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Join Joan Archives - Page 13 of 26 - FIRSTFRUITS

The Morning Moon

I opened my eyes this morning and through the blinds there it was, a full moon peeking back at me through the bare tree branches. A full moon in the sky outside my window at 6:45am on a random Wednesday morning. It shocked me for a minute. I was always a bit confused about the concepts of how the sun and moon and earth dance around each other, rotating and revolving and eclipsing. All I know is in my ordered world you see the sun during the day and the moon at night. So those times when the moon is still there in the morning just confounds me. It’s like something went wrong. But I trust it knows what it’s doing. For some reason that moon this morning brought me a sense of peace. A sense that in spite of all the uncertainty we have been living in this year, there are some things that stay the same. Some things we can know for sure. Some things that in their constancy and predictability can bring us hope. There is a normality to the world after all. It’s just harder to spot with all the abnormality around us. And it will be back. In the mean time we rest in hope. Advent is a season of hope. In the book Beautiful Hope, a compilation of essays from spiritual leaders, Pope Francis tells us, “When everything seems finished, when, faced with many negative realities, and faith becomes demanding, and there comes the temptation which says that nothing makes sense anymore, behold instead the beautiful news...

Advent: Waiting and Wondering

When I say the word “waiting,” what associations do you make? The DMV? Disney World? Apple Customer Service? An apology from your spouse!? Waiting isn’t fun. This has become glaringly apparent as the months of the pandemic have dragged on. Waiting has become our new normal. Waiting in line at Trader Joe’s or Walmart. Waiting until the day when we can hug and kiss our friends and family (and strangers, at this point!). Waiting for a vaccine. All this practice we have had at waiting should make this one of our best Advents yet. Advent is all about waiting. Waiting in joyful hope and anticipation. But what exactly are we waiting for? The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is straightforward and concrete. An end to the pandemic. What is the light at the end of Advent? What do we joyfully anticipate? The birth of a baby, but not just any baby. The birth of Jesus. One commentary I was reading described the birth of Jesus as a “visitation from God.” God wants to come for a visit and is doing so through the incarnation of his Son. What does a visit from God look like to you? Are you ready to receive Him? To receive the transforming love that is God? How do you need to prepare for that visit? That is the beauty in God’s timing. He gives us this time of waiting to prepare ourselves to accept the love that is symbolized in the manger in Bethlehem. What is it about God’s love that we need time to prepare for it? A lot of questions in this blog and no answers. At least not yet. And so, we wait…and wonder. Joan...

Following God’s Will Through the Holy Spirit

Discipleship isn’t for the faint of heart. Much is asked. We can’t do it on our own. Thankfully God knew that, and in His faithfulness and compassion provides us with just what we need to face the challenges of discipleship. He gives us the Holy Spirit. At Baptism and again at Confirmation we are sealed with the indwelling Holy Spirit. We see in the readings this week, the power that enabled Jesus to resist temptation in the desert and accept the will of the Father in the garden of Gethsemane is the same power in each of us. We need to acknowledge it, believe in it, and set it free in our lives. We have to stir it up. Where’s your spoon? Joan   Truth Be Told Video - Week 6 Truth Be Told Bibles References Luke 4:1-13 Temptation of Jesus Luke 22:39-51 The Agony in the Garden...

God’s Mercy

As we become more intentional in our desire to grow in our discipleship, we open ourselves up to many blessings. We talked about the blessing of intimacy with God last week. This week we hear about another blessing of discipleship, only this one comes with a challenge. That blessing is God’s mercy. It is there waiting for us to accept it, but that acceptance also means accepting our sinfulness. In order to experience the amazing mercy of God we have to first acknowledge our sinfulness and be willing to repent. That isn’t always easy. As we grow in discipleship, God gently reveals our sinfulness. He lovingly takes us through a process of healing and growth. God’s light shines on our dark spots. The spots of sin that we have grown accustomed to and don’t even see anymore. It’s like those piles of stuff in our houses that we just vacuum around! We should never be discouraged though. God’s mercy is greater than any sin. And it’s available to all. As we grow in intimacy with God and we position ourselves, maybe not in a tree like Zacchaeus but in a place closer to Him than ever before, He will invite Himself in. But with that invitation comes a housecleaning. Are you ready to get rid of those piles? Joan Truth Be Told Video - Week 5 Truth Be Told Bible References Luke 15:1-10 Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin Luke 18:35-43 Healing of the Blind Beggar Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus the Tax Collector...

Intimacy With God

Saying YES to discipleship has its challenges but it also has many blessings. The blessings far outweigh the challenges. One such blessing is intimacy with God. Imagine that! We can have an intimate relationship with God. Hard to believe? That unbelief along with feelings of unworthiness are examples of the things that prevent us from experiencing this amazing gift that awaits us. Watch the video and learn from these passages in the gospel of Luke what we need to do to know the deep connectedness and sense of belonging that is offered to each of us as disciples. (And find out what an adorable little giraffe has to do with it?!) Joan Truth Be Told Video - Week 4 Truth Be Told Bible References Luke 7:1-10        Healing of the Centurion’s Slave Luke 10:38-42   Martha and Mary Luke 12:22-34   Dependence on God...

At What Cost?

Last week we received the invitation to discipleship. As we see this week, if we respond “yes,” Jesus has laid out very detailed instructions on what we need to do and what challenges we will face. This “yes” will require commitment and some pretty drastic changes. This is where a lot of us put on the brakes. Change isn’t fun. But we must keep our eyes on the prize and not look back. Keep looking forward to the new life we are promised. It’s there we will find our joy! Joan Truth Be Told Video - Week 3 Truth Be Told Bible References Luke 4:14-30 Jesus Begins His Ministry Luke 9:23-27 Conditions of Discipleship Luke 9:57-10:12 The Would -Be Followers and The Mission of the Seventy -Two....

Something New!

In an effort to keep things exciting and new at Firstfruits, my blogs are going to look a bit different for the next five weeks. Included in a short blog will be a video of the talk that I give every week at our new Bible study called Truth Be Told. The focus of the study is how to live a life of discipleship using the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts as our manual. Through the living Word of God we all receive an invitation to live in intimate relationship with Him. That invitation demands a response. We can say “YES” or “NO.” This invite doesn’t have a MAYBE option. A "maybe" to discipleship is as good as a "no." We looked at how this invitation or call plays out in real life. In particular in the life of Simon Peter. Jesus met him where he was at, doing what he did every day. Jesus got in his boat and his life was never the same. Has Jesus gotten in your boat? Is he rocking your boat? Do you sense an invitation to something deeper? Are you ready to drop your net of excuses and say YES? Join me via video for more of the story… . Truth Be Told Video (Week 2) Truth Be Told Weekly Bible references: Luke 3:1-20        John the Baptist Luke 5:1-11        The Call of Simon Peter Luke 14:12-24   An Invitation to a Banquet...

Courageous Joy

I dare you to be joyful. I challenge you to express gratitude outwardly today. I’ll bet my last, secretly stashed bag of dark chocolate covered almond and sea salt butterscotch caramels that you can’t go half a day without a negative thought. Heck, I’ll say half an hour. These days it’s even harder than usual to be positive as we deal with all that the world is challenging us with. It’s hard enough to just maintain our precarious sanity that seems to come and go, let alone be joyful. I think that is what is wearing us down the most as the months of Covid plod on. Preserving our sanity. How then can we muster up the energy to be joyful? My Covid time prayers are mostly filled with pleas for peace and calm and safety and the coping skills to achieve those things. There isn’t a whole lot of mention of joy and gratitude. But I was reminded this week of something that I never think to pray for that just might be the way to joy. Courage. I received an email from a friend that included a blog written by Mallory Smith entitled Joy Takes Courage. I never really thought about the fact that it takes courage to risk revealing your joy. In this blog the author states “It is much more difficult and risky to focus on and share about the good things that happen to us. There is more at stake. We risk annoying someone. No one wants to be a Pollyanna in a Kill Bill world. Or we risk magnifying another’s pain. We are all too familiar with the jealousy we have felt at the good fortune of another.” Mallory Smith emphasizes that we should not hide our bad days or feel like we have to push our negative feelings under the rug. We need to be able to go to friends for comfort and advice. We need to be able to share honestly. That kind of sharing seems to come more easily. Who doesn’t love an occasional group pity party? It’s the sharing of the good, the beautiful, the Divine in our lives that doesn’t come as easily. Dr. Brene Brown says “Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience.” Unleashing our joy is just too risky. That is why we need courage. So how do we become courageous? As the blog says, “How do we embrace joy in a cynical world?...

The Balm of Creation

I’m writing this blog on October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. So, it only makes sense that I feel compelled to tell you about a Netflix’s documentary I stayed up way too late to watch last night called My Octopus Teacher. It was a beautiful story of a man and an octopus. Something St. Francis would have loved, I think. To be honest, I never have given much thought to octopuses before. (Fun Fact for the day--I looked up the plural of octopus and discovered there are three acceptable options: Octopuses, Octopi or Octopodes.) But after seeing this film, I have much more respect and affection for them. I have a new-found respect and affection for all of God’s creatures but not just from watching that film. I also “attended” a virtual retreat this weekend entitled Gift, Gratitude, and Joy-Finding Our Sacred Roots in God’s Creation put on by the Archdiocese and Waukesha County Creation Care Network. Debra Schneider, who will be co-facilitating our new scripture study Truth Be Told this fall, hosted the retreat and gave a talk that really opened my eyes to the sacred connection we have to all of creation. I came away with a renewed sense of our responsibility to God’s perfect plan for how to preserve and sustain all of creation. Our focus each day shouldn’t be on what is easy for us, it should be on what is most beneficial to the preservation of all of creation for generations to come. This time of year, God’s creation dazzles. There is no denying the sacredness and the presence of a Master’s plan as we witness once more the changing of the seasons. The trees at work, the animals preparing, and the sun leaving us sooner each day to follow it’s ageless path. Everything in sync. Everything obeying the Master’s plan. Creation reminds us that in the plan of the Master there is assurance, constancy, and predictability. Due to recent events, many of us are feeling confused, anxious, and unsettled. It’s as if each day brings a new set of questions with no answers. Let God’s plan for creation that is on powerful display these days, give you a renewed sense of assurance, constancy, and predictability. When all seems in chaos, take a look out your window instead of at your TV. And if you are really struggling to make sense of the world you might want to look...

Believe It or Bologna

Will wonders never cease? As you recall from last week’s blog, my husband and I just celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. I mentioned how clueless I was on our wedding day to the presence of God with us. I didn’t really understand or appreciate the promise in Ecclesiastes 4:12 that “A threefold cord is not easily broken.” It wasn’t until many years later that I opened my eyes and my heart to this reality. I also told you about the marvelous gourmet meal that my friend Stacy and her daughter, Loralei, made for my husband and I out of the kindness of their hearts and how it was for us another sign of God’s presence and tender care. End of story, I think not. The day after the dinner we went over to our daughter and son-in-law's house for what ended up being a surprise, socially distanced gathering for donuts and coffee with the family. As we came around the corner, this picture was snapped. Notice anything strange, other than the fact that I’m carrying around our framed wedding photo? Like the ray of light we seem to be standing in? The threefold cord? Overexposed film, faulty flash, or maybe just coincidental shading effect? You can smile and rationalize away these moments, but to me they are God’s glory made manifest in our everyday, jean wearing, red bag toting , bad hair day days. They are gifts from a God who sees us, hears us, and loves us like we can’t even imagine. When these manifestation of the glory and presence of God show up, it’s our privilege and our responsibility to share them with the world so others may begin to open up to the possibilities. “Believe it or bologna,” I always say. That is the choice we have when faced with manifestations of the Divine in our ordinary lives. Believing is so much better than bologna, and a lot healthier! Be open to the ways that God wants to shine His love and care on you. Watch for His reminders of His presence and promises. Especially during these challenging times. Watch for His glory made manifest in the simplicity of these unusual days. And if you spot Him, be sure to let me know. Joan I hope you will consider joining me for Ponder This starting October 13 on Zoom from 12:30-2:00 where I will share more of my “Believe It or Bologna” stories in my Ponder This book...