FAITH, LOVE & HOPE

June 01, 2020

Throughout the pandemic of COVID-19, the Spirit of God moved our staff to contemplate about faith, hope and love. Our response has been deeply personal, revealing of who we are and who our God remains to be, especially during this time of uncertainty, heartache, loss, lament, discouragement, confusion and indescribable grief. Within this backdrop, we are witnessing the evil fruit of racism and hate toward our Black brothers and sisters, over and over again. All of this is excruciating to our spirits and our faith. However, we invite you to stay with us as we desire to journey alongside you in navigating our personal and collective responses at this time.

WOW! continues to pursue our mission, believing God is uncovering and affirming each of our God-given identities as we confront and wrestle through all that has come up internally so that we can show up confidently, authentically and lovingly to support our brothers and sisters.  We pray we can offer you a safe space where you feel seen and heard.  Please do not hesitate to contact any one of our team to pray or connect.

FAITH

Genesis 1:1-2 
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,  the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God  swept over the face of the waters.

As our lives continue to be profoundly disrupted, shifted and re-adjusted over and over again, I find myself feeling a deep emptiness I have not experienced previously. I continue with my work, to be present to many others, to keep praying and to gather virtually with different communities of my inner circle. My errands are restricted, keeping my social distance, assisting some folks who needed extra help, give and pray. I read scripture, watch inspiring films, listen to worship music and connect to spiritual community, but even so, the emptiness weighs heavily. Thanks to conversing with my spiritual director, I’ve come to understand that there is a real void in my being. And this void is actually a gift God is offering me to hold at the present time; to embrace the void and wait with that. It’s a strange sense to engage with, but it is actually assuring.  The scripture continues with the repeated phrase of “Then God said…” for about 9 times in this chapter. God spoke into the void and brought forth life. God spoke according to what was seen and unseen in the darkness. God was confident of the possibilities. Holding this heavy void, by “faith [I] understand the worlds were prepared by the word of God”  with the assurance that new life possibilities will come. Something wonderful is being created. What is God inviting you to experience in your faith journey at this time? 

Hebrews 11:1-3 
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.   Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

~MANNI

HOPE

1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

The work of hope is not about removing feelings of discouragement, nor is it about removing suffering, nor is it about looking at the bright side of things. Hope comes when we look to Jesus for who he is. The life he lived, the truth he taught, and the compassion that drew him to us is what inspires hope. And hope is what enables us to endure through the suffering.

When the lockdown came, there was anxiety and chaos. The stock market plundered, death tolls multiplied daily. There was the shopping frenzy, and hoarding. Hospitals were overcrowded, medical staff was exhausted, front line workers unprotected, people becoming unemployed, and the list goes on. The creation story in Genesis 1 inspired me with hope. Chaos is a call to God’s creative ways. Since we were created in God’s image, we too can create beauty from chaos. If people pressed into the image of God in them, we can bring restoration. Social distancing helped me to see how we need to live for the good of others not just for ourselves. During Easter, the story of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection revealed that there is more to life than our suffering or death. It is the Lord Jesus that inspired the Thessalonians with a hope that enables them to endure the difficult labor of love. Paul tells how he presses on to take hold of that which has hold of him, God’s unrelenting love. 

What are you inspired to hope for as you draw strength from Jesus?

Where might God be inviting you to see hope in your life?

Where can you offer hope?

~MAY

LOVE

Make love your aim…
1 Corinthians 14:1 (RSV)

Things won’t be the same.’ This has been a shared sentiment and lament as we have endured during this time and even as we look ahead. Yes, things certainly won’t be the same. And yet, when we look back over the course of history, or even our own lives, when have things remained the same? And even when they did, what benefits did it actually bring besides comfort in the moment?

As I have grappled with the myriad of emotions that come when I ponder the ‘sameness’ I have grown accustomed to in my life, I have had to confront a number of unpleasant and ugly things within myself.  March 12th was a dark day for me. Beginning early in the day, I experienced a chain of events and communication that caused me to angrily alter my plans, only to find out later that day the effort and changes I had sacrificed my plans for were not even appreciated!  In fact, there was the potential that the time, thought, and effort I had put in on their behalf could be used against me! I was livid. Even worse, I knew this was only the beginning of similar days and conversations as the announcement to ban large gatherings in NYC was made that afternoon.

I had a decision to make in those next 24 hours, would I continue to let my anger consume me or was there another way? As I sat with God the next morning, I reflected on Jesus’ love for me: the great cost of becoming fully human leading to the cross, and I was broken. I was broken as I saw the overwhelming difference in the size of love Jesus has for others versus my own. The lack of love I recognized in myself that morning led me to a deeper heart of gratitude of his love for me. Despite my shortcomings, his love receives me. It compels me that I cannot remain the same. In this posture, I was able to examine what lay beneath my anger and realized I was actually sad and hurt, because I did not feel valued by the actions and words of others .

Outside my bedroom window is a sculpture I had never even realized was there for the better part of a year. Although the rooms are only a few feet apart, the sculpture is not visible from our living room window, our normal view of the outside world. Only after raising the blinds of our bedroom window/(now second workspace), did I become aware of what’s been there all along. God’s love is present all the time; it’s me who hasn’t taken the time to see and love through his eyes. It’s an invitation to love differently- to open myself to the loss of value others may be experiencing that is causing their pain and anxiety. I thank God that even within the ‘limitations’ we find ourselves in, he offers a different perspective.

I still have a long way to grow in love, but as much as I know we are not meant to live apart from others, we cannot do it apart from the loving, freeing arms of God. My aim each day must first be to know myself in the love and light of God to continue forward in faith, hope and love. Things won’t be the same, but there’s an opportunity for things to be better, starting from within.

~ERIKA