Posted by: ritagone | April 18, 2018

A Hope Deferred

My daily devotions in Timothy and Kathy Keller’s book “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life” are proving to be quite fruitful and a blessing in so many ways.  I’m sharing with you one of the many daily insights they present to light our path. 

HOPE.  At the core of the human heart are not just emotions but hopes – things we look to and trust in to make us happy.  When something we long for is deferred or delayed, we become heart-sick.

It is wisdom to recognize that the condition of deferred hopes is one that can never be fully remedied in this life.  The book of Hebrews likens the whole Christian life to the period when the Israelites had been delivered from slavery but were not yet in the Promised Land (Hebrews 11:13-14). The second clause of 13:12 is saying that when our longings are fulfilled, life flourishes briefly, as it did back in paradise, where we had access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9). But the New Testament tells us we will know full satisfaction only in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 22:2), which will be ours not through our efforts but through the work of Jesus Christ.  As we have seen, his cross became a tree of death for him so that we could have the tree of life by faith.  We face disappointment now by reminding ourselves of what is to come, guaranteed by Christ’s sacrifice.

 

Do an honest assessment – what are your greatest hopes? Are they being “deferred”? How can you use the spiritual resources you have to help your heartsickness?

 

Prayer: Lord, I often am indeed heartsick because of deferred hopes. Help me strengthen my heart in two ways. Remind me through your Word that we are in the wilderness, not in the Promised Land. And make yourself my most cherished hope – because I can have you now! Amen.

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Posted by: ritagone | April 11, 2018

Movie Favorites

I’m almost done reading “The Reflective Life” by Ken Gire for my morning devotional time.  It has inspired and challenged me.

In keeping with the overall theme of this book, I want to do something reflective and simple this week:

What’s your favorite movie…and why?  What makes it so special for you (in a few sentences)?  You don’t have to send me the answer; just write it out for yourself.  And then, as a treat, re-visit watching that movie some time soon.

For me, it’s the movie “Avalon,” made in 1990, written and directed by Barry Levinson, who also made “Rain Man” and “The Natural,” it tells in almost allegorical form the story of his family’s immigration from Eastern Europe to Baltimore, Maryland and the area of that city called Avalon.  It’s the intimate story of family, how generations co-existed, how television disrupted dinnertime and life in general, and how suburbia changed everything.

In many ways it’s the story of my family, and I love it.  I laugh, I cry, I say some of the lines along with the characters.  Its nostalgia beats in my own heart, and I understand its meaning completely.

And yes, I’m going to go watch it later today.

Now tell me about your movie.

Posted by: ritagone | April 4, 2018

Two Babies in the Womb

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other:

“Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
 The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
 The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need.

 

But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
 The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
 The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.” 
“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother, and she will take care of us.”
 The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists, then where is She now?”
 The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
 Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”
 To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.” 
- Útmutató a Léleknek

Posted by: ritagone | March 28, 2018

You Just Have to Laugh!

I have always said that my husband is the funniest person I know.  Since we started dating in the Stone Age, he has made me laugh like no one else can.  This is proven by the recent “procedure” he had at the local hospital for a rather large kidney stone which wouldn’t exit normally.  So they had to go in and blast it.  He decided to describe his hospital visit to friends in an email, and I bring it to you here in its entirety so that you can enjoy it too.  Tell me after reading it if you don’t agree that he’s a very funny man!  (By the way, he’s on the mend.)

 The “procedure” is called an extracorporeal wave lithotripsy. I looked that term up on the Internet. It is a Latinphrase for “Spanish Inquisition Torture.”

I will spare you the details but it all starts with being forced to disrobe in front of the entire Los Robles nursing staff, having an I.V. placed in your arm with a needle the size of a ballpoint pin, placed on a stainless steel table that has been in a commercial freezer for three days and then given a “cocktail” to put you under. Just a heads up for any of you going in for one of these: when the “cocktail” enters the blood stream it feels very much like lava. When you cry out in pain and beg one of the twenty-six people in the room to kill you, one of the masked doctors will say, “that’s normal”, as if that is supposed to be comforting.

Eventually everything goes blank and then the next thing you hear is someone saying “Mr. Warren, we’re done. You can lay here in great pain for a couple of hours while we have someone try to find your clothes.

       The good news in all this is that the pain meds are really wonderful.

 

Posted by: ritagone | March 21, 2018

Rain Delay

It’s a dreary, rainy day today, and I’m making a commitment:

I’m going to do as little as possible today.

Oh, I have plenty I should be doing.

But I won’t be doing it today.

Instead, I’m going to turn the switch on the gas fireplace in my office, curl up in my comfy chair with my down blanket, sip my cup of Chai tea latte, and read.  And read.  And read some more.

Because that’s the kind of day it is.

As you can tell, I have very little to say in this week’s Rita’s Ramblings.  Please forgive me.  I think you’ll survive without my words of wisdom.  In fact, I know you will.

But I need a true day of rest, a break, and a day to stop all activity and motion.  I know you’ll understand, and I’d do the same for you were you to ask me.

So if it’s raining where you are – or even if it’s not – and you have the opportunity, take some time today to curl up and read a good book.  Relax. Take a deep breath.  The world will keep on spinning, nations will still yell and scream at one another, all the offenses we commit against each other will continue.  But you and I will have a time out.

See you next week.

Posted by: ritagone | March 14, 2018

What a Headache!!!

 

 The picture doesn’t look like me.  She’s far younger and more blonde than I.  But the posture reminds me of me.  Hand to forehead. Grimace on face.  Oh, right.  It must be headache time.

Lately I feel like my life revolves around the management of my migraines.  I can stop one in its tracks by taking a dose of Imitrex when it comes on, but you can’t do that forever, or at least I’m told by the medical community that you shouldn’t.  So there comes a time when I have to look at my calendar and pick a day when nothing is happening and then allow a full-blown headache to find me.  And it does.

It’s weird to tell people that I will be “out of commission” Saturday because I’m going to have a headache, as if I’m prescient.  And then it’s even weirder to have that headache start and blossom and unfold into something so painful and awful that I think hitting my head against the wall might be a relief.

So for a day, or sometimes two, I’m in bed, curled up in a fetal position, doing nothing but trying to sleep to avoid the pain, thankful for a husband who brings me a microwave-heated bean-bag thing that lays on my eyes and gives me relief for about 10 minutes, until it cools down.  That’s my shrunken world for a period of time.  Then the headache gradually goes away, and the only residual is a feeling like I’ve had the flu for a day or two.  Drained, tired, still needing lots of sleep, which is incredible, considering that I’ve spent a day or two doing nothing but sleeping and moaning and groaning.

By most standards it’s not terrible.  There are certainly people who suffer from much worse.  And, looking on the bright side of things, I always lose a few pounds because nothing edible sounds good.  And it’s so very temporary that I always know there’s an end in sight, which is more than many people can say about the pain they’re experiencing.

And more important than those two factors, I think I have learned a great deal about what it means to trust God through some pain.  Because up until the last few years, my life seems to have been relatively pain-free.  I’ve had migraines since my mid-twenties, but I don’t remember them being as disabling as they are now.  Or lasting as long.  So now I’ve had to pray and to ask God to give me strength.  To be there with me and for me.  To walk beside me and comfort me in a whole new way.

And I’ve learned the value of the promises that one day we will be in a place where there will be no pain.

It’s not a great consolation when I’m in the midst of a migraine, but it’s something to fall back on when my head is clear and pain-free.

How about you?  What is in your life that, while you’re experiencing it, seems like the worst thing in the world to go through, but which increases your reliance on God and your trust in Him?  So can you count it a good thing after all?  Or at least a thing with some purpose attached to it?  I certainly hope so, really I do.

Posted by: ritagone | March 7, 2018

“Glory’s Garment”

I’m posting this today because I think the poem is so beautiful and touching.  It is from my dear friend Jonathan Steele’s blog; Jonathan serves with Communitas in Valencia, Spain with his wife Taryn and writes with his heart and soul.  Enjoy what God has put on his heart.

 

Jonathan L Steele

 

Where in the end…God is Everything, and All is Grace.

 

Glory’s Garment

Posted on March 3, 2018 by jonathanlsteele

 

 

If I had but one day left
I would remain quiet
and wait

To see God
through how
you see

Would you give
that to me?

If I had but one day left
I would give it
to you

For you to
find God
in who You
were made
to be

Would you receive that
from me?

All the cares
all the concerns
vanish
with this single turn

If you had but one day left
would you open
up to see

That inside you
awaits Infinite’s
Mystery

Clothed in flesh and blood
buried beneath lies and misery

Invite it in
let it have
you

You are the treasure
you have been seeking

Salvation is
homecoming
homecoming is
your inheritance

If you had but one day left
would you dare to trust
that your inclusion at the banquet is a must?

Kick your shoes off
Dance in the dust

Discover that
you
tattered and bruised
are enough

Because Grace
Always
Clothes
The Naked

If I had but one day left,
I would remain quiet
and wait

To see God
through how
you shine

Wearing
Glory’s garment

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | February 28, 2018

Possibilities

POSSIBILITIES by Wislawa Szymborska (July 2,1923-February 1, 2012)

I prefer movies.

I prefer cats.

I prefer the oaks along the Warta.

I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.

I prefer myself liking people

to myself loving mankind.

I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.

I prefer the color green.

I prefer not to maintain

that reason is to blame for everything.

I prefer exceptions.

I prefer to leave early.

I prefer talking to doctors about something else.

I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.

I prefer the absurdity of writing poems

to the absurdity of not writing poems.

I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries

that can be celebrated every day.

I prefer moralists

who promise me nothing.

I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.

I prefer the earth in civvies.

I prefer conquered to conquering countries.

I prefer having some reservations.

I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.

I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.

I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.

I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.

I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.

I prefer desk drawers.

I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here

to many things I’ve also left unsaid.

I prefer zeroes on the loose

to those lined up behind a cipher.

I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.

I prefer to knock on wood.

I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility

that existence has its own reason for being.

 

In 1996, Szymborska was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.” Upon announcing the prize, the Nobel commission noted her reputation as “the Mozart of poetry” but aptly added that there is also “something of the fury of Beethoven in her creative work.”

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | February 21, 2018

Mary and Martha and Me

 

 

Everyone who has read the New Testament at least a few times is familiar with the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus and His disciples were traveling along by foot and came to the village of Bethany, where Martha welcomed Him into her home.  And her sister Mary, the text says, immediately sank to His feet and was listening to what He had to say.  Martha, on the other hand, was the domestic goddess, preparing the meal for however many people had “dropped by” that day.  After all, someone had to do it!  And the preparation left her distracted and disturbed.  She went up to Jesus when she had had enough, obviously out of sorts, and said to Him (and not to Mary, notice): “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?  Then tell her to help me.”

 

Oh, I can so relate to Martha!  At first glance, and especially if you tend to be a “Martha” type, you feel this is obviously fair.  Why should Martha be left doing all the work while Mary gets to sit at the Teacher’s feet and absorb His teaching?  It’s just not fair!  And doesn’t He see that it’s just not fair?  What’s wrong with Him?  He needs to straighten this mess out and rescue me, shame Mary, put things back on the right path where they belong…where I say they belong!

Instead, “the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’”

Christ is telling Martha, and us, that we need to simplify our lives, focusing on the one thing that matters so that our passion for Him can have an opportunity to grow.

He is telling us that we can get distracted from Him even in the midst of serving Him.  Like Martha, we can take our eyes off of the One we’re serving and onto all of our preparations, whether that’s meal preparations or sermon preparations.  Like Martha, we can get angry, even in our volunteer work, that someone has left us to do all the serving alone.  Like Martha, we can stomp out of the kitchen, into some committee meeting, and start telling people off.

The vacation Anne Morrow Lindbergh once took on an East Coast beach, which she chronicled in her book Gift from the Sea, offers an excellent model for reflective living.  It is full of wit and wisdom and rich reflections about life.  In this reflection she raises the same question the Mary and Martha passage raises, showing how universal the struggle is.

“I begin to understand,” she writes, “why the saints were rarely married women.  I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children.  It has to do primarily with distractions.  The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls – woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.  The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence.  It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life…”

How do we remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life? It’s a question we all wrestle with.  But for Christians the question goes deeper.  In the midst of the distractions of life, how do we remain wholly devoted to Christ?

We do what Mary did.

We make a choice to sit at Christ’s feet. That is where the “many things” we are involved in are brought into submission to the “one thing that is necessary.”

This is a constant battle, one I unfortunately too often lose.  But I fight on, because it’s worth it.  To win it is to win the small skirmish that allows me to be still and listen to what Jesus wants to say to me in a whisper that I might miss altogether.

Posted by: ritagone | February 14, 2018

“The Myth of Scarcity”

Today I’d like to quote from Walter Brueggemann, American-born Old Testament scholar who has influenced so many scholars we know, read and trust today for our theology, as well as Brueggemann’s, as I’ve been studying some of his ideas and writings to use in my Ecclesiastes class.  This one, taken from his work “The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity,” is a theme that runs throughout Ecclesiastes, but is also so pertinent and applicable today that it struck me as something we should all be pondering and praying about.  This piece was written in 1999 but is still timely in so many ways.

“The majority of the world’s resources pour into the United States.  And as we Americans grow more and more wealthy, money is becoming a kind of narcotic for us.  We hardly notice our own prosperity or the poverty of so many others.  The great contradiction is that we have more and more money and less and less generosity – less and less public money for the needy, less charity for the neighbor.

 

Robert Wuthnow, sociologist of religion at Princeton University, has studied stewardship in the church and discovered that preachers do a good job of promoting stewardship.  They study it, think about it, explain it well.  But folks don’t get it.  Though many of us are well intentioned, we have invested our lives in consumerism.  We have a love affair with “more” – and we will never have enough.  Consumerism is not simply a marketing strategy.  It has become a demonic spiritual force among us, and the theological question facing us is whether the gospel has the power to help us withstand it.

 

The Bible starts out with a liturgy of abundance.  Genesis 1 is a song of praise for God’s generosity.  It tells how well the world is ordered.  It keeps saying, “It is good, it is good, it is good, it is very good.”  It declares that God blesses – that is, endows with vitality – the plants and the animals and the fish and the birds and humankind…

 

We who are now the richest nation are today’s main coveters.  We never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us.  Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God’s abundance and the power of the belief in scarcity – a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly.  We spend our lives trying to sort out that ambiguity.

 

The feeding of the multitudes, recorded in Mark’s Gospel, is an example of the new world coming into being through God.  When the disciples, charged with feeding the hungry crowd, found a child with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus took, blessed, broke and gave the bread.  These are the four decisive verbs of our sacramental existence.  Jesus conducted a Eucharist, a gratitude.  He demonstrated that the world is filled with abundance and freighted with generosity.  If bread is broken and shared, there is enough for all.”

 

Reading this short essay made me ponder where I fit in: am I greedy or generous?  Do I turn my back on God’s generosity or embrace it?  What about you?  Think about this, I urge you.  Pray over it.  It may well be one of the most important things you think or pray about in the weeks or months to come.

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