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Posts Tagged ‘Honor’

Photo by Wayne Karberg

Photo by Wayne Karberg

I know just enough about “cultivating” anything that it’s hard work. Last summer, I had my first 10×10 vegetable garden. Just getting the dirt right was huge and honestly, somewhat costly. So, when I ask God to “teach me” how to do something, I understand there’s going to be work involved. I’d like it to be a fairy godmother thing, but it’s not.

Teach me your way, Lord,
so that I can walk in your truth.
Make my heart focused
only on honoring your name.
I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God,
with all my heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.  [Psalm 86:11-12, CEB]

So, what will this teaching look like?

Since I probably don’t naturally comprehend the “way” of God, I mean, not really, there will be nudging, I’m sure, and correction. I don’t like correction. Honestly. It’s not that I think I’m perfect (although some of my issues come from trying to be); I get defensive all the time as though getting suggestions for an upgrade or recommended modifications to my behavior means I’m worthless. Where did that black and white response originate?

Okay, along with adjustments to my path, I will also need to learn how to focus. Great. Back in the day when multi-tasking was the buzzword, I was golden. But now, the latest and greatest productivity gurus are recommending single focus, laser vision, and essentialism. Guess what? God expects the same kind of focus. Over the years, I have had a few of these intense experiences; I have been in God’s Presence, and when I was, the excess baggage fell away. It’s a form of “flow,” but spiritually-based.

And yet, despite those wonderful encounters, it’s not my norm today. So, for me to learn God-flow, I must be much more intentional. I will have to actually say “no” to some of my favorite peeps and activities. That’s where the teaching/learning will start. I get that. I can’t expect to center on God’s presence while running from one meeting to another, one commitment to the next. In this week alone, I will have worked or volunteered or attended an event every night of the week in addition to my clocked in 37.5 hours.

energizer-bunny-downPart of me is running from the grief, I know it. Another part of me is caught up in the momentum, like a wind, and I’m not sure how hard the landing will be if I stop flying, so keep going, the energizer bunny is back. But the cost?

Here is the correction: I took on Lent with a vengeance, as though participating in Photo-a-Day or Praying the Hours or creating a devotional or blogging every day here, would focus my energy, my heart, my soul, and mind on Christ. And God has blessed those efforts, but they are not the stuff of “being still” with God.

This is how I know. We are promised: if we spend time in God-flow, thanksgiving will burst forth naturally. And why? Because, when we are in that flow and experience the wonder, magnificence, and holiness of God, we are inspired to appreciate God’s Presence. An authentic response to God in Earth and God in Me and God in Thee is thanksgiving and praise. God is God, the Alpha and Omega, who was and is and is to come. Thanks be to God. Make that real in me.

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Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew

The ultimate offerings at the center of the universe then, this throne that is surrounded in concentric circles of devotees, are seven words or seven blessings. They identify the One who is worthy to receive them and they engage the giver who recognizes their value.

Revelation 7:11b-12
They [angels and elders] fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

1. Praise: approval and admiration; good job! way to go.
2. Glory: resplendent beauty and magnificence as well as “high praise” and distinction.
3. Wisdom: knowledge of what is true and right coupled with justice; enlightened understanding.
4. Thanks: expression of gratitude, appreciation, and acknowledgment.
5. Honor: honest, fair, and worthy of respect.
6. Power: marked ability to do or act; a force.
7. Strength: courage, firmness, as well as mental and/or physical power.

Amen, they cried out. So be it. This is the God we worship. This is the God we trust. This is the God we love.

And these are the merits and offerings we should be recognizing and offering to others. If Spirit is source, then these must also come from there. Is there anyone who cannot benefit from them?

Want to pray for something? Pray for these.

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Following all the rules, obeying all the laws, coloring inside the lines, striving for perfection: these are the phrases that come to mind when I ponder the phrase, “legalistic righteousness.”

Philippians 3:4b, 6
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: . . . as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

Actually, to be honest, just the word righteousness all by itself conjures up all kinds of negative vibes. Well, not completely true. I mean, if I connect the idea with God, then the word smooths out. God can carry righteousness as a banner and that seems perfectly natural. God is righteous and always does the “right” thing, says the “right” words, always has the “right” motives.

Not so, human me.

The synonyms are a lot nicer. I don’t have any problem in my desire to be good or virtuous. I also wouldn’t mind being viewed as holy or godly or devoted. How about benevolent, generous, honorable, or honest? All, quite fine.

But righteous? Blech! I see myself standing there with arms crossed as I look down my nose at the rest of the world. It does not feel loving or friendly or considerate of others.

In the name of the “narrow way,” I see other followers of Christ take this stand. There are Christian sects who go from door to door to proselytize their brand of righteousness and when they are shooed off the property or have a door slammed on them, they consider it a blessing, a confirmation of their way.

And still other faithful, perhaps their God has a different name, and yet, they too act out of a strong sense of righteousness to the point of death for the cause.

Righteousness is elusive. “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. . . . ” [Luke 18:19] Here is the heart of true righteousness, in God alone and thereby, through the Spirit within. Any righteousness or “right living” that is grounded in my own efforts is, by its very nature, “legalistic righteousness.” It’s a show and a sham.

Keep me mindful, O Lord, of your presence within so that my words and actions are joined by the threads of your Spirit. Selah.

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There comes a time when a person’s principles will separate him/her from certain friendships or situations, either by choice because the circumstances are unpalatable or by the pressure of others. The question is whether the separation is a wall or a space.

II Corinthians 6:16-17a
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.

Even though Jesus supped and interacted with “prostitutes and tax collectors,” these folks were not his daily diet. He still had to seek out solitude and silence. He needed time with God, his heart’s true home. He also needed time with his close friends with whom he shared his himself.

This scripture reference has been used for centuries to justify the creation of exclusive “societies” in the name of holiness. Convents and monasteries became the ultimate separation and for years; they thrived until humanity called out for help and slowly they came out and brought their faith to the world around them. It was a difficult change, a time to learn balance between separation and service.

There are other ways to separate. Simply an attitude or affiliation can be a dividing wall. For some, it’s like a badge of honor to maintain a list of things they don’t do: watch R-rated movies, listen to secular music, dance to a beat, look at nude paintings or sculpture, drink wine, beer or any alcohol at all, send their children to public schools, take communion in a particular way, baptize in a particular way, pray in a particular way, and so forth. The walls become thicker and taller over time. Unfortunately, if anyone crosses over or digs a hole through the wall, he/she is considered a reprobate. The wall is fortified.

Some of the extreme examples are the groups who have created compounds in the name of “community” where rules dominate, families inter-marry, and women are considered chattel once again. There are churches where membership is a complex ritual. There are religious groups where the “shepherds” determine whether two people marry or not, or whether a family should buy a car, or how much should be tithed. Yes, these are extremes, but their is separatism all along this continuum. They become an oppression.

How or what people do in the name of God can be diverse. How an individual is led to worship and honor God is a choice. But when these practices become a source of intentional alienation, something is wrong.

It is my heart that my life would be a flowing stream that can break down walls but also create pools and coves of safety. I don’t ever want to become a stagnant pond in the name of “holiness.”

He [she] is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he [she] does prospers. [Psalm 1:3]

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John 4:44
Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.

Face it, sometimes we aren’t appreciated in our own backyard. It’s one of the reasons companies come up with little awards to recognize achievement. It’s not that people aren’t doing extraordinary things all the time, we stop noticing. It’s hard to step away and realize that our colleague, our neighbor, our friend, or even a family member has done something noteworthy. We expect everyone to behave the same way they always have. And, in the end, our expectations are unconsciously placing some pressure on others to never change.

How many times have people said about you (or you about someone else), “oh, she’s always late,” or “he’s clueless,” or “she never remembers …. whatever.” All of these ‘always’ and ‘never’ statements come out of expectations.

I think Jesus resorted to miracles initially to “get their attention.” He had to shake things up. Of course, then the miracles became the norm and everyone expected a miracle. For Jesus, it was a balancing act. I’m pretty sure this is one reason that Jesus never performed the same miracle twice in the same way. It would have become a “method” instead of an intent, a prayer, a gift.

I want to look at the people around me today with fresh eyes. I think there are lots of miracles happening around me already and I haven’t noticed. “Lord, open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things in your word.” [Psalm 119:18] … and the wonderful things that others do and achieve today. Help me to see the gifts of their presence in my life.

For myself, I ask the Lord to help me let go of “wanting or looking to be appreciated.” Let me, instead, bask in the light of Your love and hear your voice tell me, “well done, good and faithful servant.” [Matthew 25:23]

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