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Luke 15:1-32: Coming to Our Senses

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Living in an era that signals change in many of our beliefs, we look for a call that brings us to our senses. Like a small child throwing a temper tantrum, we open eyes swollen from crying to see the reality of our anger, and we come to our senses. Like a partner who walks away from commitments, we witness to the destruction our egocentric actions leave in their wake, and we come to our senses. Like leaders who see their reflection in the unexpected mirror of events spiraling beyond their feeble predictions, we pause, take stock, and with hope . . . we come to our senses. The danger is, of course, that our rampage will take us beyond a place from which we cannot return, a demolition from which we cannot recover. The stories we hear in Luke 15 bring us courage as we come to our senses.

James Tissot: The Lost Drachma

The shepherd goes out in search of the one lost sheep. Christ continues to search for us no matter how deeply we burrow into our self-satisfaction. Rejoice with me for I have found my lost sheep.

The woman finds lost coins after putting aside her daily tasks. The Spirit abides with us despite our thinking that we are alone. Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I have lost.

The loving father forgives the prodigal son. The Creator is more generous than we can imagine. Rejoice with me because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.

Luke recalls Jesus’ stories of loss and return, of deep sorrow and unbounding joy, of profound envy and immeasurable. The pivotal elements in each of these parables are dual: the central figures come to their senses, and the plentiful, compassionate, and generous love of the Creator has no limit.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: The Return of the Prodigal Son

When we open our eyes and ears each morning to headlines that unsettle and even disturb us, let us come to our senses and turn to our tender God as we go out into the world.

When we pause in our day to orient ourselves in the rush of information and demands, let us come to our senses as we rely on our courageous Christ to show us the way.

When we return to the quiet of our hearts at the end of our day, let us come to our senses and give over all our pains and sorrows to our healing Spirit who binds all wounds and heals all scars.

Rejoice with me because we have drifted with the winds of the time and now we are found; we have been lost and now are found; we have been dead and now are in full and abundant life again.


For a skit to reenact the parable of the lost sheep, click on the image or go to: https://skitguys.com/scripts/parable-of-the-lost-sheep

Click on the Tissot image for a lesson in compassion, or visit: https://www.globalsistersreport.org/column/spirituality/lost-coin-lesson-compassion-42186

Click on the Murillo image for more on finding new life with the returning son, or go to: https://www.thesacredpage.com/2010/03/prodigal-son-new-life-and-sacramental.html

For more reflections on these parables, enter the words The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, or The Prodigal Son in to the blog search bar and explore. 

 

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Mark 9:24: Belief and Unbelief

September 1, 2019

This summer I participated with a group of women who explored their ideas about the enormity of God’s generosity. In a culminating session, we shared our thoughts on faith.

What do I believe? I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth . . .

As a child, I struggled to understand why Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart when he changed the ruler’s mind about letting Moses’ people go (Exodus 8:15). I still spend time as an adult remembering this story and I always end with the same two thoughts. 1) Life is a mystery, and 2) ancient and modern times consistently remind us that we are not in charge.

When suffering happens, we remember that God turns all harm to good. We remember the story of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, and we open our hearts to the Spirit. We forgive those who transgress against us and remember that . . . life is a mystery and we are not in charge.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died and was buried . . .  

In Mark 9:24, a man whose son likely suffers from epilepsy encounters Jesus and asks for a cure for his child. When Jesus asks if he believes the boy will be healed, the father cries out “I believe; help my unbelief!” When we read another translation of this same verse, we hear again the boy’s father, “I believe. Help me with my doubts!” The world around us asks us to doubt much of what we hear with our own ears and much of what we see with our own eyes. We, like the boy’s father, might call to the Christ, “I do trust — help my lack of trust!” Or we might admit our human limits: “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!”

Jesus is counter-cultural and lives on the edges of society and we can see that when we follow Christ’s example, we may find ourselves in opposition to family, colleagues and friends.  Our beliefs will surely be shaken. Our unbeliefs may grow. As we discover the complexities of our world, we understand that dual thinking will not serve us and so we learn that we will have to find a way to live with our beliefs and unbeliefs in constant competition with one another. And we will ask ourselves, what carries us forward? What halts our journey? What do we believe and how intensely do we believe it?

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting . . .

The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit brings us comfort and joy when we need them most. The Spirit heals all wounds, and as we pass along the stories of these healings, we rejoice in God’s care and love, we celebrate Jesus’ presence and mercy in each moment of our lives. We encourage one another to show compassion to all, especially our enemies. We remind one another to keep hold of the gift of faith that God so generously bestows on us. And we collectively remember . . . Life is a great and wondrous mystery. We are not in charge and this is good. We believe in God the creator, Jesus the redeemer and their Holy Spirit the healer. This is what we hold in hope and faith. The writer of Hebrews tells us: (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.

In faith, we believe. In hope, we forgive, and in love we are healed and live again. This is what I believe.


Image from: https://images.app.goo.gl/3RRqtXN6H9QxAc1q6

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Psalm 32:11: Trueness of the Heart

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Psalm 32:11 – Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all you who are true of heart. 

Being true of heart is difficult, but once begun . . . it is a practice we cannot give up.

God says: I come to walk among you in truth – a very special truth.  It is the truth that will set you free.  Once you begin to live in me and in this truth, you will feel uncomfortable living any other way . . . because you will living in The Way.

May you find the true stepping-stones of The Way with greater ease and a lighter, freer heart.

Spend some time with The Narrow Gate reflection at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-narrow-gate/


A re-post from July 9, 2012.

Image from: http://www.antarasdiary.com/photography-lovely-hearts/

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Psalm 34:7: Archangel

Monday, July 29, 2019

Psalm 34:7The Angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, and he will deliver them. 

Michael

The angels are God’s messengers and envoys.  The Archangels are Michael the Defender, Gabriel the Announcer, Raphael the Healer, and Lucifer the Beautiful One.  Even among these special creatures we see both a willingness and an aversion to obedience.

God says: As special and as beautiful as the angels are, they do not compare to the radiance of the human race.  I do not make them in my image.  Only you, my beloved ones, have such privilege.  My angels are constantly with you, guiding, protecting, communicating.  Each of you has a special guardian of your own.  There are also fleets of swift-winged creatures who come and go constantly with messages for you. 

Gabriel

I do not want you to be fearful.  I do not want you to feel alone and so I send them among you . . . even as I am among you.  Do not be afraid.  I am with you.  My angels are with you.  You are already delivered from the dark ones who would pull you into their world.  Sleep well.  Rise well.  Go into the day tomorrow with a smile.

Raphael

Wishing you peaceful days and happy nights.  May Michael defend you, Gabriel announce God’s word to you, Raphael heal you . . . and Lucifer stay far away from you.  All this God does that you might be well.

For more on the Archangels click on the images, or go to: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2011-09-29


A re-post from July 8, 2012.

Images from: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2011-09-29 and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/9_29_michael21.jpg 

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Romans 8:38-39

July 2019ClockClipArtNoon

For the next several days there will be no Noontimes posts but I will continue to pray with you each day at noon and record thoughts in an old-fashioned paper journal to share later.  In place of receiving a daily post, you may want to explore ideas on the Connecting at Noontime page offered in the hope that you find a suggestion to feed the soul and strengthen your bond with and in Christ.

Our spiritual life is always about Call and Response God creates and calls us.  We listen, and then return God’s word.  This blog is one small way for us to listen, to seek, to discern, to come together, to puzzle through and to respond in full voice to God’s mysterious and beautiful invitation to life in the Spirit.  It is our daily visit with God that nourishes and sustains us.  It is our persistent connecting with the one who created us that reminds us of who and why we are.  It is our constant hope and our fervent prayer that buoy us up when the road is difficult.  And it is Christ’s love for each of us that keeps us on The Narrow Way.  Thank you for taking part in our Noontimes journey.  We are creatures meant to travel together and, like Paul writing to the Romans, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord. 

sundial-3New posts will return later this month.  In the meantime, may you each know and experience Christ’s peace.  May you seek and discover God’s Wisdom.  And may you be fortified in the Love and Counsel of the Spirit.  I hold each of you in prayer as always.  S

 

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Psalm 71:18: Waiting in Patience

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Psalm 71:18I shall always wait in patience, and shall praise you more and more.

Patience is difficult to practice because we have so many fears and we do not want to fail, to be exposed, to lose, to be in pain, to suffer in any way.  Yet the practice of patience itself wears down the fears . . . and brings more patience.

God says: The wisdom I wish to impart to you can only arrive to you through your patient, active waiting.  This patience can be learned through your salvific suffering – by offering your pain for the forgiveness of others.  You cannot solve your problems through your own cleverness or virtue for they weigh too heavily upon you.  I have given you the gift of faith.  From this gift will grow mountains of patience – much like the mustard seed in the parable my son loves to tell.   I also send you hope, through my son, Jesus Christ.  From this gift will flow rivers of patience – much like the rivers in the vision of my prophet Ezekiel.  I have given you the gift of charity toward all.  From this Love of your enemy will flower infinite patience . . . much like the patience my son shows as he dies innocently for others.  And with this faithful, hope-filling, abiding patience . . . you have won my heart.  Be patient with me and with my loving discipline, even as I am patient with you.  Praise me more and more . . . and this patience will permeate you in such a way that it will never leave you.  Just as I will never leave you.  You will never have to be without me.

As you wait for patience to settle into your being, I wish you a blessed and holy day.  A blessed and holy night.


A re-post from July 3, 2012.

Image from: http://adelecassidyyoga.blogspot.com/2012/02/sweet-patience.html

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Psalm 40:12: God is Listening

Friday, June 28, 2019

Lord, do not withhold your compassion from me; may your enduring kindness ever preserve me. 

There are lots of times – and they seem to last for too long – when it feels as though God does not listen.  I know that God is everywhere, including within me, but there are days and weeks and months and even years when I feel as though I walk entirely alone.  Why does he not hear my crying?

God says: Believe it or not, I do hear you, and I understand how you feel.  I came to earth to live as one of you so that you might believe me when I speak to you.  I love you so much that I have been willing to suffer as you do.  I too, have felt alone, misunderstood and maligned.  But do not worry.  Even though your grief has brought you to a place where you feel no warmth and no compassion, I am with you.  I have always been with you.  I will always be with you.  I will never abandon you.  I will save you from the fear that grips you.  Let go of that fear so that I can take it away from you to put it in a place from which it will not escape.  I have that power.  I have that love for you.  I will preserve you.  Come to me and lay your worries at my feet.  Then rest awhile with me.  I am here.  I have always been here.  I will always be here.

Wishing you a bit of peace so that you might feel God’s love and compassion.


A re-post from June 14, 2012.

Image from: http://rowenleaf.blogspot.com/2011/11/conversations-with-muses.html

Visit The Narrow Gate page on this blog and examine what it means to travel through the eye of the needle.

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Hebrews 11:1: The Dogwood Tree

Monday, June 17, 2019

Today’s Noontime is a reflection written for the dedication of a dogwood tree in the memory of Sophie Myers who was born and died on September 25, 2011.   It springs from the first verse of Hebrews 11.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

I share with you today some thoughts about how the small and beautiful dogwood tree is a symbol of life and faith – a reminder that despite the fact that we cannot see or hear or smell or touch someone . . . she does, indeed, exist.

The dogwood tree is one of the smallest in the forest but just because it is small does not mean it is any less alive.  Older, taller, more substantial trees tower over her but it is the dogwood – even when quite young – that dresses nature with airy pastel blossoms. She brings beauty and lightness and hope to the otherwise darkened forest.  Despite her size, the dogwood tree is an integral part of the woods.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

My son Will reminded us on the day of Sophie’s funeral that the shortness of her life does not diminish her significance.  That shortness does not mean that we love her any less and in fact, her quick coming and going make her existence all the more powerful.  This brevity reminds us to tell and show the people we love that we do, indeed, love them.  This brevity calls us forward to live our own lives in the assurance and in the conviction that Sophie is here with us today despite the fact that we cannot see or touch her.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The urn that contains the earth-held remains of Sophia Josephine Myers is decorated with four dogwood flowers.  Each of these flowers has four petals that symbolize her family: Gabby, Will, Vivian . . . and Sophie.  On the prayer card created for Sophia’s funeral there is a photograph of one small, green dogwood leaf floating as it moves along the surface of a crystal clear stream.  A sunbeam glints off the rippling water.  One tiny droplet rides on the leaf and is carried downstream to an unknown destination.  We do not see the end . . . yet the journey takes place.  We do not know the moment of arrival . . . yet the arrival happens.  Of this we are assured.  Of this we are convicted.  This we know.  This we live . . . in faith.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Sophie died in her transit to this world and yet . . . still she lives.  We pause to reflect today – in faith – on what that might mean.  We pause to reflect today on the beauty and the power and the importance . . . of the Dogwood Tree.

Amen.


A re-post from June 3, 2012.

Image of dogwood flower from: http://www.ridgewoodcameraclub.org/steinmeyer.html

To discover how to create a garden as a living memory of a loved one click on the dogwood tree image above or go to: http://www.recover-from-grief.com/memorial-garden.html

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Acts 18:9-10: Do Not Be Silent

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Risen Christ

Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you; because I have many people in this city.  This is thinking we have visited often in our Noontimes.  The Risen Christ constantly reminds us that there is nothing to fear – even when we wander into enemy territory.

We are afraid to risk loss – loss of a friendship, loss of status, loss of youth, loss of vigor, loss of value in any way.

We are afraid to speak up and to speak out.  We shrink from what my Dad used to call Stand up time.  We do not want to be shunned.  We want to be part of the whole.  We want someone else to voice what we are thinking and fearing, believing that if we do not say the words we can disown the fear.

We do not like uncomfortable silence.  We avoid pregnant pauses and knowing looks.  We know that the dictator’s greatest weapon is fear engendered in others and yet we succumb to the tyrant’s whippings by hiding our words and thoughts.  We unknowingly – or knowingly – hope to keep ourselves safe by using passive aggression but this always backfires on us and leaves us less than whole.

We want to either solve our own problems or totally give our worries away to let them bother someone else.  Solutions stand before us but we humans seem bent on avoiding the Spirit’s help at all costs.  And it need not be so.

Jesus tells us to shake away the dust of those who reject us; he tells us to move on in our mission and leave to him the task of converting hardened hearts. (Matthew 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5)

Matthew’s Gospel (10:18-20) records Jesus’ words to his disciples: On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Luke’s account is similar (12:11): When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. 

Jesus himself relies on the Father for both words and nuance (John 12:49-50): For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.  I know that his command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.

It is clear that we are never alone and yet we childishly refuse the help offered by our creator, our redeemer and the gentle abider.  We cling to wrong thinking because we do not want to make waves or cause turmoil . . . yet how much turmoil does wrong-headed thinking cause?  All we need do is steady ourselves and rely on the creator of all things.

It is obvious that we are in constant company of the Spirit . . . yet we do not use the words we are given because we fear we are not up to the challenge.  How much more difficult is the struggle when we fail to act as we are asked?  All we need do is to quiet ourselves and listen.

It is evident that we are not alone . . . and yet we refuse to recognize the company of our brother and constant companion in life.  How much anxiety is caused by our refusal to see who stands before us?  All we need do is settle ourselves . . . and speak.

We are not alone.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: all three remain even though we reject their advice and deny their presence.


A re-post from May 21, 2012.

For an interesting story about the image above, click on the photo or go to:http://www.oocities.org/saibaba_risenchrist/eng.htm

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