Friday, July 24, 2015
And so, today, I decided to share with all of you one of my favorite prayers.
When I was in seminary, my uncle, who is a professor of religion at the University of Florida, shared this prayer with me. To this day, it continues to nourish me and give me hope. It was written by Thomas Merton, who was an American Trappist monk.
During this time of transition here at Sardis, in our country, and in many of our lives, this prayer truly speaks to the spiritual longing and anxieties that exists within each of us. As you read this prayer, pray it not only for yourself, but on behalf of everyone in our church family.
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
Friday, July 17, 2015
One week, 168 hours, until I walk down the aisle to marry my best friend. One week, 168 hours is all I have left to finish the endless To-Do list for this big day. Stress? You could say we are becoming best friends.
Stress seems to fill every aspect of our days, trying to cram in all the activities or work projects into our 24-hour days. It seems like these tasks, the endless To-Do list, or whatever it may be will never get done and our health and priorities become askew. We replace our meals, gym and meditation time, and time spent with God and family on completing tasks by the deadline set for us. But where does this get us? Is this a meaningful way to live our lives?
I have spent at least the past two weeks replacing my workout, running, and time with God’s Word with wedding and work tasks. Even though I was making progress and able to cross off tasks, the stress kept eating away at me. Not until I took the time to go on my five mile run (which is a soothing way to meditate and feel closer to God) did I realize that I was feeling this stress because I had placed the time I spent with God as a lower priority.
In two weeks, all of these tasks aren’t important anymore. I got so caught up in making this wedding perfect for the guests that I started to miss the big picture: Nick and I will be joined in marriage and become one, just as Christ is one with the Church.
We get so caught up in the demands of our work and family lives that I wonder what do we miss each day? Is the stress in our daily lives not allowing us to see the bigger picture? There’s a saying: “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your time and money and I’ll tell you what your priorities are”. Let’s turn our eyes away from the worthless, earthly stresses to find our eternal life and joy in Him.
Psalm 119:37 Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through Your Word.
Monday, July 13, 2015
The tape measure and I have been getting to know each other very well these past few months. I feel like every time I turn around somebody has the tape measure pulled around me somewhere. Between wedding dress fittings, bridesmaid dress fittings for my best friend’s wedding, and my weekly measurements at the gym, I think every part of me has been measured.
At my gym, I am taking part in the Summer Slimdown Challenge. I have a competitive nature, so naturally, when I was offered to join the challenge, I accepted… and of course it wouldn’t hurt to look and feel amazing when my fiancé sees me in my wedding dress in a couple of months. To be successful in the challenge, I have to fuel myself by eating well, and shape up by taking classes at the gym. The challenge also requires me to measure and weigh in every Monday through the summer. I walk into the gym and greet my friend, the measuring tape. It hugs me around my neck, chest, waist, and thighs as I stand wondering if I measure up to my goals and my coach’s expectations. My coach marks my progress and I can see my changes on paper. Then I join a class (or two) and feel my growth physically. I am a work in progress.
All this measuring of my ever changing body made me pause and wonder if God does the same with our faith. “Do I measure up in God’s eyes?” Faith grows, changes, and shapes just like our bodies do. As the Holy Spirit fuels us, we continue to grow up spiritually. We are a work in progress.
One day, I will reach my physical goals and I’ll measure up to my coach’s expectations. However, we do not need to fear if we will ever measure up to God’s expectations of us. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we measure up fully. No measuring tape could mark down our progress; we are loved beyond measure.
“Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Church attendance during the summer months does fall off. We go on vacation; or we use Sunday mornings for sleeping in or reading the paper with that second cup of coffee. I’m as guilty as the next person.
Regardless of the season of the year, however, the work of the church goes on. It is there for worship, fellowship, weddings, funerals, and, of course, meetings. Whether or not we support the church with our presence, time and treasure, isn’t it nice to know the church is always there when we return, opening its “arms” to its members? And so it is with God. He is always there for us, even when we sometimes don’t think of Him, or even when we turn away from Him. No matter how poorly we honor our call as Christians, God patiently waits for our return. Think of the father, standing at the end of the road, welcoming his prodigal son with open arms. Jesus closed his Great Commission to the disciples by stating: “And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NRSV)
So...let’s all set an alarm, put off that second cup of coffee (or have it at church!), write a check, and make it to church this summer. God is waiting on us!
Tim Eichenbrenner and his wife Carolyn joined Sardis in 1989. Their children Stephanie and Brian were raised in the church. He is in the private practice of pediatrics with Novant Health. Tim is currently serving on the Session and as one of the teachers in the Crossroads Sunday School class.