Spiritual Journey

March 24, 2017

Dear Life in the City Friends,

I was deeply blessed yesterday to meet Paula D’Arcy. Perhaps you have heard of her. She’s an international speaker, retreat leader, and author of several bestselling books including Gift of the Red Bird and Sacred Threshold, A New Set of Eyes. It was a delight to break bread with her. Our encounter inspired me this morning to reread Gift of the Red Bird.

As so often happens, the timing of our meeting could not have been more opportune. Even though I had not realized it when we put it on the calendar, it was truly a divine appointment. My soul needed our conversation. My heart longed to re-engage with her journey of discovery from knowing about God to being with God in relationship. Before our lunch, I had not realized just how much my spirit was yearning for her wisdom about the difference between needing to serve God and being willing to serve God.

It is so very important for us to take the time every day to be inspired and nourished by God’s very presence, simply by being with God. We get so busy doing—for God, our significant others, our children, our parents, our friend, our workplace—that we can lose sight of what makes our life meaningful, fulfilling, and fruitful. When we take the time to be real with God, our life journey begins to take on new meaning and purpose. We realize just how much we are loved and how this divine love changes everything.

We’ll be going deeper into this topic of spiritual journey and our challenge to recognize God’s presence in our midst. Our conversation partner will be the story of the Emmaus Walk in the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Luke. My hope and prayer is for you to come to worship expecting to have your heart set aflame by God’s love and grace.  

Blessings,

Pastor Val

Ash Wednesday

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. For the last two years, Life in the City has hit the hike and bike trail and nearby businesses on South Lamar and South Congress Avenue to share Ash Blessings to all who would receive. Both years we were pleasantly surprised at how open people were to receive the blessing and sign of repentance.

This year we are going to offer an Ash Wednesday Worship Service at 7:00 pm in the Garden at Life in the City. It will be a beautiful time of reflection, music and receiving of ashes. Ashes are placed on the foreheads of participants to remind us of our mortality. This practice prepares us for the 40 days of lent, which originated as a mirroring of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert in preparation for his earthly ministry. I hope you will mark your calendar and plan to attend this meaningful service.

This weekend in worship we consider the ravens of Luke 12: 22-34 in the next installment of our Come Hungry Message Series. We will look at our human struggle with anxiety, worry and stress and God’s provision for us. Be sure to bring your non-perishable food contributions for our neighbors in need. Check out the notice in the Lifeline for more information.

May God’s blessings of peace, hope and love fill your heart.

Blessings,

Pastor Val

Border Crossings

This week was what I affectionately call the Bishop’s Slumber Party. It’s officially the annual Clergy Convocation in Kerrville where all the clergy of the Rio Texas Conference gather for fellowship, worship, and teaching. As usual I came away blessed and inspired. This time the topic was a very timely one: border crossings.

I’ve been reflecting the last few days on how this topic hits me. My meditations on this are grounded in the loving acts of border crossing we see in Jesus. He crosses the boundary of ritual cleanliness of his time to touch and heal the leper (Luke 5: 12-16). He crosses the religious boundaries when he forgives the sins of paralytic before healing him (Luke 5: 17-26), heals on the Sabbath (Luke 6: 6-11), and allows a sinful woman to bathe his feet with oil and tears (Luke 7:36-50).  The list goes on and on. Jesus was continuously crossing borders in his loving action to forgive, heal, and restore lost, hurt and dying people. And he calls us to go and do likewise by the power of his Holy Spirit!

So I invite you to be in prayer and reflection about the borders God might be calling you to cross. Who has God put in your path who needs a loving touch, word, or deed so that they might know the love and grace of God? What fears, anxieties, or prejudices might you need to release in order for you to cross the border and bring God’s light and love to that person?

I hope you can be in worship this Sunday as we continue in our Come Hungry message series, focusing on the story of the sheep and goats. We’ll be celebrating Holy Communion and creating Manna Bags for the Homeless. I look forward to seeing what God stirs up in us as we worship!

Blessings,

Val

Eternal Perspectives

I’ve been reflecting this week on just how deeply challenged we are to keep an eternal perspective on things. Work demands pull us from our peace in God to the temporal anxieties and struggles around us. Drama walks in, jerking our focus from our intimate divine connection toward an unhealthy focus on our own unhealed cracks and fissures. Staying in the calm of God’s divine embrace while the storms of life rage all around us can be hugely challenging!

It is in times like these that I turn to scripture to not only refocus my gaze, but to reconnect me to the Holy Spirit. I let the words of scripture form and shape my prayer, as I meditate on the compassionate, caring God I find revealed in Jesus. My prayer for us today is that we may all to grow in our desire and ability to stay focused on our loving God who seeks to sanctify us completely, that we may be filled entirely with eternity—spirit, body and soul (1 Thessalonians 5: 23).

I look forward to being with you in worship this weekend! We continue in our COME HUNGRY message series, looking this week at God’s work of restoration. We’ll focus on the prophecy of Isaiah 49 and how we see eternity breaking into our world in the life, ministry, and ongoing redemptive work of Jesus.

Blessings,

Pastor Valerie

Black History Month

This month in worship we will be celebrating Black History Month. It could not come at a better time. It will be good in the midst of the current social unrest to remember the important roles African Americans have played in the development of our country. It also fits with our mission at LITC to live out of God’s radically inclusive love revealed in Jesus Christ, which means intentionally making a place for all people, especially those who have traditionally lived at the margins of society because of race, culture, sexual preference, socio-economic status, etc...

Toni Morrison once remarked that, “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” That’s the very definition of being marginalized. That’s why we celebrate Black History Month—to not only remember the powerful contributions of African Americans to our country, but to remember that the healthiest way to move forward is to understand our past and use it as a foundation to grow. My prayer is that we may continue to work toward Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of children being judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

As we work to share God’s radically inclusive love revealed in Jesus Christ, I encourage you to remember Dr. King’s wise words, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Whatever we face in our chaotic world, God has revealed in Christ that the only effective response is light and love. It’s a hard choice sometimes, but it’s who we are called to be and how we are called to live in and through Jesus.

We continue in our COME HUNGRY message series this week, focusing on the gifts of dreams, vision, and prophecy. We’ll examine the story of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams found in Genesis 41 and talk about the importance and application of prophetic dreams and visions in our world today. I’m excited about what God has put on my heart, so I hope you can be in worship! May God’s peace abound in your heart!

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Valerie