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.