I and Thou: Belonging

Merry Christmas!

Reflection on Luke 2:22-35

Artist Credit: Jan van ‘t Hoff

Mary and Joseph head north to Bethlehem, the town of David, for a census ordered by Caesar Augustus.  Upon arrival to Joseph’s hometown, Mary gives birth to Jesus.  The familiar Christmas cast expands to include Simeon and Anna in this chapter.  Both of these older adults proclaim Jesus as Messiah.  In this passage,

28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31   which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:  32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Luke 2:28-32

Simeon’s proclamation is his “ah-ha” moment, and it speaks to us about salvation, in other words, belonging. 

Where do you belong?

Joseph belongs to the house of David, similar to us belonging to the home of our parents.  And our children belong to us.  So, where does all of this “belonging” fit in?

Luke does not tell us the lineage of Simeon. And maybe that is for a good reason. I’d like to think that Simeone is you and me!

A recent study found when social relationships provide a sense of belonging; people feel life has more meaning.* We know some of us are more social than others due to different personalities, levels of mood, amount of energy, and time.    Whether we feel social or not, we can know with certainty that we do belong to the family of God. Why? Because God loves us. Nothing can separate that love from us. God’s love is eternal; it can bring us a sense of belonging and contentment. 

As parents, we hope our children have a sense of belonging – to their heavenly Father and us. Earthly relationships can be full of disappointment and sadness when loved ones choose to be “un” belong themselves – stagnant, separated, divorced, or estranged.   God never does this; like a parent, God accepts us and loves us unconditionally.  This unconditional love makes us feel loved and provides us with a broad sense of belonging in life.

To those of you out in this world who have turned your back on unconditional love – maybe it’s time to turn back toward it again? Thoughts?

  • Human families – bringing us a sense of belonging is crucial in all aspects of life.

Action:  Discuss belonging and separation with a loved one.

*Sense of Belonging Increases Meaningfulness of life. (n.d.).  PSYBLOG. (Lambert et al., 2013).

I and Thou – Surrender

Fall into The Bible – Part 2

Artwork by:  Miwa Robbins

In this blog post, I have taken the liberty of looking at random phrases in The Bible where the word “fall” is used. Go ahead and read each of them:

Fall from your heads – Jer. 13:18

Fall at your side – Psalm 91:7

Fall down at your feet – Rev. 3:9

Fall from your secure position – 2 Peter 3:17

Fall prey to your power – Ez. 13:21

Fall on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines – Ez. 35:8

Now, re-read them. What do you see? How do you feel? At first, the word submission comes to my mind.  Yet, maybe surrendering is the better word.  In Julie Lopes’ blog, Dancing with God, she reflects on the meaning of submission and surrendering. She says that surrendering is an act of love where we respond to an invitation, whereas submission has a power and control element.  So, with that, we will look at these phrases collectively from a surrendering viewpoint.

Falling is an act of surrender. Surrendering to God, oneself, and to others. In the first three verses, there is the commonality of anatomy – heads, side, feet.  What do you see or feel? 

For me, there is a sense of Jesus. Jesus dying on the cross, hanging his head, and being pierced in his side and through his feet. I see a total surrendering. Surrendering of physical body and spirit. Jesus takes his last breath, and in that, he is providing salvation to the world. Abba Father, Why have you forsaken me?  Jesus surrendered as an invitation for us to surrender our wants, desires, and purpose to God.

The fourth and fifth verses are analogous to the wealthy man who must sell all of his possessions to “get eternal life.” In this case, the surrendering is his tangible assets. Jesus tells the man if he wants to be perfect, he would need to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor. Scripture says, “he went away sad,” leading to believe he chose his possessions over entering the Kingdom of God. 

How often do we feel so secure, confident, and powerful that we would not want to give that up? Some of us work hard in our careers wishing to get to the next leadership position, and we don’t. Promotions are sometimes given to those who don’t work as hard. Or those who have less tenure? Or, perhaps to the person with the right pedigree, not the one who actually has the skills and experience. Falling from a secure position requires trust. And faith. Often, we fail to see what is ahead of us, or at least we fail in trusting God to direct our lives. Speaking from experience, God wants the details, and God wants alone time with you. We need to place our lives, position, power, and children in God’s hands. Then, we can enter into eternal life. Essentially, we need to “die” to self and “live” to faith.

We can’t get up unless we have fallen. The last verse is speaking to all of us. We will all have hills and valleys in life. In other words, trials and tribulations are part of it. And to overcome these obstacles, we must fall into them, and through them, we can come out the other side as more robust and more faithful people.  

In this Fall season of thanksgiving, I invite you to “fall.” “Fall” into your hills and valleys, and lying in the depths of the ravine, cry out to God. Give God your everything.  Only then you will be able to stand tall, brush yourself off, and spread God’s love to others.

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I and Thou: Summertime Part 2

It’s Summertime – Part 2

Time to splash
Time to sip
Time to sing
Time for solitude

Splash.

What better place to splash than in a gorgeous built-in pool with a waterfall? 

Rotunda West, FL is a lovely, quiet, sleepy wagon wheel-shaped area on the west coast about ½ way between Sarasota and Fort Myers.

There is something spiritual about a waterfall. Hearing water cascading down a tiled and glass blocked wall sounds like rain falling on a hot summer day. The dripping sound is very calming. Does water calm you? It sure calms me! Oceans, pools, lakes, rivers – you name it – if there is water – there is calm. Yet, where there is a pool, there is bound to be splashing! Splashing water with hands and feet takes me back to childhood. Splashing seems to wipe years away in an instant. So, the next time you are in a pool – go ahead and make a splash!

Splashing brings out child-like qualities.

Sip. 

Sipping a beverage in the summertime is different than the rest of the year. Do you agree?  In summer, whether it is sipping iced tea, lemonade, or a favorite alcoholic beverage, summer makes it sweeter. Maybe it is the casualness of the outdoors? The warm summer breezes. Or the flip-flops? Whatever it is, sipping a glass of ½ iced tea, ½ lemonade, with a splash of limeade – sure is my favorite! Sipping reminds me of savoring. Savoring a piece of pie or the last spoonful of ice cream. Sipping is slow. It is a way of saying, slow down! But, after sipping, I feel rejuvenated. Do you?

Sipping allows you to savor the moment and enjoy the relaxation of summertime.

Sing.

I come from a very musical family. Both of my brothers were in the high school band. My brother Bob was a music teacher for decades.  My sister played the piano, as did both of my parents. In addition, my dad sang in the church choir and often performed solos. I, however, did not really inherit the “musical” gene. Although I sure love to sing, I’m not really good at all. Yet, my heart overflows with joy, and I sing anyway, especially in the shower. For me, singing is expressing joy. Joy of love. Joy of life. I really try to embrace joy and bury the sorrow. The sorrow of a failed marriage. The sorrow of an estranged/alienated son. Maybe the singing is just my way of expressing sorrow – the deep sadness that I live with every day. For me, it is a choice. I can choose to cry. Or I can choose to sing. I decide to sing because singing soothes my soul. So go ahead – sing a tune and see how you feel. Do you feel better?

Singing to yourself or out loud often soothes the soul.

Solitude.

Solitude is spending time with yourself. It is a time to just “be.” How often do we really do that in this busy, instant messaging world? I think of Jesus. Jesus often went off to pray, leaving his disciples. Maybe Jesus needed solitude to think or to refresh. Or to reenergize. Or, perhaps, Jesus needed time to speak to God.  In The Word Among Us, Father Mitch Pacwa, writes an article entitled, Jesus Sets Out Alone to Pray, where Father Pacwa announces, “We’re Invited to Join Jesus in His Secret Place of Prayer.” What do you need solitude for? As humans, we all need solitude. Time to getaway. Time to unplug. Time to “be.”

Solitude quiets our minds and restores our souls.

Enjoy the rest of the summer! Life is a life-long learning experience.