I have been packing up and came across something from Bishop Ken Carter I shared with the leadership in 2013. I perceived that there was “unrest” in the leadership because we were talking about growing ministry and new things. The church had been through a lot of unrest and folks just wanted to, probably rightly so, feel okay about where the church was for a while before doing “new” things. It felt like we were in the wilderness. Ken had shared these “Rules for Surviving the Wilderness” with a group of new clergy he shepherded in the early 1990’s, a group I was fortunate enough to be in. Anyway, they spoke to me in 1990, in 2013, and now – so I share them:
Ken’s Rules For Surviving The Wilderness
- Don’t deny you’re in the wilderness. (Be honest with yourself and some others)
- Don’t let the wilderness overwhelm you. (Remember that people have lived in the wilderness through the centuries and have been sustained, and we will be sustained too)
- Take life one day at a time.
- Pay attention to what’s going on inside you. (Journal daily about it)
- Participate in Christian community.
- Live with the great passages of Scripture, the ones that speak to you and sustain you.
- Do something for someone else. (Remember the prayer of St. Francis)
- Exercise and get out of the house.
- Remember the good things. (Keep physical reminders of the good times)
- Remember that it is in the wilderness we are most likely to grow. (“The wilderness was the school of the soul for Israel”)
- Realize the unfinished nature of life. (“All that is broken will not be fixed in this life”)
(From April 2, 1989)
Life is too short and God is too good to engage in most (though not all) the debates! I reckon I’m just gonna keep on preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified and I’m excited if people want to talk about that. I’m not gonna complain about the way or the format I get to do it!
The other day, a family of birds were chirping and flying around outside the house. I didn’t pay much attention until I heard a thumping at the kitchen window. A tiny Carolina Wren was hanging on to the window frame. Every few seconds, it would readjust and try to tighten its grip against the screen. I realized that flying lessons were going on outside, but this little bird was hesitant to join its siblings. It just hung on and thumped against the window, much to the excitement of my indoor cat.
Have you ever felt like that? Like holding on to something was safer than letting go? The unknown can be scary. When fear overwhelms us, we are often tempted to cling to what is familiar. Yet, that is not always the most faithful response. Sometimes God calls us to step out in faith. One of my favorite verses of Scripture comes from Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I treasure that promise, that no matter what the future holds and no matter where I find myself, God promises to be there.
The group of people Joshua would lead was a group who had been clinging to their past. In fact, as they wondered through the wilderness (after God had freed them from slavery and led them out of Egypt), they frequently worried and tried to cling to what was familiar. “Let’s go back to Egypt! At least when we were there, we knew what to expect. At least in Egypt we knew where our next meal was coming from.” To this fearful group, God offers reassuring words. I’m doing something new now. But don’t be afraid; I will be with you.
Being courageous does not mean we have no fear. It means leaning on our faith and moving forward in spite of our fear. Some of our heroes in the faith, like Joshua and Moses, were able to move forward not because they knew what the future held, but because they trusted the One who held the future. They knew that God would be with them.
Eventually the baby wren at the window found its courage. It let go, flapped its wings, and flew high into a nearby oak tree. Then, after a short rest, it tried its wings again and off it went. Can you imagine the beautiful view that little bird must have had once it was flying above the trees?
Prayer: Dear God, sometimes we hold tightly to what we know and to what feels safe, just like a bird learning to fly. What we do not know can feel scary. We pray that you would fill our hearts with peace, and grant us faith to trust you completely. May we have the courage to let go when that is the most faithful response. In the name of the one who goes before us, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
Today’s devotional is from Becky Greene, Director of Spiritual Formation.
“This morning, I was sent these 2 photos and read this in an email from Thistle Farms: Love transcends social distancing and Hope can not be quarantined.
It encouraged me and I hope it will encourage you.”
Original water color created by Taylor Roberts, student.
Photo from Leigh Anne Robinson, mental health nurse
I have always loved sunbeams, even more than sunrises and sunsets in all their colorful glory. There is something about those rays of light piercing through the clouds and illuminating the earth that feels deeply spiritual to me, as though a bright and beautiful connector has appeared, reaching from heaven to earth.
The scriptures tell us that God is constantly reaching out to us - in creation, in covenant, in love and mercy. In the person of Jesus, God reaches out to us in the flesh. Breaking through the clouds of sin and death, God brings light and life. Hallelujah! The Gospel of John tells us that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5). Where have you seen God’s light shining through the darkness?
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the ways that you reach out to us. We trust that you are with us, and we are moved to reach out to others with the same love you show to us. We pray for eyes and hearts to witness your light shining through the clouds and storms we have experienced in recent days. Thank you for Jesus, whose life we share, even now. We love you! Amen.
Photo: Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa; captured during a morning devotion.