Creating & Stepping Into a Gap

I do not often step away from the Revised Common Lectionary and speak out of the weekly cycle I have created. But I am feeling that now, today, I need to speak up. I have been reading Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” and have been intrigued and impressed by what I have read. It has been a revelation, hearing what happened before his presidency and what was going on behind the scenes. The book was written, I am guessing, in 2017, and was published in 2018. The year and time of its publishing will become significant as I continue.

I have just finished the part of her story when Trump was elected president. Her and her husband’s shock and dismay at his election match my own – at the time. But now, reading this book in these current days, I look back at the time and mourn the innocence we had then – thinking that it was just an overall poor choice by the voting public. We had no idea, beloved reader, what would happen in the years after Trump’s inauguration. I don’t have to remind you, I am sure, of the increasing “debris” of poor choices, statements, and tweets he has made – to delicately state the issue. Comparing then, as Michelle narrates that time in the country’s life, to now – the tragedy of our current situation is made so clear.

I am not usually politically minded; I do not talk about politics nor let it sway my pondering or meditations. That may tell you, my longtime readers, how much Trump’s presidency has effected me. And reading about the days following Trump’s election, seeing it through Michelle Obama’s eyes, has settled a lead weight in my thoughts. Reminiscences of the past four years streak across my thinking, and I am shocked to a standstill and am moved to mourn.

I live in Oregon, about 3 hours away from Portland. The events in Portland sear across the headlines, here in Oregon and I have to assume across the nation. And, if the news pundit are correct, other cities are set to experience the same thing. This has to end, beloved reader. It has to change. We have endured coming close to four full years. And it is threatening to tear our nation apart. Not to mention how the rest of the global community sees us. If you did know it before, reading her book, you will realize how our national imagine rose under former President Obama; and now, how it has fallen.

Back in 2017 I thought, as long as Trump does not do anything that cannot be undone after four years – we will be okay. Then I thought, what has happened thus far – we can mend. Later still I thought, I just hope there is enough of the United States left that we can salvage. Now, it just feels like so much is lost. So many people, through so much violence and illness. So much natural resources, gone and more being threatened. And our image – well, it was bad enough when we were hated as a nation. I think now that we are pitied, the hurt is worse.

I am actually not an American citizen. I was born and still am a Canadian citizen living in the United States legally since 1982. My opinion may not matter much. I have the “privilege” of paying taxes, but not the “privilege” of voting. That is one of the reasons I try not to wear or portray any political motif. And you know, really, my written statements in the past year or two have not been politically motivated; I speak out from humanitarian and Christian conscience. Because to stay silent would be, well, unimaginable.

This has to end, beloved reader. It just has to end. I do not have a vote to cast. And even if I did, my one vote would matter little. But I do have a voice. And I will speak up. I will speak against aggression, hatred, and violence. I have spoke against it before. But now I will give it a name. There is this impression that one’s words do not matter. That when one speaks hateful demeaning words, it does not matter, because words are just sounds from our mouth. But as Jesus rightly said, the words of our mouth give evidence of our inner thoughts. And our inner thoughts motivate our actions. And our actions can create an environment where aggression, hatred, and violence are tolerated and even encouraged. Words then, in a direct trajectory, create actions. Where hatred in isolation, confined to one or two people may not amount to much; but when hatred leaps into a larger group, the results can be devastating. It does not matter, or should not matter, who is speaking the hatred to who. The results can warp and destroy anyone it comes in contact with. Protesting hatred, speaking up that hatred cannot, should not, and will not be tolerated, is a noble thing to do. But when protesting crosses the line to aggression, hatred and violence – we have all lost out and we will all suffer.

This has to end, beloved reader. It just has to end. Let me be very clear. A second presidency by Donald Trump will destroy us in ways we cannot imagine. In fact, I do not want to imagine it. But at the end of 2016, I did not want to imagine what the next four years would be like. I am not endorsing any candidate. What I am doing is raising my voice to clearly say is that the last four years should be a wake call for us to be very careful who is the next US president. Words matter, beloved reader. The thoughts and opinions behind the words matter. Words can reveal the nature of a person, especially someone who had not learned or refuses to assess their words and their communications.

I comment on scripture because they are illuminative, pointing us to Christian thoughts and deeds. We can hear the voice of the Divine through scripture, and with the guidance of the Holy Presence we can discern what is best to do. Those whose words, thoughts, and actions going against the Divine’s Word should be held in wariness until their true personality is revealed. And it will be, beloved reader. If I have learned anything in the past four years, it will be.

May you beloved reader, where ever you are, discern wisely those who are around you, and those who seek your support. And may the Lord God be with us as we entire into the election season. Shalom & Selah!

P.S. This post is making a special appearance on the blog site, “A Simple Desire” as well as here. Now that I have raised my voice, I want it to be heard!

Third Sunday of Easter, Yr A, 2020: Psalm Passage – Preacher and Seeker pray and preach a psalm passage

Seeker: “I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.”
Preacher:
Being heard by the Lord God is a balm to the heart and spirit. Others may hear what we say, but their sense of hearing is not the same as the Divine’s. Humans only hear the sound of our voice that is detected by their ear drum. The Divine hears our heart and spirit, our intent and our spiritual sighs. To be heard by the Lord God is a blessing and a gift from above.
Seeker: “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.”
Preacher:
Does the Divine know that by hearing our words, our sighs and groans of the inner spirit, that we are won over by the care and compassion of the Lord God? I think so. The Divine heard Jesus when he was in human form, and Jesus coming to the Lord God so often in prayer is an example to us to come to the Lord God ourselves. Praise the Lord that example was set for us!
Seeker: “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.”
Preacher:
Jesus knew what it was like to be separated form the Divine – how bitter it mush have been for the Godself and for the Messiah to be separated. But that splitting of the Godself taught us that no distance is too great for the Lord God to bridge it.
Seeker: “Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, save my life!”
Preacher:
That is our prayer, to save our life. Jesus rest in assurance that his life would be saved, even if it was temporarily lost. What another great example to us”
Seeker: “What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.”
Preacher:
What do we have to lift up to the Divine, but our humble and contrite heart. Is it enough? Is our heart, soul, and spirit enough? All of our heart, mind, and strength we life up.
Seeker: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.”
Preacher:
Do not think that the Lord God desires our death. It is life that the Divine wishes to give. Our human bodies grow ill and die. But our essence, what makes us the unique individual that we are and are destined to be be, is precious to the Divine. And when our earthly life is done, the Divine gathers each one of us up and gives us life eternal in the Divine’s holy presence.
Seeker: “O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.”
Preacher:
We are the Lord’s, from the moment of our birth to our death, and beyond.
Seeker: “I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19)
Preacher: Each time we bring ourselves before the Lord God, the Divine, we strengthen our path to the Lord God. How good it is, Seeker, to bring ourselves again and again before the Lord God. May we come to the Lord God each day, and in each moment that we need to commune with our Creator, Savior, and Redeemer! Selah!

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A in 2020: No scripture, just me pondering

I have been reminded quite often this past week or two of the first line from Charles Dickens’ book Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” if I am remembering it correctly. There has been so much sadness going on around me; at work and in the news.

We have been keeping a “social distance” at work, and working staggered shifts so there is not more than a few of us in the office. Normally there are ten of us in the office, or more accurately in the office suites. But with the schedule we are on, there are rarely more than four of us on site at anyone time. My office mate and co-worker is working mostly from home or at a different time than I am. The person who is in the office next door is doing the same. Coordinating and figuring out logistics to get the work done is challenging. Our agency provides supportive services for people with developmental disabilities, both at their homes and at their jobs. We also help them find and keep jobs in the community. It is important and worthwhile work, and considered to be essential so we will not be closing down. Therefore this rotating scheduling will have to be continued as long as coronavirus is a threat.

In my community so many stores and services are shut down. And what is not shut down is operating at “social distances” as well. And just like most of the rest of the country, in the stores there are more empty spaces and shelves than there are household products and grocery items to buy. It is to the point where, like I am sure most people are doing, I buy groceries and household products as I see them available. Rest assured, beloved reader, I only one item or maybe two if the product is not “high demand”. And the stores that are open are taking more precautions as well. “Sneeze/cough guards” for the cashiers to work behind, no reusable bags allowed unless you bag your own items, and carts are being sanitized between each customer. I appreciate the lengths that store staff are going to, but it is sad that each person’s human presence needs to be eradicated.

What makes up for that, and is why it is also the best of times is that human kindness, compassion, and caring is on the upswing. Humans are social beings, and just because we have to now live “at a distance” does not mean we are ignoring each other. Story after story is reported of people finding ways to be unified while maintaining the necessary isolation. What is replacing human touch are touching compassion and caring. The human spirit finds a way to say “I am here and I care.” I think society as a whole had taken for granted the way connection and contact is maintained. Now that we have to live at a distance, we are trying to find more and more inventive ways to connect and stay connected.

When school closings were first announced, the assumption was that students (I am talking about elementary & secondary school students) could and would be home schooled. But today I saw a posting encouraging parents NOT to try home schooling their children but simply enjoy spending time with them and create good memories. How wonderful is that! Just think what that will mean for the next generation that these children got a chance to make a real connection with their parents! In the society we were experiencing just a month or two ago, everyone was so busy doing activities and going from one place to the other that time spent together was so little. Now there is an abundance of time to spend together. I heard an intriguing terminology on the radio today – quarin-team. That is the people who make up the group you are “sheltering at home with”. These are the people who share your living space, and for better or worse, have been sharing your breathing space and environment for the last few months – that is, before Covid-19 became a thing.

That terminology reminded me of our relationship with the Divine. We may not share living space – actual geographical living space – with the Lord God. However, those of us who profess a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ and the Lord God have an intimate relationship with the Divine. We may not always feel like we are at “close quarters” with the Divine, but the Divine abides in each of us, and is with us through every situation. While I do not think the Divine is the “author” of this virus (as I have seen hinted at) I do think the Lord God is using this event in our global community to remind us that we are all connected in a very basic way.

It is the worst of times because we, as a global community, have been faced with death – deaths that rend the heart. It is the best of times because we have seen human compassion and caring overcome so much sadness and distancing. In these worst of times, beloved reader, may you express care and compassion to/with those dear to your heart so that the days and months to come might also be the best of times. Selah!

Advent Season 2019, Year A – Second Sunday of Advent: The Epistle Passage – Hope comes from peace and harmony

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:4 – 6)

I am assuming that Paul is talking about the Torah (Pentateuch in Greek) and the other writings that would have been used in the Jewish community. It was Paul’s belief (and a good many commentators that I have read) that Jesus the Messiah was predicted by the writings of the major and minor prophets, and the nature of the Messiah as revealed in the stories of the called and chosen people. In that I am not talking about the presumptions that were made about the nature and intentions of the Divine, but what actually transpired between the Lord God and humanity. Read carefully where Paul says “live in harmony with one another”. Many of the actions that were undertaken by the Israelites did not seem to promote harmony. I concede the consideration of that is a larger topic that I am not looking at taking up here. The point I want to emphasis is one voice glorifying the God and [Parent] of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Verse 7)

A refrain that is often heard is “Peace on earth and goodwill to all people” to slightly paraphrase for gender inclusivity. But that is the whole point, beloved reader, to make all people feel welcome! Listen to Paul!

“For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.” (Verses 8 – 12)

One may ask, who are the “circumcised” and who are the “Gentiles”. Paul still has a shade of “them” and “us”. Strictly speaking to Paul, WE are the Gentiles. Because we are not the first people that Yahweh called out. But as believers in Jesus Christ and beneficiaries of the Lord God’s outreach through the Messiah, we are the “circumcised.” And if we are both, beloved reader, how can we deny relationship with others. Either they are already within the family of God, or the Divine is attempting to reach out to them through us! So I say to you, beloved reader, which ever group you may be a part of . . . .

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Verse 13)

Selah and Shalom!

[P.S. This might be a good time to announce that as of November 26th I have taken up the invitation to post on Theology Corner. In the coming weeks I will say more about the transition to posting exclusively (not that I mean to leave anyone beyond or left out) on Theology Corner. Look for cues and clues to switch over to that new site.)

Season After Pentecost (Proper 12[17]) – The Epistle Passage: Considering the pressure, expectations and importance of “knowing” the Divine

It is said, and I believe, that even the powers of darkness (or if you prefer capitalized “the Powers of Darkness) know the Divine – know that the Divine is about and what the Divine intends to have happen by the end of all days. Knowing who the Divine is does not mean, however, following the guidance, instruction, and inspiration of the Divine. THAT takes a great deal of work and commitment. And a heart, soul, and spirit that makes way and space for the Divine.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” (Ephesians 3:14 – 15)

Paul, when he was Saul thought he knew the Divine, knew Adonay and Yahweh; and thought he was being faithful when he set out to destroy the heretical believers who professed faith in Jesus as the Christ. Not just knew of him, knew his story, but believed the story that the disciples were preaching. He was persuaded towards a different belief and faith – one that included God/Yahweh, Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit.

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, 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. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Verses 16 – 19)

And if Paul is praying to the Divine that his readers and audience goes beyond simply knowing about to comprehending, then it must be vital. More vital than anything else that Paul knows of.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Verses 20 – 21)

Those who know of the Divine, in all of the Divine’s aspects but do not follow nor act according to the precepts as they have been laid down over the generation and centuries risk much. Risk everything, in fact. We cannot, however, say for others how that devotion and following should be lived out. We can only determine for ourselves what we need to do, and then seek out like-minded individuals in order to support each other. And pray for one another. As Paul prayed. Selah!

Another peek into my life

[This post actually came a few weeks before I got my new job in 2017]

I had an interesting experience today. Because my bank charges fees if you do not have activity on your account, I had to close my account. I have been with them for 10 years, so it was a real sad parting of the ways. The banker was very nice and understanding, and wished me well.
I got to thinking as I was driving home – he must have felt relief that HE had a good and stable job after hearing my story of being without a job and income. And, he must have felt good giving me encouragement and support during a difficult time in my life. I admit, that may sound strange.
My point is this – we never know when the actions in our lives will give other people an opportunity to extend kindness and care to us. Encouragement does good for both the supporter and the one being supported. While none of us want to be the “but for the grace of God, there go I” person, it sometimes a role we find ourselves filling. And I will admit, in my feeling down for myself, it heartened me a little (once I could accept that role) to know that I offered someone else a chance to feel good about themselves.
Even when we feel there is nothing good we can do, or that no good will come out of a situation, we may be surprised. And it is those surprise situations that may be the very thing that gets us through the hard times. I hope and pray that there will be things along your path that help you along. Share them here, or just come here to be encouraged and supported wherever you are in life. Shalom!

The next installment

[I was really trying to put forth a good effort, but I was starting to feel the uphill battle of managing so much]

I am trying to post something here every few days. I know getting a Facebook page started and having people come to check it out takes patience and time. Time I have; it is patience that I need to work on. But that is probably true for a lite of people. And being patient is one of the things that is helped along by encouragement. “Be patient” people tell you. “Things will work out.” And while that is helpful on the face of it, that sort of assurance does not always go the distance when the “working out” of things is taking a while. Because there you are, back again, having your patience be stretched too taut.
So rather than giving you all sorts of adages, I am simply affirming that I know things can be hard. And I promise you that I am right in the trenches along with others who are struggling. But we are not alone, and I need to remind myself of that. And I hope I have reminded you too! Shalom!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 5 [10]) – The Psalm Passage: Faith to give thanks

One of the Facebook groups I am a part of posted the question of what we are thankful for. Of course there were a variety of answers posted from then mild and humorous to the serious and touching. What one is thankful for various from day to day, and situation to situation. It is fine and good to be thankful for the large and overarching things – family and loved ones – and the small and minor things – getting a parking spot and having a good meal. As believers and followers of the Divine, we can be thankful for the Divine’s presence in our lives and in the lives of others. The psalmist excels at giving things for that.

“I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.” (Psalms 138:1 – 2)

Because it was and is obvious to give thanks for the large things, in response to the question posted I gave thanks for a small thing. The reason, for me, in giving thanks for a small thing was because the large things – that is the most important things in my life – are things that I know will be there and I can count on them. Of course I am thankful for them. But I have assurance that they will be there. The small things, on the other hand, may ebb and flow with time and circumstance so I gave thanks for them as they happen.

“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” (Verse 3)

When a believer calls on the Lord God, the assumption is that the Lord God will answer. The answer may not be immediate nor what one expects. But we can have faith that Lord God will answer. So it may not be the answer to prayer and petition that we are thankful for as much as that we are heard by our Lord God.

“All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (Verses 4 – 6)

When I first read through Psalm 138, it was verse 3 that resonated within me most. And I guess for me, it is the verse that this psalm hinges on. It is why I can have faith that the large important things in my life – which really aren’t “things” – will be there for me. It is why I give thanks for small things, because they help me along my way. The granting of the small blessings helps me keep my courage up to face difficult issues in my life. And I give thanks for that as well.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Verses 7 – 8)

“ Do not forsake the work of your hands” . . . what I take that to mean is “Do not forsake creation and your called and chosen people . . . Do not forsake those who call on the Lord God.” I do not think the Lord God does, beloved reader. And that is why we can have the faith to give thanks for all things, because the Divine is with us. Selah!

Third Sunday of Lent: The Psalm Passage – Psalm 19: As envisioned through the lens of nature

“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.”

 

“Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.”

 

 

‘The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.”

 

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

 

 

But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.”

 

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”