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Today I Saw God

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When There Are Strong Winds in Your Life - Cuando hay vientos fuertes en tu vida

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We were having two days of intense winds, and I was worried about my neighbor’s tree, a tall pine more than fifty feet high, and other trees in my yard.

My husband had gone to work, and I had the day off. I was still in my pajamas when I decided to move my car to the place where my husband parks his car. I was afraid that a tree branch in our front yard would fall on my car. I was barely back inside my house when I heard a rumble. I ran to the kitchen window and could not see the neighbor's pine tree. It had fallen! I opened my front door and saw my car buried under pine branches. I started shaking and a neighbor came to see if I was okay. He told me that he had just driven around the neighborhood and the only tree that had fallen was the one that destroyed my car.

It’s incredible how everything can change in an instant. Nobody is exempt. A tree destroyed my means of transportation.

Jesus never said that we would escape trials or problems. On the contrary, He said in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Our environment is full of pain, suffering and difficulties. Believers are not immune. An illness, unemployment, a divorce, an accident, abandonment, sexual abuse, depression or losing a loved one can change the course of our lives.

As believers, we are not free of problems or afflictions. How we differentiate ourselves from the rest, is the way face them. We do not concentrate on our difficulties. On the contrary, we see God working with us through these situations, and we are victorious because we are not alone facing our adversities. “I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.” Psalm 120:1.  

The insurance paid me more than what I expected for my car and a new fence. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28.

If there are winds in your life that are disturbing your spiritual tranquillity, I challenge you to attend church, a source of nutrition for your spiritual hunger. Let's find refuge in the presence of the Lord. He is the only one who can calm our hearts in the midst of the storms of life. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.

Joy is not the lack of problems, but the presence of Christ in your existence! What do you need to change in your life to be able to feel joy in the midst of trials? “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.


Estábamos teniendo dos días de intensosvientos, y yo me encontrabapreocupadapor un árbol de mi vecino, un pino de más de cincuenta pies de alto, y otros árboles quetengo en mi jardín.

Mi esposo se había ido a trabajar y yo tenía el día libre. Todavía estaba en pijama cuando decidí mover mi auto al sitio donde mi esposo parquea su carro. Temía que una rama de un árbol en nuestro patio delantero cayera sobre mi auto. Acababa de entrar a mi casa cuando escuché un estruendo, corrí a la ventana de la cocina y no ví el pino del vecino, ¡Se había caído! Yo abrí la puerta principal y vi mi automóvil enterrado bajo ramas de pino, en ese momento empecé a temblar, un vecino vino a ver si yo estaba bien. Él me dijo que acababa de conducir por el vecindario y que el único árbol caído fue el que destruyó mi automóvil.

Es increíble como en un instante todo puede cambiar, nadie está exento. Un árbol destruyó mi medio de transporte.

Jesús nunca dijo que nos escaparíamos de las pruebas, ni de los problemas. Al contrario, Él dijo en Juan 16:33: “Yo les he dicho estas cosas para que en mí hallen paz. En este mundo afrontarán aflicciones, pero ¡anímense! Yo he vencido al mundo.”

Nuestro entorno está lleno de dolor, sufrimiento, y dificultades. Los creyentes no son inmunes. Una enfermedad, el desempleo, un divorcio, un accidente, el abandono, el abuso sexual, la depresión, la pérdida de un ser querido, puede cambiar el rumbo de nuestra vida.

Como creyentes no estamos libres de problemas o aflicciones, lo que si nos diferencia del resto es la manera de afrontarlos.

No nos concentramos en nuestras dificultades, por el contrario vemos a Dios obrando con nosotros a través de estas situaciones, salimos victoriosos porque tenemos el alma saturada de Dios, porque no enfrentamos solos nuestras adversidades. “En mi angustia invoqué al Señor, y él me respondió.” Salmos 120:1.

El seguro me pagó más de lo que esperaba por mi auto y una valla nueva. “Y sabemos que Dios dispone todas las cosas para el bien de quienes lo aman.” Romanos 8:28.

Si hay vientos en tu vida que están perturbando tu tranquilidad espiritual, te reto a congregarte a la iglesia, allí se ofrece una fuente de nutrición para nuestra hambre espiritual.

Encontramos refugio en la presencia del Señor, Él es el único que puede poner calma en nuestros corazones en medio de las tormentas de la vida. “Y la paz de Dios, que sobrepasa todo entendimiento, cuidará sus corazones y sus pensamientos en Cristo Jesús.” Filipenses 4:7

¡El gozo no es la falta de problemas, sino la presencia de Cristo en tu existir! ¿Qué es lo que necesitas cambiar en tu vida, para poder sentir gozo en medio de las pruebas?

“Alabado sea el Dios y Padre de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, Padre misericordioso y Dios de toda consolación, quien nos consuela en todas nuestras tribulaciones para que, con el mismo consuelo que de Dios hemos recibido, también nosotros podamos consolar a todos los que sufren.” 2 Corintios 1:3-4.

Before I Go

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At the end of this year, my husband and I will be moving to Williamsburg. Between now and then we have a number of things to do and a very limited time in which to do them. Two of them are unavoidable: cleaning out the old house and planning the new one. Each of these “to do’s” comes with its own set of challenges and its own offering of unique opportunities. 

Cleaning out what you've collected over the course of a 26-year stay can be both overwhelming and freeing. Honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing what you find under the weight of all those years. Stuff you’ve forgotten and shoved aside, something you purchased but only used once, and much that time and technology has rendered obsolete. But also tucked away in that storage are a few precious gems: old photos, letters from a friend, a lock of the baby’s hair. These are keepers. I’ll take them with me. 

On the other hand, creating the house you've dreamed of can be both daunting and delightful. While I feel incredibly grateful to be able to build a house, the burden of “getting it right” feels quite heavy. There are so many people to consult, decisions to make and costs to cover. Plus, planning for a future you don’t know in a place you’ve never lived… well, there’s just a lot of guesswork involved. And a lot of hoping. 

I find myself reminded of the words of scripture that greeted me when I was new at Floris and unsure about my decision to leave my old church.  In my very first small group study, we read the words spoken to Abram, “Go to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12.1) Not, here’s a map. Not, here are three nice plots of land, choose one. Not even, follow me. Simply, go. And as you go, I’ll show you where and what and how.

But I haven’t left yet! So, as preparations are made, I have been gifted with a short time to complete what I started here. What needs finishing? What loose ends need tying? What haven’t I done yet that I may not get to do again? Honestly, if it weren’t for the impending departure, I doubt I would ever find myself in this place. But now that I do, I am trying to honor it. What do I want to do before I go?

Isn't it interesting how scripture seems to prepare us for ANY occasion? As Bishop Palmer so conveniently reminded us via sermon last week, when Jesus knew he was on his way out, he gathered his disciples to tell them: if you don't remember anything else, remember this: stoop, kneel and wash the wounds of this world. I’ll be honest: taking one's leave does sharpen one's focus, even if divinity isn't in your bloodline. You know what they say, you can't take it with you. 

So, as I take my leave from Floris UMC -- yes, I think a 3-hour commute on a Sunday is probably not in the cards -- I am saddened by the thought that I can't take it, take you, with me. I can't take the friends, the kindnesses, the notes, or the conversations. I can't take the small groups who welcomed me gladly and set me on a level place. I can't take the vitality, the diversity, the fiscal responsibility, or the trust that has inspired deeper stewardship. I can't take the message or the messengers that have shaped the word of God in me, as much as I'd like to.

Nope, I have to leave all that behind. Or do I? 

This pondering is another gift of the before-I-go time. As I look underneath all the clutter I have acquired over my time here, I discover the keepers that I DO get to take with me. In fact, I must, because now they are a part of me. 

  • From you, friends, I have learned the impact of small kindnesses and the power to pay it forward. 
  • From your acceptance, I have gained the confidence to risk being myself without apology, always with an eye tuned to what others have to teach me.
  • From your vitality, born of discipline, I have learned that no's open the doors to yeses I would not otherwise have seen. 
  • Your message has inspired me to think and write, on this blog and elsewhere, and even to publish what I've written.

Thank you for your patience as I have found my way among you, friends. And to my pew-mates who have observed my scribbling furiously during every sermon, thank you for indulging me. It is a labor born of love.

On the wall of my teen-aged bedroom there hung a poster I loved. In the foreground was a beautiful white bird taking flight over rolling surf at the edge of a vast oceanic expanse. Written in script across the sand were the words: "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it's yours. If not, it never really was."

Floris United Methodist Church, you have my enduring thanks and my undying love. As I go, you go with me. I'll be back.

What if you fly?

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Much of my life has been spent connected to the Church. The first time I attended church I did not walk in, I was carried. I was brought by my wise and loving parents, baptized and have been here ever since. Although I have fond memories of a life spent in Sunday school, youth group, worship, fellowship, and ultimately bringing my own kids to be baptized, I have never experienced what I refer to as a “direct and powerful encounter with God”. A burning bush experience if you will. Thankfully, I have lived a life of blessing with minimal trials, none too devastating, at least not compared to some of the struggles I have observed in other people’s lives. I am thankful but, to be honest, I have experienced some envy of people that have stories of direct and powerful encounters with God. I love the Lord and as I grow older I have come to love and trust him more and more. I believe I have been faithful in serving him in many ways in the church and outside the church. I hope I have been an example to others and helped lead people to Christ. Recently, I saw that Floris UMC was having informational meetings to discuss Race and Reconciliation efforts. I wanted to attend but found that my schedule did not allow me to make it to the meetings. As oftentimes happens with the Lord, missing a meeting does not preclude you from participating in his plans. I happened to see a post about an event on this very subject on the Virginia United Methodist Church Facebook page. The Bishop was hosting an event in Annandale, a mere 10 minutes from my house. And, as it happens, my schedule was clear that day. I felt compelled to attend and was joyful and excited about learning more. I signed up and thought that maybe I would see someone from Floris UMC at the event. In fact, there was a good-sized group from Floris UMC that attended, learning about issues around race and our role as Christians in the work of racial reconciliation. What was most exciting for me that day is that I very clearly heard the Lord speaking to me about this issue. I was struck by how clearly I heard him say “this is important to me, I want you to do this work for me”. I could relate to John Wesley’s story of how he felt his heart “strangely warmed” and of the story from Luke about the Road to Emmaus where two men who had encountered the resurrected Jesus asked each other “were not our heart burning in us while he talked with us on the road”. This was a first for me and not only powerful but exciting. I had some nervousness and fear about this issue and what, if anything, was required of me. Suddenly, it was clear and I wasn’t as fearful or nervous. I can’t say that I won’t feel fear or anxiety as this effort moves forward but I have an assurance that God is with me and that I am exactly where I need to be. As I approach the half-century mark, I sometimes think that I have missed opportunities that the Lord had for me, that I got caught up in my life and my plans and that maybe that is why I haven’t felt this way before. I won’t live in regret, that’s not healthy for anyone, but I will work to be more connected to God’s plan, rather than my own. I have come to believe that his way is the only way to experience freedom and blessing and the fullness of life. “There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask "What if I fall? Oh but my darling, What if you fly?" (quote by Erin Hanson)

Transform Our Lives into Beautiful Tapestries

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"Be strong and courageous. The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9

I reminded myself of this verse as I started out my very first mission trip Thursday, May 24, 2018. I started out not knowing anyone at all on my mission team and I definitely did not have any construction skills to help rebuild houses in Virginia Beach affected by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. All I knew was that I wanted to serve others and learn from others who I met on this trip. I went in with an open mind and an open heart. I knew God was with me - that's all I needed.  

What happened on this trip was nothing short of life-changing. I learned how to install flooring and use power tools. But, most of all, I learned about others on my mission team, the families we were serving, myself and God. My relationship with God deepened during this trip. I prayed relentlessly for God to convey his love through me so that others would be helped. I talked to the owner of one of the houses and it was so nice to relate to her and to form a bond with her. She thanked us so much for our work. When we completed one of the houses, I looked at our work and told myself, "I helped do that." I was in awe of what God did through me. I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and what happened? I grew and expanded to encompass a love for others and God beyond all measure.    

God used me to do great things on this trip. I learned a lot about myself, too. I am capable of anything as long as I walk with God and pray for his power and strength to be revealed to me. My drive to serve God at all times was strengthened. I live for him and nothing less. This trip also helped me see that life is not about all the small details that we get stuck in and which make us lose focus on what truly matters. Life is about service, love, grace, forgiveness and letting God transform our lives into beautiful tapestries.  

I now want to go on more mission trips and continue my love for serving others, learning from those around me, and listening to how God is speaking to me through his children.

in Faith

Not Your Parents' Brick & Mortar Church: Welcome to Restoration Worldwide

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I've identified as a Christian longer than I can remember. I grew up in a Christ-centered family, went to Sunday school and bounced around churches and denominations as I went through college and eventually struck off on my own. Yet, throughout my life as a Christian, I never felt truly at home in my church community. The church I grew up in espoused an elitist, legalistic dogmatic brand of Christianity to which I simply couldn't relate. The church I attended in college consisted of a small faith community composed mostly of elderly members with whom I, as a young college student, had little connection. When I moved to the Northern Virginia area to pursue my graduate studies, I began attending the local mega-church, but found myself lost in the immense crowd of congregants. More than anything, I desperately desired to find a faith community of members who truly cared about others, and took real risks to live Christlike lives.

I found that community home ten years ago when I walked through the doors of Floris United Methodist Church. I was (and, if I'm honest, still am) blown away by the love and generosity shown by the members that comprise the Floris community. I had finally found a community of like-minded believers who truly strove to model Christ's love to those around them; furthermore, I had found a church that wasn't afraid to take risks to spread love and alleviate suffering.

The Floris UMC community is highly active in our own backyard of Northern Virginia, where members work to serve meals to area homeless (FACETs "Hot Meals" Program) and provide tutoring and meals to at-risk youth at a local elementary school. The generosity of the Floris UMC community, however, extends far beyond the reaches of Northern Virginia. In 2000, Floris UMC members and clergy helped found the Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital in Sierra Leone, a ministry that has saved countless lives, driven down infant and maternal mortality rates and served to educate and provide services to over 500 children in one of the poorest countries in the world. If these ministries weren't enough, for as long as I can remember, the Floris UMC clergy have opted to give away the entirety of the offerings collected at Christmas Eve (often totaling several hundred thousand dollars).

To put it simply, the Floris UMC community is deeply special and unique. Unfortunately, the Floris UMC community, like most all brick and mortar churches, has been geographically constrained to those members within driving distance. While I'm highly fortunate to live near Floris UMC and her sister church Restoration Reston, countless others across the globe stand to benefit from entering into the Floris UMC community. That's why I'm incredibly excited be a part of Restoration Worldwide, the first truly virtual Floris UMC campus, which kicks off today. While Floris UMC has live streamed its worship services for years, Restoration Worldwide offers the unique opportunity to break the constraints of physical geography by enabling people from across the world to actually become a part of the Floris UMC community, engage Floris UMC members in online small groups and receive pastoral care from Rev. Ashley Allen, the Restoration Worldwide Minister. And that's just the beginning. We here at Restoration Worldwide plan to roll out new ways for Christ followers across the world to integrate themselves into the Floris UMC community, but we need your help.

 

  • First, give us your feedback. This is an evolving ministry unlike anything we've ever attempted. We need your insight into what works, what doesn't, and what you'd like to see in the future.
  • Second, invite your friends and family, however far away, to be a part of our community.

I fell in love with the Floris UMC community ten years ago. The selflessness and compassion of our community stands as a beacon in a dark, hurting world. Please join us as we strive to shine that beacon across the world, to anyone with an internet connection. Come join our community. Welcome to Restoration Worldwide. We're glad you're here.

The post Not Your Parents' Brick & Mortar Church: Welcome to Restoration Worldwide appeared first on Today I Saw God.

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