companion

Awakening

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by Linda Rex

I apologize for not having a blog last week and for being a trifle late with this week’s blog. I was in North Carolina last week assisting as co-chaplain at The Rock summer camp. I discovered pretty quickly I was more or less off the grid most of the week and could not access any of the websites I usually use.

It was also a challenge this year trying to keep up with the young people due to my health issues. But what a blessing to watch them have loads of fun, make new friends and even grow a little in the process!

At one point I was going to follow the teen girls out to their challenge course. They took off at a jog. I was left behind in short order since running would have left me breathless—and then I spent quite a bit of time just trying to find them in the woods. They were supposed to be keeping quiet, so I couldn’t really follow the giggles like I usually did. Eventually I came across them all on a log, trying to keep their balance while exchanging places to get in their birth order.

In that short period of time while I was searching for them, I was caught in some inner soul searching as well. I was so frustrated that all my efforts to take care of my health, to eat right, to exercise often, ended up in this way—still not able to physically do what I felt I ought to be able to do. It seemed like I was worse, not better. I didn’t like the idea that I was going to have to start giving up things I liked doing just because I could not physically do them anymore.

Eventually I realized I was in the midst of a pity-party I wanted no part of, and started some healthy positive affirmations instead. This was a growth opportunity, and I needed to recognize and accept it, and allow God to grow me through it.

Indeed, we all come to places in our lives where we need to let go of certain things and move on. We really should never stay in the same place in our lives, because doing so means we become stunted and ingrown. We need to recognize and accept the ends in our lives so the new beginnings can happen, and we can grow into all Christ meant for us to be.

Accepting our limitations is healthy and wise. To accept and live in the reality of the way things really are is to live in the truth of our being. There are times when we are pushed beyond our limits, to challenge us and to give us opportunities to grow. But there are also times when we need to admit to the truth of our inability to be or do what is needed in a situation.

And this is where community comes in. God did not intend for us to live independently of one another. He meant for each of us to live in relationship with him and with one another. The Scriptures tell us there are things we are responsible for and burdens which are ours we need to carry. But there are also things beyond our ability to bear, and this is where we need one another.

I was struggling with my inability to keep up with teenage girls, and was so disappointed that my efforts to get healthy weren’t working. The girls soon took off to another activity and left us behind again. Notice I said “us”. There was another person who was struggling to keep up with them, and together we tried to find them in the woods.

It was a testimony to me that my attitude and spirit were so much more positive and upbeat when we were trying to do this together than it was when I was trying to do it by myself. The struggle became a shared struggle, a common effort, and it turned out to be a pleasant experience for me in which I grew to know someone else a little better and to know myself a little better in the process.

We never did find the girls, and eventually they sent someone in a golf cart to find us and to bring us to the end point where they were waiting for us. We were amazed at how fast they had finished the challenge course while my companion and I were still wandering around in the woods trying to find them.

This whole experience, along with many others at camp last week, reminded me of the importance of spiritual community, of the need to share life with others in such a way that we lift each other up, encourage one another, and carry each other through the difficult times. It also reminded me how easy it is for us to get in the mindset that it is all up to us.

We may think it’s all up to us in certain situations, but in reality, it is all up to Christ. We merely are blessed to share in what he has already done and is already doing. Every part of life is a sharing in his life. We’re not out in the woods somewhere trying to find our way all on our own. He is present and involved in every situation at every moment. We are the ones who declare our independence and try to tackle things on our own, and end up in a pity party because it doesn’t turn out like we want it to.

We have a Companion on life’s journey. We may be wandering about in the woods for a while, but he’s there with us, sharing the struggle, hearing our complaints and offering us encouragement and hope. He’s got hold of our hand to help us over the logs and through the ditches. And he’s got the flashlight to help us see the path in the dark. Jesus has us in his grip.

Whatever we may be facing—he’s already been there. He knows what’s around the next corner and what we’ll need to get through it to the other side. He’ll provide what we need, and even carry us to the endpoint if we can’t seem to find our way through the rough spots. He’s got us in his grip and he’s not going to let go.

It’s important we awaken to the reality that we are held in the grip of God’s grace, in the loving arms of Jesus, in the ever-present Spirit. May we rest in God’s unfailing love, knowing we are held.

Abba, thank you for being ever-present in our lives, for giving us the precious gifts of your Son and your Spirit, through whom we are held in your love and life. May we always live in gratitude, thankful for your gifts and your unfailing love, through Jesus and by your Spirit. Amen.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.” Galatians 6:2–5 NASB

Companion on the Road

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By Linda Rex

Thinking over a spiritual exercise I participated in recently with some fellow ministry leaders, I was reminded of an experience I had shortly before I graduated from college. I was asked out on a date by someone who attended my church.

Dating at college back then was something considered almost obligatory for guys who attended there, and usually involved inviting a girl to attend bible study or to attend worship services followed by lunch at the dining hall.

This particular date involved attending church services at the auditorium and as my date took my arm, I found myself in the position of leading him around for most of the morning. This wasn’t because he didn’t know what he was doing or where he wanted to go. It was because he couldn’t see. He was blind.

It was a beautiful day as I recall, so I made some effort to describe the beauty of the campus as we walked along. I led him, not by pushing him from behind nor by walking out in front of him, but by walking with him, alongside him, telling him moment by moment what he needed to know to safely transverse the walkway and the stairs, and to avoid falling in the reflection pool.

This is a good picture of what it means to walk with Jesus and to be led by the Holy Spirit.

In the story Luke tells of the two travelers walking along the road toward Emmaeus, we see that Jesus joined the group and was walking with them long before they were aware of his presence. When they did realize he was there, they didn’t recognize who he was. In fact, he chided them for their slowness of heart and lack of belief in who he was as their Messiah and Lord. Though their hearts knew who Jesus was, they did not recognize him in their external experience.

Later they invited him to abide with them, to stay with them where they were staying. He agreed, and joined with them in a meal. Interestingly, he took on the role of host and led the breaking of bread. It was in this act that the travelers’ eyes were opened and they saw Jesus for whom he really was.

In many ways this is what our walk with Jesus is like—Jesus walks with us as we go through life, whether we are aware of it or not. As we go down the road of life, there comes a time when we realize that we are not alone, but have a companion with us on the road.

As we hear and begin to understand the Word of life, the truth about who Jesus is as the God-man, both Lord and Savior, we begin to believe and to be immersed in him. We are baptized with his Spirit, experiencing in a real way a new vision, a new existence in him. We invite him to be our constant companion, to abide with us and in us, and he shares the communion of his real divine presence with us. He is revealed to us and we find continual renewal in the breaking of bread in an ongoing way—in the sharing of his divine life through the Eucharist.

Walking along the road of our daily existence, we can experience and know the real presence of Jesus in us and with us by the Holy Spirit. As we walk with Jesus, not ahead of him or behind him but alongside him, we hear the Spirit of Christ directing us, telling us our next steps, warning us of dangers, and describing to us the beauty of the spiritual realities we currently cannot physically see or experience in their fullness.

This divine companionship is a gift from the One who loves us with an everlasting love and does not want to be God without us. He has declared that we are his and he has determined live with us and in us forever. We do not travel this road of life alone. God as Father, Son and Spirit is in us, with us, for us. He is our Holy Companion and he offers us safe travel, warm fellowship and divine community forever.

Truly it is in you God that we find our only real companionship, friendship, and community. You are the One who is always present, whether we realize it or not, and who never ceases to love us and accept us. We need never fear or feel alone, for you are with us, in us and for us—committed to us forever. Thank you for this precious gift in Jesus. Amen.

“While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” Luke 24:15-16
“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Romans 8:14