Prayer to Begin a New Semester

Lord, as we prepare for the coming of a new semester, make us ready, attentive and available to hear you.

Thank You for the gift of being able to rise each day with the assurance that You walk through it with us.

Thank You for the gifts of creativity and uniqueness, and the energy to put them to good use.

May all that we are today, all that we try to do today, may all our encounters, reflections, even the frustrations and failings all be place in your hands.

May the work we do and the way we do it, bring new hope, new life, and courage to all we come in contact with this semester. We thank you, Lord.   Amen

(Marquette University)

One Word that Changes Everything

Margaret Feinberg recently shared one word that changes everything for us:

One of the best words you’ll ever learn to say is, “Yes!”

“Yes” to learning…

“Yes” to being stretched…

Yes” to new experiences with friends…

“Yes” to wrestling with unfamiliar issues…

“Yes” to unusual flavors…

“Yes” to thinking deeper…

“Yes” to growth…

“Yes” to trying new things…

The word that will change your life is saying Yes….

Because when you stop saying  “no” to opportunities to grow and think deeper and learn…

You break out of….

The familiar

The same old same old

Those negative spirals of thought

The focus on what’s not possible

The tendency of self-focus

And open yourself up to…

The abundant life God has called you to live. New people. New experience. New play. New fun. New joy. New delight.

— Margaret Feinberg  (Read more here )

 

Thank You God for Each Moment

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the blue-sky moment,
the softening earth,
the refreshing wind,
the yellow bush,
for my full heart
and the joy rising in me.

Soften me
to receive whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment
for the twilight moment,
the pause,
the good tired,
for the quiet reflection,
the slowing down,
the mysterious sunset,
for the wisdom growing inside me.

Gentle me
to feel whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the midnight moment,
the loneliness,
the fretful wondering,
for the watchful stars,
the long ache,
the sleepless wait,
and the hope straining in me.

Focus me
to see whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the high-noon moment,
the job,
the necessary routine,
for the sweaty struggle,
the impulse to change,
and the courage gathering in me.

Ground me
to wrestle with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the shared moment,
the listening,
the unguarded word,
for the fragile openness,
the ready smile,
the accepted difference,
for my passionate heart
and the trust rooting in me.

Stretch me
to grow with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Thank you for each moment,
for the charged moment,
the confrontation,
for the hard decision,
the unexpected growing,
for my intense heart
and the truth expanding in me.

Free me
to be open to whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Thank you for each moment,
for the holy moment,
the music,
the child’s eyes,
for the sunlight,
the touch,
the tears,
for the trembling pleasure,
the unutterable beauty,
for the life and love and heart in me aware,
and the wholeness spreading in me.

Touch me
through whatever comes as a gift
That I may be grateful
and praise you in it.

~from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder

The Burial of Dad’s Sermon Notes

Cleaning out my office after 26 years of ministry in the same small town congregation, I stumbled across my father’s sermon notes.

Since his death in 1991, I’ve kept several boxes of his hand-scrawled outlines enshrined in a filing cabinet, to honor his memory, maintaining a sacred bond with my heritage. But leafing through these mementos of glory thundered from the pulpit, I finally admitted the truth to myself.  There was no life in them.

For Dad, notes did not contain the life.  It was in the delivery.  The notes weren’t the sermon.  Rather, they were like spent bullet shell casings, or fireworks that had already been shot.  They were just scraps of words without significance.

The day I threw my father’s sermons in the dumpster, it felt somewhat like a second burial. . . with hope of resurrection.

Spiritual Formation and Beach Glass

“Spiritual formation is like the creation of beach glass. The pieces of glass that enter the ocean are never identical. Neither do they also look the same as the current washes them to the shore. It is the same for my spiritual formation and the ultimate result of a lifetime of being changed and transformed. I will still be me, but I will look, feel, and react differently.” — Sadie Kaminski

Singing In the Cage and Out

LITTLE CAGE
-Anonymous

He placed me in a little cage,
Away from gardens fair;
But I must sing the sweetest song,
Because He placed me there.

Not beat my wings against the cage,
If it’s my Maker’s will,
But raise my voice to heaven’s gates,
And sing the louder still.
—-

OPEN CAGE
-Darrelyn L. Tutt

He opened up my little cage,
And caught me unaware;
And now I wish to sing the praise,
Of He who brought me there.

With open wing and joy I sing,
And none more dear to me;
Than He took the bars away,
And set my spirit free.
—-

“Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
2 Corinthians 3:17

Darrelyn Tutt is an outstanding poet.  Her inspiring and reflective writings can be found at her site:  Inkwell Ministries 

Whose Neighbor Are You?

The Good Samaritan by Vincent Van Gogh

One day, a rule-bound lawyer, hoping to get a checklist to prove he was good enough, approached Jesus and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Like a wise rabbi, Jesus didn’t give an answer, but countered the question with his own question, “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”

The lawyer was thrilled, because he knew the answer to that one!  Proudly, he rattled off something he learned in the synagogue  as a child years ago, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”  Then he added, “And, love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Bingo!” said Jesus.  “You nailed it!  You said it right.  Now, DO it!”

The lawyer was startled.  The conversation was moving fast from theory to real life application.  He wasn’t so sure he liked the direction this was going, and got defensive.”

“But. . ..  But. .  . who is my neighbor anyway?”

He wasn’t asking in order to find a neighbor to love.  Instead, he was asking “who is NOT my neighbor?  Who can I exclude?”

Jesus would have none of that, so he responded with a story.

“A man, traveling to Jericho, was attacked by robbers, beaten and left for dead beside the road.

A priest hurried by.  He was late to church.  When he saw the broken, bleeding victim, he thought, “That’s sad.  I wonder what he did to deserve that” and passed on the other side.

Another religious guy a local politician, approached him, and, horrified when he was the battered man, thought, “We need to have a discussion about violence in our community.  At the next council meeting, I’ll see if we can form a committee to look study it.”  Then, he scurried on his way.

Finally, a Samaritan passed by.  (Samaritans were considered half-breed outcasts in their culture.  All the characters in the story so far would have looked down their noses at him — especially the lawyer who asked the question in the first place.)   The Samaritan stopped and helped the injured man.  He bandaged his wounds, put him on his own donkey and carried him to a safe and comfortable place to heal.

Now, who was the neighbor in this story?”

The lawyer realizing there was only one correct answer here, replied, “The one who showed mercy.”

And Jesus smiled and said, “You are right — and THAT is what you need to do.”

The lawyer started the conversation by asking “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus ended the conversation by asking, “Whose neighbor are you?”

Sarcasm isn’t so Smart

The following was written by Dr. Clifford M, Lazarus, co-founder and director of The Lazarus Institute in New Jersey.

———————–

If you want to be happier and improve your relationships, cut out sarcasm since sarcasm is actually hostility disguised as humor.  Despite smiling outwardly, most people who receive sarcastic comments feel put down and usually think the sarcastic person is a jerk.  Indeed, it’s not surprising that the origin of the word sarcasm derives from the Greek word “sarkazein” which literally means “to tear or strip the flesh off.”  Hence, it’s no wonder that sarcasm is often preceded by the word “cutting” and that it hurts.

What’s more, since actions strongly determine thoughts and feelings, when a person consistently acts sarcastically it usually only heightens his or her underlying hostility and insecurity.  After all, when you come right down to it, sarcasm is a subtle form of bullying and most bullies are angry, insecure, cowards.   Alternatively, when a person stops voicing negative comments, especially sarcastic and critical ones, he or she soon starts to feel happier and more self-confident.  Also, the other people in his or her life benefit even faster because they no longer have to hear the emotionally hurtful language of sarcasm.

Now I’m not saying all sarcasm is bad.  It’s just better used sparingly – like a potent spice in cooking.  Too much spice and the dish will be overwhelmed by it.  Similarly, an occasional dash of sarcastic wit can spice up a chat and add an element of humor to it.  But a big or steady serving of sarcasm will overwhelm the emotional flavor of any conversation and taste very bitter to its recipient.

So, tone down the sarcasm and work on clever wit instead which is usually devoid of hostility and thus more appreciated by those you’re communicating with.  In essence, sarcasm is easy (as is most anger, criticism and meanness) while true, harmless wit takes talent.

Thus, the main difference between wit and sarcasm is that, as already stated, sarcasm is hostility disguised as humor. It is intended to hurt, and is often bitter and caustic. Witty statements are usually in response to someone’s unhelpful remarks or behaviors, and the intent is to unravel and clarify the issue by accentuating its absurdities. Sarcastic statements are expressed in a cutting manner; witty remarks are delivered with undisguised and harmless humor.

Also, don’t hestate to tell others that you don’t appreciate their sarcastic comments because it’s just thinly veiled hostility and unacceptable bullying.

Remember:  Think well, act well, feel well, be well!

Dr. Clifford Lazarus blogs for Psychology Today’s “Think Well” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/think-well