The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Psalm Passage – Leaving behind draining fear, and running towards the Presence & Shalom of the Divine

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.” (Psalm 85:8)

I started this week’s reflections on scripture based on the idea the Elijah was running away from a situation that he did not consciously plan on but felt lead to complete, due to his being “very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts.” Later in the week I considered that maybe Elijah was not running in fear but retreating to rejuvenate himself and prepare for what was to come. Just as Jesus often retreated to communion with the Lord God who sent him. Now I consider that “fear” of the Lord, which is not fear that paralyzes but fear that draws forth awe and worship (like the disciples worshiping Jesus who walked on water and calmed the sea). But still, we journey in this life – towards that which will support and under gird us.

“Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.” (Verse 9)

This running from & running towards bespeaks a good deal of action and energy. But where is rest and shalom? (Answer coming.)

“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.” (Verses 10 – 13)

We abide, beloved reader, in our world but we walk and act according to the kingdom that we are assured will come. In the Kingdom of God faithfulness springs up under us and righteousness looks down upon us – like look cool verdant grass and cool cloudless sky. But here, in our present reality, it may seem there is little relief from stress & turmoil, aggression & hatred, violence & war. We would run away in far if there was not hope or relief in our reality; maybe that is what Elijah felt. The disciples in that “little boat” probably felt pressed upon and endangered. But Jesus came out to meet them, right where they were. And the Presence of the Lord came to Elijah in a quiet and gentle way, as opposed to the turmoil he had just been through. Paul told us that the righteous that calms and soothes comes from our faith in Jesus Christ and the Divine. Which is good because our present reality does little to calm and soothe.

The psalmist says of the Divine, “Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.” (Verse 13). There is also a path for us, beloved reader. This path of righteousness is also for us; not that righteousness will automatically stretch out in front of us. But that of all the possible paths that are before us, we should seek and chose the righteous path.

It is good to know what to run from, beloved reader. And it is also good to know what to run to. May you chose wisely, and may the Presence of the Holy Spirit guide your way. Shalom & Selah!

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Psalm Passage – Wrestling and grasping with living in our current circumstances: listening in to Preacher and Seeker

Seeker: “Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.”
Preacher:
What brings you to prayer now Seeker? If there is a burden on your soul, please know that I am hear and ready to listen.
Seeker: Sometimes Preacher I feel so overwhelmed by what is happening in the world. I know the Lord is with us, and we have not been abandoned by the Divine. But it is such a struggle to grapple with the world. My spirit wanes, and my hope seems to be blown away by the adversity I see. In all of this Preacher, I have to hope that my weakness does not lead to sin.
Preacher: “From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right.”
Our current reality presses in on us all. And be assured, Seeker, the Lord will uphold you.
Seeker:
Then I say with the psalmist, “If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress.”
Preacher:
Do not think, dear beloved Seeker, that I am immune to the discord and angst I see and feel in the world. But like the psalmist says, “As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.” I know you Seeker, you have not and will not fall into harsh and violent ways.
Seeker: “My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.”
You have shown yourself to be a good model for me, Preacher. You have done as the psalmist says, “I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.”
Preacher:
Seeker, if I have done well, it is because the Divine has held me up. “Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.” While you may think your faith and strong spirits are sinking under the weight of all things, the Lord God’s strength will be a firm foundation. The is solid Divine support beneath you.
Seeker:
The psalmist declares for all of us, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.” ( Psalm 17:1-7, 15)

Creating & Stepping Into a Gap

I do not often step away from the Revised Common Lectionary and speak out of the weekly cycle I have created. But I am feeling that now, today, I need to speak up. I have been reading Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” and have been intrigued and impressed by what I have read. It has been a revelation, hearing what happened before his presidency and what was going on behind the scenes. The book was written, I am guessing, in 2017, and was published in 2018. The year and time of its publishing will become significant as I continue.

I have just finished the part of her story when Trump was elected president. Her and her husband’s shock and dismay at his election match my own – at the time. But now, reading this book in these current days, I look back at the time and mourn the innocence we had then – thinking that it was just an overall poor choice by the voting public. We had no idea, beloved reader, what would happen in the years after Trump’s inauguration. I don’t have to remind you, I am sure, of the increasing “debris” of poor choices, statements, and tweets he has made – to delicately state the issue. Comparing then, as Michelle narrates that time in the country’s life, to now – the tragedy of our current situation is made so clear.

I am not usually politically minded; I do not talk about politics nor let it sway my pondering or meditations. That may tell you, my longtime readers, how much Trump’s presidency has effected me. And reading about the days following Trump’s election, seeing it through Michelle Obama’s eyes, has settled a lead weight in my thoughts. Reminiscences of the past four years streak across my thinking, and I am shocked to a standstill and am moved to mourn.

I live in Oregon, about 3 hours away from Portland. The events in Portland sear across the headlines, here in Oregon and I have to assume across the nation. And, if the news pundit are correct, other cities are set to experience the same thing. This has to end, beloved reader. It has to change. We have endured coming close to four full years. And it is threatening to tear our nation apart. Not to mention how the rest of the global community sees us. If you did know it before, reading her book, you will realize how our national imagine rose under former President Obama; and now, how it has fallen.

Back in 2017 I thought, as long as Trump does not do anything that cannot be undone after four years – we will be okay. Then I thought, what has happened thus far – we can mend. Later still I thought, I just hope there is enough of the United States left that we can salvage. Now, it just feels like so much is lost. So many people, through so much violence and illness. So much natural resources, gone and more being threatened. And our image – well, it was bad enough when we were hated as a nation. I think now that we are pitied, the hurt is worse.

I am actually not an American citizen. I was born and still am a Canadian citizen living in the United States legally since 1982. My opinion may not matter much. I have the “privilege” of paying taxes, but not the “privilege” of voting. That is one of the reasons I try not to wear or portray any political motif. And you know, really, my written statements in the past year or two have not been politically motivated; I speak out from humanitarian and Christian conscience. Because to stay silent would be, well, unimaginable.

This has to end, beloved reader. It just has to end. I do not have a vote to cast. And even if I did, my one vote would matter little. But I do have a voice. And I will speak up. I will speak against aggression, hatred, and violence. I have spoke against it before. But now I will give it a name. There is this impression that one’s words do not matter. That when one speaks hateful demeaning words, it does not matter, because words are just sounds from our mouth. But as Jesus rightly said, the words of our mouth give evidence of our inner thoughts. And our inner thoughts motivate our actions. And our actions can create an environment where aggression, hatred, and violence are tolerated and even encouraged. Words then, in a direct trajectory, create actions. Where hatred in isolation, confined to one or two people may not amount to much; but when hatred leaps into a larger group, the results can be devastating. It does not matter, or should not matter, who is speaking the hatred to who. The results can warp and destroy anyone it comes in contact with. Protesting hatred, speaking up that hatred cannot, should not, and will not be tolerated, is a noble thing to do. But when protesting crosses the line to aggression, hatred and violence – we have all lost out and we will all suffer.

This has to end, beloved reader. It just has to end. Let me be very clear. A second presidency by Donald Trump will destroy us in ways we cannot imagine. In fact, I do not want to imagine it. But at the end of 2016, I did not want to imagine what the next four years would be like. I am not endorsing any candidate. What I am doing is raising my voice to clearly say is that the last four years should be a wake call for us to be very careful who is the next US president. Words matter, beloved reader. The thoughts and opinions behind the words matter. Words can reveal the nature of a person, especially someone who had not learned or refuses to assess their words and their communications.

I comment on scripture because they are illuminative, pointing us to Christian thoughts and deeds. We can hear the voice of the Divine through scripture, and with the guidance of the Holy Presence we can discern what is best to do. Those whose words, thoughts, and actions going against the Divine’s Word should be held in wariness until their true personality is revealed. And it will be, beloved reader. If I have learned anything in the past four years, it will be.

May you beloved reader, where ever you are, discern wisely those who are around you, and those who seek your support. And may the Lord God be with us as we entire into the election season. Shalom & Selah!

P.S. This post is making a special appearance on the blog site, “A Simple Desire” as well as here. Now that I have raised my voice, I want it to be heard!

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Psalm Passage – The Divine seeing clearly what there is in us to “harvest”

Preacher: “O LORD, you have searched me and known me”.

Seeker: “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.”

Preacher: “You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.”

Seeker: “Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.”

Preacher: “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”

Seeker: I am trying to determine, Preacher, whether these verses by the psalmist are a comfort to me. It seems, well, intrusive and . . . . . uncomfortable. Is it possible to be “too” well known?

Preacher: Well, Seeker, I can see how one might feel that way. When we look at ourselves, really look closely at ourselves and scrutinize our inner being, we may not like what we see. Some might preen and overlook the flaws in themselves, and I feel sorry for them. They are not fooling anyone on earth, and certainly not fooling the Divine. And I can see where a person might feel uncomfortable. But you have to understand, Seeker, the Divine looks on us with love and Christ’s mercy and redemption wipes away all the flaws. And really, the psalmist realized this. Read on.

Seeker: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Oh my! There is no escape!

Preacher: No, there is not. The Lord God’s omnipotence and omnipresence know no bounds. It is hard to know whether the psalmist meant it as a praise or a confession. I guess it depends on how the person who is speaking is feeling about himself. King David, who might have the writer of this psalm, saw himself pretty clearly – most of the time. He said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24) That last part, “lead me in the way everlasting” can be read as a petition for the Lord God to improve the way one lives out a Christian life; or as the psalmist might have seen it, to attend to his (and her) faith and spiritual life.

Seeker: It is a very brave prayer! To lay one’s self open to the Divine, and expect mercy. But I guess that is what Christ came for. To ease and support self-examination and confession to the Divine, and to assure humanity that mercy and forgiveness is available.

Preacher: That is a fine summing up for Jesus Christ’ mission, Seeker. Very fine indeed. Shalom & Selah, Seeker!

It Has Happened Again

so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16b)

There are some of you like that out there. Some how or another you have managed to follow a blog site that does not have a blog button. I do not know how you did that. WordPress tells me it is possible, if you know your way around a blogging site. And I know (or assume) your purpose is as innocent as a dove. But be that as it may, it will gain you nothing. You see, I am no longer posting anything new on this site. What is here now is all there will ever be. And at some point in the future (I also assume) WordPress will inform me that this blog has been inactive long enough that it will be closed.

Now, here comes the interesting part. If by following this site where the “follow” option is hidden and embedded in site, you have prolonged its activity, then the site as an archive only location will continue. If by follow this site you hope to “provoke” a new post, then you have succeeded.  And if the latter reason is the case and cause for your following, then it is myself who have been less wise than a serpent but still as innocent as a dove.

Since I have been moved to post, let me take the opportunity to direct once again all beloved readers to the active site – Pondering From the Pacific. It is the place where I am now posting, and where all of the “A Simple Desire” post that I wrote are also archived. But please, if you are here, make yourself to home. Search the posts that are here. But there is no use following, because appearances by myself here are rare. Heartfelt, but rare! Shalom!

Where I am now

When I sat down to review the visits and views of this blog, “A Simple Desire”, I couldn’t help but notice the views and visits have been increasing, as if people are trying to search and figure where I am. Maybe I am wrong about that. But if it is true, that the absence of postings here is causing an up surge in activity, I want to remind established readers and new visitors that I have moved to a different WordPress site, “Pondering From the Pacific“. And it has been business as usual there, where I post 4 times a week, and more often when the Revised Common Lectionary has special celebration days. Because I have not posted anything new here (excluding this) since October 4th, I have to conclude that people are reading “older posts”. I want to remind you that anything written since January 2015 is on the site “Pondering From the Pacific”. Anything older than that can be found only at “A Simple Desire” which is where I am posting this note.

I am gratified that the older posts are still being read, and I encourage you to do so. But I also want to make you aware that new posts are debuting elsewhere. And I hope you come visit me there as well!

As of November 1, 2017 I am planning on “dismantling” the “Follow” button here .  .  .  because there is nothing new to follow! But please keep returning here! There is a vast wealth of commentary and scriptural thought here, and I am hopeful it will continue to be available for years to come! Shalom!

An Invitation

“Pondering From the Pacific” [https://ponderingfromthepacific.wordpress.com/ ] invites you to move over to that site to continue following the post that had previously been available on on this site, “A Simple Desire”. Sometime later this year “A Simple Desire” will no longer have new posts but function as a repository of the posts from 2007 until fall of 2017. At this point, posts from “A Simple Desire” are no longer posted to Facebook, but posts that are on the site “Pondering From the Pacific” are posted. It is the same sort of content that has been posted on this site since 2015, that is scripture passages from the Revised Common Lectionary. And it is the same author at “Pondering From the Pacific” who has been posting on “A Simple Desire” since 2010.

I did notice a drop in followers, seemingly overnight. And while I can understand that, considering the changes that are taking place, I am hopeful that those who have been following here at “A Simple Desire” would move over to the new site, which actually had its start in 2012. It is now going to be my only active blog site come fall of 2017. Thank you for your interest over the years! And shalom!

Should the two become one? [What does it mean to pray about something? Part Two]

(This post appeared on my other blog, “Pondering From the Pacific”, on July 17th. It was the second part of a two part reflection on my decision to move from posting on “A Simple Desires” scripture and reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary, and have only one blog as my sole blog. You can see the first part at What does it mean ot pray about something. Part One that I wrote on July 4th on the blog“Pondering From the Pacific”. The readers/followers there have been aware, if they have chosen to read it, that I have been thinking about this. Just recently I started making pragmatic plans and preparations. I discovered that some aspects at first seemed difficult, but with perseverance and not a small amount of luck, the arrangements have been working out very well. I chronicled that in the post Pragmatism, Theology, and Relatively Minor Miracles! . I wrote and posted that July 30th. I imagine that will serve as unofficial notice of the move. I have already started posting the August entries for the Revised Common Lectionary posts on “Pondering From the Pacific” The official move date will be sometime later in the fall. I invite you, before the official move, to explore the site [https://ponderingfromthepacific.wordpress.com/] and sincerely hope all of you will move the move with me. )

 

It started with an idea, a vague unformed idea. And from that idea came a desire. Not a simple desire but a rather complex one, actually. When I first started this blog [meaning “Pondering From the Pacific] (my second one, in addition to the blog “A Simple Desire” that I inherited since after a time I was the only one writing it) my reasoning was that I was not just a ponderer and writer based on scripture passages, but an observer of all facets and aspects of life. And I wanted an outlet for my other thoughts and observations. I had hoped there would be time for me to write for both blogs. But time is an elusive thing. More fleeting than I thought it would be.

Back in 2012 when I started this second blog that you are now reading, “Pondering From the Pacific”, my other blog “A Simple Desire” commented on scripture that was also posted on Third Way Cafe,  a website that MennoMedia created and ran as a part of the media outreach of Mennonite Church USA – to give the context. Third Way Cafe posted on a daily basis “A Sip of Scripture” and that was the source of the scripture passages I and others had been wrote about. (In 2010 I went solo.) However, at the close of 2014 I switched from using their scripture passages to writing on the Revised Common Lectionary. And starting January 2015 I posted exclusively on the Revised Common Lectionary changing from a daily posting to posting 4 times a week. However, that did not result in posting more often to my other blog – this one. As I said above, time was more fleeting than I hoped it would be.

So for 5 years I have been straddling writing two blogs; giving most of my attention to one and sadly neglecting the other. My idea was to try somehow to combine my writing efforts. And the desire was to have a blog that was from start to finish my very own. Not something I inherited from someone else, but for good or for bad was all me. Much as I appreciated the gentle soul who handed over the blog “A Simple Desire” to me without any backward glances (and the other writers who made worthy contributions), I always felt I was standing on the shoulders of another. I had made the choice when I became the solo writer to continue host the postings that were not mine but the efforts and thoughts of  others. Good thoughts, inspiring thoughts .  .  .  . but not mine. I felt more and more strongly that I wanted something that was just mine.

But I will admit it was scary thinking about truly foraging out on my own. “A Simple Desire” as a blog has amassed a formidable following. I remind myself in the past seven years since it has been just me, it has grown in readership; that has truly humbled me. And since writing on the Revised Common Lectionary, the growth has been even greater which I am also humbled by. How can I just walk away from that?

The issue is complex because I do not want to eliminate the work of others, pretending that their work has just disappeared; I want to honor their contributions. But I also want to move forward under my own power and see what I can do. In the past weeks and months I have been torn over what to do. And more importantly when to do  .  .  .  .  whatever I decide to do.

My fledgling plan is to move my posting on scripture passages over to “Pondering From the Pacific”, clearly announcing my intentions, and hope that the readers (my readers) will follow me over the the new site. “A Simple Desire” would continue, but I would not add anything new to that site. In this way I hope to honor what has been written in the past, but move forward into my own future, on a site that is truly my own. Just me. It is scary to think about – well maybe not scary in the chills up and down one’s spine; but daunting to make such a change. And why? For my own self-image? That’s not why I started writing either blog in the first place.

On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to be part of a “bunch.” I am ready to stand out on my own, come what may. I am pretty sure I can handle it; and what I can’t handle .  .  .  . well, let’s just say that my faith is strong enough for whatever may come, in spite of what my pride and self-image might quake at. Actually, that might be exactly where my crux point is – my faith on the one side and my pride/self-image on the other. And I am pretty sure I know which side is going to come out on top. Shalom & Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 8 [13]) : The Psalm Passages – Rescued from the shakes

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.” (Psalm 13:1-4)

The previous three or four days before I sat down to write this were as good of health days as I have had for a long time. But the morning of the day I sat down to write, I felt the familiar aches and pains that meant another “flare” was coming. While I try to live my live so that I am an enemy to no one, and no one would consider me any enemy, I do have an “enemy” of sorts – my own body. I have several autoimmune diseases.

An autoimmune disease means that for some reason your own body attacks itself; there are many types and kinds of autoimmune diseases. Sometime arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease; it may come with old age or it may start its “corrosive” action at an earlier age. Type 1 diabetes can be considered autoimmune; my type is type 2, but it seems in a causal relationship with my autoimmune diseases. I am part of several support groups that are composed of people who have autoimmune illnesses or who know/support people in their lives who have one or more. In any case when I have flares, which are gradual or sudden increases in symptoms, I am shaken. And it does seem like my “enemy” has prevailed. But the psalmist and I are not alone, as the support groups attest to.

“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Verses 5 – 6)

This trust in the Lord and having been dealt with “bountifully” does not mean symptoms go away or that I feel better. “Better” is only a relatively term, and as I have learned again lately, does not last long. I am still able to keep to some sort of a regular schedule and list of accomplishments only because the sum total of my strength, stamina, and endurance does not lay only within my one body but also in the Lord. Over the years where my ability fades off and the Lord’s ability steps in to carry me through has blurred over the years such that I am not sure where one ends and the other begins. And that is why I trust the Lord and trust in the Divine’s steadfast love.

In a sense, we all have an autoimmune disease – we call it “sin” and “human willfulness.” We do things that are hurtful to our soul and spirit, and the soul and spirit of others. We “attack” harmony and the shalom that the Divine wishes for the world. And when the Lord God rescues us and all of humanity, that is the salvation that the psalmist rejoices in. I do too, for that matter.

So I am at peace; the Lord is with me, both for my health and my salvation. The enemy will not, in matters that are most important, prevail. Selah!

 

Addendum: Fifteen minutes after this posting appears, it will also appear on my Pondering From the Pacific blog. Since the posting touches (and more than touches) on my health, I thought it good to post it there also. I hope over time to bring the two blogs closer together in content and focus. Shalom!