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Nicole

Just Enough

Just, Enough

Just, Enough 2050 1920 Nicole

Paul addresses the Corinthian church in 1:1-9 as the “Church of God” and reminds them they are sanctified already – called to be saints! Not only that, they are called to be saints together with all, in every place! Grace to you and peace from God…
Then he reminds them of some truths of what this actually means: the grace of God is given them – they possess God’s grace. And it is by this grace (profound, unimaginable, more than anyone might even consider needing) by this grace, they are enriched in every way: in speech and in knowledge of every kind! Already – because the graces have already been poured out.
And the testimony of Jesus – that others witness those graces among them – reveals an even more remarkable truth: they are not lacking in any. spiritual. gift. They are enough. You are enough. You already contain and are strengthened by the graces of Jesus – will continue to be to the end.
And this calling means you are called into the fellowship of Jesus. Together. With all. In every place.
Martin Luther King, Jr. taught, “For systemic and personal transformation to occur, there must be “an honest confrontation with [the truth] and a willing search for the truth and a willingness to admit the truth when we discover it.”
Consider. Notice. Invite the Spirit of God to expose you to truths – or, at least, an openness to be willing to admit the truths of our prejudices and apathy and fear. To uproot guilt and plant forgiveness with us. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Sprout hope and sow resilience. Listen. Reflect. Be transformed. (ala, Maya Angelou)
Because, we are called to be saints together with all, in every place! And we are enriched in every way: in speech and in knowledge of every kind! And we are not lacking in any. spiritual. gift. All are chosen by God. All are created in God’s image – through Christ, our Redeemer, sustained by the Spirit. All are enough. Just, Enough.

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Just, pleased with me

Just, Pleased With Me

Just, Pleased With Me 2050 1920 Nicole

One of our basest, barest needs is that those whom we respect, whose gaze it matters to be subject of, are pleased with us. Not disappointed in us. Approve of us.
We go to great lengths to maintain some sort of control over the good-grace exchange, most of us caving to lying – to ourselves or to those to whom we give that power. Just to be found worthy of notice.
Am I worthy of your notice? Are you pleased with me? It matters to me.
Why is it, then, that it is so easy to dismiss another person as not worthy of my trust, or attention, even, merely because of his appearance or in which part of town she lives in? When we know how much it matters to us that others are pleased to be in our company, do we withhold?
Our God gives us our very breath, spirit, and calls us in righteousness! already righteous! and instead of declaring that God now owns us, says, “I am giving you to each other.” For what? To be a light, a beacon of God’s goodness, to open the eyes that do not yet recognize God, to release the prisoners…
God is pleased with us, and desires only that when we accept that unfathomable grace, we shine that grace onto everyone else. Everyone.
The God who created a teenaged young woman became a couple of cells that divided and divided again inside her uterus, grew into an itty bitty of a newborn, utterly dependent on this faithful child-woman. Jesus went to hell and back again so that everything was covered by God’s unfathomable Love and Grace. Then remained in Spirit to, again, dwell in each of us, as we dwell in God.
If Jesus has appeared to you – if you’ve experienced the consolations of Christ, the reality of God – you are called, actually it says “commanded” to testify to God’s forgiveness and grace, and to do so to everyone “without partiality.” How that looks – to testify of God’s goodness – will be different for each of us.
This is what we testify to: that God is well pleased with Jesus, the Beloved child – and because we are created by this God through this same, God is well pleased with me! And not because I am a descendent of David a citizen of Israel. Not because I’m a white American and somehow cornered the market on privileged status by accident of birth.
The heart of the matter: when we don’t recognize God’s image in everyone, consider some people less worthy of our attention (whether out of fear or disgust or apathy), we are racist – we categorize that person as a race other than human. Because there is only human.
So I challenge you to become learners. Not just of things you find interesting, or with which you are comfortable. But find authors and artists, listen to music, read histories that are produced by people of color.
I propose a mindfulness spiritual practice: Mindfulness of difference. Don’t ignore discomfort and distractions. First, notice. See it for what it is. Hold it and view it from different perspectives (what feelings am I having? Why such a strong reaction? What makes me fearful of it? Where is Jesus in this? etc.) And then, let it go. Again. See beauty in it. Breathe.
Baptism is a testimony that we have eternal life. That is, we have this fullness of life now. All of us do. So what is preventing us from living like this is true? Are we making God out to be a liar by giving into prejudices instead of living into the testimony that God’s love and life are for all people?
This is why we remember our baptism.
God is just and calls us to righteousness. And God is just pleased with me, and with you. Let us take these branches as a reminder to be learners, to practice mindfulness of difference, and allow the hand of God to lead us where justice and righteousness is ready to be made.

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First Light to a New Day

First Light to a New Day

First Light to a New Day 2560 1920 Nicole

Epiphany calls us, it lures us into the light. Epiphany is the light of the Good News that Jesus lives. And we have the life of Jesus, the Light begging us to Live out the light we experience, the life of Christ living through us. This light – always points to justice.
When light shines on an object the subject becomes easier to see, is more nuanced, increasingly faceted. It might even surprise us. An epiphany!
When the light of Christ shines on creation, it becomes easier to see, is more nuanced, increasingly faceted. Wow, I never thought about worshiping God in that way! With that kind of music! Considered what salvation means in that context!
Because if we say we believe in a Creator God; a Redeemer Christ through whom all things were made, “and without him not one thing came into being;” and a life-sustaining Spirit who makes us one with these Three, a Trinity God… (Jn1.3)
if we truly believe these things, we will look for it everywhere – all things that came into being did so by the power of God through Jesus Christ given life by the Spirit – We can see and know God if we truly see, actually notice, intentionally find God in everything.
Every one of us are chosen, we were intentionally brought into being, created to be – holy and blameless in love.
We were made for good works. Not painfully specific and minutely mundane lines of doctrine. But, for good works – already prepared by God – to “be our way of life.”
The Good News is for everyone, and the news is Very Good. But it only seems like good news to everyone if those who know the Good News look for God everywhere! Can you see God in a cannibal? Is the light of Jesus shining on you, through you to your neighbor, or when you go into Rockford, or Chicago, or to Florida?
So we come to this table to confess where we have not lived in unity of purpose: loving everyone, intentionally seeing God in those who are different from us. Blessing the doors of our homes to bless all who enter, and blessing the doors of our hearts so all are welcome to you.
We begin this process at home. This is a new year, and tomorrow is a new day. And we ARE a light, illuminating the facets, the nuances that make each other uniquely God’s image.

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Between the Night and First Light

Between the Night and First Light

Between the Night and First Light 2560 1920 Nicole

It is in this darkest night of the year that God pierced time and space entering the utter darkness of the world, to be the light of, and to, all creation. This light who guides us “more surely that the noonday” to where Jesus is already waiting. To be one with us, with me, with you, – and only here, in the darkness that the beloved is joined with love, Lover transformed in the Beloved!
All of us have known our fair share of darkness. And when, at our darkest moments we cannot bear to even be seen by anyone else, the pain and fear of it so profound, that our, that my soul is best ready to commune with Jesus at the very center.
It is precisely this state of senselessness of the soul (a suspension, not the eradication of senses) that exposes the inner being to the rapture, complete abandon to Jesus’ healing, transforming embrace.
It is in the darkness that our internal compass is a reality because that compass is the Christ, through whom all things were made, our true Mother who bore the world, gave birth to everything – this Christ, who ordered the boundaries of the waters, the edges
of cascading cliffs, the expanses of fields in which we attempt to cultivate
our corn – Christ, the Way, Truth, and Life, IS the Light.
The Christ, Emmanuel, God-with-us, came into this world in the most vulnerable state: a naked, unequivocally dependent infant, an itty bitty of a baby whose birth we celebrate this dark night. God-with-us was born to a vulnerable teenaged young woman who also experienced the reality of every aspect of motherhood.
Abandoned senses – that space between the darkest of the darkest, longest night and the first light of a new day – senses suspended, the Christ born in the most vulnerable state to one of the most vulnerable people in her time-space, in whom God, the Creator of everything, this Christ, through whom all things were made, the Mother who bore the world, gave birth to everything – this Christ, who ordered the boundaries of the waters, the edges of cascading cliffs – our internal compass – IS the Light Who guides us into transformation!
This light who guides us “more surely that the noonday” to where Jesus is already waiting. To be one with us, with me, with you, – and only here, in the darkness that the beloved is joined with the love, Lover transformed in the Beloved!
Together, let us be present to the night, this longest night let us be present to the night. Be vulnerable. Suspended senses.
Steeped in the profound Peace of this night.
Steady in the Hope of the new day.
Nurtured by a joy that is a reality beyond sensing.
Provoked to Trust a God who trusted a young woman to carry, give birth to, and raise the Mother to all Creation.
Ready, in the darkness, to be joined with Love, to be transformed in the Beloved.
Pay attention to that space between the darkness of the Night and the First Light of the new day. Be changed. Be transformed.

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Members of Trust

Members of Trust

Members of Trust 2560 1920 Nicole

#tbh, is a social media tag that stands for, “to be honest,” to share an opinion. Teens began using it to say something nice about their friends, or a way of talking to others whom they don’t know well, or to exchange complements and “likes.” “#tbh you’re pretty,” etc. Or, “to be heard” to show an opinion was heard. It’s no longer a trend, but it’s usually a false generosity intended to illicit an in-kind response. An I’ll-promote-your-post-if-you-say-something-nice-about-me. “You’re pretty,” “you’re nice,” “your outfit is en pointe.”
Ahaz tagged his response to Isaiah #tbh when he said, “I’ll not ask God anything because I won’t put God to the test.” It was a false humility, and it revealed his fear – and, ultimately, his profound lack of trust in the God of Israel.
So God told Ahaz through Isaiah that all whom he feared will be irrelevant in the end, but Ahaz will not experience that peace because he didn’t really trust God anyway.
Conversely, Joseph, Matthew tells us, was a righteous person. When he found out that the young woman to whom he was betrothed was now pregnant – when they hadn’t yet the opportunity to consummate – he was respectful, desiring to treat Mary with regard and break up with her in private.
But when the angel of God met with him and told him who the baby growing in Mary’s belly actually is – the one that had been promised to the people of Israel for eons – Joseph trusted God. At the risk of humiliation before his peers, and the possibility of punishment for Mary, Joseph remained faithful to the covenant he began with Mary.
It was easier to believe this angel’s message because the promise of a messiah and the manner in which this messiah will come wasn’t made just to him. The promise was to the community, to the nation that God called to God’s self thousands of years earlier. It was repeated in their rituals, read to their children, and their children’s children. It was a collective trust the people of Israel maintained together. So when some lacked faith, others had faith for them.
We trust because we witness the life of Jesus, the one through whom all things were created and in whom the God who Created all things is pleased to dwell – the witness of the life of Jesus in each other. My father who believed that time-space in which he would see Jesus face-to-face, and his trust imprinted my 11-year-old soul. Y’all live out that trust in community, a membership covenant, a commitment to encourage each other in that faith through your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness, so that together we may grow stronger in expressing God’s love for all creation.
We trust, because together, we are members of Trust

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Members of Joy

Members of Joy

Members of Joy 2560 1920 Nicole

Joy is an orientation, a disposition of awe and wonder.
The joy foretold by Isaiah is not necessarily a conjuring of an elated feeling, mustering excitement about life when nothing in life seems to be going right, worth celebrating. The joy foretold by Isaiah is that those who did not have full use of their body – can now see, jump up and down, sing…. All will be made right.
There will be joy because not even fools will make unhealthy, unproductive choices; and we will sing together – and everyone will be happy about the music choices!
Jesus is why these things are being made right, even now. And because we are already made right with God, we are empowered to, and deployed to be a part of this right-making.
The justice described in Isaiah happens because of reconciled relationships. In James, we know joy when we stop grumbling and judging each other. Joy happens when we do life together without malice – spiteful, bitter – in easy company.
When the shepherds saw the star – effulgent – they stopped and were filled with joy (Mt2.10). As soon as Elizabeth’s baby heard the sound Mary’s voice, this young woman carrying the savior of the world inside her own womb, when Elizabeth’s baby heard that voice, he leapt for joy inside Elizabeth.
The delight and wonder in a child who just got what she always wanted – effulgent! Joy.
But when we try to manage each other, when I attempt to squash that divine spark (the soul that is made in God’s very image) of someone else, I do great harm.
When you see me for who I am and affirm that, encourage it, everything is right and good – what joy!
How much more so when we are oriented in this way with our children – all of our children: the ones born to us and the ones incorporated into us by way of baptism and membership vows.
Will you walk with me through this week of Advent with a disposition of awe and wonder, an expectation of opening a new day as a child who exclaims, “just what I always wanted!” because we have each other, members of covenant? It is such a good feeling to know we’re alive! Together, members of joy!

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Members of Peace

Members of Peace

Members of Peace 2560 1920 Nicole

The fullness of God the Creator – of everything! was pleased to have all of God’s own being (fullness) dwell in this itty bitty of a baby whose birth we claim to Celebrate on December 25th.
Still, “without justice and love, peace is an illusion.” #DomHelderCamara
The project of God’s justice – making all things right, reconciling us to God and each other, AND all creation (whether things on earth or things in heaven) – this project of God’s justice is fueled, empowered, made personal, purely by Love: by making peace through Christ’s blood, shed on the cross.
Then, God’s presence will be known, the people will consult God – and pay attention, and an industry of war will no longer be necessary: indiscriminately, across the board, the only commerce will be the facilitation of peace.
Put on the armor of light – walk in the light of Jesus. Live with honor. What does that look like to live honorably? For one, it means living honestly – let your actions live out what you believe. What is it that you believe? We believe in Jesus Christ – the messiah, anointed Present. So if you say that you believe in Jesus Christ, to live honorably is to act on that, to live it.
Awake! remember your baptism and, together, let us center on Jesus who dwells in me and in you – take time allowing the spirit of Jesus (in whom God is pleased to dwell) to speak; confess our frenzy and anxiety at the onset of Advent. Awaken, and remember. Together we are members of peace. Know peace; be an instrument of peace.

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Anointed Abode

Anointed Abode

Anointed Abode 2560 1920 Nicole

For whom do I create? Well, for everyone who listens to what comes from my mouth and views the art I’ve crafted. Ultimately, though, I know I do all of this because I believe in Jesus Christ, and the project of Kingdom building – a kin-dom of all creation, perfecting, becoming… Opening hearts, opening minds, opening doors.
So why would I ever give potentate status to anyone other than Jesus? What convinces us that others’ opinions or disposition toward us should have unlimited power or influence over us?
To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” ought to indicate that my life would display something of that belief. Christ, the Messiah, Redeemer – Anointed – is present, now. I believe this reality because I experience that nearness, the truth of Jesus’ voice and strength and love. And because if I don’t? where else can I go? everything about who am I will eventually fall apart.
What does it mean, might it look like, that we live our belief together?
Maybe it means not looking to other “successful” churches to find answers to our problem of dwindling numbers, but look to the Presence, the Jesus Christ we claim to believe in, praying together for God’s leading, praying that we can be the light of Jesus in this world. Perhaps if we pray like we had nowhere else to go, we might even pray ourselves into truly believing it.

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Spiritual Abode

Spiritual Abode

Spiritual Abode 2560 1920 Nicole

We are interconnected. We are accountable to God – together. Which means, we are accountable to each other, too.
The whole earth is full of God’s glory. This holy God fills the land with plenty of what we need – exactly enough. But we are accountable to one another for its care. Men and women put their lives on the line, and have given their lives for the protection of this land. Your land. My land. But it is rebelling against us because of the disregard we’ve given it.
Perhaps, as we remember and honor the veterans who have and who are even now in service to the protection of our freedoms in this land… consider what our responsibility is to the land – this land that was made for you and me.
And we might see the reality, God’s glory, the reality of God’s presence even here, and see more clearly that material things “only collect rust or dust, and once we know that the only thing that counts is treasure in heaven, surely we [will] find a new way to live!”

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Cosmic Abode

Cosmic Abode

Cosmic Abode 2560 1920 Nicole

The result of living out of a mythology of self and without grace, the grace of dignity – the truth of who I am, who you are, as uniquely imaging God – the result of living for the myth and not living in the grace of knowing my true worth … is shame.
If each of us understands of what our relationship with God consists, If each of us let go of the mask that we made identity – cobbled together as a façade – our entire sense of worth is no longer in question; and there is no longer shame.
But we have to have faith. Believe that the end is present because God is timeless, and God is near. In fact, God is among us. And we are not alone.
“Everything in God’s universe is present-tense. Divine love transcends time and place.” In the Eucharist, taking communion, we remember. Today we remember – remembering the saints, in communion. And together dwell in this Cosmic Abode of the communion of saints.

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