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Introspective Sojourner

The journey inward following Christ’s path to that person I was uniquely created to be.

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Worship

Did you know?

Did you know when you split our church, we’d end up feeling lost and disconnected?  Did it occur to you that your actions would cause so much pain?  When you planned and strategized how to push that train of change off its tracks, did you care that souls would bleed?  Holding on so tightly to a way to beat the vote, did you remember it was the majority?  Those you had worshipped with for years, decades even, did you pause?  Did you reject a possibility that your actions might hurt more than you anticipated? Or did you just not care?

The strong moved on.  Your actions just a bump in the road.  Their faith never wavered.  They shed the ties to just a place, and held fast to their beliefs and each other.  They never looked back, like Lot leaving Sodom and Gamorah.  They did their best to start new as they felt led.

But some of us faltered.  Some of us just ended in between.  Not looking back but not moving forward.  Somehow disconnected.  Searching for that home.  Searching for community.  Faltering.  Struggling to hang on to that need and desire to have a church home.  Wandering in and out.  Watching friends leave for good.  Fighting to survive by shutting down parts that care or were connected.  Did you even pause?  Did you foresee the aftermath of community torn.  Or selfishly cut your losses?

God will lead us.  We will get up and dust ourselves off.  Knocked down by the sucker punch you threw.  Slower to bounce back than some.  Wounded more deeply perhaps.  Though wandering and searching, still moving.  Not out yet.  <God lead us.>< God heal us.>. <Your will be done.>

When wounded soldiers are left behind, angels cry.

 

By Vicki L Pugliese

Be Still

Social media is filled with motivational quotes, tips, and tricks. We are obsessed with fulfilling goals and moving ourselves toward our idea of perfection. In some cases we do actually need to be better stewards of our time and gifts, as well the portion of the world we can impact; at the top of which is ourself. It’s my opinion that all of those motivational tricks really make very little movement or that the movement is not long lasting. That was our goal, right?! We want to make life long changes. Those things that were life long changes in my life were rarely anything but the hand of God. Oh I was willing! I stepped out in faith. I made those first timid steps and said, “Lord use me!” or “Lord change me.” Sometimes those were daily prayers. Once that was a moment by moment prayer. Never in my life have I made significant life changes that lasted on my own.

Be Still and Know that I Am God

Not me! I am not God! I can want and desire and pin up motivational vision boards all day long. I can make resolutions and promises, but I am not God. Now, I can switch one habit for another and start making progress in a positive direction, but by the grace of God, I manage to avoid major life incidents. Those incidents can send you spiraling backwards and knock you on your butt. If they do, then I know the God who has the grace and mercy enough to see me in my downward fall. I know the God who has the love enough to gently pick me up and help me start again. I know the God who knows the hairs on my head. I know the God who knows my name before my parents ever spoke it. I am not Him, but He has my back.

Be Still and Know that I Am

I know the God who is everything that I need. He is the God of mercy when I fail. When I choose to fail. When I just can not get it right. He is the God of grace who gives freely what I never deserved and could never earn. I was born in this wonderful country, to a family who valued education, music and arts, and a good work ethic. All of those things play a part in who I became. I can’t take credit for any of that. The Great I Am has given me this amazing blessing. I am grateful for this start and those values and the life they have given me.

Be Still and Know

I know without any hesitation that I am loved! That the Father loved me beyond all I could imagine. And as we head into Lent, our response is to know; our response is to remember that unfathomable love for us. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13 I know. “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 I know. Every belly laugh from my grand children, I know. Every smile and hug from my kids, I know. Every inside joke, knowing glance, soft touch or kiss from my husband, I know. I have been immeasurably blessed.

Be Still

As I wake up or lie down, the momentum and motivation that has been the most lasting and life changing has come from Him. It has come in prayer. It has come in the waiting, in the stillness of my soul, when I am willing to just be. That is when I find the Lord changes me.  I just had to be still. The rest was up to Him.

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Media by Melanie Brooks

Participate in Creation

We are all made in God’s image.  One of the first truths about mankind that God tells us about ourselves.  Genesis 1:26 says “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”  Our very nature is a reflection of His nature at our core.  Sure we have our human side that is always bent on wandering away, but there is a part of us that innately points toward our creator.

Our soul has a compass that points to truth.  There are plenty of gray areas but there are some things we all just nod our heads at and agree on.  That’s a truth that God wrote on our soul and we know it without being taught.  People who go against that truth are not tolerated by anyone.  There’s something wrong with that person.  Their compass is bent.  We blame the fall.  We blame man’s selfishness.

But before that we know that God created.  God created.  Each time God created, He sat back evaluated His creation and determined it was good, or very good.  He created such intricate, amazing and mind blowingly complex creations that we are still figuring them out and learning how they work.  We are still learning how our actions affect His creations. We are still learning how to be good stewards and properly watch over and have dominion over the creation He entrusted to us.  We are still fixing the portions of creation we inadvertently broke due to our lack of knowledge, laziness and selfishness.

We get caught up in the two part gospel, the fall and redemption.  These are very important parts of the story without a doubt.  But we shouldn’t lose sight of the four part gospel.  We can’t forget the story starts in a garden and continuously moves toward the city, the new Jerusalem of Revelation . Sure Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden during the fall but we were never meant to stay in the garden.  It was always the plan to move toward the city!

We were always built to remain in His image; that creator image!  We were built to work, to create to build.  We aren’t satisfied or fulfilled without it.

Don’t try to tell me you aren’t creative! Creativity takes on so many forms.  You might be creative in poetry,  writing, or music.  You might be creative in art, decorating, or my new favorite repurposing. You might be creative in cooking.  If so then you should come to my house!  Perhaps you have a less traditional form of creativity.  Perhaps your creative skills lie in organization or people skills such as discussion skills.  Perhaps you are creative in your ability to research.  All of these creative outlooks are simply a way for your soul to reflect that image of your creator.

Take a moment and sit back and think about your creative side.  See how it is good.  How can you use and nurture that compass?  How can you show the world the image you reflect?  How can you point to the one truth written inside you that won’t stay inside you because it just has to be like its maker?  How are you participating in creation?  How are you moving creation toward the city?  How can you be a light to a broken, fallen world that needs a compass leading them to the city?  How can you point them to your creator?

It’s truly all about the restoration of the world.  It’s not a two part gospel, it’s a four part gospel.  If we don’t participate, we lose the end of the story.  We are redeemed but now what?  Our hearts explode with gratitude and that gratitude has motion.  It has a need to give back.

God’s plan always included not only redemption but the restoration of the world, and to that end we are on the team! You have been given a creative side and asked to be a good steward over God’s own creation.  You have a desire to give back for the amazing and overwhelming gift of redemption.  Go participate in creation!  Reflect that image you were designed to be like.  The world, the broken fallen parts will be drawn to it naturally.  They will recognize their compass.  Creation and restoration call to each other.  They are the rest of the story.  We are part of the story.  Make your part awesome!

Crisis of Significance

There is a disturbing trend in our country. We are losing our true sense of significance.  Oh we have a strong “false sense of confidence” and “fake bravado and brazenness”.  But what we are truly feeling is a crisis of significance.  Who am I important to?  Who knows my name?  Why do I matter?

We try desperately to fill a void that is ever increasing with social media.  How many “likes” can I get?  Does this blog have enough followers?  Is my tweet trending?  Am I relevant? It’s something that changes in the blink of an eye and that can be so elusive.  People struggle to understand how to capture and maintain the attention they seek.  They long for significance.  We believe we desire that from only one person but social media tells us that casual attention by many is just as satisfying.  Youtubers and bloggers long for more comments and followers.  Even I look for more followers.  But the numbers do not change your value.  It does not change my value.  It never had the power to do so in the first place.

Even if you are the most followed Youtuber with several viral video’s, even if your Facebook posts are constantly reshared and have dozens of “likes”, your value is no different.  It has not changed.  This blog could “blow up” and still I would have no more worth than I did before that occurred.  I would be shocked! But I would have no more value.  I am not and you are not, entitled to special treatment of any kind.  Sorry!  Perhaps you might earn payment from Youtube.  That payment does not define your worth.  It only defines your bank account.

Your worth is no greater than the mom who is raising her children quietly in her home.  Your worth is no greater than the teenager being bullied for her body shape.  You’re not more valuable than an elderly man with no one left to visit him in the nursing home or the foster kid who aged out of the system and is now living on the streets.  We are not an ounce more valuable. We are not more worthy of love and dignity than the man in prison convicted of crimes.  That one slowed you down, didn’t it!

Because we are all but one prayer away from being redeemed, just one prayer from being flawless in God’s eyes.  We are the same me, you, the wealthy man, the homeless kid, the prisoner, the terrorist.  We are all the same, just one prayer from being redeemed and forgiven.  We are all made in His image, each and every one of us.

And we should treat each other as if we have the same value.  Priceless. We should treat each other the way that our creator sees us because we are supposed to be His hands and feet. We are called to be an extension of His love.  We are His church.  We know it.

There is a crisis of significance going on out there.  We are looking at the wrong indicators to determine our worth!  There are no ordinary people.  We are all one prayer from redeemed.  That is God’s design, that the whole world be redeemed.  Acts 3:2 1 talks about restitution of all things. Since the world began.  He wants to redeem us all, each and every one of us!  Romans 5:18 sAustin  the transgressions of one man led to condemnation for all men but so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

Just one prayer.  What greater value could there possibly be?  How much more significant could you be?  He knows your name!  How much more adored could you be?  Jesus died so you could be forgiven, redeemed, justified!  Jesus died so you could be flawless in His eyes!  Priceless!  You are worthy beyond any measure with just one prayer.  Just one.  He knows your name!  Now that’s significant.

 

by Vicki L. Pugliese

Not Designed for This World

The way I see it we weren’t made for this world anyway.  Our design is all wrong.  We are designed to fit into the next world and some of our gear, might make this world just a little more difficult.  Think about the brand new diver getting ready to go scuba diving for their first dive.  They put on their wet suit.  They put on their weight belt, flippers and mask.  They put on their tanks.  Their instructor checks their tanks to make sure it’s sitting on their backs correctly.  He makes sure that their weight belt is on securely.  He checks to make sure that there is as much air in the tanks as planned.  He has them try on their masks and try to breathe through the mouth piece to make sure everything is hooked up correctly.  He instructs them to breathe slowly and calmly.  Then they have to take all this heavy gear and possibly walk backwards down the sand to get into the water.  It’s awkward and clunky.  They can’t walk forward because they already have their flippers on.  Their weight belts are heavy and so are their tanks.  Their wet suit is hot in the sun.  Because all of this gear is not designed for them to hang out on the beach, it’s designed for them to have their first scuba dive.  Even if they are walking down to get on a boat, it’s still very awkward.

Then once they enter the water, the instructor makes sure they are still breathing calmly and slowly.  They push off with those flippers, in the water where they are designed to work.  And ahhhh that’s what those flippers are for!  They make all the difference in how you move in the water.  The weight belt and tanks help them to descend to this new world they have only seen pictures of.   You can’t descend the way you need to without them.  They are necessary in the new world.  All of that preparation the instructor did on the beach was for this moment in the water.  Wow, that’s a real live turtle and there goes a dolphin.  Oh my goodness a dolphin!  I love dolphins!  The coral is more amazing than you could have imagined.  This is a world pictures don’t capture well, you have to see it for yourself.

That’s kind of how I see this world.  Christ is preparing us for the next.  We don’t always fit so perfectly here.  Some of our gear really will work better in the next world.  He told us that as Christians this world would hate us, like it hated him.  We are designed for the next world.  Some of our gear really is better suited for the next world.  Make sure all of your gear is on the way the instructor showed you.  Breathe slowly.  But the real show, the dolphins and turtles and whales and all that great new world that you have only seen pictures of, all of that is waiting for you on the other side of the veil.  When you are ready the instructor will wade you in and you will experience more than you can ever imagine or hope for.

Until that time, enjoy the time on the beach.  I know that you might be hot, and the belt might be heavy.  But we can have fun falling over in the sand as we are headed toward the waves.  You just have to have a great attitude about the process.  You have to enjoy hanging out with the instructor.   The Master he is making sure we are all set to go.  That we won’t breathe in that full tank in the first 30 seconds but we will breathe slowly and calmly.  That our tanks are on properly and our weight belt is secured.  He’s the perfect instructor.  He wants to make sure we are perfectly ready to experience the next world.  He wants to make sure we are ready because the next world, the next world is WOW!

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