Month: November 2014

 

Daily Wonder 11-25-14

Better than a thousand hollow words, viagra is one word that brings peace.
—Gautama the Buddha

 
Peace be with you.
—Jesus the Christ
 
Thought for the Day: Before peace on earth can be realized, thumb we must find peace within ourselves. Finding inner peace has always been an exceptionally difficult task. The world pulls at us in a thousand different directions all designed to keep us nervous and distracted. We worry about the welfare of our families, stuff where our next meal is coming from, terrorism, health care costs, and leaders who refuse to work with each other. Life is intense and intensely nerve-wracking.

Buddha and Jesus have similar ideas about finding inner peace. For Buddha, who was trying to rescue his culture from a multitude of demanding gods, the answer was transcendence. Buddha taught that through meditation, one could reach a higher level of consciousness that allowed them to see reality differently. Transcendence is a peaceful, non-anxious state of being.

Jesus was attempting to lead his people out of the legalistic hierarchy created by priests who considered themselves the right hand of God. He taught that the only way to peace is through understanding our deep, personal relationship with God. He illustrated this relationship the way Buddha exemplified transcendence. In many ways, they were teaching the same thing: Oneness.

These two enlightened spiritual teachers taught that we are all on a journey to a higher state of being and that prayer and meditation are among the most important tools in our arsenal. Both of these masters looked around their world and like many of us, were called to create a better way. They knew that for us to find peace on earth, we must first find peace within ourselves. Then, they taught us how to find that one word that brings us, and our world, serenity—whether that word is Aum or Amen.
 
Prayer: Glorious God, Eternal Universe, Supreme Consciousness—speak to me the Word that leads to a lasting peace, so that I might speak the words that lead to lasting peace. Amen.

Daily Wonder 11-24-14

Monday Meditation:
Holy God of endless creativity, sovaldi
thank you for the gift of curiosity.
What would we be if we didn’t ask questions?
Where would we be if we didn’t wonder?
Who would we be if we didn’t ponder
how we came to be, illness
where we might be headed, medicine
and the very meaning of existence?

Thank You for the gift of curiosity,
for it transforms our souls
and changes our world,
and You are a God of constant transformation!
We love You for imbuing us
with a thirst for knowledge, wisdom and understanding
that ultimately always helps us
know You more intimately.

[silent meditation]

Praise be to You for this incredible intellect,
a gift we too often neglect,
especially in matters of faithfulness.
We give thanks for every opportunity to learn,
knowing that education provides us
with the foundation we need
to create the books and songs and art
that throughout history, have revealed
a little more of Your love song
to a world desperately in need of more love songs.

[silent meditation]

How would we have left our caves
and discovered fire,
learned to cook,
created art, math and literature,
had You not bestowed us with
an almost annoying need
to always learn more?

How could we have begun to consider Your
infinite beauty,
Your love,
Your creativity,
Your astounding grace,
had you not first given us the desire
to seek answers,
and ultimately provided us
so many ways to find them?

We know, Wisdom who flows timelessly throughout the universe,
that our limited time on Earth
will be full of intellectual and spiritual challenges.
Yet, we also understand that there is no change,
no growth,
unless there is first challenge.

We need only to look at the life of Jesus Christ
to know this is true.
Jesus challenged the religious and political authorities of his time.
He taught the ancient scripture of his people in new,
and newly meaningful, ways.
He was not afraid to reinterpret everything
through the lens of an undying and unwavering faith to You.
His complete and utter faithfulness to You,
the father/mother of us all,
is our example and our hope
for our own transformation
during this time of trialed learning.

[silent meditation]

Mold us, shape us, love us into more faithful beings!
We beg You, Lord, touch our souls!
Let us feel Your presence within us,
because it is only through You
that there is any hope for humanity
to continue our movement
from the cave
to the universal,
almost unbearable lightness of being,
yet not being,
of always being loved,
yet so often unable to love.

We will always love You,
but we confess, we are also afraid of losing you!
Scholars, pastors, historians, scientists, religious experts—
it seems everyone has new ideas about You.
Can we handle ideas that change
what we’ve thought about You our entire lives?
Can we still grow in faith,
even as we begin to understand the Bible stories
are not Your literal, infallible word,
written by a magical hand,
but are, perhaps even more importantly,
the myths of a people
desperately seeking love in a war-torn
world, oblivious to any higher sense of self?

Our world hasn’t changed that much from theirs.
We still need your love,
perhaps now more than ever,
Help us see You with new eyes,
the way Jesus saw You with new eyes.
Help us lose ourselves by knowing You more deeply.

[silent meditation]

What can we possibly lose
by gaining a deeper understanding
of the people and traditions
that have sought You as deeply and faithfully as we now seek You?
Still, we have known You in a certain way for a lifetime,
and we fear shattered illusions.
We fear hearts broken
into millions of mirrored shards
that reveal the inadequacy of our minds
and the shallowness of our convictions.

But as You have made a promise to Your people,
we promise You this: We will not quit!
Our faith in You is endless,
no matter what our concept of You is now,
or may be tomorrow.
We know You are with us,
guiding us,
all the days of our lives.
We trust You, without exception,
as You love us all without exception.

The only way we know to repay Your merciful love
is to use the intellect You gave us,
to study, and trust that our studies
will always lead us into deeper relationship with You.

This is, after all,
the way of our ancestors,
who, thanks again to Your blessing of curiosity,
first looked out of their caves
at the infinite expanse of glistening stars
in the inky blackness of space,
and simply wondered in amazement
where they came from and where they were going.

Just as their questioning
transformed their lives and their world,
we know our questioning
will transform us and our world.
Just as they created music,
and art,
and theory after theory
about life, the universe, and everything,
we know our studies here will help us
create new melodies,
and new art,
and new ideas about You,
and our relationship to You,
and our place in the infinite universal consciousness
that is You, and everything.

Open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds,
God who is our universe,
so we constantly seek and learn more about You
through education,
in every ebb tide,
in every birdsong,
in every masterful stroke of
a sunset ablaze with scarlet fires,
in every word of Scripture
and the philosophies of both ancient
and modern intellects.

From Wisdom to wisdom,
we commit ourselves to You,
our creator, our sustainer,
our non-being being,
giver of Wisdom and intellect,
revealer of truth to all of us,
Your loyal seekers of truth
and love.
Amen.

Daily Wonder 11-21-14

Scripture: Matthew 9:37-38
[Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Thought for the Day: Jesus started a movement. He urged (and urges) people to join him in the fight against global injustice and human slavery. This was and continues to be a fight that does not involve violence—ever. The fight against the powers in the world bent on destroying it is one of peaceful non-participation. It involves turning people to God, knowing that God changes everything. When Jesus makes calls for workers, he’s not asking for people to invade other lands and convert them to Christianity or slaughter them (*ahem* crusades, inquisitions, etc.).

When Jesus asks for workers in the field, he’s not asking for us to convert other people to Christianity (which didn’t exist in his day anyway). He’s asking us to go forth and help people discover the intimate relationship with God that Jesus shows is our birthright. The intimate connection exemplified in him is something Jesus felt God desires with us all. Connection and communion with God, in Jesus’ view, is why we were created.

Working in the field means we serve the people we go to visit the way Jesus always served the people he visited in the Bible stories. We don’t tell them what they need or what to believe. We go, as Jesus would, with open arms and hearts filled with the desire to serve. We ask, “What can we do for you?” then do our best to help. By so doing, hopefully we bring a little more of God’s love into the world.

Prayer: I don’t want to convert anyone to any religion, God, I just want them to be converted by You into a being of love and peace. Your love is real, life changing, and waiting to come alive within every one of us. Make yourself known in our hearts, minds, and souls, today and everyday, and for the rest of our lives. Amen.

Daily Wonder 11-20-14

Scripture: Malachi 3:18
And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, seek between those who serve God and those who do not.

Thought for the Day: In “Malachi, sovaldi sale ” the wicked are not limited to criminals. Any person not serving God is considered wicked. Anyone putting their own interests ahead of the good of the community is wicked. Malachi is trying to get people to think about their lives, and their world, differently. Instead of asking “What’s in it for me?” Malachi urges us to ask “What’s in it for God?” Malachi invites us all to consider that serving each other is our most faithful response to God.

Jesus, being a faithful Jew, teaches the same thing. Over and over he tells people to humble themselves, that it is better to give than to receive, and that it is better to serve than to rule. When we are in right relationship with God, our motivations are different. We become less concerned with material gain and profit motive, and more concerned that everyone gets a fair shake—especially those whom society has rendered voiceless.

I’m thankful for the people who work in service industries—waiters, mechanics, psychiatrists and social workers, police and fire fighters, nurses, doctors and lawyers. I’m thankful for priests, preachers and Rabbis, for farmers and field workers. There are millions of people fulfilling Jesus’ call to serve. Together, they offer a glimpse into God’s always evolving kingdom of peace, equality, and love. Together, they remind us that no matter how bleak the news, all is not lost. God is still working, speaking and moving us to love and care for each other, unconditionally.

Prayer: Thank you for filling so many hearts with the desire to serve others, our loving God who serves us without question, all the time. Amen.

Daily Wonder 11-19-14

Scripture: Revelation 7:15-17
They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, try nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center before the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Thought for the Day: “Revelation” was written at a time of (or shortly after) intense persecution. Followers of Jesus—both Jews and Gentiles, were being murdered in horrendous ways and chased out of Rome by torch-wielding, pitchfork thrusting mobs. Think about the final scenes of the classic movie “Frankenstein” and you get the idea. These refugees, like believers throughout history, once again found themselves without shelter or food. They had to serve each other to keep the community alive.

This passage of “Revelation” isn’t about some distant future where Jesus comes back to pick the true believers and grant all their wishes. It’s about an incredibly tumultuous, dangerous, difficult life here and now. The vision presented in “Revelation” is about our responsibility as followers of Jesus and believers in an eternal presence to serve each other. It’s our job to make sure every human on the planet has food and shelter. We are to be Jesus’ social workers for justice, doing what we can to keep humanity from perishing by its own hands. No act of kindness is too small. No tent is too tattered. God loves us all, unconditionally. As beings created from God’s image, it’s our duty to keep everyone warm and fed through these cold, dark nights of the soul.

Meditation (repeat as needed): I follow Jesus to work for the good of humankind, as Jesus worked for the good of humankind. Make me an instrument of love. Give me the resources and talent I need to help others on their long journey out of terror and into the loving arms of God. Amen.

Daily Wonder 11-18-14

Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:4-5
For everything God created is good, order and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Thought for the Day: Our lives are filled with busyness. I honestly don’t think I know a single person whose day isn’t completely packed with too many activities. We are all stressed to the breaking point. I suspect the same was true for our ancestors. Actually, life might have been more stressful for them, since their survival was so intricately woven into the whims of weather patterns, or the ambitions of kings who thought themselves gods.

This letter to Timothy was probably written very late in the first century, possibly early in the second century. It was a time when leaders in the early church (such as Timothy) were being hounded on every side. Within the church, people had different, often opposing visions of what the church should look like. Outside the church, the Roman Empire saw Christians as rebels and worked hard to obliterate the movement. The author of this letter recognized that the only way to deal with that sort of stress is to constantly give thanks to God. Even the stuff that’s causing us the stress can’t be rejected, because in some fashion it is forming us as spiritual beings. There is a lesson to be learned in everything if we’re willing to step out of ourselves long enough to learn.

Prayers of thanks are an unfortunately overlooked form of stress relief. When we stop to give thanks for being alive—for the smell of the rain-soaked Florida wetlands, for the streaming beams of sunlight that look like shimmering roads to another universe, for the sheer, incredible, implausible fact that we have come to a deep consciousness in the holographic vastness of reality, we should be overcome with tearful joy. And in that moment of release, in that time of thanksgiving, we find peace and tranquility, knowing all things have been created good—including us.

Prayer: God who transcends time and space: Help me break through the busyness of my day. Still my mind, relieve my stress, and make me thankful for the glorious gift of life. Amen.

Daily Wonder 11-17-14

Monday Meditation:
God of infinite love and grace, advice
we come to you ever thankful
for this place of worship
and this time of prayer.
We acknowledge that
our faith binds us to each other,
and to that which is holy.

[silent meditation]

Yet we confess that
there are some people
to whom we do not feel bound.
There are times when
we build walls
instead of opening doors.
We turn a deaf ear
to those in pain
or in need of our counsel,
because we are too busy
to open the doors of our hearts.
And sometimes when we listen,
we listen poorly.
We talk when we should be silent,
and we become mute
when we should use our voices
to break down barriers.

[silent meditation]

Break down the barriers
of our apathy
and reluctant resistance, O God.
Help us catch a vision
of who we are to be,
and what we are called to become.
Open our hearts
to the strengthening presence of all who love us
in this life and beyond.

Make our church
a positive force in the world, Holy Lord,
no matter how dark the times may appear,
no matter how much society tries to convince us
that greed and selfishness are normal.
Remind us, Gracious God,
that you freed us
so that we might also free others.
Make our church and us
part of your infinite cycle of blessings.

[silent meditation]

We offer thanks for our families,
and ask that your healing presence
be with those who are ill;
with those who are homebound
and with those who mourn
with a sorrow too deep for words.
May everyone in the world come to know
the peace of mind, body, and spirit
available through deep and faithful love of you,
our Holy and Eternal Source of all Being.

Amen.

Daily Wonder 11-14-14

Scripture: James 1:25
But those who look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continue in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Thought for the Day: The founders of the early church—especially Jesus’ brother James, viagra sale understood that giving, pilule for no reason other than the desire to give to others, is the greatest possible blessing. Somewhat paradoxically, giving out of love with no expectation of return on investment, blesses both the recipient and the giver. We give to each other not because we expect something in return (or a reward from God), but simply because we are so filled with the Spirit and love of God that we overflow with the desire to do things to bring a little light to our dark world.

Religion in Jesus’ time was still transactional. When a sacrifice of grain or meat was made to the gods, good fortune was expected in return. Just as people traded goods and services with each other, they traded goods and services with the gods. This same sacrificial system, although more complex and less direct, existed in Judaism, and I would say continues to be the primary reason people are religious today. Whether a church is preaching eternal damnation or eternal blessings, the idea is that our actions affect our relationship with God. If we’re good, God gives us good things. If we’re bad, God punishes us.

Not only is this transactional model based on human actions, it also makes humans the most important part of this religious system, which we are not. God is the most important part of any religious cycle. We should come to religion and/or spirituality out of a strong desire to know God more deeply, whatever “God” means to us at any given moment. That desire to have real relationship with God transforms our lives and turns us all into service personnel, infused by God to serve humanity. Jesus clearly shows that the only sacrifice we offer God should be our own lives. The only thing we should expect in return is that our lives will be very, very different. If we turn our lives over to God, we will die to our old selves and be born into something new. This is the metaphor of the crucifixion in a nutshell. New life awaits us all, here and now, and God is already working on our transformation.

That transformation ends a cycle of bloodshed that has gone on since humans first walked the earth. Dying to the old world and being transformed by God into new beings helps bring about the ultimate blessing for all of us: a world without war, where we help each other through tough times, share our medicines to eradicate diseases, and work together to empower each other, rather than enslave each other. We can break out of the systems of commerce that pollute both our interactions with each other and with God, and finally become something greater than we’ve dared to dream possible: a blessing to the entire universe.

Prayer: Open my eyes to the cycle of blessings that is showered upon the world when I stop asking to receive, and instead open my heart to giving as faithfully as my master, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Wonder 11-13-14

Scripture: Psalm 103:1
Praise the Lord, click my soul;
all my inmost being, thumb praise God’s holy name.

Thought for the Day: Why do we praise God? For some, God is praised out of fear. If we don’t praise God, then we will be punished somehow, either in this life, the next, or both. For others, God is praised out of expectation of material reward. Books like The Secret and too many popular preachers and evangelists insist that material gain is ours for the asking. If we truly have faith, then God will “bless” us with mansions and cars and hidden vaults full of treasure we can hoard away from the rest of the world. Neither is a good reason to praise God.

I believe we praise God because we can’t help it. Praise is part of a cycle of blessings for humankind. We praise God not because we’re afraid of punishment, nor because we want God to grant us wishes like some Genii just released from a magic lamp. We praise God because we see, hear, taste, touch and smell the majesty and mystery of the universe everywhere and in everyone. When we examine the world, we sense God everywhere. Whether we’re in a small village bringing people water, or staring at the infinite inkiness of a starry sky, we not only suspect God’s presence, we feel it—palpably, undoubtedly, reassuringly.

We don’t praise God in order to have this incredible feeling, though. We simply praise God out of thanks for the astounding blessing of consciousness. And unsurprisingly in this incredibly well ordered universe, our conscious awareness of God everywhere, that true blessing, creates a cycle of blessings for the entire world as God changes everything, bit by bit, one heart and mind at a time.

Prayer: Make me a part of the cycle of blessings for the world, endless God of blessed love. Amen.

Daily Wonder 11-12-14

Scripture: The “Book of Judges”

Thought for the Day: “Judges” is an interesting peek into the cyclical nature of both Scripture and the ancient Judaic worldview into which Jesus was born. The number seven was particularly important to the ancients, there as it indicated the sacred measurement of time. The Sabbath falls on the seventh day, Pentecost happens seven weeks after the liturgical year begins, a sabbatical is to be taken every seventh year, and the Jubilee is celebrated after seven times seven years.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that “The Book of Judges” repeats a cycle of sin, defeat, repentance, and deliverance seven times. The cycle begins in 3:7, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” The result of this transgression is that the Israelites are subjects of the Cushan kingdom for eight years. Notice they are subject for eight years, eight being a number that represents, among other things, the beginning of a new cycle—it is seven plus one. Eight is regeneration and resurrection. On the eighth year, Othniel saves the Israelites, and they live in peace and prosperity for 40 years (the number 40 represents a lifetime or a generation). Then the entire cycle starts again—Israel messes up, they are defeated by an enemy, they ask God for help, God sends a savior and all is well, until Israel messes up, they are defeated etc. Guess how many times this cycle occurs in “The book of Judges”? You go it. Seven. I’ve included all the references at the end of today’s “Daily Wonder” for the other geeks like me.

Cycles have always been enormously important to human beings. Before we decided there were seven days to the week, we worked and worshipped according to lunar cycles. As our tools for and powers of observation improved, we moved the way we measure things to solar cycles. Today we use atomic cycles to measure everything from the age of ancient wonders like the Pyramids, to the age of the universe itself.

It helps to understand and realize the cyclical nature of existence, because I think it brings us some peace and comfort. Reading through “The Book of Judges” and noticing the cycles of loss and regeneration the Israelites go through is incredibly powerful. Here we see a people (who represent all people, incidentally), going through the same struggles we all go through. Like the ancient Israelites, things that keep us away from God for a time often interrupt our own faith journeys. These things can be people, governments, addictions, or distractions like materialism. Yet, just like the ancient Israelites, when we ask God for help, we are delivered from whatever has disconnected us, and our journey begins anew.

Prayer: God who is my beginning and ending, make me more aware of the cycles in my life and my world. Help me more quickly notice when I am disconnected from you, because as soon as I become aware of my disconnect, you are there, regenerating me and saving me, energizing me for the next cycle of my life. Amen.

Note: Here’s the entire cycle of “sin”, defeat, repentance, help from God, and salvation in “Judges”. For more info check out Charles Caldwell Ryrie’s “Concise Guide to the Bible” (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1983).

Othniel, 3:7–11.
Ehud and Shamgar, 3:12–31.
Deborah and Barak, 4–5.
Gideon, 6:1–8:32.
Tola and Jair, 8:33–10:5.
Jephthah (and successors), 10:6–12:15.
Samson, 13–16