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Most important: Intelligence, Kindness, or Humor?

I used to think intelligence was the most important trait. Later in life, I decided kindness was.
After this election year debacle, I suspect both are equally important and that a sense of humor probably is way up there with them, because it can free us to see ourselves honestly. Age doesn’t automatically bring wisdom, but it often brings humor which can be the beginning of self-honesty.  And once that happens, you empty your pockets of all those stones you are tempted to throw at others. And that’s the beginning of wisdom.
Kiddos! We ALL see through the glass of our limited perception darkly (imperfectly)! Quick! Get rid of the temptation of those stones before they come back to haunt you.

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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

The Heart of Spirituality is Forgiveness

Laws, whether civil or religious, are designed to keep us safe while living in groups, so that we can persevere as imperfect human beings to develop into creatures capable of life-long commitment to another imperfect creature and thus become capable of concern and kindness toward all other creatures.
No person is perfect, no relationship is perfect. But if we resolve to make a relationship work, we can develop peace treaties of love and tolerance to transform a difficult situation into something beautiful. (One may start this, but ultimately it will take two.)
The key to living is not perfection, but perseverance in becoming ever more capable of loving other imperfect beings.
And the most vital part of learning to love ourselves and other imperfect human beings is forgiveness.
And the purpose of forgiveness is grace for personal growth and the ongoing evolution of humanity from survival of the fittest to creatures capable of love for all others.

He Is Our God and We Are His People: Let Us Come Together in Cyberspace to Give God Thanks and Praise

Wherever we lift our hearts to God together is church. He is our God and we are His people. He has called us to this moment as an oasis of grace. It can be a special time when we come to Him with open hungry hearts.
He calls us in many ways: Through the beauty of His creation, through the laughter of children, the kindness of strangers, the tenderness of those who love us, our memories of many moments of grace.
He even calls us through nature’s terrible destructive power, that reminds us how fragile and helpless we really are, like falling leaves swirling in the wind.
But thanks to Jesus Christ, we know that the smallest one of us has infinite value and is held in the palm of God’s hand.
And thanks to Jesus, we also know that even when we, His people, still sin, there is forgiveness.
And that when we experience suffering and even heartbreak, there is grace.
Thanks to Jesus Christ we know that death is just a doorway to eternal life.
And there is no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
Let us join together wherever we are to give God thanksgiving and praise.

bloggers-for-peace-badge                              Peace Begins Within

Conflict is not the same as hatred. Differences of opinion, conflicting needs, and misunderstandings are part of the human condition. But hatred is a whole other ballgame. And where there is hatred, there will be no peace.

Most, if not all, hatred and prejudice are rooted in a sort of primal human fear of being the least, of being at the bottom of our world’s value ranking.  Being at the bottom means being helpless and vulnerable to the ill will of others.

One way we assure ourselves that we are not the least valuable is finding others to consider inferior to us in some obvious way, perhaps morally.

Another way is to focus all our personal or group resources on developing a particular competitive talent or skill, so we can feel safely superior in that area and trust society to overlook our disdain for or even violence toward others.

Or, if intimidated by another person or group’s abilities, like the childhood bully, we can try to cut them down to our size with ridicule, or like Hitler, make them the scapegoat for everyone’s woes.

Hatred is a fear based response. It depends on denying our shared humanity with the “other.”
It allows us to demonize those we choose or are taught to hate, to project on them all the evil that we struggle to repress within ourselves.

I believe the increased incidence of suicide among our soldiers comes from wars that now involve being up close and personal with those in the invaded countries, who turn out to be just ordinary people like ourselves.  Then our shared humanity and helplessness expose wars of today as being murder.  And while fighting for our survival might be noble, fighting for our lifestyle is not.

Scripture says that faith casts out fear. Faith in what? Not faith that we are the chosen and somehow better than others, but rather it is faith that we are all loved by our creator.   In the hymn Amazing Grace, ‘without one plea’ means we are loved for no reason other than being God’s creations, God’s children, not for being good, or right, or a certain religion, or nationality.

Jesus says such extreme things as, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.’ Does that mean that Jesus literally is in those we consider the lowest, those we ignore and avoid, treat condescendingly, or even hate and persecute?

He goes on to say that ‘in the kingdom of heaven, those that were last on earth will be first and those that were first will be last.’ Friends, I’m pretty sure the kingdom of heaven lasts a lot longer than our days on earth. It’s something to keep in mind when evaluating our priorities, particularly those that grow out of a need to not be the least or last in this world.

Paul’s treatise on love in First Corinthians 13 insists in no uncertain terms that without love, we are nothing. If we give everything to charity, if we become the poorest of the poor, but have not love, we are nothing. If we have great spiritual or intellectual gifts, but have not love, we are nothing.

Love is kind. Love is not arrogant, envious, boastful, rude, or resentful. Love does not insist on having its own way.
Wow.
When my need to be “somebody” raises its ugly head, I reread these words, and  I have to  quickly go mentally to the back of the line.

So who are the least of God’s brethren? Those that know that without God, they are nothing. Those that walk humbly with  God.

Mother Teresa was able to undertake and persevere in her calling because she experienced both the unconditional love of God and even His discernable presence in her life before she ever began her mission and also during the times of struggle with church authorities to be allowed to do what she knew God had called her to do. Toward the end of her life, Mother Teresa went through a terrible dark depression. She had succeeded in doing what God called her to do and she had even received worldly honors and fame. But at the last, she no longer experienced God’s presence. And compared to that, nothing else mattered, not success in her mission, nor worldly acclaim.  She felt bereft.

The least are those that know that without God, who is love, we are and have nothing of eternal value. But that with God, we need nothing else.  Only then do we not suffer from the illusion that we are, or need to be, better than anyone else.

Peace begins within each of us as we grow in faith in a God who is love.

Related Article: Bloggers for Peace