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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

The sheep that are my own hear and are listening to my voice; and I know them, and they follow me.”

John 10:27

(Louis Robbe (attr) Schafherde in hügeliger Landschaft)

These days, there seems to be a cacophony of religious voices, all saying different things. 

In matters of faith, only one voice matters.  How will we discern that voice? 

Psalm 46 says: “Be still and know that I am God.” 

Be still.

We modern folk are such poor listeners.  We label each other, we talk past each other, we judge each other, we jump to conclusions, we stop listening.

We want to be heard, we want everyone else to listen to us, we talk to whomever will listen.

Stop.

Listen.

No, really, I mean it!  Stop talking (mentally even) and … just …

Listen.

This song (linked below) reminds us just to take it in, and to give it back.  Not to tell others or to tell God how it is or what we want, sometimes not even to tell God what we need. 

Sometimes, we are just to

Listen

And, if we respond,  our response is to “lift a hymn of grateful praise.” 

Nothing more, nothing less.

Heather Prusse sings For the Beauty of the Earth

In thought,  word, and deed, let us praise our God.  As it is said in Psalm 19:14:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

May peace be with you!

 

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I believe that at the center of the universe there dwells a loving spirit who longs for all that’s best in all of creation, a spirit who knows the great potential of each planet as well as each person, and little by little will love us into being more than we ever dreamed possible. That loving spirit would rather die than give up on any one of us.

Presbyterian pastor Fred Rogers, writing in Life’s Journey According to Mister Rogers

 

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The Trinity Presbytery community was saddened by the death of Phyllis Melvin, founder of Dimes for Hunger and champion of Harvest Hope Food Bank. 

In 2009, Melvin (a member of Forest Lake Presbyterian) was honored by the ecumenical group Church Women United as a local heroine of Peacemaking, for her work in starting Dimes for Hunger.

In the following YouTube video, please listen to Phyllis as she tells Forest Lake Presbyterian pastor Ellen Skidmore about her passion to help feed hungry people and how she came to this ministry: 

Phyllis Melvin, founder of Dimes for Hunger, interviewed in May of 2011 by Ellen Skidmore, Senior Pastor at Forest Lake Presbyterian Church.

 

There will be a Service to the Witness of the Resurrection for Mrs. Melvin, to be held on Friday, February 17, 2011, at 11:00 A.M., at Forest Lake Presbyterian Church, 6500 North Trenholm Road, Columbia, SC. 

Memorials may be sent to Forest Lake Presbyterian Church.  Please earmark any contributions with the name of Mrs. Melvin. 

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781px-Angelika_Kauffmann_-_Christus_und_die_Samariterin_am_Brunnen_-1796

“Through the selection of questions that empower, to the intuitive sacredness of each reframe, the genius of communication shines through in every soul who agrees to sit with presence with other souls who are rapt with pain and drowning in fear. If you are willing to go to their hell with them in every instance, you will be the artist who leads them from the self-imposed prison of skewed perception to the clarity of understanding. In that act of willingness, you will be made a stronger person in your own right.”

From     N.W. Burnett, Calm in the Face of the Storm: Daily Spiritual Practice for Peacemakers, p. 256 (2010)

Illustration Angelika Kauffmann, Artist, “Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen” (Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well), 1796, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons (public domain in source country and in US)

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The Presbyterian Church has a deep and lasting commitment to the people of Sudan.  As part of that commitment, Presbyterian churches support mission co-workers Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mather in their work building peace through the  RECONCILE, International (Resource Centre for Civil Leadership), in Yei Province in South Sudan. 

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Shelvis and Nancy participate in Reconcile’s training events that address inter-ethnic conflict.  Shelvis is principal of the Peace Institute, which offers three month trainings in community based trauma healing, peace studies, and conflict transformation. 

Nancy says, “I sense a powerful call on my life to reflect Jesus’ concern for the marginalized, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the sick, the poor, and the broken-hearted.”

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She continues, “In a region where 1 in 7 children do not celebrate their 5th birthday, 92 percent of the women cannot read or write, and many citizens have experienced more years of war than of peace in their lives, there is a great need for Jesus’s ministry of transformation.”

Please remember Shelvis and Nancy often in your prayers as they engage in this  important ministry of building peace through conflict transformation and reconciliation.   

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“Jesus did not say, ‘Blessed are the peace lovers,’ He rather said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ . . . . " -Jim Wallis

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There is division and dissension in churches across the United States.   While not every conflict ends up in court, there is no shortage of hurt feelings, estranged former members, churches divided along factional lines, coup d’etat, and breakaway factions.   (In fact, ask any person who has “left” Christianity for some other religion or to become atheist, and most of them will be able to point to a specific conflict or offensive incident in their past which alienated them from the church.)

The key issue in every dispute is not whether conflict will happen, but how we will respond to it when it does happen.

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My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”John 15:12

Will we respond in love?

And, what does it mean, this commandment to  “love” one another?

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As to what it means to “love one another,” consider first, Christ’s love for us.

Though a love that lays down its life for others is counterintuitive to human nature,  that expression of God’s love for us is the first model for how we are to love one another.

In the example set out by Christ, we observe how we are to treat others.   The Lamb of God has loved each of us sacrificially, paving the way for reconciliation between God and mankind.  We, in our personal relationships, are commanded to do likewise.

In Matthew 5:23-24, we are admonished not to approach the altar of God until we have become reconciled to our fellow humans:

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

And Jesus taught us to pray: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

These are not empty words, “as we forgive our debtors.”    Our extension of forgiveness – of compassion–  to others is a condition to being forgiven.   This fundamental attitude toward our fellow human – an attitude of love — does not allow for ostracization, for "other" ness, for building walls and fences.

When we fail to forgive, we risk being like the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21 – 35.  This servant, after being forgiven a large debt, displayed a lack of compassion toward another who was indebted to him for a lesser amount.  In this parable, when the Master found out about the lack of compassion shown by the servant who had been forgiven so much, he had him thrown into prison and tortured until he repaid back every bit of his original debt.

Truly, the consequences that flow from our own hardness of heart toward those with whom we differ are the consequences we really need to fear.   For, how can we approach the throne of God to ask for forgiveness for our sin, when we fail to extend even a smaller measure of grace to those who have sinned against us?

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