Musings on the Incarcerated

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)

Moses committed murder and was never brought to (human) “justice.”  And Moses was still called by God after his crime to lead one of the greatest liberation/freedom movements the world has ever recorded.

King David set up a plan to ensure the death of one of his closest, beloved, and most faithful generals because he, David, had had an extramarital affair with the generals’ wife, even impregnating her. He did all that premeditated to cover his own arse from getting caught.  And even after all that God called David the “apple of His eye.”

Jesus spent time in prison during his trial for sedition and was crucified between 2 thieves.

The Apostles served time in prison. John the Baptist was incarcerated. Joseph did time at a juvenile detention facility.

The Book of Acts is often celebrated for being the book that introduced us to the early Church and what the earliest followers of Jesus lived like BUT did you know it’s also the Book of the Bible that mentions the word prisoner more than any other Book in the Bible?

Though most ‘Christians’ and followers of Jesus take a “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality and also support capital punishment, it would do us well to reflect upon this truth: that God has used prisoners and criminals time and again to bring “salvation” and healing to various communities. And this God also mandates that we remember and care for the prisoner (saying nothing about doing so based on acceptable and unacceptable crimes).

God only states that when we visit the imprisoned we are visiting the Lord Jesus.

Not a sermon, just a challenging thought.

For more on this check out the Gospel of Matthew 25: 34-46 and www.captivefaith.org.

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Musings on the Kingdom (Lenora Rand)

This Blog post is a repost from Red Letter Christians written by Lenora Rand.

Lenora’s blog, Spiritual Suckitude, is about figuring out how to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, while working in corporate America and trying to get the laundry done. She is also co-founder of The Plural Guild. Check out her earthy, soulful writing and enjoy this short piece below.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:3)

Lenora writes:

“I used to have a sort of idealized Disney-version of kids in my head. Then I had some. And I noticed that in their natural state, before us adults manage to fully “civilize” them, kids are crazy with questions, needy and rambunctious, don’t easily take “No” for an answer, feel everything deeply, hate unfairness and aren’t ashamed to yell about it, and basically live every second of every day until they pass out in blessed exhaustion. And if we’re like them, Jesus says, that’s how we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  That is actually heaven.”

“The Duty of the Moment” (Catherine de Hueck Doherty)

The duty of the moment is what you should be doing at any given time, in whatever place God has put you. You may not have Christ in a homeless person at your door, but you may have a little child. If you have a child, your duty of the moment may be to change a dirty diaper. So you do it. But you don’t just change that diaper, you change it to the best of your ability, with great love for both God and that child…

There are all kinds of good things you can do, but whatever they are, you have to realize that there is always the duty of the moment to be done. And it must be done, because the duty of the moment is the duty of God.

Catherine Doherty

Going About…Doing Good

“You know…what has happened all over Judea…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power [and Jesus] went about doing good and healing all those oppressed…for God was with him.” (Acts 10:37-38, NAB)

I’ve often realized that sometimes the sacred Scriptures get quite “dull” to me, and I think the reason is that for all the “this and that” over Scripture, it is and will always be a collection of stories about real people of people, and their interactions with each other and with God.

That is why I love the above mentioned Scripture; for it says that the love story of Jesus, and how he lived and what he did, was known all over Judea (so even back then ‘gossip’ and stories were afoot and the norm).

When I think about Jesus, I often forget or deny his humanness (back in the day that was a named heresy with punishment being excommunication and a hot party of one on a burning stake!).

Yes, Jesus was utterly and completely human, and he was filled with the Spirit and power. And what did he do with his Spirit-filled power: he used it to go about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed. Now, how many of us can say if we had “power” that this is what we would do? Be honest…

And when I look around at the self-proclaimed Christians, I am often left wondering and amazed at just how power hungry some God mongerers are. Wouldn’t it be grand if most of “Christendom” and the “true professed followers of Jesus” were known more for going around doing good and healing the oppressed rather than what most of Christians are known for now: gay bashing, gun-toting, reactionary close-mindedness, narcissistic self-help pedagogies promoting earthly riches. The list goes on…

Truly, I sometimes feel that if Jesus were alive today, we’d lock him out of our houses of worship: how dare he hang out with whores, drug addicts, money-launderers, and those people who smell funny and talk to themselves when they walk down the street.

Can you hear it? Just exactly who does this Jesus think he is? How dare him. Well, he’ll mess up my agenda. He’ll mess with my Constitutional Rights! He’ll come across as unpatriotic. He’ll offend the neighbors…

Blah, blah, blah. Damn right Jesus will mess with you! For going around doing good and healing the oppressed got Jesus killed! He did not win some local civic award, or the Nobel Prize, nor did he get 1 million hits on his YouTube viral video or have the most popular Facebook account.

He got strung up on a tree for following the leading of the Spirit and doing good and being with and healing the poor and oppressed. It is vital to remember that in the time of Jesus, much like today, the poor were maligned for being so because it was their fault; they had sinned or committed some heinous error that had caused God to punish and curse them.

Jesus screws all that screwy theology right to hell.

I’d like to be all pious and sanctimonious and say I want to be like Jesus. Well, I do, just without the cross. I do want to be filled with the Spirit and go about doing good and being a source of God’s healing for the oppressed. But I am afraid because those who love God and the poor often times suffer the same fate as the poor.

What will the stories be about me when I die? Will I be known for going about doing good? Will you be known about going around doing good? What legacy am I leaving?

The question is: am I out there going about doing good and healing those who are oppressed?

“Hungry for God” (Amy Oden)

We have food to share with a world that is hungry, even famished.

Spiritual wanderers—those spiritually starved and denied—show up at our doors, not because they like our buildings or even because they like us, but because they are hungry.

Hungry for forgiveness, for rest and peace. Hungry for mercy and grace. Hungry to explore and grow. Hungry for the good news of new life, of abundant life.

Hungry for God to do a new thing.

“A Never-ending Call” (Ernesto Cardenal)

God’s call, vocation, is twofold. God calls us saying, ‘Come, follow me.’ We arrive and then we must follow. We find but must go on seeking. God’s call is a never-ending call, to the unknown, to adventure, to follow him in the night, in solitude. It is a call incessantly to go further, and further. For it is not static but dynamic (as creation also is dynamic) and reaching him means going on and on.

God’s call is like the call to become an explorer; it is an invitation to adventure.

Source:

“Birthing a Different World” (Susan Morley)

“There is an urge among us to birth a different world.”  – Paul Hawken

Advent 2012

Birthing a baby is more than enough challenge, but a new world! Yikes! Advent is upon us and I am keenly aware of the craving for a different world. The Prayer Hut in Primavera Center is waiting for a symbol worthy of the inner work needed this season. Yet inner movements remain subtle. Clues often are all that will be given.

The longing for a womb, a cave for that which grows in the dark leads to the discovery of an old stump covered in winter. It is placed in the Prayer Hut, twisted and turned. We lay the stump over and with the help of a piece of cloth, a grotto comes forth. Something inside me leaps! I sit before it and wonder at what inner clue to a “new world” wants to reveal itself.

In a circle of folk dialoguing around the work of Paul Hawken, author, ecological architect and leading proponent of reform for a different world, one statement by the group leader causes my heart to leap. She says, “We need stories of people who are grounded and joyous in the midst of the despair of our age.”

Mary’s story, and her cousin Elizabeth’s, is in another time when corrupt leaders, exploitation of the poor, controversial policies and dangers prevail. A deeply grounded, though young, Mary willingly says yes to birthing the Divine Son of God. Troubled, she travels some distance to her cousin Elizabeth’s to share her difficult secret. With no instant communication, no smart phones, Facebook, email or even a land line available, the encounter comes as a surprise. Yet, in that moment of greeting, the baby in this older woman’s womb leaps for joy.

The scriptures paint a picture of both women entering into joy. Mary sings from the cave of her heart, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for you have looked with favor on your lowly servant” (Luke 1:39). Be not naïve, for the words that follow are not so sweet. They point to a world about to be upended, where values will be shaken up and the mainstream way of life overturned by the birth of the child within her womb.

The stories of these two women, grounded and joyous in the face of the mysteries they carry, show the way. Are these the kinds of stories we need to hear from one another for this time? Then let’s tell them! Stories of our grounding practices and celebrations of joy that flow through our everyday lives. I don’t know about you, but I need the conversation to change in order to free me from the preoccupation blockages that keep me from building a different world.

We are the different world God longs to bring forth. This Advent is the time to ground ourselves in reality, difficult or not, and empty out space enough to receive Love. For God is with us in this time and space and wants, again and again, to be birthed into this world. As the mystics say, “Look around. The world is full of God.”

Susan Morley, and husband Don Russell, members for many years of The Church of the Saviour, were called in 1999 to establish in the C of S tradition, PRIMAVERA: A SACRED AND SUSTAINABLE EARTH CENTER, in Kalkaska County, northwest Michigan.

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“Let Something Essential Happen to Me” (Ted Loder)

When I stumbled upon the book Guerillas of Grace in 1995, I was blessed with the experience of a living prophet writing modern Psalms.  So, I hope we are all moved to let ‘something essential happen’ in us, to us, and through us!  EnJoy Ted Loder…

O God,
let something essential happen to me,
something more than interesting
or entertaining,
or thoughtful.

O God,
let something essential happen to me,
something awesome,
something real.
Speak to my condition, Lord,
and change me somewhere inside where it matters,
a change that will burn and tremble and heal
and explode me into tears
or laughter
or love that throbs or screams
or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence
and dares the dangerous deeds.
Let something happen in me
which is my real self, God….

O God,
let something essential and joyful happen in me now,
something like the blooming of hope and faith,
like a grateful heart,
like a surge of awareness
of how precious each moment is,
that now, not next time,
now is the occasion
to take off my shoes
to see every bush afire,
to leap and whirl with neighbor,
to gulp the air as sweet wine
until I’ve drunk enough
to dare to speak the tender word:
“Thank you”
“I love you”
“You’re beautiful”
“Let’s live forever beginning now”
and “I’m a fool for Christ’s sake.”

The Good News Manifesto

Some simple suggestions for those who call themselves ‘followers of Jesus’ as well as all people of faith & good will. You can click here for the full Manifesto

Follow the Nazarene closely (He set a pretty good example on how to live).

Pray often and even more so.  Pray for the people you love, and pray for the people you don’t love.

Don’t build a big church Because if we do, then we will need to protect it and use up time, taxes, and treasure to maintain it.  Instead of a building try Being Church – and rather than building a new building, start by sharing your life with people as they are, where they are and they will undoubtedly see Jesus.

Share the Good News.  For what Jesus did is indeed Good and truly Newsworthy.

Make serving the poor the Gospel mandate it is (instead of treating it like a superfluous add-on)…make charity and justice for the poor a personal, close-up thing and not a ‘program’ in the church.

Give relief to those who are suffering around you and those far away (for we are all in this together).

Visit the sick, the locked up and the shut in.

Sit with the dying…just be with them as they transition into the next part of life.

Comfort the broken, the bruised and the bereaved.

Be generous and lavish with those in need and do so with your time, your talents, your money, and your stuff.  Share your house with someone in need like a teenager in a bad situation or a person coming out of the system.  Share your car, your tools, your garage, your apartment, your books, etc., because we are merely stewards of what God has given us.

Be reckless in giving and receiving God’s grace, graciousness, love and mercy.

Practice hospitality and be hospitable to strangers and those different from you (not just your friends and family).

Love your neighborand yes, I do mean the one right next door, as well as the one down the street, across the country and across the world.

Live your life as a fully alive, aware human being Practice being real and transparent then watch people see Jesus in and through your unique personality.  No stuffed shirts, smug piousness or the need to be superior over people.

Love ‘sinners’…and love all of them, not just the ones you feel most comfortable around.  Remember first and foremost that you and me are ‘sinners’ as well, which is another way of saying we are all wounded and are all in need of Divine mercy and grace.  Befriend people different from you and people of other faiths, and don’t do it just for the sake of “converting” people.  Jesus loved all people – truly, madly and deeply – even those who walked away from, betrayed and killed him.  Jesus had no other motive but to love people into the Kingdom, so put down your Four Spiritual Laws, your missals, and your Bibles and start being real (i.e., human) around people for you’ll be amazed at how much God’s love will flow from you.

Practice Common Grace (whether you are Calvinist or Catholic).  For all people are made in the image of God and God sustains everyone regardless of their faith or lack thereof (see Matthew 5:45, Acts 17:25-28, and James 1:17)

Practice common graciousness as well…don’t be a bully, smug, self-righteous or mean-spirited.  Just because we know the Truth does NOT mean we are the truth or always right.  Only Jesus is Lord and only he will judge on the last day, so save the judging for him and him alone.

Divine Desires

“The secret of your life is written on (and in) your heart’s desire and it was placed there by God.

The time has come to return to the Journey.  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, no matter what the circumstances, you can pick up where you last left off.  For you see desire is the map God has given you to find your purpose in life, to live the only life worth living.  For it is at the place where our greatest desires and deepest pain meet that our divine destiny is calling us.

Ask yourself what makes you come alive?  What makes you experience God and life most deeply?  Where do you find bliss and joy and the love of God?  Go do that…because you see the world is desperate for people who are aflame with the love and passion of God in their hearts being lived.  The world is in need for people who have come alive.

We must realize that God has sort of “rigged” the world so that it only works when we embrace risk as the theme of our lives, when we live by complete faith in God and with utter abandonment to Divine Providence.  All attempts to find a safer life or to live by the expectations of others will just kill your soul. And that is not life or living, that is mere surviving.  As the bumper sticker on my car reads, “Love is our Soul purpose.”  Find what brings Divine Love into your hearts and go and do whatever you can to share that Love.

Life is short!  Do not wait or hesitate for the so-called right moment or right time or for the money to come first.  Leap now!  Either God will catch you or you will sprout wings.  God is calling us out of our comfort zones to live lives of complete abandonment to His love and care.  Trust that the desires of your heart were in fact placed there by God, and when you seek God, He will indeed give you those desires.

And here is the kicker: don’t ask yourself how you would follow your heart’s desire for that question will cut your divine dreams and desires off at the knees.

“HOW” is never the right question to ask.  “WHAT” is the question to ask yourself. WHAT would you dream for yourself? WHAT does your heart truly long for?  WHAT makes your Soul sing?

With  regard to following your heart’s desire – a desire placed there by God – our “job” is to ask WHAT we would do.  As for the question of HOW, well that’s God’s job…so you do your job and let God do His.