Expanding Our Understanding of the Qualities and Names of God


A Seven Day Bible Study
by Dr. Linda Seger

Introduction

In the Judeo-Christian religion, there are over 300 names and attributes for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Many of them are familiar: Father, Almighty, Savior, My Rock and Redeemer, The Good Shepherd, Lamb of God, The Light of the World, Lord, The Almighty. In this Bible Study we will be using prayers from The Alphabet Prayer by Linda Seger and Peter Le Var along with Bible verses, hymns and reflections to expand our understanding about these Names and how we might relate to these many qualities of God. With each prayer, say the prayer out loud at the beginning and end of your Devotional Time.

Day One

Prayer
“Almighty God, Awaken me to an Awareness of Your absolute authority and my absolute accountability to You.”

Scripture
Psalms 119:73: “Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.”
Reflection
For some, authority feels oppressive. It seems to give us rules and commands and sometimes it suppresses our talents and desires. But God’s authority frees us, and enhances us to become more truly ourselves. Have you ever felt authority as freeing? Has your accountability ever expanded you, rather than limited you?
Here are some other verses that help us better understand the Almighty: Genesis 28:3; Job 22:26-28; 27:10; Isaiah 44:6. Read the lyrics, below, to the hymn Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. Have you experienced the Almighty’s love in each of the ways mentioned: health? salvation? Prospering your work? defending you? Ponder each of the ways the Almighty befriends you.

Hymn
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
by Joachim Neander (1680)

Verse One
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Verse Two
Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Verse Three
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Day Two

Prayer
Divine Deliverer, Deepen Me. Direct Me. Defend Me.

Scripture
Psalms 62:1-2: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock, and my salvation. He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
Reflection
Notice that this verse from Psalms includes other names for God: My Rock, My Fortress, My Salvation. Read the lyrics, below, to the hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Does this language feel archaic, or can you identify with God as a fortress, a deliverer from the enemy, a defender?
Other verses that might expand this idea include: Psalms 18:3; 45:1-3; 54:3-7; 62:6; 91:2; 10:21; 144:2, Isaiah 19:20; Nahum 1:7; 2 Samuel 22:2

Hymn

A Mighty Fortress is Our God
by Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Verse One

A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Verse Two
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

Day Three

Prayer
Forgiving Father, Feed Me With Faith and Favor

Scripture~
Psalms 86:5 “You are forgiving and good…abounding in love to all who call to you.”

Reflection
Think of at least ten qualities of a Good Father. In the Lord’s Prayer, (Luke 11:2, Matthew 18:35). Jesus uses the word “Abba”, which is somewhat similar to “Daddy.” It’s a familiar term, rather than formal. Say the Lord’s Prayer slowly, praying to “Daddy” or “Papa” or whatever familiar name you might have used with your father. Are there favors or specific requests you would ask of God, your Father?
Here are some other verses that tell us more about God the Father and our relationship to Him: Psalms 103:13, Proverbs 15:20, Matthew 18:35, II Corinthians 1:2-3.
What are the qualities you admired in your father? What must we do to be good children to a Heavenly Father? Read the lyrics, below, to the hymn Our Father in Heaven. Does that expand your images of a loving Father-God?
Ordinarily as we grow up, we learn to separate from our need for our Father. But as Christians, we are asked to be more dependent upon God as we mature in Faith. We are asked to call upon Him more often. Is that easy, or difficult for you?

Poem
Our Father in Heaven
by Susan J Hale (1831)

Verse One
Our Father in heaven
We hallow Thy name;
May Thy kingdom holy
On earth be the same;
O give to us daily
Our portion of bread;
It is from Thy bounty
That all must be fed.

Verse Two
Forgive our transgressions,
And teach us to know
That humble compassion,
Which pardons each foe:
Keep us from temptation,
From weakness and sin;
And Thine be the glory,
Forever, amen.

Day Four

 

Prayer~ Immanent and Immediate God, immerse me in your inexhaustible inspiration.

Scripture~ Job 32:8 “But it is the Spirit in man, the Breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.”
Reflection
Theologians often talk about God as Transcendent – the Heavenly, Almighty Great God, and Immanent – The Spirit that dwells within us. Genesis 2:7 tells us that we are literally brought to life by the Breath and Spirit of God; “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.” We are so connected to God, that His breath has filled us. What an intimate, loving and close image!
In the New Testament, this image continues. The Holy Spirit is sometimes compared to the breath of God.The Hebrew word Ruach (roo’-akh) Strong’s 7307, can be translated as breath, wind, or spirit. Ruach is used 577 times in Scripture and is translated as God’s Spirit in Genesis 1:2, Genesis 6:3, Exodus 31:3, and Job 27:3 as well as, many other places.
Read the lyrics, below, to the hymns Breathe On Me Breath of God and Spirit of God Descend Upon My Heart. Is this frightening, freeing, or beautiful and warming to you, to feel that close to God?
Other verses about the Spirit of God and His inspiring presence are 2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 8:6, Isaiah 11:2, Job 33:4, 1 Corinthians 2:11-14

Hymn 1

Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart
by George Croly (1854)

Verse One
Spirit of God, who dwells within my heart, wean it from sin, through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as you are, and make me love you as I ought to love.

Verse Two
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies, no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
no angel visitant, no opening skies;
but take the dimness of my soul away.

Verse Three
Did you not bid us love you, God and King,
love you with all our heart and strength and mind?
I see the cross there teach my heart to cling.
O let me seek you and O let me find!

Hymn 2

Breathe on me Breath of God
by Edwin Hatch (1878)

Verse One
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love the way you love,
and do what you would do.

Verse Two
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours,
to do and to endure.

Verse Three
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with you the perfect life
for all eternity.

Day Five

 

Prayer

Just Judge, join me to your Journey for Justice.

Scripture
Psalms 12:5, “Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise, says the Lord. I will protect them from those who malign them.”
Reflection
Isaiah scolds nations for making “unjust decrees, depriving the poor of justice…despoiling the widow and plundering the orphan.” Isaiah 10:1-2. The First Mission Statement of Jesus clarifies that he has been anointed “to bring good news to the afflicted…to proclaim liberty to the captives…to let the oppressed go free.” Luke 4:18-19. There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that call us to show justice and mercy, to protect and care for those in need. God is called Judge and Restorer. He judges us and changes us so we can better manifest him and better help him bring His Kingdom to Earth, as it is in Heaven.
Do you have certain Just Causes that you work for? It might be Prison ministry. Rights for women and children. Feeding the poor and homeless through soup kitchens or through your church. Helping the unemployed or under-employed, refugees, or other victims of war. Working for Peace. How does your work help create a more just and merciful world?

Read the lyrics, below, to the hymn O Thou Whose Justice Reigns on High. Are there ways you can further work for God’s justice – through heart, hand, life, and breath?  See also Isaiah 30:18, Psalms 72, Psalms 99:4, Amos 2:7, Job 5:16, Job 34:12,18-19, Deuteronomy 32:4, all of which ask us to be part of God’s journey for Justice.
Hymn

O Thou Whose Justice Reigns on High
by Issac Watts  (1631)

Verse One
O Thou whose justice reigns on high,
And makes the oppressor cease,
Behold how envious sinners try
To vex and break my peace.
The sons of violence and lies
Join to devour me, Lord;
But as my hourly dangers rise,
My refuge is thy word.

Verse Two
Thou hast secur’d my soul from death,
O set thy pris’ner free,
That heart and hand, and life and breath
May be employ’d for thee.

In Thee, most holy, just, and true,
I have reposed my trust;
Nor will I fear what man can do,
The offspring of the dust.

Day Six

Prayer
Kind and Kindred Spirit, Keep me in Thy Care

Scripture
Psalms 73:24a “You guide me with your counsel.”
Reflection
In Christianity, we become close to God through our Brother, Jesus Christ. There are many qualities we can associate with Jesus: Compassion, Love, Care, Empathy, Sympathy, and His understanding of our human condition. Read the lyrics, below, to the hymn Jesus Our Brother Kind and Good. How do you feel about your dearest brother’s humble beginnings and humble life? Does this kindred spirit help you feel more compassion for yourself, and for others?
More scriptures about this are Matthew 11:29, I Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 4:32, Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 2:11.

Hymn
Jesus Our Brother Kind and Good (Carol of the Friendly Beasts)
English Traditional Author Unknown

Verse One
Jesus our brother, kind and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

Verse Two
“I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,”
I carried his mother uphill and down.
I carried his mother to Bethlehem town.
I,” said the donkey shaggy and brown.

Verse Three
“I,” said the cow, all white and red,
“I gave him my manger for his bed.
I gave him my hay to pillow his head.
I,” said the cow all white and red.

Verse Four
“I,” said the sheep with curly horn,
“I gave him my wool for his blanket warm.
He wore my coat on Christmas morn.
I,” said the sheep with curly horn.

Verse Five
“I,” said the dove from rafters high,
“I cooed him to sleep, so he should not cry.
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I.
I,” said the dove from rafters high.

Verse Six
Thus every beast by some good spell,
in the stable dark was glad to tell
of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
the gift he gave Emmanuel.

Day Seven

 

Prayer
Savior Sustain me with your substance and sustenance so I can better serve thee.

Scripture
Psalms 18: 35-36: “Your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.”
Reflection
God is sometimes called He Who Strengthens Us and the Sustainer.  Being sustained means we’re upheld. But this verse goes further – the path is broadened. We don’t just sustain but become greater, we become more. And we’re able to stand straight and tall and righteous.
Read the lyrics, below, to Oh God Do Thou Sustain Me, an Anabaptist hymn of prayer for strength and protection written by Leonhart Sommer, who died in prison, December 1573, because of his belief. What is the substance and sustenance you feel you need from God? How do you, or would you, use these qualities from God to help you better serve God?”
Other verses to read about God’s sustaining power; Psalms 54: 4; Psalms 55:22; Psalms 119:116; Isaiah 40:31; Habakkuk 3:19; Philippians 4:13.

Hymn
Oh God Do Thou Sustain Me by Leonhart Sommer (1750’s)

Verse One

O God, do Thou sustain me,
In grief and sore duress
Pride counter which disdains Thee
And comfort my distress.
O Lord let me find mercy
In bonds and prison bed
Men would seek to devour me
With guile and controversy
Save me from danger dread!

Verse Two
Thou wilt never forsake me
This firmly I believe
Thy blood Thou hast shed freely
And with it washed me.
Therein my trust is resting
In Christ, God’s only Son
On him I am now building
In tribulation trusting
God will me not disown!

Verse Three
To die and to be living
Until my end I see
To Thee my trust I’m giving
Thou wilt my helper be
Soul, body, child companion
Herewith commit I Thee
Come soon, Lord, come and take me
From ruthless men do save me
Be honour ever to Thee.

Amen.

Get more inspiration from The Alphabet Prayer written by Linda Seger and her husband Peter LeVar – purchase a copy for yourself or as a gift  >HERE< 

The beautiful illustrations in this article and the book are by talented Calligrapher/ Artist Matthew Wright.

 

Overcoming Lust – The Third of the Seven Deadly Sins

Overcoming Lust: The 3rd of the Seven Deadly Sins, by Linda Seger

We often think of lust as sexual desire, sometimes leading to uncontrollable sex with one person, sometimes the constant desire and need of many partners. Although lust or lechery is usually equated with the excessive desire for sex, it is sometimes considered to be an excessive desire for anything. It is sometimes humorously asked, “How much sex (or anything else) is enough?” The answer may be, “When sex becomes more important than the loved one you’re having it with.”

Some years ago, my husband, who is both a massage therapist and an acupuncturist, told me he had a massage client who came in for his weekly massage, totally depleted. He had been having an orgy for a week. Peter said he had never seen anyone so totally exhausted – to the point where Peter thought he might become permanently ill, or even die. Peter explained that this kind of lust damages the whole body as well as the mind and soul.

Lust is a distortion of a relationship. Rather than focusing on the other person, and being a giver, lust is a taker. It wants parts of the person, not the whole person. It wants to get pleasure, rather than to give mutual pleasure. It is more interested in seduction than honesty, more interested in strategy than in sharing.

In our professional lives, lust can work on many different levels, all of them harmful to at least one of the partners. In an unequal relationship, lust becomes the bargaining tool. Sometimes the bargain comes from the more powerful, as the boss wants to take more and more from the less powerful, often insisting on a sexual response in order for the other person to keep the job. Sometimes it’s the bargaining tool by the powerless who are willing to sell themselves, in one way or another, to get the job, the money, or the material possessions.

Whereas love-making respects boundaries, lust crosses boundaries. Whereas love-making is a part of life, lust becomes the whole of one’s vision. In our professional lives, this deadly sin becomes disruptive of our goals. It’s difficult to focus on the job when the heaving breasts or the tight T-shirt are taking all of our attention.

Like envy, lust confuses us. We think we want something, but it’s not at all what we want. It keeps us from our goal of a well-rounded life where our love life and our professional life can integrate with balance.

Many women lust after a Clint Eastwood type, even though they have nothing in common with a High Plains Drifter or the silent gunfighter type. Many men lust after the modern Marilyn Monroe, in any of the various forms, even though they would have nothing in common with her. Many fall in love with a certain “look”, although there is no possibility of a loving relationship between them and the tall, dark, handsome manipulator or the beautiful, voluptuous woman who has seduced them with good looks and sweet words, but with nothing else.

Lust consumes us, rather than frees us. It narrows our vistas, rather than expands them. And it diminishes the human being to the person’s parts rather than to their full complexity.

Naturally, all of us have probably experienced lust in our hearts and our loins, and the desire and attraction for another person is a normal reaction. The spiritual discipline which can often help overcome lust comes from changing lust to appreciation. My Jungian therapist pointed out to me that those things we want can help us recognize what we appreciate if we don’t give them power over us. When we find ourselves attracted to someone who is clearly inappropriate (perhaps because we’re married, perhaps because the person truly isn’t our type), we might ask ourselves: “What do I appreciate about this person?” We can then see that part of this attraction is a good thing. Usually the person is attractive, but there’s more to it than that. The person might also be fun, kind, smart, generous, and/or caring – all qualities that are worthy of being appreciated. If we tell ourselves, “This is normal, there are good qualities here”, lust usually doesn’t want to stick around, since it has lost its power over us.

My spiritual director once said, when I told her about a very good-looking man that I worked with: “Well, there’s nothing wrong with someone who is easy on the eyes.” I laughed – and realized that a way to overcome lust (although I didn’t lust after this guy – but recognized he was gorgeous!) was through a sense of humor. Love laughs. Lust tends to be very serious and desperate.

Usually we meet envy, greed, and lust when we’re climbing the ladder and trying to get to the top. Rather than freeing us, they confuse us. We lose our identities, and often lose our focus because we don’t know for sure what we want and why we want it. They put everything in the world’s terms, and make promises that when we get what we desire, all will be well. So we continue to climb the wrong ladder. We get lost on the wrong path. Lust is excessive desire that fills up our whole vision and makes it impossible to focus, integrate, and balance our lives.

Greed: Getting Up Close and Personal with Wicked Step-Sister of Envy

As women working in the world, we try to do well in our work, perhaps even making the world a little better because of our work. But I expect many of us have noticed there are resistances, struggles, negative forces that work against us. Sometimes I call this the “molasses” we have to get through. Christians call it Sin. Many people truly dislike that word, but we might be able to get some insights if we think about this idea briefly.

One definition of sin is missing the mark. Sometimes I think of it as entanglements, getting embroiled. Some people might call it negativity or toxicity or that irritation that gets inside of us and others that spills over and affects our whole lives. One of my friends says, “Don’t get none of that on ya!”

In March, on the Plaid for Women radio show, I talked about the Deadly Sin of Envy. In this blog, I want to discuss another of the Seven Deadly Sins, Covetousness, sometimes called greed, sometimes avarice. It’s a close sister to envy. Whereas envy can look upon what it desires from afar, covetousness comes closer. It’s next door. In Exodus, in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Ten Commandments say, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” This becomes very specific.

The covetousness that comes from wanting something from someone close to us – whether family or neighbor or friend or colleague – guarantees we cannot have an equal and supportive relationship with our neighbor. It leads to deceit and betrayal. On the one hand, we seek to establish good relationships with those closest to us. On the other hand, we are secretly desiring what they have, and wishing they didn’t have it and we had it instead. As one character says in the film When Harry Met Sally, “I want what she’s having.”

To get what we covet usually demands manipulation. Ego often comes to the forefront. Whereas envy often believes she’s not deserving of the desire and couldn’t possibly have it, covetousness believes if it can be next door, it can also be in our own backyard. If the neighbor has it, there’s no reason for us not to also have it. Whereas envy creates a pit in our stomach that desires to be filled, but doesn’t know how to fill it, covetousness feels it’s all within our grasp. It’s just a side yard away.

When we covet, we have to be two-faced. Our desire to have good relationships with those closest to us leads to words of support for others. Our desire to have what they’re having, leads to our words belying our actions.

Covetousness can be like a cancer of the eyes. Whereas envy resides in the gut, covetousness is in the eyes – noticing, watching, waiting, and peering. And it’s like a hole in the heart where the normal heart connections are no longer there. Our natural desires to connect with the neighbor are cut off. We forget what’s really important – working together in community is how we all get what we want. We forget our neighbor is often willing to help us – often by being willing to share their metaphoric oxen or servant. Instead we substitute competition for neighborliness.

There seem to be two emotions when we covet. On the one hand, we might feel hurt because someone who seems so like us has what we want and what we don’t seem to be able to get. On the other hand, we might feel almost sick about their success, even though we have to hide these feelings.

Whereas envy would like to grab, but usually can’t because it’s too far away, covetousness knows grabbing cannot be done directly. The action of covetousness is more like a weasel, analyzing the opportunities, looking for the way in, strategizing the moment when the desire can lead to action. When we covet, we never get any peace. When others covet what we have, we become overly-protective, not sharing anything.

Covetousness separates. When one covets another, it is impossible for those two people to relate as equals, or as supporters. It is impossible to have friendly relationships with someone who covets us, or who has the things we covet.

How can we break the cycle of coveting? Sometimes we can break the cycle by sharing with those who covet what we have. We can lend them our metaphoric oxen or help them out with the metaphoric tools of our trade (although hopefully we will not lend them our spouse!). We can let them know about the struggles we’ve gone through to achieve success. We can let them know their struggles are also struggles we’ve experienced and offer our support, insight, or compassion. We can help them on their journey to success, sharing the secrets we’ve learned to make the journey shorter. We can let them know about the hard work we’ve gone through, knowing many want everything now – and don’t understand the process.

True covetousness doesn’t want to go through the process leading to success. It simply wants to steal the results. The Greedy, Miserly, Gold-Holder or Gold-Digger needs to be defeated. Coveting does nothing to help us do good and do well, make a difference, and play well with others.

How We Find Our Calling

Many professional women don’t want to settle. We have ideas, dreams, and visions. Many of us realize, at some point, that we don’t fit neatly into the corporate world or the man’s world or the world that someone else defined for us. But, we couldn’t figure out how to build our own world.

Many of us felt pushed or pulled or nudged or shoved or sometimes even Called to do something that didn’t make a lot of sense, there weren’t a lot of trail blazers and path-finders ahead of us to show us the way, and sometimes there were no role models to show us how to do it well. And yet, many of us did it.

What do we make of this idea of Calling? It’s a spiritual term, often used for those Called to the ministry or missionary field. I think it’s a much bigger term than that. It recognizes that many of us feel guided into our careers. Whether we see that Guide as God or The Spirit or The Light or The Truth or the Sacred or The Inner Voice, it leads us, gets us over the humps, and makes it possible to do work, in our own individual way, and actually contribute to the world.

But what do we do if we’re not sure?

When I started my Script Consultant business (a business that didn’t exist, no one ever hired anyone to do what I do, and they never had paid money for it), I went to a career consultant (Judith Claire) who helped me see my way. I had a glimmer of what I wanted to do and felt I was prepared to do. She had me make a list of my preparation for this job – my college and graduate work, my experience working with scripts, my directing experience – and she kept nudging me to make the list longer. She then asked me to make a list of everything personal I brought to this job. She asked, “If someone else had exactly the same qualifications as you, why would someone prefer to come to you?” I started listing traits like nurturing, diplomacy, generosity – and she kept pushing me to add more to the list. Soon I realized I had something to offer – and took The Leap of Faith to start the business.

If you’re not sure, you might want to bring together or create a group email of other women you consider wise and insightful. I suggest 3-7 women – enough that you get different points of view. Ask them to help you discern what you are feeling moved to do. They can help you listen for that Little Voice that sometimes suggests a path. They can keep you from doing something stupid or walking into the minefields that are there with new territory. You aren’t asking them to tell you or agree or disagree, but to listen to you and ask questions and get you feeling your way into the work, not just thinking about it.

Take time to make the decision. Spiritual walks don’t start in a frenzy but start with a sense of peace and release and even subtle movement. For many, this might mean taking some Quiet Time every day to think things through, to contemplate and mediate and pray – or whatever else can calm you down so you don’t get frenetic and desperate. And these Quiet Times can keep you from being caught up in someone else’s ideas of what they think you should be doing.

As women, we have two beautiful centers. One is the heart – emotion, empathy, kindness and care. The other my horse-back riding teacher reminded me about – the place within where babies come from. The solar plexus – our strength, the source of our action as we move out into the world. I laughed about this, but then discovered I ride better when I remember that place that pushes me into the world with force and delight. –Dr. Linda Seger