Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Message 2017

" How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him who brings glad tidings, announcing Peace, bearing good news. announcing salvation [ rescue, deliverance from ruin]" . . . --[ Isaiah 52: 7-10].

Each year, I tell my son, 'All I want for Christmas is World Peace.' -- And then, he laughs at me, as if this is preposterous.

More and more I realize, that World Peace is a matter of Justice-- but more than that, of Love. Because, if there were more Love, wouldn't there be more Justice?

If the last decade has proved anything to me, it is that we humans cannot merely rely on world governments to achieve Peace. I realize that the Love must come from within ourselves and radiate out.

Love, in my mind, begins with talking to each other. Unless the person I am talking to is irrational and completely Evil, I am committed to encountering "The Other" in my midst -- the person who is radically different than I am.

I will never forget the day when my son was about ten, and he came home excitedly telling me, "Did you know it is okay be different?" Now THAT is why my son goes to school, not to get A's in Algebra or to ace the French quiz, but to encounter The Other.

When I was in high school, my best friend was Jewish. Around Christmas time, she once asked me if she could come to Christmas Eve services at my church? This was literally decades ago . . .

I said to her, 'Why would YOU want to come to my church?' She said, 'Because the music is so beautiful.'

My mother had long-since banned church, saying, "We don't believe in that stuff." That always confused me. Why did we go to church when I was little -- just to be obedient to my grandmother? Now that she had passed away, we felt free to skip out?

I told my mother that my friend wanted to go to church with me on Christmas Eve. My mother was silent, then she said, 'Okay.'  My family refused to go, it was just my friend and me.

During the Christmas Eve service, I had to nudge my friend to sit, stand, kneel. I had to show her where the carols were in the Hymnal. At the end, when the music director dimmed the lights, and the Children's Choir lit candles and sang Silent Night, I believe we were both in tears.

My friend, who had health issues, and a complicated relationship with her mother, came out of the church and stood near the porch lanterns. She positively glowed. She simply breathed, 'Thank you.'

After Christmas, I said to her, 'Now you need to take me to temple.' She explained that it would be on Friday night. I said, 'So?'

My friend told her mother. Her mother was silent, then she said, 'Okay.'

At temple, my friend guided me to the women's side. She nudged me to sit, stand and kneel. She helped me with the book which we followed for prayers and songs. I was in awe at the power of the Shofar, and at the haunting chants in Hebrew.

Afterwards, her mother told me, "In MY day, my parents would never have allowed a 'goy' [ non-Jew] to enter our home, yet alone dine with, or be friends with me." I was shocked. I mean, this was my girlfriend.  I didn't care if she was Jewish. I didn't judge her over her health issues. I loved her. I accepted her and she accepted me.

Would this ecumenical encounter happen today? Dare I say, No?

Years later, as a mom, I picked my son up from a playdate. The family is Muslim. In the center of the main room, on the coffee table, was the Quran, on an ornately carved wooden stand. My first thought was, why don't we Christians place a Bible in our living rooms, front and center? What a beautiful practice!

I went over to the Quran, and noticed the gilt on the edges and the elaborate scrolling design around each page. It was so beautiful, I gasped. The mom invited me to touch it and to look at it. Even though I could not read a word, I felt it was an honor to turn the pages.

I have learned that Peace comes from leaving aside my traditions and beliefs in suspended animation, for a short time, and entering the world of another.

I have learned that when I allow myself to be in the moment with someone of different beliefs, that I am dependent upon that person to guide me. Suddenly, I know nothing, I have entered a new world, and I experience what loving interdependence really is.

These days, many Christians would never speak to a Muslim, any Muslim. A white person may avoid those who are black, or may go all day without encountering a single person of color. Some Democrats would never speak to a Republican. Women are alienated from men. Suburban and city folks never cross paths. We are so divided and alienated from each other, we cannot even have a dialogue.

We have made each other out to be mortal enemies.  . . Just for being different.

IF we are committed to Peace and Love, then at least we should be talking to each other, with gentle voices.  If all we can do is shout each other down, or isolate ourselves from the "enemy", then we are doomed to failure. . . to cynicism. . . to Hate.

" If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have Love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." --[1 Corinthians 13: 1].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Rejoice !!

"Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil." --[1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24].

It is the Christmas season. For my Jewish friends, it is Hanukkah. It is the season of Light, shining in the darkness.

And yet, where is the Joy?

We keep our heads down always working, obsessively checking for emails and texts, fearful of missing something important; going about our days fully, cognizant of the world's serious problems -- violence, racism, sexism, the threat of war, poverty, hunger, damaging storms, political corruption.

Often I wonder how St. Paul can possibly urge us to "Rejoice always" ?

There was a time when I awoke each morning and recited a litany of my woes to the mirror. I looked at my own image gazing back to me, and almost pitied myself- - I looked pale, exhausted and depressed.

In some ways, I had every right to be depressed. I had had a childhood full of trauma. I had just managed to escape that miserable existence when I got married, set up household -- and discovered how hard life can be.

My husband was -- and is -- my constant joy and comfort. But I forgot that, as I dwelled upon all that was going wrong. To accept a new job, a promotion, we had to move several states away. We had to sell our house at a loss. Then we could afford only a small apartment in our new town. My husband could not find a new job in our area for quite some time. We were reduced to one salary. We had to delay our dream to start a family. Then my husband's mother died. Then, my husband was diagnosed with some health problems. Then, our cat died.

Every day when I faced the mirror, I recited, "No house, no job for my husband, no baby, no cat."

One day, my husband overheard me and told me, "How about reciting what we DO have?"

Ouch! But he was right.

I had come close to dying, during my traumatic years, so many times. But, I am alive!

I went hungry a lot during my childhood. But I have food.

I had no friends as a child. I have many friends now.

My husband had to look long and hard to find a new job. But thank God I had a job and could support us both.

Rejoice always. Somehow even at my darkest moments, I can find something to rejoice over and be thankful for.

Giving thanks IS "God's will for us." God wants us to find something, no matter how small, to be thankful for. Maybe a sunny day. Perhaps that, despite the fact that my chronic lung disease was so inconsistently treated when I was a child--  I am breathing today!

This does not mean to be unrealistic about Life. Everything is NOT wonderful. Given my traumatic past, I do test everything. I do not trust easily. But I am supposed to test things -- to throw away what is Evil and to embrace what is good.

As for not "quenching the Spirit",  I keep trying to reach for the Fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Sometimes I don't trust enough to love others or to accept love from anyone else. Sometimes, my Joy fades away. Sometimes, I feel no Peace, only anguish and despair. Sometimes, I cannot reach out and be kind, I just want to retreat and wall myself up. Sometimes, I am irritated and difficult. Sometimes, my Faith is sorely tested. Sometimes, my anger gets the better of me. I vent loudly, and my emotions spin out wildly.

Here is where I take a deep breath, take some time to withdraw, and quietly pray. I have a lot of barriers keeping me from the Fruits of the Spirit. For some period of time, I despair, I retreat, I doubt, I rage, I vent, I lose my Peace.

I know I cannot win this battle alone. I have to pray. I need to "borrow" God's strength. I am too wounded to succeed in this by myself.

But if I allow the despair, the anger, the doubt, the isolation to ultimately win out, then the Dark Side wins.

And that simply cannot be!

[Related Posting: "Where is Your Joy?", 3/30/13]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A New Earth

"But, according to His Promise, we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." --[2 Peter 3: 8-14].

Every day in the news, we discover ever more distressful events.  North Korea is perfecting its deadly weapons systems.  Almost every day, two or three men are "outed" as sexual abusers or assaulters. Mass shootings occur with alarming regularity.  War and violence are ever present in our world.
Hunger and disease ravage Africa.

And meanwhile, we await "new heavens and a new earth".  Sometimes those inspiring words can seem a mockery of Reality.

As Isaiah 40: 3 says, "A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!"

Sometimes our world seems like such an irredeemable wasteland, I barely want to get out of bed in the morning.

It also seems way too long to wait to enter Heaven after this Life. Or, even yet, to wait for Jesus' Second Coming.

I want a New Earth NOW!

We wonder what kind of prophet can show us the way? Certainly Mark talks about a very unconventional prophet in John the Baptist: "clothed in camel's hair, a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and honey."  -[Mark 1: 1-8]. Who would even dare to talk to him?

John the Baptist was a divine predecessor to Jesus -- who Himself was an unconventional Redeemer, the son of a carpenter and a young teenaged girl, a "rabbi" who preached, "Behold, I am making all things new." -[Revelation 21:5].

I get so discouraged about all the Evil in our world. But then I say, surely there is something I can do to help make things better?

I try to teach my son this, as well. Even if what I can do is small, that is better than doing nothing at all, than remaining silent where Evil flourishes.

I taught my son this before he went off to pre-school at age three. I told him, "You are big and strong and smart. Try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Help your classmates. If you see a little girl fall off the end of the slide, for example, help her up, then run to get the teacher. Be a friend."

And this is exactly what happened one day in fourth grade! A little girl fell into a muddy puddle at the bottom of the slide. She wasn't hurt, but she was scared and muddy. She began to cry. My son helped her up, then ran to get the teacher. When I picked him up at the end of the school day, he said, "Mommy! How did you know that would happen?"

At the end of the school year, I received a card about my son, filled with comments from his classmates: "He helped a girl up when she fell off the slide." -- "He plays with the kids no one wants to play with." - - "He helps me with my spelling." -- "When I am sad, he makes me laugh." -- "He defends the kids who are bullied."

Simply put, I have learned that "a new earth" comes when we dare to be different. When we dare to speak up or help out or defend others when no one else will.

A new earth unfolds when we dare to be that "one voice crying out in the desert." When we see how dark things can be, and we work to "make things new."

A new earth unfolds when we refuse to accept the wasteland, but we propel forward spreading our voices for Love and justice.

"For behold, I create new Heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or [even] come into mind." -- Isaiah 65: 17.

[Related Postings: "The Voice of One" 12/5/16; "Baptized with the Holy Spirit", 1/11/13' "Prepare the Way", 12/10/12.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 4, 2017

On Watch

"Jesus said to His disciples: 'Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places His servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming. May He not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!' " --[Mark 13: 33-37].

In my childhood home, my mother used to tell us often, "What happens in this house, stays this house, within these four walls."

That was an awful thing to say to a child.

My parents were pillars of the community. My father had a professional job, he had an advanced degree. Even my mother had a college degree, at a time when few women went to college. We lived in a fine suburb, in an immaculate house. We went to church every Sunday. My mother even taught Sunday school.

But what was happening on the inside bore no relationship to my family's reputation in the outside world. I was fed inconsistently. I was hit. I was called ugly every day, in excruciating detail -- my ugly nose, my teeth, my complexion and so forth. I was abused verbally, physically, emotionally and in all ways.

Essentially, my mother had sworn me to silence. . . Or? What would happen? I was too afraid to mention what was going on in that house.

There is an awful lot in the press lately about high profile, powerful men whom everybody admires on the outside. But they have a deep, dark ugly secret going on in private.

When their nasty private world becomes public, we feel horrified, disgusted, disillusioned and outraged. . . . as we should.

There was a time when politicians tried to convince us that what happened "in private" was irrelevant to their ability to be a great leader.  They tried to convince us that their peccadilloes and affairs IN the Oval Office were none of our business.

I beg to differ.

I know this now, the same way you know it -- once politics have been eliminated from the equation, we have Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Gerry Sandusky, Matt Lauer, Louis CK, and on and on.

We all laughed at that episode of Seinfeld, when Jerry and Elaine joked that THIS -- their friendship, their time in the coffee shop, their time going to the movies together -- had NOTHING to do with THAT -- their sleeping together.

Now we know the Truth. Sex must never become a weapon. Sex is not about emotionless conquest, where you leave in the middle of the night so you can evade that morning face-to-face, and all those inconvenient emotions.

I have learned that if there is a horrifying disconnect between a person's outward demeanor and ugly private behavior, then that is a huge red flag. I have learned to get away from that situation, really fast. In some cases, it may even be necessary to call in the authorities.

This is not some new-agey, social science psycho-babble. This notion is centuries old and goes back to the Bible. The master expects his workers to be the same, whether he is present or absent. The master puts a gatekeeper in place to be sure all is in order.

I have also learned that what a man does in private really does profoundly affect his leadership. We cannot trust someone who abuses his power or station.

I have learned that this kind of behavior must be exposed. Way back in Biblical times, St. Paul said, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible." -[[Ephesians 5: 111-13].

And John 3: 20 says, "Everyone who does Evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."  In other words, Evil flourishes in the darkness. But we must be the LIGHT that illuminates Evil.

[Related Posting: "The Seamless Christian", 12/2/12}.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 27, 2017

I Was Hungry

" Jesus said to His disciples. 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for the least brothers of mine, you did for me. . . For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison and you did not care for me. Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for these least ones, you did not do for me.'  " -- [Matthew 25: 31-46].

I grew up in a house where we had plenty of food but where, if I could not choke down the stale food I was fed, my father would instruct my mother, "Do NOT feed her." Not even a bowl of cold cereal or a scrap of toast.

I grew up in a house where, if I told my parents that I was cold, they would not allow me to fetch a sweater. I was told, "It is not cold."

I grew up in a house where, when I was five, I would tell my mother that I was tired and that I needed a nap; but, I was told, "You are five.  . . too old for naps. You are not tired."

At five, I found myself looking for food, putting myself down for naps, and sitting on the radiator to keep warm.

Why, then, was I so shocked, when I went to university over a thousand miles from home, and I was the victim of a violent crime, so violent that I nearly died-- that my mother told me I would be "a failure" if I came home for physical and emotional recovery?

I was left so injured that it was hard to get out of bed. I could not cook meals for myself. I was sleeping very little in the aftermath. I stayed home from classes for two weeks and got very behind in my school work.

Why was I so shocked that I was left alone and injured, with no family to care for my very real needs? This situation I was in was merely the end stage of the abuse and neglect I had suffered my entire life.

I remember at times looking out my apartment window, wondering if there was anyone out there who could possibly care about me? It just so happened that I lived right next door to a convent. On Sunday afternoons, I would see the nuns in the convent garden, in their black habits, walking arm in arm on a sunny day. I thought, if I became desperate, would I knock on their gate and ask for help?

But I didn't have to! You see, a miracle happened. I was in my first year of classes and barely knew my classmates, but word got around and I received so much help -- meals, offers to stay over with classmates until sleep returned at night, classmates who took notes in class for me, rides to appointments.

Years later, I can still look back and say that the simplest gestures meant the difference for me between life-robbing despair and a new hope for the future. These smallest acts in fact ensured my survival.

There is a cliche today about "Paying it Forward". But, this notion of loving others because of how you have been loved, is actually Biblical.

I feel nothing but deep sadness at the thought that, when my family treated me that way, they were doing these things TO Jesus Himself.

But I cannot dwell on that.

Today, even on days when I probably am the one needing help myself, I try to help others. I give encouragement. I hold the door for someone. I reach an item on a shelf for a fellow shopper at the market.  I bake a pie and give half the pie to a neighbor who does not cook.

On days I feel strong, I volunteer at my church. I go to a Prayer Group and pray for others. I help a neighbor with her garden.

I have learned that even at times when we are not so strong, we can always give, even in a small way.

I have learned that what seems a small gesture to me, may be a matter of survival to the one on the receiving end of a kindness.

I have learned that, as one who has received a lifetime dose of feeling invisible, someone simply greeting me by name is a bigger thrill than anyone could imagine. ((A hug is even better! ))

I have learned that if you do not care for--  or about- - others in small ways, then the end result surely will become overarching, abject cruelty on a large scale.

The seeds which you plant, whether Love or Hate, become huge and systemic. Even mere indifference is too harsh a stance for me. Martin Luther King said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter."

I choose Love.

[Related Posting: [ "The Good Samaritan", 7/13/13].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Five Talents

" Jesus told His disciples this parable:
'A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one, he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one -- to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately, the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the ones who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money. After a long time, the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. [The master said to the first two], 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small maters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.'
[But the one who had received one talent buried it in the ground out of fear.] His master said to him, 'You wicked, lazy servant! Should you not have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now, then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside.' " --[Matthew 25: 14-30].

In this parable, a Master entrusts all that he has with his servants. He goes away, having to trust and believe that the servants will wisely manage the wealth which he has given them.

The Master in this Scripture passage is God. And WE are His servants, the recipients of many gifts and talents.

In our earthly world, we measure each other by how gifted we are. We seem to give greater value to whoever has more talents. But here, God simply gives to each, according to his ability. He treats each servant the same way, expecting them each to do his best with what he has.

And, we seem to believe in this world that we can be or do anything we want to. Many ignore the fact that our gifts come, not from ourselves, but from God.

When I observe someone with many talents, I praise -- not HIM, but God.

Then I ask, How is that person using her gifts?

I know that members of my family used their talents to make as much money as they could. Then, they were not very generous with sharing that plenitude with others. They criticized others who were not as talented, blaming them for being losers and takers.

But God the Master says, everyone must put whatever talents they possess to work. God also says, To everyone who utilizes his God-given talents, He will give more responsibility.

And yet, my family resented those with fewer talents, saying, 'WHY should I help them? They should help themselves.'

As a little girl, I was bullied for being so smart. This made me become very quiet. I did not want to make others feel bad if they were not quite as smart. I didn't want to be criticized for something that I could not help, which were the gifts given to me by God.

I wanted to bury my talents. But the person I should have been worried about was NOT my classmate or my peers. The Person I needed to please was only God.

Some may say, 'But, I have such small talents!'

To that I say, I am smart and educated. But I am only a housewife.  And yet, I knit hats and scarves for the homeless. I write inspiring words. With my rich vocabulary, I encourage and uplift others. I bake some extra bread or cookies which I share with neighbors who do not cook. I tend my flower garden and give bright flowers to neighbors who need some cheer. I bake for bake sales.

I realize that when I was trying to bury my talents, I was really being rude and ungrateful to the God who gave me such beautiful gifts.

I realize that if I am jealous that my gifts are not like others' gifts, that I am really questioning God's wisdom.

I realize that if I praise another human being for being responsible alone for his breathtaking talents, then I am really giving God no credit at all.

I realize that if someone uses their talents for Evil, then that is an ugly distortion of God's Will for us -- His Will for us to use our talents for Good in this world.

And when I resent that I have so very much responsibility, I try to remember that God gives more talents and more responsibility to those whom He can trust in smaller matters.

So, when God trusts me with much, I say, "God? With Your help, I've GOT this!"

[Related Posting: "Burying My Talents", 11/13/11; "Talents from God", 11/19/14].

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Inconsistent Light

" Jesus told His disciples this parable:
'The Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to see the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all the virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' The wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.' While they went off, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards, the other virgins came and said, "Lord, Lord, open the door for us!' But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you. Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.' "--[ Matthew 25: 1-13].

My parents identified themselves as Christians. If you had said to them that maybe they were Jewish, or Buddhist or Hindu? -- they would have been baffled and would have even argued with you.

We went to church weekly, at least until I was 14. I was baptized and Confirmed and received my First Communion.

Every Sunday after church, we all went to my grandparents' house for a big Sunday dinner. Every year, we put up a huge Christmas tree, and sang Christmas Carols. We ate ham for Easter, and enjoyed an Easter egg hunt with the cousins.

But this parable makes clear that being a Christian means more than carrying around an empty lamp. Christians shine their Light on others. They do this consistently.

There has been a lot in the news lately about famous celebrities, people in power behaving vastly differently behind closed doors. They may go through all the motions of their Faith, going to church or synagogue, observing their denomination's rituals, celebrating the religious holidays. In public, they are respected and even idolized.

It was this way in my family. In public, they drove newer cars, wore fine clothes, kept an immaculate yard, dressed my sibling and me in adorable clothes, sent us to the finest schools. My family was respected and admired.

But the shades to our house were always drawn. My mother would tell me, "What happens in this house stays in the four walls of this house."  What was happening was rage, drunkenness, hatred, racism, envy, physical, emotional and all other kinds of abuse. They did to believe in God. They never said they loved me. They did not show it, either.

They were a people like those spoken of in 2 Timothy 3: 1-4: " [They] will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous [speaking lies about others], without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a 'form of godliness' but denying its power."

People such as these are not full of Life, they are a living Death. Their Light is snuffed out, darkness envelopes them.

Even as a girl, I always tried to model Love and Light by doing good deeds, being patient and kind, walking away from their abusive acts. But this Light never seemed to rub off on them.

My father reminds me of the servant in Matthew 24: 48 -- "Suppose that the servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My Master [God] is staying away a long time, and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The Master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites."

One early spring day, my father awoke, had a cup of coffee, collapsed and died of a massive heart attack.

My first reaction was shock. Then, I tried to go confess to my parish priest all that my father had done. Week after week, I returned to tell him what my father had done. I told my priest that I hoped that God would have some mercy on my father? The priest told me, "It doesn't work that way, you cannot confess the sins of another, expecting that other person to be absolved."

In the same way, the ten wise virgins could not light the lamps of the foolish ones. The foolish ones had the chance to shine their Light for the bridegroom, but they did not. We cannot directly create a light and a relationship with God FOR someone else. We can model that behavior, but we cannot do it for them.

In the end, the bridegroom shuts out the unprepared virgins. He declares, "I do not even know you." Chilling words. . . .

But, if we treat God and Jesus as if we do not know them, how do we expect them to react to us?

[Related Postings : "The Seamless Christian", 12/2/12/]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Is Humility Obsolete?

" The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. . . All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries [Scripture boxes], and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi'.  As for you . . . you have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. You have one Master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." --[Matthew 23: 1-12].

Humility has been defined as "modesty", "meekness", even "unassertiveness".

And yet, I have heard a priest define "Humility" as recognizing that everything we have comes from God.  

People who don't understand Humility misperceive it as a lack of confidence, or being down on yourself. In fact, as C.S. Lewis said, "True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."

Humility is one of the traditional Fruits of the Holy Spirit. That is, if we live in communion with what the Advocate teaches us, in accordance with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit -(Wisdom, Understanding, Prudence, Fortitude, Knowledge, Reverence and Awe), we will reap the Gifts of the Holy Spirit -- one of which is Humility.

I have seen the burgeoning use of the Internet in my lifetime. Yes, Social Media executives have touted the "transparency" of Social Media. And it is true, that under the microscope of Social Media, we have managed to "out" many bad actors, from heads of state to celebrities.

But the widespread use of the Internet has also unleashed a superficial side. We have "manufactured celebrities", now. Their faces, and the details of their lives, have been blasted far and wide. But we are hard-pressed to identify what beneficial works they have contributed to our world.

As a child, my family repeated the Myth that we were "superior" in every way. We were English, after all. Educated. We lived in a leafy suburb. We were not poor. We dressed beautifully. We had impressive vocabularies. Family members had jobs with big titles. We drove nice cars. We went to church dressed in fancy clothes.

You would think that I would have "bought" that Myth, swallowed it whole.  Instead, in a way, I rebelled. This Myth propelled me to want to know all sorts of people -- the Italian family who lived in a two story house around the corner; the Jewish family with the black standard poodle, who lived next door; the the black custodian at our church who came to my grandmother's house to help with the heavy housework like waxing the floors and washing the windows; the kid in my fifth grade class whose dad was a prominent local rabbi.

I wasn't any better -- or any worse -- than anyone else.

As I grew up, I hated it when people told me things about myself that I had nothing to do with. "Oh, you're so smart", as if that is something I had DONE. No, whatever intellectual gifts I had came from God.

"Oh, your family as money." Well, that was not anything I had DONE. It did not make me better than anyone -- OR worse. It was an "accident of birth".

"Oh, you have such beautiful thick hair." Again, I was born with this. It did not "make me so great".

And if I DO act generously or compassionately or with piety, I have no hidden agenda. I have had people say to me, "NOBODY is THAT nice."  I am loving and generous to others, because I want to be. I do not expect anything in return. I am not "showing off". I don't need my name on any plaque or bulletin announcement.

Today, I am teaching my son to be the same person, whether out in public or behind closed doors. I don't want him to appear spectacular on the outside, but harbor a greed, a superiority, an intolerance or  an ugliness on the inside.

Oh, how God hates Hypocrisy!  I think of the times when we found out how truly ugly a person was on the inside, when he used to have a truly stellar reputation -- that kind of Betrayal hurts the entire community.

I teach my son that we don't choose our actions based on impressing anyone.  We don't boast about how much we give to charity or about the number of people we help. We give Love, we give generously, and we give quietly.

For it is God who knows who we are in our hearts. And He is the One counts the most, in matters of the Heart.

[Related Posting: "The Seamless Christian", 12/2/12].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Love Is All

"The Pharisees gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested Jesus by asking, 'Teacher, which commandments in the law is the greatest?' He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.' " --[Matthew 22: 34-40].

There is an awful lot of loud noise lately, but very little Love.

On television news shows and talk shows, people do not debate or converse. They simply drown each other out, shouting over each other until the time slot is up.  We used to dread cutting to the commercial break. Now the commercials are our only saving grace.

In American politics, candidates do not have a debate or a back-and-forth conversation on the issues. They simply set out to destroy one another personally. Whoever is left standing, relatively intact, wins.

In 1 Corinthians 13: 1, St. Paul said, "If I speak in the tongues of humans and angels but have no Love, I have become a reverberating gong or a clashing cymbal. "  Paul goes on to say, "If I have a Faith that can move mountains, but have not Love, I am Nothing."

Speaking without Love makes us an empty noisemaker. Even with all the Faith in the world, without Love, we are NOTHING. . .

And where do we find Love? We find it, first, within ourselves. In Romans10:8, Paul says, "The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart."

We ALL have the capacity to love others, just as much as we (selfishly) love ourselves. That is because, we are made in the image of God, and "the desire for God is written upon the human heart" (Catholic Catechism Part I, Section I0.) AND God IS Love.

We are created IN Love, by God, and FROM the Love arising from the union by our parents.

The very meaning of our lives is to receive Love and to Love others.

Tellingly, my parents did not believe in God. They also never hugged me or said, "I love you." When I was in my twenties, and my husband-to-be hugged me and said, "I love you", I thought he was doing something wrong!  When we would go to visit my husband's parents, I would stand awkwardly in their front hall with my hands along my sides, muttering, Hello. My dear mother-in-law would come up to me, and envelop me in her arms, and say, "You forgot to hug me!"  I didn't even know I was supposed to hug anyone, or say, "I love you."

Tellingly, my childhood was a traumatic landscape of not being fed, not being treated for my medical condition, going to school with black eyes, enduring verbal abuse, emotional abuse, threats, blackmail and on and on.

Just as Love is Life-Giving, so, a lack of Love results in a kind of Spiritual Death. Without Love in my childhood home, I began to shut down -- not eating, not speaking, not feeling emotion, not sleeping.

My Life today bears no relationship to my early years. The reason is well beyond having good food, medical care, a safe place to live -- it is ALL because of being allowed to Love and BE Loved.

Today, I spend every waking minute actively loving others. Shopping for my family, tending our garden, cleaning our house, making meals, helping our son with homework, washing the clothes. I knit hats and scarves for the homeless shelter. I donate to the food pantry. I support a village in Africa, where funds raised are building a much-needed school. I give away clothes, furniture, tuition assistance, books. I regularly call friends who live alone.  I share food from my table with those who have less.

Without Love, I would not have been born, and I never would have survived. Today, I give ALL the Love I've got. . .

"Love one another deeply, from the Heart." -- [1 Peter 1:22].

{Related Postings : "The Question of Love", 10/27/14; "The ABC's Of Love", 4/27/13; "Heart and Soul", 11/14/12; "Love Thy Neighbor", 10/23/11].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Render Unto Caesar

"The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. . . saying [to Him], 'Teacher, we know that You are a truthful man and that You teach the way of God in accordance with the Truth. And You are not concerned with anyone's status. Tell us then, what is Your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?'  Knowing their malice, Jesus said, 'Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.'  Then they handed Him the Roman coin.  He said to them, 'Whose image is this and whose inscription?' They replied, 'Caesar's.'  And He said to them, ' Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.' " --[Matthew 22: 15-21].

Caesar came to power during a bloody time, when conspirators who desired a Republic, were plotting to murder Caesar. But Caesar won out, and imposed a dictatorship. A comet appearing in the night sky convinced the populace that Caesar was a god.

The Pharisees clearly were focused upon Jesus not being "concerned with anyone's status." This is a dangerous belief under a dictatorship, when followers of Jesus were behaving as if government rulers had absolutely no authority over them. Even in today's modern China, where Christians are treated as a threat to the State, government officials are baffled by Christians, saying, 'They don't even seem to care what consequences we give them.'

In South Africa during Apartheid, Bishop Desmond Tutu famously said, 'Their first mistake was that they [the ruling party] gave us Bibles and taught us how to read English.'

Jesus seems to be giving Caesar his due as a ruler. BUT, the trap in his reply is that, if we repay to God what belongs to God, then we repay ALL to God; because, everything we have, even Life itself, comes from God.

I figured this out when I turned thirteen years old. My mother and grandmother sat me down to tell me that my mother had come close to dying as she was in labor, giving birth to me. Then, they told me that I had almost died, too. . . .

My mother went on to praise the doctor who had saved me. My parents had just moved to the area where the doctor practiced, only a few months before I was due to be born. He was an expert in the kind of distressed pregnancy which my mother had undergone.

I felt immense gratitude for that doctor! No doubt, he had studied hard in medical school. He had worked and learned critical skills in his residency.

 My mother recounted how the doctor sprang into action. when he realized that my mother and I were in distress.  But by that point in the story, I was no longer focused on the doctor. I was realizing that I owed by Life to God, who had created that man, who had given that man the gift of medical aptitude, and who had put the exact doctor whom my mother and I needed, in the right place, at the right time.

My mother was not a believer, so I said nothing about my belief that God had guided the hand and the decision-making of that doctor.

About a year later, my parents stopped taking me to church, saying, "We don't believe in that stuff."

But, it was "too late", I already believed.  And, I still believe that I owe my Life and everything good in it, to God.

[Related Postings: "God vs. Caesar", 10/19/14; "Give to God what is God's", 10/15/11].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Richer or Poorer

" Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live in abundance. In every circumstance and in all things, I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. " --[Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20].

There is an old quote, " I've been poor and I've been rich. Rich is better."  Some attribute this turn of phrase to writer Beatrice Kaufman; others to Mae West or Fanny Brice.

Whoever first said this, it shows the secular belief that the more we have, the better.

I spent a childhood "living poor", despite the considerable wealth in my family, by the world's standards. My family had food but I often went unfed. I showed up at neighbors' houses looking hungry and hoping they would give me a piece of bread or a glass of milk.

My parents had a big oscillating fan in their room for hot summer nights. My sibling had an air conditioner in his room. I was told, "It is not hot."

After awhile, I learned that getting angry was not going to result in any improvement of my circumstances. When I was told at age five that I was "too old for naps, I put myself down for naps. I started a babysitting business at age 11, and bought a fan for my room.

I left home at eighteen. I got my education and got a good job and an apartment. I got married, and my husband and I started a family. I began to live in abundance.

I have a beautiful home now. I have food. Despite my childhood, when no one hugged me or said, "I love you", when I was called ugly every day, and went to school with black eyes, I now have abundant Love in my life.

But, I am the same person now as I was back then. And that is exactly the point.

I knew how to live in humble circumstances. I found food. I helped out at home, in my mother's kitchen and garden, to keep the Peace. I either lent a hand, or I stayed out of the way. I left home with an education and money in the bank at 18. I had survived.

I know how to live in abundance. I still help others generously from the heart. I will never believe that my good fortune now means that I am a superior human being.

That is because I believe in timeless, priceless values that no amount of money can ever buy--  Love, Peace, Faith, Generosity, Patience, Joy.

There are those who do believe that reaching the pinnacle of success means that they have "the Answer" to Life, that they are smarter, more qualified, therefore superior. (This is called the Theology of Prosperity).

I am always shocked when people make assumptions about me, based on superficial impressions. They see my comfortable life, and they assume that I never suffered. They see my comfortable life, and they assume that I am egotistical and snobby.

Or perhaps, they see me dressed-down, digging in my garden or sweeping my porch, and they assume that I am a Nobody. They discount me, or even walk past me, treating me as if I am invisible.

The Truth is, rich or poor, I am the SAME person. I do not want my circumstances to change who I am inside.

THIS is what St. Paul, and Christ, call us to do. Our lives may change dramatically-- sadly alone or with loving family; poor or rich or back to poor again; young and healthy or old and feeble.

Whatever my circumstances, I keep my eyes on "Christ who strengthens me."

"That's Life, that's what people say. .
You're riding high in April, shot down in May.
I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. I've been up and down and over and out, And I know one thing. Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race." -- Frank Sinatra.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith." --[2 Timothy 4:7].

[Related Posting: "The Theology of Prosperity, 1/28/16.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Surpassing Peace

 " Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the Peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of Peace will be with you." --[Philippians 4: 6-9].

My mother was an inveterate worrier. She was also quite possibly the most negative person I have ever met. She also did not believe in "that God stuff" and she never prayed.

Our entire family spent hours each day trying to reassure her about everyday things. I tried as hard as I could to love her and to make her burden easier. As a young girl, I helped bring in the groceries from the car and put them away. I volunteered to weed her flower garden. I did all the mending and sewing for the family. I helped her with the dinner dishes, drying and putting away. I was trying to bring Peace into the family, but as a child, I did not know that this was simply Earthly Peace. Still, it was as good a place as any to begin.

It could be paralyzing for my mother to get through 24 hours. She worried if it might rain. She worried if it would not rain.

She used to ask me to tell her what was wrong, so she could worry.

It came as a huge revelation to me, when I read Matthew 6: 27, 34:  "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today has enough trouble of its own. . . Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Worry seems to be contagious. Stick around enough worriers, and soon enough you might be joining in on the hand-wringing.

I was my maternal grandmother who taught me to pray The Our Father. It was such a simple prayer, only the beginning of a Christian education, but it was a start.

My mother used to tell me that Christians were pathetic, with all their praying. She believed that prayer was for those who were unable to DO; for the unintelligent, the poor, the lame, the weak. They did all they COULD do by praying, because they were pitiably incapable of rescuing themselves.

I am learning that I am vulnerable to worry myself. It is hard not to "go there" when all I heard in my family was the "Woe is me".  The instant I begin to worry, I try to stop myself. Either there is something I can DO to resolve the problem. OR, I will pray for guidance or help.

In fact, we Christians are called to both PRAY and DO. St. Paul says in Ephesians 4: 9: "Whatever you learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me -- put it into practice. And the God of Peace will be with you."

We believe that "If you want Peace, work for Justice". --[Pope Paul VI].  We believe in the Power of Love-- which is NOT a feeling or an emotional swoon or a dramatically romantic evening. No, Love is bringing food and clothing and shelter and education and healing to the "least of these." Because whatever you do to the least of Jesus' brothers, you do to Him. --[Matthew 25: 40].

We believe that "He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him." --[Proverbs 14: 31.]

I am learning that I am vulnerable to that constant negative self-talk that can derail the most optimistic person. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of trauma and hate in this world. We cannot solve the world's problems without at first defining them. It would in fact be foolish to believe that "Everything is for the best, in this best of all possible worlds." --[ "Candide", by Voltaire].

But at the same time, we reinforce the negative neural pathways in our brain, by constantly repeating to ourselves how awful our world is. If we believe that our world is rotten to the core, irredeemably violent, evil and hateful, then we give up on ourselves and on each other.  Ultimately, we are giving up on the Divine Goodness that is God.

What we tell ourselves becomes what we believe, becomes what we do. If we believe that prayer to God and loving others both have the capacity to make our world a better place, then that is what we will accomplish.

And so, we reach for the Heavens, holding in our minds, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy --",  and it is there where we find our best selves, because is is there where we find God.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Solace of Love

" Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in Love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my Joy by being of the same mind, with the same Love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than ourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others." --[ Philippians 2: 1-11].

The week of October 1, 2107 has been heartbreaking. On 10:08 p.m. on Sunday, October 1, 2017 a shooter, holed up in a Las Vegas hotel suite, shot down at thousands of concertgoers in an open-air venue.

Our horrified human minds keep reviewing the scenes of the injured and deceased. We go over and over in our minds the number of people at the concert (approximately 22,000), the number of wounded sent to the hospital ( over 500), the number killed (59 at last count).

To speak of the acts of Love and pure heroism at the scene seems almost sacrilegious. How can we even contemplate celebrating the love and sacrifice of others, how can we dare to utter anything that hints of something good coming out of this tragedy?

But to speak of the Evil AND the Good is not only possible -- but necessary.

We do not know WHY this man planned this attack for so long, gathering his weapons cache of over 40 weapons plus bomb-making materials for over 20 years. Was it because of some mental illness? Because of today's easy access to guns? Because of the breakdown of his relationships? Because of some financial distress? Or do we simply call it Evil?

We may never know the reason. Even if we did, we will most likely dismiss the "reason" as sick, unjustifiable, insufficient.

The Faith community prays in circumstances such as this. Sometimes, we are mocked for this. It is as if people believe that persons of Faith can ONLY pray. But true Faith Warriors also WORK -- for Peace, for Justice, for Love.

We pray because, while it is too late to save those who died from their wounds, we CAN commend their souls, and pray for their families. We pray because others are seriously wounded and they need our Hope, our Love-- as do their family members, and those in the medical community who are caring for them.

In the end, we MUST celebrate those who acted unselfishly, and regarded others as more important than themselves ---

*** Two men actually stole a car in order to transport victims to the hospital, not thinking or caring about possible charges against them for the theft.
*** A husband threw himself over his wife and shielded her from the barrage. He died doing so.
*** A woman, under fire herself, packed her truck with victims and drove them to safety.
*** People in the crowd used sections of fence, rolling carts and wheelbarrows as makeshift stretchers.
*** A young woman held the hand of a man for hours, as he lay dying.
*** A young nurse from a nearby clinic rushed to the hospital where she used to work, to help.
*** Veterans, off-duty EMT's and off-duty police rushed INTO the scene to give aid to the victims, when they could have run away.
*** People stood in line for an entire day, in order to give blood. When they did not reach the head of the line, they came back the next day.

When you think about it, ALL that we HAVE is Love, for one another. Love is THE greatest weapon against violence, against Hate, against chaos. Love cannot always prevent these heinous acts. BUT Love can overcome our suffering. When we think only of ourselves, our world falls apart.

"If there is any encouragement, any solace in Love, any compassion and mercy, COMPLETE my Joy by being of the same mind, with the same Love, united in one heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory (ego); rather, humbly regard others as more important than ourselves, each looking out not for our own interests, but for those of others."

There is JOY in Love, and our Light shall banish the darkness.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Landowner

"Jesus told His disciples this parable:
' The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.'
And he went out again around noon and three o'clock and did likewise. .  Going out about five o'clock, the landowner found others standing around and said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'
When it was evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.'  When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it, they grumbled.
He said to them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. Am I not free to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money' " --[Matthew 20: 1-16A].

This Scripture is just about as infuriating as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, in which the profligate son spends his inheritance in squander, but returns home begging forgiveness, and ends up with a lavish feast.

If a landowner today ran his business the way this one does in Matthew 20, he would be out of business in a very short time. You cannot run a business in this world by paying lots of people for very little work. But, as it says in Isaiah 55: 6-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord."

But this parable is not literally about a business owner in this Life. This parable is about the Next Life.

Growing up, I received poor-to-no-parenting. I was putting myself down for naps and finding food at age five. . .  and blamed by my parents for doing those things to help myself survive. I went to school with black eyes. I was called ugly every day, then blamed for being too sensitive about it.

It has taken me a lifetime to pull myself up, and out of the abyss. Just trusting another human being has taken a huge amount of strength and courage.

I have had to build my emotional landscape back up from nothing.  I got to a point by age 18 that I was barely eating, barely sleeping, barely feeling anything, rarely speaking. I was a ghost. I had no time and no energy for anger, I was just trying to parent myself and to survive.

About ten years ago, my world went upside down at the sudden death of my father. Then the awful memories began flooding back. I realized that he was a man with huge faults and character flaws, a man who should never have become a father. He was angry and bitter and he took his anger out on me.

The first emotions to come back for me were deep pain like a cancer; and depression like a yawing black hole.

It was only after years of work on myself that I was able to feel any other emotions. One day, I felt a tiny spark of Joy. I said to myself, "THIS must be what it must feel like to be Happy."

I see-sawed between Happy and Sad for years. I still have trouble distinguishing irritated from frustrated, curious from wary, scared from angry.

Finally, one day I started to ask WHY -- WHY did my parents treat me that way? And, there are really no answers to that. Since my parents are both deceased, I will never know.

I began to realize that I need every ounce of energy to rebuild myself, to get through the day, to be a good wife, a loving mother. I cannot figure out the Whys or the Judgments, by myself. What my family did to me is too big, too HUGE for me to ever understand.

I was talking to a Christian friend about this. I said, "No child wants parents who are hateful and evil. No child wants to get parents who burn in Hell for how they treated you." Call it a fantasy but I wanted to either be rescued early on; OR, I wanted a different family.

I got neither.  I told my friend, 'I wanted loving parents. I don't want to wonder for the rest of my days, whether they are burning in Hell now. I am kinda haunted by that. No matter what they did, it does not comfort me to envision them screaming in agony in an unquenchable fire. I never wanted parents like that.'

What my friend said astonished me. She said, in Matthew 20, God gives the same generous amount to the laborers, whether they were industrious since dawn or whether they showed up at almost sundown. As long as a person comes to God with a contrite heart, even at the very last minute of Life, he receives God's generosity.

Okay, I admit, now THAT made me furious! WHY would my father get the reward of Heaven for what he did?  THAT is NOT FAIR!

But, I didn't want to spend the rest of my Life imagining him screaming in agony, either. WHAT if he DID beg God for forgiveness in his last moments? I can never know that. Do I even need to know that?

I have decided to let God judge. I need to get on with my Life and enjoy the happy years that I have left.  I cannot worry about what someone else gets in this Life or in the next. I need to keep rebuilding my Life, finding those moments of Joy, healing from the scars.  If my father received God's
last- minute forgiveness, that takes nothing from me.

God has been very generous to me. His Blessings are new to me, every day.

[Related Postings: "The First Shall be Last", 8/21/17; "The Vineyard", 9/22/14; "Putting the Last First", 8/25/13; "The Evil Seed", 5/24/13.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Lure of Anger

"Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the Sinner hugs them tight. . . Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could anyone refuse Mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days. . . Think of the Commandments, hate not your neighbor." --[Sirach 27: 30- 28:7].

After my father died abruptly one spring morning, and then my best friend died about a year later, then my mother-in-law died less than a year after that, then my own mother died only a month after that -- well, my world turned upside down.

What my family had told me was the Truth turned out to be all Lies. What others had been telling me  was the Truth, my family had always told me were Lies.

I ran to my Pastor in a panic. I told him, "Everything has gone upside down. I need to get closer to God, NOW. Only, I don't know how."

He told me to go sit in the stillness of the Chapel, before the Tabernacle, and to meditate. I said, "I don't have time." But, I realized that I was racing to and fro, but accomplishing little.

My pastor told me, "Please. You need this. Sitting and reflecting are not a waste of time. Stop being a 'Type-A personality', and sit quietly. Talk to God."

I began the practice of meditating in the Chapel daily. What came out was horrifying. . .  abuse by my family. A trauma just about every year of my life --  A fire in my grandparents' house when I was three; my near-drowning when I was four.  On and on, the memories came flooding back. Going to school with black eyes, not being fed, not being taken to the doctor. It was like a tide which I could not control.

I went back to my pastor. I started to tell him what had gone on. Even a priest practiced in difficult conversations is very capable of cringing.

Once, he interrupted me and asked, "But? -- Where is the anger?"

I said, " I gave up on anger a long time ago. I did not have time for anger, I was trying to survive."

"And now?, he asked. I said, "Anger is like a huge truck stuck in the mud. You gun the engine and the noise is deafening and you feel very powerful at the moment. But you are digging yourself in deeper and deeper. You are making it inevitable that you will never get out of the jungle. It traps you, and you never move forward."

The pastor had taught me to pray the Serenity Prayer.  I told him, "I accept what happened to me. That is, all that happened is FACT. I don't like it. I never deserved it. But it just IS."

We talked about Forgiveness. I began to understand that Forgiveness does NOT mean that the other person did nothing wrong. When a person asks for Forgiveness, he has to acknowledge his Sin first.

Forgiveness also does not mean that you have to keep going back for more abuse. The Bible never asks you to leave your brains out of the equation. In fact, we MUST remember the terrible things done to us, so we can protect ourselves from further harm.

Forgiveness DOES mean letting go of the hate and anger that would prevent us from moving on and working on our healing. If anger and hate rule our lives, then quite simply,  Evil is allowed to live on in us for the rest of our days.  And who wants Evil to retain its ugly grip on us?-- "Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?"

If you live in anger and Hate, you might push everyone away, even those loving people who are trying to help you.

If you remain in anger and Hate, you may be so blinded by intense fury, that you will never be able to help anyone else who has gone through something similar.

And so, I live every day, "taking as Jesus did, this Sinful world as it is, not as I would have it."

[Related Postings: "The Victim Soul", 7/11/15; "Hate = Murder", 2/7/11; "Anger in the Temple", 3/10/12; "Love is . . . Forgiveness", 2/29/12.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Gathered Together

"If I tell the sinful, 'O wicked one, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold YOU responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself." --[Ezekiel 33: 7-9].

In Genesis 4:9, after Cain murders his brother Abel, God asks Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" Cain replies: "I know not; am I my brother's keeper?"

Pulpit Commentary says that this reply adds "falsehood, effrontery, and even profanity to murder".

The fact is, as we read in Ezekiel 33, we ARE our brothers' and sisters' keepers. We ARE.

And in Matthew 18, Jesus teaches His disciples, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him is fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.'  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat whims you would a Gentile or a tax collector [avoid him]."

In Jesus' world, we are ALL brothers and sisters. When Jesus' mother and brothers go out looking for Him, after He has been preaching for days, someone in the crowd tells Jesus: " 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.'  He replied to him, 'Who is my mothers, and who are my brothers?' Pointing to His disciples, He said, 'Here are my mother and brothers.' " --[Matthew 12:46-50].

In my childhood home, my parents told me that people who believe in God are losers and hypocrites. They had every kind of bigoted name for various ethnic groups.  My father would tell me that he was English and that the English were superior in every way. This went way beyond ethnic pride. This was bigotry. When I laughed out loud at his outrageous words, he would turn to me and say, "Why are you laughing? I am deadly serious."

A wise woman once asked me, "How did you keep from becoming like them?" -  I said, "Because a child does not want Hate, what she craves is Love."

Every time my parents mocked someone's ethnicity, country of origin or religion, I think a little bit more of their soul died. They slowly revealed themselves to me as the lifeless creatures they really

I did not hate them for that, because I was not born with Hate in my heart. But it made me so very sad to see them that way. And it made me determined to love others radically.

Gradually, I came to see by personal experience, that Sin and Hate divide us from each other, and these certainly divide us from God, who IS Love.  Sin IS Death, because Love IS Life.

My parents spent their lives holding themselves apart from others and seeing themselves as superior to others. But, we are gathered together as One, whether we acknowledge it or not.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

 Martin Luther King, Jr. also said, "Affluent Americans will eventually have to face themselves with the question that Adolph Eichmann chose to ignore, "How responsible am I for the well-being of my fellow human beings?"

We have a responsibility to take care of each other. This responsibility extends to warning others of the error of their ways. This is uncomfortable, hard work. As Jesus alludes, it sometimes takes the work of the community. As my pastor says, "This Christian stuff is not for wimps."

Warning others does NOT mean judging them in the sense of looking down on those who sin. We are ALL Sinners. It does not mean extending Final Judgment  either-- only God can do that.

Given our responsibility for each other, HOW is it that we are so shocked and overwhelmed at the response of ordinary citizens in times of trauma -- the managers who risked their lives to stay in the World Trade Center on 9/11, until all employees were ushered to escape routes. The "Cajun Navy" who turned their personal watercraft into rescue vessels after Hurricane Katrina, and who did it again after Hurricane Harvey?

"WHY would ANYONE do that", we ask? --- BUT- What I ask is, "WHY wouldn't I do that?"

[Related Posting: "Confronting Sin", 9/3/11].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Losing My Life

"You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; You were too strong for me, and You triumphed. All the day, I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the Word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.
I say to myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak His name no more. But then, it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it." -[Jeremiah 20: 7-9].

According to the Commentary in the Life Application Study Bible, NIV, "By [earthly] standards, Jeremiah was a miserable failure. For 40 years, he served as God's spokesman to Judah; but when Jeremiah spoke, nobody listened. And he certainly did not attain material success. He was poor and underwent severe deprivation to deliver his prophecies. He was thrown into prison and into a cistern, and he was taken to Egypt against his will. He was rejected by his neighbors, his family, the false priests and prophets, friends, his audience and the kings. . . But, in God's eyes, Jeremiah was one of the most successful people in all of history."

All the day, growing up, I myself was an object of laughter. My family was very comfortable financially. I would ask if we could give to charity? My parents and my sibling would mock me, chortling, "We don't GIVE our money away."

We called ourselves Christian, but my mother would pronounce that she worshipped "The Almighty Dollar." I did not dare to speak God's name out loud. I was asking as a teen could we go to church, but my mother would tell me, "We don't believe in that".  And so, if I wanted to correct their blasphemy, I would whisper to myself, "You mean 'Almighty God."

My sibling called me ugly every day, in great detail -- faulting me for my complexion, my teeth, my eyesight. My mother would say, "You are too sensitive." So, I concluded that what my sibling was saying must be true, but the problem was that I was too sensitive about these reproaches.

When my parents did not stop the verbal abuse, my sibling took to rounding up the children in the neighborhood to mock me. They ringed me, chanting what my sibling directed them to deride me with. I would run inside and hide in my room. I was too gentle to confront them, too frightened to stand my ground.

When my parents did not stop the neighborhood bullies, my sibling became even more emboldened. I was going to school with black eyes. My parents mocked me, "Little Miss Black-Eyed Susan."

No one cared to put me down for the naps I needed, so I took naps when I decided I needed them. I was five.

Increasingly, even at five, I was not fed. I became extremely thin. I would hang around the neighbors' yards, hoping they would give me a small meal, perhaps a glass of milk and a piece of bread with butter.

My mother told me that it was my own fault that the kids and my sibling were bullying me, because I reacted with emotion. By age eight, I had numbed my feelings. By age ten, I had stopped speaking.

When I became a teen, more capable around the house, I either hid in my room, tried to contribute to the peace by doing chores, or I left the house for hours.

I was modeling Christian behavior -- responding with gentleness, retreating, or even walking away.

When I was 14, my parents stopped taking me to church altogether. The treatment for my chronic lung disease ceased as well.

I developed scars on my lungs as a result. I live with this daily.

I also took my Faith underground. When I met my Christian husband, I asked him for a gold cross necklace. But in front of my parents, I wore it under my shirt collar.

When I went home to tell my family that I was marrying this Catholic man, my mother hissed, "We did NOT raise you this way! WHY are you doing this to us?"  My parents refused to stand in the receiving line at my wedding. My husband and I were shut out of family events.

As we read Jeremiah, we could almost believe his story was an exaggeration. Or, that this kind of thing happened only in the "Olden Times".

But persecution is real, not just the world over, but in America. Try coming out to someone, that you are Christian, and feel the derision, the scorn, even the outrage. I have wounds that are real, as well -- physical scars, psychic and emotional wounds.

I once told my pastor my story. His reaction was one of shock -- not just at all I had experienced, but at how amazing it is that I did not turn out like my family.

He said I had a steely bond with God. That is, no matter what was thrown at me, verbal abuse, food deprivation, medical neglect, physical abuse, and so on, I would not turn away from my Christian core.

When I first joined a church with my husband, and went up to receive the Eucharist for the first time in decades, I would get panic attacks. I feared my Faith being so visible.

But my church friends told me I felt that way because my Faith was so very precious to me.

Jesus tells us that, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?" --[Matthew 16: 21-27].

I have been asked if I would do what I did all over again? My answer is Yes!  I "lost" so much of my life in the process, but what my family offered, I did not want. For, I have gained a whole new Life in Him!

[Related Postings: "My Heart Like a Fire", 8/30/11; "Hating this Life", 3,25/12; "The Victim Soul", 7/11/15].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Unsearchable Ways

"Oh, the depths of the riches and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that He may be repaid? 
From Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be Glory forever. Amen." --[Romans 11: 33-36.]

This passage is not just a Verse from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, it is also considered a Doxology. The word doxa in Greek means praise. The suffix-logia means verbal or written expression. [Source:].

In Praise of God. How often do we hear that these days? In this so-called "Post-Christian" era, how often do we dare to utter a praise of God, out in public? We are chastised to, "Keep your religion to yourself".

And yet, for Christians, ALL things come FROM Him, THROUGH Him, and FOR Him. That is, "He is the Source of all things, including ourselves." -[NIV Bible, footnote 11:36].

How utterly humbling is this!

 And so, the notion that a human being would spend his life accumulating more and more and more is patently absurd in the Biblical sense.

I once knew a man who had a wife, two sons, five cars, four homes, two dogs and a yacht. I confided this to a church friend, who said to me --"Is he happy yet?" I had to shoot this friend a "meaningful stare."  My reply to him: "No. He is miserable."

And in fact, this consumerist man told me not long ago, that he had reached his ultimate goal in Life-- a 50' boat. EXCEPT, when he docked his huge yacht in a slip at his summer place, right next to him was a guy with a yacht much bigger.

I told this man, "Ah, but there will ALWAYS be a man with a bigger boat."

Romans 11: 33-36 instructs us that everything comes from God and needs to be FOR God; nothing else matters. Do all the riches in the world impress God? No, not compared to the depths of the riches and knowledge of God.

Romans 11:33-36 is sobering because it reminds us that we can never be smarter than God, can never criticize God ("who has been His counselor?"), can never give God anything that will measure up to who He is, or what He has given us.

And so, the notion that a human being would spend her life trying to accumulate the most "Likes" or Friends on Social Media is patently absurd in the Biblical sense.

God doesn't care about the approval of the earthly World. The only approval we require as human beings is being Right with God.

Romans 11: 33-36 teaches us, "How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable are His ways." --And, we DARE to judge others and think we know more than anyone?

Do we unerringly see right through to the Eternal Truth in other human beings? A person who appears cold and  disengaged may not be a snob like you think; she may be depressed. A person who walks right past you may not be unfriendly; she may be hard of hearing.

Romans 11:33-36 reminds us of the harrowing Truth that God did not have to bring us into this World, and He does not have to keep us here, either. For, God is "the Source of all things, including ourselves."

This ought to make us live each day as if each day were our last here on Earth. No, this is not some saccharine wall plaque, about dancing in the rain and allowing ourselves our mistakes and living with no regrets.

We need to ask ourselves what makes us get up each day, get dressed and eat breakfast, and get about our day. What DOES get you out of bed in the morning?

IF our motivation is to make millions and congratulate ourselves for our success, thereby forgetting Who is in charge, then, in a Christian sense, we are very wrong.

IF our motivation is to assume that by being materially successful, then we have the right to judge others, or instruct others how to live, because somehow we have to formula for Life, then we are way off base.

This Scripture says that we are NOT in charge, no matter how successful we may be in an earthly sense. This Scripture says, No, we do NOT know more than God, just because things are going right for us, most of the time. That attitude is self-worship -- and it is dangerous.

IF I am nothing without God, IF everything I have comes from God, IF everything I do is FOR Him, then what motivates me each day is to give all I have to God-- because He has given me all that He has!

[Related Posting: "Prayer for Wisdom", 7/23/11; " Mysterious Wisdom", 2/12/17; "The Inexpressible Spirit", 7/24/17].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Woman of Faith

" At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came out and called out, 'Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.'
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus' disciples came and asked Him, 'Send her away, for she keeps calling after us.'
He said in reply, 'It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.'
She said, 'Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.'
Then, Jesus said to her in reply, ' O woman, great is your Faith! Let it be done as you wish.'
And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour.' " -- [Matthew 15: 21-28].

I was raised in the Episcopal Church. Then when I was 14, after I had been baptized, had received my First Holy Communion, and had become Confirmed, my parents stopped taking me to church. They said, "We don't believe in that stuff any longer. Only losers need God."

To all those who take their children to church, teach them all about God, then take church away -- I really don't believe that you can really ever take away what you have bestowed.

For decades, I became a "Nothing". I still believed, in my heart, but I never spoke of my Faith around my family. I feared that they would try to "talk me out of" my Faith. If they could take church away, could they rob me of my Faith as well?

Then, as if to prove that God has a sense of humor, I married a Catholic. My family was outraged. Still, I went to Mass with my husband, but I sat on the sidelines, not ready to talk about receiving the Eucharist again, certainly not ready to talk Conversion.

I believe that the Canaanite woman had Faith, even though she was the "wrong kind of tribe". When she encounters Jesus at the well, she calls out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!"  She knows who He is.

She also knows that He has the power to heal. She pleads, "My daughter is tormented by a demon."

Jesus is now in foreign territory in Tyre and Sidon. The basis of Christ's kingdom until now has been that the Israelites were God's Chosen Ones. Jesus says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The Canaanites and the Jews hated each other. How dare this Canaanite woman ask for healing? How dare Jesus even respond?

Then, at a time in my life when I had lost my father in seconds to a massive heart attack; when my best friend was succumbing to cancer; when I took my mother back into my life despite a lifetime of cruelty, only to find out that she was terminally ill -- my world suddenly spun upside down and backwards.

One day, I was trying to explain to my husband how utterly lost I felt. He said, Do you want to talk to someone?"

I found myself saying that I wanted to talk to the priest of our parish. But, I said, "I am not even Catholic. WHY would he talk to ME? I am not even worthy to pour the juice to the students in the Religious Education classroom."

My husband looked at me, stunned: "I am sure if you went to him in good faith, he would never turn you away."

In fact, he did not turn me away. After we spoke for some time, he wrote out the Scripture reference to Paul's Conversion in Acts. I felt like he was a physician writing out a prescription. He told me to read it and meditate upon it. He also told me to imagine Jesus reaching His hand out to me.

Like the Canaanite woman, I was from the "wrong tribe".  But I still had Faith.

Before long, I was in preparation to join the church and to receive the Eucharist again -- after so many decades.

People in the church became, not just fellow-parishioners, but friends. Many said that I was transforming before their very eyes.

When I met with the priest before receiving the Eucharist, he told me, "You have a steely bond with God. You remind me of the woman of whom Jesus said, 'O woman, great is your Faith!' And the woman's daughter was healed.' "

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Don't Look Down

" When it was evening, Jesus was there [up on the mountain to pray] alone. Meanwhile, the boat [with the disciples], already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.  During the fourth watch of the night, He came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. 'It is a ghost', they said, and they cried out in fear. At once, Jesus spoke to them, 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'  Peter said to Him in reply, 'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You in the water.'  He said, 'Come'. Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ' O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did Him homage, saying, 'Truly, You are the Son of God.' " -- [ Matthew 14:22 -33].

It has been said that, if you are in a precarious position-- Don't look down.

I am a bit afraid of heights. The worst thing I can do, as I go up, is to look down. From the heights, I can fully see the depths to which I might fall.

The embedded symbolism in this is that, in troubled times, Jesus says, "Come". But will we accept His offer for help?

These days, people misperceive Christianity. Or, just as likely, people mis-USE Christianity. Christians are perceived as acting all "Holier than Thou", as if our Christian label permits us to be the moral police, running around with a GOTCHA attitude, trying to wag our finger at those caught in Sin.

I heard all of the arguments against Christianity, and Christians, in my childhood home. My parents called Christians "the worst sinners", and therefore, the worst kind of hypocrites. They called Christians "losers", who had no natural ability to fend for themselves; so these pathetic individuals had "only God" to get them through life.

My family even fumed that "religion was the opiate of the masses". In other words, if citizens could be persuaded to pray for what they needed, then these citizens would not rail against society and the government for what was lacking.

This attitude attempts to turn Faith on its head.

The fact is, as a Christian, I fully understand in all humility, that I cannot "walk through storms" alone, without coming to Jesus. I have been given many gifts and talents from God. I praise HIM for those, I do not elevate myself. But, I do not overestimate my abilities, either. Overestimating our strength in this life alone is the surest way to drown.

My family tried to teach me that everything good and everything bad in life is the fault and the responsibility of the individual.

Take this to its logical extreme-- and, mistakes, human errors and accidents are always and foremost the fault of the individual. You accidentally drop something at a hot stove, and the burn is ALL your fault!!

This is a path to frustration, anxiety and overwhelming guilt.

Take this to its logical extreme -- and, any success of ours is 100% the result of human effort. This is a path to egotism, greed and superior attitudes verging on Hate.

My Christianity teaches me that there are storms in life, not always of our own making. We fragile and faulty humans need to find a means to get through them. We don't need to suffer alone. There IS a God, and we are His children.  Sometimes we can get through life relatively unscathed. But often, we need to call on God and Jesus for help.

This does not make us weak losers. This does make us human. It is what makes us a people of  Faith.

The opposite of fear IS Faith. No, I will not look down at the roiling storms of Life and fear my own weakness. . But I WILL look up to the Father and to the Son, who readily reach out to us during stormy times.

"Oh, you of little Faith, why do you doubt?"

[Related Posting: "Walking on Water", 8/5/11].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Brilliant Star

 " BELOVED : We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of His Majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to Him from the majestic glory.
"This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
We ourselves heard this voice come from Heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as a lamb shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." -- [ 2 Peter 1:16-19.]

In Genesis 1, the earth is created from Light, in order to vanquish the Darkness.-- "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be Light", and there was Light. --[ Genesis 1:1-3].

In the Gospel of John, "The Word (Christ) was in the beginning. The Word was with God. The Word was God. He (Jesus) was with God in the beginning. He made all things. Nothing was made without Him making it. Life began by Him. His life was the Light for men. The Light shines in the darkness. The darkness has never been able to put out the Light." -[John 1:1-5].

There are actually persons who would call themselves Christians AND Scientists. There is today a small cadre of scientists who quietly believe that, even before the Big Bang, there must have been a Grand Consciousness that initiated the Big Bang, and the whole of Creation. In other words, before a Bang, there must be a Spark.

There are those deniers who would argue that Christianity is based on myth and fairy tales. But even reading through the poetic language of the Biblical Creation story, there is a definitive moment of Creation, and a Grand Consciousness present from the beginning of time.

The Creation Story in John has been called a story of Infinity-- The Word was in the beginning. Jesus was with God in the beginning. "Christ became human and lived among us." Jesus returned to His Father. And so, as children of God, we may return to Him and to His Son.

We see in John 1, a clear and uninterrupted lineage -- "This true Light came into this world. He gave the right and power to become children of God to those who received Him. He gave this to those who put their trust in His name." --[John 1: 10-12.]

In 2 Peter, therefore, Peter is able to say: "Beloved: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of His majesty [at the Transfiguration]. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to Him from the majestic Glory: 'This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.' We ourselves heard this voice come from Heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain." -[2 Peter 1:16-19].

From eyewitness accounts came oral testimony, which became the Word, written down in the best-selling Book of all time.

You could say in our times, WHY do we care?

Well. . . Everyone knows how much darkness there is STILL in the world. I would venture to say that every human being on our planet spends his or her life battling dark things-- greed, jealousy, lust, hate, worship of self [narcissism], bitterness. .

On a global scale, we have hunger, war, dictatorship, violence, consumerism, racism. . .

When I was a little girl, there was enough darkness in my home to swallow you up whole, and spit you out. Looking back, I can see that I was not in the midst of a loving family. No! --I was in a Cold War. Deep space cold. . . Bitterness, envy, materialism, narcissism, hate, greed, binge drinking, anxiety, rebellion, impatience, revenge, blackmail, distrust, lack of faith, excess of self gratification.

My young life was just like the world before Creation - - " an empty waste and darkness over deep waters." -- [Genesis 1: 2]. Our home was closed off. The windows were shrouded in layers of shades, under curtains and heavy drapes. My mother used to say, "What happens in this house, STAYS within these four walls." --This struck Fear in my heart.

I surely could have used a little Light!

God Himself promises us, though, that "This true Light (Jesus), coming into the world, gives Light to every man. Christ became human flesh and lived among us. We saw His shining greatness." -- -[John 1: 9-14]. " AND the light shines in the darkness. The darkness has never been able to put out the Light ." - [ John 1: 5.]

And, as Jesus GIVES light to every man, then WE must BECOME the Light.

St. Paul ( the Saint who saved my Life) said in Ephesians 5: 7-14, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in Love. Therefore, do not be partakers with (immoral ones deceiving you with empty words), for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret."

As witnessed in the Transfiguration, as Jesus IS the Light; so, I strive to escape the darkness and thereby to BE the Light.

FOR, "We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart."

[Related Postings:"Transfigured", 2/22/16; "This is My Son", 3/16/14; "Transfiguration of Christ", 3/5/12.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.