By Diane Haack
It began when I was seven years old. Pastor Baar dropped by our home to help me rehearse for the upcoming Christmas program. I had very few lines, but he went through them and told me that I was to casually put an ornament on the tree occasionally. The booklet the program was in was yellow, printed by the church. Why is this so memorable? Why would the Pastor come to my home simply and solely to be with me? Why did he care? I felt special, loved, important, and like I mattered. You see, he was Jesus to me at that moment. He loved me enough to show up.
This memory has stayed with me all of these years. I believe this moment, along with many others, is why I am a Christian today. That childlike love that translated into faith has been nurtured, tested, and challenged much throughout my journey. In verse 12 of Philippians 3, the well-known passage that precedes the one about pressing forward…Paul makes clear that we all must continue this journey of faith, looking ahead toward those things that await us in Christ. My walk has included many humans who were the face of Christ in certain moments. I sometimes sought them out, and others appeared….much like many in the scriptures.
Like other parts of scripture, portions of Paul’s letter to the Philippians can be confusing. How can we consider parts of our lives rubbish, and just how are we to lose all things for Christ? I think verse 10, “I want to know Christ and the powers of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings,” is how we do this. As a freshman in college, I signed a card so that I might meet a member of Campus Crusade for Christ...I was presented with a little booklet called The Four Spiritual Laws. I read it and asked this person what that meant to them. No answer. I was searching but was only given a booklet. Much later on my journey, I learned about Lectio Divina. AH—an actual window into how to read scripture and find meaning that might apply to my life there and then. I was beginning to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” V.12. A journey that includes listening and hearing the call. In verse 14, Paul “presses on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”. We are all on a journey….and that journey, for me has included many ups and downs, but always the quest for where, how, and when and if to include Jesus. I learned that doubts, the “ifs” are OK—-those make the “prize”—Jesus, even more sure!
I grew up in the Lutheran church. It served me well most of my life, and I still miss many aspects of that denomination. I was grounded in my faith, and my German heritage is reflected there. My Episcopal journey began soon after college when I attended a folk Mass in Houston and got involved in a coffee house that included many recovering drug abusers. That church welcomed them unconditionally. Years later, I met Iris Pearce, an amazing soul who died recently. She created the School of Spirituality, from which I experienced God in many different ways, including Lectio Divina. Iris walked with me through the most painful period of my life. She was Episcopalian and was Jesus to me for many, many hours. Another brush, but still Lutheran. Then I found Ascension. I was living in the neighborhood at the time, so I showed up one Sunday. Mtr. Kai Ryan greeted me with her first name. I was floored!! I never experienced a female clergy, and certainly, not one that called herself by her first name!! Then, Dabney Dwyer introduced herself and took me to lunch. I was seeing something I had never seen. Sermons about the poor, the disenfranchised, with the call to help them. Not just words but actions. As much as I was a Lutheran in my soul, this church was what a church was supposed to be. It oozed out of those I met, the clergy, and the heart of Ascension. In time, I found the Garden, and as I neared retirement, God placed me in the position of overseeing His Garden. I find Jesus there—in the dirt, peas, tomatoes, and okra. I still marvel that a tiny seed can produce a huge plant with things to eat!!
Where do you seek Jesus? Where might you look further to find Jesus? Who is Jesus to you, and whom are you to Jesus? I doubt Pastor Baar knew what those 30 minutes meant to me years ago. This experience is something to meditate upon. We each fail in this every day…BUT we must press on to SUCCEED in being Jesus—to those we give a Blessing bag to on the highway, to our seatmate at church that may be hurting, or rejoicing….it’s like that passage of “angels unaware”….in verse 12, Paul “presses on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”. What a call!!!!
The reading Diane's reflection references is Philippians 3:4b-14
Diane has been a member of Ascension since 2012. She retired in 2018 as a flight attendant after 44 years. Outbound has been her main ministry, and she has been part of the Garden for most of her time at Ascension. She still loves to travel, finding new adventures whenever she can. The community of gardeners is a big part of her life, and most mornings, she is in the Garden. That is where she finds God.