Monday, October 9, 2017

Broken Expectations - and Serendipities!

Have you ever cracked open an egg to smell that horrible aroma of a rotten egg?   Not at all what you expect, is it?  But just as unexpected is the joy of cracking open an egg to find that it's a double yolk!  Again, not expected, but BETTER than your expectations.  
Throughout my life, I've found that my biggest disappointments come from my own expectations.  Mostly from expectations of how others should respond - something which when I think about it, I really don't have any control over.  It might be my expectations of how I think my spouse should act, or it could be my expectations that a book I'm about to read will be spell binding.  
It's disappointing, even disgusting, when a person opens a carton of fruit, expecting plump, juicy berries, only to find that a good portion of it is already moldy.  After all, I'd paid for this to be good quality fruit, correct?  In this matter, I do have the choice to either salvage what is still edible, or take it back to the store for a refund or exchange.  Or perhaps you have hired a teenager to cut your lawn, expecting relief from not having to do it yourself. However, the job leaves much to be desired.  The shortcomings are pointed out, the job is finished, and the teen is paid.  In some instances, expectations are reasonable, a matter of good faith.
Even reasonable expectations are sometimes not going to materialize, and that's where the brokenness comes in.  It is reasonable, I believe, to marry with the clear expectation that this relationship will last until death, and that partners will be faithful, loving spouses.  Then BAM!  One day your world comes crashing down as that relationship dissolves into a million pieces, accompanied by a pain that you never expected to experience.
Every parent has dreams, high expectations for a happy life for their children.  We do our best in raising our family, make mistakes, sure, but overall do our best to provide a loving home.  Then BAM!  A child is deep into the hell of drug dependency, or perhaps a serious illness develops, and no matter how old your child is, it is every parents' nightmare when they learn that their child has died.  So much for dreams, the promise of a future, the expectations that you had as a parent.
Is there anything in this world that you can expect to play out in a way that is not heartbreaking?  The answer is yes.  Of course much in our life happens as we might expect it to.  What I've come to learn, however, is there there truly is only one thing that I can expect to be present in my life.  God, and His eternal care and love for me.  No matter what.  As humans, we are imperfect.  I can't rely on others to fulfill me by doing what I expect them to.  My fulfillment comes from my relationship with God.  The more I let go of my expectations of others, of how I see situations, the more I am surprised at the great gifts I've been given in my life.  
Remember the double-yolked egg?  This is the cool part.  As I let go of my expectations many times in my life BAM!  I am blessed with situations that are totally unexpected, way beyond any expectations I might have conjured up!  The serendipities pop up all over the place!  
My challenge to you, as well as to myself - let go of your expectations.  Be prepared instead for SERENDIPITIES!  Be thankful for those blessings which are unexpected!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Bread, Blessed and Broken

Last weekend while at a workshop, we were asked to share with the person beside us a time when we felt the presence of Christ in our life.  What came to mind wasn't one specific occurrence, but rather one that happens frequently.  I shared that every time I receive the Eucharist, I am confident that Jesus is indeed present, and am overwhelmed with His love for me.

Bread...blessed, broken, offered.  

The song "Bread, Blessed and Broken" is often sung during the liturgies.  It was written by Michael Lynch, a pastoral musician and composer.  You can read more about him here.  I've always loved singing and playing this song.  It's very reflective for me as I take in all that the Eucharist really means.  God's real presence - in body and blood, soul and divinity.  
Enjoy and reflect as you listen.

Verse 1
Jesus, you’re the one I love,
You’re the one I know.
You’re the one who makes me strong,
Spirit in my soul.
From the clouds of yesterday,
Through the night of pain,
Teach me, Lord, to know your way
Know it once again.
Bread, blessed and broken for us all;
Symbol of Your love from the grain so tall.
Bread, blessed and broken for us all;
Bread of life you give to us, bread of life for all.
Verse 2
May the bread we break today,
May the cup we share,
Lift the burdens of our hearts,
Lift them ev’rywhere.
Passing on to each of us,
A measure of your love
Love to make us whole again,
As we share your Word.
© Raven Music 1978,1979.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Broken Branch

How do you suppose this branch was broken?  Wind, weight of a winter snow, disease?  One thing for sure,  it looks dead.  Trees have traditionally represented life, so a broken tree would represent death, or perhaps disease.  
Image result for i am the vine you are the branches sermonMore specifically, a broken branch might represent a life cut short.  It is a common tradition to signify someone who died an untimely or premature death by putting a broken branch, flower bud, or rose stem on a gravestone.
John, Chapter 15, is probably familiar to many, the story of the vine and the branches.
15 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
How strong is my branch?  My relationship with Jesus Christ - is it fortified with prayer, study, stewardship?  Where are my weak spots, those areas that if ignored, could easily develop in disease that weakens, causing  that branch to break away if not entirely, perhaps enough to be precarious and dangerous.  Jealousy, gossip, disrespect for others, anger, resentment, not caring for the environment, envy, greed.
Like a storm, that can destroy even the strongest branch, so can each of these things weaken my relationship with Jesus.
As I think on this, inspiration comes from John Michael Talbot as he sings, "I Am The Vine."  Come to Me, let the Spirit bring you Life.