Monday Meditation – Lent : Love

Love

Who do you love?  What do you love?

In Mark 10:17-22 we have the only reference in the gospel to Jesus “loving” someone.

What makes this man so special that we learn Jesus “loved” him?  The assumption is not that Jesus loved no one else but we aren’t told in the other stories so explicitly as we are told in this story that Jesus loved someone.  Why are we told that Jesus “loved” this man?

It is in his commands to the rich man that shows us the reader, that Jesus’ love extends to all he has encountered in his ministry – the healed, the called and the oppressed.

One translation for Mark 10:21 is as follow, “Get up, sell that which you have, give it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven.  Come, follow me.”

“Get up” is used in “healing” stories.  This is a “healing” story as well.  It is a healing of the soul from the accumulation of stuff and wealth.

The second “sell that which you have” and last commands “Come, follow me” recalls the disciples and others who were asked to give up all they had and follow Jesus.

These two groups, the healed and the disciples, Jesus alludes to also have his love for they already have done what he asked of the rich man.  Even though ultimately the rich man does not do as commanded, Jesus knowing this, still loves him.

The poor are brought front and center with Jesus commanding the rich man to give all he had to the poor.  Jesus loves them enough to tell this rich man to provide for them.

Unfortunately, the man cannot obey and leaves.  While he has kept the commandments he has not acted in the spirit of the commandments.

Dear Lord, let us not just adhere to the letter of the law but the spirit in which you intended it.  Otherwise we run the risk of turning the law into an idol.  The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Valentine’s Day Gifts

Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day

Some say Valentine’s Day is a made up celebration by the floral and card companies in order to make sale in an otherwise devoid month of any “holidays” or “special occasions.”

I say any excuse to celebrate “love” is worthy.  Now how we choose to do so can be up for discussion.

Gifts

While gifts are one way to show love, they are not the only way or some would even say they are not the best way.  We can celebrate with gifts of all kinds like flowers and candy and cards as gifts for Valentine’s Day.  Even those are given with some thoughtfulness. It is more the thought put into a gift that provokes the most joy.

A handmade gift from my grandson is worth a great deal to me.  The effort and thought put into it by him is what counts as love in my eyes.

But we can combine gifts of cards, flowers or candy with something else.  Whether a purchased or handmade gift, we can also take the time to pray for them and then send a quick email or text letting them know you remembered them in your prayers.  It’s not bragging if done from a heart of servanthood to that person from a place of love.

It will show the other person that you were thinking about them and brought them before God with love and attention.  You shared your love for them with God.  You shared your time with God with them.

That, my friends, is a great gift.

Dear God, who is love, show us how to love more perfectly.  Help us to remember those near to us when we come to you in prayer.  Let our time be about others and not solely about us.  When sometimes thoughts and prayers can seem like empty sentiments, help us to revive the power of prayer. Amen.

Merry Christmas from GCFA

Christmas Love

Merry Christmas

It is with the birth of Jesus that something extraordinary happened in this world. As we go through the rest of the coming year, let us always remember that in Christ’s birth, love came down and took on human flesh, making it impossible for us to ever say, “We humans cannot love.”

In taking on the human form, Jesus made it clear to us that we can love as God loves us – unconditionally. Both our neighbors and our enemies who in the final analysis are both one in the same – our brothers and sisters in God.

This Christmas let us remember the infant born out of love, to love. Let us follow in His footsteps during the coming year and beyond.

God bless you and yours this Christmas season!

Meditation Monday: Family Values

family-values

Family Values

While families come in many and varied configurations nowadays, some “family values” are always present.

  1. Respect
    Despite differences of opinions as a family we respect one another. We believe in the best of one another. We hold in high regard the intentions of each family member.
  2. Patience
    An offshoot of respect, we practice patience with one another as people learn and grow in a myriad of ways.
  3. Love
    This is what makes the first two in the list possible. We love one another in a family and accept that it is what motivates other family members’ actions. Love make it possible for us to be patient with each other and live together under one roof or name.

God is love and as such is present in every type of family including church families.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus …” Philippians 2:3-5 (NRSV)

Dear God, help us to respect one another. To live with patience for one another and to love one another above all no matter what challenges may come. You are Lord of all. Amen.

Civility & the lost art of listening

civility

P.M. Forni, in his book The Civility Solution, writes that in today’s America, incivility is on prominent display: in schools, where bullying is pervasive; in the workplace, where an increasing number are more stressed out by co-workers than their jobs; on the roads, where road rage maims and kills; in politics, where strident intolerance takes the place of earnest dialogue; and on the Web, where many check their inhibitions at the digital door.

The Civility of Conversation

Conversations and discussions no longer exist. It isn’t even about who is right or wrong. Both sides know they are right. It is not a question of changing anyone’s mind. How can conversation happen when people are “YELLING” at one another with slogans and epithets on TV, in their “status,” and in their “tweets”?

In Jeremiah 29:4 – 7 (NIV), God tells the Israelites to pray for Babylon, the empire they have been exiled to from Jerusalem. God doesn’t tell the Israelites to stop believing as they had when they were in their own land even though now they are in a pagan, gentile land with its own prophets and diviners that God calls deceivers. Now God commands them to pray for the city they have been brought to as the spoils of war – that, in fact, their prosperity was tied to the pagan city’s prosperity.

The Civility of Prayer

Can all the sides of the ideological divide, pray for each other to prosper? Can viewers of network news with opposing sides pray for those with a different opinion? Can opposing teams pray for each other on the field of play? Can people on both sides of any issue facing The United Methodist Church pray for each other? In I Peter 3:15b, the Apostle Peter tells the followers of Jesus “Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it.” (CEB)

The followers are then told they must “… do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience.” (CEB)

In other words, talk – don’t yell. Be aware of your every word. Speak your truth. Listen. Comprehend.

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church are in prayerful discernment about ways we can be in dialogue about issues that face the denomination. Can we all pray for one another and have the Holy spirit move in our actions and decision making?

To understand is not to condone. It is an act of humility to say, “I will put aside myself right now and respect you enough to listen to you.”

These acts of civility are things our Savior would surely do and appreciate us doing.

Meditation Monday: A New Psalm

psalm

A New Psalm

Lord of Heaven and Earth

We stand before you vulnerable and confused.

We are overwhelmed by it all.

Lord help us!

Hear our cry, oh God!

Leave us not alone here.

 

We wrestle with all that is going on around us:

The persecution of our fellow Christians,

The bombing of families with children,

The trafficking of women into sexual slavery,

Floods and wildfires,

Large and small scale acts of violence and desecration.

There is so much to wear us down.

 

Yet we know you are God,

You are the Most High.

It is into Your hands we put ourselves and our brothers and sisters.

We pray and You hear.

We listen and we do.

And though it may seem our little acts have no effect,

We believe that a thousand ripples can cause a tidal wave

Of love that can wash away all that is not Your will.

 

Praise be to our God!

UMC Flood Relief

Flood ReliefOne Drop Of Water That Leads To A Flood

One drop of water is insignificant.

One trillion drops can stop an entire city!

In Louisiana, in a short time, millions upon millions of drops of water fell from the sky inundating the people, their pets and their homes with flood waters. Four parishes have been declared disaster areas because of this flood. There is much devastation and chaos.

Like snowflakes, individual water droplets are singularly beautiful, even innocuous and not all that forceful. But when they get together, their power becomes an overwhelming flood, sinking entire homes and killing people.

One Drop Of Grace That Leads To A Flood Of Love

Yet, just as much as drops of water coming together can wreak havoc upon a community, so too can United Methodists when we come together to bring grace and love to people devastated by flood waters.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with FEMA and other national disaster response organizations, including the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the umbrella group, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD). They are helping those affected by this flood with warehouse space, cleanup buckets, distribution assistance, and shelter for evacuees—opening hearts, minds and doors to those in need.

Banding together, United Methodists can take on the flood and show people how God is working their midst.

The best ways to help are to assemble and send cleanup buckets and to support the UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Advance, #901670, with your donations.

And praying, always praying.

Dear God, we pray hope and peace to our brothers and sisters in Louisiana. We ask for your healing touch upon the land that is flooded. May the waters recede and the time of rebuilding begin. We will not forget them now or when the rains stop. Protect them especially the vulnerable. Watch over them. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Bread Of Life

Bread Of Life

I Am the Bread of Life

I have noticed in my travels that in nearly all cultures and even sub-cultures like the American South, bread is a staple in the diets of almost all people. It may take different forms and be called many things but it is in the final analysis bread.

How fitting is it that Jesus said in John 6:35 (CEB), “I am the bread of life.” Of all the food references he could have made, Jesus chose “bread,” not “meat,” not “vegetables” but “bread.”

Despite the warning against carbs and bread, it still remains a daily part of most people’s lives in a way that veggies and meat still do not. “Rice” rivals “bread” by sheer number in households, and even in places where “rice” is the main dish, there still exists “bread.”

When He says “I am the bread of life,” Jesus lands squarely in the middle of daily existence for nearly everyone. He is the sustainer of life, as long as you have bread and water you can hold out, but without one or the other life becomes very difficult. Like bread, Jesus is the very staple of a Christian’s life.

Bread will always be in our lives as human beings, despite all the carb warnings. It is too intrinsic to being human. Jesus too should always be in our lives. He is too intrinsic to being a Christian.

Dear God, Fill us with your amazing, sustaining bread. Let us take in your goodness for our soul. As you bring the rain and sun to grow the food for our stomachs, use the rain and sun in our lives to show us your comforting presence in the midst of our lives. For you alone are the holy one, the bread of life to our souls. Amen.

ENOUGH!

ENOUGH!

EnoughENOUGH!

The cries and screams of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters go out across this land. When will it end?

“This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed.” Lamentations 1:16 (NIV)

ENOUGH!

Our cities’ streets bleed with the blood of young men and women, children, parents and siblings because of who they are. Their judgment is passed upon them outside the courthouse by executioners without authority.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Lamentations 3:19-20 (NIV)

And yet …

… this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. Lamentations 3:21-25 (NIV)

God is with us. The bitter, the crying, the desolate. In the midst of terror and despair, God is with us. It may not seem so but it is so. For with the weeping and sad ones God holds them in His arms. For those who have passed on from us, God held them as they were taken too soon. For those of us who feel helpless in the face of anguish, God is here. Love is here.

He hides us in his arms
Protecting us from harm

It’s good to realize
God is on our side

God Is On Our Side by Andrae Crouch

If you feel like you’ve had enough, know this truth, that despite how darkness may overwhelm the land and misery prevail, Love is stronger than death. God is Love. Our risen Christ shows us that in the end Love always wins.

The Beloved Community

Community

Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. Martin Luther King Jr.

Whoever isn’t against us is for us. I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded. Mark 9:40-41 CEB

The question of who is in and who is out of the beloved community is one of the threads running throughout the gospel of Mark. What we find when we study Jesus in Mark is that those who are on the margins of society – the sick, the dying, the poor, the “unclean”, Gentiles, children, women, Galilean fisherman, prostitutes and the demon-possessed, are all at the center of the community. Always have been and always will be.

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