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REVISITED: The Modern Prometheus

Read Psalm 14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness; they chatter on and on. No one really knows what is going to happen; no one can predict the future.” (Ecclesiastes 10:13-14 NLT)

Frankenstein

One of my more favorite books, as a fan of Gothic Horror, is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus”. Inspired by a group of friends who were all competing to see who could write the scariest horror story, Shelley penned Frankenstein about a doctor who would use science to create human life. Shelley’s world was one that had gone through the age of enlightenment and scientific knowledge was growing in leaps and bounds. There was seemingly no limit to human potential and it seemed as if humans could achieve anything if they so willed it. All it took was scientific discovery. As has happened ever since the Age of Enlightenment, scientific discovery got more and more narrowed down to physical and/or natural sciences, such as medicine, biology, anatomy, physiology, ecology, etc.

But Shelley also lived in a world that still held on to the other sciences as well. The word science comes from the Latin word scientiae, which means “knowledge.” Therefore, the sciences were avenues to attaining knowledge. Whether it be the knowledge of the physical/natural world, of wisdom (philosophy), of the mind (psychology), or even of God (theology), people have been in pursuit of such knowledge. Thus, the physical and/or natural sciences are no more or less science than philosophy, sociology, psychology, archaeology, and theology. All of these are avenues to knowledge…all of these are sciences.

In Shelley’s novel, Dr. Victor Frankenstein abandons himself to the physical sciences in order to attain something that the other sciences such as theology and philosophy might warn against. He attempts to leave the realm of humanity and starts to play God. The results are catastrophic, as one can imagine. Instead of creating another human being, Dr. Frankenstein creates what he ends up considering to be a monster and an abomination. In reality, the creation (who refers to himself as “Adam” in order to draw a parallel between himself and the first man created in Eden) is not the real monster…rather, Victor Frankenstein is the one who becomes monstrous in creating and abandoning “the Adam of [his] labours”, as well as for the hell he brings upon his household and his people.

Shelley’s novel is one that intentionally warns the reader about the danger of abandoning the sum of knowledge for just one of its parts. While we have learned a great deal about the world through the physical and natural sciences, that is not the whole of the knowledge we have to learn. Just as one who ignores the knowledge we have gained of ourselves and of the world through the physical sciences is considered to be foolish, so too is it foolish for one to ignore the knowledge we have gained of God, of the cosmos, of creation and of our relationship to all of the above through theology.

Today’s challenge is for us to move away from being like Frankenstein and toward a more holistic understanding of reality. We are not just physical beings, but we are also emotional, intellectual, psychological and SPIRITUAL beings as well. We cannot be one without the others. We cannot be one part without the whole. When attempt to be apart from the whole, we end up becoming hollow, shadowy caricatures of our former selves; when we abandon the whole of knowledge we often, in our willful ignorance, end up becoming monstrous and dangerous to the larger community around us. Christ is calling us from that to humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness…values that any true scientist would eagerly embody.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, teach me to be open to all of the possibilities so that I may grow in knowledge, as well as in wisdom. Amen.

REVISITED: J.S.S.

Read Matthew 11:25-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.“ (John 10:10 CEB)

the-walking-dead-episode-602-enid-nacon-breckinridge-935

As I have stated on multiple occasions, one of my all-time favorite shows is “The Walking Dead” on AMC. I was just watching the most recent episode entitled, “J.S.S..” I run a pretty tight ship in the “no spoiler zone”, so I will not be making any major spoils to the episode; however, I will be letting you know what the initials “J.S.S.” stand for. So if you are a fan of the show, haven’t seen this episode and don’t want to know what they mean, let this be your warning. Just put this devotion aside and read it after you watch the episode.

In the latest episode, a girl is seen wandering the empty streets. She is the last in her family to survive and she is wandering by day and hiding in empty cars by night. She eats whatever she can get her hands on to survive and looks like a bloody mess from all of the animals, and zombies, she’s had to kill. There doesn’t seem to be much left of her. She looks exhausted, confused, lost, empty, and hollowed out like an embalmed cranium. She is a shadow of her former self and she is just barely surviving. Everywhere she goes, she writes the initials, “J.S.S.”.

Without giving anymore of the storyline away, we finally find out what “J.S.S.” stands for: “Just Survive Somehow.” Indeed, that is what she had been doing, wandering from place to place, eating whatever disgusting and unpalatable animal that came her way. That is what she had been doing night after night, clearing the rotting dead from the cars parked on the road so that she could have a “safe” shelter to sleep in. That is what she had been doing…just surviving somehow.

As I see it, that is what a lot of us do. We just survive somehow. Day after day, night after night, week after week, and year after year. We just survive somehow. We wander through our lives like the aforementioned girl wandering the zombie infested streets. Every day we wake up, get out of bed, put on our shallow, fake smiles and our “happy face” masks and set out to just survive another long and painful day. In fact, we’ve gotten so accustomed to surviving that it has really, for all intents and purposes, become our sole purpose in life: just survive somehow.

We think to ourselves, “maybe tomorrow will be better,” and when tomorrow comes and goes we think, “Maybe next week will be better.” Of course, next week, next year, next decade, things don’t seem to ever get better and we feel trapped in perpetual survival mode. So we tell ourselves again to “just survive somehow.” Surviving becomes such a terrible and lonely fight and some of us, too many of us, simply don’t win out in the end. Surviving becomes too much for us and we find that it’s better to succumb.

How sad it is that so many people have spent their lives “surviving.” Sadder still is the truth that many people don’t survive at all, but rather become victims of their loneliness and hopelessness. These unfortunate ones never got to see their true worth, they never had a chance to see that there is beauty in this life, and they never had the chance to see that God wants them to thrive, not just survive.

If this is you, if you are just surviving somehow, if you are merely hanging on in your life, then I bring you good news. You are not alone in your struggles. God created you, you are a daughter or a son of God, and God wants you to move beyond surviving to thriving in life. This doesn’t mean that you’ll become rich and permanently happy; rather, this means that you will rise up out of the ashes of survival and into the hope that comes through the sacred community of the Triune God. You will be surrounded by a community of thriving survivors who have experienced God’s hope, healing and wholeness and want to freely share that with you. If this is you, I pray that you enter God’s community and experience love.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” – Aristotle

PRAYER
Lord, I’ve been in survival mode for far too long. Awake in me the desire to thrive in my faith and in my life. Amen.

REVISITED: Daniel’s Apocalypse

Read Daniel 7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.” (Matthew 13:37, NRSV)

daniel-10-vision-son-of-man

Throughout the nearly twenty centuries in which Christianity has existed, many Christians have been raptured by the notion that the End Times are approaching, looking to the apocalyptic texts in the Bible to interpret the events happening in their world. Since the nineteenth century, there has been a renewed and somewhat reimagined End Times narrative that has since become the dominant perception in popular culture of what the Bible is saying in books such as Daniel, Ezekiel, 1 Thessalonians, and Revelation. This popular understanding has been propagated in Christian literature such as “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey and the Left Behind series. It has been found in the secular world as well in films such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, and other such horror films.

The word “apocalypse” means “unveiling” and in apocalyptic writings, the authors have been given a “revelation” or an “unveiling” of the things that are currently happen and/or are soon to pass in the future. Daniel 7 is such an apocalyptic text, and in modern popular culture, it has been interpreted in light of other apocalyptic texts such as Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4, and Revelation. The problem with this is that these interpretations often do not take the apocalyptic author’s own historical and religious context into account, which leaves us with a heavily skewed understanding of what those texts are stating.

Daniel 7 talks about the winds stirring the sea, four beasts rising up, and ten horns found on the fourth beast (three of which are removed and replaced by another smaller horn covered with eyes and a boasting mouth. The sea is always symbolizes the primordial chaos that surrounds God’s ordered and good creation. Water is both life and death, and the chaotic seas in the ancient world (as well as in ours) are always threatening to destroy us. The winds that are stirring them are the “angels” of heaven, implying that there is a spiritual warfare going on in the cosmos, mirroring the ancient Semitic myth of the storm god (Baal in Canaanite mythology and Marduk in the Babylonian mythology). In the ancient world, beasts always represented Empires and/or Kingdoms. Thus, in Daniel’s apocalyptic dream, the first beast represented Babylon, the second represented the Medes, the third the Persians, and the fourth represented the Greek/Seleucid Empire.

It was under these Empires, one after the next, that the Hebrew people suffered great oppression under. But, in Daniel’s vision, these Empires wouldn’t have the final say. God was doing something significant, something that would overthrow the forces of evil in the world and would begin the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth. He sees someone like the “Son of Man” coming on the clouds and ushering in that Kingdom. The apocalyptic author of Daniel was providing hope for people caught in what seemed like a hopeless situation. God would take authority away from the beast-like Kingdoms and return it to human-like Israel

It was this hope that, 160 years after the writing of this text, a Jewish prophet and teacher would proclaim he was the fulfillment of. That man, of course, was Jesus of Nazareth and he was claiming that he was that “Son of Man” and he proclaimed the arrival of God’s Kingdom on Earth. It was this “Son of Man” that was proclaiming a message that was counter to the powers of the world, one that preached of strength through humility, through meekness, through peace, through compassion, through self-sacrifice and through unconditional love. While Jesus does proclaim a post-ascension time when he would return, Daniel, according to Jesus, was not pointing to an event following the Christ; rather, Daniel was pointing to the Christ event itself. Let us who believe in Jesus as the Christ rejoice, for we have been chosen by him to continue the unveiling of the enduring Kingdom he ushered in! Our call is not to predict the future, but to serve God’s Kingdom today.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” – Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (Matthew 19:21)

PRAYER Lord, thank you for revealing to me the Son of Man. Help me to do my part in serving your Kingdom on Earth. Amen.

REVISITED: Be Still, My Soul

Read Mark 5:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10)

“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the Wolf’s Bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” At first when Larry Talbot hears those words recited to him by the engaged woman he is attempting to seduce, he laughs it off as superstitious hogwash. One thing that could certainly be said is that Larry was certainly not pure in heart but, then again, who is? Regardless, Larry was a modern, civilized man, and there was no way that he was going to buy into werewolves and in any mythical monster.

Yet, as it turns out, later that night following those words being recited to him, Larry is bitten by what looks like a large wolf and his life becomes a living nightmare. As the full moon draws closer, Larry became more and more convinced that he was, in fact, bitten by a werewolf. He was so paranoid that he tried to convince his father who refused to believe him. Instead, his father put him in the care of a psychiatrist. On the morning following the full moon, Larry found himself lying in bed with tattered and dirty clothes on. His window was open wide and dirty footprints could be seen. At first they were wolf-like, but each footprint became more and more human. Once he saw this Larry knew his worst nightmare had come true: he was the wolf man.

As you have probably figured out, I have just summed up the first half of the movie, “The Wolf Man”, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. It is one of my favorite films because I find that I truly relate with the character. I think many, if they are honest, can relate with him. We are all flawed people. Even when we have the best of intentions, we are not pure in heart. We often try to hide the impurity and the ugliness; however, at some point, that ugliness always shows. No matter how hard we try to suppress the beast within us, whatever that beast is, the full moon eventually rises upon it and the beast is unleashed. This, of course, is a metaphor and our inner “beasts” take the form of anger, depression, hatred, bitterness, addiction, gossip, divisiveness, cynicism, and many other things.

This is a reality. We may not like to admit it, but we all have a beast that lies underneath the surface just waiting to come out of the darkness to take over and destroy our lives and the lives of those around us. The question is, will we like Larry deny that the inner beast exists? Will we deny our impurities? Will we pretend that we are all “good” people who have no weaknesses or hangups? Or will we come to terms with the fact that, while our life can be beautiful at points, it is also true that we find ourselves walking thorny paths? Will we acknowledge the thorny paths we are on. This reminds me of the first verse of a famous hymn, “Be Still, My Soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to your God to order and provide; in every change God faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

While “Be Still, My Soul” is talking about having strength in times of tribulation, there really is no greater tribulation than trying to fight our inner demons alone. The reality is that we were born in a broken world as broken people. The more we deny our weaknesses the more our souls suffer the consequences of that inner struggle. The Good News here is that you need not fight it at all. Christ has power over our demons if we will only allow him into our lives and into our hearts. That takes humility, it takes repentance, and it takes a willingness on our part to be transformed and to change; however, is the alternative a better option? The same Christ who cast Legion out of the possessed man in the reading for today, is the same Christ who can conquer the inner demons, the inner beast, in your life. All you need do is have faith, to be willing to change, and to allow Christ to still the storm in your soul.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.” – Katharina von Schlegel

PRAYER Lord, still the storm within my soul. Should it ever return, remind me that you are Lord in my life and that I need not fight the battle alone. Amen.

REVISITED: The Search for the Holy Grail

Read 1 Corinthian 11:17-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26 CEB)

The HolyGrail

I just recently watched the film, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” This has always been my favorite of the four films because it deals with Indiana Jones’ quest to find the Holy Grail. While I am sure most of you know what the Holy Grail is, for those of you who don’t the Holy Grail is the cup of which Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles drank from during the Last Supper. Indiana’s father (played by Sean Connery) had been searching for the Grail his whole life, but when he gets close to finding it he disappears. Indiana then picks up where is father left off in order to not only find the Grail but to also find his father.

Before embarking on the quest, Indy turns to his friend, Marcus Brody, and asks him if he thinks there is actually any truth to the legend of the Holy Grail. Marcus responded, “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” This statement hit me in a way it never really did before. I think as a younger person, I never fully understood the profound implication of that statement; yet, as a grown adult and a trained theologian, the proclamation is actually a revelation of the nature of who we are in Christ Jesus. This is not just some Hollywood-contrived revelation, but is a revelation we find throughout the Bible.

When we think of the Holy Grail, we think of the Last Supper, we think of the Knights of the Round Table, we think of Indiana Jones, we think of Monty Python, and some may even think of Dan Brown’s controversial work of fiction, “The Da Vinci Code.” Almost always, the Holy Grail is thought of as an object, as the cup that held the wine (aka blood) of Jesus Christ. In the case of the Indiana Jones film, the cup itself was holy and had magical powers of healing and rejuvenation as a result of Christ using it it in such a holy moment in history. In books like the Da Vinci Code, the Holy Grail is a woman (going back to Mary Magdalene) who carried on the bloodline of Jesus Christ. Again, like the cup, the woman is merely important because she’s bearing the bloodline of Jesus.

What I noticed was that, when thinking of the Holy Grail, we tend to lose the bigger picture for the smaller details. We lose the significance of the Holy Grail when we cheapen it to being a “cup” or a “womb” or anything else. Marcus Brody points us to a deep truth when he says, “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” Indeed. Jesus didn’t hold The Last Supper in order to turn a cup into an idol. Also, to get caught up in the “married Jesus” debate is to completely miss the entire point of Jesus ministry and the Last Supper.

In the act of “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood”, the disciples are taking Jesus into themselves and making him a part of their own identity. In other words they, in that sacred moment and from that time forward, become the Holy Grail…bearing the grace and the love of Jesus to all the world. Just as Jesus was the Son of God, we who believe in Christ and partake in Holy Communion as a public profession of our faith, take on the identity of sons and daughters of God. I am sure some of my Protestant brothers and sisters might be questioning if I am taking Communion a little too literally. While I am not, I would say that to question that is to miss the truth of the above.

Whether we believe in Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, or we believe that the Sacrament of Holy Communion is a symbol of God’s grace and forgiveness for us, the fact remains that Holy Communion is a reminder that we are called to be the Holy Grails of Christ. We are called to be the vessels that bear Christ’s love in the world. We are called to be Sacramental and to be transformational. We are called to be agents of Christ’s grace and witnesses to the presence of God. Remember this the next time you partake in communion and be transformed.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” – Marcus Brody in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.

PRAYER Lord, I am your vessel fill me with your grace so that I may bear witness to your grace in the lives of others. Amen.

REVISITED: What’s in a Name?

Read John 10:14-18, 25-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the One who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1 NLT)

Have you ever given much thought to your name? Just the other day I was in a conversation with someone who was talking about how her granddaughter just started to write her own name. Instantly, I was transferred back to when my daughters were first able to write their own names. I remember what a milestone it was to see them do that. What’s more, this conversation also caused me to reflect on my own name, and the moment I was first able to write it. Indeed, I am not sure I remember when I first was able to write my own name. I definitely remember learning to write, and then learning to write in cursive, but I am not sure I remember when I first wrote my own name: Todd.

Then I began thinking, “What is Todd? Who is Todd? What is it that a Todd is supposed to do? How is a Todd supposed to look? How is a Todd supposed to act? What makes a Todd a Todd? What makes me more a Todd than I am a Howie or a Jonathon or a Leonard?” Now this may sound silly to you and, indeed, it feels a little silly writing those questions down; however, have you ever stopped to think about how you got your name and what makes you fit that name, or what makes that name fit you?

The truth is, I am not sure I can fully answer that question. My name is Todd because my parents chose to name that. The name Todd actually comes from my dad’s side of the family. I was named after my grandma’s maiden name. Her name was Jeanette Elizabeth Todd before marrying my grandfather and becoming Jeanette Elizabeth Lattig. For the first few months, I had no self-awareness of any  name. Over time, I learned that those people who are always holding me and feeding me call me “Todd”. Eventually, at some point, I started answering to that name and claiming it to be my own. No doubt, if someone asked me when I was a Toddler (ironic…I know) what my name was, I would say, “My name is Todd.” And eventually, I began to write my name as a way of marking whatever I was writing it on as being “mine.”

So, here it is that I am, indeed, a Todd. But what does that say about me beyond what name I go by? In reality, we are so much more than our names; yet, truth be told, we invest all that we believe we know about ourselves into those names. And others do the same. If you were to ask one of my family members or friends who Todd is, they would no doubt shower you with all they thought that I am. But that would be who they believe this Todd to be…that would say nothing about every other Todd out there.

While we may identify ourselves by our name, and while we may associate our characteristics, strenghts, flaws, personalities and other things with that name, the truth is that our names do not really define us or who we are. Rather, God does define who we are and calls us according to that definition. So whoever you, the reader, are, you are so much more than the name and all the things that you attribute to that name. You are more than you could ever imagine. No matter how well you think you know yourself, and no matter how much others think they might know about you, God is the only one who knows EXACTLY who you are and all that you are capable of. God knows your possibilities and your full potential…and God is calling you, not only by NAME but according to WHO YOU ARE, to reach your full potential. All you need to do is TRUST IN GOD, and take the step forward to answer that call…knowing that God will guide you each step of the way.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” – Jesus of Nazareth, John 14:1

PRAYER

Lord, reveal to me who I really am and guide me to what it is I am really called to do. Amen.

REVISITED: It’s Story Time

Read Genesis 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us.” (Luke 1:1 NLT)

We are a people who thrive on stories. Whether they be stories told around a campfire, stories bound in a book, stories acted out on as stage or before a film camera, we are a people who tell and love to be told stories. It is no wonder then, that we are people who lend serious weight to stories when they are told to us. In stories we come across characters we can relate to, as well as characters that we feel the need to distance ourselves from…just like in life. In stories, we discover truths as well as uncover and expose lies. Stories are, and have been, ways in which we pass down our history and our heritage from one generation to the next and, without a shadow of a doubt, stories are also how, in part, we have passed our religions and morals down from generation to generation.

The Bible is full of such stories. Please keep in mind that my use of the word “story” here is not to claim, one way or the other, on their historical veracity. In fact, even history is a “story”, is it not? And history is often one side’s version of that story. But back to the Bible. It is filled with stories of creation and origin, stories of heritage and lineage, stories of kingdoms and conquest, stories of faith, historical stories and even prose and poetry that recount stories of love, life, happiness, sadness, tragedy, despair and every other category in between.

What’s more important, and not always recognized by people, is the realization that the Bible is a collection of many different stories, some that don’t even agree with each other. For instance, some stories talk about King David as a king who had very few flaws (1 Chronicles). Other stories show him to be a flawed and proud character who eventually had to be humbled by God through the prophet Nathan (1 and 2 Samuel).

Different stories also reveal different aspects of God, which is why the ancient Jews decided to include them all in the same book. They didn’t look at them as contradicting stories, as much as they saw them as stories of opportunity to grow in depth of our understanding of God. So, in one book and/or passage, we might discover that “God is slow to get angry, is full of compassion, forgiveness and mercy, and doesn’t harbor judgment forever (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18); however, somewhere else we read that God put Onan to death for NOT getting his sister-in-law pregnant (yes, you read that right, see Genesis 38)! When we read these stories, some of them resonate with us…other stories we read disagree with us…and still, they all challenge us to wrestle with OUR OWN STORY of who God is, and how God relates with us.

In today’s time, some people have become snobbish toward stories of faith; they look at the stories of faith as being ways that “more ignorant” people explained things, while seemingly being completely ignorant to the fact that they are carrying on that same tradition of story telling…even if their versions of the stories have somewhat, or even drastically, changed. Take the big bang theory, for instance. Is that no more a story than the story of Creation? Is one story right and the other wrong? Or do both point to different angles of the same truth…namely, the truth that WE EXIST AGAINST ALL ODDS.

Today’s challenge is to NOT be snobbish to the stories of the past, but to learn from them. Recognize that these stories do inform us of where we came from, who we are, and who God is calling us to be. These stories are the foundations of our very lives, and not one person is devoid of those stories. Thank God for the blessing of those stories, and be willing to wrestle with them. In doing so, you GROW and see a fuller picture of who God is and who YOU ARE! In doing so, you will become a LIVING PART of the story, as well as a partner in passing them down!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I love to tell the story, ‘twill be my them in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.” – Katherine Hankey

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for all of the blessing of stories and for my being taught of you through the stories that have been passed down to me. Use me as a faithful storyteller, sharing your good news in all the ways that I can. Amen.

REVISITED: Never at a Loss

Read Psalm 18:2-6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.” (Psalm 48:12-14)

Grief-And-LossI just recently watched a movie called “The Dead Matter” and, as you can probably guess by the title, it was a horror film about vampires trying to use some magical relic to raise the dead in order to use them as an army to…I can only guess…take over the world. Okay, so the plot wasn’t anything earth shattering but there was something about the film that struck me as being all too familiar to the human experience.

Gretchen, who is the main human character in the movie, accidentally stumbles upon the relic. She also happens to be a grieving sister who had recently lost her brother in a car accident. She wanted nothing more than to see her brother again. She missed him terribly and just could not let him go. As mentioned earlier, this relic has the power to bring the dead to life and, upon discovering that power, Gretchen seeks to bring back her brother.

Of course, that plan does not work out the way that Gretchen had hoped it would. Rather than bringing her brother back, everyone and their mother starts to come back to life. You can only imagine what kind of nightmare that would be. And even if she did bring her brother back from the dead, would he really still be her brother? I think we all can agree that whatever came back to bite her (pun completely intended), it would not be her brother.

While Gretchen was dealing with the loss of her brother, the fact of the matter is that, regardless of what kind we are dealing with, we often have a hard time dealing with loss. Whether it be our relationships, our careers, our sense of control, our comfort, or our way of doing things, there can be little doubt that we spend a great deal of our time trying to avoid letting go. Some people will resist any kind of change for fear of the loss that will come as a result of it. Indeed, it is hard for us to deal with loss.

Jesus was no stranger to loss. He lost his identity as a carpenter. He lost the comfort of his own home. He lost the trust of his family (who all thought he was crazy). He lost the chance of leading a “normal” life. He lost many of his followers when they realized their lives were on the line; and, in the end, Jesus lost his own life. Yet, Jesus let all of that go because he realized that regardless of the loss, he would never lose the hope of God’s presence.

Remember that you, too, are being called to let go of the things that are holding you back from living the life God has called you to live. Let go of your anxiety, let go of your fear, let go of your resistance to change, let go of your need for control, let go of your grudges, let go of it all. The more you let go, the more you realize that God never lets you go. Today’s challenge is for you to let go and let God’s presence fill you with hope, healing and wholeness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to let go and to put my trust completely in you. Amen.

REVISITED: Let Harmony Ring

Read Psalm 133

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” (Galatians 5:13-15)

elements_of_harmony_circle__vector__by_akili_amethyst-d5fxotcEvery person who has ever walked the earth has run into somebody at some point that they just don’t like. Perhaps the person seems snooty, or they just rub you the wrong way; we have all had the experience of being around people who seem to clash with our personalities and sensibilities. It is an unavoidable consequence to living in a community.

I have often heard some even state that they “hate” people out of frustration because of the way someone else treated them. To be completely honest, I have found myself uttering those words…especially when I used to commute long distances in heavy traffic. I have no doubt that I am not alone when I say that there are times I wish I were alone with no one else around to cut me off, give me attitude, or say something hurtful to me.

Yet, when we stop to think about it, the alternative is far, far worse. Just take a moment and try and imagine a world in which you truly were alone. Try and imagine a world where there was, literally, no one around to “bother” you. What kind of world would that be? How would you truly manage without the presence of others? How would you survive even a day without others to socially interact with?

There are many movies that try and picture what such an apocalyptic world would look like, where a person wakes up to find him or herself isolated in a world where no other human life exists. These films usually throw in zombies or other human survivors and never really explore what life alone would truly be like. Perhaps that is because life alone is something we really cannot fathom…it’s something that goes against our very nature and experience as human beings.

As children of God, we were designed to be in relationship with one another. We were called to live in harmony with other people. Some people get the idea that harmony means that we all hold hands and agree to skip down the yellow brick road together; however, that is not true harmony at all. Harmony is not someone always agreeing with me and what I believe to be correct; rather, harmony happens when people simultaneously put aside their differences to find common ground to stand on.

Harmony takes work. It does not come easy; however, we were created to live harmoniously with each other. God does not wish for us to gossip, slander, hold grudges, or be hateful toward others; rather, God wants us to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good and faithful toward one another. We should be striving to bring harmony into our communities, not discord.

Today’s challenge for us is to be agents of harmony. There are plenty of people who will rub us the wrong way, there are plenty of people who we will not particularly like, and there are certainly plenty of people who are different than us. Today we are being challenged to look past that and to see the commonality that we all share together…the commonality of being children of God, made in God’s image. Look past the differences, allow for people to be who they are, and love them as God loves them. Let the harmonizing begin!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” – The Apostle Paul in Romans 12:16

PRAYER

Lord, I pray that I may become an agent of harmony within the communities I am a part of. Amen.

REVISITED: What’s the Deal God?

Read Romans 8:26-28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But you are a chosen [people], a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"One of my favorite plays is Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, which is about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and is also a parallel for the McCarthy era in American history. I remember the first time I read the play in high school and how captivated by it I was. I mean, here were Christians being accused of witchcraft by other Christians. These poor, innocent people were being put to death for not confessing to be something they weren’t. Can you imagine being accused of a crime you didn’t commit? Can you imagine being given the choice of confessing your guilt and losing everything you have (including your good name and reputation) or being put to death for the very crime you didn’t commit? What kind of choice is that? Where is God in that?

I remember asking those very questions as I read through the play. As a Christian, I had grown up in the church believing that God would not let anything bad happen to me. I was led to believe that God would make good things happen for those who believed in him. Yet, here in this play and in my own personal experiences, good things were not happening to people who totally believed in God. In fact, they believed in God so much that they were willing to die rather than confess to something they did not do. And die they did.

For most of my life, I have been a Christian who truly believed in God and who tried to live life according to God’s will. I have not been perfect at it; however, I have tried nonetheless. Yet, when I look over the course of my life, I can distinctly remember bad things happening. In fact, I am willing to wager that most, if not all, professing Christians can look back at their lives and find times that were not what they would label as “good”. Yet, doesn’t scripture state that God makes good things happen for those who believe in God? What’s the deal God?

The problem is not that God is failing to make good on promises, but that we aren’t reading or interpreting the Scriptures accurately. Upon a closer reading of Romans 8:28, one will notice that it reads, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” In other words, ALL THINGS, good or bad, work together FOR GOOD for those who love God and…here’s the kicker…WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO GOD’S PURPOSE.

What is important to remember is that we live in a world filled with people who are all trying to make life good for themselves. If we are honest, we too have been numbered among such people. Thus, in such a world, “bad” things are bound to happen to each and every one of us…as what is good for us is bad for others and vice versa. This is just a fact of life.

Our hope, as Christians, does not lie in God magically preventing our mistakes, and the mistakes of those around us, from reaping their unintended consequences; rather, our hope lies in God’s presence with us despite the bad things happening around us. Even as bad things are happening, God is working in us, through us, and in spite of us in a way that will bring good out of our experiences. Would I claim that my experiencing depression as a teenager was “good”? Absolutely not! However, the fact that I can relate to and have reached many teens who experienced the same things that I did, testifies to the kind of good that can rise out of the ashes of what was “bad”.

But let us not forget the most important part of Romans 8:28. Those who are called according to God’s purpose are the ones who bring God’s plan into fruition. They are the ones through whom God brings the good out of bad situations. It is not that they are setting out to make bad things look good—that would be an impossible task—but that they are, according to God’s will, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). Each Christian is called to fulfill this purpose: to be the hands and feet of Christ. If we do that, then despite the fact that bad things will happen…we will, by the grace of God, rise above them!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Be the good you wish to see in the world. God is calling you to do no less than that.

PRAYER

Lord, while bad things will happen, help me to be the good that arises from those bad things and use me to help others. Amen.