“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” – Isaiah 11:1
A friend of mine and her young daughter were walking in a shopping mall when the child suddenly stopped, took a panoramic look around and said, “Look, Mom, we are in a forest of people.”
Her daughter is right. People ARE like trees in a forest. Each with roots: some that run shallow, some that delve deep. Each with branches: some gnarled, some reaching, some drooping. Some are tall and majestic, like the giant redwoods of California. Some are gorgeous like the cedars of Lebanon.
Each with blemishes; each with hue. All turning toward the sun. All with a thick exterior covering vulnerabilities with varying degrees of success. Some snapped in half by failing to bend with the wind. Some with lives cut short like the stump of Jesse.
If I were to draw but a single line to illustrate where we are separate from the rest of creation, I would not know where to place it. Instead, I listen to the counsel of a child and I see the tree in me, and the me in tree, and the me in we, and the we in me.
I begin to pray to the God of ALL creation that we may all be one, but I pause to ponder if, perhaps, we already are, but just don’t know it… yet.
DearGod of all, from what is left of me, may there sprout forth the fruit of what is best of me, and may it blessed be, until I find rest in thee. Amen.
“O Lord God to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render punishment to the proud. Lord, how long will the wicked triumph?” – Psalm 94:1-3 (NKJV)
People of faith are quite varied in our responses as to how the United States should respond to the atrocities of chemical weapons unleashed on the people of Syria, allegedly under the direction of President Bashad al-Assad.
Some feel strongly that the mass murder in Syria warrants some type of military retaliation, on the part of the U.S. and her allies, that would at least weaken the capacity for any future use of chemical weaponry against citizens. Others believe that anything short of a full commitment to a regime change in Syria will not make much of a difference. Still others contend that as horrendous as the tragedy in Syria is, the United States cannot afford to entangle itself in another foreign conflict, given the urgent problems we face at home with our staggering economy, unsustainable energy, educational dysfunctions and health care confrontations.
Whether the issue at hand is atrocity in Syria or genocide in Rwanda or slaughter in the Sudan, there is one moral principle that should guide all of our moral responses. It is the conviction that vengeance does not belong within the purview of human action. Vengeance is a designated function that God reserves exclusively for God’s self.
This certainly does not mean that people of faith are to take no responsibly for the execution of justice in the world. It does mean that whatever actions we take to combat and correct socio-political evil must always be tempered with a profound sense of humility and prayer – recognizing that we too are flawed agents operating in a much broader Providential process to deliver freedom and justice for all.
We must certainly win some victories on the way to God’s ultimate vengeance. But let us not use any moral victory or moral cause as a license to assume ultimate vindication. The vengeance of God is what keeps people of faith engaged but not arrogant – both in America and in Syria and all around the globe.
Dear God, Please help us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you, our God, in and through Jesus. Amen.
PS: I have been at the VA most of the day and not sure what is happening at the Washington Navy Yard. However, it looks like several people have been kill and others wounded. May we, of all faiths, come together to pray that we are not going to be part of killing innocent people – no matter where they are from, what they believe, what uniform they wear, or language they speak. Let’s stop the SENSELESS VIOLENCE.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5
Every now and then someone will ask me: “How do you know that you’ve been called to be a minister of the gospel?”
I could tell the long story of my calling and my running from that calling until I ran right into Jesus. Perhaps I could answer in the words of Howard Thurman: “I learned to follow the grain in my own wood.” That my calling was in the grain of my being… I needed to recognize that it is there.
Discerning the calling in your life has a lot to do with getting to know yourself. For me, the calling of God has always echoed in the chambers of my consciousness.
Listening to your own inner voice can at times be more daunting than listening to the voices of others. Searching for all the answers outside of ourselves always gives us an excuse to postpone the hard work of introspection and self-evaluation.
A clinical psychologist once told that her greatest aim is help people to listen to and pay attention to themselves. She says that when a person becomes cognizant of himself and his self-conflictedness, he is well on the road to psychological health.
Could it be that our greatest discoveries are really the discoveries we make about ourselves? Could it be that that the greatest challenges we face are actually the challenges that are innate to who we are? Could it be that the discernment of our life calling is really an invitation to explore the deeper meanings of our own lives?
A young seminarian went to hear a lecture by Howard Thurman. He wanted him to sign my book (‘Jesus of the Disinherited’), but more importantly, he wanted him to give him some spiritual guidance. Our young seminarian said: He looked at me and wrote these words in my book: “You know the path. Walk in it.” Being told what Iwealready know was not really what we are looking for, but it does make us begin to take more seriously and to look more closely at the man in my mirror.
Dear God, it is amazing how our journeys in life keep leading us right back to ourselves and right back to you. Help us to follow your leading in and through Jesus. Amen.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through His grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
The teacher who was working in the children’s hospital was asked to visit a boy who was in a burn unit.
His regular instructor had said, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him with his homework, so he doesn’t fall too far behind the others.”
The hospital teacher went, but she wasn’t prepared for what she found. The boy was in a clean room. He was swathed in bandages and in incredible pain. As gently as she could, the teacher introduced herself and the purpose of her visit this way: “I’m the hospital teacher. Your teacher at school asked me to help you with your nouns and adverbs.”
The next day a nurse asked the substitute teacher: “What did you do to that boy?”
Before the teacher could offer any explanation, the nurse continued: “We were worried about him. But ever since you visited him yesterday, his entire outlook has changed. For the first time since he came here, he’s actually fighting. He’s responding. He’s got a new lease on life.”
What had happened?
The boy eventually shared he had given up. He felt hopeless and helpless. But when he thought about the teacher who had come to see him, he realized the school wouldn’t waste its time, money and concern by sending someone to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy.
Pretty perceptive, don’t you think?
Now it is just possible that you, or someone you know, has suffered a loss, or feels lonely, or is suffering under pain that is unrelenting. It is equally possible that a voice, an unwelcomed, unfriendly voice is saying, “You’re alone. You’re lost. Nobody cares or can do anything to assist you.”
If that is the case, may I suggest to you that while you may feel hopeless and helpless, God is not. Just as the boy knew that no one would waste a teacher’s time on a dying boy, you should know that God would not sacrifice His Son for a sinner who was beyond the scope of His love and ability to forgive, restore and make whole.
The truth is there is no such person. In every situation and circumstance of life God can and is willing to help.
Please, please do not let the evil tools of discouragement, depression and doubt drive a wedge between you and the Lord who loves you. Jesus is there, always. He has answers. He who has lived, suffered, died and risen to save your soul can help you even now with every earthly concern and catastrophe. Believe it. There comes a time when no message is more true or more needed.
Dear Lord, I give thanks I have limitations and You do not. That means when I encounter that which is humanly overwhelming You can still help. Truly, there is no sin too big for You to forgive, no situation so hopeless that the peace of my Savior cannot correct or conquer it. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” – Luke 11:9
Do you believe that? I have known a few people whose prayers have gone unanswered. Jesus’ words might not be exactly what they are leaning on as they try everything they can think of and nothing seems to work. And yet I have also known a few people who were doing great, except they were dying. Their spirit and attitude were strong. They bring hope to others, even though their own situation is rather hopeless.
When Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given you,” he did not say exactly what it is that will be given. When he said, “Seek, and you will find,” he did not say exactly what it is that you will find. When he said, “Knock, and the door will be opened,” he did not say what will be on the other side of the door.
The hardest part of prayer, for me, is surrendering to the mystery of that to which I pray. Our prayers may not be answered in the way we wish. Sometimes I am simply not okay with that. But I believe God is okay with me not being okay with God. I believe God will answer prayers, but in God’s own time and in God’s own way.
In our prayers it is often we who are transformed, no matter the outcome of that for which we pray. And then, disarmed of demands and expectations, we find ourselves able to welcome the acceptance and other blessings that we didn’t even know to pray for.
Dear Lord, Thy will, not mine, be done. For Sweet is Thy will, sweet is Thy will. Amen.