Plugged into Grace

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This blog was inspired by Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28: The Faith of a Canaanite

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Jesus did not say a word when the disciples asked him to send away the Canaanite woman.  He says nothing. Perhaps he is remembering what he just taught his disciples.

In Matthew 15:10-28 we read how Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’”

There were lots of restrictions on what to eat or not eat in the Bible. Lots of things were considered unclean: You could eat fish and goat’s milk. You could eat locusts and beetles. Some birds were allowed. But you’d better not eat a cuckoo, or a lapwing. No hares as in rabbits were allowed to be eaten. Fat was forbidden. That was to be burned on the alter for God. Snakes, snails, swans and pigs were off-limits.

So when Jesus talks about what really makes a person unclean and that it is not related to what a person eats, not surprisingly the Pharisees are offended.  They are quite convinced that they are doing what God wants and are pleasing to him.

So here is Jesus, this time in the region of Tyre and Sidon, having withdrawn from his own country. Why has he withdrawn–perhaps he is in need of rest, perhaps he wants to spend time with his friends away from the needs of the crowds or the misunderstanding of the Pharisees–the Scripture doesn’t say.

What happens next, what Jesus says, has puzzled scholars and Christians for centuries. We want the warm fuzzy Jesus pulling us from the sea of our doubt.  Yet this is a scripture that challenges us to understand faith from a different point of view. This pushy woman, a Canaanite, a person who Jews do not like and who does not like Jews, shows up on their doorstep, kneeling, begging for help.

Jesus says nothing, not a word. Why does he hold his tongue?  Could he be demonstrating to his disciples how not to defile themselves through wrong speech? Could he be showing us saying nothing might be preferable to saying something that causes aggravation?

Yet, after the disciples ask him to send this woman away, he enters into conversation with her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” Jesus tells her. She is persistent. She won’t take no for an answer. “Lord, help me!” the woman says. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs,” Jesus responds.

Nasty. Ugly. Humiliating. A woman talking to a Jewish man in public.  Unheard of.  The disciples say to Jesus.  “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

Isn’t this how we all are?  We find it easy to help the people we love, the people we know, the people who share the same customs and traditions. But this Canaanite woman shows us a love greater than that; she has come into their midst because her love is so strong for her demon-possessed daughter.

Today perhaps we’d consider the demon-possessed to be people addicted to drugs, booze, or sex, people who are sneered at by others.  These people might be our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. Oh sure we want to help them, but don’t bring the drug recovery house into our neighborhood where we want peace from the worries and needs of others.

Yet when it’s not the OTHER in trouble but our own flesh and blood, we respond differently. We forget ourselves, even if it is but for a moment the way Peter did when he walked on the water towards Jesus. Out of love and an awareness of our inability to change things, we become desperate.

So we call upon a Mystery so much greater than our limited understanding. In the face of great difficulty when do we refuse to take no for an answer? We certainly might refuse to take no for an answer out of great love for a daughter or a son. When we are loving mothers and fathers, we will defend and protect our young to the best of our ability.

This strange woman holds her ground. You give even the crumbs to the dogs, she says. She dares to argue with God.

Perhaps Jesus wants to see what the Disciples will do about this woman. The Disciples aren’t in the mood for a Canaanite. She is abomination to them. Someone despised. They wouldn’t help her on their best day. Can they not have understood all that Jesus has been teaching? They urged Jesus, “Send her away, for she keeps yelling at us.”

Jesus goes right along with them. Perhaps a demonstration of what happens through association.

What happens if you follow your friends who tell you to come get drunk and try out dope or drugs to make you high, or hey grab a candy bar and stick it in your purse—Walmart can afford it—or let’s make fun of someone who is fat or old. Do you go along with them or do you think for yourself and consider what God teaches about the heart.

When Jesus goes along with the crowd of his disciples, he appears to be going against his own teachings. But the Mystery of this story points to something greater. It points to our need to act out of great love for everyone. Through such love coupled to the power of God, of Mystery, through Christ, there will be redemption.

In many ways. Jesus speaks as if he is a normal Jewish man with a poor opinion of people who aren’t like him. People who don’t worship the same way. People who look different. People who aren’t good enough. Can’t you see the satisfied looks on the Disciples’ faces. “You tell her, Jesus!” Of course, they’ve missed the point. If they had been not only listening to the teachings of Jesus, but also putting it into practice in their lives, they might recognize that their attitude about foreigners, about women, have not been planted by God in their hearts. These attitudes are alien from God’s inclusiveness. They separate us from Mystery, from God.

The woman could care less what they think of her. She demonstrates genuine concern for another, for her daughter. She is willing to be humiliated. She is willing to humble herself. Yes, Lord, You can treat me like a dog. But even dogs get the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.

God’s love is so great.  The enormous persistent love of this mother, this parent, this strange foreign woman is united to the Mystery of love.  She is the manifestation of God’s love. She represents the possibility of the redemptive power of love.  She is doggedly persistent just as surely as God persists in offering us the love that brings us the healing we need for our minds and spirits and sometimes our bodies too.

The energy, the power of spirit is moving through the love of this woman. Her gender doesn’t matter. Her nationality doesn’t matter. Only her love for another person.  Only that matters. And through that love, her daughter is restored.

When have you been like this woman, unwanted, in a foreign or strange situation, and yet something impels you to persist, to not give up? We probably have all been the unwanted man or woman in some situation. What impels us to overstep boundaries?

During a particularly difficult time, my prayers plugged me into grace, the Mystery of God’s presence. My new husband had suffered all his life from painful sciatica. He never complained but I could see it in his face. I was praying and even laying my hands on his back. I was desperate for him to feel better. One night, I dreamed I was in a flood.  In my dream of the flood, I knew I was helpless.  Nothing I could do was going to stop what was coming.  Whatever was going to happen, I fully understood it was not my issue. As I was being swept away in the water, I heard the voices of my mother and father, both deceased, say: Everything will be all right. Everything will be all right. Not too much later, a disc in Philip’s back broke off and he was paralyzed.  The doctors in Ashland decided to send him in the middle of the night to Lexington for emergency surgery. It was a hundred miles away and I didn’t know the territory. I was mortified. For him and for me. I was helpless. But I had those words from my parents: Everything will be all right. A Grace from God.

It was midnight, and though I tried to follow the ambulance in my husband’s 4-cylinder tinny Geo, the ambulance stormed through a red light and left me in the dust feeling lonely and scared. I got completely lost in Lexington. But even though I didn’t fully comprehend at the time, Grace was right there for me. And in my mind I heard again those words of comfort. Everything will be all right.

Eventually, I made my way to the hospital, where a stranger guided me to my husband who was in a hospital room. He was joking with the nurses.

Later, shivering in the surgical waiting room in the wee hours of the morning, a woman from a very poor family whose nephew had been in a 4-wheeler accident that had crushed his legs came over and wrapped her cardigan around me.  Such grace.  It was everywhere. Not only for Philip, but also for me.

Did I really hear the voices of my deceased parents? I cannot say, but I know this was a God- experience from start to finish. It was grace. During this time, I felt surrounded by angels, including, I might add a young black guy in a ghetto area of Lexington, drug-infested and frightening. Lost, I pulled into an all-night deli frantic to find the hospital.  This young man looked to be on drugs, but he got himself together and gave me directions.

Love coupled with prayer opens the doors of the Spirit to intervene, to connect us to one another, to be Love for one another.

Jesus answers that foreign, desperate woman, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed that very hour.

Even when we are floundering in the sea of life, as was this woman, as was I, as we often are, our desperate calls to God are answered in many ways, many of them mysterious. Prayer of the heart plugs us into the Grace of God.

Everything will be all right.

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Spiritual Practice

• When your prayers seem unheard, pray about the courage and persistence of the Canaanite woman. • In times of crisis ask God for the gift of great faith.

Amazing Grace

Celtic Women

Amazing Grace Lyrics  

Amazing Grace – Christian Hymns with Lyrics ( John Newton )       

Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone CCHS Concert and Chapel Choir      

Amazing Grace, Gospel Choir, St. James Episcopal Church, Florence, Italy  

Amazing Grace – Diane Bish & St. George’s Episcopal Church Choir & Congregation       

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The Best Present

jesus knocking at the door painting artist

Jesus is knocking on the door. Prayer opens the way for grace in our lives in many ways.

When I was a little girl, one Christmas Eve, I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited about the present Father Christmas would put on my chair during the night. Father Christmas is what little English boys and girls called Santa Claus.  So here I was wide awake.  How could Santa come? I asked Jesus to help me go to sleep. Guess what happened? I got this lovely warm feeling of being surrounded by love. Next thing you know it was Christmas Day. What I most remember, the very best present, was the love that enfolded me.

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God is Always with Us by Brianna: So I thanked God

One day I woke up grouchy. I thought if I took it out on my sisters it would help so I did. But then I thought if God is real he would help get the grouchieness away. So I asked him to; but he said it was up to me to decide either be nice or be mean. I was nice and to my surprise the grouchy went back to the devil’s side. So I thanked God.

I’m Brianna and I am a red headed 8 year old. I once thought of God as a joke, but I realized it wasn’t.

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Treasure

artist s conception of the patriarch joseph s coat of many colors

In a drawer where I keep tea-towels, I came across a secret compartment and found treasure, a bag containing silverware. Three pieces were vintage children’s cutlery, mementos from a Disney trip: Micky, Minnie, and Donald. I speculated that the former owner, a very old lady, kept these hidden because of how much she valued her children and her grandchildren.

Surely her love reflected the love of G-D for all people. We often hope to find valuable treasures  worth money, but there is a much greater treasure to be found in the spiritual literature of all the religions.

I am not a scholar but I often find wisdom in the timeless stories of the Bible that speak to families and people regardless of culture or nationality.

For instance, Genesis 37 is about Joseph, a boy who God speaks to through dreams and visions, a boy who wore the many colored robe his daddy made just for him. Joseph was Daddy’s favorite, the baby of the family, the child of Daddy’s old age.

Joseph’s half-brothers were probably jealous.

Joseph finds himself tossed into a cistern, a dark pit, and then sold into slavery, into a life not at all what he’d expected, especially considering he’d had a vision from God telling him his brothers would all bow down to him.

It didn’t help when Joseph lauded it over the brothers about his expected superior status. It didn’t help when Joseph told tales: “Dad, they weren’t watching the sheep. Dad, they’re chewing tobacco…”

The brothers were fed up with Joseph, that goody two shoes. “Dad, Joseph is telling lies. Dad, Joseph thinks he’s better than us.”

Sibling rivalry gets old. Dad may well have told them to leave Joseph alone. But they’d had enough. So they came up with a plan to get rid of the pesky younger brother. They were going to kill him, but instead threw him into a cistern and then sold him as a slave to some traveling nomads.

I’m not sure who I feel sorriest for.

Joseph in the cistern, a dark hole–a literal pit.

The brothers in their dark mood–a psychological mine-field.

Do you ever find yourself in a dark place? Sometimes it’s through no fault of your own. You are helpless against stronger forces than yourself.

Perhaps your friends have let you down.

Perhaps there has been an accident and your car is wrecked.

Perhaps you are facing surgery or difficult medical treatments.

Perhaps a boyfriend/girlfriend says he or she no longer loves you.

Perhaps a beloved pet or someone dear to you dies.

Perhaps you are a student newly arrived at college, and you are feeling bewildered.

So here you are in this dark time of your life. You might have begun with the silver spoon of parental favoritism on your side, but now you are facing a perilous, lonely, difficult existence with no human being coming to your rescue, no Daddy to tell tales to, no Daddy to call upon for help.

Joseph must surely have felt helpless and let down.

But in spite of his struggles with slavery and many other temptations, G-D goes with him into these times of despair, feeding him wisdom, keeping his resolve strong.

So it is with the spiritual life. G-D feeds us what we need to help us grow.

Personally, I have found my Christian journey transformative. The Bible is a treasure, a wealth of wisdom full of people who might dress differently and eat sheep, but are much like us.

Bible stories  help us understand more about ourselves and the nature of life and death–they teach us how to live in ways to create harmony in our lives and in the lives of others.

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Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z06vEUfmuMQ

Dolly Parton-Coat Of Many Colours   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr4GT4ltvBk

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Spiritual Refreshment–The Light of the World

 

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Today is a special feast day in the life of the church called Transfiguration.  It’s when three of the disciples go with Jesus up onto a mountain and experience a numinous, a supernatural moment, a moment of intense light.

It scares and awes them.

Christe Lux Mundi, is played on http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/home/

It means O Christ, light of the World, Whoever follows you will have the light of life.

The prayer on August 6, 2014, took about 12 minutes.

I found myself on the mountain looking on to the radiant Christ, grateful to be in such an awesome presence, aware also of how slight I am in the face of Shekinah, of God.  My prayer was to be a help in this day to others.

When I opened my purse, there was an opened packet of yeast I’d used for a children’s moment. It spilled everywhere.  That is how the spiritual life is.  The more we are immersed in the light of loving kindness, in  the compassion of the Buddha, in the wisdom of the Upanishads, in the light of the welcoming Christ, the more whole and healing we become in our lives.

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Taize Chants

Taizé – Amor de todo amor ( album completo 52 minutos de música celestial ))   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOWwuH6pOKI

Capella Taize Christe Lux mundi   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGQvYXMhbfo

 

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The Grouse of Helplessness

 

... Flying Grouse Silhouette , Ruffed Grouse Silhouette , Duck Silhouette

We are living in anxious times.

I took a walk on a nature trail and startled a grouse and watched him flurry away. When I got back to my house, I noticed something brown lying on the ground. It was a dead grouse. It must have hit the window. I felt helpless. I wanted to bring him back to life but realized that was G-D’s realm, not mine. Though I prayed for the little bird, I didn’t expect it to revive. I laid it to rest on a tree trunk, still hopeful that G-D would restore its life.

The Iraqui people are trapped in what continues to be a war zone. North Korea threatens the US with a nuclear attack. Israel is killing hundreds of innocents in what some might consider justified retaliation for the rockets fired by Hamas. Immigrant children from central and south America are flooding away from gang violence into what they hope is the Promised Land, a land where they have opportunity, peace, and fellowship.

All people who are like us on either side of national borders want to live normal lives, go to work, enjoy their families…

Often we feel helpless, but one thing we can do is pray for leaders to be filled with G-D’s wisdom. We are also advised by the Christ to pray for our enemies. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do, when we are emotional and impassioned for or against any particular group or side.

Scripture can help us find peace in our hearts, which will lead to peace in our families, and peace in our community. We can become the pebbles dropped in a big ocean of anger and fear and misunderstanding. The ripples of our compassion and truth-telling and human decency can encompass and bring others into a peaceful, strong and holy life. Holy means whole.

Jesus’s world was not so unlike ours–people were oppressed, struggled economically, and were not given equal rights. But Jesus does not physically try to kill the oppressor. He rises spiritually above them, (in his day it was the Romans). We are to pray for our enemies.

Say what? Pray for our enemies. Have you ever tried to pray for someone you are furious with? Someone you are positive is in the wrong? It’s almost impossible. But when you manage to stammer in your mind a few conciliatory words, your heart is changed, your eyes are opened. It might be possible that you are both partly right. We can’t change the hearts and minds of political leaders set on conflict, but we can and must change and grow our own hearts.

How does Scripture aid us in overcoming our helplessness to change even ourselves?

Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” He is talking about basing one’s life on a spiritual footing that spreads into everyday living. The way we learn from Jesus is by reading and repeating and living out his stories.

In Ephesians 5: 1, Paul tells the people in the church, “Therefore be imitators of G-D, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to G-D.

If the grouse had not been fearful, he could have sat quietly in the weeds. I wouldn’t even have seen him. But out of fear he fled, and in his panic he flew into a window, and he was killed.

When we are feeling safe, resting in the big hand of G-D, aware that we are loved by a force greater than ourselves, then we no longer panic, no longer scurry away, no longer cause conflict. In Christ, we are never helpless no matter what we face: war, illness, loss of job, loss of someone close, anxiety over childrearing, unjust behaviors against us.

In G-D’s perfect love, taught, shown, and empowered by Jesus, fear and helplessness will eventually be extinguished forever.

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Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline says:

“Repetition regularly channels the mind in a specific direction, thus ingraining habits of thought. We may smile condescendingly at the old teaching method of recitation, but we must realize that sheer repetition without even understanding what is being repeated does affect the inner mind. Ingrained habits of thought can be formed by repetition alone, thus changing behavior. This is one reason why so many forms of spirituality emphasize the regular rehearsal of the deeds of God…” p.65

Read the psalms. Wonderful prayer/poems that cover all of human emotions.

Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd

C & W:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-qLa_2GPcM

Acoustic/gentle: The Lord’s My Shepherd – Stuart Townend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN4tPkX0MG0 Gentle

Traditional Choir: The Lord is My Shepherd (Psalm 23) [Goodall] — Choir of Wells Cathedral     

 

 

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Mystery of Blessings and Curses

Crop Circles of 2011 Photo Set

inspired by Genesis 32:3-31 New International Version (NIV)

Biblical Jacob is one of the Patriarchs, one of the spiritual fathers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Yet Jacob, this icon of three major religions, starts out a bit of a rascal with a crafty nature.   Nevertheless he continues to seek to be obedient to G-D throughout his long life always aware of G-D’s promise to him that he will be a foundational leader.

Jacob experiences three blessings…

First Blessing

Jacob steals the first blessing. He wants what was rightfully to go to his older brother, Esau.

Perhaps he thinks he’s better than Esau, him being more spiritual and more thoughtful than his fierce hunter brother who prefers shooting game to preparing food in the kitchen.

Perhaps he is greedy and wants more stuff? After all, why shouldn’t he have camels, SUVs, Coleman tents, bigger houses, or hot dates with sexy people?

Perhaps he is selfish and covetous of other people’s strengths. He might not be a muscle man, and if he were a woman, he might not be a beauty queen, but he’s got a good mind. He’s like the girl everyone says has a nice personality because she’s ugly.

You cannot steal someone else’s blessing and think you’ll get away with it. You have to be who you are, and you have to strive to overcome your inner demons.

Jacob’s stolen blessing becomes a curse.

His enraged brother wants to kill him, and is powerful enough to do so, probably with his bare hands.

To save his skin,Jacob has to leave his home, without any of the human inheritance of possessions. He has to leave in a hurry.

Second Blessing

Jacob demands the second blessing, one he has been promised by his uncle who he went to for refuge.

His second blessing is to get the girl of his dreams, Rachel. This time he isn’t the cheater, but what goes around comes around: he is cheated by her father, his uncle, into marrying the older, ugly sister, Leah.

Jacob is enraged. He has worked for uncle Laban for seven years with the promise of Laban’s daughter Rachel as his future wife. Not ugly Leah. He speaks up to uncle Laban who is his relative in more ways than one. Jacob now knows how it feels to be unfairly duped. He wants justice. He demands beautiful Rachel as his wife. Uncle Laban is no fool–he gives Rachel to Jacob, but makes him agree to seven more years of hard work.

Life, it seems, ought to have settled down for Jacob. He is a family man with children, one wife he adores, and the other who bears him many children. Life though continues to be full of turmoil. He is cursed with two women who are at odds with one another. He is cursed to do forced labor for someone else, rather than for himself.

Life is a continual struggle for Jacob just like it is for us.

Jacob manages to become prosperous in his own right but he does it by tricking Laban. He has the designer tent in the burbs, the cars, the camels, the kids…the good life.

But Laban notices what Jacob has done to amass a fortune at his expense.  Laban is on the warpath.  Jacob runs away just like he did from his treachery to Esau, but this time he takes his wives, possessions and prosperity with him.

Laban catches up with him and challenges Jacob’s deceitful behavior.  They come to terms.  Laban lets him go.

The only place for Jacob to go is back to his homeland.  He is coming full circle.

Third Blessing

Jacob receives the third blessing.

Jacob is on his way home with his sizable family and possessions to the place where he was raised.  He’s contacted Esau, but has no idea how Esau will greet him.  In fact, Esau is coming to meet him, eyes flashing, fist raised, leading a powerful army.

Jacob sends his servants ahead of him with plenty of gifts. Then he sends his wives and family across the river. He stays behind on the banks of the stream. Is he afraid? After all, he knows what he did. It seems he is quite willing to put others, his servants and his women and family in the path of his angry brother. Could this be in the hopes of protecting himself?

All night long he wrestles with someone, G-D, or a man, or perhaps himself. Is he trying to figure out what to do–run away or face his inner demons? Is he seeking strength to stand his ground and do what is right?

Often we cannot do what is right by our own means. We need help. A deepened awareness of our weaknesses and mistakes can become light unto our feet.

Jacob could have run away. He could have tried further manipulation. He could have drowned himself.

In the morning, when the man/God is leaving, Jacob demands a blessing. This time he wants his own blessing, not someone else’s. He is given a new name. Jacob is now to be called Israel.

Jacob means grasper. Jacob grasped for a wrongful inheritance, he grasped for the beautiful wife, and now he grapples with his inner demons, his weakness, his crafty nature, his deceit, his fear…

Israel means who prevails with God.

In his night-long struggle with an overpowering force, Jacob prevails with G-D. In other words he wrestles with his inner demons and doubts and fears, but does not succumb to them like he might have in the past. This all-night wrestling match gives him stronger muscles to overcome forces within his nature that separated him from the Realm of God.

What interior struggle contaminates your life?

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Seek first the Realm of G-D–as did Jacob, who comes out on top, not because of his deceit, but because of his connection to G-D.

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Meditation and prayer deepen and quiet our racing minds so that we might glimpse our shadows of fear, anger, greed, envy, arrogance, selfishness, deceit and shame. With the help of G-D, of Mystery, let your shadows be lit with awareness so that you are not darkened by them, but may see beyond them to your radiant connection to G-D, to Mystery, who rises from within.

Chant  O Lord Hear My Prayer – Taize:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f51n-yb11dY

Pray the psalm of David, aware that the protection you seek is from your own shadows, perhaps not your fault, but nevertheless imbedded in your nature through a less than perfect birthright.

“When I Wake (Psalm 17)” song by Hoss Hughes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OfqGRQs5Sg

Experience Psaume 17    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4HI0fFIr6U

Recite Psalm 17 A prayer of David. NIV

Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;     listen to my cry. Hear my prayer—     it does not rise from deceitful lips. Let my vindication come from you;     may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart,     though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil;     my mouth has not transgressed. Though people tried to bribe me,     I have kept myself from the ways of the violent     through what your lips have commanded. My steps have held to your paths;     my feet have not stumbled.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;     turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Show me the wonders of your great love,     you who save by your right hand     those who take refuge in you from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye;     hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who are out to destroy me,     from my mortal enemies who surround me.

10 They close up their callous hearts,     and their mouths speak with arrogance. 11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,     with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground. 12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,     like a fierce lion crouching in cover.

13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;     with your sword rescue me from the wicked. 14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,     from those of this world whose reward is in this life. May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;     may their children gorge themselves on it,     and may there be leftovers for their little ones.

15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;   when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

 

 

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Coming Soon–Prequel to the Ten Yen Series of Mystical Novels

Ten Yen 2 If you are interested in spirituality, miracles, and the supernatural, perhaps the Ten Yen books will interest you? Ten Yen True, the second book in the series, was the first one written. It came about because of a Ten Yen True from Arlomysterious coin that showed up somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on my way to England. That is to say, after I got to England where I was staying with Amanda Armstrong, I discovered a strange coin beneath my undies in my suitcase.  Neither of us could figure out where it came from. So we began speculating and decided to collaborate on a novel. Thus, Ten Yen True was born.  If you want a print copy, you can purchase one directly from the publisher www.roguephoenixpress.com

Since there is a mysterious Buddhist monk in Ten Yen True, someone asked how did he become a monk. Thus, I wrote Ten Yen the prequel to the series: to be released on August 20, 2014.

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Peace be with you.

  buddha_gratitude

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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

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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