Tag Archives: hope

Still Light

After posting about Lent the past two days, I had to remind myself that it is still the season of Epiphany, the season of light in the midst of darkness.  Epiphany began on January 6th with the light of the Bethlehem star leading the magi to baby Jesus (Matthew 2) and it ends Sunday, March 6, with the story of  the Transfiguration when the glory of Jesus is revealed to the disciples in a blaze of light.  And I certainly feel the need for light this winter.

Having grown up in Washington state, I had to learn to adjust to Minnesota winters.  In the learning process, I discovered that for me the severity was not as difficult as the duration.  I could be kind of macho about big storms or severe cold.  I remember running with some friends in -15 below temperature, basically so we could brag to other runners about our devotion (or our foolishness?).  But this winter seems to have started early and just settled

Foolish Runner or "I can't hear you due to the icicles in my ears"

in for a long stay.  And though we had a few days of teasing warmth last week, I know that winter could easily stretch into late March.   I can wish or complain or rant or blog, but the climate will not relinquish its grip based on my reaction to it.

So I come back to the season of light, Epiphany, and the glimpses of God’s glory.  One glimpse is that now, as I drive home, I see the sunset.  And what glorious sunsets I have witnessed. Beauty is one way God reveals God’s self, even in the midst of a long winter.  The sun light on freshly fallen snow has such an intensity that I have to squint or wear sunglasses. Yet not every day has that intensity.  Light can brilliant or muted, just as God’s power and presence can be for us.  I recently heard Bishop Rogness preach that God’s light permeates all of life, even when we think everything is dark.  We tend to seek the spectacular fireworks of glory, yet God is often in the flickering candle.  The light of Jesus shines in every season, even the Minnesota winter.

When or how has God’s light shone for you?

Running and Prayer Update

Running with son

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I have been unable to run pain-free since last spring and that I started a new round of physical therapy at Focus Fitness. (see MAT to PAT http://wp.me/p1e1iu-6A ).  Their staff is helping me to address the muscle imbalances I have developed by a series of exercises that activate weak or inhibited muscles.  Every day I attempt to do these awkward exercises, concentrating to keep the right form and to activate the appropriate muscles.  It is a definite mind-body exercise and I feel very foolish as I do them. 

Of course, last week, I had to try a short run to see if these exercises were having any desirable effect.  I hopped on to a treadmill and started first with a brisk walking pace and then pushed the pace higher to a slow jog.   I quickly discovered that my left IT band and right hamstring continued to complain.   I backed off the pace and stepped off the treadmill, disappointment hanging from my shoulders.   I had hoped for some instant relief.  But instead of running, I am back to the awkward exercises every morning and evening.

I continue to think there is a spiritual lesson for me to learn.  How often do I treat prayer as an instant relief button, hoping that God will magically answer my wish?  How often do I trust the process of praying patiently for God’s will to be done as I keep my focus on Jesus?  How often am I disappointed when things do not turn as quickly as I envisioned?

Also I know that many people feel awkward when they try to begin a spiritual discipline of prayer or scripture reading.   They are unsure whether their prayers are having the desired effect in their life or if they understand what they are reading.  Just like I needed a therapist to help me identify and work the weak muscles, a small group or spiritual mentor can help us begin a new spiritual journey. 

Is your spiritual journey flourishing, struggling or maintaining?  Where do you discover Jesus?

Walking with Jesus in Jamaica

Someone once asked me , “Do you enjoy running every time you go?”   I had to stop and reflect for a moment.  My answer was, “No, not every time.  In fact there are many runs that I don’t enjoy at all.  But there are enough moments of joy and peace that I continue to lace up my running shoes and head out.”  And now, as I struggle to complete my physical therapy and watch the snow melt, I especially miss the joy of heavy breathing and quickly moving feet.

I believe the same is true for our walk with Jesus Christ.  Not every moment is filled with love, joy and peace.  In fact our connection to Jesus will also connect us to the suffering and pain in the world.  I don’t think God calls us out of the world, but to deeper life in the world, the world he created and redeemed.

Learning to be patient with my Jamaican friends

For the past ten springs I led a mission trip to Jamaica.  Yes, I would spend some time on the beach soaking up the sun and enjoying the surf.  But Jamaica is a very poor country and I invested more time in parts of Jamaica that the tourist rarely see, helping to build  Habitat for Humanity homes.  The work certainly had moments of frustration and discouragement.  “What is one house among so many needy people?”  Still I knew from years of experience that one house, one life, one testimony can bear witness to the transforming love and power of Jesus.  As I listened to Jamaicans, I discovered their patient faith and joy. And those moments of joy keep me going through the tougher times.

Even as I struggle in the present with my lack of running, I am hopeful for the future.  I am confident that I will run again with Jesus.  I am confident that new international mission trips lie ahead for Resurrection Lutheran Church.  Patient trust in God’s mercy will provide the way. “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 

 What has struggle taught you in your relationship with Jesus?

MAT to PAT

To Run is to smile!

This week I started a new physical therapy session to see if my running injuries can be corrected.   In spite of eight months of rest, stretching and joint manipulation, I continued to have nagging muscle pain whenever I tried to run.  So after consulting with my doctor, I set up appointments with Fitness Focus in Mahtomedi.   There Shannon Maxiner and her team use Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) to address physical rehab.  To quote a MAT web site,

MAT looks at muscle tightness as a form of protection in the body. Weak or inhibited muscles can create the need for other muscles to tighten up in order to help stabilize the joints. MAT gets to the root of pain or injury by addressing muscle weakness rather than muscle tightness. This helps to restore normal body alignment, thereby, decreasing pain and reducing the risk of injury. http://www.muscleactivation.com/main.html 

I will keep you posted on my progress with this, but the therapy got me thinking about a spiritual form of muscle activation therapy.  Is it possible that we develop a spiritual form of muscle imbalance when we over or under commit our time and energy?   Do we over commit to congregational, community or work activities and neglect the compensating activity of prayer, reflection and conversation?  Or vice versa?  Would a lack of spiritual joy, passion and hope be a sign of this imbalance?  Could there be a Prayer Activation Technique (PAT)? 

One thing I have learned after one day of doing these new muscle activation exercises, they seem trivial and awkward.  I need to trust in the therapy and therapist that they will eventually produce results.  The same is true with prayer and other spiritual practices; you have to trust that the seeds you are planting in God will bear fruit for God’s kingdom.  God is good at taking small seeds and creating something new (Mark 4:30-32). 

What small steps have you take to restore spiritual balance in your life?

Serenity Prayer

Serenity in Winter

I have always been a great fan of the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
courage to change the things we can,
and wisdom to know the difference.”
 

It is used not only at AA meeting, but throughout the church.  The author of the prayer was Reinhold Niebuhr, an American pastor and theologian of the last century.  His original prayer continued

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Amen.”

I am one who believes in the power of prayer, but that prayer is not some magic bullet that offers instant results.  Prayer is always based on the ongoing relationship we have with God, and God’s expectations for us.  There are things we are meant to change and we need to discern what they are and our role in the change. Whether at home, at work, or in our congregation, there are attitudes and behaviors that we can change.  Asking for God’s guidance in our relationships and daily life is critical to healthy change.

 Which brings us to those things that we can not change, like the weather.   This winter started early and will probably be around at least two more months.  I know that I can complain about it, but I am asking for serenity to enjoy this day as a gift from God.   I believe there might be some wisdom in that.

How has prayer shaped your life this winter?

Water Thoughts

Elwah River in Olympic National Park

Water images have dominated my thoughts this week.  Gary Bailey’s funeral (see 1/5 post), the Life of Pi,  and my Sunday sermon all have strong water themes.   The Life of Pi centers on a sea survival story; my sermon will be on Jesus’ baptism.   Water evokes both fear and hope, death and life.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I saw a lot of water.  On a clear day my family home had a view of the Puget Sound, but I also experienced plenty of clouds and rain.   The abundant rain kept everything green and alive, but when I had to deliver the afternoon newspaper, rain could make the load and route miserable.  While backpacking in the  mountains I would marvel at how glaciers of ice carved such spectacular landscape.   Yet when it became necessary to cross glacier-fed rivers, I realized that with one wrong step I could easily become one of boulders tumbling towards the sea.

In the Bible water is a symbol of the chaos and destruction as well as life.  In Genesis 1:2, the water is part of the dark void before God’s creative Word is spoken.  In Exodus the Red Sea destroys the Egyptian army while providing a means of escape for the Israelites.   In I Kings  17-18, a drought is a sign of God’s displeasure with King Ahab, but later Elijah demonstrates God’s power to bring healing rain.  Jesus calms the stormy sea that threatens life in Mark 4 while in John 4 Jesus offers the Samaritan woman living water.  Water can destroy or give life.

What water image brings you life or hope?