's my lack of self-confidence, or because I'm so easily swayed and influenced by what people think of me that I feel forced to conform just to fit in. Or because I see others and how they live or how good they have it, that I want to emulate them which doesn't necessarily work. It's time to look from the inside out.
In some of my self-reflection, one practice to add during this time of Lent is to stop worrying what others think. In his book, Last Call: From Serving Drinks to Serving Jesus, my friend Rev. Jerry Herships speaks out in several places throughout the book that we have to not worry about what others think. Perhaps that's one of my biggest character flaws and perhaps the Lenten journey is a start towards fixing some of those flaws, in which time away from social media could help. It's a chance to stop worrying about what others are doing, but also gives me a time to look inward, or as one of my friends once told me, take a long look in the mirror. What can I see from the inside on out? As I take a break from social media, I hope to get back to this blog a little more regular. At the same time, I encourage each of you to think about your own inward self. What do you see when you look at yourself from the inside out?
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