Take a moment. Breathe. Rest. Breathe. Hum. Breathe. Listen. Relax. Breathe. Stop glancing at that clock. Breathe more slowly. Step outside. Pick up a leaf. Gaze upon a cloud. Breathe. Take a moment. Rest.
And listen to Wendell Berry and experience "The Peace of Wild Things."
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
"...but everyone walked in the stubbornness of an evil will..."
Jeremiah could see what others ignored: The retreat of faithful obedience to God and the advance of the armies of Babylon. He saw the connection and he cried to the people night and day to no avail.
The number of idols the people embraced rivaled the number of cities in the land ... so great was their descent into idolatry, often a synchronous blend of Yahwistic piety and sensual pseudo-religion.
Liken it to modern, hyphenated "Christianity" where the adjectival addendum denotes a national, ethnic, economic, political, or affinity-based qualification.
When the adjective becomes the noun and the Kingdom of God becomes the modifier, we are in deep sewage.
Jeremiah 11:1-20 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
You shall say to them,
Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Cursed be anyone who does not heed the words of this covenant, which I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron-smelter, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you.
So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, that I may perform the oath that I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.
Then I answered,
"So be it, LORD."
And the LORD said to me: Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem:
Hear the words of this covenant and do them. For I solemnly warned your ancestors when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice.
Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of an evil will.
So I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.
And the LORD said to me: Conspiracy exists among the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors of old, who refused to heed my words; they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant that I made with their ancestors.
Therefore, thus says the LORD, assuredly I am going to bring disaster upon them that they cannot escape; though they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.
Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they will never save them in the time of their trouble.
For your gods have become as many as your towns, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal.
As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.
What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done vile deeds?
Can vows and sacrificial flesh avert your doom?
Can you then exult? The LORD once called you, "A green olive tree, fair with goodly fruit" but with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed.
The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.
It was the LORD who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds.
But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, "Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!"
But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.
Unknown 19th-century artist - Original image came from Manning's Illustrated Horse Book by J. Russell Manning copyrighted by the Hubbard Brothers in 1882 and published by the Edgewood Publishing Company - User:Patrick Edwin Moran added the English text indicating body parts, etc., - Public Domain
It seemed like a good idea. We were going horseback riding with some good friends. I do not remember the size or condition of the horse. I do not remember much about him at all except that he was a rather high horse.
The truth is that I was a lot heavier in those days. It was the eighties. I had not reached my peak weight, but neither was I light.
I might add that I had one or two strong opinions and could express them with pompous vigor and self-righteous surety.
I knew to mount the stead on the left. it was not the first time I had been on a horse, but it was the last -- so far.
I knew much. I thought I knew even more.
What I did not know, was my horse.
I got on and was situating myself and balancing the load. At that point, it became apparent that no amount of load-balancing would compensate for the reality of the load itself.
I had exceeded that boy's weight limit.
Old Paint began to buckle under my load. He bent his knees. He went to the ground. He either could not nor would not carry me. That was the way it was. There was no remedy.
My high horse had rejected me.
It is bad enough to fall off of one's high horse of opinionated splendor, but to be totally rejected by the mount of ascension itself is rather embarrassing.
There have been many times when my attitudes, premises, ideas, and assertions have not withstood the strength of reality and truth.
There have been other times when I have been bucked off onto the gravel.
Still, I have ridden my high horse with some of the same misplaced confidence that has betrayed me before. I would have been better off riding a pompous jackass since I was acting like one anyway.
It is important to have a point of view. More accurately, it is important to know that we have a point of view, recognize it, and be able to identify it. That way we can acknowledge it. That way, we and others can compensate for it and understand that others may have different perspectives.
What a wonderful antidote to the disease of high-horse-itis to take an "I might be wrong" pill every morning!
What a magnificent cure to obnoxiousness to admit that we have blind sides!
What a marvelous aid to keeping our bones intact, to gently dismount our high horses, take on a little humility, exercise a little restrain, and listen to those who share different views from our own.
I'd like to try riding a horse again one day, but not one too high or too low. I need the right horse and then I need to ride it with a little less pride than the last time.
That way, I might have a little less humiliation when I fall off.
I don't look for these morning themes; I just sort of gravitate toward them as if there is a magnet drawing the little specks of scattered metal dust into a meaningful center of thinking where a message might emerge if there is anyone to hear, discern, and apply it.
God comes ... into the scattered dust of our existence and there is something metallic in us and magnetic in Truth that draws us from randomness to reality and purpose.
Sometimes, it is an angel voice that calls and sometimes our own random seeking that draws, but always, always, always, there is an invasion of divinity into our little conclaves of humanity that speaks with clarity ....
If we will hear, we will hear.
It is in finding the message and meaning in our circumstances that make them most worthwhile.
"Good when He gives, supremely good; Nor less when He denies: Afflictions, from His sovereign hand, Are blessings in disguise." - Brother Lawrence
(Isaiah 7:14 ) Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.
God Himself has given a sign to His people. As we barrel down the highway toward Passion week, it is int the same as during Advent, when the signs of the season are everywhere and proliferating. Lights, greenery, swirling red and white stripes, even ornamental reminders of the manger, the sheep, the shepherds, and the angels adorn the public squares of our cities and towns. These are the signs, but no one is stopping to really read them.
This is Lent, as we commemorate ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD and our signs are different, especially this year.
They are signs of a heart cry.
Some are lonely, frustrated, worried, fearful, or dismayed. Others are depressed. There is no one who is unaffected by our time in history. If we but look just a bit beneath the surface, we will see pain, longing, and confusion.
People do not know to call their deepest need, salvation, redemption, or reconciliation, but they know that they do have a need. They do not know that the deepest answer is Emmanuel, God with us, but they know that they long for a presence that transcends the moment.
Emmanuel's people recognize the signs of brokenness out of their own experiences and show forth the sign of His presence.
They are signs of hearing for God has heard.
God has indeed heard the heart cries of people. As He heard the crisis of the Israelites in Egypt and raised up Moses, so He has heard those of our generation. He has sent His Son for all people of all time and our time is now.
This is our message of “God has heard, and He has come to be with you” to a world that will find it difficult to believe.
They are signs of hope.
People seldom pray without a sense that they might be heard. They hold out some inkling of hope with every strand of tinsel that they hang. When they sign a card that says, “peace on earth,” at Christmas or even “Happy Easter” in the spring, they are entertaining the notion that peace and happiness are possibilities.
As Paul stood in Athens and reinterpreted the statue to the unknown god and named Him as the true, one and only God of the universe, let us recapture and declare the meaning of the signs around us and use them to point to the One sign He has given us from Heaven.
O come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel
Who waits in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee. Oh Israel.
Some songs to God are full of complaints, pleas, and desperate cries resolving themselves in faith. The temptation is not to sing them because they are not holy enough, not pious enough, rough, raw, guttural, and bleeding from the soul.
But the example of wisdom literature scripture is to let it out and let it resolve itself in the singing and praying of it.
It is the path of healing for ourselves and others.
God can deal with our detractors. It is not our battle - not ours alone - not ours primarily. The haughty thing they have you. God is about to turn the tables.
" I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.
Let not those rejoice over me who are wrongfully my foes, and let not those wink the eye who hate me without cause. For they do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit. They open wide their mouths against me; they say, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!” - Psalm 35:18-21 (ESV)
God is in the moment, speaking, acting, drawing near to us.
What is the meaning of my moments and movement beyond the movement of the moment?
Perhaps, God is answering our prayer to destroy our enemies by making them our brothers and sisters again.
Consider the time when Joseph is in Egypt and his brothers come to him, now the governor, not knowing who he is, seeking food.
Sometimes, we get to see both sides of the drama of oppression and the need for healing on both sides.
In Genesis, the story of Joseph crescendos with this dance he choreographs to reconnect with the brothers who dealt so treacherously with him years before.
It is a dance of healing, restoration, reconciliation, and new beginnings for Joseph and for his brothers.
He plays a game with them, not for the purpose of teasing or toying with. On the contrary. He is taking himself and them through a process of discovery and healing.
Perhaps they have tried daily to forget what they had done in tiny moments of forgetfulness. But they cannot ultimately forget.
Nor can they know fully the pain and possibilities that were pregnant in their choices. When Joseph "sets them up," they are confronted with a question that is deeper than the moment:
" ... Joseph said to them, 'What deed is this that you have done?'" - Genesis 44:15 (ESV)
In fact, the deed they had most immediately done was none - none that would indict them.
They are different men at that day than the men who sold their brother as a slave, but their transformation is not complete until the reconciliation is transacted and Joseph was confront them as much as they must be confronted ....
And they must confront the question that has ultimately brought them to this moment, "What have you done?"
It is, in the long run, a redemptive question and it is ours. It is mine? What is the meaning of my moments and movement beyond the movement of the moment?
What is the meaning of my life in an honest and full assessment of my life?
What would it mean apart from redemption? What does it mean in the light of redemption?
God is our protector, our advocate, and our most enthusiastic ally ... but He also has a purpose for those for whom we pray ruin and destruction. In our either/or world, it is hard to comprehend. But we can lean into both realities with faith and seeking.
We are here today, standing on a rolling ball, trying to maintain our balance yet balanced by an unseen hand.
We are suspended between the ground beneath and the sky above and somehow unimpressed.
We are ever bumping into one another and looking the other way with muttered apologies for living.
We see through and around and over and under with the illusion of our own invisibility.
We are witnesses to what we are and what we know and who we know and choose to live in anonymity.
And we live on, day after day, moment after moment in the drudgery of routine and the ritual of sameness moving steadily toward some undefined goal we call "retirement."
Retirement from what?
Indeed we are tired, but not from engagement, not from work. Work never wearied a soul engaged in purposeful pursuit. Work invigorates, regenerates, and illuminates our lives for what they are and are to be ....
We are called, chosen, and unfrozen to be instruments of peace, God's peace, to sow seeds of love, kindness, joy, and healing.
And if we ever get caught up with that, we can talk about retirement.
So get up, get connected, feed your face, wash your teeth, and move out.
Good morning folks!
On Lenten Self- Discipline
Strange spiritual discipline for the day - willingness to change a pattern, perhaps to break the pride of the pattern, perhaps to bring something new to the table, perhaps some unknown agenda - or PERHAPS, perhaps it is all the same pattern and discipline of connection, listening, hearing, responding ... Lent is such an unfolding of possibilities.
On Thinking, Writing, and Being
I write, therefore I think. I think, therefore I write. I get it out, look at it, and evaluate if it rings true. I stink, therefore, I am. If it smells like me, it might be me, Be patient.
A pastoral theologian must sometimes be prophetic. A prophet must sometimes be pastoral. A disciple must always follow and invite, "Will you come along with me?" Pastoral or prophetic strength goes to personality and gifting. Discipleship is more about our common calling.
On Human Frailty
It's not very difficult to avoid passing any profound judgment on you when I understand my total lack of qualification to do so or even to judge myself with finality.
Ask my opinion or interpretation or scripture? You can have it.
Ask for infallibility and you are out of luck.
On Necessary Suffering (Beyond Lenten Self- Deprivation and Meditation)
The lesson from Jeremiah, when I read his prophecies, is that some suffering is necessary. Jesus taught this too and embodied it and, when encouraged to avoid the suffering, He put the "plan" ahead of His own interests and well-being.
But ... nevertheless ... and more of the most .... the words"rise again" were there all along.
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” - Mark 8:31-33 (ESV)
Strategic living and speaking. This is the take-away I get from the epistle lesson today - that we are to consider the consequences of our words and deeds in terms of their impact on others. There is not law that says we cannot be relateable and truthful at the same time. We can be authentic and not be intentionally offensive. If truth offends, that is one thing; if I offend, that is a matter of false pride and a deficit of love.
How I live and what I speak are strategic opportunities for doing good and advancing God's kingdom of love and grace.
It takes discipline and sometimes I do not do all that well at it.
Hear the Word of the Lord from the Apostle Paul:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.
To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.
To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. - 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 (ESV)
(John 9:1) And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
They asked a silly question as they looked down on the blind beggar, “Who sinned?”
Was it his parents? Or was it him?
They had read parts of the scriptures, but not all. They had left out vast portions that spoke of the mercy of God who, while having the right to inflict pain and suffering upon disobedient people, had so often, in mercy, relented.
And they had not read the book of Job or so many passages that revealed the suffering of the righteous.
But Jesus knew that this blindness, unlike the blindness of those who were critical, was so that the glory of God might be revealed in a poor beggar man. Other eyes, spiritual eyes could also be opened, but it would require a miracle from God and the willingness of the recipient.
That man had his eyes opened, but other eyes remained closed. There is a blindness that is, without a doubted, rooted by sin, perpetuated by sin, and symptomatic of sin. That is the blindness that obscures the vision of grace, that clouds our view of God’s nature, and causes us to stumble through life without direction or purpose.
It is that blindness that Jesus is ever ready to heal.
He does so regardless of our theological sophistication or worthiness. Of course, the man was a sinner, but that fact was not relevant that day, because Jesus was viewing him through the eyes of mercy and grace. His new sight would bring glory to the Father even as yours will evoke the praise of men and women for Him.
“I don’t know,” was the answer the man gave to the question of Jesus’ authenticity. “I just know I was blind and now I see.”
Later, with new eyes, a willing heart, and deep gratitude, he would joyfully believe and follow. Like this man, you did not become a believer because of your wisdom or theological sophistication. All that you are today comes from a time when a gracious Lord opened your eyes.
But Now I See
(John 9:25 ) He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
“I see,” we say, and we mean that we understand.
“I see,” we say, and indicate that something which was formerly behind a cloud has had the light of day shine upon it.
“I see,” we say, and breath a sigh of relief because the struggle to comprehend has ended and the fog of confusion has lifted.
“I see” we say, sometimes with slight embarrassment because it was so simple all along. That with which we wrestled is no longer an obstacle, but a friend. That which was such a barrier to truth has become the key to all mysteries.
“Now I see,” and we do not speak it, but sing the joyful news.
No longer need we wander. No longer must we be the slaves of those who lead us along, but who are also blind. No longer must we repose in darkness without the light of blessed hope.
Why do we crawl back into the darkness now that Christ has brought us light? Why do we sleep through the daylight hours? Why do we act as if we have no direction? Why do we keep bumping into the same obstructions on our path to truth? Why do we shut our eyes and flounder in a haze of existential ambiguity? Why are we attracted to dark things?
We have a choice. There is still within us the memory of blindness and sin and it holds some sort of nostalgic appeal to us. But we must remember that the misery of it all was always greater than its perverted pleasure. It was pleasurable for a season, but those seasons got shorter and shorter and less and less pleasurable.
We can see now, and we can choose. We can say to Jesus, “Tell me who He is and I will believe in Him.” He will point to Himself and we can follow Him. He has opened our eyes and we are without excuse.
We dream; we grow; We move; we flow; We laugh; we glow. While here below, We live in anticipation Of pomp and circumstance And graduation. We are matriculated in the school of life Articulated by toil and tears and strife. We are students of all that passes Work and play, day by day, our classes. We are classmates with our fellow creatures. These also are our students and our teachers. And this is our assignment: Absolute and total realignment. And someday through the pain and stress of it. We will celebrate the gain and success of it. We dream; we grow and by God's grace we move and flow And laugh and glow While here below, We live.
Live well. Live Long. Prosper and overcome. Be all that you can be. You are more special than you know.
It is an honor to be considered among your friends.
- Tom Sims
From Wikipedia - A Guide to Raphael's Painting and Characters (with links and references).
"It seems, in fact, that, the second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half." - Fyodor Dostoevsky
As much as I love Dostoevsky, I am not buying that ... at least not for my personal collection of life artifacts.
I can see where one might make the observation and where it might be the norm. However, I want to defy it.
One must grant that the resistance to reinventing oneself is heavy and the force of habit is strong. The road to establishing new patterns of thought and practice is uphill and treacherous. But there exists such a path and one can choose to take it.
We preach resurrection hope this Sunday. That means that we do not have to be defined by inertia whether we are objects at rest or in motion.
Centrifugal force is only as strong as our commitment to break free while relying on a Power that is far greater than ourselves.
Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, Lord, to help me.
May those who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay.
Have you ever been in a hurry? A really big hurry? A big, fat, bodacious, urgent, emergency hurry?
The Psalmist asks God to be in a hurry.
Have I often prayed, "Hurry up, God?"
How do I hurry a God who is in no hurry, who has time absolutely under control?
"I am poor and needy,"
I join him in saying, and it is true. He knows that.
"In you, I take refuge."
That's really all the refuge I ultimately need. This is not to discount the need of community, but if all else fails, He will not.
Then, the story of Joseph continues and the brothers are Joseph are having their own "come to Jesus" meeting.
Paul reminds us that "hot stuff" that we think we are, we've been bought with a price.
So, how could we think that God would forsake us? He would not even discard the treacherous brothers of Joseph. It took over a generation for them to find the opportunity to repent.
Jesus teaches us that everything big was once small, The Kingdom of God, at its essence, within us and within the world, can be as tiny as a mustard seed. That which begins small, has great potential.
God's in no hurry, but He will make haste to deliver us ... only to teach us to trustfully wait for the accomplishment of His purposes.
It's not your birthday, you protest? That's OK. It can be today. In fact, I declare it your birthday. So Happy Birthday!
The perplexing poles of gratitude and regret, Pictures in the mind we cannot forget, Unwritten sonnets, unsung songs, Unfulfilled wishes, un-righted wrongs. Tempered and enveloped by words aptly spoken, Mended hearts which once were broken, Loves requited, love extended, Hearts united, truth defended. All of life is blended in a stew Of all and everything that comes to you. Blended and seasoned by all you believe, Life is all your heart will receive … By faith, willing, hopeful, and eager. All that is impressive and all that is meager Is life, and life is very, very good. Have a happy, happy birthday. You should.
Mutual communication with God is going on far beneath the surface of our lives.
Not only do we often not know what to pray, we often know not what we are praying. This is not said that we might disengage our minds, but that, with engagement, we might also release our spirits to commune with the Holy Spirit who knows, overcomes, and even uses our weaknesses in prayer even as He does in our outward lives.
" Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." - Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)
We ask, with the disciples, "Teach us to pray."
And we learn from those who have prayed.
" I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me." -Psalm 101:2-3
I could, can, and do echo this prayer of commitment today:
1. Regulate my thoughts. Rejecting that which is unworthy, focusing on the real longing of my heart for God to show up in my life in a fresh way.
2. Walking in my own house with integrity - in the place of my most intimate relationships and relaxed behaviors among those who know me best and must put up with me most.
3. Watching what I watch and how I feed my brain when I am alone and unaccountable to anyone but God. Worthless things pay no dividends but destruction and decay.
4. Hating that which is the fruit of unfruitful labor. In other words, I am called to reject the products of rebellion against truth and the God of truth. They appear attractive and they lure us with the promise that they are shortcuts to success, but they are not worthy of our efforts.
"...but I give myself to prayer."
Whatever the mess, the tension, the stress, and the opposition, we had better be on that page. There are challenges we cannot face alone. There are perplexities we cannot unravel. There are doubts we cannot calm. There are attacks we cannot fend off.
We must give ourselves to prayer.
When I come to the end of myself, I come to the continuing beginning of God's grace in my life,
"Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer." - Psalm 109:1-4
That is what so many are experiencing in the last few days. One day, we were speculating about possibilities and anticipating a measured response to a heath threat. Suddenly, we are slapped in the face with a darker reality and danger. Much more than we expected is changed.
All of our plans and our lifestyle have come to a screeching halt.
The words of James come to mind:
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. - James 4:14-16
It shakes our delusional illusions to any control we have over the world or of our own destinies. It rattles our confidence. It disturbs our delicate balance. It stops us in our tracks.
The world is a sometimes fragile, often unpredictable, frequently chaotic house to live in. We do not live invincibly in fortresses that cannot be penetrated by the forces of nature ... especially things as tiny as germs that can turn human society upside down in a short geometric progression of time.
I set urgent goals, make urgent plans, play urgent roles, Pray urgent prayers, seek urgent interventions for my urgent cares. God quietly, silently, patiently hears my cries, my fears, my sobbing tears. God speaks and cage-rattles as silently and patiently to my rage- battles. And urgency gives way to intentionality .... And rush to order ... And I step into a different time-line where all that was slow Is fast And all that was fast Is slow And everything Is right on time.
So, when we cannot think of anything else and, when we realize that there is nothing better to think of, we pray.
"Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!"- Psalm 143:1 (ESV)
Then, after the halt, the rallying cry comes, "Begin again."
Please use this space to share resources of which you are aware during this emergency or to find resources of which you may not be aware. I made it a group so everyone could post, but I will be monitoring it for off-topic and inappropriate posts.
Please let me know if you'd like to volunteer for management help and please share this widely with agencies, faith based organizations, leaders, and "helpers" in our community.
I will gather as much information as I can to post and will appreciate all the help we can get.
Some of you can call churches and agencies you know and help gather information. Others have first hand knowledge. Let's get this to the people who need to know and are helping to coordinate.
Thank you for joining. There are many resources in our community, over 500 faith congregations, and hundreds of CBOs all wanting to help. There are also a number of collaborative tables and we are not trying to replace them here. We want to share information for those who sit and those table and others to assist you in networking a sharing.
Thanks for joining. Invite others. Freely share your information as well as your need of information (Questions).
Together, we can make a difference in this crisis.
It is one of my favorite unsung holidays for contemplation and spiritual nurture.
From the fifth century, come words and pray for our time.
So often, prayer and poetry are interwoven in our theology and teach us as they lead us in prayer, contemplation and devotion. We are inspired and edified. We are lifted and encouraged as we are moved.
Today, we remember St. Patrick and pray his prayer with people around the world in the midst of a pandemic without national borders and respect of persons.
We can take comfort and strength from its words and sentiments.
St. Patrick left a legacy of truth and legend, but the truth is greater than stories of snakes and shamrocks. He brought the gospel to Ireland and left a prayer that expressed the deep desire of his heart and moves us even today.
Patrick is honored in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant traditions.
The shorter version of the prayer that is called his breastplate goes like this:
"I arise today through God's strength to pilot me, God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to see before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's host to secure me – against snares of devils, against temptations and vices, against inclinations of nature, against everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd... Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Christ. May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us."
Here is a literal translation of the entire Irish text:
"I bind to myself today The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity: I believe the Trinity in the Unity The Creator of the Universe. I bind to myself today The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism, The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial, The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension, The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day. I bind to myself today The virtue of the love of seraphim, In the obedience of angels, In the hope of resurrection unto reward, In prayers of Patriarchs, In predictions of Prophets, In preaching of Apostles, In faith of Confessors, In purity of holy Virgins, In deeds of righteous men. I bind to myself today The power of Heaven, The light of the sun, The brightness of the moon, The splendour of fire, The flashing of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of sea, The stability of earth, The compactness of rocks. I bind to myself today God's Power to guide me, God's Might to uphold me, God's Wisdom to teach me, God's Eye to watch over me, God's Ear to hear me, God's Word to give me speech, God's Hand to guide me, God's Way to lie before me, God's Shield to shelter me, God's Host to secure me, Against the snares of demons, Against the seductions of vices, Against the lusts of nature, Against everyone who meditates injury to me, Whether far or near, Whether few or with many. I invoke today all these virtues Against every hostile merciless power Which may assail my body and my soul, Against the incantations of false prophets, Against the black laws of heathenism, Against the false laws of heresy, Against the deceits of idolatry, Against the spells of smiths and wizards, Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man. Christ, protect me today Against every poison, against burning, Against drowning, against death-wound, That I may receive abundant reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left, Christ in the fort, Christ in the chariot seat, Christ in the poop deck, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. I bind to myself today The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity, I believe the Trinity in the Unity The Creator of the Universe."
Let us bind ourselves to truths that are transcendent and ultimate. Let us bind ourselves to a faith that surrounds us, envelopes us, and shields us. Let us bind ourselves to hope and confidence in a God of peace and holy love.
Let us live bound in a reality that sets us free.
Filmed on location in Northern Ireland featuring Jean Watson and cast members and crew from 'The Game Of Thrones'. Words based on St. Patrick’s Breastplate
The sign for the Lamb and Lion, Bath In Christian heraldry the lamb is the symbol of the Redeemer and the lion is the symbol of the Resurrection - geograph.org.uk, Author Trish Steel
Peace be with you in times of conflict.
Peace be with you in times of stress.
Peace be with you in times of political and social upheaval.
Peace be with you in times of deprivation.
Peace be with you in days of crisis and emergency.
Peace be with you when you are sure you are right and others are sure you are wrong.
Peace be with you always, the peace of Christ.
Peace be with you and be not like the Pax Romana warriors who imposed the peace of Rome at the end of a sword or through coercion and intimidation.
My tribe has a checkered history with forced conversions, violent power-grabbing, and militaristic exercise of religious dominance.
To deny that is to deny history.
We have not always been on the side of peace. Sometimes we have disturbed the peace in the name of peace and the Prince of Peace.
To not care is to ignore scripture. We are flawed in our common humanity and sin with a lust for power that we are willing to exercise with violence and coercion.
Our religions, no matter how legitimate or illegitimate can be illegitimately co-opted as an excuse for that power-lust and every evil methodology we can muster to acquire what we want and think we deserve.
In recent years, the world has been experiencing an extreme and frightening expression and demonstration of this. It is not the first in history and probably will not be the last. Everyone has a different name for it and the names are debated, but it is all one thing throughout history.
There are political and military battles that shall be waged, but the most important battle is unseen; it is timeless; it is the most real. It is waged in the secret place of prayer, the public place of speaking truth in love, and the relational place of living the life of faith to which we have been called - to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
Live peaceably. Act in peace. Work for peace. Pray for peace ... shalom ... the complete well-being of people and communities as a result of God's grace and power.
A sure way to invoke the wrath of those who are for war is to be for peace.
It will take all of your prayer and strength not to break with your resolve, not to lash out, and not to wish ill upon your tormentors for their anger can be strong and their condemnation can be chilling.
But you have your marching orders from a higher commander and you are declared to be blessed by the Prince of Peace.
" Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!" - Psalm 120:5-7 (ESV)
It is a crazy time in a crazy world and it would be easy to go crazy as a response.
Somehow, we have to choose a path that not only brings us through treacherous times, but let's us contribute. We need to choose a path that empowers us to make a difference in our world.
Going through some old social media posts, I thought I'd mash them all together with a bit of redaction and see if they could form a these. It started with shame, but while God's movements in our lives may pass through shame, they never end there. So stay with me.
There is a place for that emotion, especially in days of shameful deeds.
"Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed who seek after my life to destroy it; let them draw back and be disgraced who take pleasure in my misfortune. " - Psalm 40:15
This is a prayer for those who seek to destroy, diminish, or marginalize life as well as those who take pleasure in the misfortune of others. It touches to those whose worst behaviors emerge in crisis rather than their best. It overlaps to greed, avarice, hatred, bigotry, and violence.
It is a prayer that they would find righteous shame in their actions and disgrace in their attitudes ...
That they might seek grace in its only true source.
We need a revival of shame, disgrace, and decency in a world that lacks compassion and truth ... and from there, the gladness of seeking God who regards the poor and afflicted. Then, we need to move beyond the shame.
Psalm 40 continues in verses 17- 19.
Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; let those who love your salvation continually say, "Great is the LORD!"
Though I am poor and afflicted, the Lord will have regard for me.
You are my helper and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my God.
Cry out to God and never lose hope.
It only seems that evil is winning. God is working behind the scenes to bring a victorious outcome for the righteous and oppressed.
Don't report the final score before the whistle blows and don't assume that set backs predict loss.
Furthermore, don't pursue that which is easy, popular, or compatible with the dominant narrative of any generation at the cost of the soul-searching, soul-wrenching, upside-down message of sacrifice, service, and radical discipleship.
The depth, reality, and long-term character of the call is seldom what would seem most expeditious in a meeting of our own minds for the purpose of securing short-term gains.
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"
And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others,one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah."
And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly.
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."
"For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power." - Mark 8:27-9:1
The Kingdom is coming with power and not on our terms or by our own arranging.
We are compulsive arrangers ... at least those of us who labor under the dysfunctions of our own control issues. If things are working out, we easily fall for the call to quick and easy solutions, avoidance of pain and sacrifice, as well as the tendency to blame people.
Like Peter, we want to organize, fix, and manipulate things so that they will work the way we want them and never challenge our comforts, preferences, or aversion to chaos.
What follows from Paul is not a call to chaos or a condemnation of organization.
Rather it is a reminder that the great arranger is not some composite of us. Whatever we can do is not greater than what God is doing.
Behind the scenes, beneath the surface, and above our heads, something is going on beyond our control pointing to a better arrangement of things in the Kingdom that we could arrange ourselves.
It takes all the players.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-- and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.
And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this.
But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. - 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
History, whether Heilsgeschichte (Salvation history), political history, social, or any other sort of history, is the story of learning, remembering, forgetting, cycling over and over, making some progress, taking some steps back, but always leaving markers along the trail of human experience.
It demonstrates to us, the progress of redemption and the capacity of a sovererign God to take anything that is thrown at Him (or us) and make it work for glory and for good.
For instance, reflect on this:
Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation. But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, "Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land."
Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live."
But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?"
The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them."
So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live." -Exodus 1:6-22
The meaning emerges from the reflective insights that bubble forth in scriptural interpretation and contemplative prayer focused upon the key questions we ask and are asked by God and our fellow travelers.
Joseph died. His brothers died. His whole generation died.. At some point, all that will be left us us on earth will be the elements of our legacies.
What comes next is that which sets the stage for our decisions to reverence God and act with justice toward others or to bow to the waves of power and intimidation.
Deliverance would come decisively to the oppressed, but this passage only pulls back the curtain to reveal many coming years of darkness and oppression during which faithfulness itself would have to serve as its only reward.
It is a piece of the history.
In times of danger, in times of defeat, in times uncertainty and scarcity, remember God's power, goodness, grace, and presence. Pray for and work for the shalom of your city and community. Be a disciple. Exercise your dual citizenship here and in Heaven. Live graciously, generously, and fearlessly. Be different. Stick out like a sore thumb.
Don't retreat. Don't be afraid. Don't be cynical or let your hearts grow heart or faint.
Dura Europos synagogue wall painting - Public Domain
But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
. Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.” -Exodus 4:10-17 (ESV)
Moses was so reluctant to do this mission that he came up with a series of excuses that I summarize this way:
I am unlearned. I am unable. I am unbelievable. I am unwilling.
Each one was answered except the last.
At the end, God kicked him in the hind parts and said, "Get going. I am not asking you; I'm telling you."
The news of a pandemic has escalated. Famous people who might seem untouchable have been touched. What started as an isolated virus overseas has jumped the ocean and spread to communities worldwide.
People are afraid, right or wrong. People are washing their hands and that is always good. People are concerned and concern is in order. People need guidance and so do institutions.
The wolves are among us and the the storms are tossing our boat at sea.
Among the malevolent, viral, violent wolves and waves, peace be still...
There are principles that can guide us.
This has happened before and it will happen again. In fact, this may be a fire drill to train us for future challenges.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."
And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.
A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!"
Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" - Mark 4:35-41 (NRSV)
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." - Matthew 10:16 (New King James Version)
“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.
"... Love thy neighbor as thyself..."
These are my Guiding Principles during these days:
There are good sources of information and bad sources. Opinions serve as filters. Journalists report. Commentators comment. Scientists, doctors, demographers, and public health workers have one major interest - the health and well-being of populations of people. I tend to listen most to them. Just because the statistics do not seem alarming to you at the moment, understand that some people are better at tracking trends, doing math, and understanding complexities that I am or you are. Listen to them. Comparisons are dangerous because differences can be subtle. Be humble and defer to experts.
Follow Jesus' Call
Follow the call - even if it takes you among the wolves. We are the people of God on mission. We are in this with people and for people. Don't let fear keep you from serving when you are needed. Be cautious, but be available. We have a message of compassion and good news.
Don't take unwise risks and do not risk the health of other people. We are going overboard to protect the vulnerable in our community and in our parish. What a wonderful thing it is when a crisis does not materialize, but that usually happens because someone is making wise decisions.
Wisdom means we are careful with resources. It also means we avoid decisions based upon panic. We do not overcrowd emergency rooms for trivial matters. We do not avoid them when they are needed.
If we need to be inconvenienced to show extra caution, so be it. Don't touch when it is not necessary. Do not meet when it is unnecessary. The influenza epidemic of 1918 could have been different if they had known done what we know and are being asked to do.
Be kind. Be patient. Withhold criticism. While you are being shrewd, do not develop a hard heart. Share with your neighbors. Be emotionally vulnerable. Let God help you and speak peace to your soul.
Love Your Neighbor.
Love is what guides our decisions about whether to have meetings, cancel meetings, postpone meetings, or miss meetings. What does love dictate? Even the perception of danger, for people, poses danger. What is love calling you to do right now?
Have faith. Don't be afraid. Jesus is in the boat with you. He will speak to the waves at the right moment. Your ship will find its way safely to shore.
When people tell me that they have an issue with God, sometimes a complaint, sometimes real anger, I often ask, "Have you discussed it with God? Have you told God how you feel?"
"I could not do that," they might respond.
"Why not?" I ask.
"I am afraid to do that. God might get angry back at me."
Not so, not for that. God's anger is what we experience when we resist the fierceness of unrelenting love. We are in a storm and we can ride the storm or wage war against the storm, but we cannot ignore the storm.
Jeremiah, like the psalmist, invites us into the arena of honest prayer where we wrestle with ourselves and speak honestly with God. He prays throughout the book his scribe recorded. It is not always pretty, but often comes to this:
" I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O LORD, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing." - Jeremiah 10:23-24 (ESV)
He puts it out there and is willing to be corrected. He trusts God that God can correct Him in justice and not in anger.
I want to be corrected. Don't you? Why would I ever want to continue in a course of unproductive, destructive thinking or behavior? I want to be set upon the right track. My days, like yours, are numbered and I want them to count.
Looking back a few verses, he prays the prayer of as disillusioned man:
" Woe is me because of my hurt! My wound is grievous. But I said, “Truly this is an affliction, and I must bear it.” My tent is destroyed, and all my cords are broken; my children have gone from me, and they are not; there is no one to spread my tent again and to set up my curtains. For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered." - Jeremiah 10:19-21 (ESV)
Prayer is a process. Indeed we pray with the news around us in one hand and the Bible in the other and we are shaped by our dialogue with One who hears and cares.
Whatever you feel, pray.
Our deepest desires lead us and draw us into His presence to discover that His presence has already surrounded us.
It becomes unclear sometimes in the cycle of the central verse who is speaking because the WORD is embedded in each word and even the longing complaint of the heart is met with the reassuring comfort of the Presence.
It is especially evident when we pray:
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
This is our song when we are preparing our hearts to come before God and discover that God is already with us.
Our panting turmoil does not go unheard. Hear and pray with the Sons of Korah:
"Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?"
"To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah."
"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival."
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
"My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar." - Psalm 42:1-6 (ESV)
Epictetus c. 55 – 135 AD) was a GreekStoic philosopher. Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline.
Truth is, therefore, manifest, in the doing of truth. Axioms are about living truth that is self-evident and presumed, true.
"From Middle French axiome, from Latin axiōma (“axiom; principle”), from Ancient Greek ἀξίωμα (axíōma, “that which is thought to fit, a requisite, that which a pupil is required to know beforehand, a self-evident principle”), from ἀξιόω (axióō, “to think fit or worthy, to require, to demand”), from ἄξιος (áxios, “fit, worthy”, literally “weighing as much as; of like value”), from ἄγω (ágō, “I drive”).When we choose to accept the reality that we are chosen, we lose our need for and insistence on our own prerogatives and privileges, losing ourselves in the pain, suffering, and rejection of others as a way of taking up our crosses and following Jesus. "- Wikipedia
When we say that judgment begins in the house of God, we commit to being harder on ourselves than on others, to holding ourselves to a higher standard that we may offer love and acceptance to the world.
Followers of Jesus, we must not relinquish our identity or voice to the hateful, bigoted, resentful,, condemning, nationalistic, judgmental, racist, partisan, or graceless voices among us. Our message is defined by our Master as is our true identity. We must not surrender that.
Sometimes the message you most need to hear on a given day is the one you are being called to write or speak.
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. - 1 Corinthians 10:14
A word to "sensible people" is to run away from false gods (including the superstition that idols have any power over us --- like the idols of materialism, commercialism, sensual-ism, nationalism, racism, and self-ism) and and live without giving unnecessary offence to anyone.
It comes down to defining our true loyalties and zeroing in on or core values.
Seek God's glory.
Seek the good of others.
And a Couple More ...
“Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.”Leonardo da Vinci
The three rules of presentations Levity, Brevity, and Repetition. Let me repeat that...."" Daniel Pink
Three things I must do in the morning if nothing else (Psalm 5:3):
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. ... You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors. (NIV)
1. Make my voice heard before God. 2. Lay my requests before God. 3. Wait expectantly before God.
Which of these three is the greatest challenge for you?
Which brings you the greatest joy?
It is not about how long you spend on each.
It is not about how eloquent or outwardly pious you appear.
It is not even about how well you do it. You may mumble, fumble, and stumble through it. Just do it.
There is much we can learn philosophically, theologically, ecologically,and poetically from the human body.
The body is made up of multiple systems, but no system can be compartmentalized in complete isolation. Physically, we are a system of systems. Then, there is the integration of the physical and the emotional which is less tangible, but observable.
Moving outward while moving inward, the spiritual dimension is least measurable or controllable, but no less real. From there, we move into our immediate environment and beyond the immediate where everything is connected by implication and integration.
Nothing operates in a vacuum and nothing and no one is an island. It is great territory for meditation and a vast battleground for mediation.
"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple….So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." - Luke 14:26, 33
It is a provocative statement.
Did it work? Did it get your attention? Is it hyperbole? Doesn't it contradict almost everything else Jesus said?
Many "yes" answers emerge, but there is also a "yes" to the unasked question. What is the unasked question?
What does it mean to turn one's back on everything to focus on one thing? What kind of hate is this that is absolutely compatible with unconditional love? What kind of dying is this that culminates in eternal living and what kind of emptying is it that fills us?
Everything is redefined in Jesus.
Every value is reordered.
Every love is reoriented.
What looked like love is revealed as dysfunctional, self-serving, enabling much-mush when compared to the true love that transforms us and causes us to live out the Great Commandment -- not only better, but from a new perspective.
This sort of hate and abandonment is the gateway to true love and fulfillment.
And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. - Genesis 41:51
For Joseph, toil had meant slavery. It was a reminder that he had been rejected by his brothers, separated from his father, maligned by his master’s wife, and imprisoned on false charges. It meant that his dreams had been nearly crushed under the weight of cynicism. Toil was slavery and slavery embodied every painful memory in his life until the day that a son came into his life.
Slavery-styled toil is, to most people, dead-end work. It is the spinning of wheels, the thankless, meaningless, uninspired labor of those who do not share in the profit or mission of the tasks that occupy their days. Solomon said it was good to work, but included it in his list of things that were really vanity and striving after wind.
Toil – trading time for dollars or food, going nowhere, contributing nothing, being beaten down and unappreciated for one’s efforts. That is slavery.
Joseph came through his toils. So did John Newton. So have we. And in the process, something miraculous has happened. We’ve come through and we have forgotten the pain.
What did it mean for Joseph to name his son, Manasseh? In part it meant that whatever suffering he had experienced in the past was overshadowed by the joy of this glorious moment. It was worth it all to hold that little boy in his hands. It was new life, the same way every new day and every new year brings us new life.
What toils and painful memories do you bring to this moment? God has birthed something new in your life that has become your Manasseh. You can leave behind the agonies of slavery and the bondage of sin. You don’t have to live under the shadow of unpleasant memories or be haunted by regrets and rejection.
It is a new day – whatever the calendar says. It is a new hour – whatever the clock says. This very moment marks the beginning of your new life if you will name it so.
“Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.'” - Luke 13:32
When the colluded powers sent their collaborating messengers to warn Jesus he was in trouble and that he was likely to be killed, his response was four-fold:
I am doing works of mercy and deliverance.
I will continue to do them until I am done. I will not be stopped. I will not be intimidated.
I won't die here, but I will keep moving toward the place of my death.
But there is a third day coming and no matter what anyone does or thinks they can do to me, I will move past it toward that day ... and then, and only then, my work will be complete.
And so we follow with the same resolve, resisting the resistance to righteousness, marching toward the threats, confident in the calling to administer mercy, overflowing with compassion, stubborn in conviction, and ever faithful.
This story does not end with crucifixion. It is renewed in resurrection!
Nothing can thwart; nothing can deter; nothing can diminish.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever beleiveth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16
It is the first verse we learned as children and the one that remains dearest to our hearts. It is the gospel in a verse. It is so familiar that it is tempting to treat it as trite.
It is a glimpse into the very heart of God and it deeply informs our understanding of His purposes and ways.
We were taught to insert our names in place of “the world.” This morning, I would encourage you to insert your neighbors’ names.
Any Christian world view must acknowledge how God sees lost and broken humanity. They are the objects of His relentless and unfailing love.
The extent to which He will go to redeem is shown in the life and death of Jesus.
If you and I have been invited to join Him in His work and vision, it must include such love of the people with all their hurts, flaws, and quirks.
We cannot pass it off as theoretical or poetic.
God’s love is gutsy, giving, and gregarious. His call is to share His love with the open invitation to all to receive and believe. Visualize an individual, family, or neighborhood where people who need love live. See the faces and view them through the eyes of Jesus. Imagine their lives changed by His liberating love and grace. Ask God what part you and your church play in actively and sacrificially loving them.
If we say that we desire the very heart of God to beat within us, we must love people. If we would be holy and consecrated people, we must filter our judgments and choices through that love. If we have any hope of becoming Christ-like, it will be as this love flows through us.
Asked to summarize a life, I hesitated, Overwhelmed by complexity, Ambiguity, Perpetuity, Jaded acuity. Then proceeding, Declared Beloved, Significant, Unique, Necessary for me To be me and You to be you and Us to be we and we to be Us. Respect. Honor, Loss. Gratitude. Life-gift.
Much that I needed to know for life, I learned from some very special children's books. His were among them.
He had no children of his own. In fact he said we could have them and he would entertain them, which he did.
Along the way, he tapped into feelings and issues with which children struggle. He acknowledged their questions and became a fellow explorer with them. He mastered the art of writing books that could speak to children and adults at any stage of life.
Dr. Seuss took us to many fascinating places, but left it to us to explore the rest.
I have been doing so since I was a child.
"OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO! THERE IS FUN TO BE DONE! THERE ARE POINTS TO BE SCORED. THERE ARE GAMES TO BE WON."
Theodor Geisel died, September 24, 1991. Before that, and since, he was a tour guide for many of us, taking us many places and showing us the world through colorful lenses.
I was reflecting on the places within us where Dr. Seuss took us and I decided to look at some of his words and how they had affected my life.
"OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!"
I left home at 18 to go to college. I moved 6 hours from home. It might has well been across the world. It was a cross cultural move for me - from the Richmond with its unique cultural mix to Appalachia.
Then I moved to California.
I have yet to explore all of this state. I have been to many more. There is so much yet to explore.
But there is also the inner territories yet to find. Dr. Seuss said:
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
He brought perspective to the common insecurities of children and adults about who they were. He addressed our anxieties about being authentic.
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”
We have beginnings and endings, but the endings are beginnings and the beginnings are endings and on and on it goes. I do a lot of funerals. I collect stories - stories of well over 1000 people I knew but never met. Funerals are happy-sad times because the memories are sweet and the endings are bitter. It occurs to me that I frequently employ a principle he taught as I lead people in the celebration of the life of a loved one.
Dr. Seuss said:
“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”
I sometimes have tough questions with which to wrestle. I meet people every day who are embroiled in existential crises, in deep pain, and in profound despair. Questions without answers plague them. I share with them, pray with them, and mostly, listen to them, I dare not pontificate, but Seuss said,
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
We have to figure out how to ask the right questions and we will find ourselves closer to the answers.
He encouraged us to face our troubles.
"I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
He encouraged us to be honest with our feelings and words.
“I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”
He encouraged us to learn.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
He warned us that life is but a vapor and is passing away - thus to embrace today today.
“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
Yes, Theodor Geisel died, September 24, 1991. Dr. Seuss lives on.
“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”
This image of an archetypal spiral galaxy was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. NASA
Psalm 19:1 - The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Nature is God’s troubadour announcing His glory to humanity. The activity of God in creation is true to His character and there is much to be known of Him through observation, meditation, and contemplation prompted by an appreciation of all that He has made. The old adage that we must stop and smell the roses is an appropriate reminder to look for examples of the glory of God in the work of His hands. Open your eyes and heart today to His voice in all that is around you.
Psalm 19:2 - Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
One of the characteristics of God’s disclosure of Himself in nature is the consistency of the message. One of the characteristics of human beings as receptors of His message is our inattention and inconsistency in seeking Him through all He has offered us. Make up your mind to seek God today in the smallest things and He will show Himself clearly. There is much to be gained by reading the handiwork of God.
Psalm 19:3 – There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
God’s truth, as disclosed in the cosmos, is universal. It is not given in isolation or exclusion. It provides a common language for humanity to talk about God and explore His ways. It provides a meeting place and point of contact for seeking His deeper and more specific revelation through His Word and through His Son. Prayerfully be on the lookout today for opportunities to seek God more deeply with others to whom He has spoken through His handiwork in creation.
Psalm 19:4 - Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
Even in creation, God is busy about the work of evangelism. His purposes are inclusive and magnanimous. He makes provision for every necessity and extends His reach to every man, woman, boy, and girl. He pavilions the sun to shine on all humanity. He sends forth His Word of life to every corner of the earth. If we are to join Him in His own work, we will adopt His priorities and mission.
Psalm 19:5 - …which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
The sun, sheltered against the backdrop of the cosmos, does not remain cloistered in its pavilion of safety. It emanates; it extends, it goes forth with purpose and clarity to fulfill its mission and run its appointed course. God made it to do so and to be so and He has made us to be a people of extended purpose and profound significance. As part of His creation, our voices are available for His voice to reveal Himself through us and in us.
Psalm 19:6 - It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
Consider the orderliness of God’s creative work in the cosmos. The rotations of the planets, moons, and stars proceed with a sense of direction that is consequential and graceful. Out of seeming chaos emerges an order that is indisputable. The changing relationship of the earth and the sun for example, forms a pattern by which we set our calendars and our clocks and order our lives. The heat of our private star brings light and life and through it, God speaks. How is your life radiating God’s warmth today in its appointed rounds?
Psalm 19:7 - The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
Having noted the general manner in which God shows Himself to every person, we bring His very specific and personal self-disclosure into focus. Though present in creation in all of its truth, the written and spoken Word of God speaks with a clarity and grace that cannot be ignored. It marshals the forces of language to revive the soul and make wise the simple. In His Word, God describes and defines what He has made and why and shows us how to come into proper relationship with Himself and His creation.
Psalm 19:8 - The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
When things are right, they do not constrain but liberate us. Truthful precepts do not introduce legalistic bondage to our lives, but exuberant joy because they inform us who we are and how we relate to God and His truth. When God commands us, the lights go on, we no longer stumble in ambiguous darkness. Seek God’s truth in His Word today and expect radiant joy and you apply those truths to your life guided by the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 19:9 - The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
There is fear and there is fear. Fear can be irrationally muddled and deathly or pure and life giving. Fear of God is not a cowering dread or a fleeing terror as much as an awesome recognition that He is Other and in His holy brilliance, we are consumed but for His merciful grace. And that kind of fear never wears off. At the same time, what God orders can be counted as sure and certain and absolutely right. Bank on God today and turn from anything that views with Him for attention with extreme prejudice.
Psalm 19:10 - They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
Again, the psalmist is describing God’s ordinances, His disclosure of Himself through His revelation of covenant expectations. When God makes demands upon our lives, they are indications of His own holiness and they are precious, sweet, and nurturing. They are signets of His love and call to us. He sets standards for us that are high because His esteem for us is high. We cannot attain to them in our strength, but He intends to come live them out Himself, in us and through us. This psalm is, after all, about God showing Himself.
Psalm 19:11 - By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
There are two functions of God’s ordinances toward us that are equally valuable and precious. One is to warn us. God’s warnings are not the results of His desire to “get us” or trap us in untenable situations. He deeply desires that we will avoid the pitfalls that He sees ahead of us in our sinful pursuits. The second is similar. The rewards of keeping God’s commands are intertwined with the deeds themselves. Obedience is self-rewarding because it draws us into a closer and more intimate love relationship with God.
Psalm 19:12 - Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Search as you will and you will find no place of error with God. There is no basis for correction in anything He has done or said. He is simply always, infallibly, right and all that He does is in plain view even though His purposes may at times be hidden. To the contrary, we of human seed work our sinful deeds under the cover of darkness. Like Adam, We hide our faults and ourselves. Our healing comes when we come into the light and acknowledge our need of mercy, hiding nothing from God. Begin today to be set free.
Psalm 19:13 – Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
The problem with willful sin is that it takes on a life of its own and come to think of itself as the ruler of our lives. They begin to dominate us addictively. Willfulness then, obliterates our free will and we need divine deliverance. I am not certain what the great transgression might be but I suspect it is that place of no return where we stop praying the prayer of this verse and seeking the help of the only One who can keep us from sin, blameless, and innocent.
Psalm 19:14 - May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Without a doubt, this is one of the great prayers of the scriptures. In its words, if we mean them and allow our spirits to pray them, is all the power and grace needed to face any day. Words and meditations lead our deeds. The centering point for our lives is the pleasure of God. When we get to the place where this is the deepest, most delightfully resounding prayer of our hearts, we will find that God is our Rock and Redeemer.
As fearfully holy and demanding as He may be, His presence is mercy, grace, and love to us.
Page 79 of Papyrus 46 (ca. AD 200) showing 1 Corinthians 2:11–3:5. P. Mich Inv. 6238. University of Michigan.
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory … But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him.” – I Corinthians 2:6 and 9
The hidden wisdom of God, revealed in Jesus and discerned by spiritual men, is offered to those for whom it is prepared. It is the wonder of God’s purposes and glory. It is shared on a “need-to-know” basis, as we need to know.
And what we do know is that there is much that we cannot know.
We have a glimpse if we have gained it through spiritual sight. We have the earnest of the Spirit. We are gladdened by promises from God Himself. But still we see through a glass darkly. Only dim reflections illumine our insight into eternity for as yet, it is still far beyond us, above us, and other than us.
It is not that God does not want us to know or desires for us to remain in the dark; it is that we simply cannot receive the fullness of this knowledge while confined to time, space, and physical body. That is why what relatively little we know, comes by other than intellectual receptors. In the meantime, He is preparing us for the day when we can know perfectly as we are known.
There is coming a time when all the secrets will be revealed. In that day, in a finite immeasurable moment, our eyes will be opened and we shall be eternally with the Lord. Whatever we imagined about God and eternity, Heaven and glory in this life will not compare to what He has purposed to share with us.
Oh wondrous, glorious, mystery and bliss, By grace, the moment we shall not miss, Beyond the veil of time and space When by His side we take our place.
A few years ago, I was preparing a message on judgment when I was struck with a surprise - It was a message of hope.
--- Even when there are no signs of life in the tree, the Gardener gives another year --- and lovingly tends the tree to eek out the life that no one else sees but He still believes may be there.
In a message of judgment and destruction, imagine this main message is: God still believes in you.
Perhaps you'd consider returning the favor!
"Harsh judgement is based not on the sternness of the Holy Ghost, but on my refusal to bear someone else's burden." --Oswald Chambers
Sometimes, we just misunderstand.
John came the altar and entreated, "Please pray for my hearing."
Shouting and gyrating, the preacher laid hands on him and shook his head for 5 minutes.
"How's your hearing now?"
John replied, "I don't know. It is next Wed. in Superior Court, but thanks for the prayers."
Sometimes, the stress is a bit much.
But sometimes, we are truly appalled.
There are things, about which, we may be, must be, should be appalled.
We are in ministry for God and others, not for ourselves. With all the rewards, it is still not about us.
We have rights and prerogatives that we do not exercise. We are free to do so, but we are also free to let them go because our loyalty, our values, our marching orders, indeed, our very purpose for existence is focused on something higher and better than our comforts.
We set aside our preferences for the good of others because that good is in the heart of the One to whom we have pledged our total loyalty --- to love whom He loves and to care about the desires of His heart until they become the desires of our hearts as well.
" If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?"
"Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ." - 1 Corinthians 9:12 (ESV)
You may be moving into some new, unknown, precarious, and frightening territory in your life. You are proceeding with caution and trepidation. It is a place where you must go, but you do not know the terrain or the hidden agendas of these new days ... All you know is Who is with you and leading you ...
... and that is enough.
" And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, 'Jacob, Jacob.' And he said,'Here I am.' Then he said, 'I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes.'"
"Then Jacob set out from Beersheba. The sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him." - Genesis 46:2-5 (ESV)
It was all the assurance that Jacob needed to set out and forward.
It is all we need.
God bless you in your NEW journey ... for each day is a NEW JOURNEY!
None of this "otherness" is to suggest a lack of balance or an abandonment of dreams.
Don't let your bucket list go empty ... Keep things moving out, but replace them regularly.
Plan to die with some things undone for others to take up and do. Never stop looking forward. Eventually, your gaze will be firmly fixed on the heavenly prize, but the path to Heaven passes through these green pastures, still waters, shadows of death, feasts of plenty here.
Goodness and mercy are following you all the days of your life and you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever --- But keep replenishing that bucket list!
All of this has been a patching together and redaction of eclectic social media comments I have made on this day over the last ten years. Rather than weave them together perfectly or wait for the right moment or theme, I have offered them here.
Even what follows is recycled:
Deep thoughts? Deep words? How much time have I wasted looking and waiting for something deep to say or think when the deep waters are everywhere and everything that exists has un-fathomed depths beyond the imagination to be explored?
How deep could I plunge anyway given the quantity of hot air that occupied every part of my soul?
I am much more likely to float than plumb the depths. To do other requires weight. In Greek, weight is "doxa," from which we get "doxology" and "glory."
The heavier the glory that weighs us down, the deeper we go.
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
Hear the voice of Jesus calling across the ages, bursting onto the scene of our darkest despair. See Him walking, calling, crying out with hope and interrupting our descent into defeat. Hear Him! See Him. Follow Him.
The time is now.
The time is now! Now!
It is fulfilled.
The Kingdom is near.
The Kingdom is here.
Look! Here is the King.
He is dressed like a prophet.
He moves like a servant.
He speaks as a teacher.
He touches as a healer.
He delivers as a Savior.
He walks as a man.
The Kingdom has arrived.
Stop believing bad news.
Start believing good news.
The Kingdom has arrived.
The Kingdom is at hand.
Come and follow.
Come and see.
Come and fish for people.
Come along and walk with me.
Come! Repent. Turn.
Turn away from the bondage that clings to you.
Turn from stinking thinking that's got you sinking.
Hear the voice of One who sets you free.
Hear the voice of the good news that silences the demons.
You can turn.
Here is the grace.
Here is the permission.
Here is the invitation.
Here is the power.
Here is the King.
It is a new day, a new government,
A new deal.
Here is your King!
The message of repentance is good news, not so much, "you must," as "you can." Yes, we must, but we never knew we could. The bad news is all around us. The divine interruption is the message of good news. You are not stuck. You are not hopeless. A new King is here to take you by the hand, heal your broken heart, and deliver you from malevolent possession.
Mark 1:14-28 (NRSV)
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."
And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"
And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching-- with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
I wish for you all a day filled with extraordinary, audacious, and joyful success.
May it be extraordinary because we were never called to be merely ordinary. We were called, fashioned,ad equipped to do the one job no one else in the world can do: be ourselves under God in a world that needs the uniqueness we have to offer.
May it be audacious because audacity is that which is invulnerable to fear or intimidation. May nothing intimidate you on your path to greatness today.
Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
May your critics on the highway to mediocrity simply confirm in your heart that you are going the opposite and right way.
May it be joyful because joy is the culmination of a life of grace, gratitude, and generosity. If you can discover the secret of abiding an d overflowing joy in the midst of all circumstances, you will be a success indeed.
And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. - Genesis 3:8
It was the cool of the day on the first day of what they had supposed to be their enlightenment. On the day when they presumed their eyes would have been opened and life would be free, they were suddenly ashamed. What they saw was not the same world of possibilities and wonder, but their own nakedness. They were exposed and vulnerable. All they could think to do was hide.
It was the cool of the day and all was at peace – except the turmoil in their souls.
It was the cool of the day and God was taking a stroll. Ordinarily, that would have been a welcome sound. It would have evoked feelings of blessed anticipation – so sweet was the fellowship they had enjoyed.
“God is coming!” they must have exclaimed many times with youthful glee. “Let’s hurry to meet Him!”
This time, they hurried to flee from Him.
They knew that they would have to have a very unpleasant conversation the next time they met God. They would have to admit that they had disobeyed Him. And to do that, they would have to admit an even more painful truth: they had not believed Him. They had taken the serpent’s word over His.
The serpent had been right about one thing: their eyes had been opened. But they had not seen what they had hoped to see. They had become like gods, but they had not become God or even like God. The only god status they had achieved was the false kind, the fodder of myth and legend. They had come to resemble the capricious, conniving, conscious-of-self kind of creature that knows evil enough to embrace it, but not enough to avoid it.
It was the cool of the day. It ought to have been the most precious time of their day. Instead, because of sin, they hid in the trees God had made. They were foolish enough to think He could not see through them or into their hearts. He sees, He knows, and He comes to confront us and to redeem us.