Category Archives: Meditation

The slow letting go…

Today it happens. That first child I carried, the child I’ve practiced my parenting skills on the longest, is moving away. Not permanently. “Just” for 8 weeks, to live with her aunt and uncle and fulfill her dream of acting in a community theater company. It’s the first semester of her gap year–this first half is about working to save money for her second semester trip to Ukraine with YWAM to work with orphans and other outreaches for five months. So this is the short goodbye so her mama can practice.

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On the trail 14 years ago…

This letting go has been in stages. You relinquish the hold first when they are born-other people can now hold them. Then as more independence comes, there is more relinquishing: letting go of her fingers when she started lurching around the room walking; letting go of the handlebars when she learned to ride her bike; watching her drive away in the van by herself the first time. Going on an international mission trip without us. Waving as she boarded a train to visit a friend last year. Graduation from high school in our backyard.

Last night, I was running over the list of things-we-should-teach-before-you-move-out. Don’t leave your drink unattended at a party or your luggage unattended at the airport: check.  How to potty in the woods: check. How to balance a checkbook: check. Remember who you are, sweet daughter of the King: check. Parallel parking: ummm…missed that one. My friend reminded me a couple of weeks ago that we’ve equipped her to learn what we’ve missed or fell through the cracks or we just didn’t think of. And I reminded myself of the words I spoke to Emily at her graduation–true words that I needed to hear as much as she did:

“Your father and I have not been able to give you what we wanted you to have, but God has given you the life you need to prepare you for the future. You are a treasured daughter of the king: brave and caring and persistent…

Character grows stronger in the face of challenge and you’ve seen more than your fair share of challenges in our family. As you have grown up in our home, you’ve watched job loss, job gain, parent going back to school, more job loss, depression, and starting up a small business. You’ve learned that life doesn’t always look like you think or hope it will. I hope you’ve learned that what looks like failure in the eyes of the world—losing a job, financial difficulties when starting out new businesses, and financial sacrifices aren’t failure, they’re part of life, and they are an opportunity to stretch your faith and reliance of Jehovah Jireh, the One who provides. While we have not relied perfectly on Him, and I will admit, there has been more of the grumbling Israelite in the wilderness in me than I wish to say, I hope you have learned that though life can be hard, God is good. All the time. And while He won’t always give you what you want, somehow, you will have what you need.

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Rounding the bend in the trail this July…

So here she goes…all packed and so excited with the same spirit of fun and adventure she’s always had…ready to try new things and meet new people…and while I will miss her with every breath, I am content to continue to let her go, the way she should go.

 

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Advent of Peace

Prince of Peace is one of the names given in Isaiah for the coming Messiah. Thanks to Handel’s oratorio, many of us know that verse by heart:

 

The Prince of Peace. Prince as in: chieftain, chief, ruler, official, captain, prince. He has authority. He rules. He is the last word. Strong’s shows the translation of peace is shalom. Shalom is peace, of course, but it’s more than that. It’s defined as completeness, soundness, and welfare. It means prosperity, tranquility, and “contentment with God, especially in covenant.” So you put those together and He is the one who has authority and dominion over our completeness. He is the chieftain, the protector of our peace.

But like the rulers of the day, who had a hard time seeing that Jesus was the Messiah–because he didn’t look like they thought he should–this chieftain of peace looks a bit different than what we think he should, or even, admittedly, what I want him to look like. He told his disciples before he died that his peace was different:

  “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you;

not as the world gives do I give to you;

Do not let your heart be troubled,

nor let it be fearful.”

But the key to this verse lies in the verse before, John 14:26:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,

whom the Father will send in My name,

He will teach you all things,

and bring to your remembrance

all that I said to you.”

Jesus is telling them, “You will have peace, because the Father is sending the Helper/Comforter/ Advocate/Counselor to you, not to walk beside you, but to live in you. Not to bring absence of conflict, but to bring contentment in your covenant with God, to be the Keeper and Lord over the shalom within you. To steward the everlasting peace that comes from Me, not as fleeting as any peace the world tries desperately to find or manufacture.  Tranquility that allows sleep through a storm in a rickety fishing boat. Peace that passes understanding, that you will only understand in glimpses and moments, that will surprise you with its depth when you encounter it in moments of great external strife or battle, and when the deceiver tries to steal, kill, and destroy.” Shalom always comes in the presence of the Prince.

From the first time the people of this world heard the Messiah came, a bunch of ragtag shepherds in the middle of the night:

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

         ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'”

The Deliverer had come, not with a sword to force peace on an unwilling, fearful people, but as a frail human, God in baby-fine skin and enrobed in swaddling clothes in a stable, gazed at with awe, love, and devotion. And Jesus’ words to his disciples 33 years later, are an echo of those the angels told the shepherds: “Don’t be afraid, peace has come.”

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Advent of Hope “The Light Shines in the Darkness and the Darkness has not Overcome it”

DSCN1227The first week of Advent is Hope. Who doesn’t want some of that? The Old Testament is full of the promises of God to His people.

Why? To bring them hope for the future. Hope was coming in the form of a baby.

I have been without hope. One of the parts of the depression I have dealt with this past year was the lack of hope. I had no hope that things would change. None. I would simply have to live like this in my situation and it would never be better. Never. It was awful. “Without vision, the people perish.” Of course they do–without a vision of a better way, a better life, a better faith, there is nothing to live for, no hope for the future.IMG_2914

No wonder Mary sang the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord!” What the people of Israel had hoped for, through the exile, return, the prophets, and the 400 years of silence–it was finally coming to pass. What He said, was really happening!

So many times this past year my prayer was simply, “I believe, help me in my unbelief!” It was all I had, the faith that hope was there, whether I could see it or not. And I would search for any gift from the Father–a sunset, a walk with a friend, any good and perfect gift, however small, from Him. For any flicker of light in the darkness. And the seed faith and hope that He was “A light shining in the darkness and the darkness could. not. overcome. it.”

So if you are without hope, or if you are hanging on to hope by a thread, or if you are full of hope, let’s usher in a week of hope with praise and thanksgiving! Thankful that hope is here. Hope is coming. Hope in the form of Jesus lives in you. Even if all you can muster is a tiny whispered “thank you,” shine that light in your darkness.IMG_0179

So expect the Advent of Hope. This is not exactly a traditional song of Advent, but quite appropriate for the Advent of Hope: “Come as you are…come taste the grace, there’s rest for the weary…rest that endures, earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t cure…” 

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A Struggle for Lent

I will admit, I don’t really know what to do with Lent this year. “Umm…shouldn’t you have thought about this sooner,” you say. I have. I’ve thought about it a lot, long and hard and I’m still not sure as I write these words.

I didn’t grow up in a culture that practiced Lent, but I have participated for several years as an adult, however. This year, I’m just not sure how to approach it. Since last year, I have experienced Inner Healing Prayer and have been freed from co-dependency in a most amazing way! There is a new freedom in Christ and in me that I love!

So now what? I know Lent is not a biblical command or even suggestion. I know participating in Lent doesn’t save me, make God like or love me any more or “get” me anything from God—no extra star in crown. Got it. I also already know I was a sinner, loved by my amazing Creator, and saved from eternity without Him, and that my eternal life started the minute I cried out to Him to save me. I don’t want to wallow in my sin and be sorry for them. They are done. If He doesn’t see them or remember, why should I? And I am no longer that same orphan. I am a daughter of the King, a co-heir with Christ!

So back to Lent. What to do? I can participate or not. My college friend mentioned an online Lenten Retreat she was interested in attending. Hmmm…an online retreat? What on earth? I checked it out and enjoyed both the website and the author, who is a Methodist priest and artist in residence. I LOVE her work. Love it. It resonates within me and makes me want to run to my palette knife, canvas and easel. What I appreciated about her intro to the retreat were Jan Richardson’s words about Lent:

 From the rending of Ash Wednesday to the resurrection of Easter Sunday, the path through Lent encompasses every aspect of who we are. Most of all, Lent invites us to know how completely God loves us, and to let go of all that would keep us from recognizing, receiving, and responding to that love.

 Letting go of all that would keep us from the Love of God? Yes, please. This is a Lent I could get behind, that I could be a part of, meditate upon. Not giving up wheat, sugar, caffeine, fast food (I already did that last month!), but giving up that which I try to hold onto that keeps me from “recognizing, receiving, and responding” to the complete love of God.

And in Ann Voskamp’s words that I nod in agreement:

 Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God. 

I pull my favorite Lenten Devotional, Bread and Wine, off the shelf and read the introduction.

“We ought to approach Lent as an opportunity, not a requirement. After all, it is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges. …put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ…Lent is a good time so…let go of excuses for failings and shortcomings; a time to stop hanging on to whatever shreds of goodness we perceive in ourselves; a time to ask God to show us what we really look like…He (Jesus) reveals the appalling strangeness of divine mercy and the Love from which it springs. Such Love could not stay imprisoned in a cold tomb. Nor need we, if we truly surrender our lives to it.”

 And so, I am ready to let go. I am ready to let go of what is holding me back from receiving all He has for me—all His love, His promises, Him. I want all that He is willing to give, if only I will receive it. I am ready to celebrate Lent–to admit my weakness and rejoice in His power and strength; to acknowledge my lack in all I do on my own and marvel at the abundance of grace and mercy in all He does; to confront my shortcomings and realize His overcoming. I am ready to meet the One who Isaiah prophesied (Is. 61:1-3):

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

 

So today, on Ash Wednesday, I am ready for him to give me a garland instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning, praise instead of fainting, so that He may be glorified. I am ready to decrease so He may increase. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

 

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Emmanuel, God With Us

You hear it alot this time of year–Emmanuel, God with us. I was working on something and listening to my Christmas playlist and heard it again.

 

 

 

God. With. Us.

 

 

 

I have many friends going through very hard times right now: the death of parents, divorce, cancer, unemployment, financial uncertainty. Lots of people with stuff going on that makes the “Merry Christmas” season less than merry. A sweet friend was talking about her grief and the holidays, how the grief comes over her in waves, sometimes out of the blue. I’ve had those moments, though for different reasons, and I expect most people have. How on earth do I deal with those waves of sadness or uncertainty? It’s even better than God just being with us corporately–get this:

 

 

God. With. Me.

 

 

 

To dissect this, it doesn’t say God with me so all the bad things in the world will stop, and my life will be like a trip to Disney World. Nope. Nowhere does it say that. Not even close. He never says “I will bar the gate of the valley of the shadow of death and not let you experience that. Nothing about “all the annoying people in your life will vanish.” Not a hint of an easy life, at least in the eyes of the world. None. Actually, it’s the opposite. His people were thrown to the lions, tossed in blazing furnaces, and told of they would be in the presence of enemies, the valley of the shadow. Jesus told his disciples plainly, “In this world YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE.” and “WHEN people persecute you for my sake” (Matthew 5:11) and “You WILL be hated by all because of my name.” (Matthew 10:22) This is not a life for the faint of heart.

 

 

 

But what is also mentioned? I will be with you. I will prepare a table for you in the presence of those enemies. He walked with the men in the furnace. He’s in the valley of the shadow-with us. Jesus said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world!” The Holy Spirit is in us as believers–always. Always. And the promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

 

 

 

So for those of us who mourn for loved ones, who walk the valley, who are in the furnace, who seem to live in the presence of the enemy: we are not alone. You are not alone. In the pain, grief, sickness, loneliness, isolation or whatever you face this week, you are not alone. That’s what this Christmas is all about. God–with us.

 

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Nativity (Photo credit: sbrent)

 

 

 

 

 

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No Longer an Orphan–Remember Who You Are

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” (John 1:12)

All through the Bible you read it: “Remember.” “Remember.” “Remember.” One hundred sixty-eight times in the New American Standard Version, the word “remember” appears. It is of some comfort to me to realize the God knew humanity needed reminding of things He’d done and was doing and will do. He knew his human creations had a short memory. And I’ll admit, at times, it’s easy to forget who I am in the Kingdom–that I’m anyone in the Kingdom. For you too, some days?  As believers, we are adopted into the family of the King. We are no longer orphans! I was honored to watch this play out in “real time” this summer as I accompanied my sister to Ethiopia to bring her newly adopted son home to his new, forever family. I was going as sherpa, doula, doting auntie, and official photographer. I thought I was going to help and be a help–to bless, but I was blessed far more than I ever thought possible. The natural echoed the supernatural with astonishing, humbling clarity.

We are chosen.

Biblestudytools.com states : “The Greek word for adoption (huiothesia) means to “place as a son” and is used only by Paul in the New Testament.” We were not sons when we belonged to this world. We were slaves–to the world, its’ system, the Law. But then something happened: “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

We were slaves, redeemed by Jesus as sons of the King.

“In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elemental forces of the world. When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:3-7

As one of the speakers at an adoption conference said, “In order for redemption to take place, weakness and brokenness have to exist.” But you don’t redeem garbage. You don’t redeem something that is worthless. God created us. After He created the whole world, he thought it was good. But when he created Adam and Eve, He thought they were VERY good. We are His creation, and while we might be broken, before we come to faith, we are not worthless. We weren’t junk. God didn’t sacrifice his Son for trash. God thought we were worth redeeming!

We were bought with a price.

No adoption is free. There is a cost required to the parents. On earth, it’s time and money. Lots of money. Whether international or domestic adoption, there is a cost. Parents have fund-raisers, bake sales, get grants or donations (I know a couple who flipped houses to save money for their adoption!)– all to bring a child into their family. Paul reminds us “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.” And what a price Jesus paid for us! He gave it all!

We cannot make ourselves “good enough” to meet God

When adoptive parents come to the transition home to meet their children for the first time, these sweet children are cleaned up and put into some “nice clothes” by the sweet ladies who work at the orphanage.  As one of the antsy parents was waiting for this transformation to take place so they could meet their child, I heard them say, “Don’t they know we don’t care how clean they are or what they’re wearing? We just WANT them.  NOW.” We spend so much time trying to make ourselves presentable before we go to God. Try to get it together. Clean ourselves up before we go in to meet the Father. Do we REALLY think we can do anything to make us presentable to Him? He doesn’t need us to get presentable before we come to Him. We can’t anyway. He just wants US! NOW!IMG_0283

We don’t keep our old name

Pictures from that incredible day show little Miller wearing an outfit that says “Austin.” It’s cute and clean, but not his. At the time, Miller’s Ethiopian name was Feseha, his new name was Miller, but it was never Austin. Do we not often “wear” the name someone in the world gives us, even if it’s not who we really are? If it’s not true? What name are you wearing on your T-shirt or in your mind and heart–what are you still wearing that just isn’t true? “Worthless?” “Throw Away?” “Unloveable?” What have you tried to slip back into, not because it’s you, but because you know it? It’s familiar? You’ve managed to make the shirt with the lie “cute”? It’s not who you are! You’ve been given a new name, the name of son or daughter!

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“To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna,

and I will give him a white stone, and a new name

written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” (Rev. 2:17)

One father I met came stay in Ethiopia with his new son until the paperwork was processed. He had 8 weeks leave from work, leaving his wife at home to care for their other two children. He planned on staying until he could take his son home. “People asked me why on earth I’d come stay here for 8 weeks . This son needs me as badly as my children at home. I just figured I should come be with him.” While the governments were still working out all the little details of citizenship and visas, this baby was already this man’s son. In his heart, this child was his. In God’s heart, we are HIS! He wants to be with us. He’s given us His name!

We receive all the rights and privileges of son-ship!

One of the sad things I learned is that in Ethiopia, there is not, as our guide said, the same spirit of adoption as there is here in America. In Ethiopia, if you are adopted by a family, you are given a place to live, meals, and education. But there are things you don’t receive. You don’t take on the name of your new family and you have no part in the inheritance from the father. When he told us that, there was a shocked silence in the room. Thanks be to God that their version of adoption isn’t God’s version or intent: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father'” (Romans 8:15 ). We get to call Him Abba! This isn’t a far away, distant relationship. This is a child calling on Daddy. In this case Daddy also happens to be the God of heaven and earth, who moved heaven and earth to bring us into His family. Without doing a thing, Little Miller has everything his brothers have–a mommy, a daddy, brothers (lots of brothers!), a home, a bed, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, a church family, an inheritance–and he is every bit a Brady.

We are never alone.

Before we went back to the guest house, the nannies indicated it was time for Miller’s nap. I asked Amy if she wanted to put him back down in his crib in the room with the other babies to sleep. A crib is not a good description of the raised wooden box with dividers between each baby. They lay there and wake and sleep on their own schedule it seems. Their bottles are propped in the beds, so they even eat there. Not the best situation, but it was familiar. I thought he’d take a nap then we’d be on our way. Not so. Fiercely from my sister-turned-Mama-Bear: “He is NEVER going to fall asleep there alone again.” Instead,  he fell asleep cuddled in his mother’s arms.IMG_0295

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He cares for our needs

After we said goodbye to the nannies, we took Miller back to the guest house. Despite the cleaning and his “new” orphan clothes, she bathed him. IMG_0314

She rubbed him with lotion and diaper rash ointment to heal his skin. IMG_0385

And dressed him in the clothes she brought. He was no longer an orphan in cast-off clothes. He was a son in clothes from the father.IMG_0320

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Sometimes the trip home is harder than you think…

And then there’s going home. Being left at the airport without transportation to get something to eat. Two women with a baby, four suitcases, two carry-ons and a diaper bag, not to mention Bob (an adoptive dad with his sweet baby girl on his way home to wife and son after 9 weeks in Ethiopia), his baby Emmabette, and all their stuff. Sitting on the runway for hours, while small children around us screamed and even an adult threw up. Three flights plus a refueling in Rome, hours of sort-of sleeping, helping Bob with his baby.  Vans, trams, and trains, loading and unloading. There were 8 hours of lay overs in DC and North Carolina, a plane whose air conditioning wasn’t working, hugely long customs lines and lost luggage. A baby who tended to throw up if not held just right and whose entire schedule was in limbo and no gluten-free meals for me.  It was long and hot and hard. Kind of like life, right? ‘Nuff said.IMG_0406

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You get a new family…

We walked off the plane  and down the corridor, and there they were: people holding signs, flashing cameras; jumping up and down excited to see this new baby. He was already loved because of who he now was. Not what he did–he’d done nothing so far but have diaper rash and throw up all over the place. Nope. Not because of him, though he is adorable and happy and sweet. It was who he now was. And whose he was. Who his Father had made him. This miracle transformation from orphan to son.  i-mWD6FXV

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When you become a son, you get alot of brothers...ALOT of brothers:)

When you become a son, you get alot of brothers…ALOT of brothers:)

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When you get home, the Father is waiting…

One day, we’ll be done with life on this earth and we will “get home.”And when we do, we will clearly see the Father, face to face, not as we do now, but in full.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.

We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (1 John 3:2)

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For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)

i-7BwSbFCSome days it’s hard to remember. It’s easy to fall back into thinking we’re orphans. Acting like an orphan. Putting on that old shirt of this world that proclaims the lie: “not worth it” or “still an orphan.” But we’re not. I’m the daughter of the King. I am His and He is mine. And if you believe Him, you’re not either. We will NEVER be orphans again.

 

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

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Repost of “I will not abide in death”

A shofar made from a ram's horn is traditional...

A shofar made from a ram’s horn is traditionally blown in observance of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish civic year. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death.” 1 John 3:14

Over twenty-four hours after our Shabbat meal with friends, where we celebrated a simple (and late) Rosh Hashanah, I am still scrubbing honey and caramel off the tablecloth and chairs.  We’ve incorporated Passover the last few years, but, as we’re studying Old Testament history this year, I wanted to add in other Jewish holidays as well. No, I’m not Jewish, nor am I trying to be.  But I am grafted into the vine and want to experience some of what God commanded in the Old Testament that has disappeared in the New Testament Church. There is something to be learned from these High Holy Days.

We dipped our apples into raw honey, a gift from a dear Messianic Jewish friend.  As she and her family were out of town and no one else I know in South Nashville has a shofar, we listened to the traditional Rosh Hashanah shofar on the internet while we ate.  I lit the Shabbat candles and stumbled through the Kiddush my friend wrote out on a yellow legal pad.  We broke the challah and drank the wine,  blessing the Lord of the Sabbath, and husband-fathers blessed their wives and children.

What amazing symbols! Blowing a ram’s horn to call people to the new year and to repentance–a ram’s horn as a reminder of the ram God gave Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son of the promise, Isaac.  There is always sacrifice in this life, is there not?  Apples and honey celebrate the sweetness of a new year given by the Lord.  The challah bread, coiled tightly before rising, baked into a swirl to remind us of the endless cycle of the seasons and the eternal reign of the Father.

As I read up on Rosh Hashanah I learned it begins the “Days of Repentance” or “Days of Awe” or turning to God. Ten days to ask for forgiveness and to grant it as well, before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a solemn day when the Jews would fast and pray the Lord would forgive them for the sins of the last year.

All this leads me back to 1 John this morning.  If I show love by asking forgiveness of those I have wronged, I abide in life.  If I forgive those who have wronged me, even if they didn’t know they hurt me, I show them love and abide in life.  If I do not forgive, I abide in the death of resentment and unforgiveness. When a disagreement or misunderstanding grows to a cold silence, when I harbor my anger and end up taking it out on others in my life, I abide in death.  Don Finto preached on forgiveness many years ago and I have never forgotten it.  “Even if it’s 98% the other person and only 2% your fault, you must ask for forgiveness and forgive.”

So today, I choose to answer the call to repentance and abide in life.  It is hard.  I will ask for forgiveness.  I choose to grant forgiveness to people who do not know.  I will not abide in the death of unforgiveness any longer.

A repost from 2011’s Rosh Hashanah celebration.   This year Rosh Hashanah began sundown September 4; we ate challah, honey and apples at church in the Fellowship class before our evening classes began.

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