Today I Saw God

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.

Scripture Mash-up

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I love song mash-ups where DJ’s, singers, and others mix portions of favorite songs into a new composition and in doing so, create something with a power all its own, separate from the effect of the individual songs themselves, strong though they may be.  Let me do that here with verses from the Biblical books of Genesis, Colossians, Revelation, John, 1 John, and James related to race, unity, and our common roots in Christ. Let’s read collectively as a summons to find the courage of Christian conviction to participate in the hard, sometimes uncomfortable work of racial reconciliation in God’s world:  

So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them… And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all…After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…[Declaring] Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness…[So,] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Please, Holy Redeemer, let these moments in scripture grant us courage of conviction as we facilitate racial reconciliation in our personal lives and the larger community. We know that if we speak up for respectful conversations, whites becoming informed of the issues, racial reconciliation and equity in all elements of secular and spiritual living, we may lose friends, family members, and colleagues for a while…or longer. Walk with us, Lord.  Help us with forgiveness, too -- for ourselves and others.  We will make mistakes in these conversations, including inexact wording, unintended stereotypes, muddled thinking, and outright offensive acts or words. They WILL happen. How we respond thoughtfully to these gaffes, imperfections, and the pain we cause others is a clear and courageous expression of our Christian conviction and God’s grace. Lord, grant us the receptiveness to hear you, the humility to recognize the error, and the fortitude to make amends. And noting your direct commands in the Scripture above, Lord, your call could not be more clear. Carrying the lantern so, we see the way ahead.

Sermon Response: Ta da! ~ by Wendy LeBolt

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Have you been to Texas? They're pretty proud that "Everything is big in Texas." You can tell by looking at their huge capitol building with framed portraits of their long line of distinguished governors climbing several stories up the walls of the rotunda. It's pretty clear they like big there.I'm not a fan of big.

Which is why at Floris,which can be quite big, I tend to seek out the small. Small groups, small conversations, small services. I don't like crowds. Don't like to search for parking or for a seat in the sanctuary.That's why I go to the Easter Sunrise service.

Amazingly, there is always a collection of hardy folks who do the same. Adults, kids, even teens shiver in the cool of the morning as the birds sing along with the bell prelude. In the dim light westrain to make out the words of the call to worship in the bulletin. This year I came prepared and punched the flashlight app on my cell phone. Suddenly we were a small group gathering in its light to sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Acapella. We let Yoon hit all the high notes.

Barbara and Tom welcomed us to Easter morning. I am grateful to Barbara who invited us into the story of Easter with a bit of humor from a children's sermon she had heard about. The children were asked, 'What were Jesus' first words to the disciples after He was raised from the dead?' A little girl waved her hand, "I know," she said, "Ta da!"

We laughed. Then we sang. We praised. We proclaimed Christ risen, indeed. Then weheaded to our cars and our homes, to hide eggs, cook meals, waken kids to attend the "big" Easter service.But before I could go I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was an old friend and hisdaughterwho don't normally attend Floris. They had come just for the sunrise service. He pointed over my shoulder. "The sun hasn't even risen yet." And so it hadn't.

Who goes to the sunrise service and doesn't wait to see the sun rise?

Ta da!

The parking lot had emptied but this father and daughter stood together and watched as the sun rose over the townhouses in the distance. The cragged, leafless tree greets it every morning. No applause. No fanfare. Not even a "ta da!"

Feeling a bit sheepish I looked again at the Easter scripture from Mark's gospel. "Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb."(Mark 16:2) The women had waited for the sun to rise before they went to the tomb and that made all the difference. Because by the light of the Son everything looks different.

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View from Monday morning: How do you order your coffee? ~ by Wendy LeBolt

What a crowd on Christmas Eve. Even though we arrived in plenty of time for the service, there was already quite a crowd gathered. Two other families had to slide down in the pew to make room for the five of us. Isn't it funny how we are reluctant to cozy up to the person next to us when there's plenty of room but happy to slide down when there isn't?

Now, I promise this was not what I was thinking about on Christmas Eve, but early the next morning when I was sipping my coffee before the children were up I thought again about that innkeeper – the one who had no room for the straggling couple about to be parents to the Holy child.

Room or no room?

"No room" is how I order my coffee at Starbucks. Grande bold, no room.

This startles most baristas because they are used to complicated instructions: double this, skinny that, extra hot, no whip. They look at me kind of funny when all I want is a cup of coffee. But they comply, filling it all the way to the top. No room means fill it up. I don't want to mix any of that other stuff with the pure, good caffeinated brew. I admit I am especially amazed when some folks who forget to order "with room" actually spill out (!) some of the premium, triple-filtered extra bold coffee in order to make room for cream and sugar and all the fixings. I am a purist, after all. There are so few of us left.

But every now and then I wonder what the coffee fixins might taste like in my coffee. Of course, I would never be able to sacrifice any coffee, so I would probably pour the sugar and cream right into the top of my grande personal cup and attempt to stir. Everything would be so full it would spill all over the rim and splash onto the counter and I'd be grabbing napkins to clean up the mess. Avoiding the disapproving glances from other patrons I would slink to my seat and slurp from the brim. It probably would be pretty tasty.

For a moment on Christmas morning, I imagined this scene and it reminded me that this is Paul's hope for the people of Ephesus, "to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19) Wouldn't you know that this was the verse in the Upper Room devotional on Christmas? You didn't think I came up with this all on my own, did you?

So I am just wondering if I, in my righteous black coffee drinking, might really be meant to leave room for the cream of Christ. Making room is a sacrifice I find hard to make. But leaving room for the good that God wants to add, now that's worth pondering.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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