Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Life Transitions (Page 1 of 2)

September 23, 2018 – Being embodied

Today’s Bible reading

Don’t you understand that together you form a temple to the living God and His Spirit lives among you? If someone comes along to corrupt, vandalize, and destroy the temple of God, you can be sure that God will see to it that he meets destruction because the temple of God is sacred. You, together, are His temple. – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (The Voice)

More thoughts for meditation

As human beings, we are subject to the joys and limitations of time and space. Our spirits may soar through time and space in our imaginations, but we must daily eat, sleep and be located in a very particular time and place. A sure sign of your limitation is how you probably monitored how much time you could “spend” on this Daily Prayer entry!

Spaces are important to us and they form a picture of spiritual direction that can help with transition.  Consider two questions.

  • Is there a place (mountain, desert, ocean, cave, etc) at the boundary of your life where you need to retreat to complete your discernment about your transition?
  • What actual places might you need to visit in order to discover if you are being called to live out the next phase of life in that location?

In this virtual age, we are often tempted to cut off the physical as a means to revelation. But our Lord is an incarnate God, in Mary, in time, in the body of Christ – the church, and in us. Our experiences and decision-making processes are always like birth.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Be born in me and in my place.

If you have had a process you wanted to track through this week about transitioning, maybe you are beginning to come to some clarity. If you have been journaling along with the exercises, now might be a good time to review what you have written and see what emerges. Can you see two or more options? That is likely. Maybe the best two can be put through a longer process.

Schedule a retreat. Even a half-day at home or at your relative’s house when no one is there can be very useful. Maybe you can go that “thin place” where you often sense God with you. Maybe you would like to explore local retreat centers collected on The Way of Jesus site – see if a hermitage is available in Aston.

September 22, 2018 – seeking forgiveness

Related image

The meeting of Jacob and Esau — Tissot

Today’s Bible reading

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. – Matthew 5:13

More thoughts for meditation

Salt gives flavor. In Jesus’ time, it was also the primary preservative of food. Jesus invites us not to rot and to have a full life, robust in flavor. As we make major life transitions – those we choose and those we do not, there are frequently issues from our past relationships or work experiences that seem unresolved. They cause us to “lose our salt” – we are inhibited from bringing our unique flavor to what is next. The things weighing on us may hold us back from the new life calling to us. So we are looking at inner struggles today: hurts, failures, errors and the guilt, regret, shame, resentment and other feelings that often accompany them.

The stories of Jacob (Genesis 33:1-11) and Jesus (Luke 15:11-32) both have stories of forgiveness in the middle of them. The forgiveness of Esau for his usurper brother Jacob may have the most to say to us, since they were in a conflicted intimate relationship, like many of us are. When Jacob dares to return home after years of trouble and transformation he is met by a brother who long before had decided to forgive him. This was a healing moment he totally did not expect. Esau reflects the father in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son who was looking down the road waiting for his child to return. Are you carrying resentments, haunted by unredressed injustice, or saddled with guilt for what you have done? These are likely to come up when transition calls us over a new threshold. They need to be touched by forgiveness.

We all carry baggage with us on the journey. It is a little simplistic to put it this way, but we need to open up the suitcases, look clearly at the contents, offer these painful circumstances to God, and receive deep release – then let go or make amends, as possible, and move on. It is tempting to hang on to a hurtful experience, overlay it with emotional responses that create patterns thinking and behavior, come to a place where we can name the issue, and then get stuck in self-criticism for having the issue and not getting over it. Where there is trauma, damaging patterns from the family, or mental illness, the journey can be long. But Jesus is a healer. If we can manage to trust the Lord for our future and not condemn ourselves to creating some perfect self on our own, we can be healed.

In 1 Corinthians 5:16-21 Paul has a variation on the salt of the earth theme. He says, in Christ the old has passed away and everything is new. God’s love compels us to be reconciled with our Creator and others. The sin is being undone by forgiveness! God forgives us and we forgive ourselves. As a result, we find new life as reconcilers in the world – which feels good.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Help me forgive myself and others as you have forgiven me, so I don’t lose my salt.

Think about the transition you are in or consider your place on your spiritual journey.

1) What baggage from the past do you bring into the current journey? Something to confess? People you need to contact? Are you ready for some kind of ritual release? Can you let go of hurts you have inflicted or endured? Jesus is willing to heal.

2) Are there roads not taken that you now regret? Can you accept the modified results of your choices? Or do you need to release the regret over your poor choice?  Jesus has forgiven you already.

3) Think over these terms and see if any regrets and hurts surface: Family, church, environment, friends, choices, work, the world. Are you carrying things, maybe some that just became conscious, that inhibit you? Jesus is preparing a way for you.

4) Would one of these ways toward healing be best suited for where you are right now?

  • Seek counseling. Trauma and family issues often benefit from a process with a skilled therapist. If you want inner healing, even if you don’t know why, this would be a good route to take. Circle Counseling has skilled therapists.
  • Enter into prayer. Center in on love and open the bags. Write down your experiences and discoveries.
  • Visit Jesus at the well (John 4:1-26). In your imaged prayer sit with Jesus, who knows all about you, and pour out your heart. Be understood and receive living water.
  • Let your cell pray for you. You can tell them your issue or just let them pray for your healing.
  • Have a time of formal confession, reconciliation with God and release with your pastor or spiritual director. They may have a ritual they use; you may want to ask for one that seems right to you.

September 21, 2018 –  Listening to suffering

Peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 11) — John August Swanson

Today’s Bible reading

Not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? – Romans 8:23-4

More thoughts for meditation

The groaning Paul notes is not just about the sacrifices we need to make to have full and meaningful lives, it is also about the sufferings we endure as people engaged in a fallen and wicked world. Our sufferings are the sign we are coming up against sin and death. It may be a sore throat or a financial crisis, but all our sufferings have meaning and are each an invitation, in God’s hands, to explore personal or communal development.

Often Christians think of salvation as all about the age to come. But that is just one aspect of the term when it is used in the Bible. Salvation is about healing and wholeness. Holiness means wholeness. In Jesus, God is being reconciled to humanity and bringing reconciliation among individuals, communities, and with creation. Salvation is moving with that attention to the well being of all creation. The Old Testament names it shalom: being in right relationship with God, all our fellow creatures and creation itself.

We often think of our suffering as happening in our marriage, family or circle of friends. But as the Hebrew psalmists and prophets vividly declared, our enemies are larger than us and we should not presume that we, or our intimates, caused all the pain we bear. We are part of a church, a local community, a city/state/nation/people, a watershed/environment, a transhistorical body/realm of spiritual beings, and God is over it all. Our discernment is more effective if we relate to all these levels in our process.

When discerning transition, which may have been caused by suffering and will likely include it, we return to the truth that we discover who we are when we understand our relationship to the Creator, whether we are seeking in times of joy or distress. Spiritual light, as can be seen in the Psalms and Prophets, has always been understood to include both the glow of the forge of suffering and the brilliance of the moment of joy, utter defeat and surprising victory. The experiences are two faces of the same God: death and resurrection.

Suggestions for action

Pray: May the groans of my heart teach me and not defeat me. Lead me.

Try considering the transition you are in or entering, or your life, by considering four ways that open up our concerns in relation to all the levels of relating to creation we experience.

The positive way: How do you celebrate your life as a human being, created by God, redeemed by Jesus? As a creation you were declared “very good.” And while you were still a sinner, Jesus died for you. What aspects of being God’s creature in creation inspire you, fill you with joy and hope, uplift your spirit?

The negative way: What aspects of human existence create pain and suffering for you? They could be particular: health problems, psychological issues, or addictions. They could relate to the suffering of others in the world. What are the ways you deal with these sufferings? How does your awareness affect your present discernment?

The creative way: When we attend to our two faces, the two previous ways, our creative energy is unleashed. As you meditate on your responses to the positive and negative ways you travel, listen for how you go through suffering on ways that draw upon your sense of being blessed as one of God’s creatures. This process may lead to surprising  new directions as you consider your transition.

The transformative way: It is possible that our natural state includes some built-in discontent that constantly looks for relief when we see how our creative efforts relate to the life of the world. Our attempts to co-create with God create us; by transforming, we are transformed. How do you see yourself contributing to the salvation of the world?

September 20, 2018 – Creative Relinquishment

plant grape vine vineyard wine fruit leaf purple food green red harvest produce autumn agriculture thanksgiving leaves shrub violet grapes fall foliage golden autumn fill wealth wine leaf flowering plant vitis winemaker pinot noir ahr valley abundant land plant grapevine family zante currant

Today’s Bible reading

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.  He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. – John 15:1-11

More thoughts for meditation

One of the most challenging themes for persons living in concert with the creativity of God is how to attend to present passions while releasing those tasks that are completed. How can we honor the past that we carry with us while not letting it define the future? How can we live in a well-ordered psychological house without accumulating too much stuff in the basement?  Life in the Spirit is a flow of engagement and release, of attachment and detachment, of commitment and relinquishment. If we cling to the past, continuing to serve yesterday’s passions, we might neglect to make adequate space in our hearts for the next season of life and service. As we listen to God’s creative beckoning, we need to ask, “What must I release, in order to make way for what is calling now?”

Growth, fruiting and decline are all acknowledged in the Lord’s powerful metaphor for how to relate to him in today’s reading. We are branches of Christ, the living vine. We have seasons of growth and productivity. Then, branches wither and die. Fruit that is a gift to the world is produced through a flow of the Spirit into us. Without that life-giving flow, we cease to produce fruit.

Many times this word is reduced to meaning, “You’re either attached to the vine or you will die.” That is true. But the word also describes how we have an active gardener working on our behalf for the best expression of our life. The Lord’s picture of a spiritual vineyard reflects the creation as a whole where there are seasons of preparation, growth, harvest and then a period of fallowness. Sometimes branches die. We cooperate with the Gardener and move with the seasons. When the time is right, we let go of the task that was life-giving to us and to the world and move on. We don’t want to prop up the old tasks, the old ways of being rather than allowing seasons of change to occur. Senators Feinstein and Grassley are entering their late 80’s. Was there really no place to grow?

Suggestions for action

Pray: Thank you for the invitation to abide in your love and the attention you give to my joy.

This exercise about creative relinquishment could take a long time. So just praying the prayer may be good enough for now.

Start with a review of what is emerging for your discernment (Monday’s exercise was designed to help), or just use this as a way to review where your life is going right now. Find yourself securely in the Vine as you meditate on today’s reading. Then ask four basic questions:

  1. What is growing well and producing fruit?

You may be discerning about a particular transition you sense or reviewing your whole life. Be generous. What feels good or fulfilling? You might like to do this whole exercise as a picture: your branch attached to the Vine.

Take a little break between all the questions after you have written about them.

  1. What is growing well but could use attention (pruning) to be more fruitful?

On your branch of the vine, what needs pruning? The Chief Gardener is probably already asking for cooperation. You might need to rearrange your daily schedule to spend more time in prayer and study. You might need to spend less time volunteering for the coalition so you can raise your toddler. You may need to get a better job so you can stabilize you life structure.

  1. What is “dead” wood?

Dead is in quotation marks, since in the Lords ecosystem, when a seed falls into the earth and “dies” it rises to new life and bears much fruit (John 12:24). Creative relinquishment happens in the context of resurrection and eternal life, not in a realm of scarcity and decline. So consider what is no longer growing. What is merely a habit? Where have attitudes or convictions become hard-hearted instead of energizing? What elements of you have outlived their usefulness? What activities and habits of the heart could be tossed into the “consuming fire” in a celebration of release?

  1. What is ready to sprout?

All earthly life grows through seasons of renewal. What is ready to be born in and through you? What kind of space do they need to flourish? By this time you may have a whole new branch growing from your branch of the Vine. You may need to write an action plan to implement what is being revealed. Good thoughts need good plans: impression without expression might lead to depression.

« Older posts