Sunrise….It’s a Spiritual Issue

 

sunrise

 

 

God decided to become human.

Humans just couldn’t seem to get it right.

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Gerri Harvill

The Law, the Prophets….none of it seemed to sink in.

Life on earth wasn’t as God had meant it to be.

 

God decided to become human.

An awesome, inspiring human..

And to live among us.

And then, God decided to die.

There we have the tragedy and the beauty of the cross.

The beauty of the baby in the manger and the tragedy of the man on the cross.

You can’t believe in one without believing in the other.

Jesus is God’s response to our yearning…to my yearning…for a better way…for meaning…for The way

We threw our worst at Jesus…

He only responded with love.

Jesus dying on the cross does not make God feel better about us

It’s about us feeling differently toward God

About being open to a love that will not let go

That has no end

Jesus says, “ I am love

I do the hard things”

I love the unlovable

I take care of those that culture says we don’t need to take care of

I don’t tolerate shame

I don’t tolerate attacks

My love is hard, messy, dirty

If you really love you will become dangerous to those who don’t

The Good News is

God is like Jesus

We often think Jesus is like God

Yes, and God is like Jesus

God is love

Jesus is what love looks like

Tragedy and beauty collide on the cross

The greatest despair…the greatest hope.

The greatest violence…the greatest act of love

The hate of the world…the love of God

Jesus’ goal was that we have abundant life

All of the good that comes from being part of the kingdom reign of love….here and now

Jesus says, “ follow me….

What I have done, you MUST DO also”

This is an entirely different agenda…

Follow me is not worship me

God loves us…ALL of us

To the extent that we love others…ALL others…is the extent to which we love God

How far does love go?

Beyond beyond….

 

 

 

 

IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY

 

Joan Chittister
Endurance shines as the hallmark of the prophets, the lodestone of the prophetic. Those who are willing to endure when endurance looks insane, has no hope of prevailing, consumes everything else in its path, are those who know a greater truth, a more promising hope, a truer way to wholeness than the world around them has to offer. That kind of endurance is of God. It transcends human concerns and demands human attention. That kind of endurance holds on to the divine in life even when life itself gives in to making gods of gold in deserts of sand. Prophetic endurance holds on, cries out, speaks up, stands pat whatever the pressure, however long the time, until, whether or not they agree, people listen and think.

Prophetic endurance is made of stiffer steel than political approval and social acceptance. Prophetic endurance lasts far beyond its time, makes itself an irritating presence, holds the real up to the ideal until the sight of the contrast hurts.

The endurance of prophets demands the kind of dogged commitment that refuses to conform to anything less than the mind of God for the people of the world. This is a time for normal, compassionate people to foster endurance as well.

It is a dangerous moment in United States history. The real and the ideal are in constant conflict around us. What we tell ourselves we are about as a society; history far too often belies.

Is the situation salvageable? Can lost ideals be reclaimed in the face of a rampant and deteriorating realism? Of course, they can. The names of hope are legion among us. But the moral decline of the society can only be finally and fully reversed on one condition: that we each learn to turn moral concern into prophetic endurance. Each of us must speak up, speak out, and speak for justice and peace at every card club, every town meeting, every private party. We must persist until we become again what we have always wanted to be, until we all stand more for the truths of the gospel than for the goals of the government.

… and it’s a Spiritual Issue

enough                                                                                                            gerris new pic

 

It’s just another day. Not unlike yesterday, or tomorrow.  The world  marks tomorrow as the first day of a New Year. For all sorts of practical reasons, we seem to need to keep track of time.

Speaking of time, the beginning of a new year prompts resolutions, resolutions, resolutions….

We resolve to:

  • to do more and to do it more efficiently.
  • to be more; a better friend, neighbor, family member.
  • to have more; of everything!  Time and resources, health and well-being.
  • to have less; stress and/or weight
  • to have a smaller wish list, to simplify
  • to have more of the less

God says, “You are enough. Just be all that I created you to be. Love yourself and put more love into the world. You are enough.” And when we are enough, we have all we need. We have enough.

Seems too simple.  Focus on loving God, self and others.  It is enough.

Start simple. Start today. Start again tomorrow.

Be still and know that God is God and that we are not.  It is enough!

Thank you, God!

Welcome The Light

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November 27, 2016

Day 1

Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24 (The Message)

God, investigate my life;

get all the facts firsthand.

I’m an open book to you;

even from a distance.

You know when I leave and when I get back;

I’m never out of your sight.

You know everything I am going to say

before I start the first sentence.

Investigate my life, O God,

find out everything about me;

cross examine and test me,

get a clear picture of what I am about;

see for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—

then guide me on the road to eternal life.

Come in

Take a look around

You already know it all—

You see the junk of my life lying around

I’ve tried to hide it

That never works

You are aware of it before I am.

Blow out the rubbish;

Open the eyes of my heart

Set me on the right path

Help me prepare to shine your light.

 

 

 

 

Welcome The Light

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Isaiah 9:2 (The Message)

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light.

For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—

light! bursts of light!

Advent is the season before Christmas.  It begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, and ends on Christmas Day.

It is a season of wandering and wondering; a season of contemplation.

A season of thinking—deep thinking: pondering.

Jesus was born into a world not unlike our world today.  War, poverty, hunger and violence were all a very real part of the everyday lives of those living at the time of Jesus’ birth.  Sound familiar?

And yet,

The Word gave life to everything that was created,

And his life brought light to everyone.

The light shines in the darkness

and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1:4-5 (New Living Translation [NLT])

This will not be a cozy view of Christmas. We will leave Hallmark to the retailers.

This will be a time for daily reflection on the state of our own hearts, minds and spirits as we prepare to receive the light of Christ on Christmas Day.

The readings will be short.  Join us as we prepare ourselves to receive light, so that we might be mirrors to reflect that brilliant light into the dark corners of our world.

We invite you to welcome the light. Come back tomorrow (Sunday, November 27) as we begin our daily wondering and wanderings.

 

 

Following Jesus through Election Day

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Are we there yet? Even seasoned veterans of U.S. elections are beginning to ask this question that comes so naturally to children on a long road trip. Are we there yet?

By every measure, this has been one of the most difficult and one of the most important election seasons in U.S. history.

So, as we say at Lifetree Café: “You’re welcome just as you are. Your thoughts are welcome; you’re doubts are welcome. We’re all in this together. God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way.”

We have prepared some materials designed to help you keep your faith and your sanity next week.

First, there is an article by acclaimed educator and author Parker Palmer about healing the heart of our democracy. We recommend that you take a few minutes on Monday to read Palmer’s article and let it seep in.

Second there’s a prayer for Tuesday, Election Day. We recommend you pray this prayer before you vote and at noon.

Finally, there’s an Election Day Litany of Scripture and Prayers for those who want to go deeper on Election Day.

We urge you to vote. It is a great privilege that many in the world do not enjoy. Remember . . .

No matter what happens on Election Day, no matter who gets elected, on Wednesday, November 9th, God will still be God!

 ~ gerri & stan

Five Habits to Heal the Heart of Democracy

by Parker Palmer

The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?
—Terry Tempest Williams

“We the People” called American democracy into being. Today, the future of our democracy is threatened. How can “We the People” call American politics back to health at a time when, in the words of Bill Moyers, “we have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear”? One answer is close at hand, within everyone’s reach. We must return to the “first home” of democracy, which, as Terry Tempest Williams points out, is found not in a centuries-old document or in a distant city, but in the human heart.

A young French intellectual named Alexis de Tocqueville made much the same point when he visited our young nation in the 1830s, returning home to write the classic Democracy in America. In it, he predicted that democracy’s future would depend heavily on the “habits of the heart” its citizens developed, and on the health of the local venues in which the heart gets formed or deformed: families, neighborhoods, classrooms, congregations, voluntary associations, workplaces, and the various places of public life where “the company of strangers” gathers. These habits and the places where they are shaped form the invisible infrastructure of American democracy on which the quality of our political life depends. It is an infrastructure we have neglected at our peril, just as we have neglected its physical counterpart.

The heart is where we integrate what we know in our minds with what we know in our bones, the place where our knowledge can become more fully human.

When Tocqueville and Terry Tempest Williams speak of the human heart, they mean much more than feeling or sentiment. “Heart” comes from the Latin cor, so in its original meaning, it points to the core of the human self, that center-place where all of our ways of knowing converge: intellectual, emotional, sensory, intuitive, imaginative, experiential, relational, and bodily, among others. The heart is where we integrate what we know in our minds with what we know in our bones, the place where our knowledge can become more fully human. Cor is also the Latin root from which we get the word courage. When all that we know of self and world comes together in the center-place called the heart, we are more likely to find the courage to act humanely on what we know.

If “We the People” are to help heal our ailing democracy—and if we do not, who will?—we need to develop five crucial habits of the heart. That, in turn, depends on people in positions of leadership dedicating themselves to forming these habits in the local venues I named earlier: families, neighborhoods, classrooms, congregations, voluntary associations, workplaces, and the various places of public life where “the company of strangers” gathers.

An understanding that we are all in this together. Biologists, ecologists, economists, ethicists and leaders of the great wisdom traditions have all given voice to this theme. Despite our illusions of individualism and national superiority, we humans are a profoundly interconnected species—entwined with one another and with all forms of life, as the global economic and ecological crises reveal in vivid and frightening detail. We must embrace the simple fact that we are dependent upon and accountable to one another, and that includes the stranger, the “alien other.” At the same time, we must save the notion of interdependence from the idealistic excesses that make it an impossible dream. Exhorting people to hold a continual awareness of global, national, or even local interconnectedness is a counsel of perfection that can only result in self-delusion or defeat. Which leads to a second key habit of the heart…

An appreciation of the value of “otherness.” It is true that we are all in this together. It is equally true that we spend most of our lives in “tribes” or lifestyle enclaves—and that thinking of the world in terms of “us” and “them” is one of the many limitations of the human mind. The good news is that “us and them” does not have to mean “us versus them.” Instead, it can remind us of the ancient tradition of hospitality to the stranger and give us a chance to translate it into twenty-first-century terms. Hospitality rightly understood is premised on the notion that the stranger has much to teach us. It actively invites “otherness” into our lives to make them more expansive, including forms of otherness that seem utterly alien to us. Of course, we will not practice deep hospitality if we do not embrace the creative possibilities inherent in our differences. Which leads to a third key habit of the heart…

An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways. Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. But when we allow their tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life. Making the most of those gifts requires a fourth key habit of the heart…

A sense of personal voice and agency. Insight and energy give rise to new life as we speak out and act out our own version of truth, while checking and correcting it against the truths of others. But many of us lack confidence in our voices and in our power to make a difference. We grow up in educational and religious institutions that treat us as members of an audience instead of actors in a drama, and as a result, we become adults who treat politics as a spectator sport. And yet it remains possible for us, young and old alike, to find our voices, learn how to speak them, and know the satisfaction that comes from contributing to positive change—if we have the support of a community. Which leads to a fifth and final habit of the heart…

A capacity to create community. Without a community, it is nearly impossible to achieve voice: it takes a village to raise a Rosa Parks. Without a community, it is nearly impossible to exercise the “power of one” in a way that allows power to multiply: it took a village to translate Rosa Parks’s act of personal integrity into social change. In a mass society like ours, community rarely comes ready-made. But creating community in the places where we live and work does not mean abandoning other parts of our lives to become full-time organizers. The steady companionship of two or three kindred spirits can help us find the courage we need to speak and act as citizens. There are many ways to plant and cultivate the seeds of community in our personal and local lives. We must all become gardeners of community if we want democracy to flourish.

If I were asked for two words to summarize the habits of the heart American citizens need in response to twenty-first-century conditions, I would choose chutzpah and humility. By chutzpah, I mean knowing that I have a voice that needs to be heard and the right to speak it. By humility, I mean accepting the fact that my truth is always partial and may not be true at all, so I need to listen with openness and respect, especially to “the other,” as much as I need to speak my own voice with clarity and conviction.

American Democracy is a non-stop experiment in the strengths and weaknesses of our political institutions, local communities, and the human heart. The experiment is endless unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us. But so, also, is the heart’s alchemy that can turn suffering into compassion, conflict into community, and tension into energy for creativity amid democracy’s demands.

Today we are in the middle of another election cycle. Once again, false claims, half-truths, hateful rhetoric, fear-mongering and demonization of the opposition dominate our civic space, driving out the genuine issue-oriented debate a democracy needs to survive and thrive. We need citizens with chutzpah and humility to occupy our civic space and call American democracy back to health. There is no reason, at least no good reason, why our number cannot be legion.

 Election Day Prayer

Adapted from Bob Hostetler

God, your Word says that you control the course of world events; you remove kings and set up other kings (Daniel 2:21). So I pray, exert your control over the events of this election; remove and install leaders according to your “good, perfect, and pleasing” plan (Romans 12:2).

I pray for every candidate for every office, and the people who love them: God, be merciful to them and bless them; look on them with kindness (Psalm 67:1), whether they win or lose, and accomplish what is best for them, their loved ones, and their constituents.

I pray Isaiah 11:2 for every voter: Holy Spirit, speak to every person who votes in this election. Send the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD on everyone who casts a ballot.

I pray for justice to roll down like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream, through my neighborhood, city, state, and nation (Amos 5:24).

I pray for your people to participate in this election and respond to the results not in a spirit of fear and timidity, but in a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

As Jesus prayed, I ask for your will to be done rather than mine (Matthew 26:39). Dispel suspicion and hatred, heal divisions, repair the damage to and by your church, and restore the unity of our nation. 

And, finally, Lord, I ask for the faith to see your hand in the results of this election, even as I remember those people around the world who have no voice and no vote. Let my reaction to this election reveal my faith in you and my awareness of my privilege and responsibility as a citizen, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Going Deeper on Election Day

Adapted from J.D. Walt Election Day Litany

Hear the word of the Lord from the Psalmist:

I look up to the mountains;
    does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
    who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. —PSALM 121:1–2 MSG

Almighty God, we come before you this day to declare that you are God and we are not. We stand in awe of your greatness. We marvel at your goodness and we bow before you, the sovereign King over heaven and earth. Our hope is neither in a nation nor for a nation but for your kingdom to come in all the nations of the earth. We also come before you this day to make intercession for this nation, the United States of America, and all its people. Come Holy Spirit and fill us with the wisdom of heaven that we might make effective prayers in accordance with the will of God for this earth. We come praying in Jesus’ name.

Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

Hear the word of the Lord from the Prophet Jeremiah:

Look closely. Has this ever happened before, that a nation has traded in its gods for gods that aren’t even close to gods? But my people have traded my Glory for empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes. “Stand in shock, heavens, at what you see! Throw up your hands in disbelief—this can’t be!” God’s Decree. “My people have committed a compound sin: they’ve walked out on me, the fountain of fresh flowing waters, and then dug cisterns—cisterns that leak, cisterns that are no better than sieves. —JEREMIAH 2:11–13 MSG

Holy God, we come before you in repentance to confess our sins and to seek your mercy. We confess we know we cannot be awakened to your mercy until we have become aware of the offense of our sin. We have forsaken you as the only true source of security and prosperity. Instead we have trusted in our wealth to sustain us, placed our hope in our elected officials to lead us, and declared our dependence on military might to protect us.

 We come now to stand with your people in all times and at all places who with one voice declare, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Ps. 20:7). Lead us in the way of dependence on your daily bread for our provision; on your kingdom come and your will be done as our path; and on your deliverance from evil as our protection. We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus.

 Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Hear the word of the Lord from the Prophet Joel:

But there’s also this, it’s not too late—God’s personal Message!—
“Come back to me and really mean it! Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins! Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God.” And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. God takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, this most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. —JOEL 2:12–13 MSG

Come Holy Spirit and bring near the grace, mercy, and tender care of God. Remind us that it is your kindness that leads us to repentance. Awaken your people that we might return to you with all our heart. Save us from religious demonstrations and lead us to the cross, where we might humble ourselves again before you. In Jesus’ name.

 Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Hear the word of the Lord from the Prophet Isaiah:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Master sitting on a throne—high, exalted!—and the train of God’s robes filled the Temple. Angel-seraphs hovered above God, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew. And they called back and forth one to the other, Holy, Holy, Holy is God! God’s bright glory fills the whole earth. —ISAIAH 6:1–3 MSG

Almighty God, awaken us to an all-consuming vision of your holiness. We want to behold you high and lifted up; your glory filling all the earth. Open the eyes of our hearts. We want to see you. Lord Jesus, you taught us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Would you give us clean hands and a pure heart. You taught us that “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). We ask you to increase our appetite for all things to be put right in the world. Would you begin by putting things right within ourselves. Lead us beyond a place of duty and obligatory religion to an all-consuming holy desire for you, your will, and your ways. We pray in the name of Jesus.

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Hear the word of the Lord from the Prophet Hosea:

Sow righteousness, reap love. It’s time to till the ready earth, it’s time to dig in with God, until God arrives with righteousness ripe for harvest. —HOSEA 10:12 MSG

Come Holy Spirit, reveal to us the fallow ground in our own lives. Show us those places where we have become broken by sin and hardened by the pride that keeps us from even knowing it. Awaken us to the urgency of the times in which we live. We agree, now is the time to seek the Lord that you may come and rain righteousness upon us. And by this rain of righteousness, cleanse us from the scourge of insult and incivility of our nation’s discourse. Govern our hearts, our minds, and our words that we would no longer contribute to the discord but become sowers of your peace. Make us sowers of your Word, the ancient Word who is ever doing a new thing. Awaken us again to your high calling to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We pray in the name of Jesus.

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Hear the word of the Lord from the Letter to the Hebrews:

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. . . It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that God exists and that God cares enough to respond to those who seek God. —HEBREWS 11:1–2, 6

God, we come today praying for an awakening of faith. Where we see brokenness, you see healing. Where we see irreconcilable differences, you see new possibilities. Where we see callous indifference, you see rising compassion. We are desperate for a vision beyond what our eyes can see. We want to see as you see. Awaken our faith, Lord. We want to be counted among those who walk by faith and not by sight. Walk us into a new day of faith carrying a new banner of your truth and singing a new song of your grace that nothing is impossible with God. We pray in Jesus’ name.

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Hear the word of the Lord from the Apostle John:

This is how much God loved the world: God gave God’s Son, God’s one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending the Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.—JOHN 3:16–17 MSG

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.—1 JOHN 3:16 MSG

Come Holy Spirit and awaken the love of God within us. Open our hearts to know the love of Jesus for ourselves in a new and deeper way that we might become vessels of your love for others. Deliver us from our love of power that we might come to know the power of your love. Make us agents of healing in this land; peacemakers amid racial strife, way makers against impossible odds, and door holders for the house of the Lord. Lord we know where there is great love, miracles always happen. We are in need of miracles so teach us the ways of great love. We ask you for a great awakening to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We pray in the name of Jesus.

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.

 

We gotta talk about this . . . United We Stand, Divided We Fall

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In his novel “The Shack,” William P. Young portrays Mac, the central character who represents all of us, having a serious conversation with Jesus. Mac has asked Jesus about religion, Christianity in particular, and Jesus responds, “I don’t create institutions; that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. So no, I’m not too big on religion, and not very fond of politics or economics either. And why should I be? They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?”

                                                                                                                                                                          

Religion, politics, economics . . . the man-created trinity of terrors.

                                                                                                                                                                          

On this weekend between the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, the United States is drowning in religion, politics, and economics. This “trinity of terrors” has divided us as a culture, as a nation, as Christ’s church, and as families. We are sliced and diced into Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, blacks and whites, men and women, straight and gay, rich and poor. Out of fear that someone who doesn’t look like us, act like us, or believe as we do, will take away something that we hold dear, we lash out and demonize the “other.”

                                                                                                                                                                          

Out of fear that someone who doesn’t look like us, act like us, or believe as we do, will take away something that we hold dear, we lash out and demonize the “other.”

                                                                                                                                                                          

This is not a new problem. In his introduction to “Called to Community” Charles E. Moore writes, “The world Christ was born into was also splintered and confused; it was violent, factious, morally corrupt, spiritually bankrupt, full of tensions, and teeming with competing interests.” Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?  As Jesus went about performing miracles of healing, he also was demonized. The “church folk” of Jesus’ day, accused him of being in league with Satan and practicing black magic to perform healings (Matthew 12:22-28, Mark 3:21-26, Luke 11:14-20). Jesus’ warning is just as relevant to 21st Century America as it was to 1st Century Palestine: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” (Matthew 12:25 NRSV)

Benjamin Franklin said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”  Founding fathers John Dickinson and Patrick Henry, chose the phrase, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”; so did Abraham Lincoln.

The United States is founded on the belief that individual freedom and the common good are not mutually exclusive goals. We can have both. It starts with not demonizing one another. “Love one another,” Jesus said.  Even the ones we don’t like? Especially the ones we don’t like!

                                                                                                                                                                          

United we all stand, divided we all fall . . . and all means all.

                                                                                                                                                                          

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