Saturday, April 27, 2013

The ABC's of Love

" Jesus said to His disciples, "My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so also should you love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples." [ John 13: 31-35].

God is Love [1 John 4: 16].

The greatest commandment in Christianity is to Love.

Let me make this very clear:   Those who supposedly rely on the Bible to make war, conquer, terrorize or assassinate, are mis-using the Bible and are not following Jesus' commandment to love one another.

LOVE is NOT  . . . . . . . . .

animal cruelty

back stabbing
back talk

capital punishment

drug trafficking

enmity (creating enemies)








manipulation and control

neglect (of children)


profligacy (waste)


reckless driving

sexual assault
silent treatment
starvation of  another
sweat shops


unconscionable acts

verbal abuse

weapons of mass destruction



"Love is patient, Love is kind. It is not jealous, Love is not pompous, it is not inflated. Love is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury. Love does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the Truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. [1 Corinthians 13: 1-8].

Every day, we hear news, somewhere in the world, of so many of the criminal activities on this list. And I say to myself:  But, I am no embezzler, abuser, murderer, drug trafficker, etc. !!!

And yet, the entire world has a lot of work to do, to follow Jesus and His Commandment to Love. I do not exempt myself from this condemnation.

Do you sometimes yell at your kids?  This is verbal abuse. This is not Love. Call your spouse an idiot? This is belittling. Tailgate other drivers on the road? This is harassment and intimidation. Feel suspicious of foreigners? This is xenophobia. Lie, even just a little? This is prevarication. Talk about others behind their back? This is gossip. Get jealous over what someone has, that you do not have?  This is envy. Slam your hand on a table in anger? This is rage. Criticize others? This is judgment. Do a little bit less work on the job, hoping someone else will pick up the slack for you? This is sloth (laziness). Commandeer a conversation? This is "hijacking". Curse someone out? This is profanity. Tell your kids to do as you say, not as you do? This is hypocrisy. Tell your wife that you will not take her to the beach unless she loses some weight? This is manipulation and control. Joke with your girlfriends about how useless men are? This is male bashing. Throw back-talk at your parents? This is disrespect. Tell "Jewish jokes"? This is anti-Semitism. Refuse to give someone the benefit of a doubt? This is unforgiveness. Do you sneak to the kitchen to take the last pastry for yourself, before anyone notices? This is gluttony. Everytime you buy something you really don't need, do you think it is not enough? This is materialism; and greed. Think all your problems are way more important than  anyone else's? This is narcissism.

True Love takes practice. But Love is the most important bond of life, that connects all of us, as fellow human beings. Love is life-giving. Love melts hardened hearts. Love brings us closer to God. Love IS the God within us.

Love to all,

The Spiritual Devotional

[Related Postings: " Love is Patient", Feb. 5, 2011; "Love is Kind", Feb. 18, 2011; "Hate = Murder", Feb. 17, 2011; "Love Your Enemies", Feb. 21, 2011; Love Never Ends", Feb. 28, 2011; "Love is Truth", Feb. 8, 2012; "Love is Courage", Feb. 15, 2012; "Love is Forgiveness", Feb. 29, 2012; " Love Thy Neighbor", Oct. 23, 2011.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Advice From A Holocaust Survivor

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way." -- Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities".

Every generation believes that its experiences of trauma and terror are the worst in history..

BUT-  Terrorism and trauma are far from new. . . . Human cruelties and atrocities date back to ancient times.

At the time when Jesus was born, Herod was enforcing a census of all recently born Jewish boys, in order to hunt down Jesus and kill Him.

In approximately 64 AD, Emperor Nero of Rome blamed the burning of Rome on the growing Christian community. In a campaign of persecution, Nero executed disciples Peter and Paul.

In more modern times, Adolf Hitler master-minded the extermination of millions of Jewish people.

On Spetember 11, 2001, close to 3,000 people died in terrorist attacks.

I have moments everyday when I am almost paralyzed with anxiety and hopelessness over the abuses that I faced as a child. It seems inconceivable to me that my own family could be the cause of my permanent psychic scars. After all that I have been through, I am struggling to find meaning in my life.

I mean -- HOW can we possibly go on, after such atrocities as the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon in 2001; and more recently, the mass shootings of young children in Newtown, CT or the bombings at the Boston Marathon?

Some time ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a Holocaust survivor. He is now age 88. When he was 14, he and his family were rounded up and transported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. His parents and his sister perished in the gas chambers.  At such a young age, he was forced into hard labor.

When Auschwitz was liberated, he had only his lice-ridden clothes on his back. He had no money, no clean clothes, no food, no job and no place to live. The only country that would accept him was America. All others to whom he applied denied him entry.

Here is his advice:

1) Stay busy-- Too much time on your hands is not a good thing.

2) Stay positive-- Surround yourself with positive people. Lose the negative ones.

3) Give back-- He lectures regularly, and has even been tapped by a prestigious university, to help develop a program to treat domestic abuse survivors.

4)  Believe in the Good-- There ARE good people.  There are also "lousy people". Unfortunately, sometimes the lousy people are in your own family. . . .

5) Stay grateful-- You are lucky to be alive! He counts himself as truly blessed.

6) Live by the Golden Rule. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

7) Pray-- The power of prayer is astounding. Prayer heals.

8) Stay in the present-- Take every moment in, because you never know what will happen. . . .

9) Forgive-- Whoever has done wrong has to suffer consequences. But you HAVE to forgive! Do not hate, it will eat you alive. [I would say, if you give into hate for the rest of your life, then your enemy has won.]

10) Look to the Future-- What happened, happened. You cannot change that.

11) Don't overthink-- You will make yourself crazy.

12) Keep the Faith -- Join a church or a temple. Stick with whatever faith tradition is familiar to you.

This Holocaust survivor is energetic. He is grateful, even joyful!

He is not bitter, depressed, negative, bleak or angry!

I count myself blessed to have met him. I am going to make his list of advice into my new "bucket list".

This man has changed the way I see my life. He has changed the way I see our world!

[Related posting: "The Replication of Evil", November 8, 2012].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The War For Love

" It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area. The people gathered around Him, saying, 'How long will you keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.' Jesus answered, 'I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one.' "  [John 10: 23-30.]

The world is at war. It is a battle over Love.

The opposite of Evil is not Good. The opposite of Evil is Love. Evil cannot survive in an environment of total Love. Smothered in Love, Evil perishes.

I was at war as a child. I desperately hoped for the Love that never came.

I was given four day old gravy and grey beef for dinner. When I could not eat it, I simply ate the cucumber slices and the noodles also on my plate. Then, I resolved to find food elsewhere. I heard the voice of Jesus, calling me to His nourishment.

They squelched my cries when I was called ugly every day? I ended up with black eyes and a broken heart?  In turn, I tended my mother's garden and brought flowers into the home. I heard the voice of God, calling me to cultivate His beauty.

I ceased speaking, believing that there was nothing more that I could say in that house.  But then, I joined the children's choir at our church. I heard the voice of Jesus, calling me to sing His songs of praise.

A sibling quarrelled loudly over his refusal to do his homework. I offered to do his reading for him. I heard the voice of Jesus, calling me to establish peace.

My parents refused to keep taking me to church. I tucked my gold cross necklace under my shirt. I heard the voice of Jesus, calling me to have faith in Him.

I told my mother that I was cold, and she told me to stop acting up, and refused to allow me to fetch a sweater. I set about knitting her a vest, and knitting a sweater for a sibling. I heard the voice of Jesus, calling me to wrap even my enemies in warmth.

My mother abandoned me in a far off city when I was a young woman, after I had been beaten and almost killed in a violent crime. Many years later, I did not abandon her, after my father had died, when she was alone and frail and in grief.  No, I brought her to live near me and I cared for her in her last years. I heard the voice of Jesus, calling me to forgiveness.

In the last few months, the world has seen heartbreaking images in the news:  an on-going civil war in Syria that has displaced 750,000 citizens to refugee camps; bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed 3 and injured scores of others; a missile crisis in North Korea; a mass shooting at a Connecticut school, leaving 26 dead; poison-laced letters mailed to the President and a member of Congress; cold-blooded slayings of law enforcement officers.

I want to sit down and cry. I want to give up.

But my battle for Love has been life-long. I have waged a deliberate "chess match", of move and counter move.

Abuse? I walk away.
Hunger? I eat elsewhere.
Loud arguments? I broker peace.
Unforgiveable abandonment and cruelty? I forgive and nurture.

WHY would anyone do this? Am I a fool?

St. Paul, in Corinthians 2: 21-32, asks, " What anyone else dares to boast about -- I am speaking as a fool." He goes on to recount all that he endured for Christ's Love: "Five times I received forty lashes minus one; three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; I spent a day and a night in open sea; I have been in danger from rivers, from bandits, from my own countrymen, and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food. I have been cold and naked."

I have been told that I have a steely bond with God. God IS Love. This is the only way that I know how to be. This is who I am. This is what I am. Love is what I am made of. Like Jesus'sheep, no one can separate me from God's Loving Hand.

The more hate, abuse, persecution, starvation, abandonment and cruelty, that you throw my way, the more I will stubbornly love you back. I refuse to stop loving. Nothing that anyone can do to me will stop me from loving.

Love is not a weak position of bargaining. It is a powerful weapon. It is the only thing that will ensure the survival of our planet. When you are waging battle in Love, "God's grace is sufficient for you, for His power is made perfect in weakness."  Your willingness to love, no matter what the circumstance, invites God's grace in. [ 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10].

In response to all the ugly vitriol in the world, will you fling back Hate at the haters? Will you cultivate and foment all that is wrong with the world?

Or, do you dare to throw untold Love in the face of those who hate and do evil? Will you remain
quiet and focused, eagerly straining to hear the voice of Jesus?

I pray that I am always ready to hear Jesus' voice, and to hear God's grace, in the War for Love.

[Related Posting: "In Battle For God", August 25, 2012].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

" Do You Love Me?"

" Simon Peter and [some of the disciples] went out and got in their boat [to go fishing], but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, 'Children, have you caught anything to eat? '  They answered Him, 'No.' So, He said to them, 'Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.' So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord.' When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said, ' Bring some fish you just caught. Come, have breakfast.'

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?' Simon Peter answered Him, "Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my lambs.' He said to Simon Peter a second time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' Simon Peter answered Him, 'Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Tend my sheep.'  Jesus said to him the third time, ' Simon, son of John, do you love me?' Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to Him a third time, 'Do you love me?', and said to Him, 'Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.' Jesus said, ' Feed my sheep.'  And after He had said this, He said, 'Follow me.' " [ John 21: 1-19.]

I grew up in a house of no Love. No one ever told me that they loved me. Not my mother. Not my father. Not my sibling(s). Not my aunts or uncles.

Not only did I not receive the outward manifestations of love such as hugs, kisses and endearments, I  received family abuse. Essentially, I raised myself--  finding food where there was none to eat at home, putting myself down for naps, keeping myself safe in bed at night by staying awake for hours, enduring black eyes and verbal abuse.

I would say that it was a miracle that I ever got married.

These days, I anxiously ask my husband every evening, "Do you love me? Why do you love me? How could you love me, so much, all these years?"

My husband tries to be patient with me. He tells me that he loves me. He tries to enumerate the reasons. But it is never enough for me. My asking for his love is like a compulsion. . . . to infinity.

Perhaps my husband feels like my constant asking for love is a "test". He wants to tell me to stop asking and just believe. I think he may be right.

In this Reading, Jesus asks Simon Peter three times, "Do you love me?"  Jesus really does know
that Simon Peter loves Him. Jesus, in asking for a profession of love three times, effectively negates the three times that Simon Peter denied Him at the cross.

I am like that. I want to ask for Love countless times, to neutralize all the negative ions of abuse and hate and condemnation that I received as a child. I need that kind of reassurance, daily.

I came up "empty" in life; my soul became a bottomless pit of anxiety, fear, guilt, shame and despair. All because not one human being could tell me, "I love you."

I am like the disciples, who fish all day and all night, and come up countless times with an empty net. I used to try to trick my family into telling me that they loved me. It never worked. They refused to say it. I went to bed each night, just as empty as before.

Then, in this Reading, Jesus appears to the disciples on the opposite shore, in the dawn, a shimmering beacon, a lighthouse for the lost. He tells the disciples to cast their net. And in the net, there appears a huge bounty of fish.

Jesus is a beacon of light, in that way. The disciples see Him and race to Him.

And, He addresses the disciples as, "Children!" How tender He is with them! How heartbreaking this scene is, in a way, because this is Jesus after His death, and He is now merely a spirit.

And yet, even after His death, He feeds His disciples. In a scene reminiscent of the Eucharist, Jesus "took the bread and gave it to them."

Jesus can feed you too! He is with you as you break bread with your family every day. He is with you, in the Eucharist.

His Love is unconditional. After all, he forgave Simon Peter for denying Him three times. Jesus only required Simon Peter to profess his Love to Him three times.

But Jesus' Love, while unconditional, is not free. Jesus wants us to "prove" our Love for Him, by Faith in Action. He asks Simon Peter to, "Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. Follow me."

I have heard that call in my life. I am following Jesus now. With Jesus' Love in my heart, I am finding ways to fill my soul up again.  I am "feeding His sheep." I am ministering to others. It is amazing to me how, when I give my Love to others, I feel it more than ever in my heart! I can try and try to give my Love away, but the Love inside me that I share, is something that I get to keep, and cherish forever.

In following Jesus, and in giving others my Love, I am being fed, as well. 

If I had accepted the hate and abuse of my family, if I had internalized it and then spread it to others, then I would have multiplied my emptiness. And instead of living in a sea of bounty, I would be living in a trap of despair.

I may have come from emptiness and hate. But instead, I chose Love. It is a radical kind of Love, that flourishes no matter how I am persecuted, traumatized, or rejected. And Jesus' Love is filling my soul with His Love, His Peace and His simple Joy.

[ Related Posting: "Where is My Flock?", April 29, 2012; "His Flock", May 16, 2011; " Show Me Your Faith", Sept. 16, 2012 ].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Culture of Abuse

"Shelter  me, O God, hide me in the shadow of Your wings, You alone are my hope."

A little girl of age two or three was standing in her bedroom crying. Her mother told her, 'Stop crying, or the neighbors will think I beat you.'  She cried harder, hoping one of the neighbors would rescue her.

When she was three and four and six, she was getting black eyes. Her family told neighbors that she was just a tomboy.

When she was five, she learned to ask each morning what was for dinner? -- because she was anxious about whether she would be fed. If she could not stomach what was served for dinner, she knew that she would be given nothing else to eat. Each morning, she had to plan where she would get enough to eat.

When she was five, she came home from kindergarten every day exhausted. When she told her mother that she needed a nap, her mother told her, "No, you don't. You are five." She learned to put herself down for naps.

In kindergarten, she refused to participate or to investigate the colorful toys and books. She stood, ever watchful at the edges of the room, wondering who the children were and how she would be treated. Her mother told the teacher, "Oh, she just has her own way."

When she was about 8, she had become a very serious little girl, with pale skin and deep, dark circles under her eyes. She rarely smiled or looked anyone in the eye. The school librarian told her, "You look so much better when you smile. Smile!" She felt so sad all the time. She didn't have anything to smile about.

She was called ugly every day by a sibling. Her parents told her not to cry or get angry.  They said, "You are too sensitive. " She learned that she WAS ugly. She learned not to cry or protest. And because she could not end the verbal abuse herself, things escalated to physical abuse.

The verbal abuse continued. At age ten, she decided to stop speaking. Maybe then, the abuse would stop. Teachers began to notice that she was so very shy. Her mother explained it away airily: "Oh, 'Still waters run deep.' "

Her parents were telling her not to cry or get mad. She thought that if she showed no emotion, or had no feelings, she would be safe. She learned to numb her feelings. Maybe her emotions were what got her in trouble.

At age ten, she had a mysterious infection. The doctor scolded her and told her to be more careful about hygiene. She learned to blame herself.

Around that time, she learned to keep herself up at night reading books, until everyone in the house was asleep. She was learning to stay vigilant, day and night.

Around that time, she began sleep-walking. Her mother asked the doctor about it and he said she was probably just stressed, or maybe it was a phase she would grow out of.

By age ten or twelve, she was barely eating. She had grown quite thin. In high school, teachers noticed it. But her mother praised her for keeping her figure.

She was diagnosed with a chronic lung disease when she was 7. By the time she was 14, it was no longer being treated. Everyone pretended that this condition had gone away.

When she was about 14, two teachers kept approaching the girl, asking her what was wrong? But at that point, she was too shut down to even understand what was wrong. And she was too afraid to speak up for fear that talking about family secrets would get her in trouble at home.

How many opportunities might she have had to be rescued, if only all this had NOT been explained away? Or if someone had asked some sharper questions and become more involved?

Abuse is insidious and secretive. Abuse develops gradually but steadily.

Abuse gets explained away.

Lifelong abuse creates lifelong scars.

Abuse is murder of the soul.

Eventually, society becomes numb to Abuse. Abuse becomes part of the landscape. We don't even call it Abuse any longer.

When adults today talk about bullying, some shrug and say, "Well. . . kids are cruel." As if this is just the way it is.

When Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice was videotaped verbally and physically abusing his players, he was merely reprimanded at first. Only after public outrage from a widely circulated video on You Tube, was he finally fired. Several players said later that they believed this was "just the way the basketball culture is."

When an assistant saw Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky in a locker-room shower, abusing a youth, the assistant reported it to unversity officials as "horsing around."

When are we going to stop looking the other way when we see what amounts to Abuse?

When are we going to stop accepting Abuse as the "norm"?

When are we going to call it for what it is: Abuse ?

When are we going to stop being bystanders, and become champions of the Truth?

When are we going to rescue our children, who belong to all of us?

[Related Posting: "STOP Abuse", April 14, 2011; " Rescuing the Invisible Child, April 18, 2012.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

His Divine Mercy

" "Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.' A week later, His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked [for fear of the Jews], Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then, He said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!" [John 20: 24-28].

I grew up in a household of no faith. When I was 14, I asked to keep attending church after my First Communion and my parents said, simply, 'No.'

                     DOUBT  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Doubt puts me in a fog. I am blind and I do not know which way is down, towards earth, the journey into sin, deep into a violent and loveless life. And which way is up, to the uplifting clouds, to thoughts of God, to a longing for Heaven.

I was surrounded by a family that was loveless, cruel, harsh, and devoid of Faith. I wanted to believe what I had heard in church when I was a child: " Jesus loves me, this I know." "God is everywhere".

It was awfully hard to keep the faith, when all around me refused to see God, refused to seek God. My family knew no Love, they knew no God. How hard it is, to believe in God, when adults whom I was supposed to trust, said that Christians are hypocrites who sin all week and expect God to rescue them every Sunday.

After a time, when I was a teen, I was beginning to seriously doubt that God even existed.

I once confessed this to a priest. I was ashamed of my youthful doubt. I thought that he would chastise me. Instead, he accepted what I had said. He nodded solemnly and said, "Okay."

I waited for a charge to go and say some prayers, or do some good works. No such requirement came.

The truth is, we ALL doubt. I have even hated myself for it. But, to doubt is so very human.

Even Mother Teresa, while ministering to the poorest on our planet, was tormented by doubt. She said, " There is such terrible darkness in me, as if everything was dead." And, " If there be no God - there can be no soul-- if there is no Soul-- then, Jesus, You are also not true."

WHY, O God, do we doubt?

I think it is an essential part of being human. We are so blind, so frail and groping, compared to what our omniscient God can see and know.

In this reading about Thomas, I am struck by how Jesus does not hate Thomas for doubting. He does not berate him or reject him. He does not abandon Thomas to his torment, or slander Him among the disciples. He does not shame him, saying, "See here, how our Thomas does not believe in Me."

Jesus simply shows Thomas His wounds! Jesus proves His identity.

This is Jesus' Divine Mercy for us!

In our present day world, I witness a lot of hatred and rejection and judgment of others. Some hate others for believing. Some hate others for not believing.

A wise friend said to me once, 'There is a big difference between Justice and Mercy.'  Justice is needing to be right, at all times. Mercy is showing compassion to those who struggle and do not always see the Truth.

In my Faith, I seek to be merciful. I love even those who doubt. I want simply to be a shining embodiment of  my Faith.

And, if I doubt, I want others to show me the Way. I do not want others to kill my Soul. One of the greatest blessings in the world is if others see us as we really are, the way Jesus does. And the greatest kind of Mercy is to help set someone back on the path, towards His great Love.

[Related Postings: " Doubt", May 1, 2011. " The Truth of His Wounds", April 13, 2012.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.