Giving Thanks for Water, Punishment, and Rejecting the Devil

Last night when giving Abby a bath, she does what she always does and waves to the water as it is draining and says “bye bye.”  It is quite adorable.  Normally I just smile and watch her for a second, then take her of to get changed.  But last night I found myself asking “Did you thank the water?”  Abby just kept waving, but I started thinking about why I asked the question.

St. Francis is my favorite of the saints (although I admit that he’s also more or less the only one I know anything about) and he always referred to animals and the Sun and Moon and even death in familial terms – brother and sister.  Each a part of the family of God, each carrying their own importance and value because they merely exist, instead of being seen as ways in which they could be used.  So maybe I was channeling a little bit of Francis when I asked the question.

The water is a wonderful gift from God, so giving thanks to God for water – that which cleanses us, brings enjoyment with playing in it, and nourishes us – makes perfect sense.  But I do wonder if we might take care of what we have more if we begin to see things in the more Franciscan view, where we are indeed interconnected.  Even St. Paul reminds us that all of Creation, even the soil itself, is awaiting the coming of the Lord when everything will be redeemed.  Will we care more for the water if we not only see how it helps us, but also begin to see it in a way where it should be respected no matter what?

This jump can seem far too far to make, and is something I’m still working through in my own mind, but I do give thanks to the water for cleansing Abby, taking away all the dirt she got stomping in the mud and everything else, and giving her so much joy with splashing and scooping and everything else.  Let us always give thanks for such a wonderful part of our lives.

Speaking of water, don’t forget all of our brothers and sisters in Flint who suffer every day because they do not have access to clean water.  Support them by sending funds to   Salem Water, c/o Southeast Michigan Synod, 8115 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, MI 48214.  Every week Salem Lutheran gives out semis worth of water to the people of Flint and also supplies filters to help families have access to cleaner water.  This need is far from over.

Readings!

1st Reading – 2 Samuel 13:23-29 – Absalom plots and fulfills the murder of his half-brother Amnon.  David is told that Absalom killed all of David’s sons, but finds out it was just one.  Absalom goes into hiding and David’s heart goes out to him.

Why is it that we have law?  So that there can be healing and closure and so that there are penalties for one’s actions when they harm another.  Amnon had raped Absalom’s sister, Tamar, but was not punished because David loved Amnon.  It also doesn’t help that David was a rapist too, and because of it Nathan prophesied that the sword would never leave David’s house.  Because of David’s inaction, even more relationships break down to the point that Absalom has his brother killed, and will eventually usurp the throne for a while, until Absalom does die in battle with David’s men, who David then kills for killing his son….  Yes, the Bible can be as bad as a soap opera.

We see this today when there is a giant uproar about Brock Turner only getting 6 months for raping a girl, all because he is a swimmer and being in jail might have negative effects on him.  Perhaps the problem is that we don’t understand how much rape affects its victims, or people love to blame the victim instead of the culprit.  I don’t know what it is, but when the law is unable or unwilling to give proper justice, relationships break down… everything breaks down.

It is our responsibility to let the Law work, not to make sure people get away with everything.  While it is true that only God can judge us for what is to come after this life, God also gives the law and judges in order to maintain order and relationships in this world.

Our other responsibility is to love one another and to respect one another.  So forms the 10 commandments, which help form a better society.  So act in love, but also know that sometimes love has to be tough for the benefit of all.   While there is forgiveness for all, there are always consequences as well.

2nd Reading – James 4:1-7 – Do you know why you are in conflict?  Because of your cravings!  You want and you take and you kill.  You are Adulterers!  You love the world and its promises, not God!  Give yourselves to God and reject the devil, and the devil will flee from you.

Is this not something that we need to hear, even today?  Have we really matured much since these early Christians?  We live in a culture that says “if I have more toys, I win and I may be happy!”  “Keeping up with the Jones’” defines how we live, always looking at what our neighbors have and wishing we had as much as them.  Or maybe it’s how much money we can hoard, how many people we can bed,  or how many friends we can accumulate.  The world is filled with things that call us away from God, and being the sinners that we are, we listen and follow the siren’s song.

But we are called to be much more.  We are called to be the servants of God, to look the devil right in the face and say “Go Away!”  God gives us strength to live lives that are filled with purpose, instead of the hollow attempts to fill ourselves with garbage.  It can be so hard to do, to turn our backs on what the world tells us, but we need to do it so that we can fully love God.

Prayer

Lord, we live in a world of chaos and pain, but also one that has so much joy to bring about in our lives.  Cleanse us of our sin today, guide us in your ways and give us the strength to follow you.  Amen.

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Why Boardgames?

When I was growing up, my family life (when we could stay home) was centered around two things – the shows we watched and the games we played.    So many memories fill my mind of sitting around a table or on the floor playing Trivial Pursuit, Checkers, and a host of others.  One New Years Eve in particular, my brother was out with friends, so my parents and I stayed up and played 1313 Dead End Drive.  I’m sure that I complained about wanting to go out with friends too, but that night still sticks out to me as one of my favorite New Year’s Eves, playing a game with my parents about murdering each other horribly.

That night joins so many others, where every Holiday would end with everyone around the table playing card games, betting with nickels and dimes, and my grandparent’s generation insisting that the kids should get all the money, even if we had lost everything during the game.  Playing movie trivia and my biological family doing so well, while all who married into the  family sat around befuddled (we love them all anyway.)  One of my greatest feats in my life is anytime I have been able to wear my mom down enough to play Monopoly, even though I now understand why she did it so begrudgingly.

Board games and card games have united my family throughout the years and brought joy to so many days.  More than the video games we’ve played and more than the TV shows and movies we have watched and loved together, these games are shared experiences where we could play and have fun and talk about our lives.  We still play and we learn new ones all the time, and I always look forward to that time where we get to relax and enjoy one another.  Just like our faith, these are experiences that we can pass on that last the test of time, that last through the next new invention and we don’t have to worry about backwards compatibility.  As long as have we have each other, we have these games and we can have joy.

Music: Gift from God

                Music has always been a big part of my life.  Growing up I’ve had a wide variety of musical tastes, being raised on Billy Joel and Neil Diamond and such (and I still love Billy Joel) to years spent only listening to “Christian music” to my punk rock days of high school with The Offspring, No Use For a Name, and so many more, to Pink and Broadway musicals.  There are a few styles I just can’t seem to get into, like full on Gospel and Country, but such a wide variety of tastes have filled my sense for years and helped me to get through the hard times of life and helped make the mood even brighter in times of joy.

Martin Luther has been quoted as saying “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”  Music has this way of filling us and sticking in our memories.  I’ve been listening to a CD mix of punk songs I made back in high school and really haven’t listened to since, and I can still sing along with most of them.  It sticks with us, as anyone who gets a song stuck in their head knows (and shows on children’s shows are meant to do.)

Music is a gift from God to bring joy into our lives and to express all of our pains and our joys. Music is one of the most cathartic things out there, allowing us to release anger and frustration and fears, as well as express our love for someone else.  Music can unite us, as we sing our hymns together on Sunday or when protestors join together in song.  Let us rejoice in this gift and give thanks to our God for giving us such a beautiful art form…. Even country.

 

1st Reading – Isaiah 56:1-8 – Maintain justice and do what is right.  I will bless the eunuchs and the foreigners, all who choose to please God.  The Lord gathers the outcasts of Israel, and all those who have not already been gathered.

I really love this passage from Isaiah.  It has been said that whenever we draw a line to say where God is and is not, we will find that God is on the opposite side of the line, away from us.  God does not care about our pasts, God does not care about national boundaries, nor does God care that we may be “different” than what society says we should be.  All God cares about is that we are God’s.  All of us God’s children, red and yellow, black and white we are precious in his sight.  Add into that every other division that people love that add into the mix, and we can say that indeed all are precious in God’s sight.

So how are we meant to serve and love one another?  We go past the boundary lines, we go to all of our brothers and sisters who have been historically neglected and cast aside and say “you are loved, how may we serve you?  How may we accompany on your journey of life?”  Not belittling with pity nor coming from on high and saying “I shall save you!”  But instead with empathy and genuine love, we are called to see each other with the eyes of God, to see that we are all united.  As Luther said, “we are all beggars.”  We are all in need of God’s love and forgiveness, so shall we share that love and forgiveness and hope with all.

2nd Reading – Mark 7:24-30 – Jesus heals the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter after she claims that even the dogs get to eat the scraps from under the table.

Always a hard reading, no matter which Gospel it is in, because Jesus either directly or indirectly refers to this woman as a dog, which never comes across well.  Let’s be clear that it is never appropriate to refer to another human being as a dog, unless it’s Sandor Clegane in Game of Thrones, because he takes that name on for himself.  Or Snoop Dogg, because once again, that’s his name.

Anyway, what makes this important is that here Jesus’ mission begins to take on a different flavor.  Instead of focusing only on the Jews, he will now venture out more and interact with more Gentiles.  A vast majority of the time, in order for us to change our mindsets we have to have a personal experience, more than just facts and figures.  We need someone or something to shock us into a new rhythm.  I’ve gone through it, going from a fairly fundamentalist attitude to who I am today because of the classes I’ve been a part of and the people I have met along the way.

My question for all of you is who have you met along the way that has changed how you see God/your faith?

Psalm – Psalm 5 – Lord, listen to my cries!  My persecutors are filled with lies and are bloodthirsty, and you hate wickedness.  Give me refuge, O God, and make them pay for their sins!

I love the psalms for being so open with our emotions and thoughts when we are talking to God and praying.  We have been wronged, those people are evil, protect me and smite them!  Such a visceral reaction.  And there are times where it may indeed be true.  But the vast majority of the time we are both in the wrong and both need forgiveness and healing.  The good news is that God can take all that frustration and we can go to the Lord in our fears and anger.  God can take it all.  But God also opens us up to a life filled with love that allows for growth once that anger has passed.

Prayer

Lord, you give us so much in this life and you help us through every pain and uplift us in every joy.  You are the source of the greatest inspirations in this world, and keep inspiring us to create, to unite, and to love.  Amen.

Welcome everyone!

Welcome to the new site!  Together we are going to explore a variety of topics, but mostly we are going to focus on our relationship with God and the World (devotions) and Board Games (Board).  Why those two?  Well I could say it’s because they both can greatly influence how we interact with each other (true) or because we can see God in the creativity of the game designers (true) or the games we play can give us insight into our connection with God and one another (also true)….  but really it’s just because these are two things that I find rather intriguing and both can bring people together when done with love and grace, even in disagreement… or can divide us and destroy relationships when done without love and grace.

Expect to see devotions on Thursdays or Fridays, and my other thoughts sprinkled throughout.  Welcome, once again.