And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.   Philippians 1:6

I sometimes wonder why I am so slow to learn, or maybe better put, so quick to forget.  There are things in my life I KNOW God wants for me.  No-brainers like the fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  And I want those same things.  Yet there are many days when, if I pause to take stock, I realize I have slipped back into old patterns of discontent, worry, frustration, fear, unkindness, fickleness, and on it goes.  In that moment, when I see the contrast between where I am and where I want to be, I face a new temptation:  the temptation to immediately and anxiously push and control to make something change.  It’s true that something does need to change, but if I am not careful, my first steps can send me off in the completely wrong direction.  I am learning (slowly) to pause and take a deep breath, admit to God where I am, become fully attentive to the Holy Spirit who is with me, receive his love and compassion, and listen for what he would have me do before I rush forward.  Just this simple change in orientation enables me to move forward with a gracious openness to God working in me, rather than with my frantic effort to work like God.

This past year as we focused on Making Connections with Each Other, God did some surprising and beautiful things among us.  He reminded us that it is in our vulnerable, honest brokenness that we best come to him and to each other.  It is in the places where we are most in need of and receiving his grace, where our protective coverings have had to come off, that we are our most real selves.  In this combination of honest need, real selves, and God’s active presence, God brings us into a unity that brings him glory.  This process is not simple, linear or quick but it is rich, healing and transforming.  Thank you to each of you who took a risk this year, who revealed your real and beautiful self to others, who patiently walked with and encouraged others, and who were open to give, receive and change.

Cyndy Ingram recently reminded me that my greatest needs, “Those are the things that tether you to God.”  I like that picture.  So be fully present to the life you have been given today and let God hold onto you and meet you there, knowing that he IS at work.

I admit I am still a bit of a mess, but that’s okay.  Maybe you have discovered, as I have, that it is much easier to love messy people than perfect people.  I guess that just makes me lovable. So, my messy friends, let’s journey on together in God’s grace, receiving and giving his gracious love.

Prayer: Lord God, I open all that I am to all that you are.  Thank you that you are working in each of your children.  Come to us in your love, and as we receive you fully, may Christ in us renew us and flow through us, so together we can give glory to you.  Amen.

Contributed by Pastor Carla Olsen Draper