Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who stand in reverence, on those who hope in God's steadfast love." (Psalm 33.18)
I should not be surprised that one of the many ways God communicates to humanity these days would be via email. But I was this morning when I logged on my iPad with a cup of coffee to wake me from my deep, dark sleep.
Yesterday, like so many days that surround my birthday, I wanted so badly to retreat and pull away from Life. I felt as if my spiritual discipline was not being exercised, like God and I were on different days, with me somehow falling far behind. My mind just couldn't focus, and the noise inside my head kept me confused and detached. Nothing too unusual for me on my birthday.
I woke up this morning feeling like I was going to decend again into this weird, dark and familiar place, when lo and behold I receive this devotion from The Henri Nouwen Society entitled "Creating Space for God"
"Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God's guidance.Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God. Solitude requires discipline, worship requires discipline, caring for others requires discipline. They all ask us to set apart a time and a place where God's gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to."
Meditate: "Come to my help O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue." Psalm 70:1
Pray for the Central Luthern Church in Van Nuys, CA for their work in recovery ministry and homeless outreach, may God's blessings be with them and may God hear the cries of the poor to whom the Church serves.
What is difficult at times is actually practicing spiritual discipline. Today I set out to meditate and pray in my schools prayer garden only to find three drunks occupying the space. One was sleeping, while the other two tried while drifting in and out of loud conversation.
A part of me wanted to push my index finger to my lips and tell them to "shush," while the other part of me wanted to offer to buy them a drink and celebrate life with them. It was my birthday, after all, and it wouldn't have been too unusual to celebrate it in such an intoxicated manner.
Since I would not be able to practice prayer, I decided to practice kindness to these three intoxicated strangers. But, as it turns out, they were too drunk to really focus on any conversation. And so I left them, with a smile in my heart and a silent prayer to God thanking the Creater for their life, my life and the beautiful day.
Sometimes meeting strangers is nothing more then a handshake and a silent prayer in your heart.
Meditate: I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide your commandments from me.
Pray for KC and his friends who sleep on the benches and bar stools in Pasadena today, God grant them safety and happiness.
600 children crammed into a shelter to survive while DC rolls in a budget surplus. What is wrong with this picture?
This article in the Washington Post sums up yet another way we are failing our wonderful society. How much longer will we put politics and business before human lives? Our real self interest and survival as true humanity begins with how we embrace the stranger, and care for one another. If business want to be treated with the same rights as individuals, then it is in the best interest of business to also care for all indivduals.
Jesus did not come to heal the healthy, but the sick. If we ran into Jesus on the streets today, how would he see us at work? What are we healing when homelessness destroys the health of our communities? Who are we healing when 600 children are suffering in poverty and in homeless shelters while the wealth of our country ignores them dying on the streets that are paid for by our tax dollars?
Meditate: Washington DC has a $417,000,000 budget surplus and 600 homeless children who need a home. What can I do?
Prayer: God you have never held back you love for us, we pray that we will never hold back our love for you and for others. We pray for Asia and Elayshia Brown, for their safety and for a home to live in.
This was taken from a daily devotional email on Saturday February 23, 2013 from the Henri Nouwen Society.
What Is Most Personal Is Most Universal
We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, "Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else's business." But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.
Jesus says, "No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house" (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let's not have "double lives"; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.
Change is never easy. Work is never easy. It's hard to keep up with the evolution of life. But all possibilities are not all that impossible. If you get bummed out by the work or the need to change, or feel like life is just passing by without you, you are not alone. Every generation has felt that way. But that didn't stop them from reforming the Church, ending slavery, or obtaining civil rights through peace making. Big goals are not impossible, but it does take plenty of hard work to make it happen.
My struggle this Lenten season is trying to stay focused on all that I set out to accomplish. I often feel I am letting all of it go instead of trying to get one thing done. In concentrating my meditative efforts reflecting on how God is calling me to shed light on ending homelessness, I feel like I am forcing the issue to be able to write about something instead of allowing the nature of communication to flow freely. I cannot control the conversation with God any more than I can control the evil of something as horrible as homelessness. That's just too hard. But I can control my time and efforts in the conversation itself. As I struggle to be present, I have to learn to let go and let life evolve around me in order to be fully present.
Meditate: "But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh," declares the Lord, "But I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go."
As we pray to end homelessness, pray also that we always remember we are not the answer, but the treasure. Through God, we hold of the solution even if we do not
We often forget those who are barely struggling to survive or stay afloat. Those who are one paycheck away from losing all they have. When we see someone living on the streets we tend to overlook how they got there in the first place. It's just easier to judge them and drive on. But there are millions of American families living in poverty, doing what they can to make ends meet. Some are behind on the rent and utilities, living both on the mercy and in fear of their landlords. Jobs matter. People need to work. Not just to buy a new sweater from Gap but to stay warm off the streets.
Jesus, telling the scribe who wished to follow him, revealed he was homeless. Living on the mercy and grace of others to sustain and house him. I wonder if he ate with sinners and tax collectors not to redeem them but simply because they opened their door to him and took him in. They cared for him when the Pharasees rejected him. We must care for those who are barely holding on. In doing so we continue the work of Jesus and at the same time help keep the homeless population moving towards being eradicated.
Meditate: Sanctify Christ as Lord in you hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who ask you to give an account for the hope that is in you; yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15)
Cesar Chavez (USA, 1927-1993)
Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people's plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.
Help me to take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.
The other day a teacher at school handed me a devotional that she had received and wanted to share it with the class. Since I was running late I shoved it into my bag without even looking at it. The piece of paper fell out of my bag this morning and I was pleasantly surprised to find this beautifully written poem. I thought I would share it with you.
Life: by Melody Wachsmuth
This world and the next
is full of mystery.
The richness of deep theological understanding confronts the poor, uneducated woman who, once healed, simply says "I will never forget what he did for me."
A thoughtful, well-balanced understanding of the Bible using every tool to understand the historical context confronts one who reads every word literally as if fallen from the mouth of God.
We think we know
Our hearts grow bold
With lusty enthusiasm
Of our knowledge:
We are satiated in our presumptions.
But how to answer the simple questions when we are too busy with the complex?
It is hard to know
if we see clearly
Do we have wisdom to know the difference?
The mystery of this world
is to see Jesus in the face of the poor and the sick
The dirty and the beggar.
And yet that picture dims.
What am I looking for in those faces?
But at the academic conferences
When I am overtaken by the fever of new knowledge
And bright bursts of insights explode in my being,
I feel I can see so clearly.
But therein lies the mystery-
What if the dim is actually clear
And the clear is actually dim?
Our own knowledge must grasp
That hand of the humble beggar
As if our life depended on it
Or it will lead is down a path
In complete blindness.
Meditation: Vindicate the weak and the fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute; Rescue the weak and the needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicket. (Psalm 82:3-4)
Pray for the homeless and for those who seek to bring justice for all God's beloved children who suffer.
When you do something, anything, towards one of God's beloved children do you see the cross of Calvery in your actions?
E.M. Bounds (USA, 1835-1913) once said, "All God's plans have the mark of the cross on them and all His plans have death to self in them."
I love this quote because it takes the randomness out our essence and being without robbing us of the mystery of life. Bounds wants to empower our actions by reminding us that God is in our lives, and the sacrifice He gave to us, that blots out our sin and iniquities, was giving for a particular purpose. I believe that purpose is to live life fully. To do so requires we give ourselves fully over to the Great Creator of all life, to immerse ourselves fully into God's plan. When we look at a cross, let us be reminded of the beam that points that runs between heaven and earth has a cross beam that runs between human being and human being here on Earth.
When we walk passes a stranger in need, think of how the cross has helped you.
When someone asks for a handout ask yourself "What impact did Jesus' sacrifice of self have on you and how has it helped you live a life free of worry, anxiety, and loneliness?" Then have that impact on someone else. Giving of self can be your time, money, talent, prayer, or simply a smile.
Everytime you perform a random act of kindness God's plan is enacted, the cross is witnessed, and a sacrifice of self is made.
Meditate: Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Pray for Thomas who has been missing from his usual off ramp spot. Pray that he who never asked for much more that a home for his family and a job for himself has found what he had prayed for in God's name.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”