One-Way Choices

If there is anything I have learned in five plus decades, it is simply that one can never go back.  You cannot un-learn what you have learned.  You cannot un-know what you know.  You cannot go back to yesterday and assume it will be the same today.  Often it appears as if life is a series of choices, forks in the road, and randomly connecting one-way streets.  As much as one might want to undo, fix, or repair, the damage is done.
At the end of a very long year, I find myself wondering if the conclusions to my assumptions are truthful facts.  I wonder.  There should be no question that many of the hells we live in are the direct result of our hands.  We created the messes we find ourselves in.  We are not the first.  Others before us have brought damnation on themselves.  Even “Judah has cheated on God-a sickening violation of trust in Israel and Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the holiness of God by falling in love and running off with foreign women, women who worship alien gods.  God's curse on those who do this!  Drive them out of house and home!  They're no longer fit to be part of the community no matter how many offerings they bring to God-of-the-Angel-Armies.”  (Malachi 2.11, 12)  Yet, is this the end?
Singapore reminds me that yesterdays rarely last for long.  Recreation can and often is part of life.  Our decisions have a life expectancy.  Our hells rarely last forever, even when they do.  For each, a dawn comes as often as we give it permission.  God knows each intimately.  God, in this knowledge, passionately and unconditionally loves us.  God, in truth, will recreate our lives from the inside out. 
Singaporeans have, in the main, embraced change.  It is a wonderful ability to see what might be.  You and I hold the keys to our future.  God can see our potential.  The path that comes will be one we choose today.  Everything can be new.  We hold new beginnings within. read more

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Hard Questions

Just before a New Year, one naturally reflects.  It is almost as if we cannot help ourselves.  We review the highlights of the year.  We relive the low lights.  In between, we wonder aloud.  What could have been different?  What should be that is not.  We try to ask the tough questions.  Even at a time where is comes naturally, I wonder if we really want to see and ask ourselves what needs to be asked.  Are we willing to explore the difficult questions that strike at the heart of our values?  Are we willing to look hard in the mirror?  Will we accept the shortness of our lives as a motivator to live fully and completely in the present?
As much as I would hope that my answers were and are a resounding yes, I am not so sure.  I listen to the questions that others before me have grabbled with and I am not sure I am willing to face the truth of my answers.  “Don't we all come from one Father?  Aren't we all created by the same God?  So why can't we get along?  Why do we desecrate the covenant of our ancestors that binds us together?”  (Malachi 2.10)
These simple questions strike at the heart of what I want to be different today and in each that follows.  I want the world to be a better place.  I believe it can be.  If both are true, the beginning for me starts within.  We share a common Father.  The same God created us.  The choice of getting along pivots on what I do in each moment.  The only one I can touch is the present, so in a sense everything in my life rests in and on the moment at hand.
I find that as I accept the reality of where I stand, I begin to see how God has put me into a community where Divinity is always present.  There are lessons to guide and instruct.  God has chosen to live within your life and mine.  We are the difference. read more

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Teaching Mandates

Mantles are not easy to pass.  First, the person must be aware that they are candidate to receive the mantle.  Second, there must be someone to pass something.  A third element is then required.  There must be an understanding of what the mantle is.
As I reflect on the mantles I have tried to pass, I easily find myself confessing that my success rate is lackluster at best.  It is not that I want to hold onto anything! I would love to pass on my insights to those willing to listen.  I would love to see a new generation assume a mantle of curiosity and wonder.  The very idea that someone would take the best from my history and infuse it with fresh ideals is a wonderful dream.
As I catch myself in this dream, I realize you and I have mantles that we have yet to assume! I often assume I know my purpose and mission.  Candidly, my assumptions are arrogance.  You may not realize it, but you and I called to be God's priests.  We already teach those around us with every action.  We were called to teach even before we knew of God existence.  Candidly, “it's the job of priests to teach the truth.  People are supposed to look to them for guidance.  The priest is the messenger of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.  But you priests have abandoned the way of priests.  Your teaching has messed up many lives.  You have corrupted the covenant of priest Levi.  God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so.  And so I am showing you up for who you are.  Everyone will be disgusted with you and avoid you because you don't live the way I told you to live, and you don't teach my revelation truly and impartially.”  (Malachi 2.7-9)
The question today is one of response.  Will we take on God's call?  We do not need to be perfect, just willing, learning, and growing.  Teaching is all about dialogue.  We are here to listen in order to learn.  Couple that with the Spirit and you have the makings of Hope. read more

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Perspective

My parents never said that punishing me hurt them more than it did me.  I know I would not have believed them.  In hindsight and with too many decades behind me, I appreciate the clich?.  Being the bearer of bad news is painful if one is compassionate.  Confronting the reality of weaknesses will tear at our core if we travel with mercy.  Even the simple process of explaining the obvious saps at the energy one carries within.  Confronting Evil is painful, difficult, and yet it is required if one is to realize the birth of Hope.
There are two elements required to make the process successful. 
First, one must be willing to take action.  Unless one takes the step to confront another in love, there is little chance of change.  Fortunately, we have a God that will do this in your life and mine.  As I listen to God's words after the action, I can sense the perspective.  “Maybe that will wake you up.  Maybe then you'll realize that I'm indicting you in order to put new life into my covenant with the priests of Levi, the covenant of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.  My covenant with Levi was to give life and peace.  I kept my covenant with him, and he honored me.  He stood in reverent awe before me.  He taught the truth and did not lie.  He walked with me in peace and uprightness.  He kept many out of the ditch, kept them on the road.”  (Malachi 2.4-6)
The second is equally important.  There must be someone willing to listen, really listen with his or her heart and soul.  This is more than just hearing; it is feeling.  This is more than simply interpreting sounds; it is using one's mind and body to fully, completely, and openly understand.  What is left is a choice.  Will one forgive his/her self for the failure of yesterday and be recreated by God from the inside out?
The real pain rests in knowing how important the answer to this question is and letting another choose.  Welcome to understanding God's perspective. read more

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Natural Outcomes

We like warm, comforting outcomes.  It is wonderful to feel good about one's efforts.  It is fantastic to know that stretch destinations are reached.  Yet, not everything we touch and do turns out the way we imagined.
I am not sure there is a good way to deliver bad news.  I believe compassion, a sense of empathy, and a willingness to hear the other side, are important components if the process is to go as well.  Yet, even with these, there may not be a way that leaves everyone feeling good.  I find that the conundrum masks the question lurking beneath the surface.  If we do not confront our weaknesses, failures, and challenges, what hope do we have of anything but a natural outcome?
The question has extreme consequences.  It is often hard to accept, but the natural outcome of our efforts is ultimately failure.  We may succeed for a time.  Given our weaknesses, the presence of Evil, and the freedom of others to help and hinder, with time we will fail.  As ugly as it might sound, this is something life guarantees.
God is not willing to accept the outcome of our failure.  In love, mercy, and redemptive action, God's words are a blunt confrontation we would do well to hear.  “And now this indictment, you priests!  If you refuse to obediently listen, and if you refuse to honor me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, in worship, then I'll put you under a curse.  I'll exchange all your blessings for curses.  In fact, the curses are already at work because you're not serious about honoring me.  Yes, and the curse will extend to your children.  I'm going to plaster your faces with rotting garbage, garbage thrown out from your feasts.  That's what you have to look forward to!”  (Malachi 2.1-3)
The story sounds like it is over, but it is not.  God condemns our failure and restores our soul.  God hates Evil, inside or outside of our hearts, yet passionately and unconditionally loves you and me.  Today I will hear and respond.  This is the way of Hope. read more

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Useful

Many gifts are simply and utterly useless.  Obviously we do not make a big deal of their worth or lack thereof.  I was very fortunate this year.  I did not receive one worthless gift!  Granted most of what I received I can consume, but the point remains.  I am thankful for what I received.  I will willingly admit that this has not always been the case – either in my giving or receiving.  There have been some notable failures.  The worst case was highlighted the year I, along with my father and siblings, failed to get anything for my mother!  It was a disaster of the worst kind!
There is something absolutely, totally, and completely magical when you give or receive something with a “name” on it.  It is a gift without price.  The result is the opposite of what happens when the gift is simply expensive.  I find myself wondering if the person really cares or understands the real me.  In contrast, when my name is on it, it does not matter how much it costs.  It is perfect!  It is tailored, bespoke, and custom in a way that uniquely fits.  I find myself sensing the wonder and awe of a gift of care, interest, and relationship. 
In very human way, God reacts to our gifts in the same way.  Divinity's words are an interesting warning to those who think they can buy their way in.  “A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for me-an expensive sacrifice, say-and then at the last minute brings in something puny and worthless!  I'm a great king, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, honored far and wide, and I'll not put up with it!”  (Malachi 1.14)  God is not interested in our money; God is interested in our hearts.  God is not swayed by a big show; God loves truthful intent.  God is not big on rhetoric; God loves actions of love, compassion, and mercy.
We may think God has it all.  Yet, God is missing our hearts – a priceless gift only we can give.  read more

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Fresh

It is hard to remember that Christmas as we know it is not very old.  Our Christmas celebration, Santa Claus, and even Rudolf are products of New York and Madison Avenue.  We want to embrace the ideas of compassionate giving, remembering the goodness in the world, and wishing the best to others.  It is as if there is a thirst for the Christmas spirit hiding within us.  We want to believe, but do we?
For many, myself included, this haunting question of Christmas haunts much of our lives.  We want to believe, but we know it just cannot be true.  For the sake of children and tradition, we put ourselves into the ritual.  Yet, we know in our heart of hearts that it is simply make believe.  My doubts do not end with Christmas.  Doubt's tentacles creep into my life. 
The result is that I am caught on a treadmill that feels familiar, good, and reassuring.  It is comforting to go through the rituals.  It seems natural to follow tradition.  Even as I long for this, I set out to meet God on my terms not Divinity's.  I know what is needed, not the Spirit.  In a fresh dose of reality, God confronts my actions bluntly with love.  “Instead of honoring me, you profane me.  You profane me when you say, 'Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,' and when you say, 'I'm bored-this doesn't do anything for me.'  You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air-act superior to me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!  And when you do offer something to me, it's a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless.  Do you think I'm going to accept it?  This is God speaking to you!”  (Malachi 1.12, 13) 
God is looking for something that I have.  God is looking for honest hearts, true seekers, and lovers of truth.  God welcomes us in all our weaknesses.  We do not have a perfect vessel to give.  Only our intent and needs are pure.  We can be honest, with God and our souls. read more

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Giving

It is almost too easy to feel like you are the only one that cares.  There are far too many examples of selfishness playing out.  It is as if Evil is the easiest thing to see.  Yet in the midst of all the negatives – individuals refusing to be rationale, communities where rudeness seems to be the norm, and exploitation in all its forms – there are reasons for us to find, see, and experiencing unmerited acts of giving, mercy, and compassion. There is evidence that people truly care about others.  There is evidence that despite the presence of Evil, Truth is doing well.  There is goodness in the weak and strong, healthy and sick, powerful and above all the powerless. 
In the gift of freedom within ourselves, we have the ability to choose.  We can always give the gift of acceptance.  We can always give the gift of hope.  We can always give the gift of truth.  In the middle of chaos, compassion has a home within your heart and mine.  In the middle of our struggle, we can nurture hope.  In the middle of our pain, we can embrace mercy.  Freedom comes with our ability and willingness to choose to do what is right.  We hold the keys to what happens in the present.  As uncertain as it might be, we determine what happens.  As fearful as we can and often are, we determine if the present if filled with truth and goodness or something other.
I often find myself feeling as if it is all up to me.  It never is.  We, you and I, the communities in which we live, determine the future.  Yet in the communities we live we, you and I, can be a difference.  When I hear God talking, “I am honored all over the world.  And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me.  They're saying it everywhere: 'God is greater, this God-of-the-Angel-Armies.'”  (Malachi 1.11)  I know there is a choice at hand. read more

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Bluntness

When you look at the restoration of a building in the middle of the process, it is downright ugly.  Everything is destruction!  It is hard to imagine that anything good is coming.  There is a current project in downtown Manhattan that is an extreme restoration.  Candidly, it would be more accurate to say there is a building that is being demolished.  If not for a single narrow brick fa?ade that is still standing with aid, it would simply be a demolished building of yesterday.  As it is, there is a thin wall still has lit signs in front noting that there is a parking entrance below.  It is a rather bizarre sight, but that is what some remodelling efforts require!  I wonder if anyone has extended the metaphor.  Do they see a framework for what God might need to do with her or his soul?  Given the potential implications, I doubt it.
I wish that you and I had the courage.  If we deny the use of truth with God, then “who” will we possibly give it to?  There is so much junk in my life, I am not sure I am prepared for what God will need to do if he is going to fully restore my life to its full potential.  Even my weak attempts at worship could be called into question.  I can hear the feedback already.  “Why doesn't one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them?  Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship.  I am not pleased.  The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased.  And I don't want any more of this so-called worship!”  (Malachi 1.10) 
Yet, this kind of bluntness is exactly what you and I need to grow.  If we do not allow God to give us the truth in absolute love, what hope do we have of change?  Divinity is the one who knows us best.  Today is a day for courageous action.  It starts with listening to the Spirit's voice, no matter how difficult this might be. read more

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Freedom

Many of us, you and I specifically, live in societies that treasure and respect freedom.  We spend extraordinary amounts of money to build and defend freedom.  We willingly sacrifice life itself in freedom's defense.
As important as freedom is, I am forever puzzled at how we, you and I, exercise freedom. We demand freedom.  We crave, lust, and covet freedom.  We also willingly give up our freedom to the god of self.  We blame others for the results of our hands.  We hold God to account for the bad outcomes of when we exercise freedom.  We want freedom, but we are not accountable.  Blame, damnation, and accountability applies to anyone but those we love, communities we live in, and especially our souls. 
We seem to want a paradoxical freedom.  Let a god of self run wild, while the God of compassion and love is ultimately accountable for our choices, decisions, and actions.  When we let others run wild, drunk drivers, despots exploiting and using the helpful in some far off country, it is God that should be accountable, not us!  Even our choices are the result of giving up our freedom to choose.  The gods here are the latest help book, a charismatic leader, or even an influential person in our live.
Whatever this is, it is not freedom to me.  I need more than that!  I need a God that holds me to account.  I need a God that will give me more than what exists, not less.  I need a God that adamantly believes and upholds freedom.
In this context, I hear God's voice as a sound of truth.  “'Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you.  You priests have gotten everyone in trouble.  With this kind of conduct, do you think I'll pay attention to you?'  God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.”  (Malachi 1.9) 
God asks and I already know the answer.  Yes, God you will pay attention.  In my turning to you, I find you have already turned to me.  It is an incredible gift.  It is available to each. read more

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