Monday – October 14, 2019
“God saw everything that God had made and it was very good.” Genesis 1.31
A Word of Hope
On Saturday, the Order of St. Francis and St. Clare celebrated our treasured animal friends as we enjoyed a huge turnout once again for our annual Blessing of the Animals. This time of year, I become preoccupied more than usual with thoughts of all those embodiments of joy; those animal companions who have consistently blessed my life. Two of my most valued friends today are the cockatoo and cat who share my house. I lived on a farm as a child, so by sheer numbers, the majority of my friends in those days were animals. There were more cats than I can remember. The cats and I always found time to go on adventures, usually involving tracking down glistening green and yellow grass snakes, which we never harmed, (my choice, not theirs). My parents had educated me early in life about the value of the grass snakes’ good works in nature. I doubt the cats cared about the balance of the ecology as much as I did, but the snakes were not their first choice as entrees, anyway.
I’ve always had a strong respect for those marginalized citizens of the dominion of animals, not just snakes, but also bats, praying mantises, piranhas; the list has no end. It is ironic that the very creatures we humans despise and fear the most are among the greatest survival blessings the planet has to offer. Consider the services bats perform each evening while we sleep. A typical bat colony consumes approximately 200 tons of insects a night, and 150 big brown bats can relieve farmers of 33 million rootworms a summer. These creatures are invaluable to the world, perfect in their place in Creation’s balance, yet many of us still classify them as “bad” animals in opposition to “good” animals like cuddly kittens and joyful songbirds. In the Genesis creation story, however, God made no such distinction. Both cuddly kittens and Great White Sharks fall under one classification of: “Very good.”
Perfect Creator, help us to see the goodness of all animals from a Genesis perspective. May we celebrate our own animal companions who daily give us unconditional love. But, may we also keep in mind their wild, and often endangered, cousins, recognizing the intricate aspects of your divine plan in each of them.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis ad St. Clare
Friday – October 11, 2019
In God I take refuge. Psalm 11:1
A Word of Hope
Today is the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, a day we celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) or as an ally of the LGBTQ community. In honor of that day, I’m writing a love letter to LGBTQ people and allies who have not come out. And I’m writing to the parts of everyone else that have yet to come out. That may be a feeling, a problem, a concern or perhaps a development that you are not making known in part or in whole. This is a love letter to all of you and to those yet-to-come-out parts of you.
In Psalm 11, David responds to voices that are telling him to hide, to run away to the mountains. It is not clear what these voices are. They may be inside him or from other people, they may be real or imagined, they may be individuals or institutions. At any rate, these voices told David that he should be afraid. There was imminent danger and it was about to explode all over the place. It’s going to get real messy, they warned, and people including David were going to get hurt. Run away!
The Message translation of this Psalm has David tell the voices: I’m going to be ok. I’m counting on a God that loves me, that knows what’s really going on and on a God who will put things right. I’ve already run for dear life straight to the arms of that God. So, I’m going to be ok, David says.
Today I invite you to consider voices that tell you to be afraid, to hide some or all of you, to distrust people’s reactions to every part of you. These may be voices – real or imagined – coming from others or welling up inside of you. They may even be the institutional voice of the church. I invite you to know again or perhaps for the first time that God loves you. God loves every part of you, even the troubling, ugly, inconvenient and fearsome parts of you. Run for dear life to the arms of God. God promises to put things right.
We think the phrase “coming out” means coming out of a closet of fear. But the phrase was originally borrowed from the practice of young ladies “coming out” to society. These debutantes would attend balls and parties, announcing their ‘eligibility.” Before the 1960’s, when gay men would start attending drag balls or told other gay men that they were gay, they were said to have “come out.” They were not coming from fear, they were coming to a party, to joy, to a community of support and love. There’s a party waiting for you (or the remaining parts of you) on the other side of coming out. There’s a community to join, a community that can be God’s love to you. You can count on God’s loving arms to put things right.
Spirit, lead us to people who love us for who we really are, all of us. Give us courage to give everyone we love the chance to be those kinds of people. We’re counting on You to make it right. Amen
Thursday – October 10, 2019
Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. Deuteronomy 15:10-11
Word of Hope
Today is World Homeless Day. The first World Homeless day was October 10, 2010. Its purpose is to draw attention to the needs of homeless people and to provide opportunities for communities to get involved in responding to homelessness. I am always a little uncomfortable when approached by homeless people who are asking for money. There are so many people who suggest that you should never give money to a homeless person, because they might use it to buy alcohol or other drugs. In the past, I tried to avoid making eye contact with them. I do give money to programs that provide assistance to homeless people. But that doesn’t necessarily do anything for the people who I might run into on the street. How should I interact with them?
Well, I have learned that, just like with anyone else, when you are approached by a homeless person, you should make eye contact and smile. Homeless people tend to become more and more socially isolated. You need to treat them just like you treat anyone else. Say “Hi.” If you have the time, stop and talk with them. Use your best judgment. Maybe stop and talk when you are with someone else if you don’t feel safe doing it when you are alone. But social connection can mean a lot to a homeless person, especially one who has gradually lost contact with family and friends.
You can give something tangible, such as a blessing bag. This is a gallon zip-lock bag filled with various items such as a pair of socks, lip balm, a comb, soap, hand sanitizer, a wash cloth, sunscreen, insect repellant, and food items, such as granola bars, individual servings of applesauce or canned fruit (include a spoon), pouches of tuna, Vienna sausages, peanut butter or cheese crackers, and bottled water. Some people keep these blessing bags in their cars so that they have them at hand when they meet someone asking for a handout. These items are appreciated by anyone who does not have access to grooming items or food.
You can also visit various shelters and get some cards or brochures to give to people who may be interested in those services. You can offer to pay for a bus or train ticket, so that the person can make their way to the shelter. If you are uncomfortable handing them cash for this purpose, you can accompany them to the nearest mass transit ticket sales kiosk and purchase the ticket for them. Again, use your best judgment. But make a plan.
How are you going to reach out to homeless people? How will you show your generosity? For me, I have decided on this World Homeless Day to make more regular donations to a homeless shelter I like; one with a job training program, to have some $5 bills in my car for when I feel moved to offer money, and to make eye contact and smile at the homeless people that I encounter on a daily basis.
Gracious and loving God, help me to always be aware of my blessings and abundance. I want to become more comfortable responding to homeless people, offering them human connection, as well as basic assistance. I want to be Your hands and feet.
Cathedral of Hope Member
Wednesday – October 9, 2019
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4.4
A Word of Hope
Today is Bullying Prevention Day. Have you ever been bullied by your own demons? In the spirit of the month of Halloween, I offer this story to you:
Face to Face with Evil
This is the story of a young boy’s dream. He came face to face with what some would call darkness, others The Beast, and a few who see themselves. Some things, however, you cannot judge by appearances. In this dream the boy was flying over a forest when he suddenly came across a certain figure amongst the trees. At first glance the boy saw what looked like a black werewolf.
Upon closer inspection the boy saw bloodlust in the creature’s eyes. Standing on its hind legs with teeth bared and reaching towards the boy as though it could touch him, the eyes of this black wolf held pure darkness. The boy had no fear when he looked in the creature’s eyes, even though it was looking for his death. Instead the boy reacted in disgust. It was as if he were smelling decaying flesh for the first time, but unbearably worse.
The boy rejected the creature and said aloud, “Jesus devour it.” A couple of moments passed and the beast completely disappeared from vision. A couple more moments passed and The Beast reappeared as a crying infant. This dream was only one part of a much deeper conversation. What the boy saw was the mask of suffering. A crying baby was all Jesus left. He devoured the hatred, and left the baby. Why? Perhaps the answer is different for each of us. There is, however, a clue. The boy said,” devour it.”
Indeed, there was nothing left of the werewolf; Jesus had devoured it. This means that the crying baby was something different. The darkness was only the mask; thus, it was destroyed. The baby was left behind because it was not darkness; rather, its suffering had created the wolf. God is showing us that hurting people… hurt people. If a man wears a mask and becomes someone else he is an actor. We are all acting, but not all people are acting like themselves.
Lord I want to see what you see. Give me vision and the strength to carry the vision. Teach me how to come in and go out or how to walk wisely. Devour my mask and the mask of my neighbor. Heal the suffering and bring peace, joy, love, and laughter. Praise you Lord, the one who reveals secrets. Truth and insight are your gifts. When I seek you, I find you. Amen.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – October 8, 2019
And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt? Matthew 14.25-31
Word of Hope
Today is National Face your Fear Day. In the passage above Peter at first faces his fear; with Jesus’ encouragement and command. But then a change in circumstances causes him to doubt. With Jesus right there in front of him, he doubts and falters.
How often are we faced with Jesus’ command and yet falter during our answer? How often do we have to turn to Jesus in the midst of fulfilling the voice of God to as for help? Jesus tells us through Peter that our faith should be enough.
Several years ago, my dear wife gave me a gift of a song. Jana Stanfield wrote words that express this passage of scripture in verse:
If I refuse to listen, to the voice of fear
Would the voice of courage, whisper in my ear?
Maybe this is what I’d hear
I am brave enough to move ahead
Where true believers dare to tread.
Never lose faith, even when losing my way.
What step will I take, today; I am brave.
If I Were Brave lyrics © Jana Stantunes
Loving God help me to know I am brave and that my bravery comes from faith in You. Be with me when my faith falters. Reach out to my heart to remove doubt so that I may fulfill your purpose for me.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)