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Posts Tagged ‘serenity’


2 Samuel 16Making Mistakes

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Michelangelo: David

Written on January 30 and posted today as a Favorite . . . 

Today we see a part of the story of David that might be difficult to understand if we view life as a series of good decisions.  When we view life as it really is, however – as series of decisions we make both bad and good – we have less anxiety and fear, we experience more hope and serenity.  I heard a radio preacher recently say: When you live your life in the Spirit, you can’t make a mistake.  “This is incorrect”, we might say to ourselves.  “How can a good life have bad decisions in it?  How can a life of flawed decisions be good?”  If this is our thinking, we have forgotten something and it is this : If we are living in the Spirit, we will have arrived at understanding how God operates; we will fully comprehend that God turns all harm to good.  So whether we err accidentally or whether we mean to inflict harm in any way, God will use these flawed acts to work in his favor for – God turns all harm to good.  And this is part of the story we see today.

David has been a good leader and faithful to God, but he has also sinned and erred.  What sets David apart is the way in which he reacts when others urge him to take revenge.  When he was younger, his soldiers encouraged him to murder the sleeping Saul when he had the opportunity.  David instead makes it obvious that he has breached the enemy’s lines and yet has not taken a life where he could.  David lives in the Spirit.  David later becomes infatuated with Bathsheba and plots her husband’s death; he confesses this sin when confronted by Nathan and sings a beautiful lament of repentance that we still sing today during the Lenten season (Psalm 51).  Even though he has erred, David lives in the Spirit.

David does not use his good standing with God to ignore what he has done; instead he confesses and atones.  He lives his life in the Spirit and does not try to avoid culpability for his actions or gain immunity so that he might do whatever he likes.  Rather, David praises and obeys God.  Living in the Spirit has become part of who he is and what he does.

Today we read of some of the intrigue that mounted as David aged and the time came for one of his sons to rule Israel.  The sibling rivalry, the palace intrigue, and the political plotting are fascinating to see but what is most interesting is the way we see David living in the Spirit.  In verse 10 he speaks the wisdom we can all use today: What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses?  Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?” 

We can read commentary to sort through who is aligned with whom, who is against whom, but today we have the opportunity to see another way to step away from revenge, anger and violence and move toward hope and serenity.  We see another opportunity to step away from fear and anxiety and move toward peace and unity.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must study, we must seek, we must be patient, and we must be persistent in living lives directed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must witness, we must watch, we must wait, and we must insist on living lives governed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  When we believe this, the fretfulness and panic drop away . . . for we have focused our lives on God, we have learned to trust in God, we have begun to love like God . . . and we know that God will turn all harm to good.  We will not worry or fret for we, like David, will reply to a challenge . . . Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?”  We will be truly living in and of the Spirit.


A re-post from August 26, 2011.

Images from: http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/ and http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/

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Ezra 6Rebuilding

Friday, September 14, 2018

Written on January 8 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The house is to be rebuilt . . .  

We are so often exhausted by life’s demands that we cannot experience joy when we hear good news . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

In today’s Noontime, King Darius reiterates the original command given by King Cyrus . . . the house is to be rebuilt.  Nehemiah, the administrator, and Ezra, the priest, set about restoring the city and temple in Jerusalem.  They travel through dangerous territory and carry with them a letter of safe-passage from their former enemy.  They arrive in Jerusalem to find a pile of rubble so dense that horses cannot find a pathway – they must pick their way on foot through toppled stone.  They return from exile most likely drained of energy . . . but there is hope and even joy because . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

I am struck by the concordance of the instructions in the decree we read today with the original description of the temple that Solomon built which we read in 1 Kings 7.  God does not forget his promise to the Jewish nation that . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

Nor does God forget all that he has promised us, his daughters and his sons.  Just like the destroyed temple, we too will be rebuilt and in fact are being rebuilt each day.  We are the temple in which the Spirit dwells, and as the cares of the world tear at its pillars and nibble at is foundation, Jesus becomes the master planner who constantly offers to help us reconstruct.  His constant attention and love remind us that . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

I am thinking of Psalms 126 and 127.  Those who go out weeping return singing . . . we labor in vain unless the Lord is the master builder of our house.

Whatever our flaws, whatever our sorrows, all will be converted to joy for we are promised that . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

Whatever our obstacles, whatever our fears, they become our stepping stones to serenity once we remember that . . . the house is to be rebuilt. 


A re-post from August 14, 2011.

Image from: http://www.amazon.com/Rebuilding-House-Laurie-Graham/dp/0140123385/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1313344601&sr=8-2 

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Sirach 29:21-28Frugality

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Monet: Monet’s Garden at Argentueil

Jesus ben Sirach reminds us that life’s prime needs are water, bread, and clothing, a house, too, for decent privacy.  This simple axiom can be so difficult to remember, especially in our competitive society which regards appearances as more important than substance.  Be it little or be it much, be content with what you have, and pay no heed to him who would disparage your home . . .

Frugality has earned the unhappy reputation of stinginess; and yet in its purest sense frugality means prudence in the avoidance of waste.  Each time we throw out food because we do not like leftovers, each time we buy a pair of shoes we really do not need, each time we hoard something away so that we will have it when others do not . . . we use something that someone else might have used better.  This is an extravagance that the faithful cannot afford.  It is an excessiveness that makes it impossible for us to find serenity.   It is an injustice that works against kingdom-building.

When I become impatient with God’s timing – wanting results to arrive more rapidly, wishing events would move more swiftly – I am reminded by God’s pace and stamina that God is teaching us to practice prudence in the avoidance of waste.  God is showing us a productive and generous kind of frugality; and in his infinite wisdom God knows that when we have something before we can fully appreciate it, we will likely waste the benefit.

Healthy contests that pit equals against one another are good for all of us, individually and collectively.  Creativity, critical thinking, and industrious behavior are essential if society is to move ahead; but in all of the bustle of the marketplace we must keep in mind that in the end . . . life’s prime needs are water, bread, and clothing, a house, too . . . and that frugality is prudence in the avoidance of waste. 

There are many isms in our world: capitalism, communism, socialism, favoritism, entrepreneurialism, dominionism, fascism, patriotism, and on and on.  Each of these attitudes has something to bring to a discussion – and the practice – of how we humans co-exist.  Each has advantages and disadvantages, each has pitfalls and pluses.  Some of these isms teach us stinginess; none will teach us frugality.  None can bring us stability, dependability, or union with others we trust implicitly.  None can bring us what we really seek . . . peacefulness, reliability, contentment with ourselves and the world.

And so we pray . . .

Generous and caring God, we need your constant guidance to remind us to share the essentials of life.

When we work over-long hours to the neglect of our family to finance an extravagant lifestyle, we have moved off the path that leads to serenity.  Tell us to wrap up the work and go home.

When we hoard goods and refuse to share with those who have less than we, we have somehow been lured away from the light and into the darkness.  Remind us that the world has enough resources for all if we share.

When we begin to think that five bathrooms and four vehicles are a necessity, we have slipped away from reality.  Ask us to share the planet’s storehouse prudently.   

When we have become stingy in the name of frugality, we have ceased listening to your voice.  Call to us again in a way we cannot miss. 

Life’s prime needs are water, bread, and clothing, a house, too . . . Let us share what we have prudently, let us avoid wasting the bounty your creation unfolds for us, and let us practice the same generosity you so lovingly pour out on us.  Amen. 


A re-post from August 14, 2011.

Image from: http://www.paintinghere.com/painting/Monet’s_Garden_at_argenteuil_4980.html 

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Romans 14:17-19: Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Thursday, March 9, 2017

gavel

We worry about what we are to wear, where we are to go, how we are to act. Jesus reminds us that these are not the concerns of one who rests beside the cornerstone. Righteousness, peace and joy. These are the concerns of those who unite in kingdom building.

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (NRSV)

The cares of the world are not the cares of God’s kingdom. Those on the margin, the abandoned, the abused, and the neglected, these are the citizens who populate Christ’s kingdom.

The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. (NRSV)

Healing, consolation, solace and generosity. These are the transformative gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit.

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (NRSV)

joyRighteousness, peace and joy. Harmony, reconciliation and delight. How do we serve God’s justice in our world? How do we follow Christ in reunion? How do we share gladness in the Spirit of the LORD?

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore these verses, we take the opportunity to examine our own lives.

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Acts 17: Uproar – Part I

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul causes uproar wherever he goes in the name of Christ.  He ruffles feathers.  He points out inconsistencies.  He speaks convincingly and with authority as one who has been on both sides of the argument. He inspires faith, hope and charity in some, jealousy in others.  As with the story of David, another of God’s imperfect leaders, we understand that those who serve as God’s vessels will always be envied.  This knowledge can discourage us from continuing in God’s service, or it can make us even more strongly bound to God.  The choice is always ours to make.

These readings continue the theme. Numbers 11:25-29, James 5:1-6, and Mark 9:38-48.

We are further advised that if resentment is a constant companion in our lives, we will never understand the mercy God wants to show us in this world and the next. Therefore, we will want to learn to live without bitterness. It is not the treasure we want to set aside: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth but rather, store up treasures in heaven. And heaven’s treasures are mercy, kindness and love. Matthew 6:19-20 and 1 Peter 1:17-19.

Each gesture and each word we enact in the world is our definitive representation of God.  When we speak, or fail to speak, when we act, or fail to act, we bring God into our homes, our work and prayer places and our communities.  What do our words and gestures say about who we are?

And so we consider . . . Rather than foment division, we want to add to the world’s serenity. But what about the kind of uproar that Paul causes? How does this fit into God’s design?

Today and tomorrow we reflect on an idea proposed by biologist E.O. Wilson and consider how his proposals affront or enact God’s kingdom. Visit the Smithsonian magazine to read, Can the world really set aside half the planet for Wildlife?

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/can-world-really-set-aside-half-planet-wildlife-180952379/?no-ist

Tomorrow, God’s uproar.

Adapted from a favorite written in September 28, 2009.

 

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John 6:41-42: Recognizing Jesus

Tuesday, April 26, 2016bread of life

Jesus has walked on the surface of the water to save those who love him from wilds winds and high seas. His followers were terrified and so he brings the boat immediately to the point on the shore where they had been aiming – despite the fact that the fishermen had rowed three or four miles from the coast. Just so are we terrified when tossed by life. Just so are we brought to our goal. Just so are we loved by Christ.

Jesus pauses to dialog with the enormous crowd that follows him – despite the fact that they do not believe him. Just so do we seek Jesus. Just so do we find him. Just so we doubt the very love that has rescued us.

Today we see how those who have struggled to follow and those who have argued still do not understand the beautiful gift Jesus hands them, the gift of bread that feeds eternally, the gift of bread from heaven. Just so do they take Jesus literally. Just so do they doubt the miracle before them. Just do we look past the evidence of healing and love that stands before us. Just so . . .

At this, because Jesus said, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven,” the Jews started arguing over him: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his father? Don’t we know his mother? How can he now say, ‘I came down out of heaven’ and expect anyone to believe him?”

We have watched Jesus walking on water toward us. Do we still doubt?

We have raced after Jesus, doing all we can to capture this essence of peace and serenity. Do we still persist?

We have found Jesus in the most unsuspecting places – with the homeless, with the poor, among the refugees, the abandoned and alone. Do we still fail to recognize God among us?

Enter the words Bread of Life into the blog search bar and reflect on our own doubt and persistence, understanding and peace.

Tomorrow, bickering.

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Matthew 7:7-12: Ask, Seek, Knock

Friday, February 19, 2016ask_seek_knock_importunity

We read the familiar words from Matthew and hope they are true.

Ask, and you will receive . . .

We explore these same verses in other translations.

Don’t bargain with God. Be direct.

We repeat the familiar words from Matthew to take them in as our mantra of faith.

Seek, and you will find . . .  

We hunger and thirst for serenity, a serenity we already have but cannot fully experience.

Ask for what you need.

We pray the familiar words from Matthew as we pledge to live them in love.

old-wooden-door-opening-light-shining-33999556Knock, and the door will be opened to you . . .

We share the Good News with the world, and announce that the Kingdom has come.

This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. 

We feel the power of the Spirit, the hope of Christ and the love of God move through our flesh and bones.

Ask, and you will receive . . . Seek, and you will find . . .  Knock, and the door will be opened to you . . .

This is our prayer, the prayer of the faithful. This is our hope, the hope of the hopeless. This is God’s love, the love of Christ.

ask_seek_knock_lukeDon’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. 

This is life, life eternal. Let us begin to live as if we believe in the Good News of Christ.

The dusky tan verses are from the GOOD NEWS translation and the Lenten purple are from THE MESSAGE. When we use the scripture link above to read more of these translations and to look for others, God’s Word begins to lighten the load of the day. Consider the Luke 11:9 version of Jesus’ words. How does it differ from Matthew’s? 

As we reflect, we remember . . . rather than thinking: “I am misunderstood,” I will think instead, “God is so understanding”.

Tomorrow, finding happiness.

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Judges 11 and 12: Shibboleth

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Crack (Shibboleth): Doris Salcedo - The Tate Modern, London

The Crack (Shibboleth): Doris Salcedo – The Tate Modern, London, UK

From WIKIPEDIA: “In numerous cases of conflict between groups speaking different languages or dialects, one side used shibboleths . . . to discover hiding members of the opposing group . . . Today, in the English language, a shibboleth also has a wider meaning, referring to any ‘in-crowd’ word or phrase that can be used to distinguish members of a group from outsiders – even when not used by a hostile other group”.

As we read today’s Noontime, we see how the early tribes of Israel struggled to retain autonomy; we also see that they lived in a world which required people to evaluate loyalty . . . their daily survival depended on this.

In our own world, we will use our own shibboleths ­ – either consciously or unconsciously – and when we do, what are the results?  Do we find ourselves closer to God or more distant?  Are we moving toward serenity and union with God, or away from the eternal peace brought by Jesus?  Do our shibboleths introduce us to the freedom bought by Christ or do they sell us out to an imprisonment which stifles us?

The story of the chieftain Jephthah reads like the script of a television drama – full of twists, promises, ironies and secret shibboleths.  Loyalties are tested, wars are waged, outcomes are weighed; yet in the end it is the spirit of the Lord that prevails.  Jephthah makes a vow to the Lord and loses his beloved daughter Mizpah; he also conquers nations in the name of his God.  Much of this is difficult to understand; most of it is hard to take; all of it is – in some way or other – the way we live today.

Children peering into the shibboleth at the Tate Modern in London

Children peering into the shibboleth at the Tate Modern in London

As we move through our own cycle of coming and going, let us examine the vows we swear, the skirmishes in which we engage, and our manner of waiting on the spirit of the Lord.  And when we begin to winnow the valid from the false in order to survive, let us examine the shibboleths we choose.

A Favorite from Friday, February 12, 2010.

 As we approach Ash Wednesday, a time of inner reflection, we have another opportunity to explore God’s yardstick in our lives, and to put aside the false shibboleths that mislead us.

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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 17, 2016

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.

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