Month: April 2014
My journey has been long, buy loving God, diagnosis
and fraught with twists and turns.
I’ve been told that I cannot see You, try
that I cannot hear You,
that I cannot touch You.
I’ve been told I’m a worthless sinner.
Yet I do see You.
I do hear You.
You touch my heart and bring me to tears.
You tell me
I am worthy.
Resurrect our faith in ourselves, Lord,
for while our trust in You is deep,
our trust in our ability to feel your presence is not.
We’re afraid to think differently,
and too often,
we’re afraid to think for ourselves;
afraid we don’t have the qualifications we need
to interpret Your loving and wise words.
Yet Jesus was a peasant
and the apostles were illiterate.
You communicate with us on a different level,
In a way that transcends social standing and education.
We just don’t believe it’s possible,
God of all possibility.
Today and all days
remind us that
you are always speaking,
no matter who we think we aren’t.
God of incredible patience,
help us know that we are
indeed worthy of your communication—
worthy enough to sense a new message,
and deliver it.
We pray in the name of the one
who died delivering just such a radical message,
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Brothers and sisters, sildenafil I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere human beings?
Thought for the Day: Sister Chittister writes that Good Friday “brings us face-to-face with the finality of defeat. Sometimes things don’t have a happy ending in life. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we’re humiliated. Sometimes we’re misunderstood. Sometimes we are abandoned by the very people we love most in life and whom we thought also loved us. At that point, without doubt, something in us dies. The question of Good Friday is, Am I able to accept the daily defeats of life, both the great ones and small, knowing that death is not the end of life, only its passing over to something new in me?”
The entire Christian cycle from Good Friday through Easter is a parable about transformation (frankly, the entire story of Jesus is one of transformation on many levels). As living creatures, we are transformed both physically and spiritually throughout our lives. Our physical transformation is obvious, as we move from crawling on all fours, through adulthood. Paul hints at our spiritual transformation when he tells the Corinthians they are still spiritual infants, an idea that too often applies to us as well. Yet, as we gain more wisdom about how interconnected we are with each other through that loving and creative energy we call God, we grow spiritually. We are transformed both by our willingness to think and explore deeply, and by the reaction of God to that motion. This process of asking and receiving, changing, growing, asking and receiving must never end.
No matter how comfortable we might be with our current answers, there are yet deeper questions and ideas to explore, even if they make us uncomfortable—especially if they make us uncomfortable. Unless we are willing to die to our old ways (and this includes old ways of thinking about Jesus and God and religion and worship and the value of human life) we will never make any progress. If we refuse to leave the swing set of our immature youth, we are forever doomed to simply sway back and forth, never getting anywhere. Growth only happens when we find the courage to jump off the pendulum and try something new.
Prayer: Open my heart and mind to a deeper faith, God. Give me the courage and faith of Jesus, so that I might also die to be raised anew, a more loving, more spiritually centered, more human being. Amen.
Scripture: 1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, there how can the love of God be in you? Dear children, cialis let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Thought for the Day: Sister Chittister writes “in every life, help somewhere along the way, we each get stripped of what we have spent our lives acquiring, of things closest to our hearts, of possessions or positions that made us who we thought we were. Then, thrown back on ourselves, we are left to discover who we have really become. It is a frightening moment, often an embarrassing one, always a difficult one.
The question this raises is, What is underneath the garments of pomp, authority, dignity and wealth that we have so carefully cultivated around us? Anything at all? The Jesus who stands before us naked and unashamed, dignified and full of conviction, is calling us to pay more attention to who we are than what we have so cunningly conspired to pretend to be.”
Figuring out who we are is even more difficult because we are constantly bombarded by images and ideals of who society thinks we should be, and society thinks we should be too much of everything—too thin, too rich, too selfish. Our work as human beings is to strip away all the too much in our lives and get down to the bare essentials of who we are—beloved children of God, imagers of God, tasked to be caring, self-giving people who aren’t afraid to let others see the imperfections of our own naked truths.
Prayer: Strip the garments of individualism and crass commerciality from my life, Holy God, so I might become clothed anew in love, compassion, mercy and grace. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 27:32
As they were going out, buy they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross
Thought for the Day: Sr. Joan Chittister writes: “The story of Simon demonstrates for us the power of presence in the life of the poor and oppressed. Being where suffering is, associating ourselves with it, standing with those whom society has condemned is a great and gracious witness.
At times, this witness is thrust upon us: the state wants more tax money to support the poor or a neighbor turns to us for help we did not freely offer and do not want to give. But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we find ourselves in one of life’s great acts whether we want to be there or not. Then we so often discover that it is not so much what Simon did for Jesus as what Jesus did for Simon that counts. The questions are, What are we being called to do for someone right now for which we are a disinclined observer? What does the situation have to offer us, as well? When we open our hearts to the other in need, we are very likely to discover that our own hidden needs have been healed in the process.”
All the discussions we have in this country about health care, social security, homeless housing shelters, free education (both higher and lower education), and the other humanitarian efforts any civilized country should offer can never come down to this one question: “What’s in it for me?” Jesus never asks this question, even though he is often thrust into situations and forced to offer help he did not offer. He realized though, that preaching love your neighbor and treat them the way you want to be treated meant doing what’s best for the community, always.
What’s best for our community of disparate interests and wide geographic dispersion? Is what’s best in California what’s best in New York? I’d say “yes!” a million times over, because loving our neighbor is loving our neighbor, whether we live on the west coast, the east coast, or the coast of Crimea.
Prayer: Good and loving God who desires nothing other than love, help us open our hearts and realize your presence, even when we’re given a cross to bear that belongs to someone else. Because the truth is, Lord, when one of your children is burdened, all of your children are burdened. Amen.
Sister Joan Chittister is a Benedictine nun, ed author, capsule speaker, and a leader in contemporary Christian thought. Throughout Holy Week I’ll be presenting some of her thoughts about Jesus’ journey to the cross, and its meaning for all people longing to live more closely aligned with the ineffable eternal we call God.
Thought for the Day: Sister Joan writes, “The cross teaches us the freedom that comes with real love. Jesus and Mary meet under the worst circumstances. He has become an enemy of the state, an outcast from the synagogue. She is a widow left alone in a male world without the sustenance of her only son and no visible means of support. Both of them, in a way, are condemned to death. But she does not beg him to change his life for her sake and he does not tailor his life to please her. In this case mother and son love one another enough to respect the place of God in both their lives.
The question [that] confronts us is, Why do we love and how well? If we love another for our own sake, that love is doomed for both of us. If we love them enough to respect the place of God in their lives, love can never fail us.”
Sister Joan Chittister is a Benedictine nun, rx author, tadalafil speaker, generic and a leader in contemporary Christian thought. Throughout Holy Week I’ll be presenting some of her thoughts about Jesus’ journey to the cross, and its meaning for all people longing to live more closely aligned with the ineffable eternal we call God.
Thought for the Day: Sr. Joan writes that Jesus’ condemnation “requires us to examine our entire philosophy of life. Jesus is condemned to die because he defied the standards of both the state and the religious establishment in which he lived. To both, he brought a truth they did not want to hear. He set out to witness to the love and justice of the God of all creation: Jews and non-Jews, women as well as men, underlings as well as the professional types of his time. The question with which this confronts us is a stark one: What is it in life for which we are willing to be condemned? The goal of life is not to avoid condemnation. No one does. Life’s greatest challenge is simply to decide who will condemn us and why.”
In other words, fight the powers of oppression, hatred, and greed with every ounce of love in your souls, and be prepared for those powers to fight back. Work to overturn the normative status quo, especially when that norm creates reprehensible imbalances in the control and distribution of natural resources—which we must always belong to God, never to us.
For all the people of faith and all the secular humanists who believe, like Jesus and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.; like Buddha and Lao Tze and Mazdak and Marx in a world of sharing, love and equality, it’s our duty to tell the truth. Especially when nobody wants to listen.
Thought for the Day: They held hands around Lou’s motionless body. Josh said “Father, health give us wisdom.” Sara said “Mother, surround us with love.” Gabe said “Eternal everything, unite us with your presence.” Brian wasn’t completely sure what was going on, so he just stayed silent. He felt his body heat up though, as if the sun was shining through him. At first, there was just a warm glow in his hands. Then, it began to spread up and down his body until he felt entirely enveloped in a calm, peaceful, loving warmth. Eyes closed, he felt himself floating in light, the gravity of his body and the worries of his life non-existent. This was a new place and a very different state of being. Brian opened his eyes and saw the others—Gabe, Josh, Sara, and Lou’s body, below him, holding hands—holding hands with him! How can this be? Brian thought. Then in the blink of an eye, the four of them were sitting around Lou’s body in the most beautiful garden Brian had ever seen. There was a tree that must have been a mile around that reached up infinitely to a sky full of deep blues and misty whites. Brian felt perfectly at peace.
Lou was lying on a mattress of tiny yellow and purple flowers. The flowers bent slightly under Lou’s weight, suspending him gently a foot or so off the ground. Josh put his hands on Lou’s wound. “Hold his ankles,” Gabe said to Brian, snapping him out of his altered state of consciousness. But Brian was starting to panic. He had no idea where he was or what was going on. “Where are we? What happened? How did I get here? Who…” Brian tried to ask, but Gabe cut him off. “This sanctuary heals all wounds—even yours, Brian.”
“But this guy is dead!” Brian exclaimed. “He has a huge, gaping gash—which is really starting to smell, by the way, in the middle of his chest!”
“Calm down, Brian,” Gabe said softly. “Things are not as they appear. Life and death are not as simple as you think. You’re an eternal being, just like us. We’ve been trying to teach you for thousands of your years. But we’ll explain more later. Right now, Lou is probably in pain—not that he doesn’t deserve some pain, but I’ve been trying to give up vengeance.” Brian wasn’t sure what to say or think, but he had seen Gabe do some pretty strange things over the years, and on more than one occasion Gabe had prevented all out warfare in Hell’s Kitchen. So Brian put his hands around Lou’s ankles, and Josh began to pray:
Holy presence of the Eternal Energy, repair this manifestation of love! We are all wounded, Holy One, yet we also know that your presence heals all wounds. Restore us all, for through you all things are possible. Move us where you would have us serve best, for we are here only to serve love. So be it.
Then there was nothing. No sound, no blinding light, no laser effect binding Lou’s wound together. Sara started to weep, her conflicting love for this being who could be both angel and demon burning her heart to ash.
Lou groaned and sat up, the gash in his chest mending itself. “What took you so long?” He asked. Sara pounced on him and put her arms around him, squeezing him as tightly as possible. “I thought you were lost,” she whispered into his ear. Lou hugged her and kissed her cheek, then pulled Gabe and Josh into his embrace. “I guess we let that get out of hand,” he said. Lou noticed Brian sitting nearby, astonished and confused. “I suppose you have questions, human,” Lou said. Then he asked Josh, “What are you going to do with him now?”
Josh said, “We’re going to show him everything, Lou. Everything. Then we’re going to teach him how to teach, and send him back to show the others. One timeline at a time, we’ll expand everyone’s idea of what it means to exist—in and beyond the flesh.”
“But, but…” Brian sputtered, “you were dead! How..?”
“Life and death are perceptions, Brian,” Gabe said. “When someone seems to die, it is simply a transition from one state of being to the next. Matter doesn’t have a lifespan. Your human life may last 50 or 100 years, but the truth is there are no years, only different aspects of now.”
They all helped Lou stand up and the five of them began walking to his office, eager to start Brian’s lessons.
From her high sanctum in the needle, Hannah watched everything that transpired and let out a long, heavy sigh. She walked over to a clear, egg-shaped booth that floated in the air and sat down inside. “Can you hear me?” She asked. “It’s begun.” From all around her, she heard a gentle voice reply, “Yes, Hannah. And it is finished.”
Prayer: Holy presence of Eternal Energy, repair this manifestation of love! We are all wounded, Holy One, yet we also know that your presence heals all wounds. Restore us all, for through you all things are possible. Move us where you would have us serve best, for we are here only to serve. Amen.
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-2
As for you, capsule you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
Thought for the Day: It was getting even darker outside. The rain was pouring down like a series of waterfalls that pooled and flooded the ground below. The streets of Hell’s Kitchen were turning into thick, goopy, muddy rivers. Pulling Lou’s increasingly heavy body through this flood of tears was becoming too much for the horse. Gabe, Josh and Sara walked beside the cart in silence, heads bowed in sorrowful reverence.
“Hey!” Someone shouted from around a corner. The trio stopped. “Hey!” Someone shouted again. Gabe cautiously walked to the edge of the building to peer down an alley. There was a young man, waving toward a door. “C’mon!” He said. “It’s safe here.” Gabriel turned to the others and waved them on. Even though it only took a couple of minutes to slog the horse and cart through the uncooperative remains of the street, it felt like an eternity to all of them. And perhaps it was, time being as flexible as it is.
After this short eternity they reached the young man, who immediately shook Gabe’s hand. “Welcome back, my friend,” he said quietly, with just a hint of an Irish accent. “Get in the kitchen and I’ll care for your horse.” Gabriel and Josh carried Lou into a kitchen. They laid him on a large, wooden table in the center. Looking around the room Josh realized they were in a butcher’s shop. “I’ve been coming to this place-time for eons,” Gabe said. “I don’t know why. It’s violent and dirty, and full of people so selfish that you wouldn’t believe the stories I could tell you. They’ll use anybody to gain stature and wealth for themselves.”
“Lou…” Sara said quietly.
“Yes, I think so,” Gabe cautiously replied. “Yet, this is a time of invention, and the humans are doing—did—will do—all these incredible things. It’s kind of fun to watch. So I don’t think Lou’s entirely responsible. More likely he just took advantage of a situation. He’s very much like them in that way. Or they’re very much like him. I’m not sure which is which any longer.” Gabe thought for a moment. “I kept coming to different human reality lines to try to help them see, you know? To help them wake up. Time after time, after time. Maybe one or two would understand, like Brian and his wife. So I planted seeds here and there, all over the human spectrum. I didn’t stop to think Lou might have been using the humans differently.”
“Either way you’re still using them,” Josh said.
Brian joined them in the kitchen. “Horse is fine,” he said. “Gabe probably already told you, but we met when I was a small boy. So was he, then! You age… weirdly. But we don’t have time to reminisce, do we? The best thing for all of us is to get you out of here. Out of the kitchen, out of New York.” Gabe thought Brian seemed different, but wrote it off to the events of the evening. “My family will help. Just leave. Please.” Brian held back tears, but inside the kitchen there was nothing but broken hearts.
Gabe asked “What’s wrong?”
“Breda is dead. Last month. Tuberculosis. I don’t understand why. She was so faithful, Gabe. So caring. Everyone in the neighborhood loved her. I loved her.” He began to sob gently. Gabe gave Josh a knowing glance, put his arms around Brian, and led him to the table where Lou lay waiting.
Everyone in the room was quietly weeping. The four of them stood around Lou’s body like the points of a compass. “Hold hands please,” Josh requested. Brian just stood still, not sure what was going on. Gabe said, “Join us, Brian. Trust me.” And in spite of all the weirdness Gabe had always exhibited, in spite of the completely astounding and unexplainable nature of the night, Brian did trust Gabe. They joined hands around the table as Josh, Gabe, Sara and Brian prepared for communion.
To be continued…
Prayer: Eternal, mystical God. You have shown me worlds beyond worlds, and you give me hope beyond hope. It is in You and you alone I find reality. Fill me with your presence, mold me with your love, and lead me through the mystery of consciousness. Amen.
Scripture: Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, rx but against the rulers, unhealthy against the authorities, hospital against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Thought for the Day: Gabe and Sara were hiding from me, but I could hear Sara giggle from behind the large Ash grove. “I hear you, Sara!” I shouted gleefully as I slowly worked my way toward her. But I had traveled too far away from the can. Suddenly, I heard a loud “clang” as Josh kicked the can out of the safety zone and yelled, “All ye, all ye outs in free!” Sara peeked out from behind one of the trees and winked at me. “You were so close, Lou!” She said as she took my hand. We walked together to join Josh, Gabe and the other kids to get ready for another round. At that moment, I thought life could never get any better than this.
Lou collapsed to the ground, a great, burning gash in his chest, the sulfurous smell of decay wafting from his wound. The crowd was silent and began to back away, nauseous from the sight and smell, and frightened by the unexplainable events that had just occurred. Josh and Gabe hurried over. Gabe said, “Please everyone, go home for the night. We can take care of this. Things might get worse before they get better. Please, go home.” Most of the people did as they were told, too frightened or too numb to protest. Gabe said, “No sirens. Wouldn’t you think the police would have been called a long time ago, Josh?” Josh knew this place, though. The gangs were the only law here. The police didn’t care about Hell’s Kitchen. They considered it a holding pen for cheap labor and the refuse of society. Besides, there was no respect for the law here—a police officer was more likely to be killed and thrown in the river than obeyed.
Josh kneeled, took Lou’s head in his hands, and wept. Then, they heard a tortured scream of heartbreak and grief that shattered the sky into a billion raindrops. They looked back to see Sara, kneeling in the muddy street, her face in her hands, tears flowing down her cheeks. Her grief was so painful that all reality mourned with her. “Sara!” Gabe shouted, surprised as he ran toward her. “What happened?”
“I should ask you the same thing, Gabe!” She gasped between tears. “What did you do to him?” It started to rain a little harder. Gabe knelt down and faced Sara, whose face was streaked with haunting rivers of black eyeliner, giving her a predatory, feline look that made Gabe extremely uncomfortable. Sara out of control was worse than Gabe out of control. He tried to calm her down.
“I lost control, Sara. I’m sorry,” Gabe said. “He was just…” Gabe didn’t know what to say. It was a stupid thing to do. Now all the humans had seen an obviously supernatural event (or three), and even though Lou looked to them dead, the truth was much more complicated. Now, Sara was here (and Gabe figured Hannah must have had a hand in that somehow), and she was about to blow too, which would not be pleasant for any creature—human or otherwise, within the tri-state area.
Sara just sobbed and fell into Gabe’s arms, exhausted. “I’m so confused,” she whispered. “I know, I know, me too” Gabe said as he held his sister tightly. Just then, they heard Josh calling, “No time for remorse, no time for regret. What’s done is done. I could use a little help over here, guys. We need to get Lou somewhere out of sight before he wakes up and all these people start telling stories that will not help their situation. You know what I mean?” He said, a little too humorously.
Gabe helped Sara up and the two of them joined Josh around Lou’s seemingly dead body. “We can’t wake him up here,” Josh said. “Hesitantly, Gabe said, “I know a place.” The three of them borrowed a horse and cart, lifted Lou’s large and very dense body onto it, covered him with a tarp, and climbed aboard.
To be continued…
Prayer: God who transcends our understanding, help us see a more layered and complex world. Help us look beyond appearances. Help us regain our sense of wonder and awe. Help us believe once again, in things unseen, in the magic of our own lives, and the power of your eternal presence. Help us know these things Lord, even when the world insists otherwise. Amen.
Scripture: Genesis 4:7
If you do what is right, pharm you will be accepted. But if you do not do what is right, advice sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, sick but you must rule over it.
Thought for the Day: The door in Lou’s office started bulging, as if the creatures were trying to escape their carved mahogany prison. As Sara watched, the entire scene took on a new dimension. The background on the door expanded infinitely inward, an endless savanna of waving grasses beckoning warmly. The savannah was full of life and filled with creatures from every child’s (human or otherwise) imagination. Sara was entranced until one of the gargoyles reached out and menacingly slashed its claws at her. Unflinching, she looked at Hannah and asked, “Um, does this usually happen?”
Carefully watching the door Hannah said flatly, “No. This can’t happen.” Now the scene on the door started expanding outward as well, the tree beginning to fill the room, the gargoyles much too close for comfort. Sara could feel a gentle breeze on her cheek. Then, the breeze became a gust. “Well, we better do something!” Sara shouted excitedly. So Hannah pushed Sara toward a gargoyle, which grabbed Sara’s hand and pulled her violently into the savannah. The room went silent, and the door settled down, resting motionless in its carved mahogany splendor.
Hannah sat in Lou’s office chair and looked out the window. The panoramic view of the colorful garden and valley calmed her, but she was worried and distraught. Portals like the door stayed grounded in one reality as long as the portal’s owner stayed in tune. If that connection was cut, the door would lose grounding in space-time and begin to create its own, somewhat random reality. Hannah knew something had happened to Lou—something big for the door to react so violently. She was afraid he was dead, and if that was true, there would be hell to pay for many realities. If she was correct, then Sara was the only one that could possibly stabilize the realm.
Hannah left Lou’s office and headed back to her needle. She walked through the garden, her thoughts focused on trying to figure out the recent weirdness. As she contemplated her next, best move, she thought she smelled a vague hint of sulfur in the air.
Prayer: Righteous and loving God, help me do what’s right, even if it looks like foolishness to others. Amen.