Shut the Door!

Sometimes you gotta shut the door.
(Image by Me)

And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.”
2 Kings 4:3‭-‬4
But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Matthew 6:6
(Both verses from the New Living Translation).

There are things that are just between you and God. There are times the two of you need that Divine “alone time.” Devotional time-as it was called-was something that the old time saints took the time to do. They would shut out the world and spend time with God despite what their day was like.

Today, do we do the same? Do we have things that are just between our individual selves and God, or are we caught up in the 24/7 world that begs for our attention? Today I think the opposite: we let too many people into our business with God. This often leads to people getting into our personal affairs who may not fully have our interests at heart – even those who are close to us. Plus with the advent of social media, we make the mistake of airing our stuff online for all the world to see….

Then we wonder why our lives are not as blessed as they could be….

Tonight’s Scripture passages offer encouragement to take this time back. The first passage from 2 Kings shows the prophet Elisha at the house of the widow of one of his prophets. The prophet died in debt, and of course honey was busted for funds. And back in that time, you didn’t work out something with a collection agency; no you could become a debt slave as the widow’s two sons were threatened to be. All the woman had was a jar of oil.

Now Elisha gives a unique solution (from God): the widow and her boys were to borrow all the jars they can from their neighbors. We’re not talking about Mason jars, we’re talking about amphora that could vary from probably a gallon on up; and we don’t know how many jars she acquired. Once the widow obtained all the jars she was to fill them with the oil she had. However to do this, honey had to shut the door. The door was shut so God can do His/Her work in private without the distraction of the neighbors (the outside world). Fortunately in the end, the widow had enough oil to pay off her creditor and support her family.

The second passage of Scripture is a more familiar one. Here we see Jesus giving his sermon (or discourse) on the hillside to a multitude. During his teachings, Jesus touched on prayer. Now this is interesting since many times we see people praying publicly, and when appropriate there’s nothing wrong. However, Jesus tells the people (and us) to go off by ourselves and pray to God in private. In fact, the King James translation reads:
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (emphasis mine).

You see even Jesus, God’s Christ who is the ultimate Prophet, tells of the importance of shutting our doors and spending time alone with God. Jesus wants us to have that intimate time with God where we can tell Him/Her what’s going on without the rest of the world to hear. And Jesus assures us that although we pray in secret, God will bless us in public for others to see. And when we read the Gospels, we saw Jesus spending a lot of alone (quality) time with God.

We need to shut the door to the world and spend time with God. God desires our intimate time with Him/Her where we can pour out our hearts and tell the real. I know if others were to hear what I say to God in private, things would get interesting! However, it’s in this alone time we grow: we and God can engage in a conversation where we learn more about Him/Her and about ourselves-take it from personal experience. And when God tells us about ourselves-and it ain’t flattering-wouldn’t we rather hear it alone?

And the real blessings are in our growing as the people of God, evolving spiritually into higher living here on Earth. As we become more intimate with the Divine, we get to see the Divine Heart. We will be able to discern God’s voice in our day to day. Plus, we will have such a relationship with God, we’ll feel that presence despite what we’re going through on the outside. In fact, we’ll be better able to handle the outside. And God will still bless us in other ways that impact our lives.

Plus, our shutting the door doesn’t mean going into a physical closet-unless that’s what we want. We can shut the door going into an empty space, our cars, a bathroom stall (yes), a quiet spot outdoors, anywhere we can be alone with God without nosy distraction.

Shut the door! Let’s close out the world so we can have our private time with God. And God will bless us in the open.

Peace!

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Going Viral?

Slide 1 of 50: People wear masks on a street in Hong Kong, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 to celebrate the Lunar New Year which marks the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac. Cutting off access to entire cities with millions of residents to stop a new virus outbreak is a step few countries other than China would consider, but it is made possible by the ruling Communist Party's extensive social controls and experience fighting the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Copyright: Kin Cheung/AP Photo

As China celebrates the Lunar New Year marking Year of the Rat, the Chinese city of Wuhan experiences an outbreak of the coronavirus during the festivities, and is the epicenter of the virus. As of this writing, more than 1400 people worldwide (most in China) have contracted the virus, and 42 people died due to the virus.

The Chinese government has attempted to quarantine the city of Wuhan (11 million people) along with transport bans, however we’re seeing cases outside of China. In fact, there are cases here in the US with one here in New Jersey.

Over the ages we’ve tried to contain, or quarantine, outbreaks: from the Black Death in the 14th Century to our recent Ebola outbreaks. However, we’re finding out that this is easier said than done. Up to the 20th Century, most travel was by land or water. It was easy to bar people out on land; or the keep ships off port for a period of time. However, we’re now using air travel which can get us anywhere in less than 24 hours. In fact, the coronavirus reached places outside of Wuhan via air travel.

Will the coronavirus be a one-time epidemic, or will it be the “Big One” that has global repercussions? The number of infected and dead have risen since I started this post last night. At this point, we’re caught at a standstill. Hopefully, this will burn itself out soon and with little casualties. However if this turns into a global monster, will we be ready? According to a Forbes article dated December 12, 2019, “How Prepared Are We For The Next Pandemic? Not Very, Experts Show,” the answer is clear: we ain’t. And the article is an eye-opener for us all.

As we watch (and pray) developments, all we can do is be as prepared as we can. For the coronavirus is literally going viral.

Peace.

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"Woke", Yet Not Awake

Are you aware of what’s going on?
Brooklyn, NY. September 20, 2019
(Image by Me)

Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
Ephesians 5:14b (The Message)

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. 
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. here in the US. Dr. King was a modern-day prophet who spoke truth to power-even when it ultimately cost him his life. Dr. King spurred many to action against racism, the Vietnam War, and the rights of the poor.

Today, we see this idea of being “woke.” Woke being the idea of being alert to injustice in society, especially racism. We see it among #Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and other groups that have faced injustice. In fact, “woke” is a buzzword we see bandied about our society.

However, many of us are woke, yet not awake. We protest, yet offer no solutions. We become divisive when we should be coming together. In our individual cultures, we shun any dissenting views even if they may be valid. We turn to social media and turn these sites into our “echo chambers” instead of looking at other sources on (or off) the Web for information. We have developed cultures of victimization, rather than self-validation. We promote dualism: Black vs White; Female vs Male; GLTBQ vs heterosexual (or cisgendered); and even Millenial/Gen-X/Y/Z vs Baby Boomers. We even attack the good in those groups we’ve “demonized” that want to work with us.

In the midst of all this divisiveness, we are not awake to the real enemies: the powers that be. We don’t realize that Big Media sensationalizes stories that whips us into a mindless frenzy. We don’t vote (remember 2016?). We blame others instead of examining what complicity we have in the crime. We don’t question what we digest, instead taking it as face value as long as it jibes with our “groupthink.” We don’t even step into the danger zones of power like the students of the Civil Rights and Antiwar movements in the 1960s. Unlike Dr. King, who rallied people to nonviolent, yet potent action; we protest, and protest, and we protest…

…And the band plays on…

And it’s these powers that be that keep us at this level and have us chasing the wrong people. We have fallen asleep at the switch and both God and Brother Martin warn us of this. We first, must get out of our comatose state and let the light of God’s Christ shine on us. We must look to Jesus-like Brother Martin did-as our example of protest. The time of whining is over; it’s time to speak truth to power while we have time. For like it or not, times are changing faster than imagined. And as we let the light of Christ shine on us, we can truly come together as awake people and challenge the powers that be. Then, as Brother Martin encouraged, we can live together as brothers (and sisters)…

Or, as Brother Martin warned, we’ll perish together as fools; the antithesis of today’s Scripture, we’ll still stay asleep in our coffins. This is not physical death, although that could lead to it. No, we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing-unaware of what’s really happening. We’ll ultimately won’t know what time it is…

Then in the end, we’ll be like Rip Van Winkle. We’ll sleep so long in our “woke” that by the time we do wake up, we wake up it will be a whole new ball game with a different set of rules not to our liking. We’ll find that which we believed in will be dead; and we’ll become out of step with the times. We’ll be put out to pasture as anachronisms in whatever society we end up with-a tragic fate.

I know there are those who may not like this post. And please understand, I’m not dissing the work of those who are putting their lives on the line for justice. However, we cannot turn work started by people like Brother Martin and others who risked it all into buzzwords, social media posts, and divisiveness. This would dishonor that memory, and will blind us to the real work at hand. We will ultimately wind up obscure and obsolete…

…And if that happens, no amount of being “woke” will save us.

Peace.

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What Is Your 2020?

If people can’t see what God is doing,

    they stumble all over themselves;

But when they attend to what he reveals,

    they are most blessed.

Proverbs 29:18 (The Message)
Where will the road lead you this year?
(PA-10 in Cochranville, PA. February 23, 2019. Image by Me)

Happy New Year! Welcome to a new year, and a new decade.

This is the time where many of us create resolutions where we resolve to lose weight, give up smoking or drinking, etc., etc… However, tonight I have a different question: What is your 2020?

What I mean is what is your vision for 2020? What compelling vision that God has placed in you? What is pulling you that is bigger than you or anything you could think of? You see, when you were born, God put a vision inside you that only you can fulfill. It’s a vision that tugs at your spirit, calls to you in the night when you sleep. What is that one thing God has called for you to do?

For me, the vision God calls me to is to live Wildly, Divinely, Creatively and Erotically from a place of love and courage where I live my Core Values (or Virtues, which I posted in the past). This vision is to permeate every area of my being. This vision also calls me to let go of the past and no longer be captive by it.

We all have that vision. We may not realize it, however it’s in us. Most of the time, life’s responsibilities, relationships, etc. will pull on us and make us push that vision on the back burner. However, that vision will still tug at us until we acknowledge it and ask God to show us that vision. Not only do we ask God to show us the vision, but to help us be receptive to it.

And if we ignore the vision, we will run into walls. We will “stumble” as the Scripture warns. We will go into directions not meant for us and feel unfulfilled. We will have that “emptiness” in us as we go through life. Only when we answer the vision God calls us to, then we will be “blessed” as the Scripture promises.

Now I have to warn you: the vision will supersede other things in your life, including relationships. You may balk at this thought, however if God plants the vision in you He/She will orchestrate your life so it will be in the forefront. When the vision gets in the forefront, it will flow into other areas of your life-including relationships. God will let that vision pull you into a future, and will align the other areas of your life with the vision. Plus, God will give you the strength and determination to hold to that vision-even when things go crazy.

What is your 2020? Will you fall into the trap of the “resolution” that will fizzle out by mid-January? Or, will you follow the vision that God has for you and our life?

What is your 2020? Only you (and I) can answer that question.

Peace in the New Year.

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A New Year's Eve Reflection

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.
Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Psalm 90:1-12 (KJV)

We’re at the end of both a year and a decade as we say “goodbye” to 2019. It felt like yesterday when we came to the end of the 2000s on December 31st 2009. Back then, both my parents were alive. All of my siblings were alive. My son, Carrington was just a 1.75-year old toddler.

Now a decade later. Both of my parents have transitioned. Only three of my five siblings are with us. Carrington is now a 11.75-year old middle schooler. That’s just in my personal history. The world itself has changed in ways never thought in the last decade, which would take up quite a few blog posts.

As we ready for a New Year, tonight’s Scripture comes to mind. This psalm is attributed to Moses, which certainty is up in the air. However, whoever wrote this psalm wanted to remind us of God’s eternity. It’s staggering to imagine God’s timelessness when the very Universe He/She engendered is over 14 billion years old. This same Intelligence that guided the evolution of the Universe we depend on to keep things running for our survival.

Juxtaposed is the frailty of humanity. We and our 250000 year plus history is just a blip on the Divine’s radar. Even though many of us live beyond 70, we still will check out of here sooner or later. Plus, we cannot hide ourselves from God. We’ve been doing a whole lot of shit that doesn’t fly with God; and the writer of this psalm is aware that God is not a happy camper. This alone should give pause to think. At any time God could allow anything to happen that could cash our collective check. And look how many times Earth came close to total extinction; who’s to say we’re immune today?

As we see time passing by and enter a new year and decade; we need to step back and examine this bigger picture like the author of this passage. We need to understand that despite God’s eternal being, we’re just here for a second-individually and collectively. We need to live with wisdom so we can hopefully thrive as a species. For if we keep acting like a bunch of assholes, who’s to say that one day God won’t get tired and do some house cleaning?

As we prepare to change the calendar and “ring in the new,” let this reflection give us pause to think. That’s all we can ask of ourselves.

Peace and Happy New Year!

Image of sunset in Pipersville, PA by Me.

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A Silent Night for A Noisy World

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14 (KJV)
(Image courtesy of NASA)

Tonight is Christmas Eve. As I was out during the day, I watched the world turn down as night approached. This evening, as I drove home from my church’s Christmas Eve service, I saw many a fast-food place closed up. Diners, save for a couple, were closed up as well. Now, there were restaurants opened as well as nightclubs. Plus, stores were closing up as customers made last-minute purchases. However, the world was winding down.

My thoughts turn to the hymn, “Silent Night,” with the words:

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child!
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour is born!

Silent night! holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth

We know from the Jesus birth narrative in Luke 2 the night was quite an eventful one – especially when the heavenly host made their announcement to the local shepherds. However, there is still a silence on that long-ago night. Jesus Christ came into our world in silence, alone with his parents Joseph and Mary, and a bunch of animals in a manger.

There is something about the silence of the night. It was as if God hushed the Earth so He/She can have His/Her Christ enter the world gently, peacefully, alone away from the masses. I believe God knew that Jesus would face a future full of incidents from Herod’s seeking to kill him (Matthew 2:13) up to the Crucifixion. Jesus would have to face a noisy world that would not receive him (John 1:11).

In the midst of our Holiday business and noise of parties, media, and commercialism we need this silent night. We need to think on the silence of this blessed night and on what it means. We need to pause from our gift wrapping, tree decorating and partying to reflect on this night. If we dwell in the silence, we will see the Christ as he laid in that manger, unsullied by the world awating him.

Then we will know Christ for ourselves this silent night.

Peace and Merry Christmas.

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A Sacred Space for Advent

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.

Luke 1:39-‬40 (New Living Translation)‬

We all need that sacred space: a place that is holy and untouched by the garbage of the world. A place where Divinity dwells and where we can be ourselves. 

Tonight’s post takes place after Elisabeth gets pregnant and goes into seclusion. It’s also after a young (engaged) woman named Mary gets the news of the ages: she’ll be carrying the Son of God, Jesus. After Mary gets the news, she hightails it to her cousin Elisabeth’s house. 

Elisabeth and Mary were in a unique, and unenviable, position. One was pregnant in later years; the other was pregnant without her betrothed’s help. The first had to escape being the object of curiosity; the other had to escape being the object of scandal. Both women needed a sacred space where they can fellowship and be themselves.

Despite what the Scripture said, which was of course written by men, I believe Elisabeth and Mary weren’t planning baby showers and having a marathon praisefest. No, I believe they were having a serious prayer meeting as they pondered their futures. They had their pregnancies in common and the fact they were cousins. These women had a common bond that they could share with God and each other. The elder Elisabeth probably shared her years of marital wisdom, whilst Mary was probably an encourager and helper. In the end, Mary would ultimately spend three month’s at Elisabeth’s

A sacred space is necessary, if not vital, for our everyday living. We need that space to be alone with the Divine and with like minded people. We need a place that is set aside where the noise of the world can’t get to us. A place we can be real with God and each other. It’s in that sacred space we can feel the presence of the Divine, which I believed Elisabeth and Mary felt during their days together.

As we continue into Advent and approach Christmas, let us find (or create) those sacred spaces. Heaven knows we need them.

Peace.

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