Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

For I Was Hungry…

My maternal great grandfather sought refuge in this country, searching for work, an income. My paternal great, great, great grandfather sought refuge in this country to escape religious persecution.

Today, many seek refuge in this United States of America due to fear of violence, gangs, drug cartels, dictators, and so much more.

Inside the lower pedestal of The Statue of Liberty is this sonnet by Emma Lazarus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”[11]

This poem was written as a donation for an auction of art and literary works[3] conducted by the “Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty” to raise money for the pedestal’s construction. “Bartholdi’s gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to the principles of international republicanism, but ‘The New Colossus’ reinvented the statue’s purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world.”[16]. The swarms of immigrants knocking on the Eastern shore of this United States quickly turned the statue into a welcoming-harbor greeter.

So I write this with a heavy heart which I have held for years, more so, these past four years. I have seen pictures of migrants, refugees, young, old, with all range of skin shade pigmentation standing, crying, grasping, yelling, crawling, swimming, climbing, and drowning to get into this country. Babies and children of all ages torn from parents’ arms. Four years later, we have 628 children (now) whose parents cannot be found (although just this past week of December 1, 2020, knowledge of phone numbers has been brought to our attention). Even though, my heart breaks. Tears roll down my face as I type these words.

This is not the America that my grandparents sought those many years ago.

Yes, we have had problems throughout our history. We have lived with segregation, racial injustice, the KKK. Women have had to fight for the right to vote, for equal pay, for the ability to obtain a job that once only men held. We had the Civil War…the South against the North. We have taken land and rights from Indigent Peoples. Yes, this nation is far from perfect.

My great, great grandfather was Italian. He was not liked by the immigrants who came before the Italians. I have Irish immigrants and Scottish immigrants as my kin. They were not liked by their predecessors. It seemed like each group wanted to close the gates, not allowing anyone else in to this country. (This still happens as people move from state to state or area to area, desiring to close the gate once they have found a beautiful place.).

Yet, my mother grew up in Chicago at the turn of the last century in a neighborhood made up of Italians, Irish, Russians, Polish, Jewish, Catholics, Protestants. They loved one another. My grandmother even raised the 6 Bates girls who became orphans when both Russian parents died. Grandma was Irish/English/German. Mama loved to help a widow and her daughter make dinner because the food was Jewish, something different from her own fare. During the Depression, if a family could afford to make bread or soup or both, they would share with those who did not have enough. It was the way it was on Mama’s block of immigrants.

The United States of America seems not to be the UNITED states in some substantial aspects. We are broken.

That melanin of the skin is so distinguishable, not only by black and brown and white, but red and blue, bigot and humanitarian, racist/supremacist and equalitarian/humanitarian, and on and on!

Upon looking up the antonyms of several words, I found “bigot” to mean “one who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” Words of opposite definition of “bigot” include: liberal, moderate, conservative, middle-of-the-road, militant. Does that not cover just about all of us? So how can we all come from various and unique backgrounds and be a united people? The real question is…how can we NOT?

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

I want to love unconditionally. That is hard. But I want to.

I desire to be united with my brothers and sisters, my neighbors, my church family. Speaking out about concerns and issues can bring unrequested wrath from people I love. I do not handle that well. AT ALL!

God has called us to love.

By His Word, God leads us in the ways in which He wants us to walk. Again and again! …

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You?  And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:31-40

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

To keep oneself unstained from the world” … “to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”… oh, I need Your help, Father. Please hold me still, guarding the words of my mouth, whether verbally or through the written word. I am sorry for words I have uttered recently that drew unexpected words from others. Forgive me, LORD, even though they were words I am feeling. I need to not be drawn into these worldly concerns. Your ways are infinitely better, LORD. Infinitely. In the Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” Zechariah 7:9-10

learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
Isaiah 1:17

Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. Jeremiah 22:3

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Father God, I am sorry for those times and situations when I betrayed You because I did not love, did not give, did not do unto You for I did not do unto the least of those in need. I am truly sorry. As I walk through life for the remainder of my days, please guide my steps, my words, and my actions…that I would be obedient to Your call. I know through my mother’s own stories of our relatives that times were not always easy being a stranger in a strange land. I also know through my mother’s voice that people did learn to get along, to love one another, to wrap their arms around everyone no matter the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their temperament. She taught me and my sisters to love as You teach us. I pray for this nation and this world. I pray for the emigrants who have left their home country and are desiring to enter a new country, possibly the USA. I pray, that one day soon, the opportunity, the gates, will be opened to them. I pray for the DACA children/adults who were brought into the USA innocently with a parent and have known only the United States as their home. I pray for those 628 children who are still in custody in the United States whose parents cannot be found. You know where every single one is. Please unite those precious children with their parents, LORD. They are lambs who need the Shepherd to reunite them with those who bore them. I pray for everyone who is running away from a scary, violent situation who need a new home. Father, You know each one of them around the world. I ask You to guide us as a people to wrap our arms around them. I pray all in the Name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

[11] The New Colossus – Lehman, David, ed. (2006). The Oxford Book of American Poetry. Oxford University Press. p. 184. OCLC 62697134

[3] Sutherland, Cara A (2003), The Statue of Liberty: The Museum of the City of New York, Barnes & Noble, p. 77, ISBN0-7607-3890-4auction of art and literary work; Mark Twain also contributed.

[16] Auster, Paul (2005), “NYC = USA”, Collected Prose: Autobiographical Writings, True Stories, Critical Essays, Prefaces, and Collaborations with Artists, Picador, p. 508, ISBN0-312-42468-X.

Graphic of Mark 12:30-31: https://www.heartlight.org

Graphic of Matthew 25: https://www.alittleperspective.com/february-04-bible-reading-2020/

Graphic of James 1:27: https://www.heartlight.org

Devotionals · God's Word

Harmony

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A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.  A psalm of David.

How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!

For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the LORD has pronounced his blessing,
even life everlasting.  Psalm 133:1-3

יַחַד

yachad

properly, a unit, i.e. unitedly:—alike, at all (once), both, likewise, only, (al-) together, withal

In Hebrew, the word for harmony is often translated unity or all together.

C. H. Spurgeon writes this of Psalm 133:2:

“In order that we may the better behold brotherly unity David gives us a resemblance, so that as in a glass we may perceive its blessedness. It has a sweet perfume about it, comparable to that precious ointment with which the first High Priest was anointed at his ordination. It is a holy thing, and so again is like the oil of consecration which was to be used only in the Lord’s service. What a sacred thing must brotherly love be when it can be likened to an oil which must never be poured on any man but on the Lord’s high priest alone! It is a diffusive thing: being poured on his head the fragrant oil flowed down upon Aaron’s head, and thence dropped upon his garments till the utmost hem was anointed therewith; and even so doth brotherly love extend its benign power and bless all who are beneath its influence. Hearty concord brings a benediction upon all concerned; its goodness and pleasure are shared in by the lowliest members of the household; even the servants are the better and the happier because of the lovely unity among the members of the family. It has a special use about it; for as by the anointing oil Aaron was set apart for the special service of Jehovah, even so those who dwell in love are the better fitted to glorify God in his church. The Lord is not likely to use for his glory those who are devoid of love; they lack the anointing needful to make them priests unto the Lord. “That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard.” This is a chief point of comparison, that as the oil did not remain confined to the place where it first fell, but flowed down the High Priest’s hair and bedewed his beard, even so brotherly love descending from the head distils and descends, anointing as it runs, and perfuming all it lights upon. … Christian affection knows no limits of parish, nation, sect, or age. Is the man a believer in Christ? Then he is in the one body, and I must yield him an abiding love. Is he one of the poorest, one of the least spiritual, one of the least lovable? Then he is as the skirts of the garment, and my heart’s love must fall even upon him. Brotherly love comes from the head, but falls to the feet. Its way is downward. It “ran down,” and it “went down:” love for the brethren condescends to men of low estate, it is not puffed up, but is lowly and meek. This is no small part of its excellence: oil would not anoint if it did not flow down, neither would brotherly love diffuse its blessing if it did not descend.”

With the turmoil and hatred and violence we see all around this world, I am drawn to this beautiful word, harmony.  I so desire that we ALL could live in harmony.  I want to see everyone as my sister, my brother, my friend.  I want love to filter through each one of us to all.  Oh, I have these wishes and hopes for all who live on this earth.  Am I asking too much?

Jesus said these words to His Father before it was His time to go away from His disciples, from this earth:

I am in them and You are in Me.  May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me.  John 17:23

He desired this for us all.

In the Greek, the words harmony and unity draw Christ into this oneness.

εἷς

heis

one, adhere to Christ to make one person, gather together into one

I love this word picture of adhering to Christ…making us one person.

Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight.  Romans 12:16

Living this way does not mean everyone must be exactly alike or think the same thoughts.  God created us each as His own creation.  He wove us in our mother’s womb as one-of-a-kind.  Our skin, hair, facial features, bodily shapes, talents…everything about us are one-of-a-kind.  So living in unity or harmony is to be who God created us to be…our very selves, yet walk in the ways that God would have us go.  He asks us to be kind and love one another, not just to those we want to love…but all.  We can love yet not like an action or behavior of another.  We are to forgive, to wipe the dust from our feet, to turn the other cheek, bless them through the image of Christ that we are to portray.  May we see them as He sees them, I pray.

Music is made up of many notes along scales.  There are flats and sharps, minor keys and major keys.  There are white keys and black keys on a piano. When music is played or sung, it can be harmonious.  The sounds are beautiful from high to low.  The music notes are individual but together, they get along, melding together into one piece.  Each note does not get huffy about another and go their own way.  They work together in one accord.

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As people, we should want to live as musical notes, united in the outcome of every beat.  We should want to sound beautiful together.  This should be like our way of living…in harmony.  God wants to see His children living in unity, in one accord.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 15:5-6

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  Colossians 3:14

Oh, these things are hard, yet, in Christ, they are not because the Holy Spirit is our guide.  Depending upon Him gives us strength, ability, and love so that we can bless others, speak the Truth, love as Christ loves.  Jesus said:

“I can do nothing on My own.  As I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.”  John 5:30

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothingJohn 15:6

Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing…NOTHING!  It is through Him that this harmony, unity can happen.

harmony

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  1 Peter 3:8-12

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-13

Father God, I lift up this world to You.  There is so much discord.  It saddens me and hurts too.  I want all to be under Your umbrella, sweetly receiving the oil of brotherly love.  I want each of us to walk in Your ways and to know that You desire peace among us.  I am sorry for things I may say or do that hurt You.  I am saddened for that which I see around me whether it be on media or between people at the store.  Oh, that I can praise You for Your grace and love cropping up here and there around this place I am calling home now.  There is some brotherly love, care and kindness, respect and politeness.  May it grow and envelop this city, this state, this country, and this world.  May we live together as one…all in one accord.  I pray in the Name of Your Holy Son.  Amen. 

 

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Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Unite My Heart, O LORD

undivided-heart

 Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name. 
Psalm 86:11

יָחַד

yachad

to be (or become) one:—join, unite

Reading this Psalm recently, the first word of the last line really touched me…UNITE…Unite my heart.  This phrase is about singleness of heart, a one-track heart, an undivided heart…focused upon God, and God Alone.

Is that possible?

Undivided

David called upon God to unite his heart.  He asked God to do this for Him so that he would, could fear His Name.  He asked God for this unity of heart so he could revere the One Who called him to be king.  He asked God to close any gaps that his heart may have had so he would stand in awe of the God Who called David a man after His heart.

“And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” Acts 13:22 (ref.: 1 Samuel 13:14)

God created this heart of mine so that I would, could love Him, honor Him, adore Him, and praise Him.  I am to be focused upon Him with this oneness of heart.  Yet I have this broken, divided heart because I live in this fallen world.  I don’t mean for it to be this way.  I try to focus on God and God Alone.  Yet, my heart can lose sight and track of Him because I am looking everywhere but to Him for peace, love, gentleness, joy, and so much more.  Oh, that I would turn from my own ways and look only to Him, always.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.  Psalm 86:12

Oh, what I am able to do when my heart is united, when it is one whole instead of two or many pieces.  I will praise Him.  I will love Him.  I will glorify my God with all of my heart.  He wants all of me so that He can use all of me in this world.  Oh, how this world needs Him!  Oh, my!  How it needs God!

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Father God, I pray that You will unite my heart into one whole piece wholly desirous of You.  I wish to focus upon only You.  When I am at this place,  LORD, I can see only You and, then, through Your love, your heart, I can see so much more clearly.  Your clarity becomes mine in those precious moments.  I can love this world in which You have placed me with an undivided heart.  Oh, my LORD, unite my heart to be undivided and willingly, lovingly directed to You.  May this be so in the Name of Jesus.  I pray, O LORD.  I pray.  Amen. 

beblacksig

Graphic #1:  http://chuckbalsamo.com/2011/01/an-undivided-heart/

Graphic #2: http://ncccnj.com/pages/category/podcasts/messages/amy-minnich

Graphic #3: http://www.make-my-christian-life-work.com/