Growing in Resilience
Day 15, Read Isaiah 54
Reflection: Hold Nothing Back, based on Isaiah 54:9-10, NRSV
This is like the days of Noah to me: Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Hold nothing back!
We are not what we think we are
What others name us
What we name ourselves
We are not abandoned
Cast off for someone more desirable
The Eternal is also our Beloved
Who upholds our sacred union
An everlasting covenant of peace
Of whole and holy love
We are not afflicted
Shamed and grieved by our barrenness
Look! See! There is a heritage
Our breath and labor are not in vain
Quick! Enlarge the tent
Open and stretch to make room
For the gathering and birthing of the Beloved comes
Hold nothing back
Growing in Resilience
Day 12, Read Isaiah 51
Reflection: Eyes to See, based on Isaiah 51:1-3
Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
You woke me
You tore the veil in two
You wiped the scales from my eyes
Eyes now seeing your saving grace
Eyes to see and to follow
To pursue you
To pursue peace and righteousness
Right relationship with you and with others
Right relationship with the earth and myself
I now see you and seek you
The fullness of your grace
Your Kingdom come
What do I see?
I didn’t see it before but now I have eyes
Eyes to see
our wasteland- the dissipation and squandering
our wilderness- the isolation and preying
our desert- dry to the bone
Look at all I see
Lord God, help me to keep looking
To see it all and to see even more
All that was, all that is, and all that is coming
Help me look to the rock
The hardness of who I used to be
Now broken against the cornerstone of your love
Broken for good
Help me look to the legacy
Foremothers and Forefathers of faith
Their following and frailty and victory
I am not the first, I am not alone
Help me look to the promises
The wasteland will be a garden again
The seeds of truth are budding
As are the seeds of justice and hope
Eyes to see your consolation
Eyes to see your redemption and new birth
Eyes to see joy and gladness blooming
Watered from springs of thanksgiving and song
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.
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.
Jesus, The Coming Messiah: Advent Readings from Old Testament to New
December 15: The Messiah as Teacher and Comforter
Readings: Isaiah 50:4-11; Matthew 4:23-24
Isaiah 50:4, The Voice
The Lord, the Eternal, equipped me for this job— with skilled speech, a smooth tongue for instruction. I can find the words that comfort and soothe the downtrodden, tired, and despairing. And I know when to use them.
Matthew 4:23-24, The Voice
And so Jesus went throughout Galilee. He taught in the synagogues. He preached the good news of the Kingdom, and He healed people, ridding their bodies of sickness and disease. Word spread all over Syria, as more and more sick people came to Him. The innumerable ill who came before Him had all sorts of diseases, they were in crippling pain; they were possessed by demons; they had seizures; they were paralyzed. But Jesus healed them all.
Hallelujah to Jesus!
The Word spoken in creation
So we would know light and new life
Hallelujah to Jesus!
The Word made flesh
So we would know grace and truth
Hallelujah to Jesus!
The Word of Divine Comfort
Who hears our cries and draws near
You hear and you bear
You bear our disgrace and shame
You bear our burdens and disease
No one, no thing, no situation
Can stand against you
You, Eternal One, Eternal Word
You persevere while they come to an end
Our confidence is in you
The next devotion will focus on Jesus’ suffering, which is also a major theme in Isaiah 50:4-11.
Thank you for setting aside times this Holy Season to seek the One we celebrate.
Jesus, The Coming Messiah is an Advent Bible Reading Plan highlighting the Old Testament prophesies and passages which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.
As you read each passage, consider how this description of Jesus the Messiah reveals his character, motivation, and purpose. How does this description inspire you to trust Jesus and his promises? How will you apply and share what you have discovered? I look forward to your comments.
If you’re in Sarasota, please drop by Trinity United Methodist Church for one of our seasonal events or services or just to say, “Hi.” You’re always welcome and wanted.
You are my God, and I will praise you;
You are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
His love endures forever.
Start here by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Those mornings when you wake up burdened,
already thinking Oh why bother,
thank God for one thing.
One person whom you love will do,
though even a remarkable coincidence is acceptable.
You don’t even need to go into peaches,
the color blue, or migratory birds,
or a child’s laugh you heard the other day,
let alone the angelic speech of nerve synapses
or the inscrutable ballet of spiral galaxies,
or God’s outlandish love for you.
Just one thing to give thanks for.
Then resolve to live the day
in adequate gratitude for that one thing,
Prayers, Quotes, and Reflections on Gratitude
Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise. ~George Herbert
What does the Lord require of followers? The Lord requires gratitude. And for those of us in the Christian tradition, Jesus wants our gratitude to increase more and more until, like a holy flame, it burns within us and we burst into songs and deeds of thankfulness to God and neighbor. To express genuine gratitude to God, our deeds must demonstrate our love, trust, and service. – Beauty Maenzanise
When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking God for being so generous to you. If you drink wine (or coffee), be mindful of God who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank God for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who ordered things this way. When the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator. – Basil the Great
Resentment indicates we are still trying to fill the emptiness with something we think we deserve. Gratitude is the sign that God has filled the hole; indeed, that God has become the Whole in Whom we live, move, and have our being. – Steve Harper
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. -John F. Kennedy
It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient. ~W.J. Cameron
Jesus calls us to gratitude. He calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life. – Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living
Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all. ~William Faulkner
Grateful living: an alchemic operation of converting “disgraceful” things into grateful events. ~ Raimundo Panikkar
How to practice gratitude? Research shows that those who keep a simple gratitude journal felt happier, more optimistic, and even slept better at night. Renowned psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman guarantees that if you (a) write a 300-word letter to someone who changed your life for the better, (b) hand-deliver it to the recipient, (c) read it out loud to them, then “You will be happier and less depressed one month from now.” – reposted from Daily Good
In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others. ~Marcus Tullius Cicero