Sunday, March 31, 2019

steady as a boulder, mobile as a falcon

I long to be steady as a boulder, mobile as a falcon, hardy as a wood frog in the winter, and joyful as the sparrow's song in the Springtime.

To do no harm to any of my wild neighbors. To do good to all. 

I need a change down deep within; in the heart space where only God can work.

God of all, change the desires of my heart, so that it beats in tune with yours; and let this change be reflected in my living.

Give me a heart that burns with love for all that has life; both human and otherwise, wild and domestic, individuals and ecosystems, the whole diverse community of life.

Empower me with inner strength through your Spirit to follow the example of Jesus, relating to each of these with the respect and kindness that a neighbor should.

(West Rim Trail near Barbour Rock Trail 3/31/2019)



Friday, March 29, 2019

A changed heart = a change in living

As I find myself in conversation with people who share my desire to live into community with all that has life there is a question which has arisen on a number of occasions. The question is, "Why Jesus?"

Surely I'd have a wider group of people to unite with for the sake of conservation if the vision was simply to "live into community with all that has life" minus the "rooted in relationship with God" part and minus the "Jesus" part.

But the truth is, I don't see these variables simply as "parts" of the picture. Rather, living in relationship with God and committing to follow the example of Jesus are the relational foundation through which inner strength for sustainable change is found. It all has to start with God because God is the great visionary and empowerer. 

Just telling each other what we need to be doing is not enough. We need the power of God at work among us and within us.

Part of the problem is that we have become so bound up by our own habits and we continue to live as participants in systems that use and abuse natural resources and other forms of life at an alarming rate.

I don't know about you so I'll only speak for myself; every time I've attempted to make a change for good but left God out of it I've failed; but when I attempt to do it with the help of God there is an inner strength that is empowering.

We need to make a change, and the change starts with each of us. But it can't simply be about changing a behavior. That won't last.

We need the wisdom and strength that only God can give. We need to welcome the hope of a resurrected (new and transformed) way of living that begins with the transformation of our own minds and hearts as we trust in the power of God's love.

I have this hope because I believe that Jesus took on the world exactly as we experience it every day; he remained faithful in his love for God and others and he suffered to the point of death becuase of it; but the power of God's love is so strong that even the sin (failure to love) of corrupt human social systems and death itself could not stop what God was doing in and through Jesus.

One thing that the story of Jesus tells me is that if this is God's vision (that we should be empowered to live into community with all that has life) then there is nothing that can stop it.

I nurture my relationship with God every day because I'm thankful to be alive in a world filled with so much goodness and beauty and because I want to continue to experience a transformation of my own mind and heart.

Inward transformation leads to outward changes in the way we relate to our neighbors.

Why Jesus?

An example to follow.
Empowerment to live my best life.
Hope that is unstoppable.

As we trust in God following the example of Jesus, living into community with all that has life, for the sake of peace among people and peace between people and everything else that has life we will find ourselves tapping into a hope beyond all hope, a life beyond our broken lives of today, and a love that never fails.

(A picture given to me as a gift from some of the kids at church)


Thursday, March 28, 2019

A wandering falcon!

About mid-morning I went for a hike in the Pine Creek Gorge and happened upon two PGC bird biologists, Sean and Mario. I was just out to get a nice hiking/birding adventure in, but they were kind enough to allow me to join them as the surveyed the gorge for peregrine falcon nest sites.

We walked along the Pine Creek Rail Trail stopping at various points along the way to send out a call signal and then to look and listen.

At the first site we had what looked like some kind of accipiter fly overhead (maybe a goshawk?).

Then after about an hour and a half in we spotted one! The peregrine falcon, flying over a suitable habitat and warding off nearby vultures...it was incredible to watch! Then this bird perched and we observed it for about five minutes before it flew off to the south of us. I wonder if it is holding down a territory. I wonder if it has a mate nearby.

Peregrine falcons are known for their wandering habits so much that its in their name; a peregrine by definition is one who wanders far and wide. Time will tell if a pair of peregrine falcons will be nesting in the Pine Creek Gorge this year.

In thinking about this-afternoon's experience I'm finding myself reflecting on at least two things.

 First, as Mario noted, looking at it perched, if it had not alighted while we were passing by it would have been extremely easy to overlook. It gets me thinking about all of the people, animals,, plants, etc. that live in close proximity to us and how extremely easy it is to overlook each of these as we lead our busy lives. I am just as susceptible to overlook those who are vulnerable and in need of help as anyone else. This is why, trusting that by the power of God I will not overlook others, one of my favorite simple prayers is this, "God, help me to see. Give me eyes to see those who are vulnerable and hurting and who I can help."

Second, as I consider what it looks like for me to live into community with the peregrine falcon; the falcon and I are not going to have coffee and donuts; I'm not going to get as close as possible, that would only push it away. It has found favorable habitat. A place to call home. The best way to treat the peregrine falcon as my neighbor is to give it space. In a world where human influence on the environment is celebrated and constantly expanding, the best way for all of us to live into community with many of the varied plants and animals that we share this earth with is to give them space.

Thanks Sean and Mario, for allowing me to tag along.







Tuesday, March 26, 2019

It’s challenging!

I want to lead by example. Please pray that God would give me the wisdom and insight to follow through with reducing or even eliminating my reliance on single-use plastics; and if you have some helpful tips please share. 




Monday, March 25, 2019

Ivy visits The Green Home

Ivy had a good visit at The Green Home today. She enjoyed meeting her new friends Dorothy and Kathy.  Erin says that Ivy’s superpower is healing broken hearts and bringing joy to all! Sometimes living into community is just an all around good time; it certainly was in this instance.





Sunday, March 24, 2019

A friendly face and welcoming presence

Whether he is at Highland Chocolates, at church, the movie theatre, the pool, or just walking around town Todd has a gift for making the people around him feel special. The first day that Erin and I moved into Wellsboro four years ago Todd was one of the first people to walk across the street and introduce himself.

I appreciate Todd for many reasons; but I think the things I appreciate the most about Todd is that he is an authentic person and that he is a non-judgmental presence. In this way to experience Todd's greeting is to get a taste of Jesus; to know that love which God has for each of us in the kind and genuine welcome of another human being.

Todd also takes an interest in the lives of the people around him. He is faithful to ask how I am doing when we cross paths and its not the kind of "how ya doing?" that people say when its really just a formality of acknowledgment. When Todd asks how I am doing he is genuinely interested in what's happening in my life and what I am excited about. He shows this by expressing that he cares about the things that I express care about. Even my dog feels the love from Todd!

I also don't think I've ever met a better Penn State Fan. I think its because of this gift of showing kindness and a heartfelt welcome to others that Todd has friends in many places far and wide; and I know without a doubt that Todd knows (actually knows) more people around Wellsboro than I do.

Part of living into community in Jesus' name is relating to each other in an authentic and non-judgmental spirit and taking a genuine interest in the lives of others. Todd, thank you for serving as a shining example to the rest of us!



Saturday, March 23, 2019

Solitude in community

There were moments during this-afternoon's hike at Barbour Rock Trail along the West Rim of the Pine Creek Gorge when I had the experience of solitude in community; as the stress and busyness of  work and other social responsibilities in human community fade away I find myself drawn into community with all that has life along this trail. The snow is thawing. The vultures have returned. Trees and plants are beginning to wake from their winter dormancy. The seasons are transitioning under a clear blue sky.

Erin and I thoroughly enjoyed our "Neighborhood Tour" along Barbour Rock Trail this-afternoon, and here is a video and some photos of our getting acquainted with all that has life on that short trail.






(Pine Creek Gorge from Barbour Rock (facing north)- Photo credit Erin Hanlon)

(Pine Creek Gorge from Barbour Rock (facing south))


(eastern hemlock-our PA state tree!)


(red pine-large square holes indicate a pileated woodpecker has been here)


(red oak- photo credit Erin Hanlon) 

(white oak- photo credit Erin Hanlon)

(chestnut oak-note blocky bark-photo credit Erin Hanlon) 








Friday, March 22, 2019

Social Justice Power Couple

I met up with my friends Joe and Kacie Hopkins at the Native Bagel restaurant in Wellsboro this afternoon when they stopped by for a visit.

I don't get to spend very much time with them but when I do I always find myself encouraged. Each of them is so profoundly community focused that together they are a social justice power couple!

I was encouraged to hear about some conservation initiatives that Joe is working on with the United Churches of Lycoming County. When we work to preserve the environment, we pave the way for a healthy world for all.

I also counted it as a great encouragement to hear that Joe was approved for ordination in the United Methodist Church at our annual gathering as a conference at the end of May. Thanks for giving me one more reason to look forward to Annual Conference Joe!





Kacie should count as an inspiration to all of us in the way that she has so boldly pursued her dream of empowering women in rural communities in partnership with her sister Kaitlyn through their organization which is called Wildflower Enterprises. Since Kacie and Kaitlyn have written about what they do better than I ever could I've copied the following information that is in quotes from their website which you'll see a link to father down this page.  

"We connect women in rural communities around the world who want to be leaders for empowerment and social change."


"Kacie is an artist with a background in teaching violence prevention. The main issues she has worked on are preventing sexual violence, domestic violence and trafficking.  She has also worked with survivors of violence for around 5 years now.  Kacie has studied Global Affairs and is passionate about sustainable mission work."


"Kaitlyn is an artist and has a background in management. She has and currently serves in retail management. She has been doing this close to 10 years.  She is passionate about employee rights and has created leadership programs and trainings for stores and workplaces. She is also a loving mom to her son."

"We are a sustainable enterprise and we teach women in rural communities how to create individual and community sustainability through design. Wildflowers can be seen growing and living in strong winds, snow and extreme heat. There are hundreds even thousands of different types. Wildflower Enterprises consists of various programs. We are passionate about storytelling and believe everyone has the right to tell their story to inspire others and make a positive impact on the world."

These two sisters are now working to expand their global advocacy and develop rootedness in the places they currently call home.

Part of living into community with all that has life is living into community with people who are in need of empowerment. If you are encouraged by the  ways that Joe and Kacie are living into community in Jesus' name, I invite you to check out these websites:

Wildflower Enterprises
 https://www.wildflowerenterprises.net/about.html

United Churches of Lycoming County
http://www.uclc.org/?fbclid=IwAR1BuyFPaig_EyrJdEe7q-YCBXfOQoUYZEcZtJHI72K1MBzo70DpgbM04TE








Thursday, March 21, 2019

What's more important, people or nature?

What is more important, people or nature? It's a question that comes up surprisingly often when people find out that I am a person who expresses faith in Jesus and a desire to live into community with all that has life.

It is my conviction that with God all things are possible. What this means is that the question of the relative importance of people verses other living beings has no place in my interpretation of life.

I don't blame those who feel that they have to choose between human life or other life; we have all been culturally conditioned to think that way.

            Nature writer Aldo Leopold bridges the gap between humans and other life forms in what he calls “the Land Ethic.”  In his Land Ethic he presents us with a way of seeing ourselves not as separate from, rather as part of the natural world.  In his book, A Sand County Almanac, he writes the following:

“A land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such…that man is in fact, only a member of a biotic team is shown by an ecological interpretation of history.” (240)  

    
            I agree with Leopold in the sense that humans are members of a biotic team; we must live off of the land just like any other life form and when we die the materials that make up our bodies gets decomposed and recycled the same as a bird or a tree. I think that we are members of that biotic team and also that we are more than that.  It is my understanding that we should accept that we are part of this global biotic community on planet earth and also acknowledge that we have a unique responsibility as its members.  

The truth is that the dichotomy which we create between the human world and the natural world is an illusion. 

My interpretation of the teaching of Jesus in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John suggests that as I live into community with all that has life I should relate to all that has life with the same spirit of humility, service, and love that Jesus modeled.

If Jesus really was God in the flesh; why didn't he ever ask his disciples the question, "who is more important, you or me?" To him the question would have been irrelevant.  He simply gave himself in love and service to others, always expanding the bounds of community to include in his circle people who were despised, rejected, and forgotten. It is my vocation to follow his example for the sake of all that has life. I know that I'm not alone but very much a part of a global community of people rooted in relationship with God and committed to living into community with all that has life.

What's more important, people or nature? The question itself is misguiding.

To me, the question to ask is, "Is God big enough and strong enough to help us human beings live into community with other people AND everything else that has life?

In my experience, the answer to that question is a resounding YES.

While I remain fully convicted in what I have just shared, I do acknowledge that this is one imperfect person's interpretation on the intersection of faith and life. Always learning. Always growing. Always open to understanding the interpretations of others in a receptive and non-judgmental spirit.

Until next time...


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Vital Ministries- Hope for those affected by suicide

My friend Lory has a special passion for bringing hope to people who have been affected by suicide. This is a vital part of what it means to live into community with all that has life, especially with people who are traveling through some pretty difficult places in their journey. Lory is faithful to walk alongside those who have been affected by suicide, and her own experience of having lost a loved one to suicide is part of her inspiration and motivation to help others. She is a strong woman with a compassionate spirit that leaves all who spend time with her feeling empowered to bring hope and healing to others.

Lory's ministry called "Survivors United In Hope" is headquartered out of the building of the United Methodist Church of Wellsboro; and for her the church building is like a hub for her mission of hope because she is in the process of constructing a county wide structure of support which is soon to include teachers, firefighters, police officers, clergy, and others.

Already she's working with a local book store called "From My Shelf Books and Gifts" on East Avenue in Wellsboro. From My Shelf Books and Gifts carries books on suicide grief as well as a helpful paper flyer which provides a list of information to make books for survivors of a loved one's suicide easily accessible.

On this paper flyer is written the following; "This is just a sample list of books available on these subjects. From My Shelf Books and Gifts is committed to being a resource and a safe place for people in our community to explore these topics and talk about their experiences. We want to be sure you get the books you need to help in any way possible. Please feel comfortable asking anyone on our staff for these books."

I count it as a great encouragement to see that networks of hope and healing are being made and strengthened under Lory's leadership as she boldly lives into her call and her passion.

At the heart of Lory's work with people who have been affected by suicide is this message: You are not alone; and there is hope.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Family time

Living into community with all that has life, for me, involves consideration of my advocacy for habitats and ecosystems around the world as well as the personal relationships with non-human creatures I’ve had the joy of nurturing along the way; most notably Dovie, Ivy, and several others. What creatures have you experienced the joy of nurturing a personal relationship with?




Monday, March 18, 2019

Creek and Canyon Wildlife Tours in the Marsh upcoming!

As you've come to know by now, bestlife.community is about living lives rooted in relationship with God and living into community with all that has life in Jesus' name.

In my own life I've been heavily influenced by chapter 10 of the Gospel According to Luke where Jesus affirms that the most important thing is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When Jesus is asked the question, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus goes on to tell a story in which the hero is a Samaritan. If you are not too familiar with the stories in the Bible all you need to know is that Samaritans were a despised group of people by the people in Jesus' community. When we ask the question of who should be included as a neighbor Jesus says we should expand the boundaries that we set in our minds.

What if we are to take this teaching to its logical expansion there are no categories of people that should be excluded from "neighbor" status or from community. To treat someone as a neighbor, to love them with the love that Jesus models and Paul writes about in 1 Cor. 13:4-7, is to live into community with all people.

I suggest that to take this teaching about neighbors to its logical conclusion is to consider that as creatures of God we are made to live into community with all that has life; to consider every creature that has life (no matter how different they may be) as a neighbor who is worthy of our respect, care, and even our love as Jesus models it and Paul writes about it.

To love someone effectively we must first get to know them; to get acquainted with who they are, how they live, and what is required for each to thrive as creatures of God.

This is why I'm excited to announce that this-coming Spring and Summer I'll be making myself available for some "neighborhood tours" through what will be called Creek and Canyon Wildlife Tours. One of the first opportunities this Spring will be a tour to meet our neighbors in the marsh located 3 miles north of Wellsboro, PA that is called "The Muck." There is a convenient boardwalk that even makes this marsh trail handicapped accessible. Some of the birds that call that place home (that will sometimes come right up and introduce themselves!) are shown in the photographs that I've taken that you see below.

Believe me when I say my pictures do no justice to an in-person encounter with these beautiful creatures. These birds got character! If you are interested in a bestlife.community Wildlife Tour of the marsh sometime between late April-late May please leave me a comment or send me a message.

I'll also make myself available to lead other  Wildlife Tour experiences with additional habitats and creatures throughout the year. I am just so passionate about God's call upon my life to live rooted in relationship with God and live into community with all that has life that it fills my heart with joy in having opportunities to share these experiences.

Peace,

Rich

(American bittern)

(Common gallinule)

(Virginia rail)

(Sora)

(Marsh wren)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Impossible Magnitude- Profound Call

My friend Dave shared a video with me today. It is a real work of art, containing images taken from the Hubble Telescope with orchestra music by 8000 people from all over the world, a great symphony gathered for the most impressive photographic experience that takes us on a journey into deep space, as far as modern technology will allow is to witness at this point.

There are a few thoughts I take away from this experience having taken the 24 minutes to watch the video.

We are so small!

The universe is so immensely huge!

As the video suggests taking in the vast expanse of the universe is an impossible magnitude to fathom.

The earth is so incredibly small in comparison to the universe and exists in a delicate balance that supports life in many varied forms.

 How profound God's call upon our lives is. To love. To live into community with all that has life in Jesus' name.

The best way for each of us to love and live into community with those who will live on this earth after we are gone is to care for the earth in the here and now; this tiny speck in a vast cosmos that exists in such a delicate balance, supporting many unique and diverse forms of life.

What will you do to live in such a way that you do your part to live into community with all that has life in the here and now as well as with generations that are yet to come?

Jesus modeled for us an ever expanding love that is patient and kind, and it is a love that never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.

What does it look like to share this kind of love with all that has life for the sake of working together like the great symphony orchestra in this video for the sake of the health of this good God-given earth that we call home?






(Not my image- from Hubble Deep Field Space Telescope)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Sammy's Story- a tale of hope

Today I got to meet Sammy. Sammy is a very welcoming, hospitable, and even therapeutic presence in the home of Julie and Hugh. Sammy is very loved.

He's been part of their family for about two years now. Before that he had another family who, upon needing to move to a new home where cats were not allowed, decided to take Sammy to a local veterinary clinic where he would be euthanized; not because there was anything wrong with him, just because they could not take him with them. Sammy seems to have forgiven them. So should we.

Thankfully two very caring and compassionate veterinary nurses made the decision to give Sammy hope. One of them took him home with her until a new forever home (with Julie and Hugh) could be found. So you see, there are a number of heroes in this story who stepped up to the plate in Sammy's hour of need.

Within the legal system it would have been legal and acceptable to euthanize Sammy. But seeing that he had more good life to live and they more love to give, they advocated for a different path. The two of them succeeded in completely altering the trajectory of Sammy's veterinary visit that day and of his life from that moment on!

I share Sammy's story with you because I think it shows what a profound difference one or two people can make in the trajectory of a life.

 In his life and ministry Jesus gave hope to the hopeless (by healing people not just physically but by healing people into community) and empowered his disciples to make a profound impact for the sake of love. When we create spaces of hope we follow the example of Jesus, and God finds expression in our lives. God empowers us to do this every day.

Each of us has the power to make a profound impact for good in the lives of other human beings, in the lives of the creatures that are in our care, and for environments and ecosystems around the world.

As we seek to live into community with all that has life, let us be people of hope in Jesus' name.



Friday, March 15, 2019

DovieTheDove Productions presents: A lesson in discipleship with Dovie


Sometimes, just be

When the weather is warm and sunny there is an inevitable part of Ivy’s daily walk that I like to call “the stall.” We are walking along and then she puts on the brakes and plops down in a nice grassy spot refusing to move for the next 5 minutes or so. The daily stall is frustrating to me when I’m in the middle of a busy day (most days actually; can you relate?) and there is just so much to do. There is even so much GOOD to do. And in my free time sometimes I like to see if I can spend it helping at the Wellsboro Food Pantry, at Second Chance Animal Sanctuaries, or picking up trash in the woods to help clean the environment  making it more habitable for non-human life or even thinking about the next thing I’m going to write about on this blog. These are all good things and each of them (as well as a million things I haven’t mentioned here) are ways we can live into community (and expand the boundaries we place upon community) with all that has life in Jesus’ name.

But as I’m thinking about this, my mind in overdrive thinking about all the good that God would have me participate in and notice, there is Ivy, basking in the midday sun on green grass without a care in the world resting in the presence of God (because we are all living in God’s presence all the time). 

Ivy reminds me that I need to do that. 

Sometimes being rooted in relationship with God is simply about taking 5 minutes to just be with God. 

Not to do more. Not to speak. Not to listen. Just to rest in the presence of God who loves me and whom I love in return. 

Just be.

I’m going to take 5 minutes to just be in God’s presence and I invite you to do the same; resting and reveling in the love that God has for each of us in Jesus who says “come to me all whose hearts are heavy (and whose minds are overworked!) and I will give you rest.”


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Cultural nuances




Erin and I made the long trip back to Wellsboro today, traveling from North Carolina back to PA. We stopped at various points along the way to fill up the gas tank, to use the restrooms, and to get something to eat for lunch. I find it interesting to notice even subtle differences in the ways people relate to each other in different states and even in different communities. Some felt very warm and welcoming, and some others felt uncomfortable to me; and I can't help but wonder if the discomfort I may have felt in a particular place may have as much to do with my lack of familiarity with the place and the people who live there as anything else. Listen for the sake of understanding before speaking and ask questions when necessary seem to me a good rules to live by when traveling.

Tired from the long travel day.

More to come tomorrow.

Peace,

Rich

Monday, March 11, 2019

Home is where the love is shared

You’ve heard the old adage; “home is where the heart is.” Well, my experience with turtles tells me that “home is where the shell is.” A turtle’s shell is literally a part of its living body. They carry on their person at all times the place within which they can take refuge. If danger comes and they are too far away from their burrow they can retreat inside of their shell; this home they have that is a refuge and a place of safety. I think we are like turtles as much as we always carry within ourselves all that is needed to make any place home. I’ve lived in the Pennsylvania cities and towns of Pittsburgh, Guys Mills, Altoona, Hollidaysburg, and Wellsboro. I’ve visited places in Florida, Montana, Delaware, New York and others. There has been something about every one of these places that made each feel like home, and that variable is love that’s been shared. Without fail there have been opportunities to experience God’s love in every place I’ve been. The love of God is to us as a shell is to a turtle; it has the power to make any place feel like home. Allow me remind us all that God’s love is a love that is patient and kind; it is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not seek its own way and keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices when the truth wins out. It never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. I want to invite us all to re-imagine what home is. What if we consider home not so much as a geographic location but more as the relational space where God’s love is shared? Friends, that relational space is sacred space indeed. As surely as the Spirit of God abides in us we are empowered to make any place feel like home to someone who may really need it by sharing with them a love that is patient, kind, and everything else that God’s love is. What will you do to make someone feel at home today?
(Gopher tortoises along the Intercoastal Waterway Trail in Venice, Florida)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Patient and bold (like a lizard!)

I went back to the giant Banyon tree today to spend some time getting to know it’s residents. They are small yet mighty; about the size of a hand, scaly, and brownish-green. If you’ve ever been to Florida (or if you currently live there) you know that I’m talking about anole lizards. After spending time with them I’ve decided that I want to be like an anole lizard; patient, yet bold to take action when it is necessary. I’m not saying that I want to be bold to eat insects and defend my territory; instead I want to exhibit lizard like boldness when it comes to loving others and responding to God’s call upon my life. And I want to exhibit lizard-like patience especially when it comes to listening to others to understand their situation clearly so that I can be certain that the help I provide in loving people and helping others to understand and respond to God’s call is a) warranted b) not unsolicited and c) actually helpful! I think that perhaps we could all benefit from being a little more lizard-like when it comes to these things.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it!

I said I was going to take 4 days off from blogging but I experienced something truly incredible today and needed somewhere to write it down to share it; so, here it is. Erin and I happened upon a tree that was of massive proportions today while riding bicycles across town. It was so big that my first thought was “I wouldn’t believe this if I hadn’t seen this with my own two eyes!” In a number of ways this outward reflection is a mirror image of the vision which God has opened the eyes of my heart to, which is one of truly massive proportions as well! I’m still working on it. But the invitation that God gives us is to believe where we have not seen. To believe, at least as Jesus talks about it in the Gospel accounts of Matt, Mark, Luke, and John, is an active word. To believe in God is to trust God so much that God lives (finds expression in the world) through us. Jesus believed that 5000+ people could be fed with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish before it happened. Jesus believed that a paralyzed man’s back could be restored before God worked through Jesus to make it happen. To believe in God is to partner with God in the vision God has for our lives. In my own experience God opens my eyes to see the vision of what God has for me or would have me do, and then it is my turn to believe that it will happen; that there is nothing to big, to daunting, or too challenging that it cannot be accomplished with the help of God. Is there an even bigger tree than this banyan out there somewhere? Is there a bigger plan/vision for your life or mine than the one we are currently living? Maybe this is just me reflecting on God’s larger vision for my life. Maybe it has nothing to do with you; then again, maybe it does. Has God given you a big and challenging vision for your life? Will you give yourself to that vision, believing that what God has shown you will come to fruition with the help of God and with your investment? My prayer for today is that God will make a way and show each of us our next step towards turning our God-given dream/vision into reality.

Friday, March 8, 2019

What inspires you?

As my leadership conference ended on Wednesday and I am now two days into a five day Florida vacation I’m feeling relaxed and revitalized already. Whether it’s a day or a weekend retreat or a full fledged week long vacation, part of living our best lives possible is taking a step back from the business for a time of rest, revitalization, and renewal. During the drive from Orlando (location of the conference) to Venice (vacation spot!) my prayer was, “ok God; what do you have for me during this time of retreat and rejuvenation?” I percieve that at least part of God’s intention for me during this time of retreat is to allow myself to be inspired and to dream big. Already God has inspired me with a fresh vision of my calling. I want to encourage you to take some time to experience a retreat from the busyness of the good work that you do too. Don’t wait until it’s convenient. Don’t put it off until you finish up all that’s on your yo-do list. Plan your time of retreat into your schedule and make it a priority. Who knows what good vision God might have for you or how the Spirit of God may bring you healing and restoration of physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health. As I continue my retreat with attentiveness to the Spirit of God I will be taking a five day hiatus from my daily blog; so the next post will be on Thursday March 14th. In the meantime I hope you have at least a few moments of retreat in which you are able to ask, “God, what do you have for me during this time of retreat?” Here are s few of the creatures that have inspired me:

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Powerful Prayers

As we live our best lives possible, part of living lives that are rooted in relationship with God is being people of prayer; and prayer is about attentiveness to God’s presence, speaking to God (whether out loud or silently with our thoughts), and listening with the ear of our heart for God’s response. I was part of an incredible experience of prayer with others from my group who attended the leadership conference in Orlando Florida. In a moment of recognizing God’s call four members of our group were prayed over as others in the group took turns praying out loud to God for them. There were prayers for strength, wisdom, and guidance. There were prayers for God to lead their way. There were prayers that the lives they live and the call they are responding to be not about them but about something powerful, loving, and new that God is working to create in the world through them. There were prayers that they would have a heart and mind to lean into God every step Of the journey ahead.
I’m sure you’ve had it happen that in a conversation with someone the request has come up as they have said to you “pray for me.” Today I want to encourage you to be bold; recognize the sacred space God has created in that moment; and whether you are in a house, in a hotel lobby, in a park, the grocery store...this is to say that wherever that sacred space is presented, pray for that person in that moment. It may feel frightening and scary to take that step but trust in God’s Spirit living in you; take that step in faith for God’s sake and for the sake of another and all parties will be richly blessed because of it. Take time to pray with someone who needs it today; and let’s be honest, we all could use a prayer.

Belonging

Today’s camp lesson from the AT: nothing in God’s creation does not belong. Every expression of life on planet earth is intrin...