As We Journey Together

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ….

What a glorious week we just shared – Ash Wednesday….an open Forum for Secretariat Leadership….and our first National Ultreya!!

His ministry of Via de Cristo is alive and well and moving with His guidance during the current challenges.

We pray for patience and perseverance and recommitment to our mission.

Stay in touch with each other in every way possible…..and stay in touch with us – the National Executive Committee.  We are all committed to your walk in faith.

Watch for more announcements – more opportunities to serve – and a continued journey together.

Dance in His grace

Wendy Showalter

 

Walking with Jesus #104

Walking With Jesus
12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Mark 1:12-13
Sometimes I have wondered why the Spirit of God drove Jesus into the wilderness. We don’t know for sure, but I am supposing that the Spirit’s prompting wasn’t by chance. The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for some purpose. And if that is true, then perhaps we can look at our wilderness experiences and wonder if somehow the Spirit led us there.
The fact is that we rarely volunteer to go to wilderness places or places where we struggle. We don’t usually look for opportunities to struggle even if we do something to cause us to land in the wilderness. Mark says the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. Perhaps the same is true for our periods of trial, temptation, and struggle. We don’t necessarily choose these either, they usually just happen to us. Even when the challenges in front of us are of our own making – we rarely intentionally seek such hardship. But can we possibly imagine that the Spirit of God might make use of our experiences during these challenges for our benefit?
I do not think that God causes us misery or suffering to punish us or to teach us something. The Spirit didn’t tempt Jesus in the wilderness but rather drove him there.  Neither do I believe that God wants us to suffer, nor does God cause us to. But I do believe that God is always with us in the wilderness. God is at work both for us and through us during our wilderness times. He never leaves us alone.
God wants only good things for God’s children. And yet struggle, trial, and even misery are wilderness times for us, and they will come. It is simply part of our humanity.
Perhaps we can look at our struggles and ask, “Even though I did not want this to happen, how may God be at work in me and through me in this difficult time?  How might God use me to help someone else in their struggle?” Questions like these might remind us of God’s continued presence with us during these wilderness times. Because you know what? The same Spirit of God that descended upon Jesus at Baptism and drove him out into the wilderness was also with him all during those 40 days and brought him back again out of the wilderness to begin his ministry here on earth.
This makes me believe that God will not abandon us either during our times in the wilderness, but might also, from time to time, drive us there for our benefit or so that we can help someone else. We must remember that God does bring life out of death. As we begin our Lenten journey that is a good thing to hold on to. So I invite you to look at your struggles, hear the promise of God’s presence with you, and then look for God at work in and through them for the sake of this world that God loves so much.
If we are going to follow Jesus to the cross in Lent, then the wilderness is our starting place. That is where Jesus and John the Baptist started so it must be a good place for us to start also. May God’s Spirit walk with you through Lent for the victory of resurrection over death on the cross.
Questions:
  1. What wilderness places are you experiencing or have you experienced?  Name them.
  2. How did you or do you recognize God’s presence with you in that experience?
  3. How does your wilderness experience help you know how to walk with another person in their wilderness experience?

Walking with Jesus #103

Walking With Jesus
 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. Mark 9:7-8
Recently we had snow here in Central Texas. It snowed all day and piled up to about six inches in my back yard. Snow in Bryan-College Station is a real phenomenon, truly a rare event that happens maybe every four to five years, and when it snows all I can do is sit and watch it. It is a spectacle that I can’t take my eyes off of it. It is a peaceful sign of God’s presence. Of course, it does not begin to compare to the mountain top experience that Peter, James, and John experienced when they saw Jesus transfigured in the brightness of the glory of God with Moses and Elijah talking with him.  The importance of Jesus’ transfiguration links Jesus’ whole ministry from baptism to his suffering and death and helps us understand our discipleship in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It depicts the divine in Jesus the Christ.
As strange as the brightness that enveloped Jesus there on the mountain seems it bears the one message from God that these men, as well as you and I, need to hear repeatedly, “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.” It was an experience of the transfigured Son of God, more than the human Jesus that these first disciples had come up the mountain with that day or had come to know and follow. They were astounded, and hard-pressed to explain exactly what happened. Peter had a loss for words when he tried to respond to it.
           As Jesus was “metamorphosized” before their very eyes Peter, James, and John had a spiritual experience that was certainly more awesome and life-changing than me watching the wonder of snow in Bryan, Texas. The natural, physical phenomenon of the brilliant light filling Jesus being and his clothing is secondary to the supernatural proclamation of the voice of God from the cloud which said “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” This Jesus was not just a rebel rabbi, clever sage, or wisdom teacher. His transfiguration reveals him as the Celestial Lord of all human history, and God’s beloved and specifically appointed Son. The conclusion is inescapable. The disciples, and we, must  “Listen to him.”
Listening to Jesus is a key element in our lives as Christians. It is only as we listen to Jesus throughout our lives that we can be transformed, and changed so that the light of Christ can shine in and through us. It is only by listening to Jesus that we can see and truly appreciate the light of Christ that shines in and through the lives of others. Jesus has Peter, James and John come down off of that mountain that day to shine in the midst of their brothers and sisters, and in the midst of their enemies.  Just as the bible says the very breath of God keeps us breathing, the visible manifestation of God’s divine presence is what keeps each of us radiant from within. It is the light of God within us that can sparkle through as if through a stained-glass window.  But it cannot shine through us or we cannot see it shine through those around us unless we “Listen to him.”
Why can’t we always see this?  One way to explain it might be that when the full moon is out at night it is hard to see clearly the light coming from the stars.  So also, when we are so full of ourselves, and calling attention to what we perceive as our own light it becomes harder to see others glow.  The irony is that the more humble we are the more majestic we will shine.  When we give other people permission to shine then our own glow becomes authentic instead of smothered.
The real work of those disciples did not happen on that mountain. It happened when they came down in the valley and began their ministry with Jesus of healing and sharing the good news of Jesus. By listening to Jesus we see very clearly that our ministry is among the people who are in need of God.
Questions:
  1. When and how do you truly hear Jesus and listen to him?
  2. How do you listen, or what helps you hear Jesus speak to you?
  3. How can listening to Jesus help you in your life’s work as a child of God?
  4. Do you have a time set aside to listen to Jesus each day, and do you sometimes hear the voice of Jesus in someone from whom you did not expect to hear it?

Walking with Jesus #102

Walking With Jesus 

30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. Mark 1:30-31

So here we are back in the bedroom where Jesus takes Peter’s Mother-in-law by the hand and lifts her up.   The fever left her, and she got up and began to cook for everyone.  I immediately paused reading right there, because I cannot imagine someone being as ill as she seemed to be just getting up and going back into the kitchen to cook and serve guests.  Even though I am not sure what her illness involved it seems that she was ill enough to be in bed.

Just recently, I had a scare that I had the coronavirus.  I had some of the symptoms I had heard about, so I immediately went to the doctor to be tested.  After testing me and looking at an x-ray of my lungs the physician concurred that I did not have coronavirus, but I did have walking pneumonia.  I took the antibiotics he prescribed and began to get better within a day, but it took at least three weeks, living with little energy and not have enough oxygen to do my daily tasks before I recovered completely.

This woman had been ill to the point of being bedridden, and the disciples were quick to bring it Jesus’ attention.  Then suddenly Jesus raised her up and she wasn’t sick, or even weak. Her very first response was to get back to all those things she had missed doing so easily before she was taken down by this fever. She went back to the kitchen to cook and serve because it was what she had always done. It was what she knew best, it was her forte.  Only this time she did it in a grateful response to what she had so miraculously received from Jesus.  I get fixed on this part of the story because it is so out of the ordinary in the human healing process, so miraculous because it restored her to good health completely in the moment that Jesus lifted her up.

In my experience, healing hardly ever comes like that.  Even a minor cold can get you down for weeks.  If a person has been laid low by a serious illness or traumatic injury healing is usually a slow process. Yet the point seems to be that Jesus can and will restore us so that we might live into our God-given identity and potential, and claim our calling as children of God to take part in the mission to love and serve Christ through serving others.

What this and many other healing stories about Jesus ministry tells me is that God wants to set us free of whatever prevents us from becoming who God has created us to be, so that we might live into our God-given identity and potential.  God wants us to claim our calling as children of God, and join God in the mission to love and bless the world.  Jesus wants to free us not only from things that seek to oppress us, but also for a life of purpose, meaning, and good works. What I mean by good works, is not things that we do to justify ourselves before God or others, but rather those things that we do as a response to God’s love in serving our neighbor.  That service stems from a sense of joy, love, and freedom that Jesus gives us.  It is a joy, a love, and a freedom, that may come even if our physical bodies are not as new and as perfect as we would like them to be.  I have a friend who is bound to her home in a wheel chair, but she makes phone calls and sends cards and emails daily to cheer the broken hearted and the sick.  Healing can come in many forms and as we are healed we can claim the joy that it brings by serving others.

Questions

  1. What calls to you, or who needs you this week?
  2. Could it be that each time we respond to the needs of others we are responding to God’s call?
  3. Can you imagine that each time you respond to the needs of others they too can respond to God’s call and live into the freedom that is ours in Christ?
  4. Is it possible that God is touching you today to bring healing into your life so you can become all that God calls you to be?