As I hold this plate of ashes and oil.
“Embrace your frailty and put your hope in Jesus,” I say as I slowly mark a cross
From the plate of ashes and oil.
'…a crown of beauty…the oil of joy'
Parker Palmer, in his book Hidden Wholeness, says that part of being with someone who is dying is to sit quietly with their soul. Sitting quietly maintains respect for the person as God’s creation and child. Forcing an agenda, one’s own inquisitiveness, or desire for amends is to violate the sacredness of the person in their most sacred time.
I’ve been thinking about the LORD’s faithfulness a lot lately. When things are going smoothly, I don’t typically spend as much time thinking about some of the characteristics of my Holy God. But, when something happens that is not the way I would’ve planned it, I know I need to take some time to remember His past faithfulness during difficult times.
You may remember that we set out to get to know the people on our street and had an eventful potluck last June. To be honest with you, as life got hectic, days were shorter, and neighbors moved off and on our block, we lost momentum. Here recently we decided that we would have another potluck in February to spread some love outside of our walls and take it to the streets. So I wanted to dedicate this blog post to encouraging you – (yes, you) ...
I can’t recall ever decidedly making any specific New Year’s Resolutions in the past. I can recognize, however, that the there is something about the beginning of another calendar year which elicits a need to reflect on the events of the passing year and their effects. And by the same token, this annual occurrence also seems to stir up a need for deep consideration about how we would like the coming year to unfold, and then to resolutely decide the steps necessary to bring those desires to fruition.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that my teenage and young adult formative years intersected with the show South Park. While I wasn’t a frequent watcher by any means, I heard enough quotes and saw enough pieces of this just through being around friends at that age to capture the essence and patterns of this assortment of young, snowsuit-bundled kids in Colorado.
It all started on the Christmas morning of 1985 when a big square box was slid across the floor in my direction. It was neatly wrapped in Christmas paper, solid and heavy. There was no bow on it, just a nametag securely taped on that read, “To Rhinestone, From Unc”. I ripped the paper off the box with the vigor of any 11-year-old boy on Christmas morning and with some work broke through the second seal of tape on the box. Then I pulled the two top flaps open – that’s when the angels began to sing.
Have you ever experienced a moment that changed everything for you? A moment that you can look at - and without a doubt - say your life hasn’t been the same since?
Maybe it was moving to a new city or school. Maybe it was a new friend entering your life or an old friend exiting. Maybe it was a beautiful marriage or the birth of your first child ... or a painful divorce or child turning away from you.
Maybe your “That Changed Everything” moment had nothing to do with the things of Earth - instead it took place due to a spiritual experience with God in which you KNEW that your faith was real.
I was walking to the church office at Oak Park one day this past summer. Stepping out of the center stairwell, I saw what I thought was a large bug or insect banging against the glass of the center atrium. Stopping to make sure it wasn’t something that would get me, I realized that it wasn’t an insect at all but instead a hummingbird. I carefully walked up to it ensure that it wouldn’t dart away.
Since I began working as an English as a Second Language Teacher eight years ago, I continually get the question: “What other languages do you speak?”. This is a legitimate question that I enjoy responding to. I say “No, actually I don’t speak any other languages, my students do not need me to speak their native language.”
While I had seen this play out in the lives of the Israelites, I remember being shocked when God refused to let Moses enter the Promised Land. What?!! After all Moses had done, and yes, he made that mistake at the rock in Kadesh, but to not be allowed to complete his mission – wow! I learned then that God is serious about this business of obedience.
Do you ever think about the disciples or the people who met Jesus when He was on earth and wonder how they could possibly miss Him as the Messiah?
Of course I have—I’ve judged them too.
But I look at myself sober and realize that I don’t have the confidence that I would know Jesus if he sent me a singing Candygram and delivered it Himself.
I tried to address the questions, “Well, when it’s light outside, it’s harder to see the lights glowing. When it’s dark, we can see them better.” The question-asker ran off, momentarily satisfied, leaving me with my own thoughts – “Is that what it’s like for us as Christians: Can people see our lights shining brighter in the darkness even though they are equally bright in the day time?”