Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter reflections

Before I went to bed last night, I wrote in my journal that I didn't feel spiritually or physically ready for Easter. Of course, I knew something that would help would be to read Scripture. I read to the part where the women leave the sealed tomb. I started to read the rest of the story, but decided I should wait until this morning.

It was a good plan. After reading the resurrection account on through to the Great Commision first thing this morning and then participating in worship filled with messages and songs of faith, hope, praise and truth, I was powerfully aware that my Redeemer lives. "You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!"

And whereas the sunrise is often the strong resurrection symbol of Easter, today in Norman, heavy rain clouds that burst with lightning, thunder and rain were the perfect accompaniment for celebrating God's great gift.

This has very much been a Lenten season, Holy Week and Easter of the heart. I haven't felt as outwardly emotional about and involved in the various aspects, partly due to changing routines. One of the strong messages I received during this time was affirmed during the sermon today. Because of Easter, I have hope. I am an overcomer through Christ. There is NO reason for me to let life bring me down. I pray to live my life in joyous service to God through Christ.

My heart is filled with love and gratitude. I pray that others also experience this -- and that we humbly and joyously let it overflow in service and kindness to others.

Because of computer troubles, I haven't been able to include links to my Easter songs on my blog. They are on YouTube under SpiritPatricia. They are Easter praise, Good Friday meditation, Good Friday contemplation and Holy Week Communion Song.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Making every day holy

It's Maundy Thursday, the day of Holy Week on which many Christians recall Christ's last supper with His disciples before His crucifixion (Luke 22:7-20 and beyond, or read accounts in any of the Gospels). Biblical accounts of the events of that Passover festival night also included Jesus washing His disciples' feet (John 13:1-17), something that was particularly difficult for Simon Peter to comprehend.

Because of my work schedule (and lack of better priorities, perhaps?), I won't be able to attend the Maundy Thursday observance recalling the Last Supper tonight at my church. Over the years, the service seems to have grown in significance for me and others in the church. I will miss being there tonight.

But knowing in advance that I wouldn't be able to attend this service or the Good Friday service tomorrow set me to praying and thinking about how to remember and reflect anyway. On a week that includes that 16th anniversary of the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City and the traditional Aggie Muster that also is a time of remembrance of fallen comrades, and this following the 14th anniversary of the death of a precious 5-year-old son of the psalmist's son on Sunday, there is much evidence that people have followed Jesus' commands to "go and do likewise" and also to "do this in remembrance of me." As we recall painful and tragic times, we see people act in love and service as they hold onto the hope that came from a loving Savior who was willing to die on the cross for our sins.

I've struggled some with wondering about my priorities, why I'll take a day off work for a concert next Thursday but not for Holy Week church services tonight or tomorrow. God seems to be giving me some clear answers for this year. I think the most important one right now is to look for and be a part of the holy wherever I am, including at work. The hope of doing so, for me, is only possible because of the love and sacrifice of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. And then there's the realization that sometimes absence does make the heart grow fonder. A break from the traditional observances causes me to become more aware of how much they mean to me -- and also to think of how their significance goes beyond the rituals of those observances.

So, I pray to remember -- and to live to the glory of the crucified and resurrected Christ today and always.

(I tried to attach my video for the first verse of "Communion Song" by Sonny Salsbury but can't get it to show up. I may try again later.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Getting ready for Easter

Today was Palm Sunday. We had palms at church, but not really a procession. The little children did sing, and that's always nice. My takeaway from the sermon was: What is God calling me to do? What is the cost? (What do I have to give or sacrifice to follow God's call?) That's my cross. Will I pay that price? Will I take up that cross?

Another thing I left with was a strong sense that I will miss not being able to attend the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services at church, because of work. But as the preacher said, you miss a big part of the story and experience if you skip from Palm Sunday straight to Easter. I will be praying and actively seeking ways to recall Christ's journey to the cross and what it meant then and what it means now and to me. The conclusion of my Disciple Bible Study tonight fit right along with this, focusing on what Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection mean for me and how I live my life.

For today, what I seem called to do is to live humbly, show love in action and give the glory to God. Those seem to also answer in many situations the question: What would Jesus do? Obviously, those are not my natural inclinations. But with God, all things are possible. As I prepare for Easter, may I live that faith.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Looking for meaning -- a revelation

I'm at the self-imposed blog deadline, and I'm pretty sure no words are ready to post. But I will post anyway. It's a pain-free and cost-free way to buy time. There are so many things I want to write about. I've collected bits here and there from my journal and from comments on Facebook and other correspondence and reading. But I need some time to sit with those thoughts so I can discover what they might mean or what lessons they might hold.

Last week was as busy, challenging and stressful as I thought it might be. And with much prayer and support from family and friends, it may have gone better than any such week I've ever had. There were so many answered prayers. And to have an answered prayer, that means there was first a prayer. With God, all things are possible. I posted that on Facebook as a reminder to myself, and it was a reminder I needed. One way I help make sure I'm with God is through prayer. Another is through Bible reading and study.

There are many things I don't know tonight, including how to deal with some of the issues that have distracted and frustrated me for years involving my habits, attitudes, choices and inability to get certain things accomplished, from getting rid of my clutter to catching up with those friends I vowed months ago to reconnect with.

But this I do know: With God, all things are possible. I believe that God sent His son to die for me, and that His sacrifice atones for my sins and shortcomings. I see daily evidence of that saving grace and transformative love in my life and the lives of others. It fills me with hope and gratitude. And maybe this is my revelation for tonight -- that it's no good if that hope and gratitude just fills me with satisfaction and good feelings. In fact, the good feelings won't last unless I share what God has given. And I can't wait for it to overflow. (I think I was waiting for it to overflow.) I've been taking steps to share it. I will take another tomorrow. That is my prayer, always with the desire that it be to the glory of God.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Treasure seeking

OK, the blog deadline isn't until tomorrow, but the possibility of having time to write tomorrow is even more remote than the chance of me putting together a couple of nuggets of inspiration or insight tonight. So I'm going for it tonight!

This will be a hodgepodge again; as much as anything it's my attempt to record these thoughts or observations for possible future consideration. So, here goes:

-- Note to myself at 12:30 a.m. Saturday: Baseball season has just started and I can already tell I'll have to set some boundaries or I'm going to be worthless. I seem to be able to just sit there and watch on TV day after day. I sometimes wonder how in the world people with season tickets for a major league baseball team get anything at all accomplished in life.

-- Note to myself at 12:17 a.m. Monday, after watching Texas Rangers win the finale of a home-run laden sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the afternoon and then watching the Texas Aggies beat Stanford in the semifinals of the NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four: Definitely gonna need to establish some boundaries and set some priorities. Cannot waste time following sports. It's so easy for me to get caught up. I just cannot let myself.

-- For the record, it's now 11:42 p.m. Monday, after 9 hours at work. I didn't watch the NCAA men's championship tonight, nor did I watch the Rangers (I do know they won and that Nelson Cruz extended his season-starting streak to four consecutive homers). And I will be setting the VCR to record the women's championship game tomorrow night when the Aggies and Notre Dame meet. So, maybe that's some progress.

-- This is a very challenging week at work. I thought it would be, and day one confirms exactly what I expected. A very hard-working, productive and gap-filling person is on vacation. She does stuff I don't think others even realize. I often help her out, but I cannot fill her shoes and have not been asked to. But it's hard for me not to try when I see things seeming to not get done on time or right. My goal is to not stress out and to keep track of how much I work. I guess I succeeded today. It requires prayer before, during and after. I prayed for wisdom to know when to speak up and when to stay quiet, and that seemed to be answered for the most part today. I'm grateful for that and so much more, including to be able to keep a good attitude.

-- I wrote last Tuesday about how I hoped the Texas A&M women's basketball team could beat Baylor that night to win the Dallas Regional and advance to the Final Four. I was afraid to get my hopes up. I worried that if I recorded the game, they would lose. Well, I recorded that game and they won, and then I recorded the national semifinal game Sunday (because it conflicted with Bible study) and they won that one, too. So the championship is tomorrow night (Tuesday). I'm working again, so I will record it. I hope they can win. I still don't pray for sports victories. But I know God knows it would make me and a bunch of people happy for them to win. (I also know God knows it would make a bunch of people sad. That's the way sports goes!) To watch this unheralded team and coach do as well as they've done so far, including beating No. 1 seeds the past two games, has been as enjoyable to experience as I thought it would. They are a team. They seem to have a perfect mix of pride and humility but above all a sense of team that I just love to see win. It seems like a different player comes through each time -- and then when you look back at each game, you see how several people had to come through each game. Isn't that what team sports are about? Watching them play inspires me.

-- The other thing I've been needing/wanting to write a few words about is just how hard March was and how glad I am to be through it. I wasn't expecting it to be that way at all, but starting with getting sick the last weekend of February, it seemed like each new day or week of March brought new challenges and frustrations. Even when I was over the cold or whatever, I was so far behind I couldn't decide where to start, and new deadlines and commitments kept coming up. I kept plodding along, trying to do the best I could, and stayed amazingly optimistic, sometimes to a fault (keeping me from going to the doctor when I needed to, perhaps). But finally, last Monday, after the worst seemed to be over and I just had a few more tasks to accomplish -- I just wanted to give up. I did not think I could get past these last things. My prayers didn't seem to be helping. So I asked others to pray for me as well. And sure enough, that mental paralysis dissipated and I was able to get the things done that I needed to do. Of course, what I've been reminded of every day since the month ended is that, yes, every day still brings new challenges. I don't know where I get the idea it won't be like that. Wishful thinking, I guess.

-- And even as March was such a struggle in some ways, especially physically, there were many amazing joys. Topping the list was my Dad's 85th birthday (March 20) weekend followed by his successful surgery to get a pacemaker. Throughout my struggles, my Mom and Dad were shining lights of inspiration and an example to not give up and just do my best to do the next right thing.

-- In summary: What I learned in March: Keep praying, keep obeying (or dare I say trying to, although I know I keep falling short) and keep giving the glory to God.