Archive for November, 2017

Simple, basic, thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

Give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and wonderful works for the children of men. Ps. 107:8

Everybody comes to the Thanksgiving table from a different year’s worth of experiences. For some of us it’s easy to list a bunch of blessings and thank God for the bounty and abundance we enjoy. For others the path to Thanksgiving is strewn with grief, disappointment and unanswered prayers.
If we assume that God does indeed love us and that His attitudes and actions toward us are motivated by that love (If that’s not true then what’s the point?) then recognizing that and being thankful is simple.
If we insist on linking “wonderful works” to God’s love as a condition then thanksgiving gets complicated. We have to define “wonderful works.” We have to engage in arguable conjecture about why we did or did not experience our version of “wonderful works.” To make the propositional logic work we have to assign traits to God that may not be accurate.
We are better off focusing on the love instead of the wonderful works. Thankfulness for God’s love might just reveal some wonderful works we missed while we were looking for the wonderful works we specified.

Thank you God for this very good year. Use me to make next year better for someone who is wondering what happened to Your “wonderful works” this Thanksgiving.

For the holiday, bring pie and voluntary amnesia

November 22nd, 2017 by Maureen

I will forgive graciously, and I will never again remember their failures. Heb. 8:12

Instead of Auntie bringing pumpkin pie and judgment and cousin Lulu bringing rolls and resentment, what if everybody just brought food, thankfulness, and voluntary amnesia? The all-knowing God chooses to forgive with such finality that, from His end of the relationship anyway, it is like our failures never happened in the first place. Over and done. Period. If we bring everything that makes us feel like failures, everything we regret, and everything that we use to label ourselves into our relationships and/or if we remember all the ways others disappoint, fail, and annoy us and apply labels and expectations to future interactions with them, then “over and done” is never over and done. What if each of us could arrive home for the holidays undefined and unmarked by past mistakes (or even present ones)? George MacDonald wrote that “love is the opener as well as the closer of eyes.” While we may not have God’s power to wipe away memories, we can choose voluntary amnesia and close our eyes to the baggage of the past and open them to the beauty God sees in us and in those around us.

Lord, help us see ourselves and one another through Your eyes of love and grace.

Prepare for the perfectly imperfect Thanksgiving feast

November 20th, 2017 by Maureen

Go and eat your bread with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Ecc. 9:7

Sometimes we make holidays stressful because we put pressures and expectations on ourselves or perceive pressure from others over making a “perfect holiday.” Perfect is being surrounded by  people who matter to us and partaking in deliciousness together. This love, this joy, this gathering, this appreciation for the good things we experience in our lives is God with us, in us, and for us.

So go into it with gladness knowing that it’s likely somebody will forget something they were supposed to bring, somebody will spill something, somebody’s recipe will be a miss, somebody will say something stupid…and it might be you. That’s the perfect imperfection of holiday gatherings. Approve the messy imperfection and drink your wine with a joyful heart.

Thank you for unconditional love, gladness, joy, celebration, community, and one or several  delicious spreads.

Loud stillness

November 19th, 2017 by Maureen

He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Ps. 107:29-30

God calms our stormy thoughts to a whisper and stills the waves of worry. In the harbor of His safe arms we find stillness, rest, and peace. In awareness of His love, in the company of loving friends, in the quiet of prayer and meditation, in the rhythms of His creation is the reassurance that storms pass and that our storms neither define nor defeat us.

Lord, I am grateful that Your love is bigger than any storm I face and that Your stillness is louder than the thundering of disquiet and discouragement.

It’s Thanks-giving season

November 18th, 2017 by Maureen

Don’t just look out for your own interests, but the interests of others. Phil 2:4

Gratitude causes us to pause and to appreciate having people who care about us, a roof over our heads, food to eat, means of communication and transportation, jobs, relatively good health, personal freedoms, and other blessings. As we consider what it means to have those blessings we may also be inspired to want everyone else to be able to have and enjoy those blessings too. This season affords so many opportunities to care of the interests of others. These opportunities for Thanks-giving are also blessings.

Father thank you for inspiring generosity, compassion and empathy through Thanksgiving.

Relationship is the main course at the holiday meal

November 17th, 2017 by Maureen

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers. Phil. 1:4

It’s the people in our lives that matter, not the stuff or the circumstances. Each relationship is a connection of God-inspired serendipity through birth, marriage, work, school, neighborhood, common friends or interests, and random encounters. We tell stories about our shared experiences, some sweet, some funny, and some even disastrous. The history of our relationships with these people affirms that God is indeed love. The people God has put into our lives are blessings and treasures. Relationship is the main course at our Father’s table.

Father, I thank you for Your table of grace. I pray joy and abundance on those who grace my life every day, on those who will sit at the tables in my house on this particular Thanksgiving, and on the larger gathering who sit at the ever-expanding table in my heart.

Peace for the broken heart

November 14th, 2017 by Maureen

Peace I leave you. My peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Don’t be troubled or afraid. Jn. 14:26-27

The world offers explanations, programs and campaigns. The world responds with fear and anger. And when it gets to be too much to process, the world offers escapes. The peace of Christ goes beyond trying to stop the hemorrhaging hate or put a band-aid on the myriad and complicated causes. Christ’s peace stems from the power of love and restoration. From Christ’s peace emerge the helpers, the comforters, and the fearless lovers of frail and broken souls.

Lord, give us Your peace and help us to bring Your peace to violent, vindictive and troubled hearts.

The amazing vibe of fruit

November 12th, 2017 by Maureen

The fruit of the Spirit is love, calm delight, peace, fortitude, gentleness, beneficence, and faith. Gal 5:22

I am fortunate to have family, friends, and co-workers who love me, are calmly happy and peace-loving, show grit, treat other souls gently, and are charitable and reliable. Because we are created in God’s image, we each have unique combinations of these expressions of God’s nature embedded in our unique temperaments, but rarely are these traits all expressed by the same person at the same time. That would be one incredible vibe.

To follow the fruit metaphor, the flavor of the Holy Spirit seems to have strong notes of every one of the traits mentioned; but rather than a blend of all these traits as distinct fruits, perhaps this single fruit of the Spirit is the origin of the species. Partaking in God’s nature infuses everything into one amazing vibe that we get to experience and express.

Lord, help me have Your vibe as I approach the delights and challenges this day holds.

Empathetic tears when the bell tolls

November 11th, 2017 by Maureen

Jesus wept. Jn. 11:35

I live where I hear ambulances. At any point in time lots of people are experiencing heartbreak and loss while I experience joy, or at least relative quiet. Sometimes the reality of this hits. Certainly God has all this in His loving hands. But hope and faith does not separate us from the pain that we observe around us, and sometimes experience ourselves. Hope and faith are not meant to stay our tears or our hands.

I love what John Donne wrote in the last part of Meditation 17, “each man’s death diminishes me because I am a part of mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” When we hear the bells toll, it is appropriate to weep. Empathy and response to the pain of others is steeped in Christ’s love.

As a fully human being Jesus was touched by the infirmities of human existence, the pain, the loss, the disappointment. Confronted with the grief of His friends, He wept. Knowing the miracle He was about to do did not erase the pain they currently felt, He wept. Recognizing that His friends’ perceptions of His mission was limited to their personal and local concerns did not diminish their concerns to Him; He wept. We are part of the empathy of God.

Lord, thank you for helping me have empathy, even when it hurts.

Standing in a cloud

November 9th, 2017 by Maureen

For everything is for you in order that as grace extends to so many people there so much thanksgiving and God is greatly glorified. 2 Cor. 4:15

Have you ever walked through a low-lying cloud? It envelops you. You breathe in it’s moisture. It seeps into your pores. Our expressions of thankfulness are unique and personal droplets of thanksgiving. They delight our Father to Whom each child is precious. Yet imagine generations of voices all over the world expressing appreciation to God. This increasingly expanding cloud of thanksgiving and praise integrates into the glory of God. We experience and interact with the ancient and cosmic glory that surrounds God when we give offer thanksgiving.

Lord, thank you that grace abounds, thanks abounds, and glory abounds because of Your love.

 

The premises of grace

November 8th, 2017 by Maureen

Give thanks to the Lord because He is good and His love endures forever. 1 Chr. 16:34

God’s goodness and love are reasons to be thankful. These aspects of His nature are the premises of grace. God isn’t waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us. He doesn’t abandon us when we mess up. He doesn’t cause evil. None of this can be inferred if this premise are true. If God is good and God loves then when something bad happens (especially if it was our bad) we can conclude that His response is redemptive and restorative. This is reason to give thanks.

Lord, thank You for being the way that You are.

Singing with trees

November 7th, 2017 by Maureen

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. And let the trees of the forest sing for joy. Ps. 96:11-12

Though not sentient in the human sense, is nature aware of it’s Creator and responsive to Him in some way that we can tap into? Or does our appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation cause us to imagine we hear the song of trees and jubilation of fields? Perhaps it does not matter. Perhaps we just need to go outside for at least a little while every day to enjoy God’s handiwork. This moment of pause, this awe, is a slow breath, that folds us into God’s own joy expressed in nature. It’s as if the song trees sing was stuck in our heads and our hearts and when we go outside we remember where we heard it and remember we’re a part of it too.

Thank you for surrounding me with so much beauty in nature and for giving me senses to experience it.

 

Contentment and gratitude feed off one another

November 6th, 2017 by Maureen

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. Phil. 4:11-12

Sometimes it’s not our perceived needs that create discontent, but the tendency to focus on those things we think are missing from our lives rather than on the blessings we have. Sometimes, rather than appreciating and acknowledging the positive traits and contributions of the people in our lives we focus more on the ways we think they need to improve. The desire for excellence or perfection can cause us to feel the need to wait for things (or worse, people) to improve before we can enjoy them. Gratitude helps us to actively appreciate and enjoy our lives and the people in our lives, just as they are right now.

Lord, thank you for all I have right now. Period.

The flow of goodness

November 5th, 2017 by Maureen

God is mighty and powerful, able to make all grace (joy, sweetness, and satisfaction in life) so abundant and overflowing that in all things and at all times you experience such contentment within yourself (autarkeia ), and from that flows good work. 2 Cor. 9:8

The trajectory of flowing water changes as it interacts with various objects and forces to form individual streams and currents. Impact causes water to splash, moving drops from current to current. Light dances in each splashing drop. We are part of this beautiful flow of God’s own grace. As we becomes aware of living in the flow of His loving intentions for us, and for others, good work naturally results. Moving in His flow brings inspiration and and delight to what we produce and contribute. From Christ in us flows loving kindness and goodwill that splashes over into the lives of others, changing not only the trajectory of their lives, but ours as well.

Thank you for sweeping me along in the flow of Your love. Thank you for so much abounding goodness. Help me to notice and appreciate it in others and to express it myself in all things and at all times.

Participation

November 3rd, 2017 by Maureen

He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature. 2 Pet. 1:4

Jesus came to invite us to participate in the nature of God. We are not an audience watching God be God from afar. We are not contestants hoping to perform well enough to achieve this nature. Our hearts are home to Christ as we live and move and have our being within Him. We are permeated by His Spirit. We are enveloped into the beautiful loving relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. We might experience transcendent awareness of this occasionally, but most of the time participating in His nature translates into breathing His love and grace in and out. As we open ourselves to giving and receiving His love, surrendering concerns to peace and joy, and seeing through His eyes of grace we experience the flow of the life of God in the lives we live.

Thank you for inviting me into Your nature.