Four Angels

angels

And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth.

This begins chapter 7 in Revelation. We can read on to learn of destruction to all the sinners, but I really don’t think that is necessary. Too much has been written about how God will punish the people for their sins.

I view this a different way. There are four angels of God watching over the Earth. They are commissioned to help us in our time of need. The author of Revelation may then proceed to introduce mayhem and destruction, but I take this on a more personal level. I believe that one of the angels is always on watch reading to swoop down in my defense if I am in trouble. Another one is there to do the same for you.

I trust this, because my prayers were answered when I was really crushed by pain, depression, and lacking the will to continue, be it teaching, or praying. In my anguish, I reached out in hopes of having some positive thing happen to me. It did, almost immediately. My pain was gone, I had no need of my canes, and I not only continued teaching, but I went on to serve those in my church as a prayer minister, and eventually as a member of the vestry.

I could not do this without God’s intervention in my life. He sent one of his angels, some may call this the Holy Spirit, to lift me from my distress. God does not send hardships to us; he (and his angels) are there to lift us above the hardships that society places before us.

I have recently read two books about the experiences that US pilots had as prisoners during the Vietnam War. Their treatment was horrific to say the least; they were pressed beyond all comprehension, beaten, psychologically tortured, and in many cases had bones broken, which were not reset by their captors. Both of these men said that their lives became worth living, their punishment was easier to endure, when they did one thing. They began to pray for their captors and torturers. When I read this, I was amazed, and each time I think on these men, I am reassured that in their time of greatest need, when society had basically forgotten them, their personal angel was sent by God to comfort them. God did not put them in their cells, society did; the society that began the war and the society that captured them. God was present to make their suffering bearable.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that God is always in our lives to carry us over the tough times, comfort us, so that we are able to endure what is there and return to a life of love and grace after the incident passes. Even when that incident ends in the death of the body. God opens his welcoming arms to receive us into his eternal grace.

 

 

 

Trust and Forgiveness

        TRUST2   Trust and Forgiveness

One of the greatest problems we face on an almost daily basis is a lack of trust. From the news, all we hear is that we cannot trust one branch of government or another, or, we cannot trust the free press. But there is a deeper trust that is violated often; that is personal trust.

When a loved one breaks our trust, it is our duty to forgive. Otherwise, we face a lifetime of sorrow over the loss of a true friend.

If we do not, the only person who is damaged is ourselves.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life living in fear of being hurt by someone else’s snap retort to a comment or opinion I offer. Many times, these retorts are not meant to hurt, but they do; this is especially true when the person is trusted as a loved one, or a trusted leader. Instead of jumping into the conclusion that the person has offended you, you must step over this crack in the sidewalk to prevent yourself from falling into an abyss that you may not be able to escape. Depression and despair will only follow.

I often ask myself, how many times I respond to a comment without thinking of the effect it might have on my relationship with the person. Now, this depends on the relationship I share. If I am close friends, and we are always jokingly poking each other, comments made in jest are understood; however, a trusted third party might misinterpret what is said and strike out at either of us in a way that deflates the jest and love between the two people. If this third party is also a loved one, or a trusted leader, the comments can hurt. Speaking personally, I have left some groups because the leader has spoken harshly to me too many times.

The down side of this is that I am hurt by not attending the group functions, and the group as a whole is hurt by not having my input on possible important issues. The person who made the offending comments does not realize the cause of my leaving the group. He is not hurt; he does not know. In the end, I am the only one who is hurt.

This is a very difficult thing to get over. I pray that I can overcome my pain, but the fear of being hurt again is strong. Personally, I still love the person who has hurt me. He is a brother, or she is a sister; we are both children of God. We are both perfect in God’s eyes. I wasted a few years of separation from my sister over arguments about the care of our parents; we both were at a loss. We did come together again, but shortly after that, she passed onto her eternal life; I have since regretted the years we were estranged.

This should be ample reason for me to forget the unintended regrets of a side comment that was not meant to do harm. I think that my ego is what holds me back.

I am now a member of a very important group. I have learned to ignore unintended actions or comments, even when they feel like a bee sting. I have meditated away the impulse to be harmed by these innocent remarks for the good of the group, and for my own personal stability.

I always fall back on one of my favorite sayings, God forgives me every time I stray from His path; I must do the same for others if I want to continue to walk in His light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith in Something other than Myself

listen    Faith in Something other than Myself

 

Madeline L’Engle Camp, the author of many books, including, A Wrinkle in Time, phrased the following: “Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.” I understand this to mean that genuine faith, faith in God, implies a profound trust in God, the willingness to give myself to God, and be in a constant relationship with God.

Over the course of my life, very difficult for me. I was never a real athlete, but I was an ardent competitor. When I was a Marine, I was not the best, but I was honest with myself, true to the Corps, and very Gung-Ho. This was true until a certain fact (in French, the word is fait) came forth; the injuries I received in a training accident prevented me from continuing in the Corps and serving with my brother Marines in combat.

After this, I was in retail for twenty-five years. Not a great businessman, but honest to my patrons, my employees, and my retail photo profession. Once more, a fact (notice that the French word, fait, is the basis of our word, faith), or two, stepped in to crush this dream. After a near-fatal auto accident, I could no longer do my job. However, I did then return to college to become a teacher, which is the way I finished my working career.

The fact is, my faith was only in myself! I accepted God, but I really did not put my faith in God. I can only invite God into my conscious presence, realizing that without this determined invite, He is still with me, always. I cannot not even try to invite him in my life with any preconceptions or conditions; nor, can I do the same when praying for others and ask God’s intervention into their lives. My invitation must be pure and simple, showing that this petition to reality is a mournful cry from a doubting child.

It seems that I am always asking, “God, are you there?” knowing that in fact He is. Even in my deepest doubt, I know that God is always with me, prepared to catch me when I fall. As I look back on my life, I see that there has always been this comfort in my live, even when I failed to recognize it as such. With every setback that I have experienced, my wife and family have stood by me, supported me, nursed me back to health. This is the family that God blessed me with.

 

The Goodness of Man

goodnessThe Goodness of Man:

I always question the basic goodness of mankind. Being good is not an automatic quality; I believe that we have to work at being good. Now, before you jump all over me, let me explain. With Scripture, we’ve been entrusted with some of the most powerful stories ever told. How we harness that power, whether for good or evil, oppression or liberation, changes everything.  

There are times that a man will take the route of pleasure and ease, before he opts for the correct thing to do, or the good thing to do. It’s in our nature. Think about this: you get a windfall of $500.00; you don’t need it, but it came your way, maybe by winning a bet. Do you buy that new flat-screen tv, or do you use the money for a charitable purpose? Think a minute.

Now, I would like to have a new flat-screen tv for my office, but I don’t need it. Do I use the money for some other purpose, or do I conclude that I really could put this to better use, donating it to a local food bank, or some such entity?

I know a family who won a major lottery; yes, they paid their bills and changed their lifestyle, but they have also donated millions to charitable programs to assist the less fortunate in their community. Not all of us would do that.

Personally, there are two instances where I believe that I might do the same. The first happened several years ago, when I won a 50-50 at our local high school football game. The person selling the ticket guilted me into buying one, saying that I could give half to our church. I won; I gave the entire $200.00 to our church. Would I do this if I won a lottery? Well, maybe not all, but I would a lot.

I also subscribe to several faith-based journals, and, periodically, they send out surveys, with the promise that if you respond, your name will be placed in a drawing for $100.00 prize; I never put my name in for the prize; the religious organization should keep the money for their ministries. Of course, if I won, I could give it to one of my church’s ministries. To me the difference is not worth the bother.

I remember the verse from Proverbs, and I paraphrase: most men will proclaim their own goodness, but a true man of faith is hard to find.

So, what makes us good? I honestly believe that most of us in our hearts are good, but many times we fail to live up to the standards we set.

One final thought: in the Bible book, the Wisdom of Solomon, there is a statement about women; verse 7:26 says, and this is exact: “For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness.

 

 

 

Discovering God

raysDiscovering God

 

You reached for me;

I swatted You away.

The depths of

Depression

Blinded me

 

Wraithlike visitors

Arose before me;

Foundering in anger;

Engulfed by counterfeit silence,

 

You lifted me

From my abyss of enmity,

With unfamiliar resoluteness

 

From the void of depression,

I received Your grace;                                                  

The trust of Your hand

Gave new life.

 

 

Stop the Violence

violence   Violence

I begin with this meditation by Brother Geoffrey Tristram (The Society of Saint John the Evangelist): “There are many voices of violence in our society. Violence in our movies, violent games and websites. Lax gun laws in this country which scandalously cannot be reformed. Violent voices, violent organizations, which grow and flourish and take root. With these voices of violence so loud, it is our responsibility as Christians to stand up in Jesus’ name and speak with his voice of peace.”

Our global societies are engaged too much in violence. I am a news hound, and since I can no longer endure reading about what is occurring in Washington, I read a lot of world news. I get discouraged when I read about who is fighting whom, and what treaties are being tested due to misunderstandings and cultural or religious differences.

I know that according to the Bible, man’s propensity toward violence is displayed in brother killing brother. The symbolism in this story is so apparent that I need not say that this is the history of all mankind. When we denigrate a person because of their gender, religion, or national origin, we are not only harming them, but we are also harming ourselves and the greater good (read God) for the world. I read about what we are doing to immigrant children in this country, and I can visualize what our leaders will say in fifteen or twenty years: “Why are these people so violent in our society? Why do they hate us so?” These leaders do not understand that their actions today bring forth consequences tomorrow, most times, unfortunate consequences.

I don’t attend many political meetings, but when I do, I always question why the leaders do nothing about curbing violence in our neighborhoods, gun violence being so prevalent. Usually, their response is something such as guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Or, my favorite, there is very little we can do about the violence in the streets.

I accuse them of hiding their heads in the sand like the ostriches do.

Through my efforts, and my wife’s efforts in feeding those on the edges of our society, we are trying through prayerful means to assist some of the people who have been left behind by our greedy leaders. I pray that our efforts, and the efforts of many like-minded people around the world, will eventually produce societies that do not have violence as their primary action.

My apologies for this being so political, but my voice must join those who speak against violence.

 

Justice for All

Justice for All

There are many arguments in today’s societies about what justice truly is. Each society, culture, or subculture has its distinctive view and operates as if its view is law and should be what every society, culture, or subculture is forced to follow. Take, for example, gender issues; many object to the fact that some people do not identify with their birth gender. Gay marriage is viewed as abhorrent. Many people believe that people choose to be gay, or different sexually, than they are supposed to be. My observations are little less stringent. I believe that just as you and I are children of God, so are people who identify to a different gender. These are our brothers and sisters under God’s protection. To ignore this fact is to be unfair, not only to those affected, but to the person who has these views. I learned all too late that anger and hatred only irritates me. The person at the other end is rarely affected by my outlook.

So, I believe that true justice, honest justice, is what occurs when we recognize that we all receive God’s love; until we accept this, there can never be true peace on this battle-torn planet. To do this, we must be in constant contact with God. We must recognize His existence in our lives, His love and offered peace, if we will accept it. We cannot realize real inner tranquility, inner peace, until we refute the concept of aggression and perhaps war.

God’s peace, however, does not mean that this planet will be free from conflict. We are human beings who want success for ourselves and our families. This is natural. Nevertheless, we must leave a place in hearts, leave our doors open to allow God’s tranquility to enter each of our lives. What peace we can bring to ourselves and our families will eventually seep into society, and, hopefully reduce societal tensions. But we must work at it; it will not come easily; we are too prone to conflict.

Since earliest mankind, there has been conflict. Just read the first stories in the Bible about Cain and Abel. Or, think about the struggles between Adam and Eve, and their desire to be just like God. Jealousy and ego are our two worst enemies. I write a lot about community and love. But, I am a realist; I know that this is difficult and may not change. But I can pray for it, and I can work in my own sphere of influence to hopefully see the benefits of unity and diversity being able to sit at the same table prepared by God for us.

I share a prayer I wrote for our church meeting last evening:

God’s gifts are plentiful

Love, Life, Grace

We go to bear fruit

Accept and give His gifts

Be thankful when we receive

When we give

Be thankful for the Love of Jesus

For our mirror image of Him

His wonder in our goodness

Our sharing

Our going forward

To bring the fruit of His Love

To others.

Amen