Friday, June 28, 2024

For Living

 Christ died, he took the entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to be in relationship with him and each other so that you could bear fruit (deeds, fruit of one's self, true self, "right" self) and conduct oneself in alignment with your "true north."  Romans 7:4 The Message

When my decisions don't result in right actions, something has gone wrong deep inside me.  I truly delight in God's desires, but parts of me covertly rebel and just when I least expect it, those parts take charge!  Who will help me?  Jesus Christ!  He acted to set me right in a life of contradictions. Romans 7:22-25 The Message

In Christ's presence, we no longer live under this black cloud.  A new power is in operation Romans 8:1-2. The Message

Those who trust God's action and find God's Spirit working in them are the children of God. Romans 8:11 The Message

It's interesting that washing "cleans up" a person's motivations and actions:  we are now clean, clear, justified, translucent, and innocent all the way through.  I do feel contaminated by my involvement in a contentious world.  I wanted to change it; instead, it changed me.  Hose me off!  Get behind my ears!  Rinse out my mouth!

To stay clean, I remove myself from the mud-slinging and, instead, focus on the priorities of justice.  I was oppressed.  I felt attacked.  I felt stripped of safety and I felt the need to protect my country, which in its better days, felt like a vehicle of protection.  Not always today.

I am actually ashamed of it.  Disappointed in that I didn't see it sooner.  I call it out now.  I support the oppressed now in new ways.  The facade of "America" seems to no longer hold for many.  Are we lost forever? Is taking it down the only choice?  

I can't focus on the institution that way.  I must utilize its power for good.  Remember that power shared is power gained and I must join with those in power and those who are marginalized and become as part of the Kingdom of God.  Only you can make it so, Lord.  Amen!

Friday, May 31, 2024

Heart and Soul

May the God of peace make you holy in every way and may your whole spirit (pneuma) and soul (psyche) and body (soma - life) be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.  God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.  1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

I have only recently begun to be able to think about my soul.  I wondered about my soul.  I wondered what it was, differentiated from my "life" or "spirit."  Then, I realized my physical heart gives me the metaphorical lesson for my soul.

In a literal sense, my heart sustains my body.  Even my brain cannot operate without my heart.  Although my heart can function with minimal brain activity, it is also dependent upon my brain.  For my heart to be at its best, I must take care of my body by keeping it fit and active, or my heart fails.  The interdependence of body, brain and heart is clear.

So, my soul.  It sustains my life.  My spirit cannot operate without my soul.  Although my soul, which is my identity, can function with minimal spirit(ual) activity, it is dependent and enlivened by my spirit.  For my soul to be its healthiest/fullest/truest self, I must take care of the entirety of my life by keeping it engaged in righteous pursuits and relationships or my soul loses its fulfillment, its greatest capacity.  The interdependence of my spirit, soul and life is clear, especially in the pursuit to be whole, righteous (as I ought to be) and wholly God's.

The metaphor continues.  For my heart to be well, my doctors (medical community) say I need to exercise and be selective (less sugar and fat/more plants) and less gluttonous about what I eat.  Exercise needs to be regular (as in daily) and with enough exertion to raise my heart activity to what they call "cardio."

So, my soul.  For my soul to be well (and souls do become sick and damaged, unable to sustain a healthy life), I need to engage in spiritual activities and be selective and less gluttonous with worldly intake.  

What is the "sugar" of this world that sets up my lifestyle to damage my soul?  Idolatrous practices, of which I can't get enough and which completely distract me from God, and includes addictions to pornography, TV, food, power, money....  And then the gluttony:  those behaviors which are legitimate needs of the soul (like food for the heart) but in which I engage in excess.  These include relationships and service to God, which I indulge in sometimes to the exclusion of God.  All contribute to the wear and tear of my soul.  

For a healthy soul, the activities and exercise for my soul need to be regular (daily) and with enough passion and engagement to raise my soul activity to a level that brings energy which strengthens and sustains my soul.  

Like a heart which can get injured through accident or attack, the soul can be harmed.   And like the heart, which can be healed through the intervention practices of a doctor, so the soul can be healed by the intervention practices of spiritual healers and guides who use prayer, companionship and coaching for wellness.  The Greek word for soul is psyche.  Those spiritual guides and healers could be called psychologists, but they could also be called prayer partners, sponsors, mentors or friends.  Jesus would call us brethren, which means "of the womb." I take this to mean those who are born into new life by His work on the cross and the Holy Spirit's engagement in this new life.

To know and nurture your soul, you must be born again, Jesus would say, into a community of other reborn souls and sustained by a soul-healthy lifestyle, which includes a soul-fitness community known as the Kingdom of God.  Then the entirety of what is life will be preserved (taken care of, guarded; specifically, from external attack).  It will be a fortress.

To use the metaphor shamelessly, when the heart is strengthened through exertion and endurance, it can stand the rigors of a demanding life; it can bear the physical burdens of caring for household and community well into old age; it can lead the rest of the body into wellness, even when injured or attacked.

So, the soul, when it is strengthened, it can bear the psychological, social and spiritual burden of caring for household and community into old age; it can lead a life into wellness, even if injured or attacked. The soul will respond and enable a strong lifestyle on a parallel level to my heart responding to the care and exercise it receives.  My soul is then equipped to bear the demands and burdens of the struggle with sin.  It is prepared to carry the heavy load of loss and grief, of testing and suffering.  The soul can then forge new paths and develop a life that serves the greater good and bears the glory of God into a hurting world.

Lord, lead me into soul-training!  This life needs the strength of a strong soul!  Amen!

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Hope 13

 tiqva - hope, grounds for hope; longing expectation.

Literally, a chord (to twist and stretch) 

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is in him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress:  I will not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory.  My mighty rock, my refuge is my God.  Psalm 62:5-8

I will not be shaken.  The ultimate purpose of hope is to keep me attached to God for security.  In the world, we attach to other things for our security:  money, position, education, know-how.  We often believe and put our trust in anything but God.

Yet, those earthly benefits will fail us.  We will fail them.  Their influence wanes.  We falter.  They never had the power to save us in the first place.  Our significance and identity (glory-weightiness, worthiness, splendor and honor) cannot rest on such flimsy, changeable definitions.  

In God alone can come salvation.  In God alone is the stability by which I can see myself rightly, in his eyes, by his definition.  I must attach to what God says, only!

O Lord, become my all!  Help me to rely on you alone.  Take me to your throne and let me rest in you.  Amen!


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Title Covers

It Begins

What has been will be again; 
what has been done will be done again; 
there is nothing new under the sun.  Ecc. 1:19

I quoted that verse to my seminary professor/advisor when he was encouraging me to pursue publishing.  His reply to my quote of Ecclesiastes:  "That is true, but you say it so well."  So, I developed this blog so as to filter some ideas in all the curriculum, essays, papers I have written.  

I humbly submit to you my first effort.  I have published two small, devotional books through Amazon that incude some of the topics that have been posted here.  Now, I have to engage in the next unknown project of marketing.  Pray they will be meaningful for someone.  

Feedback welcome.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Hope 12

hope - yahal - wait, expect, tarry:  patience 

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill to your dwelling.  Then I will go to the altar of God, my exceeding joy.  And I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil with me?  Hope in God, for I will praise him, my salvation and my God!  Ps 43:3-5

It seems the entire purpose of our walk with God, of our faith development is to get closer to God.  Interestingly, I have been taught that the priority is good behavior, as if it alone is right-ness.  Right living only comes from a heart right with God.  Here the psalmist looks to God's light (concretely so as to light the day or metaphorically to include "lightness" or happiness) and his truth (which emanates from God and is about God) as his source for hope because it leads to God himself.  The purpose of the that truth is to light the path to the dwelling place of God.  Think of it as showing the way to a relationship with God.

We tend to look for our answers, our salvation in many far places from God.  Sometimes, we look for our answers in the things of God - his Word, his Church - which can be helpful, but they are not God.  It is where we should place the source of our answers that is the real pursuit. Our answers, our desires, our need for a safe place is actually in a sacred relationship with the Father.  Seek him first...and all these will be added..

Father, open my eyes to the truth you shine a light on.  No other revelation but what comes from you, please.  Amen!

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Entering the Darkness

 To you, the night shines bright as day.  Darkness and light are the same to you.  Psalm 139:12

Most of us know the familiar territory where darkness prevails and we usually work to avoid it at all costs, from the extremes of addiction to keeping a good (false) attitude of the place we are in.  We are just avoiding the darkness.  We fear it.  It is not fun.  Yet, what if, in it, we could find God? What if, in it, we could find the greatest truth of all?  God is not afraid of it.  It doesn’t surround him like it does us.

Oh, God! Of course, you can see through either.  Both can dispense your truth and your presence.  What if the darkness might hold just as much truth as the light?

Places of darkness are different for each of us.  Maybe it’s the darkness of a hurt we have buried or the darkness that befalls us when we quiet ourselves from shiny, noisy or blustery practices and we have to sink into the center of who we are.  Maybe it’s the darkness of an unresolved relationship or truth about ourselves.  The list goes on, but God’s truth about each can often only be revealed in the chasm. 

And since He is there, seeing it as clearly as if by daylight, if we allow ourselves to enter with him, he can shine the light on the truth we need.  We can stay in the darkness knowing he is there, whether resolution comes or not, knowing that he is there to comfort or guide, satisfy or use it for our good. 

I am not so afraid of quiet now or even the darkness that some would claim to be the absence of God.  I think in the end the only one refusing to be in the darkness is me.  Now I know to enter it and relish the pause it gives, the truth it shows, and the comfort it brings.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Hope 11

 hope - yahal - wait, expect, tarry:  patience.

Elohim - Supreme God

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?...Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  By day the Lord directions his love, at night his song is with me - a prayer to the God fo my life...Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  Psalm 42

With deep desire for God, especially in light of the trauma of being human, the writer recognizes that nothing on earth can comfort, let alone satisfy, but God.  We despair and not in a quiet way.  The clamoring and uproar of our soul can fuel a rage even against itself.

The solution does not come from within, but with the presence, the face-to-face encounter with the God who saves.  Only then comes victory and delivery.

How can we know God like this?  The depth of God, which we must explore, meets us in the depths of our own psyche, our own soul.  His love is revealed there; he is not afraid of our depths.  His song plays in my heart, resulting in restoration and revival of the life he intends with Him.

Maybe we shouldn't medicate the pain.  Maybe we should avoid the distractions and displacements and instead walk with God into our suffering, our difficulty.  He isn't afraid and neither should we be.  Let him meet us there and minister to us there and take the lessons, the glory, onto the healing path we need.

Lord, leave me unafraid!  Amen.