Beloved

Look at your situation when you were called, brothers and sisters! By ordinary human standards not many were wise, not many were powerful, not many were from the upper class.  But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong.  And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing. So no human being can brag in God’s presence. It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us. ~1 Corinthians 1:26-30 (CEB)

“Don’t you often hope: ‘May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.’ But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run.  This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death.

Well, you and I don’t have to kill ourselves. We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends love or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved.’

Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say: ‘I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate that that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse … yes, even your child … wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.’” ~From Life of the Beloved by Henri J. M. Nouwen

To be called by the Creator by name. The fact that He knew me before my mother knew me. Awesome. God knew who I would be and before I even set out in this world He loved me. Simply, I was loved before I was born.

Heavenly Father, You are mine and I am Yours. I am Your Beloved. Before I ever messed up or went astray You loved me knowing the steps I would follow and the depths that I would ascend. You reached down into that darkness, even sent Your son to guide me … all because You love me. Me, even though I am tarnished and broken You still sought me. I thank You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Amen.

Behaving as God’s children

“But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.

“If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.

“Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return. ” ~Luke 6:27-38 (CEB)

“To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others.  Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence.  We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label.  When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division.   Jesus says it clearly:  “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge; … do not condemn; … forgive” (Luke 6:36-37).

In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible.  But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

What if the world’s New Year’s Resolution was to stop judging, condemning evaluation, classifying or labeling one another. Would we then have Peace?

Merry Christmas!

 

Let there be Peace on Earth Lord and let it begin with me. Amen

When the waiting is done

They will say, “This land, which was a desolation, has become like the garden of Eden.” And the cities that were ruined, ravaged, and razed are now fortified and inhabited. The surviving nations around you will know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt what was torn down and have planted what was made desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it. The LORD God proclaims: I will also allow the house of Israel to ask me to do this for them: that I increase them like a human flock. Like the holy flock, like the flock of Jerusalem at its festivals, the ruined cities will be filled with a human flock. Then they will know that I am the LORD. ~Ezek 35:33-38 (CEB)

…And when the time of waiting is over, when that Light shines into all the dark places of our heart we will see that what once was ruins, the parts that were ravaged and razed are now fortified and inhabitable. Those who will see us will know that a mighty work has been done. They will know that we were not abandoned that God was busy tearing down and building up, planting new crops on restored grounds. People will look and see what God has done and know that He is Lord.

It is not for me that God does a mighty deed in my life. It is so others will know that God is in the business of saving lives. “Look and see what He has done for me… What He has done for me, He can do for You.”

My God is a mighty God. He is a hands-on-God. He seeks the lost, brings back the strayed, binds up the injured, and strengthens the weak. (Ezk 34:16)

Thank You O Lord, for seeking me when I have been lost; guiding me back when I have strayed; binding my wounds and giving me strength when I had none of my own. Help me to light the way that others might see what You have done for me that they might find hope in their darkness. Amen.

In the world

If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. ~Isaiah 58:10-11 (CEB)

“Everything that comes from God asks for an open and faithful heart.  We cannot live with hope and joy in the end-time unless we are living in a state of preparedness.  We have to be careful because, as the Apostle Peter says:  “Your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5.8).  Therefore Jesus says:  “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life. … Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).  That’s what living in the Spirit of Jesus calls us to.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

It is so easy to let my heart become hardened by the world. The problems I see around me, overwhelming. There is too much hurt in the world. Too much evil. At times I just want to bury my head in the ground and just live in my own little space, happy and care free. But I am called to live in this world. I am called to do what I can. I am called to stay awake to the needs that are around me. With God I can obtain the strength I need to tackle some of the issues I see that need tending.

Heavenly Father, this day I pray for Your heart. Give me the strength to not turn a blind eye. Help me not feel overwhelmed by all the needs in the world. Give me a discerning eye to know which tasks are mine to do. Give me the strength I need to follow You into the world today and do what I can. Amen.

Rest for heavy loads

Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. ~Matthew 11:28-29 (CEB)

“You have been wounded in many ways. The more you open yourself to being healed, the more you will discover how deep your wounds are. You will be tempted to become discouraged, because under every wound you uncover you will find other. Your search for true healing will be a suffering search. Many tears still need to be shed.

But do not be afraid. The simple fact that you are more aware of your wounds shows that you have sufficient strength to face them.

The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand the, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them.” ~From The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen

Heavenly Father, you promise us strength for the journey. I claim that strength for today. I look not to tomorrow just on this moment by moment led me through yet one more day. Amen.

Living

So did something good bring death to me? Absolutely not! But sin caused my death through something good so that sin would be exposed as sin. That way sin would become even more thoroughly sinful through the commandment. We know that the Law is spiritual, but I’m made of flesh and blood, and I’m sold as a slave to sin. I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it’s sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me. I gladly agree with the Law on the inside, but I see a different law at work in my body. It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body. I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse? Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I’m a slave to God’s Law in my mind, but I’m a slave to sin’s law in my body. ~Romans 713:25 (CEB)

Jesus came to Earth to give us life. To walk away from the darkness is sometimes a moment by moment choice away from past habits. Sometimes we feel that we are being ruled by our impulses. That we are doing that which we do not want to do and not doing the things we want to do. We can feel out of control sometimes.

“Choosing life instead of death demands an act of will that often contradicts our impulses.  Our impulses want to take revenge, while our wills want to offer forgiveness.  Our impulses push us to an immediate response:  When someone hits us in the face, we impulsively want to hit back.

How then can we let our wills dominate our impulses?   The key word is wait.  Whatever happens, we must put some space between the hostile act directed toward us and our response.  We must distance ourselves, take time to think, talk it over with friends, and wait until we are ready to respond in a life-giving way.  Impulsive responses allow evil to master us, something we always will regret.   But a well thought-through response will help us to ‘master evil with good’ (Romans 12.21).” ~From Bread for the Journey, Henri Nowen

It is not enough to have the desire to do what is good. Through Jesus and some conscious thought about my actions I can begin to become the person I want to be. I want to be “living” for God.

Heavenly Father, I want to LIVE for You. Please guide my steps this day. Help me to remember when implusles threaten to send me back into old ways of death that I can “wait” it through with You and friends until a life-giving way is revealed and I can walk back into light. I want to live this day without regrets. I want to live this day for You. Amen.

Special

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. ~1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)

“Special”, my daughter says means that you are different. Being different apparently means there is something wrong with you. God didn’t make us all the same. It would be boring if He did! There is no comfort when you tell your children that God has made us all different.

Sometimes I too find myself longing for someone else’s kind of different. It might be nice to be more outgoing maybe even flamboyant. Some days I think it might be nice to not be so contemplative and analytical. Although sometimes I do find myself more outgoing than others I cannot change the personality that is me.

Henri Nouwen in his book, Bread for the Journey says this about temperaments, “Our temperaments – whether flamboyant, phlegmatic, introverted, or extroverted – are quite permanent fixtures of our personalities.  Still, the way we “use” our temperaments on a daily basis can vary greatly.  When we are attentive to the Spirit of God within us, we will gradually learn to put our temperaments in the service of a virtuous life.  Then flamboyancy gives great zeal for the Kingdom, phlegmatism helps to keep an even keel in times of crisis, introversion deepens the contemplative side, and extroversion encourages creative ministry.”

Nouwen goes on to say that we should treat our temperaments as we do gifts that help us deepen our spiritual lives. God made different people because He has different kinds of service. Instead of looking at how it must be nice to be comfortable in a crowd of people, I should use my contemplative nature as God intends, in service to Him.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for my kind of different. May I use who I am in service to You. Amen.

Jewels

You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. ~Matthew 28:30 (CEB)

 

I love to find thoughts on scripture that I haven’t heard before. I wrote a few weeks back about a viewpoint my dad shared with me on the “good Samaritan”. My dad wondered how the victim might feel about being helped by someone he would normally have nothing to do with much less trust or allow to touch him. In his book, ” Bread for the Journey”, Henri Nouwen has another interesting view.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” the Gospel says (Matthew 22:38). But who is my neighbor? We often respond to that question by saying: “My neighbors are all the people I am living with on this earth, especially the sick, the hungry, the dying, and all who are in need.” But this is not what Jesus says. When Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) to answer the question “Who is my neighbor?” he ends the by asking: “Which, … do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the bandits’ hands?” The neighbor, Jesus makes clear, is not the poor man laying on the side of the street, stripped, beaten, and half dead, but the Samaritan who crossed the road, “bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, … lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him.” My neighbor is the one who crosses the road for me.”

The person who stops his journey to take a moment for me when I am hurting is my neighbor. This is who I should love as myself. Instead of being resentful for needing help I need to be thankful for the connection. There are many people I am thankful that crossed that road to help me. There are many people that I now call good friend that I would never have known if it wasn’t for life’s circumstances. Some of the greatest jewels come through surviving this journey through life. I treasure those whom God has sent to show His love to me.
Heavenly Father, I thank You for neighbors You have sent to me along my journey. May I always remember to treasure these jewels among the muck of life. May I also remember to be thankful for help and not resentful that I found myself  needing help. Amen.

Wounds

God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. ~Psalms 147:3 (CEB)

 

“Do you forgive me?” My 10 year old looks at me pleadingly. *sigh* Once again I failed. No, sweet child, it is me that you should forgive.

I ran out of patience and tolerance. He had done nothing wrong but be himself.  I am so glad that I have a Savior that is more than me. When I forget to turn to Him for the source of my strength I find myself missing the mark.

In our relationships with each other we find ourselves doing that we wish we would not and saying that which we should not. Part of learning and growing is working through our differences and learning tolerance. Part of living is learning to forgive each other. I am always floored by the wise words of Henri J. M. Nouwen. This excerpt from his book Bread for the Journey is so insightful,

“‘Time heals,’ people often say.  This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened.  That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality.  But when the expression “time heals” means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it.  ‘Time heals’ implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Living in this reality that is mine is not always easy. Sometimes I take things out on the ones I am not angry with. May I always be “big enough” to admit when I am wrong and take responsibility for my part. May I always be willing to actively work through the pain in search of understanding. May I always be willing to trust in the possibility of forgiveness even when it is for me.

Grant me this day Heavenly Father, a strength that takes me outside myself to see and understand the truth in my reality. Only You can equip me with that strength and will make my way perfect (Psalm 18:32). Amen.

Truth is

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? ~Jeremiah 8:22 (NIV)

 

“Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying?  If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence!  Sometimes we are called to proclaim God’s love even when we are not yet fully able to live it.  Does that mean we are hypocrites?  Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion.  Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions.  But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak.  As long as we know that our lives always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble.”~ Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

Sometimes the words I speak are not the things I feel. Sometimes the smile on my face does not disclose the pain that lives inside. Sometimes the truth I speak is still struggling to take hold in my heart.

While I struggle with living the truths that I know, that doesn’t make them any less real. I know that I am a beloved child of God, even if I don’t always “feel” that love. Does that make me a hypocrite that I profess God’s love when I don’t always feel it myself? No I really don’t think so. I can’t always trust my feelings. I have to remember the truths I know. Gradually I grow into these truths. Slowly I move more toward the convictions I profess. With great humility I continue to spout that I am simply a human with a vision of one day completely feeling that Love that I know I already surrounds me.

“How long will you forget me, LORD? Forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I be left to my own wits, agony filling my heart? Daily? How long will my enemy keep defeating me? Look at me! Answer me, LORD my God! Restore sight to my eyes! Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I won!” My foes will rejoice over my downfall. But I have trusted in your faithful love. My heart will rejoice in your salvation. Yes, I will sing to the LORD because he has been good to me.” ~Psalm 13 (RSV)

Heavenly Father, I ask You this day to so surround me with Your love that all question of its existence cannot survive. I know that there is a balm in Jesus Christ that will heal my sin sick soul.

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