Month: August 2013
Scripture: Tao Te Ching: 10
Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand all things?
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.
Thought for the Day: Jesus was probably familiar with Taoism (because, like Buddhism, it predates Jesus by about 500 years). Even if he wasn’t though, he would have been a great Taoist. He understood the need to take any human convention or possession with a grain of salt. Like the Taoists, he urges people to give up their material stuff, and their mental association of success with wealth. He urges people to focus on God, who will guide them through a more spiritually connected life, the same way we are urged to remain in the Tao, on the Way, in the flow. Remember that phrase, “Go with the flow”? That’s Tao.
It may not be a coincidence that the first followers of Jesus were called people of The Way. These early Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus’ teachings (specifically followers of his teachings, not worshippers of his death and resurrection), gave up material goods to live in faith communities, traveled the world talking to people about the difference a personal relationship with God—no intermediary required, had made in their lives, and simply let God lead them, no expectations, no need to control a situation. They simply and faithfully went with the flow, and were a peaceful, non-anxious presence wherever they went and for whomever they encountered.
May we remember and enact this lost ideal.
Prayer: I can feel the flow of the universe, and I call it God. Help me tune my mind, my heart, my body and soul into your loving, peaceful presence, so that I may learn to let things take their natural course, and learn to let go of control and the desire to possess. Amen.
Scripture: Jeremiah 18:3-6
So I went down to the potter’s house, no rx and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, house of Israel, as this potter does?”
Thought for the Day: The humans that wrote the various pieces of literature and letters that would eventually become The Bible, used writing as a spiritual exercise. The Bible is a mental and spiritual workout book, a midrash written by people struggling to understand the meaning of existence, and striving to comprehend the constant reshaping that was taking place in their lives and their world. Everything in the Bible was written by Jewish people who had endured thousands of years of flux, a biorhythm of independence and invasion, of sovereignty and slavery. They intimately understood God as constantly transforming existence, and were humble enough to understand that the transitory nature of everything meant that their short lives needed to be lived with integrity, love, and mercy, reflecting what they had come to understand about the nature of God.
These early philosophers and theologians, whose work we are lucky to have preserved in the Bible and other sources, understood that everything in the universe, including themselves, is in a constant state of change and reformation. They prayed that God was always changing both them personally, and the world around them. They saw God as a force that improves everything, smoothing out the rough spots and completely transforming the stuff that just doesn’t work out. This idea filled them with hope, and should also fill us with hope, because in a very literal way, every moment of our lives is a little better than the last.
Prayer: Glorious Lord of understanding, help me find a faith that is so strong it dares to be fluid. Amen.
Scripture: Jeremiah 18:3-6
So I went down to the potter’s house, buy cialis and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, house of Israel, as this potter does?”
Thought for the Day: How do you feel about the idea of being molded and recast? Can you imagine God spiritually reshaping you, smoothing away your rough edges and blemishes, always conforming you more closely to a state of perfected being? How about God making you the best human possible, in the image of Jesus? Is it difficult for you to imagine God as an entity or energy that is truly interactive with all of creation?
I think it’s much more difficult for people today to imagine God as somehow nature yet beyond nature. The sciences have allowed us to glean a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of existence than ever before in human history (as far as we know, although I think we’ve lost as much knowledge throughout history as we’ve gained, making the entire process a sort of wash). Our knowledge of the laws of nature makes it difficult for us to believe in a god who is actively, consciously involved in the evolution of the world, or in a god who created the universe by blowing breath into it. But it’s unlikely that even the ancient people who used that language to speak of God thought of God that literally.
We need to remember that the Bible is not literal, and that, as today’s passage shows, faith is an exercise. Faith is designed, especially in our postmodern era, to help us think outside of ourselves. Faith helps us imagine a universe that is more than a series of natural laws. Faith helps us imagine a universe in which everything is intimately connected, in which everything is in a constant state of flux (for nothing is really ever stationary), being reformed, reshaped, annihilated and recreated. It’s natural. It’s God’s way. And it happens to us and everything we believe and hold dear, all the time. Rejoice in being reshaped, for at any given moment, you can count on the fact that God is forming you into exactly who you need to be. I find that pretty awe-inspiring.
Prayer: I know that every day is an all-new reality, and that every moment of that new reality I become a new being, because that’s just the way you roll, my loving and creative God of all existence. Amen.
Scripture: Isaiah 42:6-7
I, decease the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Thought for the Day: I wish everyone in the world who considers themselves religious—and I mean people of all religions, would sit down for a minute and think about this passage from Isaiah. We are called in righteousness. Too many “religious” people take this to a fundamentalist extreme, interpreting it to mean that they are right and everyone else is wrong. But that is not at all what this passage means, nor is it the way Jesus interprets it much later.
In Scripture, righteousness always refers to God, not to humans. This is God calling us because of God’s nature, and Isaiah makes it clear that the righteousness of God is nothing like the way we act as humans. Here, in this physical reality, we are blind, and imprisoned in a dark dungeon. We see the world through a very dark and cloudy lens, yet we constantly make claims about the nature of reality as if we actually know anything about the nature of reality.
There is not a single religion on the planet that can claim to have an exclusive bead on the truth. We are all called to awaken. This world we’ve created is built on the flimsiest of precepts, and on the backs of people who have nothing, whom our corporations take advantage of to build our cars, our clothes, and our technology. There is nothing righteous about our current existence.
Isaiah reminds us that God is an agent of change, though, and sounds an alarm to wake us up. In his time, he was ignored, and his society met with disaster. So, I wonder if we will simply continue to turn off the alarm clock being sounded by frakking, injection mining and slave labor, ignoring the warning that sounds louder each day? Will we simply continue to bury our heads deeper in our pillows until we finally destroy ourselves? Or will we finally wake up and answer God’s call to be agents of loving change, and enter the world with the intention that we will do our best to end the injustices we’ve brought upon ourselves? The choice is, as it ever was, and ever shall be, ours.
Prayer: Wake us up, Lord! Change our hearts, Lord! Help us see that the shadows on the wall are just that—shadows, and that reality is hidden somewhere underneath this unjust and hate-filled world we have artificially created. Amen.
Thank you for blessing my life, sick
Lord of my life.
Thank you for the rainstorms that renew the soul of creation,
for the quiet moments centered on your being,
for feeling your energy flow through us,
connecting us with everyone and everything.
Thank you for the peaceful moments of oneness,
even when we’re busy about our regular lives.
Feeling your presence in, through, and surrounding us with love,
for a moment,
The reality of this world,
this glorious, garbage-filled marble,
is like a multi-sensory drug blinding us to the truth.
We’re addicted to the noise,
to the fast pace,
to the super-high tech,
to vid screens and high fashion,
to the drama we create,
and to watching it on TV.
Break our addiction to this artificial reality, Holy God, we beg you.
Heal our hearts,
heal our souls,
heal the wounds of the world.
As you fill me with your love,
help me fill the world with love,
following the example of Jesus,
who taught us to pray in the Christ.
“The world is full of magic things, there patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” —W.B.Yeats
I went outside to play with Joe (our dog) yesterday, ed and found myself surrounded by hundreds of Dragonflies. Suddenly, cheap I couldn’t stop thinking about them. The intricacy of their wings is simply stunning. And then I realized that even further into the structure of that beautiful wing, there is a subatomic structure, astounding and perfect in its own peculiar details.
I find so many places in nature to be filled with awe. From contemplating the immensity of a galaxy (and our smallness in it) every time I see a deep space photo, to the subatomic recipes that form the physical world as we know it, I see a Divine Connector running through all of existence.
There is a spiritual elegance to all of creation, an interconnectedness of all things that’s hard to describe and even more difficult to comprehend. It is a depth of unifying love that speaks to us on a level more real than real. Seeing the beauty in nature can remind us that the fabric of our being connects to all being, and in that moment of recognition, we are more than real—we are one. In that small instance, in that microsecond of fleeting recognition where time nonetheless stands still, we more than believe, we know.
May the strength of your presence I so intimately feel be awakened in every human on the planet. This I humbly request, O God of love, God of mercy. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 6:19-21 (The Message)
Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, cialis where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, unhealthy isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Thought for the Day: If you were to imagine the perfect place, where would it be? On a beach or mountaintop? In quiet solitude or noisy experience? Either way, when we’re asked to imagine our perfect place, I’ll bet most of us go to a mountain in Hawaii or some other awe-inspiring natural locale. But why stockpile our treasured imagination here on earth? Why not create someplace more ethereal—a new world, a different reality?
Imagine an extremely ethereal place. You’re just sitting in a little six-post pavilion, open to the outside world, and the outside world sort of floats around in a sea of blurry pastel shapes, performing an intricate ballet in time and space. Your little pavilion is also just gently floating along, part of time and space, not really grounded to anything. In this quiet, non-grounded moment, you awaken to a world of incredible beauty and wonder, and realize that no earthly treasure is permanent, that eventually, everything we know in this physical world will disintegrate. And that is when you find real freedom.
Prayer: My treasure is with you, God of the universe. Keep me centered in the love of your Spirit. Focus my thoughts and intentions on love and compassion. Help me stockpile justice and mercy, and then, help me give it all away for you. Amen.
Scripture: Job 31:26-28
If I have regarded the sun in its radiance
or the moon moving in splendor, unhealthy
so that my heart was secretly enticed
and my hand offered them a kiss of homage, sickness
then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
Thought for the Day: There’s a running thread through the First Testament that cautions against worshipping the creation. This may strike us as a little odd in an era of global warming and ecological disaster, when we’re acutely aware of our precarious relationship to our little blue spaceship. I don’t think Scripture is implying we should ignore the wonders of the universe, but that we should use the wonders of the planets and stars to inspire us in awe of the underlying engine of creation—what people of faith call God, what many scientists call the fundamental frequency or string.
Discovering new galaxies is one thing, but discovering what’s forming them and evolving them creates real understanding, and even among my friends who don’t believe in a supreme being of any sort, they are awed by the mystery of creation. When we look at things, we appreciate them for their spectacular existence. But when we try to understand why these things exist and how they naturally came into being, we start to look into the very mind of God, and our perception of reality can be changed deeply. When we stop worshipping the object and start wondering about the creator (however you perceive that concept), we invite awe and mystery into our lives. And the world could use a little more awe and mystery right now. Maybe it would help us get over ourselves a little.
Prayer: I am in awe of all creation, God of all creation. Help me sense your existence around me, as I learn more, every day, about this magnificent reality we call home. Amen.
Scripture: 2 Kings 5:18
But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, help may the Lord forgive your servant for this.
Thought for the Day: People of faith always exist in tension with their culture. Even in places where a certain theology is entwined with civil law, sovaldi there is still tension, look because there is never 100% agreement in any religious system—40,000 Christian denominations* prove this basic reality. There are always periods when we have to balance our beliefs with cultural demands, and that’s fine, as long as we don’t let culture creep into our psyche and destroy the foundations of our faith. For example, the argument over gun ownership in this country, and the number of “Christians” who won’t give up their guns until they’re pried from their “cold, dead hands,” is shocking.
Jesus was a pacifist—the ultimate pacifist. When he’s being dragged to the cross, a death Romans reserved for the most heinous political dissidents, he doesn’t pick up a sword and kill his oppressors. He simply goes to the cross. Willingly. Jesus teaches and exemplifies peaceful resistance, the kind practiced by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. The way of Jesus is not the way of Crusaders and Inquisitors, nor the way of anyone who solves problems violently. The way of Jesus is absolute, unwavering faith in and loyalty to God, even in the face of a culture that wants to kill you for talking back.
I’m afraid modern culture has finally got the better of Christians (and other religious groups), because everywhere I look, I see people calling themselves people of faith, then passing laws to end welfare, restrict food stamps, keep immigrants out of the country, restrict voting rights to people who are any color other than white, and go to war at the drop of a hat. Those are cultural ideals that completely contradict Jesus’ revelation of a God who loves all of us equally, and commands us to care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan–not to take away their food, clothing and shelter.
No wonder Jesus wept.
Prayer: Remind me, my sweet, sweet Lord, that we are called to be a people of peaceful non-compliance, the yeast that causes bread to rise. Help us, God of Peace, bring about a new kind of humanity, by resisting the violent and selfish call of the culture that surrounds us. Help us more deeply understand and follow those great spiritual lights you so often send to us, so we may see you more clearly, and love each other more deeply. Amen.
Here’s a prayer to start off your week. Spend some silent meditation time where [silence] is indicated.
I offer my life to you, holy lord,
my ordinary, regular life.
Everything I do,
I offer to you, now.
With my attention focused on you,
life looks different.
The world looks different.
Through your eyes I see love.
In your passionate embrace, I feel love.
Focused on you, I am love.
Unfortunately, sometimes I reject your embrace.
I’m lost, somewhere,
habits haunting me,
problems attacking me,
building traps to keep you out,
and keep me in.
I offer all my sufferings to you.
I am thankful, God.
With incredible graciousness,
You continue to embrace me, patiently
Dis-integrating my barriers,
Do this for all of us, Lord.
Dis-integrate our distractions,
and integrate us into your very being,
God of all Being.
For all who suffer:
the oppressed and the oppressor,
the patient and the healer,
the politician and the proletariat,
dis-integrate our barriers.
Make our lives,
our ordinary, regular lives,