Try

Today i will try to write.

When i saw the word i felt a wave of relief.

The only thing that i consistently believe that i can in fact do is try;  i do not know what my body will permit me to do. i often have difficulty being upright for extended periods. The definition of upright varies based upon a whole host of issues too numerable to be of any interest to non-P.O.T.S. sufferers. i can always do my best, however.

Action verbs can fill me with trepidation if they are on my agenda. They are wonderful to characters in a book. In real-life, they can prove unpredictable. Trying is always doable.

Yesterday i faced the issue of inviting. Today i actually made and received phone calls. Trying to find a time for a whole group of friends to meet for lunch can require a significant amount of negotiating. The amusing aspect is that this is a group of ladies that i used to lead in a Bible study. We went out to lunch together every week for more than a decade. Now that we are no longer all starting from Bible study, trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule requires a number of back-and-forth phone calls.

We have a date and restaurant, but the time is still contingent upon another event that may be scheduled for that afternoon as well. We are trying to meet for lunch.

It appears as if life would be preferable if it were more predictable. Upon consideration, however, it probably serves us better that we do need to really work hard at living.

The fact that we are trying so hard teaches us something about the depth of our desire for community, and how much we treasure our friendship.

i am reminded of the ladder to heaven. Once we gain some spiritual maturity, we recognize that the gulf between our ability and the throne of God is immeasurable. In St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, he talks about the skills the soul needs in order to live fully with Christ. How can i be meek, obedient and renounce the world while i am still living in the world?

In every aspect of my life, i am finding that challenge helps me rise to greater heights of spiritual maturity. i know that i have not mastered any of the rungs of the ladder. i appreciated reading Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou’s book, Thirty Steps to Heaven, The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life. In consideration of the obstacles of life, i comprehend that i am extremely blessed. God only allows us to face what can make us more faithful. Surely, the paths for me have fallen among the pleasant ways!

The petty trials of every day are blessings in disguise. By trying to climb the larger steps like repentance and simplicity we grow by grace closer to the One who made us. We become more fully human when we try to renounce worldly ways and give precedence and kindness in all our actions. The more i attempt to live with time dedicated to prayer and stillness the closer i grow to Grace. Perhaps trying is a success for humans in God’s great beneficent plan.

 

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Good Fathers

baby-203048__340What is a father? The variety of answers that this question elicits are almost unlimited. The possible replies are limited only by the number of human fathers that have existed. The description may incite joy or fear, hope or despair depending upon your personal experience. I have been blessed to have been raised by a loving human father. My concept of a father is one of unconditional love. This has made my relationship with our Heavenly Father easy to learn.

Despite this there are pronounced differences between my earthly father and my Heavenly Father, and I recognized many of them early. My earthly father could build anything, but he could not make other people do what he asked. My Heavenly Father could make people do what He wanted but chose to let us have free will.
Good fathers sometimes allow children to experience difficult things if it is needed to help them grow. Fathers who bail their kids out of every problem and buy their kids every gadget raise kids who have no ability to care for themselves. They become selfish, needy adults who take rather than give.

france-85871_960_720My Heavenly Father has been teaching me about humility and trust quite a bit lately. If God did what I wanted He would simply heal me. But, God knows far more than I do, and He clearly believes that I need to learn to submit to His will sometimes without fretting. I am reasonably good at giving my worries to God. I have a great deal of difficulty in letting go of the problems that I have given to God. I continue to fret and worry. Wisely, God my Heavenly Father is putting me through a training course on humility and submission. The world calls this course chronic illness; God calls it teaching His child.

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I faint, and nearly faint. The nearly comes from the fact that after many years I figured out that it is much less embarrassing to put your head between your knees in public than it is to fall on the floor unconscious. After a good blood test at the doctor, who is treating my anemia, I nearly fainted while standing in line to make my follow-up appointment. This could be the definitive description of embarrassing. They had to move another patient out of a treatment room to get me into a room with a recliner so that I could lie down with my feet up to recover. That is only a piece of the inconvenience that I inadvertently caused. All of the ordeal was only to find out that my anemia is still under control! I told my fiancé that it felt humiliating. He wisely told me it was a gift.
God, my Heavenly Father, is teaching me humility. That is what my fiancé pointed out. Humility comes from the same root as humiliating.

All too often we ask why God allows suffering and difficulty in the world if He is good. The question assumes that we know what the good is.

Often we know good, sometime we miss the point. Some hardship exists to teach us how to grow up into the kind of people we are made to be. We are made in the image of God. That fact usually causes us to expect greatness and power, but Jesus is God’s Son and true God. What we are trying to grow up into is Christ-like. Our Father knows that we will never become who we were made to be as long as we call good only the things that feel good to us.

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Good fathers don’t give us whatever we ask for. They do not solve all our problems, nor do they remove all our challenges. They would if it actually made our lives better. They would lay down their own lives for us if it would really help us.

The truth is they sometimes are required to love us through the hard places. Good fathers want us to learn and grow. Helping us grow means that they may walk through a fear or embarrassment with us rather than for us.

Our God is a Good Father. We see the evidence in all the blessings we so easily call good. If we look carefully we can also see the traces in the gifts that don’t look good at first. Then we may trace the trail of Jesus’ suffering through the tears or feel the Holy Spirit’s groans that are too deep for words and then the Father’s seeming inaction may make sense–good sense.

 

This post is a reflection on God as our Heavenly Father from the Nicene Creed. It is linked to If:Gathering app and the study on the Nicene Creed.

God’s Wisdom

In the last post I shared thoughts about Gentle Wisdom.

This is just another name for God’s Wisdom, or the unchangeable wisdom that comes from the eternal. If we acknowledge a Creator we recognize that there is a source of definitive Truth beyond our ephemeral and personal beliefs of the moment. The difficulty in defining this Truth is that it is by necessity beyond our finite capacity to comprehend in its entirety.

For those of us who find this Truth in the Bible

it is described by the Apostle Paul as “secret and hidden…decreed before the ages for our glory,” 1 Corinthians 2:7. He goes on to tell us that the rulers of that age did not understand it or they would not have crucified Jesus. Even a cursory search of history shows that the rulers of all ages seem to have a critical problem living by the wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy (James 3:17).

The fact is that those who wield power in this world

often fail to live up to the standards of the world to come. Which is more evidence of why Christ died for us. Humans don’t seem to be capable of living up to God’s standards, or indeed our own.

Hope is not lost, however.

St. Paul went on to write to the Corinthians that, “What no eye has seen, nor ear hear, not the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Without God, Gentle Wisdom would be unimaginable.

With God all the futility and hopelessness of the present age is alleviated. Even though our rulers disappoint us and we fail to accomplish half of what we intended when we complied our To Do  Opportunities list, Jesus achieved for us glory.

The word glory that is used in the Greek in 2 Corinthians 2:6 is doxa,

which comes from the word for opinion and can also be translated as praise,  approval (2), brightness (1), glories (1), glorious (5), glory (155), honor (1), majesties. Paul tells us that we will receive the good opinion of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Not only does Jesus receive glory because of His death and resurrection,

but we also, as children of God, receive glory as well.

We cannot achieve Gentle Wisdom on our own.

We are unable to grasp the full measure of Truth. Despite our limitations we are blessed by glimpses of glory as we are being slowly transformed by the renewing of our minds to become more like Jesus.  One day we may see Him as He is and live with him in Perfect Truth.

Gentle Wisdom is based upon love.

Love is not a feeling, it is an active choice to place the best interest of the Beloved above our own feelings. Love is self-sacrifice. This is one of the reasons that it is never adequately demonstrated by those in power in this world.

Notwithstanding our human frailties, we can know something of Love and Truth in this life.

St. Paul further tells the early church in Corinth that, “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

The Holy Spirit which was poured out on us in the waters of Holy Baptism

can help us to comprehend something of the Wisdom that is eternal.

” Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.”1 Corinthians 2:12-16

I find it very interesting that the very next section in Paul’s letter

goes on to discuss the conflict that has been generated in the Corinthians church by factions arguing with one another. He chastens them to remember that we are all one structure in the church and built together with Love.

Gentle Wisdom from God is given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Truth and Love are not out-dated concepts but living forces that have been present since before the world began. In spite of the conflicts and discord we see in the world around us, glory or God’s good opinion is ours through Christ. We are encouraged to get up and face another day without fear because we do not earn Wisdom, it is a gift.

Thanks be to God! Amen!

 

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The Sweet Stuff

I like a good salad in the summer. June strawberries are unlike strawberries of any other season. There are and endless variety of tasty garden treats available in the summer. I change my salads with the season choosing whatever is fresh and well-priced at the market. A salad in our household can take on an amazing variety of dishes. The primary request to have a salad enjoyed is homemade dressing. I once ate a salad without dressing. It was at a church function and those who were working in the kitchen were somehow under the false impression that everyone like Italian bottled dressing. Well, it actually tasted good. I had consumed the above mentioned bottled dressing at a previous event. It left me hard. It didn’t leave me, would be more accurate. I endured two days heartburn from that encounter and promised myself not to make the mistake twice. I ate a salad without dressing. Once. So that totals two times I ate a salad made a particular way at church before I decided to skip the tossed salad. A more prudent decision would have been to buy a reasonable bottle of salad dressing and keep it in the church refrigerator. I wonder how long it will last? I noticed there are a fair number of people not eating the tossed salad at church suppers.

I like a good salad dressing.
I make my own at home. It is astoundingly simple. Some lemon juice, vinegar, oil, salt, sugar (or honey) are all that are needed. You can make a good dressing plenty of other ways, but those ingredients make a delightful sweet dressing.
The key to making salad dressing is that you must mix the vinegar and oil thoroughly. It is really simple. A wire whisk will mix a creamy dressing in no time. You can pour the ingredients in a jar with a good lid and shake to achieve the same results.
The reason the mixing is key lies in the fact that vinegar and oil do not like to mix. You shake a bottle of salad dressing before each use because the oil and vinegar separate, quickly, on their own.
You may think I have changed the focus of this blog.

  
Did she convert this to a cooking blog?
No, friends. I am just keen on analogies for talking about the things of the Spirit. Eternal things are hard for me to get my brain around without an analogy or as Jesus used a parable.
Salad is like the Word of God. There is much good fruit in the bowl. You get different good things the savor overtime you come to the table. My favorite part is the sweet stuff that binds it all together. God is like a sweet salad dressing. I fear I may have shocked some of my readers. The law bites like vinegar and the gospel soothes like oil.
I once served salads at t church dinner sprinkled only with balsamic vinegar. I read that you could do this. I did not make the idea up. It was in a cooking magazine. They must have anticipated a really good balsamic vinegar be used. It did not work very well for me. We cleaned quite a bit of uneaten salad off the plates at the end of that meal. It seemed like a good idea. It came from a fancy magazine. We were pressed for time and help. I’ve been to worship experiences that tried the same thing. The law and our sinfulness is important. But without the gospel mixed in it is also depressing. Some people think that you can scare people into religion by drawing attention to sin. You can frighten people into a religion, but not into a relationship with Christ.
Another group runs the opposite direction and fears the mention of sin. They hold that all we should talk about is Christ ‘s love. In this congregation you will never hear sin mention. Sin is viewed as too harsh and discouraging. As an enlightened group they postulate that right and wrong are to vague and variable to quantify. 
Yet another segment of Christians believe that the most effective message is focused on other people’s sin. This group focuses intently on specific sins, particularly those that the majority have no desire to commit. In this church you will never hear a word about selfishness, greed, gossip or over-consumption.

In my humble opinion the best salad dressing is well-mixed. A good blend of all our shortcomings along with a hearty dose of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. We need reminded that there is definitive truth and that it is Christ who should judge, not us. A summer fruit salad is best dressed in the “sweet stuff”, the loving, valid Word of God.

Enough

I don’t fit into my life. By which I mean that my spirit doesn’t fit into the life my body dictates. If you have ever experienced medical grade compression stockings you have a metaphor for my life. Technically I know it must fit, but squeezing myself into it is a struggle.

I don’t have the temperament to sit and watch television for any period of time. If I could sit back with my feet up and just mindlessly watch it I would fit perfectly into my physical abilities. When I do watch television I’m always doing something else at the same time. I reserve it for late at night or when I’m very sick. There are too many things that I want to get done so I knit, or plan, or groom my dog while watching tv.

The verse for today is from St. Paul’s second extant letter to the Corinthians chapter 12 verse 9

my grace is sufficient for you

this is one of the most powerful passages St. Mark’s epistles for me. I struggle to accept that His grace is enough. I know that I am saved by grace alone and that I do not add anything to it. I cannot add anything to my salvation with works. What I struggle with is the practice of accepting whatever He gives. I confess to struggling with wanting more. I want more to be done. I want to do more. I -I -I. That’s the problem.

His grace-is enough. Enough. I don’t know that I have made peace with enough. I always want more. How is it that I cannot allow the one who knows everything to decide when enough is enough? Today I am working on learning enough.

Hikanos Greek adverb, meaning enough or sufficient is the word I struggle with. God is large enough. Why should I struggle with a simple statement like that? Some synonyms for sufficient according to Merriam-Webster are competent, adequate or enough to meet the needs. how could God not be adequate to meet my needs?

God’s grace is sufficient. I stand here. And I rest here. His grace is enough.