Monday, February 21, 2005

Now for Sami’s ramblings about Jesus:

I hope all of you have experienced the blessing and richness of friendship the way God intended it. I have been sitting here thinking of the many ways God has blessed me through friends in the past week. What a beautiful treasure each one of you are! I am truly convinced that those words to the famous Michael W. Smith ballad are as sacred as anything Charles Wesley (John Wesley’s brother) wrote: “Friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never, cause the welcome will not end. Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know, that a lifetime’s not too long, to live as friends.” In my lifetime I have had plenty of opportunity for friendships to come and go; the ones that stay and that remain life giving are the ones that are infused with the very presence of Christ. You see, my friends are the very presence of Jesus for me. I can get so lost in the scariness of real life sometimes. My fears get the best of me. My faith gets weak. But God always manages to send the sweetest messages through the sweetest messengers: true friends.

They are, as individuals, quite different from each other. Some I have known most of my life (boy, the stories my youth group friend could tell on me!); some I have known less than a year. Some are so very similar to me in so many ways; some are so different in just as many. But each one of them bring a unique perspective of God’s truth and love to my life. Sometimes when I am too weak to find Jesus on my own, they are the ones who each have a corner of the blanket, and they are hauling me to him. Most of them don’t even realize what service they are accomplishing. They just grab a corner and go, because it just seems like the right thing to do.

It can be so easy to get hung up on ministry as being a minister’s thing, something that only paid professionals can really do (and do well). The truth is that ministry happens any moment we allow ourselves to be the empty vessels God can fill up and pour out. Usually it is something as mundane as a telephone call of catching up. Usually the greatest acts of ministry are so insignificant in terms of worldly appraisal that we barely register them on our spiritual radars. That is because great ministry is really great love expressed in simple and everyday ways: listening, supporting, laughing with, crying for, hoping and helping. As one of my dear friends will often say: “The process is love; don’t hinder the process.”

My question to you is this: Who are your true friends? When was the last time you sat down and really understood the depth of riches you have through your friends? Are the people you surround yourself with in life the kind of people who give you a glimpse into the life of Christ? If not, why not? And also, are you allowing God to make you into the kind of friend that Jesus shines through? Friendship, the true, deep, and lasting kind may just be the way that Jesus intends to redeem the world. Friendship may just be the one thing that can persuade the broken-hearted lost sheep to give the Good Shepherd a chance.

I feel so blessed and honored to be one of your spiritual friends, that every week you choose to walk the spiritual path with me. I know you don’t have to read these silly e-mails, but so many of you do. Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you. I pray that in the mist of the messes (the ones I get myself in) and miracles (the ones God’s grace allows) that God’s love will reach through this information super-highway and warm your heart. You are His precious treasure, His cherished child. Just know that about yourself and see how this perspective changes everything. You are so special.



Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Now for Sami’s ramblings about Jesus:

So we’ve all heard about the power of prayer. But have you had an opportunity to go beyond hearing about it to truly experiencing it? You may say to me, “Sami, I’ve tried the prayer thing. No matter how much I pray, nothing changes.” And I could say to you that even after several years of being a “professional” (this just means that by profession I am a minister) in the prayer arena “I understand.” Why is it that people can spend so much time praying and experience so little change?

Well, here it is. The first part of experiencing the power of prayer in one’s life is to actually pray. How do you know if you have or not? Simple. I remember hearing a friend of mine share about the difficulties his daughter was having. No matter what he and his wife did, this little girl could not stop pulling her hair out. The result was that she had bald patches all over her little head. Finally he was sharing their plight with a lady who was one of the pillars of the church he attended. This woman of faith looked at him squarely and asked, “Have you prayed about it?” He and his wife had done everything but that. Only when they intentionally began praying about the problem did it begin to be resolved. So the answer to knowing whether you have prayed or not is in being able to truthfully answer “yes” to the question “have you prayed.” It is amazing how many times this simple question catches me, the “professional,” off guard. Sometimes even professionals forget to take our needs to the Lord in an intentional way.

Next, the power of prayer lies in people who are praying. Notice I did not say person. When I pray about the stuff in my life, I experience God’s power in a REAL AND NOTICEABLE way when I invite others into the experience. It’s not that prayers from a single person don’t count. It’s that God is into the community thing. After all, God’s very identity is communal: God is a trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God never intended us to go through life alone. The very fact that God looked at Adam all alone in the garden and said, “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18) should dispel any notions of lone ranger faith walks. In fact, it is impossible to have an authentic faith alone, without anyone else. And I find that my most powerful prayers are never for myself, but always for someone else. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the most powerful prayers for me are not prayed by me at all, but by someone else? It means we need each other.

And finally, to say that nothing changes no matter how much one prays is simply not true. The change may just be happening in a way and in a place that is overlooked by the one praying. This is true because any time we make a good faith effort at prayer we are entering into Love, God’s very being. And the being of God is also the power of God. And anytime we get close to God we are changed by that encounter. So maybe it may look like the situation you are praying for is not changing, but I promise you are. God’s Being is released into your being; you are no longer the same. And prayers also invite the Being of God into the circumstance and situation that is being lifted up. It is like infusing a dank and stuffy room with fresh clean air. It creates breathing room. Remember how powerful stirred up air can be (tornados, hurricanes, wind storms). Just ask the people who were present (and praying) in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 2). That little breeze changed their lives and the world forever.

All this is to say that prayer is indeed powerful. Mainly because it connects us to the most pure Love there is (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit), and such pure, undiluted Love is powerful. I hope that each of you have people who pray for you. If you are in doubt whether you have someone or not, e-mail me. I’ll pray for you. And we even have an e-mail prayer ministry. You may have seen the “Need Prayer?” signs around campus. This little is for you too. Let us know how we can lift you up to the Lord.

Anyway, hope you are doing well. I want to send out a big THANK YOU to all those who have prayed for me in all kinds of ways and at all kinds of times. You are all truly my Life Line. You keep me linked to God. Thank you for taking the time to love me so well.

This is Sami sending a prayer of love out to all who read this. May God bless you richly; may you know how precious you are in His sight; may you be filled with God’s peace and joy. Amen.



Thursday, February 10, 2005

Now for …..Sami’s Ramblings about Jesus:

So, I’m sitting here talking to my good friend Kelly. She and I both agreed that the best wisdom for the week is to make sure you set aside time to laugh. That’s why Becky and Kelly and I turned Noah’s burp rag into a swami hat and took his picture. It made us laugh even if he didn’t. But I have found that if I dance, he gets plenty tickled. For a minute anyway. And only if he isn’t tired, hungry, or wet. Which is to say, there are times in life when you have to attend to the essentials or everything else doesn’t matter. Kind of like when you are on a road trip, in the middle of nowhere, the last rest area or pit stop was 50 miles ago, and you have to pee really bad. At that point it doesn’t even matter how far away the destination is or what adventures you’ll go on when you get there. The only thing that is on your mind is finding some facilities (clean ones hopefully).

But sometimes laughter is as big a need in our lives as facilities are. When was the last time you had a good, deep, long, belly laugh? One of my favorite pictures of Jesus is one where His head is thrown back and He is laughing heartily. I know Jesus has a great sense of humor. He created me after all. Sometimes I think my calling in the body of Christ is to be the funny bone. You know, keep things lively. The Bible even supports the importance of letting your hair down. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Notice that it says nothing about our strength being found in how good we are, how rich we are, how much we pray, how much we memorize scripture, etc. etc. Our strength comes from God’s joy. Oh Yeah!

The good news for us is that God’s joy permeates our lives when we allow God to be our all in all. That means for every person who claims Jesus as Lord of their hearts, He brings His joy with Him as He takes up residence. And this joy can be accessed anytime day or night, regardless of circumstances, unblemished by situations, and untarnished by events. It is free to all who desire it.

I don’t know about you, but in the midst of hard living, sometimes I need a joy break. So come on down and join us tonight. Grab a brush and paint some joy into your life.



Tuesday, February 01, 2005

One of my spiritual heroes is Henri Nouwen. He was a well-known Catholic Priest who wrote extensively on the Christian life. I guess what I like about him so much is his human-ness. In his writings, he never comes off as someone who knows it all or someone who has special access to God that no one else can attain. Instead, he uses his own real life struggles as the starting point for connecting with God. And he is honest about his vulnerabilities. When I read him, I feel like it is okay to be human, that I am not alone in my own struggles. For instance, in his last book Nouwen says this: “These days I feel strong, alive, and full of energy. Still, I am aware that much of that well-being is the direct result of the loving support of many friends. At the moment I do not experience any anger or hostility directed toward me. I feel in gentle harmony with my family, the people in [my work], and the many friends close by and far away. In situations like this I easily forget how fragile I am inside, and how little is needed to throw me off balance.”

When I read words like that I am thankful for a place like this, the Wesley Foundation. So many people never experience the safety of being loved and accepted for who they are, just the way they are. When I was a student in college attending the Wesley Foundation, this place gave me the courage I needed to begin to discover who I was when I wasn’t desperately trying to please people. And it also gave me the safety I needed to live out of that God-given identity everyday. This is a place of gentle harmony. This is a place of laughter. This is better even than the bar on “Cheers” because you don’t have to be drunk or drinking to experience the joy of being loved and accepted. It is true. “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” This is what the ministry of the Wesley Foundation is all about: connecting students with real love, the love of Jesus Christ, through the community of Jesus Christ.

So come on down. Come and experience what it means to feel strong, alive, and full of energy. Come know what it is to be fragile and off-balance, but okay, all at the same time.