One of my favorite stories is of Victor Hugo’s, “Les Miserables”. I never really knew much of the book, or the story for that matter, until I watched the movie with some friends in 1998. I was instantly captivated by the themes of grace, forgiveness and mercy from the life of the main character, Jean Valjean. If you’ve never seen the movie, or read the book, you really should. I guarantee you will not regret it!
In one particular scene, Jean Valjean finds himself caught in the middle of someone else’s problems. Her name is Fantine, she is an employee of his company but also a prostitute. When Fantine is found out, she is severely beaten and left for dead. That is, until Valjean takes it upon himself to nurse her to health and to care for her fatherless child.
The scene of him caring for a helpless, beaten prostitute is one of divine mercy. A display of someone who clearly remembers his own past and the mercy which was given to him, as well as Valjean’s willingness to abandon his self-comfort and enter into Fantine’s woundedness.
This mercy that Valjean shows Fantine is exactly the kind of mercy Jesus refers to in Matthew 5:7, where he says, “blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”. It’s a mercy that goes beyond simply feeling sorry for someone and willingly get’s inside the other person to the point where we can see through their eyes and feel what they are experiencing. This kind of mercy that can transform a person’s life!
The question is...are we willing to say ‘yes’ to the ways of Jesus today and leave our self-comfort? It won’t be easy, I can promise you. But I believe it will usher us into the kind of full life Jesus promised when we follow him...
Grace and Peace. Pastor Rex
By Pastor Linda Skinner
Growing up on a farm taught me so many important life lessons. I didn’t appreciate it fully when I was a child, but as I have experienced more of life’s up and downs I have come to cherish the many lessons I learned. One lesson I learned is that worldly riches are very fleeting, but the richness of God’s Love and of family and friends is what is most important.
Farm life is full of “ups and downs.” Our product was eggs and chickens. At one time I remember my dad saying we had 2000 laying hens. Now that is a lot of egg production. However, chickens only lay eggs when they are healthy and happy. So our income depended on many conditions – no disease or sickness, good weather, and well fed and cared for chickens.
Now the care was under our control, but the disease and weather not so much. We lived in Citrus Heights, California, which is outside of Sacramento. If you know anything about that area, you know that summers get really hot. However, usually it cools off a bit at night. I remember one summer it was well over 100°F for days in a row and it at night it only cool by a few degrees. It was a heat wave. If there is one thing chickens don’t like, it is a heat wave. A picture I’ll never forget is my dad, hose in hand, spraying cold water on hundreds of chickens laying on the ground suffering from too much heat. Not many eggs that year. And several chickens didn’t make it.
As a child I didn’t understand all the implications of that heat wave, but my mom started working for JC Penney’s making custom curtains. She’d used remnants of those fabrics to make dresses for me for school. We ate more out of our garden and freezer than we did normally. It was lean times.
What amazes me as I think back on it, I never remember complaining or moaning about our bad luck or anyone playing the “blame” game. I just remember we adjusted. Mom would say, “This is what the Lord has for us this year.”
On the other hand, my fondest memories are from those times. I don’t remember many of the Christmas presents I received as a child, but I remember the gift I got that year. My mom made a big rag doll that stood about has high as I did. She put elastic straps on the bottom of her feet so I could strap her feet on top of mine and we could dance. And we danced and danced around for hours. I didn’t fully appreciate that gift of love. I didn’t know it came to me because we didn’t have the money to buy things from the store. I didn’t know how many sleepless nights mom must have spent on that doll between making curtains, housework and her farm chores. I just enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with a family I loved.
I look back and this I realize how fortunate I was growing up. My parents were never “rich” in worldly goods, but they were rich in love and generosity. There was always laughter and concern and care for others in our household. I learned that no matter how much or how little you have, to always be thankful and enjoy what you do have. My mom always told me, “God will provide” and I have always found that to be true.
My prayer for you is that wherever you find yourself, with much or little, that you can come to appreciate that God has provided what you have for your enjoyment. You are blessed.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “like a bull in a china shop”. It essentially means being clumsily destructive. Or, causing damage without the intention of doing so... This past week, we took time to look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:5 where he says that God blesses those who are meek. Meek. What an interesting word! What could it possibly mean and why was it so important that Jesus talks about it in his Sermon on the Mount?
The best way I can summarize the word “meek” is to say its the culmination of having humility, gentleness and self-control WHILE knowing that I also have my sinful nature which can be very destructive to both myself and others. In other words...we are very much like the bull living in a world full of value, beauty and fragility (the china shop).
This life of meekness that Jesus teaches is not easily attained, nor are we born with it. It comes from our willingness to humbly submit ourselves to God’s authority and say yes to the ways of Jesus. Easier said, than done, right? I’m with you! But thankfully, we have something called grace on our side. When the bull in us decides to romp around the china shop leaving a wake of bad choices, hurtful actions and one big mess; we have God’s grace to lean on. Where would we be without the God’s grace and mercy?
This week, let’s seek to allow the Holy Spirit to produce within us humility, gentleness and self-control as we learn to live for Jesus, knowing the bull within us is always there. May our prayer today be: “Jesus, I humbly surrender my entire self to you and your authority. Help me to live a meek life today and to experience a greater blessing from the father”.
Grace and Peace,
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” - Jesus Mourning...Sadness...Grief. Feelings every human being will experience on some level in their lifetime. Life has its ways of giving us opportunities to grieve a loss. Yet, no one is really ever an expert in mourning. There are therapists, books and online resources that help guide us through the long journey of grief, but never are we experts.
Jesus’ promise to us is that when we find ourselves mourning, we are blessed with God’s approval and we will know His comfort. But how exactly does God comfort? After all, He doesn’t just show up and give us hugs like a friend would do. No, God comforts us by instilling joy deep within our hearts. David understood this when he wrote, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps 30:5).
Do you find yourself grieving today? Deeply saddened by a loss that hurts you to your very core? Allow me the opportunity to offer a couple thoughts on how we might experience God’s comfort and ultimately see that grief can be good.
- Grief is good when we invite others into our grieving. The temptation is to want to be alone and to just “get through this”. The danger in isolating ourselves is when we don’t have someone to talk with, we often develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. Grieving with others fights the pull to avoid feelings and hurts.
- Grief is good in that it reveals to us just how much we loved. When we grieve the loss of someone close to us, we can use that powerful sadness to show us just how much we opened ourselves to the person in love. It tells us that we’re capable of possessing powerful feelings of love for another person and that love brought us immense joy. Therein lies the comfort that God offers us when we mourn...the opportunity to know how deep our love was and the joy we knew and will continue to know because of our time with them.
God is a good Father who will not abandon us when we mourn. In fact, I’m confident today that you will discover Him to be closer to you now, than ever before!
Grace and Peace,
My wife, Christalle, and I love watching a show on HGTV called, “Fixer Upper”. It’s one of those, ‘buy a crummy house, remodel it with trendy design elements and then see how much it’s worth at the end’ kind of shows. But what makes Fixer Upper different from all the others is the couple who handles the building and design...Chip and Joanna Gaines.
Chip and Joanne live in Waco, Texas. They have a 4 kids and LOVE Jesus. Chip and Joanna each have a unique ability to look at an old broken down house and see its true value.
I’ve always been impressed with people who can take something so messy, torn and broken and say, “imagine the possibilities with this...there is so much value here!” Do you know anyone like this? They’re amazing, aren’t they!?
What’s even more amazing about talent like this is the one who gave it to them, the perfect authority on seeing through brokenness and finding purpose and value. God the Father knows us inside and out as all our brokenness lays bare before Him each and every day and He refuses to give up on our purpose and value!
This past Sunday, we explored Jesus’s words as he said, “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. We talked about how being poor in spirit means to recognize our brokenness and absolute need for God and that when we come to Him in that condition he blesses us, or rather, gives us His approval.
These blessings that Jesus speaks of aren’t because of anything we’ve achieved. They are directly tied to His mercy toward us and when we seek to drop the act and just be real before God, we can enter into a life of new happiness and joy despite living our messy and imperfect lives.
God is so good to us. He loves us. He’s for us. He wants to bless us.
Grace and Peace. Pastor Rex
The Reformation is one of the greatest events in history, in which Martin Luther started a movement, one that is still transforming lives today. This movement began when Luther rediscovered the Gospel, or Good News, of Jesus Christ in the book of Romans and reread the story of Jesus’s life and his Sermon on the Mount. Today the whole world, Catholic and Protestant, is impacted by that reformation. One of the biggest impacts was people beginning to read the Sermon on the Mount for themselves, it was revolutionary! It was beyond religious. This month, we began a series on the Sermon on the Mount, called “What Jesus Meant,” and as we focus on this life-changing sermon we can experience for ourselves what countless people before us have been inspired by. When St. Francis of Assisi first read the Sermon on the Mount it changed his life and how he lived out his faith. The present pope, Francis, is a reformer because of conviction in the Sermon on the Mount. They are life-altering words.
Last week when I kicked off the series, I focused on the fact that God wants to bless us and that he wants us to cooperate with that blessing. Even more than being blessed, we are to become a blessing ourselves that is why Jesus called us the salt of the world, the light on a hill. We are called and encouraged to spread blessings into our communities and into the darkness.
One of the dreams we have is to spread God’s blessings by working to end elective homelessness in our area. Let’s be thinking and dreaming about it. I have some ideas and I am sure that you do too. But the main thing is: let's get about the business of blessing others. And if you are lacking inspiration or feeling discouraged pick up your Bible and read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5- 7). Soak in the life-changing words and rejoice! Shine with God’s love as you bless others.
May God bless you abundantly.
Your friend for the rest of my life,
Pastor Tim White
Written by Pastor Becca McCary Washington Cathedral is taking the season of Lent to help families practice their faith together, transforming ordinary times and spaces into sacred times and spaces, a chance to go deeper in their faith. Over the next seven weeks of lent, as a church and as a family, we will focus on a spiritual practice to help us connect with God and those around us. Our seven spiritual practices will be: reconciling, prayer, cleaning, listening, serving, worship, and study.
Week 1: Reconcile
God wants to meet with you this Lent. He wants to come into the ordinary times and places in your life in a holy way, transforming your life. This week’s ordinary space transformation challenge is: Reconciliation.
Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Write down or paint the word "Reconciliation" on a rock or piece of paper as your holy reminder. Then choose an ordinary space in your life where you are going to focus on reconciliation. Try to practice reconciliation one time in that ordinary space your life this week. Then, watch God transform this ordinary space into a holy Space for you.
-As a spouse, you might want to put the word "Reconciliation" on your pillow. Then when you are going to bed, you will look for a chance to reconnect with your spouse. Say you're sorry, make things right, and put your relationship first as a priority.
-As a child, you might want to put the word "Reconciliation" by your toothbrush. When you are getting ready for bed, look for an opportunity to apologize to your sibling for any time you may have hurt their feelings that day. Say you you're sorry, make things right, and put your relationship first as a priority.
-As a single person, put the word "Reconciliation" by your tablet or computer. Look for an opportunity to apologize to someone on social media. Say you you're sorry, make things right, and put your relationship first as a priority.