• Eirenicole

Spiritual Formation

Encircling Love

Encircling Love

Encircling Love 2550 1700 Nicole

God designated the times, gave us enough space, so we’d search, find God – though God is always near. Through time, across cultures, we find God, are finding God together.
It is not a one-person show. It is not a one-denomination’s show. It is not for a single entity to decide who God is because it takes millennia and worlds of discovery to even begin to know this God. Still, this God is not unknown, unknowable. Just unfathomable.
The unknown god is known to the people of Athens because God is in our very breath! We breathe the Spirit of God. It is because God is not enshrined, not a piece of wood, not high above – beyond anything we know or experience (sure, God extends beyond anything we can even conceive. Still.) God. Is. Near.
Indeed, It is IN God we exist.
We have as the essence of our being, in the power that made death absolutely inert – nothing – we are held within the very bosom of – the Holy Trinity. And this Triune God Is Love. Encircles us. Holds us together – In Love. All of us. This same God. This same Love. Encircles ALL of us!
We breathe the Spirit of God. God, Who is Love lives IN us, and we are enclosed IN God, and we share the same Spirit, contained within the same God. This God Who is love. Encircling us. Empowering us. How do we live like we believe this in this time of pandemic?

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Art of Peace

Art of Peace

Art of Peace 2050 1920 Nicole

Jesus heals the royal official’s son and the paralytic to coax their faith, walk them through the process, inviting them into the movements of belief; called them to participate with him (make peace of their relationship) in the healing – to believe …“in Jesus as God’s Word Made Flesh—God’s embodied sacramental presence tent-pitched in the world so that those who believe in him are empowered to become ‘children of God.’”
The two men who both experience Jesus’ healing power, do what they’re told. And in that process, in the doing, they are healed. It is a physical, bodily action, enacting their faith that Jesus’ command elicits. Not to prove himself, to perform a sign, wonders, but tease out the faith he knew these two individuals held, germinating within. No one else would be able to see that but Jesus. Just as I could not see whether my seed was germinating – but, in faith (desperate, on the brink of humiliation before my Trustees) I nudged the mulch and continued caring for them.
The way of peace is not inert – it is active. To walk in the way of peace, faith is a prerequisite. It absolutely does not look the same from one person to the next.
The paralytic had to actually try and stand up. The official had to 1st notice Jesus, then perform an act below his social station, 3rd, follow Jesus’ command by starting home believing his son will be healed, and finally confirm the healing occurred when Jesus spoke those words of healing. It didn’t happen all at once. It was a process.
And what happens? Peace is brought to his home – they ALL believe! because this royal official came to his senses, moved with Jesus through the process of belief.
It’s always process, evolving – creative. And isn’t that what healing is all about? Recreating that which is ailing?: the body, a relationship, a system?
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant”… bit by bit, or it might blind us to ALL the truth. What is the truth Jesus is calling you to today? How is Jesus coaxing you to relationship, to move in faith along the way of Peace? To what creative process is your spirit germinating, ready to press aside the bits that attempt to suffocate, but persist, so full of life, potential blooms, ready to flourish?

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Art of Contemplation 1

Art of Contemplation

Art of Contemplation 2050 1920 Nicole

Lent is a little bit like the pregnancy-birth process. It is a time of waiting, growing something important inside. A mother I needed a partner to take months paying attention to my breathing, my movements; notice signs of distress, to encourage with images of riding the wave of each contraction, and feel the distress each time I believes I would be crushed, drown under the force of it. Practicing contemplating all that is me – the one growing our child within – we grow to know each other more deeply, intimately, and trust each other in/for the process.
In silence and contemplation, we find the space to recreate perspective, so Judgement is no longer something we need fear, but an invitation to discernment, “a growing awareness of how God engages us.” It’s all about our relationships.
In today’s reading, Jesus encounters another woman. This time a stranger, and a Samaritan, and pulling water from the well at mid-day (avoiding the usual times a woman should), whom he ought never approach, let alone accept a drink. And he says, “woman….”
In the case of his mother, they knew each other. Taking a moment of silence, a bit of time to come to her senses, Jesus’ respectful, intimate call for her attention was more than enough.
For the woman at the well, more time was needed. She had an impressive amount of information about worship practices. Like Nicodemus – though certainly not as elaborate – she was well taught the promise of a Messiah to come. She was open to belief, but needed more time contemplating this possibility. Time with Jesus. Talking with others. Testing her faith: “Could he be?”
The woman at the well is unnamed and unknown to Jesus on meeting. When Jesus says, “Woman…” gunē, in the vocative, direct, as if already in relationship, she pauses (as Mary did at the wedding) and then she opens her soul to Jesus. The respect and dignity he offers this woman by addressing her with this word elicits a trust, a hint of the kind of relationship she tried so hard to find – and failed – in her 5 previous marriages and current partner.
She opens her soul to Jesus and is delighted, giddy with the revelation of what relationship is meant to be like – to be known and to be loved. To be loved in the knowing.
To believe this, to understand and experience a reality of relating with God through Christ in the Spirit, we absolutely must first come to our sense. Be still. Be silent. And contemplate. Accept this profound love by being known; know in the loving.
May you contemplate your relationship with Jesus this week. Open your soul to Jesus. Be known and loved; love and know in return. And ride the waves of such exposure that threaten to crush, drown under the force of it.

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Art of Silence

Art of Silence

Art of Silence 2050 1920 Nicole

Silence is hard. Silence leaves us vulnerable to deeper, darker thoughts. But we cannot hear anything if we don’t listen. And it is only when we are willing to meet whatever it is we find in that silence – in all of its sometimes frightening discomfort – watered by our attention – that something might grow out of the deep, dark, and clumpy soil.
When Jesus responds to Mary during the wedding at the Cana, “Woman…” there is something so intimate about that. Jesus is saying, “Woman, individual, human of great worth, you matter to me – listen.” And Mary does pause. She seems to take a breath and center on Jesus’ words, Jesus’ presence in that time-space. And this moment of being silent in Jesus’ presence brings Mary to herself, to the reality that all will be well. Timeless. Suspended senses.
And in the 2nd story, again, there is frenzy – of buying and selling animals that will be used for sacrificial rituals. But they have missed the point entirely. They are trying to do everything they can to keep the synagogue running in the way that others are doing it, to do worship just like all the other synagogues in town. And Jesus had to tear the place apart before they would stop and listen and notice. God incarnate. Jesus, in their midst.
And it is all for the disciples – so that they would believe Jesus was who he said he was. So they would listen, be silent, stop making assumptions, but truly hear.
The “unreflective practice” with the wedding and at the temple, speaks to the economic, political and religious. When rituals and ceremonies are practiced without reflection, without pause, silence – when we are overwhelmed by entering these rituals in a manner that everyone else is compelled to do, we miss the point entirely. And we reveal our lack of faith, our belief that Jesus is who he says he is.
We need silence. We need to be still. We need to listen to the heart of God – in our particular situation. Notice. Look again. Discern that which is going on here. Not blaming others, not judging – God is the one who has the capacity to pass judgment – but discerning. And it can be scary, even terrifying. Because in my solitude I have to ask, What is my part in all of this?
Let us notice that which is within rather than the flower that will wilt and crumble. Let us dig deep into the dry clumpy soil and tend it, water it. Let us first be silent, even jolted out of our frenzied worry and turn our face to Jesus – and believe.
May we recreate a perspective unique to us, to our situation in silence. It’s an art from: the art of silence.

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Just Grow Up

Just Grow Up

Just Grow Up 2050 1920 Nicole

This is what doing justice looks like: To be known as a people who do something about injustices and work to make things right, a people that can be trusted, a people who are safe, empowered by the Spirit of God; and to do so, we must Just grow up!
Growing up means we have a broader view. Our perspective becomes more expansive. We’ve moved beyond object permanence. We have the ability now, our brains are capable of meeting someone from a different neighborhood or culture and learn to understand that view.
Paul says this (1Cor3): you keep trying to elevate yourselves, make yourselves seem important by aligning with certain people, or ideas, crushing others by declaring their inadequacies based on superficial things. But you’re no god; you’re human! God is the one who causes growth. So grow up! Whatever it is that you do out of your giftedness, talents, privilege or hardship, we absolutely must work together. Because we are working toward a common goal!
Would not our faith strengthen, our feet feel a firmer foundation, if we understood the spectacular faith of so many saints – those who planted and watered alongside us, often unbeknownst to us?!
“Jesus made it clear that he came to bring ‘good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18), showing that if we liberated the people on the margins, the good news would float upwards—in the opposite direction of the ‘trickle down’ economic model, which is largely an illusion.”(Richard Rohr)
Rev. Dr. Cone wrote, “Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ’s message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology.”
To what lengths will you go to show love? How far will you go to display your love for God?
If you believe God exists, and that Jesus is who he says he is, and we say Yes, I believe, then we must live into that reality. That means, we who have already been learning, being discipled, will go out and disciple others, be that witness of God’s love, Jesus’ redemptive power, the Spirit’s outpouring of graces to the community.
And, that we be known as a people who do something about injustices and work to make things right – just evidence of a people that can be trusted, a people who are safe, empowered by the Spirit of God; that God brings about growth, and for transformation to occur, it is crucial that we Just grow up!
I want to be a Just Grownup. How about you?

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Just Evidence

Just Evidence

Just Evidence 2050 1920 Nicole

If we gather together only to move through the actions that a church is “supposed” to do, without the presence and power of the Spirit in us, with us, we have become a sect indeed. Static. Inconsequential. But if we come together ready to hear the voice of Jesus, open to be changed within – transformed, renewed, transforming, renewing – then we are empowered to be transformative, a conduit for the reformation of the nation.
We are meant to live by a different kind of power. We are already made for, and have access to, the Source of this other power! Do we look like a church our church look like a church that is composed of a people who are empowered by the Spirit of God?
When someone sees his donation as a responsibility (v. gift) – sharing, because it is her duty, something that ought to be done – it makes it much more difficult to ignore.
When we take a moment to breathe in the truth of our privilege and breathe out the impulse to protect it, we are compelled to do something about it.
When I breathe in the realization that ‘what became of my life is as much a factor of the inequities that exist in our society today’ as anything else, and breathe out my part in perpetuating a perception that it’s somehow their fault for not trying hard enough, or similar sentiment, then maybe my gifts – given by the very Spirit of God – might contribute to the project of making things right, the transformation of the world!
Jesus said in Matthew, “if you have lost your saltiness, your flavor, what good are you? Maintain your unique flavor, and notice and appreciate the unique flavors of others. Expand your perspective of what delicious is, enjoy the infinite gifts and evidence of God’s goodness in this world. Let Holy Love be the end of us, the end of Methodism. Be a light, evidence of your devotion to God. You are a light. Let it shine!”

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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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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 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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