Daily Wonder 7-31-13

Faith is a bird that feels dawn breaking and sings while it is still dark.
—Rabindranath Tagore

Thought for the Day: Sometimes I become frustrated by the darkness in our world, unhealthy and forget that dawn is breaking. But the world is so polarized now. The far left and far right (in every country) have together stifled any chance of progress in healthcare, find education, government reform, global political and economic relationships, etc. Those of us who can always see the middle ground have been silenced by the outrageous voices on the fringes of politics and religion. And so we suffer through an even longer, darker night.

But then, just when it seems everything is pointless, God once more tugs at my heart. My faith in a God of loving justice and mercy begins to work through my being. I have tremendous faith in the one God of the Universe who is always working righteously: with fairness, justice, and universal love. For my agnostic friends out there, this doesn’t mean I expect God’s hand to reach down and fix everything in one sudden movement. For me, faith is much, much deeper than that. My faith is in an ordered universe in which everything is constantly moving towards love—slowly, sub atomically, quite naturally, but always in motion, and always towards unity.

We were made to love completely, always guided by God to enlightenment, always being led by God out of this long, dark night of our soul. There is an alarm ringing in the world right now. Do you hear it? More importantly, will you respond with love?

Prayer: Touch our hearts, Holy god, and melt away our hubris and pride. Let the real work of loving each other begin, so we might finally awaken from this too-long slumber, and be stunned into your light. Enlightened, at long last, for good, for all, for the good of us all. Amen.

Daily Wonder 7-30-13

Scripture: James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the word, viagra and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Thought for the Day: Ah, search sweet James, ever the man of action. He quickly tired of people who claimed to be followers of Christ, but never put his teachings into practice. For James, if you have faith, you’re compelled to act as Jesus did: feeding the hungry, standing up for the oppressed, fighting for justice through enlightenment of the species. But James and Paul both run across people who find it easier to talk the talk than walk the walk. Over time, I think this attitude had a lot to do with Jesus becoming less the example we are to follow and more the intercessor to God we are supposed to pray through. After all, it’s easier to pray to Jesus than to actually live his life of sacrifice. James saw this development within 100 years of Jesus’ death, and it upset him tremendously.

Jesus calls us all to a drastically different way of life. It demands we completely change our skin and step into a brand new concept of what it means to be human. Jesus’ way turns everything we thought about humanity and human institutions on it’s head. Instead of greed and profit motive, we are motivated by selflessness and a desire to stand up for the oppressed. Instead of hoarding away goods and money, we willingly and happily share with each other, because the Jesus Way means if one of us is hungry, we’re all hungry; if one of us is homeless, we’re all homeless; if one of us is disenfranchised, we’re all disenfranchised.

It is a difficult path indeed, but Jesus never said changing the world would be easy.

Prayer:  Help me put Jesus’ words into action today, Holy God. May I be patient, wise, understanding; compassionate, selfless and helpful to everyone I meet. May you ignite the holy spark within us all, so that our faith leads us to think and act differently, like our Spiritual Master, Jesus. Amen.

Daily Wonder 7-29-13

Scripture: Exodus 14:31

And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, cheap the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Thought for the Day: Whenever you read the word “fear” in relationship to God, view think of it more as “awe.” There is no need to be afraid of God—“fear of God” is one of those phrases that has a completely different meaning today than in the original language and context, doctor in this case 2600 years ago, in a language that no longer even exists.

The idea that “people feared the Lord” is really more akin to, “people had enormous respect and awe for this powerful entity that freed them from oppression and adopted them as his own.” What an awesome feeling to be adopted by God! So naturally, the people were awe-struck and immediately put all their faith in God.

It seems to me faith is beyond the fear of judgment. Faith is deeper and more meaningful, because faith in God means we have faith in God’s trustworthiness—faith that God WILL NOT condemn us and HAS NOT condemned us.  Real faith, deep faith, helps us realize the awesome nature of the universe and the God who is, was, and always will be absolutely awe-inspiring.

Prayer: You inspire me to greatness, love, mercy, forgiveness and gratitude, Holy God. I put my faith in you completely, and it changes me forever. Amen.

Daily Wonder 7-26-13

All effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.  — `Abdu’l-Bahá

Thought for the Day:  `Abdu’l-Bahá was the son of the Bahá’í faith’s founder. He and his family grew up in exile, never welcomed in the Ottoman Empire that destroyed their native Persia (and laid the groundwork for all the turmoil in the region today). Bahá’í is built on three solid principles: the unity of God (there is only one God, the source of all things), the unity of religion (all major religions have a common spiritual source; the same God), and the unity of humanity (all humans are created equal, and diversity of race, gender, etc,. should be celebrated). The purpose of humans is to know and love God through prayer, reflection, and service to others. Worship is found in daily acts of selflessness.

Selflessness. It’s the running theme in Christianity and Judaism and Islam, too (and Buddhism, for that matter). When we serve from our heart, when we put the needs of others far and away above our own needs, we make a deep God-connection. Worship is about a love for God that is so intense, it simply compels you to serve others, not steal from them. Worship is about giving all your stuff away, not hoarding it. Worship cannot be found by stealing from the poor and jacking people out of their houses and refusing them healthcare.

Ultimately, it’s our choice: are we going to be the sort of person who does our best to work from higher motives of selflessness, or are we going to be greedy, loud, obnoxious louts, willing to hold up progress and maintain oppression of the poor for our own selfish reasons, all while claiming “that’s the way God wants it”? The former is what I expect from people who call themselves religious. The latter is what I expect, unfortunately, from Congress.

Prayer: Soften the hearts of those who would claim to speak for you, Holy God, and help us all realize that the truest way to you is through selfless service to our brothers and sisters in need all over the planet. Amen.

Daily Wonder 7-25-13

Scripture: Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, rx since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, help let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Thought for the Day: “God is a consuming fire.” Until you’ve experienced that, it’s hard to explain, isn’t it? Do you remember that first moment you sort of awakened and had that “ah-ha!” moment with God? It is an all-consuming moment, frozen in time by the fire that never consumes. It’s intense and amazing. I know you’ve had an experience like that. We’ve all had experiences like that. The question is, did we notice? Did we embrace the change, or did fear cause us to ignore God’s invitation to become even more intimately involved with the universe?

Were we in awe when we realized God not only existed, but was somehow activating every cell of our bodies with completely new programming, showing us a bigger picture of the universe, of being? It’s all consuming, this new sense God reveals, during, and forever after the experience. It changes our attitude about what it means to exist completely. IT causes us to look ay everyone on the planet as a relative. Personally, it keeps me in a near-constant state of deeply grateful awe.

Prayer: Endless God of all being, you fill me with wonder! Infinitely unfathomable, intimately loving, you constantly permeate our consciousness, changing us, teaching us, expanding our hearts. Expand my heart today, dear God. Expand the world’s heart. Amen.

Daily Wonder 7-24-13

Scripture: Isaiah 35:1-2
Let the desert and dry region be happy;
let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily!
Let it richly bloom;
let it rejoice and shout with delight!

Thought for the Day: There are many deserts and droughts in our lives. Everything is cyclical. At one time or another, troche every region on earth has been a lush, verdant oasis, a dry, lifeless sandbox, or an ice-covered winter wonderland. For us human types, when we’re in the deserts of our lives, we can lapse into depression and wallow in self-pity. But these are the times to remember that despite the winters of our lives, God is with us, and that presence makes us rejoice, remember, and reunite with the One power of the universe. It’s when we are deep in the wilderness of human life that we most need to let God richly bloom in our lives. And the easiest way to do that is to simply let it be, let go of our mental machinations, and let God fill our souls. Then, we can’t help but rejoice and shout with delight!

Prayer: Fill me up, Lord, for it is you who guides me, you who loves me, and you who inspires me to dance and sing, every day, every moment of my life. Amen.

Daily Wonder 7-23-13

Scripture: Nehemiah 12:27-29
At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, thumb the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, unhealthy harps and lyres. The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem—from the villages of the Netophathites, clinic from Beth Gilgal, and from the area of Geba and Azmaveth, for the musicians had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem.

Thought for the Day: One of the jokes among musicians is that wherever we perform, we enter through the kitchen or the loading dock, never through the front door. As a professional musician most of my life, no matter where I played, from the Ritz Carlton in Naples to the Hong Kong Performing Arts Center, I loaded equipment around back, out of sight from the attendees.

It appears things weren’t much different in the ancient world, either. Most musicians of the 5th Century BCE (when Nehemiah was likely written) lived outside and around major cities like Jerusalem. The villages spoken of in Nehemiah were also trade schools, where the people of Jerusalem would send their children to learn a musical skill (Cymbal Clanging 101, anyone?).

Music has always been an integral part of human worship, whether we simply use our voices, bang on hollow logs, or use more complicated instruments like lyres and harps (the guitars of their era). When we make music (even if we make it badly), we are connecting to God in a powerful and deep way, because creativity comes from God to us, and through us to the world. We are the music of the spheres, we are God’s universal instruments.

Prayer: Make me your instrument of beautiful melody and uniting harmony, Holy God who composes all reality. Amen.

Daily Wonder 7-22-13

Scripture: 2 Samuel 6:5
David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, buy cialis with castanets, pilule harps, store lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

Thought for the Day: I took a break from the Daily Wonder last week to attend a celebration at the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly in Orlando. I was honored to be part of the music team the first couple nights as well, and we made joyous music for God. For me, playing music creates an intense God connection. Worshipping with several thousand others is also a powerful experience. In the biblical era, people celebrated their relationship with God joyously, making music with anything they had available (for the most part percussion instruments). They sang and danced and gave thanks to a God who, time and time again, led them out of captivity.

In our modern era of worship, we follow traditions and worship formats (liturgies) that have been handed down over the centuries. Many of these traditions are absolutely wonderful ways to connect with God, but many are vestiges of another time, and are devoid of the sort of joy a relationship with God should bring our lives.

I think we’ve also forgotten that worship can and should take place outside the church walls too. So the next time your favorite God-connecting song comes on the radio (and this can be a secular song as well as a worship song), turn it up and sing out to God at the top of your lungs, or play the drums on your dashboard (please don’t drive while you’re doing this)! Even if you’re a terrible singer (like me), it still feels great to make a joyous noise to God.

Prayer: Creative God, who invented the music of the universe, fill me with your tune and I will joyously sing it back to you. Amen.