Wednesday’s Words: Wasted Effort

If the Lord does not build the house, the work of the builders is useless; if the Lord does not protect the city, it does no good for the sentries to stand guard.”  Psalm 127: 1

 

When I was a kid, I tried my hand at knitting, but didn’t have the patience for it.  After I dropped a stitch, I wasn’t willing to go back and make the correction. I wanted to finish the sweater, not waste time retracing what I’d already done. So I ignored the dropped stitch and kept clicking those needles.  As the sweater emerged, my continued knitting created a bigger hole.  Forging full speed ahead got me nowhere; it only magnified what was wrong.  It was either go back and do it right, or abandon the project.

 

Ignoring reality and trying to force the results I wanted was pretty foolish. When eagerness drives us relentlessly but the results are frustrating, our efforts might be counter-productive to God’s plan. Asking for guidance and taking time to consider what God’s will for us is, can direct our efforts and keep us from wasting our time.

 

Prayer:  Please, Lord, guide our efforts today.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How has praying for guidance saved you time and effort?

 

 

Wednesday’s Words: Handling Hate

 “Anyone who hides hatred is a liar.”  Proverbs 10: 18

 

Just a few verses before the above quote, we’re told, “Hate stirs up trouble, but love forgives all offenses.”  (Proverbs 10: 12)    Hate stirs up trouble, but if we hide hatred we are liars. What are we supposed to do?

 

I’m no expert, but speaking only for myself, I have a few thoughts. I’m learning to be more honest about what I feel.

 

As a child, when I said “I feel angry” or “I hate you,” I was told, “No you don’t.”  I don’t?  It sure feels like I do.  I must be wrong.  Over the years I got very good at lying to myself about what I was feeling.

 

Today, it is crucial for me to admit my angry feelings to myself.  But admitting my anger is not the same as acting it out. Finding safe ways to express and work through my anger without hurting myself or anybody else is essential. I find it helpful to write my feelings out and then destroy the writing so no one else can read or be hurt by it.  Talking in confidence to a trusted friend, spiritual advisor, and God about my anger also helps. Once expressed, the feelings settle down and I can see more clearly what – if anything – I need to do.

 

Feelings come and go.  We can choose our actions regardless of how we happen to feel at any given moment. Giving ourselves time, space, and permission to work through angry feelings safely can save us from regret.

 

Prayer:  Lord, teach us to be honest about our feelings and still act in love.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What are some safe ways to express feelings honestly?

 

Wednesday’s Words: Earthy Glimpses of Heaven

 “Jesus told them still another parable:  ‘The Kingdom of heaven is like this.  A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with a bushel of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.’”  Matthew 13:33

 

Have you ever baked bread from scratch?  I have.  The process is an interesting partnership of activity and rest. Flour can’t rise by itself. You begin by adding yeast to flour and other ingredients, but that isn’t enough.  Yeast is a living organism.  The rising of the dough is a result of the yeast’s growth. In order for the yeast to make the dough rise, you have to knead it all together.  Kneading, which involves pounding and stretching the dough, takes time and effort.  It doesn’t yield immediate results.  After kneading, the dough has to be covered and left alone in a warm place. Only after this quiet time will the dough rise.

 

Jesus tells us this is what the Kingdom of heaven is like.  What this means to me personally is that God’s Presence is like the yeast: a living entity.  Taking it in, whether through reading Scripture, receiving sacraments, or prayer and meditation, is not enough.  If I want God’s Spirit to be active within me and engender my growth, it will take effort on my part.  The kneading is the wrestling between Spirit and Self. Sometimes I feel pounded and stretched. Other times the process feels like a massage.  Either way, I’m pre-occupied and seldom see results during this process. Sooner or later, the effort stops.  I come to the end of what I can do or perhaps circumstances downshift. The quiet comes.  I might seek out the warmth of being with family or friends. I might take cover from my restless thoughts with simple diversions. I go on about my life.  Often when I least expect it, awareness comes. I may notice myself reacting differently to a situation that used to bother me.  Or an insight will occur to me “out of the blue.”  But it isn’t really out of the blue.  It’s just the dough rising.

 

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us glimpses of heaven in the earthy ways we can understand.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What in your life could use some ‘kneading’ today?  What in your life needs quiet time in order to grow?

 

Wednesday’s Words: Turning Points

 

No one could distinguish between the joyful shouts and the crying, because the noise they made was so loud that it could be heard for miles. Ezra 3:13

 

When the rebuilding of the Temple began in Jerusalem, some people shouted for joy. Others wept. Perhaps they remembered the lost glory of the original Temple or the hardships endured in exile before being allowed to return and rebuild.

 

Turning points can be bittersweet. First time parents joyfully welcome their newborns while missing the freedom of less responsibility. Accepting a new job—even if it’s a great opportunity—means leaving behind the security of the familiar. A graduation ceremony is also called a commencement ceremony, marking the completion of one phase of life and the start of a new one.

 

Every new beginning can be traced back to an ending of some sort. Every ending has the potential to lead to a new beginning.

 

In times of transition we can trust God—no matter what we’re feeling. The Last Supper became the First Eucharist.

 

Prayer: In joy and sorrow, blessed be the Lord.

 

Reflection: What endings have you experienced in your life? How have they become opportunities for new beginnings?

 

Wednesday’s Words: Daily Bread


Moses said to them, “This is the food that the Lord has given you to eat. The Lord has commanded the each of you is to gather as much of it as he needs…. No one is to keep any of it for tomorrow.” But some of them did not listen to Moses and saved part of it. The next morning it was full of worms and smelled rotten… Exodus 16: 15-16; 19-20

 

Because they didn’t trust God to continue providing for them, as insurance, some of the Hebrews tried to save the manna God provided. Their leftovers turned putrid.

 

Isn’t that what happens to us? One day at a time. God sustains us, but we can’t stock up on spiritual blessings. An hour at church on Sunday mornings isn’t enough to get us through the week. Relying on our own abilities instead of relying on God doesn’t work. We need the constant flow of God’s sustaining love to meet the challenges we face every day.

 

The good news is that God’s grace is available at all times in all places. Connecting with God through prayer early in the morning can help carry the awareness of God’s loving presence with us whatever the day holds. We will be given all we need and enough to share with those who cross our path because we’ve tapped into an endless supply. God will always provide what we need when we turn to him. It is safe to trust that. After all, hoarding or being stingy with our blessings is not part of God’s plan.

 

Let’s rely on God to give us the strength we need to sustain us day by day.

 

Prayer: Father, give us today our daily bread.

 

Reflection for sharing: How do you need God’s sustenance today? What can you do to open yourself to receive it?

Wednesday’s Word: Reassurance

The protector of Israel never dozes or sleeps.” Psalm 121:4

 

Certain problems seem to slip in right under God’s nose.

 

When it feels like the pain and anxiety will never end, I struggle to engineer a way out of it-only to be frustrated at every turn. I’m simply no match for certain problems.

 

If I’ve done all I can, it’s time to let go and let God handle it—even if he seems asleep on the job. When I do, either a solution unfolds or I’m given the grace to withstand the situation.

 

Usually, when a solution does unfold, it’s not a solution I expected. It’s often something that wasn’t even on my radar.

 

Whether or not it seems like it to us, God’s got everything under control. He sees much farther than we do. It’s safe to leave our problems in his hands—at least long enough to get a good night’s rest.

 

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for lovingly watching over us.

 

Reflection: When have you seen God resolve an insurmountable problem in a way you could not have imagined?

 

Wednesday’s Word: Service


 

Jesus sent two of his disciples on ahead with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a colt tied up that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. And if someone asks you why you are doing that, say that the Master needs it and will send it back at once.”  Mark 1:1b-3

 

Who returned the colt? Jesus gave his word that he would send the colt back at once. Who got the job of bringing it back? The people in Jerusalem gave Jesus a red carpet welcome, the equivalent of a ticker-tape parade. Jesus’ followers got to enjoy the enthusiastic reception—all except for the disciple who had to take the colt back to its owner.

 

Somebody had to leave the festivities and make his way, donkey in tow, back to the little hick town where nothing was happening. I wonder how that disciple felt. Did anybody notice he was gone? Did he get any credit? Did he realize that his service was a sermon? It demonstrated that Jesus keeps his word and that God is to be trusted.

 

We all have opportunities to serve. Often, those opportunities are behind the scenes. We don’t have to be religious leaders, eloquent speakers, or charismatic personalities to carry God’s message. How we do our daily tasks speak volumes about what it means to follow Christ, who came not to be served but to serve. Respect and consideration for others silently carry the message of God’s love. Service, no matter how lackluster, helps spread the Good News, whether or not we get credit.

 

Prayer: Lord, grant us willingness to do your will, whether or not we’re in the spotlight.

 

Reflection: Who is working behind the scenes in your life today? Why not thank them for their service.

 

Wednesday’s Word: Character

 

 

 

Gold is tested by fire, and human character is tested in the furnace of humiliation. Sirach 2:5

 

 

It’s easy to think we could be saints—or at least a whole lot nicer—if we didn’t have to deal with certain individuals. Some people seem to bring out the worst in us. But the truth is, if they bring out the worst in us, that “worst” is in us to begin with. It belongs to us, not them.

 

We have a way of judging others using ourselves as the standard. As George Carlin observed, “Everybody who drives slower than you is an idiot. Everybody who drives faster than you is a maniac.” Of course, those drivers might be thinking the same thing about us. It’s easier to focus on the faults of others instead of our own.

 

A friend once told me that the people who annoy us are jewels, because they help us see the truth about ourselves: our impatience, our self-righteousness, our lack of charity. Accepting this truth might not make us any less annoyed, but it might help us see beyond our annoyance. Then we can redirect our attention to the place it can do some good: changing ourselves. What have we got to lose?

 

Prayer: God of Truth, help me trust your love enough to face my own imperfections.

 

Reflection: Think about the difficult people in your life today. What do they have to show you about yourself?

 

 

 

Wednesday’s Words: Looking Back or Moving Forward

But Lot’s wife behind him looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt. Genesis 19: 26

 

The Bible doesn’t say how long Lot’s wife looked back, but however long it was, it stopped her from moving forward.

 

Like Lot’s wife. I spend a lot of time looking back. When I do, it can stop me from moving forward, too.

 

On the one hand, acknowledging my mistakes and imagining what I could have said or done differently can help me avoid making the same mistakes again. It also shows me if I need to make a change—or an apology.

 

On the other, there’s a difference between looking at the past and staring at it. Wallowing in remorse doesn’t help me or anybody else. Dwelling on my regrets keeps them alive—but only in my head. It doesn’t change the past or help me take positive action in the present. It keeps me stuck.

 

The rear-view mirror is smaller than the windshield for a reason. We need to glance back, but focus on where we are and what lies ahead. That’s how we move forward.

 

Prayer: Lord, You love us in spite of our imperfections. May your mercy help us move forward in love.

 

Reflection: How has dwelling on the past kept you from moving forward?

 

Wednesday’s Word: Praise

 

Praise him—he is your God, and you have seen with your own eyes the great and astounding things that he has done for you. Deuteronomy 10: 21

 

 

Ever been helpless? Ever made a foolish mistake or take a deliberate risk? Ever gotten yourself into a situation that you couldn’t get out of on your own steam? If you’re like me, you have. What got you through it?

 

What good things have we been blessed with that we didn’t bring to pass? Do we have happy memories? That’s a blessing. Do we have painful memories? We survived. Our joys and are challenges have all shaped us and brought us to the place we’re in today.

 

If we count our blessings, including the hardships we’ve faced and survived, we’ll see with our own eyes the great and astounding things that God has done for us, and we’ll have reasons to praise him.

 

We can even praise him that he loves us whether or not we praise him, whether or not we even think of him. God’s unconditional love is a great and astounding thing.

 

Prayer: Praise to you, loving Creator.

 

Reflection: What great and astounding things has God done for you that brought you to where you are today?

 

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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