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I saw it, knew it was happening for real, just last week as I was driving home in the early evening.

Summer is fading.

Of course it has been fading since it’s first day in June, but now it is not just the lessening of evening light, but also how the leaves on the trees are looking tired, spent of their life … the sky looks like it’s deep summer blue is fading in the sun … the summer flowers slowing in their budding.

My heart feels heavy as I see these annual changes, heralding the end of summer, the beginning of autumn. I do so love autumn, with it’s cool nights and warm days, it’s colored trees and harvest moon. I love the celebrations in our family of birthdays and anniversaries. I love the renewal of schedules, the opportunities of re-starts and the new experiences to come for those I love.

Yet … my heart feels heavy …

It’s the light, the reduction of light that makes me feel the seasons change … just like I feel them (in a more positive ‘light’) when winter is being traded for spring and the light is increasing, winning the hearts of all who it touches. This is the reality when one is solar powered … and aren’t we all solar powered?

“Let there be light”

The first words of God that are recorded, give us insight into the importance of light, as it was also the first thing God created.

This light is not just the light of the skies, but also the light of the Holy Spirit, living within us. When we say yes to Christ, God gives the command to “let there be light” in our sin-darkened souls, and we illuminate his light to the world.

That is not a light that dims … no matter the season.

“May it be a light to you in dark places,
when all other lights go out.” 
 J.R.R. Tolkien

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:5

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How will we enter this new week? Are you sliding into it? wandering? hesitant? excited? fearful? reluctant?

In the last couple of weeks I have heard many stories, from many individuals. Stories of struggles with the church, health, finances, marriages, children, loneliness, anxiety and apathy.

The weight of those stories, heavy. They are stories without easy answers that can be attained and tied up with a bow. They are stories that can leave us exhausted, immobile, frozen from fear.

But this is a new week. A fresh start. What will we take into this week? What will we bring into this day, this new week that might mar what it’s freshness has to offer?

We enter into the new with the dust of the old.

What is the dust we are carrying into this clean new week? Have our worries and our sorrows left us singing a dirge? Are we starting the week with prayers of pleading, prayers of need and desperation?

I have started too many weeks this way. I have forgotten that my every fresh start should begin, not with pleading, but praising. I need to start afresh with thanks for his sacrifice, for his incomparable love for me.

If anyone is worthy of praise and thanksgiving, it is the resurrected Christ. We need to start our week with what God has done through Jesus, in mind. We may feel like very brittle, breakable, clay jars but within us we carry the power of the Spirit of God.

Let us begin this week praising God, allowing the dust of last week to fall from us.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our (light and momentary)* troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

light and momentary* (troubles)
This definition of our troubles is not a statement due to lack of sensitivity, but of eternal perspective. It could be referenced to statements of how short our lives are on this earth, such as you are but a vapor (James 4:14).

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Anyone else out there like to make plans?

I don’t just like to make plans, I like to construct plans that are made in consideration of anything that could go wrong or alter the outcomes from how I envision them. My plans are on my timeline where words like wait and patience are banned.

When I think of my planning and of what the Bible teaches, my mind goes to Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Sometimes it is assuring to me that God is a planner, just like myself.

But, God’s plans are not always that same as mine, nor is his timeline.

Unlike myself, who plans while squinting into the foggy future, God has wide eyed sight of the end from beginning, and everything in between.

Proverbs 19:21 is an even better (in my estimation) biblical representation of how I need to think about my planning for the future,

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

The Pulpit Commentary gives a great understanding of what is being said in that verse:

“The immutability (unchanging) of the counsel of God is contrasted with the shifting, fluctuating purposes of man ”

Whereas my planning is temporal, God’s is eternal.

It is not that I/we should not make plans, but that we acknowledge, in our planning, that God needs to not just be involved and consulted in our planning, but also that we ensure that we acknowledge that he is in control … for he truly is.

“As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend.
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my Friend.

But then instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried,
“How could You be so slow”-
“My child,” He said,
“What could I do? You never did let go.”

(author could be
Loretta P Burns, Robert J. Burdette
or anonymous)

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I have been writing a story, a book, this summer. It is something I started years ago and I am finally taking the time to clear it out of my head. To be honest it is also a personal challenge for me, as it requires self control and commitment.

I have been writing a story, a book, this summer. It is something I started years ago and I am finally taking the time to clear it out of my head. To be honest it is also a personal challenge for me, as it requires self control and commitment.

As I have never written a long story (or book), this is new ground for me to wander along. I have been surprised at how productive I have been and how much has been written (now just over two hundred pages) and how I have been quite consistent in writing every day … until this week.

All of a sudden I have been dragging my butt to the sit at the table with my computer. All of a sudden I sit at the computer and stare (and surf through social media). I can’t even say it is due to a writer’s block, because I know exactly where I am going with the story. My problem is …

I want to get
to the end of the story

I know what will occur in the lives of the characters who I have gotten to know so well. I feel like they are friends, a part of me … and I just want to get them to the end.

As I sat, staring at the computer screen the other day, I realized how that describes me and my approach to life so often.

I love living forward, looking to the next event, the next vacation. I also love to look at the end of life and my hope of eternity. The eternity that is spoken of in Revelation (21:3-4):

“They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,for the old order of things has passed away.”

There is even more that I look forward to in living this life.

I look forward to seeing the pieces of broken lives come together. Like a happily ever after story, I look forward to resolution to their pain, their loneliness, their suffering. I look forward to their happily ever after.

I dream of the day when loved ones are healthy, thriving and walking with God.

I dream of the days of the kingdom of God …

But …

Like a story in a book, that is not just about the beginning and the end, but the minute details of the process of moving from beginning to end, so it is with our lives.

Psalm 37:23 tells us that “God delights in every detail of our lives.” He is not rushing to the happy ending when he looks at us in the midst of our messy lives, he is in the details, in the minutia of our daily living. He is here, now.

“The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.” Luke 17:20-21

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Have you ever tried really sour candies? You know, the kind that makes your tongue roll back in your mouth and your lips pucker and your eyes squint. After having such a rude sour experience, tasting something sweet seems even more sweet, more enjoyable.

In Italian the sweet life is translated, la dolce vita. In contrast the sour life is translated la vita acida. Those translations make sense as I say them, for acida sounds so … acidic.

Contrasts such as sour and sweet make me think of the book of Ecclesiastes.

Recently, while on vacation, I sought out the following verse from Ecclesiastes, as it’s meaning kept echoing throughout our time away:

“On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.”

Ecclesiastes 7:14 MSG

Our vacation was day, after day, after day of good days. We heard good speakers, ate delicious foods, saw beautiful sights, walked in the sun and on the sand, caught up on the lives of friends, rested, laughed frequently, planned, dreamed and simply loved each other. It was pure delight.

It is a place we visit annually … but every year is not equally good.

Some years there are things that hinder the good of the day(s). Maybe we were particularly tired, or preoccupied, or ill, or not one with each other in a multitude of ways. Those are the the bad days.

I much prefer the good to the bad days. They simply feel so … good.

One reason that they feel so good is that I also know what it is to have bad days. Those days when we just do not connect, when our joy is drowned out by the dark and twisties of real, human life. When the beauty and blessing around us is shadowed by the other, darker side of human existence.

I love the reminder that Solomon gives us that “on a good day, enjoy yourself.” There is nothing said about feeling guilty when good comes our way, no condemnation for a day of blessings … just the instruction to experience it, for what it is … good … sweet! When la dolce vita is your experience of the day (or season) take joy in it!

Just a chapter later, seems to be affirmation of enjoying the sweet life:

“a man hath no better thing under the sun,
than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry”
(Ecclesiastes 8:15)

The line that follows intrigues me in that it contrasts the sweet life, with a bit of acid, “on a bad day, examine your conscience.” In this translation, examine is often replaced with consider, but in the Hebrew the verb is raah (pronounced raw-aw) and it means to see. So another way to read this line might be “on a bad day, take a look at your life.”

When things are bad, it can be a season to reflect on where our priorities are and a chance to rely on the faithfulness of God, in bad times of the past. We often learn and grow during sour times.

I hear Job (2:10) asking “”shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

There is a harmony that is given when we experience both the sweet and sour, the good and bad. The good gives us energy for the bad, the bad gives us joy in the good. Having the experience of both reminds us to not take the good days for granted, but to be thankful for the times when life is sweet.

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One of my favorite theologian’s name is Laverne.

She is female, I think. I do not know her age. I presume her to be Catholic. She is wise, and funny, and sarcastic (oh, how I do love sarcasm). She is not human. She is not even alive. She, my favorite theologian, is Laverne, one of the three gargoyles from the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (and the only one whose voice comes from a female).

Some of the things that she taught me are :

“… take it from an old spectator. Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’ is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without ya.”

these (physical) chains aren’t what’s holding you back”

“We just thought maybe you were made of somethin’ stronger.”

“Fly, my pretties! Fly, fly!”

But my favorite teaching from Laverne the theologian was, “nobody wants to stay cooped up here forever.” She says this to the bell ringer, Quasimodo, who had spent his life being ‘safe’ in his cathedral tower. Inside the walls of the church he had all he needed. He had friends (the gargoyles), he had food, and clothes, and … sanctuary. He was protected from the evils outside of the walls of Notre Dame.

But, was he living? Was he fulfilling his purpose?

It was not until Quasimodo left the sanctuary of his bell tower that he could taste and see what life among the living was like. It was in learning to risk, and love and lose that he learned that he had something to bring to the world, beyond the safety of his church walls.

For me, this lesson is one that I want to hold on to. I too enjoy the sanctuary of my church. But, it is in my leaving this place of sanctuary, that I bring what I have, in Christ, to the world. If I stay ‘cooped up (at church) here forever’ I then am not allowing God to use me, as his vessel through which he might speak to those yet to choose life with him.

When we, who profess the Christian faith, surround ourselves with only those who share our belief system, we have forgotten the words of Jesus:

“And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” Mark 16:15

This is the great commission, this is our commissioning, from Jesus, to take his word, his light into the world … it is why we are here, our purpose.

So, I challenge those of you (and me) who find sanctuar

Read Full Post »

One of my favorite theologian’s name is Laverne.

She is female, I think. I do not know her age. I presume her to be Catholic. She is wise, and funny, and sarcastic (oh, how I do love sarcasm). She is not human. She is not even alive. She, my favorite theologian, is Laverne, one of the three gargoyles from the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (and the only one whose voice comes from a female).

Some of the things that she taught me are :

“… take it from an old spectator. Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’ is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without ya.”

these (physical) chains aren’t what’s holding you back”

“We just thought maybe you were made of somethin’ stronger.”

“Fly, my pretties! Fly, fly!”

But my favorite teaching from Laverne the theologian was, “nobody wants to stay cooped up here forever.” She says this to the bell ringer, Quasimodo, who had spent his life being ‘safe’ in his cathedral tower. Inside the walls of the church he had all he needed. He had friends (the gargoyles), he had food, and clothes, and … sanctuary. He was protected from the evils outside of the walls of Notre Dame.

But, was he living? Was he fulfilling his purpose?

It was not until Quasimodo left the sanctuary of his bell tower that he could taste and see what life among the living was like. It was in learning to risk, and love and lose that he learned that he had something to bring to the world, beyond the safety of his church walls.

For me, this lesson is one that I want to hold on to. I too enjoy the sanctuary of my church. But, it is in my leaving this place of sanctuary, that I bring what I have, in Christ, to the world. If I stay ‘cooped up (at church) here forever’ I then am not allowing God to use me, as his vessel through which he might speak to those yet to choose life with him.

When we, who profess the Christian faith, surround ourselves with only those who share our belief system, we have forgotten the words of Jesus:

“And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” Mark 16:15

This is the great commission, this is our commissioning, from Jesus, to take his word, his light into the world … it is why we are here, our purpose.

So, I challenge those of you (and me) who find sanctuary in the walls of your cathedral, we can’t stay cooped up there forever.

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