It was a one-two punch for me at church (Rayne UMC in New Orleans) on Sunday morning. First, Elizabeth Cheezem, our children’s leader, told the kids, “Jesus worshipped all the time.” Wow, I thought. I don’t worship all the time. Often, maybe, but not always. And I started thinking about how I can worship while driving, grocery shopping, cleaning house…you get the picture.
Then our pastor, Jay Hogewood, asked the adults, “What does worship mean to you?” And he followed that by telling us that true worship invariably leads to action. Interaction with our loving God will spur loving interaction with people. Amen, I thought. Lord, help me to do better.
So I’m working on worshipping all the time, and trusting that it will show up in my interactions with others, including the grumpy, the high-need, and the irritating folks I may run into.
What does it mean, to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8)? In my ongoing struggle to trust God for my beloved offspring’s healing, wholeness, and freedom, I’m coming to the conclusion that walking humbly perhaps simply means to acknowledge that God is right. Instead of clinging to my timetable, my plans and hopes, to say—and mean—that God’s way, God’s timing, in best. Even in anger and fear and frustration, to desire that God’s will be done. Even in the pain of a wounded heart to say, “Yes, Lord. Thy kingdom come.” And then, even through tears, to humbly thank God for Divine Love. Presence. Faithfulness. Truth. And amen.
On Sunday my pastor, Jay Hogewood, offered a powerful sermon that addressed, among other things, the awful impact of trauma and abuse. Then he reminded us of God’s everlasting presence and love. It was an important message, helpful to me and to many others.
What really stuck with me, though, was a phrase in his post-sermon, pre-Communion prayer: “Lord, thank you for your creativity.” I don’t recall what he said after that because I was caught up in thinking about God’s limitless creativity, related to deliverance from trauma and abuse. Those struggles that we’ve had, those burdens that we’ve borne, those wounds that haven’t healed…God has ways to create blessings which we can’t even imagine. Let us give the past to the Lord, as often as necessary, and trust that limitless creativity in faith and hope.
A dear friend recently gave me a Burano lace cross (pictured below), handmade with centuries-old techniques. More than a thousand tiny stitches comprise an exquisite whole.
It brought me to thinking about big goals that seem unattainable, big habits that seem unchangeable, big wrongs that seem unrightable. And I remembered the verse in Zechariah 4:10 where it mentions those who “despise the day of small things.”
Sometimes we feel that if we can’t do big things, there’s no point in doing small things. But the small things add up to prepare the way for God’s mighty works. Small actions can move us toward big goals; small habits, put together, can derail big habits; small rights can bring justice and overthrow big wrongs.
May we not despise the small things, but offer them all for God’s glory.
One of the things that really bothers me is being ignored. I think I would rather be insulted than ignored. But it dawned on me, just today – do I ignore God? When I feel a clear nudge to do something, when I disregard a clear warning, when I deliberately go my way instead of “taking up the cross,” surely that constitutes ignoring God.
That’s really sad, and cheeky. Realizing this makes me want to try harder to pay attention, and not just hear the word but also obey it: carefully, faithfully, and gladly. Please, dear God, help us not to ignore you.
Ignoring a warning: Photo by Micaela Parente on Unsplash
The words to the chorus really struck me: If miles lay between us, then I’d walk to Jesus. O’er mountain and desert, I’d follow that star. But He doesn’t ask us to journey so far. For He will be with us, wherever we are, When we seek Him.
Sometimes it seems that it would be easier to make a long pilgrimage, or offer a complex mission service, once and be done. But we are called to do something harder: live with Jesus and walk with him, day by day, moment by moment. And we are assured that he will be with us—not when we live flawlessly, but when we seek him. Always.
While reading in II Timothy (4:8) where Paul talks about the crown that was “laid up for him,” I realized that he wasn’t just taking about himself, or about others who preached and evangelized and did mighty works by the Spirit of God. He said anyone who meets just one criterion can anticipate a similar reward: “All those who love Christ’s appearing.”
Jesus has a way of showing up where least expected, and I think this means we are called to love him wherever we encounter him. Perhaps in an aging spouse who needs our care, or a sad child, or an overworked store clerk. Let’s keep our eyes open and pray that we will recognize the Lord wherever we see him, and that we will love him enough to walk beside him wherever he leads.
We’ve all had multiple chains, large and small, that weighed us down and kept us from being free. Sometimes it’s years before we even realize that something is a chain. Over time, as we grow in grace, we begin to recognize chains that have bound us all along: perhaps habits, mindsets, attitudes that we have practiced from childhood.
What do we do with those chains? It’s best to pray earnestly and ask God to remove them, and then to do our part—whatever that is—to help get rid of them. But that’s usually hard to do. Sometimes we just sit around, polishing the chains, making them look bright and shiny while they continue to hold us back.
O God, help us recognize and relinquish our chains.
My pastor, Jay Hogewood, often closes Wednesday night study sessions with a prayer that includes these words: “Send us into the night.” I love hearing him say that.
Very often we find ourselves in dark, scary, confusing, and uncertain situations. They aren’t comfortable and we’d rather stay in cozy, well-lit surroundings.
But when God sends us into the night, it’s for a purpose. It’s with assurance that we are never alone, never without resources. It’s with confidence that there is treasure to be found in darkness (Isaiah 45:3). And it’s with the knowledge that we are on our way home.
A military leader was discussing the logistics of warfare. “Just because you can capture a city doesn’t mean you can hold it,” he said.
This made me think of the numerous times when I’ve been trapped by calamity, illness, bad choices (my own, and others’), and poverty of various sorts. The enemy of our souls works against us, seeking to capture us and cause our destruction.
We can be trapped, momentarily held back. Restricted. Bound, not free. But we cannot be held forever. Divine Love and Truth will liberate us. In this awareness is confidence, power, and hope.