Ego’s death march (I wish)

Ego’s death march (I wish)

photo by Ben White

pray in secret?

Thoughts on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Alms, prayer and fasting, all to be done. Done quietly, obediently, without drawing attention to self. Hmm. My prayers are done in the quiet of my heart and home, but then I share them with others in my blog and hope many people read them are are blessed. (In fact, I wish more people read them than are currently doing so.) How do I honor my mission to hear your voice of love and share it with others, and your instruction about praying secretly in my closet?

I guess the key is the motive behind letting your “piety” be seen by others. Jesus describes those whose intention is to show off their piety so that others are impressed by their righteous practices. The impression they make is the reward of their righteousness; it is temporary, not eternal, it corrupts their character rather than purifying it.

My intention is to let your love penetrate my heart, transform it and then to let your light shine through me. I am not perfect in this process. I am a human, tainted by sin, and all I do is touched by the stain. I am a work in progress. The enemy of my soul uses this crack in my vessel to shut me up. Since part of me wants the attention of others, I should not publish my prayers. It is my ego, my selfish ambition driving me, hoping others will think highly of me.

The enemy uses the truth against me and against God’s kingdom. It’s true, my motives are not 100% pure, but I will not be 100% pure until I reach perfection in heaven. So am I to not share the good news of God’s good work in me now? No, I must share it. It is in fact proof of the gospel. God takes an imperfect vessel like me, pours his truth into it and then uses it to encourage other broken vessels to let God love them.

Ego be damned. God is bigger than my selfish ambition. His love overshadows my puny need for attention. God be glorified.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:9,10

His power is made perfect in my weakness. Shine, Jesus, shine. Use my impure self to show off your generous grace. And melt my ego in the process. Thank you and amen.

noah-silliman-194615.jpg

photo credit: Noah Silliman


Friend, don’t let your tainted motivation keep you from the good God has given you to do. Own your brokenness and your beauty and run the race set before you, even if you limp as you run. 

With you on the journey, Debby

plucking weeds

plucking weeds

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photo credit Amelia Bartlett

Thoughts on Matthew 5:21-32

It all begins in the heart, for bad or good. Murder, adultery are the fruit of a bad seed. Uproot the seed and the fruit will not appear. Easier said than done. Living in the country has taught me how expedient it is to whack off the top of the weed rather than dig out the root. Expedient, yes, efficient, no. We had a poison ivy expert come and give a quote on removing the poison ivy and other invasive weeds on our property. He said it is a long, slow, labor intensive process. It takes years to rid a parcel of land of poison ivy. Roundup shrivels the leaves, but it doesn’t kill the plant.

Jesus says poisonous, death-dealing fruit such as murder and adultery need to be plucked out, not just suppressed.

In my little parochial world I do not have much worry about committing adultery or murder, but what fruit do the seeds of lust or anger bear in my life? Let’s pause and let you examine me, Holy Spirit.

The word that comes to my mind as I sit quietly with the question is pettiness. Ouch. Dictionary.com defines petty as “behavior characterized by an undue concern for trivial matters, especially in a small-minded, spiteful way.” How am I petty? Irritated that Jack doesn’t load the dishwasher the way I think it should be loaded. Frustration with B’s disregard for my time schedule. (he says he’ll be here in 25 minutes and shows up an hour later.) Pettiness raises her head because I don’t have anyplace I have to be, so it really doesn’t matter if he shows up at noon or one o’clock!

I know I can’t not feel the emotional reactions I have to these situations. Feelings are feelings, they are amoral. But what they can lead to is definitely a moral issue. Lord, pluck out the anger that produces such pettiness in my life. Heal the wounded place that demands my way, my time, me, me, me. Plant your great love within my heart. When I notice pettiness emerging I will bring my soul and the source of my pettiness into your presence. In your light small-minded, spiteful thoughts diminish. It’s a long, slow, labor intensive process, but you are on the job. Thank you and amen.

Your invitation to dazzle!

 

Thoughts on Matthew 5:13-15

Salt and light. That’s who you are. You may not always feel very salty or very bright. But Jesus names you and invites you to flavor and dazzle the world. You are salt, may you bring out the best in the people you encounter today and the earth God has given you to tend. You are light, shine so that others can see their beauty and their brokenness. All for God’s glory, point to Jesus! Amen.

The path to bliss

Thoughts on Matthew 5:1-12a (the beatitudes)

God you know us so well. You begin your teaching about the kingdom by addressing what human hearts longs for: happiness. We are created to live in a state of well-being and are restless because we do not experience it. You alone provide the true, unsullied source of bliss. Our longing provides us with great energy. It is like a powerful stream of water rushing through a hose, unless held and directed, it dangerously flies about like the banned toy from the 1960’s –  the water wiggle.

Yet the way to this state of blessing seems backwards – happiness through poverty, grief, meekness? You draw me in and then turn my world upside down. Of the many blessings you mention, I’m drawn to the blessedness of “seeing God.” It belongs to the pure in heart.

A pure heart – one not mixed or adulterated with any other substance or material (dictionary.com)

A clean heart – like soiled laundry washed clean of stains.

A purged heart – one that houses only the purist thoughts, feelings, motives with nothing evil or worldly left in it.

An uncompromised heart – one surrendered totally to the reign of Christ.

A heart absorbed by the contemplation of God

Lord, purify my heart. A pure heart will see you everywhere in all places, people and lives face-to-face with God.

My paraphrase: Oh, the blessedness of having a clean, correctly motivated heart for I will see the face of God everywhere I look.

My heart sings the praise song.  “I want to know you I want to see your face…”

Whose image do you bear, Caesar’s or God’s?

Whose image do you bear, Caesar’s or God’s?

Thoughts on Mark 12:13-17

image from wildwinds.comApparently, the religious and the politicians were ganging up on Jesus, trying to trap him into making a statement that could wind him up in deep kimchee. They come with flattering words and false faces, but he doesn’t fall for it, he “knows their hypocrisy.”

Jesus, you didn’t fall for theirs and you don’t fall for mine. Sometimes I come to you with proper words and with spiritual-sounding requests, but I’m really trying to get you to do for me what I want you to do for me. My desire is hiding inside the trojan horse of proper liturgy.

Oh Jesus, lord of heaven and earth, thy will be done in my life masks a heart that is not present to the presence of the holy Lord of heaven and earth. What I’m really doing is going through the motions of spirituality hoping you’ll bless me and grant me favor.

You speak to me in the symbol of a coin. Governments stamp a representation of their authority upon their coinage.

Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power. Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them. In a certain sense the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler. Where the coin was valid the ruler held political sway over the people. Don Schwager, Servants of the Word

With whose image am I stamped? To whom do I belong? Who holds sway over my life?

These questions shake me awake. You are not a vending machine, useful for my purposes. I cannot force you to align with the values I hold as precious. I cannot use my power to attempt to acquire the desires of my small, limited life.

“Give to Caesar that things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” I belong to you, your image is etched in my soul. Your will done in my life is truly the best. Let all that belongs to Caesar fall away from me. I give to you what is rightfully yours, my life. Thank you and amen.

Maybe you can relate to my experience.

With you on the journey,

Debby

You are God’s vineyard. How to be a good one.

You are God’s vineyard. How to be a good one.

Dear friend,

According to Jesus, you are God’s planted vineyard, fully equipped with all you need to produce a bounteous crop of grapes: A hedge marking your boundaries and protecting you from critters and thieves, a dug pit to make space for processing the produce of the vine, a tower granting oversight of the vineyard and a residence. God has provided you all you need to live a good and productive life. Be a good, respectful tenant.

What is the hedge God has built around you? God’s word is your protection, it’s truth holds you safe from predators. Connecting with God’s presence through prayer strengthens the wall that surrounds you. When you thoughtlessly forget God, when you willfully disobey God’s Spirit, the hedge is broken and you are vulnerable to forces that intend your harm. Take a word from God’s heart and carry it with you through the day. It will be your hedge and your returning point.

How do you make space to process God’s activity in your life? Practice what you’ve been taught. Do the good works God’s given you to do. Share God’s love. Remain constant. Transformation from grapes to wine happens in the small details done faithfully.

God has built a tower in your soul, a place where you can retreat and gain perspective. With God, in this place of residence, you more clearly see the big picture. You find rest from the urgency of life’s details and remember you are built for eternity. Today will pass and so will its deadlines. What are you doing that will last forever? How can you transform what you’re doing into eternal values? This is the perspective the tower gives. All is redeemable for eternity. Working with spiritual directees, sure. But feeding the dogs?

Lord grant us eyes that see eternity in the dog chow.

With you on the journey,

Debby