Sunday, February 24, 2019

Holding us up

God’s love holds you up

For quite a while now, I have been fascinated by wind. Our pastor talks sometimes about “ruach,” (ROO-awck) the Hebrew word that means “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” I read that it was used over 400 times in the Bible. (You can see some lists of verses here and here.) My favorite one is Genesis 1:2, “The Ruach of God was hovering over the surface of the waters,” which we typically see as “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Frequently “ruach” is translated as the Spirit of God.

Water, I have been told, is often used in the Bible to signify chaos, so perhaps Genesis 1:2 is speaking of the Spirit of God hovering over the chaos that existed before creation. That is a meaningful, good understanding to take from the verse. But I get a lot of personal joy, or maybe you could call it comfort, or maybe just a warm and fuzzy feeling by imagining a huge body of water, like the ocean, with this invisible oblong shape hovering several inches above the waves, moving back and forth, side to side. And, being invisible, you know the shape is there because of the disturbance in the water of just that shape. Can you see it?

I have another favorite image for ruach, or wind, in The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis. I have been thinking about this image for probably a year or more. I would google it and not find it, flip through a couple Narnia books and not find it, then give up a while and try again later. Finally a few days ago, I made a concentrated effort, looking through each Narnia book carefully for this scene, with Aslan [the lion, representing God] and Jill standing on a cliff far from the land of Narnia:

“Please, how am I to get to Narnia?” [Jill asked.]
“On my breath,” said the Lion. “I will blow you into the west of the world as I blew Eustace.”
… “Stand still. In a moment I will blow…And now, Daughter of Eve, farewell---”
The voice had been growing softer towards the end of this speech and now it faded away altogether. Jill looked behind her. To her astonishment she saw the cliff already more than a hundred yards behind her, and the Lion himself a speck of bright gold on the edge of it. She had been setting her teeth and clenching her fists for a terrible blast of lion’s breath; but the breath had really been so gentle that she had not even noticed the moment at which she left the earth. And now there was nothing but air for thousands upon thousands of feet below her.
… Floating on the breath of the Lion was so extremely comfortable. She found she could lie on her back or on her face and twist any way she pleased, just as you can in water...and the air seemed beautifully warm...There was no noise and no vibration.”

Later Jill “lay back on the air as if it was a sofa” and fell asleep.

I love imagining myself lying on Aslan’s breath, comfortable, warm, relying completely on his ability to hold me up.

When I was 11, my family visited my my aunt’s family in Connecticut. We went to “the shore” one day. I still could not swim. I had taken swimming lessons several times and had learned all the right moves to stroke through the water, turning your head to breathe, and so on, but I just could not bring myself to actually swim. I did not believe the water would hold me up. I imagined myself sinking, sinking, struggling, and drowning.

This day at the beach, there were a lot of people, including a myriad of little children, happily swimming all around. Here I was a big, tall 11-year-old and there were all these tiny ankle-biters showing me up. I was embarrassed. I decided this was the day I was going to finally, truly swim! I went to where the water was up to my chin. I wanted as much water as possible underneath me but also to be able to stand up if that water failed to hold me up -- as I was very much afraid it would. Then, I tried to calm my pounding heart, took a few deep breaths, pushed my feet off the bottom, let my body fall, and lie on top of the water. It worked! The water held me up!

We can rest on God. His love holds us up.

What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis

If you would like to send me specific prayer requests, I will gladly pray with you. If you are reading this in my blog, email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

New every morning


Because of the Lord’s great love, his faithfulness is great and his compassion never ends.

There is an old hymn, “The Steadfast Love of the Lord” with a chorus that repeats, God’s mercies never come to an end, “they are new every morning.” There are other renditions such as this beautiful version by Audrey Assad. I thought of that song as I read an article where a mother described walking with her small child, having to stop every couple steps for the child to exclaim in wonder at things that she would usually not even notice -- grass, weeds, flowers, the sidewalk, bumps on the buildings, signs, and on and on and on. She ended the article with the resolution to slow down and model her faith after that child -- noticing and being grateful to God for all the many blessings she usually takes for granted.

I thought of that chorus again as my husband and I took our two-year-old granddaughter to the neighborhood donut store, a Saturday morning tradition that our grandchildren love. (Pink frosting with sprinkles, what’s not to love?!) It’s a short walk and you would not call it a particularly beautiful one. Crossing a street in front of our suburban house, crossing the big intersection between us and the strip mall, walking down the sidewalk and parking lot to the donut establishment. There are a few patches of grass, some bushes and trees, no spectacular landscapes or anything even close to breathtaking. But what fun it was for our granddaughter. “Big puddle!” “Doggy!” “Cars - vroom!” and most fun of all, “Shadows!!” Waggling her fingers and wiggling her body to see the actions mirrored in her shadow. Looking at Papa’s big shadow with their hands holding. Seeing the shadows flat on the sidewalk, then upright on the fence. When we arrived home she excitedly yelled, “Shadow!!” to the mailman and her daddy who happened to be outside.


I decided to look up the hymn and the verses it came from. Did you know those verses are in the book of Lamentations? I happen to have read quite a bit about lament this week, too. I did not expect to see these happy verses about blessings being “new every morning, new every morning” in a book of lament! But there they are, amidst a long litany of grievances -- affliction, walking in the darkness, old and broken bones, left without hope, being a laughingstock, broken teeth, trampled in the dust, and much more. Oh my goodness, this writer is in bad shape. Yet…”this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness…”

Wow. Even in our suffering, sadness, disappointment, all our causes for lament, we can remember God’s love never fails, his faithfulness is great, and his mercies are new every morning. Because of the Lord’s great love.

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis

Mavis Moon
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If you would like to send me specific prayer requests and are reading this as an email message, just reply. I will gladly pray with you. If you are reading this in my blog, email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Cloud of Witnesses

We are surrounded by God’s love given to us by a “great cloud of witnesses.”
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. ~~Hebrews 12:1
I love that phrase, “a great cloud of witnesses.” I have heard those who study the Bible tell how important the word “therefore” is. You learn a lot by looking at what comes before the word “therefore,” which always indicates the verse is a continuation of what was said before. In Hebrews 11, the chapter before this verse about “therefore” being “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,” there are a series of verses that begin, “By faith, so-and-so…” Each “so-and-so” is a person of faith from earlier in God’s story -- people such as Noah, Moses, Abraham, Sarah, and many others. So, we see that the “great cloud of witnesses” is made up of the many saints who came before us. I think the cloud also includes ourselves and the others in God’s family -- and those yet to become people living in this world.

Thinking of this crowd -- this cloud of witnesses -- reminds me of the final scene in the movie “Places in the Heart.” Have you seen that movie? I had a teacher who talked about it. In the movie, several people are killed because of a sad, racially-motivated, unjust incident. In the final scene, the characters take communion together at church. As they pass the plates of bread and wine, they are suddenly passing the food to people sitting beside them who were killed earlier in the movie. The living are breaking bread with the dead. I am often flooded with emotion as I myself take part in communion and imagine the cloud of witnesses joining me, breaking bread with me -- my brother, my dad and mom, many other dearly departed ones. And the unborn ones, whose faces I cannot even picture, but who commune with me in God’s unbound-by-time world.

Once, at a baptism for the child of a young mother and father, the minister spoke of the cloud of witnesses who were also present at this blessed ceremony. You could tell the father was moved because, at those words, he reached over, put his arm around his wife, and drew her close.

On a lighter note, I also think of the cloud of witnesses when I remember a little story I once heard. A woman was talking about how sometimes as a mom, she hears her mother’s words come from her own mouth, words she swore she would never speak. She told about one time when she and her young daughter were making her daughter’s bed together. Her daughter asked, “Why do I have to make my bed anyway?!” The woman answered, “Because I told you so!” At this point in the story she said, “I looked behind me and there were my mother, my mother’s mother, her mother behind her, and on down the line, all smiling and waving to me, saying, ‘Hi there, join the club.’” Ha ha. You know how you can see a repeating line of your own image if you hold a mirror up to another mirror at just the right angle? That’s the picture I get in my mind of that line of women ancestors. Those moms -- her great cloud of witnesses -- smiling at her in love, enjoying the ironic humor of it all.

Thanks be to God for the cloud of witnesses surrounding us with his love.

Story of a Moment

The dog was lying in the kitchen where I was eating my breakfast. I stood up to move. The dog looked up to see what I was doing. I emitted an extremely dainty, rather lacy, teeny-tiny amount of gas (yes, I farted, or more delicately, tooted). The dog did a second take. What?


Friday, February 1, 2019

You belong!

Jesus loves you so much he invites you to be with him...and you belong.

For many years, our denomination did not allow children to participate in Communion (the Eucharist / Lord’s Supper) until they had made a public profession of their faith, usually sometime in their teens. Several years ago, the denomination changed this and encouraged churches to have special classes for the children. talking to them about the bread and the juice, how it represents Jesus’ body and blood, and our celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. After the instruction, the children were scheduled to join in our next communion service. A young mother told me that the Saturday night before that first service of communion including children, as she was tucking her little son (maybe 5 or so) into bed, he said, with a huge smile, “I’m invited!!” He knew, he was excited, he couldn’t wait, he was invited to the table. We all love being invited!

When my daughter reached second grade she was thrilled that it meant she was old enough to be in the girls’ club at our church called Calvinettes. When I drove her to the first meeting, she jumped out of the car to greet her best friend with the joyous statement, “I’m a Calvinette!” Her friend answered, “So am I!” They were both beaming.

Belonging brings us joy. We belong to each other as family, friends, co-workers, schoolmates, brothers & sisters in Christ, and more. And we belong to God.

Jesus loves you so much he invites you to be with him...and you belong.

Even when I was quite a young child, my favorite Bible verse was Romans 14:8, “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.“ I don’t know why -- because I had a happy childhood that did not include any extraordinary exposure to people dying -- but I was always quite conscious that I or people I knew could die any moment. I even tried to make sure that I would say “I love you,” or words that conveyed my love, whenever I said good night or good bye to someone I cared about, because I always thought, “This could be the last time I talk to them.” Romans 14:8 and its reassurance that no matter what, alive or dead, I belonged to Jesus gave me great comfort. I knew that even if it was the last time we spoke to someone, it wasn’t the end. We would both be in Jesus.

May you have that same comfort: You belong to the Lord.

What can I pray about for you?

If you would like to send me specific prayer requests, email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.