Reflections on Faith
In this blog, you will find weekly reflections on life and faith. My hope is that, in some way, they will prove helpful to you in your daily living. May God bless you on the spiritual journey.
Andrew S. Odom
Your thoughts, how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them, any more than I could count the sand of the sea. (Psalm 139:17-18)
What will the next year really bring? What will the next presidency really bring? Will our country behave? What is going on? How did we get here? These are the questions that continue to be asked. Societal anxiety continues to rise. We are worried and unsure. It can be paralyzing.
Congregational consultant Susan Beaumont recently wrote about the anxiety that has popped up in churches. “How do we remain centered when everyone else seems so anxious?” she asks. Her answer is to reclaim a sense of wonder. “Wonder trumps anxiety. We cannot be filled with wonder and remain anxious at the same time. Wonder is the ability to feel amazement, admiration and curiosity about something. Wonder invited our best, most creative thinking. Wonder connects us with God.”
Psalm 139 is an exercise in wonder. Read it when you get a moment. You will find the psalmist writing about enemies that seemed to be everywhere. But instead of allowing the voices of fear or cynicism or judgment to take control, the psalmist returns to a place of wonder and curiosity about God. Instead of a prayer that ramps up the anxiety, we end up with one of the most beloved and intimately captivating prayers in the Bible.
As we move toward Bethlehem and the miraculous Christmas promise, take note of the voices in you that are cynical and fearful and judgmental. Acknowledge them. They are part of you after all. And then, sit silently and ponder the whole of the Christmas story. Take time to wonder about God, the one who is in and above all time and space, the one who was born in a pile of hay. Wonder trumps anxiety.
Published on 11/29/2016 @ 8:36 AM CDT
This is what the prophet has written, “But you, Bethlehem, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel. (Matthew 2:6)
Advent is a season for getting ready. It is a time to prepare for what is next, not for what is next from us, but for what is next from God. In this season of preparation, we will be reflecting on the mystery of the whole of the Christmas story. We are going to be walking through the wonder of Christmas.
I have found that when we experience something deeply mysterious or breathtaking in life, we often remember certain objects or moments that stand out as odd. We use physical things to point beyond the moment to the mystery itself. In the birth story of the Messiah, the gospel writers lift up a number of things from the experience. We will focus on four of them: a star, a name, a manger, and a promise. Ordinarily these things would have no particular meaning, but when tied to the story of God becoming flesh, they become powerful markers of a miraculous moment in time.
Beginning this Sunday, let’s dust off our hearts and enter the season with a sense of wonder and surprise. Perhaps more than ever, in a world that feels torn completely in two, now is the time to open ourselves up to the promise God gives birth to in us as the star points the way to the one born in a manger who is given the name above all names, the name of Jesus.
Published on 11/20/2016 @ 6:59 PM CDT
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. (1 John 3:1)
Giving does not come naturally. We are born with the instinct to watch out for ourselves first, to make certain of our own situation first, and to keep our eyes on ourselves first. We are built to survive. Giving goes against the grain of this most basic of instincts, so it does not come naturally. Giving is a learned trait. We learn it when we are children by watching others give, like parents and mentors. We read stories about giving in scripture or in children’s books, and it starts to stick. As we grow older, we practice the art of giving as we slowly but surely become more generous. We find that the more we give, the more we are able to give. With practice, generosity becomes more than just an ethic; it becomes a way of life. But it takes practice.
In the church, giving is visible in all kinds of ways, from the offering plate passed in worship, to the food collected for the hungry, or the prayers of comfort offered to someone who is feeling distant from God. The church is an endless ocean of examples in giving and generosity. It is, perhaps, where we show Christ in the world most fully.
On Sunday Canyon Creek did what we do each year at this time. We all came to the front to make a commitment for next year. Almost every time we do that I watch the people coming forward. I look at your faces, your expressions, and your posture, and I say to myself, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.” In those moments, I see God’s children growing in their faith and in their practice of being generous.
If you were not able to be with us, you can still be part of it by making your commitment online. May God bless you with life and life abundant.
Published on 11/14/2016 @ 9:26 PM CDT
Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3)
Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for, or perhaps it is the day we’ve all been dreading. I’ve seen Facebook posts from friends who voted early like I did. Their posts usually included something like, “Now can we please put this election behind us!” I have had some days like that during the seemingly endless campaigning. I’ve seen the ugliness like you have. I’ve watched the posturing like you have. I’ve tried to glean some semblance of what is true and real like you have. It has been an ordeal to say the least. It feels like we are fighting for the soul of our country.
The image I have had in my head, though, is not of a battle. I haven’t seen this as armored up warriors charging into the fray. That’s not how I’ve pictured it. No, the image I have had is that of a flock of sheep. Sheep are social creatures and are nervous by nature. They are filled with anxiety all the time. They constantly look for the wolf that is out to get them whether the wolf is actually there or not. They band together for protection and will follow even when it is not a good idea. It seems an apt description for us right now.
I felt a little bit like a sheep when I went in to vote the other day, but then something unexpected happened. A strange sense of calm came over me. I wasn’t nervous or anxious or unsure. I wasn’t worried or uncomfortable. I felt completely at ease in the votes I was making, not because I thought I was voting for the right candidates, and certainly not because I had stopped worrying about what people will do after the election is over. We are sheep after all. No, I was calm because I believe in the shepherd, the God of us all.
Published on 11/07/2016 @ 12:12 PM CDT
Many of you were part of the relief Canyon Creek helped provide part of Baton Rouge in the wake of the flooding a few months back. John and Sandra Hurlbert, along with many others, helped coordinate and deliver the supplies. They have written a word of thanks and a relflection on some of the experience. I would like to express my own gratitude for you as well, a church that reaches out when we can and where we are called. -Andy Odom, pastor-
"Flood Supplies Thanks"
John and I want to voice our thanks for the generous outpouring of supplies for the folks in Baton Rouge after the flooding. Also, I want to express a special thanks to Ann and Doug Turner for offering to drive but ending up spending hours organizing and loading the supplies. I was trying to get Natalie off to college and couldn’t have done it without them. Thanks to Jaycee Bryan who came over before LSU started and helped clear out a kitchen. Lastly, thanks to Michelle Niven for re-arranging her schedule right before school started and taking a load as well.
It’s hard to imagine the devastation unless you see it. In front of every house in entire neighborhoods, people’s houses are turned inside out lined up across the yard for trash. John’s brother David’s house had 5 feet of water in it; his sister Mary’s house had 4 feet. These are areas that had never flooded.
However, the words that keep coming to my mind are community and family. Through texts, emails and Facebook, our community here surrounding Canyon Creek answered the call to do something. We loaded up a SUV, a Tahoe and a trailer with all the supplies and clothing that was donated. We had to drive the trailer leisurely down the road it was so full and heavy. What a different ride that was from our usual hurry and get there!
In Baton Rouge, John’s cousin Jeanne took us in and we became another family. Her household of 3 was suddenly expanded to 12. Mary and family (4 adults and an energetic 4 year old) had been there since being rescued by the National Guard. John returned Tuesday once people were let back into their houses. Cousin Steve returned from Maryland after getting his luggage soaked from the flooding the weekend before. Then Charlie Moore and I arrived with that trailer full of stuff. Jeanne was determined that we all eat dinner each night together no matter what time and was blessed by members of her church with food.
With the supplies unloaded at Mary’s empty rental house, Charlie returned to Plano and I was left with distributing supplies. Some supplies went to David and Mary. Some went to neighbors getting Red Cross food from the food truck roaming the streets. A good portion went St. Thomas More church. It is the closest church to John’s siblings’ houses right in the midst of the flooding. They were so gracious to receive supplies and sent a note thanking us. Some went to the Red Cross station set up at the Cortana Mall. Cars snaked around the mostly defunct mall waiting to get supplies and again free food. Lastly, some went to Jeanne’s church Trinity Episcopal which was doing lots to help the flood victims. None of the places were taking clothes, but Jeanne came to the rescue again. Four caregivers at the nursing home where her mother had been had lost everything in the flood. Three of them had directly cared for Jeanne’s mother. The clothes were so appreciated there.
We saw lots of instances of community coming together to help in a variety of ways. Friends brought food while we were working at David’s house. Friends and family were helping clear David’s house and trying to get the power back on. High school teachers and coaches came to Mary’s house. Her son Michael is a Junior college now. A tree service company owner came with his crew to volunteer to clear out the house across the street of a retired couple.
I came back with the sense of the closeness of family and have been intentional in contacting mine. I also look at all the stuff we have at home and in our lives and have been trying to de-clutter in lots of areas. The main idea is the goodness of a community of people helping others. These are people they don’t know and probably never will but have been impacted by the outpouring of such love.
The clean-up continues. Charlie went back last week and was working on houses in Denham Springs that hadn’t been cleaned at all yet. Mold had started growing in closed cabinets at Mary’s house after a week. Now, it has been a month. Please continue to keep Baton Rouge in your thoughts and prayers.
Love in Christ.
Published on 10/31/2016 @ 8:03 PM CDT