Mar 23 2011

Lenten reflection: Discovering our best selves

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday throughout Lent, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own Lenten journey.

Last Sundayís Gospel presented us with the image of the triumphant Moses, standing in serene dignity alongside the Prophet Elijah at the Transfiguration of Jesus.

But in todayís first reading, we see a very different Moses ñ one close to throwing in the towel.

The reading takes place early on in the 40-year trek of the people of Israel through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.

Tired and thirsty, they grumble against Moses as the one who brought them out of Egypt. Considering their previous existence as slaves, the collective short memory of the people must have exasperated Moses considerably.

Still, it is hard to work up much sympathy for Moses because, whenever the people grumble at him, his response seems to be to grumble at God.

It is in his conversations with God that we see glimpses of the insecure person Moses truly was.

Moses is one of a long line of reluctant biblical heroes. In the tradition of prophets like Jonah and Jeremiah, he tried to talk his way out of Godís call.

Bob Hentzen along Walk2gether

CFCA President and Co-founder Bob Hentzen witnesses a sunrise in the Andes mountains along Walk2gether.

But, as with the prophets, God did not take Mosesí ìnoî as his final answer.

Of course, God does take no for an answer, and would have taken it from Moses if that was truly the desire of Mosesí heart.

But God knew that, despite his doubts and fears, Moses really did want to lead. He just needed a little divine push in order to discover his best self.

Mosesí dilemma is ours as well. We too sometimes need help discovering our best selves. We too often find ourselves at the crossroads between safe choice and the risk of accomplishment.

Sometimes we fear failure and sometimes we fear success. Whatever our fears, it usually just seems easier to avoid the risk.

But there are times when that ìsafeî choice isnít really so safe and life compels us to take leaps of faith.

We see this every day in the CFCA world when parents living in poverty decide to send their children to school instead of into the fields to work, or when communities join together to learn new ways to generate income.

As courageous choices help these people rise from oppressive poverty, we are reminded of the good that comes from saying ìyesî to the God of the possible.

As he dealt with his thirsty, grumbling community of wanderers, Moses probably regretted his ìyesî to God. It surely wasnít the first time he felt that way and it wouldnít be the last.

The important thing is that, no matter how he felt at any given moment, Moses remained faithful to his commitment to God.

In so doing, he also remained faithful to his best self.

May this Lent be a time for each of us to discover and embrace, in ever deeper ways, our best selves.

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Dec 8 2010

Advent reflection: Invest in the gift of joyful anticipation

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

ìMake your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.î (James 5:8)

In the second reading this Sunday from the Letter of James (James 5:7-10) we are advised to be patient as we wait for the coming of the Lord.

But patience, though it is a virtue, is also a hard sell in a society like ours that places such value on instant gratification.

Our lives are filled with microwave ovens, instant messages, movies on-demand and a million other little enhancements that fuel our hunger for immediate results.

It seems the more time we save with these gee-whiz wonders of contemporary life, the less time we are willing to invest in the kind of patient waiting that the Advent season calls us to.

Benito from Nicaragua

Benito, a sponsored child from Nicaragua

It might be good for those of us who struggle with patience to ask ourselves just what purpose our impatience serves.

What do we gain from the five minutes we save at the drive-up window? How are our lives richer because we can text and shop at the same time?

Do these abilities enhance the moments of our lives or simply fill them? And, if we are in a hurry, what is it we are hurrying to?

When CFCA sponsors visit the communities where sponsored friends live, they often receive a surprise bonus ñ a valuable lesson in time non-management.

Sponsor visits are causes for celebration in these towns and villages, and the people prepare joyous receptions complete with parades, music and food. But, travel being what it is in developing countries, our sponsor groups are sometimes hours late in arriving.

In the U.S., such delays would likely be cause for anxiety, but in the CFCA world they only increase the joyful anticipation. Where we might be worried about getting off schedule, the people in these communities accept delays as an unexpected gift.

The longer it takes for some gifts to arrive, the more deeply we appreciate them. Ask a pregnant mother who longs to see her babyís face, or the father of a soldier serving overseas.

They know lessons about anticipation that only time and love can teach. They are not always easy lessons, but they are life-changing ones.

As we continue our journey toward Christmas, may we be people of patience. May we wait for Jesus with joyful anticipation, always open to the unplanned lesson, always ready for the unexpected gift.

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Dec 1 2010

Advent reflection: Dare to dream of a better world

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

ìÖhe shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the landís afflicted.î (Isaiah 11:4)

The second Sunday in Advent presents us with one of the most evocative images in Scripture. In this lovely reading from Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1-10), the prophet paints a magnificent picture of wolves reclining alongside lambs and babies playing in safety around venomous snakes.

He describes a peaceful land of hay-eating lions and gentle leopards, where former predators recline without aggression and the former prey roam without fear.

Isaiah uses this picturesque image to stir the imagination as he foretells the coming of the Messiah.

Writing in a time of upheaval for Israel, with the glory days of David long past and the kingdom largely decimated, the prophet seeks to both admonish and reassure the people.

Just wait until the Messiah ó the Son of David ó comes! He will restore glory to Israel and bring order and harmony to the land.

Flash forward to 2010. Disorder reigns and harmony is in short supply. Lions still eat meat and wise parents still keep their children away from snakes.

More than 2,000 years after the birth of the one Christians embrace as the Messiah, the world is no better than it was in Isaiahís day. So what gives?

Martha and Suzanne

Martha, left, from Nicaragua, and her sponsor, Suzanne

The people who first knew Jesus were forced to grapple with that same question. And, ultimately, those who chose to follow him had to let go of some deeply rooted, preconceived notions.

They had to empty themselves of their expectations of the Messiah as a great king or military leader in order to embrace a savior more powerful than they could have imagined. They had to take a leap of faith to discover the true Christ.

It is the same for us. At times we are tempted to wrap ourselves in our own preconceptions like a security blanket, especially at this time of year when the sentimentality of the holidays is hard to resist.

But if our Advent preparation ó our reflection on the coming of the Christ ó never gets past the baby in the manger, we canít grow in our awareness of who Jesus is and what he truly means for each of us and for our world.

We, too, must take leaps of faith. We must push our comfort zones and dare to dream, like Isaiah, of a world different from the one we now see.

Those who participate in CFCAís Hope for a Family program ó sponsors and sponsored persons ó have taken the leap of faith necessary to embrace the dream of a world where people share their blessings with one another and help lift each other up.

And their dream is coming true, one relationship at a time.

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Nov 24 2010

Advent reflection: Discover Christ in your daily life

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

ìTherefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.î (Matthew 24:42)

The season of Advent begins this year with an apparently somber Gospel warning to remain alert in preparation for the coming of Christ (Matthew 24:37-44).

In tone it doesnít seem to differ much from readings we are accustomed to hearing at the end of a Church year ó readings that portend doom for those caught napping on the Day of Judgment.

But while alertness is a virtue, the alertness that God asks of us in this new Church year is not the terror of one afraid to blink for fear of a cosmic reprimand.

Rather, it is the heightened awareness of one wise enough to know that life is short and wondrous and that if you donít pay attention you could miss the good stuff.

It helps to think of Christís coming not just as a future event but as a joyful gift in the present. In truth, Christ comes to us often and in surprising ways through the people and happenings of life, but it takes alertness to see these moments of grace for what they are.

Laya Annamaynolu, Hyderabad, India, and her family.

Laya Annamaynolu, CFCA-sponsored child in Hyderabad, India, and her family.

Do we recognize the blessings that come our way or are we so wrapped up in our hurts and anxieties that we let them pass unnoticed? Do we embrace the Christ who dwells in other people, or do we focus only on their weaknesses and failings?

The attitude with which we approach each day and each person ñ as either a gift to cherish or obstacle to overcome ñ is also the lens through which we view God.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many people see God only as a stern judge? God does hold us accountable, but to focus only on accountability is to miss the point.

More than anything, God wants each of us to be happy. Our faith teaches that true happiness is the natural consequence of living in loving relationship with God and other people.

If we take care of our relationships, the rest will take care of itself. That is one of the underlying principles of CFCAís Hope for a Family sponsorship program.

We believe in building relationships across divides of poverty, culture, language, race and all the other conditions that separate human beings from one another.

When we have the grace to reach across those divides, the face of Christ becomes visible to us in the faces of other people.

This Advent, may we be awake to the opportunities that God places before us ñ opportunities to discover his Son in wondrous and surprising ways every day.

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