God’s Yeast–Sermon from Bates Memorial, Barboursville, WV

Wedding Feast at Bates Memorial Presbyterian Church

Genesis 29:15-28 (NIV) 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.” 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak[a] eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” 22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant. 25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” 26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” 28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.

Matthew 13:31-52

 Matthew 13:31-52

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

God’s Yeast

What is this love of Jacob’s that makes seven years seem like seven days–such a love is a promise of God’s love. The journey though is not easy. There is work to be done. Hard work. Seven years of labor for love seems like a few days to Jacob, and then there is a connubial night with his new wife in a darkened tent, but something doesn’t seem right. In the light of day, Jacob soon realizes he’s been fooled. Just like he cheated his brother Esau out of the rightful blessing of the inheritance from their blind father, now he is blinded, cheated out of the blessing of his life, the love of his life, the one person he wants the most to be his wife, Rachel. She is so beautiful. So fresh, so perfect, so desirable.

***

Have you ever gone through West Huntington and smelled the Heineman’s bread baking? To us fresh baked bread makes our mouths water. But leaven, yeast was considered undesirable to the people of Israel. They ate unleavened bread. Yet Jesus tells them the kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about 60 pounds of flour. Jesus was telling these people something they didn’t understand, to them yeast bread was nasty. They were used to flat bread.

Yet Jesus uses yeast to symbolize God’s realm–something unfathomable, something growthful, something not normal, something wayward, something marvelously contradictory, something new.

Heaven is not about power and the might of men, nor is it about the good baking of women.

Yet it is a woman who demonstrates the kingdom of heaven–she represents the ordinary, the comfortable, the good aromas in the kitchen.

Perhaps Jesus intends to balance masculine power with feminine care.

The woman, Jesus says, is baking something new, and it is important. She is making yeast-bread, a food unlike the flat bread they were accustomed to.

For people who’ve never eaten yeast bread, it would probably confuse them–why do they need to eat different bread? Why do we? Change shakes us up. We don’t like it.

***

My husband cooks a Brazilian dish called Feshada. It’s a dish of black beans with a few select spices. It was made by slaves who used to throw in leftover meat, and serve it over rice. It looks like tar. Nasty. But it tastes like, well, like heaven. –legumes and rice combined are considered one of the best food groups. And very good for health.

***

What’s good for our spiritual health? How do we grown in faith? – Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, a man who abandoned a life of luxury for a life devoted to Christianity prayed: Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

We must all seek to be instruments of peace. It begins in the ordinary moments of our lives, at home, at work, in church.

How are we to be transformed from ordinary flour into both ordinary and extraordinary yeasty bread? Who here has smelled bread baking in the kitchen?

What is the yeast in our lives that grows us into better, stronger, more selfless people? Flour tastes like sawdust, but add water, yeast, a little salt, knead it and bake it, and you have an entirely different product.

Accepting and allowing the spirit of God to flourish within us does the same thing to us as people. We don’t become half-baked, but whole, nourished, and nourishing to others.

The spiritual life, the life of faith is a rising of selflessness. (Selflessness, by the way, is not the same as being a door mat or a martyr. Selflessness is acting out of freedom for the greater good of others. Selflessness arises from inner strength, God’s spiritual strength within).

But we must prepare the mix. We must do the work.

We cannot expect immediate results but must work through our problems, trusting God to expand our abilities. The temperature of the hot water has to be just right too, or the yeast will die. So we must prepare the mix, we must prepare ourselves. We must become the holy temple of God’s spirit.

In the church, we do that through spiritual disciplines of worship, of prayer, of study of Scripture, by loving our neighbors, through our witness of Christian love in the world. In daily life, we grow by caring for children, caring for spouses, caring for others, offering a helping hand

God is love. We are love.

How come we don’t see it and act it all the time?

The Biblical story portrays a universe that is going somewhere, so says theologian Harvey Cox. (one of the preeminent theologians in the United States and was Research Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School until his retirement). The Bible opens poetically with a world rising out of chaos(the earth was a timeless void and darkness covered the face of the deep Gen 1: 2) and ends, also poetically, with a world in which “there are no more tears: (Rev 21:4)

The Christian journey is a process of becoming,. Look back at your lives–are you being transformed from fear to love? Are you more caring than you used to be? Are you able to persist in difficult tasks for other people.

Mother Teresa in Calcutta spent years helping the poor. She has been criticized for journaling about her struggles with belief in God. But the proof is in the life she led–she persisted–she was empowered by the power of the Spirit of God within.

God’s yeast grows us from the inside out.  

God is going to transform us from Jacobs into new people. Jacob is still Jacob but God eventually calls him Israel, a new flesh–a fountain of abundance. The blessing Jacob wrongfully received from his father carried with it a requirement to leave his home to find a bride. This separation from his immediate family must have been difficult. It certainly was not an easy journey. After his 7 years of hard work, he was outraged when he didn’t get what he’d been promised, Rachel. Yet he’d caused outrage and division in his family.

Something new is emerging. This time when he wants something, Jacob does not use trickery or manipulation. He has grown: he is able to assert himself honestly, demanding what he’d been promised. God has through those seven years of his effort strengthened him. Jacob gets the girl of his dreams but his work is not over. In fact, it has only just begun.

We have to work hard too within our church and on ourselves through prayer and meditation, study and service to others. These are like the yeast of the spirit.

Jacob’s bride, Rachel, the blessing he really wanted, did not come for free.

Does anything?

Yes. God’s love is free.

Jesus comes to save us not because we are good, but because God is good.

Ezekiel the prophet says “A new heart also will I give you,” 36:26. God loves us so much he sent his child, Jesus, who transforms the world, and us, into better versions of ourselves. Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount says only the “pure in heart shall see God” (Matt. 5:8)

Heaven is about growing, becoming a rich food for others through our development. We become bigger people not in size but in what matters most. We are Jacobs who through God’s grace will become Israels–

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, it is like yeast, it is like hidden treasure in a field, it is like a merchant looking for pearls. What might we call these things in our day and time? Mustard seeds, yeast, hidden treasure, pearls. What are they in our lives? What is your yeast?

Jesus asks the Apostles and he says to us too, people of the church, you who are disciples in the kingdom of heaven are like the owners of the house. How will you bring out new and old treasures from your storeroom, the storeroom of your personal experiences and wisdom, the storeroom of scripture, and church community? How will you give rise to peace and love at home?

God is always calling us into newness–perhaps not as radically as a St Francis who gave up all his wealth, who could talk to the animals, who founded a Christian monastic order and began preaching.

Our newness, our call from God, might well be a gentle flow, into deeper love of ourselves, into acceptance of help from others as we age, or into becoming the care givers.

We are in the season of Pentecost, the season of the spirit. Yeast to bread is like the breath of life within us. Such a sprinkling of a potent life force will have awesome results. This is the power of spirit within our lives. God’s yeast, God’s spirit increases our bounty, the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, joy, and peace.

We in the church are considered the bride of Christ–desirable and fragrant souls. Imagine how much we are loved. You are loved.

Trust God’s process within your lives.

***

Listen, Sing, Call in the Spirit

Be Thou My Vision (Irish: Bí Thusa ‘mo Shúile) is a traditional hymn from Ireland, which is commonly attributed to Dallán Forgaill. It is popular among English-speaking churches around the world. It was published in 1905.
Christian Hymns – Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou My Vision  Ascend the Hill  Guitar and Vocal with Lyrics

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God’s Yeast–blog

yiest 

This blog was inspired by Genesis 29:15-28 and Matthew 13:31-52

The stories of the Bible teach us so much about human nature.

Jacob was a quiet lad like his mother-he preferred cooking and staying indoors. Jung the eminent therapist might have said, even though he wasn’t a girl, that Jacob displayed anima energy, the feminine aspect of being human. Whereas, his brother Esau was fierce, hairy, a hunter, a provider, who displayed animus energy, the masculine aspect of being human.

So here they were, these too, typifying different ways to be human. Who would inherit the wealth and the blessing of the father and the family fortune? It should have gone by birthright to Esau, but he could’ve cared less about it, and Jacob, influenced by his mother, lusted after the birthright. I can’t help but wonder when people are rendered powerless with little opportunity, how they might respond.

Jacob with the help of his mother cheats Esau of his blessing from their father, but then he runs away to make his life elsewhere. But his past catches up with him, at least spiritually.

Jacob even after he puts in seven years of honest labor is cheated out of what he most desires.

Just like he cheated his brother Esau out of the rightful blessing of the inheritance from their blind father, now he loses the blessing of his life, the one person he wants to be his wife, Rachel. She is so beautiful. So fresh, so perfect, so desirable.

***

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about 60 pounds of flour. Leaven, yeast was considered undesirable to the people of Israel. They ate unleavened bread.

Jesus was telling his people something they didn’t understand, to them yeast bread was nasty. They wanted flat bread. Yet yeast symbolized God’s Kingdom–something unfathomable, something growthful, something not normal, something wayward, something marvelously contradictory, something new.

God’s yeast signifies heaven and it is not about the power and the might of men, nor is it about the good baking of women.

Yet it is a woman who demonstrates the kingdom of heaven–she represents the ordinary, the comfortable, the good aromas in the kitchen.

Perhaps Jesus intends to balance masculine power hierarchy with feminine care and spirituality.

The woman, Jesus says, is doing something new, and it is important. She is making yeast-bread, a food unlike the flat bread people were accustomed to.

For people who’ve never eaten yeast bread, it would probably smell horrible and taste terrible in their mouths. And in their minds.

Change shakes us up. We don’t like it.

***

My husband cooks a Brazilian dish called Feshada. It’s a dish of black beans with a few select spices. It was made by slaves who used to throw in leftover meat, and serve it over rice.

It looks like tar. Philip always laughs and says it could be used to fill in potholes. Nasty. But it tastes like, well, like heaven. And it is good for one’s health–beans and rice combination is considered one of the best food groups.

God’s yeast is like that–something that might at first glance be confounding and yet is the source of good food, good spiritual nourishment, personal growth.

– Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, says: Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Do we not all hope to be instruments of peace?

How are we to be transformed from ordinary flour into extraordinary yeasty bread? Have you smelled bread baking in the kitchen? Doesn’t it make your mouth water? God’s yeast does that only spiritually.God’s yeast grows us into better, stronger, more selfless people?

Selflessness, by the way,  is not the same as being a door mat or a martyr. Selflessness is acting out of freedom for the greater good of others. You aren’t free until you’re free. First,  prepare the mix. Don’t expect immediate results. Yeast takes a while to multiply and raise the bread. The temperature of the hot water has to be just right too, or the yeast will die. So we must prepare the mix, we must prepare ourselves.

We do that through worship, through prayer, through study of Scripture, through loving our neighbors, through our witness of love in the world.

Churches  provide opportunities to be in community, to learn about Christ, to practice prayer, to be deeply centered in meaningful life.

God’s yeast grows us from the inside out.

God is love. We are love.

How come we don’t see it and act it all the time?

The Christian journey is a process of becoming, a means to become transformed from fear to love, form imprisonment to freedom.

God transforms Jacob, through his hard work and ultimately self-awareness into a new being. He is still Jacob but God calls him Israel, a new flesh–a fountain of abundance.

Jacob’s bride, Rachel, the blessing he really wanted, did not come for free.

Does anything?

Yes. God’s love is free.

Jesus comes to save us not because we are good, but because God is good.

God loves us so much he sent his child, Jesus, who transforms the world, and us, into better versions of ourselves.

Heaven is about growing, becoming, through our development, a rich food for others . We become bigger people not in size but in what matters most.

In the church, we are Jacobs who through God’s grace will become Israels.

***

Pray the timeless Prayer For Peace of St. Francis of Assisi–and repeat it daily.  It might just transform your understanding..

Prayer of St. Francis,(Make Me A Channel of Your Peace) sung by Angelina, EWTN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI1Gst7pEqc

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon, Where there is doubt, faith, Where there is despair, hope, Where there is darkness, light, and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Blessing: May your heart and mind be enriched with fresh awareness and energy from God’s yeast that gently grows you and the people you love.

 

 

 

 

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Wild Flowers or Weeds?

wild flowersThis beautiful display of wild flowers, now in my living room, graced Bates Memorial Church this morning.  A gift from a long term member.

Since the scripture was about the Parable of Weeds, a spiritual anecdote told by Jesus to demonstrate human inability to make judgment that belongs to God alone, it reminded me of the need to allow a greater power than ourselves make the final assessment–weeds or wild flowers?

What might be seen as a weed could just be a wild flower that grows our souls.

***

  • Anger can be a motivation for good, for change, or it can be a force for evil: violence begets more violence in a cycle that is endless.
  • Jealousy can teach us where we need to grow.  Are you looking with envy on someone else’s life?  How might you develop new skills, and move towards a change in your way of living?
  • Greed underlies much of our lives and we don’t’ even notice. Does a pair of shoes you’d like to have and don’t need matter?  Or could you spend your time and money in a more enriching way?

 

 

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Shining Like the Sun

shining sun

Inspired by Genesis 28:10-17  and Matthew 13:24-30

Did you know that if you stand still for an entire day, you will have traveled almost 25,000 miles? That’s the circumference of the earth.

Furthermore, you will have moved 1.59 million miles in orbit around the glorious sun. The life-giving sun. And you won’t even have raised your toe or moved your leg.

That’s a lot of miles you’ve traveled in one day. And didn’t even know it.

That’s if you believe the earth is rotating and our heavenly planet is orbiting the sun.

A lot of people did not agree. Copernicus back in 1514 made the observation, contrary to popular belief, that the earth was not the center of the universe but orbited around the sun. He didn’t tell too many people until he was on his deathbed. He might well have realized dire consequences could occur for such heresy, for being outside accepted beliefs.

Along came Galileo 200 years later. He supported and further elucidated the Copernicus theories in a book he published. Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, a discussion among three people: one who supports Copernicus’ heliocentric theory of the universe, one who argues against it, and one who is impartial. Galileo claimed Dialogues was neutral, but it was clearly not.

And guess what happened to him?

Church reaction against the book was swift, and Galileo was summoned to Rome. The Inquisition proceedings lasted nine months. Can you imagine being grilled by those who have absolute authority over you? Galileo was mostly treated with respect and never imprisoned. However, in a final attempt to break him, Galileo was threatened with torture. He finally admitted he had supported Copernican theory, but privately held that his statements were correct. He was convicted of heresy and spent his remaining years under house arrest.

That’s the way people are– We condemn people who are different because we are certain we are right.

We want to stand on firm unchanging ground. We don’t want our beliefs challenged.

Funny thing is the solid ground beneath our feet is always moving.

Only God is solid ground. Only God knows what is truly right.

A lot of people today do not believe in God.

Not believing in God does not limit or define God.

We people of faith continue our spiritual journey with the awareness of a mystery greater than ourselves. This Mystery, God, is much greater than us, beyond our ability to fully understand. God is ineffable, unknowable, yet we continue to learn deep truth through the teachings of Jesus. We in the Church, even when it is less than perfect (it always is) are strengthened, comforted, upheld, and loved even when we are less than perfect.

Take Jacob. He was a scoundrel in his early days, manipulative, tricky and determined to get his own way. My gosh, he fooled his blind father who’d probably been good to him even though daddy did favor his brother, Esau, over him,

Yet God did not discard Jacob for selfish behavior. Nor did God punish him. God saw his potential, just as surely as God sees our potential, yours and mine. God understands how and what we are, where and who limits us. Through every passage of our lives, God wants to help us shine like the sun.

God is an awesome force for change, for good, for sunshine to not only radiate down upon us, but to radiate through us.

Jacob’s Ladder is beautiful imagery describing an experience of awe, of God, who tells this wretched trickster, this Jacob, all would be well, he would be the spearhead of abundant life. Not because he was good, but because God was with him: I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…

Wherever we go, there is God wanting to illuminate our lives, be a lamp unto our feet.

Jacob sees angels ascending and descending on a stairway to heaven. He gets a glimpse of an awesome reality that says we earth-bound humans are not alone, never alone.

Have you ever had an awesome experience of God–a God-moment outside of the ordinary, something that let you know there is a greater reality than this world?

We hear from our Buddhist friends that this life is a dream and an illusion. I’ve always wondered what they mean. Life seems concrete enough to me. We are physical creatures with pleasure and pain, love and hurt. It occurs to me another way to understand the meaning of life is to recognize that the ongoing work of our lives is a process of birth into greater understanding and eventual joy. We are in constant process, growing like seeds rising through the dark earth to seek the light. We are in a process of awakening. But we aren’t there yet. And to some extent it is nothing we can control.

Near Death Experiences are awesome glimpses of another reality:

Bella J was hit by a ski boat.7/15/14

I remember the air being forced from me due to the impact. Immediately I was without a body; the best way to describe the experience is I knew who I was however I did not feel pain nor was I afraid. I was surrounded by a tremendous white light. I felt unbelievable peace, love, harmony, goodness. I knew I was floating, that I did not have a body; I sensed goodness around me then sensed a question asking if I was ready to die. I knew I was conflicted – instantaneously I saw my grave with my two little children crying, standing apart from my husband, their dad. I sensed I could not leave my children; I saw the lake water parting as I was pushed to the surface of the lake.

We do not understand how limited our perception actually is, sometimes wrong. Like thinking the world flat when it is a globe.

That is why we struggle to understand scripture. It is a powerful force in our lives, inspired by God to help us understand his purposes for each one of us. His purposes are greater than our ability to understand, and yet they continually and constantly increase the light within us, point us inward and outward, that we might increase into the fullness of our potential. The acorn becomes an oak. The cocoon opens to free the butterfly.

We need not fear the process.

Here’s a comforting NDE. Tracy D NDEEnglish met her deceased dad.

He looked so perfect and so at peace. I can’t really describe how awesome and calm and perfect he looked. When he passed he was all gray beard and mustache , 73 years old. As he appeared before me he was much younger (in his prime with thick wavy bright deep red hair as he had when he was younger, only much more vivid and intense. Any imperfection or flaw he had was sculptured, chiseled away to a smooth perfection. HE LOOKED PERFECT, BEAUTIFUL AND CONSUMED WITH PEACE AND JOY AND OVERFLOWING WITH UNDERSTANDING AND LOVE.. I COULD GO ON AND ON…. WE VISITED FOR WHAT SEEMED LIKE HOURS.  (afterward I discovered I had been without a heartbeat for 1 min and 14 seconds ) WE LAUGHED AND HUGGED AND CRIED ( AND EVERYTHING WORKED…NO FREEZING OF LIMBS ,…NO INABILITY TO MOVE..) and then he hopped down off his post and turned on the ocean floor and started to walk away. I jumped up and said…”DAD… HEY,… WAIT A MINUTE ” AND BEGAN TO FOLLOW HIM AND IT WAS AT THAT MOMENT HE STOPPED, TURNED AROUND SMILED THIS HUGE HEARTWARMING AND INDESCRIBABLE SMILE AND SAID…” NO SON , YOU GOTTA GO BACK . THEY’RE FIXING YOU, ITS NOT YOUR TIME.”

The Bible says there will be a judgment day? Listen to the words of Romy who had an accident and experienced an NDE

I was watching millions of the pictures of my life’s event, like a movie broken down into picture frames. All the little deeds, thoughts and moments upon moments, even the ones I forgot ever happened-they were there. It was such a fascinating sight. The most curious thing was that the pictures were not connected to one another- they had a gap between them that looked like a string of light. It looked like they were threaded on this string of light. My main feelings were equanimity, awe and curiosity. There was a strong quality of inquiry and inquisitiveness as I was examining everything. Every time a question came to me, the answer was immediately revealed. This unfolding of pictures and gaps developed and progressed continuously, presenting a constant delicate consequential line in perfect order, a chain of events, yet somehow they were all happening at once. The past, the present and the future were all happening at once. It was inspiring to witness the order and sense that all these little pictures seemed to have in “the big picture”. I felt a lot of compassion. I was all forgiven. In fact there was nothing to forgive. I could see that my life had “perfect order” to it. In some way it was like watching a mathematical equation or sum that makes perfect sense- such event and such event create this kind of result. It was a simple portrayal of natural cause and effect with a gentle understanding. There was no judgment, only innocence.Exceptional NDE from lady originally from Israel resulting from car accident in India. Remarkable and detailed comments on life review. Received information in experience that likely saved her life.

Me, I fear being alone. Do you?

Gillian M  is a doctor who had a heart attack and a subsequent NDE 

My next recollection is being in a vast, seemingly endless space filled with brilliant white light.  I recall no limits on perception – no binocular vision, but panoramic/spherical/360 – hard to describe.   I spent what  seemed like a long time – certainly not minutes, hours, or days.  More like weeks, months, eons.  Time was meaningless.  I was with a group of beings that I felt I had known for a very long time.   Seems like more than 12 and less than 25.   I have a vague recollection of having my Earthly experiences “”downloaded””, and having a great reunion with these beings, and a great period of relaxation/recuperation.   Communication was non-verbal and instantaneous.  It involved relaying entire occurrences, concepts, and events with associated emotions, not just words and sentences.  Eventually a consensus was reached that I should return to the life I had left as it was unfinished.  I don’t recall how I appeared, but I do recall how the other beings appeared as I departed from them – Brilliant jewel bright points of scintillating light.

We cannot prove or disprove these experiences. We do not know if they are true or not.

What we can do is live fully, decently, struggling with the interior sunshine and the clouds within ourselves, the wheat and the weeds of our existence.

Any of us who grow gardens know about the tenacity of weeds. We’d quite likely to get out a spray can of Roundup weedkiller, but God understands the weeds better.

Jesus explains The Parable of the Weeds

36 Then Jesus left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Elizabeth Johnson New Testament scholar and pastor says:

“What Matthew most likely refers to, (as a weed), is darnel or cockle, a noxious weed that closely resembles wheat and is plentiful in Israel. The difference between darnel and real wheat is evident only when the plants mature and the ears appear. The ears of the real wheat are heavy and will droop, while the ears of the darnel stand up straight.”

We often cannot discern what is good and what is bad. The roots of the weeds and the wheat plants are entangled. You can’t strip them apart without killing the very plant you really want to grow. We are full of goodness and brokenness all intimately connected.

In one NDE,  a woman says she experiences such love, that she realizes all religions are untrue. God is only about love. That’s it.

When I read her assessment, I was glad she had experienced great love, but I also found myself thinking yeah, isn’t that great, and wondering what accountability was in her life? I wonder what happens after those moments of beatific joy?

Yeah, well. What about the woman who figured out how to synthesize ricin, an extremely toxic poison, and sent it to the President and the former Governor of New York. She was caught, no one died, and she said she wouldn’t hurt anyone. She’d intended to implicate her husband who was divorcing her.

How sad that she could not directly address her angers and needs in a realistic way. Let’s blame the President. Let’s set up my ex. Let’s not deal with my problems.

What if you are still trapped in life’s challenges? For sure I am. We all are.

Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopalean priest, teacher and author says – ” growth interests God more than perfection and that he is willing to risk fat weeds for fat wheat. When we try to help him out a little, to improve on his plan, he lets us know that our timing is off, not to mention our judgment, and that he does, after all, own the field.”

God owns the field. God is with us. We belong to him. It’s not our job to separate people into wheat and weeds, into the good and the wicked, but we can identify the good seeds (that draw us close to God and neighbor) and the evil seeds (that draw us away from God and neighbor), and we can struggle to move away from our personal weeds, our brokenness–angry outbursts, jealousy, gossip, anxiety, worry, pride, greed, arrogance…

We can trust the God-process in our lives: both wheat and weeds have a place in God’s kingdom, and God is going to sort it out. Eventually. But we’ve got to try, we can’t simply sit back and say God is love–all will be well. It will be. Yes. It will be. But not without struggle.

God saw good in Jacob.

God sees good in you and me.

***

Listen, Watch, Glorious Unfolding — Steven Curtis Chapman  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3Q7wUoQV5Q

 

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Sunshine of God for Children

 

sunshine

Churches, during worship often have what’s called a Children’s Moment. They are nuggets of spiritual wisdom for the little ones, teaching them about God and Jesus.  I always loved the ones delivered by Rev. Ike at First Christian Church in Ashland, Kentucky.  Just loved them.

Here’s a little one I have prepared for the kids at Bates Memorial Presbyterian Church where I am the pastor.  To tell you the truth I struggled with what to say since the scripture I am using for the sermon is the Parable of Weeds. It’s about weeds growing amongst the wheat and how God will do the weeding, not us–so here I was thinking about weeds and poison ivy and what to say to little children.

Instead of weeds, I discovered God’s sun wanting to shine on and through children (big ones and little ones) so I ended up adapting and mixing up three well known songs. You big people might well know the tunes, but I’ll put links to youtube versions at end of the blog. As well as Tibetan Folk Opera, and Japanese Hymn to the Sun.

I am God, and I love YOU

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s all right Little darling, if you’re cold,

Little darling, don’t you worry,

You are my sunshine  My only sunshine.

You make me happy  When skies are grey.

You’ll never know, dear, How much I love you.

I’ll never take my sunshine away.

Here comes the sun Here comes the sun,

and I say  It’s all right Little darling,

the smile is on your face Little darling,

Here comes the sun, and I say It’s all right

I am God, and I love YOU.

***

God speaks to us in many ways through many voices…

The Beatles – Here Comes The Sun  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5E_zXbmrlM

Stevie Wonder – You’re The Sunshine Of My Life-HQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL_PNNr_NgU

“You Are My Sunshine” – ( Anne Murray ) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHEaRFNx7tw

Sukyi Nyima “Radiant as the Sun” Tibetan Folk Opera   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HBPfv4MowM

Hymn to the Sun with the Beat of the Mother Earth – Satoshi Yagisawa   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E6anGm7rQc

 

 

 

 

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Cry of the Uguisu

 

Uguisu

In my unpublished biography, Samurai to Sushi, the teenager, Yasunari Kawabata thinks somehow he can keep his grandfather alive if only he writes 100 pages, but he can’t do it…

Scroll down to discover what a Uguisu Bird means and link to hear bird singing, Japanese shamisen, and Japanese rock group.

***

The excerpt from Samurai to Sushi, biography of Yasunari Kawabata (Japanese literary genius), that follows is an ongoing narrative.  You can read the complete manuscript (eventually as I get it online) on the blog category: Samurai to Sushi.

Yasunari made no entries in his diary for eight days. He had planned to write one hundred pages.  Somehow, he thought that if he achieved this many words then Grandfather would live. But he’d only written thirty pages.

On the day of the funeral for Emperor Meiji’s wife, Yasunari wanted to go to the ceremony about five miles away to honor her.

“Omiyo,” he whispered. “If I go, he’ll die.”

“You go,” she said. Then she told Grandfather that as a dutiful Japanese citizen, he had to go. Yasunari got up the courage to ask Grandfather directly if he would stay alive until he got home.

Grandfather told him, “Yes, I will still be alive.” As Yasunari ran from the house, the leather thong holding the clog onto his foot broke. He felt certain this was a sign that his Grandfather was about to die. He returned, most sad, to the house.

“This is not a sign,” Omiyo insisted. “You must go.”

So he went to the festival lit by bright lanterns. There he gathered with crowds of people as they watched the last rites. His grandfather lay dying in their lonely house. The cord that bound Yasunari and Grandfather together, and did not easily allow Grandfather to slip away, was about to break. Yasunari ran all the way home in his bare feet. Shortly after midnight, twenty days since Yasunari began writing his diary, Grandfather died.

Yasunari, his heart full of sadness, sold Grandfather’s house. As he showed the new owners the house, he heard the cry of the uguisu, a little bird that sang ho-ke-kyo, ho-ke-kyo. This bird was said to preach the Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law. Yasunari smiled a slow, sad smile to think of Grandfather in the Triple Universe now listening to the sounds of gods and goblins. Grandfather was gone, but the birdsong promised many good things

***

Monk says pay attention after death of loved one. Many signs of their happiness will manifest. Birds, butterflies, ten yen coins…

Uguisu refers to the Japanese bush warbler (Cettia diphone), a small song bird native to Japan. uguisu2Uguisu can be recognized by their olive colored plumage, the white markings over the eye, and upward turned beak.

Uguisu are a secretive bird, more often heard than seen, except in winter when the trees are bare. Their characteristic breeding call is associated in with the coming of spring in Japanese poetry.

http://www.immortalgeisha.com/wiki/index.php?title=Uguisu

ウグイスの鳴き声 Singing Bird (Japanese Bush Warbler): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfmraoicGKY

Uguisu no (うぐいすの)Japanese Shamisen:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk__ze4kR2g

Singing Group: Uguisu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQy_oH8Vdyw

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Seeds for the Soul

acorn

Inspired by Matthew 13: 1-23 The Parable of the Sower

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Gertrude Weaver who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas just turned one hundred and sixteen. She is the oldest confirmed living American. And the second oldest person in the world. Gert took up residence at Silver Oaks, a nursing home/assisted living facility when she was one hundred and nine. Her age is impressive but perhaps even more impressive is her summary of what mattered most in her life and why she lived so long:

Gert cited three factors: “Trusting in the Lord, hard work and loving everybody.”

“You have to follow God. Don’t follow anyone else,” “Be obedient and follow the laws and don’t worry about anything. I’ve followed him for many, many years and I ain’t tired.”

I’ll bet she was a faithful church-goer and I’ll bet in her one hundred plus years she has seen her share of upsets within the church, schisms, and plenty of conflict.

The Bible is full of stories about people struggling with one another over just about everything we can imagine. One of the big clashes is often over power and leadership.

When I was studying at WVIS, my mentor was Dr. Carol Riley–she brought in another woman, Sister Lily, to run the program. I have no doubt they clashed over who should have the last word, these two powerful women, both of whom had their doctorates. Carol’s was in spirituality and music, and Sister Lily was a theologian. I learned much from both of these women.

Sister Lily pointed out the nature of what she called Savings theology and Blessings Theology.

Savings theology is Old Testament based  fear and awe of God, whereas Blessings theology is based upon New Testament love and compassion of Jesus.

The Old Testament is foundational to the New Testament–not that the Bible is to be read in a linear fashion as if it’s a novel. It’s a special book, a spiritual treatise foundational to our culture. The Old Testament is filled with the same spiritual principles as the New Testament. But the Old Testament is fear-based, and the New Testament is love-based.

We humans are a mixture of fear and love–we want to move into the freedom of Christ’s love and let go of our fears but the reality is we are always in process–trying to understand, and we are a combination of fear and love.

Sister Lily moved on–that’s all I know about her. Both she and Sister Carol influenced me in many ways.

Who will lead us? What will be the foundation of the leaders we are going to follow?

The Old Testament reading from today’s lectionary was about Esau and Jacob. By birthright Esau, because he was the oldest of the twins, should have become the heir of the family property and the patriarch of the clan, but his brother, Jacob, was favored by his mother. She wanted him to be the son blessed by his father, the one to become their leader. Esau was impulsive and fiery. He came into their house hungry from outdoor activities. In exchange for a bowl of stew, he readily swore to Jacob to give up his birthright. Later, Jacob with his mother’s help proceeded to trick his blind father, Isaac, into blessing Jacob, which meant he was the one to receive the birthright of the property and leadership.

Neither Esau who was more interested in eating a good meal not Jacob who used bribery and deception sound particularly promising as leaders. Neither one sounds wise.

What qualities did they possess for leadership? We certainly wouldn’t in America choose a leader based on birthright, would we? We would choose someone wise, someone smart, someone strong, someone kind and compassionate, someone skilled and knowledgeable, someone who brought us joy, someone who healed us, someone we could trust, .

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Jesus chose twelve apostles to become his leaders: Peter, John, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon and Judas.

What characteristics did they have? There doesn’t seem to be much in common. A few of them were fishermen, one was a tax collector, one was a zealot, one, based on his name, loved horses, several didn’t become well known for much of anything. Yet they were chosen as Jesus’ first disciples.

The word Disciple is Greek, transliterated into English as mathetes (math ay tes). It means learner or student.

Perhaps it was a spirit of willingness to learn that made the first twelve the ones Jesus chose. His chosen.

Perhaps they wanted to understand more about life, and were ready to hear something new, and were open to the spirit, willing to grow, and perhaps they had a heart for other people. Here comes this wise teacher, this Rabbi, who says things that awe them, and they have the courage to follow his leading.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Jesus spoke to the people in parables like the Parable of the Sower. A parable is a short tale that illustrates a universal truth; it is a simple narrative. It outlines a setting, describes an action, and shows the results.

Jesus quoted a prophecy from Isaiah. The Parable of the Sower used different words to say the same things: seeds, rocks and soil would be understood by the people Jesus was talking to.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Seeds for the soul are Gospel words that fill us with life.

People who hear the word, the seeds of deep truth, who allow them to grow within hearts and minds, grow as individuals. They are humble, temperate, kind and helpful. They know their limitations. They seek to use skill and passion to be of service, to bring about change not only for themselves, but for others too.  They are the chosen of Christ.

Here are a few well-known leaders who have Christian backgrounds–

In the business world, — Anne Mucahy ( turned around a financial crisis at Xerox): While not particularly religious, Mulcahy is imbued with Catholic virtues–for better and for worse. Why would she fight what looked to be a losing battle? Nothing spooked me as much as waking up in the middle of the night and thinking about 96,000 people and retirees and what would happen if this thing went south,” she says. “Entire families work for Xeroxincluding her own. She learned about Christ through the teachings of the Catholic church.

The most feared U.S. General in WW2, Old Blood and Guts, he was called, George S. Patton said Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. He was an Episcopalean.

Oprah Winfrey: I think education is power. I think that being able to communicate with people is power. One of my main goals on the planet is to encourage people to empower themselves. She was raised in a black church and according to one source her speech is infused with the rhetorical style of black preachers.

Dwight Eisenhower said Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. His religious beginning was Mennonite and then Jehovah’s Witnesses which he left in favor of the Presbyterians. In his retirement years, he was a member of the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.” ― Julian of Norwich

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ― Desmond Tutu

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Not many people become or want to become world renowned leaders. No one would pay any attention to much of what we said, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have input and importance. We are all witnesses in the world–at work, at play, with family and friends, before neighbors, through our love, through our feet and hands, through the strength of Christ’s words, living within us..

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Churches can be thorny places, it is true, but they are also places where seeds for the soul can be found.  What truth will you found your life upon?

Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei: Enciclica sulla Fede “The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path.”

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path

***

Listen to Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path sang by Amy Grant:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9u_NMSH3hR8

Look: Churches feed the poor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vaF8YB8A1c

Help:  volunteers seeded and rooted in holy behavior: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubrpPpzeEiY

 

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Newness of Life

newness

Inspired by Genesis 24:34-67

We never know when times will change. We never know what we might be called to do by God.

Fourth of July celebration is about newness of life. Many are home to be with family. We are happy to let off fireworks and eat our hamburgers and hotdogs, slaw and potato salad, and lots of tasty traditional foods. We enjoy our baseball games, our concerts, our craft fairs, and our fireworks. How lovely it is to take for granted our freedom. I wonder how many of us ponder that long ago Fourth of July when independence from Great Britain was declared.

It was a time of great struggle for a new nation with unknown consequences, moving forward into newness of life. People were divided over letting go of the past regime, Great Britain and rule by a king, but what happened, happened. Newness of life was thrust upon some against their will, and joyously embraced by others who expected the new nation to be glorious and free.

What a mixture of dread and hope must have prevailed.

The Bible is full of struggle–it demonstrates change, but always with God, the movement, the transitions, lead us towards new life.

Take Rebekah. She is home doing her usual chores, carrying her jar on her shoulder to fetch the water, but there is a stranger at the well, and he is a servant from Abraham, who is of God. Next thing you know she is wearing beautiful jewelry: for her a nose ring and bracelets. Next thing you know she is heading out to a new life. It happened fast.

Off she goes to a foreign land to meet a man who is to become her husband. What young man or woman does not yearn for a deep meaningful relationship? Marriage is one of the great journeys of life. We all long to feel connected and yearn for a sense of belonging and deep intimacy. For many of us, marriage and family fills that need.

Off Rebekah goes into the wilderness. Into something unknown.

Rebekah, did she feel scared, I wonder? Her mother and brother–were they not sad for her to be leaving even though they’d been given expensive gifts?

Life is a process for a nation, for a church, and for individuals.

What might those gifts symbolize? Letting go of their daughter surely left a vacuum in their lives. Gold and silver cannot fill such a vacuum. Only God can fill us. But what does that mean–to be filled by God?

Life changes. We must cope. We must move on. We must become One with Christ in newness of life. We must pay attention to the opportunities beckoning us forward into newness.

In God we expect and want life to be like a wedding banquet. Who does not want the experience of joy, of being in-love, of seeing only the beauty of our betrothed. Weddings are glorious beginnings, a promise of forever love.

It is so important to make commitments. That old-fashioned vow to remain with one person through sickness and health, for better or for worse, provides a framework for spiritual growth.

When the first baby comes along, the couple is increasing in fruitfulness, but it is not easy to raise children. It requires selflessness, staying power, and maturity. And a community of helpers–be they family or day care, or friends…

Speaking of babies, a friend told me how her mother yearned for a great-grandbaby. She wanted her granddaughter to get married and have a child. This happened recently. The infant was on Great-Granny’s lap. She was wearing white slacks. The baby–well–did what baby’s do, and next thing Great- Granny’s slacks were wet and brown.

Newness of life brings with it consequences. Sometimes during transitions things smell for a while and we must take care of any messes remembering it is necessary in order to proceed, remembering when in Christ we trust, all things are made new in a healthy way.

The baby’s diaper was changed, Great-Granny put on clean slacks, and everyone got over this moment and continued to love and help one another.

We all have moments when we are less than perfect, when we struggle with ugly feelings, when we hurt other people.

Recently in Ashland a twenty year old young man was arrested for harming his girlfriend’s two month old baby. He was home alone with the child. This baby was not his. He and the mother lived together. More than this was not reported. When the baby was unresponsive, he called an ambulance. The infant had a subdural brain hemorrhage–the hospital suspected child abuse. Sure enough, the young man admitted he might have shaken the infant. What a tragedy. What a model of what not to do, how not to live.

What a model of lack of freedom, lack of selflessness, lack of discipline.

How not in God this behavior was.

As atrocious as we know child abuse to be, we also know that some things are very difficult to cope with. We need help from one another. We need community. We need guidelines about how to behave. We need to be One with Christ. We need God-help. We cannot go it alone or we will get into trouble.

St Paul says to the church in Rome: 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

God-help begins with baptism into the church Catholic, the universal church. It is a commitment to  Christ, whose love, whose guidance, whose presence imbues us with strength. We will not immediately get over addictions and other sinful behaviors, but we can keep on trying, keep on picking ourselves up, keep on filling ourselves with the wisdom and freedom of Christ, who fills us with new awareness and new strength to face the unknown in our lives.

Newness of life requires we move on, sometimes resisting, sometimes accepting, but always with the goal of becoming a deeper and better person, a person who understands each little act we do has consequences for other people. We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to God through Christ.

Newness of life comes in many ways: joining the service. Retirement. Having surgery. Starting a new job. Going to a new school. Beginning a family. Getting old. Losing a house in a fire. Losing people we love. Getting divorced. Getting married. Disease. Death. These things are all aspects of life. Within all aspects of life, we can find times when we are aware of the presence of God, and times when we are not, but God is always there.

My mother experienced great suffering at the end of her life. She had both colon cancer and throat cancer. The throat cancer was probably from smoking. The colon cancer–well, it was just what happened. Bodies age. We are subject to pollution we cannot control. Perhaps we have a poor diet. Sometimes we might be depressed at our powerlessness. We might feel worthless.

I was in the hospital with Mum in Lewisham in London. She’d just come through a third surgery, this one a colostomy. She was hurting bad: her physical pain was also accompanied by spiritual pain. She asked me, deep sorrow in her eyes, “Have I done something to deserve this?”

It was very clear to me, this gentle kind giving woman who’d raised three children during the difficult post WW II years when housing was poor, food was rationed, and not much opportunity existed for women, this good woman, this loving mum, a woman who’d had ups and downs in her marriage to my father, had never done a thing to deserve this disease.

Whatever comes our way, and sometimes it will be difficult, but it is not a punishment from God. God never visits suffering upon us to hurt us. In fact, God cannot do anything against his nature which is love.

For those of us blessed to have found a church family, with its ups and downs, we have a center, a ground of being. We can turn to the Christ who is our Savior and remember his words:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The call of God, the call of the Holy, is a call into newness of life, into a wholeness of being that at least as long as we are on this planet will be a mixture of good and evil, of light and of dark, of shadow aspects of personality.

When we take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ, we are one with Christ who shares our struggle through life. We are not alone in the struggle to establish a new relationship. We are not alone in the middle of life earning a living to support our families. We are not alone in the struggle of illness and end-times. Christ is harnessed to us and we are yoked to him. He is with us and for us.

Charge and Blessing

Go out into the world, remembering you who are yoked to Christ, all who are followers of Christ, are called into loving relationships, into wholeness of mind, body, and spirit, and into the newness of life where God, through Christ, is your strength and leadership.

May you be blessed with God-help through hands and hearts, God-love through hope and community, and God-surprises of clarity and joy in every waking moment.

***

God-help

Families matter: Sesame Street Family Song   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii_LtHrEiao

Caring: Chimpanzee and Puma Playing Together https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp5UcxTGQ-s

Dance with God: Nhyira- Newness of Life (Milton Vann)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOmFqm8xUXI

 

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God’s Love

lovers

So many of us do not understand the Bible. In fact, probably, none of us, even the greatest scholars, really get it completely. We certainly do not understand the concept of God very well, but perhaps it is not a matter of understanding. Perhaps it is a matter of experience of God.

The Song of Solomon is taken to be about God as a lover.  It is often ignored because it seems so sensual. It is! We are sensual. We need not deny this.  To be embraced by God is to be embraced holistically, connectedly, and growthfully.

God’s love, the mystics say, is incredibly sensual. It is something that tingles our bodies with the energy of action–encouraging, empowering, energizing, causing us to make things right in relationships, in family, in friends, in the communities where we live–by being open,  honest, and receptive to understanding. It strengthens us for what is right. It strips away our misconceptions. It challenges our assumptions. It shakes us to our core. Anything less is a watered down idea of God-love. But we must be careful we are not simply imposing our needs for safety and certainty upon particular Scriptural texts that suit us.

Gods’ love is not about sex. It is about accepting an embrace and giving an embrace. My heart cries out for all who seek intimacy through sex and one-night stands as if the pleasure of the sex act can fill them. My heart goes out to people in long-term relationships who also find sex wanting. Their task is surely to figure out ways to please one another, and to come to terms with the imperfection of the other and of themselves.

How often does new love, new relationship, seek personal pleasure alone?  We are to love one another as we love ourselves, so Jesus says.

The love of God strips away all but the truth, seeking to expose the hidden name of our being, the one we have the potential to become. Such love is fierce and consuming, powerful and frightening. It bares our souls. Human loves, the very best of them, point towards this awesome love, one that can consume  us but instead causes us to become more free, to become more strong, to become more ourselves.

Through Christ, such God-love is gentle.

Listen to a beautiful rendition from the Song of Solomon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2Pih198UVg

Hear the purity and joy of the singer. See the passion of the pianist.  They are expressing their love for God in an ecstatic moment. Such moments come and go, but ordinary life is the consistent opportunity to express love for God and receive God’s love within all of its diversity.

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You Are Not Alone

confusion

In my unpublished biography, Samurai to Sushi, the teenager, Yasunari Kawabata cannot stand to see his grandfather so confused. For a while, he runs away.

Scroll down to discover what Monk suggests and link to Song of Solomon – lyrics (beautiful), and other links too for awareness and peace.

***

The excerpt from Samurai to Sushi, biography of Yasunari Kawabata (Japanese literary genius), that follows is an ongoing narrative.  You can read the complete manuscript (eventually as I get it online) on the blog category: Samurai to Sushi.

While Yasunari was in school the following day, Omiyo could not leave the old man’s side for a moment. She told Yasunari that Grandfather’s confusion was worse than ever. At breakfast time, he wanted dinner. Time seemed upside down to him.

“Where is Yasunari?” he asked. “Where did he go?”

“I am right here, Grandfather,” Yasunari said. “I didn’t go anywhere.”

Grandfather’s skin sagged and looked yellow. Yasunari wrote in his diary, “Grandfather just lay there looking like a soiled, worn out silk Summer Kimono.”

Grandfather became unsure of whether or not he had urinated. Then he developed a fever. A bad smell filled the room.

An old man called Shirobei came to help, but Grandfather lay in his bed and just moaned. Shirobei told Yasunari that it was up to him to take care of Grandfather. Yasunari fled from the house and did not return for three hours. He found a peaceful pagoda where he curled up and slept while a cleansing rain fell. But back at the house, the same confusion and pain persisted. Grandfather repeated himself and did not remember one moment to another.

***

Monk says when people very old, very sick, they drift in and out of consciousness.  Do not worry. Try to read beneath their words into their hearts. Remember the love they showed and if they were not so loving, you have the opportunity to look deeply at what their lack of love teaches you. Do not worry that you need to go away for a rest from the suffering. But after the cleansing rain of solitary time, return to them and whisper to them the Pure Land, Heaven awaits them. They need not fear. When you are ready, tell them it is okay to go. You, it is okay to cry. You’ve done the best you could, but you are not bodhisattva, you are not Jesus.

***

Listen:

ELO – CONFUSION–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fo4SblJ_SnU

All is well: Gentle Rain, Soothing Sounds of Nature–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgG4vDfcJek

God comes running: Song of Solomon – lyrics (Jesus Culture with Martin Smith)      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2urjlelpuM

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