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Posts Tagged ‘guidance’


Nehemiah 2: Finding Our Way

Friday, May 18, 2018

Yesterday we explored the idea of Jesus as The Way. Today we reflect on the difficulties we encounter as we move through our own passage of life.

We frequently explore the idea of restoration in our Noontimes, and today we re-visit the story of Ezra and Nehemiah who secured permission for the people of Israel to return to Jerusalem to rebuild all they had lost. Nehemiah enters into the story with us.

One day four months later, when Emperor Artaxerxes was dining, I took the wine to him. He had never seen me look sad before, so he asked, “Why are you looking so sad? You aren’t sick, so it must be that you’re unhappy.” I was startled and answered, “May Your Majesty live forever! How can I keep from looking sad when the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

Later, after obtaining letters of safe travel, Nehemiah and the Israelite journey to their homeland with a military escort as a safeguard. We can imagine the level of anxiety as this faithful remnant wondered what conditions they would actually find.

I went on to Jerusalem, and for three days I did not tell anyone what God had inspired me to do for Jerusalem. Then in the middle of the night I got up and went out, taking a few of my companions with me. The only animal we took was the donkey that I rode on. It was still night as I left the city through the Valley Gate on the west and went south past Dragon’s Fountain to the Rubbish Gate. As I went, I inspected the broken walls of the city and the gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then on the east side of the city I went north to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool. The donkey I was riding could not find any path through the rubble, so I went down into Kidron Valley and rode along, looking at the wall. Then I returned the way I had come and went back into the city through the Valley Gate.

A century and a half after his people left their city in sorrow, Nehemiah returns with the faithful to begin anew. As we read this story, the details prompt memories of our own times of calamity, distress, evaluation, renewal and restoration. We recall the emotional journey as grief gives way to release, and our tears of pain become tears of joy. Nehemiah’s conversion becomes our own as he scouts out possibilities while reckoning with reality.

Later the priest Ezra takes the faithful through a similar process. While Nehemiah rebuilds the city, walls and Temple, Ezra renews the soul of this people. Some of the actions he takes exclude others from the promise of God’s covenant, but despite this exclusion, we see this Old Testament leader as steadfast, and in full understanding of the power and importance of the Spirit. In the transformative leadership of these two men, we see the possibility of redemption, and a foreshadowing of the savior to come.

We may want to shrink from the challenges of life, but we must then recognize that our passage is not about safe harbors and static circumstances; rather, it is about change, process, and promise. The skills we learn as we traverse this lifespan are essential if we hope to walk in The Way of our lives to come. We cannot know the twists and turns of our journey, nor can we predict its hills and valleys; but what we can envisage is the ever-present guidance of God, the steady wisdom of Christ, and the constant, healing love of the Spirit.


Tomorrow, vine and branches.

Explore more reflections on Nehemiah, Ezra, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem on this blog by using the search bar.  

Images from: https://spiritualityhealth.com/blogs/real-love-with-eve/2014/09/24/eve-hogan-winding-path-relationships and http://iwallpapers.free.fr/picture.php?/12653/category/Californie

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Matthew 7:13-28: A Prayer in Duality

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo: Jesus Walks on Water

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 22, 2018

Given that Jesus asks us to be in the world with him, acting as his witnesses and ministers, but not of this world, we reflect on the evidence of duality that surrounds us. In the last two days, we examined elements of duality we find in the Hispanic culture, and we have opened ourselves to an invitation to share our own examples of duality. As we consider that apparent contradictions that color and shape our lives, we meditate on the words of Jesus, Paul and John.

We see that great love can rise out of great hatred.

I have given [those you gave me] your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world — just as I myself do not belong to the world. I don’t ask you to take them out of the world, but to protect them from the Evil One. (John 17:14-15)

We see that perfection can rise out of imperfection.

Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. (Romans 12:2)

We see that divinity can rise out of humanity.

Do not love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you do not love the Father. Everything that belongs to the world—what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of—none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world. The world and everything in it that people desire is passing away; but those who do the will of God live forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

And so we pray.

James Tissot: Christ Walks on the Sea of Galilee

Divine yet human Jesus, you guide us like an older brother, asking us to be like little children in the hands of the Creator.

Powerful yet gentle God, you protect us like a devoted, merciful father, guarding your little ones against the cataclysms that haunt a beautiful world.

Challenging yet heartening Spirit, you remain with your little ones like a loving mother, healing our wounds, nurturing and sustaining our hope.

Good and gracious God, lead us, protect us, and transform us as we navigate the turbulent waters of a world that presents us with so much destruction together with so much promise.

Just and merciful God, reconcile us, open us, and teach us how to straddle two worlds, how to be divine and human, just and merciful, honest and loving.

Giving and receiving God, embolden us, test us, and become one with us as we live in duality, as we remain in your world to build your kingdom with you.

Amen.

Fear and trust, doubt and faith, when oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine. We reflect on the duality of our existence as we listen to the song OCEANS (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBJJJkiRukY&list=RDFBJJJkiRukY&t=207 

Tomorrow, the gift of duality.


What does it mean to be in the world but not of it? Visit this site: https://412teens.org/qna/what-does-in-the-world-not-of-the-world-mean.php

Images from: http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2014/08/walking-on-water.html and https://www.pinterest.com/pin/67342956905003354/

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

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Finding the Servant

James Tissot: David Dances Before the Ark

In 2 Samuel we continue to learn how God finds the faithful servant . . . and how we might become a constant follower of Christ. In this Book we find more vibrant lessons for living.

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 react when goodness and evil enter our lives? Do we recognize God’s hand when our lives go well? Do we blame others when our lives are difficult? How much do we credit God? How much credit to give ourselves?

The Ark of the Covenant returns to Jerusalem. Are we willing to leap for joy as David does? (2 Samuel 4)

We experience success in work and at home. Are we willing to thank God in prayer as David does? (2 Samuel 7)

William Brassey Hole: The Sorrow of King David

We stumble and stray. Where do we turn for guidance and pardon? (2 Samuel 11-12)

God searches for a faithful servant and finds a dedicated follower in the flawed leader of Israel. God works with a corrupt and immoral political and religious structure. God guides and protects the faithful followers of the Word. God walks among us as one of us. Today we spend a bit of time with 2 Samuel as we find our place in God’s kingdom of the faithful.

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.

Tomorrow, praying with David, a faithful servant.

When we examine these verses using the scripture link, we discover the faithful servant in each of us.

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Ezekiel 34: A Prayer to the Shepherd – A Reprise

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A flock traversing a narrow path in the Caucasus Mountains

God is the first and the last of the Good Shepherds, and we are made in this image. Called by the shepherd, we know what we must do.  We who may be tempted to push with side and shoulder, and butt all the weak sheep with . . . horns until they [are] . . . driven out, must instead follow the voice of the Master Shepherd who guides, heals, unites, brings home, restores, and rejoices with the arrival of each straying sheep.  We are called to follow God’s example as we grow in our skills of shepherding. When we help Christ in the guidance of others, we become a guiding light to others. When we rely on the comfort of the Spirit, we find our way along narrow and dangerous pathways, through ponderous obstacles, and into the one true fold.

And so we pray.

Oh Master Shepherd,

Gather us up,

Gather us in. 

We wander in barren and hostile lands. 

We hear your voice,

We see your face,

We know your touch.

Gather us up.

Gather us in.

We wander in search of something we have lost.

We hear your voice,

We see your face,

We know your love.

 Gather us up,

Gather us in.

We wander seeking your broad shoulders, your strong arms.

 We know your voice,

We know your face,

We know your embrace.

 Gather us up,

Gather us in.

Amen.

To read more about the shepherds of the Tusheti Mountains in the Caucasus Range, click the image or visit: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/10/the-shepherds-of-the-tusheti-mountains/544514/

 

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Ezekiel 34: Shepherds and Wisdom – A Reprise

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Julien Dupré: The Shepherd

Adapted from a reflection written on January 20, 2008, and explored last September. Today we explore again how scripture’s wisdom might help us discern the difference between true and false shepherds. 

Yesterday we explore the concept of the shepherd in Old Testament scriptures. Today we look at the books of wisdom to see what wisdom they hold for us as we look for a way to discern the difference between true and false shepherds.

In the Book of Psalms, the Holy Spirit brings us beautiful words of the comforting, guiding, protecting shepherd.

Psalm 23 describes the divine shepherd.

Psalm 28 asks Yahweh to be our refuge and protection.

Psalm 78 describes the relationship we want to have with the good shepherd.

Psalm 80 asks the shepherd for restoration.

In the sapiential book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 12, we hear that the words of wisdom are like the shepherd’s staff.

When we compare translations of these verses, we discover the qualities of the good shepherd. In hope we cleave to the shepherd who guides, who calms our fears, who gathers us in.

Tomorrow, prophets who shepherd us . . .

For more beautiful images of shepherds and their flocks, click on the image or visit the “Tending the Flock” post on the “Herding on the Web” blog. 

 

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