Month: August 2012
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 2:24-25
People can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, discount I see, treatment is from the hand of God, health for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
Thought for the Day: I’ve met many people throughout my life though who absolutely despised their jobs. Going to work every day was “a grind.” I often think about the opening of the movie “Joe Versus the Volcano,” a dingy, almost black and white opening shot of an endless line of factory workers, slowly shuffling like Zombies along a very crooked path, int0 a job where they are verbally and physically pushed to their limits–perhaps even abused, all while the song “Sixteen Tons” is playing. What do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt, indeed.
The author of Ecclesiastes believes we can find satisfaction in our work—in our lives, when we understand God is continuously working with us and through us, even during (perhaps especially during) the daily grind. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to work just to make ends meet for our families. Too often, we have to work in abusive conditions like the Tomato fields of Immokalee, or the hi-tech production factories in China. When we’re treated more like a slave than a worker, it’s difficult to believe God is present.
Yet, faith in God as our sustainer and redeemer truly does make any drudgery more bearable. God’s presence in our lives give us an incredible lightness of being, which allows us to get through circumstances no human should ever have to deal with in the first place. Faith in Jesus as liberator reminds us that God is always working through others in order to change oppressive systems and bring down ideologies that normalize cruelty and oppression. Ultimately, it’s faith that sees us through, and faith that changes the world.
Prayer: Use me, Just Lord, as a voice of faith in the wilderness, and an arm of truth against the face of institutionalized injustice. May you continue to inspire the entire body of Christ, God most inspiring, as we do the ultimate work of helping to create a fair and just global society. Amen.
Thought for the Day: We’re a work-oriented species, humans. Our drive to do stuff, to make stuff, is sort of a reflection of God’s endlessly creative nature. The universe is constantly forming and reforming, expanding outward to a new frontier. We do the same thing, of course, in our endless quest to explore.
I was reading about a Dutch company that wants to colonize Mars (by turning the entire thing into a TV show), and whether or not they ever make it, the amount of work they’ve put into the plan is pretty impressive.
They’ve designed robotic rovers that will go and prepare the planet for humans. They drop living quarter capsules in, the rovers position them, flick some switches to power them up, then go on doing other work on the surface. It seems like a brilliant plan, but they’re talking about an incredibly complex building process, all done remotely. I have no idea how feasible it really is. I suspect this is some sort of a PR move but hey, at least someone’s dreaming.
I find outer space to be incredibly awe-inspiring. When I see pictures of deep space, I am just overwhelmed by the presence of God. Anytime I see the vastness of outer space, I just know I’m seeing God. Because after all the work and planning are over, when we sit back and take a look at the big picture, God is in the spaces, you know?
Prayer: Glorious Lord, May I find many spaces throughout the day to connect with your infinite power and endless, creative love. Amen.
Scripture: Exodus 31:1-6
The Lord spoke to Moses: See, thumb I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. Moreover, I have appointed with him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they may make all that I have commanded you.
Thought for the Day: All of us have unique physical, mental and spiritual gifts. Most of us aren’t like Bezalel, who is gifted with “ability, intellect, and knowledge of every kind of craft,” (unless you’re Prince or Stevie Wonder, I suppose—those cats are amazing). But the fact most of us excel at one or two things just emphasizes how much we all need to work together. Even Bezalel, with his multitude of Stevie Wonder-ish talents, didn’t build the Temple by himself.
God gives skills “to all the skillful” so that we can work in harmony to create a beautiful tribute to God out of every moment of our lives—a tribute made out of love, the way God makes each and every one of us.
Prayer: May I use the gifts you have graced me with, Lord Most Holy, to create works that glorify your loving presence in our lives, whether I am calculating numbers in a spreadsheet, picking tomatoes in a field, composing a new song, or governing a civilization. Amen.
Scripture: Job 31:13-15
If I have denied justice to any of my servants, hospital whether male or female, medical when they had a grievance against me, what will I do when God confronts me? What will I answer when called to account? Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers
Thought for the Day: Remember when you were a kid, playing with other kids in the neighborhood? Invariably, something would happen—your friend would get two Tootsie Rolls to your one, or your little brother would get the last French fry, and you’d cry out, “That’s not fair!” We have an innate sense of justice, of what’s right. We know we should all be treated equally.
Job had an innate sense of justice. Job knew God as the fiber of his being, and knew that as a God-bearer, he must live up to his end of the covenant with God—he must be fair and loving to all. Even when the world literally goes to Hell for Job, he remains steadfast in his faith. Job never forsakes God and he always treats others fairly. Job would have given everyone two Tootsie Rolls.
We are all made in the image of God, so we are all entitled to respect and a fair shake. Job knew that by treating others with respect and compassion that together, they could achieve incredible feats. I wonder what would happen to the world if one day all 7 billion of us started acting like Job?
Prayer: God of justice, may you whisper into all our ears a reminder of your covenant, which calls us all to accountability for the welfare of our brothers and sisters of all races, genders, economic positions, and sexual orientations. Amen.
Today’s devotional is by Trudy Kellum. Thanks, Trudy!
Scripture: Psalm 51: 10 (NIV)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Thought for the Day: Once when I was applying for a job at a doctor’s office, I was given one of those dreaded personality tests that asked me “Which of these natural occurring objects do you most identify with?” The one that I chose was “weathered pebble at the bottom of a rushing stream.” I knew immediately that my reply was definitely NOT what they wanted to hear.
As they prepared to “x” my name off the list (this was a group interview), they asked me to explain in front of everyone why I chose that answer. I told them that I felt like a weathered pebble because I had been through a lot, but had remained firmly planted even with the issues of life rushing over and around me. They looked surprised at my answer. I got to stay and finish the interview, and actually ended up getting the job. Now, twenty plus years since I identified myself as a weathered pebble, I can safely say that I am a bit more weathered, yet also keenly aware of the spring of life within me that continues to renew and refresh my soul.
I haven’t thought of this camp song in a long time, but it came to mind this morning as I was thinking of God’s spring of life within each of us.
I’ve got a River of Life flowing out of me
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see
Opens prisoners doors sets the captives free
I’ve got a River of Live flowing out of me
Spring up o’ well
with in my soul
Spring up o’ well
and make me whole
Spring up o’ well
and give to me… That life… ABUNDANTLY!
Prayer: Thank you, God of renewal, for refreshing us with Your spirit and love, especially at times when we feel the most weathered. May our lives spill forth with the power and knowledge of Your abundant love. Amen.
Scripture: Isaiah 4:5-6
Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, view a shade by day from the heat, look and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
Thought for the Day: Hurricane Isaac is on the way to Southwest Florida. As we hunker down at the house, illness checking water supplies, candles, and dry goods, I am thankful for the shelter I have. Storms approach and there is nothing we can do about that. But my family and I will be safe because we have shelter and a refuge.
Our human journey is deeply emotional, full of everything from spring showers to full-on hurricanes. We don’t go about our lives like an animal, simply searching for shelter and food. We think, sometimes obsessively, about the situations we find ourselves in (or have placed ourselves in). We worry about the future, about the health of loved ones, and whether or not our kids will grow up to be responsible and compassionate citizens of Earth.
God serves as a spiritual refuge when we are seeking shelter from life’s storms. Like an invisible canopy over all existence, God is our shade in the heat, our shelter in the hurricane. While we can’t prevent the storms in our lives, we can at least rest easy in the knowledge that God is always providing a safe place for us to turn, to vent our fears and frustrations, and ultimately to receive a loving, warm, life-renewing embrace.
Prayer: You are my shelter through all of life’s hurricanes, Holy God of refuge. May I always remember to seek you when my life hits the inevitable storm or two. Amen.
Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-18
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, medical from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, patient according to the riches of his glory, illness he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
Thought for the Day: I love the language of “inner being” and the message of equality that permeates Ephesians. We find strength from God through our “inner being,” our Christ connection within, which lives in our hearts and allows us to look at the world through love.
It’s not always easy, though. It does take faith to ground us in love, and I think grounding is a good analogy. As lightning always seeks the ground, so to does the loving energy of God. We are like lightning rods for God’s unconditional love, receiving God’s energy and channeling it so it grounds our lives in love, compassion, mercy, and graciousness.
Prayer: Make me as a lightning rod that channels your love to the world, most energizing God of all creation. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 111:9
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name.
Thought for the Day: I suppose various traditions have different definitions of covenant, but I’ve always liked the idea that a covenant is a family bond. There is nothing to keep us involved in this bond other than our own will, but whether or not we are actively involved with our families, we cannot break the genetic bond that unites us. Most humans hold the bond of family sacred. We want to help our families, we want to spend time enjoying a feast with them, and we want to support each other in times of need.
So it is with our covenant relationship with God. We are family. It is a bond that can never be broken by either party, no matter how badly either behaves. We love each other unconditionally, and will do anything for each other, anytime. This is why God constantly reaches out, even when we turn away. I think this is why we so often use the analogy of God as a loving parent. The human race too frequently acts like spoiled teenagers, so we imagine God as angry and frustrated with our behavior as we are with our own teenagers from time to time.
We are involved in a permanent, unbreakable, everlasting relationship with the Divine. The very fabric of our being is intrinsically woven from the light threads of God’s consciousness. Just as genetics creates unbreakable physical family relationships, God knits reality together from God’s own form, from God’s own self, so that everything that exists, known and unknown, is quite literally made from God. And that is as intimate and unbreakable as a covenant can possibly be.
Prayer: Awesome God, whose substance constantly creates and recreates my life, may I become ever more aware of my intimate bond with you, and through you to everything and everyone that exists. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 25:4-5
Make me to know your ways, sildenafil O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
Thought for the Day: I’ll be honest—sometimes Seminary wears me out. Our seminary at least (LTS) is built on the time-honored rabbinical tradition of endless prodding and poking of holes into each other’s ideas. It’s fun and always spiritually and intellectually mind-blowing. But it’s also constant. In studying and discussing God, it’s difficult to find quiet time with God.
So I find myself sitting at the Ford dealership this morning. I was here last week as well, and was pleasantly surprised to discover a sea of quiet, calm and serenity. It’s an unexpected place to find a few tender moments with God, to refresh and renew my connection, to allow my mind to absorb some spiritual teachings from both God and seminary.
When God is teaching, I find I am serene, at peace, at One. While Seminary sort of amps me up, God, calms me down. They are both incredible learning experiences. We get a lot of amping up in our society though. So sitting quietly focused on God, letting God reveal whatever God wants to create at that moment? That’s awesome.
Prayer: Help me find the stimulating serenity that comes from waiting for your teaching, Intellect of all Intelligences. May I discover little alcoves of prayer in the ordinary spaces of everyday life. Amen.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3:10-11
According to the grace of God given to me, pilule like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, purchase and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.
Thought for the Day: Paul reminds us not to become entangled in the web of spiritual pride. When Paul first visited the church in Corinth, he taught them the basics, what he referred to as “very simple truths.” But as the church grew and as leaders emerged, some scrambling for rank took place.
Paul wants the congregation to remember that they are all, as we are all, temples for God. The gospel is never about earthly or spiritual riches—including accolades, but rather about the riches provided by absolute faith in the foundation of Christ as a revelation of God.
In truth, we all plant and water seeds at various times on our spiritual journey. Trying to convince everyone in the world to look at life in an entirely new, more compassionate and connected way is impossible alone. Jesus knew this; it’s why he begins teaching as soon as possible. It’s why he is the archetype for humanity, intimately connected to God and humanity as we are with each other.
Prayer: Glorious God of creative energy, create through us a new foundation of compassion and connectedness. Amen.