26 July 2011

Meditation: "Remember Who You Are"

Then Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." --Luke 22:19

Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said, "In the coming world, they will not ask me: "Why were you not Moses?" They will ask me: "Why were you not Zusya?"  --Martin Buber
*****
Dear  Friends,

I've taken up running again. Over the last month, I've actually managed to get out 2-3 times a week to run about 3 miles each time. And it has felt great! But something else has happened, too, something unexpected. I've remembered who I am. Or, less dramatically, I've remembered an important part of who I am.

I've been running on the middle school track so that I can record my running pace. I used to think it was boring to run around in circles on a track, but lately I've really been liking it. The first time I ran on the track, memories came flooding back to me. The smell of the sun on the track surface, the sight of the lane markings, the muscle memory of running on the inside lane--all of it brought back memories of running on the track at my hometown high school in Pennsylvania. I was on the track team and spent a lot of time on that track. I recalled the excitement of running competitively in track meets. Sometimes at night, after finishing my shift at a fast food joint, I'd stop by the track and run 3 or 4 miles before heading home. Somehow, these memories touched on deeper remembrances, too. They stirred that youthful dimension of my heart (even as I close in on 40!) and reminded me of things that I cared about then--many of which I still care about today. After each run, as I cool down, I have this sense that, "Yes! This is what it feels like to be me."

It can be so hard in either the hustle and bustle or the humdrum ordinariness of each day to remember who we are--what we care about, what is important to us, what we think God is up to in our lives, what it feels like when we are most who we are. That's why it is so important to do something that we love to do--something that helps us reconnect with who we really are, who God created us to be. It's different for all of us--running, creating artwork, hiking, writing, reading, playing sports...whatever. If it is an activity that helps us to remember, then God is in it, too, because of course God is the ultimate source of who we are.

In worship we regularly do something that helps us to remember who we are in God. One of the most fundamental practices of Christians is to share in Holy Communion (or the Lord's Supper, or the Eucharist). For Christians, when the bread is broken and shared, we are re-membered as God's people. It is a moment when we recall who we are as people seeking to be faithful to Jesus Christ. We are reminded that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. We are reminded that Jesus did not resort to violence, but instead called on his followers to sacrificial love. We are reminded that Jesus did not come to cast people into hell, but instead opened his arms wide in a welcoming embrace of grace.

Running and receiving communion. These days, they help me to remember who I am and who I am in God.

What helps you to remember who you are?

Blessings on your week,

Jeremy

12 July 2011

Meditation: "Looking At Your Horizon"

Peter answered Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him...
--Matthew 14:22-31

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation...
--Psalm 25:4-5

How can God direct our steps if we're not taking any?  --Sarah Leah Grafstein
***
Dear Friends,

It has been a loooong time since I have posted on my "Tenacious Grace" blog. I find that my muse for this ebbs and flows over time. Hopefully it is starting to flow again! If you have a topic you'd like me to pray over and ponder, and then write about, feel free to send it along!

This summer I've been teaching Miriam (my 6 1/2 year old) to ride a bike. It's slow going, mostly because she only has the patience to stick with each session for 10 minutes or so. Even so, it is exciting to see her gradually gain confidence as well as her sense of balance.

As I've been working with her, I find that there are three instructions that I have to remind her of every time. First, sit in the middle of the seat--don't lean to the side. Second, hold the handle bars tight and keep them straight. And third, look out ahead of your bike at where you want it to go and not down at your feet on the pedals.

It's that third instruction that has a deeper meaning to it that goes beyond riding a bike. It's so true that sometimes in my life I do a lot of "looking down at my feet." I get so caught up in the daily tasks of my personal life and ministry at the church that I don't always remember to look up and fix my gaze on the horizon of where I wish to go. It takes a certain amount of spiritual intentionality to "look up" and orient ourselves to our hoped for future so that we don't end up going in circles or crashing off to the side in the bramble bushes!

It's a little scary for Miriam to look up when she rides because she feels like she needs to keep track (with her eyes) of what her hands and feet are doing. But when she trusts that they are doing what they need to be doing (without her watching!) then she rides beautifully and confidently along the path. If she happens to look down, and falters and is about to tip over, I'm right there to grab the seat and steady her.

As a person of faith, I trust that I can look up and out and cast my gaze toward my hoped for future horizon. But even more, I trust that it is God who will direct my feet, who will lead me in the way that is true and righteous. When Peter steps out of the boat, with his eyes up and fixed on Jesus, he can walk on water! But when his fear creeps in, when he gets distracted by the wind and the waves, and he looks down (so to speak), then he starts to sink. But of course, Jesus is right there and immediately reaches out with a steadying hand.

In the midst of your daily life, I pray that God gives you the grace to boldly "look up" at where your heart most desires to go. And then I pray that you will trust God to lead you that direction.

If you happen to look down or lose your balance, know that God is there, ready to catch you in God's never-failing grace.

Blessings on you,

Jeremy

PS I must give credit to my friend and colleague John Tucker who spurred this reflection in devotional I heard him give in early June.