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Posts Tagged ‘God turns harm to good’


Thursday, October 22, 2020

new-heart[1]Psalm 32:11

Upright Hearts

Rejoice in Yahweh, exult, you virtuous, shout for joy, all upright hearts.

In Jewish tradition, the heart is the center of human spirit, thought and emotion.  It is the heart that gives rise to action. (PSALMS 31)

God says: When you live in me you will find yourself rejoicing no matter your circumstances for you will understand that I turn all harm to good, you will comprehend that the faithful need not fight because I fight for them, and you will know that I guide and protect you always. If you live in a world of denial, deceit and betrayal you will find it difficult to trust your loved ones. You will feel most comfortable inhabiting a world of forces that control and are controlled. You will seek others who prefer a lie to truth. The upright heart cannot bear the darkness. The honest heart seeks light and truth and good. Come to me, all you who shout continually for joy just knowing that I am with you. Come to me this day, no matter your circumstance. For we have much to do. We have much to celebrate.

For a week of days we have explored Psalm 32; we have scanned its verses and parsed its words as we look for the deeper meaning that remains with us once we close the pages of the Bible. We have allowed the Word to seep into our sinews, to strengthen our bones, and to bring new life to a tired spirit. Let us return to the first verse, and read again these treasured words of instruction that bring us remission, grace and wisdom. Let us take in these words that renew the spirit, and then let us rise in action.

Happy the one whose fault is forgiven . . .


THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 31. Print.

Image from: http://www.pbwu.org/w/p/daily-encouraging-word-a-new-heart-and-a-new-spirit/

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

old-steps[1]Amos 5:7-27 and 6

The Three Woes . . . and Restoration

There is an order to nature. Things do not happen by chance. This order comes from God as we hear in the opening lines of Genesis when God brings order and light out of chaos and darkness. We are the people who have walked in darkness and can now see a great light. We are messianic people We bring light to the world, healing to the poor in spirit, hope to the hopeless, faith to those who live in anxiety, and love to those who have been abandoned or betrayed.

We are messianic people . . . and like Christ, we will be wounded in this journey we make toward the New Jerusalem that we see in Revelation. We will be hounded, persecuted, stoned, vilified and mocked, but we will also be healed, transformed, lifted up and brought up high, filled, rejuvenated and restored. Through the prophet Joel, our God tells us: I will repay you for the years which the locust has eaten. (2:25) 

We are messianic people . . . and so many times we hear about restoration being promised from the story of Adam and Eve in the first book of God’s word to the last book of God’s Revelation of the New Jerusalem. We find ourselves slipping into the idea that this restoration comes in the next life but as children of God we are meant to feel this fullness now. The journey will be arduous but we follow where many have gone before us; it is the very journey itself that restores.

We are messianic people . . . and we are the work of God, therefore we cannot be complacent. We must move and act in God, for in this way we become the exit from sorrow and woe not only for others but for ourselves. In serving others from our own wounded-ness and from our own woe, we become healers of others and thereby we become healed.

We are messianic people . . . and as healers we have a part to play in the Economy of Salvation, in this Divine Plan of God’s for our happiness. We have an essential part to play in this world and in the next.

We are messianic people . . .a nd so when we experience woe, we know that we will rest in this grief for a time and we also know that there is joy and celebration to be found in the sadness for as children of God know that God turns all harm to good.

We are messianic people . . . and God yearns for intimate union with us. This union, so many times found through sorrow, brings complete and everlasting joy.

We are messianic people . . . and so we pray . . .   

Dearest, loving God, draw us close to you for we wish to be with you always. We know that you are in all things and with all people. We believe that you set all things right. We hope for the perfection of your plan in each of us. We love those who most need our intercession and we understand that by asking for healing for those who need it most we meet you face to face. We are messianic people . . . and so we seek healing and restoration here, now, and for eternity. Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on December 30, 2007.

The journey is arduous but we follow many who have gone before us.  The steps of The Way are well worn . . . and it is the very journey itself that brings restoration.  To read a simple reflection on Hosea 6 and the steps for spiritual restoration, click on the image above or go to: http://upwordtogether.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/steps-for-spiritual-restoration/  This site also archives a one-year study of the Bible beginning at: http://upwordtogether.wordpress.com/2012/08/

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Friday, September 25, 2020

During Schumacher's expedition, a rare seal was found with the inscription: "To Shema slave of Jeroboam". This may be King Jeroboam II from 750BC.

During Gottlieb Schumacher’s expedition of Megiddo, a rare seal was found with the inscription: “To Shema slave of Jeroboam”. This may be King Jeroboam II from 750BC.

Amos 4

Impiety Rebuked . . . Restoration

Amos does not mince his words or couch them in easy metaphors; we can see why he was rejected. His message struck too quickly and too closely to the heart of those who by their actions did not live out the Mosaic Law of honoring the one true God. Amos lived during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.E.) and he pronounced his prophecy at the cult center of Bethel until the priest who was in charge of that royal sanctuary expelled him.

At this time, the northern kingdom of Israel had separated from the southern one of Judea and when we read closely we can see that the priests and the wealthy had succumbed to the lure of the power and control which their office as sacred ministers and leaders afforded them. Stated bluntly, they abused the gift and power given to them. They were more concerned about maintaining their control on the temple income derived from the people who brought their offerings as a part of their attempt to seek penance and union with God. The priests of Israel (the northern kingdom, also Samaria) had separated from Jerusalem (the southern seat of power and worship) and loved their position of wealth, plenty and power. Amos rebukes these fat, contented people just as Jesus did when he ejected the moneychangers from the temple.

Amos always understands that this perversion of the law is not permanent . . . as much as those in power may wish it to be. Amos knows that Yahweh will use this harm that the corrupt inflict on those over whom they have control . . . and he knows that Yahweh will turn this harm to good, just as he does with all things that are corrupting. Yahweh will use these stubborn acts of blindness and perversity to bring about restoration and ultimate union with God.

As with all prophets, Amos is reluctant to speak when called by God . . . yet speak he does . . . and oh, so beautifully. “His style is blunt and even offensive”. (Senior RG 362) He begins chapter 4 by calling the wealthy women cows, the wife of the priest, Amaziah, a harlot. “He is a prophet in the mold of Elijah, whose denunciations come close to cursing”. He saw himself as a poor shepherd and farmer with no influence and therefore saw no need to speak softly . . . as he did not expect to be heard. Amos pronounces doom on those who do not hear and those who are blind to their own actions, and then he goes back to his sheep and sycamores.

Amos’ offer of hope springs not from the idea that this doom and catastrophe for the controlling classes can be avoided, for it is clear that disaster is looming and in fact it does arrive in the form of the Assyrian invasion. No, the hope that Amos offers lies in the fallen hut of David, the Messiah who is to come . . . Jesus. Amos tells and foretells those who have ears to listen that we rebuke those who live in flagrant violation of the covenant and then we watch in hopeful waiting for the one who will come to deliver the justice that is so desperately needed. We wait in joyful expectation the kingdom where compassion and mercy merge with justice and righteousness, where we both rebuke and remain open to wonderful possibilities that can come only with tremendous hope.


For information about Gottlieb Schumacher’s Expedition and Report of Tell el-Mutesellim (Megiddo), visit: https://megiddoexpedition.wordpress.com/schumachers-expedition/

Adapted from a reflection written on December 22, 2007.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 362. Print.

To read more about Jeroboam II, click on the image above or go to: http://ramsesii-amaic.blogspot.com/2009/10/jeroboam-ii.html

For more on the Megiddo Seal above, go to: http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/megiddo.html

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Psalm 118:23: Marvelous

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Psalm 118:23This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

God turns all harm to good.  All things done in the dark to bring pain and suffering are noted by God, and converted by him into transformative, life-giving moments.  We only need trust in him above all else . . . and rejoice that we are so well-loved.

God says: I see that you often suffer from the actions and words, or the inactions and aggressive silences of others.  There are sins of commission as well as omission.  There are temptations that draw you away from me, and there are temptations that pull you to a standstill so that you feel mired in mud.  This quick sand turns to life-giving waters when you allow me to touch you, to carry you, to wash you and to heal you.  Come to me, all you who are burdened.  You will see what marvels my hands can perform. 

May all little and big harms of the day become inverted in God’s hands.


A re-post from July 2, 2012.

Image from: http://governmentspro.blogspot.com/2011/06/thank-goodness.html

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2 Samuel 16Making Mistakes

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Michelangelo: David

Written on January 30 and posted today as a Favorite . . . 

Today we see a part of the story of David that might be difficult to understand if we view life as a series of good decisions.  When we view life as it really is, however – as series of decisions we make both bad and good – we have less anxiety and fear, we experience more hope and serenity.  I heard a radio preacher recently say: When you live your life in the Spirit, you can’t make a mistake.  “This is incorrect”, we might say to ourselves.  “How can a good life have bad decisions in it?  How can a life of flawed decisions be good?”  If this is our thinking, we have forgotten something and it is this : If we are living in the Spirit, we will have arrived at understanding how God operates; we will fully comprehend that God turns all harm to good.  So whether we err accidentally or whether we mean to inflict harm in any way, God will use these flawed acts to work in his favor for – God turns all harm to good.  And this is part of the story we see today.

David has been a good leader and faithful to God, but he has also sinned and erred.  What sets David apart is the way in which he reacts when others urge him to take revenge.  When he was younger, his soldiers encouraged him to murder the sleeping Saul when he had the opportunity.  David instead makes it obvious that he has breached the enemy’s lines and yet has not taken a life where he could.  David lives in the Spirit.  David later becomes infatuated with Bathsheba and plots her husband’s death; he confesses this sin when confronted by Nathan and sings a beautiful lament of repentance that we still sing today during the Lenten season (Psalm 51).  Even though he has erred, David lives in the Spirit.

David does not use his good standing with God to ignore what he has done; instead he confesses and atones.  He lives his life in the Spirit and does not try to avoid culpability for his actions or gain immunity so that he might do whatever he likes.  Rather, David praises and obeys God.  Living in the Spirit has become part of who he is and what he does.

Today we read of some of the intrigue that mounted as David aged and the time came for one of his sons to rule Israel.  The sibling rivalry, the palace intrigue, and the political plotting are fascinating to see but what is most interesting is the way we see David living in the Spirit.  In verse 10 he speaks the wisdom we can all use today: What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses?  Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?” 

We can read commentary to sort through who is aligned with whom, who is against whom, but today we have the opportunity to see another way to step away from revenge, anger and violence and move toward hope and serenity.  We see another opportunity to step away from fear and anxiety and move toward peace and unity.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must study, we must seek, we must be patient, and we must be persistent in living lives directed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must witness, we must watch, we must wait, and we must insist on living lives governed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  When we believe this, the fretfulness and panic drop away . . . for we have focused our lives on God, we have learned to trust in God, we have begun to love like God . . . and we know that God will turn all harm to good.  We will not worry or fret for we, like David, will reply to a challenge . . . Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?”  We will be truly living in and of the Spirit.


A re-post from August 26, 2011.

Images from: http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/ and http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/

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Isaiah 32:15-17: A Fruitful Field

Spring Wildflowers In Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

In this season of Eastertide, we open our hearts to the possibility that justice will bloom in the desert.

But once more God will send us his spirit. The wasteland will become fertile, and fields will produce rich crops. Everywhere in the land righteousness and justice will be done. Because everyone will do what is right, there will be peace and security forever. (GNT)

In this time of renewal in the northern hemisphere, and season of harvest in the southern hemisphere, we open our hearts to the possibility of new hope in renewal.

[When] the Spirit from on high is poured out on us. Then will the desert become an orchard and the orchard be regarded as a forest. Right will dwell in the desert and justice abide in the orchard. Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security. (NAB)

In this cycle of dying, transforming, and renovation, we open our hearts in fidelity to the Spirit that dwells in the desert, waiting to convert stony hearts and soften stiff necks.

Till the Spirit is poured out on us from above,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
with the fertile field regarded as a forest.
Then justice will dwell in the desert,
and righteousness abide in the fertile field.
The effect of righteousness will be peace;
the result of righteousness, quiet trust forever. (CJB)

In these days of resurrection and rescue, we open our hearts to the mystery and wonder of Christ.

Yes, weep and grieve until the Spirit is poured
    down on us from above
And the badlands desert grows crops
    and the fertile fields become forests.
Justice will move into the badlands desert.
    Right will build a home in the fertile field.
And where there’s Right, there’ll be Peace
    and the progeny of Right: quiet lives and endless trust.
My people will live in a peaceful neighborhood—
    in safe houses, in quiet gardens.
The forest of your pride will be clear-cut,
    the city showing off your power leveled.
But you will enjoy a blessed life,
    planting well-watered fields and gardens,
    with your farm animals grazing freely. (MSG)

In our evenings of reflection and fruition, we open our hearts to the awe and majesty of God.

When we compare these and other translations of these verses, we know with certainty that the desert blooms, and the wasteland becomes a fruitful field in Christ.


Enter the words desert bloom into the blog search bar and explore possibilities with God. 

Image from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-desert-wildflowers-bloom_us_58bb0fc6e4b0b9989417ffcb 

For more about desert blooms, or to learn more about the California desert, click on the image and explore. 

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John 20:11-18: Overwhelmed

Antiveduto Gramatica: Mary Magdalene at the Tomb

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

In this second week of Eastertide, we continue to relive the Easter miracle of our resurrection. We re-visit the Gospel readings for the Easter Octave, and today we reflect on our response to the Risen Christ’s call that we too often miss because we are overwhelmed.

Mary stood crying outside the tomb.

We wonder where we might find God amid the horrors of war. We see no way forward and shrink from those why ask, “Where is your God now?” And because we are overwhelmed, we do not see that Christ accompanies us in faith.

Woman, why are you crying?

We wonder where to look for God amid the homeless, the radically poor, and the fully marginalized. We move forward slowly in darkness, waiting for the light. And because we are overwhelmed, we do not see that Christ accompanies us in hope.

Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?”

Mary Magdalene Sees Jesus at the Empty Tomb

We wonder how to encounter God as we struggle to survive the battles of life. We grope for surety, anticipate a surge of confidence, and wonder where compassion is hiding. And because we are overwhelmed, we do not see that Christ accompanies us in love.

Mary stood crying outside the tomb.

The angels of God ask Mary directly – and they ask, “Woman, why are you crying?” Can we give up our fears, give in to these angels, and rely on Christ’s presence?

Christ himself stands before Mary – and he stands before us – to ask, “Who is it you are looking for?” Can we surrender our anxieties, trust Christ himself, and believe that God turns all harm to good?

When circumstances and emotions overwhelm us . . . are we willing to let go of all that terrifies us . . . to fall into the loving presence of the risen Christ?


This selection from John’s Gospel appears frequently in liturgical readings and when we spend time with these verses, we understand why. Read more reflections on this citation on this blog, search for these posts: Overwhelmed by GraceWhere the Body Had Been, Possibilities, Turning Again.

For more reflections on Mary Magdalene, enter her name into the blog search bar to discover what she has to say to us today.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antiveduto_Gramatica_-_Mary_Magdalene_at_the_Tomb_-_WGA10352.jpg and http://www.graspinggod.com/jesus-and-mary-magdalene.html

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Job 22: Beyond Human Limits – Part I

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Alfred Delp, SJ

When you make a decision, it shall succeed for you, and upon your ways the light shall shine. 

The Book of Job speaks to those who suffer innocently; and thus it prepares us to better understand the great sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf.  Today we read the words of Eliphaz who urges Job to admit guilt so that he may prosper, and we understand that Job’s true freedom comes not from avoiding his calamity, but through going beyond human limits, by turning to God in the midst of this personal cataclysm.

Many times we witness God’s hand in turning harm into goodness. We see those who walk in pride fall by their own hands.  We listen attentively to the stories people tell of having been saved, converted or transformed.  Through these stories, it is easy to fall into the thinking that those who suffer must have somehow brought the negative consequences they endure upon themselves. We have heard – or we have thought – if the poor would only work they would not be poor, if that woman had not worn that dress she would not have been raped, if the people in that country would choose good leaders they would not experience famine, if people would just behave there would be no genocide.  This is simplistic, black/white, off/on, binary thinking.  Situations are either good or bad; decisions are either yes or no.  With this kind of absolutism, there is no room for the in-between-ness that is the reality of human existence.  Nor is there much of a reason to invite Christ into our lives because this kind of living follows a rulebook of regulations and checklists that lead us to see life as best lived by following rules; and this stiffness leads us to think of ourselves first.  Christ calls us to liberate ourselves from this bondage and it is this kind of “setting free” that is addressed in yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation from the writings of Father Delp.  He died in 1945, condemned to death in a wave of frenzy in Germany during World War II.  He writes about the freedom Jesus offers to Levi, the tax collector, in Matthew 5:27-32Humans need freedom.  As slaves, fettered and confined, they are bound to deteriorate.  We have spent a great deal of thought and time on external freedom; we have made serious efforts to secure our personal liberty and yet we have lost it again and again.  The worst thing is that eventually humans come to accept this kind of bondage – it becomes habitual and they hardly notice it.  The most abject slaves can be made to believe that the condition in which they are held is actually freedom. 

Tomorrow, Job’s goodness amidst evil, and more from Father Delp.

Adapted from a reflection written on February 21, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 21.2 (2010). Print.  

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Lamentations 1: Jerusalem Abandoned and Disgraced

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Jerusalem: Old City Walls

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 15, 2008. 

Lamentations is a book written about the sixth century B.C.E., a time of reckoning for the Israelites who were taken into exile by the invading Babylonians.  These laments were composed by an eyewitness to the events involving the fall of Jerusalem, and they “combine a confession of sin, grief over the suffering and humiliation of Zion, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in the constancy of Yahweh’s love and power to restore”.  We have a “union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope”.  This shows how “Israel’s faith in Yahweh could survive the shattering experience of national ruin”.  (NAB 1991, page 859)

We might look at Israel as ourselves and begin to translate a time in our own lives when we have suffered grief, submitted to the events around us, relied on God’s constancy, and have at last fallen back on the only thing which sustains us. An unquenchable hope in restoration.  This is how we survive personal ruin.

The words of this opening chapter evoke such deeply sad images.  We so often steer clear of the things that make us uncomfortable that we may be tempted to skim through them quickly, passing by the pictures they create with half-closed eyes.  We may also be tempted to remind ourselves that Zion deserved the treatment she received.  We may sink into the cozy feeling of smugness about our own good fortune.  We are so eager to run from suffering in any way that we may not have learned to suffer well, and by this, I mean that we may have forgotten that there is sanctity in suffering.  There is purification.  There is rescue.  There is restoration.  So rather than flit past the descriptions of loneliness and misery, we will want to pause . . . unite our own suffering with that of these people . . . with that of the people around us today . . . with that of Jesus . . . and become co-redeemers with Christ.

We do not need to sink into maudlin or bitter wailing.  We do not want to become false martyrs.  We do not glorify ourselves by seeking suffering. We need not fear our suffering as it comes to us.

Through our relationship with Christ, we find that that transformation accompanies suffering, and turns all pain toward goodness.  We participate in this conversion by listening for God’s faithful voice, waiting for Jesus’ healing touch, and sharing the spirit of sanctity that the Holy Spirit will settle over us as we progress in our pilgrim’s way.

We need not fear the loneliness, the misery, the shame, the grief, the persecution, the weeping, the groaning, the silence, the sadness that we read about today.  We can take it in, process it with our own grief , and give it over to God who converts all harm to good.  In this way, we will suffer well, we will not suffer alone, we survive, and we live well.

To visit the land of the Bible, click on the image or go to: http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/content/old-city-jerusalem 

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