Inspiration and Confirmation

“Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace— in peace because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 NRSV)

“A mind focused on and trusting in God – is a mind at peace.” (Isaiah 26:3 CEB)

[And which translation is the CEB you ask? Uh, . . . that would be . . . me.]

The thought occurred to me as I read a long list of translations, (NIV, NLT, ESV, NASB, God’s Word, KJV, ASV, Bible in Basic English, Douay-Rheims Bible, Darby Bible Translation, English Revised Version, Webster’s Bible Translation, World English Bible, and Young’s Literal Translation) that I could write my version of the verse and capture its essence just as well.

Each version of the verse was remarkably similar, but each misses the connection that God not only “rewards” the trust and steadfastness, but also inspires it. God keeps us focused and trusting in the Lord, and just as the trust and steadiness comes from God, so does the peace. Furthermore that peace of mind allows us to focus and trust on the Lord in even greater measure.

Which comes first then; the steadfastness, the peace or the trust? If you think it probably does not matter, you are right. Whether it is a peace in God that brings trust and steadfastness, a trust that brings peace and steadfastness, or steadfastness that brings peace and trust, (have I got all the possible combinations?) God is both inspiration and confirmation. So each of the translations (including my own interpretation) could interchange the components. Because all of these virtues are of God.

May you gentle reader have the peace, steadfastness, and trust that our God brings to us all. Selah!

Treading in the light

“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18 )

A very poetical verse. Lines such as “golden tinged fingers trace along the sky / hinting at a sunrise yet to come” would be good companion pieces for such a verse. But alas and alack, I do not feel I could write poetry right now. I have written poetry in the past, and have not – I do not think – disgraced myself.

But not today, not right now. We spent Saturday at the beach, and my mind is still there hearing the waves and seeing the ocean shore stretched out like miles and miles of blue undulating carpet. Words can not describe it. And so I must abandon words. I could show you pictures of water meeting sand and rock. But they would be still colored pictures on a screen and could not capture the swell and flow, the splash and foam. I could describe, pages and screens filled with words, but would you see what I saw? I could not be sure.

The writer of Proverbs tried to capture the Christian journey in an image, using the metaphor of sunrise to describe the growing illumination of a work with God. Would pictures of a sunrise or descriptive words enhance that image? And should I do that? Or do you, gentle reader, know first hand what it means to walk the path of righteousness and know with greater assurance that you follow in the path of Christ? Do you know what that looks like for you?

When we arrived at the beach, the sky was cloudy. And the wind was brisk and cool. As late morning turned to afternoon the sun came out, and the water lightened in color and then took on varying hues due to the depths below the surface. In the shallow tide pools the water was transparent and one could see the small creatures flitting about. In other places the water was deep and far off, and the blues were at the same time natural and unnatural.

And when the sun was fully out from behind the clouds, shadows, dark rocks, crevices played tag along the shoreline and it was hard to know where it was safe to step. But the ocean, illuminated by the sun, showed forth its depths and shallows, and one could know there was deep water just a few yards away. And in the sunlight the unending horizon beckoned.

May you gentle reader know where to step on your faith journey, and may the God who masterfully created nature lead you to a closer walk with the Divine. Selah!

John 3:16: Evangelists at Sporting Events

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 )

Many years ago – make that many, many years ago – I saw signs being held up a sporting events, mainly football I think, with “John 3:16: printed on them. Not knowing who John was, and what was supposed to happen at 3:16, I ignored them. Now I know better. But I do not see those signs as much any more. I wonder what happened to them?

The motivation I think was not to let the crowd around the sign holder know the message but to take advantage of the fact that the game being televised would spread the message far and wide. As long as the message was understood correctly, and not John at 3:16 am or pm. And isn’t that the important point of this verse, that the message be understood?

Who is this God who loves the world?
Why would God want to do something for the world?
Who is this “one and only Son” and why would the Son make any difference?
What does it mean to believe in the Son?
Again, what difference would it make to believe or not believe?
We are all going to die someday; how can one NOT perish?
What does it mean, “eternal life”?
How is believing in the Son of God going to bring us eternal life?

I think the assumption is/was of the sign holder that by simply holding the scripture citation all the answers to the hard questions will be known. And that the meaning would be clear. But it seems to me that knowing this verse marks the beginning of understanding and not the final answer.

May you gentle reader be moved to make your own inquiries. Shalom!

Fruit of Un-Forgiveness

“Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.” (NRSV Romans 15:2 )

When I was checking the statistics for this blog, I say that someone had used the phrase “fruits of unforgiveness” as a search term in finding our blog. And that phrase intrigued me.

The verse from Romans for today (as found in the NRSV) left me a little puzzled, and I had decided to do some looking to find out what the context of the phrase was. It seemed to me that pleasing one’s neighbor could be a daunting prospect, depending on what one’s neighbor wanted. And in pleasing another person there is so much potential for self-ruination that I can’t even begin to fathom it.

The Message phrases verse one and two of the chapter this way; “Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” And it allays me fears of one being taken advantage of and being led into sin and ruinous conduct. (Other translations support this way of understanding this section.)

So, having learned what the intent of the verse is, we are free to turn to the consideration of the fruits of un-forgiveness. March19, 2007 John Thomas wrote a commentary titled “Fruit of Forgiveness” writing about the passage from Matthew 18:21-22 where Jesus is asked how many times a brother should be forgiven. John speaks from the heart when he talks about his journey in truly forgiving. And he also speaks to what happens in relationships and within ourselves when we do not forgive.

It seems to be if we are going to be of help to our neighbor, building up our neighbor, increasing that neighbor’s faith and remaining in right relationship with our neighbor, we can not be carrying around a grudge toward our neighbor. It does little good if we tell our neighbor, “be well, remain strong, call on me if you need anything” when inside we are saying “burn in hell you fiend!” That is, of course, an extreme case.

However, when one considers the nature of shalom NOT forgiving the neighbor is sure to divert and poison the shalom that could be shared between neighbor and self. We have heard horrifying stories of neighbor versus neighbor where jealousy, suspicion, bitterness, prejudice, hubris, and hatred have turned to violence. And what is true for the places where we live is even more true on a global level. Lack of forgiveness with global neighbors has been one of the root causes of wars ever since warring has begun.

While the fruit of forgiveness may be hard to “grow and produce”, the fruits of un-forgiveness are more likely to cause distress and illness. Much better to work toward forgiveness that frees not only the one who needs forgiving, but also bringing about healing and reconciliation for the one who forgiveness. Both parties are then able to enjoy the succulence of shalom.

Gentle reader, I leave you with the blessing that Paul the writer of Romans wrote: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. “ (verses 5-6) Selah!

“Dinner Guests”

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:13-14 )

Several years back, when I was working at a residential site, I was in charge of putting the leftovers away from the evening meal. There were a lot of leftovers. Some of them, a good amount of them, needed to be thrown out. Not because they had gone bad, but because according to the facility’s kitchen rules leftover food can not be kept more than a certain amount of days. At mealtime I told the residents to “eat up” because whatever was left would have to be thrown out. They asked why, and I explained.

They then asked me if they could take the food to their friends who were homeless and had not way of getting food. I explained to them that I could not “give” them the food because it had to be thrown out. But I could bag it in such a way that once “thrown out” it could be easily retrieved and anyone was free to have it because it was “garbage.” So I packaged it up in resealable storage bags and having completed my responsibility of getting rid of it, I turned my back; and lo and behold, it was gone.

The residents and I never spoke of that incident again, and I suspect that other workers would not have done the same thing. In fact, if the full truth had been known, I might have been “scolded.” But I could not turn my back on people who, without the kindness of others, would go hungry. And I am a firm believer in using up leftovers. The residents who pleaded the homeless people’s case were themselves formerly homeless, and it was only by good fortune that it was not them under the bridge going hungry.

One person’s surplus and discarded is another person’s banquet. The poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and the homeless know that. And now you do too.

May you gentle reader provide care and support whenever and wherever you can, and may you be repaid at the resurrection. Selah!

Daily Selah

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Selah”
(Psalm 68:19 )

Magnificent God!
I called out to you today,
Because I could not bear the burdens
That life placed on me.
You lightened my load.

Wondrous God!
I fell down before you
Because my burdens this day
Were too much to bear.
You lifted me up and sent me on my way relieved.

Almighty God!
I wept before you today
Because my burdens caused me pain
And I did not know what to do.
You counseled me and dried my tears until my pain was healed.

Patient God!
I came before you today
With the same burdens as before.
And you asked me why I was still carrying them.
Teach me O God that I need not be burden.
Remind me there need not be a “darkest hour” when you are with me.

Praise God!
I came before you dancing with joy
Burden free!

Call and Answer

“Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.”
(Isaiah 58:9-10 )

Part of my job, or any job that takes place in an office, is to answer the phone. I also have a “work cell” which I get phone calls from clients, caregivers, case managers, and all the other people I may need to talk to as a part of my job. I am available by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for any and all situations that relate to my job. I get a lot of phone calls. And I make a lot of phone calls; to clients, caregivers, case managers and all the other people I need to take to as a part of my job. I am, to put in succinctly, on call.

A good many of the phone calls I get and make are calls for information, guidance, planning, up-dating, and coordination. The subtext of most of the calls are “help!” But, as I am quickly learning, I can not answer all the questions and all the requests for help. Many times I have to say “I will need to get back to you on that.” That is where my limited human abilities fail, and the working of the Divine surpasses me. God never says, “I don’t know” or “ I cannot do that” or especially not “I cannot handle that right now.”

Many times God will assist us in doing what needs to be done; that is, God works through us in order to accomplish Divine things. But make no mistake, it is not our doing but God’s. Lifting the yoke of oppression, pushing away the pointing finger, and silencing the malicious talk may be done here on earth, but it is through God’s liberating and forgiving power that these things happen. God is saying if you work with me and put your energies to Godly work your light will rise and your darkness will be illuminated.

May you gentle reader call and continue to call on God for the Divine will answer. And may our Lord’s answer illuminate your life. Selah!

Free to be you and me in Christ

“So if Christ sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 )

It is said the third time is the charm, and if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I hope that is true because this is the third time I have tried to write to this verse. It is not the verse per se that is problematic, but the quote that is matched with it. The quote attached to this verse was by Duane Beachy. He said, “Many Christians say we must fight to defend our freedom to worship God, but Jesus never promised us that or any other political freedom.” (Faith in a Nuclear Age, pg 69)

The first time to write to this verse I talked about the possible connect between the history of Christianity and the quote. And I got bogged down in politics, history, and sociology. The second time I tried to explain what went wrong the first time, and got bogged down again. So this time I am going to play it smart and keep it simple.

The context of this verse the section of John where Jesus is again talking about spiritual matters and his listeners are hearing it as political or social commentary. When we try to integrate human matters into spiritual realities, we get stuck. And when I tried to speak to that issue, I got stuck too. When spirituality and faith morph into religion often it turns into some hybrid that may get the job done, but comes with problems. History shows us that. But in contrast, when we follow Christ and keep our eyes on Jesus’ example we are set free. So, that is all I am going to say.

May you gentle reader find freedom in Christ from all that weighs you down. And may you offer that hope of freedom to others. Selah!

Forgiveness and shalom

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
(Matthew 6:14-15 )

For a brief moment I was going to make light of the gender specific language. But the moment passed, and I will refrain.

In this chapter of Matthew Jesus is talking to the disciples about prayer. It is not the full Lord’s prayer as is used today, but it is longer than the version found in Luke 11:2-4. the prayer is part of the teaching that Jesus is giving to his disciples and the people gathered on the mount which is called “the sermon on the mount.” I find it interesting that Jesus is not specifically saying what should be said, but is exemplifying a way of praying that is humble and direct. Verses 14 and 15 focus on the need to forgive and therefore be forgiven.

My briefly passing impulse to tease about the gender specific language might have been based on a desire to portray men as more sinful and needing of forgiveness than women. But that is not true; every one needs to be forgiven because every one at some point or another sin. In fact casting one gender as being less than the other could be construed as sin. Exclusive gender language has been used to keep women, both as subjects and participants, out of theological discussion. That, in a way, is sin too.

Let’s suppose, for argument’s sake, that the pointing finger and discriminatory nature of exclusive gender language cancel each other out. What do we have left, in terms of shalom? When inside of forgiving someone when they “sin” against you, you get angry that can lead to confrontation and aggression. Those can be the build ups to violence. And in absence of forgiveness of God [the Father], the build up of violence and war is hard to stop.

By forgiving the aggression is dissipated and confrontation is instead reconciliation. And with God’s forgiveness peace and harmony can be restored, and shalom has a place to take root. In addition, and this is important, even if one party refuses forgiveness, either in the giving or the receiving/accepting, if the other party embraces forgiveness there can be peace. You see, sin cannot stop peace or shalom; but sin can stop us from receiving peace and shalom.

May you gentle reader be blessed with the forgiveness of God and may God move you to forgive others as we are forgiven. Selah!

This command is given

“But I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.” (Jeremiah 7:23 )

“Obey my voice and I will be your God
And ye shall be my people
And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you
That it may be well with you
And I will be your God”
[Repeat ]

This song Sheilagh Nowacki (1970), by virtue of the fact is was written, rose in popularity, and then receded into history, is not available as a music media file. In other words, not available as an audio download, which is not that tragic since I am not sure if I could figure out how to attach it to this anyway. I am trying to learn how to use more applications, but so many times when I think I have clearly told my computer or applications my desires and intentions it does not . . . obey me.

I know what I want the computer to do; insert this file that is named such and such to this spot. But what happens is that the application or system names it something else or adds characters to the name so that the application does not work. If I could just SPEAK the command in language the computer knew, I know it would be a lot easier. But the computer and I do not use the same language, much less the same mode of communication.

Have you sensed the analogy I set up? God communicates to humanity and says this the Divine will. But since God and humanity do not speak the same language or use the same mode of language, the message is not always clearly received and understood – much less carried out. You may disagree with my adaption of the analogy. But, God commanded shalom and peace throughout the world. God said “love your enemies.” Is this message being “inserted” in all of our communications with our fellow global inhabitants?

May you gentle reader hear God clearly and use all of your powers and intellect to carry out God’s commands. Shalom, Carole