Level 5 Member
Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 10:59 AM
Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford University commencement address is one of the most inspiring speeches I have ever read and heard.
This talk is full of inspiration from someone who succeeded and who failed. And who was not ashamed to talk about both of those experiences. That's the kind of wisdom I want to encounter. Jobs' willingness to admit he was heartbroken, but not fully broken, by his ouster from the firm he helped create gave him credibility when he spoke to why we must push through the hard times and turn those hard times into new opportunity.
Jobs' statement that we cannot connect the dots of our lives looking forward, but can only make those connections in hindsight sounds very much like this to me: "For we walk by faith, not by sight" 2 Corinthians 5:7 (KJV)
Yes, it's OK to follow God ordained dreams because what God wants for us is very much in tune with the person He created us to be. How often do we hold back because we let other people tell us we're not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, or not connected enough to have what's good and what brings us joy? Looking back, how often have we regretted following those thoughts instead of following the best God had for us?
No, we cannot connect the dots going forward. But we can connect our faith to what's happening today and know that as we follow and obey God, those dots of a faith-filled life will be beautifully and perfectly arranged by the One Who Knows And Loves Us Best.
I don't know anything about Steve Jobs' spiritual beliefs beyond a news report that he once studied Buddhism. I am not a Buddhist, nor am I encouraging anyone to become a Buddhist. I encourage people to become Christians because I believe it is the only way to find God and live the life we were created to live. Still, I think there is a lot of wisdom in what Jobs said about having a determined optimism, seeking new opportunity in all situations, and not allowing circumstances to steal the joy of being alive, of being creative, and of sharing who we are with the world. His words and actions created a worthy legacy.
We cannot connect the dots ahead of time. That's why we are called to live by faith. We are also assured that there is One Who Connects All Parts of our lives, and that we can trust His love and His care for us and for the world.
(c) 2011 Deborah Evans
Tuesday, October 4, 2011, 11:54 AM
A Prayer About Food
Lord: Help me to remember my sisters and brothers all over my country and all over the world
Who cannot buy what they want to eat,
Who are never full "after a meal",
Who eat partially-rotten food because that is all there is.
Who eat what's left after their children eat,
Who don't give their children enough to eat because they can't,
Who count the days until they can buy more food,
Who divide every food item two or three times before cooking,
Who miss the favorite food they can no longer buy, or can no longer find.
Who settle for a smell instead of a taste,
Who are thinner than they should be,
Who are malnourished---badly nourished,
not enough nourished,
There are twenty thousand items in my local "supermarket."
Help me to remember those who struggle to get two items to eat today.
Keep me from the sin of gluttony and "food- greediness"
(Am I mindlessly eating more than I should just because I can?)
Keep me in memory of those whose bodies and souls need more.
Keep me in the action of sharing from my substance.
(c) 2011 Deborah Evans
Thursday, September 29, 2011, 11:06 AM
Joan Chittister;s book, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope is one of those books at the top of my "reading this changed me forever" list.
Also on the list is Pilgrim's Progress, The Screwtape Letters, Hind's Feet on High Places, and In Search of Our Mother's Gardens. Chittister's book is on my list because she gives the best explanation I have read of why and how we should sometimes embrace powerlessness.
Her discussion reminds me of St. Paul's assertion that "when I am weak, then I am strong." I appreciate how Chittister unpacks this by explaining how we can be freed when we submit to our powerlessness in certain situations and circumstances. She assumes we have done our spiritual "due diligence": prayed, listened, waited, self-examined, etc. At the end of this process, she confirms the wisdom of sometimes confessing we are powerless and that we must embrace that powerlessness to free ourselves to see things as they truly are---not how we would make them--and then reconfigure our approach to something that is unchanging.
While reading--very slowly and deliberately--Chittister's chapter on powerlessness, I came to understand how accepting and clearly naming powerlessness frees us from a matrix in which we can learn nothing new, build no new bridges, gain no new faith, and acquire no new skills.
Chittister also challenges us not to hide behind a phony faith that says: "Well, I am powerless, but God is all powerful and He will work it out for my benefit!" Do we always know what "our benefit" will look and feel like? Probably not. Have we even asked to know? Perhaps we will benefit from embracing powerlessness in certain places and waiting to see what will emerge afterwards. Accepting the limitations of being powerless in a situation is an extreme demonstration of faith. We do not need to see or know the outcome to be certain of God's personal involvement with whatever is happening with us. We are not giving God orders for certain outcomes. We are powerless while we wait for Him to do His work in and through us. This is true freedom.
We are His vessels, His servants. It is enough.
(c)2011 Deborah Evans
Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 11:59 AM
I'm still in a bit of a "post 9/11 10th anniversary remembrance funk", so I watched a DVD that came with a recently arrived book, What We Saw. In this film from a book that includes text and images from CBS News' coverage of the events of that day, I watched the managing partner of a financial firm tell how he survived losing over a third of his staff that day. He said was was determined to have "a high threshold for the small stuff." That's what enabled him to begin the process of healing and rebuilding his firm.
I was a part of a conversation about what many "traditional, mainline denominational churches" are going to do in the next five to ten years regarding their declining (and aging) memberships. As a famed Russian revolutionary once wrote: " What is to be done? "
One thing that must be done is for those who want to attract new members to lose their sense of neediness, the sense that "bodies at all cost" will solve "the problem." Those bodies, unless sent and directed by God, will not solve any problems and may, in fact, create a host of new problems.
God, through Jesus Christ, builds the church, and that church is fed and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Do any of us think we can accomplish this through our natural ability? Gimmicks may "bring them in", but gimmicks won't keep them in because true seekers already know their lives are messed up and won't honestly accept someone telling them they can be saved from themselves and from sin without making radical changes under the direction of God.
Nobody likes the idea of getting smaller (from an organizational standpoint) and nobody likes the idea that there are more empty seats than full ones on Sunday morning or at a mid-week service. It doesn't look right, and it may feel like failure.
Failure or success is God's call, not ours. Our call is to be faithful to the faith once delivered to the saints, to authentically and unashamedly witness to the power of salvation through Jesus Christ alone, and to let the chips fall where they may. If those chips don't call our way and our numbers shrink, results are in God's hands and care, not ours. Regardless of outcomes, we can say we have been faithful servants who have done only our duty and no more.
I am confident God will always give supreme care to the one who says: I carried out your will, dear God, without worrying and wondering why it looked and felt as it did. I have done my duty.
Let us keep our standards and trust God to send those who seek truth through Him.
(c) 2011 Deborah Evans
Saturday, September 17, 2011, 11:09 AM
A Prayer for Spiritual Surrender:
If I am struggling to hold onto control of something apart from God's direction, what I am struggling to hold onto is exactly nothing.
The world tells me that I should try to be "master of my fate and captain of my soul." I no longer want that responsibility. Jesus takes care of the mastering and captaining of my fate and my soul.
There is no safer place.
His word establishes and sustains everything.
Thank you, Jesus.
Thursday, September 15, 2011, 2:37 PM
Are you dealing with a difficult child? I'm not referring here to an adult child, but a minor, one for whom you are responsible. How does one make sense of what seems (at times) unreasoning, unpredictable, and unrelenting?
During a conversation with a parent struggling with a difficult teenage child, someone said the following: "We did everything they told us to do. From the time he was a baby, we took him to church and Sunday School, prayed with and for him, read the Bible to him, loved him, spent time with him, listened to him, lived faithfully and honestly before him, taught him right from wrong, tried to keep him away from negative influences among friends and in the media---yet he seems to have rejected everything we taught him and he seems determined to go in the other direction.
He's disobedient and disrespectful. We've tried counseling, family conferences, house rules, you name it. None of it works. We are at our wit's end!!! Now what do we do?"
Perhaps it's time to do nothing and to remember this truth from Ephesians 2:8 " For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—"
Unredeemed humanity will do all kinds and types of things.And yes, it's the nature of teens to break away --to some degree-- from parental control. But a limited breaking away from parental control does not mean one has to be rude, mouthy, and disrespectful. It is the nature of people to be wrong and love it when they are unredeemed. Salvation is a gift, and only God can give it. We can help lay the groundwork for salvation, but that groundwork does not assure salvation for the object of our efforts.
Parents are (rightfully) commanded by God to live well (not perfectly!) and honestly before their children because that day-to-day testimony gives strength and credence to the truth that God's way is best. Living rightfully before someone is good and should be done, but those works will never assure that someone will be saved and choose to follow God. The Amplified Bible puts Ephesians 2:8 this way: "For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God--"
No matter how much we strive to train someone and model the right behavior for them, we cannot force our children to accept the gift of God--salvation. Our striving will not make it happen--not now, not ever.
Yes, we can and should pray for our children to follow Christ and choose salvation. But we should also know that this choice is one they cannot and will not make apart of God's grace operating in their lives and their acceptance of that gift of saving grace. No, it isn't an easy answer, but it's a truthful one.
Regardless of what your child or children will choose concerning God, know this from Romans 8: 31-39 (NIV)
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(c) 2011 Deborah Evans
Monday, September 12, 2011, 5:45 PM
This showed up in my Google Reader this morning, and I am grateful for it. These are the thoughts I wish to carry with me any time I am facing something which seems too large, too unjust, too unconquerable. Please read this wonderful sermon on how we should view 9/11 and "9/11 type" events in life. The sermon is (rightfully) under copyright, so here is the link to Bryan Burton's blog, Christ is Victorious.. Or, if you prefer Latin: Christus Victor.
The linked sermon is (c) Bryan Burton.
Sunday, September 11, 2011, 2:29 PM
9/11 Remembrance: Falling & Flying
9/11 Remebrance: Falling & Flying
What turns metal into fluid plasma?
What makes people jump from one hundred story high buildings?
What makes planes crash headfirst into a field and a Pentagon?
arms and legs and heads and feet flying,
airplanes flying on missions of death.
When I watched "The Bodyguard",
Kevin Costner told Whitney Houston: If someone wants to trade their life for a kill,
you can't stop them.
Where were Kevin and Whitney when we needed them?
Lots of trades happened on 9/11.
A gang of killers un-stop-able.
Falling and flying and dying and crying.
Without warning and without reason,
people died, people cried.
People falling into grief,
into sadness, into madness.
Falling into war and more dying and more crying.
Falling into the circle of metal flying
and arms and legs flying
and airplanes on more missions,
missions of death.
Falling again and again and again.
(c) 2011 Deborah Evans
Tuesday, August 23, 2011, 12:33 PM
I am browsing through one of my favorite magazines, one I've only recently discovered. The magazine, Yes! , has articles about healthy living, sustainability, social activism, etc. A recent issue, the Spring 2011 issues, features an article titled "Can Animals Save Us?" on the front cover.
I already know the answer to this question.
I also wonder why caring for the environment sometimes gets disconnected from a Christian belief in caring for creation. Maybe it's because so many who call themselves environmentalists don't accept that the God of the Bible created everything and that hugging a tree is not hugging a person, nor are we hugging God expressed as a tree. It's just a tree. Or a bird, a fish, or a deer.
Still, since we have a command in Genesis 1:28 to subdue the earth and rule over things, some people have gotten it wrong. That command challenges us with the responsibility to love and care for creation. Anything created by God is worthy of love and of loving care; God's creations are not objects to be used, worn out needlessly, tossed away when no longer "useful" or simply disregarded. Creatures and creation have value because they were placed here by God for us.
But we are not just extra special, extra-evolved animals. According the Genesis, we are the only beings created in God's image, the only ones into whom He expressed the breath of life, the only ones with whom He walked in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day. It was only to Adam that God called "Where are you?" It was only for Adam and Eve that God made clothing as these people prepared to exit Eden after The Fall.
I love animals, and I fear anyone who needlessly or gleefully injures any creature.But we humans truly are in a class all by ourselves and for that I am grateful.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(c)2011 Deborah Evans
Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 6:45 PM
Dear All-- I found this while researching the history of this hymn and had to share it. What a moving story of someone who experienced God's love in a deep moment of pain and found peace and healing. These comments are from; www.eppinganglicans.org.uk/Sermons/2006/...
21 May 2006
|O Love that will not let me go
George Matheson was born in 1842 and within a year of his birth his sight began to fail. By the time he was 17 he was almost completely blind. Even so, he was a brilliant student who gained a B A at the University of Glasgow at the age of 19, his M A the following year and became a Bachelor of Divinity four years later. He was ordained as a minister in the Church of Scotland in 1868 at the age of 24 and was appointed Parish Minister at Aniline (Innelan) in Argyllshire. He had hoped to be a writer of biblical theology and did manage a number of scholarly works but some of his writing was challenged because of slipshod mistakes – mistakes he made because of his failing eyesight. Even so, he was regarded as a Scholar and gave many important lectures. Yet he was, in many ways unfulfilled in this hoped-for role. He was also to suffer in another way.
As a young man he fell in love with a girl with whom he became engaged but then, abruptly, she broke off the engagement – saying “I’m sorry, George, but your illness (meaning his blindness) means I can’t marry you. Please release me from this betrothal.” George, with heavy heart, let her go and he continued towards the ministry.
He became a successful preacher and was in great demand. He was able to fulfil all his engagements thanks to the care of his sister. Then, in June 1882, his sister got married and the whole family went to Glasgow for the marriage service. All that is, except George. His support – his sister – was being taken away from him and he felt bereft. How would he cope?
In mental anguish, the memory of that earlier abandonment by his fiancée came flooding back bringing with it intense sadness. George turned to God and that evening he wrote the beautiful and intensely moving hymn – O Love that will not let me go.
This is what Matheson wrote about it:
My hymn was composed in the manse of Innelan on the evening of the 6th of June 1882, when I was forty years of age. I was alone in the manse at that time. It was the night of my sister’s marriage and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.”
Heartbreak, a sense of being abandoned, a life unfulfilled, the pain of blindness which could not be cured, George Matheson found in that hymn the healing that he needed. Just to read the words shows a turning from despair to hope – assured from its first line that no matter what the circumstance of life we find ourselves coping with – we are held by a Love that will not let me go - a love in which our weary souls can rest and from a God to whom we can abandon ourselves in all our frailty and find that our lives are richer, fuller.
When George yielded his flickering torch to God he was giving the gift of his blindness and his pain to the one who is the Light that followest all my way and opening his heart to that greater light that would flood his failing light with sunshine’s blaze.
In the third verse he wrote of Joy which seeks him through pain and finds in God’s presence a promise that there is hope even in seeming hopelessness – I trace the rainbow through the rain – that image of hope in the dark storm that it will pass and fairer weather will come. But it is in the last verse that George Matheson finds the meaning of the hope and the strength to carry on:
O Cross that liftest up my head...
It is the sacrifice of Christ which reaches out to us as we lie in dust and from the ground there blossoms red, Life that shall endless be. Whatever we are having to cope with – of whatever we need healing – be it a physical illness which threatens us; or a heartache that tears us apart, or a lack of fulfilment in our lives there is in God a way forward. It is the Cross but it is the Cross from which springs new life rather than a Cross of despair.
Love will not let us go, least of all when we are suffering because God knows what that means – and the Cross is there to prove it. In the search for Healing, we do not always find an immediate cure for an illness or an immediate sense of purpose which moves us out of despair. George Matheson did not stop going blind nor was life, even after the hymn O Love that will not let me go, without its struggle.
To be healed is not to enter into some fairy never-never land where we are suddenly immune from what Life brings or throws at us. To be healed means to reach beyond to where God is and where Love is – Love that will not let us go.
Sometimes cures come; anguish is conquered, pain disappears but sometimes healing is about living with pain or hurt or disability and knowing that of itself it is not everything. There is a hope that transcends and transforms and in that hope is a healing. It is when we throw ourselves on God – when we seek His strength that we find ourselves held by a promise that is not vain.
Sometimes when we come to a service such as this we come in the hope that like some of the people in the Gospel we might encounter Christ and find in his healing touch a cure – and sometimes we do find that and we experience a miracle. It comes through the skills of others or it comes through the mighty working of the Lord. But sometimes that doesn’t happen and maybe we feel cheated or let down, disappointed or dismayed. And we might say that even God has failed us.
But Matheson’s hymn says something very different. It speaks to us powerfully from a wounded heart and a fragile body but it speaks of a soaring soul. It speaks of transcendence and of hope. Its power lies in the man who wrote it or heard its words in his heart and the faith he clung on to come what may. Matheson’s life was a physical struggle but from the moment he threw himself on God it was no longer a mental one, nor an abandoned one.
He was reassured of God in the midst of his pain; of Christ showing Him that the sacrifice of the Cross – which he understood intellectually and theologically – was a personal spiritual experience which promised Life that shall endless be. When in the midst of this life, we discover or catch a glimpse of the eternal – we have reached the point of healing. When, as now, we pray for such healing, then we may be surprised that God deals first with the soul for it is through such prayer that we are strengthened and in that strengthening there is a healing.
For when the soul is strengthened by the power of God’s grace acting upon it, then we caught up in the healing process and in the knowledge of that healing we can go on – no matter what happens because, as Matheson insists, we are held by a Love that will not let us go.
By a Love which holds us, come what may.