Sunday, December 30, 2012

Family Bonds

" Every year, the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast. After the Feast, while His parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking He was with their caravan, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for Him. After three days, they found Him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished. His mother said to Him, 'Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.'   'Why were you searching for me?' Jesus asked. 'Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?' Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.  But his mother treasured all these things in her heart." [ Luke 2: 41-51].

December 30 is the day when we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

I think that this is one of my favorite stories in the Bible about Jesus. How fascinating it is to see a glimpse into the childhood of Jesus! Of course, we assume that he was consistently obedient to his parents throuhgout His young years. Did he not teach us to honor our fathers and mothers, as was written in the Ten Commandments?  

And yet, in this instance, Jesus goes off on His own for three or four days. His parents are terrified.

I pulled a similar "stunt" when I was about five years old. I was attending half days in school, and I always felt exhausted. I told my mother one day that I needed a nap. She replied, "You are five years old. You cannot be tired. You do not need a nap."

I went to play in my room. I knew what my mother had told me, that I should not be tired since I was five years old now. Still, that bed of mine looked awfully inviting. And I was soo sleepy. I could not resist. I climbed in bed and pulled the covers over my head, for a "short" rest. Just a moment to close my eyes. . . .

It must have been the weekend, because my father was home. Many "winks" later, I woke to my father shaking me frantically. The house had been awfully quiet. Where was I? They had called me many times, but I had not answered. They had combed the neighborhood but I was missing! Just as my mother was threatening to call the police, my father decided to check my room one more time. He pulled the covers off the big lump in my bed. AND there I was, complaining that he was waking me up. I had disobeyed and taken a nap.

I always felt slightly guilty over that nap. I had not honored my mother. But, the fact was, my mother was wrong. I did need to sleep.

Growing up is like that. Sometimes we have to forge ahead a little bit, to figure out where our parents end and where we begin.

When we are babies, we cannot get close enough to our parents. We crush our faces to theirs, cheek to cheek. We plunge our fingers into our mother's mouth, and play with her hair, and gaze deeply into her eyes. We twist her sweater sleeve with our damp fingers and chew on her necklace. We want to be her.  We think we ARE her.

Somewhere about age five or ten or so, we might take off, reveling in our freedom. We do not think to tell the adults where we are. We know what we need, so we go. Our parents are terrified.

The striking thing is that Jesus made a choice at a young age. Even at the tender age of twelve, he made a choice to be with God, not with His own family.

I had to make that choice too. As I grew up, I came to realize that my parents were not telling me the Truth. I was called ugly. I was sometimes mocked for being a failure.  I was told that there is no God. I was warned not to give to charity. To think of myself first.

Gradually, I began to think for myself. I began to rethink these platitudes. All of them were lies.

I had to walk that perilous tightrope of honoring my parents, but dwelling in my Father's House.

I vowed never to hate my parents. I decided to love them as best as I could, even if they did not seem to know how to love me. I realized that I would be much worse off, if I became a hater too, angry and bitter.

I had come from my parents' house, but my heart dwelled in my Father's House. I treasure Love, Peace, Hope, Faith. My family fomented hate, bigotry, mercenary motivations, violence, cruelty.

Even when I was very young, I learned the very real value of sustained silence. God can be found in the Silence.

And when I was old enough as a young adult, I simply walked away.

I used to feel awful about that tightrope that I walked. It felt like I could never win. On the one hand, it was not in me to become my parents. But on the other hand, I could not dishonor them. I hated having to face that choice.

I do not feel so bad now, in reading this Scripture. Even Jesus walked away, when His Father called Him.

I see now, as well, that we all have to walk that tightrope. We are all called to honor our earthly parents, even the most difficult ones. But we are all called to Our Father's House; not just in the next life, but in this one.

I pray that we all discern the difference between our father's house and Our Father's House; and I pray that we have the strength to dwell in the right place.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My New Year's Resolutions

Another New Year is approaching. Our thoughts turn inevitably to New Year's Resolutions.

As a child, I never received much guidance in how to live a healthy, balanced life.

I was taught some "backwards thinking", such as,  'Do not give to charity.'  If I gave money to others, I felt guilty.

I was taught that 'Christians are losers and hypocrites.' Yet, I found myself believing in God and wanting to go to church. I felt confused.

My family had awful names for every ethnic group. But I wanted to love everyone. Is that so wrong?

I had to seriously doubt the things that my family taught me. But somehow, I needed a really good self-help book, to figure out how to live.

Every year, I make New Year's Resolutions. I do want to work on being a better person. None of us is perfect-- or ever will be. But I want to always learn and grow.

So, here are my Resolutions:

1) I want to love others.

2) I want to stop worrying about how I look.

3) I want to feel more worthy.

4) I want to stop being so anxious about tomorrow.

5) I want to be happy, joyful.

6) I want to stop obsessing about what I eat.

7)  I want to be more patient.

8) I want to curb my anger. 

9) I want to increase my faith.

10) I want to forgive others, even those who have hurt me deeply.

It was not until I became an adult-- and a wife and mother-- that a dear friend finally gave me a beautiful gift, a Bible! I had never owned one before.

I opened it and began to read. I discovered that it is the best self-help book ever written!

Here are the keys to my Resolutions:

1) "Love others deeply from the heart", 1 Peter 22; and 1 Cor. 13: 13,
"Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is Love."

2) " Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your body, what you will wear. And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. Not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed as these". Matthew 6: 25, 29.

3) "[Even] the sparrows will not fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  Don't be afraid, you are worth  more than many sparrows. Even all the hairs on your head are numbered [by God]." Matthew 10:31

4) " Therefore, do not worry about your life. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6: 25, 34; " Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." 1Peter 5:7.

5) "Be always joyful, pray continuously, give thanks whatever happens." 1 Thess. 5: 6-18

6) " Do not worry about what you will eat or drink. Is not life more important than food?" Matthew 6: 25.

7) " Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4: 2

8) " Anyone who is angry with his brother will be judged. Settle matters quickly with your adversary." Matthew 5: 22, 25.

9) " The Apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our Faith.' The Lord said, 'If you have Faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for you.' " Luke 17: 5-6; Matthew 17: 20.

10)  " If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you."  Matthew 6:14; also, Matthew 18: 21-22-- "' How many times must I forgive my brother?' 'Not seven times but seventy-seven times.' "

So many people today believe that the Bible is archaic and irrelevant. BUT, the Scriptures have put me onto right thinking. The Word has saved my life! I return to my Bible again and again, to seek my moral compass, to find the right path. The Scriptures give me the Truth about life.

The Blessings of the New Year be upon you!

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Blessed Purpose

"Why am I so favored, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me. . . . Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled". [Luke 1: 45].

In these words, Elizabeth spoke to Mary. Elizabeth understood, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that Mary would bear a Son ---who would be the Son of God.

Elizabeth, the mother of John The Baptist, was also pregnant, and at the sight of Mary, her own baby leapt in her womb. Not only was Elizabeth joyful at seeing Mary, but her baby even "recognized" the power of this moment.

I suppose we take this moment sort of for granted. This story has been told and retold so many times, especially during this Advent Season.

This moment is so very remarkable, because of how unworldly it is. For, it is both a sacred moment, one of the first recognitions of Mary's pregnancy after the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel. But it is also, literally, unearthly.

Unearthly, because, who today believes that God is in all of us, and that we have the power to say 'Yes' to Him, as Mary did?

We are a largely secular society today. Our beliefs mirror those I was taught when growing up:

The first such belief is the deep doubt that there IS a God. I was taught to distrust those who believe in God. I was taught that church is a "waste of time and money". I was taught not to put any stock in that "faith stuff".

So, what if there IS no God? Then, it is entirely rational to wonder, why was I made anyway? What use am I? What is life even for?

For those who do not believe in God, is life merely a series of random, unconnected events, signifying nothing? Is our purpose as humans only to eat, sleep, make as much money as we can for ourselves, and have as much fun as we can?

I don't want to accept that world view. I see in so many a longing to find a higher purpose in life, to discern one's essential calling.

A second belief in this secular world is that we are "Self-Made". My family believed that a child was like a piece of clay, to be formed and molded by her parents. Any desire to follow one path over the other-- and any success at that path-- came only from how the parents prompted and educated and prodded the child. Any human success was due entirely to human achievement. God had nothing to do with it. This is a sure path to anxiety. With no Higher Power to turn to, that would make ME in charge of everything, all by myself?! Terrifying thought.

This is also a dangerous world view. It means that nothing about me-- not my emotions, my gifts, my personality-- was my own. All these belonged to someone else and were controlled by someone else-- my parents. It was as if I was occupied by a foreign army.

It did not take long for me to figure out that my parents were playing God with me. How horrifying, for a handful of people to spend all of their energy trying to bend me to their will? My parents believed that they could "make me or break me". They DID try to break my spirit, and to force me to become them. This is a sure path to trauma.

And what if I failed at what my parents told me I was to become?

If I could not be who my parents wanted me to be, according to their purpose; and if I could not become what I felt would be my own purpose, then who was I? In short order, I shut down. I became Nothing. This is a sure path to depression.

In order to be truly human, we need to be able to ask: 'Who am I? Where did I come from? And what is my purpose?' All of the great civilizations have asked this. All great literature is a meditation upon these themes.

Any free human being has the privilege of asking these questions. And in asking these questions, we are, in reality, seeking God.

Where did I come from? In the sacred world, we come from God.

Who am I? In the sacred world, we have our gifts, emotions. personalities, and our faith, that all come from God. These comprise our essence. Another human can try to force upon us their own ideas of our gifts, emotions and personalities. But they cannot steal our essence, our soul. Our soul is ours to keep. It is eternal. When I discovered this on my own, as a young adult, I cried. What a miraculous gift!

We, as humans, can try to be our own greatest promoters, to be the sole arbiters of our fates. We can push ourselves onto the world scene, with business cards, with social or professional media. We can put ourselves out on You Tube and Facebook and LinkedIn. But in the end, it is God who leads us to our greatest calling.

After I ceased believing that my existence and my purpose came solely from my parents, I used to worry endlessly about how to find my purpose. If my purpose did not come from any human being, where would I find my calling?

I was basically worrying about how to find God!

Years later, my pastor told me, 'Don't worry, God will find you!'

God found Mary. Mary believed that the purpose announced about her would be fulfilled, through God. She had the Grace to say, Yes!', to God. She was not alone, God was with her.

St. Paul, in Philippians 1:6, talks about "being confident that He, who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion."  Put another way, "For it is God who works in you, to will and to act according to His good purpose."

Like Mary, I believe in God. I believe that, through my own free will, using my own gifts, I can find my life's calling. I believe that if I have the Grace and the strength to say 'Yes' to God, He will carry me far, according to His own good purpose. Like Mary, I believe that what is spoken to me by God, about my Blessed purpose, will be fulfilled by my belief in Him.

And so, in intimate relationship with God, we are able to fulfill our Divine Self, and to become truly as God intended us to be.

[Related Postings, "Solemnity of Mary", January 2, 2102; " Blessed Mother", August 19, 2011].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Wishes

Dear Santa (and God):

This year for Christmas, all I want is

1) Hope

2) Love

3) Joy

4)  Peace

5) And, a Divine Prince, who will come to save the World. . . .



Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Sensation of Evil

" Evil has visited this community [of Newtown, CT]." -- Governor Dannel Malloy, of Connecticut, December 15, 2012.

On December 14, 2012, at approximately 9:40 a.m., a young man of twenty years entered Sandy Hook Elementary School by force. He proceeded to methodically shoot and kill the school's principal, the school psychologist, several teachers, and twenty students in kindergarten and first grade.

This is the worst mass shooting at an elementary school in America's history. Today, our nation mourns. Even our President is in tears, and he says, "Our hearts are broken."

What is this, except Evil?

And yet, we create violent video games for our children-- and call it "fun".

We all go out to watch gory movies, that cost multi-millions of dollars to produce, and we call it "entertainment".

Evil seems to us so cool. So racy. So edgy. So exhilarating.

I have spent a good part of my life facing down Evil: suffering black eyes, shedding blood; enduring attempted murder, attempted kidnapping, strangulation; enduring, as a child, deliberate infliction of hunger and cold, deprivation of medical attention, withdrawal of human affection, abandonment at my hour of life and death. Much of this Evil came from my own family. . . .

I have become exquisitely sensitive to Evil. I can feel it coming, deep inside me, before it even occurs.

When I was in graduate school, far from home, studying for final exams, I closed my books late at night and tried to relax. But sleep would not come. A grave sense of Evil came lurking in my apartment. Then a feeling of vast peace, a feeling of strength that I had never felt before. I thought it was a hallucination, caused by all the stress of exams. Deeply shaken, I finally was able to fall asleep.

About a month later, a knock came upon my door. It was not my next door neighbor, as I had assumed. It was a stranger with a knife. He assaulted me and tried to kill me. Evil had entered my home. I had had a premonition of Evil. And an omen of Survival, through God's Strength and Grace.

I did survive. After that, my healing was a long time in coming. But along the way, I remembered the time, a year or so before the assault, when I had bought a new pair of silver earrings. The day I bought them, I started to cry and I could not stop. A classmate asked me what was wrong? I said, I do not know. I felt despair and a foreboding sense of sorrow.

Those were the earrings I was wearing on the day that I was assaulted. I never wore them again. I had had a premonition of Evil. I put the earrings away in my safe box.

For the last couple of weeks, I have not been myself. I have felt deep despair again. Even close friends noticed that I was "off". On Friday, December 14, I was at a prayer meeting in the morning. I found myself offering prayers of thanksgiving that I am alive, that I am breathing. I thanked God for every time that I have cheated death. I prayed for the safety of my son in school. When I got home, I switched on the TV and heard the awful news about Newtown.

We live in a Culture of Death. I know Evil when I see it. It is not a game. It is not entertainment. It is not cool. Nor is it fantasy. OR a joke.

We must call Evil what it is: Evil. Only if we recognize it, and face it head on, can we fight it.

I have learned to be "open" to Evil.  If we can combat Evil by being open to the Holy Spirit, why can we not also combat Evil by shining our light on it, by calling it out, as the deadly danger that it is? We need to sense Evil from our very own personal depths-- to feel it viscerally and to recognize its horror.

In the face of Evil, we ask, 'Why, God why?' I  have, over the years, wracked my brain trying to explain Evil, or come to grips with it. Lord knows, with my family, I have tried. Oh, I can come up with explanations: mental illness, deep seated anger, despair, addiction, and so on. . . .

BUT-- Even if those "explanations" are valid, and even if I try with all my soul to forgive, there can never be an adequate reason for Evil. Explanations begin to sound like excuses. And, Evil just IS.

There is nothing wrong, and everything right, about being shocked at Evil. The last time I can think of in history, when men systematically hunted down and killed women and children, was during the Holocaust. And modern humankind vowed that would never happen again.

There is a serious danger in "normalizing" Evil. There is an attitude today that, 'Oh, well, evil is everywhere; everyone has experienced it in life. We all go through this.'   I fear that this attitude means giving up on the battle. I never want to see a world where Evil is the norm.

Preventing Evil means to "be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent." [ Luke 21: 34-36].

Preventing Evil means making Good the norm. It means not expecting Death and Evil. It means desiring, creating, expecting Good. It means desiring, expecting, longing for God.

In that moment in my graduate apartment, when I had the premonition of Evil, I also felt the Peace that "passeth all understanding." This comes from Saint Paul, who said," Your kindness shall be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." [Philippians 4: 4-7].

We can have Goodness and Peace. We need to pray for it, to ask for it, to demand it.

[Related Postings: "Prayers For Tucson",  January 10, 2011; "The Replication of Evil", November 8, 2012; " Advent Defies Death", December 16, 2012.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Prepare The Way

" God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in the knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit . . . . that comes through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God."  [ Philippians 1: 9-11].

Advent is a time to prepare the way for Jesus' coming into this world, yet again. In fact, every day of our lives should be like Advent, relinquishing whatever keeps us from God and Jesus, and discerning what is of value in our lives.

My entire life has been like that, abandoning what has been a distraction from the real sense of self; and embracing those elements that are timeless and eternal.

I have had times in my life when the only person who treated me with tenderness has died. I have had times when the most horrible images of the past have come rushing back in such a vivid way, that I have felt as if I was reliving the traumas. I have had times when I have questioned what my life is all about, or is even worth?

In those times, my life seemed as if it was a flimsy house built on sand. I have had to sift through the rubble of my life, trying to discern what was of value, so that I could rebuild a shelter that was pure and meaningful.

When, as a child, I was sometimes not fed, I had to figure out where else I could find food. I learned over the years to give up on Gluttony. No, these days I do not follow what foods are "in fashion". Perhaps pomegranate was all the rage a few years ago, and coconut water is so very fashionable today. But, today, I eat to live; I do not live to eat.

When I was a child, a sibling would verbally abuse me daily and my parents would say, 'You are too sensitive.' I would get angry and cry and stamp my feet. Then my sibling would hit me. My mother would say, 'You are angry. Don't be.' I learned early on that Anger can derail you. But, I do believe in "righteous anger", the kind that spurs you to action-- because some things just cannot be.

I would complain, as a child, about this person and that, and their annoying habits. I would really let these things get under my skin. My mother would say, "No one is as perfect as you." I learned to relinquish my Pride. It was only making me judge others, when I needed my energy to take care of myself.

My family would use money as a weapon to mold my behavior and beliefs. In university, I was told, if you do not study what we tell you, we will cut off tuition. I learned to relinquish Greed. Wealth, if misused, can become a tool for blackmail and overarching power. But, today, I know that what I need is simply enough.

Although no one ever hugged me or said 'I love you', I decided that the answer was to love others from the heart. My Love became an action plan. When others dismissed me, I got busy. I never had any use for Sloth. If no one else in my life could love, I decided that I had better get busy and love those around me.

I have focused, sometimes bitterly, on what I have lost in this process. But I am beginning to see that, by giving up on some temptations, I have in reality skirted some dangerous traps. I have cleared away the rubble and in doing so, I can see more clearly what is precious.

John the Baptist said, " Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him. . . .[For] the crooked roads shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth, and all shall see the salvation of the Lord." [Luke 3: 3-6].  

Sometimes I am in despair, wondering what I have left, after all the traumas and losses and deaths in my life. Really, I have "died to self." What now do I have to hold onto? Have I really lost everything?

No, I cannot believe that! What I have left are the most precious things of all, the promises of Advent -- Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.

And in the end, I have made way for Jesus.  I have relinquished only what would threaten to derail me. I have made straight paths for Him and I have endured the rough ways, in order to treasure His ways, that are only smooth!

[Related Posting: "Anger in the Temple", March 10, 2012].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Defies Death

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly. [John 10:10].

It is now Advent, the beginning of another Christian year.

Advent is a time of joyful and expectant waiting-- for baby Jesus to be born.

Perhaps you remember those feelings of excitement, at a time when a new baby came into your family. I certainly remember my overwhelming emotion at the birth of my son. I could barely contain my joy! I felt like a kid at Christmas, only this was infinitely better.

Life IS a miracle. I want to hold those feelings of inutterable joy in my heart, forever.

And YET, we live in a Culture of Death.

And I wonder if we even notice how Death pervades our everyday life? How jaded have we become, that we toss off words like, 'Oh, yeah. . . . that guy died.'

Consider some headlines from the past year:

The New York Post just this week published a front page photo of a man who had been thrown from a subway platform, in front of an oncoming subway train. The caption read, "DOOMED. Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die."

A woman in China was taken away by force, and made to undergo an abortion. We in the United States claim to react with horror; and yet, in America, we call a woman's decision to abort her fetus a matter of her "human rights".

A peaceful government is in threat of being overthrown by rebels. And so, the government decides to bomb its own civilians and threatens to release chemical weapons.

A man invades a home and murders an entire family. Our response is to sentence the killer to death.

A recent headline:  "Man fires gun at pregnant woman who is smoking a cigarette." And just who is the one devaluing life here?

You may declare, 'You are taking this "Culture of Death thing" very personally.'

Yes-- of course I am!  You see, I almost died in utero, before I was even born. Then, when I was about 4 or 5, I almost drowned in a neighbor's pool; I was sinking down, down and I knew I was drowning.. When I was in high school, there was an intruder in the neighborhood when I was home alone; the police found an overturned trash can underneath a first story window in my back yard. When I was  14, a member of my extended family committed suicide. When I was in my early twenties, I was the victim of a home invasion; I almost died that day and I could feel my life slipping away. When I was a young mother, I was on the way home from the park with my young son, when a huge tree toppled over and came within feet of crushing us. A few years later, I was out in the yard, gardening. As soon as I came in, a giant ash tree came crashing down, precisely where I had just been standing.  I have had episodes, with my chronic lung disease, when I could not breathe. In a two year span recently, my father, best friend, mother-in-law and my mother have all died.

I fear that the world has lost the capacity to love life. . . . Is everyone so inured to war and violence and torture and abuse, that death no longer has any meaning? Are we that numb to it all, that we no longer even recognize threats to life when we see them?

The more I have experienced the threat of death, the more I have longed to shed anything that remotely resembles death in my life. In order to more fully embrace life, I have died to anxiety, anger, violence, crisis, war, weaponry, abuse or trauma. I wish everyone in the whole world would cherish life as much as I do!

What would the world be like if we did not try to justify abortion by dismissing the fetus as just a bunch of random cells?

What if we all loved life so much that we refused to watch violent, gory movies that are passed off as "entertainment?"

What if our leaders called war "inevitable and necessary", and we dared to say that they are WRONG?

What if we loved even those whom society rejects -- the unborn, the imprisoned, the homeless, the terminally ill-- and we dared to notice them and value their lives?

I love peace, I love justice, I love gentleness, I love mercy, I love hope, I love compassion, I love the light, I love laughter and joy. These are Life. These come from Jesus.

As for hate, violence, war, abuse, trauma, weapons of destruction, abuses of power -- these are not Life. These are not Jesus.

I pray that we all look forward, with eager anticipation, to the birth of The Prince of Peace, who brings Life:  the gifts of Truth, Peace, Joy, Hope, and above all, Love.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Seamless Christian

" Be vigilant, or your hearts will be weighted down with dissipation, with drunkeness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectantly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be vigilant always, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you  may be able to stand before the Son of Man." [Luke 34-36].

It is Advent, and once again, it is the start of a new Christian year. It is a time of waiting and expectant hope, for the coming of Jesus, yet again, in our lives.

As Christians, we are called to always wait with hope and joy for Jesus. We are  called each day to convert, to draw ever nearer to the Son of Man. This is our lifelong walk of faith.
For, one day, at the hour of our death, we will be judged.

And one day, when Jesus returns to his earthly reign, we will all be called before Him, and our life will be measured.

I think of the phrase, "Be vigilant', and what I hear is the admonition to always act in an honest and sacred way, whether others are watching us or not. In other words, we are to live as "seamless Christians". 

This notion of a "seamless Christian" reminds me of a time when a massive financial fraud was uncovered, which was the constant subject of all the media. A co-worker of mine turned to me and said, " Do the perpetrators think that they are invisible?"

There is a dangerous trend we want to indulge in lately, to make sins committed in secret acceptable, because they are conducted in private.

I say this because of an article in The New York Times, on November 21, 2012, regarding Sesame Street's Elmo puppeteer, Kevin Clash, who has resigned after a lawsuit filed against him by a young man accusing Clash of sexual abuse when the young man was 15.  The article goes on to quote a Columbia University professor who complains that this is just one more example of " sex panic"; and that "sexuality is being driven back into the closet as something shameful and incompatible with honor or decency."

Ah, BUT: this alleged instance of sexual activity is not the same sacred and holy sexuality that God promises us in an equal and mature relationship. If the young man's allegations are true, we are talking about a 15 year old boy in a physical relationship with a revered childrens'  TV star.

Consider a child who is secretly abused by her father for her entire childhood. This man is, by all other accounts, a model citizen, a hard-working man who keeps an immaculate lawn, who pays his bills on time, who washes the family car weekly and holds a responsible job. Would we say that the father's abuse is "private" and therefore, acceptable? Would accusations against the father be called merely a "sex panic", because they occurred in secret for decades?

Then, on November 22, 2012, there was another article in The New York Times about former General David Petraeus, married for 38 years, who resigned in the wake of an affair in the theater of war with his female biographer. Classified military information was found on her computer after an FBI investigation. The article bemoans the fact that Petraeus has "plenty of free time, and is ponder[ing] his next move. The article notes that Petraeus is used to a 'turbocharged schedule, motorcades,  secret military trips, the best invitations.' 

Petraeus himself admits that he "[messed] up royally." And yet, the subtext of the article is that the general's affair is like an inconvenient blip, preventing him from contributing to the nation, to an extent in keeping with his stature and abilities.

We saw similar rhetoric when former President Bill Clinton's intimate relationship with Monica Lewinsky was called "private". How was it private, when it occurred in the Oval Office, between the married President of the United States and a young staffer?

I certainly do not seek to judge these men, on these alleged instances, nor on the totality of their lives.
Only God can do that.

But, I do point out that a behavior being "secret" or "private" does not make it right. And if a man errs egregiously, it should not be ignored or excused, just because he has a high standing or has done great things. We may not want these episodes to have happened, but the Truth must be told. And there ought to be consequences.

I also point out that these men, like all of us, are fully human: capable of extraordinary contributions to our world, yet at times, deeply flawed. We all hope to become seamless Christians. We all fail at this.

These mens' lives are not "over", literally or figuratively. A faith-filled Christian will say that he is sorry to God and to those he has hurt. Then, he will pick himself up, and try to figure out how to make a positive difference in the world again.

"And let the endless bliss begin, when right shall triumph over wrong and Truth shall be extolled." [from the hymn, "The King Shall Come].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Got Faith?

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there', and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." [Matthew 17:20.]

In the year from October 2012, to November 2013 the Catholic Church celebrates the "Year of Faith."

God has in His generosity given us three spiritual virtues: the gift of Hope; the gift of Love; and the gift of Faith.

I find more and more, as I come to understand my Faith in a deeper way, that it is part of the whole of me.

Some may be able to separate out their faith and compartmentalize it into what one does on Sunday morning, IF one happens to attend Mass. Then, as the church door slams shut, one's faith closes down for the coming week.

My Faith is part of my emotional response to the world, as well as my rational analysis of events around me. I cannot separate my Faith from myself. It is not merely a part of me; it IS me.

But there are many myths regarding the Christian Faith. Here are my Top Ten Faith Myths:

1) "Christians are so hopeless, that all they have is God."
The Truth:  We pray to God first, foremost and often. God is not our last resort, He is our               first resort. "Be always joyful, pray continuously." [1 Thessalonians 5: 8-18].

2) "Christians believe that God is here to fulfill all of our prayers."

The Truth: We know that God does not always give us what we want; but He is always there to be our strength, even when we face hardships. "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped." [Psalm 28: 7].

3) "Christians believe that we need to martyr ourselves, to become a self-sacrifice for others."

The Truth: We are called to give freely of ourselves and our gifts. But, we also need to keep ourselves balanced and whole, in order to be able to give continually. In his book, "The Jesuit Guide To (Almost) Everything", Fr. James Martin speaks of St. Ignatius realizing, in his faith life, that his extreme ascetism was actually preventing him from carrying out his sacred work.

4) "Christians blindly follow the rules and cannot think for themselves."

The Truth:  Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life", [John 14:6]. That is, being a Christian is not a just set of Commandments, it is a Way of life. Of course, we will stumble and fall. We struggle deeply with how to be Christians. We are human.

5) "Christians judge others who are not like them."

The Truth: We are to "judge not." [ Matthew 7:1]. Besides, we are also called to "love our neighbors as ourselves." [Matthew 19:19].

6) "Christians believe that as long as they pray for forgiveness, it does not matter what they do; the prayer will 'cover' the sin." 

The Truth:  What we do, DOES count. "What good does it do if a man claims to have faith,but has no works? Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead." [James 2: 14-18].

7) "The Eucharist is an empty ritual".

Actually, Catholics believe that in receiving the Eucharist, we are receiving Jesus Himself, and all of His peace, love, mercy, justice etc.

8) "Christians believe that having any money is a sin."

The Truth:  Christians are not to worship money and wealth above all else, or hoard extreme stores of material things.  But God DOES want his children to be provided for. " Look at the birds of the air; they do not store away in barns, and yet our heavenly Father feeds them." [ Matthew 6: 26].

9) " Christians believe that all sex is sinful."

The Truth: God gave us our human sexuality as a gift, to be used responsibly. We dishonor our sexuality, and God's gift, if we regard it as mere recreation.

10) "The majority of Catholic priests are child abusers."

The Truth: Per Sam Miller, prominent Cleveland Jewish businessman, ". . . . 1.7% of Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia, [but] 10% of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia. This is not [only] a Catholic problem."

Faith. . . Got it?

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The Truth: "                 

Monday, November 26, 2012

King of The Universe

" Pilate said to Jesus, ' Are you the King of the Jews?' Jesus answered, 'Do you say this on your own, or have others told you about me?' Pilate answered, 'I am not a Jew, am I ? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me What have you done?' Jesus answered, 'My kingdom does not belong to this world. My attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not here.' So Pilate said to him, ' Then you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.' " [John 18: 33-37].

We think that, as humans, we have grand political power over other states and nations. We delegate such extreme power to men, that we make them King. And yet, that royal power is so very fleeting.

Remember Rome? Where is that vast Roman Empire today, that extended from the East in the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), all the way West, to Gaul ( now France). The Roman Empire fell-- to corruption, to the flames consuming the city of Rome, to murders and excessive wealth.

And where is Emperor Nero of Rome? He allegedly set fire to Rome in order to make way for an even more extravagant palace. He was also allegedly the murderer of his own mother. In the end, his power did him no good; he was assassinated.

There are other, more recent men who were would-be kings.  Adolph Hitler thought that he would conquer the world. But in the end, he was assassinated, and his regime crumbled.

Think that the egotistical desire to be King ended with World War II? Remember the recent reign of Muammar Gaddafi? This Libyan dictator wore self-styled royal caftans and head-dresses, and convinced himself that his people loved him. He died in a hail of bullets, cornered and trapped by his own people.

And so, who IS the King of the Universe? Many kings of history have been corrupt dictators. Other kings, though benevolent, have been forgotten.

Perhaps modern celebrity is the source of royalty? We have dubbed Elvis Presley the "King of Rock and Roll". There is no doubt about his talent, and his immense contribution to the music world. We idolozed him and yet--- in 1977, he died of a massive drug overdose.

We have also dubbed Michael Jackson, "The King of Pop". Again, no doubting his near genius talent. But he died of a drug overdose as well, amid allegations of past scandal.

If not celebrities, maybe economic powerhouses rule to world?  Remember Tom Wolfe's novel, "The Bonfire of the Vanities", chronicling the lives of greedy, powerful men on Wall Street in the 1990's. Wolfe ironically dubbed these investment bankers, "Masters of the Universe"? Or, remember "Barbarians At The Gate"?

Where is Lehman Brothers now? Or Bear Stearns? Bankrupt. Defunct.

And so, who is really King of the Universe? Is it the moguls who own the most waterfront real estate? We have seen, tragically, in Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and again during Hurricane Sandy, that real estate does not confer dependable status. Not when a single storm can wipe away an entire downtown. Not when a single storm can require redrawing of coastline maps, because expansive swathes of coastline have simply disappeared.

I have lived an uncertain and traumatic enough life to know that we live in a fragile, temporary world.
Everything I have, everything I see, will not last forever. Companies will go bankrupt or go out of business. Storms may blow homes and entire towns away. Politicians may come to power, or may lose power. Celebrities may become less popular, may die, or may even implode in controversy or scandal.

And yet, I long for something that is constant and eternal in my life. This longing has ever been so, even in Biblical times. This longing is the desire for God, and it is part of the human condition.

This is a counter-cultural concept today, but it is God who reigns. And God made His reign manifest through His Son, Jesus, who is The King of the Universe.

" Jesus was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and  humanity of every language worship Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." [Daniel 7: 14].

In the storms of my life, I have clung to this comfort, that God and Jesus are always there and always will be. Jesus' power is everlasting, and nothing can take His reign away. I may lose my home; lack food to eat, or electricity, or water, or a warm coat; I may even lose friends, family, employment, or money.

But God and Jesus are still there! And still they reign.

For Jesus is God's Truth, who will never fade, never lose relevance, never become tarnished or corrupt, never rule by brute force, and never die.

Ultimately, it is Jesus and His Truth that reign: "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth." No other Truth in the world holds value or bears any validity.

Jesus, Lord, as I seek to belong to the Truth, may I always listen, in the stillness of my heart, to Your Voice.

[Related Posting: "Not of This World", May 21, 2012.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Prayer

" And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth; who fosters people's growth from their mother's womb, and fashions them according to His will!  May He grant you joy of heart, and may peace abide among you. May His goodness toward us endure, to deliver us in our days." [Sirach 50: 22-24].

Prayer For Thanksgiving:

Lord, thank you for every breath I take;

thank you for every friend I make;

thank you for every prayer I give;

thank you for every moment I live.

Each day, may I offer my Thanksgiving unto You!

Happy Thanksgiving

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Fig Tree

" Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and it shoots come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, . . . Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." [Mark 13: 28-31].

As I grew up, I gradually learned to trust less and less. I learned that a mother's kindness could turn to cruelty in an instant. I learned that a sibling could play nicely for some time, then turn the neighborhood children against me; or call me ugly and hit me with no provocation. I learned that a father, who seemed remote at some times, could be dangerously close at others.

I learned to attend to my physical needs. I put myself down for naps, I found food if no one made sure I had enough to eat for dinner or breakfast. I saved earnings from odd jobs at age 13, so I could have enough funds to escape my life in that house.

Whether you have had a loving and easy life, or a cruel and harsh life: it can be very hard to trust.

I love this image of the little fig tree! This is an image to hold onto, that beautifully explains our Faith. There is a trust aspect to our Faith that is compelling and quite necessary. 

I have had many times in my life where I refused to trust in anyone, or anything. I stopped speaking as a child. I put a lot of effort into being invisible. I shut down. Not speaking, not sleeping, barely eating, not allowing myself to feel anything.

But, what kind of life does one have, if one becomes a shell of a human being?

And so, I say, No! It cannot be true that life means trusting or having faith --in No One, or No Thing. If this were so, you would not get out of bed in the morning. Where would be the purpose in your life?

I have had to learn to trust. I cannot even say that I had to "re-learn to trust", because I never learned to trust in the first place.

Where to begin?

A gentle priest once told me, 'You start small.'

You ask yourself: Do you trust that the sun will come up tomorrow?

Do you trust that if you go to pick up your child after school, he will come out of the building, looking for you?

Do you trust that your spouse will come home for dinner?

Do you trust that, following a long, cold, dark winter, the little fig tree will send up pale green shoots that turn into full leaves, that bear sweet fruit?

The metaphor of the fig tree is perfect, because now I can understand that, just because I do not see the fruit in the winter, the seed was planted a long time ago, and the spring will come and with it, the fruit.

And if I can believe in the sweet figs that I cannot see in winter, is it too big of a leap of Faith to believe in God? I cannot see Him directly, but I can see His signs everywhere: in the beautiful sunrise, in my son's smile, in the loving companionship of my husband, in the fruits of my life.

I have endured a long, harsh, cold, lonely winter. But gradually, I trust more because as I look around, I see evidence of God's Love everywhere in my life. The seeds were planted a long time ago, but spring is coming, and I shall bear much fruit.

Like the fig tree, my Faith grows, because, even if Heaven and earth were to pass away, God, with His Loving Word, will always remain, and His fruits will be abundant.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gratitude is a Verb

" I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."   [Philippians 4: 11-13.]

At the Vacation Bible School, where my son attended one summer, the children sang a song: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! When you've got not a lot, when  you've got such a lot, WHAT?! Be happy!"

I think that in this earthly world, gratitude is in short supply.

Every day, we face a barrage of messages that, to be truly happy, we need to be living in extreme wealth. In the media, we see people living in extravagant mansions, with a fleet of expensive cars, dressing in luxurious clothes, in the company of only beautiful people. The clear message is that we can never be content with less.

Like St. Paul, I have been hungry and I have been well fed. I have lived in a childhood never secure that I would be fed dinner. I have lived on my own, and when I was just married, eating dinner from a can of tuna, or eating rice and beans, having only a few dollars in the bank until the next payday.

Yet, at times, I have lived in plenty, not having to worry about paying for expensive dental work, or the cost of a plane trip to attend to an ailing relative, or able to afford a little more vacation time for some much needed rest.

Either way, I was no more, and no less, content. My inner being was the same! Gratitude is being content, no matter what the situation.

To put things in perspective, the opposite of gratitude is not ingratitude or thanklessness. The opposite of gratitude is, my friends---- fear!

Because, if we have less, we grumble and complain. But what is really going on here is our profound feeling of loss.  The real issue is our fear that we will be alone and helpless.

The only true cure from this fear of loss --- is Faith!

Faith in God who loves us; and Faith that, in His Love, everything is going to be okay.

Our Faith is not merely a feeling, though. Our Faith is Love in action. In a strange and miraculous kind of alchemy, I am transforming my discontentment, my losses, my fears, into a burning fuel for Love in action.

I remember being cold, oh so cold as a child. If I asked for my sweater, I was told, 'Stop acting up.' Today, instead of wallowing in that cold feeling, I am knitting scarves and hats for the homeless shelter nearby.

I remember being hungry, and afraid of not finding enough food. Today, I donate non-perishables to my town food pantry.

I remember having difficulty breathing, with my chronic lung condition, that was not treated after age 14.  I remember thinking, I am coughing and gasping for breath, does anyone care? Today, I donate to Medic-Alert so that someone who cannot afford an emergency alert necklace can receive one.

When I was in college, I was told that if I did not study what I was directed to, tuition would be cut off. Today, I donate to the fund at my son's school so that more kids can get a great education.

I see now, more fully than ever, that Gratitude is a verb!  Whatever my past losses, I will not give into the complaining and the fear. I will battle the fear with consistent Love for others, who are facing the same losses as I did.

[Related Posting: " Dare To Serve", October 21, 2012].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Greater Gift

"Jesus sat down opposite the treasury where the offerings were placed and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, " I tell you the truth, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury, for they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood." [Mark 12: 41-43].

Imagine a situation like this, where people with extensive disposable income, give a portion of their wealth; but where someone who truly lives in destitution, gives generously, with all that she has.

I remember, as a child, giving when it felt like I had nothing to give.

I remember as a child going every summer with my family, to the same cottages, on the same lake. And I always noticed the caretaker there, Wilbur, a slight, wiry man with rough, tanned skin, big hands and a strong profile. He was part Native American and he seemed, in my child's view, a quiet and proud man.

He may have been sort of "slow", because he spoke with grunts, in a guttural. He smiled a lot and gestured, and in this way, made his meaning known. He smelled musty, like the barn where he slept, and sort of fishy, like the perch and walleye that he scaled and cleaned for the guests after their fishing trips. He brought a horse around now and again from the local stable, and he allowed the children to sit on her.

Except for the children at the cottages, he was a loner. In his free time, he paddled around in a wooden dinghy, painted in many faded, peeling colors, yellow splashed on top of blue and green and red. But the dinghy was so leaky, he could not venture too far from shore, and he bailed more than he rowed.

The adults whispered at Wilbur and made disparaging remarks. Some of the kids laughed at him. But I could see that he did not seem to have any family. I hated to think how alone he was.

The truth was, I felt alone too. In my dysfunctional and abusive family, no one had ever hugged me or said they loved me. I was called ugly every day and sometimes hit. I was putting myself down for naps, figuring out how to make the hunger go away, and finding ways to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. I waited to go to sleep, until everyone was in bed sleeping. I decided at around that time that I would speak rarely or not at all. I wanted to be invisible.

Wilbur gradually warmed to my family. He would try to talk to us, excitedly, but most of the time, no one understood him. He started to ask us if we would like to come to the Algonquin Inn, where he would go every Saturday night to eat dinner and have a few beers.

The truth is, I was worried about Wilbur. He had no one who seemed to care about him. He was scrawny, and wore old, stained clothes. One day, I spoke up enough to whisper to my mother, could we go to the Algonquin Inn when Wilbur was there? (It would make him so happy, I thought to myself.)

You could say that, even as a child, I had a poverty of spirit. I had come to distrust humans. Yet, I-- who was anxious, and afraid to speak, who had never felt love or mercy, who was worried every morning about whether I would get enough to eat, or about how I would get enough sleep-- I felt responsible for Wilbur. I gave kindness, to a man whom others belittled or ignored. I gave the love and gentle caring that I had never received. I was like the widow who gave the small amount that she had, (and it was all that she had), for she had nothing else to her name.

We showed up that night at the Algonquin Inn, and Wilbur ran over to us when he saw us there. He brought scores of people over to our table to introduce us. Wilbur was proud and excited and happy. It was as if, for a few hours, he had family.

I have not thought about this evening for decades. But I remembered it, when I re-read the story of the widow who gives away the two tiny copper coins in her purse.

Sometimes, it is not the amount that we give. It is the fact that we give all that we have.

True giving is not about offloading one's excess, which you do not need and will not miss anyway.

True generosity is when we care deeply enough to give all that we have. True generosity is when we have the faith to understand that much more comes back to us, than we can ever give.

When we give what we do not have to give, a miracle happens: we receive an even greater bounty in return.

[Related Posting: "Giving My All", March 21, 2012.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Replication of Evil

" I believe in the Sun, even when it is not shining, in Love, even when I am alone, and in God, even when He is silent." [ Found scratched into a wall in Germany by someone hiding from Nazi concentration camps.]

The night of November 9- 10 is the commemoration of Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass". On that night, throughout Germany, the Nazi paramilitary, as well as German citizens, shattered glass in Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues. More than 1,000 synagogues were destroyed, and 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps. Scores of Jewish people were killed.

Kristallnacht was the prelude to Hitler's fiendish "Final Solution", during which millions of Jews were systematically exterminated throughout Europe.

In his book, "Ordinary Men, Reserve Police Battalion 101 and The Final Solution in Poland", Christopher Browning [ (c) 1992, 1998] states that between mid-March 1942 and mid-February 1943, 75%- 80 % of all Holocaust victims were killed in a massive offensive by Germany. And so, in a roughly one year period, The Final Solution was methodically carried out. This was no accidental circumstance of war; this was premeditated, meticulously planned-- and yes, it was Evil.

There are those who would claim that Evil does not exist and that the Holocaust never happened! I call these "The Deniers". And yet, in opposition to this denial, stands Christopher Browning's book, a detailed and thorough examination of indictments, pre-trial interrogations and perpetrators' testimonies from court cases against The Reserve Police Battalion 101 in Poland . The data, the history based on actual trial documents, the relentless chronicling of the numbers of victims, the locations, the methods, all set forth in this treatise --  add up to a brilliant, but disturbing portrait of a society gone mad.

I have to say that there is something about the human psyche that cannot admit that Evil exists, or that wants to explain it away. 'Well. . . . it was the Nazis who carried this out.'. . .'Well. . . . it was a different time.'. . . .  'Well. . . . Hitler was abused as a child, what do you expect?!' These are the Apologists.

I do not WANT a world where Evil exists. I do not want to see it, admit it, chronicle it. I want to look away!. . . And yet, Evil is real. We ignore it at our peril.

The most disturbing and condemning piece of the book is the assertion that those who carried out the Holocaust were "ordinary men". They were working class and lower middle class men from Hamburg, not "hardened Nazis". They had been drafted, not into Hitler's Army, but into the Order Police. AND they were regularly given the opportunity to refuse to shoot Jews!

Given that Evil is real, and that The Holocaust was largely carried out by "ordinary men", can such an atrocity happen again?

I recently had the honor of attending a series of lectures given by Avinoam J. Patt, PHd., the Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, University of Hartford. Professor Patt cited two experiments conducted since The Holocaust. One experiment, the Milgram Study conducted in the 1960's showed random volunteers willing to administer severe electric shocks to volunteeer "victims". Another experiment, the Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment, 1971, showed the shocking violence that ensued when
student volunteers assumed roles as prisoners and prison wardens, in a mock prison built in the basement of the Psychology Building. The Zimbardo Experiment, which was supposed to last two weeks, had to end early because of the violence. The devastating conclusion from Professor Patt's lecture:    "Evil is a behavior of choice"!

Do you think that a series of events as degrading and shocking as The Holocaust cannot happen again? Think of Abu Ghraib and the abuse of prisoners there. Think of the My Lai Massacre. Think of The Kmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia. Or the slaughters in Rwanda.

Now, why would a young, articulate, tech savvy professor such as Professor Avi Patt spend his life's work on The Holocaust? Isn't that a grisly and deeply depressing subject?

Because The Holocaust was not just an aberration of history. It can happen again! Because Evil can be carried out by ordinary men (and women). And because it can be prevented!

I wish and pray that all the adults in the world insist upon tolerance for those who differ from themselves. I pray for a world where all the barriers between us are broken and we can see each other as truly human, not as less than human, or as The Other. I pray that we teach our children to think for themselves and to really analyze what is happening, and what they are asked to do, before they act. I pray that we teach our children to choose love, and to see that Good CAN triumph over Evil. I pray that we come to cherish those small acts of kindness that can swell into a world-wide outpouring of Love. I pray that Evil, if it does begin to rear its ugly head, is swiftly squelched. I pray that love for our fellow man in this world becomes something far greater, and more valued, than greed for material things, or than for power or might.

At the end of his lectures, Professor Patt quoted the Talmud: 'He who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the world entire.'

[Related Posting, "Healing Gifts", May 23, 2012]. 

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Heart and Soul

" One of the teachers of the law asked Jesus, ' Of all the commandments, which one is the most important?'  'The most important one', Jesus answered, 'is this; 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, is the one Lord. Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength. And the second commandment is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than this.' 'Well said,' the scribe replied. 'You are right in saying that.' When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, 'You are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.' [Mark 12: 28-34].

Hurricane Sandy struck the Eastern coast of the United States on October 29, 2012.

In the storms's aftermath, many still have no power and no heat, and night time temperatures are going to dip into the 30's this week. People have lost all of their possessions. Some are now homeless. Many have lost pets. Children have died, some swept out of their mother's arms. People who used to be economically secure, are hungry and are scavenging through dumpsters, looking for food. Businesses have been destroyed and, therefore, people have lost their livelihoods.

I see the images of this disaster, and it hurts me deeply. I am shocked, sad-- grieving, even as those hardest hit are struggling. I take all of this loss and devastation very personally.

THIS is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. It is a very simple commandment: to imagine yourself in this desperate situation. To ask yourself, what if this were me? What would I need others to do for me, to help me? How would I want to be treated?

I see these two commandments as essentially one and the same. IF you love God, then you are called to love your neighbor. IF you love your neighbor, then you are showing God how much you love HIM.

You cannot love God, with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength, if you do not love your neighbor in the same way as well!

To love God -- and my neighbor-- with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength? It sounds as if I will have no other strength left, but to do that. It sounds like loving God and my neighbor would be a full-time job?

It IS meant to be a full-time job. . . . In a sense, this is more than just what I am called to do. It is what I am called to BE.

When I was thirteen and I found out that I had almost died before I was even born, I resolved to fill every waking moment, of every single day, with purposeful activity.

That is admirable, but it is only part of the story. (After all, I can be very, very single minded in shopping for the perfect item-- for myself. . . .!)

It is a wholly different thing to spend as many moments as possible, every day, in loving others! How would the world change, if we could all spend all of our hearts, souls and physical efforts, every day, in loving others deeply? What if that love were not just a feeling, or even a prayer? What if it were a determination to use all of our energy to make the world a better place?

So here is my question: Remember what happened on Sept. 11, 2001? Remember Hurricane Katrina in 2005? Remember the tsunami of 2006 in Indonesia? Remember the major earthquake in China in 2008? Remember the earthquake in Haiti in 2010? Remember the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011?

If you are like me, you were probably riveted to those images in the news at the time. But, now perhaps you will have to Google these events to refresh your memory. I am ashamed to say that the raw images that so held my fascination then, have faded with time.

We hungrily devour the images of destruction as they unfold. We donate a few dollars. We move on in our lives. Our world expands temporarily to include the site of disaster. Then we shrink back to taking care of ourselves.

 But, what if we kept these images of our struggling brothers and sisters in our hearts and souls, and in our very being? What if we were in a world that could never forget, that would always work, in love, for our neighbors?

Then, maybe, just maybe, we would take it very personally if someone had no home; or no food; or no clothes; or no job; or no hope.

Then, maybe, just maybe, we would be angry enough to get up everyday and do something about it. Not ask why "Someone", somewhere, doesn't do something about it.

I pray that everyone can love, and give to others, with all of their heart and all of their soul and all of their strength.

[Related Posting: " Love Thy Neighbor", October 23, 2011].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Hurricane of Devastation

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble, with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God." [2 Corinthians 1: 3-4].

On October 29, 2012, a massive "hybrid" storm of historical proportions slammed into the East Coast of the United States. Hurricane Sandy was actually a hurricane, wrapped in a Nor'Easter.

The storm hit Atlantic City directly. The famous boardwalk is gone, crumpled like so many insignificant matchsticks. Portions of the New Jersey Shore are on fire, and there is too much storm debris for rescuers and firefighters to reach the area. The New York City subways are flooded, and some underground walls of brick have collapsed. Cars are floating like toys in toxic waters. People have been swept away.

Some would say that this storm is Biblical in its destruction, and that the hurricane is a result of God's wrath.

I say, No! I fail to believe that. I refuse to believe it.

My God is my Father, and the Father of us all. He did not cause this destruction. He has not come to destroy us, but to comfort us.

I have spoken extensively in this space about how I grew up in a zone of destruction.

When I was three, there was a fire in my grandparents' home. Afterwards, my family took me to the scene to "reassure me" that there was no fire. But I knew from the acrid smell and the way that my Grandmother's easy chair had been been burned beyond recognition- - that there certainly WAS a fire.

I almost drowned when I was about four. As I sank, I remember thinking, this must be what it is to drown. My mother pulled me out, even as I began to swallow water. The family never spoke of this again.

When I was six, I came home and my mother had given the family dog away. Even the family dog was not inevitable.

When I was ten, my grandfather died. He was the only one who allowed me to crawl into his lap and snuggle deeply into his arms for comfort. No one else hugged me or told me that they loved me.

At that time, I was dealing with an uncertain supply of meals at home. When I could not eat what was served, I was given nothing else. I learned to plan on going hungry.

If I was cold and asked for a sweater, I was told to "Stop acting up." Being cold became "normal" to me.

There was alcohol abuse in my home, verbal abuse, physical abuse. I learned that I was not safe anywhere in the house, not even in my own bed at night.

When I was in middle school, a member of my extended family took her own life. Once this story was told, it was never spoken of again. Suddenly all pictures of her disappeared. It was as if she had never existed.

About that time, my family abruptly stopped taking me to church. I wondered if they could take even my faith away?

I learned that the things we all take for granted---  security in our own homes, comfort and kindness from our loved ones, restful sleep, food, a home secure from disaster, the warmth of a sweater, the life of a treasured relative, even our faith -- are not inevitable. I learned that I live in a precarious world.

A week before Hurricane Sandy, what was in the news? A report that Starbucks customers are livid that the shops are running out of pumpkin latte's. Vitriolic and increasingly personal campaign ads for the upcoming election. Talk of who "won" the Presidential debates. And our ever increasing fascination with "reality TV" shows.

I have always said that "Reality TV" is a manufactured reality. What I went through as a child pales in comparison to what is happening in our world now. . . . What can be more real than Hurricane Sandy? Or the brutal civil war in Syria? Or the continuing aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti? Or the devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan?  Or the violent situation in Sudan? Or the continuing struggles of the people of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina? Or the horror of the attacks on Sept. 11?

The political ads on TV have gone deathly silent. Some television shows cannot be aired because TV studios are inoperable. Wall Street was closed for 2 days. Subways in NYC are still under water.

And so I ask you, where is our infrastructure now? Who, or what, can we cling to now?

A dear friend who lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, told me after her passing that he felt like he had gone through a kiln of fire. He said, "I realize that all we really have is each other!"

My friend knows, and I know, that all we have is our God, and the Love that comes from Him. Do YOU know this now? How much do you dare to love and to serve? How much do you dare to forsake all else, that used to seem so important?

I pray that everyone stays safe in the aftermath of this storm. Especially, I pray that we learn to love each other, now more than ever.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Want To See God

" As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving Jericho, a blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more. Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.'  So they called to the blind man, 'He's calling you!' Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. The blind man said,  'Teacher, I want to see.'  'Go,' said Jesus, 'your faith has saved you.' Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road." [Mark 10: 46-52].

"I want to see."

Simply by asking-- actually by persisting, despite the rebukes-- Bartimaeus receives his sight. He regains his physical sight, to be sure. In addition, by his faith in "the Son of David", Bartimaeus receives his spiritual (in)sight. Immediately after Bartimaeus receives his sight, he follows Jesus.  

How many of us today can say, "I want to see God"??

We say, 'I want a lot of money in my bank account'.

'I want expensive clothes, so that people will think that I am "somebody". '

'I want a powerful title at work, so people will step back when I walk past, and stare at me in awe.'

Not me. I have spent my entire life trying to see God. Often I did not know it at the time, or appreciate it. But all that wondering and longing was really a faith that a Higher Power was out there somewhere, and could help me when I was in need.

When I was about five, my grandmother, (when she was able to get me alone), would try to teach me the Lord's Prayer. I was pretty quick, so I memorized it fairly easily. But the words were too big and sophisticated for me. What did "hallowed" mean, anyway? Or, "trespasses"? And where was this "Kingdom" they were talking about?

I found that God was not in a rote prayer, that was not readily understood in a  real-life way.

When I was ten, my beloved grandfather died. I was supposed to be fast asleep the night that they carried him out of the house on a stretcher, after he had had a stroke. I knew that he was still alive, because he was shifting around. But in my heart, I knew that I would never see him alive again. And so, I really did hope to see God one day, so I could see my grandpa again.

When I was thirteen, my mother and grandmother told me that I had almost died before I was born. It was then that I knew that there IS a God, because He made sure that I was here, and that I was given this life; even though the grown-ups pretty much changed the subject when I brought up God, and squirmed uncomfortably in their seats.

I realized that I would not always find a true sense of God in the adults around me. It seemed, as a child, that I was the one more in tune with needing to find Him. I wanted to seek to another adult who could talk to me about God, but I did not even bother to ask to see the priest in town. I knew that the answer my family would give me would be,' No.'

When I was fourteen, my grandmother died. My parents stopped taking me to church. I thought that, in doing so, they could take God away. I thought that by refusing to take me to church, they could take my faith away.

And yet, as a young adult, years later-- especially at times of trauma and crisis in my life-- I came to pray, and God answered me! I saw that God is not just in church, and He does not reside exclusively with the priest (although these are irreplaceable venues and persons in which to find God.)

At one time of immense crisis in my adult life, when it felt as if the world had gone black, I thought that God was gone. I raced to the parish priest and he told me, gently, 'God is NOT gone. He never leaves you. You are just too busy.'

I began to talk to God more regularly, and in a heartfelt way; and not by rote prayer. God came racing back to my side.

It was then that I decided to convert. I wanted to seek God in a more meaningful way. I wanted to see the workings of God in my everyday life. But as I began to pray to God daily, all the pain of my past came surging forth, so searing a pain, that it blinded me temporarily.

As I sought God, though, I began to see His Hand more and more. I began to see the Truth about my life. It was not always the message that I wanted to hear. It was as if I was reliving all of the most deeply traumatic parts of my life, but this time, at least God was fully present and not seemingly hidden from my view.

It was a cathartic conversion, like the Conversion of St. Paul, who went blind temporarily because of a thunderbolt from God; but who gradually saw the scales fall from his eyes. And then he knew the Truth about God. [Acts 9: 1-22].

I began to recognize God in the most miraculous ways. I saw God in the rainbows He sent, when I was at my most anguished. I saw God in the butterfly that actually landed on my hand, the day that I had to leave my mother, after my father's funeral.

I see God in the man my husband is, who holds my hand when I am scared, or who tells me that he loves me. His Love is a soft balm upon the traumas of my cruel childhood.

I see God in the Love in my heart. Since no one ever hugged me or told me that they loved me as a child, this Love must be from God. This Love IS God.

My son asks me, 'Why is God so big?' And He IS big; as big, literally as all the heavens. God is everywhere, and God is nowhere in a definable, physical sense. God is known to us, but ever mysterious.

I am still seeking God. I seek Him everyday.  Do you seek God? Do you see God?

If you invoke His name, you will start to see God everywhere you look. You will "throw off your cloak", that blinds you to His healing presence; then, you too, will truly see, and you will get up and follow Him.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Election Day

" I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in love." [3 John: 4].

The first Tuesday in November is Election Day in the United States. This year, 2012, is a Presidential election year.

We have heard all the debates. We have watched the incumbent President and the opposing candidate, each at the second debate, circling each other like lions in a ring. We have heard the accusations and the counter-accusations. We have seen the President and the opposing candidate interrupting each other so much in debate, that no one can hear what they are even saying.

Many Americans are now more confused than ever about what each candidate stands for. Many are sick of the politics, the "spin" of the advertisements, and the ugly atmosphere. The nation is divided and the results on Election Day promise to be extremely tight.

What is this Election really about?

Listen to the concerns of a young student of politics and social studies:

No.1: I am concerned about war. Why can't nations leave each other alone and live in peace?

No. 2 : I am concerned about taxes. Why would some people pay 40% of their income in taxes, but other people are homeless and do not have enough to eat? Can't we come up with taxes that are fair to everyone?

No. 3: I am concerned about terrorism. I am worried that someone within Al Qaeda will get into this country, become part of the CIA and steal  all of our secrets.

No. 4: I am concerned about global warming. Now there are too many droughts and because of that, we have food shortages. We cannot keep using fossil fuels. They pollute the earth and they will run out. Why can't we use more renewable energy?

No. 5: I am concerned about jobs.  Why are there so many people who are poor, going hungry and they do not have jobs? They do not even have what they need to live.

Who IS this young student?

He is my son. And he is 12 years old. . . . [He wrote this by himself for a Social Studies assignment].

Ask your young son or daughter or grandchild --- what do THEY worry about in their future? You might get a sobering answer. I thought my son was not really listening.

Maybe it turns out that we adults are the ones who are not listening. . . .

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dare to Serve

" James and John, sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus. 'Teacher', they said, ' we want you to do for us whatever we ask.' --'What do you want me to do for you?', Jesus asked. They replied, ' Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.' Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking.' Jesus called all of the disciples together and said, ' You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' " [ Mark 10: 35-45].

 In my dysfunctional, childhood home, I did not receive peace. But I worked for peace, because I longed for peace.

I did not receive Love in that house. No one hugged me or said, "I love you."  But I gave love, all days, and in all ways, because I longed for love.

I did not desire power, in order to lord it over my family. I knew that I had no power in the family. I was the baby and the daughter. I was the one whom they overpowered, with their verbal abuse, their physical punishment, because they hated who I was. I endured their studied lack of affection, their medical and physical neglect.

The only power that I had was to annihilate their hate by pouring out my Love. I believed that I could neutralize their cruelty with the exercise of my Love.

When they tried to bribe me with their assets, money became insignificant to me. Money is not true power. Love is true power. And despite what they believed, money is not Love. Even as a child I knew that.

They wanted me to follow their rules, simply because these were their rules and they wanted to control me. But if the rules made no sense, if the rules went against God, their repeated recitation of their rules had no power over me.

They wanted me to believe them, when they said to worship "The Almighty Dollar", but instead, I whispered to myself, "You mean, Almighty God." In my whispering the Truth, their lies had no hold over me.

I decided to stop speaking, because I did not want to utter their falsehoods. I wanted to become invisible.

The more they wielded their power against me, the tinier I became, until I almost disappeared. I made myself as Nothing. I died to self. No one can conquer someone who is invisible, who has slipped away to absolute nothingness. If I gave them no inkling of my Self, they would have nothing to grasp onto, nothing to fight.

Except that silently and without complaint, I tended their gardens; I picked at their barely edible food and yet, found nourishment elsewhere; I mended their torn clothing; I painted their walls; and brought in flowers to beautify their ugly atmosphere. I sang songs when alone in my room; and I gently slipped out of their house and sat high up on a hill, under a sweet pine tree.

They thought that they had ultimate power over me. Even more, they secretly boasted of their superiority over others. But in the infinite depths of my Love, in my capacity to ignore their abuse of power-- but to love anyway-- I became the ultimate victor. They did not know that Love became my default mode and that, no matter what they did to me, I would not become them and hate them back.

The world thinks that power means the cruel influence of money. The world thinks that power means the ability to push others around, to make others bow down to them and to force their opinions on the weak.

I know that the only true power is the Sacred, not the profane.

I have gone hungry and so, knowing what that is like, I feed those who hunger and thirst.

I have been oh, so cold. And so, knowing what that is like, I clothe those who have no way to keep warm.

I have been unloved and even hated. And so, I love everyone as a brother or a sister. No One is my family. Therefore, everyone is my family.

I create such Redemptions in order to obliterate my family's supposed power over me, even now that they are dead and gone. The ghost of their memory shall not haunt me, as long as I have the strength to love and to serve.

Did they really have such power over me after all? Or, were they the ones who were weak?

Do you, would you, dare to emulate the Love I have given? Do you dare to vow silence, rather than utter falsehoods? Do you dare to leave father and mother and brother, and to go out into the world, armed only with your Love? Do you dare to serve others with humility, in order to vanquish the hate that is aimed at you because of who you are?

Do you dare to speak the Truth with Love?

(C) The Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Generation That Disappeared

" Jesus stated: I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." [John 10: 7-10].

Recently, I had a difficult conversation with my pre-teen son. (No; not THAT conversation-- about human sexuality.) The conversation was about how there is something called abortion. And how in multiple states, abortion of a fetus with an audible heartbeat, is still legal! I told my son that the mother could simply choose to get rid of the fetus.

And my son cried. I could see the hurt in his eyes. I asked gently how he felt. He took my hand and told me, "This is very upsetting."

I have a new-found, unfailing barometer for right vs. wrong. If it makes my son cry, it is WRONG!

I decided to look into some statistics, in order to put this issue into perspective. Here they are--

Number of Americans who died in:  American Revolution            25,000
                                                          American Civil War             625,000
                                                          World War I                         116,516
                                                          World War II                        405,399
                                                           Vietnam                                 58,209  
                                                           War on Terror                          6,280

Number of lives eliminated due to abortion since 1970:


That is right. Six million.

Is abortion a war? I believe it is. But it is an underground war.

Underground, because the victims are nameless. And faceless.

There are statues commemorating the American Revolution. There are monuments dedicated to the lives lost in the Civil War, both World Wars, the Vietnam War, and the War on Terror. There is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. There are museums and exhibits on the Holocaust, so that we will never forget. And this is how it should be.

But no one dares to mention the 6,000,000 lost to abortion. Did they not also not die? Or do we not bother to notice them, because they never had the Right To Live?

An entire generation is missing-- and we celebrate our (contraceptive) freedoms?

 I dream of a day when we regard abortion with as much horror as we now do slavery.  

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Precious Wisdom

" I prayed and prudence was given to me; I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Beyond health and comeliness, I loved her and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company and countless riches at her hands." [ Wisdom 7: 7-11].

In the upside down and cruel house in which I grew up, I came to care for nothing except for Wisdom; and for God, who was the source of my wisdom.

My mother bestowed no emotional empathy upon me. When I was about four and I fell down the stairs, she told me, "Get up. You are not hurt." Still stunned by my fall, I sobbed, and folded into a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs.

When I was about six, I came home and the family dog was gone. My mother had given her away. As I walked back to school, I cried. I wondered what kind of mother I had been given?

When I was thirteen, I came home and my mother had given all my stuffed animals away, the ones who all had their own names and personalities; the "friends" who gave me comfort.

When I was in graduate school, my mother left me alone, in a far away city, after I was the victim of a major crime. I had almost died that day. She told me not to come home.

In my heart, I left my mother that day. She was unable to nurture me.

I tried to love my father, but if I could not eat the dinner put in front of me, there were no substitutes. He told my mother, 'Do NOT feed her anything else.'

My father was either emotionally, or physically absent. Or, he breached parental bounds, tripping over the line. He was unable to protect me. And so, in my heart, I left my father behind, too.

My sibling called me ugly every day. He booby trapped my room, so I could not hide there. When I went outside, he rounded up the neighborhood children to call me names until I ran home in tears. He was unable to befriends me. In my heart, I left him behind, too.

In Mark 10: 28-30, Peter tells Jesus, 'We have left everything to follow You!' And Jesus tells His disciples that, " No one who has left home, or brother, or father or mother for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in the present age, ( homes, brothers, mothers, fields and homes - and with them, persecutions), and in the age to come."

I decided that what I really needed was Wisdom. Then, I would know how to take care of myself and how to protect myself. I thought that if I could sit in my room, and make my homework perfect and read all the books in the library, I would fill myself with Wisdom. I even set about reading the dictionary, believing that maybe some words in there would enlighten me.

But Wisdom came to me in other ways.

My health faltered badly in those years. My chronic lung condition was not treated past my early teens. Some days, I had my health, other days, I felt seriously ill. I learned that one's health may come and go, but Wisdom is always there.

I gave up on riches, because of the way that riches were promised to me as a kind of blackmail to shape my behavior. I was told, "Study this in university, because if you do not, we will stop paying tuition". I studied what they wanted me to, and I also studied what I wanted to; and I was a hundred times smarter.

I was told, "Study the piano and we will pay for lessons and give you a piano." But I said no,
because I did not think I could practice diligently with a price over my head. It is more prudent to make only those promises that you know that you can honestly keep.

Being called ugly every day, I gave up on my "comeliness". I did not want my appearance to become a power struggle. I learned that we are more rightly judged by the love and peace in our hearts, than by appearance alone. I hoped that  the Spirit in my eyes would be beauty enough.

I stayed up late every night until the family was in bed. I thought I had to protect myself, but as I fell asleep, Wisdom watched over me and kept me safe. Wisdom never yields to sleep; She is always there.

I learned to work at keeping the peace in the family. I gave Love where there was strife. I learned to abide by the Wisdom of Love. Those who did not protect me, I nevertheless protected. I learned the true meaning of unconditional Love.

After some years, I finished my schooling. Physically, I left my father and my mother and my sibling and my home to live on my own. But in my spirit, I had left them a long, long time ago.

 And so what did I have in the world, with no mother, no father, no brother, no home? I had seemingly lost everything. But what I also lost was the hard heartedness towards me, the blackmail, the ugly names. What I had gained was Jesus. Now, I also have my God.

Above all, I have Love in my heart and peace, too. And Wisdom? - She is still more precious to me than scepter and throne, riches, priceless gems, gold or silver. I have left everything for Wisdom. I have left everything to follow Jesus.

[Related Posting, "Prayer For Wisdom", July 23, 2011.]

(c) The Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.