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Reflection: In Front, Besides, Behind, Above, and In Us

“I look up at the vast size of the mountains—

from where will my help come in times of trouble?

The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains

will send the help I need.”

-- Psalm 121:1-2 (The Voice) --

This month the congregation enters a new season. Each one of us as individuals and as part of the congregation are entering the season of fall. In this season we start to experience changes—the days are shorter, the weather turns cooler, some of us are making plans to go to warmer places, and some others are making plans to stay in this place. No matter what we do or where we go, we all are preparing even when we do not know what we will encounter in our journey.

Psalm 121 is one of the Psalms that I memorized when I was a child. It spoke to me in a very special way, especially when my parents and siblings went through a very difficult time. We had to move from Mexico City to Guadalajara due to my father’s job as a sales person. The psalmist's question was constantly my parents and my own question, “from where will my help come in times of trouble?” But as we walked the journey, we were reassured that our help and strength would come from the Lord.

As an older married adult, I look back to those days and the number of times that my family and I have moved from city to city, and from country to country. I cannot deny that we faced troubles, hard times, uncertainties, and grief. At the same time, I cannot deny that we also experience the sustaining hand of the Lord who strengthens us and opens our hearts to experience God’s help.

It is interesting that as I recall my past journeys and quest while writing these lines, I am in San Diego, CA. I came accompanying Pr. Jade to the 2023 ELCA Center of Chinese Ministry Annual Meeting. I say it is interesting because this week TLCS will enter a new worship series season named “Quest: Travel as a Spiritual Act" In the coming four weeks, we will reflect on how we experience God’s help, sustenance, and blessings not only in our physical traveling but in our faith journey.

This trip has been a mixture of emotions for me because it has brought several aspects on my life journey. San Diego’s topography, landscape, and environment make me reconnect with my motherland. Also, being among the Chinese pastors and leaders connects me with what has become part of my life through my marriage. Such experiences bring some nostalgic emotions and memories. At the same time it propels me to reflect on how God is working through this experience in me to help me being and becoming God’s witness of God’s unfailing love and grace.

The pictures that I am sharing with you in this reflection are images of the environment around the area where we are staying. It is certainly a different environment from Lynnwood! It is dry and hot. Which reminds me that Psalm 121 was written as a liturgy for people who traveled through the wilderness to gather as the people of faith in Jerusalem. And, it makes me think of our faith journey through times of wilderness when we feel like dried vegetation, or as if we will never get where the Lord is sending us (Yes, like snails claiming a bricks wall or a tree!). Have you ever felt like that?

Tomorrow, we will fly back home to familiar places with familiar people. However, I believe that the journey continues because our journey is a one of continuous discovery, ongoing challenges, and open to new possibilities and opportunities to hear the same promise that the psalmist heard while journeying to Jerusalem:

“The Eternal will keep you safe,

from all of life’s evils,

From your first breath to the last breath you breathe,

from this day and forever.”

-- Ps 121:7-8 (The Voice) --

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