Posts Tagged awe

A New Adventure Dawns

A new year is dawning and a new president will soon be sworn in to fill the most important job in the world. The rest of us are wondering what the New Year holds and what is our place in it.  I am filled with gratitude for the friendships, adventures and surprises that came my way in the year about to close. I am excited and a little anxious about the year ahead.

I know that there will be good things in the year ahead. How do I know that? I know because there have been good things in every one of the past years for me. Yes, there have been tragedies from which I thought I could never recover even if I wanted to. There were some so deep that I was not sure that I wanted to survive, but survive I did.

I know that I face some overwhelming challenges in the year ahead, but I am just as certain that the good will outweigh the bad. I have a loving family, good friends, and a caring support system. Most of all I know that even though I am still working out my salvation I am confident that the grace that has sustained me through these many years is still there surrounding me, upholding me, and beckoning me to take another step into faith. One step at a time is all that I can muster and I know that it is enough.

I have had an unbelievable life. No one could have dreamed it other than God and my mother. For some my life seems ordinary and dull, but to awaken every morning with joy, thanksgiving and a sense of awe is all the assurance I need to sustain me.

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3 Ways to Help Your Kids Live a Life of Gratitude – Christina Embree

Thanksgiving is a time to pause, take a deep breath, count our blessings and express our gratitude.

We spend time with family, eat delicious food, kick off the Christmas holiday season, watch football and engage in any number of personal family traditions.

Perhaps this year, more than in others in recent memory, I am more cognizant of the need to give thanks. However, I think something we need to consider as we are leading the next generation of citizens, is that gratitude is not limited to a spoken “thank you” or a special day. Gratitude is a way of life – a continual living into an awareness of the blessings we have and the grace we are given each and every moment of the day.

Simply put, gratitude is a life of awe. It’s a place where we are very aware of the incredible life we are given, from the air we breathe to the food we eat. It’s more than an attitude or a platitude – it’s a state of being.

Often, our children miss out on awe. Their lives are fast-paced and hurried. They shuffle from one activity to the next, one distraction to the next, one practice to the next and that sense of awe and wonder gets lost in the noise. I fear that a constant lack of awe leads to a lack of gratitude and a growth of entitlement. When we aren’t aware of the greatness of our blessings, we assume that our blessings are our rights and we behave in ways that are more greedy than gracious, more demanding than grateful.

Here are three ways that we can help our kids learn to live a life of awe:

  1. We can stop.

For a moment, for a breath, we can stop. Stop the car. Stop the conversation. Stop the running. Stop for just a moment and look up, look out and look around.

My kids love to make fun of me because I will pull the car off on the side of the road to get a picture of the sky. They make fun of me, but they also look up a lot – at stars, at clouds, at sunrises and sunsets – and they are in awe of our Creator. And that leads to thanksgiving. So, let’s stop for a just a moment, when our kids are watching, and live into awe.

  1. We can go.

One thing that hinders gratitude is an introspective life that is focused inward on self.

A.W. Tozer once shared, “Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”

Showing and offering gratitude leads us to look not to self, but to others. When we are aware of our blessings, we want to extend those blessings to those around us.

There is something amazingly precious about our children watching us serve others and joining us in that work. It leads to a distinct awareness of just how blessed we really are.

  1. We can speak.

My favorite hashtag on social media is #speaklife. It is used to share all manner of uplifting and powerful messages of life-giving hope. Gratitude isn’t just about saying, “thank you,” it’s about speaking life into situations where hopelessness and darkness encroach and try to steal, kill and destroy hearts and lives. It’s the antithesis of grumbling and complaining. Gratitude says there is hope, and if our children need to hear anything today, it’s that there is hope – unending, never-failing hope.

As we look around at the world around us and see the things that hurt our hearts and weigh heavy on our spirit, let’s cultivate a new approach within ourselves – an approach that stops, goes and speaks with heartfelt gratefulness and genuine thanksgiving, an approach that leads to a sense of awe and wonder. To do so is to follow the imperative found in Colossians 3:17. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com Follow her on Twitter at EmbreeChristina. This first appeared on her website, www.refocusministry.org and is used with her permission.

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A Time to Keep Silent – FBC – Week One – Devotionals for June

Scripture Focus: “A time for keeping silent and a time for speaking.” — Ecclesiastes 3:7

Our society is filled with so many people who are eager to talk including me, but the Scriptures tell us that there is a time to keep silent. I was attending an assembly as a member of Boy’s State when I was in high school. The auditorium was filled with the chattering and laughter of hundreds of teenage boys. Suddenly the back doors flung open and in walked South Carolina governor and former Supreme Court Justice, James F. Byrnes. Total silence engulfed the room. No one told us to be quiet. We just knew.

When Carol and I first saw the mural depicting the outstretched arms of Jesus that adorns Sacred Heart Cathedral in Paris neither of us said a word. We were simply awe struck. Words were unnecessary. We sat in silence. A sunrise over the ocean, a sunset over the marsh or deer frolicking in the early morning can render me speechless.

When I stood on the platform overlooking the sunken battleship USS Arizona that entombed so many lives, I had no words. I experienced the same phenomenon when Carol and I walked through the American Cemetery at Normandy. This same sensation of awe grips me during the communion service. It always takes me back to my first communion as a very young Christian. The realization of why we are celebrating the sacrament is almost too much to bear. Words are useless.

Prayer Focus: Creator of the Universe, help me to realize that there are many things too sacred for words.

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Looking Forward with Faith by Barrett Owen – BaptistNewsGlobal

Fri, September 11, 2015

Faith is awe in the face of mystery.

We gazed silently alongside an uncountable amount of people.  The oddity was not in the differences of those of us present but in the symmetry of what we all felt. We were moved by something awe-some. The Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring, and it moved us by its mystery.

God is the same way — always more than we can comprehend, “holy other” to our imaginations.

Rudolf Otto once said people intersecting with mystery respond in one of two ways: with fear or awe. What he means is that when we bump into what we do not understand, it is both terrifying and awe-inspiring, and we either push it away or lean into it.

The same is true for church.

We all know people who have run away from the institutional church. They believe the church’s packaged answers no longer satisfy their complex context. They want mystery, but the church gave them fear. This fear manifests itself by ensuring a theology of certainty and, sadly, misses out on encountering the “holy other” nature of God.

Churches that want to connect and grow have to do what Otto describes: stare into the mysteries of the universe (God, theology, hope) with awe and, then, see what happens. They must figure out how not to package, name, or control that moment. It has to remain a mystery.

Faith is not a set of beliefs. It is not a system of theories, conservative or liberal worldviews, nor is it doctrinal creeds. Faith is willingness to stand on the precipice and stare out with a sense of hope that God is there. It’s as Otto says, “. . . awe in the face of mystery.”

And this is where the church must invite people into each Sunday morning. We need more mystery. We need opportunities to stretch our faith, to look out onto the horizon and believe that God has gone ahead of us. We need church to be the place that instills hope and not fear into our hearts.

I stand on this precipice every time the organ hits the opening hymn during Sunday morning worship. I look out at the congregation and am moved by the holiness of the moment. I see how the mysteries of God manifest themselves through corporate worship, and I think, “Surely God is in this place.”

Also at our church, we have a discipline of silence that follows the sermon. We sit for minutes in silence and let the spirit of the living God move. For us, this moment is a primary place where we can experience awe and be reminded of God’s mystery.

Worship is the best barometer for how much faith churches allow others to experience, but it is not the only way. Sunday School curriculum, small group topics, Wednesday night Bible studies, and children’s sermons all reflect how much faith or how much fear we have.

A church that leaves room for mystery, that teaches the “holy other” nature of God, is a church willing to look forward with faith. They can let go of the fear that says all of life’s questions are answerable. They can let go of the lie that says everything we need to know is only written in the pages of scripture. It can, rather, open its worship, its theology, its doors to a world that is hungry for mystery and transcendence.

If we do this, our future and the church’s future will be awe-some. Here’s to looking forward with faith!

Barrett Owen is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Virginia.

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