Wednesday – July 21, 2021
And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.
A Word of Hope
Imagine a crowd of people equivalent to loan sharks, hippies, and other radical kinds, sitting together, listening to Jesus, and then inviting him to eat with them. Well, this really bothered the Pharisees, and they confronted him asking how he could, as Jesus, even be seen with these folks much less dine with them.
The Pharisees were a strict group that upheld literal authority of the Word. They believed they had commonality with Jesus and expected him to join “their” club and uphold “their” disdain for societal outcasts. So, Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep.
I have read and heard this parable often and for the first time I was particularly struck by the fact Jesus picked up the lost sheep and carried it home on his shoulders. I was so touched by Jesus’ compassion as I envisioned him carrying it back to safety.
What if we changed the parable from lost sheep to a neighbor’s house on fire? Would we leave the comfort of our own home to help our neighbor in need, even if that neighbor were not in our color, religious or political group? Would we have the courage to carry that neighbor on our shoulders offering safety in our own personal fold?
As Christians, Christ leaves us with examples of servant living. We are asked to reach outside our circle of family and friends to those who are hungry, hopeless, or lost. Christ’s example of radical inclusiveness means laying aside prejudice, politics, and pride to help others in need.
I have reached across boundaries to help others and have been carried across rough terrain when my own burdens were too heavy. When we reach out, Christ will always give us courage and the strength to show up for others, even when it looks like there is no way out.
Creator God, as we share in community with each other, let us remember to gently carry the sheep who get separated, safely home to our loving magnificent flock. In Jesus name, Amen.
Tuesday – July 20, 2021
“I will sing your praises forever.”
A Word of Hope
Perhaps a more realistic way to repeat this Psalm is to say, “I will sing your praises whenever I am able.” We may intend to sing forever, but life happens, and we are faced with obstacles to overcome, with reasons for faith to guide us so that we will not give up hope. The human condition may present us with more of a JOB model and not that of King David as found in Psalm 61.
As I prepare this devotional, I am sitting alone in my office at my desk reflecting upon the “things” that have impacted my life over recent months. While I am aware of the beautiful weather that God provided today as I traveled to the Cathedral of Hope for a Sunday Service, I am also aware that I traveled with a friend and not my wife. She has been gone now for almost three months. Life will never be the same. I still love her beyond words and am sure I will wake up soon from the terrible dream of her suffering and death. While the support I have received from my church community has been extraordinary and for which I will always be grateful, I am challenged to sing God’s praises – at least right now.
I find God in the little tings. I am amazed at the beautiful fish in the large bowel swimming happily in circles eating the food I just gently placed on the water’s surface. I am struck by the intricate and fragile blossoms of Sharon’s favorite white orchids that she loved to life week and week. Out the window I note how often I take for granted the marvelous evening sky filled with stars whose shining light began its journey to us light years ago so that I can enjoy the twinkle tonight! With open eyes and with the eyes of faith, I can see the gifts that God has shared with me that I otherwise take for granted. I am reminded again to sing praises considering my personal devastation and grief.
Take a moment out of your busy day and focus on those “things” that are around you. What do you see? A smiling face of a colleague, cold water from the fountain in the hallway, air-conditioning on a hot Dallas day, a baby crying, a youngster laughing, a car’s horn, the fragrance of pizza from the corner shop. Your list could be longer and different. God has blessed us with so much and such a variety, we could create a long list if we only SEE with the gift of internal eyesight God has also given to us… even during personal challenges during which we are tempted to derail ourselves on our life’s journey.
Holy One! Allow us to be reminded of the gift of your presence and the expressions of generosity given to us each day. Help us be grateful for all that you have created for us and to not treat nature without the proper stewardship it deserves. Let us never take it for granted!
Help us to keep our eyes open and to give praise to you each day! Especially help us on those days that we feel sad or overwhelmed as we live life as well as we can.
We make this prayer in your many names, O God! AMEN!
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ
Monday – July 19, 2021
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
A Word of Hope
Today is Global Hug Your Kid Day. For a child, a hug eases the fears of a first day of school or a dark and scary bedtime. A hug comforts when a child isn’t feeling well. A hug gives a child that extra dose of confidence before a soccer game or a dance recital. Children need and deserve copious hugs from the parental figures in their lives to help them feel that they are safe, secure, and loved. And let’s face it…as adults need hugs for these very same reasons!
During our time of social distancing over the last sixteen months, I’ve heard over and over, “I can’t wait until I can hug my friends or parents or even a stranger.” One of the things that the COVID pandemic has taught us is how meaningful and necessary to our well-being a simple hug can be. There is something about that connection with another human being that affirms the power and presence of our Creator. However, in the absence of sharing “real” hugs, most of us have been forced to find other ways to create these feelings. That may have been a good lesson for us.
As children of God, our Mother/Father in heaven is always there to give us that parental hug. But, like our socially-distanced hugs, God’s hugs do not come to us is the form of strong arms reaching out and pulling us into a safe embrace. They come in many of the same ways that we offer “virtual hugs” to family and friends.
How many memes and messages do you send to those who need a smile, a word of comfort, to know that they are loved? Maybe you even send actual cards and notes. These are long-distance hugs. God sends us hugs similarly – in the soft song of a singing bird that surrounds us on a morning walk, in a warm and colorful sunset that envelops us, in a flower that smiles up from the dirt, in a wave from a stranger, in raindrops that gently caress. God’s hugs may also come in the form of hitting all of the green lights on the way to work, in an extra cherry on top of a banana split, in having your phone battery last throughout the day so that you get that call you needed to receive.
Don’t get me wrong, I am anxious to share “real” hugs with people again, but as we move from the pandemic restrictions, I pray that we don’t lose sight of the many and more subtle ways that we can share hugs with others and that our God shares them with us.
In the moments where it is still easy to feel isolated and alone, stop and ask God for a hug, just as a child would ask of a parent. Allow yourself the time and space to feel God’s loving embrace, acknowledging that it may not come in a way that you expect.
Creator God, envelop me, your child, in your arms. Help me to feel the strength, comfort, and love that you offer to me unconditionally.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clar
Friday – July 16, 2021
Romans 8:38,39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Word of Hope
Paul’s message to the Romans (and to us), describes a love so powerful that it demands a response. He reminds us that God’s love for us is constant, never ending and never bending. Nothing can get in the way of God’s love for us. It is not dependent on circumstances or opposition or even worthiness.
How do we love God back? When we love someone, we want to be with them, to express our love and find many ways to delight them.
Specific prayer time ensures that we nurture our relationship. We can thank God for our blessings and ask God for help with our struggles when they are happening (all day every day). Reading scripture, Bible study and attending church are also ways of being with God.
Worship, through rituals or praise and worship services helps us get in touch with feeling our love for God and giving expression to that love. It is saying, “I love you.” We all know how important those words are to a relationship.
We can find ways to delight God. Jesus made it clear that whatever we do to or for one another, we have done to or for God. When we do random acts of love and kindness to friends or strangers, when we participate in ministries such as feeding, sheltering, or clothing those who are struggling for the basics of life, we are delighting God.
Finally, we find peace and comfort in the loving arms of our amazing God who has promised to always be with us no matter what comes our way!
Beloved God, I am convinced that you love me with a great and powerful love. I am comforted in knowing that you will always be with me and will not abandon me no matter what. I am filled with joy when you use me to love others. Grant me the privilege and the strength to do more. I love you with all my being. Amen
Carole Anne Sarah
Thursday – July 15, 2021
I would like to beg of you, dear friend,…to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them…. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. Rainer Marie Rilke
A Word of Hope
Like many, I have always loved these lines from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. They teach us an approach to life that honors the value of uncertainty, of timing, of lived experience, of intuitive knowing.
But letter writing has become an endangered species. With the speed of our lives, our attachment to email, texts, and social media, we just don’t take the time. But what a loss for our culture without the correspondence of artists and anthropologists. What a loss to our families without the letters of great aunts and grandfathers.
Can we imagine the history of civil rights without Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the Bible without the letters of Paul?
Thomas Merton, a prolific writer, penned messages to Dorothy Day, Paul Tillich, Pope John XXIII, Thich Nhat Hahn, Jackie Kennedy among others. One commentator asserts, “Merton’s letters, like all his teachings, prod us to wake up, to look to Christ.”
As I have aged, I have felt an urgency to write letters of gratitude, particularly to dear friends, my healers, and spiritual guides. Even when no response is expected, it rekindles memory and reminds us of our blessings.
Other letters can provide perspective, advice, reflect values and more. In I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown writes a letter to her unborn son—expressing her and his father’s love for him, their wonderings about everything from the color of his eyes to his natural talents, but also speaking of her fears for the time when, as a mature black teen, others will see him as dangerous.
Many of us may have written a letter expressing the advice we would have given a younger self, another valuable exercise. My high school seniors used to write missives to themselves as they were getting ready to leave for college. Then, the week before going off to school, they opened and read them.
Another exercise is to write a letter to yourself from the perspective of your 95 year old self—a self which has “no time for “garbage”— about what you want to say that you stood for, what
you want your legacy to be. Such a letter can be an impetus to getting on with the work God is calling us to do as our time grows shorter.
Holy and Gracious God, You have written your love letters on our hearts that we may know we are yours. Let us deepen reflection and renew the threads of connection with our own. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)