CENTERING ON GOD

CENTERING ON GOD
SOMETIME EACH DAY – can be a time of cleansing and focus. Besides acknowledging God is with us all of the time, taking time each day to bring us back to a focus on God and get rid of everything that is distracting us from what we want to accomplish that day with God, and especially what God wants us to do, is a renewing experience. Asking God to rid us of all evil influences in our vicinity is very helpful toward restoring the energy we need to be effective in whatever we are doing. Asking God to remove all the thoughts we don’t need to finish what we are doing is a very freeing experience. God wants us to be able to work effectively and with as little frustration as possible. The energy we are given for whatever we do is a precious resource and we can learn to remove obstacles, with God’s help, that gets in the way of the wasting of that energy.

Practicing love is another powerful way of renewing this energy. Romans 12 helps remind us of the purpose of our lives.  2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

I am a knitter and I’ve found it is a helpful way for me to renew my energy. Knitting can be a spiritual exercise to help return our focus. It is also a practice that supports focusing prayer. So besides the consciousness prayer, I also use knitting as one technique to refocus my energies. Being an empath, that is being attuned to what others are feeling around me, can be draining and I have found knitting to be very supportive to bring myself back into harmony with God, after being around selfishness and greed. The inherent mindfulness of the practice of knitting with its repetitive nature and rhythm is very conducive to the renewal of our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits. Because it has a physical aspect to it, it can help bring us back into wholeness with God and ourselves. Other activities may help to restore wholeness – running or walking gets us out into the natural world which adds its own elements of renewal. Praying during this activity is an easy addition. Enjoying Spring and its renewal of the earth is supportive of the work of refocusing ourselves on God.  Oh renewing God, may we find practices which help renew our focus on the spirit you have put in us, that we may have new energy for your work of spreading love and acceptance. Teach us how to find and use these ways to help others who are searching for you.  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 the 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 WITH GOD

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, which 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 GOD

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 while 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 loving 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. The 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 because of the love from God they experience. 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 all 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 TOGETHER WITH GOD

DOING GOD’S WORK
TOGETHER 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 and lasting, 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 misunderstanding leads us away from the relationship with God that makes it all possible. We cannot do anything that lasts 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

GLORY AND HONOR TO GOD

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, pouring those words through 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 55 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 write 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. Prayer will be the string, connecting us to God. 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

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. The Holy One is a part of us. 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. Many think of God as a second skin or armor, a light within and a source of hope and inspiration.

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 the 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

GOD’S LOVING PLANS

GOD’S LOVING PLANS
FOR US ARE GOOD – and beyond our dreams of what life could be. I love the old saying “when we make plans, God laughs.” It is a reminder that God maintains the right to make the plans. Long ago in a conversation with Jeremiah, God talked to him of the plans God had for the Israelites in exile in Babylon.  11b “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.  12 Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  13 You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me!  14 I will let you find me,”    There are few more comforting passages than this one. I have read this so often, it has become a part of me. So when I read or remember the first part – “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future”  my heart sings and dances for joy.  Jeremiah 29: 11b – 14a

This is one passage I often think of in the morning, when waking up. I can’t help but smile when I consider how much God loves us, so much so that God declares this is how WE fit into “THE PLAN”. God has an overall plan for the universe, as well as plans for each of us. Our plan for life does not always go smoothly because God also gave us the ability to choose and we are not always listening for the guidance God has ready to help us. We are often willful and decide we want to try it our way, and then see what happens. God’s grace then comes to us, offers us a hand up out of the mess we have made and shows us a better road. Where we are in our journey of spiritual discovery and growth then makes a difference in how we take the next steps. Some of us will continue on a path of our own choosing. Others will look for signs and perhaps even pray for guidance in choosing the direction we take next. I do make plans, after praying for God’s guidance and while listening for major or minor alterations from God. Over the years I have learned to choose my course according to what overall plans God has brought me through successfully and the overall direction God has shown me to take. Whatever direction we take, the resulting steps must be taken in love for God, myself and others. Regardless of which path we choose, God is always with us and will forgive our missteps, until we come to a place where we decide to seek out the love God offers and the loving path God has in mind for us.   Loving and compassionate God, thank you for the grace you offer us, fulfilled as unconditional love in whatever we do. Help us to return to the guidance you give and the forgiveness you offer, so we may try again to live out the path you have offered us for our lives. Guide us in listening for the counsel you give and the mercy, without judgment, we receive as we attempt to follow the path you have laid out for us. Teach us to hear your wisdom so we falter less and less, as we follow the way to transformation. Through your son’s glorious name,  Amen.     PEACE

PRAY FOR THE POWER

PRAY FOR THE POWER
TO SEE – evil in all its many disguises. I was talking with a friend recently, who explained how he gets stuck because he fears that what he tries to do will not turn out the way he intends. He thinks back on his life and situations where he wanted to do good, but something happened and his plans failed. Evil disguised has been working against him for a very long time and had fooled him into thinking that he was at fault. This is an example of the ways demons work in our lives to make sure we do not succeed in accomplishing things God wants us to do. I know this because it happened to me in the past. Appealing to the Holy Spirit in prayer showed me the truth.

Once he could see this in terms of evil standing in the way of God’s plans, he was freed from guilt and knew how to pray so that this would no longer happen and God could work through him. God wants us to be successful. This friend is a life-long Christian, yet no one had ever helped him understand how we might work together with God, in a relationship. We are not able to be a good person on our own or accomplish good things without God’s help. It is also a lot harder to do it this way. Jesus says in Luke 18 – “Only God is good.”    When we ask for God’s guidance, we will then accomplish the good things that God desires. When we intend to do what God wants us to do, God will work in us to bring us to success.

Good and loving God, we are most grateful for the strength and courage we find in you. Help us work through your power to recognize and get rid of evil in our lives. Guide us in our speech and actions, so we never give evil a foothold to come into our lives. Teach us how to live life only in your love.  Amen.     PEACE