Life and death are in the power of the tongue, speak life, every cell in your body

Life and death are in the power of the tongue

I’ve been somewhat unsettled in recent weeks hearing masses around the world chanting “I can’t breathe”. I believe in the power of the tongue in creating wellness and illness in our bodies.

I pin my hopes on George receiving justice: what was done to him was an abomination. I firmly believe that the systems that stand in place to perpetuate injustice and prejudice should be exposed and torn away—all the wrongs of those who are silenced and told that their opinions don’t matter.

I wasn’t going to write this post. This has been sitting in my drafts for two weeks. Not my place to comment. I didn’t want to be one to criticise.

But does holding back my voice not make me part of the problem, rather than contributing to a solution? So, let me say this clearly:

I am horrified by the continued use of the slogan”I can’t breathe“.

On the one hand, it’s great for the media. On the other hand, do those chanting it consider the double-edged sword it can be for their health?

Words spoken by masses with strong emotions: powerful stuff.

Calling into existence that which is spoken.

The question is: what does it create?

What spells are we casting?

We laugh at “abracadabra” – but many believe that the word actually has meaning and power.

Scholars who support the Hebrew etymology say that abracadabra is a corruption of the Hebrew, ebrah k’dabri, meaning “I will create as I speak,” ie that the act of speech will magically create new realities. … the words and letters of the Hebrew alphabet have the power to create.

Abracadabra, https://www.thejc.com/judaism/jewish-words/abracadabra-1.466709

life and death, Every cell in your body is eavesdropping on your thoughts & words, i can't breathe, #icantbreathe, united we stand, we can do it

Similarly, you may scoff at those that use affirmations and recite promises to themselves or God, claiming a blessing or healing.

But what if words and thoughts and emotions do have power?

This is particularly true of words spoken full of emotion.

What if I can’t breathe has power?

The first reference I can find to this slogan arises in late 2014, shortly after the asphyxiation of Eric Gardner by a police officer. His last words “I can’t breathe”, were raised like a mantra in the protests that followed in New York City.

“There was this quote staring me in the face, and that’s something that should be the quote of the year,” Shapiro recalled.
So the Yale Law Library’s associate director and lecturer revised his 2014 list, placing “I can’t breathe” in the top slot. His widely cited annual list, which is intended to capture the political and cultural mood of the country each year, serves as a supplement to “The Yale Book of Quotations,” originally published in 2006.

‘I can’t breathe.’ Eric Garner’s last words are 2014’s most notable quote, according to a Yale librarian

Unfortunately, when I took a quick look at the 2014-15 flu deaths for that same period, there was a small spike – from the usual 36,000 a year up to 51,000. Mere coincidence? Quite likely. There are probably a million factors that played a part in the increase. Again in 2017, when the book “I can’t breathe” by Matt Kaibbi comes out, and Queen Ifrica publishes her song “I can’t breathe”: we get another spike up to 61,000 flu deaths. Probably irrelevant.

However, at this moment in history, following on the heels of mass sickness caused by a little-studied virus, we have angry crowds chanting “I can’t breathe”. We have media pushing fear and uncertainty. We have politicians using fear for personal safety and security for their platforms and personal gain.

So, if our words do have power and every cell of our body is eavesdropping on our thoughts, emotions and words – recreating what we declare into existence – how important then are the words that we choose to chant in protest?

Justice for George becomes much more powerful than I can’t breathe if we believe that we have a hand in creating an outcome!

every cell in your body is eavesdropping on what you think, say, do and feel

Every cell in your body is eavesdropping.

In the same way that our mind is aware of everything that goes on in our body, our body and cells are listening and experiencing our thoughts, emotions and words. Unfortunately, our body takes those thoughts, emotions and words literally.

Our cells don’t differentiate when we are protesting from when we are having a phone call or merely meditating alone. Your body experiences your thoughts, emotions and words as they are. You can’t tell your body “I was just joking”.

Like a child that doesn’t understand sarcasm, our body responds to what was said and doesn’t take a joke. It takes everything we feel, say and think quite seriously.

In many different teachings, we find the effects of emotions on our organs:

  • anger: affects the liver
  • fear: affects the kidneys
  • grief: weakens the lungs
  • worry: affects the stomach
  • stress: wreaks havoc on your heart and mind

Examine, for a moment, how your words spoken with emotion are affecting different parts of your body.

Consider your inner child and the children around you:

We all have the voice of an inner critic stuck in our heads – and quite often it’s the voice of a parent, teacher or someone we respected or feared as a child. The voice that our child hears now is the voice that will become their inner critic in the future.

Do we want our children to have an inner voice that says “I can’t breathe”?

consider the impact of words on children

What are our children hearing and experiencing in the chants and protests? How are we explaining the situation to them? What conversations do we have that allow understanding, compassion and wisdom to guide the experience?

Consider a child: how do you build them up after you’ve stripped them down with words said in anger? Think for a moment about any relationship where words have been spoken in anger: if you don’t move past the hatred into love, understanding and acceptance, what footing is your relationship on?

The protests in Panama are not about Black Lives Matter: they are about the lock-down and people going hungry. I have it so much easier in what I have to explain! But I still have to explain to my daughter the images, emotions and even violence that she is witnessing if she catches the news.

At the same time, I explain how incredible our bodies and immune systems are! I talk about how we eat, and even how our emotions and thoughts can help us stay healthy and strong. I check myself any time I notice that I am feeling fearful or anxious: careful not to stuff it down but to release it. I don’t need my daughter to latch onto my fear or anxiety!

In the same way, I have to relate and quieten that inner child of my own: that part of me that feels insecure in any way.

Philippians 4:8, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.

The power of your thoughts

Your thoughts influence your words and your actions. Long before you choose to do something, you have probably considered it multiple times.

Think, for a moment, about words that you spoke to someone in anger. How many times had you thought that before you actually said it? Then, in a moment of rage and slightly out of control (or perhaps in control but no caring about the consequences) you actually said what you’ve been thinking for a while. You voiced how you truly felt. Maybe it wasn’t the whole picture. But it started with thoughts that you have mulled over.

Consider the effect of thinking “I can’t breathe”, with all the nuances that it carries. Perhaps one of those nuances is that the system is unjust and doesn’t allow you to speak your mind.

If you regularly think “the system is unjust”, are you motivated to change it? Or do you get caught in a feeling of hopelessness? Notice the difference between thinking “I can participate in changing this unjust system” versus thinking “the system is unjust”.

Have you noticed how all your thoughts influence your emotions and your words? If your thoughts control your actions, then they have a role to play in creating your future! The action you take has a direct impact on your results.

The power of our emotions when mixed with words.

Our words are so much more powerful when they are spoken with emotion. It doesn’t matter if you are creating and destroying.

Anger at injustice can provide us with the strength and courage to embark on a journey that we might otherwise never take. Unfortunately, anger can also eat us up on the inside if we bottle it up, rather than channelling and releasing it.

Before becoming a bitter person: this was probably an angry person. Over time, the fire of the anger dies down, but the embers continue to burn within. The dissatisfaction and discontent are still there, unresolved. After the explosion of rage burnt out, bitter ashes and disillusion are left.

When we start a journey to transform our community, we may embark on it out of anger and frustration at the current situation. It is terrific to shout out to the world:

This is wrong! Wrongs must be righted!

"Your anger is the part of you that knows your mistreatment and abuse are unacceptable. Your anger knows you deserve to be treated well, and with kindness. Your anger is a part of you that LOVES you."
“Your anger is the part of you that knows your mistreatment and abuse are unacceptable. Your anger knows you deserve to be treated well, and with kindness. Your anger is a part of you that LOVES you.” https://twitter.com/apocalynds/status/1269711325749563399

But at some moment, love and compassion for our community need to replace that anger against the aggressors as the driving force of change. When we fail to recognise that our passion is driven by love and stay only in the rage, we miss an opportunity to grown in greater love and compassion.

Revolutions begin in angry protest and perhaps even rioting but have to end in love and compassion to build!

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Make sure your thoughts, emotions & words serve your goals.

I love that injustice has awoken people to stand up and make a difference in their worlds. But if I could ask just one thing, it would be this:

Choose your words carefully, especially those spoken with emotion.

I want to hear the masses chanting:

Justice for George!
We can do it!
United we stand.
Black lives matter!

Fighting for justice!
We stand for justice.
We demand justice!

Respect me.
My voice matters!

I’m sure you could make a better list of powerful statements that could create change, without cursing your body or those supporting you.

And when we are done tearing down what no longer serves us, let’s build communities of compassion, love and kindness. Communities that are safe for our children, and that allow us to learn what it means to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Your words can either speak life, or your words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down

Life & death are in the power of the tongue.

Prov. 18: 21

pay attention, words, sight, heart, health, guard your heart, bring healing, tongue of the wise, as a man thinks, so is he, a cheerful heart, good medicine,

If I look to Proverbs for Wisdom, these are but a few of the reminders about the power of our thoughts, emotions and words:

Proverbs 12:18
The tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 23:7
As a man thinks, so is he.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:20-22
My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

resurrection, birth, rebirth, phoenix, death, growth, seed, tree, breakdown, break through

Resurrection

Easter has just passed, and while everyone was focused on Jesus’ resurrection I was busy thinking about my personal “death” and “resurrection”.  I don’t know about you, but it seems that every 6-7 years, life presents us with a “breakdown”: grow through this experience or be doomed to repeat it in 6-7 years time! They say that after every breakdown, comes a break through, and I think that this is very true for all of us, especially spiritually. Without the break down, we would never be forced to break through!

Over the past months, I have been convinced that I need to focus on my spiritual well-being, putting God, as Source and Substance first in my life. I find this to be particularly challenging. Source: as in source of my

  • income and substance,
  • energy and health,
  • emotions and feelings, and
  • source of my thoughts.

If I focus on one aspect of my life, I typically exclude the Divine from other aspects, unconsciously. So, I constantly find myself “going it alone”, and then try to come back to center. When I remember that the Infinite is the source of my abundance and finances, I forget about my health and well-being. When I focus on Divine as source of my emotions, I get caught up in my thoughts.

Death: releasing and renewing

So, over Easter, I was busy contemplating: what do I need to release and let go of? What beliefs and thoughts and feelings no longer serve me? What would I be better of without?

And even more importantly, perhaps, what do I need to forgive and release? What baggage am I carrying around, emotionally and in my thoughts, that needs to “die” in me and be released?

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” — Buddha

The same goes for suffering, hurt and pain that we hold onto because it has become part of who we identify with. Who will I be if I let go of this? We talk about “renewal of our minds” and yet strangely consider it okay to hold on to those beliefs and habits which do not allow us to grow, renew and resurrect.

I started March on the right foot: a morning spent on World Day of Prayer in prayer and forgiveness. And yet, when we arrived at Easter, I was very aware that there was still work to be done in forgiveness and release. I needed to renew my mind even further. I needed to focus on forgiveness of self, and release and let go, so that I could move past mistakes of the past and grow.

Rising from the ashes like a phoenix:

We have developed, as a human race, many concepts of death and resurrection. We speak of rising like a phoenix from the ashes, and this symbolism exists across many cultures.  For the Greeks, it is the phoenix, but it is also the Benu bird of the Egyptians. For some, it is the Nimbus, closely related to the sun. The Jews has the Milcham, and the Persians had the Simurgh. Native Americans have the Thunderbird, Russians have a Firebird, and the Chinese have the Feng Huang. Finally, the Japanese have the HoHo bird. These are all symbols of resurrection after loss.

The phoenix is a legendary bird that can live for 500 years. Knowing that the end was near, the phoenix builds a funeral pyre for itself. It lies down on this pyre as it begins to die and burst into flames, consumed by the fire. Then, from the fire, the phoenix  emerges, renewed, purified, more beautiful and regal than before. And so the cycle of life would begin again, for another 500 years, dying, purifying, returning more beautiful than ever, into perpetuity.

And so, I have been ruminating about what has died or is dying in my life that it’s time to release?

What should I simply release and let go of, so that I can rise again, a more beautiful and better version of myself?

As a spiritual being in a human body, what does eternity and perpetuity look like?  If the Kingdom of Heaven is here: what does that look like in my life and experience?

Renewal & resurrection:

And so as Easter moves into Pentecost – a time in which we rejoice in the Oneness that we have with Wisdom and Comfort – I am invited to contemplate what my renewal and resurrection looks like.

  • Who am I when I am the best version of myself, living as my Creator intended for me to live?
  • Who am I after I have walked through the fire of purification, with eyes clearly fixed on my purpose?
  • What does my spiritual self look like when I leave behind that which no longer serves me and commit to being the Light in this world?

As I live in Presence each day, committing to Peace in my life, I am assured that I have everything that I need.  That the source of my abundance and sustenance, my emotions & feelings, my thoughts and my bodily health is Perfect. I am simply asked to allow the Light to fill me and flow through me.

Sermon: Abundance of Grace

How many of you are awake this morning?  I’m looking for a show of hands here…

How many of you were awake while Betsy read the 7 verses from Romans 5: 12-17?  English Standard Version.  It seems amazing that the entire message of the Bible, from Genesis to the end,  is found here, all summed up neatly in seven verses.

If you all understood it, I don’t need to give you this sermon, and we can go straight to the offertory (we’ll skip the prayers) and then head downstairs to the coffee break.  How does that sound?

How many of you think you don’t need to hear this sermon?

How many of you think you can stay awake until I finish the sermon?

We’ll see how you all go with that, shall we?  …

This morning I’m going to take you on an intellectual (read: scientific journal mumbo jumbo), winding maze through one of the toughest texts that I’ve ever had to prepare for.

I am going to try to give you an explanation that you can hopefully understand…  although I am going to rely a bit on my high-school science as it relates to DNA sequencing in the human body and a very basic knowledge of NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming).

I want to start with the idea of the “Original Sin” and the effect of that “Original Sin” on mankind and how that is passed down from generation to generation.  Verse 12 of Romans 5 starts with

“just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men”

We’ve all been taught that Adam had everything he needed to live eternally, but that because of his sin in the garden of Eden, life becomes finite instead of infinite – death enters the world.

And I want to add to that mix the verse from Exodus 34:7 (ESV) that says:

Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

And I’ve wondered to myself how that might be possible on a molecular and physical level – can science explain what the Bible says happened to Adam because of sin and to all mankind, through the passing of the sin from generation to generation?  How does Adam’s bad nature get down to me all these millennia later? Well, some say, it’s like pollution or poison poured into a river. If a company dumps hundreds of liters of mercury into a river, then no matter how far downstream you go, you still get mercury poisoning.

Now – today I’m not going to give you a definition of sin – or even discuss what Adam’s sin was – trying to become like God, transgressing the Commandment God gave him, or whether sin is simply missing the mark of the most perfect version of yourself that God created you to be (like the archer that fails to hit the target).

What I want to look at is the effect that sin has upon us, as a human race, and then briefly touch about the gift of Abundance of Grace that we are promised in Romans 5: 17.

Our bodies have 3 billion genetic building blocks, or base pairs, that make us who we are. And we are somewhere between 99.5 to 99.9% similar to the person next to us.  A printed version of your entire genetic code would occupy some 262,000 pages! Of those pages, only some 500 would be unique to you. So how much of that do you think you inherited from 20 generations back?  How similar does that make you to the person sitting behind you?

And it seems that in 2017, scientists are getting closer to having the answers as they study the effects of stress and life-styles on our DNA codes and sequencing.  And now it seems that there is a reason for this, on 2 levels: epigenetics and the shortening of our telomeres (the protective casing at the end of a strand of DNA).   The field of epigenetics refers to the science that studies how the development, functioning and evolution of biological systems are influenced by forces operating outside the DNA sequence, including intracellular, environmental and energetic influences (and by energetic, I also mean the emotional forces that affect our bodies organs, such as when we get angry, are upset, or stressed and tired, especially for long periods of time).

Since the 1970s, researchers had known that the tightly wound spools of DNA inside each cell’s nucleus require something extra to tell them exactly which genes to transcribe, whether for a heart cell, a liver cell or a brain cell.

One such extra element is the methyl group, a common structural component of organic molecules. The methyl group works like a placeholder in a cookbook, attaching to the DNA within each cell to select only those recipes —  genes — necessary for that particular cell’s proteins. Because methyl groups are attached to the genes, residing beside but separate from the double-helix DNA code.  Originally these changes were believed to occur only during fetal development. But it has already been shown that DNA can be added to in adulthood, setting off a cascade of cellular changes resulting in cancer, diabetes or other illnesses.  Not only that, but epigenetic change could be passed down from parent to child, one generation after the next (hence you find the reference in the Bible that the sins of the fathers are passed down to the son to the third and fourth generations). A study from Randy Jirtle of Duke University showed that when female mice are fed a diet rich in methyl groups, the fur pigment of subsequent offspring is permanently altered. Just by playing with the diet, they could alter the colour of the fur of the mice.  Now, what if emotions, such as guilt, could play a similar role?

The medical field has already shown that stress has this particular effect.  Telomeres are a protective casing at the end of a strand of DNA. Each time a cell divides, it loses a bit of its telomeres. An enzyme called telomerase can replenish it, but chronic stress and cortisol exposure decrease your supply. When the telomere is too diminished, the cell often dies or becomes pro-inflammatory. This sets the aging process in motion, along with associated health risks.

Now we all know that old wives tale that tells a young pregnant woman not to cry during the pregnancy because her child will bear the effects of it through their entire life – but now science is beginning to understand that the negative effects of stress begin before conception.  A baby’s intrauterine environment is shaped by a mom’s pre-existing physical health. There have also been several studies looking at maternal health and telomeres in offspring: the higher a mom’s prenatal anxiety, the shorter the baby’s telomere length (i.e. the shorter the life span).

According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; a child whose grandparents lived through the ravages of a Revolution; young immigrants whose parents survived massacres; anyone who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.

So what on earth does any of all this scientific mumbo jumbo have to do with the “Original Sin”, and Paul’s discussion of the original Adam and the posterior Adam (Jesus)?

Well, for starters – it explains how our genetic make up is affected by our habits, our environment, our diet, our stress, and even the stress and anxiety of being ashamed, berating ourselves, or failing to accept God’s forgiveness of our sins.  It explains how any resentment, bitterness or anger that we carry towards another person, when we fail to forgive, affects us to the most innermost of our being as David describes in the Psalms.

1. Your beliefs influence your behavior.  

One of the most basic ways that beliefs can shape reality is through their influence on behavior—no quantum physics or molecular genetics knowledge required.  Beliefs about your basic character—who you are as a person on a fundamental level—can be especially powerful. Research suggests that while guilt (feeling that you did a bad thing) can motivate self-improvement, shame (such as that felt by Adam & Eve in the garden), tends to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, reducing hope and undermining efforts to change, leaving you stuck in the rut of the very behavior you are ashamed of.

And your behavior will directly impact you with respect to your habits, whether they are good habits, or bad habits.

2. Your feelings directly affect your DNA:   

“When we have negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and dislike or hate, or think negative thoughts such as ‘I hate my job,’ ‘I don’t like so and so’ or ‘Who does he think he is?’, we experience stress and our energy reserves are redirected,” and I’m not talking about a positive redirecting. Part of our energy reserves, which otherwise would be put to work maintaining, repairing and regenerating our complex biological systems, which you probably know as your “body”, are used to confront the stresses these negative thoughts and feelings create, leaving your body unattended.

On another level, science is now beginning to understand that humans have multiple brains: the one you know in your head, your heart brain (which generates much of your energy field), and your gut brain.  So, when you are feeling heavy-hearted, what effect is this physically having on your DNA and body – how is it affecting the helix structure of your DNA strands?  When you are in a gut-wrenching panic or suffering constant anxiety, what effect is this having on the nutrients that are getting to your cells and DNA on a molecular level?

3. You may choose, or not, to accept the abundance of God’s grace:   

The entire Bible is about the transformation of man… having been made perfect, having become imperfect, and having reached perfection once more in the person of Jesus Christ.  Having loved perfectly: God and others – fulfilling the 2 greatest laws of the Bible:  To Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself.  And how Jesus came to make the way for us to become perfect also in Him, breaking the curses so that they are no longer passed down to future generations, allowing us to re-write the code and become truly transformed, by the renewing of our mind (which will, of course, affect our bodies and even down to our DNA).

There is only one question:  are you willing to allow God’s grace to truly sweep through your life and transform you: To practice abiding in His presence on a daily basis until you reach a level of peace that transcends all human understanding, guarding your heart and mind in His love? 

Let’s pray.

 

Sources and further reading:

Sermon: Raising the Dead

Lectionary:

  • Luke 7: 11-17
  • 1 Kings 17: 8-24

I’d like to introduce you all this morning to a special artifact from our home that is of vital importance for dressing up as a fairy princess: the magic wand.

A couple of weeks ago, I helped little Miss Two dress up in a pretty dress, and put a little crown on her head, and this little wand in her hand.  She was parading round the house rather happily and looking at herself in the mirror, admiring her princess self when she exclaimed “Is broken”.

As any good mother, I asked what was broken, and was informed that her wand was broken “Is not working”, followed by the words any mother wants to hear about a magic wand “fix it mummy”.  Since she knows that broken cars are taken to a “car shop” to get fixed, she made mention of a”wand shop” in her request for fixing her broken wand.  Now, I don’t know how other mother’s do it, but we’re miles away from Diagon Alley, if I were even able to find platform 9 3/4, and there are no elves from the Little Kingdom that I can call on to fix the fairy wand, and I have no special abilities where expectations of what a magic wand is suppose to do are concerned.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still left wondering what was supposed to have happened when she waved her magic wand and what it failed to do.

Oh! to have the simple faith of a child that can believe anything is possible and doable!  Matthew 18:2-4 calls us to become like children,

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mark 10: 14-15

14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

So, today I want to deal with an issue that I struggle with in my Christian faith: are Christians able to raise the dead through faith? In fact, are we supposed to believe in signs and wonders, like healing the sick and making the blind to see?  Is there a place for raising the dead in today’s modern world or is it just relegated to fables and myths and Game of Thrones?  If it is beyond our ability and powers, how should we live our lives as Christians?  What should we learn from today’s readings that we can really take out into this world and be the salt of the earth?

I’ve spent the better part of a week reading various points of view on raising the dead. I’ve discovered groups such as a group of Evangelicals who call themselves the “Dead Raising Team”. I’ve read about Saint Patrick’s 33 cases of raising the dead in Ireland, in order to convince the many pagans of the day to convert.  What is amazing about Saint Patrick is that in 30 years he converted an entire island (Ireland) to Christianity, when previous missionaries had been unable to convert towns, and he gave all glory for this to God and the moving of the Holy Spirit.

But when it comes to raising the dead, as Christians, we’re skeptical.

As one writer put it:

“Levitating saints, sure. Weeping icons and statues, yep.  … The dying healed through the intercession of the saints, of course. The world is filled with miracles. …. We’re supernaturalists, but most of us live by the normal (supernatural) means of grace. We go through life in the usual and sometimes God disrupts things with a special benefit.”

While I would love to believe that we could all participate in the supernatural, my rational thinking gets in the way, and I’m left searching for practical and rational ways that I can transform this world.

Most of what I’ve read about Luke 7 speaks to Christ’s compassion for the widow who has lost her only son, in a society where she would have been left completely unprotected and without any rights.

How are we to react as Christ when we see those in need and hurting?  As Christians, we are called to have the same compassion for our fellow man. We are called to look beyond just what we can see, and commit to life-changing actions in the lives of others. But do you have the time, energy & commitment for that?

The principle of compassion is the very heart of Christ. The ministry of Jesus flowed from His heart of compassion toward those in need.  Compassion is a word of action. It is not observing from the sidelines; it is the heartfelt care for another with both the intent and action.  The compassion of Christ carries the notion of tenderness and affection.

The uniqueness of Jesus’ ministry rests in His concern for persons — He truly loves people and considers them worthy of respect and compassion because of what they are — bearers of the divine image of God.

John challenges us to look to the needs of others,

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (3:17-18).

Loving others is one of the many ways we put our faith into action.

“People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

So, how can we put this compassion into practice?  If we can’t do the supernatural, what can we do that will make life-changing differences?

I’d like to finish up with some practical examples of how we can help others to find new life and meaning, through compassion.
  1. Be considerate and present:  Practice having old-fashioned conversations (by that, I mean, without your phone), where you can give each person your full attention – use direct eye contact and keep your ears open to their needs.
  2. Do a body and feelings check regularly:  Check the motivation behind your words, actions and decisions. Always check in with your thoughts before they become words or actions to be sure your motivation is pure. If you catch yourself about to say or do something that isn’t coming from a place of integrity, or if it’s untrue, unkind, or unnecessary, think before you act. Every word and action generates a reaction. Be sure your ripple effect is positive and one that promotes a culture of compassion.
  3. Be affectionate:  Don’t forget the power of touch, especially for children, who thrive on feeling accepted as whole people. Give hugs and pats on the head or a squeeze of the hand.
  4. Communicate warmly:  Let your genuine interest in helping the other person show through heartfelt communication. You can make a world of difference by simply listening and talking in a warm, patient manner.
  5. Acknowledge people’s existence: Say good morning, good afternoon or hello to the people you walk past all the time – the concierge, the door man, the security guy, the homeless man that you prefer to ignore so he won’t ask you for cash, the elderly lady walking so slowly she’s slowing the pedestrian traffic. Get to know people.
  6. Practice acts of kindness:  Go out of your way to be kind.  Try  a 30-day kindness challenge.  Plan random acts of kindness – hold the door! (Put your arm around and comfort that Game of Thrones fan that just burst into tears, because I just said to hold the door!)
  7. Show empathy:  Empathy is showing that you understand another’s feelings or emotions; you identify with the situation and care enough to place yourself in another’s shoes. If someone is upset or acting unusual, consider why before you judge or get annoyed. There’s probably a backstory that would make you react differently. And when someone does share, you don’t have to have a perfect answer. You can just say, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you.”
  8. Allow your heart to break:  Be aware of what’s going on around you. When you open your eyes to your world, you can often see more clearly where compassion is needed.  The world is full of what seem like intractable problems. Often we let that paralyze us. There are some people in the world that we can’t help, but there are so many more that we can. So when you see a mother and her children suffering in another part of the world, don’t look away. Look right at them. Let them break your heart, then let your empathy and your talents help you make a difference in the lives of others.  Be the difference you want to see in this world!
  9. Be an encouragement:  Be the person that holds others up, motivates them, brings them cheer. Instead of dwelling on everything people do wrong, use your voice to tell them what they are doing right and encourage them to continue working towards their goals.

Let us pray:

Creator God,
Give us compassion and humility in our hearts. Let us be kind, gentle, generous, loving, giving and forgiving wherever we may go. Allow pride to never get the best of us as You fulfill our dreams. Help us not to have a boastful tongue against our brothers. Let humility invade our souls.
In Jesus’ name. Amen

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Lectionary Readings:

  1. Acts 10: 34-43
  2. Psalms 118:1-2, 14-24
  3. 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
  4. Mark 16: 1-8

Let’s pray:
Lord of life,
From the beginning of time, You knew the final outcome and watched as the jigsaw pieces were slotted into place.
While Your blood was poured out and on Your head was placed a crown of thorns, even to the darkness of the grave, You saw the triumph that would be won over the power and fear of death.
You walked from the empty tomb, opening wide the gates of life. You defeated death to show us that we can rise from all that binds us to the world: pride, envy, anger, fear and the debt of sin that holds us here.
Lord of life, You defeated death to demonstrate a love that is beyond our understanding.
On this day we pray, Lord of love and Lord of peace, Lord of resurrection – be known through our lives and through Your power. Amen.

How many men in history can claim to have had such a radical effect on the world as that man Jesus of Nazareth?  While many may doubt the historical accuracy of the Bible, it’s impossible to ignore the striking effect of Jesus on those who witnessed his life, his death and his resurrection.

In our day and age, with the internet, television & radio, news travels in a moment.  But 2,000 years ago, there were no mass means of communication.  There was word of mouth, the news was passed on from village to village… And yet, we find in Acts we find Peter in Caesarea, speaking in Cornelius’ household, where he said:

“you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.  He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”[1]

In the first Century after Christ, we find that the Emperor Domitian (in the second great persecution – not the first one under Nero), some 40,000 Christians were martyred. If forty thousand died in just this second phase of persecution, how far had Christianity spread in those first 100 years?  It has been said that there may have been as many as five hundred thousand or a million Christians by the end of the first century.  All of this, by word of mouth.

Try, for a moment, to put yourself in the shoes of those early Christians, living 100 years after Christ. The apostles were all dead.  There was no one living that had been a personal witness to his life and death. There were no history books to refer to, cataloguing the life of Christ as a historical fact.  There was actually no New Testament either.

So, why would they slip out at night, away from their masters and hiding from the Romans, to meet in caves and catacombs and darkened rooms?  What did they expect to happen that was so different, so important, that it would attract them to risk their lives to hear of the gospel?  What kind of church meeting would bring them out at night, against the threat of a government that was trying to kill them?  If today it’s hard to fill a church when it rains, what would it be like if you thought you might be killed for coming on Sundays?

Forget about the paraphernalia, comforts and trappings that we have inherited from nineteen hundred years of church councils, traditions, theologians, translators & interpreters.  Forget the creeds, the prescribed order of worship, the special church language, the hymnal, scholarly commentaries, or anything else that we may use to structure our services.   What was so special about the events of Easter that it was worth dying for?

What is it that we celebrate today?

Today we celebrate the ultimate sacrifice of that man Jesus, who taught us:

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.[2]

His crucifixion was indeed the greatest act of sacrifice, perfectly demonstrating his teaching.  But his death is not where it ends.

We are taught that there is no fear in death, because Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  This celebration is not about Jesus hanging on a cross; we celebrate because we believe he is the Lord of life, that there is life after death, and that there is victory over death.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians emphasises the importance of the resurrection:

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  … For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. … If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.[3]

As followers of Jesus, we are to live in hope – not just a hope for a better world or life in this lifetime, but a hope for all eternity.

But I want to take this day not only to reflect on that ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made, believing until death that his sacrifice would be enough; I want us today to reflect also on the sacrifices of his life.

His daily walk was an example of the Golden Rule: doing unto others as we would have them do for us.  He exhausted himself in giving to others: preaching the Kingdom of Heaven, healing, casting out demons, and comforting those who came to Him for help.

His life has been exalted as the perfect pattern for our lives.

But let’s be honest: sacrifice is not a concept that any of us truly enjoys.  Yet the man we know as Jesus, sacrificed those things that we prize as “good” and “worthy”:

  • Family, with all the joys and comforts that come with it;
  • Ambition, wealth, prestige & popularity
  • Position and other elements of success

How do we embrace being a follower of Jesus more seriously and focus on its core: the life of Christ?  When considering how to live our lives and how best to demonstrate the love of Jesus and that we, are truly his followers, we should ask ourselves daily “What would Jesus do?”

Right now the phrase “What would Jesus do?” is being used by the Occupy Movement.  It has been used by anti-war protestors in the question “Who would Jesus bomb?”, and even gone so far as to be the subject of the “What would Jesus eat?” biblical diet plan.

Many of us may be confused about how to imitate the life of Christ, when He lived in such a different culture, society and age as we live today.  Some may argue that the Bible offers little detail about Jesus’ daily life when he wasn’t preaching or performing miracles; and others will mischievously point out that when he wasn’t doing that, he was hanging out in bars, with prostitutes and tax collectors or trashing the temple.  (Perhaps that’s not quite the answer we’re looking for.)

Jesus’ purpose on this earth was to show us the way to establish a relationship with the Creator God, with the Divine.  To open the way for us to be anointed by the Spirit, to do bigger and greater things.  Jesus didn’t tell us to do what He did, He told us to do even greater things.

In the spirit of asking how we can better follow His example, it may be helpful to ask “What did Jesus do?”?

  1. He was humble and served others – no matter how much power and glory he had or was entitled to, this is the man who washed the feet of his disciples.  Is your life characterised by a servant’s heart?
  2. He glorified God – In all of Jesus’ teachings, he doesn’t speak of Himself, so much as of God and God’s Kingdom.  His purpose on this earth was to re-establish our relationship with the Creator God.
  3. He lived a life of prayer, meditation and constant communion with God.  As if points one and two weren’t hard enough, I truly struggle to take the time to stop everything and just be still.  Many of you know me as “the Prayer Lady” – but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier.  I’m not talking about those prayers were you have a list of petitions that you put before God, those ones where we try to convince God that we want Him to uphold our agenda, and bless our ambitions (I’m quite good at those ones! They fit into my way of working and thinking).  I’m talking about that prayer and meditation where you have a private two-way conversation with the Spirit.  That time where you stop everything else and get quiet, open your heart and mind, elevate your spirit, care for another and become one with the Universe, reaching out for God, where you bow Yourself humbly before the supernatural and inquire of the Creator, stop thinking, analysing and planning and just listen; and then make sure that you test the spirit & nature of anything that pops into your mind.
  4. And lastly, Jesus lived a life of sacrifice – He gave of his time to others, He gave of his energy to others, He laid his hands on the sick and worked till He was exhausted.  And his final sacrifice completely changed the world’s religions in a way none of us could ever have imagined.

For me, the following phrase sums up the life and example of Jesus “Not my will but Thine be done”.[4]

It’s that life that relinquishes and unclasps our grubby little fingers that are tightly grasping our possessions, money, hopes & expectations, and then demanding that God uphold our plans.  It’s understanding that our wants don’t come first, and understanding that it’s the Divine Way, not “my way”.

Today, we remember Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  We give thanks to God for his gentle mercy and untiring love.  We give thanks to Jesus for His ultimate sacrifice and for his pattern of how to live our lives: saying “yes” to the Divine, and “no” to our own selfishness.  We learn today the meaning of sacrifice and surrender.  We learn today that we are given enough grace to do what our Creator has planned for us to do – whether that be serving a meal to a homeless person, buying uniforms for needy children, taking a meal over to widows and those without families to support them, or contributing to our society in any other way.

The pattern of the Christian life we are to follow, demonstrated by Jesus, provides us with unadulterated peace in our relationship with the Creator God. It’s one in which we may have to learn obedience through suffering, and submit to the will of the Divine.  Heaven is waiting for those who have gone through Gethsemane, who have finally handed over the reins of their lives, and let go.  No longer stubbornly refusing to submit, hoisting clenched fists defiantly in the air… but humbly saying to the Spirit: “not my will, but Thine be done.”

That will be the moment in which we begin to do greater things than even Jesus did, as we were put on this earth to do by our Creator.

Let us pray:

Grant us the strength, Lord God, of body and of spirit, to offer you the sacrifice of our lives.
So often we find ourselves apologising to you for our abbreviated prayer life; and yet you draw us into your presence, as you did the disciples at Gethsemane.  You ask us to share in your life and to play our part.   You ask us to watch and pray, so that we might not fall into temptation.  And yet, so often in prayer our thoughts are distracted by sounds or circumstances, or diverted by trivial concerns.  We carry our baggage with us, rather than leaving it at your feet.
Come Holy Spirit: dispel the darkness from our minds and open our eyes.  Revive our drooping faith, our doubts and fears.  Kindle in our hearts the flame of everlasting love.
Grant us each the strength to be still and know that you are God.   Speak to us through the grass of the meadows, through the trees of the forest, through the valleys and the hills.   Speak to us through the rain, thunder and lightning, through the waves of the sea, through the dew of the morning and the peace of the evening.
God of gods, in Thy mercy, in Thy love, be with us now.  We know and we speak of Your love and ask that you help us to put away, for this hour, the cares of this life; so that we may know in truth your presence.
Let us each find that place of the inner vision and through Your Spirit let us hear the wondrous secret.  Through Your mystic insight, cause a spring of knowledge to well up inside us, a fountain of power, pouring forth living waters, a flood of love and of all-embracing wisdom, like the splendour of your eternal Light.
Creator, open our hearts to peace and healing between all people; open our hearts to provide and protect the children of this earth; open our hearts to respect for the earth of which we are guardians and the gifts that it grants; open our hearts to do greater things than those done by Jesus in his brief 33 years on this earth.
God who sees all things, in our consciousness, let us find happiness in the love of Thee.  Fill us with love towards our fellowman. Make us worthy to serve our fellow men throughout the world, especially those who live and die in poverty & huger.  Let our life, our words, our deeds, bring the joy and happiness of Jesus to each person that we meet, day by day.  Give to our fellow man, through our hands, this day their daily bread and by our understanding, give them love, peace & joy.
Amen.


[1] Acts 10: 37-38
[2] John 15: 13
[3] 1 Corinthians 15: 13-19
[4] Luke 22:42

power of the trees, paganism, oneness, all creation, seas obey, the forests listen, the power of your words, divine presence, presence of the Divine, practising the presence of God, presence of Spirit

The forest

Proverbs 18: 21
Death and life are in the power of the tongue…
(this verse I have memorised, although I can never remember the citation!)
 
then… here’s what I read today (my verse for today was 2 Samuel 18:8, but obviously I read most of the chapter… and you have to get an idea of the context)
 
2 Samuel 18: 5 (David´s instruction to his army and generals before going into battle):  “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom”… (obviously, he still loved him as his son, even though his son had defied him and wanted him dead so he could be king)
 
2 Samuel 18: 7-8
7-There the army of Israel was defeated by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great–twenty thousand men.
8-The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword.
now… just my suggestion… read that again!  (the forest did what? what kind of forest was it? did I just get transported into an enchanted forest in Lord of the Rings?)
 
And now… read verse 9:
9-Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.
 
Now… I don’t want you to believe that I’m into paganism of ANY sort, but to me it’s VERY clear that God is not only the God of my heart, my spirit & my soul, but God is the God of the world (in every sense of it).  Of the riviers (dividing the River Jordan); the seas (drying the Red Sea); and the forests (He uses them as weapons at His will).  In Joshua 10, Joshua commands the sun and the moon to stand still…  “and there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man…”  Taking the time to actually READ the Bible slowly, not hurrying through it as an obligation but looking for the “best kept” secrets and what people aren’t talking about is fascinating!
How many times have I read this story of Absalom and failed to notice verses 8 & 9, and make the connection?
 
And even the oak tree obeyed David’s request to “deal gently with … Absalom”.  (If you carry on reading, you see it was a rogue general that killed Absalom contrary to David’s order, not the forest.)
And that’s the God that I’m starting to believe in… the one that I’m getting to know.
 
So, when the Bible says (Genesis) that we have “dominion” over every living thing, what does this mean? And when Jesus commands us “have faith in God”, and then “… if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”; how little has my faith been?
Where have I been all these years?
Have I been so caught up in semantics and religion that I’ve tried to put God in a little box?
I’ve been asking for peanuts, when He’s willing to let us move mountains?
 
Right now I feel like I’ve just been knocked down to the ground, and I’m sitting there shaking my head, trying to stand up and wondering where on earth that punch came from…
Like I said – shouldn’t I have already “known” this?  Haven’t I read these verses more than 5 times?
Learn character from trees, values from roots, and change from leaves.