GOOD THOUGHTS AND INTENTIONS are important, but the gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to more. It calls us to vocation. Our God-given vocation is to translate the gospel’s gift of not being afraid into the gospel’s practice of not living afraid. That vocation belongs to the entire church. You and I are the ones called to its practice in a world dominated by fear, a practice that leads us to provide in word and deed our witness to God.
- John Indermark
ONE OF THE STARTLING aspects of mission volunteer experiences, especially for first-time participants, comes when they discover that God is already at work wherever they go. They may think – mistakenly – that we are bringing God as revealed to us in Jesus Christ to our destination.
Our mission team members felt God’s presence when we heard our Haitian host family’s voices join in prayer before daylight, when we saw how they cared for one another and for us, and when we joined with them in long and fervent worship services. Encountering God and recognizing the power of the Holy Spirit already working for good in the lives of those we assist energizes us and inspires us to align ourselves with that power. Though we know that what we do is only a small part of the big picture, we feel assured that our contribution is vitally important.
WE WILL HAVE moments in our lives … where we have to choose if we will live for ourselves or for others. Knowing that we are beloved by God, we are free to give ourselves away in sacrificial servanthood. E. Stanley Jones, an American missionary to India, once said, “There are two groups of people in this world. There is a very big group of people in this world who are miserable. They live for themselves. There’s another group who have given their lives away to others. Their lives are filled with a wild joy.”
FORGIVING RESEMBLES a spiral. At the center of the spiral lie the hurtful actions. As we come to new spiritual awareness and see connections between past hurts and present attitudes and actions, we may have to forgive again. And farther on, as we discover other pain and scars, we may have to forgive again – as many times as it takes to be free.
God of new beginnings, as I come to see how others’ actions in the past limit me in the present, help me to open my wounds to your healing light. Help me to forgive and forgive again so that i can be whole and free. I pray in the name of Christ, the one who calls us to keep on forgiving. Amen.
- Mary Lou Redding
MANY PEOPLE FIND Sunday as busy as any other day of the week, particularly if they have to work. However, behind the fourth commandment lies the truth that we were not created to live an endless round of busy days. Our bodies, minds, and spirits need sabbath space. And practicing the sabbath measures our ability to live by God’s grace rather than our own endeavors: can we be humble enough to let go of our own efforts and own importance at regular intervals and just “be”?
The principle of the sabbath carries more importance than the actual day of its observance. Find one day a week in which you can claim some sabbath space and allow your body, mind, and spirit to renew themselves.
- Ann Siddall and Gary Stuckey
A GOOD RETREAT generally has some common elements, elements that lie at the heart of a meaningful time with God. For example, silence serves the retreatant well. To be certain you engage your silence, put time for it in the plan.
Your plan likely will include aspects of any retreat such as bodily and mental stillness, scripture reading, meditation, active listening for God, and reflection on your life.
You will also want to include time with nature, to connect with the earth.
A few years ago a friend of mine made a personal retreat to Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Here he describes how he approached that time: “As I left my room for a stroll, I wondered what God would have me see. So I prayed, ‘God, help me to see what you want me to see.’ As I walked the gardens I had several “aha” moments when an ordinary tree or flower or shoreline seemed to be filled with meaning for me. Ever since then, when I’m on retreat and go for a walk, I say, ‘God, help me to notice what you want me to see.’”
- Ben Campbell Johnson and Paul H. Lang
Just as the love of God begins with listening, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is our learning to listen to them. The act of listening to another’s story is an invitation into experiences that are not our own. Yet we are simultaneously listening to another’s story and traveling our own memories and experiences with God. In these moments, God calls us to remember our stories with the Divine. Mutuality occurs when both youth and adults can witness to each other with their life stories. Our stories are never simply our own. They are coauthored with God and community. If adults are attentive to God’s activity within the lives of youth, sharing our stories becomes an opportunity for God to enter into the present moment and transform relationships.