THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – INTRODUCTION

Do we really LET God work in our lives?

In my Advent reflection back in December, we contemplated Mary’s words to the angel of God, “Let it be with me according to your word…” (Advent #10: Love In The Limbo). Since then, this word, LET, has remained with me, especially as I wonder how much I let God influence my heart, mind, and life. Curious, I began looking up verses in the Bible that include “let.” I was surprised to find many passages – including a variety of ways – that God can move, help, or transform us when we open ourselves to let God do so.

This Lenten season is a time to let God freely work, to let ourselves surrender to God’s goodness and guidance, and to let these forty days inspire and transform us. Each weekday during Lent, we will look at “let” verses as our inspiration for the day.

Mary’s words are a perfect introduction for our Lenten journey. As we begin any spiritual disciplines or other Lenten practices, may we be first “let it be with us according to God’s word.” May we seek to become more like the person God created us to be, according to God’s perfect will. May we long to become more like Jesus, to follow him as devoted disciples. May we find new ways to let God work in us more deeply, as we let ourselves notice and embrace all of God’s movements and moments.

May we reach the glorious Easter resurrection as newly resurrected people, fully living our new life in Christ.

~~~~~

Our passage for Ash Wednesday will be James 4:6-17.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Just a Note…

Dear Reader Friends,

This year, the season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 17th. Until that time, I will taking a break from writing regular posts to refresh my spirit, read and reflect, update this blog site, and begin preparing daily devotions for the Lenten season. The theme will be “LENT: A SEASON TO LET…” Watch for these next month!

I also want to thank everyone who read my last series, “Moving Forward in Faith During Trying Times.” My prayer is always for you to be blessed, comforted, and inspired in some way. I generally try to write thoughts that take our focus away from our concerns about politics, social issues, and world troubles, but these have been desperate times, and I truly felt called and compelled to write what I did. This is a special thanks to those of you who at times may have found my posts uncomfortable or contrary to your heart – but have still chosen to remain with me.

Knowing the busyness of our days and the availability of numerous articles and posts to read, I regard the time you spend reading my posts as a precious gift. Thank you. You bless me more than you know.

Your friend,
Karen 🙂

(Photo by Karen)

Moving Forward: Take Heart

MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH #6
(A NEW DAY IS DAWNING)

In recent months I have found such comfort in the awareness that our United States’ system of democracy is relatively new in the scope of history. Several articles and podcasts have reminded me how our government is evolving and correcting as we go. We have certainly had our obstacles and difficulties to overcome, but we keep progressing as the issues are discovered and addressed.

Today let’s take heart. Let’s take heart that God is still working on us as individuals, as a country, and as a world. In God’s time, life itself is relatively new! We are all works in progress, and God continues to offer us guidance and correction as we go along. What a reassuring, gracious gift we have in knowing that as imperfect as we are, we are still beloved. Our mistakes and blunders can even become tools of wisdom and insight that mature and perfect us, as individuals and as citizens who share this world.

Where can we take heart today?

COVID 19: The vaccines are being distributed and eventually everyone who wants them can be protected. In the meantime, let’s keep honoring and protecting one another with masks and social distancing.

COUNTRY: Here in the United States, President Biden and Vice President Harris took their Oaths of Office this week. I found such hope and joy in the uplifting messages, the inspirational poem, and the beautiful music on Inauguration Day. Even more, the diversity of those who have been called to serve, as well as the people present – an array of different genders, races, orientations, ages, and political parties – visibly demonstrated the strength and heart of this United States. The day was a lovely reminder that my country is still a place of incredible resilience, diversity, goodness, perseverance, and hope.

CONNECTION: I believe that, at our core, most of us hold the same loving ideals, hopes, and dreams for ourselves and our world. Don’t we all hope for a world of peace, where people have enough to eat, where education helps everyone discover and achieve their dreams, where there is no more sickness or suffering or abuse or neglect, where everyone can have the health care they need, where lives are no longer cut short by gunfire or abortion, where taxes will benefit more than burden, where fear and hatred are diminished, where creation is appreciated and wisely stewarded?

We only differ on the ways and means to work toward a world like this. We are connected by much more than legislation; we are connected at the most meaningful and significant levels of goodness, generosity, kindness, and compassion. When we begin realizing the depth of our connection and the number of ideas and dreams we have in common, we have a stronger foundation from which to work together with greater understanding and cooperation.

CHRIST: Most of all, and best of all, we move forward as people with our hope in Christ. God is present here, within and among us, and we will never be abandoned. We can keep learning and growing as God’s beloved people, trusting that we are being perfected, individually and collectively, into a world of peace and joy. This journey of maturing and learning is a gift and purpose for our lives. The journey is a long one, but we are in good company. We are not alone. We have God. We have one another.

Take heart.

Philippians 1:6 (NRSV)
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 133:1 NRSV)
How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity!

Philippians 2:2-4
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

John 16:33 (NIV)
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.


Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages.

Moving Forward: Take a Stand

MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH #5
(What Do You Stand For?)

A few years ago, Jim and I took our youth group on a mission trip to Newark, New York. The theme for our week of serving together was, “What Do You Stand For?” Throughout the week, we learned and experienced some ways we can stand up to love and serve God and others, as well as stand for, to represent Christ in the world, to live in a way that models Jesus.

Today as we keep Moving Forward in Faith Through Trying Times, we are invited to take a stand, to help bring about a new and better day. The issues that burden or dismay us, the beliefs or allegiances that divide us, or the heartaches that grieve us, can be turned into opportunities to DO something. Oh, we could sit and lament for hours, couldn’t we? But what good would that do our spirits or our world? How much better we are when we choose to work for good instead of lamenting the bad.

What are some ways we can stand up, by taking action through service?
What are some ways we can stand for, by representing Christ through love?

As I noted in my previous post, we cannot do it all. But we are free and encouraged to serve in the areas we are most passionate about – the issues that most bless or frustrate us – according to our character and strengths (1 Corinthians 12). Whether we have the time and energy to be an activist (use direct and public methods to bring about social and political change), or an advocate (publicly support something), provide assistance (take action to help someone or support something), or do small acts of kindness, together we can brighten and bless our community and world.*

Even in my small “corner of the world,” I see many examples of love and faith in action through my friends and family. Nancy trains assistance dogs who will help comfort and calm souls. Kay volunteers for an agency that advocates for senior citizens, helping to resolve troubles and answer their needs. Elaine helps to organize an annual trash clean-up to make her city more beautiful. Jennie marched in the Women’s March on Washington, standing together with many others for the rights of women. Angie is a dedicated foster mom, providing a safe home, tender care, and much love for children. Doy promotes the Paw Hoorah, an annual fundraising event for Planned Pethood, reducing the number of neglected or abandoned animals. Jim volunteers on the board of Fairness West Virginia, working for equal rights for those who still remain discriminated against. Several of our Toledo friends serve weekly at the Holy Trinity food pantry, not only providing food for those in need, but also praying and sharing communion with them. Denny has organized volunteers to tutor children after school. Kevin donates what he can of his meager salary to support those who work for justice and equality. These dear people are taking a stand; they are choosing to make at least one good difference for all of creation.

I find that when I act with kindness, speak for justice, or help another person – even in some small way – I am blessed with peace and joy for these difficult times. Doing so helps me to take the focus off my own troubles, gives me purpose, and adds to my own hope for better days. Each time we can transform our negative feelings into positive change, we become a blessing, but we are also blessed.

In the United States, today offers a renewed hope, with a new administration and a new president. Whatever emotions or feelings you have about the election, I hope that all Americans will regard this as an opportunity for a new beginning. There is work to do, and we are called to work for good – not only for ourselves or for our country – but also for our world.

What one thing will you do today to help make the world a better place? How might you do so with the humility and love of Jesus?

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NRSV)
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Micah 6:8 (NRSV)
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

1 John 3:18 (NRSV)
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 




Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages.

*the definitions of activist and advocate were found at Cambridge English Dictionary: Meanings & Definitions

Moving Forward: Take Responsibility

MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH #4
(WHO’S TO BLAME?)

In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown writes, “Only once we discern what is absolutely essential and eliminate everything else can we make our highest contribution toward the things that really matter.”1 Let’s heed his words as we continue Moving Forward in Faith. In the heartache of this pandemic, the turmoil of economic-job losses, and the violent turbulence in politics, our world desperately needs us to make all the good differences we can – but we cannot do it all.

What are the essential things we might do? Perhaps we can first eliminate the time we may spend placing blame on others. Of course, placing blame is necessary; people who cause harm or commit illegal acts must be held responsible and culpable. Justice needs to be served. Corrections must be made. Consequences must be determined. But there are qualified people whose vocation includes doing those very things.

When we desperately want to make sense of our confusion, assign responsibility for fixing the mess, and resolve all that is wrong as quickly as possible, blaming others becomes a way to remove the burden from ourselves. We relieve ourselves of any responsibility to remedy the situation by critically assigning fault to others. We have seen numerous articles, posts, and interviews in which one person or group is blaming another, or no one, or even everyone. Rarely do we hear, “This is my fault, I am sorry, and I will make amends.” (I find this difficult to do myself!)

But, back to what is essential for us as people of faith… when we consider what is faithful and essential for us to do, what might be the more fruitful action? What might be the more loving action? What is an essential and faithful responsibility we might take on?

When an issue is angering or upsetting us, the more fruitful actions would include writing letters to our political leaders, volunteering or funding agencies that work to help with the problem, and sharing our concerns about the issues with others – providing information, raising awareness, inviting others to help – more than blaming or disparaging people.

When we are grieved or hurt by the troubles impacting us, the more loving actions might be to encourage others who are feeling the same way, to help brighten spirits with words of affirmation or hope, and to foster a spirit of forgiveness for those who have been found responsible and held accountable.

Finally, as we think about our own responsibility in making the world a better place, contemplative Franciscan Richard Rohr says, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.”2 What we wish to see in the world, we can emulate in ourselves. We can model a better way, the way of love and hope and peace and joy. If we wish for an end to both greed and poverty, we can live more generously. If we wish for more peace and unity, we can model greater acceptance and kindness. If we hope for an end to the pandemic, we can follow the medical guidelines, protect one another, and get vaccinated. Our faithful and essential responsibility could be to live and model what we hope our world will become, to let our lives be a visible example of a better way, while we refrain from criticizing or blaming those who don’t.

“Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NRSV)
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.



1McKeown, Greg, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. New York: Currency, 2020.

2Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

Photo by Giulia May on Unsplash

Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com

Moving Forward: Take Time to Learn

MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH #3
(THERE IS USUALLY MORE TO THE STORY)

As we continue to move forward in faith during these troubling times, what are the issues or problems that most concern you? Could these issues actually be invitations to action? When we feel unsettled, tense, or curious about a problem, it may be that we are being compelled by the Spirit to make a difference.

The best way for us to begin working for good is to more fully understand the problem itself. When we take time to learn more about the issues we face, we gain a clearer picture of the reasons certain problems exist, we know more of their extent and magnitude, and we find more practical and useful ways to help. We can become better equipped and prepared for action, clear up our own misunderstandings, and mature and change ourselves – into persons of greater understanding, peacefulness, purpose, and clarity…

I didn’t vote for President Obama in 2008, but when he was elected, I optimistically thought, “Racism is now behind us!” Since then, I have witnessed the deep bigotry that persists and the racist systems that continue to be in place. I have also become aware of some ways that a bit of racism lingers in me. I grew up in a nearly all-white community, so I never had the privilege of knowing any black people until I went to college. I was also told some untruths about the black race by prejudiced adults outside my home (for example, one teacher told me that black people had to be slaves because God was punishing them for the sins of a son of Noah). Since then, I have grown in my understanding, awareness, and compassion for all who are oppressed. I recently learned more about racism – and how my childhood ignorance and misinformation affected me – when I read the book, How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi. Learning more about racism gave me a deeper awareness, as well as a greater desire to work for justice.

“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted;
nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”1

We have biased news sources and social media so readily available these days, which can make it difficult for us to discern truthful facts or to know the whole story. Our own personal biases also get in the way, as we seek out the information that affirms the beliefs we hold, while discounting the information that might make us question our stances. When we pick and choose information according to our own beliefs, we are not seeing the whole picture. One troubling example of this is when we use a Bible verse to uphold and justify what we believe, while not knowing the rest of the context, the history of the writings, the biases of the writers, the symbolism that was used, and even how the books were selected. There is so much more to the Bible’s story and message than one or two verses.

And there is more complexity to the problems in our world than one simple answer can solve. How many posts or memes have we seen or shared that seem to solve all our problems in one concise statement? (If our earthly problems had easy answers, it seems there would be no earthly problems!) Our global, national, and even personal problems are complicated, intertwined, and not easily remedied. One solution may negatively impact another issue or create a new problem. Being aware of this may help us to be more patient and gracious as we work toward solutions, and also inspire us – individually and collectively – to take the smaller steps that can lead us toward a better future.

In my prayer time recently, these thoughts about learning came to me:

Life is a constant process of learning, and no one has all the answers except for God. The most important goal for our learning should be to increase our understanding of God’s love in the world. That is, we take steps to better understand others so we might grow in unity and acceptance; learn to rethink and reframe our political and social systems to benefit all people; strive to find the best ways to care for one another and all creation; grow in our understanding of how God moves us to love; and find the deeper meanings and better purposes of this precious life we have been given.

Today, as we move forward in faith, may we open ourselves to consider new ideas, to seek out information that will change us for the better, to be more discerning in our reading and sharing, and to discover which issues may be invitations for us to learn, understand, and then find ways to resolve them.

“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” ~ Vernon Howard

Psalm 32:8 (NRSV)
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Matthew 11:29 (NRSV)
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.



1Francis Bacon (English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist, and author) 

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages.

Moving Forward: Take Another Look at Ourselves

MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH #2
(WHENEVER “I WOULD NEVER…”)

When my children were small, I vowed to remain patient with their questions and encourage their curiosity. I planned to regard each of their questions as an opportunity to gently explain my reasoning, teach them something new, or explain why certain rules are in place. I felt that I would be the perfect, patient mom with their many questions – until one day when my patience was worn and I answered one of those “Why?” questions with, “Because I said so!” My reply was one I had claimed I would never use. I had felt so confident in my parenting skills that I never dreamed I would use those dismissive words I had heard other parents say.

Then there was the time my friend and I were sadly discussing the grief and trials of his divorce. I confided that my marriage was challenging at times, but determinedly added, “but I would never get divorced.” He looked at me intently and then quietly said, “Never say never, Karen.” A few years later, the “never” happened. I had thought that I could handle the conflicts and trials of relationships better than other couples. But there I was…

And several years ago, Jim and I visited our daughter in West Virginia for the first time. Driving through the hills was intimidating, and I firmly stated, “I would never want to live here.” Then our health situations changed, and we decided to move to a more central location for our family. Once we became more familiar with the area, we found we actually liked the community. With additional discernment, we soon decided that Hurricane would be the best place to make our new home.

How easily I can claim that “I would never…” while believing that I would somehow know better, do better, or find better. The proclamations we announce, the judgments we render, and the bold stands we take, can be done so readily when we have not been challenged ourselves. We feel naïvely confident about our wisdom and our ability. Then patience wanes. Situations become desperate. Circumstances change. New information comes. And we find that we are no longer so sure of our once firmly-held stances or beliefs.

Certainty often arises from naiveite. We can so easily judge another’s choices or actions when they stem from circumstances or experiences we have not faced ourselves. Though I know in my heart that some actions are clearly wrong, I can imagine that in certain extreme or dire situations I would consider doing any of them. I also need to remember that my culture, family history, experience, education, and faith, do not form the definitive basis for the beliefs or actions of others. When I begin to think I have all the answers, God kindly (and at times, painfully) shows me that I certainly don’t.

Perhaps our deepest wisdom comes when we realize our lack of wisdom. Perhaps our deepest wisdom is to refrain from believing we “would never” and to stop judging others for doing so, even when they must face the consequences for their actions. Perhaps our deepest wisdom is to live each day the best we can, and remember that others are trying to do the same – under very different circumstances.

Philippians 2:1-4 (NRSV)
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Colossians 3:12 (NRSV)
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 

As we move forward in faith through these very trying times, who are the people you find most difficult to understand, the easiest to judge? Today, let’s bring these people to God in prayer. Let’s ask God to increase our understanding, compassion, and humility. Let’s ask God to open our eyes to the times when we have been not only prideful, but mistaken. Finally, let’s thank God for the one certainty we do have – that we are all God’s beloved children – and from this certainty, ask God to help us find ways to make the world a kinder and better place for everyone.



(In my Introduction, I had originally planned to call this post, “Take Stock of Ourselves” but in the writing, I found this new title to be more appropriate.)

Photo by Shalone Cason on Unsplash

Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages.

Moving Forward: Take a Step Back

MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH #1
(NURTURING OUR SOULS)

Each new year, I choose a word to serve as a guiding theme for the way I hope to live, notice, and direct my days. My word for 2021 is nurture. Initially I liked the way nurture can mean fostering our development, such as nurturing my mind or nurturing my writing skills. But perhaps because of these trying times, my body and soul have also longed to be nurtured – to be comforted, to nestle into God, to tend my health, to nourish my faith, and to help others do the same. Nurture has already served me well as a centering guide for these first weeks of the year.

As we seek to move forward in faith through some very trying times, we would be wise to first take a step back, to withdraw for quiet moments and nurture our spirits. When our world is unsettled and anxious, we can feel compelled to watch more of the news updates, to look at Facebook or Twitter for our friends’ responses (or post one of our own), or to lament and worry in our conversations with others. The problems are so distressing that we seem unable to take our focus away from them. At the end of the day, we then find that we have spent the entire day fretting or feeding our fears.

Nurture has reminded me to designate time in my day to refresh my spirit, to take a break from the ever available news or social media outlets. I am not disregarding the troubles we face, but taking a moment to replenish. I pull myself away from the mire and mess, to breathe, to pray, to clear my head, and to notice the blessings that are still all around. This quiet space helps me to consider concerns and troubles from a new, distanced, more appropriate perspective – as if I am observing them while being held by God. This space also helps me to refrain from responding in hurtful or hateful ways to the news or posts that upset me.  

Some helpful practices I have found…

We can assign certain times of the day for Facebook, social media, or news, and save the other precious hours to be more present to life. It is important for us to be informed, but we do not need to be inundated. In the morning, I avoid these outside distractions until after I have journal time with God; in the evening, I step away from them and read or journal before going to bed. I try to be mindful of the precious times with loved ones, the daily sacraments of meals, or the blessings of walking outdoors, and I set aside social media or news updates so that I may be more present to the moment.

I have also changed my journal practice; I now summarize my day before going to sleep at night. This serves to close out the day, so that I might sleep better and begin anew in the morning. Then my morning journal becomes simply time with God, and I find that my thoughts are purer, less influenced by yesterday’s events. By putting yesterday in its place, I can bring a fresh, clean day to God as I listen and reflect.

We can do internet searches for Bible verses that help our specific needs. Reading them provides comfort and nourishes my soul. When we long to take a step back from our cares, we can look up Bible verses about rest, comfort, or trust. Here are some for us today…

Matthew 11:28 (NRSV)
“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.”

1 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NRSV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. 

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NRSV)
Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—
    in peace because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for in the Lord God
    you have an everlasting rock.

Nurturing our spirits with these sacred spaces is not to escape our trials but to help us address them. We cannot serve others well, we cannot make a good difference in the world, if we are not nurtured and nourished ourselves. By taking a step back from our troubles and drawing closer to God, we can look at our problems with new and hopeful perspectives. By opening ourselves through time with God, we help enable God to work for good, in us and through us. By placing our burdens into God’s perfecting hands, we can serve more freely, and maybe even joyfully.    

As you move forward in faith through these trying times, how might you take a step back to nurture your soul today?    



Photo by Brandon Matich on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages.

Moving Forward in Faith (Introduction)

I have had a writing dilemma in recent weeks, from feeling no inspiration to write, to feeling as if I could spew nonstop for months. These feelings come from the difficult days we are all enduring, and as we are growing increasingly weary, frustrated, impatient, and angry. There are moments when I feel optimistic, when I feel ready to help make the world a better place in some small way. Then come the moments when I feel as if anything I can write or do would be futile, even foolish. If you can relate to these feelings, know that you are not alone.

But yesterday as I walked – feeling both provoked and stymied – I tearfully asked God to guide my writing through these political and pandemic trials. And it came to me that I should write about embracing these experiences and the feelings that arise, and to prayerfully seek the best ways to move forward with faith and integrity. I asked God for words that would be unbiased, faithful, gracious, and universal, even as I am thinking specifically of the issues currently confronting the U.S.

What should we do with our conflicting and uncomfortable feelings? Where do we go from here? How can we make progress while remaining centered in God? If you are asking these same questions, I invite you to this two-week blog series in which we consider a few steps we might take to move forward in faith:

  1. We take a step back. (Tuesday, January 12)
  2. We take stock of ourselves. (Thursday, January 14)
  3. We take time to learn. (Saturday, January 16)
  4. We take responsibility. (Tuesday, January 19)
  5. We take a stand. (Thursday, January 21)
  6. We take heart. (Saturday, January 23)

I pray that you will be comforted, renewed, encouraged, and inspired by these reflections for our turbulent times.

Peace to you all,
Karen


Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

From Now On…

(For today’s Five Minute Friday – January 8 – I am sharing a post I had recently written for the new year, as it is “timely”!)

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV)

As I reflect at year’s end and look toward the new year, the phrase, “from now on…” is blessing my thoughts. I’m noticing that this phrase may well describe the core of my faith; the hope and joy I find in the love of God. Much of what God promises, much of what Jesus has said or done, speaks to us about this time forward – how we are invited to live from now on. These words will be a centering part of my guiding theme for the new year.

This new year gives us a tangible reminder that we can begin afresh. We have a new page on the calendar, a “clean slate” to write new chapters of our life. God in Christ offers us a from now on perspective of hope and joy, by forgiving us our past mistakes, by working to make good from all our experiences, and by promising us God’s loving presence through every future day.

With this from now on idea in mind, our New Year resolutions may include some of these:

~ From now on, even if our difficult circumstances do not change, our actions and attitudes can. We can persevere with peace, we can look for ways to learn and grow, we can live our lives as examples of patience and faithful trust.

~ From now on, even if our pleasant circumstances do change, our attitudes and actions won’t need to. We can live in gratitude for what was and what is, we can keep moving forward in hope, we can live our lives as examples of joyful optimism and humble grace.

~ From now on, we can invite the wounds and hurts of our past to transform and improve us. We can regard them as part of our perfecting journey, allowing them to teach, reveal, and mature us into true and Christ-like people.

~ From now on, we can live in ways that will foster a brighter and better world, to have learned from the mistakes of our past.

~ From now on, we can live in the freedom and joy of being beloved children of God, and help others to know that they are, too.

Nearly every year, while I consider my resolutions, I include several previous ones because I have not yet been able to keep them! There have been very few resolutions that have stuck completely for life. This reveals the best part of our from now on faith in the love of God…

God gives us that promise of fresh new beginnings every single day, every single moment! The resolutions we have failed to accomplish, the promises we have failed to keep, the perspectives we have failed to maintain, are forgiven and forgotten. And if we choose, these same resolutions, promises, and perspectives are now freely offered to us as “do-overs.” God gives us infinite chances to try again.

God’s from now on is constant and eternal. Every moment with God becomes a from now on turning point. Every moment is a new opportunity to say, “From now on…”

~ From now on, we can try to live as God would have us live, trusting that when we fail, God will give us yet another from now on to begin anew.

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

– Lamentations 3:21-24 (NRSV)

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6 (NRSV)



(Five Minute Friday is an online writing community. Each week, we are given a one word prompt and five minutes to write! For more posts and information, visit FMF Writing Prompt Link-up :: Time – Five Minute Friday)




Photo by ASHLEY EDWARDS on Unsplash

Bible verses copied from BibleGateway.com