A RAINBOW OF HOPE

A RAINBOW OF HOPE
IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD – “Be still, and know that I am God! In coming to know our creator, our experiences are individual and will be a product of who we are and what our life is like. There is something innate in us that seeks God. It is a question of whether we are willing to let that come through our fears and perhaps anger. Even before we open to God, we are not abandoned. God is and has always been with us, waiting for us to choose to open ourselves to God. Whether it is the first time that we seek refuge or the millionth, God’s unfailing love is present and already connected to us. Nothing in the world can or will get in the way of God’s love for us. This paraphrase of Psalm 46 is one way of reaching out to God. It works at the beginning of the day or whenever we need it.

 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
and the mountains shake and tremble.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in its midst; it shall not be moved;
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; God’s voice can make the earth melt.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what destructions God has brought on the earth.

God makes wars cease, breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; fire burns the shields.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Paraphrased from Psalm 46, NRSV

O God, you are our refuge. Wherever we find ourselves, you are there with us. Your love has no end and no circumstance will deny that love for us. Help us see this love you have for us and know there is no ending point. Show us this scary world through new eyes and teach us to rely on you instead of the world. May we come to know that nothing that happens will ever break the connection between us. We are grateful.  Amen.       PEACE

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NURTURING OUR RELATIONSHIP

NURTURING OUR RELATIONSHIP
WITH GOD – Spiritual practices to deepen our relationship: “Be still, and know that I am God!”  Psalm 46

Begin at the beginning – as soon as we wake [maybe before our eyes open]

~Be still; meditate; pray; envision something that makes us think of God; or any other ways that work for us to connect to God. Our days will take a different path because we have done this every day. Every day we can start over.

Remember how much God loves us:

~John 3:16, 17 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave God’s one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent this Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

~1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Psalm 36:7 “How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.”

~Romans 5:  3  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

~Romans 8:38-39 “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2 Thessalonians 3:5 “May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.”

PROCEED with your day from here – God will lead and guide us. As we meet others and make decisions, God will be there to help us live with love. O loving and merciful God, we are grateful for your creative love that forgives us and still loves us without fail. Direct us.  Amen.    PEACE     From an upcoming book: BECOMING, Steps in the Journey of Discipleship.

TRUSTING NOT DOUBTING

TRUSTING NOT DOUBTING
AN EXERCISE IN LEARNING TO TRUST GOD – so that trust becomes as innate as doubt, with God’s help.

From an upcoming book, BECOMING, A Guide to a Life of Discipleship.

Each time we feel ourselves doubting, pray for help with it. Ask for God’s help and God will show us how to trust instead.

Ask for a mantra to repeat, if this is helpful.

Meditate on what it means to trust. Ask God, in prayer, to show us how to do this.

Don’t know how to begin?

The best way is to commit to just do it. God’s grace will smooth the way.

Sit in a quiet place, relax and let go of everything that is on our minds. [It will be there when we are ready to pick it up again.]  Think of creation and the infinite care with which God created everything, including us. Picture a way that we are connected to the earth – it could be any natural way that forms a connection for us. We could picture ourselves as a plant or tree, with our roots going deep into the ground. Have fun with this image.

Next, think of all that God has put in place that cares for us and all the creatures of the earth – air, water, sun etc.

Then consider the gifts of love, joy and grace that God provides for our care.

By now, God may begin leading our thoughts to more things than we have considered before. Reach out with our mind and heart to embrace all that God gives us. We may be shown visions or feel something at this point. Let this go as long as you wish and simply open your eyes when you feel ready.

From this point on, it will be easier to pray on the spur of the moment and ask to have doubt turned into trust. Do this at any time during the day and it will soon become a matter of course, where we hardly have to think about it.

End each day by thanking God for the grace within us that has made this possible. Notice how the days become easier to get through without doubt interfering in our living with God. Struggles will diminish and may disappear.

Praise God for the infinite care grace provides in showing us new ways of living.  Loving God, we are grateful for the care and guidance you give us, as we take steps to become closer to who we are meant to be. Melt our doubts and show us all the ways you have our backs.  Amen.    PEACE

SEARCHING OUT GOD’S GRACE

SEARCHING OUT GOD’S GRACE
IN THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHERS – can be one way to get closer to God. Look for those around you that seem to have a connection to God or are devoted to God in some way. If you are able, observe how they live and perhaps have a conversation with them about how they experience God. I assure you they will gladly share something of what they know. It is a way they honor and love God, to share with others who are seeking God. This is the evidence of how God’s grace is working in and through them. As we hear in this worship material from author Lavon Bayler,  “God is pleased with all who reflect steadfast love. Praise God with the best you have to offer.”  In Deuteronomy 16, we hear how the Israelites were reminded to love God by celebrating what God had done for them, in remembering the Passover in Egypt.  “15 For seven days you must celebrate this festival [of Passover] to honor the Lord your God at the place God chooses, for it is God who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work. This festival will be a time of great joy for all.”

What better way to love and serve God, submitting to God’s plan for us all, than to share what we know of God with those who ask and thereby passing on some of God’s grace in us to others. Again from Lavon Bayler – “Go out to serve. Someone needs you today. What you have to give will be helpful to someone. We pray God will open our eyes to needs around us. [Through the grace God provides for us – ] We will look for ways to be helpful. Speak a healing word. Do a caring deed. Surely God will empower our ministry. God strengthens the powerless and helps the weak. God’s power will be in you when you pray. We will serve in the strength God supplies.”   I know of no better assurance of God’s imperative to both seek and reach out.   Bountiful and loving God, help us feel your grace working in us to enable us in doing what you have called us to do, whatever that is for each of us. We are grateful for the strength and purpose you put into us, so we may work with confidence, as we spread the love and goodness born into us. Show us glimpses of the glory that shines in those who love and serve you.    Amen.       PEACE

OUR COMMON CONNECTION

OUR COMMON CONNECTION
WITH GOD – is something we all share. In Fr. Richard Rohr’s blog link from yesterday’s post, he refers to the Israelites’ writing down of their creation story as a way of bringing together their community while they were in exile in Babylon. They used it as a way of uniting their exiled community together and to protect them from the foreign cultural influences around them. It was for them and is for us, a creating of an identity, a way of claiming a common experience of all of us being created by God and from the goodness of God. What joy that can give us, being one under God’s love as a community of children of God, and so we are all people God loves. Since that is true, then we should think no less of ourselves than God does. We are a blessing from God and should know that so well that it helps us to see ourselves in that light. If that is true and it is, then we should never think less of ourselves than that. When others around us run themselves down, remind them that God loves them and does not see them that way. As the saying goes – “God don’t make junk.”

When we love others we give voice to how much God knows and understands us. And why would God do otherwise, when we have all been made in the image of our Creator? In Romans 8, Paul reminds us –  16 “For God’s Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are God’s children, we are God’s heirs. In fact, together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory. … 26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose for them.”   So who are we and what do we have in common? We are sons and daughters of the one who created and loves us – our esteem comes directly from the one whom we come from. We should do no less than to know God created us for something significant. We are blessed. God’s Spirit works in and through all of us, helping us pass on those blessings to someone else today.   Creator God, we are grateful for the love in which you have created all of us. Help us to continue that love, by passing it on to others around us. Teach us how to use the opportunities we have to extend that love from you, to others who need it. Help us learn to grow in love by giving it away to others.   Amen.        PEACE

FROM FR. RICHARD ROHR – “Our creation story says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26) and out of a fully generative love. I love how Rob, and many other evolutionary Christians, says what this means for us: “We are created with a drive to self-transcend, to move beyond oneself for the joy and blessing of others.” It is all positive, an original blessing instead of an original sin, sending us toward a cosmic hope. There is something within us, which Christians call the Holy Spirit, that makes us aware that we are here to co-create with God and make something beautiful of the world. Like the Trinity, the perichoresis (divine dance) of God, we are made to encircle others and creation in self-giving love, generosity, blessing, and service. When you start positive, instead of with a problem, there is a much greater likelihood you will move forward positively too.

Our starting point is totally positive, and not just the sad overcoming of a problem. Blessed John Duns Scotus, OFM (1266-1308) said that the Christ is Plan A, and we got off to a very bad start by making Jesus (or the Christ) a mere problem-solving technique of God–or Plan B. God creates the first premise and meaning of reality, not human sinfulness. The first chapter of the Bible repeatedly says creation is “very good” (Genesis 1:10-31)! Are we really that obtuse? It sure seems so. From such a blessed and unitive beginning, we were given to know the clear direction of the whole tangent–we came from goodness, we are slowly ticking toward goodness, and we will end in goodness. And all this goodness is pure gift.” [Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, pp. 27-28, and In the Beginning . . . Six hours with Rob Bell and Richard Rohr on reclaiming the original Christian narrative  cac.org 

EVERY DAY WE CAN CHOOSE

EVERY DAY WE CAN
CHOOSE GOD – From the beginning of each day, we choose either God or something else. We choose life or death. We choose to live that day from a source of love or we allow the world to bring us other things like hatred and fear. Which day turns out well, both for us and those around us? Which choice brings joy to our lives, to God and those we love? From the beginning, God created us all from love, in God’s very own image.

26 “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

The story below, written by Fr. Richard Rohr, talks about how the creation story of the Bible was written. It came from an intense desire to focus on love, creativity and joy and intentionally turned away from hatred and fear. We are given these same choices and for us, it will depend on what our view and relationship with God is. If we have a strong and intimate relationship, then choosing God each morning will take us through our day, with a strong connection to God. If we are still struggling with whether to commit our lives to God, it may require us to make more choices. There are powers out there who are happy to make it hard on us when we are not relying on God. Will we choose good or evil? If we choose good and want that to last, then we must also choose God’s way of doing good and the rewards will be abundant.   Creator God, we thank you for the choice you present to us each new day and the love surrounding us in which to make our choice. Guide us into a stronger relationship with you. Help us see the world through your eyes, so we may love everyone and everything within it. Show us others around us as you see them and turn that sight into love for others.     Amen.      PEACE

CREATION – The Story that Defines Us – Friday, January 30, 2015, by Fr. Richard Rohr –

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, is not the oldest book of the Bible. The Genesis account of creation was likely compiled in its present form as late as 500 BC, and in fact, there are at least two different accounts that you can see in the first chapters. At the time it was written, the Jews were likely in exile, having been conquered by Babylon. There they were exposed to many creation stories. Rob Bell described one of the most popular stories of that time, the Babylonian Enuma Elish. Within the Enuma Elish, creation happens after a battle between two gods. The male god kills the female god, then tears her body apart and uses half of her to create the heavens and half to create the earth.

Rob points out that the driving engine of this story is violence, carnage, and destruction. The exiled Jews decided to write down their oral tradition, a confrontational narrative to the dominant creation story, in order to stay cohesive as a tribe among all the foreign influences. In the Judeo-Christian story of Genesis 1, God, who is “Creator” in verse 1, “Spirit” in verse 2, and “Word” in verse 3 (foretastes of what we would eventually call Trinity), creates from an overflowing abundance of love, joy, and creativity! Rob contends that the question of whether the engine of the universe is violence and destruction or overflowing love, joy, and creativity is still the question. He says we live our lives according to these deep forces within us, and the engine that drives us is deeply connected to the way we view the Universe. Is our starting point love or is it fear and hatred? How you begin is invariably how you end. And both possibilities are rather visible in our world today.

From cac.org, the reference above from Fr. Richard Rohr.

CHOOSING GOD’S LOVE

CHOOSING GOD’S LOVE
OR “CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR” – is a very important distinction and choice for each of us. This is a choice God helps us make. We are not left to flounder on our own. Behavior known as “Christian” in our world today is very tainted, as many see it. Far too many see it from a perspective of hurt and anger from a world that has treated them badly. Over more than three thousand years, there is behavior others have called a directive from God and later as “Christian” that was not that at all. Many horrors have been committed in the name of God when really they come from the evil and selfish motives of wanting power. The Bible even contains much of this, not as an example to follow, but as a caution and warning of what living without God does to ourselves and others who are vulnerable.

I have been charged to write about this today because we are seeing a new energy in the world and Christians need to become a part of what is happening. Many are now living through love, who have rejected the rules the church set down or never were attracted by what the church offered. They have come to know God in other ways. They treat others solely from a loving heart and reach out in love to help others in need. They are listening to the message of love from God and are changing their behavior toward others around them. More importantly, they are talking about it through social media. This is an important lesson for those of us who are within the churches that call themselves Christian. We are called to love others and care for those in need. We are called to look for the vision of the New Creation that God is working to build. God calls us to be a part of that work, as Christians. The name Christian originally meant that we are imitators of Christ. Ephesians 5 reminds us –  “1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”   While other passages in the Bible may be confusing, this has a ring of truth and is consistent with the thread of love from God for us that runs throughout the Bible. Be open to this love and it will empower us in learning how to love as God loves.   God of love, who calls us to be loving and generous in how we live, open our eyes, ears and hearts to the love around us. Help us know when others are living in love and show us the vision of how this can impact and change the world. Increase our desire to be a part of this work of love in the world, that we may help to bring the New Creation closer to becoming a new reality for us all.    Amen.       PEACE

DOING GOD’S WORK

DOING GOD’S WORK
WITH GOD – is the only way we can be sure we are living the life we are called to live. Philippians 2 clearly tells us the origins of any good work we can do.   13  “It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please God.” So even if we do not recognize the source of our motivation to do anything good, God, as the Holy Spirit, is working within us to show us a need, along with providing the want to respond and do what we do. The Bible is filled with stories of people who decided to ignore God’s counsel and do something their own way, showing us the disastrous consequences that resulted. But this is not an easy concept to hold onto, in the face of conflicting information from the world and even the church. Our culture urges us to “be strong”, “be a superhero” and “chart your own path”. The Church throughout its history has set rules to follow that end up functioning very much like the Jewish Law, in some ways. These rules took the place of where a living relationship with our God should be. God, in repeated encounters throughout history, has endeavored to become first in the hearts of God’s people. While we are sometimes intrigued by the idea of living with God, until we let go of our will and surrender to living in the love God offers, we will continue to struggle between doing what God calls us to do and thinking we can do it ourselves.

Paul recognized that the energy we need and the strength to do work comes from God, in many places in his letters:  [1 Cor 15: 10c] [Yet] “it was not I but God who was working through me by God’s grace.” [1 Col 1 ] 29  “That’s why we work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within us.”  Even though Paul is clear in these passages, in other places he either forgets to make God’s role clear or we have lost something in the many translations. How can we forget to put God first? The great commandment  “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ ”  can become confusing when we think of it in isolation, which we seem to do. This commandment is seen by many as the building block of the faith. Unfortunately, it leads us to think we are the ones that begin the love.

This whole understanding leads us away from the relationship with God that makes it all possible. We can do nothing without God. God is our creator and the very reason why we exist. Just as the basic unit of all matter is the atom, God’s love is the basic unit of our existence. When we begin to respond to that something within us, whether we can name it or not, we are beginning our relationship with God. Through this relationship, all love and strength are given to us. As we become aware and respond, our relationship grows and we learn how to love others and do the work God calls us to do. We also learn how to live life in more productive ways, for our own benefit and to add to the lives of those around us. Everything we do through God lasts and passes God’s grace on to others. It will be less frustrating, and a lot more fun. It is the only way to truly LIVE.   Gracious God, who loves us without limits, show us how you are working within us, so that we may work with you. Help us learn to see your hand in our lives and motivate us to join you in the work you give us. Guide us in our relationship so that we may bring your unconditional love to others through our lives.    Amen.        PEACE

GOD’S GLORY SHINES THROUGH THE WORDS

GLORY AND HONOR TO GOD
I GLADLY OFFER EVERY DAY – I am so grateful every day for the inspiration I am getting from the Holy Spirit for this endeavor. The words for each day have come to me from the Holy Spirit, and I write them, using the gifts of writing God has given me. Strangely enough, I can never see any line between the Spirit’s words and mine, until I share a personal experience. The life experiences my husband and I have had in more than 50 years of service to God in local churches and the challenges we have faced together since the advent of his catastrophic health condition in 2012 changed life as we knew it, have all contributed to the rich life of faith I am able to bring to this blog. I am sustained by words of scripture, and Psalm 118 often comes to mind.

1 “O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever! … 5 Out of my distress, I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.  6 With the Lord on my side, I do not fear. What can mortals do to me? … 24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!”

Writing is now a joy, but in school as a child, it was absolute torture. The physical act of putting a hand to paper to put down information was a mental agony. Thankfully I have always loved reading and like many of us, it was an escape. Then one day in high school, I got an A on a paper I thought was woefully inadequate, as usual, because it was not as long as it was supposed to be. The teacher announced to the class that even though my paper was short, I had written very concisely and so I was able to include all he required to cover the subject. Since then God has helped me learn how to write and speak, so that I am able to make my case convincingly. I am grateful to God every day for the ability to express my love and honor for God in a way that is meaningful to others. My prayer for us is that this blog may inspire us in whatever struggles we each face and help in knowing that we do not face them alone. God is always with us. We only need to be open.  O God of steadfast love, we are grateful for your grace-filled love and your willingness to live each day caring for us and our lives. Help us to discern the path you have laid out for us, so we may please you, widen your influence, and spread your love to others.    Amen.        PEACE

 GOD’S GLORY SHINES THROUGH THE WORDS

WHERE IS GOD NOW

WHERE IS GOD NOW
AND IS GOD WITH US? – This is a question asked by Christians, as well as unbelievers and those practicing other religions. God is as near as our breathing. God knows our innermost thoughts and loves us anyway. When we read Psalm 139, we see the picture of the kind of relationship God has with us.  1 “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.  2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.  3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.”   If we add this to yesterday’s passage from Jeremiah, we see a God who loves us in every way we can imagine and has only good intentions for us. We need to let go of other images from the world we may have of what God is like, in order to see who these scriptures and the experience of millions has shown God to be. When we are able to open our hearts to God, it is this truth of who God is that we will find.

God loves us and wants to live and work together with us, sharing all our joys and sorrows, while accomplishing much in God’s name. Every day is a new day, where we can choose to live a life with God. What will our choice be? Here is an exercise to try that will, over time, help us see God in our lives. On waking up and before we take up our day, stop for one minute of prayer. We can ask God to help us see the blessings we are given. Having the intention to see our blessings will bring them into our hearts and this can begin a life of gratitude toward God.    O loving and compassionate God, who comes to us and stays with us, every minute of our lives and beyond. We thank you that you stay near us and with grace you breathe your words into our very souls, so that we may feel you within us and feel the strength you put in us, born of the comfort of knowing you are with us always. Give us courage to do what you call us to do in the world, knowing that your sustaining love holds us up and gives us what we need for what we need to do.   Amen.     PEACE