Psalm 8

For Saturday, September 25, and Sunday, September 26, 2021

Scripture, quotes, guided meditation

Psalm 8
O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants

you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,

to silence the enemy and the avenger.


When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are women and men that you are mindful of them,

and the children of women, that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

and crowned them with glory and honor.


You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Sister Ilia Delio, scientist, scholar, and Franciscan, speaks passionately about love:

“Everything that exists speaks of God, reflects that love energy of God. But God is more than anything that exists. God is always the more of our lives. We can’t contain God. If we try to control God, that’s not God; God always spills over our lives. So, God is our future. If we’re longing for something we desire, it’s that spilled-over love of our lives that’s pulling us onward, that’s luring us into something new. But we don’t trust this God [of implanted desire] often. We were pretty sure that God’s there, [and] we’re here, and we just need to keep [on] the straight and narrow path. . . .

What Francis [of Assisi] recognized is God is in every direction. That you might arrive, you might not arrive. You might arrive late; you might arrive early. It’s not the arrival that counts. It’s God! It’s not the direction that counts. It’s just being there, trusting that you will be going where God wants you. In other words, God is with us. Every step of the way is God-empowered love energy. But we tend to break down and start controlling things: “If I go this way, I’m going to get lost. Well, what if it’s wrong? What will happen to me?” Well, what will happen to you? Something will happen. But guess what? Something’s going to happen whether or not you go; that’s the whole point of life. So, it’s all about love.

So, it’s not like we’ve got this, “Here’s God; here’s us. God’s just waiting till we get our act together and then we’ll all be well.” That’s a boring God; that’s not even God. God is alive. God is love. Love is pulling us on to do new things and we need to trust the power of God in our lives to do new things. . . . We need to unwire ourselves to recognize that the God of Jesus Christ is, you might say, the power beneath our feet, the depth of the beauty of everything that exists, and the future into which we are moving. . . .

Every one of us is written in the heart of God from all eternity, born into the stars, born, you might say, into the galaxies, born on this earth in small forms, developing and coming to explicit form in our lives, given a name. It’s a fantastic mystery of love.”

Ilia DelioCONSPIRE 2014: A Benevolent Universe, (Center for Action & Contemplation)

You are a new creation every day, changing moment by moment.

God is ever creating us, moment by moment.  We are continually growing, changing, evolving, becoming more of who we truly were made to be.  We are new creations each and every day!  Like a tree or plant outside our windows, it may look generally the same, but the truth is it has changed…  God is always moving through us, in us, and among us. Let us take the time to thank God for the gift of our lives and for drawing us closer, moment by moment.”
Maria G. Cressler
Executive Director, Ignatius House, Atlanta, GA

MEDITATION

During the quiet time, you might want to illustrate this saying and or meditate on becoming a new creation, moment by moment.  God not only creates and re-creates the cosmos, but God also shapes and re-shapes us continually.

Relaxation talk (Relax from your toes up, breathing in and being surrounded by God’s light, love, strength, and healing power three times. Hand over to God any  burdens, cares and worries for right now. Let go of the things of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, so that we might encounter God in God’s eternal NOW.

Then imagine a favorite place, real, imaginary, present or past, using all five senses in meditation.  What can you see, hear, feel, smell, taste?

Then invite a “Dear One” or a “Divine One” to sit with you in this place.  It could be a loved one, living or passed; it could be one aspect of God – Mother God, Father God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Sister Spirit – whoever feels easy to speak with.

Pour out your heart’s longing for becoming a new creation.  That deep longing is probably from God.  Then listen and notice the response of the person with you.  What words, phrases, memories, pictures arise in your mind?  Notice any gestures or the expression on that person’s face.  What comes forward about your new creation?  Remember that there is no wrong way to spend this quiet time.  Whatever comes – even if it is simply resting quietly before God – is your gift for this meeting.

If you feel so moved, you could illustrate the following saying in any way you’d like.

You are

a new creation

 every day,

changing moment

 by moment.

Tree Meditations

For Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12, 2021

Scripture, various author quotes, my meditation questions

Psalm 1: 1-3

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,

or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers,

but their delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on God’s law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees planted by steams of water,

Which yield their fruit in its season,

And their leaves do not wither.

In all that they do, they prosper.

Quotes from FINDING THE MOTHER TREE, by Suzanne Simard

“The old trees were the mothers of the forest.

The hubs were Mother Trees

Yes that’s it. Mother Trees. Mother Trees connect the forest.

          This Mother Tree was the central hub that the saplings and seedlings nested around, with threads of different fungal species, of different colors and weights, linking them, layer upon layer, in a strong, complex web.  I pulled out a pencil and notebook.  I made a map: Mother Trees, saplings, seedlings.  Lines sketched between them.  Emerging from my drawing was a pattern like a neural network, like the neurons in our brains, with some nodes more highly linked than others.

Holy Smokes.” (p. 228)

          “What the trees were conveying made sense.  Over millions of years, they’d evolved for survival, built relationships with their mutualists and competitors, and they were integrated with their partners in one system.  The firs had sent warning signals that the forest was in danger [from budworms], and the pines had been poised, eavesdropping for clues, wired to receive the messages, ensuring the community remained whole, still a healthy place to rear their offspring.”  (p. 254)

“Mother trees somehow enhanced the health of their kin.  And not only their kin, but of strangers too, and other species, promoting the diversity of the community.” (p.286)

“The Mother-Tree seedlings flooded the network with their carbon energy, and it advanced into the needles of her kin, her sustenance soon within them.  The data also showed that injury, whether by western spruce budworm or the shears, induced the Mother-Tree seedlings to transfer even more carbon to her kin.  Facing an uncertain future, she was passing her life force straight to her offspring, helping them to prepare for changes ahead.

          Dying enabled the living; the aged fueled their young.

          I imagined the flow of energy from the Mother Trees as powerful as the ocean tide, as strong as the sun’s rays, as irrepressible as the wind in the mountains, as unstoppable as a mother protecting her child.” (p.287)

          “I believe this kind of transformative thinking is what will save us.  It is a philosophy of treating the world’s creatures, its gifts, as of equal importance to us.  This begins by recognizing that tree and plants have agency.  They perceive, relate, and communicate; they exercise various qualities we normally ascribe to sentience, wisdom, intelligence.  By noting how trees, animals, and even fungi – any and all nonhuman species – have this agency, we can acknowledge that they deserve as much regard as we accord ourselves.  We can continue pushing our earth out of balance, with greenhouse gases accelerating each year, or we can regain balance by acknowledging that if we harm one species, one forest, one lake, this ripples through the entire complex web.  Mistreatment of one species is mistreatment of all.  The rest of the planet has been waiting patiently for us to figure that out.” (p.294)

          “Trees need to be near one another, to establish in receptive soil, to join together to build the ecosystem, mix with other species, relate in patterns that produce a wood-wide web, because the forest becomes resilient from this complexity. Scientists now are more willing to say that forests are complex adaptive systems, comprised of many species that adjust and learn, that include legacies such as old trees and seed banks and logs, and these parts interact in intricate dynamic networks, with information feedbacks and self-organization.  The properties of an ecosystem breathe with health, productivity, beauty, spirit.  Clean air, clean water, fertile soil.  The forest is wired for healing in this way, and we can help if we follow her lead.” (p. 300)

          “The wind whipped through the needles of the Mother Tree, but she stood steadfast.  She had seen nature in countless forms: hot summer days when mosquitoes swarmed; rain that came in sheets for weeks; snow so heavy some of her branches snapped; periods of drought followed by long damp spells…  She would be here for a hundred more years, guiding the recovery, giving it her all, long after I was gone.  Farewell, dear Mama.  Tired, I fumbled to do up my vest.  My [grown daughter] Hannah slung her heavy pack over her shoulders, adjusting the load and cinching the buckles barely noticing the weight.

          She took my shovel to lighten my burden and gripped my hand to lead us back home.” (p. 303)

MEDITATION

When I Am Among the Trees

When I among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

    but walk slowly and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.

       Mary Oliver, Thirst

(How and where could we be simple, and go easy, and let our light shine?)

There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.

~ Anonymous

(Let us imagine ourselves in the forest, existing with the trees, or perhaps BEING a tree, being still and listening to God’s music.)

As we breathe out what trees breathe in,
And the trees breathe out what we breathe in,
So we breathe each other into life, We and You.

~ by Marcia Prager

(Imagine that our breath flows into the trees surrounding us, and the trees give back their breath to us.  Imagine that we also give life to each other, nearby friends, those at a distant, loved ones, and co-workers – we give God’s love as we live and breathe together.  Where have you felt that kind of giving and receiving love?)

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me . . .

The strength of fire,

the freshness of morning,

the taste of salmon,

the trail of the sun,

and the life that never goes away,

they speak of me.

And my heart soars.

~ Chief Dan George

(Just let your heart soar, imagining yourself surrounded by nature and by God’s unfailing, always-pouring-out love.)

Holy Mother Earth, the trees and all nature are witnesses of your thoughts and deeds.

~ A Winnebago Wise Saying

(Imagine the earth as our Mother.  Imagine God as our Mother, as the Birther of all that exists, all creatures and things, even stones.  Imagine being held in love by that Mother God.)

The rooting (of trees, of our selves) is as important and as necessary as the rising. We have the opportunity to sink roots into soul and rise up with branches in heaven…

Our spiritual growth is meant to go in both directions, toward the fertile darkness and the glorious light, each of us having the opportunity to bridge earth and heaven—the underworld and the upperworld—through the trunks of our middleworld lives….

There’s no conflict between spirit-centered being and soulful doing, between transcendence and inscendence. Each supports and enhances the other. Like Rilke, we discover we can have both:

You see, I want a lot
Maybe I want it all;
The darkness of each endless fall,
The shimmering light of each ascent.

~ from SOULCRAFT by Bill Plotkin

(Imagine drawing strength from deep within yourself, from deep within the earth, even from times of darkness and troubles.  Imagine finding strength from such times and from the earth.  Then imagine yourself rising, like a tree, stretching your branches, your life, your loves and passions, toward heaven.)

Consider the life of trees.

Aside from the axe, what trees acquire from [humans] is inconsiderable. What

[humans] acquire from trees is immeasurable. From their mute forms there flows a

poise, a silence, a lovely sound and motion in response to wind. What peace comes to

those aware of the voice and bearing of trees! Trees do not scream for attention. A

tree, a rock, has no pretense, only a real growth out of itself, a close communion

with the universal spirit. A tree retains a deep serenity. It establishes in the

earth not only its root system but also those roots of its beauty and its unknown

consciousness. Sometimes one may a sense a glisten of that consciousness, and with

such perspective may feel that [humanity] is not the highest form of life.

—Cedric Wright

(Consider that the oldest, biggest trees- the Mother Trees- not only give humans physical things (oxygen) but spiritual things (peace, beauty) along with sending communications – water, nutrients, ways to upgrade RNA – to kin and non-kin trees.  Can we honor trees as sentient beings? Can we copy their selfless giving?)

I lie down and sob and… very gradually it happens. The life in the trees and grass and the warm rocks enters my body and joins me to them. One morning, I sit up and see the incandescent trees in silent communion with each other, immersed in love. This is the world, I think, the real world. Whatever happens to me, the world is still this luminous mystery.

~ from THE SUBTLE SELF by Judith Blackstone

(Think on times of difficulty, of feeling unloved or empty.  Then let Nature surround you in imagination.  Imagine being fed and strengthened, loved and filled by the earth and by the Divine One.)

Blessed are the men and women
    who are planted on Your earth in Your garden,
Who grow as Your trees and flowers grow,
    who transform their darkness to light.
Their roots plunge into darkness;
    their faces turn toward the light.
All those who love You are beautiful;
    they overflow with Your presence
    so that they can do nothing but good.
There is infinite space in Your garden;
    all men, all women are welcome here;
    all they need do is enter.

~ from THE ENLIGHTENED HEART by Stephen Mitchell

Feel welcomed, just as you are -with your loves, hopes, desires, and longings – by Mother Earth and Mother God.)

What I wear is my clothes.
What I do is live.
How I pray is breathe…
Up here in the woods is seen the Word.
That is to say, the wind comes through
the trees and you breathe it.

~ from DAY OF A STRANGER by Thomas Merton

(Imagine the wind as God’s breath, strengthening and surrounding you.)

A circle of trees . . . I felt I was bringing the journey home to the ordinary dimensions of my life, rooting it in the place I lived every day.  I lay back on the earth and looked up through the branches of an oak, feeling suddenly like the sun was my own heart pulsing up there with light.  Wind swirled, and it seemed to me it was my own breath billowing through the branches.  The crocus bulbs were buried in my tissue, the cedars growing from my body.  The birds flew inside me.  Stones sat along my bones . . . a jubilant, stunning loss of boundary, a deeper sense of oneness than I’d ever felt.

I knew that I was part of one vast, universal quilt; I knew that this quilt was itself, the Holy Thing, the manifestation of the Divine One.  And I loved this universal quilt, every stitch, color, and fiber, with a heartbreaking love.  It was one clear moment in time, like going to the Deep Ground that underlies all things and seeing, really seeing, what is and being pierced by the unbounded nature of it.

~ from THE DANCE OF THE DISSIDENT DAUGHTER by Sue Monk Kidd

(Feel that you are a part of one great Unity, of all that is, all that exits, and will be, always held in Divine Love.)

The peace in the sky, the peace in mid-air,
the peace on the earth, the peace in the waters,
the peace in the plants, the peace in the forest trees,
the peace in the angels, the peace in the Beloved,
the peace in all things
the peace in peace …
May that peace come to me!

~ from EVERY EYE BEHOLDS YOU, edited by Thomas J Craughwell

(Spend just a few moments in silence, letting the peace from God and nature seep in and fill you.)

Epiphany, 2022

For Sunday, January 9, 2022 –Scripture, guided meditation, and an imaginative magi story by Herbert O’Driscoll.

Matthew 2: 1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 

On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

GUIDED MEDITATION

Relax your muscles from your toes up your legs to your stomach, breathing in God’s light, love, strength, and healing power, and surrounding yourself during your exhales with that same light, love, strength and healing power.  Then relax from your shoulders down to your fingers, again breathing in God’s gifts, but this time breathing out and handing over to God your burdens, cares, worries, and responsibilities.  Thirdly, relax from your neck up through your jaw, mouth, eyes, and forehead, breathing in God’s presence and breathing out things of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Imagine that you are traveling with the magi, at night, swaying on some animal – camel, donkey, or horse – and watching the stars in the night sky.  There is an especially bright star that seems to be traveling westward.  Your group follows that star.      What do you hear – wind, camel bells, animal footsteps, murmured voices?

What do you see – stars, sand, rocky soil, an oasis?

What do you feel – wind, rough animal hide, saddles, or blankets?

What do you taste – remnants of your last meal, a piece of bread you’ve saved to snack on, something else in the air?

What do you smell – animal smells, desert air?

Now imagine you have come to the town and to the house where the star seems to have stopped.  Go in.  See the family – mother, father, child.  Some sense of awe makes all of you fall to your knees.  Some sense of urgency makes the magi open their treasure chests and give gifts.  Perhaps you get to hold the baby, lift it to your cheek, give it a kiss.  Imagine how time seems to stand still as you kneel there.  Perhaps you speak with the mother and father before leaving.

In the morning, you still have a sense of awe and wonder at the visit with the child and the family, but you decide to travel back home, by a different route.  You feel changed somehow.  What are your five senses noticing now?  How do your emotions feel?  What has changed for you?

Speak in your imagination with some comforting image of God – God the Father, God the Mother, Jesus, Holy Spirit as a friend.  Ask your God image anything that is on your heart and mind right now.  Wait for any answers, ideas, memories, or pictures to come.  Or simply sit quietly in the presence of God for a few moments.   When you are ready, open your eyes and become present in your room again.

You might want to write down your experience and thoughts.

The Star (from A Greening of Imagination, Herbert O’Driscoll)

  • A reflection on Matthew 2:1-12

When distinguished figures from a remote foreign power arrived in a regime ruled by a paranoid despot, there was immediate suspicion.  This suspicion was made even more potent when the strangers offered astronomical and astrological evidence for the birth of a child who could become a possible threat to the despot.  A memory of the experience recalled by one of the visitors in later years…

“The compound where he worked before retirement was situated atop a high mountain ridge in the western part of the kingdom.  In the distance on a clear day, one could see the great gulf that is fed from the north by the Tigris and the Euphrates.  Beyond the gulf to the west, the vast desert stretches to the edge of Egypt.  For centuries Egypt had been their enemy.

The view most significant for his work had always been that of the night skies.  As scientists, he and his two colleagues studied the constellations, then consulted the tables and records kept over the centuries.  They assigned meaning to their movements and reported to the palace authorities.  They reported to the king.

The memory that would stay forever in his mind began with a report that two of the greatest planets, Saturn and Jupiter, seemed to be converging in the constellation we call Pisces or “the Fish.”  Their light began to grow brighter until they came to dominate the heavens, so much so that after consulting with their senior staff, a report was made to the palace.

As he recalled, it had an immediate response.  Among their observations was the fact that the convergence seemed to be moving in a westerly direction.  Orders came to them to select a small group of their staff to travel westward, in order to continue studying the phenomenon.  They would be given an escort.  Their route would take them north along the east bank of the Euphrates.  At a certain point, they would cross the river to join the Roman highway system at Dura Europos, the most Eastern outpost and garrison of the Roman Empire.  There the escort would leave them.  From there on, they would have to make their own decisions.

They had very specific orders.  They were to look for any signs of political or military disturbance on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire or in the vicinity of Egypt, both of which could be a threat to imperial interests in Persia.  In case they might find themselves in any diplomatic encounters, they were directed to take with them some symbolic and exotic gifts that would suitably impress their hosts.  The memory he treasured all his life was not the journey, but its destination.

All went well until they arrived in southern Palestine.  Its puppet king retained power only with the support of the Roman occupiers.  By the time the three paid their respects to him, they knew that the regime was utterly corrupt and cordially hated by the local people.

He remembered night falling as they left Herod.  At the end of the great circular driveway that led to Herod’s fortress, they found a young man who approached them saying that someone wished to meet with the three visitors, and that he would guide them to the rendezvous.  It was a very difficult decision to make, because he knew that it could well be a trap.  He questioned the youth carefully before deciding to accept the invitation.

He remembered that they approached a small village under a starlit sky.  He estimated they were now about four miles from Herod’s fortress. To his knowledge, the were not being followed.

The house that welcomed them was that of the village rabbi.  After the customary gestures of welcome and an offer of refreshment, which the three accepted, the rabbi introduced his wife and told them that their guide had been his son.

When the had partaken of a simple but delicious meal, the host gestured them to follow the family to the back of the house.  They watched in astonishment as he removed a section of the earthen floor and beckoned them down a simple ladder.  A whole living area had been hollowed out and furnished.  A young woman sat holding a child.  He would estimate the child to be about two years old.  Her husband stood behind them, he somewhat older than she.

He didn’t know why or how, but suddenly he knew with absolute certainty that they had found what they had come for.  He also knew that they had not discovered what their political masters had sent them here to find.  Instead, he had an overpowering conviction that a higher power had directed them to something infinitely more significant.

He had been at the shrines of countless gods, both those of their own Persian empire and those of Rome, but nothing had ever addressed him with the power of that moment.  All he could say is that in the presence of an ineffable majesty, they found themselves on their knees.

It was Melchior who remembered the gifts.  They still had them in their baggage, because they had encountered no powerful ruler worthy of them.  Here in this lamplit room with its earthen walls, they could only hope that these gifts would be found worthy of this child.  When they had presented the gifts, the rabbi beckoned them to leave.

It was the rabbi who told them everything.  They found that he shared with them the common commercial language of the east, Aramaic.  Quietly he told them of the boy’s birth, how the skies had sung.  They told him of their sightings among the planets.  He was not surprised.  He told them too of the great fear of Herod’s death squads.  For two years he and many others had protected the child, moving the family from house to house, sometimes hiding them in the vast cave system in the walls of the escarpment near the village.  They asked him the name of the place.  He replied that the village was called Bethlehem.  Since time immemorial the name meant “House of Bread.”

At that point, the rabbi’s voice because anxious.  He feared that time was running out.  Herod’s fear and paranoia made him persistent.  The family needed to get away.  At this point he asked for the three visitors’ help.  He felt their coming had been providential.  Would they at least escort the refugees to the border with Egypt?

There was never a moment’s doubt.  Preparations had already been made for such an opportunity as this.  Long before dawn, they had moved away from the vast bulk of Herod’s fortress and were heading west for the coastal road – the Way of the Sea.  From the Egyptian border, when farewells had been said, they would eventually turn east toward the Dead Sea, then north on the other great road – the Way of the Kings – pursing their long journey home.

At some point on that return trip, they agreed on their report.  They had found no kings plotting against Persia, no armies marching from Egypt, no military maneuvers along the Roman border.  Only the three colleagues would every know that a king greater than all kings was now growing to manhood on the earth.”

Radical Optimism and Message in a Bottle

OPENING PRAYER

Loving God, your spirit surrounds us in both light and darkness.  Like sunlight, you help us find our way and explore our world.  Like a dark night sky, you give us rest from all the worries of the day.  May we be light for people who need to see hope in this world.  May we be cozy darkness for those who need a safe place to rest. Help us to share your loving presence in the world.  Amen                                 

  RADICAL OPTIMISM

Beatrice Bruteau: Sin and Salvation

1 RADICAL OPTIMISM

2 HOW SHALL WE DEAL WITH EVIL? 

Contemplative is not in a ivory tower.  We are called seek the way out of evil and suffering, to help heal the world. Lots of evil in world, from petty and annoying to truly horrible.

Not enough to tweak a few laws, make punishments more dire.

Not enough to assigning blame, making theology about, mourning or marveling over it.

NATURE AND ROOTS OF EVIL

Good does not need to contrast with evil to exist.  But evil “has to react against something good that exists.”

4. THE DESCRIPTIVE SELF

When we look in the mirror, what do we see?

5. DESCRIPTIVE-SELF OUTCOMES

Speaking personally, I fall into thinking that I can’t just be a GOOD flutist, I need to be BETTER THAN lots of others. (I’m working on that!)  Or one can’t just have LOTS of money, power, or fame, one has to have MORE THAN most people.

TWO KINDS OF FREEDOM

Choice freedoms come from alternatives in the environment, from different types of food, to one’s inner needs and urgings.  With Choice Freedomboth the alternatives and the inner urgency come from the environment.

In Creative Freedom, you act from yourself as author, not in reaction to some stimulus. You start the action.  Also God’s freedom.  God does not love you or me because we are worthy, desirable, or attractive.  God’s love not a reactive love.

7 EVIL COMES FROM BELIEVING

This is the ‘Father of lies,’ the falsehood on which all sin is based.”There is a raw urgency to exist on levels of self-esteem, value and meaning, as well as security, nourishment, and relief from pain.  It is a flaw in KNOWLEDGE not of WILL  

SALVATION THROUGH LOVE 

“It is at the moment when you perceive this truth and really accept it, believe yourself to be loved – permit, agree, allow, consent to be loved and sustained by another – it is at this moment that salvationtake place.  It is when this deep metaphysical need to be loved and sustained is met and satisfied that one’s life is really saved, preserved, kept from destruction.”

SALVATION IS NOT 

These first two often get lumped together in the idea of Atonement – that Jesus died because God was angry.  Or that a substitutionary death had to take place for us not to be killed forever.  [Author says once in a great while real substitutionary death is offered.  Tell Holocaust story]

As Richard Rohr says, “Jesus didn’t die to change God’s mind about humans.  He died to change humans’ minds about God!”

10 Preaching and meditation should…

BOTTLE ON THE BEACH MEDITATION


“Imagine yourself on a beach, quite alone but feeling completely safe. There’s enough sunshine for you to feel pleasantly warm but not overly hot. You hear the waves lapping on the shore, the calling of seagulls, and the soft murmur of the wind in the pines. You’re walking at the water’s edge, watching the foam roll onto the sand at the leading border of the waves. You can feel your bare feet sinking into the damp sand as you walk. You can almost taste and smell the salt tang in the air. As you amble along, you notice that something has washed up on the shore just a few feet in front of you. You realize it’s a bottle, so you walk over to it and pick it up. Inside is a description, in words or pictures, of TWO THINGS – a comforting message from God, and your heart’s desireWhat is that message?  What is that desire?
This depiction is how I often lead people into a guided meditation on their deepest hopes and comfort from God.  The idea of the beach and a gift washing up came to me from my memories of Anne Morrow Lindberg’s book Gift from the Sea
I also use a bit of scripture as I guide this meditation, saying to the group. Psalm 37, verse 4 says, Take delight in God, who shall give you your heart’s desires.  Often our deepest heart’s desire is also God’s deepest desire for us.  That’s a huge comfort to me.  What other comforting message is in the bottle for you?  Look at what’s in your bottle, even if it is only question marks on a scrap of paper. Wonder about what your deepest desire might be and what God’s message might be to you this very day. 
Now notice that someone is approaching you on the beach. Perhaps it is some God-figure—perhaps a member of the Trinity—Father, Son or Holy Spirit, or Mother God, or Sister Spirit.  However, it could be a loved one, alive or passed on, or a person from history or from scripture, or any representation of the Divine that comes to you. Speak with that God-figure or loved one about your heart’s desire.”

 CLOSING PRAYER

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, Nov 14, 2021

1 Samuel 1:4-20 

On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore, Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” 

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.” 

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” 

Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” 

Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.  They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”

1 Samuel 2:1-10 

Hannah prayed and said, 

“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. 

My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. 

“There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; 

there is no Rock like our God. 

Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; 

for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 

The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. 

The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. 

He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. 

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. 

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The Lord! 

His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. 

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”

         I love this story about Hannah, because of how true it rings to me about women’s experiences of being overlooked, misunderstood, or belittled for being a woman, or being emotional.  I love Hannah’s honest response.  

         And I love Hannah’s song of praise to God, especially for how similar it is to Mary’s song of praise, now called the Magnificat.  Let’s spend some time with both subjects.

Here’s Mary’s Magnificat, (Luke 1: 46-55), her song of praise to God after she has accepted becoming the mother of Jesus, and has rushed to greet her kinswoman Elizabeth, who is also unexpectedly pregnant:

And Mary said, 

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. 

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 

for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 

He has shown strength with his arm; 

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 

according to the promise he made to our ancestors, 

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

GUIDED MEDITATION

Find a comfortable spot in the chair or on the sofa, with your hands open and receptive and your feet resting easily on the floor. With your eyes closed, begin to scan your body for any tension, tightness or dis-ease. Beginning at your feet, flex and relax the muscles in your toes, the arches of your feet, your ankles. Let go of any tightness in the calves of your legs; relax any tension in your thighs and let your stomach muscles just go slack. Begin to take in a few deep breaths, and as you inhale, breathe in God’s light and love, God’s strength and healing power. As you breathe out, imagine surrounding yourself with that light, love, and healing power, much as the candle flame on our table is surrounded by light and heat.

Feel the chair or sofa supporting your back. Relax the muscles in your shoulders. Release any tension in the muscles of your upper arms, your lower arms, your palms, and fingers. Feel any tightness flowing out the tips of your fingers. Again, breathe in God’s light, love, strength, and healing power. Breathe out all things that seem heavy or burdensome. Hand over to God all cares, worries, and responsibilities, things that need to be done and things we wish we had not done. Let God hold all those things during these moments, so that we don’t have to.

Let go of any tension in your neck and jaw. Release any tightness around your mouth and around your eyes. Imagine you can even relax behind your eyes. Let your forehead smooth out and picture all the rest of the tension in your body flowing out the top of your head. One more time, breathe in God’s light, unconditional love, and power to heal whatever needs healing in you right now. As you exhale, breathe out the things of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, so that we might meet God in God’s eternal now, where only these moments matter.

Now, think on times when you were misunderstood, underestimated, under-valued, dismissed.  Since these times may be very troubling, keep some image of God near you for protection and comfort as you imagine these old hurts.

Now, bring to mind times and things, people and situations in your life for which you are grateful.  Have a talk with your God image about what has brought or is bringing you joy, comfort, consolation, satisfaction, a feeling of WORTH!  Keep basking in the light of your blessings and conversing with the Divine until you feel filled.

WRITING PROMPT

         Write out the blessings for which you feel grateful.  Start with “I am thankful for.. and keep writing for three minutes.  Don’t edit!  Make your own, personal version of Hannah’s and Mary’s song.  Yours may be a simple list, or as elaborate as a poem or paragraph.  Don’t over-think this.  Just start writing and stop after about three minutes.  You might even want to illustrate your personal Magnificat, or Hannah’s or Mary’s with your own artwork or clippings of beauty from magazines.  Keep your Magnificat somewhere you can see it and give thanks.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 

for he has looked with favor 

on the lowliness of his servant. 

Surely, from now on 

all generations will call me blessed; 

for the Mighty One has done great things for me, 

and holy is his name. 

His mercy is for those who fear him 

from generation to generation. 

He has shown strength with his arm; 

he has scattered the proud 

in the thoughts of their hearts. 

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 

he has filled the hungry with good things, 

and sent the rich away empty. 

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy, 

according to the promise he made 

to our ancestors, 

to Abraham 

and to his descendants forever.”

“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. 

My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. 

“There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; 

there is no Rock like our God. 

Talk no more so very proudly, 

let not arrogance come from your mouth; 

for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 

The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. 

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, 

but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. 

The barren has borne seven, 

but she who has many children is forlorn. 

The Lord kills and brings to life; 

he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 

The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. 

He raises up the poor from the dust; 

he lifts the needy from the ash heap, 

to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. 

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, 

and on them he has set the world. 

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, 

but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; 

for not by might does one prevail. 

The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; 

the Most High will thunder in heaven. 

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; 

he will give strength to his king, 

and exalt the power of his anointed.”