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Archive for January, 2019


2 Chronicles 1The Story

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Written on January 13, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Solomon

Each of us has a story to tell.  Each of us is a story to the world.

The story of Solomon is one of building, of amalgamating, and of glorifying.  It is also a story of forgetfulness, of straying and of falling apart.

How will our own story evolve?  What will our own story ultimately tell the world about us?

In today’s reading we see Solomon begin to gather himself and his people.

Solomon, son of David, strengthened his hold on the kingdom, for the Lord, his God, was with him.

Do we have a handle on who we are and what we stand for?  Is God integral to our plans?

God appears to Solomon to commune with him as they work together.

That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you”.

Do we cultivate our relationship with God?  Do we leave ourselves open to his will and word?

Solomon asks for wisdom and knowledge, eschewing the gifts of wealth, power and fame.  What do we ask for so that we might build our story with God?

Solomon returned from the high place at Gibeon, from the meeting tent, and became king over Israel.

Solomon returns from his place of prayer with where he and his assembly have awaited God’s word and he begins the work placed in his hands.

Once we come away from our meeting place with God, whose work do we set about doing?  Do we ever return to that high place to continue our conversation with God?   How do we use our hands, our feet and our hearts to unfold the story that is ours to tell?  And ultimately, what does our story say to the world?


A re-post from January 31, 2012.

Image from: http://www.bible-topten.com/Solomon.htm

To read more about Solomon, Bathsheba, and the Temple, click on the image above or go to:

http://www.bible-topten.com/Solomon.htm

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John 8:1-11Letting God Worry

Thursday, January 30, 2019

Guercino: Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery

Our pastor once began his sermon on the Sunday we heard this story by saying, “So where is the man?” He allowed silence to settle over us and then he continued, “If a woman is committing adultery, a man has been with her.   So where is he?  And why have the scribes and Pharisees not brought him along with this woman to confront Jesus?”  I remember this sermon well because it surprised me.  I had settled into my seat to listen to the familiar lesson about not making accusations quickly lest we find ourselves melting away in embarrassment with the crowd; and instead of the usual line I heard . . . So where is he? 

As I listened to the homily I thought about the times I have stepped forward when I ought to – as we were taught to do by our parents – and I knew why people do not come forward then they should.  We fear retribution; we are afraid we may be cast out or punished; we are ashamed; we lack the strength.  I remembered when I was in the first grade and a friend of mine and I broke a classroom rule together.  It was innocuous but we intended to break the rule; in fact, I think we found it to be silly.  During recess one day, we took new chalk from the box on the teacher’s desk to write on the board instead of using the short stubby pieces on the chalk tray.  When the question came – as we knew it would – I stepped forward as we had agreed – we were going to show the teacher how senseless this rule was – but my friend did not.  I was stunned but suffered the punishment alone.  No afternoon recess.

When I arrived home I told my Mother what had happened.  She first reprimanded me softly but with certainty, telling me that the teachers often bought their own supplies and that I had no right to decide how to use the donated chalk.  After listening to my insistence that my friend had let me take the punishment alone, my mother said patiently, “I guess she just couldn’t fess up . . . but that doesn’t mean she didn’t want to.  Maybe she just didn’t have the strength.  She probably wanted to admit she had broken a classroom rule and just couldn’t.  Instead of fussing about what she did or didn’t do, just be glad that you did the right thing”.  She was right.

When I told my Dad that I had been punished for breaking a class rule but that my friend had not admitted her own guilt and had gotten off with no consequence, he replied as I thought he would, “Let God worry about her.  You have to let people come along in their own time and way”.  I could not let go of the thought that the circumstances were not fair and when I insisted that things weren’t equal my Dad answered, “Maybe not, but you will have to leave the equality part of this to God.  What does or does not happen to her is really none of your business.  I think you need to let God take care of this one.  This is something you can’t fix by force.  You’ll have to use kindness”.  And then Dad added, “Now don’t snub her when you see her tomorrow.  She knows she’s done wrong and she knows she should have taken her punishment just like you did.  You have to get over this and smile at her.  She’ll come around if you do.  You’ll see”.  And of course, he was right.

As I listened to the homily that day about the man who did not come forward to admit his guilt, knowing that the Law focused on the act of the woman and not her partner, I thanked my deceased parents for their wisdom and patience.  I thanked God in heaven that we are created by such a kind, patient and gentle God.  And I thanked Mother and Dad for teaching us how important it is . . . to act in kindness, and to let God do the worrying.


A re-post from January 30, 2012. 

Image from: http://emsworth.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/an-audacious-five-picture-exhibit-at-the-frick-collection/

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The Desert Jerboa Blog: Liwa Sunset

Ezekiel 12:1-6Choosing Exile

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Just recently a friend in The Noontime Circle wrote about this reflection written on July 4, 2008.  We offer it today as a Favorite . . .

There are times when we see that it is best for us to go into exile.  There are moments when we realize that everything around us has little meaning which is lasting and true.  We prepare our baggage, deciding what to jettison and what to keep.  We look around at the rebellious house in which we have been living . . . and we step into the unknown which beckons.

There are times when we must leave behind family, friends, associates, anyone who draws us away from God.  When we find ourselves among those with ears that do not hear and eyes that do not see, we put all that matters on our shoulders . . . and we move on.

Yet we leave open the possibility that hearts may be softened, that stiff necks may be loosened.  We remain open to the possibility that deaf ears may one day hear, and that the blind may one day see.

Often we leave hastily, stepping through the ruins of something that once held great promise.  At other times we have the luxury of time to consider options, to make travel plans, to look ahead to examine what may be offered in our new home.  Yet leave we must, for to remain in bitterness and to pine for something now lost is to misuse the gifts we are given.

There are times when it is best to go into exile.  These are the moments when we know that our presence is ineffective and so we respond to the pull and call of something greater, something better, something truly quenching of our deep thirst.  These are the times that we shoulder burdens with light hearts, with eyes alert to the newness, with ears listening for the beckoning we feel inside.

We choose exile rather than stagnation and bitterness.  We choose fidelity rather than betrayal, trust rather than suspicion, and union rather than division.

There are times when it is best to go into exile.  Let us go with joy in our hearts, words of hope on our lips, and an eagerness in our footsteps.


A re-post from January 29, 2012.

Image from: http://ziadsalloumphotography.com/blog/?p=1755

For more beautiful photographs of deserts and other places to visit, go to: http://ziadsalloumphotography.com/blog/?p=1755

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Ecclesiastes 5Toiling for the Wind

Monday, January 28, 2019

Jean Beraud: A Windy Day

The world in which we live is alluring; it is also adept at finding our weaknesses in order to draw us in to the illusion that we are living full and productive lives.  We busy ourselves with incessant chores and with possessions that demand our time.  We fill up datebooks and calendars; we make certain that our days are chock-a-block filled with people to see and events to attend.  But have we tended to our soul; have we allowed time and space for God to move and speak within?  Do we toil for the wind?

The world with which we are occupied has strict and narrow expectations.  We ought not speak out or speak up.  We ought not rock the boat or tread on toes.  We ought not mention that the emperor has no clothes or that the elephant is sitting in the middle of the room.  What do we fear so much that we prefer to bend to the will of our companions yet we refuse to obey the voice of God?  Do we chase after the wind?

The world in which we play assures us that with enough money, enough power, and enough good looks we will want for nothing and will be eternally happy.  It tells us that pleasure comes from having our way, from controlling our destiny, and from living in the right neighborhood and driving the right vehicle.  It tells us to take pain pills, to do whatever makes us happy for the moment, and to not allow ourselves to be too committed to anything or anyone other than our status.  Do we believe that the wind can bring us deep and lasting serenity?

When you make a vow to God, delay not its fulfillment.  For God has no pleasure in fools; fulfill what you have vowed.  You had better not make a vow than make it and not fulfill it. 

Yet God has the infinite patience to wait for his foolish creatures to come to him when they find they have been chasing the wind.  This is something to work for.

If you see oppression of the poor, and violation of rights and justice in the realm, do not be shocked by the fact, for the high official has another higher than he watching him and above these there are others higher . . . What then does it profit him to toil for wind?

God has the ultimate word and the last move.  God knows that we are lured away from him by the siren call of the world’s glamour.  God understands that we do not realize that often we run after the wind.  Returning to this kind of fidelity is something to strive for.

Here is what I recognize as good . . . any man to whom God gives riches and property, and grants power to partake of them, so that he receives his lot and finds joy in the fruits of his toil, has a gift from God. 

God’s expectations are so simple that perhaps this is why we miss them.  Since God is so grand and so great – we think to ourselves – we must make ourselves important and powerful so that he might see us.  Yet God loves the least of us even as he loves the greatest.  We need not struggle to be noticed.  This is something to hope for.

We have all of God’s love; and this ought to be gift enough.  Yet, does this satisfy us?

We have all of God’s attention; and this ought to be reward enough.  Why is it not?

We have all of God’s best wishes and hopes; and this ought to be incentive enough.  Do we see this?

God’s enduring fidelity cannot be matched.  God’s all-powerful presence cannot be negated.  God’s compassion and justice are enduring.  God cannot be moved by the wind.  So why, then, do we give it so much importance?  And why do we toil for the wind that cares not who or what we are?


A re-post from January 28, 2012. 

Image from: http://hoocher.com/Jean_Beraud/Jean_Beraud.htm 

For reflection on Ecclesiastes Chapter 6, see the Chasing after the Wind post on this blog.  

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Hebrews 8A Superior Covenant

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Written on February 1, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Yesterday we spent some time reflecting on God, the Lover.  Today we read about The Superior Covenant.  In Christ we have the offering of the only vow that really matters.  Jesus lives a life of integrity – which we see through the matching of his words and actions – that the promise of the Creator is true and valid.  God vows to protect, defend, forgive and love us.  This vow has an eternal life and cannot be broken.

We look for a reflection of this kind of constancy and authenticity in others and we are often disappointed.  Promises are given and broken.  Vows are spoken and then abandoned without much thinking of the distant consequences.  Immediate pleasures obtained take precedence over commitment and nurturing.  Too often we encounter – both in ourselves and in others – quick solutions that do not last, superficial thinking that takes the place of measured consideration, and artless worship that cannot stand the tests of life.  If we expect to weather storms, we must make preparations: take in stores, shore up our shelter, and make contingency and fall-back plans when events around us whirl out of control.

What are the resources we gather into our stockpile?  What are the edifices we build in which to shelter?  What are the plans we make to avoid pain?  Do we hoard what we find or do we share?  Do we hover in life with a narrow way of thinking and a small band of compatriots or do we seek to ever widen the circle by inviting in those we think are our enemies?  Do we see suffering as something to be evaded at all costs or do we see it as the portal to a life of transformed beauty?

What are the promises we make?  What are the promises we keep?  What are our expectations?

The answers to all these questions are more simple, more beautiful and more challenging than we can imagine; yet the rewards are abundant and the joy transcending.

The answers, the vows and the kept promises are all found in a life lived as the Christ asks.  When we rely on a stockpile of faith we have stored by acting in the belief that God is in charge, the supply is never-ending.  Our stores will never run dry – much like the widow in 2 Kings 4 who finds that the oil blessed by the prophet Elisha never reaches bottom.

When we become like the sparrow and the swallow in Psalm 84, we build nests and find protection when we nestle near and beneath the altar of our sacrifices to God, when we construct a temple for the in-dwelling of the Spirit.  Christ quickly steps into this temple which we build in ourselves, and it is this Christ – this presence of God – that we carry with us everywhere.  He is our constant companion and protection in our pilgrimage.

When we step into the discomfort of our pain to offer it for love of friends and enemies alike, we are transformed by this salvific love which redeems not only others but ourselves.

These are the promises we make.  These are the vows that we keep when we enter this Superior Covenant with our creator.  This is how we weather the storms of life.  This is how we find greatest joy . . . in the believing . . . in the hoping . . . in the knowing that this love is eternal, redemptive and beyond anything we might imagine.  This promise of presence and joy are not only awaited in the next life; they are present in the here and now.  We have only to step forward – into our discomfort and anxiety – at the call.

When we enter into this most excellent of promises . . . we enter into our life with Christ and his guarantee that he is constant, that he is transformative, and that his love is the peace we seek.

The promise here is not that life will be smooth or that problems will fall away from us quickly and without pain.  The promise of Christ is that when the storms present themselves, as they surely will, we will have the means, the vision and the strength . . . in Christ . . . to weather the tempest.


A re-post from January 27, 2012.

Image from: http://faithandheritage.com/2011/08/the-importance-of-lineage-in-god%E2%80%99s-covenant/ 

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Song of Songs 8The Lover

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Written on January 31, 2009  and posted today as a Favorite . . .

“The Song of Songs, meaning the greatest of songs, contains in exquisite poetic form the sublime portrayal and praise of the mutual love of the Lord and his people.  The Lord is the Lover and his people are the beloved.  Describing this relationship in terms of human love, the author simply follows Israel’s tradition.  Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all characterize the covenant between the Lord and Israel as a marriage.  Hosea the prophet sees the idolatry of Israel in the adultery of Gomer.  He also represents the Lord speaking to Israel’s heart and changing her into a new spiritual people, purified by the Babylonian captivity and betrothed anew to her divine Lover ‘in justice and uprightness, in love and mercy’.”  (Senior 791)

For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames a blazing fire.  Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away.  Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked.  8:6-7

“In human experience, death and the nether world are inevitable, unrelenting; in the end they always triumph.  Love, which is just as certain of its victory, matches its strength against the natural enemies of life; waters cannot extinguish it nor floods carry it away.  It is more priceless than all riches”.  (Senior 798)

In Song of Songs 2:14, the lover asks for a word or a song: Oh my dove in the clefts of the rock . . . let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your song is sweet and you are lovely.  She replies in words similar to those found in 2:17: Until the day breathes cool and the shadows lengthen, roam, my lover, like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains.  (Senior 798)

When God the Lover calls us, will we recognize his voice?  Will we understand that the Lover cries out to us, asking us to join him in his work of conversion and transformation . . . wishing to give us the gifts of his richness?

O garden-dweller, my friends are listening for your voice, let me hear it!  Be swift, my lover, like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices!  8:13-14

When we hear the Lover’s voice, will we be prepared to follow?  To lose such a love is a loss from which we will not recover; therefore, do not arouse, do not stir up love, before its own time.  8:4 

We prepare best for this deeply intimate love by living a life in which we witness, watch and wait.

Oh my dove in the clefts of the rock . . . let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your song is sweet and you are lovely.

By patience and by listening we enter into Wisdom.  By obedience and by witnessing we respond to the Lover with his own words.

Until the day breathes cool and the shadows lengthen, roam, my lover, like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains . . . for we do not wish to stir up love before its own time . . . we wish to prepare as best we can . . . for in this Lover there is someone far more powerful yet tender than anyone we have ever known.

So as we act in justice and walk in humility, let us witness to the truths we know to be true.

As we give thanks for the bounty we have received, let us watch for the signs of the Bridegroom who comes leaping over the hills to us, his beloved.

Let us wait in joyful anticipation the love we are destined to live.

Let us join in the reaping of our Lover’s harvest . . . even as we walk through the fire of his love.  Amen


A re-post from January 19, 2012.

Image from: http://www.webexhibits.org/poetry/explore_famous_free_background.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.79 & 798. Print.

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Amos 1 and 2Prosperity

Friday, January 25, 2019

Written on January 24 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The Prophet Amos

We all wish for prosperity.  We hope for fulfillment of dreams.  Yet we are also are too often willing to relax into success too soon and too quickly.  We sign up and sign on . . . without examining the source and the reason for easy wealth.  Amos warns against this kind of affluence which comes at the expense of others.  What makes us happy may, in fact, be damaging others.  What fills our plate and our purse may come to us through harm to others or to God’s creation.  When fame and money roll in unabated, we need to summons the courage to be honest about the origin and the nature of this success for the only sort of achievement that truly lasts and truly saves . . . comes to us through the heart . . . from our God.  This is what Amos’ audience does not want to hear.

During the past two or so years of Noontimes we have turned often to this brief but powerful prophecy spoken by a herdsman and aimed at the newly successful wealthy class of the northern kingdom of Israel.  The ten northern tribes had separated themselves from the two southern tribes of Judah to establish their own temple center away from Jerusalem . . . in order that they might collect their own taxes to do with as they liked.  Their wealth was largely earned on the backs of the poor.  This is what Amos calls into the open and for his effort he is expelled from Bethel where he has been preaching.  He returns to his pastoral life after speaking the words that God calls him to speak.

Amos’ words were more than officials could bear (Senior 1126) and so he was sent away for asking them to examine their individual and collective conscience.  He was silenced at that time but his words come to us today to ask the same questions.

What do our actions express about our belief in justice?  Do we relax into a life that brings easy gain?  Are we silent when we ought to speak truth to power?  Do we act with integrity, trying to match words and deeds?

The Lord will roar from Zion, and from Jerusalem raise his voice.  Yet when Christ speaks, we see that this Lion of Judah has become the Lamb of God, pardoning in mercy, acting in compassion.

Amos asks us to take inventory and to pass judgment on our own prosperity. It is hollow?  Or does it flow from and in Christ?  Do we climb over others to snatch what we think is ours?  Or do we imitate the Lamb to live a prudent and compassionate life?  Do our words match our gestures?  Do we act humbly, judge wisely, love deeply and truly?

These are the questions Amos raises as he begins his prophecy.  How do we answer them today?


A re-post from January 25, 2012.

Image from: http://www.breviary.net/martyrology/mart03/mart0331.htm

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1126. Print.   

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1 Samuel 2:18-21The Faithful Mother

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Written on January 16, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Gerbrand van der Eeckhout: Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli

So often when we hear the Old Testament readings from the story of Samuel we focus on the character of Samuel, the man who becomes the prophet who listens so well to Yahweh that he is able to select first Saul and then David as the first kings of the Israel nation.  Today’s Noontimes selection is focused on Hannah, the faithful mother.

These are the things that strike me about her story:  she withstands abuse from her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, because she is childless, she is thought drunk by the priest Eli for her ardent conversation with God, she is faithful to her pledge to Yahweh, she is well-loved by her husband, Elkanah, and she is rewarded greatly for her fidelity.  We might know people like Hannah, we might wish to be like Hannah.

It is so difficult to stand in our tiny spot on the globe and find our place in God’s plan.  It is so overwhelming to sit in silence for the voice of God to speak in our ears and in our hearts.  It is so tiring to hope for something we know we deserve.  It is so taxing to be immensely misunderstood.

It is so sweet to arrive in the place where we finally feel that we have understood God’s message to us, to know that patience, and waiting, and witnessing will bring us to God’s heart.  It is so filling to read in another’s demeanor that we have done God’s work in a particular place with a particular person.  It is so gratifying to find that we have unwittingly done what we are meant to do.

God is good.  God is faithful.  God is hopeful.  And he wants to reward us.  He will never abandon us.  He will always hope that we reach our true potential.

How was Hannah to know through the tormented years of her barrenness that she would give birth to three more sons and two daughters?  How was she to know as she cried in the temple that she would find favor through her pain?  How did she find the strength to wait and hope and watch?  She relied on God . . . and found favor in God . . . was rewarded by her God.

May we all hope as Hannah hoped.  May we persevere.  May we, like Hannah, live in active patience as we listen, watch and wait.


A re-post from January 24, 2012. 

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_(Bible)

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Habakkuk 1:2-4The Prophet’s Complaint

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Prophet Habakkuk

We visited with the prophet Habakkuk twice last year and today we open again to . . .

How long, O Lord?  I cry for help but you do not listen!

Prophets are not a happy people.  They see and foresee.  They remember and they know.  They remind us and for the most part we do not listen.

Prophets are about waiting, listening and witnessing.  They hear, they taste, and they feel.  They bring God’s word to us and for the most part we do not want to hear.

Prophets are blessed.  They have an intimate relationship with God.  God trusts them with his word.  Prophets know that they have no choice but to speak the word they hear for if they do not, they perish eternally.

Prophets are among us today just as vibrantly and as importantly as they were when Israel suffered through her separation and exile.  We cannot exist without them although many times we think we might like to silence them.

What part of my life do I live as a prophet?  Do I speak what God wants me to speak or is it my ego which speaks?

Do I shun the prophet within me?  Do I shun the prophet I see in the face of a friend?

Unless I want to live by a code of perverted justice, I must let the prophets around me speak to me and I must listen.

Unless I want to live a life with no fire, I must listen to the prophet within.

Habakkuk’s Canticle at the end of Chapter 3 tells us how to live in right relationship with God . . . and we might use these words as a daily prayer.

For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, thought the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disperse from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God.  God, my strength, he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go sit upon the heights.

Amen.


A re-post from January 22, 2012.

Image from: http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010/12/holy-prophet-habakkuk.html

For more on the prophet Habakkuk click the image above or go to:  http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010/12/holy-prophet-habakkuk.html

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