Us, the next generation…

Joshua 1:9 “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Meditation: Joshua was God’s chosen successor after Moses died. He was the next generation coming into leadership. The words to “be strong and courageous, to not be frightened or dismayed” sound very “manly”. Like a dying father telling his son to lead the family forward. And the son might think he has to deny himself all human feelings of dread or fear. However, coming into leadership can be frightening. Suddenly finding oneself in the position of being the one to speak in front of the crowd or to be the one others are looking to for guidance can be terrifying. As the former generation of leaders are leaving, a new generation needs to step up. The feeling of “the buck stops here” can induce sleepless nights and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. I think God knows this. The words above do not mean NOT to feel all of these feelings or to pretend leadership was easy. God’s words are meant as encouragement. As a promise rather than an expectation. And that promise is similar to Psalm 27: 10: “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close”. Spiritually this experience is about maturing in faith. It is the sometimes frightening and yet also exhilarating experience of letting go of one’s childhood faith. And then taking first steps of living into one’s maturing faith of adulthood. Outwardly this maturation often comes with loss and grief, with movement and change, and also new roles and responsibilities that invite us into our next phase in faith and in life.

Prayer: God, our inner child gets overwhelmed and frightened as our faith is being tested, stretched and put through maturation experiences. You know that. That is why you promise to be there, especially when we lose the generation before us. Thank you, that when life calls us to take adult positions and responsibilities, You will be there with us. Amen

Quote: “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”  – John C. Maxwell

D. Bonhoeffer:”…it is easy for the tyrannical despiser…”

Psalm 29:11 The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.

Meditation: We find ourselves at a time of big political change. Some of us feel weak and afraid at a time where a strong leader has left who stood up for peace in the US and in the world. The kind of strength that is now being portrayed seems to undermine basic agreed upon values of our democracy like “freedom of speech” or “fact checking”. The strength of our democracy and of our peaceful coexistence as people who are different is undermined when certain perspectives are being attacked and facts no longer mean anything, but only certain “interpretations” are portrait as “the truth”.

We, the people…We, the people need all the strength we can find. We, the people need our grounding beyond ourselves at a time where certain assumed and often taken for granted values of our democracy are being dismantled.We, the people need God’s assurance that a power greater than ourselves, greater than any politician, wants to be the source of our strength, and that this power wants to bless this world and its people with peace.

Prayer: God, hear our prayer for strength and for peace! Amen

Quote:At such a time as this it is easy for the tyrannical despiser of men to exploit the baseness of the human heart, nurturing it and calling it by other names. Fear he calls responsibility. Desire he calls keenness. Irresolution becomes solidarity. Brutality becomes masterfulness, Human weaknesses are played upon with unchaste seductiveness, so that meanness and baseness are reproduced and multiplied ever anew. The vilest contempt for mankind goes about its sinister business with the holiest of protestations of devotion to the human cause.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Belonging

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God. Henri Nouwen

Meditation: Sometimes life just gets too much. Sometimes the conflicts around us try to swallow us. We feel exhausted, torn, anxious and worried how we will conquer and navigate all the demands.When my job tries to define me, when my family’s needs seem to be endless, when nothing I do seems to be enough, it helps to be still and remember whose I am. I am created and formed by the One who loved me from the very beginning. I am called by name. I am set free from judgement, set free from concern about my value and worth. I am invited not to be afraid. As no matter what the outcome, I am not alone. I belong. I belong to the One who created me and who wants to set me free over and over again. Free from expectations. Free from judgments. Free from anxiety and fear.

Can I take a few moments today to be still? To remind myself that no matter what will happen, I belong to the One who created and loves me.

Prayer: God, when the going gets tough. When I feel I don’t have enough support and I am all alone tackling the demands of my day, remind me of your words that you gave to Israel and through Jesus also to us. Remind me that you know my name. Remind me that you see me and know me intimately. You say: “Do not be afraid for you are Mine.” Thank you that I belong. Thank you that I do not walk this walk alone. Amen

Isaiah 43:1 But now, thus says the Lord who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.

Who is a prophet?

January 21

2. Peter 1:21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 Meditation: Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is given to all of us at the moment of our baptism. It does not matter if that was as a child or later in life. It does not matter if I decided to be baptized or if my parents decided for me. Jesus said that he would send a helper, a comforter when he had to leave his disciples. This term Spirit or Breath of God had already been known in the Old Testament scriptures. Prophets and Psalmists talked about the Spirit of God being upon them and upon people. The breath of God is seen as God’s Spirit that created our world. Jesus uses the language of God’s Spirit in new ways. He ties it closely to his life and walk with his disciples. As modern and post-modern people we have often lost the language and the awareness of the Holy Spirit as being a source of strength and the originator of words of truth and words of wisdom. As we claim our baptism, as we claim that God’s Spirit lives within us, we open ourselves consciously to this Spirit of comfort and guidance. However, also persons who are unaware can be used by God to speak prophetic, to speak truth and to speak comfort. Sometimes those persons are even more humble than those who know or think that God speaks through them. The Holy Spirit is God’s breath and it blows wherever it wants to (John 3:8).

Prayer: God, giver of the prophetic Spirit that our world needs. You generously pour out your Spirit. Remind us that your empowering Spirit wants to live in us, wants to speak through us and transform this world with the creative force of your Holy Spirit living in us. Amen

Quote: “We are all at times unconscious prophets.” Charles Spurgeon

The Strength of a Country

January 20

Deuteronomy 8:18 But you must remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to get wealth, so that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is today.

Meditation: Paula White, who will pray at the inauguration today is the personal pastor of the incoming president. She believes in prosperity. “Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity. The atonement (reconciliation with God) is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through donations of money, visualization, and positive confession.” (Wikipedia)

The Jewish tradition is being (ab)used to legitimize such theology that is then being mixed with capitalist ideas. For Christians this (ab)use of the notion of atonement is the opposite of how we understand Jesus Christ’s life and mission. Martin Luther exactly 500 years ago accused the Catholic church of using people’s money to promise them “Heaven” as the afterlife. Today people are being used politically as they seek material happiness as they want “Heaven on Earth”. Luther countered: “Not through our works or money do we find atonement.” Christ chose to live in poverty. Wealth is a gift that we are meant to share with those less fortunate than ourselves. Jesus knew sickness and death and did not see them as curses, but as part of our human condition that God entered and came to heal – not through money, positive thinking or donations. But through God’s presence of unconditional love and grace.

Prayer: Gracious God, we often think that money will solve our problems. We start worshipping the gifts instead of you, as the giver of good gifts. In our human fear we try to gain power and security through wealth. Remind us that you are the giver of everything. Remind us that no amount of money can overcome the fact that we are vulnerable human beings and that happiness and inner peace can’t be found in consumerism. Amen

Quote: “The prosperity of a country depends, not on the abundance of its revenues, nor on the strength of its fortifications, nor on the beauty of its public buildings; but it consists in the number of its cultivated citizens, in its (women and) men of education, enlightenment and character.” Martin Luther

God’s mystery of butterflies

January 19

John 12:32 Jesus said: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Meditation: My father had always been the parent I had felt emotionally very close to. I admired him. As I got older, I also saw his wounds, his flaws and shortcomings. But overall, he was a gracious, humble and loving person. He was also the one who taught me about God’s love. It is inevitable that much of the relationship I have with God was shaped by the relationship I had with my Dad. When he died, I was an adult. And yet, whenever I see a butterfly, I exclaim like a child: “Look, there is a butterfly. My Dad is sending me a sign.” The butterfly has become a symbol for me that captures the power of resurrection that my Dad believed in. It also is this very concrete symbol of beauty, mystery and life that reminds and draws me to the source of all love and grace. As Jesus promised “to draw all people to himself” after he was lifted up from the earth, the butterfly embodies for me the same energy and promise. It is becoming for me the symbol of ongoing connection, of never ending love, or outreaching grace…Even my daughters who never met my Dad see a butterfly and say: “Look Opa (“grandpa”) is saying hello”. This is how faith, how the Spirit of love, connection and trust is being passed on from generation to generation.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for your words of love and care. When you knew you had to leave, you reassured your disciples and the following generations that they would not be alone, but that you will reach out to us. Thank you for sending us signs of your inreaching arms. Thank you for the butterflies.

Quote: “I welcome all butterflies into my heart because that feeling is a constant reminder of how alive and full of love I truly am.”

― Karen A. Baquiran

Our exhaustion – God’s opportunity

The truth of human freedom lies in the love that breaks down barriers. Jürgen Moltmann

Meditation: Sometimes we work very hard. But no matter how hard we try, doors do not open up. The reward of our labor does not show. We feel there are obstacles all around: skepticism, criticism, lack of support, loneliness and lack of resources. It feels like no matter how good a work we do, no matter how intensely we labor, there seem to be mountains after mountains to climb and closed doors all around to bang our heads on. And then we run out of resources – we become exhausted. God’s promise to walk before us, to level our mountains, to break through steal doors and to replenish us with new resources breaks into our loneliness and struggle. “I am not walking alone”. Even just the realization of being seen, of being known as I am facing obstacles feels healing. The promise to make a way for me, to give me all I need, and even bestow riches upon me feels like a promise that is too good to be true. But it is not! God gave water and bread to the Israelites in the desert, and God will give us bread and water as we walk through our desert of anxiety and exhaustion saying: “Come, eat and drink, for the journey is far”.

Prayer: God, your are ultimate abundance. You want to give us all the resources we need to flourish. You remove obstacles we cannot overcome ourselves. You have hidden plans of secret riches that you want to bestow upon us, just when we come to our wits end. Thank you for your bountiful Spirit. Amen

I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Isaiah 45, 2-3

 

Being still means not to react and not to retaliate

January 17

Exodus 14:14

“God will fight for you. You only need to be still.”

Meditation:

We have a President elect, in three days becoming acting President, who fights back when he feels attacked. He usually turns the accusation back at the perceived accuser and maginfies the accusation. Usually this tactic seems to work for him. At least it distracts and confuses things. And it toxifies the atmosphere. Enemies arise that never before had seen themselves as in opposition. Black and white lines are being drawn, when things had been colorful or at least gray before. When I, when we as society through twitter, social media and even the news take in the outfall of toxic politics, we get easily infected…infected with anger, even with hate. And those emotions can start errupting on all sides…

Prayer: God, when fear comes, when anger and rage creep into my soul, remind me whose I am. Remind me that in not retaliating originates our strength. You are love. You are justice. Love and justice will prevail in the end. Help me not to react, but to be still.

Quote: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Martin Luther King

Being double minded

January 16

James 4:8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Meditation: Sometimes we cannot help but be “double minded”. We feel trust and doubt at the same time. We love God, and yet wonder at times if he loves us. I think this is our human existence. This is how we are. And God knows that.

I cannot even purify my heart by myself. I can wash my hands, but even that ritual does not provide the relief I am longing for.

Why does God allow those times of doubt, wonder, fear and estrangement from God, from ourselves and from others?

I think that our crying out to God becomes even more real. Our prayers become even more human. And our human needs and vulnerabilities are being carefully held and embraced by God, when we are ready to be held and embraced.

Prayer: Loving God, you allow those confused, troubled and strange times where we feel so far from you, and you seem so far from us and our experience. You wait for us. You wait until we are ready to say: “Come, oh God. Hold me, embrace me” and as the thief on the cross said: “take me with you.” Amen

Quote: “Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him.”  ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Our relationship with food

January 15

1.Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Meditation: Many women and men struggle with their relationship with food. We diet, we overeat, we restrict and we indulge. It is hard to find balance, to find freedom in the jungle of fast food signs and diet books.

How can I eat and drink and do so with freedom and joy?

Eating enough so my body is strong and has the nurture and energy it needs.

And not overeat out of loneliness, out of fear of not having enough, out of guilt, out of boredom…

Prayer: Loving God, come into our imbalance. Come into our extremes of relating to food and to drinking. Come into our deepest need for love, community, acceptance and joy. And then liberate us to a new relationship with our body, with food and drinks, and with you. Amen

Quote: “When I eat with my friends, it is a moment of real pleasure, when I really enjoy my life.” Monica Bellucci

 

 

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