Wednesday, May 30, 2018
"Brothers and sisters: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons [and daughters] of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, 'Abba, Father!' The spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." -[Romans 8: 14-17].
Growing up, all I wanted was to belong to someone. I wanted to be fed but heard my father telling my mother, "Do not feed her."
I wanted someone to tell me, "I love you", to pick me up when I fell. Instead what I was told was, "You are ugly." Or, "Get up, you are not hurt."
Sometimes, as a child I would try to make things better by mending a family member's clothes or tending my mother's garden. Sometimes, I could simply leave the house and hide, under a tree, or up on a flat rooftop reachable by a set of metal steps, or within a thicket. Most often, I gave up on the capacity of humans to provide what I needed or to show any Love. I cared for myself, finding food, putting myself down for naps.
Mine is an extreme story. But, we all want to belong to Someone, who calls us Son or Daughter, and who loves us unconditionally.
When I first read Romans, I understood that St. Paul, when he talks about the slavery, was talking literally about the Hebrews who escaped from slavery in Egypt and who ran into forty years of wandering in the desert, bereft and afraid.
It was when Moses first encountered God, that God told Moses, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard heir cry on account of their taskmasters and I have come down to deliver them out of Egypt. I will be with you." -[Exodus 3: 7-12].
Then God began to travel with His people, "in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people." -[Exodus 13: 21-22].
Then, God sent His Only Son to walk along side us. Before His death, Jesus said, " No longer do I call you servants. Instead, I have called you friends." -[ John 15: 15].
And then came the Holy Spirit. Paraphrasing from C.S. Lewis, 'God walks ahead of us, Jesus walks beside us, but the Holy Spirit lives within us.'
St. Paul says in Romans 10:8, "The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart."
I grew up very fearful of being alone. I still fear abandonment. But then I read the words of Jesus saying, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever - the Spirit of Truth. The world neither sees Him or knows Him but He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans." -[ John 14:16-18]. And I am thrilled to know this and live with these words!
I can often feel the Spirit working within me. Perhaps I don't know what to say in a situation, such as when a friend comes to me to share her troubles. Perhaps I don't know what to do?
Somehow, I blurt out the right thing. Or, my friend says, How did you know that was exactly what I needed?
The Holy Spirit helps me to pray. Once when my son was young, he misplaced his precious stuffed animal. I always get a bad feeling in my gut when something is lost. Perhaps, that feeling reminds me of the abandonment I felt as a child, feelings of being lost and wandering, alone.
We looked high and low all week for the little friend. I even prayed that we would find my son's treasured toy. Finally, I asked the Spirit, "Come, Holy Spirit, come." I had Faith that his toy was in this house somewhere. I then told my son, "Your little friend is in plain sight but hidden. Your little friend is under something. If you would clean up your room, as I told you to do days ago, you will find him."
My son and I went into his room. There were toys everywhere! I walked over to a little blanket in the center of the floor and lifted it up. There was my son's little friend, underneath! We felt utter Joy!
"The gifts of the Spirit [include] wisdom, knowledge, miracles. The life led by the Spirit is the life of God's free children, free from fear. . ." -[ Sean P. Kelly, C.S.Sp.]
I would have long ago written off finding my son's little toy as a coincidence. BUT every time something is lost, I quiet myself to hear the Spirit, I pray, and suddenly, I am able walk right over to where the lost object is, and uncover it.
The Holy Spirit enables us to pray. The Holy Spirit will even pray for us when we don't know what to pray for.
The Holy Spirit is a lot more than "What would Jesus Do?" The Holy Spirit is the Advocate, the Comforter, the Prayer Intercessor, the Guide of Truth, the Witness of things to come, and the Teacher - - WITHIN us.
Finally, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I am never alone. I reside in a world full of Brothers and Sisters, co-heirs and adopted children of God. When I come up against those old feelings of fear and abandonment, I tell myself, "You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, you received a spirit of adoption and can cry out, 'Father!'"
(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
" Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. Whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. . If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of small be?" The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' . . . If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." -[ 1 Corinthians 3-26].
I remember as a child going through the "It's a Small World" exhibit at Disney, over and over and over again. Was it the vision of all the international dolls, the animatronics, the catchy tune of "It's a Small World"? - all so magical to a starry-eyed little girl? I can still remember my mother tugging me away after we went through that exhibit for the umpteenth time. After all, we would have to go home, eventually.
The lyrics that stick with me are, "There's so much that we share, we can all be aware, it's a small world after all!"
Today, so many seem to resent anything smacking of Christian doctrine. If it comes from the Bible, many folks stiffen, and interrupt, or walk away, before even hearing the message.
The message in 1 Corinthians: 3-26 came from a time when various peoples held themselves apart as "The Chosen Ones", to the exclusion of others. St. Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, was addressing the community of Corinth on the issues of divisiveness, jealousy, and continual argument.
What Paul was fighting to set aright, in general, was a belief that one could be "a proper Christian", only if one was Jewish to begin with. The logical conclusion to this was that Gentiles, Greeks, Converts, or any other groups could not properly follow Jesus. And yet, Christians believe that Jesus welcomes ALL!
These issues are not new! They resonate, even today.
Today, our politics and our culture align along identity issues. This is a good thing, when Identity Politics serve to remind us that Black Lives DO matter. We CANNOT say, 'One part of the whole body - [ our world's persons of color] - are not part of the whole body and do not matter!' No- we are ALL one body.
Hence, the famous observation of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said, "We are ALL tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." I must believe that, as a preacher, King was directly paraphrasing Corinthians: "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it."
I was not taught this as a child. In fact, I was taught that people need to take care of themselves. And as for charity, "We don't GIVE our money away."
But in fact, we cannot rightly carve out whole groups of people from the whole Body. "If the Foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body', it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body."
And, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' ". We DO need each other. As Mother Teresa said, "We forget that we belong to each other."
How our world would change, if we went back to the ancient belief that we are all one body. Never would we abuse each other, hate each other, cut off ties with each other, isolate from each other. In fact, we NEED each other to survive.
There are SO many implications to this belief! Take Climate Change - the developed world spends billions investing in renewable energy, BUT we allow a vast swathe of our brothers and sisters to heat and cook over open fires outdoors! Open fires are a monumental contributor to air pollution. And, we all live on the same planet. Volcanic ash from the Pacific floats along on the jet stream. Detritus from a tsunami in Asia ends up in California. If we think that we are not physically connected, then we are willfully blind!
Then, there are the huge implications from the notion that each body member has its own gifts to contribute.
Today, in America, we tell our children, "You have to get all A's and B's in every subject, or you will never go to college. Or, we say, "Honey, if you work hard enough, you can be anything you dream of."
Today, in America, we tell our children, that the only "true path" to success is if our son or daughter goes to college.
But these are lies! What tends to happen for a child who quite literally cannot be gifted at absolutely everything, is that despair, self-loathing and anxiety set in.
What I believe is that, yes, I can improve my talents in many areas through hard work. But, if it is not my gift, I will never reach complete success. I could "dream" of being an opera soprano but, the truth is, my voice is really not that good. This is not my gift.
What a different place our world would be, if being a construction worker or a waiter or a car mechanic were as valued as being a college graduate working behind a desk. Or, if being a woman were as valuable as being a man.
Here is my analogy-- my Feet are not the most glamorous part of me. BUT, literally, I would be going NOWHERE without them. We tend to forget all about our Feet, or swathe them in socks and shoes, or even make jokes about smelly Feet. BUT, the day our Feet are not cooperating, suddenly we have a newfound appreciation for our extremities!
"Everything God created in the Universe and beyond is connected. In ways we will perhaps never understand, we are all connected. We are so much more together, than we are apart, and infinitely more interdependent that we are independent. When we hurt ourselves, we hurt everyone. Everything we think, do, and say affects someone, somewhere, sooner or later." -Matthew Kelly.
(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.
Monday, May 14, 2018
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we must also love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and His Love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us, that He has given us of His Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent His Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in Him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the Love God has for us. God IS Love, and whoever remains in Love remains in God and God in Him." -[1 John 4:11-16].
My son seemed like he was just a baby, only "yesterday". Now, he is a young teen. In only a few months, he will be going off to University.
Although he will come home a lot from University, I will now be losing that daily, intense interaction which I have had with him so many years. My fear is that I have run out of time to teach him anything more. Have I taught him everything he needs to know?
In Deuteronomy 11:14, 19, God says to His people: "Listen obediently to my commandments, which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and soul. . . . You shall teach them to your children, talking of them where you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up."
This was wise, Old Testament counsel. The many, many ways in which God's Chosen People were to show their Love for God was by being obedient to His Laws.
In Luke 10: 25-28, Jesus repeats the Old Testament commandment, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind [The First Great Commandment]; and thy neighbor has thyself". [The Second Great Commandment].
Then, Jesus introduced a new Commandment, "Love one another as I have loved you. By this, all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." -[John 13:34-35].
I did teach my son, all day long from sunrise to sunset. I talked about what to do IF this happened or THAT happened. But I gradually came to understand, even when my son turned 3 and went off pre-school, that I could not possibly enumerate every situation in which he would find himself.
Before I sent my son into his pre-school classroom his first day, I told him, "If you forget what to do, or feel unsure, always choose the loving thing. Also, be sure to be part of the solution, not part of the problem." I told him, For example, if a little girl slides down the slide too fast and ends up in a puddle, go be sure she is okay, then run to get a teacher."
This is what Jesus is doing in His parting words to His disciples. Telling them, 'Love your God, with all your heart and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love others as I have loved you.' How much did Jesus love us? To the death.
One day when my son was five, a little girl DID fall off the end of the slide, right into a mud puddle. All the other kids told, frozen. He ran over to be sure she was okay. Then, he ran to get a teacher.
When I picked my son up from school that day, he said, "She fell off the slide, Mommy. She was all muddy. But I helped her up, and ran to get a teacher. BUT, how did you know that would happen?"
I smiled and said, "Mothers just know things."
I remember, too, the talk which my son and I had about God. Once day when my son was 3 or 4, he asked, looking up to the Heavens - "WHY does God have to be so big and far away?" I told him, "But God is also very, very small. He is in every little ladybug and in every grain of sand."
At this age, my son was asking, "But where IS God? How come I cannot see Him?' I said, "God is nowhere in particular, but He is everywhere."
What I should have said was, "God is in the Love inside you, the Love which you share everyday with others. God becomes visible through His Love inside us, which we shine upon others."
Recently, my son and I had another talk. He asked me, "But why DO I have to leave home and to go out in the world, and to work?" I told him, "You have wonderful gifts. Everyone is given something that they are very good at. You must use these gifts to try to make our world a better place. We need all the Good Guys we can get." Finally, after all the years of my son not seeing the relevance of school, he is beginning to understand that he must get his education and go forth.
The hymn this Sunday in church was "As a Fire Is Meant for Burning." The lyrics in the second verse make clear our mission of Love: "Not to preach our creeds or customs, but to build a bridge of care, we join hands across the nations, finding neighbors everywhere. By our gentle, loving actions, we would show that Christ is light."
In John 17: 11B-19, Jesus prays to His Father, "When I was with [my disciples], I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them. I gave them your Word and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world. Consecrate them [make them sacred] in your Truth. Your Word is Truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world."
And so, I pray this over my own son: 'Son, I protected you and guarded you, as long as you were with me. Now I send you out into the world. You may be hated for living the Truth, which IS Love and which IS God. I pray that your love of the Truth be made sacred. I pray that you be kept away from Evil forces. No one has ever seen God. But if we love one another, God remains in us, and His Love is brought to perfection in us. By the Love you show to the world, the world will come to see God.'
(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
"Beloved, let us love one another, because Love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without Love does not know God, for God is Love. In this way, the Love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through Him. In this is Love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins." -[1 John 4: 7-10].
A professor named Leo Buscaglia was a professor at the University of Southern California in the 1960's. After one of his students committed suicide, he said to himself, "What are we doing stuffing facts into people and forgetting they are human beings?"
He began offering a class entitled Love 1A. Later, Buscaglia wrote a book called, simply, "Love." As he toured the country giving lectures, he spent considerable time after his talks, giving hugs, one by one, to audience members, who lined up for simple human interaction.
During my difficult childhood, I received no Love. No one ever hugged me or said, "I love you." The first hug and "I love you" that I ever received was when I was 26. I had just met the man who would become my husband. When I blurted out, "I love you", I was immediately afraid that I had done something wrong.
Yes, many "old-school" families did not believe in the "mushy stuff" of tender endearments. But I was also called ugly, a failure, hit, abused, not given necessary medical care, and not fed.
What transpired over a few short years was a total shut-down of my Self. I began by isolating myself physically in my room. When my mother kicked me outside, saying it was too nice to be indoors, I hid in the deep recesses of a massive forsythia along our front foundation.
Over time, as physically hiding did not make me feel any safer, I started practicing showing no emotion. Still unsafe, I practiced not feeling any emotion- as if feeling emotions even inside of me could make my humanity visible and therefore render me subject to attack.
Somewhere along the way, I largely stopped eating. Then, I began to rarely sleep. I developed a chronic lung disease, and had difficulty breathing. Ultimately, I stopped speaking. I had given up on Humanity. I had given up on Love.
My life has been a testament to how the lack of Love kills us, body and soul.
It has been a long road back. Early in my healing, I dreamed that I went to a "Self" Store, to buy a new Self. I wish it were that easy.
Children robbed of Love are robbed of Self. From our earliest days, we define ourselves in relationship to others. The smell, the sound, the sight, the feeling of our loved ones -- the first such loved one being Mother- delineate for us where we end and where others begin. A child still in the womb can identify the voice of the mother carrying her. Once the bay is born and outside the womb, the mother's voice can soothe the child because already, the voice is so very familiar.
What it means to be human is to Love. When we meet our Life's partner, we behave much the same way, in delight with the scent, the sight, the sound of our Loved One. Our heart quickens at their presence, and we want to envelope ourselves in their arms.
Leo Buscaglia said, "To live in love is to live in life, and to live in life is to live in love." It was only when I met and fell in Love with my husband that I really came back to life.
Life begins in and with Love. A life without Love is a descent into a living Hell, a kind of Death. But Love endangers a miraculous blossoming of spirit and soul. Love is literally life-giving and life-saving.
I have spent countless hours asking how my own family could have treated me that way? I suppose that I can never really know. Except that as children, my own parents did not receive the kind of Love which I longed for, either. They never really knew Love themselves. And they never knew, or believed in God. For them, it was a dog-eat-dog world. There was nothing, or No One, larger than themselves. What did Love have to do with it?
And yet, "The desire for God is written upon the human heart." -[Catholic Catechism]. And God IS Love. So, therefore, as we long for God, so we long for Love. And as we long for Love, we may well be longing for that Infinitely deep Love that only God is capable of. Because as perfect as human Love can be, it has its limits.
The capacity for Love may be demonstrated -- or not -- by our parents. But our lives begin, begotten by God, innately capable of Love. The seeds for Love and for God are planted within us at birth. The question is, whether we will accept and nurture them; or turn our backs and let them wither away?
To know Love is to know God. To know God is to know Love.
(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.