Tag Archives: God

Prayer For The Week – Don’t Put God In A Box

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A beautiful prayer to guide us through the week:

A Prayer on “Knowing” God and Humbling Ourselves by Mark Sandlin

Good and gracious God,

There are so many understandings of you
and yet there is only one you.
So many faiths.
So many denominations.
So many differences
even in the Gospels we read about you…
even between theological experts…
even between well read followers…
even between me
and the others who read this prayer.

You are so ineffably difficult
to pin down,
to understand,
to describe,
to know fully.

Yet we sometime become
full of ourselves,
acting as if we
know,
hold,
have,
the “Truth” about you —

Believing that we have done
what thousands of years of history
have not been able to do,
we sometimes think
we have the final truth and understanding
about you.

God of all times and all peoples,
humble our hearts.
Silence our sometimes haughty souls
and lend us perspective.
Guide us closer to you.
Teach us how limited our knowledge is.
Give us spirits which seek more of your truth.
Instill in us
a willingness to admit what we don’t know.
Inspire us
to not only share what we have learned
with others,
but to open ourselves
to what we can learn from them.

Plant within us spirits which revel
in the reality
that there is more to learn
about you,
spirits which celebrate
what we don’t know
because it means we can still
grow closer to you,
spirits which are willing
to toss away
what we once knew
for new understandings
which grow us closer to you
and all of your Creation.

We joyfully give thanks
for all of the possibilities
which lie in front of us
to know you more fully
and to share
your love more abundantly.

Amen.

You can follow Rev. Mark Sandlin on Facebook here.

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Quotes Worth Repeating: Be Faithful By Being Yourself

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“I thought that being faithful was about becoming someone other than who I was … and it was not until this project failed that I began to wonder if my human wholeness might be more useful to God than my exhausting goodness.” – Barbara Brown Taylor in “Leaving Church” 

Beauty In The Wilderness

I originally posted Beauty In The Wilderness in March 2011 as I prepared for Lent.  I have edited it to eliminate the connection to Lent so I could repost it today as I have recently been connecting to many people who are presently wandering in the wilderness and I wanted to remind them that God is not causing their wilderness but he is with them in the wilderness.

“the wilderness is still one of the most reality-based, spirit-filled, life-changing places a person can be.” Barbara Brown Taylor

I grew up hearing sermons and bible lessons that talked about God leading us into the wilderness in order to teach us something – about Him, about ourselves, about the world we live in. The “wilderness” was another word for suffering and the reason (they said) God led us into suffering was because in the midst of suffering he was able to get our attention, to cause us to trust him and to make us teachable and transformable.

I believed it and it made me very afraid of God.

Whether it was a relationship problem or an illness or unemployment I didn’t just have the anxiety of the problem at hand to deal with – I also had the emotional and spiritual agony of believing that God was making me suffer in order to get my attention so I could be transformed.

I don’t believe that way anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong – I believe there are things I can learn in the wilderness and I believe my wilderness experiences do change me.  I even believe God can bring good out of wilderness situations – I just don’t believe God is causing or orchestrating my suffering. Of course I still battle those beliefs that set God up as my adversary but after I talk myself into remembering God isn’t causing my suffering I can more easily trust God in the midst of my wilderness.  And for as much as I dislike wilderness experiences and spend a fair amount of time and energy avoiding wilderness experiences it is in the wilderness where I have found out the most about who I really am and what my life is really about.  Not so much because of the suffering that takes place in the wilderness but because of the self awareness and self examination it causes, because of the focus it produces, because of the questions it births, because of the humility it generates.

It was during a wilderness experience where I discovered God wasn’t the perpetrator of my suffering – that I didn’t need to be punished for who I was and it was okay for me to be me – in fact, it was better than okay, it was good.

Not long after that particular experience I ran across the poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver and fell in love with it … not just because it is a beautifully crafted message but because it reminded me of the beautiful truth I had just discovered while wandering in the wilderness with God.

I leave you with Oliver’s poem in hopes that you too will discover something beautiful about yourself, about God and about the world you live in even when you find yourself wandering in the wilderness.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver, Dream Work, 1986

 

The Best Religion

This was originally posted on 9/4/2012.

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There is a story that has been circulated online about a conversation that took place at an interfaith conference between the Dalai Lama and the Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff.*

When recalling the conversation, Leonardo Boff confesses he thought the Dalai Lama would defend oriental religions as being the best, but instead, His Holiness answered, “the best religion is the one that gets you closer to God and makes you a better person.”

Expanding on that, he went on to say, “whatever makes you more compassionate, more sensible, more responsible. The religion that will do that for you is the best religion, for you.”

Clearly inspired by where his thoughts were leading, His Holiness added, “I am not interested, my friend, in your religion, or if you are religious or not. What is important to me is your behavior with your peers, family, work, community and in front of the world.”

I am a Christian and have been all of my life. I was born into a Christian family, as a young girl I chose to be a Christian and many times throughout my life I have chosen to remain a Christian. However, my idea of what it means to be a Christian has changed so dramatically over the last decade that it sometimes feels like I have completely changed religions.

I have changed enough that some Christians have even questioned if I still have the right to call myself a Christian. To them I would say, “the best Christianity is the one that gets you closer to God and makes you a better person.”

I might even add, “whatever makes you more compassionate, more sensible, more loving, more responsible … that’s the kind of Christianity one should pursue. You should not be so concerned with what I believe as how I behave … with my peers, my family and friends, at work, in my community and in front of the world.”

Just as some have reasons to choose a new religion I have reasons to remain a Christian and yet, that doesn’t mean that I am not changing my religion.

I hope I continue to change my religion as I grow and learn more about what it means to be the best kind of Christian – the kind that moves me closer to God and makes me a better person.

*I could not verify that the story is true, however, the ideas presented seem to be harmonious to the Dalai Lama’s philosophy and the teachings of Buddhism.

Turn the other clip, this one is empty

imagesThis post is part of the March Synchroblog “Guns and God” which asks us to explore the controversial subject of gun control from our faith perspective.

First, I should let you know that I am all for stricter gun laws and I believe I could use scripture and my Christian faith to argue my point because my impression of Jesus is he was not only non-violent, but perhaps even a pacifist  However, it seems that those who disagree with me are also comfortable using scripture and their Christian faith to prop up their arguments.

For example, some Christians who oppose stricter gun laws have used Luke 22 to support the idea that Jesus would approve of individuals owning guns to protect themselves and their families because he said, “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one”. And Wayne LaPierre, the NRA Executive Vice President, said that “No government gave [the right to bear arms] to us and no government can take them away” which in turn caused many Christians (some right from the pulpit) to begin to proclaim that owning guns is a “God-given” right.  It seems that some Christians are hearing a message that sounds more like “turn the other clip, this one is empty” when they read scripture than the one of non-violence that I hear.

Of course I could probably put up a good argument against that kind of logic.

I might bring up that later in Luke 22 Jesus actually rebukes one of his disciples for using a sword for protection and in Matthew 26 (another telling of Jesus’ arrest) he not only rebukes the disciple but adds that “all who draw the sword, will die by the sword”.  Or, I might caution Christians who talk about owning guns as a “God-given” right about confusing constitutional issues with kingdom issues as I don’t think the freedom Jesus talked about had anything to do with the second amendment.

But, I would also be careful about getting caught up in that kind of back and forth as I am not so interested in winning an argument as I am at solving our problem and I believe our problem is bigger than whether we should have stricter gun laws or not.

Don’t get me wrong.  I want stricter gun laws. I think we should ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons and high capacity clips.  I am in favor of stricter registration laws, better background checks and better mental health services.  And although I don’t think those things will solve all of our problems I do believe they would help reduce gun violence and even contribute to changing our culture (I realize it would be a process and wouldn’t happen overnight).

But, what weighs heavy on my mind and keeps me up at night is the question as to why other countries, where lots of individuals own guns, have a significantly lower murder rate than the U.S.

After a lot of thought I’ve come to the conclusion that it might be linked to the individualism that has grown out of pursuing and living the “American Dream”.  The pull yourself up by your own boot straps, every man for himself, I don’t want to pay the way for freeloaders, this is mine, not my problem attitude creates a society where people are alienated and separate from each other.  In that kind of society we see others as a threat to our freedom and well being rather than someone we are together with on the path of life. Most other countries around the world seem to have realized that there is a national benefit to taking care of the sick, elderly and poor but here in the U.S. most people think that everyone should take care of themself. I’m not saying it is perfect anywhere but I do think it is time that we stopped ignoring the fact that something is awry in the U.S. when it comes to gun violence.

Which brings me back to looking at this thing from a Christian perspective and causes this thought to keep going through my mind:

It’s harder to kill someone if there is a sense of connection.

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I hope you’ll check out some of these other great posts for this month’s synchroblog:

Advent 2012 – Sometimes Dreams Do Come True

This post is part of the December Synchroblog “Tell Me A Story” in which we are invited to tell an Advent story from our own life.  I will provide a list of the other contributors at the end of this post as they become available. I hope you will check them all out!

“The hard work of Advent reflection and waiting is mingled with the gift of time and space to dream new dreams, to bathe in pools of hope, and to stretch the canvas of our imagination wide enough for God to paint God’s own visions for our lives. Advent is a season for our imagination to run wild as we contemplate a God who becomes human. We are given a wider glimpse of God when we allow Advent to be an invitation to dream beyond our comfort zones of what we think can happen in our lives and what God can do. In Advent we receive four weeks to dwell on what God’s vision might be for us and for those we touch. Four weeks to dwell on how the courage of expanding our imagination might feed into the growing kingdom of God. Four weeks to gather our wits about us for another year; preparing our bodies, minds and spirits to receive the Christ child and take him out into the world for others to see and praise, worship and obey; the Christ with whom we dream big and imagine wildly.” 

Taken from the Preface of Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent  By Enuma Okoro

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Years ago I had a dream that I was a student at an elite dance academy.  In the dream I was “a dancer” and I loved to dance and I loved the dance class. But I wasn’t just a dancer or someone who loved to dance, I was a very good dancer and I knew it and took great pride in the fact.

There was an important upcoming production that all the students were auditioning for and I was quite certain that I would get a part but I didn’t and I was very disappointed.

Next thing I know I am rehearsing with the dancers who were going to be in the show because one of them got sick, had to drop out and I was chosen to take her place. I was very excited and felt that I was just where I should be. The instructor was giving us direction and correcting us as we were rehearsing and then suddenly the rehearsal was over. As we were all walking out, the instructor asked me to stay behind for a moment. After the other dancers left she told me that I wouldn’t be able to be in the show because I just wasn’t good enough. I was crushed and devastated. I began to cry. I realized that I was not only disappointed about not being in the production but I was also very disappointed that the instructor did not think I was good.  How could this be happening to a good dancer like me?  If my good dancing didn’t make the instructor like me what in the world could I do to earn her approval and affection?

Then the scene suddenly changed, the way it does in dreams, and I was in a huge industrial kitchen.  I had no idea what I was doing there or why I was wearing a chef’s coat. I looked around and found a man preparing some food at one of the nearby steel counters. I walked over to him and asked him what was going on. He told me the Executive Chef was looking for a new Sous Chef and wanted to talk to me. I was completely dumbfounded! I knew I wasn’t much of a cook and certainly not capable of being a chef.  Why in the world would he want to talk to me? Where did I even get the chef’s coat I was wearing?  How did I get here? What in the world was going on?

Then suddenly a tall man all decked out in chef’s attire walked towards me with a huge smile on his face.

“Congratulations, Liz,” he said, “you got the job.”

“What job?” I asked.

He went on to explain that I had been awarded the Sous Chef position.

“But I’m not a good cook,” I exclaimed.

He just looked at me with that smile on his face and said, “I know … It’s because I love you.”

And then I woke up.

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Sometimes dreams do come true.

So go ahead this Advent season and dream big and imagine wildly!

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Here are the links to all the December Synchroblog posts:

Carol Kuniholm writing at Words Half Heard

Jeremy Myers tells us about Santa Clausette

Liz Dyer celebrates Dreams Do Come True

Leah Sophia digs in with Planting Hope

Glen Hager reveals a story of Christmas Surgery

Kathy Escobar wrestles with holiday expectations

Wendy McCaig  ponders storytelling in  Once Upon A Time

Holy Week Meditations

Patheos is hosting a wonderful series of fresh and contemporary Holy Week Meditations written by blogger David Henson.

After I read the first entry, Forgiving God, this morning, I knew I wanted to share these meditations with others.

I hope you will take the time to read these meditations as you journey through the final events of Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday – Forgiving God

Good Friday – Entering The Darkness

Holy Saturday – Holding Tragedy In Your Arms

Easter – Opening To The Complexity

Bright Monday – A New Vision