A Word on Wednesday: Binding

Binding gives stability. Day job. House. Love. Family.

binding

I reference the definition of the noun binding as the word we have for the act of fastening, securing, uniting, or the likes. Ideas bind us together. Shared beliefs are binding. We can be bound in big intentional ways or in bits of happenstance. We can be bound together in consequential and trivial ways.

Who and what you chose to bind with determines your destiny. Love binds us with our partner, with our families, with friends. Loves bind us with the Lord. Love is binding material that secures all with an unbreakable strength.

Love is a choice, we can choose to accept God’s love and share it with the world or we can chose to settle for more brittle binding materials to create our networks of connectivity. With care, we can unite our hearts and lives with those who multiply the power of our efforts.

God’s love binds us with his promise, his mercy, our own salvation. This love is sacred for sure, but accessible for everyone. There is no secret handshake. There is no dress code. There is only an open invitation from God to accept his love.

A Word today: Churchgoer

I once overheard my husband say, “my wife’s the churchgoer of the family.”

https://pixabay.com/photos/steeple-church-religion-812885/

If only my husband knew how many times he has been lifted in prayer to the Lord. I have thanked God for my husband’s glory. I have begged God for my husband’s salvation.

So many times, I prayed silently while we embraced. Sometimes, it has moved me to tears and nirvana. A release of mind, body, and soul as I marvel at what love can do.

I have held my husband in my heart.

Yet, I have failed to provide a steady rhythm along a lighted path to God. I have fallen short. You see I am a churchgoer because I don’t always get it right. I fall! Short! I go to church to remind myself to do better, to be better, to carry Christ all through the week. Week after week, after week. I need to hear the message again and again. I find my strength in the pews, in the Word, and in fellowship. I find my courage to be audacious and say, “I pray for you!” Church is where I need to go so that when I leave, I have a heathy spirit. This light then shines in me. After church, I am clean again. I am ready. I am reminded. I am full.

Our church tells us to “be” the church. Our buildings are not where the work is done. Communal worship is a tie that binds, but it is not the necessity or the entirety of a Christian life.

COVID-19 emphasized the point! Close our churches! Yet, still we preached, still we gathered, still we prayed. And we prayed and we prayed. We reconnected in the building, first gathering on lawns. Then our doors were open and our alter was adorned for in-person display. And the pandemic wore on. It went on past the expectancy of duration. We had a cure, yet the pandemic wore on. More people died. So, we reclosed our doors, we returned to streaming online.

The building felt less important somehow. We gathered united separately in the comfort at our homes. Technology connected us. Fellowship was not lost. We had our simplistic praying hands. We typed our thoughts and prayers in the comments. We prepared our own communion and filled ourselves with the body and blood. The refrains and responses were sung and spoken, heard only by the dog.  

I am the churchgoer, so you can recognize me. I shower and dress and do my hair and make-up; I put my faith on display. My friends and family learned to not invite me to Sunday morning activities, because they knew I already had plans. But I must be the church, seek the truth, walk in the light, live in service.

I am the churchgoer in the family. I have held each member in my heart and lifted each unto the Lord. Yet, this is because I am weak, not because I am strong. Yes, I am the churchgoer in the family. This is my quiet way of leading. I do not drag my family by their arms. When they stay away, I pray. When they join me, I rejoice, and still I pray.  

A Word on Wednesday: Agape

“God is love. Love is God”

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A former pastor would say this at least once during every service. Sometimes, it was a centering expression. Other times, it was part of her sermon. At times she sent us out with the reminder.

“God is love. Love is God.”

Her license plate was LUV2LUV. All theology of Christianity should emphasize this foundational point. I recall an Agape Potluck, which was held monthly on the first Sunday. This recurring fellowship activity — where everyone brought what they could, if they remembered — was where I learned the word agape. We all sat and shared in what was presented, and it was enough. God’s teaching to love one another as He has loved us, is enough as well. Love is the key to peace. If we are strong, we remember to praise and thank the Lord. If we are weak, we can receive comfort in the ways of his gifts – faith, hope, and the greatest is love.

Agape, Greek agapē, in the New Testament, is the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. In Scripture, the transcendent agape love is the highest form of love and is contrasted with eros, or erotic love, and philia, or brotherly love. In church, agape is used to designate both a rite (communion) and a meal of fellowship (Jude 1:12). Some scholars believe the agape was a form of the Lord’s supper and the bread and wine the sacramental aspect of that celebration.

In practice, I am writing a spiritual memoir where I journey to reach agape love. It is an ultimate goal. I have experienced agape love. It is fleeting, and I lose my grip. However, when there is a firm hold, life is full of blessings and joy. When I am stumbling, His love comforts and cradles me. With His hand guiding me, I hope to bring faith and hope to others who are lost without agape love.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John, 4: 8)

Love is what we all seek to give and receive in this life. It is omnipresent. Recognize, share, and rejoice in this simple vow to love one another as God has loved us.

A Poem Today: Vision Statement

I wish to be a beacon of light.

Steady in storm, constant in sight.

I wish to be a vessel of light.

Strong in word, humble in deed.

I wish to be a reflection of light.

Quick to listen, slow to speak.

By: Tara Huck

A Word on Wednesday: Home

I sit here on a quiet morning, legs curled beneath me, laptop resting on my thighs nestled on the love seat. Across from me is my husband, book in hand, with our youngest cuddled close with the dog on his lap. This moment gives me contentment and happiness in the joy of the family I have built.

This house has become a home. It is more than a shelter from the elements and chaos of the outside world. It is an oasis of love where both comfort and joy live. There are shelves of curated books – poetry and historical fiction for me, crime fiction and thrillers for my husband, business for both of us, children’s books, and my collection of autographed first editions. We also have three bibles – an impressive family bible from my husband, my middle son’s confirmation gift bible, and my journaling bible.

We have art – fine, commercial, and homemade. My favorite homemade sign says, “In this kitchen we dance,” which a friend made for us because she found it endearing that we dance with friends at happy hours and had once revealed we embrace and sway at quite intimate moments in the hearth of the home.

Our family is growing and changing. Our older teen is in his bedroom at the end of the upstairs hallway. And further away our oldest is turning his own house into a home about two hours from us. I already miss my sons as young children with toys and sippy cups scattered around the house. These days, there are sports bottles and backpacks taking up space. Fishing poles, bows, and hunting totes round out the things I will outgrow.

There is a five-year plan my husband and I talk about. This plan sensibly includes ideas of downsizing, selling our house. This isn’t the first house we owned and it won’t be the last. With our next chapter, the empty next, approaching in the distance, I find myself thoughtfully looking at our material objects considering if they are keepers or something I can live without in a smaller more practical space. As it turns out, there is very little I need. My great grandparents quilt will travel will me to another home with a few other sentimental or otherwise valuable items.

I am sentimental, if that isn’t obvious from my posts, but I can let go of the objects that no longer serve their purpose. The bedrooms will be empty. The rec rooms free from gathered children.

I could be that person who holds onto the family home for the nostalgia of having raised a family here. I could hold onto those artifacts from passing childhoods. Save the space for holidays with grandchildren that may come.

The current plan is to let it go. To move on. To recognize house is just that; the magic of home is the view from inside. The bread broke and shared together. The cozy moments curled up with books or notebooks. The idle time watching television. The frenzy of preparations for the little things – school days and day job, and the big things – weddings, funerals, and holidays.

The memories of the home will be my husband teaching each of the boys how to tie a tie, the children working hard on homework or other pursuits, the meals prepared and shared. Home is not always as idyllic as this description, but this is home at its essence. The house, I have to accept is temporary.

A favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert, uses “onward” a lot in her creed for living well. I have to agree, onward indeed. But not just yet, there are still more memories to be made in this home.

A Word on Wednesday: Presence

The state or fact of being present, as with others or in a place.

It’s easy to be distracted. Multitasking is a marketable skill. I remember being asked to rate my ability to multitask at an interview for my current employer. I looked each of the interviewers in the eye and said, “I don’t multitask. I find it most efficient to give my attention to one thing at a time.” Flashforward five years at day job, I have indeed lost my ability to focus, as the demands of my position come from all directions across multiple mediums. I used to have a smart watch flashing interruptions to the present with vibrating notifications, which I turned off after a few months as it was too much. It is hard to be present when announcements of urgency demand attention. There are competing priorities. It is important to discipline oneself to prioritize rather than scatter our attention. In the practical demands of day job, practicing presence improves productivity and relieves stress.

When we slow down and are present in the big and little tasks of the day, we open the way for the work of God to vessel through us. When we slow to the moment, we enrich the experiences that make up our day. Giving your presence is the path to joy. With this intention, we can live our best life. The best gift we can give to others is to be present. This is a gift we should give ourselves as well. Total awareness, that is the prize. Complete intentional focus on the present moment. Living in all of it. Breathe.

Ignoring or quieting the stimuli pulling us from the present moment opens us to live with joy and contentment. It reduces worry and anxiety. Mindfulness, meditation, prayer are opportunities we can practice to improve our ability to be present. With this commitment to the here and now, we can soak up the emotion and strength to own the day.

Of course there is a time and a place to multitask. It is unavoidable in our culture. We never leave home without our cellphones. Honestly, I sleep with mine on my nightstand. I carry it with me most hours of the day, tucking it in my pocket from kitchen to living room, to the yard. It is synced to my car display every time I drive.

Recently, our book club read “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again” by Catherine Price. She also wrote “How to Break up with your Phone.” Both books highlight takeaways from her research as an award-winning science journalist. To have fun, one must be present and intentionally so. Of course, this is common sense, but the reminders in the book affirm the need for presence in our lives.

I also seek and create moments to be present with God. Removing the distractions, and allowing room for the creator to live in me, through me. He is the ultimate source of strength. This is true in the sacred place of a sanctuary or an intentional time spent on devotions or bible journaling. He is equally present in my secular moments of gathering with friends, working, making meals with my family, working out, even watching movies. God is omnipresent, and if I listen and watch carefully, I can feel Him.

A Word on Wednesday: Privilege

“When someone has been given much, much will be required in return.” Luke 12:48.

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

Privilege is a word that has been politicalized. We do not think we have privilege; we think our good fortune is the result of our effort and own doing. Maybe we don’t have white privilege or rich privilege or special rights granted based on provisions granted by an authority.

The sixth definition of the noun is an advantage or source of pleasure granted to a person: it is my privilege to be here. Audaciously, I declare “here” to be earth. It is my privilege to be taking up space. As such, it is my obligation to give much in return.

I have been given a life rich with love from infancy on, thanks goes first to my parents and sister. Over time, others have grown to love me as well. Along, the way, I learned of the love the Lord has for me. This life and love is not something I earned, it was granted to me.

God creates life. He loves with mercy on all of us — believers, skeptics, and deniers alike. The responsibility we have is to praise him with gratitude for all that has been given to us.

Regardless of my boot straps and tenacity, which have gotten me through many a obstacle, I was given life and love. Therefore, we should not deny our privilege, but allow it to humble us. Allow ourselves to pay our debt with the simple task of thanksgiving.

A Word on Wednesday: Broken

What is broken cannot be fixed. However, we can be healed. Scars will form or causalities will be born.

broken

Broken as an adjective is defined as reduced to fragments; ruptured; torn; fractured; not functioning properly; out of working order. There is not beauty in brokenness. There is beauty in owning our own brokenness and walking in that vulnerability.

We allow a few to see us in this state. While others witness and offer service to help, healing is an inside job. Our ultimate creator lives in us. It is vital to draw upon that strength and create a life complete with restoration.

We all have been broken. Some heal, some adapt with dependencies. The key is to give up the man made crutches and turn to the Lord. “For with man these things are impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew: 19:26.

A Word on Wednesday: Response

“We were created in the image of God so that we would be able to see God wherever we look,” Pastor Matt Sauer.

Our response to our very creation as a manifestation of God’s glory, God’s justice, God’s love, God’s creativity is to share this image of God with the world.

Response: an action of reply, as in words or in action. In biology, any behavior of a living organism that results from an external or internal stimulus. Ecclesiastical, a verse or sentence, phrase, or word sung by the choir or congregation in reply to the officiant.

Any self help book will begin with telling you it’s not what happens to you, it is how you respond. We can control our response. And that is where the work of self healing begins, to control our response. This general short hand is usually a response to a negative circumstance. It rains, learn to dance.

But our response to the good is more important. The good news is we were created in the image of God. And our response should be “Send Me Out.”

“I wanna be your hands and feet I wanna be your vice ev’ry time I speak/I wanna run to the ones in need in the name of Jesus/I wanna give my life away all for Your kingdom’s sake/Shine a light in the darkest place in the name of Jesus (in the name of Jesus).”

A Word on Wednesday: Solitude

Fortunately, I received a gift of solitude the week between Christmas and the New Year. Solitude, noun, the state of being or living alone; remoteness of habitations as of a place; absence of human activity.

No day job. No friends. The family is skiing. It’s just me and dog. I surround myself with books, colored pencils, thin markers, notebooks, a pen, and the laptop where I write these words.

Creativity is easy in this place, a lovely cottage, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Untouched snow covers the frozen lake. I sit in silence and listen. Am I listening to God or my own thoughts? I’m not sure. But it is lovely and restorative, a respite from the demands of the life I have built.

By Besty Painter

Day job offers several weeks of vacation. Other weeks, I have traveled, also a lovely use of time. But this week, I took just for me. I am cooking comforting foods, stew, soup, pasta. I made a red velvet cake this morning and will attempt the delicate icing this afternoon, a treat to share with my teenagers and husband to celebrate his most recent trip around the sun.

I could snowshoe. I could hike or take the dog for a walk. I could nap. I could read. The possibilities of silent, solitary activities is endless. I will be rested and full of peace when the family returns invigorated from a day at the hill. We will break bread and laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Each of us taking advantage of this time away to bring to end a year and usher in a new round of possibilities.

The day begins with my youngest making espresso for the family, then they leave for the slopes. I pull out my devotions and set my intention for the day. Today’s verse was from 2 Timothy, “I remind you to fan into the flame of God.” It’s prayer, “Father, thank You for the gift of your presence that beckons me in from the cold. I place myself before Your fireplace; keep my heart kindled. Amen.

My thoughts upon this devotion is that God’s invitation to us never expires. There is a constant call to live in the Word, if we only take notice. The party of Christianity is unlike anything secular in this world. It is healing, warm, and soothing. It restores purity to our souls. It nourishes us to be strong and live in the light.

God is easy to see here at the lake. The vast beauty and calm are gifts from the Lord to give us respite. Thank you Lord for this gift of solitude to hear You as I welcome You into my heart.