Vital Elements of Worship: Breathing in Grace, Breathing Out Praise

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 150.
Questions.
I am answering a lot of questions these days.
How are you feeling? Have you been sick? What has your experience been like? Do you need anything? How can I help?
Questions…that are hard to answer because I do not like (prefer) talking about myself.
Answering these questions draws me out of my comfort zone. It is important for me to share. And I feel and experience great care when I hear these (your) questions. Thank you, friends, for your care of me.
My biggest adjustment in starting my gestational journey is rest. I need to rest much more frequently than I have in recent memory…and I am finding that some attempts to rest are completely futile. I lie awake – uncomfortable, curious, nervous, and sore. In the quiet and in the stillness I ebb and flow between feelings of chaos and order. With God and Andrew, we are experiencing a huge time of creation! This is a (our!) Genesis Moment.
In Creation, there was order and chaos. In Creation, God spoke and it was so. In Creation, God spoke and said it was – we are – all is good. In Creation God breathed God’s life-giving Spirit into us, eternally solidifying our connection. In Creation, God worked and rested.
Rest is not a sign of weakness. Rest is not a sign of inadequacy. Rest is a way – God’s way – our way of recharging, recentering, and reinvigorating our work in and for the Kingdom. If we work without ceasing, our work becomes our idol. If we work without ceasing, we do not offer our best selves or services to God and neighbor. If we work without ceasing, we cut ourselves off from what God seeks to offer us in the midst of rest.
I do not like (prefer) to rest, but I am learning the value of rest. I do not like that my production levels are not equivalent to the past, but on those days I just remind myself that I fortified a central nervous system in the last 12 hours!
I do like that in my rest I am reminded of God’s life-giving breath falling afresh upon me as my breath nourishes the life of my and Andrew’s son. In those moments of rest I ask God to relieve feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. I ask God to help me be and to breathe deeply.
Prayer: “Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.”* Amen.
*”Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” The United Methodist Hymnal 420.
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A Week In Transition

This week I am in between pastoral appointments having concluded my time of service at Reeves UMC and preparing to begin serving at Tuskawilla UMC.  My emotions are all over the place…and I am tired.  So tired.

The lyrics of Ten Avenue North’s “Worn” speak directly to me as I lean into this tiredness and prepare for newness.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heaven burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30).

If you are feeling tired and worn this week, lean into it and prepare for newness.  Our God promises that redemption wins – and redemption is coming.

Blessings my friends.

“Worn”

(enjoy the link to the video)

I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn

Advent Prophet Parade: Micah

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Micah 5:2-5a

Here we are.  We have arrived.  We are almost to Christmas.

This Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Advent.  At Reeves, we will round out our Advent wreath by lighting the candle of love.

(Love is particularly special between Andrew and me this Sunday as we will celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary and 11 1/2 years of togetherness.)

In reading this week’s Scripture passage I am reminded of the Christmas seasons during my college years where I added my voice to a chorus singing Handel’s Messiah.  The selection “He Shall Feed His Flock” rings in imagery full of the Micah text as well as Matthew 11:28-30.  It reads:

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

One word stands out to me as I read these pair of passages.

The word is rest.

Upon reading the Micah text I initially interpreted the phrase “then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel” to mean that the remainder of those in exile will return to the King.  (Micah was a prophet contemporary to the Babylonian exile.)  However, once I reread the Matthew text, I was struck that rest could mean peace, quiet, release.

When Micah spoke to God’s people they were in turmoil.  When Jesus spoke to God’s people they were in turmoil.  I am confident that God continues to speak to us today…and that sadly…we are still in turmoil.

At times we become numb to the turmoil.  I am guilty of not watching the nightly news or reading the newspaper with much frequency because I know what I will find there: more stories of violence, greater instances of need, resounding aches of the world.  Mass tragedies occur and in the moment we are attuned to the circumstances…but we seem to move on all to quickly though our neighbors persist in their sorrow and loss.

Turning a blind eye is not the solution.  Ignorance is not the solution.

Perhaps rest is the solution.

Not rest as in laziness or dereliction to our responsibilities to our families, our vocations, or our God.  But rest as in seeking that divine peace, quiet, and release.  Rest as in the salvation that comes from coming under the Lordship of the true King, being first a sheep in the Messiah’s flock that we will be equipped as sheepdogs for other sheep.  Then – and only then – do I think we will be able to respond faithfully to the turmoil that persists and respond to it through God’s salvation.

Reflection and Challenge: In a society where it is truly difficult to find time to slow down, be at peace, release, and rest, make time.  Much like they tell passengers on airline flights – turn off your electronic devices.  (Once a flight attendant told people to turn off their EasyBake ovens…I laughed so hard.)  But the spirit is true!  Get away from technology and get with God.  Not sure of what to do?  Read Scripture; sing favorite hymns or songs; draw, paint, or sculpt; go for a run, jog, or walk; meditate; pray; do almost anything as long as your focus is on God.  That is key.  If your mind wanders, then you are not truly resting in God.  Seek clarity in what God may be revealing to you during that time – and it could be as simple as God saying, “Hey Sarah!  You need more time like this!!”  (I know!)  But, it could be something more…you won’t know until take time and make time to rest.

Prayer: A poem for “Generous Quietude” by Safiyah Fosua

Carry a little quiet inside you while the world continues in rush and rage fighting and frenzy.  Carry a little quiet inside you so that the worry and war trouble and tumult do not capture you in their grip.

Tarry in the Son-filled meadow of the heart beside the still waters where God’s Spirit refreshes and renews.

Carry so much quiet inside you that you have some extra calm to share with me.