Lectio Divina Paci – November 17, 2014

Monday, November 17th

for Sunday, November 23rd, 24th Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Matthew 25.31-46 “gathered”

REFLECT: I’m always amazed by the powerful way that imagery speaks to me if I really let it. For example, when I first read this passage, the word “gathered” drew me in. As I rolled the image around in my heart, an image of a little girl gathering wildflowers came up. But soon that image dissolved into another image, an actual memory.

We went to the Gulf Coast of Florida this past summer for the first time. The warm, clear water and gentle waves could not have been more different from the giant, cold, crashing waves of my beloved Pacific. It was a truly exotic and wonderful experience. Even the seashells were nothing like what we would ever find along California’s central coast. We spent hours and hours walking at a snail’s pace along the beach, collecting shells and putting them in anything we could find: shirt pockets, empty sandwich bags, plastic cups from our hotel room. It was near obsession, and there were always more to find.

As I began to pray with this image, this memory, I asked God what exactly I was gathering. Then I noticed the word “separate” in this passage as well and held these words up together. So my prayer became the question not only of what am I gathering, but also what am I separating? The response that came up was no real surprise: myself. The way I often live my life — the way we often live our lives — leads to a separating, a fragmenting of ourselves. We’re pulled in so many directions. And sometimes when we compartmentalize to cope with the complexities of life, we wind up compartmentalizing ourselves instead.

RESPOND: God, gather us together, into ourselves and into one another. Give us courage to abandon the temptation to live fragmented, separate lives and to live fully and in all circumstances from the center where you dwell within and among us.

In which area or areas of your life are you feeling fragmented, pulled apart, or separated from yourself, your family or your community? Choose one aspect of your life to pray from. What would it take to move away from fragmentation toward a more centered way of life?

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Ezekiel 34.11-16, 20-24

Psalm 100

Ephesians 1.15-23

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide by Audrey Hindes for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Balancing Acts – A Special Time

tom b

Editor’s Note: Tom Beutel, a regular contributor to PeaceSigns, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Balancing Acts is a monthly feature of PeaceSigns and appears the second week of each month.

by Tom Beutel

 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23, NRSV)

Christmas trees, spiced cookies, gingerbread houses and other familiar Christmas traditions have their roots in Germany. And, according to a short article published in the Mennonite World Review of October 14, 2014, we learn that the Germans are staunchly defending the traditional Christmas season, in particular, Advent.

Tired of what they see as the creeping encroachment of American-style commercialism into

old Europe, they want the government to step in and say no to selling Christmas items before

it is time…The country also clearly defines its Christmas season as starting with Advent, a

celebration that Germans take seriously.

Advent is a special time in the church year. The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the new year on the church calendar and begins a roughly four week time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas.

Advent, which means coming or arrival, is a time to reflect on the first coming of Jesus 2000 years ago as a human, “God with us.” It is also a time to meditate on the expected second coming of Jesus when the kingdom of God will be consummated.

Traditionally, Advent has been a time of self-examination, reflection, and penitence. It is not, by and large, a festive time, although certain practices – such as visiting family and friends, baking Christmas cookies and cakes, and putting up Christmas decorations – have their festive side. Advent is a time to slow down, and consider what it means to have “God with  us;” what it means that God himself took on human form to live with us and teach us how to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul and our neighbor as ourselves.

This emphasis of Advent, of course, flies in the face of the “spirit” of the season as it is practiced culturally with frenzied shopping sprees; an overabundance of parties and programs; and the never-ending list of things-to-do! We must, therefore, make a conscious choice to slow down and to celebrate Advent as it is intended. We do this, not for the sake of the holiday, but for our own sake, for our own well-being, and the well-being of others. We do this to honor God and his Son Jesus who, after all, is what Christmas is all about.

One way that we can observe the Advent season is by following an Advent devotional plan. This can be a daily practice or a weekly practice, focusing on the four Sundays of Advent and on Christmas Eve. In this case, using a Advent wreath as the focal point of the devotional times may be both helpful and enriching.

The Advent wreath consists of a small circle of greens and four candles, one for each Sunday in Advent. Usually, there is a fifth candle, typically in the middle of the wreath, called the Christ candle which is lit on Christmas Eve.

Each Sunday in Advent a candle is lit: one on the first Sunday, two on the second Sunday, on so on, until, on the last Sunday all four candles are lit. Each candle has a specific meaning, a theme for that Sunday. The meaning of each candle can vary somewhat depending on the specific denominational tradition, but a typical set of meanings is Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace for the four Sundays.

The color of the four candles also varies somewhat with three purple and one pink being used by the Roman Catholic church and four red candles by most Protestant churches, although the distinction is not hard and fast.

Advent wreaths are used in churches and in homes. In a family setting it is typical for the family to do a short devotional with a scripture reading and a prayer and possibly some music. This practice provides an opportunity not only for family members to slow down and reflect on the significance of Christmas, but it also provides an opportunity to teach children about the true meaning of the Christmas season.

If you decide to celebrate Advent as a special time, and I hope you will, you can find resources from a number of places. Often churches will provide devotional booklets for Advent. Here are some online resources which you might find helpful:

  • Thriving Family: Children’s/Family Christian Advent Calendar, Parents Guide, and Children’s Activities: an excellent, attractive “package” for family Advent observations – http://www.thrivingfamily.com/advent

Using the resources given above or others that find or create celebrate this special time: reflect on what it means to have “God with us;” on our sinfulness and need or repentance; and on the joy of Christ’s first coming and his expected return.

Lectio Divina Paci – November 10, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

for Sunday, November 16th, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Matthew 25.14-30 “enter into… joy”

REFLECT: On my first reading of this passage, I noticed “enter into… joy”. How hard it would be, under such a harsh master, to ever find joy. As I continued to read, I asked myself: what prevents me from entering into joy? My self’s answer: fear.

As an emotion, fear protects us by warning us of danger — whether physical, mental or emotional. It is intended to serve us. But when fear becomes the master, we have a problem. And fear is a harsh master. Fear reaps where it does not sow. Fear gathers where it does not scatter seed. God is not the master in this parable. God does not operate or relate on the basis of fear.

A good friend of mine has a practice for dealing with feelings that have become the master using mental imagery. It was as much her manner of telling me about it as the exercise itself that has since made it just as effective for me. She imagines the feeling as a prickly ball. Sometimes we get attached to these prickly balls and hold onto them for dear life, shouting “ouch! that hurts!” all the while. Sometimes others lob their prickly balls at us, but we don’t have to catch them and make them our own. This reminds me of my own practice of the Welcoming Prayer — focusing, feeling and sinking into the feeling, welcoming it, and letting it go.

Since learning my friend’s prickly ball strategy, I have found that part of what makes it effective for me is remembering the way we laughed together as she acted out hugging, setting down, batting away and dodging the prickly balls in her life. It’s like the movie “Monsters, Inc.” and the realization that laughter — or joy — is more powerful than fear. The question is, when we are living in fear and being controlled by it, how do we choose instead to enter into joy?

RESPOND: God, we know that we can only have one master in life, whether it is fear or something else. Help us to recognize when anything but you has taken control. Give us the courage to ask for help from others when we need it, and to extend help to others in their need.

Think of an area of your life where fear may be causing you to avoid something or someone. Take some time to really examine your fear. Is the emotion serving as a warning to you, or is it limiting your freedom and ability to live life fully? Talk to someone you trust about developing a strategy for working through particular fears. Start small as you build courage to face new challenges.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Judges 4.1-7

Psalm 123

1 Thessalonians 5.1-11

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide by Audrey Hindes for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Lectio Divina Paci – November 3, 2014

Monday, November 3rd

for Sunday, November 9th, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Matthew 25.1-13 “trimmed”

REFLECT: I’m the worst about getting my hair cut. Most of the time, I’m lucky if I can remember to do it twice a year. Sure, it grows out and looks awkward, but it’s easy to ignore by putting it in a messy bun or pony tail. Problem solved.

As infrequently as I think about cutting my hair, it surprised me that this was the image that came up when I first came across the word “trimmed”. Perhaps, though, that’s exactly why it came up; I don’t go frequently enough for “just a trim”.

As I continued reading and praying through this passage, another image came to mind. This time, I thought about the drastic pruning that my dad and I would enact upon our roses every year on New Year’s Day. We pruned them back to one third of their size. It was painful. And yet, pruning is not the same as trimming.

Reading through the passage a third time, the image of a topiary tree unfolded. Growing intricate plant sculptures like these takes time — and vision. It requires constant trimming to maintain the plant’s shape. When the plant is growing in a new direction that the gardener desires, no trimming may be needed for a time. When the plant has finally filled in that new area, doing exactly what the gardener wants it to do, constant trimming becomes a necessity. I’ll say it again, when a plant is growing in the right direction, constant trimming is required!

Put another way, when you experience God’s trimming in your life, it does not necessarily mean that you’re doing something wrong. Even as we grow, we require constant prayer, constant attention — both us attending to God and God attending to us.

RESPOND: God, help us not to shrink back when we feel the snips of your trimming shears. When our egos get in the way, remind us that we’re always growing and never finished. Forgive us our pride when we refuse to submit ourselves to your constant loving attention.

Think of an area of your life where you’ve felt discouraged, where despite putting forth time, effort and attention, you’ve encountered obstacles, frustrations or criticism. Many of us would take these minor pains as signs to stop and go in another direction. That may be true sometimes. But at other times you may be missing out on an opportunity for growth. Ask God for discernment in this area. Is it possible that a wounded or embarrassed ego is what is really holding you back?

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Joshua 24.1-3a, 14-15

Psalm 78.1-7

1 Thessalonians 4.13-18

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide by Audrey Hindes for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Heart Language

By Cara EdigerCara Ediger

What language do you speak when you pray?
What is the language of your heart?

Do we talk to God when we are afraid, tired and lonely?
Do we talk and let him comfort us?
We are afraid to talk to God from our hearts
Even when the Lord has come to dwell with us.

What language does he speak,
That we do not understand him?

Fully God and fully human
Speaking the language of humanity.
In the Word, God understands us,
And speaks to us in our heart language.

But we hide ourselves from God,
We cover our bodies with fig leaves.

We will talk to Moses.
We will talk to Augustine, Luther, and MLK Jr.

But has he not come to dwell with us,
The Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth?
Has he not come to dwell with us,
In the fullness of The Christ?

We run to the ends of the earth,
And flee to the depths of hell.
We hide as if we think he cannot find us.

What must we do to inherit eternal life
And peace and happiness on earth?
And peace and happiness on earth?

Pray to God from the language of our hearts,
And from the language of our hearts
Express grievances with each other.
What is this Peace that comes from God?
That speaks to us in many earthly languages?

Why are we afraid to speak to God
And to each other from the language of our hearts?
What language does he speak,
That we do not understand him?
But there is no condemnation in his love.

Peace on the Hill: Syria and Iraq – Money, power and the roots of war

RLS

By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

When I visited the Middle East earlier this year, people shared many opinions on the war in Syria. But they all agreed on one thing: the war is incredibly complex and it will be difficult to get to a resolution any time soon.

Why is the conflict in Syria (and now Iraq) so complex? There are many factors, including:

  • There is big money to be made. Arms manufacturers are profiting handsomely from the conflict. Journalist Robert Fisk notes the profits of those making the bombs, missiles and aircraft used in the U.S. airstrike campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS). Another article highlights the political contributions by defense companies to Members of Congress who voted in September in favor of training and equipping members of the Syrian opposition.
  • The conflicts have gone far beyond internal civil wars. Regional and even global actors are deeply involved. The conflicts have exacerbated Sunni-Shia tensions in the region, including regional tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile global players, including Russia and the United States, have economic, political and military interests in the region that are driving their involvement.
  • Underlying factors have not yet been meaningfully addressed. Columnist Rami Khouri gives a helpful overview of the various grievances that have led to the rise of numerous Islamist movements within the Middle East. These include poverty, corruption and a lack of voice within political structures. Until these economic, political, social and religious grievances have been addressed, there will always be new groups rising up to challenge the status quo.

While there are no easy answers to conflicts as complex as the ones in Syria and Iraq, Mennonite Central Committee wrote a letter to President Obama recommending that the U.S. government:

  • Stop the widening campaign of airstrikes and move away from the current, militarized approach;
  • Address the political and social grievances at the root of the conflicts within Syria and Iraq;
  • Engage in sustained and energetic diplomacy with all regional actors, including Iran;
  • Continue to provide generous funding for humanitarian needs throughout the region; and
  • Provide support for religious leaders and civil society groups working to build relationships of peace and reconciliation across political, sectarian and religious divides.

Today, consider taking three actions for peace.

First, pray for the people of Syria and Iraq and for all those in positions of power related to the conflict, that the seemingly intractable roots of war will be uprooted.

Secondly, send a letter to your Members of Congress here.

And third, please give generously to MCC’s response to the Syria crisis, to help provide food, shelter, trauma healing and support for those building peace in the region.

Peace on the Hill is a monthly column in PeaceSigns written by staff of the MCC Washington Office highlighting congressional developments and detailing ways the church can continue to be engaged in the work of peace and advocacy.

Moving Beyond Ableism: Boosting the Economy-Why Hiring Adults with Disabilities is a Smart Business Decision and Builds God’s Kingdom

deborah-ruth ferberEditor’s Note: Moving Beyond Ablesism is a quarterly column featuring the work of the Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADNet) www.adnetonline.org and offers reflections from different authors on the various issues facing persons with disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

By Deborah-Ruth Ferber

At 4pm on the 15th and 30th of every month, Darryl comes back to his group home waving his check excitedly in the air.  “Deborah, tell me how much I made this month!” he eagerly demands.  We open his mail together, I read out the number at the very bottom of the page, and give him a high-five.  The next question is a natural one, “So, Darryl, how are you going to spend your pay check this month?”  Without hesitation, Darryl answers back, “I’m saving my money for my vacation.”

Darryl is a member of one of the largest untapped work forces in our nation—the group of industrious workers made up of individuals with developmental disabilities.  As a young man in his early thirties who has Down Syndrome, Darryl is quick to tell you that he is “no longer a school boy, but a working man.”  He proudly describes himself as a businessman, and with the greatest sense of philanthropy I have ever seen, adamantly repeats his desire to raise more funds for the intentional community he is a part of.

Working 5 days a week, alternating between a packaging company and a local woodworking shop which makes splints for St. John’s Ambulance and Flare Sticks for railways, Darryl has shown me first-hand the positive effects of working a steady job. To Darryl it is not just about the money he receives at the end of the day—his capacity to understand and manage his own finances is very low—but rather it has to do with contributing to society, being part of a group, and living a more normalized life.  The average person gets up, goes to work for 8 hours a day, comes home and rests only to repeat this same cycle again the next morning.  For persons with a developmental disability who have joined this rhythm of life, their self-esteem often increases and they find they have much in common even among those who do not have a disability.

Yet, even though recent statistics have shown that close to 20% of the American population has some kind of disability, the unfortunate reality is that only a third of those individuals are currently working, which means that the other two-thirds are unemployed.[1]  Reasons for this vary.  Some employers resist hiring people with developmental disabilities because they feel these individuals will be too difficult to train or will lack the passion and the stamina to keep going.  For the most part, nothing could be further from the truth.  People with disabilities often are hard-working, committed, and dedicated to making a difference in their fields.[2]  These individuals also are less likely to complain about what may be seen as minimal tasks, instead embracing each opportunity as another job to be completed.  Additionally, it has been shown that individuals with developmental disabilities are up to 3 times more likely to stick with entry level positions compared to the high turnover rates companies often experience.[3]

As Christians, we are called to help those who otherwise would be marginalized and to seek ways to include all of God’s children.  One of the best ways for this to take place is to have Christian employers become more aware of the positive outcomes employing people with disabilities provides.  As more churches become aware of every person’s need for inclusion, self-worth and purpose, we can corporately reach out as the Body of Christ to try to place individuals with disabilities in jobs which best use their interests and skillsets.  As Christians, let us take the risk of allowing someone with a disability to be part of our workforce rather than only persons with a university degree or years of experience.  As someone who works with employed individuals with disabilities I can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

[1] “Disability Employment Information, Facts, and Myths,” Disabled World, Accessed September 17, 2014, http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/employment/disability-employment-information.php

[2] “Why Hire?” Community Living Ontario, Accessed September 17, 2014. http://www.communitylivingontario.ca/employers/why-hire.

[3] Disabled World. http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/employment/disability-employment-information.php

Deborah-Ruth Ferber is a Field Associate for Anabaptist Disabilities Network.