Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Pilgrimage of Mary

  This Maundy Thursday, I'm reflecting on the pilgrimage of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  What must it have been like for her to discern what her relationship to Jesus was?  What did she model to us about discipleship?  Where in my heart does the Mary of the annunciation and the Mary of the Passion meet?  How does her pilgrimage resemble my own?  Respond to the invitation to encounter Mary on the road to the cross.

"And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce your own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts should be revealed."
Luke 2:34-35, KJV

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Put it Down

  Over the past two years, my life has changed dramatically and in ways I never expected.  Some very difficult obstacles have appeared on my journey; some I conquered with more grace than others, yet others still leaving bruises and scars.  As I'm quickly approaching another alteration in seasons, I'm finding myself often lost in thought and reflection.  I think as a result, my dreams have been peppered with different faces, places, and goodbyes.  I've also seen the resurgence of memories, both joyous and painful.  This morning was no different as I walked around the house tidying up and putting a clean face on life.  I began to think of regrets; things I wish I had done differently or at the very least, better.  Knowing I couldn't wallow in that pool for too long, I chose to focus on the successes I've had in the face of struggle.  Offering myself the gift of grace, I began repeating, almost like a mantra, "I have done well, I have been courageous, I have overcome, I have been faithful, I am redeemed, I have survived."

  Upon a quick overview of this morning's top Facebook posts, I ran across one from a member of my congregation.  There was an image of a glass of water and then the following story whose author is unknown:

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."

  What I came away from this with is two-fold at the very least.  1) It's vital to our health and well-being to not only put down our stresses, but to put them down at the foot of the cross, letting go completely.  2) Don't pick it back up again, especially if someone else picks it up and tries to give it back to you to hold.  Far too often we put down sins, stresses, regrets, hurts, baggage, only to have someone else try and give it back to us.  When we put it down, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to the forgiving love of Christ, to leave it there.  We dishonor God and ourselves when we allow others to convince us that we must constantly flog ourselves with the weight of our pasts.

  Maybe the lesson in this for me today is that when even my own thoughts taunt me to pick up things I've set down, I need to tell them "no".  No I will not pick that back up.  No I will not address that again.  No I will not deny the forgiveness I've received, or the grace I encountered, or the roses amidst the thorns.  No I will not treat myself with hate over love.

  Plus, there's always the reality that when my hands are empty, they are then in the best place to receive and serve.  My mission and purpose in life isn't to live in the shadows of my past as some in the world would like me to do.  Rather, it is to overcome, move boldly into a new season with grace, and to put that which is inhibiting me in serving God fully, down. 

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Monday, March 11, 2013

"Lean In" to Your Faith

 Sheryl Sandberg was a relatively unknown name until just recently.  In the last few weeks, Facebook’s chief operating officer has received an onslaught of press, but by her choosing.  At 43, Sandberg represents the mere 4% of women in the United States who are at the head of large Fortune 500 companies.  Her recent press has very little to do with Facebook, but rather much to do with her initiative to elevate women.
      In her efforts to achieve such a mission, Sandberg developed an organization called ‘Lean In’.  The general concept behind this movement is to encourage women to lean in to their potential and key gifts in order to achieve both professional and personal success.  That being said, Sandberg’s views and methods seem to be highly controversial.
      As I’ve spent time researching and reflecting on Sandberg’s endeavors, it struck me that the most powerful venture to develop from this is the simple notion that we should lean into our lives, into who we were created to be, and with humility, believe confidently in who we are.  This is substantially important for us as Christians and spiritual beings.
      Insecurity and self-doubt plague both men and women in the household of God.  We question our gifts, our talents, and even our callings, especially when others don’t seem to see things as we do.  We sweep under the rug what God has given us specifically to use for God’s glory.  We tell others loudly how bad we are at praying; yet we nowhere near as loudly pray in public.  We brag about our failures and shortcomings as if they are badges of honor; as if God wants us to publicly mock ourselves.  We fail to walk confidently in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.  We doubt our own salvation and out of that pain, lash out at others with vile condemnation.  In essence, we ‘lean out’ of what God has equipped us with and thusly, we ‘lean out’ of the greater mission.
      I wonder how the church might look if we stopped comparing ourselves to others and merely leaned in to the gifts God has placed in us?  When I stop worrying about the things that others can do for God that I can’t, and start joyfully leaning in to what I CAN do for God, my faith walk changes.  I think this is because my perspective shifts. Lean in to your faith formation and spiritual journey, and lean in to your relationship with God and others.  Lean in to the endless potential you have to make a difference for the kingdom.  This world needs you to be YOU…as God made you to be.  God’s equipped you, now it’s time for you to be empowered to achieve your greatest calling.

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