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All posts in June, 2016

Part 40, June 30, 2016

Perspective is everything! Do you live in a world of abundance or of scarcity?

It honestly is more a matter of perspective than it is a reflection of reality. If you’re reading this, chances are that you live in a house jam-packed full of stuff, and yet are always wanting more stuff. Chances are that you throw away food that’s perfectly edible. Chances are that you drive when you could walk. You probably pay someone to cut your hair, and maybe even to color and perm it, and to do your nails. It’s likely that you have a fast, unlimited, always-on internet source. And it’s likely that you’re afraid that it’ll all disappear or that it’s just not enough. Fear has more to do with the attitude of scarcity than the reality does.

Many, many folks who are NOT reading this right now have none of that. They may live in refugee camps, or they may live in a hut, or they may live under the sky anywhere in the world. Some of them, while surviving in a world that shouts “scarcity!”  actually live in an inner world of abundance because they appreciate life itself and count the small blessings each day.

Ideally, at least in my mind, would be for everyone to actually have enough and to be thankful for it, without needing to seek more and more. That’s living in trust that God, the universe, the world, whatever, will provide for our needs if not for all of our wants. Growing into our identity as Love wrapped up in a body means learning to trust that Love is enough, and more.

Part 39, June 29, 2016

Traditions

I know, early on I said something about church traditions being unhelpful–and they can be! But they can also be extremely helpful. The important thing, I think, is to keep in mind that traditions exist in order to help folks to build their faith in God, not in the traditions themselves.

Church traditions may vary from denomination to denomination and from church to church and even from family to family. For my purposes, I consider the Catholic church to be a denomination like any other, and not a different religion from the protestant denominations–all are Christian. The word “christian” means “follower of Christ.” Traditions exist in order to help us follow Christ more fully. When they accomplish that purpose, it can be beautiful!!! When traditions are followed for their own sake, the result can be pretty ugly, because at that point we’re worshipping the tradition rather than the God and the deeper realities that they point to.

One example is Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Table, whatever you want to call it. In some churches, it is served every Sunday while in others it’s monthly or even less often. I find it to be a very meaningful tradition and would like to see it shared every week, but I would also like to see more focus given to the fact that it’s pointing to the reality of sharing EVERY meal with Jesus; that EVERY meal is a gift from God; that EVERY time we share food with others and even EVERY time we eat alone, Jesus is right there with us. EVERY time we eat can be a celebration of communion with God. How cool is that? Yet, how often have you heard that in church?

Part 38, June 28, 2016

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

EVERYONE who loves is born of God and knows God. EVERYONE. Not just those who look like us or live like us or follow the same faith journey as us. EVERYONE.

Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

These two verses completely redraw the lines of separation between people. The lines we think obvious are erased. What we may consider “us” is divided. Many times, we don’t even know the difference! We are blinded to seeing fully the consequences of our own actions, and those of others near and dear to us. We are unable to see the beauty in the loving actions of those who are different from us in some way.

We cry out “Jesus! Jesus!” while hating our neighbor and fearing the foe who means us no harm, then wonder why our faith has no power.

Love draws no boundaries on the earth or between peoples. Love welcomes all …

Part 37, June 27, 2016

I can do all things through God who strengthens me!

I thank God every day for giving me the strength, motivation, stamina and grace that I need in order to do what I need to do, in enough abundance that I can also do some of what I want to do. At least most days. Considering the fact that two years ago, most folks didn’t think I’d last a year, I’d say that I’m doing pretty well!

When I was younger and healthier, I didn’t really think about all that I was able to do in my own strength, let alone what I might be able to do with God’s strength added. Now, I think of “all things” and “God’s strength” as far more than the physical, even though that’s where it appears that most of my limitations lie.

At least as important for me at this point in my life, is God strengthening me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This is where determination comes from. This is where hope comes from. This is where the rubber hits the road!

Part 36, June 25, 2016

Dependence, Independence, and Interdependence

We have been trained well into believing that dependence is fine for children, but not for adults. We’ve been told in many ways, over and over, that adults should be independent–and in the USA, “rugged independence” is revered. Honestly, though, how many of us are or ever have been truly independent? It seems to me that is but an illusion which we strive for, and always wind up feeling like we’ve failed if we don’t manage it. In addition, we too often learn through hard experience that there’s nobody trustworthy to truly depend upon! This pretty much guarantees a society of folks who believe themselves to be failures or loners, or both. How sad is that?!?!?

I’m not saying that it’s ideal for healthy adults to be completely dependent on other human beings. Independence has its place. Providing for one’s self and family gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment that can’t be replaced! But thinking that we’re doing it all on our own is simply a mirage.

If dependence isn’t so great, and independence isn’t real, what’s left? Interdependence! All of us rely on others in so many ways that we don’t even consider–and others rely on us in ways that we’re unable to see. Whether we like it or not, we are social beings. Our interactions with others shape who we are, what we think, and how we live. Knowing who we are is a learning process that takes a lifetime, even though we tend to think of the “finding myself” stage as fleeting. It’s not. I’m pushing 60 and I’m still working on it!

I’m glad that God is working on it with me, and that I have friends all over the world who contribute to the process. Coming to realize that I am love wrapped up in a body–and that you are, as well–gives me something more solid to work with in my endeavor to become ever more who I truly am and to discover what my life’s work is and is to be. Knowing that I am love wrapped up in a body, and that God is Love, gives me someone to depend upon without fear and the confidence to reach out in interdependence to others.

Part 35, June 24, 2016

What about original sin? Wasn’t that Eve’s fault?

I never could figure out why Eve (and every woman after her) was blamed for eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and feeding it to Adam. He could have probably convinced her that wasn’t a great idea if he’d tried. Both of them–in other words, all of humanity–is responsible for the consequences.

Does this mean that I take the story as being a literal, factual report of the goings-on? Absolutely not. Nobody wrote it down. It’s a story that attempts to explain why the world is as it is and why humanity is as it is.

Sin separates us from full relationship with God, because it is our free will which chooses separation in order to demonstrate our own abilities, much in the way that a toddler will shout “I can do it myself!” and just as parents smile and continue to love and to help as needed, so God smiles and continues to love and to help us as needed. Just as the results of a toddler doing it without help can vary, so the results of our attempts to do it alone can vary. We get to see the consequences, and to live with them, in order to give us the opportunity to make different choices in the future. Is this because God doesn’t care? Hardly! It’s because God DOES care that we are allowed to learn and to grow through our mistakes, whether they be personal and done in our own lives, or corporate as a whole of humanity. It sure does hurt sometimes, though!

Love and Sin … What is sin?

First of all, I want to make it clear that I do NOT believe that the Creation Story is to be taken as literal fact. Like much of what we call the Old Testament, it’s a story meant to communicate some important truth, without needing to be historically factual.

Second, keep in mind that I’m certain in my heart and in my soul that God is Love, that humanity was created in God’s image, that at basis we are Love wrapped up in a body.

So, how is it that the world is such a mess? How is it that it’s always been such a mess? Sin. We were given free will, and we’ve used it badly. Not everyone, all the time, but enough to encourage evil to proliferate, causing harm to the world which was entrusted to our care and to one another.

Sin is not only what separates us from God and from one another, it is the actuality of that separation in itself. Sin is using our free will to be and to become separated and gives the illusion that we are completely independent. Love is interdependence, vulnerability and strength … but we so often see it as weakness.

We humans tend to see independence as strength–leaning only on our own knowldege is seen as power, going after only our own needs is seen as simple common sense, ignoring the needs of others is seen as normal. How silly we are!

How can we be so blind that we can’t see the strength we have when we pool our resources in trust and in love? How can we ignore the power we gain when we lean on God’s understanding and that of our neighbor rather than solely our own? How can we discard as irrelevant the plight of the hungry, the homeless, the refugee?

It is so much easier to focus on ourselves and our own wants and needs than it is to focus on the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world and around the corner. It is less painful to focus on ourselves as the center of the universe. We are indeed broken and need redeeming.

We need love. We need to KNOW that we ARE created to BE Love, wrapped up in a body and reaching out the hand of Love to every living being.

Part 33, June 22, 2016

Continuing Hope

If we already had and were all that we wanted, we wouldn’t need hope. Why does it seem that we always want more? More stuff, more talent, more information, more power … more wisdom, more love, more kindness, more grace …

As much as I say, even to myself, that I have more than enough stuff, it seems that there’s always something else that I want, whether for myself or for my loved ones. That’s greed, and I don’t want any of it, but there ya go. God isn’t finished with me yet … I pray daily that I may have the strength, the stamina, the energy and the courage as needed for each day. Better, perhaps, would be to pray that I become more loving each day–and I do pray that, as well. My prayers are prayers of hope.

My hope is in the Lord, the giver of life, the sustainer of all that lives, the redeemer to takes the rags of my life and transforms them into a robe of glory, shining with love for all to see and to receive. I am thankful as I live in neverending hope.

Part 32, June 21, 2016

Doubt

Some folks seem to see doubt as a bad thing, as a diminishing thing, as a scary thing, as an unfaithful thing.

I see doubt as a good thing, as a growth thing, as a courageous thing, as a faithful thing.

How can this be???

I can’t truly speak for anyone else. For myself, I see doubt as a way to seek more and better understanding. I see doubt as a way to step away from my current perspective, to question its validity, and to see from another’s perspective. I see it as a way to get closer to God in a very personal wrestling match. God always wins, of course, and my faith grows stronger through the spiritual exercise.

I can’t live in hand-me-down faith or religion. It would make me and my faith wither away. I MUST stretch my wings in order to fly.

Part 31, June 20, 2016

Hope

I decided on today’s theme before even considering what I might write or even what it really means. Hope. What is it, really? Is it a way of trying to live in the future? Is it a way of denying past or present reality? Is it a hiding place? Or is it a reality more real than that which we see and experience?

Hope.

We hope that the future is better and brighter than the present. On a really good day, or in an amazing moment, we may hope that the future spreads out in front of us unchanging and always brilliantly beautiful. Somehow, in that hoped-for future, we may even adjust our physical age to a time when we’re in our prime–old enough to be considered responsible, but young enough that the declines that so often happen with aging and illness haven’t yet made any impact upon us.

It seems to me that what we’re really hoping for is heaven, whether right here on earth or in the afterlife, or both! Maybe, by living love to the best of our ability by God’s grace, we’re helping to fulfill that hope for someone else even if it’s not visible in our own lives … and maybe someone else’s loving kindness brings it nearer for us.

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