Friday – June 28, 2019
It is a good thing to be ardent in doing good, but not just when I am in your presence. Can’t you continue the same concern for both my person and my message when I am away from you that you had when I was with you? Do you know how I feel right now, and will feel until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives? Like a mother in the pain of childbirth. Oh, I keep wishing that I was with you. Then I wouldn’t be reduced to this blunt, letter-writing language out of sheer frustration. Galatians 4. 18-20 (The Message)
A Word of Hope
The early letters of the New Testament were primarily written to encourage and to correct the emerging church. This letter to the church in Galatia was probably written around 55 CE. The writer, whom we assume to be the Apostle Paul, sent it to correct some theological differences that had begun to emerge. It is centered on the need for followers of Jesus to understand that a person is not justified solely through works of the law, specifically the Mosaic Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ.
In the closing words of Galatians, Chapter 4, Paul once again reminds them that it is a good thing to be ardent; zealous about doing good. He goes on to say that these acts of goodness should continue regardless of whether he, or others, are present to witness those actions.
So often we see people who behave one way when they are in church and another way when they are not. It is one of the biggest criticisms that I hear about “church-folk”. It is the inconsistency that often leads people to use the word, “hypocrite” when talking about those who “talk the talk” but who don’t appear to “walk the walk”.
Let me say this. While we all have “off” days and the pressures of the world can bring us down, our behavior and attitude toward one another should be impacted by the One that we follow and believe in.
It was this kind of behavior that Paul was addressing then, and we get to ponder for ourselves today.
As we begin this new day, I invite us all to consider the good things that God has done for us and the good things that we get to do in our world. I pray that we will be ardent, zealous in our faith and in our works, and that we become more consistent in our ability to live into the life of love that comes from God’s Spirit, the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As Paul says, “against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Help me, O God, to live more fully into the fullness of Christ that lives in me. Amen.
The Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas
Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ
Thursday – June 27, 2019
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13.05
A Word of Hope
The Corinthians seemed to be the far-reaching critics of the Apostles, particularly Paul, criticizing his letters. They berated him saying they were bulky, his physical presence weak, and his speech distasteful! So, Paul wrote two letters to them in which he boldly pointed out, since they had disputed his doctrine, they should examine their own faith. He said, “you have made me prove my apostleship; now prove your own selves.” Basically, who are you being in your own walk with Christ?
Many others and I have experienced firsthand how it feels to be misunderstood, ostracized and berated. Our faith walk has been put through the test many times, particularly by those who profess to be Christians. It was easy for me to be angry and disappointed until I looked closely at my own self. I am accountable to weigh my own life scales, not theirs.
If things were going to change in my life, it had to start with me. I needed to take time to understand my own prejudices, fears and condemnations. To determine the short comings of others was more pleasant than to discover my own.
If I was going to succeed as I felt I was being called, then I needed to BE the person I wanted to see in others. I rise, I fall, I get up and start again realizing it is all part of growing as a Christian. It’s a hill, it’s a valley and it’s worth the journey.
Onlookers see actions, but not the motives. So, for me, the test which I apply to others, I should be able to stand as well. Looking inward as well as outward began to get easier. The test of time truly is you cannot love your neighbor if you do not love yourself.
Creator God, I openly confess my love for Christ, I accept as true the Holy Spirit and without doubt, I believe in your Grace. Amen
Wednesday – June 26, 2019
An Inspired Text and a Word of Hope
There is an ancient Egyptian text almost 4000 years old that scholars just call, “A Dialogue Between a Man and His Ba.” I found it so moving the first time I read it; that someone from so long ago was saying these very same things I feel. Ba is the Egyptian word for soul, so the whole text is a conversation between a highly pained man with his own soul.
As the man anguishes to his soul, his soul pushes back and calls him to not give up, to live. He responds back, crying out to his soul: “Can you not see? Hearts are selfish, no man’s heart can be relied on. Can you not see? The betrayer is one’s intimate, the brother whom one has loved, is against me. Can you not see? Faces are blank, everyone turns away. Can you not see? Wrong roams the earth, and there is no end of it.”
This man is crying out to his own soul: See my pain! Acknowledge it! Take it in for all its worth! I must be heard! This agony be seen! I can’t handle these wrongs not being acknowledged. I need you, my soul, to truly know what I feel.
As queer people, we still live in a world where the status quo includes even intimate family members fundamentally betraying us, ignorantly assaulting our essential wellbeing even as children. We live in a society that systematically harms and oppresses us while pretending it’s “just a difference of opinions.” And I’m convinced that it takes years, maybe even decades, for many of us to really allow ourselves to feel the pain, the devastation, of the mistreatment we face as queer people.
We may say it to others: You don’t understand how much this hurts! And at the same time, we are saying that to ourselves. We haven’t fully accepted, fully acknowledged, fully seen our own suffering, the heavy weight of oppression we have experienced. And we need to.
We need to know all of our feelings are absolutely valid. Whether we were wounded by the selfish meanness of strangers, the betrayal of family, or the callous indifference of a blank face, we have a right to be so deeply enraged, so profoundly hurt. We have a right to feel crushed and overwhelmed. And many of us need to hear our own voices weeping. We are saying to our own souls, even still, “Can you not see? Will you not acknowledge? Will you not give me permission to feel this, finally?”
It is my deep belief that as we let that happen, as we integrate our suffering, as we allow it to be real and terribly hard, we actually begin to heal, to actualize, to become stronger. A new vitality and hope starts to course through us. A new connection to the Divine inside of us blossoms.
To the God Himself who cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?!” -I pray to you. I pray to the God intimate with betrayal, with being mocked, with being spat on, with the fiercest rejection. Help me feel what I feel. Help me know it’s okay to weep and wail like you did. Help me know you will catch me. Help me to know you will be here as I fall apart a bit more. Help me know it’s safe enough to have this much pain in your arms. I cherish You, Spirit. Draw out my own voice in your embrace. Amen
Tyler James, MA, LPC
Tuesday – June 25, 2019
The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you. 2 Corinthians 13.14 The Message (MSG)
A Word of Hope
Last week I had one of those days when my soul felt a bit sluggish. And as I was driving – or attempting to with all the construction projects blocking my progress – I knew that to hear something uplifting and encouraging would jump start me; sort of an espresso shot for my spirit. And for the first time in about twenty years, I decided to tiptoe into some Christian radio on the off chance I’d hear something I needed.
Twenty minutes and four stations later, I can tell you that seldom was heard an encouraging word. One station seemed like Breitbart with a thin religious veneer. Station two gave me a veritable checklist to determine who was going to hell and why. For a combo of the first two, station three railed against abortion, homosexuality, and the liberal media because…Jesus? I don’t know.
The only saving graces in an otherwise futile venture were listening to Lauren Daigle, whose Adele-ish voice and Jesus-y hippie vibe work for me, and a great song by another artist with a refrain that grabbed me: “Love is the language, love is your native tongue.”*
Love is our native tongue. We are fluent in Love.
But we rarely use it in our everyday conversations. As we move through life, we inevitably master the predominant language in our culture, Fear. We communicate in Fear so regularly that we speak a number of its different dialects: control, greed, opportunism, shame, jealousy, anger, and retribution. We use it so often that Fear becomes the default language in which we speak to ourselves, use in our prayers, and hear in our dreams.
Like all languages, Love and Fear have words and phrases not found in the other and they are difficult to translate. Love (has) words and concepts for contentment, dignity, enough, unconditional, complete. Fear: scarcity, superiority, derision, competition, manipulation, and all of the -isms (classism, ageism, heterosexism, racism, to name a few).
Jesus spoke only Love. God is Love. And as children of God and followers of Christ, returning to our native language puts us in tune with Christ and aligns our Souls with the Spirit of God.
We do not need another language for our faith or to be the people we wish to be in this world. That language already exists within us and is the one that feels most authentic.
We use it, but for most of us, only periodically.
Let us consistently reintroduce truth, mercy, gratitude, kindness, patience, and justice into the cultural conversation.
May we choose to communicate in Love with such fluency and frequency that it becomes the only language we speak.
To others. To God. And to ourselves.
“So sing it out, get loud, get
Louder than the darkness and the doubts,
Louder than the curses and the shouts,
Your lips, your lungs, your native tongue.”*
And so it is. Amen.
[Switchfoot, Native Tongue]
Monday – June 24, 2019
But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40.31
A Word of Hope
You Are My Wings
I have heard that God is love. Would a flower be beautiful if there was no love? Our love makes the flower beautiful. Otherwise one would hardly notice a flower any more than they would a weed. But what if the weeds in our life could be flowers? I believe they can be because I have known God to give me beauty for my ashes time and time again. One of the biggest blessings God ever gave me was pain because from that pain I grew wings. Now I fly by God’s love.
On occasion I prefer the cover over the content. I prefer roses and shun poison ivy. Both, however, are God’s creation. Even more than that, each has God’s love wrapped around it. The poison ivy teaches and the rose comforts. Both are necessary. Sometimes pain is necessary. If you touch fire once, it likely won’t be that serious, but at least you’ll learn to admire from afar. Pain becomes a necessary rite of passage for those who find themselves in a kitchen. That first burn taught them to become aware of a lit stove.
At times like these in our world, we must become aware that there are some people who like to play with fire. Some people would watch the world burn. Don’t rely on a pretty flower brightening up your day every time you take a walk. Even gardens have their snakes. Judge wisely; discern what is really being said. Always be on guard because often your enemy appears in a bed of roses.
Creator God, time and time again I have to surrender to your will. How will I let go? Help us to believe that Jehovah Jireh is our provider. Teach me to see the beauty in the concrete, the compassion in the cracks, and the love in those who are rejected. I myself have been rejected, and yet I find that rejection is a part of life. We have choices; thus, we choose what to accept or deny. Help me to accept these wings of love.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)