Newsletter – Volume 32

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Newsletter – Volume 32

February 5, 2024

This Week

Confessions From the Back of the Pen
Meet Rudy...

Rudy Ximenez is a great photographer. I cannot begin to tell you the number of awards he has won. You can find him on Facebook. His photography has always moved me, but as I have gotten to know him, I am equally impressed by his personal journey. Here is a portion of his story.

I grew up Catholic, and I was one of those kids who actually loved my experience as an altar boy. I found meaning in the traditions and artistry. I felt God and it felt good. I also attended Catholic School, and again, I enjoyed theology and spirituality. I began to wonder whether or not I should become a priest. One problem. I really liked girls. I couldn’t imagine doing the celibacy thing. In high school I also became involved in ROTC. I was competitive and we won many of the field exercises in which our crew competed. Going back years later, I saw that we still have the record for the best scores.

But it was also in those days that I was introduced to pot. Though I was initially put off by it, maybe partly because I thought I was being disobedient to God, I eventually found a way to rationalize my usage. I felt good. It was natural. Certainly, God couldn’t be against this. I got married way too young and probably married the wrong person. We fought incessantly. I smoked pot every day to survive the drama of that relationship. My life was not turning out as I thought. I was used to excelling and now I was failing at most things. I picked up a camera and found a creative outlet that gave me a new way to share my talents AND capture other people’s stories.

I have certainly made many mistakes in my life. But I have also seen the hand of God at work. After my second failed marriage I quit smoking pot. I went back to church, and I started listening to enthusiastic Christians. I was inspired by their “all in” attitude. I have struggled with depression on/off, but listening to these people, I realized I could go “all in” too and though I haven’t figured it all out, I find myself sharing my faith with people I would normally have never talked to. I take homeless people to lunch. I see my photography as a platform that opens doors to spiritual conversations. My journey remains a journey, but as a fellow struggler, I can build bridges with people who might not listen to the professional preacher types. In short, I am glad that even as a man in process, I can still be his messenger!

Word of the Week

Mercy

Noun: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

Mercy and grace are two sides of same coin, and the coin is the love of God.

I am particularly fond of this distinction – ‘mercy is a compassionate love to the weak and grace is a generous love to the unworthy.’  Some days I wake up confident and grateful for God’s favor (which is often obvious), but then on other mornings I wake up feeling weak, confused, and broken – totally in need of mercy!  This makes the promise of Lamentations 3:23 all-the- more compelling. His mercies are new every morning!  Perhaps you have had some rough weeks in a row.  Maybe you’re going into another one where nothing looks legible or logical. It just looks messy.

Know this: His mercy covers you!

A New Practice I Have Started

Daily Journaling

Interesting Factoid: What do Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Frederick Douglass all have in common? Each of these famous figures kept a journal or diary to record their experiences, thoughts, or feelings.

I picked up my new phone a couple weeks back and found a new app automatically provided on the home page. It was simply entitled Journal. I decided to explore it. I used to be quite regular about journaling back in the day. But it has been a bit. I felt a prompting to start again. I didn’t make a commitment to do it every day. But I have, and here are a couple of things that I have learned (afresh) now that I am almost a month in. The practice had helped me to sort out my thoughts. It has also given me a place to process myself before I lay the burden on anyone else. On the lighter side, it has helped me to capture highlights of the day. This app allows photos to be included with my entries. It even has a setting that will give you prompts about potential writing topics. I forgot how much I got from the practice and am excited to continue. If it has been a while since you have done this or if you have never tried, perhaps this might serve as a little serendipitous nudge to give a try. Hayley Phelan, who writes for the New York Times, probably summarized it best when she said, “One of the most effective acts of self care is also, happily, one of the cheapest.”

A Praise Report

Thank God Anyway

Pocket Prayer: I will give thanks for your wonderful works on my behalf!

I have asked this crew to pray for my friend Lara, and despite her dire diagnosis, she is the kind of person who has found a way to give God praise in and through it all. Give yourself ten minutes to hear this amazing testimonial. You can’t help but be encouraged by it.

A Unique Discover

Spiritual Food Found At Red Lobster

A friend of mine (Jennifer Ann) purchased a Pocket Prayer devotional two weeks ago at church.  She went out to eat after the service with a friend and inadvertently left the book on her table at Red Lobster.  The next day she called and asked if the staff had found it.  They had.  However, they were reluctant to give it back.  Jennifer was confused. The hostess said, “We’ll give it back, but only if you get us another copy, because we’ve all been reading it on our breaks!”. So, guess who is going back to Red Lobster this weekend for lunch with a new book in her hand?

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