Our Daily Bread

“Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matt 6:11)

Flat Breads
When I was a kid, I could tell when my mom was baking from halfway down the block. Even today, the smell of goodies fresh from the oven evokes a certain sense of comfort, abundance, blessing and love. There’s just something about bread that speaks to the human psyche. It’s something we share with each other in the spirit of fellowship, something for which many people around the world will stand in line for hours hoping to get, and something we long for in our daily lives.

Sometimes, we are forgetful about how lucky we are to have “daily bread” in our lives and how thoroughly God provides for us. I’m reminded of Exodus 16, which tells the story of the manna, and how the Israelites, who had been liberated from their oppression for just a little over 2 months, began grumbling and complaining. All they could think about was food, not how they had been miraculously saved from oppression, but how hungry they were, even telling themselves how much better it was in Egypt, because there, at least, they had their “daily bread.”

The Israelites were indeed hungry, and in a way that went far beyond their physical need for food, they just didn’t know it. Daily bread is more than mere sustenance. It’s a yearning to recover what was lost at the fall of Eden, an unconscious desire to hear the voice of God. In Matthew 4, after he had fasted for forty days, Christ was confronted by the “tempter,” who said, “If you are the son of God, order these stones to become bread.” Jesus replies by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, stating, “it is written, that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Today, we’re not so unlike the Israelites of Moses’ day. We, too, are hungry, to the point of starving. We pine for our youth, for that time when every word from the mouth of God seemed far simpler to believe, and far less complicated to hear. We search for it in churches that seem to be more like social clubs, than sacred spaces to “tabernacle” with the Lord. We listen to preachers who are more interested in teaching us “political correctness” rather than God’s righteousness. When we pray for daily bread, we’re asking God to provide us with more than a marble rye to fill our bellies, or a good story with some anecdotal truth attached, we’re asking Him to fill us with the everlasting bread of His holy spirit, His presence in our daily lives so that we may be counted among the blessed.

How blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! For they will be filled. (Matt 5:6)

~SLM

Blindness: The Best Medicine

​In my Monday night group, we’re studying the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul, and we were asked why we thought God would strike Paul blind to get His point across. Was it to simply humble him, or did God have something else in mind on that fateful day on the road to Damascus?

Among the possible reasons we came up with were: 1) When one sense is taken away, we compensate through one or more of our other senses, so maybe blindness obliged Paul to listen; and 2) Sometimes, drastic measures are called for so that we may “see” what God is saying.

Listening is, by far, the one thing humankind struggles with the most. We have been given eyes to “see” and ears to “hear,” but we can’t seem to coordinate their use. When we see, we seldomly listen, and listening is paramount to recognizing the voice of Wisdom, the voice of God.

Like Paul, we can become so convinced of our own wisdom that we can’t even see what is right in front of our faces. We think we know, and we’re passionate about it, even when what we “know” is completely wrong. We tend to live life in a bubble of our own making, and when we look for validity, we tend to only see those things that confirm our correctness, our righteousness, giving us a false sense truth. That’s why we are told that we shouldn’t worry about the speck in our neighbor’s eye, when we have a board in our own. It’s because we look at the world with impaired vision, and reality is more vast than our limited scope can comprehend, and perhaps, being struck blind is what we need, when we can’t see any other point of view but our own, when our prejudice gets in the way of our ability to see the truth.

Often times, it does, indeed, take something drastic to stop us in our tracks. A bolt from the blue is exactly what is needed, a shock to our senses meant to get our attention, to help us reevaluate what we think we know, to make us see things in a new way. Paul’s whole life changed after that fateful day. His blindness gave him the chance to listen, to evaluate in a new light, God’s light, all he had learned and studied up to that point in his life. Sometimes blindness the best medicine to show us how we’ve been blind, to humble us with the light of truth, and to send us down a whole new road.

~SLM

Everything Beautiful

The other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook this quotation by the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, and for some reason, I felt compelled to reply – the post and reply follow:

The Post;

jung

The reply;

Sally Mitschke Then feed your soul, love yourself and forgive yourself as you would do for all of these, for we are all imperfect beings striving to grow into the best versions of ourselves.

*************************************

This is not to say, go ahead and make excuses for yourself, but to understand that even though we make mistakes, take a wrong turn, or do things that, in retrospect, we’re not too proud of, we still need to nourish our souls, to feed them with wisdom and truth, with compassion and faith, with “good vibes” and friendship. We need, also, to give ourselves the gift of forgiveness, to recognize that we all have value, and that what we must do is “love” (as in accept) ourselves, everything about ourselves, the great and the not so great.

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:11, which states,   “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  We are each a beautiful work of art; an abstract painting that changes with distance and light, a piece of clay being molded by the loving hands of a master potter, a woven cloth of individual threads, our strengths and weaknesses, embroidered together in such a way as to produce an exquisite tapestry of life, of kindness, of fallibility, and of love.

~SLM

Be Kind…, tenderhearted, forgiving…, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

forgiveness1

What Love is: A Litmus Test

It seems that the world is upside down right now, that everything is wrong side out and backwards. We want the madness to stop, but we’re at a loss as to how. We say we want to get along, that we want peace and love, but from the virulence and frequency of the bombastic and self-righteous screeds that are posted every day to facebook, twitter and any number of “social” forums, it is clear that most of us have no idea of what we’re doing or why. We want desperately for things to go differently, to head in a new direction, the direction of unity, but it seems we’ve lost our way. We don’t know anything about kindness, tolerance and love, or if we had ever learned, we’ve forgotten, developed a collective case of CRS (can’t remember shit), as if modern life has divorced us from knowing, understanding exactly what it means to love.

So how do we know what love is? It sounds like a simplistic question, but is it really? We think we know what it is; we think love is about the sentiments reflected in a popular song, quotes by the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, a warm and fuzzy feeling about our friends and family, or a heart shaped emoji we use to react to our friend’s posts. But, love is so much more than these, greater than our trivialities. It is the one thing that never fails, and is perhaps the most challenging feet we could attempt in our lives. And, we do know what it looks like, because we’ve been given a litmus test for love, a laundry list by which to check our actions. The test goes like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

We must test everything against this standard, continually asking ourselves; is it patience or is it pride, is it kindness or cattiness, is it truth or rumor parading as truth, does it persistently hope for the best or is it flip and conceited, is if faith-filled or self-filled? If the words we speak (or type) cannot pass this test, if they are unkind, conceited, ill-mannered, selfish, proud, a diatribe of what’s wrong, we are not speaking from a place of love.

Here’s what else we’ve been told about love:

Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Leviticus 19:18

But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45

If we are jealous, act impatiently, are brutish, or delight in situations that prompt us to say “ain’t karma a bitch,” we do not know love. If we take it upon ourselves to “get even” with those who would do us harm, we are not coming from a place of love, but of darkness and hate. What then, do we do with hate? There is no reasoning with it, any brute force or mighty action that can stop it, because hate is not the cure for itself. There is only one antidote to hate, only one power mighty enough to stop it in its tracks: Love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

If we love one another, we don’t give up on each other. We aren’t gleeful or smug when evil things happen to others, even when they are our enemies. We continue to hope for the very best with all the patience in the universe, because that is what we have been called to do, what we’ve been commanded to do,  and the example we are expected to set as a follower of Christ.

~SLM

I heard this on the radio this morning and thought it appropriate for this post – thank you Danny Gokey for this beautiful song!

The Key to Contentment

​Sometimes it’s really hard to keep your focus where it belongs, especially when there are so many ways to be distracted. It’s hard to have confidence that things will work out, which they inevitably do, and often times better than we could have planned. We get so mired down in our anxious “what ifs” that we forget about trust, about faith, about believing the promises that we’ve been given.  
We let the things that happen in our lives, become the center of our universe. We let the countless crises of daily living overwhelm us, define us,  pulling us downward into a spiraling black hole of both the serious and the petty, until we are rife with bitterness and anger.

In times like these, when I’m worried about what seems to me to be a dead end, a hopeless situation, or when I don’t think I have the strength or courage to carry on, I try to remember what Paul says to the Philippians in chapter 4 verses 11-13. “I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and how to live when I have plenty. I’ve learned the secret of being happy at any time and in everything that happens…I can do all things though Christ, because he gives me strength.” It helps me to refocus on the tasks at hand, to concentrate on doing my very best, this day, right now, no matter the circumstances, in spite of the “shit storm” that surrounds me, to find solace in the day to day activities of life.

The point is in this: We must learn contentment, happiness. Life is filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, celebrations and disappointments, it’s the nature of the beast. These things are just weigh stations along the way, meant to hone us, temper us, points on the map of our journey, not the journey itself. They sculpt us, mold us, not define us. Satisfaction, comes from knowing that we are more than the points on our maps, and that no matter where those points take us, if we lean not on our own understanding, but God’s, we’ll get through it all.

~SLM

Do as I Say…

Funny how this seeking for a higher meaning works, just when you think you’ve got something figured out, your turn your perspective a fraction of a degree, and suddenly it’s a whole new landscape.  There are certain verses that seem to return again and again, to show you that what you thought you knew was, in reality, only a small sampling of a greater truth, a greater equation, and that’s why I’ve landed back on Isaiah 29:13, which states, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,”  It’s not just about being estranged from God, but also about duplicity; about our persistent habit of commingling words and actions, our false logic of substitution in which we assume our words and actions are interchangeable, and our expectation that others do what we cannot ourselves do.

We can say all the right things in flowery prose and elegant verse. We can talk our fool heads off about what is right, what is fair, what we think others should do, or be willing to do. We can be as socially acceptable and politically correct as the best little soldier out there, but the true test of where we live is in the heart, and while we can say anything, and oft times we actually do, our actions are the reflection of our thoughts and beliefs. The heart is where action resides. If we say we are against bullying, but bully others in order to prove they are bullies, then we become what we call, we use our lips to prove our “rightness” while showing what lives in our hearts: a bully. We can talk of peace and cooperation, we can take others to task for what they say or don’t say, but if our actions don’t back up our lips, we are nothing but liars, hypocrites.  We can talk a big game, but when it comes right down to it, our hearts reveal our true intent, our true thoughts and feelings, our true core beliefs, and how we act speaks to what is in our hearts.

Words and actions are not the same; they do not bear the same weight. While words can be illuminating, clarifying, and insightful, they can also be deceiving, misguided and false. Actions on the other hand, are like a mirror; they merely reveal and reflect who we are in our heart of hearts.

“Do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:5)

~SLM

The Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

Funny how we can surround ourselves with beauty in an environment of quietude with the right Feng Shui and all, and yet have no real peace, our minds racing at 100 miles per hour or more, our thoughts spinning out of control, weighing on us with the gravity of a black hole. Our inner selves are incongruent with the carefully created façade of peace. Many times, we claim that all we want is peace, but then we go about creating turmoil and discord by our selfish actions or careless attitude of entitlement.

It’s hard to find peace, when we sit in judgement of others, yet for some reason, we seem to try our damnedest to achieve personal peace in this manner. We think if we can point out to ourselves just how awful others are in comparison to us, we will find peace of mind. “At least I’m not like ________, and I don’t _______,” we say to ourselves to ease our discomfort, settle our minds, continually filling in the blanks, but, in reality, this type of worrisome anxiety only exacerbates the problem, it gives us everything but peace.

Peace does not come through this kind of thinking, nor does it come to us through spending time in a “peaceful” room or setting. It comes through faith, though trust in the power of providence, the power of God who works all things to the benefit of those who love him. After his death, when Christ first appeared to his disciples, he knew their minds were troubled by the trauma of what they had witnessed, by the thought of carrying on without him, by the astonishing news of the empty tomb and their unwillingness to believe. He offered them peace.

Peace is a spiritual concept, it comes from trusting in God’s sprit to take care of us, to fill us, it’s about finding that place in our inner being, where no matter how the storms of life rage about us, we are calm, assured, serene, knowing that we can just let go and be held in His embrace, in His love and care. A peacemaker is one who understands that it is God’s Holy Spirit which is the cause of true peace, and he who demonstrates this profound understanding of God’s love for us and fosters the same in his fellow man.

So, who exactly are the “peacemakers” and how do we identify them? What are peacemakers made of that they should be called God’s children? They are not always the “middle” children, the ones who can see the qualities we all share, that we all have in common, traits like love and acceptance, belonging and understanding, as psychologists would have us believe. They are not always the diplomats, the ones who encourage ceasefires and so-called peace treaties, as politicians would have us believe.  But, peacemakers are those who foster compassion, trust and understanding, the ones who show others, helping them achieve peace of mind.

Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6‭-‬7 GNB

~SLM

Sticks and Stones: The Wisdom of Minding Your Mouth

Sticks and stones may break my bones…but do we really believe names can’t hurt us? Our words, the things we say, can affect our lives in ways we can never imagine. Regardless of what the old adage claims, broken bones, though they be painful, eventually heal. But, careless or misplaced words, whether single syllabled or compound, are another story altogether. They can leave deep and life-long wounds, and as we are reminded in James 3:5-6 (MSG), “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it. It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.” Once the [word] genie is out, there’s no going back, you can’t recall it like a bad tweet, once it hits the air, the damage is done. Words are powerful tools that can open doors or lock them, unite nations or divide them, build up and encourage or tear down and destroy. “By our speech, we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke, and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell,” James continues.

Minding your mouth is a pretty big thing, when it comes to living a wisdom-filled life. In fact, shooting off our mouths is one of the biggest failings of humanity. We’re in love with idle talk and especially our own opinions. We prattle on and on without much thought about what we say, as if our words have no real meaning, and are only background noise that is easily dismissed.  We fail to see that the freeness with which we spew our every random thought, with which we are so righteous about having the “right” to say, is not always right. Instead, we throw it out there without consideration, getting so caught up in our “right to free speech” that we forget our words are alive, they have impact, force.

The unguarded tongue is more dangerous than any suicide bomber could ever be. While he may cause us physical pain, loss and suffering, an explosion of words can do far worse damage, it can break our spirit, can set us on a downward spiral of degradation and despair that only God can help and heal. “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips,” says the Psalmist in Psalm 141:3, and rightly so, since it’s what we say that saves or convicts us, that matters most. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37

~SLM

The Meek

In my quest to find wisdom through scripture, I come back again and again to certain passages. Today I’m stuck on the Sermon on the Mount and the meek. In Matthew 5:5, we are taught, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and I’m preoccupied with how we apply this teaching to ourselves, so we can live wiser, more peace-filled lives. Perhaps it would be better understood, if it read, “Blessed are the gentle, the humbly patient, for they will reap the rich reward of their calm endurance.”

This goes hand-in-glove with being “poor” in spirit. It has everything to do with humility, and it means; don’t think you’re all that, because generally, you’re not.  In fact, when we’re full of ourselves, it’s nearly impossible to be humble, let alone be patient. In truth, when the ego is inflated, all else shrinks back, all else  becomes secondary, and we’re easily offended, easily angered, easily whipped up into a frenzy of self-righteous indignation over the tiniest of perceived slights – real or imagined. We convince ourselves that others think about us above all else, plotting, acting in a certain way, or doing something to us on purpose, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. When we’re “filled with the yeast of the Pharisees,” we leave little room for meekness.

When we’re meek, we understand and accept our own limitations. We are yielding and unassuming, filled with fortitude. It takes great strength and courage to admit to ourselves (and to God) that we don’t have it all together, don’t have any clue what to do next, don’t have all the answers. But meekness also suggests that we know and understand our strengths as well. If one is quiet and gentle, unassuming and calm, it’s an indication of conviction, of certainty. Understanding our strengths and weaknesses is what gives us the poise to remain calm in the face of controversy, to intentionally accept disagreeable circumstances which are beyond our control, to be still and wait for His direction, before charging forth into questionable actions and circumstances. 

There’s a profound connection between gentleness and not thinking you’re all that, and there’s also a connection between the “fear” (as in awe) of the Lord and meekness. The “fear” of the Lord is the cause of gentleness, of humble patience. Because, respecting God and being certain of His hand gives us the quiet confidence we need to press on, to endure with gentle patience the long tunnel, keeping our eyes fixed on the light, however dim it may seem at times, confident of the tunnel’s end, and the rich reward awaiting there. 

~SLM

Whatever Happens, Be Thankful

It’s so easy for us to be thankful when Life goes the way we think it should, we say “Praise God,” or “God is good.” And it’s also easy to forget. When life smiles on us, the stars align, and we seem to dance into our future without a care, we get all full of ourselves, feel entitled, forget to be grateful, and when life throws us a curve ball, we can’t bring ourselves to it. But gratefulness is important, whatever happens.

In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul tells us to be thankful in every circumstance. No matter what the situation we find ourselves in, whether joyous and care-free or stress-filled and disastrous, we can be certain that we are exactly where we have been called to be. God has put us there. Paul tells us in Romans that all things work together for God’s good purposes. At any given time, we are where we are most needed to do honor and glory to God, even when we can’t see it. We must press on, remembering that where we find ourselves is merely a weigh station along the road, a pause, a side trip, not the final destination.

Here is the constant: God is good, and no matter how bad I’ve been, or how I perceive the circumstances that I may find myself in, He still is. So, thanking him every day for whatever life throws my way is the best way I know to be faithful to Him, to honor Him, because He has put me here, this is where he needs me most at this moment in my life.

~SLM