Do You Know God Or Do You Only Know About God?


Do you know God? Or Do you only know about God?

John Calvin wrote, “To know God is to be changed by God; true knowledge of God leads to worship.” The future of the Church is worship.

How do you really know someone?   We may think we know…say…the president of the United States. But do we honestly really know him?   There is much written about him good and bad that causes us to form an opinion about him but the truth of the matter is, unless you can say you have been with him in person and hung around him , you really can’t say you know him. Nevertheless you know about him.

There is much written about God. People make statements in the name of God that are not God at all. Yet we form opinion based on that knowledge about that keeps us from actually seeking to know God.

I had a transformational experience when I was 18 years old.  I was living the life many others were living.  Living at home, working all week at a low paying job only to party on the weekend. I felt my life was going nowhere and in the late 70’s early 80’s prospects for a woman raised in a blue collar city were limited.  I had an encounter with some friends who were going to a Baptist church. They had stopped by to share their faith. I was not receptive; as a matter of fact I mocked and insulted them until they challenged me with this: “Your friends are not your friends but there is one who will stick closer to you than a brother. I later found this in the bible: proverbs 18:24. The first half of this proverb was painfully true and I did not want to admit it. They said Jesus would stick closer to me than a brother. For weeks I resented these words, yet I couldn’t stop thinking about them. One night my “friends” abandoned me to a situation that put me in grave danger. I will fore go the details. I found myself begging God, “if you are really there,  I need you now…” All I can tell you is a peace came over unlike anything I had experienced before. I became acutely aware I was not alone and took a deep breath and made a break for it.   I remember going to the beach that night and crying out into the dark while the waves lapped the shore, “God you are real…you are here.”  For the first time in my life I realized God cared about me and loved me enough to rescue me.  My response was to find a place where I could worship God. I have been a follower ever since.  Knowing God for me is experiential not theory.  Knowing God is to know Grace.  It is to know I am a child with a Parent with whom I belong. It is this true knowledge that led me to worship and has been the source of my strength and has kept me in the faith.

We need to proclaim our experience more than teach theory.     God desires all of us to open our heart so that we can know just how close and connected we are.  May you open your heart to the possibility of knowing God not just knowing about God.

  1. What is it that compels someone to seek a community were God is worshiped?
  2. Do you think people go to church because they only know about God but hope to find God?
  3. What other questions does this raise for you?



Tonight I want to focus on Hope and Love which give birth to faith.  Faithful is the attribute ascribed to people who put their trust in God.  How does one find hope; How does one understand love; How does one act on faith if they have not experienced any of these?  I have come to realize love must be experienced to be understood before one can have hope. I believe Love and hope are necessary for one to act on faith.

Now hope is something we all know how to do.   It is not uncommon to hear: “I hope I get ________for Christmas!”;  I hope I get that job… ;I hope my child will get well….; I hope my car will last me another year;  I hope I can pay my bills;   I hope I will find the right person and settle down;  You get my point.  We hope for what we do not already have. (Romans 8:24)   In hope we imagine what it would be like to experience our hopes realized.

Faith is a little different.  Faith is the evidence of things not seen the substance of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1)   It is by faith we believe that there is evidence for what we hope will come to pass.

Hope can be a prospect, a vision, something to put out there as a possibility.  But faith sees more than a prospect or a possibility or a vision.  Faith takes those things and goes one step further.  Faith believes that what is hoped for will be fulfilled.      When we have faith in an idea, we must also have the assurance that it will indeed become reality.   For instance: a child hopes for a bicycle for their birthday.  They will imagine themselves getting the bike and riding the bike and dream about going on long trips They might imagine all  their friend going on a bike ride and having a picnic.   In all their  daydreaming they wonder how they can get that bike. Ultimately they will let it be known that they want a bike.  Now the one who “hears” the desire for a bike tells the child you will get that bike for your birthday.   The moment the child hears these words, if they trust the person, hope   becomes much more.  The dream for a bike now  has achieved substance because there is the assurance that a bike will be in their future.  So you can see that hope gives birth to faith when Love and assurance are involved.

For centuries before Jesus entered time from eternity. The People of Israel had been waiting for a Messiah. The one who would deliver them from oppression, the one who would set the world aright?  Where did they get this idea?

God spoke to the Beloved Children through the prophets.  What is a prophet?  A prophet is a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God.  The following are the prophets of the old Testament: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and twelve others.   When we think of the prophets we have to realize that many were not contemporaries.  Combined they delivered Prophecies over a 500 years period. (931-400 B.C).  Then there was 400 years of silence until the birth of Jesus.

Over time many had forgotten but there were many who believed and their faith caused them to remain awake and aware for the coming of Messiah.  When Jesus was born prophecies came to pass in the following: Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  Those who were expecting the Messiah those who were awake and aware of his coming, indeed recognized him.   Simeon and Anna are the two who did. (Luke 2:22-40)

Jesus was born and was recognized as the Son of God, Immanuel.  This is just the beginning of His story among humanity.   People who hoped in the coming Messiah recognize him because of their faith.  Today we also hope as we look back and believe the words of the prophecies fulfilled. Our faith is exercised when we recognize Jesus truly is the son of God.

We are encouraged by Jesus who said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” John 20:29.   Many in our world today are not awake or aware of God’s presence among us.  They go through the motions at Christmas time. Caught up in the preparations  unaware that we are the reason Jesus was born, lived, died and rose again.  My prayer is that you  will pause tonight and put your hope in God’s love Gift and allow yourself to witness the evidence that Jesus is indeed Immanuel so that your faith can arise to the wonderful possibilities of your belovedness.    Only then will you truly have a Very Merry Christmas.



Mother Teresa said, ” We have no peace because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Christmas time we sing: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”

We live in a world where  evil, chaos, suspicion and fear surrounds us.  On one hand, how can JOY find its way into our world?  On the other hand, if each of us truly let peace begin with each of us what JOY’s would await us?  We would first have to make peace with those who have hurt us in small and big ways. To make peace  there would have to be forgiveness. Peace makes way for relationship building and a sense of oneness with God.   Jesus the prince of peace met with a lot of push back.  He refered the worlds people as God’s Children and let it be known that some were lost and needed to be found. (the parable of the lost sheep) and others had left and needed to find their own way back.  (the parable of the prodigal son).   Undeserved, in both cases they found Love, forgiveness, belonging and joy.  

The four weeks of advent each focus on one attribute of grace.  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.    We are in week three JOY.  I have been thinking on peace this past week .  What I have come to realize is that Hope and Peace are never fully realized without Love and when one knows Love, REAL LOVE, JOY is experienced.  If peace is the missing ingredient of true belonging, one must open their heart to the source of Love.

Jesus left eternity and entered time to show us the God kind of love that feeds our hunger and thirst for hope and peace.  Those who truly find it are moved to action.   They are transformed away from self and motived to treat everyone as belonging together with God.  When eyes are opened  to the truth that surrounds us: The social barriers of race and ethnicity, the disparity of rich and poor,  the sick and healthy, the oppressed and the oppressor, the segregation and brokeness. It becomes clear salvation is needed.  This motives men and women to  act in deed and in truth. They do this by  putting themselves in harm’s way caring for Ebola patients or offering themselves as relief workers in the danger zones of war or  those who chose to give up the luxury’s of life to care for foster children or adopting or becoming a legal guardian or those who visit the sick, help the poor, cloth the naked, visit the prisoner, protest social injustice, And care for the earth. They do so whether they know it or not  because they sense a belonging to each other and God.  These kinds of actions  inspire hope and peace, opening the door for love and JOY!

THEREFORE: Advent is a season of expectation! In hope, through faith, love divine, Emmanuel whispers; peace is coming!

We remember, the Christmas drama: an unplanned pregnancy, an imperial summons to Bethlehem, nowhere but a stable to give birth….

Yet… in the midst of these challenges…. a promise comes into view and is greeted with: singing angels, praise-filled shepherds, and gift giving wise men.

Peace is coming!

The Prophets longed for messiah’s arrives. Not quit as expected…

Still…. the refrain has entered human history………peace is coming!

It comes in sermons…. it comes in healings….. it comes in emancipation great and small………… Peace is coming!

It was purchased with Christ’s life……. it suffered…died….was buried with him ….then resurrected………..Peace is coming!

It is imparted to all who believe……..Peace is coming!

But when it comes to you……it must also flow from you…..for in it… is life!

For the lonely, the anxious, the fearful, the troubled, the broken…..peace is coming

All who are Children of God….are Emmanuel….God….among us….God breaking though!

……..Peace is coming!

This advent season, I exhort you to look beyond wars, personal and public, beyond anxieties…. beyond the uncertainties that surround us……..And raise your voice……. this advent season…in hope….through faith…..let divine love…..announce again with singing angels…. praise filled shepherds…… and gift giving wise men!

Peace is coming!

Each person who lives into their belonging  promotes Love and Justice and declares  peace is coming! This brings JOY TO THEIR WORLD.




Making meaning of prayer


The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christian community in Thessalonica the following words.

“We urge you, sisters and brothers, to warn the idlers, cheer up the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure no one repays one evil with another. Always seek what is good for each other, and for all the people. Rejoice always and pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances…” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We have a need to pray.  Paul says – “Pray constantly.” I tried to “pray constantly” and frankly it was daunting.   I thought my best praying happened on retreats or those days that I managed to spend hours praying, isolated with God reading singing and praying.  Today, I understand the reason why we pray differently.

How should we make meaning of prayer? I believe Jesus showed us by modeling for us our interconnectedness, as individuals in relationship with God, other and creation. We best understand the role prayer plays in a community of caring.  Not long ago I talked about Facebook as a community of caring where it has become common place to ask or to offer prayer.   I am convinced a face to face community of caring, a healthy church, allows people to engage in ways that Facebook falls short.  In the prayer Jesus taught us he says,” Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  When one thinks of heaven, one would describe it as a place where there is no more pain or tears, everyone knows love and peace and experiences a deep sense of belonging minus hunger, dis-ease, oppression and injustice.  To pray, we are inviting God’s will in heaven to become goodness experiences here on earth.  In its purest form, prayer opens our hearts to God’s eternal presence which interconnects all living things in a spirit of oneness.

John Shelby Spong’s 2001 book, A New Christianity for a New World he writes:

He said: “My actions, my engagement with people, the facing of concrete issues – these became for me the real time of prayer. Prayer came to be identified with my living, my loving, my being, my meeting, my confronting, my struggles for justice, my desire to be an agent of transformation…If prayer is the act of engaging God and if God is the source of life, then my prayer time became my time of engaging life.”

Now here is Spong’s definition of prayer which I now claim for myself.  “Prayer is the way I live, love, struggle and dare to be.” I would add, “We pray for ourselves and each other because of our deep sense of belonging to God and others beckons us.”

Prayer invites us to be awake and aware within and without. The act of prayer is how we become agents of transformation of life, love and being.  Spong says, “For the God I see in Jesus of Nazareth, is revealed in the personhood of everyone. This God is present in the love of everyone. This God is encountered in the being of everyone…This God calls me constantly to be the incarnation of God’s love. I do this…to free the life present in every person, to increase the love available to every person, and to celebrate the being of every person. It is in those actions that I discern the very presence of divine footprints and know that God has been in this place before me and sometimes because of me.”

Prayer then is much more asking and answers.  When we pray we engage in “LOVE” who is God! Rumi said, “We must get out of the circle of time into the circle of LOVE.”  Prayer does just that!  Out of love comes compassion, empathy, a need for justice and peace which opens doors for action. It is written in Scripture: “let us not love in words and speech but in deeds and truth. (1 john: 3:18) The truest form of prayer then is in our actions not just the words that we speak.   In many cases praying is the only way we can respond to life and being.  Prayer is our ability to respond which reveals itself as our “response-ability”.

We make our whole life a prayer when greeting the day awake and aware that “God has been in this place before me and sometimes because of me.” This new understanding allows us to be alert and responsive.  We matter in the big scheme of our interconnectedness with people moving through their day. Prayer allows us to engage in the chaos and creativity of life. Whether encountering  disease, oppression and injustice or the beauty found at the birth of a child, the blooming of a rose, a rainbow after a storm,  all things  help us experience life providing  opportunities to rejoice, pray and give thanks.


Phoenix-Rising-UCC-Open-and-Affirming_gratitudeGod’s greatest desire is for all to know their belovedness and to experience the unveiling of “ME”.   “The “me” you and I are meant to be”. Many go through life thinking if they do enough or are successful enough they will find happiness. Then there are others who go through life wanting and trying to be like someone else never unveiling their “ME” they were meant to be.   How does one know that they are the “ME” they are meant to be?   It begins with gratitude, the key virtue of self-discovery and happiness. For many it takes adversity to challenge us to ask the questions, “Who am I and why am I here?”  This shifting thought can lead us on a quest where we encounter and embrace gratitude.

The people I meet who are self-assured seem to embody gratitude.  Often in their life story they have faced adversity, trials and tribulations.  They will tell you it is in those places they encounter God and truths about themselves that transform them and how they see themselves and the world around them. For a season they suffered as the lens they looked through was distorted and splintered: they could only see what was missing, what was lacking, what seemed impossible.     The common thread that lifted them was gratitude.  Many express it, like the line in the song Amazing Grace, “I once was lost but now am found, twas blind but now I see.” Gratitude allows us to become awake and aware of the abundant life that make us who we are.  Gratitude encourages us to witness the wonderful things within and without.  Gratitude opens our hearts to see the good when good is hard to find.   Gratitude invokes thankfulness and an appreciation for who we are and others. Gratitude is a wonderful stress manager and can counteract depression.   Gratitude feeds faith, hope and love.

I have had a lot of adversity and course corrections in my life where gratitude was hard to come by. Yet when I focused on what could be done instead of what could not be done gratitude was a key factor that lifted me above the circumstances. For instance, out of adversity and with gratitude I found God and discovered my gift of music and passion to be a minister.  When I think of all I am most grateful for, it is more about the people in my life than things. I am grateful for my wife who believed in me during those times I struggled to believe in myself. I am grateful for the children who know me as Mom.    I am grateful for my grandchildren because they help see the world through their eyes.  I am grateful for meeting new   people and the privilege of hearing their stories. I am grateful for people who do not allow injustice to go unnoticed.   I am grateful for people who can do things I am unable to do.  I am so grateful I can jump into a blues jam and we jell and make music as though we played together for years.   I am most of all grateful for Jesus who came and lived among us and gave people many  reasons to be grateful.

So what do you do if you feel you have nothing to be grateful for? How can you be grateful when you are overwhelmed with adversity?

I would encourage you to begin being grateful that you are you.   You are fearfully and wonderfully made by an Omnigender God who loves you, accepts you and calls you Beloved Child: the God of love light and grace, who created our macro and micro universe in all its spender, magnificence and beauty.   Let yourself be grateful that you are becoming the “ME” you are meant to be. Being grateful causes us to rise above our circumstances and allows us to plant seeds of hope.  When we begin to sow gratitude we will reap abundance.   Doing this regularly is like investing in your future, preparing for the storms of life. When struggles and adversity come you can draw on it, find rest, comfort and hope.    Therefore, gratitude must be practiced every day.  It will become part of who you are.  I am convinced when one is awake and aware of the blessings and gifts, goodness and graces that surround them they are better equipped to take care of all that is wrong act in just and loving ways.

This Thanksgiving and as we make our way through the Christmas season, I invite you to reflect on things that you are grateful for.  One of the most precious gifts you can give someone is to let them know how grateful you are that they are in your life.  Gratitude opens us up to creativity. So get creative. Whether writing a letter of making or finding that perfect something that describes your gratitude. Enjoy the feelings you experience as you are preparing a gift or writing the letter.  Who knows your gift of gratitude may become and open door of abundance for someone else.




This week Phoenix Affirmation 2: Listening for God’s Word which comes through daily prayer and meditation, through studying the ancient testimonies which we call Scripture, and through attending to God’s present activity in the world;  I invite you to look up these two bible verses: 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 13:12

heart-hands-2When it was time to begin his public ministry, Jesus went into the local synagogue and went forward to read from the Talmud (the Old Testament) .  He opened the scroll and ready from book of Isaiah 35: 4-6:

“Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not,   Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”

Jesus went on to show us what can happen when Love is allowed to show itself in its fullness.  Not only were the eyes and ears of the infirmed opened in the physical sense, but eyes and ears are opened in the Spiritual sense transforming lives to this very day.    My personal history has been filled with joys, wonders and overcoming as well as sorrow, pain and struggle.  Over the years I have grown Keenly aware of my interdependent relationship with God and others.  With my spiritual eyes and ears open I can say with confidence, “All things work together for the good, for those who love God and who are called according to His [the Divine] purpose.” (Romans 8:28) My relationship with God empowers me to press on knowing there is a plan with a “future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)  This truth encourages me and allows me to be awake and intentional so that I can discover purpose and meaning, with God, my family of origin, the faith community and the world.

My relationship with God allows me to reflect on the episodes of my life where I can see how ‘LOVE’s [GOD’S] power has been manifesting in me more devotion and more love and compassion.  I Love God and believe God’s revelation of Love is at the core of the Divine nature; out of which flows the truth that leads to justice and mercy and the profound sense of community.

My personal story with all its ups and downs, sufferings and celebrations are a testament to a God who looks upon me as a “beloved daughter.  This revelation is what drives my passion in ministry to be an instrument whereby others may come to realize their own belovedness and dignity as human persons.  Ultimately, if we understand ourselves as belonging to God and that God belongs to us and we belong to each other,  we can remain hopeful when we are in the midst of adversity, loss and betrayal.

What is it that feeds my faith? It is the Holy Scriptures.  I am  fascinated and amazed  by the fact that they are a compilation of legends, myths, histories, prophesies, poems and personal stories, all relating to the reality of God and human existence.  The fact that Jesus went to the scriptures to inform the world of his ministry further gives weight to their importance. When I study the ways people have discerned and interpreted God’s  presence with them, I am often impressed and surprised how the authenticity of  their encounters affirm and confirm what I perceive to be my own encounters with the One who loves beyond measure.  It is for this reason I accept and call the Books of the Bible sacred text.

When I first began reading the Bible, it was daunting because in my ignorance, I had assumed a single person wrote it, in a single lifetime. Then when I found out that It is the only compilation that has many authors and was written over 4000 years of history.  I see God in it because it is still here, still intact and still changing people’s lives.  I see the text from the point of view that God’s greatest desire is for the human family to rediscover that we belong to each other in a community of oneness.  It is with this perspective, that I approach Scripture with a ‘God is still speaking’ mindset. Ultimately, I am looking for the DNA of God where God’s Love is manifested in power and transformation.

What are your sacred texts?  What have been your impressions of the Bible?     All Questions, Doubts and Inquires welcome!!!!

I am a Christian…BUTT


Jenny said, “I am tired of being a Christian Butt,”…”What do you mean by that” [he] asked. “I mean,” She replied without hesitation, “I’m tired of having to always qualify the word Christian when I tell people I’m going to Church.  I might as well say I’m radioactive. They get a surprised look on their face and say, “Not you, Jenny. You don’t seem like the Christian type.”   So I find myself throwing in more and more “BUTS” all the time: I’m a Christian But…but…but…Why should I have to explain to people, I’m a Christian, BUT I don’t believe Homosexuals are evil…I’m a Christian BUT I believe women are equal to men…BUT I am concerned about poverty…BUT I care about the earth…BUT I don’t think people who believe differently from me will fry in hell for eternity…” Why is it that the word Christian, which should stand for people of extravagant grace and generosity who are abundantly loving, who are associated with acts of courage, justice, and compassion, has become synonymous with Butthead?”[i]

This excerpt is from the introduction to The Phoenix Affirmations written by Eric Elnes. Over the coming weeks we will be in conversation centered on the 12 Phoenix Affirmations. What may surprise most is that Jesus was not a Christian.  The word Christian means, to be a follower of Christ and it was the Romans who first called His followers by that name.  Jesus said,to love the Lord your God with all your heart all your soul and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22: 37-39) He side if you follow these you will not sin.  Over the coming weeks we will be discussing what it means to Love God, to love self and to love neighbor.  All questions, doubts and concerns are welcome.


Loving God

Affirmation 1: Walking fully in the path of Jesus, without denying the legitimacy of other paths God may provide humanity;  Matthew 11:28-29; John 8:12; John 10:16; Mark 9:40

As Christians, we find spiritual awakening, challenge, growth, and fulfillment in Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. While we have accepted the Path of Jesus as our Path, we do not deny the legitimacy of other paths God may provide humanity. Where possible, we seek lively dialog with those of other faiths for mutual benefit and fellowship.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found wherever love of God, neighbor, and self are practiced together. Whether or not the path bears the name of Jesus, such paths bear the identity of Christ.

We confess that we have stepped away from Christ’s Path whenever we have failed to practice love of God, neighbor, and self, or have claimed Christianity is the only way, even as we claim it to be our way.

Join us for the Conversation: Phoenix Rising UCC Wellspring Gathering Wednesday nights 7:00 pm at Dunkin Donuts 15 S. Main Street Haverhill Ma.

  1. Eric Elnes, The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity, Jossey-Bass,  ©2006 introduction

Freedom from: “WHY ME” & “IF ONLY”


Once I heard a story of how Elephants are trained not to run away.  While they are babies they put a giant chain around their ankle. When the elephant is grown only a rope is needed.  The animal is trained into thinking that when they pull away from the rope, it is the old chain from youth.   If they really knew the truth they could just walk away.    All of us go through adversity in various degrees.   Our response to adversity also varies.  Nevertheless, I believe there are two words, two phrases “Why me” and “If only”, that act like the rope used with the elephant.   When adversity comes, most of us respond as though we are unable to overcome it.

I was disabled, unable to walk for over 10 consecutive years of my life.  In the beginning, I could only cry out “why me”.  I felt oppressed, forgotten, trapped and I longed for simple things like, walking again.   I would say “If only”…I could walk, I would go to school.  If only I had people to help me, if only I had money, if only I could drive then I would (fill in the blank).   I lived shackled by these words until I began to accept this state of affairs.   Words are powerful and can shift ones thinking. That is where my faith came in and the Bible.  Jeremiah 29:11Revised Standard Version (RSV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Those words rang loudly in my heart. So much so, I memorized  them and decided to live into this idea.   Not long after, I realized I had stopped saying “why me” and began looking at all I could do, and no longer focused on what I could not.  When I stopped saying “why me” It wasn’t long after that, I was no longer fixated on the “if only”.

Adversity still happened. How I face it made all the difference.  I decided to go back to school and I was going to go and not let anything stop me.   Two years into school I was diagnosed with uterine cancer went through major surgery and rehab.  Ugh!  I again found myself saying “why me” again with the addition of another two word phrase, WHY GOD?  God, if you have a plan and a future for me this is cruel.  I concluded that if I was at the end of my life, I was determined to finish having made a difference.  That determination snuffed out the “Why me”, “Why God” and “If Only”.   Convinced, I didn’t have time to fixate on any of that, I set my sights on finishing. I received my Associate degree in 1999. Not only did I survive, I was commencement speaker and had indeed made a difference.  I had been accepted to Bradford College to finish my Bachelor’s degree and began attending that fall.   Physically I was doing fine. So much so, I decided to go to Italy to study Renaissance art through the school.  It was life changing. Mind you I was still in a wheelchair.  As we prepared to go to Italy, it was announced that Bradford College would close.  UGH! “WHY???…” I finished there a junior. I was accepted to Regis College with my 4.0 I received a presidential scholarship and graduated 2011.   The next few years, I worked hard to walk again went to seminary and began the process to become a minister.

Today, I am the New Pastor of Phoenix Rising UCC.  Not one of us is exempt from Adversity.  Many people believe God exists but there are many that struggle to believe in the Goodness of God because of Adversity.  My experiences and growing edges inform ne that “Trials Are Tool For Which God Fashions Us For Greater Things”. And we have the ability to use adversity as a “stepping stone or stumbling blocks”.    I recall another phrase that empowered me to understand adversity as a stepping stone.   “Fear Freezes life, Faith Thaws it out!” For me, believing I have a future and a hope truly disabled fear in me.   It broke the ropes that held me captive “Why me” and “If only”.  And like a phoenix I have risen above adversity over and over again.   In what ways have “Why me” and “if only: held you captive?   God is a Good God.  We have to make a choice either, let fear keep us frozen in place or arise like the phoenix and let the peace of God rule in your heart.

Encouragement: Why do we need it?

encourage one another

I was recently asked to think of one or two things that encourage me.   I thought about it. At first I thought, “Does this mean how people encourage me or the world around me or when I do a good job?    I thought about what it is like to be   encouraged. How it uplifts in positive ways, whether it is a person who affirms me, or when I am out and see an eagle fly over my head or when I am successful with a finished project.  I was determined to find the fullest meaning possible. This meant asking questions.  Why do we need it?  What is it like when we don’t experience it?  Why do we sometimes reject encouragement? Then I thought what does encouragement actually mean? So I looked it up.

Encouragement: “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.”  I sat with this and as I looked closely at the word itself I realized the word :courage” is nestled in between En-&- ment. So I looked up the word Courage: “the ability to do something that frightens one and or to find strength in the face of pain or grief.” This led me to  think about dis-courage which mean: “to cause (someone) to lose confidence or enthusiasm.”

I thought about this for several days.  Another interesting thing that emerged is that encouragement and Discouragement are verbs. The word courage is actually a noun.  I started to imagine courage as  a container. That can be filled and emptied.

My nephew is a junior in college and I recently visited him there.  We went to supper.  A few weeks before at my Ordination he was a most gracious host.  Later, several people let me know what a wonderful kind Gentleman he had become. As I was driving up to see him I looked forward to sharing this.  At the Restaurant, I told him what a friend or two had told me and how proud I was of him.  He had to overcome many challenges and obstacles yet managed to use them as stepping stones not stumbling blocks.  As I spoke these words to him he began to sit up straighter in his chair and listen intently.  I could see in his eyes that something good was happening to his soul.   A little later, he began to share that he had slept in that morning and missed two classes which caused him to really be down on himself.  He said it happens around this time every semester. I smiled and said yes it is the infamous midterm slump.  I encouraged him saying every semester is like a marathon and you’re at heartbreak hill. You can make it!!!!! Then I     So I shared my thoughts on encouragement and courage being a vessel that can be filled or poured out.   I said encouragement is like thirst quenching water while discouragement takes it all away.   He was astonished as he had never heard anything like that and in that moment it made sense to him.  He realized he had been discouraging himself and that is why he felt so awful and wanted to quit. He got that encouragement fortifies courage and discouragement takes it away.   Encouragement had  quenched a thirst, giving him assurance and affirmation.  This in turn renewed his confidence allowing him to rise up and out of discouragement renewing his purpose and intent and stay the course.

There is a verse in the Holy Bible that says:  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another to good works.”  Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

So if you feel discouraged, I would encourage you to think of someone who has blessed you, supported you, helped you and write to them or call and let them know what they mean to you. The gift of encouragement that you give them may be just what they needed to quench their thirst and fill their vessel of courage.   And in turn you will also experience its wonderful thirst quenching properties.   Imagine how  relationships could  be transformed simply by words of encouragement.