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Posts Tagged ‘God’s generosity’


Psalm 65: Sacred Rest

Saturday, December 22, 2018

We are about to enter a week of Thanksgiving in the United States, a time when we traditionally set aside time for family and friends, a time when we traditionally acknowledge the goodness of the Creator and the generosity of Creation.  It has also become a time for bargain shopping.  Somehow we always manage to clutter up the time God gives us for refreshment and recuperation.  It is as if we cannot stop ourselves from the neurotic filling up of time and space with meaningless objects and activity.  A few brave souls have begun to push back against the opening of stores at midnight on Black Friday and I applaud their effort. http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111118/NEWS90/111119739/-1/NEWS  I have even joined the petition.  For some of us to bargain shop, others of us must leave family and home to wait on us.  I think we as a people are missing something.  Rest.

An excerpt I recently read from Richard Rohr’s Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate …Seeing God in All Things (CD, DVD, MP3) has set me to thinking.  Today’s Noontime Psalm moves me further along in the same direction.  Rest.  We need to rest and reflect.

“The final experience of mysticism, after the optimistic explosion that we usually call hope, and the ensuing sense of safety, is of deep rest. It’s the verb I’m told that is most used by the mystics: ‘resting in God.’ All this striving and this need to perform, climb, and achieve becomes, on some very real level, unnecessary. It’s already here, now. I can stop all this overproduction and over-proving of myself. That’s Western and American culture. It’s not the Gospel at all.

“We’ve all imbibed the culture of unrest so deeply. We just cannot believe that we could be respected or admired or received or loved without some level of performance. We are all performers and overachievers, and we think ‘when we do that’ we will finally be lovable. Once you ride on the performance principle, you don’t even allow yourself to achieve it. Even when you ‘achieve’ a good day of ‘performing,’ it will never be enough, because it is inherently self-advancing and therefore self-defeating. You might call it ‘spiritual capitalism’.”

Rohr is telling us what we really know: we must step back from the high velocity life we have constructed for ourselves and we must give time over to God.  We need to rest, reflect, and give thanks.

The psalmist intones: To you we owe our hymn of praise . . . to you our vows must be fulfilled . . . to you all flesh must come . . . There is no denying this truth.  We owe all that we are and all that we have to God.  For this we must give thanks.  We all physically return to God.  This is a truth that cannot be avoided.

You answer us with awesome deeds of justice . . . you are robed in power, you set up the mountains by your might, you still the roaring of the seas . . . the tumult of the peoples . . . There is no avoiding this reality.  We might throw ourselves against our problems with childish anger but in the end it is child-like petition that brings us to our senses. This is a truth that cannot be ignored.

You visit the earth and water it, make it abundantly fertile . . . you adorn the year with your bounty, your paths drip with fruitful rain, the untilled meadows also drip; the hills are robed with joy . . . There is no tricking ourselves into believing that God has no interest in us whatever.  God’s generosity is too enormous to reject; God’s kindness is impossible to refute.  We may give ourselves credit for earning what we have gathered but it is God the Creator who makes the panoply of Creation available to us.  This is a truth that cannot be argued away.

The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys blanketed with grain; they cheer and sing for joy . . . There is no evading these simple facts.  God creates.  God provides.  God rests.  If we hope to rest at all . . . we must first rest in God . . . We must call our friends and loved ones to join us in this sacred resting . . . and we must together give thanks to the Creator for Creation.


A re-post from November 19, 2011.

Image from: http://adjusttowellness.com/Kids_5Reasons.html 

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Luke 10:20: Written in Heaven

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

You are not that important AND your name is written in heaven. (Rohr 133)

A friend once told me that if she gets to heaven to see that Adolph Hitler is seated at the banquet, she doesn’t want to go. We laughed a bit and then she said, “Well, of course, if he is there, God must have worked a miracle. I wonder what it was”. We sometimes re-visit that conversation and marvel at God’s generosity. We explore the many ways God might have called Hitler to conversion in his last moment of life in this world. We debate, in our child-like way, what might be the best strategies to call someone away from fear and toward compassion. No matter the length of the conversation, we can never agree on how God works with us to strip away our suspicions and temptations to divide. We listen for God’s voice as we move slowly toward the transformative understand that everything in creation belongs to, and with, and in God. And this is how it should be. God is God, and we are not.

“If we cannot trust that we have an eternal identity in God, then we are burdened with creating our own personal importance day after day . . . We become lost in comparison, envy, competition, and codependency . . . Authentic spirituality is an experience of abundance and mutual flourishing instead of a limited world of scarcity (‘Their success is my loss!’).” (Rohr 133)

When we are able to see that each of us is a living stone in the living temple of God, we are better able to put aside our small conceits to accept the greater gift of God’s promise and grace. When we agree to calm our fears and to accept “the other” as a vital piece of God’s mosaic, we find a firm place to plant our feet.

I can never forget you! I have written your name on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:16)

When we accept the idea that we are born with original blessing as well as original sin, we take up the tools God gives us to come together at the great banquet that is heaven. We build bridges in order to sit beside our former enemies; we tear down walls so that we might fully understand that our names truly are written on the palms of God’s hands.

Today we practice letting go of the personal importance we have given ourselves, and we open our hearts to the common wonderful idea that the inclusive, equalizing banquet of heaven awaits us here and now.


Richard Rohr, OFM. A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.

Come Sunday is a Netflix film based on an interview from NPR’s This American Life. https://www.netflix.com/title/80152625 A preacher’s desire to tell the world about the common wonderful promise of God turns his world upside down. Read a Sundance review at: http://collider.com/come-sunday-review-netflix/ or a Variety review at: http://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/come-sunday-review-1202671818/ 

When we compare different translations of these verses, we see that our world is full of paradox, and that our names are written in heaven.

Images from: http://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/come-sunday-review-1202671818/ and http://callmevictorian.com/252/handwritten-signatures/

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Cyrus the Great

Ezra 1:1-6: Stirring Up the Spirit

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Unless we spend time with the story of Ezra, we miss the many miracles that call a broken people back home.

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict. (NRSV)

Unless we reflect on these ancient verses, we fail to hear the message that with God all things are possible.

In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor, the Lord made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire. (GNT)

Unless we attend to the story of King Cyrus of Persia and Ezra the priest, we ignore the healing love of the Spirit.

In the first year of Koresh king of Persia, in order for the word of Adonai prophesied by Yirmeyahu to be fulfilled, Adonai stirred up the spirit of Koresh king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his whole kingdom, which he also put in writing. (CJB)

Unless we listen for the voice within that promises to stir up the Spirit in us, refuse the gift of everlasting life.

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—this fulfilled the Message of God preached by Jeremiah—God prodded Cyrus king of Persia to make an official announcement throughout his kingdom. (MSG)

aftertheexile_herocoreTo better understand the events surrounding the Jewish people’s return to Jerusalem, click on the image to the left or visit; http://bibleresources.americanbible.org/resource/after-the-exile-gods-people-return-to-judea

For more information about King Cyrus and Ezra, visit http://biblehub.com/topical/e/ezra-nehemiah.htm and http://biblehub.com/topical/c/cyrus.htm

When we use the scripture link to explore varying translations of these verses, we begin to see the stirring of the Spirit in our own lives as we ask: When has God put opportunities for change in our path? When have impossible circumstances turned in our favor? When have we helped others to see the movement of the Spirit in their lives?

 

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Sirach 24:12-14: Taking Root

Cedars of Lebanon

Saturday, September 2, 2017

In the book of Sirach we find practical wisdom that opens God’s heart and mind to us. These verses give us the opportunity to imagine God in creation. These words invite us to strike deep into the soil of fidelity, to reach our arms upward in hope, and to abide in love.

I struck root among the glorious people,
    in the portion of the Lord.

Just as the Creator takes up residence with the faithful to dwell and remain among them, so might we thrust down deep roots to rest in God’s presence.

Like a cedar in Lebanon I grew tall,
    like a cypress on Mount Hermon.

Just as Jesus lifts us up in the hope of God’s promise, so might we offer our days and nights to God who is willing to share all with us.

I grew tall like a palm tree in Engedi,
    like rosebushes in Jericho.

Just as the Spirit abides in us to heal and console, so might we share God’s generosity and compassion with all.

Like a fair olive tree in the field,
    like a plane tree beside water I grew tall.

Olives ready for harvest in the Holy Land

We might look to the cedar, the cypress, the palm and the rose to observe how God graces nature with strength and beauty. We might look to the olive tree to observe how God nurtures, heals and sustains. We might look to the plane or sycamore tree that filters the air we breathe in gratitude for God’s quiet and persistent attention to our needs. We might do all of this so that we might take root in the depths of God’s open and healing mind and heart.

To explore the place names in these verses, click on the images and links above or visit Bible Places, a pictorial library of Bible lands at: http://www.bibleplaces.com/

The plane is also known as sycamore, buttonwood, buttonball or whitewood tree. See the Britannica at: https://www.britannica.com/plant/plane-tree

For more information on how these trees filter pollution from our environment, and to learn more about “City Trees”, visit: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/07/world/citytree-urban-pollution/index.html

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Proverbs 6:12-35 and 7: Something Nasty

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

God is perfectly aware that not all creatures understand the goodness and generosity of creation’s gift. Having that in mind, the writer of Proverbs reminds us that the riffraff and rascals who plot and scheme will always – in God’s time and in God’s economy – wind up suffering the consequences of the chaos they plot against others. In a literary context, we refer to this as irony, the end of the twisting plot twisting back on the antagonist. We often believe that in reality the outcome is different: he who plots and schemes becomes rich and powerful; she who plots against the innocent escapes destiny’s karma.

Riffraff and rascals
    talk out of both sides of their mouths.
They wink at each other, they shuffle their feet,
    they cross their fingers behind their backs.

If we live in a timeline of the physical world, we might see ourselves as correct in thinking that the spiritual world holds out false hope. When we live in God’s eternal time, we find that we have misunderstood God’s plan for the kingdom. When we ignore God’s time and plan, we find that we have become like the riffraff and rascals we deplore. We have given in to something nasty. We will have rejected the advice of Proverbs that the final total smashup will arrive at our door, and we will become the hypocrites who cross our fingers behind our backs.

Their perverse minds are always cooking up something nasty,
    always stirring up trouble.
Catastrophe is just around the corner for them,
    a total smashup, their lives ruined beyond repair.

In the following verses, we hear about human actions that induce God’s ire; these items are laid out clearly. Various translations present differing translations but this interesting list is always the same, a litany of easy signs that we might look for in our own daily actions.

  • A proud look.
  • A lying tongue.
  • Hands that kill innocent people,
  • A mind that thinks up wicked plans.
  • Feet that hurry off to do evil.
  • A witness who tells one lie after another.
  • And someone who stirs up trouble among friends.

As Easter People, we share the Good News Jesus brings to creation that God’s merciful patience and generosity are always waiting in hope to redeem us. God’s persistence and wisdom are always presenting in faith new lessons for us to learn. God’s justice and consolation are always bringing us new opportunities to love as God loves.

The final verses of this chapter reprise the hazards of adultery and we might wonder why the writer brings this theme to us again. Besides the obvious danger of wanton men and women, might we also need be wary of addiction to lusting after power, wealth and fame? Might we need another practical warning to steer clear of riffraff and rascals lest we becomes one of those who ignore God’s call away from something nasty?

Even so, when the dust settles, we find that despite our recalcitrance, despite our rejection of truth, despite our haughtiness and ego-driven behavior, God’s compassion is awaiting us with Christ’s open and holy love. We are invited today to become one with that sacred heart.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to find different versions of these verses, we explore God’s transparent plan for our good, and the good of all creation.  

The original definition of hypocrite is “actor”. (See Merriam-Webster at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/hypocrite-meaning-origin) For interesting thoughts on hypocrisy, click the image of masks above. 

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Mark 3:22-30: Sawing Off Branches

Monday, January 30, 2017

From the Maestà of Duccio in Siena, Italy

From the Maestà of Duccio in Siena, Italy and private collections

Jesus is very clear: A constantly squabbling family disintegrates.

We might use these words in our individual and collective lives.

Jesus tells us: Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. 

We might take this warning to heart.

Jesus reminds us: There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.”

God says: I love you so intensely that I will do all that I must in order to have you near me; but if you persist in turning away my Spirit, you are creating a separation that you will not be able to bridge. I am always waiting for you, guiding you, protecting and advising you. Remain in me so that I might remain in you. Allow my Spirit to rest in you and to create a home in your heart. In this way, we will never be so far apart that you lose sight of me. Listen to my son, remain in my Spirit, and have hope always in me.

When we explore other translations of these verses, we open our understanding of God’s generosity, persistence and love.

For more on the Maestà of Duccio, click on the image above for two Khan Academy video lessons.

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Galatians 5:1: In and for Freedom

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Girl jumping with rose petals in air

In freedom we are created. For freedom we must live.

In a season of intense political turmoil in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, we might be tempted to commandeer the word freedom to use it as best suits our views. Today we have the opportunity to examination Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and to reflect on a spiritual meaning of this concept.

Freedom is what we have—Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again. (GNT: GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION)

We might ask: Slaves of and for what? Slaves to a way of living that bears much fruit for me and little for others? Does this freedom come with, or in spite of, the exclusion of others?

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (NRSV: NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION)

We might ask: Slaves of whom? The opinions of my neighbors? The viewpoints of my colleagues? Are we slaves to an affiliation that demands complete loyalty or one  that offers openness and inclusion?

Stand fast, and be not held again under the yoke of bondage. (DRA: DOUAY-RHEIMS AMERICAN VERSION)

We might ask: Freed by who and how? When did Christ set me free? Why? How was I previously enslaved?

So Christ has made us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get all tied up again in the chains of slavery to Jewish laws and ceremonies. (TLB: LIVING BIBLE)

We might reply: God has freely and lovingly chosen to create us out of God’s free will and ample heart.

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. (MSG: THE MESSAGE)

We might reply: We are made in the image and likeness of God; and this gift God gives us to cherish or to squander.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (NASB: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

We might reply: We must free one another from the constraints of gossip and plots.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (KJV: KING JAMES VERSION)

We might reply: We must free one another from deceit and betrayal.

We have freedom now because Christ made us free. So stand strong. Do not change and go back into the slavery of the law. (ICB: INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S BIBLE)

freedomWe are creatures created in freedom by our fully-free and generous God to live a fully-free and fruit-bearing life. We must offer autonomy to others even as we are offered this same precious gift. We must live by true self-determination wherever we journey, break chains wherever we live and work, heal the wounds of bondage wherever we play and pray. For if we truly believe in freedom all the world will know, because we will offer one another this same generous and life-giving gift.

In freedom we are created. For freedom we must live.

Use the scripture link to compare other translations of this verse, or enter the word freedom into the blog search bar for more reflections.

 

 

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Isaiah 12Thanksgiving – Part I

Monday, September 26,2016thankful

A Favorite from August 1, 2009

I was speaking with a friend this afternoon about the number of times I say, “Thank you, Jesus” in a day, in a week, in a month.

Each time I wake in the morning to greet the day and realize that I have a roof, heat and air conditioning, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I take a hot shower and realize that I have all the water I need or want to keep my household clean and sustained, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I cross the parking lot of a grocery store to put food into my car and realize that I have just bagged and paid for food that is before me in great variety and abundance, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I find a skirt or blouse in my closet I have forgotten I owned and realize that I never want for clothing, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time a friend or family member calls and makes contact with warm words and encouraging laughter and I realize that the conversation has been the perfect medicine for what ails me, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I put away the tools of my profession and realize that my work is my vocation, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I return home from a long trip and realize that I and my loved ones have arrived safely at the door with few or no mishaps, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I put my head on the pillow and realize that God has brought me through another day, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I relax into a comfortable chair with a wonderful book and the luxury of time to spend as I like on an afternoon, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I leave a doctor’s office, a lab or a hospital and realize that I have been given the gift of healing, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I express my ideas regarding political, social, spiritual topics and realize that I am free to do so, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I hear news of fellow humans who need support in some way and I realize that I have something to offer, I say, “Thank you”.

Each time I say good-bye to a child in my classroom, to my children, family or friends and realize that we have made a difference in each other’s lives, I say, “Thank you”.

We can never outdo God and the bounty we are given.

We can never say, “Thank you” too often.

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John 8:12-20: Missing God

Monday, March 14, 2016 missing puzzle piece

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”

If this is so, then why do we miss God when God accompanies us in joy and sorrow?

The Pharisees objected, “All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on”.

If this is our thinking then we miss God’s presence just as many religious leaders did in Jesus’ day, and as many do today.

Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me”.

If this is so, then we will want to move out of our narrowness and into the largeness of the one who creates us. If this is so, then we will want to dwell with Jesus’ words for a time, and allow them to sink into the marrow of our bones. If this is so, then we have much to forget and much to learn. If this is so, we want to offload all that constrains us and encourages us to judge; and we will want to open our hearts and minds and very selves to welcome this big and generous God.

Today we continue this week’s Lenten practice as we open ourselves to the enormity of God’s light and promise. Rather than thinking: “I will set all things right in God’s kingdom,” let us think instead, “I will strive each day to follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness, mercy and love”.

workshops+puzzle+piecesWhen we use the scripture link to spend time with various versions of these verses, God becomes big enough to hold the multiverse. Watch a video by Paul Coutinho, S.J., “How Big Is Your God?” at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozevDJf9q9U  Smile with images Fr. Paul creates in this brief video, and reflect on how we might be missing God’s generosity and enormity each day.

Tomorrow, dead end. 

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