Friday – September 20, 2019
Genesis 1:26 – God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”
Psalm 103:14 – for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
Word of Hope
Watching “Crash” for the sixth time, I wondered why the film continues to hit me so deeply. The same scenes make me cry, gasp, or cringe every time. And I believe it’s because there are no heroes in this movie. And no villains. No saints or sinners.
Someone who repulses me early on will break my heart with their kindness ten minutes later, while another I initially love will go on to shock me with their bigotry.
It leaves me with mixed feelings about everything and everyone involved. Because in its heightened form, “Crash” depicts life and humanity in all its complicated, raw, and beautiful complexity.
From algorithms and ads to opinions and comment sections, we are increasingly encouraged to view others through a binary filter – either good or bad, hero or villain, best or worst.
And social media in particular rewards us for doing so.
Determinations about another person’s worth are often made based on based upon one post, tweet, or moment; a single snapshot out of the thousands that make up the film reel of their life.
This mindset exacerbates our human tendency to view ourselves, and those with whom we agree, in our totality while reducing our view of others to a moment we can label.
But to make such binary judgments is to view another as incapable of redemption or impervious to acts of selfishness and cruelty.
We are far more than either our worst act or most noble moment. The gray area, where most all of us live, is one of nuance, complexity, and a context lacking in a 140 character assessment.
Until I began this devotional, I hadn’t realized how persistently Jesus refused to define others by an act or reduce them to a condition. The woman caught in adultery, the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, the woman at the well, the thief on the cross.
Jesus essentially told those around him, “You think you have them all figured out. You’ve categorized these people, pigeonholed them, and labeled them. But they’re far more than what you see. They are not events or conditions or acts. They are more than that.”
We are all more than that.
Most Loving God,
May we be slow to judgment as we consider the totality of others’ lives. May we remember that most of us are doing our best to be just a little better each day. Let us remain vigilant in our refusal to define others by their illness, misdeed, or station in life. Show us the bigger, more authentic picture of of others’ lives, as well as our own. We ask to see ourselves and others as You see us: children of God. And so it is. Amen.
Thursday – September 19, 2019
“ I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Rabindrath Tagore
A Word of Hope
Among the ways people across the nation honor and redeem the tragedy of 9/11 is to participate in a day of service and remembrance. Here in Dallas the North Texas Food Bank orchestrated a huge event, drawing volunteers from businesses and organizations across the Metroplex to create healthy meals for the hungry. Rev. Neil and Imam Omar Suleiman offered opening prayers and a bell and silence marked time to honor the dead and first responders. America was sung. Then volunteers headed off to their appointed tasks to work in two hour shifts while “energetic” music pulsated from large speakers.
Our Cathedral of Hope group for the 9-11 shift was assigned Funneling. Once the process was explained, each of us took a role. Bill stuffed a cheese packet inside the meal pack, then passed it off to Gil who secured the meal pack under a large funnel. John dumped in a cup of soy protein, followed by Rosemary’s measure of vegetable bits, my vitamin and mineral powder, and Philippa’s cup of rice. Completed packs were stacked upright in a plastic bin until a “runner” whisked them off to be sealed.
Though our team was quite focused overall, inspired to contribute to the food bank’s goal of providing 275,000 meals during the day, we also enjoyed the comeraderie, “dancing,” and singing “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Ice Ice Baby as we worked. But we also had a few lessons to learn, as shown by a bit of “spillage” on our table. At times we were over-enthusiastic about doing our part, not waiting for the person to secure the meal pack under the funnel. With both honed attention and a gentle “guard,” we reined in our mustang energy. I have seen this same challenge in ministries when volunteers sometimes charge in with their own vision/agenda before understanding the modus operandi already established and offering new ideas more deftly.
During our shift, we never ran out of any supplies because volunteers appeared at our elbows to fill our bins. At COH we have our own behind-the-scene providers—the altar ministers who set the supplies for communion, the volunteers who deliver baked goods from Costco for icare, those who restock the pews for services, just to name a few.
Finally, our attentive and dutiful “runners” made sure we never got clogged up with full packets and boosted us with encouragement. To be sure, our ministries too have their encouragers in hard times, people who help keep a hopeful flow of good will.
At 11: 00, when the gong sounded to announce that we had filled 82, 300+ meal packets, the room swelled with a collective wave of joy!
Fill us with the joy of your service, great nourishing God. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – September 18, 2019
“The one who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31
A Word of Hope
Do you witness much kindness being practiced on the Internet, television or especially in the social media these days? Certainly there are still kind and thoughtful people in the world, but it seems we live in an era that values and rewards sarcasm, disrespect and outright hate as people banter back and forth about their opinions of the opposing party, their employers or even their long time friends. I click the “Like” button every time I see a post that celebrates life and demonstrates true kindness, but it takes some searching to find the gentle and generous among the detractors.
Certainly the idea of practicing kindness is not a new
one. Both Testaments are packed with quotable quotes about the subject, not
just in the Proverbs but in Books such as Hosea 11.4: “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.” The Greek Scriptures offers the
wisdom of 1 Thessalonians 5.15:
“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” And most of us remember the famous opening of Paul’s definition of love, which begins “Love is patient, love is kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
It would be difficult to find many people who would actively disagree with Paul or the other Scripture writers about the benefits to all in practicing kindness, but did you realize that being kind can actually lengthen your life? Dr. Allan Luks, an executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City has written extensively on the subject. He is the author of four books, including The Healing Power of Doing Good, and states, through scientific studies sponsored by The Foundation for a Better Life, that random acts of kindness produce a rush of euphoria, followed by a longer period of calm called a “helper’s high” which involves the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
The studies also show that kind acts reverse feelings of depression and decrease the stress that causes overeating, ulcers, and even the constriction in the lungs that leads to asthma attacks. Kindness heals.
May I honor you today by being conscious of the many opportunities you give me to initiate healing acts of kindness among all my neighbors. Amen
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – September 17, 2019
The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 1 Timothy 1:5
A Word of Hope
Authenticity. It is what we hope that we hold in our hands when we take the “Ming Dynasty” Vase or “Tiffany” Lamp that we discovered at a garage sale to an antiques appraiser. We paid $25 and pray that they are worth $2500 and not $2.50!
Authenticity is what we long for in politicians but rarely, if ever, find. It is what we hope to find in the person servicing our car, the physician assessing our condition, the minister preaching from the pulpit, the person sharing our journey.
Authenticity comes with vulnerability, and we humans mostly do not enjoy feeling vulnerable. Because we do not realize our sacred worth we often bandage our self-inflicted ego wounds with puffed-up facades. In truth, no one likes a fraud and it burdens us with unhealthy shame when we carry around inflated egos and fake exteriors.
To manage the vulnerability that true authenticity brings it must be accompanied by boundaries that contain us and protect us. We need not over-share (I am guilty here) and so God has given us a filter—if only we will use it! Children, teens and young adults have not yet developed a filter (physiologically speaking) hence the often sheer-honesty of children or not-well-thought-out actions of teens and college students.
Spiritually, when we are grounded in whose we are, our sacred worth, and God’s unconditional love that is NOT based on performance, we can live as authentic human beings because that is what the world needs. People who risk stumbling, falling and have the resiliency to rise back up.
Have confidence and be emotionally/spiritually prepared to protect yourself (that is a boundary, too) from the harsh comments that others may attempt to inflict upon you for being authentic. The world is resistant to too much authenticity. It shines a light of vulnerability on others, who often prefer the shadows.
Gracious One who Loves us all beyond imagining, may we wisely learn to practice healthy authenticity and appropriate vulnerability. May our willingness to be real and, like the Christ, start a transformation of the world. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Gary G. Kindley
Monday – September 16, 2019
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.6-7
A Word of Hope
The Bible verse above is always an encouragement to me whenever I approach a new project. I’m in near constant thought of the idea that comes from a thing called the law of attraction. In other words, thoughts become things and we tend to manifest the things that we think about and give our energy to. My co-author friend, Dan, and I were discussing this while outlining our sixth Dragon book. We were both strongly in agreement that Walt Disney was manifesting something better by envisioning Disneyland.
He thought of what an ideal park would be like; where families could gather in a clean and safe environment to build memories, be inspired, be educated; be in a place that he wished for the rest of the world. Back in the 70s, Six Flags Over Texas, borrowing liberally from Disney, used the slogan “Six Flags is what you wish the world could be.”
We continued to ponder this and discovered we both shared an idea that not just our thoughts but also our writing could very well be manifested as reality somewhere in the multiverse. It’s a place where Dragons are wise, compassionate and care about our fragile environment. Disney’s lesson to us was actually “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The Dragons can teach us this. Don’t just talk about it.
What sort of change do you want to see? You may have an idea or two of how you wish our world could be. I know I have mine. I live out my life every day thinking of the change that can happen just by being the best me I can be on our imperfect Earth. (Mr. Rogers said it best when he told us “Just be the best you that you can be.”) I co-write about invisible Dragons who love and protect the planet and its flawed people, while always giving the course of history a nudge here and there. They are quite satisfied in remaining anonymous, however. Dragons don’t need praise and credit. That’s a human preoccupation they can’t understand.
Ever present God, what conscious change will happen today because of me, whether anyone knows it or not? How does my presence in my part of the world change people and things around me for the better? Help me to remember that I don’t have to manifest a multi-billion dollar theme park or breathe fire to do it.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)