Sunday, January 22, 2017

God's Answer to the Anger and Violence in Our Country



The present anger and violence in our country is shocking and worrisome. At first I wrung my hands and cried, feeling helpless and hopeless, until a quiet voice whispered it was time to pray. I asked God to give answers and peace to those suffering from frustration, hostility, and unrest. They will never know I prayed for them, but that doesn't matter. God knows, and through intercessory prayer, he can change even the hardest hearts. 

This morning my devotions, His Word, further told me how to relinquish my anxiety. 

The first reading was from the book of Isaiah 8: 23, 9:5-6: “And they shall look upon the earth, and behold trouble and darkness, weakness, and distress, and a mist following them and they cannot fly away from their distress… For every violent taking of spoils, with tumult, and garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire. For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.” 

There has always been hate and unrest. My misery will not end any of it but my prayers and small acts of kindness and compassion can mitigate some of it.  

The second reading was from Psalms, one of my favorites. This prayer has guided me through many hard times. Psalm 27: 1,4, 13-14: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life, of whom shall I be afraid… One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. That I may see the delight of the Lord and may visit his temple… I believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. Expect the Lord, do manfully, and let thy heart take courage, and wait for the Lord.”

That verse alone put the current turbulence in perspective. As long as I trust God, the world cannot destroy my peace. Doesn’t mean I won’t have a rightful concern, I should. However, I need not work myself up into hand wringing. Nothing I can do will alter people’s beliefs and ideologies. I must give it to God in prayer. He’s far better equipped to handle these crises than I am. 

Interesting, as I paged from the Psalms to the New Testament, my bible fell open to the Book of Daniel, Chapter 13. This book from the Apocrypha describes Daniel saving Susannah from false accusations by revealing her accusers’ lies. One day God will do the same, exposing all lies and deceptions. 

In my third reading, 1 Corinthians 1:10, St. Paul beseeches the Christian community not to become fractured sects, not to let contentions divide them. Again, I found the same theme of keeping our focus on God, not on our small grievances and differences. 

The Gospel was from Matthew 4. Verse 16 spoke of hope. “The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light: and to them that sat in the region of the shadow of death, light is sprung up.”
Amen.

Friday, January 13, 2017

There Ought to Be a Law



There probably is. There have been laws, society norms, and traditions dictating behavior from the first moment of human existence, and there have always been those who refused to follow the rules as indicated by the long list of criminals stretching back to Cain and Abel.

However, laws do give people the authority to remove offenders from their communities and eliminate some threats to their lives and property.

Still, people want more laws. They want to regulate every aspect of human behavior, defining speech, diets, shopping, what we can and cannot own, along with the bigger laws against theft and murder.  If a group thinks a behavior is wrong, they want a law. If another group opposes their agenda, they want a counter law. 

This even goes further. People rail against God for not stopping wars, famines, pestilences, natural disasters and the list goes on. They want him to act on our whims, our desires, our need for control, except when it comes to our personal behavior. Then we reject his laws because they interfere with our freedom of choice. What a bunch of hypocrites we are. 

We have all heard the quote, “There are over ten billion laws enacted to enforce the Ten Commandments,” and we still add more every day. 

A morning show host interviewed a woman campaigning for laws regulating what people can eat. She wanted a law making it illegal for people designated as overweight to purchase items not approved by her. I am not kidding.

The talk show host asked, “So how would you regulate this law? Put a set of scales at every checkout, and if it said you were overweight, the checker would remove the unlawful food from your cart?”
She replied, “Yes, that’s exactly what should happen, or have a card from your doctor dictating what food you can have and how much.”

“Isn’t that discrimination?”

“No, absolutely not. It’s for their benefit.”

“I see. So you’re better at determining what others need than they are.”

“Absolutely.”

Really? And where would this end?

Back to our opinion of what God should control. We too often think he should be like us, forcing everyone to act as we think is best. Thank goodness he isn’t like us.

This reminds me of a story about a monk who had a fruit tree. Concerned the weather wasn’t conducive to nurture his tree, he asked God to make it rain. When he deemed there had been enough, he asked for sunshine. After that, a touch of frost to strengthen it. Then more sunshine and so on. God complied.

Instead of thriving, his tree shriveled and appeared to be dying. He looked at the tree his fellow monk had planted, and it flourished with an abundance of sweet fruit.

“Why is your tree is doing so well and mine is dying? I asked God to send rain, sunshine, and frost.”

The other monk shrugged. “I asked God to send whatever it needed to be healthy, and left it up to him to decide how much and when.”

Then the first monk understood. He had no idea what the tree needed to thrive, but its Creator did.

The same with us. We meddle into things we should leave in God’s hands, and then ask God why he allowed such things to happen. Even science has acknowledged their attempts to regulate wildlife and habitat has often resulted in a horrific imbalance leading to more destruction. Humans trying to play God without his omniscience.  (Of course, we need to be good stewards, but there is a difference between being a good steward and trying to recreate what God has already created.)

What if we obeyed God’s commandments, and left the rest up to him? I imagine the world would be a lot different than it is now. 

“Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. He came to change the mind of humanity about God.” Fr. Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self

Monday, January 9, 2017

Testing

Some subscribers have mentioned they are no longer getting email notifications of new posts. I am running a test with my own email. Let's see who is getting notifications. :)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

St. Paul and Three Christmas Miracles



I think of Saint Paul often.  He thought of himself as the lesser Apostle, not worthy of being called an Apostle. I feel the same unworthiness being called a child of God. I recount my failings in an endless cycle I can’t seem to stop.
  
While the Apostle often speaks of his transgressions and weaknesses, he also exhorts God’s mercy. God forgave all of his sins, including the persecution and murder of the Church, and called him to be an Apostle.

This same mercy also applies to my sins. Yet I still fall into an all too familiar state of wretchedness, which seems to escalate during the holidays.

Christmas day, I struggled with wanting to go to church and dreading going alone. I decided to put my personal issues aside and attend.

 A woman walking just ahead of me, stopped and said, “Good morning.”

I smiled. “Good morning. I see you’re going alone too.”

She nodded. “Yes. Shall we go alone, together?”

My smile broadened. “Yes.”

God’s first miracle. This woman and I sat together as friends although we had never met. We shared the knowing looks, the small talk, the smiles, and the little courtesies good friends share. 

Just that was enough, but God had more planned for me that day.

As our pastor told us the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds, I saw a vision of angels surrounding him, a line of celestial bodies extending farther than I could see, a tiny glimpse of the glory of that holy night. God's second gift. 

The scene changed. I saw my death, my body collapsed on the floor of our living room.

Jesus appeared, reached down and grasped my hand. He pulled me up into his embrace, put his arm around my shoulders, and personally escorted me into heaven. He showed me amazing things, delighting in my astonishment with each revelation as a loving parent would a child. With my every exclamation, His joy increased.

The vision faded, but not its impact.
  
I no longer fear death. How can I?

I understand St. Paul’s desire to complete this race we call life. I am ready anytime God calls me, but in the meantime, I will live my life with an altered set of priorities, and with less fear. God's third gift.

“In all things we suffer tribulations, but are not distressed; we are straitened, but are not destitute; We suffer persecution, but are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we perish not: Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8- 12

Foot Note: It just occurred to me, the church I attend is named for St. Paul. God never leaves out a detail.