Believers’ Quest for Purity

In cultures water is used in commemoration of the sacred.

It symbolizes life, protection, and healing.

But above all, different faith traditions use water for purification purposes.

That’s because it cleanses, and washes away impurities

And has become the objective of rituals in sacred ceremonies

Believers are at the mercy of water just like the God or gods they worship.

Buddhist monks used it in bowls for ceremonial rites of the dead.

Christians baptize with water and original sin is washed away.  Initiates are either immersed, have water poured over their heads, or sprinkled.

Hindus seek cleansing in sacred rivers like Ganges, Yamuna, or Godavari for purification purposes, freeing themselves of pollutants, and to attain Svarga (the paradise of Indra).

Muslims literally purify themselves before approaching God in prayer.

Jews also practice rituals of washing.  And Exodus tells the story of the Israelites’ liberation, their journey through the Red Sea, and the drowning of Egyptians charioteers pursuing them.

Water is also known to have other mystical qualities.

In different denominations it not only liberates, but free believers from sin, and redeemed by God.

To Christians the “living water” is Jesus Christ himself.

Performing ritualistic rites in the Ganges dispels differences in the Indian caste system that are often part of Hindu culture that Buddhism deplores.

So every Hindu temple has a pond of some sort for the rite of washing before entering the temple.

“Eternal Spirit – thank you for water as the building block of life, and all its precious gifts”

Amen        

Trust in Faith

Paul was convinced that neither “height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).  Such trust we will have through Christ because our sufficiency is of God (2 Cor 3:4-5).  Like David, we will have confidence in God like a child that is weaned of his mother (Ps 131:2).  That is why our judgment will be with the Lord, and our work with God (Isa 49:4), because “there is nothing too hard for Thee” (Jer 32:17).  The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, so we have to repent, and believe the Gospel (Mk 1:15).  God’s kingdom is everlasting and his dominion will endure for all generations (Ps 145:13).  With faith we must have confidence even in difficult times (Jer 1:17).

William Shakespeare (1564–1616), an English poet and playwright regarded as the greatest writer in the English language wrote, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”  Some might put some restraints on their faith.  But Shakespeare was rather pragmatic about what he saw as a way of treating others.  On the other hand, Rome, Pope Francis (b. 1936) said, “Although the life of a person is in the land full of thorns and weeds, there is always space in which the good seed can grow.”  Pope Francis expects us to have barriers in this world concerning our personal growth.  He was however assuring that despite these, Christian believers will still find fertile ground for growth.

Trusting God & Others

People though, have to learn how to trust.  Allyson Felix (b. 1985), a track and field sprint athlete said, “The most important lesson that I have learned is to trust God in every circumstance.  Lots of time we go through different trials and following God’s plan seems like it doesn’t make any sense at all.  God is always in control and he will never leave us.”  It’s clear that when it comes to trusting others we must put our faith in God, who never disappoints. 

Believers should be confident, and trust in the right source in faith.  A lack of trust in God will do us no good.  Lao Tzu (6th to 5th C – 531 BC), an ancient Chinese philosopher and poet wrote, “He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.”  Trusting is therefore reciprocal.  Knowing this comes through prayer and studying God’s Word. 

By trusting we will continue to grow our faith.   Natalie Goldberg (b. 1948), a popular New Age author and speaker said, “Trust is what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.”  At times love can be disappointing, yet we must freely offer this gift of love to others.  We have to be willing to show confidence. 

Power of Trust

Thomas J. Watson (1874 -1956), a businessman wrote, “The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy.  The essence of trust building is to emphasize the similarities between you and the customer.”  Watson gave a business perspective of getting things done. 

A hopeful perspective of trust came from Golda Meir (1898–1978), a prime minister of Israel who said, “Trust yourself.  Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.  Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”  To Meir trust is an ongoing process.  It involves inventing and re-inventing oneself, and basing your life on a set of good values.  In the end it will be through faith that we attain the outcomes we have envisioned.   

Symbolism of Streams

The river is used as a symbol of the passage of time. Its symbolism is centered around nature as a moving body of water. The source of the river is typically small mountain streams that depicts the beginnings of life, and its meeting with the ocean symbolizes the end of life. The river also symbolizes the power of nature. It is a symbol of fertility as it fills the soil surrounding it with moisture.

The symbolism of the river is centered around its nature as a moving body of water. Moving water is able to find its way through nearly any kind of physical impediment until it merges with the ocean. A river’s movement symbolizes life. In literature, cities and towns often spring up on riverbanks brought to life by the its movement. The river is used both as a sign of boundaries and of roadways. As a boundary, it is sometimes showing the difference between civilization and those outside of it. The Amazon or Congo River is a symbolic passageway into the heart of the jungle, and as a descent into the primitive nature of humanity.

Gifts of the Spirit

It’s a joy to be blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Glossolalia – speaking in tongues is alive in some Christian churches.  Some see these occurrences as the utterance of God in his people.  This is a dimension of the breath of life.  However such a gift has to be properly understood.  Some Christians might think these utterances of being a mountaintop experience.  But the fruits of God are centered on a life of the Spirit.  These gifts could be many things – ecstatic, emotional, illuminating, morally transforming, charismatic, miraculous, or a religious awakening.  Ayrton Senna (1960–1994), a Brazilian racing driver said, “Wealthy men can’t live in an island that is encircled by poverty.  We all breathe the same air.  We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.”  All gifts come from the same source, and are like the air we breathe.  But people must never fall into the trap of making distinctions concerning what gifts are better.  They should promote what’s in the interest of the church.

All gifts come through the Spirit of God.  Prophetic utterances could be in the form of speech or writings.  We know these to be authentic works because they are true expressions.  But the goal of every gift is the same.  It’s meant to proclaim Christ’s power and resurrection.  Christians blessed with such utterances live lives steeped in prayer.  We could usually tell who these Christians are.  Confucius (551 BC– 479 BC), a Chinese teacher, politician, and philosopher wrote, “The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.”  There’s an old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”  Thus, “Show Christians how people live and they will know us what fruits they bear.”

Agents of Salvation

Agents of God are always guided by the Holy Spirit.  Their walk is impacting, shaping, and transforming lives in every place.  They could do these things because they were baptized in the Spirit, and have the power of discernment.  These believers are prudent and gifted in wisdom with the knowledge of what’s right and wrong.  Their dedication doesn’t stop here.  But how do they enjoy God’s freedom?  Ramakrishna (1836–1886), an Indian mystic and yogi said, “A man is truly free, even here in his embodied state, if he knows that God is the true agent and he by himself is powerless to do anything.”  People’s freedom is manifested through their Creator.

Believers are blessed with sacred hope.  Their gifts are from a loving God.  They could be in counseling or administration, but their stewardship is able to provide aid to others.  These believers are propelled by a benevolent Spirit.  They witness in their life’s work.  These attributes are powerful weapons.  Believers know that spiritual force is animated by the Holy Spirit.  Through whom they will accomplish their missions and divine goals.  Donald Miller (b. 1971), a bestselling author wrote, “Sunday morning church service is not an enormous priority; spending time with other believers is.”  The lesson we take away from Miller’s statement is that Christian outreach is more than being in a church, but on the highways, and byways of life.

The Meaning of Life

Let the mountains roar

Let peace reign

Let blessings flow from the sky

Like an abundant rainfall in summer

But what does this mean?

Our Eternal Essence is the One

That feeds the children of every race, color, and creed

Like lilies of the field

Wherever they live on planet earth

Whether in bramble huts, simple homes, or extravagant palaces

But what does this mean?

This Universal Essence is Our Provider

That knows every little breath we take

And as we work at simple and great tasks

The Divine graces us with natural gifts

With which God has endowed us

But what does this mean?

This Everlasting Reality sustains us

Lifts us up when we slumber

And once aroused people venture into the world

To make their mark in our earthly home

But what does this mean?

With these special gifts

People of different faiths –

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Atheists

Are seeking answers about the Universe’s Big Question:

“What does life mean?

But still, they don’t know the answer

“Universal Essence, you have blessed us with many gifts, but still people aren’t sure about the meaning of life.  Shouldn’t they embrace their gifts to find happiness and fulfillment in their lives?”

Futility of Wars

The Lord said that we must not go up to fight against our kindred (2 Chr. 11:4).  “Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.  I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (Ps. 120:6-7).  He however silenced the roaring of the seas and waves, also the tumult of peoples (Ps. 65:7).

President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” 

Gary Zukav (b. 1942), a spiritual teacher wrote, “We are becoming able to see the pursuit of external power for what it is and the futility of trying to escape the pain of powerlessness by changing the world.  When we look inward, not outward, we can dismantle the parts of our personalities that have controlled us for so long – such as anger, jealousy, vindictiveness, superiority, inferiority.”  Finding answers to war should start with self-examination.  People have to know their strengths and weaknesses to have a balanced life.  This is true not only for ordinary people, but for presidents and prime ministers that governs nations.

People’s conflicts show the presence of our sinful nature.  A founder and teacher of desiringgod.org and Chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota John Piper (b. 1946) said, “God created a good world that was subjected to futility because of the sinful, treasonous choice of the first human beings.”  This legacy that was passed down through the ages has shaped people’s behavior.  They should therefore embrace the teachings of the scriptural narratives to change their attitudes for the betterment of society.

War & Words

Some believe words are enough to subdue, and enlighten those opposed to the light.  A Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher Sun Tzu (544 – 496 BCE) wrote, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”  Tzu must have been thinking about winning wars by words, and not by physical force.  Yet, wars of words could be as devastating like weapons.  Critics believe that psychological warfare does damage for generations to come.

A Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) said, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”  These gifts form the basic framework in pursuing peace.  Such an alliance should not be rushed, and forged without understanding.  President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) wrote, “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”  People know what a confrontation between the superpowers would mean in an age of nuclear weapons.  Even today nations wage war against nations.  Herbert Hoover (1874–1964), president of the United States said, “Older men declare war.  But it is the youth that must fight and die.”  This lesson is known to those leaders who are belligerent. So, the question should be asked, “Who will die for their nation’s causes?”  And the answer is always, “Our sons and daughters, who are the innocent ones.”

God’s Wisdom & Mercy

God’s wisdom and mercy are indescribable

For the Divine is known for infinite grace

Christian believers have an apostolic Spirit

They embrace this eternal gift for spiritual growth

That’s seen as an unquenchable fire

A devotee of this Universal Essence says,

“Don’t go where the path may lead,

But go instead where there’s no path

And be sure to leave a trail.”

Contemplating God is great

For people experience goodness, and mercy

Love heals wounded hearts

So when you witness think about God’s omnipotence

For this is how to touch unfaithful people

In your pastoral outreach love all mankind

Be industrious and walk in the light

And be devoted believers of the Word

For its God’s wisdom

“Almighty God, grant us the peace that passes all understanding.  Let our words be soothing to all we encounter on our earthly sojourn.”

Amen

The Sacred Elephant

For thousands of years

A majestic giant has graced our lands

It’s the gigantic elephant known to all peoples

We find its symbol in India, China, Africa,

And even America

In India the elephant is known to Buddhists

And Hindus as the god Ganesha

As a defender and maintainer of good fortune

China, its symbol brings good luck, protection, and fertility

While in Africa the elephant is mighty

Because of its strength and power

But this gentle giant of mythology is patient,

Responsible, wise, clever, and smart

In the wild it cares for its herd and offspring

By nestling their young in loving ways

Let’s elevate this admirable giant

To a greater place of prominence in our world

This animal’s symbol continues to grace the world

 With divine, pure, and secular gifts

Depicted in artworks, sculptures, and paintings

Indians pay their elephant-god Ganesha homage

The Chinese sing praises to this amazing animal

Africans view the elephant like a fortress in the jungle

And Americans embrace its symbol as a political party

Through the cartoonist Thomas Nast of Harper’s Weekly magazine

“Divine Essence, you have gifted us with an extraordinary animal.  We thank you for the elephant and all that it represents.”

Amen

Equal Justice Initiative (EJI)

Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy is a rather compelling book to read. It deals about the legal crisis concerning the poor and marginalized in the United States. Stevenson works with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to help people on death row. EJI is trying to stop the death penalty. It’s their attempt to do something about prison conditions and excessive punishment. EJI wants to free people who are wrongly convicted. It’s an attempt to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in the criminal justice system.

EJI is working to provide the legal help for people who don’t have the means for such legal defense. It’s attempting to have children not tried as adults. This organization is looking out for the mentally ill in prison. They hope do something also about poverty that dominates the poor communities. EJI is pushing to see more diversity in the decision-making process in the justice system. And they are trying to educate people about the real issues about racial diversity and the need for racial justice. Its EJI attempts to confront the abuse of power by the police and prosecutors.

The EJI stands for compassion, justice, and mercy. Many adults have been wrongly prosecuted and sentenced to death. Stevenson attempts to have new trials for these individuals in many states spread across the nation. One prominent victory was that of an African American man named Walter McMillian. It took appeals, counter appeals, and the case even made its way to the Supreme Court. Eventually after spending many years in prison Walter was released. He then became a spokesman with Stevenson for those wrongly convicted and awaiting execution by the electric chair on death row. But not all cases Stevenson was able to find justice. Some innocent individuals were put to death because of a corrupt justice system. This reality would break Stevenson’s heart, and even made him question if he should persevere in his career fighting for the rights of abused people.

But what really got to Stevenson was the children who were sentenced to death and life imprisonment. After trials and counter trials some of these cases were argued before Appeals Courts, and made their way to the Supreme Court. EJI was able to win these cases before the Supreme Court that made it illegal to sentence children to death. Later the Supreme Court ruled that children couldn’t be sentenced to life imprisonment that it considered cruel and unusual punishment. There were further victories in the Supreme Court that favored the rights of the handicapped in prison.

AJI challenged states concerning the rights of women. Some of these cases dealt with women who were on death row for murdering their children. Some of the cases were flawed because their crimes weren’t properly litigated. Yet some women were on death row because they were accused to killing their children at birth. These babies were still births. The prosecution didn’t handle these cases well. In cases it was because these women were poor, mentally challenged, and marginalized. Cases like these were eventually overturned because of rulings by the Supreme Court. AJI was able to win hundreds of victories for the poor, and marginalized people in many states.

Independent Living

Where has life gone?

The years have melted away.

But there have been precious times.

Now it’s time to press the reset button.

Do I want to live in my home?

Now I’m much older

And will have to decide?

But my home isn’t built for a senior.

The bedrooms are upstairs.

And there isn’t a walk-in shower.

Plus there are stairs to the front door.

Should I look at other options?

There are 55+ apartments,

Independent, assisted living,

And memory care units

These are feasible for a 75 year old.

But I do have some chronic health problems.

My memory is good.

So a memory care unit isn’t the answer.

I’ll therefore opt for independent living.

I’m not at the point for assisted living.

“Gracious Provider, help me as I navigate the twilight years of my life.  Give me the insight to choose from the options that are available for senior living.” Amen