Mine to Walk

path-795x380Scripture Passage (1 Corinthians 10: 12-13)

12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

 

Well, this is enough to rattle anyone’s self-confidence! We like to think that if we “get there”, you know, confess our sins, profess our belief, get baptized, do what we’re supposed to do, check all the boxes of good church people, that everything will turn out alright. The problem is that it’s not a one-time thing. (Yes, I’m Methodist. Sadly, we are not “once saved, always saved”.) I mean, really, what good would that do? We just spend a little bit of time on our best behavior and then we’re “in”. I don’t think God works like that. It’s not about what we’ve done; It’s about who we are. It’s about who we’re becoming. It’s about relationship. Our faith journey is long and sometimes hard and sometimes glorious. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we know we get it right. Sometimes we find ourselves diving into deep and wonderful pools of clear reviving water and other times we seem to wallow in the shallow mud pits of life. Sometimes we can feel so connected to God that there is no doubt in our minds or our hearts that the Divine is right there, almost touchable, almost approachable. But we cannot rest on the laurels of our past. That’s not the way relationships work.

 

Living a life of faith really does not allow us to become complacent. It doesn’t allow us to sit back and bask in our glorious history that we bring to the table. God’s not really concerned with the fact that my grandparents were good, church-going people (at least not as far as my faith journey is concerned). It was good for them and they taught me well. But, now, it’s mine. God wants to have a relationship with ME. That’s the reason that “inherited” faith can only go so far (which means that, thanks be to God, that whole “sins of the fathers [and the mothers]” thing also only goes so far. My faith journey is mine. It is my relationship with God. It is my walk toward and with the Divine. It is mine to walk, mine to navigate, mine to mess up and get all turned around and not know where to go. It is mine to choose to stop and stay mired in what I think is the “right” way or what hymns I like to sing or what style of worship in which I like to participate. It is mine to halt at any point and sit down and bask in what I’ve done or become laden down by what I’ve neglected to do. And with God’s grace, it is mine to begin again. Oh, don’t get me wrong. We help each other along the way. Hopefully, we can give each other what we do not have. And that, too, is God’s grace.

 

This journey of Lent is sort of a microcosm of our whole faith journey. We begin where we are (wherever we are) and we look at our self and we look at our lives and we see what we really are—beloved children of God. And then we look at the ways that we’re NOT what we really are, the ways that we have allowed ourselves to overstep or overreach or overindulge or somehow become a little too full of what we imagine we can be. We look at the ways that we do not walk with God. And then God offers a hand (or someone else’s hand) and we begin to walk. And the road twists and turns and the storms come and the sun’s heat bears down on us and the winds whip around and the sand gets in our eyes. And then we see the light of the path ahead once again and we follow it, at least until we get off track again. And in those times when we feel the path beneath us, those times when we are aware of God’s presence, those times when God’s grace seems to wrap around us and hold us, we realize that the hand we hold never lost its grip on our lives. And we relax a little. We become comfortable. We might become a little complacent again. We become a little too certain that we’ve got it figured out. And then the winds begin again and the curtain tears and the darkness descends upon us. But this time, we know to wait, to wait in holy silence until the stone of our lives is rolled away so that we can begin again. That is faith. That is the journey. We don’t travel it alone but no one can do it for us.

 

Deep within us all there is an amazing sanctuary of the soul, a holy place…to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us…calling us home unto Itself. Yielding to these persuasions…utterly and completely, to the Light within, is the beginning of true life. (Thomas R. Kelly)

 

Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

The Wilderness is Where We Came to Be

nativity-story_282_resizedScripture Text:  Luke 2: 1-7

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 

Oh not this!  How can you call this beautiful story the wilderness?  But the truth is, Jesus was born into a wilderness.  Joseph and Mary had had to travel some distance to get to this place.  And the setting, for all the wonder and awe that it holds for us was not idyllic—forced occupation, taxation without representation, poor couple, long trip under less than favorable circumstances, and, then, no room when they got there.  See, in our haste to welcome the child each year and celebrate once again his arrival into the world, we forget the circumstances into which he came.  We forget that he first appeared in the dim lights of a grotto drenched with the waters of new Creation, with the smell of God still in his breath.  We forget that Mary was probably in tears most of the night as she tried to be strong, entering a realm that she had never entered.  And we forget that Joseph felt oh so very responsible and that the weight of that responsibility, the responsibility for essentially birthing God into this world, was heavy on his shoulders.  We remember Jesus’ birth, the moment when we came to be.  But we forget that the wilderness is where we came to be.

Now this is, of course, not the first time that God has appeared in the wilderness.  Incarnations were happening all along.  God came as winds sweeping across the waters, burning bushes, and thick clouds that shrouded mountains.  God came in dreams and whirlwinds and strange manna appearing in the wilderness.  God always came.  Perhaps we were too busy with our lives to notice.  So, on this particular night in this particular place, God called us into the wilderness of our lives so that we would finally notice.  God seeks us out, showing us the sacredness that had been created for us, the holy that we had missed all along.  On this silent night, in the thick wilderness of night, God comes and dances with humanity, crossing the line between the ordinary and the Divine if only for a while.  God comes to us.

Haven’t you always thought that it would have made more sense for Jesus to born into the establishment, perhaps into at least moderate wealth, in a place where it all would have been noticed?  OK, really?  So what would have happened if Jesus had been born into a single-family McMansion in the suburbs?  See, God always comes into the wilderness.  God chooses to call us into the wild where we will notice that God is there.  God calls us away from what we know, away from those places where we get comfortable and close ourselves off.  God calls us to the place where we are open to newness, open to encounter, open to walking toward rather than closing off.  And on this night, on this beautiful silent night with angels singing and stars shining, the walk to the Cross began.  The wilderness is where we can come to be because it is the place where we know nothing else other than to walk forward.  This season of Lent, this season of walking to the Cross did not just begin this last Ash Wednesday.  It began long ago on that silent night in the wilderness.  It began in the darkness of the wilderness when we came to be.
It gets darker and darker…and then Jesus is born. (Ann Lamott)

FOR TODAY:  Leave the comforts of your life and walk into a wilderness.  What do you see?  Who do you encounter?  Now keep walking.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli