God Creates All Things New

My niece in Arizona had her first day of kindergarten recently.  I was moved by pictures of her first day of school. Such an innocent, fresh, excited look on her face!  Everything around her was new– new clothes, new school bag, new school, new teacher.

One of my favorite lines from the bible is found in the book of Revelation, when God says:  “Behold, I make all things new.” (21:5)  Although the context is about the end of the world and the forming of a new heavenly reality, I think it points to a deep reality about God:  God is Creator.

God did not merely create the earth in six days and then set his creative talent on a shelf until human history comes to the end of the world.  God is Creator, and God is still creating today in many ways. God planted traces of his own creativity in the creation: just look at how the seeds develop and mature, how life continues among animals with the birth of little pups and kittens, how the calendar of the earth time cycles around and begins again.

Our own lives can be instruments of God’s creativity when we try new things on for size.  We may try a new recipe, paint a room a new color, overhaul an engine, or show new skills to a young child.  We may reach out to a coworker and discover a new friend. Perhaps we travel to a new place or try a new way of volunteering.

Sometimes trying something new coaxes us out of our comfort zone. It can feel a little awkward and we may be a little tense (am I doing this right?).  But in stretching us a bit, the Holy Spirit seeks to re-create our lives into something new. We may make mistakes along the way, but that is part of the learning process, God creating new awareness within us.

As we enter into a new season of the year,  let us pray to the Holy Spirit to guide us and to re-new us.  We ask that the Holy Spirit to deepen our prayer lives and show us each how to use our unique giftedness to serve others. Let us pray for one another as we continue to move forward into this new chapter in our faith community. Let us put our hope and trust in God to re-create us.

Francis de Sales quote about love

Today’s quote deals with how love draws us toward what is truly good:

33 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Francis de Sales

I’m thinking that this “advancement” is a word referring to growth. When we love others, our souls move in a positive, good direction. Love draws us into a better way of living.

“Effusion” refers to giving off something like a liquid or scent. It’s an “outpouring” of sorts. Love has a quality of pouring out itself, overflowing to others.  (Makes me think of the sermon on Sunday when the pastor poured water into a glass that eventually filled and overflowed. When we allow God’s love to enter our hearts, the love fills us, and then overflows into loving others, giving God’s love to others.)

There is much to ponder about love–and much to put into practice. Love is one of those things that is ever-growing, ever-expanding… if only we agree to allow love to do its work.

Until next time, Amen! 

 

Fasting, priorities, and time use

[P.S. FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m eating a chocolate donut while writing about fasting!]

15 Lent--week 2--fasting--Hoste (click on image to enlarge)

I am not very good at fasting–so sometimes I think about other ways to “give up” something in order to have time for the really important things in life. For example, there is nothing wrong with relaxing with a little “screen time” (TV, social media, YouTube, etc.), but most of us would agree, it’s easy to get roped into spending an hour or two with our “screens” than what we originally intended. So sometimes I have given up some television time during Lent–and I find I suddenly have more time on my hands.

It’s not that what we are viewing is wrong (hopefully not), but rather that some of us (myself included) slip into habits involving increasing screen time–and without realizing it, we are saying things like:

  • “I don’t have time to read the bible”
  • “I don’t have time to go to church”
  • “I don’t have time for exercise”
  • “I don’t have time to read a book to my child”
  • “I don’t have time to volunteer”

We live in a time when people are working very hard to make ends meet–I’m not saying it’s easy to find time. Neither am I saying that anyone should feel they have to “earn” God’s love or feel guilty about things (such as TV) that are basically a part of life in our times.

However, it is good during Lent to ponder how we use our time. We humans are limited creatures–we have a limited number of hours in the day, and a limited number of years in our lives. Lent is a good time for us to examine:

  • What are my priorities?
  • What is most important in my life?
  • Is there anything I might want to leave behind in order to do something else of greater value?

Lent is a good time for experimenting with this sort of thing. It gives us a time frame in which to try out something new and see how it works. Some of my past Lenten experiments were of great help to me–and others didn’t work out so well. However, even the ones that “failed” were good learning experiences for me.

God be with you in your Lenten journey.

Until next time,  Amen! 

The Holy Spirit’s Work in Prayer

Sometimes we are tempted to stop praying because it “doesn’t seem like anything is happening.” That is, our prayer may feel boring, confusing, or useless. Sometimes these are just the normal phases of our own moods at work. It might be that God is inviting us to begin praying in a renewed or different way.( For example, some people pray while walking, write prayers in a journal, join a prayer group, meditate on bible passages, or like to pray in silence.)

These words of Evagrius, famous Christian of the 4th century, bring me comfort at those times when my prayer seems “boring” or “ineffective.”

08 Lent--Week 1--Prayer--Evagrius Ponticus (click on image to enlarge)

In the quotation above, Evagrius refers to some mysterious process happening inside us when we pray–some invisible action deep in our souls.  When someone prays, even if alone in his or her room, that person is not really alone. The Holy Spirit, the very presence of God in our midst, is with the praying soul.

When we open our hearts to God in prayer, the Holy Spirit is at work in our souls, in our whole persons, transforming us, like water slowly dripping on a rock. The Holy Spirit also fills us with the spirit of love and compassion for others during prayer time. As a result, this Spirit of Love also draws us more deeply into relationship with God and other people, a kind of communion with God and each other.

So, no matter how “futile” your prayer might feel, continue to pray. It’s important not to give up. If you think God is inviting you to a newer way of praying, seek out that new way–just so long as you keep praying. (Oftentimes, a spiritual director can help you seek out the way of praying that God is inviting you to at this point in your life.)

So, “keep on praying” . . . and until next time,  Amen! 

Coming your way…Lenten messages!

Lent begins tomorrow, and I’ve been working on creating images with quotations to nurture our Lenten journeys together.  I will be posting them here, and also on my public Facebook page called Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty .

Day 1 Lent--Ash Wed--Psalm 86 6 - Copy

I hope you will find these images to be nourishing food for the Lenten journey and something positive and/or meaningful you can share in social media with your friends.

I will also be posting the images here so you can receive all of them in your e-mail (you have signed up to “follow” this blog in your e-mail haven’t you?). If you follow on Facebook, make sure you visit Spiritual Drawing Board page often or you won’t see all the posts. (The current delivery rate of posts on public FB pages is only about 2%.)

Whatever plans you have for Lent, may the good Lord bless you. Let’s pray for each other during this special time of preparation for the celebration of Easter.

Until next time, Amen! 

 

God’s frost artwork, “through a glass dimly”, and our future

[Note: I began this draft last week, and the weather is quite similar today. That’s Minnesota for ya!]

For now we see through a glass, indistinctly,
but then, we will see clearly, face to face.
Now I know somewhat,
Then I will know completely–
so much that I will even know myself
as I am known.
(paraphrase of 1 Cor. 13:12)

It’s January in Minnesota, and today’s weather dipped into the dangerously cold zone, so frigid that school was called off because children would likely get frostbitten just waiting for the school bus.

Capture--Jan 23 2014 weather on MPR

I’ve been keyboarding away on my computer since early morning hours, by the light of the half-moon, when suddenly I noticed the sun was up and forming this pattern on the drapery:

Through a glass dimly--photo by Julie McCarty

When I pulled back the curtains, here’s what I saw:

God's Artwork--Ice Crystals--photo by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN

(window plus storm window–click to enlarge)

For a time, I just took in the beauty of the ice crystals sparkling in the sunlight, and then grabbed my camera. I call this “God’s Artwork”:

Frosty ice art on window pane--photo Julie McCarty

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

After taking many photos, I noticed a rainbow effect in the sky parallel to the sun, and began to search for a “sun dog.”  I didn’t get to see the sun dog because I went nearly half blind trying to look for it in all the glare. (No wonder St. Paul fell to the ground after seeing the Light of Christ in a vision. I felt fairly disoriented while I waited for my eyes to readjust.)

Here is a “sun dog” photo I took in December:

Sun dog--Dec 6 2013--Julie McCarty - Even Smaller Copy--with sig

We often think of Christ as the “Light” of God who came into the world. Early Christians sometimes compared God the Father to the sun, and Christ as the divine ray of sunlight sent to earth to bring us new life.

My experience of seeing shadows of ice crystals through the curtain — a sort of “veil”–and then seeing the beauty of the frost directly, and finally the sun beyond (practically blinding me–I’m still not really “seeing” the sun), reminds me that there is much to know about God, and much to experience of God’s presence. Even the most Spirit-charged experiences in this life are nothing compared to what we can expect in the next life.

In Chapter 13 of First Corinthians, Paul writes about this pattern of spiritual growth: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (vs. 11)  Then he turns to his belief about the future:

For now we see in a mirror [or glass], dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  (vs. 12)

Paul is reminding us that there is so much more to come. Even if we have come to Christ, prayed, studied the bible, attended worship services,  and experienced the power of the Spirit in various spiritual gifts, there is still more for us to discover about God–and experience one day in God’s presence in heaven.

Thank you God --Gods artwork--frost on window--photo Julie McCartyNow, we see the light of God, as through a veil, or in a glass dimly; one day we will see and know  and experience God face to face.

I think that is Good News.

Until next time, Amen!