I and Thou: Out with the Old!

Here is my last blog post for 2021…

Goodbye 2021

Can’t wait til Next Year!

Image credit: 321horoscope.com

Global pandemic
Underestimated variants
Lost souls

Vaccinations
Unlimited supply
Saved souls

Political climate
Unrest
Misguided souls

Shopping malls
Haunted spaces
Vaccination places

Housing market
Lowered inventory
High Appreciation

Child still missing
Estranged too long
Hopeful for new beginnings

I and Thou: Belonging

Merry Christmas!

Reflection on Luke 2:22-35

Artist Credit: Jan van ‘t Hoff

Mary and Joseph head north to Bethlehem, the town of David, for a census ordered by Caesar Augustus.  Upon arrival to Joseph’s hometown, Mary gives birth to Jesus.  The familiar Christmas cast expands to include Simeon and Anna in this chapter.  Both of these older adults proclaim Jesus as Messiah.  In this passage,

28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31   which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:  32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Luke 2:28-32

Simeon’s proclamation is his “ah-ha” moment, and it speaks to us about salvation, in other words, belonging. 

Where do you belong?

Joseph belongs to the house of David, similar to us belonging to the home of our parents.  And our children belong to us.  So, where does all of this “belonging” fit in?

Luke does not tell us the lineage of Simeon. And maybe that is for a good reason. I’d like to think that Simeone is you and me!

A recent study found when social relationships provide a sense of belonging; people feel life has more meaning.* We know some of us are more social than others due to different personalities, levels of mood, amount of energy, and time.    Whether we feel social or not, we can know with certainty that we do belong to the family of God. Why? Because God loves us. Nothing can separate that love from us. God’s love is eternal; it can bring us a sense of belonging and contentment. 

As parents, we hope our children have a sense of belonging – to their heavenly Father and us. Earthly relationships can be full of disappointment and sadness when loved ones choose to be “un” belong themselves – stagnant, separated, divorced, or estranged.   God never does this; like a parent, God accepts us and loves us unconditionally.  This unconditional love makes us feel loved and provides us with a broad sense of belonging in life.

To those of you out in this world who have turned your back on unconditional love – maybe it’s time to turn back toward it again? Thoughts?

  • Human families – bringing us a sense of belonging is crucial in all aspects of life.

Action:  Discuss belonging and separation with a loved one.

*Sense of Belonging Increases Meaningfulness of life. (n.d.).  PSYBLOG. (Lambert et al., 2013).

I and Thou: Traditions

Photo Credit: Sarah Loft fineartamerica.com

Zechariah 8:18-23

18 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.” 20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.” 23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

Thought: Zechariah, one of the Old Testament prophets, writes about sad and challenging fasts and how joyful and pleasant feasts replace the sad fasts. He tells people a message of God’s love for His people, reminiscent of holidays when families gather around a table to share a meal.

What holidays do you and your family celebrate?

Families make plans and celebrate all types of holidays such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Labor Day, Holi, or Christmas. Some families come together each year for a family reunion while others celebrate a holiday unique to them. Some host Hawaiian Luaus, Memorial Day picnics, and others watch fireworks and picnic on the 4th of July.

Tradition, according to Wikipedia is, “a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.” * Traditions are true because they are believed to be true. In the case of Passover, angels of death passed over the Israelites, who had brushed the lamb’s blood, over their doorframes. (Exodus 12:7). God saved the Israelites, and the tradition of celebrating Passover acknowledges the event and commemorates it.

Traditions can last thousands of years or last only a few. However long a tradition continues, it creates memories. Holiday gatherings take place year after year and our children expect a house full of relatives. Right? Yet, we often forget how separation and divorce changes tradition. In some cases, it ends. Families no longer gather as years pass.

Maybe this post will change the minds of couples who are no longer couples – to forget about themselves for a day and to think about tradition, not for their sakes, but for the sake of their children. Go ahead and invite your former spouse to your holiday meal – I dare you!

Thankfully, the truth of God’s love is eternal and not measured by years of tradition or mistakes. It is simply the truth. The truth, as the prophet Zechariah wrote, in the last days, people from all nations will want to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. Let’s keep traditions alive so we all can have the opportunity to touch Jesus’ hem. Shall we?

Divine gifts – sharing religious traditions with family opens us up to experience grace and truth.

Action: What makes your family tradition special?

* Tradition. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from the Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tradition

I and Thou: Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Japanese cranes by CheetahArt on DeviantArt

God of heaven and earth, hear our prayer…

Thank you for all the abundant blessings you bestow upon us…

Ability to gaze in the eyes of a newborn.

Majestic feeling of a dolphin jumping within arms reach.

Gracefulness of a crane walking nearby.

Muscles that kayak under tunnels of deep luscious green vines.

Active minds that enjoy playing games with family and friends.

Hands that built caves in Mesa Verde thousands of years ago.

Bountiful food prepared for family dinners.

Creativity expressed through birthday-themed celebrations.

Gentle breezes felt on a boat ride.

Feeling truly loved.

Instead of falling into the hype of the holiday season, what would it look like if you took a step back and pondered what really is essential to you? Is it to mend a relationship? To spend more time with your children? Your parents? Or is it to reach out to someone less fortunate who could really use a helping hand?

Let’s focus on more simple ways of celebrating the holidays in this season of Thanksgiving. Shall we?

I and Thou – Surrender

Fall into The Bible – Part 2

Artwork by:  Miwa Robbins

In this blog post, I have taken the liberty of looking at random phrases in The Bible where the word “fall” is used. Go ahead and read each of them:

Fall from your heads – Jer. 13:18

Fall at your side – Psalm 91:7

Fall down at your feet – Rev. 3:9

Fall from your secure position – 2 Peter 3:17

Fall prey to your power – Ez. 13:21

Fall on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines – Ez. 35:8

Now, re-read them. What do you see? How do you feel? At first, the word submission comes to my mind.  Yet, maybe surrendering is the better word.  In Julie Lopes’ blog, Dancing with God, she reflects on the meaning of submission and surrendering. She says that surrendering is an act of love where we respond to an invitation, whereas submission has a power and control element.  So, with that, we will look at these phrases collectively from a surrendering viewpoint.

Falling is an act of surrender. Surrendering to God, oneself, and to others. In the first three verses, there is the commonality of anatomy – heads, side, feet.  What do you see or feel? 

For me, there is a sense of Jesus. Jesus dying on the cross, hanging his head, and being pierced in his side and through his feet. I see a total surrendering. Surrendering of physical body and spirit. Jesus takes his last breath, and in that, he is providing salvation to the world. Abba Father, Why have you forsaken me?  Jesus surrendered as an invitation for us to surrender our wants, desires, and purpose to God.

The fourth and fifth verses are analogous to the wealthy man who must sell all of his possessions to “get eternal life.” In this case, the surrendering is his tangible assets. Jesus tells the man if he wants to be perfect, he would need to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor. Scripture says, “he went away sad,” leading to believe he chose his possessions over entering the Kingdom of God. 

How often do we feel so secure, confident, and powerful that we would not want to give that up? Some of us work hard in our careers wishing to get to the next leadership position, and we don’t. Promotions are sometimes given to those who don’t work as hard. Or those who have less tenure? Or, perhaps to the person with the right pedigree, not the one who actually has the skills and experience. Falling from a secure position requires trust. And faith. Often, we fail to see what is ahead of us, or at least we fail in trusting God to direct our lives. Speaking from experience, God wants the details, and God wants alone time with you. We need to place our lives, position, power, and children in God’s hands. Then, we can enter into eternal life. Essentially, we need to “die” to self and “live” to faith.

We can’t get up unless we have fallen. The last verse is speaking to all of us. We will all have hills and valleys in life. In other words, trials and tribulations are part of it. And to overcome these obstacles, we must fall into them, and through them, we can come out the other side as more robust and more faithful people.  

In this Fall season of thanksgiving, I invite you to “fall.” “Fall” into your hills and valleys, and lying in the depths of the ravine, cry out to God. Give God your everything.  Only then you will be able to stand tall, brush yourself off, and spread God’s love to others.

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I and Thou: Divine Valentine

Is Valentine’s Day your favorite holiday?

It is mine!

Much of it has to do with the gratitude I have in my heart for life itself and where I am today. It is the realization that this love comes from God. Agape love is divine love – a pure love between humans and their Creator. A Christ-like love can only exist within the context of faith. An illustration of agape love is in John 3:16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16
It is this agape love that lives within each of us. And, it is up to us to know what to do with it. We show others this love through simple actions. A warm smile. A hug. A thank you. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to think of how you can offer your love to others each and every day.

Valentine’s Day is often thought of as a holiday for lovers. It is so much more than that. In my mid-twenties, I was not in a romantic relationship on Valentine’s Day; so, my friend Wendy and I decided to go to Atlantic City for the weekend. Wendy had a friend who had a condo in Brigantine, actually an island, the city right over Atlantic City’s breezeway. The closest casino at the time was Trump’s Castle. So, off we went. I remember the inside of the casino looking majestic and castle-like. It was quite stunning. The point in this story is that Wendy and I had a great time. It was a time and place where I realized that I didn’t have to be in a romantic relationship to enjoy the love in the air on Valentine’s Day. So, for this Valentine’s Day in 2021, I wish all of you agape love. The love that will never fail. The love of our divine Creator.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I and Thou – Global Pandemic Part 3

Christmas Season 2020

Online services
Music streaming
Celebrations by zoom
Dinners at home
Small gatherings, if any

Here are updates from the post on 4/13/20.

In Arkansas…

April 13, 2020

  • 1,280 confirmed Covid19 cases | 27 deaths

December 24, 2020

  • 176,744 confirmed Covid19 cases | 2,959 deaths

In Massachusetts…

April 13, 2020

  • 25,475 confirmed Covid 19 cases | 756 deaths

December 24, 2020

  • 335,731 confirmed Covid19 cases | 11,752 deaths

In New Jersey…

April 13, 2020

  • 61,000+ confirmed Covid19 cases | 2,350 deaths

December 25, 2020

  • 458,900 confirmed Covid19 cases | 16,650 deaths

In New York…

April 13, 2020

  • 188,00+ confirmed Covid19 cases | 9,000+ deaths

December 27, 2020 9:45 a.m.

  • 920,171 confirmed Covid19 case | 36,870 deaths

In the United States…

April 13, 2020

  • 558,000 confirmed Covid19 cases  | 22,000 deaths

December 27, 2020

  • 19,103,992 confirmed Covid19 cases | 335,265 deaths
Artwork: Tree Tapestry by Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt

Revive Us


May God mourn with us the lives that have been taken,
Provide us with comfort and care,
Instill community in all of us of near and far.
Revive us, O Lord
Mark us by your Holy Spirit,
Speak to us and make it clear,
So we can fulfill the mission you have set.

I and Thou – Better to Receive

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12 & 13

Artwork Credit: Faith Evans-Sells http://www.faithevansells.com

You enjoy holiday shopping. Don’t you? You aim to select the perfect gift for a loved one. Best of all, you love giving the gift and watching it be unwrapped.  All you want is to see the joy and excitement. Lately, I’ve been thinking about gift-giving. I used to think that it more suitable to give than to receive. Yet, in John 1:12 & 13, we see that it is much better to receive than to give. God has a way of turning our thinking upside down. In this passage, we see that our faith isn’t enough. We need to also receive. Receive God. Receive salvation. It is free for you and me. So, you may ask, how do I know if I am a child of God? Your logical mind may agree that there is a God. What does your heart say? It is the heart that causes your behavior to gradually change over time. When you strive to be Christ-like in your daily life, you become a child a God through your acceptance of God’s love.

I and Thou – Memorial Day

 

Today is Memorial Day. A day to remember people who have lost their lives for the sake of freedom. Yet today is different. Something seems radically different. A renewed sense of hope is emerging as the country slowly begins to open back up from the ravages of the global pandemic. Be cautious. Life is short. Every day is precious.IMG_0528

  • Take time to reflect. Pay homage to veterans. Mourn with the families of nearly 100,000 who have lost loved ones over the past few months.
  • Take time to connect. Reach out to family and loved ones with a phone call.
  • Order a surprise gift by mail. Write and send off a letter. Most of us have had our lives turned upside down.
  • Take time to enjoy. Stop and smell the flowers. Notice how many shades of yellow are in a daffodil. Count how many different trees you see in a park.
  • Take time to listen; hear the birds chirp and frogs croak. What types of sounds do you hear in the morning? Or, at night? Hear the fire snap in the fire pit. Listen to the owl hoot far off in the distance.
  • Take time to see. Watch the clouds glide by. See the stars and the leaves sway back and forth.

We mourn together as a nation. Lay aside political views. Honor those who have lost their lives in service to our county.  Let’s learn from past mistakes, so we can move forward together toward a new normal.