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Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’


Nehemiah 1 and 2: Rebuilding Walls

The Damascus Gate by night in Jerusalem

Thursday, October 12, 2017

We visit with Nehemiah several times a year and each time we rediscover the themes of covenant, restoration, and rebuilding.  Today’s reading takes us to the beginning of the restoration of Jerusalem after the northern invasion and the Babylonian exile.  This book was written in about 430 B.C.E. and as it begins, we see Nehemiah, the Jewish man who serves as Cupbearer to the foreign king.  Footnotes tell us this means that he was an important official who was allowed to come into the presence of not only the king but the queen as well.  This would suggest that he was a eunuch but there is no evidence to support that fact.  What we do understand is that he was highly placed in this foreign administration and we can guess, when we see his skills displayed throughout this story that he rose to that position through his skill.  But there is an important element to this story. Nehemiah prayed constantly, and this praying kept him connected intimately with his creator.  Nehemiah called on God continually for direction, and God gave direction to this good and loyal servant.

As the story begins, news arrives with several Jewish men who have just come from Judah, from Jerusalem.  The news is not good; but filled with courage and a love of his God, Nehemiah responds to his creator’s call and so it is with a mixture of trepidation and courage that he goes to the king. As we read, we find several interesting points.

  • Today’s reading begins in the month of Chislev – the same month in which we will later see (in the year 165 B.C.E.) the celebration of the re-dedication of the temple which we were reading and reflecting about some days ago. We too are in the month of Chislev, and the celebration of Hannukah was just completed this week. The Festival of Light – the season of a small shaft of light piercing the intense darkness.
  • Should you prove faithless, I will scatter you among the nations; but should you return to me and carefully keep my commandments, even though your outcasts have been driven to the farthest corner of the world, I will gather them from there, and bring them back to the place which I have chosen as the dwelling place for my name. This is the covenant promise which Jesus fulfills four centuries later and which he continues to fulfill for us each day.
  • Nehemiah not only asks permission to visit his former city, he also asks for soldiers, protection, and permission to fell trees with which to rebuild the city and gates, and a house for himself. He does not do things by half-measures; he is totally and truly dedicated to God in temperance, patience, endurance and perseverance.

Tomorrow, arriving in Jerusalem.

Adapted from a Favorite written during Advent, on December 15, 2007

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Psalm 105:15: God’s Anointed

Monday, October 31, 2016prophets

Yesterday we spent time with this psalm.  Today we take a deeper look.

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

How do we define faithfulness?  Do we admire our ability to hang on no matter what?  Are we stubborn to a fault in our persistence to see something through?  Do we waver and zigzag in order to gain ground?  Or do we model ourselves after Yahweh who is eternally faithful to his sheep?

Longevity.  Perseverance.  Constancy. 

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

Do we duplicate as much as possible God’s fidelity in our own relationships?  Are we dedicated to truth and openness?  Are we predictable?  Do our relationships create a safe harbor?

Dedication.  Predictability.  Safety.

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

What is it that stands in stark contrast with God’s fidelity?  The pursuit of petty agendas?  Egocentrism?  Meanness of spirit?

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

What do we need to jettison in our lives in order to create serenity and peace in our relationships?

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

How do we imitate God’s bringing forth of unity out of schism?

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

Can we see ourselves as prophets and anointed ones? If not, what do we want to change?  How do we become one with such a one who loves so well?

Longevity.  Perseverance.  Constancy. 

Dedication.  Predictability.  Safety.

For God all things are possible.  In Christ all wounds are healed.  Together with the Holy Spirit we are become one.  We are invited to enter into holy communion with one another.  We are invited to prophesy the Word of God.  We are anointed in God.  We are one in God.  We are blessed in God.  We are saved in God.

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

Adapted from a reflection written on October 9, 2009.

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Ephesians 6:14-20: A Prayer for Spiritual Warfare

Wednesday, September 7, 201632643-15133-armor-of-god.1200w.tn

Patience and perseverance. These are the qualities we know will open us to God’s nourishing goodness as we wade into daily spiritual warfare. Prayer and thanksgiving. These are the actions we need take as we look to Paul’s words in his letter to the Ephesians.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. (THE MESSAGE)

When we compare another version of these verses, we open ourselves to the strength that only God can provide.

So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you. Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people. And pray also for me, that God will give me a message when I am ready to speak, so that I may speak boldly and make known the gospel’s secret. For the sake of this gospel I am an ambassador, though now I am in prison. Pray that I may be bold in speaking about the gospel as I should. (THE GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION)

And so we pray.

When we meet circumstances that overwhelm us, we remember that our fidelity to The Word and our readiness to share God’s promise and hope are the strongest armor we might employ. Resilient God, lend us your strength.

When we stumble over obstacles that threaten our peace and security, we remember that our joy in The Word and our delight in Jesus’ story are the enduring armor we might put on. Confident God, lend us your hope.

When we falter with doubt and anxiety crushes us, we remember that our prayers always rise directly to you. Authentic God, lend us your love.

In Jesus’ name we wait patiently in you. In the Spirit’s power we persist always in you. In God’s name we give thanks always for you. Amen.

 

 

 

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Ezekiel 13False Prophets

Tuesday, May 31, 2016wolf_in_sheeps_clothing

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on evil leaders.  Today we spend time praying and thinking about false prophets.  Who are they in our lives?  How have we been false prophets ourselves?

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on how evil leaders operate, how they appear to working for good and may even use the vocabulary we come to expect from those who walk in the light.  Today we meditate on how we might be lured into following the broad road rather than the narrow path.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on those who surround evil leaders to enable them in their dark work.  Today we think and pray about those whose gestures and actions appear to have divine inspiration but do not.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

We notice that God does not remain silent when evil operates.  We see that God speaks to darkness.  We understand that even the dark ones are offered the opportunity to allow their pain to transform them.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

When we are doubtful about false and true leaders and prophets, we might remember that our courage, strength and perseverance lie in and with God.  When we read scripture, when we join in liturgy, when we try to do as Jesus does, when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit . . . this is how we will know what to think, what to say, and how to act.  And so we pray.

When silence is more attractive than fidelity to the truth: Our God, remember us.

When approval is more desirable than perseverance in good: Our strength, abide with us.

When safety is more appealing than suffering for righteousness’ sake: Our Lord, transform and heal us. 

When we celebrate and commemorate the gift of the Holy Spirit, we remember that it is impossible for us to discern  false and true leaders and prophets on our own.  We can only maneuver life’s treacherous waters when we rely on the Spirit who will tell us where to go and what to say.  If we want to live with less fear, if we want to transform the lives of our enemies and even our own lives, we might remember: Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

This is a promise worth remembering.

Adapted from a favorite written on May 31, 2009.

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1 Kings 15: Delight – Part IIIsolarsystem

A Prayer in Response to God’s Gift of Delight

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Today we end a cycle of days and weeks and months in which we have known great sorrow and great joy. As we consider all that we have seen and heard, felt and believed, let us give thanks for the gift of delight itself, the gentle pleasure that rises from honest relationships and open minds. Just as God delights in us, let us delight in God.

For the gift of winter cold that draws us together as we look for shelter and welcome friends and strangers from the wind. Let us treasure each winter hardship just as God treasures each of us. The infinite iterations of flakes on frosted windows can remind us that just as God creates each of these beautiful designs, so does God create each of us with our own unique features, joys and anxieties.

snowflake2For the gift of drawing in, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of spring that reminds us that new life always rises from the old. In springtime exuberance we open our hearts to the possibilities of our own resurrection. We remember that God always brings goodness out of harm, love out of hatred, generosity out of what is meant to be cruel, and love out of gestures of hatred and shame. The tiniest of plants and creatures burst forth in a rush to celebrate God’s goodness. Giant stars and the multiverse expand to open great hearts for God’s enormous love.

wisdom-at-creationFor the gift of burgeoning hope, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of summer that brings us into the energy of God’s passion and mercy. In the fullness of summer heat, we remember that with God all things are possible. With God all miracles bring new life and new meaning. With God resurrection is more than an idea or hope. Burgeoning crops, teeming waters, rain and sun drench us with God’s abundance and generosity. God calls us to match this zeal with the stores of understanding and courage we lay aside for the difficult times ahead.

KY-Breaks-Interstate-Park-river-sceneFor the gifts of kindness and goodness, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

For the gift of autumn when we harvest the fortitude, perseverance, fidelity and truth that God has shared with us. We remember that nothing of this world is meant to take the place of God. We recall the great delight God has expressed in our willingness to be open to others just as Jesus is open with us. We respond with compassion and an ardent desire to heal broken relationships and people. We return this gift with our own desire to heal and advocate.

fall-leafFor the gifts of forgiveness and restoration, we give thanks for God’s delight in us.

In all seasons of this year to come, we unite in a new thankfulness for God’s love, a new willingness to live as Jesus does, and a new urgency to heal and console just like the Holy Spirit. May we find the energy and determination to live in such a way that all those who encounter us will know that we delight in God’s own delight in us. Amen.

For a reflection on a full measure of joy, click on the snowflakes or visit: http://fullmeasureofjoy.com/?p=4253 

For a reflection on God’s wisdom in creation, click on the plant shoot or visit: http://elcmthoreb.org/2013/07/12/gods-wisdom-in-creation-this-week-at-elc/

For a refelction on seeing God’s creation, click on the river image or visit: http://www.seeingcreation.com/2012/nature-photography/natures-dictionary/

For a reflection on seeking God, click on the image of the leaf or visit: http://nancyaruegg.com/category/seeking-god/ 

 

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Luke 21:12-19: Giving Testimonytestimony

Thursday, December 3, 2015

They will seize and persecute you . . .

Not one of us asks for loss of freedom.

They will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons . . .

None of us wants public scandal or shame.

Thy will lead you before kings and governors in my name . . .

We do not like to think that politics or social pressure might suborn our thinking.

It wtestimony1ill lead to your testimony . . .

So when we suffer in Christ’s name we must respond in fidelity.

Remember . . . you are not to prepare your defense beforehand . . .

There is no defense against the world’s corruption and power.

I myself will give you wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute . . .

There is only one true wisdom that preserves and protects.

You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends . . .

we are the testimonyThere is only one powerful truth that guides and transforms.

They will put some of you to death . . .

There is only one life that is eternal.

You will be hated because of my name . . .

There is only one Spirit that brings life and light and love that are everlasting.

But not a hair on your head will be destroyed . . .

There is only one Christ Jesus who returns from death to heal, redeem and renew.

By your perseverance you will secure your lives . . .

There is only one God who is and was and will always be. Let us give our faithful testimony today. Amen.

TESTIMONY (1)

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James 1:2-3: The Value of Obstacles – Brightly coloured council road signs and equipmentMonday, September 28, 2015

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.

James opens his letter with advice that will catch anyone’s interest. In our modern cultures we do not consider trials as gifts to be examined; we too frequently dismiss or even ignore tribulations as inconveniences to be shunted into the darkness. We too rarely consider obstacles as doors of opportunity or growth; yet this is James’ invitation.

You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.

Perhaps this is why we pray for smooth days and comfortable nights. We do not believe that we are up to the test. Or we do not see ourselves learning good lessons from hard times. We are uncomfortable with being vulnerable and we fear having to rely on family, friends, neighbors or even strangers.

So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.

James asks us to suppress our natural tendency to avoid uncomfortable circumstances; we infer from his words that we might gain more from a constrained environment than from easy comfortable surroundings. Rather than skitter around stressful situations or difficult people, James begins, we might allow ourselves to grow in fortitude and wisdom if we rely on God’s guidance when we must maneuver hard times.

Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Certainly we do not want to look for stress in our lives; the world presents us with enough disquiet to fill our days. Clearly we do not want to be the cause of conflict in our personal and professional lives. Yet just as certainly and clearly we understand that once we open ourselves to the guidance of God’s hand when we navigate straitened days, we will remember our success in dark times and recognize a certain confidence growing within.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.
blocksWe live in a world that values power, fame and wealth. We humans tend to look at one person’s loss as being another’s gain; yet when we live an inverted life with Christ where loss is gain and gain is loss, we begin to better understand James’ lesson. Stumbling blocks become building blocks. Trials become jubilation. When sorrow and pain are traversed in God’s grace we begin to experience the joy of perseverance. When we live by God’s measure rather than our own, and when we allow God to guide us through the road blocks of our lives, we finally learn the value and joy of learning new faith and new life as a result of persevering through our obstacles.

Use the scripture link to examine various versions of these verses to see which most plainly and clearly.

Tomorrow, right attitude.

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Sirach 17:20-24: The Penitent

Matthias Stomer: The Penitent Saint Peter

Matthias Stomer: The Penitent Saint Peter

Monday, June 1, 2015

To the penitent God provides a way back . . .

This is good news for us indeed. And when we want to confront our enemies with outrage and violence, we will want to look at how God always provides a way back to unity and wholeness.

God encourages those who are losing hope . . .

This is also good news for us since we so easily and so frequently lose hope. God always has hope in abundance for us and sends us a multitude of small and enormous signs. We must be open to the little miracles God sends us each day.

God chooses for them the lot of truth . . .

This is absolutely good news for us. Like a loving parent whose child has chosen desert rather than a substantial meal, God is always steering us in the direction of nurturing relationships, nourishing habits and loving communities. Sometimes we are disappointed when we discover that the people, places and customs in our lives shows signs of weakness or even corruption. This is when we must remember that God’s love can achieve all impossibilities.

Jesus says: For humans it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God. (Mark 10:27)

Further on in this reading, Ben Sirach describes God as hating and loathing the unjust and ungodly. Use the scripture link to read other versions of these verses and contemplate the idea that what Ben Sirach describes as “hatred” is an intense and impassioned perseverance in calling one who has left the sheepfold. Let us contemplate the idea that God’s “loathing” is an intense and relentless persistence to love our enemies into goodness. When we view God’s word in this way, we discover that the yawning gaps and deep sorrows in our lives suddenly have new life in kingdom justice.

And so we pray to the loving Trinity . . .

God provides a way back . . . and so must we provide a bridge to those who have wounded us. Loving God, help us to allow you to convert all harm to good. 

God encourages the hopeless with outrageous hope . . . and so must we bring confidence to those in despair. Hopeful God, fill us with your Spirit of peace and serenity. 

God chooses for us the path of truth when we have strayed . . . and so must we bring Christ’s light to a world hungering for justice and compassion. Saving God, bring us Jesus’ understanding, courage and wisdom. 

We know that for us much of this impossible . . . but for you all things are possible. Shelter us in your truth, nourish us in your hope, and transform us in your loving care.

Amen.

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Matthew 8:23-27: Stilling the Storm

James Seward: Peace, be Still

James Seward: Peace! Be Still!

May 15, 2015

We say: Lord, we are perishing!

Jesus says: Why are you afraid?

God says: You and I have spoken about the storms of life so frequently – nearly every day – yet still I am willing to hear you again cry out for my help. And I am willing to give my help to you. I know that the circumstances of the world frighten you; yet I ask for your patience and courage. I know that the troubles of the world alarm you; yet I ask for your perseverance and fidelity. I know that the anxieties of the world panic you; yet I ask for your mercy and kindness. I know that the injustices of the world anger you; yet I ask for your confidence and love. When I calm the storm I calm you. When I ask for stillness I ask for your open heart. When I ask for love I ask for your full and abiding presence in me. Practice this when you are not distressed and you will see how natural this becomes in the way you interact with others. And you will find that a new peace and tranquility abide within. You will find that the approaching storm will roll over you to leave you unscathed. And you will have stilled the storm within.

For a musical reflection on Peace! Be Stillby Seward, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DSYtYdjsbA

Find your former self in Seward’s painting . . . look for your new self in Christ.

For a reflection on fear, click on the image above or visit: http://www.shellyduffer.com/tag/jesus-calms-the-storm/

Enter the word storm into the blog search bar, think about how we react to crisis or strife, and decide to hand over the storm within to the one who calms all storms.

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