Tag Archives: Oneness

Riding Out the Storm

Living in the Spirit
July 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:12-25

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
–Romans 8:18-25

Christ’s calls us to make a positive difference in our world today. While we study to learn from the past and prepare for the future, our focus is on the here and now. A wise and experienced person once told me that it takes at least ten years of persistent hard work to initiate a new government program. For example, in the USA we have worked since the 1960’s on health care for all. The more complex the issue, the harder it is to make change. The wise person likened it to turning a giant ship around in a turbulent ocean and taking it in a different direction straight into the storm. In a similar thought, the scripture above speaks to Paul’s experiences at the beginning of the Christian era in the process of initiating the Kingdom of God following Christ’s resurrection.

Humans seek every way possible to have the abundant life Jesus promised without following God’s path to attain it. In so doing, we turn to lower tier gods such as greed and power and never experience satisfaction. Greed and power demand more and more greed and power and always end in a futile waste of energy.

God created an interdependent world, which requires all to participate fully sharing and caring for resources so that all God’s creation works together in love. Love always begets more love.

Prayer: Spirit of God, shine a bright light on the path to wholeness, oneness, and justice that we may one day see your Kingdom of love ruling our world. Grant us the gift of patience in large measure when we enter troubled waters on this journey. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

There is no Such Thing as Acidic Love

Living in the Spirit
July 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’ –Matthew 13:1-9

I grew up on a farm and hated working in the garden. I did develop a great appreciation of fresh vegetables which remains. When I bought my house in Oklahoma City and transitioned from apartment living to a home with a yard, I decided to plant just a few things primarily tomatoes. My plants grew strong and well flowered. Soon little green tomatoes appeared that grew bigger as they turn red. It was with great expectations that I plucked the first fruit of my endeavor, washed it and took a big juicy bite from it, only to spit it out as quickly as I could. The tomato was so acidic; it burned my mouth. It seemed my soil’s pH* balance was not conducive to producing quality tomatoes. Thus, my gardening adventure ended, and I located the closest farmers’ market.

Our scripture today is often used to describe what results when bringing in new followers of Christ, but it also may draw our attention to the ongoing process of being the Body of Christ engaged in the world today. We all have experienced such things as the observation that 20% of the workers produce 80% of the result**. Something more seems to be going on in our world today. There is too much acid in our quest to love. Hate speech is common and hurtful. Outright discrimination exists. Groups of people find it harder and harder to conduct civil discourse. Those of us who claim to be the Body of Christ are some of the worst perpetrators. If we do not set a good example, who will?

The balance of love comes from its very source, God. Our love is the outward projection of our being in sync with God’s love.

Prayer: God of Mercy and Justice, forgive us when we slip away from your nurture. Restore our souls so that our love reflects Yours. Amen.

*Soil pH is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity in soils.

**Known as the Pareto Principle, it is the observation (not law) that most things in life are not distributed evenly. See more at https://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-pareto-principle-the-8020-rule/

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

A Tapestry of Love

Living in the Spirit
July 14, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:1-11

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.                                                                                                                                                  –Romans 8:1-5

What does it mean to be in Christ Jesus? I think to explore this question; we must delve into why God sent Jesus in the first place.  Was Jesus sent for humans to interact more closely with God? Was Jesus sent as a model of humanness demonstrating our potential to create a world ruled by love? Was he sent to lay out a plan to attain such a world, if we learned to work together and share our diverse gifts becoming one? Paul talks about being a part of the Body of Christ. Is this what it means to be in Christ Jesus?

What is freeing about being in Christ Jesus? Having purpose is freeing. Knowing what we are and whose we are give us the courage to pursue the vision set before us without fear and with the full assurance that we have our Creator’s support. Living free of condemnation opens doors to exploration and development. A life filled with learning from our mistakes as well as our successes is crucial for progress.

Two thousand years ago Jesus charged us with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, restoring people to wholeness in both health and behavior, and welcoming the stranger. God’s Kingdom when fulfilled is a place of abundance where all have food and clothing, all experience wholeness, and all are welcomed. We have come a long way; we have a long way to go. We are promised the freedom to make such a world as we work together as one toward God’s righteousness.

Prayer:
Weave, weave, weave us together.
Weave us together in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together.
Weave us together, together in love*. Amen.

*Weave by Rosemary Crow, 1979, Chalice Hymnal page 495, Copyright Chalice Press 1995, St. Louis, Missouri

Our Lives are in Our Hands

Living in the Spirit
July 13, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:105-112

I hold my life in my hand continually,
   but I do not forget your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me,
   but I do not stray from your precepts.
Your decrees are my heritage forever;
   they are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform your statutes
   forever, to the end. –Psalm 119:109-112

Our lives are in our hands; sometimes we do not like to admit it but we have been given free will. We choose how we respond to life’s challenges whether caused by the wicked or the result of our own mistakes or perhaps because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We do need to learn from being on the losing end of other’s greed and lust for power and from our mistakes and even learn when possible to avoid wrong places.

There is a lot of greed and lust for power going around right now. Both ebb and flow but are always present in one form or another. Our response must involve not allowing those sins to catch us in their snares. How envious are we of those with wealth and power? Do we assume they know more than we do because of their status? They do not. My Dad would say, “They put their pants on just like we do, one leg at a time.” Some know more some less because they are human just like the rest of us. Some use their wealth and power for good; others squander it as in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32). Jesus warned us about money when he said, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Prayer: Lord, order our lives and guide us in your ways so that we may be filled with the joy of living your love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Loving on Auto Pilot

Living in the Spirit
July 12, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:105-112

Your word is a lamp to my feet
   and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
   to observe your righteous ordinances.
I am severely afflicted;
   give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
   and teach me your ordinances. –Psalm 119:105-108

I wonder how many times I have sung Psalm 119:105 the first sentence of the quote above. The truth is I can no longer read it without the tune popping into my head moving the prose to song. Actually, the first word from the NRSV, “Your” causes me some confusion. I sing it, “Thy word” the way I originally learned it. I probably sang it before I could read it.

Learning to live like Jesus was an important part of my upbringing years before the phrase, “What would Jesus Do?” became popular, although that phrase applied then as it does now. I am glad I have these reminders of how I am to live forever etched in my memory banks for they have stood the test of time and are very helpful when life situations require us to respond from automatic pilot mode.

The Homeless Alliance in Oklahoma City started an entrepreneurial program for their participants. They sell a magazine on the streets, which some help write. The first set they sell is subsidized, but they must buy the next set with those first dollars earned and learn to handle the profit they make as income after reinvestment for the next set. It is a teaching tool as much as a source of income. It is also a teaching tool for those of us who purchase the magazines as we learn about the struggles of those on the street. My problem is I never have the two dollars ready when I encounter them at the intersections and thus can not get my purchase made before the light changes. The answer, of course, is to keep two dollars within arms reach. Like those scriptures we learn throughout our life, our application of them needs to become a way of life too.

Prayer:  Lord, help my service to you become a natural way of being for me. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Gifts Differing

Living in the Spirit
July 10, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 25:19-34

Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If it is to be this way, why do I live?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,

‘Two nations are in your womb,
   and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
one shall be stronger than the other,
   the elder shall serve the younger.’

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterwards his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. –Genesis 25: 21-26

My sister and I, while close all our lives, are very different people. I do not do money; she is a bookkeeper. She is an excellent seamstress, re-attaching a button taxes my sewing limits. She plays the piano, and while I love music and sing, I am not an instrumentalist. I love genealogy; it is no big deal to her. We need all kinds of people in the world for the world to be one. It takes a little effort to bring people differing together to maximize their gifts creating wholeness from oneness and oneness from wholeness.

Things did not start out well for Isaac’s family. It rarely does when parents pick favorites and pit them against one another. Parents and their children are like siblings as they are drawn together by common interest. My sister became a seamstress because my mother was an excellent one. They loved to sew together. I inherited my interest in genealogy from that same mother.

In families as well as within the Body of Christ and all human interactions, before we build walls with people because they have different gifts or different ways of perceiving the world, we need to take a few minutes to examine the relationship and find the source of our frustration. Open dialogue helps. Using “I” language works better than “You” language: “I don’t get what your are saying.” as opposed to “You are not making yourself clear.”

Loving one another requires us to take the time to try to understand one another.

Prayer: Lord, help us to understand one another so that we can grow together in loving all our neighbors as we love ourselves. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Yoked

Living in the Spirit
July 9, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ –Matthew 11:25-30

Matthew 11:30 makes my top ten list of scriptures. I am just as guilty as anyone of making things harder,  processing stuff too much, not understanding, if I start with God’s way, my labor will be more fruitful and ultimately my journey joy-filled. We still have a job to do; there will still be hazards on the road, and we still have the challenge of learning to work as one when we are each as unique as snowflakes.

God created us with what Paul calls gifts differing for a reason. I do not do money, have two left feet, and am 5”2” tall. So, I greatly appreciate the gifts of accountants and bookkeepers, enjoy watching ballet dancers and athletes, and am particularly grateful for people who can reach the top shelves in grocery stores.

I probably drive accountants and bookkeepers crazy because not having enough funds to do something in my mind is just a roadblock to be overcome in some way. God created discourse for such events. I learn from them; they learn from me, and ultimately we answer God’s call to build a kingdom ruled by love.

The vision of oxen yoked together is beautiful. While the walk side-by-side one leads, the other follows. Christ is our leader and promises us when we pull with him our work is easy. When we pull against Christ, our labors are fruitless. When we pull against each other, we lessen our productivity.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we pull away from you, stubbornly planting our feet unwilling to move forward, or trailing off in a wrong direction. Forgive us when we invest more time in fight each other than finding areas of agreement to tackle. Guide us in your ways. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Works in Progress

Living in the Spirit
July 6, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 7:15-25a

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. –Romans 7:15-20

We are works in progress. None are perfect, yet we strive for perfection, learning from our successes and failures, asking for forgiveness and mercy when needed. We should not be too hard on ourselves nor too easy. Wasting time and energy in continual self-deprecation helps no one. Continuous self-evaluation and adjustments are key to overcoming our deficiencies.

God generously provided within the scope of God’s love scripture to guide us along the way, Jesus as a role model, communities of faith to support and nurture, and the Holy Spirit to guide and direct. When we engage with these gifts, we grow in spirit and truth enabling us to turn away from evil and seek God’s good.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart;
Rise to all eternity.*

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your grace. Thank you for inspiration and expectation and for insight and passion. Direct us to use all our gifts to your service in creating your Kingdom on earth. Amen.

*Final verse of Jesus Lover of My Soul by Charles Wesley see at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Jesus_Lover_of_My_Soul/

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Oneness Not Oppression

Living in the Spirit
July 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 45:10-17

Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear;
   forget your people and your father’s house,
   and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him;
   the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
   the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. –Psalm 45:10-13

My first inclination was to skip this scripture. It reeks of centuries of oppression of women worthy only regarding how they enhance their husband. In this case, the future husband is also the king. Heady stuff for a beautiful young woman, the right woman with the right cunning can and has taken full advantage of the role. The legendary Queen of Sheba stands as a positive role model. On the negative side, we have Delilah and Jezzabel. How does one rise above oppression? How does one avoid letting oppression cultivate evil?

Michelle Obama said it well, “When they go low; we go high.” Of course, that responds not only applies to women’s issues but all our actions as followers of Christ. Therein lies the solution. Paul said it this way; There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Of course, that is a lot easier said than done. Generations of cultural norms intertwine with our rapidly changing world. What do we keep and cherish? What do we kick to the curb? More difficult, how do we find the oneness to which Christ calls us in dealing with such issues?

My fall back always seems to be from another Psalm.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me. (Psalm 51:10-11)

We need to allow God’s grace to cleanse our hearts and minds and rid us of the clutter that keeps us from being one with each other and with God.

Prayer:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.  Amen

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Stepping Out in Faith

Living in the Spirit
July 4, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 24:34-36, 42-49, 58-67

And they called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.’ So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

‘May you, our sister, become
   thousands of myriads;
may your offspring gain possession
   of the gates of their foes.’
Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. –Genesis 24:58-61

Arranged marriages seem a little strange to us but they still happen in the world. I do not know how much of a choice Rebekah really had, but it seemed to be her decision. My guess is she and her mother had some long talks weighing the pros and cons. Marriage and bearing children were her culturally designation destiny.

I had wondered how my family members felt when they got on that ship to come to America aware they most likely would never see their loved ones who remained in the homeland ever again. I thought the same thing about family who traveled west in the USA until I found records where some aunts living in Pennsylvania visited Illinois in the 1840’s. We don’t think much about such a trip now. It was a major event then.

What Rebekah did was step out in faith to leave her family and travel to a new life. We are called in both small and large ways to step out in faith, move out of our comfort zones in service to God. It may mean interacting with strangers who become new friends, it may mean traveling to places far away or simply driving to the elementary school a few blocks from the church. It may mean learning how to use a saw, hammer a nail, or sack food. It may mean advocating for people whose voices alone are not heard. Whatever we are called to do, we must remember that we never do it alone. God is always with us and there are communities of faith ready and eager to join with us in a common cause.

Prayer: Grant us the courage of Rebekah to step out in faith when you call. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.