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Posts Tagged ‘persistence’


James 1-5: God’s Yardstick – James

The Measure of God’s Lovecrayon heart

Sunday, January 29, 2023

We continue to look for God’s yardstick in the New Testament.

We are never in doubt about James’ dedication to Christ and in a way his letter is a Gospel to Christ’s followers for it outlines a clear roadmap for The Way Christ asks us to walk.

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

Do we see our hardships as sheer gift?

Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.

Do we talk more than we do? Do we lead with our anger?

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

Do we hide from ourselves or do we know who we are?

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! 

Do we live on the margins or in the comfortable center?

Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

Are we impatient and petulant or enduring and resilient?

Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know.

Do we appreciate more than we disparage?

Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

Are we willing to stay the course or do we look for quick fixes?

Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. 

How often and much do we pray? Are we willing to sing?

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them.

Do we share the Good News or do we hold it to ourselves?

Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

Are we willing to share Christ’s story? Do we take risks in Christ’s name to include more that we divide and love more than we fear? If so . . . we are following the measure of God’s love that James describes for us.

Tomorrow, Stephen.


When we use the scripture link to compare THE MESSAGE version of these verses with translations that may be more familiar to us, we have the opportunity to explore the great measure of God’s love we are given to share.

Image from: https://www.istockphoto.com/photos/heart-shape-crayon-drawing-pencil-drawing

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Proverbs 9:1-6: God’s Yardstick – Wisdom

Wisdom’s Feast

Jan Vermeyen: The Marriage Feast at Cana

Mary urges Jesus to step into his ministry.  Jan Vermeyen: The Marriage Feast at Cana

Sunday, January 15, 2023

In these opening weeks of a new year, we have looked at women in scripture who see and use God’s yardstick in their lives. We conclude our look at women today with a reflection on wisdom described as a woman who invites all to her feast. When we take time to consider the portraits of the special women we have seen over the past two weeks, we understand how their lives can serve as tangible yardsticks for us to use today. 

Anselm Feuerbah: Miriam The Prophetess waited along the banks of the Nile until her brother Moses was pulled from the reeds by Pharaoh's daughter.

Moses’ sister waits along the banks of the Nile until her baby brother is pulled from the reeds by Pharaoh’s daughter.  Anselm Feuerbah: Miriam

We pause to consider the spaces we inhabit at home, at work, at prayer and at play. Are  they sacred, serene dwellings that invite others to enter? Do these places bring us peace?

Lady Wisdom has built and furnished her home;
    it’s supported by seven hewn timbers.
The banquet meal is ready to be served: lamb roasted,
    wine poured out, table set with silver and flowers.

Naomi shares wisdom with her daughter-in-law Ruth. Togther they find stability a nd peace.

Naomi shares wisdom with her daughter-in-law Ruth.

We pause to consider what we do with the peace we find. Do we hold it closely to ourselves? Do we share it with others?

Having dismissed her serving maids,

Lady Wisdom goes to town, stands in a prominent place, 

and invites everyone within sound of her voice: “Are you confused about life, don’t know what’s going on?

We pause to consider how our serenity becomes evident to the world. Does it nurture us and others in our struggle to live the Beatitudes? Does it sustain us as we move into a world that measures with a yardstick that is often far different from God’s?

Judith acts to save her people.

Judith relies on the trust engendered by her long and faithful relationship with God, and acts to save her people.

“Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me!
I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread,
    roast lamb, carefully selected wines.
Leave your impoverished confusion and live!
    Walk up the street to a life with meaning.”

We pause to consider how the world reacts to Lady Wisdom. Do we give in to the pressures of the world, or do we move forward in our journey with God despite the obstacles?

We find strength in the gentle yet persistent heart of Lady Wisdom.


For more reflections on Wisdom, enter the word into the blog search bar and explore.

Images from: http://www.jesus-story.net/cana_wedding.htm and http://claudemariottini.com/2013/11/15/miriam-the-prophetess-2/

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Daniel 13: God’s Yardstick – Susanna

When Goodness attracts Evil

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Thursday, January 12, 2023

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Today’s Noontime is a beautiful but difficult story.  An innocent, virtuous woman is wrongly accused; and an innocent yet wise child reveals lust and deceit.  Goodness wins in the end; evil slithers away to return another day.

The idea that Susanna’s virtue is the reason for her trial is a frightening thought. Her parents took care, the story tells us, to bring her up in the ways of Yahweh. And this was what stirred the lascivious men.

What does Susanna do when accused? To whom does she turn? What does she say in her defense?

Through her tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly . . . “Oh, eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me.  Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me”.  As the story continues, we see that the evil elders – whom the people had trusted – are done in by their own web of lies. The story unfolds as the child Daniel cries out: Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty” . . . The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those that hope in him. They rose up against the two elders, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury. 

UK Parliament - John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

UK Parliament – John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

The end of this story is immediately satisfying. Unfortunately for us, situations like these in our own lives may endure many days or months or years before the lies against us are revealed; yet revealed they will be for God’s goodness and truth always overcome darkness. The measuring stick that Susanna uses, and that we must use, is to follow Yahweh, the creator who molds us from star dust for the purpose of love alone.

Our task, as followers of Christ, is to faithfully and persistently petition God, to fall back into the comfort of the Holy Spirit, to model ourselves after Jesus, and to continue to hope in the covenant promise that we are eternally forgiven and saved. We might remind ourselves of the gifts we receive when we use God’s yardstick at the troubling times in our lives. The message of Daniel is clear:  When goodness attracts evil – as it surely will – the faithful need not fight; they need only rely on God, and never allow themselves to be separated in any way from their God who measures life in so loving a way. And so we pray . . .

The gift of persistence calls us to rely on the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

The gift of faith asks us to place our petitions in God’s hands.

The gift of hope in the person of Jesus shows us how to offer love on behalf of our enemies.

The gift of life itself asks us to allow goodness and truth to conquer lust, lies and deceit. Amen.


A favorite from Saturday, November 21, 2009.

Enter the name Susanna in the blog search bar for more reflections about this woman.

Images from: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/663722 and http://www.parliament.uk/about/art-in-parliament/global/print/?art=3245

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John 20: God’s Yardstick – Mary of Magdala

Andrea Solario or Bernardino Luini: Mary Magdalene

Andrea Solario or Bernardino Luini: Mary Magdalene (The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD)

Absolute Fidelity

Monday, January 9, 2023

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

There are many places to explore the story of Mary Magdalene but perhaps we need only look at one – her response to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Surely her fidelity and openness to Christ’s healing presence are models we might follow.

Much has been written of this woman and we can guess that nearly all is conjecture. We began our exploration of women who serve as God’s measuring stick with Mary the mother of Jesus. Today we close this portion of our reflections with the other most significant woman in Jesus’ life. This must be admitted even if we believe that the Magdalene was a reformed prostitute or had recovered from epilepsy by Jesus’ healing hand. Whether we believe she was a camp-follower, a friend, a companion or a spouse, we need only to read John’s account of the resurrection story to understand that her devotion to Jesus governed her life.

Van der Weyden: The Deposition of Christ or Desxcent from the Cross (The Pradoi Museum, Madrid, Spain)

Van der Weyden: The Deposition of Christ or Descent from the Cross (The Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain) Mary Magdalene to the far right

On the day following Shabbat she returns to the tomb to embalm Jesus’ body, braving any punishment she might experience at Roman or Jewish hands. Her reward is an encounter she did not expect. The Magdalene does not hold this good news to herself; rather, she runs to tell the others that Christ is still among them and is waiting to meet them in Galilee. She also runs to tell us that Christ is with us and is waiting within our own broken hearts. Just as Mary the Mother brings the presence of God into the world, so do does Mary of Magdala bring his story to us. It is for this reason alone that we easily look to her life as a persistent, enduring, loving measure of God’s love.


For Smithsonian articles that uncover the mystery of The Magdalene and the places Jesus lived and worked and prayed, visit: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/who-was-mary-magdalene-119565482/?no-ist or http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/unearthing-world-jesus-180957515/ Use the Smithsonian site to search for more information about these people and places.

For information about each of these paintings, their provenance, the artists and the symbolism, click on the images or visit: http://hubpages.com/art/Rogier-Van-Der-Weyden-Descent-From-The-Cross and http://art.thewalters.org/detail/37520/mary-magdalen/ 

For more reflections on Mary Magdalene, enter her name into the blog search bar and explore.

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Genesis 23 & Tobit 3: God’s Yardstick – Sarah

Strength in Reliance

Jan Provoost: Abraham, Sarah and an Angel

Jan Provoost: Abraham, Sarah and an Angel

Saturday, January 7, 2023

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Two women named Sarah figure in scriptures and today as we remember their stories we better understand that God’s promise is so often delivered through surprise. Choose one of these stories – or both if there is time – and look for God’s yardstick.

Genesis Chapters 12-23 tell us the story of Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. Although we know this story well, it is likely that we have not spent time beyond the basic facts that are obvious to us. She traveled with her husband and his family from Ur to Haran and was barren for much of her married life. She was so beautiful that her husband asked her to pose as his sister to avoid creating jealousy among Egyptian leaders and endangering his life. She suggested that her husband take her slave Hagar to his bed so that he might engender an heir with her; then later asked him to banish the slave and child when the younger woman took on a disparaging attitude. Sarah prepared a meal for strangers and then laughed when they told her that she would conceive at the age of 90. She was buried in Machpelah Cave near Hebron. When we focus on even a portion of her story, we find that Sarah shows humor, resiliency, and openness to God’s presence in her life.

Jan Steen: Tobias and Sarah on their Wedding Night

Jan Steen: Tobias and Sarah on their Wedding Night

Tobit 3 introduces us to Sarah who prays for death to come to her quickly. In Chapters 6-12 we follow Tobias and Sarah as the angel Raphael ushers them through danger. We may know this about the Sarah who marries Tobias: she is married to seven men who die on their wedding night, she and Tobit pray for death at the same moment and God hears them both, she travels from Ecbatana to Nineveh and back to Ecbatana with Tobias who – with help from the angel Raphael – routs the demon who has plagued her. When we explore her story, we find that Sarah withstands false accusations that mount against her by relying on God to solve problems that appear to have no solution.

Strength that flows from reliance on God and belief that with God all things are possible. This is the yardstick with which these two women measure their lives.


Images from: http://catholicsaints.info/sarah-the-matriarch/ and http://thislamp.com/posts/2012/2/14/for-valentines-day-a-love-story-from-the-book-of-tobit.html

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James 5:7-9: Early and Late Rains

An early spring rain on a window

An early spring rain on a window

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

James speaks to three groups of people in these verses, and all three groups will want to hear his words.

James speaks to those who judge others and speak out against them. If we find ourselves participating in gossip we will want to take care. Even our grumbling is a kind of separation and violence.

A fruitful summer rain

A fruitful summer rain

James also speaks to those who assume that they are in charge of their own plans and future. If we have crafted hopes and dreams with little input from God, we will want to turn back to God. Our arrogance and pride harm our loved ones as much as it harms us.

James finally speaks to those who amass treasure at the expense of others. If we come to understand that our fear for self separates us from God we will want to change our ways. We must soften our hearts and unbend our necks and consider what kinds of wealth we amass at the expense of others. We can hoard much more than silver and gold, and we do well to examine our own stockpiles.

A late and frosty winter rain

A late and frosty winter rain

James reminds us that with God . . . it is never too late to repent. Through God, all harm turns to good. In God, patience and persistence are the work of the Spirit. James advises us that the righteous will eventually flourish, whether the rains that bring the substance for blooming arrive early, on time or even late into our lives.

Tomorrow, patience in suffering.


Images from: http://sacredtouches.com/tag/window-pane/

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Matthew 5:5: The MeekPsalm-37-11

Easter Monday, April 18, 2022

On this Easter Monday we continue our reflection on the Beatitudes as we re-focus our attention on God’s priorities rather than our own.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. (Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount)

Perhaps patience is the quality we most need if we are to be humble servants. Patience in our understanding that we are not in charge. Patience in our knowing that it is God’s wisdom and grace that answers our deepest questions. Patience in allowing God’s fidelity and mercy to invade all that we do. Patience in both giving and accepting God’s healing love. Psalm 27 reminds us what we gain when we are able to wait. These verses bring into focus what it is we inherit, and why the land in which the Spirit dwells is worth our offering of meekness.

Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear . . .

On this Easter Monday we celebrate God’s strength . . .

Though war arise against me, I shall be confident . . .

We celebrate God’s hope . . .

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living . . .

We celebrate God’s gift of eternal life and love . . .  

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage . . .

We celebrate God’s gift of promise . . .

Yes, wait for the Lord . . .

We celebrate God’s gift of persistence.

2012042151empty_tombWhen our quiet strength rises from God we have no need to boast or strut. When our simple humility follows the example of Christ we have no need to exclude or divide. When our genuine meekness grows in the Spirit of God we have no need to hate or avenge. Let us wait on the Lord, let us give thanks for God’s presence, and let us celebrate the patience we inherit that offers us the gift of God’s meekness.

Using the scripture links, explore different versions of these verses and give thanks for our inheritance of meekness.

Tomorrow, the merciful. 


Images from: http://eagleviews.org/2011/10/14/they-say-he-said/ and http://flowers-kid.com/easter-empty-tomb-images.htm

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3.3-1_Goodall_The_BrideSaturday, January 22, 2022

Joy and Union

John

We are invited into a disciple’s intimacy with Christ. Jesus offers friendship that is personal, immediate and joyful. Today we remember that Christ is the groom and that we are his bride. And we consider how God’s incredible love calls and binds us together.

John the Baptizer recognizes that his joy increases when he finds union with others in and through Christ.

1-3-rebecca_at_wellThe Bride and Groom John 3:25-30: There arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.

Jesus tells us that the union we seek with him – the union we already have if we might recognize it – is the sole source of lasting and satisfying joy.

grapes71The Vine and the Branches – John 15:11: These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Jesus reminds us that his joy is complete in us and that as we turn over the cares of the world to him our joy will increase. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches; he sustains and we celebrate and bear fruit. Our pruning strengthens us and brings us closer to God. Our fidelity and persistence bring us the reward of God’s genuine and enduring joy.

This is the Good News John brings us. Today we might consider how we will share this joy with others.


Click on the image of the bride above to learn more about women in ancient times, or visit: http://www.womeninthebible.net/3.2.Major_Events.htm

joyOther images from: https://jesuskinginexile.wordpress.com/page/4/ and http://rgonce.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-vine-and-branches.html

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar.

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sparks risingSunday, September 19, 2021

Wisdom 3

Worthiness through Trials

Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.

Worthiness is a quality that may be undervalued in our culture; we rely heavily on nurturing independence with high doses of self esteem. As with all good things, too much of it becomes a bad thing, as my Dad used to say.  Self-knowledge and self-esteem are not that far from narcissism.  And self flagellation is not a healthy tool when we step back to look at ourselves. Sadism and masochism are the flip side of a willingness to suffer for the sake of another. And if we are sisters and brother in Christ, we look to God for direction rather than to our own egos.

The human existence is a constant tightrope-walking along the spectrum of desirable and undesirable qualities.

From our study of James this year: Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-3)

The perfection God asks of us is not that we live a life without flaw, but that we persevere in doing God’s will, and in finding the good in the trials we undergo for the conversion and redemption of others. The joy we know from participating in God’s economy is far greater and longer lasting than the fleeting happiness we experience as a result of a contentment we feel at the end of a good day. Suffering for show or suffering for the sake of suffering is the flip side of the salvific suffering which Christ undergoes for the redemption of others. And if we are sisters and brother in Christ, we are worthy through self-sacrifice of our own agendas for God’s better plan.

souls of the just

Wisdom 3:7

The human existence is a joyful one when we persevere through trials in faith, live through hope and bind with others in love.

Lives lived in Christ shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble, and the alternative is to live as the wicked who receive their punishment to match their thoughts, since they neglected justice and forsook the Lord. 

This is the wisdom offered us today: that we examine our motivations for perfection, and that we cease judging the worthiness of ourselves and others. Once we put aside our mountains of criteria and our hierarchy of worth, we begin to understand the perfection God asks not that we be perfect in all we do, but that we remain steadfast in Christ’s love through our trials and in our constant search for truth.


Adapted from a reflection written on Saturday, May 29, 2010.

Image from: http://kentonjseth.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

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