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Posts Tagged ‘God’s plan’


James 4Puffs of Smoke

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Throughout his letter, James reminds us that we must be doers of the word and not sayers only.  In Chapter 4 he focuses us on the habits we have nurtured that contribute to our divisions, habits of the heart and mind that create division, habits of the soul that separate us from God.

Where do the wars and conflicts among you come from? . . . Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? 

God wishes happiness for all his creatures; God does not wish that some of us do well while others starve.  James points out that it is our own selfishness and greed that cause us to build the barriers that separate us.  Humility, he says, is the only remedy.  We must submit our will to God’s and resist the demon world that whispers in our ear to tell us that we are more special than others.

Do not speak evil of one another.  Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges a brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law.  If you judge the law you are not a doer of the law but a judge . . . Who are you to judge your neighbor?

When we gossip with one another and slander others we become incapable judges; and the only true and gifted judge is God.  James does not speak here of a judicial system that oversees criminal cases and administers appropriate consequences; rather, James speaks of a world in which humble servants acknowledge God’s power and generosity.  James knows – and once we put away our ego we will also come to know – that God’s plan for justice is far too complicated for humans to fully comprehend.  God’s plan converts sinners, it waits on the last of the sheep, it allows the weeds to grow up with the harvest, it calls the high and powerful to serve the low and powerless, it turns all harm into goodness.  This is a plan that we cannot out-maneuver.  It is a plan that we cannot ignore.  It is a plan that will be in force forever – even until the end of time.

You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. 

I spoke with a friend this morning who is recovering from brain surgery – he and his family are hopeful.  I spoke to another just before Mass whose husband has lung cancer.  “Three weeks ago our lives were normal,” she said.  “Now we spend every day at the hospital.  They know our first names”.  I met a complete stranger as I came out of the store after Mass.  He noticed I was carrying milk.  I noticed that he was driving an historic car.  When I complemented him on its beautiful restoration he said, “Yeah, I spent three years of my life on this and then my wife got sick.  A few months later she was gone.  Just like that.  I don’t know what I’m gonna do”.  We smiled and spoke kind words to one another before parting ways.

We have no idea what our life will be like tomorrow.  We are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. 

James urges us to cease our bickering; he asks that we put an end to petty divisions.  He recommends that we put aside gossip and false speech; he advises that we go to God in humility.

James reminds us that we are mere wisps of vapor and that without God we are less than nothing.  He tells us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. 

James tells us that all we need do is live our lives as doers of the word and not sayers only.  James asks us to cease judging and gossiping; he asks that we humble ourselves to take the last seat at the table rather than the first.  James reminds us that as tiny wisps of ash rising on the drifting wind we do not have the capacity to judge as God does.

So rather than throw our lives away on pointless living and selfish habits, let us rise like incense from the altar of our lives to be taken into the arms of a God who loves us relentlessly.  For once we humble ourselves to join others who rise in like unison, we will find that we have been gathered together in God’s loving arms . . . to become far more than mere puffs of smoke.


Images from: http://www.ursulinesjesus.org/prayer.htm 

A re-post from September 18, 2011.

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Jeremiah 19: The Potter’s Flask

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Written on February 3 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

It will make their ears tingle when they hear about the bloodshed of the innocent!  The Valley of Ben-hinnom will become the Valley of Slaughter.  The city will be an object of amazement and derision.  Passers-by will catch their breath at the wounds they see.  And a flask will be shattered like the lives of these people.  There will be so much death that there will be no place for burial.  This because they have stiffened their necks and have not obeyed my words. 

Jeremiah has visited Topheth, a town whose name could be pronounced with the vowels of the Hebrew word for shame.  “This was due to the practice of there of sacrificing children as burnt offerings to Baal and Molech in the times of Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isa. 30:33;  Jer. 7:31, 32; 19:6, 11-14; cf. 32:35).  Kings Ahaz and Manasseh of Judah are reported to have offered their sons in the Valley of Hinnom (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; cf. 2 Kings 16:3; 21:6).  King Josiah attempted to put a stop to the practice by defiling the altar of Topheth (2 Kings 23:10) but it was revived after his death”.  (Achetemier 1162)

When Jeremiah returns to Jerusalem and denounces not only this practice but the corruption in Jerusalem as well,  he is beaten and placed in stocks by orders of a temple priest and administrator, Pashhur.  “The prophet’s response was to rename the priest ‘Terror on every side’ (v. 3; cf. 6:25, where this phrase describes the people’s response to an invasion from the north, and 20:10, where is describes Jeremiah’s response to his enemies’ actions).  This name symbolizes the fact that Pashhur will be a ‘terror’ both to himself and to his friends: they and the whole land will suffer death, plundering and exile at the hands of the Babylonians (vv. 4-6).  The assertion that Pashhur has misled his friends (v. 6b) is the key to his condemnation.  His reaction to Jeremiah’s message was based on a partisan political position, supported, of course, by an appropriate religious ideology.  From his own standpoint Jeremiah was convinced that this position would lead to disaster”.  (HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY, 561)

This is grime reading and yet it is the kind of persecution that takes place constantly in our world.  Sometimes is happens an ocean away . . . today I am thinking of the people of Egypt.  It also happens right under our noses . . . today I also think about someone dear to me who is persecuted for speaking up.  No matter when this kind of harassment takes place, the effect the bully wishes to create – silence – is void, and in time an opposite result occurs – the truth always comes out in the end. 

My parents continually reminded all five of us that this is one of the surest things we can count on and we read it here in Jeremiah.  This prophet was eventually taken away to Egypt by Jewish authorities who fled before the waves of invaders from the north.  His prophecy unfolds before their eyes, and still they revile him.  In the end, although there is no written evidence of this, Jeremiah is murdered in exile.

The sins in Topheth and the crimes of Pashhur continue today, but we must not allow this fact to sap us of our courage or energy.  We must remind ourselves and one another that the truth always comes out in the end.  So what are we called to do?  We must learn to faithfully witness to these crimes, to humbly pray for ourselves and our enemies, and to joyfully participate in the redemptive love that sets all injustice right in God’s time and in God’s way, lest we too be shattered like the potter’s flask . . .  beyond repair.


A re-post from September 15, 2011.

Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 1162. Print. 

Image from: http://pottery.about.com/od/stepbystepprojects/ig/Mug-Project-Photo-Gallery/Pottery-Flask.htm

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Psalm 12: Plea for Help in Evil Times

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The human character seems determined to bring about evil. No epoch escapes the lust for power. No era is exempt from the pursuit of wealth or the competition for survival. The chase for fame is a goal that exacts a lethal price; but dark consequences deter few. Many of us are bent on building a life of celebrity, affluence and supremacy . . . and this quest destroys both individuals and whole societies.

In ancient days, and in our own, we long for a serenity that comes with the cessation of conflict. We look for ways to de-stress our lives, to slow down the headlong pace of our digital interface with the rest of humanity. We complain about the divisions we experience and yet feel powerless to bring our world together; yet somewhere deep within we know that we must change our circumstances. And so we turn to the eternal wisdom of the Spirit. We follow the model Christ gives us. And we ask for God’s intervention and help.

Today, as we look for transformation, we search various translations of this holy prayer. We place our trust in God’s plan and love. We remember the promises God keeps. We consider the furnace of evil times that we survive while the silversmith of life watches over us. And we ask for help in evil times.


When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we consider God’s hope for humankind, and how we might make a plea for God’s help in evil days. 

Image from: https://www.bereaproject.org/verse-of-the-day/2016/6/3/psalms-126-7 

For more posts on God as silversmith, use the blog search bar and explore.

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Job 42: Babbling On

Monday, August 27, 2018

Again, today we look at THE MESSAGE translation in which this chapter is entitled, Job Worships God: I Babbled On About Things Beyond Me.

Having come through his grief and pain, Job says to the LORD: I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.   Nothing and no one can upset your plans.

We might smile as we read and pray these words, or we might grimace. How do we understand God’s control of the universe? Does is bring us comfort, anxiety, peace or fear? How do we react to Job’s final response to God?

We are rewarded if we spend time with this last portion of the Job story for it is in the unfolding of the action that we find our own intimacy with God. It is in the patient fidelity of the innocent sufferer, that we find a premonition of the Christ story. And it is in the hope-filled abiding of God’s faithful servant that we see a glimpse of the Spirit that heals and transforms. Just as the Lord restores Job, so does God restore us; and this happy ending to a tale of difficulty and expectation brings us affirmation of our confidence in God. We have a person we can model, an attitude we can take on. We have God’s wisdom teaching us The Way of peace that Jesus brings to all.

Today, despite our babbling about a plan we struggle to understand when life goes against us, we determine to rely more on God and less on ourselves. We decide to trust the economy of the Lord rather than our own. And we confirm God’s love in choosing us, power in protecting us, and wisdom in teaching us . . . in the face of our incoherent words.


Tomorrow, celebrating with the Lord.

When we compare translations of this chapter, we begin to see why we cannot understand things beyond our comprehension. 

For a reflection of the power of our words, click on the image or visit; https://restoredministriesblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/power-of-the-tongue/

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Job 40-41Conversations

Saturday, August 25, 2018

This is the portion of the Book of Job where God finally speaks from out of the maelstrom.  Job thirsts for the answers to his poignant questions about his pain.  He asks the question we all ask: Why do the innocent so often suffer?  God’s answer is mysterious.  God enumerates the number of ways that we cannot possibly understand the plan, even if God were to communicate the divine economy to us.  This is why it is important to have constant conversations with God.  We need directions for every step of the road.

What I like most about chapter 40 is that God appears to have a sense of humor.  This makes me smile because I hope that in an eternal life there is much laughter.  It also reminds us that while we cannot discount or diminish suffering, we may want to try to smile throughout our passage as much as possible.

When we think about the size of behemoths, the strength of oxen, and the protection of a double corset, we realize that God deals in the maximum.  The thought that follows for me is this:  If God can create and handle all of these enormities . . . God can certainly handle with ease the problems I lay at God’s feet each day. 

We know that Job is restored in all that he was, and all that he had; he receives the reward of the faithful.

Paul asks the rhetorical question in Romans 11:34Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Who has been its counselor?  He reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:10 that through Christ we might become perfectly united thought and  mind.  In the second chapter, verses 9-16, he reminds us that Eye has not seen and ear has not heard the goodness God has prepared for those who love him, and that we are to join one another so that we might have the mind of Christ.

When we love someone, we come together.  We communicate with those we care about; we invest time in understanding them and in listening to them.  This is what God seeks in relationship with us.  It is what we seek in relationship with God.

We have said this frequently in our Noontime reflections: Let us find time several times a day to put all else aside – even if for only five minutes – to reserve time for just GodWe send him our petitions constantly and we ask for answers.  Perhaps he is speaking but we cannot hear.  If we shut out the world to listen with our heart and mind and soul . . . we may be happily surprised to hear that our deepest questions have complex answers . . . which God provides to us a bit at a time.  Let us make time just for God.   

A Favorite from May 4, 2009.


Image from http://rickconlow.com/communicate-difficult-conversations/ 

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Ephesians 1:11-12: Choosing

Friday, August 10, 2018

As a rising high school senior, I quizzed my teachers and parents about the concept of predestination with the typical questions.

If God has everyone’s life planned out, can we really decide anything for ourselves? If God is so good, why do bad things happen – especially to good people? If God is all-powerful, omniscient and all-knowing, how can we say that our lives are not predestined?

My parents listened to my reasoned arguments and reminded me that because God is patient, understanding, merciful and just, God gives us the opportunity to choose good. My teachers allowed me to explore existential thinking, reminding me all the while that we have the opportunity to be a part of the struggle for goodness over evil. We are offered the chance to participate in society’s positive evolution. We have received the gift of life to do with as we will.

Over time, I came to understand that each day we rise with new prospects for goodness. By noontime, we find occasions to ask forgiveness and to forgive. Each evening we find fresh doorways to old problems. As I move through life, I re-discover and re-experience both the magnitude of God’s love, and the enormity of God’s call and promise. What wondrous gift is the gift of life. What a treasure is the relationship God seeks to establish with us. What fierce abiding. What outrageous hope. What passionate love.

When I read these words to the Ephesians today, I no longer ask the questions I asked as a youngster. Rather, I wonder how God has such patience with my slowness. I marvel at how willing God is to forgive and forgive again. And I am grateful for the gift God gives me to choose goodness over harm each day I live.


When we use the scripture link and menus to explore other translations of these verses, we find the clarity and wisdom to choose well.

Image from: https://www.tammistepersonal.ee/blogi/moeldes-noortele-kuhu-edasi 

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Exodus 39:32-43: Presentation of Work

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Moses’ Tabernacle Tent

Yesterday we reflected on how at times we must abandon the sanctuary.  Delving into this separation from all that comforts us helps us to explore the idea that there are times when God calls us to leap over the abyss of our doubts.  Today we reflect on the establishment of the first sanctuary or “dwelling place” for Yahweh, the desert temple tent.  Verse 43 tells us that Moses was pleased with the work of the people and so he blessed them.  This is reminiscent of the Creation story when God moves through the phases of creation – the sea, the land, the plants and animals, the humans – he sees that the work is good.  In the relativistic twenty-first century western world, it is easy to think that our standard for goodness relies on our personal perspective. But when we read both Old and New Testaments, we remember that accountability, evaluation, and even assessment are part of the Gospel story.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

It is good to review the portions of Exodus that describe in detail the Temple Tent of Yahweh that the people carried as they wandered the wilderness for several generations.  Verse 39:43 describes the experience of joy in the completion of work and a task well done for Yahweh.  When we read varying translations of these words, we begin to feel the blessing God gave the Hebrews – that God gives to us.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we complete any task to which God calls us, it is good to rest awhile and reflect on what we have accomplished.  It is good to give God thanks for we know – if we will admit it – that all we do is done through God. All we do that is worthy, is done with God.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

This blessing of all work done in God’s name may put a new spin on our daily lives, and in fact, it ought to do so.  If we work, play, and pray for ourselves, we have missed the point of our existence. When we work, play, and pray with God, we participate in a plan far greater than any we might devise.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

For more information, click on the image, or visit: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/tabernacle-of-moses.html

When we have struggled through the travail of repairing a relationship, we will know the goodness of God’s providential care. When we have repaired, restored, rejuvenated our soul with God, we will know the beauty of God’s plan.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we have worked our way carefully through the many tasks of a day with no casualties or misunderstandings, we know the joy of putting a peaceful head on our nighttime pillow.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we make a presentation of our work, and we see that our efforts have produced fruit in abundance that will last, we know the perfect serenity of God.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we are forced to flee our sanctuary and then agree to return, restored and healed, we will see that the work we have done has been done just as the Lord commanded. We will know that we, like the Hebrew people, are blessed. We will know that the presentation of our labor is pleasing to God, so let us rejoice in God’s blessing.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 16, 2008.


Images from: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/tabernacle-of-moses.html

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Psalm 22: Spiritual Warfare – Proclaiming God’s Name

Easter Saturday, April 7, 2018

Yesterday we began a reflection of Psalm 22 and its opening mournful words uttered by Jesus from the cross, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Today we arrive at the later portion of this hymn of praise.

Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you.

Large words on the wall of the student-dining hall where I teach remind us as we enter:  You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8There is no mystery in this.  The completion of God’s plan is predictable; and if we wish to survive spiritual battle, the requirement is simple as Micah tells us: We train ourselves in order to invite wisdom; we exercise compassion with justice in order to invite goodness.  All the rest follows naturally.  The outcome of good over evil is predictable and sure; but the timing and details are in God’s hands.

All the ends of the earth will worship the Lord; all the families of nations will bow down to you.

In this end that Micah sees but whose time we cannot foresee, God is all there is.  The war of life is waged and won by God.  Any influence of evil disappears.  The faithful remnant is rewarded. This we are promised.

I will live for the Lord; my descendants will serve you.  The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you brought.

When miracles of liberation happen, we must proclaim them, thanking God.  We must sing God’s praise continually for blessings great and small because in spiritual warfare the fall of darkness and deceit is brought about in an accumulation of these small songs intoned by the grand chorus of the thankful.  We also remember that the tiniest of miracles – constant signs of God’s presence in our lives – are significant for those to whom they are granted.

Mathis Gothart Grünewald: The Crucifixion (detail) 

In spiritual warfare we need not connive, we need not plot.  We need only do what we know is right, understanding that we are graced by God.  We need to avoid thinking that we are in control, knowing that God’s plan is always better than our own.  We need to give over everything to God, believing that God turns all harm to good, even – and especially – the ultimate resolution of all conflict.

We are foot soldiers in spiritual warfare, and we know our orders.  We must be patient in our perseverance as we grow to become God’s harvest in God’s time.  We must speak, pray, study, witness, watch and wait.  We must be ready.  This is all that is required of us.  We do not know the hour or time of this warfare’s end; but we know the outcome.  This we have been promised.   This we are told.  Let us pass the word along . . . that in the hour when we feel most abandoned, we are most accompanied.  That in the hour when we believe all is lost . . . all is truly found.

Adapted from a reflection, entitled Spiritual Warfare, written on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2008.


Wordle from: http://footprintsfromthebible.blogspot.com/2017/06/lords-prayer-hallowed-be-thy-name.html  To view Grünewald’s entire altarpiece painting, visit, http://www.christianiconography.info/iconographySupplementalImages/crucifixion/grunewald1515.html

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Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part V

Saturday, January 27, 2018

John Singleton Copley: Eli and Samuel

Finding the Servant

We have taken a quick journey through the Books of Samuel to see that life in our century has much in common with life in ancient days. Some might say that as a species, we have not made much progress. Others may disagree, pointing to improved living conditions for some, though not for all. The Old Testament perspective we see in 1 and 2 Samuel gives way to the New Testament good news that God has come to live among us as a clear sign of God’s love for us. The message that Jesus brings is clear, although not always altogether comfortable. Christ calls us today to tend to those on the margins of our societies who do not benefit from the advances some of us have made, and this clearly will cause times of national struggle.

If we look at the Books of Samuel more closely, and the vivid characters who tell their stories so well, we see clear lessons for living.

How do we handle the corruption we experience? We might take a lesson from God’s message to us when we remember that the young prophet Samuel – who leads a young nation to unity – is raised by a corrupt Temple priest. If God protects and guides a faithful servant to blossom and grow in an environment that lacks authenticity, then we must trust God to protect and guide us today. (1 Samuel 3)

What do we do with our feelings of jealousy or envy?  It is possible to hear a message when we recount the story of Saul’s greed and disappointment when the women sing, Saul has killed thousands, but David tens of thousands. If God inspires David to show courage and love to his enemies, then we must trust God to inspire us today. (1 Samuel 18-19)

Matteo Roselli: The Triumph of David

How might we step out of our comfort zone? Perhaps we learn something about the story of David showing mercy to Saul during the time when Saul persecuted David. If God provides strength and hope to a faithful servant during a time of national turmoil, then we must trust God to bring us strength and hope today. (1 Samuel 24)

How might we better understand God’s plan? We might learn a lesson when we take in the story of David among the Philistines. If we find ourselves working well with our enemies – much to our surprise – then we must trust God’s wisdom and grace more than we trust our own instincts. (1 Samuel 27)

We hear this story . . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

When we compare other translations of these chapters in 1 Samuel, we open ourselves to God’s fidelity, hope, love, grace and wisdom.

We can learn more about the priest Eli who raised the prophet Samuel in the Temple when we visit: https://bible.org/seriespage/4-rise-samuel-and-fall-eli-and-sons-1-samuel-31-422

Tomorrow, more lessons from Samuel.  

 

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