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The Wisdom Tree

Proverbs 28Seek Prudence

Friday, November 17, 2017

So many wise thoughts.

The wicked are more frightened than the good.

Security happens through prudence rather than force.

Wealth is a deluge that wipes out everything rather than nourish as does a constant rain.

Happiness lies in true integrity; truth to self is a worthy companion and leads to wisdom.

Happiness lies in seeking justice through the law, rather than force.

Gluttony is an excess of nourishment and has outcomes other than physical obesity.

Take advantage of people if you like but in the end someone will distribute all that you have saved to those who have nothing.

When we pray outside of the God’s law of love, we actually pray to the darkness.

Those who seduce the innocent are constructing their own gibbet, while the innocent will be rescued.

Self-importance is false value; everyone else sees the self-conjurer behind the façade (or the wizard behind the curtain).

We all know when incompetent people are in charge . . . even the incompetents themselves.

We might as well admit our faults; they will be pointed out to us anyway.

Happiness lies in softening our hearts.

People know evil when they see it.

Being idle is a dangerous pastime.

Happiness lies in being worthy of trust; not in money or possessions.

Happiness lies in total commitment and fidelity to the law.

Greed is its own terrible all-consuming end.

Happiness lies in knowing when and how to rebuke a brother or sister with love rather than seeking a relationship through flattery.

Happiness lies in seeking and receiving wisdom.

Happiness lies in following the way of the just, even when evil reigns.

When we seek wisdom, we find it in all that is good.

Adapted from a Favorite written on November 4, 2007.

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Nehemiah 9:12: Pillar and Cloud – A Reprise

Saturday, October 21, 2017

In this chapter of the Nehemiah story, the people returning from exile have seen the great light of God’s persistent love for them. They recall the promise of this love, and they vow to act for and through it.

With a column of cloud you led [your people] by day, and by night with a column of fire to light the way of their journey, the way in which they must travel.

This ancient image of God leading and protecting, guiding and guarding, is one we modern humans can keep close and cherish.  It relieves us of the burden that comes with thinking that we are in charge.  It soothes us with the knowing that God is present, attentive and alert each morning as we rise into the day and each evening as we retreat into the night.

God says: I love to watch over you as you sleep.  I love to nudge you into my way each day of your journey.  I love to protect you.  I love to travel with you.  There is no danger that I fear.  There is no obstacle I cannot overcome.  There is no challenge too great.  There is no prayer too small.  It is my greatest desire to bring you into union with my Word.  It is my delight to see you treading with prayer on the Way I have set before you.  You are the dearest child of my heart.  Do not fear this day.  Sleep well this night.  I am as gentle as the vapor of the clouds and as fierce as the flames of the fire tornado.  And I am with you always . . . even to the end of time.

Our God appears to us as a vulnerable child who needs protection and guidance from his earthly parents; and yet it is the grown and matured man who heals, protects and guides us, his adopted sisters and brothers.  Jesus lives a life that is both kind and just, and his actions are a clear demonstration of God’s love for each of us.  We must learn to trust this marvelous, mysterious love.

Enter the word trust in the blog search bar and examine how, and who, and what, and why we trust.

For a reflection on Nehemiah 9, visit the  Confession  post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/12/30/confession/

The cloud image above is from the Pinch of Grace blog that is no longer active. 

For a BBC video of a rare fire tornado in Brazil in August of 2010, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11086299

A Favorite from July 15, 2013.

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Judges 14 and 15: Philistines

Saturday, June 24, 2017 

Alexandre Cabanel: Samson and Delilah

A few days ago we reflected on the story of Samson and Delilah; today’s we consider our lack of understanding that God frequently uses surprising people and circumstances to bring God’s plan to fruition.  In Samson’s early life, we read that he wants to marry a young woman who was not a member of one of the seven non-Israelite tribes with whom the people of Israel were permitted by their Law to marry.  Looking at verse 4, we see that Samson’s desire to marry this young woman is upsetting to his parents – as it would be to a believing Jew – yet it will be used as part of God’s plan to save the faithful.  Now his father and mother did not know that this had been brought about by the Lord, who was providing an opportunity against the Philistines; for at that time they had dominion over Israel.  This story, therefore, today tells us something important which is . . . we never know how or when God will use unexpected people and circumstances in our lives to bring about his plan.  Sometimes we must marry a Philistine. 

The long story of Samson tells us about how people will want to control divinity rather than learn how to be a part of it.  We see in the unraveling of these plots to harness Samson that these people misunderstand how God works.  In the end, the wicked will fall by their own hand, and any harm they have leveled against the faithful will be used for good, but – and this is so important – with the consequences they had planned for others falling on them.

If we are patient, we begin to understand how Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman plays out not only in Samson’s life but in the life of the community as well.  What happens to this woman, what happens to her family, and how Samson arrives at being one of a series of Israelite Judges is a story that unfolds in a string of twisting, unpredictable events.  All of this leads to the saving of a people, a nation, and a way of living that God has marked as special.  These ironies and turnings are not a jumble of calamities; rather, they are God’s plan to open us to eventual results that no one dreams possible . . . except for God and those who believe and trust in God.  Today we see that God makes the impossible possible.

Both this story of the young Samson, and the story of his relationship with Delilah are the same metaphor: Samson poses a riddle and is betrayed by someone whom he loves and trusts; the resulting reprisals end in Samson displaying his trust in God alone.  Even though he may possess the strength of a thousand, only God saves him; he cannot save himself.  Eventually with his death in Gaza, Samson kills more Philistines in one final act than he ever did in his lifetime.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 8, 2009.

Tomorrow, the Philistines in our lives.

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1 Peter 2:4-9: A Living Stone

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2017

Today Peter says to us,

Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable.

We reflect on the times we have rejected the Word that has come to us through the voices and actions of others; and we remember the times we are rejected when we struggle to bring light to darkness.

God says,

I chose a valuable stone,
    which I am placing as the cornerstone in Zion;
    and whoever believes in him will never be disappointed.

We examine the strength of our faith in Christ as the Living Stone, the foundation of the new temple in which each of us is invited to join Christ as living stones raising thanks to God.

Isaiah foretells and Peter repeats,

This is the stone that will make people stumble,
    the rock that will make them fall.

We explore the depth of our hope, the strength of our love, the authenticity of our trust and the clarity of our minds as we give our hearts over as Living Stones for Christ.

Peter reminds us,

They stumbled because they did not believe in the word; such was God’s will for them.

As we reflect, we open ourselves to the reality that our stumblings are tumbles into Christ’s arms. Our shortcomings are windows into the New Temple of Living Stones. And our failings are invitations to join Christ as the cornerstone in our new lives of peace.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore thee verses, we recognize the Word and we become more willing to tumble into Christ’s ample, healing and loving heart.

For  better understanding of the city of Zion and what it might represent, visit: http://biblehub.com/topical/z/zion.htm 

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John 20:11-18: Turning Again

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

James Tissot: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Women at the Tomb

In this second week of Eastertide, we spend time with the Gospels of the Easter Octave, the eight days comprising the celebration of Easter. On day three, Easter Tuesday, we heard John’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb. Today we focus on a few details that bring this story alive. First, we chose a translation that speaks to us most clearly, and then we reflect. Today’s verses are from the USCCB site. (This link also contains an audio version.) We may find other versions by using the scripture link and drop-down menus.

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been.

When harsh realities challenge our beliefs and foundation, we mourn our loss, question all that we thought certain, and doubt the facts before us. Do we also look for the angels who move with us through our days? Do we offer our suffering as a sign of our trust in God? Do we fall back on the familiar or move forward in hope?

[Mary] turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

Anger and fear, confidence and mercy. In times of deep stress, the primal parts of our brain take over and we instinctively collapse into familiar patterns of flight and denial, aggression and accusation. Might we practice the art of relying on the positive influences in our lives? When we feel panic and worry taking over, might we remind ourselves to look for Jesus who stands before us . . . even when we do not recognize him?

She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

James Tissot: The Women at Jesus’ Tomb

Our pastor last week, in his morning homily, asked a question we may have been asking ourselves when we look at the detail John provides us. If Mary has already turned away from the empty tomb to look at the man she thinks is the gardener, why does she turn again? And how? When we reflect on these verses, we begin to understand that the second turning is toward a newness in perspective. Mary allows herself to see that the gardener is, in fact, Jesus. Might we follow her example to open our eyes and ears in a new way? Might we have full confidence in the promise of the Christ?

Today we spend time with John’s story of the conversion of Mary at the tomb, and all that followed in the baffling commotion of distrust touched with intense conviction and enduring love. As we read this account today, let us see if we are able to move beyond our anxieties for the world, with the joyful turning of Mary Magdalene.

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Mystery of Trusting Wisdom

The Third Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017

school of Titian Rafael

The School of Titian: Tobias and the Archangel Rafael 

We recall the lessons we learned with these verses yesterday: God is good, we are good, life is brutal and unpredictable but also good because it brings us to God; the faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God.

There is nothing more important to hear, to learn or to repeat to others than the lessons Tobit teaches us today.  All human suffering can be quenched by these precepts.  All human understanding is capable of taking in these ideas; but not all humans have the will to enact what they hear.  That is why we cannot read this story too often.

Wisdom is sometimes defined as patience in the waiting to hear God’s voice.  One definition puts wisdom in its proper place  as coming from God over time – in God’s time and not in our time.  When we think of the wise people we know, we discover that they share a few characteristics in common.

  • Wise people do not often react instantly to an emotional moment; they pause to allow God to speak through them.
  • Wise people declare their thoughts with the wisdom of ages; they have spent a good portion of their lives with and in scripture.
  • Wise people display a certain amount of serenity; they know that all that surrounds them is not real, the justice of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people do not regularly become impatient; they understand that we are here to practice for that which is real, the love of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people display and embody empathy; they have suffered a great deal, and they have allowed themselves to be transformed by this suffering.
  • Wise people do not think first of saving themselves; they have made their suffering salvific, and freely give themselves as co-redeemers with Christ.

The wisdom of the book of Tobit is just this kind of wisdom.  In this story, wisdom maintains her mystery; she is seen as the ultimate act of stepping into the abyss with God. The ultimate act of suffering for and through God. The ultimate act of trust in God.

Wisdom rises from suffering, endures in fidelity, heals in love, restores in hope, and lives in trust.  We can never hear this story too often.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

 

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Favor of Providence

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tobias_cura_a_cegueira_de_seu_pai_-_Domingos_Sequeira

Domingos Sequeira: Tobias Heals the Blindness of his father Tobit

As a Noontime companion, you will know that this book is a favorite. This story is full of fidelity, promise, hope, healing, courage, desperation, prayers answered and the mystery of how we gain most in ourselves by trusting God. The story tells us of the importance of the mystery of trust.  We see God move not only through the disguise of the archangel Rafael, but also through people who respond to God’s call . . . even when it places them in danger.

Today’s excerpt is brief but we gain much if we spend some of our time with these verses. They are a wonderful antidote for a dispirited day.  The story reminds us of all the Old Testament foretells, all the prophets predict, all the wisdom books proclaim, and all that Jesus comes to fulfill. We have valuable lessons here. On this second weekend of Lent, we serve ourselves well by reflecting with these verses and taking in their lessons.

First: Tobit shows us that God is good, and we are good. It also shows us that although life is brutal and unpredictable, it is good because it brings us to God.

Second: The faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God. We need to kill people with kindness, we need to make our hearts open and vulnerable to God, we must become Christ’s hands and feet, head and heart through the act of healing one another, and through the act of interceding for one another, even our enemies. 

Tomorrow, we discover how these lessons teach us the importance of the mystery of wisdom and trust. If we take an hour or so to read more than these verses this weekend, we will not regret our decision to use our time in this way.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

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Sirach 51: 13-30: Pursuit of Wisdom – Part I

Thursday, September 1, 2016OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I was young and innocent,
    I sought wisdom.
She came to me in her beauty,

    and until the end I will cultivate her.

We look for wisdom in the obvious places: philosophers, theologians, arcane texts and modern writings. But is she really there?

As the blossoms yielded to ripening grapes,
    the heart’s joy,
My feet kept to the level path
    because from earliest youth I was familiar with her.

We remember the wisdom of childhood joys on a summer day or a winter afternoon. But do we still find wisdom in the simple serenity of living?

In the short time I paid heed,
    I met with great instruction.
Since in this way I have profited,
    I will give my Teacher grateful praise.

I resolved to tread her paths;
    I have been jealous for the good and will not turn back.

We recall the warmth of relationship, the steady trust of the faithful heart. But is this the wisdom we look for today?

Tomorrow, the passion of true wisdom.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore other versions of these verses, we focus on our pursuit of wisdom.

 

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Sirach 8: 1-14: Perplexity


Sirach 8: 1-14: Perplexity

Thursday, August 25, 2016perplexity-20301609

Last year we took a look at Sirach 18 and 19 to focus on the idea of living within our spiritual means much like we strive to stay with our financial means or our physical limitations. We reflected on the idea of having high expectations of ourselves without stressing ourselves beyond our capacity.  As the ancient Eastern proverb says, All things in moderation.  As my Dad used to say, All things, even if they are good things, become bad things when we take them too far.  And that brings us to today, when we ponder this: When human beings have finished they are just beginning, and when they stop, they are still perplexed. The writer Jesus ben Sirach also gives us this to think about: What are human beings, and of what use are they?  What is good in them, and what is evil?  We are also told: The Lord has patience with us because he sees that we are miserable. 

We may or may not agree with these ideas.  We may or may not like the idea that we spend much of our human existence being perplexed.  In communion with our God, we may wish to have more answers, to be more prepared, to receive more information . . . but this is not what our maker expects.  God expects that we go to him when we are in difficult places in our lives – as small children go to their parents – to place their trust in God’s providence.

I have spent my prayer time this weekend with Sirach and today I open scripture to arrive again at a seminal idea in this book: That we are created to love and to be loved, and that God asks us to walk with him, trusting that he knows how and where we are in every moment of our existence.

Being perplexed is not a bad thing when we take our confusion to God before anyone else.  We can remind ourselves of this each time we feel at sea, each moment we experience negative feelings, each hour we spend in grief.

Being perplexed is not a bad thing when we remember that we are children of God . . . and that this God wishes us every good.

A Favorite from August 31, 2009.

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