Friday, April 08, 2011

Spring Sniffles

Image found at Flicker.

Stuffy nose,
pounding head.
Maybe someone ought to go to bed.

But phones gonna ring,
and email is gonna sprawl,
with a stuffy nose running and head ready to fall.

Springtime sniffles don't make any sense,
with crocus blooming and sweaters hanging over the fence.

I want to soak up all the sun I can stand,
and leave spring sniffles behind me like a too-long winter that finally says... "Uncle", shrugs it's shoulders
and walks away with open empty hands.

T.L. Eastman 2011

The Triple A Toolbox

Triple AAA is the place you call when you are stuck in a ditch, your battery is dead or you have a flat tire. Either way, without Triple AAA or a car jack - you can't get anywhere very fast. Sometimes, you have to call for help and obtain the right tools to fit the challenge of becoming unstuck.

Last Fall I attended training with Charlie Roberts from the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Gettysburg.He spent some time teaching ways of fostering foundations for Youth Ministry, and ultimately the whole churches ministries, that last. One of this things he said was necessary for success, was recruiting and helping to develop "Triple AAA Adults" to help serve in ministry. Just like the folks you call when you have a flat tire, triple AAA volunteers help to build a strong foundation in ministry with their unique gifts. These volunteers build people up, help to develop meaningful cross-generational relationships in the church community and function in the capacity of a mentor/guide to the youth they serve.

Helping people to develop and maintain healthy relationships is an important part of ministry. When people look for a friend, they need that person to be authentic, available and affirming. As an adult, when I consider the best and closest relationships I have; they are ones built on authenticity, affirmation and availableness.

Triple AAA Volunteers are people of faith that have these same qualities of being:
1. Available, 2. Authentic, and 3. Affirming. Imagine for a moment what youth and even whole church ministry can look like when teams of available, authentic and affirming individuals work together to foster Christian faith and life through caring conversations, devotions, service, rituals and traditions.

In the next few months, FLC youth and family ministry will be seeking out triple AAA individuals to greater develop foundations for mission and ministry. Would you like to become a team member of the triple AAA's? Prayerfully consider joining a team of available, authentic and affirming hearts that come together to help people out of the ditches, get someone back on the road to spiritual wholeness and do more than change tires. With God's help, you can improve the life of the young person you serve and in turn, that young person might even change yours.

To learn more about Triple AAA adults and building foundations for youth and family Ministry, visit Vibrant Faith Ministries here.

God mystery...

This hymn was brought to my attention by my husband after her received it from a devotional email he subscribes to. I love how the author of this hymn embraces the awesome, abundant mystery of God. The mystery of God is impossible for humanity to fully comprehend, and yet how we are drawn into always wanting to know God more.

The truth of God is greater far

The truth of God is greater far
Than our poor human mind,
Than any doctrine, creed, or sect,
All partial and confined.
His treasures hold uncounted wealth
That hearts have never heard.
Our boundless God has yet more light
To shine out from His Word.

Who dares to limit God Himself
To what we understand,
To shrink His sprawling mystery
And hold it in our hand?
Immensity of purest love!
An ocean unexplored!
Our boundless God has yet more light
To shine out from His Word.

O Lord, Your Word is Jesus Christ,
Your truth in us begun,
But O the depths of all He is
And all that He has done!
Let faith and love each day increase
The hunger You have stirred:
May more and more of Christ our Light
Shine brightly from Your Word!

Words by Ken Bible and George Rawson (1807-1889)and you can listen to it here!

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Blessing Challenge

For a little while now, I've been reading 'Life of the Beloved" by H. Nouwen with a group of young adults. Most of our discussion has been centered on embracing the fact and practice of being "Beloved" by God. This last week, we've moved on to the topic of "blessing".

Image from Cathy Jamison Fine Art.

When I think of a blessing, I think of a prayer said before a meal or a night-time "Now I lay me down to sleep...". I learned that the meaning of blessing is benediction and when that word is broken down to it's root meaning it is: Speak/well.

I was challenged in our discussion to consider how much talking would cease if the only speaking we uttered was a blessing, a benediction, or speaking well of self and others at all times. What we hear from others and speak has an incredible impact upon the world. The practice of blessing and affirmation is one that proves to be a great value, especially in light of all the 'other' things that usually fill our ears and mouths.

Mr. Nouwen says knowing we are beloved by God is not enough to keep us on the track that leads to life, it is also necessary to understand and embrace our blessedness in practical ways. He challenges the reader to not only become more aware, jot down and be actively thankful for the blessings in our life; but to take time in solitude, scripture and prayer daily so we are reminded that was are beloved and blessed. He also states that the blessed person can't help but to bless others. Once we truly understand our beloved and blessedness, and we take time with God away from the "other" chatter then we will gain greater ability to bless others.

For years quiet time has been a challenge for me. Each day of my life is not consistent in schedule or duty - so hulling out a quiet time and space can be daunting. However, when I look at quiet time in the framework of blessing and in reading Nouwen's directive approach, my perception and value of quiet-blessing-time is increasing. If I desire to be a blessing to others, how can I give something that I don't take time for myself. I don't want to be empty of the ability to speak well of others, so it is necessary for me to allow time for my own quiet blessing time - so I am filled with God speaking the blessing and beloved identity into me. Only then, can I speak it to others.

Mark 12:30-31
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Taking time for quiet-time or blessing time as I've started to call it, is a very practical way of living out this commandment from Mark. This act of moment-by-moment living into being beloved and blessed is a challenge, but it is much less difficult than trying to live in a world absent of blessing or love. In blessing time - our love for God, others and self is shown in taking time to be filled with something we all are searching for...a blessing.

"Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love.
— Henri J.M. Nouwen