Looking for the face of God

With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best– as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. Matthew 6:9-15 (Message)

Some final tough words on forgiveness for my heart when it feels that it has just has the right to hold on to that wrong for a little while longer because you know, “I have a right to be mad!”

“It may be infinitely less evil to murder a man then to refuse to forgive him. The former may be the act of a moment of passion: the latter is the heart’s choice. It is spiritual murder, the worst, to hate, to brood over the feeling that excluded, that kills the image, the idea of the hatred.” ~From Creation in Christ by George McDonaold

When I want to hold on to my “rightful hurt feelings”, it is sobering to remember that I do so much more harm to myself for holding on to hurts no matter how justified it might seem. Harboring such hurt makes it hard to find God’s face and therefore I feel even more alone. This anger though justified just isn’t worth my isolation from God. I want to feel His mercies toward me so I must extend mercy to others. And so I move on.

Heavenly Father, I don’t want to be separated from you any longer. Help me to wade through this junk and move on. It is time. Amen.

To forgive

Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins. ~Matthew 6:9-15 (CEB)

The initial steps of forgiveness are hard for me because first I “feel”. It takes time for me to find words for what I am feeling. But I have to take that time to sort through what I am feeling or the words will never form. Sorrow just can’t be pushed away as if it doesn’t exist. It must be taken out and sorted through. If that time is not given to sort through my pain the pain turns into a deep deep sorrow with no name and no hope.

“Forgiveness can be the great cleansing action that allows one to begin again. Retribution or restitution is not enough. They serve as payback but they do not allow for the deep scouring that is necessary to truly start anew. The ancient Israelites knew the principle well for they instituted the practice of the Sabbath year. Each seventh year was set aside so that all could begin over again: fields lay and all debts were forgiven. This crucial period of rest was seen as necessary for the harmonious functioning of society and the fertility of the land. The earth can be depleted, our societies become imbalanced and unjust. Similarly, as individuals and as families we require a time of absolution so that we might truly begin again and become fertile fields that yield a rich harvest.

The prayer most identified with Christianity, the one taught to us by Jesus himself, incorporates the crucial insight that forgiveness is a key ingredient as we live into the promised kingdom.” ~From The Time Between by Wendy M Wright.

Forgiveness. It is what I must do to be strong and healthy so that I am able to continue on this journey called life. If I am unable to forgive others how can I begin to ask forgiveness for the wrongs I do? I cannot expect from others what I am not willing to do myself.

Lord, when my heart is breaking from real or perceived hurts, help me to take the time to sort through and find the truth. Help me to put words to the feelings I have. Give me the strength that I do not possess on my own, to forgive unconditionally. Amen.

Looking for a new dawn

Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. Colossians 3:12

Sometimes mercy is much easier to extend than forgiveness. When we refuse to let go the hurts we have received they begins to hold us captive. Our thinking becomes consumed with thoughts of the injury. We now are really victims not from the hurts we received but because unforgiveness has become our jailer. We are imprisoned by the hatred and malice we clutch in our hearts.

Forgiveness is not easy or even a swift process. When wrongs have been committed the last thing one wants, or even should do is claim that the transgression should be overlooked. It is so tempting to want to pretend that the hurt never even happened but the unavoidable feelings of betrayal, rage, hate, self-blame, flight, and fight bubble up from within. Until attention is given to the source of the pain healing cannot begin. The injury must be named and acknowledged that it happened to you, the pain must be allowed to work for you, the wrong must be named so that power and strength can return.

When pain has been acknowledged, claimed and overcome forgiveness can then come as a free act. When forgives comes we can look again with new eyes and a fresh heart. It’s not that we aren’t now wiser or that we haven’t learned from our experience but a new day dawns and hope returns.

Give me a new heart this day Lord, open my eyes to a new dawn. Part the clouds of my heart and let the sun shine in. Amen.

Mercy as sacrafice

As Jesus sat down to eat in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples at the table. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard it, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. 13 Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.” ~Matthew 9:10-13 (CEB)

Following the way of forgiveness prepares us to go one step further. Something more is asked of us by Jesus: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13 [NAB]).

This “something more” is compassion. Once we grasp the depth of God’s merciful love for us, he wants us to express that same compassion for others. This is the balm that softens the scars of sinfulness and suffering. As we show mercy to others, so they will extend the blessing to us in turn.

Ask yourself some revealing questions; Do I sense the presence of the suffering Christ in others? Do I share their pain? Am I aware of their vulnerability? Do I know that the need for mercy is often hidden under a mask of self-sufficiency, coldness, and indifference? ~From Divine Guidance by Susan Muto and Adrian Van Kaam

May the sacrifices I bring you this day, be mercy triggered by compassion. May the love I bring hold no judgment or condemnation. May the blessings I bring be given freely, not with strings attached. Amen.

What you do to the least

 

Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left. “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’”~Matthew 25:31-36 (CEB)

“I always explain to the sisters, “It is Christ you tend in the poor. It is his wounds you bathe, his sores you clean, his limbs you bandage. See beyond appearances, hear the words Jesus pronounced long ago. They are still operative today: What you do to the least of mine, you do it to me. When you serve the poor, you serve our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~From My Life for the Poor by Mother Teresa

Heavenly Father, when I go out into the world today, help me to see You in Your children. May I only respond with love to those I meet. Amen.

Happy are those

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God. ~Matt 5:7-9 (ASV)

“To bless means to say good things.  We have to bless one another constantly.  Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends.  In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings.  We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts.  Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs.  Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

Words good or bad have such an effect on the people in our lives. The words we throw around carelessly can never be recaptured, only wounds can be patched up not repaired. But it is also important to be conscious of the words left unsaid. The “I love you” left off of a good-bye cannot be pasted on at a later time. There might not be a chance to. Also words of encouragement are important. Maybe even more important that the I love you’s.

Older church liturgy addressed in the Sunday service, our daily sins and our sins of omission. I wonder what daily things left unsaid I should ask forgiveness for? Did I barely glance up when my daughter left the house today? Was I busy writing when my son needed words of assurance? Did I slow down when my husband walked through the door? How about that skype call I ignored?

The Common English Version of the Bible says verses 7-9 from Chapter 5 this way, “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy. Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God. Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.” I like this reminder. Not only am I slowing down and taking notice of those I love but when I remember to bless those around me I am blessed too.

Heavenly Father, Help me this day to remember to care for those you have placed in my journey. May I not only be careful of the words I say but also be aware of the things that should not have been left unsaid. Amen.

Living

So did something good bring death to me? Absolutely not! But sin caused my death through something good so that sin would be exposed as sin. That way sin would become even more thoroughly sinful through the commandment. We know that the Law is spiritual, but I’m made of flesh and blood, and I’m sold as a slave to sin. I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it’s sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me. I gladly agree with the Law on the inside, but I see a different law at work in my body. It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body. I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse? Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I’m a slave to God’s Law in my mind, but I’m a slave to sin’s law in my body. ~Romans 713:25 (CEB)

Jesus came to Earth to give us life. To walk away from the darkness is sometimes a moment by moment choice away from past habits. Sometimes we feel that we are being ruled by our impulses. That we are doing that which we do not want to do and not doing the things we want to do. We can feel out of control sometimes.

“Choosing life instead of death demands an act of will that often contradicts our impulses.  Our impulses want to take revenge, while our wills want to offer forgiveness.  Our impulses push us to an immediate response:  When someone hits us in the face, we impulsively want to hit back.

How then can we let our wills dominate our impulses?   The key word is wait.  Whatever happens, we must put some space between the hostile act directed toward us and our response.  We must distance ourselves, take time to think, talk it over with friends, and wait until we are ready to respond in a life-giving way.  Impulsive responses allow evil to master us, something we always will regret.   But a well thought-through response will help us to ‘master evil with good’ (Romans 12.21).” ~From Bread for the Journey, Henri Nowen

It is not enough to have the desire to do what is good. Through Jesus and some conscious thought about my actions I can begin to become the person I want to be. I want to be “living” for God.

Heavenly Father, I want to LIVE for You. Please guide my steps this day. Help me to remember when implusles threaten to send me back into old ways of death that I can “wait” it through with You and friends until a life-giving way is revealed and I can walk back into light. I want to live this day without regrets. I want to live this day for You. Amen.

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