June 14, 2015

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Things are not the way they seem

beaded dragonfly

A woman placed a beaded dragonfly in my hand. Photo by Deborah Jansen.

Years ago, a woman placed a beaded dragonfly in my hand and promised to teach me about it the next day. She looked directly into my eyes and spoke softly, “I don’t know where you’ve come from, but you’ve come to a safe place.” I had met her at the door of a retreat center after being harassed by eight men in a nearby campground. Even though the woman had not known my situation, her small act of compassion was exactly what I needed.

The inexpensive, beaded dragonfly did not look like much on the outside, but it emerged as a source of hope for my heart.

A verse from today’s passage states, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
(I Samuel 16: 7b, NLT).

God seems to specialize in exposing assumptions. My experience in the campground appeared harmful—and it was in the moment. But, afterwards my emotional vulnerability deepened my desire to let God transform me and produce new strength.

Weak dragonfly

When an adult dragonfly finally emerges, it is vulnerable, wet, and pale. Photo by Böhringer Friedrich via Creative Commons, Share-and-Share Alike license.

I still have the dragonfly gift on my desk. I remember how the dragonfly nymph spends up to five years crawling on the bottom of a muddy pond—a symbol of endurance and hope. When the adult dragonfly finally emerges, it is vulnerable, wet, and pale. The insect stays exposed to the sun and wind to grow strong. Finally, the dragonfly rises and flies—a powerful symbol of transformation.

Question:
What will improve my spiritual eyesight?

Prayer:
Lord, I open my eyes to reveal the unexpected and unseen. Amen

Written by Deborah Jansen

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

June 7, 2015

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“If you, God, kept records of wrongdoing, who would stand a chance? As it turns out forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.”
Psalm 138:2-3 (The Message)

“Which is harder—to forgive or be forgiven?” I once asked this of a Sunday school class of 7th graders studying the Lord’s Prayer. As the discussion moved around the table, the consensus leaned toward “be forgiven because you have to admit you are wrong.”

Matt was the last to speak. Shaking his head vigorously, he said “No, it is to forgive. If my brother hits me and I forgive him, I can’t hit him back.”

Forgiveness isn’t easy, especially when society applauds the cleverness of “getting away with something,” the importance of “getting even,” and the right “to keep score forever.”

The miracle of God’s forgiveness is that it doesn’t depend on me or the people or situation involved. The gift begins with the natural generosity and transforming power of God’s love. I may hate to admit I’m in the wrong or prefer to nurse a grudge, but being forgiven brings overwhelming relief and gratitude.

Can becoming a forgiver be habit forming? I hope so. Jesus asks us to start with 70 times 7 and doesn’t give extra points for the magnitude of the offence. At what multiple does record keeping become irrelevant?

Perhaps making a habit of forgiving is not as improbable as it sounds. Being forgiven humbles and changes me. As opportunities to worship and thank God become more spontaneous, so does my willingness to forgive.

Prayer:
God of Love, help us to receive your forgiveness with thankful resolve to pass it on. Amen

Question:
What guilt or hurt feelings am I hanging onto today?

Written by Nancy Alice Morton

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

May 10, 2015

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“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”
Acts 10:44 (NRSV)

“I turned to Jesus Christ because my Buddhist faith left me feeling lonely and empty.”

Adyashanti, a Buddhist practioner acknowledged this longing for Christ at a recent conference, “Returning to the Heart of Christ Consciousness.”

“I was missing a sense of relationship and love,” he went on to say. “That’s what Christianity brings to me.”

Adyashanti has not abandoned his Buddhist faith, yet he faithfully reads the Gospels, allowing the stories “to interact with me as they will,” he said. Assuming the role of one of the characters in the stories, he imagines how he might have responded and what he might have said in the presence of Jesus, a “revolutionary mystic” whose teachings instruct his life.

The Holy Spirit falls upon all those who hear the Word of God and live out the lessons of love and relationship as conveyed in the stories of Jesus in the Gospels. That makes the teachings and life of Christ a powerful force for peace and reconciliation in a world divided by religion fundamentalism.

Prayer:
Risen Christ, may the stories of the Gospel inspire us to live out the Word in our daily life. Amen

Question:
How is the life of Christ influencing my thoughts and actions?

Written by Diane Glass

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

May 3, 2015

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“And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.”
John 15:2 (The Message)

As any ardent gardener, or vineyard overseer, knows, pruning is a critical business.

Removing living tissue can be fraught with emotional second-guessing. Yet it is a necessary exercise encouraging a more abundant harvest. Larger clusters of grapes with intensified flavors produce a richer wine vintage in a few years.

Throughout my life there are times when I question whether what I am doing, thinking, or believing is still relevant, resonant and renewing. Whether it’s a relationship, job, social group or spiritual practice, everything is worthy of reflection.

An activity, attachment, a belief or relationship: What has once been fruitful may no longer be rewarding. Hard though it might be, it may be time to cut and make room on my vine for something new to grow.

It’s hard to know when to stay with what’s comfortable and when to let something go. Strategic pruning, after careful consideration and listening to my inner counsel, makes every cut a measure of trust.

“Is this still nourishing?” is a question I have learned to ask.

Prayer:
Holy Vinedresser, keep my heart and spirit open and attentive to your nudges. Amen

Question:
What is my inner voice calling me to prune from my life?

Written by Robin Kline

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

March 15, 2015

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“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way.”
Numbers 21:4 (NRSV)

When the train of life has sidetracked and I feel stranded or helpless, the red flag of impatience invites me to stop, listen and look before I leap backwards or charge ahead.

The Israelites chose to go back to the old ways of worship when they felt abandoned by the God who had brought them out of Egypt and set them on a journey into unknown territory. I usually want forward movement now regardless of whether the present delay may be short, long, or permanent.

The trek to the Promised Land lasted forty years. That seems like a long time until I realize it has taken me forty years to recognize the power of patience and to:

Stop holding so tightly onto my timetable for meeting expectations. God’s timing and resources are so much more extensive than mine.

Listen regularly to the still, small voice of the Creator who loves me, changes me, and stays with me no matter what.

Look around at God’s works with astonishment and gratitude. The Israelites received fresh water flowing from a rock and manna to eat when nothing seemed available.

My experience includes unexpected phone calls that completely change a proposed course of action. A co-worker’s faith journey that inspires me to see something I had never considered. A whimsical thought puzzled over for months reveals with joy and humor how unrelated pieces fit together perfectly as needed for the next step.

Prayer:
Generous God, help us welcome patience as an active force for love and change. Amen

Question:
What red flags will alert me to be patient this week?

Written by Nancy Alice Morton

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

March 1, 2015

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“For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.”
Romans 4:13 (NSRV)

Mastering the mechanics of playing the piano is important—the tempo, notes, phrasing, the fingering. Yet playing the piano well requires more than accurately following the score. It requires conveying the unique beauty of the piece, attending not only to the composer’s intent but also your own.

So when God assures Abraham that he would inherit the world not through the law but through faith, I resonated with my piano-playing experience. At my Piano Club, amateur pianists like myself share a piece we have been working on. Most of us do so because we love this piece and want others to enjoy it as well. We have faith that, even though we are likely to make a few mistakes along the way because of nervousness, our audience will receive with gratitude our efforts.

God knows that we too will make mistakes along the way but welcomes our expression of faith through serving God, the Earth and one another. That doesn’t make observing the law irrelevant. It makes it not enough.

Prayer:
Gracious God, challenge us to go beyond the mechanics of following the rules of our religious tradition to develop through faith a closer relationship with you. Amen

Question:
In what area of my life am I needlessly concerned with perfection or getting it right, to the exclusion of a deeper sense of peace, joy and beauty?

Written by Diane Glass

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com

February 15, 2015

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It so happened that Aram, on one of its raiding expeditions against Israel, captured a young girl who became a maid to Naaman’s wife. One day she said to her mistress, “Oh, if only my master could meet the prophet of Samaria, he would be healed of his skin disease.”
2 Kings 5:2-3 (The Message)

We typically look to exalted leaders for direction, solutions and answers. Politicians, collared clergy, media personalities and celebrities of almost any ilk are the pundits and glitterati to whom we tend to be captive. How often do we overlook the humble, sometimes anonymous, ones in our midst who speak truth, act kindly, and offer compassion?

A nameless young woman offers a solution for Naaman’s leprosy. Her gesture seems quite compassionate, her having been kidnapped and forced into servitude.

This story features quite a few VIPs: The king sends his commander Naaman with a caravan of payola to reward the healing prophet. Proud Naaman is insulted at the preposterous prescription—bathe in the filthy river Jordan!—and at Elisha’s refusal either to meet with this mighty military man or accept his generous tokens of silver, gold, and clothing.

Unnamed servants convince Naaman that perhaps he ought to follow Elisha’s directive to wash in the Jordan seven times. They approach their lord with common sense and gentleness, concerned for his well-being. As we know, Naaman is restored to health and a rosy complexion.

My dear friend, a pastor, recently observed “Too many voices from those in power are empty of meaning. Give me a poor single mother or ‘illegal’ landscaper any day for real wisdom.”

Prayer:
Generous and kind Healer, open my eyes, ears and heart to Your helpful presence. Amen

Question:
What message waits for me today from an unexpected source?

Written by Robin Kline

The Bridge is a collaborative ministry by four Downtown Des Moines churches. The Bridge Meditations are part of the ministry of The Bridge which is working to enrich the lives of those working, living and visiting downtown Des Moines. Programs developed by The Bridge offer spiritual formation and development, professional counseling, holistic health and family support. The Connection Cafe is a Bridge ministry which provides a free mid-day meal five days per week. The Connection Cafe is located next to the YWCA on Grand Avenue and is supported by many churches and civic organizations in its ministry. For more information, or to volunteer to help with The Bridge, The Connection Cafe or other Downtown Des Moines ministries contact Rob Hoover at 515-771-1481 or by email at theconnectioncafe@hotmail.com