fortydaysojourn

Just another WordPress.com site

He Lives In You!

The first time I heard this song was when my family and I saw The Lion King play in 2008, and I just about cried liked a baby.   It has such a beautiful message.

A few years later, one of our resident ministers had the idea to coordinate a inter-generational dance group to perform the song for Pentecost Sunday.  It was a pleasure for me to serve as the lead dancer for this piece.  I’ll admit, some days it was hard for me to keep it together because dancing to the words became that much more powerful and moving to me.

What’s also powerful is thinking about the ones who went before us, which is what this song speaks about.  Although this message has personal meaning for those who listen to it,  it’s also very befitting to relate this song to the Divine One:

(Chorus)
He lives in you
He lives in me
He watches over
Everything we see
Into the water
Into the truth
In your reflection
He lives in you

As we approach the joy of Easter Sunday, remember that Our Risen Lord lives in us.  He is no longer in the tomb – let’s celebrate!

Leave a comment »

As I reflect on Good Friday, this came to me in an email…..

Jason Mraz’s The World As I See It 

The world as I see it, is a remarkable place
A beautiful house in a forest, of stars in outer space
From a birds eye view, I can see it has a well-rounded personality
From a birds eye view, I can see we are family

Yeah the world as I see it, is a remarkable place
Every man makes a difference and every mother’s child is a saint
From a birds eye view I can see, we are spiraling down in gravity
From a birds eye view I can see, you are just like me

It’s not hard for me to love you…

Unconditional love. Compassion. Fellowship. Unity. Community. Worship.  Thanksgiving.  All wonderful words to describe and celebrate our Lord with.  Let’s reflect on the One who enables us to be who we are because He is.

Leave a comment »

Keep Your Peeps Covered! (Day 21)

“Unity is the soul of fellowship.” ~~ Pastor Rick Warren

It’s our responsibility to cultivate unity and to protect it, or as the youngsters say, we gotta look out for our peeps!  It’s the core of how God wants to experience Him together, and we are commissioned by Jesus Christ to do our best to promote harmony and protect the fellowship by “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3, NIV)

We effectively do this by:

  • Focusing on our commonalities, embracing our differences.  “Let us concentrate on the things which make for harmony, and on the growth of one another’s character.” (Romans 14:19)
  • Having realistic expectations.  There’s no such thing as a perfect church, and if there were, none of us would be accepted into it!  God has a lot to teach us in our fellowship as well as our failures.  The question is do we run at the first sign of disappointment?  Do we do that in other areas of our lives?  Realistic expectations help us to mature in our faith walk.
  • Making the choice to encourage rather than tear down.  It’s easier to speak ill of someone rather than find the redeeming qualities about them.  This rule of thumb also takes place in our churches.  One negative word about somebody is typically spread to at least nine people, whereas a kind word goes as far as 1-2 people.  I don’t know about you, but this seems a little backwards to me.  Speak life, for “the words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18, NIV)
  • Leaving gossip alone!  When we take the time to listen to it, we’re just as guilty as the person spewing it.  Have the courage to say, “You know what, this person isn’t here to defend themselves.  Leave them alone.”  Watch what happens.
  • Practicing God’s ways for resolving conflicts.  The Word says it’s a three-step process: “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him – work it out between the two of you.  If he listens, you’ve made a friend.  If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again.  If he still won’t listen, tell the church.” (Matthew 18:15-17a, Msg.)  More times than not, we take matters into our own hands, and most times all hell breaks loose. We must include God’s wisdom, as He has the answers we need to resolve the issue. 
  • Undergurding our pastors and leaders in prayer and support.  We’re the people who lead the charge God commanded us.  As an elder, I take seriously the role I have at my church, from sponsoring a young baptism candidate to leading communion and everything in between.  And as one of the youngest elders on the board, I look to my ministerial staff and seasoned elders for guidance and leadership, and the way they set the temperature of the congregation overall.

A unified church family is a blessed church family.  Like the television show Cheers, the church becomes a place where everyone wants to belong to and where everybody knows your name.  The next time you’re at church, take the time to check the atmosphere.  If it’s not so favorable, be the change agent.

Leave a comment »

Putting Things Back Together (Day 20)

“Work hard at living in peace with others.” ~~ I Peter 3:11, NLT

Another component of fellowship is restoring fractured relationships.  God wants us to mend them together rather than live in conflict and hurt, or discard them altogether.  He desires us to be peacemakers.  The Beatitudes speak eloquently about this important role: “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9, NLT)  Who doesn’t want to be called a child of God?

Yet, this special title comes with a huge cost.  Peacemakers don’t avoid conflict like many of us do; in fact, they’re known to create it for the good of those involved in it!  When we run away from problems, we act in a spirit of cowardice.  It’s not that we can’t be afraid of conflict; many of us are.  However, we’re empowered to stand up when we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us act accordingly to the suitation at hand.  Peacemakers don’t yearn for peace, they work toward it.

Peacemakers also take a stand on what they believe in.  You’ll never be able to control someone whose mind is set on achieving a peaceful resolve.  Like a bull, there’s no trying to push them over! 

Staying steadfast to the goal of creating peace is important, and there are seven biblical steps to restoring a broken relationship:

  • Pray before talking to the other person – God has an insight that we’ve never considered, and many times will change the course of the situation.  For instance, when we pray honestly about how we feel, He changes our outlook.  Most conflict comes from an unsatisfied need that only He can fill or will use another person to fill.  The Apostle James spoke to this when he said, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?  You want something but don’t get it….you do not have because you don’t ask God.” (James 4:1-2, NIV)
  • Always take the initiative – This is one thing I struggle with.  “Why should I make the first move? ” I ask myself, especially when I think I’m on the right track!  God expects us to make the first move, period.  Delaying  it only makes the situation worse, deepening resentment and causing that wound to set in.  Act quickly.
  • Sympathize with the other person’s feelings – Listen rather than talk.  Give the other person the floor.  Let them speak on how they feel, even if you don’t agree with it.  Put down your guard.
  • Confess your part of the conflict – It takes two to argue, despite what we think.  Look at the flow of the argument or disagreement, and we MUST ask ourselves “What part did I play in this mess?”  Confess, say ‘I’m sorry’, keep the mending going.
  • Attack the problem, not the person –  This is VERY easy to do.  We look at each other’s faults and always ready to blame the other person.  However, isn’t it easier and smarter to handle this in a more peaceful way, like say, with a gentle response?  The Proverbs say, “A gentle reponse defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.” (Proverbs 15:1, Msg.)
  • Cooperate as much as possible – This doesn’t mean be a doormat, but rather, compromise and be the help they need.
  • Stress reconciliation rather than resolution – This was a new one for me.  Reconciliation emphasizes the relationship, while resolution focuses on the problem.  In other words, let’s agree to disagree, and do this harmoniously as best we can.  We won’t always see eye-to-eye, and this may take time to get to that eye-to-eye moment.

As I review these points, I can think of a couple of people I need to reconnect with.  Sure, it’s going to take a lot of prayer and effort; yet, the results will outweigh the fear and hesitancy I currently feel.  By taking these first steps, I’ll be called a child of God.

Leave a comment »

Building Community and Camaraderie (Day 19)

When we experience friendship and fellowship, community and camaderie are the key components.  It’s cultivated with the choices we make in who we trust, coupled with God’s power.  The Apostle Paul said, “You are joined together with peace through the Spirit, so make every effort to continue together in this way.” (Ephesians 4:3, NCV). 

However, some of us grew up in relationships that weren’t always fruitful or peaceful, and it’s tough to develop real relationships without looking over our shoulders.  It’s when we become new creatures in Christ that He teaches us how to engage in true fellowship.  The way we do this is: 

  • Cultivate honesty – it’s ok to “keep things real” when we have a safe place to express ourselves.
  • Be humble – have a humble attitude, think more about others than ourselves.
  • Be courteous – respect our differences, be considerate of other’s feelings and be patient with those who bug and irritate us (a tough one, I know!).
  • Develop confidentiality – build trust with each other, protect each other’s privacy, eliminate gossip.
  • Invest time, frequency – relationships take time, so develop fruitful and positive habits of investing time in others.  

These components take a huge leap of faith, yet the benefits will always outweigh the risk.  “We understand what love is when we realize that Christ gave his life for us.  That means we must give our lives for other believers.” (I John 3:16, GWT)

Leave a comment »

I’m running out of steam!

I’m almost at the halfway point of The Purpose-Driven Life and I’ve officially run out of steam!  I didn’t realize taking on this venture would be emotionally and mentally taxing some days.  However, I’ve also been blessed by this journey with the self-discovery and purging that’s taking place in me.  Praise be to God!

As I write this entry, I’ve got Hezekiah Walker and The Love Fellowship Choir’s ’99 And A Half” playing.  This song is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s a great testimony to where I am and where many of us land at different points of life – this place of stopping for rest, for that quick breath to help us finish the journey. 

Lord, I’m runnin’ tryin’ to make 100 because

99 and a half won’t do  

Let’s keep on running, keep on trying to make it!

Leave a comment »

So Happy Together….. (Day 18)

“How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1, TEV)

Another of God’s purposes for us is to experience life together, or what the Word calls fellowship.  We are called to gather together to experience the ebbs and flows that we go through. 

Yet, fellowship has lost its meaning over the years.  It’s more about “let’s get together for lunch” or “yes, I attend such and such church” or “such and such is my pastor”.  It’s when we can be naked before each other with our failures, mishaps and struggles do we engage in real and meaningful fellowship.

And have you noticed that the best fellowship takes place with a small group?  Let’s look at Jesus’ example for a minute.  He recruited 12 disciples with various abilities and talents to engage them in a life-changing ministry.   A bigger group of disciples probably would have had a lesser impact.  Even with this small group there was dissention.  However, the closeness and intimacy built from their fellowship with Jesus was the springboard for their huge impact on the world. 

In other words, when you add people to a small group, two things tend to happen: someone stops participating and a few people end up dominating the overall group.  Imagine if the 12 Disciples were a group of 15.  One or two would be taking over the whole ministry, while the others who want to contribute can’t for fear of being disregarded.   Unfathomable, isn’t it? 

Also unfathomable is fake fellowship in the church.  You think that if any group of people are truly connected, it would be us.  Yet, it doesn’t happen as often or as much as you think.  We tend to put on the masks, hoping and praying that no one sees the real us.  We live a facade of everything’s coming up roses, knowing darn well our hearts are broken or our families are fractured.  It’s when we open up about our lives do we begin experiencing real fellowship and intimacy.  It’s in fellowship where we experience mercy, sympathy and mutuality. 

Yes, it’s a huge risk to expose the true you; however, we grow by taking risks and inspire those around us to do the same.  This is another area where me and a lot of us struggle, largely in part because of past experiences.  However, it’s when we seek God for His help that we begin to take those baby steps of trusting others with our lives.

So, let’s open up and allow our trusted Christian sisters and brothers in our hearts.  We never know just how great of an impact this genuine fellowship will have on us, and eventually we’ll have on someone else.   “I want us to help each other with the faith we have.  Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you.” (Romans 1:12, CEV)

Leave a comment »

You Belong To Me, I Belong To You (Day 17)

As Christians we are called to belong to the Body of Christ, our church family.  No one can ever successfully be a hermit in this union, for we are called to fellowship with and be accountable to each other.  The Apostle Paul says that “In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Rom. 12:5, NIV)

Being a member of a church congregation means giving back to God the time, talents and treasures He’s given us through ministry and tithing.  Our membership is imperative in teaching us how to live in the world and not be of it, be accountable to each other, to pray for one another and keep us aligned in Christ.  We find ourselves in Him when we have this relationship and become the hands, eyes, ears and feet for Him in the world.

This idea was hard for me to fathom when I became a Christian 21 years ago.  My life experiences before the day I asked Christ into my heart were all about shielding myself from the world.  I was hurting, broken in every part of my life.  Belonging to a church seemed scary, as it required me to fellowship with other people and be involved in ministry with people who had the same types of interests as me.  For a number of years after joining church, I was hesitant about letting my new church family into my world, especially being in my early twenties and still not knowing who I was.

On top of that, my family didn’t give me the support I needed at first.  They felt I was going through a phase, as I ended a year-long relationship with my significant other around the same time.  Needless to say, it was a stressful situation all around.

As I began falling in love with Jesus, He taught me how to open up my heart and blessed me with several of the seasoned women in our congregation.  What I couldn’t see in me, they saw the best in me.  Their nurturing hearts and genuine love for me shed layers from my life.  Their eight years of tutelage showered me with the foundation for my ministry of helps and the arts.  Now I’m in their position as a gradually seasoned woman, and I believe the Lord is preparing me to nuture the next generation.

My testimony is what belonging to a church family is all about: each one teaching one, loving on each other, correcting where correction’s needed and practicing unselfish love.  It’s not just about believing.  Belonging to a church congregation is essential to living a healthy life.

Leave a comment »

What Matters Most (Day 16)

“Love means living the way God commanded us to live.  As you have heard from the beginning, his command is this: Live a life of love.” (2 John 1:6, NCV)

The second purpose of life is that God wants to teach us how to love each other.   It’s about loving our families, friends and ourselves, and especially our Christian sisters and brothers.  This is one of the most important lessons we’ll learn.

However, with the challenges that our lives bring (i.e., work, school, bills, etc.), we forget to love and listen to each other.  We forget to spend quality time with our loved ones.  Relationships sit on the back burner.  Busyness is an enemy, which in itself can be physical, mental or emotional.  I know these well because I’m guilty of doing it. 

For the majority of our 14-year marriage I’ve been self-absorbed.  My preoccupation with protecting myself has been the catalyst of many an argument or silent moment at our house.  The basis for my behavior stems from a life-altering experience during my early teens.  It was after this event that I in my 14-year old thinking took on the heavy duty task of protecting myself physically, spiritually and emotionally.  The help I needed desperately was pretty much nonexistent then, and my destructive behaviors carried over into each new year, affecting my most intimate relationships.

Recently, I’ve come to recognize these behaviors and currently learning why they’ve created such messes in my life all these years, particularly in our marriage.  God in His graciousness is teaching me how to prioritize my life, starting with the relationships.  I place my husband and our family first in my prayers next to thanking the Lord for a new day.  Do I continue to fall short?  Yes!  Do I continue to keep praying and seeking God’s wisdom?  Most definitely. 

This thing called love is what’s most important to God, and when it becomes displaced we lose sight.  That’s why we have take an active approach in making our relationships a priority instead of an appointment.   This is the area where I struggle the most, and I have to be intentional in doing so if my relationships are going to be healthy and growing.  When we’re intentional, we build stronger relationships. 

A legacy is also built from our relationships, and important for us to deposit positive energy into them.   For me, the moments growing up at my grandparents’  house are some of the best times of my life, particularly the times I spent with my grandmother.  It didn’t matter if we baked a cake together or sat in silence, her expression of love always blessed me.  Her love for us grands was always active and fruitful. 

And though we live over 500 miles away from each other now, her legacy of love continues to warm my heart.  Now at 88 years old, whenever I visit her I become that seven-year old girl again.  I already smell her homemade butter cake in the air!

Love is about creating such experiences.  It’s never boisterous or rude, nor does it insist on its own way. (I Cor. 13:4-5).  Warm the hearts of those in your life today.

Leave a comment »

Consider Yourself At Home! (Day 15)

“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free.  But we have all been baptized into Christ’s body by one Spirit and we have all received the same Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:13, NLT)

We were formed to be a part of His family.  Each of us is God’s special creation.  We’re the apple of His eye. (Deut. 32:10-11, NIV)

However, everyone’s not a considered a child of God.  The way we become members of His family is by accepting His gift of salvation.   Just as we were born into our earthly families, the acceptance of this gift is considered our being born again.  The one condition of being a family member is having faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  So, in essence, we become part of a larger, spiritual family.

And membership in this family has its privileges!  First, our spiritual family becomes more important because it lasts forever.  Our earthly family is a great gift from God, but it’s also fragile.  Events such as divorce, distance, and eventually, death breaks it up.  Our spiritual family is a stronger union because our foundation is God Himself, and the relationship continues throughout eternity.  That’s why it’s important for us to share the Gospel with our family members who haven’t accepted His free gift of salvation.  There’s a song that says “I want to see them there,” and it becomes imperative for us to meet them where they are to pray for and witness to them.

Second, we receive an inheritance.  The Word tells us that “Since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you.” (Gal. 4:7b, NLT).  This inheritance is priceless; no one can ever take it away from you, nor can it be destroyed.  We put our trust in homes, money and other possessions, yet they fade away, break down or lose their value.  An eternal inheritance is one you can bank on.

And third, baptism is the outward exclamation that ‘I am the Lord’s!’  Your baptism declares your faith, and like a wedding ring, it’s a visible reminder of your inward commitment to the Lord.

It’s wonderful to know you’re part of a large, eternal family with a variety of people of all ages, from all walks of like, and including members of your circle of earthly family and friends.  Consider yourself at home!

Leave a comment »