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.

Lent image–Proverbs 17:22

Blessed 4th day of Lent!

04 Lent--Ash Wed week--Cheerful heart medicine--Proverbs 17 (click on image to enlarge)

After what I wrote yesterday, you might think:  but how can I be cheerful when I am feeling so sad or upset? Didn’t you just say that Jesus had feelings of agony, distress, anger, grief, etc.?

My guess is that the person writing this proverb knew full well that a range of emotions is completely normal. After all, the Scripture is filled with emotion, and much of it poured out to God in prayer (take look at the book of Psalms!). I am a firm believer that we have a right to be honest about our feelings.

However, when we bring an overall attitude of cheerfulness to others, it spreads like a positive kind of energy flow. Some of the studies I’ve read say even using your “smiling muscles” on your face brings a change in the way your brain and body are experiencing the moment. Certainly when we smile at another person, it often brings a smile to their face and a pleasant feeling going forward into their day. We have the ability to spread joy–or at least comfort in the midst of sorrow.

The “bones” in the bible often refer to the deepest essence of a person…as in “I feel it deep down in my bones” or “deep in the marrow of my bones”… So I think the writer Proverbs 17:22 is reminding us that if we feed our spirits constantly with “downers” (for example, feeding ourselves on the media so much that we are constantly afraid or anxious–and spreading that fear to others), then we risk harming ourselves at the deeper level of who we are at core.

What do you think?  I welcome your comments below.

What I did this summer

Oct 2014 Lunar eclipse--photo by Julie McCarty

You have made the moon to mark the seasons; 
the sun knows its time for setting. . . .
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
(from Psalm 104: 19, 24)

When I was growing up, “What I did this summer” was the standard theme for writing assignments when we returned to school. Since this summer, I haven’t been blogging here, so I thought I’d fill you in on what I’ve been doing.

Minnesotans love to be outdoors in the summer (especially after this past winter!), and I am no exception. The summer here is filled with all the outdoor work on the home and garden that you can’t do the rest of the year. More importantly, we Minnesotans just like to enjoy being outside in the summer. So I spent lots of time nurturing my vegetable garden, taking long walks to practice nature photography, and enjoying time with summer visitors from out of state.

Veggies from garden--Julie McCarty

(click on photos to enlarge)

In September, my husband Terry and I spent two weeks exploring Manitoba, Canada and Thunder Bay, Ontario. We enjoyed hiking and practicing photography in the wheat fields, zoo, Riding Mountain National Park, and Whiteshell Provincial Park.  I hope to write more about that enjoyable and soul-nourishing trip sometime in the future.

Manitoba entrance

One of the highlights of this summer was digging deeper into my volunteer coordinator role of another blog called “Easter Prays / Easter Praise!” This reflection blog is a joint effort of many people from our church, Easter Lutheran.  I’m so blessed with what others are sharing: personal reflections, original prayers, tips on praying and spiritual practices, and stories of God’s work in our everyday lives.

This week, Terry brought in the last of our garden: carrots. (Carrots can survive longer into the fall, as they are protected deep in the ground.) With the turning over of the garden soil, my mind turns indoors and inwards, in anticipation of winter… to the writer side of me… and the newly developing artist studio in my basement…and all the potential those reflective, creative activities hold. My mind also returns to this blog and the plan to post reflections more frequently again

So, as the last few leaves scurry across our lawn, I wish you a happy November (the beginning of autumn, perhaps, for some of you), filled with every blessing from above.

Until next time, Amen!  

Good Hair Day– Mary’s painting to feed hungry children

This original painting, called “Good Hair Day,” was recently created by 9-year-old Mary K., a young person I know who attends our church, Easter Lutheran.

It’s called “Good Hair Day,” and Mary has decided she wants to help feed starving children by selling prints of her work, which is approx. 13 x 19 inches.

Good Hair Day--by Mary Kotrba

 

The prints are $10 and Mary is donating the money to Feed My Starving Children. I know this family and this offer is legitimate. I am so happy to see a young painter create something so lovely and use the experience to help those in need.

If you would like to purchase prints, you can find more information on the April 8th post on “Sara’s Blog” at http://kotrbapianostudio.blogspot.com/

Until next time, Amen!

 

 

Lenten Opportunity: E-mail book group about “Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God”

Hearing God book cover

“Being close to God means communicating with him–telling him what is on our hearts in prayer and hearing and understanding what he is saying to us. It is this second half of our conversation with God that is so important but can also be so difficult. How do we hear his voice? How can we be sure that what we think we hear is not our own subconscious? What role does the Bible play? What if God says to us is not clear?”  — From the back cover of “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard. 

Lent begins today, and if you are still looking for some special way to observe the season, you might consider reading this book, “Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God.”  As most of you reading this blog know, prayer is not just about chattering on and on to God. Prayer is also about listening to God, paying attention to the presence of God.

But precisely how do we do this “listening” when it comes to God? Is there something wrong with us if we don’t actually hear a voice with our ears or in our minds? Is there some other way of “listening”?

During Lent I am facilitating a “virtual” book study about “Hearing God” in a small group format using e-mail. A friend of mine from church did this last summer with a group of Christians using a different book, and I learned a great deal. It was very convenient because we just wrote our thoughts at whatever time of day we wanted. We shared with people from different parts of the country, too. Frankly for me it was both challenging as a Christian (it was that kind of book) and JUST PLAIN FUN. 

I already have a couple of people who want to discuss “Hearing God” in this way. If we have enough people (we need a few more to make it work), we will start the group process around next Wednesday, March 12. You can buy the book on Amazon or Christian Books or other places. There is even a Kindle version and audio version. (I will be using the 2012 updated version–and I’m also hoping to watch the related DVD’s.)

Amish Quilt Please  join this group only if you have an open heart to learning about this important topic. People who join us should be prepared to be honest but polite, respectful of other people’s feelings and ideas.

Will you join us? If interested, please send me your first and last name and e-mail address by March 10.  I am not charging a fee for this–just buy the book, and have fun reading and pondering the ways of God.

Contact me via e-mail at juliemccarty (at)  usfamily  (dot)  com  —OR– send a message to my Facebook page called “Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty.”

Whatever your spiritual practices this Lent, may the good Lord bless you.

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!