Freedom to love

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of a messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God rules!” Listen! Your lookouts lift their voice; they sing out together! Right before their eyes they see the LORD returning to Zion. Break into song together, you ruins of Jerusalem! The LORD has comforted his people and has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm in view of all the nations; all the ends of the earth have seen our God’s victory. ~Isaiah 52:7-10 (CEB)

“I have learned how to love with great love from a little child in Calcutta. Once, there was no sugar and I do not know how that little Hindu child four years old heard in the school that Mother Teresa had no sugar for her children.

He went home and told his parents, ‘I will not eat sugar for three days: I will give my sugar to Mother Teresa.’

His parents had never been to our house before to give anything, but after three days they brought him. He was so small, and in his hand there was a little bottle of sugar. How much can a four-year-old child eat? But the amount he could have eaten for those three days, he brought. He could scarcely pronounce my name, but yet he gave and the love he put in the giving was beautiful.

I learned from that little one that at the moment we give something to [God], it becomes infinite!” ~From My Life for the Poor by Mother Teresa

Some of the most loving, giving… forgiving people I have known have been children. If you want to know how to live as Jesus lives look to a child. Loving others is so simple, even a child can do it.

Merry Christmas!

Heavenly Father, help me to walk through this day with the faith and love of a little child. May the battle wounds I have occurred that prevent me to see as a child sees be stripped away. Help my resentments and judgments fade so that I may live as you would have me to live, in complete freedom. Amen.

Love… the greatest thing

From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news. God promised this good news about his Son ahead of time through his prophets in the holy scriptures. His Son was descended from David. He was publicly identified as God’s Son with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness. This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received God’s grace and our appointment to be apostles. This was to bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience for his name’s sake. You who are called by Jesus Christ are also included among these Gentiles.

To those in Rome who are dearly loved by God and called to be God’s people. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~Romans 1:1-7 (CEB)

“Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world- stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death- and the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?” ~From The Spirit of Christmas by Henry Van Dyke

I sometimes need reminding that love is the strongest thing in the world, that Light will always outshine the darkness. Christmas is the story of how love came into the world. Through Jesus we can see how we are to respond to the hate and evil we see. He was angry when anger was called for, showed compassion when it was needed and forgave freely. Only through God who strengthens me would I be able to live in such a way. But every time I do evil loses some of its footing.

Merry Christmas!

Help me Heavenly Father to keep Christmas every day. May I love and forgive where compassion is needed, may I speak up when strong words are called for, may I always remember that love is the strongest thing in the world. Amen.

For the New Year

So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. We are well known by God, and I hope that in your heart we are well known by you as well. We aren’t trying to commend ourselves to you again. Instead, we are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us so that you could answer those who take pride in superficial appearance, and not in what is in the heart.

If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.

So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, Be reconciled to God! ” God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:11-21(CEB)

“What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus?  Our task is reconciliation.  Wherever we go we see divisions among people – in families, communities, cities, countries, and continents.  All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God.  The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible.  Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.

Why is that our task?  Because God sent Christ to reconcile us with God and to give us the task of reconciling people with one another.   As people reconcile with God through Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation” (see: 2 Corinthians 5:18).  So whatever we do the main question is, Does it lead to reconciliation among people?” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Merry Christmas!

Lord, in the words of St. Francis, “make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

 

O little town

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. ~Luke 2:1-7 (CEB)

O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM

by, Phillip Brooks, Lewis H. Redner.

O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie;

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,

The silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,

And gather’d all above

While mortals sleep, the angels keep

Their watch of wond’ring love.

O morning stars together

Proclaim the holy birth

And praises sing to God the King

And peace to men on earth.

“No matter how often we sing them, the simple words and music of Phillip Brooks’ ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ transport us to that night in which the Christ child came to earth. Through a gentle, quiet tune and pictures made by words, we enter the time and place when God, transcendent and unfathomable, was born into human history- in a human way. In terms a human being could best understand.

As the carol proceeds, our words become a prayer. It is a prayer that asks for something incredible: that the miracle be reproduced, and that this time, the event not simply happened in history, but in us.” ~From Faith, the Yes of the Heart by Grace Adolphsen Brame

Peace on earth seems so far away sometimes Heavenly Father, I am thankful for the retelling of the Christmas story because it reminds me that You were willing to come down here with us on Earth. Although the world doesn’t seem peaceful and quiet, if I turn to You I can always find that peace that passes this present understanding. Amen.

An abundant God

They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one mind so that they may worship me all the days of their lives, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to stop treating them graciously. I will put into their hearts a sense of awe for me so that they won’t turn away from me. I will rejoice in treating them graciously, and I will plant them in this land faithfully and with all my heart and being. ~Jer. 32:38-41 (CEB)

“God’s apparent lack of restraint when it comes to creating things is but a symptom of a deeper” problem”: God lacks restraint when it comes to loving, too. In fact, God is most unrestrained when it comes to loving. Put another way, God cannot love except abundantly.

We see this abundance of God’s love demonstrated throughout [Hebrew Scriptures]. The Chosen People turn away from God again and again. What does God do? Does God throw up his divine hands in disgust and cry, ‘Enough already!’ and zap those Israelites into kingdom come? No, God continues to love them, taking them back again and again and again. There seems to be no end to God’s love. There is no end to God’s love.” ~From Abundant Treasures by Melannie Svoboda

From beginning to end, God has only wanted one thing from us, a relationship. This theme runs throughout the Bible. God is a God of relationships. That is why He sent His son into the world to physically show us how to have a relationship with Him. During Advent I always marvel how He chose to come into the world: as a defenseless tiny infant, completely dependent on the humans around Him.

Heavenly Father, you are a God of relationships. You came into the world to model how we are to have a relationship with You and Your children. Help me today to remember those around me, help me foster relationships with them so that Your Kingdom can be realized here and now. Amen.

Forgiving the church

If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. ~1 Cor 12:26-27 (CEB)

I was once by my perception, hurt deeply by “the church” or rather by the people in the church. I was confused. I couldn’t understand how “Christian people” could act in such a way as they did. I was holding them up to my standard of perfection and not seeing them through God’s eyes… wounded and broken like me.

“When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it.   But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ.  When we say, ‘I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,’ we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.  The challenge is to forgive the Church.  This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially.  But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as ‘over there’ but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen

Although I never officially left a church over my wounds I know I was guilty of losing Jesus while I held onto my hurt and anger. Even though I continued to grace the steps of the church that hurt me I was blinded by pain, thus unable to see Jesus and His Grace for me. As always, unforgiveness only injures me. In time I was able to see that we are all human and none of us perfect. Now I see that time period as a necessary part of my journey. Many life lessons were learned as I regained my sight of Jesus through that time of trial. Most important of all was the reminder that Jesus forgives me every day and I need to extend that same grace to others.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the grace you give me every day. Help me to see others as needing your grace too. May I not let my past hurts blind me so deeply as to not feel Your love this day. Amen.

To choose blessings

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, ~Isaiah 58:6,9 (CEB)

There are days that I struggle feeling as if I am living under a curse. The loss of a friend, an illness, an accident, a natural disaster, war, or personal failure can make me quickly think that I am no good and am being punished. It is an even greater temptation to think that life is full of curses when I am bombarded with all the media day after day presenting stories about human misery.

But then I remember…

Jesus came to bless us, not to curse us. I have to choose to receive these blessings and be willing to hand them on to others.

Blessings and curses are always placed in front of me. I am free to choose.

Today Lord, with all I see reported on the news, I need to recall the blessings You have bestowed on me. It is so easy to let myself get downcast by the oppression, the wars, the politics  and the disasters I see. Some people seem to thrive on the news of others misery but Lord I feel weighed down by all the reported stories. Help me to sort through all the information. Give me Your eyes to see where the real stories lie. Give strength to my hands and energy to my feet to do Your will. Don’t let me shut down and shut out the hurts of the world just because a company wants to capitalize on the pain. I want to see through the sensationalism and see the truth. Amen.

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