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.

Not all that scary

October 31st, 2017 by Maureen

But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.  Acts 2:24

Life can get scary. The monster problems shrink, the fears and memories that haunt our dreams dissipate, even the reaper is less grim in the light of the resurrected Christ. “Fear not!” is both His battle cry and His lullaby to us. Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave; nothing we might face is going to scare Him. We don’t have to let fear distort our perceptions or sideline us from our goals. He is for us, with us, and in us, our hope and peace.

Lord, Your encouragement and comfort are enough to help me overcome my fears and keep moving forward.

Just keep swimming…and shining

October 29th, 2017 by Maureen

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness. Jn. 8:12
You are the light of the world…[that] gives light to everyone… Matt 5:14-15 – Jesus

It’s actually kind of difficult to find a place on earth to experience total darkness, perhaps if you go into an unlit cave or dive deep in the ocean at night. The moment someone lights a candle or a luminescent jellyfish swims by the totality of the darkness is destroyed. Whatever darkness causes hurtful behaviors and attitudes like hate, anger, greed, prejudice, violence, selfishness, manipulation, deceit, etc. to seem reasonable, pleasurable, or justified, that darkness are not total and certainly not more powerful than Jesus, the Light of the world.

The best way to light the darkness is to love others and advocate good with much grace. Even when if doesn’t feel like showing love and grace is changing the way people see things or treat each other, love diminishes evil the way a luminescent jellyfish destroys darkness. Just keep swimming and shining.

Lord, help me to reflect Your light when darkness seems prevalent.

Crazy peace

October 25th, 2017 by Maureen

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation. 2 Thess. 3:16
The peace that passes understanding guards your hearts and thoughts through Christ. Phil. 4:7

When our lives and our hearts seem to be falling apart, God offers us peace and comfort that just might make even less sense than pain and suffering. When the pressure feels overwhelming, the pain just seems senseless, or we feel helpless to control the situation or the outcome, God offers us peace and rest. Instead of spiraling out into the cold darkness of despair, God’s peace acts like spiritual gravity tethering us to His love and grace, making it possible to live and even enjoy our lives in the middle of hard and confusing situations.

Lord, thank you for peace when peace seems like the craziest reaction ever.

There is no frame big enough for the whole picture

October 24th, 2017 by Maureen

Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! I Cor. 13:9

If the big picture is supposed to have a frame, it’s not up to us to frame it. God is the creative source of the whole picture, and, at least from our perspective, He is still painting it. Through scholarship, science, and philosophy we seek to understand ourselves and the seen and unseen things in the world around us. We process, decide, and proceed based on our certainty and confidence in what we think we know. We try put a frame around the picture with our knowledge but all we really do is crop the picture, make it smaller, and call it reality.

It’s no wonder the whole picture is hard for us to see. We’re trying to see it while standing inside of it. In recognizing that we open ourselves to living inside God’s whole picture than the one we’ve declared finished and framed. In not knowing we experience wonder. In not knowing we experience the joy of discovery. In not knowing we experience more complete trust in God. In knowing that we experience revelation. And understanding what we do know from a frame-less perspective expands our hearts and minds, expands our interactions with God, and makes the world we experience bigger.

Lord, increase both my trust, my perspective, and my understanding.

Listening is not a fill-in-the-blanks activity

October 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them. Luke 8:18

How we hear depends on our perceptions, our natural intelligences, styles, and temperaments,
our experiences and expectations,
our theological and philosophical positions,
our current circumstances, our physical and emotional states, and
the list of filters goes on…
How we hear might be influenced by what we believe and feel about the speaker or the message.
We can choose to filter a message based on our own preferences or
we can try we to receive that message as the speaker intended it.
Do we make assumptions about the speaker’s both message and purpose
Rather than ask the speaker questions in order to truly understand the message, ?
Do we do that when God is the Speaker?
Listening is not a fill-in-the-blanks activity.

Lord, help me hear what You and the people around me are really saying.

The love that holds us up

October 20th, 2017 by Maureen

I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. Ps. 97:18

Unfailing love and support is God’s default response when we lose our footing. Why can’t this be the default response we have for each other? There are times when the ground under our feet shakes, literally or metaphorically and we can’t keep standing without help. And yet there is this misplaced shame associated with needing help. It needs to be okay to call out for support and to offer it without caveat or judgment. Humanity is an interconnected living organism. When we reach out our hands to help restore someone else’s balance, it is also our own equilibrium we help restore. Making life better for others brings heaven to earth and makes us participants in Christ’s restoration that is continually happening within us and around us.

Lord, I’m so glad to participate in Your unfailing love.

Always Check “Yes”

October 19th, 2017 by Maureen

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?
Any comfort from His love?
Any fellowship together in the Spirit?
Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Phil. 2:1

(Hint: The answer is always “yes.”) Sometimes the Father shouts “Yes” with a divine, spine-tingling, nearly tangible loving Presence. Sometimes Jesus manifests His “Yes” through the encouragement, comfort, and sense of belonging we give to and receive from each other. Sometimes Holy Spirit whispers “Yes” in the settled peace that we feel when we just know that God is always in us, with us, and for us. Answering “no” might be a temporary perception we entertain because we feel discouraged or isolated, but “yes” is the reality God restored us to live in. “Yes” is the environment in which we thrive.

Lord, let the “yes” ring in my ears and spring from my lips all the time.

“And…” is the door to staying young at heart and mind

October 18th, 2017 by Maureen

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.” Matt. 11:24

God puts an “And…” door in every single rigid box we humans try to use to contain our understanding and corral our hearts. His eternal, infinite love and intelligence won’t be contained by our need for definitive statements to explain or control. God’s higher, deeper, wider presses against the door marked “And…” until it bursts open. The nature of Christ invites wonder rather than analysis. We don’t have to fully explain God to experience Him or to invite others to experience Him with us. In fact, not having all the answers is part of the adventure of discovery that comes with being His child. Sometimes “and…?” is the biggest and best question we kids can ask.

Thanks, Lord,  I love being your child.

Peace and love

October 15th, 2017 by Maureen

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thess. 3:16

Peace is available no matter what is happening in our lives. Our circumstances reflect the imperfection of the world rather than the measure of God’s care. He is always in us, always with us and always for us. The way we process and respond to our circumstances can be influenced by our perceptions about God’s role. Did He cause it? Can He fix it?Is God merely a force that controls through positive and negative energy? What we expect from Him and how tapped into His divine love and goodness when we aren’t stressing to Him about some problem informs the experiences we have when we face hard things. Do we perceive God as Love?

Lord, thank you for bringing peace to my chaos.

What lies hidden

October 13th, 2017 by Maureen

He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. Daniel 2:22

As we explore God’s creation God reveals new things to us all the time. Over the last year new species were discovered, and scientists found confirmation for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity using data gathered with the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been out there since 1990. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, might be a refrigerator picture for our Father, but He delights in our delight in our discoveries. Humans hit the ground asking “Why?” and “What?” and pushing the envelope of our current understanding. God keeps letting us look for answers and helping us find out.

Lord, thank you for all the wonders there are for us to learn about and for all the wonders we have yet to discover or imagine.

 

You can’t Google everything

October 11th, 2017 by Maureen

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Prov. 3:5

A little uncertainty, a few unanswered questions, surprises, outliers and unconnected dots are probably good for us. Trust involves those things we can’t control and don’t know. There is no adventure in knowing everything, controlling everything, and predicting everything.
Do we cling too stubbornly to safety and status quo?
Do we crawl to the middle of the box when the sides start to fall?
Do we believe God is bigger than our current understanding?
Will we trust Him enough to follow Him past the borders of what we can understanding or control?

Lord, I trust you for the next life adventure.

Grace spiral

October 8th, 2017 by Maureen

Out of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. Jn. 1:16

Our Father didn’t suddenly become gracious because of Jesus; Jesus represents the revelation of the fullness of the  love and grace that exists eternally as Triune God’s defining nature. Reconciliation and relationship was the goal from the beginning and every avenue of grace that God provided in every age and culture was to restore us to awareness of His deep, high, wide, expansive love for us. Realizing God’s inherent pre-existing love becomes grace upon grace for us.
Grace upon grace seeps in as we experience the reality that is God, and experience awareness that we exist inside that same gracious love. Grace upon grace spills out as we experience awareness that He exists in us and through us as that same gracious love. Grace upon grace spirals into a full-circle communal experience with and in and through Him as our communication and attitudes towards others manifest and reveal love.

Lord, I want to be part of the fullness of grace upon grace.

It’s just Caesar

October 6th, 2017 by Maureen

Jesus said to them “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” Mark 12:17

There will always be people and entities that get to tell us what to do. They will set policies and make laws, some of which we don’t like. They will have the authority to regulate and evaluate things, like the way we do our work or keep our yards. To some extent we allow this through our choices of affiliation and residence, and through what we choose to put in the time, energy, and funds to try and change. What we also allow is how much we let this stuff get to us. After all, it’s only Caesar. We can choose to render control of our attitudes about all this stuff to God. Doing this makes the rest of the rendering we have to do much easier.

Lord, I render unto You my heart, my responses, and my perspectives.