Living in Fear; Living with Hatred

fear   Living in Fear; Living with Hatred

 

These last few days have been very trying for those of us who care about people. Violence has grown to obscene proportions. Many of us question how safe we really are. It is necessary for us to work hard to keep ourselves safe and assure that those we love and care for are also safe and secure. This means those we serve also.

At our church, we do a great deal for the people in our community who have been left behind by the greedy leaders controlling politics and money. It is possible that because of our generosity and care for people of all colors, all genders, all nationalities, someone who objects to our serving these community members could enter the church will violence in his heart. This is why we must assure that we are safe in our environs.

However, there is another aspect to all this. I will not reduce the importance of assuring this safety, but in our own hearts there is something we can do to be at ease. We can search into the pits of our very core, the depths of ourselves, to open ourselves to unbridled love for each other. By doing this, we are opening ourselves to receive the comfort of God in our lives. We are also confirming the principle that love conquers fear, love conquers hate.

The gospel of John, chapter 17, says “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” Prayers such as this may not stop the violent incidents we experience, but this does allow us to live our lives in the relative of freedom knowing that God will protect us no matter what the outcome of some fool’s actions occur.

Many of us consider the creation of the world as a gift of life. And poverty is against the meaning of that gift; therefore, we cannot let negative influences to prevent us from lifting our neighbors from poverty. We are urged by the naysayers that our efforts are useless, and some of these negative people believe that those living in poverty deserve it. This is not the way people living in God’s light think of others. We must continue to be the example that God’s light shines for all.

The theologian, Jean Vanier, writes, “One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress.”

If we are people of faith, we give our lives to what God wishes for the world. Does that mean we have to walk through fire? Sometimes. Perhaps. And, this is the scary part; but, I, for one, could not live with myself if I turned my back on my less fortunate neighbors because of fear what someone may or may not do to stop me. My life and my relationship with God is too important to ignore. Besides, my Marine Corps training taught me to never give up. This and God’s love has brought me back from the depths of very serious physical difficulties to be able to live a very, very normal productive life. I can only do the same for those who need God’s compassion. And in doing so, perhaps I can eliminate some of the hate in our world. 

As a final thought, I can only say that I cannot control what others may do; the only thing I can do is to live the life I have, which is supported by walking in the light of God and sharing his good blessings.

Community is God’s Wish

thanksgiving2              Community is God’s wish

 

It seems that society is against our building community. Between politics and economy separation, we find that we must continually work at keeping the spirit of community alive. We must be fully aware that others, not in favor of a coherent community are determined to undermine our efforts. Helping one another achieve a safe haven and comfortable living is not something that we should consider as a task. It is what community is based on. It is not really a self-aggrandizing virtue to help others; it is God’s gift to us as we share our successes and failures, good times and times of sorrow, and celebrations and times of fear and trepidation. The manifestation of God’s blessing on community is realized when we give out of love, not pity.

The New Testament clearly demonstrates the love that Jesus has for community. New Testament scholars call this gift koinonia; or as I translate it, fellowship. We cannot truly identify our own individuality until we recognize and support the individuality of others. After all, we are all children of God, which makes us all brothers and sisters, no matter what color our skin is, where we come from, or what religion we practice. When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is within us, he is speaking of our love and support for one another, in all circumstances.

The author of Kings in the Old Testament writes, “and may your hearts be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” Jesus clarified this when he said that the second commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This should be obvious to all of us that God want us to enjoy each other, each other’s opinions, and each other’s cultures. I know that I enjoy learning about other people, where they come from, and I particularly enjoy sharing a meal with them.

When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. Love conquers hate, peace rises triumphant over war, and justice proves more powerful than greed. 

May God help us to realize this dream.

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.