What Lent Is NOT

I am not going to try to explain lent, or suggest what to give up or take on.  There are so many lenten resources out there, there is no need for me to add one.  I will, however, offer my opinion as to what lent is NOT:

  • Lent is not a time to torture yourself.  If at any time the focus changes from God to yourself, either how wonderful you are to keep up this lenten sacrifice, or how horrible you are for messing up yet again, you have missed the point of lent.
  • Lent is not a time to try the impossible.  I don’t believe that God wants that.  Again, when we try to do things like that we tend to become a bit self-absorbed.
  • Lent is not a time to walk around wearing sackcloth with your stomach rumbling from fasting. Lent is personal and no one needs to see or know what you are doing. 
  • Lent is not a time to judge what others may or may not be doing.

Lent is an invitation
lent is an opportunity
lent is personal journey

Use the time this year to go  inside to meet the God who waits with love for you. 

When is it going to be enough?

Another shooting, this time it’s a school in Parkland Florida.  There have been many school shootings, just as there have been movie theater shootings, baseball field shootings, concert shootings, and on and on……

I have always gotten a little upset by those who criticize people who send their ‘thoughts and prayers,’ but in a way they are right.  i will NEVER underestimate or downplay the power of prayer, but as St. Teresa of Avila said:

“Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes,
you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

It’s time we take action.  We don’t stop searching for a cure for cancer because we haven’t found one yet.  

There are things that we can do:  

Our families are so torn apart that our children are orphans.  Yes, you can be an orphan in a house with two parents.  

Our movies and video games are so violent that we become desensitized to the sight of blood or the cry of pain.  What are we sacrificing to make that dollar?

Our communication is limited to texts and tweets.  What happened to conversation?  Who do you listen to and who listens to you, really listens?

Our God is no longer needed or relevant.  This ‘I don’t need anyone,’ ‘I have to watch out for myself,’ ‘I’m the only one that matters,’ ‘I hurt so others need to hurt,’ philosophy has made us blind to who we really are and what we were created to do.  Our churches are empty, there is blame on both sides for that. 

And guns, yes, I said it, guns!  Please don’t tell me that guns don’t kill people, because they do!  When someone has a weapon that can slaughter many, many people in a matter of seconds, there is something wrong.  

We have great freedom, but with great freedom comes great responsibility!

It’s time we look at our culture and make some changes.

When is it going to be enough?

 

Stay a kernel or pop

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Happy National Popcorn Day!

 

Here are my options:

 I can either stay a hard shelled kernel or I can explode into the world.

When hard times come, and they always do, I withdraw, pull into myself and not let anyone in.  I become so hardened that change is impossible.  Nothing comes in, nothing goes out.  And, if you see me in future years, I look the same, I am the same.

or

When hard times come, and they always do, I expose myself.  I know the risk in breaking open, but I take that chance.  I expand, I grow, and I soften.  I am not recognizable.  I am transformed.

 

The Land of Tears

So there is a story in the Gospels talks about Jesus going to a town called Nain. As He was approaching the town, He saw a dead body being carried out, ‘the only son of a widowed mother.’ When He saw her, ‘his heart went out to her and He said, “Don’t cry.”

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He was affected by her tears.  

That is so powerful!  

There is nothing different now.  

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his wonderful book, The Little Prince, states: “It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”

I don’t disagree, sometimes it feels as though no one understands our tears, but be assured, Someone Does!

His heart went our to her and He said, “Don’t cry.” 

His heart goes out to us…..

Magic vs. Religion

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 Lately I’ve been having conversations with my Deity asking why the requests I’ve been asking for aren’t being done! They’re good things, really, helping others, healing others, things not even for myself, but for those I love.  Things that I certainly would do if I had the power!

And then I find this: Magic is when we manipulate the deities so that they perform our wishes, religion is when we subject ourselves to the will of the deities. (Bronislaw Malinowski)

Ouch!

Guilty of magic!

Time to stop the magic and concentrate on the religion.

And who says the Deities don’t speak to us!

 

My Reflection in Others

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‘The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” (Thomas Merton)

Oh, this is a really tough one, especially because I think that most of the time we don’t even realize that we are doing this.  

How many times are we disappointed because people don’t do what we:

  • think they should 
  • expect them to
  • want them to

Don’t they get it?  Why would they say/do that? I would never……

Well, isn’t that what Merton is saying?  We are not letting them be ‘perfectly themselves,’ we are ‘twisting them to fit our own image.’  It’s difficult to accept people as they are, and even harder to love them.  And yet, that is what we are called to do.

My prayer:  Help me to celebrate the ‘other-ness’ in people.  Dim the reflection of myself that I am tempted to look for in them.

Hearing The Call

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(1 Saumel 3)

Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

I love this passage from the Old Testament.  God was calling young Samuel, but every time Samuel heard the call, he went to the old Jewish Priest and asked him why he called.  But it wasn’t Eli who was calling, it was God.

I have to ask myself, how many times have I turned toward something else when God has called me? God’s call leads me to peace, happiness, and comfort, and yet I often turn to earthly things to fill those needs. 

God continues to call, and I continue to look in other directions.

So, here is my prayer:  God, help me to quiet the noise so that I can hear your call,
and respond to You (as Samuel did), “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

 

 

Steps to Forgiveness

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Forgiveness is tough.  

Being hurt by someone we care about causes such deep suffering. It’s hard to put into words the pain that seems to emanate from our core into every cell of our bodies.  

The truth is that until we forgive, we are trapped, we are controlled, we are imprisoned by the one who hurt us.  The unknown author who wrote, “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,” has incredible wisdom.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I can share with you the steps that have helped me to forgive someone who hurt me very badly.  It is only in retrospect that I can see the progression, but I certainly could not see it at the time.

  1. Choose to forgive.  Yes, the first thing I had to do was make this decision.  After I decided that I wanted to forgive, nothing happened, nothing at all.  The anger was the same and the hurt was as deep.  Nothing changed, nothing at all.
  2. I waited
  3. I waited
  4. I waited
  5. I waited
  6. I saw or felt nothing much happening, but over time, I began to stop wishing that this person could feel the hurt they caused me, I actually began to wish good things for them.
  7. I dropped the need to tell my side of the story and to make them understand what they did.
  8. I began to feel neutral…..by that I mean that when I thought of them no strong emotions arose, either good or bad.
  9. And now, I thank God for this person.  I’m sure that there are many people who have been touched or helped or loved by this person, and that’s a good thing.

It took a really long time, of waiting, of silence, a winter of sorts.  But, eventually things changed anrd spring broke through.  And now, I remember this person with kind thoughts and wishes.  They are no longer a part of my life, and that’s a good thing. 

So, I would guess that this is forgiveness, at least for me. 

 

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At this time of year, we begin to look ahead to spring.  It’s been cold in the northeast, and we are ready for some warmer weather.  Even though we are in January, the stores are already filled with spring fashion.

We tend to look ahead, and that’s fine, because sometimes the present is painful and we hope for better times.

There is a danger in that, however, because there are things hidden in the present that will teach us something if we are open to it.  

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave,
find your eternity in each moment.

Henry David Thoreau