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God is not Finished with Us Yet

Today, the first Scripture reading says: “Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.”
In the Gospel reading it says of the twelve year old Jesus who has caused his parents great anxiety, “Then he went down with them and was obedient to them. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.”
The important words for us here are grow and increase. If Samuel and Jesus had to grow and increase, even in wisdom and in favor with God and man, it’s a pretty safe bet we do too. And the growing doesn’t stop when we are 12, or 21, 78 or 95.
Today’s second reading says to us: “As God’s children, holy and beloved,”(Don’t you just want to wrap that word ‘beloved’ around you like a warm soft comforter?)
But it continues, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
The word clothe implies that compassion and humility and patience are not necessarily natural human traits. What follows points the way to grow and increase in them: “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Not should or ought, but must.)
The scripture continues “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom.”
Oh boy, there’s the rub. I don’t know about you, but I am not very teachable and if you decide to admonish me, you probably should be prepared to run.
Here’s the good news, when we admit our own need to grow and change, accepting forgiveness brings the grace to change. Forgiveness actually has the power to free us from being trapped even in a lifelong destructive response to people or events.
THEN and only then, can we like Jesus be a witness by visibly fleshing out the power of grace through growing and changing. The best way to teach is to show how it’s done. (It’s probably the safest also.)
Listen please with an open heart to the PRAYER OF CONFESSION followed by a time of silent reflection:
God, you call us beloved. Jesus you showed us that we are called and can be freed to grow and change. Let us feel your hand on our shoulder as you gently shake your head at our blindness. As we listen in silence, free us by your tender love to see where we need to grow and change. Then help us to completely accept forgiveness in the depths of our hearts, so we may be living witnesses to God’s saving grace.
………Take time for reflection…………………
We are all God’s children. We are all God’s beloved. Feel that. Cling to it. Rejoice in it. Give thanks for it. And trust God to complete the good work he has begun in you.
Reflections on Scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary for Sunday, December 27, 2015 NRSV
1 Sam 2:18-20, 26 Col 3:12-17 Luke 2:41-52

Compassion or No One’s Playing with a Full Deck

From when I was quite young, I stayed stressed night and day over the possibility of being scolded for anything. Unfortunately, even if a fellow student was scolded, I also hurt for them, literally. My stomach would ache.  As an adult when a friend was going through a painful divorce, it seemed almost like I was going through it myself. In many ways this made me compassionate and I tried always to relieve others’ suffering in any way I could.

But, my life became controlled by an underlying need to relieve suffering of any kind, my own, my friends’, the world’s. This sounds like a good thing, and at times it undoubtedly was. But suffering is an inevitable part of life, everyone’s life. And a lot of suffering is self inflicted and perpetuated by attempts to escape it, rather than experience it and learn and grow from it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Compassion and fear of our own suffering may be two sides of the same coin.

Over the years I learned that I could not protect my children from suffering. And after a couple of friends, that I tried to give emotional support, ended up committing suicide, I gradually accepted that I am not God and cannot control life for anyone.

Eventually, I also recognized that some people become addicted to being victims and are bottomless pits of needs and wants that no one but God can fill.  I can be kind. I can share insights I’ve gained through my own struggles. I can bring a little laughter into the lives around me. But ultimately, each person’s journey is uniquely tailored to the process of making them into the people God created them to be…no more and no less. We can all only play the hand we were dealt and no one other than God can judge how well we are doing that.
Each person is born with their own set of genetic strengths and virtues. The thing we often overlook is that each strength has a corresponding area of weakness. Our pattern of growth will build on the strengths, but also will involve facing our weaknesses and allowing for them. We can develop survival skills in those areas, but they will never be our gifts.
That means we need one another. That means at times we must set aside our strengths and avail ourselves of the opposite set of gifts of other people. This is a dying to self of sorts. It involves suffering and humility. Not an easy task, but definitely part of becoming a couple, a family, a friend, a community, a nation, a world.

In other words, none of us is playing with a full deck! And we can help one another in partnerships, but not in dependency relationships that keep us from growing.

Compassion calls for not only kindness, but the capacity to accept suffering as part of our own lives and of life in general for everyone.
It comes down to the age old prayer: God help me to change what I can, accept what I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference.

The Narrow Gate

My memories collide with one another
congesting into
higgley-piggley log jams
in my mind

Complexity clutters my understanding
and confusions of cobwebs
cling to my bold
broken dreams

Creativity thickens and congeals
dwindling into small
fallow pools clotted with
frustration

Idols of old truths and securities
slam against a wall
of Thomas doubt and
Judas fear

Softly, a voice within warns me,
“Narrow gate ahead.
You must not be afraid
to let go.”

Now, in this present moment,
I must trust my inner Spirit
to transform even this
suffering

Her woman’s deep compassion
to turn my empty heart-
my desert- fertile with
her tears.

eon 1991

Peace Songs for the Journey

My list of ten songs plus, that bring me peace or inspire me to seek peace, is pretty eclectic. They vary from a children’s song about diversity:
1.All God’s Creatures Got a Place in the Choir by the Twitters,
to:
2. Nabucco, the chorus of the Hebrew Slaves by Verdi, which evokes compassion in me,
and then ironically my list includes:
3. It’s a Long Way to Tipperary by the Soviet Army Chorus and Band, part in Russian and part in English, from a record we had in the sixties. This is a song about how far war takes us from home, in every sense of the word, and now it also reminds me of the possibilities for drastic change in the world.

Others are religious:
4. Make Me A Channel of Your Peace sung by Susan Boyle;
5. Peace Like a River by the Morman Tabernacle Choir;
6. Peace is Flowing Like a River by Father Carey Landry and Carol Jean Kinghorn;
7. Let There Be Peace on Earth by Voices Without Borders.
8.Panis Angelicus by Celtic Woman

Then there are the classics from the 60’s:
9. Let It Be sung by Joan Baez,
10. Imagine by Lennon -my favorite is by Judy Collins.

And two more recent songs:
11. Some Day by the Celtic Woman.
12.Bring on the Rain by Jo Dee Messina and Tim McGraw, which speaks of having the courage to accept all of life, which is key to personal peace.

Another one I plan to use for prayer/chant on Sunday’s Praying for Peace time:
13.My Peace I Leave You by the international Taize Community Choir in France.

I gathered several others from my face book family:
Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon;
Put a Little Love in Your Life by Jackie De Shannon;
My Little Life by Korby Lenker.
Note:My Little Life at first glance may not seem like a peace song, but since greed,the unrelenting need for more, seems one of the main causes of war and violence, then
celebrating what we have, even in a very small life, should beget peace.

Another song that touches me and challenges me is:
14.I Will Always Love You,by Dolly Parton.
This expresses a truth I believe: that once we’ve learned to truly love, it may bring sorrow, but not hate. I think there’s a strong connection between allowing ourselves to feel the pain of deep sorrow, not avoiding that pain by replacing it with hate or anger or revenge, and the capacity for love.
It would seem that peace, like love, is not only a many splendored thing, but the capacity for peace and love may be inseparable.

I drive a hundred mile plus round trip on an Interstate several times a week, so I am making a CD of these songs to play and reflect on while driving. A small beginning in a small life, but perhaps it’s a pebble dropped into the water.