What if?

14 May

What if the world lived like the scripture passage describes?  Jesus was trying to explain the differences that being one of his disciples would make in a persons life.

Matthew 5:38-48

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

What if we lived like this passage described?

There is a classic quote from Leo Tolstoy, “I set out to change the world, and found I could not;  I set out to change my country and found it too was impossible; I set out to change myself and thought that was enough of a challenge.

The challenge that Jesus places before us is to change ourselves – or more to the point – to allow the Spirit of the Divine to transform us.  It is the only way that any of what is in Matthew 5 is possible.  It is our willingness to let our faith and heart shape the agenda of our days that make is possible to walk the road of faith.

The scripture text above makes no sense in our world – and I hold no hope that it will ever embrace these ideas of submission. Our country was actually founded on the idea of the Holy City of God; however, it has not, nor never did live up to the great hope of a country founded for the planting of God’s kingdom.

We are left with ourselves – which is work enough – to allow the spirit of peace and submission to sink deep into our souls.  It is truly a way of shalom.  If you love those who love you, what reward is that – everybody does it; but to love those who need love desperately that is a gift.  How do we do that?  I have a son who is living a life of addiction.  And I love him and I pray for him and I imagine wonderful things he could do with his life if the addiction did not own him.  Yet, I know he must make his own choices and there is pain for me in watching and waiting; and there is always love.   Is this the love God wants me to have for all of his creation.  To love even in the midst of stupidity; to love through the pain and find peace on the other side of the pain.    I know there is a peace there as well.

I don’t believe the passage in Matthew 5 is there to make us a door mat for people to use, but a person of peace.  That in any and all situations to find the love and grace of the Divine, which is ever present, and share it as best we can.  We are human, yet we can be filled with the Divine presence.  It is a good goal to reach for during this journey of life.  Peace

The beginning and the end

13 May

Good morning,

One of Jesus’ names is Alpha and Omega.   I think it is the nature of our true lives to have our beginning and end in the presence and power of the Divine.  If we begin our days in God’s grace then there is comfort and peace at the end of our days.

Somewhere in my journey of faith I took Paul’s theological reflection on the life and meaning of Christ seriously.

Galatians 2:19-21

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

I have come to believe that I have died with Christ, and my life is no longer my own.  Actually, this is one of the meanings of baptism; that we have been buried with Jesus and risen to new life in Christ.  Usually the power of that symbol is not seen in our churches.

I think if we can wrap our mind around this concept it can be freeing for our lives.  I know that my life is held in God, I know that my death will be held in God, I can just relax and enjoy the daily walk.

I pray you can find the power and peace of this concept from Paul for your lives.

What’s the point?

12 May

Good morning,

Today scripture reading is a long one.  It is the attempted sacrifice of Issac by his father, Abraham.  Probably you know the story of Abraham’s and Sarah’s inability to conceive children, then Issac comes as a surprise in their old age, then God sets the scene for Issac’s ritual sacrifice.  It seems as though these beginning stories of faith really want us to know that God is the author of the chosen people.  It is God choice that these people continue to exist through the line of Abraham to Issac.

For me this text contains an “ah ha” moment.  I came to faith in a conservative theological community.  There was a belief that God knew my entire life, knew everything.  Being a contrary kind of person, this did not set well with me.  Later when I really started to think about the nature of God this omnipotent concept of all power really didn’t make any sense.   So, when I saw the line that the angel says to Abraham as he attempts to kill his son, ” for now I know that you fear God” it was a real ‘ah ha’.  It is the idea of God discovering who we are as we do.  It is an idea that God truly honors our choices and know us because of them.  It is the idea that life is not predetermined, but God is an actor along side of us that shapes each moment as we move into the future.

Many people have written more profound commentaries on this text, but that is mine.  Many people really hate this text because that think it is terrible that God would demand sacrifice (which in fact God didn’t); yet, having raised two boys through teen years and early 20s, I understand.

Tuesday: The example of Abraham   Genesis22:1-19

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies,18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.

I believe God waits for our willing submission.  Not to make us feel like dirt, but so God can be a part of our lives, our decisions, our journey.  It truly is such peace to let go of all the world’s expectations, and internal dialogue, and personal need for fulfillment; to just relax into the arms of God and a child of the Divine.  To just humbly come to God for all things is a wonderful, peaceful, joy.    Peace

Mother’s Day/Submission/Life

11 May

Hello friends,

I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day celebration.  It is ironic that this week begins Richard Foster’s discussion of the discipline of submission.  As I have gone through Foster’s text this time I feel as though it has shaped my life and made it so much better.

The scripture text for Monday is pivotal for the concept of the disciple of submission.

Monday: The example of Christ                             Philippians 2:1-11

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

It is the paradox of our faith that in humbling ourselves we are exalted.  Maybe, you don’t believe this, or have a tough time wrapping your mind around it; but think of Mother’s Day.  It is the nature of motherhood to first give our bodies to another life for 9 months to grow.  During my pregnancy I couldn’t eat sweets because of gestational diabetics, there are others who quit smoking or change something in their lives to make sure the life they are carrying will be OK.

And once the babies are out of our bodies it only get more complicated.  But after 20 years or so most of those people get the hang of clothing and feeding themselves.

I believe that when we can let go of our need to “be heard”, “be right”, “be appreciated”, “be understood”, etc. life gets easier and more enjoyable.  I think that is linked to the discipline of submission.

I am not sure any of this makes sense [but I am letting go of that too].  Talk to God about it.  Enjoy the love that you can share today and know that God pours out a beautiful spirit of love upon you.  Peace

Brave

1 May

I, along with many people, feel in love with Sara Bareilles’ song Brave.  It was written her a friend of hers who was suffering from cancer and struggling with how to talk about her disease.  How do we talk, or not talk, about difficult subjects in our lives.

Each day we watch the news to see how life is going in Baltimore.  In the past have driven through and gotten lost is some of the poorer sections of Baltimore.  I think of the frustration of living and dying and see too many people die young in that setting has fueled the unrest there.  Black Lives Matter.

I have been impressed with many spokespersons for the city who have let us clearly know that the beginning of the eruption was the death of an unarmed, uncharged young man who died of a spinal injury in a police van.

How do we enable ourselves and help others to speak clearly about the angry, frustration and pain that is going on inside of us. So often in this culture we just string a bunch a curse words, and call it communication.  Or, as in Baltimore, set fire to whatever can be found so the outside reality matches the internal rage.

“Brave” by Sara Bareilles

You can be amazing

You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug

You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I think it takes a lot of focus, energy, and clarity with ourselves to speak honesty with others.  I have a little book called, Wisdom of the Desert Fathers.  One of the sayings is; Let your mouth speak the words of your heart.    To be clear and transparent in speech is an ongoing challenge for me.

Finally, I will share a favorite bible verse.  I actually embroidered this on a pillow in my youth.

I John 3:18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

It is my prayer for Baltimore and our world.  Let us love, but not just give lip service to caring, or wanting healing, but in the way we act and what we do.

Peace and blessings.

Praying for Baltimore

28 Apr

Good Morning,

You have probably heard that there were riots in Baltimore last night and too many fires that lit up the night.  In the midst of the violence many Baltimore residents took to the streets to try to calm the city and area clergy walk with them.   This morning, in an interview with one of the pastors, he said that Crypt and Blood gang members walked and prayed with them as well.

Jesus’ concern for Jerusalem has been running through my head.  Jesus loved the city, as all Jews did, yet he saw the unwillingness to address real issues that face them. (Of course the writer of the gospel of Luke has experienced the siege and destruction of Jerusalem).  It is a recurring theme throughout history.  Our cities hold the diversity and injustice of who we are as God’s people in this world.  The richest have the select home near the harbor with a beautiful view and the poorest have broken concrete and decaying building as their only view.    In Luke 19, Jesus expresses his pain over his city.

41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

Baltimore Riot

One of the effects of last night’s riot was that the Orioles baseball game was cancelled.  Many of you know that I love the Orioles, not just because they play great baseball, but because of their leadership.  John Angelos’ comments on the riots is not exception to the greatest of the Orioles organization.

Orioles executive vice president John Angelos:

We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

So, I continue to pray for peace.  There seems to be a conversation emerging about the real issues of injustice and poverty and unemployment and racism.  There is so many levels of problems.  Freddie Gray’s death has sparked a terrible riot, I pray it can begin an important dialogue and change for Baltimore.  Mary

Time off

27 Apr

Good Morning,

My Celebration of Discipline group met yesterday to talk about Solitude.  I really was a good discussion, although we began by agreeing that an afternoon nap might be more helpful.  I was reminded how little time we spend in quite before the Divine.  This is different than meditation.  I think in meditation we try focus our minds; intentional moving towards a link with God.

I think in solitude we just sit – almost like sitting with an empty bucket and waiting for God to fill it.  In solitude we are completely relaxed, not yearning for anything, just waiting.  It is a very restful discipline.  The video we watched pointed out that it is this discipline where all the others arise.  Until we are silent before God, seek solitude with the Divine, we can not discern where God is leading us in our spiritual life.

I enjoy solitude.  It has helped me to not be anxious, be relaxed in the present moment, not need to defend myself or my decision.  It help me to find that holy leisure.

I often think if we are not spending time trying to develop the holy center of our lives, then what are we doing.  Maybe that was what Paul was talking about when he said, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Here’s to a day of being silent before the Eternal Divine in solitude, waiting for our empty bucket to be filled by God.  I really think this empty bucket is better than a bucket list.

Peace

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