Month: February 2014
Scripture: Acts 4:31-32
After they prayed, ambulance the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, recipe but they shared everything they had.
Thought for the Day: Words and meaning. I’ll assume the people at Pentecost understood the meaning of each other’s bold words better than most people today—religious or not. And I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, since Pentecost is several months down the road, but as we’ve been wondering about words and meaning this week, the Pentecost story is a good example of how, even thousands of years ago, people desperately craved understanding.
The Pentecost story, where people from many nations who spoke many different languages could understand each other as if they each had a Babel Fish in their ear, is a plea for relationship. When we stop shouting at each other and sincerely try to understand each other, amazing things happen—like the desire to share our goods, services and possessions with each other, rather than hoard them until they’re stacked to the ceiling, slowly forming the walls of our tomb.
A few words can change the world, for good or ill. I believe that if we let God speak through us, our message will always be one of peace, love, and unification. I know lots of us hear people, especially on TV, claiming to speak the word of God, but too often that word is exclusionary, hate-filled, and narrow-minded. God is not exclusionary; God is the life force of all beings. God is filled with love, and God’s mind encompasses the expanse of the universe—of all realty. God’s is a word of welcome to all creatures great and small. Our words should be just as gentle and inviting.
Prayer: Fill my words with love, meaning, and clarity, Holy God, creator of the first Word, sustainer of all worlds. Amen.
Scripture: Ezekiel 24:19
Then the people asked me, drugstore “Won’t you tell us what these things have to do with us? Why are you acting like this?”
Thought for the Day: What do these things have to do with us? The turmoil in Ukraine and Crimea, thumb as people revolt against a corrupt government. Russia flexing its muscles like a body builder on Venice Beach, desperate for attention. The citizens of Venezuela, rising in a tide of rage against a government that tries to control them by acting and reacting with rage, creating and feeding a vicious, greedy cycle of violence.
What do these things have to do with us? Starving and homeless children line the streets of the wealthiest cities in America. The Haves play a perpetual game of keep away with the Have-Nots. Wealth inequity in America is at an historic high point. “What’s mine is mine,” the Haves say, “I got it all by myself.” The Have-Nots ask for help getting on their feet, a way to learn a new skill since the job they were good at got sent overseas, perhaps a public works project. The Haves reply, “Great idea! Do it on your own. After all,” the Haves say, “I got my own education at Harvard (which my father paid for), then started a business (which investors paid for). See? You can do it.”
What do these things mean? Discriminatory laws against God’s children are proposed from Arizona to Uganda, and all points in between. “I reserve the right to refuse you service on religious grounds” is possibly the most idiotic phrase ever uttered by a human being. Religion shouldn’t discriminate, it should invite. Faith shouldn’t close our hearts, it should open them. And having a surplus of good shouldn’t make us selfish, it should motivate us to help others. Remove scarcity from a person’s life and be amazed at the things they can accomplish.
If you are truly religious, you never refuse anything to anyone. People of faith—any faith, and every human being, religious or not, is called to be part of God’s loving body, willing to sacrifice for the common good. Democratic governments around the world were founded on the idea that they would serve not the richest, not the most powerful, but the common. What does that mean? I suppose only time will tell.
Prayer: God who is all love, my heart is shredded in more pieces than I can count. Worse, I fear the hearts of everyone on the planet are shredded, almost beyond repair. But you can repair us, Holy Healer, can’t you? Heal our hearts with hope. Give us the strength and courage to speak out against the evil in the world. Make us like Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, like Jesus, Moses and Mohammed. Make us the instrument and voices of your peace, and do it now, God, before one more drop of innocent blood is uselessly spilled. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 119:73
Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
Thought for the Day: Reading The Bible is difficult. It’s a text that was written thousands of years ago, pills and it uses metaphor and symbolism we are simply no longer familiar with. Adding to the confusion is the fact that over the last 3500 years (or longer), treat The Bible has been orally transmitted, ambulance written, re-written, edited and translated too many times to count. A simple translation from Hebrew to Greek changes meaning, and the meaning of even our native language is fluid—a word that means one thing in Florida may have a completely different connotation in North Dakota.
There are something like 137 different versions of The Bible, and they each change the meaning of the stories in both subtle and overt ways. Furthermore, every single person reading every single word brings their own unique life experience to his or her interpretation. This is a good thing, by the way—it’s what Martin Luther fought for during the Reformation—the ability for everyday folk like you and I to hold The Bible in our own hands and let it speak to us.
This gives us an enormous responsibility, though, one we shirk far too often (which was at least part of the reason the Catholic Church of Luther’s time was against the idea of regular folks reading the Bible). If we are to read this ancient work, it’s imperative that we learn about its context—where were the stories written? For whom? What was going on politically and culturally that provoked the writing (most of the writing in the Bible is a response to a social or political situation)? What did these words mean back then, at that particular time and place? What do these words mean today? Then, after we’ve done that work, the real work of conversation with others begins, and once again, we must carefully think about the words we use to describe our faith, and understand that what seems clear to us, could have a very different meaning to the person we’re speaking to.
I think it’s important to discuss metaphysics—the world beyond the world, because it has always been those discussions that move human civilization forward. From Aristotle to Moses, from Jesus to John Shelby Spong, people have been and are involved in a conversation about what it means to be human. Sometimes (too often) those conversations simply become shouting matches. But just as we have learned from all the inspired thinkers who lived long before us, we can still learn from each other’s ideas, and ultimately, together, move forward into a world that is more considerate, loving, and wise.
Prayer: God of all Wisdom, give me understanding—of you, of your inspired works, and of the infinite ways in which you manifest yourself in our daily lives and each other. Amen.
*NOTE: The Harper Collins or New Interpreter’s Study Bibles are excellent resources that will deepen your understanding of Scripture in new, and perhaps profound, ways. Enjoy your journey!
Scripture: Exodus 20:2
“I am the Lord your God, here who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery”
Thought for the Day: From Venezuela to Ukraine, people are uprooting, destroying, and overthrowing the people and institutions that keep them enslaved. I wish these changes could be accomplished without so much violence, without so much bloodshed, but dictators hold on to power more tightly and cold-heartedly than any villain ever conceived in a Hollywood blockbuster. This sort of power never lasts, though (even in the movies). God is constantly at work freeing people from slavery of any sort, whether we are slaves to a corrupt government, slaves to a substance, or slavishly stuck in a destructive (or archaic) way of thinking.
God will always set us free. God is constantly working to free our minds, bodies, and souls from all the various ways we oppress each other—and the too numerous ways we oppress ourselves. I know it’s kind of out of fashion to believe in God in our modern world. I know it’s difficult to believe in God when the world around us looks a little worse every day. But I think it’s astoundingly hubristic to believe that we can get ourselves out of this mess. History shows this to be highly improbable, because we just keep re-creating the mess, only with more powerful weapons. We continue to enslave each other in ways both subtle and so outrageous it’s hard to believe we’re living in the 21st Century instead of the 1st Century. That’s why, when I look around the world this morning and read about the bloodshed in Venezuela and Ukraine, when I read that the military government of Egypt is disbanding with the intention of holding an “election” so a new military dictator can be put on the throne, the only solace I can find is in God’s warm embrace, which gives me hope, calms my rattled nerves and eases my disappointment in humanity (or rather, our lack thereof).
Prayer: God of love, who frees us from bondage, we need to know You now, more than ever. Remind us of your love and your loving ways. Turn cold hearts warm, loosen the grip of fear, and free us from slavishly holding on to the things that keep us acting like spoiled children, rather than imagers of Your love. Amen.
Holy, unifying, Love of the Universe.
Hear our prayers.
Feel our prayers.
We pray for nothing more
than an experience of your love.
We also pray for nothing less.
Our faith in you–my faith in you,
Gives us the confidence to trust You,
Through prayer we know You,
and we know You have it all under control.
We can let go.
We can relax.
We can feel you,
and be filled with the confidence of an
We place our trust in You, our faithful lover.
We don’t pray for specifics,
we don’t need to micromanage You.
You, the infinite expanse of the universe,
the dew on every blade of grass.
You, the majesty of a mountain range,
and the molecules of creation.
You already know everything the world needs,
because you already are everything the world is.
We understand that too often though,
we let our Ego pray for us.
Ego asks for things.
Ego is impatient.
Ego is distracted
by the bright and shiny newness
of technology and commerce.
But when we come to you
as innocent children,
and simply pray to feel your presence
invading everything we are,
You dissolve our Ego
into the glorious nothingness
of simply being.
We ask only to feel You near,
freeing our thoughts,
our dreams and desires,
and we know we are free,
we are listened to,
we are loved.
We pray, offering you
our minds, bodies, hearts and souls.
Make your presence known to us.
Make your presence known and heal
the broken trust in our world.
Smooth our rough edges,
calm our tongues,
and invigorate us with the love
exemplified in Christ Jesus.
Spirit of God, recipe
quench my thirst.
My infinite search
to fill my soul from the outside
has left me empty inside.
Fill my soul with happiness!
Fill my heart with joy!
Fill the world with laughter!
Quench our thirst,
God who fills the universe!
Help us sense
your delighted touch
in every breeze that kisses our cheeks,
in every ray of sunlight
we see dancing in a glistening sky,
and in the smells of our memories.
Fill us from within,
guiding our lives,
and igniting our passions.
We pray in the name of the one
in whom your passion is fulfilled,
Jesus Christ. Amen.
Scripture: Genesis 1:31a
God saw all that he had made, recipe and it was very good.
Thought for the Day: After creation, sickness God is happy with her handiwork! The creation myths in Genesis are great reminders about joy and happiness. When I read Genesis, I imagine a force of delight, smiling and laughing whimsically as the stars, planets, and all the creatures that inhabit them are created. Billions and billions of galaxies exist, each with tens of thousands of planets like ours, all most likely housing life forms very much like us. I wonder what they think, how they live? What sort of religions did they create, and have they had more success at creating a world of peace and justice than we? Have they found the path to peace and joy by allowing God to joyously flow throughout their existence more completely than we? Have they managed to find a way to coexist even though they have a zillion different belief systems? Or is their world just as tortured as ours?
I wonder these things, because I feel now, more than ever, that our world is completely out of balance. We are supposed to be beings of joy and delight, because we are created in the image of joy and delight. Yet, most days, we walk around like zombies, along the crooked path to our crooked job, sitting under the fluorescence of monotony that sucks our souls dry. This is not a very good existence, not at all.
We can change, though. We can awaken to the happiness that is the very core of all creation. It’s there, right now, just waiting for us to experience. Take a couple minutes and leave the monotony behind. Leave yourself, enter God’s presence, and be happy. It is our destiny.
Prayer: Good and loving God, you fill me with joy and delight, and my soul soars as I feel your love flowing through every cell in my body. Stay with me, God, lift me up throughout the day. Protect me from the energies that destroy my soul, and ignite the lights of joy, peace and harmony within me. Amen.
Scripture: Isaiah 55:5
Surely you will summon nations you know not, drugstore
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.
Thought for the Day: Isaiah was written in the late 8th Century, BCE. Even then, the author saw God inclusively, not as a superbeing that picks some of us and discards the rest of us. That sort of thinking is thoroughly modern, although the kernels of “our religion is better than yours, so we’re going to kill all of you” began in the Middle Ages.
But any author in Scripture, from Isaiah to Mark, saw God as a presence of love for all humankind, without exception. So when we are living a life focused on relationship with the Divine, we become filled with God’s presence, and are a beacon to others. We’re not then intended to convert people to our particular religion. In fact, conversion to religion is completely unnecessary. It’s conversion to relationship with God that is important, because God turns us from hateful to hopeful, from lost to found, and from selfish to selfless. When we find relationship with God, our world changes, and we become part of God’s body, filling the world with love, one person at a time.
Just as a lighthouse doesn’t care what sort of ship it’s keeping off the craggy rocks, and leads both sailboats and tankers to safety, so too people of faith must simply be beacons that lead people to relationship with God. There simply can’t be any more fighting about whose religion is “right” and whose is “wrong,” because it’s not about religion. It’s about relationship with God, and through God, relationship with every person and every thing in the universe.
Prayer: Show me people in deep relationship with You, God of all being, so that I might be reminded how wonderful and exceptional this life is meant to be, when we lead each other away from the craggy rocks of hatred and fear, and safely into your loving harbor. Amen.
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 7:14
When times are good, pilule be happy;
but when times are bad, salve consider:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, sovaldi you cannot discover
anything about your future.
Thought for the Day: Our quest for happiness seems transient, and too often defined by things we either have or think we lack. We opine, “If only I had more money, I would be truly happy” or “If only there were more hours in the day, I would be truly happy,” or any number of other things that narrowly define happiness as having something. I’m sure we’ve all tried to cheer ourselves up now and then by going on a little shopping spree, maybe just to buy a new book or a new movie that can provide escape for a few hours.
The author of Ecclesiastes recognizes that this sort of happiness is fleeting, that indeed, happiness found through things only lasts hours, not lifetimes. There is nothing we can possess that will bring us lasting, true happiness. The real key to happiness is recognizing God is with us in every moment of every day, whether that day is great or horrendous.
When the author writes that “God has made the one as well as the other,” he doesn’t mean to imply that God is creating our reality, by the way. Rather, Ecclesiastes uses a sarcastic tone throughout as a brilliant literary device. In reading Ecclesiastes, it’s easy to come away with the impression that the author thinks life is meaningless (especially since he repeats this exact phrase about 50 times). But the point is that the pursuit of a material life is meaningless—any joy we find in this material world is temporary, because as happy as we are today, there will be times in every life that bring us sorrow, anger, pain, or any number of other human emotions we’d really rather not deal with. But we are reminded to seek and find God’s presence in every human moment, from the joy of new birth to the sorrow of death, from the freedom of being able to worship God in any manner we please, to the assurance that God will free us from whatever bondage may be enslaving us, physically or literally.
True joy and happiness—permanent joy and happiness, comes from a deep, committed walk through life with God bursting forth from our souls in a joyous expression of simple being, every moment of every day. And all we have to do to find this happiness is simply let it be.
Prayer: When the day is good, let me feel your gentle presence, Holy One. When the day is bad, knock me upside the head and remind me that you are with me. Throughout the days of my life, help me recognize your presence in my midst, that I might also help others recognize your glorious presence, and the delight of simply, passionately, living. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence, discount
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Thought for the Day: How do we define happiness? Family? Work? Perhaps through some creative endeavor like writing, decease art, composing or performing? Think a moment about the times in your life you’ve been filled with joy. Now, I wonder, why are those joyous moments so fleeting? Why does it seem so easy to let the world beat us down, beat us into submission?
I think Scripture implies that true happiness comes from loyalty to God. This loyalty is one of study and outreach, a change of mindset that allows us to more consistently focus on relationship with God. This often means we will be offered opportunities that may change our lives completely. “The path of life” seems to be full of curveballs. But I think that if we’re courageous enough, we see that a curveball is often an amazing new opportunity. The dilemma is discerning whether or not the curveball is God leading us into uncharted territory, or Ego trying to convince us the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. To make that distinction, we have to have faith, which I think leads us to realize any decision we make (and sometimes even indecision) keeps us on the path of life, for God is with us always, whether or not we’re actively participating in the journey. To find a deep and lasting happiness though, I think active participation, mindfulness, and attention are required.
Prayer: Keep me focused on You, God who lights my way, and help me realize that this journey I’m on is full of magnificent and exciting twists and turns, every single one of them imbued with your grace. Help me know this deeply, so that I will overcome both my fear of the unknown, and my fear of the too familiar. Amen.