Where you go, I will go

lent-desert-path

Lent is designed to be an opportunity for everyday Christians to experience a similar reflection and time that Jesus had in his 40 days in the desert,  where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. During his time in the heat of the days and the cold of the nights, he found clarity, strength to resist temptation.and the foundation to begin his ministry.

How can we, in these modern days, replicate even a small bit of that experience?  Some people give up things, like chocolate or coffee.  Others add to their days a moment of service to others.  Some change behaviors during Lent, for instance, buying only what is needed and forgoing wants.

All of these actions are for naught, unless they come with time to pause and reflect how it is taking you into the desert.  Its not enough to just give things up, add service to your day, purchase differently.  The purpose of Lent is to follow Jesus to the desert, to contemplate our ministry in our life.

Maybe you don’t see that you have a ministry in this world.  We don’t have to go to divinity school, to be a minister.  The living of our lives is a ministry.  What we do, how we do it, what we say, how we say it, what we think, how we display it.  That is our ministry.

Lent is a time to get a keener vision of where God wants us to be, how he wants us to follow him.  It is a time to challenge what you are doing, saying, thinking.

It is a time to ask yourself, am I serving my ministry or am I serving myself?

These are questions that deserve time.  Perhaps that is the real sacrifice in today’s sped up world.  To take the time to make room for these questions, to sit with them for 40 days and nights, to give our time to God, listening for his vision for our ministry.  Time is our desert.

lent-contemplation

For this time of Lent, we are making this blog space available to any who have an interest in sharing your desert time.  We will be posing questions for you to consider and answer. There will be two questions, one for adults, another for children.   Your answers will be posted with your name or anonymously, however you desire.  We don’t care if you have misspellings or awkward sentence structure.  If you ask, we can edit for those kind of things.  This is not about perfection, but about the spirit of your words.


Question for Adults

How do you plan to follow Jesus into the desert to strengthen and build your ministry?


lent-heart


Question for Children

What can you do each day to show your Jesus heart to the world?


Send your answers to godiscallingblog@gmail.com.

Through community, we strengthen our faith and the faith of others.  Please share your heart so others can invigorate their faith.

Advertisements

Paying Attention…to the Holy Spirit

(Note: Below is a reflection I offered at church on Sunday, a few weeks back. I was asked to share a personal faith story relating to Matthew 1:18-25, the story of Mary and Joseph’s call to be the parents of Jesus.) 

In today’s gospel reading, we hear about the amazing ways God sometimes communicates: Mary has her angelic vision, and Joseph has his remarkable dream. These things are recorded in the bible because they were outstanding experiences –God knew they needed these angelic visions because of the extraordinary calling to become the parents of our Savior.

007-prophecies-birth-jesus--from freebibleimages dot org

I am given to thinking, though, that for most of the time, Mary and Joseph found their inner peace in ordinary ways: in paying attention to the Holy Scripture, in praying, in practicing Sabbath, in listening to their rabbi, in watching the seasons of nature and the experiences of ordinary family living.

I would like to share a time when my husband Terry and I felt that the Holy Spirit helped us in a way that felt extraordinary — and yet others might see as “ordinary”…

capture-ely-minnesota-2-from-google-maps (1)We were fairly new to Minnesota, having moved here from Arizona/New Mexico, and we were excited about camping up in the Northland.  On this particular trip, we were tenting near Ely (EE–lee–rhymes with “really”) in mid-summer, and things weren’t going so well. We came to the place for the quiet, and instead heard loud partying late into the night, just two spaces away. We came for hiking, but the generous use of bug repellent didn’t keep the mosquitoes from swarming around us (it was a cloudy, muggy day, and apparently they knew we were “green Minnesotans” and took special delight in annoying us). Yes, too buggy outside the tent and too humid inside the tent…

In the midst of all this, we had this one night of intense heat, humidity, and unusual stillness… How could this be the frigidly cold Minnesota I’d always heard about?

In the morning, we saw a gray cloud appear in the west (you will recall campers didn’t have “weather apps” in those days). We considered cutting the trip short and going home, but wondered if that would keep us from becoming “hardy Minnesotans”?

In the end, we hurriedly threw our tent in the car and headed home. We were only as far as the city of Virginia, when the darkness hit in midday and the wind and torrents of rain forced us to stop at a restaurant.  Inside, a crowd of people was huddled by the door, talking about how bad this storm was.

Eventually, we made it home okay. The next morning, the news reported that this was a gargantuan size storm– you may remember this storm! It happened on July 4, 1999, and you may recall it took a full week to rescue all the campers in the Boundary Waters due to the millions of trees downed (they couldn’t even hike around all those trees).  [Note: You can read about this special, unique storm, called a “derecho”,  on the National Weather Service link: July 4, 1999 storm. ]

U.S. FOREST SERVICE PHOTO -- BWCAW blowdown on July 4, 1999.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE PHOTO — BWCAW blowdown on July 4, 1999.

holy-spirit-stained-glass-window-julie-mccarty-spiritual-drawing-boardWhen I think of this experience, I always think of the Holy Spirit. One could say it was a “coincidence” that we decided to go home, but I think it was more than that. We didn’t have some fancy spiritual experience with “special effects,” but I think the Holy Spirit was our “advocate” on that day, nudging us to pay attention to the signs around us, to pick up our tent and return home.

So, yes, sometimes the Holy Spirit brings us peace through the “special effects” of holy visions and rarefied dreams, but other times, I think the Spirit of God reveals things through ordinary, hidden ways, and waits to see what we will do with it. It is in responding to God’s invitation, with love in our hearts, that brings true inner peace.

 

Julie McCarty is a freelance writer, spiritual director, and volunteer coordinator of Easter Praise blog. She also writes spiritual reflections and prayers on  Spiritual Drawing Board blog , and “Spiritual Drawing Board…” on Facebook.  

I Found Grace in my Closet

Today I was seeking my way in a new year, finding my spiritual footing for 2016.  The holiday activities are over, the world is returning to its regular routines.  I was grumpy for no discernible reason.  Our holidays were filled with moments that I will hold tight to my heart always, with people I love dearly.  No holiday season is perfect and we had a moment that startled both my husband and I in its less than grateful or joyous nature.  I’ve been turning it over in my head and my heart, trying to find a way to let it go.  Last night, I prayed that God would share with me an answer.  “Show me2016 what to do with this so I am not dragging its remnants into this new year.”

Today, I was looking for an online daily devotion site, particularly looking for one with an evening devotion.  There are many.  I was looking for one that grabbed my attention and really made me think.  The more I looked, the grumpier I got, because nothing was exactly what I wanted.  It was a dressing room sensation when you’re shopping for clothes but nothing fits or looks like what you’re shopping for.

I did what I often do after a frustrating shopping trip.  I went to my own closet.  I have a favorite website for spirituality growth called Spirituality and Practice.  Link to the website here.  Each day they post a spiritual practice, reading, quote and teacher of the day.  I still love this site, I was just looking for something in addition to it.  There, in my own spiritual closet, was God, serving up my answered prayer.

Today’s quote was “The universe does not suffer from a shortage of grace. . . . Grace is abundant in God’s universe.  — Matthew Fox in A New Reformation.  

It made me ask what others thought grace was.  I did what we all do, I Googled.  The answers were plentiful.

“The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.”  ~  J. Gresham Machen

“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”  ~John Stott

“Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.”  ~Paul Stahl

God's Grace

God provides us grace, despite our flawed nature.  His grace does not come to us after we behave well.  It just comes to us.  He doesn’t take our moments of ingratitude or lack of joy personally.  He has no expectations and delivers us heaps of grace anyway.

I find myself right back in my own closet, learning again what I have taught thousands of others – the meaning of QTIP – Quit Taking It Personally.  Others lack of gratitude and joy is not about me.  It is theirs.  How can I hold onto to something that isn’t even mine?

Basking in the grace of God, who loves me despite my many flaws, I have released my expectations.  I will put those whom I expected to display gratitude and joy in a tender hold of prayer and love.

I found the cure for my grumpies – a dose of grace.people said amen

Thank you, God, for speaking in ways we can hear and showing up in the most unlikely places.  Amen.

 

 

Epiphany – A New Way of Seeing

Wise menWhen I was a child, we celebrated every day of Epiphany.  Its a big word, but my mom would tell us even little kids can understand big words if they’re explained right.  Epiphany, she explained, was the 12 days it took the Wise Men to follow the star and reach the baby Jesus.  She also told us that an epiphany meant something that causes us to see the world differently.  Like the birth of Jesus.

 

In our house, the Wise Men didn’t even make an appearance as part of the nativity until Christmas.  And then, they started out somewhere in the kitchen, far away from the nativity scene in the living room.  Every day, we moved them a bit closer.  We would talk about their journey, where they slept, we named the camels and we talked about them stopping in to see Herod, a king without honor who didn’t speak the truth.  She and my dad talked about how excited the kings were when they found Jesus, Mary and Joseph, not in the stable but in a house.

Puppy in a basket 2

A puppy for Jesus?

We talked about the gifts they brought for the baby and how odd they seemed.  Not a toy in sight.  We learned that the gold  was presented as a gift of value, the frankincense as perfume because olden time people didn’t bathe often and the baby’s world should smell sweet, and the myrrh was an oil to place on the baby announcing that this was the baby  King.  We talked about what we would have brought to baby Jesus.   Toys, soft clothes, real blankets, a pillow, a mobile with animals, a bassinet, something that played lullabies.  Maybe a puppy.

We spoke about Herod the Horrible as my sister Carla called him.  How could he be jealous of a baby?  And he lied to kings!  Who wants to hurt a baby?  (Okay, I did try to throw my sister Carla out a window when she was an infant but I meant to throw her to my mom who was gardening in the back yard.  Carla wouldn’t stop crying no matter how fast I rocked her bassinet and I knew my mom could make her stop.  In my defense, I was only 3.  And I trusted my mom’s ability to catch her.)

My mom described a dream that came to the kings that warned Herod meant to hurt Jesus and so they went home a different way.  She asked us about dreams that we had.  She explained that taking a different way home was a way to see new things or old things in a new way.  That we should never be afraid of taking a different way to where we were going.  Plans are meant to change, she implored.

On the last day of Epiphany, the wise men were placed in the nativity.  We shared what we had learned over the last year.  Calling one another weirdos was a bad thing and we had to sit at the kitchen table holding hands and saying nice things to each other when mom overheard us.  Learning to ride a bike was hard but once you learned, it was easy.  Including my younger brother Brad when we played house was a nice thing to do, even if we didn’t like doing it.  That my baby sister Penny cold be bribed to do anything if you had a Hershey bar.

The emphasis my parents put on Advent and Epiphany allowed us to Epiphaniesexperience Christmas not as a day but as an adventure.  Advent was the lead up to Christmas with something to talk about and look forward to.  There was never a let down after Christmas because then we had Epiphany.  We experienced the whole of Christmas, not just the day.

These traditions were a gift that has fed me spiritually my entire life.  I carry such gratitude to parents who taught me reverence for anticipation, revelation and transformation.  It has led to an appreciation of anticipation.  I have learned to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.  I spend time to reflect on what has happened and how that leads me to the next roads taken, new ways of thinking, of being.

May you know the gift of Epiphany and share its startling beauty with the world around you.

Winter reflection 2

Dear God, thank you for your stories that guide us, fill us, make us think and let us know love.  May our lives be filled with epiphanies that change us, see with new eyes and linger in our days with transformed hearts.  Help us see you and your ways with spirits that reflect your love in our world.  Give us courage to act on our new ways of seeing so that the world can see the God in us seeing the God in them.  Rejoicing in Epiphany, Amen.