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Proverbs 19Advice

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Better a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked in his ways and rich. 

Yesterday we reflected on the paradox present in Jesus’ life and words; today we hear solid advice on the inversion we find between wealth and poverty.  We cannot change our heredity and life’s circumstances are sometimes difficult to accept and navigate; yet somewhere inside us we look and hope for better outcomes than the ones we see looming before us.  We want to change attitudes and behaviors yet all we can change is ourselves . . . and these changes come after much self-examination and brutal honesty.  Life-altering transformation is usually painful, and always worth the struggle when we keep God at the center of all things.

He who gains intelligence is his own best friend; he who keeps understanding will be successful. 

Intelligence and folly are qualities we constantly evaluate in ourselves and others.  We judge; we are judged by others.  Sometimes we are too critical and at other times we discern too little.  We dance between the surface and the depths of our emotions looking for pat answers to complicated questions.  True balance coming from wisdom is rarely found, and always worth nurturing when we stumble upon it.

Humility, fidelity, integrity and understanding . . . pride, anger, deceit and laziness.  Life presents us with lesson plans to identify and sort these qualities, and to cultivate in ourselves and others or to avoid them altogether.

Punishment, instruction, children revering parents, parents respecting children, generations passing along practical advice and warnings so that humanity might improve its lot and learn from our shared experiences.  Some of us are able to learn vicariously; others cannot.

Jesus teaches in parables while the writers of proverbs give us plain, personal, honest views of their lives.  This advice and these warnings come to us not from a sense of superiority or egotism but from a genuine desire to see people progress, and from an authentic love for humanity.

The advice we read in scripture is meant to serve as more than an instrument we might use to avoid the repetition of errors; and it may be difficult to take in and even more difficult to use, but it is something we are free to accept or to decline.  The words we read today – once we make them part of our thinking – have the power to convert our bitterness into joy and our anger into love.  These words – once we use them to construct personal lessons for change – may liberate us from negative thinking; they may forestall unhelpful reactions.  These words may be more important than we know . . . and more significant than we imagine.  We have only to take them in and make them our own.

And so we pray . . .

Dear and good Lord, help us to discern the lesson you have in mind for us today.  Guide us in examining ourselves without creating overwhelming guilt.  Help us to serve as good sounding boards for friends who accompany us on our journey.  Steer me away from arrogance, false witness and rash judgment.  Preserve us from the harmful qualities we read about today: sloth, arrogance, anger, envy, greed, pride, and the temptation to lie. Nurture in us the qualities Jesus shows us always: compassion, constancy, empathy, generosity, humility, and steadfastness.  May we understand that to stand in awe of you and your works is a privilege.  Grant that we understand your mercy and in turn bestow it on others.  May we come to live in your spirit, always taking in the ample advice you give us in our journey home to you.  Amen.


A re-post from September 3, 2011.

Image from: http://covenantofthecross.info/listening-for-god/

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1 Timothy 6:17-19: Going After God

Wednesday, March 14, 2016

Treasure found under water off the Florida coast aboard Nuestra Señora de Atocha

Moving forward in this fourth week of Lent, we explore the demands the Gospel places on us. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges is the call to share all that we have hoarded with those who have little.

Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Jesus says: My children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. This is impossible for human beings but not for God; everything is possible for God. (Mark 10:24-27, Luke 18:24-27, Matthew 19:23-26)

God says: If you fear your wealth separates your heart from mine, then bring that fear to me. If you worry that your good fortune is a sign that you are distant from me, bring that worry as well. Share what you have with prudence. Give what you can without looking for a reward. Answer the call you hear deep within. When you listen with care, you know that I am the one who has graced you with talents to gather the harvest that fills you. Be generous with this gift of my bounty. Remember that nothing destroys the treasure of a generous heart while the treasures of your world quickly fade into nothing.

As we ponder these thoughts, we recall the words recorded by Matthew and Mark, and we go after the challenge offered by our God. For where your treasure, your heart will be there also. (Matthew 6:21, Luke 12:34)

Images from http://www.ancient-origins.net/artifacts-other-artifacts/ten-spectacular-golden-treasures-ancient-world-003826 and http://www.pinsdaddy.com/god-searches-the-heart_JKV0rcfoODqhYfcgpH1Tl8hM0VMhDiKaQmlEhOakqNM/

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Matthew 5:3: The Inverted Kingdom – Part I

Wednesday, January 11, 2017poor-in-spirit

We have heard the words, “Do not fear”. We have struggled to recognize the Christ who accompanies us always. For the next few days we will reflect on the structure of society Jesus proposes when he asks us to forego power and wealth, pleasure and honor. We think through the new Law of Love that supersedes the old Mosaic Law. And we spend a bit of time considering the inverted nature of God’s Kingdom.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NSRV)

This vision of the world sees the broken-hearted as close to God.

Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! (GNT)

This picture of the world sees the broken-hearted as central to God’s design.

Those people who know they have great spiritual needs are happy. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them. (ICB)

This view of the world sees the wealth as non-essential in God’s plan.

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (MSG)

This picture of the world sees wealth as a barrier to intimacy with God.

The Gospels show us how God’s Word walks among the poor in spirit. They show us that Jesus makes a choice to dwell with the lame, the mourning, the betrayed and the ignored. They show us that the Spirit is always hovering along the margins of society, rather than with those who hold great amounts of wealth.

How do we see ourselves as fitting into God’s designs and plans?

When we compare varying versions of this verse, we open ourselves to the joy of living in poverty with Jesus and the millions of poor who people the earth. 

For more on Jesus’ teaching and experience on poverty, click on the image above or  visit: http://stevesbasics.blogspot.com/2013/11/blessed-are-poor-in-spirit.html

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Psalm 49: Self-Rescue

Sunday, August 28, 2016psa-49-15-ww-stock-9x

Yesterday we heard from Peter about sloppy living; today we hear the psalmist’ words on the foolishness of trusting in wealth. Today we pray Psalm 49 using THE MESSAGE translation and we open ourselves to the understanding that God alone saves, God alone transforms, God alone gives us the gift of eternal life.

The psalmist prepares us to hear words that save.

Listen, everyone, listen—
    earth-dwellers, don’t miss this.
All you haves
    and have-nots,
All together now: listen.

The psalmist delivers words that calm.

So why should I fear in bad times,
    hemmed in by enemy malice,
Shoved around by bullies,
    demeaned by the arrogant rich?

The psalmist sings verses that reveal.

Really! There’s no such thing as self-rescue,
    pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
The cost of rescue is beyond our means,
    and even then it doesn’t guarantee
Life forever, or insurance
    against the Black Hole.

The psalmist speaks verses that ring true.

Anyone can see that the brightest and best die,
    wiped out right along with fools and dunces.
They leave all their prowess behind,
    move into their new home, The Coffin,
The cemetery their permanent address.
    And to think they named counties after themselves!

The psalmist declares truths that are evident.

So don’t be impressed with those who get rich
    and pile up fame and fortune.
They can’t take it with them;
    fame and fortune all get left behind.
Just when they think they’ve arrived
    and folks praise them because they’ve made good,
They enter the family burial plot
    where they’ll never see sunshine again.

The psalmist proclaims words we will want to sing out together as we give thanks for God’s gifts of assurance, redemption, and rescue.

Listen, everyone, listen—
    earth-dwellers, don’t miss this.
All you haves
    and have-nots,
All together now: listen.

Compare this translation with others to better understand the psalmist’s message.

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wisdom characterSaturday, June 14, 2014

Ecclesiastes 14:20-15:10

Achievement

Every achievement rots away and perishes, and with it goes the author.

This is difficult for us to hear.

Happy the one who meditates on wisdom, and reasons with good sense, who studies her ways in the heart, and ponders her secrets.

This is news we will want to take in.

Happy the one who pursues wisdom like a hunter, and lies in wait by her path; happy the one who peeps in at her windows, and listens at her doors, the one who lodges close to her house and fixes pegs on her walls.

This is advice we will want to ponder.

Happy the one who pitches a tent in wisdom’s shade, and camps beneath her branches; this one is sheltered from the heat, and in her glory this one makes a home.

We will want to consider where we dwell and think about where we hang our coat.

Whoever is in awe of the Lord will act like this, and whoever grasps the Law will have wisdom. She will come to meet this one like a mother, she will receive this one like a virgin bride.

We will want to consider where and if we have wisdom and if the wisdom we claim brings us peace.

Wisdom will give her children the bread of understanding and water to drink. The one who leans on wisdom will not fall or be put to shame. Wisdom raises us above our neighbors and opens our mouths when we stand before the assembly. Fools and sinners will not have possession of wisdom or even set their eyes upon her. Wisdom stands remote from pride, and liars cannot call her forth. Praise is unseemly in a sinner’s mouth, since it is not put there by the Lord. For praise should be uttered in wisdom since that is when the Lord calls it forth.

wisdom specsWisdom comes not from achievement, power, wealth or influence. True wisdom comes from God alone and she cannot be purchased, coerced or manipulated. Today we learn that the source of wisdom is no mystery. Once we find her . . . let us do all that we can to remain in her. For this is an achievement that will never fail.

To open deeper meaning in this scripture adaptation, click on the scripture link above and compare versions. Consider where we look for wisdom. Examine how and why we find wisdom. And determine when and with whom we act in wisdom.

 

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Imperishable_Seed[1]1 Peter 1:23

Imperishable Seed

You have been born anew, not from perishable but imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God . . .

We yearn for immortality and yet we are immortal.  We want to leave a mark that generations to follow recognize and yet we are part of a chain that has no end and no beginning.  We amass material goods thinking to make ourselves secure and yet we receive the gift of eternal guidance and care from the moment of our inception.  We ask God for endless gifts that in the end will gain us nothing and yet we ignore the gift of God’s presence that brings us surety, eternity and serenity.   We plant perishable seed and leave the imperishable seed to languish.

God says: Comfort, peace, stability.  These are the imperishable gifts that many of you struggle to gather about you and to pass on to loved ones. Fame, fortune, power.  These are the perishable seed that others of you covet, gather, sow and reap.  What you do not see is something that Nature is constantly teaching.  What you sow, you will also reap.  When you control loved ones they pull away from you leaving you alone. So who is left to you?  When you amass wealth you leave little for others.  So who abides with you?  When you cause chaos and fear you sow distrust and anxiety. So who remains with you?  And what is your legacy?  You have within you my comfort, peace and stability.  If it is fame you seek above well-being you will be disappointed.  If it is power you seek before stability you will be disillusioned.  If it is fortune you want rather than peace you will be frustrated. You need not amass anything.  You already have and already are what you seek.

We have surety in that God nerve waivers from the lesson of love.  We have eternity in our union with God.  We have serenity in our relationship with God.  These gifts are indescribable.  They are given to us freely.  All we need to is follow, love one another, and trust in God.

For another reflection on this verse, click on the image above or go to: http://gdwm.org/index.php/2012/03/imperishable-seed-2/

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

During Schumacher's expedition, a rare seal was found with the inscription: "To Shema slave of Jeroboam". This may be King Jeroboam II from 750BC.

During Schumacher’s expedition, a rare seal was found with the inscription: “To Shema slave of Jeroboam”. This may be King Jeroboam II from 750BC.

Amos 4

Impiety Rebuked . . . Restoration

Amos does not mince his words or couch them in easy metaphors; we can see why he was rejected.  His message struck too quickly and too closely to the heart of those who by their actions did not live out the Mosaic Law of honoring the one true God.  Amos lived during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.E.) and he pronounced his prophecy at the cult center of Bethel until the priest who was in charge of that royal sanctuary expelled him.

At this time, the northern kingdom of Israel had separated from the southern one of Judea and when we read closely we can see that the priests and the wealthy had succumbed to the lure of the power and control which their office as sacred ministers and leaders afforded them.  Stated bluntly, they abused the gift and power given to them.  They were more concerned about maintaining their control on the temple income derived from the people who brought their offerings as a part of their attempt to seek penance and union with God.  The priests of Israel (the northern kingdom, also Samaria) had separated from Jerusalem (the southern seat of power and worship) and loved their position of wealth, plenty and power.  Amos rebukes these fat, contented people just as Jesus did when he ejected the moneychangers from the temple.

Amos always understands that this perversion of the law is not permanent . . . as much as those in power may wish it to be.  Amos knows that Yahweh will use this harm that the corrupt inflict on those over whom they have control . . . and he knows that Yahweh will turn this harm to good, just as he does with all things that are corrupting.  Yahweh will use these stubborn acts of blindness and perversity to bring about restoration and ultimate union with God.

As with all prophets, Amos is reluctant to speak when called by God . . . yet speak he does . . . and oh, so beautifully.  “His style is blunt and even offensive”.  (Senior RG 362)  He begins chapter 4 by calling the wealthy women cows, the wife of the priest, Amaziah, a harlot.  “He is a prophet in the mold of Elijah, whose denunciations come close to cursing”.   He saw himself as a poor shepherd and farmer with no influence and therefore saw no need to speak softly . . . as he did not expect to be heard.  Amos pronounces doom on those who do not hear and those who are blind to their own actions, and then he goes back to his sheep and sycamores.

Amos’ offer of hope springs not from the idea that this doom and catastrophe for the controlling classes can be avoided, for it is clear that disaster is looming and in fact it does arrive in the form of the Assyrian invasion.  No, the hope that Amos offers lies in the fallen hut of David, the Messiah who is to come . . . Jesus.   Amos tells and foretells those who have ears to listen that we rebuke those who live in flagrant violation of the covenant and then we watch in hopeful waiting for the one who will come to deliver the justice that is so desperately needed.  We wait in joyful expectation the kingdom where compassion and mercy merge with justice and righteousness, where we both rebuke and remain open to wonderful possibilities that can come only with tremendous hope.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 22, 2007.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 362. Print.

To read more about Jeroboam II, click on the image above or go to: http://ramsesii-amaic.blogspot.com/2009/10/jeroboam-ii.html

For more on the Megiddo Seal above, go to: http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/megiddo.html

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Cows of Bashan


Friday, September 20, 2013

fat_cow[1]Amos 4:1-2

Cows of Bashan

Hear this word, women of the mountain of Samaria, you cows of Bashan, you who oppress the weak and abuse the needy; who say to your lords, “Bring drink for us!”  The Lord God has sworn by his holiness: truly the days are coming upon you when they shall drag you away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks; you shall go through the breached walls each by a most direct way, and you shall be cast into the mire, says the Lord.

Bashan: the region east of the Sea of Galilee, famous for its rich pasture and fattened herds, to which Amos likens the indolent women of Samaria.” (Senior cf. 1129)

“The phrase ‘cows of Bashan’ was therefore a harsh but fitting symbol for Israel’s wealthy, pampered, self-indulgent women, who maintained their lifestyles by exploiting the poor and speaking demandingly – even to their husbands”. (Zondervan cf. 1451)

God says: You only deceive yourselves when you insist on having your own way.  You win petty arguments yet lose your soul.  You bully and browbeat yet you throw away your heart.  You adorn yourselves with fake jewels yet you toss out my love like the scraps of a meal. 

Amos speaks to people who believe they are immune to any negative consequence.  They store up wealth against difficult days; they cultivate political alliances to protect themselves from civil turmoil; they love little but themselves and think nothing of their neighbors.  Amos warns.  Yet the warning goes unheeded.

 Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1129. Print.   

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1451. Print.

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In All Ways


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cornwall, England: Glendurgan Gardens

Cornwall, England: Glendurgan Gardens

Proverbs 3:5-8

In All Ways

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; in all your ways be mindful of God, and God will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil; this will mean health for your flesh and vigor for your bones.

We need not over-simplify or over-complicate our relationship with God.  The formula for eternal success is simple: trust God, rely on God’s wisdom, practice humility, avoid what we know to be wrong, and love God with all that we have and all that we are.  This brings us peace and energy.  This brings us health and a wealth that cannot be measured.

God says: I know that when you are frightened or weary or confused you want to rely solely on your own resources and yet even your greatest stores have limits.  I am limitless. I know that when you are happy, relaxed and content you forget to invite me into your celebration and yet your joy is incomplete if you forget me.  I want to accompany you in your sorrow; I want to join you in your delight. Trust in me.  You need no other strength.  Believe in me.  You need no other god.  My strength and serenity have unbounded depth and breadth and height.  My love knows no bounds.  Your body, heart, mind and soul will rest well when they rest in me.

In all ways we are to be mindful of God for what we now see as crooked we will then see as straight.  In all ways we are to trust God for what we now experience as a labyrinth of sorrow we will come to know as the Kingdom of God.  In all ways let us turn to God.

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