People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds. Carl Rogers
Meditation: A critical and controlling spirit can kill a person’s sense of self and joy. My family over centuries passed on a critical and controlling spirit from one generation to the next. It might have also been a typical German trait that was passed on this way. Telling others how they are “supposed to be”, that they are “not right”, that they are “wrong” and “falling short” can undermine one’s self-esteem and can wound a person’s healthy sense of joy and pride. I can see this critical German spirit also entering medicine and psychoanalysis as the tendency of always seeing “what is not” and of focusing only on pathology, on short comings and on “abnormalities”. The therapist Carl Rogers counteracted this notion in defining psychotherapy as a “healing encounter”. As we watch another person in awe, we do not try to control them, but let them “be” while enjoying their development. We accept them as being different from our ideals or from us. We are aware of and yet differentiated from our culture bound judgments and expectations. What a different approach! It took me many years to shift to this new paradigm. On my worst days, I am still getting trapped in judgmental and critical thinking and behavior. On my best days, I can “let be” and watch others in awe, delighting in them as they are unfolding, while trusting the complex process of becoming, of learning and of healing.
Prayer: God, in Your presence healing can happen. The notion that You are rejoicing over us is a healing image. Holding onto the assurance that You look at us with loving eyes and that You are so enamored with us that You break out into singing, is a wonderful notion. God, heal our wounds that have come from critical and judgmental eyes watching us and from critical voices wounding us. Remind us again and again that You rejoice over us, especially when our inner critical voices attack us. And then let us be part of many healing encounters. Amen
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephania 3:17
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become. Carl Jung
Meditation: A few days ago I watched an episode with the journalist Anthony Bourdain who traveled through the Congo. After the US president recently made disparaging and racist remarks about Africans and Haitians, CNN decided to show several footages from different African countries to educate US citizens. The Congo was shown to have had leadership arise in the sixties that was endorsed by the West, but that turned out to be deeply exploitive of its people. The railroad has been left to decay for many decades. I was struck by a group of about 30 people who are not being paid by the government, but who show up to work every day. Their chosen work is to fight the complete decay of the railroad system. They do this without any special resources other than their physical strength and their shared mission as a community. I was struck. How, after more than 50 years can this group of men come back to work every day without getting paid? How can it be that they have not given up? They assert that they want to be ready, in case there will be a change. A change of leadership, a change in resources, a change of politics… They are not determined by what has happened to them, but by how they choose to behave and by the vision they have about their future. What a faith! What a testimony!
Prayer: God of hope, we are inspired by our African brothers and sisters. Their hope, their endurance, their discipline and communal resistance against oppression is deeply touching. Help us all see that we are not what happens to us, but we are who we choose to become. I pray for freedom in the Congo, in the United States and in all other countries that experience oppressive regimes. Amen
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants. Deuteronomy 30: 19
Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith. Paul Tillich
Meditation: When we experience painful events like death, divorce, sudden loss or trauma, it feels like “God’s right hand has changed”. We do not recognize the God anymore who we once believed in, who we trusted and even delighted in. It is like we are losing our naiveté; like our childhood faith is being wiped away. God had been an unquestioned presence, but suddenly becomes a stranger. Some Christians try to prevent this experience from happening. Some say that having doubts means being far from God. However, doubt is not the opposite of faith, but an important and necessary element of it. Doubting shows that something is essential to me and has been put into question. Doubting is the wonderment if God can still be trusted after all that has happened. The Psalmist acknowledges his grief “that God has changed”, and at the same time says: “I will remember”… Just like the spouse of a person who has dementia sometimes doubts if there is any love left between them, the very act of remembering the other person how he/she was before the loss of memory can restore a sense of love and connection. Yes, doubt is part of faith. To remain faithful and hopeful we need to go through times of doubt. As the valley experience is naturally part of the mountain experience, doubting is part of the experience of faith.
Prayer: God, in our dark hours and our “night of the soul”, when doubt grabs us as if there was no morning, as if life and love have ended, help us to remember. We shall remember those times when You have sustained us, moments that were true and built on love and on trust. We will meditate on how You, God, have held us in the midst of strive. And we are doubtful and thankful at the same time. Amen
Then I said, “It is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed.” I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds. Psalm 77:10
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Meditation: As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday today, his words remind us once again that evil will not prevail. In a time where racism has made its public come back in the US and profanity, lies and open oppression are sanctioned by the highest officers in the country, we need to be reminded that “unarmed truth and unconditional love” will have the final word. We need to remember the principal of non-violence as an essential means to reach the goal of justice. How tempting it is to match profanity with profanity, which is violent language! How tempting to spread lies about those opponents who are oppressors of others! How tempting to act according to the principal of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”! Martin Luther King elevates the non-violent principles of Jesus instead to remind us not to lower our standards, not to react to hatred with hatred and not to become infected with evil while being surrounded by it. Today we need to become leaders in our community like MLK to stand up for non-violent resistance. The social justice movement that began 50 years ago needs to be revived. Each of us needs to fight the moral infection that hatred and evil are causing in our daily lives. We need to hold on tightly to the truth and unconditional love that we have come to know in Jesus Christ.
Prayer: God, we are the next generation after MLK. We are being tested right now all around the world. Do we yield to evil as it seems to triumph everywhere these days, or do we hold onto what is right, true and love? Ground us in the hope as MLK declares it and as it is embodied in Jesus, the Christ for all to see. Let us not lose sight of what is right and just, even though love it is being temporarily defeated. You will have the final word. Thus we are hopeful. Amen
When you tell the truth, justice is done, but lies lead to injustice. Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal. A lie has a short life, but truth lives on forever. Those who plan evil are in for a rude surprise, but those who work for good will find happiness. Proverbs 12: 17-20
I am unable to understand how a (wo)man of honor could take a newspaper in his/her hands without a shudder of disgust. Charles Baudelaire
Meditation: We live in a country that has a leader that is not only unfit for office, but who is morally and emotionally so depleted that not only his character, but also his mental status is deeply troubling. At the same time we have our teenagers sitting in front of the TV, watching the news in disbelief and in disgust. All the values that they are being taught to practice and uphold as they are becoming adults are being shamelessly violated by the very same person who is holding the highest office. “There is no truth. There are only evil words. There is no justice.” Our teenagers are disgusted, and in their disgust lies the seed of hope for this next generation. How though do we use our disgust? Today when I remembered evil words that the president spoke yesterday, I was overcome with my feelings of disgust while driving home with my teenage daughter in the car. I said aloud: “May God send the current president to prison”. My daughter responded: “I do not want to use prayer this way. I want to pray for what is good for this country. And then trust that God knows that what is happening is bad.” I felt convicted and my anger and disgust turned into admiration for my daughter who knew that prayer is not a weapon, but a place to stay hopeful and positive in the midst of our disgust.
Prayer: God, we bring our justified disgust with the current leadership in this country to You. At the same time we ask that You may protect us from cynicism, rage, hostility and negativity. Help us learn from the younger generation to remain hopeful and to focus on “what is good.” Thank You for the future generation of leaders that is being born in the shadows of the current government, and who are being prepared by You to step into the truth and into the light. Amen
Yes, truth is lacking; And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey. Now the LORD saw, And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. Isaiah 59:15
What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. Zig Ziglar
Meditation: This is my last blog meditation before I complete the one year mark that I have set for myself. I started on January 14th in 2017. The greatest joy has been for me to feel more connected with others this year than before during my twenty-three years here in the US. When the political landscape changed in January last year, I knew that isolation would be my greatest emotional and spiritual downfall while dealing with the frustration, anger and rage that this administration would evoke in me. And I am deeply grateful for you, my friends and readers of my blog. Some days I delighted as I had readers from countries like South Korea, Nigeria, Israel or China access my blog. Faithful readers in Germany and the US made the greatest pool of friends and readers. I want to thank you, my readers, for sharing this past year with me. Knowing that somebody would be “on the other end” reading my thoughts and prayers has made me “become” a different person. Your presence and dedicated reading has strengthened me, comforted me and sustained me. Please, know that I felt your presence. You helped me live this past year in community and not alone. You have been part of my journey, and I hope that I was able to be part of yours. I do not know if I can keep the daily writing up this coming year, but I will surely need some degree of meditation and writing to remain sane, grounded and also connected to you, my friends and readers.
Prayer: God of community, I am deeply grateful for this past year of spending time with You and with friends and readers every day. I could not have made it through the craziness of our political times without this daily time of finding words for how my inner world and outer world are interconnected. Thank You for helping me make meaning in a time that feels chaotic at large, but that is still grounded in Your promises, Your joy and in Your presence “no matter what”. And I am deeply grateful. Amen
These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:11
We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person. W. Somerset Maugham
Meditation: My husband and I have been married for 20 years. Attending his daughter’s wedding gave us the opportunity to also renew our wedding vows with each other. Although we both have changed a lot in many good ways, at the same time we have not changed at all. We still struggle with some dynamics that have been there from the beginning. Our personality differences still collide at times, and we still miss each other at times in significant ways. At the same time we feel deep love and respect for each other, admiration and tenderness. This 20th anniversary year we are called by God’s Spirit to attune and attend to each other more than ever in all the years before. We are called to truly renew our marriage, which will take time. I am looking forward to a year of prioritizing “us”. We are planning on taking intentional times away and create safe spaces to be with each other away from the stressors of daily life. We don’t want our love to be “a happy chance”, but we want it to be “happy (and challenging) work of change”.
Prayer: God of love, we thank You for the gift of love, the gift of change and the gift of renewal. I pray that You help us and all couples who are married for many years to renew our love for each other and to continue to work on things that need to change, so we can truly be happy with each other. Help us, so we don’t leave it up to chance, but to Your patient, gentle and humble Spirit to help us change as we need to as a couple, so that our love will have a future. Amen
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3