Tag Archives: insight

Straying from God’s Commands

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Psa 119-21 scroll

Straying from God’s Commands

We come to the abbreviated end of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s meditations on Psalm 119. Verse 21 was the last of these short comments into Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible. I wish Bonhoeffer had been able to write more, because I get such insight from him. (both into his heart as well as into the psalm) Bonhoeffer truly loved the Word of God. With this acrostic psalm praising and lifting up God’s Word in every verse, it is little wonder that Bonhoeffer should have been drawn to it.

This verse 21 is a bit of a downer—more than a bit, actually. Let’s take a look at it:

You have rebuked the insolent;

Cursed are they who stray from Your commandments!

God hates the insolent, Bonhoeffer says. The self-satisfied, puffed-up ones. Even more, those “who care nothing for justice and mercy, who despise the Word of God and the faithful.” [1]

I get the feeling that Pastor Bonhoeffer really has distaste for these people. People who despise the God he loves and follows with all his heart, and who despise the Word of God and those who are faithful to that God, too. Bonhoeffer pins these self-satisfied people to the wall with a direct blow: “The cross of Jesus Christ, which shows that God is with the weak and the humble, is God’s rebuke to the insolent.” [2]

What a way to deliver an uppercut to the jaw. (Theoretically and metaphorically, of course.) Bonhoeffer truly believes that the cross of Christ is the remedy and the antidote to the insolent of this earth, humanity puffed up with pride and self-importance.

Of course, you and I know that oftentimes the innocent, the weak, the downtrodden are stepped upon by the powerful. These humble ones are wrongfully accused, oppressed, and abused. We see “the visible judgments of God remain hidden and obscure even for the faithful.” [3]

Yet…and yet…are these words only for others? Or, are the words of this verse for ourselves, too? Are you and I insolent, at times? Do you or I feel self-satisfied or proud? Do we stray from God’s commands—sometimes? I see myself in this mirror. Sometimes. Ah, Pastor Bonhoeffer, you have hit home. I bow my head, humbly asking God for forgiveness.

These words are so appropriate for this Shrove Tuesday, with Ash Wednesday tomorrow. God’s blessings to all as we start our Lenten journey to the cross, alongside of our Savior and Friend the Lord Jesus.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 133.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

John Milton’s Poems on Submission

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 30, 2017

John Milton 1608-1674 English poet dictating Samson Agonistes From Old England's Worthies by Lord Brougham and others published London circa 1880's

John Milton’s Poems on Submission

Submission: almost a dirty word, in the 21st century context. Certainly, submission smacks of knuckling under, being oppressed, or unfairly treated. However—it wasn’t always this way.

Submission is one of the spiritual disciplines Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin list, and four readings are included that give different insights into this discipline. John Milton is the first, that brilliant writer, employed in the English political sector for years. Milton has two excerpts listed here: the first written when he was 23, and the other written after he lost his eyesight in his 40’s. In both cases, he was profoundly empty, and was casting about for some meaning in his life.

Yes, the first poem written in Milton’s youth bears great hope, but also frustration. Why hasn’t God given this young man great things to do? Or, if not great, at least tasks to occupy the young Milton’s time? (He even calls God “my Great Task-Master.”) At the end of the poem, he does submit to God’s will and God’s timing—as must we all.

I may relate more to the poem of his middle age, after blindness has come upon his eyes. It certainly has a more subdued and wistful air. Milton comes to the realization that just as countless others do God’s bidding, in various ways (“thousands at his bidding speed/And post o’er land and ocean without rest.”), so does he, as he is able. “They also serve who only stand and wait.” [1]

Yes, the second poem touches something deep within me. By God’s mercy, I have never experienced blindness. However, I am extremely nearsighted. If it weren’t for corrective lenses, I would be in a sad situation. Unable to see more than three or four inches in front of my face, I would have a vastly different life in a different place than the western world in the 21st century.

But, that is only touching on my physical eyesight. What about doing God’s bidding? I was searching for God’s bidding, for years. Yes, I was frustrated at wandering through life, on my meandering way around the wilderness of my 20’s and 30’s. Never hearing clearly what God might be saying, even though I was searching. Avidly, doggedly. Now, since 40 and into my 50’s, it is different. Yet, I can remember and relate so well to what Milton says here. I have learned, the hard way, what it is like to submit.

Dear Lord, this excerpt brings back difficult memories to me. Frustration, fear, anger, anxiety. How I would go round and round and round again, and end up in exactly the same place. Yes, I have learned to submit. And, be patient. Lord, in Your mercy, hear the prayers of all Your children who are still wandering, still waiting, still seeking Your bidding. In Your powerful name we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 173.

Prayer. Meditation. Wisdom.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, January 22, 2017

water-lilies-mindful

Prayer. Meditation. Wisdom.

I still have difficulty praying and meditating on a regular basis. Yes, I have had this blog for many months. I strove to be faithful in prayer and meditation for many years before. (Lord, You know I have.) And still, I struggle.

Yet, when I do pray and meditate—on occasion—I can feel the peace and serenity of God come into my heart and mind. Marvelous feeling! (Even when I do not feel the sense of the presence of God surrounding me, much.)

Plus, every now and then, I gain insight, or wisdom, from the prayer and meditation. Every now and then, I find I have discernment that I did not previously realize was there.

See, when we pray and meditate, sometimes long-held internal ideas of resentment, fear, anger, despair and hatred are quietly transformed. In some cases, relationships with other people and with nature can be transformed, too.

When I become aware of this—this discernment, this wisdom beyond myself, I am filled with wonder. How amazing that negative ideas and qualities can quietly transform. As I continue with the prayer and meditation on a regular basis, positive things begin happening on the inside. As teacher Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us, “As we become freer and happier, we cease to act in ways that make others suffer, and we are able to bring about change in ourselves and help others around us.” [1]

God willing, may I become more and more positive. May my mind become more in line with the way Jesus would view my thinking. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 34.

 

A Celebration of Life and Breath

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, January 16, 2017

A Celebration of Life and Breath

Breathe. That’s right, feel your breath flowing in and out of your lungs. Intentional, mindful. Now, breathe more deeply. Slowly. In and out. Be exquisitely aware of each breath in, and each breath out.

You got all that? You—I—we all are celebrating being alive as we become mindful and aware of each breath we take. What a marvelous gift from God.

As I read another short section in the slim book How to Sit, by Thich Nhat Hanh, I came across a significant insight. (Or, if you choose, it’s the most obvious statement.) He says: “If you are breathing mindfully in and out, you already have insight.” [1]

When I sit and meditate, take my time and pray, I have the opportunity to deepen and slow my breathing. I can take the time to relax my muscles, loosen the tension in my neck, shoulders and spine, and become quiet. Restful. Mindful.

Dear God, is this what You want me to do, right now? Rest in You, I mean. Rest, and praise, and be thankful. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 29.

Please Forgive Me.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, December 21, 2015

FORGIVE as quickly as you want God to forgive

Please Forgive Me.

A position of control. Who doesn’t like to be in control? That is exactly where I am when I say, “That’s okay. I forgive you.”

But what about the flip side? What about when I totally made a misstep? When I put my foot in my mouth? Make a fool out of myself with another asinine comment? That makes me feel really small, really young and foolish.

So, who wouldn’t feel small, after considering that? Regardless of whether I have sacred guinea pigs or a deal of an alphabet soup, Henri Nouwen’s insight remains so profound. Imagine asking another person, “Can you forgive me?” Just think of how much openness of spirit and generosity it would take?

But, let’s go one further. Imagine asking God, “Can You forgive me?”

Nouwen even goes the next step, after that. He says in a quote from today’s reading: “Can I be open to forgiveness?” [1] Can I, indeed!

The Advent Action for this day, so appropriate: “Ask forgiveness of one person today. Let each person you meet today leave your presence a happier person.” [2]

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 46.

[2] Ibid, 47.

Changing Why? Changing Where? Life Sends Changes our Way.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, May 3, 2015

life worth living

Changing Why? Changing Where? Life Sends Changes our Way.

I spent the day traveling. Working, and then traveling, again. I did dip into our prayer book of the month, Inner Compass. That was when I finally got home, about midnight.

Found this gem! “Changing the Where may well free us from something that we find oppressive or destructive.” [1] (“Where” is a mental construct where we look within and discover our inner landscape, and see where each of us really are.)

Such an insight. I will need to think about this for a while.

Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for this book Inner Compass. Thanks for inspiring authors to write such meaningful, helpful books. Encourage all of our hearts as we approach You in prayer and meditation. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 9.

Forgive Others? Why Should I Pray about That?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 22, 2015

FORGIVE as quickly as you want God to forgive

Forgive Others? Why Should I Pray about That?

I usually have no (or, very little) problem asking God to forgive me. That’s the easy part. I do that on a fairly regular basis.

Sure, I can readily admit falling short of the mark, saying nasty things to others, cutting off people in traffic on occasion, and especially thinking thoughts that are not pleasing to God. Yes. I sin in thought, word and deed, and I need to ask God to forgive me. And, I do this in prayer.

I can even ask other people to forgive me. Usually, that is. That is relatively straight-forward. However . . . the challenging part, the downright difficult part is where I say to other people, “I forgive you.” And, I need to do this on a regular basis, too. God says so.

Our prayer guide, Rev. Howell, shares his insight into forgiveness. “When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, He grabbed hold of vertical forgiveness, ‘O Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned,’ and nailed it to horizontal forgiveness, ‘… as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ Two interrelated acts of forgiveness, forming a cross.” [1] As Howell tells us, Jesus demonstrated forgiveness. He became forgiveness.

Part of the Assurance of Pardon in the liturgy of the Presbyterian Church (USA) reads, “In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.” It is in this God-given forgiveness that you and I find life and relationship, not only with God (vertically), but with other human beings, too (horizontally).

And to do this? I need to pray. God, give me the faith to come to You, the grace to rest in You, the assurance that I am loved by You, and the strength to go to others and say I forgive them, as I am forgiven by You. Amen.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.

[1] James C. Howell, The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray, (Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press: 2003), 73.