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.

Equilibrium

 

Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God. My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God. When will I come and see God’s face? My tears have been my food both day and night, as people constantly questioned me, “Where’s your God now?” But I remember these things as I bare my soul: how I made my way to the mighty one’s abode, to God’s own house, with joyous shouts and thanksgiving songs— a huge crowd celebrating the festival! Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God. My whole being is depressed. That’s why I remember you from the land of Jordan and Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep called to deep at the noise of your waterfalls; all your massive waves surged over me. By day the LORD commands his faithful love; by night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God, my solid rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I have to walk around, sad, oppressed by enemies?” With my bones crushed, my foes make fun of me, constantly questioning me: “Where’s your God now?” Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God. ~Psalm 42

If I am not careful my desire for equilibrium can become an idolatrous attempt to deny a large part of what life is about. Messages I receive from the world around me tell me that there is something wrong with me if things are out of kilter and that life is meant to be lived on a plateau of happiness. Advertising sends messages that if only we buy this product or that product all my needs and longings will be satisfied. But if I turn to my Bible instead looking for answers to my restlessness, I find that the psalms show that this kind of thinking is a lie. I should boldly deal with life as it really is seeking out God for my balance and harmony.

Life is not meant to glide along always so smoothly for then I would forget to question. Without questions I do not seek out answers. Who am I? How am I to respond to the all-encompassing power of God? Without the questions I would not know that God is behind, in front, and above, laying a hand upon the one who feels searched out and known. Without the questions I would not know of an Omnipresent Creator nor would I see Him as reality.

In my questions I find myself on holy ground, and as I allow myself to be held in that moment of awareness, I must respond with what is truly in my heart. I tell God that I am afraid, uncertain, relieved filled with gratitude or a longing for more. It is in theses stirred up moments that deepest part of me finds the depths of a living God.

Heavenly Father I know that it is in the valleys and mountain tops of life that I will find myself closest to you. Only You can touch the deepest parts of my heart. As I travel through this day may I feel your hand on me. Amen.

Compassion

Afterward, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “ Follow me.” Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him. Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them. The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”Jesus answered, “ Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.” ~Luke 5: 37-32 (CEB)

“To go where healing and love is needed, and give it in a way in which it can be received, often means acting in the in the teeth of our own interests and preferences. Christ risked his reputation for holiness by healing on the Sabbath; he touched the unclean and dined with the wrong people; he accepted the love and companionship of a sinner (that most wonderful of all remedies for the wounds of sin). He loved with God’s love and so went straight to the point: What can I do to restore my fellow creature and how?” ~From The Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill

Sometimes I forget just what Jesus gave up coming into the world to save us. More than just coming down from Heaven into this hurtful world, he gave up his reputation, his home, a chance for a family, standing in the community and a place in any local synagogue. Instead he slept where ever he could find a place to lay his head; hung out with less desirable people; and went places that weren’t always safe. We don’t see Jesus hesitating and saying, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this, what would people think?”

Compassion is a gift that Jesus gave to everyone he met. We have just a skeletal view of Jesus’ life before he entered into ministry, but when I think about what compassionate people have in common I can’t help but wonder what Jesus’ life was like before his ministry. Some of the common characteristics of compassionate people often are significant suffering or painful life events of their own, a generous heart, a non-blaming and non-judging mind, a passionate spirit, and a love that embraces the oneness of all creation.

Jesus, being God’s Son probably came to earth already with the qualities of compassion. But I still think that the attributes of his compassion were hard won yet freely given to all. He never held back his compassion from others.

Another gift Jesus gave others was his companionship. With Jesus as a friend people began to realize that they could be forgiven for the lives they had previously lived and could begin a new life because a simple carpenter first loved them. Christ is new life. He came down from Heaven just to show the way.

In Christ I too can think of my old life as dead, the words from the Message translation say it this way, “Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.” ~Col 13:3-4 (italics mine)

Out of my thankfulness for Christ’s compassion and companionship I need to in turn show compassion and give companionship to others. Not to make anything of myself, not to say look at how good I am now, but to say instead, if Jesus could love even me, he can love you too!

Heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Your son down from Heaven to personally touch each of my wounds and to spend precious time with me. I thank You for the gift of compassion. I thank You for Your companionship You have so freely given to me. Out of the over flow of Your love for me may I in turn give of Your compassion and gentle companionship so others may find their way home to You too. Amen.

My travel companion

..The Words that I Speak unto You, They are Spirit, and They are Life. ~John 6:63

Some days it seems that life is bigger than me.  My problems loom over me.  On days like this I have to remember to pray for God to keep my sight clear, that God will help me be able to know the truth in the situation and not to make things more than they are.

The problem with having a creative mind is that sometimes it gets stuck on overdrive. I have tucked in my heart for moments like these the verse from Philippians 4:7 that tells me that I can have peace despite my circumstances. Peace beyond my understanding.

I am so thankful that I don’t have to have all the answers to life’s problems. I am thankful for the strength to climb this mountain. With each muscle strain I know that I grow in strength and endurance and when I top this mountain I will survey all that has come and I will not fear the mountains still left to climb. Each peak will bring me close to the One who holds all my tomorrows, to the One who has my best intentions in mind, plans not for harm but for my good (Jeremiah 29:11).

Heavenly Father, I find myself climbing again. Even though I know that the stretch is good for my soul, may I feel You close by with each step that I climb. I do not want to climb this mountain by my strength alone for I know I would never make it. I welcome the growth but I fear the pain. Give me courage for the journey. Amen.

Everyday Miracles

Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. The headwaiter called the groom and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.” This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. ~John 2:6-11 (CEB)

God’s every day miracles don’t normally get our reactions. The fact that plants release as oxygen, the very gas we need to breathe to have life, is easily overlooked. Turning water into wine is an everyday occurrence too when you think about how the vines drink up the water so that it can form grapes. Only when the water is gathered not by rain but by ordinary people into jugs is our attention captured.

A miracle that breaks the rules reminds us that the rules themselves are miraculous. We need to rediscover with wonder the world around us, to see it anew. The world is not as the dismal Ecclesiastic writer in the Old Testament grumbles… that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccles 1:9); but the New Testament answers loudly and excitedly “Look! I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5).

Of course I am going to have from time to time Ecclesiastes moods, but my imagination should be devoted to respond joyfully to the truth that in Christ everything is given back something of its freshness of the very first days of creation.

Heavenly Father, help me to slow down and look around me to the wonders of the world you have given me. May I not take for granted even the air I breathe instead help me marvel at your creativity. Amen.

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