While taking a walk, a sign reading, “Ivy League Doctors in Media”, a small town in eastern Pennsylvania caught my eye. Just the day before I’d attended the commencement ceremony of an Ivy league school in which the commencement speaker’s address was quite engaging. She did mention the fact that having a degree from this school was quite an accomplishment and would open doors, but she spent more time speaking about relationships and the importance of using this key to unlock the way to success. So what’s wrong with the sign? Perhaps nothing, if you heard that address and you were able to make the connection that an Ivy League education translates to those doctors’ willingness to truly know their patients. However, if that’s important to you and you didn’t hear the address, you would have to make an assumption, take a leap of faith that these doctors in fact heard a similar commencement address, took it to heart and built a successful practice founded on their desire to build relationships. I have to admit, although I did hear the address – I didn’t take that leap. The first thing that came to mind was perhaps their assumption that the institution was more important to someone like myself who might be looking for a doctor. However, I must also admit that if I was in need of a doctor, out of curiosity I probably would have reached out. No doubt, Ivy League is one of the best (certainly among the oldest), but I still don’t know know you from a can a paint and the only way I can tell if a can of paint has any quality regardless of the brand is if I open it up and use it. Only after a period of time will I know how well it holds up. I recall thousands of Ivy League graduates on that field and not all of them were adorned with those honor chords, representing the best of this quality education. In fact there were far more who had no honor chords than those who did. How do I know whether these doctors were among the best of the best or judging from the sign, among the “slackers” who think that merely having an Ivy League education is enough. Knowledge as we know, even in its purest and rarest form, does not measure up pure compassion, empathy or more importantly, relational sensibilities. After having heard that commencement address to undoubtedly a group of the best and brightest students of this time, when it comes to professions it would in part, certainly ease my mind to find someone with the knowledge and the know how, but deep down the other part of what’s most important to me is that the person truly cares. This simply can’t be done by the yardstick of knowledge. One must be willing to reach out as well as be willing to find ways and allow others to reach in. Don’t ask me to trust you solely based on what you know. No one has an open and honest relationship with an institution. Only people can do that. Meet me where I am and together let us build a better humanity that does not cloud one another’s expectation nor make assumptions about who we are and what we have to offer. Let the comfort of us knowing one another in relationship be the true asset and the knowledge simply be the fringe benefit of our lives. For me, it is in this way that I come to understand God, through Christ’s relationships, not by the fact that they called him rabbi or teacher. It is also in this way that I believe we are all called. Every individual needs other individuals (Susan Powers, Commencement Address 2015 U of PA). It’s as simple as that, a golden rule often interpreted as a permeable understanding. But we can not afford to forget or even allow it to become full of holes for our own purposes, because in the end none of us will be remembered or measured solely by what we know but rather in community and how we made a positive difference in the lives of one another. It is possible to have both and that in my opinion is true Ivy League.
While it’s still January, I figure it’s not too late to re-think the commitments I made at the turn of the New Year. A series of events have caused me to come to a fuller understanding of my relationships with God, family and the world. Last night I had a conversation with a powerhouse of a friend and all I could think of was how much I wanted to be her when I grew up. Then this morning, after I watched an episode of “Charmed” (yes, it’s one of my favorite good vs. evil series) and subsequently read Isaiah, I was reminded of my past ignorance, weaknessess and vulnerabilities. Of course I’ve not overcome all of them but my consciousness of them gives me a fighting chance to perhaps reach that powerhouse satus. First however the one consciousness must continually be replaced by another. While it may seem to some a natural thing, if that were the case everybody would be doing it. Never the less as I write I speak I act – to re-commit myself this New Year to consciously strive to put away all hindering thoughts and replace them with the peace, the grace, the mercy and the Love that is the consciousness of God.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you… Matthew 16:13-20 The closer we are to one another the more opportunities we have to reveal ourselves. As I matured in life, I got ever closer to my mother. The time that we spent with each other revealed more about her that made me love her more and more. When she died, the voices of others who knew her revealed even more. Some of that revelation from her childhood wasn’t so appealing. It didn’t matter. I had become close enough to her to know that from the very beginning of my life, she was all that I needed her to be. To this day I carry the strength of her life with me. It can be challenging when we believe those closest to us to be something that others see differently from another perspective. As the relationship between Jesus and his disciples get closer he asks them; “Who do you say that I am?” I believe our challenge is to get close enough to know who he is for ourselves and prayerfully in the relationship the closer we get to the Word of God, graciously more will be revealed.
“I have compassion for the crowd…” Matthew 15:29-39 Remembering the year I spent as a chaplain in the MICU of a Hospital, always by the third visit to this “mountain” in which the patient was holding to the hope of healing, I yearned to give more. I wanted them to be physically healed. Yet knowing that my presence and prayer was all I had, I was grateful that the relationship went beyond the physical. In this reading a crowd on the mountain is amazed at the healing that is taking place, but that wasn’t the end of it. Something more was about to happen. They’d followed Jesus up that mountain and he tended to their every need for three days. It seems clear that there was a deeper relationship in Christ which the disciples had yet to conceive. The root of the Greek word used for compassion is translated as “inward parts,” figuratively meaning that what Christ is feeling is coming from deep within. Jesus knew what he needed to do. Perhaps his compassion for the crowds on the mountain that day went beyond the lack of food, and directly towards his yearning to feed this hungry crowd the Glory of God. Today, like the disciples we are often overwhelmed asking ourselves, where, why, and how long. Yet we’ve been in this relationship with Christ long enough to know what to do. Always giving thanks, we feed on God’s Glory. For in the fullness of Christ, the righteous are not forsaken nor his seed begging bread.
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Created By: Christine Kolstoe and Kelly Kerani, Lynnwood Elementary, Lynnwood, WA, USA (Edmonds School District, north of Seattle)
“Why do you speak to them in parables? Matthew 13:10-17 Jesus is faced with a generation of people whose heart has grown dull (some scriptures say calloused). Historically the prophets spoke very plainly to the people of Israel, yet over and over again they wouldn’t listen to the point at which it no longer mattered what was said. Sound familiar? The question asked by the disciples sounds suspiciously like the one we ask our children and quite often ourselves concerning why we insist on learning things the hard way. We don’t listen! While there are some experiences we must learn and struggles we must endure, it doesn’t mean we should not listen and benefit from the love and wisdom of those before us. The more we turn our hearts towards a self serving world the harder it can become to turn towards the Word of God. Parables help to create images for the hearer. As we are walking through the images, prayerfully, through Christ, for the one who desires to know; the parables become more clear and the Word of God becomes less hidden. For God desires to reveal himself as much as (and probably more) to one who truly desires to know.
“…to those who have; more will be given, and they will have an abundance…”
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:43-50 Building the body of Christ often must go beyond the usual relationships. Although the old city of Jerusalem is known for it’s walls, we do not have to be within those walls to experience God’s presence. Christ has broken down the barriers and the measuring lines now over extends in order that all who do God’s will are included in his Kingdom. Let us not cut ourselves off by drawing our own line and building those “walls” back up again.
Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. Mark 6:47-56 Although they were struggling with the wind, Jesus actually intended to go past the disciples who had left without him. He was all too willing to allow them to struggle with the wind until they saw what they thought was a ghost and became afraid. At this point the disciples have lost their focus. This happens to me. I start my day without thanksgiving in my heart and I am fighting against a simple wind all day. But then Christ makes himself known in some uncanny way like finding a forgotten letter from a friend or seeing a hummingbird outside my window. At first these kinds of things catch me off guard but slowly they invite themselves into my space and whatever I am struggling with seems to dissolve. I am able to refocus my actions and safely find myself right where I need to be with God close by my side and on the other side of the struggle, that has been ceased, by praise and thanksgiving in my heart.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1 I remember as a child all of the preparations that were made for Sunday morning. Church was a safe enjoyable place. Today, for me it’s still a safe enjoyable place. Yet for some it is anything but safe, anything but enjoyable. Perhaps what we need is a new definition for church. Some have said that church is the people but I believe that it goes a bit deeper. I think church is the relationships we have with one another. The relationships in which we honor God by how we love, care and encourage one another in faith. Any place or situation where this is happening, no walls are necessary.
Matthew 18:20 …where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
Understand …He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? The Lord knows our thoughts, that they are but an empty breath. Psalm 94:8-11 I am reminded that as a child it never dawned on me that the infinite wisdom my mother shared with me, concerning puberty, peer pressure and relationships, was coming from experience. As I grow in to my own spirituality I understand more and more of God’s understanding of me. Futile thoughts cause us to forget this. Rest assured, where ever we are, God’s been there. He knows us and has plans for us.
No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or diviners can show to the king the mystery that the king is asking, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, Daniel 2:17-30 Nebuchadnezzar sought answers to his disturbing dream from the world. But the world only knows what it sees, what it hears and what it touches which is why the people he sought provided him no revelation and no peace. Sometimes we seek love in the world that ultimately provide no revelation and no peace. Only the one true Love, that can not be found in the things of the world, provides both the revelation and the peace. Daniel did not try like the others to come up with the revelation on his own. Instead he sought the one true everlasting Love deep from within the faith in his relationship with God. This is the kind of relationship we are encouraged to seek that we too may find revelation and we too will find peace.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live for ever. 1 John 2:12-17