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February Newsletter-Fishes & Loaves

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

The Lord IS MY! Shepherd… (23rd Psalm)

I emphasize the ‘is my’ because when we read or say this prayer it should be more akin to a shout, a profound revelation of our relationship with God.  I know you ‘read the paper’, well actually, you probably read the internet, and we are all well aware of the plight I, you, and the whole world faces with the current world affairs. We are aware of the real concerns with national and cultural wars within our own borders and the personal, one on one conflicts of everyday life.  We live in a world of unbelievable contrast and division.  These are tough times.  They hold no definition for the future.  We live in a world of huge and terrifically important choices; a world that tries to make those choices camouflaged but in doing so makes them clear.  They seem to scream to us, ‘choose you this day who you will serve.’   It might even be called ‘kingdom against Kingdom.’  I still (and especially after the last 10 months experience with Jane’s physical struggle) think that for the moment we find ourselves in, the most important message to deliver to believers is to learn to Trust!

It was one of many of the miracles that Mark (Chapter 8) describes in his Gospel.  Jesus had just fed 4000 followers with 7 loaves and a few fish.  The disciples had witnessed this miracle and were fully aware of what had just happened.  Immediately afterward, Jesus and the disciples entered a boat and sailed across the lake.  There, they ran into Pharisees, who were disrespectful and belligerent.  Jesus left them in their unbelief and re-entered the boat and went back across the lake.  In that crossing the disciples, having one loaf of bread in the boat, became pre-occupied with eating and how they were to be fed.  They had just seen Jesus bless and break bread for 4000, and here they are, minutes later, wondering about where their next meal might come.  Jesus’ simple response was, ‘do you not yet understand?’  Really, not a very complex question from Jesus, no hour long lecture here, just a simple question to prompt thought.

In that exchange, he does not tell them that they are stupid or even wrong, simply walking them through what a ‘soulish’ blunder they had made.  Their mistake was in not trusting in his Love, even doubting, just after having seen Jesus feed all those people with so few resources.  They failed to see the compassion of God, the heart of God.  Instead, they saw a miracle, a physical act of God but an act that did not have the staying power of a converted mind and will.  They needed something in their hearts rather than in their eyes!  They remembered the bread but forgot the Father.  They knew the number of fish, number of loaves and the number of people but forgot the Compassion that broke the bread.  Physical miracles are terrific and necessary many times, but we will need a heart change, a mind and will change in the long run, in order to meet the daily grind of this grist-mill called life.  We not only need the experience of having seen God on the outside of life but, in our inner life, eventually we will need to experience Him as well.

Trusting lets us, makes us, free and at ease.  ‘..take no thought what you shall eat…drink or how you will be clothed, …your Father knows what you have need of, but, seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness….all these things will be added unto you…take no thought for the morrow’.  (Matthew 6:31)  Actually, had the disciples gotten that message and not just the image of the miracle, they would not have had to remember anything else.  They would have realized that the one loaf in that boat was more than enough.  Had they been looking with their hearts rather than their heads, they would have known that they had the One that makes all loaves in the boat with them.

They had immediately lost heart to the notion that Jesus taught on how to take no thought for tomorrow.  Tomorrow means any future: the next second, the next hour, the next week, next year and beyond.  The next minute from now is just as future as the next 1000 years in the heart of God.  For us, tomorrow has not been made yet!  Our lives are like novels that are to be read one day at a time; tomorrow we will learn what happens on the next page, revealed in full when we get there, not before.

These disciples were not unbelievers that were simply lost, these were men that had left everything to follow Jesus. They were purposed, dedicated and still ‘growing up in Christ.’  In Mark, Jesus taught of the bad leaven of the Pharisees and also of a good leaven of the Kingdom of God.  Good leaven takes time to expand, time to rise, and time to come to full measure.  I think the Kingdom of God in our lives is like that.  The Love of God gradually leavens the whole man.  We can have ‘things that enter in’ during our daily clamor.  Things that keep us from seeing the subtle and important teaching of Jesus; we see the miracle but miss the Heart which is intended to fortify our Christian walk.  That one loaf and their bellies had blocked the door and barricaded the intimacy between the disciples and Jesus teaching about the Father’s Compassion.  Fear and doubt entered their minds rather than the thought that they were walking with the Creator of the universe.  Sometimes what we have blocks us from God; sometimes, as it was in this case, what we don’t have clouds our thinking, not trusting who has given to us in the past and who is ready, willing and able to give to us again.

It wasn’t the miracle that Jesus wanted the disciples to see; it was the Compassion and Love that was his message.  Signs are easily forgotten; however, once revealed by the Spirit of God, the Love of God will never be forgotten.  We kind of live in a one loaf world right now…is that going to be enough?

January Newsletter-Brain Knowledge

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Cna yuo raed tihs? fi yuo cna
raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid

Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht
I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch
at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod
are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit
pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm.
Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the
wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and we awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Our brains are such weird things, well not as weird as they are marvelous.  Can you read the message above?  Was it hard or easy?  I can only speak for me and those folks around the office that I tried this on and it was amazing how little effort it took to ‘decode’ the mumble/jumble of those letters.  I surprised myself and they were shocked how our brains could take just the slightest suggestion of a word and make sense out of it.  The brain just ‘knows’ what to do and how to do it.  That kind of knowledge fascinates me.  It makes me think that, if we can get just a glimpse of God, that hint will help us ‘know’ Him.  Of course the interpreter of that kind of knowledge is the Spirit of God.  The Spirit reveals to our hearts the nature and character of God, just like our brain figures out the complexity of the letters above for us.

That kind of knowledge was a big deal for the Apostle Paul, praying that we might be filled with the knowledge of God. Peter prayed that Grace and Peace be multiplied to us through the knowledge of God that ‘according as His divine power (God) has given to us all things that pertain to Life and Godliness, through the knowledge of Him that has called us to Glory and Virtue.’  He linked virtue to knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience and to patience godliness, to godliness kindness and to kindness charity.  And, if those things be in you they make you neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of God. But if you lack those things they make you blind and unable to see that God purged you from Sin. (2Peter 1: 1-9)  John taught us to know the Truth and the Truth will make you Free. (John 8:32)  Christ said that if we had known him we should have known his Father, and if we really could perceive who he (Christ) was we should be able to perceive Who the Father was. (John 14:7)  Hosea promised us that for a ‘lack of Knowledge’ of Him that people perish (experience calamity).

Knowledge is a big deal.  Now I don’t just mean study knowledge.  I don’t mean things learned from hours of thought and an accumulation of tapes, books and conferences. Timothy said that religious believers were constantly learning, yet never coming to the knowledge of Him, possessing a zeal for God but without knowledge (Romans 10:2).  How can that be?  If you go back to the beginning, we get a clue as to what God was ‘dreaming about’ when He created Adam.  God was looking for an intimate relationship with His creature.  The complexity of God (Father, Son and Spirit) was adding to their circle with a hand out to the creature to come join them in relationship.

To help us understand the heart of God’s will (it’s a pretty profound thing to think about, really), he gave Adam Eve and created intimacy between them.  The scriptures say that Adam knew Eve.  It did not mean that he recognized her by her looks, or knew her because she was hanging round the house.  It meant they had the capacity for intimacy; to experience one another in a way best stated as soul to soul.  It is the closest relationship a man and woman can experience and it’s the most intimate experience of the creature.  That’s what marriage was instituted for.  It was to be the vehicle of two becoming one.  Of course with our brilliant minds we turned marriage into a carnal fleshly experience, but God gave marriage to teach us of an intimacy that, while husbands and wives could experience it physically, but also and most importantly experience it in their souls.  Ultimately God wanted that experience of intimacy between a man and womb-man to teach us of the intimacy of God.  Destroying the purpose of marriage destroys the purpose of its ‘oneness’.  There’s a spiritual unification that takes place in God’s man and woman relationships, a ‘mingling’ that teaches us about Him; it is not about the flesh but about the Spirit.  God wanted the creature to know Him in the same intimacy as that of Adam knowing Eve, wanted us to know that just as man and woman would become one, that man (both kinds of man) and God would become one with us. We could become dependent and trusting enough that God could lead us, guide us, and know our every thinking.  And, we would know Him to the point of unconditional Trust.  That’s why I think biblical marriage is always in the bulls-eye, targeted from the beginning to be diminished, confused and destroyed.  Marriage was defined in Genesis, established in the Law and continues to be challenged today, continues to be a focus of man being independent from God and doing things his way.

Knowing God is about yielding to His touch, His hug, His persuading us that He loves us with a love that passes our understanding.  It’s us being intimate with God; face to face with God.  If we want to know what kind of relationship God imagined with the creature, all we have to do is go back to the original relationship.  God walked and talked with Adam, gave him dominion over the whole of creation and was with him in the morning light and the evening calm.  That same God, because of Jesus Christ, again is accessible to walk in our lives daily; the Tree of Life, pulled from the Garden of Eden, has been planted again in the Garden of Gethsemane in the form of Christ.

While the brain may be marvelous, the Spirit of God is even more marvelous.  It’s amazing to read the paragraph above and just shake our heads at the ‘weirdness’ of being able to do so.  Knowing God is so much more than having read about Him or been to a conference about Him, it’s about a Knowledge, a knowing, that is so profound it has the power and a promise to make us Free! It’s knowing Him intimately because we have experienced and learned to have confidence in His promptings and His purpose. However, because we have ‘wee’ understanding much of the time, the Love of God is riddled something like the letters above.  However, if you know the first and the last of God, the beginning and the end, we Know Him in a way that even without all the letters of our understanding being in the right order, the Spirit of God reveals Him to us and reveals a God inviting you to be in His presence, a God who will be there in the good times and the not so good times, 7-24 in an intimate and loving ‘oneness’.  Go figure!

December Newsletter-Joy To The World

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‘Peace on earth, good will toward men.’  That’s a good start right?  It’s The Season and I feel a tradition to write the obligatory Christmas letter.  I get it, and at least I started out with a Christmas card greeting.  And, Peace can be a subject of Christmas.  As for this letter, I’ll paraphrase Peace to include Joy as well.  They may not be exactly the same, but both are in the same family, cousins, and they are both genetically similar accept for a twist or two in their DNA.  Now, I’m not perfect at what I’m about to write about; for that matter, no one is perfect at this subject because being flesh and bone we make mistakes about Peace and Joy.  You suffer some times when Peace seems to be hiding behind a tree somewhere, not to be easily found.  But that said, let me tell you what I believe about Peace and Joy.

First, I think it’s overwhelmingly possible for Peace/Joy, when we apply the Gospel to our daily lives, to be constant companions; constant when we don’t forget to keep them front and center in our lives.  In the past I’ve had Joy and Peace drop by and spend some time with me, you know, kind of visit for a few hours or days.  Jane and I first learned of the Peace of God years ago when the radio station went through some pretty heavy duty stress.  Going through this past year has reinforced our feelings about Peace in ways we had not experienced before.  Currently, the financial stress found in all the economy has affected the giving environment and has presented new challenges for us, but we have been through that before.  However, even more evidence of the Peace of God was found during Jane’s Guillain-Barré experience.  It left me a bit more of a ‘slow thinker’ if you will.  Since March 21st, I’ve tried to slow down some of my hurry, my push, to stop and enjoy the moments more than before.  Before, it seemed that Joy sometimes had other things to do. In the hustle and bustle of life, I kind of forgot to check the back lot for her– see if Peace was still hangin’ round the house somewhere.  You see, during those weeks and months that Jane was so sick, one day at a time became all I could deal with.  One day is all we had at that point. Thinking about the past or future was of no value to me then.  All my planning, work and stability was taken away.  I just made the most out of the moment.  And while I saw some really grim stuff, at the end of each day was a Thanksgiving for another tomorrow.  That’s when Thanksgiving moved in to stay.  And do you know who travels with Thanksgiving?  Yep, Peace and Joy.  Move right in; make themselves at home, with the arrival of Thanksgiving.

They all three moved in and stayed around for a while this time; they stayed in the guest room of my mind.  People have done so much for us, said so many kind things, prayed for us.  Our health care givers were so encouraging and compassionate.  Great Peace took a comfortable chair, sat down, took up residence.  Why?  It seems to me that it was because I stopped ‘taking thought for tomorrow.’  Ours became a day to day experience. We found so much Peace and Joy it brought Comfort to Jane and me both.  It actually made a lot of sense to me afterward.  (Now this is the important part!) God inhabits the present.  My mental and emotional trips to the future were of little good and unnecessary when God is in your now!  Jane and I have always encouraged one another to live in the now.  Our imaginations are usually very emotionally exaggerated and typically the future doesn’t turn out to be what we imagined anyway.  Most are thoughts that never have any value, no substance, no reality; they are empty and sometimes horrible, vain imaginations.  If left unchecked they dominate our lives even when in reality they do not come to pass.  God is in the Real!

God lives in reality; it is in the real that He is always present.  My imaginations are usually me managing and predicting events, kind of making me god over some future before it happens.  In God’s economy tomorrow will take care of tomorrow.  Leaving today and worrying about tomorrow walks away from God’s moment and enters into our imagined future.   I’ve discovered that it’s not Peace and Joy that visits us occasionally and stays but a few days, it’s us that visits and then leaves to imagine other days and focus on other things.  His today interacts with our today each day.   His Grace is a day to day experience.  Today is enough. There’s enough God in today, and knowing that permits us not to have to move on to the future so much.  Living in the present is where you hear the voice of God, where you witness the leading of the Spirit of God.

Have you ever noticed how Jesus lived in just the single day?  As you watch his ministry you see someone that had time for all kinds of people, had time to listen and share with each person.  He was led by the Spirit of God each day.  He was not living way out in front.  He took his own advice and did not ‘toil or weave’ but lived each day like God was present with him.  We will not be 100% successful at ‘taking no thought for tomorrow’ but we can do better than we might think.  Trust and obey is a motto we’ve used, but being faithful to this Gospel and this Faith has a deeper Trust and Obeying than we commonly live in each day.  Can we really put our lives in the hand of God?  Can we trust and believe like we really should?  Well, at least I think we can improve.  I think so because as we experience God’s Grace guess who shows up to reinforce that?  Yep! Thanksgiving, Peace, Joy.  I’m trying to take a deep breath now and slow my day down. I want to notice today’s opportunity and not rush to tomorrow so quickly.  Not easy for us in this culture, but doable nonetheless.

There were long days in Chicago, 24 hour days where each hour presented a new focus unlike Jane and I have experienced before.  And, I’m not sure, but it felt like there was a deeper Peace to be found there.  The Joy of each moment overpowered the terror of the moment.  And, in the middle of that, Thanksgiving was easy to find.  It moved into the hospital room with me.  I had a chair in the corner to live in.  I’m not sure where Thanksgiving, Peace and Joy slept, but I can tell you each morning as I woke from a couple hours sleep, all three stood in that room, ready to be daily companions.  They had moved in to stay and I liked it!

Scripture says live like this: ‘whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things…and the Peace of God shall be with you. (Phil 4:8)  It’s True!

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