Month: June 2014
Scripture: Proverbs 2:6
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Thought for the Day: I’ve just spent the last ten days in what we call “intensives, treat ” part of my seminary training at Lexington Theological Seminary. The days are long, site with classes from 8am until 5:30pm. After a dinner break, store where most of us continue discussing what we’ve been talking about all day, we return to the hotel—where most of us continue talking about the things we’ve been learning throughout the day! It’s a long, truly intense retreat filled with thought-provoking ideas and the sharing of knowledge. It’s wonderful, inspiring, and exhausting.
The exhaustion and intensity are relieved somewhat with a daily worship service before lunch. This service, led by instructors with participation from students, helps us re-center and focus, and reminds us that, for all our intellectual stimulation, the wisdom to internalize these ideas comes from God. It’s one thing to know a bunch of stuff. It’s entirely different to be able to put that to use in your spiritual life and your congregations. It’s important to remember the pursuit of this knowledge is to more closely walk with God to be able to more completely convey the loving power of God.
When I first arrived at the seminary, I was pretty worn down and frustrated by the constant stream of bad news in the world. Children are kidnapped en masse, politicians grow ever more selfish, governments completely de-personalize the horror of warfare by throwing missiles and drones at each other, and the global economy is corrupted by a bottomless profit motive that enslaves everyone, both worker and consumer, in its greedy snare. We’ll quickly burn-out (or be snuffed out) if we try to battle against such an entrenched and powerful system.
One of my professors reminded me that faith, and living a faithful life, is not about winning and losing. Winning and losing are the ideals of a society that really wants us all to lose so we’ll buy more stuff. It’s been that way since the invention of commerce thousands of years ago. So we don’t need to try to beat the system, because we can’t beat the system. Our only task is to live good, faithful lives to God. In being faithful to God, the system slowly changes, because our lives are changed as the Wisdom of God begins to live within us. Wisdom changes our goals. We understand that God will ultimately win against the evil forces that corrupt our world. Our faith compels us and comforts us, drives us to do whatever we can to help bring about God’s kin-dom, and keeps us from giving up at the sheer overwhelming work that needs to be done. God is doing the work, through every person who believes. “Keep the faith,” my professor said. “God is at work. You know that or you wouldn’t even be here, Michael.” And that may have been the greatest lesson I learned all week.
Prayer: Thank you, Abundant God, for constantly teaching me how to love, and reminding me that even if I only have the means to feed, clothe or shelter one person out of millions, that’s still one more child of God, one more brother or sister, who has felt Your loving embrace. Amen.
Fill us with love for ourselves,
that we may walk more closely,
our hand in Yours
as we traverse the twisted,
often tumultuous paths of our lives.
We pray today
for our brothers and sisters around the world
who need a brother or sister to hold their hand;
to teach and befriend them.
We yearn to learn of Your life-changing
commitment to us all,
a promise that You are constantly working
through every person on the planet,
to create a new planet
filled with love and peace.
We humbly ask You to embrace our family members
and loved ones around the world
who are in psychological or physical pain,
who are ill and ailing,
who are oppressed or denied the right to free will
with which You so gracefully bless us.
Keep us all enveloped in Your loving, hopeful embrace.
We lift fathers all over the world up to Your glory,
and ask for You, the Father of all inspiration,
to fill them with compassion and understanding,
and help them exemplify the immense love from Your Spirit,
that flows through and enlightens all of us.
Mold all of us who are fathers into Your fatherly image.
We love and cherish You, Lord,
and we understand that
although You created us perfectly,
we too often fall short
of the absolute perfection of Jesus Christ.
We are easily distracted
by the excitement and noise of the material world.
Holy Father, lead us ever towards the light of grace
that shines in this world—Your light,
that emanates peace even through the darkest
and most war-torn of times.
Help us feel Your mercy,
Your undying and eternal love.
Motivate us to act differently
in a world of conformity.
Make us radiant lights
in Your new and different world,
which supports the destitute,
and provides homes for the homeless,
and food for the hungry.
Make us the creators of Your kingdom,
so that through each of us,
those who feel enslaved by the human world
might come to find freedom in Your world.
We pray in and through the name of Jesus Christ,
our eternal example of humanity
perfectly aligned with the wisdom
that is the word of God.
Today’s devotional is by Trudy Kellum. Thanks, doctor Trudy
Scripture: Psalm 34:14 (NIV)
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Thought for the Day: The following essay is written by Ikeora Ebuka from Nigeria. He is a fifteen-year-old boy who participated in The Global Peace Network’s What About Peace? contest, winning the grand prize for this gripping plea focused on child soldiers, and the necessity of everyone doing something every day to bring about peace in our communities.
THEY LEARNED TO KILL
At the age of 14, Alhaji became a decommissioned soldier.
He was only ten years old when rebel troops captured him and trained him to fight with an AK-47 assault rifle. As a forced recruit, he went on food raids and burned down houses. He also killed and mutilated people, mostly children.
Today, Alhaji finds it difficult to forget war and to adjust to civilian life. Abraham, another child soldier, also learned to kill and was reluctant to turn over his weapon. He said: “If they tell me to go away without my gun, I don’t know what I will do, how I will eat.”
They obey orders; they are not concerned about getting back to their wife or family; and they don’t know fear. Yet, these children want and deserve a better life. What a life young children have been subjected to at a very impressionable young age, when they should have learned love! Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. How can peace be promoted?
Celebrate your own purposeful actions, as you participate in your homes, schools, communities, towns, states, country and the world. Your positive, creative responses to social issues matter – they and you can change the world for the better. Someone, somewhere also is willing to carry this cross. He only needs support, approval, a nod and your encouragement. Granted, the world never has been and probably never will be perfect, but that is no excuse not to try. You can try. I can try. We can try. We can grow to be great patriots, at least to our kinsmen and friends, even to people we do not know, but we know they exist. You can help to create a better world for the future. The key to changing the world is finding a way to empower other people to help.
Most of us lead busy, hectic lives, but we still care deeply about helping others. An important part of our growth and motivation as people lies in contributing to the greater good, being part of something greater than our selves. Little gestures can create or strengthen our sense of community and of shared humanity, lightening our burdens for just a moment and giving us something to smile about. And that’s no small matter. This is because when we work hard to increase our own sense of mindfulness about the people around us and our relationship with them, we help to plant some sense of belonging and make them a place of refuge in difficult times.
Through our intention and actions, we choose to bring positive experiences into our lives and make them for others. We can all do something.
Do what you can. Do what looks like it needs doing. Do it your own way. Do it because you want to. Do something because you know you can.
Prayer: Mighty God, unceasingly moving in and through us, urge us to action with every opportunity that arises for us to be agents of peace. We recognize that our daily life is that very opportunity, right here, right now. Amen.
Glorious God, treatment
you are a living, stuff
active presence in the world.
with Your spirit of love,
peace, and compassion,
so we’ll become
better examples of the Christ
that permeates our world.
Remind us that
Your work through us
creates a world
of loving understanding.
Open our hearts
to a very real experience
with the living Christ.
Free our minds
from doubt and uncertainty.
Ignite us with Your presence.
Make us beacons
of love and hope,
examples of Your spirit,
so that others might also be led
to new lives
experienced in unity with You.
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ,
who so majestically and magnificently shows us
what it truly means to be a human
infused with the Spirit of the living God.
Thought for the Day: My grandfather was killed storming the beaches at Normandy. My mom had a little box of memories—his watch, cialis his wallet, some letters he had written home, the Western Union telegram so many families feared receiving, the Purple Heart. I used to dig through that box as a kid, fascinated as I am by the 1930s and 40s. I imagined my grandfather and his brothers as heroes who eliminated evil from the world, even at the cost of their own lives. And while that is certainly true, I’ve also learned that the real story is much more complicated. In fact, the Allies created the Nazi enemy that took so many loved ones away from their families forever. Even scarier? We’re still creating our own enemies today, from Cuba to Iran to Syria, to the Taliban.
I recently watched “The World Wars” miniseries on the History channel. It’s an excellent show that follows the careers of the main players in the European 30-years wars we call WW I and II. What I have found most fascinating is that WW II was entirely avoidable. The Allies created the evil of Nazism, and the entire Axis power structure, by treating Germany, Japan and Italy like second-class citizens during the writing of the treaty of Versailles after the first war. Had the Allies shown a little more grace (you know, as a reflection of the grace God shows us all) and a lot less vindictiveness, WW II likely never would have happened and my grandfather, like millions and millions of others, would have lived a long and happy life with his family.
War is never inevitable. Yet, I look at the wars raging around the world today and see that they too are a result of western hubris—the problems in Syria are a result of those same Allies carving up the Ottoman Empire after WW I. History repeats itself if we refuse to learn anything from the first time around, and not learning from the past may very well be the most wicked of all human traits.
Prayer: Good and loving God, stop us from continually doing the same things and expecting different results. Give us the wisdom to try a new way, to find a new thing, to work with instead of against each other. Bring about Your peace by planting in our hearts, minds and souls an unquenchable desire to live in harmony rather than discord. Amen.
Today’s devotional is by our dear friend Rev. John Auer. Thanks, treatment John!
Today’s Reading: “Seeing Red, order ” Acts 2:1-21, Terry Temple Williams,
from Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert
I write to create red in a world that often appears black and white. Twenty years ago a child or young person was able differentiate 360 shades of red, and today that’s down to something like 30 shades, which means subtleties are lost to the pure, heavy impact of red. Where I live the open space of desert is red. The desert before me is rose is pink is scarlet is magenta is salmon. The palette of erosion is red, is running red water, red river, my own blood flowing downriver, my desire is red. I want to learn how to speak the language of red. Red cries out for the body, open the body and it bleeds. There is danger with red. Red is rage is hot, is too hot to touch. To see red is to see destruction. But to see red over time is to understand the capacity to transform. White horses in our valley eventually turn red. The redrock desert of southern Utah teaches me over and over again: red endures. “Red is the most joyful and dreadful thing in the physical universe,” G. K. Chesterton writes. “It is the fiercest note, the highest light.” Red sits on top of the rainbow.
Thought for the Day: Remember the old riddle? What’s black and white and red all over? The newspaper! An embarrassed zebra! The Holy Spirit comes to save us from seeing the world, and our places in it, in terms simply of black/white, either/or, right/wrong, good /evil, with us/against us. The Holy Spirit brings nuance, subtlety, discernment, choice. She really complexifies and diversifies our life/lives.
What might it be like for God to redden us? To ripen us? In these Days of Pentecost? This feast of first harvest? As Christ gathers fruits of the resurrection? For us to “turn red?” To “see red?” Even “better red than dead?” This Pentecost, this fiftieth day, this Jubilee Day, since Easter? When the Spirit of Jesus comes, as in the Early Church — not only for joyful discerning of baptismal gifts, ministries of each one of us — but also for just distributing of communal resources, mission of us all?
The Spirit comes to lead us in all truth, to “show us the red,” the passion and the desire, way beyond black and white. Worship in the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Shade of Red, breaks all bonds and breaches all boundaries of rite and of rote. The desert teaches us that, like the passion of the Early Church, the Martyrs, “red endures.” The Spirit is poured out on ALL flesh today. Let sons and daughters prophesy, young ones see visions, old ones dream dreams. No one is too young, too old, too rich, too poor — too red, too brown, too yellow, too black, too white, too mixed – too gay, too straight, too mixed (The Spirit’s a Master Mixer!) — too imprisoned, too immigrated, too believing, too denying, too liberal, too conservative, too this, too that, too Anything Else!
Prayer: We pray, Advocator, Revelator, Counseling and Comforting One – let us not be stuck-still but open; let us be active, outreaching, embracing, accepting, reconciling, restoring to right relations, growing together. Let Jesus be always and only for us a beginning point with God; Who goes by many other faces, names, faiths and works; Who calls us to be as family with all others, loving diversity, complexity; respecting identity, integrity. We pray in all tongues to be open-minded, open-hearted, open-armed, open-doored, open-ordered, open-bordered. It is our common desire to love whom we, by the Spirit, call “God;” loving neighbors we meet on the life-and-faith journey, doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly; no matter what life-in-faith, love-in-faith, may cost us.
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:20b-21
If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, pharm this is commendable before God. 21To this you were called, buy cialis because Christ suffered for you, mind leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Thought for the Day: Today is the dark anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago. The occasion was marked in Hong Kong, but China has tightened up the already abnormally confining screws of censorship. In China, there will be no mention of, nor any recognition of the events at Tiananmen. The government will not allow a hurting people to remember that, what began as a peaceful sit-in, ended with a heavily armed and mechanized government slaughtering its own people to protect the ideology and power of the elite ruling class.
It would be easy to write the Tiananmen protests off as a failure, but in fact those students who sacrificed their lives to create a free and Democratic China made a lasting difference. Slowly but surely, China has begun to embrace loosened government controls on businesses. Perhaps true freedom of speech and the right to rally are still far-off dreams, but thanks to Tiananmen and the ripples of resistance that moment birthed, maybe dreams of a free China are closer than we think. With a growing and vocal middle class (something we need more of in this country too), Chinese citizens assert themselves a little more, and a little more courageously, every day.
It is difficult and dangerous to be the voice of change. People will shoot at you, sling verbal arrows at you, make demands and proffer ultimatums, and otherwise literally and figuratively crucify you. But like Jesus, we must learn to walk with God and God alone, always standing firm against the tanks of injustice, oppression, ignorance and privilege.
Prayer: Today God, I will honor You and those who gave their lives in Tiananmen by remaining true to my convictions, even in the face of incredible disappointment and resistance. I will suffer the slings and arrows of the corrupted world and pray for rapid relief. I pray for moderation—for human systems to move from polarized left or right, to an equitable and just center that benefits all people, of all ethnicities and abilities, all across the globe. In the name of Jesus the Christ, the One who came to set us ALL free, I pray. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 139:7
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
Thought for the Day: Today is the beginning of the Jewish festival of Shavuot, case which marks the anniversary of the day when God gave Israel the Torah: the cornerstone of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the ancient world, this was also the day the grain was harvested, so there was a ginormous celebration in and around Jerusalem.
In the Christian Church, we still celebrate this holiday, only we call it by its Greek name: Pentecost. We’ve also changed the reason for the celebration a bit, although it’s still an anniversary celebration. A couple thousand years ago, after Jesus had died, his disciples were lost. They had no idea what to do, where to go, what to think. Their leader, whom many (not all) thought was Israel’s promised Messiah, had been heinously slaughtered as an insurrectionist and rebel leader. As they gathered with the rest of their Jewish brothers and sisters for the annual Shavuot festival, dejected and feeling anything but celebratory, a miracle happened: God infused everyone at the festival—Jew and Gentile, with the Holy Spirit, which in turn enlightened the gathered crowd, and allowed them to understand each other.
The story of Pentecost in the Bible is often presented as an understanding of language—but as with all the stories in the Bible, this is a metaphor about deep understanding, not just linguistic tricks. The experience at Pentecost helps us understand that we are intrinsically connected to and part of God—all of us, no matter what we call ourselves. The story of Pentecost is a story about universal cooperation, love, and respect. It is a story about the birth of the Christian Church, when Jesus’ followers found their purpose after his death: to spread love, unity, and harmony throughout the world, amongst all the peoples of the Earth.
It’s a purpose the Church, and those who call themselves Christians, would do well to remember.
Prayer: I pray for a resurgence of the Spirit in the world, Holy God. Only You can make us peaceful and loving. Remind us all that following Jesus means opposing the violent and political forces of the world, not being part of them. Move us to throw away our weapons. Dissolve our hate and fear. Remake us in the image of Christ: loving, compassionate, willing to think differently, and always focused on You, Lord, always focused on You. Amen.