This week the news is filled with election everything here in America. One cannot escape. And the words people are using are not usually kind or encouraging. It’s time to do some more praying! And it’s time to remember what Jesus had to say about LOVE and the two greatest commandments. This was a part of our reflection at thinplaceNASHVILLE Sunday night and Tuesday night.
Matthew 22:34-46 The Message (MSG)
When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
As the Pharisees were regrouping, Jesus caught them off balance with his own test question: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said, “David’s son.”
Jesus replied, “Well, if the Christ is David’s son, how do you explain that David, under inspiration, named Christ his ‘Master’?
God said to my Master,
“Sit here at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
“Now if David calls him ‘Master,’ how can he at the same time be his son?”
That stumped them, literalists that they were. Unwilling to risk losing face again in one of these public verbal exchanges, they quit asking questions for good.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER and Journal from this week: Feel free to use these passages and respond in writing, art, collage, or poetry some time this week.
- What is God speaking to you about TODAY as you read these passages? Take time to read them again, use different translations to hear it in fresh ways.
- What do you notice that you haven’t noticed before?
- What questions do you have? What questions come up as you read the passage and/or the psalm? Talk to Jesus about them.
- How can you love the Lord more this week? What would this look like? What might need to be different?
- How can you receive the LOVE of Jesus more this week? What would this look like? What would you need to do or stop doing in order to really receive His Love?
- If Loving God is the most important commandment and loving our neighbor is the second most important, why is it we spend so much time fighting and hating?
Who is someone you find it hard to love? WRITE DOWN their name or find a photo of them…. CHOOSE TO PRAY FOR THIS PERSON THIS WEEK.
Who is a person you find it easy to love but you might not pray for regularly? Write down their name and PRAY FOR THEM this week.
The question that keeps me thinking this week is:
If Loving God is the most important commandment and loving our neighbor is the second most important, why is it we spend so much time fighting and hating?
How can we pray instead of live in conflict?
How can we pray for those we have a hard time loving?
My friend Pastor Kara Root and her church community, Lake Nokomis Presbyterian created a great way to pray for our country and those we find it hard to love. This is how it began….“In January 2016 I created a resource to pray for the nation, and my church has used it since then in many contexts and formats (for several years we prayed for our country once a week with this!). It involves 80+ hearts that name different people and groups in our country, to help us tangibly recognize that we all belong to God and we all belong to each other. I have found it to be a very grounding experience to pray this way – it pulls me beyond partisan politics and division toward compassion for each person and tenderness for the country we share.My friend, the incredibly creative worship curator Lilly Lewin and I adapted it into a Lent resource a few years ago, and this week we repackaged this resource for use at home as a way to Pray for the Nation this week and in the coming months. You can use it for your entire church community, small group or as a personal or family devotional practice. “
And if you aren’t American, I ask that you join us to pray for the United States in this crazy time. We so need it!
Also, we can all Light a candle each night as an act and pray for PEACE in the middle of the pandemic and all the unrest of our world.
guest post by Bethany Dearborn Hiser
Adaptation from From Burned Out to Beloved by Bethany Dearborn Hiser, Adapted from Chapter Seven, “False Beliefs”
Like myself, many social workers and therapists have expressed to me that they know they “should” take better care of themselves. They know what is life-giving to them, and what changes they want to make in their own lives. They’re aware of their needs and desires. Yet they repeatedly run themselves dry, neglect priorities, and avoid taking breaks. They make plans to change their behavior because of exhaustion and signs of burnout; yet without addressing the roots, the cycle is repeated.
One barrier to taking care of ourselves is that we don’t feel worthy of care. “Not feeling worthy” is a belief or narrative we have about who we are. Society assigns people different worth. We thrive best when we know we’re loved regardless of what we do or how society treats us. This is living out of our belovedness.
In reality, we may have limited time for rest and refreshment. Yet if we don’t believe we’re valuable when we rest, then sufficient time isn’t the true barrier. We have to believe we deserve and need care to practice self-care. Without this foundation, seeking to change our behavior will be futile.
To further understand why I raced through my days and didn’t stop to take a lunch break or even go the bathroom, I needed to unpack the beliefs behind those actions.
The Tie Between Beliefs, Emotions, and Behaviors
The fact that our beliefs create emotions, which drive our behaviors, is one of the core tenets of the Genesis Process, a relapse prevention program. It’s based in biblical and neurochemical frameworks and utilizes various psychological and inner-healing tools to understand “what is broken that causes us to be self-destructive.”
Our beliefs about ourselves, our worth, and our purpose drive our attempts to meet the needs that motivate our work. I shared earlier that I believed I had tapped out my care supply, as if there is such a thing. Comparison is a beast that can lead to misguided motivations and false conclusions that end in shame. I started believing I didn’t need (and shouldn’t need) help, which was both untrue and prideful.
Beneath my false belief was also a false identity rooted in shame. I’ve often felt shame for being American and European American. Added to that, I’ve felt shame for being white. Whiteness became “a symbol only of injustice, undeserved privilege and the evil of racism,” as Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson poignantly shed light on in their book The Heart of Racial Justice. I developed what they call a “hip white person identity . . . the attempt of European American people to become or be identified as ‘black’ or ‘hispanic,’ usually out of shame or guilt about their own culture. . . . Their sense of worth is based on the acceptance they receive from the particular group they are trying to identify with.” I can’t count the number of times while I was in Central America or with Mexican families in the United States that people have asked me where I’m from after hearing me speak Spanish. I have said “de Cuba” or “de Argentina.” I’ve longed to belong with people I love and admire— and I’ve not wanted to belong to America or to be white.
White guilt is especially toxic when combined with a messiah complex—another false identity.
As described by Ryan Kuja in a 2019 Sojourners article, “Harmful Consequences of the White Savior Complex,” the White Savior Complex is present when “experts swoop in with their answers and expertise and fail to include the voices of local leaders, organizations, and stakeholders.” White people think they know the answers about how to be God’s hands and feet in the world, so they seek to help “those” people who need it. In doing so, they perpetuate the belief that white people don’t need help. I wonder if I often subconsciously approached people as “helpless” and myself as the heroic helper. The White Savior Complex “makes us into heroes rather than empowering others to become the heroes of their own stories.” It feels powerful to be the one helping others.
False beliefs influence our feelings of anger, shame, resentment, and guilt. When they provide the narrative we live by, we’re more triggered by our own or others’ emotions and less able to care well for the person in front of us. This may lead us down a path toward codependency instead of a love born out of freedom. For example, when we believe our identity is based on what we do or on a rejection of who we are, those we try to help become projects that our success depends on. Their failure is thus our failure. Our work becomes driven by our need to feel successful, not by our desire to improve another’s well-being. Then, as Nouwen put it, “we not only have successes, we become our successes.”
When I live that way, the remedy to failing is for me to try harder and do more. I begin wanting someone else’s change more than they do. I move ahead with my agenda for their lives, not realizing they are potentially ashamed of saying no or disappointing me. This develops into a need to control another’s life and alienates me from the very people I am trying to help.
Changing our false beliefs is crucial for moving toward recovery, resilience, and wholeness. If we don’t unpack our false beliefs, we will stay in the same cycles and relapse into old behavior patterns. According to the Genesis Process, “A person’s self-destructive behavior is the expression of their beliefs, so along with focusing on changing behaviors, Genesis also concentrates on identifying and changing the faulty belief systems that drive self-destructive behaviors.”
I’ve needed to slow down and consider what my identity is based on. When I value only what I do, rather than who I am, I work feverishly. But when I hear from God how truly, deeply loved I am, no matter what I do, I’m free to receive and to give out of fullness. By making small changes, such as turning off my phone, taking a lunch break, and protecting times of rest, I’m heeding the voice of the Beloved. That voice says my value is not in what I do; I deserve care, have limits, and am not superwoman.
Bio for Bethany Dearborn Hiser
Bethany Dearborn Hiser is the director of soul care for Northwest Family Life, a network of therapists trained to work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual trauma. As a bilingual social worker, chaplain, and pastoral advocate, Hiser has worked in a variety of ministry and social service settings with people affected by addiction, sexual exploitation, incarceration, and immigration. She and her husband, Kenny, live in Seattle with their two young children.
I’m going to tell you a secret
as clear as the sunrise,
the one that shakes you awake each day.
I’m going to say –
like the flower bud that draws the bees –
that perhaps you were placed,
formed like a bud unfolding,
to be at the end of the stem,
the focus of God’s gaze.
Perhaps God made you
for no great purpose other
than to love you with
and perhaps the best gift God claims back
is the love you give yourself
as the flowering shrub
in spring bloom.
Ana Lisa de Jong
Living Tree Poetry
At the same time, our Lord showed me, in a spiritual manner, how intimately he loves us. I saw that he is everything that is good and supports us. He clothes us in his love, envelops us and embraces us. He wraps us round in his tender love and he will never abandon us. As I understand it, he is everything that is good. He also showed me a tiny thing in the palm of my hand, the size of a hazelnut. I looked at this with the eye of my soul and thought: ‘What is this?’ And this is the answer that came to me:
‘It is all that is made.’
I was astonished that it managed to survive: it was so small that I thought that it might disintegrate. And in my mind I heard this answer:
‘It lives on and will live on forever because God loves it.’
So every single thing owes its existence to the love of God. I saw that this tiny thing had three properties that were essential to it. The first is that God made it; the second is that God loves it; the third, that God preserves it. But I cannot say what this Creator, Preserver and Lover is. Until I am united with him in my essential being, there will be no true happiness for me – by that I mean that until I am linked to him so closely that there is absolutely nothing between God and me.
~Julian of Norwich, extract from Chapter 5 – The first revelation Divine Love
For more poems for Ana Lisa de Jong, check out the free downloads available in our store:
- Talking About the Sun – Poetry from Nature
- Medicine for the Soul – Poetry for a Pandemic
- Ashes – Poems for Loss
- The Gate of Heaven: Poems for Contemplation
- Broken Into Wholeness; Poems for Recovery
~Photo above by Christine Sine
by Sue Duby
March brought an impromptu drive to Texas to visit “like family” friends. Celebrating Chuck’s birthday. Sharing deep heart moments. Evening strolls in the cool night air. Morning chats in pajamas around the breakfast table. And then. . . it all changed.
“Did you see the news this morning? What do you think? Is it nothing or really a big deal?”. My adrenalin started pumping a bit, anxiety often too ready to rear its head. “Looks like France may be closing soon. Italy’s cases are bad. Not sure what’s happening around here…”. Our vocabulary suddenly increased by a single word… “Corona” (later morphing to “Covid”). And the journey began.
Seven months later, here we are. Still filtering most decisions through that crazy “C” word. Cancelling plans. Wrestling to accept the now, while longing for the “before”. Trying to keep dreaming, yet knowing holding everything loosely works best. Laying down expectations, while purposing to choose hope, joy and peace. Daring to blurt out “I’m so over this!!”, while hearing His gentle whisper, “I am here. I know.”
Enjoying some porch-sitting quiet in the crisp morning Fall air, I sighed with an “OK… here we go for another day… and ‘it’s’ still here!”. Immediately, I sensed a nudge to reframe my thinking. Do I want to live with a “Covid filter” each day or Your filter, Lord? I know the second is so much better. . . brings peace and freedom and even opportunity for fresh direction. Choosing His “filter” means a work of tweaking my thinking, asking for renewed perspective and fresh creative ideas. Work, but a process with promised satisfaction.
Not “what I can’t do”, but “what I can do!”. Walking nearby trails in clean air and sunshine. Trading morning gym classes for yoga mats and online workouts on the “just big enough” bedroom floor.
Not “what’s been taken away”, but “what’s been given”. We can’t “get up and go” like before. We can walk the neighborhood often. On that journey over past months, we’ve met so many new neighbors, now friends. Chats have gone past the “How are you?” to family histories, jobs, teenagers, health and laughter. Nearly 20 and counting!
Not “how long Lord???!!”, but “Lord, what do you have today?”. Working that “being present” muscle overtime. Learning deeper contentment in the day unfolding. Awareness growing in the seeming little matters of the day that actually hold deep significance.
Not “I’m tired of feeling trapped, anxious, frustrated, ________(fill in your own list),. . . ., but “Lord, show me where you want me to grow, what you want to uncover, where I need to let go”.
Not “what if ___________??”, but “Lord, I am trusting you for ________”.
Not “I can’t believe THEY are (saying, thinking, doing) __________”, but “How do You want ME to walk in body, mind and spirit today, Lord?”
Not “stop everything you did before”, but “ask Me for creative ways to walk your days”. I treasure time with friends and need it for encouragement, challenge and fun. Watching my favorite coffee shops shut down and missing my girlfriend dates, I finally woke up and began inviting them to join me on our back porch (chairs distanced, of course!). Now conversations stretch from the previous “1 hour and gotta go!” to even a record breaking 4-hour delight! In the quiet and privacy, sharing goes deeper. Wondering if I need to get a heater to keep those porch dates going through the Winter!
Not “grumbling”, but “gratitude”. Purposing to have “I’m so thankful for ____” woven through my whole day.
My marching orders are clear. I may still feel “shut down” in various measures each day, with some not-so-great emotions along the way. But. . . I know He has fresh windows to open if I pay attention, listen, wait and trust His unfolding ways.
This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 NASB
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NASB
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8
by Christine Sine
Welcome to Meditation Monday. Today I am going to try something a little different.
Like many of us, I am constantly wondering how to maintain my equilibrium in the midst of the very trying times in which we find ourselves. I am frequently looking for practices that help me relax and refresh myself. I am particularly inspired by those that draw me into the presence of God and help me to feel the warm embrace of that presence.
I have looked at a lot of different mindfulness practices over the last few weeks and there are so many out there that it is hard to know where to start. Even my Fitbit has suggestions and I decided last week to give their 3 mintute breathing meditation a go.
It started well – take some deep, slow breaths in and out breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, it encouraged. Great, I thought. I like this. Then it encouraged, “feel your breath going deep into your stomach.” Into my stomach – no way. All that does is produce wind and belching. I want my breath to go deep into my lungs and out through my bloodstream to my extremities. So I decided it was time I created my own breathing prayer meditations – complete with prayers and scriptures to help ground me in the places that I feel the most need to be grounded in. It is a little more than 3 minutes (like 15!) but I personally have found this to be the perfect length of time for a practice like this. Enjoy!
Unfortunately there is no Taize style service from St Andrews this week as there have been technical problems with the service. However I have had a number enquiries about the musicians Kester Limner and Andy Myers. Unfortunately they do not have an album available but here is a link to the St Andrews playlist of their music – there is quite a collection so click through to YouTube to see the whole collection. Enjoy.
Check out the increasing number of resources that we have available for Blue Christmas and Advent. Below you will find Blue Christmas Resources, a Blue Christmas Online Event, and our Advent Retreat Online experience!
Blue Christmas Resources
- Acknowledging Our Pain – Resources List for Blue Christmas: Updated for 2020
- The Text This Week – Blue Christmas
- Litany for a Blue Christmas by Morgan Schmidt
- ‘I follow light’ – Blue Christmas by Kate Kennington Steer
- Blue Christmas 2017 by Kate Kennington Steer
Blue Christmas Online
A Virtual Contemplative Evening on ZOOM, free and open to all
Reflection, Music, Art, Community, Hope
2020 has been a hard, tiring year. We’re weary. The world is weary. An eclectic group of curators across the US with a passion for sacred spaces online and in real life have pulled together an interactive, experiential, contemplative evening for anyone who’s feeling weary this season and wants a space to gather some hope.
Come with your housemates.
Invite your friends, small group, of faith community members to join in from their living room but share in the experience together.
Registration is required to provide the link and details. We’ll be recording it if you can’t attend that night but want to participate later.
Facilitated by: Lilly Lewin and Freerange Worship
Special music with Heatherlyn, Kate Hurley, Archie Davis, and more.
Tuesday, December 8 at 7:30pm Central Time
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
~ Leonard Cohen
What you will need:
Hopefully by next week!