Thursday, January 27, 2011

Come After Me

"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.'

Going on from there, he saw two brothers, James, son of Zebedee and his brother John. . . . Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him." [Matthew 4:12-21]

Imagine that; hearing the invitation of Jesus, immediately dropping one's livelihood and even leaving one's father and following him?

We might say, Okay, things were different then. What was the hard life of being a fisherman, compared to following Jesus, becoming one of his apostles?

Even today, though, we are called to follow Jesus, his Way, his Truth. But HOW?

Maybe you will be called to refrain from gossiping, to refuse the temptation of judging others? Maybe you will be called to maintain your integrity on the job, while all around you others are siphoning off office supplies for themselves, or fudging their time cards? Maybe you will be called to offer the olive branch of peace to your brother or sister, when you were not the one to start the fight or to let the battle descend into verbal abuse?

Maybe you will be called to refuse to take sides in a couple's ugly separation or divorce? Maybe you will be called to love even the most hateful people in your life, even though they refused to stand in the receiving line at your wedding, because you married a Catholic?

Maybe you will be called to be faithful to God's Way, over your parents' way?

Are you willing to choose God over your parents? And how immediately, how unhesitatingly, would you be able you make this choice?

It is hard to be a Christian. It requires sometimes radical choices, as radical as dropping one's net, leaving behind one's father's ways, and putting Jesus first!

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Word

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God."  [John 1:1]

This sentence is one of the most famous in the Bible. It begins John's version of the Creation. Notice that in John's version, the Word comes before the heavens, the stars and the earth which God reportedly made first in Genesis 1:1. Over the centuries, people have speculated that the Word means, God's law, or a rational universe, or Jesus.

Have you seen the interview with Maya Angelou that recently aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network? Maya quotes, "In the beginning was the Word." To her, "Words are Things, that permeate the walls, the wallpaper, the furniture, the carpets." They can wound your soul, they can break your spirit.

When Maya was six, her mother's boyfriend molested her. She told someone who did this to her. The man was arrested. The next thing she knew, the police came to her house and reported that the man had died from being kicked.

Maya "knew", in her child's logic, that her words had killed this man. She stopped speaking.

When I was about ten, I stopped speaking, a conscious choice that lasted for about five years. I had given up on humanity, literally given up on people and on their human-ness, their ability to reassure me, to console me, understand me, tend to my needs. I absented myself from human contact by withdrawing into silence.

But my verbal development did not lag. I sat in my room reading voraciously. Like Maya, when I speak, it is as if you are "hearing" a book.

God is The Master of Irony. He is the source of our Redemption, our second chances. I did begin to speak again. Now I have this forum, a place where together, we can communicate, pray, reflect, meditate!

God, let my words be ones of hope, not despair; of love, not hate; of peace, not strife; of courage, not fear!  For the Word is with You. The Word IS you! My words are precious gifts, like jewels. Let me bestow them carefully, lovingly.

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King

This year is the 20th anniversary of the celebration of Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday.

I truly hope that Martin Luther King Day does not become another holiday like Veteran's Day which has become a day to shop the pre-season sales for winter coats. Or like Presidents' Day, which has become a day to shop for mattresses and new cars.

Martin Luther King was from an upper middle class family. But, being a black man, he had to ride in the back of the bus.

He was educated at Morehouse College. But he could not sit at the lunch counter at Woolworth's and be served a sandwich and a cup of coffee.

He was a minister of his own church in Atlanta. But for protesting segregation, he received death threats and was once stabbed in the chest. This, before he was assassinated in Memphis.

As a clergy member, he knew that he was right as a matter of Scripture.  God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11).

He knew as a matter of the Constitution that "all men are created equal".

In matters of the heart, he said, "If I am stopped, this movement will not stop, because God is with the movement."

He also said "We have no alternative but to protest."  He declared that he would not be patient with "anything less than freedom and justice."

God, grant me the vision to discern the Truth, and the COURAGE to speak the Truth. Let me never shrink from fighting for freedom for all of Your children!

[For further reflection on the significance of the life of Martin Luther King, read my January 16, 2012 posting entitled, "Remembering Martin Luther King".]

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Called To Be Holy

"Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . ." 1 Corinthians:1-3

As I read the above Scripture, I hope with all my heart, at first, that it is someone extraordinary like Paul, who is called to be holy! Surely, God, you do not mean ME?!!

How can I be holy? I get angry with my son; when my faith seems to evaporate, I fall into fear and despair; sometimes I tell "little white lies"  and I try to justify that by saying I am only trying to spare someone's feelings. If someone is evil against me, I want to lash back, to do it right back to them.

Fr. Richard Rohr says, "Jesus does not define holiness as separation from evil, as much as absorption and transformation of it. [Rohr, Fr. Richard,]

When I look back at my difficult life growing up, I realize that I DID absorb evil! In my circumstances, as the baby in the family, I could not fight back against the mistreatment and trauma by utilizing brute force. I had no power. In my childish mind, it seemed the best equation to counter all the negative forces coming at me was to reflect back love, humility, peace. It seemed to me that if I countered all the negatives with more anger, I would become bitter and angry inside, I would perhaps unleash an even greater family conflict and I would not survive.

What started out as a strategy of self-preservation became an outlook of love! I decided as a matter of affirmation that I would not let strife, anger, hatred  etc. overtake me and rule my heart.

Years later, I discovered that this attitude is the basis of the Prayer of St. Francis: "Make me a channel of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring your love. . . ."

And this is what Jesus embodied. The greatest single weapon against all the evil in the world is not the firepower of war or hate, or anger or blackmail or persecution or physical assault or pride etc.

The greatest weapons against evil are peace, acceptance, forgiveness, tolerance, humility and even joy!

In other words, LOVE.

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Power of Friendship

In the news today, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, shot in the head by a gunman in Tuscon on January 8, 2010, has made remarkable strides. In her hospital room, her husband held her hand. Her friends, two Congresswomen, were visiting her. They encouraged her, 'C'mon, Gabby, you can do this!' They reminisced about going out for pizza together and vacationing in New England last summer.

Gradually, Rep. Giffords opened one eye. Amazed at what they saw, her friends and husband urged her to give them a thumbs up if she understood what they were saying. She lifted her entire arm!

Rep. Giffords' doctor diagnosed this amazing progress as the result of The Power of Friendship.

Or how about Ted Williams, the man with The Golden Voice. The back story on that is that a reporter had seen him on the street, holding a sign. The reporter passed by. But, troubled by what he saw-- and intrigued-- he went back! The reporter downloaded video to YouTube. Now Ted Williams has a place to live, job offers are streaming in and he is getting the help he needs for substance abuse.

I come from a dysfunctional family. How many times have I felt alone and in despair?!!!

When I was away at school, I was the victim of a horrendous crime. I almost died that day, but for whatever reason, I am still here!

I had no family helping me to recover from my wounds and get the help I so desperately needed. I cried out to God, "I will never again trust human beings! The only Person in my life is You!" Soon I got my answer to this plea. My classmates mobilized to help. I slept on their couches or on mattresses thrown on the floor. They gave me meals and shared their class notes. I graduated top half of my class! God would not let me be alone. He would not let me fail.

When I moved into my current neighborhood, a neighbor would say hello to me every day when she saw me. I was shy and deeply wounded from my past traumas. It had become far safer for me to be invisible. Who WAS this woman and why was she bothering me?! I barely acknowledged her. I wasn't being rude. I was scared.

But she persisted and finally I said hello back. She is now one of my best friends. She would not give up on me.

This is the Power of Friendship, the power to transform others, to save others. Really, this is the Power of Love.

What does it take to tap into this Power? Start by saying hello. . . .

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti Remembered

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. That was one year ago today.

I did a double take when I read that it has been only one year since the devastation hit. Doesn't it seem that the earthquake happened much longer ago?  Maybe it's because Haiti has been the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere for most of its history.

Every school child has been taught that in 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America. I did not realize that in 1492, he also discovered Haiti!

Columbus claimed it for Spain, but at various times, Haiti has been under the control of the French, who imported 1/3d of all African slaves to work its plantations; and even for a time under the control of the United States, mostly to impose financial stability in order to recover on bad debt. Only in recent time has Haiti been independent. And they have struggled mightily.

Do you ask, in this time of terrorism, poverty and shocking crime in our own country, WHY should we help Haiti?! Do you feel "guilted" into helping?

Jesus said, Whatever you do unto the least of my brothers, you do unto me.

Can we now enter Haiti, not out of self interest as the Western nations historically did? Not out of "survivor guilt"?

Now: Can we enter Haiti simply out of love for humankind?

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Prayers for Tucson

On January 8, 2011, Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head by a young man. Six others were shot and killed by this man, including a nine year old girl who went to the supermarket "Town Meeting" to witness politics in action.

There has been heated debate in Arizona over immigration reform. In March of this year, a glass window to Giffords' office was smashed in an act of vandalism, after passage of the Federal healthcare reform law which Rep. Giffords supported.

Her Republican challenger in the last election was quoted at a fundraiser as urging his followers to remove Giffords from office by joining him in firing an M-16 rifle (!!!)

I am ashamed to say that one of my first questions was, Is this Rep. Giffords a Republican or a Democrat?

DOES IT MATTER? As Rep. Boehner was quoted as saying, This is an attack on us all.

In this, one of the freest countries in the world, a healthy debate is welcomed. But I did not think we would ever again engage in what amounts to a war over caring for The Least Among Us.

In case you are quick to pass judgment, or to try to guess which side I am on, there are also reports that this shooter is struggling with mental instability.

Do we have it in our hearts to forgive his mental anguish?

A dear friend reminds me that there is a huge difference between justice (needing to be right) and mercy (showing compassion).

God, I pray for an abundance of compassion all around.

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Baptism of The Lord

"John's clothes were made of camel's hair and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey". [Matthew 3:4.]

No doubt today, John would have been considered eccentric at best. Can you imagine how he would be received in contemporary times?! I wonder, Would I be willing to believe and follow such an unconventional character?

And yet, he had success drawing people to be baptized, to cleanse them of their sins. It is the beginning of a ministry for John. In the midst of a baptism, he tells a crowd: "After me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry." [Matthew 3:11].

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you and yet you come to ME?' ". [Matthew 3:12]

John did baptize Jesus because this was in God's plan; and so, Jesus began His ministry.

John was humble enough to relinquish his ministry to One greater than he was. Jesus was humble enough to be baptized, in order to follow the plan of His Father.

Lord, I pray that I am humble enough to serve you and carry out your plan for me.

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


"Epiphany" means the manifestation of divinity, according to Webster's Dictionary. In the Bible, it denotes the day when the magi or Three Kings reached the stable, where Jesus was born. Before this visit from the magi, the birth of Jesus was a private event, known for certain only to His earthly parents -- and to God. After this momentous visit, news of the birth of the Babe who was to change the world was carried far and wide. A manifestation of the Divine.

Let the irony of this event not be lost on us. Here were powerful Kings, clothed in luxurious finery, bearing expensive gifts. At first blush, the magi appear to be the powerful ones, especially when held in contrast to the quiet Joseph and the young peasant girl Mary, who hovered over the babe in the lowly manger. And yet, who is the Powerful One here?

I used to love this story as a child, for the wonderful explanation it gave me about why we give each other gifts at Christmas. Now, as I have grown wiser myself, I realize that this is a story more about God's great Gift to US.

AND about the Journey. It certainly seems like it took the Wise Men a long time to get to Bethlehem. How often we get lost on our Journey ourselves. We focus on our material riches, our fancy clothes and our presumed power. But these are as irrelevant to God as frankincense and myrrh are to a newborn Babe!

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Dear Friends:

The New Year can be a poignant time. Our friends and families have gone back to work and school. The holiday decorations have been taken down. Maybe we did not get the gifts we wanted this year.

And yet, The New Year can be a time of renewal, of new hope. Maybe this year, we tell ourselves, we really will lose that extra weight. Or, reconnect with someone we lost touch with.

Then reality sets in. Studies show that January 22 is the most depressing day of the year. Why? At that point in the New Year, the full burden of holiday debt has hit our mail box. And, we have had enough time to stare our New Year's Resolutions in the face. It becomes abundantly clear how difficult it is to keep our Resolutions. This is a time when we take a hard look at our faults and shortcomings. If we judge ourselves too harshly, all we see in the mirror is UGLY!

Recently a woman who is very dear to me asked me to support her as she embarks on some new plans for herself. She is attractive, well-dressed, well educated, talented in various ways, her kids are great successes, her home is sheer perfection. My first reaction was, How could SHE need my advice and support? She has it all together, she does not need anyone or anything, right?

My next reaction was, How could she come to ME? I realized, with all the damage I have from my traumatic past, I see myself as fractured and deformed. In my deep pain, at my worst moments, I even wonder, who would notice me? Who would want to be with me? Who would think I am valuable or have anything to offer?

But this dear woman thinks I am strong, wise, non-judgmental, nurturing.

In the end, I said yes to her request. I love her and want to help her, simple as that. I am still not sure what she sees in me, but I am willing to take that leap of faith, to at least assume that there is something valuable about me, even if I cannot see it. Otherwise, why would she ask?

There are so many barriers to our becoming closer to others. One huge obstacle is how we minimize and even denigrate ourselves.

This New Year's, I am starting to ask myself the really hard questions. No, not wallowing in "What's wrong with me?" I am asking, "If God accepts me the way I am, as a work in progress, why can't I accept myself that way?!"

If I look in the mirror and see only an unworthy mess, I am allowing the abusive rhetoric of the past to take hold and flourish. If I feel that I have no value, how can I possibly help others?

OR myself?

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.


Welcome to my Spiritual Home! As you can see by the background of this page, this is a space that, although modest and even rustic, is unassuming and welcoming to all. I hope that this becomes a spiritual refuge for me and also for you. A place where you can feel at home. . . .

I come from a rough beginning. I have been on a Spiritual Journey my whole life. But it is only lately that I have had a growing awareness of God's presence in my life, and the profound ways in which He has consistently rescued me and reached into my heart to try to make me whole.

We are all broken, and as humans,we are by definition, frail. We struggle, we make mistakes, maybe we try to apologize but even in our humble apologies, we sometimes bungle things!

My motivation in these postings is to share my mistakes, my doubts, my wanderings, but also my joys and my epiphanies!

Sometimes I struggle and I feel such hurt and pain for the things I have been made to endure, but God does not want us to feel alone. He comes to us if we only ask for His presence.

And He has also given us each other, to share the Journey! Come walk with me!

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2011. All Rights Reserved.