Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speaking of Forgiveness

    So if you live like you are dying, chances are, forgiving or asking forgiveness is on your list of things to do. I remember a doctor telling me once that it didn’t matter to him why aspirin worked, only that it did work. Forgiveness does too. It relieves the suffering of the person carrying the grudge and of the person who seeks forgiveness and is forgiven. The ancient edicts of biblical forgiveness are like aspirin to our suffering. However, science is now telling us why it works. Psychological studies are showing us that when we are merciful we increase our well-being.
Left to right: Vince, Monita, and Rob A. singing
about living like you're dying
    Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and in our temple is sacred energy for doing sacred work. When we use that energy to hold a grudge, we are blocking the work of the Divine through us. In our small group, we pondered the question, just what does forgiveness look like? We spoke of the Amish school shooting and how the Amish immediately came to sit beside the wife of the person who shot the children. We spoke of Nelson Mandela and how while he was in prison, he couldn’t keep a security guard for a long period of time because he showed such compassion that the guards could not keep their edge and the guards would be replaced. We spoke of the Bible story in which Esau forgave Jacob for taking his blessing and birthright. We spoke of the new crop of forgiveness gardens that are growing and people who consciously cultivate compassion and forgiveness. Monita is pictured here with baby’s breath, the flower that represents everlasting love. John Fetzer, founder of the Fetzer Institute for Love and Compassion, wrote, "Love is the core energy that rules everything, love is the one ingredient that holds us all together." What will you do to cultivate love and forgiveness? We often need to forgive ourselves, taking an aspirin of self-compassion to relieve our own suffering.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chesed and Me

I had the great pleasure to learn a new term, chesed, last night at our women’s small group (hosted by our awesome group leader, Julie). Chesed, pronounced with a guttural sound in the beginning--think Keh-sid, with a hard, German throaty thing on the c-h--is the Hebrew word for mercy, but it means so much more than that. It’s a steadfast, unfailing love and kindness that God has exhibited countless times throughout human history and that He still exhibits today. It’s also a quality that we humans can exhibit if we try.

Titled "Have Mercy!" the topic of this small group is right on time for me because I sometimes struggle to show chesed to the people who matter most. Strangely enough, chesed is an attribute most naturally displayed toward those we have relationships with. For me, though, it’s sometimes easier to be more patient with those I’m not as close to. This is good and bad, though: if I can’t show loving mercy to those in my own home, how much does it matter if I show it to strangers or associates?

Like Paul, I’m on a daily journey to do the things I should and to fight against those things I shouldn’t. Showing chesed in my home is one of those things I’ll be trying to accomplish daily, but I know it will be a struggle. As Julie pointed out to our group last night, when you commit to something, you better believe there will be roadblocks. Thankfully, we have a Way around those blocks if we acknowledge it as such.

A work in progress,
Monita B.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When You're Here, You're Family

We’re all familiar with the Olive Garden slogan, but in a world that is increasingly technology-based, often the one place where we should feel like family—the home—is a place of separation. For instance, in my home, it’s not uncommon to find me in the living room watching TV and/or working on my laptop, my husband in the office on his desktop, and my stepson, KJ, in his room on his laptop/phone/gaming device du jour. And I know we’re not alone. In today’s world, we cling to our various entertainments, often at the expense of cultivating our relationships.

My two guys checking out the functions
on KJ's new camera back in August 2009
My husband and I were just discussing a change in this scenario, inspired by last night’s dinner. We typically eat in front of the TV (I know, not the best habit), so when KJ suggested that we spend that time sharing what the day was like for each of us, I was both caught off guard and proud of his insightful idea. Dinner is one of the few times we’re all together in one space, and so that time should be used catching up with one another. It was fun sharing and interacting together, and I look forward to continuing what I hope to be a new family tradition. It’s so important, in our technology-driven lives, to make the effort to nurture our relationships, which really should be what count the most.

All this thinking about family led me to thoughts of Mosaic Family Church. One of the great things about Mosaic is that we don’t just get together on Sundays with a “See you in a week” attitude. We eat together, pray together, go to the park together and sometimes cry together. We watch each other’s kids and proofread each other’s papers. We’re family.

Whether it’s in my house or in the House of God, I’m planning to work on what’s most important: building and maintaining my relationships.
~Monita B.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Prayer Vigil

Prayer Vigil picture courtesy of Julie Commander
Did you ever wonder what it is like to participate in a twenty-four hour prayer vigil? I did. We had one at Mosaic last weekend. At first I signed on the line next to 1:00 a.m. and when I realized what I had done, I quickly scratched out my name, leaving my lack of midnight piety evident to everyone who came after me, and signed up for 10:00 a.m. I always considered myself on wifi to God. He was omnipotent and knew it all. Why repeat myself or put on a prayer front, suddenly speaking in a language that I didn't use every day? I had no idea what I was going to do for an hour. But the phrase, 'God doesn't call the prepared, he prepares the called,' beckoned me to show up at the vigil venue and trust the process.

This is a picture of the prayer altar prepared by Jon and Julie Commander of our church. Jon had left a notebook giving instructions on how to begin the vigil. He had written poignantly, "Prayer through Open Doors..." "Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you."... "As you speak to God remember that the Holy Spirit will help you say just the right thing..." As I turned the page I found that he had written a prayer for the congregation, and I had heard someone say that reading a prayer counts as saying it. Whew! The pump was primed, so I turned the page and found a notice about next weekend's Back to Church Sunday. The next page, a list of the children in our church to pray for and our influence on their spiritual growth. The next eight pages were filled with prayers from the congregation pouring their hearts out to God. I read each prayer, re-lifting it up to God. And finally, it was my turn to bring my prayers to the altar, and I picked up the magic markers and began to bare my heart:

    Dear God,
     Who among us with any heart doesn't feel like Sham Wow for other people's oil spills?
You inhabit the praises of your people and now I express my gratitude for your most recent answer to my angst filled prayer. I told you how the voices of men had made me afraid to pray, you know like "God make me humble" and then someone tells a story about how your house will burn down. And I asked you why I would want to give such a wonderful God all my crappy fear and terror. And you whispered into my heart that if I gave you the ENERGY that went into fear, terror and worry, that you would sanctify that ENERGY and make it into something that blessed the Kingdom.
             Dear Jesus~
                Help us
                              in your light,
                      with your 
                 And grow 
                            in your wisdom
                And help us hear 
                            Your Voice
                                   above all other voices
                                            Including our own...
And by the time I added a personal family prayer, and prayer for the church...I looked up and an hour and seven minutes had gone by. I had done it, gotten lost in prayer for more than an hour. Next time, I hope the children will come and draw prayer pictures to God.
                                          It was an honor to write this blog...~Jill Davis

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Finding Your Light

     During a recent homecoming black light pep rally, glow in the dark ends on majorette batons twirled and twinkled like stars before an audience of excited students. Then "it" happened, one of the glowing ends flew off of the baton and the majorette just kept twirling as everyone watching felt the pang of wanting to run onto the gym floor and fix her baton. Suddenly she stopped her routine, picked up the glowing end off of the floor, and replaced it. Tears came to my eyes as the crowd roared for her as she began twirling with both lights on her baton. She had done what so many of us need to do when we lose our light, take time out and get it back.

Beautiful Adrian photo by Virginia Ellenson
On a recent journey to take time out and get my own light back, I found myself in the New Mexico desert, in the dark, in the rain, totally lost, with no cell phone, trying to find my way back to what is known as Auntie’s house, an adobe house known as the servants quarters for the Mabel Dodge Luhan Retreat House. My flashlight gave me approximately six inches of light and all the adobe houses were starting to look the same. I felt one with Winnie the Pooh, who had followed his own footsteps in a circle. In full awareness that Moses’ people wandered around the desert for forty some odd years, I decided it would be best to look toward the well lit main house and trudge through the mud puddles until I arrived at the kitchen, praying that someone would be there who would take me by the hand like a toddler to my own bedroom. And it came to pass that it happened just that way, Adrian, a member of the kitchen staff had mercy on me and walked with me until we saw the light in the foyer of my small cottage.

Jill at Aunties House photo by Virginia Ellenson
     I am reminded of the power of light in Mat 5:14-15, "You are the world's light; it is impossible to hide a town built on top of a hill. Men do not light a lamp and put it under a bucket. They put it on a lampstand, and it gives light for everybody in the house."
~Jill Davis