Monthly Archives: June 2012

Endless Love

Endless Love

 

Praise the Lord!  Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal.”  Psalm 106:1

 

Eternal means  1) existing always without beginning or end and  2) unchanging, not affected by time, according to the Oxford American Dictionary. That’s how God’s love for us is – existing always and unchanging.  What an anchor!  Human love can run hot or cold…or even lukewarm.  But God’s love is a constant in our lives and beyond.

 

I had a conversation with a friend the other night.  We were talking about having weathered some stormy times in our lives and – in spite of the pain – learning that God’s love was sustaining us even when we couldn’t see it or feel it.  Then my friend and I began laughing as we realized it isn’t easy to see and trust God’s love–even when things are going well.  Sometimes I forget to accept the good that comes my way as a gift. I may see it as my due or just take it for granted.  Sometimes I’m afraid to enjoy the gift because I don’t want to be lulled into a false sense of security and be taken unawares when life presents some future challenge.

 

Praising and thanking God reminds me that he is good and his love is constant no matter what is going on, smooth sailing or stormy seas.  Today, this minute – whether we are having a good day or bad day, feeling happy, angry, scared, or sad – we can count on God being with us.  His love is eternal, and that means right now.

 

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for loving me, today, exactly as I am.

 

Reflection for sharing:  Take a few moments to picture yourself wrapped in God’s love right now. How does that change your view of what’s going on today?

Relax and Receive

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20: 22

 

Christ couldn’t have made it easier for his followers to receive the Holy Spirit. All they had to do was inhale. We receive the Holy Spirit; we don’t earn it. We can’t. It is pure gift.

 

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking we have to achieve our place in God’s kingdom, but what we have to do is accept the gift. We can’t guarantee the supply of air we need to live, much less control God’s Spirit. Just as God breathed life into Adam, Christ breathes new life into our weary souls. When we receive and say thank you, we grow spiritually. Our right relationship with Our Creator is renewed. We are freed from self-righteousness and pride.

 

We have an ongoing need to stay close to our source of life. We can’t just take a one deep breath and say, “Okay. Been there, done that.” After our initial reception, accepting the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives is a continuous process. After all, we can’t just take one deep breath and say, “Okay. Been there, done that.” Just as we inhale and then exhale, there is a time to take in and a time to give back out. But unless we first receive, we will have nothing to give.

 

It is common knowledge that breathing slowly and deeply is a great way to calm ourselves down when we are anxious or slow ourselves down when we are frantic. How much more powerful might it be if, as we inhale, we picture ourselves breathing in the Holy Spirit, and breathing out stress, self, and whatever is not of God. Let’s receive the gift and give thanks to the Giver.

 

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for the gift of Your Spirit.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What happens when I spend a moment breathing in the Holy Spirit and breathing out stress?

Listening

And Jesus concluded, “Listen, then, if you have ears!”

 

The art of listening is the “North Star of parenting” according to an article by Marlo Thomas. I was reading the piece over breakfast one morning. I wanted to read about how her father’s ability to listen impacted her life, but my husband kept interrupting my reading. He asked me something—I can’t remember what—and I mumbled a quick “Uh-huh.” He asked me something else and I gave another non-committal response. The third time he asked me something, I finally got it. My husband wanted to have a conversation.

 

Instead of reading about listening, I put the magazine down and listened. We ended up chatting about when we first met as we finished breakfast. The pleasant stroll down memory lane started our day on a warm and happy note. Even though the article I’d been reading was about listening, it took me three tries to get the message. If I’d been reading about anything else, I might have missed a golden opportunity. I wonder how many other opportunities I’ve missed and never even noticed because I wasn’t listening?

 

 

Prayer:  Lord, help me listen to what  You want me to hear today.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How can you open yourself to new opportunities in your day by listening more?

Light In The Darkness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.  John 1: 5

 

Strike a match and it flashes in a darkened room, but dark piled upon dark can’t swallow up the flame. All the darkness in the world can’t snuff out the light of even a single candle.

 

My life has had times of darkness—maybe yours has, too. Health crises, relationship challenges, blinding fears, times when futility invited me to give up…but something wouldn’t let me. It was as if a tiny little pilot light of hope somewhere within me flickered and sputtered, but never went out completely. There was no possible way that I could keep it alive on my own. I was blessed with friends and family who fanned the flame—but there was one time when even their love and support seemed insufficient. I felt alone in the darkness, and yet, day after weary day, Someone kept that light going enough to keep me putting one foot in front of the other. Days turned into weeks. The crisis passed, the mood lifted, and the light shone brighter again.

 

Today, from the other side of the situation, that darkness seems like a faded, distant memory. But walking through it without knowing how it would turn out made the darkness all the more oppressive. It was not me who got through that ordeal, and although I could never have made it through without my loved ones, it was not their support alone that enabled me to endure. My heart knows it was the Light that shines in the darkness, and that all the darkness in the world can never put out.

 

Prayer:  Praise to You, Lord of Light

 

Reflection for sharing: Where today do you most need the Light to shine? Where can you allow your light to shine for others?

Selfishness Vs. Trusting God

Selfishness only causes trouble. You are much better off to trust the Lord. Proverbs 27: 25

 

Ironic, isn’t it? By definition, we act selfishly to benefit ourselves, but this proverb warns us that acting selfishly is not in our best interest.

 

It causes trouble. Whether it’s pre-schoolers fighting over the same toy or family members, co-workers or politicians running on self-will, looking out for Number 1 creates conflict with others who are also looking out for Number 1. Win or lose, we add stress and conflict to our lives. Damaged relationships and stress-related physical illness are evidence of the trouble selfishness can cause.

 

Is there a better way? The proverb suggests trusting God. If we trust that God has our best interests at heart, we don’t have to struggle to make things go our way. Even when we’re convinced our way is really best for all concerned, we can stop trying so hard to exert our will. When we trust God with running the world—including our little corner of it—we can let go.  If we do and say what we think He wants us to, we can leave the outcome to Him and be at peace. We can have a good day even when things don’t go our way.  Who wouldn’t be better off trusting the Lord?

 

Prayer:  Lord, increase our trust in You.

 

Reflection for sharing: When am I most concerned about having things turn out my way? What helps me relax, let go, and let God?

Finding Happiness in Unexpected Places

I find my happiness in obeying your commands. Psalm 119:56

 

If people found happiness in obeying God’s commands, wouldn’t everybody be doing it all the time? Who doesn’t want to be happy? What does the Psalmist know that the rest of us don’t?

 

While I can’t speak for the Psalmist, I’m reminded of the difference between short-term pay-offs and long-term rewards. Indulging in excess food or drink, for example, might provide instant gratification but leave us with “unhappy” after-effects: unwanted weight gain, hang-overs, or worse. A spending spree might be fun while it lasts, but the bills come due. Getting an education takes sacrificing the short-term comforts for long-term benefits.

 

It is a hallmark of maturity to be able to delay gratification for a long-range, worthwhile outcome.  “Virtue is its own reward.”  “Virtue is its own punishment.”  I’ve heard it said both ways. I guess it’s all a question of perspective. God didn’t come up with commands in order to make us miserable, but to guide us in living in harmony with Him, with others, and even with ourselves. Short-term or long-range? Sometimes we have to look at the big picture to see where our true happiness lies.

 

 

Prayer:  Lord, help me see the joy in following Your plan for me today.

 

Reflection for sharing:  When has investing time and effort in a long-range goal paid off for you?  What did you have to give up to achieve your goal? Was it worth it?

This Little Light Of Mine

“No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lamp stand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 4: 15-16

 

Think of your top five flaws. Now think of your five best qualities. Which list was easier to come up with? If you’re like me, it was probably the list of flaws. Where did we get the idea that being humble meant being a shrinking violet or thinking negative things about ourselves?

 

Jesus tells us we’re supposed to let our light shine so that others will see it. But isn’t that being a conceited show-off? Not if we look at the rest of the passage.

 

First, Jesus says no one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl. We have a light to shine not because we created it ourselves, but because God “lit” us with His light. We all have talents and skills, but those are gifts from God. We are not being conceited if we use the abilities He gave us. Hiding the gifts God gave us in the name of humility is counter-productive.

 

Second, we are right where we need to be to let our light shine. Whatever “lamp stand” we have been put on—whatever our present circumstances—we are right where God wanted our particular light to serve His purpose.

 

Finally, what is that purpose? Not to impress others with our inflated egos, but to “praise [our] Father in heaven.”  St. Francis said to preach the Gospel always and if you have to, use words. What we do coveys a powerful message. We can share the Good News about God by using our gifts. We can appreciate our gifts in healthy humility by gratefully acknowledging the Giver. We can help others by letting our light shine in the here and now.

 

Prayer:  Lord, show me my gifts and how you want me to use them today.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How am I hiding the light within me? What can I do today to let it shine?

Challenged Convictions

Peter and John were still speaking to the people when some priests, the officer in charge of the Temple guards, and some Sadducees arrived. They were annoyed because the two apostles were teaching the people that Jesus had risen from death, which proved that the dead will rise to life.  Acts 4:1-2

 

Isn’t it annoying to be confronted with something that goes against your mind-set? No wonder the Sadducees—who didn’t believe in life after death—were annoyed. Who isn’t irritated when their convictions are challenged? It’s even worse when there is supporting evidence for the other side!

 

Of course we think our own world-view is right. Why hold on to an opinion you think is wrong? It makes sense to express and defend our position, but if that position truly is correct, won’t it hold up to challenges? If—after thoughtful consideration of all the information—it doesn’t, it doesn’t—what’s wrong with changing our position?

 

Why is it so threatening to change our minds in light of new information? Part of it might be ego. “I was wrong” is not the easiest thing to admit to ourselves—let alone acknowledge to others. But I think it’s more than that. When a component of our operating system is shown to be faulty, our foundation can feel pulled out from under us. We might be afraid to trust our judgment about other things. As a result of the new mindset, we might be required to make changes in our lives.

 

When Paul, zealous persecutor of Christians, was confronted with the Truth, it turned his world upside down. He ended up doing a complete 180 and launching an equally zealous crusade to spread Christianity throughout the known world. While we might not be called to make changes of that magnitude, we all need attitude adjustments from time to time.

 

Prayer:  Lord, teach my heart to be open to the truth.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What assumptions might be worth a second look?

Time Enough

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will enver pass away. Matthew 24: 35

 

Can you believe it’s June already? I don’t know where May went…it seems like it was just Easter! But Spring isn’t the only season that’s gone by in a blur.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but the months and years seem to be be flying by faster and faster. When you are five years old, a year is one fifth of a lifetime–that’s a long time; but when you’re fifty, a year is only one-fiftieth, a tiny fraction of a lifetime. Does that account for the fast-forward perception of time?

 

In any event, I woke up this morning thinking: It’s June already.  Before you know it, summer will be over…the Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then another year!  Yes,I know my mind was getting carried away, but I was left with a vague sense of urgency. The years are going by awfully fast and since I’m past middle-aged, the end is probably closer than the beginning. I need to get busy. I’ve only scratched the surface of what I want to write about. What if I don’t have enough time to share all the things I want to through my writing? I felt like I needed to hurry up and write this morning!

 

Then I remembered that Nikos Kazantzakis said, “God, it seems, is never in a hurry, while we are always in a hurry.” A sigh of relief. Yes. All time is God’s.  Jesus reminds us that, while all created things will pass away, God and His Word are eternal. I don’t need to worry about the rest. I’ll have all the time I need to say and do whatever God has in mind for me to say and do. So will you.

 

Prayer:  Lord, help me rest secure in Your Eternal Word of Love.

 

Reflection for sharing:  When life seems to be going too fast, what helps you slow down and live?

 

 

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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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