Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oh, My Friend, My Friend Indeed

i am writing this post early on saturday morning, though it won't post until the following tuesday. my usual posting day.  yesterday my wife and i celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary.  we are spending a few days staying in a condiminium in the mountains, and tomorrow we will go to spend a few days at the beach.  as i sat here this morning, i thought about how wonderful it is to have a partner who is my best friend.  like all friends, we don't always see eye to eye, we become angry with one another occasionally, there are hurt feelings from time to time, but, like true friends, the friendship continues.  we overlook one another's shortcomings, we learn to deal in love with those annoying quirks and habits, and we know that our lives are so much happier together than they would be apart.  we have learned to be patient with one another and to treat each other with kindness.  we increasingly seek the other's well being along with each one's own well being.  isn't that what love is about?  i think of crossman's words, "but, oh my friend, my friend indeed, who for my need his life did spend," and i wonder if those words don't apply to our day-to-day relationships with others as much as they apply to the ministry and death of jesus.

as i sit her ruminating, i think, too, of the current political campaign.  it seems that more and more the republican side has turned to a narrow path that denies the worth of women, that marginalizes all but the rich and powerful, that blames those who suffer for their own suffering.  a republican county judge in texas has warned people to arm themselves to prepare for the coming civil war that will ensue should president obama be re-elected.  a republican senate candidate has suggested that women who say they have become pregnant as a result of rape may not really have been raped, because he believes that in cases of "legitimate rape" the female body will naturally abort the pregnancy without any medical procedure.  i pray every day that, afer this election,  justice and mercy wil walk together once more in our country, that we will once more look to the common good, and that the needs of our people will be more important than increasing the wealth and power of the few at the top of our economy.

before beginning this post this morning, i read "how to become open to life" in zenhabits.net, one of my favorite blogs.  i was inspired by leo's comments on judging less while accepting more, letting go of the need to set goals that restrict our openness to the opportunities life presents us, and releasing ourselves from the need to control.  if you don't follow leo's blog, i encourage you to do so.

my prayer for each of us this morning is that we treasure the friendships we develop over a lifetime, that we work to bring the kingdom of God to fruition in our daily lives, and that we open ourselves to a life of acceptance and openness.  shalom

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Unresting, Unchanging, and Silent as Light

this morning as i sit to write, i am thinking of change.  our lives are in a constant state of change.  loved ones die, jobs end, friends move, children grow up.  our fortunes increase and decrease.  there is but one permanent fixture in our lives and that is the unending quality of love.  the longer i live, the more i come to see that to embrace love is to enter into a stream that flows forever.  God is that ever-flowing stream, the source of love.  as we come to love more fully and deeply, to love God with our whole hearts and our neighbor as ourselves, we participate with God in the one thing that is permanent.

a part of attaching ourselves to the love that is greater than ourselves is learning to appreciate the gift of each moment.  no moment ever repeats itself, each moment is fleeting, never to be experienced again.  one of the changes i pray for in my life each day is to have the mindfulness to offer each moment to God in thanksgiving for the gift of that moment.  some days i have more success in doing that than others.  some days i rush through my life, jumping from activity to another, striving to finish each task as quickly as possible so i can move on to the next one.  how much i miss when i give in to the impulse to live so mindlessly!

my prayer for each of us this day is that we will slow down and relish each breath, each passing second, remembering the great gift of love that is ours to take and to share.  shalom.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pure Unbounded Love Thou Art

this morning i've experienced something that is very rare in my life: a quiet morning mostly to myself.  first thing this morning, my wife and i went for a short walk with our dog, parker, came home and ate breakfast, then she decided to take a short nap because she didn't get enough sleep the night before.  i've taken care of a few chores, but mostly i've spent time thinking about a few of the blessings in my life.

first, i'm grateful that i have a wonderful wife with whom to share my life.  we love to work together, to travel together, to eat together, and we find that when we're doing something together, we take pleasure in sharing activities that one or both of us doesn't particularly like because we are together.

second, i'm grateful for my children and their spouses.  both children are kind, generous people who are happy with themselves, their work, and their partners.  they are thoughtful and helpful and a joy to be with, and the same can be said of their mates.

third, i'm grateful for many good friends--friends with whom we can share our lives, friends we can count on whenever we need them, friends that we can confide in when we need to talk frankly without being judged.  some are friends from work, others are friends from church, but all are part of our family who will be there for us no matter what.

finally, i'm grateful that there is a stream of Love which never ends that carries me along life's ups and downs.  that Love reminds me constantly to look for ways to make the lives of others more enjoyable, to be there for those who may need my help, and to always pray for good to come to those i encounter along the way.

my prayer for each of us today is that we pause to give thanks for those in our lives who love us and to give thanks for our own ability to participate in unending Love.  shalom.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Whoever Would Be Great Among You

for me, one of the most troubling beliefs of orthodox christianity is that of the "atonement."  the belief that God required jesus to be put to death to atone for the sins of all humanity seems incompatible with the loving God that i worship.  a few mornings ago, as i contemplated jesus' ministry and execution, i seemed to be led to a new understanding of its meaning.  when jesus began his ministry, he was aware that his teaching would arouse strong opposition from the rich and powerful.  as he befriended the poor, the powerless, the unclean, those who were seen as traitors to the jewish people, and those who were regarded as infidels, the elite at the opposite end of the social spectrum believed this radical teacher posed a threat to the established order.  jesus' teaching that one could only become great by becoming a servant was contrary to the very foundation of the jewish system that had reached an accomodation with the roman conquerors.

jesus knew that his challenge to this system when he taught that gentiles as well as jews could participate in the kingdom of God, when he taught that women were to be regarded as men's equals, and when he taught that the intentions of the heart were more important than outward signs of religiosity would bring him into direct conflict with the religious leaders who had much to lose if jesus' teachings took hold among the population of palestine.  from the beginning of his ministry, jesus saw where his teachings would lead him, and the religious establishment began plotting against him as soon as they saw his influence spreading among the people.

 jesus' death was not a necessary blood sacrifice so that all people could be forgiven, but it was an indication to his followers that there were more important considerations than the preservation of one's life, since life is fleeting.  he taught that we are like blades of grass that wither and die, but the good we do lives on after us, sending out ripples of love through each life that we touch.  jesus didn't atone for our sins, he gave us an example of the power one life can have if it is lived in love and service.  his brief ministry made him immortal and the good he did continues to influence our lives, making us great by making us servants.

my prayer for each of us this day is that we remember how and why jesus lived and died and that we live the abundant life that he calls us to.  shalom.