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Posts Tagged ‘balance’


Numbers 4Definition

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

We all know people who want to follow blindly; they do not want the responsibility of defining their work or of finding creative solutions to complex problems.  Their world is a construct of simple yes/no options with all questions answered by thumbing through regulations until the proper – and appropriate – solution is found.  Roles are defined by strict standards; rules are enforced without deference to circumstance.

We also know people who do not want to follow; they ignore or even shun any structure which holds them accountable.  Their world is built of elegant faerie castles with convoluted passageways and hidden places where the secrets that govern decisions are stored but rarely used.  The definition of role is determined each day by personal whim, and rules are changed according to some mysterious set of guidelines.

In today’s Noontime we find a set of duties laid out for the Levite priests that were meant to keep the covenant promise with God intact . . . and were also intended to prepare the people for the desert trek toward the Promised Land.  Regimentation and obedience are needed when the pressures of life become overwhelming.  In dire circumstances the standard rules may not apply and normal roles may change.  Flexibility will have to be matched by fidelity.  Creativity must be balanced by sensibility.  In order to survive the desert winds as we journey from oasis to oasis, we will have to balance carefully on the tightrope between passion and prudence.  This will only happen well when we understand our role as Children of God.  It can only happen with serenity when we understand our responsibility as Children of the Kingdom.  It can only happen in joy when we understand our definition as Children of Love.

It is not enough to follow blindly in the kingdom; we are called to develop an informed conscience so that our decisions flow from the Gospel Tenets.  Nor is it sufficient to hide passively or to strike out entirely on our own; we are called to act in accord with the Gospel Teachings that require us to love God and others before self.

When we act in accord with who God calls us to be then we have no need to hide; nor do we have a need to control.  When we act in accord with who we are – God’s children created in love to love others and to be loved – then the thin tightrope of the desert journey becomes a simple path.

And so we pray . . . Good and gracious God, you established the Levite priests to help your faithful make the arid journey safely to their promise.  You guide and protect us today just as you lead and guarded the Hebrew people through the Sinai.  Help us to better recognize what you require of us.  Help us to better appreciate who we are.  Help us to better value one another as we journey always to you.  And help us to better understand that we define ourselves best when we begin that definition with you.  Amen. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 20, 2011.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tightrope_walking

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Matthew 5:13: Becoming Salt for the World

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Too much salt makes our meals bitter, dries out all that it touches, and adds pain to an open wound.

Too little salt gives us bland food, allows stored meats to deteriorate, and allows infection to invade a damaged area.

Just the right amount of salt gives seasoning to our lives, preserves what we need to sustain us, and heals our hurts.

From the Torah and Narratives, through the Prophets and Wisdom, scripture asks us to consider the qualities of salt. Jesus gives us concepts to sort and decipher.

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says: You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot.

In Mark 9:50, he tells us: Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

In Luke 14:34-35 we hear: Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? “It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

The Dead Sea, between Israel and Jordan

Today, Christ calls us to measure the way we live. The Dead Sea was and is a living example of what happens when water enters a body and has no outlet; yet, despite its astonishingly high level of salt and other minerals, scientists find that it is full of microbial life. It seems that Mother Nature, and indeed all of creation, reminds us that we must look to maintain balance in a world full of polarities. We must discern the order that exists despite apparent chaos. We must work toward unity in a universe that brings us a message of dichotomy. We must be salt for a world that yearns for peace.

Today we pray the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), and as we do, we repeat Matthew 5:13 as an antiphon: You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?

Tomorrow, we are light.


For more Noontime reflections on salt for the world, enter the word salt into the search bar and explore. 

Read about what is going on in the Dead Sea at: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/fountains-of-life-found-at-the-bottom-of-the-dead-sea/

To discern what it means to be salt for the earth, visit: https://ccsouthbay.org/blog/salt-of-the-earth

Find 40 verses about salt in scripture at: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Salt

Images from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/table-sea-or-kosher-which-salt-is-healthiest/article10812924/ and https://www.deadsea.com/articles-tips/interesting-facts/why-is-the-dead-sea-called-the-dead-sea/

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Jeremiah 31:35-37: The Certainty of God’s Covenant

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Shepherd and Flock

A Favorite from January 3, 2008.

We have seen this chapter of Jeremiah before – the beautiful promise of the New Covenant – the gift of God’s eternal and all-saving love for us, God’s bride.  We have only to invoke God’s name to think of this covenant.

Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus and the Meditation in MAGNIFICAT is apropos.  Here is a piece of the citation from Fr. Raneiro Cantalmessa, O.F.M.CAP., the preacher to the papal household.

The invocation of the name Jesus helps, above all, to crush at the onset thoughts of pride, self-gratification, anger or impure thoughts.  All we have to do is observe our own thoughts as if they weren’t ours and follow their development. . .  What really spoils our heart is our self-seeking and the search for our own glory.  Those who contemplate God turn away from themselves: they are obliged to forget themselves and lose sight of themselves.  Those who contemplate God do not contemplate themselves!

Of course, we can swing too far in this direction as well . . . refusing to think about what needs sorting out about ourselves.  We can choose to ignore the things we need to work on and we can use the contemplation of God as an excuse.  Balance.  Spiritual and personal maturity always has balance.

Jesus himself spent days in the desert balanced by days wading among the people as he cured and healed them both physically and spiritually.  We can follow his example.  We can set aside a time during our activity-packed day to – as Jeremiah urges – contemplate the evil and good we see around us . . . and to meditate on the goodness of our God whom we call Lord of Hosts.

Dearest, abiding Lord, 

You who are greater than the natural laws, the foundations of the earth and the people . . .

You who are more immense than skies which contain the sun, the moon and the stars . . .

You who stir the waves of the sea to roar, who protects forever his people . . .

You who promise to hold us forever, who forgives us when we turn to you . . .

You maintain the balance of your immense universe yet you remember each one of us each day.

Fortify us in the certainty of your promise . . .

Bless us with the light of your love . . .

Answer us when we invoke your holy name . . .

Bring us the fire of your spirit. Amen.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.1 (2008). Print.  

Click on the shepherd and flock image to find more about God’s covenant with the people.

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Ecclesiastes 7: Elusiveness 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Favorite from September 13, 2008.

Wisdom and Righteousness are elusive, Qohelet tells us; and this does not surprise us.  We seek these qualities throughout our lives because they lead us to our divine self, our immortality, our infinity.  Today’s reflection invites us to seek our divine self  by looking at the inversions presented as evidence that this divinity lives in us constantly . . . it is with us, even as we go in search of it.

Perhaps we do not find this divine self because we are distracted by the cares and needs of daily living; yet it is in this quotidian life that we find the divine.  Qohelet reminds us that we best find understanding through sorrow, joy through grief, success through failure, happiness through pain, fulfillment through loss.  He further invites us to examine the life of the wicked and the idolatrous as contrasted with that of the wise and the righteous.  The former finds mirth in a present life of carefree festivity, while the later finds divinity in this life and in the next . . . through an ever-maturing communion with God.

Our divine self is elusive when we seek it with our human eye; yet it steps into full view when we drop all pretense and allow ourselves to be directed by the voice that challenges us through loss.

We find this divine self, Qohelet points out, when we put aside impatience and put on the enduring mantle of hope.  We find it when we put aside relationships in which we are the hunter and the hunted, and make the decision to enter into those that blossom with fidelity and constancy.  We find it when we commit to the worship of the one true God rather than false covenants of comfort or fame.

When we allow God to balance our lives, we journey from the dark places to the light, wisdom makes an immediate and steadfast appearance, and righteousness guards us as we weave between the stones in the obstacle path of our pilgrimage.  The divine self we seek is no longer elusive.

And so in gratitude we pray as we read.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.  Bring us your wisdom, O Lord.

It is better to hearken to the wise man’s rebuke, than it is to hearken to the song of fools. Bring us your wisdom, O Lord.

As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the fool’s laughterGrant us your righteousness, O Lord.

Better is the patient spirit than the lofty spirit.  Show us our divine self, O Lord.

Consider the work of God.  Who can make straight what he has made crooked?  On a good day enjoy good things, and on an evil day consider: both the one and the other God has made, so that man cannot find fault with him in anything.  Be not elusive, O Lord.

Amen.

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Sirach 38:24-34: God’s Ancient Handiwork

Wednesday, November 2, 2016gods-masterpiece

I still like to balance all the work that happens in my head with the work of my hands.  I find that when I have spent too much time with ideas and concepts that the only way to regain a sense of equilibrium in a hectic day is to return to the production of something I can touch – crocheting an afghan, preparing a casserole, mending something that has been torn or broken.  It is in this mending that I so often feel the snags in my heart begin to heal.  I recently saw a documentary about how work in the earth with one’s hands and time spent in nature that is far from development is used as a therapeutic method for some who suffer from depression and I can see the wisdom in this.  All of nature seems to me to be God’s playground because it is the work of God’s hands.  Perhaps the work of our own hands can be just such a playground for us.  It is good to return to simple manual occupations when life feels overly complex or complicated, when our human-ness has somehow forgotten our divine-ness.

In today’s Noontime we read an anthem of praise for those who work with their hands and even their feet.  The vocation – or calling forth – of a person’s craft is praised.  We are asked how we see wisdom increase in ones who have little time for the study of and reflection on God’s written word and the written wisdom of the learned ones (as in 39:1-11).  Guiding the plow and the draft animals to create a fertile furrow, engraving, designing, and smithing metals, molding pots . . . all these are expert skills of the hands without which no city could be lived in, and wherever they stay they need not hunger.  Sometimes I believe that we city folk have gotten too far away from our country roots.  We forget why we have been created . . . to know, to love and to serve God . . . not ourselves.  We have forgotten our true craft and we have forgotten how to maintain God’s ancient handiwork.

Over the past several evenings I watched news stories about organizations begun by westerners who bring important health care and safety to indigenous peoples in Asia and Africa.  Stories of how people who spend little time tending to their own basic survival needs turn their hands to the provision of a better safety net for those who truly have little.  One endeavor in Borneo that takes local goods as barter also invites those who have nothing to barter to replant seedlings on that country’s deforested hills.  All sides win, even Mother Nature.  Another story was of a young man who provides shoes for children in order that they not suffer from illness contracted from the volcanic soil where they live – a simple gesture with an inspiring consequence.  There are so many small yet hugely wonderful movements in the world each day that speak to this idea of knowing one’s simple craft . . . and living it out.  They are too numerous to name; yet it is these movements to maintain God’s ancient handiwork that bring light to a world threatened by violence and wars of many kinds.

When we become too far removed from who we are and who we are meant to be, it is no wonder that we lose our way.  When we become too puffed up like the example of leaven in bread that Jesus uses to describe the prideful scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 16:6, we have forgotten our craft and we no longer have the true vision of our purpose which is to maintain God’s ancient handiwork.  As we spend time this evening in prayer thanking God for all that he has given us, we might also thank him for our vocation, for the calling forth of our own craft which we offer to the world and back to God as we engage in, participate in and maintain . . . God’s ancient handiwork

A Favorite from October 29, 2009.

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James: Lessons in Love512px-Bible_paper

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We have spent several weeks reflecting on James’s letter to the people of his day and to us in our own day. We have spent a number of weeks exploring his themes and sifting through his lessons. Some of our encounters with James make us uncomfortable. We are not always willing to step out of comfort zones and into a newness that tempts but does not guarantee. We are too often content with our harvest of the obvious before us and too often afraid to imagine the harvest of hope that God asks us to undertake.

epistle-of-james-project-590x382Other encounters with James bring a quiet understanding of God’s voice we hear in the precision and honesty of James’ words. We have felt Christ’s presence in the strength of James’ verses. We have been visited by the Spirit as we dwell in the wisdom of these Lessons in Love. Today we take time to gather these teachings and pledge to make them an active influence in our lives.

When we choose a Lesson in Love and decide to live it for the next month in our lives, what new possibility will open for us?

Chapter 1: The Value of Obstacles – the barriers we encounter are lessons in finding our inner strength in God.

Chapter 2: The Value of Balance – the extremes we experience are lessons in learning to balance God’s joy with the difficulties of the world.

JamesChapter 3: The Value of Living Wisely, Justly and Well – our words and actions indicate the quality of our discipleship in Christ.

Chapter 4: The Value of Turmoil – the storms and upheaval we meet are lessons in faith and hope in Christ.

Chapter 5: The Value of Patience – our common practices and plain speech are lessons in love and life in Christ.

And so we pray . . . Wise, Gentle, Balanced, Patient and Loving Jesus, continue to shepherd us as we take on your lessons in love. Speak to us clearly through the words of your servant James. Live in us daily through the power of your redeeming Spirit. Amen. 

james-1We might bookmark and re-visit this post when we are ready to enact another Lesson in Love as shown to us by James.

 

 

For notes on this letter, visit: http://www.usccb.org/bible/james/0

Tomorrow, our abundant helper . . . 

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

the-letter-sadhe[1]Psalm 119:137-144

Sadhe

I am consumed by rage, because my foes forget your words . . . Your decrees are forever just; give me discernment that I may live.

We become indignant when we believe that others do not understand the message of the Gospel; others become indignant with us when we behave in a narrow way.

God says: I really do understand how anger and frustration might consume you; but I ask that you take this negative energy and hand it to me.  Together we will transform the ugliness and pettiness and cruelty you see in the world . . . to beautiful truth, inspiring authenticity and salvific love.  Together we will bring goodness out of harm.  Together we will build a kingdom so that all might live eternally.

Once we allow ourselves to pardon enemies we experience love as God does.  We find a new tranquility and balance.  And we discover that the evil around us melts into nothingness.  This new serenity begins when we can bring ourselves to love our enemies as Jesus does.

Jesus says: You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”.  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly father . . . For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47)

In this newest lesson presented to us in Psalm 119 we find the greatest – and perhaps the most difficult and certainly the most important – lesson of all.  We find our divinity by fully and completely turning our most basic human instincts over to God.  We find the kingdom that lies before us by interceding for all of.  We find discernment by turning all of our rage into love.  And all of this brings us serenity.

For more on how Sadhe speaks to us of faith that is found in the righteous, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/tzadik.htm

For a quick view of the Hebrew letters, click on the image above and then click through the alphabet to the left, or go to: http://www.heb4you.com/hebrew-alephbet/18th-letter-of-the-hebrew-alphabet.html

Tomorrow, Qoph.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Two Edged SwordPsalm 149:6

The Double-Edged Sword

With the praise of God in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hands . . .

With mercy and justice, compassion and integrity, love and honesty the double-edged sword of God sings in the hands of God’s people.  Let us praise God.

God says: I understand how difficult it is for you to wield this special sword when you see only a small part of the broad landscape of the time and place that I see.  Yet you are my special and dear children and for that reason I cannot refuse you this sword of redeeming life.  When you are discouraged from struggling with the world, take up the sword and grasp it firmly. When you feel that you are bullied because of me, lift the sword and allow it to sing.  When you find that you are weighed down with my justice, raise the sword and join your voice in the song of the double-edged sword.

We humans tend to be dualistic; we find life easier to live when we look through a single lens that filters out opposing views.  We have difficulty balancing opposites yet we lose our way when we see events and people through the lens of our own singular thinking.  God is always showing us a world of inversion: the poor are wealthy, the wealthy poor; what is lost is found, what is found is lost; we are born to die, we die in order to be born anew.  This two-edged sword that separates and yet joins is a living sign of God’s presence in our lives.  Let us celebrate our struggles and take up our burden with joy.  And let us learn a lesson of great value as we ponder God’s double-edged sword.

For practical advice on the use of the two-edged sword, click on the image above or go to: http://lifeworthserving.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/praying-the-word/

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Tissot: Exhortation to the Apostles

Tissot: Exhortation to the Apostles

Luke 5:16

Come Apart With Me Awhile

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  (Luke 5:16)

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15)

And after leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. (Mark 6:46)

The Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.  Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place.  (Matthew 12:14-15)

Jesus withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village named Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. (John 11:54)

When Jesus heard what had happened [to John the Baptist], he withdrew privately by boat to a solitary place.  (Matthew 14:13)

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. (Mark 3:7)

Tissot: Jesus Commands his Disciples to Rest

Tissot: Jesus Commands his Disciples to Rest

Recently in our Noontime journey we have examined how to best survive the ups and downs of a life lived in discipleship.  We have reflected on how to best withstand the plots and schemes devised by the discontented.  We have focused on how to best respond to God’s call. And through all of this we may find ourselves exhausted.  If this is so, we must do as Jesus and his companions did . . . we must go apart for a time.

If you are able, make the intentional effort of leaving one day a week to re-connect with the treasure of yourself.  If you have spent much time with chores and tasks, put them aside and go out into the world to experience the gift of connecting with others.  If you need time on your own, set yourself apart for a time either alone or with someone with whom you need to re-connect.  Put away anything that takes you away from restoring your soul and re-filling your well.  Our world draws us into or out of ourselves in such alluring ways that before we notice, we have either detached ourselves from human community or we have thrown ourselves entirely into it without listening to our hearts.  What we seek today is a bit of balance for with balance comes wisdom and peace.

To help us reflect, let us look at some of the images created by James Tissot, and let us remind ourselves that we are in each of these scenes.  Let us thank Christ for walking with us each day even when we forget his presence.  And let us carry Christ to others as we have been asked to do.

Tissot: Jesus Teaching by the Seashore

Tissot: Jesus Teaching by the Seashore

If you have a favorite citation from scripture in which Jesus withdraws for a time either alone or with his disciples, insert it in the comment box below.  If you are more visual, search the net for another of Tissot’s scenes from The Life of Christ and share that link in the comment box.

May each of us come away with Christ for a time, may each of us restore the soul and settle the heart, and may each of us enjoy a day of peace and balance.

James Tissot (1833-1902) was “a nineteenth-century French painter who for the first part of his career had a reputation as a ‘French society painter [whose subjects were] the costumes and manners, occupations and pleasures of the French capital’s elegantes.’ This all changed in the early 1890s when Tissot renewed his ties to the Catholicism of his youth after experiencing a vision during a Mass when the priest raised the host. For the rest of his life, he devoted himself to the series of religious paintings numbering in the hundreds given here. Tissot’s lasting reputation rests on this series The Life of Christ on all periods of Jesus Christ’s life from the Annunciation to the Resurrection”.   (Berry)

For more of Berry’s review and others, go to: www.amazon.com/James-Tissot-The-Life-Christ/product-reviews/1858944961

Berry, Henry. “James Tissot: The Life of Christ.” Amazon Reviews. 9 Dec 2009: n. page. Web. 21 Jun. 2013. <http://www.amazon.com/James-Tissot-The-Life-Christ/product-reviews/1858944961&gt;.

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