Growing in Resilience
Day 1, Read Isaiah 40
Reflection: Shall, based on Isaiah 40:3-5
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The time is now, for you have called
The place is now, for you have spoken
Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low
But, you have called
You have spoken
Not an if or when or maybe
Not even a try
You have spoken shall
Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth
So we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. – Ephesians 6:10-11
Lord, you call us to mighty works
Sharing your Word
Helping others find you
Healing the sick
Caring for the poor, the orphan, the stranger
Speaking truth to power
Praying without ceasing
Building your kingdom on earth
Lord, you have said that in this world we will have trouble,
but take courage, I have overcome the world
We try to do things in our own strength
Our financial security
Our stiff upper lip and bootstraps and big girl pants
We head into battle wearing our own armor
Or trying to borrow someone else’s
We fall victim to human ways
And the ways of our Enemy
Forgive us and renew a right spirit within us
Clothe us in your armor
Your armor alone
Clothe us in your truth
Clothe us in your righteousness
Clothe us in your Gospel of Peace
Your powerful Presence
That we may stand
That we may stand and withstand
That we may stand and withstand and stand firm
Strong in you and the strength of your power
For your power is made perfect in our weakness
In our vulnerability
In us claiming our need of you
For the victory and glory are yours,
Nothing can separate us from you
Imagine walking through the grocery store. You and others are picking out their food as usual. Now imagine every person you encounter is wearing a sign revealing the truth of their life
New baby, no sleep for three nights straight
Caregiving for a sick spouse
Just lost my job
Grieving the death of my mother
Desperately lonely, how do I make friends?
All of a sudden, that trip to the grocery store is very different. You are seeing what is often difficult to see.
What would be on your sticker?
The truth is we must always be kind, we must always be compassionate because we never know what someone else is going through.
The trust is that when we face trouble there’s far more to it than what we can see on the outside.
Think about a time when you were going through something deep and dark, something scary. something you have never faced before, or something that’s raising it’s ugly head again. There’s the stuff that you can see, but there’s the stuff you can’t see
weariness down to your bones
Then there’s your soul. What is going on with your soul?
Our soul is like an inner stream of water that gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of life.– John Ortberg, Soul Keeping
In the midst of this trouble, is this stream of living water getting stopped, dammed up? Is it changing the direction? Is it going deeper than you could ever have imagined? Is it drying up, like a desert, like a wilderness?
The song I cling to in the midst of trouble: Precious Lord take my hand. Lead me on. Let me stand. I am tired. I am weak. I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
What gets the water flowing in my life is singing. And sometimes I can’t even get the words out and so I just let my soul sing.
What gets the water flowing again for you? Because when we face trouble its far than what we can see.
Sometimes we can see the source of the trouble
We’ve brought it on ourselves. The trouble is the consequence of a choice we made.
Sometimes its someone else’s choice. They want what they want and we’re an obstacle (through us) or a means to an end (use us). Or we just get caught it the backwash of someone else’s sin, the ripple effect and we’re collateral damage.
Or it’s the reality of living this side of heaven, the reality of living in a broken world. The Fall due to Original Sin is a universal condition. Every relationship is broken -with God, with others, with our true self, with the earth. It’s a reality on an individual level, group level, and systemic level.
There are times we can see the source of the trouble and there are times we cannot see it. It’s far deeper. It’s plain old evil and an Evil One. It’s a cosmic organized struggle against God and the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.
We try to be strong on our own. This is not a battle we can win on our own and it’s not a battle we have to win on our own. That’s the grace of it. That’s the Good News of it.
Yes we play a part, we make choices, work, and strive but it is also about allowing ourselves to be strengthened by Almighty God. We can refuse or choose the strengthening. (Cooperating and collaborating with God)
Ephesians 6:10 Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God
Sometimes life feels like a battle. God wants to strengthen you and protect you.
We try to be strong on our own and we try to protect ourselves
Put on our own armor – financial security, connections, achievement, expertise, stiff upper lip, my big girl pants
It’s like David going out to fight Goliath, the giant. (That’s how our troubles can feel. King Saul wants David to wear his royal armor, his human armor. It doesn’t fit, doesn’t work, weighs him down. David refuses and faces Goliath in God’s armor.
So much of what we are facing is beyond us, something we just can’t fix in our human strength.
Ephesians 6:10 Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God
The Whole Armor of God – Verses14-17
belt of truth
God helps us to know what is real and not real
God helps us hold on to perspective in the midst of pain
breastplate of righteousness
covers our heart so we stay in right relationship and have a heart of peace
shoes for your feet, make you ready to proclaim the Gospel of peace
The Gospel of Peace is the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace
who Jesus is, his sacrifice, his salvation, his hope and healing, power, and promises
Jesus is the foundation, the strong rock on which we stand
Stand on the power of story = Jesus’s story intersects our story, thanksgiving and testimony to God’s goodness in the past and in the present
shield of faith to quench the flaming arrows of the evil one
Evil One takes sniper shots after us, feels like we’re taking hit after hit after hit
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)
helmet of salvation
Who I am in Christ- I am a child of God, I am beloved and blessed of God, I am made in the image of God and nothing can separate me from the love of God and my salvation in Jesus Christ
Know God’s voice and hear God’s voice. If I can’t hear it my brother or sister in Christ will speak it to me.
My mind stayed on the goodness of God no matter the circumstance. Nothing changes the goodness of God.
sword of the Spirit which is the word of God
Why we must read the word of God regularly
Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. It is always scripture and prayer. Always and forever.
Call to action- Prayer Care
Pray with you after every service: Sundays after the 9:00 am and 10:30 am services, Wednesdays at 8:00 am, 10:00 am, 7:00 pm
Become a prayer keeper
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Withstand = take the hit, persevering, enduring, resilience
Stand Firm = push back against evil
The Evil One is our real and primary enemy – not other people, not ourselves, not God, not the system.
The Evil One devours and destroys and steals
The Evil One is a deceiver and liar
The Evil One twists situations into something they were never meant to be
That’s why we need truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God and pray, pray, pray. When we face trouble there’s far more to it than what we can see.
You are not alone. You are never alone. You do not have to face it in your own strength. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God.
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
Selection from Holy Week Message by Bishop Sue Harper Johnson, North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (3/28/2018)
I have found that each year I tend to focus on one aspect of Holy Week, usually one reflecting the current circumstances in my life. This year I have been fixated on Holy Saturday. Let’s face it, Holy Saturday doesn’t get much airtime in the Protestant church. No Easter vigils, baptisms, bonfires, etc. We tend to move quickly from the drama of Good Friday to the joy of Easter morning, and often use Saturday for Easter Egg hunts and children’s events.
I don’t think we are giving Holy Saturday its due. It is a day of silence and waiting, a day when the disciples must have contemplated the horror of the crucifixion, agonized over their fear and betrayal, and succumbed to the depths of despair. All must have seemed lost.
But while the disciples wandered around in a fog of despair, God was doing God’s finest work. Within the dark and silence of the tomb, God’s resurrection power was bringing life out of death. The tomb became a womb of new life and possibility. And Jesus, firstborn from the dead, laid aside his grave clothes and neatly folded up the cloth from his head. He then headed to hell to proclaim that death had been conquered. And that’s that. The mystery of the ages, the miracle of all miracles, completed in a Saturday.
Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience,
for to wait is often harder than to work. – Peter Marshall
Selection from Worship in the Light of the Cross by John Indermar
Holy Saturday awkwardly interrupts the church’s calendar. We read in Luke of the women who rest on this day in sabbath observance. But we find it hard to replicate their rest in our day.
The prior week’s preparations for palm processions, Passion Week cantatas, and/or seven last word recollections leave little time for decorating sanctuaries and making ready for Easter breakfasts and final practices of brass quartets for Sunday’s allelulias – not to mention eggs to dye and family banquets to prepare. So much to do on Saturday and so little time.
But Holy Saturday offers this advice to activist-bent individuals and congregations and denominations like my own: Don’t just do something, stand there. Sometimes, our busyness cocoons and insulates us from deep consideration of why we think our lives require constant motion. Busyness has often been a prescription for overcoming grief. Do this, do that, work your way out of it. But once the activity dies down, when exhaustion inevitably sets in, the questions and the pain remain, perhaps aggravated by delay in their contemplation.
The women in Luke [23:55-56] actively engage in the immediate aftermath of crucifixion. They follow to see where the body has been taken. They prepare spices and ointments for anointing the corpse. But instead of pressing ahead in a rush to get things done ASAP, they stop. They keep sabbath. In Luke’s terms, they rest. Luke’s word Heschazo carries dual meanings of “to keep quiet” and “to cease from labor.” The women keep Saturday’s vigil in stillness and quietness.
Reflection on Waiting by Henri J. M. Nouwen
To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.
Prayer for Holy Saturday by Lisa Degrenia
Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of Hosts,
There are so many things we do not understand
Help us to trust you
even when the situation is desperate and out of control
Help us to follow you
even when the way unclear
Help us to wait and rest
even when every bit of us screams to act
Build in us a faith that perseveres
Even when we can’t see you
Or feel you near
Your power and goodness are never diminished
Morning is coming
************* Click Here for a video of an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, author unknown
Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief
Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly
Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want
Make my heart true
Confident in you
Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands
Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joyrejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.
James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.
Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.
How do we stay looking forward, especially when the pull to the past is so strong? How do we look forward when we’re feeling stuck in our present reality? How do we run the race of faith with perseverance and finish well? How do we stay open, expectant and eager for God’s next step for us?
We duly celebrated at his birth… with the star we ran, with the magi we worshiped, with the shepherds we were enlightened, with the angels we glorified him, with Simeon we took him up in our arms, and with the chaste and aged Anna we made our responsive confession. – Gregory of Nazianzus
Who are Simeon and Anna? We meet them between Jesus’ birth and the arrival of the Wise Ones. Jesus is about 6 weeks old. Mary and Joseph bring him to Jerusalem for the traditional sacrifices/rituals associated with the birth of a firstborn son and the purification of a new mother. While there, the family encounters two senior citizens, let’s call them seasoned saints. They’re Biblical models of persevering faith and looking forward. Their trust in God and attention to spiritual practices kept them open, expectant, and longing for the promised Messiah.
Anna and Simeon 1. Are Righteous and Devout
Righteous = Right relationship with God, others, themselves, earth. They live a cross-shaped life long before the cross. Righteous describes their being.
Devout = Devoted. This describes their doing. They are intentional about staying open to the presence of God. You prioritize what you’re devoted to. What are you devoted to? If you want to know just check your calendar and your checkbook.
Martin Luther put it this way, “Show me where a man spends his time & money, and I’ll show you his god.”
Persevering/Long-Haul faith doesn’t just happen. It takes intentionality and consistency, like preparing for the Olympics. Consistent spiritual practices keep us open to God’s presence, strengthen our resolve, keep us looking forward.
Anna and Simeon are looking for God and looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises.
2. The Holy Spirit rests on them
This is a result of their faith and practices. It’s so clear it’s repeated three times in the passage. (verses 25-27)
What spiritual practices are you using to stay open to God’s presence, so the Holy Spirit will rest on you? (prayer, scripture reading, fasting, Sabbath, tithing, serving, etc.) These practices are timeless. They’re the same practices used by Anna and Simeon.
3. Looking forward
As a result of their faith and practices, Anna and Simeon anticipate and expect God to move and act. They have tremendous faith and trust in God. They have perspective, keeping a right proportion between looking forward and looking back like a car’s windshield and rearview mirror.
4. Looking forward to the consolation of Israel
Anna and Simeon move beyond “what’s in it for me” faith to a bigger picture. Me to We. (Again consider a car’s windshield) They’ve embraced the very heart of God, that the Messiah would bring salvation for all people. This helps them to finish well.
Simeons’s Song, Luke 2:29-32
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.
All of this is available for us as well.
Holy Spirit, as you rested on Simeon and Anna, so rest on me
Keep me expectant and open to your appearing
Make me a model of your compassion and wisdom
Make me a sign of your persevering grace and transforming power
Holy Spirit, rest on me
Keep my eyes clear, open, looking forward
Fill me with anticipation of you fulfilling your promises
Keep me trusting in your goodness and victory for the world
Save me from despair and falsehood
Grant me true perspective and faith
Keep me looking forward
Not just for myself, but for the greater good, for all
Take me beyond me to the fullness of your heart and plan
For you prepare salvation for all people,
The Jews and the Gentiles
The insiders and the outsiders
We all need you and we can all be saved. Hallelujah!
Holy Spirit touch me
Reveal to me
Rest on me
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.