Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On the Seventh Day of Christmas... true love gave to me....

SEVEN swans a-swimming
     six geese a-laying..
         FIVE golden rings
             four calling birds
                 three French hens
                      two turtledoves
                          and a partridge in a pear tree

SEVEN.. for the gifts of the Holy Spirit...  There is some debate about the actual number of gifts from a couple of sources in the New Testament letters.. so I go all the way back to Isaiah 11:2-3a, where the gifts are applied to "the root of Jesse" in the foretelling of Jesus' coming..(which is 6.. and piety was added later)

"The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD."
                  from NABRE

1.  Wisdom
2.  Understanding
3.  Counsel
4.  Fortitude  
5.  Knowledge
6.  Piety
7.  Fear of the Lord

Gifts of the Holy Spirit.....  in a sense, they are internal 'gifts' or abilities, to recognize the abstract qualities of our lives.... things that are not tangible..  things we cannot see.....  Qualities of life that require some faith!  Christians believe these gifts are bestowed in Baptism.

Wisdom, understanding and knowledge often confuse me.   Aren't they the same said three ways?

No....  wisdom is an inner life-sense of valuing faith.  Understanding allows us some comprehension of the workings of the universe, a limited comprehension of what we believe in.  And knowledge, well, knowledge gives us a broader perspective.  With knowledge, sometimes we can grasp a "God" view of a situation rather than our own limited personal...  humanly logical... view.

Counsel doesn't mean you give advice..... counsel means you can receive it!  That little inner voice - maybe you call it conscience or a hunch - I call it the Holy Spirit... THAT is counsel.  You have it already - do you listen to it enough to live according to your beliefs?

Fortitude - or strength - is a gift that allows you to be strong enough to live according to your belief system.

Fear of the Lord..... not fear like being afraid!  Fear, like respect.... of parents, of authority.  We want to do the right thing to please God.  We know already that God loves us.  We are not in charge of life itself.  We can pretend to be in control - but knowing TRUTH means we know we are NOT in control of much of anything.

Piety is a good addition.  It doesn't need to be in Isaiah because he was foretelling the coming of the Messiah - and we are NOT IT.  Piety adds a good dose of humility to the picture.  We have the gift of recognizing that we are not in control - of giving that control to God.  Willingly.... trustingly....  piety helps us have faith.

Dear God,
   Sometimes life is way too hard for me.  I just don't get it.  Why are things so confusing?

    When Jesus rose into heaven on Pentecost, he promised we wouldn't be left alone.  The Holy Spirit fulfills this promise.  These gifts we received allow us some measure of peace.... IF we allow it.

    I am grateful for these gifts you have given me, even though I don't really understand them.  How can I?  Please help me accept them, help me believe in them, and help me use them daily as I confront the material world I live in!

     The gifts are all about helping me be a better person with a greater understanding and love of you.  Help me go there.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On the Sixth Day of Christmas true love gave to me....

SIX geese a-laying..
         FIVE golden rings
             four calling birds
                 three French hens
                      two turtledoves
                          and a partridge in a pear tree

The six geese represent the SIX days where God created the world as described in Genesis.

I have long debated that "6 Days" is a fact since - as many of my readers might know - I do not believe that a) the Bible is written to be a factual account nor that b) the Bible has survived its many language translations intact.

I have seen many words come and go in my own language in my own lifetime.. (8-track immediately comes to mind.....  and how many people know what a record WAS?)  so why would I think we can accurately translate something written in an ancient language no longer spoken?  That was actually recounted in the oral tradition around campfires long before it was written?  How could it possibly survive intact?

AND WHY is it written?  Is it written to be a textbook?  Or to show us how to live good lives?

I have had this conversation many times with many people, many of whom claim that Scripture is literal - not to be interpreted.... until, in the same conversation when I point out passages about slavery.... I am gently reminded that society changes and some things are clearly to be interpreted.   At which point I leave the conversation - because in my mind, you can't have it both ways.  And it is not worth my time arguing about it.

But that is ME.. and MY position.

And, honestly....  in the grand scheme of things....

what does it matter?

What matters is that God created the world.
And he created me
And he gave me the world.

Dear God,

      Thank you... for this life and for this amazing earth you gave me.  Thank you for spending your time with the little details I often miss or don't appreciate.... the raindrop on a leaf, the way ants follow each other in a line, the sound of a hummingbird zooming by my ear...
       Thank you for the opportunities that abound each morning to re-create my life with your grace.

      Please help me be a responsible steward of your creation and always be mindful of what you have entrusted to my care.  Amen.

Monday, December 29, 2014

On the Fifth Day of Christmas true love gave to me....

  FIVE golden rings
             four calling birds
                 three French hens
                      two turtledoves
                          and a partridge in a pear tree

In the teaching tradition, the five golden rings refer to the first five books of the Old Testament....  Genesis.. the story of our beginning
                      Exodus.. the story of our bondage and redemption
                      Leviticus... the story of holiness and worship
                      Numbers.. the story of wanderings, faith and change
                      Deuteronomy... a review

These books, the Christian Pentateuch, are also called the Torah and are the Jewish sacred scripture.  They are also considered important in Islam.  Historical scholars know more than I so please forgive me if I write something incorrect.

So Jesus, who was a Jew, studied these scriptures too.

Our differences really grow as the books have been translated over time from language to language.

But the message here - to me - is a common history of a divided people.  Kind of like when my grown kids all leave to live their own quite separate lives.  And they are valid good lives.

It is important for us to remember God's plan.  A plan of unity and peace that should override the decisions and choices we make for ourselves and our families.

Dear God,

     Please help me remember that you are a God of love, a God of peace.  YOU are our root, our common denominator.  Your graciously gave us free will to live our lives as we choose... but you did not give us free rein to hurt each other, our brothers and sisters.

    Please give me a heart for peace.  And help me use the FIVE golden rings to remember that we are all related.. through YOU!  Amen.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

On the Fourth Day of Christmas true love gave to me

FOUR calling birds
       three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

The four calling birds are said to refer to the four authors of the Gospels in the New Testament of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.   The Gospels reflect the important events and teachings of Jesus.

St Matthew was a tax collector... St Luke a doctor... St John was the baby of the group who was supposed to have become a fisherman.  His career became leading the newly emerging church - on the job training, if you will.  We don't know St Mark's occupation but since he was the first to write - he was probably a scribe.  Three were probably well-educated - with enough facility with language to record events. 

Dear God,
    When I think of the responsibility these men faced, it amazes me!  Setting down the life and teachings of their friend and mentor - not to mention Savior!

They were like me though....  just people.

Just men who interfaced with the world with writing and words.  Men who were trying to make sense out of the things they learned and witnessed... and the changes they experienced.

That we still read the Gospels and interpret them and use them to live our lives shows clearly that you had your hand in their creation.

Please help me find the time often to READ these Gospels with love.  Help me HEAR the message you send through the efforts these men like me!  And help me LIVE in such a way that the message is passed on!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

On the Third Day of Christmas

my true love gave to me

      THREE French hens
       two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree

According to what I read, this gift represents the three cardinal virtues.  Kind of a word play there - that hens represent cardinals....  sorry, my random brain can't stop making connections :-)

I couldn't find out much of significance about French hens.. but they must be special.... since the song is of 1700s English tradition.  I would think that a hen that made it from France to England would be special indeed.. probably a type different from the ordinary hens.  And, as a hen, the potential for producing more of this special breed would exist..

BUT.. the cardinal virtues....  Faith, Hope, and Love.

Faith... believing in that we cannot see or prove.  

Hope.... that spark of FAITH that things can always get better

Love... that YOU that ties everything together and makes life worth living

Dear God,

Please help me be like a child.  Help me see life the way YOU do - not the way I do...

 Please help me childlike..... help me have FAITH even though life continually reminds me that I should be logical... realistic... cynical....

 Please help me be childlike.....  help me have HOPE even though life continually reminds me that some situations appear hopeless, that it is HARD to wake up every day and go on when I can't see any way out...

Please help me be childlike... to LOVE even though life continually reminds me that I am unusual, different, unloveable.  

God, I understand life is not easy - I do not wish to be childISH.. self-centered and wanting to have fun all the time.  But I do want to BELIEVE like a child... to have HOPE like a child.. and to LOVE like a child... these 3 things... without too many questions...  Yes, I will have questions - and you know this because you made me just the way I am.  But to be able to have these 3 virtues - like a child - will give me the glimpse of heaven that will help me live the life you intended for me.

So I ask your help


Friday, December 26, 2014

On the Second Day of Christmas

... My true love gave to me..

        TWO turtledoves....
AND a partridge in a pear tree.

Turtledoves are used over and over again in the Bible.... symbolically they are pure.  They were used by many as gifts to YOU.  And they appear in pairs.

In the song, they represent the TWO books of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments.

Sacred texts given to us where God is revealed to us.
Sacred texts given to us to help us learn how to live.

Dear God,

There is much in this world I do not understand.
Even much in these sacred texts that I do not understand for they often seem to conflict. 
But I do understand love.  The imagery of two at Christmas... and every day.. reminds me of love.

And you are love.

So many people claim to be experts on these two testaments of yours... but their interpretations are not loving.

And you are love.

So if what I read or hear about you does not reflect love

then there is something wrong with an interpretation or with my understanding

for you are the ULTIMATE LOVE

my TRUE LOVE.  Amen

Thursday, December 25, 2014

On the First Day of Christmas,

.. my true love gave to me

a partridge in a pear tree.

According to legend, the partridge represents Jesus.

And I had to ask why God, my true love, would offer me a partridge as Jesus.

A female partridge protects her chicks.  She will do anything to lead predators away from her chicks.... even put herself at risk pretending to be injured.

So, God, I understand.

You will do anything to protect and save me.

Even give your only son to the world to destroy on a cross.

Dear God,
     I love.  I truly do love with all my heart and being.  But while I say I understand - with a mother's heart, I cannot honestly comprehend giving my child over to be killed.  Not for any reason.

      This is a mystery to me.  How could you love me SO MUCH that you could do that?  There is so much I do not understand.

But I CAN understand the love a partridge shows toward her chicks.   And I CAN think of your unbelievable love for me when I see this symbol of the season.

I am grateful, God... I really am.  And I do believe.  Thank you so much for loving me in my incomprehension of your ways.  Help me to be the person you want me to be... to be worthy of the attention you give me every day.   Amen

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twelve Days of Christmas

In this traditional carol of a true love sending an impossible number of impossibly extravagant gifts, there is a story.

A legend that this song was written as a secret catechism used at a time when to be a Catholic was to be a criminal..... one who would be killed for religious beliefs.  The song could be used to teach children (and others!) the tenets of the Catholic faith.

Each of the gifts, that grow in number and importance over time, represents gifts from God [the one who truly loves us].

Whether the song was used in this fashion or not, it is a unique opportunity for a devotional

which will begin [tradition again]



Christmas Day.