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Genesis 31Connivance

Saturday, February 9, 2019

William Dyce: The Meeting of Jacob and Rachel

Written on February 16, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Everyone – men and women alike – seems to be trying to outwit one another as we read these old, old stories in this first book of sacred scripture.  It is no wonder that our long story of relationship with God can be seen as a protracted struggle in which we attempt to bend God to our own wishes; and in this conflict God, of course, always wins.  Today we see the struggle between Jacob’s wives to gain control over him and to bear children alongside the contortions in Jacob’s relationship with Rachel’s family.  It seems that no one is honest or open about who they are, what they represent, or what they honestly desire.  This story, along with so many others from scripture, reads like a script for a weekday afternoon soap opera.  After reading this chapter in the life of Jacob – a man who, with his mother’s help cheats his brother of his birthright – we have the opportunity to reflect on our own relationship with God, and to remind ourselves how so often with God the very thing one plots and connives against another is brought home to act on us.  Later in Genesis, Jacob is himself cheated out of many years of a life with his favored son, Joseph.  We see in this story of Jacob a conniving son who through the connivance of his own sons in cheated out of time with his favored child, Joseph.  My mother would say: The chickens will always come home to roost, or Let the chips fall where they may.  God, as always, is in control; and God teaches us well through our own actions.  We call this kind of conniving reward for a schemer Divine Justice.  And so it is, for God’s method of discipline in this way teaches us as no other lesson can.  It is a basic truth that we only see a true image of ourselves when measuring life with a measuring stick of our own making.

Intertwined in these stories of deception, betrayal and falsehood is the counterpoint to this human experience: in the face of so much suffering is the constancy of God’s love and concern for us.  God never abandons.  God never gives up.  God never gives in.  With his love he reassures us.  With his patience he waits with us.  With his courage he endures for us.  Despite our fickle and whimsical ways – today I support you, tomorrow I may not, today I love you tomorrow I may notGod calls, God resides, God heals and cures, God saves – you are mine and despite your foibles I love you, you are mine and despite your straying I forgive you, you are mine and despite your missteps I seek intimacy with you. 

God and humanity – creator and created – lover and loved – savior and saved – this is the relationship we have, and it is the relationship we cannot change despite our trying.  God in his marvelous way allows us to see what we do to others . . . through our own actions.  When we curse, we are cursed.  When we bless, we are blessed.  When we believe, we are believed by those who matter.  When we love with a love that endures despite all . . . we are loved with a love that lasts for all of time.

After reflecting on the story of Jacob, his wives and his family, we learn a marvelous lesson: God’s Justice is our own justice come back to visit us; God’s patience is our own endurance come back to bolster us; God’s love is our own love come back to us a million fold.  God takes what we give . . . multiplies it . . . and returns it back to us.  Deceit for deceit.  Truth for truth.  Connivance for connivance.  Love for love.  This story is quite simple after all.


A re-post from February 9, 2012.

Image from: http://www.artknowledgenews.com/2009_07_10_22_07_03_william_dyce_discovery.html

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Deuteronomy 28How Big is God?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Written on February 10, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

“So we go to our religious services and make sure we read the latest popular inspirational books and attend all kinds of psychological wellness retreats and conferences.  And we come away feeling good.  But without the willingness to be spiritually challenged, we cannot and will not change.  Without the will to give up whatever is asked of us in order to meet a bigger God, we find that our understanding and experience of the Divine cannot and will not grow.  Try taking that to your prayer and meditation time, and see what happens”.

This citation is from a book that I am reading by Paul Coutinho, S.J. entitled HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD?  It is challenging and humorous at the same time and I highly recommend it.  I am smiling as often as I frown.

Today’s Noontime is about the black and white consequences of our obedience.  We may pretend that we follow God . . . or we may truly follow God.  The Old Testament view is that when we do what we are called to do we will prosper physically; when we fail to do what God asks, we suffer.  The Book of Job, however, tells us that this black and white view of the world does not fully serve us because our reality tells us that too frequently the innocent suffer through no fault of their own.  This is a challenge that Coutinho opens to us today: Is it not a very small God who punishes people for misdeeds?  Is it not a very large God who forgives, calls and is infinitely patient?

In the prologue of his book Coutinho writes: “I invite you now to ask yourself: Am I looking to meet a big God, a God without limits?  Do I have the will to experience the Divine – in all its wondrous and infinite possibilities?  He explains that we might begin where Ignatius Loyola began: “by questioning our lives, questioning the world around us, questioning our relationships, questioning our family life, questioning our work, and questioning our passions.  Let’s also question our relationship with God”. 

This is what the Hebrew people confront in today’s Noontime reading:  Everything they do, everything they are has been thrown into question.  At first reading we see this to be a bad thing – they suffer and question.  On second thought we might see this as a good thing . . . they have been given the opportunity to know their God better.  They have the chance to see . . . how big is their God?


A re-post from February 8, 2012.

Image from: http://storagenerve.com/2009/09/17/cloud-the-quest-for-standards/cloud-question-mark-cloud-computing/

Paul Coutinho, S.J., HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD? Loyola Press.  Watch Paul Coutinho at: http://www.mycatholicvoice.com/media/i8icLh   and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozevDJf9q9U

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Daniel 9:20-23Gabriel Comes to Daniel

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Angel Gabriel

Written on February 3, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

We know the story of Daniel so well . . . the boys in the furnace . . . Daniel with the lions in their den . . . the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream . . . the handwriting on the wall . . . this bright young man lives in captivity yet never leaves his God . . . and his God never leaves him.

Today’s reading is brief yet it calls us to reflect on the many stories in this book.  Who brings the wonderful visions to Daniel which he records?  Gabriel.  The Announcer The first angel in scripture to be described as arriving with wings . . . who comes to tell Daniel that their captivity will be even longer than they had anticipated.  Rather than the 70 years of waiting which Jeremiah described, God’s people must remain in exile 70 times 70 . . . 490 years.  And how are they to abide during such a long time?  How are they to know that God is with them?  Daniel demonstrates even as Gabriel arrives.  He prays, he examines his own conscience and the collective conscience of his people, he petitions God, he seeks the meaning of the things that Yahweh has revealed to him, and he awaits the wisdom of God with a patient and open heart.

It is difficult to wait for justice.  It is painful to ache for mercy and compassion.  Yet this so many times is the human condition.  If Gabriel were to appear before us this very minute to announce that some long-awaited intercession would indeed arrive . . . but in God’s time and plan rather than our own . . . would we react as Daniel does?  Are we truly good and loyal servants?

Patience is difficult when we see something floating just beyond our own reach.  Yet if we believe that God creates all, loves all, and wants justice for all, there is no other way to live.  We must be open vessels which the Holy Spirit fills.  We must be clean temples where Christ may act as high priest.  We must be like the five faithful virgins who wait outside the inn in the quiet darkness for the bridegroom, conserving their oil, preparing their lanterns and knowing that the day and hour of his coming are a mystery.

Titian: The Annunciation – Gabriel and Mary

If the angel of the Lord were to appear before us in rapid flight at the time of the evening sacrifice, would we be as open as Daniel?  Would we be as willing?  Would we be as patient?

When the evening hour approaches, as we go to God in humble yet joyful prayer and petition, let us ready our hearts, let us still our minds, and let us call on the wisdom of God.  And if the message which our God sends to us on swift angel wing is a message which tells us that we must wait beyond all waiting, then let us give joyful reply to God.  Let us answer him.  Amen.


A re-post from February 7, 2012.

Images from: http://www.crystalinks.com/angels.html and http://www.squidoo.com/heavenly-angels?utm_source=google&utm_medium=imgres&utm_campaign=framebuster

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Micah 7Teachability

Monday, February 4, 2019

Written on February 3, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Tanner: The Savior

Today we read about a people who find themselves in such dire straits that no one is to be trusted but God – not even a dear friend or a family member.  I am thinking of the times in my life when I have allowed myself to be wrongly steered by companions and relatives – and this kind of miss-steering usually comes out of both their fears and my own.  At times like these, Micah tells us, we are to turn to God for this all-knowing, all-seeing justice, mercy, and wisdom are the only tools we will need.  They are the sole valid markers in circumstances where the culture of the day reigns rather than the spirit of God. The eternal serenity that comes from acting in humility and meekness – and by this I mean teachability – is the only remedy for extreme or grim conditions.

It is painful to realize that a loved one has been lenient with us and even pampered us in fear of losing our friendship.  It is humiliating to know that while we have been in a relationship of trust, a friend or kinsman has been less than truthful out of their own fear of conflict.  Yet it is precisely these conditions which always offer us the opportunity to draw nearer and closer to the one source that understands us better than any person in our present life.  It is only God who knows what is best to do.  And we can only hear the teaching we will need for these circumstances when we allow ourselves to be teachable.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Christ and his Mother Studying Scriptures

We do not often think of Christ as a child but I like to remember a painting I saw in a Baltimore exhibit of paintings by Henry Tanner.  This site will show you some of his work but it does not contain my favorite . . . a sun drenched yet shady scene of the Blessed Mother with the child Jesus at her side.  The scroll she is using to teach has unfurled at their feet, and they bend to their work.  This is the image of Christ I hold before me when I am trying to learn from difficulties in my life.  Christ looking on as his mother points to figures and pronounces their sounds.

Joseph taught Jesus the craft of carpentry.  This is inferred from scripture and taught by tradition.  In the garden at Gethsemane Christ allowed himself to be taught by the father in heaven.  As he moved toward his crucifixion he kept his mind open to the messages the humanity in him needed to hear in order to perform the tasks required of his divinity.  We too, share this task of using all that is human in us to reach out for what is divine.  This is difficult work and yet we must not think that we are alone in this.  For the one who made us and saved us and comforts us is with us still.  In all circumstances, on all days, throughout all nights, at all times.

And so we pray . . . Sweet and gentle God, when we are confused and feeling lost, teach us just as your mother and father taught you.  When we are exhausted and knowing not which way to turn, bring us to you, wrap us in your gentle arms, tell us how to pray, teach us what we are to do and how we are to act.  We place all trust in you.  Keep us ever with you.  Amen. 


A re-post from February 4, 2012.

Images from: http://negroartist.com/negro%20artist/Henry%20Ossawa%20Tanner/index.htm and http://negroartist.com/negro%20artist/Henry%20Ossawa%20Tanner/index.htm 

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Ezra 9Inbetween-ness

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Written on February 2, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

About six months ago we looked at both Chapters 8 and 10 of Ezra to see what happened as the scattered nations drew themselves back together for their long and dangerous journey home.  Today we look at what takes place between those book ends.  Word has arrived that the hoped-for journey will be taken and the people realize that there is an obstacle to that return: they have intermarried with non-believers and, according to their explicit laws, they must rectify this situation.  The measure taken by the Hebrew people seems harsh by our standards today; yet we can take this story as an opportunity to evaluate our own actions when we find ourselves in a state in inbetween-ness.  When we are neither here nor there we are in a vulnerable position, we are in danger of losing ourselves . . . or our way to God.

The Jewish people established a regimen in order that they not forget Yahweh in their passage from life to death.  Sometimes these rules were too difficult to follow.  Sometimes the rules took on a life of their own.  Coming from this tradition, we who are Christians have the need to investigate the rules we live by – in order that we not throw away something that is precious – in order that the rule not become more important than God.  As Christians, we must be aware that as we make transitions from one point to another, we are in danger of focusing too much on the past or too much on the future . . . at the expense of not knowing who or why we exist, at the cost of fouling the relationships that are so important to how we live and behave.

And so we pray . . . Good and gracious God, we are never quite certain of how to shift from one track to another as we shift and move with life.  Our judgment may become fogged by our concern for legacy.  Our vision may become blurred as we search for new alliances.  When we are adrift as we swing from one stage to the next, we question once again.  Is this path too broad that we travel and too easy?  Is it too narrow and too stifling?  Help us to see more clearly which way we are to go, why we are to proceed, how we are to decide.  Keep the people in our lives more important than the rules.  And keep the rules as simple as your one supreme commandment: Love your God above all gods, and love one another as I have loved you. Keep us ever in mind we pray.  Amen. 


A re-post from February 3, 2012.

Image from: http://www.dezeen.com/2011/09/09/reading-between-the-lines-by-gijs-van-vaerenbergh/

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Proverbs 26Foolishness

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Hals: Jester With a Lute

Written on January 20, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Drinking violence, tying a stone in a sling, cutting off our own feet: these are all actions we can easily see as foolish.

Seizing a dog by the ears is the same as meddling in an argument not our own.   Gossip descends to our inmost parts.  These are sayings we have heard and believe.

Fervent lips with an evil heart are a freezing glaze on earthenware.  This is an image that might escape us.

We fall into our own pits.  The rocks we hurl come hurling back at us.  These are consequences we might not anticipate . . . yet they are results that we might foresee as students of the Word.

In Numbers, Balaam curses his donkey for making a fool of him (Numbers 22).  Samson bemoans the fact that Delilah makes him a fool (Judges 16).  Saul admits he acted foolishly (1 Samuel 26).   These are all stories we have heard.

The Psalmist writes that a fool says there is no God (Psalms 14 and 53).  The wisdom books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes have too many sayings on fools to enumerate here.  We can recite the clever sayings from heart.

Isaiah (32:6), Jeremiah (17:11), and Hosea (9:7) describe foolish ways as ones which lead us away from God.  They warn us away from falling to our own pride.

In Matthew (5:22) and Luke (12:20) Jesus tells us that we are fools when we forget that God may call on us at any moment for an accounting.   We repeat his words to others.

Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3 and 2 Corinthians 11:1) that he will become foolish in the eyes of the world in order to become wise in God’s.  We find it difficult to live a life of inversion.

Scripture gives us able tools to see foolishness in ourselves and in others; yet we continue to ignore the lessons open to us each day.  When we persist in our own foolish behavior we fool no one but ourselves.

Just this morning a friend and I were discussing how we humans can be so imprudent so consistently.  We fuss over the sawdust in another’s eyes while refusing to remove the plank from our own.  (Matthew 7:3 and Luke 6:41)  Only God has the solution to this predicament . . . it is foolish to turn away from this saving force.

And so we might pray . . . Dear Lord, keep us from the world’s foolishness . . . imbue us with your wisdom . . . guide us in your ways . . . for these are the ways which heal and restore.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


A re-post from February 2, 2012.

Image from: http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~wbc/Gowing/Gowing.html

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Luke 12:10-12Essence

Friday, February 1, 2019

Written on January 15, 2010 man posted today as a Favorite . . .

This first verse is one which ought to make us pause when we come across it. We ought to hear more sermons about this. We need to share our thoughts with others on this thinking.  We may want to write these verses someplace where we will see them each morning when we rise and each evening when we return home.  Our lives will be better lived if we manage to integrate this idea into our being.

Notes tell us that “The sayings about the Holy Spirit are set in the context of fearlessness in the face of persecution . . . The Holy Spirit will be presented in Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, as the power responsible for the guidance of the Christian mission and the source of courage in the face of persecution”. (THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE, 1115)

We are referred to Matthew 12:31-32 where further notes tell us that “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit [is] the sin of attributing to Satan what is the work of the Spirit of God”. (1027)   Where do we see this sort of blasphemy unfold in our lives?  When we are at play with family and friends, when we are at work with colleagues and associates, when we are at prayer with our God . . . these are the times when we decide what to do and what to say.  When we turn away from our call because we do not trust God . . . when we ignore God’s continued presentation of our learning curve . . . when we think we have a better way of proceeding than we see in God’s plan . . . these are all occasions that lead us to flirt with the devil.  These are circumstances that can easily lead us to attribute the difficulties of life to the work of the wicked when really they are lesson plans in our own trajectory of existence.

We must look at how Luke follows this hard saying: When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say.  For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you are to say. 

Looking at Luke 11:54 we see why Christ is explaining this hard saying to his followers: for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.  Jesus knows what his enemies are thinking and scheming.  He also knows what our enemies are thinking and scheming.  We need to trust this one who understands most clearly how the dark world works.  And when we are in that precarious, dangerous place of doubt in which all disciples of Christ find themselves, we must rely on this one to tell us what to say and what to do.

I sometimes think that we do not spend enough time praying to and with the Holy Spirit.  We imagine God as parent, God as friend, lover or sibling; yet God as essence penetrates our tissues.  God as being filters through all that we think, say and do.  God as ephemeral reality becomes us.

In recent years it has become starkly clear to me that each of us has control of what we think, say and do.  We have the power to hurt and to heal.  We need to maintain contact with the Holy Spirit in order that we mend and repair rather than rend and destroy.

It has become clear to me that when we are walking in the way we are to go, that forces of darkness will pull and push at us to disconnect us from the Holy Spirit.  We need to dismiss the devil and invite the Holy Spirit in.

It has also become clear to me that when we come together to pray in the name of God, through the Christ, and with the Spirit, that a petition that synchronizes with God’s plan is immediately answered.  We need to pray today and all days that the essence of the Holy Spirit pervade our being . . . to make us one with God.


A re-post from February 1, 2012. 

Image from: http://mysticdreamz.com/?page_id=398

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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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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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