No Sorrow Too Great

The other day, I was chatting with a gal who was telling me she was on a special journey to bury her sister’s and her brother’s ashes. Although it had been a challenging year for her, she was sharing with me that she had learned a lot as she embraced her sorrows and confronted some critical life and death issues.

 Our conversation was both inspiring and convicting. I’ve been contemplating the meaning of, “The New Jerusalem,” the subject of the upcoming Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre symposium that will be taking place in Florence this coming spring. Although aware the New Jerusalem is heaven when I recently re-read Revelation 21, I found it refreshingly hopeful and alive!

 That the “holy city will come down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” is a beautiful promise. As is the further assurance that “the dwelling place of God is with man, God himself will be with them as their God, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Our Lord wants Christians to live as a citizen of two countries, Earth and Heaven. The New Jerusalem is essential to remember now in this world, the Old Jerusalem, to give us hope in a dark world and promise of the reality of where we are going.

 I was blessed in church the next day as I studied the Pentecost fresco in our church and saw Jerusalem in the background. I only had to shift my eyes slightly to look up and see the New Jerusalem depicted the apse. And then we sang a hymn describing the Cities splendid glory:

O holy city, seen of John, where Christ, the Lamb doth reign
within whose four-square walls shall come no night, nor need, nor pain,
and where the tears are wiped from eyes that shall not weep again!

O shame to us, who rest content while lust and greed for gain
in street and shop and tenement wring gold from human pain,
and bitter lips in blind despair cry, “Christ hath died in vain!”

Give us, O God, the strength to build the city that hath stood
too long a dream, whose laws are love, whose crown is servant-hood,
and where the sun that shineth is God’s grace for human good.

Already in the mind of God that city riseth fair:
lo, how its splendor challenges the souls that greatly dare-
 yea, bids us seize the whole of life and built its glory there.

        Composer William Russell Bowie, 1882-1969

The Gift of Benedictine Vows

I recently was on a writing retreat on one of the Aran Islands of Ireland. When you step onto the island, you can feel the years of prayer steeped into the ruins of the monasteries.

On our first day, one of our teachers gave us some wise instruction. She recommended that we relax and let the “island do its work.” (We all had traveled a great distance to attend the retreat and were spiritually hungry. We wanted to get everything we could and not waste one moment of our time there.) It was so comforting to trust that the “island” was there for us, and had the power to touch those places in us that needed healing and renewal!

I was amazed throughout the rest of the retreat to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me, especially when I remembered to, “let the island do its work.” These words kept coming back to me, and I began to think that our life is like an island. If we can let go of control and trust the Lord to take charge, He will do the work. I began to consider the vows that I have taken as a member of a monastic community, and their part in my journey let go and trust.

The vow of Conversion- When there is a struggle going on in my life, I feel I must do something to both make sure the outcome is what I want it to be, and also to make sure the change I want to happen in me occurs. (This is where the vow of conversion comes in. Only God can change me!)

The Vow of Obedience- If I am obedient to the small things that I know are important to help keep me close to Jesus, life will stay in focus It’s when I don’t want to give up those things that seem so precious that I decide it doesn’t really matter if I’m not exactly obedient. Being obedient brings blessing, and it also brings grace, so conversion can happen much easier and faster.

The Vow of Stability- If I will put my roots down, and choose to stay stable in Jesus, right here in my call with these people, that is more than half the battle. I will remain present and face the things in me that are not like Jesus. What a blessing to have that light to know when I’ve wandered a bit! If I am part of the problem, I can allow the Lord to change my heart after I acknowledge there may need to be a change.

Vows are gifts made out of love and deepen our love. If you ever question God’s love for you, search for the promises He has made to you in the Bible. If you want to increase your love for Him, consider what vow you can make in your heart that may strengthen your relationship. One example from the New Testament is James, who vowed to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

The Lamb is the Light

Lamb mosaic from the apse of the Church of the Transfiguration

Recently, in church, we read from Revelation Chapters 21 and 22, which tell us about Christ in Glory and the New Heaven and the New Earth. Our church apse depicts in exquisite mosaic design these very scriptures. As I listened, I gained a new appreciation for what it means for me today.

The first thing that made an impression on me was how the scripture spoke of the New City of Jerusalem, (heaven), needing no light. “The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” Revelation 22:5

I wondered. If I allow light into the dark areas in my life now, can’t God’s glory be more present in me and bring some heaven down on earth??” The following sentence goes on to say, “People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations,” so how else can people bring glory unless they allow more of God into themselves?

I’ve realized that the Tree of Life is Jesus and the Cross, but somehow hearing the reading yesterday about the leaves of the tree being “for the healing of the nations” seemed so full of hope in a new way! Hope for each of us individually, and in this time of division, hope for all the nations.

The goodness and love of God and His provision for us deserve our praise and gratitude.  We are all unclean; we are all full of falsehood; and although the Bible states, “Nothing unclean will enter it, not anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”  He has provided healing leaves in the Tree of Life; He has provided the River of the Water of Life to cleanse us, and “take as a gift”. If we do these things, our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

He makes all things new!  We can live and bring His glory into our lives today through His provision of light, healing, and cleansing power. What a gift!

 

Second Sunday of Lent

I keep thinking about spring cleaning, and how Lent is like spiritual spring cleaning. It’s a time of inwardly quieting ourselves so that we can examine the things in us that prevent a closer relationship with Jesus.

I’m refreshed by this particular time set aside to be with Jesus and to be known, especially to ourselves. When we accept our need, Jesus can then heal the wounded areas that block our relationship with Him and with others. Of course, only He can cleanse and remove those places, but by trusting and doing our part, we allow Him to make us clean and whole.

As we work on our “spring cleaning,” we may find fewer places to get snagged by temptation. The same way a mirror or glass needs the dust, and rough dirt polished smooth to prevent more dirt collecting, we need our souls to have the sharp edges planed. The more dust (or sin) that has been removed and cleansed, the more light will be reflected.

What a great way to prepare for Easter!

Give Us This Day

A few weeks ago, I heard a homily about how important it is to read the Bible. Probably every Christian has heard that before, but it is essential to keep the Bible alive in our daily lives.

Even though my Dad lived just down the road, on special events, he would write me letters on how he felt. Although my Dad died years ago, I still have some of these notes, cards, and letters from him. I now realize what a gift they are- they are so full of wisdom and love. It’s almost like there is a piece of my father that he has left behind for me to cherish, and pull out when I need it. It’s interesting because I see new things in them according to what my present need is.

The other day, I realized that these notes from my earthly father are quite similar to reading the Bible. The Bible also reminds me of how much I am loved. It is full of wisdom and teaches me who my Heavenly Father is. Even though the words are quite familiar, (some I know by heart), I see new things each time I read them according to what I need at that particular moment.

Advent I

I think of Advent as a preparation for both the celebration of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem and the second coming of Christ in the future.

I don’t know about you, but I find there is something a little scary about Christ’s second coming, and I’m not entirely looking forward to it. Maybe it’s because there are places in my life that I’m not letting Him be King. It occurs to me that God shows great mercy in giving us the time of Advent to prepare ourselves for both celebrating the gift of salvation in the Baby Jesus, and the second coming of Christ!

If during this preparation time, I can invite and welcome Jesus into those places in my heart that need healing, I have an opportunity for both personal help and the chance to establish His glory on earth. If I open myself up to welcome and honor Jesus in other people, (not always an easy thing to do), He has also given me a chance to bring His glory, and peace on earth. What a tremendous gift and incredible season!

I find myself meditating on the words from Christmas carols. I think of “Silent” from “Silent Night” and “O, Come Let Us Adore Him.” Instead of losing myself in the activity of the Christmas season, this year I want to celebrate and worship the reason for Christmas, Jesus. I can’t get there unless I take times of silence, and find what blocks my true worship. I think of the Christmas carol “Joy to the World”, and feel that’s what the writer means when we sing, “Let every heart prepare Him room.”

Jesus came as a baby for us, as a gift, and maybe the best thing we can do at Christmas is offer ourselves as a gift to Him, needy and pure like a newborn.

 

No Need to Wait

Recently, a dear friend of mine passed away. The process of dying is hard work, and while I realize that no two people are the same, it does seem that there are similar “stages” to preparing for heaven.

It seems that the person reviews their life and then works on unburdening themselves of places they have harbored hurt and unforgiveness. Some of those places are in unhealed relationships with others, while some are areas where they need to forgive themselves.

There is a stage of “letting go.” Some people I’ve seen let go of worries and fears they’ve been riddled with their whole lives, and finally, find some peace realizing they can’t do anything but let God take care of them. Some have cared more about possessions than relationships with God or others, and everything gets put into perspective thinking about their immediate future. Others let go of toxic relationships because they only have the energy and time left for what God wants.

Often there is a surge of gratitude, and a need to express and share thankfulness to those with whom they are close.

If this process prepares us for heaven, would it not make sense that if we began this process now, we could bring some heaven down on earth?

 

At the Ready

I recently attended the funeral of a friend who had served in the armed forces. At the gravesite, three young servicemen, dressed in their pristine uniforms, stood ramrod straight. With clockwork precision, they saluted and turned toward each other. In silence, and with great care, they removed the flag draping the casket. They stretched it taut, made one fold, creased it, turned it, and folded it again. Time was not an issue; all was done with respect and reverence, both for the flag and the individual who had honored it with their service. The flag was presented with such dignity to the gathered loved ones.  Those men must have spent hours preparing their uniforms and learning and practicing the graveside ceremony. Their level of care and perfection brought tears to my eyes.

The three servicemen hadn’t known the person who died, but they respected who the person once was and what they had sacrificed. It made me realize what a gift it is when everything is done to the Glory of God, and how much the small things really do count.

 

Gratitude: The Opposite of Fear

Last week, I was talking to the Lord about what my fear does, and how it makes everything in my life smaller. What I discovered is that fear breeds selfishness, which in turn breeds loneliness and separation. After meditating on this concept, I asked Jesus about the opposite of fear and how to counter my lack of trust in Him. He told me that gratitude is the answer. Gratitude fosters generosity, which breeds joy and community. I decided to do an experiment and put this new “lesson” into practice. What a difference it made in my life!

 

“Look To”

Our bell tower at the Church of the Transfiguration is at ground level, making it quite easy to view the bells being rung. In addition, there are glass doors through which you may observe.

If you ever have an opportunity to experience changing bells about to ring, you may hear the words, “Look to, treble’s going, she’s gone!” These words are spoken by the person ringing the treble bell (bell #1), the bell that weighs the least. “Look to” is the alert for all bells to prepare to ring; this includes the treble bell ringer making sure that all ringers are holding their ropes and that every rope is in the hands of a ringer.

At “Treble’s going”, every ringer adjusts their bell so that it’s on the balance, which means they won’t need to pull the bell overly hard to begin the process of it ringing. It will be ready to go at the slightest pull. Each ringer’s attention is on the two bells in front of them so they can “place” their bell, that is, have their bell ring exactly at the proper time so it sounds the way it should.

When “She’s gone” is called, the treble bell will pull their rope for the first ring, and each bell will follow consecutively. The larger bells take longer to ring than the smaller ones, so this needs to be taken into consideration.

We hope the next time you visit Cape Cod, you’ll include the Church of the Transfiguration and its unique bell tower on your itinerary.  And you can listen for those very important words, “Look to, treble’s going, she’s gone!”