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Acts 17Uproar – Part III

Friday, October 7, 2016chaos

A prayer for those who live in the midst of God’s uproar. 

We are challenged today to find our place in God’s uproar when we reflect on the men in white helmets who run toward danger in Syria to save victims from airstrikes. Let us pray for those who disregard their own safety to rescue others.

We are challenged today to find our place in God’s uproar when we examine data at the Death Penalty Information Center to see how many innocent lives are needlessly lost in the U.S. Let us pray for those who risk their careers to enact justice.

We are challenged today to find our place in God’s uproar when we explore CCN’s Freedom Project whose aim is to end modern-day slavery. Let us pray for those who give voice to the voiceless.

We are challenged today to find our place in God’s uproar when we tackle the topic of citizen security in Latin America and other places around the globe. Let us pray for those who bring hope to the hopeless.

If the uproar we choose to enter in the struggle to save endangered species, we look for information at The World Wildlife Fund. Let us pray for those who defend the animal kingdom.

If we are more comfortable examining the uproar over our changing planet, we might review ideas about deforestation or monoculture. Let us pray for those who see Mother Earth as our common home.

finding-god-in-stormAnd if exploring any of this is more than we can bear, if God’s uproar sends us into the shelter of what we know and what we have, then let us ask ourselves if we might begin each day with prayers for those who risk their own existence to live in the midst of God’s beautiful and enormous uproar.

And rather than fear the tumult and disruption the examination of these issues might bring us, let us pray that we do whatever we can – in our own small and large ways – to further the justice called forth in God’s uproar.

Tomorrow, predictions of God’s peace.

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Mark 6:47-52: Rowing Against the Wind

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Disciples See Christ Walking on Water. c. 1907. Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections: Gift of the Des Moines Association of Fine Arts, 1921.1

Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Disciples See Christ Walking on Water

When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea . . .

Night is about to fall and as darkness overtakes us, the once gentle waves rise above the sides of our boat. We worry about the unseen future, fret about the present and hope to remember the lessons of the past. Hold on, we say to ourselves and one another. The light will come again.

He saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them . . .

We strain against the current that runs too swiftly for our tiny oars to guide us to shore. We cannot possibly go on, we say to ourselves and to one another. This looks like the end.

He came to them, walking on the sea; and he intended to pass them by . . .

The promise of salvation flickers before us as our oars stutter over the chop and waves breech our little boat. Our rescue is here, we begin to think. But is it? Are we expected to save ourselves against this overwhelming wind?

They supposed he was a ghost and began to cry out . . . they were terrified . . .

Jesus understands us far better than we understand ourselves. His presence is both soothing and alarming. We are doomed! We say to one another. There is no way out of this.

But immediately he spoke to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid . . .”

This cannot be real, we say. Who walks on water? Who calms the sea and wind? Who cares enough about us to risk a relationship of fidelity and hope with us?

Tanner: Christ and his Mother studying Scriptures

Tanner: Christ and his Mother studying Scriptures

Learning at his mother’s knee and listening to the Spirit within, Jesus knows how to respond to every hope and every fear that pulls us down into negativity in the moment of its burgeoning.

Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished . . .

Jesus does not abandon or betray us, even when we falter or stumble.

For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their hearts were hardened . . .

Jesus accompanies us even when we refuse to enact the gift of grace and peace he offers. Jesus is with us when we find ourselves rowing against the tide. Might we come together to help one another as we struggle to reach the shore against the wind?

Use the scripture link above to compare other versions of these verses. Or read this story in Matthew 14:22-26 and John 6:16-21 to reflect on Jesus’ presence and power in our lives. 

Enter the name Henry Ossawa Tanner into the blog search bar to discover more about his depiction of this story. To learn more about his life or works, click on the images or visit: http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/tanner/tanner_main.html 

Jessie Olssen Tanner

Jessie Olssen Tanner and Jessie Ossawa Tanner posing for Tanner’s painting Christ and his Mother studying the Scriptures

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Mark 6:45-52: Stepping Into Surprise

Po_vodam

Ivan Aivazovsky: Jesus Walks on Water

Tuesday, December 2, 2015

Yesterday we reflected with Matthew on our willingness to step out of the little boat of our lives when Jesus approaches us across the water. Today we visit Mark, who tells his story in clipped, precise sentences, but curiously includes this verse: He meant to pass them by.  What might Mark be asking us to consider with these simple words?

When we find ourselves in turmoil we may feel as though Jesus has us passed by. When we cannot find our way out of darkness, we might believe that God has chosen to ignore us. When we look for healing that never comes, we may wonder where the Spirit has chosen to settle. In all of these feelings of abandonment we will be mistaken for God is always with us.

Seeing the apostles’ distress, Jesus climbs into the boat with them and says: Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!  Then Mark reminds us that even though they had witnessed his division of the loaves and fish for thousands of people: They had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.  Jesus does not condemn his closet friends and apostles when he sees they do not understand; but rather he steps into the boat to calm their fears.

Matthew (14:22-33) begins his recollection of this event by borrowing from Mark and then adds one of his special stories about Peter, the man who becomes the cornerstone of the church.  Matthew affords us the opportunity to – like Peter – step out of the boat to walk toward the shimmering vision.  He offers us the chance to step out of safety into the turbulent sea of life.  He reminds us that when the waters begin to swamp the vessel, we may want to do the surprising . . . step into the uproar rather than hide quaking in the gunwales of the ship.

Advent is a time of praying, reflecting, preparing to step out into the turmoil.  It is a time to put aside fears to tend to the truly eternal: time spent in pondering The Word in the form of scripture, thanksgiving shown for miracles already received and yet to be received; fidelity and constancy as the foundation of our lives . . . courage and fidelity leading us to serenity and trust in God.  When we feel our boat rocking, rather than allowing our fear to take us over, we are heartened when we truly hear today’s story.

So let us pray:  Advent is a time of wonder.  Advent is a time of surprises.  Advent is a time of being open to newness and outrageous possibilities.  Advent is a time to step out of the boat in faith to walk – unbelievably and impossibly – on a surface which ought not support us.  Let us walk away from fear . . . toward the one who does not let us fall. 

During the storms, Jesus is really quite near, moved with compassion when he sees our suffering.  Rather than cry out anxiously from our hiding place, let us step out of our little craft and out of our old habits.  Let us step into something new . . . a freedom of complete trust in the hand of our maker . . . the hand that is always extended to meet us.  Let us step into the surprise.

Adapted from a Favorite written on December 6, 2008.

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god listensTuesday, November 4, 2014

Psalm 66

Praise of Goodness

But truly God has listened . . .

There are so many times when we feel as though we are abandoned or that our petitions go unattended; yet we cannot know or understand the mind of God.  This psalm is divided into two distinct sections: thanks for God’s power that has saved the nation, and an individual vow to thank God in a liturgical rite.  The entire psalm focuses us on the necessity of thanking God properly because he has arrived as our savior – a foreshadowing of Jesus’ human presence among us.  Footnotes connect us with Paul’s letter to the Romans 12:1 and 6:5-8 in which we read that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices before God, just as Christ has done for us.  (THE PSALMS 165)  The psalmist here does not complain of the difficulties suffered; rather, he sees them as part of a required rite of passage, as a stage in his discipleship, as a badge of honor.

But truly God has listened . . .

Giving thanks – even for the difficulties we have just undergone – is our appropriate stance in all things.  Paul reminds us through the Thessalonians, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.  Do not put out the spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.  Test everything.  Hold onto the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18-24)

It is not until a storm has been safely weathered that we can see where we have arrived.  It is not until we have lost what we thought was ours that we understand what we fully have.  It is not until we suffer that we become wholly understanding of the force of goodness; and it is not until we experience evil that we altogether understand the necessity for and the magnitude of God’s goodness in the world.  While we are undergoing trial we can barely breathe and we can think of nothing but survival; but after crisis mode, we must always re-set our markers and look carefully at our new surroundings . . . otherwise we might miss the fact that truly God has listened . . .

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 165. Print.

A Favorite written on October 30, 2009. 

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Age-Old Love


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

gods_love3Jeremiah 31:1-14

Finally a respite from the torrent appears in Jeremiah’s prophecy.

With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you and you will be rebuilt.

There comes a moment when we can stand no more; and it is, gratefully, at that moment when the light pierces the darkness. It is, thankfully, at that moment when we hear our reprieve; and it is, mercifully, in that moment that there comes an awakening. Gates that held back emotion at last fly open . . . and we hear the good news of return.

Age-Old Love

Weary from the road, the faithful take refuge.

Worn by the journey, the remnant tumbles into uncertain shelter.

Still cowering beneath the whip of the uncaring, the dry-eyed seek cover to wait as the worst of the nightmares arrives.

Roaring winds of flying bits torment the skin and yet . . . 

From the maelstrom comes the smallest of voices announcing the greatest of loves.

Seeking, searching, never tiring.

Calling, looking, always enduring.

For thus says the Lord . . . words whisper against the rising wind . . . 

Again you will plant vineyards and gather in the wheat.

Once more you will strike the festal tambourine. 

With dance and with song you will celebrate.

With reconciliation and with joy you will finally rest.

Behold, says the Lord . . . words curl into ears longing for respite . . .

I will bring you back.

I will deliver my faithful remnant.

I will heal your wounds and restore you to your place.

This I promise!

For with grain and with wine I restore you.

With infinite mercy I redeem you.

With an age-old love I have loved you.

As I love you still.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bedouin Tent in the Sahara

Bedouin Tent in the Sahara

Jeremiah 30

A Cry of Dismay

In this portion of Jeremiah’s prophecy we have a reprise of oracles already spoken. Perhaps we need to hear this message once more. We have heard and read these words and yet . . . do we fully comprehend God’s promise?

The Old Testament God unleashes the storm upon those who have fallen away from the covenant. God guides, admonishes and protects. The New Testament God lives our trial with us. Jesus heals, restores and redeems. The Spirit comes to live within each of us to console, fortify and counsel.

Let us spend some time today with these verses so that we might more fully understand. Read the four Bible versions on the scripture link above, or choose others from the drop-down menus on the scripture site. Listen for God’s unique response to our own cry of dismay, and determine to rest in the peace that only God can give.

A cry of dismay we hear; fear reigns, not peace.

Be not dismayed. Behold, I will deliver you from the far-off land.

You shall again find rest, for I am with you.

“The outcast” they have called you, “with no avenger”.

See! I will restore the tents of Jacob.

When I summon you, you will approach me.

You shall be my people, and I will be your God.

See, the storm of the Lord!

When the time comes . . . you will fully understand.

To read a blog post on women in scripture dwelling in tents, click on the image above or go to: http://www.womeninthescriptures.com/2012/05/dwelling-in-tent.html

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A Great Calm


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Delacroix: Christ on the Sea of Galilee

Delacroix: Christ on the Sea of Galilee

Mark 4:37-41

A Great Calm

As we move through Jeremiah’s prophecy we may feel as though we are tossed by a violent squall, our little ship of life rolling up and down thundering waves. When we feel swamped, we panic. When lightning flashes, our spirit fades. Looking for a break in the cloud cover or searching for the slightest sign of sunlight from beyond the glowering clouds, we might feel as the apostles did when they called out: Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.

Our personal and public lives are jammed with the minutiae of a modern life. Newsfeeds, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, the Blogosphere all fill our waking and sleeping thoughts whether consciously or subconsciously.  Friendly resources have become too much information, but turning off the inflow only serves to isolate us. And we are filling up. Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

We look for a leader who will solve the world’s problems. We look for the seer who might tell us how to maneuver the difficulties we see looming like the giant waves of the storm-tossed sea. We look for the teacher who will show us wisdom.

Jesus rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”

We look for the pill that will ease our tension. We look for the possession that will fulfill our need. We look for the status that will give us security.

The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

In struggling with the details we miss the bigger picture. In cutting down the saplings we miss the enormous trees. We upbraid ourselves and others for all that is lacking only to miss all that is there.

Here_Today-Gone_TomorrowThey were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even the wind and sea obey?”

Let us also be filled with awe at the impossible that God brings into our lives. Let us also be filled with wonder at the mystery and beauty of God’s love. Let us nourish the gift of faith we are given – no matter how small or struggling. When we flounder, let us sing out to the Teacher that we are perishing. When we are full of anxiety or fear, let us be ready to hear God’s word: Quiet! Be still! Why are you terrified? I am the one whom even the wind and the sea obey.

And let us be prepared for the great calm that will always follow the violent squall.

Enter the word storm into the blog search bar and reflect on the times that God has quieted the squalls of our lives.

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The Lord Surrounds Us


peter-feed-my-sheepThursday, July 31, 2014

Psalm 125

The Lord Surrounds Us

We too often allow life’s struggles to surround us while we neglect the one who created us, the one who guides us, the only one who can protect us from the buffeting squalls of life.

The Surrounding

Those who trust in the Lord are like seeds on the heavy wind.

They know the Creator will bring them to a fertile place of rest.

The Lord surrounds the faithful as surely as the waves return to shore.

God will keep their land safe from the withering sun and not permit their fragile shoots to be washed away before they take root.

The Lord will not disappoint their fragile hope.

Reward, O Lord, those who listen to the gentle voice in the turbulence of life’s storm. Reward those who hold fast.

Peace be upon those who put down firm roots in God’s loving grace.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

120578004.0sKwzibJ[1]Psalm 32:6-7

Songs of Deliverance

Each of your servants prays to you in time of trouble; even if floods come rushing down, they will never reach him.  You are a hiding place for me, you guard me when in trouble, you surround me with songs of deliverance.

The dry wadis flood when sudden rains come upon the unsuspecting traveler.  The psalmist uses an apt metaphor for the troubles that spring on us when we are living ordinary lives in ordinary ways.  During these times God becomes a hiding place, a sanctuary, a refuge from sudden, overwhelming storms.  God guards and protects, encourages and saves.  God calls to us out of the storm, intoning the words of hymns of liberation.   What are these words that are meant to calm crushed spirits, to sooth distraught minds and bring weary bones to new life?

God says: I hear you when you pray to me out of the maelstrom that strikes you – as the storms of life always do – and I long to save you from all that threatens you. Call out to me as the flood waters rise.  Sing out my name when you feel that you are lost.  Ask me for help and I will make a way for you.  When I rebuke the rushing waters that threaten to pull you down into darkness, they will settle at once into a refreshing oasis where you can rest and renew yourself.  Do not fear the swirling waters of life, for I am with you always.  When you call, I will answer.

Jewish_National_Fund_trees_in_The_Negev[1]From Matthew 8:23-27: When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.  And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.  And they came to him and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”  He said to them, “Why are you afraid, oh you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.  The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

When we are surprised by the sudden changes that spring on us, let us call on one whom even the winds and sea obey.  And let us listen for the songs of deliverance that overcome the storm.

Enter the word maelstrom or storm into the blog search bar and reflect on how God saves and liberates us when we ask for help.

For more images of the Hatta Wadi Floods, click on the image above, or go to: http://www.pbase.com/bigrig/image/120578004

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