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Daniel 1: Wisdom and Prudence

Simon Vouet: Allegory of Prudence

Simon Vouet: Allegory of Prudence

Friday, September 23, 2022

In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom.

Just like the Chaldeans, we marvel at the wisdom and prudence coming from one who lives in God.  These holy ones are able to bring light to darkness, reason to insanity, tranquility to the turbulent spirit. We might do well to imitate those who walk with God.  These four men, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, are more free in their captivity than their captors are in their freedom for what they possess is a pearl of great price. They know that we are all children of God.

From MAGNIFICAT:

You chose the lowly of this world to bring salvation to all nations: grant your people the wisdom to seek your love rather than worldly honor.

You chose the faithful to bring forth the fruit of your promise: strengthen us in fidelity amid the uncertainties of our day.

You chose the unexpected to bring forth the gift of life: grant us freedom of spirit to rejoice in your work in every circumstance.

For those who are enslaved by poverty and oppression: send people of wisdom and generosity to discover ways to set them free.

For those who are enslaved by prejudice and fear: send people of courage and self-forgetfulness to keep them out of the darkness.

For those who are enslaved by addictions, recognized and unrecognized: send people enlightened by their own struggles to guide them along right paths.

If we are in the darkness yet see the light, we must take up Christ as our courage to move into that light, and we must try to bring our sisters and brothers with us. If we rise from our suffering, we must turn to others who suffer to likewise bring them out of the darkness and into God’s marvelous hands.


Image from: http://www.prudencetrue.com/january2010.html

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 9.9 (2008). Print.  

A reflection from September 9, 2008.

 

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Isaiah 22Euphoria

Louvre Museum: Sennacherib relief

Louvre Museum: Sennacherib relief

Sunday, August 21, 2022

A Favorite from July 4, 2009.

For the third day in a row we find ourselves in Isaiah’s prophecy and today we conclude the oracles against the pagan nations. Interestingly, Isaiah includes Jerusalem in this litany.

Commentary tells us that here Isaiah warns against false hope – against relying on self rather than God.  Around the year 700 B.C.E. Sennacherib and the Assyrian invasion forces have been turned back from the city. The people have mounted various defenses against the enemy and now they react with euphoria to the good turn of events. Yet rather than rejoice in God’s loving providence that rescues and heals them for eternity, they celebrate their own skill which will not, in the end, save them from their own corruption and decadence. They believe that their own planning, proficiency and leadership have saved them this day. The leader Shebna is revealed for who he is: one who thinks of his own legacy and comfort at the expense of those he leads. Eliakim is named as a loyal servant of God, a peg in a sure spot upon whom the glory of his family hangs.  Yet even this peg fixed in a sure spot shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be done away with; for the Lord has spoken.

wooden peg

Even the sure peg in the sure spot will give way, break off and fall . . .

When we survive disaster and come out the other side of a calamity intact and even renewed, we are to be joy-filled, we are to celebrate. But today the prophet Isaiah cautions us to place our joy properly in God who saves rather than in ourselves. We must never forget who it is who forms order out of chaos. We must always be mindful that everything God creates is good, that God will convert harm to transformation, and that he rescues us because he loves us . . . not because he expects something from us.

We are creatures already set free, already liberated from the shackles we imagine. When we find ourselves in bad times or with bad people, we seek intercession from God. When we find ourselves in happy circumstances with wonderful people, we thank God who loves us beyond measure. We return even our euphoria to the one who transforms.


Images from: https://bible.fandom.com/wiki/Sennacherib and http://archive.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/02/01/wrecked_schooner_drifts_ashore_and_into_mystery/

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land of nod

Land of Nod

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

  Genesis 4

Considering Cain and Abel

How do we see the story of Cain and Abel through the lens of Johannine thought? The keeper of flocks contrasted with the tiller of soil. The favored first-born versus the overlooked second. The key to the story, as we are constantly told, lies in verse 3: Through the course of time Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the firstlings of his flock.

Cain, the eldest and sower of crops, is described as crestfallen and greatly resentful when God favors the loving offering brought by Abel but God does not leave Cain alone with his anger, fear and envy. God asks Cain why he feels these negative emotions. No reply is recorded from Cain but further words from God are: If you do well, you can hold up your head. God warns Cain of sin and describes it as a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master. As we read this story we hope that Cain can resist the power of envy because we want to resist this green devil ourselves; yet we know the story too well. Cain goes out to speak with Abel and unable to resist the skills of the demon, he kills his brother. Several verses later Cain asks God to allow him to be killed as he wanders the earth but God refuses this request. So Cain finally settles east of Eden in the land of nomads, Nod.

When we consider this story through the perspective of the writings of the Apostle John, we might spend time today considering three points.

God is honest with both Cain and Abel, acknowledging Abel’s true love of God and Cain’s more egocentric self. God does not pamper us by avoiding the truth. We see this same honesty in Jesus as John tells the story of the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11)

God does not abandon Cain in his sadness and grief. He abides with him, yet continues to present him with truth. God allows Cain the freedom to choose his own path. We see this same fidelity in Jesus when John retells his words about the Good Shepherd. (John 10:1-21)

God does not create an easy exit for Cain but rather allows him to experience the consequence of listening to the demon who lurks at the door. God offers Cain transformation through suffering. We see this same love in Jesus with every story John tells of the Resurrected Christ. (John 20 and 21)

And we also experience this same love from Jesus each day of our lives when, as true children of God, we take our cares and worries, our joys and delights to God.

Tomorrow, considering holiness and a prayer for true children.


Image from: http://thesestonewalls.com/gordon-macrae/in-the-land-of-nod-east-of-eden/

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magdalene weeping at tombFriday, April 23, 2021

John 20:14-18

Weeping

There are many times in our lives when we do not recognize the Christ who works, kneels or plays beside us. We believe ourselves alone or abandoned. We find that we are overwhelmed with work or emotion. We look for a loved one, friend or colleague who will fill the emptiness.  We throw ourselves into play or work, and all the while we overlook the gentle leader who stands waiting before us, calling our name.

Mary Magdalene works and lives with Jesus for several years and yet she mistakes him for the gardener. Let us consider if or how, when or why we look past Jesus when he stands ready to help us. And let us determine to step into the newness and freedom Christ gives us today.

Enter the words Why are you Weeping into the blog search bar and explore. 


A re-post from Easter Tuesday 2014.

Image from: http://seedsoflifesomethingthatmatters.wordpress.com/tag/mary-magdalene/

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paths 5Easter Thursday, April 8, 2021

Matthew 13:1-17

So Many Paths – Part III

Jesus says: “To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, more will be taken away”.

Some lives are hidden journeys, following tracks laid down by unknown forces that pull us forward rapidly. We fly past dense underbrush that hides us from the openness of the world. We are enslaved to a strict pathway that does not allow for deviation in any way. Journeys like this seem pleasant and ordered but they eliminate the opportunity to make choices. We find that we have no freedom. When we realize that we have chosen a pathway that thinks for us and keeps us away from the fullness of creation, we find that we are missing out not only on risk and danger but on our own development. We begin to understand Jesus’ words when he says that those with more will prosper and those with little will fail. It dawns on us that these words do not refer to material goods but rather, to a life lived in fullness of heart versus a life lived with a narrowness of mind. A constricted, prescribed and confining journey brings with it its own punishment of more constriction; while open and generous pathways call us out of ourselves and ask us to stretch. Open and flexible journeys offer us a new prosperity of love, peace and fulfillment. We discover that as we move away from restriction to stretch beyond our comfort zones, we learn about the depth and breadth and beauty of our gifts.

paths 6“This is why I speak in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand’. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them”.

There are paths that bring us changes that are so sudden that at first we believe ourselves to be lost. Huge, impassable obstacles loom large before us and all we see is a roadblock. All we hear is chaos. When we look closely, however, to discern God’s plan and call, we notice alternative routes we had not previously seen. We hear precious words of advice and encouragement to which we had earlier been deaf. With this new discovery of trusting God, we also realize a life of eagerness, adventure and acumen. We become wiser. We hear better. We see further. We find endurance. We find that we can bear far more that we had imagined. We understand that we are loved far more than we had hoped. Our eyes see opportunity where before we had seen loss; our ears hear rejoicing where before we heard only dirges.

paths 14Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears because they hear. Many prophets and righteous people have longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Spaths 9ome journeys convince us that the world is made of two kinds of people: the good and the bad. We find ourselves believing the illusion that we can divide everyone and every idea into opposing camps or positions. And then we find ourselves either allying with the position we think is the safest and most suitable . . . or we struggle to achieve an impossible compromise that addresses none of the problems we find before us. This kind of living begins as an innocent attempt to simplify our journey, and it ends in a passage that is rigid, unforgiving and blind.

Tomorrow, So Many Paths – Part IV.


Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

images[1]Psalm 119:153-160

Resh

Rescue me . . . Take up my cause . . . Redeem me . . . Give me life . . . Give me life.

As we near the close of this psalm we have come to understand that real and permanent rescue lies only in God.

God says: You have spent many days exploring this longest of Psalms and through your persistent study and faithful prayer a new clarification begins to seep into your bones and sinews. Take me with you in your heart and mind, your body and soul as you go about your work, rest and play. Invoke me when you are frightened. Celebrate with me when you experience joy. Remember always that I love you and that my love for you erases all wrong and rights all injustice. With me comes the dawn of a new light, the breaking in of a new wineskin, the shifting away from old habits and customs that tie you down and do not bring the lasting freedom of the heart as I do. Remain in me always and everywhere, for only in me do you find clarity.

We are sometimes quite stubborn and refuse to believe that contentment might be gained by examining our old traditions to jettison those that hamper our development. We are sometimes quite slow in taking up the gift of new life. We are often not willing to die . . . so that we might live.

For if we have grown into union with [Christ] through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. (Romans 6:5-6)

Living in Christ is never easy for we must be willing to examine our thoughts, words and deeds and we must be willing to live in a new way. We ask for clarity when we already have it . . . but refuse to understand it . . . because our understanding will call for action on our part. Yet, living in Christ is always rewarding for we are quickly forgiven, always loved, and always blessed. We ask for clarity and we already have it . . . let us be willing to understand the gift of new life that we hold in our hands.

Tomorrow, Fallen Sparks.


For more on how Resh speaks to us of clarification and God’s difficult yet wonderful call, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/reish.htm

Image from: http://houseofjoseph.net/alef-bet_download_page.htm

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Friday, January 1, 2021

The Eighth Day of Christmas

Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre: Nativity

Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre: Nativity

Galatians 4:4-7

Proof

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into your hearts crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child than also an heir, through God.

We struggle to realize a kind of independence from any being – natural or supernatural. We strive to gain control of our own destiny – earthly or spiritual. We tussle with time and attempt to govern the passing of minutes, hours and years – looking back into the past and forward into the future while neglecting the precious present. We have need of none of these desires and indeed we expend our energy and creativity uselessly on these false battles . . . for we already have all that we could hope for. We are rescued from darkness. We are ransomed through the love of God. And we are already heirs of a kingdom and fortune too vast to be measured or counted. We have our proof in this small, tiny child.

On this eighth day of Christmas as we stand at the threshold of a new day that marks a new year, let us live in this prized gift of the present that the Father has given to us.  Let us give thanks to the Father for all that we have and all that we are.  On this day when we begin a new year that we so eagerly await, let us cease our search for the proof of God’s love and let us be convinced – as Christmas people – that what we seek we already possess.


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Baptiste_Marie_Pierre_-_Nativity_-_WGA17676.jpg

Enter the words Children of God into the blog search bar and spend some time reflecting on what it means to greet Christ as a brother.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020obedience[1]1 Peter 1:13-16

Obedience

Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . . [and] be holy as he who called you is holy . . . for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy”.

Peter understands the importance of living in Christ’s holiness perhaps more than any other apostle. Peter both denied Christ and witnessed that Jesus is the son of the Living God. Peter understands the real cost and gift of suffering. Peter believes in the inheritance he holds in his hands, mind and spirit.  Peter comprehends the importance of living in Christ, and the insignificance of the many small problems with which we crowd our days.

God says: Listen to our brother Peter for he has great wisdom for you. Peter understands that real freedom can only be won through obedience to the goodness I have planted in you. Peter understands that straying from my Word is normal and that suffering is unpleasant and painful. Peter also understands that cleaving to my Word can go against your desire for independence . . . but that total and true independence can only be gained through your following in The Way of Christ. There is much more that Peter understands and that he wants to convey to you but for today . . . rest with the idea of obedience. And reflect on when and how and why you have felt most free. Like Peter you will find that the obedience he preaches releases you from the small, petty worries of your days. Like Peter, you will come to more fully understand how obedience releases you from all that constrains and frightens you.

Once we decide to trust God in both large and small matters we free ourselves from energy-sapping anxiety. This is what Peter means by girding our minds and living soberly in the moment. This is the holiness to which Peter calls each of us . . . in the name of Christ.

Tomorrow, Peter tells us about reverence . . .  


Image from: http://metropraise.blogspot.com/2012/09/obedience-is-better-than-sacrifice.html

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Jeremiah_33_3[1]Jeremiah 33

Promise

We visit the book of Jeremiah often in our Noontime reflections; it is a rich and complex prophecy. Jeremiah is so frank, honest, and open about his suffering. Chapter 33 is particularly lovely and holds much promise about healing after punishment.

This prophecy might prove difficult for those among us who are addicted to turmoil and conflict or to the control of others and our surroundings. Jeremiah speaks of reliance on God who loves dearly and intensely, tenderly and passionately. Through Jeremiah, God announces a desire for our own personal freedom so that we might freely choose to be in relationship with God. Whether we suffer or celebrate, God wants to dance in intimacy with us.

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. This quiet instruction from God speaks of the closeness and confidence of our relationship. We have only to ask. God will answer. Like the faithful spouse.

Verse 9: Then Jerusalem shall be my joy, my praise, my glory, before all the nations of the earth, as they hear of all the good I will do among them.  They shall be in fear and trembling over all the peaceful benefits I will give her. The prophecy of Jeremiah is not only a faithful prediction of what will happen to King Zedekiah, to the city of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Israel, it is a foretelling of the Christ story and it is the story of our own ransom and redemption.

God wants only freedom for us so that we might have the option to choose to love and follow. Christ arrives to bring us this freedom from slavery and darkness. The Holy Spirit abides with us constantly, whispering this promise to us repeatedly.

When we seek freedom from all that haunts us, we only need turn to a forgiving and loving God. This is where real and lasting love lies. This is where eternal sustenance and strength lie. And this is where the undying and sure promise of God’s presence and movement in our lives will always lie. This is the freedom God willingly gives. God’s promise to us is this great. God’s love for us is this persistent and ever-lasting.


Adapted from reflections written on January 1, 2007 and April 28, 2010.

Image from: http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?m=201208

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