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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

gratitude_26[1]Colossians 3:16

Origin and Purpose

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

The world around us is crafty at convincing us to take credit for all that we are and all we have done yet it is God who creates our brains, our aptitudes and our gifts. In God’s time and in God’s space we are each created as God’s children with varying talents, capacities and dreams.

God says: I love you each for your own special place in my heart. I love you all as you come together in my son’s mystical body. I have created you and I have also created a world in which you are free to live. It is true that you do not possess equal skills or intellect. Some of you run quickly with the wind to scout out distant lands and ideas. Others of you see far horizons and are able to mesh complex ideas. Yet some of you have narrow vision and are full of fear while others have grave disabilities and intense anxiety and sadness. But each of you is singular, distinctive and extraordinary in your own way.  Try to see what I see when you become impatient with others. Even in the worst of you there are wonderful ideas. Try to hear what I hear when I listen to the pleas from your heart. Even in the most spiteful of you there is a place for goodness to grow. Try to feel what I feel when I clasp all of you to my heart. Even in the most callous of you there is a heart that yearns for union. Be grateful. Give thanks. Always.

Let us teach and admonish one another that from our small perspective it is impossible to take in the complexity and beauty of God’s creation. Let us encourage one another to be grateful on this day for the gifts we hold in this moment and in this place. And let us sing hymns and songs of thanksgiving for these gifts to God, the origin and the purpose of all.


For some interesting posts on finding God in the midst of life, click on the image above or go to: http://godinthemidst.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Psalm 18

 A Favorite Noontime first written on October 24, 2008. and posted today as we prepare for the holiday of Thanksgiving in the U.S.A.0707160038521psalm_18_28b_niv[1]Thanksgiving for God’s Help

I have a list of petitions I take to God each dawn . . . that I reprise in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening, and when I go to bed. On those nights when I wake during the wee hours I ask again. Scattered among the petitions are my Thank yous for prayers answered . . . I like to think of many big and little miracles with which I and my loved ones, and my enemies, have been graced. This list brings me peace. It reminds me of who I am, the Petitioner. It reminds me that I was formed by God, the Creator. It keeps the reality fresh that I have a purpose which is important and special. It reminds me that I have a mission, even though I am often in a cloud of unknowing about what that mission is. It renews for me the fact that I am child, that God is parent, and that my humility, fidelity and mercy are what my God requires of me. In all of this reminding I settle fully into the knowing that my blessings far outweigh my sorrows, and for this I am continually thankful.

Psalm 18 29[1]My days go best when they are a constant, unceasing prayer. My nights are happiest when I enter them with God. My enemies touch me not when I step into the protective pillar of fire and smoke and pulsing prayer. The lures of the other world melt away from the light of this guiding and protecting pillar.

The rocking of my world reduces to a gentle sway when I turn to God. The darkness and thick thunder clouds dispel when I remember God. The depths of despair evaporate when I call on God. The harsh buffets of life become a gentle breeze when I sing with God.

The psalmist today reminds us that God gives us the swift feet and the sharp mind with which we avoid trouble. God gives us God’s self as armor against the cruelties of the world. God is our rock. God is our breath. God is our life. Praise God.

Dear gracious and good God, You have shown us mercy. We thank you.  ou have shown us the way. We thank you. You have borne us up. We thank you. You have carried us away. We thank you. You have eased our burden. We thank you. You have created us. We thank you. You have loved us well. We thank you.

We thank you when we come to you at dawn, in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening, in the night.

We thank you when we make our life a constant prayer. 

We thank you.  Amen. 


Images from: http://www.photosbyjanine.com/-/photosbyjanine/gallery.asp?photoID=4210731&cat=57731 and http://beelieve-ahealthierme.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-quest-for-healthier-me.html


Monday, November 23, 2020

images[3]Psalm 92

A Hymn of Thanksgiving for God’s Fidelity

Fidelity: faithfulness, loyalty, patience, understanding, questioning and answering, dialog, forbearance, union, love.

From St. Joseph Edition of The Psalms notes: This is a didactic psalm, that is, both a praise of the Lord and an instruction of the faithful. The psalmist meditates on God’s way of acting.  His love and faithfulness are reflected in everything he does, but they must be comprehended. Ultimately the happiness of the wicked will fade like seasonal grass, whereas the lot of the righteous will be like the great trees whose roots are planted on solid ground. For the latter, new seasons are promised in the courts of God. God’s joy is like a new spring in the life of believers.

Again our theme of renewal. Again the idea that a righteous life is more difficult to live than a wicked one, but that true serenity and joy is found by struggling to live a life of justice.

I like the point in the citation above that God’s acts are a demonstration of his love and fidelity and that we must strive to comprehend this idea . . . an idea which is so difficult for so many humans . . . because fidelity is such a demanding quality . . . and we humans appear to be much too fickle and willful to comprehend its depth and true meaning.

Each day as we go through each hour, how do we as God’s creatures express God’s fidelity? How do we express God’s love? Are we faithful when it is convenient or when we have the time or energy? Do we love those who please us most? We recall Paul’s words to Timothy: I remember you constantly in prayers, night and day.  I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith . . .  (2 Timothy 1:3-4) This is the same letter in which Paul states that he is already poured out like a libation and there are times when we feel this pouring out rather than gratitude. But when we look at verse 3 of this psalm we see again the idea of loving God faithfully by praying day and night. And when we are spent . . . we might at least raise eyes and hands to heaven to thank God, and to ask that God lighten our load.

Prayer and petition are important as we near and enter into Advent, even when we feel spent. When we come to the end of an exhausting day, we can light one small candle in the darkness which comes so quickly at this time of year in our northern hemisphere, and we can repeat the antiphon we find as part of the Liturgy of the Hours Night Prayer: Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace, alleluia.

With this simple act and prayer we might remain faithful . . . even though we are spent. And so we pray . . .

We know that you watch over us, O Lord.  Grace us with the patience and perseverance to keep hopeful watch with you . . . as faithfully as you keep wonder-filled watch with us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit. Amen.


THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 243. Print.

Image from: http://brotherdismas.blogspot.com/2011/05/saturday-of-4th-week-in-easter.html

Adapted from a reflection written on December 4, 2007.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

stteresaofavila[1]Matthew 5:17-20

A Manual for Living

Matthew creates a bridge between Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and his many teachings which describe how we might understand, embrace and then enact this new Law of Love now that we have heard it. As people who have spent some time with both the Old and New Testaments, we will recognize these teachings and this new attitude before the Law as the fulfillment of the old law. We will see Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people – the promise he foretold through his prophets – that he will save, that we can do nothing on our own, and that there is only one force in the universe that makes the impossible possible, God’s Love . . . as shown to us in the person of Jesus.

This portion of Matthew’s Gospel serve as a manual for living. Jesus puts into plain words how his followers will deal with communal and conjugal relationship, with anger, hate and revenge. Jesus explains the importance of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. He tells us why we must refrain from judging, from cheapening ourselves, from believing false prophets. He reminds us of God’s providence.

When there is conflict and confusion, chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew bring tranquility and clarity. They lay out a clear path which leads to a narrow gate. We need fear no thing and no one when we apply this code to our lives for as we are reminded in Paul’s letter to the Romans (8), there is always life in the Spirit through Christ.

Teresa of Avila’s words are so true: Anyone who perseveres in seeking God’s friendship is amply rewarded . . . Place yourself in the presence of God, and do not exhaust yourself searching for reasons for understanding what lies beyond your reach. Do not lay blame on your soul, for the good of your soul consists not in thinking much, but in loving much. (Let Nothing Disturb You)

This, then, is the New Law as explained in this new Manual for Living: We are not called to exhaust ourselves with worry or with work; rather, we are to place ourselves within the bounds of this new Law of Love, for this alone saves.


http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/74226.Teresa_of_vila 

Image from: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/stteresaofavila.htm

Adapted from a reflection written on June 24, 2009.

Enter the words Manual for Living into the blog search bar and continue to reflect.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

matthew7_1[1]Matthew 7

Lessons in Serenity

As Matthew closes this section of his Gospel he records Jesus as speaking plainly and simply to his followers. There really is no mystery here. What must we do to gain serenity?

Jesus tells us clearly.

Stop judging others and tend to your own progress. The criticisms we level at others are a good place to begin with our own self-development. We critique in others what we dislike most in ourselves. Let us recall the negative comments we have made about others and let us lay them out neatly. We will find an apt and accurate map of the journey we must take.

Matthew-7[1]You are pearls of great price so there is no need to claw your way over those you perceive to be in your path. Once we see where our journey must take us we will want to relax into the great gift God has for us. All of our striving and fixing and arranging may, in fact, be counter to the work we must do on ourselves. Let us learn to bear good fruit in due season.

Ask the creator for all the desires of your heart. Who knows us better than the hand that carved us out of nothing? Fashioned us in God’s image, we do not have to search long or far to discover why we are here or where we are going. Who leads us better than our human and divine brother Jesus? He understands the dichotomy we hold in our hands, the tug from two directions, the calling of two diverging worlds. Who abides with us more faithfully than the Spirit? God’s wisdom and grace dwell within us to guide, protect and console.

matthew_7_13_14_by_phoenixoftheopera-d4247gw[1]Discipleship is difficult and the way to peace is narrow. Quick fixes, easy solutions, pat answers, immediate satisfaction, and feelings of control and power must be put aside in favor of process, dialog, reflection, shared decisions, forgiveness and redemption.

Expect false leaders. And work to be honest followers. Integrity, honesty, courage and persistence are wells from which we must draw. We must learn to rebuke gently, to walk humbly, to accompany without judging, to pray ceaselessly.

You have a choice to make; build on sand or rock. We are free to choose. Stand on solid ground where everyone is open and honest, or allow ourselves to slide into the shifting world of denial, obfuscation and illusion.

The way is clear. The path is open. The winding is narrow but there are signs along the way. These are lessons in serenity.

And so we pray.

Matthew7_24sm[1]Patient and loving father and mother, help us to refrain from judging lest we lose ourselves in the trial. Remind us that we are well loved and well protected. Repeat to us often that we are to knock, ask and seek. Support us as we sift through true and false teachers and leaders. Lead us out of the boggy quicksand of a life lived with the only goal of personal comfort. Steer us away from all that is alluring. Lift us to stand on the rock that is both fortress and refuge. Guide us always back to you. We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Reflect on the past week’s posts and determine what lessons for serenity you hope to learn in the coming season of Advent.

Images from: http://joanmedinanisnisan.wordpress.com/tag/joan-medina-nisnisan/


Friday, November 20, 2020

images[7]Matthew 7:24-25

Two Foundations

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 

And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel.  (Isaiah 30:29)

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.

And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.  (Genesis 7:7)

But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. 

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  (Psalm 18:2)

And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.

At the king’s command they removed from the quarry large blocks of quality stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple. (1 Kings 5:17)

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like the wise one who built a house on rock . . . and weathered the storm.

Two foundations.  Rock or sand.  Let us spend some time today with these verses.


Image from: http://jtbarts.com/2011/08/the-house-built-on-the-rock/


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Wolf in sheep's clothing[1]Matthew 7:15-16

Sheep and Wolves

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. 

It is not difficult to think of the wolves dressed as sheep whom we have encountered in our lives. The difficulty comes when we examine the times we may have been the wolves.

God says: Some times when you see sheep they are just sheep; at other times they are wolves who have cleverly disguised themselves. I know that many of you are frightened by the truth that these wolves hides among the children of light. Do not be afraid of false prophets for they cannot harm you; they prepare you in a bizarre way to discern good from bad. Your gut reaction is often accurate but at times the disguise is so clever and the costume fits so well that you cannot discern the practiced deception. At other times these false ones present themselves with an oft-rehearsed role so they are impossible to mark. The mask is perfect and well cast. The speech refined. The gestures practiced to perfection. Yet their fruits will expose them. It may take quite a long time but in the end . . . the imposter reveals himself.

Our culture prepares us for superficial encounters but does not give us the tools of discernment, perspicacity or prudence. We regard speed and change as gifts. Patience, endurance and farsighted-ness have little value. For the former we look to the world. For the latter we must apply to Wisdom. For tools that sustain forever rather than a mere season . . . we go to God. When seen through the prism of the Spirit, wolves are quickly seen as hiding in sheep’s clothing.


Enter the words false prophet in the blog search bar and explore how wolves disguise themselves.

Image from: https://christiancounseling.com/blog/counseling/three-ways-to-spot-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Norman Rockwell: The Golden Rule

Norman Rockwell: The Golden Rule

Matthew 7:12-14

Entering the Gate

Do unto others whatever you would have them do unto you.  This is the law and the prophets.  Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.

These verses are quoted by so many yet truly heard by so few. The words are often read and studied yet seldom fully heard.

God says: I speak often to each of you as I call you to the Narrow Way my son walks with you; I send these words of wisdom to you on the wing  and in the heart of my Sacred Spirit. I long to have each of you beside me forever; I love to know that you are as aware of me as I am of you. Trust me in this saying that you read and hear today. Spend time with these verses until they seep into your bones. Spend time with me until you feel the golden Word live in you. 

This Golden Rule is perhaps the most cited and the most ignored in human history. This week as we near the season of Advent when we celebrate Christ’s coming to live among us, let us take time to consider the paradox of the Narrow Gate that always stands before us.

To consider the teachings of other world religions on the Golden Rule, go to: http://www.unification.net/ws/theme015.htm


Enter the words Narrow Gate into the blog search bar and explore, or visit The Narrow Gate page on this blog.

Image from: https://www.nrm.org/2014/02/golden_rule/

Matthew 7:7: Ask


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

ask-seek-and-knock[1]Matthew 7:7

Ask

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

We are too easily convinced that God does not listen or that God is entirely absent; and yet we are constantly receiving God’s gift of life.  Our hearts beat, blood flows, we feel hunger, thirst, anger, joy, anxiety, peace. God is continually present to us, and still me complain and worry.

God says: Because I created you, I understand that you become anxious when it appears as though the chaos of the world will swallow you. I understand why you believe that your welfare is not important to me when you do not see me as present in the events that flood your senses. But I am with you always, waiting for you to call upon me. I dwell in your heart where your center lies.  I occupy your mind where your thoughts collide. And I nourish your soul where your Spirit takes shape. It is impossible for me to leave you. I cannot leave your side. I wait for you to knock at the door of my own sacred heart. Ask, seek, knock . . . begin with the first step. I am here. Ask.

We cannot allow either the enormity or the insignificance of our problems to discourage us from asking God for help. When life crowds or confuses us, let us take the first step. And let us ask . . .

Enter the words ask-seek-knock into the blog search bar and reflect on when, and how and why we ask . . . or do not ask God for help.


Image from: http://theshinyheadedprophet.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/are-we-ready-to-ask-seek-knock/

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