Category Archives: Spiritual Fitness

Let’s Read the Bible. It’s Amazing!!!!

I have been reading the Gospel of Luke every morning for the past three weeks using Eugene Peterson’s, The Message/The Bible in Contemporary Language. Peterson is a Biblical Scholar

Today, I read verses 17-46. What a clear presentation of Jesus’ teaching. If all of us could totally live these few verses we would immediately be on our way to world peace. Not everyone has a copy of “The Message” and/or has been introduced to it. Because the copyright at the front of this Bible allows for large direct quotes, I’ve decided to give you those 29 verses to read in this blog.

I would love to hear your reflections on this passage.

What do these words mean for your own life?

In 2019 what changes would you have to make, in order to live them fully?

You can go to www.biblegateway and look up Luke 6:17-46 in many different translations and interpretations of the Bible. Check them out, if you choose, not in order to critique The Message,  but to enlarge your understanding of Jesus’ teaching.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Luke 6:17-47 The Message (MSG)

You’re Blessed

17-21 Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:

You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.

22-23 “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.

Give Away Your Life

24 But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
What you have is all you’ll ever get.

25 And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.
There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.

26 “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.

27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behaviour: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

35-36 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

37-38 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

39-40 He quoted a proverb: “‘Can a blind man guide a blind man?’ Wouldn’t they both end up in the ditch? An apprentice doesn’t lecture the master. The point is to be careful who you follow as your teacher.

41-42 “It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbour’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbour.

Work the Words into Your Life

43-45 “You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.

46-47 “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Flying on God’s Spirit

Flying on God’s Spirit

I’ve been reading The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by T.E.Carhart. It’s not an exciting adventure story but it is a fascinating presentation of piano’s and playing them to make music for your soul. In the Chapter called The Master Class, a famous pianist, named Sebok, speaks, “The best technique is one that does not exist, a kind of disappearing act so the real focus is on where the technique comes from: an inner calm…not the same as relaxation…” rather from all human emotions but not fear. “Music is blocked by fear…There is no such thing as music note by note just as there is no such thing as a book, word by word. There is no perfection, just a life long process of making music; once technique and commitment have been suitably mastered, you have to decide for yourself the right interpretation. It is a complex message.”

As I read this today, I realized that for me, Carhart was giving words to my understanding of faith and life. The Bible like a musical score is a document not to be understood word by word, but as a whole. It gives direction for me to interpret for my life. I can master the techniques it gives – the commandments and the teachings of Jesus. I can make the commitment to knowing them so completely that they disappear and my life becomes God’s song through the interpretation of my living.

I call it “flying on God’s Spirit”.  Others call it “letting go and letting God.” Occasionally, I achieve that amazing interpretation. Usually those moments come when I am loving someone, caring for someone, preaching, mentoring, and writing. Worry about self, and how I am doing and what is right totally disappears. I get out of the way and God’s Spirit shines through. Theologians call it becoming “the Christ” for that moment.

As Carhart says, “there is no perfection” in making music. My thought is that there is no perfection in living. There are “moments”, wonderful, spectacular moments when my soul is at peace, and my interpretation of God’s music reaches out and touches souls – mine and others – through my writing, my preaching, my living. For those moments I am truly grateful.

Let’s Take the Plunge

Let’s Take the Plunge.

Christmas Day is over, but for Christians, the celebration is truly just beginning. The Good News of God’s presence in the world is a miracle. We have stories of the wonder of creation that take our breath away. Whether it’s a beautiful snow-covered landscape sparkling in the sun, or the sacredness of holding a new born child, we know that God is at the source of all beauty, love, peace. We’d like to tell the world, but it’s embarrassing and scary to speak about faith in God.

We see the judgment in people’s eyes. We feel the skepticism, mockery, disgust. Pushing past those feelings to offer the comfort of prayer when someone is hurting takes great courage and determination. It’s so much easier just to give a hug, then go home and pray. For me, Christmas helps me to feel more confident in speaking of my faith. I watch the generosity of people as they drop dollars in the Salvation Army buckets. Their sharing encourages me to take the plunge and risk sharing. Now the season has passed. Do I have to wait ’til next Christmas?

It’s January, the beginning of another year. Maybe now is the time for risk. After all, in today’s world where some are willing to risk being openly racist, surely we can risk being openly faithful. After all, what we are doing is telling stories; stories that let our faith shine. Our job is not to tell others how to think or act. Our job is to share that God is with us, giving us comfort and courage in the tough times, celebrating with us in our joy. We can speak of our alternative lifestyle. We do not live alone. We know God’s presence within our hearts and through our church family. Maybe if others see and hear us, they might just get curious. They might ask questions, like what is this Christian faith thing all about? Once the questions begin, sharing our faith becomes easier.

Give it a try. Own up to your faith in 2019. Enjoy the difference it makes for you and for others.

God said, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronmy 11:18)

 

Happy New Year!!!

To Stumble or Walk with Purpose

For the last few months, I have been just stumbling along. For sure, I have accomplished everything that needed to be done. For sure, I’ve had some good times playing with Tom, and family. I have certainly been busy. But, underneath my busyness has been that wonder- what next? What is my purpose? I didn’t publish a book in 2018. Maybe I’m finished writing? I know that’s not true. Today, I read the reflection for New Year’s Day, in Our Daily Bread. It’s based on Ecclesiastes 9:10 – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

What can my hand find to do, I wondered. I smiled and picked up my pencil and wrote:

  1. There’s your children’s story, “The Elephant at the Manger,” maybe it’s time that became a book. Immediately I thought, but I don’t have an illustrator. There are many avenues for removing that obstacle. It will require effort – “doing with all my might.”
  2. Last year you gathered a bunch of new biblically based short stories you have written over the years. Maybe it’s time you created a new short story collection. I chuckled when I thought, that too will require effort – “doing with all my might.”
  3. You’ve thought about writing a book for intermediate readers, even talked about it with your daughter and granddaughter. Maybe it’s time you gave that some real effort – “doing with all your might.”

I chuckled and said, “Okay Lord, I hear you. My purpose is to write and it’s time I got back to it on a regular basis.

Maybe this is an exercise for you, my readers to consider. As you enjoy the sunshine on this first day of 2019, pick up a pencil and start writing about the projects you might like to do, the things you would like to make happen this year. Just set your hand free to write. For sure, all of them will require real effort. You may believe you don’t have the time or energy to do any of them. Write them down anyway. For sure you won’t accomplish any of them if you just stumble along, wondering, feeling like something is missing. Take some time today to think about your life. Give yourself a chance to “Walk with Purpose” into 2019.

Happy New Year!!!

Unconditional – That was the difference.

This week, with a number of my colleagues, I experienced compassion, not just for us as people, but as clergy. I had signed up for a retreat, an opportunity to rest, learn and relax. I received so much more. There was plenty of learning, personal renewal and connection with colleagues. The retreat setting, Kingfisher Bay resort, provided loving hospitality, fabulous food, and walks in the woods by the lake. I felt refueled by the worship, especially the songs and the scripture. And underlying all of that was the unconditional love and respect for all of us as clergy expressed by the event co-ordinator, Kathleen Whyte. She showered us with caring. She spoke with humility about the joy she received from having the privilege of planning this event just for us.

As we gathered in a circle to say goodbye, Kathleen placed worship stoles around our necks. Kathleen and her friend Dianne Ross had designed, hand made and painted each one for us. Her joy in giving will remain with me always. We all said, “Thank you,” but there are no words to describe the value of Kathleen’s ministry to us.

I offer you this story as a seed for your living. In our lives, we have professional people, trades people, store clerks and more who serve us. When we judge their work good enough, we sometimes remember to offer thanks. Seldom do we consider the gifts of talent, energy and love they bring as a group of clergy, doctors, teachers, electricians, etc. I suggest to you from this week forth, to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the paid servants that make a difference in our lives. We can follow Kathleen’s example.

Try a New Diet

Try a New Diet.

Here are my thoughts as we step into another “new beginning” this September.

We worry a great deal today about being clean. Many of us shower every day. We wash our hands after just about everything, our clothes after one wearing, dirty or not. Why do we have this obsession with “clean”? Science has taught us that dirt carries bacteria that can harm us. Our natural immunity can become overwhelmed. We know that the scientists’ advice has merit.

I suggest we apply that advice to our hearts and minds as well. They too have a natural immunity through the innate love and goodness of God that is born within us. In today’s world, society lays out a virtual banquet of violence, hatred, destruction, ready for and enticing us to taste and see how exciting it is. The internet, books, TV, movies can show us torture, abuse in living colour. With video games, we can be the perpetrators of violence earning fame and fortune in the cyber world. Of course, we aren’t actually doing those things ourselves in the real world. We believe that our natural goodness, our value system will keep us safe from harm. But, like the germs and bacteria that can overwhelm our physical immunities, a steady diet of images of violence, hate and destruction can overwhelm our natural goodness as well.

As we begin again this September, I recommend we try cleaning up our entertainment diet. Let’s give our hearts and minds a head start by cleansing the food they receive. Let’s try coming to the thoughts banquet of love, laughter and kindness. Let’s be the first to stop inviting into our minds, hate, hostility, and judgment. Let’s make sure our leisure and work time is filled with ideas and actions of love, humility, and acceptance. I can’t imagine a better way to begin September 2018.

Our Bible tells us, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Mother’s Day! What Do I Say This Year?

What else can I say about Mothers’ Day? Between preaching and writing columns, haven’t I already said all I have to say? I turned to my Bible.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is human kind that your are mindful of us, human beings that you care for us?”         (Psalm 8:3-4)

The psalmist is overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe and the generosity and abundance of God’s blessings given to us. I thought of my moms, very different from each other, yet generous in their love for me. God blessed me through both of them.

Being a Mom is a commitment that continues even into the next life. What do mothers do for us? When we are little, mom’s job is physically exhausting: feeding, clothing, sleepless nights. Then, our troubles were small, the “fixes” simple. And, we returned her love with hugs and words of love.

Mothering teenagers is emotionally tougher. Our troubles are bigger and we don’t always want Mom’s help. She job is let go a little and watch us make mistakes. That process intensifies in our young adult years. We know everything, Mom, nothing. Our hugs are fewer and further between. We often don’t notice her in the background worrying, praying and trying so hard not to interfere.

I’m sure today it amuses both my moms when I struggle to keep out of the way of my own grown children. When I succeed, I can hear both moms cheering for me. When I interfere and offer unwanted advice, I feel them reach through that veil that separates us and say, “Yes, leaving them to struggle is tough, but you’re doing okay.”

Neither of my moms was perfect, but I was blessed by their love. This year I celebrate Mothers’ Day by remembering the work of their hands, the abundance of their love. This year I thank God who blessed me with their care, their example, their ability to stand back and let me fail, their joy at my success. This year I offer my poem of thanksgiving to God.

Thank You, God, for Mothers

When I consider your gift of mothers in this world,
Their caring, the work of their hands,
Their loving, the gift of their hearts,
I am humbled that you have created mothers for us.

When I consider how hard it must have been for them,
To let us make our own choices                                                                  knowing the pain those choices will bring,
When I consider the abundance of support we have received,
I am humbled that you have created mothers for us.

Thank you, God, for mothers, some more perfect than others.
Thank you, God, for knowing that we need a mother’s love.
Thank you, God, for being a mother for us all.

How Many Steps Do You Take Each Day?

Tom gave me a “Fit Bit” for Christmas, because I’ve been trying to make myself exercise more. He wanted to help. As a writer I spend hours at my computer. As a senior, it is easier for me to cuddle in my lovely warm home, rather than venture out into frigid weather and slippery streets.

My “Fit Bit” is helping. I want to reach my goal of at least 8000 steps a day. Every time I get up from my desk, I look for little jobs that require movement. When the screen celebrates that I’ve reached my goal, I celebrate. I’m motivated to try harder.

I wish someone would invent a “Spiritual Fit Bit” that would add up my spiritual activities, not for others to know, but just for me. It would keep track of the time I spend praying, reading the Bible and other Christian books, doing acts of kindness, giving gifts to others and more.

My “Fit Bit” reminds me that increased activity is simple. I just need to close my computer and do something active.

The reality is, it’s just that simple to be spiritually fit. If you like to read, pick up the Bible or a Christian novel like my Fireweed. You’ll be surprised. Christian books can be entertaining, too. If you enjoy your friends, risk talking with them about faith issues. You’ll be amazed at how your friendship deepens. If you like to play cards, visit a shut-in. Maybe they do too. You’ll be doing an act of kindness while having fun. The opportunities for prayer, learning, service, growing in faith surround you. Take advantage of them.

Write down your spiritual activities. Your “Spiritual Fit Bit” can be a list on the fridge or in your journal. Give God thanks for your growing list. Giving thanks, oh yes, that, too, is another step in the Christian journey.

This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. (Exodus 13:9)

 

 

Is Faith a Magic Charm?

What Do You See?

Is faith a magic charm? Some people think so, but not me. Faith is not my “lucky rabbit’s foot”, or special hat that will ensure my life goes smoothly. Faith doesn’t protect me from failure, or accident or illness. Faith won’t even keep my loved ones alive. So what good is it?

Faith is that strength from God that comes when I feel totally overwhelmed. When I’m amazed that I actually survived such a tough time, I know that God joins me in life’s journey. Faith tells me that God’s strength will sustain me through the joys and tragedies that come with living. With faith, I will not just survive, but live creatively. My faith is my anchor for living. I will not lose hope. When darkness surrounds me, God gives me enough light for the next step, and that is all I need.

My faith also calls me to journey in gratitude. I am grateful for the abundant blessings I receive. I am also grateful for God’s presence carrying me, leading me through the storms of life. I am grateful that I can trust that there will be new life at the end of the storm.  God will not be defeated.

Forty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old high school student painted an intriguing masterpiece just for me. It hangs in my living room still today. In the picture, a teenager stands at the water’s edge with her dog. Wind blows her hair and clothes. White caps roll in. Thunderclouds fill the sky. There is a gap in the clouds with just a sliver of sun showing. Sometimes, my guests think the teen is watching a storm coming. Sometimes they see new life in the sun that is peeking through the clouds, bringing an end to the storm. I see faith in that painting. The presence of the son, whether or not he is hidden by the clouds, is always there waiting, loving, giving strength. The teen in the picture can face whatever comes, and whatever has been. For me, that high school student of so long ago captured Jesus’ words, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.”

I Love My Body!

I woke Sunday morning at 5:55. My alarm was set for six. My first thought, I love my body. God has gifted me with an inner alarm. I usually don’t trust it so I set my clock alarm, but I don’t have to. I automatically wake up just before the alarm rings. Tom appreciates my gift, too, especially on days when he doesn’t have to be up early.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember ever before thinking, I love my body. Usually, I look at my body and groan. Twenty pounds lighter would make my knees much happier and my clothes look better. I’ve got love handles, and a tummy that is rounder than it should be. My ankles are slightly swollen. My skin is dry. I’ve got lots of wrinkles. Those miserable brown age spots keep popping up here and there. Yes, normally I’m not at all happy with my body. And I don’t think I’m alone in this world.

Our society has taught us to be dissatisfied with our bodies. Watch your weight. Don’t eat too much. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. Try this diet. No, try that one. If you want to be beautiful, you have to be thin. And so, the messages come at us, fast and furious.

My daughter is a child psychologist. She speaks a different message. “Learn to love your body as it is,” she says. So today, I suggest, appreciate the wonder of your body. Across from me is a vase filled with majestic, brightly coloured gladioli. On the windowsill, are delicate sweet peas. I can see their beauty and smell their sweet fragrance. At night as I go to sleep, I hear Tom whisper, “I love you.” I wake up, and I can still walk. My arms can reach out to hug my fabulous granddaughter.  And those are only a few of the wonders of my body. There is a children’s song titled “Oh, What a Miracle Am I.” It’s time we all tried chanting that line.

Yes, I can love my body even though it’s aging. I have decided to repeat those beautiful words, I love my body, every day as I get up. And give God thanks. What better way to start my day.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).