Liked this. The comments are interesting also.
Something I keep hearing from older people (and have also found myself repeating) is the phrase:
“I wouldn’t like to be a youngster in these present times.”
How glad and relieved we all are that we don’t have to cope with the pressures, problems and challenges facing young people in the 2020’s. And as I reflect on the point of view of these cogitating codgers who are my contemporaries, I find myself asking:
How is it possible that we, as bright young things growing up with the world at our feet in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, emerging from the rigours of post-war austerity and, although rebelling against them, still imbued with the ethics and ideals that drove our parents and grandparents, could make such a cock-up of the world?
How could we get it so wrong?
Were our eyes fixed too firmly on material progress, so that we failed to…
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I found a quote in my favorite woman spiritual writer Anne Lamott’s recent post that I would express differently. The quote is: “We are all born broken. God’s grace is the glue that fixes us.” I think we are born needy and unfinished. But our life is a journey where God’s grace can free us from our needs and heal our wounds from an imperfect world, so we can become able to love others more than ourselves.
I am a follower, fan of, totally into, Jesus. He, His life, His love, and His WAY, have been both a new beginning, a road map, and a source of grace for my unfinished and often pitifully needy self in my life journey.
But I have literally danced with joy, praising God when reading scientific descriptions of patterns of evolution in the smallest to the largest things in the Universe. The sheer beauty and amazing brilliance of God shines through it at every point. Everything is in process, including us. And that process is fueled by the Spirit of God within us responding to the Spirit of God outside us in the world and even in unfinished others.
We all fall short of the glory of God!! Because we come into the world helpless, dependent, and needy, we have to be centered on our own needs for survival. No sweet little baby is a sinner. But every sweet little baby is needy and unfinished.
Guess what? NEED is the opposite of LOVE. It makes us have to use other people. Our life journey is about growing free from our personal needs by accepting unconditional love. We are not all the same in our weaknesses and strengths. Some of us are doers and our need is to either run the world or take care of those weaker than ourselves. So, our journey may end with being dependent on others, allowing ourselves to be loved in our helplessness.
What’s the best one-word description of God? LOVE. Jesus fleshed out LOVE. But as a human he grew from need to LOVE.
How? Through both the Spirit within and the Spirit without.
You can see Him grow through the Scriptures from a “show off” twelve-year-old who was oblivious to His human parents’ feelings until his mother made him aware of them, through a thirty-year old needing a push from his mom again to finally start his public journey by being kind to a young couple starting their life together, and on through growing from a tribal view of his ministry by being challenged to love people representing the worst to Jews: a bleeding woman, a Samaritan heretic, and a Soldier of the oppressing conqueror. He slowly came to accept that His mission was to ALL people.
It wasn’t easy. He literally wept for His own people who thought they were the only Chosen ones and that their laws and traditions would save them and only them.
Jesus recognized that the spiritual journey is not a spiritual country club or an automatic insurance policy. It’s a process that begins when we realize that we need the grace of the Spirit of God both within us and outside us to become able to love even those who reject us and our love.
It’s a journey filled with suffering and sorrow and blessings and grace. And even when we are dying, we have moments of doubt just like Jesus did, when he felt God had abandoned Him. And like Jesus, we are called to choose God at that worst moment, “Father, into your hands I trust my spirit.”
To me, Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega and the Apex of humanity’s growth from instinctual survival behavior to recognizing we can and must choose to love others. Jesus fleshed out the Spirit of God’s love for all humanity. Jesus was open to both the Spirit within and the Spirit speaking through others and even through challenging circumstances.
God did not make us with a cookie cutter. We are alike in many ways, but we are born with different strengths and weaknesses and also experience very different benefits and handicaps from the societies we are born into. In the vernacular, we are not dealt the same hand, and some are not even playing with a full deck. No one but God can judge how well we are playing that hand. Not even ourselves. And sometimes we need others for both their sake and ours.
Perfection is not the goal of our personal journey. Growing in our ability to love is the goal. We don’t start with the same potential and we don’t end with the same results. With grace we become the unique person God created us to be. I think it’s like being part of a giant tapestry or even a jigsaw puzzle. Separately some parts seem larger, more beautiful or more important than others, but without each part, the whole will not be perfect. We are only called to be our tiny unique irregular shaped part. All the parts in a tapestry look ugly from underneath, but are what’s needed for the perfect whole.
Scriptures are like letters from God. The stories involve people with various strengths and weaknesses and who are at different parts of their journey. So, what Jesus speaks to people in the stories challenges them where they need to grow at that time in their life.
It works the same for us. When we read the Scriptures enough, what we need to hear can come to mind. Or we can pray and open them for guidance. I’ve found sometimes it just takes one try on a certain day, but other times a combination of Scriptures over a week will give me a clear answer. It helps to get as free as we can of preconceived ideas.
When in your life you find yourself overreacting negatively to a person, consider that Jesus called his best friend Satan, when Peter tried to discourage Him from anticipating suffering and death. As human beings, we all tend to overreact when we are still struggling and need grace to accept something harsh, hard, or scary. In the garden, Jesus sweat blood! He was terrified. He asked God to spare him. And He felt abandoned on His cross. But ultimately He trusted God.
This life is not heaven. This life is not even as long as a blink in eternity. There are tastes of heaven here like beauty, tenderness, and love. But those are the appetizers that help us persevere through pain, sorrow and loss. And pain, sorrow, and challenges motivate us to seek grace. Then the Spirit within us can work together with the Spirit outside us, often even through people we do not expect God to use.
Spirituality is the heart of the journey. Love is the heart of Spirituality and Forgiveness is the heart of Love. Christian community has the potential to help us put our puzzle pieces together to both see and become a larger and more effective part of God’s purpose. But for community to do this, first we need, like the Velveteen Rabbit, to become real about our wounds and flaws and learn to Love one another as the unique unfinished children of God that we are.
Simply awesome expression of feelings and thoughts so uncomfortable most of the time, we simply have to ignore them to stay functional. And the abuses Tony deplores may not apply to everyone, but history and the news indicate they are predominant.
In a government built for and by men and only men the most honor will be given to those whose eyes mist over with bland depravity, the ones who will square their shoulders and sigh, "Well, nothing else to be done here," then send soldiers and bombers off to do bloody dirt they would not do with their own hands.
With their own hands they will sign orders for murder squads, then go home to families, trot babies on their knees till bedtime when they will hand them back to women and go sit in their dark studies wondering what will emerge tomorrow morning from the beige fog of incremental catastrophe in which they live and breathe.
They live and breathe for this distance from their kills as if they've developed a taste for the news of how children's bodies were churned by explosives, how the targets ran screaming, how…
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I hunger to be born again.
to take my hurts and failures
and mulch them into new beginnings,
to turn them into fertile fields
of understanding and compassion.
To experience again the greening out
of the frozen landscapes in my life
and gain a rich new Spring perspective
that builds on leaves and logs of yesteryear
to bring forth the ripe good fruit of love.
Rich in cultures, colors, and wisdom.
I thought I’d finished with Montreal Christmas stories in the previous post, but I forgot this:
It begins with singing, ethereal voices in the distance that you can barely hear. Gradually it gets louder and louder as the choir slowly enters. There are 45 of them, dressed in red robes and carrying glowing candles, as they process up the centre aisle of the church. We turn to watch them.
But I‘m getting ahead myself.
The evening really begins when my sister Suzanne and Don and I meet up with her friend Josée. After a Metro ride and a walk the four of us enter into the warm and cosy ambience of Garage Beirut for a sumptuous dinner of authentic Lebanese food. Mezzes, charcoal-grilled lamb and chicken, humous, labneh, tabouleh and other dishes fill the table. We eat ourselves silly, along with good wine and good conversation. It…
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The Scriptures remind us of God’s laws and of our own struggle to be the Body of Christ.
First of all, God gave us laws as an incubator to keep us from wreaking havoc on ourselves and others. Other than a few mountain men and some hermits, most of us need society for practical reasons. But living together comes with its own set of challenges and the laws were made to help us survive until we become spiritually mature enough to at least treat each other as we would like to be treated. But it takes a close relationship with God for the grace to grow beyond trade-offs into loving one another as God loved us in Jesus. We all fall short of loving like Jesus. Psalm19 says, “Who can detect their own errors? Clear me from hidden faults…..Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
What irritates you most in other people? Notice during the next week, when you react to someone negatively. It often has some connection with something we don’t recognize in ourselves. I’m a theory person, an idea person, who like Mr. Magoo goes through life not noticing the concrete world around me. I was not practical or very competent at many of the things I needed to do as a wife, homemaker, and mother. My fourth child called me from college and asked why I never told him that clothes weren’t supposed to be wrinkled. Does that give you a clue? But, wanting, like the psalmist, to recognize my hidden faults, I worked with a Spiritual Director when I was in my mid-forties. After some inner work, I began to suspect that when I felt inadequate around practical people, I used sarcasm to “cut those people down to my size.” Since I had always considered myself a very kind person, everything in me resisted admitting this. After a rather painful session with my Director, I went to visit my mother who had Alzheimer’s and was now in a nursing home. She was comatose by then, so I mostly just sat and held her hand. That day as I did this, in my mind I was telling God that I really didn’t think I was that mean. Mom had a new roommate, who in the couple of weeks she had been there, also seemed comatose, never responding to me or the nurses when I was there. But at that moment, she raised up on her elbow looking directly at me and said very clearly, “You aren’t who you thought you were, are you.” As my jaw dropped in amazement, she lay back down and in the next few weeks before she died, never said another word in my presence.
If you decide to pray with the psalmist, “Clear me of my hidden faults…Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord,” be prepared for Him to do it. Being the Body of Christ is not for the faint hearted, but if you are reading this He has called you. So, let us respond together, “Here I am, Lord. I fall short of your glory, but I am yours.”
Powerful and so true. A good reminder when I judge someone else and want to give up on them.
“Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
There has always been a lot of conjecture about the true ownership of the quote above. While most people believe that it belongs to a Scottish author by the name of Ian Maclaren, there are some that attribute it to Plato, or argue that it was Philo of Alexandria who first uttered the phrase. Regardless of who owns it, the simple, yet profound meaning it conveys speaks volumes, especially in a world where we so often feel as though we are struggling, and forget that we are not alone.
Every single person in this world is living through their own unique version of reality. And in that reality, they are fighting battles both within themselves, and with the world around them as they try their best to survive. While some people face battles that manifest themselves as physical…
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Oh how sweet! Yes. A funny memory: My almost four year old granddaughter who mostly only used sign language for expressing her needs was riding in the back seat for the hour trip to my house. Speaking to her didn’t bring any response, so I decided to lighten up the boring drive on the Interstate. I started singing. I am tone deaf unfortunately, and my granddaughter, like many who deal with Autism, has perfect pitch. So, after a few lines of the song, she said clearly and emphatically, “Don’t sing, Nanu! Don’t sing!”
We keep (and are raising) a three year old here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners. Like pretty much all the kids who live (or pass through) here, she struggles to overcome developmental, social, and academic delays. As such, she does not, as yet, speak in complete sentences – certainly not elaborate ones. Rarely more than word pairs. However, she can and does sometimes sing a whole verse or two of a song.
Despite her limitations, she strikes me as very smart. She is quite expressive. Even if we must remind her to use her “big words” several times in even short exchanges, she seems to be a modern woman in the making. She mysteriously conveys the idea that she knows what she wants and how to get it. (Her secret agent name is Secret Agent Sassafras or “SAS”.) We are remote learning/home schooling during…
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It seems impossible to forgive people like Hitler. But when the challenge comes from people like Archbishop Tutu and Corrie ten Boom, we know that with grace it can be done and that each of us is called to do this. Hard, but Jesus did it on the cross and calls us to follow him.