Wednesday, January 30, 2013

YOU are the Light of the World

Tuesday greetings!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful day. 
So today, I wanted to reflect on the Gospel reading from this past Sunday.  For those of you who do not remember it or where not there, no it is.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Luke 4:16-21

So I am currently reading a book called Uncommon Youth Ministry, by Jim Burns.  In this book, he talks about how when youth grow up and become adults, and look back at their youth groups they were involved in, a trend emerged.  Adults do NOT remember the programs that their youth minister worked so hard to plan and organize.  But it was the people that and the experiences that stuck with them when they were there.  I think about that as I read this scripture from Luke.  When these people left the synagogue that Jesus had just read, do you think they remembered what he said? 

If I hadn't posted the scripture, would you be able to tell me what it said?  I know I probably wouldn't be able to do that without looking it up.
But I think that this people probably remember how Jesus read, remembered his presence.  How powerful of a presence must that have been?  This man who was sent he to teach, doing what he does, teaching!  Proclaiming that the "Spirit of the Lord is upon me!" 

 How would that not give you goose bumps!  Just imagine what it would have been like to be there!

Listening as Jesus begins his ministry in Nazareth.  Listening as he proclaims his mission.  God's mission.  Our mission.

No doubt about it.  Jesus was a very talented man.  His gifts helped him on his mission.  When you think of words that describe Jesus, teacher and healer might be two words that pop into your head.  What gifts do you think he had that helped him? 
Calm, patient, caring, understanding, the list can go on and on.

Now look at yourself. What gifts do you have?  What are your talents?  What are you good at? 

I am sure this list can go on and on too.  Writing, math, sports, singing, playing an instrument, dancing, running, golf, solving problems, staying calm, being a leader....honestly, take some time and think of these things.  What are your gifts?

I use the word gift because that is what it is, the ability to do something - creative, something useful. 

One of my favorite parables is the Parable of Salt and Light.  (Matthew 5:13-16)  In the parable Jesus explains how when you light a lamp, you do not hide the light or cover it up.  You place it up high and let it shine for all to see. 

Same with your gifts.  Do not hide them or try to shield them from others.  These are your gifts from God.  They were given specifically to you!  Do not hide them from others.  Let your light shine bright for all to see. Because these gifts come from God, who has in mind not only the individual, but everyone all together. 

Remember, YOU are the light of the world.

Freedom God, I know you are already working in the world. I want to join you! Thank you for giving your Spirit within me to guide me. Lead me in truth. Amen

May your gifts burn like a fire,  
bringing warmth to everyone you meet. 
May your gifts light the world 
and reveal the goodness of God.
May your gifts today be embraced
and expressed
with creativity,
making you useful in God's mercy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Called to Serve

As you read this, I will be sitting in a room, waiting for my name to be called, so I can be asked some questions, to see if I will be selected to serve on a jury.  Exciting right!

When people hear this, I normally get a mix of reactions. 


 That sucks!

 HAHA Have Fun! 

Lucky!  I want to be on a jury!

To be honest, I am both not happy yet excited about this experience.  I am sure about 10 minutes in, I will mostly be not happy.  However, it is our duty to do this.  To serve.  Thankfully I won't have to do this again for another 10 years though, which I will be ok with.

So as all of you may know, today is the Feast day of Vincent the Deacon.  Given where we are as a parish, I have a new found respect towards deacons, especially ours. 

Vincent served as the deacon under Bishop Valerius of Saragossa.  While serving as deacon, he was imprisoned for his beliefs and Bishop Valerius was exiled and Vincent was imprisoned.  Vincent was a very outspoken man and spoke with great confidence.  This was often seen as a presumptuous and despitous type of man. 

While in prison he was offered a chance to save himself.  He was asked to give up his beliefs and burn the sacraments, to perform a pagan sacrifice.

He refused.  As a result he was martyred under Emperor Diocletian. 

Hearing this reminds me of the story that came about after the tragedy at Columbine High School.  There was a girl who was asked if she believed in God.  Very confidently she stands and proclaims, "Yes."

A book came out after the tragedy called She Said Yes.  It is the story of Cassie Bernall.  A 17 year old girl who was not afraid to believe in God.

As I await my name to be announced while I am questioned to see if I will be called to serve.  I realize, I have already been called.  I have already been asked to serve.  It is up to me to answer.

How do I answer this calling? 


When it is convenient? 

Or at all times in all aspects of my life?

But that is so hard to do!  Duh.  It's not supposed to be.  Is anything that important and special really that easy?

So today, I was called to serve.  Will I be selected?  I don't know.  However, what I do know is that I have been called.  And it is up to me to serve.  We are all called to serve, but how will we answer?  Yes, but only if it fits in with my schedule?  Or yes, in all aspects of my life. 

I leave you with the lyrics to a song.  The words of this song speak volumes.  When thinking about how we are called to serve and how we will answer.  Try to think of these words.

Unashamed Love
Ten Shekel Shirt

You're calling me to lay aside the worries of my day 
To quiet down my busy mind and find a hiding place 
Worthy, Worthy

I open up my heart and let my spirit worship Yours
I open up my mouth and let a song of praise come forth

Worthy, You are worthy

Of a child-like faith
And of my honest praise
And of my unashamed love
Of a holy life
And of my sacrifice
And of my unashamed love

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Icy Roads

Brrrrrrrrrrrrr!  Am I right?!  Seems like just the other day I was wearing shorts and working outside!  Wait…that was just a few days ago.  And now schools are closing early because the roads are icing over.  I guess that saying is true; if you don’t like the weather in Memphis, stick around.  Cause it’s going to change.  Probably pretty abruptly too.

So I have this friend, a mentor if you will.  I have known this person for some time now.  We do not talk all the time and there have been years where we have barely spoken more than a handful of times a year.  However, they always seem to be there to listen and to talk with me whenever something is going on.  One time we were talking about how sometimes it just seems that everything goes terribly wrong.  When it rains, it pours.  Not always one huge terrible thing but often times many many small things that make the small troubles feel big and the big troubles feel unbearable. 

The response I heard was not what I was expecting.  He said that when he looks back at the times that everything has gone wrong in his life, when things were just always going wrong; there was always one common denominator.  One thing that always seemed to connect all of his troubles through the years…him. 
He was always the one thing that connected all of his problems

Hmmm.  Well that is a very interesting way to look at it.  You could even call it depressing or self loathing.  However, once we talked more and I thought about it, it made more and more sense.
Think back to when something bad happened and you were having an already bad day?  That day probably sucked.

Now think of a time when something bad happened, but you thought, eh, it is what it is!

A lot of times we put so much pressure and stress on ourselves and beat ourselves up for no reason at all.  Today, especially.  A lot you are probably really happy because you got early for school!  YAY!  However, your parents probably are not too excited about having to drive on the icy roads.
In that one example, there are two reactions to the same problem.  Should we celebrate the fact the roads are icy?  No, that seems a little….weird.

Regardless, the roads are icy.  We cannot change that. 

Many times in our lives, we are faced with “icy roads”.  Obstacles in our way that slow us down or cause a detour, or trap us in a cabin in Arkansas, metaphorically speaking of course.

While in that moment, we feel angry and stuck and only want to fix the problem! But honestly, what can we do about it?  We can sit and we can gripe about it, but where is that going to get us.  It will probably just put us in a bad mood. 

Today, I leave you with two prayers.  Two prayers my mentor taught me a long time ago.  Two prayers that I hope you find as useful and calming as I have, especially when the roads are icy, and there is not a salt truck in sight.

The first prayer, a prayer I am sure most of you have heard the revised version.  But here, I wanted to share the full original prayer that is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

The second pray, very easy to remember. 

All shall be well and all shall be well.  And all manner of things shall be well.

Drive safe on all the icy roads you encounter. And remember, all will be well.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Beacon of Christ

Tuesday and 2013 greetings!  It feels like a whole year has passed since the last issue came out.  Pun intended.

Well it is a new year.  That means this is the busiest month of the year for Gyms and personal trainers.  It is a time whenever tries to fix or change things that they may not like from the previous year.  Lose weight, study more, make better grades, read more books, watch less TV, what have you.   Personally, I have set some goals for myself too.  

As a youth group, I think we should do the same thing.  Together we are a community, a family.  As a whole, shouldn't we also make some New Year resolutions?  

Now, biased me can say stuff like, shouldn't we all agree to go to church more, be in Sunday School every Sunday, go to every EYC event even if I don't think it sounds like it will be fun (which you should never think cause it is always fun), come to CFT so I don't have to eat dinner alone on Wednesdays anymore, you know, stuff like that.  So I am not going to say that, even though they do sound like really great goals for the New Year.

I have actually been thinking about what are the goals that I want set for myself to accomplish here with the youth.  What is the whole point?  One word keeps popping in my head.  Beacon.  When I hear this word, I immediately imagine a lighthouse.  Lighthouses were built on coastlines to be a signal for ships to show them where the coast was.  Essentially, a lighthouse is a beacon.  If you are familiar with Thomas Kinkade, you may have heard of the Beacon of Hope lighthouse.  While his paintings may be referred to as kitsch art, it does demonstrate the concept of being a lighthouse being a beacon perfectly.

So what are we suppose to be a beacon of?  Hope?  Love? Compassion?  

This past Sunday was Epiphany.  During the service at Feast of Lights, a senior member from the DYC spoke about the light of Jesus.  She referred to Jesus as the sun.  He is the light.  Through him we are able to see all.  And we are the moon.  Alone we are dark.  We are there but we do not create our own light.  But when the sun light hits the moon, it reflects so much that it brightens the skies at night.  We are the moon.  Our job is to reflect the light of the Son.  

This year, my goal for myself and for what I want to be a joint effort throughout our youth group is to be a beacon.

To be a beacon, spreading the light of Christ to all those around us.