Sabbath Rest

Somewhere along the way in life I came to realize, somewhat to my dismay, that my sub-conscious sees my worth in what I do, not who I am.  I value accomplishing things – it seems to validate my existence or something, I’m not quite sure.

Earlier this summer, I had surgery on my hip.  This, after a three-year stint of not doing much other than work and school – a time in which I accomplished a head-spinning amount of work. After surgery, there is the forced, doctors-orders type of rest – Sabbath.  Along with that prescribed rest, I also found I didn’t have the energy to accomplish much other than the minimum reqsunrise-fielduired of my day.  I forced myself to get stuff done, and kicked myself for not accomplishing more.  When my energy levels began to increase again, I realized that, in fact, God had given me a gift during that low energy time – the gift of Sabbath Rest.

1 Corinthians 10:31 urges us to do everything for the glory of God, whether it’s eating or drinking or anything else.  Sabbath Rest is especially for the glory of God. As I began to realize the gift I had been given, I, as someone who values checking off the to-do list, beat myself up a little. But then, I gave myself permission to live into the rest, and spend more time with God. Part of my recovery is to just walk. Not fast, not for exercise, but for recovery.  What a perfect way to spend time with God, in God’s creation, focusing on God. I spent more time just sitting with God in quiet or in meditation – listening for God’s voice. I began to cherish this extra time with God. And now that I’m coming fully out of my recovery period, I’m trying to keep some of that Sabbath Rest as part of my daily life, living into being a child of God, rather than a person who gets a lot of stuff done.  I know that the to-do list will eventually take over again and that’s ok – God made me that way after all.  But I pray that the beauty of that extra time with God will call me back to quiet places in the midst of the chaos of life.

God created the world out of chaos, and God rested in the midst of it.  May you recognize the gift of Sabbath Rest when God presents it to you, and may you live into it fully, deepening God’s presence in your life.

Advertisements

How does Jesus model Prayer?

jesus_praying

This Sunday, in our sermon series on the power and practice of prayer, we ask the question “How does Jesus model prayer.” This blog post is a reflection on that question.

“Be still and know that I am God” is one of my go-to verses in the Bible. When I’m stressed, or really needing to sit in quiet with God, I will often meditate on this verse, matching my breath to the words. It quiets my mind, and helps me center my heart and mind on God. It clears my head so I can just listen for God’s voice.

I wonder if Jesus had his own go-to mantra. Of course, I don’t know. There are plenty of places in the Bible where we read that Jesus went to a quiet place, or to the mountains, or just “away” to pray. I like to think that in those times, he, too, was meditating on some comforting word that helped Him find his Father. But I don’t know.

Just as often in the Bible, Jesus demonstrates other ways of praying. He teaches his disciples formulaic prayer in the Lord’s Prayer. He wallows audibly in anguish in the garden where clearly there are witnesses, taking his deepest fears and desires and laying them at God’s feet. He prays contemplatively and intentionally for his disciples and the world – most likely in some public way, since it was captured in Scripture. He spent time in retreat, one of them 40 days! He fasted.

How does Jesus model prayer? 1 Thessalonians tells us to pray without ceasing. I would say THAT is how Jesus models prayer – by making His life a living prayer. Maybe Jesus prayed in so many different ways in order to show us there is no right or wrong way to pray. Maybe, as long as we’re loving God with all our heart and soul and loving our neighbors as ourselves, Jesus smiles and says, ‘That’s it. That’s how to pray.’

Spiritual Healing

Six months ago, sweet Nicole took her last breaths. During her 2-year struggle with brain cancer, I prayed hard. I screamed, I begged, I collapsed, I wallowed, I cried and cried and cried… For God to heal her. Never one to bargain with God, I just begged God to make Nicole a walking miracle. Heal her beautiful body, so that she could live a long full life.

One day, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. My prayer wouldn’t be answered…

Throughout the four gospels, there are many stories of Jesus healing sick, crippled, demonized, or even dead people. In most instances Jesus tells us that it is the person’s faith that has made them well, or the faith of the person who was pleading for the healing of another. While the physical healing was the outward tangible that could be seen, the more important healing was the spiritual healing that accompanied the physical.

One day, as I sat on my couch praying, losing faith that Nicole would be made well, I learned that I was wrong. In fact, Nicole was experiencing healing – spiritual healing. My begging and pleading was for the only healing I could accept in my human selfishness and experience. But indeed God’s promise is for spiritual healing. The healing of the heart and soul; the reconciliation with God. It might be a healing we can’t yet fully understand, but Nicole understands it now. And I work every day on trusting God in that.

Six months ago, as I sat by Nicole’s hospice bed telling her how much Jesus loves her, and telling her it was ok to go to Him, I knew spiritual healing was happening right then and there. The grief for those of us she has left behind is immense, even still to this day.  But Nicole is well. God made that promise, and through that promise I am spiritually healed too – a little bit more each and every day.

Spirituality Is…

Spirituality Is…

It seems some people get confused by, and sometimes uncomfortable with, the word “spirituality;” and the word is indeed hard to define. The Spiritual Life Team at Easter Lutheran Church spent some time attempting to create a definition on which we could all agree, and in the end decided it is “deepening our relationship with God.” “Relationship” is the key word in the phrase. How do YOU seek to deepen your relationship with God?

Additionally, I’ve come to believe that spirituality is about opening up my heart to the presence of the Triune God in my life. “Heart” is the key word there. It’s about paying attention to what moves me emotionally (positively AND negatively), and reflecting on that from a God perspective, and with God in prayer. Where is God in that movement? What is the emotional reaction telling me? What is God telling me about that lived experience? That requires that I slow down, pay attention, and reflect on what might otherwise feel like ordinary life experiences.

There’s a difference for me between the head and the heart. When I dig into Bible study (which is IMPORTANT to do!), I’m in my head. I’m trying to learn more about God by reading, studying, conversing with others. I try to figure out intellectually what God is saying through the narrative. It’s an intellectual exercise. It’s important, but I don’t find it to be an emotional experience (most of the time). I don’t find it to be a spiritual experience.

This past Sunday, Pastor Paul preached (at Easter by the Lake) about blessing. He told stories of how he’s experienced blessing in Tanzania, and he told stories of other people’s stories of blessing told to him! Some of those stories were the kind that make you shiver all over! It occurs to me that experiencing blessing (whether giving or receiving) is part of deepening one’s relationship with God. Experiencing blessing, and paying attention to how it moves me, deepens my relationship with God.

So spirituality isn’t some new and mystical new age thing. Martin Luther talked a lot about spirituality, and he said it was the way of normal Christian life. He called it the “experience of God.” And isn’t that what we’re all here for: to experience God in our ordinary Christian lives?

God of Love, Help us to deepen our relationship with you through opening ourselves up to experiencing you daily, in the normal, ordinary lives we live. Amen.

What Good is Praying Anyway?

My first memory of prayer was just something that we did, at the dinner table and at bedtime.  It was rather rote and I didn’t know what it meant, other than it was a way to thank God for the day and our food.

Eventually, I started praying for things I wanted, in the selfish way of a teen.  If I got what I wanted, then I thought God answered prayers. If I didn’t get what I wanted, then I thought praying was just a bunch of bunk.

Early in my college days, my dog of about 13 years was very sick.  She lived with my parents in Roseville, and I lived off campus at the University of Minnesota.  I was close by – and I could come to see Cinder frequently.  As I watched her get sicker, I prayed for God to heal her.  The sicker she got, the harder I prayed.  I started visiting her every day.

Then one day, my prayer changed.  I prayed for God to end her suffering – “God, heal her or take her. But please end her suffering.” The day I prayed that prayer, I went home as usual to be with her.  She was lying peacefully on the living room floor.  She had passed away.

Psalm 37:4 says: “Take delight in the Lord, and the Lord will give you the desires of your heart.”

I think I learned something about prayer, and about relationship with God, that day.  I learned that through prayer, God changes OUR hearts.  Through prayer, God gently aligns the desires of our hearts to God’s will.  Psalm 37:4, then, isn’t about God giving me what I want. It’s about delighting in God – being with God, so that God will turn my heart toward God’s desires.   God takes the everyday situations of this human life, things like sick dogs, to teach me lessons through prayer, to reveal Godself to me one lesson at a time, and to teach me the ways of God, rather than the ways of humans.

In a few weeks, we’ll once again meditate on our Savior’s desperate prayer to God:  “And going a little farther, He threw Himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not what I want but what you want.”  (Matt 26:39) Jesus’ humanness desperately desired a human outcome, rather than God’s will. And Jesus reminds us, once again, that God works through prayer to align one’s heart with God’s will.

 

God of Grace and Mercy,

Thank you for the holy relationship you have with each of us through prayer.  Open our hearts and minds through prayer to ever-more align them with your will.  Teach us and lead us, so that your desires become ours. In Your Son’s holy name we pray, Amen.